Friday, March 27, 2015

Have Internet will Blog, Have Draft, will Dungeon (updated)

My neighbor had internet installed a couple days ago, and since I helped him out with smokes & lending movies, he gave me his passcode to get on his wireless, so starting this weekend or around then, I'll move forward a notch on learning the blogging ropes & actual content.

Since I am at work right this very moment, I'll have to keep this short, but a couple of interesting things have happened of late that you may or may not have already heard about.

Zenopus has posted an excellent set of 7 pre-generated characters usable with Holmes, 0e & Greyhawk, as one of the characters is a hobbit thief. I used Zenopus' random name generator & came up with:

Ev To of the Beetling Brow F:1
Sho Mal of the Haunted Heath Cleric:1
Hogo of the Arid Wastes Dwarf F:1
Yszort A Magic-User:1
Nedhaljo Elf F/M-U:1/1
Kra Carbel (Cracker Barrel) Thief:1
Rorembo Hobbit Thief:1

If you know about my blog, you probably learned about it from Zenopus' blog so I won't post a link, but I may later when I get a bit of free time.

The second item you may not have heard about is "Dungeons & Drafts" - a D&D themed bar (BAR) that serves alcohol to geeks. The bar will have a grand opening/shindig/whatever on June 13th, and it is located in Fort Collins Colorado, very near where I used to live. I will make plans to go there in June, on or about the 13th, just to show my belated support.

The owners funded a kickstarter in less time than it takes to recover from a Bobjester class hangover. Again, no links right now, but if you're on facebook, search "Dungeons & Drafts" and "like" em. I found about them yesterday (thank you Andy) just as the kickstarter was finished.

Link: Dungeons & Drafts

I think the west/mid-west portion of the US just got a place to hold a mini-con, and with a bit of luck, we can be the OS presence there, and I'd certainly be interested in contacting anyone who plans on going there at anytime in the future.

There is also an event on April 11th called "International Tabletop Day" at the Fort Collins Marriott hotel. $5.00 entry fee to go in, show support, play games, play or run demos, etc. If you're a "Dungeons & Drafts" kickstarter backer, or under the age of 12, entry is free. Am I going? I'm a bit poor due to overtime cutbacks, but if I could swing it, I'd go just to set up a Holmes/0e game! Of course, I'm woefully unprepared, but with Zenopus' pre-gens, half the battle of introducing new players to Holmes & 0e is already done! But I'd have to brush up Stone Mountain & Portown, perhaps a run through the Djangorun Depths is in order, hrmmmm, much thinking & lip curling to be done here....

Link: International TableTop Day at Dungeons & Drafts

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Better Late Than Update 2

Version 5 of Levels Beyond Basic is now uploaded. I haven't the slightest clue as to how things are supposed to be uploaded (I forgot how I did it at all the first 3 times), but I had to delete the old gadget that created the link 'page', and create a totally new one. If you were trying to download v-3, so sorry, it is gone from Google Drive as well (I hope). You didn't want that version anyway, it was pretty crappy compared to version 5. 

The Reference Sheets 1-5 have finally been updated to match the edits in the latest version (version 6), and have been uploaded. All of this should be up on it's elbows and knees and crawling on its belly now.

As I'm very new to the blogohedron (sphere?), I'm still getting the hang of how all this works, so I am eager to hear any comments on the blog, the PDFs or whatever. I think I have comments turned on, but I haven't heard from anyone yet. Lets hope I can entice someone to post something, for good or bad. (Okay, more good than bad...)

Again about the art in Levels Beyond Basic: These pieces are used without permission, as is most of the content in the PDFs. The art will eventually be replaced as soon as I finish the cover piece and begin other marginal art for the rest of the book. 

As I am re-learning how to draw, I am also re-learning the habits of a good artist; how to sit, how to approach the canvas, angles, perspective, vanishing points, mediums, types of brushes, pencils, ink, charcoal - the whole lot (well, nearly everything BUT the digital mediums...), the hardest thing I've found so far is how to deal with a hand that is a bit more shakier than it was 30+ years ago, eyes that get tired far more quickly than they did - even 10 years ago, less patience as I grow older, and free time that is currently managed while I lay in bed with my eyes closed.

The cover will be a copy of Holmes' Basic Boxed Set - and I can guarantee that it won't even be as pretty or neat as the original, and it is obviously drawn on tracing paper (yes, I traced it!) and colored in as quickly as possible to just get the project finished. In my defense, I did want a cover that embodied the heart and soul of my LBB project, and so far, I think it has lived up to everything in the text of LBB materially.

It is obviously a copy, even transparently so.

But still, there is a lot of interpretation to a copy because it will be imperfect or an exact clone. An exact clone would be kind of boring - its not new, and we've all seen this before. Ho hum. But where the lines have obviously been copied, the interior is similarly colored, and the pencil marks are just as detailed, but with different patterns, and in some cases - wholly divergent from the original. Yes, I do believe that once this is finished, I must find a way to scan it, rather than simply taking a digital pic of it with my camera. (The art for this blog was photographed and uploaded to my computer.)

I still have a lot of ground to cover, and this post has rambled on long enough. 

Next up: ? Class and Race design decisions, combat examples, new Vancian spells, Portown campaign notes? Psionics? It'll be a surprise, because I haven't decided what I'm doing next!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Color is Your Orc?

There has been endless debate on what orcs look like? Tolkien is considered to have been the creator of the most fantastic, mindless, evil minion in modern fantasy, but did he envision them as 'pig-snouted' goblin-men, or were they indeed once elves, twisted by Morgoth's evil magic into humanoid abominations?

As orcs entered the vernacular, writers, artists, and movie make-up specialists have offered a wide variety of orcs. Indeed, as D&D enthusiasts mix orcs with trolls, hobgoblins, and humans, they sometimes approach the demonic in appearance, but several 'genetic' variants prevail throughout our imagined collective of fantasy worlds.

The pig-faced orc may be an off-shoot of the interbreeding of orcs and devil-swine or were-boars, while the 'pure' orc remains what Tolkien intended: a grotesque mockery of elvish form and visage, barely (demi-)human, yet strong in physical attributes, maligned and mutated beyond recognition by the evil magicks of a thoroughly evil and dark power.

Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” movie orcs reminded me of D&D mongrelmen; more deformity ridden mutants than goblinoid, while the “Morgul-rat” orcs were possibly the 'pure' strain of Morgoth's evil, twisted elves – and let us not forget Saruman's “Uruk Hai” orcs; nearly giants, driven, and indefatigable. These may well have been bred with Tolkien's trolls, or for the purposes of D&D games – ogres, if it were not for their possessed drive to follow orders, as well as possessing greater intelligence than their Morgul-rat cousins.

A D&D troll and orc combination would truly be horrible; cunning, resistant to order, having some ability to regenerate, and hating fire as well as the sunlight.

To incorporate the half-orc as player character, keep in mind that a pig-faced half-orc/half-human may be interpreted as a pig-snouted human; hardly passing as a member of the human race!

This lends credence to the theory that orcs, in their 'pure-strain' form resemble Tolkien's twisted and malformed elves, and allows the pseudo-fantasy-science of D&D mechanics to assume that half-orc offspring have a 10% chance of passing themselves off as human characters, albeit very ugly humans.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Origana Holmes Sapiens: Holmes' Parry Rule and Two Attacks Per Round

I am very sure that Zenopus has tackled this in his archives blog, but I do want to go over a few things that I've finally had the chance to read for myself.

It appears that Dr. Holmes had taken a couple of combat rules from Chainmail's "Man vs. Man" rules, regarding small weapons making 2 attacks per round and Parrying and simplified them for Basic D&D.

From "Man-to-Man Combat" p.25 & 26: under "Melee" Rule 4)a: For any weapon 2 or more classes higher than the attacker the ability to parry does not exist. 

Rule 4)b: For any weapon 1 class higher to three classes lower than the attacker the defender may parry the blow by subtracting 2 from the attacker's roll, but he has no counter blow. 

Rule 4)c: For any defender whose weapon is four to seven classes lower than the attacker, the defender has the option to give the first blow OR parry the attacker's blow, by subtracting 2 from the attacker's roll. If the attacker equals the original requirement for a kill the higher weapon breaks the defender's weapon. If the parry is successful, the defender gets one counter blow. 

Rule 4)d: For any weapon whose class is eight or more classes lower than the attacker, the defender gets the first blow and may parry the second or strike the second. He subtracts one for the parry and a roll equal to the original kill requirement breaks the weapon. (Pikes, spears or lances of the attacker do get the first blow over lower class weapons if there is a charge. Here the length of the weapon prevents the defender, even with his lighter weapon, the ability to get the first blow.)

From "Melee Table" just below Rule 4)a-d: Note that each weapon listed has a number designating its class. The shorter and lighter the weapon, the lower its class. A man wielding a weapon four classes lower (1 vs. 5, 2 vs. 6, and so on) strikes two blows during every melee round. (See Appendix B.)

NOW I can see where Dr. Holmes gets his Parry Rule AND how normal weapons get 2 attacks per round, and why large weapons only get one attack every other round, in the original manuscript. However, the published versions has light weapons getting 2 attacks per round, normal weapons 1 attack, and large weapons 1 attack every 2 rounds. The basis of Dr. Holmes' Parry Rule lies within this extensive reading and implementation of "Man-to-Man Combat" parry rules.

I plan on implementing a little known, and possibly little-used rule from Chainmail that distinguishes between the First Round of combat from Subsequent Rounds of combat:

From "Man-to-Man Combat" under "Melee": When two figures are within melee range (3"), one or several blows will be struck. The order of striking depends upon several factors. The man striking the first blow receives a return blow only if he fails to kill his opponent.

1st Round:
First blow is struck by -
a) the attacker, unless
b) the defender has a weapon which is two classes higher, or
c) the defender is fighting from above (castle wall, rampart, etc.).

2nd Round and thereafter:
First blow is struck by -
a) the side which struck first blow previously, unless
b) the opponent has a weapon which is two classes lower, or
c) the opponent is fighting from above.

While considering the Man-to-Man Combat rules in light of the Holmes Basic rules, Initiative is a factor in determining who is the attacker. The attacker has the advantage in First Blow, because if the blow successfully kills the defender, the defender does not get a return blow. Again, weapon class is a factor in determining first blow in both First Round and Second Round sequences. Longer weapons strike first in First Rounds, and Shorter/Lighter weapons strike first in Subsequent Rounds. Rather than relying on Initiative Dice, or Higher DEX striking first in Holmes, weapon length/weight plays an integral part in deciding who strikes first in any given round.

The weapon length & weight is not specific in Holmes or LBB, but one of my earlier drafts of LBB did have specific weapon classes, with shortest/lightest weapons at the low end, and heavier/longer weapons at the high end of the number scale. I removed the Weapon Classes due to the complexity that it would introduce to LBB, and I wanted the streamlined version of combat that felt advanced, but was very straightforward. The weapon classes from Chainmail and Judges' Guild Ready Ref Sheets can be implemented with Holmes Basic & LBB, for those refs who want to use it. However, I allow this intentionally for LBB solely to discriminate between First Round combat from Subsequent Round combat.

What is the difference between First and Subsequent Round combat, you ask? Why the distinction?

If you think about it, ask yourself "what happens on the first round that doesn't usually happen on subsequent rounds?" The answer is that the First Round is the initial round of the encounter, barring for the moment the Surprise Round(s). Side A and B must move to meet in the middle in order to conduct Melee Combat. The longer or heavier weapons will strike first. We should assume that most combatants in the first round have already moved within Melee Reach during Subsequent rounds. Once the longer and/or heavier weapons are within melee reach and blows are struck in the first round, those weapon wielders will be open to attacks from the shorter, lighter weapons in the subsequent rounds (unless they move out of melee reach - but that is a variable to be considered at a later time).

The trick for the referee and players is to have rules on hand for any variables that may come into play AFTER these two rules have been considered. Right now, the important thing is to consider just these two rules as concrete actions; they must factor in the combat first, because they carry the most potential for striking first in any round of combat. If we follow the form of First and Subsequent Rounds, we can follow the rest of the combat rules concerning Missile Fire, Spell-Casting, Mounted Combat, Charges, and Artillery.

This is the reason why Spells and Missile Fire should be resolved before Melee Combat - Weapon Reach. Now, the wildest variables should come from Spells, as their effects could come at any moment during the combat round - whether it is in Missile Fire or Melee, but again the actual spell-casting does take time, and even spells may be interrupted under certain circumstances, but, again, this is a variable that should be discussed later. Missile Fire is a long range weapon, and should be resolved before Melee combat is resolved, but it is normally used for full effect in First Round combats, because we should assume that Sides A & B are still moving toward each other during the bulk of the Combat Round.

It should also be assumed that once the combatants are within Melee Reach of one another - toward the end of the First Round, Missile Fire is just as likely to strike a friendly figure as an opposing one, and that is why many D&D combat rules forbid missile fire during the Melee portion of the Combat Round. I believe that many referees (DMs) are misreading the Missile Fire rule - instead interpreting it as "NO missile fire is allowed during the Combat Round", which makes using bow & arrow worthless for most of the game. What the rule should be explicit in saying is "Missile Fire is allowed against any un-meleed opponent without fear of striking a friendly figure", or something like that. Once Melee is engaged (meaning: your friendly is toe-to-toe with an enemy), Missile Fire should be discouraged, due to the 50/50 chance of hitting your own guy. The same can be inferred for casting spells, unless a spell is capable of targeting only an enemy figure (the revised Magic Missile), or a spell that will do no harm to anyone, but effect everyone in the area of effect equally (Sleep).

There is a distinction between the Combat Round and Melee Combat. Combat Round is a unit of time elapsed; in this case, it is ten seconds. Melee Combat is that part of the Combat Round where two opponents face each other within Melee Reach (3" according to the Man-to-Man Rules), but for Holmes and LBB, this distance is effectively 20 feet. Engaged in Melee means that the two (or more) opponents are within 10 feet of each other. If you are Engaged, you are within Melee Reach of your opponent, and you are considered to be in Melee Combat. However, Melee Reach (20') should still be considered for the purposes of Missile Fire, but only as long as there are no other viable targets within a 20' radius of the target.

Of course, if you have actually looked at my LBB house rules, you will notice a LOT of additional rules to combat, and I will admit that implementing all of these rules does pose a bit of a problem if I claim that they are 'streamlined'. In all actuality, they are not streamlined; they are clunky and piecemeal, but I would say that these are things that should be considered part of 0e and Holmes. Eventually, some of these rules will become shaded box 'variants'. These rules would include "The Revised Parry Rule", "The Helmet Rule" and "The Shield Rule", after all, the Helmet Rule does require an additional die roll to be useful, the Parry Rule adds a modifier to the mix, and the Shield Rule offers additional effectiveness for 1 or more attacks depending on the size of the shield and the number of blows against the shielded defender that round, AND it was also derived from 2nd edition AD&D rules. But I still like it, and it offers players an additional bit of protection for their characters.

All of the Hardbacks Are Gone

Dragonspipe has posted a wonderful little ditty at Dragonsfoot:

"All of the hardbacks are gone
It's nothin' but downloads and theft from now on
Hoist up your bookbags, and go to a con
All of the hardbacks are gone"

I have no idea who penned it, but here it is... :)

The original D&D game is gone, fanboys. Deal with it.

In my cross-cultural reference index mind, I see that Boba Fett and the original actor who played Anakin Skywalker's ghost in Return of the Jedi are playing AD&D with the original 3 hardback covers in the Saarlac pit, and when Boba Fett rolls a 6 for initiative, Han shoots first.

That's all I got! LOL

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Eldritch Wizardry Title Art

Yes, that is my work - a study of the cover of Eldritch Wizardry. I have a few more 'studies' planned, but I really have to be ready to draw as soon as I get home from my last shift of the week, and be completely prepared. I just can't motivate myself to sit down & draw something at random like I used to in high school. Sigh, I'm very out of practice and discipline...

If I ever get enough black & white pieces done, I may just use them for Levels Beyond Basic, instead of stealing from other artists. That will take some time to do, of course, but this isn't a race to publish my retro-clone before anyone else publishes theirs; this is my hobby, and I am approaching this as I would painting miniatures. Every detail is attended to eventually, and they won't be ready for the table until they get the last dab of paint on the belts and scabbards.

Wooooo, that outta motivate my lazy arse!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Better Late Than Ever Update 1

I did manage to get v3 of Levels Beyond Basic posted yesterday before the coffee shop closed, and I went home & tinkered with the ms again, so v4 will definitely have some small changes, but they improve the whole by 100% already. 

The changes I tried to make was to add some free-standing art between the two column sections and the pages with only short tables or little text, and it was a fracking disaster. The one page I tried this on had two short tables for half-orcs, and about half a page of empty space, so I attempted to insert a pic of Greg Bell's infamous "Fight On!" from 0e here. The bottom table and the pic jumped to a new page and even after re-sizing, the pic and table would not go back to the previous page. I have no idea what happened or why I couldn't add a small pic to fill the space at the bottom of the page; instead it (the pic AND the 2nd table) jumped to a new, empty page and then the table refused to go back, even after deleting the pic altogether. I had to close the odt without saving to get the tables to realign themselves in order.

I don't recommend 'upgrading' to Libre 3 Office; stay with Open Office if you're using any sort of Linux/Ubuntu. Watch for it when doing automatic updates and don't allow it into the other things you let update by automatic, or click to approve type of things. Libre3 apparently added itself because I just clicked the update button and let it do its thing. Serves me right, I guess; I've always been a few steps behind in computer operation, and at least 10-20 years behind on software/hardware knowledge. 

Just because its automatically added doesn't always mean its the best system out there, and as free products go, there are better FREE products out there. 

Ahhh, back to LBB: I intend on going through the text again, this time with a specific eye towards correcting typos and getting rid of partial add-ons from previously deleted sections - y'know, the kind of sentences that seem to appear out of nowhere & talk about something that was not previously discussed in the text. Only, the subject was discussed at one point, and then deleted completely, except for reminder sentences in other sections. 

For example: Most entries regarding a "Combat Leader" were deleted, as I changed my mind about such a mechanic during combat, but there may be add-on sentences in other sections that might still exist. I'll know them when I read them.

I'll also look for any references to Portown, or the Campaign, with an eye towards inserting a [sidebar] about Portown and what players (and their characters) can expect to find there. I'm still debating whether to include any new Vancian spells in the spell lists, but I believe that the Portown Sidebars will be a great place to put such additional goodies. 

Here's a new Vancian spell, just to provide an example of the content that I'd like to add: 

 Lekoreiz's Girlish Departure (Charm/Enchantment) Level: 2 Range: 10 ft/level Duration: 1d4 rounds AoE: Caster Level = HD of enemies Save vs. Spells This spell causes the caster's level = HD of enemies to turn and run away from the caster screaming and waving their arms like little girls. Chaotic wizards may cause enemies to run away skipping and giggling instead if they so choose.

This is one of the few spells I have so far. I have a lot more, but they're not completed. The name comes from a Vancian Spell Name Generator I found online a couple/three years ago, and I generated thousands, tens of thousands of spell names, then started sifting slowly through them for the best gems. This is one of them. Someday, I might have the time to actually find that generator and link to it, providing it's creator with the recognition he/she/they deserve.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Better Late Than Ever

Its been a hectic week, with all the odd hours of my current job, playing Magic: The Gathering with new friends, and searching for another part-time job to supplement the full-time job turned part-time thanks to cutbacks. Hopefully by next week I'll have worked up a new series of posts and content samples for Levels Beyond Basic.

I've started content on "Hordes and Hoards", the second volume of my house rules. Hordes will feature the range of monsters from 0e, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Holmes, and those monsters that were mentioned in one or another edition of Holmes, but were never actually included, and a handful of my own original creations. Likewise, Hoards will have the treasures, magical and mundane from 0e, Greyhawk, and the other supplements, covering everything that was covered in Holmes Basic, and adding more original creations, either of my own design, or liberally borrowed from the internet. 

Permissions were roughly granted when they were posted at Dragonsfoot Forums, but before the final PDF is created, I will check to see if its okay to use them. 

V3 is ready to post as a PDF. I'll try to do so before the coffee shop closes in 5 minutes!