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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 36 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So we continue on starting with Balrogs:
BALROGS: Balrogs are highly intelligent monsters with a magical nature. There is a high probability that spells will not work against them, To determine success of spells use a base of 75% resistance at the 11th level and adjust upwards or downwards in 5% increments, i.e. a 12th level Magic-User would have a 70% chance of resistance. Balrogs cannot be subdued, but they can be enlisted in the service of a strong chaotic character. There is, of course, always the possibility that the Balrog will attempt to assume command himself, for Chaotic creatures will generally obey a Balrog before a human (except for an Evil High Priest who is slightly more influential). Balrogs have those characteristics indicated in CHAINMAIL, but when fighting fantastic opponents they attack in two ways each turn: The normal attack is with a magical sword of +1 value, and if the Balrog immolates (any score of 7 or better on two six-sided dice, check each turn of melee) it also attacks with its whip. If the whip hits the Balrog drags the opponent against its flaming body, doing two dice of damage. In this manner a Balrog can fight one or two opponents at the some time.
The only thing IMO that really needs to be imported from Chainmail is this:
Balrogs cannot be killed by normal missile fire or in normal combat.
Balrogs can only be damaged with magical weapons, mundane weapons do not cut it. (pun alert) My players faced quite a few balrogs, I enjoyed using this monster and the players really bragged about it when they bested one.
GARGOYLES: As depicted in medieval architecture, the Gargoyle is a reptilian beast with horns, talons, fangs, bat-like wings, and is often bipedal. They are hostile and generally (75%) attack with no provocation regardless of the fact that they may be attacking other Chaotic creatures. They are at least semi-intelligent, and usually can be relied upon to behave with forethought and planning. Only magical weapons/attacks affect Gargoyles.
My Gargoyles come in two types, one Lawful and one Chaotic. One is hostile and one is not. The Lawful type is the much more intelligent of the two.
LYCANTHROPES: There are four kinds of Lycanthropes with varying Armor Class, Movement, and Hit Dice. Only silver weapons or magical weapons/attacks affect Lycanthropes.

I loved to use Lycanthropes IMC. I did use all four types, although the wereboar was the least used type. I changed the hit dice respectively to a range of 4 to 6, 4+1 to 6+1, 5 to 7, and 6 to 8 hit die. All are intelligent and Lawful Werebears can sometimes be quite friendly and good neighbors to have. Chaotic types almost always will attack.
Groups of Lycanthropes are either packs or family packs. Packs are from 2–4. Family packs are from 5–8. Groups of from 8 to 20 are more likely to be packs (two-thirds) than several family packs (one-third).
A family pack will consist of two adults and the balance of young of varying age (one-half to nine-tenths grown). If the young are attacked the female adult will fight at triple value for four melee rounds, but thereafter drop to one-half value. If an adult female is attacked its mate in the family pack will fight at double value thereafter.
When adults are killed all young under nine-tenths grown will be subdued, those of nine-tenths growth will fight until dead. Anyone seriously wounded by Lycanthropes (assume about 50% of total possible damage) will be infected and himself become a similar Lycanthrope within 2–24 days unless they are given a Cure Disease spell by a Cleric.
I ran this as anyone clawed by a Lycanthrope has a 50% chance of infection for any amount of damage and anyone bitten by a Lycanthrope has a 100% chance of infection. You have 4-24 days to be given a Cure Disease spell and a Remove Curse spell. Both spells are required.
PURPLE WORMS: These huge and hungry monsters lurk nearly everywhere just beneath the surface of the land. Some reach a length of 50 feet and a girth of nearly 10 feet diameter. There is a poisonous sting at its tail, but its mouth is the more fearsome weapon, for it is so large as to be able to swallow up to ogre-sized opponents in one gulp. Any hit which scores over 20% of the minimum total required to hit, or 100% in any case, indicates the Purple Worm has swallowed its victim. In six turns the swallowed creature will be dead. In twelve turns it will be totally digested and irrecoverable. Purple Worms never check morale and will always attack.
I changed this to Purple Worms range from 15 to 50 HD (eight-sided hit dice) and can grow up to 150 feet in length and a girth of up to 25 feet in diameter. While they can appear almost anywhere, they do not appear in the mountains nor near sea coasts or in swampy or marshy areas. There is generally only one per 500 square miles and they are territorial with regards to each other. When they reach full size they will break into an unknown number of segments and each will burrow deep and cocoon themselves in place. Somewhere between 25-50 years a new worm will emerge from each burrow.
SEA MONSTERS: As a general rule these creatures are more for show than anything else. However, they could guard treasure. The typical Sea Monster of mythology is equal in size to a Purple Worm, and they work upwards from there to double or treble that size. The best guide is a book on prehistoric life forms, from which the referee can pick a number of suitable forms for his Sea Monster. Typically, hits from a Sea Monster would inflict 3 or 4 dice of damage.
IMC Sea Monsters were not for show, they were a lot of fun and a great hazard for shipping. I was always fond of Sea Serpents, huge Salt Water Crocodiles and truly massive Sharks. A Sargasso Sea area was sometimes an intelligent monster and sometimes an unintelligent monster as there were different types, each with its own characteristics. 
MINOTAURS: The Minotaur is classically a bull-headed man (and all of us who have debated rules are well acquainted with such). Assume that they are above human size and are man-eaters. Minotaurs need never check morale. They will always attack. They will pursue as long as their prey is in sight.
These were of only animal intelligence. They were often used to guard little used areas of dungeons and the treasures hidden therein.
CENTAURS: At worst these creatures are semi-intelligent, and therefore Centaurs will always carry some form of weapon: 50% of a group will carry clubs (equal to Morning Stars), 25% will carry lance-like spears, and the balance will be armed with bows (composite bow, foot-type). In melee the Centaur will attack twice, once as a man and once as a medium horse. Centaurs will be found in hidden glens. It is there that both their females and young are and where their treasure is hidden. In the lair (glen) will be found from 1–6 additional males, females equal in number to twice the total number of males, and young equal to the number of males. Females are not generally armed and will not fight, and the young are also non-combatant, except in life-and-death situations.
My Centaurs are quite intelligent and are great hunters with sharp hearing and great eyesight.
UNICORNS: Only a maiden (in the strictest sense of the term) of pure and noble heart may approach the fierce and elusive Unicorn. Unicorns may be ridden by maiden-warriors and will obey them. Otherwise, they will avoid human contact, unless pressed. When attacking, the Unicorn fights as a lance on its first charge and as spear and heavy horse thereafter. In addition Unicorns are very magical. They resist magic as if they were an 11th-level Magic-User. They can sense the approach of enemies at 24”. They are able to transport both themselves and their riders as if they were using a Dimension Door spell, up to the full 36” distance, once per day.
I have never used Unicorns IMC, for no particular reason.
NIXIES: These water sprites are neutral in nature, but they will always seek to lure humans beneath the waters to enslave them for one year. For every 10 Nixies that appear there will be one Charm Person spell being cast at any person within 3” of their lair. Any charmed character will immediately proceed underwater and remain there until the year is up when he is freed. A Dispel Magic spell has a 75% chance of succeeding before the charmed character is immersed. Nixies are otherwise armed with daggers and javelins (6” throwing range). In the water they will be accompanied by a school of the largest and fiercest fish living therein—probably muskie, pike, or gar – the size of the school being 10–100 fish. The fish will attack on command from the Nixies, but flame (such as a flaming sword) will keep the fish back but not the Nixies.
I have never used Nixies IMC, for no particular reason.
PIXIES: Air sprites as described in CHAINMAIL, Pixies can be made visible, or make themselves visible, but they are naturally invisible to human eyes. Therefore, they are able to attack while remaining generally invisible. They can be seen clearly only when a spell to make them visible is employed, although certain monsters such as Dragons and high-level fighters will be aware of their presence.
I have never used Pixies IMC, for no particular reason.
DRYADS: The beautiful tree sprites of mythology. Dryads are each a part of their own respective tree and will stay within 24” of their trees. They are shy and nonviolent, but they have a powerful Charm Person spell with a +10% chance of succeeding, and anyone who approaches/follows a Dryad is likely (90%) to have the spell thrown at him. Anyone charmed by a Dryad will never return from the forest. Dryads have exact knowledge of the woods around them.
If a Dryad is forcibly taken more than 24" from their own respective tree, they will die in 4d4 days. I had one player that had a Magic-User for a character and he decided to go trade Charm Spells with a Dryad and it must have not went so well for him, because that Magic-User was never heard of again. Oddly enough, the women in the party voted down any rescue attempt. 

We will resume again tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Ninety

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 35 (Part C) of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So now to continue on with a few of the other things that I did with Dragons back in the fall of 1975 through the spring of 1976.

You will remember the original Dragon Breath Weapon Table looked like this:



and this is how I revised it around April of 1976 prior to when we obtained the Greyhawk Supplement:


At that time I also changed Dragons to an eight-sided die for hit dice and for the breath weapon. You will note that there is now a noticeable progression of the Range and Size of the Breath Weapon between the different Dragon races. I also increased the range of hit dice for each race and increased the likelihood of a Dragon being about to talk.

This previously noted house rule," was deleted:
At the fullest extent of the cone, the diameter would be equal to the range.
Since I revised the table.

But this house rule I kept:
I allow the Dragon to swing its head and spray a wide area with acid from one side to another, but not with a lightening bolt. 
I also kept this house rule:
I changed Chlorine Gas to Mustard Gas as the actual substance, although of course I did not use that name with the players.
I also changed Gas to Lightning for the Golden Dragon and clarified that the Golden Dragon may choose to use either Fire or Lightning on any given use of their breath weapon.

You remember the Dragon Age Table looked like this:


I revised this previous house rule:
I upped Old Dragons to four times per day on the breath weapon and Very Old Dragons to five times per day.
to a new version and reading to match the revised table.
I upped Mature Adult Dragons to four times per day on the breath weapon, Old Dragons to five times per day, Very Old Dragons to six times per day, and Ancient Dragon to ten times per day.
The new Dragon Age Table below:



All of this was to establish the Dragon as clearly the Premier monster in the game and to establish that Dragons are never to be taken lightly regardless of how powerful a player and an adventuring party might become.

Dragons besides being Immortal also grow throughout their lives and never stop growing. The older a Dragon is the larger it is, the tougher its skin becomes, and the longer it sleeps, and the more unwise it is to disturb its sleep. The Hit Die limits shown in the first revised table above only apply up to Mature Adult Dragons, the last three age categories will have a greater number of hit dice than those listed in the table.

The Legend of Dragon Mountain claims that it is really the oldest Dragon in the world and has been sleeping for many millennia and it is covered with trees and other vegetation. A wide area around Dragon Mountain is home to many Dragon lairs and they highly discourage visitors to the area. Very rarely (once in a hundred generations) will someone be deemed a Dragon Friend and allowed to visit this area.

Tomorrow we will move on to Balrogs and other monsters.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Eighty-Nine

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 34 (Part B) of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So now to continue on with the Dragons - 
Attacking Dragons: Sleeping Dragons may be attacked with a free melee round by the attacker and +2 on hit dice for chances of hitting.
IMC the Dragon might be sleeping, but that does not mean it is defenseless. Most dragons make it difficult to get close to them without waking them up. In addition, many dragons have guards that they levy from any surrounding monster communities, such as orcs, hobgoblins, and ogres to name but a few. These communities in a Dragons territory also usually pay tribute to the Dragon on a yearly basis in gold and livestock.
Certain weapons will be more or less effective than others against the various types of Dragons. This is indicated on the following chart, the number indicating the addition or subtraction for the probability of hitting as well as the amount of damage done.
As noted in the table below are a number of types of attacks, these attacks include magic spells, certain magical weapons, staves, wands, rods, scrolls, Efreeti, Djinns and Elementals.


Subduing Dragons: Any attack may be to subdue rather than to kill, but this intent must be announced before melee begins. When intent to subdue is announced, hits scored upon the Dragon are counted as subduing rather than killing points. Each round of melee the number of points scored in hits is ratioed over the total number the Dragon has (hit point total), the hits obtained being stated as a percentile of the total possible, i.e. 12%, 67%, etc. The percentile dice are then rolled to determine if the Dragon has been subdued. A roll equal to or less than the percentage of hits already obtained means the Dragon is subdued. 
My Dragons are Immortal creatures and as such it never made much sense for a Dragon to be subduable. So IMC Very Young, Young and Sub-Adult Dragons may be subdued, but Adult, Old and Very Old Dragons may not. In addition, Adult, Old and Very Old Dragons will often be found with their mate. These older Dragons will always use their breath weapon immediately without delay when they are cornered, surprised in their sleep or if they even suspect that you are trying to subdue them and sell them into slavery or even worse to a Magic-User for experimentation. 

If they surmise that you are trying to subdue them (such as striking with the flat of the weapon) they will fight at double value, meaning they can use their breath weapon, immediately followed by claw, claw, bite and a tail sweep all in the same melee round. If they are in the presence of their mate, they will both fight at double value and will gain a +2 to all attacks. This also applies if either or both are in the presence of their young.
For example:
A “Very Old” 11 Hit Dice Red Dragon is encountered asleep in its cavernous lair. Three fighters creep in and strike to subdue. All three hit, scoring respectively 2,3, and 6 points, or 11 points total. 11 ratioed over 66 (the number of hit points the Dragon can absorb before being killed or in this case subdued) is 1/6th or 17%. The referee checks to determine if the Dragon is subdued and rolls over 17 on the percentile dice. The Dragon is not subdued, and a check is then made to see whether he will bite or use his breath weapon during the second melee round. The result indicates he will breathe. The attackers strike again and once more all hit for a total of 12 points. The Dragon breathes and as none make their saving throws the attackers are all killed for they take 66 points of damage from Dragon fire. Subsequently, the referee rolls 01 on the percentile dice (any roll up to 34 would have indicated success) indicating that had the attackers survived, they would have subdued the Red Dragon that turn.
As I noted before about breath weapon damage, this very old 11 Hit Die Dragon does 66 points of damage with its breath weapon. You do not roll damage, they always do maximum damage with their breath weapon if you miss your saving throw.
Not more than eight man-sized creatures can attempt to subdue any one Dragon.
This just identifies how many people can crowd in around a Dragon. My Dragons are larger and the number increases to twelve man-sized creatures.
Value of Subdued Dragons: Subdued Dragons can be sold on the open market (going out of existence in the game) for from 500 to 1,000 Gold Pieces per hit point it can take. Thus, the Red Dragon in the above example would be worth from 33,000 to 66,000 Gold Pieces. Offers are determined by the referee merely by rolling a six-sided die to see if the offer will be 500 (die 1), 600 (die 2), etc. Gold Pieces. Of course the character or characters who subdued the Dragon could keep it in their own service or sell it to other players for whatever they could get.
First, since I only allowed the younger and lower hit point Dragons to be subdued, I increased the value to 1000 to 2000 GP per hit point as standard sale value, but if you could get several bidders in an open auction, the value could be much higher, especially if several Magic-Users are involved.

Second, what is the "(going out of existence in the game)" all about? We assumed that it was a tidbit from the home game of Gygax, due to (we guessed) players deciding to go out and hunt dragons and sell them. So he was taking the open market selling of dragons away from them.  In all the 40+ years since, I have never heard this remarked upon by anyone talking about the Greyhawk campaign and I had really forgotten about it until I was going through it writing this.
Length of Subdual: A subdued Dragon will remain in that state until such time as an opportunity presents itself to escape or kill its master, but as long as the master is in a commanding position it will not attempt either course.
Parental Dragons finding Very Young, Young or Sub-Adult Dragons or a Dragon finding its mate missing, will attempt to track and locate the missing. Dragons have been known to wreak havoc in such cases. (This is something I have kept from the beginning all the way to the present day.)
Two or More Dragons: If two Dragons are encountered they will be a mated pair of at least the 4th age category. If three or four Dragons are encountered they will constitute a family group of a male, female and one or two young. The adults will be of the 4th or greater age category, the young of the 1st. If the young are attacked both parents will automatically use their breath weapons. If the female is attacked the male will attack at double value unless he is simultaneously attacked, and vice versa.
I superseded this with what I wrote higher up the page.
Dragon Treasure: Very Young and Young Dragons are unlikely to have acquired treasure. Sub-Adult Dragons will have about half the indicated treasure for Dragons. Very Old Dragons can have as much as twice the indicated amount.
I changed this to Old Dragons will have as much as twice the indicated amount. Very Old Dragons can have as much as quadruple the indicated amount.

Tomorrow I will post a few of the other things that I did with Dragons back in the fall of 1975 through the spring of 1976.

A Fantastic Bundle on a Certain Website

I was doing some browsing on a certain website that offers both print and pdf RPG products and I ran across this fantastic offer! There are seven pdfs in this bundle and I am sure that all of you cannot wait to buy it. 


I knew there were reports of price gouging going on, but I had no idea that it had hit this close to home.

In other news, small game company hires former Big Pharma executive as their new CEO, as part of their push to bring their company to a new prominence in the industry.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Eighty-Eight

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 33 (Part A) of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So on with the Dragons - 
DRAGONS: There are six varieties of Dragons, each with separate characteristics in particular and other things in common. The varieties will be dealt with first:
I will not detail it here today, but it did not take long before the dragons and types were expanded in our campaign, well before we saw anything else from TSR.


As you can see above there was a definite hierarchy among dragons with limited overlap. I increased the overlap so that a White Dragon could be as big as 9 Hit Dice and a Golden Dragon could be as small as 9 Hit Dice. At the other end of things a White Dragon could be as small as 4 Hit Dice and both a Golden Dragon and a Red Dragon could be as Large as 15 Hit Dice. Also the chance of finding a Dragon sleeping was 0% unless you were in an area where they could lair and certain other spots. For instance, you might see one sleeping in the sun on a ledge, but never in the middle of an open field. Each habitat has areas where there could be lairs and areas where there could not be.
Breath Weapons: The Dragon is able to use its breath but three times per day, so sometimes it will bite instead. To determine this simply roll two six-sided dice; a score of six or less indicates the Dragon will bite, but a seven or better indicates it will breathe.
I upped Old Dragons to four times per day on the breath weapon and Very Old Dragons to five times per day. I also tweaked the Range & Shape of the Breath Weapon.
Cone-shaped breath weapons originate from the mouth of the Dragon at 1/2” diameter.
At the fullest extent of the cone, the diameter would be equal to the range.
Line-shaped breath weapons will travel in a straight line beginning at the height of the Dragon’s head at the time it releases.
I changed this to allow the Dragon to swing its head and spray a wide area with acid from one side to another, but not with a lightening bolt.
Cloud-shaped breath weapons extend from ground level to a height of 3”.
I changed Chlorine Gas to Mustard Gas as the actual substance, although of course I did not use that name with the players.
Hit Dice: The number of dice is an indication of the size of the creature. Most will fall in the middle, but 20% will be small and 20% very large. The value of the hit dice, as well as the value of the breath weapon, will be subject to the maturity of the Dragon.
I rolled on the first column, but when using the last column that was not a roll, that was just using the specified points per die. So a 10 Hit Die Dragon that was very old would have 60 Hit Points and a Breath Weapon that did 60 Hit Points of damage before any successful Saving Throw. But a 6 Hit Die Young Dragons would have 12 Hit Points and a Breath Weapon that would do 12 Hit Points of Damage before any successful Saving Throw. (This will also come into play with something that we will look at tomorrow).


My current take on Dragons uses a much wider range of Description and Age than what is given here. But even in those early days I tweaked this table, because IMC Dragons are Immortal unless they die by violence.
Special Characteristics:
As you add types of Dragons you can have a lot of fun determining there special characteristics.
White Dragons will be found only in cold regions.
The least intelligent of Dragons, they lack spell casting.
Black Dragons will be found only in swamps and marshes. If the Dragon can talk there is a 5% chance it can use magic, 1st level only.
These dragons can hold their breath a long time, more than any other dragon and lurk below the surface of any water that is present. I also bumped the chance of spell use up to 15%.
Green Dragons frequent woods and forests. If the Dragon can talk there is a 10% chance it can use magic, 1st- and 2nd-level spells.
 I also bumped the chance of spell use up to 25%.
Blue Dragons are at home in the deserts and arid lands. There is a 15% chance that talking Blue Dragons can use magic spells of 1st and 2nd level.
These dragons will lurk, burrowed into a sand dune just waiting and watching.  I also bumped the chance of spell use up to 35% and the spell level up to 3rd level.
Red Dragons inhabit mountainous and hilly regions. If the dragon can talk there is a 15% chance it can use magic, 1st through 3rd levels.
These Dragons have the foulest temper of any Dragon Type and are the touchiest to deal with. All Red Dragons are Chaotic with a tendency to be evil. I also bumped the chance of spell use up to 45% and the spell level up to 4th level.
Golden Dragons are able to abide anywhere, as they are actually a class unto themselves. These monsters are by far the most intelligent of all their kind, and they are able to use magic. They can employ spells up to the 6th level, gaining one level for each of their stages of maturity, having one spell for each hit die they have. Golden Dragons are the only Dragons which are Lawful in nature although this exception is not noted on the Alignment table. They will often appear as human or in some other guise. They will not usually serve any character.
Golden Dragons are the elite of Dragon Kind and are the most loquacious of all dragons. They are often given to quizzing humans that they encounter and sometimes setting them to a task or dangling an opportunity before them. They are very curious and inquisitive and may take an interest in a group that they find intriguing. Golden Dragons are also known to sometimes hunt a particularly troublesome Red Dragon that is stirring up humans against Dragon Kind.

Tomorrow we will continue on with Part B of this look at Dragons.

If you want to look at my most recent take on Dragons go here.

Friday, March 27, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Eighty-Seven

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 32 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So on with the monsters - 
COCKATRICE: The Cockatrice is a less powerful but more mobile Basilisk. It turns opponents to stone by touch. The Cockatrice is able to fly. They are not intelligent.
This mythical beast was said to kill both animal and vegetable life with its gaze or its breath either one. So I added these to its powers.
BASILISK: Although this creature cannot fly, it has the power of turning to stone those whom it touches and those who meet its glance, but it in turn can be petrified by the reflection of its own eyes if the light is sufficient, and it looks at a good reflector. The Basilisk is not intelligent.
This mythical beast was said to be able to kill with deadly venom, it leaves a deadly trail of venom where ever it goes, it kills plants and creatures both. It kills by touch, by the gaze and by the sound of its voice and by its breath. I added these things and removed the turn to stone stuff.
MEDUSAE: A human-type monster with the lower body of a snake, a human torso and head, with tresses which are asps. It is able to turn those who look at its eyes to stone, while the bite of the snakes which cover its head is deadly (poison). As it is intelligent it will cleverly attempt to beguile victims into looking at it. It also is subject to the effects of its reflected glance.
In mythology Gorgons were the three sisters Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. But I kept Medusae as a type of monster and added a few details from mythology: tusks, wings, bronze claws, and scaly skin.
GORGONS: These bull-like monsters have scales of iron covering their hides and a breath which is capable of turning to stone those who are within its 6’ range.
Bitd I was mystified as to where Gygax got this as his gorgon separate from Medusae. A couple of medieval buffs in the group had some theories, but I do not remember the details anymore. It least not separate from other things I have read in the intervening years.
MANTICORES: Huge, lion-bodied monstrosities with a man’s face, horns, dragon wings, and a tail full of iron spikes. There are 24 of these spikes in a Manticore’s tail, and they can be fired 6 at a time in any one direction with the range (18”) accuracy and effect of a crossbow. Their favorite prey is man.
In mythology they had a tail of venomous spines or the tail of a scorpion and no wings. So I replaced the iron spikes with the venomous spines and kept the wings. It was said to have a triple row of teeth and ate everything including the bones. I added that  and made its bite do two dice of damage +2 Hit Points. (2d6+2)
HYDRAS: Unlike the standard mythological concept of the Hydra being a snake with many heads, these beasts are large dinosaurs with multiple heads. Because of its size and constitution, each head is represented by one hit die, and the hit die per head is generally of six pips. Thus a six-headed Hydra has six hit dice of six pips each, or 36 total points. When six hit points are scored on it one head is then killed. Hydras of five heads fight as 5th-level fighters, those with six as 6th-level fighters, and so on. A ten-headed Hydra would fight as a 10th-level fighter even when it had but one head left. Usually all of a Hydra’s heads can attack simultaneously.
I changed this back to the serpentine monster of legend, gave it back its poisonous breath and blood. I also gave it back the ability to regrow two heads in place of each one cut off. As it grows more heads it levels up and becomes a more powerful fighter. To kill it you have to cut off all the heads in the same melee round.
CHIMERAS: Combining the worst of many creatures, a Chimera has the fore-body of a great cat, the hind quarters of a goat, dragon wings, and three heads. The goat’s head can gore with its long and sharp horns, the lion’s head can tear with its great fangs, and the dragon’s head can either bite or breathe fire (but with a range of only 5” and but three dice damage).
In mythology it was lion, goat and snake or dragon with the head attached to each part of the body, but I liked this description (and the wings)and kept it mostly unchanged. I had it as the fore-body of a Lion, the trunk of a huge Goat and the hindquarters of a Dragon and it had a dragon tail and could use the tail as an attack also.
WYVERNS: These monsters are relatives of Dragons, but they are smaller and have but two legs. A Wyvern hasn’t the fearsome breath of a true Dragon, but they are equipped with a poisonous sting in their tail and poison enough to use it repeatedly. It is their primary defense, and they will use it two-thirds of the time (biting otherwise, die 5 or 6 indicates the latter). The tail is mobile and can be brought over the back to reach any opponent standing before its head.
They can still bite, and attack with the claws. It also still has wings and can fly.

Tomorrow we will be looking at Dragons in some detail.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 31 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So on with the monsters - today the Undead:
SKELETONS/ZOMBIES: Skeletons and Zombies act only under the instructions of their motivator, be it a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos). They are usually only found near graveyards, forsaken places, and dungeons; but there is a possibility of their being located elsewhere to guard some item (referee’s option). There is never any morale check for these monsters; they will always attack until totally wiped out.
Skeletons per the movie inspirations of Ray Harryhausen use weapons, at least the humanoid ones of human size do. Remember that skeletons can be any creature both animals and monsters. An elephant graveyard could be a deadly peril.

Zombies we assumed were the dead who had not been dead long enough to be reduced to skeletons and so these were rotting corpses with a stomach turning smell and a source of every imaginable disease. If you were near a graveyard you would get both, an old battlefield you would get skeletons, a very recent battlefield you would get zombies and so forth.
GHOULS: As stated in CHAINMAIL for Wights, Ghouls paralyze any normal figure they touch, excluding Elves. They otherwise melee in the regular fashion and are subject to missile fire. Any man-type killed by a Ghoul becomes one.
If you throw in ghouls several times over several games, it is amazing how many people decide their next character will be an elf. Ghouls are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos).
WIGHTS: Wights are nasty critters who drain away life energy levels when they score a hit in melee, one level per hit. Thus a hit removes both the hit die and the corresponding energy to fight, i.e. a 9th-level fighter would drop to 8th level. Wights cannot be affected by normal missile fire, but silver-tipped arrows will score normal damage, and magic arrows will score double hits upon them. Magical weapons will score full hits upon them, and those with a special bonus add the amount of the bonus in hit points to the hits scored. Men-types killed by Wights become Wights. An opponent who is totally drained of life energy by a Wight becomes a Wight.
As silver-tipped arrows will score normal damage, I ruled that any silver or silver coated weapon will score normal damage. Players hate level drain. Wights are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos).
WRAITHS: These monsters are simply high-class Wights with more mobility, hit dice, and treasure. Hits by silver-tipped arrows will score only 1/2 die of damage, and magic arrows only score 1 die of damage when they hit.
So any silver or silver coated weapon will score 1/2 die of normal damage and magic weapons will score 1 die of damage when they hit. Wraiths are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos).
MUMMIES: Mummies do not drain life energy as Wights and Wraiths do, but instead their touch causes a rotting disease which makes wounds take ten times the usual time for healing. A Cleric can reduce this to only twice as long with a Cure Disease spell if administered within an hour. Only magic weaponry will hit Mummies, and all hits and bonuses are at one-half value against them. Note, however, that Mummies are vulnerable to fire, including the ordinary kind such as a torch.
Mummies are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos). Magic Swords which are purpose swords against Undead will do full damage both hits and bonuses. Select other powerful magical weapons, may also do full damage.
SPECTRES: These monsters have no corporeal body which makes them totally impervious to all normal weaponry (but can be struck by all magical weapons), including silver-tipped arrows. They drain two life energy levels when they score a hit. Men-types killed by Spectres become Spectres under the control of the one who made them.
Any silver or silver coated weapon will score normal damage. Wights are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos). With the drain of two life energy levels per hit, defeating these monsters quickly is a high priority. My players learned to use silver coated tridents or silver coated spears with a boar guard set versus charge to good effect. A couple of years later, which I am not covering right now, one Magic-Users researched a Disruption Spell to target Spectres and Vampires.
VAMPIRES: These monsters are properly of the “Undead” class rather than Lycanthropes. If they are exposed to direct rays of sunlight, immersed in running water, or impaled through the heart with a wooden stake they are killed; otherwise they can be hit only as Spectres, but such hits do not kill them but only force them to assume gaseous form if they lose all hit points. Vampires drain two life energy levels as do Spectres when they hit an opponent in combat. They regenerate during combat as do Trolls, but they do so immediately upon being hit at the rate of three hit points per turn. Vampires can command help by calling to them from 10 to 100 rats or bats or from 3 to 18 wolves. They can polymorph themselves into either a huge bat or into a gaseous form, doing either at will. They Charm men-types merely by looking into their eyes (treat as a Charm Person spell with a minus 2 for the object’s saving throw against magic). Vampires cannot abide the smell of garlic, the face of a mirror, or the sight of a cross. They will fall back from these if strongly presented. They must always return to a coffin whose bottom is covered with soil from their native land during the daylight hours. Men-types killed by Vampires become Vampires under the control of the one who made them.
Vampires are self-motivated and have their own agendas unless under the direct control of a very powerful Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos).If under the control of a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos) they get a saving throw twice per day as they will never stop trying to break free of control.  As I did for Trolls, Vampires also regenerate at 1 hit point per melee round or 10 hit points per turn. 

Players learned that you can pin a Vampire down with a minimum of three magical or silver coated spears(with boar guard) or tridents that all hit the same round allowing a wooden stake to possibly be driven through the heart the same round, so the stake wielder must be ready to pounce. The stake wielder has a +4 to hit in such cases; however, there is a 50% chance that the Vampire will turn gaseous before the blow may be struck. 

The aforementioned Disruption Spell also works on the gaseous phase Vampire, but as I said that came later on and not in this initial period. We also added a Ghost to the list, but that also came a little later on.

Clerics and temples do a brisk business in areas that have vampires.

Of course if you can find the coffin, carry it out into full daylight and then open it, that works very well too.

Tomorrow we will continue on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 30 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

**For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.**

So on with the monsters:
HOBGOBLINS: These monsters are large and fearless Goblins, having +1 morale. The Hobgoblin king will fight as an Ogre, as will his bodyguard of from 2–4 in number.
As I noted anywhere from 10-20% of all monsters will have greater than normal hit dice and in general I run monsters with variable hit dice and they are not cookie cutter creatures. They have personalities and their own agendas. Most monsters will not blindly fight to the death, unless there is a really good reason to do so. 

In the game reputation matters. What goes around, comes around. And remember monsters are mostly neutral or chaotic and some are lawful. They are not all evil all the time. They are like humans in that regard, some good and some evil, regardless of alignment. That is part of the reason that I do not give XP for killing most things IMC. 
GNOLLS: A cross between Gnomes and Trolls (. . . perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale. Otherwise they are similar to Hobgoblins, although the Gnoll king and his bodyguard of from 1–4 will fight as Trolls but lack regenerative power.
Interestingly in the 5th print "Lord Dunsany" is changed to "Lord Sunsany" and that error is retained even in the 2013 Edition. Likely this is because no one involved in the 2013 reprint ever heard of Lord Dunsany. 

My Gnolls are not dog/hyena faced as back in 1975 there was nothing to give me that impression. So I have never changed them. I also back in the day gave them regeneration but slower than trolls.
OGRES: These large and fearsome monsters range from 7 to 10 feet in height, and due to their size will score 1 die +2 (3–8) points of hits when they hit. When encountered outside their lair they will carry from 100 to 600 Gold Pieces each.
My ogres were very muscular and extremely strong. They typically used clubs as their weapon of choice. These clubs were the length of a two-handed sword and much heavier. If they rolled a natural 20 on an attack, they rolled again. Like most monsters they go the same thing that humans did a second natural 20 was a kill. Also on a 17-19 on the second roll they did double damage.
TROLLS: Thin and rubbery, loathsome Trolls are able to regenerate, so that beginning the third melee round after one is hit it will begin to repair itself. Regeneration is at the rate of 3 hit points per turn. Even totally sundered Trolls will regenerate eventually, so that unless they are burned or immersed in acid they will resume combat when they have regenerated to 6 or more hit points. In strength they are about equal to an Ogre, but as they use only their talons and fangs for weapons, only one die of damage is scored when they hit an opponent.
My trolls were thin if they were starving, if they were well fed they were muscular, not like ogres, but muscular. I changed the regeneration to 1 hit point per melee round starting the round after they first took damage. So 10 hit points per turn instead of 3 hit points per turn. If you cut a troll into 10 pieces, those pieces will regenerate into 10 trolls. The smallest pieces do not regenerate, but no one is sure how small is too small, so it is best to completely destroy every bit of a troll you can find when the fight is over. Trolls get a minimum of three attacks per round, claw, claw and bite. Trolls are very strong, very fast and very quick.

Trolls come in many, many varieties, mountain trolls had fur that blended right into the rocks and boulders. We started with the green and purple trolls and then as time went by, their color matched where they lived. Oh and my trolls were mindless eating machines, always starving and no alignment. If two giants grabbed a troll and stretched it, a troll could be pulled like taffy.

I have always run trolls from then until now as getting bigger the older they get, as they are immortal unless destroyed. That is they do not age, but constantly regenerate.
GIANTS: As stated in CHAINMAIL, Giants act as mobile light catapults with a 20’ range. Due to their huge weapons all Giants will score two dice of damage when hitting an opponent. Wandering Giants will carry from 1,000 to 6,000 Gold Pieces with them in their usual copious shoulder sack. 
The gold that Giants have with them is gold they obtained during a raid on someone or something else.
Note that there can be many types of Giants including the following:

As you can see from the table the larger giants throw as a heavy catapult. And the damage goes up per giant type. Giants also use clubs and spears and sometimes monstrous swords. Sometimes they may have armor and even shields. The intelligence of giants varies much as it does among men. Giants are largely neutral, but sometimes you may encounter a Lawful or Chaotic Giant.

Boulders are rocks that are 10 inches in Diameter or larger. Sandstone weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot and Limestone or Granite weighs about 175 pounds per cubic foot. Giants will typically select boulders ranging from 150 pounds to 200 pounds depending on the type of Giant.
Hill Giants are the most common (60%) while the others are seldom encountered (10% each type, total 40%). Those Giants who abide in castles sometimes have additional guards. There is a 50% chance that some other monster will be there: die 1–4 = a Hydra of from 5–10 heads; die 5 or 6 is either from 6–36 wolves or from 3–18 bears.
I changed this to: There will also be 6-10 ogres plus there is a 75% chance that some other monster will be there: die 1-2 = 4-24 Cave Lions, die 3-4 = 6-36 Dire Wolves and die 5-6 = 3-18 Cave Bears.

And tomorrow we will continue on with our look at the original set of monsters in OD&D.

Broken Spoke Production and The Eighteen Pages and a Supplement (Update 04/02)

As of today, the links are dead and sadly the three pdfs have been taken down by the author.

I have shared this information several places, but I decided to do a blog post to make it easier to share more widely. The source of this is at a location that I do not have access to, but several friends send me excerpts of things from time to time.

An OSR poster known as derv does a little self-publishing of very interesting stuff as Broken Spoke Production.

About three weeks ago he posted a link to what he called The Eighteen Pages - A Fantasy Blackmoor Rules System. This was a rift off of the fabled Eighteen Pages of notes that Dave Arneson forwarded to Gary Gygax. Dave Arneson had traveled from the Twin Cities in MN down to Lake Geneva in WI and ran the Blackmoor game (and setting) for Gygax and friends. Gygax wanted to publish the game and Arneson sent him Eighteen Pages of notes, (depending on who is telling the story and when, the number of pages varies). They collaborated by snail mail and by phone for over a year before OD&D was published.

So...

Short term link to pdf. It is one guys guess as to what was in the 18 pages sent by Arneson to Gygax. It may only be up a short time so download it quick if you want to check it out.

The Eighteen Pages

A few days ago a new links when up where derv said:
"A new Broken Spoke Production, Scratch Build Campaign is a supplement for The Eighteen Pages or your favorite rules system of choice. Quick and dirty methods to get you playing like the old days."
Scratch Build Campaign

Check this out if you are interested in the vibe of the early days, because I do not know how long these links will be up.. 

If I learn of anymore updates or supplements I will update and re-share this blog post. So if you see it being re-shared by me you will know it has new information included.

Update to the Scratch Build Campaign posted here 3-28-2020.

derv - his avatar here

posted this:
...you can definitely use Scratch Build as a scenario generator. That appears to be exactly how Blackmoor first started. I hope people see that only as a jumping off point. As I thought about it, it seemed the document could benefit from another set up example to make it's versatility a little more clear.
Here's the addition to stick in your folder- Set up example two

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

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

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 29 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Monsters & Treasure Volume 2.

For those coming in, in the middle of this series I am giving you my take on OD&D during my first exposure starting in Sept of 1975. For this first part it is just the first three books of the original woodgrain box set and prior to obtaining the Greyhawk, Blackmoor and later Supplements.

As we continue with the monster descriptions.
GOBLINS: These small monsters are as described in CHAINMAIL. They see well in darkness or dim light, but when they are subjected to full daylight they subtract –1 from their attack and morale dice. They attack dwarves on sight. Their hit dice must always equal at least one pip.
You may think that goblins are not a difficult encounter; however, if you use the numbers in the table you can see that 40-400 (average 220) goblins can easily overwhelm a party of 16 - 3rd to 7th Level Adventurers. Take note that it is difficult for an Adventuring party to avoid behind surprised by goblins. My goblins used clubs and small spears as well as slings for weapons. Goblins encountered typically had the home court advantage and intimate knowledge of the terrain. 

Players learned that it was advantageous to make goblins an offer they could not refuse, bearing in mind that as they are Chaotic creatures you always had to watch your back. But goblins want to stay alive just as much as you do, so they could be dealt with, as long as dwarves were not present. Due to a long standing enmity with dwarves and their scorched earth policy towards goblins.
Composition of Force: When in their lair the “goblin king” will be found. He will fight as a Hobgoblin in all respects. He will be surrounded by a body of from 5–30 (roll five six-sided dice) guards as Hobgoblins also.
Very early on I arrived at not having fixed hit dice for monsters as per the table, but having variable hit dice. Yes the majority of monsters would have the standard hit dice, but 10, 15 or 20% of any given monsters encountered could have greater (sometimes much greater) than standard hit dice. Also if there is a "goblin king," then it made sense that he might have captains, lieutenants and sergeants too. So goblins are not a disorganized mob, they are an organized and often well disciplined fighting force. I extended this concept to most humanoid monsters and the variable hit dice to all monsters.
KOBOLDS: Treat these monsters as if they were Goblins except that they will take from 1–3 hits (roll a six-sided die with a 1 or 2 equalling 1 hit, a 3 or 4 equalling 2 hits, etc.).
Everything I said about goblins goes for Kobolds as well. Even a well armored high level Fighting-Man can be brought low by a swarm of Kobolds.
ORCS: The number of different tribes of Orcs can be as varied as desired. Once decided upon, simply generate a random number whenever Orcs are encountered, the number generated telling which tribe they belong to, keeping in mind inter-tribal hostility. When found in their “lair” it will be either a cave complex (die 1–4) or a village (die 5–6). The cave complex will be guarded by sentries. A village will be protected by a ditch and palisade defense, 1 light catapult per 50 Orcs, and a high central tower of some kind. Orcs found in a cave will possibly have strong leader/protector types, as will those in villages:
Depending on whether it is a cave complex or a village, a tribe of orcs might be lead or protected by a 7th to 9th Level Fighting-Man or an 11th Level Magic-User (some may be renegades or not) or a Dragon, 1-6 Ogres or 1-4 Trolls. Those were the examples given and other strong leader or protector were used in our games. I address "inter-tribal hostility" in a moment.
Orcs will defend their lair without morale checks until they are outnumbered by 3 to 1.
Given the village might be up to 300 individuals it would be hard for a party to outnumber them 3 to 1 without a massive expense for hirelings. Also note that I took the number of up to 300 to be referring to fighters only and not counting the non-combatants. 

Here is a good place to again note that all of these monsters are neutral or chaotic not necessarily evil, although some might be. Genocide was not part of the original game and in fact that would never have occurred to us to try to run around wiping out villages and such. I do not remember the players ever attacking a village. I do remember payment of tolls going both ways on occasion.
If found other than in their lair Orcs may be escorting a wagon train of from 1–8 wagons. There is a 50% chance for this. Each wagon will be carrying from 200–1,200 Gold Pieces. Wagon trains will have additional Orcs guarding them, 10 per wagon, and be led by either a Fighting-Man (die 1 = Champion, die 2–4 = Superhero, die 5–6 = Lord) or Magic-User (die 1 = Sorcerer, die 2–4= Necromancer, die 5–6 = Wizard), 50% chance for either (die 1–3 = fighter, die 4–6 = magical type.)
Yes, orcs use wagons and as noted build a palisade and ditch defense, build towers and use wagons. They have escorted wagon trains that are guarded. They escort gold shipments, they have an economy and trade structure. They may even carry on trade with humans. Those Fighting-Men and Magic-Users might be leaders or mercenaries for hire. Player Character might even fill such roles at times.
Note that if Orcs are encountered in an area which is part of a regular campaign map their location and tribal affiliation should be recorded, and other Orcs located in the same general area will be of the same tribe.
Have you done this in your campaign? I recommend it as it opens up many possibilities and options.
Orcs do not like full daylight, reacting as do Goblins. They attack Orcs of different tribes on sight unless they are under command of a stronger monster and can score better than 50% on an obedience check (4–6 with a six-sided die for example).
Orcs are semi-nocturnal, and are more active at dawn/early morning and dusk/early evening and nighttime. This does affect were they are found. They like wooded hills and areas with caves. The wagon trains for instance will camp in the woods during the middle of the day - roughly 7AM to 5PM in a 24 hour day world and then resume travel. Unless heavy overcast and then they may travel throughout the day.

Orcs are very territorial (inter-tribal hostility.) and that is why different tribes attack each other on sight. If they are in another tribes territory it is usually a raid. But under strong leaders they may cooperate and fight side by side. So on occasion there have been orc and human or orc and other monster wars.

Oh, btw none of these above monsters were black or brown bitd IMC. The orcs were white, befitting a semi-nocturnal non-furred creature that avoids sunlight. Goblins and kobolds just appear dirty, one reason they are dangerous is that they camouflage themselves, so who knows what color they really are. Since they also do not light sunlight, they could be white, but no one knows.

Tomorrow we continue on.