Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Marrowbeast of Portown, Parts One & Two

The Marrowbeast of Portown, Part One is the same as the previous version, with a title change. The new name is better in every way. Buy it today! (It's free!)

The Marrowbeast of Portown, Part Two is finally finished! least finished enough for a first publishable draft.

This one features a lot of monsters from Grenadier's "Monster Manuscript", but don't worry, I included the MM entries for them in the body of the text. They are not very clean pics, and eventually it'd be nice to get some clean pics, re-typed with new formatting, etc. but this is hobbyist gaming at it's electronic finest! -- A hodge-podge of rules from more than one book, more than one system, and exactly the kind of thing to expect at my table!

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. There are several loose ends that need to be tied up, and there are a lot of tied up ends that could be loosened up to make this dungeon run better. As it stands, none of this is a problem, or even a negative view against it. Its always been my experience as a referee that any module I run, no matter how carefully kept to the written word, always deviates. Players are unpredictable and will choose courses you never thought of, or rather... they'll make choices you never would, because its a horrible idea to begin with.

Yep. They went there...

So, for whatever reason you want to run this, even with changes here or there, or scrap the whole thing & use the map only (the map is one of my very own, created with Kolourpaint -- an MSPaint knock-off for Linux...), keep in mind that I did the same thing every time I bought a D&D/AD&D module back in the day. ;)

So, after making you read all of this trivial BS, here's the links:

Part One (932kb) :

Part Two (10.2 MB) :

Let me know if there are any problems with the links.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Random Wilderness Generator

A recent topic at the Holmes G+ community...

reminded me that I had created a document for my own use based on Erin Smale's essay on designing wilderness areas for D&D. I immediately recognized this as a very coherent version of the wilderness generation system in 0e, and later - from the DMG.

I added very little, except for a tiny bit of re-worded material from the DMG regarding setting up the terrain at the beginning, and castle inhabitants at the end. Erin's essay comprises the bulk of the material presented in the middle, the meat & potatoes, as it were.

However, there is an area of wilderness design that I've always thought should have been more developed was the random generation of waterways and roads. Easy enough, [woof] here it is, also towards the end. 

With Erin's permission, I have posted the finished PDF here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Roleplaying Tips Mega Dice Bag Giveaway; or My First Attempt at Blogging Commercialism (In a way...)

Here's the link:

Here's the pitch: This guy (Johnn Four) has some pretty awesome gaming tips that even I don't totally ignore because it isn't aimed directly at Holmes or 0e games, and he's got 5 extra bags of dice to give away, (Mega Dice Bag from Easy Roller Dice Co. 15 complete sets of polyhedral dice in a velvet lined dice bag) so he made a contest, or a drawing, or raffle, or whatever...

Anywha, I really could use some more dice, and so could you. Yes, I admit it, so its safe for you to admit it too: you're a dice snob, and you have specific dice 'rituals' and 'superstitions' when it comes to operating them during a game. When all is said and done, and your usual dice fail you time after time, its time to get new ones, acclimate them to your environment and keep on gaming, cause its what we do.

Now, I'm not an accountant or a mathematician, but I understand the theory that every time I, or anyone else spreads the word about this contest, my name (or your name, if you choose to do so) gets entered 10 more times, thus, my (and it could be yours too!) chances of winning go up quite a bit!

So, click on that link above and enter your name to win a bag of dice too. I did!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Portown in 3D, The Marrowbeast of Portown Quincunx, and an Impromptu Skill System(?)

Mapping Portown in 3D

Work is continuing to show slow improvement on "The Crypt of the Marrowbeast", and the new local Hobby Lobby carries a LOT of art supplies, including pads of isometric graph paper, lighted drawing platforms, art projectors and drafting tables! Affordable, although I'll have to budget the big items and pay on them a bit every month before taking them home.

No, the Crypt will not be rendered into 3D, but I will eventually attempt to convert my existing 2D map of Portown into a very large 3D mapping project. I am having a bit of organization difficulty just trying to schedule the actual work, because I want to highlight the special features of Portown first, and then work my way out from those few central points. However, my main concern is that I arrange a consistent height range for all buildings and cliff elevations and still have the maps be internally accurate when tracking from one elevation to another, and from map to map. 

At least I've decided on which angle of the view I want to operate with for all future iso-maps of Portown. The view I've selected manages to capture the best 3D features of the town's natural terrain, but it is an angle I just don't feel comfortable with. I have to juggle it a bit between each eye and my brain to make it work. Y'know the 3D art pieces in the Mall with the dolphins and the submarine? Yeah, that effect.

But I won't be locked into one view only, because I know I'll have to feature a view from the north looking south on the docks and the outer cliff wall, just because of the detail that has already been described about it, I have to fulfill this angle in art to realize it's full potential. I might as well work on other angles as the opportunities present themselves. I may wind up using all 100 sheets in that pad when this is all done!

I can easily see doing multiple view iso-maps for the following areas of Portown: 
- North and South views of Cliffside
- the Docks/Dockside
- the Mayor's Tower
- The Salty Seahorse Inn
- The Green Dragon Inn
- the Quarries
- the Crab Shack District
- and of course, the Ruins of Zenopus and the Cemetery

These are, in my opinion the most interesting features of Portown, but there are also the Merchant, Garden, and Temple Districts (the cleanest parts of town - which are individually just narrow strips of well-lighted and patrolled streets), and the Aqueduct system. I don't know a lot about aqueducts aside from what I've seen in pictures and read about in Ancient Rome, so this will require a bit of research on my part to get them completely integrated into the whole. 

The Marrowbeast of Portown Quincunx

The Crypt of the Marrowbeast is turning out to be a bit larger than "Lair", which I uploaded a couple weeks ago, and this is good. This means that my creative impulses are not totally dead and forgotten, but if I don't stay continually focused on it, I'll lose track of it and start forgetting it more often, and sigh in resignation as yet another unfinished project  finds itself on the backburner ("Stone Mountain", "The Green Dragon Inn", and "The Assassin's Game" are the Big Backburner Three...).

The Crypt came about as I searched my files for a usable prototype for a dungeon, and any other adventure scenarios I might have collected regarding shape-changers. I ran across a randomly generated dungeon by Wizardawn that I'd saved a couple years ago that was promising, but needed a lot of tweaking. The only thing holding me back from doing the tweaking was setting a theme to it. Well, the Marrowbeast theme is strong with this one, so armed with that, I've managed to make this dungeon my own, based on a lot of randomly generated stuff via Wizardawn's online generator. 

Wizardawn also has a random map generator that combines several sets of dungeon geomorphs, including Dyson's geomorphs, and makes a nice, solid playground of dungeon fun in the blink of an eye. I used the random dungeon as a blueprint for my own take on the Crypt, and designed it to better fit what I had in mind, but the multiple level features of the random geomorphs is not as pronounced as I want it, I am having a hard time designing multiple levels on one 2D map. With a bit more experience/practice at drawing dungeons digitally and stocking them, I'll probably make a good one eventually, but not for "Crypt".

Now that "Part Two" is entering the first part of the formatting phase while I still iron out exact details, finish whole-cloth room descriptions, and assemble the M&T style stat-blocs, I know for a fact that I'll eventually change the sub-title name of Part One to match Part Two, or "The Lair of the Marrowbeast -- The Marrowbeast of Portown, Part One" and "The Crypt of the Marrowbeast -- The Marrowbeast of Portown, Part Two". 

One the things I have the most trouble with in designing a semi-published module (okay, I'm not publishing it, but I am uploading it for everyone's download for free, etc...) is designating a character level range. I assume it'll be suitable for levels 3 to 7, but then again, I assume ALL of the dungeons I design will eventually fall into this range by default. What there is in this dungeon is quite a bit more treasure than I expected to place, and this is mostly due to Wizardawn's online generator, but I am assuming that the treasure will still fall short of awarding the characters enough XP to level up. I hope to remedy this in future draft revisions, because I still have yet to place any magical treasures, and I believe that Wizardawn's generator did not have magical items in its treasure generator, or I set the generator to NOT generate any at all. 

I'm waffling on inserting whole monster descriptions, as they would appear in Hordes & Hoards, or simply doing M&T style stat-blocs. There will be 'new' monsters that some of you faithful readers will never have heard of before, although they were published in a one-shot deal by Grenadier Miniatures called the "Monster Manuscript". These critters ain't nothin' too special, but they are just different enough to shake up a standard game of D&D, and since Wizardawn had them programmed into his generator, along with AD&D1e, OSRIC, Basic and Expert, and Pathfinder/3.5 monsters, I chose to add 1e, OSRIC, and Grenadier to this particular dungeon. 

So, do I add just the stat-blocs, or do I also add the MM style paragraph description of the Grenadier Monster Manuscript? 

The Crypt Ape from Grenadier's "Monster Manuscript"
There will also be a table of hand-picked special traps from my own collection of Undermountain Traps and others I've created or found along the way. This table will not have every trap ever, but just the ones that suit this particular dungeon.

There will be more Outdoor Random Encounter Tables to supplement the cliffside, seaside, and forest terrain near Portown. I might upload Part Two before these encounters are fully fleshed out, but one of the goals I usually strive for when designing dungeons and adventures for my campaign is to make each encounter unique. Sure, the Wandering Monster check might indicate a random roll be made on a specific table, and that's all very much plug-n-play mentality, but the monsters on the table were chosen for specific reasons (usually because they're the types found in a specific terrain and climate), but the role-playing potential beyond hack-n-slash is highly exploitable. I like to add reasons why the monster rolled is encountered, aside from a simple reaction roll, which usually guides the reason they act the way they do.

The last bit of random goodness I am thinking of exploiting in "Crypt" is to add magic items in a unique, but nor original way. Remember the way the main NPCs and magic items were placed in the original Ravenloft module? Yeah, I liked that idea, although finding a suitable Tarot deck to use to place each NPC/item is a task that not every referee may be willing to do, or find. I prefer a basic table and dice rolling. The trick for this to really work well in this module is to make a random table for the important items without it feeling like it was a totally random die roll.

 Impromptu Skills

Part One featured a bit of game design I like to call an 'impromptu skill system' for 0e/Holmes. If you read it, you may have noticed a couple of Intelligence table for Magic-Users and Thieves on very unique pieces of information in the module. I like to feature this kind of class-related knowledge, especially because it is campaign specific, and not rules specific, and thus not something easily obtainable by players who role-play information gathering the "old school" way, although, interplay between experienced referees and players may allow this info to be gained, the Intelligence table is an easy way to impart campaign specific information.

 Sometimes the tables focus on a single ability, usually the Prime Requisite or the Level of the character Class or Race that the table is aimed at. Each instance where I use this system, a specific piece of campaign information is a secret, unless the character has any bit of knowledge in the realm of that info, say alchemy, Thieves' Guild business, rumors, or the like. Each bit of information is unique and un-quantifiable in a general sense, which renders a total breakdown of each instance of this system working highly unwieldy, and thus not conducive to codifying. With a bit of work and practice, referees could use this impromtu system to handle swimming, rope use, riding, rope use, etc., but otherwise, I am totally against adding any kind of skill system to the game, because it would take up hundreds of pages and not worth the time. 

A simple formula can be easily house-ruled however: Character Class Prime Requisite Ability Table -- Below Average score = less than general knowledge known, Average = general knowledge, each higher than Average score point = an additional bit of info known. 

In some cases, I replace Prime Req. with Class Level, or even another Ability that may be completely unrelated to class, race or level, based solely on esoteric reasons of game-play. 

From "The Crypt of the Marrowbeast" (Part Two of the Marrowbeast of Portown): 
If the cracked granite chair is examined, it shows no signs of wear, but the crack appears to have not split it apart completely. The chair is high backed, and has armrests, suggesting a rather formal setting that belies the rest of the room. Intricate designs are carved into it, and appear to be of an ancient Elven design that only an elf could possibly identify.(Elf's Charisma 10 or less = this is an ancient elvish design; 11-12 = these are designs of the Seelie and Unseelie court; 13-14 = this chair was hand carved for a Lord of the Unseelie Court; 15-16 = this line of Unseelie Lords was abruptly ended without warning 500 years ago; 17 = That Unseelie Lord was named Dordon Gaith, and he disappeared without a trace and without progeny to continue the family line; 18 = Lord Gaith wore the Sapphire Crown, signifying that he was the High Lord of Shadows.

In almost all cases, no die roll is needed, the score itself is indicative of the character's knowledge in that one unique instance of knowledge. This is the best part of the system, and the worst part, simultaneously; the rules are self contained in a paragraph and a table (good), but each table must be hand-crafted from scratch (bad, and that really takes the meaning of "impromptu" and throws it out the window...) - there is only the basic formula given above, but it is highly mutable to suit the situation (good, again). But, because each situation requires a unique approach and the system is highly adjustable, its great for adventure/scenario/module design.

In almost every game of D&D that I referee, I like to make things like this as simple as possible to keep the game moving (good), and in either/or situations, the easiest thing to do is roll a die, and this 'system' gets rid of the die roll altogether. Of course, those of you who LIKE to have any excuse to roll dice, simply add some kind of die roll to the system and add a scalable DL to beat, and it'll be almost like the D20 skill system. ;)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bobjester's Portown

I had originally posted to Zenopus' Google+ group about how differently each Holmes' Rules Portown setting was, mainly according to size, since size was one of the only determining factor in Holmes' description. Many of the posters are of the opinion that Portown shouldn't be any bigger than needed, which I agree with on the surface, but I also believe it should be designed with campaign growth as well; as the campaign advances, more of those unexplored places in Portown become more relevant in time. 

Since that post was created and posted via 'dumb' phone, I truncated most of it and decided to make a better presentation here, via laptop/coffee shop wi-fi, when I had more leisure time. As I get more comfortable with how Blogger works, I find that I am a lot more open to honesty and creativity here than I am on other forums or email lists. Call it creator control via Blogger, or whatever, I just feel that blogs can be designed to be a lot more open to exposition than other sites & fora. 


This is a side-trek from my Marrowbeast series of adventures, but related, since I've finally thought about getting serious with my version of Portown. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Paleologos' version of Portown, but it wasn't big enough for my tastes, and didn't feature as much terrain as I had originally envisioned.

So, I designed my version of Portown with a series of random city design tables I created a few years back, with a few caveat decisions. (I might release that in PDF here in the future.) The result is an original interpretation of an ancient "small town" that is older than recorded history, and generally fits in with Holmes' description in the Basic rules.

Some of Portown's features:
- the town sits on a solid bedrock foundation, which shields the rest of the surface world from an ancient evil (or several shirt-tail related evils),
- a river channel that bisects the town (think Venice-style channel as a major thoroughfare),
- an aqueduct and water storage system,
- a stone quarry (a natural extension of an earlier campaign that features a quarry; I added a quarry to Portown...) riddled with ancient natural caverns with buried treasures and evils,
- Greek style temples, shrines, gardens and bath houses (hot & cold running natural steam baths), 
- Portown is protected from the violent sea and the strong tides by 'guardian cliffs', with a natural arch that allows smaller ship traffic up the city channel,
-  the ruins of Zenopus' tower and cemetery sit atop the cliffs on the west side of the arch.
- "Dockside", almost a pirate and assassin infested town its own right,
- a large structure called the Green Dragon Inn, a small village, HQ, and sanctuary for PCs, and a source of rumors and the starting place of adventures within and without Portown.

Bobjester's Portown
I may go into other aspects of my Portown later (especially upon request), but for now, I'll just leave you with what's here now. One of the major influences for Portown is a city called Hortown in an animated film called "Tales of Earthsea". The multi-level aspects of Hortown really inspired me to create something comparable; so the high cliffs to the north of the town serve as a shield from the raging sea weather and strong tides, and also provide a natural, cavernous "arch" that allows river traffic to travel inland up river safely, instead of traveling through the shallow, natural river to the west. 

The cliffs are riddled with countless caves and tunnels, some of them labyrinthine and unstable, but most of the ones close to the surface are inhabitable, and used for storage and businesses, legal and immoral alike. A perfect hodge-podge of business and illicit pleasures can be found here, with respectable merchants and ship captains often walking hand-in-hand with pirates, smugglers, and real monsters of the underworld.

Everything between any and/or all of these interesting points should be ignored until needed, and even the extra stuff could be safely ignored if it doesn't have a direct impact on the game (like the aqueduct, which I'm having second thoughts about...). Ironically, the "Lair of the Marrowbeast, Part One" is meant to supplement an area of the Docks by giving the referee an encounter table that is good for the short adventure and the Western Docks. The Eastern Docks will have a slightly different encounter table, and eventually, each entry on the table will have its own unique description, even unique NPC encounters if a "special" encounter is rolled. This is what I love about modular settings, and the concept of old school "modules". It all fits together to form a whole, or a very detailed frame for the sandbox campaign. 

If my version of Portown needs anything, it is an isometric map view, which I'll manage eventually, in lieu of a 3D/aerial view of Portown (because I suck at aerial view art!), eventually replacing this boring two-dimensional map with an engaging and exciting isometric map, and some much needed place-name changes (C'mon.... "Stairway to Heaven" Street??? WTF was I smoking at the time?), and possibly incorporating the 1800's era Marblehead peninsula map posted at Zenopus' Archives.

General design theory and specific Portown discussion and questions are welcome, including your own versions. :)

Alrighty then - I'm off to find some isometric graph paper, and off to the next stage of the Marrowbeast quincunx and the continued evolution of Portown! :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lair of the Marrowbeast, Part Two Update!

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I am working on Part Two. I hope it won't take more than two weeks from now, but I'll be ooc for the next few days for the duration of the current unpleasantness that is the bane of middle aged men: colonoscopy. :-P

. There, I said it. Done! Next: I also would like to say that this post is via my new stupid "smart" phone, so if the diction or the idiom brings out the grammar Nazis, so be it. Its the kind of world where sacrifices are made in the name of: "I want it frelling NOW, Daddy!"

Let's put it this way: the onscreen keyboard takes up all the screen, so obviously I cannot see what I'm typing. ;-)

Back to Part Two: it will be titled "Crypt of the Marrowbeast " and will feature a recently discovered ancient tomb in the heart of Portown. The dungeon will be sandbox with optional npc intrigue (side plots) that the ref can use or not, depending on how much your players ignore plot devices in your elfgames. The baddies aren't standard, so their stats & descriptions will be included.

A disclaimer: the original dungeon was randomly generated using Wizardawn's random dungeon generator set on his "kitchen sink " setting ; so the range of monsters include 1e, Holmes, OSRIC and a special surprise source, which you are free to guess at, but I reveal nothing until it is up.

I am currently in the middle of revising the text, actual encounters, room descriptions, etc. to make it's random origins less obvious, but the heart of any good module, IMO is the monster stats in an appendix, separate from the meat and potatoes of the module ; the last thing I like... or rather, the first thing I hate about modules are the monster stat blocs on every damn page, interrupting the flow of the adventure.

On the plus side, side plots are presented but not forced on your players. They may or may not discover who or what the Marrowbeast really is, or they may come to a false conclusion. Its all up to you. I hope this turns out to be a useful and versatile module.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The OGL and other STDs and you!

I am of the opinion that I do want to acknowledge the true authors and artists of the D&D game, and I want to point out that I am a hobbyist gamer who loves to kit-bash rules and make the game my own, but by sharing the kit-bashed stuff on the internet, someone might force me to take it down or worse: try to get blood out of a stone and actually sue me for money. In either case, I'm afraid that if I don't post the following crap, I'll be sitting my ass in a trebuchet sling. But on the other hand, I'm afraid that if I DO post this crap, I'll be cutting the rope that stays the sling every time I post something game-related. 

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I'm going to post something here in a half-assed attempt to cover sling my ass. Maybe I'd be better off wadding it up and stuffing it in my mouth or my ass, since I talk out of that orifice a lot.
This post, is no exception, but the fine print is actual, the Fool's Errand stuff is meant to be light-hearted and sarcastic, yet true.

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"Fool's Errand Enterprises is copyright 2015, Robert G. Weber. Levels Beyond Basic house rules, Hordes & Hoards house rules, and Lair of the Marrowbeast titles are copyright 2015, and are trademarks of Fool's Errand Enterprises, but the original works of Dungeons & Dragons, 'Holmes'' Basic D&D, Advanced D&D, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, et. al. found in these hacked titles remain the properties of the original authors and artists; no copyright infringements were intended, besides the hacks to make these house rules and campaign settings, adventures, scenarios and/or modules. Fool's Errand Enterprises trademarks acknowledge that we are standing on the shoulders of giants because none of this is terribly original anyway at, with posted links to hacked rules and scenarios."

Should I be putting this blurb on the PDFs I make and post here and other places, or should I just let a sleeping giant un-prodded?

The Lair of the Marrowbeast, Part One

During the recent illness, I got a wild hair, and followed up on it. It started out with a simple map sketch of the dungeon located within the cliffs at Dockside, Portown. There isn't an exact location picked yet, just a general location, but that's good enough to get it off the ground and flying.

That's the first rule in gonzo Holmes D&D: Learn to fly before you walk, or run. That may be the only rule... Hrmmm.

The result is a 7 page 10 locale dungeon worthy of uploading. Well, my sole criteria for worthiness is simply that I finished it. I dunno if its any good, but I finished it, with a caveat that there may be more, once I find another angle to present the "Marrowbeast of Portown". I may have wrapped things up a bit too neatly in Part One, and that's just fine for me and for other refs who don't like to rely on 2 or 3 parters. Wrap it up and move on, I like that too. Pulp novels with famous characters did that a lot. That could be why I'm such a fan of the short story format, and I think more dungeons could benefit from that philosophy.

Of course, these ten rooms aren't going to offer enough XP by way of monsters or treasure to level up even a first level thief, (well, maybe...) but that's not the point. The point is to enjoy the setting, implied or spoon-fed, its in here, it's pulpy, it's sloppy, and it's incomplete, which calls for at least "Part Two"....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Campaign Journal: The Exploration of the Djangorün Depths: Part Eight through Part Ten is uploaded!

Part Eight through Ten is uploaded at Dragonsfoot, at this link:

...and I hope that link works. These last three installments wraps up what I've written for the Djangorün Depths, unfortunately. Part Ten is the denouement and prologue for the next chapter in our intrepid campaigners' adventures.

Truth be told, I hadn't written more than this, or even speculated what the elements of a supposed next chapter be; I had a simple idea in mind about the Druids in my world, and I wanted to exposition them at some point. The idea isn't all mine, as it came from many phone conversations with Katkin Kalvin concerning druids in 0e and 1e, among a lot of other 0e and 1e things we talk about once a month or so.

Now that I've exhausted all that I've written so far concerning this tale, I can concentrate on where to go next, or possibly focus on Rindo Rissun's exploits in the Djangorün Depths, but, as glory hungry as this NPC is, I'm actually surprised he didn't hire a Bard to tell his tale.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Campaign Journal: The Exploration of the Djangorün Depths Part Seven

I finally posted the next instalment of my intrepid party's foray into the Djangorun Depths over at Dragonsfoot. Here's the url:

I think I may have promised to post another new monster here, but I find my time is running short today, and I have a doozy of a Non-Standard Dragon post scheduled for later on this week or early next, so that'll have to wait.
Stay tooned! ;)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hordes & Hoards: The Dagonites

Its been years since I've actively tried to write a "module", and even longer still since I've tried to write a series of encounters that you might either call "adventures" or "modules". Its been so long since I've played, the old noodle is rusty. :P

Thankfully, I am keeping part of the creative process from going completely dull by working on LBB & H&H. Occasionally, a flash of genius lights up my brain-pan, and I get an idea for a really cool encounter, or even a series of encounters. The trick is to write it down before I forget it all.

That happened to me again last night. My problem probably lays in where to start. There are over a million good ideas rattling around in here, and I mostly write in story-teller mode, so its very difficult for me to set up an encounter for a 'module. 

Editing the monsters for Hordes & Hoards might help me curb my desire to overwrite everything, and simply put in relevant details without boring the reader. (Yes, I have a tendency to bore myself when I overwrite, in fact, I'm sure I'm doing it now...) (yawn)

The trick to good dungeon/encounter design is to pick a monster (or treasure, or trap, or any combo) that will be interesting, challenging, and playable for the referee. Nevermind if the players think, or don't think these things for the moment; its the ref's job to MAKE the encounter these things. If you can sell the encounter to the referee, you got a game!

To accommodate the referee in this task, the ref needs tools, and not just any ol' tool, although the simplest tools are often the best for creating stuff from near-scratch. (What I'd call "scratch" is a copy of Holmes Basic, dice, pencil & a couple sheets of blank paper; "near-scratch" is adding a copy of the MTA, DMG, MM, B2, graph paper, & a protractor!)

LBB & H&H are supposed to be the tools for my game, so I am taking a lot of time & TLC to make sure that I front-load it with everything I can possibly think of, to a reasonable degree. For H&H I could just as easily use the Monster Manual, as it has nearly all the monsters from 0e, GH, BM, EW, HB and a plethora of monsters from the Strategic Review & The Dragon that many players never saw if their ref didn't a copy of SR or TD. 

I am also convinced that I am not breaking any new ground here that others haven't already thought of as far as cataloguing monsters in a format most usable to the ref on the fly; Al Krombach's "Monsterless Manual" comes to mind first, as does Zenopus' series of one-page reference sheets, and other worthies in this area. 

So, I know I'm not doing anything new, as most of us are gamers first, designers second (or last, in my case), and I know I am definitely standing on the shoulders of some other giant. 

But occasionally, even this old dog can come up with something new, if heavily inspired by one of the First Giants in the genre. Zenopus has already admitted that his "Ancient Builder" monster is an analogue of the Old Ones, and suggests that the Dagonites in Holmes' "Maze of Peril" is an analogue of The Deep Ones. 

Since I've never had the chance to read Maze of Peril, I had to guess at a lot of details when I decided to this evil race of deep subterranean frog-men, and I had no idea that "Dagonite" was possibly used as an alternate name for the Deep Ones. I guessed at a lot of it, and after comparing my version of the Dagonites with the (TD#12) Old Ones, I'm glad I did make those guesses!

DAGONITE (Lovecraftian Frogmen)
Number Appearing:
Armor Class:
Variable, 7 to 3
Move in Feet:
60/180 swimming
Hit Dice:
Number of Attacks:
2 claws/1 bite/1 tongue
Damage per Attack:
1-4/claw, 1-6/bite,
% in Lair:
Treasure Type:
Source: MP, HH

     Dagonites are commonly mistaken for Deep Ones out of ignorance; but let it not be said that it is unfortunate, for actively searching out any knowledge of the Old Ones eventually leads to madness and everlasting death.

     Dagonites are bipedal humanoids that stand 3 to 6 feet tall with most of the amphibian features of frogs. Their coloring varies from mottled brown, rust, red, gray, blue and green. They hunt in packs of 2-5, but their lair will have 10-100 members.

     Their lairs are 'cities' built in large natural caverns, or a large constructed chamber, with a running water source, and an area for many still, stagnate ponds to lay eggs in and provide a suitable environment for their growing young. The structures of their buildings are mud-daubed and hut-like, but on a large scale, if the cavern or chamber size will accommodate them.

      Their round or oblong huts and buildings are rarely spaced apart -- built close together with common walls, ceilings, floors join at the oddest angles to create many nooks & crannies, and support for a neighboring structure. Huts and other structures are built on others, forming a lump-shaped hive of sorts. When interior walls, floors or ceilings collapse due to stress, the area is cleared out, and the new, larger interior is used instead.

     Dagonites are intelligent and have a language of their own, consisting of croaks and groans typical of frogs, but rarely attempt to communication with other races, let alone any who trespass in their territory. However, there is a 10% chance per hit die of any dagonite to understand the common tongue and half that percentage to actually be able to speak it, with modified croaks and groans.

     Dagonites will attempt to capture intruders and hold them in cells to await their fate: either sacrificed to their evil tentacled gods or to be thrown into one of the shallow, stagnant ponds and eaten, raw and alive in a mass feeding frenzy of just hatched, young Dagonites.

     Their clawed and webbed hands and feet are capable of wielding weapons as true hands, but they prefer to make attacks by leaping up to 20 feet onto an opponent and striking with both claws and bite. They can strike with their tongue in melee, as it is coated with a natural, sticky substance and has an innate strength rating of 12-15, capable of disarming armed opponents or grappling an opponent's limb or appendage up to 10 feet away to prevent escape. The tongue, however, when exposed can only take 2-5 hits, separate from the total Hit Dice of the creature.

     The leader of a city will have 8 Hit Dice and the ability to spit acid up to 20 feet 3 times per day. The acid does 1-6 hits per round unless scraped off, taking one round and taking 1-3 hits. This acid is water resistant and takes twice as long to wash off.

     One of the ponds in the city will have a structure built near it, with one end opening up and covering one corner of the pond, like an indoor/outdoor swimming pool. The pond will always be jet black and opaque. This is a temple to the Dagonites' foul, dark god, C'thulhu. Such temples are safe for the Dagonites to come in and perform rites and rituals, but intruders will always attract the attention of the temple guardians: 4-7 Cthulhic Elementals.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hordes & Hoards work continues... haltingly...

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record when I say things like "I don't have internet at home!" "I'm overworked and underpaid!" "I live in third world country conditions!" /whinging.

Its the way of the min/wage world, but before I leave to put in another application for a higher paying job, I just wanted to put two things out there in the 0e/Holmes blogosphere: I really am sorry I did not devote as much time as I wanted to Michael Thomas' Blueholme drafts, and I am positively sure that there were a lot of other volunteers out there who did take up the challenge of proofreading & playtesting. I have a lot of irons in a few different fires, so...

The second thing I wanted to put out here is that work on my own "Hordes & Hoards" (volume II for my own "Levels Beyond Basic" houserules) continues with many stops & starts, bad ideas, and the general cajoling from a dedicated few that work should even continue on this project, or anything else I've been schlumping around on.

I still don't have a unique view of "Hordes & Hoards", although I've thought of a couple angles that require far too much work on my already overloaded schedule. The first of these 'bad ideas' was to arrange H&H like the Monster & Treasure Assortments, but instead of a single or double line entry for each die roll, each entry would be the MM style entry for the monster, plus a good portion of the entry also describing the monster's lair or locale where encountered (if randomly determined -- most likely a hallway or wilderness setting...) and the Treasure Type written out, not just A, B, or C.

The second idea was to break the Hordes section of H&H into leveled sections of monsters. The 1st to 3rd level "Wandering Monster/Random Encounter" tables would dictate which monsters would be described in section 1-3, the 4th to 6th levels dictating which monsters would be in section 4-6, etc..

My overall feelings towards H&H is that I want a go-to Monster Manual for LBB, but I don't want another boring Monster Manual. Even collating the monsters from 0e & Holmes for LBB to create a MM doppelgänger is a formidable task (for me and my time limitations) that requires a lot of motivation and focus. If I'm not focused in the few hours each week that I have available to work on this, I get nothing done. Not one monster collated into the collection.

So when I say that I have a couple of 'unique' ideas for H&H's presentation, they are just ideas, and are in no way easy to implement -- at least until I get all the collating done. So, for now, just the collating will continue.

What, exactly do I mean by "collating"? I find a basic monster entry from 0e, Holmes, C'thulhu, or any other source, and I reformat it into the stat-block I have currently come to use, which is halfway between Holmes and AD&D's monster stat block:

Number Appearing:
Armor Class:
Move in Feet:
Hit Dice:
Number of Attacks:
Damage per Attack:
% in Lair:
Treasure Type:

Other special abilities, especially innate powers, psionics, etc., are largely handled in the description that traditionally follows the stat-block, and if a monster is unintelligent & unaligned, the Alignment entry will not even be present.

Collecting all these monsters from several different sources takes up most of my time. Even the eventual arrival of getting the monsters named set up in alphabetical order was (and still is) an enormous task, but that much is largely done. So now, I go through the listings, and 'spruce up' each entry, making sure that all the versions of each monster from multiple sources jive, or at least do not generally contradict each other, and in some cases, I've added my own grey box text, or changed the wording to it just enough so it does make sense, significantly to give the monster a new direction, or just thought the original text was awful enough to discard it all and make it a wholly new creation -- OR it is a wholly new creation of my own!

Many of the other sources for H&H are Lovecraftian in origin, as that would naturally follow for a Holmes-centric set of house rules. Most of these monsters were penned by Holmes, Kuntz, or Ward, but I've tried to maintain the original entries from Dragon #12 as much as possible from the C'thulhu Mythos Expurgated, adding only what was necessary to make the monster as complete as I think it needs to be for LBB.

A few are analogous creations by a few people here 'n there.

For example, I'm adding Zach Howard's (Zenopus, of Zenopus Archives) wonderful "Ancient Builder" monster, ( and as of right now, it's the first one alphabetically in Hordes & Hoards.
Here is one of my own (see below), that can easily be partnered with another of my monsters, the Dagonites (analogous to the Deep Ones). I'll post that one next week, if I remember to do so, if/when I get online.

Number Appearing:
Armor Class:
Move in Feet:
90 for 30 to 180 feet
Hit Dice:
Number of Attacks:
1-3 + per round
Damage per Attack:
2-12 if dragged into jaws
% in Lair:
Treasure Type:
Source: HH

      It is rumored that these slimy horrors were first summoned from the elemental plane of evil (if such a place exists) by ancient priests of Nyarlathotep, and these conjured horrors destroyed their temple and spread under the world via the temple's underworld gates. 

        Living in holes, crevices, or tight spaces no bigger than 10'x10' in total darkness and alerted to any source of light, anyone approaching will always be surprised as 2-5 30' to 180' long green tentacles lash out and attempt to encircle a target. 

       If it misses, the tentacle will try again next round and be joined by a second tentacle, and the third round by a third tentacle, and so on. 

       If the tentacle makes a successful grab attack, the victim must make a dexterity throw to maintain control of his weapons, otherwise his arms and any weapons held are also wrapped tight to the victim's body and will be unable to make any attacks. 

The tentacles do no damage, but they drag the victim to the hole the round after a successful attack. The next round, the victim is dragged down into gnashing jaws that do 2 – 12 per round.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Work on "Hordes & Hoards"

I've wound down work on LBB "Characters & Combat" and "Magic", for the time being, and have started developing Hordes & Hoards, the Monsters & Treasure volume for the LBB house rules.

I want something functional yet modelled after what I will use at my table, but as far as releasing it into the wild internet public, its ho-hum, just another fucking monster manual, so I've been thinking of other functional bits & pieces to add to it to give it just that li'l something that would make it stand apart.

So far, I've decided to add a line of randomly determined treasure according to the Treasure Type of each monster (no big whup there, Bob...) and either a piece of art from ancient D&D times (hello, Greg Bell & C.Corey!), something a bit more modern (who are these pieces by???), or a bit of random dungeon lair (map & 1pd) that features said monster made by yours truly.

The write-up for the bit of dungeon won't even be a quarter of a 1pd (one-page dungeon), but just enough to get the referee something to jump start the ol' creative process when the decision is made to use one of these standard critters.

So far, the sources of monsters for H&H range from 0e (The Single Volume Edition), Holmes Basic, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and a few from here & there - early issues of The Dragon & the Strategic Review, one mash-up from Classic D&D (that I recall), one from Metamorphosis Alpha, and another (maybe more) from Classic Traveller.

More later (so much for doing blogwork at work...)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Version 11 is up!

A very short note to let you all know that I've completely skipped versions 9 & 10, and have gone straight for ELEVEN.

"Our versions go up to eleven!"

So much for the obligatory Spinal Tap reference.

A bit more added here & there, a bit more clear formatting, more shaded boxes, Zenopus' Random Character Backgrounds added (without his permission, of course...), and the reasons keep adding up as to why these PDFs are unregulated house-rules for playing D&D, and not an official OSR marketable product with PI, IP, copyrights or copylefts.

Its a total hack. Always was, always will be.

There are some other things about version 11 I was probably going to mention, but I'm guerilla internetting and my coffee shop is about to close for the evening.

Just download 11 (if googledocs will let you) and find those easter eggy changes for yourself! I dare ya!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Examples of Play

This is a short, preliminary post that I hope will lead to an ongoing concern for my rules updates. Eventually I want to post actual examples of play and combat using LBB rules, but I haven't really had the time to actually roll up some characters and inflict a dungeon on them, let alone doing a step-by-step diary of the action and finishing it off with a written piece that highlights these obscure rules in an entertaining and illuminating way.

I mean, I do have a group of characters that I rolled up using the basic 0e rules, and I posted a short, but entertaining (to me, anyway) journal at Dragonsfoot, [0e/Holmes] Exploring the Djangorun Depths ( but I haven't really had the time to do this for LBB rules.

Perhaps a bit of re-tooling is in order, so I can cull a few worthy examples of play and combat that fits in the context of LBB rules.

Of course, the best way to go about this is to actually playtest the rules, which I have not the time to write up a new dungeon scenario, nor do I have any players that would be interested in anything but Pathfinder rules, let alone a Holmes expansion like LBB. 

Ah well, I tell myself that this is why this is my hobby, not a business model! ;)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Levels Beyond Basic version 8 is up!

In fact, BOTH sections of Volume I are up; Section 1 - Characters and Combat, and Section 2 - Magic.

ODT is a wonderful medium to work in, but just not Libre Office 3. Before the upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04.whatever, the default ODT MSWord clone worked just fine. There were no hang-ups when I created odts that had 50 or more pages, with or without pictures, columns, footers & headers, and whenever I converted the odt into pdf - the finished product would not hiccup and bounce the inserted pics to the next empty page and otherwise screw up my page settings.

So, due to my own lack of time and patience to sit down & figure out why these things are happening, I just split LBB into 2 parts. There is nearly 30 pages of other stuff that wound up on the editing floor, and did not make it into this version. Most of it is a section on Variant spellcaster classes that needs a lot more work to make it presentable to my players as a set of house rules. This section may wind up in Volume III, the Referee's Guide.

Another biggie that got the ax is the "Spell Index" sorted by schools. This was cut due to the expected size of the index when finished (I only have the MU, Cleric and Druid spells listed so far - and I have yet to finish the Illusionist & Witch spells!), and b sorting spells by school, the rules would shift ever so blatantly towards the Advanced game, even if classifying all spells according to AD&D schools is primarily a tool to help players & refs design new spells.

Cutting the index led in turn to the cutting of the Vancian Spell section. There are only a handful of finished spells for this section and several hundred Vancian spell names with only another hundred or so with the barest descriptions of what the spell can do.

Of the final thing to get cut is the Warlock Variant and the Tiefling race. These are pet projects of mine, and may eventually find their way into a house rules supplement. For now, I am primarily designing a Tiefling Warlock class for a new player who likes these sort of things. For that matter, I rather like Tieflings, and I think that the Warlock class is a drop-dead fit for that race. Unfortunately, it may not blend so well with the implied setting of Holmes and Portown. Time will tell, and thankfully so, as I will have to spend quite a bit of it to perfect this race & class for LBB rules.

WHEW! Now that Volume I of "Levels Beyond Basic" is finished, its a load off my mind, and now I can start serious development on the second volume tentatively titled: "Holmes' Hordes & Hoards". I originally wanted to reprint all the monsters and treasures from 0e, Holmes & the Supplements, only put together  - exactly like the Monster Manual, and the treasure section of the DMG...

However, that idea never really settled well with me, since, if I want HH&H to look just like the MM & DMG, why not just use the MM & DMG instead of reinventing the wheel yet again? So, taking a cue from the ingenious "Dungeon Alphabet" for S&W or Labyrinth Lord (or any OSR game for that matter), I will attempt to present monsters and treasures in a slightly different way. In fact, it may turn out to look a lot like the Monster & Treasure Assortment supplements, but there are a lot of little extras that I will throw in too.

Things like: a "Why is This Monster Here?" table; a Holmesian monster name generator; the Portown Wandering Monster Encounter Table (geared towards my own version of Portown), an Ancient & Rare Coins table, and other variations on random magic items, and some other things I thought of whilst driving at work last night and promptly forgot about...

I continue to change Volume III's name, which may be a fortunate thing. At this moment, it is tentatively titled "The Holmes' Referee's Portown Guide", or the HRPG. I expect that Volume III will most likely undergo several more name changes until it is finally finished.

I am continually finding a lot of things to cram into the Ref's Portown Guide, and I am afraid that it may be easier to rename all of my optional rules and slap a "HRPG Supplement" tag on the cover of each and be done with it!

I have so many things ready to go, but have never released (due to art & copyright stuff), that without further editing, could take up 100 or more pages already. Just thinking about it exhausts me. :P

Anyhoo, most of this is purely speculative until its actually finished. LBB vol. I is not really finished, because I'll always toy with the writing and go in and find typos and contradictions in the rules I added, but mainly, it'll never be finished until I find or make my own original art for it.

Also, I do not intend to start a kickstarter, crowdfund, or patronize for any sort of campaign of other people's money to put this into print. It'll always be free, as long as it stays up, and not declared to be an illegal document.

Any modules I create for 0e, Holmes, Basic, Advanced, or otherwise OSRIC, or OSR in general is another story. I could rationalize selling modules or adventures (campaigns) on Drivethru or RPGNow for a few bucks or cents, whichever comes first. :D

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Delayed Actions in Combat

   The work on the Reference Sheets has been a long time in coming, and I've finally found that window of motivation to throw myself into. The major changes so far have centered on removing the Spell Casting in Combat table, as it is no longer relevant, and revising the Combat Round Sequence, and subsequently, the Order of Events section in LBB.

   But lest I forget, the biggest change in the LBB was to split it into two sections - the Characters and Combat Section and the Magic Section. Both sections weigh in at around 47 to 50 pages now, and my OS seems to be handling them a lot smoother. I will post them at some point after this series of revisions; hopefully I will find a bit of temporary art to put at the head of the Magic Section. I am still working on a few penciled pieces, but they are nowhere near what I want for the book(s). 

   One detail that struck me while I edited the Combat Round Sequence was the usefulness of Delayed Actions. Basically, the initiative winner of the Surprise, First & all Subsequent rounds has the option of delaying a specific action until later in the round, and it occurred to me that I want to expand on the idea to make it more palatable to players and point out the usefulness of a delayed action.

   Combat in LBB is primarily Dex based, as Holmes Basic combat is; the character, NPC or monster with the highest Dexterity goes first, however, I have put in the option of rolling a 1d6 for each side or individual, as each group will have their own preferences.

   However, a Delayed Action is specifically designed to be very advantageous for those characters with high Dexterity, it is a common sense thing to see it codified in LBB. I don't even recall where I picked up the Delayed Action rule, but I thought it would open up combat in unexpected ways if players know about it, and could possibly use it when the Initiative is theirs. (Of course, the Referee should use it too when the Opposing Side has the Initiative!)

   To clarify who can delay an action in combat, in the case of 1d6 per side style initiative, the Initiative Winning side combatants each may delay their actions; Individual 1d6 winners and Dexterity based Initiative, anyone may declare a delayed action IF that action is used against an opponent with a lower Dexterity.

   The first useful thing I thought of in using a Delayed Action is to delay one's attack until a specific action by an opponent happens. Examples include triggering a trap set by the party (pull rope "A" to trigger deadfall of rocks and lumber at "B"), firing a nocked arrow at an opponent if they reach for the Gold Maguffin, or running to block a melee opponent attempting to charge the party's spell-caster who is attempting to cast a spell.

   Are these adequate examples of player strategy for your groups? Besides really flumphing the attack roll, is there any drawback to declaring a Delayed Action in combat? Is there anyway to encourage 'thinking outside the box' by offering more concrete examples of Delayed Actions?

   This topic has the possibility of being another useful Sidebar topic in the LBB. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Technical Difficulties

Its been a few weeks since I posted anything here, and I do have a reply/download issue with the blog, so I am addressing both problems right now.

First of all, if you cannot reply to the blog, I really must apologize. I am sure I set this sucker up to allow everyone to reply, but like facebook, it appears I must continuously twiddle with the controls to keep it on the straight & narrow.

Disclaimer: I'll say this about myself right now: I am not an expert with computers, html, or web design in general. I drive for a living, so I don't have the opportunity to do anything - apart from drive when I'm at work. Bless the geeks who can while they work!  I use a Linux OS because its user-friendly up to a point, and then (like every Windows or Mac user) you actually have to stretch yourself and learn something new.

For those of you who are experiencing a lot of problems with downloading the current version of Levels Beyond Basic and the Reference Sheets, email me at -- rgweber67 (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll send it to you that way.

Version 7 will be uploaded for your downloading pleasure within minutes or hours after I post this. More minor cosmetic changes, but now there is a clear division of sections: Additions & Corrections, Character Classes, Demi-Human Races, Equipment & Encumbrance, The Combat Encounter, and Magic. I'm not sure if its my laptop that's feeling a bit wonky lately, or if its another issue with Libre 3 - the Linux installed odt writer, which is part of the LibreOffice package that mimics Microsoft's Office Word related programs.

The thing is, once any odt gets to around 100 pages in any other format but single column, its easy to throw it out of whack, although I admit that having over 100 tables may have something to do with it. Adding pictures will immediately crash it, and in one instance, I could not re-open the document. I lost everything I had written, but a friend had a copy of my work so far, and sent me a text version of it, allowing me to start over from scratch. 

At this point, it may be easier for me to whack off the Magic section and cut the document nearly in half. The Magic section will be its own separate book, but still part of the LBB.

IF you know of another office 'suite' of programs that is directly compatible with Linux/Ubuntu, mimics Microsoft's Office suite, and does not have the problems that LibreOffice does, please tell me where to find it, and how to install it. The original office suite that came with my first Ubuntu OS install was vastly superior, but the kind programmers who do work for all free Linux products dropped support for it, and I can't find it anywhere. (That's not completely true; the last time I searched for it was a couple years ago, and a new search right now may uncover it!)

What the hell was it called?

My run on my neighbor's wifi router will soon come to a close, and I'll be back to making guerrilla posts from the coffee shop across the street. Not that I was particularly productive on my blog since getting internet connection here in my apartment, as it was always too easy to get sucked into facebook, or the entire Red Dwarf collection on youtube. 

There is no excuse really, and just think of all the online job apps I could've filled out while sitting here at home! (Ever try to apply for a job somewhere else - and even though you brought an accordion folder full of vital info, you still forgot something at home! This is why its so hard for me to fill out apps online when I'm NOT at home, but thats a different story. 

Oh! Look at the time! /rant

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dragonsfoot Link

I must apologize for my clumsy blog skills. Apparently I have to do something with the link, rather than cut&paste, so I will try to get a working link up here:

Edit: No dice. I seem to be experiencing technical difficulties. Please adjust my XP to reflect this encounter. :(

Either Blogger sucks at making permalinks, my Linux/Ubuntu OS is having problems interfacing with Firefox, or I have connectivity issues. Maybe all of the above...

Re-Rolling All Hit Dice Every Level

From a 1st Edition AD&D Dragonsfoot thread:

It was noted by some members that the wording in 0e's "Men & Magic" concerning the accumulated hits of PCs might require players to re-roll their hit dice every time they gain a level. Apparently, this is a standing rule in Empire of the Petal Throne, but I have never read those rules, so I can only take it on faith that a lot of someone's aren't pulling my chain.

There are two ways to look at this interpretation of the rule, if used this way:
1 - The re-rolled hits stand, and PCs may wind up with fewer hits at their current level than when they rolled their hits on previous levels.
2 - The group may decide that no PC can lose hits when re-rolling, either standing pat at their current hits (even after re-rolling) or the PC is entitled to gain at least 1 hit if the re-rolled total is less than the previous level's re-roll for hits.
I've experimented with this house ruling, and the players I had at the time (5 or 6 years ago) hated it. Well, all but one adventurous player hated it. The player who actually liked the idea suggested the second caveat above.
Now, I think about the bell curve and the general law of averages when rolling dice, and I don't have any scientific evidence to back me up, but I think it is more likely to roll higher numbers when rolling a handful of dice every level than it is to roll a single die and adding it to the accumulated total.

I am looking to adding this variant to my house rules, so any feedback on the subject, pro or con is welcome!

Levels Beyond Basic assumes 4 related rules when considering hit points:
1 - Characters use the Hit Dice based on class from Greyhawk and Holmes.
2 - Monsters use Hit Dice from Greyhawk and Holmes.
3 - Weapons cause damage according to type from Greyhawk
4 - Monsters cause damage according to type from Greyhawk and Holmes

If the hit point determination method above is offered as a variant rule in Levels Beyond Basic, how would it affect the game with the 4 related rules? Would it offer players a chance to get better hits over time, or would it add an unnecessary level of danger to PCs with low hits?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Counter Spell Revised

Counterspells are part of my house rules that I've started to collect in a document that I call "Levels Beyond Basic", or "LBB". Each class has a few other abilities that I'll eventually post here. The first one I'm detailing is Counterspells, posted earlier last night right before I went to bed.

This version is a bit tighter, and now only available to Magic-Users. It still isn't as perfect as I think it can be, but as I'm ready to go to work, I'll post it now and let you guys take a crack at it. :)

Only Magic-Users can counterspell. A magic-user of higher level than his or her opponent can successfully counter a spell on a roll of 8 or better on 2d6. A magic-user of equal level as his or her opponent successfully counters a spell on a roll of 9 or better on 2d6. A magic-user of lower level than his or her opponent casting a spell must roll 10 or better on 2d6.

The countering magic-user must sacrifice an uncast spell to counterspell, but the magic-user suffers a -1 to Dex for initiative, as does any magic-user casting a spell gets a -1 to Dex equal to the spell level. A lower level spell sacrificed may counter a cast spell of higher level on a roll of 10 or better on 2d6.

Devices using charges; i.e., wands, staves, rods, that cast spells (spell-storing items such as necklaces or amulets included) may be used to counter a spell, but the device using Magic-User is not penalized against his or her Dexterity for determining initiative, but the device must be in hand. Using a device to counter a spell uses one charge, and counters a spell on a roll of 9 or better on 2d6.

Magic-users may only counter one spell per combat round if there is combat, or one spell every turn if there is no combat taking place. The countering magic-user may not cast any spells in the round or turn that a counter spell is performed. Spells cast from memory, scrolls, or spell books may be countered. Clerical spells may not be countered by magic-users. Spell-like effects that are activated by a device or weapon may not be countered unless a counterspell effect like the Rod of Cancellation is used.

Countering spells is not a magical effect or spell, rather it is anti-magical in nature, and consists of the Magic-User performing somatic gestures, uttering words and applying substances that cancel magical effects. A Dispell Magic spell or activated item with dispelling effects cancels the effects of a counter spell action.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Old School Skills, Feats & Counterspells

One reason why I moved back to Holmes, 0e, AD&D & BX is the simplicity of the system, especially when it concerns character abilities and skills.  Holmes, 0e, and BX never had a skill system that we would recognize as official, but it was AD&D that first led us down the skill path by offering "Secondary Skills", and eventually "Proficiencies". The BECMI sets called them "General Skills" and "Weapon Mastery".

I don't want to get into the mechanics of each system, aside from stating that 0e, Holmes, early AD&D and BX had all the skill system it needed with the Bend Bars/Lift Gates, Listen and Detect Secret Door checks. I also won't touch on the Thief Skills, as these are clearly a class ability, just as casting spells for Magic-Users and Turning Undead for Clerics, but I will say that this leaves the wide choice of weapons and armor and Hit Dice as the Fighter's class ability.

Now the problem lies with enticing "modern" D&D players that a D&D system is just as complete without Skills or Feats. The problem is, according to one old school gamer, is that skills and feats should be clearly defined as to what characters can and cannot do in the game, because players will take advantage of any loophole found in an incomplete system and gain an unfair advantage over the referee and disrupt the scenario, or, as some like to call it: "Game Balance".

Game Balance is a slippery slope topic of its very own, and I won't go into that here either. What I want to call attention to is how a D&D game without skills is still just as complete as a game with every skill and feat system that is clearly defined in the rules, if not more so.

As a player in our old group's semi-weekly AD&D 2e game, I was often stymied by "Captain Shirk" (our DM) when I would declare an action for my PC, only to have him ask me if I had any relevant proficiencies. I would scan my sheet and invariably answer in the negative - and he would usually tell me that I had slim to no chance of successfully performing the declared action. After several sessions of this, I became thoughtful of the skill/feat/proficiency system, and came to two conclusions:
1) If your character doesn't have a particular skill/feat/proficiency, the majority of players and DMs believe that certain actions will nearly always fail when attempted, and the only sure-fire way of being successful, or even having a slim chance at success is to have that particular skill/feat/proficiency.
2) This particular interpretation of the rules was never intended to limit players or their characters, it was intended to enhance their choices when it comes to role-playing.

So far as my experience with D&D goes, I've always felt that my characters that never had one single skill/feat/proficiency written down on the character sheet had a lot more freedom to act according to the situation than a character that was 'limited' by having a short list of the things he was allowed to do.

Anything the character wanted to attempt could be decided solely on referee decision, and a simple die roll, usually on a d6, d20 or d%. In many groups, an Ability Check is considered the standard practice for determining success or failure to performing any undefined action not covered in the rules, and I prefer it that way.

Of course, I have a mental list of what each character can succeed at more readily than others based on race or class. Fighters know how to fight with anything they pick up, even if its a radical design of a known weapon. Thieves know who to contact in town to fence loot. Dwarves never lose direction underground, even after regaining consciousness. Elves talk to trees. Most times, the trees don't have the capability to talk back, but if the party is going through a forest with an elf, a reaction bonus from an Ent is sure handy. Hobbits can cook, and can even take the skimpiest ingredients to make a stew that is somewhat passable. At least the other characters won't get food poisoning or starve. Clerics can Turn Undead, and once they reach 2nd level can cast any Divinely given spells allowable at their level without having to memorize it. Magic-Users can use magic items that other classes aren't allowed to, and can activate the abilities of weapons and items they aren't allowed to use as weapons, and they can counter spells.

Based on Chainmail's Counterspell rules, a magic-user of higher level than his or her opponent can successfully counter a spell on a roll of 6 or better on 2d6. A magic-user of equal level as his or her opponent successfully counters a spell on a roll of 7 or better on 2d6. A magic-user of lower level than his or her opponent casting a spell must roll 8 or better on 2d6. The countering magic-user can add a bonus to the die roll by sacrificing any uncast spells, adding 1 to the roll for every level of spell sacrificed this way.

Magic-users may only counter one spell per combat round if there is combat, or one spell every turn if there is no combat taking place. The countering magic-user may not cast any spells in the round or turn that a counter spell is performed. Spells cast from memory, scrolls, or spell books may be countered. Clerical spells may not be countered by magic-users, or vice versa. Spell-like effects that are activated by a device or weapon may not be countered unless a counterspell effect like the Rod of Cancellation is used.

Clerics may counter clerical spells as defined above.

Countering spells is not a magical effect or spell, rather it is a magic canceling set of gestures, actions, movement, or words used in conjunction with each other. A Dispell Magic spell or activated item with dispelling effects beats, or cancels the effects of a counter spell action.