Friday, September 20, 2013

Megadungeon Bindings!

When I used to game all the time, most of my GMing took place in Waterdeep and Undermountain in the forgotten Realms.  In order to keep everything organized I used a huge zip up 3 ring binder like this one on Amazon.

I placed the sourcebook for Undermountain and for Waterdeep loosely in there, held in by the zipper.   I also had a 3 ring binder with clean tear-out pages, for in game notes, keeping track of NPC hp and status during battles, and writing notes on rooms and traps, and ideas about Gates, etc...

Then I had color coded folders.  One for water deep maps, for water deep sewers maps and other adventuring locales nearby Waterdeep.  One for Undermountain maps, one for traps, one for new monsters, and one for treasures, miscellany, and Gonzo stuff that didn't fit into anything else.

I also tucked a tube of dice into the binder.  It was the ONLY thing I needed to run all my games.  At the time, I had the entire contents of the 2nd edition AD&D manuals in my head.  I didn't need statistics for the normal monsters, and all the strange ones were in the binder.  My players typically brought 1-2 players handbooks, and I had a policy at the time of making up all my magic items (not using many of the ones from the Dungeon Masters Guide.  This was the strength of running one system over and over again, if I didn't remember the exact rule or HD of a monster, I made it up on the spot with a ruling and we kept playing.  We had played the same game system for so long, I began to have an intuitive feel for what could be flexed and pushed without "breaking" it by ruining the players fun or making them too powerful.  I'm sure many other long term GM's feel the same way about the system they spent the longest time with.

My players began to make jokes about it, calling it my Blue Binder of Death!  We were playing about 5-6 days of the week, sometimes split into 2 or more groups with a total of 7-8 players rotating in and out.  The players had set up an Archery store in the city, so whoever wasn't there for an adventure, was "tied up with business at the store".   This was the high water mark of gaming for me, and it really was enabled by this system I concocted to allow me to keep ~12 levels of dungeons, a city of >100000 people, and much, much more organized

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tower of the Necromancer

Few venture west off the Tradeway where the great Delimbiyr river meets the Lizardmarsh.  Bullywug and lizardmen raiders and even gigantic lizard creatures are known to prowl these borderlands.

This is the location where the dark necromancer built his tower for study.  Constructed with undead labor and elemental magics, the four level tower is built atop a natural stone bluff at the edge of a deep pool that leads into the lizard marsh, littered with cat tails and choked with lilies.

To access the front door one must climb the steps carved in the natural stone bluff to where great wooden doors with elegant nickel handles and a great polished ivory knocker await.  It would be difficult to scrabble around the back of the rock face to the back door without sliding down into the marsh waters.  However, there is a backdoor, on this side of the tower, at the end of a short cave in the rock that leads down into the cellars below the tower.  This door leads out to a small landing containing a circle of stones at the edge of the water.

In the evening the bullywugs, and lizardmen bring corpses to the stone circle and are paid in baubles by the Hooded Attendant that can be found there each night [treat the Hooded Attendant as a wight].

The attendant brings the corpses into the cellars where the apprentices of the necromancer treat these bodies with ancient blasphemous rites that prepare them for undeath.  The door is wizard locked, but the attendant can bypass the magic.  There are cages on chains from the cellar ceiling that drop corpses into huge vats of eldritch chemicals used strip the flesh from the bones to create skeletons.  There are also several dissection tables for zombie preparation.  When the necromancer arrives, he calls forth the magic to animate them again.  There are also a couple of cells housing 4 barely clad snake people, held prisoner, but treated well and fed every day.  These snake people bodies hold the minds of 4 individuals from Daggerford (the snake people are currently wearing their skins and infiltrating the town).  They will try to explain this to the PC's if found.

On the first floor, 35'x35', are the reception halls, kitchens, and dining areas. 

The second floor, 20'x20', quarters the apprentices and the hobgoblin garrison of the tower.  The hobgoblins patrol the surrounding area, and walk around the balcony on the second floor that allows them to survey for miles into the marsh and out to the Tradeway and river traffic.  

The third and fourth levels, both 20'x20', are the home of the necromancer.  Some of the necromancers apprentices are allowed on the third floor and hobgoblins may report to the wizard during emergencies, but the fourth floor is off limits to all but the necromancers demonic family.   When the wizard is out of the tower, expect this area to have magical traps.

Map of the tower - I suck at creating electronic maps, perhaps I will add a hand-drawn map sometime soon.

12 skeletons
6 zombies
8 hobgoblins
2 Wizard Apprentices - the "Sisters"  (3rd Level)
The Hooded Attendant

Don't forget:
(4 prisoners)
Magical Traps - only on the 4th floor, the necromancer mostly uses undead for protection

The Sisters:

The sisters are twin women in their late teens.  They are followers of Talona, and sometimes have tea parties throughout the day.  They re-enact a scene where they poisoned their parents at a birthday party to honor the goddess.  Totally insane, loyal to the necromancer, they share twin-telepathy (adjudicate as you will), and typically will say the same things in unison or finish each others sentences.  They typically will try to use charm person followed by paralysis or sleep poisoned food.  If in trouble they will try to use invisibility and flee.  The hobgolbins are terrified of these girls and will do anything they say.

The Hooded Attendant:

Bound to the service of the necromancer through a pact, he waits each night in the circle of stones for bodies.  He will pay for these bodies with trinkets and a few silver or gold pieces (arbitrary amounts).  He is not bound to defend the tower, but may decide to attack the PC's if they mess with him, or try to enter the tower without delivering him a body.  He will moan, "deliver the dead unto me", several times, and if the PC's don't give him a body he may attack.  He will defend himself if attacked.  Treat this creature as a wight.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Daggerford Wilderness Sandbox

After the TPK of the Forgotten Realms, Whitebox, Blades of Daggerford Campaign (which lasted exactly 2 hours, on 1 fateful afternoon), my players decided to make an Elf and a Druid.

Since these characters will be less tied to civilization, I think I'm going to run the beginning of this campaign as a wilderness sandbox based around the home of Elorfindar Floshin, just north of Daggerford.

I'm found this City of Splendors Web Enhancement by Eric Boyd.  In this document he goes into better detail about several nice adventure hooks for use in the Daggerford area.  

So I'm planning to start the elf out as one of the sons of Lord Floshin, and have the druid arrive at the keep for a meeting/assignment.  The Druids of the Misty Forest are combining forces with the remnants of the elves in the area to determine what forces have been mustering evil in the Ardeep forest and Illefarn Mountain Areas.

Ardeep Forest Points of Interest:


To this List I'm adding:

Illefarn Mountain
Laughing Hollow
Lizard Marsh
Bodysnatchers of Daggerford (Yaunti wearing the "skins" of townspeople)
Daggerford Cultists (human demon worshippers working with the Yaunti)
Tower of the Necromancer
Ruin of Dragonspear Castle

At the heart of this sandbox adventure lies the Necromancer, who is currently adventuring in the Ruins of the Dwarven Halls of Illefarn (under Illefarn Adventure).  I've made up a connection between him and the Yaunti - he is using organ transplantation magic to swap Yaunti brains into captured victims from Daggerford.  He will utilizing special vats to prepare undead specimen and hybrid creatures that will haunt his tower.   The necromancer is way too powerful for low level PC's (probably >10th level), but they can probably foil some of his plans without ever meeting him.  His power has been amplified by a artifact given to him by the demonic lords of Dragonspear Castle.

I'm going to be fleshing out some of these locations in my next couple of posts.  I'll try to keep things generic enough to be useful to readers.  That has been my goal since I kicked my blogging back up.  I want to focus a majority of my posts on gaming material for gamers. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Initial Thoughts on Delving Deeper

I've been interested in Delving Deeper since about 2011, but just finally got my hands on the free pdf's from RPGNOW a few days ago.

After reading these rules, I would definitely try to purchase a boxed set of these rules.  I wanted to do that for Swords and Wizardry Whitebox but missed my chance completely...  I'm busy enough that I'm late to almost every party...

Anyway, it's another take on the original 1974 rules, and while I don't have a copy of these rules, I have read them a couple times.  My buddy has a set in his cedar chest, so I may go pull them out sometime and compare.  Things that caught my eye:

1.  They added in the thief class!  I'd like to see some method for advancing thief skills if you are gong to bring these into the game, but that would be easily added.

2.  The con based survival roll.  I'm pretty sure this was in the original game rules.   I missed it in the S&W white box rules system.  I think I will be adding it as a house rule to my FR game.  I also like to make each raise dead lower a PC's CON score by 1, sort of a raise dead downward spiral.  Only a wish or equivalent magical power can bring back this lost CON.

3.   They brought in some of the Dave Arneson GONZO factor.  Robots, androids, cyborgs... etc...  while this wasn't always my cup of tea, I kinda like the gonzo factor added in some campaigns.  It was why at the end of the Castle Amber adventure I was running under B/X I added in some mutant albino orcs, and their leader was carrying a Winchester 30/30 rifle.  Hey, they were stuck in a pocket dimension  Steven Amber created, so i threw in all sorts of stuff from lots of different genres as if this pocket dimension was "collecting" things from many different realities.

4.  Love the spell lists, the descriptions, and how they organized the spells Cleric Level 1 all on 1 page, then Level 2, all on one page.  Finding spells would be easier with this edition, saving time.  Characters could even print out the pages with the spells they can cast, so we don't have to search around.

Things I didn't like:

1.  I don't really like the 1d6 for all weapons approach,  I like some variation between weapons.  I understand that D&D combat is extremely abstract and not supposed to be a simulation extactly, but I think this is more of a holdover from Chainmail (although I've only read through those rules once or twice in my teens, so my memory of that isn't perfect).  I actually like the BX weapons tables, just enough weapon variation in damage for me.

2.  All movements are listed in inches?  What the heck does that mean?  Maybe they are assuming you will use mini's or maybe you are supposed to reference chainmail?

3.  Very little around combat times, how long is a round?   Rules for hex based movement are pretty sketchy.

I read through VERY quickly, so maybe all this stuff was in there.  I also get that they were trying to cling as much as possible to the original edition.  Everything I didn't like about these rules are quickly fixed.

In summary, a lot to love, leaving me with some things to think about.  What would my D&D mine look like?

Over the last 4 years I've gone back and played almost all the editions of D&D that were made.  I've played:  ODD, BX D&D (with stuff from rules Cyclopedia added in), 2nd edition AD&D (with stuff from 1e added in), 3rd edition, and finally Castles and Crusades.

Looking back through these different games I think I'm finding a trend:  I like lots of options for PC's added in, but I like shorter combat times (which mostly means lower HP).  I also like lower emphasis on stat bonuses from S&W/ODD vs. the BX, 2nd and 3rd edition, which have larger +/- based on stats.  I don't like skills, but I do like more abilities for characters as they progress through levels, so leveling up is more than another HD.

Ohhh boy, challenge accepted, its time to write up my own D&D mine!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Can you run a game w/ Tolkein Inspired Magic (and have fun?)

This post comes from reading these articles here, here, and here.

Basically in the world of Tolkien, magic is part of the world and was involved in its creation.  As the world became more "concrete" its ability to act in ways that don't seem to follow the laws of ordinary physics lessened.  Immortal magical beings: elves, spirits, the semi-angelic "wizzards" and the "gods" can interact with magic fairly easily.  However, these abilities have variable cost, and may take a split second to act, or could require years.  They move at the pace of the "plot" and don't fall nicely into an RPG system.

I've seen several decent attempts over the years to replicate this style of magic, but in each case... the results contain more quantifiable, and direct magic than what you would see in Tolkien's books.  In order to be easily used in an RPG, magic systems are typically quantifiable and contain in little packets of power with discrete costs associated. 

Examples of systems outside this typical stereotype are S. John Ross' Hedge magic system, which might work well in a Tolkien type universe.  Also, looser game systems like Risus or Fudge/FATE might be able to capture the spirit of tolkien magic due to their reliance on language instead of numbers.  I've often thought a game set in Middle Earth or a facsimile of that world could be fun, but I was never sure how to handle the magical elements.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Viking Swords and Dungeon Fantasy

I watched a really cool documentary on the Ulfberht viking swords.  It's on Netflix and I really enjoyed it.  I love watching this modern day smith recreating the methods of forming the blade and thinking about the trade routes from the middle east that brought this advanced alloy to the northern reaches of the world.

I've also picked up GURPS dungeon fantasy adventurers (the first one).  While I just started a campaign using the Swords and Wizardry Ruleset, I think I may pick up the GURPS 4e core books and try running this system for my next fantasy game.  One of my favorite sections of the adventures book was the equipment!  I really like the way you could add "attributes"to weapons ("Dwarven" "Fine", "balanced", mysterious alloys, etc...).   It really allows for great customization of weapons among a group of adventurers.  They also had other great non-magical but unique items for characters to spend loot on.

As a second edition AD&D DM I used to allow for "fine" crafted weapons to offer a +1 to either attack or damage, which could be lost on an attack roll of a 1 until you saw an expert weaponsmith to repair.  One of my players, started a game with a legendary crafted weapon +1 to both attack and damage (non magical) and then over time, converted that to a magical +1 to both, paying for enchantments with found magical items.  He then added some special abilities over time, and kept this singular weapon through the whole game up into the higher levels.

I really liked the idea of non-magical "special" equipment.  I've got to think of using some of this in a DnD game setting.  Maybe using some of it as loot.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Whitebox Snakemen

I love snakemen, serpent people, Yaunti, whatever you want to call them.  Maybe it is because I watched so much GI Joe as a kid.  Here is a workup I did for them for BX about 3 years ago now.  I'm bringing them into my whitebox forgotten realms game as a power group in the marsh area.  My idea involves them figuring out a way to switch minds with regular folks from Daggerford and infiltrate the town...

HD: 2-4
AC: 6[13]
Attacks: Weapon
Special: see below
HDE/XP: 3-9 (300-1100) depends on abilities

Snakemen are the result of the interbreeding of men with serpents during the dawn of mankind. Forced underground by men and elves thousands of years ago they were brought to near extinction. In the dark they prayed to their serpentine god Shurresh (an aspect of Set) and plotted. In recent years they have come to the surface again taking political control of the city of Hlondeth and exerting an above ground presence in the dinosaur infested jungles of Chult. They are also trying to establish control in the dalelands and in the north surging upward from their vast underdark cities.

Most serpent people appear as humanoids with fine scales as skin, and a snake like cast over their faces. They appear dark brown with a greenish purple tint and their eyes are of rust, yellow, or copper. War bands of serpent people typically wear fine chain armor and wield short curved blades and bows. They can see in the dark out 90 feet.

Some bands of serpent people will have either a cleric of Shurresh (1-10th level) or a magic user (1-10th level). Additionally, all serpent people have a 50% chance of having mental abilities. Examples of abilities include a charm like ability to fool humans into believing them to be human (save vs. spell to avoid), or domination/summoning abilities over snakes, or ESP. Serpent people are friendly [friendly as in attempt to control and dominate to their own ends] with other serpent/lizard/draconian monsters such as nagas and kobolds.

It is rumored that the serpent people have spies all across Faerun. Men whisper aside fires at night that the serpent people steal babies, that female serpent women lure men down dark holes with enchanting songs, and that they torture and breed captive men in their dark cities producing more abominations. There are also rumors that in these cities there are many other twisted forms of snake/men abonminations. Some that are nearly all snakes or men with snakes for arms, etc... there is no proof if these rumors are true.