On The Magic Armor: A Table Part I

Type of Armor
1-8 Suit
9-0 Individual Armor Piece

1         Furs (Table A: Fur Type)
2         Padded Armor (1-3 Cotton, 4 Feathers)
3-4      Leather (Table B: Leather Type)
5         Studded Leather (Table B: Leather Type)
6         Ring Mail (Table C: Metal Type)
7         Hide (Table B: Leather Type
8         Scale (Table D: Scale Type)
9         Brigandine (Table C: Metal Type)
10-12  Chain (Table C: Metal Type)
13       Banded or Splint (Table C: Metal Type)
14-15  Breast Plate (Table C: Metal Type)
16-18  Plate Mail (Table C: Metal Type)
19       Field Plate (Table C: Metal Type)
20       Full Plate (Table C: Metal Type)

Individual Armor Pieces
Roll below on the appropriate type of material table (Tables A-D), If you don't use separate armor pieces, roll d100 and divide by 2.
1-10  Shield, Buckler
11-20 Shield, Small
21-40 Shield, Medium
41-50 Shield, Body
51      Cap, Padded
52-53 Cap, Leather
54-56 Cap, Plate
57       Coif, Leather
58-60 Coif, Chain
61      Gorget, Leather
62      Gorget, Plate
63-68 Helmet, Bascinet (w/Aventail)
69-70 Helmet, Closed (w/Aventail)
71-72 Helmet, Great (w/Aventail)
73      Gloves, Cloth
74-76 Gloves, Leather
77      Gauntlets, Leather
78      Mittens, Chain
79      Gauntlets, Chain
80      Gauntlets, Plate
81      Cannons, Leather
82      Cannons, Plate
83      Vambraces, Plate
84      Shoes
85      Sandals
86-87 Boots, Soft
88-89 Boots, Hardshod
90-92 Boots, High
93      Sabatons, Chain
94      Sabatons, Plate
95      Cuisses, Leather
96      Cuisses, Splint
97      Cuisses, Plate
98      Greaves, Leather
99-00 Greaves, Plate
Table A: Fur TypeTable B: Leather Type
1-20    Bear
21-23  Cat, Bobcat
24-26  Cat, Cheeta
27-29  Cat, Cougar
30-32  Cat, Jaguar
33-35  Cat, Leopard
36-40  Cat, Lion
41-42  Cat, Lynx
43-45  Cat, Puma
46-52  Cat, Tiger
53-54  Cat, Snow Leopard
55-60  Dog
61-75  Wolf
76       Wolf, Winter
77-81  Fox
82       Varmit, Chinchilla
83       Varmit, Ermine
84       Varmit, Martin
85       Varmit, Mermot
86       Varmit, Mink
87       Varmit, Muskrat
88       Varmit, Ocelot
89       Varmit, Beaver
90-92  Varmit, Wolverine
93       Game Animal, Giraffe
94       Game Animal, Musk Ox
95       Game Animal, Seal
96       Game Animal, Zebra
97-98  Special, Auromavorax
99       Special, Devil Dogs
00       Special, Yeti
1-40 Cow
41-45 Bison
46-50 Ox
51-55 Deer
56-58 Dog
59-68 Snake
69-79 Crocodile
80-90 Lizard
91-94 Dinosaur
95 Hippo
96 Otyugh/Neo-Otyugh
97 Kirin
98 Gorgon
99 Displacer Beast
00 Blink Dog

Table C: Metal TableTable D: Scale Table
1-11 Steel
12-13 Iron
14 Bronze
15 Gold
16 Electrum
17 Silver
18 Titanium
19 Platinum
20 Special (Roll again below)

1-2 Bone
3 Coral
4-6 Mithral
7-8 Adamantine
9-11 Cold iron
12-13 Star metal
14 Orichalcum
15 Elemental Fire
16 Elemental Water
17 Elemental Earth
18 Elemental Air
19 Elemental Life (Wood/Plants)
20 Force (Roll for Color)
1-11 Roll on Table C: Metal Table
12-15 Dragon
16 Ankheg
17 Behir
18 Beetle
19 Bulette
20 Naga

Part II is here.

On the Magic Armor: A Table Part II

Part I is here.
Magical Weirdness and qualities. Roll 1d20, on a 12 or higher, roll on the table below:

1-10)   Aura (roll color)
11-20) Always spotless
21-25) Chimerical (appears as normal clothing when worn)
26-30) Light (weighs half normal)
31-35) Weightless (has no weight at all)
36-40) Comfortable (does not feel like wearing armor)
41-45) Brilliant design (easy to get in and out of armor)
46-48) Armor has a scent (roll scent)
49-50) Armor makes a noise (roll noise)
51-52) Armor appears greasy or slick
53-60) Armor is crafted in the form of an animal head (roll animal)
61-63) Armor is crafted with many protrusions (roll protrusion)
64)      Armor is cool to the touch
65)      Armor is warm to the touch
66)      Armor is heavy and bulky
67-68) Armor is translucent
69-75) Armor is an unusual color (roll color)
76-77) Armor is surrounded by substance (roll substance)
78-79) Armor exudes substance (roll substance)
80)      Armor only provides partial coverage (grill, cage, etc.)
81-90) Armor is engraved with symbols (roll symbols)
91)      Armor is stylish
92)      Armor is fluid looking/malleable
93)      Armor appears as if it is constantly moving
94-96) Armor is highly reflective
97)      Armor appears blurred
98)      Armor contains liquid
99)      Roll two times
00)      Roll three times

  1. White
  2. Gold
  3. Silver
  4. Black
  5. Green
  6. Red
  7. Purple
  8. Rose
  1. Lion
  2. Wolf
  3. Snake
  4. Bird
  5. Cat
  6. Dog
  7. Fox
  8. Dragon/Other mythical beast
Substance Noise
  1. Motes
  2. Dust
  3. Wind
  4. Steam
  5. Smoke
  6. Leaves
  1. Squeek
  2. Thunder
  3. Rustling
  4. Tone
  5. Hum
  6. Grinding
  1. Religious Symbols
  2. Runes
  3. Skulls
  4. Plants
  1. Spikes
  2. Blades
  3. Teeth
  4. Saws
  1. Musky- perfumes/aftershave
  2. Putrid- rotten eggs
  3. Pungent- vinegar
  4. Camphoraceous- mothballs
  5. Ethereal- dry cleaning fluid
  6. Floral- roses
  7. Pepperminty- mint gum

Of course you may roll on all, some or none of these tables and just pick. Randomizes have been provided to complete generate a random weapon or just get an idea and use it as a creative tool.

On a Spiderweb

"This was back in the good old days when you could play D&D and relax and unwind and keep up with what was going on without a computer, four whiteboards, and a specially trained idiot savant." - Jeff Vogel
Spiderweb Software

Makes good games, sandboxy even.

On Magic Weapon: A Table part III

I don't always give my magic swords a purpose, but when I do, I use the table below.

  1. Defeat diametrically opposed alignment*
  2. Defeat Good*
  3. Defeat Evil*
  4. Defeat Law*
  5. Defeat Chaos*
  6. Defeat Neutrality*
  7. Slay Clerics
  8. Slay Druids
  9. Slay Shamans
  10. Slay Paladins
  11. Slay Monks
  12. Slay Fighters
  13. Slay Rangers
  14. Slay Barbarians
  15. Slay all warriors
  16. Slay Wizards
  17. Slay Magic Wielders
  18. Slay Thieves
  19. Slay Bards
  20. Slay all Rogues
  21. Slay Devas (movanic, monadic and astral)
  22. Slay Planetars
  23. Slay Solars
  24. Slay Devils
  25. Slay Demons
  26. Slay Daemons
  27. Slay all Celestial Beings
  28. Slay all Demonic Beings
  29. Slay Neutral Outsiders
  30. Slay all Ousiders
  31. Slay Dragons
  32. Slay Avians
  33. Slay Reptiles
  34. Slay Amphibians
  35. Slay Fae
  36. Slay Giants
  37. Slay Non-humanoid Monsters
  38. Slay Humans
  39. Slay Elves
  40. Slay Dwarves
  41. Slay Gnomes ("I call upon the power of 4e!")
  42. Slay Goblins
  43. Slay Orcs
  44. Slay Gnolls
  45. Slay Hobgoblins
  46. Slay Vermin
  47. Slay Undead
  48. Slay Golems
  49. Slay Monster*** 
  50. Slay Demi-human**
  51. Slay Humanoid**
  52. Slay Insectoid Monsters
  53. Slay all Aquatic Creatures
  54. Slay all Flying Creatures
  55. Slay Magic using Monsters
  56. Slay Monstrous Plants
  57. Slay Psionic Creatures
  58. Slay Intelligent Undead
  59. Slay Bizarre Monsters (Aberrations)
  60. Slay Constructs
  61. Slay Subterranean Monsters
  62. Slay Subterranean Humanoids
  63. Slay Shapchangers
  64. Slay Swarms
  65. Slay Elementals (Any creature with an elemental link)
  66. Acquire Gold
  67. Win Duels
  68. Slay for Profit
  69. Destroy Spellbooks
  70. Conquer Kingdoms
  71. Enforce Justice
  72. Seek Knowledge (of a certain type, DM selects)
  73. Defend Group (of a certain type, DM selects)
  74. Slay Friends
  75. Control/Influence Men (roll again for reason)
  76. Oppress/Imprison Humanoids/Demi-Humans (specific type)
  77. Garner Fame
  78. Cause/Seek War
  79. Destroy Specific Culture/People
  80. Seek Honor ****
  81. Seek Truth (Cannot Lie)****
  82. Avoid Honesty (Cannot Tell the Truth)****
  83. Destroy Religion
  84. Seek Travel 
  85. Defend Location (DM Selects - Note this could have implications for the campaign)
  86. Become King (or at the side of the King)
  87. Spread/Enforce Religion(DM Selects)
  88. Destroy Wealth
  89. Destroy Objects (Caravans, Castles, etc.)
  90. Avoid Violence 
  91. Gain Friends (Power of Heart!)
  92. Destroy Technology
  93. Experience/Gain Pleasure (vicariously)
  94. Prevent or Cause Event (DM Selects - End of World, Docking of Ships, whatever)
  95. Slay Any (DM Selects)
  96. Slay Sentient (Souldrinker)
  97. Slay All (Lifedrinker)
  98. Roll Twice
  99. Roll Three Times
  100. Roll Twice Times and +1 bonus power
* Will be able to detect type
** Pick one native to your campaign, or have them slay all demi-humans/humanoids
*** Pick a common deadly monster (Medusa, Basilisk, Giant Spider, etc.)
**** Roll again (1-50) for purpose
Note: Use the above as a guide to determine special powers.
Roll a 1-6 for an alignment based sword
Roll d100 and divide by 2 for a 'basic' magic sword type.
Roll d100 for a weird or powerful purpose
Note that alignment can influence the above purposes (an evil sword that 'acquires gold' may take it from anyone, but a good/lawful sword may take it from the rich)

Parts I and II.

On the Unharmable Monster

Today, contradictions that aren't contradictions at all.

A lot of traffic on the older posts had led to some comments. One, from LS, (who's blog is here) asks about monsters who can only be damaged by magical weapons:
"In other posts you've railed against 4e for having encounters which our completely out of reach of low level players (due to high ac/hp/whatever) yet here is an example of the same effect (players unable to kill a monster until higher levels) with a different cause (no magic weapons appropriate).

I imagine that for you there is no contradiction here. I would like to hear why, if you are so inclined." -LS
Sure. In the earlier post, I posited two gameplay advantages and reasons why immunity to natural weapons was a benefit. The first was that it enabled creatures to act as roadblocks in a megadungeon environment. The second was that it encouraged player creativity.

The reason that this is not a contradiction is a simple error in equivalence. Simply removing one tool from the players bag of tricks (using weapons to deplete hit points) is not equivalent to an unbeatable encounter.

Due to the way scaling of AC's, Hit points, Damage and other things work in 3e/4e, there is a narrow range of encounters that are appropriate for the party's level. However, in a game like 1e, a monster immune to normal weapons (i.e. a gargoyle) does not have a substantively more powerful AC, hit points, or damage values - most are very pedestrian. It simply removes one tool from the players bag of tricks.

This type of ability encourages player creativity, instead of putting up an unbreakable wall.

I am told that there is a 'skill check' system in 4e that allows players to describe their plan and turn it into a skill challenge in order to allow players to conquer unbeatable encounters. Though the skill system is less 'buildy' in 4e, I'm still not a fan of 'skill challenge' systems in general. Ignoring the basic issues with 4e skill challenges, I still much prefer to discuss the issue in general with the players, rather then relying on a set pre-selected categories or numbers. The 4e system is closer to discussion and consensus then the 'build specific' requirements of Pathfinder - however I prefer to run a game without worrying about DC's or trying to find ways to make skills relevant without invalidating build choices.

On the Breaking News: Another Shield Versus Entropy

Another old school database to stand against the onslaught of dying blogs and posts that have fallen away into the past.

Alex talks about his Monster Blog here!

Basically, like Links to Wisdom, it's an OSR repository but for monsters!

Your job, as a reader, is to take these tools and make them useful. If you come across an insightful blog post - link it to the wiki! If you stumble across a monster - link it to the wiki!

On A Little Guide

Blog has gotten pretty big. . .

My players killed an honest to science dragon tonight.

Heroism isn't like in the movies, it's a bunch of people doing what has to be done, even if they know it's a bad idea. They stood and did, as heroes.

Here's a bit of an index on my thoughts.

On why stat requirements are a good thing.

On why ThAC0 and Descending AC is superior.

On why modern game 'balance' is flawed.

On why 1st edition fighters rock, and what new school changes did to harm that.

On why race as class is pretty cool.

On why party initiative (d6) is superior to individual initiative.

On why 'can only be hit by magical weapons' is a better solution than damage reduction.

On an example of handing out experience and honor in Hackmaster. In our current 1e game, we just handle experience and the process is much faster (~10 minutes at the end of the session)

On hit points, called shots, abstraction and realism of hit points, or how I found a system I liked and am sticking to it.

On the superiority of abstract saving throws! (and a suggestion for modern games)

On why modern "realism" in D&D is retarded, and level limits, Vancian magic, saving throws, and experience for treasure are good.

On statistics and the lack of a dump stat in old school games, and why all modern wizards need stupid statistics.

On why death, raise dead, and resurrection are fine.

On why talents, skills, and level are mostly irrelevant.

On why letting wizards select spells breaks the game.

On letting go of your 'ideal' version of D&D to actually play a different game.

On why 'being in character' isn't really 'role-playing'.

On why skills like 'search' and 'perception' suck.

How to not suck while playing an old school game - a list of player guidelines and advice for being a player in an RPG (not a tactical combat simulator)

Core articles that have influenced my idea of old school play.

On having a better blog.

On why comprehensive rules suck

Older posts on player agency:
On broken traps, and rules not preventing people from being jerks.
On why fudging is cheating, and death and consequences are awesome.
On the line that should make player agency go f-*k off.
On DM best practices.

Of course, there are the resources on the right of the page.

On the Tough Fighter, and Really Scary Skeletons

If you took the hit points of the party, and added them all together, they would still have fewer hit points than my fighter.

Though it hasn't been useful as of yet.

An ignominious death lurks in my future.

Also, have the skeletons in your next encounter be doing the following, for the most frighting undead encounter in the world.

On Why the Character Build Restricted Role-Playing from the People

I like girls. Do you like girls? How about your friends? Do you like them?

@rjbs said...

Can you elaborate on the comment that "The issue of 'Character Builds' is eliminating millions of people from playing Dungeons and Dragons."?


We're going to play a game. I think this game is so cool. It's more fun then any game I've ever played.

However, before you start to play, you must make a dozen unchangeable choices, with many options that are explictly more poor then others, without knowing all the different things these choices can affect.

Or, to be more percise. The entry expereince for a first time player. i.e. what I have to take them through if I meet cool people and want them to play in my games.

Roll 3d6 6 times
Pick Class
Roll HP
Roll Gold
Purchase equipment

Distribute point buy (with no information or idea on all the various things stats can affect)
Pick Race
Pick Class
Pick Feats (from four pages of feats)
Pick Skills (from a long list)
Roll Gold
Purchase Equipment

The first has a new player rolling dice in seconds, and a complete character in about 5 minutes, and then playing, using their own life experiences and skill for success.

The second is several hours of explaining options and talking about stuff that is unengaging to the player while they look at lists and lists of stuff that has no meaning for them.

On What to Do About the Bugbear Roadblock

How did this gridlock happen?

First, I'm doing this because clearly there is another game of Dungeons and Dragons in the works - and I want to make sure that they read at least once what really would re-reinvigorate the hobby. Also: I want to clarify that although 'comprehensive robust' rules systems are part of the problem that I'm not advocating bad rules.

The WotC thinking here is as follows (and please, correct me if I'm wrong):
  • We want people to play our game and continue to play it
  • Therefore we have to provide lots of incentives and carrots with progression to keep people playing
  • So we have to design the game to limit the vast majority of actions (firing into combat, attacking additional opponents) so that we can reward the players with these abilities when they level.
  • This design by limitation causes players to believe that if they don't have something written on their sheet that they are unable to do it.
  • This leads to them trying to solve problems by looking at the sheet.
There is a lot of discussion about why the modern game feels mechanical.

These are the reasons why.
  • It is more fun to describe the room, and think of places to search, rather than rolling a search die ten times.
  • It is even less fun to just say - "We take 20"
  • Making the game scale from schmoe, to hero, to superhero, to god causes a very specific list of problems
    • The wide power range and the emphasis on power limits which opponents are appropriate
    • Magic items and magic and other things become required facets of character power and become ho hum
  • Embrace the abstractness of the game, instead of creating dissonance when trying to make things more concrete.
  • The issue of 'Character Builds' is eliminating millions of people from playing Dungeons and Dragons.
  • In a given night, playing a modern game (Pathfinder, or 4th edition) we spend on average a third of our time either looking up rules in the books (Pathfinder) or using various online utilities (4e) to decipher how things work. 
  • The moment by moment tactical combat is an entertaining minigame, but it is unsatisfying as actual role-playing, and as an always DM, I find it extremely unsatisfying to play a tactical game I'm expected to always lose.
Now I know that they are doing this to make money. In the immortal words of Elizabeth Warren, "I just want to be clear".

Taking a bunch of polls and doing a bunch of research asking people what they want, and then trying to design a game that appeals to everyone will result in a middle of the road piece of shit that no one wants to play. Setting out with per-existing 'monitization' schemes without any actual value or content will not result in a profitable enterprise. Dungeons and Dragons does not compete with my computer/video gaming time and money, and the corporate insistence that is does is what drove me away from the newest modulations of it.

If you want to make a game that will reinvigorate the hobby, if you want to make one that will be a smashing success, then do what was done for first edition or third edition, go beyond.

Make the books so interesting and powerful that even people that aren't gamers can't help but pick them up. Fill them not with pages and pages of rules, but pages and pages of ideas! Come up with simple mechanics that don't require any references to the work. 

Allow someone to be able to engage in play in under five minutes.

Give them not the carrots back that you took so to hook them, but tools to the DM's creativity so that they can't wait to discover what happens next.

Create a book that no matter which "edition of the famous fantasy role playing game that we know and love" we play, we will purchase because it will improve our game.

Oh, continue to release totally awesome and separate boardgames like Ravenloft to fill that other niche.
Instead of codifying rules for endless different situations; how about they codify abstract systems that we can apply as we wish for various things. (i.e. here are a dozen ways to resolve conflict in the game, ability checks, modifiers, percent chances)
How is the possible? Look at the creativity and output of the OSR! Dragons-foot! Blogs! Almost all of that labor is being done for free, and as the premiere fantasy gaming company with budget you can't take advantage of that? How can you not have the money for that when you've got so much available for free! Crowd-sourcing anyone?

To be clear, I'm not saying that you only use our resources, or that you try to crowdsource everything - but with the variety and quality of stuff is being produced for free, how come the stuff that gets paid for is lackluster?

Imagine a 'players handbook' that has dozens of classes, each with a hundred variations. Instead of page after page of powers, how about adventure hooks and motivations, ideas for warlocks and wizards, summoning circles, rune knights, adventuring companies, sky pirates, dragon infiltrators, dashing rogues and knights of the realm. Not 1000 classes, but few classes with a lot of ways to differentiate character. Set the limits that allow our creativity to shine.

Imagine a 'monster manual' that instead of stats, one lousy picture, and some dull flavor text, instead has multiple beautiful illustrations, legends of the beasts, differing and conflicting stories on its' capabilities, and legends and lore of the creature. A true bestiary in the classic sense! Since the game isn't about the next tactical challenge, you won't need 1000 different monsters, though as the shepherds of the greatest role playing game license in history, you could exhaustively cover every monster ever released for the game. (How will you make your money? If each book is beautiful and unique and useful with new ideas, instead of the same old stats, I bet I'd buy the whole 'set' - I know I did for Hackmaster.) What an opportunity!

Imagine a 'Dungeon Masters Guide' that took some of the best essays and advice on the web, from the Alexandrian, to Ars Ludi, to Monsters and Manuals, and gave us the tools we needed to create a sandbox, to handle low level play to high level play, to empower player agency. Make a book 1/10th as legendary as the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide and you'll sell a million copies. (The game masters guide by Paizo is a bit like this)

Please don't let me open the next book to find page after page of boring options that are necessary for me to 'build' a character that is not useless in comparison to another 'build' and that reduces all play to rolling dice.

Stop putting the burden on the DM to ignore the rules for better play, and make some rules that I don't need to ignore.

On the Problem With the Rules for the Bugbear Roadblock

There's something rotten in the rules. Modern game design is ignoring human nature.

There are too many rules in the newer editions of the game - too much focus on 'building' a character, and game play that is tedious and boring. Some of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons Third edition have addressed these issues before, and I'd like to talk about where their reasoning is suspect.

Before I delve into that, I'd like everyone to know that I greatly respect all those people involved in the creation of the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and it is very important that they know how important and valuable their contribution was. Not only were they successful at reinvigorating the genera, their decisions paved the way to a future filled with retro-clones. Without their wisdom and work we would not be here today to stand in judgment of their choices.

That said, Monte Cook addressed the question here. In his response he points out (rightly so) that there are a lot of individual rule systems and sub-systems in older editions of Dungeons and Dragons (his examples being primarily first* and second edition - not 0e).**

But Dungeons and Dragons is not that kind of game. He says this: "When Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams and I designed 3rd edition, we wanted something for the DM to be able to fall back on. We wanted to provide rules the DM had at his disposal that wouldn't be hard to adjudicate, wouldn't slow down the game (at least not too much), and wouldn't force him to say "no.""

So they created a comprehensive robust ruleset that covered 80% of possible situations, and therein lies the problem.

Comprehensive robust rule sets lead players to think that the only performable actions are ones that the rules cover. Play ceases to become about 'what can I think of to get myself out of this situation' and instead becomes about 'did I place my points correctly at character creation or level up'.

I know I can adjudicate his bugbear roadblock, but if I do, I immediately have to answer questions from each player about why I'm not using the bull rush rules, and why did someone bother to take the feat for improved bull rush if I'm just going to fiat away it's effectiveness.

He finishes with the admonition that we should change or ignore the rules if we wish, because no one will come to our house and confiscate our books. He says "Do what's fun." Only as the DM they've made my job much more difficult by creating this structure of imbalance I have to adhere to, making the play of the game about maximizing probabilities at creation and level up, and earning the ire of my players as I ad hoc something that devalues their character.

* First edition was designed to do much the same task as 3rd edition, create consistency across games for tournaments and between tables. Second edition was designed from first edition.

**Do not misunderstand me, I like a coherent and robust rules set for a lot of games. I am a fan of magic, and more traditional games like chess. These games are not wishy-washy, every action is clearly defined and there are no judgment calls - and that make them good games.

On the Answer

I've gotten into a lot of discussions lately about skills and how they disable play. Beedo over at Dreams in the Lich House has an excellent article on how this works in play, and why many of the concerns people have over rules light play are unfounded if done correctly.

Here is an instruction manual on how to do it correctly.

Say Yes

It's easy to tell people "just say yes," and I know this type of thing has gone around the blogosphere before, but this is one of the best examples of how to put the theory into practice I've read.

This is player agency.

On the Creative Crocodile Conundrum

Are modern gamers objectively less creative than old school gamers?

Here over at Monsters and Manuals, Noisms discusses some of the agency sucking, mind-reading, poorly presented, 'Gotcha!' ideals that make up some of the 4thcore adventures.

Noisms postulated a problem that could be solved creatively, in a variety of different ways. A treasure hoard is on the other side of the room with a channel in the middle, filled with crocodiles.

One of the posters responds:
"Conversely, any realistic solution to the crocodile problem is going to involve someone being fast enough or strong enough to do something at some point - it's also a skill check scenario (even if it boils down to the good old OSR dodge of the GM rolling a percentage chance - that's still a skill check, just a very arbitrary one)."

I do not think this point of view is uncommon - that the only solutions for problems are skill solutions. A short word about old school play.

A dice roll in an old school game is only made when the outcome of an action absolutely cannot be decided by agreement or fiat.

You don't roll to climb up to a ledge or a wall, get out of a pit, ride the horse up the mountain, tie up the prisoner, jump off the horse, YOU DON'T NEED TO ROLL TO FEED THE CROCODILES POISONED MEAT, or have your unseen servant bring the treasure over, you don't need to roll to climb over the channel, or to throw the bag across the channel or any one of a hundred different solutions.

Some actual dice rolls may be required for the some of the solutions - but they will most definitely not require only strength or speed. Sure, if you cast web, or sleep, the crocodiles will get a save. Sure if you have the ranger attempt to calm the beasts, they may get a reaction roll.

A roll for discovery is different than a roll for allowing the player not to play.

I know the cliche of the young player looking at his sheet and going "There's nothing on here that lets me solve this problem" is a cliche because it occurs often, but the comment above got me thinking. It occurs a lot - personally - to me - in many of the games I ran. Players who only want to follow the main hook, players who wonder how they can tie someone up without a use rope skill, even players who can only have relationships with NPC's if their are rules for romance. (No, not my current groups)

So are new school players just objectively less creative? Is it part of the generational issue of millennial's having a fear of doing anything that's not explicitly permitted by authority sources? Why is the above sort of response so common? And really, as DM's what can we do about their lack of creativity in problem solving without holding their hands and giving them a half dozen ideas for solutions? Is this the same lack of creativity bemoaned by Gygax and Kuntz after the publication of classic D&D, or something different?

But thieves need to make a skill check to climb walls!

No, they don't. Anyone can climb walls. Just like anyone can hide, or move around quietly. Thieves can climb unclimbable walls, or normal walls unreasonably quickly. They can hide in the very shadows themselves, and move so quietly that you never hear them until the knife enters your back.

Just because there is a resolution method for an action, doesn't mean you need to use it - you don't make your players roll to kill unconscious opponents.

But if you don't make them roll, how will they ever fail?

The problem is here, is that you want the game to be a railroad. You don't want your players to decide what to do or how to solve a problem, you want to call for a skill check.

If you take off the safety rails and give them some freedom, you will be astounded at the bodies and rooms they forget to search, and the actions they neglect to do. How many monsters or NPC's they leave on the ground unconscious to get up and get revenge another day.

I've got a post up about treasure generation. I put the opportunity for about 50,000 experience, 45,000 of which is treasure to give the party the 10k total they need to reach second level. Why is that? because they miss a full third or more of the treasure in the dungeon.

The fact is, if you don't lead them by the nose, player skill is a real thing they will need to have, and if they don't have player skill then they will fail.

The whole skill system is a crutch because it allows them to fail without feeling personally responsible, among other reasons.

Then you're just playing a guessing game! The whole session becomes about "guess what the DM is thinking"!

If you tell the players what they need to know to solve the problem, they don't have to guess. They still have to solve the problem.

How come it's ok to use 'skill checks' for combat, and not for something like talking to opponents?

Because at the table, I can't use my personal skill to swing an axe, but I can use my personal skill to convince a crocodile to let me pass.

Well, then how about I make my players lift something heavy when they want to bend bars, huh? Isn't that player skill?

Nice strawman, but as above - if we cannot agree or decide by fiat that you can't lift the gate, then a roll is required isn't it? This is a situation like "do I hit the monster" that is best decided by a die roll. Of course it's a continuum. I may know that the gate is latched closed, and no matter the level of your strength you will not be able to lift it, but you might be able to bend the bars.

If you use your skill to talk to the crocodile and there is no skill roll, then the DM just makes a decision - But you don't have any control over the DM's decisions! Without the dice to protect you, you'll just be railroaded into guessing what he's thinking all the time.

This, is of course another strawman - a misrepresentation of the actual process of play. The process of the DM making a decision comes down to disscussion and agreement.

What does the party know about crocodiles in a skill light system?
The DM starts with asking if anyone is a druid or a ranger, but that's just where it begins.

Here is the important part - if anyone can come up with a reason that they would know something about crocodiles, that is reasonable, then they do.

Reasonable how? By table consensus, but as always the DM has the last word.

If your problem is that the DM can be unreasonable - let me assure you that more rules is not a solution to that problem.

How many solutions can you create to the Crocodile Conundrum problem?

On the Generation of Treasure

Current Players should not read this treatise on the generation of treasure.

This is for a upcoming section of the dwarven fortress my group is currently exploring. It is an 80+ room complex (for now) with two lower cavern levels remaining to be mapped.

I have (on average) a five person party, in a first edition game without using the training rules. Supplementing the rules are a bunch of domain activities designed to eat up the player gold, including carousing, research, information gathering, hijinks, and more.

Average experience for a mixed party that is first level to reach second level is about 1750. With five players that's 8750xp. I'm giving 1 experience point per gold piece (with less awarded for weaker encounters - nice bit of text from Gygax there), meaning once I give out 8000 gp the party should gain a level. I'm going to set out 4 times that much treasure to account for a variety of factors listed before, such as henchmen, missing treasure, PC death, and other ways that it can leave the campaign.

The gold total above is a generous amount, especially due to the ability of players to convert gold to experience. I'm shooting high for a couple of reasons; this is game focused on Domain play with relatively early and rapid advancement, and it allows me to be devious with treasure. .

I then take that number (8750 gp) round it up (9000 gp) and multiply it by 4 or the number of the members of the party. (45000 gp) This is how much treasure I'm going to spread around my castle.

As I said, I have 80 rooms. I know that my 1st edition room stocking table says that 20% of those rooms will contain treasure - either loose or guarded by a monster. So I'm going to take my total gold (45000) and divide it by the number of rooms with treasure (.2 x 80 = 16). (45000/16) Means each room should have a total of 2812.5 gp of treasure. I round that down to 2800. Then, since a variety of treasure should be found, I separate that out into parcels. Usually I go for 4-6 parcels (more for lower level characters) but since 28 divides by 7 so nicely and that gives us smaller parcels, I come up with a figure of 400gp per parcel and I should distribute approximately 112 parcels throughout the dungeon.

I picked 7 parcels, because I want a larger variety of treasure and more options to put something valuable in a room that doesn't come up as treasure - often I'll put a silk screen or a rug in an otherwise 'empty room' (i.e. a room without an encounter in it e.g. a 'monster' 'trick/trap' or 'treasure') and that will have value. These values above give the range for this number, but none of the above needs be done - you can just set what you think is an appropriate parcel size! Some guidelines for this and several other generation methods are contained in my DM1: Interesting Treasure document.

Now that I have my parcel size, I draw my map and number all my rooms. Then, I roll on the stocking table. I've already done 27 of the rooms, so I'll roll the d20 for the next 10 rooms.

28: 11 Empty
29: 5 Empty
30: 19 Trick/Trap
31: 10 Empty
32: 15 Monster and Treasure
33: 8 Empty
34: 20 Treasure
35: 3 Empty
36: 11 Empty
37: 1 Empty

30 is actually a secret room, so I'll have to come up with something special for that. For this example, I'm going to focus on rooms 32 and 34.

32 is a small alcove, and it's behind an area where a bunch of deadly monsters have set up shop, so it will likely either be an undead creature, a construct or one of the other creatures that can survive or be found in dungeons listed in Appendix E: Dungeon Monsters from DM2

34 is a closed room in a fairly central area, so it is likely a storeroom of some kind.

To provide more character to these areas, I roll on the random room table to determine the type of room that these extend from. I use the tables from my DM2: Tricks, Empty Rooms,and Basic Trap Design document. I get gallery for room 28 (from which 32 projects) and Treasury for my second roll (from which 34 is a closed door)

For room 32, I pick 'ghoul' as my monster, because it can eat the flesh left from the blood drained corpses in the outer room. I check the treasure type for ghoul. I will design some tactics and interest around the monster, ghouls after all are not mindless, but again, that's not what we're interested in here. I use the Hackmaster stats for my monsters and it says treasure type is B, and T. B as a hoard type contains a variety of items - a chance for everything off the list. T indicates 1-4 scrolls.


Using the treasure document, I see that a hoard of type B is a huge hoard, with an average treasure value of 250gp per parcel. I'm going to ignore that and use my value of 400gp per parcel. I see that a 'huge hoard' contains 6+2d4 treasure units. I then roll the dice and get a 1 and a 3, for a total of 10 treasure units. I then roll 10 times on the types of treasure table.

I do not roll on the base value of the hoard table because I'm not using a naturalistic method of treasure distribution or the default parcel value. (I'm using the classic values)

My my. My lucky players:

Jeweled Items: I
Coins: III
Furnishings and Clothing: III
Gems: I
Magic Items: II

This is a somewhat lucky roll, being that the advantage of gems and magic items is that they are not capped by parcel value. I then check to see what the treasure is contained in (roll a d10, get a 1), and got bags or sacks. I think only the coins will be in bags or sacks, and some of the furnishings will likely be something else that holds treasure.I check my 1 in 20 chances for treasure to be trapped or hidden and get an 11 and a 20. Since the treasure is neither trapped nor hidden I go ahead and determine the furnishings first.

Furnishings & Clothing:
I have three parcels, each worth 400 gp for a total of 1200 gp. I want something large that can contain things, and figure any clothing wouldn't be in very good shape. I roll percentiles on the Furnishings table and get blanket, so I keep rolling. My next roll gives me a box, better, but I want more, so one more time. My third roll gives me an armchair. I treat the box as one of those storage ottomans.I read over the list of adjectives and types of improvements to furnishings and come up with the following.

An ornate iron dwarven armchair, with decorative cobalt inlay. (900gp) 65lbs. + Bulky
A hollow slate ottoman with a removable lid, upholstered in woven twill. (200 gp) 35lbs. + Bulky
Covered in a chiffon blanket (60gp)

I roll a d12 once for each parcel (three) and get a 9, 11, and 12. Since the last treasure was just a little shy of 1200, I add some value to the sack.

400 gold coins, 200 hard silver, and 80 platinum are in a moleskin sack (10gp) next to the chair.

Jeweled Items:
I roll percentiles and get an aiguillette

The sack is tied with a black cord (made from horsehair) the end of which has a platinum aiguillette studded with 3 very small very fine rubies. (400 gp)

I roll on the gem table, starting with a precious stone, (because our parcel size is 400gp). I roll for size and quality. I get a Kunzite with minor inclusions. I roll d300/2+75 for the value of the gem (because gems and artwork are not tied to parcel size) and get 202gp

Inside the ottoman is a single Kunzite gem with minor inclusions (202gp)

Magic Items:
I roll on the magic item table. I get armor and shields and a scroll. Since I'm already giving out 1-4 scrolls (hello ghoul), I re-roll the scroll value and get Miscellaneous magic, bags. I also don't tie magic items into parcel value - I'm using the Hackmaster tables, but any random generation table will work. I use my armor table to make the armor interesting (those are still in progress and not available to the public, my interesting weapon table (one and two) can be found on the blog). And of course I add the scrolls here.

Beneath the gem sits a single suit of human sized iron mail, (Chain-mail +1) anyone who picks it up instantly notices that it weighs nearly nothing (armor bulkiness is -non. Penalties to casting and thief skills still apply but has no encumbrance). Underneath the mail sits a small fleece pouch (Pouch of Accessibility) wedged in-between 3 scrolls (Scroll-protection from lycanthropes, Scroll-Cursed, Scroll-Cleric, spell levels 1,2,4,5,6,6)

Put this all together, and bold (I box in pencil) all the immediately visible things and you get:
An ornate iron dwarven armchair, with decorative cobalt inlay. (900gp) 65lbs. + Bulky. A hollow slate ottoman with a removable lid, upholstered in woven twill. (200 gp) 35lbs. + Bulky. Covered in a chiffon blanket (60gp)  400 gold coins, 200 hard silver, and 80 platinum are in a moleskin sack (10gp) next to the chair. The sack is tied with a black cord (made from horsehair) the end of which has a platinum aiguillette studded with 3 very small very fine rubies. (400 gp) Inside the ottoman is a single Kunzite gem with minor inclusions (202gp) Beneath the gem sits a single suit of human sized iron mail, (Chain-mail +1) anyone who picks it up instantly notices that it weighs nearly nothing (armor bulkiness is -non. Penalties to casting and thief skills still apply but has no encumbrance). Underneath the mail sits a small fleece pouch (Pouch of Accessibility) wedged in-between 3 scrolls (Scroll-protection from lycanthropes, Scroll-Cursed, Scroll-Cleric, spell levels 1,2,4,5,6,6)

On Sample Hoards

From older adventurers, current players would be mindful not to read.

Exhibit A:On a Mabden (primitive cannibal) hoard: Several of the degenerates are wearing facial piercings. Each is worth approximately 10 gold and there are 80 of them. Each carries a small leather pouch carrying 9d10 silver, 9d10 gold and 2d10 platinum. There is a rose cut jade, studded with hematite worth 1200gp in the table drawer. Each Mabden is wearing furs (primarily gnoll) worth 20gp each. There is a square table with 4 sides, made from stone, carved by the Zunel worth 1000 gp. It weighs 400 lbs and is bulky. The table has 4 drawers, one is stuck and contains the above gem. There are also 8 stone chairs, carved by the Zunel, each worth 150gp, and weighing 60lbs.

Exhibit B:The treasure is "loose". On a podium carved from glowstone (200gp/60lbs) sits a book with slate and leather covers, being an illustrated manuscript in Zunel 450 pages long on the division of creativity into categories worth 1100gp, A small opaque jet sphere resting beside a small opaque trapezoidal solid with a spherical depression. When the sphere is inserted into the depression, lights dance and haunting music is emitted. it is worth 3900gp. There is an ornate gold throne in this room with velvet upholstery and inlaid with brass. The throne is small but made from solid gold weighing approximately 500 lbs. worth 33,000gp total. The throne is decorated with ~50 cut rubies, 20 worth 50gp, 30 worth 100gp, and 1 worth 1000gp. Removing them from the throne does not alter their value, but lowers the value of the throne by 20,000 gp. There is a green vicious potion of polymorph self, an plain brass ring of hefty healing, and a slate rod with a crystal chain and spiked ball that feels cold to the touch (morning star -1).

More to come on the process of generating this treasure soon.

On the Distribution of Wealth

Let it be known, that unless you hand out boarding passes for your campaign that the distribution of treasure is an art not a science.

Why is that? Because if you give agency to players, then players can die, players can mismanage treasure, and players can miss treasure. If that's the case, then you cannot control wealth distribution, just influence it.

What is the point of treasure?

In all older editions of the game treasure makes up the largest percentage of advancement experience. This is eliminated in the later editions making treasure part of expected character power level, turning it from an award into a pre-calculated part of the player advancement curve. The purpose of placing treasure is to primarily provide a means of keeping score, and also providing advancement (socially in game, and as a means to increase personal power), reward, tools to solve problems, and as a method to further drive adventure and change the scope of the game.

Many of the techniques to follow will actually be detrimental to a encounter-heavy modern game (i.e. no empty rooms, all treasure is assumed to be found - say if your game book has a wealth by level table inside it). These techniques will merely obfuscate what treasure is for those games, which is a required power-up that fits into a slot so that the character can engage encounters appropriate to his level. Many of the advantages of 'treasure' have been internalized to the character build process.

The most efficient way to distribute treasure in these games it to give out treasure primarily in gold pieces and/or residuum, and be prepared for any other items to quickly be converted to their gold piece value so that characters can shop or craft for the items they need as quickly and simply as possible; while keeping in mind that any treasure you give the party that is useful to a member is effectively giving them the same reward that a character who can craft items receives - full value of treasure in gold.*

How Should Treasure Be Distributed in an Old School Game?

It depends on the desired pace of advancement and scope of the game. What is important is that there is enough treasure to provide for advancement in spite of player death (wasting treasure advancement), mismanaged treasure (taking too many henchmen along, spending too much money) and missed treasure.

My personal rule of thumb is to provide 4 times the amount of treasure the party needs to reach the next level distributed among the rooms with treasure (20%, or 1 room in 5). I usually start a campaign with around half a dozen adventure sites with perhaps 100 rooms among them. Treasure is rarely in coin, and often downplayed in encounters. A leather sofa (175gp), or a stone bust (1500gp) might be overlooked.

There are several different stances in regard to treasure distribution. Any distribution will take its clues from all three.

Naturalistic: What type of treasure would logically be here? Who owned this building? What does this culture of creatures collect? How strong are these monsters? What is the intelligence level of the monsters? What industries are nearby? Where is anything regarded as treasure likely to have come from?

Narrative: What level are the characters? How powerful are they currently? How much treasure do they need? Does your campaign require training? Does your campaign have taxes, tariffs and fees? What upkeep costs are you charging your characters? Are these magical items too powerful?

Classic: What does the bestiary say in regards to treasure usually found in the lair? Is it a horde? Do they carry Scrolls? Gems? Potions?

Some things to be kept in mind:

Different monsters will collect treasure in different ways. Some mindless monsters will horde treasure, others will leave it where it lies. Intelligent monsters will use treasure against the players, which is why it's important to determine the treasure found ahead of time.

Treasure will not be accumulated in simple gold piles - or even piles of coins. The treasure of a marauding band will include livestock, grain, personal goods, and assorted other objects. These categories are Art, Jeweled Items, Goods, Coins, Furnishings (including clothing), Gems, and Magic Items. There is extensive help in generating treasure of this type in DM1: Interesting Treasure Generation that you may find of assistance in generating this type of treasure.

I generally use a parcel system, meaning treasure is broken up into units of value, and that is the amount discovered. However, gems and art are important (and conversely rare) because of the possibility of their exploding value. Note that just because you have discovered a gem or painting worth 1,000,000+ gp, you only gain the experience when you turn that into coin, and good luck surviving the problems inherent in that process.

Random generation is an important part of this process, but by no means should it be used blindly and without thought. The randomness that's important is in things such as determination of the type of magical weapon, less so the bonus. How useful is that +5 Halbred, when no one is proficent in it? Randomly determining items makes choices like double and triple specialization meaningful for the players.  Most 'troublesome' items upon a close reading of the rules come with a variety of subtle drawbacks and controls to their use. Determining these items randomly is acceptable, but remember some item use is limited by class. Some areas to be careful of unbalancing your campaign are with staves and rods, certain miscellaneous items (deck of many things, etc.) and artifacts. These can be made to work quite successfully, but each requires a change in focus in the nature of the campaign.

Next, my process of generating a hoard!

*It is perfectly acceptable to do the math and recalculate all encounters to be of a lower challenge and change the default assumptions of the game so that treasure is not an assumed part of character power, or using a system such as automatic bonuses on leveling or changing the game to an E6 scale. This is not the default stance of the systems however. The default stance is as above, you need the treasure to be powered appropriate to your level

On Riches Causing Ruin

How many campaigns have you ruined with treasure?

I've had this discussion several times this week, and it's the topic of the October Blog Carnival, so some thoughts (and I have a few) on treasure!

I'm going to talk about several things this month in regards to treasure, but for today, just some thoughts.

Dungeons and Dragons is the most successful RPG because of treasure. Players have an objective metric of how well they are doing -- the amount of gold they have collected. There's a reason one gold piece is equivalent to one experience point.

Treasure is your campaign throttle. It allows you to set the pace of advancement and character power, but like any indirect tool it takes some experience to use correctly.

Treasure should be exciting and interesting. The treasure you are giving is boring. 

Treasure serves myriad of purposes, but should always be about driving player choice.

We will talk about all of those things and more this month, as well new tables, some reworking of the treasure document, an examination of what to let your players do with all that hard earned treasure, advice and guidelines for the distribution of treasure and more!

Not only I have ruined a game with treasure, recently I ruined the same campaign that I was playing with two groups in opposite ways. One group got too much treasure, and one didn't get enough! The lessons learned from this were manifold. I had another game that wasn't ruined with treasure, but let an artifact into play when one was generated at first level using random determination.

Have you ever ruined a game with treasure? Comment below!

P.S. I know I don't have one of the larger blogs out there, but I'd like to welcome all my new readers, and say thank you - last month was my first month to exceed 10,000 hits. I know that's not a lot compared to many blogs, but I wanted to say thank you just the same.
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