Sunday, July 26, 2020

Transforming Black Hack's Usage Die Into a Quality Die for Equipment

At lunch I was listening to the Purple Worms podcast. The specific episode was titled Spicing up Combat. They mentioned Black Hack and its usage die and the idea of changing the usage die into a simple quality die for equipment banged into my head. I've heard since there are variable versions of this already, but I thought I would explain my version.

Before I get too far into this, the quality die I am considering is just a rough idea and I haven't put into play yet. I understand that it adds extra dice throws, but shame on you if you complain about that. And I thought about it, in my game the extra dice throws might happen once to three times in game. So the intrusion is minimal.

What Items Would it Work On
For this post's purposes I am focusing on combat items. Weapons and armor.

When to Roll
After a combat I'd have the players make a single roll for each  weapon used. Even if the PC missed all three attempts. Combat considers all the dodging, parrying, and so on. Also missile weapons would need to roll. While a bow or crossbow isn't used as a contact weapon, it does wear. Wood cracks, strings snap. Armor and shields would need to roll also. I'm guess a fighter might need to make three rolls after combat, most classes two, and possibly none for a magic-user. 

How it Would Work
I would use the Black Hack version where an object is designated a die of quality and if a 1 or 2 is rolled the item's quality is reduced. A d8 quality die would reduce to a d6. A d6 would reduce to a d4. If a failure occurs on a d4 the item breaks.

Example, if you had a d8 quality sword and during your adventure of murder hoboing you fail and your sword drops to a d6. Then in the final fight against the big bad thingy you failed and now the sword is a d4 quality. When you return to town and want to get your sword repaired. Repairing it only improves the quality die by one. So that d8 quality sword is now only a d6 at its best.

Repairing a magic item is difficult due to the quality level it needs to be before hand. I'd say a crafter of exceptional skill would have the ability to repair a magic item. Again, I am writing about combat items.

What Happens on a Critical Failure/Success
The item loses a quality die automatically. No roll. And I would say if the PC was critically struck the armor quality die is decreased automatically. I considered a chance of catastrophic failure but decided against it. The item automatically declines a die, the player then makes a roll using the new usage die and if a 1 or 2 were rolls the items breaks on the spot no matter the quality die.

Example of Standard Quality Dice
If the party is buying things straight out of the book I would assign those pieces a d8 quality die. If they are buying used items on the cheap, a d6 quality die. Say they find an item made by some sort of quality craftsman I'd bump the quality die to a d10 or d12. This gives a little range for craftsman ability. Then the d20 would most likely be assigned to magic items. But not necessarily. Some of the magic items may decrease in quality due to use or age.

I like the idea. I really do, but until I put it into play I'm not sure how it'll work and if the players will find it annoying. But I like the fact that a found sword wears out after usage and a new one would need to found after a time. I run a tight resource game, so sometime the store in town may not have a sword, but if you have a game where resources are plentiful it won't have much impact.

And don't be this guy. Cannon balls are not your friends.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Resist Cold

Wow, Am I tired. Getting back into swing of having other people around, opening the doors to the crowds, and the general chaos that is a constant of my job. But we are not here to speak about such nonsense. I have one more spell in the 1st level cleric spells in OSE to cover. The all important Resist Cold! A it anti-climatic, but here we are. Grab a coat and a hat.

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 30'
All creatures within this range are protected from cold, as follows:
Normal Cold: Unharmed by non-magical freezing temperatures. 
Save Bonus: Gain a +2 to all saving throws vs. cold-based magical or breath attacks.
Cold-based damaged: Is reduced by 1 point per die damage rolled. (Each die inflicts a minimum of 1 hit point of damage.)

So there it is. One of the first things that popped out at me is I didn't realize it was a radius spell. So everybody who huddles around the cast, within 30', gains the bonuses of the spell. That makes the spell more interesting. More useful. While the cold-based attacks, I did a quick search through OSE Monster book, only a white dragon, frost giant, and frost salamander do that kind of damage. Magic items include Wand of Cold, Staff of Wizardry, and the spell of Cone of Cold. 

But I think of it more as an environmental spell to help survive arctic-like conditions. And 6 turns won't get you too far so it could add some urgency to the game. "The next village is an hour away so we've got to move fast." Then the dread GM rolls a random encounter, giant flying frost worms with laser eyes! This is going to slow down the party. While they may hide to let the giant flying frost worms with laser eyes pass, they've used valuable time as the spell is now going to end one or two turns before they reach the village. That's good stuff right there. 

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 1 turn/level
Range: Touch
When this spell is placed on a creature by a cleric, the creature's body is inured to cold. The repentant can stand can stand zero degrees Fahrenheit without discomfort, even totally nude. Greater cold such as that produced by a sword of cold, ice storm, cold wand, or white dragon's breath, must be saved against. All saving throws made against cold are made with a bonus of +3, and damage sustained is one-half (if the saving throw is not made) or one-quarter (if saving throw is made) of damage from that attack form. The resistance lasts for 1 turn per level of experience of the caster. A pinch of sulphur is necessary to complete this spell. 

Whew. Got to love those AD&D spell descriptions. The simplicity of OSE version shines when sitting next to this version. 

Let's take a look at what I think works in the spell. 

  • I'm always a fan to have a spell increase in use/power as a mage gains levels, so the duration advancement is a welcome option. 
  • While it's not going to be much good for exploration it'll have more use in combat in AD&D. More opponents, magic items, and spells use cold based damage. 
  • And I always enjoyed the addition of specific spell components even though I never used them in game. I have adopted the components to enhance a spell's performance.
What I'm not a fan of is...
  • The overly complicated way the saving throw works. Too much math. 
  • I'm not sure why the spell description was so specific about working at zero degrees. Gary lived in Wisconsin, I'm sure he know zero degrees wouldn't do in most location especially if you have some wind. 
  • And while I like spell components I don't feel sulphur is the correct one. While I understand is associates with flame and warmth I would lean more toward something like a vial of ice from a glacier. I dunno, just throwing it out there.
Normally I would do another version of the spell to compare it to, but not this time.

This concludes the going through the 1st level cleric spells in Old School Essentials. I haven't decided to move onto the 2nd level of clerical spells or do the 1st level magic-user spells. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Let's Get Weird

And let's face it, those of you reading my blog have already passed getting weird. However, I wanted to spotlight Weird Adventures by Trey Causey. He's the maestro behind From the Sorcerer's Skull blog and long time member of the dubious and infamous group of RPG Publishers known as The Hydra Cooperative.  

I've had the absolute pleasure to be in a game where Trey ran Weird Adventures. If you're looking for a pulp setting with lots of crazy stuff worked in seamlessly, this is it. It reads like entries in Atlas Obscura. A road map through this weird setting. Make no mistake, this is a setting all on its own. And it is a blast.

Normally the PDF runs $10, but today it's only $4. But I'm telling you just go for a physical copy. This is one of those gaming books that's a great read. 

I bought Weird Adventures nine years ago. It still sits on my prime shelf next to me when I game. It's that good.

And if you don't believe me I wrote a review about Weird Adventures in 2012 give it a read. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

One Page Dungeon Contest 2020

I received an email from Aaron to let me know the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest deadline for 2020 has been extended to July 15th. This is great news!

I absolutely love the OPDC. I have for years. To me, it's what gaming is all about. People getting together and throwing in their efforts into a creative pool. While there are winners, everyone appreciates and cheers on everyone else. It's a great thing.

While I have other pressing matters consuming my time I really want to participate. I was digging a little into my map folder to find something that sparked my interest. Here's what I found.

Something I drew for another project, but it didn't fit. There is a crypt that goes with it. Those stairs go there. I don't know. Gonna play around with it and see what happens. 

Consider joining in. The rules for submission are easy, but read the submission guide first. 

Besides creating something cool, who knows, you might win a few fun prizes. Go forth and kick some ass. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Tales from the Darkside

The other day I was talking with my co-workers about old television shows. Somewhere in the conversation Tales from the Darkside came up. I love that show. It came on randomly on a Saturday night after the news. A time when the television had 3 good stations you could watch and at night you could get 4 or 5. I remember getting excited when I'd hear that sweeping synthesizer music during the intro. 

The one episode I remember best was the creepy little monster behind the tiny door in the room. And he's the one featured on the DVD collection.Yeah, I grabbed the Complete Series of Tales from the Darkside for $24. 

I didn't realize the show went 4 seasons and 90 episodes. And the show was created by George A. Romero. Lots of big time writers contributed such as Stephen King, Frederik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker and so many others. 

And one of the cool things about watching a show that's 35 years old is seeing the actors when they were young. Or you see an actor you know, but just can't quite place them and then have to pause on the credits to Google them. Did it twice last night. 

Ivy and I are absolutely loving the episodes. And I wanted to give them a shout out and let you know about the DVDs. They are affiliate links because who doesn't like a little Amazon credit?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Requiem of a Hag...Sometimes I Suck

Requiem of a Hag was an adventure I wrote for the One-Page Dungeon contest back in 2018...I think. I drew the map a few weeks before I submitted. I liked how the map came out. I use a few new coloring and drawing techniques and while not perfect, I liked the look of it. Then the title slammed into my brain, Requiem of a Hag.

Loved it!

So I have a map and title I really like. I thought the layout, fonts, and colors I used were solid and popped off the screen.  All I needed to do was write the adventure.

That's where things went to shit.

Here is a link to the adventure Requiem for a Hag. Who says I don't give you anything? A crappy adventure for you. A crappy adventure for you. Everyone gets a crappy adventure. Here's a few highlights to look forward to.
  • Room numbers are are missing. 
  • Others rooms have the wrong number. 
  • And I forgot to detail a room.

The adventure reads clunky and uninspired. "Oh I drew a rug. I'll make it a trapper." Makes no sense in the adventure. I didn't even mention where the protagonist was located. Oh, I drew a big crossbow so I'll put an unnecessary trap there. 

It's awful. No other way to put it. 

Things I did like. Even in shit some good things come out of it.
  • Quintin the barbed devil who likes to poop on altars.  
  • The image of Song of the Children and how it works. 
  • The name Agatha Manor. I may be a little bias. 
I plan on salvaging the map. Rip it away from this scab of an adventure and repurposed it another time. 

Sometimes I suck. I got the proof.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Kickstarter: Folk Magic of the Haven Isles

I wanted to give a shout out to one of the best producers of gaming material, Glynn Seal. This time around he is doing the artwork, the writing duties have fallen upon Richard Marpole. And editors don't get enough credit for the work they do, in this case Matthew Pook (Pookie). So what are all these fine chaps up to? They've come together to create Folk Magic of the Haven Isles

It's hard for me to resist anything with 'folk magic' in the title. It just appeals to me. A crude, primal form of magic that seems simple, but has the power to devastate a person, family, or an entire community. 

We're looking at zine-sized, 60 pages, a ton of amazing artwork by Glynn. From what he's shared, it's a no-brainer. You pledge. The content looks interesting with 14 magic-user sub-classes, 16 magic-user backgrounds, 7 tomes (spellbooks), 16 magical spells, and 4 oddities.  

I went in at the $16 pledge level to get the on-demand, at-cost print level and the PDF. But I'm thinking of schooching into the $26 pledge level to get a hard cover.

Alright. Stop reading. Go get a copy of Folk Magic of the Haven Isles. Then we can talk about it. 

What's In the Chest?

 All Art by Dean Spencer

After thirteen hours in the old Swerwill Sewers we're bloodied from battles with goblins and human raiders. Even the thief fell into a pit as he checked the corridor for traps. "I found it." He yelled up from the pit.

The elf caught the merest difference in the surface of the wall. He search the wall as the rest of us watched. He had a habit of doing this even when there was nothing there. This time there was. He asked for a pry bar. He worked the section of wall opened enough the fighter could grip his fingers on the edge and pull the heavy secret door open. 

An alcove hid behind the door. Within was a battered chest. The elf and fighter brought it into the light as we gathered around it. We hadn't gotten much treasure for our efforts. The thing was covered in dust. This wasn't the goblins' or raiders' chest. They didn't know it was here. The thief rubbed his hands together and smiled. 

The chest was simple, made of a thin wood and reinforced with iron straps. It looked cheap. Something an old woman would keep her gowns and shoes in. My excitement faded, but it was hidden for some reason.

The thief worked his picks into the lock and a moment later, click. He grinned. He stepped to the side and used to small fishing hooks attached to string and stabbed them into the wood and slowly open the lid from behind. Nothing exploded. No darts. No mouth formed to eat anyone. 

Treasure time boys, the thief said. I stepped around half expecting it to have ordinary stuff it in. But to my surprise there was nothing ordinary inside.

Sitting atop of everything was a candle stub. It's flame flickered. For some reason this simple magic caused a chill to go down my back. The thief reached in and grabbed the candle. He blew on the flame, it flickered and bent, but did not go out. Magic, he said. The elf and myself, a magic-user, appreciated his obvious statement.

A metal flask with small teeth worked into the metal for a gruesome detail. I'd seen one of these before. Flasks of the Divine Mother and Destroyer. Her children would drink fresh blood from these flasks during rites. A nasty artifact. The interest I had now turned to dread.

What the hell, the thief reached in and grabbed the handle of a glass container. Once he saw some horrible looking thing swishing around in the dark liquid he dropped it to the floor and scooted on his ass away from it. I was just relieved that the glass didn't break letting whatever is inside, out. I didn't want to know what it was. I saw a tentacle. I'm out.

The elf slipped his thin hand in and brought out a small pouch. By all the gods, let it be coins. I'm poor as shit and I need new boots. The distinct sound of coins sliding over one another made us all take notice. The elf dumped the contents into his hand. I counted forty-one silver coins. But these were weird. Each coin had a crude face on one side and blank on the other. One coin had a name scratched on the back.

The thief shook his head, fucking death coins. I never saw them before, but I heard of them. Those crazy assholes that worship The Mother, scratch the name of someone they want dead on the back  then throw it into the font in their temples to make it happen. 

Are they worth anything, I asked. I really needed boots. Thief shook his head, I'm not touching them. The elf shrugged, we could get something for the metal.

The last thing in the chest was a cluster of crystals. Purple in color at the base that darkened to black at the top. I could feel the magic emanating from these crystals. It made me sick to my stomach and dizzy. The elf put them down quick. He seemed to suffer the same side effects. I didn't know what the crystals were. The elf shook his head as I looked at him. He didn't know either.

A spark jumped off the tip of one of the crystals. Then another. I didn't have time to warn anyone as a thin, jagged stream of energy shot from the cluster and hit the elf in the chest. The elf flew back into the wall. A black hole in his armor smoldered where he'd been struck. It sparked again. This time I could smell the energy building. 

I shouted run. I didn't wait to see who listened. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mail Call!

Yesterday was a giant smelly turd of a day. This week is turning into a pile of them. Readjusting to the third version of normal in 6 months. Maybe I'm suffering from normal fatigue. The floodgates have been opened and wow, now I want to go on a three month lockdown. However, my mail saved my day. Let me show you what I got. Be prepared to be jealous and cry. 

I'm starting off with Titan Dice. Over-sized, 25mm, dice that come in a cool wooden box. Here's the weird thing, they were sent to me in January and I got them today. Someone must have selected the expedited 6 month shipping option. The other weird thing is I already have the exact same set. I'm cool with that though. Dice are dice and I'll make my 1's larger. You can grab a set if these smoke colored with gold numbering Titan Dice on Amazon for $19.99. 

I got these great coins from a site called Dice Dungeons. I hadn't heard of them before. I think I found them when I was scrolling through Intagram one night. They have a bunch of different coins. I grabbed the horde and zombie packs. There were five in each. The horde pack came with 3 goblin and orc coins and the zombie horde came with 5 coins. I love weird fantasy style coins. Especially when you're playing a face-to-face came and some NPC offers a 100sp to help save Timmy because he fell down the well, and then throw a pouch with a 100 coins on the table. You get a much better reaction than saying it. The weight of them hitting the table and the sound of the coins sliding over one another has a visceral effect. 

Oh yeah, I love me everything about Thieves World. This is one of the biggest holes in my gaming collection is the FASA books. They've been elusive because I forget about them or when I do look for them they are very expensive. I fell into these two on eBay for $25. They are just a fun read. I get flashbacks to the books pouring over the details of the S'danzo or strolling through the Maze or hearing about the Hell Hounds. This is my gaming gold. Have two of them now. Traitor and The Blue Camel are still missing. The latter maybe difficult to land because it was a promo item. Just checked eBay for a copy, $175 and $56.46. A bit too rich for me. 

So now you see how my day was saved by a good mail day. 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

RPG Zine Group on Facebook. Come Join Us!

Hey folks, I created a group that will feature RPG Zines. I've wanted to do this for a while. To establish a place on Facebook (MeWe just never worked out), where people can come and share, talk, get advice, offer their talents, and review all things zines. 
I'd like to feature zines on a regular basis. Get a zine catalog developed to direct people where to find the zines they want. And I hope a few folks do some how-to post or videos for those who want to learn.
If that sounds interesting, please consider joining. And bring your favorite worn out zines with you.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Remove Fear

This is another of those first level spells I don't recall my players or myself using. I'm surprised how many first level cleric spells are meh. Before I go into why I'm not a huge fan of this spell, let's look into the particulars. 

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 2 turns
Range: touch
The creature is touched and purged of fear. Magically induced fear may be dispelled, but this requires the subject to make a caving throw versus spells. The save is modified by +1 per level of the caster.

Reverse: Cause Fear
Will cause a target within 120' to flee for the duration unless it saves versus spells. 

So I searched the monsters within OSE, just those, not any additional books, and discovered not one monster creates fear. The mummy has an ability to paralyze with terror. But using the wording, terror and fear are two different things. The fear this spell affects is magical by nature and requires a save versus spell, where the mummy's terror requires a save versus paralysis. So this spell only specifically assists in removing fear caused by the spell. There is nothing to fear, but the Fear spell itself.

Magic items that it would help with is Drum of Panic and Wand of Fear. And of course the reverse of the spell, Cause Fear. A very narrow lane of usefulness. 

And it's a prep spell first. Cast it on a creature ahead of time to boost their save so the party would have to know someone one is sporting some Drums of Panic, Wand of Fear, or their go to spell is Cause Fear. So unless those specific cases were in play, the spell is left in the bin. 

Secondly, it's a get another chance for a save spell, after you chase the fucker down because Remove Fear is a touch spell.  

Even Cause Fear is limited in use (but strangely enough has a 120' range). It scares a creature away... That means you have to chase it down to kill it or shoo it away...until a couple turns later, it returns to eat you. If there is a big, bad baddie squatting on the treasure this spell could make easy work of it and the party loot the treasure with expending a drop of hit points. And we all know, its the treasure is where the experience in OSE, not the monsters. 

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: Special
Range: Touch
By touch, the cleric instill courage in the spell recipient, raising the creatures saving throw against magical Fear attack by +4 on dice rolls for 1 turn. If the recipient has already been affected by fear, and failed their saving throw, the touch allows another saving throw to be made, with a bonus of +1 on the dice for every level of experience of the caster. A 'to hit' roll must be made to touch an unwilling recipient.

The reverse of the spell, cause fear, causes the victim to flee in panic at maximum movement speed away from the caster for 1 round per level of the cleric causing the fear. Of course, cause fear can be countered by remove fear and vice versa.

Not a fan at all of this one. First off, the duration is a single turn. So it is a prep spell, but the duration is short. In AD&D the Fear affect is more in play. I guess it is useful if the party gets information ahead of time about where they are going, and discover Fear is a tactic the enemy uses. But again, it only affects one character. So chose the one that stands in front of the magic-user.

Cause Fear duration is even shorter. One round per level. I'm sure there are tactical situations where this spell would come in handy, but they would have to be very specific. Again, neither version would be a high priority to memorize.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules
No entry for the Remove Fear spell which is no surprise since it is a 0 edition conversion. 

Swords & Wizardry Complete
Duration: 1 hour
Range: 240'
Before I get into this version I have to state that in the Swords & Wizardry Complete ruleset, there is no Remove Fear Spell either. But there is a 4th level magic-user Fear spell. I am adding it here because of the other version had a reverse spell of Fear

The spell causes creatures in its cone-shaped path to flee in horror if they fail their saving throw. If they do so, there is a 60% chance that they drop what ever they are holding. The cone extend 240' to a base 120' across. 

I so much prefer this spell. Makes more sense and I love the detail about dropping things. But I think I would change that. Tie it into the save itself. 10% multiplied by what they missed their save. Miss your save by 4, you have a 40% of dropping your stuff. 

Its got a good duration and can affect a lot more. Simple. The only thing not simple is that cone shit. If I have to get my protractor out I don't want any part of it. And you always get into the arguement with your players. "Only my foot was in the path. That's just the mini standing like that, I am standing straight up." You know what I'm talking about. 

Overall though, Remove Fear and its reverse, Fear, are not high priority spells in my book. I am sure there are some inventive ways to make it more interesting, I just don't like the narrowness of it and the fact in OSE very little actually causes Fear. I think you'd need to house rule this spell and expend its usage to make it worth a lowly 2nd level cleric to use its only spell slot on this one. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I Was Interviewed by Hobbs!
Logo by Craig Brasco

Jason Hobbs and I got together and he interviewed me on his podcast, Hobbs & Friends. We had a good time and managed to talk about gaming. I go in the way back machine and talk about the origins of my blog, why I did The Manor and my Kickstarter, it's all there. And if that's not enough, I gave Jason a lot of shit. That's worth it right there. Click ----> Hobbs & Friends.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

NPC #27 Kalem

NPC#27 Kalem is the first time I've altered the NPC Card layout. I've been using Old School Essentials for the past couple years and wanted the cards to reflect that. I had a few tweaks. But I think it looks good now with all the information at the GM's ready.

This time I went with Luigi Castellani for the artwork. His work is prominently featured in my NPC Cards. 

Please head over to my Micro-Adventures Patreon and grab a free PDF. And if you like what you see consider pledging to get a laminated copy sent to you in the mail.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Player's Guide Part 2: Places

While it's usually not too large of a concern, PCs need a place to live. When you're doing hex crawls or exploring a meg-dungeon. A few coins represent your place to live, but in an urban setting more attention to the living situation helps anchor into the setting. To the degree of detail your game goes into of course varies. 

The above map is the 3-story tenement where Snickle lives. We're 4 sessions into the campaign and his home has played a major role in it so far. Plus, Joe, my player, loves this level of detail. And when I emailed it to him he asked for more details.

Where's the ladder to the 3rd floor?
That's not on the map? Damn it. At the end of the long hall way on the 3rd floor. A simple ladder climbs to a trapdoor that is padlocked. 

Who's the landlord?
Crap, I was gonna put that in there, but ran out of space. You know his name is Terrance and he's a member of the Guild of Arcane Lore. Mage's guild. But you've never met him. At the 1st of each month his apprentice Kritz collects the rent and writes down complaints and needed repairs. These are usually addressed quickly. He keeps the building in good condition. 

What's the rent?
I know this. Simple. You live on the second floor. Every square equals 2sp of rent per month. You've got a 2 x 2 room, so rent is 8sp. The first floor is 2.5sp per square. The 3rd floor is 1.5sp per square. 

Then there a few places he goes to visit fairly often.

Diggers is a place where everyone knows his name. Well, almost everyone. A lot of diggers hangout there after work. Then a local gang uses it as their gathering place also, The Vultures. When I say gang, I mean a small group of street folk who scrap for a living. Mostly they get along except for when they don't. 

Hazelton Market is a small market place that is open every 7th day. It is a non-guild market. So folks can sell some basic things there without getting into trouble. There are the regulars and enough room to rotate different vendors in. 

This is a quick glance of a few things I make for my players. There is no need to flesh out an entire city. Allow the players explore and decide what you develop. Then you can put that in your back pocket for next time. Or next campaign. You'll have a number of very nice developed areas that have some playing time attached to them. 

That's all for now.