Sunday, January 26, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Eldritch Wizardry Monsters (Part Three) - Day Twenty-Five

Today's Topic is "Eldritch Wizardry Monsters - Part Three" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we will look at Intellect Devourers, Su-Monsters and Brain Moles.

Eldritch Wizardry presents Intellect Devourers this way:
INTELLECT DEVOURERS: These chaotic and evil monsters are fairly intelligent and highly malign with regard to sentient life. Their awareness extends to the astral and ethereal planes. The appearance of an intellect devourer is frightening in itself, for they have no apparent head, being merely a ball-like body of sooty black poised upon four legs. They are able to hide in shadow as well as a 10th level thief and their preferred abode is deep beneath the ground or in a dark and dismal place outdoors. Although they are able to attack with their great claws, their primary offensive means is psionic, for they subsist on the psychic energy of their prey — whether gained from the dying shriek or by more subtle means. If psionic energy (from abilities or magical means) is in use nearby (6") they will stalk the user, seeking a time to attack him alone and by surprise. The monster then leaps upon his victim, tearing with his claws and psionically attacking with ego flail or id insinuation. If psionically successful the 'devourer will then house itself within the mindless body, seeking to deceive others by assuming the character of the person it has slain. The intellect devourer will then seek opportunities to attack and devour others. Normal weapons and most spells have no effect upon these monsters. Magical weapons +3 or more cause 1 point of damage upon them when they hit. Bright light will drive them off. and a protection from evil will keep them at a distance. Fire balls serve only as a bright light, but lightning bolts will cause them pain and some small damage (1 point per die of lightning bolt strength). A death spell has a 25% chance of success, and a power word-kill will slay them. Of course, they can be psionically attacked, and their psionic strength of 200 total makes this not too difficult. However, if seriously threatened they will seek to flee and save themselves. Intellect devourers often roan the astral and ethereal planes. They are able to speak any human language.
They appear in 1 or 2 at a time and are 6 HD, I did not use these since I do not run psionics; however, if you are into psionics they are an iconic monsters and as they can occupy a mindless both and deceive others, it is a terror for player characters.

Eldritch Wizardry presents Su-Monsters this way:
SU-MONSTERS: These evil and chaotic things are found both underground and outdoors. Their bodies somewhat resemble a wasp-waisted, great chested hound. Their heads appear much like gorillas'. All four feet are prehensile and armed with long and extremely sharp nails as well. Su-monsters are at home upright or hanging upside down — the latter being one of their favorite methods of lurking for prey. If more than four are encountered it is likely that the group will be a male, female, and young (determine growth state by rolling a 20-sided die for maturity, using 10% increment, and treating 10% as 20% and 100% as 30%). The female will fight at double value for six turns if the young are attacked, and the male will fight at double value for four turns if the female is attacked. Su-monsters have a latent psionic ability which enables them to deliver some form of psionic attack once (per day) if psionic activity is being used near (within 12" of them). Determine attack form by rolling a 6-sided die: 1-2 = psychic crush, 2-4 = psionic blast, 5-6 = mind thrust. Psionic defense is not necessary as the Su-monster is not itself subject to psionic attack.
They appear from 1 to as many as 12 at a time and are 4+2 HD,  if you are into psionics they are an iconic monsters. Since they are a significant threat without the psionics I did use these. They are AC 6, move at 12 inches and get 5 attacks each per round 4 claws/1 bite. They do 1-3/claw and 1-8/bite. The thing that really makes them a vicious encounter I placed in bold above. I changed the number appearing from 1-12 to 5-12(1d8+4) so that the part in bold always applies. 

Eldritch Wizardry presents Brain Moles this way:
BRAIN MOLES: These small, rodent-like creatures inhabit most places above and below ground. They are attracted by psionic activity (including that of a magical sort). If they come within 3" of a person exercising such activity they will seek to feed upon this energy by psionically burrowing; this has the effect of a mind thrust of 121 point strength upon psionics, and it has a 20% chance per turn of burrowing of causing insanity in non-psionics using psionic related spells or items of magical nature. The only way to escape the attack is to kill the brain mole or to escape from its range.
They appear in 1-3 at a time and are 1 HD and have no AC, I did not use these since I do not run psionics. If you do use them, note that they have no treasure and you might want to consider increasing the number appearing. If I were to use them I would make their habitat a bit more limited.

Tomorrow I will look at Mind Flayers, Cerebral Parasites, and Thought Eaters.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-Six

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Yesterday I linked to a two part essay that asks the question “Who in the World is Dave Arneson?” Now the writer started with the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set edited by Dr. J. Eric Holmes and his essay is from that perspective.

Mine is a bit different as I started with just the (original) three books of Dungeons & Dragons in did not see the Monster Manual/AD&D or the First Fantasy Campaign until the 1990's. I spent nearly 30 years with no knowledge beyond what was in OD&D itself, the supplements, The Strategic Review and the first few issues of The Dragon.

Here is what shaped my view of Dave Arneson: Excerpt from the Forward(sic) of Men & Magic Volume One of OD&D.
For a time the group grew and prospered, and Dave Arneson decided to begin a medieval fantasy campaign game for his active Twin Cities club. From the map of the "land" of the "Great Kingdom" and environs — the territory of the C & C Society — Dave located a nice bog wherein to nest the weird enclave of "Blackmoor", a spot between the "Great Kingdom" and the fearsome "Egg of Coot". From the CHAINMAIL fantasy rules he drew ideas for a far more complex and exciting game, and thus began a campaign which still thrives as of this writing! In due course the news reached my ears, and the result is what you have in your hands at this moment.
First let us quickly dispense with the widely promulgated untruth that the "Egg of Coot" was a slam at E. Gary Gygax(EGG). Note that not only did the "Egg of Coot" predate D&D, it also pre-dated any falling out between Arneson and Gygax.

I had Chainmail and I had OD&D and a few things I certain of, one D&D was not in anyway a Chainmail campaign, IMO you can not play OD&D and be familiar with Chainmail and honestly be able to hold that opinion.`The second thing I was certain of was that Dave Arneson created what became D&D, Gygax himself says that Arneson created a "far more complex and exciting game, and thus began a campaign" and that the "news reached my ears" (that is Gygax) and "the result is what you have in your hands at this moment."

So based on the words of Gygax himself I have always known that Arneson was the prime creative force behind OD&D and that Gygax was the writer down of things and  the prime moving force behind publication. Did Gygax add ideas of his own and did he work more Chainmail back into the game and use a lot of his own mechanics, yes to all of that. But never doubt that Arneson showed Gygax a working game system.

The other main thing that I knew about Arneson was that he was the creator of the example adventure in the Blackmoor Supplement titled "The Temple of the Frog."  
Deep in the primaeval swamps of Lake Gloomey, shrouded in perpetual mist, lies the city of The Brothers of the Swamp. For years past this "religious" order has delved into the forbidden areas of study and determined that animals have more potential to populate the world than man, who was, after all, a biological abomination which would ultimately threaten the existence of all life. Therefore the good Brothers began developing a strain of amphibian that would combine the worst ferocity and killer instincts of larger mammals with the ability to move through swamps with great swiftness to strike and avoid retaliation. Combining the natural animals available with each other — through the use of biological mutations and methods discovered in old manuscripts — the Brothers began developing the giant killer frogs of the swamp.
This was the stuff of genius that sprung from the mind of Arneson and from that time on I aspired to constantly raise the level of my own game. Not to copy Arneson, but to make to be inspired by him and create something unique. I think he would have been happy about that.

46th Anniversary - International Original Dungeons & Dragons Day (January 26th)

Today we celebrate the 46th Anniversary of the publication of Original Dungeons & Dragons. Created by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, this was the first published Fantasy Adventure Role Playing Game. It was and is a game of adventure, exploration and risk as players explore a OD&D world, a unique creation of the referee.

The game world created by the referee can cover the range of human imagination. It might be inspired by the world of the Hyborian Age (the world of Conan), it might be inspired by the world of Nehwon (the world of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) or any of the hundreds of great fictional worlds. It might be a inspired mashup of two or more of the great fictional worlds. Or it might strike off for new territory altogether inspired by, but very much its own thing.

It might be a gonzo world in the vein of Blackmoor or Arduin with a mixing of genres. Or it may stick to one genre without the gonzo element. Whatever it is, it is a unique creation reflecting the vision and imagination of the referee, a true sandbox living world, that is not static, but dynamic. 

By dynamic I mean that things happen all the time whether the player characters are their or not. The world is full of  cities, towns, village, hamlets and thorps, some areas of human habitation are isolated and some are closer to civilization. There are always those brave souls out on the frontier. There can vast wilderness areas, areas held solely by monsters, ruined cities, enormous dungeons, treasures and great wealth to be found with magic and mystery to those brave or foolish enough to venture forth and seize the day.

The village square abounds with rumors and stories of things from the outside world as do the town squares, and the great  markets in the cities. The characters may hear of various things and they pursue one, later on they may hear stories of what happened regarding the roads they did not take. But new rumors and new opportunities for adventure abound.

This is a game where the referee (called a dungeon master in later versions of the game) were not only free to create new monsters, new treasures, new magic as part of this new world, it was expected by Arneson and Gygax that the referee would do so. As they looked at it as of January 26th of 1974, that was a major part of the fun for the referee was the creation of everything in your world from the pebbles on a beach to mighty magical artifacts and everything in between.

In fact they were so sure that everyone would follow their example that the first adventure modules did not come from TSR, but from a third party. As Gygax wrote at the close of Volume 3 - The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures:
There are unquestionably areas which have been glossed over. While we deeply regret the necessity, space requires that we put in the essentials only, and the trimming will ofttimes have to be added by the referee and his players. We have attempted to furnish an ample framework, and building should be both easy and fun. In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you? Write to us and tell about your additions, ideas, and what have you. We could always do with a bit of improvement in our refereeing.
I have often heard the claim that OD&D is incomplete and unplayable without help. I and those I played with did not find that to true, we never did write to TSR with questions, not once in those four years at college. Not that there would have been anything wrong with writing with questions, but being college kids we liked the challenge of figuring it out for ourselves and unlike working adults with families we had more time available to do that.

IMO they did indeed furnish the essentials and an ample framework and the building was both easy and fun. I would like to emphasize something here that is IMO often overlooked: "the trimming will ofttimes have to be added by the referee and his players." I was a referee with initially 12 players, later to have 20 and more. I had English Literature majors, History majors, Science Majors, a Latin major and others and I drew liberally from their knowledge bases and we all read fantasy and science fiction. There was no shortage of ideas. I have always paid a lot of attention to the continuous talk between players and many ideas found and do find their seeds there.

So for me, I did not need nor desire to have TSR do my imagining for me. I started when I had the time and the desire to do it myself and I have never departed from that mold. 

For me the road I chose, "I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." By which I mean that for me, I made the far better choice between the roads and have never looked back.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Eldritch Wizardry Monsters (Part Two) - Day Twenty-Four

Today's Topic is "Eldritch Wizardry Monsters - Part Two" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we will look at Couatl, Ki-Rin, and Shedu.

If you are fans of psionics, then these creatures are mainstays. Eldritch Wizardry has this to say:
COUATL These winged, feathered serpents are rarely found anywhere except in warm, junglelike regions or flying through the ether. Due to their exceptional intelligence and powers they are regarded with awe by the inhabitants of their homelands. and they are regarded as divine. Couatl rarely interfere in human affairs. Magic resistance of these creatures is standard. They are able to polymorph themselves and they use magic - as a 5th Level magic-user and/or 7th level cleric. They are psionically aware and have from 9 to 16 clerical abilities with commensurate attack and defense modes. Psychic potential is 60 to 110. Couatl speak several human languages and most serpent and avian languages as well. They are lawful by alignment, with neutral behavior tendencies.
Oddly they are very slow on the ground (6") and fly at (18"), they have simple one bite/constriction attack modes. Of course as I indicated in the previous post I struck the psionic abilities. One to four appear at a time. I do not remember ever using this monster.
KI-RIN The hooves of the Ki-Rin rarely touch the surface of the earth, for this aerial creature prefers to dwell amongst the clouds, and it is there that he makes his solitary lair. At times they travel astrally or ethereally. Ki-Rin are of the highest intelligence and completely lawful (and good). A Ki-Rin somewhat resembles a cloudy horse. Although they are aloof from human affairs, they will sometimes intervene if properly abjured. They are resistant to all magic under the 12th level, and 90% resistant to magic above that level. Ki-Rin are able to use magic as an 18th level magic-user and all psionic abilities of the magic-user kind. In addition they have powers equal to a double strength djinn, and all magic involving air and things of the sky is of twice normal strength. Their psychic potential ranges from 110 to 180. The Ki-Rin are able to converse with almost any other creature.
They are very fast moving at 24" on the ground and 48" through the air. They have two hoof attacks and AC of -5 which makes them extremely difficult to attack. They are the only non-demon up to this point in OD&D that is given a negative AC. (7 steps better than AC 2) They only appear one at a time, which is odd for a horse type creature. We struck the psionic abilities. I did not use them either, although if I had used demons I would have used this as their mortal enemies and have tweaked it a little for that purpose. As noted they are the universal translators of the monster kingdom.
SHEDU: Shedu are somewhat similar in appearance to lammasu, being human-headed winged creatures with bull-like bodies. They are quite intelligent, and like their cousins are basically lawful (and good). Also like their cousins the lammasu, shedu watch over and protect those of mankind who serve law. Although they are not magical, shedu are highly psionic and are able to the psionic abilities of clerical nature, with attack and defense modes. Psychic potential varies from 55 to 90. They speak all human tongues but prefer to communicate telepathically. They can travel ethereally or astrally.
They appear in groups of two to eight and move at 12" on the ground and 24" when flying. They have two hoof attacks and again we struck the psionic abilities. I did not use these either, although if I had I would have made the "watch over and protect those of mankind who serve law" a focus on watching over primarily Paladins and secondarily Clerics. The other thing I would have done is make them users of Clerical Magic.

Looking these over again, makes me want to use them in a campaign, so that may happen in the future. 

Tomorrow I will look at Intellect Devourers, Su-Monsters and Brain Moles.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-Five

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Today I link to a two-part must read (IMO) essay. Read it or read it again if you have seen it before. In later days I will discuss parts of it.

“Who in the World is Dave Arneson?” A Dave Arneson Homage, Part 1 of 2 by James Maliszewski

Learning from Dave Arneson’s Published Works A Dave Arneson Homage, Part 2 of 2 by James Maliszewski

Friday, January 24, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Eldritch Wizardry Monsters (Part One) - Day Twenty-Three

Today's Topic is "Eldritch Wizardry Monsters - Part One" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we take a look into the monsters in Supplement III for OD&D titled Eldritch Wizardry.

In the Foreword, Tim Kask writes:
D & D was meant to be a free-wheeling game, only loosely bound by the parameters of the rules. We feel that ELDRITCH WIZARDRY goes a long way toward fulfilling the original premise of danger, excitement, and uncertainty. May you always make your saving throw.
A few things of note about this supplement. This is where the much maligned psionics was introduced and a few notes are made about monsters in that regard that you could use if you wanted to use psionics. Just for the record, we never used this, that whole graduating from college and getting a job thing, guaranteed that we just never got around to it. The other referee and I, talked about re-writing those rules, but as no one was asking about it we never did.

Tritons are presented as having the psionic abilities of magic-user types. Titans have some psionic abilities and are immune to psionic attacks. Liches may have psionic abilities. 

The cockatrice, the basilisk, the medusae, the catoblepas, the invisible stalker and the gorgon all extend into the ethereal and astral planes and can effect creatures on those planes.

Then a little adjustment to the clean up crew: grey ooze and yellow mold both have a form of intelligence handled differently for each and may have psionic ability. We did not use the psionics, but giving them intelligence was pretty cool. From that I gave the gelatinous cube the ability to become more intelligent as it grows beyond the normal size if it escapes from a dungeon.

For the most part we did not use any of the demons, that really did not interest us. The only exceptions that we made were these:
Succubi: These female demons are usually not found in numbers, for they prefer to act alone. A Succubus in its natural form appears very much like a tall and very beautiful human female-although the bat-like wings immediately give the observer its true character. Magic resistance is 70% and intelligence is medial for demon kind. Succubi cannot be harmed by any sort of normal weaponry. A Succubi can cause darkness in a 5' radius. The kiss of the Succubus drains the victim of one energy level and all Succubi are able to perform any one of the following feats at will: Become ethereal (as if using the oil of that name), charm person, ESP, clairaudience, suggestion (as the spell), shape change (to any humanoid form of approximately their own height and weight only), or gate in a Type IV (70% chance), Type VI (25%). or one of the Princes (5% chance) - there is only a 40% chance of such a gate opening. however.
We used these as a type of vampire instead of a demon and for powers we used everything except the gate powers at the end. I struck through those to indicate what we did.

Type V: Another of the female demons with a multi armed female torso atop the body of a great snake, they are taller than a large man and far more terrible. Their six arms are all able to use weapons. These demons are 80% magic resistant, cannot be hit by "on-magical weaponry, and their intelligence is high. When desiring to do so, they cause darkness in a 5' radius. Other extraordinary abilities, any one of which can be performed as desired are: Charm person, levitate (as an 11th level magic-user), read languages, detect invisible objects, cause pyrotechnics, polymorph self. project image, and gate in a Type I(300/0 chance), Type II (25% chance), Type 111 (15% chance), Type IV (15% chance), Type VI (10% chance), or one of the Princes (5%): but the chance of successfully opening such a gate is a mere 50%.

We used these as Nāga a highly magical semi-immortal creature instead of a demon and again for powers we used everything except the gate powers at the end. I struck through those to indicate what we did.

We never converted balrogs over to Type VI demons, but kept them as we originally treated them which was as highly magical semi-immortal creatures.

Tomorrow we will look at Couatl, Ki-Rin, and Shedu.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-Four

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Continuing with Part Seven of our look at Running Castle Blackmoor over at The Alexandrian Blog. Today we will look at Part 10 of that series "Blackmoor Village Map."

Running Castle Blackmoor – Part 10: Blackmoor Village Map

He leads off with a map of Blackmoor Village and Vicinity, saying: 
In running my remixed version of Castle Blackmoor, I knew that the village of Blackmoor at the foot of the castle would become quite important. I printed out copies of some of the earliest maps of Blackmoor created by Arneson, but quickly discovered in actual play that they had not been made available at legible resolutions. With a little bit of research you could sort of figure things out, but the map ultimately proved more confusing than illuminating to most of my players.
He goes on to talk not wanting to "radically depart from Arneson's original material." He redrew the map based on the map published in Domesday Book #13. He links to that map and an older map over at Havard's Blackmoor blog.

IMO his redraw is extremely faithful to the originals, although he says he was tempted to make some alterations, but ended up on making one and says it should be easy to spot.

He closes with this:
For the version given to my players, however, I did decide to roll the clock back: Jenkins Hill is not yet (and may never be) Jenkins Hill in this version of Blackmoor, nor has the Great Svenny built his freehold. So this will be the version of the map I give to my players:
He posts a second map that is the rolled back version and indicates that you can download high resolution copies of both.

Before I close out this post I want to link to another post that was made by Mr. Alexander titled The Blackmoor Cruxes.

He talks about the problem of trying to date when the first session of Blackmoor was played. There is evidence that points to 1971 and also to 1970. He says:
However, in their earliest accounts virtually all of the Blackmoor players cited 1970 as the date of inception. Although several people, including Arneson, later decided that their memories must be faulty after looking at the documentary evidence (further muddying the waters), the most significant testimony is that of David Fant: He was the original Baron of Blackmoor and infamously became the first vampire. As such, he definitively played in the earliest sessions of Blackmoor, and yet he stopped playing when he got a job at KSTP at the end of 1970 and definitely was not playing with Arneson in 1971. (The fact he can definitively date the event which caused him to stop playing with Arneson lends his account substantial credibility.)
IMO that Dave Fant dating with a real world event is telling.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Sahuagin and Other Creatures -(Part Three)- Day Twenty-Two

Today's Topic is "Sahuagin and Other Creatures, Part Three" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we will look further into the Blackmoor Supplement for OD&D at some of the other monsters provided.

Here we see an array of creatures with Giant in front of their names:
Giant Octopus 
Giant Squid 
Giant Crocodile
Giant Toad
Giant Frog
Giant Leech
Giant Beaver
Giant Otter
Giant Wasp
Giant Beetle - five types
  • Stag
  • Rhinoceros
  • Bombardier
  • Fire
  • Boring
Giant Shark
Giant Eel
There are some oddities here, for example Giant Crocodile show up in numbers of 12-60, but Giant Beetles only 1-12 or Giant Leeches 2-12. So I tend to tweak the various numbers quite a bit. One thing not mentioned here are Giant Ants and a number of other insects that I have always found to be great fun. In addition, almost any of the extinct mega-fauna do show up IMC from time to time. 

The giant squid is noted to be more vicious and more mobile than the giant octopus. The giant toads are "relatively harmless" but will defend themselves, not so harmless then. Where giant frogs are described as "man-eaters" and truly vicious.

The wasp and beetles give ideas that can be applied or tweaked for other giant insects. 

Then we get into Fire Lizards and Minotaur Lizards which sound like fun and the fire lizard looks like a dragon without wings. 

For dinosaur fans (I am one) we have:
I and other people I know use a longer list of dinosaurs both land and sea. These above are giant marine animals, the first sometimes grabs sailors off ships (keep your guard up) and the last is the sea serpent.

More sea creatures:
LAMPREY: Similar to very mobile leeches, they range from 1 hit point to 18 hit points. They drain blood very quickly (2-5 turns), at a rate of one level per hit point. Evolutionarily primitive, they are hard to kill.
Sea Horse
PORTUGESE MAN-OF-WAR: Possesses 10-60 deadly tentacles, up to 100' long. Body is about 10' across. Big advantages are protective coloration (tentacles indistinguishable from weeds), complete silence and lack of brain waves to detect. Tentacles can paralyze (save vs. same), but only sustain 1 point each, then are severed. Only destruction of the body sac will kill it.
PUNGI RAY: Often mistaken as a piece of low weed or sea grass on the bottom, the Pungi Ray is deadly. Each of the seemingly innocent green stalks is really an iron hard spike full of deadly nerve poison. Their protective coloration is excellent (treat as invisible outside 10'). There is a 50% chance that there will be 1-10 gems inside the carcass. Each square foot of a body that lands on a ray will suffer a separate poison attack. (Ex. — walking on one would be two attacks — one for each foot. Landing on one would be 20-30 attacks.) Treat the spines as poisoned daggers (if saving throw vs. poison is made, still suffer dagger damage.) If the ray is able to cover the victim, treat it like a Giant Leech.
MANTA RAY: This giant-as much as 75' across — is best known for its 15' mouth which is capable of devouring virtually any non giant species in a single gulp. It has a great stinger in its tail which is treated as a mace with a saving throw vs. paralyzation needed if it hits. Normally a solitary predator, it blends with the sea floor. Due to its lightning speed, the first rush is nearly impossible to dodge. Its indiscriminate feeding habits label it neutral. There is a 75% chance that the stomach will hold 2-20 gems.
Water Spider
Weed Eel
Eye of the Deep
IXITXACHITL: A race of Chaotic Clerical Philosophers...
MORKOTH or MORLOCK: The shrouded wraith of the deep
There are a number of others listed as well and these are a rich source of ideas for an ocean going campaign. I have had parties that sailed about for years of game time and it was a blast, they were almost sad when they reached their destination.

Tomorrow we will start our look at the monsters of the Eldritch Wizardry Supplement.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-Three

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Continuing with Part Six of our look at Running Castle Blackmoor over at The Alexandrian Blog. Today we will look at Part 8 and 9 of that series "Special Interest Experience" and "Special Interests."

Running Castle Blackmoor – Part 8: Special Interest Experience 

Running Castle Blackmoor – Part 9: Special Interests 

The Introduction:
In the First Fantasy Campaign, Dave Arneson includes a system of “Special Interests” of which he writes, “Instead of awarding points for money and Jewels acquired in the depths of the Dungeon or hoarding items against the indefinite future, the players will receive NO points until they acquire the items listed below…”
He then asks a lot of excellent research oriented questions about when and how Arneson used this. He talks about different interpretations of the above and ppoints out that Arneson did not seem to spend time writing anything up that he was not going to use.

He refers you here for some additional light on the subject: Perhaps Daniel Boggs’ exploration of the Richard Snider Variant can shed some light on this.

He then proceeds to say:
For the purposes of running Castle Blackmoor, as you’ll see below, I’ve decided to go with the most extreme interpretation: The only way to gain XP is to pursue your special interests. (This is, again, not a declaration that I believe this to have been what was happening at Arneson’s table circa-1971. It’s just the most interesting choice to make as we explore alternative play dynamics.)
He says that what is in The First Fantasy Campaign is not directly usable as is, different methods produce different results and it suggests*:
(suggesting that their explanation has either been mangled or that the material is actually an inchoate mash-up of several different revisions of the ruleset), multiple “examples” that all contradict each other and any version of the rules, and copious references to other sub-systems that have simply not been included.
*File this away, I am going to make a future blog post to explore the implications of this quoted idea and why it is a beautiful thing.

He proceeds to talk about the system he devised as being inspired by what he considers the best ideas of Arneson, mixed with his own and ideas from the game Blades in the Dark.

So he has a Table to determine a random Special Interest for which you will have a 100% rating, to which you add a Racial Special Interest. Some races have a specific Special Interest and others such as human roll on a random table for a secondary interest. All other Special Interest you roll 2d6 times 10% to determine the rating.

I have thought about using this system, although I would allow some latitude with players determining a primary interest.

The next Section is Gaining Experience Points. 
You only gain XP for GP which are taken out of the dungeon and spent on a Special Interest.
XP is gained on a 1-for-1 basis modified by the character’s rating in the Special Interest.
So the higher the rating the more experience you gain and the lower the rating the less experience you gain per GP.

Followed by Complications:
Spending GP on a Special Interest may lead to complications.
This is detailed in the second post of the two we are looking at and it is very amusing to the referee part of me. 

Next up is Community Limits: Where he says the size of the community limits what you can do and spend so it behooves you to go somewhere that you can spend the amount you need or want to spend. There is also a frequency at which you can spend that much gold.

The next section is on Caravans and this should prove usual to most of us and our games. He has some great stuff here IMO.

How to setup a caravan and what that entails, the hazards to a caravan such as:
Caravans – Jeopardy: Caravans are subject to brigandry, natural disasters, and eldritch fates of an even stranger character. In some cases, characters might also simply be scammed by unethical caravan masters who simply abscond with their funds.
Rules for Basic Travel, a full Hexcrawl or on a trail/road that is part of a trade route. Also for the hiring of Mercenaries.

Then we have Community Investment and in addition to what he has here I would suggest looking at OD&D which has some useful information in this regard. Remember that Arneson in Blackmoor had "Domain Play," "Wilderness Play," "Dungeon Crawls," and "Town/City Play" all going on at the same time.

He then talks about Carousing, Carnavale, Philanthropy, Religion, Song/Fame, Training, Hoarding, and Hobbies. In a fair amount of detail, more than enough to generate a lot of gaming. 

The Racial Special Interests: Humans are Generalist, Dwarves are Hoarders, Elves and their Trees, Hobbits and Gifting. This could be extended to any number of Home-brewed or other races used in your campaign.

Arcane Projects are discussed and earning XP for these projects, including Spell Forumula, Bespoke Spell Egs, Workshops, Workshop/Laboratory Spell Eggs, Other Magic Items plans. 

In regard to Strongholds he says:
Specific rules for establishing and managing strongholds are beyond this present document, but 100% of GP spent on strongholds grant XP. If strongholds are located within the community, 50% of these expenses are also considered community investment.
He closes this part with a list of things you could add to this system, all of which are IMO great ideas.

Tomorrow we will wrap this series of posts up when we cover his last post the "Blackmoor Village Map."

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Sahuagin and Other Creatures -(Part Two)- Day Twenty-One

Today's Topic is "Sahuagin and Other Creatures, Part Two" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we will delve further into the Blackmoor Supplement for OD&D looking at Aquatic Elves and Mermen.

The Blackmoor Supplement presents Aquatic Elves this way:
AQUATIC ELVES: Also called sea elves, they are akin to mermen as land elves are to men. Found almost exclusively among heavy weed beds in quiet sheltered waters, they are great friends of the dolphins. They fashion great caverns in lagoon bottoms and reefs, where they establish shops that fashion fishing and seaweed harvesting equipment from indigenous materials (bone, weed, wood and sinew). These they trade with land elves for metal goods (they are unable to forge underwater) as well as rare metals found in the sea. For every 60 sea elves, there is a 50% chance that they are accompanied by 3-6 friendly dolphins. They are humanoid in appearance, with gill slits on the throat. Seaweed affords little or no hindrance to their movement. They are invisible in weeds or on reefs. They are mortal enemies of sharks and sahuagin, and will attack either if they outnumber them. They are friends to dolphins and land elves, and neutral to all others, except for fishermen, whom they dislike due to the number of sea elves snared in nets and killed mistakenly as sahuagin by ignorant humans
Aquatic elves are mortal enemies of sharks and sahuagin we find out here and a couple of things to keep in mind at movement of 12/18 for the elves vs 18/30 for the sahuagin running away is not much of an option for them.  The only thing the elves have going for them is that they live in shallow what water near coastlines, while the sahuagin have to keep below 100' except at night or in storms, so the elves are at a big disadvantage. 

What I did was add spell use with both mages and clerics reaching up to 8th level and fighters up to 7th level. I did the numbers of higher levels similar to how I previously did for the reptile* men. I also gave them telepathy in common with their allies the dolphins, with a 25 mile range so that other clans in the areas could be summoned to help fight off a sahuagin raid. 

The other change I made is that aquatic elves can wear elven chain mail (mithril) and swim unhindered by it with mithril being of neutral buoyancy. Some of those rare metals they trade to the land elves includes mithril. 

They get a single attack of 1-10 or by weapon type. 

Their allies the dolphins are also at a disadvantage versus the giant sharks that ally with the sahuagin. Dolphins move at 15/21 vs a move of 24 for giant sharks. Hit Dice of 2+2 vs 4-9 for sharks. So I increased the pod size for dolphins from 2-20 to 6-24. Their own telepathy has a range of 50 miles along with detect magic with the same range and they are magic resistant equal to dwarves. I gave them a common telepathy with their allies the aquatic elves. The dolphins can be fitted with a harness that allows them to attack with spears attached to the harness.

The Blackmoor Supplement presents Mermen this way:
MERMEN: More intelligent than lizardmen, these aquatic creatures use weapons as men do. They hunt fish, their primary food source. They maintain regular underwater communities where schools of fish are kept penned with nets for food. Giant seahorses are used extensively for transportation. In many ways, the civilization of the mermen rivals that of humans. When out of the water, they will take one die damage per turn during daylight, and one die per four turns during darkness, as well as quadruple damage from fire weapons. Spells and special suits are usually used when out of the water (to retain their moisture) but further limit their movement and combat abilities, as if affected by a slow spell. The first two turns out of the water, they will not sustain damage, and on the third turn will seek to return to it if not protected, or suffocate from the lack thereof (hence the damage). When attacking surface vessels, they may grapple from up to 1" distant. For every ten mermen on a grapple, the ship's speed is reduced 1". If the grapple is cut while they are holding on. the mermen are forced back 1". and unable to move or grapple on the next turn.) One merman out of ten carries a grapple. When surfacing to grapple or board, mermen are subject to normal missile fire with "soft" cover. When they board a ship, they start at a level lower than the ship. Seahorses may be harnessed to the grapples, with the strength of three mermen. Mermen are armed with slings and crossbows as missile weapons, and can surface and fire from seahorseback. They are generally neutral.
Mermen get three attacks, 1 bite and 2 hands (claws) for 1/8 and 1-4 each.  I gave mermen Mages and Clerics of up to 6th level each and Fighters up to 6th level. I did the numbers of higher levels similar to how I previously did for the reptile men.

There is a standard Sea Horse that the aquatic elves use, but here it is noted that they use Giant Sea Horses. The standard Sea Horse get 1 butt of 1-6 HPs. Now over in this post  I noted that before I had the Blackmoor Supplement and only the Greyhawk Supplement I said this about a Giant Seahorses, in regard to Tritons: They ride Giant Sea Horses of 5 HD, AC 6 and they bite for 1d4. 

So what I did is alter this just a bit, I changed the bite to 1d6 and they use the butt on the initial charge and thereafter they bite. They move at 18 inches instead of 12 inches with the AC being one step better that the standard seahorse.

Tomorrow I will take a look at some of the other monsters in the Blackmoor Supplement.

* Yes I am aware that reptile is a broad category that includes lizards, for my game I separated them with reptiles being water breathing and lizards being air breathing.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-Two

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Continuing with Part Five of our look at Running Castle Blackmoor over at The Alexandrian Blog. Today we will look at Part 7 of that series "Restocking the Dungeon."

Part 7: Restocking the Dungeon

He introduces the topic this way:
The creative and evolving process of restocking a megadungeon is something I discuss at length in (Re-)Running the Megadungeon. I’m not going to rehash that material here, and if you’re unfamiliar with that earlier essay you might want to take a few minutes to peruse it.
A large part of the gist of this side article and others is that you should employ standard non-linear dungeon design. I say standard because until I first got online, I did not know anyone did it any other way. The old school dungeon has multiple ways of getting to the various parts of dungeons, multiple entrances and exits, stairways, slides, portals and dozens of other ways (many of them secret or hidden) to enter or exit each level of a dungeon or area of a level. 

Back to restocking the Dungeon. He says that he see restocking a dungeon as a mix of art and science. You want to look at the context of events and the evolution of the dungeon should reflect ongoing events. Then he goes on to say:
With that being said, I often find it rewarding to incorporate random procedural content generation. It can prompt me to pursue unusual creative directions and force me out of my comfort zone. It can also “force” me to put in the work when it can sometimes be easier to default to “nothing happens”.
In restocking the Castle Blackmoor Dungeons he was looking for an alternative to the standard ways he normally does it saying:
As far as I know, however, Arneson never explained his restocking procedures. (If he even had a formal procedure.) So there’s nothing explicit for us to base our restocking techniques on. What we can do, however, is look at how a restocking procedure could be created to capitalize on the tools provided by the Arnesonian procedures we’re using.
He goes into a description of three  approaches that he developed that he calls:
He says in part:
Quadrants, however, give you a simple one-size-fits-all approach that can be quickly slapped down onto any level of the dungeon.
You’ll still want to use common sense, of course: In the map above, for example, you can see how I’ve tweaked the borders of each quadrant on Level 1 to follow natural divisions in the dungeon corridors.
He is referring to a map image posted at the beginning of the post.

He closes by saying that with playtesting you may want to tweak the odds he has listed here and makes a couple of suggestions.

Tomorrow we will look at the Topic of Special Interest Experience.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Sahuagin and Other Creatures -(Part One)- Day Twenty

Today's Topic is "Sahuagin and Other Creatures, Part One" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons Month! Today we begin delving into the Blackmoor Supplement for OD&D starting just with Sahuagin for today.

Here is the writeup as presented for Sahuagin since it is extensive I will only post parts of it and summarize some of the rest; however, you can download a copy of Blackmoor on the Blackmoor Campaign page of Dave Arneson archived here and you can read the full write up directly:
THE SAHUAGIN (Devil-Men of (The Deep):
A constant threat to man, beast and fish are the voracious SAHUAGIN whose only friends seem to be the equally voracious and predatory Giant Sharks. Although of an intelligence equal to the elves in many respects, the Sahuagin have taken and perverted virtually every aspect of civilization to support their sadistic cannibalistic culture.
There is a bit of history of the past and how the Sahuagin came to be and that they were created to be "the most evil of the evil." 
Much about the Sahuagin is probably myth but even if half of what is said about them is true then they are, indeed, a terrible threat.
This is followed by a full physical description. Their average swimming speed is 18" with a max of 30" once an hour. Also it details that they have hundreds of razor sharp teeth. Their attacks include their bite, the tail can deal club damage times two and the powerful pincers provide crushing damage. Beyond that they can rip and tear with the hind feet if the victim is held with the pincers.
Their disadvantages are that their eyes generally keep them 100' or more below the surface, although at night or during storms they will reach the surface. Their ears are easily damaged by loud noises at close range and they cannot pick out the sound of swimming creatures (of any kind). 10-60 will be found in a single group with a 30% chance they will be in a lair with Class "F" and "A" treasure. The lair will be completely water filled since these creatures cannot breath air or fresh water at all.
When found in a lair there is a 10% chance that it is actually an underwater community of 100-1,000 creatures. There is then a further 20% chance that this community consists of 1,000-10,000 individuals. The under water capital city has nearly 100,000 of these creatures residing within its watery limits. These cities will have great fighters and magic users as well as underwater horrors that live and fight for the Sahuagin. The ratio of these is as follows:
This followed by a long section detailing what is found in the communities and we find out they will have members equal to a 10th level fighter and magic-users up to 12th level. They will also have a large number of sharks that will fight for them.

They are armed with trident and net, with deadly poison on the trident and hundreds of small hooks in the fabric of the net. They bring victims to the nearest habitation usually to eat or to pen and use for entertainment.

They have a King and nine Princes, these positions of leadership are always subject to challenge from any other Sahuagin. The losers and any sickly or unfit are eaten. Females are visually no different from males and fight alongside of them. About 1% are born with 4 arms. Leaders will often have 4 arms and since they never stop growing leaders are usually the older ones. They are hatched from eggs and the birth rate significantly exceeds the death rate.

So you can see from the specs that they are very dangerous and they are a growing menace due to a high net yearly growth in population. The way I use them, they are such a powerful foe that even Tritons will seek alliances when Sahuagin come to call.

Tomorrow we will look at Aquatic Elves and Mermen.

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Twenty-One

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary!

Continuing with Part Four of our look at Running Castle Blackmoor over at The Alexandrian Blog. Today we will look at Part 6 of that series "The Dungeon Key."

The Dungeon Key.

First off I will let you know that he provides in his post:
There are four versions of the key available for download as Microsoft Word files:
Blank Template – Glendower Template – Seed 1 – Seed 2
You can download them individually or as the full zip file and the links currently work.

He says:
In order to make full use of this material, you’ll need copies of the Blackmoor Dungeon maps. The maps from the First Fantasy Campaign are ideal, but those from Zeitgeist Games’ Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor are adequate, despite introducing a number of new errors. (The most notable of which was that the cartographer didn’t understand how Arneson indicated secret doors on his maps, so missed several of them and turned the rest into normal doors.) The Zeitgeist Games release does have the advantage of currently being available on DriveThruRPG.
And yes, his link to the items on DriveThruRPG are working links. He also comments that the procedures he is going to show you will work on any dungeon, especially mega-dungeons and also homebrewed dungeons.

The next section is titled "The Keys" and this is where he discusses each of those four files that he made availabe for download. 

He describes Arnesons system thusly:
As I described in Reactions OD&D: The Arnesonian Dungeon, I found this particular format fascinating because the combination of treasure + protection point budget creates a specific tactical “shape” for the dungeon, but allows the GM to completely reinvent the dungeon on-the-fly each time they run it:
Under "Seed 2" he says:
Perhaps the most notable take-away, in my opinion, is how the same stocking procedure can create radically different versions of the same dungeon.
That seems to me to make it a system well worth digging into.

At the end he gives you his "Observations from Stocking."  He mentions odd results starting about Dungeon level 5 and some different ways of handling or interpreting that. 

After this he has a section on "Using Minimalist Keys in Play."

An excellent read, lots of good advice and a sense that Arnesons lower dungeon levels were brutal.

Tomorrow we go on to the next section "Restocking the Dungeon."

Monday, January 20, 2020

30 Day OD&D Challenge - Owlbears and Other Oddities -(Part Six) Day Nineteen

Today's Topic is "Owlbears and Other Oddities, Part Six" as we continue our celebration of International Original Dungeons and Dragons MonthToday is the 20 20 20 post.

Today we are talking about Tritons and Lizard Men.  Greyhawk presents Tritons this way:
TRITONS: Similar to Mermen in appearance, Tritons are more powerful in all ways. They range from 5-7 hit dice, and their ability to use spells is commensurate with their hit dice, ranging from 2nd to 4th level ability. Thus a 5 hit die Triton could use 5 spells up to 2nd level, a 6 hit die Triton could use 6 spells up to 3rd level, and a 7 hit die Triton could use a total of 7 spells up to 4th level. They move 15"/turn in water, but they do not venture on land at all. When mounted on sea horses their movement increases to 24". Armor class varies from 6-4. Magical resistance is very high at 90%; in Lair 25%.
Treasure varies according to strength, 5 hit dice Tritons have Type F, 6 hit dice Tritons have Type G, and 7 dice Tritons have Type H.
Triton, one attack, 3-18 plus special, Number Appearing 5-30+, AC 6-4, Move 15/24, 5-7 HD. 

I did not change much with Tritons, except these things. There will always be at least two - 6 HD Triton, if there are 21 or more there will be at least four - 6 HD Tritons and one - 7 HD Triton, if there are 35 or more there will be at least seven - 6 HD Tritons and at least three - 7 HD Tritons not to exceed 10% of those present in the largest groups will be 7HD and not to exceed 20% of those present in the largest groups will be 6 HD.

Groups of 20 or less have Type F treasure, groups of 21-34 have Type G Treasure and groups of 35 or more will have Type H Treasure. I also changed the number occurring to 8d6+2d12.

They ride Giant Sea Horses of 5 HD AC 6 and they bite for 1d4. (we did not have the Blackmoor Supplement yet when we wrote this up)

Greyhawk presents Lizard Men this way:
LIZARD MEN: These aquatic monsters have a rude intelligence, using weapons such as spears and clubs. They are fond of human flesh, and they will generally capture as many humans as they can when offered the opportunity in order to take them to their lair and have a tribal feast. They live either wholly under water or in very wet places (65%/35%).
Lizard Man, 2 claws 1 bite, 1-3/claw and 1-8/bite, Number Appearing 10-40, AC 5,  Move 6/12, 2+1 HD 
First I split them into Lizard Men and Reptile Men. Lizard Men are on dry land ranging across most terrain types including deserts. Reptile Men are the aquatic monster. 

Among Lizard Men they are specific to a type of terrain so those in hills will have different abilities and adaptations compared to those in deserts or those that dwell in mountainous areas with cliffs or those in deserts with hot sand and sun, but cold nights. 

Among Reptile Men abilities will vary between those in marshes and swamps, rivers, lakes, ocean coastlines. If found near to Tritons they will be enslaved by them and might help a party against Tritons if they thought there was a good chance of success.

I also made them quite a bit smarter so that there are Shaman types among them that can operate as a mix of a Cleric/Mage with up to 2nd level spells of each type. But the number of spells is as for a 5th level Cleric and a 5th Level Mage, of 1st and 2nd level spells only. This is even though they are only 2 HD+1.

Lizard Men have armor of Leather and some metal use, shields and swords, in addition to spears and clubs, they cannot use bows. They do have metal working. Base natural AC is 4.

Reptile Men do not have metal working, but will use metal weapons if they can get their claws on them. They prefer bronze weapons to ferrous metals. Base natural AC is 3.

I also upped the number appearing from 10-40 to 10-100. If there are 21 or more there will be a 3 HD leader, if there are 40 or more add and an additional 4 HD leader and 3 HD leader, if there are 70 or more add a 5 HD leader and two additional 4 HD leaders and four additional 3 HD leaders. There will be one shaman for every 20 in the group.

Tomorrow we will look at the Blackmoor Supplement and the Sahuagin.