Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Insufferable Quandry of Helmets

Ok, what's the deal with helmets in D&D and its kin?

I know two facts from real life:

1. People who want to kill you often aim at your head, and

2. Wearing a helmet offers you a bit of protection against that.

One of the earliest known militaristic civilizations, the Assyrians, never left home without their trusty helmets:

And we are still perfecting the materials and designs of helmets to this day:

Despite all that, helmets offer no definable protection in-game, barring an obscure rule in AD&D no one uses. Kudos if you know the rule I'm talking about; if you don't, I'm going to make you go look it up just to make my point about obscurity. So there.

What to do about this?

One solution is to allow helmets to offer an AC bonus of 1. This is the solution I'm leaning toward. The more I think about this, the more appropriate it seems, especially considering the 2 facts above. I suspect helmets were originally left out of armor class due to the simple fact that they cover a smaller area of the body than a mail shirt, and cannot be moved around at will like a shield. But that still doesn't take into account that people with clubs, swords, crossbows and other instruments of harm are often aiming precisely for your head!

An alternative (based on the assumption I see in many books that a purchased suit of armor typically includes a helmet) is to impose an AC penalty of 1 if the helmet is lost or not worn.

Whichever option, I think it would be appropriate to make helmets a bigger part of the game, both in terms of AC and of a valued piece of adventuring equipment. It also helps open up a whole category of magic item for exploration. And lets you put cool stuff like this in the game:

What do you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Megadungeon Resources

I'm compiling all the Megadungeon oriented articles from Beyond the Black Gate for handy reference:

Megadungeon Design and Philosophy: Part One; Scope, Detail, and Connectivity.

Megadungeon Design and Philosophy: Part Two; Ceilings, Grouping, and Ecology.

Megadungeon Design and Philosophy: Part Three; History, Myth, and Economy.

Episodic Play in Megadungeons: Includes random mission chart.

Megadungeon Links: A nice list of essential links regarding Megadungeons.

Megadungeon Explorer: A new Player Class focused on Megadungeon Exploration.

Megadungeon Equipment: New and unique gear for Megadungeon explorers.

More Megadungeon Equipment.

Megadungeon Monsters: New monsters for your Megadungeon.

Megadungeon Spells: New spells for your Megadungeon.

Megadungeon Doors: Random generators and tips for dungeon doors.

Megadungeon Area Name Generator: Random generators for chambers, rooms, and design inspiration.

Megadungeon Random Trap Disarming Generator: Also useful for opening secret doors!

Megadungeon Mapping - tips, etc.

Red Crystal Caverns - A free sublevel for your Megadungeon.

Megadungeon Super Thread at Dragonsfoot!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Campaign Concept - Sword & Sorcery Baltic

While laying plans to found a new gaming group, I've pondered several interesting campaign concepts, from Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk to a weird science/fantasy Fomalhaut-style setting. One campaign idea I've always thought would be fun is a fantasy version of Europe, set primarily around the Baltic, which provides all the classic fantasy terrains of fjords, mountains, cairn-filled hills, dank fens, ancient forests, etc. My concept for the setting is:

Sword & Sorcery Baltic:

The year is 800AD. Four-hundred years ago, the Mad Emperor, Honorious Caesar, makes a pact with unfathomable ancient beings from beyond to save Rome from conquest by the ravaging barbarian hordes. The Great Seal, the barrier that seperates the physical world from the metaphysical, is broken, and our world is filled with the creatures and sorcery that previously existed only in legend and myth.

Four centuries later, the known world is solidly in the grip of the Dark Age. Northern Europe is broken into small kingdoms and tribal barbarian lands. The Western Mediterranean is firmly in the grip of the immortal Mad Emperor and his priests of the Great Old Ones. In the East, the Shining Empire struggles to keep the spirit of civilization alive from its capitol of Byzantium.

The campaign takes place primarily in the regions surrounding the Baltic Sea, where men survive on the strength of their swordarm, ever respectful of the reality of things that go bump in the night, and the powerful influence of the gods. The characters will explore mysterious islands, hunt down fell beasts of legend, and venture into an Underworld that has become all too real. If they survive to reach the heights of power, perhaps some day they will forge kingdoms of their own, or take on the Mad Emperor himself in hopes of ending the Dark Age.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Item - Linen Armor

Still exploring my interest in unusual protective gear, like the Horo, I've done a little research on ancient Laminated Linen armor. This armor, consisting of layers of tough, organic, linen held together with natural glue, effectively served as a form a Kevlar, deflecting arrows and glancing blows, and had the added benefit of being lighter and cheaper than the brass armors so prevalent in common depictions of the period (pre-common-era Meditteranean cultures). It is also a lot harder to preserve than brass armor, so little remains today but clues in surviving literature, such as the Bible, and art, such as the depiction of Alexander the Great, above. Archaeologists and researchers are beginning to think linen armor, also known as "linothorax", was far more commonly used than previously believed!

Linen Armor (Linothorax) - 30gp
Linen Armor consists of glued layers of tough, light linen formed into a suit covering the shoulders, torso, and upper thighs. It is extremely resilient and lighter than metal armors, giving it the added benefit of allowing more stealthy and/or rapid movement when necessary. Linothorax conveys an armor class of 6.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Building an old-school group

So now that I'm settling into my new position, getting into a routine, I have some breathing room to get back into my writing and, hopefully, gaming. Lamentably, I'm fairly certain my old Wilderlands group will never meet again on any regular basis due to schedule conflicts and time constraints on all the players' parts, so that means its time to found a new group.

Now, the last two long-term groups I was in happened via serendipity it would seem. In one case, I walked into a game store on while a group happened to be playing, sat down and joined them on a lark, and continued to do so for five years or so. The other group came about from a group of boardgamers who felt like trying something different one night (microlite20), and kept doing so, almost unintentionally, on a regular basis, switching over to Swords & Wizardry at some point.

So its been a while since I had to actively promote and/or seek out a group of gamers!

I figured I'd share the process with you, the old school blogosphere.

Step One - Seek out an existing group and join!

This should be the easiest way to get back to gaming, so I spent some time last week trying to locate an existing old-school group to join. I visited 3 local game stores, looking for the traditional pi-board ads, hopeful of having a plethora of old-school groups to choose from.

What was I thinking?

None of the stores even had a pin-board. Does no one do this anymore? Maybe everything is on-line now?

I did some on-line detective work and was able to locate a thriving local community of gamers, 500 plus!. All playing 4E, Pathfinder, 3E, or other games. No old-school D&D at all.


By yesterday, I was pretty sure I would just have to start my own group, meaning I have to a) pick a system to run, and b) find players.

More to come.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quick Hex Contents Generator

Here's a quick random chart to determine the contents of a hex.

Quick Hex Contents Generator (d100)
1. Site of a recent battle
2. Traveling gypsy caravan
3. Forest/grass fire
4. Corpse of a dead messenger
5. Burning farm house
6. Roadside evangelical preacher
7. Group of begging lepers
8. Military encampment
9. Idyllic glade with spring
10. Traveling minstrel
11. Ancient, half-buried statue of warrior
12. Secluded sylvan shrine
13. Seven mossy menhirs
14. Package of hallucinogenics hastily concealed in underbrush
15. Line of breadcrumbs leading off into the distance
16. Nineteen copper coins arranged in a runic design
17. Corpse hanged from nearby tree
18. Military recruiters / press gang
19. Tent selling local ale
20. Mysterious fortune teller
21. Open, seemingly bottomless pit
22. Fog-shrouded ravine
23. Hill-top monument
24. Local underbrush choked with webs
25. Ruined watch-tower
26. Deserted campsite
27. Pile of neatly stacked firewood
28. Abandoned wagon full of grain
29. Giant Ant-Hill
30. Field of cultivated poppies
31. Three blind old men sharing bottle of wine and ribald tales
32. Beekeeper's Field
33. Glass enclosure filled with large eggs
34. Small herd of giant, grazing reptiles
35. Muddy remains of recent flood
36. Field filled with smoking craters
37. Glowing fissure in the earth
38. Ship abandoned in field far from any water
39. Massive flock of ravens
40. Local agricultural festival
41. Long line of marching pilgrims
42. Massive obsidian egg
43. Forest of petrified trees
44. Trio of magpies taunt passersby
45. Golden onion-shaped dome glitters on the horizon
46. A beautiful maiden lies in a apparent trance beside a small pool
47. An ornate carriage with broken axles at the foot of a small bluff
48. The apparition of a notorious sorcerer pleads for succor before fading away.
49. A angry swarm of hornets attack passersby
50. A boulder is inscribed with weird glyphs
51. A small book case seems out of place in the middle of a clearing
52. Mutilated cattle lie scattered around a field
53. A wandering tinker offers his services
54. The four daughters of Farmer Glikrus aggressively seek husbands
55. An abandoned inn fills with noise and light at midnight
56. A bloodstained altar to a dark god in a rocky clearing
57. A lost dog follows the party, tail wagging
58. The corpse of an orc, filled with elvish arrows
59. A riderless horse, saddle dragging behind it, wanders aimlessly
60. A cloud of ghostly blue moths obscures vision
61. An acrid, foul-smelling rain begins to fall
62. An elderly gnome heckles adventurers from the mouth of a cave
63. Nine eagles perch in a dead tree
64. The forty-foot long skeleton of a giant sea-serpent lies exposed after a storm
65. A swarm of birds and small animals flee past the PCs in a panic
66. A small black storm cloud hovers over a cottage
67. Thousands of red fleas deliver painful bites
68. A tree is filled with fruit of unearthly beauty
69. A curvaceous beauty is chained to an ancient stone obelisk
70. Six newly raised cairns line the top of a nearby ridge
71. A dubious temple made of dark glass squats nearby
72. A strange glass dome rises from a small lake
73. The scent of rotting meat hangs in the air
74. 2d4 bedraggled deserters seek employment as sell-swords
75. A bearded madman loudly foretells doom and woe
76. A traveling carnival of exotic beasts and their keepers passes by
77. A lively stream seems to sing in the voices of young maidens
78. The monument of a famed king lies broken and vandalized
79. A shifty wanderer peddles potions, poultices, and amulets
80. A violent explosion miles away shakes the ground and throws ash into the horizon
81. The sun takes upon the horrifying aspect of a dark god for thirteen minutes
82. Four laughing children run past swinging stick-swords
83. Pixies flutter about, begging for wine
84. The image of a great eye is carved into a hillside
85. Several square acres of tall rosebushes surround a lonely tower
86. An ancient sea-floor, filled with shells and teeth, has been exposed by flood.
87. A burned out plantation serves as home for several filthy outcasts
88. A local baron oversees the construction of a folly
89. A bridge crosses a dry stream, a despondent troll lives beneath it
90. Two obese prostitutes seek to ply their trade
91. Two fauns dance around a glade to amuse a weeping dryad
92. Fallen columns betray the ruins of an ancient temple
93. A hedge wizard begs for news of the outside world
94. A wide crater mars the landscape; a pulsing green orb sits at its center
95. Five sodden huts filled with the pained cries of their diseased occupants
96. The statue of maiden, draped in flowers, offers a scene of peace and tranquility
97. A great roc circles high above for several minutes before moving on
98. A swarm of locusts ravages the land for miles around
99. A passing nobleman and his retinue contemptuously toss silver coins at the party
00. A swirling magical gate appears between two ancient dolmen

(cool hexmap from batintheattic, an excellent source of all things hex)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fomalhaut Found!

Fans of Melan's Fomalhaut setting will be pleased to know astronomers have photographed planets orbiting that star. Its only a matter of time before Virgin is sending shuttles to the City of Vultures. The question is: exactly how did Melan know this before everyone else....;)

Click the image above to see Fomalhaut bigger, and click the link above to read more about it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Item: Horo

Saw this bad boy on one of the History channels the other day. Its a silk, cloak-like garment worn by mounted samurai. When the samurai are riding, the silk billows out behind them, hopelessly entangling and deflecting arrows. When tested on the show, only a couple out of ten or so arrows, shot by an expert archer, even pierced the thing, and none did any harm to the rider!

Horo - 10gp
This light silk cloak is worn when mounted, and is often embroidered with the sigil of the wearer. It conveys to its wearer an AC of 2 vs. missile attacks from the rear.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spirits of the Elder Wood

Despite Mankind's best efforts to tame the wilderness that surrounds him, still small knots of Elder woodlands persist, whether deep in the heart of nearby forests, down in secluded ravines, or even stubborn remnants in the heart of otherwise cultivated lands. Many of these enclaves serve as homes and shelters for ancient spirits of the primeval days of yore. While the sages of civilized settlements often deny the existence of such beings, relegating them to the realm of mythology, many rural folk know they still exist, and show respect and make offerings according to the old ways.

Adventurers who venture into Elder woods would do well to show the same respect, lest horrors from a lost age befall them...

Often appearing as 6-inch-tall beautiful elf-like maidens with butterfly-like wings, their appearance is actually illusory. In truth, they are winged, centipede-like creatures of great cunning. Usually acting as servants of more powerful forest spirits, if left to their own devices they are fascinated with the collection of shiny coins, jewels, and baubles, sometimes amassing small fortunes in the boles of ancient trees. They are easily offended by creatures who do not amiably give up a desired treasure, a behavior they consider irredeemably selfish. A good sized swarm of them can strip a humanoid of meat in seconds flat, and their bite is mildly paralytic (save or as slow spell), making it extremely difficult to run away from them!
(HD1d4hp; AC3; atk bite; dmg1+poison; Save:F1)

A Kelgur is a three-foot-tall, vaguely boulder shaped humanoid with stubby legs, large hands, and a single, huge, blue eye that can see through illusions, darkness, or charms of invisibility. The Kelgur speaks in a gravely voice, and can be quite jovial if approached in a respectful manner. It has a great appetite for well-crafted ales, and a love of bawdy songs and jests. Ugly creatures (Cha9 or less), however, offend it greatly and had best make themselves scarce, or cover up . Kelgur are known to keep to hoards of gold nuggets (worth 4d4gp each) and will sometimes gift them to companionable visitors of appealing looks. Kelgur are vastly ancient, and filled with lore from past ages (as Legend Lore).
(HD3+3; AC4; atk 2 fists; dmg 1d6 each; Save:F3)

The Berai are seven immortal tree-spirits. A millennia ago, they were seven virgin sisters who refused to wed a tyrant favored by the gods, choosing instead to remain wedded to their ancient druidic faith. A great curse was placed upon them, and now they transform into trees each day at dawn, until transforming back into beautiful maidens at dusk. They can charm humans at a glance, and take great delight in male company. Nonetheless, none will lay with a man, and if pressed to do so will be roused to anger. They have magical abilities equivalent to a druid of 7th level, and will sometimes help folk with their healing abilities if properly approached. Despite their hands-off policy, they are extremely jealous and will seek revenge upon favored men who do not remain "faithful" to them. If killed, a sprout will form in the spot, and the Berai will be reborn in 1d6 weeks.
(HD6; AC5; atk spell or dagger; dmg 1d4; Save:D7)

The skoultch is a seven-foot-tall, gnarled humanoid with a bizaare mix of plant and animal features. No two skoultch look alike. Skoultch are fascinated by the everyday behaviors of people, and will creep into towns and villages at night to watch or listen to them through open windows and loose doors, sometimes being so bold as to enter dwellings and stand over folk as they sleep. They are extremely fond of dairy products like sweet cream and cheese, and folk who know of them leave such foods outside as an offering of peace. Skoultch are easily startled, and will react violently to such intrusions on their quietude. However, they are fond of children and will never harm one.
(HD4; AC7; atk 2 claws and bite; dmg 1d4x2 and 2d6; Save:F4)

The Gurule is the undead corpse of a soldier lost in the deepest woods, usually having died of exposure, starvation, or predation. They appear as mummified corpses in tattered chain mail, holding batters shields and rusty swords, and their eyes gleam with sickly green light in the darkness. Sometimes entire platoons of these menacing undead wander around, searching for a home that has long since crumbled into history. For clerical turning purposes, they are treated as "wights".
(HD2; AC5; atk sword; dmg 1d8; Save: F2)


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