Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Warg Hound. Sit, stay, fetch my pipe and broad sword. Good boy, have a goblin.

Warg Hound.

Frequency: Very Rare
No. appearing: 1-4
Armor Class: 5, or by armor type.
Move: 18",(180 feet per round), 16" if armored.
Hit Dice: 5
% in Lair: 40% (kennel)
Treasure Type: nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 2-12 (bite)
Special Attacks: Savage or Hold, see below.
Special Defenses: Game, see below.
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Lawful Good
Size: L, (5 feet at the shoulder, 400 lbs)
Psionic Ability: Nil

As normal wolf hounds were bred to fight wolves, so has the warg hound been bred to combat wargs. It is assumed that magic of some sort played a role in the creation of these mighty dogs, but the facts of their origin are lost in the past.

The greater size, strength, and also the malevolent cunning of wargs required the creation of a dog of heroic stature and unrelenting nature. Warg hounds are loyal to the point of self sacrifice, obedient and eager to do battle with the enemies of their masters.

They are very intelligent dogs, and learn to work with men and horses in war. They are often armored in boiled leather with studs or metal plate, depending on the situation.

When used in hunting wargs or other unnaturally large or powerful creatures, such as owlbears, or the black boar of the forest, the dogs employ tactics specific to each creature.
Wargs will be run until exhausted, then held until the hunters arrive and dispatch it. An owlbear will be harried from many sides until worn down. The dogs will not allow it to choose a single target for its fury, instead alternating attacks from all sides.

Warg hounds are only found in areas where there is great need of them. The cost of housing, training, and feeding a dog the size of a cart pony are such that only warlike border lords, and boundary chieftains will maintain them.

If a warg hound hits successfully on it's first attack, the second round it will automatically Savage a man-sized or smaller target, vigorously shaking the victim for the same amount of damage as it's initial bite caused.

A larger than man-sized target the dog will Hold on a successful hit, gripping an extremity with iron determination in its powerful jaws. This will slow the targets movement rate by half. If a second Warg hound also successfully hits and Holds, the target is stopped completely, and easily killed by hunters or a third warg hound.

A warg hound is considered, Game, meaning it never needs to check morale and will not retreat or abandon other dogs or humans no matter the enemy faced. Also, a warg hound will continue to fight down to -10 hit points before death.

A warg hound is considered Lawful, in the sense that it is absolutely obedient to its master's commands. The great dogs crave purpose and order. The warg hounds are considered to be Good in that they are protective of humans and especially vigilant around children.

Warg hounds are bred to work, and not to a standard, so though they generally are short, or wire haired, they may be of any color or pattern. Most often, the warg hounds of the north are brindle, while those of the south are white.

The top pic is a Presa Canario, the the bottom is a trio of Dogo Argentino holding a wild boar.
These are fairly recently created breeds, purposely designed for hunting large and dangerous animals.

The idea for the Warg Hound popped into my head a couple days ago. It just seemed logical that people faced with extraordinary threats would created extraordinary responses to deal with them. I've been reading all the Tolkien talk about the blogosphere lately and the Professor's Wargs were one of those things that made an impression on me as young grognard.

So, I was sitting on the couch, watching the Dog Whisperer with the Pupster, my pitbull/labrador mix and Caesar got himself bitten by a big German Shepherd. The Pupster woofed, cause he likes to hear Caesar's voice, even if he doesn't learn much from the show.
That's when I thought, hmmm, in a game world, people would have to have some way of dealing with wargs and owlbears and such when there aren't any PCs around to save them. How do real world people deal with real world wolves and bears in a medieval setting? Big Dogs!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Insertable Encounters #1: Captain Yurik needs all hands.

Although the fishing is rich in the Bay of Ceol, the fishers of the coast dare not to cast their nets beneath its murky waters. They speak of the matter to none, but know well that another sets his lures there, though he seeks men, and not fish.

Sunk deep below the choppy green water of the bay lies the ship of Yurik Blacktooth, once the most feared pirate of the coast. Few now remember the sight of his red sails on the horizon, or the terror that rolled before him. It is said that finally Yurik descended into such depravity that the sea itself reached up and sank his vessel to end his blasphemies. What act brought down the curse, or what power the pirate offended is a secret known to none now living.

What the fishermen will tell, should their closely held confidence be won, is that Yurik died, and yet he lives. He is seen on rare occasions, walking across the bottom of the bay, or stalking those who come near to the shore. The fishermen say that the pirate captain is cursed to remain below the waves and may not leave the confines of the bay until such time as he has gathered a new crew to man his ship.
In places near the shore, the gleam of gold may sometimes be discerned upon the seafloor. Though they are poor, the fisher folk let the treasure lie untouched; for they know that Yurik lurks nearby, waiting to seize any who would venture into the water.

Yurik Blacktooth, Unique undead, AC: 2, HD: 8, (64 hps), MV: 10”,(100 feet), NO.of Attacks/Damage: 2/1d10, Special: Drowning Touch.

Captain Yurik is an undead creature in a category of his own. He still appears to be a living man, though fish-pale and hungry eyed. His curse prevents him from leaving the water, or extending any part of himself above the waves. In order to draw victims within his grasp, Yurik has made tempting heaps of golden coins and treasure in shallow, (8’-12’ deep), water near the shore. He stays just out of sight in the hazy depths, eager to seize and slay any whose greed overcomes their caution.

Yurik will always concentrate his attacks on a single target. If he successfully hits with both of his attacks, then as well as the given damage, the victim must Save (VS Spell), or drown instantly.

If a drowned victim is rescued from the unliving pirates grip within 6 rounds, he can be resuscitated by clerical magic such as Heal, or Cure Heavy Wounds.
Yurik is no mindless undead, he will fight with a weapon if need be, but prefers to kill using his Drowning Touch if at all possible. His victims must be slain in this manner if they are to be of use to him in breaking his curse.

All those which Yurik slays, he will then bear back to the wreck of his ship. There they are reanimated as sea zombies and bound to the service of the remorseless raider.
When the day comes he has gathered a full crew complement, the ship will rise again to the surface, and Yurik will be free to leave the bay and resume his life of piracy.
Or rather, his unlife. Nothing will lift the whole of his curse. Only final and total destruction will end Yurik Blacktooth’s reign of terror.

* I'm going to put up one shot encounters like this that will be insertable in any game with a bit of willing modification on the part of the DM. I'm leaving them suggestive, but not completely nailed down, so that you can fill in or change things to suite your game world and style of play.

Captain Yurik was inspired by the pic at the top, of course. It's an illustration by the Mighty Howard Pyle and from his Book of Pirates, 1902. Do some image searching if you love classic pirate illustration, only maybe Frank Schoonover came close to Pyle in the great pirate art department.
Heh... pirate art department. "Arhhh! Today class, we be study'n impressionism, drink up me hearties and it'll be makin more sense tah yeh."

I found a bottle of jagermiester in the back of the fridge this evening. Buried treasure me lads, yo ho!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ewart Oakeshott assures me that variable weapon damage is ok.

Ewart Oakeshott, 1916-2002 was and is one of my favorite authorities on the medieval sword. It was Oakeshotts sword typology which really made clear to me the great variety of design and purpose of medieval European swords.

It was Oakeshott who refocused the attention of academia and collectors on the blade itself, instead of merely the swords furniture. Previous studies of swords tended to pay more attention to guards, hilts,and pommels than they did to the blade.
The blade is the sword, however. Oakeshott recognized the sword as a tool designed to perform a function, rather than a totem of war, or a ceremonial showpiece.

Oakeshott's typology concerns the blades shape, length, cross section, and structural design, and groups blades in families of related designs that show how the weapons evolved to overcome the improving defences they faced.
There has always been an arms race, it just used to be slower and more subtle.

Modern sensibilities tend to focus on the flashy weapons of kings and princes. Gold plated hilts and gem stone pommels are what you see in movies and fantasy art, along with ridiculously huge blades with extraneous flairs and curves that no man could actually lift, let alone use in melee.
That sort of thing disrupts my belief in the game world. I haven't any problem accepting a thousand pound, fire-breathing reptilian monster in a fantasy world. I suppose that's because it's not really much of a jump from dinosaurs to dragons.
A twenty pound sword however, makes me roll my eyes. I split alot of wood, with a 6 pound maul and a double bit axe. I play around some with the swords in my own collection, the largest of which is just over 4 pounds, and a two-hander. Actually using anything that weighs more than 4 pounds in melee combat is beyond the capabilities of most humans.

A melee weapon will be as heavy as it must to perform it's function, and no heavier. Speed in combat is more telling than force, and if you use a weapon that is so large it slows your attack, you will be killed by the guy who uses a less clumsy and faster killing tool.

So much for the real world.

In the Original Edition of The Game all weapons did D6 damage and many aficionados of OD&D and it's retro-clone, Swords&Wizardry use this system. It's fast, and straight forward and streamlines combat to keep the action moving quickly. From the stand point of game rules, it's eminently sensible and is in keeping with the Old School philosophy of rules light gaming.

These are all things I'm in favor of, but I'm an AD&D guy at heart, and I have no problem with variable weapon damage. I prefer the idea in fact. I'm willing to spend the extra few seconds to check a weapons damage rating if I don't already know it.

In an ideal situation, a dagger can kill as easily as a two handed sword, certainly. A single deep thrust from a six inch blade will let the life out of an opponent as surely as would loosing their head to the mighty swing of a four foot blade.

This ideal situation is something that almost never occurs in life though. If you were in a actual melee situation, I think I'm safe in assuming you'd rather be the one with the two handed sword and not the guy with the dagger. This is what I think the variable weapon damage accurately reflects.

Since AD&D/OD&D combat is abstract in nature, the difference in weapon damage is the difference in the potential harm the weapon can cause. Either the dagger doing d4 damage, or the two-handed sword doing 1d10 damage could kill with one blow, but the sword is more likely to do so.

At least at low level, where The Game is most true to life. I've only once had a character make it past 10th level myself. I just prefer low level gaming, it's more thrilling I think.

I've pasted in a few illustrations of portions of Oakeshott's sword typology from These are just a few of the types covered in the full typology. There are sub-types within most categories. The typology covers viking age to renaissance sword types.

For some reason I don't understand, blogger is not allowing me to cut and paste links tonight.

So, you'll have to type these in for yourself if you would like to read more on the web about Ewart Oakeshott and his work. has and excellent bio of the man, and a type by type example of the swords that make up the typology. There is also a wealth of other arms and armor related information if you're like me, a DM who dwells on that sort of thing. will take you to the Oakeshott Institute. The Institute houses Oakeshott's own sword collection and works to expand on his research.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wyrd Greyhawk. Concerning Raise Dead, they don't come back the same.

James over at Grognardia just put up an interesting post on his concerns about Raise Dead in his Dwimmermount campaign.
There's always been an interesting back and forth on Raise Dead, and it's effect on the play experience. Does it make the game less exciting and intense? Does it lessen the sting of death, since you can bring your PC back from the grave and soldier on? Is it contrary to the Sword&Sorcery foundation of the game?

There's plenty to say, pro and con on allowing the recovery of PCs from death. And I'm sure you've probably already chewed this over yourselves, and read all the arguments, so I'm just going to share what I do for Wyrd Greyhawk.

Raise Dead is not a spell or power that I allow Player Characters.
Only the most puissant of NPC Clerics, those with the ear of their god, are able to return the dead to life.

PCs who wish to raise a dead comrade will have to present their case to such a personage with care, and it will certainly not be cheap. In fact, it's likely to beggar them, or put them in the debt of the Cleric or his church to a great extent.
They may be tasked for a time, or for a set number of services to pay off the debt if they can't produce the wealth in coin or treasure.
There isn't a drive-up window for bringing the dead back from the grave, it's an event of divine gravity for the cleric and not considered lightly.

It's also not a Get-Out-Of-Death Free Card for the PC.

A PC raised from the dead will undergo a forced alignment change to match that of the Cleric, (and his god),who raised him. This will almost certainly change the PC's personality, and a Player has to be willing to go this route with the character if he wants to have him raised.

If the PC's new alignment is in conflict with his old class, he will be forced to adopt a new class that is acceptable. There is a 25% chance that the PC will experience a revelation and wish to become a cleric of the god who provided the divine power to raise him in any case. Even a shiftless murderer of a thief may find himself a,"born again believer" after tasting death.

If not, then the new class is treated as if dealing with a Dual Class Character under the AD&D rules. A PC who doesn't become a follower of the raising god is free to choose a new class if he likes, so long as it doesn't conflict with his new alignment.
The raised PC keeps his hit points, less a 10% penalty for having been DEAD, but starts over as a 1st level PC of the new class.

If the players are the type who just see a PC as a playing piece, they likely won't bother with raise dead or resurrection. They'll just roll up a new PC and Game-On. If they're the type who like to immerse themselves in the character, they'll likely enjoy the challenge of playing an altered version of their PC.


Raise Dead is not as big of a game-changer any more. The death of the PC isn't a trivial thing or a speed bump in PC advancement. In a sense, the original PC is still dead, and only players who really want that PC back in whatever form will go to all the trouble of getting him raised, since it will have an effect on the direction of the campaign.

That's what I do. Tah-Da!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wyrd Greyhawk. Armored wizard, no. Well, maybe a little.

When I make decisions about how I'm going to house rule The Game, it primarily setting specific. And it's not usually about balance in the rule set itself, it's about simulating in as realistic a manner as I can, the conditions of life in the game world.
I'm still not clear on the accepted definitions of simulationist, gamist, narativist, etc... It seems that everyone operates from their own definitions here, and the whole things seems to vague for me to argue about.
I really need firm footing for me to bother with discussion, and until somebody publishes a Websters for Gaming, all I feel confident in doing is expressing opinion, and explaining why I hold it as best I can.
Most of the arguments I read online boil down to differences in definition, as often as they do differences in philosophies.

So, Armored Wizard.

Not for Wyrd Greyhawk, with few exceptions.
Of course, there is the game balance consideration that you don't want a character class with access to powerful magic dominating the game and over shadowing all the other classes. Armoring a wizard turns him into a magic tank and if you want your players to work together, it's best not to let any one of them have too much power.

My view of magic use, at least in Wyrd Greyhawk, is that it's a skill and an art that is developed slowly over time and requires enormous devotion and concentration to master.
Magic use is not easy, and very few can learn to do it at all. A magic-user, of whatever stripe, can not afford to spend the time to learn many other skills if he ever wants to advance in magic use.

In addition to the fact that large amounts of iron in close proximity affect the ease of magic use, essentially acting as a grounding connection for the arcane currents the magic user must draw into himself during casting, wearing and moving in heavy metal armor is as much of a skill as wielding a sword, and this is a skill a magic-user has no time to master.
Metal armor drags on the limbs, it requires a great deal of physical energy to move in for any length of time. It requires time and effort to get into and out of, and to maintain. It costs a great deal of coin to purchase and repair.
These are all costs the magic-user can't afford to bear if he intends to increase his skill at magic use.
A wizard in Wyrd Greyhawk isn't going to wear chainmail any more than a surgeon would in the operating room, or a lawyer would in court. It's not a tool of his trade, and would really only get in the way.
You could wear a suit of armor while mowing the lawn, or fixing a computer, but it would make your job a lot more difficult and if it's your job to fix computers, you don't need to wear a lot of steel to turn sword blows. If a magic-user finds himself in a position where wearing armor is the only way he can survive, he's a crappy magic-user and is advertising his lack of magical talent.

That being said, I have some exceptions.

Specialist magic-users, like the Alchaemist and the Viviomancer, I allow to wear soft leather, (AC 9,AC 8 with studs), leather equal to a motorcycle jacket in protective quality. I let specialists do this on the assumption that their tight focus on a small area of magic doesn't require of them the all consuming concentration more encompassing spell work does.

The second exception is for NPC magic-users of Imperial Suel blood lines. The aristocracy of the ancient Suel Empire was steeped in sorcery for thousands of years. They deliberately engaged in an incestuous program of arcane eugenics for centuries in order to increase the power of their wizardry. They trained in martial arts alongside the eldritch. The result of this is that humans of Imperial Suel blood function as fighter/magic-users without any penalty.
This branch of the Suel race isn't open to PCs though. I use them solely as antagonists and NPCs. They are extremely few in number now, and most of them are quite mad, as well as evil beyond redemption.

I do let magic-users carry and use swords, but there is a catch here too.
Again, swordsmanship is a skill the magic-user will not have time or energy to spare to learn, so, a magic-user can only employ a sword in most basic manner.
As far as the rules go, this means that no matter the magic-user's level, he always attacks with the sword as a first level magic-user. No advancement in skill is possible.
This doesn't apply to traditional magic-user weapons like the dagger or staff. The magic-user's chance to hit with them improves with level advancement as normal.
I'm operating from the assumption that the traditionally allowed weapons of the magic-user class are actually used as aids in learning magic when the magic-user is a young apprentice.
There's nothing written in the books that says so, but I find it a convenient rationalization.

And that's good enough for me. Heh...

Now this only applies to my version of Greyhawk, mind you. In other settings I could easily change my rationalizations to make the facts of magic use fit the game world.

I would have no problems with armored wizards in a more magic-rich environment. Wyrd Greyhawk is low magic, earthy and desperate. On Carcosa, or even maybe the Forgotten Realms, I'd be more free-wheeling, maybe.
If the classes available to players were restricted to just magic-user,and fighter, or if the world didn't have distinct classes and each PC was built from the ground up, I'd be more open to the armored magic-user.
But then again, that's moving far afield of AD&D, and I wouldn't stay there too long.
I try other systems, but I always come back to my foundation, I am Old Guard after all.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

100 Minor Ill Sendings. Let the punishment fit the crime.

100 Ill Sendings.

A list of minor, unpleasant, malevolent, and inconveniencing random events.

On occasion, Player Characters may commit infractions, of alignment, of their religion, of the sensibilities of eldritch creatures, or of the tenets of their own philosophy. These actions will draw down upon them, a rebuke, or correction, by the Gods, or the spirits, or Fate, which is justly deserved.
This is a listing of small unpleasantries which may be visited upon blasphemers, reckless alignment violators, disregarders of Karma, or other unwise transgressors.
This list is meant to add spice and atmosphere to the game without inflicting serious play penalties on the characters.

It is more conducive to supporting the feeling of immersion in the game world by having the characters humorously bedeviled by minor irritants and afflictions, than it is to have the player become annoyed by greater than necessary punishments. A game master, who is too often, too heavy handed, will soon have no game to master.
The corollary of this axiom is that, the game master who does not judiciously enforce the consequences of such verisimilitude violations, risks losing the enjoyable suspension of disbelief and investment in the reality of the game world which makes the best play experiences possible.

Should the player make the connection between his actions and the ill sending, and take steps to make amends, the Game Master should immediately rescind the punishment.

The Game Master may pick an ill sending which seems fitting for the transgression, or a pair of ten-sided dice may be rolled to choose one at random.

The Gods are vindictive and fickle, Fate does as she will, and the spirits are not mocked. Roll the bones and let wrong-doers taste of their just desserts.

1. Temporary loss of sight in one eye. Lack of depth perception causes a -2 to hit penalty for 1d4 days.

2. A painful boil appears on the transgressors back-side. The PC is unable to ride a horse, or sit in a chair until it is lanced, or healed by a cleric.

3. PC bites his own tongue. It will be difficult to understand his speech for 1d4 days. Spell casting may be impaired.

4. PC stubs his toes severely. His movement rate is decreased by 1/3 for 1d4 days.

5. Sharp earache. Hearing reduced on one side for 1d4 days. This may well increase the chance of the PC being surprised in some situations.

6. PC runs into object, he suffers a black eye for 1d4 days.

7. PC develops sudden thirst for alcohol. Must Save vs. Spell, or drink themselves into a stupor at the first opportunity.

8. PC will be kicked by next horse or mule encountered. No damage taken, however, the PC will be knocked flat and stunned for 1d4 rounds.

9. The stitching fails on the PCs foot gear. Sole and heel on one boot or shoe falls off.

10. Pinkeye, PC suffers -4 to charisma for 1d4 days.

11. Severe, unmanageable flatulence for 1d4 days. PC will not be able to hide from creatures which track by scent, or sound.

12. PC loses the power of speech and may only make animal noises for 1d12 turns.

13. The next time the PC raises a glass, or any drinking vessel, it will shatter and spill its contents.

14. PC experiences a momentary feeling of intense shame.

15. PC suffers a sudden break out of severe acne. Lack of repentance may result in scars.

16. PC develops violent allergy to leather.

17. Anything the PC eats for the next 1d4 days will taste only of ashes.

18. PC becomes color-blind for 1d4 days and perceives only black, white, and shades of grey.

19. PC’s nostrils filled with the scent of moist ordure for 1d4 days.

20. PC becomes obsessed with collecting small, non-valuable objects, such as stones, feathers, sticks, etc. Condition lasts for 1d4 days.

21. For 1d4 days, normal fires gutter and go out if PC comes within ten feet of them.

22. PC’s armor and weapons become severely rusted overnight. They are not restorable and must be replaced.

23. PC hears a loud rooster crow at random intervals for 1d4 days. No one else will hear this.

24. PC spontaneously loses a tooth.

25. All of the victuals which the PC is carrying suddenly spoil.

26. PC weeps tears of blood for twenty minutes.

27. PC will fumble during the next encounter, whether it is a combat situation, or not.

28. PC may not speak normally, and may communicate only by singing for the next 1d4 days.

29. PC loses understanding of the concept of personal space, and for the next 1d4 days, becomes an incorrigible face-talker.

30. PC compulsively narrates all actions as though telling a story for the next 1d4 days.

31. PC’s feet emit a tremendous stink for the next 1d4 days. It will not be possible to attack with surprise.

32. All natural animals avoid contact with the PC for the next 1d4 days.

33. PC becomes compulsive knuckle-cracker. This annoys everyone.

34. PC becomes obsessed with an archaic and no longer popular game. PC will constantly talk about the game with any one near, regardless of their lack of interest.

35. PC must open and close every door encountered three times before moving on. Compulsion lasts for 1d4 days.

36. PC’s body hair becomes thick and ape-like for 1d4 days, before falling out and leaving the PC completely hairless.

37. PC forgets the names of all associates and comrades.

38. PC falls asleep for 1d4 days. If awakened, the PC will return to sleep in moments.

39. Hiccups for 1d4 days without pause.

40. Nose drips uncontrollably for 1d4 days.

41. Tongue grows eight inches in length. It is very difficult to understand the PC’s speech. This condition lasts for 1d4 days.

42. PC’s toe nails and finger nails turn black and fall out.

43. For 1d4 days, the PC believes he is a chicken.

44. A dozen flies buzz about the PC’s head for 1d4 days. No matter how many are killed, replacements arrive shortly.

45. Foot fungus.

46. PC sees tiny creatures, jeering malevolently, out of the corner of his eye. They vanish if looked at directly. The visions last 1d4 days.

47. Spontaneous incontinence for 1d4 days.

48. PC becomes obsessed with star gazing. He will speak of little else for 1d4 days.

49. A mark symbolizing the displeased power appears on the PC’s neck.

50. PC grows a pair of goat horns overnight. The horns fall off in 1d4 days.

51. Sunlight becomes painful for 1d4 days. The PC will avoid the sun.

52. PC grows a dog’s tail which indicates mood by wagging, hanging, bristling, etc. Tail falls off in 1d4 days.

53. Any maps or writings created by the PC are unintelligible gibberish for the next 1d4 days.

54. PC shivers with cold no matter the temperature.

55. PC feels a powerful revulsion for gold and will neither touch, nor carry it for 1d4 days.

56. PC hallucinates bursting into flame once per day for 1d4 days.

57. Any wooden object the PC directly touches for the next 1d4 days will become warped to the point of uselessness.

58. PC’s handedness reverses. -1 to hit for 1d4 days.

59. Cloth rots away at the PC’s touch for the next 1d4 days.

60. PC’s face swells to twice normal size. -4 reaction adjustment for the next 1d4 days.

61. A light rain falls on the PC for the next 1d4 days, regardless of whether the PC is in doors, or out of doors.

62. PC’s left hand develops a mind of its own, and an opposed alignment for 1d4 days.

63. Pigeons flock to the PC in great numbers. 3d20 appear when ever the PC ventures outside for the next 1d4 days.

64. For 1d4 days, whenever the PC opens his mouth, a bug flies down his throat.

65. PC manifests a piggish snout and boar’s ears. The PC may be mistaken for a half-orc. Condition lasts 1d4 days.

66. PC appears to show symptoms of a much feared plague. While suffering no real ill effects, the PC will be an object of fear for 1d4 days, and will likely be driven from any population center.

67. The PC is compelled to eat any normal bugs encountered in the next 1d4 days.

68. PC vomits up a normal, non-venomous snake, one time.

69. PC will be mistaken for an infamous highwayman upon his next visit to a town or city of any great size.

70. PC loses all sense of direction for 1d4 days. Cannot tell east from west, north from south, right from left, or up from down.

71. PC is visited by disturbing dreams until amends have been made for the infraction.

72. The next time the PC rides, something unseen will startle the horse, and the PC will be thrown. The horse may run off.

73. The PC will drip with sweat until the offended forces are mollified.

74. The PC will talk in his sleep, saying outrageous lies about his comrades for 1d4 days.

75. One of the PC’s eyes changes color.

76. PC develops a severe facial tick.

77. PC is unable to refrain from referring to his associates as, “Berk”, for 1d4 days. This is very irritating.

78. PC becomes a compulsive note taker, writing down the minutia of every encounter, descriptions of rooms and monsters, etc... The PC will steal spell books for writing materials if others run out. Condition lasts for 1d4 days.

79. PC becomes an insufferable armchair philosopher. He will madden his comrades with nonsensical theories for 1d4 days.

80. PC suddenly speaks a language that none of his associates understand, and only that language. This lasts for 1d4 days.

81. The PC will spontaneously break into a manic dance in any stressful situation for the next 1d4 days.

82. The PC’s hunger becomes insatiable. He will devour all of his own rations within a day, and thereafter plead with his fellows to give up their own supplies. He will steal if no charity is forthcoming. The hunger will abate in 1d4 days.

83. PC is unable to stand and must crawl on all fours during the next 1d4 days.

84. PC gets something in his eye once per day for the next 1d4 days. This will be dirt, grit, bugs, and bits of bark, whatever exists in the area. This will be painful and distracting and will occur at the worst possible moment. Fumbles in melee, or spell failures may result.

85. PC begins pissing in his bedroll at night. This will continue until atonement for the infraction has been made.

86. Once per day, for the next 1d4 days, the PC will step in ordure of some particularly nasty type.

87. All sentients who encounter the PC for the next 1d4 days will be certain that the PC owes them money.

88. The PC’s teeth become adult horse teeth. He will be unable to fully close his mouth and will likely drool much.

89. The next ladder or rope the PC attempts to climb or otherwise use will break at the most inopportune moment.

90. An agonizing headache comes and goes randomly for the next 1d4 days. PC will react violently to loud speech or noise.

91. PC’s foot will fall asleep and remain so for the next 1d4 days. The feeling of pins and needles is maddening.

92. For the next 1d4 days, the PC will awake with a fine layer of gritty sand coating his body underneath his clothing.

93. Any water the PC drinks for the next 1d4 days becomes piss.

94. The PC will be unable to keep track of time for the next 1d4 days. He will fail to act at the agreed time or meet for a scheduled rendezvous.

95. The PC will feel the need to inventory the party’s goods and equipment twice a day for 1d4 days and will not be dissuaded from it.

96. The PC will be totally convinced of the notion that he is of a different class. A cleric will think he is a thief; a magic-user will be certain he is a fighter. For the next 1d4 days he will act the part with conviction.

97. Every time the PC opens a door for the next 1d4 days, he will hit himself in the face and take 1 point of damage.

98. The next time the PC enters a tavern or bar, a misunderstanding will occur whereby the patrons all believe the PC is paying for drinks. There will be a large number of them, and they will be uninterested in hearing protestations of the error by the PC.

99. The PC will be stung by an ordinary bee once per day for the next 1d4 days.

100. A brick flies out of nowhere and hits the PC in the back of the head. PC takes 1d4 points of damage.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In the silent forest night, beware the Lampeye!


Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 6
Move: 18"(180 feet)
Hit Dice: 5
% in lair: Encountered in lair during the day only
Treasure Type: Special, see below
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 2-8/2-8/1-6
Special Attacks: Initial attack does double damage if successful
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L, 8' tall, 500 lbs
Psionic Ability: Nil

The Lampeye is the name the fearful peasants give to the Great Striding Owl. A giant, flightless predator of the night, the lampeye is also sometimes referred to as a Scythe-Owl, so called because of the huge sickle-like talons it bears on the ends of its long, powerful legs.

A deadly and efficient nocturnal hunter, the lampeye has only tiny vestigial wings and searches for prey by striding silently through the night forests and fields in short segments, stopping often to look and listen. The lampeye sees with perfect clarity in pitchy darkness, and not even the smallest sounds escape it's keen hearing.

A scythe-Owl will surprise on 1-4 on a d6. A roll of 5-6 indicates the party has seen the owl before it can attack. In this instance, it is likely the owl's presence was given away by the party's torch light reflecting in it's golden, plate-sized eyes. The owl will never itself be surprised while active at night, though it will be torpid and sluggish if discovered during the day.

When a striding owl has identified a potential meal, it's attack will take the form of a soundless rush out of the darkness, ending in a thirty foot leap which will bring it down on top of the prey with both feet. This initial attack will do double damage if successful, (2-8+2-8x2). The owl's great sickle-claws will usually do enough damage to kill outright with this first attack, the sorts of prey the creature prefers, such as deer, wild goats, goblins, and halflings.

The lampeye does not deliberately collect treasure. However, valuables may sometimes be found in the area about the owl's daytime resting spots.
In the same manner as do it's smaller, flying cousins, the striding owl devours prey whole and later regurgitates indigestible materials in the form of pellets.
Anyone sufficiently treasure-hungry enough to sort through and break apart a pile of the fist-sized pellets may find coins, jewelery, gems, teeth, etc... along with the compressed hair and bone fragments of the lampeye's victims.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Black Fleet Campaign. The Federation Council has made its decision; Starfleet will just have to look the other way.

This is an idea for a Star Trek game I’m dusting off to have as a second counter point game for the Wyrd Greyhawk campaign. I wrote up part of this along time ago, but never got the chance to run it. I didn’t even have a set of rules picked out for it at the time.

I’ve got a stack of old Starfleet Battles materials, but none of the actual Star Trek rpgs, so I’m open to suggestions regarding the best rules platform to use.

I’m a big fan of Original Star Trek and the movies, I also very much like the Next Generation, but its unending group hug-we’ve all evolved past our petty human foibles posturing gets pretty cloying in my nostrils after a while.

Deep Space Nine was a breath of realistically fallible air. The series was populated by interesting characters that had ideals to try and live up to, but were faced with situations beyond their control which often force them to make the hard decisions. DS9 actually was the sort of “edgy and mature” science fiction series that the current crop of script writers can’t seem to grasp. I think it’s necessary to have characters with at least some closely held beliefs and ideals to guide their actions. The conflicts between their desire to live up to those beliefs and their inner prejudices’, fears, and humanity is what gives a character life.

Contemporary Sci-fi TV writers mistake edgy and dark for random and pointless, they confuse adult and mature for dysfunctional and selfish.

But enough about Battlestar Gallactica and Stargate Universe. Budump-bump, ting!

The Black Fleet campaign is set during the Dominion War which played out during the second half of the run of DS9.
The idea is that the Federation, having been damaged so badly by the Borg even before the Dominion came pouring through the wormhole, is pushed so far to the edge by the war that they are forced by their lack of ships to scrounge for allies and assets anywhere they can.

To this end, the Federation Council, over the protests of Starfleet, decides to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal to all takers willing to prey on the Dominion and its allies and suppliers.

The players would run characters who accept the Federation’s offer. They would be pirates looking for a chance to gain legitimacy, Starfleet dropouts, dishonored klingon warriors, renegade romulans, Cardassian resistance fighters, humans without a place in Federation society, Ferengi who have lost their business licenses, etc...

They would be given, or salvage for themselves, an old and obsolete ship which over the course of the campaign, they would have to use to their best advantage and upgrade as they can. As in my Wyrd Greyhawk AD&D campaign, the PCs are outmatched and must scrabble and claw and maneuver with cunning to survive and win against a superior foe.

Just as with a TV series, the campaign will need a large cast of varied NPCs, each with their own goals and desires. The PCs would be only a small part of the ship’s crew, and surrounded at all times by friends, allies, and enemies who are all more than they seem.
Few of their fellow privateers would be completely trustworthy. They would essentially be rival NPC adventuring parties in the parlance of D&D.

The ships of the Black Fleet would be shot through with undercover operatives of the various Intelligence Agencies of the quadrant’s powers. Starfleet Intelligence, the Tal’shiar, the Obsidian Order, Klingon Imperial Intelligence, Section 31, the Maquee, the Andorians, and others. Plus free agents, organized crime like the Orion Syndicate and agents of the Dominion.

I’d include a Starfleet liason officer NPC to accompany the PC privateers. His function would be to fill the shoes of the old wizard the PCs meet in a tavern. He provides adventure hooks in the form of information regarding Dominion operations, and those of their allies. He’s also suitably appalled by the motley crew of renegades he’s been assigned to oversee.

As privateers, the PCs goal is to enrich themselves to the detriment of the enemy by activities that would normally be piracy. Starfleet has to hold its nose and look the other way when its allies of necessity push the boundaries of their mission, but the PCs will be wise not to push too far. Starfleet captains sometimes find ways around orders they deem unfitting and no one is going to look too far into the disappearance of a ship full of buccaneers and spies.

The PCs will also have to deal with the ships of the other powers of the sector, and develop their own relationships with them. Imperial Klingon captains may well be willing to work with the privateers, unless some houseless dishonored klingon serves aboard the privateer’s ship.
Romulans never tire of their subterfuges and plotting and would likely find a use for the Black Fleet buccaneers in one ruse or another.

Along side the adventure and ship to ship combat, the point of the campaign will be to inflict the standard Star Trek moral conundrums on the ethically sub-optimal crew. The gaming idiom or universe automatically brings with it a lot of assumptions about what the characters are supposed to be doing in the game. Playing in the Star Trek universe comes with certain sensibilities instilled in the players by forty some years of established mythos built up by the series and movies. Try as they might, players in a Trek-based game will find themselves acting like Trek characters. I think this will be fun with old guard D&D players trying to balance their loot and pillage tendencies against their perception of what a Trek game should be.

I won’t make it easy for them.

* Plunder the fat cardassian freighter or rescue the Bajoran orphans before their ship falls into the sun?
*Lieutenant Daan informs you Starfleet Intelligence tells him there is a chance a certain ferengi vapor crystal smuggler is hiding on the bajoran ship.
*Kuvoc, the klingon engineer says the aft shield emitter is blown and will take three hours to replace.
*A quarter of the crew is suffering Rigellian Fever.
*The Vorta you’re holding for ransom just managed to send an unknown signal before he somehow fell down the turbolift shaft. Your cardassian navigator, who has absolutely no connection to the Obsidian Order, had nothing to do with it.
* Also, there are four Jem’hadar warships inbound and four minuets out.

I don’t know how ship to ship combat is handled in any of the various Trek rpgs out there, as I said, I’ve only got Starfleet Battles, and the original Traveller black box.

It always seemed to me that in order to make a ship to ship combat feel more like an actual Trek experience; you need to have each of the players really filling a function in the combat. I want to actually have them need to do their jobs in order to make the ship function. Having the player running the Captain determine all the ships actions in combat while the other players sit around and watch seems like the old method of having a Caller in D&D determining the party’s actions. Not involving enough for me, too orderly, not enough chance for wacky random loose cannon PC action.

I’m thinking about parceling out the energy allocation charts that SFB uses on individual cards for each of the categories/ bridge positions. The Player running the Captain would give orders, but the players running the navigator, helmsman, engineer, weapons officer, etc, would do the actual filling in of the energy allocation for each turn. If everybody doesn’t work together and actually know their jobs, the Captains plans and the actual events might not jib.

Then they’d pass them to me to determine the outcome of that turn vs. the enemy’s actions.
This would allow for human error in interpreting their orders and carrying them out. I think it would add some of that old guard randomness to the system.

Anyway, this is going to be the relief game for when the players need a break from Wyrd Greyhawk. I think I’ll have to start working up NPCs and random events charts as well as deciding on a system. I really don’t want to have to do a lot of modifications, so if anyone has a recommendation for a fast and loose Star Trek game system, let me know.