Future Treasure

Now that the psionic document is almost finished (at least the majority of my work on it), I'm going to focus on one of the things that I've been most frustrated by in my old school game, and that's treasure.

Seriously? Coins, magic items and the occasional gem? That isn't how treasure works. I've looked for resources everywhere, and although there are some good ones, there are none that are comprehensive and generic. I've seen books with hundreds of really specific items (which are good to drop in and around frequently), and suggestions for quests and magic items, but that isn't what you'd really find that would be valuable.  Most things of value I suppose adventures would discover would be things like, oh, I don't know, goods and furniture, or perhaps jewelry and art.

It isn't my intent to eliminate gold, but simply provide a system that produces something more interesting then some coin totals and magic items with the occasional gem. I've already got the basics worked out and will try to put something together by next week.

"First, is magic actually quite scarce in your dungeons? It should be! Likewise, treasures should be proportionate both to the levels of the dungeon and the monsters guarding them. Second, absolute disinterest must be exercised by the Dungeonmaster, and if a favorite player stupidly puts himself into a situation where he is about to be killed, let the dice tell the story and KILL him." -E. G. Gygax, The Strategic Review Vol 2, 2.

Session Seven: Part One

Session Six synopsis:

Danger survived.
Lucky players got the loot.
Next time they will die.

So tonight was the first session with the new player, and I thought it went well. I have had players in the past who didn't enjoy role-playing, and a lot of this session was taken up with talking to people in town. I kept feeling rushed, because I'm not used to playing with a bunch of people who enjoy that kind of thing.

While they were moving the ophidanbiblograph back to town, a new boat arrived, carrying with it a whole bunch of new people. There were some Dwarven smiths to work as assistants with Segfa. Apparently a extreme religious group was also on the boat. There was a farmer and his family, and two mercenary companies, along with a few ner-do-wells made up the last of the people on the boat. And finally of course the new PC, Kyra the human monk.

They started to take care of business. Kyra was asked to watch the party by the Quartermaster. Sadly she came down with an disease while on the boat.So Kyra and Grigori went to see Jerik Clawfoot, the local (trustworthy) Cleric. He examined their diseases, while they asked them what they could do about them. His response, "Well, if it matters, your best plan is to kill yourself. There's no point to any of this really." Did I mention Jerik is very very depressed? Deciding that wasn't an option, Jerik told Kyra that he needed 600 gold to cast a cure disease spell to get rid of her goblin pox. She must have gotten it from that lone hobgoblin on the ship (goodness knows what they were doing!). She didn't have the money, so she borrowed it from Grigori, further tying her to the party. Jerik told Grigori that the bite from the snake-man would eventually turn him into a snake-man himself. Jerik said perhaps he could cure him, but he would need the blood from a living snake-man to repair the damage to his soul. He suggested visiting the alchemist to see if she could do anything to delay the eventually change.

The alchemist, a cautious gnome in a hut with a metal door with a metal wheel, pipes haphazardly sticking out of the roof, and six different kinds of smoke and steam coming from six different places yelled at them through the door.
"Who are you?"
"Jerik sent us."
"How do I know?"
"Uh, because we said?"
"Not good enough."

Eventually they persuaded Jayla the black, master alchemist, to let Grigori in, where she identified the potions from the last adventure (10 Extra-healing, still to be distributed, Love, Clairvoyance, and Levitation) and told him that she indeed could stop the spread of his disease, but that it would weaken his body over time.

While this was going on, Spiritspyre was talking to the cultists. They wore red robes, with small capes decorated like a beetle carapace. After failing to convince them to go home, Spiritspyre interrogated them about their god Klax, the beneficent, and became convinced that what they were talking about was actually a demon lord. There was an hour or so of running around trying to decide whether or not to murder the ambiguously aligned cleric of Klax, or just be thankful that a priest in town can raise the dead finally. ("Only if you accept the beauty and light that is our lord Klax into you heard will your soul receive his saving grace!"). Most of this time was spent with the party attempting to passive-aggressively disrupt their actions. I only find this strange, because this is a game of total freedom. Nothing at all would be disrupted by the wholesale slaughter of the cul-er priests.

This post is getting long, so I'm going to break it up into two different posts for ease of processing.

Session Seven: Part Two

New people in town.
Fuck, batshit crazy, run amok;
disease, cults, poison.

There was some discussion this week on the utility of thieves. They were a very popular class in the gaming groups I played in growing up. If I were a player of a thief, I would totally at some point secretly murder the leaders of the cult, and convince all of the followers that I was a high priest of Klax. (An easy task for a thiefy thief.)

Complete freedom means just that. I often feel that even though I have a great, super, group of super-intelligent, highly skilled group of players, that they are still too afraid of 'breaking things' or 'ruining something'. Then I realize that isn't it at all - it's that there's a real fear of the possible consequences. (i.e. filling the giant ants nest with molten lava takes care of the ants safely, but we're going to crawl in there, because we might destroy any possible treasure). More power to them.

It's very interesting to me, because there explicitly is not a 'best solution' or 'planned outcome' to any event in the game.

After dealing with the cultists.One of the farmers was standing in town trying to comfort his crying wife and daughter. Something about seeing two dozen signs saying "Go home", "You're all going to die", "Your Gods don't live here" "The land will kill your children in front of your eyes", etc. set up by Spiritspyre. They tried talking to him, but he seemed much more concerned about some new clothing, or perhaps various flowers.

The mercenary companies were talked to. Nefarious Halfling slingers, and Alturistic Heavy Infantry. They infantry was recruited to 'help around town', but other than that, they were left alone.

Finally, they decided that they really needed a live Snake-man. Instead of grabbing one of the corpses and resurrecting it, their new plan was to wander around randomly the caverns located in the back of the Valkori cave.

I am super totally ok with this. I explained later that *every* environment is primary randomly generated. Each has a theme, indicating the random generation method (rolling, geomorphs, dungeon generators), one to three hooks to new places, and a trick or two. The thing is, doing it at the table I believe makes them feel as if I don't have a plan. (It's not my fault they are very averse to going up and down levels).

First they walked around the Valkori cave, trying to figure out where that cavernous passage led. They saw no sign of it because it went down into a cavern system. They were surprised by giant spiders, which did manage to poison Kyra.

Then, they used the levitation potion to get a broader idea of the layout of the land and the jungle. After this they wandered around the cavern system for a bit until they ran across several barbed serpents. Kyra got a most excellent critical against the snakes, causing profuse bleeding, internal bleeding, and injury to it's pancreas, and approximately 30 points of damage. It failed it's threshold of pain as it flopped around like a firehose, spraying Kalen the henchmen with blood. After that, they explored a little more of the area, and decided to call it a night, heading back to town.

They got back to town and there we ended the session.

Monks and rarity

I had our new player roll up her character last night, and she rolled well enough to qualify for the monk class.

This is actually quite exceptional. There is some leeway with stats in Hackmaster, you may adjust your stats with building points. So an average character with a few flaws will start with approximately 40-50 building points. These are used to increase Ability Scores, and purchase Talents, Skills, and Proficiencies. Each Ability Score requires 4 of these to raise by one whole number, so although there is some leeway, your class is very often decided by the roll of the dice.

In her case she rolled exceptionally well. Monks require very high ability scores (like Paladins and Cavilers) so this has the effect of making them less common. In a single game, you're unlikely to notice the difference really, but having been running campaigns for almost two full years now this is the first monk I've had. I look forward to killing one of those. In that time I've had no Paladins, one single Caviler, and just one Ranger. I've had lots of Fighters, Thieves, and Magic-Users. The end result is that these special classes are just that - special.

It's one of the nice things about old school gaming. When things that are statistically unlikely happen, it's interesting. Roll enough dice, and they will happen sooner or later. This is counterbalanced by Grigori's player who's last rolls for a character were bad. He got a 16 for strength, and the rest of his Ability Scores were below 8. I think he's having difficulty dealing with a numerically substandard character, but this too is one of the things that's interesting about old school play. Your Ability Scores are not tied into your survival rate. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Session Six

Session Five Synopsis:

Leveling in town.
Dividing up the Henchmen.
Where to go?

Temple by the sea,
Dinosaur cave. Oh, gods! Snakes!
Nasty bite, Snake man.

Mental powers clash
This so isn't going great.
By the skin of their teeth!

Ok, so I had them trapped. Damaged and hurt, Smoke refused to leave. I thought for sure this would result in someones eventual death.

They found the ophidianbiblograph (A device, borrowed from Zac Sabbath that allows the user if they have the ability to read and write Ophidan to read the books contained on the skin of every snake), though continued to ignore it. Gwendolyn immediately gravitated towards the vials of poison and started examining them and storing them in her pack.

Aroldo asks, "Hey, uh, is that poison Gwendolyn?"

*rattle* 97% on the die; needed under a 60 for her "Liar, Skilled" roll.

As she's tapping the vials and secreting them about her person, she offhandedly says, "Nope," pulling out an arrow, "How many arrowheads do you think this vial will coat?"

Yeah, so.

They moved on to the bedroom. Ah ha! I thought of the lurking Two-Headed Wyvern. One silent head swept above the bed as the entered the room, then the other, and it lept up on the bed; surprise was rolled. It has all kinds of surprise bonuses, and indeed they did become surprised. This deadly creature has two heads (doing 2-12 damage each) that strike one person, and a poisonous tail that kills those it strikes if they fail their save. It had like 6 attacks before anyone in the party could move. At a distance of 10'. Things were looking dim for the party. . .

A bite against the Null the Drake hits, and a poison tail against Zeltara. I roll well on the damage! The drake is hurting, on it's last legs. Zeltara makes his save versus poison.

Two misses against a henchmen (The beast needs a 5 to hit mind you), and a miss with the tail.

The players were like, "Oh, crap he's getting close to you Aroldo, how many hit points do you have?"
Aroldo says, "I've got like 30+ I'm invincible!"
I shake my head as I pull out a coupon that says, "Monster gets +5 to next called shot and crits on 18-20." I say one head is making a called shot for his head, and the other is attacking him. And a player learns not to say things like "I can't be killed."

Two misses against Aroldo. And a miss with the tail towards the henchmen.

My inability to murder my players is not frustrating - I am an emotionless dice rolling adjudicator during combat. Let the dice fall where they may. Luck was with the players.

Next turn I had a good round. Two good hits against a wizard henchmen, left him on the ground in shock. Some of the quicker players were starting to react, firing daggers and weapons at the beast. The tail strikes at Aroldo. A hit! Time for Aroldo to roll his save or die. What's he need? a 14 or higher. He rolled a 19.

It was quickly murdered after that point. The players spent some time clearing the room out, and theory over how to thoroughly search a room was discussed. I was a little nice with the prompting, but there wasn't really all that much to find in the room. They certainly took their time clearing it out. The longer they search, the more wandering monster checks they make. Already weak, it became touch and go for the rest of the session.

They found the 'arcane library', a snake pit with 1000 docile snakes. I concealed my grin as I waited for them to burn up 10,000 gp worth of 'tomes', and indeed they did not. They did manage to figure it out at the very end of the session, and I played the whole thing pretty close to my chest. I did drop one hint, midway through the session. ("Aroldo, you're looking at the snake pit, and the snakes are normal. A snake looks like this. Something about that is bothering you.") It was three hours later when they finally figured it out, so I don't think it was that clue that did it. (Other than giving the information that something was 'up' with the snakes, which they kind of knew anyway.)

They also found a door, magically held, that they were unable to open. While searching for more secret rooms, an encounter was rolled. Groans were heard as the weak party members saw three of the exploding frog-men, the cursed Gorm, traveling towards them. When they die, they explode, and the weak party members all failed their saves when they killed the first one. Sadly, all hit point totals were still positive. They manage to wrestle the other two to the ground. . . and tie them up as snares to die and explode when someone triggers them. (I really need to start detailed AIP charts. ;-p)

Finally, on their last legs, they decide to head home.On the way, they run into something on the beach that suspiciously looks like a Land Urchin, because, well, it was a Land Urchin. It looked placid, and minding it's own business, because it was. There was some sort of altercation between the players and one said "Zeltara, I bet you can't [kill that thing]" I didn't really catch the bet. What I did catch is Zeltara has the gambler flaw which means he cannot refuse a bet! His dragon had1 hit point left, and he had just a few, so he shoots it with a short bow from 80' away.

It immediately charges him and starts making 2-12 attacks a round. After the first hit that penetrated his armor he failed his save versus paralization, and was frozen.

Finally I thought. But, no, at this point the others take their actions to help, he's dragged out of combat and they manage to pepper it with missile fire, till it created a blinding cloud and fled.

Survival. It won't always happen.

Good news though. It looks like we do have one confirmed new player for our game, and another one who says 'Hackmaster sounds like the best game ever', so our gaming group may be growing. They may need it. I think six players is a good old school average. I am looking forward to it.

busy bees

Do not fret that I haven't posted. I've been hard at work on a little side project (already 23 pages long). I'll try to have it finished this week. It's gaming related. :-)

Edit 8/22: We've decided to add art. The project is typed out, and a final text edit is close (~2 hours). After there, there are a few balances and tweaks that need to be made. We're going to check with some people to make sure we won't get sued, but definitely try to get it out the door this week.

Session Five

Session 4 Synopsis:
They gained levels.
Boarman made 28 signs,

so bad for honor.

Centipede gnawing.
Surprise! Lots of dead Foxes.
Gargoyles hard to hurt.

Ghouls made them tired.
Nothing else they can find here.
Let's go home and rest.

So we tried to get as much out of the way before the game as possible, but that didn't work out so well. We spent the first couple of hours focused on a few things. The thief had accumulated too much experience, so he auto-leveled. This is both good and bad. He doesn't get to roll for leveling, so he receives no bonus skill points or skills; but on the plus side, he didn't have to pay 2000 gold for leveling.

Several of the henchmen had accumulated enough experience points to actually level up to level 1 as full, real classes (instead of 0-level man-at-arms). So they spent thirty minutes or so interviewing each of them to make sure they wouldn't get stabbed in the back. I don't really know how much information they actually got from the interviews. I had good reasons each one was stuck in a strange foreign land that I had prepared ahead of time, but I got the impression that the players might have thought I was making it up on the spot. So I think they probably could have quizzed the henchmen a lot harder. Just means more surprises for the future.

They divvied up the henchmen. Smoke, a religious warrior devoted to the eradication of snake-men, Gwendolyn some sort of bandit (who they are pretty sure likes poison), and Kalen, a fairly intelligent warrior, who's really not at fault for that whole 'accosting the duke's daughter' thing. He's also something of a linguist. (You could say he's a cunning - no, nevermind.)

They've also gotten access to some magic detection, and have discovered that there is a lot of ambient magical energy in this land (which they have yet to name) which will collect in certain items. So if you wear a ring and say, cast a lot of spells, after enough time, it might spontaneously enchant itself. Then again, maybe not.

So paperwork done, they leave town. I had been looking forward to this all week. This is possibly one of my favorite moments as a Dungeon Master of a game. They can leave town, and go anywhere, and do anything. I've left dozens of hooks so far (treasure maps, strange Boarman city, strange bears in the southern swamp, differing terrains, a land filled with adventure!) and there is no telling where they go. Sadly, I have a very intelligence and efficient group of people who have years of experience at this sort of thing. So they rarely do anything stupid (and therefore interesting).

They decide to investigate a small shrine to the north, since they can see it from town. And if they can see it and don't know what it is, that means danger! I think that's the reasoning anyway. They walk towards the shore and discover a small shrine from some ancient race devoted to the gods of the sea and the dawn. They examine the altar, and see three new runic symbols in a language they don't know, over pictures of three very different types of dinosaur creature. They also find a hard-packed earthen path towards a cave shaped like a dinosaur head about half a mile to the west.

They follow the path to the cave and find a large entrance, into a very dark cave. (Zeltara said, "You mean my drake can go in!?"). The cave has a giant head shaped like a dinosaur nearly 150 feet high. The cave is huge, and when they enter, they find the interior has been worked floor to ceiling in a pattern of square and rectangular bricks.

While exploring the first chamber, they get attacked by the two large Gutwaller serpents lairing in the cave. As with any encounter we roll for surprise. Go my team, I win surprise! After checking for surprise, I roll for encounter distance, and discover it's maximum (30'). Sadly, they will have to spend nearly all of the surprise time moving towards the party. One does manage to constrict the drake doing a d6 or so of damage.

I was looking forward to murder, and it turned into meh. Doesn't matter, I thought, I'll get them next round. Zeltara's Drake takes his turn. Oh, hey you hit with both claws and a critical to the chest of the snake. Snake bits go flying everywhere. What do all the rest of the warriors and the archers do? Nail the only target left.

I don't feel to bad. First, there are now seven leveled characters in the party. Versus two snakes (huge and large though they may be) it's no contest really. Second, there are some Snakemen in the next room who have a 15% chance to hear the party if they are being quiet versus making an exceptional amount of noise. I roll and get. . . a 15%.

So they are standing around going, Do we cut up the snake? You should make a snake helmet for your drake? How much does the Snake weigh? Spiritspyre, the Boar-man cleric did not fuck around and immediately cut open the stomachs to check for valuables. (I told you they are an experienced group).

And in come running the Snakemen. A fight ensues, only notable for the fact that Grigori hypnotized one of the men to surrender. He ran. and another failed his morale check. The drake paralyzed with his breath, and the party sliced and diced. After the combat, they ran into their first problem with their new henchmen. Smoke has an enmity towards Snakemen, a holy mission to eliminate them wherever they were found. He also has a little flaw from the Zealot's guide called "Death Wish".

He suggested that they had ten minutes to get their shit together before he chased down the last two Snakemen by himself. Considering they just paid 1000 gold so that he could level to 1, not to mention taking him along and letting him pull all those ep's, they sort of have an investment in their man. Besides, Smoke is a righteous dude. Of course, now that they know his lack of fear was due to a Death Wish. . .

They follow through two open double doors and into a hallway, where they see six Snakemen led by a man who appears normal - except for his four foot long flexible torso! Then Grigori's nose started to bleed. Yes, Yuan-Ti are often psionic. I'd never run a psionic combat before. I was looking foward to melting Grigori's brain.

See my other post about psionics for more information. Having run this battle, I can see that there are some flaws in the 1e psionics system. There are some needlessly complicated bits. (You track attack and defense, and have to recalculate them every segment - not hard, but a little confusing. Also, if you are at medium range, you do 20% less damage. Seriously. Calculate 80% of whatever the result is on the table.) Also, it is true, that there isn't enough variation in damages to matter - unless the power point totals are very close the person with the higher Power Points wins. Expect a revised 1st edition conflict .pdf later this week.

When they saw Grigori start to suffer, they directed their attacks at the strange human.

Things were going badly. Four segments passed. Grigori's power total dropped lower and lower. The archers shot, hitting him once, buying Grigori a reprieve, but the next segment he continued getting pounded psychically. His defenses were down and the last of his attack power was blasted away. The excess psychic energy began tearing at his brain and synapses for 11 real points of damage. One or two more rounds and we'd have a dead Grigori.

Finally the wizard got his spell components ready and flung a bolt of acid that the grinning Yuan-Ti.

He rolled a three.

Digging for a coupon, he presented it. "You may receive one free mulligan". Groans were heard around the table, certain I was going to play one of my own and perhaps give everyone a +4 to hit and damage, or prehaps allow everyone to critical on a 16-20. He picked up the die and rolled it again. As it flew into the air, I was heard to say "Are you sure, you're wizard and he's got a pretty low-"

Good show Venti, good show.

You know what's difficult? Trying to have psychic combat while acid is burning your skin. Ask Ka-Jii, my soon to be dead Yuan-ti. So finally Grigori is free of psychic combat and he says, "I'm going to run over there and attack and run back and-"
"All in the last three segments of the turn?"

Not only did psychic combat turn up the speed (10 attacks in a round) but he had trouble dropping back into normal time with the rest of the party. . .

Trying to ensure he wouldn't recover enough to finish the job, Grigori rushed up and flung a dagger and vial of acid (a very expensive vial of acid) at his opponent. The vial hit him square in the chest, so it was time to roll it's save versus crushing blow. He picked up the die and rolled.


The vial bounced off his chest and landed on the ground. (mind you, it would have broken on any number between 1-18). He rolled a save for landing on the ground, and that save it failed. It was enough.The acid splash damage killed him to death with melting.

The managed to finish off the rest of the Snakemen easily enough. Grigori was bitten by one, but then he managed to critical it in the chest, stabbing it in the liver and causing internal bleeding. It was going to bite him again, but it died at his feet. But not before he failed his save versus poison. I wonder what will happen?

We ended for the night as they finished off the last of them.


Here, released under OGL are the stats for the PC race of Bullywug. This is compatible with Hackmaster, but also 1st and 2nd edition.

Race: Bullywug
Bullywugs are bipedal frog-like amphibians inhabiting swamps, marshes, and other dank locations. They are covered with a smooth, mottled olive green hide that gives them natural protection. They have the faces of enormous frogs, characterized by a wide mouth and bulging eyes. Like frogs, their hands and feet are webbed. They begin big as adults (6' tall) and can grow as large as 12' in extreme cases.
Bullywugs are violent fascist sexist savages. Bullywugs are extremely efficient and cooperative with each other, helping each other without conflict to survive in stark contrast to other Chaotic Evil races. They also do not display the greed or lust for power normally seen in other evil races. They rarely fight among themselves. They direct all their violence and hostility against women first, and non-bullywugs males second.
Females (of any species) are viewed as nothing more than egg-layers. Women are kept tied, and are beaten and raped until their spirit is broken or they are killed. If broken they are then trained as slaves for acts of indescribable turpitude. Males of other races do not fair much better, being given to those of lower status in the tribe, unless strong or powerful in some way. In which case they are systematically broken of spirit and made slaves of the highest ranking members of the tribes.
It is clear due to their ability to work together smoothly that this behavior is a cultural artifact, rather than a behavioral norm. Thus many Bullywug adventurers are female Bullywugs, or youth that avoid having their conscious broken until they can flee.
The Upside
Racial Bonuses: Bullywugs receive a 23 hit point kicker.
Swim at 15” Round, (9”in armor)
Bullywugs are excellent swimmers and receive four rolls of the “Swimming” skill in addition to receiving “Swimming, Dog Paddle” at 100%
Bullywugs gain a racial natural Armor Class of 6.
Initial Languages: Common, Canis (Gnoll/Gnarl-ron/Wolf-men), Homonid (Ape), Jotnar (Trolls/giants), Suidae (Boar men), Ophidian (reptile/lizard-men), Hellion (Goblinoid, orc), Arachnidia (spider) Chordata (Kuo-Toa, Troglodites, Bullywugs),
Bullywugs have chameleon abilities that make them 75% undetectable in natural surroundings when hiding.
Ambush. When lying in wait their opponents receive a -2 to their surprise rolls
Hop attack Bullywugs can hop 30' forward and 15' up giving them a +1 to hit and allowing them to do double damage. They must execute the full hop to get the bonus. (needing clearance of 25' or more above)
Bullywugs may hold their breath for extended periods of time. He may hold his breath for a number of Turns equal to his Constitution/3. (In opposition to other races who can hold their breath for 'rounds')
Bullywugs receive the “Aquatic Background” Talent for free. (CG pg. 57). This does not affect their swim speed.
Allowable Classes:Fighter (10), Bezerker (9), Barbarian (12), Shaman (7), Druid (6), Thief (9), Painted Mage (5),
Allowable Multi-Classes: None
Attribute Modifiers: Bullywugs gain/suffer the following bonuses/penalties: +1 Strength (+2 if over 9' tall), +1 to Dexterity; -2 to Wisdom; -3 to Intelligence, -2 to Charisma
Building Point Bonus:6
Additional Talents which may be purchased: Acute Alertness, Acute Taste, Freeze, Speak with Plants, Spear bonus, Multiattack Bonus (CG), Unyielding (CG), Burst of Speed (ZG), Curse Resistance (ZG), Paralyzation Bonus (ZG), Poison Bonus (ZG), Purdish (ZG), Puritanical (ZG),
The Downside:
Bullywugs are poorly suited for walking. They have a 3” walking speed.
Bullywugs must wet their entire bodies 3x a day. If they are unable to they lose 2 points of Constitution per missed bath
Bullywugs may qualify as large creatures (7'+) and may suffer more damage from many weapons.
Due to their possible large size, armor and other equipment may cost 200% that of humans.
Bullywugs have difficulty speaking other languages than Chordata. The air they require to make the noise causes them to croak often while speaking.
Other creatures react poorly to Bullywugs if they have ever encountered or heard of them before (-4 reaction adjustment)
Other information
Background Modifications: 4F -50 / 4G -10 / 4H -10
Height:60”/58”+ 8d10+1d4
Weight: 200/180 + 3d100
Age: 14+d8 Max: 200+2d20
Middle Aged → Old → Venerable:85 → 145 → 195
Thief Mods:Pick pockets: -10, Open Locks: -5, Find Traps: -5, Remove Traps: -5, Move Silently: +5, Hide in Shadows: +5, Detect Noise: +15, Climb Walls: -15, Read Languages: -15

Classes and Packages

I need a resource. I have a list of Hackmaster Classes, I also need a list of Packages for each class.When creating NPC's it's useful to have all that information in the same place. Since I made the list, I figured I'd post it. The list follows.

Magic User
Bounty Hunter
Dark Knight
Holy Knight
Knight Errant
Pirate (Fighter)
Pirate (Rogue)
Chosen One
Battle Mage
Double Specialist
Sole Practitioner
Blood Mage
Painted Mage
Wild Mage

Beast Rider
Noble Warrior
Peasant Hero
Wilderness Warrior
Bounty Hunter
Con Man
Barbaric Cleric
Fighting Monk
Nobleman Cleric
Outlaw Cleric
Pacifist Cleric
Peasant Cleric
Prophet Cleric
Savage Cleric
Scholar Cleric
Undead Slayer
Militaristic Magic-User
Remote Primitive
Rustic Magic-User
Savage Magic-User
Virago Sorceress


The Regulators?

Here is a picture of the current party. From left to right, Aroldo Centi, Human Double Specialist Conjurer Historian; Grigori le Zurkosko Human Gypsy Thief; Spiritspyre Boarman Barbaric Cleric; Zeltara Mythilas, Elven Gladiator Beastmaster.

I've got a Wacom tablet, and the learning curve is a little steeper than I thought it would be. Still practicing with styles.


Here, released under OGL are the stats for the PC race of Gnoll. This is compatible with Hackmaster, but also 1st and 2nd edition. (With apologies to LurkerWithout who provided the base information for the class to follow)

Race: Gnoll
AKA:Wolfen, Wolf Men, Dog Men, Hyena Men,
Gnolls are large, evil, canine-like humanoids that roam the land in loosely organized bands. They stand approximately 7' Tall. They are humanoid, but the fine details more closely resemble a wolf, hyena, or dog. The skin of a gnoll is covered in short fur and varies depending on the breed.
Gnolls have their own language made up of growls, barks, and postures.
Gnolls prefer to live within ruins or abandoned buildings. They are often active during night. Gnoll Tribes are set up hierarchically with the stronger controlling the weaker using fear, intimidation, and violence. Much of this behavior is driven by their endless hunger, Gnolls will eat constantly and can only get a few minutes of satiation from the largest meals. Their constant hunger makes them irritable at the best of times.
Gnoll society has been known to use slaves, and work with other humanoids. Gnolls are usually Chaotic evil, though these tendencies can be overcome, and many tribes are Chaotic Neutral or even Good.
The Upside:
Racial Bonuses: Gnolls receive a 22 hit point kicker.
Gnolls are highly resistance to disease, See Talents
Due to their overwhelming hunger, all Gnolls receive one roll of “Forage for Food (by Climate)” and “Hunting” skills for free. They also receive “Identify Animal by Tracks” at 50%.
Initial Languages: Common, Canis (Gnoll/Gnarl-ron/Wolf-men), Homonid (Ape), Jotnar (Trolls/giants), Suidae (Boar men), Ophidian (reptile/lizard-men), Hellion (Goblinoid, orc), Arachnidia (spider)
Talents: Good Immune System (GG pg.69)
Allowable Classes:Fighter (14), Barbarian (U), Berserker (14), Bounty hunter (7), Gladiator (15), Knight errant (6), Cleric (5), Shaman (U), Chosen One (U), Zealot (10), Brigand (14), Infiltrator (11),, Thief (10)
Allowable Multi-Classes: Fighter/thief, Fighter/shaman, Shaman/thief
Attribute Modifiers: Gnolls gain/suffer the following bonuses/penalties +2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -1 Wisdom, -1 Charisma, -2 Comeliness.
Building Point Bonus: 8
Additional Talents which may be purchased: Active sense of smell, Acute alertness, Acute taste, Ambidextrous, Attack bonus, Axe bonus, Brewing, Constitution/Health bonus, Damage bonus, Forest movement, Hit point bonus, Javelin bonus, Mace bonus, Spear bonus, Sword bonus, Stealth, Track game animal, Cower (GG pg. 68) Quick movement (GG pg. 69)
The Downside:
Gnolls qualify as large creatures and suffer more damage from many weapons.
Gnolls are always ravenously hungry. They must eat constantly, consuming 3x the daily ration amount of a normal human.
Due to their large size, armor and other equipment costs 200% that of humans and must be specially made to fit their elongated forms.

Other information
Background Modifications: 4F -50 / 4G +10 / 4H +10
Height: 84/80” + d12”
Weight: 165/145 + 4d10 lbs
Age: 7 + d4 Max Age: 33 +d4
Middle Aged → Old → Venerable: 16 → 22 → 33
Thief Mods: Pick pockets: -5, Open Locks: -5, Find Traps: -, Remove Traps: -, Move Silently: -, Hide in Shadows: +5, Detect Noise: +5, Climb Walls: -, Read Languages: -10


Fighters and their relevance

What makes a high level fighter relevant in a 1st edition game? Far longer than they maintain their relevance in later editions of Dungeons and Dragons?

In first edition, fighters always get all their attacks, even when they run across the room. There are some minor variations between the various flavors of AD&D, First edition fighters get many attacks vs. less than 1 HD creatures. They also may not select their opponent when fighting more than one person. In Hackmaster fighters may not split their attacks, but they get follow-through damage.

In first edition, fighters are hard to hit. This is even more the case in Hackmaster where armor works as damage reduction. They can take a pounding, which is important, because of something that leads us to point three.

In first edition, magic-users are delicate white porcelain mice that if someone looks cross-eyed in their direction will have their spells fail. It is true that there are several spells that in most cases they can get off if an opponent has not yet closed into melee - but in melee, even casting a one segment spell has a 50/50 shot of being cast without being interrupted.

Experience point tables were logarithmic and not equal for every class.
A fighter with 10,000 ep? Level 4. A Magic-User with 10,000 ep? level 3. The magic-user will always be leveling behind the fighter.

Finally, balance is irrelevant. Sure the wizard will have all sorts of powerful spells eventually. The fighter will have an army (and most likely a fortress). None of that matters at all, really, because the world is dangerous and not level appropriate. Also, controls on spells are a little strict. Teleport carries a non-trivial risk of death upon use, Haste requires a system shock roll to survive it's casting - the world is a harsher and more interesting place.

The real point here, is that the vast majority of the second, and more importantly, third edition changes that were made to have the game make more sense, in fact destroyed a lot of the fun and balance present in the older games. I believe this is a large part of why the OSR exists.

I find when we play Hackmaster, players are concerned with world goals - let's defend this town, let's train these people, let's build this wall, let's insure nothing takes up residence in this dungeon. When we play Pathfinder (3.5) players are concerned with character goals - I need another +1 to hit, How can I get my intelligence up to raise the DC of my spells, what's my next feat going to be?

I know which I'd rather be dealing with.

Random Determination

I've been reading old Dragon magazines. Part of the design of this current campaign was a more 'themed' Hackmaster game, along with the opportunity to use more 1st edition material printed from old Dragon magazines. So I've been reviewing the magazines for just that purpose.

In the very first article of Dragon, there is an article titled "How to use Non-Prime-Requisite Character Attributes" by a Wesley D. Ives which is a complicated method to determine the success of an action.

Here it is in a nutshell:
(Yes, caps are used in the article.)

You roll % which determines which dice you use (d4/d6/d8/d10/d12). It is a straight 20% chance per dice, you also add the statistic in question to the roll.

Then you roll that die and multiply it times the stat, giving you a percent chance of success.

i.e. Gronk wants to move a boulder, so you roll percentiles, 54, adding his strength of 19, giving you 73. 73 means you roll a 10 sided die. You get a 3x19, means he has a 57% chance of success.

The article then outlines the stats in vague terms of what they might be used for, and lists a selection of modifiers (Level, Class, Luckstones/Prayer, and 'everything else')

I find this interesting for several reasons.
First, this system is absurdly complex. This is June of 1976, so I imagine most people were playing Dungeons and Dragons at the time, rather than AD&D. It involves roll with addition, checked versus a table to give you what you need to make your second roll. Then you have to make your second roll and the multiply to give you your chance at success. Then you actually have to roll to succeed.
Secondly, this system depends entirely on your characters abilities, and has no bearing on the actual difficulty of the task. This makes me question many of the original design assumptions present in old school Dungeons and Dragons. Modern games (including Hackmaster) tend to universally qualify tasks by level of difficulty. This aesthetic seems to indicate that tasks were either trivial or not with no degree of difficulty, which seems to fit in with my understanding of the origins of the game.
Third, I find it strange that the third listed modifier is all about prayer and luckstones. These would seem to be a nod or mention of temporary buffs.

Feel free to use this resolution system if you'd like to truly have a complicated and random chance of success at a task that can't vary in difficulty! I'll post more of these items as I run across them in my research.

Spellbook Traps

Here is my list of ways a spell book can be trapped. It's system neutral. I am not the originator of most of these, you may thank Anonymous. Enjoy. I should come up with a list of specific magical books later. . .

1. Alarm
2. Explosive Runes
3. Contingency (To trigger any spell)
4. Symbol
5. Dusty pages (spores, disease)
6. Contact poison
7. Twisted spells (harmful spells unless the caster knows the code or key)
8. Ink Golems
9. Cloud of a million papercuts (Targeting eyes, nose, and mouth.)
10. Something that looks like a linking book, but actually triggers an Imprisoment spell
11. Mimics
12. A book with the same words on every page, with the spells coded into ink, or texture / material of the pages
13. Beartraps
14. Cursed (Polymorph for anyone reading the book who isn't the caster
15. Superglue
16. Touching spellbook triggers a teleport trap
17. Spellbook has teeth
18. Touching spell triggers electric shock
19. When turning to a certain page (say 341) the book sucks the reader into it.
20. If anyone other than the owner holds it, it appears to be full of vile acts
21. Snake Sigil
22. Forcecage combined with monster summoning
23. Magic mouth (annoyance can cause a penalty to learn)
24. A book of random spells, one you turn a page, the previous page is changed.
25. Actual traditional (poison needle on lock) traps on the cover.
26. Pages made of flammable, acidic,or poisonous material when exposed to air.
27. Have some pages be explosive when exposed to air, and the cover be metal for shrapnel damage.
28. Animate object, causing the book to attack.
29. Trapped with a poverty geas
30. Yellow mold dust
31. Analine ink
32. Trap the soul in an object in a 'cutout'
33. Dimensional portal
34. A book bomb.
35. A book poison container
36. Cause feeblemind
37. A deadly creature inside a hollow cutout.
38. Animate object on nearby objects (clothing of the person who opens the book)
39. A book that leeches something from the user
40. A book that alters the user mentally in some way
A) gain a emnity to monster/race/class
B) gain a phobia
C) gain a mental quirk
D) gain an insanity
41. Book opens to a page that scrys on a location that shows a mirror of opposition or soul trapping.
42. Pages with razor edges
43. Fire trap
44. Something is bound to guard the book
45. Arcane mark would allow you to locate the stolen book.
46. Have some green slime or a black pudding permanently 'phantasmal forced' to look like a spellbook.
47. Have the spellbook located inside a safe (like a prismatic sphere)
48. Illusory script
49. Arcane lock on a mundane lock
50. A lock lurker
51. Disguise it using 'item' and 'magic aura'
52. Spells scribed incorrectly to fail or backfire

Any additional suggestions will get added to the list.

Session Four

Session Three Synopsis:
A good saving throw,
saved quite a bit of gold;
evil is loyal.

Exploding frogs,
jumping is so dangerous.
Returning to town.

After four sessions, it was time for some of the PC's to reach level 2. The thief, due to the experience tables, actually had enough experience to reach level 3, but declined to level. He decided to wait until he was in great honor. They spent some time leveling in town and organizing their funds with the quartermaster.

During the downtime Spiritspyre told me that he was making some signs and posting them between the docks and the settlement. Signs containing text such as "Your god doesn't live here" and "Your kind aren't welcome" and "Every one of you that has come here has died". He made 28 signs. Each individual one with it's own honor penalty upon discovery.

So, that bit of excitement handled, they returned to the dungeon underneath the petrified tree. They entered and returned to a locked door in a pool room. They couldn't pick the lock open, so they began kicking it open. Once opened, the thief was immediately grabbed up by the head of a gargantuan tunnel centipede. It automatically surprised them, having been aware of them since they started kicking the door. The centipede crushed him and his armor, doing quite a bit of damage to the armor, until they managed to do enough damage to it to cause it to retreat down it's hole.

After a bit of discussion they decided not to head down the centipede hole. I don't know why they decided this, I certainly wouldn't mind having it bite their heads off. They left well enough alone.

After the centipede room they found a room filled with long-tailed silver slashers. They rolled for surprise, and ended up with six segments of surprise. Each segment of surprise allows characters to make full rounds of attacks. Predictably they managed to massacre the lot of them. If any had survived, they (most likely) would not have made their morale check. There was well over 200 hit points of creatures in that room, but with every hit past half hit points forcing a threshold of pain check, they were able to down the entire room in six segments.

Searching the room they found that it long ago was some sort of entrance chamber. They found a bit of treasure, took the pelts, and moved on.

They headed south where they missed a secret door in a room with a font. Sometimes these things happen. It was not the first, nor will it be the last thing they missed. It's very much a challenge for me to act in a neutral way so that they don't know that something is there.

They moved south and to the east. They encountered a room with a book on a pedestal, and two dead bodies on the floor. One of the bodies was the "halfling" thief they were looking for. The other was one of the players new henchmen, at -1 hit points from the poison darts that fire from the walls to anyone disturbing the book.

Grigori the gypsy thief's first response? "I throw daggers at the bodies." In his defense, they had run into an awful lot of zombies, who are particularly fond of this tactic. Luckily he critically missed. He is quite good at critically missing - as I've mentioned before, on the first night he fumbled more then anyone's total in the last fifteen month long campaign.

Zeltara, the elven gladiator beastmaster randomly gives the order for the torchbearer to move back. This is interesting because as a gladiator, Zeltara's social class is slave class. So Aroldo who had wised up to why his honor kept dropping, laid into Zeltara yelling at the torchbearer to move back up and berating Zeltara for ordering him back. Grigori had been in the dark when the torchbearer retreated, and he spent some time bemoaning the fact that humans didn't have infravision.

Zeltara informed the party that one of the bodies was still radiating heat, and they pulled him out of the room, and healed him. They they retrieved the book using an unseen servant. That lead to this conversation.
Aroldo: "What's the worst thing that can happen when you look through a book? How likely is it to be trapped?
Player of Spiritspyre: "In our last game, we built a building several hundred yards away from the fortress for the express purpose of opening spellbooks."
Me: "Well, wizards usually trap their spellbooks. Common traps including exploding runes, symbols of pain, blindness and death, and possibly summoning of demons and monsters"
Aroldo: "Oh."

So they haven't looked at the book yet.

Finishing that, they headed in the other direction and found a hallway with two statues of winged Gorn at the end. When they approached the statues turned in their direction. Suspecting Gargoyles they continued to approach. Then, with little warning they engaged. The gargoyles began to attack the party members, doing a bit of damage. The party members struck back uselessly. None of the players had the requisite +1 or better weapons to hit.

One of my players mentioned that they couldn't win that battle unless they "got lucky". Knowing most of his experience was with 3.5, I pointed out that if they didn't have a +1 or better weapon, it didn't matter how much damage they did, the Gargoyles were immune.

They headed back to the staircase near where they entered. They headed down and found an empty room. While searching for secret doors they didn't find, some Ghouls wandered in. After checking for neither party being surprised, one of the players said "How many?"
*clatter clatter* as I toss the 2d12's.
"Eighteen," I say. Everyone groans. There was a moment of "Oh god we're all going to die" panic, until it was noted that Grigori and Zeltara were specifically checking the hallway for doors, and Zeltara being an elf was immune to the paralysis of the Ghouls.

They fought the ghouls for a long time. After a few rounds, Zeltara, holding off the entire force, began to make fatigue checks. He failed one after the other and accumulated more and more penalties. Even though I was not rolling well and the ghouls were doing low damage, things did get pretty dangerous near the end. Zeltara took a very serious critical to his arm before the fight ended. But being able to corral the ghouls allowed them to win the fight handily.

After failing to find any secret doors down the stairs, they returned to town and we ended for the evening. One of my favorite things about Hackmaster (or 1st edition) is that even though we started an hour late, and they spent two hours in town leveling up, they still managed to have three major combats and explore nearly a dozen rooms.

End of the session glut

I'll take some time tomorrow to write up today's session and then I promise you'll only get one a week. I wanted to get all the older sessions out of the way so I could focus on sharing more useful resources this week.

Session Three

Session Two Synopsis:
Return to the boat,
Catalog all the treasure.
Three hours later.
Underneath the tree
Dwarf hurt, then Disease Dawgs!
Bites for everyone.

At the start of the session, I had Aroldo Centi the character who was bitten roll his save versus poison at a minus six to avoid coming down with a deadly disease. His poison save is a 14, means that he needs to roll a 20 or better in order to avoid coming down with the disease.

He rolled a twenty.

The two bitten hirelings were not so lucky. Kalen Malek came down with the Rotting Death, and Nyles Rothchild came down with the black plague. As the symptoms started to appear and they got sicker and sicker they consulted a cleric for healing. Jerik Clawfoot, the morose dwarf cleric said that the dwarven gods could in fact cure them of their disease, for a simple donation of one thousand gold each.

The party hemmed and hawed and eventually jawed him down to six hundred gold each. He cast cure disease, and each disease failed its saving throw.

This act was quite important. By spending that money to save the lives of hirelings, it gave them enough of a loyalty bonus in general to counter their attitude so far. To the two men in particular it increased their loyalty a great deal. Nyles was not all that bright to begin with (and quite evil) but now he is unwaveringly loyal to the party (Aroldo in particular) because they are clearly his greatest path to personal power.

I promise all the people in town aren't evil. Just most of the ones they picked. :-)

They headed back down to the dungeon, and found a hallway with many statues of these strange frog-like people. Spiritspyre the Boarman Cleric identified them as the 'Gorn'. An ancient race that is no longer around. They soon found several Gnoll bodies, which rose up and had a hunger for brains! A charge against set pikes and several crossbow bolts later, and they were dealt with handily.

They moved into a small room with a pool and failed their surprise roll, so found themselves startled by several frog like creatures. They looked like the ones in the statues, but these were feral and their skin pulsed with a strange energy.

They attempted to form their standard defensive wall, when the frogmen easily leapt over them. Their defensive structure shattered, the corrupted gorn began tearing into their ranks. As they took damage, light and energy burst from their skin. Aroldo and Spiritspyre moved away from the combat (which seemed like a fairly normal thing for the smartest party members to do). Once the first corrupted Gorn was killed, he exploded in burst of energy, knocking the party down to it's last legs.

This battle was much more difficult then it should have been due to lucky rolls. Not a single one of the Gorn fell to a threshold of pain check which would have removed them from the battle without exploding. Grigori the gypsy thief tackled one of the remaining Gorn and killed it near the other Gorn. Sadly this was also where the majority of the hirelings were. It detonated, knocking both of his Gorn out, and nearly (down to the hit point in most cases) killing the entire party. One of the henchmen did die, strangely enough it was the man Nyles identified as his partner in crime. When healed from  his disease, he offhandedly mentioned to Aroldo during the course of his hero worship that Morris and he would slit throats of adventurers and steal everything from them before returning to town to do it again. Now as they stood looking at the corpse of Morrison, they shrugged, packed it up with the treasure in the pool and limped back to town.

It was late, so we ended the session at that.

Session Two

Session 1 synopsis:
Party finds the tree.
Hole miscommunicated,
markerboard clarity!

reach the beached boat,
hireling had brain eaten!?
re-watch zombie films.

During the second session, the player's headed out to the ship again after resting and healing. They also spent some time meeting a few of the townspeople and getting chided for not knowing the name of the hireling who died. They only knew him as a congenial sort. I believe the comment was made "That dude was probably a jerk anyway,". Little did they know that they were absolutely correct, despite his congenial nature, the hireling that died was very chaotic evil and was simply awaiting the chance to murder them all in a moment of weakness.

Now that I think about it, he's probably still awaiting that opportunity, but as a super-violent brain-eating zombie instead of a zero level schmuck.

Anyway, they return and find the ship empty, so they grab the cargo, and haul it all back to town. They do manage to make time after a bit of prompting from the quartermaster to have a service for the deceased hireling and, you know maybe ask the names of the other people who are willing to risk their life for the party. After an while of sorting and selling they head back out to the tree dungeon seeking the "halfling" thief, who in the wanted poster looks suspiciously like a gnome.

Once they arrive and go in, they head south, where they encounter and kill several spiny rodent like things (Dire Hedgehogs) in a room to the south. One of them manages to maul and critically hit Smoke, the parties dwarf hireling. It isn't serious, but the pain from his torn back muscle is causing him to receive a minus to hit. After some minor healing, and putting poor Smoke in the back, they move on. They round the corner and reach some doors that are locked. While trying to open them using brute strength, they attract the attention of several Dire Wild Rot Dawgs. Surprise is rolled and they party is surprised! Exciting for me.

The party is organized well, but the dogs still get free bites in on two of the henchmen guarding the corridor. All bites carry the deadly threat of the disease. The Double Specialist Conjurer puts a grease down in the hallway, as the party attempts to kill the dogs. An unlucky round later, and one of the dogs ends up right next to the conjurer and bites him! Yay for team get to kill the players in unusual ways!

The party thief attacks one of the dogs with two weapons, using a backstab and rolls not one but two critical hits in the same round. Sadly he has the flaw hacklust, which sends him into a killing frenzy every time he scores a critical. He makes his first save, but fails his second. And suddenly they have a very angry human gypsy who must do 60 some odd points of damage before he can calm down.

The party was stuck in a bit of the old 'if their aren't rules for it, I can't do it' before one of the hirelings gently suggested perhaps they might pull him down. They drag him to the ground and knock him out. It's getting late, so they retreat back to town to heal and rest up.

Magical Aging

Party mage: "I cast haste!"
(Party murders all opposition. Spell ends)
DM: "Everyone make your system shock roll!"
PC's: "Yes, everyone lives!"
DM: "Ok, everyone ages a year"
Human player: "This sucks notably more for me than for the elf!"
Elf player: "Hehehe. Sucker"

Well not in my game. There are many causes of magical aging, from the attack of a ghost, to casting powerful spells. When affected by magical aging, I think it's only fair that the aging be proportionate to the actual max age of a character. To calculate the value of the final age gained, simply multiply the values below times the number of years aged. So without further ado, I present the:
"How much older am I now?" conversion chart!

For 1 year of aging:

Dwarves age 3.18 years (or 3 years and 66 days)
Elves age 5 years
Gnomes age 3.18 years (or 3 years and 66 days)
Gnomelings age 2.27 years (or 2 years and 95 days)
Half-elves age  1.40 years (or 1 year and 149 days)
Halflings age 1.36 years (or 1 year and 132 days)
Half-ogres age .95 years (or 348 days)
Half-orcs age .63 years (or 232 days)
Humans age 1 year
Pixie fairies age .07 years (or 26 days)

Or, to have it be simple enough to remember you could round.

Elves gain 5 years.
Dwarves, Gnomes and Gnomelings gain 3 years.
Half-elves, Halflings, Half-ogres and Humans gain 1 year.
Half-orcs gain six months.
Pixie faries gain a month.

This table was made taking the average value of the maximum age range of PC's in the Hackmaster Player's Handbook.

Session One

We play Sunday nights. Tonight was our fourth session, so I'm going to play catch-up this week.

The PC's have traveled far across the ocean to a strange and dangerous new land. Upon leaving the boat, they check in with the quartermaster and then head to the center of town to check a public notice board. They recruit some men in the center of town by saying, "Whoever wants some money should follow us!" Then they pick hirelings like so, "You, you and uh, you" and then they immediately march out of town with their new hirelings without getting anyone's name. This is delicious considering the number of evil people they just hired.

Once into the wilderness, they run into several large herds of malevolent buffalo like creatures, which they avoid, and they get a lay of the land. They head for a large petrified tree to the south.. I give the players no map, and make them navigate by telling me where they are going, and telling them what they see around them. I have extensive random monster encounter tables for each different type of terrain, as well as a keyed map for the various features. I have a very dense map filled with features - though each feature is an adventure of a different type. Some are no more then way-point markers, others are dungeons many, many levels deep.

When they reach the tree, I describe a hole underneath the roots as running about 15 feet or so long, two to two and a half feet wide and goes down deeper than they can see. Somehow there is a miscommunication where the 15 feet of length of the hole is considered to be it's depth, and the width of the hole  is considered to be it's diameter. After the session there was extensive discussion about this issue. One of my players mentioned that he would have described the width of the hole as how tall the hole was. I pointed out that I would never use the adjective tall to talk about a hole in the ground.

The end results of this discussion were twofold. I brought a small whiteboard to the game to quickly sketch out anything that's complicated to describe, and I encouraged my players to ask questions until they had a clear mental image of what was being described.

Clearly there was a dungeon under the tree.

Instead of investigating "whatever rodents lived down in that hole", they saw a wrecked ship off the shore and decided to go check that out. Heading in that direction, they find a ship of unknown make and design lying mostly exposed on the beach. They investigate and discover a strange unturnable zombie with a taste for brains. After some difficulty killing the zombie, they continue to investigate the ship. In the hold they see movement, so they drop a torch down into the hold. When the zombies predictably rush the ladder they begin by firing missile weapons and casting grease on the ladder.

I know they've seen zombie movies before, so I can understand why they were so surprised by what happened next.

The zombies, having no success climbing the ladder, decide to change tactics, and begin tearing apart the wood holding the ship together. So while they think they have them trapped, in several rounds, zombies begin to pour out of the ship. Their poor tactical situation exposed, things go from bad to worse.

This is the worst type of combat encounter it is possible to have to introduce someone to Hackmaster with, because fighting against zombies is just like a normal fight in Dungeons and Dragons flavors 3.x or 4.x. Things fight until they are dead (or GM fiat just 'decides' that they leave) and they are immune to pain.

Normally in Hackmaster when any combatant is dropped to half hit points, they have to make a saving throw versus death or suffer 'threshold of pain' causing them to drop out of the fight. More importantly, all monsters have a morale ranking and situations that call for checks, indicating exactly when the monsters flee. Undead have neither of these things. This is one reason why combats are usually very quick in Hackmaster. (On a night the players spend three real hours in town, they can have four or five major fights, and explore a major section in the dungeon in the remaining three hours, more on this later.)

Regardless, some poor rolling, and the zombies insistence on grappling and then making called shots for the head, result in the death of only one hireling, before the players can regroup and flee. There were several close calls. The players returned to town and we ended for the night.

Death list

I won't usually have time to post on the weekends due to work. Since I'm just starting the blog up, I figured I'd try and throw a little something interesting out there.

Here is the list of my player deaths in Hackmaster. (17 skulls!)

1. Harcus kills Bobr with cause light wounds (Dead Body Burned in a Carin and sent to the gods)
2. Evil House kills Jewbu by a critical to the forehead (Brain Destroyed, Reincarnated)
3. Combaticus charmed by a gem kills Nurring (Left for dead)
4. Jin is killed by Amphisbaena poison (Resurrected)
5. Warin is cooked by Death Knights Fireball (Resurrected)
6. Erdrick is slain by Death Watch Beetle rattle (Raised from the dead)
7. Erdrick is killed by Blood Guzzler (Left to die as a coward)
8. Andoran is cut down by animated bugbears in stasis (Raise dead failed)
9. Iorran was critically hit in the groin by a bone demon hook (Raised from the dead)
10. Josh2's cleric was mind blasted by a Su-Monkey (Raised from the dead)
11. Iorran was roasted by the quadrielemental demon. (Ashed, Reincarnated)
12. Faoramir had his arm bitten off by a Juju zombie (Raised from the dead)
13. Drake had his throat cut and spine damaged by a Barbezu demon (Raised from the Dead)
14. Jin killed by a reflected lightning bolt. (Raised from the dead)
15. Faoramir killed by Avacia using a lightning wand. (Dead)
16. Gareth killed by death ray from beholder. (Raised from the Dead)
17. Combaticus killed by a burning flame from a Director Beholder-Kin. (Raised from the Dead)


Just a short post after work.

Over on James Maliszewski's blog Grognardia, he has his open Friday post about psionics, so I figured I'd talk about it a bit more. See Earlier Sessions below for information on the character and psionic basics.

So far my PC's are low level. The person playing with psionics is a thief, and did not get them from random rolls. He got them because he took a package that as a feature allows them to automatically get psionics.

Here is the first discipline he's received. He's only level two, and will receive his second discipline at third level. From the GMG pages 112/113:
Range: 3
Duration: Special
Strength Point Cost: Special
Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: One level/hit die per level of mastery cumulative

Explanation/Description: This discipline is similar to Suggestion and Charm Person/Charm Monster spells

Right here is where my little alarm went off. Like all powers in Hackmaster and 1st edition, this was rolled for randomly, so it isn't like he picked it to min/max.

Suggestion and charm person/monster are *nothing* like each other. One gives a worded suggestion, the others make people respond to you favorably. I've been letting him use this power as if it does both.

It affects only creatures with intelligence greater than 7 and less than 17

Thank goodness the party leader is a Double Specialist Conjurer with an 18 Intelligence.

The power basically allows you to immediately instruct a creature as to a course of action, and then plant a post-hypnotic suggestion that has a cumulative 5% chance per day of wearing off. It affects 1 hit die of creatures equal to the total of the player's levels. (i.e. at second level he can affect 3 (1+2) hit dice of creatures, at third level he can affect 6 (1+2+3).)

You only get a save (vs. magic) with a 15 or 16 int or if you have over 10 levels/hit dice.

Is this powerful? Yes. He can, for a few of his 70ish points, give an instruction to anyone to do anything he wants. It is very likely the target will not get a save. He can even leave them with a suggestion in place. It does affect monsters. It takes 1 segment to use. He can leave any suggestion that seems 'reasonable'.

It gives little information about the specifics which is fine. So far, he's used it to force the quartermaster of town to 'be nice to them' and to make a random farmer make cages in town as an offhand threat to the party's annoying boarman. The boarman is annoying, not the player. He has run into several monsters, but has not been able to use it against them. A great number of them have a 6 or lower intelligence. Knowing Gygax, this is by design.

He's about to get a second power, which is going to make him even more powerful. Do I really think this is a problem?


Psionic creatures can sense each other. Each round of psionic combat takes 1 segment.

When he runs into a psionic creature (i.e. any mutated or alien animals I give powers to - I'd be more specific about which ones actually have them, but he might find this blog. :-)) he will have to deal with a little factor called 'number of appearing'. And he didn't roll all that well with attack modes, or psionic strength points. There is only one end to this first psionic encounter.

The bad end.

By the time surprise is over, he will have to deal with psionic attacks from each of his opponents. He will rapidly run out of power points, and when you're out of power points bad things start to happen. Bad things like (from the DMG page 77) Confused, Dazed, Idiocy, Killed, Dazed and Permanent loss of 1 attack/defense mode or discipline, Coma for 1-4 weeks that is 99% likely to be mistake for death, (you know Gygax was grinning when he wrote that), Robot, and wounded psionically. Not to mention that damage occurring beyond 0 causes hit point loss on a point for point basis.

Having psionics makes you like a very deadly delicate crystalline vase in a room full of mauls wielded by angry bugbears infected with poison ivy.

Am I ok with this? Yes. Yes I am.

Why? The player has fun until his violent and shocking death, and entertainment is had all around. I am an impartial adjudicator, I don't care how they choose to play in the sandbox, there's always some cost to having too much power. In fact, there is nothing about it that does not improve the game. The more powerful he or she is, the more attention will be drawn. He can't ruin the game by having too much random power, he can only change its scope. It's a win / win.

That's what I think about psionics. Comments welcome.


I feel the need to balance blogging content with resources. So, here, released under OGL, are the stats for the PC race of Boar-man. This is compatible with Hackmaster, but also 1st and 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragon.

Race: Boar Man
Boar men from a distance resemble orcs, albeit shorter, they are nothing of the kind. They have a sophisticated culture with intricate religious practices, cities with remarkable innovations and talents in building and fighting. They are excellent at figuring and solving mathematical equations.
Boar men prefer natural environments, particularly warm forests, where they use trees for their shade and natural beauty. Boar men have ancient histories that they teach placing them as the first creatures to walk the land.
Boar Men are an intelligence and secretive species. It is culturally unacceptable for Boar Men to speak to someone before they have spend several days in proximity with that person. That, and their close resemblance to Orcs has made parley and diplomacy murderous affairs when cultures that have been exposed to Orcs first meet them. This in turn has made them even more secretive.
The Upside:
Racial Bonuses:
Boar Men receive a 24 point kicker.
Boar Men have a Movement Rate of 15”
Boar Men can take Academic Skills for ½ BP Cost. (But must pay more for combat procedures)
Boar Men have a Tusk Attack that does 1-4 Damage
Boar Men have tough hides, giving them a natural armor class of 6.
Initial Languages: Common (trade language), Canis (Gnoll/Gnarl-ron/Wolf-men), Homonid (Ape), Jotnar (Trolls/giants), Suidae (Boar-men), Ophidian (reptile/lizard-men), Arachnidia (spider), Chordata (Kuo-Toa, Troglodites, Bullywugs), Fay, Dialects->High/Grey/Wild (Pixie-Farie, Elf, Grey), Lilliputian (Gnome, Halfling, Burrowing mammals), Hellion (Goblinoid, orc), Montus (Dwarven, Undercommon), Sign
Allowable Classes: Fighter (9), Ranger (7), Thief (11), Bard (6), Brigand (12), Magic User (12), Battle-Mage (8), Invoker (10), Diviner (14), Conjurer (12), Abjurer (8), Transmuter (8), Elementalist (15), Bood Mage (7), Cleric (12), Druid (14), Shaman (U), Zealots (*)
Allowable Multi-Classes: Druid/Ranger, Fighter/Thief, Shaman/Elementalist, Druid/Elementalist, Fighter/Cleric, Fighter/Druid
Attribute Modifiers: Boar Men gain/suffer the following bonuses/penalties: +2 to Intelligence; -1 to Strength; -1 to Charisma, -2 to Comeliness
Building Point Bonus: 14
Additional Talents which may be purchased: Acute Sense of smell, Acute Taste, Attack Bonus, Attack Higher Bonus, Breath Weapon Bonus, Called Shot Bonus, Concentration, Courage, Cower, Curse Resistance, Damage Bonus, Damage Cap Bonus, Death Magic Bonus, Defender Bigger Bonus, Detect Poison, Divination, Divine Shield, Divine Smite, Elemental Resistance, Endurance, Enhanced Turning, Fast Turning, Follow-through Healing, Good Immune System, Hardy Traveler, High Tolerance, Javelin Bonus, Legacy, Life Smite, Magic Trap Sense, Mass Turning, Multiattack Bonus, Pain Resistance, Paralyzation Bonus, Poison Bonus, Precision Casting, Quick Casting, Quick Charge, Quick Movement, Receptive Healer, Reduce Facing, Second Sight, Simultaneous Backstab Attack, Spear Bonus, Stealth, Thick Blood, Thick Headed, Unyielding, Vigor
The Downside: None

Other information
Background Modifications: 4F -30 / 4G - / 4H -10
Height: 54/54 +3d4
Weight: 250/240 + 4d10
Age: 16+2d4 Max Age:70+4d8
Middle Aged → Old → Venerable: 35 → 50 → 70
Thief Mods:Pick pockets: -5, Open Locks: +10, Find Traps: -, Remove Traps: +10, Move Silently: -, Hide in Shadows: -, Detect Noise: +5, Climb Walls: -5, Read Languages: +10


Earlier Sessions

I have to admit, I'm a little late starting up this blog. This Sunday will mark the fourth session of our new Hackmaster game (not counting character creation). So with three sessions already under our belt, I should do a bit of background before I start logging the sessions.

The party:

A human double specialist conjurer historian, the party leader
An elven gladiator beastmaster
A boarman barbaric cleric
and an human thief gypsy

Hackmaster has races, classes, and if you're single-classed, packages. Packages are like second edition kits.

Double specialists are super-restricted in their spells compared to single specialists, however they cast as a level higher, and can learn spells a whole spell level early (i.e. they learn second level spells as first). How super-restricted? Can't learn spells from two schools, -45% chance to learn from an oppositional school, and -30% chance to learn from any school that's not conjuration. That's at best a 65% chance to learn a non-conjuration spell, assuming it's one he can cast.
One of the biggest balancing factors for magic-users seems to be that their spell acquisition is random. They don't get to pick the five best spells. This opens up a variety of game-play space, in that you can have several spells of varying efficacy at each level as well as providing a lot of variation between wizards.
The historian package gives the character a variety of skills at a discount.

The gladiator is an expensive fighter without specialization. By that, I mean his experience point totals costs are higher (300,000 to reach name level, versus the standard 250,000). What does he gain for this cost? Two things: first, the drawback of being either a slave, or an escaped slave and the second allows him to create a 'fighting style'. There is a trade-off between his style and the time it takes to become usable, versus the quick and dirty utility of being able to gain high mastery with a weapon as a fighter.
His beastmaster package allows him to select an animal, and his animal is a silver drake. This came at a high creation cost, and so far, he's spent most of game time separated from it.

The boarman is a native of these parts, also a slave and freed as a guide. He is. . . annoying, as a flaw. The interesting thing about this is, is that it is pretty constantly causing the other party members to lose honor. (Having a someone of a lower social class insult you causes an honor loss.) Since he's a slave, and he's constantly telling the party their gods don't live here, it's an endless slide for the 'party leader'

The thief gypsy is standard thief with the gypsy package. The primary reason the person took the gypsy package is that we're using 1st edition psionics rules and gypsys as a package feature automatically gain psionics.
I don't think he realizes what a liability such a power is. He rolled low on power points and attack modes, but acquired all defense modes as well as rolling over 100% on the powers known table. He is about to acquire his second power. His current power 'hypnotism' is very powerful. What's the downside?
Any time a person with psionics encounters a hostile monster with psionics, psionic combat ensues. This occurs as full rounds during segments. They blast at each other, until someone runs out of points and then they either die, go insane, fall unconscious, or become dominated or dazed. Effectively, it's giving away a bunch of powers for a huge gaping weakness. (There are four random rolls after you qualify for random psionic ability: power points, attack modes, defense modes, and powers. You have to roll well on the first *three* to do well in psychic combat)

Well, that's the party. I'll write more about their adventures after I get back from the gym.



I'm going to mirror one of Zac Sabbath's first posts and say essentially the same thing. Of course, I think that's a large part of the OSR blogosphere.

The party runs into a monster, eh? Time to roll initiative.

What's the goal here? Is it to accurately simulate tactical combat, so you can identify who moves when? This is a great idea! Let's see, the fighter can roll, then for his two crossbow henchmen, his wizard support, and his cleric, and the cleric's two wardogs. Then the Wizard and his six men-at arms can roll, then the gladiator beastmaster needs to roll, then for his dragon, and his henchmen. Then the thief - oh, you know while that's going on I should roll for the frost wolves, wargs, hill giants, orcs and orc mages.

In the words of Gygax: DMG, Page 62, "Again, a d6 is rolled, and the scores for the two parties are compared. . . The higher of the two rolls is said to possess the initiative for that melee round. (While it is not accurate to roll one die for all individuals comprising each party, it is a convenient and necessary expedient. Separate rolls could be made for each member of two small groups, for instance, but what happens to this simple, brief determination if one party consists of 9 characters and 6 henchmen and the other of 7 giants and 19 dire wolves, let us say?)"

We roll a d6 for the party and a d6 for the DM. It's an exciting time at the table for all involved. You might even say fun.

What is so confusing to me is how through and precise this 30+ year old ruleset is at keeping things fun contrasted with the consistent and insane desire by hundreds of people in the industry over the last 30 years who thought it was a good idea to change it for the worst of reasons (realism, I'm looking in your direction).
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