Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Monthly Archives: January 2013

[Labyrinth Lord] The Unseen Shadow

I was going to use this in the PBEM game I was doing right now.

The Unseen Shadow
A strange phenomena appears to you as you investigate the workbench in the old forgotten dwarven smithy: situated in the middle of the large stone table, just over the edge, is a sword’s handle that by all means appears to be levitating in thin air, with a finger’s breadth of air between itself and the bench. As you investigate further it appears to be a whole longsword invisible to the eye, except for the handle and a barely noticeable disturbance of light where the blade should be.
The invisible blade is a weapon of duergar manufacture made as a tribute to the inhabitants to the castle above the dungeon. This one seems to have been forgotten or lost when the workmen of the smithy were driven off or killed. The blade is invisible (except via magic) and attacks as a +2 weapon. A small engraving in dwarven runes only traceable via touch proclaims this to be the “Unseen Shadow”.

This one is actually based, believe it or not, on a local legend from my home village. Or at least on something that claimed to be a local legend from my area.
I used to work in a cave that was situated right under a former castle/nowadays church, that had a genuine secret passage through parts of the cave.
We cave guides used to dig local history a lot (and all of us were kind of involved in it) and during one of my many exploits into the legends of the region I came upon an interesting book on local legends that claimed (in not even half a paragraph) that the existence of the secret passage (and the castle’s track record of failed sieges) was veiled by fabricated legends about a pact between the lords of the castle and the dwarves from under the hill. Obviously the dwarves gave the castle’s owners supplies and invisible swords.
That kind of stuck with me, mostly because it sounded so D&D to me, and because I grew up in the place and never had heard that story before, ever. I still think the author of that book might have totally fabricated the legend himself (not an unknown occurrence in local history) or heard it from someone with a very vivid imagination and some interest in old Germanic legends. Considering the cave was just 30km from Bayreuth, and with that from the place of the Wagner festival, I blame the influence of the Wagneranians.

Poker Chip Ideas

English: Poker Chips

English: Poker Chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bennies

The idea comes from Savage Worlds, a benny is a single token that can be exchanged at one point during the game for a certain effect. Every player (GM included) gains a certain amount of bennies per session. In my game I was thinking about giving it the ability to 1. soak damage for one attack 2. change 1 1 critically failed check into a normal failure 3. Reroll a check and keep the better. 4. Make a normal attack into a +1 attack (including counting it as magical/blessed) The GM has it’s own pool of Bennies and may use them for Monsters and NPCs, or award them to players for especially cool moments

Hit Points

I was thinking about using poker chips for these. Every player has an amount of chips in the size of his/her hp. When damage happens they lose those until they reach 0. Alternatively the GM hands out red chips for wounds. The kobold hits? Here’s three chips. This actually might work together. With the rules I have in place to soak damage (Shields shall be splintered! and maybe the Bennies from above) I might just assign the red chips, and if the character doesn’t soak the damage next round the amount of red chips gets taken from the hp chips.

Mana

The idea also would work with spell points or, if that ever happens in my games, power points. I guess it would be easy to keep track of those with chips. Of course I use straight Vancian magic, so most likely not.

Experience Points

Here’s an interesting idea: have the players assign the XP in the end. Just drop a load of chips with the right amount on the table and tell them they can divide the XP among themselves. This actually might be useful even during the game. Character does something freaking awesome? Have an xp chip.

[Labyrinth Lord] Chocobo

Chocobo

Chocobo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chocobo (Riding Bird)

No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d20+4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60’ (30’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2 +4
Attacks: 1 (bite 1d8+2 or claw 1d6+2)
Damage: 1d4+2 or special
Save: TH4
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
Large birds looking like a cross of a giant chicken and an ostrich. With long necks and intelligent eyes they can be found in flocks in plains or isolated forests.
They can run quicker than any other bird, even when carrying an armored man.
On average 7 feet tall and about 400 pound heavy they often react to paladins’ call for mounts or Summon Nature’s Ally III
Black Riding Birds: rare variant that can be bred by selective breeding of other variations. They also have a fly speed of 90″

I have been playing Final Fantasy IX for the last two weeks or so. My mind might be affected negatively. On the other hand: this is not a first. There was an article on Chocobos in some old issue of Dragon Magazine.

[Labyrinth Lord] Spellslot System

Spellslot System (aka The Even-more-Vancian-and-a-bit-Pratchettian System)

When Magic users gain experience they gain a better understanding for the workings of magic and wizardry. Their mind becomes more capable of holding more and more spells of smaller sizes, or spells of larger size.

Magic users basically can exchange the spells they have memorized in between levels in a ratio of 2:1, meaning two spells of a lower level are worth 1 spell of the next higher level, and the other way around. This can also be used over multiple spell levels.

Example: So, the sorceress Linda (2nd level) just found a scroll with a second level spell and dutifully copies it into her spellbook. The next day she and her companions are in an area in which this spell might come in handy, so she does not memorize her two first level spells, but one 2nd level one instead.

Spells are fickle beings, a sort of memetic daemon that exists only to fulfill it’s use and then disappears (which is why magic users have to relearn their spells every time they have cast them). They also are a bit jealous of other spells and want to be treated right. A magic user can only ever safely learn a single spell once a day (so only one of each kind of spell) and it might feel cramped if the magic user doesn’t have a slot for this kind of spell yet. If this is the case the magic user is in Overcast state, which is a bit like carrying around an unsecured weapon. If the spellcaster fails any save during this time or loses hitpoints 1d4 spells are released randomly. If the fail is critical then all the spells are randomly released. In this case the GM decides what exactly happens.

Example: Linda prepared a web spell that was over her limit. The she and her companions are surprised by a couple of crafty kobolds shooting darts at them. The wound was only small, but smarted like hell.

“Ouch!” says Linda and loses concentration. All of a sudden glibbery white mass is sprouting all around her and her companions and keeps them from moving. Now they can hear the hollering and whistling of the kobolds as they prepare another volley of darts, and there is no way to run from them…

Random Spell Release Table

  1. all the spells just disappear in an explosion of shining light *poof*
  1. all the spells hit the spellcaster and everybody around (both friends and enemies), random determination of who gets hit by what
  1. half the spells hit everybody, the rest just disappears without any effect
  1. the spells cause 1d6 imps to appear out of thin air. They will hang around for another 1d6 hours and play the most imaginative and dangerous pranks possible
  1. the spells manifest themselves as magic daemons and linger around
  1. The spells manifest themselves as magic daemones and wander off somewhere else

Spell

This small creature looks like a whirl of energy, somehow similar to the spell it technically is. It gets bigger with spell level and can be baited onto a piece of paper and pergament, creating a scroll, or captured in a jar. If it attacks it will just use the spell it is made of as an attack and disappear into nothing.

My Frankenstein

I was not idle the last few weeks, I was just busy with other things and in places that didn’t have a good internet connection for blogging. Christmas, and work, and other stuff kept on interfering with that. I still worked on my own rules compendium. I renamed it from Gonzo to Frankenstein, because by now it feels less like improvised mayhem, and more like a carefully crafted body made out of parts of other bodies. It still looks weird.

At it’s core it still is OD&D (well, Labyrinth Lord), although the surrounding elements have changed. There is a certain mechanical orthodoxy that I like about the game, and I don’t want to change too much. I want this to be still recognizable as based on OD&D, that is why so far I tried to get around things like spell points or Ascending AC, both of which I find more natural and easier to handle. I did introduce Delta’s Target20 mechanism and a corresponding Fighting Ability score though, mostly because I find a single formula easier than looking up stuff in the tables. This, by the way, is also one of the reasons why no ascending AC so far: the Target20 mechanism uses descending AC beautifully. Also I would have to change ACs on all my monster statistics.
So far I have mostly added to the whole thing (classes, races, spells), purged a few things I did not like (alignments and a few spells connected with them), and then found a lot of optional rules that might come in handy once in a while. True, that does go against the idea of “Simplicity” and “Rulings instead of Rules”, but I try to keep them simple and mostly collect mini-games/subsystems for the sake of variety and ease of use.
That is what I am actually mostly going for: ease of use. Because I am the one editing this system, I slowly gain a good understanding of what different parts really do.

The chapter on combat gained a few more interesting bits, basic rules on how rule some specific combat situations, which all are just variations on a theme (it all boils down to “you get that bonus if you attack with that minus”). I know that this might keep people from really improvising in a battle, but they might show people what is possible.
It’s not like the whole thing is too long anyway. I cut down a lot of superflous stuff, made a few things easier to understand, and so on. The largest part of the whole thing right now is actually the endless lists of spells and psionic powers. I didn’t really want to cut too many of them  because I like variety. The amount of spells is a large part of the game in any case, and the characters don’t really need to read more than the ones they can actually use anyway.

I don’t want to allow players to gain more than a few whimsy spells from their guild, or whatever place they buy spells at. They will either have to research spells or find them on scrolls during the adventure. What sort of a wizards’ guild would just give out what amounts to spells of mass destruction to any PC just waltzing in anyway?

Anyway, so far the largest parts that changed are:

1. there now are 5 base classes that can be played by anyone without requirement and the psion is one of them, all other classes need requirements and/or special DM allowance

2. combat has become easier and has more options, the tables were replaced with a unified system which did not actually change anything mechanically

3. race-as-class now are called paragon classes (yeah, I stole that from 3.5) and cannot advance higher than a specific point, this doesn’t matter too much as multi- and dualclassing is available for all characters. Race/Class combinations are the normal way. I just noticed that my players all had played Baldur’s Gate before and had brought some ideas from there.

4. I reinstated the typical AD&D spell names

Still working on the whole thing. We finally might manage to play again next Saturday, so there it might get tested.

The Hobbit: Observations

So, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey… too good to really be bad, too sedate and full of padding to really be good. Comes out as mediocre. Fans of the LOTR movies might like it. I didn’t like the movies so much even though I loved the books, so this one left my kind of cold as well. Some observations:

1. I don’t think there was ever a better presentation of dwarves in film than this one. These dwarves are earnest and melancholic, but also able to lose themselves in food, drink, and song. And nearly all the actors were chosen perfectly for their roles.

2. Radagast the Brown has, if I remember correctly, about 4 pages in the whole of the Hobbit, LOTR, and Unfinished Tales. You might not think so when seeing this here. On the one hand I am a fan of Sylvester McCoy and like him in every role for the  sheer presence he manages to show, on the other hand this was basically a Doctor Who/Hobbit crossover.

3. A rabbit sled. A rabbit sled without snow. A rabbit sled without snow that can outrun wargs. Brain hurts.

4. Martin Freeman is perfect for his role, although I slowly suspect he just always plays the same role. His Bilbo is kinda close to his Watson. And come to think of it: his Arthur Dent as well. Also: why always book adaptions?

5. They are now making three movies out of the book. This movie was as long as one of the LOTR movies. There was a lot of padding and sedate moments involved. A lot of padding. All of the padding was somehow grounded in the writings of Tolkien, but it felt kinda odd to have flashback after flashback to what happened back then, whenever.

6. 3D needs to die. We weren’t even in a 3D showing. Me and my colleagues decided to go to a 2D showing because we didn’t want to wear the 3D glasses over our normal glasses. Did it help? Well, every time there was a scene that showed something that might look absolutely AMAZING in the 3D version the whole picture blurred and we saw, basically, just some shapes. So 3D is even ruining movies when you watch them in 2D. Not that that was a surprise. You know these stupid scenes when they tried to show how awesome their CGI was in the early 90s? They do the same things with 3D right now, only people watching it in 2D don’t even see it. They notice that something awesome is happening though. After all the picture just got blurry and they don’t see what’s going on right now.

Bonus: for some reason the cinema we were at found it necessary to show two different trailers for “The Impossible”. The “extraordinary true story” about a group of rich and very white tourists who experience the 2004 tsunami. Seeing it once made me cringe, seeing the second trailer I wanted to puke and sign a petition barring the leeches responsible for this piece of shit from ever making a movie again.