Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun with Leeches and Flies!

The common practice of leeching, whereby the spineless water parasites are affixed to those who are unwell with the intent that they should draw forth the bad blood or excessive humors which cause sickness, is in fact only ignorant superstition, and no help at all to those who have fallen ill.

The origin of this error lies in simple, unruned folk attempting to duplicate without sufficient understanding, the performance of Nahwalar’s Marvelous Thaumnivorous Leeches.

That most puissant Viviomancer and life-shaper, by dint of much effort and practice, achieved a spell whereby he might turn the natural actions of the leech to his own advantage and that of the sick he cared for.

This spell, when cast upon a suitable supply or number of ordinary leeches, alters them in such a way that they may be used to ameliorate some unhealthful conditions.
The degree of effect on the patient, and the conditions which may be treated, varies by the number of Thaumnivorous Leeches set to feeding upon him.

A single leech will suffice to draw forth any poison or venom by which the victim’s life is threatened. A victim of poison must receive the attentions of the leech within 4 rounds of the poisoning or envenomation in order to survive. Use of a single leech will cause the loss of one hit point in blood loss as the magically enhanced leeches draw mightily upon the vital fluids of the patient.
A leech which sucks poison will itself die afterwards.

Two leeches are sufficient to cure disease, either natural, or magically inflicted. This includes the infestation by fungal spoors and molds, but not other large parasites such as rot grubs. A pair of thaumnivorous leeches will inflict 4 points of damage upon the patient while removing all trace of disease from the body.

Three leeches must be used to clear the body of the effects of potions, dusts, or other ingested magics. The person so treated will incur 8 points of damage during the procedure.

A set of four leeches will end the effects of any sort of magical Curse, while also causing 16 points of damage to the leeched.

As with normal leeches, thaumnivorous leeches may be removed prior to satiation by the use of salt or fire.

Due to the Laws of Spontaneous Generation, it is wise to destroy by fire any leeches which have become engorged upon magic by their feeding. There is always a possibility that arcane mutation or alteration could bring about changes in a magic-sated thaumnivorous leech which may be infelicitous.

Also, there exists the possibility that a leech, employed upon multiple patients, may in some form transmit magical effects or disease which it had previously drawn from one patient to another.

The spell used to create the Marvelous Thaumnivorous Leeches is quite rare. It has been found to date only in the form of an enscrolled incantation. It prerequires a crystal vessel or decanter of fine workmanship with which to contain the leeches, sufficient solution of aqueous sortilagic fluid to fill the container, and at least four, and no more than eight leeches in good health, as well as a sprinkling of powdered gold and ivory dust.

The spell may of course be copied into a spell book rather than expended directly. All the standard costs and consequences of so doing apply.

Once created, the thaumnivorous leeches will survive within the crystal vessel handily until they are needed.

*Notes of warning, there have been reports that some scrolls containing the engenerative spell have either mistakes or deliberate malignancies written into them. Thaumnivorous Leeches created through the use of such a warped spell result in parasites which directly draw life energy from the patient in a manner similar to some undead. Victims of such leeches will lose one experience level and one hit die per leech attached to them, per round until death.

The Bloodfly Pin.

A large cloak or hat pin of bronze and ruby in the shape of a biting black fly, the Bloodfly Pin isn’t particularly attractive as a piece of jewelry, but it is effective as a magical deterrent.

Once per day, the wearer of the Bloodfly Pin may summon a cloud of vicious biting flies and direct them to swarm a given target. This target may be a single creature, or a designated space, such as a room.

If the target is a creature, the flies will inflict painful, maddening bites causing 1d4-1 pts of damage per round. If the target is a volume of space, then all living things within it will suffer 1 pt of damage per round they remain within it.

The fly swarm will remain for 1D6 rounds before dissipating.

The flies will fly into ears, nostrils and open mouths and make spell casting impossible. Horses and other touchy or high strung animals will bolt and run if attacked by the fly swarm.

The wearer of the pin will draw flies of the normal non biting sort at all times. Usually a half dozen or so will be found buzzing about the general area the pin wearer occupies.

The wearer will also develop a taste for overripe fruit.

If the wearer of the Bloodfly Pin should kill an insect for whatever reason, the next time he attempts to summon the fly swarm, the swarm will target him instead for the full duration of the summoning.

Insects will not attack the wearer of the pin unless attacked first. This includes giant types, but not intelligent insectoids. Intelligent insectoids such as Thri-Kreen, Aspis, etc… will generally feel non-hostile towards the wearer of the pin when first encountered. What happens afterwards is up to the pin bearer.

It's deer fly season here, hot, humid, still, deer fly season. I hate the blasted things.

Google fetched for me the top pic from some wiki type site.
The second came from the Pictoral Arts blog. It's a sketch for a jewelry maker.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greyhawk Wars meets Kelly's Heroes!

I Watched Kelly’s Heroes last week on the Military Channel, I always loved that movie. If you haven’t seen it, this is the Wikipedia entry for it.

In World War II France in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy when one of the division's platoons receives orders to pull out while under attack from the Germans (much to the dismay of the men, who are eager to get into Nancy in order to find a decent place to get some rest).

Kelly, a former lieutenant who'd been demoted to private as a scapegoat for being given orders to attack the wrong hill and wiping out half a Company of GI's, captures Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. When Kelly notices his prisoner has a gold bar in his briefcase, he gets him drunk to try to get information about the gold. Before he is killed by an attacking German Tiger tank, the drunken Dankhopf blurts out that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars (worth $16 million) stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont (most likely Clermont-en-Argonne).

Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, including skeptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe", to sneak off and steal it. Eventually, others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as an opportunistic supply sergeant "Crapgame"; a proto-beatnik Sherman tank commander, "Oddball"; and a number of stereotypical G.I.s presented as competent, but war-weary veterans who are as much fed up with their incompetent or self-serving superiors as they are with the Germans.

The expedition successfully breaks through a German held town during a mortar barrage that has been arranged by Kelly. They then meet bad fortune when an American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, shooting up their vehicles and destroying them with rockets. They continue on foot and one of them dies in a minefield. Two others of their number then die in a battle on the minefield.

Meanwhile Oddball's tanks head along a railway line wiping out a German depot along the way, but their route is blocked when the last large bridge to Clermont is blown up by Allied bombers, prompting Oddball to let a bridge engineering unit in on the deal. When intercepted radio messages of the private raid are brought to the attention of gung-ho American Major General Colt, he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patriots pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front line to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men race to reach the French town before their own army. There, they find it defended by three formidable Tiger I tanks with infantry support. The Americans are able to dispatch two of the Tigers and most if not all of the supporting German infantry. However, as they prepare to take on the last tank, which is parked right in front of the bank, Oddball's last Sherman breaks down, and it is found that the Sherman cannot be repaired due to a lack of needed replacement parts.
Powerless to defeat the heavily-armored behemoth, Kelly, Oddball and Big Joe square up like western gunfighters and walk purposefully in line towards it, prompting the commander to emerge from the turret. He and his crew are then offered a share of the loot, the tank blows the bank doors off and they divide up the gold ($875,000 per share).

They then go their separate ways, just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed when the celebrating town residents are told he is Charles de Gaulle. Oddball and his crew ride out of town in a Tiger tank and SS uniforms, having used part of their share of the gold to buy them from the Germans. Kelly and his misfit heroes head off into the sunset, presumably en route to Switzerland where they can sit out the war and rest on the joys of numbered accounts

I made a note years ago about writing a D&D scenario that would put an adventuring party in a Kelly’s Heroes type situation during the Greyhawk Wars, but I never went any farther with it.

The thing with setting up a D&D game around the plot of a movie is that it’s very difficult to replicate events without turning the game into a railroad. I really do not care for those. Railroad games just suck all the tension out of play.

So, I like to set up situations that will likely replicate the general feel of the movie and the pace of its events, but don’t require the PCs perform a pre written pantomime of the movie in order to progress.

I was thinking for the Greyhawk’s Heroes scenario, I’d have the PCs be impressed into the armies of Furyondy at the beginning of the war. Wyrd Greyhawk’s PCs aren’t normally Heroic Fantasy material. They tend to be hardscrabble, average Joes getting by on guts and black humor. Getting press ganged into a conflict between great uncaring powers would be par for the course.

The PCs would be in the position of Kelly and his platoon, while I’d have NPCs for the Big Joe, Crapgame, and Oddball analogue characters.

Looking for a good encampment spot, the PCs encounter a spy/courier of Iuz. The spy has a bag of gold coins and information on just where, thirty miles beyond the battle front, a great horde of looted treasure has been hidden for later shipment to Dorraka.

Of course the PCs want it. Risk your life for a fortune, or risk it for ten silvers a month and disciplinary beatings once a week, plus the chance of encampment cholera and being hacked to death by orcs, which would you, choose?

The game would be an overland hexcrawl through war torn territory and no man’s land, towns held by the forces of Iuz, scarred lands, and wild countryside. The PCs would have to avoid combat wherever possible in order to draw the least amount of attention to themselves if they want to have any chance of reaching their goal.

One of the best parts of the movie was that, in order to solve problems as they went along, Kelly’s Heroes had to keep enlisting the help of more and more other people, who in turn drew the attention, and greed, of still more people. Eventually, the allied command gets drawn into it and the movie becomes a race to reach the gold and escape before the whole U.S. army follows them to Clermont.

To mimic this, I’d add the Notoriety rules from the Dorrakka, City of Skulls module TSR put out for the Greyhawk Wars. (I can’t find my copy at the moment, so I don’t have the module number).

The notoriety rules are a system whereby the PCs accumulate points for high profile actions. As these points accumulate, they draw the attention of various other actors in the module, resulting in them taking appropriate actions of their own. Such as investigating, pursuing, etc…

I’d do the same thing, with PCs actions gaining them notoriety points as they progress, and these points gaining them first the attention of low level Furyondian officers, and then higher and higher up the chain of command as the PCs incurred more points.

If the PCs are clever and circumspect, they might make it all the way to the horde without drawing too much attention. If not, the Furyondian army might make it there right alongside them.

Once Kelly’s Heroes made it to Clermont, they had to deal with a squadron of three Tiger tanks guarding the gold. They knocked out two with surprise and maneuver, and then made a deal with the Commander of the remaining Tiger for a share of the gold.

To have a chance of a similar situation playing out in the game, I’d have to have a suitable foe in the destination village that couldn’t be defeated directly at first, but might be amenable to parley if placed in the weaker position.

I haven’t decided what that foe should be. A trio of young dragons under the domination of Iuz? Impressed former Shieldlander knights? Heavy armored elite hobgoblins? Devils? I’ve got to muse on that a bit yet.

Big Joe would be a Serjeant of Furyondal heavy foot the PCs would have to convince to go along with the plan. No rolling for it, I’d make the players role play it out with “Beegjoh” .

Crapgame would be a Provisioner , charged with securing supplies for the Furyondians. He’d also have thieves’ guild connections and many friends in low places. I might just call him,”Crapper”.

Oddball would be Sir Ohe DeBal, a Furyondian knight of petty nobility with a small squadron of chivalric heavy horse. For Wyrd Greyhawk, a fully armed and armored knight is the best analogue for a tank. 1600 lbs of horse, man, and iron isn’t something any spear pusher wants to get in the way of.

I’d play each of these NPCs just as their actors did in the movie, Telly Savalas for Beegjoh, Don Rickles for Crapper, and Donald Sutherland for Sir Ohe De Bal. Imagine Sutherland in wine stained armor as a black lotus smoking beatnik knight of Fortune.

“Ceaseth thou with thyne negative emanations, Sirrah! If thou dost believe the bridge shall be there, then so it shall!”

This is all I’ve written about the idea. If I do ever pull it together and run it, I’ll let you know how it plays out. If you do it, let me know how it goes. Game on!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Super Edition!

So, let me throw this out there.

Instead of the death march to the land of diminishing returns that continuing down the path of perpetual new editions dooms Wizards of the Coast too, how about a multi-edition edition of Dungeons & Dragons?

The Game is built of multiple core components and elements that show up in all editions. Combat, Character Generation, Player Character Stats, Armor Class, Initiative, Surprise, etc… All the topics that we argue over and discuss on blogs and forums without end.

You could take these core elements as they are written in each edition and group them together to compare and contrast how each edition of The Game treats them.

Each edition is a product of the spirit of the times in which it was produced. Each one makes its own assumptions about what the game is meant to do, how to provide that outcome, and what players are looking for in the play experience.

Every edition made rule changes guided by these assumptions, and which edition you started with, and when, colors your view on what’s right and what’s wrong with the others.

Everybody knows I’m an AD&D guy, I don’t think there’s anything I can’t make it do with sufficient tinkering. But, I will readily admit to prying bits and pieces off of other editions, other RPGs, house rules gathered from blogs and forums, pretty much what ever catches my eye, and seeing if I like it in play. I think most of us, (the Old School blogosphere), do this without giving it a second thought.

You wouldn’t have to do every component of The Game, only the major ones which diverge significantly from previous editions. That would keep it from becoming the Encyclopedia of D&D. (though I would buy the Encyclopedia of D&D WOTC, if you're watching.)

You could present it by topic, say, Hit Points, and then the relevant sections from Original, AD&D, 2E, 3E, 3.5E, 4E, concerning what hit points are, how they are generated, how they are viewed in the game, and then a bit of considered commentary about why each edition makes changes, the different ways hit points are used to represent actual damage sustained, personal energy expended, near misses, luck, etc.

The hit points section could be followed by a bit about the various rules concerning when is dead really dead. Since there is always discussion about death at zero, death at -10 hps, deaths door rules, recovery from near death, I don’t want to go on the cart, yadda yadda.

The point of this book would be to create an Ala Carte Dungeons & Dragons which would allow DMs to pick and choose the elements from all editions that best suited their game and gaming sensibilities and build a personal edition. This is what we all really do anyway, at least, we of the Old School.

Of course, not all elements from all editions can be made to play nicely together. I don’t expect they could be made to do so by a Super Edition, still, having examples side by side of all the different ways that Combat, or Skills, or what have you have been treated in The Game would be horizon broadening for those unfamiliar with other ways of looking at things.

It’s my perception that newer generations of gamers are much less likely to have a do it yourself-make it your own attitude towards gaming. I think a book that actively encourages the idea of tinkering would go a long way towards changing this.
The majority of OSR bloggers and related forum posters are in their mid thirties and forties, I think I can safely assume, and they have been a fountainhead of creativity that I am overjoyed to drink from. However, I find it unsettling that the younger gamers seem to be the ones wearing blinkers about The Game and what it does. It’s supposed to be the kids who are wild and creative.

I can’t tell anyone to get off my lawn if they never jump fences. Dagnabit.