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Thursday, April 30, 2020

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

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

Today is Part 64 of my series on OD&D, with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Vol. 3.

**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.**

Now we will look at the example Gygax gave of a referee running a party through a Dungeon Expedition:



This is a matter of style, but for my part I have never run a game where we started here, we always started at some city, town, village or keep or some such and traveled to either a previously located dungeon or they set out to find something with a dungeon being one of the possibilities. Sometimes traveling through a rough area (later determined to be ruins) they found a hole, after tying off a rope and sliding down it into the ground they entered the dungeon. Later from the inside they located a possible exit and then dug it out from both ends. Once they are traveling you describe it, so that if they players choose to, they can map where they are going. While many dungeons are so simple and so small mapping is not a necessity, any dungeon (IMO) worthy of the name in practical terms demands a map, otherwise becoming lost is almost a certainty.



I have run games with and without a caller. Once you get over about 7 or 8 players using a caller moves form optional to IMO a real need to keep things from bogging down and moving to slowly. Although it has been my experience that good players may not formally choose a caller but default to a rotating caller depending on what is going on. Another point of style, as these things are taking place I every now and then roll dice and will grin or frown but say nothing about the rolls. Letting the players wonder what may be up.



Ideally the players will not know if they should like a high result or a low result. If so then the players can make the roll and so they do not know if the dice indicate success, they only know if they heard or did not hear anything. If the player know the rules, then the ref should roll in secret. There reason is that the players when they do not hear anything have (should have) no way of knowing if there was nothing to hear or if there was something to hear but they failed to hear it. Also it is good not to have a monolithic all corridors are 10' wide and 10' high. It is good to vary things from place to place.



Also you can see that in practice the game can proceed quite quickly without the players having long OOC discussion at every point. Using a Caller is good to establish this paradigm in your games. IMO good involved players will default to this behavior with or without a Caller. Note: I am talking about Face to Face Games. { In a PbP in order to keep everyone involved it is OK to have players commenting as we they go, because a Caller could not glance around the group and see head nods and such.)



That is right, you check to see if the gnolls are surprised. They may have heard the players and are ready and waiting. Or there could be a made and if he is not surprised the players might be hit by a spell the moment they open the door.



Assuming the players won the fight, other results are possible. From the players having to flee or the gnolls surrendering or the gnolls all dying and more. For what it is worth, the referee should not have to check to see if dwarves or elves are in the party, the referee should know and have a few notes ready at his hand to quickly check with the relevant party info. As the referee your descriptions should be giving the information needed for the players to make good decisions. Some of that will rely on the players asking good questions, fail to ask the right questions and you miss getting information. That is on the players to ask good questions and on the referee to give appropriate answers.



I would quickly make several rolls and note the results with a short hand on my stack of blank paper and at the appropriate time frame note that the watchers did or did not hear something. Again good descriptions are key, this should flow smoothly and quickly with practice.



Another style note, why would you curse the thoroughness of the player(s)? When your players are thorough, it is compliment to you and your group, IMO as the referee I quietly celebrate good play and make quick very brief notes and award experience for the same. Also if you use a Silver Standard that Copper becomes valuable and if you use the coin weight I previously noted that I use in a previous post, the players will be able to carry out satisfying amount of Copper.



Note here that I have already made the check so that if a wandering monster is indicated, I already know that whether or not it is detected. Also I would note that my players have always referred to each other by character name for the most part rather than dwarf or elf or what not. Also note that Magic-Users (and Cleric) should try to take a variety of spells. When I started gaming this was standard procedure, but I have heard that now a days, now everyone does this, but focuses only on certain spells to the exclusion of others.



In this example the players gained surprise, but more often than not it is the other way around. I suppose I should record some game play someday and write up more examples; but as I am getting ready to run a play by post I might consider extracting it from there.

Tomorrow we move on to the Wilderness!

Something to Celebrate if you Prepared in January!


Something to Celebrate if you did not Prepare in January!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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

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

Today is Part 63 of my series on OD&D, with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Vol. 3.

**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.**

Now we will start our look at Underworld Monsters:



 Even without surprise all the encounters will tend to be at very close range. I like to run the encounters in as close to real time as possible. By the time the players are in the dungeon they should know that they need to have a plan A, B,C and possibly a plan D. Because once an encounter occurs there is no time to discuss things, everyone need s to know what they are doing, because the monsters are not going to stand around while you discuss things. When I ask, "What do you want to do?" The players need to immediately answer without delay. If they delay, the monsters will get a free move and potentially a free attack.



It is virtually impossible for an adventuring party to surprise monsters, unless there are conditions that make it possible. Things like a high ambient noise level and a bright light source so that an approaching party may not be heard or seen. Things that will interfere with the home field advantage that the monsters get. Otherwise, the nature of things are such that the players will often be surprised and that (potentially) is often an ambush.



Now here is a place that I differ, the assumption is that all non-intelligent monsters will attack. I disagree, many predators will not attack a strong party. They do not have to be sentient for that to happen. On the other hand large herbivores are more likely to attack than predators. Then it follows that,  intelligent monsters may not attack either even if they do not judge the party as too strong to attack. It really depends on why the monster is there. It is quite possible that the monster(s) are there for reasons similar to the party. Not all monsters in dungeons are there to keep people out of dungeons. There is also the situation where monsters may seek to lead the party into an ambush where the party can be attacked from many directions.



This is the 10 minute Exploration Turn being indicated here.



If like me your dungeon goes down many levels beyond 13, you will want to revised this table and create many additional Monster Level Tables.



I took all of these tables and expanded them to 20 options and used a d20 roll on each table as it was selected.



As you can see the danger level increases very rapidly. When I expanded these tables I increased the number of intelligent options on these tables. 



Do  you see the asterisk for Wizards and Evil High Priests? I added that asterisk for other creatures and on all of the tables there are at least two with an asterisk. Asterisk were applied as one, two, three or four asterisks referring to new footnotes, not just the one below.



As I said, I expanded these options so that most intelligent creatures will have lower hit dice NPCs with them.


There are a wide range of options available and if you are like me you also started creating your own monsters and particularly in dungeons there may be one of a kind monsters created and set to its task for a set purpose.



The intelligent monsters should be played as intelligent, crafty and fond of their own lives. If they greatly outnumber the party they may seek to lead the party to a location where their numbers can be used against the party. Perhaps a larger area with several entrances and a number of well placed secret doors from which attacks may be launched. Other times they may be seeking a temporary alliance for help from some other enemy of their own.



Again, I do not have it as a given that monsters will automatically attack. I do not follow the numbers here. If  there is a pursuit, the monsters may follow (50% chance) as long as they can clearly here the players.If there is a secret door involved the monsters may be very familiar with the door and so there is a 1 in 3 chance that the monsters will follow or a 1 in 3 chance the monsters will go to meet the players where that passage comes out. Chase scenes are great fun can continue for quite a while unless there is a large different in movement rates. Plus fleeing is noisy and it may attract other denizens of the dungeon.



I reduced this to a 10% chance, I have been surprised many times over the last 64 years and I have yet to drop what I was holding.



The monsters need to be at maximum range initially to even have a chance to light oil, unless the players have been able while fleeing to widen the gap between themselves and the monsters.  Edible items I  used as per the above Treasure can be quite effective at times.



This takes us back to the beginning of the section, where I do not automatically have them attack. Attack or pursuit can happen with a negative reaction coupled with why the monster is there.

Tomorrow we will move on to an example of a referee running a dungeon expedition.

Also ask yourself this, how many monsters were named in this section that have not been previously mentioned.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Nineteen

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

Today is Part 62 (Part B) of my series on OD&D, with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Vol. 3.

**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.**

Today we continue on with the Move/Turn in the Underworld:


At the time I did go with "Undead" never making a sound with one exception. Vampires could possibly be heard talking to someone or something, since they could have living allies or underlings. That is not the case anymore, currently my Zombies moan, because I like it that way. I am also looking at adding some noise to some of the others too, for instance Skeletons that are moving should make quite a racket on a stone floor.


Anything not human that has infravision, still has infravision as a player character or as a hireling of a player character. This was a very early house rule as it is nothing more than a gotcha rule and so I dispensed with it.


As I previously noted, Magic Spells do not change because they are underground. While the scale for the game changes due to being in a confined space, the Magic Spells do the same thing below ground as they do above ground. Therefore that stated length of 6" is 60 yards above and below ground. So you have to be very careful casting offensive spells underground because of the rebound effect. The only way that stone is destroyed is if you do something like cast a fireball and then the next round cast a spell of cold, in the same area, then you can get shattering of the stone.

Now I said that I would spend some time talking about movement, movement rates, Exploration Turns, Melee Turns, Melee Rounds and time measuring.

The thing IMO that you need to remember is that the scale changes when you go below ground, because IMO the distance that you can see is reduced and IMO not for any other reason. Therefore the movement rates do not change unless you are mapping or searching or something that causes you to walk slower than normal.

So let us take several standard creatures and look at movement rates. Back in Men & Magic Vol 1 of the rules, it says that a man weighing 175 pounds:
Carrying 75 pounds can move at 12" (Light Foot) (Leather)
Carrying 100 pounds can move at 9" (Heavy Foot) (Chainmail)
Carrying 150 pounds can move at 6" (Armored Foot) (Plate)
For Non-Player Characters
Elves can move at 12"
Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls move at 9"
Dwarves, Gnomes and Hobbits move at 6"
I decided to use the following scale for movement:
6" is equal to 2 mph = 176 feet per minute
9" is equal to 3 mph = 264 feet per minute
12" is equal to 4 mph = 352 feet per minute
So if an Adventuring party traveled at the speed of the slowest members of the party i.e. 6". Then in the rules it says that a fully armored character would travel at 6" and would cover 120 feet in 10 minutes. But that rounds to 0.137 miles per hour. So that whole scale is like squeaking chalk on a blackboard.

So using my scale I determined in 10 minutes at a 6" movement rate the party while mapping could cover 1,760 feet. Suddenly it becomes possible to explore large dungeons even while reducing the movement due to searching and such. So now we have determined a 10 minute Exploration Turn that at least for me is no longer a distraction. Also I will note that because 6" is 2 mph I posit that Dwarves, Gnomes and Hobbits are not noticeably slowed by wearing armor, unlike humans.

Now if we use a Melee Turn of 1 minute made up of ten - 6 second Melee Rounds we get the following:
6" in a Melee Round is 17.6 feet rounds to 18 feet vs 12 feet in a minute
9" in a Melee Round is 26.4 feet rounds to 26 feet vs 18 feet in a minute
12" in a Melee Round is 35.2 feet rounds to 35 feet vs 24 feet in a minute
So the first distance is a 6 second Melee Round and the second listed distance is a one minute Melee Round.  As you can see neither one is all that good for movement on a dungeon map with 10 foot squares. On the other hand the 6 second Melee Round IMO makes sense and the one minute Melee Round IMO does not. 

So that is why I altered the whole movement system very early as a referee. Also I would add that you have normal move for a fully armored character is walking (2 MPH), double move is jogging (4 MPH), a triple move is running (6 MPH) and a quadruple move is a charge (sprint)(8 MPH). A man or  elf in leather armor would move at 4 MPH, 8 MPH, 12 MPH and 18 MPH.

Tomorrow we will move on to Underworld Monsters.

Monday, April 27, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Eighteen

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

Today is Part 61 (Part A) of my series on OD&D, with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Vol. 3.

**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.**

Next up:

In the Underworld 1" equals 10 feet, in the Wilderness 1" equals 10 yards. That affects many things. One example would be spells. Let us say that a spell has a range of 10" - above ground that converts to 100 yards, but below ground in the absence of any explanation does it equal 100' instead? Not in my opinion, IMC it is still 100 yards; but in the Underworld you do take into account solid obstruction and the volume of spaces in ways that it would be unusual for it to come in play above ground. 

For instance, a Fire Ball has a burst radius of 2" which is 20 yards or 40 yards in diameter which is a ball of fire 120 feet in diameter, so if you stand in a corridor in front of an open door and cast a fireball into a small 10' by 10" room, the Fire Ball will fill the room, envelope the caster and expand down the corridor in both directions until it reaches full size. Alternatively you could say it creates an over pressure effect and damage is increased 50% overall, but increased 100% where is blasts back out through the doorway (oops sorry Magic-User). A Lighting Bolt in a small area can rebound multiple times until it fizzles out. and its damage is thereby multiplied by the number of times it passes through your body.

Also tomorrow, I am going to spend some time talking about movement, movement rates, Exploration Turns, Melee Turns, Melee Rounds and time measuring.



This is one of the things that I will discuss at more length tomorrow.



I do not use this as written, my dad and I have walked for hours without pausing to rest, with farm work for most things you did not pause to rest. You might stop and take a drink and then go right back to work with elapsed time of less than 1-2 minutes. You kept working, kept moving because things had to get done, you had a limited time to get it all done when it needed to be done or before it rained. In fact, if rain was coming, you might work at double the normal pace for an extended time, to beat the rain.

You stopped for Dinner (Lunch for city folk) ate and went right back to work as soon as you finished, and you did the same thing at Supper (Dinner for city folk) especially during planting season, hay season and harvest season. It was the same way with the garden and canning and such. When I first had a job with a 15 min break twice a day, I did not know what it was for.

So I ruled that you stopped when you wanted to for whatever the reason was, such as spending time on creating the player map. If you skipped that there were consequences. Now if you were carrying treasure out, while you moved slower, you generally did not have to stop unless you were checking the map. Unless of course you were heavily encumbered, then you would take rest breaks. Of course after flight/pursuit took place you might have to rest.



This is pretty much used as stated. Note that when you are taking these actions, movement slows to a crawl or even is nil.



Here is where I separated out a Movement Turn and a Combat Turn. A Movement Turn is 10 minutes, a Combat Turn as I used it is 1 minute. A Melee Round in Combat is 6 Seconds. I made that change by the end of my first two weeks as a Referee. In OD&D for the most part in each melee round you get one opportunity to hit your opponent. And "Melee is fast and furious." In six seconds an archer can loose 6 arrows, in six seconds a swordsman can strike a dozen times with his sword. So I ran it that an archer takes plenty of time and takes one shot in the six seconds having lined it up for the best chance to hit. I ruled that the swordsman takes all those swings, but really only has one chance to hit at first level. I did this because IMO a one minute melee round is so extreme it breaks the suspension of disbelief. (Not as a player because I just ignore the whole concept and play, but as a referee who is tracking things it is a dissonant note. I will go into this more tomorrow.)



I used all of this mostly as written, with the chance for the Elves to sense a secret door they pass on a roll of 1 or 2. For doors, mine at times are much harder to open.



I changed this to they would not spring on a roll of a 6, but would spring on a roll of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. I made the assumption of reasonable competence on the part of whomever set the trap or built the pit trap. Think of Indiana Jones, how many traps failed to operate? Was he successful in avoiding death from the sprung trap? I run my game like that. So I added a saving throw for the character to save from the trap. Character  walks over a pit trap and it springs, player makes saving throw and manages to grab the lip of the pit and then his friends can pull him up.

Tomorrow we will finish this section and I will add my more complete commentary.

John Carter/Barsoom Fans Time is short 4/30 Deadline - FREE PDF!

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Seventeen

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

Today is Part 60 (Part C) of my series on OD&D, with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Vol. 3.

**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.**

Today we will continue with looking at Treasure for the Dungeon:


First, do you see anything odd about this table? Something that is way different from the Treasure for Wilderness Lairs? Yeah, no Copper. Did any of you know that OD&D was not designed to have tons of Copper in Dungeons? Now when I went on the Silver Standard, Copper appeared in Dungeons Treasure because now it had value. But initially that was no Copper.

Now see that uptick for the quantity of Gems/Jewelry that kicks in at the 8th level where you switch from a d6 to a d12, everything is increasing the deeper you go and that gives it a little extra kick.

The other thing that struck me as odd about this table is that it only went to Level Beneath Surface of 13 or more. So I reworked this table with the following level indicators:

Level Beneath the Surface: 1, 2-4, 5-7, 7-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-37, 38-45, 46-55, 56 or more. I have revised this about 9 times over the years and I added Copper when I went on the Silver Standard and then Platinum and Electrum. Since them I have added other precious or rare metals. If you go deep enough the Magic columns gets split into a Column for each of the Categories for Magic that we looked at Back in Book 2, Monsters and Treasure.

Here are a couple of links to the riches of the Romanov royal family - Murder of the Imperial Family - List of Valuables Taken by Yurovsky from the Romanovs and Murder of the Imperial Family - List of Imperial Jewels found in Tobolsk 1933 and take special note that for the latter of these two it says:
This list will be of interest to those who are interested in the life of the Imperial family in capivity and their ultimate fate. They represent a small but critical fraction of the possessions of the family in exile.
A "small but critical fraction of the possessions", a small fraction. So in 1975 my deepest dungeons had magnificent treasures, but a few years ago when I read about the Romanov  family riches it inspired me to dig deeper and fashion some fantastic treasures plus the magic. It makes you wonder how large the treasure hoards of rulers over the centuries may have been. 


Of course when I went to the Silver Standard, I made this to be Copper always present, Silver 50% of the time, Gold 10% of the time (very small quantities to begin with and more as you go deeper). Then other precious metals start to show up in small quantities.


One of the things I use are armed and armored statues that come to life when certain things are touched as a "guard" in the areas of "Unguarded Treasure." There are often wards that give alarm in remote locations. You never know how many monsters are on their way.


The extent to which I do this depends on how long it has been since the players were last there.


I think subtle changes are good, with only rarely some major change, again I go with keeping the players off balance.


The smallest dungeon level I have ever designed covered nine(9) sheets of paper, so I have never been one to stop at the edge of the paper. I like to create dungeons so large that the players have to realize that you literally cannot search every room unless you bring a large army with you and no one wants to do that. Sometimes the players try and fail to reach the edge. So they do triage and decide what an area may have been used for and is that area likely to have treasure. So they search where it makes sense to search. Of course they do try to sweep areas and not leave monsters behind them.


Again this depends on how long it has been since they were there. It also matters what the current state of occupancy is and how powerful the controlling faction is at present.


This is not really one that I have ever done much of, but you are welcome to give it a shot.


Split levels and sub-levels should be used liberally IMO. The dungeon should be complex and confusing. Now if you know the layout, it is just big, but if you do not know the layout, then confusing.


Just keep building and extending your dungeons, they should never end or they should connect to other things which connect to other things and so on and so on. You do not just complete a Dungeon!

Tomorrow we will start looking at Movement and Time in the Underworld.