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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Generic Bandit Tower Pamphlet Dungeon PDF

There was no Map Monday yesterday, but the map is finished now. It’s another trifold pamphlet dungeon, this time a Generic Bandit Tower.

Wait, what?

As I completed my first three pamphlet towers, in the back of my mind I was still thinking of the plan I mentioned in the Semi-Random Maps post. There would be a lot of towers, and the PCs are searching for a particular tower. Furthermore, just in case the players have seen one of the Watchtower series pamphlets, there had to be a way to avoid giving away which tower was which… so there has to be more than one example of an intact tower, more than one crumbling tower, more than one completely ruined tower, and so on. I didn’t want players to say “The tower is intact? Oh, OK, it’s CorpseBrood Tower” and have an immediate plan to deal with it. There needed to be an incentive to investigate further.

So what I wanted was some generic towers with randomized content to act as red herrings. The Generic Bandit Tower is the first of these. The above-ground levels are nearly identical for each bandit tower, but the race of bandits is different for each tower, and the leaders can be of still another race. Plus, the dungeon level is mildly randomized, too, and there’s a chance that the dungeon of one tower has a connection to the dungeon of another nearby tower. It makes exploring the towers just a tiny bit more interesting.

I plan on releasing another generic tower pamphlet this week.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Map Monday Is Delayed

No Map Monday this Monday. Did start some work on a map, and normally I might be able to finish it in the next three hours, but I don't have the time this morning, so I will be working on it this evening.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Elven Hit Dice

An old topic came up again elsewhere: how do you figure out the hit points of elf characters in OD&D?

In Vol. I: Men & Magic, the description of player-character elves is pretty short:
Elves: Elves can begin as either Fighting-Men or Magic-Users and freely switch class whenever they choose, from adventure to adventure, but not during the course of a single game. Thus, they gain the benefits of both classes and may use both weaponry and spells. They may use magic armor and still act as Magic-Users. However, they may not progress beyond 4th level Fighting-Man (Hero) nor 8th level Magic-User (Warlock). Elves are more able to note secret and hidden doors. They also gain the advantages noted in the CHAINMAIL rules when fighting certain fantastic creatures. Finally, Elves are able to speak the languages of Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls in addition to their own (Elvish) and the other usual tongues.
That’s actually not that complicated. They start out as one of two classes, can switch to the other class between adventures (in other words, in town,) and can use equipment and abilities of either of their classes, in exchange for level limits. People make this a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

“But what about hit points?” is the objection people raise. “How do you know which hit dice to roll for hit points?”

Think about non-elves who switch classes for a moment. A 3rd level human fighter with a 16 Intelligence decides to become a magic-user. How would you figure out that character’s hit points, without overthinking the process? At 3rd level, a fighter has 3 hit dice, so their hit points range from 3 to 18 (average 10.5) using the old M&M hit dice progression. Then the fighter becomes a 1st level magic-user, which only has 1 hit die. They wouldn’t lose their existing hit points, but they wouldn’t gain any, either. Three hit dice is more that 1 hit die, so just keep what hit points they have until they hit 6th level, when a magic-user gets 3+1 hit dice, which is more than the 3 hit dice of a fighter. Not complicated.

An elf would work the same way. The only difference is that an elf can switch back and forth, but each time, they keep their current hit points, and only add hit points when they earn more hit dice than what they started with.

The other option, one I think Gygax mentioned in an early Strategic Review or Dragon article, is to roll for both classes and average them together. That’s a little too complicated, but if you are using the Greyhawk supplement, it becomes easy: fighters get d8 for hit dice, magic-users get d4 for hit dice, and the average of a d8 and d4 is a d6. Just give them as many d6s as their highest class level. This is what the race-as-class elves in later editions of the Basic D&D line does. For OD&D, with its separate tracking of levels for each class, this helps compensate for the elf’s advantages; elves take much longer to increase their hit points than would a human of any class.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Semi-Random Maps

No Map Monday this week, because I took the weekend off. Thought I’d take the time to talk a little about someone else’s maps, and some ideas I had related to it.

Dyson Logos had some posts last month about geomorphic halls. These are dungeon level maps with 1 to 3 blank squares where geomorphs can fit, the idea being that each GM using one of those maps would have a unique dungeon, because of the geomorphs, and the geomorphs could change each time the dungeon is revisited. I believe Dyson actually posted maps like these a couple years ago as well, and traces the idea back to the City of Lankhmar TSR product which had unmapped squares on the city map and a booklet of city block geomorphs.

I’d wanted to do something similar for a while. It was part of the idea behind the mega-dungeon plug-in modules on the Maps page. The difference there is that I was imagining a more generic tunnel map with a few “empty” rooms added, then you’d plop down one or two plug-in modules somewhere on the map and change the empty rooms to the indicated “support” rooms.

I had a similar idea related to the “Watchtowers of the Golden Hills” pamphlet dungeons. Before I did the pamphlets, I had been thinking of a sort of interlocking set of dungeon modules based around towers. The PCs would be searching for a particular dungeon, but wouldn’t know exactly where it was, only that they’re looking for an old ruined or abandoned tower as the entrance. I had some geomorph tricks or other random dungeon gen tricks in mind so that each GM’s version of the tower dungeons would be different. The inspiration for this was more or less the Judges Guild Frontier Forts of Kelnore module.

I may still do the tower thing. At least, my current plan is to make a couple more tower pamphlets and 1 to 3 larger modules with tower entrances so that GMs can run a quest in a similar way, letting players explore ruined tower entrances trying to find the “real” dungeon.

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Saturday, June 8, 2019

May 2019 Blog Maintenance, June Plans

Didn’t have time for my monthly maintenance report last week, so here’s what I did in May, and what I’m planning for June.

I uploaded new map PDFs in May: two tower pamphlets, two settlement pamphlets. They have also been linked on the Maps page.

I did not upload a larger dungeon. Even the small ones eat into my time and keep me from doing other large projects. Plus, I’m having to spend more time on non-blog tasks lately, especially this summer. So, I’m thinking one or two pamphlet maps a month, one slightly larger map every season, and only one of those each year would be in the 20+ page range. There probably won’t be a large dungeon in June, since I’ve already done one for the Spring season.

I didn’t finish my next major change to the blog itself, which is to add a blogroll page. I still have to sort through links I currently have to weed out the dead ones, plus add some new blogs I’ve been reading lately. I also have to test ways to make it auto-update previews. There’s a little widget you can include in a Blogger sidebar that shows five or ten of the most recently updated blogs from a list. I want that, but not in the sidebar, and only on the blogroll page. I have some ideas on how to do that.

I’m getting far enough along with the Our Undying Neighbors draft that I have to start thinking about how to distribute it. More on that in a future post.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Rituals Gone Wrong

Since the undead project is going along reasonably well (20% of content done, maybe?) and the next big project is the cleric/spirits project, I’ve been thinking a bit about what should go into it. Yes, it’s basically an expansion of Clerics Without Spells, so that will be in there. And yes, at least some of the classes that use the same mechanic will be in there (Druid, Weather-Worker, Beast-Master, Necromancer, Mesmerist.)

But clerics are about more than just that. Priests fulfill a role in society, basically maintaining the social structure. They officiate at social transition moments: rites of passage, weddings, funerals, investitures, christenings, seasonal rites. And these are traditionally avoided by RPGs.

The few times I’ve seen anything about rites performed by priests, it’s presented in one of two ways:
  1. As a narrative device. How to include weddings and funerals in your game to make your campaign feel more alive.
  2. As yet another combat aid. Get a +2 bonus on all rolls if you participated in a wedding within the last week.
But instead of looking at the rites themselves as add-ons, maybe we should be looking at the transitions they mark. When a baby is born, a couple form a relationship, or a person dies, or when farmers are about to plant or harvest, societies see these as important events that need to be surrounded by ritual. If they aren’t, bad things can happen, at least from the viewpoint of tribal, ancient, or medieval cultures. So what happens?

The quick fix is to assume there’s a chance of being cursed every time you pass through a transition. Make a reaction roll, for example the standard 2d6 one from OD&D. On a Very Bad reaction (2, for a 2d6 roll,) everyone involved in the transition is cursed. Or, if it is a land-related event (planting season, harvest,) the land itself is cursed.

The trick is that, if there is no ritual observed, either the result rolled is halved, or the GM rolls half as many dice. This increases the chances of rolling a Very Bad result: for the 2d6 roll, there’s a 1 in 3 chance of rolling a 2 or less.

At the very least, curses should shift any reaction roll down one category, or cause disadvantage for games like D&D 5e. Things can go wrong in other ways, too. For example, weapons can break or be knocked out of a PC’s hand when damage rolled is 1. In Our Undying Neighbors, I make a big deal about Animate Dead and Raise Dead spells having a chance of creating undead when cast under the influence of a curse.

Obviously, this can be fleshed out a lot more. And eventually, that will be my job.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Revelode Pamphlet Town Follow-Up

Is anyone having problems downloading yesterday's pamphlet town? Or any of my other PDFs?

I had two notifications yesterday that people were requesting access to the Revelode PDF. I get this every once in a while for things hosted on Google Drive, even though I set the sharing to "anyone with a link can download". Usually, it's on older PDFs, so I've always assumed that Google Drive has a bug that periodically turns off sharing on old links, which is incredibly annoying.

There's a possibility that this time, it wasn't that Google Drive bug, but was actually a hold-over from the Google cloud services outage this weekend. When I uploaded the PDF, I was having problems setting the description, and it took several tries just to turn on sharing. When I finally did get the link for my blog post, I assumed everything would be OK, but obviously it wasn't for at least two people.

After getting the notifications, I refreshed the sharing by turning it off and on, editing the link in the blog post, then testing the link in an incognito browser window to verify that it would work for other people. It should be working now, but if not, please let me know.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Pamphlet Town: Revelode PDF

This week’s Map Monday takes the “instant village” up one level to a full town in the Revelode town PDF. I wanted to make sure I had at least one settlement of each of the lower three size ratings: hamlet, village, and town. I knew cities would just be impossible to handle in this format.

This will probably be the only town I will do in the pamphlet format, because the labeling on a town map this small usable, but just barely. To make the map bigger, I’d have to cut a lot of description, which kind of makes a town pamphlet useless. It might be doable with neighborhoods, though, allowing a little bit of mixing and matching or rearrangement, making each GM’s final town unique.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Zombie Corpse Conditions

So the PCs stumble on a crypt full of zombies. But zombies rot. How intact are these zombies? Roll 2d6.

Roll Result Result Details
2 Nearly Skeletal Patches of flesh cling to to their bones
3-5 Badly Rotted Most of one side is skeletal
6-8 Somewhat Rotted One arm or half the face is missing flesh
9-11 Slightly Rotted Bone shows through in spots
12 Fresh Corpse Pallid, but still appears human

Slightly rotted corpses are standard zombies.

Appearance affects two things: surprise and fear. A zombie in relatively good condition can walk the streets of a town, tricking victims into believing they are just ordinary citizens until it’s too late, allowing them to get closer before attacking. Halve the encounter distance in these conditions for the listed zombie varieties.

Conditions Allows Surprise by…
No Light Any zombie variety
Dim Light Silhouette Badly Rotted
Shadows or Fog Somewhat Rotted
Dim Light Slightly Rotted
Cloudy Day Fresh Corpse

A Fresh Corpse zombie also doubles its chance of surprise in any dim light or fog situation (except for No Light, where all chances are standard.)

Hirelings will generally only check morale after a fight has begun, but they will automatically flee if surprised by any zombie, or even when not surprised if they can see a Badly or Somewhat Rotted zombie clearly (dim light or better.) They will also immediately flee a Nearly Skeletal zombie if there is any light at all.

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