Friday, September 23, 2016

Dragonlance and The Hero's Journey


I got bored, so here's some quick and dirty conversions to run a Dragonlance campaign using The Hero's Journey.

Races:
Kender: Kender function exactly as Halflings, with the following modifications:
  • Kender roll 3d6 for Intelligence
  • Kender roll 2d6+1 for Willpower
  • Kender do not receive the "Flick of the Wrist" ability. Instead all kender are automatically proficient in the Hoopak. They receive a +1 bonus to all "to hit" rolls when wielding a hoopak. Hoopaks inflict damage as a staff when used in melee and function as slings when used as ranged weapons.
  • Kender do not receive the "Stout Heart" ability. 
  • All Kender receive the following racial ability: Fearless: Kender are completely and utterly immune to the emotion of fear. They simply do not experience it, whether naturally or by magical compulsion.

Classes:
Bard:
Kender Bards cannot learn to cast Wizard spells.
Bards no longer gain access to 3rd level Wizard spells.

Cavalier:
Cavaliers are known as Knights of Solamnia in Dragonlance. 
Knights of Solamnia must be Lawful in alignment. 
A 1st level Knight of Solamnia is known as a "Knight of the Crown." 
A 4th level Knight of Solamnia is known as a "Knight of the Sword."
A 7th level Knight of Solamnia is known as a "Knight of the Rose."

Jester:
Kender Jesters cannot learn to cast Wizard spells.
Jesters no longer gain access to 3rd level Wizard spells.

Paladin:
This class does not exist on Krynn. It cannot be selected.

Wizard:
Before reaching 5th level, all Wizards are expected to travel to a Tower of High Sorcery and take "The Test" to prove their skill and dedication to the art of magic. Failure typically results in the death of the Wizard.

Need some other rules? Make it up, you doorknob!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More B/X Awesomeness on OBS

So I don't know how it slipped my notice, but RPGNow and DriveThruRPG have added two new B/X D&D products to their site. Both are tough acquisitions on eBay, fetching quite a price for those trying to find physical copies.

Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark is a boxed set that details the adventures of the crew of the airship known as the Princess Ark, which was the subject of an ongoing series featured in Dragon Magazine back in the day. It's seriously cool stuff, and given that if you're lucky enough to find a used copy for sale you're likely to pay $100, it's damn near theft at $9.99.

Also, we've now got DDA3: Eye of Traldar available, which is your traditional "track down the MacGuffin" adventure and in spite of the high prices physical copies fetch, it's never been anything exceptional in my opinion. That being said, it's perfectly serviceable for a night of adventure and $4.99 is just inside the reasonable price range.

Apparently, in my blindness, I also missed the fact that OBS has added the Hollow World Campaign Box
Set and HWA3: Nightstorm.

For all the complaining I heard back in the day that B/X and Rules Cyclopedia D&D were "vanilla," I think supplements like Princess Ark and Hollow World certainly prove that to not be the case. These were fast, fun, gonzo adventuring from my care-free days of rolling dice and saving the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The B/X or Labyrinth Lord Gully Dwarf

Gully Dwarf
Requirements: CON 9, INT 8 or lower
Prime Requisite: DEX and CON
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 4

Gully Dwarves are a much maligned sub-race of dwarves known for their magnanimous stupidity and unbelievable ability to survive in even the worst environments. They are perpetually filthy, wearing rotted rags, eating garbage, and making their homes in places that even a goblin would find offensive. This combined with a surprising low cunning, means that Gully Dwarves possess a unique set of skills that can be of some use to an adventuring party - if that party can get past fact that these pathetic creatures are unrepentant cowards who fight only when pleading for mercy or escape are no longer an option.

In spite of this cowardice, Gully Dwarves are willing to use whatever is at hand to defend themselves if necessary. They can wield any one-handed melee weapon, but lack the intellect to learn the complexities of weapons like bows and crossbows. Because of this they may only used ranged weapons which can be thrown, such as daggers or javelins. They often wear layers of animal hides or cast off crow's mail to protect themselves and if provided with formal armor they can wear padded, leather, and studded leather armor. Their willingness to hide behind whatever is at hand to avoid injury also means they make regular use of shields.

If they have a 13 in at least one or the other prime requisite, the Gully Dwarf receives a +5% to all experience points they earn. If both prime requisites are 13 or higher, the character receives a +10% bonus.

Gully Dwarf Class Progression
Experience
Level
Hit Dice
0
1
1d8
2,187
2
2d8
4,375
3
3d8
8,751
4
4d8

Saving Throws
Level
Breath Weapon
Poison or Death
Petrify or Paralyze
Wands
Spells
1-3
13
4
10
9
12
4-6
10
2
8
7
10

Combat

Character
Defender Armor Class
Level -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1-2
20
20
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
3
20
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
4
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8


Sharp Senses: Because they live in a state of constant fear of attack, Gully Dwarves have surprisingly keen senses. They can any secret doors and even any traps within thirty feet with a 1-4 on 1d6 chance of success. These sharp senses extend to a natural infravision, which they have at a range of sixty feet.

Hiding in a Hole: The first defense of any Gully Dwarf is to hide in the dark places of their foul realms. When moving at half their normal rate Gully Dwarves travel in perfect silence with a 1-3 on 1d6 chance of success. They can also remain completely unseen in underground environments if they remain perfectly still with a 1-3 on 1d6 chance of success. These abilities can be used in wilderness environments as well, but only have a 1 on 1d6 chance of success in those cases.

Plague Resistant: Because they constantly live in filth and regularly eat food others would consider a death sentence, Gully Dwarves have an extraordinary resistance to these things, as is reflected in their saving throws.

Unashamed Coward: Gully Dwarves are unabashed cowards, fleeing from even the slightest threat unless they have an overwhelming advantage. As such they have a -8 penalty to any saving throws made to resist fear effects such as those caused by Cause Fear spells or similar effects.

Surprising Ferocity: While often regarded as pathetic and non-threatening, Gully Dwarves the tenacity of a caged and abused animal if they are cornered. They receive a +2 bonus to all attack and damage rolls when forced to fight against a foe who has twice the number of hit dice than the Gully Dwarf.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Pardon My Rant: Respect for the DM

So, this is a bit of a rant, so feel free to skip it if you don't want to listen to me bitch.

Still with me? Good. Let's begin.

I love running a game. I love being a Dungeon Master. I love it when my players are so engaged that they're hanging on every word and tensing whenever a d20 clatters on the table. It's one of the great joys in my life. I'm rarely more satisfied in my life than when a session ends and my players are chomping at the bit for the next adventure.

That being said, I work really hard to make it happen. I spend my spare time reading and prepping. I purchase far too many books. I make campaign bibles. I print character sheets. I buy books and dice to give to my players. I do it because gaming should be fast, fun, and accessible. As DM, and in effect the leader of the party, I feel it's my job to facilitate these things. I'm the steward of everyone else's fun and if I fuck it up, it negatively impacts everyone at the table.

A little appreciation would be nice now and again.

I get that life interferes with scheduled gaming sometimes. I get that shit comes up sometimes. But to spend hours of work and a lot of money to craft a fun game for everyone at the table and watch players sit oblivious or willfully ignorant of this is really started to stick in my craw.


I'm older now, and have less time for bullshit. My lack of bullshit tolerance has lead to a few things:

  • First and foremost, show up. If you can't, let me know as soon as possible so I can modify the upcoming session to accommodate the absence. Same goes for being late.
  • Know the rules. I don't expect my players to know every single detail, but if we're six sessions in and you don't know the basics of how your magic-user memorizes and casts spells, there's a problem. Be proactive and read the rules for how your character functions - especially if I shelled out some money to purchase a book for you as a gift. 
  • No religion or politics at the table. End of story. That shit never ends well.
  • This is a group game. While it's neat to have a cool concept for a character, don't sit down with a pre-generated character, a complete background, and all your bells and whistles covered if the only thing you know is that "We're playing Labyrinth Lord" or "We're starting up a Star Wars campaign." Any given RPG game can have a plethora of themes and styles of play and each group gels differently. Coming to the table with your character set in stone and expecting everyone to bend themselves into knots to accomidate your special snowflake is egocentric and insulting to everyone else at the table.
  • On the other end of things, if everyone wants to play a game that you're not to keen on, say something - but don't be passive-aggressive about it. There's nothing wrong and no mature gamer will be offended if you say "I genuinely hope you guys have a blast, but I'm going to sit this one out."
  • Lastly, say "Thanks." I work my ass off and a little recognition is appreciated from time to time.


So yeah, I'm feeling salty and a little pissed. Again, my bullshit tolerance is not what it once was when I was in my twenties. I felt the need to get it off my chest. I (and every other DM out there worth their dice bag) busts their ass to make a fun experience for everyone. Respect that, otherwise I might as well pack my shit up and go home.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The B/X or Labyrinth Lord Kender

Kender

Requirements: DEX 9, CHA 9
Prime Requisite: DEX and CON
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 8
Kender are small, elfin humanoids that primarily reside in eastern Ansalon - though due to an affliction called Wanderlust, are found all across the continent. Irrepressible, fearless, and preptually curious, most other species of Krynn regard Kender as pests. Their combination of youthful curiousity, energetic nature, and the complete inability to feel the emotion of fear makes them natural adventurers. Unfortunately, this curiousity leads Kender to "handle" various objects that strike their fancy. They fearlessly examine, fiddle with, and often break objects that are shiny, magical, or newly encountered. This handling often ends with the Kender unknowingly putting the object in question in their many pouches. It doesn't matter whether the object is nailed down, protected, or even on someone else's person - a curious Kender will absently and unknowingly pocket the item. This is not theft, though most other species regard it as such. For the Kender, the fact that the object is interesting is of surpreme importance and not its monetary value.

For all the trouble Kender inadvertantly bring to their adventuring companions, they are nimble-fingered, stealthy, and quite skilled at picking a lock. These talents, combined with their boundless sense of hope and wonder, can make them surprisingly valuable allies when exploring the dark and terrible places of the world.

Kender rely on their agility and perpetual optimism to survive. They only wear padded, leather, and studded leather armor. They do not use shields. Like dwarves, Kender may not use large and two-handed weapons, but may use any other weapon. They favor a weapon unique to their people, a quarterstaff with a sling mounted at its top. This weapon is called a Hoopak. When a Kender wields a Hoopak in melee it inflicts 1d6 damage and when the sling is used as a ranged weapon it inflicts 1d4 points of damage. Hoopaks are only sold in Kender lands and cost 5 gold pieces.

If they have a 13 in at least one or the other prime requisite, the Kender receives a +5% to all experience points they earn. If both prime requisites are 13 or higher, the character receives a +10% bonus.

Kender Class Progression
Experience
Level
Hit Dice
Open Locks & Handling
0
1
1d6
60%
2,035
2
2d6
65%
4,085
3
3d6
70%
8,175
4
4d6
75%
16,251
5
5d6
80%
32,501
6
6d6
85%
65,001
7
7d6
90%
130,001
8
8d6
95%

Saving Throw
Level
Breath Weapon
Poison or Death
Petrify or Paralyze
Wands
Spells
1-3
13
8
10
9
12
4-6
10
6
8
7
10
7-8
7
4
6
5
8

Combat
Character
Defender Armor Class
Level
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1-2
20
20
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
3
20
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
4
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
5
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
7-8
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5

Keen Senses: Because of their keen senses, Kender can detect concealed doors, secret doors, and traps when they come within ten feet of them with a 1-2 on 1d6 chance of success. If actively searching for these things, they are successful on 1-3 on 1d6. Their sharp senses also makes it difficult to surprise a Kender, and they are only surprised on a 1 on 1d6.

Quick and Nimble: Because of their small size and quick reflexes, all Kender receive a +1 bonus to their Armor Class when fighting against an opponent who is larger than man-sized. They also receive +1 to all attack rolls made when using a ranged weapon.

Fearless: Kender are completely immune to fear, whether natural or magical. It simply does not effect them.

Stealth: As long as the Kender remains perfectly still and can conceal themselves through obstruction or shadows, the remain undetected 90% of the time. If the Kender moves at half their movement rate, they can remain perfectly silent with the same chance of success.

Open Locks: Kender can pick locks as long as they have the tools to do so. They are extraordinarily skilled at this and have a 60% chance of success at first level, and this increases by +5% per level. This ability can also be used to disarm traps, but with only half the normal chance of success.

Pouches: Kender typically carry countless pouches, great and small, in which they store the miscellaneous objects they've acquired in their travels. Whenever the Kender reaches into the pouch, he can produce a random item determined by the referee. Typically, these items are shiny, interesting, or unique - not necessarily valuable or magical.

Handling: Kenders are not thieves and do not knowingly steal. Because of this, they do not have a Pick Pocket skill like a more traditional "thief." Instead, the Kender will sometimes unknowingly pilfer an item from an individual, particularly if that item is interesting or unique. The referee determines exactly when this happens. The Kender's chance of going unnoticed by the victim of this ability is 60% and increases by +5% per level.


Taunting: Once per day, the Kender may spend the combat round verbally taunting an individual target with a surprisingly offensive and creative insults. The target must be able to hear the Kender. That target must then make a saving throw vs. spells or become enraged and focus on attacking the Kender. Because they are infuriated and focused on destroying the obnoxious pest, they suffer a -2 penalty to their Armor Class for 1d6 rounds after they have failed their saving throw.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Bastard's Blade: Preliminary Notes

So I'm using my blog to keep my campaign concepts organized as they spill out of brain. Ignore or read at your pleasure.

The Bastard's Blade
A D&D Campaign

The Great Mother, progenitor of all Beholders, is said to see all and know all. No secret, no mystery escapes her countless all-seeing eyes. 

This is not so. He is left in darkness by her own hubris. In the vast depth of her perceptions, she believes she knows all. There is nothing left for her to learn. Such pride has left her blind.

Eons ago, one of her endless eyes gave birth to a horrid withering beast. Wretched and broken before it could escape malice of its creator, this thing was driven mad before being left to die by the Great Mother.

But even wretched and broken, such a creature is still the offspring of a god. Whether it wandered the planes searching for purpose or what cast into Faerun and left to die by the Great Mother is unknown - even to the all-seeing Great Mother.

In the age of Netheril, when high magic ruled the Forgotten Realms, Lord Spirius brought left blood and suffering in his wake - all in the name of some nameless, unknown power. His horrible atrocities have faded into myth and are recalled only as a byline in a scant few tomes of lore.

None know where Lord Spirius came from, how he rose to power, or how he was defeated. Only his name and that of his sword remain - Caedis, the Bastard's Blade.

Key Figures
Great Mother: Supreme Goddess of Beholders, wants to become truly all knowing, but is held back by her own arrogance.

Spirius: Bastard child of the Great Mother. Fled to Prime Material Plane and took mortal form to hide from his mother. Wanted to become all knowing in the hopes of overthrowing his mother and eventually using the gained knowledge to rule all the cosmos. Slain in the Netheril age, not truly dead - simply lost his mortal form. Has remained hidden in a demi-plane, trying to get back to his sword and its thousands of years of acquired knowledge (see below).

Caedis: The campaign MacGuffin. Crafted by warlords in the service of Spirius' army: the Illuminated Knights. The Knights were skilled magical artisans, and a cabal of their senior members crafted the sword - one from every full blooded PC race from the PHB (Dragonborn, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Human, Tiefling, etc) to capture a fragment of their knowledge in the sword. Each time someone is slain by the sword, the blade takes their knowledge into itself.
Caedis is an artifact of extraordinary power. Unfortunately, all that knowledge can't be contained by a mortal and if a mortal wields it long enough they eventually go insane from all the info in their mind.

The Illuminated Order: A secret cult maintained by the bloodline of the Illuminated Knights who have remained hidden for thousands of years, searching for Caedis. Have they found the sword yet? Is the sword broken? Venerates and allies with Beholders and Beholder-kin, believing Spirius will return as one of these types of creatures.

Connections to Modules
Lost Mines of Phandelver: Dwarf brothers secretly members of the Illuminated Order? Magical forge used in creation of Caedis? Spectator monster a servant of the cult or spy for the Great Mother? Green Dragon spying on the would-be cultists?

Curse of Strahd: Spirius hidden/trapped in Barovia? Strahd hoping to harness Caedis to break his curse?

Lord Spirius?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Fate Worse than Character Death

If you play tabletop roleplaying games long enough, your character is going to die. If you're lucky, you'll have an awesome, memorable, fitting, or and even heroic death. If you're not lucky, the dice will shit on you till you choke on it and then leave your battered, stinking corpse for the carrion birds. 

But you know what? That's OK. It's part of the game. Most gamers figure that out pretty quickly and learn to roll with dice punches. Some players become rather irate at character death, even outright pissed off or angry at the DM/GM/Judge/Dude Behind the Screen. Those players are not often the most fun to game with and you probably want to avoid them.

But you know what's worse than death at the table? Hold Person. Sleep. Imprisonment.

I've never seen players get more frustrated at a table than the moment when their character (and by extension them) are removed from the action completely and utterly. They can't move. They can't speak. They can't use any of their class abilities. 

And you know what? That shit genuinely sucks and those players have a right to be a bit pissed off. Not "swearing at the DM and throwing a fit at the table" pissed off, but more "passive-aggressive sigh" pissed off.

Why do these things piss players off so much, often more so than character death?

It boils down to one thing: Agency.

Players want to play. If their character dies, they can still roll up someone new and jump back in the action. But if they're locked by a Hold Person spell they have to just sit their and do nothing. The ideas start flowing, and the player starts to think about what they would do if they could participate. But they can't. They can't play the game. They're reduced to being a spectator.

What's worse is they're a spectator who invested time, effort, and in most cases, money in participating in the game - in being part of the action. The job of the DM is to allow that, encourage that, to facilitate participation. If the player and their character can't participate, then what's the point? I think some modules and adventures forget that, as do some DMs and even some players.

I'm not saying to never throw a Hold Person at your players - I'm saying don't chronically shackle your players - literally or figuratively. This is the reason I'm not a fan of adventures like Scourge of the Slave Lords or Out of the Abyss. They limit agency right off the bad. Players might feel screwed from the get-go. Always, always, always, make sure your players are able to play their characters, feel awesome, and make use of their abilities.