Psionics

So, I am releasing the psionics supplement!

This is a tool you can use to implement psionics in any old school game! It is fully compatible with a variety of old school systems and clones, which I am not naming for copyright reasons. I personally play a version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, so the class and schooling tables are geared towards that type of play, but the document is fully compatible with all of the old school games and clones. This document can be printed out and dropped into any game, and works with preexisting psionic text in current rule sets.

It is totally free and released under the OGL.

The free 44 page work contains:
  • A description of psionic ability and how it is acquired
  • A listing of psionic attacks and defenses and how to handle psionic combat
  • A huge listing of powers, including devotions, sciences, and arts
  • Psionic items, including rules for the creation of psionic ego items and artifacts
  • A fully featured, 20 level, player character psionic class
  • Psionic schooling tables
  • Several packages and kits
  • A psionic combat quick reference sheet
  • Psionic encounters reference
  • Two psionic power reference sheets (one for strict 1st edition play, and one for our slightly modified system)
  • Art 
  • And more!
If you ever wanted psionics in your game and were frustrated by rules being spread out all over the place, or certain difficulties inherent in the system, trust that they've been addressed!

Material was also contributed by Jayson Elliot of Roll for Initiative, the first edition podcast, and Nathan Lord without whom the supplement would be a shadow of its current form. Thanks to both of them for their beautiful and hard work.

Please download our work and check it out!

It can be found here, and always be found in the resources box on the right side of this blog! Look for future game aids and DM supplements released free!

Psionics.pdf

Euphemism

Cemetery is a euphemism for graveyard.

Magic-user is a euphemism for Wizard.

The Trick of the Trap

I've played a fair bit (thirty or so sessions each) of modern games (D&D 4e, Pathfinder, 3.0). I find the games enjoyable for first or second level play and quickly discover that I become frustrated as the complexity of 'there's a rule for everything' comes to the forefront.

I prefer to play the game I'm playing. For me to enjoy the game, there has to be something at stake. I reject out of hand, suggestions that I should just "make something up on the spot" in these games because their rules or the systems in their rules are too complicated to remember - after all, I am choosing to play these games because they have these systems and rules. And I want to follow them fairly and consistently so that a thing can be at stake.When this is done well, it makes the DM very much like an engaging computer game.

After gaining some degree of mastery in the systems, I just found some of the complexities unparseable. Perception? I understand the complex debate of there being a mechanism for determining resolution (e.g.: Find / Remove Traps as a thief). With perception I don't even really have to be at the table. In fact, what I do is irrelevant, unless you consider 'where I spend my points on leveling' to be the whole of gameplay. Just roll my numbers, and let me know what happens. That is not the type of gameplay I'm looking for in a tabletop session.

There are many examples, but I choose to mention perception because I'm looking at old school tricks and traps to fill rooms for my players. And while reading them over I found some things that shocked me, and perhaps provided a little insight into the way our hobby developed.

From  'Kavanagh'

One trap I like using is a secret door, which is rather obvious. The party triggers the door, and the area is filled with magical darkness. If they move close to the wall, they will all fall into a slide. However, this slide is very tight, and they can only go in single order.
Once in the room, they can see a large monster, or if the DM is rather nasty, a trap may have been rigged in the slide, blowing it up if they try to get out. Or a large nasty monster comes sliding down the slide after them (Giant slug, Metalmaster, etc.)
The only way to get out is via the slide but it cannot be climbed. Magic will not work. The only way to escape is to dig handholds or something with a weapon or something.
Here is an example of an old school trick from an on-line resource, created by an actual DM before the creation of these modern systems.

I'm sitting at the table minding my own business while the party thief is checking for traps and everything goes dark. If I move towards a wall I fall into a slide. At this point I'd be wary but still on board - I'm likely on this slide because it's where he wants us to be. Oh, we all have to go down one at a time? Ok, still on board. All right a monster, we fight it, and presumably win.

Now we're trapped in this room. Oh, this slide we came down can't be climbed. Oh, we can't use magic to escape. Why? Because you said so? I have to figure out that you want me to dig handholds?

This trap basically consists of "I remove player agency to put you in a box where you have to think of this one thing to get out."

Old school play is a negotiation, built on trust and fairness. The DM doesn't place things the party is unable to deal with in their way. I'll assume that you're coherent enough to understand that this doesn't mean that there aren't monsters that can't be killed by the party, or traps that are deadly, just that if there are the players have the opportunity to avoid them. The old school gestalt isn't based around poor communication, unclear and unrelated consequences, and lies. I have never had a player death that did not result from a player choice. I've not run a game where players sit "stuck" (as if they couldn't just go somewhere else!?) because they can't figure something out, punishing them because they couldn't pluck something from my mind - I have no 'story' I want to tell, just an environment, forces, powerful personalities, factions, all with their own plans that do things. The players are free to do and figure out what they wish.

An old school DM is permissive. An old school DM is fair in his dealings with people. An old school DM communicates clearly. An old school DM allows natural and logical consequences to follow from player actions, not applied ones. An old school DM allows people to make their own choices.

You know who else this describes?

An Adult.

Long ago, when we were kids, someone who was a kid, running a game, did something unfair because he was a kid. Now, thirty years later, everyone is seeking to make smaller and more rigid boxes to insure something like that never happens again.

Well, it will happen again, over and over, in the next generation. More rules and laws won't prevent it. Perhaps instead of trying to legalize the risk out gaming, people should take responsibility to be adults with each other.

This is a role-playing blog, right?

Session Ten

Unexpected death,
so hot, stupid summer heat.
Fish people no help.

I don't have much to report tonight. The group is now six members strong, though one is currently unable to attend. It's a great group for this type of game. I worry that some things are taking too long (one of my players has six attack rolls), though overall they are making good time. One of the players is from my last campaign - it's so nice to have him back. Both he and his wife (who plays) rolled up new characters, so there were two new first level PC's in the party Usui, a halfing thief, and Elimen O' Pea a drow spellcaster.

They went back to the Zunel 'dungeon' and spent the evening clearing out most of the first level. They had about seven combats, were very lucky with their wandering monsters checks (especially since someone in the party has too much honor, which causes encounters on a 2 or a 1.) They avoided the staircases. There were several interesting things that occurred.

The most interesting that occurred is they entered a room with an idol which spouted Zunel at them, which no one understood. The statue became more and more intense when it repeated the phrase, its' eyes glowing more and more red. I was quite busy watching the clock, as I gave them one round of real time between each request from the idol. Where to get a Comprehend Language spell?

The party transmuter henchmen 'Nash' is described by his player as 'sorta like Stifler from the American Pie movies'. Since he's the only mage that knows comprehend languages (ha! party full of specialist mages!), he would have to go into the room and touch the idol to cast the spell, and he wasn't going to go anywhere near the statue with the glowing eyes, oh hey and is that smoke coming out of its ears?

One of the players then said "Hey, this isn't fair." during the chaos, as they were trying to figure out what to do in real time. I offhandedly replied, "You are absolutely correct, this isn't fair," which is a gross oversimplification. I have in my notebook a post I was going to write tomorrow dealing with this particular topic at length. The player playing the Nash knows his spell list - what they do and exactly what they require. Everyone was clear that there was a idol, it was speaking in a crazy language and I bet any of them would have guessed it was Zunel. I mentioned it was asking a question. I also imagine anyone would have said it would have been bad to not answer the question, and good to answer the question. I am certain anyone at the table would say I am a fair and reasonable person (when running a game, natch).

But the trap is not. I put dangerous and deadly things in the way of the players, but I never put something in their way I can't see a way they could get out of (even if that way is 'run very fast in the other direction'). I know the party had access to comprehend languages. The intensity of an encounter or situation that his happening in real time, pulls it out of the realm of 'this is an abstract numerical activity that we're going to calculate the best possible response to' into 'oh, goodness, isn't this exciting'. The thing that's important though - even though I apply the rules equally to players and monsters alike - The world is not fair.

As someone who works in a behavioral hospital with teens, I hear on a regular basis that "This isn't fair", and that's something we like to call a cognitive distortion. We have this believe that "things should be fair" or "Our parents should love us" or "bad people always get punished" but only the stupid or ignorant can't look and see that this objectively isn't the case. Life isn't fair, often bad people get away with murder both literally and figuratively. The fact that we continue to hold these beliefs in spite of repeated evidence to the contrary causes cognitive dissonance when we encounter those situations, making us unhappy. This long and somewhat off topic rant for this blog leads to this; It is important that the GM is fair and reasonable and that the rules are appilied consistently. But,

Old school dungeons and dragons isn't fair. Damage taken from a clay golem can only be healed by a 17th level cleric. A belt that detects and identifies as a 'belt of giant strength' actually changes your gender. Artifacts are cursed. You can instantly die from looking at creatures. You can die from a single lucky blow. Tricks drain your stats. You permanently lose levels without saves. You can get dumped on a lower dungeon level with no way back up. You can die a million different ways and never even know why. These things can and will happen and at times there is nothing you can do to prevent them. Life is risk. You remove all the risk from the game and you end up with TETSNBN - a party of six lizardmen with breasts like mammals who have over 100 hit points at first level and give the DM magic item 'wishlists'.  Wasting the little time you do have in a timed situation bemoaning? arguing? bargaining? for more time is a fool's errand.

The player playing Nash was engaging in some excellent role-play and did finally cast the spell after some hurried convincing, at which point they were given a riddle which they solved. The player made it clear verbally to me that he understood the situation (and in fact the spell, better than I knew it) so because it wasn't a point of confusion I stayed out of the discussion. The reward for solving the riddle was a Wish, which they used to create ethereal servants to help them build and defend the town. All in all, the most exciting encounter of the night - especially for several very bored first level characters.

I think my overall concern is that the riddles will get harder, the puzzles and traps more confusing and deadly, the monster's more henious, and the treasure more kingly as they descend. Answering a child's riddle that you need a spell to understand is the most basic of tricks.

The party also found it's first magical items. They also engaged in seven or so separate small fights, against foes, none of which presented particular difficulty. Elimen is a Drow and as such was unaware that everyone in the party couldn't see through her magical darkness. When she cast Darkness 15' Radius on the Stone Guardians (who see using a variety of magical senses and not visual sight) they were unimpeded while the party was extremely hampered. There were many modern questions about "What's the procedure for attacking in the darkness?" to which I replied "What? I don't understand? Just tell me what you're doing?" Then I was asked "Can we hit them in the dark?", an actual question about character knowledge that I can answer, to which the reply was "Oh, it's certainly possible you could hit something in the dark." I would be worked up about this particular piece of confusion if the rules weren't in the Hackmaster Player's Handbook 4th edition.

Other than that, they found some treasure, eliminated most of the monsters and acquired some more treasure, and mapped the vast majority of the first dungeon level. A good night, more for actual progress, and friendship then any exciting event, with one exception. We ended before they returned to town, but assumed that they would be heading in that direction.

Session Nine

Remove curse (sort of).
Confused gnome, violent gnome,
Fish-men, not bad guys?!

Tonight's session was marked by an oppressive temperature. My players were good sports about it, but no longer will we play at my house if the forecast calls for temperatures that high. It made a session filled with some frustration less fun for them I imagine. There was a bit of bad luck involved also.

They started in the dungeon where we had left last week. They went down a hall, and Grigori opened a door. He was fairly explicit about not checking for traps, and indeed there was a trap on the door.

A Power Word, Kill.
 So I got my first skull of the new game. They killed the lone bastard porcupine in the room behind the door. Rather quickly after his unfortunate demise, they returned to the city and began interviewing for the new thief position. There was an entertaining moment when they took the maps from Grigori's body and tried to figure out which map was the correct one, since he had nearly half a dozen unlabeled maps.

Grigori was surprised not to find himself in limbo, but instead of Gehenna. Several evil acts had caused him upon his death audit to drift towards neutral evil, so he was being eternally tortured. The party tried several times to raise Grigori, the first by asking Klax. When the Eye of Klax appeared and asked him to serve him eternally in return for raising him he refused. Then the party scraped together the 3000 gold required in order to have Jerik the depressed cleric raise him from the dead. So an avatar of Moradin approached Grigori and had a small disscussion with him. Again Grigori refused to be raised, figuring in his gypsy way that it would only be a matter of time till he bartered himself out of this situation.

They took several 0-level characters after about an hour of talking to different hirelings, back into the dungeon. A serious half-orc named Morda Ibers, A sincere gnomeling named Guenevere Greevs, and a languid elf named Athunto The Green who has a tendency to refer to himself in the third person. The player of Grigori began preparing his next PC, a cleric/psionicist Gnome using our new old-school psionics suppliment. (Which is completely finished excepting the art, which we're adding. It should be out in a week or two.)

They returned to the dungeon and began to head in a different direction. Not five minutes later, they tripped another trap causing dozens of scythe blades to swing out of the ceiling, killing Morda Ibers, and critically wounding Zeltara in the abdomen. Zeltara suffered a cut Duodenum, "pains in his gut", and falling off his dragon, dropping all his weapons. The medic rushed to his aid, feeding him an extra-healing potion. This managed to keep from from dying due to the ruptured Duodenum (in 8 more rounds). But he still felt cramping and soreness inside. Morda's corpse was pinned to the wall, impaled by the scythe.

They moved on, wary and saddened by their terrible losses. This place is truly not as deadly as it appears. They are hampered by the lack of a real thief, and cleric, and a substantial bit of bad luck. There are many hundreds of thousands of GP and treasure in the first several levels of this place, and only one or two combat or trap encounters more difficult then the average party level. Granted, some is in the form of very heavy furniture and copper, but not most. :-) It is a combination of both bad luck and going where all the dangerous things are that seemed to make this place so deathtrapish.

There are a great many things my players are doing well. Kyra has taken up the mantle left by Spiritspyre and without fail seems to be gutting everything she runs across (and with good success tonight, finding two gems in the stomachs of those bastard porcupines, and learning that when you gut Wild Dire Rot Dogs, you find lots of worms and maggots living in their flesh.). Zeltara is role-playing his character to a tee while totally maintaining his effectiveness as the party beater. It's very fun to sit at a table and play with all my players.

They traveled past the trap and heard dogs to the south. One quick breath from Null, Zeltara's Drake, later and most of the dogs were dead. One made his morale roll and charged the party, right into Kyra's Polearm, which she had set against a charge. There were a couple of doors in the southern chamber, and while searching the doors and room for traps a random encounter was rolled and they encountered more "fish people". They talked with them for a minute, noticed they had a gnome with them in a bag. Aroldo asked what they were going to do with him, and the response was something like "Gulggluggulg well-bb we're probbbabbbly gulggulg gonna kill him or something." At which point the plan was surprise attack! Zeltara had Null use his Paralyzing breath and a round later they failed their morale rolls and the last two surviving surrendered.

In the following discussion, I could not manage to convince them to follow the "fish people" back to their home city, they got a bit of information (the come from the caverns to the north, watch out for the bears that live in those caverns) but despite the offers of a 'party' and 'come back and drink wine with us' the party refused, allowing them to go on their way as long as they promised never to come back. ("Yeah, blublublublub, surrrre thing, we promise that gluglug!") They rescued the gnome who was the new character.

They headed back and found two large (5' long) Toads with bright yellow and black markings. They just sort of sat there staring. Wisely they bypassed the toads. They also managed to not fall down the trap that dropped them to a lower dungeon level, which was nice. They found an ancient dining room with four skeletons of the strange Zunel, tall eldrich creatures with four eyes, along with a bit of silverware. Disturbing the skeletons caused them to crumble to dust, disintegrating before their eyes, except for one which had survived the centuries better than the rest. They grabbed everything in the room and decided to head back into town.

Not really erotic. . .

I'm just going to leave this here.

http://www.somethingawful.com/d/dungeons-and-dragons/fantasy-art-2010.php

Session Eight

Running around town,
random travel leads nowhere.
Good crit! Back to town.

This weeks session was both the best and worst of times. One of our players can now only play intermittently, and he's the one I've gamed with longest. There's a thread of continuity in life, and when I look up at the table and see four players that are completely different people then the three I started with back in 2008, it unnerves me a little. I know people who used to game, and when I look at their lives (too busy, no group, etc.) free of gaming, I hesitate - grace and chance go before me. Role-playing is fundamentally a relationship activity. And like any relationship activity, it's difficult to coordinate - even if you can find a partner. So when there's a group, and it's not beset by problems (it meets regularly, the players are mature, everyone is having fun), it's a special thing. Don't think I don't know the value of that.

On the other hand, I don't know how it was for the players, but the Sunday's session ranks as one of my favorite sessions to date. It was a lot of fun for a variety of emergent reasons. Things were disjointed, and a bit chaotic at first, but that was to be expected. The party (amazingly) has survived, and is starting to reach that middle power level, where they can journey away from town without needing to return every few minutes. I have a few NPC's that I enjoy playing. The following isn't chronological, but it hits the high points of the evening.

Kyra got to train for second level. She had no one to train her, but it turned out one of her masters followed her in disguise. His name was not given (nor asked for) but he is TERRIBLY MYSTERIOUS. Their short interaction was characterized by him giving her bits of wisdom such as "To train your experience, you must experience training!"

Once they had gone out, she took a pretty serious critical to her hand, doing enough damage to disable it (almost enough to totally remove the limb) and causing internal bleeding, as well as the disease caused by those wild dire rot dawgs.In order to heal the damage, she converted to the worship of Klax, apparently in name only, as she reversed the little beetle cloak when she left town.

Grigori went ahead and used the corrupted spirit of the raised snake-man in an attempt to subvert the curse of the snake-man. While this was happening, I had the interesting experience of looking up the spell and discovering that to cure sorts of lycanthropy, the cleric caster must be 12th level. That not being the case, and the fact that the snake-man bite is a special sort of curse, I hand-waived this away. Since the corpse was not fresh, and he was using strange tinctures and potions in order to delay the curse far past the point it would have taken over his soul - the cure technically worked, although it left certain residual effects that remain to be discovered.

Aroldo went and had another conversation with Jayla the Black, the cautious gnome to both retrieve some antiseptic as well as identify some herbs. She only communicates with the party though a slot in her little metal door two feet off the ground. It's fun to role-play her high pitched voice, paranoia, and sardonic wit. There's always lots of laughter whenever someone chooses to talk to her. Aroldo offhandedly mentioned that they were no longer in the country of Albion, that they were in some strange continent to the west. She was incredulous at the very thought, leading the party to wonder if she ever leaves her little metal hut, and indeed if it had been transported here in toto without her knowledge.

Arolodo's player had rolled up another character as a henchmen. To offset the difficulty of dying and having to start from scratch, we allow henchmen to be around and to gain levels, so they can be taken over in case of death, to avoid the player having to start from level one. However, he took several flaws, perhaps too many. There is a Quirk & Flaw system in Hackmaster. At a certain point, the flaws become compounded, and tend to get away from you. Taking two is usually pretty safe - I'd never take more than four. One of my players routinely takes five. In general, taking that many flaws is almost always a trap. Especially if the player is doing it to offset low stats.


I don't know if my players have noticed, but stats are primarily irrelevant. It in fact explicitly calls this out in the GMG. "Most player characters put too much importance on their Ability Scores. . . if you want to reward someone, increase one of his abilities. They will think this is a much bigger gift then it really is." This, of course, plays out at the table. No one is denying that strength for a fighter can increase their efficacy, but when looking at the options of how you create your character, a package or an appropriate background, or any character in the game with money, can far outstrip an additional point or two of damage per hit (or hitpoint or three per level).


Regardless, his henchmen has enmity towards halflings. This flaw means that when he thinks he meets halflings, he must attack them and attempt to kill them. So, without even realizing it, one of the groups that came over on the boat was a group of halfling slingers. Of course on the journey he attempted to kill them, and was overborn by the mercenaries on board. So he is sitting in jail sentenced to death for seven counts of attempted murder and a bevy of lesser charges. I don't exactly know how this situation will resolve itself - the player had an idea of 'sending him back home on the next ship' because it would be cruel to let him die. He was also pretty explicit about not wanting to break him out of jail. (Of course, when they actually talked to him, I could see why they didn't actually want to take responsibility for him, what with his plan of murdering everyone who was a halfling-loving freak.)

They went west, and discovered two giant (200') Zunel statues made of strange green translucent stone. They stood facing each other on this desolate plain, their owners having abandoned them uncounted years before. Between the two mighty forms was a buried building, the top of its dome still visible. They descended and began to explore. The floor was covered in a mural visualizing the theory of portrals and travel though dimensional folds using portals. The walls were made of strange dark grey translucent bricks, a dimly glowing rune encased within the center of each one. Each door contained a strange carving.on it's opaque glass like surface.

They did several interesting things once they descended. Within moments of walking around they found a staircase which they immediately descended. This was extremely unusual for the group, normally they are very. . . through. They had an altercation with the aforementioned wild dire rot dawgs. This was even more strange. The dogs were at the bottom of the stairs, so they greased the stairway. The dogs, having an intelligence of low, know well enough to only attack prey once it's off the staircase. So the party came up with the plan of tying a rope around Aroldo's waist and shoving him down the greased stairs so that they can shoot the dogs that rush foward to maul him.

Aroldo is the party mage for those of you just tuning in.

Unsurprisingly he was bitten, though they did manage to kill several dawgs before yanking him back up the stairs. They then sent down the fighty folk, and made somewhat quick work of the remaining dogs.

They explored a little to the west and ran into several 'fish men' (I'm obfuscating the real name). This was the first time they'd encountered an intelligent enemy and I was so pleased with finally getting the chance to parley. I got a glass of water and used it to help my fish voice. Grigori talked to O'laoiob, Ckhhskol, Mrbblblrbl, and Frank, discovering that they 'came up from below' and were 'hanging out here, drinking this wine' and that their general plan was 'to murder all surface dwellers and take back the land into the sea, but you seem like a great guy, why don't you come drinking with us?' The decision was quickly made to murder O'laoib and his friends which was done without much difficulty. It was sad to see them go, but thankfully, there are millions more where they came from. Also, it provides an interesting prospective of evil creatures in a universe where objective good and evil exist. Being so low level, they don't yet radiate objective evil, and their races plan is certainly malign, but these four guys, were just in the wrong place in the wrong time. This encounter was tremendous fun to play, as well as the voice.

It was decided to call an end to the night there.

The Uncounted Dead

Ran across an article by one 'Lyle Fitzgerald' noting the causes of death over his 4 year campaign. It contains a fair degree of accuracy, because of the over 600 deaths that it logs.

600!

Now that's a number to reach for. That's a death every 2.4 days. I've been playing in old school campaigns for just over a year and only have 17 to my credit. Sadly, I have not been counting henchmen, which Mr. Fitzgerald seems to do, so my total is a little higher than 17 using his accounting system. Someday if I ever hit 100, I will certainly provide a similar statistical analysis. Here is his list of deaths.

"Goblin races (61) 10.1%
Dragons (45) 7.5%
Giants (34) 5.7%
General Combat (26) 4.3%
Lycanthropes (24) 4.0%
Execution/ torture, sacrifice (23) 3.8%
Undead (21) 3.5%
Bandits/ pirates/etc. (20) 3.3%
Giant insects (20) 3.3%
Assasination/ treachery (18) 3.0%
Giant rocs (18) 3.0%
Fireballs/ lightning (17) 2.8%
Trolls (16) 2.7%
Turned to stone (14) 2.3%
Guards, military patrols (13) 2.2%
Evil high priests (13) 2.2%
Man-eating vegetation (13) 2.2%
Related dragon species (13) 2.2%
Cursed items/ booby traps (12) 2.0%
Giant animals (12) 2.0%
Falls (12) 2.0%
Gnolls (11) 1.8%
Gargoyles (9) 1.4%
Hell Hounds (8) 1.3%
Demons (8) 1.3%
Elementals (8) 1.3%
Griffins (8) 1.3%
Kindred races (elves/dwarves)(6) 1.0%
Misc. spells (6) 1.O%
War (6) 1.0%
Misc. causes (85) 14.6%
"

He notes that nearly 1 in 4 deaths results from the hand of man. He also notes 4 main factors that cause deaths from encounters are the power of the creature, the number of creatures, the willingness of the creature to attack, and the frequency of encounter. The main thing notable here is that the player approach has the most to do with the willingness of the creature to attack. In the end, I've found, players are most responsible for their deaths.

He also notes that the worst thing that can happen is to become surprised, even by relatively weak creatures. With this I agree. If you read my session logs, you can see that I might have killed 3 or 4 players earlier if their rolls hadn't been good when they were surprised by the Wyvern.

Blasted 5' Square

There's no game this week. If you're running a long term campaign, I've found it's good to take every fifth or sixth week off, to help increase the longevity.

It's given me some time to maybe create some more wandering monster tables. I'm particularly interested in compiling a list of monsters that could conceivable found in a chamber sealed for thousands of years, that isn't an undead, golem, or elemental. I actually am making some headway with that, so perhaps another post later.

What I'd like to talk about today is the issue and difficulty of dealing with tabletop distances. Gygax said it best when in June of 1978 he wrote, "The differences between the indoor ground scale, 1” = 10 feet, and the outdoor measure of distance, 1" = 10 yards causes considerable confusion and misunderstanding amongst DMs and players alike."

When playing an old school game with miniatures (which are on the 28mm to 6' scale primary) it's difficult to know how exactly you should handle the different distances on the table. We don't always use the miniatures for combats: but we have a lot of them, I paint them, it's fun to play with toys, so they get used a lot. Everyone likes a little representative or image of their ambassadorial place within the game world.

Unlike more modern editions, there is no 'a person using a weapon takes up a 1"x1" square, 1" being representative of 5'.' There's the 1" is 10 yards outside, 1" is 10 feet indoors, and 1" is 6' of figure height, and each weapon takes up a variable amount of space, depending on the weapon.

The major issue (which we have, actually) is that when 1" is equivalent to 5' then "a stout English longbow would have a range of about 105"!" Character movement is given a between 1" and 15" a round, where those inches are assumed to be 10' squares, meaning if we use a 5' scale, people are actually moving between 2" and 30" a round (that's nearly three feet for those of you keeping track at home).

Now when it's not 1 million degrees we have access to a larger table (6x8' perhaps? it's large) but encounters still start between 10' and 100' away. Meaning that it nearly always takes 1 round for the players to clear the area between the party and the target. There just isn't enough distance to make 'time to close' a factor in most encounters (which is not entirely without sense.)

How did this situation arise? Gygax tells us, "All of the fantastic people and monsters were discussed in terms of CHAINMAIL. Spell ranges and areas of effect were scaled to CHAINMAIL. Saving throws were devised to match the combat abilities of creatures, which were in turn meshed with the troop types normally included in CHAINMAIL. As D&D grew from CHAINMAIL, it too used the same scale assumptions as its basis. Changes had to be made, however, in order to meet the 1:1 figure ratio and the underground setting. Movement was adjusted to a period ten times longer than a CHAINMAIL turn of 1 minute, as exploring and mapping in an underground dungeon is slow work. Combat, however, stayed at the CHAINMAIL norm and was renamed a melee round or simply round. As the object of the game was to provide a continuing campaign where players created and developed game personae, the chance for death (of either character or monster) was reduced from that in CHAINMAIL, so that players could withdraw their characters from unfavorable combat situations. Missile ranges were reduced by one third (from scale yards to scale feet because of the confined area of play and the conditions prevailing, viz. low ceilings, darkness, narrow passages, etc.) The range and area of effect of each magic spell was adjusted accordingly, for the 1:1 ratio had to be considered, as did the conditions of the area of activity and the ranges of normal missile weapons. (Remember that D&D was developed as a game, and allowances for balance between character roles and character versus monster confrontations were made.) "

So it seems the crux of our problem stems from the growth of Dungeons & Dragons out of a tabletop wargame. Why the changes were made is information given above, but little information on how to address this issues follows.

"It would have been a small matter to explain to everyone that the outdoor scale must be used for range only, never for area of effect, unless a figure ratio of 1:20, or 1:10, is used, and constructions (siege equipment,buildings, castles, etc.) are scaled to figures rather than to ground scale! If ground scale is changed, movement distances must be adjusted. If time scales are changed, both movement and missile fire/spell casting must be altered. Furthermore, if 30 mm or 25 mm figures and scale buildings and terrain are not used, then the area of effect must be adjusted proportionately. I ask your collective pardon for this neglect, and I trust that the foregoing will now make the matter clear. "

So what is the advice here? Outdoor scale is only used for range and distance, never for the determination of area of affect, unless the figure ratio is altered to actually match the ground scale. This is fairly clear to me - if a spell has an area of effect of 20', it doesn't suddenly turn into yards outdoors. The range increases however because there is no ceiling, and the lighting is better.

If you change the ground scale, you must 'adjust the movement distances'. Sadly, from where I'm sitting in 2010, I cannot be sure if he meant adjust the movement distances so that the same amount of ground is covered, or reduce the movement allowance so that the same amount of table distance is covered. (i.e. if a figure has a movement of 12" where 1" = 10' and you change the scale so that 1" = 5', does that figure now move 24" (the same distance) or still 12"?)

If time scales are changed is fairly self explanatory.  You can't move the same distance in less time.

If scale miniatures are not used, the AOE must be adjusted proportionately.  I am not entirely sure what he is saying here. I guess my issue is that I'm not sure what AOE is being adjusted in proportion to.

He basically advises not changing one thing without making adjustments to maintain scale. Right now in my game, even though we're using 1" = 5' and treating all the values in the books as absolute ones, (i.e. grease affects a 10'x10' area, movement is 120' a round) and converting them to this scale; it appears Gygax here is counseling the exact opposite. (Grease should only affect 1 square, not 4, and movement should only be 12", not 24"). Perhaps. He is quite skilled at explaining something in such a way that if you don't have knowledge of the basic assumptions he's using, it can leave you quite lost. I have to wonder if 'I trust the foregoing will now make the matter more clear' is just an awesome way of screwing with us.

I have no question of how to handle this in my own game (Make a ruling and stick to it), but I am curious about the original intent.

Treasure

So I've finished my treasure document.
Treasure Generation

This document will allow you to determine treasure amounts by either the average party level, or the average danger of the monsters, and then place treasure of art, goods, furniture, jewelery, coins, or magic items. It will also assist you in determining where treasure is located, as well as helping you describe all of the above objects, including quantity (based off the gold piece value) and weight. It is 100% system neutral, designed for old-school games, but it would work equally as well in a d20 game.

The important thing to note is that it is not a specific list of items (*clatter* *clatter* 89 *tablelookup* "You find a gold comb with rubies") but instead a listing of all possible items in each category you might find, along with hundreds of ways that item might be altered to be more or less valuable. It is really a system to creating interesting valuable treasure, instead of just a list of interesting treasure.

It does this in a way that randomly generating treasure using these tables you run no risk of unbalancing your game (as you might on some magic item generation tables).

Edit: I have, upon feedback, added values that let you generate treasure per the original treasure types in addition to the other methods given. Ignoring that value when rolling for gems and magic items, should produce results near average to the original tables (with the added advantage of having furniture and goods available as treasure results).

Please let me know what you think.

On the Longevity of Play

Knowing the current OSR Blogosphere, I couldn't resist one more quote.

"Whether from a nostaliga standpoint, from a desire to collect anything pertaining to D&D, or because of the content which will be excluded from the concept of the new game, we at TSR are certain that Original D&D will always be in demand." - Gary Gygax (May 1978) Dragon Magazine

On Planes and Swords

We all know the original default structure of the planes. Each an infinite realm laid on top of one another. The inner planes (positive/negative/fire/earth/air/water) are the building blocks of the prime material. Upon the prime material sits the a shadowy ethereal plane, the conduit to the inner planes, and the astral plane which warps distances and provides access to the outer planes - realms of reward and damnation. (or any specific configuration of the above as you desire).

What does this have to do with swords?

"Assume further that creatures which can be harmed only by weapons of a special metal (silver, cold iron, etc.) gain this relative invulnerability from having a portion of their existence in either the positive or negative material plane at the same time they exist partially in the prime. Therefore, those creatures which can be struck only with + 1 or greater magical weapons exist wholly and simultaneously in two planes (one of which is, of course, the Prime Material). So creatures which require attack of a + 2 or better magic weapon then exist in three planes simultaneously, and so on. This brings us to the consideration of the existence of magical weapons in other planes and in multiple planes simultaneously. If it is accepted that the reason that certain creatures can only be hit by magical weaponry is because the creature exists in two or more planes simultaneously, then it follows that the weapon must likewise extend into the planes in which the creature exists. At the very least it must be that the weapon extends into no less than two of the planes in which the creature exists, and these planes are those in which the creature has vulnerable aspects. This makes for a very complex relationship of planes to planes/swords and other magical weapons to planes. [ed. I'll say!]
A special sword functioning with bonuses against certain creatures, or a special purpose sword, will have existence on only certain planes with regard to its special bonus, or due to its special purpose, but as most weapons of this type also have a general + 1 or better value, they also extend into all planes — or do they?" - Gary Gygax, Dragon Magazine July 1977

So here we have codified the thoughts behind +x or greater magic weapon. This doesn't address the actual game intent of monsters that cannot be harmed by magical weapons, but it does provide a chohate reasoning for why certain creatures are only affected by magic weapons.

The value in this is the insight provided as to the reason to map out the planes. This is done so the Dungeon Master can track which weapons exist in which planes so he can determine which monsters are affected by them. (Also justifying the popular 'magic sword +1, +X versus Y).

This is the gestalt of the old school style. A complex logical reasoning, independent to each game that explains how things work. The actual way that they work is mildly irrelevant, just so long as internal consistency is maintained.

And the purpose of creatures that can only be hit by magical weapons? Twofold.

First is the ability of the referee to create an environment that may not be open to the player characters. The inability of players to at one time go everywhere and do everything is a key component of the style - it is important to have pockets of areas where players can't go. (I'm doing this currently in my weekly game. I'm surprised one of the players isn't keeping a list of places they can't enter.) This is especially important in a mega-dungeon, because it allows you to place shortcuts to lower levels guarded by beasts that lower level characters can't harm. ("You must be this tall to ride".)

Second, it forces the players, in a quite sudden and shocking way, out of the drudgery of "I hit it with my axe". These monsters may not be affected by weapons, but they may suffocate, be trapped, overborne, or have their actions and lives curtailed in a variety of other entertaining methods too creative to list them all here. In short, it forces creativity.

Contrast with TETSNBN model of Damage Reduction working as air brakes. (This was a less of an issue of 3.0, where the values were high enough that no one was breaking through without the appropriate weapon.)

Just a short note, that both the treasure and psionic supplement are done. They are in layout and will be up soon.
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