Thursday, October 31, 2013

There is no spoon...

Some ideas I wanted to share:

Wei wu wei

My basic philosophy when DMing a game is best explained with the daoist paradox wei wu wei. Good translations for this are either "action without action" or "control without control". Any approach to involve the players in the game goes back to this idea and it's consequences. In principle it should allow players to give the game they are playing an individual touch without jeopardizing balancing factors of the game. Any approach of building a setting should produce enough moving parts to let the system respond to player decisions before I have to jump in as a DM. As soon as action is required, the result should ideally be spontaneous, not leading in a forced direction, but within the natural flow of the story and the impulses provided by the players.

For this, a system not only needs to be balanced and fully understood, but an individual expression of the DM. It's not something you can buy, it's something you make.

[further reading]

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Moving Fast - Slowing Down

Really busy right now and I won't post trivial stuff if I can avoid it. That's mostly due to a new work place and until I find a new rhythm with all the changes, blogging has to be on the back burner. I do miss it already and there are quite a few things I'd like to see happening. But right now, it's difficult.

I'll have next week some time to catch up and write new stuff.

Also, this:

Sometimes I wonder if this is still (somewhat) accurate...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

R.A.W. vs. House Ruled (or why I tinker with D&D)

When I started writing a post about Clerics and Holy Sites (which will be up some time next week...), I got a bit sidetracked in thinking about how people change rules and how topics like Saves or different approaches to classes or weapons, etc. never get old. Every topic in the OSR seems to resurface every now and then, gets discussed, resulting in some people finding solutions for themselves (and others) and then the topic is done for some time. I kept writing, then the Troll Questions came along and I finally decided to make a post of it's own about it.

Some general thoughts first. How house rules are presented or where the different parts that make a game work are tackled will go in four directions:

1) A reinterpretation of the rules.
2) Some setting specific changes.
3) A house rule that changes the system.
4) A new subsystem (or group of subsystems) to add to the rules.

Or a combination of those four, of course.

Although completely different in their approaches, they all could produce viable results and help an individual iteration of The Game. When I'm thinking about variations or additions to the existing rules set., my approach is aiming for a set of subsystems close to the rules (most of the time, anyway). I'm not trying to invent the wheel here, but I recently had a hard time explaining what exactly that means and I want to be clear about this in the future, mainly because it should explain what I'm trying to achieve when I'm writing about house rules. Here's my thinking:

Changing rules without loosing compatibility to the source

So this is a small attempt to explain how I try to design the rules I write*. The main goal is always that a rule doesn't interfere with the original rules. That's quite easy, because the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (my system of choice) leaves a lot of free room to maneuver and I believe that's on purpose (and true for most or all rpgs out there). D&D was never intended to be a "finished" set of rules. It's more like a proposal.

Of course one could go all Tékumel on the system and change most of it to leave but a small trace of resemblance. It sure is one way to make a system your own. But only if you change the Game within the rules, you can keep all the sweet tropes D&D is famous for and still customize it to your needs. Basically I'm saying, it's okay to change it as long as the source keeps holding valuable and translatable data for your game (in an ideal case, this would also mean every edition) and still sounds like D&D.

Most changes someone will do within the Game would be on the surface, cosmetic even. Maybe another option for the players, some sort of restriction on a spell or a few setting-specific changes on the rules, stuff like that. And, if done right, it gets the job done well.

So you keep all them levels and saves and fireballs and hit points and AC and all the other terms we associate with D&D and make your changes in the natural space that occurs in every system: the mechanics that lead to those results. In the end, if the AC is descending or ascending is totally indifferent to how the game is perceived when playing it. The decision to choose either way of handling it (or find a new one), is most of all a matter of taste.
D&D is like an engine: as long as the parts fulfill the same function,
you may change and alter them for an individual performance...[source]

To fill in the blanks

It's a trip down the rabbit hole to look for those blank spaces between the rules and the deeper you go, the deeper the understanding of the original rules needs to be. But it's not something a DM should be afraid about.

It is an ongoing process with several construction sites, but the more one gets acquainted to a game system, the more blanks will be found. Sometimes those blanks are filled with something as easy as a random table (but even there is room for further development), but more often than not it needs a decision where a DM wants to go with his game. And this is where a DM has to tinker. It's a natural occurrence.

So what I try to do is going as deep as possible and add subsystems at a layer where a change could have broad implications without changing or while using the output given by the Game. The idea is mostly to produce fringe and transfer benefits with the change that apply in general and will result in the solution to what I believe to be a problem or a blank space in the system.

One of my attempts to do this was with armor class (Part 1Part 2). It doesn't impact the data given in the game "as written", but adds to it and gives the DM the freedom to describe his NPCs the way he likes, while building an AC in the process (even when just showing random pictures, the numbers and the visuals correlate). And it encourages looting. There you go, a (easy) subsystem giving the rules some depth without changing them, while adding fringe and transfer benefits for the players and the DM.

There is nothing wrong with playing it R.A.W., but...

When I write about my house rules, I'm not saying I'm fixing the game for everyone and for good. That'd be foolish (to say the least). It's merely a proposal how the game could be tinkered with and where I think those blanks might be, but I'm still talking about the same system.

It's like those guys that take an antique car to restore it. They take the engines apart and put them together again, often enough altering it for a "better" performance while doing so. There are different opinions about how to do this, of course. But when they talk to other car enthusiasts, they talk the same language and about the same topics. Their general understanding of the hobby allows them to acknowledge and evaluate different solutions to the same problems, while being fully aware of the fact that it is totally possible to drive the car in it's original form.

This is how I've always seen the OSR, this is how I interpreted the Top Ten Troll Questions. It's like an exhibition of altered game systems, just like they do with antique cars. And I'm as much interested in showing my versions as I am in seeing what others did with it. So why make more of it than a friendly and creative exchange of opinions and ideas? When all is said and done, we're all playing the same game.

And now back to the cleric...

*Needless to say, but here it is anyway: I'm not a professional, I'm a hobby enthusiast. Those ideas are just that, I've no claim for an absolute truth and they will change with time. I still hope they have some merit, though. But there is a lot to discover and I constantly get the feeling that I'm just at the beginning...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

About Healing Rates

Have a lot of work to do right now, so this will be a short one and blogging in general will be somewhat slow the next few days...

Have been thinking about healing rates lately. My default is how it's done in HackMaster (which is emulating AD&D 2E, so it might have been done there already), but it doesn't hurt to write it down on this here blog.

Under normal travel circumstances (being in the wilderness, with no harsh conditions like rain or heat, etc.), the healing rates are 1 hp per level, but only when resting 24 hours (a full rest). Just with the eight hours sleep it's 1 hp per day. Several conditions will improve these rates, though*:
  • If someone has medical experience or is good with healing herbs or something down that line and has the tools and medicine needed, it's 1 hp more.
  • Having someone in the group that is able to produce something to eat beyond what iron rations might offer (like a cook), the rate is again increased by 1 hp.
  • Comfort is important, so if the characters have a roof over their head and a cozy fire going, it's one more hp they can count on.
  • If two of those conditions are met, it's another plus 1 hp per rest.
  • If all those conditions are met, they heal 2 hp instead of one for cooking, comfort and medical care.

So a character level 3 will, under ideal circumstances, heal 9 hp per full days rest. Staying at an inn, but without medical attention would heal 6 hp per day, etc..

I feel it's necessary for characters to have those options. For one, it makes healing not only the clerics business. So if a group is trucking without one (or lost him deep in the dungeon...), they'll still have a fair chance to heal relatively fast. It's also a bit more engaging if they have a chance to improve their conditions with a palpable effect.

What I'd really like to know, though, is how y'all handle healing rates. So please feel free to comment!

*We use a loose interpretation of the skills presented in the Rules Cyclopedia, so to be a cook, they need to have the skill, etc.. But it shouldn't be this hard to argue if skills aren't used, I guess.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weird Movie Sunday: THSMwtEIW (Short)

[I like movies. I see a lot of strange movies. I always think they might be good for something in the game. Then I decided to make a feature out of it.]

If you read the title and instantly think you need to see this movie, you might like it, too:

Made by a guy named Richard Gale. It is unusually cruel, as the title indicates, and it's a very special brand of creative dark humor. It's only 10 minutes and it is free, so if you haven't seen it already, you might just do so right now. Have fun!

That's it from me for today. More gaming stuff tomorrow...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Answering more Troll Questions!

When the Random Wizard asks for more answers to troll questions, the Disoriented Ranger will of course answer that call!

It's like in that famous movie.

Well, at least it's a bit like that (and I love that scene). But without further ado, ten more questions and my answers:

(1). Should level drain take away one level of experience points from the character? Yes or No? If no, what should level drain do?

Yes, it should. It's not popular with the players, but that's part of the charm and those monsters are dreaded for exactly that reason.

(2). Should the oil used in lanterns do significant damage (more than 1 hp in damage) if thrown on an opponent and set on fire? Yes or No? If yes, how much damage should it do?

I had to check what the Rules Cyclopedia said about it and there were two versions how this could go down, one without using Weapon Mastery and one when using it.

Without Weapon Mastery an opponent soaked in oil from one flask would get, when set on fire, 1d8 points of damage per round and it will burn two rounds.

When Weapon Mastery is used, it's only 1d8 points of damage, but it might set the characters cloths, hair, etc. on fire with a chance of 5% per 1 point of damage dealt in the initial attack. This, in turn, would burn for 1d6 rounds with 1d4 points of damage per round.

Never bothered to look that one up before (it really didn't happen that often with my group) and I'll use the Weapon Mastery version from now on.

(3). Should poison give a save or die roll, with a fail rolled indicated instant death? Yes or No? If no, how should game mechanics relating to poison work?

If that specific poison is labeled "Save or DIE", then this is what should happen. Maybe I'd leave some wiggle room if the players act very fast and very sharp. Shouldn't be the only poison in the game and very rare, though.

(4). Do characters die when they reach 0 hit points? Yes or No? If no, then at what point is a character dead?

Zero hit points is a save vs. death rays or be unconscious. Even if the save is made, the character is out of the fight. -1 to -3 is the same save, but regardless of the result, the character dies for -1 hp per round until someone gives him first aid or some sort of healing. If that doesn't happen, the character dies at -10. If one blow puts them directly down to -4, they are dead.

Same goes for the monsters.

(5). Does the primary spell mechanic for a magic user consist of a "memorize and forget system" (aka Vancian)? Yes or No? If no, what alternative do you use?

No, I've gone the Arduin way. Magic users memorize the spells they want to use and burn Mana to activate them. They won't cast more because of it, but it is more flexible, with the need for the caster to think about the spells he'd like to memorize at the same time

(6). Should all weapons do 1d6 damage or should different weapons have varying dice (1d4, 1d8, etc...) for damage?

No for a general d6, but also no for weapon damage. We use a mix of damage as the classes hit die suggests and a cooked down version of the Rules Cyclopedia's Weapon Mastery (further elaboration is here).

I also felt it was necessary to make some new evaluations for monster damage based on hd, size and strength to complement that system (works with all variants, as far as I'm aware). For the interested, it is here.

(7). Should a character that has a high ability score in their prime requisite receive an experience point bonus? Yes or No?

Yes, as per the Rules Cyclopedia.

(8). Should a character with an strength of 18 constitution get a +3 bonus to hit points, or a +2 bonus to hit points, or a +1 bonus to hit points or no bonus to hit points? And should other ability scores grant similar bonuses to other game mechanics?

Yes, I try to balance the importance of ability scores by doing exactly that for all of them. They are the core element of a character and everything is connected to that somehow (saves, skills, hp, damage, AC, etc.). 

That doesn't mean players will have all ability scores at 13 or higher. We still use 3d6 in a row, but I allow for more customization (actually it's 18d6, assign 3d6 per ability score...) and the players have to decide what they deem important.

(9). Should a character have 1 unified saving throw number, or 3 saving throw types based on ability scores (reflex, fortitude, will), or 5 types based on potential game effects (magic wand, poison attacks)? or something else?

As per the Rules Cyclopedia. Never saw the need to change that and they are useful that way.

(10). Should a cleric get (A) 1 spell at 1st level (B) no spells at 1st level (C) more than 1 spell at 1st level?

Again, as per the Rules Cyclopedia (B). Giving a cleric spells at level 1 doesn't make him a better representation of his deity (where I see the bigger problem, actually), so I really don't see any valid reason to change that. Hit points, the ability to turn undead and wear heavy armor and good fighting skills are more than enough to reach level 2 alive and without being useless.

Let's see who joins the party!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Witches, Warlocks, Souls On The Cheap... (Dark Thoughts 1)

Power corrupts. We know that. And there are always those that will feed from those with power. We know that, too. What is always good to remember, though, is how sweet an evil and corrupted soul tastes to a demon. It's something they cultivate like a viniculturist his vine. And it is a delicate art indeed to harvest the tainted soul at it's peak, either at a moment of regret or just the moment before they got too powerful. This first post about the machinations of evil will illustrate how the weak may be corrupted. It's system agnostic and could be used with every system that uses ability scores and xp for level advancement. Be warned, this will give the game a very dark turn*. So: magic users may become witches or warlocks by selling their soul. Her are my thoughts.

The Pitch
A human** magic user may sell his soul, if the opportunity arises. The decision alone will shift a lawful character's alignment towards neutral. If the requirements are fulfilled, they just gain the next level with all the benefits and powers associated with it (hp, spells, etc.). No xp needed. A character may start doing this at level 1 or on higher levels. If he enters later, he'll only have to pay the price needed for the located level. A demon may offer special powers for those prices not yet used up to level 5 (see below), so if a character is already, for instance, level 4, he might buy special powers instead of the levels he already has. If a demon sees a possibility to get away cheap, he will do so, of course.

The Lower Price Ranges
and Special Offers (enter at ANY level!)
Notes: A demon will naturally never talk about the consequences or the fine print. It's always just "I really only need the memory of your first kiss to make this happen! You won't need it anyway and you'll be so much more powerful afterwards...". Always leading a character nicely in the wrong direction to screw him up. And even if a character is only using it to gain a one-time benefit, the demon just won't let him alone and the dark deeds accompanied with it will fall back on the character somehow, someday.

A pleasant memory - shift alignment towards chaotic, if this shifts the alignment beyond chaotic, the player needs to succeed in a save vs. death or he looses control over the character (who is then considered "evil" and going for the next 1d6+2 levels in this list), gain level 2

Special offer: By giving the entity a pleasant memory, a character gains the ability to always float on water instead of drowning. If that isn't enough a demon might add a spell slot more or two. The character will still shift alignment.

A first kiss - loose 1d4 points CON permanently, gain level 3

Special offer: Giving away this memory will make the character immune to the effects of fear. He'll still loose CON.

Ambition - the character has sold his complete soul now and may only gain xp when following the orders of his demon lord, gain level 4

Special offer: The character gets the ability to control undead as a cleric would. Of course he'll only gain xp when doing his demon lords bidding from now on. Now the gloves come off...


An unholy union - gives birth to a demons child, this is gender indifferent (be creative), gain level 5

A friend - kill someone that trusts you, gain level 6

A virgin - sacrifice a virgin (nothing fancy for the ritual needed), gain level 7

A child - kill it, let it feel the pain, gain level 8

An unborn - get it out of the mother, make the mother realize what happens, kill both, gain level 9

Build unholy shrine - needs the sacrifice of at least 20 hd of some innocents, half of them need to be consumed, the character will have an uncanny appetite for young human flesh after that, gain level 10

The Fine Print
Every level gained like this will have the character loose (1 + half the level gained) points Charisma. If this is reduced to 1 the character is considered hideous (with all the attributes you'd give a witch, nose, warts, cackle and all) and further losses will instead reduce Wisdom by 2 points per further level gained this way. After reducing Wisdom to 1, the character ages 10 years per level gained. They won't die because of old age, though, they'll just look incredibly old, fragile and ugly...

An entity powerful enough to grant this powers won't allow the ones it granted those powers to become more powerful than they are themselves, of course. They'd rather arrange an accident and claim their price. Sometimes the victims get wise, though, and fight back. Best way to do that is killing the demon lord that owns your soul, gaining it's power in the process. Betraying the demon also has a nice ring to it. Someone like this might become a demon himself (it has to start somewhere, I guess). Other, more creative solutions are always possible, too.

Up to gaining level 5 a character sells only parts of his soul. If he gets the complete package including level 5 he has sold his soul complete. Being already level 5 or higher, means he'd have to sell his entire soul to gain the next level. A character level 1 that wants to buy any other level but the next, will have to pay for the levels in between, too.

If a character is able to recover his soul, he will, of course, loose all benefits he gained by selling it. The crimes he did will remain, though, and he is still accountable for them..

Regular Advancement

A DM or player might want to keep a separate tally for regular gained xp. For calculating regular advancement, the xp for the levels gained by selling the soul will count as if gained regular, too, and all other xp are added to this. So if a character has earned 2500 xp and bought 4 levels he have 22.500 xp and he'll need 17.500 xp to get level 6. If he would gain 5.000 xp more and decides nevertheless to buy level 6, his new xp tally would be 47.500 xp (as per the Rules Cyclopedia).

*Clarifications: If a player is foolish enough to sell his soul to a demon or devil, it has to have dire consequences. I'm not proposing this for the players to have fun "being evil", but to make them realize what "being evil" may entail. So this is to produce tension and maybe to see how far they'd go. But it's entirely possible too use this just for NPCs. In the end, it's a DMs choice what and how much of it he is willing to use in his campaign. My stance on this and further thoughts are found here.

**How this is handled for other humanoid races depends on the campaign world. Elves might have no soul to sell and all that.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The People vs. System Mastery (Ode to the Dungeon Master)

Charlie over at Dyvers started reading Role-Playing Mastery by Gary Gygax on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Being published in 1987, the tome is problematic for several other reasons than the obvious "only system mastery can lead to a fulfilling game experience!"-antics (Gygax is referencing AD&D quite often, but had TSR already left and the witch hunts of the satanic panic were on its peak). It's an interesting read and everyone interested should join discussing it. So this is related, but I wanted to add a more contemporary view of the topic. System mastery is the pink elephant in the room everybody decides to ignore. Here are some thoughts.

All I hear is excuses

Presentation is key if you want somebody to understand the rules you're writing. Having all necessary rules in one book is one way to make this possible and it has been successfully done for D&D (I'm talking about the Rules Cyclopedia, of course). But presentation goes deeper into the system than just accessibility. Rules for role playing games should cover most eventualities and build a complete frame from which everything else could be achieved or derived. This should be basic, not optional.

What do we get instead? A game that publishes itself obsolete within a few years because of rules bloat and a licence for everybody else to publish additional rules without any quality control at all, just to accelerate the process. This is, of course, on purpose, because you can only earn money with a game if it's not complete to begin with but has the need for clarifications and alternatives already build in to a degree that makes it easier to just buy the follow up instead of making the game your own. See the pattern? Sounds familiar? I hope so.

If this is questioned you will hear excuses as long as it is convenient. After a time they'll just say, they hear the complaints now and it is time for a change. Now they'll listen from the beginning, of course. And they need you to believe this, too, because only if you believe in a final nature of published rules, you will value your contribution (or lack thereof) more than the work that is implied by buying and using the books. Or to put it another way, it's the illusion of a finished product and the bluff that the customer was somehow considered during the process.

This, in turn, has so many implication, it's hard to see where to start. For one, the quality of a game designer working for a big company is not measured in his ability to make a good game or system or adventure, but in his ability to produce those illusions to sell more product. It will produce a system that totally relies on product support, final answers regarding the system will always need the publisher to have the final word. It also diminishes the position of the DM dramatically and to a point where players think they have the right to use the rules against the DM*.

System Mastery is still possible in those games, but they sure make it as hard as humanly possible to achieve, questioning the need for it all the time, damaging one of the most important parts of the game in the process. The rest is done by the people believing in the publishers and talking about the game in a social context**.

All I hear is lies

The first lie you will hear when encountering someone who's into playing the game, is that you can sit down and start to play. In a worst case scenario it's the most annoying thing you can have at the table. Why is that? There are at least the social etiquette and the long-term narrative aspects that need to be considered as essential parts of the game. Those are pretty basic concepts, but they should be understood before the game starts. The rules are secondary to the interaction of the people meeting to do nothing else for hours at a time but playing this one game***.

This is only natural. You just don't tell someone you want to get excited about something you're excited about, how much he would have to invest to have fun with it. Or the desire to have someone joining the game exceeds that person's suitability for it. But it's wrong nonetheless.

The second lie is that those players knowing all the published rules of a role playing game have an advantage in the game. Not only is it as worthless as only knowing the rules of chess, it also ignores the theoretical nature of published rules. At best they could be considered as a proposal. The more complex the game, the higher the probability that a DM will custom it to his needs. It's a natural reaction, but mostly not considered as something that is an important part of every individual game and as such predominant to the rules. Of course, most of the early rule books were aware of this, but what it really means when they write that the DM has the last word about the rules is mostly ignored nowadays.

The lie in this particular case is not that there is a use in knowing the rules, but that there is an advantage to be gained for a player. To be honest, I hate this kind of thinking. It's selfish and all that might be achieved with an attitude like this will most likely damage the game. The important thing is to know how the DM interprets the rules and how that benefits the group. A player might have an active part in the individual manifestation of a system and he should have at least a basic understanding of the rules, but as soon as he searches for advantages only aimed at personal gain, it harms the game****.

Again, it is only natural. A published system is the common ground between individual groups, after all. And it's normal for players to look for the best possible character or weapon or whatever and talk about it. It's the first thing you encounter when making a character with another player and not with a DM guiding you. But in the end it means just two things: a broken part of the system will be used against the system, players will have no problems with finding and abusing broken parts of the system. Doesn't make it less wrong, though.

The pink elephant

For the publishers it's more important that you buy the game than that you're actually playing it. As far as they are concerned, they will provide you with everything they deem necessary to play the game, as long as you're willing to pay for it and they see a profit. After that they'll make sure enough people believe they had an epiphany and the next edition will right all the wrongs that have been done in the past. They don't help.

Players who'd rather believe in the marketing and advertisement of a game and what it means for their nerd-ranking than actually starting to think about what it means to play a role playing game, will harm the game in one way or another. They don't help.

Casual players won't help either, but might not harm the game as much as an ill informed but more involved player. They are just not interested enough.

But what is left? If you take away the hyperbole and fanboys associated with the next best rpg in print and believe finding solutions for broken rules to be a DM's duty, you have to consider talking about system mastery, too. This is, at it's core, the DIY movement. This is why, after the commercial pressure of establishing something new had faded, Pathfinder and Basic Fantasy suddenly produced functioning 3E clones or why Swords & Wizardry and all the other clones are considered to be variants of D&D.

It's the sole reason for the OSR being such a vivid and expanding community and why it's, at least in my opinion, not only about D&D, but about discussing and discovering what is really important in all role playing games: how to make it work. It's not about a free adventure the-guy-on-that-other-blog did (which is nice, nonetheless), it's about seeing that it is indeed possible to do such things and an idea how to do it. It's about experimenting with what was proposed and pushing it to it's limits to see what happens.

It's what nobody wants you to realize, what nobody really talks about: this will result in an individual version of the game you want to play and it will (eventually) result in system mastery. But it is work.

Consider this as an Ode to the Dungeon Master. The game is yours, make it work and do with it what you want.

*To clarify: I'm not against players using the rules in a clever way, maybe even to beat "the system", but as soon as a player starts a sentence with "But the rules say...", implying that I'm DMing the game wrong or to my advantage or with an agenda or whatever, I will make sure that the player realizes it will have severe consequences if he keeps doing so during play. In the end, if the players don't believe in my integrity, they might as well go somewhere else.

**I'm not talking about blogging or discussing in forums, because those activities are not about introducing new people to the hobby, but discussing it among people that are already in the hobby. Thought I might clear that up.

***I once had a new player that was just staring at me, listening with a faint smile, as if I were some kind of radio and he was treating himself with some sort of entertainment. He just didn't realize he had to participate...

****To be clear about this, in my opinion is a combination of rules that leads to a way too powerful character considered a broken part of the system and I won't allow it. A powerful character is not result of a system, but result of good role playing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rules Cyclopedia Oddities Part 2 (The Druid)

One of the odd birds in the Rules Cyclopedia is the druid-class. It's advertised as an alternative to the cleric, some sort of prestige class you can switch to as soon as your cleric reached level 9. If changing classes at level 9 doesn't seem odd enough, look at level advancement, the new spells and the special abilities. It's a bluff package. Level advancement is the same as with the cleric, there are no special abilities, only restrictions the cleric didn't have and the spells may be good for some flavor, but aren't anything special. So it's less than the cleric for the same xp and you loose Turn/Control* Undead (which is a shame). There is really no good mechanical reason to switch to the druid.

Although it seems not enough material to make a new class from it (which I believe to be the reason for this oddity), I hate it when material is not accessible. Other than googling for a druid variant usable with the Rules Cyclopedia, I can think of at least 3 possible ways to make this happen just by using the book at hand.

Variant 1: As written, but from level 1

Spell progression is the same, level advancement is the same, hp are the same, just change/add the spells as suggested, use the restrictions as written and you got a complete class going. As easy as that, just not that different to the cleric. And lots of restrictions without any benefits. Nonetheless, it's an easy fix and it only uses material already presented in the book. So that's something.

Variant 2: Add special abilities, calculate new advancement

This is a slightly tweaked variant, also derived from ideas already present in the Rules Cyclopedia and with the calculations for level advancement as proposed here. I wouldn't go for a straight conversion of the AD&D druid just yet. It's the opportunity to create a new class from the material already manifest in the Rules Cyclopedia and I'll try and use it. So what do we have:
  • I'd go and borrow some ideas from the mystic like I did here to give the druid a special advantage. This leaves us with %-chance to identify animals, plants and pure water after the following formula:
d% roll vs. ([3 x Wisdom] + [2 x Lvl])
  • I'd steal the Turn/Control Undead Table and repurpose it for the druid to Turn/Control Animal. Consider this: Turning is ranked by hd, one hd per column on the Turning Table. A druid won't be able to slay living creatures with this, so every result of "D" is an attempt to control the creature. Intelligent animals get a save vs. spell if the result is "D" and the attempt is "control", a successful save treats them as turned instead (intelligent animals are those with an INT of 3 or more, humans and halflings count as intelligent animals, penalties for low intelligence should count for the save).
  • Take cleric spells, add druid spell, take away those spells connected to good and evil. Spell progression as the cleric.
  • All other special abilities and changes suggested in the book apply.
  • I'd also steal the hide (outdoors) ability from the halfling.
Prime Requisites: Wisdom
Experience Bonus: 5% for WIS higher than 12, 10% for WIS higher than 16
Hit Dice: 1d8 per level up to level 9, then +1 hp per level (no CON-modifiers)
Maximum Level: 36
Armour: All, but restricted to organic material, shields are allowed, but with the same restrictions
Weapon: No edged or pointed weapons, only made from organic material
Combat Progression: like Cleric
Weapon Mastery: like Cleric (normal)
Saving Throws: like Cleric

xp needed to reach level 2: 1800 (progression like the Cleric)

Variant 3: Add shape-shifting ability

Gains the ability to change into another animal as per the spell Polymorph Self at level 4, usable 1 time per 4 levels. I do not think it is necessary, though. But it makes the class feel a bit more like D&D. This lifts the xp needed to gain level 2 up to 2200 (still, level progression like the cleric).

There are several attempts to achieve this for the Rules Cyclopedia and clones, of course. The three above are just what I would use if I had nothing else but the Rules Cyclopedia at hand. I hope some of you find it useful. I'll go now and build a ranger class for the RC. It's something I wanted to do a long time ago, but the druid needed to be done first.

If you liked this post, you might want to check out the other oddities in this series. Comments are, as always, very welcome. Especially if they praise the Rules Cyclopedia :)

* I allow Control Undead as an option, just like AD&D suggested (allowing control for some time with a "turn" and absolute control with a "destroy"). So it's not RAW. Anyway...
[Edit] Forget that this is not RAW, the Avenger could control undead, so the RC is already doing that one, too. Thanks to the Random Wizard for pointing me in the right direction!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dirkterwalde - Urban Fantasy Setting (WitchCraft)

Halloween is approaching and I'm about to prepare a few sessions of an urban fantasy setting I was thinking about end of last year. Got already 2 players interested, so that's something. And since I'm blogging now more or less on a regular basis and the season is quite fitting, I'd say I share my ideas for the setting*. I intend to use the WitchCraft rule book for this endeavor (which is still free, by the way), so you can expect some NPCs for that game in the near future. But first some ideas about the setting:


The year is 1999. This small town exists somewhere in east Germany. That's as precise a location in space and time as anyone would be able to give. Even google maps fails:

The day they shot the area where this town is supposed
to be, they got clouds instead...
You won't find it on old maps, too. The reason for that is some strange magic that was, if the legends are believed, always there. But what at first was only some weird and misdirecting magic where people got lost in the narrow alleys of Dirkterwalde, was blown to protect the whole area just before communism and the cold war threatened all occult communities in this part of Germany.

Maybe it wasn't the first time most of the known Covens would work together to protect their own, but it certainly was a well kept secret that they did and how they did it. And then the DDR stopped existing in 1989 and the world changed again. Now this town, with all it's history and all it's forgotten secrets, is facing a new challenge. Something is stirring in the dark and some gifted already start to feel it's presence.

Impressions of a very old town**

Castle Hundseck is right above Dirkterwalde. It was used for all kinds of
purposes in it's time, from hospital and asylum to public administration,
today, after some heavy renovations, it's a private elite school . (source)
An abandoned Russian military base nearby. 
More from the same military base (source for both).

The town has an active subculture...
Historical inner city (source)

Somewhere in the outskirts of town.
Just loved this guy in American Horror Story
and intend to use him...
This town will have a lot of history. It has seen two world wars and has deep roots in the middle ages. I'm pretty sure some Nazis did bad things here, too. And then there is the DDR, the whole reason this town went into hiding before the Stasi or the Russians could catch up with the covens. It's a pretty colorful little town, with a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe (I hope).

Lot's to do, but two players already said they wanted to give this a shot and I'm eager to get some gaming going!

* This is, of course, fiction. I used pictures of existing places and interpreted them new in the context of the game. Just saying...
**Found those pictures on my hard drive, so I did find them somewhere in the internet. I don't own them and if somebody wants his work attributed, I will certainly rectify that as soon as I know where it's from.