Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RC Hacks and House Rules: Page 226 - More Treasure!

The next random number takes us to page 226, still within Chapter 16: Treasure.

A couple of Treasure related charts here, but the one that really stands out as potentially much more useful than it initially presents itself is the Average Treasure Values Table.

Here we have a breakdown of Treasure types A-M (Lair only) by their average values in gold pieces. When I was younger, I always had an absolute blast generating treasure using the charts on the previous page. Having never owned the Monster & Treasure Assortment accessories, I instead made my own.

Classic D&D Hack:
I had a small container of index cards with alphabetic dividers A-V, with a dozen or so pre-generated treasure hoards waiting between each letter. I was always fairly meticulous about designing my treasures for adventures, but having a bunch of “DM Approved” hoards to hand out at a moments notice, definitely saved some time when players decided to sidetrack-down the lair of a Random Wilderness Encounter.

In the top right corner of each of these cards, I scrawled the overall gold piece value for the treasure for Experience purposes, but never in my many years of Classic did I ever bother to consult this Average Treasure Values Table to see how “close” I was with the average.

My first thought after studying this table was somewhat akin to a mental forehead slap. While the hours I spent throwing down percentile dice on the preceding charts were definitely fun, I could cut out some serious prep time by simply building this kind of Random Encounter coin out of these averages1.

Let’s take the Medusa: Lair Treasure Type F

The average value of this treasure in gold pieces is 7,600. Although the coins indicated in the treasure table for lairs are in the thousands, we can break this down any way we wish:

200 platinum
2,000 gold
4,000 electrum
5,000 silver
10,000 copper

But wait! Sharp eyes may have noticed my math is missing a thousand gold. That’s where a quick d1000 comes in handy. I rolled a 464, which gives me some more gold to play with and “uneven” the numbers of the smaller coins. The remaining 536 will even out the gold and above. This option is great for sticklers that prefer organic hoards that are random down to the last copper piece. Since the denominations of coins are mostly metric, this adjustment process is pretty quick. Just watch out for that pesky electrum.

Another way this table comes in handy is when planning character advancement. The Medusae in my Rules Cyclopedia are only worth a paltry 175 experience points apiece. But add in the average treasure value of 7,600 gold pieces and now we’re talking some actual advancement for low to mid-level parties. Most DMs prefer to intuitively adjust treasure and experience awards on the fly, but this table could serve as fairly useful guides for beginners who are trying to design by-the-book adventures with character advancement in mind. Locate the Treasure type that is most inline with how many experience points you would like a given adventure to reward (remember to divide it by the party), then simply locate a monster that has that treasure type. This sort of backwards design seems rather strange to me, but I could see it being useful.

Also on this page we have a few more tables pertaining to another type of treasure. Any Dungeon Master worth his or her salt can look at the following list of words and be relatively comfortable with them:

The DM wears many hats: actor, storyteller, puzzle-designer, world builder, and yes, even amateur gemologist. Although I prefer to encrust my gems on large, unwieldy surfaces to encourage time-consuming prying (more Wandering Monster!), gems are still a staple of the fantasy treasure hoard. Getting to know your gemstones a little better is quite easy with access to the internet. Familiarizing yourself with a few more gemological terms and expressions as well as having some visual inspiration can really help make that dreadfully boring “500gp ruby” a thing of the past.

1. Since these averages do not include the value of magical items, and for magic items, the only pricing information in the Rules Cyclopedia pertains to creation (which is only a rough indicator of actual value). This means that the DM can’t easily just “buy” magical items to place in a hoard using the Average Treasure Table values. This is just as it should be, providing a few extra steps of deliberation before plunking down that Horn of Blasting.

Friday, June 27, 2008

RC Hacks and House Rules: Page 249 - Artifacts!

Flipping to the randomly generated page 249, here we have a sample Artifact: Mask of Bachraeus. Somewhat strangely, I haven’t been able to locate any additional information on Bachraeus in my Mystara material, and some digging around online seems to confirm that here, tucked in the Treasure chapter of the Rules Cyclopedia of all places, we’re given a new Immortal in the sphere of Entropy, from the flavor text, we can determine that Bachraeus is the patron of Medusae. Oh, the ideas...

I’m tempted to hook this into that bit at the end of B2 and turn the Keep into the first stop on an arching artifact-based adventure path. Who could forget that shapely prisoner imprisoned in the Caves of Chaos? With WoAdWriMo rapidly approaching, I'm being bombarded with ideas from every direction. Hopefully I can stick with one long enough to contribute this year.

As an aside: I’ve always had a soft spot for Medusae, but I definitely tend to portray them as much more classical, breathtakingly beautiful and sinister foes in my games. I really prefer this to the depiction they were given for 3rd (and carried over for 4th, unsurprisingly) edition.

Exhibit A: Bad Medusa.

I like to go with the "cursed by the gods" for their beauty and hubris angle a little more I suppose. Here you have an amazingly gorgeous woman, and a mere glance at her will turn you to stone. Avoid the gaze, and you've still got the copperhead coiffure to contend with. Granted, it's really hard to argue with the awesome-ness of the serpentine Medusa from Clash of the Titans, and I also did enjoy Jeff’s Medusae (adapted from Marvel Comics), but when I think about Medusae, my brain instantly links to Caravaggio's depiction.

But back to our sheep, the system of Handicaps and Penalties outlined here is an interesting guideline, although I must confess, I'm pretty prone to shoving tiny magical quirks on virtually any magical item that my player's get their grubby hands on. This helps reinforce the idea that magic is unpredictable, and honestly, no two plus two swords should really be identical. The Handicaps associated with artifacts look pretty brutal, but the Penalty-per-use seems like a pretty way to balance an effectively limit-less spell casting item. I think in most cases, owning the artifact is enough of a problem as it is, and in the case of the Mask of Bachraeus, the players would probably have to contend with a rather perturbed nest of Medusae1, eager to get their precious artifact back.

ars ludi recently touched on making treasure special, and the artifact creation rules within the RC definitely seem to encourage this. By tying an epic history to an artifact, you can subtly encourage higher-level players to follow up on all those wonderful plot hooks and ideas that you've been itching to try out. In fact on the page there’s this lovely tidbit:
This artifact will shatter irrevocably if its gaze is ever reflected by the Golden Mirror of Ka. The wearer of the mask will be immediately stunned for a full turn and will remember nothing of what he did while wearing the mask, but he will be otherwise unharmed.
Aspiring DMs are given a springboard for the creation of their first artifact, within the description of the sample artifact! Golden Mirror of Ka you say? The one that was lost when Milenia was sacked and razed by the Bogdashkan Orcs?

Anyone care to take a crack at stat-ing the Golden Mirror of Ka in the comments? If you do, feel free to also provide a page number of the RC for me to tackle next!

1. Medusae need a collective noun. In searching for a suitably snake-y noun, I did come across a rhumba of rattlesnakes, which is great.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mentzer Basic Set III

The Gygax Memorial transcript, continued from Part One Here and Part Two Here...

Wherein, our mighty adventurers agree to enter the Golden Gate and ascend several flights of stairs.

Magic-User: “About how long have we been climbing?”

DM: “As a Magic-User, you’re good with numbers and recognizing patterns, so I’ll say you’ve been counting steps this entire time. By now the party has almost twice as high as the previous set of stairs.”

Magic-User: “We must be getting closer to the surface! Maybe this is another way out!”

Fighter: “Using the 10 foot pole I’m going to prod along the steps ahead and make sure there aren’t any traps.”

DM: “So far so good, the steps finally end at a large 30 by 30 landing, there’s a rusty iron door barely hanging on its hinges in the center of the northern wall. The room is very dusty, and the rotting remains of a table and a few chairs are stacked in front of the door next to the short humanoid skeleton in corroded metal armor.”

Fighter: “30 by 30? Got it!”

Cleric: “Can I identify what race the skeleton is using my training as a Cleric of Lawful?”

DM: “It appears to be the skeleton of a Dwarf. Easily dead for a hundred years.”

Magic-User: “I’m going to try and search the room.”

Fighter: “Me too.”

Fighter: “And me! Watching out for traps.”


Fighter: “I got a one!”

(Still no wandering monsters)

DM: “Awesome Fighter! Beneath the skeletal hand of the dwarf you find a small piece of parchment, miraculously untouched by age and covered in thick silver runes.”

Fighter: “Magic-User! Magic-User! I think I found another Scroll!”

Magic-User: “I speak Dwarven, let me have a look at the runes.”

DM: “I’ll get back to you in just a moment Magic-User, Cleric what have you been doing all this time?”

Cleric: “While they’re searching the room, I’m going to say a prayer for the fallen Dwarf and take out the Wand that we found in the Kobold room. Is there anything on the wand that gives a hint about how it works or what it does?”

DM: “The wand appears to be made of finely carved ivory, potentially from the horn or tusk of some giant beast. It’s hollow and one end is decorated with a stylized eye carved out of a blue gem. Small shiny brass axes are inlaid on the “handle” and form the wand’s grip.”

Cleric: “Brass Axes. Like the Brazen-Axe clan? I bet this wand is dwarven.”

DM: “Magic-User, the runes on the parchment do not appear to be magical in nature, but it does contain a message. I can read it out loud and just assume that you’re translating it for everyone. OK?

Magic-User: “That’s fine.

DM: The parchment says: “Hid axe and wand where those barking buggers will never find ‘em. Groma if you find this, use the wand to find the supplies by Lawful, we’ll need ‘em against the mother. Gasses getting heavier. Seeping in. Forgefather protect us! I have failed you my King!”

Magic-User: “Bummer.”

Fighter: “I HAVE FOUND THE AXE! I guess that makes me smarter than the kobolds!”

Cleric: “And this wand is probably the wand in the message that we need to use to find the supplies. Magic-User can you tell me anything else about it.”

Magic-User: “I don’t know, can I?”

DM: “You can definitely tell that it is magical, probably not of an arcane nature though, and you know from your training that most wands need a command word to operate.”

Cleric: “What’s the Dwarven word for Lawful?”

Magic-User: “Dwawful

Cleric: “I hold the wand out and point it away from everyone and say “Dwawful” in a firm even voice.”

DM: “The tip of the wand glows brightly, illuminating the room in a pale blue light. The light seems concentrated on the flagstone beneath the dead dwarf.”

Fighter: “I MOVE THE DWARF!”

DM: “The blue light outlines the dusty flagstone.”

Cleric: “Awesome. Wand of Secret Door Detection or Find Traps. Be Careful!”

Fighter: “Using the 10 foot pole, I try to pry up the stone.”

DM: “It slides uneasily out of the way, revealing a dark opening.”

Magic-User: “I approach with my torch, what’s do we see.”

DM: “Your torchlight glimmers off of what appears to be a cache of fragile glass vials, filled with liquids.”

Fighter: “POTIONS! Magic-User!”

Magic-User: “I know. I’m on it. Do any of them look similar to the amber one that I gave to Fighter after his run in with the skeleton?”


DM: “Yes. Four of them appear to be remarkably similar to the amber potion. There are two more that are different though.”

Magic-User: “What color are they?”

DM: “Both are sort of a pale green color and slightly fizzy. Kind of like this...”

DM gestures to the Mountain Dew on the table.

Magic-User: “Mountain Dew? Seriously!?”

DM: “Ancient Dwarven Secret. Dew from the Mountains!”

Magic-User: “Is it Magical Dew?”

DM: “Could be. Who wants to test it?”

Fighter: “I HAVE ONLY 1 HIT POINT. STAND BY WITH AMBER POTION! I take a small sip of the Mountain Dew.”

DM: “Even though it is a small sip, you feel invigorated and full of vim and vigor…”

Fighter: “So it’s just plain Mountain Dew then?”

DM: “The ache in your muscles seems to vanish, Fighter, as do the circles under your eyes. The tiny cuts from your battle with the skeletons completely disappear.”

Cleric: “Looks like some kind of Super Healing Potion.”

Fighter: “Works like Mountain Dew!”

Magic-User: “We should definitely divvy these up. Everyone take an Amber Potion. Cleric and I will take a Mountain Dew a piece.”

DM: “I’ve created a monster… So what now?”

Fighter: “Is there anything else in the alcove?”

DM: “The potions appear to be resting on something metallic, but it’s difficult to identify with all the cobwebs.”

Fighter: “Magic-User, can I use your torch to burn away these webs?”

Magic-User: “Yes, but be careful. There may be scrolls in there.”

Fighter: “I carefully use the torch to clear away some of the webs in the hole, and use the extra light to get a better look at the metallic object.”

DM: “It appears to be a shield of some sort. There’s an inscription on it.”

Fighter: “OK, I’m going to reach in and pull out the shield. Can I read the inscription?”

DM: “It’s in Elven script but the words are Dwarven. Magic-User translates “To Groma, adventurer and ally to the end! I hope you return soon with help from your Elves!”

Cleric: “The concept of the relationship between the languages on this makes my brain hurt.”


Fighter: “I put on the Shield. How does it feel?”

DM: “Surprisingly light on your arm. You have a feeling that it may be magical.”

Fighter: “Magic-User? Oh, nevermind.”

Magic-User: “Yep. I can’t identify anything yet.”

Fighter: “Oh well, I’ll wear it.”

DM: “Great, there doesn’t appear to be anything else in the niche, and the room seems devoid of anything else interesting. What are you going to do, Caller?”

Magic-User: “If it’s cool with everyone, let’s get in order and try the door.”

Cools all the way around.

DM: “The door is very rusty and barely seems to be hanging in it’s frame. Who wants to open it?”


DM: “Great! It swings open slowly into a well lit cavernous room. As your eyes adjust to the light, you notice that the floor of the cavern seems littered with thick Purple Fungus.”

Cleric: “Everybody stop! This could be bad news.”

DM: “In the distance you hear a low roar.”

Magic-User: “Is it like the roar before?”

DM: “Very similar.”

Magic-User: “Great. Everyone watch out, I think we just found a back door into the waterfall room. Here be dragon.”


Fighter: “I’m going to poke some of the fungus with the 10 foot pole.”

DM: “ The fungus exudes some sickly looking violet spores. I need a Save vs. Paralysis from everyone.”

Party: “Crap.”

(I hadn't actually planned to have the spores have a negative game affect, but what can I say, it’s always fun to see them squirm.)


Magic-User: “Sixteen.”

Cleric: “18.”

Fighter: “It landed on a corner. But I think it’s supposed to be a fourteen.”

DM: “Awesome. Everyone manages to bring a free hand up to their faces quickly enough to prevent themselves from inhaling the strange purple spores. The cavernous room looms ahead full of stalactites and stalagmites.”

Magic-User: “Stalactites are on the ceiling. The C is for Ceiling. The G in Stalagmite is for ground.”

Cleric: “Do I recognize any of this fungus?”

DM: “You have a feeling that it might be useful somehow. Probably for the clearing the lungs. You’re not really sure.”

Cleric: “Don't spores usually do the opposite? Better not risk it. Is there a way to get across the room without disturbing the Lungus.”

DM: “It seems to clump around the bases of some of the larger Stalagmites. So it should be possible to navigate through it if you move slooowly.”

Magic-User: “Slooowly guys. Let’s go.”

Fighter: “How big is the room?”

DM: “Whoops. It’s large. Uneven. The ceiling is probably about thirty feet high, the room itself is a cavern, roughly a hundred feet wide. The Roaring sound comes from the north.”

Fighter: “I hate mapping caverns.”

Magic-User: “Waterfall is north. Everyone try to be extra quiet and careful. Last time we saw a waterfall, there was a dragon.”

Fighter: “A green horse dragon.”

DM: “A dragon as big as a warhorse. You creep slowly and carefully through the fields of fungus, drawing nearer to the roaring sound of the waterfall. Soon you reach a ledge that overlooks the dragon sleeping atop its hoard. The ledge is about 50 feet high. The roar of the waterfall means that there’s little chance that you’ll be overheard.”

Magic-User: “Alright guys, looks like we’re fighting this dragon whether we want to or not. We should probably get a strategy together…”

To be continued further...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rules Cyclopedia Hacks and House Rules: Thief Special Abilities

Rules Cyclopedia: Chapter 2: The Character Classes, Page 22.

Oh, I was hoping I would have a few more of these under my belt before tackling this, but the random number generator has spoken. Page 22 consists mostly of tables relating to the Thief character class, specifically, the Experience Table, Saving Throws, and of course, the Thief Special Abilities Table.

Gentle reader, versed in the ways of Classic D&D, I’m sure you can sense the reasons for my trepidation here, for there are a few features of the Thief Special Abilities Table that seem somewhat out of place among an otherwise light rules set.

I’ve made several attempts over the years to find a solution for what I see as the key problems with this particular Table. Problems may be too strong a word, bugbear is better.

Ktrey's Key Bugbears:

  1. Percentile Based Resolution – Other than the Woodland Abilities of the Halfling, virtually none of the Special Abilities for other classes are tied to the success of a roll on a d%. I understand that the d% produces much more granulation than the other dice, but it still seems out of place for D&D PCs. After all, we’re not playing RuneQuest.

  2. Six of the Eight Thief abilities, when tested by player, can lead to awkward game-play situations.

    1st level Thief Player: “I check for Traps” (rolls 52%)
    DM: “You don’t find any.”
    (Player knows that he rolled above his Find Traps, so there could still be traps and perhaps proceeds a bit more cautiously. Quite a classic quandary.)

    1st level Thief Player: “I try to Move Silently” (rolls 45%) “Crap.”

    Before you cry “player problem,” please entertain the inconsistency here, although failure at a task should always be a possibility for players, only a few other classes have built in thresholds like this (the Cleric's Turning Chart comes to mind). Fighter can swing his sword against a foe and the outcome is unknown until it is compared to the AC of the defender (which the Fighter can guess, based on the foe's armor, etc, but this is not a sure-fire way to determine the difficulty). Magic-User's get their spells off, and the Saving Throw determines success or failure (what does an Owl Bear save as again?). Thieves are first hand witnesses to their failure, in real time.

    The previous page in the Rules Cyclopedia (p. 21) has some text that addresses this with the following:
    “at the DM's discretion, either the player or the DM will roll percentile dice (d%).”
    I tend to automatically dislike anything that takes the dice out of the player’s hand, doubly so when it is tied to their character’s success or failure at a task.

    The Rules Cyclopedia also continues by mentioning circumstantial bonuses and penalties that can be applied to the chances in order to further obfuscate potential success and failure. A rusty lock granting a 40% bonus to Open Locks, etc.

    With the addition of these two caveats, percentage based abilities work a little better, but still just don’t seem to fit in with the understated elegance of the rest of the rules.

  3. Poor 1st level Thieves begin play with the following percentages:
    Open Locks 15%
    Find Traps 10%
    Remove Traps 10%
    Climb Walls 87%
    Move Silently 20%
    Hide In Shadows 10%
    Pick Pockets 20%
    Hear Noise 30%
    These aren’t terrible odds on paper, with most of the abilities increasing by five each level for the first eight levels, but in actual play, lower level thieves simply can’t shine without hefty “circumstantial help” from the DM or incredibly consistent luck.
In the past, I’ve done some rather strange things to address these issues. Some proved more popular than others, and as with any of my Rules Cyclopedia House Rules, these can be taken, left, or adapted to fit. If anything I hope to promote more discussion about polishing an already shiny system that is perfectly playable as-is.

So without further ado, I present some Hacks and House Rules for Page 22 of the Rules Cyclopedia:

To address Key Bugbear 3 (Poor 1st Level Thieves) I’ve occassionally let players add ability score based amounts to their Thief Abilities:

Ability Option One: DEX x 5
This gives beginning thieves anywhere from 15 to 90 points to spread out among their Thief abilities. Allowing for a great deal of customization (to fit backstory, or character concept). To limit this somewhat, I recommend that players adhere to certain restrictions; no thief ability can be raised above what it would be for a 5th level thief, or no ability can receive more than 20 points this way. Like most Point-Buy additions, this option does result in more book-keeping, as players need to keep track of their bonus points and actual level percentage separately. In play, it also tends to make for some pretty darn competent thieves, which is generally only ideal for a short campaign.

This option is very hackable to boot. Consider trying DEX x 4, or 3, or 2, or even 1 depending on personal preference and the power-level you promote. It's just a little extra-oomph for the Thief who fancies themselves a master locksmith, but would never dream of picking a pocket.

Ability Option Two: Ability Based Bonuses.
This option ties different stats to the different thief abilities. Then, either the ability score, or more stingily, any ability score bonus is applied to the Thief Ability in question.
Open Locks - DEX
Find Traps - WIS
Remove Traps - INT
Climb Walls - STR
Move Silently - DEX
Hide In Shadows - DEX
Pick Pockets – DEX (Possibly CHR?)
Hear Noise – WIS
Dexterity is arguably one of the best of the six ability scores in Classic D&D, providing that much needed Armor Class boost at lower levels, as well as the bonus to hit with missile weapons. This option takes some of the bite and power out of the attribute, and may lead to more careful ability score selection.

While the above ideas primarily seem to address the power level of thieves, some of the options outlined below also work wonders for this. This section outlines some ideas for dealing with Key Bugbear #1: Those Pesky Percentages!

Pesky Percentages Option 1 or D6 Forever!
Some other intrepid House Rulers have worked to convert the Thief Abilities into tasks that can be resolved with a d6. Their rather impressive work on this subject can be found on this page: Thieves and Rakes: A Variety Of Class Options. While I haven’t had the chance to playtest these rules, they do seem to strike me as sound. And I especially like that the rules dovetail nicely with the extant “find secret doors” and “listen” rules for demihumans.

Pesky Percentages Option 2 or Task Difficulty as Armor Class
Give Thieves the Fighter’s Attack Progression for attempting their Thief Abilities, and give their obstacles an Armor Class based on difficulty. Decide whether or not you would like to allow Dexterity bonus (or even other ability bonuses) to figure into this roll. The Thief then simply writes a THAC0 next to each of his abilities and task resolution is handled with the roll of a d20 against the DM determined AC of the obstacle. As a handy hint, this Obstacle AC can decrease as the character descends deeper into a dungeon.

This Option also helps bring back some of that “mystery” to thief abilities, as the player will likely never know the difficulty of the obstacle they are trying to overcome, and therefore won’t automatically be tempted to assume failure or meta-game (see: Ktrey's Key Bugbear 2). Unless a One is rolled and there are provisions for automatic-failure. I have in mind an upcoming article on one of the more venerable (second perhaps only to the Critical Hit?) house rules: The Fumble. The “Joys of Fumbling” will provide some advice on how to handle these 1s.

Pesky Percentages Option 3 or Convert Thief Abilities to General Skills
Since Stealth (choose terrain) is already a General Skill, some Dungeon Masters may be tempted to simply convert the other thief abilities into Rules Cyclopedia General Skills. These General Skills can use Dexterity, or for more variety, the optional ability scores above. While this does mean that Thieves will start off with 8 more General Skills than the rest of the character classes, and may be spending all of their skill slots improving these abilities rather than taking on new General Skills, they are Thieves after all, and this is only a method of representing their specialized training and niche. For this very reason, limiting or disallowing other classes to take these skills is highly recommended to keep the Thief special. One could even give Thieves another “Thievery Skill Slot” every few levels (I’ve had success with adapting the Weapon Mastery table for this) to encourage them to use their normal slots to take other skills.

Caveat: With high ability scores the chance of success for thief abilities converted in this manner increases dramatically, so liberal application of those “circumstantial modifiers” might be needed. On the flip side, a set of +1 Lock Picks, or Boots of Silent Step +2, become wonderful treasures that fall in line with the Fighter's ubiquitous +1 Longsword. (Lock Picks +10%? Please.)

Or, if you prefer to not deal with the headaches of “circumstantial modifiers”, give each of the Thief General skills a flat base. Say, 8-10 (or cruelly roll randomly! Yikes!) and allow them to be improved normally with slots via advancement. With this method it might be better to use the “growing d6” method for resolution (helm tip to Sham’s Grog n’ Blog for highlighting this niftiness). Simple tasks are resolved using 2d6, standard tasks are resolved using 3d6, for more difficult tasks, increase the number of d6s and ring in the bell curve.

Pesky Percentages Option 4
Slot Based Thief Abilities or When Things Just Get Weird.
This one is rather radical, but was fairly fun for the players. Thieves use the Magic-User’s spell progression for their “Thief Slots.”

Glancing over the Spell Lists for the respective Spell Casting Classes, let’s look at some Thief Abilities and their Magical counterparts.
Find Traps – 2nd level Cleric Spell – Find Traps)
Open Locks – 2nd level Magic-User Spell – Knock)
Remove Traps – 3rd level Magic-User Spell - Dispel Magic?)
Move Silently – 2nd level Cleric Spell – Silence 15’ Radius)
Hide In Shadows – 1st level Magic-User Spell - Darkness, or 2nd level Invisibility)
Climb Walls – 2nd level Magic-User Spell – Levitate?)
Pick Pockets – 1st level Magic-User Spell – Charm Person?)
Hear Noise – 1st level Cleric Spell – Detect Evil?)
Some are less than perfect fits I agree, but bear with me. For the most part, Thieves will use the standard method in your game for Thief Special Ability resolution, but giving the Thief a limited number of Daily “auto-success” for their abilities could considerably improve their chances to shine.

Some interesting questions crop up: Do they meditate on any of these techniques every night and pick a new one from their “Thief Slot List” each day (like Clerics)? Do they begin with access to only one to study nightly, and then “learn” them from other, more experienced thieves or musty manuals of thievery (Magic-User)? Are there new and exciting Thief techniques that can be learned? Are the game mechanics of these “Thief Slots” identical to the spell effect (modified to have Magic read as Traps in the case of Dispel Magic)? These are some thought-provoking questions for the DM brave enough to attempt or adapt this hack, and are tragically beyond the scope of this installment.

At roughly the equivalent level for Clerics, and exactly for Magic-Users, the spell casting classes already have the ability to perform these tasks, edging in on the territory of the Thief while simultaneously tying up a precious spell slot. I find it helps to keep in mind that Thieves tend to advance much quicker than the other classes, but this advancement doesn’t really seem as rewarding as the others (and only produces a lot of erasures beneath their “Thief Abilities” section on their sheet).

What about the 7th level Thief and their first 4th level “Thief Slot” you ask? Well a quick glance at the spell lists reveals some potential candidates:
4th level: (Cleric Spell - Neutralize Poison (“I've spent years building up an immunity to Black Dougal’s Bane”)
For dastardly thieves, its reverse Poison could also be neat.
4th level: (Magic-User – Polymorph Self) Disguise anyone?
By turning creativity up, it becomes pretty difficult to place a limit on which spell effects Thieves could potentially replicate as one of their “Thief Slots.”

Be warned however, this option is straying very far out of the stalwart Keep of house-rule territory and closer to woolly woods and chaotic caves of “System Revision.” In fact, it seems that something very similar was tried previously with the old Warlock RPG as one of the first attempts to “fix” D&D:

Warlock RPG - Thief Special Ability Charts

Some good ideas here for “Thief Slots,” but again, this is dangerously close to rewriting the game. Using these, I’d be tempted to start writing up some “Fighter Slots” and then I might as well be fiddling with another Edition.

Which of these Hacks/House Rules do I use in my games? Well, currently I don’t have a Classic D&D game running (although I’m looking to rectify this soon), but one of my last games with Thieves used the Task Difficulty as Armor Class option with a surprising degree of success. Almost to the point of me adopting the progression across the board, with each class using the Fighter progression for various Class related tasks, but that, I’m afraid, will need to wait for another post...

Bah. Who am I kidding? For my next game, I'm just as likely to play completely by the book with my Thieves. The Rules Cyclopedia just plain rules, and the above could just be considered a lengthy thought exercise. But do let me know if you find anything interesting, useful, or unclear.

Dedicated to the memory of Luven Lightfinger, Apprentice extraordinaire (Str 13, Int 14, Wis 9, Con 12, Dex 16, Cha 13) who lost his life “In Search of the Unknown” along with his party’s Elf due to rolling poorly versus a portcullis trap:

If all attempts to escape fail, the persons trapped will be doomed to their fate.

Thank you Mr. Carr and B1.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The House Rules Cyclopedia (Part One)

This will be the first of my (weekly? Bi-weekly?) installments regarding the wonderful Rules Cyclopedia. Some entries will focus on House Rules, and others will revolve around some of the RC hacks I’ve used in the past.

Not including the Appendices and Contents/Credits sections, the Rules Cyclopedia contains around 263 pages. But, instead of wading through in order, I’m going to be using this Handy Custom Random Number Generator to generate a page number between 5 and 267. This will let me tackle the contents of the book rather haphazardly, and I embraced randomness long ago. Besides, I’m firmly convinced that a potential Hack or House Rule lurks on virtually every page of this book.

First result: Page 98. (Any readers should feel free to follow along at home)

Here, tucked away in Chapter 7: Encounters and Evasion we have a rather remarkable table (Subtable: 11. City Encounters). By combining the roll of a d8 with a d20, any of 160 people and professions are at your disposal to give that “Human” result from the previous tables a little more punch. Or one could use it to add a little more spice to the randomly encountered city denizen.

However, I have a feeling that this table is eminently more hack-able.

I'll be using this nifty online dice tool to help me take this table through the paces, and Yafnag is great for the occasional random name.

Subtable: 11. City Encounters (Page 98) Hacks:

Random Character Backstory:
These days, characters are rarely born in a vacuum, and some players just love fleshing out their character’s history and backstory for you. But this table can be used to give others a springboard, and the results can provide some excellent adventure seeds as well.

So, father was a Gambler (4.4) and your brother is a respectable Wheelwright (8.17). If father’s still alive, maybe he owes money to a (7.17) Tavernkeeper. Maybe your sister ran off with a (4.12) Guardsman. Childhood sweetheart: son of a (4.11) Graveyard Keeper. Best Friend: (7.5) Indentured Servant.

Even More Backstory?
What did your character do before becoming an adventurer?

Maybe you aspired to be a (8.10) Vigilante.
Who committed the crime? (4.5) A Gemcutter. Against who? (3.10) A Druid Adventurer.

Continuing the theme of living, breathing characters, I’ve always been tempted to use this table to help tie players to a particular place by letting them begin the game with a few “friends.” Sometimes a character’s contacts can also be brimming with interesting story, hooks, and/or seeds.

I smell a House Rule:

Characters start the game with d4+Charaisma Bonus Contacts. Either randomly roll (my personal favorite) or choose some “contacts” from Subtable: 11. City Encounters. These “contacts” are people that your character knows and who are automatically considered “friendly” for the purposes of NPC Reactions. Remember that Armorsmith in the sample adventure from the Mentzer Basic Player’s Handbook who let your character trade his chain for plate? These NPCs are people have known your character long enough to do you the odd favor or two, and likewise if they needed help from you, you’d be hard pressed to refuse.

Artan the Fighter has 3 Contacts:
(1.16) Bazaar Merchant
(4.1) Freighter
(2.12) Carter
Need to stowaway somewhere? Looking for rare goods? Need help smuggling something through the city? There you go. Randomness sometimes produces results that go together like peas in a pod. This is one of those examples. Looks like Artan might have been a Caravan Guard or a Marine/Sailor at some point.

General Skills
Do you use General Skills? Need something for those pesky Profession (choose type) and Craft (choose type) skills?

How about Craft (4.8 – Glassblower) or Profession (8.20 – Woodcutter)? This table can really help characters fill in some blanks.

Retainers, Hirelings, Henchmen
Who doesn’t like Retainers (or Hirelings, or Henchmen)? Chapter 12: Strongholds and Dominions specifically refers to this table on page 138 in regards to retainers. The RC seems to have phased out the use of the term Hirelings (although the Retainers section does state that the two are interchangeable).

Hirelings weren’t always necessarily mercenaries for hire, why the extra sword-arm and treasure-porter you managed to hire might actually be a former (4.10) Government Official. Better yet, what if she still is?

I’ve even used Subtable: 11 City Encounters in the past as a springboard for urban adventure.

First I use the table to make a few NPCs
(8.14) Winemaker
(5.1) Jailor
(6.11) Politician
(1.8) Astrologer

Then I embrace randomness, and try to string them together:
A superstitious Politician needs the adventurers help to get information from a local Winemaker about an alcoholic Jailor that he suspects of being susceptible to bribes. Along the way, the PCs will need to solicit the help of a greedy Astrologer.

Heck. Even a dungeon hook one-liner can work sometimes:
Go to the dungeon and rescue a prominent (5.14) Madame from the clutches of the goblins that waylaid her carriage as she was traveling between cities.

Urban Design/World Building
So you’ve mapped out that city/village/hamlet but what are all those buildings? How does this town relate to others economically?

Well, the small rectangular building belongs to a (8.4) Town Hall Employee, who also works as the town’s (7.14) Weaver. Another quick roll and (7.1 – School Teacher) tells us that that the building by the river is a School, while (4.19 - Hunter) can be interpreted to tell us that this town’s chief export might just be furs and skins. The (6.19) Taxidermist will tell you that most of the town’s imports consist of (3.4 – Diary Worker) dairy goods from another nearby village.

When coupled with a little bit of creativity, this table is positively brimming with ideas and has many more uses than just your standard “Encounter Table.”

Have you ever found a use for it in another interesting way?

Friday, June 20, 2008

My girlfriend is incredibly interesting.

So I was blathering on and on about how much I enjoy the combat mechanics of The Riddle Of Steel today as my girlfriend Candace was practicing on her ukulele when she provided a pretty nifty 4e House Rule.

See, she was thinking a little bit more about the 4e Combat System of Powers and their usage constraints. We played a really sloppy and quick combat session on Tuesday with the usual group and sure enough, Candace the RPG Combat HaterTM actually enjoyed what her Tiefling Wizard could do to control the battlefield.

Without further ado, I present a paraphrasing of her neat idea:

"I was thinking about the powers in 4e combat. You get your at-will, your encounter, and your daily powers, but what about a per-level power. An awesome, sort of David vs. Goliath thing for Clerics for instance."

Wow that sounds all kinds of cool. The economy of action in 4e virtually guarantees that players will be siphoning off their Encounter Powers toward the end of the battle, or their Dailies if an Extended Rest is eminent. But players only really have a rough idea of when they are actually going to level, so this might be something special that they want to hold on to "Just In Case."

I'm personally thinking about allowing this "Level" power to be chosen from the next level of Powers (daily, encounter, at-will, whatever is applicable to the situation). As a bonus it'll also help players get familiar with what they have to look forward to next level.

I've been blogging a bit 4e-centric lately, but don't worry, I haven't drank the flavor-aid just yet. I'll be returning to form very soon with a weekly "Rules Cyclopedia House Rules" column.

Monday, June 16, 2008

4e and Life Expectancy

Candace was casually thumbing through the Fourth Edition Players Handbook the other day at my request when she spotted something a little odd.

I needed her to give the book a glance because she's a set of relatively fresh eyes as far as Role Playing and Dungeons & Dragons are concerned. My reading of Fourth Edition materials tend to leave me either crumpled in a corner whimpering or foaming at the mouth and gnashing my teeth. Her perspective would have to be closest I could get to an unbiased view until I actually have a chance to play/run it.

She noticed that oddly, the life expectancies for virtually all of the pre-existing races had been reduced rather drastically. This wasn't too unusual really, as Fourth Edition seems to be more geared for "Heroic" play that centers on characters retiring at 30th level as challenging encounters dry up (granted, this could be rectified with future Paragon/Epic Tier Splats), so living to a ripe-old age is pretty out of the question.

However she did notice that Tieflings did not have a life-expectancy listed. This will probably be clarified and Errata'd into oblivion but it did get my gears turning after a fashion. Is it being tacitly implied that Tieflings are immortal barring hazard?


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back and Fourth

I wonder if anyone is contemplating an OD&D conversion of H1: Keep on the Shadowfell.

On the various blogs and boards that I frequent, there seems to be a remarkable lack of understanding between the grognards (self-styled or otherwise) and the unaffectionately dubbed 4ons (before this, it was 3etards, which also got a giggle from me). I think some of this friction could be due to the lack of a shared vernacular when it comes down to what each edition contributed to the style of play.

Ask a grognard about "shifting" or "feats" and the best you'll get is a blank stare.

Ask a fan of fourth edition about re-rolling hit points at every level, or the concept of "Race as Class" and you'll be met with the same reaction.

Many of the conversations are one-sided, with the OD&D gamers sounding suitably venerable and crotchety (with frenetic exclamations that often begin with "back in my day") while the newer 4th Edition gamers who have migrated from a crunchier 3.5 are busy drooling over potential synergistic exploits and cool factor.

For instance, after the "shift" to Third Edition, character optimization became character concept. I fail to see anything really wrong with that. My OD&D players optimized the heck out of their characters whenever they were given the chance, and as a DM (a mantle that when worn, does not give you the game-given right to be an ass) I encouraged this. The magical sword found in the crypt in Chandlerwood, the musty tome of forgotten fire magics found in an abandoned monastery near the Lavafalls, a set of Gnomish Thieves Tools that when commanded would be wielded by small spectral gnomes who actually climbed into the lock to pick it, the players loved these things because they made the characters more awesome. I know, "These goodies were handed out based on DM fiat" you protest! "Players had no where near the control that they have now!" Wrong. The only thing limiting player control is the DM, and as "bringer of fun" it's your job to insure this happens, not to tell your story. Seriously, your story is only mildly interesting at best.

But back to our sheep, what would be nice, however daunting, would be some transcripts of Actual Play for each of the editions, for the same adventure. This would do wonders to eliminate some of the fluffiness that causes the veterans to weep and the greenhorns to cheer. The crunch is what could serve as a universal language, the much-maligned "Common Tongue." Even though OD&D didn't have rules for governing some of the things that the newer editions do, gamers and game masters everywhere still have the same baseline of creativity. All D&D games edition-neutered can be just as fun and memorable as each other, but very few have attempted to accept the challenge of dissecting why. Less rules in OD&D served as a springboard for creativity and house rules, but people are house-ruling things in 4e right out of the box. Why is this? The reasons seem to revolve around either More Balance or More Fun. The problem is Balance can be an enchantment applied to a FunBane sword. Just as Fun spells counter Balance.

A first level Mentzer Dwarf could Cleave as a critical hit house-rule (on a natural 20 naturally) with the approval of a non-adversarial referee. Is this balance, or is this fun? It is highly likely that 4th Edition is no more fun or balanced.

I think we all forget that there is no wrong way to have fun, and that D&D has been about fun since its conception. It is not now, nor will it ever be, "more fun." Rules and mechanics simply don't do that. Instead, rules and mechanics are there to tell you "how" and "when" and "where" a predetermined amount of fun can take place. While certain groups and play-styles may lend themselves to certain editions, they do not limit.

My initial reactionary thoughts on my WoAdWriMo contribution for this month were as follows:

A Chaotic Evil Dragonman Wizard and his Neutral Evil half-devil henchmen are disenchanting magical items across the land and systematically destroying the economy, it is up to our intrepid band of Neutral Good gnomish PCs to stop him.

Instead, I might try to eviscerate as much fluff and IP from H1 (a dangerous task, all things considered, as the last thing I want is to cleave through a swarm of legal minions). As purely a thought exercise, I believe that that Fellshadow Fortress is just begging to be a rollicking OD&D romp.

Or better yet, design an adventure that can be run in any version of D&D, so that my dreams of uniting players from all editions under a common banner may someday be realized, or at the very least, help to bridge the chasm of incredulity that players on both sides of Edition Canyon seem to be camped on.

Perhaps even better, an OD&D adventure with 4e feel and vice versa. Hmm.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taking the Initiative

Some notes on Initiative:

Index Cards have been wonderful for tracking initiative.

As a self-admitted Index Card junkie, I have literally thousands of them lying around at any given time. When I discovered that my venerable printer could print on them, I began to print cards with enemy statistics for ease of reference. Once initiative has been determined I can scrawl this on a card and stack them in order to keep track of the order.

Possible ways to improve:

Currently, I only ask for the player’s Armor Class and Initiative score to place them in the pile. Noting Hit Points on the card seems like it would result in too much redundant bookkeeping. Perceptions skills, ranges, and other tactical tidbits could be useful though.

For Monster cards, the borders or backs of the cards could be used to store random numbers. d20 along the top and bottom, maybe damage dice along the sides. If these factored in bonuses as well, that would be snazzy. Even just damage would eliminate some of the rolls and quick math, shaving seconds off of resolution.

Pre-rolling Initiative for enemies has also been great.

I must remember to group enemies together though. This heightens the pace and can be really evocative for conveying the “horde” or “swarm” mentality of minor opponents.

Rolling Initiative at the beginning of the Session works wonders for communicating a sense of anticipation for combat or a tactical encounter during the session, and also makes adjudicating Surprise that much more Surprising. Rolling Initiative for the next encounter at the end of an encounter is also handy.

An idea: with any type of sequential combat tracking system, instead of turning to the player on their turn and asking for an action, solicit this action by narrating a shift in focus. Describe the perceptions or actions directed against the player whose turn it is to indicate their turn.

Example: Krycon Narssisimar and a Lutzel the Low are toe-to-toe at the beginning of Krycon’s turn. Instead of asking Krycon what he wants to do, get in the habit of describing what Lutzel is trying to do to him, turning Krycon’s action into a reaction to the narrative.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Just a quick note about some lovely software I stumbled across while trawling the internet for Numbered Hex Maps:

MKhexgrid - a hex grid generator

The following spec.txt file seems to be working really well to generate a full page of decently sized, numbered hexes:

columns = 30
rows = 20
hex-side = 30
grid-grain = v
output = png
outfile = tut3.png
antialias = true
coord-bearing = 90
coord-distance = 18

Numbered hexes are the only way to map, and stocking all the hexes on Index Cards means that adventurers are never wont for adventures.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rolling Dice (cont.)

In my previous post, I expounded upon the difficulties of dice. Seeking a solution, I acquired a variety of plastic containers to test the hack.

The cases that seemed to suit my needs best were made by a company called Craft Mates. They were less opaque than others, and the added benefit of a locking mechanism for the compartments means that I can shake the entire container vigorously without letting loose a hail of dice.

Interestingly, my favorite flavor of the Craft Mates I purchased contains 7 separate alcoves, each large enough for 3d6. Can you say "Instant NPC?" Using a standard Attribute Order (STR, DEX, INT, WIS, CON, CHR), I can generate the crucial stats for a generic NPC with a quickness hereto only rivaled by the tiny BASIC program I wrote in Middle School.

For most utilities though, the seven compartment can be filled as follows: d100, d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, d4. Even the unrully rolliness of the standard pyramidal d4 seems to be somewhat better when the dice are provided with a limited range of motion. I'm sure there have been studies to determine the amount of "shakes" required in order to maximize randomness (just as I recall reading somewhere that shuffling the standard deck of cards seven times seems optimal), but three quick (and thunderous!) shakes seem to produce a pretty broad spectrum.

Naturally, the players have yet to adopt this practice. There's a fair degree of superstition that goes into most of their die rolls and it seems that convenience can't overcome their predilection for the skin-to-skin contact of rolling dice the old-fashioned way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On a Roll..

We’ve all experienced it. Either as players, or much more often, as DMs: Dice, and the rolling of said dice can take up a lot of valuable tabletop space. Numerous house rules have been developed concerning dice landing on the floor, askew and partially atop rulebooks, in drinks, ad infinitum.

I had a moderate epiphany today that could very well address these issues.

It started this morning as I was blearily leaving for work; Candace recently purchased a pill case that finally met her grueling standards. It’s quite large, and her reasoning behind putting off the purchase for so long was that a lot of her vitamins and supplements are much larger than the standard pill. As I was standing and staring at the box, I absentmindedly wondered how many dice could fit in a case like that.

Flash forward to a smoke break later in the day, that’s when the thought hit me: If a clear plastic container can contain the dice for storage and portability purposes, then why not utilize it for rolling purposes as well?

As I sit behind my homemade screen, I have rulebooks, stat sheets, index cards, and sundry other gaming supplies competing for space on my small side of the table. Rolling dice becomes such a hassle, that I have often just considered generating sheet after sheet of random numbers and marking them down successively. But if my dice we’re all stored within self-contained clear containers, rolling them would only involve shaking the container a few times and setting it down to read the pip. This could be particularly handy for percentile dice.

I believe there was an old board game that echoes this idea (Sorry? Boggle?), only 2d6 was stored within a clear plastic dome, and rolling was accomplished by depressing the dome. Now some of those would be pretty handy. Good bye dice clutter! Hello new self-contained rolls!

Container Store, here I come.

Note: If this idea has already been done, then I’m unaware of its application. If you utilize this idea to make RPG millions, I would appreciate a free set and some credit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What kind of D&D character would you be?

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Bard (4th Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

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.

Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mentzer Basic Set I

One of my groups meets every Tuesday. Dubbed “Team Evil” by the other team (who are referred to as “Team Swamp” even still), they have chosen instead to go by the moniker “Team Tuesday.”

My usual prep night for Team Tuesday is Monday, but this week Team RTS had an impromptu and snowy session on Monday, so my mind was scrambling all day to get together material for the game when the news reached me through a co-worker that Gary Gygax had passed away.

Tonight's game needed to be special.

I set aside all thoughts of sharks and sahuagin, and my brain began to brumate. I’d already been spending entirely too much time with OD&D lately, yearning mostly for the classic Mentzer days. Although the Blue Book was my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, I would not actually run a campaign until much later, until the Mentzer Basic Set was the gold piece standard of gaming.

I had been doodling dungeons on graph paper in my spare time, and sighing at the sad notion that dungeons don’t seem to belong in my Epic Campaigns. Dungeon design seems so much more difficult these days. Before my pencil even approached the page, I was already ruminating on ecology, logic, architecture, leit motif, theme, and so on.

It didn’t used to be this way. I could crank out a mega-dungeon that spanned several sheets of graph paper in a matter of hours, with each room fully stocked and wandering monster tables at the ready. I needed to rekindle this spirit again. I desperately wanted to be that 12 year old DM again.

Flash forward to game-time-Tuesday. With player’s trickling in, battlemat and screen in place. I used Peterson’s printer to enact my evil scheme. Four copies of Erik Johansson’s Excellent Basic D&D Character Sheet later, I poured the entirety of my dice bag on the table with a clatter and passed the half-pages all around.

As I expected, the new sheets were greeted with an equal mix of groans and perplexed expressions. I rose to my feet behind the screen and stood upon my invisible soapbox.

"We're doing something special today in memory of Gary Gygax. I don't have the white box anymore, but we're going as old school as we can."

I launched into some partially remembered by-the-book character generation rules:

Ktrey: “Alright everybody grab 3d6 and roll and record the totals six times. Write ‘em down in order on some scrap paper”

Rip went the spiral binder, sprinkling it’s wonderful pale confetti over my red Mentzer Basic books.

Candace: “Only six times! Why not 8 and drop the two lowest?”

Ktrey: “I’m just getting started,” I grinned. “I need to see any 18s that get rolled.”

Clatter, clatter, pitter patter, be still my beating gamer-heart.

Woody: “Do you need to see a 16?”

Ktrey: “Sure. Great roll. Looks like everyone’s finishing up, now write these down in order on your sheet. First score is STR, etcetera.”

Xac: “WHAT!? We don’t get to pick where they go?”

Ktrey: “Nope. You didn’t get to pick your abilities when you were created. Did you?”

More groans. Xac was the first to get his numbers in.

Xac: “Looks like I’m playing a Cleric. My high scores are in Wisdom and Charisma.”

Ktrey: “Awesome. Remember, no Spells until Second Level. Don’t worry about a Deity. We’re not even naming these guys or picking an alignment until they reach 3rd level.”

Xac: “Wait, so these guys are just gonna die?”

Ktrey: “It’s quite possible. Roll your HD on a d6.”

Xac: “I got a One. Can I reroll?”

Ktrey: “Nope.”

Dissenting chatter again fills the table. A kitten has taken the DM’s chair.

Ktrey: “Alright, Xac has a Class. Anyone else know what they want to play?”

Candace: “You mean we actually get to pick this? I have a pretty high INT.”

Ktrey: “You might want to play something that takes advantage of your high stats. Each class has Prime Requisites, STR for Fighter, WIS for Cleric. High scores in these Primes will give you a bonus to earned XP. Magic-Users need INT.”

Woody has scrawled Barbarian next to class.

Woody: “My CON sucks for a Barbarian, but I have a 16 in STR.”

Ktrey: “Sorry, no Barbarians. The Class choices are a lot simpler now. Just the Seven.”

Chris: “Are there Rangers?”

Ktrey: “Nope. The choices are Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Cleric, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling.”

Woody: “So Race is a Class?!”

Ktrey: “Yep.”

Candace: “So I could be an Elf?”

Ktrey: “Sure, if you meet the minimum attribute requirements. Let’s see…” frantic page flipping. “You need at least an INT of 9.”

Candace: “I’ll be an Elf.”

Ktrey: “Roll a d12 for your spell.”

Thank goodness that spells were laid out in handy, die-friendly groups. A dozen Magic-User Spells, and eight Cleric Spells per level...

Candace: “4”

Ktrey: “Floating Disk”

Candace: “What?!”

Ktrey: “Floating Disk. You know if you choose Magic-User, you get another spell. But keep in mind you can still only cast one per day.”

Candace: “I guess I’ll go with Magic-User then.”

Ktrey: “Great, d12 again for your second spell.”

Candace: “8”

Ktrey: “Sleep.”

Candace: “Sleep?”

Ktrey: “Yep. Take heart, it’s ridiculously over powered for a first level spell in this version.”

Woody: “No Barbarian? Well I guess it’s Fighter then.”

Ktrey: "You can always play him like a Barbarian. Great. Roll a d8 for your Hit Die.”

Woody: “I rolled a 2”

Ktrey: “Yep. It happens, what’s your CON again?”

Woody: “Six”

Ktrey: “Minus 1 Hit Point.”

Woody: “Great. I’m a Fighter with 1 Hit Point…”

Candace: “What do I roll for Hit Points?”

Ktrey: “1d4”

Candace: “4”

Ktrey: “Awesome. That’s the best a Magic User can do”

Chris: “I rolled 5”

Ktrey: “Did you decide on a class yet, Chris?”

Chris: “Yeah. I’m going with Fighter too.”

Ktrey: “Great. Now everybody roll 3d6 again, and multiply it by ten. This is how much gold you have starting out to equip yourself.”

Chris: “Ugh. 8. This means I have 80 gold?”

Ktrey: “Yep. You stroll up to the weapon shop. Ye Olde Bloodbath & Beyond. Who wants to buy what?”

Woody: “I want a Warhammer.”

Ktrey: “Sure 5 gold pieces.”

Xac: “If I remember right, no edged weapons for me. I want a Mace and a Club”

Ktrey: “Cool, good memory. Mace’ll set you back 5 gp, the Club is 2 gp.”

Chris: “Clerics can’t use edged weapons? What about their favored weapon?”

Ktrey: “The concept hadn’t been invented yet. And I always liked it better this way, didn't let them outshine Fighters.”

Chris: “How much for a Long Sword”

Ktrey: “I can sell you a Normal Sword for 10 gold.”

Chris: “What damage does it do?”

Ktrey: “d8, and it's still d8 after all these years. All weapons used to do d6, you know.”

Woody: “I changed my mind. I want a Battle Axe.”

Ktrey:“It’s two handed, that means no Shield. And AC is precious where we’re going.”

Woody: “That’s fine. How much?”

Ktrey: “Seven Gold. It does d8 plus your STR bonus.”

Chris: “How much is a shield?”

Ktrey: “10 gold pieces, but let me make sure everyone’s set weapon-wise. Magic-User?”

Candace: “I don’t even know what weapons I can use.”

Ktrey: “Well, you can use a Dagger. That’s it. But the good news is a dagger is only 3 gold. Or you can buy the super special exotic and expensive SILVER DAGGER for 30.”

Candace: “I have cash to spare. I’ll take the fancy one.”

Players (except Xac): We'll take some daggers too!

Ktrey: “Alright. So that’s weapons then. Anyone want a ranged weapon?”

Xac: “I don’t think there’s any that I can use.”

I completely forgot about the Sling!

Chris: “My DEX sucks.”

Ktrey: “Alright. Cool then. On to the Armor Shop, Shields cost 10 gp. Here are your other choices: Leather 20 gold, Chain 40 gold, Plate Mail 60 gold.”

Xac: “No Scale Mail?”

Ktrey: “Not yet, if I had the RC with me, I’m sure it’s in there, but we’re going by Basic. Those are your choices.”

Woody: “Plate.”

Xac: “Chain”

Candace: “I can’t wear any armor can I?”

Ktrey: “Nope. I think you’re starting to get it, doll.”

Candace: “Magic-User’s suck. There’s even that song about it. Always the first to die.”

Ktrey: “Yep. That song is hilarious. I wish I had Keep On the Borderlands with me.”

Chris: “I can’t afford Plate.”

Ktrey:“Someone else might loan you the coin. You’re all old friends.”

Players: “Huh?”

Ktrey: “Anyone want to loan Peterson some cash for Plate.”

Woody: “I’ll do it.”

Ktrey: “Cool.”

Xac: “I might as well pick up a Shield to.”

Ktrey: “Great. 10 gold pieces. Adventurers are good for the economy.”

Xac: “What about torches and stuff?”

Ktrey: “We’re getting there. Everyone done with armor? Good. Let’s speed this up. I’ll call out the item from the list, and the cost.”

(Proceeds down the lovely, short, equipment list of the basic set).

Ktrey: “Cleric, you want a Holy Symbol? 25 gold pieces.”

Xac: “Definitely, I’m thinking of making my character a chick.”

Ktrey: “Heh. That’s fine. Actually, I’ll let you pick an Alignment too, it'll help us figure out what you do to undead when you turn them.”

Xac: “Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic, right?”

Ktrey: “Yep.”

Chris: “No Evil?”

Ktrey: “Nope. This was pure Moorcock. The Good/Evil Axis came later.”

Xac: “I’m a Cleric of Lawful!”

Ktrey: “Awesome. Does anyone want a 10 foot pole?”

Woody & Candace: “OF COURSE.”

Xac: “What about a belt pouch?”

Ktrey: “If I recall correctly, all adventurers start out with two or three sets of clothes, a belt, belt pouch, and sensible shoes...”

Players: Okay we're writing that down.

Candace: Do I get anything else?

Ktrey: “You have your travelling Spellbook. It fits in your backpack.”

Ktrey: “Great, let’s fill in the handy little to-hit table. Start at zero, with a 19. It works it’s way backwards from what you’re used to. Higher AC is worse. So 1 is going to be 18, then 2 17, etcetera. Go ahead and factor in any STR bonus’ here, although I think Woody is the only one with a bonus.”

Chris: “Low AC is good?”

Ktrey: “Yep. We’re doing Saving throws next.”

Scribble Scribble

Ktrey: “Great. Your ACs are based on your DEX bonus and Armor. Anyone with a Shield also subtracts an additional one. Plate Mail fighters, your AC is 3. Peterson has a Sheild, so that makes it 2. Cleric starts at 5, and then lowers it by one for the shield. Magic-User, you mentioned you had a low DEX. What is it?”

Candace: “8”

Ktrey: “That means you have a minus. Your AC is 10.”

Candace: “Crap.”

Woody: “Ah, but it is the price you pay for Awesome Arcane Might!”

(Woody plays a creepy wizard during regular Team Tuesday escapades)

Candace: “You mean disk and Sleep.”

Woody: “Magic-Users get awesome at higher levels.”

Candace: “If they survive.”

DM: “Alright. Saving throws are done. You stand in the midst of a green sylvan glade, before you is the entrance to the dungeon. It’s a small pit and there’s a rope that leads downward, no doubt carelessly left by a previous explorer. It’s tied to one of the trees in the glade. I need a Caller and a Mapper and a Marching Order.”

Players: “Whoa... No story?”

(Note: I make no apologies for the quality or accuracy of this transcript. I tried to do everything within my power to rekindle and recapture the spirit of the game before my brain was tainted by" narrativist" tendencies and roleplaying theory. Forgoing balance and flavor in favor of fun.)

Mentzer Basic Set II

Gygaxian Memorial Transcript continued:

DM: “Mapper makes the maps. Here pick out some miniatures from the pile. Arrange them in your Marching Order.”

Fighter: “You should go first Fighter, you have more HP than me.”

Fighter: “Sure.”

Cleric: “What’s a Caller?”

DM: “They are the speaker of the Party. They make all the decisions and tell the DM what the parties doing. Kinda like a leader.”

Cleric: “I don’t remember that at all…”

DM: “Yep, it was eventually dropped so that a “Leader”
wasn’t hard coded into the rules, but I still think it’s a great idea, and it does speed up play. Who has the highest CHR?”

Cleric: “Mines 15.”

Magic-User: “I have a 16”

DM: “Magic-User is the Caller. What is everyone going to do Caller. You guys can talk to each other now.”
Players (aping the old saw): “Hello.”

Magic-User: “I guess we’re going to go into the dungeon.”

DM: “Great, who’s going first.”

Magic-User: Fighter.”

DM: “Cool. You descend the long rope into the dank and musty darkness. It seems to go on for several yards. Where’s everyone else?”

Players: “We’re following him.”

DM: “Everyone down the rope at once? Awesome. Fighter, when your feet finally hit the flagstones of the dungeon floor, you notice that the light above is barely as wide as a buckler.”

Fighter: “I wanna light a torch.”

Cleric: “Me too.”

DM: “Go ahead. As the torch sputters into life, you see that the room is about 20 by 20 feet, Mapper, you getting this?”

Fighter: “Can I get some Graph Paper?”

DM: “Whoops. My bad. Here you go. Where was I? Ah yes. The room is covered in webby strands of…uh..web…some as thick as a man’s arm. There do not appear to be any visible exits.”
Cleric: “Watch out for Spiders.”

Fighter: “I want to search the webs.”

Fighter: “I want to search the room for treasure.”

Cleric: “I’ll search the room too.”

DM: “Alright Searchers. Roll a d6.”

Fighter: “d6 really?”

DM: “Yep. Technically I’m supposed to roll, but I barely have room behind this screen with all these wandering monsters.”

Fighter: “4”

Fighter: “6!”

Cleric: “1”

DM: “Alright Cleric, you find a large double door hidden under some of the webs in the center of the southern wall. You can probably use a torch to remove most of the webs from around the door to get a better look at it.”

Cleric: “I’ll do that. I’m also watching out for Spiders.”

DM: “Good. Because you see some movement in the webs above. Large shadows that probably aren’t just the affects of your wavering torch light.”

Cleric: “Guys! Spiders.”

Fighter: “I want to try and open the door.”

DM: “It seems stuck. It looks like it opens outward.”

Magic-User: “Try pulling it open.”

Fighter: “I try pulling it open.”

DM: “The door still doesn’t budge. It may need to be broken down.”

Cleric: “Guys! Spiders!”

Fighter: “I WILL SMASH THE DOOR! I’m going to run up to it and ram it with my shoulder.”

DM: “Awesome. Roll a d6 and add your STR bonus”

Fighter: “5!”

DM: “The door seems to creak on its hinges and settle a little bit and gives way, covering you with dust. It hangs loosely and looks like it will open now, but you’re to distracted by the Cleric’s warning about Spiders to investigate the door further.”

DM pulls out to Spider Miniatures.

Fighter: “Whoa, those are big spiders.”

DM: “Alright, no one is surprised, but we have to roll initiative.”

Fighter: “d20 plus DEX?”

DM: “Nope. Straight d6.”

Fighter: “Weird.”

DM: “Yep but I’ve always felt it was quicker, a little more realistic.”

Fighter: “I think I tied with Fighter.”

DM: “There are a lot of ties with this system, so we’ll use the highest DEX score to break ties. Alright, Combat begins by going around in initiative order and declaring intentions.”

Players: “What?”

DM: “Just state what you’re character’s going to do, we’ll start with Fighter because he has the best initiative. After we go around once with the intentions, then we’ll resolve them with actual combat rolls or what-have-you, but a lot can change between then and now, so watch out if you have to change your mind at the last minute.”

Fighter: “I guess I’m first. My intentions are to Run up to the closest spider and drive my battle axe deep into his abdomen.”

Fighter: “I’m going to try to hit the other one with my sword.”

Cleric: “I’m going to try and throw my torch at one of them.”

Magic-User: “I’m going to start casting my one spell.”

DM: “Which one did you prepare today?”

Magic-User: “Sleep.”

DM: “Okay, you pull out a pinch of sand from your spell components pouch. And the Spiders are creeping toward you across the cold and dusty dungeon floor. They’re intentions are to attack.”

Fighter: “Attack of Opportunity?”

DM: “Nope.”

Flipping through the monster section, I really miss these small stat blocks. Crab Spider. Sure.

DM: “Okay First Fighter, the AC of these beasties is 7, consult your handy chart and it’ll tell you what you have to roll above to hit it.”

Fighter: “14, hit! Do I roll damage?”

DM: “Sure, I’ll roll the Hit Dice too.”

Fighter: “7.”

DM: “Your battle axe cuts deep into the spider’s abdomen and its greenish blood oozes out in a spray. The spider flips over onto its back and it’s legs twitch frantically and then grow still.”

Fighter: “Sweet.”

Fighter: “I’m attacking the other one. Let me see. 16. Hit!”

DM: “Roll damage. I’ll roll its hit dice.”

Fighter: “5. I don’t have a strength bonus.”

DM: “Your sword slices off two legs with one swing, and the follow up blow finishes off the spider.”

Cleric: “Magic-User, stop your spell!”

Magic-User: “Stopped.”

Fighter: “I’m going to try to look for treasure in the room again.”

Cleric: “Me too.”

Fighter: “Me too.”

DM: “Great. D6s everyone. Remember searching like this takes a full turn, and it means I get to roll for wandering monsters!”

Fighter: “I rolled a 1. Crap.”

DM: “Actually, a 1 is good on this roll. It’s what you want. The demi-humans have better chances to find certain things though. You find a skeleton of a hapless adventurer, wrapped up tightly in webs, its still wearing it’s chainmail, although it is difficult to see covered in webs.”

Cleric: “I’ll use my torch to burn away the webs.”

DM: “Done. The chainmail armor looks very well made, if tarnished a little bit, and covered in strange symbols and decorations.”

Fighter: “Magic-User! What can you tell me about this armor?”

Magic-User: “It’s Armor. It looks well made. It’s covered in strange symbols.”

Fighter: “Can you read them?”

Magic-User: “I dunno. DM?”

DM: “It’s Elven. You studied it during your apprenticeship. It seems like family tree of some sort. Could be magical armor.”

Cleric: “Let’s get the guy out.”

DM: “You’ve seen a few skeletons with the burial practices of your church, and this one looks elven.”

Fighter: “Anything else on the body?”

DM: “There appears to be a rolled scroll of parchment with some more strange writing on it. And a belt pouch with some copper pieces in it.”

Fighter: “Magic-User! Magic-User!”

Magic-User: “Can I read it.”

DM: “Yep, the arcane writings are in Elven. I never did like the Read Magic thing. It’s a scroll of Magic Missile, written by an powerful Elven spellcaster.”

Fighter: “Awesome! Magic Missle rules!”

Magic-User: “I’ll take it.”

Fighter: “Who wants the copper pieces?”

DM: “There’s about 30 of them. Which reminds me: XP.”

Fighter: “XP? During the adventure?”

DM: “Yep. That’s how we’re doing it. You can even level mid-combat. So let’s see, 40 XP for the Spiders, and the 30 copper is worth 3 XP. Split it up however you deem fair.”

Fighter: “I think we should divvy the treasure up later. Who wants to carry it?”

Fighter: “I’ll be the Treasure Master. You carry the armor.”

DM: “Sounds good to me. The Chainmail takes up most of the room in your backpack though.”

Cleric: “Anyone want to search the room one more time?”

DM: “What say you Caller?”

Magic-User: “Sure.”

Rolling of the dice.

Cleric: “ONE!”

DM: Ah, in one corner of the room you find a small wooden chest almost completely obscured by webbing.”

Cleric: “I’m going to burn the webs off with my torch, and use my Mace to carefully scoot it out of the corner.”

DM: “Disturbing a great deal of dust, the chest slides across the flagstones. It’s heavy oak and well weathered. It is bound with cast iron bands and does not appear to have a lock.”

Cleric: “Crap. I hate this part. I’m going to carefully try to open it using my Mace.”

DM: “The chest seems to sigh as you open the lid, rust makes the hinges quite noisy, but the lid does open fully and reveals to tiny vials of liquid. The rest of the contents appear to have long since decayed.”

Cleric: “Magic-User! Magic-User!”

Fighter: “Potions. What can you tell us about the Potions?”

Magic-User: “Um. They’re potions.”

DM: “One is amber colored, and the other reminds you quicksilver with the way that it clings to the side of the bottle. The fact that the liquid is also silver doesn’t hurt either.”

Magic-User: “Do I know anything about Alchemy?”

DM: “You can take a small taste of the potion and try to divine what it does that way.”

Magic-User: “What if it’s poisoned?”

DM: “Well that’s always a risk.”

Cleric: “I doubt its poison.”

Fighter: “Who get’s to be the guinea pig.”

Fighter: “I’ll taste one. I've only got 1 hit point. Magic-User, you want to taste the other?”

Magic-User: “Sure, why not. I’ll take a tiny sip of the amber one.”

DM: “The potion is sweet, sickly sweet and smells like almonds…”

Magic-User: “Crap.”

DM: “But as the liquid passes over your tongue it heals the small cut on your tongue from the shock of the giant spiders. You bit it slightly when you saw them.”

Fighter: “Sweet. Healing Potion! I’m gonna take a tiny sip of the silver one.”

DM: “There’s no real immediate affect, other than your heart begins to beat a little faster and your joints seem a little looser, as you look up from the potion you notice that for a fraction of a second, everything around you seems to be going slower.”

Fighter: “Awesome. I bet it’s some kind of Haste Potion.”

Fighter: “Do we get XP for magic stuff?”

DM: “Magic stuff is its own reward.”

Fighter: “Gotcha.”

DM: “Okay Caller. What are we doing now?”

Players converse.

Magic-User: “We’re exploring the rest of the dungeon. We’re gonna go through the double doors to the South.”

DM: “Great. Set up the minis in your marching order. Who’s in front?”

Fighter: “Me, I have the most HP and a shield.”

DM: “The doors open slowly, barely hanging onto their hinges after the brutal shoulder attack by Fighter. You see a wide 20 foot corridor ahead. The corridor extends out of the 30 foot range of the torch light.”

Fighter: “You should take the 10 foot pole from the Magic-User and poke ahead.”

Fighter: “Definitely. I take the pole and start moving forward slowly.”

Cleric: “Poke the ground for traps.”

Fighter: “Good Idea. I’m poking the ground ahead of me with the ten foot pole and advancing slowly down the hallway.”

DM: “After about 30 more feet the flagstones that you tap with the pole make a different, more hollow sound. There is also a door on the left wall. The corridor continues a head.”

Fighter: “I stop moving forward and signal to the party.”

Fighter: “Give me the stick, I have a higher STR and I might be able to break through the hollow part.”

Fighter: “Okay.”

DM: “Roll a d6 and add your STR bonus.”

Fighter: “FIVE!”

DM: “The floor gives away as you put more of your weight onto the pole, it’s a pit, about ten feet deep in the center of the corridor and it’s filled with brackish water.”

Cleric: “Is the whole floor gone? Can we get to the door?”

DM: “There’s about 3 feet on either side of the pit that you could use to get around the pit. You can still get to the door. Everyone let’s remember how to Listen!”

Fighter: “How does that work?”

DM: “Roll a… you guessed it, d6. On a One you might hear something if there’s something to hear. Again, according to the book I should make these rolls, but anything that takes dice out of player’s hands is pretty silly.”

Rolling of Dice.

Fighter: “One!”

Fighter: “One!”

Fighter: “We’re twinkie rollers.”

DM: “Both of you, as trained Fighters, hear tiny barking and yapping coming from the other side of the door.”
Fighter: “Yapping. Kobolds. Awesome.”

Fighter: “I don’t think I was playing when you guys were killing Kobolds.”

Magic-User: “That was a long time ago. I think we ended up setting their lair on fire.”

DM: “Kobolds are a personal favorite of mine. But these are classic Kobolds. None of this dragon descendant stuff. Just little crafty dog-men.”

Cleric: “They’re behind the door. You guys want to go in and kill the crafty dog-men?”

Players: “YEAH!”

Cleric: “I’m using my Shield to provide as much cover for myself and the Magic-User. Fighters, you can take the door.”


DM: “Wow, you’re really getting into the Barbarian spirit. Roll a d6 add STR.”

Cleric: “Can I help him?”

DM: “Sure, you roll too, we’ll take the highest.”

Fighter: “Five!”

DM: “The door flies of its ill-made hinges into the room in true hack and slash fashion. Around a diminutive table are over half a dozen little dog-men, they are…surprised by your outrageous entrance and will not win initiative, but they do look like their drawing their weapons to attack.”

Magic-User: “I take it their intentions are not to talk. We attack them.”

DM: “Great! Now roll initiative everyone.”

Rolls all around.

Cleric: “Looks like we’re basically going counter clockwise starting with me and ending on Magic-User.”

DM: “Intentions, Cleric?”

Cleric: “I’m going to throw my torch into the far side of the room to make sure we have enough light for battle. If I hit a Kobold, that’s fine too.”

Fighter: “How big is this room, what else do we see right now?”

DM: “Oh yeah, Mapper. About 20x20 feet. There’s a door on the opposite side of the room from the one you entered.”

DM: “Next?”

Fighter: “I’m going to try to squeeze into the room around Fighter and get close enough to slash one of the Kobolds with my sword.”

Fighter: “WITH A MIGHTY SWING MY INTENTIONS ARE TO CUT AS MANY IN HALF AS POSSIBLE. I’m swinging low, because their short.”

DM: “Magic-User?”

Magic-User: “Sigh. I’m gonna start casting my one spell.”

DM: “Sleep?”

Magic-User: “Sleep.”

DM: “Okay, the Kobolds will be acting last on any survivors! Let’s start back with Cleric now.”

Cleric: “How does throwing stuff work again?”

DM: “Just roll to hit AC 9. If you roll really well, we can rule that you hit a Kobold.”

Cleric: “13. Hit, but not very well.”

DM: “Your torch skitters across the table with sparks flying, it lands in the corner of the room on the bare stone ground. Fighter, you can squeeze in and make an attack. Kobolds have an AC of…7.”

Fighter: “Hit! D8 damage…5”

DM: “Your sword slices through the kobold’s tattered leather armor and directly into his gullet. Fighter, there are no rules for what you’re trying to do, so let’s just see what happens.”

Fighter: “AC 7, HIT, I do 4 damage with my MIGHTY BATTLE AXE.”

DM: “The second Kobold is severed at the waist. Magic-User?”

Magic-User: “I let loose my Sleep Spell.”

DM: Rolling. “None of the remaining four Kobolds make their saving throws, their tiny bodies collapse limply on the ground.”

Fighter: “Coup de grace!”

DM: “It’s a simple matter to finish off the beasts, but you should probably consider giving the XP for their demise to Magic-User.”

Magic-User: “How much are Kobold’s worth?”

DM: “Only 5 XP apiece, but every little bit helps.”

Then came several minutes of more room searching. NB: Adventurers don’t like to leave a room until every last potential bit of treasure is squeezed out of the surroundings. Among the finds, some Kobold Copper, a moldy bag of platinum pieces, and a strange Wand that appeared to be blessed by the Church of Lawful. Sadly, my rolling must have been off this night, because no matter how long they spent, I just couldn’t get a Wandering Monster to show up. I haven’t used Wandering Monsters in ages, so maybe they’re just mad at me. Finally, greed appeased they approached the other door.

DM: “A five-foot wide corridor heading north is on the other side of the door. Same Marching Order, Caller?”

Magic-User: “Yep.”

DM: “The corridor again extends out of the range of your torch light.”

Fighter: “I’m in the lead again, so I’m going to walk ahead slowly.”

DM: “After about 60 feet, you’re the first to notice some small alcoves carved into the wall, they appear to contain bones.”

Cleric: “Undead! Step Aside!”

DM: “You hear the scraping of brittle bone against stone. The Cleric was right! One..two..FOUR Skeletons shamble toward the torch light, bearing ancient weapons. Initiative time.”

Cleric: “Me, Fighter, Fighter, then Magic-User.”

DM: “Intentions?”
Cleric: “Dropping my torch, I brandish my holy symbol highly and command BE GONE VILE SPAWN OF EVIL.”

Fighter: “With my battle axe ready, I’m going to charge a skeleton and swing at him.”

Fighter: “I’m going to attack with my sword.”

Magic-User: “Crap. I don’t have any spells. I guess I could use the scroll…”

Fighter: “See if we finish them off first!”

DM: “You can wait and see.”

Magic-User: “I’ll do that.”

DM: “The skeletons continue to shamble forward from the darkness ahead, they do not seem to fear your light, and their eyeless skulls stare blankly ahead.”

Cleric: “Turning?”

DM: “Let’s see, you have a 7 for Skeletons. Roll 2d6, you’re trying to get above a 7.”

Cleric: “Ten! How many do I turn?”

DM: “Hmm. Interesting it says the DM rolls for this. Rolls. Two of the skeletons stop in place and begin to turn around fleeing your divine presence and the power of your faith in Lawful.”

Cleric: “That leaves two more for you guys to clean up!”

DM: “AC 5, their armor is rusty but still affords some protection.”

Fighter: “Do skeletons have damage reduction against sharp weapons in this?”

DM: “Oh Hell no.”

Fighter: “Awesome, I charge swinging my axe with both hands and yelling “BY CROM! DIE CURSED CREATURES! And miss.”

Players: Snicker

Fighter: “I swing wide with my sword and hit. 4 points of damage.”

DM: “The brittle bones creak with the well-placed blow, but the skeleton still stands before you.”

Fighter: “Crap.”

Magic-User: “Magic Missle?”

Cleric: “We can take these guys.”

DM: “Armor Class, Fighter?”

Fighter: “3”

DM: “A Hit! The skeleton’s short sword catches you in the thigh.”

Fighter: “Well, I’m dead.”

DM: “We can house rule that if you can get some healing before the end of the next turn, you might survive. Everyone agree with that?”

Players: Yeah!

DM: “Armor Class, Fighter?”

Fighter: “2”

DM: “The skeleton’s spear glances off your shield. Do you guys want to continue going in this order?”

Players: “Yeah!”

Cleric: “No healing spells yet. My intention this rounds is to bash the skeleton with my Mace?”

Fighter: “Still dead. Magic-User, I could use that Amber Potion”

Fighter: “I’ll try to take out the skeleton that Cleric isn’t attacking.”

Magic-User: “I’m going to try to administer the Amber Potion to Fighter.”

DM: “Great the skeletons seem to be moving toward the Cleric to attack him this round.”

Cleric: “HER!”

DM: “Oh yeah. Sorry.”

Cleric: “So now we resolve my Mace attack? What was the AC of these guys again?”

DM: “Five. Ancient and rusty, but still serviceable armor.”

Cleric: “I need a fourteen. Rolls. HIT! d6 damage? Rolls. 5!”

DM: Rolls HD for Skeleton. “Just enough! Your mace splinters his vertebrae and the skeleton collapses into a pile of moldering bones.”

Fighter: “I’m gonna try for the other one with my sword. 17! I hit the skeleton for 4 points of damage!”

DM: “He’s still standing but just barely, and his lifeless eye-sockets seem intently focused on the Cleric as he shambles toward her.”

Magic-User: “I’m going to move up to Fighter and try to pour the amber potion in his mouth.”

DM: “Done, roll 1d6+1.”

Magic-User: “2”

Fighter: “I’m back at full HP! Whoo! One hit point!”

Cleric: “We still have one skeleton to deal with. Not to mention the two that ran down the corridor.”

DM: “Cleric, what is your Armor Class?”

Cleric: “4.”

DM: Rolls. “The Skeleton’s spear glances off of your chainmail. Intentions?”

Cleric: “Smash Skeleton.”


Cleric: “I think that one already died.”

Fighter: “They all look the same to me.”

Fighter: “Avenge Fighter's Death!”

Magic-User: “Slink back into the shadows, away from combat.”

Cleric: “Shouldn’t someone watch the rear? You know, just in case?”

Magic-User: “I’ll be useless at it, but I can warn you.”

DM: “Skeleton’s bony claws…err…spear still focus’ on the Cleric!”

Cleric: “Crap. I rolled a 3. No hit.”

Fighter: “DIE! 15! D8 for damage: 7. Awesome, total of NINE!”

DM: “You’re battleaxe crushes the skeleton’s skull flinging shards of bone throughout the corridor. The skeleton sways once, and as the evil energy that has animated it leaves it’s body, it topples at the feet of the Cleric.”

Cleric: “I’m going to scatter the bones! Then I’m going to try and make a poultice for Fighter’s wounds.”

Fighter: “Checking for treasure!”

Fighter: “Looking at their Weapons!”
Magic-User: “Sticking close to everyone and helping Cleric scatter the bones so they don’t come back.”

DM: “You hear a deep rumbling coming from somewhere nearby.”

Cleric: “Positions!”

DM: “It’s the Fighter's stomach. Now might be a good time to eat some delicious Standard Rations.”

Fighter: “How many do we have?”

DM: “Anyone who bought rations has enough food for three meals for seven days. So a total of twenty-one rations.”

Fighter: “Cool, let’s munch while we search.”

The rolling of many d6s. No ones.

DM: “You find nothing within the catacombs but old bones and rusty weapons, most of the items used by the skeletons are worthless. However, your searching and supper is interrupted by a sound coming from down the corridor ahead. It’s a rapid, scraping sound. The Magic-User is first to glimpse the beast.

Magic-User: “What do I see?”

DM: “You see a mottled orange insect-like creature, it stands on spindly legs and is moving rapidly past you toward Fighter. It has a long, fin-like tail and two large, feathery antennae that seem to taste the air rapidly. You can barely make out it’s hungry, beady black eyes in the torch light.”

Cleric:“Oh crap.”


DM: “Roll to hit, the Armor Class for this beast is 2, it’s chitinous carapace protects it rather well.

Fighter: “I rolled a 4.”

DM: “As the blade of your axe swings down, the monster’s antennae lash forward and lightly brush the blade. The blade dissolves in a shower of reddish rust on the floor before the beast, who begins lapping up the remains.”

Fighter: “Classic.”

Cleric: “I tried to warn you, but that would’ve been metagaming.”

Magic-User: “Whoa. Rust Monster.”

Fighter: “These guys suck.”

DM: “This critter was invented by Gygax, and nerfed considerably for the edition we’re playing now. It used to be positively lethal, even rusting Magic Weapons and Armor with ease.”

Fighter: “So what do we do? I’m not going to attack it.”

Cleric: “I have a club. What’s the monster doing?”

DM: “He’s making quick work of the remains of Fighter's battle axe and his beady eyes still look hungry.”

Cleric: “At least if he encountered the skeletons I turned, they won’t have armor and weapons anymore.”

Magic-User: “I’m going to use the scroll of Magic-Missle on the creature.”

DM: “Are you sure?”

Magic-User: “Yep. None of the Fighters can hurt it, and I don’t want the Cleric to risk forfeiting her armor or shield in combat with it.”

DM: “Awesome. As you finish speaking the ancient arcane elven words of power on the scroll, the words disappear from the paper and three glowing arrows of light appear and hover over your shoulders.”

Magic-User: “Do I need to roll to hit with these?”

DM: “Nope. Magic Missles always unerringly hit the target. No saving throw.”

Magic-User: “Wow. Now I know why you don’t hand out Magic Missile often.”

DM: “Yeah, I’m pretty stingy with it. In some editions you had to roll to hit. But I kinda do like the flavor of an automatic, low level magic attack spell. Since there are three missiles here, and they each do 1d6+1, roll 3d6+3 damage on the Rust Monster while I roll it’s hit points.”

Magic-User: “14+3. 17.”

DM: “The first bolt strikes the rust monster and it squeals and tries to skitter away, unfortunately for the rust monster, these arcane bolts never miss their mark, and as the Rust Monster turns tail, the other two strike with the last one burning a smoking hole in the beasts carapace. The beast is on its side and no longer moving.”

Magic-User: “Thank Lawful. I’m going to use my 10 foot pole to move it off to one side.”

Fighter: “IT ATE MY AXE. I HAVE NO WEAPON! I kick the beast with my leather boot.”

Cleric: “You could always use one of the Skeleton’s weapons, but they’re probably pretty crappy.”

Fighter: “I grab one of the Skeleton’s Spears. What does it do?”

DM: “d6 plus STR bonus.”

Fighter: “Does it have reach?”

DM: “Yeah, but reach rarely comes into play in OD&D style combat. You can set it vs. Charge to do double damage though.”

Fighter: “Awesome.”

Magic-User: “Should we continue exploring this corridor, or investigate the other one by the pit?”

Cleric: “I say we do this one. We still have two skeletons on the loose ahead.”

The party continued down the corridor and quickly dispatched the unarmed and still cowering skeletons that were clawing at a dead-end wall. During the battle, Cleric inadvertently activated a secret door that lead to some ominous ascending steps.

Magic-User: “I suggest we try to listen before we ascend the steps, remember guys, I don’t have any more spells today, so until we rest, all I have is a dagger.”

DM: “But it’s a SILVER DAGGER.”

Magic-User: “Exactly, so now I don’t even want to throw it at a monster. How do we listen again?”

DM: “d6, anyone who rolls a one might hear something. Elves and Dwarves and Halflings hear something on a 1 or 2 I believe.”

Dice rolling.

Magic-User: “ONE! Finally, a game that rewards low rollers!”

DM: “Straining your hearing, you can make out a very low and steady growling sound from above, it’s very faint.”

Magic-User: “It’s steady though? It doesn’t pause or change in volume?”

DM: “Nope, but it is still very, very faint, in fact the other party members can’t even hear it.”

Magic-User: “I suggest we proceed with caution, for all we know it could be some sleeping monster.”


Players: “Shhhhhh”

Fighter: “I would like to have my Axe back though.”

Players: Snicker.

Cleric: “Marching Order everyone.”

Magic-User: “Let’s go.”

DM: “As you ascend the roughly hewn steps upward, the low rumbling sound soon becomes audible to all in the party. It grows louder and louder until you reach the top of the steps and a dark, roughly made corridor. “

Fighter: whispering “I don’t like the sound of this.”

Cleric: “I say a silent prayer to Lawful and continue cautiously.”

Fighter: “Trying to be as quiet as possible, I follow Fighter.”

Magic-User: “Staying between Cleric and Fighter, I really wish I had picked a different Class.”

Fighter: “Hey you have more hit points than Cleric and I combined.”

Magic-User: “I know…but at least you guys can still do stuff.”

Cleric: “We need to get a hold of some more of those scrolls of magic missile.”

Magic-User: “Totally”

Fighter: “Shhhhh…”

Cleric: “Oh yeah.”

DM: “You creep closer to the source of the noise and see a very large and round stone slab before you, it appears to be a door of some kind, but there is no handle and it is engraved with many strange symbols and runes.”

Magic-User: “Did I study Dwarven too?”

DM: “What’s your INT again?”

Magic-User: “17.”

DM: “If you want to you can. Your INT gives you two bonus languages, and we’ve already established that you can read and speak Elven.”

Magic-User: “Cool. What does the Portal Say?”

DM: “Behind this stone lies the hoard of the mighty Xygag the IV, Dwarven King of the…um…Brazen-Axe Clan.”

Fighter: “Did someone say Axe?”

Cleric: “Imagine the treasure behind this thing…but how do we open it?”

Fighter: “Let’s spend a turn looking for searching it.”

D6s all around. Still no wandering monsters…

Cleric: “ONE!”

DM: “Studying the intricate Dwarven Runes, you notice that one of them appears to be made of darker granite than the rest, and appears hollow.”

Cleric: “I touch the Rune.”

DM: “The Rune Depresses and the Stone Portal begins to Rotate slightly. The constant roar becomes incredibly loud as the portal shifts, and a bright light almost blinds you.”

Fighter: “What’s inside?”

DM: “As your eyes adjust you discover the source of the low row, for before you is a large natural cavern, approximately fifty feet wide and deep with a sixty foot high ceiling covered in stalactites. The opposite end of the cavern is the brightest, for the sun shines through a massive waterfall.”

Fighter: “Cool. We found the source of the noise.”

DM: “On the floor of the cavern, among the many stalagmites is a large pile of glittering coins, gold, platinum, silver, along with a smattering of gems and intriguing looking items.”

Cleric: “Whoa, this is way too much money for first level characters! Sweet!”

Magic-User: “There has to be a catch…”

DM: “Sleeping atop the pile of coins is a large, scaly green beast, emerald fog curls slowly from its nostrils, he’s about as large as a warhorse, but with large leathery wings.”

Fighter: “Dragon! RUN!”

Magic-User: “We back quickly but quietly through the Dwarf Door.”

Fighter: “No way we’re gonna be able to fight a dragon. Especially with no healing, and low hit points.”

Cleric: “Are we safely back in the corridor?”

DM: “Sure, and despite the less than courageous retreat, the beast still sleeps atop his purloined herd. To think of how all of that coin could help the causes of Lawful hurts your heart.”

Cleric: “If I’m dead, I can’t help the causes of Lawful either. Does the portal close again when I push the hollow rune?”

DM: “It creaks slowly shut, and the corridor grows dark once more.”

Magic-User: “That might be the quickest way out.”

Fighter: “Do you think we could sneak in and just grab a handful of the stuff? I would but my DEX is pretty bad.”

Fighter: “I’LL SNEAK IN!”

Cleric: “No, that sounds like a bad idea. I say we go explore the other corridor, the one by the pit trap.”

Fighter: “Sounds good.”

DM: “Caller?”

Magic-User: “Sure.”

The party makes their way back to the pit trap cautiously, navigates the hazardous ledge to reach the other side of the pit and continues forward until they arrive at a large archway that opens into a room.

DM: “The room is full of the stench of Kobolds. There is one door to the south, directly opposite of where you are entering, and the room is about thirty by thirty feet in size. Tiny cots and beds litter the room. This appears to be where the Kobolds you fought before slept and lived.”


Fighter: “I’m searching the room!”

Cleric: “I’ll help searching too!”

Magic-User: “Looks like we’re gonna be here for a while, do you guys mind if I try to sleep and regain my Spell?”

DM: “Are you going to study Sleep or Floating Disk?”


Cleric: “I’d go with Sleep, you saw how it knocked out all of those Kobolds at once, but I doubt it’d work on a being as powerful as a dragon.”

DM: “Nice.”

Magic-User: “Okay, I’m going to try and get some sleep. Try to keep it down with your searching.”

Dice Rolls.

Dice Rolls.

Dice Rolls.

DM: “You’ve been searching for half an hour, and have nearly ransacked the room completely. All you have to show for it is about eighty silver pieces and a lot of strange parchments that were stored within the bedding of the Kobolds.”

Cleric: “Strange papers? Scrolls?”

DM: “Yep, they have profoundly arcane markings all over them.”

Cleric: “I put them by the sleeping wizard.”

DM: “Magic-User.”

Cleric: “Magic-User.”

DM: “You guys are gonna be in this room for about eight hours while the Magic-User regains her spells. Do you guys want to rest too?”

Cleric: “Yeah, but we should set up a Watch.”

Fighter: “I’ll go first.”

Fighter: “I’ll go after Fighter.”

Cleric: “I’ll go last and wake up the Magic-User so she has time to study and look at the scrolls.”

Fighter: “I’m going to search the room on my shift… ONE!”

DM: “Propping up one of the ramshackle cots in the room is a masterfully crafted battle axe, etched with mystical runes.”

Fighter: “MINE! Magic-User! Magic-User!”

DM: “She’s still sleeping.”

Fighter: “Oh yeah. Well I grab the axe. Does it feel any different in my hands?”

DM: “It seems very well balanced for such a heavy weapon. A few cursory swings reveal that it cuts through the air very swiftly.”


DM: “Okay. I’m going to roll for Wandering Monsters for the entire night at once.”

Grabbing all my d6s in hand I roll them all at once, hoping for at least one that tells me that there’s a Wandering Monster. No dice.

DM: “Man. Okay. The Magic-User wakes up and is able to relearn her Sleep Spell. Only three of the scrolls still bear active magic on them. Two are in the same Elven writing as before, and bear the same spells.”

Fighter: “Ooooh more Magic Missiles!”

DM: “But the third is far more powerful than any magic you have seen before, it appears to deal with electricity.”

Magic-User: “Interesting. I’m taking all the scrolls. Are we ready to check out the Southern Door?”

Fighter: “Yep, does it look locked?”

DM: “No lock, but sturdy, it doesn’t really look like it’s been opened in ages.”

Cleric: “Strange. Okay. Marching Order?”

Fighter: “I’ll open the door.”

DM: “The door swings outward with a creak. This room is roughly the same size as the previous one, but with no apparent exits. On a long pedestal in the center of the room are three colored bowls. White, Gray, and Black. The bowls appear to contain a clear liquid.”

Cleric: “No doors?”

Magic-User: “I’m going to search the room for Secret Openings. ONE!”

DM: “You discover that one of the flagstones is loose and when removed reveals a tiny nook that contains an old weathered book.”

Magic-User: “Is there anything on the front of the book?”

DM: “The letters seem faded, but as you examine them with your arcane sight, they begin to glow softly, you see the sigil of the famous and mighty wizard Mordenkainen gradually come into being.”

Fighter: “Nice.”

Magic-User: “Carefully looking through the book, are there any spells?”

DM: “There are 6 spells in the book that are within your realm of power, but it will take many weeks to decipher Mordenkainen’s personal method of encoding. There is also what appears to be a journal contained within these bindings.”

Magic-User: “Anything about this room?”

DM: “The book contains a drawing of this very room, but with a Glowing Golden Gate on the wall opposite of the entrance.”

Magic-User: “I smell a puzzle.”

Cleric: “I walk over to the white bowl to look at it closer.”

DM: “Beneath the clear liquid, a single Gold piece rests on the bottom of the bowl. On closer examination, there is a Gold Piece in each bowl.”

Cleric: “I take a gold piece out of my pouch and place it in the bowl.”

DM: “The liquid in the bowl turns a bright shade of blue.”

Magic-User: “Great. Tidy Bowl.”


DM: “There is no change to the liquid.”

Cleric: “Hmm. Three bowls. Lawful. Neutral. Chaos. Perhaps if you did something a little less Lawful to the bowl.”

Fighter: “I reach in and grab both of the gold pieces.”

DM: “The liquid within the bowl turns red.”

Fighter: “That just leaves the middle.”

Magic-User: “What’s half a gold piece?”

DM: “Five silver pieces.”

Fighter: “Do we have any silver Treasure Master?”

Fighter: “Yeah. I take out the gold piece and put 5 silver pieces in the gray bowl.”

DM: “There is no change.”

Cleric: “It’s even now, but it needs a little bit of both. I’m going to pour some of the blue water in the middle bowl.”

Fighter: “And I will CAREFULLY pour some red in the gray bowl to match what he puts in.”

DM: “The liquid within the center bowl becomes a bright purple, and the Glowing Golden Gate in Mordenkainen’s journal appears before you!”

Cleric: “Awesome.”

Magic-User: “We need more puzzles like this.”

DM: “On the other side of the gate are stairs that spiral upward into the darkness. Caller, what does the party want to do?”



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