Friday, April 18, 2014

Fortnight of Chaos!

White Dwarf 347 November, 2008.
© Games Workshop Ltd. All rights reserved.
Used without permission.
I declare the next two weeks to be the Fortnight of Chaos here on the Borderlands blog!

Long-time readers may recall that I'm a big fan of Warhammer Fantasy Battles and the original edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. So, in honor of all things chaotic, I've dusted off the old archives, and over a fortnight I'll post updated and revised Labyrinth Lord conversions from the Hordes of Chaos (2002) and Beasts of Chaos (2003) Warhammer army books, as well as the Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness book (1988).

First off, some mood music. Check out Hordes of Chaos by Kreator. If you don't like old-school thrashy heavy metal, please ignore. :-)

Today we have Chaos Marauders and Chieftains.

CHAOS MARAUDERS & CHIEFTAINS
These marauding northmen pillage civilized lands with reckless abandon. They are the first wave of the chaos horde, rampaging ahead of powerful chaos warriors and champions. Mounted marauders sometimes scout in advance of the horde, espying resistance strength and wealth potential of southern settlements.

Chaos marauders wear scant hides (consider as leather armor) and wield wicked maces or axes. Brutal warriors, they gain +1 to hit and damage with melee weapons. Bands of a dozen or more chaos marauders are typically led by chieftains. Chieftains also gain +1 to hit and damage with melee weapons, but prefer wielding two-handed battle axes or heavy flails. Chieftains wear thicker scraps of hide providing equivalent protection to studded leather armor.

Chaos Marauder: AC 8; HD 1+1; hp 6; MV 120’ (40’); #AT 1 axe/mace or short bow; DAM 1d6+1 or 1d6; SA +1 to hit/damage with melee weapons; SV F1; ML 9; AL CE; XP 15.

Marauder Chieftain: AC 7; HD 2+1; hp 10; MV 120’ (40’); #AT 1 battle axe or heavy flail; DAM 1d8+1; SA +1 to hit/damage with melee weapons; SV F2; ML 9; AL CE; XP 35.

Wild Horse: AC 7; HD 2; hp 9; MV 240' (80'); #AT 2 hooves; DAM 1d4/1d4; SV F1; ML 8; AL N; XP 20. Note: These wild northern horses are not as battle-trained as war horses (no charge attack possible), but they do not panic in combat as easily as typical riding horses (morale of 8).

----

Edit: Products for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game are now published by Fantasy Flight Games. Here is a link for all the Warhammery goodness available for the newest edition of the grim and perilous roleplaying game.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The D&D Next Playtest Flight 666, Part II: The Trooper

So when you're waiting for the next attack, you'd better stand, there's no turning back 

Only chickenshits run away in D&D Next. That's not old-school.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, it certainly makes for one rip-roaring time if you like to play Balls to the Wall style games. He he he.

But the chickenshit line also concisely expresses a trend many have seen in RPGs, and D&D in particular, over the last fifteen years: The numbers all go to eleven.

We all know what the influence of video games has done to tabletop RPGs. It's just like the loudness war in modern music. Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap loved it in his day. And so do the designers of the world's most popular roleplaying game these days, it seems.

When everything is TURNED ALL THE WAY UP ALL THE TIME IT GETS FUCKING ANNOYING VERY QUICKLY...

Sorry about that.

I don't like loud all the time in an RPG. Sure, it's absolutely great to see players have a walloping kick-ass time slaughtering monster after monster, their eyes ablaze with bloodlust. But at some point, the DM has to have his moment. Preferably moments ... plural.

Mine didn't come until the very end of the last playtest session. The adventuring party had finally defeated the Big Bad Guy they had been tracking down since the game started. Jubilant and exhausted -- nearly spent of spells, hit points and resources -- the characters heaved a sigh of self-confident satisfaction. The players were rather pleased with themselves too. We finally did it! All was well.

That's when the dragon turned visible and made the heroes his bitches.

Basically, I shoehorned the playtest rules by giving the dragon spells and using an obviously overpowered creature for a bunch of 6th-level characters. Just to get my mwah-ha-ha moment. Not that I mind a bit of shoehorning. That is certainly accepted amongst the old-school crowd. Give a little and take a little. Soldier on like a good trooper.

However, almost all of the appropriately-scaled-and-difficulty-ranged monsters and baddies the characters fought got mulched. To say that monsters are seriously nerfed in the playtest is an understatement. I even maxed out hit points on the leader-types. But a lot of people have hacked that topic to death elsewhere, so I won't get further into it here.

Now maybe I'm being a little bit harsh on D&D Next. It was playtesting after all.

The annoying loudness factor was way higher in 4th edition and, to some extent, 3rd edition. So far, with D&D Next, it's a softer, gentler loudness, but it's still there. The character classes -- although the designers have implemented some interesting and unique flavors -- still have video gamey power-up options geared to combat-role definitions. I'm not sure how they can put that genie back in the bottle. Or even if they want to.

I certainly hope the playtest taught the designers something. But as it stands now, I think D&D Next has a bit too much of too many things designed to please too many people.

And that is definitely not old-school.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The D&D Next Playtest Flight 666, Part I: Hallowed Be Thy Name

I arrived late for the D&D Next playtest flight 666.

It was April 2013 and I was relaxing on the beach in Varadero, Cuba, sipping on a rum and lemonade and listening to Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name when I finished reading my well-thumbed copy of Moldvay's D&D Basic Rules. I reached into my beach bag and grabbed the file folder held fast with a thick binder clip. The folder contained a few chapters of the D&D Next playtest rules I had printed and stowed away before my wife and I went on vacation. I had planned to read through them the first day on the beach while away from the chill of Canada, but the lure of old-school RPG material was somehow stronger.

Or was it the sun and rum buzz and Maiden putting me in the old-school mood?  
 
What the hell, I thought, let's give this latest ruleset a looksee. Seems like all kinds of gamers on the interwebs are clamoring about it.

Fast forward a week and to the Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport. My wife and I are waiting at the gate for our return flight to Toronto (unfortunately not on Ed Force One!) and I exclaim to her out of the blue, "Hey, babe, you know this D&D Next stuff ain't half-bad. I'm digging the advantage and disadvantage mechanic. And they're doing some interesting stuff with classes, equipment proficiencies and twists to the old Vancian magic system. Very different from that 4th edition skirmish game. What a freaking gallows nightmare that turned into. I think I'm going to run a game for the guys."

She looked up from a book and smiled. "Yes, of course, dear." I think a lot of married gamer guys know that look. I kept the remainder of my geek gibberish thoughts to myself, but I had decided I was running D&D Next.

Can I make this work old-school style?

Post to follow soon ... The D&D Next Playtest Flight 666, Part II: The Trooper

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Clearing Cobwebs

Please excuse me while I clear out the cobwebs from this place!

Just a quick update today to note that it has been an interesting couple of years of gaming since I last posted here. I have been running a D&D Next playtest game since last Summer (very frank posts to follow soon about that) and an AD&D 2nd edition game before that. Both games were set in the Borderlands. I had intended to run a DCC RPG game but it unfortunately never got off the ground. I've also been playing in a Castles & Crusades game off-and-on for a couple of years. And a madness took me and I briefly suffered from a Diablo II addiction in 2012. But it has passed.

Regular posts should appear here in the near future as I ease back into the "writing RPG stuff" routine. I feel a bit rusty. At any rate, my old-school system of choice lately has been Labyrinth Lord + AEC, so anything I post here will probably be focused on that system.

After 14-plus years of wandering the Borderlands (using 3e, B/X, and 2e rulesets) and a brief excursion to the Wastelands (with 4e), I've decided my next campaign will explore a new homebrew setting. I don't know what feel or flavor it will have yet - other than old-school - but I intend to basically create it from scratch here on the blog and see what monstrous atrocity beyond ferocity develops.


Cheers!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Downloads: Quick NPC Checklist + Traits & Tokens (PDFs)

I have found a home again online for my Quick NPC Checklist and Traits & Tokens documents. These are generic and can be used -- as the Random Dungeon Stuff tables from Sunday -- with any rules system. Download and enjoy, abuse, mangle, and hack them apart as you please!

The Quick NPC Checklist details something like 170 NPCs from the "major" D&D races, each with a name, sex, and a few personal quirks.

The Traits & Tokens tables are meant for starting characters, but can be used for NPCs as well. Rolling on the tables gives you a few interesting tidbits or items to use and perhaps even something about your background to flesh out your character before play.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Random Dungeon Stuff Generator

I've been tinkering away this past week at a collection of random tables for my game sessions. I like random tables (who doesn't!) and so I figured I'd come up with some that cover a range of items and events all in one convenient place. It is a bit silly, has a few goofy references, and overall just feels pretty old-school to me.

PDF version here.

Thus we have the ... 

RANDOM DUNGEON STUFF GENERATOR!

Roll 1d6 and consult the Random Stuff Table below whenever you think random stuff may happen. Whether it’s once per turn, once per hour, once per minute, whenever the players annoy you … the frequency doesn’t matter.

RANDOM STUFF?
1d6
Stuff?
1-3
Yes, random stuff happens.
4-6
No, nothing happens.

If your roll indicates random stuff happens, roll 1d12 and check this table.

RANDOM STUFF TYPE
1d12
Roll on Sub-Stuff Table
1
Lost Loot
2
Obstacle
3-4
Mystery
5-6
Discarded Item
7-9
Monster Encounter
10-11
Trap or Trick
12
Weird Stuff

Based on your roll on the Random Stuff Type Table, consult the appropriate Sub-Stuff Table below.

SUB-STUFF TABLES

LOST LOOT
1d20
Lost Loot
1
Golden bracelet inset with obsidian, turquoise and jade gemstones (400 gp).
2
An iron-hinged blank spellbook with a black cover of displacer beast hide decorated with silver and gold filigree. Inset in the center of the front cover is a silver stiletto dagger with a bright red ruby in the pommel. The back cover is emblazoned with a stiletto as well, but in delicate silver ink (special).
3
A bundled up dirty rag conceals an intricately engraved golden chalice inset with tiny diamonds and black sapphires (1,000 gp).
4
A 6” diameter ivory sphere carved to depict many intertwined dragons (300 gp).
5
Silver ring inset with a small emerald (250 gp).
6
Black leather choker studded with various tiny gemstones (50 gp).
7
Belt of etched leather and silver (25 gp).
8
Obsidian stiletto dagger with a moonstone inset in pommel (75 gp).
9
Scuffed up oak case lined inside with purple velvet holding six silver cutlery sets, each piece inset with a tiny amethyst gemstone (100 gp).
10
Gold piece from an exotic foreign land (5 gp).
11
Purse of gold 3d6.
12
Bag of silver 5d4.
13
Brass Orcus-head belt buckle (25 gp).
14
Golden eagle-shaped pendant on a thin silver chain (150 gp).
15
Silver framed hand mirror (20 gp).
16
Red crystal ball flecked with silvery veins on an etched brass stand (250 gp).
17
Silk bag with 1d6 gems worth 1d6  x 10 gp each.
18
Grotesquely carved jade statuette of unknown deity performing obscene acts on six Venezuelan red llamas (75 gp).
19
Iron-shod walking stick carved with feline figures and topped with an obsidian panther head (125 gp).
20
Polished silver skullcap (150 gp).

OBSTACLE
1d12
Obstacle
1
Ceiling collapse blocks passageway with rubble and dirt, 1d6 hours to clear crawl-through space large enough for human-sized creature.
2
Sinkhole 10’ across and 50’ deep. Hidden at the bottom of the sinkhole is a skeleton in tattered rags. Iron manacles are around the skeleton’s wrists and ankles.
3
A 3’ high barricade of broken tables, chairs, stools and other furnishings blocks the passageway. Arrows and bolts stick out on the side facing the party.
4
A 30’ long stretch of the floor is coated in lantern oil. Make a check to see if party smells or spots the oil.
5
Chamber wall has collapsed out into the passageway covering floor with loose rock and stone for next 20’. Chamber can be entered through hole in wall.
6
A 10’ diameter puddle of phosphorescent green goo covers the floor.
7
Floor slopes down to a 10’ wide pool of brackish stinky water, and slopes back up on other side.
8
A locked iron gate or portcullis blocks passageway.
9
Rift 15’ across and of unknown depth has shorn through entire passageway, which continues on the other side.
10
Dozens of 1’ diameter holes in floor over the next 30’ of passageway. Unknown depth.
11
Spider webs hang from ceiling almost to floor for a 20’ length of passageway.
12
Wall of translucent magical force blocks passageway.

MYSTERY
1d20
Mystery
1
Thick smoke fills the next 60’ of passageway.
2
Statues carved in stone resemble an adventuring party in mid-action.
3
A 10’ section of floor is littered with thousands of charred insects.
4
A blood-chilling scream reverberates down the passageway.
5
Voodoo dolls resembling party members lie on a table.
6
Opened manacles on long chains are fixed to two iron rings in the wall. Upon the wall is a large blood splatter.
7
Cloud of flies swarm around a headless corpse. There are no items or clothing on the corpse and it’s covered in bruises.
8
Three elf heads impaled on spears are in the middle of the passageway.
9
Cruel mocking laughter echoes in the corridor.
10
Two leather boots are stuck to the floor. Nothing appears to be holding them down. The only thing that will remove them is a wish spell.
11
A humanoid skull rolls down the hallway.
12
Twenty-five lines are notched into wall in groups of five, as if someone was counting something.
13
Miniature tornado swirls around area. Seems to follow certain party members.
14
A frog hops around in a circle.
15
Horn blast echoes somewhere in the distance.
16
The chattering squeaks of a rat swarm fill the hallway.
17
A desiccated 2’ long purple worm lies on the floor.
18
Glowing spheres 1’ in diameter float and move about randomly near the ceiling.
19
A faint sound of droning pipe or organ music lingers just out of earshot.
20
One gold and one silver coin rest on the floor. They flip into the air and land again every few seconds.

DISCARDED ITEM
1d20
Discarded Item
1
Hilt and pommel of a sword but no blade.
2
Shattered ivory statuette of the beloved local healing/mercy/group-hugs deity.
3
Broken wand etched with phrase “Boom Stick”.
4
Tied-up sack with three bottles of vinegary red wine and a book of goblin love poetry.
5
Pair of crusty soiled breeches. Elf-sized.
6
An insanely rambling diary detailing a fabulous visit the writer had with a pale-skinned foreign aristocrat sporting rather long teeth and his loyal, if strangely melancholic, household staff.
7
Rusted and chipped short sword.
8
Short bow snapped in three pieces.
9
Sack containing a human head with blond hair and a broken silver tiara (10 gp if restored). Carved into the flesh of forehead is “Princess Buttercup. Ex-maiden.”
10
Wooden shield with an axe stuck in it.
11
Dented silver flask with sticky black contents spilled onto floor (2 gp if restored).
12
Flattened conical helm. Human-sized.
13
Burnt torch.
14
Skeletal remains of halfling (or gnome) in a sack. A note tied around a foot bone reads: “So sorry, Rudy! Thanks for the stuff!”
15
Set of smashed up brass knuckles.
16
Chain mail bikini. Dwarf-sized.
17
Clerical prayer book encrusted with dried blood.
18
Torn leather necklace strung with various large animal fangs.
19
Brass ring holding 4 different-sized brass keys.
20
Backpack containing 1 week iron rations, 50’ rope, small steel mirror, full waterskin, and 2 flasks of oil.

MONSTER ENCOUNTER
Use an appropriate wandering or random monster encounter table.

TRAP OR TRICK
1d12
Trap or Trick
1
Child peeks around a corner and giggles “Ha ha! Can’t catch me!” and disappears. Continues to happen in this area of dungeon; child mocks party more and more each time. Could be an illusion or haunting, or something else entirely.
2
A 10’ tall pole of multi-colored glass stands upright in the center of this area. All of the coins possessed by a person who touches the glass pole instantly turn into colored glass marbles. In 24 hours the marbles revert back to their normal coin state.
3
Invisible force smashes into character’s back. On a failed save vs breath weapon the character is knocked to the floor and suffers 1 point of damage. If the character is wearing metal armor, make a wandering monster check to see if a monster is attracted by the noise.
4
Empty torch sconces along the walls randomly shoot out jets of flame across the corridor. Any creature walking down the corridor must save vs breath weapon or suffer 1d6 damage per jet of flame. Putting a torch into a sconce deactivates its flame jet trap.
5
Three lidded cisterns are on the floor against the wall. Two are empty and the middle one has a pit viper inside that will immediately strike when the lid is removed.
6
On a table rests a small locked iron box. In the box is a scroll that when read curses the character, making his voice sound humorously high-pitched (as if he inhaled helium).
7
A small leather pouch with a drawstring holds a stone charm of the kobold deity Kurtulmak. The charm is trapped with a polymorph other spell which polymorphs any creature touching it into a kobold upon a failed saving throw vs spells. Kobolds are unaffected.
8
A magic mouth appears on a wall or door in front of the party. The mouth is crude, insulting and lecherous toward all the party members (especially elves), but is otherwise harmless. If the party goes away the mouth continues to insult them until they are out of earshot. Monsters in the area know the mouth’s temperament.
9
This area (ideally a cavern or dungeon with lots of tunnels or side passages) is affected by a permanent dancing lights spell. The lights move around to confuse onlookers, making it seem as if another group is trying to surround them.
10
One party member hears whispering in his ear. The voice is another party member saying insulting things about him to a third party member. Every few minutes while the party remains in this area, randomly determine who hears a voice.
11
The room or area is under the effect of a reverse gravity spell at 1 turn intervals. Normal gravity for 1 turn, reverse gravity for 1 turn, etc. Smashed items in the area may give a clue to the trick.
12
A pulsating blue orb is held inset in the wall by a finely-wrought iron brace. When touched by a living creature the orb instantly teleports that creature to a random area in the dungeon.

WEIRD STUFF
1d12
Weird Stuff
1
In the room is a large ceramic jar filled with a clear gelatinous substance. When a non-living object is touched to the substance while it is contained within the jar, the substance mutates to mimic the form, size (nothing larger than a two-handed weapon), and properties of that object, creating an exact duplicate within the jar. The “duplicate” object can be removed from the jar and will function exactly as the original, except for any magical properties. After 1 hour, the “duplicate” item reverts back into its natural clear gelatinous state.
2
The party comes upon a large egg partially covered by dirt and twigs. A compsognathus dinosaur hatches from the egg and immediately takes to the first character it sees as if he were its mother. If fed a diet of lizards and insects it will reach full size (18” tall) in about a month. The dinosaur will learn a few tricks (as if affected by an animal friendship spell) and will fight to defend its “mother”.
3
A ghostly funeral procession passes by the party.  In a lidless casket carried by six ghosts is one of the party members. The spirits cannot be affected and do not react to the party.
4
Entering this chamber/cavern the party members are instantly (and unknowingly) transformed into 2” tall versions of themselves. Exploring the room they encounter seemingly “huge” mushrooms, pits, pools, boulders, spiders, rats, and the like. They might eventually find a clue as to their current state, such as a huge book or dagger. When they leave the room they immediately return to their normal size.
5
A character gains the Shining power! Once per day at a random time, he has uncontrollable visions about the past tied to the local area where he is standing. Despite their crippling strangeness (character can take no action while Shining), these visions will augment his historical and empirical knowledge, providing a +2 bonus on any Intelligence or other checks the DM requires to learn something. The Shining lasts for one minute but the bonus lasts for one turn or until the character leaves the general area. After one week the Shining power disappears.
6
Cursed! A tiny imp appears on the character’s shoulder and constantly insults, mocks, and judges his every action. The imp is visible only to the character, cannot be harmed by any means, and remains until a remove curse (or wish) spell is cast upon the character.
7
A floating disc suddenly appears 6’ from one of the characters. The disc functions as a tenser’s floating disc for that character as cast by a wizard of the same level as the character.
8
Room contains a fancy dining table set for the same number of guests as there are party members.
9
Pool of magic detection. Magical items submerged in this 5’ diameter and 1’ deep pool glow from faint to bright green depending on the strength of their magic. Only one item at a time may be detected as magical by the pool and only six items may be set in the pool per day (any more and they do not detect as magical even if they are).
10
Healing zone. Any person touching the stone/pool/symbol/item in this area is healed 1d8 hit points. Functions only once per person per day.
11
Exact duplicates of the party suddenly appear in the area. They are quite perturbed at being teleported here from whatever alternate dimension they are from and challenge the real party to a battle naturally assuming that the real party had something to do with interrupting the great life-changing events that were going on at that exact moment in the other dimension. The extra-dimensional versions of the party members disappear when slain.
12
Party enters a chamber and observes a very serious production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance being performed by zombies. The undead actors pay no attention to the party (unless they are attacked), thinking them extras in the production.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Borderlands Gazetteer: Eastern Borderlands Map

Today we have the third of my "regional" maps of the Borderlands. I've tried again to get the colors a little fuller, and I noticed that doing so makes these maps look more and more like the maps from the 1st edition AD&D Forgotten Realms boxed set. Which is OK by me as those are actually my favorite set of maps of any of the campaign settings published by TSR, including the Darlene Flanaess maps -- although I still love the calligraphy of those ones. (Note: See Jeff's Gameblog here for a wonderful look at the Pekulish script detail of the Darlene maps.)

Fans of Necromancer Games will notice a few familiar names and a bit of geography. In addition to Bard's Gate, the pleasant little village of Fairhill turns up in the Borderlands, as does the infamous Rappan Athuk: Dungeon of Graves.

I plan to draw more localized maps of the Borderlands in the future. However, what areas get detailed largely depend on where the campaign sessions focus.

And yes, Yonder Bognie is named after a little village in Aberdeenshire in the northeast of Scotland. ;)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Borderlands Gazetteer: Central Borderlands Map

Here is the second of three "overview" maps of the Borderlands. This one covers the central Borderlands. I've tried to get the colors a little brighter and robust this time around. I'll post the third map, the eastern Borderlands, next week.

I should probably point out that these maps all line up side-by-side-by-side, west to central to east. The images may not scale exactly, but they flow into one another horizontally. Just in case it wasn't obvious! :-)

Gazetteer entries for this region of the Borderlands, as well as entries covered by the other two maps, will appear here in the future. Since my players visit this blog from time-to-time, gazetteer entries will reveal only the basic information about locales, "common knowledge" if you will.

I'm not yet sure how I'll provide entries detailing secret DM-only info. One option is to tag the blog post as "DM's ONLY!" or some such. Another is to offer PDFs via e-mail. At any rate, I'll figure something out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Borderlands Gazetteer: Western Borderlands Map


I was finally able to scan my first "re-done" campaign map of the Borderlands today at work. (Unfortunately, I don't have a scanner at home. Drats.) I say "re-done," as the Borderlands have gone through several geographical "versions" over the years and each has had its own hand-drawn map. Most are just pencil skethes, but for this new campaign I wanted an old-school, tacky, hand-drawn and colored map. Like the ones I used to draw with pencil and crayon back in the early-to-mid eighties. Only using pencil and pencil crayons for coloring this time, not actual kiddie wax crayons! :-)

At any rate, this map covers most of the western Borderlands, which is the main area of the campaign. You'll see two different fonts on this map: a crappy hand-written one (done by me directly on the map, pre-scanning) indicating Vander's Post, the Keep, Crosspike, and various keys and titles on the edges of the map; and a cleaner one added via Photoshop indicating numerous other place names (much nicer).

I figured since I'm blabbing about the campaign setting here, I'd better bloody-well get around to posting a damn map! :-)