Saturday, March 21, 2020

Free Adventures for the Plague

I've seen several folks offering up free adventures due to the current plague-ridden world we currently live in. I just wanted to remind folks that over on my Patreon of Micro-Adventures, PDFs have always been free. Right now there are 86 Micro-Adventures, 29 Micro-Locations, and 25 NPC Cards. Along with a handful of other available items. 

That's 140+ items free for the taking. You could easily grab a few of those adventures and cobble together a micro-campaign. 

Please stop by and grab some PDFs. I include GM and player maps for virtual tabletop play. 

Game on motherfuckaaas! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Purify Food and Water

Things have changed. Probably for everyone. For a while. But somethings, like my dive into the Old School Essentials spell list, continues. This time with Purify Food and Water. A useful utility spell. In long delves or treks through hostile lands, this spell saves the party's collective butts. If you have a referee that tracks food and water, it becomes a requirement. I admit, I am not one of those referees. At the start of every campaign I tell myself I will track those rations and water skins. It'll add a sense of reality into the fantasy world. Yeah, no. I never do it.

Art by Luigi Castenllani

But Purify Food and Water adds interesting elements into an adventure because its not always the party's food and water that is spoiled. An entire village's population might depend on the spell. Cause shit like that gets import when you don't got it. Sound familiar?

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: Permanent
Range: 10'
This spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure and suitable for eating and drinking. On of the following may be affected:
- Drink: 6 quarts.
- Rations: One trail ration (iron or standard).
- Unpreserved food: A quantity sufficient for 12 human-sized beings.

I just did some whacked math. Then I found my answer in the book. I failed my roll...again. A water skin holds a quart, so this spell tops off 6 waterskins. How many waterskins does an adventurer need to drink during a day while plundering? No, I'm asking. I couldn't find a definitive answer in the books. For either water or food. As a rule of thumb I think I'd use the 3 skins and 3 rations a day. That is if I tracked this kinda thing.

I do think it's important to track these critical supplies because it presents interesting, strategical decisions. And the players I game with enjoy that level of depth. Maybe next campaign.

I don't find the spell equal in its treatment of the food items. It purifies water enough for 2 full days (by my home rule calculations), but only one meal of rations. And then you have the banquet table purification. I would have loved to have had this spell at a few restaurants I've eaten at. I'm not sure why the spell is so stingy with rations. You'd think they'd be a bit easier since they are already preserved, but maybe that's the problem. Bad shit has got to happen to have a ration go bad. Like a Twinkie. Most people think that Twinkies last forever. They don't. It's not pretty. 

The AD&D version takes a much different tact with this spell. Much different and more difficult to equate into gaming terms.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: Permanent 
Range: 3"
This spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and/or water suitable for eating and/or drinking. Up to 1 cubic foot of food and/or drink can be thus made suitable for consumption. 
- The reverse of this spell putrefies food and drink, even spoiling holy water. Unholy water is spoiled by purify water.

I remember reading this description and imagining a giant 1' cube of Spam on the table. 

How the hell do you figure out how many days a 1' cube of food feeds a person? I have no fricking clue. With drink, doesn't specify water like OSE, it is a little easier to guess. I don't know. Sometimes AD&D likes math too much and it has weird descriptions that aren't helpful in a game. 

I like that this version can do both at the same time (and/or). So you can throw in a ham sandwich and tweak your local IPA. That allows you to use one spell to do both. But again you run into weird measurements.

And this spell has a reverse option. An option that can ruin holy water! I don't recall that from before. That's an interesting affect. And of course purify ruins unholy water which I don't ever remember seeing in a game, but it'll make an appearance now. 

There is a lot of flexibility with this spell, but for its practical use, the cubic foot of food and/or water is kinda useless to me. I'd wing it. Try to remember what I said then make something else up the next time it was cast.

There was no additional information in the DMG.

I chose Hackmaster Basic for the third system. However it only has Purify Water as a first level cleric spell. 

Hackmaster Basic Mechanics
Duration: Permanent 
Range: Touch
This spell eliminates all harmful bacteria and microorganisms as well as foul tasting sulfides, iron, and suspended solids from water. The result is water suitable for drinking. Casting it on beverages such as milk,beer, or wine is deleterious as they will be reduced to plain water. The spell does not affect toxins (alcohol is here considered a narcotic not a toxin) or magic potions.

It purifies 1 gallon per level. Something measurable. Something easily ported into game. But I find it strange that the spell purifies water unless its poisoned...that seems a bit nonsensical. And you can mess up a perfectly good bottle of rum or chocolate milk. 

And from what I saw there is no spell that purifies food. You are SoL. Up the famous creek without that famous paddle. So pack a bunch of lunchables. Those things will outlast us all. 

Deleterious? Okay. Wow. 

With that, I'm out.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Protection from Evil

The next spell up is Protection from Evil. I'm hoping this one doesn't prompt an unnecessary debate on what 'evil' is in game. But if it does, I'll cast my own spell, Protection from Asshats. I don't recall players using Protection from Evil. In a recent game where the player had the ability to use the spell, without the cost of a spell slot, used it once over a year long campaign. It's a good spell. I gives the caster a lot of nice bonuses, but is it enough to not take another Cure Light Wounds

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 12 turns
Range: The caster
This spell wards the caster from attacks by creatures of another alignment, as follows:
- Bonuses: The caster gains +1 bonus to saving throws against attacks or special abilities of affected creatures.
- Affected creature attacks: Against the caster are penalized by -1. 
- Enchanted, constructed, or summoned creatures: The spell additionally prevents such creatures from attacking the caster in melee, though they may still make ranged attacks. If the caster engages such a creature in melee, this protection is broken (the caster still gains the save and attack bonuses mentioned above.)

It's a poorly named spell due to it using the term evil. Since it protects whomever casts the spell, no matter what the their alignment. Protection would have been a easier name without the confusion. In the description it states that it protects the caster from another aligned creatures. Does that mean same aligned creatures can smack the cleric around the map? 

And what a duration, 12 turns is the longest duration I've seen on a spell. Of course I'm only five spells in so far. But two hours of protection is a spell slot well spent. 

Let's take a look at the AD&D version. 

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 3 rounds/level
Range: Touch
When the spell is cast, it acts as if it were a magical armor upon the recipient. The protection encircles the recipient at a one foot distance, thus preventing bodily contact by creatures of an enchanted or conjured nature such as aerial servants, demons, devils, djinn, efreet, elementals, imps, invisible stalkers, night hags, quasits, salamanders, water weirds, wind walkers, and xorn. Summoned animals or monsters are similarly hedged from the protected creature. 

Furthermore, any and all attacks launched by evil creatures incur a penalty of -2 from dice rolls "to hit" the protected creature, and any saving throw caused by such an attacks are made at +2 on the protected creature's dice. 

The spell can be reversed to become protection from good, although it still keeps out enchanted evil creatures as well. 

The following is within the DMG: Note that this excludes (keeps out) monsters using natural (body) attacks which require touching the protected character. 

First the duration is shrunk down like an old man climbing out of a cold pool. OSE a flat 12 turns, down to 3 rounds/level in AD&D. The strategy for using this spell would be very different. One casting it before entering a dungeon. The other casting it during combat. Both interesting versions.

But while the caster sacrifices a drastic drop in time the protection doubles. For my money I'd rather have the duration than the increase of +2. The protection is provides against summoned and enchanted creatures to be equal.

Another difference is the caster can apply this spell to anyone. Another strategic option for the spell. I love options. 

The biggest difference, this spell doesn't say the protection from enchanted and conjured creatures ends if the recipient engages in melee. But at the same time, if the salamander is stabbing your guts with a trident it suffers the -2 to hit penalty. Not the invulnerability you get with the OSE version.

I prefer the OSE version. I think it implements the spell more effectively. 

I randomly pulled Hackmaster off my shelf, but discovered that it doesn't have a version of this spell in Hackmater Basic or Hackmaster 5e. I went back to the shelf and pulled Swords & Wizardry Complete. It echoes the OSE version, but with some interesting differences.

Swords & Wizardry Complete Mechanics
Duration: 2 hours
Range: The caster
Creates a magical shield of protection immediately around the caster blocking out all enchanted monsters such as elementals and demons. Evil monsters suffer a -1 penalty to hit the caster, and the caster gains +1 on all saving throws against such attacks. If the caster already has any magical bonuses to saving throws or armor class, the bonus from the magical circle has no effect, although the protective circle still functions against enchanted creatures. 

A step sibling of the OSE version except that bit about, you already got bonuses? Then screw you pal, no more bonuses for you. It doesn't differentiate melee, missile, or spell. Someone could argue that it blocks all of their attacks. How would you rule this?

Again, is the spell is focusing on evil-aligned creatures or hostiles in general? I read it as it is specifically targets creatures of evil alignment. So a neutral-aligned creature suffers no penalty.

What say you?

Friday, March 6, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Light

I love the light spell. I really do. It's such a useful spell. Creative players find interesting ways to utilize the spell to their advantage. This is one of those cleric/magic-user spells. The only difference is the duration. Cleric get a solid 12 turns of light where a magic-user's duration is 6 turns + 1 turn per level. Okay. Not sure why the difference between the two, but that is the only difference. 

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 12 turns
Range: 120'
- Conjuring light in a 15' radius. It is sufficient for reading, but is not as bright as daylight. The spell may be cast on an object, in which the light moves with the object.
- Blinding a creature by casting it on the eyes. If the target fails a save vs. spell it is blind for the duration. The blind creature cannot attack. 
- Cancelling darkness, light cancels a darkness spell.
- Reverse: Darkness, creates a 15' radius of magical blackness. It prevents normal sight, but not infravision. It can be used to blind creatures or to dispel a light spell. 

So many options, and that isn't all of them. In my years of play I've seen a lot of fun options. I love the it is an offensive spell that can blind a single creature, eliminating it from combat. I've taken down a few big ass critters with a simple light spell in my day. And I don't find any ambiguity with the description. It does what it does.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns + 1 turn/level
Range: 12"
- This spell causes the excitement of molecules as as to make them brightly luminous. The light is equal to torch light in brightness, but the sphere is limited to 4" in diameter. It lasts for the duration indicated or the caster utters a word to extinguish the light. 
- The light spell is reversible, cause darkness in the same area and under the same conditions except the darkness duration only lasts half the duration light would last. 
- If cast upon a creature, the applicable magic resistance and saving throws must be made. Success indicates that the spell affects the area immediately behind the creature, rather than the creature itself. 
- In all other cases, the spell takes effect where the caster directs as long as he or she has a line of sight or unobstructed path for the spell; light can spring from air, rock, metal, wood, or almost any similar substance. 

I really don't remember the light spell being so complicated. Let's unpack this thing a little at a time. First off, in the stat descriptions of the spell is says a 2" radius globe. In the first paragraph reads it's limited to a 4" diameter sphere. This might be a simple misprint, and doesn't make much of a difference to the spell, but I found it odd. 

Why would darkness only have half the duration? 

This next section is vague. It's hinting about blinding a creature, but it doesn't state that it does. If the creature makes its saving throw...against what, to what end. I'm sure it's about blinding a creature, but odd that it's not stated. Some of the other details in the spell description are exacting. 

One of the bigger differences between the B/X and the AD&D spell is how the light works. In the B/X version it is cast on something. Making it a stationary spell. As the spell cannot move off the object it is cast on, but the object itself could be portable. I often cast it on a fighter's shield or on a small object that can be pocketed or covered to conceal the light.  

The AD&D version the cleric has a little ball of light pet. It moves where the cleric wills it. There is no indication how fast it moves, but it's an interesting distinction between the two spells.

This week I pulled Basic Fantasy Roleplaying game off the shelves. 

Basic Fantasy Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns + level turns
Range: 120'

- Creates light equal to torchlight which illuminates a 30' radius area and provides a dim light for an additional 20' around the targeted location or object.
- The reverse creates darkness an area as described above. Darkness blocks out Darkvision and mundane light sources.
- A light spell maybe cast to counter a darkness spell of equal or lower level caster. Do this causes both spells to instantly cease, restoring the existing ambient light. 
-Either version of the spell may be used to blind an opponent by casting in on the creatures ocular organs. The target is allowed a saving throw vs. death ray to avoid the effect, and if the save is made the spell does not take effect at all. A light or darkness spell cast to blind does not have a given area of effect, that is, no light or darkness is shed around the victim.

There are some very different things going on here.

Darkness blocks out Darkvision. Darkvision seems to have replaced infravision in Basic Fantasy. One sees in black and white in total darkness. While the B/X version of darkness doesn't block infravision, Basic Fantasy's darkness spell does.

I like the way Basic Fantasy resolves the use of light and darkness spells by canceling one another. Instead of which spell was cast last.

And lastly, there is an interesting twist to the spell if cast to blind a creature and the save is made, the spell doesn't work. No effect. I'm not sure if I like that version because I would still rule the spell went off, but not where the caster expected.

Favorite term of the night "ocular organs". Ever play a game with your friend where you just come up with rock band names. Yeah, ocular organs is my rock band name. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Detect Magic

Art by Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art ©Rick Hershey Fat Goblin Games

Detect Magic is one of the most used utility type spells. Gold and gems are great, but let's face it, we're going into tombs to grab the magical trinkets hidden behind secret doors, protected by deadly traps, and worn by those who have no interest in giving them up. It's straight forward.

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 2 turns
Range: 60'
Enchanted objects, areas, or creatures are caused to glow. Both permanent and temporary enchantments are revealed.

Another unspecified glow effect. Again, no real specification if everyone sees the glow or only the caster. Again, with these types of spells I default that only the caster can see the glow.

I am curious  why Detect Evil last for 6 turns and have a range of 120'. Is evil easier to detect than magic?

Here's the aspect of the spell I don't understand and that's the crossover. I mean it might be ticky tacky, but why would a cleric have the spell to detect magic? I understand there are magic items only clerics can use and if a cleric worships a god of magic, but it seems out of the cleric's realm. I'd love to hear what others think about this.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 1 turn
Range: 3"
- The cleric detects magical radiations in a path 1" wide, and up to 3" long, in the direction he or she is facing.
- The caster can turn 60 degrees per round. 
- Note that stone walls of 1' thickness, solid metal of but 1/12" thickness, or 3' or more of solid wood will block the spell. 

Wow okay. I need a carpenter to help with all these measurements. It's a shitty description. The entire description focuses on stupid thickness and how it won't work. Focus more on how the spell works. End of complaint. Nope I lied. How many times in an adventure are the thicknesses of walls given? Thickness of a metal chest? I mean 1/12" thickness, really dude?  

And the whole flashlight vision thing make no sense. So the cleric becomes a lighthouse and spins in a circle to attempt to detect magic? 

The most important absence is no information about how the cleric detects the magic. I guess rely on the old tried and true, glow trick. 

I wouldn't use this spell as written. Not at all. The Old School Essentials version is easier to use. You don't even need a ruler. 

However, it does specifically states that only the cleric detects the magic. Bravo. 

Our special guest star system tonight is OSRIC. The mother of the OSR systems! 

OSRIC Mechanics
Duration: 1 turn
Range: Caster
- Creates a tunnel of magical vision in the path of 10' wide and 30' long in which the cleric see the aura of any magical item as a glowing blue nimbus.
- The spell is blocked by solid wood 3' thick, by stone 1' thick, and by solid metal 1" thick. 
- The cleric can only scan 60 degree arc during the course of a round. Turning more quickly does not allow magic auras enough time to form in the cleric's vision.

The description on how the spell works is better in this version. I'm not a fan of measuring the thicknesses. If you can't see it, the cleric can't detect the magic. Boom.

That concludes the third entry into this series. Thanks to everyone who's participated with comments and taken the time to read the posts. It has been an education by taking a closer look at these spells. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Detect Evil

Artwork by Jeff Easley

Up next are the 1st level detect spells, Detect Evil and Detect Magic. I was going to combine them, but I've separated them for a reason. Detect evil is an interesting spell because it is a judgement spell. And in this case, alignments, if you use them, don't come into play. Only the immediate intentions. 

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 120'
Objects enchanted for evil purposes or living beings with evil intentions are caused to magically glow.
-Intent only: it does not grant the caster the ability to read minds
-Referee must decide what is 'evil'.

An interesting line in the B/X description "The exact definition of 'evil' is left to the referee, and players should discuss this point so all are in agreement; Chaotic isn't always evil."

I'm not sure when this conversation is to occur. Different factors come into play each time Detect Evil is cast. I might explain my interpretation to my players (I might not to be honest). I remember only a few times when this spell was used.

The objects sentence is something I hadn't taken too close a look at until now. It specifically states 'enchanted for evil purposes'. Further description of the spell, traps are not considered good or evil. In the B/X description it states that poison is neither good nor evil. Huh? So I'd interpret this spell as only evil 'magical' items are detected. I would also include obvious evil artifacts from an evil god.

However, I find this description confusing. Interpreting intentions is difficult, even though most everyone on the internet deems themselves experts in this area. Let's say an evil cleric uses this spell. He sees a mother or three standing in a crowd and he is about to select a stone from a bag to determine which child is to be sacrificed to the god of death. She glows. She wants to protect her children and imagines herself slitting the priest's throat. Are her intentions evil? I'd argue no, because it's to protect her children. But the priest would consider her intentions 'evil' because he'd prefer to keep his throat uncarved.

Then there is this bit about glowing. It doesn't specify if it glows for the world to see or if it is only to the caster. As a referee I tend to side with whatever would give my players the advantage, but I rule this one, as in most of the detect spells, only the caster can see the glow. 

Let's take a look at the AD&D version. There are slight, but significant differences.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 1 turn + 1/2 turn/level
Range: 12'
Discover emanations of evil, or good in the case of the reverse of the spell, from any creature or object. For example, evil alignment or an evilly curse object will radiate evil, but a hidden trap or unintelligent viper will not. Followed by about 5 sentences giving examples of the duration.

Okay, first of + 1/2 turn/level...really. Come on Gary! But I do enjoy 'evilly'. 

The AD&D version makes a distinction, this spell focuses on the alignment or an evilly object. It is not based on intention. No interpretation needed. Or at least no group confab is needed. And because it is reversible and detects goodly people and objects removes the shades of gray. And there is no glowing. 

But we lose the subtleties. Let me give you a scenario where a neutral NPC loathes one of the PCs. Maybe the PC "accidentally" pissed in his Cheerios or something. The PC being paranoid cast his Detect Evil spell. No evilly detected. Eats his dinner and dies from the poison the Neutral guy slipped in. You could argue that would make the NPC evil, maybe. But not necessarily. Maybe he honestly considered the PC a threat to his safety. Nothing detected, but now the player is throwing d4s across the room because his spell did not warn him. 

I think that version is a little to colored in the lines. Too black and white. I like my gray. 

Here's something you don't hear often. GURPS has a simple solution. Sense Foes.

GURPS Mechanics
Cost: 1(minimum 2)
Range: Area
Tells the caster if the subject has hostile intent, and to what degree. It can be cast on one person or an area. If cast over an area it only detects someone is hostile, but not who. 

Boom. Ambiguity gone. Subtlety remains. There is no need for philosophical discussions about the essence of good and evil. And I like that it tells the caster the degree of hostility. Like the difference of "Fucker took the last jelly doughnut" compared to, "He poisoned my dog."

Sense Foes gets my vote. It fulfills the need that Detect Evil doesn't fulfill.

What say you dear reader? Thoughts? Concerns? Or are you the evilly one in the corner who wants to keep it a secret?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Cure Light Wounds

I decided to go through each of the Old School Essentials spells, starting with the 1st level cleric spells and working my way up and then over to the magic-user spells. I'll compare the spells to their counterparts in different systems such as AD&D, and other random systems I pull off the shelf at the time. Let's get started. 

Cure Light Wounds is the first entry into the cleric spells at first level. All other characters in the party want the cleric to load up all his 1st level slots with this spell. The party medic. 

Gameplay Trend
I've read and seen a trend of games attempting to shy away from this. The cleric loses his band-aids and charges into battle as a holy warrior. I've got my own philosophy about that, it comes down to the god they worship. 

Cleric is a class that has the chance to be more diverse than any other class. A cleric that worships a war god acts/looks much different than one that worships a healing god, or a nature god. In my campaign it makes a huge difference. And just because a cleric has a healing spell doesn't mean it works automatically. Sometimes you've got to check in with the boss. And if the boss doesn't want you to heal a warrior who serves a different god, then the spell doesn't work and the cleric loses the spell slot. 

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch or caster
2 Uses
- Heals 1d6+1 points of damage
- Cure paralysis
Reversible: Inflicts 1d6+1 points of damage

The cure paralysis is something I've known about for a very long time, but I don't ever recall a group using it in a game for that purpose. And the spell is loose in its interpretation of whether it is an either or proposition. Does the cleric have to choose between the two properties? I say both would work at the same time. Think of it as medicine, like NyQuil. It'll get rid of your cough and knock your ass into a coma. 

Lets look at AD&D Cure Light Wounds Spell.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch
- Heals 1d8 points of damage
Reversible: Inflicts 1d8 points of damage

This version of the spell specifically states the creature being healed must have a corporeal body. And it doesn't work on those creatures that are only harmed by iron, silver, or magic. This spell is also reversible, but I have a question. If this spell cannot heal creature are are only harmed by iron, silver, or magic, doesn't that suggests it could not harm that same creature?

Again, this is something I haven't run into during a game. And to tell you the truth, Cure Light Wounds is one of those spells do people rarely read into too much. We all want to know how much we get healed and we're good. 

The other thing you'll notice is the lack of curing paralysis in AD&D. Ghouls and ghasts got a little more dangerous.

Let's take a look at the latest version of Cure Light Wounds in 5th Edition D&D. It is list as Cure Wounds.

5th Edition Mechanics
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch
- Creature regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + spellcasting ability modifier.
- No effect on undead or constructs.
- casting this spell using a higher level slot the healing increases 1d8 for each level above 1st. 

In 5th edition they made it a spell of some flexibility. It is not dedicated to a single spell level slot. This adds a nice strategic situation when it comes to selecting spells for the cleric. And interestingly, there is no reversible effect. No curing paralysis. This is a strictly, get healed and move your ass spell. 

My limited time with 5th edition the party did not have a cleric and the other time I played was in Adventures in Middle Earth where I played a scholar with healing ability, but it worked much differently. 

The Aside
Healing potions are found in magic-user shops or alchemist shops. Potions are considered magic items, created by magic-users, who have shown no aptitude for healing magics. Seems odd. And lets say they have a formula, add some troll's blood, with cinnamon, apple juice from first apples of spring and wala, you got yourself a Slurpee of Healing. But if they can do that, why aren't they able to use that same knowledge and create a secular healing spell?