Tuesday 30 November 2010

Avast! Sea adventures, T&T style

Hoist the sails! Man the helm! Pieces of eight! Sometimes to mix a campaign up a little it's a good idea to have a change of scenery. Taking the players from the shores to the sea is a great way of doing this, whether it be a short trip to a small island or a month long voyage across the ocean to a distant continent.

There are a host of dangers for delvers to come across while at sea. Vicious storms can appear as if from nowhere, throwing the ship all over the bloody place; great sea monsters can surface to pull the delvers into the briny depths; magical vortexes can throw them into a completely different location. Pirates may try to board their vessel and loot them or just try and gun them down with cannons.

These aren't the only dangers at sea. Without vitamin C the delvers could develop scurvy if they're on a long voyage. They could even become mad or the crew could stage a mutiny. In any case, sea adventures certainly won't be dull.

So let's take a gander at what these dangers will look like in the game shall we?

Sea Monsters

So what nasty beasties lurk in the waters that await the players?

Kudas (MR 40-90): These barracuda men could climb aboard from their ocean home and terrorize the sailors with spears made of rock from the sea bed.

Sea Devils (MR 50): These red scaly creatures are able to fly out of the water and attack sailors. On a roll of three sixes a Sea Devil casts Smog.

Leviathan (MR 600): Few have lived to tell the tale of coming face to face with the Leviathan. Said to measure over 400 feet, this monster is able to detroy even the greatest of galleons with its massive jaws.

Hazards at Sea

The ocean is not without its natural dangers. Here are a couple:

Terrible storm: Huge waves sweep over ships as thunder roars overhead. Rain lashes the deck and chaos reigns supreme. An experienced sailor may recognise the signs of a coming storm with a L5SR on Intelligence. This may give them time to turn around and get back to land in time. However, when the storm arrives there is a 70% chance the sails will be destroyed and a 40% chance the ship will capsize.

Vortex: A portal a mile long (in a straight line) sits on the surface of the ocean, absorbing vessels that touch it, spewing them out in a random location on the map. A vortex can be recognised by a level 8 Wizard or a L6 SR on Int or Wiz.

So why not take your players out for an adventure out on the high seas? Who knows, they may even live to tell the tale.

Monday 29 November 2010

Iconic Tunnels and Trolls Monsters

It's a crime to me and many others that Tunnels and Trolls isn't more widely recognised in the hobby. It's a game that sports some of the most unique and finest mechanics in any roleplaying game, not to mention being infinitely charming, humourous and true to its roots even after 7 editions.

Because there's not heaps of support for the game, unfortunately T&T isn't as fleshed out as RPGs like D&D. Because of this, it hasn't really got the iconic creatures of D&D like the Beholder, Mindflayer and Otayugh. So I've been thinking what the most iconic monsters could be in T&T, and here's what I came up with:

Trolls and their variations (Rock Troll, Hill Troll, Sea Troll etc)

Oh come on, it's in the name. Without it, the game would just be 'Tunnels'. In T&T trolls were the original race in the aptly names Trollworld. They aren't dumb creatures like in most other games, here trolls are intelligent creatures with their own societies. Trolls are awesome.


Sounds like a common mispronunciation of Demon, but the Demond is actually an insanely powerful lesser-demon. This guy packs a punch with an MR of 400 (41d6 + 200) and is able to basically use the force, choking and throwing his victims about like ragdolls until they're bloody heaps on the floor. Oh, and he can fly.

The Bone Horror

Take six 8 foot tall skeletons, stitch them together and you end up with a Bone Horror. The truly terrifying thing about this creature is that once awoken, it will hunt the players until it dismembers them.

Hellblade Serpent

10ft snake that can decapitate a delver with one swipe. 'Nuff said.

If you can think of anything else to add to the roster please speak up. Also, Ken, if you're reading, please add what you would consider the most iconic creatures in your creation.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Can you recommend any historical RPGs?

I love me some fantasy slashy, hacky, looty fun along with a multitude of other roleplaying genres, but rarely have I come across anything to satiate the history nerd in me.

So I ask you, fair readers: can you recommend me a historical RPG? It doesn't matter the period, it only matters that it's historically accurate.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Swords and Wizardry - critical hit!

I just got back from one of my best roleplaying expriences ever. I never thought anything could top Call of Cthulhu or Tunnels and Trolls, but my introductory game of Swords and Wizardry went down a storm. I was dubious at first that my players, weaned on 4th edition, wouldn't get much out of it - but I obviously didn't give the game or my players enough credit. They loved it. They want to play again. I have to tell you, that was music to my ears. Hell, we didn't even get to finish the dungeon - they only explored half of it!

I ran the adventure in the quick start rules, but modified it as I saw fit. The roleplaying was better than in 4th edition and the laughs and gasps just kept on coming. Here are some of the highlights:

1. The players decided to adventure with two married (male) Dwarves who they met in the Hogshead Tavern. For one of the Dwarves I put on the voice of General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Forth.

2. The party bargained with a party of goblins to help them through a certain room, only for the party to find they had been tricked out of 40gp.

3. The party luring a wererat into a trap that incinerated it.

4. The wizard contracting lycanthrope.

5. The Fighting-Man becoming charmed by the goblin shaman and staying with him and the goblin party to sing songs while the others (both Dwarves had been killed) went back to town to find some men-at-arms to hire. The men-at-arms drank too much that night and had crippling hangovers in the morning.

6. The wizard putting the goblins and the charmed fighting-man to sleep, dragging him into another room while the henchmen carried the sleeping goblins into a room with two sleeping giant ants. Then closing and barring the door. Then making a racket and listening to the creatures wake up and go at each other.

7. The cleric tying the now uncharmed fighting-man to a tree and interrogating him to make sure he still wasn't in league with the goblin shaman.

And that was just half of the dungeon. Bloody fantastic.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Players, meet Swords and Wizardry

Tomorrow night me and my players are going to be kicking it old school with our first game of Swords and Wizardry. As 4th edition nuts, I'm not quite sure how they will take to the old school-ness. It's going to be a shock when I hand them their characters and they see that the strongest among them has a whopping 8 hit points, compared to the ridiculously high HP they're accustomed to. I'm half expecting the magic-user to ask whether his Sleep spell is closed burst 2 or say they will roll an athletics check to see if they can leap over a log.

I'll be running the introductory adventure found in the brilliant Quick Start rules, called the Dungeon of Akban. I'm hoping a possible insta-death by a certain eight-legged creature doesn't put them off (I think they're used to the mass deaths in T&T now anyway), but it looks like the adventure will be damned fun. For me at least.

I really hope they take to it. My softcover core rules arrived in the post today and I'm smitten. Do I hear wedding bells? No, because that would be creepy and wrong. But really, I do hope they see what I see in the game - lots of fun with little crunch and old school flavouring.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Fewer checks, more thinking

I recently wailed on 4th edition D&D for various reasons, one of those being the fact that part of the mechanics make players roll checks to glean information, rather than relying on roleplaying to solve problems. Now, I see the reason that games have these sort of checks - they show how proficient your character is at doing/ knowing stuff. But I think there's a danger that a roleplaying situations can become too reliant on chucking dice around to get a resolution, rather than talking or acting situations out.

Good players can use skill checks as frameworks for roleplaying, describing or acting out what the character says or does. However, it's possible for these situations to degenerate into: "I check for traps. I roll a 15, what happens?". It's perfectly fine if the group likes playing like this, but most of the fun of roleplaying games comes from the actual roleplaying aspect, in my opinion anyway.

Take a look at games such as Swords and Wizardry Core Rules and Tunnels and Trolls. The former has no rules for skills checks, and the latter is very fast and loose with check rules. If you want to check for traps, you probably want to take a 10ft pole and act out checking panels, walls and chests for traps. The player should specifically say what they're doing when they're checking for traps to determine whether it's triggered or not. For example, you, as a player, come upon a large chest that you suspect holds some kind of treasure, but it could be set to detonate on your face. First you would describe how you knock it a bit with your 10ft pole and see if anything happens (perhaps touch the ground near the chest too). If it seems safe to approach then you would probably explain that you look closely all around the chest and ask whether you can see anything peculiar. If not, then you may as well open the buggar and see what happens, providing it's unlocked. The DM might judge that you are better trained to recognise a trap, say if you're a thief or maybe your background has any implications on your knowledge.

In my mind, this method makes for a more involved game that just rolling to see if you find a trap. But this is just me. I'd love to know your thoughts about skills checks. Do you prefer rolling, description or a mixture of both?

Thursday 18 November 2010

4e is grinding my gears

Don't get me wrong, folks, I love me a slice of 4e and my players really enjoy it, so I would never quit on them. But lately I've been finding niggles in the system that have grown into giant puss-filled growths that are about ready to explode.

For one thing, combat can really drag. Yes, monsters have some pretty nifty powers, but strategic players can often reach points when they take a long time to decide what the hell to do; and this isn't their fault. The system is just too rigid: "Well if I swap my movement for a minor then I can draw my crossbow, but I need to shift to see the target. If I just move I provoke an attack of opportunity and then I can only put my sword away but not pull out my crossbow." I much prefer combat to be fluid, like in Tunnels and Trolls. I get that some people enjoy the tactical wargaming aspect of 4e, but it can slow a game down quite a bit.

I've also been finding that checks are replacing roleplay. This is a big complaint in 4e but has only recently been annoying me. "I check for traps", rolls dice. But how are you checking? Where are you checking? "I use history to see if I know anything about this place". Should this not be knowledged uncovered in-game from roleplaying?

I don't know. To be honest it's really the way you DM the game and how your players like to play. Some of mine like roleplaying and others prefer the tactical thinking in combat, no matter how metagamey it can be. In the end, the things that annoy me aren't necessarily the things that my players are getting irritated with. If my players are enjoying themselves then both me and the system are doing our jobs.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

T&T Monster: The Green Man

The Green Man is the spirit of the forest who tends to his wild world with a caring touch. Although he is the essence of everything that embodies the woodland, the Green Man is also able to form himself into a physical humanoid body should he want to, although it is a rare occurance. As the protector of the forest, the Green Man will do everything in his power to prevent harm being inflicted on his natural domain. In this way, he is able to command creatures of the forest to fight unwanted intruders or those bent on the destruction of wildlife. However, should a kind-hearted individual become endangered in his domain he will cause nature to come to that person's aid, perhaps by providing a healing fruit or a stream to appear.

Green Man

MR 400 (41d6 + 200)

Special damage: 11/Camouflage

Nature's wrath: Vines sprout from the ground and entangle the victim. L7SR-DEX or LK to escape the vines. If you are caught in the vines you cannot move or attack for 1d6 rounds and you take 4d6 damage.

Camouflage: The Green Man can blend into his surroundings as to become almost invisible. Attackers roll half the HPT when he is camouflaged.

Call Nature's Aid: The Green Man is able to command creatures native to the forest as well as fairies to help him. Once per day he may command 2d6 creatures/ fairies to undertake simple tasks or attack an enemy. Each creature has an MR of 20.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Swords and Wizardry Tiny Adventures 2

Adventure Two: The Goblin Hunting Party

After his encounter with the dwarf adventurer, Helric continued onwards to the Howling Forest.

It was not long until he reached the line of trees that marked the entrance to the forboding wood. Grasping his mace and shield, Helric made his way into the shadowy green realm, his eyes darting around cautiously. He moved deeper into the forest, searching for the berry he had come to collect.

After five more minutes of walking, Helric heard a noise from about ten meters away. He listened to the crunching of fallen leaves under foot as he remained motionless, staring in the direction of the sounds. Then he saw them. Three hunched figures walked into a circle formed by several large oaks. Their skin was a disgusting mottled grey-green coated in warts. They were no taller that four feet and each had a crudely forged blade drawn. Helric immediately recognised these foul abominations as goblins, probably a hunting party searching for their quarry. No doubt there would be a lair close by where they made their home.

[Surprise round] Helric, seeing that he had not yet been noticed by the creatures, crept around behind them, using the bushes as cover before leaping out at the nearest one. The goblin spun around and dived out of the way of its assailant a split second before Helric's mace would have caved its skull in. [Initiative] The goblin that had leapt out of death's grip charged at Helric with his blade, swinging it at his arm, only to have it deflected by the fighter's mace [rolled 7]. Another goblin rushed at Helric, attempting to gut him, but the human dodged his blow [rolled 11]. The third goblin decided that he would get into a more defensive stance to try and deflect Helric's blows [defensive stance, -1 attack, +1 AC]. Helric brought his mace down on the nearest goblin but was met by the creature's blade [rolled 6]. [Initiative] Helric attempted to strike the creature again, this time crushing its skull with his mace [nat 20, full 8 damage]. The goblin that tried to gut him launched itself into the air, its blade held aloft, but missed its target and landed in a bush [rolled 10]. The third began to back away, but remained on the defence. [Initiative] Helric turned to the one in the bush and launched an attack, but missing as the goblin rolled out of the way. In frenzied desperation the creature lashed out, slashing Helric's midsection [rolled 15, 1 damage]. The third saw an opening and charged Helric, but his blow glanced off his ringmail. [Initiative] Having drawn blood the goblin felt more confident and tried again, this time meeting the human's mace in defence [rolled 7]. The defensive goblin attempted another blow but missed his target altogether, to his embarrasment [rolled 1]. Helric swung and missed the goblin in front of him. He was tired of this long battle. He wanted it over with. [Initiative] Helric, in a fit of rage, struck the goblin before him in the face, sending the creature tumbling into the bush, now a lifeless corpse [rolled 19, damage 7]. The remaining goblin, seeing its brethren's smashed up bodies around him, turned and fled into the undergrowth as fast as he could. Helric was far to tired to pursue the creature. He was more concerned with tending to the gash on his arm.

[Helric gained 20xp but found no money on the goblins]

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Swords and Wizardry Tiny Adventures 1

Swords and Wizardry is a great old school D&D clone. The trouble is that, although I wish I did, I don't play in a Swords and Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord campaign, so I have decided to do a little solitaire experiment using these rules. I'm going to post up short installments of a mini campaign, for no other reason than it's fun. I expect each will be an encounter in a new room or something. I may even break out Mythic GME if I'm feeling saucy.

Anyway, my character is Helric, the Fighting-Man. He wears ringmail armour, carries a simple round shield and wields a heavy mace he calls Kasandra. Helric was the son of a wealthy merchant and has a twin brother called Tyrec. His family would travel all around the realm of Freelore selling fine silks, furs and other clothing to nobles and monarchs. When he came of age Helric decided that the merchant life wasn't for him and he set off to earn a living as an adventurer. Tyrec took up the family business and is in regular contact with Helric.

Adventure One: The Challenge of a Dwarf

Helric had been staying in the village of Willowcreek for five days. He he had been helping the local healer find herbs and berries to go into her concoctions, for she would not venture into the Howling Forest alone.

Today, the day of Evenfold, Helric took up his weapons and headed up the dirt track north of the village and made his way across the wilderlands. After a while he came upon a stout Dwarf, who stood in Helric's path. "I would advise that you move from my path, Dwarf," said Helric with venom in his voice. He didn't care much for this race.
"Do you challenge Fenrik, son of the timbermaster?" The Dwarf replied angrily. "Come on, let's see what you're made of". Fenrik pulled his axe out from its sheath and readied it. Helric grasped his mace, his eyes narrowed. He swung his heavy mace at the Dwarf but it was easily deflected by Fenrik's axe. Fenrik unleashed a mighty swing, missing Henric and losing his footing. The fighter saw his chance and brought the butt end of the mace down on the back of Fenrick's head. The dwarf fell to the ground in a heap, but still alive. Henric then reached for his foe's purse and took 45 gold pieces from it.
"Serves you right, stupid rock head."

Sunday 7 November 2010

Tunnels and Trolls 'Red Box'

I can hear the cries of blasphemy calling out from the depths of the internet already. I've mentioned before that I love both T&T and D&D and see the merits in both games. The advantage D&D has over T&T is that it's more widely known and has massive corporate output. T&T is much less well-known to outsiders of the hobby and has much less material released for it. I wish this weren't the case, but at least T&T fans are some of the most hardcore hobbyists out there and provide a lot of the material themselves, whether it be new solos, GM adventure or campaign settings. With the release of the fantastic 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons red box, Wizards are encouraging a new generation of gamers to pick up the game and play. It's an excellent starting point to get into the wider hobby, but Tunnels and Trolls doesn't really have anything like that. While it's a simple enough game, I think it would be great to put something out there to draw more people into the game at zero cost, providing them with everything they need to begin playing T&T in one place. So I scoured the internet to find free resources to download to make an overall introductory set. So, I give you the Tunnels and Trolls Starter Kit (5th edition):

Tunnels and Trolls: Starter Kit

Tunnels and Trolls Quick Start Rules
Character Sheets
Buffalo Castle Online Solitaire Adventure
Character/Monster Counters
Adventure in Fellbarrow GM Adventure
Online Character Generator

Saturday 6 November 2010

A look at Essentials

There's no doubt that Wizards have caused a stir in the gaming community with the release of their Essentials line, which has been met with both gleeful acceptance and wide-eyed horror.

In essence, Essentials is an effort to streamline character creation to make it simpler for new players and feel more 'classic' to veterans. This is in no way a new edition or even half an edition, it's a tweaking to various systems such as magic items and skill challenges, along with errata changes and new builds.

Wizards are releasing 10 products in their Essentials line that they see as, well, essential for play. Most of these are coming out in boxed form, such as the Monster Vault and the Dungeon Master's Kit, whilst others like Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms are just books.

People who are terrified that the new line will be a paradigm shift for 4th edition should stop cacking themselves. Essentials is completely compatable with the Players Handbooks and there are no rule changes per se. Yes, if you want to keep up with the latest errata then you either want these books, or the ones that are applicable to you, or DDI subscribers will get an updates soon on the character builder.

Although 4th edition has its naysayers, you have to hand it to Wizards for giving players plenty of options for classes. The problem is, for people who are just starting out, or those who would prefer some guidance in character creation and advancement, the slew of options can seem overwhelming. Creating a character by hand now is an incredibly laborious task, so most people use the character builder. Essentials is still allowing for optional builds, but slimming down the choices. In both Essentials player books you will find new builds that allow you to select from a much smaller palette that going on the character builder, but the classes still remain versatile and sometimes have their roles changed. For example, the Essentials Druid is the Sentinel, who is now a leader rather than a controller like the previous druid. It focuses more on healing but can also act as an off-striker, especially since you get an animal companion in the form of a bear or wolf, which can attack too. One big change that I can see is that Wizard's Magic Missile is now an automatic hit that does 2+ Int mod damage. Now that's pretty cool. For martial classes there is more of a focus on basic attacks (very old school) that are augmented by stances and aspects to give bonuses and extra effects. The new Fighter builds get no daily powers, making them feel a lot more like classic Fighters of old. Wizards have daily spells still that they prepare, but they also must prepare their encounter powers after an extended rest, too. Again, this feels more like a classic Wizard to me, having to study her spells before starting the day.

A great thing about the 'Heroes of a ...' player books is the amount of help it gives you in creating a character. They explain which race is suitable for which class and go into some detail as to why. The race sections are also beefed up with playestyles and background fluff for each of them. The whole package makes is much easier to solidify a character.

The Rules Compendium combines all the rules of the game, along with some campaign setting fluff and additional info for newbies, into a handy small book. Wizards could have definitely cut some stuff out of here, but for the newly initiated it's a pretty good starting point. Also, it's better than lugging a couple of big hardback books around if you're travelling to a game.

Essentials, to me, feels like Wizards have listened to the fans and delivered an experience more akin to AD&D. I really like some of the new classes, especially the Assassin and Hexblade, so I'll definitely be letting my group play with these new builds to see how it all goes.

Friday 5 November 2010

New T&T NPC: Vivi Viviacho

Rogue. Scoundrel. Wedding planner. Vivi Viviacho is all of these things and more. You never know where you are with Vivi, mostly because he's really, really bad at reading maps. He can easily be picked out of a crowd, as long as the crowd consists of 3ft people, since Vivi is a Hobb.

Vivi grew up in his mother and father's tavern, The Wily Cow, and there he learnt the fine art of picking pockets, a skill that only gets you so far in life. By the time he was 20, Vivi had already been in jail 18 times for petty larceny, cock fighting (which was him hitting chickens with a twig) and copping off with the constable's daughter, Trixie.

One day Vivi decided that he wanted to live a life on the road, drifting from one city to another making his fortune gambling, stealing and adventuring. Those who have met him know that he's an arrogant sod but his heart is occasionally in the right place. He's also a serial womaniser who tends to bed most of the town before moving on. Because of this he has many illegitimate babies all around Trollworld.

Vivi will help other delvers for a price and tends to screw them over when it comes to dishing out loot.

Vivi Viviacho

Level 3 Male Hobb Warrior
Height: 2'11", Weight: 80 lbs.

ST: 10, IQ: 10, LK: 7
CON: 31, DEX: 17, CHR: 16
SPD: 13, WIZ: 9

Combat Adds: 3

Wt. Possible: 1000, Wt. Carried: 999.8
Hobbit (native language)

Gold: 879 gp

Ankus, Dice+Adds: 2+1
ST Req'd: 2, DEX Req'd: 11
Value: 27, Wt: 50.0