Sunday, January 30, 2011

Target 20 Saving Throws - my take

Delta is the originator of the "Target 20" mechanic.  ChicagoWiz over at the Old Guy's RPG Blog made this concise post about it with a table (which I promptly rolled into my CotMA game...)

The mechanic has a real elegance to it, so, I decided I wanted to use Target 20 for saving throws as well.  Delta has his own system and it looks good, but I wanted something a little different.

I wanted a similar baseline for all saves with about a 25% chance of success.  I typically make traps/poison/etc. harder by tacking on a -2 or -4 when necessary.  That's just my DM style.

I wanted the races (elf/dwarf/halfling) to maintain their save edges.  I wanted the monk to be a bit different than the thief.  I wanted the paladin to get his +2 to all saves back.

This system is somewhat transparent to the players -- they really only record their single save AND any relevant bonuses.  The categories are for my reference only.  I've recently developed a renewed appreciation for the "Saving Throw Pentaverate" thanks to Hack and Slash.

So, here's my table.  YMMV.

The Base Save Bonus is based upon the character's level.  The maximum bonus is identified as well.  A roll of 1 on the d20 fails.  ALWAYS.   

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Making Upcycled Dungeon Tiles

It's no secret that I likes my minis... You can read about that here and here and here for example.

I usually use a battlemat of my own making or (rarely) a 3D board (also my design) but I've now become somewhat enamored of Dungeon Tiles.

Now, for me, dungeon tiles aren't a new idea.  In fact, I have a REALLY OLD SET of them from someplace/some company I don't even know...
These are so old, they don't even have 1" marks on them -- you just freeform moved the minis!  Awesome!
I also have a couple of the new sets.  (What the hell is that Red Box doing there... LOL)

I've recently found a couple of places online (ah the Google) where you can go to find decent to excellent dungeon tiles.  One of those sites is Kev's Lounge.  I'm highlighting Kev here because I'm going to use him in my tutorial.

Printing out dungeon tiles on paper or even cardstock is fine, but I'd prefer tiles with a little more "heft" and durability.  When I make my tiles, I print them on cardstock.  The cardstock doesn't warp from the glue the way plain paper might.  YMMV.

I discovered online that you can buy chipboard from Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  You can even buy it from Amazon, but I'd rather use something I can get for FREE.

Enter the ubiquitous cardboard box...

I really should drink less diet soda...
Sure, cardboard boxes are going to be a bit thinner than your standard WOTC dungeon tile, but as long as the scale is the same, they work just fine.  Besides, thinner is better if you are stacking tiles or fitting them into some kind of file or bag for organizing.  More tiles will fit in the same space.

Use a spray adhesive to attach the printed tile to the box.  I use Elmer's spray adhesive because that's what I had on hand.  In the past, I've used a 3M adhesive.  They all seem to work fine.  My adhesive is acid free so it won't eventually yellow the paper.  I tried using glue sticks to attach the tiles to the boxes.  The shiny printing on the box kept the glue from adhering properly.

I attach the printed tiles to the printed side of the box.  The underside is typically plain brown or grey.  I'd rather see that than have "Milk Bones" be the backside of my Lich's laboratory.  Kinda breaks the fourth wall...  :)

Roughly cut the tiles out of the paper, fitting them to the size of your cardboard.  Leave some "extra" around the tile so that you can trim to size when the glue is dry.  Makes the edges of the tile uniform.

Spray the adhesive on the box, then place the tile down onto the sticky area.  Push down on the printed tile with the side of your fist to set it in the glue.  I also run my thumb around the edge of the tile to make sure that the edges won't peel away in the finished product.

Consult the drying time for your adhesive to figure out when to come back.
I've got a whole bunch of tiles draped over another cardboard box drying in my garage...
Trim the tiles to size using scissors or a paper cutter.

All you need to do is print out the tiles, cut them out and glue them to the cardboard.  You'll end up with a sturdy, cheap dungeon tile ready for exploring!
Overhead view -- note the maw trap in the floor...

The thief discovers a net trap...

The hydrospawn are on the march...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Awhile back, Christian at Destination Unknown mourned the loss of the possibility of modron minis...

(By the way Christian, I found this over at EN World...)

Wizards just put up an article revealing a bit of history and trivia about our favorite (?) polyhedral outsiders...

You can read it here... if you dare!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Commercial Message... Please Excuse this Interruption...

Hi all,

My sister used to work in the video game industry and for a time she worked for Artifact Entertainment.  They developed a game called "Horizons: Empire of Istaria"

Anyway, she later worked for Rainbow Studios, but was laid off last year about this time.  She's just recently getting back to work and she's had medical bills, etc.

I promised her (as her big brother) that I'd put the word out there -- just in case anyone was interested in these art prints she has for sale on eBay.  

These were done for the artists to use as inspirational character references for Horizons.

"The Power and the Protector"

"The Protector"

"The Power"

Even if you aren't interested in buying, they are some pretty cool pics of hawt fantasy chicks...  :)  Check them out!

I especially like the first one because of the apparent "magical gate" in the background.

Thank you for your indulgence.  We now return to our normally scheduled blogging...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Universal Probability Comparison Chart - Take 2

Some folks looked at my last post of the Judges Guild Universal Probability Chart and they discovered that it was just as quirky as you'd expect from a Judges Guild product.


I still think the chart is a good one, so I made one myself.

The probabilities for 3d6 are "generous" at the extremes, but I don't think that hurts too much.  I'll probably use it for NPC attributes and/or damage rolls.

I made this using my best judgment and I think it's pretty close -- certainly close enough for my DM'ing style.  YMMV.

PS: my Bears are out!  :(  It looks like we're heading toward a Packers/Steelers Superbowl.  It aught to be great!

Universal Probability Comparison Chart

Hill Cantons is working on finding a hidden retro-clone in the old Judges Guild Universal system.  To that end, he has posted a couple of references to information about their old system.  Interesting stuff.

In one document lurked a little gem (at least I think so) that's handy if you never use it.  :)

This chart cross-references the rolls of 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 1d20 and d% with each other.  Seems like in certain situations this could be extremely useful.  I know that with this chart, and d%, I could probably run an entire session of my OSR game.

I might have to try that sometime...

PS: Go Bears!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So, How Long Until the Next Random Encounter?

Frank made a suggestion at my Secret Door post, that a similar chart could be used to determine WHEN the party will have it's next random encounter.

I know that some of you are happy rolling a d6 each turn to to see if an encounter happens (I like that too) but sometimes I just know that I want to throw something at the party -- the question is WHEN.

This little handy dandy chart solves that.  Roll % and the clock is ticking...

I know this won't suit everyone's style, but I like it and I think I'll be trying it out during my next adventure.  

I tend to keep track of time in the dungeon using little circles (capital "O's") pre-printed on a sheet of paper.  When I roll this, I can just make a little mark in an "O" and when the party gets to that "time" in the dungeon -- the random encounter happens.

Time Log:

YMMV.  Let me know if this is helpful and thanks again Frank for the great idea!

So, When a Big Party Searches for Secret Doors...

In my CotMA Campaign, I have five regular players and ten (10) regular PC's... Whew!  When they search for secret doors that's A LOT of d6's to roll...

Well, it occurred to me that I could use probability to calculate the odds of finding a secret door when everyone is searching.  Then, I could just make one d% roll and tell them if they've found something.

One of my players is a math genius and he reminded me that when you calculate probability, it is often easier to calculate the probability of something NOT happening -- in other words, 5 in 6 times a given (human) character won't find a secret door...  If there's a whole bunch of folks searching; you multiply that 5/6 by 5/6 by 5/6...  You get the idea; then you subtract that % from 1 to get the odds of FINDING a secret door.  Easy peasy.  :)

Taking that into consideration, I whipped up the following Google Doc

You can head on over there and copy it to your account so you can use it.  

Here's what it looks like for my group:

Cack and Vera are both elves, so there's a "2" in the "finding" column.  Oryx is a dwarf -- maybe he needs a "2" as well.  Sir Owyn has "an eye for irregularity" so although he's human, he gets a "2" as well.  Everyone else gets a "1".

When everyone searches, 92% of the time, they will find a secret door.  If a few humans don't search, you just knock a few of the rows off the bottom.  Of course, I can customize this at any time.

Hope you find that helpful!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Dvarik Mk. IX, Sharky's ride...

You've seen Sharky Dangerthorn in several different incarnations.  Now you can experience the awesomeness that is "Dave",  the Dvarik Mk. IX, Transdimensional Battle Tank!
Most of the stuff on Dave was never statted out; I just adjudicated it as needed.  In fact, I still don't know what some of it does.  I created some of the items/powers with the idea that I'd make it up later when I needed it for story/plot/adventure purposes.

Farium Armor Plating!  Copyright ME!  It seems that someone in the Star Wars Universe made this one up in 1990 -- and for STARSHIP ARMOR PLATING!  Hah!  How about that!?!  I said it first!  Dibs!  Actually, in Queston, Farium is a strong, light metal that can be found only on the continent opposite the one that the Fyrkingdom is found on.  Extremely rare material in Queston.

Hellfyr Missiles are just huge fireballs, 15d6 or so, and they work swimmingly against dragons...

Discordant Field Generator?  Probably something that makes folks angry.

Field Warper?  I think that kinda "Passwalls" the tank through stuff...

ChaoCannon?  Do you know what an infinite improbability drive does?  What about a genesis device?

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Search of Kelandor's Gold

I have a standing search on eBay and other engines for Judge's Guild modules and books.  I love their stuff for it's quirkiness and I enjoy mining it for mad, wonderful details that I can use in my campaigns and adventures.

My Google Reader search showed me this module, "In Search of Kelandor's Gold" and a picture of its cover --

Well, I've never heard of this module.  I don't know if it's any good at all, but the cover... the cover... there's something so... I don't know... familiar about it.

One quick Google image search revealed where I'd seen this image before.  :)  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Labyrinth Lord Fighter - Updated!

One of my players, RF, in my CotMA game pointed out that there's little reason to play a fighter in Labyrinth Lord.  They are inferior to nearly every class based upon their experience point table and their class abilities.

I haven't done the work of comparing fighters to clerics, paladins, rangers, monks, etc., but I trust RF when he tells me things.  :)

I think fighters SHOULD be a relevant class -- one that is PRIMARY to the play of my game.

With that in mind, I did a little modification that HAS NOT BEEN PLAYTESTED YET, but that will be in my CotMA game very soon.  I'll keep everyone up on the successes and failures of this proposal, as well as any changes made, as time goes along.

So, here you go, the new and improved OSR Fighter!  Special thanks to Al Krombach at Beyond the Black Gate and his list of Old School Feats.  I've used them as the basis for the fighter's advancement/specialization.  No other classes will be selecting Feats at this time.

Get the PDF here

(Based on Labyrinth Lord, p. 15, Advanced Edition Companion)
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d10
Maximum Level: None

Fighters, as their name implies, are exclusively trained in the arts of combat and war. They are specialists at dealing physical blows. Unlike other classes, fighters are particularly burdened in
a group of adventurers because they are tougher and must take the lead to defend others. Fighters can use any weapons and armor. Beginning at 4th level, a fighter gains additional attacks in melee combat. Additional fractional attacks come in the final round of a series.

Beginning at 3rd level and then at additional levels according to the chart below, the fighter may choose an additional combat-oriented feat. The list of feats was developed by Al Krombach at They are re-printed here (in slightly modified form) for convenience only. No challenge to Al's work or copyright is implied. Special thanks to Al for sharing this list with the OSR.

Reaching 9th Level: At level 9 a fighter may become a great leader, taking control of a parcel of land and a leadership rank in his society. A fighter will, assuming money is at hand, build a castle. He may ultimately control several villages and towns, but must be a good, strong leader and provide protection.

Attacks per Round
Hit Dice (1d10)
+2 hp only *
+4 hp only *
+6 hp only *
+8 hp only *
+10 hp only *
+12 hp only *
+14 hp only *
+16 hp only *
+18 hp only *
+20 hp only *
+22 hp only *
Cleave/Chop when they drop

Choose one more from list

Choose 1

Choose 1

Choose 1

Choose 1

Choose 1

Choose 1

*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.

Alertness – The characters is unusually alert, and gets a bonus of 1 to the normal chance in six to be surprised, detect traps, or notice secret and concealed doors.
Blind Fighting – The character is able to fight while blind or in total darkness with a penalty of 2 to attack rolls.
Cleave – Upon successfully dispatching an enemy with a melee attack, the character gets an immediate attack against another adversary within reach. (Automatically gained by fighters at 1st level)
Combat Expertise – While in melee combat, the character is allowed to take a penalty of 1 to melee attacks in exchange for a bonus of 1 to armor class.
Combat Expertise, improved – Must have Combat Expertise to take this feat, and can increase the armor class bonus to 2 (while still suffering only a penalty of 1 to attacks).
Dodge – The character is unusually adept at getting out of harm’s way, and gains a bonus of 1 to armor class when wearing light or no armor.
Endurance – The character is unusually hardy, and can heal at twice the normal rate per day, as well as being able to subsist on just half the daily food and water of a normal person for as long as a month.
Fisticuffs - The character is a brawler, +1 to-hit and damage when fighting bare-handed, and automatically knocks out humanoid opponents with a natural roll of “20”. Save applies.
Great Fortitude - The character receives a bonus of 1 to saves against poisons and diseases.
Grenadier – The character has a knack for hurled items such as flaming flasks of oil, acid, holy water, etc, and gains +1 to hit and damage with such items, as well as twice the normal throwing range.
Improved Critical – The character scores a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20. The character must be at least 9th level to take this feat.
Iron Will – The character receives a bonus of 1 to saving throws against charms and compulsions.
Leadership – The character may take on double the normal number of followers allowed by his charisma score, and receives double the maximum number of followers upon achieving “name” level. The character must be at least 5th level to take this feat.
Lightning Reflexes – The character receives a bonus of 1 to saving throws against traps, breath weapons, and targeted spells.
Lucky Bastard – Once per day, the character can reroll a failed saving throw with a +1 bonus.
Mounted Combat – The character receives a +1 bonus to melee attacks made while mounted.
Mounted Archery – The character receives no penalty to ranged attacks made while mounted.
Point Blank Shot – The character receives a bonus of 1 to attacks and damage against targets within thirty feet range.
Power Attack – The character can take a penalty of 1 to melee attacks in exchange for a bonus of 2 to damage inflicted.
Precise Shot – The character can fire into melee combat without risk of hitting an ally.
Quick Draw – The character can pull a weapon or change weapons before initiative is rolled without penalty.
Rapid Reload – The character can reload crossbows and other mechanical ranged weapons at twice the normal rate.
Run – The character can run at 50% greater than normal running speed for up to 2d6 rounds.
Shield Bash – The character, if equipped with a shield, can elect to forgo the armor class benefit (must state the intention to do so before initiative is checked) in exchange for gaining a second attack at -1 to-hit for 1d4 points of damage (plus any strength bonus).
Two-handed Defense – The character, when wielding a two-handed weapon, gains a bonus of 1 to armor class.
Two-weapon Fighting – A character with a minimum Dex of 13 may use a weapon in each hand, provided one is of smaller size. The character so equipped does not receive any additional attacks, but receives a bonus of +1 to melee attacks and damage.
Two-weapon Defense – A character with the Two-weapon fighting feat receives a bonus of +1 to armor class when wielding two weapons.
Weapon Finesse – A character may use his Dex bonus, rather than Str bonus, when fighting with light melee weapons.
Weapon Focus – A character may select one weapon he can normally use to apply a +1 bonus to-hit with. This feat can be taken multiple times, each time for a different weapon.
Weapon Specialization – Fighting men of fourth level or higher may apply this feat to a weapon they have Weapon Focus with and apply a +2 bonus to damage rolls.
Weapon Specialization, Greater – Fighting men of seventh level or higher may apply this feat to a weapon they have specialized in to gain an extra attack with that weapon every other round of combat.
Weapon Mastery – Fighting men of at least ninth level may apply this feat to a weapon they have Greater Weapon Specialization with. The bonus to-hit and damage increases to +3, and they may make two attacks per round.
Will-to-live – The character is entitled to a saving throw vs. death magic to resist attacks that would normally drain one or more levels.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How NOT to use Puzzles in your OSR game

At some point in the near future, I'll post the ways I use puzzles in my games.  Until then, here's a cautionary tale about how not to use puzzles in your Old School game.

(In fairness, I like his idea about hiding a clue and making puzzles subplots, but at the end.... Ugh!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sharky Dangerthorn (part 2)

Below I present a two-page character sheet.  This represents Sharky Dangerthorn in my heavily house-ruled 1st Ed AD&D Queston Campaign.
A few bits about this sheet.  OB is "Offensive Bonus".  I broke attacking into 3 categories: "M" is melee, "m" is missile combat and "M" is magical combat.  The formula for rangers was M=L-1,m=L,M=L/2 (where L is the character's level).

I created a "core mechanic" before that was a blog...  :)  All d20 rolls were "roll under target number" rolls.  "1" was a critical hit; "20" was a fumble.  (Heresy!)  You would get your target number by adding AC (descending) to your OB and any relevant bonus(es).  It was THAC0 before there was THAC0.

Looking a Sharky, he's got a melee OB of 5, a STR of 18 (+1 to hit) and a +2 sword, Jart.  If he was attacking someone in chainmail (AC 5) he'd need to roll 13 or less to hit.

"Jart" is an artifact level magical sword.  It has a power pool and the various functions drain points from the pool.  Much like Stormbringer, it sucks energy out of the monsters/creatures slain with the blade.  The Tip is a "retributive strike" and empties the pool in one big blast attack (think The Sword and the Sorcerer
The backside of the sheet has a wide assortment of items that Sharky would use to "swashbuckle" a bit as was his adventuring style.  He also had an array of tech items that were frequently stored aboard "Dave".

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sharky Dangerthorn

Awhile back, I posted an adventure called "The Evil Temple of Fraz-Urb'luu".  You can see all those posts by clicking on the "Q1" tag.

One of the protagonists was the ranger, Sharky Dangerthorn; played by my good friend JD.

JD kept his copies of Sharky all these years and he gave them to me to scan.

I present to you "Page 1" of a multi-page document.  It's intended to be a bit of an appetizer.  I hope you enjoy it.  Sharky was a great character and we played for many years in person and via the US Postal Service (when we lived in different states).
My Queston campaign was a bit eclectic.  PCs had magical items as well as technological ones.  Sharky had the granddaddy of them all, "Dave" the Dvarik Mk. IX trans-dimensional battle tank.  :)

You'll get to look at Dave sometime very soon!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Player vs. DM -- What I Want from the Dice

My friends sometimes tell me that I'm a philosopher.  Sometimes I fancy myself one, but I'm not a philosopher that plumbs the great depths of the human soul.  I tend to believe that most philosophical issues (that I'm interested in) have a relatively straightforward resolution/analysis/system/etc.

What am I babbling about?  Well, when I philosophize, I tend to want to simplify as well.

One page of paper is my mantra (preferably one side of the sheet).  So here's a simple epiphany that I had today:
Although we are playing the same game, players and DMs want very different things from the random elements in the game.
It occurred to me today that when I DM a game, I want one particular thing from the dice --

RANDOMNESS.  Fickle, unpredictable, unexpected random results.  Let the dice fall where they may.  Chance is so much better than pre-planning.  With chance, I get to explore my world with the players.  If I write it all up in advance, its a re-hash for me, no matter how exciting I think it is.

When I'm a player in a game, I want something a bit different.  I want SOME PREDICTABILITY or at least some measure of control.  When I really, really want to do something really, really bad, I'd like to take a little bit of the randomness away.   I mean, it sucks when you roleplay a scene, you belt out a grand soliloquy to your deity and then you roll a "1" on your attack/save/damage/whatever.  That sucks.  Totally takes the wind out of your sails.  :(

I don't think that any rational player wants everything to be a "sure thing".  That would be BORING.  Its just at those critical moments, those moments that you are really hoping for, you'd like a little more "destiny" built into the roll.  Guaranteed?  Not for me.  The scales tipped a bit?  Yep.

It seems to me that these two ideas are not incompatible.  I don't want the players to become co-DM with me.  I don't really want them having too much narrative control, but when they are roleplaying and when they are really committed to a particular action -- what's wrong with giving them a bit of a bonus?

I'm thinking I might implement something like Eberron's Hero Points or FATE 2.0's Aspects -- something that allows players to tone down the fickle swings of fate every once in awhile.  I don't want them tampering with my villains/monsters directly, but I think bonuses that apply to their character would be an OK thing.

Stay tuned...