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Review & Commentary On Pegasus #10: Revenge of the Ant God From Judge's Guild 1982

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 10/03/2020 - 06:48
 Tonight I'm gonna dive into Pegasus #10: Revenge of the Ant God adventure by Judge's Guild. Now there are reasons for this. Let's dive into the issue & we'll explain this one. So a little while back I got a thumb drive from a DM friend whose moving outta Connecticut & happened to mention this to my current group of players. What's on the thumb drive? The dungeon master's original  Judge's Guild Needles
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Free OSR PC Resources With First Edition Character Classes By Leonaru For First Edition AD&D, OSRIC Or Your Favorite Retroclone

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 10/03/2020 - 00:28
 A couple of years ago I needed a first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Samurai character class for a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese-language film Seven Samurai as an OSRIC one shot adventure. Now I've been a fan of the class since the original NPC class appeared in the pages of  Dragon magazine as a sub-class of the fighter in Dragon #3 (October 1976). Fortunately I was able to notNeedles
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Tegel Manor Crashes Into Atlantandria Port City Of Accursed Atlantis Session Report Two - Fang & Super Science

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 10/02/2020 - 16:09
  "Above its domes the gulfs accumulate.Far up, the sea-gales blare their bitter screed:But here the buried waters take no heed—Deaf, and with welded lips pressed down by weightOf the upper ocean. Dim, interminate,In cities over-webbed with somber weed,Where galleons crumble and the krakens breed,The slow tide coils through sunken court and gate.From out the ocean's phosphor-starry dome,A ghostlyNeedles
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The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #3: Grotto

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 19:51

This is an installment of the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts here.

Area 5

Area 2Area 4
Area 8

3. GROTTO WITH ROCKY BEACH: The east end of the sea cave tunnel (Area 2) opens into a large natural cave, roughly circular with a 50 ft. diameter. The sea water extends into the grotto in a semi-circular pool, ending at a rocky beach, varying in radius from 10-20 feet, dependent on the tide. A carrion crawler currently lairs here.
Pool. At the entrance to the cave, the depth of the water in the pool ranges from 3 feet at low tide to 13 feet at high tide. At any time, there is a 3 in 6 chance the carrion crawler is hanging on the wall over the pool, fishing in the water. If so, there is a 2 in 6 chance it will attack a character as they enter (check for each as they enter), surprising on 1-4 in 6.  
Carrion Crawler: DX 12, AC 7, HD 3+1, hp 14, AT 8, D 0 + paralysis.
If the carrion crawler is not fishing, it will either (4 on the initial die roll) be on a wall of the cave, or (5-6) under the old rowboat described below.

The Crawler in the Grotto by Lore Suto
(click on image to enlarge, particularly if a moire pattern is visible)

Rocky Beach. The remainder of the grotto is a pebble and stone-covered beach that was once the unloading area for the smugglers. From the beach, there are three other exits visible, all natural passages, heading to the north (sloping up to Area 5), east (Area 4, see Rails below), south (sloping down to Area 8). During the day, the area is dimly lit by natural light filtering down the sea cave tunnel (except at high tide), and from the north.
An inspection of the rocks of the beach will turn up numerous bones, mostly of fish, but several that are human, evidently those of previous explorers who became victims of the carrion crawler.
Agates. For each turn spent searching the rocks, there is a 1 in 6 chance of finding a beach agate, up to a maximum of 1d10 agates. The base value of each is 10 g.p., with a chance of being worth more per the rules of the Gems table (i.e., a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 50 g.p., and if so there is a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 100 g.p., etc.). As agates are reputed to improve sleep (AD&D DMG, pg 26), optionally allow a character who keeps one of 100 g.p. or greater on their person at all times to gain 1 extra hit point per night of rest.
Rails. A rusted pair of rails for a small cart start about 10' ft. from the east wall and extend off down the eastern passage (Area 4). There is no cart is present.
"The Old Rowboat" by Lore Suto, click on the image for a larger view

Old Rowboat. In the northeast portion of the cave, above the high tide line, is an old turned-over rowboat, under which the carrion crawler rests. The wood of the boat is remarkably well-preserved for its age due to waterproofing with pine pitch. It can hold 4 people, and will float but unless re-waterproofed will slowly fill with water from leaks between boards. It is too large to fit through the entrance to the sea cave (Area 1). A pitted iron anchor rests against the grotto wall near the rowboat, but there are no oars present.
The adventure continues in several directions from here. Follow the links on the above map; if there is no link to an area, it has not been posted yet. Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 4.
A hearty thanks to Lore Suto for kindly contributing the original art featured above!
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In Honor of 2020 - Apocalypse Now! ATZ and ATH at One Low Price!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 19:35


When's the Apocalypse? Now!

This month only you can get the Origins Award Winning All Things Zombie and the Post Apocalypse After the Horsemen for one low price. Between these two books we have the Apocalypse covered!

Whether it's zombies, gangers, survivors, aliens, lab experiments gone can have it all!

Apocalypse Now!

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Random OSR Thoughts & Commentary On The Fiend Folio Tome of Creatures Malevolent & Benign

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 19:03
 "This tome contains alphabetical listings of monsters designed for use with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ game system. Each creature is described and most are illustrated for easy identification."Eighty one saw the release of one of the best & imaginative monster books for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. Without classic Games Workshop & White Dwarf magazine we would never have Needles
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Cha'alt & Breaking The House Campaign Session Prep - PC Death Breeds Opportunity ! Now With More Fiend Folio!

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 16:51
 'So now you've made a fine mess of it!' this was the conversation at six A.M. from DM Steve. But DM Steve was in 'idiot mode' so we'll let him go for the moment. Let's fade back several months to when the  Godbound/Cha'alt campaign set in Las Vegas was in full force before Corvid 19 hit & hit hard. Back then I was quietly using several original Dungeons & Dragons third party books this included Needles
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Weird Revisted: Monster Apocalypses

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 11:00
The original version of this post appeared in October of 2013...
Zombie apocalypses have been done to death with films, books, and tv shows. Other classic monsters deserve their (proverbial) day in the sun, too:

Vampires: The most obvious non-zombie contender for virtually extinction of the human species. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and it's various movie adaptations have already ventured into this territory (as has the film Stake Land and the TV show The Strain) --and the comics Planet of Vampires and Vampire Hunter D have already shown on vampire overrun post-apocalypses. Trading bloodsucking for flesh-eating is almost too obvious.

Piscoids: Cast them as Creatures from Black Lagoons, Manphibians, or walking catfish men, fishy humanoids are ready to climb from the depths and overwhelm the surface world. Perhaps a full-fledged takeover is the ultimate goal of the Deep Ones in Shadow Over Innsmouth? Global warming and rising sea levels would no doubt be part of their plan. A piscoid apocalypse might wind up looking more like Waterworld than Walking Dead.

Werewolves: Like vampires and zombies, werewolfism is passed by a bite, making them a reasonable stand-in. I don't know of any media werewolf apocalypses, but Dog Soldiers sort of does the "trapped in an isolated farm house" riff of Night of the Living Dead. Depending on exactly how the werewolves worked, things might be pretty tough for humanity: zombies are slow and dumb, while vampires have to sleep in the day time. Werewolves have neither of those limitations. Of course, their just humans in the day, trying to scourge for survival just like everybody else. Only at night would they join packs of killers to howl at the moon as they hunt through the ruins.

Frankenstein's Monsters: This seems like the biggest stretch given than Frankenstein had only one monster (or maybe two, depending on who you believe). Still, two monsters can overrun the world (unless they're giant, which still movies us out of zombie apocalypse analogous territory). Technology has advanced a lot since Frankenstein's day, though. Wein's and Wrightson's Un-Men in Swamp Thing (and Burroughs' Synthetic Men of Mars, for that matter) point the way: Mass production of monsters. In some ways, this would resemble an alien invasion apocalypse or robot apocalypse more than a zombie one--though perhaps the monsters "consume" humans by dragging them back to their secret factories to use as raw materials for more monsters?

1d10 Random Mystical & Dangerous Damned Underworld Encounters Table For Your Old School Swords & Sorcery campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 10/01/2020 - 06:33
" There are some qualities—some incorporate things,⁠That have a double life, which thus is madeA type of that twin entity which springs⁠From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade.There is a two-fold Silence—sea and shore—⁠Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places,⁠Newly with grass o'ergrown; some solemn graces,Some human memories and tearful lore,Render him terrorless: his name's "No MoreNeedles
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The Cut of a Certain Blade -Cha'alt & Breaking The House Campaign Plus OD&D's Eldritch Wizardry Session Report Now With More Cha'alt

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/30/2020 - 22:22
 Talking about original Dungeons & Dragons with some friends in the off hours last night & that brings up one of the divine hazards that's been running around in the background of my  Godbound/Cha'alt campaign set in Las Vegas. There was a series of murders of Godbound PC's in our early games. Now a player from another game has approached me about doing something with one of his older Godbounds. Needles
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Random OSR Thoughts & Commentary On The Monster Manual II By Gary Gygax

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/30/2020 - 17:28
 "the most complete alphabetical listing and description of the latest AD&D™ game creatures" A must for the serious AD&D™ game player. This manual contains all the new members, from Abishai to Zygom, including new creatures like the Deadly Pudding, Devas, and Valley Elves. And you'll also have the advantage of the extended lists of lycanthropes, giants, and other beasts."There are times when Needles
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Echoes From Fomalhaut #07: From Beneath the Glacier

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/30/2020 - 11:33
By Gabor Lux First Hungarian d20 Society OSRIC Levels 5-7
  • From Beneath the Glacier: Venture into the ice caves underneath a melting glacier, and discover the source of the nighttime raids on the mountain valleys. Dungeon module for 5th to 7th level characters, 21 keyed loations.
  • The Hecatomb of Morthevole: Morthevole has skeletons in the basement, and he needs to have them cleared out. Fun side job soon turns into horrible slaughterfest. Mini-dungeon for 2nd to 4th level adventurers (or plucky first-levelers!), 12 keyed locations.
  • The Tomb of Ali Shulwar: An article presenting one of the major Underworld complexes beneath the City of Vultures. Two entrance levels, three main levels and multiple sub-levels, from the hideouts of fantastic conspiracies to locked-away secrets and an enchanted forest beneath the face of the earth! 4th to 6th level (mostly), 66 keyed areas.

This 44 page zine features three dungeons and a smattering of other interesting information. I’m just going to review the Glacier adventure, but the other two are similar in style. The maps are cramped, but otherwise it’s another fine job of writing and interactivity from Melan.

Melan does these little zines pretty regularly. They each contain an adventure or two and a number of background articles. Published as a zine, physically, they tend to be available as a PDF after a bit, with a PDF thrown in if you purchase the physical copy. They feature high quality content, as one would expect from someone who has his shit together, like he does. I tend to skip over them when doing reviews, which is totally uncool of me, because they have a known quality of being good: you don’t need me to tell you that, Melans work is an auto-buy. But I had a specific request for this one, so I’m reviewing the adventure that was requested: From Beneath the Glacier.

Outlying homesteads are being massacred  and water is running off the glacier; it’s melting and, evidently, something frozen inside has woken up. This is indeed true. Trogs and Cavemen are thawing out, the way they only do in D&D, and waging war against each other … the cavemen generally on the losing side. Thus what you have here are an adventure of caves, ice, slushy cold water, and dudes and things half frozen in ice. 

The designer has a way, with words, formatting, and interactivity, that few others can compare to. I generally recommend that new designers use a style that is more rigid than the one used here. I think the more rigid style helps with the formatting and focuses the attention on what’s important in the adventure, allowing the designer to really get a good view of what they are doing … with an eye towards editing it to making it better. But that’s not the only way. There is no “only way.” You can generally write a good adventure using any style, as long you pay attention to to the goal: usable at the table. Some may be easier for people struggling to learn the skill … but once you’ve mastered what matters then you can generally do what you want, as Melan does here.

The encounter areas are generally laid out in a paragraph format, usually one per room with a second or so in some cases. In cases like this it’s critically important the writing remains focused; no weasel words, no backstory, nothing to get in the way of the DM scanning the room. And that’s what is going on here. The writing is TIGHT. This is combined with a bolded word or phrase in places to highlight to the DM important features, drawing their eye to it. 

This is then combined with evocative writing, showing an ability to paint a picture for the DM, inserting the vignette in to heads with a minimum of words and maximum of effect. And then, of course, there’s what’s actually going on in the room, the interactivity.

Putting it together we get something like 

1. Gorge: The mountain river rushes through a gap between tall cliffsides; great boulders and broken pines offer a way to climb upwards through the cascades. Caught among the rocks the purifying body of a troglodyte still holds an elk’s jawbone and a flint-tipped javelin. […] (it then goes on for one more sentence, noting a secret trail leading up to the cliffs.)

Note how the first word is bolded,the room name, and how it orients the DM to the encounter. It is a gorge. You’ve now got that framing in your head. Then comes one sentence, with a few words, that both offers an evocative description of the scene. Rushing mountain river. Great boulders. Broken Pines. Nothing is “big” or “large.” The trog body doesn’t hold a bone, it’s an elk jawbone. A bone would be abstraction, this is specificity, using just one more word to evoke the primitive nature of the humanoid. Further cliffs are jagged. A dazzling ice plain. A spacious low-ceilinged ice cavern bisected by a CHURNING river. You’ve got a thesaurus. Imagine the scene and use it and then agonize over the editing to create an effective, low word count description.

The adventure does this over and over and over again, as do the other adventures in this zine. Short, terse descriptions, just a sentence or so, that use language to put an image effectively in to the DMs head, allowing them to then add to and expand it. 

Mechanics are not harped on. They are present, inline to the things they refer to, but they don’t overstay their welcome. A secret trail found 1:6 or 1:3 by rangers or druids. 

Interactivity is great. Tings frozen in the ice lure the adventurers to fuck with them, rewarding or creating additional hazards/encounters. 

I want to call attention to the way he handled magic items also. Many adventures drone and on in describing their magic items. They destroy any mystery of the thing by going in to too much detail on the mechanics of them. A brass Jug of plentiful water is described as “This jug can pour an unlimited quantity of water at a leisurely pace. The flow persists until the jug is stoppered. That’s it. No going on an on about daily limits or flow rates. It’s leisurely. Interpret it as you will, you, after all, are the DM. 

My only criticism of the adventure would be the maps. In support of interactive and exploratory play they are great. Feature, height, tunnels running under things, sinkholes, boulders, rubble, etc. Lots to keep the party interested. No, the issue is the legibility. They are hand drawn little scrawls, limited by the digest sized pages of the zine. It’s not that you CAN’T read them, but rather that they don’t easily show detail as you need them, because of the size and cramped nature of them. The Glacier map is actually the best of the three, in terms of legibility, and even that has some substantial issues. It must be a pain, balancing how much effort to put in to them, especially for a quick and dirty zine. I don’t have an answer, because something like CC3+ has its own issues to contend with, but some extra effort in this are would pay off in terms of legibility. 

This is a bargain of a product at twice the price. Easily one of The Best.

This is $6 at DriveThru. Note how the descriptions show you the level range and how many encounter areas you are getting. The preview, at ten pages, shows you sixteen of the glacier rooms as well as the map. It’s a great preview.

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Wednesday Comics: Waiting for the Omnibus

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/30/2020 - 11:00

 A couple of DC Omnibuses I've been waiting for sometime are finally available.

One was solicited over a year ago, then cancelled only to be resolicited again. As of last week, it was finally released. The Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus vol. 1 collects the series by Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum that imagined a darker future for the United Planets and the now adult members of the Legion.

This was the run that got my interested in the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The publication of the Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus vol. 3 was probably never in doubt, but it's been one I've been eagerly anticipated since they embarked on this series. Batman RIP has good, but marred by changing ideas of what the series was going to be and the need to fit in with the Final Crisis event. Batman and Robin was better still, but to my mind Batman Incorporated is the best of Morrison's work it takes the Silver Age-y flourishes with a modern sensibility that had surfaced from time to time in the early portions of his run and makes it the centerpiece of the seris. 

1d20 Random Effects of The Blessings of the Meditrinalia & The Time Of Jupiter Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Games

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/30/2020 - 07:17
 The time Of The Meditrinalia is celebrated with the power of &  honor of the new vintage, which was offered as libations to the gods for the first time each year.The festival may have been so called from medendo, because the Romans then began to drink new wine, which they mixed with old and which served them instead of physic. This feastival was strongly connected with Jupiter. And it also Needles
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Souls & Shrouds - An Alternative Ecology For The Sheet Phantom & Sheet Ghoul For Dungeons & Dragons

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/29/2020 - 18:27
 I have heard (but not believ'd) the spirits of the deadMay walk again: if such thing be, thy motherAppeared to me last night; for ne'er was dreamSo like a waking.(The Winter's Tale, 3.3)William ShakespeareIts one sixteen in the morning & I'm just getting back from going  out for a beer  with my buddy Steve whose back in town for a temporary job till after Christmas time. He got the old gang of Needles
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Review & Commentary On 'Boarding action' by Joseph Mohr A 'Pay What You Want' Adventure For The Cepheus Engine rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/29/2020 - 16:49
"The X-434Z prison ship holds some of the most dangerous criminals in the Sonora sector. Recent escapes from prison worlds in the sector have led to authorities placing the worst offenders on a ship that rarely visits port anywhere in the sector. But a small group of rebels have discovered that the ship will be in a certain system at a certain time. They want a political prisoner held aboard the Needles
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On the Deadly Difference

Hack & Slash - Tue, 09/29/2020 - 12:00
There's a big difference between this. . .There are no players who do foolish things. There are only poor Dungeon Masters.

This is a real problem that affects even the best Dungeon Masters.

They are good Dungeon Masters because it's very hard in their game for a player to do a foolish thing.

Players, of course, do stupid things aplenty.

Foolish (adj.) resulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwiseStupid (adj.) lacking intelligence or common sense.What we are talking about is how to avoid falling into the Fantasy Gap.

The Fantasy Gap
"A great city sits among the trees, surrounded by clouds. Strange fey creatures move among the high branches wearing what appears to be the forest itself. You feel a powerful sense of awe as the city looms above you."

. . . and this.Ok, so what's the city made of? How is it connected to the trees? How tall are the fey creatures? A "good" player might ask these questions, maybe. But how many more questions could we think of that they didn't ask? Let's try something even more complex.

"A shadowy path leads further into the bandit woods."

What's the player\s action here? What's the first thing you do if you need to go down the path? Prepare for ambushes, right? Or are you checking for traps? How far can the characters see into these woods? Is there underbrush? Would you say you were checking the treetops?

These things seem trivial to ask, but no matter how many questions players ask there are always more they cannot ask. If the players don't ask a question, it's because the players have made an assumption, and I can guarantee not all of your assumptions will match mine. The Dungeon Master knows the right answers, and the players don't.

A "Historically-Effected" ConsciousnessThe brain was formed by a variety of genetic factors, and then exposed to a certain lifestyle and set of experiences. Those experiences affect the way people view the world and the assumptions they make. These assumptions will never completely match another persons.

Any time the Dungeon Master is describing something in Dungeons and Dragons, it is imagined in each player's mind in a totally different way, a way that matches their developed consciousness. Good, skilled, players ask as few questions as they can to narrow this gap as much as possible.

This process of closing this gap is so difficult, the general trend in gaming has been to eliminate as much of it from the gameplay as possible.

Witness the birth of character skill gaming!

Fusing HorizonsSo any time the Dungeon Master sees a player about to do something "Showing a lack of common sense; ill-considered; unwise" it is almost universally because they don't understand the situation well enough to predict the consequences of their actions. 
No one is going to not light a torch and walk into a wall in the dungeon. No savvy adventurer is just going to walk right into traps on the way to a bandit camp. No reasonable person is going to attempt a jump they have no chance of making. They are taking those actions because their perception of the situation is a different one than yours!
So what's the solution?
Good Dungeon Masters usually indicate what the consequences of an action might be, no matter what action the player takes. Every single time a player does something that seems foolish to them they take a moment to make sure the player understands the situation accurately.
Often, they proceed to do the stupid thing anyway—but aware of the consequences instead of ignorant about them.
FAQIsn't this just coaching the players? Letting them play on easy mode?
Absolutely not! 
No, no, you're wrong. You're telling them what's going to happen before they take an action!
I understand. You're the Dungeon Master. It all seems so clear to you behind the screen. How would telling them what's going to happen not be coaching?
First, the players don't know what's behind the action. There is a tapestry hanging on the wall. What could possibly happen?Burning it could open a secret door. Moving it could uncover a mirror with heinous effects. It could be treasure. Undead could be hiding behind it. It could be covering a concealed door. It may be there to keep the room warm. Quick! Which of those options is true?
Second, you don't have to tell them the consequence, just possible consequences.If players are doing something 'foolish', then it's an indicator that they don't understand what consequences can result from their choice. So list more than one. Sometimes you can include the actual real consequence in the list, sometimes you can list other options. Either way, the players don't know, you're just creating a situation they can make an informed choice in.
But every time I do this the players will know something is up!
First, that's not a problem. Players knowing where gameplay is, is a feature, not a bug.Second, Good dungeon masters get in the habit of informing players of possible consequences any time they take actions and checking to make sure it is what they intend to do.
But how will my players learn to be good players if I'm telling them what will happen all the time?
I interpret this question as saying "I want to play a game and hide the rules. If they were good, they would know them already!" 
This activity, of asking questions, of "Fusing Horizons", of communicating clearly with another human being is so difficult that there are college courses about it, millions spent on projects to do it effectively, and the plain fact that they moved towards removing it from the game in third and fourth edition because of how hard it was to do.
So, yes, if your players haven't been playing for at least 5 years, if not a decade, assume that they are very inexperienced. Hell, my brother who'd been playing D&D for nearly as long as I have had no idea what yellow mold was. 
Communicating isn't cheating. The gameplay isn't in obfuscation of consequences. They are already obfuscated by virtue of being a player. It's in making the correct informed choice when you clearly understand the situation and the possible consequences.
Originally published on 2/17/2014.This content is available in print at Lulu and digitally from DTRPG. See the Directory for more articles. Hack & Slash FollowTwitchNewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
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Scrutinizing the 9 Most Popular House Rules for D&D

DM David - Tue, 09/29/2020 - 11:25

In the beginning, Dungeons & Dragons required house rules to run. For instance, for 10 years the game suffered from an unplayable initiative system, so everyone used a house rule. Every dungeon master grew accustomed to tinkering with the game, leading to a generation of amateur game designers who sometimes graduated to the pros.

Fifth edition has proved sound enough that the game’s designers resist tweaking even the worst parts of the game. The reluctance makes sense: No customer wants to learn that the rules in their game book are changed by some notice on the Internet.

Nonetheless, everyone who plays the game long enough wishes something played a bit differently, perhaps a bit better. Forty-some years on, the roleplayer’s urge to design and redesign remains. My search for fifth-edition house rules turned up an avalanche of favorites.

What are the most popular house rules for D&D and how do they stand to scrutiny?

Players may spend inspiration to a gain a reroll.

Spending inspiration gives you advantage an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check, so you must choose to use inspiration before the roll. Meanwhile, so many people think that inspiration allows a reroll that every convention DM who runs by the book can tell a story of being falsely accused of not knowing the rules. “You may be right,” we lie. “Go ahead and look that up for me.”

Advantage. The original conception of Inspiration supposed that players would gain inspiration more frequently than typical now. During the edition’s design, Mike Mearls wrote, “A player can gain it once per significant scene or important combat. Inspiration fades quickly, so you must spend it within a few minutes in game time before you lose it.” The lighter benefit of advantage suited this frequency. With most DMs awarding Inspiration less often, a stronger reroll benefit works fine.

Disadvantage. You may foster a misunderstanding that causes your players to call out some poor DM who plays by the book.

Players roll their characters’ death saves in secret.

Groups who adopt this house rule allow players to override their secret saving roles to spare their character or, I suppose, speed a tragic end. This change doesn’t actually change D&D rules, so the pedant in me wants to call it a table convention.

Advantage. By rolling their character’s death saves secretly, players gain more control over whether their character dies. This suits groups who emphasize story and would rather not see the campaign arc overturned by a blown save.

Disadvantage. Allowing players to choose not to die may seem like a violation of the game’s spirit to players who value a genuine threat of death.

See How Character Death Lands D&D in a Tug-of-War Between Game and Story.

DMs roll the characters’ death saves in secret.

Advantage. If you play fifth edition long enough, you suffer through this scene: Your character drops early in a fight, and because you never fail a death save, no one bothers to heal you. The players know your character remains 3 turns from death, so no one feels urgency. Meanwhile, for all the characters know, their friend is hearing her dead parents calling her toward the light. (As an adventurer, her parents are as inevitably dead as a Disney lead’s mother.)

If the DM rolls death saves, or the player rolls and only shares the result with the DM, the rest of the party stops gaining metagame information about a dying character’s closeness to the final curtain. This adds urgency to the need to heal fallen characters and can heighten feelings of peril. Such secrecy encourages players to quickly bring their friends back into the action.

Disadvantage. Particularly if the DM rolls, the players lose a sense of control over their fate, even if that false sense only comes from throwing the die.

Precedent. If Gary had invented death saves, you know that he would have rolled them secretly for players.

Critical hits deal maximum damage plus damage from a second roll of the dice.

Advantage. In fifth edition, we’ve all experienced the excitement of a critical, followed by the roll of a handful of dice that yields mostly ones, twos, and a big letdown. Reinforcing critical hits guarantees big damage. This favors divine smiters, sneak attackers, and the kid at my game table whose “practice” rolls uncannily end when he rolls a 20. “Look! Another critical!”

Disadvantage. Apparently, none of the folks bolstering criticals have played a paladin and realized that the class rates as almost too good without smites backed by stronger crits.

Criticals offer fun, but they are secretly bad for players because characters endure far more critical hits than any monster. Dialing up extra damage increases the chance that a monster’s attack will kill a character dead. For criticals that avoid the bummer of low rolls without adding risk to player characters, make criticals deal maximum damage.

Precedent. In third edition, criticals let you double your damage bonuses along with your damage dice. Fourth edition backed away from doubling damage bonuses by just making criticals deal maximum damage. That favored players, but eliminated the fun of the roll and the chance of huge damage against monsters. The fifth-edition system opts for a mechanic converging on maximum damage, but with extra dice to roll.

Lesser Restoration and remove curse won’t automatically remove diseases, poisons, and curses.

Lesser restoration and remove curse turn poisoning, diseases, and curses in D&D into the loss of a spell or a donation at the local temple. To match folklore and for story, we want curses and other afflictions to prompt quests, so many groups add limits to the spell remedies. The limits run from an ability check similar to dispel magic, to a requirement for special material components, to more. Adventurers League administrator Greg Marks writes, “I’m a big fan of any story-based poison or disease requiring a story-based solution in addition.” If a character gets hit with a bestow curse spell in a random encounter, then remove curse fixes it. If the party is cursed by the dying breath of a witch queen, then that’s an adventure to fix.

Advantage. Limiting lesser Restoration and remove curse opens D&D to a type of story that pervades the tales that inspired the game.

Disadvantage. Limiting these spells hurts characters who prepare them, but not as much as in earlier editions. Originally, clerics who prepared a just-in-case spell like remove curse lost a spell slot, which they could have devoted to a healing spell that would always prove useful.

Precedent. Many adventures through D&D’s history include curses and other afflictions that resist mere spells.

Healing potions can be consumed with a bonus action.

A character can spend a bonus action to drink a healing potion. Administering a potion to another character still requires an action.

Advantage. When a typical round takes several minutes of real time, losing an action to drink a healing potion feels like a bummer. Also, a player who needs a potion probably needs that action to turn the tide of battle.

Disadvantage. If your campaign awards a typical amount of treasure, then the 50 gp cost of a healing potion quickly becomes negligible, especially when characters have little else to spend money on. If drinking becomes a bonus, expect smart players to litter battlefields with empty vials. Still, this change probably won’t upset the game’s balance.

Lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford might prefer that you not mistreat bonus actions as just a lesser sort of action though.

Characters gain a bonus feat at first level.

Advantage. Granting characters an extra feat enables more customization, especially for groups who tend to shorter, low-level campaigns. Some DMs even allow characters who reach ability score increases to gain both an increase and a feat rather than choosing one.

Disadvantage. Some feats grant big boosts in power. See The Two D&D Feats Everyone Loves, How to Build a D&D Polearm Master That Might Be Better Than a Sharpshooter, and How to Build a Sharpshooter Who Wins D&D. Also, the Lucky feat may as well be called Never Fail a Save. The power of feats means that bonus feats steeply increase the power curve for characters. Some groups don’t mind because they see combat as a way for characters to show off their prowess rather than a challenge that endangers heroes. Some DMs don’t mind because they happily dial up the opposition to match.

Also, pairing extra feats with ability score increases strongly encourages multi-class characters to take class levels in blocks of 4.

Precedent. If you like this rule because it allows extra customization, you may benefit by switching game systems. Pathfinder 2 modularizes character advancement into choices of feats and allows much more customization of characters.

Players can delay their turn to take a later place in initiative.

Advantage. Too often, the slow, tough characters who open the dungeon door roll a low initiative while the quicker skirmishers in back roll high. The tanks in front wind up bottling up the door because the rules offer no way for the bladesinger in back to just wait for the paladin to step out of the damn way.

Also, some groups enjoy the tactical options unlocked by letting characters delay.

Disadvantage. The D&D designers sought faster play and a leaner game by dropping the delay option. For more, see 3 Actions D&D Players Want That Defy the Game’s Design Choices.

I favor a lightweight alternative to a full delay option. Before combat starts, let players opt for a lower initiative than they rolled.

Precedent. Third and fourth edition both included a delay option. For a suggested delay rule adapted from those editions, see What to Do When a D&D Player Wants to Be Ready, Call a Shot, or Delay.

Characters who fail a death save suffer a level of exhaustion.

Advantage. Players intent on wringing every advantage from the game rules will only heal characters when they drop, because damage below 0 heals for free. Imagine being injured but denied healing until you lie dying on the dungeon floor because the magic somehow works better that way. As an adventurer, I would find a less psycho group of comrades in arms.

By making characters who fail a death save suffer a level of exhaustion, the dying condition becomes something to be realistically feared rather than an inconvenience where players can exploit their metagame understanding of fifth edition’s lack of negative hit points.

Disadvantage. Although this penalty encourages players to keep their friends in the game rather than incapacitated by 0 hit points, the rule remains a penalty that will sometimes prove unavoidable.

Precedent. In first edition, characters brought to 0 or fewer hit points needed a week of rest. “The character cannot attack, defend, cast spells, use magic devices, carry burdens, run, study, research, or do anything else.” However, due to house rules, I never saw this penalty enforced.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AD&D Session 21: “You’re Gonna Owe Me One for This”

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 09/28/2020 - 23:54

This session opened with me a bit bored. You know I felt guilty for running this campaign for eighteen sessions without sitting down a creating a real dungeon the way that Gygax said to do in the opening of original D&D and the way that Ken St. Andre said to do in the opening of Tunnels & Trolls. It’s weird, but… man, I just liked winging it. Playing every session like it was going to be the last one. Cranking the awesome, the stupid, and the dangerous far beyond what I could guess could actually be managed.

Sitting on top of fifteen one page dungeons, I was just plain BORED. For one thing, I knew everything that was likely to happen. For another… the players’ collective penchant for pursuing low risk, low reward adventure options resulted in a baffling path through all my preparations: the least heroic, least romantic path through everything I had worked to create! The players had got the exact game they had demanded… but with the low payoffs from the past two sessions and a pretty high body count for henchmen, I couldn’t help but think that they weren’t too happy with it, either.

Maybe that had something to do with several key players just suddenly having something else to do on a Thursday night. At any rate, we started the session with nobody but Fluid the third level Druid, Rhedegar the second level fighter, Malbert the first level fighter, and Malalip the second level Monk. I had this idea that arbitrarily pushing time forward to search for henchmen and men-at-arms was against Gygax’s intent for the game, so I told them they had to run with what they had and THAT’S IT.

I went through and briefly described again each of the major prepared adventure locations in my composition book. Strangely enough, the players opted to go check out the spiritualism exhibit on the first floor of the Tower of Ultimate Darkness. This was by far the most stupid of all the adventure options. And after the near-TPK there a few sessions back, nobody had been inclined to go back. I think I mentioned this time that the fifth floor of this place was literally the assassin’s guild from the John Wick movies.

Anyway, the four player characters roll into this place a bit gingerly. They meet a goodwife on the ground floor that told them that the exhibit was VERY INFORMATIVE and to be sure to get a souvenir replica Ouija Board from the gift shop. The players took the elevator to the first floor and we got confused describing the map to each other. We suck at this for some reason. Finally they go through the exhibit, which has magic mouths that gab away at each station when you push a button. Lots of information about the fabled 5th Aeon of Trollopulous. It was incredible!

The players decided to go check out the Trollopulean Spiritualism Historical Society reading room and the Trollopulean Spiritualism Special Collection. Fluid the Druid tried to charm the librarian and then cast detect magic. Many of the books here glowed blue! Fluid the Druid asked for information on how to contact the Great Druid Getafix. He found the perfect “Dummies” guide for Basic Level spiritualism and soon found himself under some kind of weird compulsion. Or maybe this was just how Fluid the Druid normally behaves.

They go to get their souvenir replica 5th Aeon Ouija Board and find a room with a GIANT SIZE replica Ouija Board. Nobody but Fluid wants to get on it. Fluid, Petnuia the dog, and some Cheap Trollop Fluid had picked up with a Charm Mammal spell get up on it and hold hands. Before long, Fluid is talking to the spirit of Getafix the Great Druid! He asks for the recipe for a POTION OF STRENGTH 18/00. This voice gives him detailed instructions including the location of two rare plants that are necessary to make this work. Before getting off Ouija arrow, the voice from beyond tells them, “you’re going to owe me one for this.” Fluid is nonplussed.

The players decide to go get these ingredients. They saddle up and head towards the Mountains of Madness. On their way out of town they pass a merchant caravan bringing in a fresh batch of trollops to replenish the city’s supplies. This time I am carefully using the AD&D wilderness rules adjudicate all this. This includes lower chance for encounters, but more rolls per day and different odds depending on how close to civilization the players are. The players end up getting lost and find themselves at the Sea of Perdition. They are confused about how they can get lost when they have such a clear landmark to head for and I sternly lecture them about how getting lost in this situation would totally make sense in, say, The King of Elfland’s Daughter.

They finally find the plant for this potion and they head back to town, not running into any monsters along the way. This was not terribly exciting. Didn’t really matter because the players could just keep on travelling. (And yes, this game suddenly did feel like a pretty decent Traveller session.) They got more supplies in Trollopuluous and then headed into the jungles. Before the druid could cast Find Plants or whatever, this weird, fungus-filled zombie dinosaur came crashing through the woods requiring them to roll for initiative!

Fluid had this idea to cast cure disease or something on this thing. The party deals out ranged weapons, barely scratching the thing. Fluid walks up and touches the thing and… nothing happens. I did give this a slight chance of success and the dice didn’t roll with it. Now fluid is facing a claw/claw/bite routine. I started to make up this thing about the jaw of this beast popping open or something but everyone told me not to pull my punches. I retconned the idea out of existence and let Fluid take the full routine. Seven hits! Could have been worse, too.

Fluid then pulled a Homer Simpson and faded into the underbrush without a trace. The party elected to fight on, this time with Malbert taking some hits. His armor shrugged off a lot of this, but he still took some significant damage over the course of two rounds. Then Fluid came back and cast insect swarm, which debilitated the monster for a few rounds. (Can fungoid driven zombie dinosaurs get irritated/distracted by a swarm of insects? I say yes.)

The party finished the thing off, collected their potion ingredient and then headed over to Fluid’s treehouse. They rested there for the night and decided to check out the huge ruined pile while they were in the vicinity. They headed in that direction and then heard a lion roar. I explain to Fluid that it is signaling a warning that they are violating a DOMAIN. Then our meeting software shut down and it took forever to find an alternative.

We almost got to find out what would happen if you STOPPED THE GAME WHILE THE PLAYERS WERE STILL DOING SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF TOWN! But then we found another platform, the players declared they were going back to Trollopulous, and I checked for random encounters and got nothing else, so the game once again ended with the players back in town. Close call!

This adventure took fourteen game days to be played out. That means these four player characters are now out of play for the next two weeks in real time, too. Time to work up those alternate player characters!

Treasure and Experience:

The players pick up 100 XP each for killing a zombie fungus-infused dinosaur. Looking into the druid and potion manufacture rules, I am ruling that each of these players will be given a complementary strength potion twelve days after they return to town. Those are worth 300 XP each. (Though the proprietor of Ye Old Magic Shoppe suggests that they do something awesome with them rather than selling them on the open market for the 750 gp they would bring.)

Cast o’ Characters:

Malbert the Veteran (9 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 8, 20, and 21] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 0 + 239 + 400 = 1865. Potion of Strength 18/00.

Fluid the Druid, Initiate of the 2nd Circle — Level three druid. [Delve 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 21] 4000 + 106 + 369 + 400 = 4875 XP. Should be broke from training. 63 gold last time and 160 this time. Procurer of the fabled Boobs of Opar. Potion of Strength 18/00.

Malalip the Initiate — Level two monk. [Sessions 18, 19, and 21] 2250 + 106 + 400 XP. All saving spent on training. 63 gold this time. Sole survivor of level 10 of The Tower of Ultimate Darkness. Potion of Strength 18/00.

Rhedgar the Swordsman — Level two fighter. [Delve 15, 16, 17, 19, and 21] 2000 + 106 + 400 XP. Should be broke from training. 63 gold this time. Procurer of the fabled Boobs of Opar. Potion of Strength 18/00.


Day 1: The Hole in the Sky

Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer

Day 7: The Big Score part I

Day 8: The Big Score part II

(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)

Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People

(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)

Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women

(Day 26-31: Resting)

Day 32-33: The Pugs of Slaughter

(Day 34-39: Resting)

Day 40: The Overbearing of the Crystal Men

(Day 41-46: Resting)

Days 47-48: The Song of Fàgor

(Day 49-70: In shock from an awesomely weird adventure. Sad!)

Day 71: The Woman in the Ice

(Day 72-76: Resting)

Day 78-79: The Return to Trollopulous

(Day 80-85: Carousing in a besieged Trollopulous.)

Day 86: “You Just Ruined My Story Arc”

(Day 87-92: Utterly exhausted!)

Day 93-95: The Schwérpunkt of the Pig-Men

(Day 96-101: Carousing)

Day 102: A Night in the Autonomous Zone

(Days 103-108: In Trollopulous)

Day 109: The Rave of the Monkey Goddess

(Day 110-115: Scouting out jungle and undead quarter)

Day 116: Snakepede Legion

(Day 117-122: Fagor leveling; Chaz protesting)

Day 123-126: Return to Sorceress Mountain

(Day 127-132: Narjhan leveling. Rhedgar researching sorceress woman.)

Day 133-137: The Boobs of Opar

(Day 138-143: Fluid the Druid, Narjhan, and Rhedgar all training)

Day 144: Spirit Cooking of the Rich and Famous

(Day 145-172: Fagor acquires Peero the sweeper)

Day 173: In Search of the Level Appropriate

(Day 174-179: Some first level cleric spent 200 gold to look for the men-at-arms he could take down to up to the third level.)

Day 180: Lizardache’s Den of Instinkquity

(Day 181-186: Nothing much.)

Day 187 (Sept 24, 2020): Group A (Fluid, Rhedegar, Malbert, and Malalip) 14 day journey for potion of strength 18/00 ingredients. 12 days after return they get the potions.

The graveyard:

Dorkorus — Half-elf fighter/magic-user/thief — [Half brother to Keebler Khan, talked with a lisp!] Killed by a pug-man in the sewers of Trolopulous.

Dairage — Elf fighter/magic-user — Killed with his shield spell on, valiantly taking down the leader of the pug-men so that the party could have a chance to escape certain death!

9 Hapless men-at-arms! — Killed by the pug-men in the sewers of Trollopulous!

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 7, 8, and 9] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 + 0 + 195 = 2584 [Looked like a member of ZZ Top] — Killed in the sewers of Trollopulous while bashing a baby wererat with his shield.

Catskinner the thug — Smashed to a pulp by a white ape in the swamps near Trollopulous.

Aulis Martel the Adept (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 7, and 13] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 255 => Just leveled up at 1500 XP. Reduced to idiocy by a Guild Navigator in the basement of the party’s autonomous zone in the undead quarter of Trollopulous.

Torin the Strider — [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16] 2250 + 800 + 734 + 70 + 191 + 362 = 4407 xp (levels at 4500) [Looks like a member of ZZ Top] +666 gold from session 12, +141 gold from session 14, +338 gold from session 16 [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] Killed by by giant bombardier beetles in the Jungles of Opar.

Simon the Thug Henchman — [Delve 12, 13, 14, and 15] Studded Leather and shortswords. 333 + 70 + 76 = 479 gold and 362 + 35 + 95 + 264 = 756 XP. Cut down by a six armed snake woman in the temple in the crevasse at Sorceress Mountain.

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror — (3 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic, Zilifant’s Effervescent Protein Bomb, Bigby’s Discomforting Wedgy) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 8, 11, 12, 13, and 14] 2500 + 734 + 70 + 191 = 3495 XP. (Levels at 5000) [Looks like a member of ZZ Top], [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] 1336 + 141 = 1477 Gold. Killed by a “Bone” devil as he opened the door to the Fire Escape.

Brother Pain the Acolyte [Delve 3b, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14] [Looks like a member of ZZ Top] XP: 1500 + 191 = 1691, +141 gold from session 14. Killed by a “Bone” devil as he attempted to free innocent looking little girls from evil spirit cooking people.

Bill Murray the Prestidigitator — [Delve 16 only] Gold 338 and 362 XP. Killed by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Dronal the Bravo — Killed by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Biff the Bold the “Veteran” — Pinned to an ice wall by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Kathars the Veteran — Welcomed into the pits of hell by Mephistopheles.

Doogie and Loogie the dwarfs — [Delve 16 only] 169 gold and 181 XP each. Killed by beastmen in the underground complex.

Half-Beard the Veteran — [Delve 12, 13, 14 and 15] 666 +141 + 152 = 1009 gold, 734 + 70 + 191 + 528 = 1523 XP. [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] Killed by a lizard man in the caves underneath the underground complex.

Gilgalad — [Delve 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 19] Plate mail and shortswords. 333 + 70 + 76 + 875 + 31 = 1385 gold and 362 + 35 + 95 + 264 + 908 + 53 = 1717 XP each! Killed by a troglodyte in Lizardache’s Den of Instinkquity.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - The James Mishler Castles & Crusades Wilderlands of High Fantasy Materials For Castles & Crusades Campaign Now With More Egypt

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/28/2020 - 22:51
 So today its been a running gag between work, emails, & dodging social media. The reason for the dodging social media is because of work that's just crazy folks.. Anyhow let's go dive back into the DM Carl hard drive that I got the other day with James Mishler's Monsters & Treasure of the Wilderlands I, which has some very cruticial information about the desert regions of  the Wilderlands. No Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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