Saturday, March 31, 2012

For Your Eyes Only

Actually not.  The more eyes the better.  That's why this morning I put Flying Swordsmen up on the OSR Conservation Process.  I've submitted it to 1KM1KT (the day after I released it), but still haven't seen it there. 

I've been too lazy to look into opening a virtual shop on One Bookshelf /Drivethrough RPG / RPGNow.  Or to look into POD options. 

I did use the binder at work to put my proofing copy together so I've got something functional that I could take to a game.  I may do one more with the updates of the released version (plus fixing the three or four mistakes I've found since then.  Printer ink's not so expensive here in Korea.

Beast of the Week: Demodragon

Possibly because the network censors wouldn't allow a full-fledged demon prince to appear on a Saturday morning cartoon show in the 80's, Venger didn't capture Demogorgon to use against Tardos Keep.  Instead, the show's writers came up with Demodragon, part demon, part dragon, all badass.  It still has the two heads and tentacles associated with Demogorgon, but it's a big two-headed dragon with cloven hooves that breathes fire from one head and ice/cold from the other.

Let's try giving it some stats based on a combination of the Mentzer Companion Set Huge White and Red dragons.  Should make it fearsome enough!  This is a creature that only the highest level characters should face toe-to-toe.  Better hope your DM lets you find some dragonbane before you meet Demodragon!

AC: -5 (25)
HD: 32****
Move: 150 (50)
Attacks: 10 tentacles/2 bites
Damage: 1d12 each/4d8+8 each
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F32
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: H x3, I x2
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 13,250

Demodragon is gigantic gray and purple-skinned dragon with two heads, one red and one blue.  It stands upon cloven hooves and has masses of tentacles sprouting from its sides.   It is said to be half demon, half dragon, and its fearsome aspect and powers seem to support that hypothesis.  Demodragon can only be hit by weapons of +3 enchantment or better, and is immune to all spells of less than 4th level.  In combat, Demodragon can use up to ten of its tentacles each round, but no more than two tentacles can be used against a human-sized or smaller opponent each round due to their size.  Victims hit by a tentacle may be grabbed on a natural 18, 19 or 20, and then squeezed for automatic damage each round.  A save vs. paralysis with a -4 penalty may be made each round to escape.  Each of Demodragon's heads can bite or breathe each round.  The red head breathes a cone of fire 180' long and 30' wide at the far end.  The blue head breathes a cone of cold 90' long and 40' wide at the end.  Each head can breathe three times each day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Flying Swordsmen can do for your game Pt. 1

Want to add fight scenes like this to your game without a lot of complicated rules?

Then check out Flying Swordsmen!  Links at the top of the blog.

[Video clip from the 2009 TV series Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre.  Yes, I'm too busy to post a content post today, so you get some cool things to watch instead.]

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mucking around in the swamps of Ur

Last night we had another session of the Vaults of Ur, Justin's G+ Hangouts game.  This being a FLAILSNAILS game, we had some new people drop in through the dimensional vortex or however you want to describe it (they wandered in through the caves of Ningauble of the Seven Eyes, or maybe they rode a roller coaster turned Planar Gate and got given character classes by a short bald guy in a red robe, or something like that).

This expedition consisted of:
Thidrek the Sleestak (me)
Kullpetal the Orc (Jez Gordon)
Danyael the Fighter (Oxide/Jeremy of the Busan Gamers)
Flinny the Elder, a Cleric (ClaytonianJP)
Howard the Charming, a Magic-User (Darcy Wyatt)

In our last expedition, we'd recovered a tome that our bargain basement sage said he could use to whip up some plant-killing chemical, as well as potions of antidote.  All he needed were three mysterious plants, belchfire (flaming swamp grass), skaedu (little blue flowers that grow in the shade), and oliver (yellow flaky mushrooms that grow on the sides of buildings).  Kullpetal bought a cart, a lizard creature to pull it, and hired five orc peons to load up any monster trophies on the cart.  Then we set out.

We passed the alchemist's house we explored previously, then turned south to the marshy areas near the walls of Ur.  Everything went fairly uneventfully up to the edge of the marsh.  Thidrek climbed a wall to take a look around, assuming the belchfire would be easy to spot.  It was, there was some growing off to the east.  Also, on an island in the marsh not too far ahead were two strange humans with Duran Duran hair and pale skin, with a giant beetle of some sort.  Not sure if they were hostile or not, we set up an ambush, with everyone but Kullpetal and Howard taking cover, then the two who were exposed yelling a greeting.

One of the spiky haired dudes pulled out a whistle or ocarina and played a signal, and soon two more similar groups (two men and a beetle each) were converging on us.  They also seemed unsure of our intentions, but also seemed to be warning us away from the water.  They seemed to converse in a clicking language and with the musical signals, which we couldn't comprehend. 

Suddenly, the reason for their warning appeared.  A 12' tall robot or golem of some sort rose up out of the swamp water and headed for us.  We let off a couple of arrows/bolts (Jeremy missed, I hit), and Howard dove for cover.  Kullpetal stood his ground.  The thing approached and one hand dropped off, but still linked to the arm by a chain became a massive flail.  It hit Kullpetal, grabbed his leg, and knocked him into the building where Thidrek was hiding.  Thidrek, despite his non-heroic Sleestak nature, ran up and helped Kullpetal get loose, while Danyael attacked the war machine from the rear.  Luckily for us, it had managed to stick its fist through the wall and got it stuck there, so we were able to take shots at it, douse it in oil, and eventually set it on fire.  Kullpetal was beat up a bit, but everyone else was unscathed.

The bug dudes were really impressed, and a large group had now gathered.  One who seemed to be a leader came up and offered us this yellow powder to snort.  Howard, Flinny and Danyeal all tried it, and found they could then understand the bug language of the strange dudes.  They were from the Hive, apparently in some towers we'd seen from the alchemist's shop, and their Queen, they told us, would be happy to have us join them.  After determining that their Queen was a giant insect, and not some hot chick, we politely declined the offer, but did manage to wrangle them into helping us collect the plants, since we had killed the 'demon' that was bothering them.

We managed to find the plant with no real problem.  A pair of harpies flew over, but didn't see us and kept going.  The bug dudes said they were becoming more of a threat.  We may need to deal with them soon.  Also, on the return trip to Fort Low we found a staff with a metal circle set with three spikes through it, a sign of a gang of murderous ne'er-do-wells called the Spiked Circle.  They are allegedly responsible for the death of another adventuring group, and are a big bunch of rogue humans, orcs and beastmen (so sorta like our parties of adventurers, only they outnumber us, I'm sure). 

We drug our giant robot carcass back to town, and delivered the ingredients to the sage.  A much more successful expedition (no PC deaths), although except for the offers for the war machine (the sage will trade it for 5 antidote potions and 2 doses of plant killer, someone else offered us a flat 500gp for it), no treasure.

It was a fun game, and I'm looking forward to our next session. 

Hypothesis: Why some players really fear Save or Die

Hypothesis: Newer gamers tend to dislike, distrust, and complain about Save or Die effects, while older gamers brought up with the math of TSR editions don't mind them so much, because of the math behind saves in d20 D&D vs. TSR D&D.

Probably not a new insight, as the numbers have been out there for anyone to look at for 12 years now, but I've taken a hard look at some of those numbers in the game for the first time myself.  Boring, but oh well.  It sheds some light on the recent discussions revolving around Mike Mearls' posts about Save or Die threats in D&D.

I've mentioned this phenomenon before.  In old school D&D, as characters gain levels, they only get better and better at making saving throws.  This is because the save numbers are a function of class and level and are divorced from the threat that forces the save.  It doesn't matter if it's a weak ass Giant Centipede or a huge honking Nightwalker that forces you to Save vs. Poison.  You've got the same chance against either.  And as you get into the mid-to-high levels, you can be pretty confident that the odds are on your side (although never completely worry free).

In new school (d20) D&D, your save bonuses increase as you level, but so do many of the save DCs that you nee to hit to make that save.  So by the time you're 5th level, you can easily save against the Giant Centipede (but likely won't encounter any) but have about as tough a time saving against the Giant Scorpion's venom as you had against the Centipede's at level 1.  And by the time you're level 17 and facing Nightwalkers, you actually probably have a worse chance to save than you did against the lesser foes, unless you've optimized your magic item purchases/feats/multiclassing to boost your Fortitude save.

Let's compare the percentage chance to save of a Fighter in BX (Moldvay/Cook) D&D, where he maxes out at 14th level, a Fighter in BECMI (Mentzer) D&D up to level 20 (maxes out at level 36 with a 95% chance to make any save), and a 3.0/3.5 D&D Fighter.  Now, these are not hard numbers where the d20 system is concerned, because stat bonuses, feats, and common magic items can boost saves.  Of course, in Classic D&D it's not that hard to find rings of protection or other devices that boost saves, too.  Also, as noted above, there's no set number against which to save in d20 D&D.  The threat is relative to the power of the source of the attack.  At 20th level, a Fighter may only face a DC 25 spell-like ability from a Balor, or a DC 40 breath attack of a Great Wyrm Red Dragon.

Here's a chart.  Click to enlarge.
 What does this tell us?  That devoid of any magic items at all, the Classic Fighter just gets better and better at making saving throws.  They start off worse in most areas, but improve over time.

If you play a Fighter up from 1st level to the "sweet spot" 4-8 range, you notice you're getting better and better odds to avoid poisons, spells, petrification, and dragon breath.  No, you're not invincible, but there is improvement.  Throw in a ring of protection or a displacer cloak, and you can be fairly confident as a player that the odds are on your side.

What about the d20 Fighter*?  well, you start out fairly good against poison or other body-affecting attacks, and decent against others.  It's likely as a Fighter you'll have a bit of a bonus to Con and maybe even Dex, improving the Fort and Ref saves.  Wisdom?  Not likely, so your Will save is gonna be right where it is (because you're not gonna take Iron Will as a feat over Power Attack or Weapon Focus, now, are you?).

As the player advances, though, the DCs quickly outpace the by-the-book bonuses to saves.  Meaning the player had better invest in lots of cloaks of resistance, stat-boosting items, and maybe spend one or two of those feat slots on Lightning Reflexes and/or Iron Will.  If you don't have all of that stuff, there's not much chance you're gonna be making any saves against Fireballs or Confusion spells up in the mid-to-high levels.  And remember, the numbers I'm using above assume low stat bonuses, so even with the magic item Christmas Tree effect, high level saves are hard to make.

So what do players who've been brought up on 3E and later games learn?  That Save or Die effects suck, ESPECIALLY at higher levels, because their character is more than likely going to fail that save.  Old Schoolers, and those who've been introduced to RPGs through the clones/simulacrums, learn that you've got less to fear from that dragon's breath (unless it's one of Frank's Large or Huge dragons!) when you're name level, and if you play into the Companion/Masters levels, you've got little to fear from any sort of special attack.

This is something that should be addressed in the discussions involving 5E, I think.

*Any class, actually, as they use the same progressions for all classes, with the Monk having good progression in all 3, a couple classes good progression in two areas, and most having good progression in only one Save category.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Beast of the Week: Hunter

You never (or very rarely) see new "human type" monsters around the blogs.  It's creatures, creatures, creatures.  Well, here's an idea for a new "Men" entry to D&D, the Hunter.

AC: 5 (15)
HD: 3+1*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1-6 (1-10)
Save As: F3
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Lawful
XP: 75

Hunters are humans who have been especially trained to hunt and slay one specific type of enemy.  They are excellent trackers, and also well versed in surprise tactics (surprise on 1-4 on d6), whether that be hiding to spring an ambush, or else seeming nonthreatening then suddenly attacking.  When in combat with their specific foe, they gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls, deal triple normal damage, and Save as a Fighter 6.

DMs may select the type of creature each Hunter stalks, or roll on the weapon opponent tables:
roll d100
01-16 Bugs
07-09 Constructs
10-15 Dragonkind
16-24 Enchanted Monsters
25-36 Giantkind
37-48 Lycanthropes
49-52 Planar Monsters
53-58 Regenerating Monsters
59-67 Reptiles and Dinosaurs
68-70 Spell-immune Monsters
71-76 Spellcasters
77-88 Undead
89-94 Water-breathing Monsters
95-00 Weapon-using Monsters

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Something else

Enough with promoting Flying Swordsmen.  Over 250 people have downloaded it in the past four days.  That's really cool.  Now to talk about something else.

There are a couple of new blogs to promote!

Lee B, who did the cover and character sheet layout for FSRPG is working on a very light fantasy RPG system he's calling Argots & Armor.  It's looking to me like a mesh of Classic D&D and maybe something like The Fantasy Trip (a system I've only heard about on other blogs).  Really cut down, flavorful stuff though.  Check it out at The Plateau of XOLGMOD.  Lee also plans to do some character/monster illos for Flying Swordsmen in the future.

Another blog to check out is that of my buddy Steve, from my old Ebisu Gaming Group in Tokyo.  Steve was our "Tarrantino" DM.  Going by the internet alias H-Town, he's got a new blog appropriately titled 3d6 (why no one grabbed that name before now is a mystery!).  He's working on both a "D&D Mine" system, and a campaign world with some interesting stuff in there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

All the cool kids are doing it!

Haven't downloaded the completely FREE Flying Swordsmen RPG yet?  What are you waiting for?  Random people on the internet Incredibly smart and awesome people have positive but mostly nonspecific things to say about nothing but PRAISE for this game!!!*

"Looking at it now \ pretty cool!"  -Tedankhamen

"It's a great game" -Matt Stater

"I really like how you have taken everything from Dungeons & Dragons and made it completely Chinese in flavour"  -Tallifer

"Excellent work!"  -Artikid

"Hey, what more could a guy ask for? Oh a six-demon bag!"  -Killingmachine**

"it's clear there's a lot of work gone into this and it shows. Top stuff."  -Will Doyle

"Awesome work!"  -S.P.

"Reading it now."  -Josh

"Now I have to read the other 100+ pages I didn't work on :)"  -Lee B (cover/character sheet designer)

"wait, wait... so how do I get this as a deadwood copy? because that is a book I'd love to have in my shelf"  -gmkeros

"I think the OSR has enough base clones to start working on the next level to have new material that is compatible but original. This product is a good example of someone doing that."  -H-Town

"As someone who studied East Asian history, it is nice to see more attention paid to actual Chinese mythology, rather than the mishmash (and often pure nonsense) of Oriental Adventures."  -Brendan

"This stuff is great. When are you running a game? :)"  -Justin Howe

"it looks real damn good!"  -Scrap Princess

""OSR compatible" RPG base on Chinese wuxia. Apparently with stunt dice and feats. An interesting mix!"  -Alex Shroeder

"It's awesome! (and I'm not just saying that because I helped edit the thing)"  -David Brawley  

*Those who know me will likely get my self-deprecating humor.  I'm not an egotistical kind of guy, and "hard sales" is not something I'm good at.  But I am really stoked by the positive things people have said about my game, and the fact that in just a little over 48 hours, there have been almost 200 downloads!

**The Six-Demon Bag actually does appear in my D&D Mine, and likely will appear in a game of Flying Swordsmen because of that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Flying Swordsmen is here!

That's right, Flying Swordsmen RPG is now available for download!  Get it RIGHT HERE!  For free!

I've got it up on my Mediafire account right now.  I'll be contacting some places like 1KM1KT to see if I can get it up there as well, and maybe the OneBookShelf group.  If you'd like to host a link to it on your website or blog, that's fine with me, too.  Reviews and actual play reports are welcome as well.

Special thanks to DaXiong Guo for the awesome cover art!
Thanks to Dylan of Digital Orc and Lee of The Plateau of XOLGMOD for art and design help.
Thanks to Matt of THE LAND OF NOD and David of Tower of the Archmage for editing help.  Any errors, omissions or confusing bits left in the text are all my fault.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beast of the Week: Clurichaun

Well, with tomorrow being St. Patrick's Day, and me just getting home from being interviewed on the radio (the station I used to work at) about the holiday, and it being Friday, it's time for a visit to the mythology of the Emerald Isle for this week's Beast.  D&D has had the Banshee of course, and AD&D has the Leprechaun.  I don't think (never checked out the Classic D&D Creature Crucible Wee Folk, could be in there I suppose...) that D&D has a Clurichaun.  Well, it does now.

AC: 5 (15)
HD: 1+1*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-8)
Save As: E1
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Chaotic

Clurichauns are 1' to 2' tall fey creatures that heavily resemble leprechauns and are believed to be related to the fairy shoemakers.  They favor the color red in their clothes.  Clurichauns love to drink even more than their fairy relatives, and will almost always be found inebriated.  They are surly and rowdy drunks, as well.  They can cast a fairy curse, similar to that of Sprites, although only one Clurichaun needs to be present.  If the Clurichauns are not fond of a group of adventurers, they will likely respond with a curse, typically one that causes all alcoholic beverages to spoil.  The victim of such a curse is allowed a Save vs. Spells to avoid it.  If the character is cursed, a Remove Curse spell will be necessary to counter it.  If reactions are good, and the Clurichauns are treated with alcohol, they may actually become guardians of the characters' wine and drink, keeping it safe and fresh (they may use Purify Food and Water at will, but only to affect alcohol).  If forced into combat, Clurichauns fight with small shillelaghs.

Another take on Swashbuckling

I'm sure most people reading this blog are familiar with the super simple rules for combat maneuvers from the Bumblers.

Jeremy reminded me of them the other day when I was praising the Pathfinder Combat Maneuver Bonus/Defense mechanic.

While I like the simplicity and ease of use of Paizo's mechanic, the Bumblers' idea also is really cool and looks to be a worthwhile addition.  The only reason I haven't used it up until now is because I don't use critical hits in my games.

But I did have an idea a while back, formed from their idea and some of the monsters that can swallow you whole.  There's quite a variety of ways in which they swallow.  On a natural 20 only.  On a 19 or 20.  Four or more above the target's AC or a 20.

A simple system like that could be used for PC classes.  Maybe a Magic-User needs a natural 20 to force the maneuver to succeed (but not if they only hit on a 20).  Clerics succeed on a natural 20 regardless.  Thieves on a natural 19 or 20.  Fighters on a natural 19 or 20, or 4 above the target's AC.

As usual, if the attack hits but isn't a 'crit' then the opponent gets to decide if they want to accept the results of the maneuver, or else just take normal damage.

I'll have to think about which I want to use.

Unrelated notes:
Beast of the Week coming soon
I'm done with my Flying Swordsmen edit...I think.  Looks like I'll be releasing it tomorrow after all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fixing an artificial problem

Thanks to Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern for this well thought out reply to Mike Mearls' latest ruminations on Clerics and Turn Undead.

Anyone else remember back in the days of 3E when there was talk all the time of CoDzilla?  For those who wisely avoided d20 forums back in the 'oughts', the term stands for "Cleric or Druid-zilla" meaning that those two classes were supposedly superior to all the others.

Jozan Cleric, Superstar
I'm not gonna hash out the old arguments for/against CoDzilla.*

However, there's this idea that the Cleric is too powerful.  It comes from the fact that when 3E was being designed, there was this conventional wisdom that "no one wants to play the Cleric."  So they made the Cleric a much more attractive option.  Domain spells and powers, full spells from level 0 to 9 (instead of 1 to 5 or 1 to 7 as in old school games), and a spell list that was just as offensive as the Wizard if you wanted, plus spontaneous healing so you could actually load up on those attack/buff/utility spells and still heal when you needed to.  But it was pretty much the buff spells that sealed the CoDzilla deal.  With all that, some people might have even forgotten that Clerics could Turn undead!

So d20 made the Cleric too powerful.  Now, it looks like Mearls is forgetting that in old school D&D, the Cleric was NOT the powerhouse class.  Sure, they're nice.  But even the most powerful version of the class, in AD&D, pales in comparison to the d20 version.  So instead of just rolling back the clock on the Cleric a bit, Mearls seems to be hoping to develop some even more convoluted scheme to try to de-power the class.

Old school Turn Undead works well.  In Classic D&D, you roll 2d6 and have to beat a target number (7, 9, or 11).  On a 2d6 roll, you're more than 50% likely to roll that 7 or higher.  But you've got reduced odds to roll that 9, and that 11 or better is pretty rare.  Even with the 7, there's a good chance you'll fail.  The apparent problem comes from when the Cleric gains a level.  Suddenly, they've got an auto success against Skeletons.  By 5th level, they can automatically turn Wights.  But when a Cleric succeeds on their Turn roll, they roll 2d6 again to see how many HIT DICE run away.**  Roll that statistically most likely 7 on the number turned roll, and only 3 Wights are fleeing, meaning any encounter with more will leave at least one to possibly score that energy drain attack before the Cleric retries the next round.  Eventually, the Cleric can not only automatically succeed, but actually destroy the lesser undead.  You still roll that 2d6 to see how many hit dice are affected, though (very high level Clerics get to roll 3d6 HD worth destroyed).  But as Tenkar rightly points out, it's against low level undead that likely aren't much of a challenge anymore anyway.
Aleena couldn't even cast spells at Level 1.  Let her Turn some undead before Bargle kills her, OK?

The Cleric high enough to destroy a Spectre or Vampire (and in BECMI they get that up there in the Companion or Master levels) has enough spells that they will likely have a Protection from Evil spell anyway, preventing the undead from harming them.  Maybe even Pro. Evil 10' Radius, protecting the whole party.  And again, even if the Cleric destroys automatically, for those powerful undead it's likely not going to be more than one per round. 

The idea that a Cleric equals an automatic victory in any undead encounter is false, as is the idea that old school Turn Undead was overpowered.  It was a necessary power, and let me tell you, when PCs encounter level draining undead, if the Cleric has to roll to Turn, there's suspense in that roll.  Even with auto success/destruction, there's a lot riding on the number of HD turned.  Rolls like that add to the game experience.  I don't think many old school Fighters, Thieves and Magic-Users complained that they didn't get a chance to go toe-to-misty bottom with the Wraiths.  They were hoping that the Cleric would Turn them so that they wouldn't risk losing a level.

*for those who care, I found that most arguments tended to be that in an arena fight, where a Cleric/Druid had cast all of their buff spells on themselves, they could outfight a Fighter (plus Druids get animal companions).  Of course, if that Cleric or Druid blew all their spells on one combat, Fighter number 2 is going to whup up on them badly.  But it's all smoke and mirrors, because Clerics and Fighters weren't designed as classes to battle each other, they were designed to fight together against the monsters.

**In Holmes D&D, though, I think it is number of undead, rather than HD as in BX/BECMI.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another slow week (and John Carter)

Another slow week here at What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse...

What can I say, I'm busy with work, grad school, and getting Flying Swordsmen completed by the weekend.

That's right, folks, my RPG will be available for download, warts and all, this Saturday or Sunday (Korea time, which means those of you living in N. America may be getting it Friday night at the earliest!).  Assuming I don't get hit by a car or come down with pneumonia or something.  Actually, pneumonia might be good for the project, as long as I've got my notes and netbook at the hospital with me...

As for other content, I saw John Carter and really liked it.  Yes, they changed the plot and the characters for the screen.  No, I'm not exactly happy with the whole "reluctant hero" crap being used YET AGAIN by Hollywood, but at least this time it made sense within what they did with the story (unlike, say, the Clash of ht Titans remake) and the whole movie worked.  The CGI was good, the Tharks looked good, and so did the various 'monsters.'  The action scenes were well done, blah blah blah.  I'm not going to do a full review because I've actually been reading too many other reviews around the OSR blogosphere this week.  A little burnt out.  I'll save my reviewing for The Avengers or one of the other big summer blockbusters that are coming soon.

Now to get to work on Flying Swordsmen so I can keep that promise!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Had my first Constant Con game last night.

Justin Howe of the 10 Bad Habits blog ran the second session of his Vaults of Ur campaign.  It's a ruin-crawl in a vast science-fantasy city of the ancients sort of setting.

We had a few too many players - 7 - which made it pretty chaotic, especially since we had trouble getting Dean of the Busan Gamers in, and since he was playing at Jeremy's in the same room then we had some sound/feedback issues.  But once we got that sorted out, it went fairly well.

We explored some ruins, fought giant plant monsters, giant wasps, and then a slime-beast which killed Jeremy's Fighter and a guy named John's Magic-User.  My Beastman (animal-like humanoids that use the Classic D&D/Labyrinth Lord Halfling class) managed to survive by running away from the monsters most of the time, although I did manage to score a good hit against one of the wasps with my crossbow.  It's a low gold game, so the crossbow was ALL I had going in.  And we survivors came away with a couple of small pouches of gems, a jade mask from the slime beast, and a book (plus loot taken from our fallen comrades).  Oh, and the javelin-like seed pods of the giant dandelion things, which we can use as weapons and will likely sprout into new monsters when we least expect it.

It was a good time.  Now I'm thinking I could run some Flying Swordsmen games on G+.  I'll have to limit it to only a few players though.  I'll keep everyone posted on that as it develops.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beast of the Week: Phantom Stalker

Man, I couldn't even get the Beast of the Week up on time this week.  It's been rough, that's why there haven't been any posts here since last Sunday.  The new school year started, and things are a mess at work (text books not ordered, new teachers who have no clue, new students who don't yet speak more than a handful of English words - the joys of working in a private "education" academy in Korea, in other words).

Not only that, but I've been using most of my free time to give a final proof to Flying Swordsmen RPG, which I hope to have cleaned up and released by St. Patrick's Day.  The perfect day for an Irish-descended dude like myself to release his kung fu themed version of D&D.

Anyway, the point of this post is not my neglect of the blog, it's the Beast of the Week!  Last week's Sleestak were a bit less popular than I'd imagined, but I'm carrying on with this week's Saturday Morning inspired creature, the Phantom Stalker.  Originally appearing in the D&D Cartoon episode "The Garden of Zinn" featuring one of our favorite supporting characters Solarrz, these guys caused all kinds of havok for those six kids from Earth even with their fancy magic weapons.  Let's see what I can come up with for them:

Phantom Stalker*
AC: 0 (20)
HD: 6**
Move: 90 (30) fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 2 claws or 1 grab
Damage: 1d8/1d8 or see below
No. Appearing: 1-4 (2-7)
Save As: F6
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 725

These gaunt purple humanoids with leech-like mouths are natives of the Elemental Plane of Air.  They sometimes appear on the Prime Plane when summoned by a powerful spellcaster, or near a gate to their home.  They are quite intelligent, and speak Common, their own language and that of Djinn.  Phantom Stalkers can only be hit by magical weapons or spells, and magical weapons only do half damage.  Phantom Stalkers can shift from solid to gaseous form at will, and even retain a semi-solid state that allows them to grab onto and carry victims within their cloudy forms.  To grab a victim, the Phantom Stalker makes a normal attack roll.  The victim may Save vs. Dragon Breath at -2 to avoid the grab, otherwise they are at the mercy of the Stalker that captures them.  Phantom Stalkers also have the ability to disguise their form, in a manner similar to Dopplegangers.  Spellcasters often employ Phantom Stalkers in ways similar to Invisible Stalkers and Aerial Servants, as they make excellent spies, assassins and hunters.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


One of the innovations in the d20 rules that was made by the Paizo folks was the Combat Maneuver Bonus/Combat Maneuver Defense scores.

Basically they took all the fiddly 3E combat actions (disarm, trip, bull rush, grapple, etc.) and turned them into this formula:

CMB = BAB + Str + any special bonuses (in other words, a basic attack roll, modified by feats/class abilities).
CMD = 10 + BAB + Str + Dex + any special bonuses.

I'm considering using the basic formula for my Classic D&D games for whenever anyone wants to do something like swinging from chandeliers, flipping their cloak over the opponent's head, throwing sand in their eyes, or the above grapple/disarm/trip type stuff.

I'm already using ascending AC/attack bonus, so this would be easy enough to add in.  For monsters, they just get normal attacks, and 10 + HD for CMD (maybe the creatures that get a Strength bonus/penalty to damage could factor that in as well).

Simple, easy, and hopefully will make for more dynamic combats than simply "roll to hit, roll damage, rinse and repeat."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beast of the Week: Sleestak!

I came home from work, and tonight my son wanted to watch "Marshal, Will and Holly!"  So we watched some Land of the Lost and he rewatched an episode of the D&D cartoon while my wife and I ate dinner.  And since I didn't get to post the creature I had been thinking about for this week, I figured I can save it for next week and this week present these classic creepy baddies for your dungeon stocking pleasure!

AC: 3 (17)
HD: 3+1
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 2 claws or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4/1d4/by weapon
No. Appearing: 3 (-)
Save As: F3
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: L x3
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 50

Sleestak are tall green degenerate humanoid creatures that combine the worst features of reptiles and insects.  They have huge, black insect eyes, green scaly reptilian skin, crested bulbous heads, and pincer-like claws on their hands.  They inhabit ancient ruins and deep caverns, where they worship the sentient skulls of their ancestors (the technologically advanced but ethically stagnant Altrusians) and protect their egg nurseries.  In combat, they can attack with their claws, and if both hit they can hold their opponent, often then attempting to drag the victim away to be sacrificed as food for their guardian dinosaurs or for freshly hatched sleestak babies.  They use crossbows in ranged attacks.  Sleestak cannot stand direct sunlight, and are at -4 to attacks and saves.  Continual Light spells give them a -2 penalty.  One in 20 sleestak, the keeper of the ancestor skulls, can cast spells as a 4th level Cleric.  There is a 25% chance that any sleestak lair will be protected by a large predatory dinosaur.  Sleestak speak their own language of hisses that is difficult for any non-reptilian creature to learn.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New blog

Jeremy, player of Oxide in the Busan Gamers Pathfinder game we just wrapped up, now has a blog for his RPG art and his rules tinkering.  He's working on a Microlite version of 4E, plus taking a war game (War Engine) and trying to do what Arneson and Gygax did to Chainmail turn it into an RPG.

Check out what value is habit?