Monday, January 31, 2011

Monthly Audience Participation Poll

The poll for this months audience participation is live!  Go vote for your topic choice!

Starter Traveller – Now What?

Sitting before you is a box full of tools and parts. Bit by bit you’ve put together various subassemblies, but now it’s time to put the whole thing together. What will it look like when you’re done? It’s hard to say. There is no one way to play a Traveller campaign. What Starter Traveller does do is give you a nice framework upon which to build the adventures of your choosing.

The last section of the rule book is advice on how to run a Traveller game and campaign. The advice given is actually rather interesting, and different from any of the rule books I’ve previously read.  It covers the Basics, the Gimmick (things like psionics that players earn and continue to benefit from throughout the game), the Pull (players goals), the Push (things players don’t like, but keep coming up anyway), and the Enigma (the things players don’t know, but want to).

Following this page of advice is a section of prewritten patron encounters. They provide the patron, and the request, and then each has a chart which may throw wrinkles into the scenario. 

Thus ends the rule book. The next two installments will focus on the two adventures that come with the starter set.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mapping by candlelight

I drew this map while laying next to the fireplace, which was filled with candles.  It's the lair of the Witch of the Deep. I picture it fitting in as a sublevel, and connecting 2 main levels together, but not

As you can see, I used some color, and I drew in more features than I usually do.   I haven't decided where "C" leads to yet. "A" goes to the megadungeon proper, but I'm also not sure where yet.  "B" leads off into water filled tunnels, and the stairs in the Witch's lair itself go down into a lower dungeon level. 

The lair itself is reached by climbing a ledge up to her door. The first room reached is her main room with her cauldron and loom. Beyond that is her bedroom, complete with vanity and wardrobe. Up above that is the summoning room, and below is the witches storage area

Friday, January 28, 2011

Starter Traveler – I can kill you with my mind!

aka Psionics
Psionic potential is actually fairly common in the Traveller universe. Everyone starts with a minimum of a Psi score of 2, as the score is determined by throwing 2d6. The roll is modified by a -1 for every 4 year block over the age of 18. The difficulty is that the only way to unlock a person’s psionic potential is by being tested at a Psionic Institute (PI), and then receiving instruction. This is a time intensive process, and expensive. In addition, finding a PI is also a difficult process, as psionics are not accepted by the general population.

Presuming that your character manages to find one of the elusive institutes, and discovers that they have a score sufficient enough to warrant the time and money it costs to train them, it is still no guarantee that they’ll actually have any talents.  There are 6 possible talents that I psionic character can attempt to learn, and each attempt to learn a talent imposes a cumulative -1 to the roll.  In addition, some talents are easier than others.  In order, from hardest to easiest, they are: Teleportation (9+), Awareness (7+), Telekinesis (6+), Clairvoyance (6+), and Telepathy (5+).  For the more math inclined, you will note that I only listed 5 talents.  The sixth is “Special” and needs a 9+ to acquire. What is “Special”? Basically it’s something that isn’t covered by one of the above.  Firestarting, phasing, mind control, flight, etc. 

It’s entirely possible to roll a character with a really high psionic strength, and no talents, just as it is possible to roll a character with low psionic strength, and lots of talents that they don’t have the strength to actually use.  Mathematically it is possible to roll a character with a psionic strength of 12, with access to all 6 of the talents, but it’s extremely unlikely. 

So what can a character do with these psionic talents? It depends on which talents, and what strength score the character has. Let’s look at all the talents, and presuming that a character has a high enough score to do everything that talent allows. First up, teleportation. With a high enough strength the character can teleport clear across a continent, or even to the other side of a planet. There are dangers associated with this due to a variety of factors, including the differing speeds of rotation of the planet at different latitudes, and the problems with increasing or decreasing elevation. It’s doable, though difficult. At lower levels, the range is less, as is the ability to bring stuff with you. In fact, at a low enough level, you’re going naked!

Awareness is the control of your own body, allowing you to put yourself into suspended animation, improve your strength, endurance, or even cause yourself to regenerate!  Telekinesis allows you to move things from a gram in weight to up to 100 kilograms.  Clairvoyance allows remote viewing of distant locations. With a high enough skill you can both see and hear what’s going on. Telepathy allows everything from sensing and sharing emotions to reading surface thoughts to probing deep into someone else’s mind, to finally using their ability as a weapon capable of killing. It also provides the ability to shield your mind from the assaults of others. 

So how does this all work out for a real character? Pulling out one of the ones I made way back at the beginning of this series: Mancrel “McDuff” Duffin. He served 2 terms with the merchant fleet, and was mustered out with 10k credits.  He’s always had an itching at the back of his head, so he decides to track down a Psionics Institute branch and get tested.  5k credits later it turns out that he is a latent strength 6 psionic (rolled a 9 minus 3 for his age). Training costs 100k credits, which means McDuff is only 95k short, and as his power level isn’t high enough to qualify for a scholarship, he’s at the end of his psionic journey, unless he can come up with more money, and fast.  Every 4 years from the determination of your potential that goes untrained, you lose an additional point. 

For the sake of this example, let’s say he gets a loan from a less than reputable character, and gets his training.  First McDuff will check his “Special” talent, and he doesn’t have one (rolled a 5-1=4). He then checks the rest in the order above. And his scores are: 4, 3, 3, 0, 5. He has no talent at anything except Telepathy, and with a high enough strength that when fully trained he’ll be able to read emotions, surface thoughts, and send thoughts to others. These powers will definitely be of use to the mob boss that funded his training, especially after he spends some time refining his skills so that he can actually use the powers he’s now unlocked. After 4 months at the institute he has the basic skills down, and can shield his mind from others. Every month thereafter McDuff rolls 2d6, and if he scores better then an 8 his level in the talent goes up.  Eventually he will be able to do all that’s been written above, and at distances up to 50 kilometers!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dice Bags

 A lot of attention is given to dice, and rightly so.  They are important aspects of our hobby, and many people have very strong feelings about them.  This is why there are such a huge variety of dice available.  From the simple utilitarianism of game science, to the bargain basement cheap multicolored, to wildly extravagant and expensive styles, to the dangerous to the table metal dice.

Yet I don't know a single gamer that just grabs a scoop of dice out of a bucket, sticks them in his pocket on his way to game.  I'm sure he's out there, somewhere, but I've never seen him. No, the vast majority of gamers have a bag, or even multiple bags that they keep their dice in. It isn't uncommon that different sets of dice will have different dedicated bags.

There is a lot of variety in dice bags, but there are some common ones. First is the cheap vinyl one  that comes in the basic intro boxed sets. These were really common in the 90's. I've got one from the First Adventure boxed set, and another from... some other starter set from TSR.

Next is the ubiquitous Crown Royal bag. Most gamers I know that have and use these are under the legal drinking age, and most of them were given to them by older gamers. I gave mine away.

Another bag that younger gamers can have is the home made bag. Mine is on the large side, and I used it for LARPing.

Chainmail bags with leather straps are pretty common too. As cool as they look, they do have some downsides.  For one thing, they're heavy.  For another they don't tend to hold a lot of dice.  I used mine for my Khorne Berzerkers - red and black d6s.

Leather bags are a little more common than chain.  They tend to hold more, and they weigh a lot less.

The last bag I'm gonna blog about is this fantastic little TSR bag that I got attending the Silver Anniversary Tour.  I keep 2 complete sets of dice in it, and this is the bag I usually brought to game with.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


“A wizard did it.” Feris answered matter-of-factly.

“Stop saying that.” Nimble grumbled.

“What do you want me to tell you?”

“Something other than ‘a wizard did it’. Seriously, you’ve got to find some other excuse for the weird shit we keep coming across.”

The camp fire crackled merrily along, roasting dinner on Rathgar’s travel spit.

“Well a wizard did do it, along with the owl bear, hippogriff, and the gryphon!”

“Look, guys, I don’t care who did it. It was creepy, and I hope we don’t find any more of them.” Rathgar said from across the fire.

“Not creepy enough to keep you from eating it.” Alianora pointed out.

“No, that’s true.” Rathgar answered, cutting a piece from the spit. “Hua, I didn’t expect that.”

“What?” Nimble asked.

“Tastes like chicken.”

Canigryph (Gallus Canis)
Aka Chicken-Dog

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2+2
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 peck or special
Damage: 1d4+1
No. Appearing: 3d4+1 (3d6+1)
Save As: M1
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 1
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 25

Canagriffs are the magical amalgam of a dog’s body with the head of a chicken. They are aggressive omnivores, yet highly fearful. In any encounter the entire flock must make a morale check as soon as any of its members are injured, or they will flee. Canagriff males (1 per flock) do have one special attack, a crowing which will automatically rally any canagriff that has failed its morale check. In addition, this crowing will also cause any non-canagriff within earshot to make a save vs spells or flee for 1d6 rounds.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Megadungeon Map - Level 3b

This map connects with left side of the previous map. The upper sub-level (aka my one hour dungeon), probably attached to room 17 or 19. One of the rooms in that area.  Image contrast has been adjusted for ease of viewing.

I also drew the corner connector map that didn't quite fit on either the above map, or the one I posted earlier.

You can see where this map connects with the above map at the C and D corridor and with the other level 3 map at it's hallway D. You can also see where there was more dungeon that was lost to whatever caused it to collapse. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monthly Audience Participation for February

Once again, I'm opening it up.  What would you like me to blog about?  Want more reviews? Magic items? Monsters? Corgis?

Leave a comment, and let me know.

Also, there is a new poll over to the right about genre preference in your games.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One Hour Dungeon Nexus

Since I haven't seen anyone else collect the One Hour Dungeon posts, I thought I would do it.

Planet Algol started it off.

Aeons & Augauries used Adobe Illustrator to make one, geomorphs and digital tools for another, and he hand drew one too.

Quickly, Quietly, and Carefully posted one.  Then he posted another.

Nice of Carto Cartography took a stab at it, as well as doing a regular map roundup that's well worth keeping an eye on.

Dyson spent a little longer on his (2 Stargate episodes). And now has done a proper one hour dungeon.  Plus he's created a genuine Dyson Logos background fill! He then did another 2 hour dungeon, and then another one hour dungeon.

Of course I got in on it too.

Blood of Prokopius got in on the action with this nice computer generated map.  Ok, he really took 80 minutes to do it, but he posted what it looked like at 60 minutes.

The Lands of Ara completed a Robocop Dungeon -  it took an hour and 43 minutes aka the length of  Robocop!

Shane Knysh of Fictitious Entry added his dwarven/kobold/dragon one hour dungeon.

If you know of any I missed, please let me know so I can add them to the list!

**Edited 1/25 to add Dyson's map.
***Edited 1/28 to add Blood of Prokopius
****Edited 2/2 to add The Lands of Ara
*****Edited 2/21 to add Dyson's new maps.
******7/30 added Shane Knysh's map

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Hour Dungeon

Because all the cool people are doing it, I decided to jump on the One Hour Dungeon bandwagon. So last night, with my pad of graph paper, pencils and sharpener, a mug of tea, and Babylon 5 on Netflix, I got to work.  When the timer went off, I still had a little work that needed doing, but I had to walk the dogs and get to bed.

This dungeon level is going to be the sub level above the level 3 map I posted.

I did adjust the contrast so you could see it better. I'll post the finished version soon.

eta: I have now finished the map.  It's pretty much the same as the one above, but I finished the shading in.

Click to make either map bigger.

Starter Traveler – Encounters

There are a variety of different encounters that the rule book expands upon: Routine, Random, Rumor, Legal, Patron, Adventure, and Animal. Of these, there seems to be an inordinate amount of time devoted to animal encounters, which is odd for a sci-fi game. Granted, there is a lot that you can do with animal encounters, and a wide variety of animal types to play with, but was it worth 2 pages in the charts book, and 4.5 pages in the rule book? I’m not sure. The animal encounter section does also cover plants, and natural events, so perhaps this section would be better described as Nature Encounters.

Routine encounters are the characters interactions with shop keepers, starport dock masters, etc. They fill in the worlds with the normal people that you bump into and deal with for a minute or two.

Random encounters are just that, random. Your players may run into anything from dirt farming peasants, to nobles and their retinues, to pilgrims, to brigands, to other Travellers.

Rumors can come from anywhere – the two people talking across from you on the tram, a news report, a public speech, or even bits of this and that the players manage to put together. What do you get if you tell the players that religious pilgrims are flocking to planet A, weapons are selling like hot cakes on planet B, and planet C just purchased a whole new planetary computer system from planet D? I don’t know either, but I’m sure the players will come up with some story tying it all together!

There are reasons to avoid high law worlds. Every day you make a throw, and you have to roll higher than the local law level or you have a legal encounter. On a high law level world, the local law enforcement community is likely to harass strangers, and we all know what happens when players get harassed by the local Barney Fife! Fun times, that’s what!

Patron encounters are where it’s at, and what your players will be drooling over. A patron is basically anyone who is willing to hire your players to do just about anything. There are two lists of random patrons, but the DM is left to decide what the job is that the patron is offering. There is no particular way to determine which of the two charts are to be rolled on, but a sample roll provided either a Reporter or a Crew Member. The Reporter works for GNN and needs to get to a neighboring star system pronto. She’s willing to pay to rent your entire ship to get her, her equipment, and cameraman there if you leave right now. As it is your cargo hold is only half empty, and it’s due to be picked up tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Place For Everything

Up until last night I had a large pile of printouts that were sitting in a pile on my gaming shelf.  Now I've got them sorted out into Ikea FLYT magazine files.  I have them split into 4E, 3rd Edition, miniature games, Old School, and OD&D.  While I'd love to have everything sorted into well indexed binders that would let me cross reference with ease, but for now $1.99 magazine files will have to do.  Besides, it doesn't look too bad this way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unbreakable Bone of Volstruis

“What do you make of that?”  Feris asked softly, pointing to the shaggy hound by the fire.

“It’s a dog with a big bone.  Maybe cow?” Rathgar said before popping a breaded chunk of meat into his mouth. 

“Yeah, but it looks magical.” Feris whispered.

“Who’d enchant a dog bone?”  Nimble wondered. 

“That’s the wrong question.” Rathgar pointed out. “The correct question is how much have you had to drink?  You’re seeing things!”

At the hearth, the dog continued to enjoy her favorite bone, unconcerned about the wizard’s interest.  It never lasted long.  That terrier of the baker on the other hand, that ne’er-do-well needed watching.      

Unbreakable Bone of Volstruis

It is said that Volstruis was an ancient green dragon, a foul creature of dark sorcery, slain by the Paladin Maximus.  Upon conquering the wyrm, he had fashioned from its body a suit of armor, a great shield, and barding for his horse.  It was then stripped for its bones, organs, blood, and teeth by Maximus’ young wizard follower, who for a long time went about creating a wide variety of enchanted objects.  One of his early attempts was to create an enchanted bone club.  Unfortunately he didn’t properly clean the bone first, and while the resulting item did functioned as a lightly enchanted club, it was impossible to hold onto.  Somehow, the bone retained just enough dragon meat to be forever greasy enough to slip from the grasp of anyone trying to use it as a weapon.  The unbreakable bone did eventually find a purpose, one that it has been used for ever since.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Starter Traveller – Trade

It’s all about the stuff - credits, goods, things. Be they supplies that a mining colony needs for survival, or luxury crystals that a rich patron is willing to vastly overpay for, the interstellar community thrives or dies on its commerce. 

Unless funded by a wealthy patron, characters in Traveller will need to trade to survive. While a ship’s captain can fill the hold with bulk cargo at 1,000 credits a ton, she may be more inclined to carry trade goods. The basic procedure is that once a week you roll on the appropriate chart to see what and how much of it is available, and how much it’ll cost. Depending on what planet you buy the goods at, the price roll may be modified. 

Captain Clayton, currently in port on the planet Isheah (0606), checks to see what’s available. Rolling a 54 gives the result of All Terrain Vehicles with a base cost of 30,000 credits each, and 3 are available at 10 tons each. The modified price is at 110% of base cost, so each ATV is 33,000. Since Captain Clayton has a cushion, she decides to get all 3, and to fill the rest of her hold with standard cargo.  Arriving a week later in Artienang, she checks in to see what the going rate is for ATVs.  Now, she has an option of going to a broker for a die roll modification (and a cut of the profits), or to go it alone.  Miranda decides to go for a broker which will grant a +2 to the roll, but cost her 10% of whatever the worlds price is, whether she sells or not!

As Artienang is both non-industrial and agricultural the dice roll is further modified by +3, for a total modifier of +5.  The roll is 6, which would be a mere 90% of the base cost, but with the modifier becomes 150% of the base cost, or 45,000 each!  She offloads the 3 ATVs for a total of 135,000 minus 13,500 or 121,500, which is a profit of 22,500 credits on 30 tons of cargo.  She probably would have been better off if she’d have just carried standard cargo. 

Pressing her luck, she checks to see what’s available at Artienang. Apparently there is a large stock of Aluminum available, 200 tons of it, and for the low price of 800 credits a ton (80% of base costs). If she wanted to fill her 82 tons she’ll have to pay a 1% fee. The cost to fill the hold with aluminum is 65,600 credits plus 656 credits handling fee for a total cost of 66,256. She also has a passenger (and entourage) who is paying to go directly to Driash (0605). 

3 weeks later, at the Driash starport she hires a broker to sell the aluminum.  While the market is good for aluminum, it wasn’t as good as Captain Clayton had hoped.  The entire cargo is sold for 106,600, with 10,660 going to the broker, leaving a profit of only 29,684. 

Captain Clayton is going to need either better brokers or better cargo if she’s going to continue to speculate on trade goods! My dice rolls aren’t helping her any either. With some better rolls the profit could have been astronomical as the chart allows for up to 400% of base cost with a good enough roll, and the purchase price could be as low as 40% of base cost!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Corgi PCs for Rules Cyclopedia

Today is the birthday of my corgi Alice.  I wanted to do something special to celebrate it here, so I present the Rules Cyclopedia Corgi character class.  I’m basing this on the tradition of fairy tales that include talking animals, and literature such as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. 

Character Class: Corgi
Prime Requisite: Dexterity & Intelligence
Other Requirements: Strength 9 or better, Dexterity 9 or better, and a maximum of Wisdom 13
Experience Bonus: 5% bonus for either Dexterity or Intelligence of 13 or better.  10% bonus for both Dexterity and Intelligence of 13 or better.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to Level 9, +2 at Level 10 and Constitution bonuses no longer apply.
Maximum Level: 10 – Every 300,000xp earned after reaching level 10 grants an increase in attack rank.  
Armor: Corgis have a base AC of 7, and may use Leather, Scale, or Chain only, no shield.  Armor must be specifically designed for Corgi characters.
Weapons: Natural attacks
Special Abilities: Combat Bonus, Improved Speed, Improved Natural Attack, Fighter Combat Options (Hook, Slow), Weave

A Corgi is a diminutive tailless canine, standing around a foot at the shoulder, and weighing between 20-35lbs.  They usually have a reddish orange fur with a white belly, although tricolor examples are not uncommon.   They have large expressive ears, and big brown eyes.  
Corgis are extremely quick and inquisitive creatures, even when keeping their noses out of things would be the wiser course of action.   They are generally outgoing creatures, and very protective of their herd.  They can be mischievous, but become very serious when a job (or food) is at hand.
Some fairy creatures have been known to use corgis as mounts.  This is especially common among pixies and brownies. 

Corgi Experience Table
Level                XP                   Attack Rank
1                      0
2                      2,000
3                      4,000
4                      8,000
5                      16,000
6                      32,000
7                      64,000
8                      128,000           A
9                      258,000           B
10                    516,000           C
                        +300,000         D*, E, F, etc.

*Gains 2 attacks per round

Saving Throws as Halfling

Class Details
Prime Requisite: Corgis have 2 prime requisites: Dexterity and Intelligence.  If either of these abilities is 13 or greater the character gains a 5% bonus to experience points earned in every adventure.  If both of these scores are 13 or greater, the experience point bonus is 10%
Minimum Scores: A corgi character must have a score of 9 or better in both Strength and Dexterity, and can not have a Wisdom score higher than 13.
Hit Dice: Roll a 6-sided die to determine a corgi’s hit points.  A corgi starts with 1d6 hit points (plus con bonus, if any) and gains 1d6 more hit points (plus bonus) every level through 9.  At level 10 the corgi will gain an additional 2 hit points, and any constitution bonus will no longer apply
Armor:  Corgis require custom armor, and can wear any armor up to and including chain mail.  This armor will cost the standard amount due to the smaller amount of material required, however unless the armorer has experience making armor for corgis, there will be a delay in its completion. 
Weapons:  Corgis us only their own natural bite and slam attacks.  If armored, the corgi may make use of spiked armor. 

Special Abilities
Combat Bonus
In addition to receiving the same combat bonus as Fighters, all corgis gain the following bonuses when in combat:
-2 bonus to armor class when fighting creatures of greater than man-sized.
+1 bonus to individual initiative.

Improved Speed
Corgis are fast, in spite of their short legs. 
Level                Movement Value
1                      180’
3                      190’
5                      200’
7                      210’
9                      220’

Improved Natural Attack
A corgi’s bite can be worse than their bark.  As a corgi gains experience their bite attack becomes more effective.  These attacks don’t gain attack or damage bonuses of their magic-weapon equivalents, but can hit a creature as if the indicated weapons were used.
Level                Base Damage               Weapon Equivalent
1                      1d4                              Normal weapon
2                      1d4                              Silver weapon
4                      1d6                              Silver weapon
5                      1d6                              +1 weapon
7                      1d8                              +1 weapon
8                      1d8                              +2 weapon
10                    1d8                              +3 weapon

Fighter Combat Options
As master herding creatures, corgis may make use of the fighter combat options hook and slow starting at level 1.  They gain a second attack when they reach 816,000xp.
Hook – A corgi can knock the feet out from under their opponent.  Corgis may even hook creatures that are immune to the damage that corgis can inflict.  Opponents with more than 4 legs, or are larger than man-sized receive a +2 bonus to their saving throw.
Slow – By nipping at the heels of their opponent they can cause them to be slowed.  Any opponent slowed by a corgi may make a saving throw every other round vs. paralysis to shake off the effect.    

The agile corgi is able to slip between peoples legs, around tight corners, and under low obstacles with ease, moving at full speed and suffering no penalty while doing so.  On a roll (d20 + Dex bonus + level) of 18 or better a corgi succeeds in her attempt.  Should the corgi fail her movement will be halted appropriately by the DM, and she may be susceptible to an attack or other penalty.  

Corgi spiked armor – Any armor made for a corgi may be modified with blades and spikes.  Any armor so modified allows the corgi to attack with a body slam attack which will cause 2d4 points of damage, but requires that the corgi moves at least 10’ immediately prior to the attack.  Otherwise the armor causes 1d6 points of damage.  The armor may be used to hook, but not slow an opponent.  The cost to create spiked armor is 150% base cost of the armor. 

Alice is always ready for an adventure!
Alicemonster the Charismatic - Corgi Level 1 
Lawful       XP:150           

Str 10
Int 5           Speak simple common, can’t read or write
Wis 5         -2 to Save vs Spells
Dex 15       +1 to AC
Con 9
Cha 18       +3 to reaction rolls (“Oh how cute!”)

HP: 3              
AC: 6 (base 7 + Dex bonus)
Attack: 1 bite or slam               
Damage 1d4

Alicemonster the Charismatic is the sweetest corgi you will ever meet.  Her greatest desire is for everyone to be friends.  While she is highly inquisitive, she has no common sense, and will stick her nose into any hole, and eat just about anything she finds that smells good.  If she doesn’t eat it, she’ll roll in it. Generally known as “Alice” to her friends (aka – everyone) she will do everything in her power to help anyone who may or may not need or want it. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Don’t taunt the Monster!*

For those who don’t read (or post) comments, I am happy to share that I don’t suffer from spammers or trolls. 

I do read a lot of news posts, and some forums, and I find that I have to remind myself that I don’t need to like, unlike, or comment on anything anyone says.  I get upset when I see someone who I feel is incredibly stupid, misinformed, and just wrong.  I want to correct them.  

It’s better to step back, take a breath, and just move on.  If, the next day it’s still important enough, and no one else has done so, I’ll go back and leave a comment. 

How does this relate to gaming?  It does so in a couple of ways.  First, the obvious – replying to trolls on gaming blogs and forums is a bad idea.  A.k.a. don’t feed the trolls!  Along with that comes things like the edition wars – don’t just post to say that your game is superior to someone else’s.   It’s better to just explain you’re viewpoint without trying to convince anyone of your point of view. 

Besides that, there are lessons that dungeoneers can bring from the real world into the game. 

To begin with, not everything reacts the same way to sword and spell, and it isn’t always necessary to act as though those as your only tools.  Remember your goal, and avoid unnecessary encounters that drain your resources.  For example, you and your 1st level friends are traveling to the big city, and you have to cross a bridge with a troll.  The goal is to get to the city, so you pay the silver each, even covering for that guy who spent every copper on equipment, and you continue on.  If you forget your goal, and you see the troll and his big bag of silver coins, and you decide that getting the silver coins is more important, so you attack?  TPK, and now the troll has everything you used to have. 

Next, when you think you have the upper hand, getting off a witty remark can be fun, but outright taunting is just asking karma (or the DM) to come and smack you upside the head. 

*Blog topic courtesy of Rusty Battle Axe’s Son of Random Blog Post Topic Generator

Friday, January 14, 2011

Silver Wardog

Rathgar’s blow knocked the ruffian to the ground.  Around him his companions seemed to be handing the rest of the rabble quite handily, leaving the leader finally unprotected. 

The lithe human in dark studded leather frowned and tightened his grip on his short sword with his one hand, while the other reached quickly into a pouch at his hip.  Withdrawing a small silver figure, he yelled out “Sick ‘em!”

A glowing white mist flowed out of the figure toward Rathgar, forming into a large white dog with glowing eyes that leapt straight for him.   

Silver Wardog
This stylized figurine stands approximately 4” tall.  When activated, it will summon a spectral dog which will obey the commands of the activator.  Every round after the first the spectral dog must make a Saving Throw vs Death Ray or the item will deactivate until the next day. 

Spectral Dog
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4+2** (L)
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2d4+2
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F4
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 4
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 275

Monster Type: Giant Animal, Enchanted (rare)
The Spectral Dog is the manifestation of the spirit of a great wardog.  It appears as a large dog made of glowing white mist.  The Spectral Dog is not undead, and can not be turned.  It is also immune to all sleep, charm, and hold spells, as well as all non-magical weapons. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wardog Armor - Spiked Armor

Spiked armor – Any armor made for a dog may be modified with blades and spikes.  Any armor so modified allows the dog to attack with a body slam attack which will cause 2d4 points of damage, but requires that the dog moves at least 10’ immediately prior to the attack.  Otherwise the armor causes 1d6 points of damage.    The cost to create spiked armor is 150% base cost of the armor.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds Map 3

First, there was my hand drawn map.  Serviceable, but not really attractive. 

Then there was Alex Schroeder's mapping program.  Even more serviceable, and much more attractive.

Now The Rubberduck has provided this beautiful map.

That makes me think that if I end up doing a lot of these, it would be well worth it to pick up Campaign Cartographer. 

Thank you Rubberduck for the awesome map!

Dogs in the Dungeon

No, this isn’t about using Dogs in the Vineyard to play Dungeons and Dragons, but rather about the roles of dogs in D&D. 

Various editions of our favorite game list dogs and other animals in the equipment lists.  A few of them include things like war dogs and riding dogs, but not really giving much info on them or their uses.  Obviously dogs can be used for defending their owners, or as attackers, but a canine has many uses, and you want to pick the right breed for the job you want it to do.  You probably won’t pick a Boston terrier or a greyhound as your attack dog, nor would you pick a mastiff to run a race. 

I’m going to look at a variety of breeds, and show how they might be useful to a dungeoneer. 

Let’s start with big dogs that are generally classified as Working Dogs – Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, etc.  These dogs are your typical wardog or riding dog.    In addition to their size they are also strong, and relatively intelligent.  If you don’t have stats for a dog, these guys will be easily represented by the standard wolf stats.

 Herding Dogs tend to be smaller, faster, and a little smarter than the Working Dogs.  In this group you have collies, shepherds, and even corgis.  They are better able to work alone, and can make good sentries.  They are very alert and protective of those they consider part of their pack.  Herding dogs will have fewer hit points than workers, but they’ll be faster.

Sporting Dogs, such as setters, pointers, and retrievers are the dogs of the nobility who used them for hunting birds and small game.  They are loyal, energetic, and excellent retrievers. 

Hounds are dogs that are used for hunting and tracking, excellent for flushing out bigger game for their owners to shoot.  Due to their highly developed sense of smell they can follow any scent given to them, and they’re likely to find hidden doors.

Terrier Dogs were generally used to hunt vermin, and they are exceptionally stubborn.  Generally small but resilient they have fewer hit points, but a better armor class, and have bonuses for fighting vermin.

Nonsporting Dogs are a mixed collection that are hard to generalize, and includes Poodles (full sized), Dalmatians, and Bulldogs.  Depending on the specific breed, they may use the rules of any other breed, as appropriate.

Toy Dogs, such as the Chinese Crested, Toy Poodle, and the Shih Tzu do not belong in the dungeon.

Working Dog
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2+2
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1d6
No. Appearing: 2d6 (3d6)
Save As: F1
Morale: 9 or 7
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 2
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 25

Herding Dogs: HD: 2, +2 to initiative, able to reroll initiative every round, intelligence 3

Sporting Dogs: AC: 6, HD: 1+2

Hound Dogs: HD: 2, Detect Secret Doors as an Elf  
            Greyhounds/Whippets: AC: 6, HD: 1+1, Move 210’ (70’)

Terrier Dogs: HD: 1+2, if successful in an attack, they may latch on and cause an automatic 1d4 points of damage per round. 

Nonsporting Dogs: may use the rules of any other breed, as appropriate.

Toy Dogs: use stats for a Rat, Normal

Trained dogs have a higher morale as long as their master is still alive. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Starter Traveller - Thoughts on Strange New Worlds

Starter Traveller is a game rather different from any other I'm familiar with, and the world building shows that off just as well as the character building system does.  It paints a picture of a galaxy vastly different from the one I expected when I first started reading the rulebook.  For example, I rolled far more Mars sized and smaller planets than Earth sized ones.  I also rolled a whole lot of worlds with technology levels that more closely match those of the 20th century rather than the imperial standard.  Even a world with a class A starport can have a level of technology that most closely matches that of the 1980s.  It also suggests that not all of the worlds be connected in standard communication & trade routes in order to allow exploration by the players.  This seems to strongly imply that the worlds of Traveller, being well apart from the core worlds of the distant Imperium, are either unimportant backwaters, or areas of a falling/fallen/recovering civilization.  It may even be that the core worlds are just as technologically poor, though the suggestions about DMs modifying the dice rolls as desired suggest that may not necessarily be the case.

While most of the discussion of technology seems to revolve around military hardware, it's a natural extension that the rest of the worlds available technology be similarly matched.  It would be interesting to see a world with access to low level technology, except for a specific exception.  For example Ancient Rome with steam technology or the 1400's with radios.  This could easily devolve into a bad star trek episode, which on the other hand could make for a great game, but your mileage may vary.

I'm sure I'll have some more thoughts on this as I continue reading the rule book and the adventures that come with it.  More to come...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starter Traveller - Subsector & Spreadsheet

I thought that after putting together the whole subsector, writing it up, mapping it out, and even putting it on a spreadsheet, that others might be interested in it.  So I put cleaned up versions of all my descriptions, and the map into a PDF for you to download.  The spreadsheet, which is useful for sorting the planets by any of their coded features is available too!

Subsector PDF

Subsector Spreadsheet

In putting together my subsector I did use a few resources that didn't come from the starter books.  First off, I'm bad at names, and with 49 systems (slightly more than the 50% that I would have rolled statistically) I found a useful name generator - Amaranth Traces and Thraesja SG-1 name generator that helped me fill in my map.  I also occasionally used Kinkret Web Dice Roller rather than rolling my own dice.

I also want to thank Alex Schroeder specifically for his subsector mapping program.   After I posted my hand drawn map he linked in his comments to it, and I decided to give it a try.  It took a few tries to get my data formatted correctly, and Alex had to make a few tweaks to his program to make allowances for some differences between Starter Traveler and Mongoose's edition. 

Subsector Map PDF - Check out how much nicer this is than my hand drawn map!  There are different trade routes, but I'm totally ok with that, as I was kind of making it up anyway.

I hope that these downloads and links are helpful for anyone interested in Traveller.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Megadungeon Map - Level 3

While sitting and looking at the tree all lit up for the last night this season, and listening to the local classical station I pulled out my pad of graph paper, and started mapping. This is the result.  It's the section across the chasm in level 2.

I'll probably add more tonight.

4e Christmas

I was not expecting to get anything gaming related for Christmas.  In fact I was positive that I was getting nothing gaming related.

I was wrong.

I received the D&D 4E Monster Vault boxed set and the Essentials Rules Compendium.  Sadly I still haven't really had a chance to read them.  Honestly I haven't even  taken the shrink wrap off of the Monster Vault yet! 

While I'm still in the middle of the Traveller read through, I plan on going through these two products and doing reviews of them here. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Links worth passing on

Al at Beyond the Black Gate has come up with some old school magic items for 1st level characters.  Some of the comments offer some good tweaks on the original post, so be sure to read them too.

If you're curious about those Fate Cards WotC is putting out for 4e, but have no interest in spending cash for them, Jamie over at For a Fistful of Coppers has a link to some free fan made Drama Cards.  Or you can get them directly from here.  Tim over at Gothridge Manor has some fair thoughts on the subject too.

Sorcery and Super Science posts briefly about the joys of rolling hit points for monsters

What do you do in this game?  The Omnipotent Eye tackles this question, and brings up some interesting points.  Again, worth checking out the comments too.

Stonewerks' Mystery Meat (a fun weekly series) is The Raven EXD-5200S-RVN an Explorer Class Ship (Type D) for Traveller.  A great little ship for some PC's to take on a spin.

The Dump Stat shares some thoughts on Tag Team Powers for 4e.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

About a month ago I finished reading Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf.  Unlike The Elfish Gene, I borrowed this one from the library, so I'm not giving away a copy, which is a shame, because unlike the Elfish Gene, I really liked Ethan's book.  

The first thing you need to know is that Ethan is a gaming geek and a fantasy freak. He had set aside geeky things for a long time, but has been called back, and he has to decide whether to answer the call or not. This is a self-conscious journey as he tries to come to grips with his inner geek. From the battlefields of Pennsic to the spectacular vistas of Azaroth, to a small town in Wisconsin and on to Middle-Earth and New Zealand, Ethan's journey spans this world and several others. He encounters numerous well adjusted individuals who unabashedly "fly their freak flag" and comes to discover that fantasy isn't just about escapism, isn't immature (though it can be childish - in the best sense of the word) but rather can be a health component in one's life.

I really enjoyed this volume much more than the Elfish Gene. While the author does experience and share a certain amount of fear and shame in his geekyness, he takes the time to explore and understand it. In the Elfish Gene the author uses his book to show what a twit he was, and uses Dungeons & Dragons as a scapegoat. It turns out that he's a twit without D&D too!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Starter Traveller - Subsector Map

Before we get to my map, I want to point out that the rulebook does not tell you how different systems generally link up as far as communication and x-routes go.  It merely suggests that not everything be connected, so that players can explore.  The same goes with determining whether a systems is a Green, Amber, or Red Zone. 

There isn't a map key, but any system with a  planet has a circle in the middle.  A gas giant is represented by a dot on the upper right side of the hex.  A navy base is represented by a star on the left, and a scout base is a triangle.  The starport type is the letter above the planet, and the amber and red zones are pretty clear.  Trade routes are in blue.  

My map was hand drawn on an enlarged copy of the blank map found in the starter set itself.  For those with more time and a greater proficiency with GIMP than I have, there are downloadable Traveller specific brushes.  If anyone feels like remaking my map, I wouldn't mind!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds VIII

Sectors 0801-0810

Sector 0801 - Eamnaba - B677457-C - Navy Base, Gas Giant
Eamnaba is a nearly perfect world, with only a tainted atmosphere going against it. The descendants of the original terraformers have kept the atmosphere in it's current status in order to maintain their positions of power.  In spite of this, the people of Eamnaba enjoy a very high standard of living, and are currently very content, even though they have to wear filters when outside their habitats. 

Sector 0802 - Dreroost - B649624-5 - Scout Base, Gas Giant
The storm ravaged oceans of Dreroost do a very effective job of hiding the millions of inhabitants in their undersea cities.  While the firearm laws of Dreroost are fairly relaxed, no weapon/ammo able to pierce the shells of the undersea domes is legal. 

Sector 0803 - Empty

Sector 0804 - Empty

Sector 0805 - Empty

Sector 0806 - Empty

Sector 0807 - Thayoeth - B331443-D - Gas Giant
This small planetoid is home to herds of giant capybara that eat the wild drygrass that covers the vast majority of this world.  The people of Thayoeth work hard, and live well, with simple pleasures and strong family bonds.  They aren't big fans of outsiders.

Sector 0808 - Sheatecke - C725314-7 - Scout Base
The private world of Sheateck, home to a mere 2 thousand inhabitants, is a high security prison planet, and off limits to anyone, not that there is much of a reason for anyone to visit.  Being a prison world, the sector is listed as an Amber Zone.

Sector 0809 - Luosse - C341365-9
A generally poor world, Luosse does have one thing of value - a large content of radioactive materials useful for ship building.  The former government of Luosse began to raise the price of the material 3 years ago exponentially.  This is the reason that the Emirates of Serte invaded last year.  As such there is an Amber Zone in effect.

Sector 0810 - Serte - A9879B7-C - Navy Base, Gas Giant
The shipyards of Serte are booming, which is why the Imperial Navy is in town.  In a system boasting 3 gas giants, and 2 asteroid fields there is very little that the system is lacking, except for radioactives.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds VII

Sectors 0701-0710

Sector 0701 - Empty

Sector 0702 - Argell - B776554-7 - Scout Base, Gas Giant
The agroworld of Argell is a wild place with spots of industry that are beginning to poison the atmosphere.  Some roving bands of ecoterrorists have been assaulting these industrial centers.  The technocrats have been ineffective in their attempts to stop them. 

Sector 0703 - Empty

Sector 0704 - Empty

Sector 0705 - Kairtehe - A564885-9 - Scout Base, Gas Giant
This gleaming gem of a world boasts a shiny new starport, paid for through the profits of the trade that passes through the system, the farms that grow plentiful foods, and the industries that keep the people employed.  The civil service does what it can to keep everything according to plan, which has been successful for the most part.  The major stain on their work is the growing drug trade, and decadent amusements the people of Kairtehe are beginning to adopt.

Sector 0706 - Empty

Sector 0707 - Empty

Sector 0708 - Empty

Sector 0709 - Shaish -D657477-4 - Gas Giant
From the sunken bays of the dirtside starport the calls from the sellers in the trade square can easily be heard, and few of them are in the imperial standard tongue.  The starport resides in the richest and most powerful nation state on the surface.  Which nation is the most powerful is determined by which one controls the starport.  There are a large number of defensive structures around it, and the skys overhead are filled with an odd mix of military zeppelins, propeller planes, and a couple of imported sky-speeders.

Sector 0710 - Empty

Monday, January 3, 2011

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds VI

Sectors 0601-0610.

Sector 0601 - Guoffo - X150510-6 Gas Giant
The corporate world of Guoffo has been nearly depleted of  value, at least the corporate overseers think so.  It hasn't been helped that the local overseers have been denying that there have been any profits for years now, and they even sabotaged the starport, destroying it.  The local gas giant is currently migrating out of the system, disrupting the orbits of the rest of the local stellar bodies.

Sector 0602 - Empty

Sector 0603 - Empty

Sector 0604 - Clele - A6C1647-B  - Navy Base, Gas Giant
Clele is a poisonous world, a noxious green landscape orbiting a noxious yellow gas giant.  Yet from these corrosive vapors comes a medical technology that has saved countless lives.  A local Navy Base runs the starport, and protects the system. 

Sector 0605 - Driash - C000414-B - Gas Giant
Durash was once an eden, a gloriously lush orb.  It is now a broken fragmented asteroid field being mined for material and investigated to see what exactly caused the destruction of the world.  The starport hosts both a research station and an ore refinery.

Sector 0606 - Aesselo - A8547BC-A  - Scout Base, Gas Giant
Queen Valentine is a fat, boorish, selfish slob of a woman, and the people hate her.  However, she is incredibly intelligent, and there is little chance of the crown slipping from her brow.  

Sector 0607 - Isheah - A587848-A - Scout Base, Gas Giant
The 400 million plus inhabitants of Isheah enjoy a lush, and generally welcoming environment.  The planet is smaller than it's earth normal gravity would indicate due to a higher than average heavy element makeup.  A world wide representative government generally allows it's people a high level of freedom of expression, but keeps a tight grip on available weapons, and doesn't look kindly on violent visitors. 

Sector 0608 - Artienang - C988668-7 - Scout Base, Gas Giant
There is one main continent on this world, with a large central desert, and a number of tropical of archipelagos.  Currently the system is being used to spy on the goings on in the Tau Erython system.  The rules of the system, King Alexander knows of the spys, as they have his family hostage.  The rest of the kingdom believes that his family is off visiting Saecketo (sector 0506).

Sector 0609 - Haustew - C8C5362-6 - Scout Base, Gas Giant
The insidious atmosphere of Haustew is a naturally occuring feature due to the chlorine oceans that cover half of this world.  The people are contained in a single contained city that is currently being held by "pirates."  In reality, these "pirates" are actually corporate espionage agents interested in gaining access to Tau Erython who found King Alexander unwilling to deal with them. 

Sector 0610 - Empty

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

The New Year is a natural time for a new start, to move on from what has come before.  So I am rededicating this blog to my newest passion - vegetarian barbecue!

 And if you believe that, I have some prime lunar real estate for sale cheap!

Really though, it is a good time to rework things so I offer these inspirational images of world adjustment for you to enjoy.

More can be found here.

Happy New Year!