Sunday, November 29, 2015

Absence, Writing, Kickstarter

I’ve been scarce around these parts for a long time.  The reason for that absence has been my focus on other projects.  Or actually, one project in particular.

For the last year, I’ve focused all of my creative efforts on completing a novel that I started writing some time ago.  That novel, titled The Ramparts of Tharrenton Deep, is now complete.

My intention is to self-publish it to Amazon and elsewhere.  To pay for the expense of trying to produce a ‘professional’ product for sale on Amazon, I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign.  My purpose here today is to humbly ask you to go take a look at that Kickstarter and, perhaps, if the fancy strikes you, contribute a few dollars to the effort.

The Story

At its most basic, the story revolves around a group of young men (basically peasants from a farming village) who want for something more in their lives.  They set out to explore the ruins of a dwarven stronghold and city a few days walk from their village.  Adventure ensues.

I wanted to write a story that matches my earliest gaming experiences playing OD&D and AD&D.  In all of the fantasy fiction that I have read, very little of it matches those experiences.  If you consider yourself ‘old-school’, you know what I mean:
  • Brand new characters are weak and tend to survive or not by their wits as much as their brawn.
  • This typically involves being careful and methodical as opposed to brazen or aggressive.
  • There are no heroes attempting to save the world, but merely ordinary people struggling to survive.
At the same time, I wanted to include some ‘standards’ from my earliest days of gaming that I believe are typical of ‘old-school’ game play:
  • Dungeon crawling (which, if written well, can be suspenseful and interesting)
  • Resource management (Torches, food, your health, etc.)
  • Mapping
  • The idea that, as a bunch of neophytes, it’s probably not wise to split the party
I have attempted to wrap all of these elements and others into an enjoyable story with memorable characters.  I think that I’ve succeeded.

To this point, I measure my success on the fact that several people have read it who have never played D&D and enjoyed it.  And I think people who have played the game will enjoy the various nods to old-school gaming that the story includes.

The story is not a straight D&D knock-off.  There are some differences, some twists to make the story my own.

If you have a few minutes, please go check out the Kickstarter.  You can download Chapter One of the story there.  And if you’re feeling generous and if you are intrigued by what you read, please throw a few bucks my way.  I would really appreciate it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Short Video Worth Watching: Odin's Afterbirth

It's hard not to heap too much praise on this short video, but I think it perfectly captures the essence of old school D&D.  I have no idea if the artist (a guy by the name of Joseph Bennett) has any connection to D&D or gaming, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did.

I've been away for several months, so it is possible that this has taken our little corner of the blogosphere by storm, and I missed it.  But if it hasn't, it should.  Please repost and spread far and wide.  (No--I have no affiliation with its creator.  I'm just excited at the prospect of bringing this thing to light in the OSR.)

Watching this, I think of James R, Zac, Barrowmaze, and a whole bunch of others.  I would say that this fits the sensibilities...

It's 14 minutes long.  It is NOT safe for work.  And I think that you'll enjoy it.

(Thanks to for bringing it to my attention.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

(A Link to) Dwarves and Weather

I just saw this post over at 'Roles, Rules, and Rolls', and I think it is fabulous.

I LOVE it when someone thinks things through in a slightly different (but wholly logical (for imaginary stuff, anyway)) way that expands my view of or understanding of something.  And I hope that Roger doesn't mind, because I may steal some of these ideas.

Friday, March 6, 2015

5E Experience Point Progression

I'm just now really starting to dig into the rules of 5E as I am DMing for my daughter.  Typically, I play fast and loose with rules, but there are some things for which I would stick to the rules.  One example is the Experience Points progression for leveling up.

While looking at the Character Advancement table on pg 15 of the PHB, something really jumped out at me.  I'm sure it's been noticed by others before, but I just caught it.

Here is that table.  I've added one additional column (XP Delta), that shows the amount of XP necessary to advance to that level from the previous.

XP XP Delta Level
0 0 1
300 300 2
900 600 3
2,700 1,800 4
6,500 3,800 5
14,000 7,500 6
23,000 9,000 7
34,000 11,000 8
48,000 14,000 9
64,000 16,000 10
85,000 21,000 11
100,000 15,000 12
120,000 20,000 13
140,000 20,000 14
165,000 25,000 15
195,000 30,000 16
225,000 30,000 17
265,000 40,000 18
305,000 40,000 19
355,000 50,000 20

From previous editions, I am used to a character needing greater and greater amounts of XP to advance to each additional level.  That is NOT the case in 5E.  (Did I miss something?  Have earlier additions done this as well?)

One thing that jumps out at me is that there are a few progressions where the character needs the same xp for two levels in a row: to levels 13 & 14, to levels 16 & 17, and to levels 18 & 19.  That just seems off to me.  In the grand scheme, I'm sure it probably doesn't matter much, but it is striking in its difference.

Even more unusual is the progression from level 10 to 11 and then from level 11 to 12.  A player is required to earn 21,000xp to get to 11th level, but then is only required to earn 15,000xp to get to 12th.  But the strangeness continues: The player only needs 20,000xp to advance to 13th and then 14th levels--higher than the 15,000xp to get to 12th but still lower than the requirement to reach 11th.

Again, none of this might have much impact in the game, and I try not to be someone who finds little issues to nitpick to death--because frankly it isn't worth it.  But this tempts me to redo the Character Advancement table for play in my house.

Sitting back from this post for awhile before publishing it and having read page 15 again, it strikes me that perhaps the progression from 10th to 11th level was deemed special, because it is the dividing line between the so-called second and third tiers of play, and requires an extra challenge to make that jump.  But even that is unsatisfying to me.

Has anyone else noticed this and what are your thoughts on it? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Magic Item for LOTFP (Part 2)

Here is the second magic item that I wrote for submission to James Raggi in his latest endeavor.  I hope you find it useful (or at least inspirational).

The Carapace of Karadchazuul

The Carapace of Karadchazuul appears to be the lacquered, wooden, and highly ornamental (and hence impractical) forearm piece of a set of exotic armor.  [Similar to how the forearm piece of a set of samurai armor would appear to a European seeing it for the first time.]  It is made up of a hardened plate that fits around the forearm, connected by a supple wrist to a thumb-less glove, the back of which is protected by a hardened handguard.  It will fit over the wearer’s right or left forearm and hand.  All of its hard surfaces are covered with small spikes that slope back toward the wearer’s elbow.  The spikes are the same material as the rest and appear to have grown from the plates.

When found, the Carapace will fit a very large man, but if anyone of any size or race slides it onto their arm, it will adjust its size to fit their arm perfectly.  The first time that an individual slides it onto their arm, they will immediately and permanently have their Strength increased by one point (up to a maximum of 18).  This change will occur for every individual that tries it on, even if they immediately remove it.  There is no limit to the number of beings who will receive the benefit of this Strength increase.  Additionally, each person that tries it on will feel the very strong urge to punch someone or something.  A punch while wearing the Carapace will deal 1d6+2 hp of damage; it enables its wearer to damage items that must be struck by magic weapons.

An individual trying it on for the second time will immediately and permanently have their Constitution increased by one point (up to a maximum of 18).  This second change will only benefit the first person who tries it on for the second time—no others will receive this benefit, until 1337.5 days have passed after the first individual has done so, at which time another may experience the second and follow-on effects described below.  The individual will have an even stronger urge to punch someone or something; they must Save vs. Magic with a -4 penalty or lash out at the nearest target.

The goal of the Carapace to this point (if an unthinking, inanimate object can be said to have a goal) is to convince its wearer to keep it and use it in combat.  As its wearer uses the Carapace to inflict further damage on living things, he or she will experience changes as detailed in the table below.  (The damage will need to be tracked by the GM.  Additionally, the GM should determine in advance the ‘Additional Damage Inflicted’ in the first column.)  Note that damage inflicted by the character using a weapon held by the carapaced hand will not lead to changes—only that damage directly caused by the carapace.  Changes will occur automatically, although the stylistic details of how the change occurs are up to the individual GM, and are permanent.  If a limit to a change is reached, all follow-on changes of that nature are skipped, although penalties that may occur at the same time are not skipped.  If left unchecked, these changes will eventually lead the wearer to actually become a Karadchazuul warrior.  (See Karadchazuul description below.)

Additional Damage Inflicted by the Carapace
Change to Player Character
3d10+6 hp
Strength Increase
3d10+6 hp
Constitution Increase and Permanent Attachment (-1)
3d10+6 hp
AC Improvement
3d10+6 hp
Dexterity Decrease
3d8+6 hp
Strength Increase and Permanent Attachment (-2)
3d8+6 hp
Charisma Decrease
3d8+6 hp
Hit Point Increase
3d8+6 hp
Strength Increase and Permanent Attachment (-3)
4d6+5 hp
Dexterity Decrease
4d6+5 hp
Charisma Decrease
4d6+5 hp
Strength Increase and Permanent Attachment (-4)
4d6+5 hp
AC Improvement
3d8+4 hp
Arm Buds
3d8+4 hp
Charisma Decrease and Permanent Attachment (-5)
3d8+4 hp
Hit Point Increase and Rage (-2)
3d8+4 hp
Dexterity Decrease
2d12+2 hp
Constitution Increase and Permanent Attachment (-6)
2d12+2 hp
Charisma Decrease and Rage (-3)
2d12+2 hp
AC Improvement
2d12+2 hp
Dexterity Decrease and Permanent Attachment (-7)
2d10+2 hp
Constitution Increase and Rage (-4)
2d10+2 hp
Charisma Decrease
2d10+2 hp
AC Improvement and Permanent Attachment (-8)
2d10+2 hp
Constitution Increase and Rage (-5)
2d8+4 hp
Strength Increase
2d8+4 hp
Hit Point Increase and Permanent Attachment (-9)
2d8+4 hp
AC Improvement and Rage (-6)
2d8+4 hp
Dexterity Decrease
2d8+4 hp
Charisma Decrease and Permanent Attachment (-10)
2d8+4 hp
AC Improvement and Rage (-8)

Strength Increase – The character gains a permanent +1 addition to their Strength (up to a maximum of 18).

Constitution Increase – The character gains a permanent +1 addition to their Constitution (up to a maximum of 18).

Permanent Attachment – The character must Save vs. Magic (with Penalty as indicated in parentheses) or the Carapace is permanently attached to his arm.  It cannot be removed from the character’s arm in any way.  If the arm is amputated or if the character is killed, the Carapace will consume the arm in its entirety.  (How this consumption occurs is up to the GM.)  The Carapace will then return to the form in which it was originally found.

Armor Class (AC) Improvement – The character gains a permanent +1 to their natural Armor Class (to a maximum of 6 points better than natural AC for that race).  These changes occur as the character’s skin grows tougher, first thick and leathery, and then hardening into an insect-like carapace.  With each 2 points of increase in Armor Class, any clothing or armor worn by the character will cease to fit, and the character will have to obtain new clothing and armor.

Dexterity Decrease – The character loses a permanent -1 to Dexterity (down to minimum of 8).

Charisma Decrease – The character loses a permanent -1 to Charisma (down to minimum of 6).  These changes occur as the character’s appearance changes toward that of a Karadchazuul (see below), and the character begins to lose the ability to appropriately interact with beings other than Karadchazuul.

Hit Point Increase – The character gains an additional 3 hp (up to a maximum of 50).

Arm Buds - Two buds will form on the character’s rib cage, one on each side, a few inches below his or her arm.  Each bud will grow into a full arm in 2d4 weeks.  The arms are smaller than the character’s original pair, but otherwise resemble his normal arms.  If the arms are amputated, they will regenerate in 2d4 weeks.

Rage - The character must Save vs. Magic (with Penalty as indicated in parentheses) or fly into a Rage.  A character in a Rage will attack everyone around him (friend or foe) for 1d6 rounds.  While in a rage, the character will attack solely using the Carapace.  Upon completion of the Rage, the character must Save vs. Magic (with a penalty identical to that which caused the rage).  If the Save fails, the character will feel a strong urge to do everything in his power to continue forward with the transformation, i.e. use the Carapace as his preferred weapon over any other.  The character may not necessarily abandon the party or thwart their plans.  As its transformation continues, however, the chance that the character will abandon the party increases (10% increase at each subsequent Rage).

Each 2d8+2 hp of damage inflicted by the Carapace after the 30th step will lead to another instance of Rage, with an increase in the penalty to the Saving Throw (-9, then -10, etc.).  Eventually, the character will choose to abandon the party.  At that point, it becomes an NPC controlled by the GM.  One week after that, it will complete the transition to Karadchazuul.

The Karadchazuul is an alien race, not native to this material plane.  It is bipedal and walks upright, although it has four arms.  Its entire body is covered in a thick, segmented carapace; its face vaguely resembles that of a lobster.  It is intelligent although it can only communicate with a series of clicks and hisses.  Nothing is known of their culture or society or if they even have such things; none beyond individuals created by the Carapace have ever been encountered.

For the karadchazuul that was created by the Carapace, it remembers others of its kind, although it doesn’t know where they are from or how to return to them.  Two weeks after it forms, it will amputate one of its main arms, thus creating a new Carapace of Karadchazuul.  The amputated arm will grow back in 2d4 weeks.  If the karadchazuul is killed, one of its main arms will likewise form a new Carapace of Karadchazuul.

In combat, the karadchazuul attacks with each of its claws.  Its statistics are as follows:

AC 4; HD 8d8 (50hp); # of Attacks: 4; Dmg 1d6+2/1d6+2/1d4/1d4.