Wednesday, April 30, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXX: Finale

This was a long more! I am going to take a break from daily posts on a defined subject for a while. To wrap up my month of Basic/Expert/Rules Cyclopedia D&D I am going to discuss what this game has meant to me over the last 34 years, and how it's versatility and value has shifted to me over time. 

Late in 1980 as a young man I acquired the Dungeon game, and sometime early in 1981 (I assume 1981, as it looks like the Mentzer Basic set came out that year) my parents were gracious enough to purchase the game for my sister and myself. It wasn't until I found Gamma World that the game "clicked" for me (I was only ten years old at the time) and I figured out what it was all about. Thereafter things were never the same and one could argue for better or worse that I was destined for a certain kind of path in life thereafter.

Basic and Expert D&D served me well initially as introductions to the concept of RPGs and later as rules addenda to AD&D, which was a convoluted but fascinating mess. When I couldn't figure out what the hell Gary Gygax was going on about with initiative and sequence of actions in the DMG I would instead turn to Basic and Expert D&D as the clear rules which explained how it worked. Back then it wasn't entirely clear to me that B/X were mechanically that different from AD&D....just more cleanly written. So for most of my AD&D days I spent my formative years using the PHB/DMG/MM as supplements powered by the core mechanics of B/X D&D.

Later on I lost my obsession with AD&D as I discovered more games and branched out, but at some point in 1987 I must have rediscovered B/X in a sort of purist fashion as I tried writing some scenarios for that edition, including a solitaire, which I published in my fanzine of the day, "The Sorcerer's Scrolls." I was revisiting AD&D and B/X at that time, with the intent of "relearning" them from my later-day high school perspective, and the mindset of one who now regularly ran Dragonquest, Runequest, T&T and DC Heroes RPGs. There must have been something I liked in B/X back then from the "revisitation" because I wrote several articles specifically and only for that version of the game around that time.....but this wasn't really going to go over all that well, of course, in a fanzine primarily dedicated to non-D&D games and T&T in particular. C'est la vie.

B/X D&D remained "out of my life" for a long time. In 1991 the Rules Cyclopedia appeared and I got a copy, but I was deeply into AD&D 2nd Edition at that time and couldn't appreciate the system for what it was, although I admired the fact that the entire BECM set could fit into a single rulebook.

Basic/Expert wouldn't resurface for me until some thirty-odd years later, with the OSR movement. Labyrinth Lord and others got me started back on the track, and WotC releasing the website made it possible to resume collecting these books once more in a clean, easy to read and print format. Daniel Proctor deserves a great deal of credit for keeping B/X and its concepts alive; Labyrinth Lord is far and away the best of the OSR retroclones in my opinion (with the caveat that in a world of porterhouse steaks cooked to perfection I am simply declaring one porterhouse to be more succulent than the others...)

Today, as a middle aged gamer who's been through a lot, gamed consistently for three decades and moved with the currents of game design from the era of the classics to a modern age where game design can somehow take a rule as simple as "roll a D20 and aim for a high number" and turn it into a 600 page rulebook. What's happened is that eventually you crack: you reach the apex of complexity, the pinnacle of system mastery and design, and you realize that you are so far removed from your very roots, that you can't even remember what it was like to be there on the ground anymore.

People like to say the OSR movement is driven by nostalgia, but I can one be nostalgic about something that seems so far away, so distant? I rather think there's something else going on....

OSR retroclones, the "D&D-likes" as I call them, helped rekindle an effort not to remember the good old days so much as realize that there was never anything wrong with the good old days, the way we played. Finding B/X D&D again for me was a realization that the quest for verisimilitude and depth in gaming doesn't come from the rules, it comes from the people playing. The rules are a fantastic vessel for adventuring, for creating a good story....but they are only hampered by one's perception of the rules as a necessary conformity to that process. Seeing B/X D&D now, at an age where I am a career businessman with a son and wife, and so very little time, makes me realize that sometimes the best rulebooks are the ones that give you the smallest starting point, but within that point they pack a whole lotta punch to get you started. Basic and Expert D&D did that extremely well, and with absolutely no need for more than those two books (though they had many great adventures and gazetteers,all of it was optional). No edition of D&D since the days of B/X has managed to do this, and the Rules Cyclopedia was the grand last hurrah....until now.

So....that's my story about B/X D&D and why I find it such a great "new" discovery, a game that got better with age, and is now perhaps my favorite iteration of the game. Now....time for a break! Honestly, one of the reasons it was grueling to write an entry a day for B/X D&D was that the game is so generally complete that it's really hard to do much more than generate new monster and magic items ideas for the game. Next time I do this I think I'll pick a system that's not so damned self contained!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

B/X D&D Month: XXIX: adding some exotics to treasure

A few more ideas to toss around: every edition of D&D (and other games too) seems to revel in the myriad weird currencies you can encounter while adventuring. Something worth considering, though: not all these currencies were common coinage for much of the middle ages (the ostensible not-Europe era in which D&D's fantasy world takes a suspicious resemblance). Platinum, for example, manifested as a viable metal in Pre-Columbian America and wasn't even known until its discovery by Europeans (first reference to such in 1557 according to Wikipedia). Made all the more amazing its the high melting point necessary to work with platinum (3214.9 F)...Europeans didn't accomplish this extraction process until 1700s and even then it was with many trials and errors due to the lack of understanding of the metal. I'm no metallurgist so my advice is read the Wiki for details, but seriously....this is a metal that's just as exotic as orichalcum or adamantite when you consider it in the context of the more medieval fantasy realms D&D typically depicts.

Imagine for a moment a world in which a defining trait of all magic-forged weapons and jewelry was that it was made of exotic metals. Platinum would be a fine example of a true exotic, one perhaps which might be found in ancient ruins, used by the lost cultures of old or the so-called "savages" of the jungle kingdoms, much to the bafflement of alchemists in the known world.

A few other exotic materials to consider lacing your magic items with, or as alternative weird things to find:

Orichalcum - known to the Greeks, this metal may or may not have an Atlantean connection and is depicted as having a pink or gold hue with bronze qualities. The exotic nature of orichalcum makes it great as a metal which bestows magical abilities such as...say....levitation; plate a hull with the metal and you could get a flying ship!

Adamantite - this term was less one for a specific metal and more a substance so hard it defied the efforts of other creatures and substances to damage it. Admantine gets an early start in Greek myth but appears often in later archaic literature, eventually being conflated with lodestones. For the purposes of fantasy metals admantine is a potent metal, worked through magical forges to create invincible weaponry and armor, ideally suitable to lace magical devices with, and explaining their unnatural resistance to destruction, too. Heck, get ahold of some adamantite and a means to work it and you could make pefectly normal but indstructible weapons!

Cobalt - although cobalt itself is real, it's been mined for thousands of years and used to tint glass and jewelry with its lustrous, deep blue hue. Cobalt has an interesting connection to kobolds, and it's worth thinking about this connection (the name Cobalt derives from kobold, for ex). When smelted for metals, miners found instead that they made cobalt oxide, which in turn produces arsenic trioxide, a toxic substance that is a byrpoduct of smelting efforts and notable poison. If you're tired of adventurers beating up your kobolds for gold teeth and candles, maybe they should be mining for the lustrous cobalt instead....imagine kobolds who have a corner on the market for cobalt as an additive to glass jewelry and pottery.....and poison!

Amber - the substance created from fossilized tree sap was often considered to have a curative element. Imagine instead of finding a healing potion you instead find an amber stone which you can rub once a day for a healing burst, or which, when dropped in a suitable liquid, turns it into a healing potion.

Monday, April 28, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXVIII: Black Shamblers

Black Shamblers
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 8+3**
Move: 90' (30')
Attacks: slam attack or engulfing attack
Damage: 1D8+3 slam plus engulf (see below)
No. Appearing: 1D4 (3D6)
Save As: F8
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: E
Intelligence: 9
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 2025
Creature Type: extraterrestrial (enchanted)
Terrain: the depths of the void

 These beings are huge, averaging seven to nine feet in height, and are like great ebony warriors, covered in ichorous black tar that never stops running. They have barely visible humanoid features, and are silent, emotionless, and highly obedient. An organization known as the Guild of the Spheres are known to employ them as thugs, which is how most normal people first encounter the black shamblers. It is only when nosy adventurers poke and prod that they discover the black shamblers are in fact an inuman, alien race from beyond the stars, utilized by the agents of the Guild of the Spheres as protectors and enforcers in their operations, which involve the acquisition and theft of priceless artifacts and magic items on the worlds they seek to plunder.

The Black Shamblers are native to a distant world called Canopis, that composes part of the stellar constellation of Set. Canopis exists in a murky, eternal twilight, and certain mages have learned to cull a special plant to produce a substance called the Black Bane which makes the shamblers submissive to the wills of the poisoner. As such, they are captured for use as thugs and shock troops. 

Black shamblers are vicious opponents, with a startling resistance to most weaponry (they take half damage from all weapon attacks). Black shamblers exibit amazing regeneration and wiull heal 5 hit points per round; only cold damage will stop this regenerative ability.

A black shambler which slams into an opponent may immediately attempt to engulf that target; they can attempt to do this on up to four human sized opponents before running out of room. A target struck by the black shambler must make a save vs. paralysis or be trapped in the tar-like mass of the shambler; each round the target takes an automatic 1D8 points of crushing, choking suffocating damage and must make a new save vs. paralysis to try and escape.

Black shamblers tend to regenrate over time even after seemingly destroyed. A shambler which has been dispersed over a wide area or dismembered may take 1D6 months to begin regenerating. A shambler which suffers enough fire damage to deal the negative of its hit points has a 25% chance of being permanently destroyed. Disintegration will destroy a black shambler as well.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXVII: Looking at more alternate rules

There are some rules that could be introduced into B/X D&D that I don't really think would impact the least, not in ways that would be problematic, provided the DM is ready for the consequences. A few ideas:

Tougher Characters

Although I think the notion of low starting hit points at 1st level is part of D&D's charm --it emphasizes that these are really green adventurers for whom one sword his could be deadly-- the idea of a higher starting hit point total could benefit very small or solo groups. The easiest way to handle this is to allow the players to roll hit dice and then add their total CON score (instead of modifier). That'll add at least 10 hit points on average and make the character as resilient as a 3rd level character out of the gate.

Fighters and Hitting Things

Nobody in B/X D&D hits better from 1st to 3rd level, but the fighter could. Instead of a matrix where the fighter's proficiency in hitting improved by 2 every other level,  let the fighter's attack rate go down by 1 at each level they advance. So: start at level 1 with the attack matrix as presented. Then, at level 2 and each level thereafter let the values on the attack matrix drop by 1 per level for the fighter (in other words, the way 2nd edition AD&D did it). This will give the fighter something to look forward to every level.


The rules for multiclassing in AD&D could easily be transplanted to B/X without much trouble. You'd have to track two sets of XP for each class, and apply the XP rules for calculating hit points and determining what weapons and armor the multiclassed character defers to, but it's perfectly doable in B/X. Racial classes would benefit in that you could have that halfling/thief, dwarf/cleric and elf/thief. The only exceptions would be whether a DM wants to allow an elf the ability to multiclass into magic-user or not. Also, if you have Labyrinth Lord and it's Advanced Edition Companion you could treat it like a big B/X rules expansion (and I am sure many do).

The Power of Used Book Stores

I snagged a mint condition copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia for $10 at my friendly local used book store today (one of only about 3 in the area, actually). I also snagged a near mint set of 2nd edition AD&D rule books for about $35 in total. Thanks goodness for book sellers who aren't also collectors!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXVI: Three New Swords

The Sword of Truth
   This +1 blade is usually a longword, shortsword or other straight blade (never a cutlass or scimitar). When held the blade compels the owner to speak only the truth about matters (though this is truth as he/she sees it). Moreover, anyone struck by the blade who takes damage must make a save vs. spells or also find themselves compelled to answer truthfully any three questions asked of them for the next 30 minutes.

The Elemental Blade
   A +2 scimitar, this blade is a wicked curved weapon that reflects a sheen of rainbow colors in slick patterns which run in scintillating colors up and down the blade. When held the weapon can invoke the properties of any one element, with different effects as follows. Each effect can be invoked once per day:
Earth - any creature struck by the weapon must save vs. petrification or suffer as if struck by flesh to stone.
Air - the wielder of the weapon may fly for one hour.
Fire - the weapon spits out a 5D6 damage fireball in a chosen direction as the spell.
Water - the wielder of the weapon gains water breathing for one hour.

The Gunblade
   This sophisticated looking broadsword +1 appears to have an unusual set of notching, grooving and a tunnel-bored hollow running along the length of the blade and leading to the hilt which serves as both ordinary hilt and guard as well as the hand grip of a matchlock pistol. The "blade" strikes as a broadsword but also fires a single shot powered by elemental fire (so no need to reload, assuming gunpowder has even been invented!) down the barrel along the blade. The weapon can fire 6 times before it needs to be recharged, which takes an hour; the weapon can be fired at distance as a normal ranged weapon, or as part of an attack that strikes and deals normal damage (provided it was a stabbing attack).

Friday, April 25, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXV: Ogre Racial Class!

Who wouldn't want to play the bulky, temperamental ogre? Not my players! Ogres are more common than elves as playable characters in the world of Chirak....and now they can infiltrate adventuring groups in Mystara and beyond, too....

Ogre Racial Class

Not all ogres are vile, cursed fiends lurking in dark caves waiting to eat warriors and ravage maidens. Nope....sometimes ogres are cultured sophists, daring adventurers, and an entire race of chaos warriors who are not in fact born of any curse. In worlds where ogres are another race like dwarves and elves, they too can mingle in human societies and seek out their own claim to fame and fortune...

Prerequisites: Ogres are known for their strength, and must have a minimum strength of 16. Likewise, ogres are not overly intelligent, at least not with respect to other races; ogres can have a maximum intelligence of 9, but ogres with the a 9 intelligence can opt to be spellcasters.

Class Benefits: Ogres are proficient in all weapons but they favor clubs over other weapons, and they are not familiar with more sophisticated weapons such as crossbows (though they can figure them out with a little training). Truth is, they aren't much for making weapons, and its hard to come by large sized weapons that work for clubs it is.  A large club for an ogre deals 1D8 damage.

Ogres have tougher than normal skin; they have a natural unarmored AC of 5. This does not stack with armor worn, so leathers and other armor that offer a worse AC do not improve it; an ogre needs armor with AC 4 or better to make a difference. Ogres also pay double the cost for armor that actually is sized to fit.

Ogres advance in their class at the following rates:

Hit Dice: D8 per level. Ogres gain +3 hit points at level 10 and later.

Level Limits: Normal ogres can reach level 15, spellcasting ogres can reach level 5.

Advancement: Ogres advance by experience as fighters; spell casting ogres are either shamanic (clerics) or wokani (magic users) and advance on the appropriate experience chart.

Attack Tables: all ogres use the monster hit dice attack tables and determine their hit charts by hit dice.

Saving Throws: ogres use the fighter saves, but wokani use magic user saves and shamans use the clerical saves.

Spell Advancement: Wokani can reach level 5 and gain spells as a wizard up to that level. Likewise, shamans can advance to 5th level and gain spells as clerics of same level. Alternatively, you can refer to the RC rules on shamans and wokani (RC page 216).

Skills: if using the RC skill system ogres gain 4 skill points at level 1, and another skill at level 5, 9, and 13.

Sample Ogre:

Bursis the Bounty Hunter
Male Ogre, Age 20, Level 1
STR 18, DEX 10, CON 14, INT 7, WIS 10, CHA 9; HD 1D8+1; HP 9
Armor: plate mail AC 3
Attack: two handed sword 1D10+3
Skills: bravery, endurance, food tasting, gambling
GP: 25
Bursis dwells in the city of Samaskar working as a bouncer when he isn't hunting posted bounties. He's managed to purchase an ogre-sized suit of plate and a decent two-handed sword.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXIV: The Spheroid Menace!

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2**
Move: 180' (60')
Attacks: slam attack or telekinetically manipulated weapon, confusion
Damage: 1D8 slam or by weapon (up to 4 at once), confusion
No. Appearing: 1D10 (1D100)
Save As: F2
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: A
Intelligence: 13
Alignment: Lawful
XP Value: 30
Creature Type: extraplanar 
Terrain: rolling hills and open plains are the favored of the spheroids

The spheroids are extraplanar beings of a long-lost demiplane, forged in the dawn of time by a relatively unimaginative god of order who obsessed with perfection. He created an infinitude of ideals, platonic forms of great power and might, but his finest creation was also his flawed progeny and his downfall: the spheroids. The spheroids were sentient, spherical beings of leathery external texture about the size of pilates balls, with no outwardly evident sensory organs or means of internal intake or explusion. They moved about through sheer will, rolling where they wished, and relying on potent telekinesis to manipulate their environment as they saw fit. In the end the spheroids grew powerful and their faith in their god of order was shaken as they realized that he was himself an imperfect form trying to create perfection. They cast him down and migrated into the planar realms in search of perfection. Countless eons later the spheroids are a great threat to planes where they manifest, for they cause accidental harm in search of this perfect ideal even as they seek to exterminate all signs of imperfection....and most material planes are absolutely full of imperfection and broken symmetry. It deeply offends their sensibilities, and so the spheroids must act.

Physically Spheroids sense their environment with a form of psionic sight, and they do have an intake/outtake orifice, hidden slit-like behind two sides of their leathery, ball-like form. Each spheroid is imbued with great natural psionic potential and can communicate telepathically at will as well as engage in limited telekinesis, allowing them to lift up to 300 lbs. of weight up to 100 yards away from their position. A favorite tactic of spheroid warriors is to pick up and hurl the weapons of fallen foes like projectiles, as well as wielding up to 4 such weapons for attacks.

Spheroids also have a defensive mechanism: any creature which gets too close can be zapped by a confusion effect (as spell, RC pg. 49) that works like the spell, but has a radius of effect against all targets (only spheroids are immune) within 20 feet of the ball. Each creature must make a save vs. spells or succumb for 1D4 minutes, usually plenty of time for the ball to escape its predicament.

In any given body of Spheroids there will be at least one 4 hit die leader and for every 1D100 there is a 30% chance of at least one magic user of levels 1D4+1. In spheroid armies there will be dozens of battle mages, but no clerics; they have found no gods they consider worthy of worship yet....all such beings lack necessary perfection. Instead they have "Dedicates" which are similar to clerics and gain clerical magic through the worship of platonic ideals. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

D&D B/X Month XXIII: The Mohrg

One of my favorite undead, now in B/X/RC....
Armor Class: -1
Hit Dice: 14**
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: slam attack, paralyzing tongue attack
Damage: 1D6+7 or special
No. Appearing: 1D3 (2D8)
Save As: F14
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: E
Intelligence: 11
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 3,500
Creature Type: undead (enchanted)
Terrain: any graveyard, mausoleum or place of the dead; some mohrg prowl the dark streets of dense cities for victims as well

The mohrg is a hideous monstrosity which manifests when a serial killer dies in a brutal fashion and is also infused with necromantic energy: the result is a corpse of variable condition - some mohrg look almost alive, others little more than shambling corpses filled with squirming, writhing intestinal tracts. Mohrg are as murderous in death as they were in life, unless they were created by another mohrg in the process. 

When a mohrg attacks it strikes first with its paralyzing tongue, which deals no damage but requires a save vs. paralysis or the target is paralyzed for 1D4 minutes. They then usually strangle or suffocate their helpless targets. A person slain by the mohrg will rise as a zombie of unusually quick speed in one round; mohrg-zombies move quick, with a speed of 120' (40'), and they roll for initiative normally. About 10% of mohrg do not make zombies this way but instead can create more mohrg, instead.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXII: S'Grotak Undraek, the Ravenous Assassin

Yesterday I presented some rules on creating a horde of random demons. Here today is a sample of such using the rules as presented...

Sample Demon:
The S'Grotak Undraek (The Ravenous Assassin; demon Lord)
Armor Class: -1
Hit Dice: 10+12 (lord, L)*** (65 hit points)
Move: 120' (40') or flying 180' (60')
Attacks: two claws, two weapons, bite
Damage: 1D6+6/1D6+6 per claw, or by weapon: short sword+2 1D6+8/1D6+8; bite 1D4+4
No. Appearing: unique
Save As: F10
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: H
Intelligence: 13
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 3,500
Creature Type: outsider (demon)
Terrain: any planar layer of the abyss, or by summoning; frequents Samaskar and Nix
Special Vision Traits: can turn invisible at will; can see invisible (passive, constant effect), darkvision 60 feet
Special Attacks: infernal damage (-1 attacks and saves to those injured by the demon), 
Special Defenses: +2 or better to hit; immune to cold, fire and electricity, spell resistance 50%
Spells: as 10th level Magic-User-
1st level: charm person 2/day, sleep 1/day
2nd level: knock, web, mirror image (1/day each)
3rd level: fireball, haste, hold person (1/day each)
4th level: dimension door, hallucinatory terrain, confusion (1/day each)
5th level: animate dead, cloudkill (1/day each) 

S'Grotak Undraek is a potent demon lord or lesser might who fancies himself the "Ravenous Assassin" (what his name means in the chaos tongue). He is a reaver of souls and regularly sends missive to mages and priests in Pergerron, attempting to teach them how to reach out and summon him so that he may gain freedom on the mortal plane to do what he does best: murder. 

The Ravenous Assassin recently struck a deal with the wizard Vothan Almarek of the city of Samaskar, an entrepeneurial wizard keen to learn demonic magic. In exchange for giving the demon freedom to prowl the streets at night and commit murder, S'Grotak Undraek in turn filches relics and spell lore from the hideous demon city of Nix where he dwells when he is trapped in the abyss and hands his findings over to Vothan.

Monday, April 21, 2014

B/X D&D Month XXI: Demons

Demons never make an appearance in B/X D&D, probably for two reasons: first to keep it as kid-friendly as possible (given the reputation D&D had back then) and second to help distinguish it from AD&D which had loads of demons and devils. Ultimately we'd have to wait until Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion for direct demon and devil stats that were B/X compatible (or just use the Monster Manual....)

My Lingusia campaign relies on demons a lot, and I worked up stats for random demon generation in Castles & Crusades for the Keepers of Lingusia book many years ago. Here now is a B/X friendly adaptation of those same rules for those interested.

Armor Class: 7 (slave), 4 (warrior), 2 (greater warrior), 0 (baron),  -1 (lord), -3 (general), -5 (high lord)  
Hit Dice:  2+1 (slave, M), 4+1 (warrior, M), 6+3 (greater warrior, L), 8+12 (baron, L), 10+12 (lord, L), 12+20 (general, H), 14+30 (high lord, H)***
Move: 120' (40') or flying 180' (60') possibly other
Attacks: two or more claws and bite (see damage table below), special
Damage: typical base attack is 1D6 per claw +1 per 2 hit dice; 1D8 bite +1 damage per 3 hit dice; by weapon
No. Appearing: 1D4 (10D10)
Save As: fighter of same level as hit dice
Morale: 6 (slaves), 10 (warriors, barons), 12 (lords, generals, high lords)
Treasure Type: nil (slaves), B (warriors), H (the rest) 
Intelligence: 8 (slaves), 10 (warriors, greater warriors), 13 (barons, lords), 15 (generals), 17 (high lord)
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 55 (slave), 250 (warrior), 1,250 (greater warrior), 2,650 (baron), 3,500 (lord), 4,200 (general), 4,800 (high lord) 
Creature Type: outsider (demon)
Terrain: any planar layer of the abyss, or by summoning
Demon traits:

Infernal Damage: demons are chaotic beings, and their barehanded attacks can cause searing pain. Anyone hit by their claw attacks must make a save vs. poison or suffer a –1 modifier to all attacks and saves due to the pain for 1d10 rounds. This is not  cumulative.

Darkvision 60 feet: All demons can see in total darkness, and often prefer it.

Immunities: All demons are immune to two of the following effects: cold, fire, electrical or acid damage. Barons, lords and general are immune to three and high lords are immune to all four.

Spell Resistance: The devonin are particularly resistant to magic, though it is suspected that they actually absorb it. A demon gains spell resistance of 5% per hit die to a maximum of 90%; each time a spell directly affects the demon the spell caster must roll a D100, subtract his caster level, and beat this number for the spell to take effect.

Resistance (attacks): Demons are naturally resistant to mundane attacks; only +1 or better weapons can deal damage. For barons, lords and generals it is +2, and for high lords it is +3.

Planar Gating: All demons may gate themselves to and from the Abyss at will unless bound by magic or soul gem to a wizard on the mortal plane.

Magic Use: All demons except slaves have magic user abilities of a level equivalent to their hit dice. They know a number of spells equal to twice their magic user level.

Attacks: As indicated above demons have various claw and bite attacks that deal damage based on level. Roll as follows for total number of attacks (D10):
1-4 normal (2 claws and one bite, may use weapons; 15% chance of a magical weapon it uses)
5-6 roll 1D8 for number of claw attacks, plus 1D4 for number of bite attacks (may have multiple heads or mouths)
7-8 as 5-6, plus has a strangulation attack (1D10 +1 damage per 3 hit dice, and target is grappled)
9 as 5-6, plus crushing attack (target must make a save vs. paralysis to escape, or takes 2D6 +1 damage per hit die of demon in damage each round trapped under the demon's crushing strike)
0 roll twice above; all results stack (so a 5 and a 6 means potentially 2D8 claws and 2D4 mouths!)

Special Movement: Each demon gains one special movement form (roll 1D10): 
1-2 flight (wings)
3-4 burrowing (bores through the earth like a worm at normal speed)
5-6 teleportation (as the spell, at will)
7-8 incorporeality (movement through the ethereal like a ghost)
9 normal movement, but as a snake
0 roll twice (or three times if you get this a second time)

Summoning: Demons must be summoned to the mortal plane by magic, they normally cannot go there on their own.  This can be performed using complicated rituals performed by a magic user or cleric of at least 11th level, and requires a blood sacrifice equal to 1D8 points of damage, while conducting a ritual that takes 1D8 hours before an eight-pointed pentagram. 

Invisibility effects: Powerful demons (of baron level or greater) can detect invisibility and turn invisible at will.

Organization: The organization of the demons is quasi-feudal and ever-changing. The only safe rule is Might Makes Right. Usually, only one such being is encountered, but on occasion a misguided cabal of wizards can summon dozens, or even (as with the War of Strife) thousands.

Treasure: Lesser demons rarely have treasure. Greater demons always have treasure, usually hoarded and well protected in some planar region of the Abyss, or similarly hostile plane. Barons and greater always have magical items, in the form of jewelry, garments, or weapons and armor to aid them. Such items are also often cursed such that non-demons will be horridly corrupted by such items.

Description: In the era of the primordials it is said that demons as a species or category of planar creature did not exist, but when the war against the primordials began the elder gods forged vast armies of demons from the souls of their mortal flock, using a great breeding pit in the Outworld called the Abyss from which these endless armies poured forth. Alas, when the war was over and the Enkanneth stood victorious, the demons still ravaged Outworld and survived like a plague in the weeping wound that was the Abyss.

Demons have a loose heirarchy that is in constant flux. They exist only by virtue of those souls which pledged themselves to the primordials, so demons have a vested interest in making sure that mortals continue to be tempted to seek out the worship of the elder gods. In time, a demon can gain great power and prestige, but also at great cost; demons must literally fight, hack and slay their way to the top, and often survival at the pinnacle of power is short-lived before another younger demon slays his master. Only a few demons have reached the rank of high lord and managed to keep it for very long.  In Pergerron these demons include Yazgoth, Volmarr, Trebeshak and Vaskuul.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

B/X D&D Month XX: Crits and Fumbles

These rules have appeared before but I include them now for B/X D&D Month as well:

Critical Hits
   I like critical hits. It's always amused me that the classic B/X edition of D&D didn't really address critical hits or fumbles, and that's probably the first thing back then most groups house-ruled in. My house rule for crits has always been fairly straight-forward: if you roll a natural 20, then you have made a critical hit. You are allowed to roll a second time. If you roll another 20, you have made an instant kill (unless the target is the sort who resists instant kills, in which case deal triple damage instead). NPCs and monsters may also do this.
   If you make a critical hit, you multiply your dice and adds by two, so a 1d8 longsword swung by a fighter with +3 strength would get 2d8+6 damage. 

Critical Fumbles
   If you have one, you must have the other. A natural 1 means a possible disaster for the roller. Roll a Dexterity check, and if the character fails, he has fumbled horribly. This is usually a “DM call” of the moment, but you can also check this handy chart:

1D20                Result
1-4                   fall down (lose a round) 
5-8                   lost weapon! (WIS test to locate where it went)
9-12                 jammed weapon into ground (STR test to pull it out)
13-15               mud in your eye! Blinded 1D4 rounds (or spend one round clearing eyes)
16-17               weapon broke! (magic weapons get a save if applicable)
18                    hit random target (make attack roll at target)
19                    hit ally! (make a new attack roll)
20                    hit self! (make attack roll against self)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

B/X D&D Month XIX: Gear Maidens

Gear Maidens
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 8+3** (M)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: by slam attack or arm blades
Damage: 1D8 slam attack or 1D6+4/1D6+4, one for each blade
No. Appearing: 1D6 (2D8)
Save As: F8
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: F
Intelligence: 14
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 2025
Creature Type: Enchanted Constructs
Terrain: any ancient ruins

Gear maidens are an unusual construct sometimes found in the ancient ruins of Pergerron. Each gear maiden has the appearance of a suit of armor or a mannequin made to look like a woman comprised of complex clockwork moving parts. Most of the gear maidens appear to be one of three types: jackal-headed, elvish-looking, and on rare occasion smooth, featureless faces with a mirror of silver where eyes, nose and mouth would be located.

Gear maidens may have served some other purpose in the ancient past, constructs designed for amusement, or to serve as guards perhaps. Today they are relics which haunt the ancient ruins, acting erratically and without purpose. When a gear maiden (or group of such) is encountered roll to see what their pattern of behavior is (D10):

1-4 - the gear maidens function as if the ruin around them is still alive; they prop skeletal remains up on chairs, serving them empty platters of food while serving long-dried bottles of wine. They will grow antagonistic to anyone who tries to point out the absurdity of their actions or the deathly nature of those they "serve."

5-7 - the gear maidens are mad, and appear to have suffered some sort of mania, which they may call "malfunctioning" to those who can prompt them to speak coherently. These are deadly, usually attacking randomly before fleeing, only to circle back later and strike again.

8-9 - some may be found which are coherent, usually hunting for parts. These gear maidens salvage relics of lore and preserve them, as if enshrining the lost civilizations of old Sar and other empires of the past. They are not above cutting down maddened versions of their own to salvage parts to repair themselves.

10 - occasionally a cunning and vengeful gear maiden will be found. These are the deadliest, for they remember the fall of the old empires, and the destruction of those they served. They will seek to hunt down and exterminate all humand and demi-humans they come across, and will do so with great cunning and relish.

Aside from the retractable blades (about as long as a short sword, but much sharper) gear maidens have the traits of other constructs, and are immune to any gaseous or poison attacks, as well as any attacks that affect life force (negative energy draining, for example). They are also immune to mind-affecting spells, for their magical artificial brains cannot comprehend or react to the magical influence of the mind. Lighting damage heals them. Cold damage deals 1/2 damage to them but they are slowed for 1 round after being subject to the cold attack.

An entrepreneurial fighter with some weaponsmithing skills could extract the arm blades of a destroyed gear maiden to find that they will make +2 enchanted short swords of amazing quality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

B/X D&D Month XVIII: Primordial Spheres

The Primordial Spheres are ten potent magic items, one for each of the great elder gods called  primordials. It is said that each sphere was a gift forged from the primordial darkness, an embodiment of the sacred power and knowledge of the old gods. The primordials coveted these spheres, and kept within them the essence of their might, their magic and their secrets.

When the Enkanneth, the first men, rose up against the primordials and their chaoskin followers they did so with deliberate action, seeking out the hidden places in the Outworld where the primordials kept their spheres. Each Enkanneth stole the power from the spheres, taking all of the energy and lore contained within into themselves. When they were done, the spheres were cast aside, drained of the cosmic energy that had granted true divinity to the elder gods.

The legends say these spheres were discarded as useless, but useless to an Enkanneth...a man made a decidedly different connotation than useless to mere mortals. The spheres have appeared in various regions of the world, often coveted by those who find them, as each one, despite being drained of most power, still contain significant magical abilities that mere men can readily exploit.

Each sphere is about the size of a crystal ball (think a bowling ball) and exhibits a miasma of swirling colors characteristic of its title. The sphere cannot be used without first being attuned to the user: this requires one day of quiet meditation with the orb, after which the user is irrevocably connected to the orb until death or a remove curse breaks the attunement. To invoke the power of the sphere, one need only hold it firmly in both hands and concentrate. Unfortunately such power is also corrupting: each sphere has side-effects if possessed for too long. The side effects appear in three stages; the first stage can be stripped away with the remove curse that breaks the attunement. The second and third stages are more complex, and only a wish can remove their effects.

Unless otherwise stated each sphere casts spells as the equivalent to a 20th level wizard in potency.

Here then are a few of the Primordial Spheres known in existence today:

The Cerulean Sphere of Trigaril
The sphere of the primordial of the seas is a deep blue in color, seemingly as if it were a hollowed glass ball with a slice of the deep ocean poured inside. The bearer of this sphere is able to breath water and can swim at his normal movement rate without problem, or suffer any encumbering effects of armor while in the water. The bearer of the sphere may cast water breathing at will, and once per day may cast weather control.
Corruption: After 1D6 weeks the bearer of the sphere begins to develop gills and webbed feet and toes. After another 1D4 months the bearer can no longer survive out of water for more than 12 hours. After 1D4 years the bearer loses the ability to breath air entirely. These effects transpire regardless of any shapechanging or polymorphication.

The Vermillion Sphere of Verethax
The sphere appears to be a glass portal into a smouldering inferno, and is always searing hot to the touch; it deals 1D6 damage to any who hold it, except for the one who is attuned to its use. The Vermillion Sphere allows the bearer to cast the following spells as a 20th level wizard each 3 times per day: burning hands, fireball. Once per week the bearer may cast wall of fire and meteor swarm. In addition the bearer of the sphere is immune to fire damage, and can speak the language of fire elementals with innate ability (this is lost of the attunement is broken).
Corruption: after 1D6 weeks the bearer of the stone develops elemental traits from the plane of fire, and finds that anything he or she comes into contact with that can burn will ignite (1D6 fire damage). After 1D4 additional months the bearer of the stone develops the ability to migrate to and from the elemental plane of fire at will. After 1D4 years the bearer of the stone assumes the full properties of a fire elemental of equivalent hit dice.

The Ebon Sphere of Yoka Vataras
This sphere is made of pure darkness, a swirling nothingness that all but disappears when the lights are out. The bearer of the sphere immediately gains the power of darksense, a unique trait which allows the bearer of the stone to "see" in total darkness as if it were day, albeit in shades of gray. The bearer of the sphere may cast the following spells three time a day each as a 20th level spell caster: continual darkness, silence 15' radius. The bearer may cast the following spells once per day each: summon object, anti-magic shell. Once per week the caster may cast create magical monsters and permanence.
Corruption: The quintessence of the void suffuses the attuned bearer with dark energy, and within 1D6 weeks the bearer takes on the outward appearance of a shade, with skin of shadow and murky darkness wreathing his form wherever he goes. In another 1D4 months the bearer loses his corporeal body, becoming incorporeal, though still able to manipulate the orb. After 1D4 years the bearer becomes a true phantom, rolling for type as follows (D10): 1-5 apparition, 6-8 shade, 9-10 vision; all properties (and limitations) of the type take effect at that time. While in this form the bearer is undead, but wish removing the curse will restore him to life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Burning Man and Fire Nymph for 13th Age

I'm mostly running 13th Age exclusively now (even my Pathfinder crew has hung up their Core Books to play 13th Age for a while!) so using the Burning Men and Fire Nymphs in 13th Age is a no-brainer...heres my adaptation of both for 13th Age:

Burning Men
The burning men are among the worst sort of undead: not unlike wights, these cunning creatures are formed through an unholy combination of elemental fire and necromancy, imbuing the dead with evil intelligence and a perpetually burning body.

Because they are so destructive, necromancers who create burning men usually keep them in stony enclaves, held fast with thick wrought-iron gates or stone drops to insure they are not able to cause destruction until released. Burning men do occasionally escape...and some are even formed naturally, if the right combination of vile murderer put to death by fiery means intercedes with the right elements then a burning man can appear spontaneously. Such burning men, either escaped or natural, often cause great amounts of damage before disappearing, some believe consumed by their own fire, others believe pulled into the elemental plane of fire until a future time when they are once more released.

When in combat with a burning man they deal fire damage with their claw and weapon attacks, and anyone who touches one will take the fire damage as well. A burning man can spontaneously explode as well; this explosion functions like a fireball centered on the undead. Burning men are, themselves, immune to fire damage from all sources except when they explode; after the explosion there is nothing left of the immolated and detonated corpse.

Burning men are known to carry treasure left upon their person from their death, but flammable items are usually burned away and metallic items such as coins and weapons are usually dangerously hot to the touch (dealing the fire damage when wielded) until roughly 3D10 minutes after the burning man is destroyed, unless some other means of cooling is presented.

Burning Man
Level 3 wrecker [humanoid undead]
Initiative +5
Vulnerable: Holy
M: Burning Claws (+8 vs. PD; 6 damage and 5 fire damage)
Burning Presence: Anyone engaged with the burning man takes 5 fire damage per round.
Explosive Immolation: Escalation Die must be 1 or better (+7 vs. PD against all nearby targets; 10 fire damage and burning man is reduced to zero hit points)
Fire Immunity: Burning men are immune to fire damage (Alt: Fire Resistance 16+ for easier foes)
Undead: burning men are undead and as such are immune to mind affecting spells, poison, and other traits.
Tougher Burning Men: the explosive immolation deals 20 fire damage and 5 ongoing fire damage.
AC: 20                   HP: 45
PD: 18
MD: 12

Fire Nymphs
The fire nymphs are sultry fey who have been imbued with primordial elemental fire. Like their cousins the nymphs of the woods, fire nymphs are an innocent but inhuman and immortal race which exists in tandem with the natural manifestation of their element. In this case, of is fire.

Fire nymphs are most likely to manifest in hot desert environments or near sources of geologic turmoil, where vulcanism is prevalent. They do not breath normal air so the toxic environment at the heart of a volcano...or in the bottom of the sea near a volcanic trench...each environment is equally comfortable to a fire nymph.

Fire nymphs do not suffer damage from water, but cold can harm them and they are vulnerable to cold attacks, taking double damage when struck. Fire nymphs likewise are immune to fire and heat damage. A fire nymph, when immersed in water, manifests as a more human-looking entity but the immediate water around her heats to a scalding boil and deals equivalent damage to anyone within five feet of her.

Like normal nymphs the mere sight of a fire nymph can be the death of mortal men. Any male human or demihuman who sets sight upon a fire nymph must make a save vs. paralysis or be struck dead on the spot. He will rise again 24 hours later as an undead burning man. Burning men created in this fashion are eternally loyal to the fire nymph who created them. A man who saves against the sight of the fire nymph is immune to this effect from that specific nymph forever more.

Fire nymphs can do two things when they touch mortal beings: they can burn them or they can render them immune to fire and heat damage for one hour.

Fire nymphs are flighty creatures, and when the source of their fiery interest evaporates or cools they will slip back into the border of the fey realm and the primordial fire, not to return until a new planar gate awakens due to another catastrophic geologic event or great fire of some sort calls to them.

Fire Nymph
Level 2  [humanoid enchanted fey]
Initiative: +6
Vulnerable: cold
M: Burning Touch (+7 vs. PD; 5 fire damage)
Burning Presence: Anyone engaged with the fire nymph takes 5 fire damage per round while engaged.
Incinerating Presence: The first time a male human or demihuman looks at a fire nymph he is subject to this passive attack (+6 vs. MD; target is reduced to zero hit points) - if the target perishes as a result of this attack then he arises 24 hours later as a burning man.
Gift of the Fire Nymph: the fire nymph can imbue a target with fire immunity for one hour. The target must have first been subject to her incinerating presence and survived.
Fire Immunity: fire nymphs take no damage from fire attacks. (Alt: Fire Resistance 16+ for easier foes)
Cold Weakness: fire nymphs take double damage from cold attacks.
Tougher Fire Nymphs: The incinerating presence kills immediately instead of reducing to zero HPs, and the corpse rises as a burning man in 1D6 rounds.
AC: 17                   HP: 36
PD: 12
MD: 17

B/X D&D Month XVII: Fire Nymphs

Thanks to Legion for inspiring this one!

Fire Nymph
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4+1*** (M)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: by touch or special
Damage: 1D6 fire damage from a touch or special
No. Appearing: 2D4 (4D6)
Save As: C4
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: F
Intelligence: 11
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 350
Creature Type: fey (enchanted)
Terrain: any desert, arid environment, or volcanic region

The fire nymphs are sultry fey who have been imbued with primordial elemental fire. Like their cousins the nymphs of the woods, fire nymphs are an innocent but inhuman and immortal race which exists in tandem with the natural manifestation of their element. In this case, of is fire.

Fire nymphs are most likely to manifest in hot desert environments or near sources of geologic turmoil, where vulcanism is prevalent. They do not breath normal air so the toxic environment at the heart of a volcano...or in the bottom of the sea near a volcanic trench...each environment is equally comfortable to a fire nymph.

Fire nymphs do not suffer damage from water, but cold can harm them and they are vulnerable to cold attacks, taking double damage when struck. Fire nymphs likewise are immune to fire and heat damage. A fire nymph, when immersed in water, manifests as a more human-looking entity but the immediate water around her heats to a scalding boil and deals equivalent damage to anyone within five feet of her.

Like normal nymphs the mere sight of a fire nymph can be the death of mortal men. Any male human or demihuman who sets sight upon a fire nymph must make a save vs. paralysis or be struck dead on the spot. He will rise again 24 hours later as an undead burning man. Burning men created in this fashion are eternally loyal to the fire nymph who created them. A man who saves against the sight of the fire nymph is immune to this effect from that specific nymph forever more.

Fire nymphs can do two things when they touch mortal beings: they can burn them (1D6 fire damage) or they can render them immune to fire and heat damage for one hour.

Fire nymphs are flighty creatures, and when the source of their fiery interest evaporates or cools they will slip back into the border of the fey realm and the primordial fire, not to return until a new planar gate awakens due to another catastrophic geologic event or great fire of some sort calls to them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

B/X D&D Month XVI: The Great City Phantomax

Continuing an exploration of a distant western region across the Sullen Sea...

Phantomax, The Geat City – a vast urban sprawl of steel and steam and ancient works that stretch along the northern edge of the Burning Dust. Ruled by the Council of the Phoenix, a plutocracy of the city’s elite. The city has seen no threat strong enough to penetrate its immense walls, nor has it been subject to loss of territories for centuries. The city is sustained through the export and import of goods in its provincial holdings, which run along the length of the Seer’s River and out to the Sullen Coast, along the length of the Sea of Sorrows.

West of Phantomax are the lands of Precarion, a great untamed wilderness along the north stretch of the Silverflow Mountains. East across the sea are the Isles of Esmonar. Beyond Esmonar are the Wastelands of Sul and even stranger, including the primitive river kingdoms of Anansis.

Phantomax is the last of the old cities, the only “ruin” that remains fully operational and inhabited by humans. It is steeped in ancient history and the people of the vast city state still recall the old technologies, and have some familiarity with the mysterious conflict that led to the destruction of the primordial by the Enkanneth. Of key significance in this knowledge: the primordials are ancient, powerful beings but were not regarded as gods; when mankind arrived on Pergerron they were a minority, and subjected to the whims of the primordials’ many engineered races. It was the rebellion of the Enkanneth, the ancient word for the “first ones” that the rebellious humans rose up and cast off the control of the primordial. The ones now revered as gods were but men, and they stole the secrets of cosmic power from the ancient ones. Phantomax is the sole city that was not destroyed in this time of liberation, and it is in fact the home of the only enkanneth who still dwells in the so-called “principle realm.” Abia, the goddess of secrets, is the enkanneth who stayed behind, though it is said her mind projects through astral realms untold. The rest conquered the Outworld of the primordals and took it for themselves, leaving the knowledge they had liberated from the primordial and their servitor races behind to aid man in his rise to greatness.

In Phantomax, however, the font of all knowledge is carefully guarded in the temple-libraries to the priests of Abia, who has served directly for a thousand years in raising man’s consciousness, if not his sense of destiny. Thanks to her, the old ways were not lost and destroyed like they were across the rest of the world, and were instead absorbed and cultivated into a new way of living in the Great City.

Life in Phantomax: the city is a dense arcology of ancient dwellings heaped upon one another with only a semblance of humanity draped over the vast carcass in the last millennium. The founders of the city were monstrous and alien, and worshipped dark primordial beings which promised life in exchange for obedience. The priest kings of these primordial would dream dark magic and use their power to terrify their subjects. The city grew up as a great temple, mausoleum and pinnacle of the madness and terror that the primordial inspired.

When the city was taken by the human slaves under the leadership of the Enkanneth shortly after they found the cracks to the Outworld and stole the power of the old gods, it was with massacre and butchery in mind. There was to be no surrender of the beings which lurked in the dark corners of the city, only wild and barbaric madness. Still, the center of the city was a great hive-like pyramid in which the lore of the ages was kept. Abia, the young immortal Enkanneth of knowledge realized its value to all and stopped the destruction, seeking to make the temple her own. The human and demihuman cultists of the Enkanneth spent a century fully purging the temple of the primordial minions and influence. Even then in the deepest bowels of the pyramid it is said that there still lies a crack…a rift….to the Outworld and that Abia stands vigilant at the entrance to this day to insure no primordals return.

A few priests of Abia worry that her vigilant guardianship of the rift to Outworld has subjected her to dark, corrupting energies. They sense that she is not…the same…as she once was. But what does one do when your immortal divinity is charged with such an impossible task? So the priests carry on, hoping the stories of fallen Enkanneth are not true, administering to the poor and needy of the city while translating the millions of sacred texts in the pyramid and hoping that when all is done that Abia…and Phantomax…will be well.

This curious history has led to a strange and unique culture in the city itself, which stands apart from all of the other cultures of man to arise in the world, including the River Kingdoms of Anansis, the people of Precarion, Vothrace, Esparta, Esmonar and beyond. Men who are not of Phantomax intrinsically distrust the dwellers of the Great City, for they can sense that the indelible taint of the ancient primordial architecture has rubbed off on them. They can feel that there is a soulful corruption of these men, and that they must keep their distance. The men of Phantomax don’t sense this, of course, and they chalk such accusations and suspicions up to the superstitions of the barbarians of the world who refuse to adapt to the ways of the Great City.