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Mazes, Martians, Mead

Monthly Archives: November 2012

[Tools] OSR Search

By the way, did anyone already mention the OSR Search to you?

It’s a search engine that searches only Old School Renaissance sources (mostly blogs). So if anyone would like to find if anyone else has already written about a specific topic already (very likely by the way…), it might be interesting to look here first.

Not that it should keep you from writing about the topic, but it might give some insight into what other people have said about that topic before.

Where do all these undead come from?


mausoleum (Photo credit: andrewpaulcarr)

One of the ideas I just was having while thinking about the Wilderlands and their inherent danger was the amount of Undead one might encounter.  Where do all these come from anyway? There is not really a necromancer around everywhere, is there?

No, there isn’t. But what we have is ruins and lost villages, thorps that never had a chance, and the remains from battles long forgotten who never received a proper burial. And even if the dead received a proper burial their people might be gone now, and nobody would take care of their graves anymore.

In a lot of cases it might be that burial rites in a fantasy culture are not so much about giving people some closure about the loss of a loved one, but also to prevent their loved one to come back wrong. If graveyards and other burial places are not taken care of, if the spirits are not satisfied with the care they are given, they might just decide to come back. Alternatively if the empty bodies of the dead are not protected by reverence over time it might be that other, malicious spirits slip in and decide to use the body to fulfill their cravings  and desires.

d10 Why is that Undead around Table

1. Necromancer
2. The stars are right
3. Desecration, intentional
4. Desecration, unintentional
5. The lonely dead
6. Bodyjacker
7. Hell is full
8. Ancient battlefield
9. Wandered off
10. Escaped Slave

Necromancer: he/she is training the art of necromancy, local authorities might offer a small amount to catch the graverobber
The stars are right… well, right enough for some dead to come back at least. The rest of the apocalypse might wait a bit longer, but for tonight the characters might meet 2d6 other undead of the same type around
Desecration, intentional: someone desecrated the gravesite, intentionally. Of course they might not have thought that their actions would make the dead walk again, but who would have thought? The gravesite needs a small ritual or cleansing performed to keep the dead from walking. A cleric might know what to do here.
Desecration, unintentional: someone desecrated the gravesite, unintentionally. “What do you mean our inn is build on an ancient Elvish graveyard?”. Technically a ritual would be needed here as well, but finding out what ritual that might be can be an adventure on it’s own. Turns out the tribe that lived here emigrated to the other side of the country, last century or so…
The lonely dead: nobody took care about the right rites for too long, now the dead feel lonely. So they come out of their graves to see their relatives. And then scold them for being so negligent in their duties. This might be solved by holding some simple rites to appease the dead.
Bodyjacker: these bodies were just lying around without an owner, so something (bad spirits, demons, etc.) decided to use them. Now they either need to be exorcised, or the bodies need to be made unusable
Hell is full, the dead walk the Earth. Oh, well… tonight town is full of them, for no reason at all it seems. But pretty much every more or less decent body (and some of the worse off) are on the street. 1d100 zombies and skeletons
Old battlefield: hundreds of warriors fell here, and nobody had time to bury them all. Now that just pisses off some people. There they died for their cause and now they are left to rot. As a twist on this the adventurers have been hired to lay a certain body to rest, but that one has wandered off in the meantime.
Wandered off. Somewhere in the area is a large tomb/mausoleum/dungeon full of the undead. This one just managed to walk past all the traps and doors into the outside.
Escaped Slave: someone in this area has been using the local dead as a cheap if gruesome workforce.  Now that might be of interest to the local authorities. Or it might be just what people do with the dead in this area.

[Labyrinth Lord] Easy Multiclassing

The only game I found which handled multiclassing in an elegant and simple way was D&D 3.X. And I had my gripes with that as well, the least being that it demanded a complete rewrite of the system and it’s classes to be feasible.
That was… a bit over the top I guess. But well, the game was a success, and despite the bloat rather playable.
It doesn’t work with the older editions though. In the older editions we have the awful concepts of dualclassing and multiclassing, which both kind of work, but are so artificial I wish they wouldn’t. So this is my way of fixing the whole mess for my games. It’s not an easy system for the characters. It punishes people for focussing too much on one career path, but that is actually quite ok I guess. The more someone advances in a class, the harder it is to learn something new. At a certain point it becomes more feasible to just start over again.
Requirements: this should work with race-as-class classes as well, but of course the requirement here is that the character has to be the actual race to take up a race class.

Divergent Classes
Characters can gain levels in up to 2 other classes after they already started a character if they 1) fulfill the requirements and 2) pay XP amounting to the highest level threshold among all the classes. So a character gaining a level in a new class will have to pay XP as if he was gaining a new level in his original class.
The characters uses the best abilities, saving throws, spells, and attack rolls available to him.
[yes, that means if a level 10 fighter wants a level of thief he has to pay 480,000 XP for each level of thief until both his careers are the same level]

Example: William the Wizard is a level 5 magic-user. He travels through the wastelands with his companions, fights quite a bit with strange creatures, and in the evening he lets Fred the Fighter teach him some martial arts. When the time comes to gain a new level William’s player decides that William might need some fighting prowess if he is to survive the wilderness. So he gains a level of Fighter. If he decides to level up his Fighter levels instead of his levels as Magic-User he will continue to pay XP as if he was levelling as a Magic-User, until the cost of the next level of Fighter is higher than that.

Synchronous Classes
Characters whose levels of classes are the same may level both classes together after gaining enough XP for both classes.

Example: William the Wizard is now a Fighter and a Magic-User of level 5. He decides that this is exactly what he is, a fighting mage, and decides to pursue this path of advancement. It’s harder for him now (he has to gain experience for both his careers) but the benefits are larger (he can roll twice for hit points after levelling).

Dual Classing
Characters can change careers and level in another class for the normal cost of advancement from level 1 on. For this the lose all the benefits gained by their previous class (including saving rolls, spells, and hitpoints), as they now focus exclusively on the new class. They gain the old abilities again after they reach the level of their previous class with their new class. After this they can level according to the above rules.

Example: Fred the Fighter learned a lot during his time teaching William. After teaching him a long time he gained some appreciation for the arcane arts. So much actually that he decides to learn magic for himself. When they reach the next city he searches out the local wizard and becomes his apprentice for a while. After a few months the wizard has taught him everything he could teach him, and Fred goes forth, searching for new opportunities to get better in his new craft.

[RPG Music] More RPG Ambiance Music

EVE Online - Caldari Freighters

EVE Online – Caldari Freighters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t really been playing MMORPGs lately, not since I switched over to a Linux system in 2006, and so I am not really current with a whole lot of things here. MMORPGs never really caught my interest that much anyway. The only thing I ever played for longer was The Empire of Martial Heroes, and that one switched off it’s non-Korean servers in 2010. So there is that.

But I have been sickand bound to my bed for two weeks, and during that time I played a lot with my PC. Well, playing in this case was more trying to see if I can get Windows games running on Linux and then losing interest once it works.

I never said I was exactly normal.

Anyway, one of the things I found during that time was that there are a lot of games which put the music from their game online. Maybe for marketing purposes, maybe just as a bonus for fans, but the fun thing is: these things are wonderful for normal roleplaying games as well. Most of them are loopable to some extent, a lot capture the whole fantasy world sound quite effectively, and they are free. What more do we want?

Dungeons and Dragons Online: especially the tavern/bar sounds here are really nice for some unobtrusive background music in bar scenes. There are even different sets of those for different styles of bars. And the rest isn’t bad either. Will definitely use that one.

Star Wars – The Old Republic: made a large part of it’s soundtrack available for free just before their launch. Sounds pretty much like a Star Wars soundtrack should sound like

Eve Online: something more futuristic, synth sounds for space ambience; quite good as well

Lord of the Rings Online: the made the soundtrack available for a while, and it still is online. One of the most impressive ones around actually, I can definitely see me using that one in the next session

Allods Online: this one is a bit strange, as the official website links to a fansite and a torrent because they themselves can’t get to the files themselves. Huh? How is that even possible? Anyway, some nice atmospheric music.

Anarchy Online -Shadowlands and Anarchy Online 2: I don’t know much about these games, but the soundtracks are online and might be useful

Planeshift: well, I wasn’t too impressed the last few times I tried this game. But the soundtrack is quite nice.

[Labyrinth Lord] Thief Skills for everyone!

A while back I was thinking about thief skills in D&D. According to the rules they are just for the Thief class, but how much sense does that make? Oh well, we are talking D&D, so it doesn’t have to make that much sense, but really, why should a normal hobbit not be able to sneak unheard around the troll lair?

Of course a lot of the basic abilities of the classes in D&D are not so much different from each other. The level 1 Fighter is a bit better in fighting and getting hurt. The Magic-User can do some parlour tricks. And the thief is a bit better than average in doing illicit things. So this one is more like guidelines for the times when the fighter in the group wants to sneak, or the cleric wants to sneak off to his date with the elf.

Thief Skills for everyone
Every character can perform thief skills as a level 0 human. Thieves are just a little bit better at these skills in the beginning, and improve this edge over time.
Pick Locks 10%
Find and Remove Traps 10%
Pick Pockets 10%
Move Silently 15%
Climb Walls 50%
Hide in Shadows 10%
Hear Noise 1 in 6

[Tools] Creating soundscapes with Syrinscape

I was looking for some interesting programs a while ago, and this popped up on my radar. I came across it when I was looking for ambient music for my games last year, but right now the creator of the software promises an upcoming release of a new version with loads of new features.

Very well…

Syrinscape is a soundscape program that allows the creation of dynamic soundscapes for RPG games. There are a few of that kind around, but Syrinscape is both free and more or less easy to configure. A soundscape in Syrinscape can be created by dropping the sound effects and music one wants to have in it into a folder and renaming them slightly so they are associated with certain channels in the program. Seems a bit daunting at first, but is not really much work. I decided to create a Tavern soundset yesterday and behold, it’s nearly finished today. So, not really hard to use.

The website offers a few different soundscapes that should give a good point to start from, even though some of them are a bit weird (Battle for example has mostly animal noises, and Bells has…  bells). One of the nicer things about it is that ambient music for the game can be added by simply copying it into the soundscape folder and renaming it. In that way one could actually create nice variant soundscapes by simply replacing the playlist for different locales (e.g. music 1 for the catacombs and music 2 for the orc warrens, while both of them have otherwise the same soundset otherwise in it).

One feature that does not seem to see too much use yet are one-off sound effects, or rather: current soundsets barely have one-off effects in them. The only one that actually has nice ones is the Dungeon set that has interesting things like an alarm bell, fireballs, dragon roars, etc. I think it would be nice to have a certain one-off soundset at hand in a few places though, just to make my players jump when they hear it. The howl of wolves in the wilderness, the cackling of a witch in the  distance,  the sound of footsteps coming from somewhere behind them. Hmm…

Syrinscape (Website)

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The unfortunate name of Hârn

I normally take pride in going against first impressions and looking at the core of things to see what these things actually are worth. A while ago I looked into Hârn as a system and saw a game world that might be a bit too detailed and low key for my tastes, but which had a lot of interesting ideas in it. I still wouldn’t play it. And considering that the only thing I ever heard about it in German RPG media were the reviews in some magazines I don’t think many other Germans would pick it up either. And that despite the fact that the only foreign language translations of the game were into German. The game world would fit quite nicely in that German style of low magic, quasi-historical worlddesign that seems to be so common in the German RPG mainstream.
It’s unfortunate, but hardly surprising with a name like that. The word Harn in German is a formal way to say “Urine”.
I guess not too many people would proudly admit to playing with Hârn products…

[Labyrinth Lord] Achievement System

I was lately thinking if it might be possible to have a bit more metagaming aspects in the development of my campaigns. Yes, I know, metagaming is EVUL! but I thought it might not be a bad fit for something like Labyrinth Lord. The main problem, in my opinion, is that people in the beginning of  a campaign are often given too many options which they don’t really appreciate or even understand. The idea I had was that I would only allow players in a campaign the use of a limited amount of classes, and all further classes have to be earned in play.
This is of course very metagamy. After all it would not be the character which would earn things, but the player. On the other hand this might be a good way to introduce people to a game world first before allowing them to take on characters they don’t have a clue about. At the same time I thought about connecting this to an achievement system that gives other benefits as well (titles and bonuses on reaction rolls), and a variation of the Dark Sun character tree. Labyrinth Lord, and the other OD&D retroclones, might be good for that, considering the amount of PC deaths that might be caused by applying the rules as written. So there might be both a constant need for new characters, as well as a reason to have a system that keeps people interested in the game even when their characters die over time.

Starting Character Options
Race: Human
Class: Fighter, Thief (or Specialist)
Optional (limited, only with special reasons, maybe stats): Priest of local god, Magic-User (Apprentice of NPC  wizard or witch), Hobbit

The Achievement Tree

Players (not characters) start out with only a few possible character options. Some of them are available to everyone (e.g. race: human or class: fighter), others are only of limited availability (e.g. a variation of cleric or magic-user). Further options have to be unlocked over play.
Players can hire minions/henchmen/retainers as usual.
Starting from Level 3 onward a character gains the ability to train 1 protégé in a master/pupil or similar relationship. This character can be rolled up as a separate character according to the usual rules for character generation (limited by the players available choices), or can be taken from the ranks of the retainers following the character already. They count against the character’s count of retainers.
The character gains further protegees on level 7, 12, and 17. These protégés can adventure with the group as retainers/secondary characters, can be used as characters in their own right, or be left at home/on some secondary mission. If the main character snuffs it they will be available as replacement characters, even if left somewhere else entirely, within a reasonable amount of time. The highest ranking replacement character will take on the role of master from that point on (at least until someone manages to raise the former master).
Protegees themselves are limited in protegees, they can only take on one protegee of their own on level 7, that is until either their master is killed or retires. Retirees can be brought back from retirement by the DM’s discretion.

Achievements are awards for certain deeds and situations that reflect in one way or another on the character. Achievements might be rewarded for the successful completion of certain tasks or quests. Some grant titles with appropriate bonuses. Most grant additional XP. All of them are subject to the DM’s wishes for his campaign. He might or might not make these public.
Bonuses might give an option to choose from for the sake gameplay (the second time a player receives a character option bonus it’s basically worthless, so he receives an experience bonus instead)

Participating in the killing of 1 dragon
Bonus: Title “Dragonslayer” +1 reaction roll from lawful folk, 400xp

Friend of Dwarves
Saved the life of at least 5 dwarves
Bonus: Title Friend of Dwarves, character option Dwarf (raceclass) or 100xp

Rescuer of Dwarves
Saved the life of at least 500 dwarves, Friend of Dwarves
Bonus: reaction roll +1 from dwarves, character option Dwarf (race/class) or 500xp

Saviour of Dwarves
Participated in saving a nation of dwarves from extinction, Rescuer of Dwarves
Title: Saviour of Dwarves, reaction roll +3 from all dwarves or 3000xp

Talk of the Town
Came back alive from an adventure
Bonus: 100xp, +1 reaction roll from local townfolk

Talk of the County
Came back alive from 5 different adventure situations, Talk of the Town
Bonus: Bonus 500xp

Local Hero
Reached level 3, Talk of the County
Bonus: 1000xp, title “Hero”

Arcane Scholar
Studied at an academy for wizards for at least one semester of courses (6 months)
Bonus: 1 spell of the academy’s specialisation, character option magic-user (specific Academy)

Magister Arcanis
Arcane Scholar, at least level 5 MU, added at least 1 completely new or 3 previously lost/unknown spells to the repertoire of the academy
Bonus: Title “Wizard/Sorceress”

Studied with an illusionist for at least 3 months
Bonus: 1 spell of the school of illusion, character option Illusionist


Studied the methods of necromancy with an appropriate teacher
Bonus: 1 spell of the school necromancy, character option Necromancer


Hmm… I was reading up on Gamma World (because I was thinking about doing some post-apocalyptic one-shot at one point) and came across this on Grognardia:

Like many old school rulebooks, Gamma World provides us with a transcript of play involving five PCs and the referee. That in itself is noteworthy, since it suggests that, even by 1978, the typical number of players had shrunk considerably since the early days of the hobby. Nevertheless, that party of five still has a “caller” who acts as the go-between for the players as they interact with the referee. There is no separate “mapper,” this being part of the caller’s job, though it’s noted that the two roles could have been split.

I never heard about callers before. This never really came up in any of the games I was playing. I guess it makes more sense with the larger group sizes that were usual in many earlier games. Having a someone  between DM and players might help facilitate the whole process of decision making. On the other hand it might make it hard for individuals to do stuff themselves.

I guess it really might be best for larger groups, where the flood of different ideas soon can fry my brain. Of course I haven’t been playing larger groups than 5 in the last 8 years or so, so the whole point might be moot as long as I don’t find some convention game here that wants to play in English.

But as a concept it actually might be quite nice: someone who actually relates the decisions for the whole group, not for the single characters themselves, but what the group is doing.

“We attack the merchants.”

It might make the whole thing a little bit easier to follow if only one of the people there can say what the group is going to do at any one point. Actualy, that still might allow others to get out of line…

“I attack the merchants.”
 “Wait, what?!”

… but at least it doesn’t drag the whole group into it. In the end it might be the fine distinction  between we and I that might make this a good thing to have. Hmmm… let’s think about that.