Personal Gaming Style

The problem with taking a break from blogging, is getting back into it after a hiatus. I honestly don't know what to talk about today, but if I don't do something, then I won't do anything.

I suppose a good topic for the day is my own personal style, and how I like to run my games. It is pretty straight forward, I think that starting a character off on 1st level, and working your way up is more rewarding then starting out at some mid-level. I also strive to keep things as close to the core as possible, within the limitations of the game itself, and the players themselves. I'd like to have all of the characters roll 3d6 when creating a character, but I find that there are just so many mental blocks with that system. Players feel that if they don't have high stats then their characters are worthless. I honestly don't think that this is true, and folks have played with high stat characters for so long that they are used to having bonuses for everything, which is the root of the problem. High stats make the game easier, and I think that we DMs do a disservice to the game by allowing everybody to reroll ones and twos, or however else we've figured just to make players happy, but on the same token, if we don't make the players happy, then we won't have any. Thus, I usually allow the players some leway, but I don't allow super-characters with that method.

My daily sessions are fairly easy to manage. I decide the theme, which is in direct relation to the setting. I use long term goals, as well as short term goals. Sometimes something doesn't work, so the next game, I'll focus on how to improve things. For instance if the characters are on a ship, and it just doesn't feel like they are traveling on a ship, then I will brainstorm fun ways to figure out how to mold day to day life on board of a ship, and intermingle it with adventure. Figure out a few pitfalls, and how the players can work together to survive or what have you.

I don't run modules, and I have strayed away from fixed story-lines, however not completely. I feel that any extreame is a bad thing for the game. If we spend to much time writing an unmutable story, then we don't have any true encounters and we've turned the game into simply dice rolling which looses its fun after a while. But on the other side of the coin, if we allow to much freedom, then we aren't as prepaired as we should be, and the players may become lost, or not know what to do all the time.

One of the most annoying kinds of DM's to me, are the lazy ones. The ones that expect you to do all the work for them, and that just isn't the players job. The kind of people that just sit there, and expect you to figure out what you want to do that day when you have no idea as to what the setting is, or what is in the area. I do my best to avoid doing that. I'll figure out what short term goal can be accomplished in the next session, and build it up. If I feel that we've done something for too long and we could use a break then I'll write up a quick mini-plot. Failure to achieve the mini-plot will cost the team a little bit, and success will give them a slight edge, but it is more about the trip itself. Each session must have something to do, and I honestly rack my brain to make where they are appear to be as real and as fleshy as possible.

I prefer to have a nice map in front of me, a list of NPC enemies, I figure out their goal, and what would happen if the PC's never got involved. From there, I can determine what each NPC is doing, and allow them to react to the Players plans, whatever insane crap that they can come up with. I don't know about anybody else, but my players can put a wrench in any idea of mine, just by showing up on Game Day. Stuff that I just never figured out and wasn't prepaired for, like throwing rocks through the window of a wererats safe-house. That simple decision changed everything imidiately, but thankfully I was prepaired for anything and the game turned out to be one of the funnest to DM.

And Now A Message From The Blogger

Postings will be rather light this week, I've got a busy work week, and I've been working on updating the module, "Temple of Elemental Evil". For the most part it is easy, but Zuggophy is proving to be challenging, as there is NOTHING like her in my books. I want to keep her psyonic abilities, but I really need a refresher course in how they work, so expect a post about those clunky things in the near future.

Since I'm doing all of this work on a laptop, I am working off of PDF. files only, and most of them aren't searchable, thus I had to sit down and write down all of the monsters on a word file which I can search easily, and I'm getting a better feel for creatures that just never got updated. I used to hate PDF.s but honestly, if I wasn't using them right now, I probably would had missed half of the stuff because not all of the monsters are included in the MMs index. Searching through the files is a breeze and enables you to find things which you didn't know was even in there, like water-based Ogres . . . there are water based Ogres? They get just a bleep in the description, but aren't listed anywhere else in the book.

I've also found unconsistencies. The MM refers to some monsters, but doesn't have any stats listed for them in the MM or the MCs, which I honestly don't understand. If they refrence them, why not include the stats? Well, I know why. All of those books were cut & pasted in there from other sources, and it is pretty much impossible to guess which source it was, either from a Settings Appendix or worse yet, a Module or article in Dragon Magazine which are both beyond my powers of research. Thankfully, most monsters can be easily updated by just adding THAC0, Morale, and updating the XP values. XP values can be weird. Some are higher now, while others are lower.

I'm not quite finished with Zuggophy, but when I am I'll go ahead and share her with you. I still have my work cut out for me. I'm looking over all of the Demons and Devils and trying to figure out why some things were changed when they converted them over to 2e. All of them have minor tweaks, that at this time make no sense, but I hope to figure it out soon.

Anyway, give me a bit of time. This weekend will be busy and next week I've got to take a client on a road trip to Pioneer Village for his vacation. I'm not sure when postings will resume, but rest assure that I look forward to it.

Revitalizing Old Monsters

In the 1970’s the comic book industry was in trouble. Marketing decisions had begun to get goofy. Probably the most obvious victim of goofy is the Batman line of comics. In the 60’s a television show was made that was based on the Caped Crusader, this show was so popular that it actually effected the comic book itself, that prior to that time was mostly a crime solving superhero comic. Sales went up, and children were hooked, but by 1970, the Batman comic was a mess. Sales were down, the villains were goofy, the police were incapable, and Batman had completely lost what made him cool.

Something had to be done, new writers were brought in, Batman was once again alone, the decision to return Batman would had been to hard if Robin was to be revitalized too. New villains were created, the old villains slowly returned but more dangerous and deadly then ever before. This was a great time for Batman! A hero which would be dead now if that decision hadn’t been made!

Many comics were still silly, but the darkness was spreading. Sometimes this worked, however, sometimes it didn’t. Aquaman ended up losing his soul, which was a travesty if you ask me. Many super-villains were abandoned, and forgotten about until a revitalization which took place in this decade which was centered on taking old goofy monsters and villains from the past, and bringing them back cooler and more dangerous then ever. Some of this was completely on the shoulders of the artists who drew them, but the greatest successes came from the writers who reworked some so that they made more sense to today’s readers. Going back and discovering WHY these guys were so odd, and making them angry about it. IT WORKED!

But, what does this have to do with Dungeons & Dragons? Easy, REVITALIZING.

One of the greatest sins which a writer can do is to choose to eliminate monsters because “somebody” thought that they were goofy or stupid, which, in my opinion, really isn’t their call to make. If they were told to update monsters, then that is what they should had done. I understand the executive decision to remove demons and devils from the new edition, that was political, but removing the oddities and the weird was wrong.

I say, that those goofy things should be brought back, but in a way that makes them more useful, and threatening. Take the Wolf in Sheeps Clothing for example, that there is a really goofy monster that I always loved, the monster is both creepy and silly. A bunny rabbit on a stump, it is bait and the monster that attacks those who try to pick up the rabbit with long tentacles and it eats them. YES!!!! But, how can we do this? How can we make it better?

It is a lesser form of a mimic, but why did it act the way that it did? Why a rabbit? What was it trying to catch? It certainly wasn’t people, who just picks up random rabbits? It ate animal predators and other creatures that are so stupid that they hunt by jumping on something.

We must also figure out where this thing came from, and it certainly isn’t native. They are too rare to be native, perhaps they are from space or another plane. Years ago they didn’t know what those around them wanted, so it chose the first form of bait that it saw, a bunny rabbit. All of them were slain, and they are believed to be extinct, but a group of them have been sent back to this plane, back to this plane to extract its revenge. It will now target the race of those which slew its ancestors. It worked slowly, spying on us through magic and discovering our weaknesses and strengths. The master has devised more effective baits which they will test upon us before opening the gate and cleansing the world of those whom slew it.

We must put them in the perfect locations, ones that maximize their bonuses and away from as many weaknesses as possible. The bunny rabbit will also be replaced by things which will attract humans and demi-humans to approach. Highly decorated swords in stones, Potions sitting on stumps, wells which promise fulfillment of desires. Some of these items can be destroyed and replaced by the mimic. The minor mimics job is to kill and also to breed!

Taking a page out of “Little Shop of Horrors” the minor mimic requires 1d3 feedings before it can start reproducing. Each feeding after the initial spawns 1d4 creatures which the minor mimic must feed, and this continues. Minor mimics who work together form a major mimic, a very large creature capable of forming large objects. Entire houses and castles, ships, wagons, and chariots. Whatever they can imagine, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine how quick and terrible this creature has now become.

We must figure out why these creatures went away, why they came back, and we must MAKE them work. If a vampire is badly played, then we don’t delete them from the game, we figure out where we went wrong and we try to correct the problem. I think that we owe it to ourselves to do the same thing with monsters that we normally wouldn’t consider playing. Try it, and see how it works. Add darkness and fear to it, color it with myth and history, and see if you can’t use it to really terrify and threaten your players.

ACHAIERAI

Climate/Terrain:
Any/Below ground
Frequency: Very Rare (believed to be extinct)
Organization: Flocks
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Carnivore
Intelligence: Average (8-10)
Treasure: F
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
No. Appearing: 1-8

Armor Class: Body 8, Legs –1
Movement: 18
Hit Dice: 9 (Body 40 hp; legs 15 hp each)
THAC0: 17, or 11 w/ beak
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1-8/1-8/1-10
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Toxic Smoke
Magic Resistance: 35%
Size: H (15’ tall)
Morale: special
XP Value: 3,000

Though the foul motives which caused these loathsome birds to be first summoned from the infernal regions are now lost from memory, remnants of the original achalerai flock still stalk the earth, haunting shadowy places and underground passages. In form they consist of a huge spherical head-body, with a powerful beak and feathery crest, atop four long legs ending in strong claws.

The legs are a metallic blue-gray, the body-head a dull scarlet with deep red blotches. The eyes are steel-blue and the tiny wings blue-green. A wide range of crest colors have been observed, the most common being a bright flame-red

Combat: Man-sized opponents cannot usually attack the soft body, but can only reach the hard, metallic legs. Likewise, it will not usually be able to reach a victim with its beak and will therefore fight with two claws, doing 1-8 hit points of damage.

A beak attack, when this is possible, will have the THAC0 of 11, while the claws attack with a THAC0 of 17. If a beak attack is delivered, it will inflict 1-10 hit points of damage on the victim.

The achaierai often travel in groups and, though a group need never check morale, each individual bird will try to flee if it loses a leg (a total of 15 hp of damage or more on a particular leg will break it from the body). Though flightless, a bird often eludes pursuers with its long strides. Its movement rate is unaffected by the loss of a single leg, but the loss of two legs halves movement rate. An injured leg will regenerate fully in about two days, but the birds do not possess other regenerative powers and a leg which has been completely lost will not be re-grown.

If a bird loses three legs, or is otherwise seriously wounded, it will release a cloud of black toxic smoke which in shape and size approximates to a sphere of 10’ radius. All within the cloud (except achairai) take 2-12 hit points of damage automatically, and must save against poison or suffer insanity for 3 hours. In the confusion the wounded bird will seek to escape, crawling if three legs have been lost at a Movement rate of 2.

Habitat/Society: Achaierai are not native to this plane, however are a bi-product of a magic spell which originally summoned them, but is now lost to history. These creatures have evolved into somewhat different creatures then the originals, developing 120’ Ultravision to aid them in their now subterranean lifestyles. Though many varieties exist, all have subtly adapted to their new world, arctic varieties have thick, fur-like feathers, while desert Achaierai have light plumage and no comb. Believed to be extinct by scholars, a few flocks still hunt the underworld, sometimes going above ground when food is scarce in the underdark. Most prefer mountainous terrain, these Achaierai are definitely the largest of all types, standing well over 20’ tall.

The Achaierai typically stays in small family units that are rarely over 8 in numbers. The flock is led by an adult male, the rest are females who possess the same stats as above. The male has long sharp talons on its legs which it can use for 1 attack which does 1d12 if successful, jumping with both hind legs and attempting to strike with the sharp metallic spur on the front set. All of the birds fend for themselves unless chicks are involved. When this is the case, the males provide protection for the chicks and the females provide food and are in charge of raising them. A chick who grows to maturity will typically leave to find its own way.

The hunting range of a flock is huge, and defended wildly. If an intruder is discovered, one Achaierai may attack to discover how powerful the enemy is, if possible the Achaierai will either kill and eat the intruder, or flee and bring back the rest of the flock and set up an ambush. Highly dangerous foes will be avoided entirely.

Ecology: Achaierai will attempt to each all living matter, but are capable of knowing what to avoid. Their strong stomachs can digest whatever they can swallow, and they are immune to all known poisons. Wizards have discovered that feathers from their bodies can be used in making magical quills in which they use to write scrolls.

Creating a Meaningful Festival

With summer in full swing, I think that now is the perfect time to talk about major holidays of our wonderful worlds, and no doubt, the biggest holiday for our PCs can, and should be, GAME DAY! Of course, I’m not talking about our own game days, but the big summer festival for our characters. We’ll discus what to do with it, and how to use it in your game. Now, in order to have this be a yearly event, we must make sure that we have set up and are using our handy dandy calendars.

There are two big festivals of the year which aren’t necessarily religious based. Generally these take place in the Winter and the Summer. Winter festivals generally revolve around eating and drinking, but the Summer Festival, well this one is all about showing off.

Villages and Cities all have their own festivals which are designed by the leaders to please and entertain everybody. It gives a chance to compete, enjoy life, gamble, and be merry. Tradesmen show off their wares and judge their fellows, especially in large cities where there is real competition. Some trades have games to see who is the fastest, strongest, or luckiest at what they do, but generally these won’t effect the PCs who are, by trade, adventurers. What will get their blood running is true competition! Competing with each other and rivals for prizes and glory!

ARCHERY

Archery tournaments were big fun, and anybody could enter. The larger the city, the larger the prize. Really big tournaments required paying for entry. The format is always the same, all day long archers compete with each other, the top scorers making it to the next round until there are just two final archers, then the champion is decided.

D&D rules for determining scores are fairly simple. Each archer shoots 5 arrows, the target is AC 10, all archers have a –5 to their attacks. A miss is 0 points, a hit is worth 1 point, if you roll 5 over what you need to make your attack roll, you get 5 points. A natural 20 is worth 10 points.

The final round is different, it uses a smaller target, one which is AC 4, but uses the same system for scoring.

ROLE-PLAYING ARCHERY CONTESTS

Depending on how much time you want to spend on this (which probably isn’t much), just assume that all characters who wish to enter make it into the finals. You can generate 1d6 good archers which stand a chance against the PC. Next, we have to determine their levels, roll 1d100, 1-30 = 2 levels lower then the highest level PC. 31-50 = 1 level lower. 51-60 = same level. 61-75 = 1 level higher then PC. 76-00 = 2 levels higher then the highest level PC.

Each phase of the tournament will eliminate half the competitors (round down), until just two are left, then the target is changed to the AC 4 and the winner wins the prize.

ARCHERY PRIZES

Sometimes cash is up for grabs, but what is really going on is to prove that you are the best. A winner of a local tournament will be welcome to move to a larger location next year. Often the prize will be a golden arrow which can be used as proof of skill later on. An tournament winner can expect to get paid more for their services, improve morale of the troops they fight with, be given high class jobs, and possibly be recognized by nobility for excellence, either way your name will surely be out there.

By following these rules, you can use them for basis of other competitions, even friendly gambling wagers at bars. Throwing Daggers, darts, blow guns, slings, any missile is fair game.

WHO SIGNES UP

Elven societies and other social groups who prize archery will attract a better class of spectator, and better prizes. It won’t be as big of a crowd as the main attraction, but it could include a minor noble or two, even amongst the competition.

FOOTMEN DUALS

The next most important event of the festival was wrestling. Again, anybody could enter, this is unarmed combat, however noblemen rarely did as nobody wants to get beat by lesser men. Another problem with local wrestling competitions is Professionals. Huge men which chose wrestling as their livelihood. They would show up to these things and just clean house.

Wrestling is handled exactly the way it is listed in the PHB. This may include martial arts, or boxing depending on your campaign. To save time you can just have the PC wrestle a few times, and then take on a professional of 1d4 levels higher, and always STR 18/00. Cash prizes are always awarded for this competition, however with martial arts much more then just cash can be on the line. Teaching positions are worth money, not to mention honor and greater status within ones discipline.

JOUSTING

THIS was the cream of the crop. The event which NOBODY missed. It was dramatic and high entertainment. What other sport allowed the common man to sit in the presence of true Royalty. If a King makes but one true appearance per year, it will be at this time.

Entering this competition is much stricter then any other competition. Only nobles can enter, Paladins are always expected to enter, as are any knights. To skip out on this event is a slap in the face to whomever knighted you. One must have a very good reason, limited only to conquest, severe illness, and death to not show up and support your kingdom.

Knights are expected to provide their own mounts, arms, and to pay a large fee, which may be covered by one’s lord if the knight cannot afford his own way in. The fee should be 100 gp per level, this will entitle the knight to food, drink, and entertainment as well. But wise knights know to keep their heads for this, as much is on the line.

A knight who is eliminated early may lose his status, and all of his support which really isn’t that good of a thing. For this reason competition is fierce and nobody screws around. A knight who does well will win more then just prize money, he’ll prove himself worthy of additional troops, greater responsibility, the respect of his peers and serfs watching him battle, not to mention the King himself! When the Jousts start, the streets are empty as all eyes are on this competition. The final marks the end of the festival, and the winning knight is award anything from bejeweled weapons, to a kiss from the Princess (royal attention). The winner will close the ceremonies with his King and be allowed to celebrate in the Royal Palace that night, rubbing elbows with the kingdoms Elite. A big deal! But getting there isn’t all that easy.

A Joust can also be a private affair, an established knight may host one looking for Officers, the winner earning guaranteed work for life.

RULES OF THE JOUST

The goal of the joust is to dismount your opponent. Two riders race down a field, attempting to strike the other down with ones lance. Riders are broken down into random pairs (or not so random as it doesn’t take much of a stretch of one’s imagination to see how political this kind of thing can be). The losers are out, the winners move on. If need be, a loser will return to face a winner to keep everything equal. They call this “fighting the bye” and it is a coveted spot because no matter if you win or lose against the bye you still move on to the next round. A manipulative knight will always attempt to connive his way into fighting the bye as many times as he can, while a noble knight will not be pleased by it.

Many joust winner are awarded a crown of flowers, which they give to a lady of their choosing from the spectators, and this lucky lady will be the knights date for the noble feast later that evening.

HANDLING THE JOUST

The joust will be handled with (hopefully) blunt weapons. Blunted lances dish out only 25% real damage, and 75% temporary, which can be naturally healed quicker with rest. All other rules of mounted combat with lances apply.

OTHER PERKS OF TOURNAMENTS

Dance and Song are always present, as is drinking and food which leads to loose tongues (read new adventure hooks) Tradesmen also set up stalls, and provide items for sell which normally wouldn’t be available. Adventurers can easily find henchmen, sell hard to fence items for a really good price, buy specialty equipment for fair prices, get armor fixed up on the cheap, blades professionally sharpened, items repaired, clothes for a fraction of the cost they would normally pay for them, and if you are a really nice DM, allow them to level up for free.

I’ve been tossing the idea of players buying experience points. 2 gp = 1xp. The logic would be that skilled folks of class would be at the festivals giving seminars and classes and such. A festival would be the perfect place to find even a 20th level NPC who is willing to train. Selling NWP also isn’t out of the question, 100gp per level, per point. 1 point earned per Festival. Of course I’d have to decide if a specific NWP was available or not, and these would be available regardless of open slots or not. I never bought the fact that a 3rd level warrior could learn a new NWP while a 4th level one can’t. If you’ve got the money, then I’ve got the time. Anything to get rid of access gold, and this way the players could actually see were their money is going and effect them in the long run.

They will also make a note to attend all festivals, and adventure to afford the things that they want from them. If they wish to compete, then cool, if they just want to learn a new skill or better their chances of leveling up, that is cool too.

ROLE-PLAYING TOURNAMENTS

Sitting around and just rolling dice for the hell of it isn’t much fun, there should be other stuff going on at these things then just merriment. I remember playing one game which was tough, a Black Knight was hosting a competition and I was ordered to go in as a spy. I had to win all of the jousts, and spent my off time sneaking around his castle trying to find out what this guy was up to. IT WAS HARD! I was getting so beat up by the tournament, then I had to turn around and sneak around this castle. Running into monsters was always a risk because if I fought it, and lost even a hit point, it could ruin my chances of winning the next joust and failing in my mission.

A good DM will know how to use this as a spice to flavor his session, because, after all all this is is a setting. A colorful background which triggers even more ideas. Carnivals, bring rogues and swindlers, gypsies and bards. It also brings out the nuts, folks trying to sell yak vomit as healing potions, zealots using it as a stage to preach the apocalypse, fill it up with colorful characters and special opportunities and it will provide you with some fun now and then to really bring your calendar to life. This festival can last for at least a month, but it is up to you and your players to determine how much time is good for you to spend in it. A good rule of thumb is that, like life, once the money dries up then it is probably best to be getting out of town before you are ran out.

Handedness?

Sometimes it can be helpful to a dungeon master for a character to have a favored hand written on his character sheet. This can quickly solve some arguments which might pop up over throwing stuff while still armed, as well as some odds and ends.

Now, we both know that if we just let characters specify what hand they favor, then they will always claim to be ambidextrous, which we just can’t have. That and I love charts that allow us to use our poor and often neglected 12-sider.

Roll—Handedness
1-9—Right Handed
10-11—Left Handed
12—Ambidextrous


Quick and simple. This chart should be consulted at creation time, but it is also worth noting that the Ranger Class, which is hard to qualify for anyway, should not be effected by this chart, as all Rangers are ambidextrous as a class ability granted to them by their gods. If a ranger loses his abilities and becomes a fighter, then he’ll lose that skill as well.

UPDATE: Knightsky brought up an article that he read in White Dwarf Magazine that he incorporated into his own games, which I think is cool. It involves 2 dice, a d20 and a d6. If the d20 # is higher, you are right handed, if the d6 is higher then you're left handed, and if both numbers are the same, then you're ambidextrous.

I Attack The Darkness!

Today’s topic is in regards to how groups handle darkness. This is difficult because some characters have infravision, and others don’t. As DM we typically want our descriptions of an area to pertain to everybody at the table, and often forget about those who have infravision unless asked, which is fine, depending on how you handle infravision.

Me personally, I treat it as if they are seeing in the dark as we can when the ground has snow on it. I don’t consider it to be something that they have to focus on, it just comes naturally and their eyes require less light to see. It isn’t perfect, a scene which a human can see a man’s silhouette, an elf could determine just a bit more information, such as he is armed, he may be able to determine that it is either an elf or a human, but he can’t identify him.

If a human can identify the above, then the elf could possibly identify him if he has seen him before, and maybe, identify his shield or some other information, but that is all Infravision does in my game. Ultravision has its own rules, and thankfully PC’s don’t have this power so I don’t have to worry about describing scenes to them. Ultravision is the ability to see with no light what so ever.

That is how I interpret it, but I know that each DM is different, and most concerns regarding vision are all interpretational, EXCEPT for one. And that involves missile weapons.

Player Characters often find themselves in the dark, and while blind-fighting can aid you with a melee weapon, you’ll always have some smartass who tries to use a bow in a vast cavern and wants to know his odds for hitting the said target.

This is absolutely crazy! And to make matters worse, the Players Handbook doesn’t cover perfect darkness in the chart which tells us the modifiers for different kinds of light. Darkness can happen to you in other ways, such as a magic-user casting darkness, or blinding you, or even casting continual light in your eyeballs (ouch)! Thankfully The Complete Fighter’s Handbook corrects this error.

According to the handbook, a melee weapon attacks with a –4. A missile weapon at –6. And those with infravision have a bonus of +3, assuming, of course, that the target/enemy is within the range of the infravision limit.

I don’t think that I would allow Infravision to be this good, we are talking perfect darkness, and since my system requires some kind of light, the demi-human would be just as blind in perfect darkness as anyone else.

I have ran into instances of competing parties fighting with each other in the midst of a monster infested cavern. Both parties had to extinguish their lights and handle monster attacks in the dark with melee weapons which alerted the other party of their location so they shot at the noise, sometimes hitting monsters, some times hitting members of the rival party. I didn’t use this system to handle the case (but I wish that I had), instead I treated everybody as if they were invisible, except for for the monsters which had ultravision so they saw normally and used the disadvantage to ravage both parties.

FUN STUFF!

Light is a fun tool to take a so-so scene, and really amp it up. If used wisely, you can even out other odds. A large monster such as a giant can be used to challenge low level adventurers by putting the fight more on their playing field. They can hide in the fog, and the giant can’t. Of course, if a giant hits somebody, then it will kill them, but wise PC’s won’t get close enough, and try to be as quiet as possible.

It works the other way around too, of course. Goblins attacking a party will have a good advantage, especially if they know the area and can use the fog to hit and run.

Namely, what we have to consider here, is Movement Rate, which will be slowed down to a crawl in low visibility and in an unfamiliar location, how much noise that the target is making, and if a character can see or not. Ultravision probably can, and a few monsters will need to be modified to adjust for this. Monsters which spend their lives in the dark will see perfectly . . . of course, is ultravision really vision at all? It might not be! In the real world, creatures that live like that typically don’t even have eyes. Nature has supplied them with an alternative sense.

Smell, super-hearing, psychic sight. Who knows what ultravision really is, but since we never have to describe it to the PC’s, we really don’t have to worry about exactly HOW it works, just that it does.

I’d also like to add that Dwarves and Gnomes don’t have ultravision, they use lanterns, and other forms of low light which wouldn’t be enough for humans to see by, but sufficient enough for the Dwarves and Gnomes to work in.

A cool game franchise that I love to play is the Fire Emblem series. In it, they use fog and darkness to increase the difficulty level of a situation. In order to see further, one must either use a torch, or a thief. If a fighter rushes into the fog, he runs the risk of bumping into an enemy and he isn’t allowed to attack. Initiative is automatically lost, and the enemy gets a free attack on him.

A thief can better ones odds of locating the enemy by using his “Hear Noise” ability. Thieves are highly dangerous during these situations because they have an improved chance of hiding in it, and can backstab an opponent much easier. A party with a thief present could qualify for a bonus to everybody, as long as they stay close to him. A torch will also reveal the enemy at a further distance if it isn’t too thick, of course, a torch will also reveal your position as well, but this is a risk that you are either willing to live with, or you aren’t.

If a thief is present, those within visual contact of him have a bonus equal to his backstab adjustment. Of course it won’t be multiplied, but added to attack only. A fighter fighting in dense fog would normally have a –4 to his attack, but with a 3rd level thief, whose backstab modifier is x2 gains a +2 to his attack roll by watching a thief who succeeded in his Hear Noise and can point it out, giving the fighter a –2 to his missile attack.

I hope that makes sense, I know some things are lost in translation, so let me know if I did nothing but write confusing gibberish.

Missile Weapon Ranges and how they have changed

We were playing our Monday game, and the subject of weapon ranges came up, we were outside and range became important. So I got to looking and studying the weapon ranges and I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I was studying my old handbook, the 2e manual with the Warrior on the horse, and was just amazed at how crappy and bad the ranges were. First we talked about how this was listed, if its by feet or meters, but we figured that it must be yards. I tried to find the answer but wasn’t able to at the time.

A sample listing was Dagger, 1/2/3 which baffled me. I can throw a knife more accurately then that! And a spear had the same thing. WHAT?!?!

So, we settled on yards, or 3 feet, which was also wrong, but it got me interested in how range works in the different books that I have.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Axe, hand: 1/2/3
Bow, composite, long: 6/12/21
Bow, composite, short: 5/10/18
Bow, long: 7/14/21
Club: 1/2/3
Crossbow, heavy: 8/16/24
Crossbow, light: 6/12/18
Dagger: 1/2/3
Dart: 1½ /3/4½
Hammer: 1/2/3
Javelin: 2/4/6
Sling (bullet): 5/10/20
Sling (stone): 4/8/16
Spear: 1/2/3


This is the original 1st edition. These scores are terribly inaccurate.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2e (1989 print)

Arquebus: 5/15/21
Blowgun: 1/2/3
Comp. Long bow, flight arrow: 6/12/21
Comp. Long bow, sheaf arrow: 4/8/17
Comp. Short bow: 5/10/18
Long bow, flight arrow: 7/14/21
Longbow, sheaf arrow: 5/10/17
Short bow: 5/10/15
Club: 1/2/3
Hand crossbow: 2/4/6
Heavy crossbow: 8/16/24
Light crossbow: 6/12/18
Dagger: 1/2/3
Dart: 1/2/4
Hammer: 1/2/3
Hand axe: 1/2/3
Harpoon: 1/2/3
Javelin: 2/4/6
Knife: 1/2/3
Sling bullet: 5/10/20
Sling stone: 4/8/16
Spear: 1/2/3
Staff sling bullet --/3-6/9
Staff sling stone --/3-6/9


There are more weapons added, and the Dart was streamlined to make it easier to use, but the numbers are all still confusing. There are no hints about what units we are talking about on this page.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2e (1995 print)

Arquebus: 50/150/210
Blowgun: 10/20/30
Comp. Long bow, flight arrow: 60/120/210
Comp. Long bow, sheaf arrow: 40/80/170
Comp. Short bow: 50/100/180
Longbow, flight arrow: 70/140/210
Longbow, sheaf arrow: 50/100/170
Short bow: 50/100/150
Club: 10/20/30
Hand crossbow: 20/40/60
Heavy crossbow: 80/160/240
Light crossbow: 60/120/180
Dagger: 10/20/30
Dart: 10/20/40
Hammer: 10/20/30
Hand axe: 10/20/30
Harpoon: 10/20/30
Javelin: 20/40/60
Knife: 10/20/30
Sling bullet: 50/100/200
Sling stone: 40/80/160
Spear: 10/20/30
Staff sling bullet: --/30-60/90
Staff sling stone: --/30-60/90


Now, THIS is an improvement. This list even states above it that the stated numbers are in yards. So this would mean that all of the stats listed in the previous editions were listed in tens of yards. Why they couldn’t state this on the charts themselves I honestly have no idea.

PLAYER’S OPTION: Combat & Tactics (also printed in 1995, but complete in 1994)

Arquebus: 10/20/60
Blowgun: 2/4/6
Comp. Long bow, flight arrow: 12/24/42
Comp. Long bow, sheaf arrow: 8/16/34
Comp. Short bow: 10/20/36
Club: 2/4/6
Hand crossbow: 4/8/12
Heavy crossbow: 16/34/48
Light crossbow: 12/24/36
Dagger: 2/4/6
Dart: 2/4/8
Hammer: 2/4/6
Hand axe: 2/4/6
Harpoon: 2/4/6
Javelin: 4/8/12
Knife: 2/4/6
Sling bullet: 10/20/40
Sling stone: 8/16/24
Spear: 2/4/6
Staff sling bullet: -
Staff sling stone: 6/12/18


Out of curiosity, I also included the rarely used and often forgotten handbook of optional rules. This is just a sampling, much more is listed in the book, and is for some odd miniatures rules, and one has to turn to a page prior to find that this is measured in squares, each square equaling 5 feet. Where they got these numbers from I have no idea. Perhaps from the Battle System which came out years and years ago, that I’ve never played neither.

* * *

Looking over the numbers, I see, once again that the reprint which came out in 95 is clearly the better book. The odd thing about it was that I refused to get it, and when I had to buy a Player’s Handbook, I always avoided the reprint. I prefer how the original is laid out, and absolutely LOVE the art inside, but as far as information goes, the winner, at least in this comparison.

I am interested in knowing what 3.0, 3.5, and 4th editions vary from the tables show. Are they the same, or better organized? I just don’t have access to that information.

Add-In #09: Hoo Doo Lady

If you take the haunted waterways through the bug infested, hot, miserable swamp, and if she wishes you to find her, you just may find the cabin of Monette Levow, the local hoo doo lady and witch doctor of these parts. During the day, this stretch of swamp is dark, the sunlight chocked to death by the twisted canopy of moss and trees, and at night the place is lit by billions of fireflys, and most unnerving, the lovers of Monette, tall hulks of men whom stand in the filthy muddy waters holding lanterns to guide the way, they say that to look into the eyes of a lover is to steal a peek into the great void itself, for their eyes are as empty and as vacant as the eyes of a dead man.

The cabin itself is lit by greasy, bursting candles, light peaking out of the shack in sheets which illuminate and intensify the blanket of fog which always seems to cling to this area. Even the monsters and powerful creatures leave this area alone, as if terrified of it . . . . like they know something!

Creeper moss hangs from the metal roof, boards seem to be nailed into place haphazardly. Boats can be tied right to the front porch, strange skulls and metal tools hang upon the walls, as do a few mobiles of bones, feathers, and other unhealthy things which floods one soul with dread.

Curious folks have realized that Monette has good strong tie-downs for boats, yet doesn’t seem to have one herself, nor has it ever been reported that she leaves this place.


Monette runs an odd business, she sells potions, charms, and fortunes; however money is meaningless to her. The currency of the shack is magic items (especially of the cursed variety) or favors taken at a later time.

No sign is needed, folks don’t come this way for nothing, and it is said that if you just sit in your boat, the current itself will take you directly to the shack! Those who are welcome will make it without any problems, however those who ain’t are never seen again.

This place is surrounded by mystery, on the way to the shack folks pass the old abandoned cemetery, and if one stops to take a gander at the headstones, the tomb of Monette Levay can be found. Strange lights and grim noises are heard from this place at night, nobodies been brave enough to explore this place when the suns down . . . at least nobody whose ever made it back to tell the tale, anyhow.

LAYOUT

A. Porch: The porch is constructed of the same thick and knotted wood as the rest of the shack, if judged by appearance alone, one wonders if it is safe to walk upon, however despite how it looks, it is strong and sturdy. The porch is large enough to support up to two boats, and two rusty tie-down hooks are available for visitors. A rocking chair and a wooden bench is provided incase one wants to wait a spell, or for those who either don’t wish to enter, and simply provided transport.

Large square crab nets hang from the awning, with one or two in the water catching crawfish and crabs for Monettes dinner. A boat hook and other tools hang on hooks and attached to the shack itself, including a machete which appears to have been used for other things besides cutting weeds. A few grim mobiles made of bones and bits and pieces of sticks and other things hang from the rafters, these serve as wind-chimes. While the swamp don’t normally have no wind, Monette says that some of her best customers be the spirits, and when the bones rattle, that’s them, but they’ve got to wait their turn like everybody else does.

The windows are boarded up, yet enough light vents out from the cracks and loose boards in the shack itself to illuminate porch/dock area sufficiently. The door leading into the place is always open, and candles and lanterns are always lit no matter what time of night one comes to visit.

B. Display Room: This large room is, typically, the only thing that people ever get to see. A curtain of beads and shells cover a doorway which leads to the living area of the cabin.

Every square inch of available wall space is used. Several tables and shelves line the outside of the room, they are covered in bottles, jars, and flasks full of unmarked powders and liquids. Most of the products look like junk to the untrained eye, but to her, they are her treasures. A few cages hang from the rafters, many are empty but others keep birds, the largest holds Monette’s pet raven “Tardy”, on a counter is a stand with an ancient balding parrot, the pet of a pirate who died long ago. Usually the bird just sits motionless and silent, but sometimes the devil comes over it, and it speaks of nothing but wickedness and murder for days on end without stop.

Soaps, herbs, satchels, insane maps of imaginary places, books filled with ravings and gibberish, odd bits and pieces of jewelry, poppets of nightmarish forms, a filthy worktable covered with powders and plants, jars of noxious pieces of things once alive, skulls and totems of creatures both known and unknown, toxic mushrooms, bundles of weed and plants tied and hung to dry and cure from the rafters, all these things form a smell which is unhealthy for the soul, and burns ones nose, no matter how hard you try to stop, you can’t help but take it in in large deep breaths. This smell is a mixture of organic plant life and death.

A large circular table sits in the darkest corner, bizarre and terrible things form an obvious altar to a god which no one but Monette is aware of. Fresh fruit, coins, cups of spiced liquor, statuettes carved from wood, and dried flowers surround a human skull which is used to hold a fatty, greasy yellow candle which burns dimly into your soul.

C. Hallway & Stairs: Behind the curtain of beads and shell is a short hallway, another alter sits in the corner, as does a small library of books, if these books are studied, one will find that they are full of magical and natural formulas and facts. Most are written in Monette’s hand, she does not write in common, as she taught herself how to write in a language that only she knows, Those who can desipher this personal script, however, will learn tricks and secrets of many beasts and monsters. Secrets of botany, what is healthy, what is poison, and other eccentric writings both natural and unnatural.

A stairway leads up to the second floor of the shack. It is creaky and groans under the mildest weight. Under the stairs is a hidden room which Monette keeps her cursed weapons. Sometimes she removes the curses and turns them into plus weapons, unless she finds the curse to be interesting, then she keeps it and cares for it as the beautiful thing that it is to her: Daggors of bizarre shapes and histories, swords haunted by evil and misfortune, axes cursed by murders and grizzly crimes which only Monette now knows. These items are the witches greatest treasures!

D. Upstairs Hallway: This tight and dimly lit hall (lit by lanterns hanging from the ceiling) is lined with a filthy rug which at one time was worth a fortune, but here it rots and is never cleaned. This hall connects the stairs to the three rooms.

E. Calling Room: This room is lit by hundreds of candles, a circle is drawn on the floor in salt and some other kind of powder. This is were the witch meditates and calls upon dark forces or otherwise works her magic when called upon to do so.

Bits of cloth, hairs, and pieces of junk and trinkets are nailed to the walls here, property of her Lovers (zombies). A small shelf on the west wall holds special spell components and other grizzly pieces which the witch keeps for herself. A grim and filty bassinette sits in the corner, and a strong bolt is set into the floor, when a sacrifice is needed, Monette keeps the animal “or victim” chained here until it is time to spill its blood. On the top of the shelf are 7 cages, at least three always contain live chickens. The witch has a Wand of Wonder which she keeps stored in this room in a bone scrollcase. A Dagger+2/+5 vs. dimensional creatures is her tool of choice when working her magic.

A lantern with green glass shutters hangs from a hook in the corner. Inside of the lantern is a gemstone (worth 5,000 gp), in the event of her death, her spirit flees to the gem and her zombies prepare a new body for her, typically a comely local girl who is in the witches debt. Monette will steal this body once it is brought to this room. She always has at least 3 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 that she “provides” for. She sends them gifts, keeps them fed and healthy and wanting nothing. This is cut off once they turn 19, none are aware of the witches true motives or designs.

F. Monette Levay’s Room: This is the sleeping chamber of the witch herself. A bed draped in mosquito netting dominates the room. A desk on the north wall contains a book of debts, it is full of names, those whom are in the witches debt and have yet to pay. A journal full of rumors and evil deeds done by others is also here, as the spiritual leader for the cities servant class, Monette has ears all over the place, she uses these rumors to blackmail and control the rich and powerful who rule the city. Some consider her knowledge to be completely magic in nature, but as you can see, this is not always true.

A basket contains the witches most precious companion, a 20’ long albino boa constrictor named Voodoo. A dresser contains books and junk that has been in the witches family for centuries. A chest hidden under her bed contains some money, magical scrolls, 4 spell books, and a human heart that is still pulsing with life. It is unknown whose heart this is, or why it is still alive.

A large chest in against the wall holds the witches ceremonial clothing, “all white”, a tray of memories, papers, deeds, and other mundane items. A dried up human hand is wrapped in a moth-eaten silk dress of much finery.

G. Guest Room: This room has a bed curtained in mosquito net, if the bed is moved a strange rune or symbol has been burned into the floor, this symbol protects the guest from spirits, but it also serves a dual purpose, if the guest takes anything that doesn’t belong to them, they get very ill and sick until the item has been returned.

A wardrobe is provided, as is a trunk with a good padlock which Monette provides a key for. If you leave her stuff alone, then she’ll do the same for you. A desk is available for writing and a comfortable chair for relaxing in. Monette’s guests are people who are hiding from something, or someone. While in Monette’s care, all magical methods of detecting or spying work.

Hidden under a loose floorboard is a journal and a treasure map, the property of a pirate, both are locked in a box which can only be opened by the parrot downstairs, or by some magical means. Monette is not aware of this item.

THE SECRETS OF MONETTE LEVOW

Business is conducted the same way every time. The visitor ties up their raft or boat, and enters the store. After a few seconds, Monette bursts through the curtain. If it is the visitors first time, she askes who sent them first, and then their name. Once she knows a name, she never forgets it, and she will greet the visitor by name every time they show up. She then asks what the visitor wants and listens to their desires. She repeats their desire and asks what they expect to pay for her aid. “First we discuss de payment.”, she smiles wickedly through black, rotten teeth.

She excepts bizarre objects, creatures, or cursed items. She’ll look at the item, and either except it or give it back and say “Not good e’nooff”. She’ll also except undisclosed favors, ladder on down de road. Favors are usually terrible acts, committing murder, collecting dangerous spell components, delivering bad news to powerful monsters, embarking on deadly quests. Either way, Monette will always get the better end of the deal. Her mind is wicked and crafty, she cannot be lied too, or tricked in any way.

Once payment has been discussed and the price agreed upon, then the witch will aid the visitor. If it is a matter of vengeance against a specific person, Monette believes in an eye for an eye, if justice be what you seek, she can unleash the “servant” upon um, but once unleashed, what’s been done can’t be undone, nomatter how badly you are sorry.
The witch offers protection in the form of charms, or single use items. She sometimes loans out weapons with specific purposes (killing werewolves, ghosts, undead, etc.) that will serve properly once, and no more. Many materials are loaned, and she expects to get them back. If magic they want, she will typically have them go collect the components that she be needin for the gris-gris.

PERSONALITIES

Monette Levow: AC 6; MV 12; HD 0; hp 10/
#AT 1; dmg 1d6 (club); SA magic spells; SD magic jar;
AL CN; SZ M (5’ tall); ML 9; XP 3,000

Monette is unique, because of her solitude, she can work both priest magic (all spheres), and wizard magic (all schools). She is capable of casting any spell that you need her to know, and either creating or possessing a specific magical item which you would find useful to your players to have on a short term basis.

Monette does not engage in melee, however if angered she will always have her zombies attack, but will always take the killing blow herself. This is very rare, for people of Monette’s experience, Death is getting off easy. Monette is an expert at creating powerful curses that may or may not defy the rules of magic. She is her own class of “monster”, and completely a device of the DM to use as he wishes. She is a hero to some and a vile demon to others. Common folks don’t like to talk about her, but she is very helpful to the working class. She provides protection and advice for the rumors and details about conversations that they have heard in the course of their work.

She comes to town but once or twice a year, always to lead the servant class in religious worship which involves much chanting and dance. Debauchery which the decent folk avoid and law tries to stifle unsuccessfully. On these nights it isn’t safe to be outside, for the spirits are excited and prone to commit mischief.

Her business practices are best described as double dealing. She has no moral qualms about selling protection from spells that she herself has cast upon the new client. She will even give advice about escaping the “Servant” if they come and ask for it. While kind to servants and slaves of the area, she is aloof and treacherous with all others.

Monette Levow appears to be a young black woman in her late twenties, however she has had her current body for 80+ years. The old-timers are mystified by this, and try their best to ward others away from seeing her. They know more then anybody else, the dangers of doing business with that witch. Her eyes are dark and piercing, with a knowing an evil stare to them at all times, unless she is thinking, then she squints, and smiles right at you in a way that sends shivers up your spine. Her teeth are black and decayed to the point were they are just nubs, but they still look sharp. Her nails are blachish and long, and she always wears long golden hoops in her ears.

Her every day dress is typically bright colored, loose fitting dresses, her long black hair she keeps tightly wrapped under a handkerchief which she wears at all times, most often this kerchief is red with a strange pattern which protects others from reading her mind. During religion and making her gris-gris, however, she always dresses all in white, the white is spotless and perfectly starched and pressed. When going to town, she always conceals herself in a long black hooded robe. She carries a long staff which she uses as a club if need be. The staff is thickly lacquered wood, and decorated with the carving of a twisting snake. Often, she has her pet Voodoo with her, wrapped around her shoulders. She is a sight to see, and is treated like a queen by those who follow her.

Ju-Ju Zombie: AC 6; MV 9; HD 3+12; hp 33
#AT 1; dmg 3d4; THAC0 15; SA machete (dmg 1d6);
SD spell immunity, fire does ½ dmg; INT 7; AL NE;
MR as undead; SZ M (7’); ML Special; XP 975

Ju-Ju functions as the head Lover. He is smarter then the rest, and has a normal chance of winning initiatives if ordered to engage in combat. He is a hulk of a man, standing 7 foot tall, he wears a straw hat, and a pair of blue overalls. Hanging on his belt is a machete which he can either use to strike with, or hurl it at a target.

Ju-Ju acts as Monette’s runner. He is sometimes seen in the city at night carrying messages, slips of paper requesting “demanding” that the witch wishes to cash in on her favor. He also picks up items that are due to his mistress. If she is required in town, it is Ju-Ju who takes her there, his boat hidden behind the shack. If his services aren’t needed, he stands in the water with the other Lovers, with lanterns and guides the living to her door.

Monette’s Lovers, zombies (13): AC 8; MV 6; HD 2; hp 14, 13, 12 (x2), 10, 9 (x3), 8 (x4), 5;
#AT 1; dmg 1d8; THAC0 19; SD Spell immunity; MR as undead; INT 0; AL N; SZ M-S;
ML special; XP 65 each

Monette’s Lovers are all dressed in blue coveralls, shirtless and wearing a straw hat. The zombie with 5hp is a child, he has special jobs to do, namely catching and preparing meals, and attending to guests if needed, otherwise at night, all of them can be found in the swamp holding lanterns. During the day, there are no signs of them, with the exception of the little boy who generally stays in the upstairs hallway.

Zombies are created by the witch as a refusal of payment, or as punishment for crimes against her. It is preferably the oldest son of the offender. The zombie is created by blowing a poison dust into the face of the victim, the victim must save or die vs. poison, failure means that the victim will get sick and be dead within the hour, success means that the victim has 1d8 hours before falling victim to the toxin.

The victim is buried and in 2 weeks after death, he rises as a zombie loyal to the witch. Zombies are sent to the graveyard at night, led by Ju-Ju, who dig the body up and lead it to his new master.

THE SERVANT

The Servant: AC 2; MV 9; HD 8; hp varies
#AT 3; dmg 1d4/1d4/1d8 (claw,claw,bite); THAC0 13;
SA poison bite (type F) aura of fear; SD regenerate 1hp
per round, +1 or better weapon needed to hit; MR 45%;
SZ L; INT varies; AL CE; ML 20; XP 6,000

The servant is linked to the person whom had the witch call it for (called the Controller) What happens to the Servant, also happens to the controller. The controller falls asleep at dusk, and dreams. His spirit is sent into the conjured body of the Servant, a fearsome creature which stands 9 feet tall, its hands form deadly sharp hooks, if both attacks are successful, the bite is automatic each round thereafter. The Servant’s teeth are long and sharp as daggers dripping with poison slime. Victims of the bite must make a saving throw vs. poison or die instantly (take 0 extra damage if successful).

Seeing a Servant is the equivalent of a fear spell. It is 45% resistant to all magic save those cast by the witch who summoned it, an enchanted weapon is required to injure it, however it regenerates 1 hp per round. Holy Water does double damage and does not regenerate, the controller is permanently scared from such an attack, and if the Servant is slain, so is the controller. The servant and the controller is linked until the Deed which it was called upon is completed, or it is slain.

The material required to summon the Servant is a gallon of the controllers blood, mixed with a poppet constructed of sticks, twine, mud and something belonging to the target who the Servant is supposed to hunt and kill. This poppet is allowed to harden, and cursed every day for three days. Then the poppet is tossed into the swamp and the incantations are uttered as the water bubbles and boils, forming the body of the Servant. The servant rises from the murky swamp and instantly begins hunting the target every night until it is killed. Calling a Servant is, of course, an evil act.

Sunday Supplemental: Flintlock Weapons

Flintlock Pistol
Cost: 30 gp
Weight: 3
Size: S
Type: P
Speed: 7
ROF: 1/2
Range: 4/8/12
DMG S/M: 1d8*
DMG L: 1d8*

Musket
Cost: 90
Weight: 12
Size: M
Type: P
Speed: 9
ROF: 1/2
Range: 15/30/80
DMG S/M: 1d12*
DMG L: 1d12*

Bullet: 1sp/10
Gunpowder: 1 sp per shot

*If max damage is rolled, the die is rerolled and the new amount added. Keep rerolling and adding if max is rolled again.

Clerics & Priests in AD&D

Religion in D&D is different then in the real world, and I feel that some is ripe for further explanation. While I play core rules as much as I possibly can, the Cleric Class has some, um, rather large holes in it that need to be filled before play is possible.

THE CLASS

There are only two core classes within the Cleric class. An incomplete Cleric, and a specialty priest called Druid which shows the player and the DM how to write up your own specialty priests.

In order to get more ideas on how to make specialty priests, one probably needs to pick up another book called The Complete Priests Handbook by Aaron Allston. That book is very helpful, however many of the priests found within are kind of useless, but as far as providing guidelines for religious matters, it is always helpful to have at least 2 examples to compare.

A cleric is not a priest, he is a defender of the faith, as in all faiths. What this means is that he does not serve just one god exclusively, but an entire stable of them. A cleric’s true religion is defined by Good, Neutral, or Evil. He defends all of the gods who have these traits, and is an enemy of those opposed to him.

A Priest is more specialized, he worships and chooses to defend one specific god. His alignment is much harder to maintain as it must be the same as his chosen deity. He may or may not get along with clerics or other priests, but the key is uniqueness.

If it helps, think of Clerics as compared to Mages, and Priests in the family of specialty wizards. Clerics are restricted to blunt weapons, but have access to a good variety of spheres as dictated to the player by the DM, specialty priests may have access to different weapons, but at a cost of access to spheres.

GODS

Gods in AD&D are dependent upon the DM. Some settings, the gods walk among us, while in others they bicker and fight up in the heavens. In order to do this article, I have to chose a side, and try and figure out what is the most core of the gods. To do this, we have to assume that there are Major Gods who honestly don’t care about the world anymore, and Minor Gods which are more interactive. Of course there are demi-gods and others but we won’t deal with them today.

It is always helpful to have a war, good vs. evil. This gives everybody something to do. Major Gods are more out-there, they exist but don’t deal with human matters. Space, Time, Dimensions, etc. Minor Gods look over very human elements, and it is these gods that have the most clerics and specialty priests. They are the gods of man, and either help or hinder him in his quests.

Monsters typically have their own myths, as do demi-humans. All of the classes probably worship their own deities within the common mythology, however different kingdoms may have different beliefs, when this happens a religious war can break out. A religion can never be permanently stifled unless total genocide is used, and even then there is usually some record of this religion some place.

In the D&D world it is usually helpful to have 2 or 3 human religions, and a third which is forgotten and lost. Each Demi-human race has their own unique religions which are less defined and more broad. Usually blatant ancestor worship, else hero worship with the same hero but different names depending on the clan or village.

Humanoids typically have 1 god, because it is just easier that way. Humanoid clerics are usually rare, so the name stays consistent for long periods of time until this god is replaced by a more powerful being.

SPELLS

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, has, in my opinion, the greatest Cleric Magic system of all time. It involves Spheres, no god has access to all spheres, and it is up to the DM to determine how these spheres are divided. This involves a human brain and planning on the part of the DM. It also involves some common sense, figuring out how different sphere combinations make up the gods influence.

The more specialty powers that a priest has, the less spheres he has access too. The two greatest powers are Turning Undead, and Using Edged Weapons. The typical Cleric has the ability to Turn Undead, that is his bonus power. If the priest can use edged weapons, typically, he can’t turn undead.

Evil Clerics can control undead, and turn paladins. Neutral Clerics can do one or the other, either dictated by the player, but preferably by the DM. Specialty priests usually have additional powers which are bestowed upon them in a limited way. A priest who worships a goddess of healing will probably be able to lay hands, one of Justice would be able to use a sword and perhaps have the ability to Detect Lie once per day without using a spell.

The further up the ladder the priest gets, the more powerful he becomes and the more gifts he is allowed. 1st edition had an excellent philosophy in regards to Cleric Spells, which stated that Magic Levels 1-4 were granted through pure meditation and faith, while the spell levels of 5 and above are divine in nature, granted specifically by the god itself.

What this meant was that if a cleric or priest breaks alignment or offends his god, he is denied high level spells until he atones for his behavior, or proves himself worthy to his god, or to a new god which is more compatible with his new alignment.

That to me is an excellent idea and I have no clue as to why this was taken out of the 2nd edition. Me personally, put it right back in. I think that it was done in the attempt to slowly remove alignment from the game, which is bogus. Alignment serves a function within the game, it always has and the systems that don’t use it are weaker for it.

A CLERICS PATH

Each clerics path is a unique one. Jobs during this time are crappy, and if one has money, then one can buy one’s way into the church. A purchased cleric will typically also achieve rank higher then others.

Another method of becoming a cleric is becoming an orphan. The church uses orphans to fill their ranks. Clerics assist Priests in their duties, many have no real homes outside of the churches and monasteries. Paganism was different, and much less formal. Much of D&D is dependent upon Christian principals and ideals. Pagan clerics were Shamans, they were crazy people who spoke to the spirits, some were also comparable fighters, but most were simply doctors or witches, which honestly don’t fit into the AD&D magical system. D&D witches are typically wizards, but duel class Wizard/Clerics aren’t impossible. It is even possible for a wizard to be a cleric, (at least in theory), his spells are all wizard spells, but instead of researching them, he is allowed to pray for them, as a cleric would. He would also have the same 1d4 hp per level as a mage, but share the weapon restrictions of both classes, (i.e. only staffs, and slings).

A Witch-doctor would probably be considered a specialty priest, and the rules for them are slightly different.

A priest is typically chosen by his god itself. The god sees the potential of the priest at a very young age and begins engineering his future. The god either physically becomes involved, or just spiritually depending on the strength of the god.

It is possible for a cleric to become a priest, and it is also possible for a priest who has been dishonored to become a cleric.

RELIGIOUS ENDGAMES

Clerics usually don’t get followers. They aren’t powerful enough, they are more like paladins as an order. A chief cleric does divide up the forces, but it is more like a thieves guild then a church. The Cleric will always have to answer to high level priests.

Priests on the other hand will gather followers, and be able to construct a sanctioned church. In order to arrive at 20th level, he will have to take over the entire religion. Each god is only allowed to have 1 20th level priest at one time, as dictated by the Druid specialty priest description, which I find to be good and sound.

DRUIDISM AS A TEMPLET

Published settings such as Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk have a good and thorough base which still needs to be fleshed out, by looking at the Druid class, we can figure out how to divide things up. It describes bonus powers, as well as the political demographic within the order. How one advances within the order. While a fighter or a thief can just advance with no limitations, a high level priest is not given this option, his title actually changes, and he is responsible for more and more people within the order. Once a priest fulfills the XP obligation, he then must be voted per the council, or have to fight to actually achieve his new level. Once the cleric has maxed out his XP, he won’t get anymore until his church has cleared him to advance the level.

Neutral and Evil religions typically do have a fight to the death, but Good religions have none-violent ways of handling this situation. How you chose to handle this situation, if indeed it ever does become a problem, is up to the DM and the DM alone. The player can express his thoughts and ideas, but as far as how the game is moved forward, the DM has the final say as to if this character should be allowed to advance, or if it should be retired.

THE CLERIC AS ADVENTURER

Specialty Priests are typically ordered out for specific reasons, while the Clerics represent the common man. A Cleric is more approachable then a priest is, especially at higher levels.

Clerics are charged with defending the faith, and the faithful. They defend the priests, as well as the followers of them. If a church comes under fire, clerics are sent out to protect her. If a priest falls under suspicion of corruption, it is a cleric who is sent to investigate him quietly.

Clerics are more prone to being adventurers then are Priests. A cleric will spend his off-time telling stories and myths, providing spiritual guidance for rural folks who may not have access to a church. Clerics seek to prove themselves to their gods, attempting to follow in their footsteps. They collect stolen items, or items which have been lost and return them to the church. They also collect history, if an ancient temple is to be explored, a curious priest would definitely enjoy a cleric to be present to report back what he has seen and learned.

Not all priestshoods are as formal as the common. A minor, and unknown god can take interest in someone and they can act as a priest for the god without ever setting foot inside of a church, or answering to anybody but his own heart. The worst thing that you can do to a cleric is treat him as some walking hospital. That isn’t any fun, and there should be lots of fun to be had from any class, especially a class as open to pure elements of Role-playing as the cleric is.

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Blog Carnival: D&D My first games

This month the Blog Carnival is at 6d6Fireball and the topic is D&D

In high school, I was a self-imposed outcast. I was a country kid, the closest neighbor that I got along with lived a mile away, and I’d walk the highway to go play Ninendo with him once in a while, but most of the time I had chores to do around the place, and much of my free time I’d spend by myself out in the woods.

I never liked people, to many folks around me always makes me feel edgy. I got into wargames, playing them from time to time, but for whatever reason we never played D&D. My cousin and I played 1 game of it back in the day, but it just developed into a big fight and neither of us knew what we were doing. Hell, I was so young I couldn’t even read yet. I think that the stigma of D&D linked to Satanism and suicide still lingered in my brain. Folks running around the woods with swords and thinking that they could fly and stuff. It was spooky! Besides, most of my friends at the time were complete idiots.

I got into it kind of backwards. I reached a spiritual crisis early in my life and began a search for God which led me to the occult. I found a couple of teachers here and there, but most of my teachers were books. Books have always been my friend. The dude sitting on the steps engrossed in a book . . . well, that was me. Hillbilly-book-worm! Oddly enough, I was all alone in this pursuit. While my “friends” were obsessed scoring weed, booze, and women, I read and read and read and had nobody to talk about what I was learning with.

After I graduated, and the taunt noose of puberty loosened enough to were I could breathe, I finally found many of the answers that I was searching for. I never went to collage, I couldn’t afford it, and the last thing that I needed at that point was more people telling me what to do with my life, so I got a crappy job flipping burgers downtown. While there I ran into a friend that drastically changed my life for the better. He too was an occultist, & he played Wargames. We hung out constantly and slowly the circle which surrounded me was a better class of minds. Folks interested in philosophy, religion, mysteries, ghosts, actual thinkers!!! For the first time in my life, I was actually happy around others. I could talk to them and they would actually understand it and come back with something of their own, it was a creative landmark.

I originally balked at playing D&D. It was a kids game, and I honestly didn’t understand how it worked, but one of my friends was insistent as hell, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He lent me a copy of his Players Handbook and I absorbed it. It was amazing! A game which required creativity and imagination to play? A game were you get to explore dank and haunted corridors, discovering bizarre and mysterious magical items? THIS WAS GREAT!!! I played the next day, and I played with a gusto. And when I said that I played with a gusto, it wasn’t rare to be playing a three day game living on cigarettes and Mountain Dew.

We could do whatever we wanted with the thing! And we did, too. We played wargames with it, explored ruins, fought epic badguys. We didn’t play modules all that much, with 4 rotating DM’s, the competition to be the best was always high. We explored huge games with over 10 people all sitting around the living room with 2 or three characters each, all the way down to 1-on-1 games, which were my personal favorite.

Sometimes we’d start play with 1st level characters, but usually it was 5th. I always felt that it was more rewarding to start at first, but we were young and didn’t have the patience for that kind of thing. We did, however, get to explore parts of the game that, as adults, we don’t have time for. Roleplaying aspects which were fascinating, and arguing! My god we could fight, but it was constructive arguing. Banter between friends that more times then not ended with, “Well I think that’s bull-shit”.

You respected the DM, but if you had an argument about something, then s/he’d always listen for a little bit and then decide if he’d cave or not. The one thing that you never did was intentionally anger him or her. Mean things happened when you did that. You’d get your sex changed, raped by a monster and contact some evil STD, polymorph into something which would make the rest of the party laugh their heads off.

Wishes were always something that one quickly learned to respect. We all had evil and devious minds! I remember the first wish that I ever made. The DM’s name was Lee, and man was he a stickler! His mind was such a thing that he actually got off on making calls which were hard to make, and he’d make them fast and you’d better live with it because more times then not, the man was right.

Earlier in the day our party discovered a Deck of Many Things. It absolutely decimated the party, literally cutting our numbers in half. My friend Shannon (who I still play the game with) got a raw deal, one character being zapped to death instantly, and the other one was teleported 100 miles away or some crap, either way we never saw him again. So there is Shannon, rolling up a new character, and at the time it took us all freaking day long to roll those things up . . . I’m not sure why, we can now do it in about 45 min.. Well, from the deck I drew a wish spell, and I decided to use it to save Shannon’s butt.

My buddy Andrew, who played under Lee more then anybody else had at that time, warned me to be specific, so I took my time and thought exactly what I wanted to wish for out in a way that it couldn’t be turned back around in my face. So, after a long time, and a walk down to the Kwik Shop to refill our buckets of soda, I finally had the perfect wish.

“I wish Shannon’s character was returned to the party with all of his belongings and at full hit points.”

“That’s it?” Lee asks, “That’s the spell you’ve been thinking about for the last 30 minutes of my life?”

“Yes,” I said, folding my arms, confident in my wording abilities and, if I dare say so, my superior brain.

“Fine.” Lee says, getting ready to get back to the business of exploring the dungeon, “This dude pops into the room next to you and says, ‘Hi, my name’s Shannon.’ He’s wearing a gay black shirt and thinks he’s a vampire but he’s really a pud with no armor, no weapon, and a whole 4hp.”

“What?!?” I yell while Shannon is shacking his head, hating his friends because Lee just made fun of him too, knocking the way that he dresses.

BURNED!!!!! For the next 6 months, this worthless NPC named Shannon followed us around like a puppy, he never attacked anything and did nothing but set off traps that never effected him but would make our lives hell. Truth be known, nobody ever got a wish from good ol’ Lee, and I always do my best to keep this long tradition among us friends alive.

Another Player that we had was my buddy Andrew, who I mentioned above. This guy was hilarious! He always started out the game as a Ranger, but would always end up a CN fighter because he couldn’t play a good guy to save his life, but man could that guy map! That was his talent, and I didn’t even realize just how good he was until I started DMing. He’d be sitting there smarting off the entire game, but at the end of the session, he’d hand me this map that he’d drawn off of my explanations alone which was more detailed then the one that I was using.

Sometimes he’d slow us down, yelling for everyone to wait, in his own filthy way which is totally unfit language for you, my gentle reader, but most of the time he was faster and didn’t have a hard time keeping up, and still having time to make fun of everybody and steal all of the best treasure for himself. To date, I’ve never seen anybody else who was able to do what he did. Nobody!

My first character was a cleric named Wrath, a priest of Lovitar, the Goddess of Pain in the Forgotten Realms world. My longest running character was a female thief named Leggus, I started her at 1st level in my future wifes campaign, and played under many different DMs with her, eventually taking over her guild through violence and murder, and her life ended at the hands of her arch enemy, a Vampire whom she first faced in her very first adventure . . . at least I think that she’s dead, I screwed up bad on a dice roll and somehow got myself charmed by him and had ran ahead, thus no allies to defend me. He took me at his leisure. She’d spent her entire career an enemy of the undead, and now she is one. Good stuff!

My favorite character though, is a guy named Elric. A swashbuckler who was forced by the King into being a Lord. 0 magic, but lots of war and espionage. Elric was a trip! Even something as basic as going to a tavern always ended up in mischief. He was always a fun character to play, he hated responsibility but depended on it all the same.

Monstrous Compendiums

One of the most valuable books that a DM owns is his Monstrous Manual. Back in the day monsters were kept loose-leaf, which was cool. You bought a binder and when you bought more monsters you could easily add them into your source-book. Later, the hard-bound was released, and soft-bound monster compendiums followed.

The hard-bound MM is, in my opinion, the greatest TSR book ever published. It collected a monsters from a huge body of work, and is pretty complete all by itself. The problem isn’t with the MM, it is with those soft-bound compendiums. Most of them were wastes of paper. I don’t believe that any true index was ever compiled to all of them, which is a shame. I know that when I can’t find a monster in the MM, I know that for the next couple of hours I’m going to be stuck looking through these compendium things, and I don’t think that anybody has them all. I don’t.

Reading the compendiums aren’t much fun, and most of the monsters in them aren’t all that interesting. There are exceptions, of course, but there are other problems with them. Namely how the books were bound. The MM was bound wonderfully. It can take a lot of abuse, it is mobile, it can be laid flat on the table and it stays on the correct page. The compendiums, being paperback, aren’t anything like that. They close up on you, and the paper spines are now breaking apart and becoming loose leaf again, which is no good. So much care is needed when working with them that I usually try to avoid it.

Now, I don’t normally do reviews, but I honestly don’t consider this to be a review. These books are out of print, and I am just a player talking about my favorite ones, and giving you tips on which ones that I use somewhat regularly, and the ones that I don’t. I also don’t own all of them, so I’m just going to talk about the ones that I do own, thus this isn’t complete.

When I stumble upon a monster which ain’t in the MM (I play even older editions of the game which I update to 2e) I hunt through the compendiums that I own, and if I still don’t find it, I then update the monster the best that I can. But enough about that, lets get to the monsters.

MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM Annual: Volume One

This book is fairly useful. It has all of the monsters that just didn’t make it into the MM because of space. It provides a wide selection of monsters from all of the campaign settings. I have used many of these monsters in my own games, players aren’t as likely to be familiar with them as they are with the MM.

The book has a wonderful article called “Beyond Random Encounters”, but it has no index what-so-ever, which is a huge problem.

MONSTEROUS COMPENDIUM Annual: Volume Two

Another useful book. A good variety, plus expansions on Dinosaurs and Pleistocene Animals which makes running old school modules such as “Isle of Dread” much easier.

As bonuses, you get a much larger Monster Summoning table, and a very useful and large Random Encounters Tables reminiscent of 1st Editions DMG. But again, no index which makes searching through them that much harder.

MONSTEROUS COMPENDIUM Annual: Volume Three

Now we start to get into wasted money. I have never found a use for this book. The monsters are too big and all of them are too specialized. You finally do get a decent index, however it isn’t complete, it only compiles the MM which isn’t needed, and the 3 MC volumes.

MONSTEROUS COMPENDIUM Annual: Volume Four

This book is a great coaster, or a blotter when you need something softer then the table to write on, but as far as monsters goes, it is pointless. It compiles monsters from the magazines, and other settings which aren’t all that ground-breaking. If there is a bonus to this book, I am unaware of what it is.

RAVENLOFT MONSTEROUS COMPENDIUM: Volumes 1-3

I like these books, but then again, I am more into horror and this element is a much larger part of my games then the normal DM. Volumes 1&2 have been compiled into a single book. Volume 2 is worthless as it deals with specific NPCs within the setting, but volume 1 and 3 are good, though 3’s monsters are really tough and mean.

PLANESCAPE MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM: APPENDIX

This book is priceless, and basically the entire reason for this article, as it corrects the only problem that MM has. MM refers to monsters which aren’t in any sourcebook. The MM is copyrighted 1993, and it took an entire year for this compendium to be published (1994). Why was this done? Insanity! That is why it was done.

First Edition was thrust into the center stage by one of the greatest Urban Myths of all time, the war against Satan Worshipers. Apparently, in the 80’s, Satan worship was rampant. Millions of babies were sacrificed to Satan, rock bands such as the Eagles and the Beatles were filling our heads with suggestions, and much like the Columbine finger-pointing, except without the catalyst which Columbine provided as seeming proof of said behavior, the powers that be decided that the leading cause to devil-worship was Dungeons and Dragons. They even had proof that D&D was responsible! Well, not really, but if you scream something loud enough then somebody out there will believe it. And it is amazing just how many people DID believe it.

Gygax knew better, but the suits up at TSR felt that a change had to take place, thus when 2e was released, the most dramatic change which I feel was the true reason for the total update, is the deletion of Devils and Demons.

To a guy like me, who prefers to play the older modules, updating Devils and Demons induces the greatest headaches. These monsters are kind of still present, and in many ways, I really enjoy the conflict created between the two, but of course I am talking about the Baatezu and Tanar’ri.

The MM reintroduces us to these creatures, two evil factions in perpetual war with one-another, and probably the greatest threat to man-kind than any other creature. But the problem is that out of all of the creatures, they only produced stats for 6 of them. SIX!!!

They referred to different ranks within the races, but in order to gain access to them, you have to have the Planescape MC. This has always frustrated me, my copy of this book is my most ripped up and worn reference book that I own. It was the one book that I always carried with me because it was so valuable, why this stuff isn’t in the MM still baffles me to this day, but who am I but a simple user.

Truthfully, I have never dealt with the war. Most of my demonic experiences have always dealt with evil men and mages summoning them up. Devils trapped in a room and none too happy about it. I’ve used the Planescape compendium more times then I’ve used the Baatezu and the Tanar’ri listed in the MM. Perhaps if I was more resourceful, and possessed more gumption (which I don’t, but if I did), I’d sit down and actually translate all of the old Demons and Devils to 2e and eliminate the Baatezu and Tanar’ri completely, but I do have mixed feelings about it. Part of me likes what they turned into, and an equal part absolutely hates it. It just seems so . . . dare I say, Generic?

The term Generic has turned into a good thing to me. Generic provides more freedom to me as a Dungeon Master, and as a Player, but using it now, to describe my mixed emotions in regards to the missing Demons, I’ll be the first to admit that I am at a loss. They are important to the feel of the game. An element just as basic as Trolls and Paladins. If you have clerics, you need an enemy worthy of them. Why replace this with such a meaningless name? It was intended to appease the religious nuts out there that used it as gas upon the mythic flames of Devil-Worship, but honestly, it didn’t accomplish anything more then dividing the players and putting a huge nail in the road for folks trying to use it as a reference guide.

New/Old Monster: Rock Reptile

Rock Reptile

CLIMATE/TERRAIN:
Subterranean/Mountains
FREQUENCY: Rare
ORGANIZATION: Solitary
ACTIVITY CYCLE: Day
DIET: Carnivore
INTELLIGENCE: Animal (1)
TREASURE: J, K, L, M (25%), or Q, S x¼, T x½ (25%)
ALIGNMENT: Neutral

NO. APPEARING: 1-2
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVEMENT: 6
HIT DICE: 5+1 (1 hp = 1 foot in length)
THAC0: 15
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-4 (+1 per foot of length)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Surprise
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Chameleon Powers
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Nil
SIZE: M-L (5’-12’ long)
MORALE: Unsteady (7)
XP VALUE: 270

Rock reptiles are chameleon-like reptiles with warty, and lumpy hides which can blend into the creatures natural surroundings with ease. Their hard skins can change colors to match their surroundings. Appearing to be nothing but a pile of rubble or rocks, the rock reptile prefers darkness, but has been known to venture out in the daylight if it is sufficiently hungry.

Combat: Rock reptiles are ambushing creatures. They can lie in wait for long periods of time, and then quickly strike out, this initial rush is twice their normal speed, when mixed with their camouflaging abilities, this imposes a –5 to surprise their opponents.

Ecology: Most rock reptiles are solitary, but it is not uncommon to find mated pairs. Sometimes treasure is incidentally accumulated in their lairs from prey dragged back for consumption, two reptiles which are mated will have double coins and gems only.

Myth as Adventure

What if there were a creature in your game that was unstoppable? It did what it wanted, when it wanted, and to who it wanted to do it to.
“But Ripper?”, you say, “Aren’t those things bad for the game? Don’t players feel abused when you lay some killer monster into their laps?” well, the answer is yes! Yes it is a dirty trick just to throw a bunch of killer numbers together and let it destroy your campaign. You being the judge of this thing and all, what does it say about you if YOU cheat?

Now, I’m not talking about cheating. Lands no! What I’m talking about is a serious villain that can really throw a wrench into your players plans, and leave all of the ones who are lucky enough to be walking away with their lives, walking away with scars.

One of the most important stories to the fantasy genre is “The Lord of the Rings”, have you ever heard of it? Then no doubt you’ve heard of the dragon named Smog. Fools will tell you that old Smog was slain with a single arrow, but we know better then that, don’t we. We know that it took months and months of much work and adventure on the part of a party of mixed races to get a hobbit inside of his lair, and to get him close enough so that he could spot the chink in the great worm’s armor. Then, and only then, with this information could a solid archer notch up an arrow and pray that his eye was that of an eagles at that moment.

Research! A monster that appears to be perfect. It is intelligent, greedy, and blood-thirsty. Blessed by the darkest gods, and fueled by only the blackest of desires. Many fantasy tales begin with this simple concept. A young hero forced to flee his home, and years latter returning to extract their vengeance. This is a smart idea! A first level fighter can’t take on a dragon, but you can threaten them with one. A powerful red dragon extorting money from the heroes village, until the money simply runs out.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be a dragon, it could be a man. A man who will throw your entire family in prison if a huge tithe isn’t paid on a regular basis. Of course it will start with something easy, something which forces the party to go adventuring, but once the evil bully discovers how resourceful and successful the adventurers are, he may want more then just more and more money. Eventually they’ll have to deal with him, but getting to him is the hard part.

RESEARCH AS ADVENTURE HOOK

Your master villain that you’ll utilize for this series of adventures has to be dangerous. He has to have the players fear, respect, and disgust before he’ll serve as a proper focal-point for the players. They can’t forget him, he always has to be in the back ground, haunting them. The towns people whom they meet may be either serving him/it or just as afraid as they are.

Somebody has to know something, and of course, we have to have something worth hiding to make the adventure work. This can be a known monster who for some reason has mutated and is stronger then normal, or simply way too strong of an enemy for the players to deal with until they reach a higher level; or we can invent our own monster, but the key to the whole thing is that he does have to have a weakness, and this weakness can be as simple or as mysterious as the creature itself. The wicked witch of the west melted when water was dumped on her, the Deathstar exploded after a single torpedo hit it in just the right spot. Everything has its Achilles heel, it is just creating one that is interesting which separates the judges from the Dungeon Masters.

Detective Work

This hook could last as long or be as short as you feel your player’s attention spans will allow. A fun one-nighter could be trying to save a small little community from a monster. Treat a band of trolls like a bigfoot. A monster that comes in when it is dark, robs and kills and leaves. The village is terrified, nobody will even answer their doors at night. Folk-magic and wives tales are a good inspiration. People leave food, or tie up herbs and hang them on their doors in an attempt to ward off the creatures, but all that is left in the morning is foot prints and evidence of thievery and violence. Is the thing really a monster, or a human hoax? Well that is up to you to decide. Perhaps it is something that is much too powerful for the players to handle? Or at least it will appear that way to our little MM readers who think that they have insight on monsters. We can always add our Achilles Heel, a one use magical item, a secret weakness, an intelligent trap. Creativity should be the answer, and the beautiful thing about doing something like this is just how little prepwork that you need to make it run properly.

Just a tiny little farming village with an inn, a black smith, and if they are lucky, a church. Maybe a merchant comes in once a month to sell wares from a cart, or maybe he has a store too, who knows? This kind of thing can be easily suited to handle all of the players needs and yours.

Add a monster and maybe a red-herring and it is good to go! And since we aren’t limited by modules or anything of much written down, we can react to the players and let them do all of the work. Creativity is the solution, and you just keep them guessing until they come up with an idea that is so daft and crazy that it just might work! Of course, don’t let them know that, if anybody asks, then you just tell them that that was your plan all along.

Know your monsters, know their strengths and their weaknesses. Seek to make them more then just numbers on a sheet of scratch paper, give them life and breath and make your NPC’s terrified of them. If nobody cares that this thing is out there at night, then who cares? How do these helpless 0th level people react to the problem? Superstitions and myths go a long way to legitimizing a monster. Hiding this thing in one hand, and exposing hints in the other are common tactics of rural folks who think that if they stop thinking about it, then maybe, just maybe, it will go away. Perhaps they blame a crime on the happenings? Somebody’s sins are the reason WHY! 20 years ago Old Man Potter killed his lovers husband, and now the ghost of the murdered man is wrecking his vengeance upon all of the people who knew what had happened and done nothing about it. That probably isn’t the reason why, but it is a good red-herring. A false lead, should be at least a good story. Devil worshipers out in the woods, ghosts, monsters, these things have always been with us, and just because we understand what is really happening, doesn’t mean that your NPC’s know. Let their, and your, imaginations get carried away. What other explanations can you think of to describe the reason for the deaths and thefts? Have fun with it.

RESEARCHING A SHOT

I am very stingy with called shots. The exception to the rule is researching a shot. Smog, for example, would be a called shot.

Asking around, or finding the creatures weak point through an ancient drawing deep in some haunted cavern can give subtle clues to the destruction of the beast. I never come out an say, Shoot the dragon in the mouth right before he uses his breath weapon. I hid it in riddles, “with a needle of cold iron, prick the internal flame”.

Any shot taken upon the beast which isn’t a specific called shot, is ignored and bounces off, goes through, is dodged, is caught, what have you. But once the called shot is hit, then the creature is vulnerable or death is imminent.

Naturally some weapons will still get through, a +5 Holy Avenger will target all evil creatures, thus the Paladin can slay the beast as long as he can survive the fight. We also have to figure in what magical swag the party has and if this effects it, if it does, then perhaps we should try something else? Magic can devastate you if you aren’t prepared for it, always know what spells your players have and choose your monster around them.

RESEARCHING A SPELL

Team efforts are always a good time. Perhaps the answer to our dilemma is “team-work”? A plan that involves all of the characters, perhaps the first thing that needs to happen is a clerics spell which makes it vulnerable for a round, the cleric must work closely with the parties mage so that at the right time, he can cast a nasty offensive spell which takes effect. Warriors do their things, as do the thieves which may need to be the ones who set a mechanical trap in order to keep the monster confined long enough for the cleric to do his thing? All of this, is an end result. Prior to this attack, the characters had to do their research. The spell that the cleric needs to use could be just beyond him, you can require him to either gain a level or discover a scroll which has the spell. It can also be a unique spell designed especially for this situation, which will disappear after it is used.

Wizards spells are the same, and we never know how magic will interact with magical creatures. Perhaps a bolt of lightning will actually heal the creature? Other spells could actually energize it, or the monster could have a bizarre ability to spell-turn. Maybe the creature is a source of Wild Magic? Making all spells cast in a specific radius go Wild? The clerics spell stopping this from happening, and calming down the area so that a wizards spell can get through normally.

There are lots of ideas, and millions of ways of doing this sort of hook. Take your time and actually tell your story through the monster and how you NPCs react to it. Give it everything that you can and your players will remember it for many years to come.

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