Tuesday, July 30, 2013

S&W Gnomes II

A little while back I did some research on all there is to know about gnomes in Swords & Wizardry.  It seems that monster books are the leading authority on the subject.  This is good news since Frog God Games just released Tome of Horrors 4.  If you really hurry you can pick up a copy before the price goes up day after tomorrow...

Anyway, here are a few gnomish lore tidbits (spoilers?):

Nasty, nasty stuff lives in the deep vaults beneath the gnomehold of Ozgalot in the Garnet Hills (p. 94).  There are silver mines like no other place.  And there are strange alchemical delights to be found in the upper reaches.  And later it is again mentioned that gnomes inhabit the hills between the valley halflings and the dwarves (and worse) from (under) the mountains.  Whenever there is a festival, racial tensions are left behind as gnomes cheer side by side with duergar and drow (p. 99).

Gnomes are skilled illusionists (p. 108) and will tinker with devices other races leave on the drawing boards (p. 98).

It's not much, but at least this go around we don't hear about the endless attacks from mythical creatures...

Finally, while maybe not cannon, the Stoneheart Valley campaign mentions gnomes along with "other Under Realms races" (p. 109).  Very peculiar....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Exciting News

Not only does the latest issue of Rana Reader talk about the new Frog God Games / Necromancer shared setting The Lost Lands but there is some discussion about Stoneheart Valley...and the PDF is available NOW!!!

So what?  Well, Stoneheart is compilation of  The Wizard's Amulet, The Crucible of Frey, and The Tomb of Abysthor.  And the first campaign I ran after getting back into the game was the first two installments.  Ah, good times...  I'm going to go read it and check back in later.

(the link to the original free PDF appears to be down)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day & Free RPG Day

Second Annual Father's Day and Free RPG Day Report*

First off, Happy Father's Day to all you real men out there!  You think battling dragons or braving dungeons is challenging?  Be a dad...better than all the XPs and gold out there.

So I am doubly blessed because I was born and raised in Texas (Dallas area to be exact).  Within 200 miles were 4 stores participating in this year's Free RPG Day.  Yes, the number is way down from previous years and yes, 2 of those stores were on opposite sides of that 200 mile radius circle.  However, I managed to make a day of it and hit 2 of them with a car load of friends and family.

To give credit where credit is due, both of these fine establishments were warm and welcoming.  So a sincere thanks goes out to

Besides picking up a goody (or two) I spent money at each one because while free stuff is sweet, the real idea is to spread the love.

Finally, I went by the two stores closer to my home.  I knew that they weren't participating but I went in and talked to them about.  One store was...less receptive.  They have a history about being <inappropriate word goes here> so I wasn't expecting much.  The second store though, I was disappointed over.  So I told the guy as much.  I was not belligerent and he was very receptive.  Basically, they have a ton going on so, the guy (who was not the owner) assumed it was just an oops.  He went to explain more stuff about their situation and I ended up buying something pricing to just say "Free RPG Day works" - sometimes even when it doesn't.

So go out and visit your stores, buy a little something and encourage them to participate next year!  You might swing by your favorite publisher and thank them too!

* Here is a link to last year's report

Friday, June 7, 2013

Significant Deaths

Tenkar's Tavern asked if we remember our first character over here.

I chimed in...I don't remember anything about the guy except his death.  My dad bought the Moldvay Basic box at Wal-Mart (believe it or not) and we sat to play.  It took thirty minutes to generate our characters as we were reading the rules for the first time simultaneously.

Then we found our selves in the valley of the Caves of Chaos...without any source of light.  So back to the Keep on the Borderlands for some torches.  Back at the valley we saw some small lizard-like dogs rush into a somewhat hidden opening.  My bother and I bravely followed.

Dad: the goes some distance into the darkness and then at the edge of your torch-light, branches left and right.
Me: I go up to the corner and look around
Dad: Uh...ok, roll a dice...no, the normal one...oh no, you fall into a pit that was hidden on the floor.  Roll that dice again to see how much damage you take in the fall...oh, uh, you die...[he looks at my brother] ok, now you have to roll...and again...and you fall in and die, too...
Me: That was cool...we're going to go outside and play, bye!

That's paraphrased, but it's pretty much how it went down.  15 minutes of glory.

Well, it turns out some celebrity also died in that same accursed pit - Harley Stroh's first PC died right there too!  Makes me feel pretty awesome.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sparking Toad Rod (Swords & Wizardry Magic Weapon)

A sparking toad rod is a glass or possibly clear crystal tube nearly 4 feet in length.  One end flairs out like a horn while the other is a spherical bulb that contains what appears to be a toad suspended in a flickering incandescence (sheds light as a candle).  Although the actual firing mechanism is unknown, the user can willfully cause an eruption of sparks that zig-zag from the open end and radiate out, filling a cone 15 feet long and 15 feet at the end.  Everyone caught in this discharge suffers 1d4 hp damage.  Once fired the device will not fire again for 1d2 rounds (with a result of 1 being the next round).

Anyone holding a sparking toad rod gains a +2 to saves against electrical attacks.

The rod is surprisingly resilient   It will not break from incidental or accidental bumps or drops.  However, any amount of purposeful blunt damage or falls of 10 feet or more will cause it to detonate.  The resulting explosion causes everyone within 10 feet to be subjected to a lightning bolt spell (cast as from a 5th level magic-user, save for half damage).  The toad creature is completely burnt to ash.

These devices are not magical in nature and are often found in metallic ruins or among other alien artifacts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Marquis of Sorca

My Traveller 5 package arrived yesterday.

For now on I prefer to be called Sir James, Marquis of Sorca in Chant of the Core (1921 Sorca B545740-9).

I am also a knight of Chant and a member of TAS at Chant.

I was half hoping that I would be way out in the stellar boondocks, but I guess a forgotten piss-ant  farm system right in the middle of everything might be cool, too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

So This Is What I Am

...so, I took the quiz (pretty sure I've taken similar things in the past but I don't recall the results) and here I supposedly am:

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Human Wizard/Cleric (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:

Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron's vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity's domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric's Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Not sure how I feel about this...I mean, really?!? Only Fifth Level?!?  Come on...Ability scores seem about right, maybe Dex should be a point higher...

On the other hand, the last game I actually played in I was playing a Favored Soul/Sorcerer/Mystic Theurge since our party had no spell casters or healers...hmmm.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

SWAD: Special Hirelings

Hirelings and "Special Hirelings" - this is one of the hallmarks of my Back in the Day memories.  As a player, my character wasn't anything without a proper support staff.  How I shiver to think of all the lives lost through the years.  It only took one stray arrow, or a goblin that breaks through the line, or a wandering anything to comes up from behind, and there goes another porter.   And how many traps have claimed my torch bearers?   From a metagaming perspective, I suppose  that is just another facet of resource management.  But does it have to be?  What if the lowly commoner that faithfully servers at your side could be elevated to something "Special"?

So here is my offering in the first annual Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day: The Special Hireling* class!

The Special Hireling

After a successful adventure as a common hireling (torch bearer, porter, or whatever) the character may choose to become a professional adventurer's follower.  Without the skill or courage to strike out on their own these followers gain some perks but remain noncombatants and are only precariously viable.  You never encounter a Special Hireling - they are cultivated through adventuring.  If a Special Hireling ever leaves their service they loose all their levels and abilities through despair.

Prime Attribute: all attributes lower than 13 (+5% experience bonus)
Hit Dice: 1d4 (Gains 1 hp/level after 5th level)
Armor/Shield Permitted: Leather armor only, no shield
Weapons Permitted: Dagger, club, oil
Race: Human or Halfling

Special Hireling Class Abilities

Cannon Fodder: Special Hirelings save as a Fighter of the same level and gain +2 bonus on saving throws against traps.

Loyal: Special Hirelings are especially loyal to their employer and gain a +1 on all moral checks.

Noncombatant: Special Hirelings attack as a Magic-User of the same level.

Skilled: Special Hirelings gain experience as a Thief.

Focused: Special Hirelings are dedicated to their service and cannot multi-class.

Strong as a Mule: Treat the Special Hireling's strength as  +1 per level (max 18) for the purpose of determining Carry Modifier and Base Movement Rate.

Firestarter (1st): At first level a Special Hireling is gifted at starting fires and may light a torch or lantern even without a flint and steel or tinderbox if given enough time (1 turn or less depending on the environment).

Torch Craft (2nd): At second level a Special Hireling becomes skilled at keeping a fire going.  Any event or action that might extinguish a torch or lantern is allowed a saving throw to remain lit.  Furthermore, they can cobble together a torch from dungeon debris and detritus (pending GM approval, takes 1 turn) that will burn for half as long as a normal torch.

Efficient Packers (3rd): At third level Special Hirelings become experts at packing and load balancing.  They can increase the carrying capacity of containers by 10% without penalty.  Furthermore, once per day there is a 10% chance that they can "unpack" any reasonable mundane item not listed as equipment on their inventory ("I knew you would need that, sir!").

Firemaster (4th): At fourth level a Special Hireling can extend the life of a torch to twice as long as normal, included those cobbled together with the fire keeper ability.  Furthermore, a torch master can wield a torch as a club doing an additional 1d4 fire damage.  The life of a lantern can be extended by 25%.

Master Hireling (5th): At fifth level a Special Hireling gains an additional +1 to moral checks and can Hear Sounds like a first level thief when on watch.

Check out the Blog Role and don’t forget the awesome Frog God 25% off S&W products sale today only at their store HERE - you must use the coupon SWApprDay**.  The ever amazing SRD web site also has a S&W PDF sale too - use SWAD252013 at checkout.

* not to be confused with the reference to special hirelings meaning classed hirelings…

**The coupon excludes items less than $1, S&W Cards, Pre-Orders, and Subscriptions.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What Day Is It

No, I do give a rats ass about that...I'm talking it's only 2 days until the huge Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day blogathon!

If you're not sure what I'm talking about (really?) click on the big logo looking thing over to the side...

And if you're not sure what all the hubbub is about you owe it to yourself to check out this FREE stuff:

You know what we desperately need?  A super high quality FREE intro module that we all play so we can relish in the shared experience (Keep on the Borderlands or The Wizard's Amulet kind of thing).

Personally, of all the myriads of offerings out there, this is probably the best choice: Grimmsgate

...it's not FREE, but if you can wait until Wednesday, the extraordinary folks over at Frog God Games with d20pfsrd.com store front is offering a super 1 day only 25% sale on S&W goodies.  Check it out!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

S&W Gnomes

There are no gnomes in Swords & Wizardry, just tantalizing hints...

White Box (3rd)
Dwarves can speak gnomish (page 16)

White Box (1st)
Halfling is a broader category of wee folk, including gnomes (page 10)

Core (4th)

Complete (Kickstarter)

There is no entry for Gnome, but they are mentioned in some of the encounter write ups - beware of spoilers.  A type of armor is described that specifically calls out sizes for halflings and gnomes being smaller than dwarves (page 14). Officially  gnomes use halfling stats (page 66, 70).  Most telling, a couple of entries outline the gnome village of Nomengarten. We get all the standard fare, including mushroom houses, earth-tone clothes, red, cone hats, peace-loving friends of small forest animals (think Pink Floyd), smurf-like singing and dancing, gold and pastries.  I would also add that gnomes seem to attract a certain category of monsters...

Finally, here is a thorough exposition on the broader subject by Matthew James Stanham.

And this is just genius: The Backpack Gnome by tony dowler

Monday, April 8, 2013

Feeling Lucky?

aldeboran has a post about the Luck attribute in Goodman Games DCC RPG.  If Luck is a one time pool of  Save Your Bacon karma points does that change the way you play? Can it impact your fun knowing that you  can thwart fate?


I see Luck being used in a lot of adventures as a Perception mechanic, but I really like what Purple Sorcerer does with it.  The character with the highest luck is the one that usually benefits from activities - everyone searches a room and the jackpot goes to the luckiest character (instead of everyone rolling).  Conversely, if anything bad is suppose to happen, the character with the lowest Luck is doomed.  There is a beautiful example in the latest release, Lair of the Mist Men.  If one character does something, the result causes 1d6 damage to the unluckiest character.  There is a similar unlucky blow in DCC #70 (Jewels of the Carnifex).  "Why does this always happen to me?!?"

I like that this puts a price on spending Luck.  Like those Final Destination movies, you avoid falling to your death only to be constantly harassed by a cold and strangely vindictive universe.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Atramentous Man

My Petty Gods divine item:

Atramentous Man

Alignment: Neutral
Save: Special
XP Value: 20,000

The ultimate Deus ex Machnina, an atramentous man is sometimes given by petty gods for special acts of service or devotion.  Sometimes given by petty gods for special acts of service or devotion, an atramentous man is an enigmatic boon waiting to happen.  The vaguely humaniod form is made entirely of solid darkness, a protomatter capable of assuming anything.  It has no features and does not interact with anyone.  It cannot be harmed by any mundane or magical means.

Once given, the atramentous man will unobtrusively follow the recipient.  It cannot be restrained or forced to move.  Any attempt to loose it will cause it to reappear in 1d4 turns, hours, or days, as is appropriate.  For example, if the recipient teleports away the atramentous man will simple show back up in 1d4 days.

The purpose of the atramentous man is to precipitate into any item that the recipient most needs to achieve an otherwise hopeless situation.  For example, if you fall naked into a 20' pit the atramentous man could suddenly form into a perfectly serviceable ladder that just reaches to the top.  When defensless and backed into a corner by a wight, the atramentous man may turn into a silver long sword to give you a fighting chance.  The GM should chose any mundane or minor magical item (including potions), but the choice must mean the difference between certain failure and possible success.  Once formed into a specific item it is a typical specimen of that item.  The atramentous man is spent and there is no trace to associate the item with where it came from.

edit requested by the publisher so as to not conflict with existing awesomeness :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Annual SWAD

It's official - the First Annual Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day has been set for April 17, 2013.  See the announcement and details here and here.

I'm on the list!  Let's see...I have an idea and something like 18 days to pull it off...I'm on it!  ...that and the Divine Item and Minion I want to submit to Gorgonmilk.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Stupid Math Tricks I

Ah, the Fibonacci Sequence...how will I ever use that in my day-to-day life?  Turns out the relationship between miles and kilometers is pretty close for reasonable values:

5 miles is about 8 kilometers...


Monday, March 25, 2013


So Gorgonmilk has breathed life into Petty Gods.  What would I submit?  What has been submitted so far?  Don't know, but in looking around I see several interesting entries.  There appears to be two camps: the serious attempts at creating gods for things too obscure for a full fledged church (eyes - and no offense, it's a great write up) and things that are just ridiculous (unexplained smells).  Personally, I much prefer the ridiculous.

Would you rather see a write-up for the Master of Wagon Wheels or the Lord of Iron Spikes and Iron Rations???  Do you need the details for the Patron of Town Criers or the St. of Sex You Hope Your Fiends Don't Find Out About.  The god of Picking Locks or the Protector of Familiars?  The Supreme Being of Cozy Beds or He Who Procrastinates (and thus will not appear in the book)?

I suppose my main fear is the the stat block (can I pray to that god?).  I have no idea what is appropriate...so here is one attempt:

Name: Mar Nod
Symbol: Two crossed swords, one breaking the other
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: Special
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 150 hp (20 HD)
Attacks: (short) spear +1
Damage: 1d6+1
Save: F20
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XXI
XP: 10,000

Mar Nod, the Unexpected, is the petty god of rare and seemingly random fortune and misfortune during combat. Both cursed and praised when melee a battle takes an unexpected turn, Mar Nod is incited too infrequently to garner a true following. He travels the multiverse looking for worthy opponents and may be summoned (1%) whenever a natural 1 or 20 is rolled during combat.  Mar Nod appears as a warrior appropriate to the given circumstances but wields an obscure bladed weapon with an unusually long handle.  This unique weapon is never subject to a critical fumbles and scores a critical hit on rolls 18-20.

Reaction Table (1d20)
1 Curses the summoner - when rolling to hit roll two dice and take the worst value, when rolling for damage roll the value twice and take the better. This curse stays in effect until cured with a Remove Curse or the likes.
2-19 Mar Nod does nothing but observe the battle with a bemused look on his face
20 Blesses the summoner - when rolling to hit roll two dice and take the better value, when rolling for damage roll the value twice and take the worst. This blessing stays in effect until cured with a Remove Curse or the likes.

Attacking this divine being is a terrible mistake although Mar Nod will engage with gusto. Every attack against him has a 50% of missing and all misses are treated as critical fumbles.  Any hit has a 10% chance of being a critical hit.  Any critical hit against Mar Nod heals him instead.  After 1d6 turns he will grow bored and simply disappear.

Sample Critical Fumble Chart
Roll Result
1 Sign of weakness, all nearby opponents will target you on their next turn
2 Save vs Petrify or Paralyze or drop your weapon
3 Swing wide, if there is an adjacent friend or foe, roll to see if you hit them instead
4 Ruined, mundane weapons are destroyed and no longer usable  magic weapons loose their enchantment until the end of the next turn (subject to an optional save)
5 Disorientated, you loose your next turn
6 Pulled a muscle, take 1d3 point STR damage until you can rest at least 8 hrs
7 Broken, the weapon is -1 to damage until you have time and materials to repair it
8 Easy to predict, -2 to hit opponent on next turn
9 Strained something, take 1d3 point DEX penalty until you can rest at least 8 hrs
10 Bent, the weapon is -1 to hit until you have time and materials to repair it
11 Misdirection, you hit yourself, roll for damage normally
12 Off balance, your opponent gets +2 to hit you next turn

Sample Critical Hit Chart
Roll Result
1 Stunning display of prowess, force moral check (or all opponents will avoid you if possible if moral is not used)
2 Disorientating hit, opponent's AC is 2 worse on next turn
3 Powerful swing, roll to hit an adjacent enemy, too (if there is one)
4 Solid hit, add 1d6 damage
5 Deep wound, opponent continues to take 1 pt of damage each turn until healed
6 Trick shot, opponent looses next turn
7 Brutal hit, double damage
8 Crushing blow, opponent must save vs Petrify or Paralyze or fall prone
9 Fierce hit, roll damage twice
10 Staggering blow, gain +2 to hit this opponent next turn
11 Mighty swing, opponent is forced back 5 feet
12 Precision attack, opponent must save vs death or die