Called Shots

I was rummaging through my old books again, and I found my old list for making called shots that is always kind of fun, well, if you have a gaudy fighter character. I used these when playing in a 17th century campaign world, one of my favorite time-periods. What with pirates, more reliable fire-arms, and elegant swords made more for speed then for crunching power.

I used this list with a swashbuckler/fighter, and thought that maybe some of you good folks might enjoy it. Of course this isn’t the first time that I’ve wrote about tactics, but this stuff is fun too!

Smashing something being held: +1 to initiative, -1 to hit

Sometimes, when you are fighting, your enemy will try something cheap like drinking a healing potion or throw some kind of nasty chemical at you. By using this tactic, you can stop him from completing this act, well, assuming that you can gain the imitative. This move doesn’t do any damage, unless whatever in the bottle was dangerous, but it can save your life in a pinch.

Carving Initials: +1 to initiative, -4 to hit

When you want to humiliate somebody, or just make sure that they remember you, you can carve something into their flesh. In the shadow of Zorro, one can write a letter or two, or even a small, simple symbol. If you are nice, you can just carve this into their clothing, but the actual roll works for carving it into flesh as well. Carving your name into somebody does ½ damage, but leaves a nice scar.

Cutting Buttons Off: +1 to initiative, -4 to hit

Another way to prove your superiority over an opponent, without actually killing him. This one might not turn them hostel, like branding them does, but it still could make them really mad, especially once you factor in how much buttons cost, and the embarrassment of losing your cloths, but if you think that if you can gain an advantage by physically showing the other person just how bad ass you are, then cut them buttons off and he may think twice before attacking you.

Stapling: +1 to Initiative, - 4 to hit. (opponent suffers +2 AC penalty)

There are times when you might notice somebody going for their missile weapon, and in the interest of fairness, you don’t want them to do that, you can attempt to staple their arm to a nearby wall or table with a missile weapon of your own, such as a dagger. It is up to the thrower as to if the weapon simply staples their sleeve to the wall, or their hand itself, but the effect that you are trying to get here is to stop an attack, and show how dangerous you are. This will also give your opponent a +2 penalty to his Armor Class, and he won’t gain any bonuses for high Dexterity either.


Vs. single handed weapon: +1 to Initiative, -4 to hit
Vs. Two-handed Weapon: +1 to Initiative, -4 to hit (takes 2 attacks)
Vs. Shield: +1 to Initiative, -4 to hit (only knocks out of alignment for 1 round)
Vs. Thrown weapons: +1 to Initiative, -6 to hit

Of course, this usually means that you are knocking their weapon out of their grasp. To determine where it goes, roll a d6

1-straight ahead
2-ahead right
3-behind right
4-straight behind
5-behind left
6-behind right

Expert Disarm: +2 to Initiative, -8 to hit

Now this one is difficult, but what you are doing is disarming your opponent, sending his blade up into the air, and catching it yourself, to use against him. If you can get it to work, then you are a badass!

Grab: +1 to Initiative, -4 to hit (both roll STR check)

This move is to grab you opponent, and either hold him or throw him. Obviously you have to be either bigger then him, or roughly the same size, or it’s not going to work.


Once you’ve grabbed somebody effectively, you can either pull or trip them. Your opponent must roll a DEX check, if they aren’t moving then they get a -6 bonus to their roll, however if they aren’t aware of you or what you are going to do to them, then they suffer a +3 to their roll.

Pin w/ Weapon: -4 to attack

Pinning with a weapon, is when you take your weapon in both hands and use it to push them back up against the wall, or to hold down their weapon with your own. If the attack is successful, then both you and your opponent make STR check, highest roll without going over wins.

Sap/Knockout: +1 to initiative, -8 to hit

This is a headshot directly to the cranium. If they are awake, there is a 5% chance per hp of damage inflicted (up to 40%) to be knocked out. If they are sleeping, then it’s 10% per hp of damage (up to 80%) that they stay that way.

Special Weapons

Some weapons give cool bonuses in the hands of a swashbuckler.

Stiletto: +2 to hit Plate mail, Ring mail, & Chain mail armors
Main-Gauche: +1 to disarm & parry, & when punching with the hilt, it does 1d3 dmg
Rapier, Sabre: both give a +1 bonus to parry, and the hilt does 1d3 dmg, when you use it to punch.

Random Bad Habit Generator - with some ranting for good measure

No campaign add-ins this week, sorry. I’ve got lots of ideas, just a lack of time to actually put them to digital paper. I’m such a terrible host this week! I am almost done copying the text that I want from the 1st edition DMG, namely the cool random generators in the back. I think that I’m developing a real fondness for them! I know that I could download some program off of the web, and can have multiple level dungeons randomly created at the touch of a button, but where is the fun in that?

I think that if you over simplify some stuff, it will remove the process itself, and without the process . . . Well, what is the point of doing it? I know that when I sit down and start developing a map, I am actually just sketching. I know what I want . . . Sometimes, however the beauty of a good map is in the details. I think of these details as I’m fussing over the sketch, trying to figure out what can go where, and it is during this process that the dungeon starts to become real to me. I can see its face forming, and before I know it, it is done and I created a brand new creature that is just waiting for the PC’s to step into it before I give it a pulse, and a life of its own. It really is a beautiful thing! And if we eliminate too much of the process, with fancy random dungeon generation programs, or NPC generation programs, we don’t have enough time on our hands, to really get them dirty and do what we need to, to actual create something truly different.

Other times, I find that it isn’t the map at all that makes an encounter unique, but the individual who calls it home. Creating NPCs is an art in itself! The more static that something is, the more of a caricature that it must become, but there is always limits. I suppose that there are always limits.

I find it interesting to study acting, and a great film to do it to is a little dark comedy called “Curdled”. It started out as a student film, which they have on the DVD, as well as the professional release, but it really shows you something about how to handle villains. A villain in the hands of a crappy actor is always a hilarious thing. They have no idea what a villain is, never the less how to play one. A bad actor will always play a bad guy with too much intensity, he always walks around with some single purpose and is always angry and intense. A GOOD actor, however, can take this villain and make him come alive. He’ll give him a purpose, he isn’t pissed off and brooding all of the time, in fact, the villain believes that the film is really about him, and that he is the hero of the story! A good villain isn’t afraid of displaying his emotions, and not just the destructive and dark ones that we always think of when we envision them, but the pleasant ones too. A good villain can be a very sensual creature who is more in touch with himself then any body else in the story.


This table doesn’t just need to be used with villains exclusively, but with any NPC that you want to give a little bit extra too.

Random Bad Habit Generator (d%)

01-05 = Antisocial behavior
06-10 = Impolite
11-13 = Belching in public
14-15 = Curses
16-18 = Discourtesy
19-20 = Disregard for others’ property
21-25 = Drug use
26-27 = Ear pulling
27-32 = Excessive drinking
33-35 = Fingerpointing
36-40 = Frowning
40-44 = Gossiping
45-50 = Impatience
51-55 = Insensitivity
56-57 = Interrupting
58-60 = Jumping to conclusions
61-62 = Knuckle-cracking
63-64 = Lateness
65-66 = Loudness
67-68 = Messy
69-71 = Nail biting
72-75 = Nose picking
76-77 = Nosiness
78-80 = Preoccupation
81-83 = Profane
84-86 = Selfishness
87-90 = Smoking
91-95= Stubbornness
96-98 = Unkempt appearance
99-00 = Whining

Adventure Notes 5: Tomb of Horror

Another great game yesterday! The prep wasn’t too intense, but I did have to sit on it longer then I really wanted to. My original plan was to run the old dungeon, Tomb of Horrors, but decided against it. The thing was too long and I really don’t like many of the rooms involved with the original. Instead I made my own map, a very small 5 room dungeon with traps, puzzles, and some light combat. My PC’s are 4th level now, so I can abuse them more, plus I gained two new players. Both of them are 2e virgins but adapted well. The first character is an Explorer, however I think that I need to do some tinkering with his character as he isn’t very explorerish, but maybe it’s just me? I think that I’m just going to add Legends and Lore to his NWP list, and take away something else. The other character who is new is a sailor. I had those two be friends, both began play at 4th level.

We started off 2 weeks after our last adventure, Abraham Van Helsing and his crew trained everybody in skills that they could use, Charlotte learned how to battle ghosts, and Kurt was able to learn a thing or two about demolition, and returned them to Bucharest, everybody stocked up on all of the shit that they’d need, and we discovered a rather odd typo in Masque of the Red Death equipment sheets, they have all of this goofy crap like lunchboxes, and harmonicas, but they don’t have any rope listed what so ever. NO ROPE!?!? That is just bizarre!

I had the two new party members meet up with the rest of the troop while they were out shopping for supplies, the Explorer spent all of his money hoping to gain access to a weird archeological dig in the Romanian city, the ruins of what appears to be a definite Arabian temple where it shouldn’t be. He was denied access to it, but when he hears of the parties plans to breach the security and enter the ruins, he’s fair game, so he and his buddy join the party, YEAY!!!

We don’t play with figures, so traversing large distances can be a bit daunting without some kind of game plan. It is winter, but I know that a lot of archeologists use boards as make-shift sidewalks, so that was what I did on my overview map. I made lots of different paths and formed a maze of sorts, however all of the sites of interest are dug deeper into the earth which form pits. The PC’s can only see a few pits at a time, they can hear some excitement coming from one of them, and they chose to avoid that pit . . . It was the Six Fingered Hand, they ambushed the normal guard and were busy trying to control the crowd of workers that they had taken hostage, as well as find a way into the ruins, but they are at the wrong entrance. The entrance that they are trying to breach is nothing but a trap that will kill all who enter it. There is another Trapped fake entrance which the PC’s avoided as well. LUCK always seems to be with them, the did get caught by the villains, but they chose the correct pit, and the correct entrance. Lucky bastards! By the time that my badguy, “The Beetle” got to them, the damned door was shutting, and I was hoping to put him inside of the tomb with them, but they wouldn’t have it. They had him separated from his peers, so they just tied him up and chucked him back outside. (The door opens because of the artifact stone in the mediums cleavage.)


I kept the original Tomb first room. That is one of the best rooms that I’ve ever seen in a module. Of course I redecorated it to suit my story. There isn’t any lich in it, so instead I had pictures depicting the artifact in action, and the fall of Arak. The Artifact is a spirit blade that slays gods, this I revealed on the walls, as well as the fact that the piece that they were looking for wasn’t in the shape of a skull, as the diary that they had found said that it was, but in the shape of a cobra head. I also changed the puzzle to get into the tomb itself and leave the room, all they had to do was turn the gems green, and follow a red path into a misty archway, all of them again lucked out . . . Except for Shannon, he alone found himself back at the beginning over and over again because he failed to pay attention to how the puzzle was initially solved.

Once he finally bungled his way to the other side, none of them could figure out the gargoyle puzzle, but that’s cool, it just supplied some magical items if they put gems into its hands. The next room had a gargoyle as well, but this one was a monster who patiently waited for a good opportunity to strike.

The party only had 1 magical weapon, a Dagger+2, and a plus weapon was needed to do damage to the creature. I went ahead and had all of the soldiers who were specialized in their weapons do exactly 1 point of damage, while the Dagger did full damage. THIS WAS A LONG BATTLE!!! And despite the fact that it was only taking a point or two in damage per round, the favor was all to the PC’s. The corridor that I was fighting them in was so cramped that I couldn’t use my wings, and he was just out numbered 6 to 1. It did teach the new guys how combat is handled in 2nd Edition, both of them are used to playing 3rd.

Of course no dungeon is complete without a sliding wall gag, They find themselves down a corridor and they trigger a trap that seals off their entrance, so they can’t go back, and the wall is quickly moving towards them, at the end of the corridor is two doors, both of them are stuck and requires a STR, Open Doors check to open them, all before they are crushed by the wall.

They get into the door and discover another puzzle which took forever for them to figure out. I had an alter set up with a skeleton on it, in the skeleton was a dagger +1 which was actually being used to keep a vampire (the skeleton) from returning from the dead. On both sides of the alter were two statues of Hobgoblins, that in reality were nothing but giant nutcrackers. The clues given around the room all pointed to sacrifice, and the PC’s tried sacrificing themselves, but the way past this room was to sacrifice magical items by putting them in the nutcrackers mouths and crushing them, which would open the door 1/4th per item.

They knew what they had to do, it was just their own greed that prevented them from doing it.

The boss was a Guardian Naga, and I think that if there was a weak part to the game, it was my final encounter, I should had made it a total free for all between the PC’s fighting the Naga who stayed in the shadows, but instead I made them fight 1-on-1 with the thing. The first person to step forward to accept the challenge was the sailor, he was beaten but allowed to keep his life. The next person up was Shannon’s character Sam, he was killed. Third was the Medium who finally kicked it’s rear end. All they had to do was take away half of it’s hp, and it would surrender, which it did, and it gave up the Serpent head of Nag Shubba. It brought Sam back to life, and healed the party, and it was at this point were everybody decided that they had had enough.

BAD TIMING!!! The Dungeon wasn’t defeated yet, but it was after 1a.m. which was our established time to call it quits, so we disbanded and we’ll just have to pick up where we left off next time. Hopefully nobody does anthing foolish right off of the bat, however, that is up to them!

Over all it was a great game! The characters still show that they can kick ass as well as take a licking themselves, which was something that I was worried about, but my fears are now snuffed out completely. These heroes are just as tough as their fantasy “Sword & Sorcery” counterparts, if not tougher!!! Fun stuff :)

Memorial Day RPG links

Sorry for the lack of updates as of late, but these things are bound to happen. I've got a game to DM tonight, YAY!!! I'm also working on transferring some stuff out of the 1st edition DMG, the book is thirty years old and I don't want to beat it up, but lots of stuff in it are just gold!

There are some good articles out there on the web to enjoy. Medieval Demographics Made Easy is right up my alley, since I totally love it when things are made easy!

If anybody out there is playing in a Victorian setting, or even pondering doing so, the Victorian Roleplaying Themes webpage is an awesome source of info. It's primarily aimed at GURPs users, but it seems more system neutral then anything.


Disease & Parasites

We all know that liches and red dragons are good at killing characters. We also know that Goblins and Trolls are excellent for harassing them, but these encounters, while fun and exciting (sometimes) are not the only dangers that threaten the adventurer. Many DMs simply forget about the smaller dangers, a species of monster that plagues mankind even to this day! Microscopic little critters that get inside of us and just make general havoc! Yes friends, I’m talking about disease, and other parasitic nasties that can make an adventurer afraid to lace up his armor!

There are two ways to go about this, the hard way, or the easy way, and I don’t know about you, but easy sounds pretty god damned good to me! We won’t be messing around with specific types, we aren’t Doctors here, we just want to have a good time ruining a PC’s day. We’ll be focusing more on general terms, then on any real accuracy. We’ll look at general maladies, and how they effect the game, not to mention the players chances of getting to enjoy one!

Contracting a Disease

Remember that cool calendar we were suppose to be using? You’ll need it for this, because we are going to want to check to see if our PCs have caught a disease once a week. You really have to realize just how filthy and scummy everything was back in the day. Outdoor markets, no garbage pickups, horse shit everywhere, people dumping their piss right out of the window and into the street, running water was unheard of, clean water was even more rare, Arid Extra Dry won’t be invented for hundreds of years!!! Our past was very very stinky. And with stink come germs and vermin. We’ll be checking for disease once a month, but if the conditions are perfect, if the weather is good and hot, the air is moist, and/or you're in a filthy crowded area, we’ll be checking for disease every week.

We also need to check whenever a character has been exposed to a carrier in a way that would allow the disease to travel into him. Carriers can be human, animal, bugs, food, drinks, vermin, dirt, filth, anything that you think could contract an illness!

Contracting Parasites

We’ll be checking for Parasites each month, too. This is a separate roll, because, honestly, we want to share the love! And what better way to show somebody that you care, then by infesting them with parasites? Again, if the conditions for parasites are good, living in filthy conditions that are warm or hot and moist, we’ll up the parasitic ante up to once per week. We’ll also check it each and every time that they unwittingly expose themselves to a source, such as swamp water, manure, raw meat, or my drunk uncle Phil.

Chance of Contracting a Disease

Base Chance...................................................................2%

Currently diseased or infested with parasites.................+1%
Character is old........................................................+2%
Hot & Moist Climate...................................................+2%
Character is venerable...............................................+5%
Exposure to carrier of communicable disease..................+10%
Cool weather or climate............................................. -1%
Cold weather, high mountains..................................... -1%
Shipboard after being at sea 2 weeks............................-2%

Chance of Parasitic Infestation

Base Chance.....................................................................3%

Improperly cooked meat..............................................+2%
Polluted water...........................................................+5%
Swamp/Jungle environment..........................................+5%
Cool weather, or desert climate.....................................-1%
Cold weather, high mountains, cool desert climate............-1%

*All of these tables were stolen from created by Gerry Gygax

I don’t know why TSR left these pretties out of the 2nd Edition, I’ve spent lots of times waist-deep in swamp muck, all covered in scratches and lacerations with my only real concern that my map wasn’t getting wet. I suspect that the 2e format, which had bigger, clearer fonts, and much easier to read, had to do a ton of cutting; especially to fit all of that awesome art in there. If you ever get a chance to pick up a copy of the original 1st edition DMG, GRAB IT!!! I kid you not, it took around 14 2e books to include most of the data in the original DMG. Not all of it is perfect, but most of it can easily be married into your game without so much as having to convert it over!


So, you finally rolled somebody a little present! Well, it’s time to see if it is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

01-03 Blood: Lose 1 point of STR and CON per week until totally cured. 1d12 weeks
04 Bones: Same as blood. Fatal in 1d12 weeks
05 Brain: Lose 1 INT and DEX per occurrence until cured. Fatal in 2d6 hrs
06-07 Cardiovascular-renal: Same as blood, but fatal in 1d12 days
08-09 Connective tissue: Permanent loss of 1 point of STR, DEX, CON, and CHA for each month of the affliction.
10-12 Ear: Deaf in one or both ears (50%) until cured
13-18 Eye: Blind in one or both eyes (50%) until cured
19-40 Gastro-intestinal: Lose 1 STR and CON per occurrence until cured. 1d12 weeks
41-42 Generative organ: No particular problems except for of spread, terminal 1d12 months
43-48 Joints: Lose 1 DEX until cured
49-50 Mucous membrane: Lose 1 CON until cured
51-52 Muscle: Lose 1 STR and DEX until cured, fatal in 1d12 months
53-65 Nose-Throat: 10% chance of losing 1 CON until cured
66-85 Respiratory: 10% chance of losing 1 STR and CON, check separately, 1d12 months
86-96 Skin: 10% chance of losing 1 CHA permanently per week until cured, 1d12 months
97-00 Urinary System: 20% chance of losing 1 DEX and CON check separately, 1d12 weeks

Of course, this stuff doesn’t have to be rolled, especially if an epidemic is going on, for instance, if leprosy is running rampant, or if the PC’s must venture into a lepers camp, then failure should always be Connective tissue.

Parasitic Infestation

01-10 cardiovascular system:
11-35 intestines:
36-40 muscles:
41-45 respiratory system:
46-75 skin/hair: (note: this one is never fatal)
76-00 stomach:

Parasites do exactly the same thing as disease. If it’s just lice you got off lucky, but bug infestations would keep a wizard or priest up at night, so they couldn’t get a good nights rest. The only cure for lice in the past was to shave all of your body hair off and have a doctor/barber scrub you down with a really abrasive soap.

Curing Standard Disease and Parasites

Of course, one can always go to a cleric, but if you died from the disease or parasite, then when you get brought back to life, you’ll still have the problem so it is just like poison. A priest must cast Cure Disease or else the character dies again. Also, if the problem is a parasite, the parasite itself needs to be removed, so the DM needs to figure out exactly what kind of creature is inside. Worms are popular, creepy insects, and some tiny fish. Looking up and researching parasites and how people deal with them is entertaining reading!

If one doesn’t have access to a cleric who is willing or capable of curing disease, then you can try to rest, depending on the disease 1d3 weeks of bed-rest with no actions taken may, at the DMs option, entitle the rested to a saving throw. Most of the time, however, this won’t matter. The only none-magical way to get cured is by seeking the aid of a leech. It will the be up to the DM if the leech will prescribe medicine, or if he must operate. FUN STUFF!!!!

Add-In #002: The Star Watchers Inn & Depositorium

Sitting on a choice piece of land, close to the main road with close access to the bustling business area, lays the Star Watcher’s Inn, a single story building of stone and timber. The Inn caters to the richest noblemen, as well as to poorest of adventurers, and everything in between! Besides being a hostel, the business also hosts one of the finest eating establishments in the city!

The rooms range from 4SP a night in a commoners hall, adventures can also rent private rooms for 40GP per week, or 10 GP per day. Suites are expensive, 100 GP per day, but feature their own private entrances. All rooms, with the exception of the commoners hall, is extremely clean and well-maintained.

The Inn is owned by the famous Wizard “Marcelous the Masterful”, a very business minded individual and head of the Wizard’s Guild, The Magi of the Indicated, which hold regular council in the Inn. Marcelous leaves most of the day to day running’s of the Inn to his apprentices, which there are always at least four. Helga, his wife, has total control of the kitchen and offers a delicious meal for 5sp, her menu varies and always depends on what she feels like cooking that day. The only exception to the rule is on Holidays, the dinning hall always roasts Duck (the specialty of the house), served with all of the trimmings, and includes desert; A fabulous ice cream, which Marcelous himself makes. Needless to say, on all special occasions, the Inn is a very busy place and is quickly becoming world famous!

The Star Watcher’s Inn also offers the service of a Depositorium, consisting of lockers ranging in size that can be rented monthly to keep valuables safe and protected. (25GP for small storage lockers, to 400GP for vaults). Among the Depositorium’s clientele, is none other then the King himself! (Or whom ever rules the nation in your campaign world)

Besides all of this, Marcelous is also an active sage, as well as a collector of antiquities. He has financed adventure parties in the past, to feed his never ending hunger for new and powerful items. He is known around the city as more of a swindler, because he charges vast amounts of gold for any service that he provides, and enjoys tricking those he hires by having them sign contracts which enable him to take most of the treasure that is collected by his parties.


The Star Watcher’s Inn is a large one-story building reminiscent of many old German designs. A nice brick sidewalk surrounds the building, and the flora appears to be expertly groomed, behind the Inn are three separate patios with a tall wooden fence to divide them. The Patios overlook a lovely garden of flowers, and also provide the guests with their own entrances to preserve their privacy. An extension to the road has quick access to the kitchen for deliveries of fresh products, and wood is always being cut and stacked up against the walls for the kitchens use, as well as for guests purposes.

A. Front Desk. (8’ X 20’)

The front desk is tastefully decorated, except for a large painting of the grand wizard himself, Marcelous the Masterful, clearly labeled on the painting so that all will know who it is. A small desk is manned at all times, even during the night as the Inn itself never closes, by an apprentice, usually (65% of the time) by Barthum Curd (see personalities below). Three comfortable chairs rest against the South wall, for those who wish to wait to see the wizard, or wait for a table if the dining hall is full, however guests and diners are encouraged to wait in the Lobby/Sitting Room. The front desk area is lit during the day by large bay windows, or at night, by candles in two candelabras that sit on either side of the front doors, and a small candle on the desk. The doors are normally left unlocked, but in some unforeseen event that they must be secured, they will be wizard-locked.

B. The Dining Hall. (44’ X 38’)

The dining hall contains 20 tables that sit up to 6, but can be moved around to cater to more people. During holidays and special events, this room will be gaily decorated very elaborately. The Dining Hall is open for Supper only (Late Afternoon to just before sun-down) Guests who rent private rooms and wish morning and afternoon meals can alert the front desk and these will be brought to the room by a serving maid, Supper is never brought into private rooms except in the case or royalty. The hall is staffed by 6 serving maids who are all well-mannered and expect to get tipped. This room is lit by large bay windows on the East wall, as well as candles on all of the tables. Candelabras decorate the walls, as well as highlight Paintings by local artists.

B1, B2. Private Dining Rooms. (8’ X 16’ respectively)

These dining rooms can be reserved for private parties for 75GP per night, (300GP for Holidays) This is also where The Magi of the Indicated hold their meetings. B1 is referred to as “The Blue Room”, as it is painted blue. B2 is called “The Red Room” for the same reason. Both rooms are lit by windows, or candlelight. When the wizard’s guild hold their meetings, the window becomes obscured so nobody can see in or out of it, and the room is illuminated by a special spell that causes the wooden table itself to glow in whatever color that the caster desires. Long tables dominate the rooms, and diners sit on padded chairs and enjoy a personal serving girl at their disposal for as long as they wish, within limits of course.

C. Kitchen (12’ X 20’)

This is Helga’s domain. She prefers to cook alone, and is masterful at the task! However on weekends and especially on holidays, the chore is just too great and she has a couple of her husbands apprentices aid her. She has 6 stoves, fueled by wood which Marcelous’s apprentices provide. Early day meals are always cold foods, the stoves only cook supper meals to order. Helga’s day is usually busy by prepping food for the day, she is an excellent judge of how much she’ll need, and very popular with all of the professionals and farmers that supply her with products.

D. Pantry (12’ X 12’)

Barrels of foodstuff line the north wall, bags of dry foodstuff are stacked up neatly, and more foodstuff and supplies fill up a 4 plank shelf. Helga is terrified of rodents and keeps this area as well as the kitchen spotless. Each night Marcelous’s apprentices deep scrub everything, this is the most dreaded job in the inn as it takes most of the night to pull everything out and put it all back in.

E. Small Sitting Room (4’ X 8’)

This is a small room lit by candles on the walls and scented with fresh flowers. A padded bench sits against the north wall between the privy room doors, in case one must wait. During dining hall business hours, one of Marcelous’s apprentices waits here to aid guests with drying their hands and freshening up.

F. Dinning Hall Privy Rooms (8’ X 4’)

The west privy is for ladies, and the east is for gentlemen. The gentlemen’s side has a trough that drains down to the sewer below, both privies have stools as well. These rooms are kept tastefully dim with candles, and sweet smelling flowers attempt to mask the smell. A standing bowl of water is located by the door so that those who wish may wash their hands. Both rooms are cleaned by an apprentice who has Privy duty that day.

G. Sitting Room/ Lobby. (16’ X 28’)

Large padded sofa’s and couches line the walls, a great fireplace is located on the South wall which is used during cold months. Oil lamps keep the room homey and bright, people from the common hall are discouraged from using the sitting room, but all other guests can spend as much time as they like in it. Short tables are scattered around the room next to the chairs, a fine rug dresses the floor, and many stuffed trophies of creatures that Marcelous claims to had slain, but most were in fact slain by the parties which Marcelous had hired in the past. DM’s are encouraged to put the heads of monsters (preferably not Demihuman as the wizard isn’t evil) which are found all around his campaign world, especially ones which Marcelous would be interested in killing to make magical items out of.

H. Marcelous’s Office. (8’ X 8’)

This is were Marcelous conducts most of his business with regards to the public. A desk sits high above a single chair (if a meeting with Marcelous is obtained, he will only see 1 person from the party, this he will assume to be the leader, if he is corrected that they are not the leader, Marcelous may kick them out and refuse to see them again), the desk is covered in books, papers, vials of ink, and quills to write with. On the wall behind his desk is a large, highly detailed map of the known world (or the area depending on what you want to put there). None-magical books line the bookshelves around the room, Marcelous knows were everything is at, and while this room looks like a tornado hit it, it is all according to a system. A fancy wizard robe hangs from a mannequin in the SE corner, it stands on a hidden trap door in the floor (also protected by an illusion) that leads to a secret passageway to area U on the map. Marcelous’s sage knowledge is excellent, he minors in the field of Zoology, and Majors in the fields of History and Folklore. Marcelous has no set system for charging, but rest assured that he will milk all he can from the party, always charging outside of their current means, however his information will be superior and perhaps, if the party is wise, even well worth the cost. If he is not in this room, there is only a 5% chance that he has a magical item out to study, he rarely forgets to put them back away, but it sometimes happens.

I. Hallway (4 ft. wide)

The hallway is wooden, as are all of the floors, but a long decorative rug keeps this area quiet. The halls are lit by a permanent light spell. All doors, are kept locked (lock qualities are average unless specifically noted).

J. Depositorium Hall. (4’ X 28’)

This hall has no carpeting, steps echo down the hall. A few rooms are on the West side of the hall, but the East side is dedicated to the Depositorium lockers and vaults. Each are wizard locked and secured with the best quality of locks available. If any of these lockers or vaults are opened, Marcelous takes this area very seriously, and money will be no object to find the thief whom took it. Even if Marcelous himself is slain, he will have a backup plan as the items in the Depositorium are guaranteed to remain secure.

Lockers: (2’ wide X 4’ deep X 5’ tall)

Locker 1: Treasure type U
Locker 2: Treasure type R, S, & T
Locker 3: Empty and available for rent
Locker 4: The bones of a dead miner (see personalities)

Vaults: (4’ X 4’) walk-in rooms lined with platinum

Vault 5: Empty and available for rent
Vault 6: Treasure Type D
Vault 7: Treasure Type Z

(Note: Treasure types are simply suggestions, it is important to have a well-balanced campaign, I encourage you to place treasure yourself, in the amount that only you can judge is enough to pay for the risk that was taken in opening the lockers or vaults)

K. Innkeepers Quarters (8’ X 14’)

This is a nice living room, a bookshelf full of recipes fills up 4 shelves against the Northwall. A fireplace is on the East wall, it is fake, the fire is an illusion and it is actually a door to the bedroom. Helga demands that this area be kept relatively her space, the only thing which gives a clue that a wizard lives here, is a life-sized statue of a Dragonne, if the top left fang is turned, a secret trap door opens which leads down to Marcelous’s laboratory and library (not shown) where he keeps most of his magical tombs, and any magical items which he is investigating. Fill this lab in with anything that you wish. The door lock is of masterful quality.

L. Innkeepers Bedroom (4’ X 6’)

There is just a bed in this area, it is kept hidden to provide a sense of security while sleeping. A small wardrobe is located near the bed, it is magically charmed and can hold more then it appears that it should.

L1. Innkeepers Privy (4’ X 6’)

A simple stool that has a flap that provides some protection from the smells of the sewer below. A brass tub is also in this area, as is a pump and a small stove for boiling water. A curtain separates this room from area K.

M. Adventurer’s Quarters (8’ X 10’)

These rooms can hold up to 8 people comfortably, they simply have standard cots. They are lit by gas lamps which hang on pegs in the ceiling. The adventurers package includes a free breakfast, a bath, and apprentices will shine and polish armor, they cannot repair it, or sharpen weapons, however they can oil and polish them as well. A tip is expected for this service.

N & O. Private Guest Rooms (6’ X 12’ respectfully)

This room hosts two beds, a desk, and a wardrobe. In the desk is a complimentary map of the city, on the back is an ad for the Depositorium.

P. Commoners Hall (9’ X 12’)

Pallets comforted with straw filled mattresses line the floor, there will always be at least 1d6+3 guests in this room at night. It is bare of any decorations and the door is able to be locked, but never is. Guests who stay in the common hall are limited on where they can go, in order to use the sitting room, or the dinning hall they must first pay to take a bath and have suitable clothing to wear. Guests are asked to leave at 1 hour before sun-rise, those that chose to pay for another day can do so right there, but they must pay before they are left alone. Many times the apprentice who gets this duty will overcharge and keep the bonus for himself.

Q. Private Guest Suite (12’ X 12’)

An immaculate suite, richly decorated in fine art. Two large beds sit on either side of a fireplace, this room can support up to 8 guests, but it is frowned upon, preferring 2-4 guests at one time. A large worktable, and a large wardrobe are present. A complimentary city map with an ad for the Depositorium is on the worktable, as are some vouchers for complimentary meals in the dining hall. Other services are listed on the back of each voucher. Bathing services are also complimentary. Each suite also features a private entrance that leads to a private patio. The lock is of masterful quality.

R. Royal Suite (12’ X 16’)

This suite contains all that guest suites offer, plus a nice sitting area, a private tub, and a pull rope that summons an apprentice who will always be at the guests disposal, this duty is usually assigned to a specific apprentice who will run any errands (within the city), and perform any action (within reason) required. Guests who seek aid from Marcelous are expected to stay in this suite. The lock is of masterful quality.

S. Guest Privy and tub. (5’ X 12’)

All guests share these facilities which are clean. They are lit by gas lamps and feature stools, and two tubs. A water pump supplies the tub with water. Hot baths cost extra, as an apprentice will need to be present to control fires that can be lit under the tubs. Both Privies are separated for men and women, and kept locked, which can be opened with any room key. Guests who stay in the common hall must gain a key at the front desk for a nominal fee.

T. Kings Vault (6’ X 4’)

This vault features any treasure that you want to put into it, including at least 1 magical item of extreme power. This vault will be protected above all others, as the king’s patronage and faith in the depositorium is a very large selling point for Marcelous. He will kill anybody who he catches attempting to breach it.

U. Marcelous’s Personal Vault (8’ X 4’)

This is the area where Marcelous keeps his collection of magical and mystical items, as well as the chest which he keeps his profits. Only he himself is allowed in this area, which can only be reached by the secret passage from area H. He may keep a monster in this area for further security, just in case this area is breached by PCs. Most items will have specific magical traps involved in removing them without knowing the specific codeword, Marcelous jealously guards this area, not even Barthum Curd, whom is aware of its existence, but isn’t sure of exactly what items that Marcelous hordes here.

V. Apprentice Quarters (8’ X 12’)

This is a dark room with 3 beds and a wardrobe. A small desk sits against the wall which all apprentices share. This room is only lit by candlelight. A small bookshelf sits next to the desk, as does a cubby system which students keep personal papers and writing supplies. Most students are first taught proper penmanship and how to read and write 2 foreign languages. This is a skill that they must properly perform for the master on a regular basis.

X. Barthum’s Quarters (8’ X 12’)

This room is lit by candles or by a gas lantern. Besides a single bed, and chest for his clothing and personal items, Barthum has a small work table which serves as a lab for himself, and so that he can help instruct his fellow apprentices. A second door is hidden behind a tapestry that faces the Depositorium wall, if an alarm is sounded, Barthum will always be the first on the scene and he will use his most powerful spells quickly to protect it. The obvious door is protected by a masterful lock, the concealed door is never locked, but if breached, it may have an alarm spell casted upon it, though Barthum usually forgets to do this 25% chance of the alarm spell active.


Marcelous the Magnificent
(16th level Wizard): AC 0 (ring of protection +6); HD 16; hp 32/ ;SA: Spells; SD Spells; #AT 1; THAC0 15; dmg 1d4+3 (dagger +3) or by weapon; INT 18; AL LN

Marcelous is an older man, aged 54, but dies his beard white and applies makeup to make him appear older and wiser then he really is. Typically he is dressed in a black robe which he finds comfortable, but for social occasions, or when going out in public, he will wear a fabulous blue silk robe that is decorated with stars and moons in gold, with a matching pointy hat which he thinks makes him look dignified. Marcelous always wears a ring of protection on his left hand, it is a gold band with an agate stone. He also keeps a dagger +3 on his person as well. In his pockets, he usually carries other items of magical power as he likes to study them so he will always have other items on him as well. He is also rather stingy with his spells, if he wants the inn to be tip top for a special event, he will summon unseen servants but prefers to have his apprentices do it.

Marcelous is a very intelligent individual, but tends to get carried away with his obsessions, that of collecting magical items. When he was younger, he himself was an adventurer and took part in a great quest which saved the kingdom from an enemy of the king, who is now a close personal friend to the wizard. Marcelous has paid his dues, and is now reaping the rewards of a successful life. The Inn keeps his wife happy, and affords him to continue his studies and collecting. Marcelous is always working on 8 or 9 projects at a time, and takes his work very seriously. He is known around the city as being cheap, however he prefers to think of himself as being frugal. He knows the law very well and will always use it to his advantage. If he hires adventurers he will have the leader sign a contract that will grant himself the greatest share of the treasure found, and upon signing the contract, he will cast a gias to insure that the contract is fulfilled.

Marcelous does train his apprentices, he charges them by years of service, they will be taught spell craft and given access to 3 spells, this will cost a minimum of 5 years of service. He can also help train PC’s or teach none weapon proficiencies to them for either money or a year of service. He will never allow anyone to copy his spell books for free, and will demand more then the spells are worth in magic items, all spells that he teaches and uses contain his name. (sleep spell is called Marcelous’s Induced Snooze, for example).

Marcelous will never go on an adventure, but he will assign an apprentice to go on any adventure party that he is sponsoring. For sponsoring an adventure party, all money that he puts out will be paid just prior to it disembarking, and if more money is needed, this must be borrowed from him at exceptional rates of interest, which will require a second contract, Marcelous will always feel that he had given the party enough and it is their fault if they can‘t spend money wisely.

Barthum Curd (3rd level wizard): AC 10; HD 3; hp 11/
#AT 1; THAC0 20; dmg 1d4; INT 16; AL LN

Barthum is a young man, and very loyal to his master. He is quiet by nature, preferring to wear loose fitting robes of black and white. He wears his hair shoulder length, and carries only a dagger for protection.

Barthum is considered the Inn Superintendent, he divvies out daily chores to all apprentices under him, if a matter of discipline is needed, he will report this to Marcelous and the master will deal with this himself, the rest he leaves to Barthum’s judgment. Barthum is like a son to the wizard, his own parents are unknown to him, and the wizard found him wondering the streets. Most of the time, PC’s will have to deal with Barthum if they want anything. He should be played quietly and reserved, but he is also strong willed. He works very hard to be useful to the Wizard, and on occasions, fails to go to him when he really should have.

Barthum is usually the one who actually supervises the apprentices. He does have access to many of the spells which Marcelous has deemed suitable, and knows how to cast each of them. Students are first expected to copy a spell onto a scroll, which when finished, is overlooked by Barthum for errors. If it is acceptable, Barthum turns the scroll over to Marcelous who either gives Barthum permission to allow the student to attempt to cast the spell, or has the student rewrite it again. If permission is granted, then Barthum will allow the student to use his laboratory, and the student can attempt to cast the spell under Barthum’s supervision and tutelage.

New apprentices usually see Barthum as a suck up, and hate him until they realize that he does genuinely care about them, and how the masters secrets are treated. He is firm, but he has a gentle nature as well.

If Marcelous finances a major expedition, and requests one of his apprentices to go with the party, Barthum will decide who goes according to skill level, and who he thinks could better use a break from the repetitive work that the inn requires. He himself will only go as long as he believes that it will take him away from his duties for but a day or two.

(DM’s are required to fill out the rest of the apprentices, and the number of them to fit with his world, and what is needed from them. Same goes for the Service Girls. Please keep in mind that Marcelous won’t except just any riffraff off of the street, in order to study under him they must be a hard worker. I also kept Marcelous‘s spell list purposely vague, he knows all spells that you need to give him to be interesting, and may in fact be a specialist of your choosing.)

Bones of the Dead Miner.

This, I will leave up to you to fill out as well. If you want to make it, the ghost of a dwarf armed with a pickaxe who stalks the floors of the inn on full moon nights, then have at it! Or perhaps it is the body of a noblemen who has been replaced by a doppleganger? The purpose of this wasn’t to force details upon you, just to give some ideas on how you can better use the Depositorium as other things besides a bank, which it was originally intended for. But lord knows what kinds of things that the renters put in them? Marcelous doesn’t, nor does he care too.

Scenario Suggestions

Scenario #1:
A high level thief from Marcelous’s past has robed the Kings vault, and the King is coming to visit in 2 days! If the PC’s play their cards right, Marcelous could be forced into being on the bad side of a deal, particularly if he has milked them in the past!

Scenario #2: An apprentice falls under the control of a fiend, and is systematically ruining the business. He has poisoned kitchen food and Helga has been arrested and sentenced to hang unless her innocence can be proved.

Scenario #3: The son of a rich merchant has signed up to be an apprentice, his father hires the party to fetch him, against his will, and find a way out of the contract.

Clearly there are thousands of possibilities for role-playing in this add-in. NPC guests can be of any class and any alignment under the sun, and since the rooms are all mapped and listed, an NPC or PC thief can practice his craft with accuracy. This Inn can be both a base for the travelers, and open up more adventure possibilities at the same time, USE IT!!!!

Go Directly to Settings Prison

How do you like that? I add a new link to a blog which focuses on good ol’ fashioned Greyhawk, and then I bash settings? It isn’t anything personal, mate. It’s just some stuff that I want to get off of my chest.

To start off, I want to tell you a story. RELAX!!! I’ll make it quick. When I first got into DMing, I had played under a bunch of different DMs, almost exclusively in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting. By this time, there were hundreds of books detailing what color of shoes that Elimenster wore on Mondays, and giant tomes about all of the fabulous stuff that Volo discovered. IT WAS TOO MUCH!!! I wanted to DM but I didn’t know where to begin! The amount of material available for Forgotten Realms drove me off. Instead I picked up this awesome box set called RAVENLOFT which was based off of gothic horror, a subject that I know VERY well. Above Role-playing, I am a horror geek. This thing was awesome! I picked up everything Ravenloft that I could, which wasn’t too hard, as it didn’t take an encyclopedia collection to run. The drawbacks were that it was designed for a one or two shot deal, however it did become immensely popular cause guys love werewolves!

I understand the need for settings. I honestly do, however I think that they are a giant crutch too. I seem to remember some designer bitching because people were brand-whores back in the 90’s, and we were because it was designed that way! They thought that we could just run a Dark Sun module in a Al-Quadim setting, and you couldn’t! All of the rules were different and it just took more retooling then what it was worth. I have always been kind of jaded about modern modules anyway. I wouldn’t care if they were what they said that they were, 1 shot deals, but they aren’t! They got some story that has got nothing to do with what you as a DM are doing. SURE it’s a fancy story, but big deal. You can have all of the plot in the worlds, but that doesn’t mean that it is good for the game.

Lets slow down, I’m getting too far ahead of myself.

The settings, I believe, were designed to take away some of the work involved in building your own world. They also showed you the formula that it took to construct your own settings as well, how to organize stuff, what cities should look like, how to retool the rules and tailor them into exciting forms that keep your PCs off-guard.

It would be one thing, if that is all it was. One or two box sets, and a handful of modules to get you started with. Now I some of us do some bitching because we see this as a marketing ploy, and it is!!! Old TSR, as much as I loved them, hid lots and lots of information in lots and lots of different products. THIS WASN’T GOOD MARKETING!!!! In fact, this was the opposite of good marketing. Granted, in my opinion they did make up for it in some ways by putting out the greatest monstrous manual of all time, as well as wonderful Monsterous Compidiums. THIS IS STREAMLINING!!! This is making lots of information easy to find.

Lets take the worst example of a setting that there was. PLANESCAPE! Now I don’t doubt that I’ll be getting heat for picking on Planescape, but as far as scary information that did more to hurt the game then to help it, there was no greater sinner then Planescape.

It didn’t become, we’ll put this product out so that you have a clearer idea on how to run your campaign, it became STREAMLINED into creating a “definitive” world. And by definitive I mean that you can take a character that you are playing in Planescape under one DM and go play under a different DM playing in the setting as well, and they should be the same setting.

This has got to be the largest hunk of bull$hit that we’ve ever been spoonfed. As soon as you open the box and roll up characters, the DM’s world is no longer TSR’s. It’s no longer definitive because our first job as a DM is to make a total mess of it. THAT RIGHT THERE IS THE VERY BASIS OF THE GAME!

Planescape didn’t streamline anything. It didn’t make it easier to play, in fact, it did the opposite. It made it incredibly hard! Instead of just rolling dice and making it up totally randomly, now we have to read a box set, buy a stupid module that is over priced for some damned map that will make Stan the Warrior, who specializes in Planescapes lore, feels at home and that he is infact in Planescape. Meanwhile, you just spent 50 bucks on what use to be randomly generated for free!!!! And TSR has the nerve to call me a little bitch for complaining, and turn it around saying that they’ve got to make money?

Making money is cool, but I honestly think that there are better ways to make it, then by putting out an entire book that details monster mythology. That used to be in the Legends & Lore tome that we won’t give up because the latest and greatest edition didn’t bother to put it in.

NOT ALL OF TSR’S BOOKS WERE UTTER CRAP!!! A good deal of them were worth the money. I loved the Handbook series. I felt that I got my money’s worth out of each of them. Granted, I didn’t pick up all of them. Creating an entire book on the selling power of making Bards more Bardier wasn’t enough for me. Again, I’m straying from my own topic.

Settings, as soon as you put out too many sourcebooks on making “Living and Breathing” Settings, you’ve screwed yourself. Dark Sun looked like an awesome campaign setting! I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t figure out what book was the core rule book. They stopped publishing it, and instead just make more box sets that refered you to some rulebook that was already out of print! Forgotten Realms, I believe, was the same way. It was just too damned big, and the dream was a bubble. Steve, the DM down the street ran a different Forgotten Realms then Jake, and there was always at least 45 minutes of bitching between the players about how So-And-So don’t do it that way, and it is suppose to be Streamlined.

Streamlined, GOD I hate that word. No good has ever come out of its usage. You might as well just change it to “breaking it before it ever had a chance to function correctly“.

My own favorite setting, Ravenloft, got busted too, and by an excellent book, mind you!

Ravenloft was designed for a weekend of terror, but folks like me just kind of happily stayed there. TSR finally updated the setting by giving it a nice Hardbound book called Domains of Dread that attempted to fix lots of things. Now you could make characters that were Native to Ravenloft, THANK YOU!!! Of course we were all ready doing this, but the book made it much cooler by adding racial bonuses depending on what domain that you were born in. However, in it’s attempt to “streamline” the setting, it made maps that were utterly worthless, updated it so that all of the events that took place in all of their Ravenloft modules already happened, destroyed domains like Darken, which were fan favorites, and worst of all, added a damned Timeline to events that took place. WHAT!?!?! Parts of the Timeline was cool, when each lord became imprisoned in the realm, but adding all of the modules into it . . . BROKEN!!!!

But the biggest thing that turns the setting into a prison, is when you are a DM like myself. I think that the game really caters to those who enjoy working within restrictions and guidelines. WE LOVE IT!!! A part of us actually does want to play under the “DEFINITIVE” Forgotten Realms Setting, and the DEFINITIVE Planescape setting, and that creates a serious problem. WE BECOME AFRAID TO INVENT!!!!

I am horrible about it, man! Say I want to take the players into the land of Barovia, WELL BY GOD IT HAS GOT TO BE BAROVIA!!! And I’ll by the adventure with Straud, just to get the castle map! And By God I will be a hero to the entire world for doing it! My players will be able to pick up a Ravenloft novel and say BY GOD! I’VE BEEN THERE AND I BOUGHT THE SOUVENIR ASHTRAY TO PROVE IT!

But what about stuff that don’t have a clear map. They never made a module about Anton Misroi, by god I’LL TACKLE THAT LORD!!! His stats are in the book, but I’ve got to build his house and really flesh out the land of Souragne, and you spend your life’s blood on building it up . . . And then . . . And then some stupid book comes out and all of your plans crumble like a house of cards.

How is that good for the game? They invent hooks and suggest plots, and then a few years later they fill them out in a way that the average DM just can’t compete with. Thus, we get stuck in our prisons. We’ll wait, instead of actually doing the work ourselves, and saying SCREW YOU TSR!!! I bought this, this is my game, and I’m going to play it my way, we always end up caving and picking up the modules, just to look at the maps, because lets face it, the stories are crap!!!

I got this one called Web of Illusions, and it is an unplayable railroad job from hell! The actual maps are good, but the module itself has absolutely zero encounters in it. The players cannot deviate at all! Myst was more hands-on then this adventure was. BUT THE MAP AND KEY WAS AWESOME!!!!

I think that THIS should had been their focus. If they would had stuck to that kind of plan, just putting out books of maps and NPCs, they probably wouldn’t had lost their shirts to Wizards of the Coast. Now, Wizards is falling into the same trap. Trying to make money by calling something STREAMLINED just because “Bill” down in marketing said it was.

PUT OUT THE SETTINGS!!! But BUILD upon them. Put out material that people want, and need to run their games, instead of railroad jobs on glossy paper. Put your fancy writers to work on developing traps that blow us away. On constructing maps that we might actually get some use out of!!! Put out an entire compendium of maps! Bring back the old box sets, you put enough maps and keys to cool places, trust me, DM’s will pick them up! Leave all of that fancy 4e stuff to the curb, you don’t need it when you are producing maps. Quit telling us not to make 3rd level PCs fight 15th level monsters, and let us divvy out treasure like we see fit. YOU put out stuff that we need, and can get some use out of, and we’ll fork over the cash! Give us stuff that we can lay into our games, regardless of what we play.

But alas, that is NEVER going to happen. Dungeons and Dragons is going to continue to divide its player base by making more rules. RULES!!! Take away the storytellers, take away the mystery, take away stuff that if we wanted it gone we would had ignored it already, and that is all you get is cold, streamlined rules that don’t care. THAT WILL PUT BUTTS AROUND THE TABLE!!!!

It really is a shame. You take the Dungeon Master out of the equation, and nobody is happy. All of my new players have tried e3 but were dissatisfied with it. Get them around a table with experienced players and a DM that knows what he’s doing, and just look at the light that comes on in their eyes. THIS IS ROLE-PLAYING!!!! It isn’t about rules, it isn’t about chopping up ogres with giant broadswords, or casting spells, or any of that stuff!!!! It makes it interesting, but that isn’t role-playing. Role-playing isn’t always about finding the easiest way out, or collecting treasure, and fighting hordes of armed goblins. It’s about sitting down and using your head with your friends and turning the world off for a couple of hours. Rent is due, but right now I have to save a princess from a burning tower before the dragon-lich eats her.

I may sound really critical with this post, and I guess that I am, however I am targeting myself too. I am targeting my own weaknesses, because I am just now realizing that somewhere, some how, I became lost. I fell into this trap where I have to construct stories that blow my players away, and I need a setting, but more, I need to know every nook and cranny about it. I need to compete with these damned modules, and I just didn’t realize how imperfect that they were!

I know better too. I think that anybody who studies my gaming logs can see that I know better. All I need is NPC’s, a couple of decent maps, and an idea on where I think the PCs want to go. How this evolved into me spending countless hours drafting complex plots and storylines isn’t a secret to me, but it is frustrating that I do it. When I over think something, I’ll never be pleased with it. NEVER! My most shining moments have always been by the seat of my pants, I’ve got my NPC’s and I just let them tell the story, well, them and the PCs. Listening to the Players always leads to better results then when I just sit here on my computer and tell the story with no input at all besides my own fickle fantasies.

All of this spawns because of a brilliant post by James Maliszewski on his blog Grognardia. I had forgotten how much FUN randomness can be. I still use it, when the players head off of the map, you can either ask them to stop, or just blow smoke out of your butt, and if they do something cool that you hadn’t even thought of . . . Well, then they just earned themselves some magic swag in my magic restrictive world, and that stuff is always rolled up randomly.

RANDOM RPGing!!! This is what separates the tabletop gaming from it’s computer gaming kin. Randomness within the illusion of logic. It is the random factors that always make the best war stories. It’s never talking about storylines or plots or twists or hooks or any of that stuff!!! It is the time that you went to go fight Blacky Beard the retarded dragon and got mixed up with a party of orcs that slaughtered you. They killed the healer, but you couldn’t turn back! So you went ahead and fought the dragon anyway and you would had won too, if it hadn’t been for them damned orcs!

Lesson learned, my man! Now, lets just see if I can fix my sloppy behavior of being inflexible . . .

Disease or D&D?

Here is a quick little time killer. Play the Skin Disease or Dungeons & Dragons Name Game over at Mental Floss.

I got 75% right . . . I so rule!!!! Well, I rule 75% at least.

Burgling for Dummies

The darkness itself seemed to stir as the man, all but a shadow, scaled the tower and leaped to the rooftop beside it. Pausing, he listened intently to see if anybody had noticed the small noise of his landing. Standing, quiet as a ghost, he felt confident that he was safe and moved on, keeping to the shadows.

While the warrior’s business is chopping up baddies with giant broadswords, and the clerics wield the very power of the gods, and the wizards cast arcane spells of almost infinite might! The thief has a different skill. One that is quieter, but just as powerful as his adventuring peers. Like all of the other classes, a thief can become a specialist, focusing on building specific skills while not exploring others. However, unlike his brothers, he does need support from the DM, while magic is clearly listed and identified in the players handbook, the thief’s skills are open to interpretation. This has led to confusion and improper running of characters, the thief can do more then just unlock doors, and this essay will seek to clarify each thieving skill. Players can use this to get a better grasp on what their characters are capable of, while DM’s can better run the class clearly and know exactly what kind of challenges are suited for the class so that it isn’t ignored.

Pick Pockets

Garrot’s eyes couldn’t help but notice the shiny, gold key hanging from the nobleman’s belt, just begging to be relieved of its blissful owner. With a subtle bump and an apology, it was now in more wanting hands.

The pick pocket ability is not one to be abused. It requires no tools, but it does require observation and distraction. In order to pick a pocket, the thief must first be aware that there is something to take. More often then not, the thief will want to take a specific item, thus he must discover where this item is kept. The thief can do this by simply watching the target, or tricking the target through role-playing.

The ability score that you have written down on your character sheet is a base score. This is the roll that you must make to pick a cloth pocket with no cover and take a small, light object. That is the ideal pocket, however you will very rarely find the ideal pocket, thus it is up to the DM to determine the level of difficulty, and apply a modifier to your roll. Thief Skill modifiers are NOT known to the player, but a thief should be able to judge if the object is easy, normal, or difficult. A single key hanging off of a jailers belt will be easy (+10% modifier) while a heavy set of keys will be more difficult (-5%) A purse of coin located in a secured breast pocket will be much more difficult (-10%) Removing a sword is virtually impossible, but a very skilled thief can accomplish the task (-50%)

The target may need to be distracted, especially if it isn’t hanging loose. The skill roll is ONLY for the actual grab, if the target is suspicious, or isn’t occupied with other things, then he is impossible to rob. This can be done in creative ways, from using an accomplice to keep the target engaged, or waiting until the target is busy and bump into them.

Now, this is where it gets complicated, but trust me. Once you get the hang of it, then it will become second nature. Picking pockets is detectable, to determine if the pull was detected or not requires a bit of math. The standard for detection is based upon characters that are of a higher level then you. For each level, or hit die of the victim, we multiply the hit die by three, thus a 6th level cleric can feel when he is being pick pocketed 18% of the time. THIS number is then subtracted from the 100% which would make it so that any thief who tries to pick this cleric’s pocket would be detected on the roll of 82 or higher. Now the thief could had gotten what they wanted! And successfully made their roll, but even if it was a success and the roll is above an 82, the cleric still felt it, but the object in question is now in the hands of the thief.

If the thief is of a higher level then his intended target, then it becomes a bit easier to pick the pocket, and we subtract the level difference from the clerics ability to detect it. Say an 11th level thief is picking the pocket of our 6th level cleric, the clerics baseline for detecting it is normally 82, but the thief has got 5 levels on him, these are subtracted from the clerics chances (or added, if you prefer, to the thief’s chances of not being noticed) thus if the thief rolls under a 87%, he isn’t detected. Level X three - 100 + level difference if thief is of a higher class then the target= detection number. Read this until you understand it because it will come up again later.

If the thief is pulling the object out of a pocket that is not on the person, he has no chance of being caught unless he rolls a 100%, for instance a fighter who takes off his sword belt before sitting down to eat, and forgets to remove his coin purse first. All the thief has to do is pick it up.

Pick Pocket is a skill that requires very fast hands, and this roll can apply to other things that require nimble hands, such as slight of hand tricks, making small objects appear to vanish, stacking a deck of cards while shuffling, and dealing a player a pad hand. If he wants to make a larger object appear to vanish, he may need a cloth or another item to cover what he is doing.

The DM should refrain from placing needed items into the pockets of NPCs, the pick pocket skill is extremely unpredictable, and is difficult to accomplish at any level. Item's that have been successfully pilfered should make the game a bit easier, such as finding a skeleton key, or a map of the area that your PCs are going to go to, however it shouldn't ever hinge upon the thief's ability to grab undetected.

Picking pockets is a very risky business. If the talent is abused, then the more you do it, the greater your chances are of being caught. This can lead to lengthy jail sentences or worse!!! If you lose your hand, then your career is over, as it would be if you became known for such things. You can’t pick pocket anybody if they know that you are a thief and are suspicious of you.

Open Locks

Garrot tapped the lock with his finger, eyeing the thing as if it were a fascinating book before finally deciding on the proper gauge of pick. These things can’t be rushed! A lock is like a woman, it is to be wined and dined with patience and grace, simply forcing the thing almost always leads to nothing but heartbreak.

Opening locks requires a tool of some kind, the base roll is for opening a standard lock with a professional thieves pick. Different locks require different levels of finesse, an expensive padlock can impose up to -50%, while a simple latch catch can be defeated easily +10%. Sometimes, you just don’t have the right tool, if you broke your lock pick, or they were taken away from you, you have to improvise. A similar tool only imposes -5%, however if you are really in a jam it could hamper your ability by 60%. Thieves cannot pick magically sealed locks or objects.

Picking the lock is time consuming, taking anywhere from a minute to ten minutes (1d10 rounds) The thief can attempt to pick the lock once for every level of experience he has, if he totally fails, then he cannot open it until he gains a level, then he may try again.

Locks are in 4 different categories: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Masterful. Each of them can break a pick, the break percentage can be picked by the DM, or rolled randomly (1d10 for easy locks, 3d10 for hard locks) Easy locks can break a pick if 90% is rolled, Normal locks above an 80%, and hard locks break picks 30% of the time. If a pick is broken, the lock still may have been picked successfully, and can be opened, however a broken pick is worthless. Alternatively, you can have the tool make a saving throw vs. fall, however picks are delicate tools and gain a + penalty per lock picked.

Lock picks are not sold in hardware stores, they are either constructed by the thieves themselves, or constructed by a professional and purchased through a thieves guild. They can be made of stone or wood, but the best are usually made of metal, preferably steel as it is harder. Some sets are very complex, a leather case holding many different gauges of picks would have greater chances of success then a stick that the thief whittled himself with a knife.

Some locks require more then just the picking skill. A complex combination lock would first require the thief to examine it and try to figure it out (roll to open lock, success means that he understands its inner mechanics), once identified he needs to actually listen to the sounds inside of the lock as he is manipulating it with his hands (roll to detect noise) this may require a listening horn to better hear it, and he must make detect noise rolls for each combination the lock has, if the lock has 3 combinations, and he makes 2 of them but misses the third, then the lock does not open. He must be successful with all of the combinations in order.

Just as all Clerics are a part of a church, the thief should be the member of a guild. Many skills require tools that can only be obtained by guild members, this is also where the thieves go to train between levels, if that is realistic. A thief who is not in a guild CANNOT obtain guild tools, and must always use improvised tools with are substandard and unreliable. Good sets of tools are expensive, however they are effective and eventually pay for themselves.

Find & Remove Trap

Garrot crouched to the floor, studying the odd tiles on the floor. He’d seen things like this before, and they always looked easy, but like most traps, looks are deceiving.

Like locks, some traps are simple to figure out how they operate, while others are deviously complex. A thief must first declare what he is checking for traps, and like wishes, this must be properly worded. If a thief says that he is going to check the wall for traps, he will activate the ones in the floor. A thief can’t just walk into a room and declare that he is checking for traps, it doesn’t work that way. He must be specific, he must state that he is checking the door handle for traps, not just say that he checks the door.

The base for the roll is a simple trap that releases poisoned needles or springing blades. Some traps are easier to spot (pit covered with leaves) while others impose serious penalties (elaborate booby traps that are hidden in the dungeon itself) Anybody can detect easy to spot traps, but the penalty for difficult and well hidden traps is always a -50% penalty to the players roll. Finding traps takes 1d10 rounds.

Located traps are simply detected, to understand the trap itself requires an Open Locks check, with the same -50% modifier if the trap is highly complex. At this point, he is not yet touching the trap, he is simply studying it, looking for weaknesses and what not. If the thief fails to understand it, or if he does understand it (or at least thinks that he does), he can choose to attempt a disarm.

Disarms can be done, one of two ways. If a thief doesn’t understand it, or if he judges that the best way to defeat it is to simply set it off, he can throw his dice to see if he can successfully set it off without injuring himself, this could require a tool at the DM’s discretion. The other method is to completely disarm the trap by either breaking it or otherwise finding a method so that it doesn’t go off. Again, the 50% rule still applies for difficult traps, and any roll above a 96% results in the thief setting off the trap and taking the consequences. A thief can attempt to disarm a trap once per hit die, if he still fails to disarm it, then it is to far beyond his skill level and he has to wait until he’s gained a level to try again.

Some traps are impossible to disarm, either because they were designed that way, or because they are required to set off to advance further into the dungeon. Once the thief locates a trap, it is up to the DM to describe what he sees, if he figures it out, then describe how it works. The player must be able to think of a plan to disarm it, simply rolling the dice isn’t good enough.

Thieves cannot detect or disarm magical traps, only mechanical traps.

Many traps have a way for the people who set them to bypass them without setting them off. A thief should be able to detect a bypass method (or what he thinks is a bypass method) during the investigation process, however actually applying and touching the trap requires a Remove Trap roll.

This skill works the other way too. As long as the thief has the proper tools and materials needed, he can build and set a trap with the same methods as he detects and removes them. Using it creatively, he can also spot the integrity of a wall or contraption, for instance he can spot and understand a weakness in the timber supports in a mine, if worse comes to worse he can attack this spot and cause that part to collapse . . . Now this is incredibly dangerous and may effectively seal the adventures inside of the mine with no way to get out, but the thief can still do it.

A note to DMs: when placing traps, pay close attention to logic. If Orks live in the cave, they aren’t going to set some elaborate trap in a part of their home where they go every day, not without a way to disarm it themselves. All traps should also have some kind of hint that they are there, players hate it when they experience death suddenly and without warning. Don’t come right out and say, OH, this area is traped! Maybe the bones of an old victim is laying there, or if something appears too easy and unprotected. It isn’t always what is there that gives hints of a trap, but what isn’t there that matters.

Move Silently

Garrot peeked around the corner and saw the guard just two feet away from him. Quietly pulling out his blackjack, he creped closer and closer to him, closing the gap, minding each step as if his life depended on it; which it did.

Moving silently is required to get close enough to backstab an opponent. It is also used to sneak closer to a target to listen to what they are saying. While hiding, it can be used to change to a different position. Sometimes it is used with other rolls, such as Hiding in Shadows, but it is always rolled separately.

The base for moving silently is walking on stone floor in soft shoes or boots. Moving silently on a carpet is much easier (+50%), and moving through a forest is much harder (-15%). Some tools make this task easier, padded shoes can be purchased from a guild which are expensive, but improves your success rate dramatically. Naturally, wearing hard soled boots worsens you chance, as does anything that you have dangling off of you. All objects that a thief carries should always be secured at all times, blades tied down, no money purses dangling where their contents can jingle while you are walking, no armor clattering around, etc..

A player must always declare that they are walking silently, walking silently cuts your movement rate to 1/3 normal. Of course if everybody is aware of your presence, or they can see you, then you are just wasting your time. DM’s are encouraged to silently apply modifiers in their heads, a thief always thinks that he is moving silently when he’s creeping, even if you fail the roll you will continue this action. This roll is rechecked for ever 10 feet, or yards moved, and perhaps more depending on obstacles. If the character stops moving, and wishes to start again he must roll again to see how quiet he is.

A character who suspects that a thief is there and is listening for the silent character, gains a bonus to detecting them as described with rules for picking pockets.

If another sound is present, this could apply a bonus to the thief's roll, if the sound is repeating, like a squeaky bolt on a waterwheel, the thief can detect noise to discover the pattern and use it to mask his steps, in cases like this the thief does not have to reroll for stopping, he does have to make checks for every 10 feet or yards, also if he has to stop in a way that would cause him to lose the pattern, if this is the case he must listen to it again, or make a wisdom check whichever seems most plausible.

Note to players: Keep your dice rolls on the table so that they can be consulted. The PHB states that it is the DM that rolls this, however I feel that anything that deals with a players ability should be rolled by the player themselves. If a player keeps picking up the dice and hiding his rolls from the DM, I would suggest that the DM starts rolling them again to avoid the temptation of fudging dice rolls and cheating.

Hide In Shadows

Garrot inched closer to the guard, blackjack in hand when he heard the squeal of a rat behind him, damn! Quickly thinking, he slipped behind a nearby barrel, holding his breath as he heard the guards armor tinkling as he looked behind him, then saw the man walk right past him, investigating the noise, but soon he returned to his post. Garrot gave him a few minutes to get comfortable and bored before moving again.

Hiding in shadows is extremely misleading, because you are hardly ever hiding in shadows, this is seeking cover or concealment behind objects. It is hiding, and hiding well! While hiding, you are making no large movements, nothing larger then drawing a small weapon, or uncorking a vial of potion. There might be a shadow there, but that really isn’t important. You are hiding in such a way that even creatures with infravision cannot see you. If the DM deems it necessary, he may silently apply a modifier to your ability roll, but even if you fail the check, you still assume that you are hidden. As long as you don’t perform any large action, you will remain hidden, and don’t need to recheck, but leave your roll on the table. If a creature is actively searching for you, the rules that apply for detecting pick pockets applies to this as well, thus the DM may need to consult your roll. Rules for cover and concealment should also apply to the Hide in Shadows check. Thus, a 5th level thief seeks cover behind a barrel that offers him 90% cover, he gains a bonus of 10%, and if he is being looked for by an 8th level guard, normally he’d have to roll under a 76% to remain undetected, however the finder now has a -10% penalty, thus it rose to 86%. However, cover can change to concealment depending on where the finder is standing, the hider may not be concealed anymore if the soldier gets behind him, however a thief can quickly chose a new hiding spot as long as he wasn’t seen. If a thief is seen prior to hiding, then he can’t hide. He needs a few seconds to be unobserved.

A smart thief will plot a getaway, and have a hiding spot waiting for him. That way, if he gets chased by guards, he can turn the corner and quickly hide in the spot where he planed and possibly lose them if he rolls successfully.

In order to hide, there has to be something to hide behind, a dark shadow offers some protection, but can quickly be discovered with a lantern. There are some tools that help the thief improve his score, a dark suit can increase the chances greatly, as can applying weapon black to all of your weapons. Drawing a short sword or dagger can reflect light that gives your position away, weapon black is a coating that removes the shine from your weapons, and is only available to guild members.

Hear Noise

Garrot crawled closer to the fire, just out of its cowering, and fickle light. The two men were whispering to each other, their voices faintly above the cracks and snapping of the campfire, it took some focus, but the fools told him exactly where they hid the nobleman’s corpse, information that could surely be worth a pretty penny!

Hearing a noise requires absolute silence, it isn’t lip-reading, but it does allow the thief to hear sounds that would escape the ears of those who are less sensitive. Modifiers for this is rare, as it either works or it doesn’t. The base for the roll is listening through a thick wooden door. The voices on the other side of the door would be impossible to make sense of, however it will tell the thief that there appears to be someone, or something on the other side.

A thief must first declare that he is listening to noises, this will take a full minute of his time and if he is wearing a helmet, he must first take it off. If too many people are with him, then this task is probably impossible, as it’s hard for even a small party to be perfectly quiet.

A few items can make this skill a bit easier to perform, for instance the listening cone described previously in the section for picking locks, this must be purchased from a guild, and only members have access to them.

Climb Wall

The princess gasped in shock, but the figure was upon her before she could scream, his hard calloused hand upon her face tasted chalky. “Shhhhhh,” the figure whispered into her ear, sending chills of horror or excitement up her spine, she didn’t know which. “My name is Garrot,” he said, “I’m here to rescue you.”
“How did you get up here?” she asked, her voice as faint as his, “The tower is 40 feet high, and the place is swarming with guards?” The man would only smile as he tied a rope to the bed and checked the knot for firmness.

“Come,” he instructed, “Hold onto me tightly, and whatever you do, don’t look down.”

The thief, and the thief only can climb smooth and very smooth surfaces without climbing gear. The base for the roll is climbing a brick tower with no gear. Thus, if you have gear you can improve your success, and the DM should state any modifiers that will be applied to the roll before you attempt to scale it.

Movement is severely limited, and the thief has no way of defending himself from an attack. He must not be weighed down with tons of gear, only lightly encumbered at best. He must roll a new check every 10 feet climbed, a failed check results in a fall, and he takes damage normally.

He CAN carry a rope with him, and allow other characters to use it to climb with, as long as he finds a secure anchor, and, if the DM wants to have fun, makes a proficiency check against his knot tying abilities. Characters following him have to make a strength or a dex check whichever is better, and must also be no more then lightly encumbered, rechecking the strength or dexterity check every ten feet.

Read Languages

Sitting quietly in the cave, Garrot stared into the runes carved into the walls as if they would fleet away at any second . . . He’d seen this before, but where? HIGH ELF!!! This was high elf. Something about a white creature . . . A dragon or worm that guards . . . Something. It guarded something, but what?

Reading languages first requires that the thief be literate in the first place, and have a good understanding of his own written language. The thief picks up odds and ends of information here and there, and with this information he may be able to identify what language that the script is written in, and be able to read at least some of what it says.

How much a thief can translate depends on how skilled he is, if he has a 20% chance of reading languages, and makes his role, then he understands 20% of the message. A DM can judge that the thief has absolutely no knowledge of the language that he is trying to translate, because he has never encountered anything like it before.

To read languages, the thief must declare that they are attempting the feat, and then throw his dice. He can only do this check once! If he fails, then he has to wait until he has gained a level before he’s allowed to try again.

Even if a thief has translated a language before, such as a map with goblin text written on the top, he still has to make a check when encountering the goblin language again because these words are different as is the handwriting and style of the writer. The only exception to the rule is if the text is written in a language that the Thief is proficient in, thus he wouldn’t need to make a check.

A thief must be at least 4th level before he has enough information to work with, thus he can’t build on this skill until he has 4 HD. A thief cannot use this skill to read magical text, nor ancient text, only languages that are currently in use around the realm.

Alternatively, this also allows the thief a chance to decipher code that is written in a language that he is proficient in. The message must be long enough, or he must collect enough samples of it before he has enough to work with, but a successful check would mean that the thief has broken the code and can now read and write it.

Using this skill can take awhile, depending on the thief’s intelligence, subtract an hour from a max of 20hrs, and that will tell you how long that the thief must study a sample before it all clicks in.

Clearly, all of these class skills require more then just better then average dexterity! Intelligence is also a factor when examining traps and locks, as is wisdom! Climbing walls and ledges takes strength and hours of training. As a fighter constantly hones his craft, or a wizard studying ancient scrolls, thieving also takes patience and practice.

The DM should lay out special scenarios as he lays out spells and scrolls for wizards, and powerful weapons for fighters. If you ignore your thief players and give them nothing special to do, then you are doing them, and your game a great disservice. The game doesn’t necessarily need to be completely focused around them alone, but I’ve played under a few DM’s that all but ignored me, essentially using my character as a walking key. Unlike all of the other characters, role-playing opportunities with the thieving class must be tailored into the game. Give him an opportunity to sneak up on an enemy or two, let him do some scouting here and there, give to him MORE to do then just tossing a short sword at monsters for a hand full of gold, the thief relies on his stealth more then his strength. HAVE FUN WITH IT!


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