Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sharing a Great Adventure: Fortress of the Fungi Chemist

Michael Raston of The Lizardman Diaries blog gas produced a dungeon level and he is willing to share... level 1 of the Fortress of the Fungi Chemist can be found here on his blog. All of his posts and hacks are straight up DIY D&D rooted in old school styles of play. I have gotten a lot of inspiration from his blog and should be posting a few things which are rooted in some of Michael's posts.

This is one of the maps from the fortress. I really dig the raw DIY look and "feel" to his work. Thanks for sharing, Machael.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vancian Magic Supplement is Back!

Greg Gorgonmilk of Wormskin and Dolmenwood fame has brought back one of his earlier more pirate-ish supplements. His Vancian Magic supplement is available again but only for a limited time.

A magic user casts bones in order to aid his casting of Gezza's Temporal Regard. Image by Druillet.

For more Vancian goodness follow this link to Chris Pound's Dying Earth Spell Generator. It has its naming conventions grounded in Vance's Dying Earth stories but the names are evocative of the formulaic memorization based approach which magic users take when learning spells.

While checking out these links you should certainly check out Greg and Chris's other stuff. Greg has been pumping out quality OSR material for years. Chris has dozens of other name generators as well as links to many other name generators.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More Dwarfy Abilities: Dwarf Beard Skills!

In one of my recent posts, I discussed a method of taking traditional dwarf class abilities, sensing moving stone and secret doors, and putting new spin on them. Rather than the source of their abilities being a lifetime of living in caves and mines, their abilities are magical in nature. After thousands of years and uncounted generations living within the bowels of the earth, dwarves have formed a connection with the earth. Through singing to the earth and stones, they can sense changes in the underworld environment and even manipulate stone.

This great post on Papers and Pencils, a 2015 Secret Santicore response, adds another ancient dwarfy ability: Beard Skills! Basically dwarves have learned to groom and train their beards to do some wild things. At character creations, these abilities can be selected just like any other abilities. Additionally, as a dwarf gets access to more abilities as it advances, it may choose to become skilled with its beard, but it must find a tutor from whom it can learn the new beard skill. A dwarf may only ever have one beard skill; and they cannot be changed after a dwarf has become trained in a beard skill.

Beard Skills:

1. Rope Beard: In a private ritual each nameday, the dwarf carefully trims their beard from everywhere but their chin. This hair is then treated and braided into the chin hair, lengthening it. The resulting rope is 1’ long for every 2 years of the Dwarf’s life. It is normally worn draped around the dwarf’s shoulders like a scarf. It does not count against the dwarf’s encumbrance limit.

2. Food Catching Beard: The dwarf’s whiskers cling to every crumb of bread, string of meat, and dab of sauce that doesn’t make it into the dwarf’s mouth. At the end of the day, a good shake produces a tidy little pile of edibles ready for consumption. Any rations that the the dwarf purchases will last 50% longer than they normally would.
3. Junk Beard: A messy, unkempt kind of beard often adopted by dwarfs who consistently fail to maintain a more refined style. It is used to store a variety of small, occasionally useful doo-dads. By rummaging through their beard for 1 minute, the dwarf has a 2 -in- 6 chance of producing any mundane object of small size and negligible value that they’re looking for: a pair of shears, a spool of twine, a chisel, etc.
4. Disarming Beard: A tangled mesh of wiry hair, slightly sticky to the touch, and tough as strands of steel. When the dwarf is either the target of a critical fumble or when it scores a critical hit, the fumbler must save versus Paralysis or their weapon becomes caught in the dwarf’s beard. With a practiced jerk of the head, the dwarf can easily send the captured weapon flying away, safely out of reach.
5. Grappling Beard: A soft, voluminous beard, woven into dozens of large loops. With a deft tug of the chin, the dwarf can wrap these loops around an opponent and tighten them. Such dwarfs are skilled wrestlers, using their beards to get a grip on arms or necks. The character grapples as though it is one level higher than they are. They are able to choke their opponents as though they are armed with a garrote. 
6. Climbing Beard: A tightly braided beard, wrapped around the body as a simple harness. Hooks and spikes dangle from strands of hair in easy reach of hands and feet. Dwarfs with such a beard receive either advantage when climbing or a check when no climbing check would be allowed.
7. Falling Beard: Soft hair woven into a kind of checkerboard quilt shape, adorned with bits of cloth. Often these are scraps of old clothing donated by friends and loved ones. If the dwarf ever falls from a significant height, their beard will open up like a parachute, and the fall should be treated as though it were 10’ shorter than it actually was. If for some reason the dwarf wishes to fall at full speed, they must make a conscious effort to do so by holding their beard down as they fall.
8. Bramble Beard: A massive bristly bush of hair spreading in every direction, leaving only a few facial features visible. Best suited to dwarfs who are short, even by their race’s diminutive standard. By simply squatting down and squinting their eyes, a Bramble Bearded dwarf becomes nearly indistinguishable from a common tumbleweed.
9. Beard of Lights: A curly beard, with dozens of small upturned strands treated with oil and wax. A Beard of Lights is often chosen for those whose beard grows more quickly than is easily manageable. The upturned tips can be lit, and the fully lit beard serves as a light source equivalent to a torch for up to 6 hours a day.
10. Stonesense Beard: Sometimes mistaken for magic, the Stonesense Beard requires a dwarf of extreme patience and focus to master properly. By pressing their face to a stone surface, the Dwarf can slowly wriggle their beard hairs into the imperceptible cracks and channels in the stone by precisely vibrating their body. The process takes an hour of intense concentration before the beard is fully in place. Once the process is complete, the dwarf can feel even the most minute vibrations traveling through the stone. They can describe any room adjacent to the stone surface they’re connected to, including any creatures or treasure within those chambers.
When the dwarf wishes to extract themselves, they may either spend 10 quiet minutes delicately vibrating their body in reverse, or they may simply tear themselves free of the stone, loudly crumbling it, and leaving a crater roughly 3’x3’x1’ in the surface.
11. Nesting Beard: A wispy funnel of a beard, shaped and scented to be an attractive nest for a particular animal. There are four common animals that these beards are typically made for, based on how the dwarf’s own natural musk resonates with the required scent. Roll to determine which creature nests in your beard:
i. A canary. Will usually remain quiet, but will tweet in a wild panic if there is poison gas in the room. These canaries are particularly sensitive, and can even detect poison gasses that have not yet been released into the air.
ii. A squirrel. A helpful creature that will happily retrieve any small, squirrel-sized objects the dwarf can point to within their line of sight.
iii. A carrier pigeon. Can be sent to any location the dwarf has personally visited within 1 week’s travel distance. It takes 1d8 hours for the pigeon to reach its destination, and the same amount of time to return.
iv. A beaver. Can be directed by the dwarf to gnaw small holes in wooden objects, chew through ropes, etc.
12. Smoking Beard: A wild cascade of hair, meticulously groomed to appear untamed and ferocious. The whole thing is oiled and treated with incense. When the tips of the beard are lit they produce very little light, but a great deal of black, foul-smelling smoke. The smoking beard creates a hellish image of the dwarf, and any foe fighting them takes a penalty of one on their morale checks so long as the beard is lit. There is no limit to how often or long the beard may be lit, but there are natural consequences for being the source of so much smoke.
13. Beard Sack: Easily mistaken for any common dwarf beard, the Beard Sack is a layered style, with a loose outer layer obscuring a tightly woven satchel hidden beneath, with its opening just under the dwarf’s chin. This storage space grants one additional point of encumbrance ability for the dwarf, and anything stored within is considered hidden. Only a thorough search will reveal these hidden items. Such a search would be deeply offensive to any dwarf, and in respectable communities such poor treatment by the authorities may cause civil unrest.
14. Poison Straining Beard: Thick whiskers hang down over the dwarf’s lips, treated with cleansing tinctures. The dwarf can sip any substance safely, and determine with a few smacks of their lips whether it is poison or not. If it is poison, the dwarf can describe the poison’s effects in perfect detail.
15. Bestial Kinship Beard: A layered beard, scented with a subtle, gamey musk, and curving back slightly between the knees. Animals perceive the dwarf as a powerful but temperate creature. The dwarf gains a +1 bonus to reaction rolls made with natural creatures.
16. Beard Art: Only the most malleable of beards is suited to beard art. It is a rare gift, much prized by the beardmasters. The hair is treated with gels, and the dwarf is trained in the art of grooming their beard into the most spectacular shapes and sculptures. Such a beard grants a +1 to reaction rolls with anyone who has an appreciation for the finer things.
17. Sifting Beard: A single looping braid, supporting a lattice of sifting strands. The almost impossibly intricate lattice separates objects based on weight and density. It takes 1 minute to sift through a 1’ cube of detritus. The beard will separate the stones from the metals, and the coppers from the gold pieces. The beard must be dry to function properly, and cannot sift through mud or water.
18. Sleeping Beard: The hair is conditioned for maximum softness on one side, and for insulation and water resistance on the other. It can be used as a rudimentary one-dwarf shelter in time of need.
19. Steel Wool Beard: A coarse beard, treated with polishing oils. Any metal treasure with artistic value (such as a fancy sword, jewelry, a gold watch, ancient coins, etc.) has its value increased by 10% after the masterful cleaning and polishing it receives at the hands of a dwarf with a steel wool beard.
20. Utili-Beard: The beard is knotted and tied with four small tools hanging from it. The expert tying of the beard keeps these tools always within arm’s reach, but never in the way. Any one-handed object can be hung from the utili-beard: a hammer, a hacksaw, a sword, etc. The dwarf may switch between these four objects freely, without taking any penalties that might normally be incurred for switching a new object into the character’s hand.
I have altered the text of a couple of these descriptions to make them "work" better in my games. Before I finish this post be sure to check in with Papers and Pencils. It is a great OSR style blog. I have been sifting through the play reports lately; they are pretty wild.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Nightmares Underneath, the Upside-Down, and Social Class in Labyrinth Lord

I have been wrestling with how to import the concepts of social class and background into character generation. My goal has been to have them be interesting and descriptive. I also want their implementation to be simple: only involving an extra die roll or two and taking, at most, a few extra minutes during character generation.

A few months ago I followed a few links to this page on Red Box Vancouver's Blog (a community-centric OSR blog from Vancouver). And that is where I found the basis of my new social class and background hacks... or hack, since they are united in one system.

The link to Red Box Vancouver gives a short, informative review and links to free pdf and POD versions of The Nightmares Underneath RPG. You should certainly check it out. The game is an OSR inspired/ D&D based ruleset. Nightmares author, Johnstone Metzger takes the basic D&D rules and adds to them, to make his own ruleset which he uses to describe his own unique setting. His game is set in a world under attack from a parallel dimension of nightmares. The nightmares take root in our world while we sleep, forming entry points for the nightmares to contaminate and devour our universe. Players represent the few skilled individuals who are able to enter the nightmares' realm and defeat them before they are able to enter our plane.

To me, Metzger describes the physics of the Upside Down, the home of Demogorgon in Stranger Things, better than anybody else. I have pretty much stolen this for my own game. In my game, it is not the focus of play, but now I have a "scientific" understanding of how the negative planes/ shadow realms ("Vale of Shadows" from AD&D) fits into my multiverse.

Starting on page 87, Metzger begins with a simple 3d6 roll for generating Social Class. I will have players roll this score after they have generated their six ability scores; I do not want to add a dump stat. Skipping ahead to page 102, we have a quite well developed starting equipment generation system which takes both social standing and a character's class into consideration when randomly generating results. For the first few iterations at my table, I am going to use Metzger's system "right out of the box". After I have finished descriptively fleshing out and codifying the basic races and classes available in my game, I want to take his system and link generation of backgrounds (which provide descriptive options that are based on a character's selection of race and class) with social class class generation (two die rolls rather than just one). I will also modify the equipment tables, adding equipment that is descriptive of my game's setting. I want to use the social class roll, background selection, and equipment generation processes to "teach" new players a about the campaign setting and their character's place in it... basically functioning like a mini gazetteer of the Boreal, Bohemian Borderlands.

Unique Dwarfy Abilities: Songs of Stone

Since the earliest days, dwarves have had a connection to stone and the minerals of the earth. but modern dwarves are no longer able to manipulate the chaotic, magical energies required to cast spells. The most ancient dwarves were able to tame the elements of the earth, becoming full fledged geomancers: beings of immense power. Their closeness to the earth and the chaotic nature nature of sorcery may explan why they turned to stone.

Even though they may not cast sorcerous spells, we must remember that dwarves are innately magical creatures. In the modern era, the dwarves of the Borderlands and the Ancient Deeps are no longer able to master the powers of the earth as geomancers. But their magical connection to the earth and stone remains. The Songs of Stone refers loosely to the ability which all dwarves have to sing to and listen to stone and rock. At lower levels dwarves, when near stone, are able to divine some basic information about their environment; at higher levels, they are able to manipulate and sculpt stone as though it were soft clay. 

When singing to stone, dwarves use their native tongue: an ancient, secret tongue which dwarves are loath to teach others. Generally dwarves are careful when singing to stone, being careful about who they are near when singing to stones, and singing only when around those they trust, or whispering very quietly when they are singing.

The System: 

Songs of Stone involves two components. A dwarf's class determines how well he can manipulate the songs which he knows; its chance of success as represented by a d6 roll increases (see below). When whispering their songs, dwarves roll with disadvantage. When singing to stones in their native area, dwarves roll with advantage. It typically takes one exploration turn for a dwarf to sing. 

Level:      Chance of Success:
   1                     1-2/ 1d6     
   2                     1-2/ 1d6
   3                     1-3/ 1d6
   4                     1-3/ 1d6
   5                     1-4/ 1d6
   6                     1-4/ 1d6
   7                     1-5/ 1d6
   8                     1-5/ 1d6
   9                     1-6/ 1d6

As a dwarf advances it may learn new songs; it may learn a new song rather than a new class skill. Songs must be learned in ascending order from one through six. A character may learn only one Song per level. A character is not required to learn new songs as it advances. Songs of Stone:

1. Know the Stone: Basic geological information and the ability to detect passages, sliding or moving stone, and pits.
2. Paths Under the Earth: Determine depth and direction underground or in the mountains (roll with disadvantage).
3. Hear the Stones: Put ear to the ground or wall to hear movement and voices.
4. Earth Song: Put lips to stone to sing a message which can be passed through stone and earth.
5. Shape Stone: Can use bare hands to sculpt stone or earth (roll with disadvantage).
6. Pass Through Stone: May pass through stone; failure most likely indicates getting stuck in wall.

* As a rule of thumb ranges, distances, speeds, and volumes of stone and earth manipulated through use of Songs of Stone are determined in multiples of ten factored by the singing character's dwarf class level.

Please feel free to import this little hack into your home game. If you are going to further refine this system, please let me know so that I can try out your improvements. 

Next Post: Social Class and a new OSR ruleset.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Back to Whining... the State of the OSR... Again... and Simple Cantrips

For some reason at least once a year there is blowup followed by a ridiculous contest to determine what the OSR is and isn't. Rob Conley responds to this discussion better than I could. Check out his response. I agree 100%. We have a great thing going here. Digital tools and constant connectivity have given anyone the ability to create and publish. The only limiting factors are time and drive. I have the drive, but not the time... at least not for the next few years. I am just trying to keep this humble little blog up. It gives me a little space to rant, share some of the great buys I have made, and put some new things out there every once in a while. 

My last post promoted Wormskin 5 from Necrotic Gnome. And I just have to revisit this topic and say again that it is a great purchase. I want to point out that pages 12-15 feature a simple hex crawl system which when bolted onto either your own awesome map, or any randomly generated map (which is now your new awesome map) is a great procedural tool to simplify a DM's life while keeping hex travel interesting. I have basically printed these pages off and pinned them into my screen.

I also want to bring your attention to 2 new blogs which I am now following:

Drink Deeply of the Goatman's Goblet: An Old School style blog which has a dark-fey feel (like the Dolmenwood) to its content. So far I most like his posts about fantasy canine companions; there is also a boy adventurer class which seems like it could be kinda neat too.

Coins and Scrolls: Another OSR style blog which focuses more on D&D generally with some Star Wars thrown in for good measure. The blog features a series of posts that focus on different wizard specialists. There are some great ideas in these articles... especially the summoner. I may not use them in my game right out of the posts, but I am going to use these posts for some inspiration as I look at specialists in my own game.

Joesky Tax (...and now for something gameable!) D6 Cantrips for Magic-Users/ Specialists:

I love the simplicity of skills in older editions of D&D. At first they didn't even exist. Then they were something that was slowly added in bits and pieces and there were many approaches taken. One early method used to model racial skills/ abilities: simply rolling a d6 was, and still is, an easy way to come at it.

As I start looking at how magic is going "work" in my Boreal Bohemian Borderlands campaign, I want to have some way to include cantrips for MUs and specialists. I want wizards to be able to do the basics without putting themselves at risk as well as having a simple system for hedge magician NPCs to employ basic spells, rituals, and magical wards. Cantrips are basically like skills. These are the day-to-day bullshit things which a Sorcerer uses magic for while the rest of us schmucks have to get down on our hands and news and apply some physical effort and sweat.

Last year JB suggested using a d6 to represent magical skills as cantrips. It is simple and easy but still allows for successes and failures. I need magic to be Vancian in nature but at the same time it is not a 100% fire and forget thing. You have to work and train and et stronger over time.

The list of cantrips I am starting with mirrors JB's list. Players, feel free to come to me if you think your PC needs access to different cantrips. We can always add to the list.

The list:*
  1. Charm of Opening
  2. Dowse for Traps
  3. Ignite
  4. Premonition (detect creature/ presence)
  5. Revelation of Secrets (doors, etc.)
  6. Scent of Water
* See JB's post, linked above, for fuller cantrip descriptions. As a rule of thumb, ranges are in multiples of 10 feet multiplied by a factor of the character's level.

MUs, including specialists get 8 pips to apply to the cantrips listed above. Characters get 2 pips to add to their totals every time they advance a level in their magic using class. One's skill in any cantrip (measured in pips out of maximum of 6) can never be higher than the character's current casting class level plus 2.

Next Post: More shilling, plus Dwarves talking to rocks.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Drink of the Gorgon's Milk!

I am writing up this quick little update to recommit to my blog and working on my game and to shill for Greg Gorgonmilk, Gavin Norman, and their digital press: Necrotic Gnome Productions.

Over the last few years the work these guys have been pumping out has set the standard for what I expect from gaming materials. The art is evocative and well conceived, the rules/hacks/tables can be easily shoe-horned into any campaign, and they just hit my D&D sweet spot.

One of their most recent productions takes the classic old school D&D considerations, resolves a conflict and brings it to us in simple, playable form. D&D in its earliest forms had no thief, robber, or rogue classes. The thief came later, and to many, including me, it has found a sweet little niche in our games. But adding the thief class to the game takes something away from the other classes. It's a case in which by defining what a thief is, we have a also defined what characters from other classes are not. Thieves were gifted a slate of rules allowing them to remove traps, open locks, etc. The implication of these new rules is that other classes are not allowed to do these things. Or at least characters of other classes cannot do these things with any level of dependable skill.

The conflict that accompanies the thief's entrance into D&D is that it turns one character into the bad guy... murder-hobo. Many of us see the whole party as being a gang of murder-hobos traipsing through the wilderness, killing monsters, and stealing their loot. Greg and Gavin have given us the Cross-Class Subterfuge Protocols.

This sweet. little volume discards the thief class and explicitly turns all characters "back" into murder-hobos. They have developed a simple d20 saving throw/skill roll for when a character wants to be sneaky. A character's probability of success increases as it levels up. This is similar to the system used in Crypts and Things

Another recent release form the Necro Gnomes is Wormskin 5 the creepy guardians of the ancient dolmens of the mighty forest: the Drune. Each issue details an area of the wood, adds monsters or new classes, and more. Issue 5 details hex crawling in Dolmenwood and it can easily be modified for crawling in any campaign.

I am finished with my shill. Really check out their great work, on their blogs as well as on RPG Now/DTRPG. Greg, Gavin, thank you for the great contributions to my game.