Friday, January 13, 2017

Mini Review: Swords & Wizardry Complete, 3rd Printing

I supported the latest printing of the Complete rulebook via the Frog God team's recent Kickstarter.  The new book arrived promptly (Especially as I'm only a ferry ride away from the Frog God's home swamp).

As stated in the KS campaign, the book is a new printing, rather than a new edition. The text is essentially unchanged from the previous printing (which I also supported).

However, the book layout and artwork were reworked with the intent of drawing in new players and a new audience. The project was headed by Stacy Dellorfano, who invited a crew of female artists to provide the illustrations.

While there was a bit of controversy (isn't there always) that the art was exclusively by XX chromosomes, that's not the point to me.  It's good art.

Thumbing through the book has that element of inspired imagination. Kaos Nest's gothic-tinged cover piece evokes dark spells or demonic shadows.  Example characters, scenes, and reinterpreted monsters (the kobold has a hint of plumed dinosaur) do a good job of rekindling some inspiration for this lapsed gamer.

And I'm always a sucker for a good bulette.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Building some class

I recently stumbled upon Erin Smale's 'Building the Perfect Class' and updated 'Building a More Perfect Class' procedure for building alternative classes for old school or OD&D variants of the game.

Erin did some serious heavy lifting back-calculating experience point/level builds using the original classes/races to develop a matrix for creating or modifying playable races/classes.  He broke down HD, saves, equipping, skills, and spell abilities, assigning values to the variables.  The outcome is a reasonably balanced approach to class creation, and seems, at face value, to avoid over-powered classes.  (He does go on at some length about how the classic magic-user appears to be very hampered by the assigned XP requirements vs his calculated XP, built out via criteria).

So as a thought experiment - I tried a build-out with my Lizardfolk class that I wrote up a couple years past.


Erin lines out the criteria as such:

1. Hit Dice
2. Class Saving Throw
3. Attack/“to-hit” progression
4. Armour availability or restrictions
5. Weapons availability or restrictions
6. Spell-casting ability
7. Special Abilities: the class’s special abilities, (Erin has an inconsistency in this item - he notes that the abilities are not based on race in his summary, but includes racial abilities in his special abilities list.  Since there are no other racial qualifiers elsewhere in the list - I assume this is a typo)
8. Skills: learned skills, not based on race
9. Weapon Mastery: weapon proficiency (from the Rules Cyclopedia, if used,otherwise a generic value)
10. Level Limits - name-level or none?

The individual point options are provided in his document and associated spreadsheet.  My lizardfolk-specific notes are summarized below:

1. HD - 400 points (d8 is assigned 300 pts, but I'm adding value for 2HD at 1st level)
2. Saves - 100 points (fighter equivalent)
3. Attack - 500 points ('monster')
4. Armor - 100 points (Restricted to shields)
5. Weapons - 0 points (Racial restriction)
6. Spells - 0 points (this may change, since a 'shaman' class is allowed)
7. Special Abilities - 100 points (Natural armor)
                                100 (Natural weapons)
                                100 (Swimming)
                                100 (Breath-holding)
8. Skills - 0 points
9. Weapon Mastery - 0 points (generic)
10. Level Limit - -100 points (name level)

Total: 1400 points

Seems realistic - comparable to the cleric class.  The target XP is lower than the familiar demi-humans (dwarf, elf, halfling), but this may be representative of the Lizardfolk's perceived primitive or degraded state.  Flexing in a cleric-type spell ability option could add 100-400 points to the buy.

The base XP requirement is extrapolated to the appropriate level goals

Therefore - the Lizardfolk-specific class levels line out as:

Lvl XP Required
1 0
2 1,400
3 2,800
4 5,600
5 11,200
6 20,000
7 40,000
8 80,000
9 160,000 (Name-level limit)

Anyway, the BaMPC system appears to be a fairly robust resource for creating player classes for your own world.  As always comments or tweaks are welcome.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Mini Review: Two Page Mini Delves

I recently downloaded Roving Band of Misfits free bundle of Two Page Mini Delves.  The pack includes five one-shots suitable for side quests, plot hooks, or when the pesky PCs wander off the map.  RBoF also has a number of $1 two-pagers, as well. But I'm exceptionally cheap.

I've looked at four of the five collected delves (excepting the 'Pale Reaver').  All include a small map (either by Dyson Logos or Matt Jackson) with a maximum of ten rooms or encounter areas, perfect for a single session.  The delves each have one or more suggested setups to help bring the characters into the scene.  The small adventures are all very serviceable and creative, with some elements of mystery and exploration.

As an added bonus for later plotting, or dovetailing the delves into a larger game world, each of the delves has a few end-notes with either suggestions or questions to the DM for future thought or adventure threads.

The delves are set up for D&D 5e (and have call-outs or page references to the associated DM's guide and Players' Handbook).  However, the setups are generic enough for any OSR, and monsters and spells can be easily converted.  Because of the small encounter areas, the amount of translation will take only limited effort.

What the delves each do well, is the third page.  Wait - the label on the box said two pages!  What is this sorcery?  The third page (or Appendix) is a quick and dirty how-to-use guide.  The delves are written with level flexibility in mind.  Therefore - monsters, traps, challenges, and treasures are written in very generic terms (i.e. 'undead', 'sword')  Being 5e - challenges are written with 'DC' terminology in mind, but this is also easily translatable for relative levels.

Additionally, the appendix lays out some guidelines for scaling the adventures to party level and size.  This flexibility is a welcome addition and guidance to any small pre-written adventure - especially when a pick-up game or side quest is needed,  Yes, there is a small amount of preparation, but with the framework, and a reasonably experienced game master could scale on the fly or with only a small amount of prep time (e.g. the 'spider' in Room 3 can quickly become a 1/2 HP large spider or 4HD Giant Fire Hell-Spider).  

So take a look at them, save them in your just-in-case folder, and have fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Armor fixin's

To follow up on my previous post on the availability of plate and better-quality armors to PC's, especially the lower-level proles, a bit of spitballing on the availability of armor repair or fabrication based on town size.

Does your character need armor repaired or fabricated (or upgraded, per my last post)?  Well, an armorer is necessary.  Will one be available in the next town down the road?

If you don't have a town spec'ed out prior to the characters' arrival, or need some stats to build one out, S. John Ross' Medieval Demographics is a good starting point.  Donjon has an automated calculator for ease.

Since this calculator, doesn't have an 'armorer' category, we can use blacksmiths as a surrogate.   Based on the demographics stats, not every town (especially smaller burgs) will have a blacksmith. A leatherworker would be better surrogate for a light armorer, but this particular calculator doesn't have that occupation, although the harness-maker could substitute in, as well.  Optionally, one can build out populations off Rob Conley's 'Fantasy Demographics' which includes both leatherworkers and metalworkers.


Not every blacksmith will have the skills to repair or fabricate armor.

Is an individual blacksmith sufficient skilled to work on armor (percentage)?

Small (<1000)              65          25         10
Medium (1000-8000)   90         75          50
Large (>8000)              90         85          75

If so - what is their fabricating ability (includes upgrading) for a particular armor type?  (percentage, cumulative)

                                        Light                Medium                Heavy
Small (<1000)               25/70/5             50/45/5                  75/20/5
Medium (1000-8000)    20/70/10           35/55/10                40/55/5
Large (>8000)               5/85/15             10/75/15                20/70/10

Coincidentally, Lum over at Built by Gods Long Forgotten posted up his own theory/houserule on OD&D armor a couple of days after my prior post.  Take a look.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mini-Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

I just completed reading Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.  (disclaimer: Kij is a friend of mine, met through a mutual friend and rock climbing).

The book is a direct descendant of H.P. Lovecraft's Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and takes place within Lovecraft's Dreamlands.  Vellitt Boe, a professor at the Ulthar Women's College (the town with the cats) is awoken one night with news that one of the college's star students has disappeared, running away with a 'dreamer' - a person from the 'waking world' - our Earth.  The two have a head start, and through machinations of their own, appear to have escaped back to the dreamer's homeland.

Professor Boe is tasked with finding an alternate way to escape the Dreamlands, track down the truant student, and return her to her native land.  Because, it appears, the young woman is more than simply a love-smitten student, and her disappearance could have catastrophic consequences for both Ulthar and the Dreamlands.

Johnson returns us to the terrain first laid out be Lovecraft in his Randolph Carter stories, among others.  Boe, in her quest, makes stops at many of these locales, revisiting the places, people, creatures, and mad godlings created by the influential writer.

And, indeed, in her back-tracking, Boe (and Johnson) reacquaints us with Lovecraft's geography, not through the eyes of a dreamer, but via those of a resident of that dark and often-horrific land.

Boe travels across the Dreamlands, seeking counsel and access from a number of personages, including a couple from her own past.  Her travels in pursuit of the lovers gives her moments to reflect on her own youthful travels and loves, before settling in as a staid professor of Mathematics at the college.

What the book does well, in its themes, is to return us to a point of inspiration and original discovery.  Johnson, in the liner notes, recalls first encountering Lovecraft in adolescence, and her own inspiration to return to those macabre lands.  Like many of us in writing, gaming, and other creative places - both taking inspiration, and wholesale re-tooling, from the artists who came before is part and parcel of the trade.  And, like many of us, the middle-aged Boe ruminates on her own past and path, and recalls her own adventures, both productive and foolish, which brought her to her current occupation and place in the world.  And, in spite of her dogged pursuit of the student, she has empathy for those passions of youth gone by.

All in all, a fun read, and a fine re-visitation of a geography and works that inspired many later writers and the genre.

Which reminds me, I need to re-read Kadath, myself...

And gugs never forget...