Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fighting back the Gamer ADD

I was talking to my players this week and they really asked me to fight back the Gamer ADD. They had a real blast playing in Mystara and running through Castle Amber and they would like to keep these characters for a while yet. One of the players is lamenting that he has never had a PC make it to over 10th level and would like to try making it there with his wizard character in this game.

I told them that I have a group of adventures that I've been buying up that should get them up to at least 10th level and maybe beyond.

I'm thinking to run them through a heavily modified Master of the Desert Nomads (which could have a massive detour to the moon if the players play things right), followed by the Temple of Death adventure. That alone should get them up to about 8-10th level.

Then I'd like to use one of these three products that I got off Ebay:

Isle of Dread (maybe I could beef it up a bit for high level PC's, add some kind of twist?)

Empire of Dawn boxed set (I'd like to take my PC's to Alphatia and have some cool mid-air battles among the ramparts of flying castles).

Hollow World Boxed set ( I got this whole boxed set for free, the guy threw it in with another product that I purchased, I think it is pretty neat, and the altered game physics with the magic and stuff could throw off my players in a fun way).

Does anybody that reads this blog have any other ideas for really good 8-12th level adventures?

After some greater than 10th level play, I want to reboot our campaign and have the guys start brand new PC's at low levels. I'd like to run in forgotten realms. However, I would also really like to run Rolemaster - my series on running Forgotten Realms and Rolemaster together probably all ready showed what I'm thinking about. However, my players are really loving the stripped down aspect of Basic DnD and I'm not sure if they are ready for anything close to Rolemaster. They are asking me to "quit it" with the changing game systems each week stuff. It is hard, most of the time I feel like this guy...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rolemaster Customization of FR Deities&Clerics

I went through the major deities that usually crop up as PC clerics and NPC clerics in my games and customized them such that each one would have spell lists to choose from that represented the deities well:

Lathander: Clerics and Paladins gain Light's Way as a Base list, Summons is considered closed for them.

Mystra: revered by Magicians and Sorcerers (who gain their channeling power from her). True clerics of Mystra are mysterious and rare, and their powers are currently unknown.

Oghma: Priests of oghma gain Past Visions and Lores as Base Lists. They lose Summons and Repulsions. They focus on Linguistics, Runes, Mathematics, and star gazing as secondary skills.

Shar: She loses lights way, weather way ,calm spirits, life mastery, repulsions, but gains Curses, Darkness (from Evil Magician list), and Dark Channels as Base Lists. Seduction and subduing are important skills for clerics of Shar.

Silvanus/Chauntea - their clerics are Animists and Rangers.

Talos: Clerics gain weather ways (Lightning Bolt I from Light Law is added to the Weather Ways at the 9th level slot, and Lightning Bolt II is added at 17th level, the GM could give Talos clerics access to higher level Lightning bolts at even higher levels). They also gain Dark Channels, but lose life master, and repulsions.

Tempus: gain the typical cleric list, but gains the Mind over Matter (+25 to Adrenal Moves) during combat. I thought about giving them an option to be berserkers but I never liked that in 2eAD&D so I didn't add that. I might let clerics of Tempus have a little lower weapon skill acquisition costs to reflect the militant nature of the order.

Clerics of Tyr and Torm are as found in Character Law and Spell Law.
Clerics of Helm and Ilmater are also unadjusted. - all of these clerics have summoning but can only summon good aligned creatures (no demons).

Clerics of Mielikki are rangers - rangers will have quite a few deities to choose from.

Clerics and Animists of Selune are unadjusted on their spell lists, however all of them are affected by Lycanthropy from the Creatures and Treasures book. They also focus on star gazing/ moon cycle knowledge as secondary skills.

Priests of Tymora are unadjusted in regards to their spell lists but all have the Lucky advantage (they may adjust any roll affecting them per day by +10/-10). Tymora also frowns on her clerics summoning demons - so her clerics should veer away from that ave.

"Clerics" of Mask are usually PC thieves who select the Channeling focus and gain their channeling spells from Mask. There are also reports of some "chosen" of Mask that are actually clerics with good thieving skills - they are extremely rare and their exact skills are unknown.

Clerics of Llira/Milil loose the summoning spell list, and gain Controlling Songs; additionally they focus on dance, singing, seduction, drama, and other crafts and musical skills.

Clerics of Umberlee gain Water Law(magician list), but lose the repulsion, and calm spirits lists. They tend to have good ability in swimming, navigation, rowing, sailing, diving, etc...

This is my list so far... I have kept most of the "evil" lists a secret for two reasons. No use letting my PC's know exactly what I have in store for them.

Another thing I'm going to have to deal with is the rolemaster rules for clerics/paladins and metal armor...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Men of Forgotten Realms Rolemaster Style

Since my last post on combining Forgotten Realms with Rolemaster I purchased the Rolemaster Companion I - it has various races of men and like 6 varieties of half-elves which I found excessive, but it also had a paladin class that seems pretty good.

From this I decided to go with:

Men of the Savage North: The lands around and above Icewind Dale have a group of men who fit along with the same line of "proud, well built, tall, and blonde peoples of the north" from pg 45-46 of the RC1. For PC's who would like to use an even more barbaric stock of man, such as the Uthgardt barbarian tribes, I would have them use the Bear Tribes from pg45-46 of RC1. Obviously, PC's could use the same two categories of men for the eastern northern areas such as The Ride.

Men of the Heartlands: I'm going to split up the men from the heartlands of forgotten realms into two flavors - Common Men and Mixed Men. The common man would represent 80-90% of the humans living in Faerun. Those men living in close enough proximity to the deep elvish woods (examples: the dalelands around Cormanthor, and men living around the Wood of Sharp Teeth or the eastern portion of the High Forest where their stock has been blended with elves since the time of the lost civilizations of Askavar and Eaerlann). I think the common man & mixed men could work from Silvermoon to Calisham and from Thay to Cormyr - men are men. Mixed men are not quite half elves, but have a bit of the fay or magical blood in them which gives my players an option or two to choose from.

Horse Warriors: any character from the horde could pick "Common Man" or "Dark Tribes" from pg 45-46. Dark tribes are supposed to represent nomadic horse people, similar to the culture of the Hordelands.

I think this is enough variation in men for me. I for one don't really need game mechanical adjustment for every little village in the realms. I'm planning that 80-90% of the men played in my game will be either the Common Man, or Mixed Man. Maybe there will be one horse warrior or barbarian among them.

Page 45 of the RC1 also has a great deal about customizing clerical orders for Rolemaster. I plan to start working on that next, and will try to cover at least most of the greater gods and work on important lesser dieties.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

B/X Wizard and Elf Spell Lists

As JB from BX BlackRazor has pointed out before:

Magic-users and elves are limited to the number of spells they may know, and their books will contain spells equal to the number and level of spells the caster can use in a single day (thus, the books of a 4th level elf will contain two first and two second level spells).

I have not been playing this way in my B/X games so far. I've been playing that characters can learn spells from spellbooks and scrolls that they find and scribe them into their spell books. I haven't really put a limit on the spells that a wizard/elf can have in their books. Each day they have to memorize spells from their spellbooks. This is pretty close to the way I played 1e and 2e AD&D. I hardly ever worried about how many spells a PC would learn.

However, I've been thinking of loosely following the rule from the expert book listed above. But I would like to alter it in an interesting way:

Wizards/Elves would only be able to "learn" the number of spells equal to the number that they can use in a single day.

However, they can keep spell books with any number of spells in them and they can learn spells from the spellbook of an enemy, but if they already have learned the maximum number of spells of that level they must trade one spell for one spell (essentially learning the new spell causes them to "forget" a spell that was already in their head). It takes them ~1 week of uninterrupted study to change a learned spell slot. Wizards could change spells on the road but only if they don't engage in combat, take damage, or face harsh weather conditions, etc... anything that could take a large portion of their concentration off imprinting the spell into their mind.

Wizards/Elves would not need to consult their books to memorize their spells each day, instead they can cast any of their learned spells up to the # of spells per level that they may cast per day. This would remove the need for wizards and elves to bring spellbooks along for the adventuring trip (unless they think they might want to change a learned slot on the road). If a 2nd level magic user has the ability to learn and cast 2 spells per day and has Magic Missile and Sleep learned he could cast one of those each in a day or cast two sleep spells in a row.

Using this method would improve magic user and elf versatility, trading it for an increased limitation on the amount of spells they can have access to at any given time. Also, having access to another wizards spell books would allow you to "learn" more spells and transcribe them into your books - so there would still be a good reason to have wizard mentors and guilds. I'm not 100% convinced I'd like to adopt it, but I may give it a trial run this fall if I can get together a skype game with the Castle Amber crew. I talked to them about continuing more of a campaign following up on the Castle Amber adventure with a couple of others that I have.

I think I'm going to run them through the Master of the Desert Nomads followed by the Temple of Death adventure. I think those two adventures should easily take 4-5 decent sessions each and would likely bring all of the party members up to 9-10th level if they can defeat the modules.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marsh/Cook Expert Monster HD Analysis

Following up on my post about determining the distribution of monster HD in the moldvay basic text, I did the same thing for the Cook/Marsh Expert book. I found the analysis quite interesting. I remember thinking that there were very few 3HD monsters in the basic book - I had screwed that up with the expert book. There are very few ODD HD creatures in the expert book. Either Cook or Marsh (or both) had a thing with even numbers. They liked to make entries of monsters with 4, 8, 12HD creatures.

Here is the data:

It is also interesting to me that while the Moldvay progression seems very planned the Cook/Marsh distribution seems very haphazard. They both had roughly the same number of posts, I counted 102 in Moldvay and 101 in Cook/Marsh but I could be off by 1-2 in each case.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Moldvay Basic Monster HD Analysis

The other night I became obsessed with what the distribution of monster HD was in the Moldvay Basic book. I was thinking that there were way more 3HD creatures than 2HD which seemed strange to me. So I got out a pencil and wrote a list. I got 102 total entries (there was only one that I didn't mark down "NPC Party" because the HD was variable. In cases where the HD was 2+2 I marked it down as a 2HD creature. In cases where a range was included such as 4-6, I would mark it down as a 5HD entry.

Here are the results:

It is a nice distribution with the highest number of 1HD monsters and trailing downward up to 11HD creatures. I'd like to repeat this analysis for the Cook/Marsh expert book and then compare and contrast the two books.

It looks like quite a bit of thought went into the design of how many monsters to include and what ratio of each (approximately) was desired.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Forgotten Rolls

Gamer ADD strikes again. I've been reading my Rolemaster Classic books again and leafing through Waterdeep and the North and my Ruins of Undermountain boxed set. It then hit me that I could combine the two and satisfy two cravings at the same time.

Adapting rolemaster for AD&D isn't that hard, but I'm going to have to take care of a couple minor details...

1. No Gnomes in Rolemaster - do I add gnomes to Rolemaster or delete Gnomes from Faerun? I will probably add the gnomes. Maybe I can find something online.

2. "High Men" - do I delete them from Rolemaster or do I come up with a way of making two (or more) flavors of men work in Faerun? I could imagine separating a few different "sub-races" of men - Northern Barbarians, Calishites, and men of the Western Coast.

3. "Eastern" martial arts professions in Rolemaster, they don't groove with the more medieval/Ren vibe of Forgotten Realms. These could easily be switched to NPC professions only.

4. I'd like to add the paladin profession somehow, I've heard that this profession was covered in one of the rolemaster supplements or maybe I can find a fan version online somewhere. This class is important to a lot of the faiths on faerun so I want to make sure I get it in there.

5. I wouldn't allow my players to take on Orc, Trolls, and other humanoids as PC races. Just doesn't fit with my vision of the realms. I don't even like half-orcs and half-ogres as PC's in the realms - it just doesn't fit for me. When I think about the realms I think about Ed Greenwood's Spellfire, without a doubt. It just occurred to me that I need to review that book here, it was one of my original influences in how to play D&D.

6. I think playing in and around Waterdeep would allow for a lot of Roleplaying and less ROLL playing, which should keep the PC's alive for a decent amount of time. Directly adapting the kick down the door, kill the monster, and take all the loot approach of D&D would definitely fail miserably using rolemaster when all the PC's are knocked out, with broken bones, and slashed jugulars. I have both the City System boxed set with the glorious map that fills an entire room and also the FR1 Waterdeep and the North book that I will probably use more in play.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Elves of Alfheim

Lately I've been spending a few bucks on Ebay. I've been picking up the Mystaran Gaz series, slowly acquiring quite a few of them.

My favorite so far is the Elves of Alfheim. I love the cover shown above, I love the whole bit about the trees of life, the elven philosophy, the magic that grew a forest and created magically spawning monsters, the druidic style spell list for elves that take the treekeeper path, elvish swords, and pretty much everything about the book. It even has some nice adventure ideas for groups ranging from levels 1 up to the companion and masters level PC.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Finishing Castle Amber (with Alt Ending)

Well, last week was my military buddies last day in town. We all got together for a bit of pasta and a D&D session with one singular goal in mind: finish the Castle Amber module. You can see my other play recaps one, two, three, four, five, and my alternate ending idea for the CAS inspired black sand desert and the alternate crypt.

I warned them up front that this could end in a TPK and secretly I knew that when they faced down the mummies in the tomb of Steven that was the most likely spot for TPK.

Things started out all right enough for them, they combined a ring of telekinesis, a flight spell and invisibility to make short work of the necromatic colossus with a well pitched bag of undead killing dust to the face. They defeated the beast of perigon and obtained the Ring of Eibon again employing a combination of an elf, flying outside of a castle window firing lightning bolt into the castle and then running about on the roof top, while their dwarf who is an animal with 46 HP at 5th level (now upgraded to 56! HP at 6th level) just stood toe-to-toe with the beast and took like 40 damage over 3 rounds without dying, until the beast of Averoigne bit his leg off at the knee. They waited a couple of weeks and fit the dwarf with a peg leg and continued on.

They performed the ritual combining the four items together to create an extra-dimensional rift that sent them to the demi-planar home of Steven Amber. They even did ok evading a death knight and sacrificing a mule to the crazy amputee gardners of the poison flower ruin/garden in the middle of the desert.

It was however a bit of a surprise when an albino orc took aim with a Winchester rifle and blew a large chuck of plate mail armor from the shoulder of the main leader of the party - the elf. The party responded with a barrage of magic missiles, hold person spells, and suddenly they had suppressed 20 out of 30 of the albino orcs in two or maybe three rounds at the most....

But all things turned around quickly when they opened the door to the Tomb using the gold crown they had found in the Amber Lion/Golem at the silver gate in the castle (I read to them about the tapestry of a gold crown and pheonix on a field of sable, and they came up with the idea that the doors could be opened by touching them with the crown. Initially I was planning for the doors to be unlocked but I thought it was a cool idea to touch the doors with the crown so I made it work and had the doors swing open with a loud rush of air at the first touch by the crown).

That was when everything fell apart - nine mummies attacked. Everyone in the party failed their saves and were paralyzed for a round giving the mummies a free attack. Then the mummies gained the initiative for the second round. Two out of seven of the party members were below zero by round two. By round 4 the number grew to 3 and the mummies hadn't yet taken damage. I realized I probably had a TPK on my hands but I was prepared for it. However, when three mummies rolled 1's in a roll on the party's cleric, keeping him alive, things began to turn around for the group. The clerics had both already tried turning to no avail, however, the cleric was able to run backward out of the tomb, with the mummies returning to their feet and giving chase, this allowed the party magic user to barrage them with magic missiles (he was sixth level casting 3d6+3 damage per spell!). This combined with some lucky strikes by the cleric, and things started turning around.

B/X Mummies are sick.

I was planning to have magaen creatures jump out of the side rooms but that would have ended the night without a doubt. So instead I made up some fun stuff for the players to find in there. One room had the implements of mummification, in another room was a large espresso machine and potion mixer with a sign that said (drink at your own risk), in the third room they found several automaton creatures that served steven, they interacted with them and figured out how to get to Stephen's casket and remove the curse.

As a side-note, also have to say that the most resilient character of the party was the dwarf, the combination of a low AC of 1, 46 HP, awesome saving throws, and wielding a +2 mace with another +1 to attack and damage due to strength meant that he just started dropping mummies every couple of rounds.

All the characters ended up with a little bit of mummy rot but that was cured by Steven Amber using his ring of wishes. He also healed them all up, regenerated the dwarf's leg, and gave them all a 10,000gp gem/jewelry, and a random magical item each. I rolled up some cool stuff for them and we quit the night. This is an awesome adventure but a bit of a monty haul relative to what I normally run my players through.

We decided that we might bring these characters back for another game - Master of the Desert Nomads and the Temple of Death. I think the PC's are of an appropriate power level for those two adventures. I already have an idea on how to pull them into the first adventure, but that is a tale for another evening...