Saturday, May 30, 2009

Random Ramblings #2

Last weekend our group, Dwayne, Rob and I got to sit down and play around a table. I'm not sure how many years it's been since we've done that. We continued on with Dwayne's campaign and my Paladin got his butt handed to him. Last week I was throwing critical like I bought them at the dollar store. This week I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat. Rob was turned into charred remains. Luckily we brought along competent henchmen. Remember players out there, henchmen, don't leave home without them.

I went out and bought another giant d20 that I could kill a bear with. A red one this time. Again, they don't really roll as much as drop to the table and make a crater.

Been reading through some old time dungeons to get a feel for the magic item dispersal. The blog below this one is the one I wrote about selecting magic items. It was good to take a look at T1 and some others. I plan to get into more of a discussion about the minor magic items and well-crafted items. I think it's interesting or I hope to make it interesting.

I've also completed more work on my project that I hope to release before the end of the summer. And I also hope to have my website up in running before too long. I've got a few reviews of gaming supplements finished and need to find a home for them.

Well, it's Saturday in the blogger world and it seems everyone is outside playing. So that is where I am headed. Outside.

Magic Item Selection

Once upon a time there were a million towers infested with orcs, goblins, trolls evil mages or demons and in each tower was a princess that needed saving. In each tower was a chief, boss, elite, dark, grand, giant, master, or lord this or that with a pile of loot. A million adventuring parties went into these million towers and kicked all the orcs, goblins, trolls evil mages or demons asses and slew the chief, boss, elite, dark, grand, giant, master, or lord this and that. Woo hoo. It's time to count the coins and divvy up the magic items. But what magic items are there? How many? Oh yeah, don't forget the princess.

In the 1st edition Monster Manual each monster has a treasure type. Roll on the table and see what is generated. This is an interesting way to do it, but I don't find it an effective system for an ongoing campaign. I still use it to generate ideas. What I will do a lot of times is see what is populating my dungeon, roll on the treasure type table, then pick and choose what I like or alter something if I believe it is too powerful or too weak. Then instead of piling it up at the end or do the kill a monster, grab the treasure thing I try to make it more organic. Example, if I roll that a group of bugbear's in a cavern and they have a +2 sword and a necklace of missiles I would probably give the leader of the bugbears the sword to use and have the necklace on the corpse that fell into a pit trap. If nothing else to give the magic items a variety of discovery.

On pages 92 and 93 in the 1st ed. DMG a small, venomous rant against 'Monte Hall' style games and how the rules dictate there are no rewards for this kind of play. "No reasonable opponents, no rewards, nothing!" Then the next paragraph goes after killer dungeons, "Killer dungeons are a travesty of the role-playing adventure game, for there is no development and identification with carefully nurtured player persona." My favorite line afterwards is how a sadistic referee takes unholy delight in slaughtering hordes of hapless characters. Great line.

So we have the two extremes kinda sorta. To me the extremes would be Monte Haul and Ebenezer Scrooge, who will give you nothing. Again, I speak of this again and again about players expectations. If they expect to be fed a steady diet of magic items to tinker with, then it's important of the GM to provide a balanced way of doing this. Keep the power level of the items consistent with their level of play and risk. But if you have players willing to go for a more realistic campaign then there may be no magic items at all. Well crafted items become the 'magic items'. And if you look at some of the items listed in the DMG they are not magical at all they are just high quality items. Examples given on pg. 116 were boots and cloaks of elvenkind and +3 dwarven war hammer. Even the low level items, like any +1 weapon, could be argued to not be magical at all, but rather just made very well. But magic item creation is another topic for another blog.

I randomly selected two canned dungeons to compare. First there is T1 The Village of Hommlet (I had it out since Bat in the Attic recently did a blog on it) and then I chose a more recent dungeon Dragora's Dungeon. Both are 1st level adventures. In T1 the magic items are owned by experienced adventurers in the village, but all of them own some. Most own three of more items. So this sets precedence that magic items are common. This is a small village yet almost a dozen magic items can be found. And in the moathouse itself there are magical items. Also in Dragora's Dungeon there are a handful of magic items. So if a party of 1st level characters goes through a dungeon successfully then they will leave with a group of magic items in each instance. Two or three adventures and already the players will begin getting choosy in their magic item selection.

Depending on what system and style of play you prefer I think D&D is set up for the Monty Haul scenario. If you are providing a handful of magic items in a 1st level dungeon then the next one will have a few more or a bit more powerful items. Some games I've been in and GMed rely on magic as a form of luxury and technology. In a GURPS fantasy setting, magic items replace technology. The lesser, but useful magic items are affordable even to the lower class. In D&D the magic items are constructed to make a person more powerful.

Then there are games like Pendragon who shun magic items all together. You know that there will be no treasure hordes of magic items, but you may find something so powerful that if the player uses its power the consequences could be vast and devastating.

This is something I believe is vital to decide before a campaign begins, choosing the scarcity of magic items and their use in the community. Game on!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Arthurian Adventure

Years ago I wrote a one-shot adventure that was a variation of the Arthurian legend. I know it's been done a billion and six times, but that doesn't mean it still can't be cool. I read several books to get into the mind frame to write the adventure, but also get the feel of the adventure correct. The basic outline of the adventure was the fey realm was vanishing due to Christianity. Since Arthur's kingdom is now the main power of Christianity the fey realm has declared war on Camelot.

The quest of the adventure was to return the Shroud of Turrin. A powerful enemy in the fey took possession of it and used the shroud's powerful magic to ravage Arthur's land. Grotesque creatures swarmed the borders murdered and razing villages. They were the lucky ones. The people who survived were taken to the fey realm and they were used as sacrifices to fuel the magic to defeat man's faith in God.

The most important thing about this one-shot adventure was the making of the player characters. For this one-shot I, the GM, created them for the players. I created the character with the person in mind. How and what they like to play. I knew what their knowledge of Arthurian legends. And I knew their weakness. So each character was tailor made for that person. Which each character came a sheet of that character's knowledge of the world they would be adventuring. About 70% was helpful and the other 30% were falsehoods or things the character misunderstood.

Rob played a Roman who stayed in England after the withdrawal of Rome. His name was Claddius, but took on the persona of Hawk. He would not answer to any other name. He was an honorable knight who was a faithful Christian. Some of the highlights with Hawk included an exchange with a guide that had helped them throughout the adventure. The guide took them to a castle to rest overnight. Three sisters lived in the castle and took care of the weary travelers. That night during a heated discussion the guide came into the room, no longer dressed as a man, but as a woman and professed her lover for Hawk. The effect on Rob was priceless. He stammered and looked at me then the person playing the guide then back again. It caught him completely off guard. And the other highlight was when the main enemy barricaded himself to finish his ceremony Hawk threw himself against the doors setting off every trap and he was reduced to ash. He played his part well.

Another person played a one-armed dwarf. He'd been a faithful follower of Arthur for many years and helped with the war against the fey. He believed the war was wrong and when it came time for thing to pass they should do so with dignity. During the game I would slip the dwarf descriptions of disturbing dreams. In the end when he stood in the last room his visions became clear and his lost arm magically reappeared. He turned against the party at a crucial moment.

Then there was a more traditional knight. A recent recruit into Arthur's service. The player knew only knew the movie versions of Arthur and not the Arthur that had all firstborns slain. I played on this and he had a revelation in game and outside of the game. It was interesting how it affected his playing after he discovered that Arthur was the one who began this war. How he plundered the fey realm for magic to conquer his enemies. It wasn't the power of God, but the power of pagan magic.

There was the guide who dressed as a man, but had loved Hawk from afar. She had powers of prophecy and was half fey. The player who played the guide did a fantastic job of pulling it off. It was truly was one of my favorite moments in gaming. It was she who placed the shroud upon Hawk's smoldering remains to see him rise from the dead. She alone understood the shroud's power. And this part was the most controversial, but it was not God who resurrected Jesus, but the magical power within the shroud. It was an ancient artifact from the fey realm.

There is more. More players more events and sometime I may dig out my old notes, but this is what I can remember off the top of my head. I took a lot of liberties with history and legends and religion, but I believe it was a success. The players had a lot fun. I had a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Goblins are iconic creatures that have the flexibility to be portrayed as evil or good and a whole lot of in between. I believe they are the most written about creatures in folklore. They have solidified their place in every fantasy game and many modern and futurist games. Each game has its own twist on the goblin. Well here goes my hat into the already full goblin ring. This is my version of the goblin.

After hundreds of failed wars that led to the collapse of their culture and loss of faith in their religion the more intelligent of their race learned they could live better by being sub servant to a greater race than to live on their own. Instead of waiting to be enslaved by conquerors different tribes settled near different races and took on the characteristics of their patron masters. Goblins prefer to live near human communities because of the variety and humans are the only race that has shown any interest in co-existing with them. Goblins are considered little better than peons, but that does not stop them from getting involved in every aspect of the community. There are goblin merchants, priests, soldiers and artists. Some even manage to gain respectability.

When goblins establish settlements separate from the human community, but near enough that they scavenge from the garbage. They will assist the town by keeping the refuge free of rats and make use of almost anything thrown away. They are expert scavengers. Goblins will go out of their way to please their masters and have no sense of humiliation. They do not take insults personally. If laughed at they will laugh along.

Goblins will worship whatever god the community worships. They will become fervent followers, but alter the beliefs to help the other goblins understand. Like all other things they will try to imitate the ceremonies, style of temple and dress of the priests. Sometimes they do an excellent job and other times it looks like a child wearing his father's boots. No matter what the result the goblins are faithful and challenge those who don't adhere to the laws of their god.

During times of war the Goblin community will send their best fighters. They make excellent scouts. If captured, torturing them does little. As a race they are used to being enslaved and beaten. They will remain faithful to their patrons even with the threat of death. If they are forced to speak the information is mixed with half-truths or what was true a month or year ago.

Some Goblins have magic ability. They all seemed to have the innate ability to detect magical items. Most goblins with talent tend to become excellent alchemists. They enjoy the searching for herbs and exotic components. On occasion a goblin will acquire enough training to become a mage. Even though a goblin mage is considered an oddity among humans within the goblin community it is a great honor are given the role of the chief even if others are already in power.

Most Goblin merchants deal in trinkets or small trade. Those who chose to become merchants are usually the best scavengers. They find items repair or shine them up and resell them. Goblins like to haggle and are insulted if you accept their first asking price. To haggling is a sign of respect.

I like seeing goblins haggling in the market squares, working in the forges, performing religious ceremonies, and armed and armored ready to kick some ass. Goblins make excellent additions to the story side of the game. They can add levity with their attempts to imitate the society they try so hard to belong to. And they have the ability to incite a sense of wonder as these little creatures sacrifice, even more than the original citizens or worshippers, to make it right. They can lead by example by their sheer will of not surrendering. And the goblins are tragic figures. The smallness and child-like determination sends them often into situations where they have no chance of winning and yet they try. This is why I like my goblins accessible and not hidden in caves or dungeons.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Responsibility of a Player

I don't have any great quotes from Gygax for this one. With yesterday's blog focusing on the DM's responsibility I thought it was appropriate to consider the player's responsibilities.

First off, you are a guest in someone else's world. The DM has taken the time to create, plan, and supply almost everything for the game. Some players are determined to test the rules. This is fine in some cases, but the goal is not to continually test the rules of the game, but to test your character within the game. I used to work with school aged kids and I got a few of them interested in trying table top role-playing games. They were astonished that there was no controller or television involved. A problem I encountered was none of them wanted to start out at low level. They all wanted the most powerful stuff in the game given to them at the start. I explained to them the philosophy behind table top gaming, my version at least. Still they wanted it all and now.

So I said sure, you want all the money in the world. You got it. You want all the most power items in creation. You got it. You want to rule the world. It's yours. You want to kill someone. Poof, they're dust. Then I asked them how much fun that was. None of them liked that version.

Be respectful to your DM. Shut of those fricking cell phones and the other annoying devices that play music, ring, or vibrate. Luckily I've never had much problem with this one, but like when you're in a movie theatre and someone answers their cell phone I want to throttle them. Give the DM your attention even if the game is not focused on you at the time.

Do not use out of game knowledge in game. I know how hard it is not to ramble on about how your character did this or that. Everyone is around the table and hears everything. And unless you are super duper at whispering, everyone can hear you when you go into the other room to give information to another character secretly. I've discovered through the years gamers are lousy at whispering. When you get mad at your buddy because he just stole a +5 ring of protection and there is no way your character would know, don't make it personal. Go with it. If you have a good DM he'll make it interesting.

Work with the DM to develop the world. I am not saying you can't scorch and burn parts, but don't fight him on every turn. Cultures are established. They have rules and laws. They don't take kindly to random adventurers break the perfectly good fences and buildings they built. There are consequences to a player's actions if they defy the laws of the land. Don't play if you can't get your way you'll commit suicide by town guard.

Be prepared. Have your character sheet. Have your dice. Have your pencils. Bring your own food. Don't leave it up to your host to foot the munchy bill. Be on time. If you can't be on time call and let the DM know. And the most important rule is to have fun.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Responsibility of a DM

The following is from the Afterword in S4, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I thought it was an interesting how Gary Gygax handled the earning of experience points.

"...player characters may accumulate enough experience points to qualify for an increase in level. Because the caverns are so far removed from any place where characters can train, the DM may allow player characters to advance without prior training, provided that the quality of play has been very high.

Poor play does not merit special consideration. Players will not improve if the DM pampers rather than challenges them. If your players perform badly, do not allow their characters to increase in experience level. Be more judicious in how you handle awards to player characters. Allowing foolish or ignorant players to advance their characters to high levels reflects badly upon the game and even more upon the Dungeon Master who allowed this travesty to occur."

Right here EGG is drawing a line for all DMs. A quality assurance speech to let all DMs know that lowering of standards is not acceptable. That to lower your standards is to fail personally. That it's a travesty. Wow. I never felt so much pressure to DM.

A good DM knows the people he plays with, knowing their styles, their quirks, who they team up with and who they dislike. You know who is going to use out of game knowledge to further their interests. You know who is going to make trouble for the party by going his own way or stealing from the others. Even if you play a pickup game player's personalities come out strong during a game. Since I don't play with too many outsiders (which I would like to do more) I know my group very well and make sure the adventures/campaign highlight the play that they enjoy. I discourage poor play especially when personal vendettas are brought to the gaming table or vice versa.

Players of course have different levels of competence. Some only want to play fireball slinging mages who likes to burn down villages and horde as much treasure as possible. Others can play a wide range of characters with different motivations and goals. The one thing I've learn by DMing is every action has a reaction good or bad. My players will tell you one I love to get them into situations where there is no true right answer. If a mage wants to fireball villages to the ground a knight and his retinue will hunt him down and make a pin cushion out of his body.

One of the more memorable conclusions to one of these characters was after he'd caused a lot of mayhem and destruction. This elven mage was warned to change or he would be punished. He continued. Eventually he was caught and tried in a court of elven law. Though this character had killed many an elven court does not see death as a proper punishment. Instead the judge said, "You have done terrible things and give no more thought to you actions than an animal. You have acted like an animal so therefore you will become an animal. For one hundred years you shall carry upon your back the people who wish to cross the cold waters of the river." The mage was turned into a mule and saddled. I gladly stole that from a folklore story I had read once. The effect it had on the player was great. His next character was still a bit psychotic, but a bit more restrained. Hey, it was an improvement.

There are so many directions one can go with this subject. I do think it's a good idea to have a DM help improve the players' play. But it also must be considered what the DM considers good play and the player considers good play to be two different animals.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Random Ramblings

It's Monday after work and about an hour before our game. Right now Rob and I are testing a setting Dwayne has developed. I'm playing a paladin of a defeated god trying to carve out a niche in a new world.

Over the weekend I was at my FNGS and bought a new d20. It's huge. When I came out of the gaming store I had a big smile on my face that made my wife nervous. I love fun gaming stuff like this. I think I could kill a bear with it. Whimpy did not like the new addition, but they are getting along fine now. In the picture you can see my new d20 'Big Brother' towering over the regular sized Whimpy.

I'm beginning the process of writing reviews for some of the gaming items I buy. RPGNow is one of my favorite sites. In the past I wrote reviews for video games, movies and other gaming supplements. Get free stuff, give an opinion. It's a good thing.

I'm working on a gaming supplement myself. Who isn't these days. I'll give more information about it later. Currently Rob and I are waiting for the release of Points of Light 2. I did the editing for the first and second PoL. If you've ever edited something you know its a thankless job although Rob is fun to edit because I get to joke with him and we work well together. Rob is working on an independent project that is shaping up nicely.

It's gaming time. Good gaming guys and gals. Have a good night and blog at you soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A glimpse at the original Monster Manual II

Look out! A giant crane! I guess a giant crane could be scary, but not in dungeon land. Considering some of the creatures put in the second manual they had trouble filling the slots. Originally, I was going to make fun of the MMII, but I decided that it being Friday I will take a positive spin on it. There are some gems in there we just have to dig around. That means we will have to bypass the entire Mordon section.

The Bodak is killer cool. I believe this beauty first appeared in S4, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. S4 had a mini monster manual included. The body count potential these guys can create is scary. Those milky oval eyes glaring out of the darkness as player after player drops to the ground. The Bodaks are a star in the MMII.

Oh boy, just saw stats for a cat. And the Cat Lord. He's just too ridiculous to comment on.

Speaking of stars, this skull needs no introduction, star of S1's Tomb of Horrors, the Demilich. This badass requires no stinking arms or legs or flesh of any kind. There is enough magical power in this skull that it can blow a hole in the prime material plane. Oh, it's a 'ch' at the end. Not a 'ck'. So please don't call it a demilick.

Driders reminded me of a creepier version of the centaur. One of Lolth's creations. As long as they aren't on a spider spaceship. These creatures are primed to have a society built around. The religion is built in.

Wow. There are a lot of bird pictures in here.

Gibbering Mouther
The pictures of these guys screams Cthulhu. That's enough to put them in the cool category. I'm not sure if I ever used them in any of my dungeons, but I noticed during editing of Points of Light 1 and 2, that Rob has used them to represent creatures of Chaos.

Stats for a goat. Not very monstery.

Obliviax (Memory Moss)
I'm probably going to get flack for liking this one, but I do. They are a great trap monster. They sip the memories out of a player's head then casts the spells at the person they stole it from. Now that's fun for a DM.

Stats for a squirrel? Okay, how many of you out there have ever, ever needed the stats for a squirrel? Please raise your hand if you have. The RPG police will need to take away your DMing license. Next thing you'll want is tables for the chipmunk prestige class.

This is the Godzilla of the MMII. I've always had a great affection for giant reptiles. Plus he reminds me of the critter in Revenge of the Jedi. There is something about having that unique creature, so massive there is little hope to kill it. Impending doom. Inevitable disaster. Whatever you want to call it, one appearance by this guy can alter a campaign world in a hurry.

The last monster in the manual is the Zygom. The penis looking fungi. The picture looks like five naked guys died close to one another.

So this concludes my foray into the forgotten Monster Manual. It has some gems, but they wasted a lot of space with non-monsters and variations of already established monsters. Did we really need the Juju Zombie? My selections are ones I have used to populate my dungeons. I'd like to hear which monsters you used in your campaigns. And one last thing, despite the lack of quality monsters within MMII there was no lack of quality artwork. Except maybe for the penis mushrooms.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monster Cards Continued

Rob from Bat in the Attic discusses the 4 sets of 20 Monster Cards that came out in '82. What I intended to use them for was when I DMed I would show the players the card instead of naming the monster. Back then everyone had memorized the monsters, knew their stats down to what treasure type and used knowledge their character would not have had at the time. So the cards would provide an element of surprise. The players would have to guess at what the monster was. This worked fine for a short time until everyone memorized the cards. The artists did a fantastic job depicting the monsters. And it wasn't hard to figure out the guy with the pinchers on his face was an Umber Hulk. So the cards novelty did not last long and what they were to add to the game no longer worked.

The Monster Cards were one of those additions to the game where you wanted them to work. You wanted them to be useful because they were cool. But the usefulness did not last. Back then you could carry only so much from friend's house to friend's house (unless you were Rob and he would bring crates full of stuff). The Monster Cards were one of those items you left at home. I think the Monster Cards were the first (that I remember) supplements that didn't work. But still, they sure looked good.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Keep the Spaceship Out of the Dungeon

During the past few weeks I've been pulling random modules out of my stack of old TSR modules and other gaming supplements. I found the G series and remembered how much fun it was fighting all those giants. What made the G series great for me was how they were connected. Then the D series, descending into the depths of the underworld and getting, at least for me, my first sighting of the Drow. Again all these were connected and led to finale with Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders. She was a lesser goddess in the Deities & Demigods. Sounded like a great finish to the series, but here comes the part that irked me. She was on a spaceship shaped like a spider. Why is there a spaceship in the dungeon? Why is the dungeon a spaceship? I know there are all kinds of great creatures roaming around inside including Lolth, but why a spaceship. I read the module again and still don't understand the reasoning. The best guess I can come up with is the adventure was on another plane of existence.

Then we have the S series. It starts out with a signature module, Tomb of Horrors. Arguably the best module of all time. A module I believe set the standard. Then onto White Plume Mountain. Did the module make sense, not really, but everyone wanted Blackrazor. Then onto Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. As much as I disliked Lolth and her spider spaceship, S3 just plain pissed me off. After this module polluted the stream every character left their bows at home and picking up a laser rifle or blaster pistol. No need to learn Magic Missile or Fireball, just lob a grenade. I enjoy a great game of Traveler and Gamma World back then as much as anyone, but these modules force fed the technology into the fantasy realm. If you're going to introduce technology have it make sense. Not something that unbalances the game.

I don't think it's too much to ask to keep the dungeons made of dirt, stone, wood, or magical barriers. I like my weapons medieval style. Robin Hood needs his Welch longbow not a laser rifle. King Arthur needs Excalibur not a plasma grenade (but I will make exceptions for the holy hand grenade). So please, oh please, keep the spaceship out of the dungeon.

Friday, May 8, 2009

First Dungeons & A Thank You To Mom

Rob over at Bat in the Attic wrote about first dungeons. That got me thinking about my first dungeons. The discovery that got me started in developing dungeons was a graph paper tablet in my mother's supply closet at her office. Holy crap, I just found gold. I asked if I could have it and before she said yes. Armed with a ruler and pencil I carving out dungeon map after dungeon map.

After I finished a few dozen maps I chose the maps with the best personality and started room descriptions. There was no logic or theme to the dungeons. Just rooms with monsters and loot. Blink dogs next to a room of ogres next to a hallway of Type 2 demons with an alcove where Beelzebub lounged. Didn’t matter how ridiculous it was, it was cool. I was doing it. I was making dungeons. And it was my first real writing gig. It was exciting.

With map done, descriptions described I was ready. But it didn’t feel right. Back into my mother’s supply closet I went. Good god all mighty a box of manila folders. I fricking rule! She said take them. So I borrowed her stapler and stapled my map to one side on the inside of the folder. There was room on the other side. So I made up a wandering monster table and stapled it there. I set the folder on its side and wa-la I had a cardboard screen just like those TSR modules.

I walked the halls with my homemade modules waiting for a study hall to break them out. I had one dungeon called the Taps Six Dungeon. It got kinda famous in my school. Everyone wanted to go through it. They wanted to know what the name meant. I just smiled and said there is only one way to find out. Actually, it didn’t mean a damn thing. I just thought it was a cool name.

So thanks to the supply closet at my mother’s office I started my career in developing dungeons then world building. And being that it will be Mother’s Day soon I want to give a huge thank you to my mother for allowing me to raid her closet and being understanding and allowing me to indulge myself on this weird hobby I really love.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Uber Monster Round Table

Please take a look at Chgowiz's Blog and Alex's Blog for more input on Dopelgangers, Dragons, Illithids and another favorite of mine Bodaks. There is a ton of great stuff as well in their comment sections. And Chgowiz reminded me that Taichara's Blog has some great stuff on dragons.

Mr. Doppelganger Part 2

Chgowiz asked a question that made me dig out some old notes so I could answer his question. "What prevents doppelgangers from essentially wiping out civilization and humanity?" The only answer I can give is what I use for my background for my campaign as to why doppelgangers are not a super race.

1) There are just not enough of them. They come together when they can and do rule small sections, but if one is discovered others know there are more around and the hunting begins.

2) The rise of organized mage guilds has put a price on the doppelgangers precious blood and other gooey parts for potions, spell components and enchanting magic items. Guilds will pay a hefty price if you can bring one in that still squirms.

3) When they reproduce their offspring is inside a pod gestating for nearly a year. The smell of these pods is distinctive and attracts all kinds of wild critters. So they must use valuable resources protecting their young.

Again this is my background for my campaign. Their powers did not develop to dominate, but to survive. Rob can attest to my love of twisted plots and damned if you do damned if you don't situations. Doppelgangers have always been a favorite of mine. They are terrifying, inhuman, and yet somehow tragic.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Kinda New Look at Mr. Doppelganger

Ah, the doppelganger, one of my favorite critters in the Monster Manual. A nasty enemy who can create gobs of paranoia within the party. I took the time to flesh out their abilities and psychology for an adventure Dwayne and I wrote. There is nothing earth shattering or reinventing going on here, just my extrapolation on well known abilities and then I throw in a little of my own flavor to make it a more unique experience when my players encounter them. That was my intent at least. And maybe there will be something you can use in your campaign. The stats are arbitrary numbers and I used a system neutral approach to present the rules.

Doppelgangers are a feared race because they can alter their form to match any humanoid creature within 50% of their mass. Their transformation power is nearly instantaneous. Coupled with their frightening ability to read minds makes them a threat to every civilized race. Doppelgangers can send information, both verbal and images, instantly. Their range limit for full communication is 500 yards, but can deliver pieces of non-verbal information up to 1000 yards. Doppelgangers cannot be contacted while sleeping or critically injured.

A person needs to be in sight for a doppelganger to read their mind. When a doppelganger attempts to read the mind of a player, a contest between the player’s intelligence (and any bonuses or penalties that the DM sees fit) vs. the doppelgangers skill level should be rolled. If the player wins he will know someone is prying into his thoughts and can make a resist roll. A resist roll is the same as above. Detecting the attempt will not give the player insight into who tried to read his mind unless a critical success is rolled.

In combat doppelgangers use their mind reading to their advantage. They can anticipate attacks and coordinate with other doppelgangers. This gives them a bonus +2 to hit and defense.

Doppelgangers prefer to stalk their victim before killing. They gather as much information as they can before taking the place of their target. They work in small groups to assist one another and to minimize detection. All doppelgangers are skilled at digging and camouflaging the graves of their victims. Doppelgangers feel no remorse when they kill. They kill to survive, as a hunter kills a deer.

Alcohol cripples a doppelganger’s mind reading and shape shifting ability. It acts as a poison in their system, causing extreme pain. In such a state they are unable to focus on the form they have taken and shift between their original form and other forms taken in the past. Alcohol blocks their mind reading and sending ability. Even after the alcohol has left their system they are disoriented for a few days. Because of this weakness and the need to blend into communities doppelgangers have become experts in pretending to drink and be drunk. A player that actively observes the behavior of a doppelganger can make an intelligence roll to detect its deception.

Doppelgangers work together to improve the situation of the group. They travel in groups of twelve or less fearing more would make them easier to detect. And all doppelgangers are aware that if they are discovered they would be slaughtered.