Half-Orc Player Character Race

Finally getting into Greyhawk, I have decided to adapt a few things which makes the setting unique to my table. I always think that that is important. We don’t change settings simply because of a whim, there should be a reason, and each setting should be different then the last, with new things added to pepper the landscape and make the game feel different from your last.

One of the biggest additions for me is by adding a new player character race. I am sure that many of you folks have already instituted this race years ago, but the facts for me is that it isn’t Core, and has never been allowed to be a player race in my games, so this is a huge deal for my table.

Racial Requirements

Half-orcs must have at least a STR of 6, and a CON of 8. Wisdom must not exceed 14, nor the CHA higher then 12. If all of these limitations are met, the character may be a half-orc and may then adjust their stats by adding +1 to both STR and CON, and subtracting –2 from their Charisma score.

There is a cap of either 18 (or 18/00 if the character is to be a fighter), to the players strength, but a half-orc can have a Constitution score of 19. The cap on Charisma is that the charisma can’t be lower then 3. If the adjustments take the score lower then this, then ignore it.

Available Classes

Half-Orcs can be Fighters (up to 10th lvl), Clerics (up to 4th level), Thieves (up to 8th). They can also be Fighter/Clerics, Fighter/Thieves, or Thief/Clerics.

Racial Benefits

  • Half-Orcs have the same saving-throw bonuses for CON as do Dwarves.
  • Infravision of 60’
  • An additional +2 to saving vs. poison (cumulative with other bonuses)
  • Difficult to surprise (-2 modifier to opponents chances)
  • Can know the following languages: Common, orc, dwarf, goblin, hobgoblin, and ogre.

Racial Penalties

  • In human societies, half-orcs suffer –2 reaction roll penalty.
  • Half-orcs must have some sort of Neutral Alignment

Description

Half-orcs are hybrids, most half-orcs are half goblin, hobgoblin, or human, but half-orcs can be hybrids of any race with the exception of elves, whom orcs aren’t capable of breeding with. Player Character half-orcs must be half-orc and half-human.

The orc strain is usually the most dominant, however 10% (or all Player Characters) will have enough human features to pass off as an ugly human. Half-Orcs have a variety of skin tones which run the ranges between grayish-green to dirty tan. They have thick, wiry hair which is course and dark in color. Their most striking features are their piggish, burning red eyes, which is a byproduct of their optic-nerve system. Many have slightly upturned noses which other races call snouts, but all have vicious looking canines. Half-orcs are meat-eaters whose tastes gravitate to game and domestic meats, but half-orcs can, and often do eat anything edible that other races consider to be garbage.

Male PC half-orcs stand from 5½ to 6 feet tall on average (60 + 2d6 inches tall) and weigh 110 + 3d12 pounds. Females are 59 + 2d6 inches tall and weigh 85 + 3d12 pounds.

HALF ORC & OTHER RACES

(Note: while I designed this Player Race to be played in the Greyhawk setting, I am keeping this section as system neutral as possible.)

Half-orcs prefer to only have dealings with other half-orcs. While dealing with each other half-orcs their Charisma is always treated as if it were 2 scores higher then what it really is. Half-orcs, unlike other hybrids such as Half-Elves, have founded their own small villages, but they are also common in the poorest and filthiest sections of large cities.

Other orcs generally treat them with indifference, they aren’t full orcs, however their leadership skills are envied. Half-orcs generally enjoy pushing full orcs around and are aggressive if they chose to live among them. They have superior abilities granted to them by their non-orc parent, which they tend to flaunt at every opportunity.

Dwarves hate them, and will not tolerate a half-orc to live in or around them. Dwarves seem to go out of their way to kill them, in some dwarven cultures, in order to be an adult you have to slaughter a half-orc in singles combat. Half-orcs tend to share this outlook, either with unrestrained fear of dwarves, or an urgent hatred of them which always leads to violence. Orc/Dwarfs are not tolerated to live, though a few exist, this is the cause of much of the racial hatred. Dwarves view their women as treasure, they are a valuable resource which can not be replaced or replicated. Orcs see this as a chink in their armor and have kidnapped dwarven women, forcing them to breed with them against their will. Orcs find dwarven women extremely attractive while the women find orcs to be hideous monsters.

Elves are more forgiving then dwarves, probably because there is no threat of interbreeding with them. Most elves greet half-orcs with mere antipathy, generally disliking them, but will eventually except those half-orcs which aren’t evil, and may even form some kind of friendship with those which are of neutral good alignment if enough time is spent with them.

Gnomes tend to hate them as much as the dwarves, if a band is discovered in Gnomish territory, they will be driven out. While gnomes typically respect life, this respect commonly does not extend to half-orcs, who see them more of a threat to the world then even full-blooded orcs! Gnomes face raids at orcish hands, and since they aren’t as strong as the dwarves, they must be more diligent about such things before total war can have a chance to break out, which when this happens, typically the winner is always the orcs. Most dealings with half-orcs are those that lead parties against them, and it is proper procedure to attack first and assume the worst. Orc/Gnomes are very rare, and are never welcome in gnome communities. Gnomish women are also held prisoner and forced to mate against their wills, however these women are typically released after a period, but the babies are kept.

Halflings and half-orcs are fairly neutral with each other. Raids do happen, but halfling forgiveness and natural ability to make peace always prevails as long as the spoils weren’t too expensive. Orc/Halflings are equally rare, but for the reasons that orcs generally depend on the halfling’s neutral will then for any other reason.

Human and half-orc relations are complex at best. While relationships are generally neutral, half-orcs will typically seek out human areas which don’t care so much about appearances. Humans allow half-orcs to live in the fringes and drags of society, and will never allow them to be above the poor social classes.

HALF-ORCS & THEIR PLACE IN THE WORLD

Half-orcs are lazy by nature, and have nasty tempers. They get along well with themselves, but don’t understand or have any desire to understand the other races. Most half-orcs are excellent brewers of liquor, though it is of such strength that most other races consider it to be contraband which is highly sought but equally illegal. Half-orcs have a wonderful ability to produce products of vice: Drugs, Prostitution, Gambling, these are the big money makers of half-orc society. Where ever they can be found in numbers, these are typically the exports which they offer.

The game “Pick-it” is worthy of note, as it is little understood outside of the half-orc race, although it is played by other races who think that they understand it. Pick-it is played with little bone tiles, each player gets 8 tiles and try to form hands, the highest hand wins; but there is an unsaid rule which no race knows about and no half-orc will ever admit to, but this game isn’t about forming good hands, but about cheating. All of the players are expected to cheat, however if you get caught you immediately lose, generally the best cheater is the one who wins the hand. This game is hugely popular among half-orcs, as well as other races who try it expecting to win.

Half-orcs also produce some of the best mercenaries in the lands, many morally ambiguous and unafraid to do things which others would find distasteful or terrifying. Half-orcs live fast and die hard, those who die of old age are considered failures, while those who have died young are considered to be the greatest heroes.

Wealth is measured both in coin and in glory, half-orcs understand both really well and are experts at gaining both, however because of the half-orc lifestyle, coins are spent quickly and with great abandon, as fame is more desired then riches. The typical half-orc will risk life and limb at a very dangerous but wealthy raid, return and squander the vast fortune he had earned in a matter of days, then turn around and do it all over again. This is the way of the Half-Orc.

THE SUB-RACES OF HALF-ORC

The full list of half-orc races is to numerous to mention, so the following is the most common half-orc sub-races listed in order of the likelihood to encounter them.

Orc-Goblin: These creatures are smaller then the typical Orc, but larger, and more powerful then goblins. They typically are found living in Goblin societies where they excel as group leaders, those which chose to stay with orcs are also prized as their size makes them prized assassins and their devious minds are kept busy by inventing traps and defenses of great complexity and cruelty, which is uncommon to orcish society.

Orc-Hobgoblins: This sub-race is almost always found in orc society, true hobgoblins use them as cannon-fodder and scouts, a few have found success but most chose to live in orc society where their great size and strength grants them more opportunities and greater rewards. A few form bandit squads of their own, mixing with other half-orcs.

Orc-Human: This is the only half-orc allowed to enter most cities, a few stay in orcish surroundings, however most either move to impoverished urban settings, or form towns and villages of their own. As things are, half-orc/humans are a subrace, however given a few generations of living like humans, this ever expanding race could become it’s own breed as many choose to mate with their own kind and have children, how long this will take is anybodies guess, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see the implications of this new growing trend.

MAGIC & THE HALF-ORC

Half-orcs haven’t the patience or the drive required to become mages. They aren’t as resistant or disruptive to its forces as are many other races, however, for them, it is just to time consuming and time is not something that half-orcs have a lot of.

HALF-ORCISH RELIGION

Half-orcs are typically drawn to gods which share their neutral alignments, however other clerics always treat them as heretics. While they keep no formal places of worship, a few half-orcs are known to preach on the open streets, half-orcish gods are familiar to others in name alone, as the half-orc versions are completely different in description. It is unclear as to how the half-orc acquires his spells, perhaps the god’s they insight takes a certain amount of pity upon them? Perhaps it is simply belief alone, whatever the reason the gods which the half-orc takes as their own have no true personas except for gods which represent vices, these gods are always worshiped in ways which they enjoy.

Half-Orc clerics who are single classed and worship gods of vice, are generally rewarded for high wisdom scores above 15. For each additional point above 14, they are allowed an additional level, up to 8th level for WIS scores of 18.

LIFE-CYCLE OF THE HALF-ORC

Half-orc have incredibly short life-spans. The oldest a half-orc has ever lived is 62 years old. They are typically kicked out of their homes at very young ages, this is because of their eating habits. A half-orc eats three times as much as the average being, this has something to do with their accelerated life-cycle. A half-orc eats pretty normally until ages 4-5 at which time a massive growing spurt happens. Half-Orcs reach sexual maturity at age 9 or 10, and are considered to be adults at age 13. Most half-orcs start adventuring or become productive between 12 and 15 (starting age is 11 + 1d4). Upon reaching maturity, they don’t appear to age much at all for many years, but once they do, it is very dramatic. Half-orcs are never middle-aged, but upon their 30th birthday the aging process seems to kick in viciously, in ten years he will be venerable (Max age is 30 + 2d10).

Because of their life-style, most half-orcs die well before they even turn 30, all of the great half-orc heroes have died well before they even turned 20. Their childhood is tough, all end up on the streets, urban areas are packed with them. There they spend most of their time stealing food, some are picked up by thieves guilds, others are forced to join armies, but the majority of them will starve to death before ever getting a chance to reach sexual maturity. Life is bitter and hard, a few lucky half-orcs will be taken in by a charitable family or guild, but the majority never had a chance.

There is no respect for the old, chances are that a half-orc who beat the street will become a wealthy man, and then die of old age, destitute and penniless on the very same street he thought that he beat all those years ago.

HALF-ORC LAWS

Law within true Half-Orc villages depends on the alignment of the society which populates it, but always supports vice. The laws are designed to protect their own, many times, literally. The most important laws all deal with gambling, paying debt, and of course slavery. A half-orc who runs a brothel is considered a slave-owner who is responsible for the welfare and upkeep of his slaves. A few laws here and there protect these slaves, but none of them are fair as far as demi-human rights are concerned.

The enforcers of the law are typically brutal, but easily paid off by the highest bidder. Half-orcish society is always run by the golden rule, Those who have the gold, make all the rules. This status changes however so frequently that it is impossible to keep up, even for the constables whose job it is to enforce the laws. Villages are managed by the wealthy, who keep this status for as long as they have money, thus, most are operated by either Mercenary bands who own the village, or Thieves guildsmen. Steady rulership which lasts only about a decade and is considered to be stable, typically rulership over the villages is so fast and sporadic that nobody bothers to even pay attention.

WAR

Because of the locations of half human/orc towns and villages, war is rarely a problem. Nobody particularly wants the land, and many have been founded on former towns which were abandoned because the resources that fueled it have all dried up. This makes it prime real-estate for half-orcs who can reap a healthy profit through their tools of vice. Once established, folks from all around come to visit for gambling, drink, drugs, and lack of law. Even humanoids are welcome, and raids by them rarely happen. The biggest threat to an established town are all from Dwarfs. While some towns have the manpower to fight, it is more typical that word will get out that a dwarven raid is going to take place and the town is abandoned for a while, after all, the dwarves aren’t there to take land, just the lives of the half-orcs, and they can’t do this if there isn’t anybody there to kill.

A town can always go into some kind of martial law, in the event that a dwarven raid is not discovered in time to fully prepare. Half-orc fighters are fierce and their methods border on suicidal bravery. Death in battle is preferred to dying of old age, thus even if a majority of the town disappears, the roughest and meanest of the half-orcs will hang around and fight to the very last man, taking as many dwarves as possible out with them. Sometimes they are able to rout the raiding dwarves, and other times they are slaughtered by them, regardless in a few weeks the village will be business as usual and always celebrate their victory, even if by the numbers of dead it is evident that they lost.

PLAYER CHARACTER HALF-ORCS

Naturally, most half-orcs are of dim and dark alignments, but since AD&D is a game of cooperation, the half-orc should comply with an alignment which is capable of working with a party and not against it.

Half-Orcs are practically born and breed to become adventurers, they will be seeking fame and glory. Most of their money will be spent on food and objects of vice. They will constantly have to prove themselves to outsiders, perhaps struggling with their own dark nature at every opportunity. This is not an easy race to play, and is typically a character who is doomed from the get-go, but for players who are into the role-playing aspect of the game, they can find no other race that is as challenging, or as rewarding as a half-orc character.


ART BY: Jim Roslof

Alternatives to Critical Hits Rules

Today’s topic is a controversial one to me. Critical hits and misses are not something that I really enjoy. I have been burned by these things in the past, and generally don’t like to use them, but I do generally agree that something should happen if a character rolls well, or really badly. Crit hits are not supported by the Core Rules, for a variety of reasons. First, I’ve seen some really advanced tables, probably the most advanced being found in the AD&D Players Options (Combat & Tactics). These things are dangerous for player characters, it really doesn’t make much difference to the game when a monster loses an eye, and gets a leg shattered, but when it happens to a player character, this will put limitations on the party which I as a DM am not willing to live with. Besides, I believe that a PC’s appearance is more often then not, the total domain of the player who is playing them. If they want to play a scarred up, scarecrow of a man, then so be it, but on the same token, if they want to play a good-looking hero, then he should be allowed to do this too, without having to worry about his character’s image being forever ruined just because some goblin got lucky with a spear one day.

I don’t like realistic combat, this is a heroic fantasy game, and it’s goals and rules aren’t meant to relive the great battles of past civilization, they are meant to be entertaining and fast. With that said, the core rules does allow Crits as an option. These options are what I’ll be writing about today.

CRITICAL HITS

Critical hits happen whenever a character, and I do mean any character, rolls a natural 20 on his attack dice. There are two options which are available to those that want to use them. Note that there are no tables, or hit locations. Both of these systems are meant for speedy play, and leave the actual violence of the situation up to the imaginations of the players.

System 1: A successful Critical Hit hits harder and does double damage. The player who rolls the 20, rolls double the amount of dice to damage, then he adds on whatever bonuses that he might have for STR or weapon enchantment, the final number is the amount of damage done.

Example: Rath attacked a gnoll with his Longsword+3, and rolled a 20. The sword normally does 1d8, but since he scored a critical hit, Rath will roll 2d8. His sword is a +3 weapon, his strength is 16, which gives him a bonus of +1 to damage, and he is specialized in the longsword, for an additional +2. Thus, the damage caused from his blow is 2d8+6.


The problem that I have with this system is that some weapons (such as the Bow) have the special ability to always do double damage when a 20 is rolled, if all weapons can now do double damage, then this will compromise the weapons which had this as a special ability.

System 2: A successful Critical Hit allows the attacker to attempt a combo, he immediately can make another attack roll against the same opponent.

I personally have developed a preference for this method, it doesn’t assure success, and it doesn’t effect other case-sensitive bonuses, however not every weapon can do this. A bow, for instance, has a specific rate of fire, and it’s impossible to fire more arrows then that.

Critical Fumbles

Whenever a natural 1 is rolled, something unfortunate happens. Because of the wide verity of situations, creating an all encompassing list is just an exercise in futility. This has to be up to the DM, but a critical fumble should never result in the character hurting himself. It should be something inconvenient, which results in perhaps the loss of the next initiative, the next attack, or both. It could also mean that the item, if it is of low quality or old and untaken care of could break or be damaged. The effects of a 1 are limited only to the demonic whims of the dungeon master, he alone has the full grasp upon the situation you are truly in, and one of these things which you don’t know about can factor in on why and how you fumbled and missed so terribly.


Notes: Core rules should always take precedence over Optional rules. For example, the core rules state that if you charge an enemy with a lance upon horseback, and you score a 20, the damage is doubled. If you are using the optional combo rules for Crits, then the combo is ignored.

If a combo doesn’t make sense, then ignore it. Since some weapons don’t support a combo attack, perhaps it would just be simpler to apply full damage, without requiring a damage roll to take place?

Some items break when a 20 is rolled, they can do full damage, but become useless after the attack, if you are fighting just one thing, he should be stunned enough that you can pull a back up weapon, or run away, but if you aren’t so lucky, then you have successfully compromised yourself and are now in a combat situation without any weapon until the next round, good luck with that.

There is a dance going on during combat, we are juggling with situations which, if they were realistic, would make a small group easy to kill or capture. To much detail in regards to violence is counter-productive and unreasonable. Players may complain, but I guarantee you that the DM rolls more 20s then you do. D&D is a game of odds, and by using Critical Hits, you do stack the deck against the players. Consider that before instituting your complex lists, or even using the optional Critical Hit rules detailed above. Players will get angry when the monsters keep getting more attacks then the players, and on a particularly good night, this can make it appear that you are cheating. A lot of talk goes on in these halls about Balance, and just by looking at the volume of dice thrown, we can instantly tell that a games balance is in question when critical hits are used.

ART BY: Jeff Busch

NWP Boating

Folks who are observant have realized that I’ve been tinkering with my posting schedule again. Currently I am posting brand new posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 8:00 AM American Central Standard Time.

I have been pondering adding an additional post to my week, something which is simple, short and sweet and doesn’t require the labor which the other posts require. I think I’ve come up with a new concept, but I’m not sure how long that it will last, as I really don’t like screwing with other peoples games. Playing true to the core rules allows a lot of folks to come up with their own additions, which makes the game more special to everybody involved, not to mention unique.

With this in mind, I am now adding a new and special weekly posting called, “Sunday Supplemental”. This can be anything which my heart desires, from a new spell, a new non-weapon proficiency, anything! It will always be changing and I’ll try to keep it random enough so you’ll never know what you get.

For our very first Sunday Supplemental pilot, just to see how folks take to it, I’ve chosen an existing Non-Weapon Proficiency that isn’t a part of Core Rules, but it should be. I found this prof. in TSR’s The Complete Ranger’s Handbook enjoy!

Boating

Group: General
# of Slots Req.: 1
Relevant Ability: WIS
Check Modifier: +1

This proficiency allows the character to pilot any small boat, such as a kayak or canoe, operating it at maximum speed. It also allows to make minor repairs and improvements in these boats, such as waterproofing them and patching holes. A successful proficiency check enables the character to handle the craft in treacherous situations; for instance, maneuvering the boat through choppy water without capsizing it, or avoiding collisions when guiding it through a narrow channel choked with rocks or ice. Note that while the navigation and seamanship proficiencies deal with ships in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water, the boating proficiency is confined to small craft on rivers, lakes, on oceans close to shore, and over similar terrain, usually on relatively calm waters.

Enforcing Training Rules Quickly and Fairly

I am one of those DM’s which just hate instant advancement. A character has no idea how to swim one day, and the next, he’s a master at it! Ridiculous, if you ask me. I hate to dwell on mechanics, or add rules that really aren’t needed, but if something bugs you bad enough, then I say that it is your responsibility to develop rules which will hopefully alleviate your problem, or study the core rules to find out if they don’t contain an optional rule, or sometimes you find out that the problem is with you and you’re just doing it wrong.

I don’t bother to hide my failings from you folks, and another one is about to be exposed, but I will let you know that I am working on it. TIME! Time is always an issue with me. Hey, I’m only human, and adult gaming is a lot different then back when we were young and working part-time at the Pump-N-Munch. The time spent gaming means more to adults then it does to younger folks. They get to explore different aspects of the game, which unfortunately, we don’t have time to delve into anymore as adults. I’d love to role-play every important decision which takes place in a characters life! Unfortunately, we can’t afford to delve to deep into it because we are restricted to a night or two per month.

I am a horrible keeper of time, at least in the sense that I’m meticulous about it. Every hour is accountable for, and this is a problem. Characters need time off to do stuff, handle the things that they are responsible for. Find adventure leads. I’m working on adding more time unaccountable for, entire days and weeks should go by where they have nothing to do and aren’t role-played. Fighters have to do their time in the army, Priests have to spend X amount of time meditating and preaching, etc. My games have a tendency to flow too smoothly, leaving no down time for the characters to expand their horizons or work on personal goals because they are always kept busy completing group goals.

Today, we are going to talk about one of the best methods of adding this down-time to the characters lives. TRAINING! Now before you wander off, grumbling that I’m wasting your time with some archaic rules you don’t need, give me some time to explain myself.

Some of this stuff will work in the players favor, while others will work against it. I am blending core rules, with just a pinch of house. I assure you that this method is fast and easy, something which is required to get me to actually apply it to the table. If a system is too clunky or time-consuming, then I just don’t use it, so give me some credit here.

With that out of the way, lets just jump right into my house rule in regards to training.

BONUS NON-WEAPON PROFICIENCIES

On this matter, I am extremely giving. This is not core, but it does make sense if used judiciously. The deal is, that most of the time, additional NWP slots are earned by gaining a level, but some time this just makes no sense. Some NWP are tasks that everybody can do, but it signifies mastery, like horse riding. Everybody can hop on a horse and make it go, but not everybody can do the things which the horseback riding NWP can give you, however, if you spend long enough time with a horse, eventually you are going to acquire the skills and trust in yourself to push the limits of what you can do. In effect, you are teaching yourself Land Based Riding with a horse. If you spend 6 months on a horse, this NWP could be earned automatically, spending 0 slots on it, it just kind of happens.

Of course, there are few skills which you can teach yourself simply by doing it badly. If one tries to teach one’s self mountaineering, for example, then your just insane! However, what if you are spending a few months in the mountains with an experienced guide who uses his mountaineering skills on a daily basis? Just by watching him and helping him you should be picking up on this stuff. I think that a check is in order to see if you picked this skill or not, and again, it should be free. Not all experiences tallied up with XP, some should show immediate results . . . or at least more immediate then having to wait until you can gain another NWP slot, which can take months or even years of game time.

Another reason to add bonus NWP slots to the game is in regards to long voyages or spending time away from actually adventuring. Say you hire a captain to charter you to some distant land, we are talking about weeks of nothing to do! Why not spend that time helping the other sailors with their duties? There is no such thing as a pleasure cruise, all hands are expected to help keep the ship afloat, even if it is just scrubbing the deck or doing dishes, you are still expected to help. Why not spend that time trying to learn Seamanship, or rope use? I think that given the amount of time and the availability of proper teachers, a player should be able to pick up on this stuff eventually, and earn a bonus NWP.

Granted, we don’t want to abuse this, god forbid that some player gets a hankering that he is going to learn every NWP skill in the book! We don’t want to unbalance the game, but from time to time, I don’t consider this to be unreasonable.

STANDARD NWP TRAINING

With my house rule explained, we can now get back into the optional core rules of Training. This is more advanced stuff then what I normally discuss. If you are still a novice or aren’t ready to even ponder this as an option yet, then don’t use it! It is just a rule base to make the game more difficult, and if you think that the game is challenging enough as it is, then by all means, keep playing it the way that you are.

I suppose that this also applies to Weapon Prof. to. I don’t think that you should be able to become proficient in a weapon that you’ve never used, or (in some games) never even seen before. Depending on the specifics, a character might have access to the weapon from a trainer, for instance, during the leveling up training session, the fighter can chose to be taught the proper methods of fighting with a spear. Or, alternatively, if he is out on the road and away from home, he can purchase a spear and carry it with him, spending some time every day using it, and also fighting with it in situations were he judges that he can get away with the penalty for fighting with a weapon he isn’t proficient in, then, when he has earned an additional weapon slot, he can just write it in automatically.

None-Weapon Proficiencies are different though. A few can come from studying under a master, but again, you have to decide how you are going to manage the leveling up process.

Low levels are acquired pretty quickly, and under some circumstances, the character may not require any “formal” training. In particular, gaining a level that simply raises one’s hit points and THAC0. In cases like that, simply talking about your deeds, or listening to somebody talk about how awesome you are will be enough to satisfy the requirements for gaining a level, but when you receive more then just basic THAC0 and hit points, then you require a bit more. In a nut shell, you need to find somebody of the proper level who can teach you.

Sometimes, if you are in the proper guild, this training is easy to afford and come by, while other classes are much lonelier, such as the Mage class where you are generally required to teach yourself everything. Even for mages, though, they still have to seek guidance to further their education. Not many skills can be accrued by trial and error, for cases like this, then you must find somebody who has the skill and is willing to teach it to you, usually for a price.

Of course this applies to all classes, not just wizards. NWP should cost 100gp per the NPC’s level to learn, but even a 0th level NPC will charge at least a hundred gold. Most will try to charge more, and the number above should be the bare minimum. After all, the NPC is taking the time out of his productive schedule to teach you the skill. His kindness should be compensated.

Now, this can be separate from, or included in the cost of gaining a level. Professional training should cost 100gp per level gained. I.E. a 7th level fighter must find another fighter who is at least 8th level before leveling up himself to 8th, and he’ll be charged at least 800gp and require 8 weeks of training to level up and begin to collect XP again.

Of course this does run into some serious problems. What if you are underground, hacking and slashing your way through some bloody dungeon crawl when you become 8th level? Should the character be forced to surface, go back to town and retrain, giving the mosters more time to refortify their defenses? Maybe! Or maybe not, depending on how you look at it. Because he is engaged in so much fighting and actually using the skills that he’s learned the growth could be automatically apparent, but I wouldn’t give him any proficiencies until he has surfaced, or learned the skill from another character. I don’t think that he should lose them either. I find that rule to be bogus and don’t see the logic in it being there. A character should never be punished by the actions of the DM, and him being stuck in some stinking hole in the ground when he levels up is the fault of the DM.

If the player is using the Carrying in method, or has purchased a book which is about the NWP or weapon prof. then he should gain it at that time. Of course the book will cost money, folks forget that the printing press hasn’t been introduced yet, nor has the type-writer. Books were all printed by hand, thus they aren’t within the means of the average person to own them.

METHOD OF GAINING PROFICIENCIES

The exact way that this is handled, is similar to spell craft. Highering level up training is always preferred over finding a specific teacher, but some proficiencies can only be learned in this way.

Once the teacher is found, we first have to figure out how good of a teacher they are. Of course, there are no rules which say that a PC can’t teach another PC a skill that he knows, and charge whatever amount that he sees fit. This is easily handled too!

If the teacher is an NPC then we can just assume that he makes all of his teaching checks, and it goes back to the PC student. He rolls against his INT or WIS score, whichever one is higher, and if he passes it, then the skill is learned. If not, then he requires more time to learn the skill and will loose and additional week, and must pay the teacher an additional 100 gp for that week and for each additional week until either he passes the check or he simply gives it up. For each additional week spent in training, he will gain a +1 modifier to his ability check, making it easier and easier for him to learn the skill. Note that this modifier isn’t permanent nor is it ever reflected on the Character Sheet. It is only used for the purposes of learning the skill. Just thought that I’d point that out, because we don’t need no idiots thinking that they can get a wisdom score of 20 by failing to learn skills.

Player character teachers are handled a bit more differently. First we have to determine how knowledgeable he really is on the subject, he has to make a successful WIS check. Then, we have to see how good he is at conveying the proper teachings in a way that the information is usable by others, we check this by making a successful CHA score.

The above method, can in some instances, be forgotten completely at the DM’s judgment of the character’s character. If the character is always played as being helpful and well-spoken, then the success could be automatic. On the same token, if the character is played as a lone-wolf who is anti-social, the failure can be determined as unavoidable.

If both of these rolls are successful, then the player has properly taught the student the skill, but if only 1 role was successful, the player has failed. If both roles are unsuccessful then he is never fit to teach that specific skill to anybody, ever.

We also have to determine the length of the class, and how much time is required for the teacher to teach the student the proper methods. We arrive at this number by subtracting the characters wisdom score from 19. The number we get will be the number of days required to instruct on the topic. Of course, if we don’t know the characters wisdom score, then just assume that training will take about a week.

REHASH

  • Bonus proficiencies can be given if three weeks are dedicated to it, and only given by the DM.
  • Weapons or books carried for 1 whole level are learned upon advancement.
  • PC teachers must make both a Wisdom check and a Charisma check in order to teach other PC.
  • Times are learned by subtracting WIS score from 19= number of days.
  • Characters must pass either a WIS check or an INT check (which ever is highest) to learn new skill.
  • Characters get a +1 bonus to learn skill for each failed ability check.
  • Cost is dictated by 100gp x teacher’s level with a minimum of 100gp.
  • The cost of leveling up is 100gp per level gained and may or may not include proficiencies.
  • A Fighter can avoid this charge if the level is a minor one, i.e.: only THAC0 and hp total goes up.
  • A wizard does not pay to level up, but must pay for all proficiencies earned.
  • Unused proficiencies beyond 1st level can be saved until the player gets some time and the money required to fill them.
  • Clerics, Thieves, and most fighters receive no XP until they pay for the training to level up.
  • Level-up training takes 1 week per level earned.

ART BY: Jeff Easley

Creating New Spells Easily

One of the most overlooked and ignored benefits of being a wizard or a priest, is that you can create your very own spells. Now, naturally, this can be a very intimidating process to both player and DM alike, my goal here is to try and make this practice a bit more easier to grasp.

There are lots of reasons to create a new spell, but the most important one is to get the player more involved in the world. This process starts with the player, with an idea. Maybe it is something simple, such as a spell already known but with different spell components. Or it can be a completely brand new spell, regardless, there are no hard rules about this, as every case will be different and we really don’t want to get bogged down with rules if we don’t need to.

Again, I don’t know your campaign world, or how you run things so I can only assume that you are keeping things as close to core rules as possible, but you are free to increase things or decrease them as you see fit.

BEGINNING THE PROCESS

This process should always start with the player. An idea which he brings to the DM. No matter what the spell is, it can either be shot down or given the go ahead at this stage. Try to keep an open mind, we don’t want to ever shoot the idea down, even if you think that it is too crazy. This stage isn’t about anything but getting the player more involved, we can always impose restrictions later.

STAGE II

After the idea has been allowed to fester in the players head for a while, schedule some private time with the character to discuss the new spell and brain-storm. Of course you do need to know a lot about spells, but keep the PHB handy and don’t be afraid to thumb through it. For creating new spells, this book is still your best friend. While the guidelines aren’t officially written down anywhere, as the DM you’ll just have to read between the lines, and use what spells are in there as a base.

You also have to understand what a spell does, this is what this meeting will be about. What does the player want this spell to do? Magic is a science, it only does what the spell description says that it does, and that is it. It uses paranormal laws, but in order for the game to work, these laws must never be broken. We can’t use a heat metal spell to start a fire. Once the spell has been committed to paper, this is what it does, and we need the player to be crystal clear as to what he expects from it.

There are other things to consider:

A): Does this spell do the same thing as one or more spells already in the book? We don’t want to waste our time, and as you’ll see later, it isn’t possible for a spell caster to research a spell which is too high of a level for him to cast, so if the spell is too powerful, it may be too powerful for his character at this time and again, it would just be a waste of your time at this point. I guess that it should also be noted that a weaker version of a stronger spell is always possible.

B): Is the player trying to cheat? I know players who don’t play anymore, whose goal wasn’t to have fun or role-play, but to defeat the game, and creating your own spells is probably the fastest road to getting this done then any other. We have to be careful not to be fooled, not that every player is going to try this, or intentionally set out to cheat, but it does happen. For this reason we must stick to specific rules. Clerics cast Cleric spells, and Mages cast Wizard spells, that is just the way it is. We don’t need any wizards casting heal, nor do we need any priests throwing fireballs. Under some special cases, a spell may copy the effects of a different class’s spell, but when we do allow this, they should always copy the effects of low level, and minor spells and be at least half the power of them. For instance, a wizard who has some how discovered a way to replicate the priest spell Cure Light Wounds will only be able to cure 1d4 points of damage per casting.

We need to ask the character what kind of limitations the spell has. Oddly enough, the player will be more restrictive then what you, the DM, ever would be. The more powerful the spell is, the more it takes to cast the spell. Some spells cost money in components, while other, really high level spells can shorten the lifespan of the caster. It is this point where we get as much input from the player as possible, we can always change this information once it is fully in our court, but we have to be honest with the player without, at the same time, being to restrictive. We’ll encourage the player to be the restrictive ones, and just describe to him the guidelines used to create the other spells.

STAGE III

Once you’ve discussed it, and hashed out all of the obvious problems, it is now time to study our notes and sit on it for a couple of days. Study how this spell would interact with the world around the caster, put it into use against specific scenarios to see if there is any way to misuse the spell, when you find one, write it down and remove this threat from the description. Once you’ve finished with it, email a copy of your new description to the Player, you’re done with it and it is now back into his court to decide if he still wants to research the spell or not. Notice that even if the spell was a wild idea, this is the stage of were we put restrictions on it, and then we give it back to the player so that HE can decide if he wants it or not, we never said no, you can’t do this, we just fixed it so that they could do something along those lines.

The spell can be totally different at this stage, then when it originally started. If the player still decides that he wants it, then we have finalized the description and it is time to assign the specifics.

STAGE IV

Determining the Spell Level: This isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of spells. We want to keep things as close to the spells that are already known as possible, but there are some helpful guidelines that we can use.

  1. If the spell causes damage, it should be within 2 or 3 levels of the amount of dice used: i.e., a spell which inflicts 6d4 damage should be anywhere between 4th level and 6th.
  2. If the spell is an improvement upon an existing spell, it should be 2 levels higher then the original: i.e., a Detect Undead which only requires a verbal component would be a 3rd level spell.
  3. If the spell copies the effects of a different class, the spell should always be at least double the level.

Determining Spell Components: This is limited only by your imagination. The guidelines for Spell Components is fairly straight forward: The more powerful spells require exotic and expensive components, while those of limited duration are more relaxed and require less. The original 1e DMG has a decent listing for hard spell components which you might find helpful if you own that book, but if you don’t there are actually quite a few books that you can find at Spiritual Shops, a writer named Cuttingham has written some really easy to use books that translate well into our purposes, recently all of his work has been compiled up into one volume which is a masterpiece as far as Occult books go. Of course, if that ain’t your bag either, then you can always just make it up. Quite a few of the spell components in the PHB is simply just a play on words. If you are still struggling, a great way to restrict a spell is by making spell components come from killing dangerous and hard to find animals.

Spell duration, and effects of level: Chances are, you developed this during the description faze, it is always best to just start the spell off at a set number, and then allow greater times and additional damage to depend on the exact level of the caster. The more basic the spell, the better for everybody involved. This is much simpler then it sounds, trust me; and again, use what has been written already as your base, and you won’t find this to hard at all.

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME!

The spell is written, both parties, the DM and the player have agreed on everything, and it is now time for the character himself to do his work. From here on out, this will be actual game play, we don’t really want the player to be studying the spell for weeks . . . well, unless they got nothing else going on, and that’s their thing, but I bet that they would find girls a lot more rewarding.

Spell Research

The wizard or priest must be 100% healthy at the start of this process. During this time, he is not allowed to adventure, all of his attention will be in constructing this new spell, writing notes and studying deep occult understandings, or engaged in deep meditation and prayer. The exact time it takes to complete this task is 2 weeks per spell level. At the end of this period, the magic-user checks to see if he has finished his research by rolling the dice. If he is a wizard, he will roll against his Chance to learn spell check. If he is a priest he must make a Wisdom Check.

If the roll was successful, he can move on, but if he wasn’t then it will take another week before he can check again. Each failure indicates that he’ll need another week until either he makes the roll or just gives up.

Cost of Spell Research

There are a lot of cheap DM’s out there. I’ve discovered this through comments on this blog. People are always telling me that I’m charging way to much and then tell me some little bitty number that they charge. It leads me to wonder what their characters are spending their money on! Prices are high because it encourages the players to take their characters adventuring. A Wizard doesn’t require as much in supplies as a warrior or a thief, but it is stuff like this that he WANTS to spend his funds on.

The cost of the spell research is 1,000 to 10,000 gp per spell level. This money is burned up, wizards will spend this amount on ingredients of all kinds, all of it will be used up, the exact total can be figured by the Dungeon Master, or determined randomly. Priests will also need to spend the same amount, purchasing incense and gifts or whatever. It is preferred to have the cost be just over the players means, requiring an adventure before getting set for this task.

A wizard will also need to use a good laboratory, if he doesn't have one, he can either rent one, or construct one. The cost of constructing first requires a building to house it, the lab alone should cost somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 gp, but this lab will always be owned by the mage, and is reusable. Constructing a lab should be a big deal, this is the equivalent of a thieves guild or a stronghold to the magic-user.

Clerics have an easier time doing this, as they can use any church (the cost above reflects the donation required to use the space), if they have constructed their own temple, it is even better, but if they haven’t then the DM can have them construct a shrine for the normal 1,000 to 10,000gp cost, and again, this will become permanent property owned by the character.

Adding the New Spell to your Spell-book

Once the research has been successfully completed, the spell is a success and can be added to the wizards Spell-Books. He can either share the spell with others, or keep it to himself.

It should be noted that wizards are suppose to have a limited amount of spells that they can learn per level. This rule is kept to keep all of the wizards unique, but as an optional rule, you can judge that created spells do not count against this number. The rule was made to keep players guessing, not all wizards instantly start flinging fireballs at you, but since this is a unique spell, we don’t have to worry about this happening.

FINAL NOTES:

It is completely up to you, the DM, as to what spells a wizard has access too. If the wizard gets a spell which is unbalancing the game, or disrupting it entirely, this isn’t his fault, it is yours, because you gave it to him. Keep that in mind before you finish this process, and always keep it in the back of your mind.

There is a need to create new spells, as the ones listed in the book are far from complete. Always ask why there are holes where you find them. For instance, the spells from the Necromantic School is extremely bare-bones (no pun intended). This was done to discourage players from specializing in necromancy, villains are specialized in this school, not PCs. A lot more work can definitely be done to expand the school, but be careful not to de-power the cleric to get it done. It’s okay to borrow a few spells, but if the necromancer can cast all of the cleric spells, then the clerics roll has been compromised.

Also worthy of mention, this system does not replace the original method of learning spells. This system only applies if the wizard or priest is creating the spell, if he is learning an existing spell, then the original system is still used.



ART BY Jeff Easley

Add-in #8: The Pegasus Book Shop

Common folks who live in the city assume that this is just a common scribe operation, and many important businesses and people use the services of writing letters and documents of note, as well as notarizing important pacts and promises; but, those few in the know, know that this place of business offers more then just scribing services, for it is the secret headquarters of the Pegasus Wizards Guild.

Very little is known about this operation, and all attempts to get beyond the clerk/scribe façade have been foiled, however through exhaustive research and interviews we have gained some amount of information that may be helpful to those who can use it.

The outside of this building looks typical enough, an unassuming wood and stone structure, the only oddity which separates this building from its neighbors is a crumbling and decrepit tower. It appears to be unsafe, however this is no doubt an illusion, fore mysterious noises and lights have been seen and heard emanating from this place at odd hours of the night, many assume that this tower is haunted, and the clerk inside encourages this rumor, refusing to allow anyone inside regardless of how much money is offered for a bribe.

The name on the swinging sign over the door declares it to be “Lord Gemini, Scrivener: Inscriber of Correspondence & Casting of Treaties”, but an additional sign on the door states that it is also a “Pegasus Notary”. Those who have dealt with this Notary insist that the peoples who deal with it are bound by more then just a promise, but by magic as well.

LAYOUT

Since no maps have ever been made of this area, much of this is conjecture pasted together from old records, rumors, and an anonymous member who states that one requires membership to use the secret services, however it is unclear as to how one goes about joining this guild.

From the rumors and records I have ascertained, the inside of this unassuming building is much, much bigger then what it appears to be on the outside. This may be caused by a permanent gate created by one of the powerful wizards, which links it to a pocket universe or alternative plane of existence. All of these things are to bizarre and complex for me to grasp a true concept of, but my source insists that this terrifying theory is widely understood and even practiced by the mages and wizards of the world.


STORE FRONT: This large room stinks of dust, ink, paper, and age, it is chaotic to the eye; stacks and stacks of letters, and papers line the walls behind the large desk of the head scribe. Books are stacked wherever a place could be found, however I assure you that this system makes sense to the clerks and scribes who work here. They can riffle through papers and make a big show of looking for some fact before suddenly exclaiming that the correct paper was located.

Six desks are scattered around the room, each manned by a scribe who always seems to be deeply busy in writing something, even after the head clerk has directed you to take a seat before one of these men it takes some time before the scribe will acknowledge your presence, and perform the task asked of him. Each desk is covered in papers, and implements that the scribes use to complete their work, i.e., ink, quills, wax and stamps, etc.

An ancient shelf holds hundreds of dusty stamps and signets, vials of colored inks, writing quills, and whatever else that the proprietor could stuff into it, the thick shelves are bowed and almost seem to groan with all of the weight they are forced to hold.

A door is behind the large desk, it appears to be boarded up with a sign marking it as dangerous, however this is an illusion. This door leads to the tower.

(NOTE: Clerks can be retained to manage business’s at the cost of 8gp per month. Material being copied costs 2gp per week. Standard letter writing costs 2sp per letter. Cost of delivery is negotiable if outside of the city, or a strict 2sp if within the area. The cost of Notarizing a contract is 50gp, and the parties are Guised to uphold the contract for an additional 5gp per person.)

BOOKBINDER: The true source of income for this business is binding books of the finest materials possible. Up to 3 bookbinders can work at one time, they make books to order. Major books, large tomes used by wizards to record magical findings and spells take one month to make, traveling spell books, which are more compact and require greater skill to construct take 3 months. No one is allowed back here, as the method of construction is a trade secret, once a book is completed, the book binder takes the book to the main store room where the Head Clerk keeps it until the buyer stops in to pick it up.

(NOTE: Spell Books are large volumes which cost 50gp per page, and can hold up to 100 pages. Traveling Spell Books are leather bound and secured by a button-clasp, Traveling Spell Books cost 100gp per page and contain up to 50 pages. Material for scrolls can be purchased for 25gp per spell level required.)

INK BREWRY: Those who have been in this giant furnace of a room report some kind of bizarre technological wonder. Giant vats and hissing tubing spider-webbing everywhere, dripping liquids stain and puddle the floor while hot gasses steam from the quivering and moaning pipes.

The inks used to inscribe magical writings are complicated and labor-intensive to produce. There really isn’t much of a market for brewing great quantities of ink, as many professional wizards prefer to brew it themselves to insure that the ink is properly made, and refuse to trust anyone with such an important ingredient. Though for wizards who do not have access to a lab, or who are traveling can purchase the house ink, a finely crafted ink of secret ingredients which is capable of capturing the magical impressions of virtually any school of magic, while other, more specific inks can be brewed upon request. It is a rumor that all members who have been magically trained by this guild have had to spend a lot of time in the brewing room. This room is hotter then can be imagined, and the ink requires constant attention and care until it can be poured into a vial. Because of the nature of magical ink, it requires a massive amount of materials to manufacture a small vial of ink. The great vats of brass and gold hold up to 150 gallons of liquid and only yield a small vial of usable ink, thus the cost of the ink is very high. Thankfully the vats and reusable plumbing have long been paid for many fold, and the cost has been reduced down. The house ink has been fixed and mastered by the brewers to produce a higher yield then the specialty inks, but is still beyond the means of most low-level wizards. Sometimes, a price can be replaced with barter, hard to find spell components are more sought after and thus, more valuable then gold.

(NOTE: The house Ink, as far as magical ink is concerned, is very durable stuff, it lasts and holds a neutral enough charge to be able to scribe any school of spell for 1d3 months, and costs 150gp. The vials hold enough ink to write 45 spell levels, i.e., 45 1st level spells, or up to 5 9th level spells. The house Ink is only effective in spell books, a specialty ink is required to write scrolls, this ink is much more expensive 1,000 to 10,000gp a vial depending on the spells required, and can be used to scribe up to 27 spell levels. Specialty vials of ink lose their potency if not used within 1 month.)


WIZARDS LAB: In the tower itself, which is protected by an illusion and is in fact strong and well-founded, is the lab where the Arch-Mage practices his art, he is obsessed with turning average metal into gold, but all attempts to properly figure this spell out has failed. Much of the wizards other spell research has reaped rewarding results, and he is always experimenting with new concepts and discovering new formulas.

This lab is much larger then the average, and supports many experiments at once. Little is known about the true identity of this arch-mage, some claim that he is a quasi-deity, while others say that he is more then just one person, whatever the answer to this is, was not discovered by myself. What is known is that the arch-mage never sells any of the potions or items that he has created, however he has been known to, upon special occasions, give them away or lend them out.

Members of the Pegasus Guild can rent a section of the lab out for a fee, but are responsible for providing their own components as well as replacing any equipment broken while working.

(NOTE: Rental Fees range from 1,000 to 2,000 depending on the Arch-Mages (read DM’s) mood.)

STOREROOM: The arch-mage is known to have one of the largest and most thorough collections of components used for spell-craft in the world. It is unknown if he sells small quantities of these items, or if he simply hordes them, but he is always in the market to buy more, and often charges his apprentices to adventure and collect bizarre and dangerous items. Only the arch-mage knows what is on the other side of the door which links to the lab, and allows nobody, but himself inside.

LIBRARY: This room is for apprentices and members of the guild, it is located at the bottom of the tower. The walls are covered in books and scrolls, some ancient some new, all most all require magic to read. A large table is shared by those who have earned the right to use this room, library time is earned by brewing ink, or adventuring and returning with components or money. Most of the books are written in regards to magical theory, but the arch-mage does supply books and scrolls to his students which they can study and transfer into their own books.

(NOTE: The arch-mage allows 1 spell to be acquired this way per level, the cost is 100 gp per spell level. 1st level adventurers who start off from this mage are taught the following spells: Read Magic, Detect Magic, as well as one first level offensive spell and one first level defensive spell.)

LECTURE HALL: Different classes and skills are always being taught in this room. This is also the secret meeting hall for the members of the Pegasus Guild.

(NOTE: Non-weapon Proficiencies are taught here, classes are usually 100gp a week, and most skills can be learned in that week. Proficiencies are up to the DM, with most being from the Wizard List only.)

SECRETS OF THE PEGASUS

Students and members enter via a secret passage from the Shipping Guild located across the street.

The man who claims to be the Arch-mage is not the arch-mage, he is but a figure-head who handles the Arch-mages affairs. The arch-mage himself has been dead for 400 years, some wizards believe that he is a Lich, but the truth is that he isn’t, he’s just dead and his will (or, interpretation of it at least) is still being managed by people who all claim to have contact with him, or hear from him on a regular basis but in fact are being fooled, just making it up, or crazy.

The Union of the Pegasus, or the Pegasus Guild, or whatever they decide to call themselves that week is Chaotic Neutral in nature, they always believe that some threat is out there which seeks to destroy them, in particular a sorceress named Helena Illephide, what they don’t realize is that Helena died centuries ago, but this doesn’t stop them from constantly seeking out her minions and armies and destroying them. Quests for the Gods are also common, even though none of them are clerics, nor are in favor with any gods. These quests are simply figments of imagination, usually ending in disaster or some other ending which will justify their crazy aims.

Not even the members of this society are aware of this Chaotic Neutral alignment, all of them believe that the Order is Lawful Good or Lawful Neutral. Many will blindly follow orders, no matter how bizarre or outrageous they may be, they constantly turn on each other, believing each other to be one of Helena’s spies, or fearing that their victim really does have contact with the Arch-Mage and that they will be exposed.

The magical arts practiced by the order are quite real! All of the services which they provide are functional. Player Characters who come from this order have no idea of the political intrigue of what is going on above them, nor do the wizards who make up much of the membership, only the top rung of management are the ones responsible for the wild goose chases and blatant fictions, usually running counter guilds of their own on the side. All of them are guilty of miss-management, but it is unlikely that this will ever be discovered. . . .unless they some how get caught trying to silence the wrong people who are starting to figure it out.

The Ink Vat machine was originally designed by a Tinker Gnome named Tittilis, its original purpose was to make coffee, however it was abandoned by the Tinker when he came up with an even bigger and grander idea that involved more lever action. The machine was purchased by the original Arch-Mage for 27sp. Gnomes come in to inspect it once a year and make any repairs needed, per a contract which was signed before the Arch-Mages death, if it is discovered that the Arch-Mage has passed, the contract will end, and the infernal contraption will probably blow up taking out the entire city with it.

The materials supplied to make the paper is from High Elves, it is a mystery as to what it is made out of, but one thing is for sure that it isn’t wood. The material arrives in flakes, these flakes are added to a secret mixture of mostly water and other components. This mixture is boiled under extreme temperatures, and poured into molds. Once cool the product is ran through a machine which flattens them out and workers cut the sections which are then sold as paper. The machine itself is located on a plane called Eroctus and is operated by drone workers. Much of the cost of the paper goes into components and keeping the gate open.

ART BY CLYDE CALDWELL

Handling Horse-flesh

High quality items are always preferred over average or low quality ones. Most of the time, we ignore quality, unless it is something like a lock or armor or something along those lines. One of the most overlooked aspects of the game where quality is important, is horseflesh. Horses are typically taken for granted, and just something that the players use to get better movement rates or gain a higher status, but what if we really focus on quality? Why a good war-horse is practically a magical item, if one can truly acquire it, which won’t be easy.

Today, I’ll be doing some mixing. Mixing Core Rules with Optional and my own Home-Brewed rules which you might like, and put into your own games, or simply ignore. Much of this is optional, just something to make the game more interesting and colorful. If this isn’t your bag, then just consider all horses to be of average quality and just leave it at that! But once you start getting bored, and wanting a bit more out of the game, then this is a perfect way of making things more interesting.

HORSES IN GENERAL

Living out here in the country, one of the simplest pleasures is going horse-back riding. Horses are beautiful animals, and I have a true fondness for them. If you have never gone horseback riding, I strongly recommend doing some true research, heading out to a ranch and do some riding of your own. It doesn’t cost all that much, and it is a wonderful past time. It’ll teach you what it is like to be bonded with an animal, even temporarily, and introduce you to some of the personalities which horses have.

In D&D there are different kinds of horses, and they only do what they are listed as. Work Horses pull carts and wagons, they won’t be saddled and rode individually. Riding horses are trained to handle a saddle and a rider, they aren’t trained for battle or wearing armor, and they are easily spooked. War-horses are specially trained mounts that are highly skilled and there must be a deep relationship based on trust between the owner and the horse. The horse is literally trusting his life with the rider, this is not natural behavior. War horses are expensive and still require a lot of care and work on the owners part before they can truly benefit from owning such an animal.

PERSONALITY TRAITS

Horses are not passive, and they always have opinions about everything. They also pick up bad habits which they’ll keep all of their lives. Stuff like chewing on fences and leads, nipping at people, bucking, kicking at anything that walks to close to its rear because it doesn’t like anything back there where it can’t see them.

There are some rules for determining a horses behavior, and they have to do with fixing a male horse. If you fix the horse, he will become much tamer, however the truly fast and spirited horses are stallions, meaning that they still have everything that God gave them. These horses are naughty and barely tame, but they are capable of great feats of strength and endurance. Stallions can run faster, and further then normal, as well as ignore more weight. Relationships with these horses takes a lot more work and patience then the average horse, and this includes others handling the beast. The horse is spirited because it is wild, the owner just excepts this and puts up with it, while folks who work in stables are likely to start beating it, which is cause for a fight between the owner and those he has hired to care for his mount.

Spurs and whips are never used with exceptional horses, those tools are used to break a horse, and we don’t want that! An owner who discovers cuts from spurs or spots somebody whipping his horse is likely to lose it and do the same thing to the person who dared treat his animal this way.

The DMG has a list of personality quarks which are actually quite thorough and accurate! I can’t think of anything else to add to them. For ease I’ll go ahead and talk about the traits. This stuff shouldn’t be chosen at random, the DM should just pick a couple and leave it at that.

There are two kinds of horses with undesirable behavior. Broken down horses (Poor Quality), and High Spirited horses (Exceptional Quality)

HORSE TRAITS (1d10)

Nag, Broken-Down, & Average:
Biter
Kicks
Steps on feet
Won’t gallop
Chews fences
Stops occasionally
Rubs against fences
Bucks
Untrained
Use High-Spirited

High-Spirited & Chargers
Bucks
Bone-jarring
Bites
Single rider
Rears
Headstrong
Kicks
Leaper
Knows trick
Use other column, or DM choice*

*Other possibilities include robust, fleet, fearless, skittish, strong, stable, gentle, surefooted, etc.


Now much of this is self-explanatory, and the reason why it is suggested that the DM just pick them, instead of checking randomly, is because the traits should be something which the DM can live with. If you don’t enjoy heckling characters, or perhaps if you enjoy it too much, and might put a characters life in danger just for the heck of it, then you’ll probably want a trait that is more annoying then actually dangerous.

BITING: Biting is more nipping. If the player drops his guard, then the horse will get him. Usually a horse will just grab clothing and give it a tug, he’s trying to be funny, but sometimes he accidentally gets flesh, at which time he’ll rear up and back away terrified that the person bit is going to hit him. He is sorry for doing it, he didn’t mean to hurt you, but it won’t stop him from doing it again. Horses will bite when they are being lead, when they are being fed, and usually the first thing in the morning, just to say hi. They won’t bite all that much when being ridden. It is usually kept to their down time. High-spirited horses with this trait bite more often and might inflict some real damage accidentally; they will also bite everybody and every thing, which can get the rider into some trouble if the horse bites the wrong person.

Kicks: I already wrote about this above. This happens when somebody walks to close to the animal’s rear. He won’t do it on command, just when you aren’t being mindful. This behavior isn’t always malicious, though it can be, but usually it just doesn’t like anybody to be back there because he can’t see you. A High-Spirited horse with this trait will kick even harder then normal, and it will be treated as an attack with normal damage.

Steps on feet: This typically happens when you are brushing or saddling the horse, and it hurts like heck, but most of the time is completely harmless. I’m not sure if the horse means for this to happen or not, or if he just has trouble keeping still. They usually aren’t all that helpful when saddling or trimming their hooves either, and this kind of thing just kind of happens.

Won’t Gallop: This horse won’t run unless you make it, with a whip or spurs. They will also stop running for no particular reason. They will travel at their own speed. This kind of horse is popular with children, and demi-humans who hate riding horses to begin with. If you aren’t ready to go galloping, this can be a very terrifying experience for a rider.

Chews fences: This behavior starts because a horse isn’t fed correctly, and once it starts, it is almost impossible to break him of it. He chews and destroys fences, and other places where you tie him up at. He’ll also chew on leads if he isn’t wearing a bite and bridle. Of course, real food will always distract him from doing this, but once the food is gone, he’ll do this just to pass the time. It is a behavior stemmed by boredom, then to meet any real need.

Stops Occasionally: This never happens when danger is around, in fact, the horse can start to run away and ignore the rider’s commands completely. If it starts running blindly, then it is more of a danger to itself and to the rider then if the rider had control. More often then not, you’ll find this behavior with riding horses. They will just stop to rest or pick at some grass and ignore the rider completely. Some horses are just like this! It is more annoying then anything, and is a sign of an undisciplined and strong willed horse. Old nags also get this because they are in pain, or just tired of following orders, or possibly just to get some needed attention.

Rubbing against fences: They rub more then just fences. This is an attempt at humor or anger with the horse trying to rub the rider off of his back, but it also happens during leading when the horse inches closer and closer to the person leading him, and suddenly he finds himself being squished into something by the happily amused horse. Some horses think that this is funny as hell.

Bucks: This is also common, even in a well trained horse. The horse could be trying to shift its load, or relieve itself completely of it. It can also happen when something bites it, but a horse with this trait does it more often then average. The cool thing is that if the rider is alert, then he can feel the horse tighten up before he does it. Horses do this out of anger, and orneriness. They hate being ridden, but will only do it once or twice a day, if it can dislodge the rider then it knows that it is in trouble and will run around bucking and yelling until either it gets tired or until the rider can catch it and calm it back down. If the rider stays on, then the affair is over and the horse will forget that it ever happened. A high-spirited horse will be much better at bucking, and will do it more often (usually at very inopportune times which can be dangerous).

Untrained: This is a bad one. This horse is not saddle broken, and isn’t trained to do what a owner wants him to do. If he is packed with a burden, then he’ll just stand there until you take it off. If you try to put a saddle on him, he’ll freak out. An untrained horse is a serious grievance against the person who sold it to you. Perhaps the training was incomplete. The horse will take a saddle, but it has no idea what to do beyond that. It won’t gallop, or perhaps it will freak out and start to run and buck and go crazy. Unless a character is capable of training the horse himself, then he got ripped off and the horse is worthless to him; fit only to sell to somebody who can train the horse, or who is as stupid as they themselves were.

Traits of High Spirited Animals:As I said before, high-spirited horses have their own behaviors, and can get away with them because of what they are capable of. If you break them of this behavior, then they are broken and will not work as hard or be as free.

Bone-jarring: This horse moves at such speeds and so hard that it actually hurts to ride it. It is very bouncy, and brutal. Its movements are always fast, and it does everything at this speed, from eating to walking. Riding a horse of this kind requires your full attention, while traveling at high speeds, it is impossible to do anything but hold on or else you’ll fall off and injure yourself.

Single Rider: This horse will only allow 1 person to ride them, groom them, or do anything with them. It will take a lot of patience to earn this horse’s services, but once you’ve acquired it, it will be your friend for the rest of its life. Horse owners actually love this quality in a horse because it makes it really hard to steal.

Rears: Rearing is when a horse stands up on its hind legs. It is very intimidating to others, and can be a sign that the beast is going to run really really fast. All horses rear up, but a horse with this trait does it for no reason that the rider can discern. Like bucking, it does require some skill and luck to keep mounted, particularly if you weren’t ready or expecting it to happen. The horse can also rear up before you can get the saddle put on him, when this happens, and you don’t back away, the horse is allowed an attack. This typically happens when a horse gets excited and he has too much energy. The attack is an accident, but it does happen and it does do damage.

Headstrong: Headstrong horses do what they want to, and will give into their base desires. The horse could stop and eat, it could decide that it wants to gallop up ahead because it wants to be the lead horse, it will go right because it wants to investigate the mare when you want to go left, and it will always ask for an inch and take a mile. For the most part it will do what is expected of it, giving 150%, but it will get an idea in it’s head from time to time which the rider has no choice in.

Leaper: These horses are impossible to coral, they jump right over fences and there really isn’t anything that you can do about it; because the thing is fearless, if a fence is too high, he’ll still try and jump it and injure himself or get stuck. Stable workers, for obvious reasons, hate jumpers.

Knows a trick: A trick is a simple thing with the horse does automatically. Perhaps it always comes when the owner whistles, or it knows how to untie knots, attack folks it perceives as bad guys on verbal command, it is really up to the DM. This is a trick which is a part of the horses personality, and it will always do it.

There are other traits, but these are more then enough to work with, other traits can be a natural aversion to a specific race because it was beat and treated badly by someone of that race in the past, it can be totally skittish, constantly afraid and nervous of everything, or just the opposite, which can borderline a death-wish, refusing to retreat and carrying their hapless rider right into the thick of battle. Have fun with it!

THE RIDING PROFICENCY

Everybody can ride a horse, but those with the riding proficiency for horses are skilled enough to truly benefit from this system. A proficient person can spot a poor quality horse, and have a better chance of spotting one which is high-spirited, and only a proficient rider can ride a high-spirited horse, they will walk all over unskilled riders and end up injuring them. This proficiency should be checked every day while riding a high spirited horse for at least a month, failure results in an injury and another month of checks. Success means that you have mastered the horse and know its quarks and traits enough to avoid them. You can still role-play situations which lead to adventure or comedy of course, but for the most part, the horse is treated as average one.

HORSE COSTS

Poor quality horses cost exactly the same as average horses, but are usually pushed on people to get rid of them. A good eye can spot a sagging back, or scrawny appearance, however it isn’t always this easy to spot a poor quality of horse until you get a chance to ride them for a while, but, like I said above, the proficient rider can typically spot these differences quickly enough and know enough about horse flesh to always get an average horse.

Nags, or weak runt horses are much slower then normal, they can only move up to 50% of the normal Movement Rate (MV) for average horses, and carry only 25% of the rates listed.

Broken-down horses are old or ill-treated horses which are injured or spent. They can move only up to 75% of their base MV and carry 50% of the weight listed under horses in the Monster Manual.

Average horses will perform normally, as described in the MM.

High-Spirited horses are typically kept out of view, and reserved for the owner or for royalty. They are double the price of the average horse, but can move 133% the MV in the MM, and carry and additional 25% more weight.

Chargers are even more special then high-spirited horses, having a MV 150%, and carry 133% capacity, but this all comes at a cost. A charger will cost you at least 4x the average price.

BUYING A HORSE

Actually buying a horse is a dangerous thing. People who sell them are liers and are just as seedy as used-car salesmen. They will lie about everything, from what a horse is good for (“Of course this is a war-horse, I mean look at that healthy tail!”) pushing low quality horses onto you, and pressuring you to buy quickly before the horse does something naughty. Stupid buyers should always walk away with an old nag, and the raw end of a bumbled haggling session, while careful buyers can usually find the best horse in the coral and haggle the price to a fair one.

Something else to consider when buying a horse is if it is stolen or not. Horse-theft has always been a dastardly act, usually punishable by death. Buying a horse outside of town for a too-good-to-be-true price can quickly get you killed. Taking another’s horse knowingly is just cause for arrest and death as well! Even if you acquire a good steed during combat, by killing his rider, he may not had been the true owner of the steed and you can still be charged with horse-theft. Not to say that a horse shouldn’t be treated as treasure, but if you would like to use this as a spring-board to further adventures then you are definitely within your rights as a DM.

The key to all of this is having fun. An ornery horse, a gallant steed, if these things don’t sound fun for you and your group, then ignore it, but if they do . . . well, HIGH OH SILVER!!!! AWAY! Bad joke, I know, but this is what you get for free entertainment.

ART BY Larry Elmore

Montly Expenses Made Easy

Tracking money is not very fun. It’s fun to earn it! And if you are in a store, and you’ve been saving up for something special, such as that kick’n Chainmail suit Old Grizlore is selling down town, well it is fun to spend it! But tracking day-to-day expenses is just plain boring for everybody involved. This is why the core rules included a quick and easy way to determine the cost of living.

Just so that we all know what I’m talking about, I’ll go ahead an show you the table right off the bat.

PLAYER CHARACTER LIVING EXPENSES

Life-style / cost-per-month
Squalid / 3gp
Poor / 5gp
Middle-Class / 50gp per level
Wealthy / 200gp per level


Now, what this all means is clearly up to the Dungeon Master to figure out, but I’ll go ahead and explain some guidelines to help clarify it some.

We base this either by simply asking the character, or by watching how he makes choices. Sometimes a persons class will dictate what he has to choose. A player who is playing a Noble character, will be forced to always have to maintain his wealthy status, while a player who is playing a beggar will not be allowed in any social class above poor. Humanoids, if you allow this kind of race to be played, will, like-wise, be kept in poor society. And, speaking of race, a player’s race can double the cost of living if they are not of the city or towns majority species. For example a human living in an elven village, or a dwarf living in a human settlement. Of course, this might not always be the case, it depends on the racial ties which are present. A Gnome living in a Dwarven town wouldn’t have to pay double because the ties between the two races are really good! Same as a halfling, who can typically live anywhere he pleases without having to worry about racial discrimination. If the two races are hostile towards each other, such as a Drow or a Half-Orc, they will be forced to live in the poor or squalid sections of town and it will cost triple the amount that it normally would for a human. Same thing if a human is trying to live in enemy territory.

You will notice that Middle-class and wealthy are counted as per level, this means that the number is multiplied by the players current level, if he has gained a level late in that month, then just charge him the old living expense for that one.

Now, naturally, if the party is on the move, then you’ll want to record stuff immediately, and they will be forced to either camp outside of town or stay in an inn, they’ll also be responsible for finding services and food themselves, but once they stay in the same spot for a find a rental room and set up their shop, then they can go back to this system.

SQUALID CONDITIONS

Squalid is homelessness. You live on the streets, or once in a while you can rent a pile or straw in a common room. You live off of rats, begging, or whatever you can steal or scrounge up. There is no police protection, unless you count the officers which keep you in this section of town. You won’t be robbed, but you will have to put up with random acts of violence on a pretty regular basis, people just deciding to attack them just for the fun of it.

Your money goes to finding food, and paying off extortion from gangs who offer protection. It doesn’t include any dues, equipment, or anything but keeping you sheltered and semi-fed.

POOR CONDITIONS

Poor is renting a very small home or rooms. It includes rent and food. You get some legal protection from indifferent soldiers who really don’t care about what your troubles might be. You still have to deal with random acts of violence, being extorted, and being the victims of even more terrible crimes such as kidnapping, and slavery.

Your money goes to shelter, food, taxes, and perhaps some membership dues, or modest equipment and upkeep of equipment.

MIDDLE-CLASS CONDITIONS

Middle-class is either renting a home, or owning it, but it doesn’t cover the cost of the home if you are buying it. Of course, there isn’t any such thing as a loan, land is earned and given for rewards, or paid for in one lump sum. You get decent legal protection, and your life will be stable and boring for the most part. Thieves won’t usually be interested in you, as you aren’t really all that wealthy.

The cost of living includes clothing, a servant who will cook and clean for you, and probably handle the boring aspects of life so that you can focus more on your career. This cost of living includes members dues, and/or equipment and upkeep of the equipment. It will also cover training sessions, and learning new proficiencies, once you set them up.

WEALTHY CONDITIONS

This class is elite and has a set of problems which is unique to it. It covers full staff of servants, you don’t have to worry about buying supplies or equipment, and it will always be well-maintained, however everyone will know you, including those in the political forums who will use you, thus characters of wealth must always be on their toes in regards to detecting deceit, trickery, and general treachery.

For the most part, you have superior protection from and by the law, however you will become a target of burglars and thieves. Your money will include high-level dues, such as Wizard organizations, Knight Orders, and secret societies. It is expensive, but you won’t have to worry about spending money on anything. All you have to do is cover the monthly expense.

BUILDING A STRONGHOLD

Once you build a stronghold, you no longer qualify for monthly expense living, you will be considered wealthy, but you’ll follow the system detailed under Stronghold rules which isn’t as easy, but not all that much harder to figure out either.

ART BY: Jeff Easley

Pet Peeve: Detect Alignment

I THINK THAT EVERY body has a “pet-peeve” or something that bugs them about a game system itself. For me, that pet-peeve was largely spells used for detecting alignment. Now, this stems from playing the game incorrectly when our group was still learning, and not detecting our error, thus never fixing it. But this spell still bugs me to this day. It just seems like one of those things which was put into the game to make the Dungeon Masters life miserable.

How this started, was that I fell for a trick. A player took advantage of my total incompetence, simply asking what so-n-so’s alignment was, and me thinking that he was casting a spell and just telling him, like a total twit. While it took a while to catch onto this little farce, after all, I was still learning the ropes of DMing, it did get me interested in what exactly goes on when somebody is checking an alignment, and how others react to this.

ALIGNMENTS AND NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS

NPCs all have alignments, but the only way to really tell what they are is for a character to observe them for an extended period of time. Only then will their alignment be displayed. I’ve said it over and over again, that Alignments aren’t crutches, and nobody is a slave to their alignments. Good people still do bad things, and Bad people can be quite charming and charitable. Simply having a conversation with somebody isn’t going to reveal their alignment if they don’t want it too. Most people aren’t even aware what the heck an alignment is! Nevertheless ponder the fact that they even got one or not. Truly bad people never once think of themselves as evil, a being who is Lawful Evil can happily live with the belief that he is Lawful Good for his entire life. But lets look at some ways of how characters try to take the easy way out by trying to use alignment against you, and how a character can gain knowledge of what another’s alignment is, as well as how to role-play the characters response to such an invasion.

ASKING

This is a rude question, if they even have any idea of what the player is talking about. This is such a stupid thing to do, who would say, “Oh! I’m Chaotic Evil, what is your alignment?”

Not even the Player really knows what his alignment is once he’s been created. The only person who does is the DM, as alignments change frequently. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem, and never comes up unless a drastic change has happened, at that time, the player stops gaining xp, and may loss special abilities and not even know why.

Since the PCs themselves have no real idea of what alignment they are, how do they expect a NPC to? Alignments are learned through playing the game, not through asking yes/no questions.

CASTING A SPELL

This is one of the rudest spells which one can cast. A hireling won’t put up with it, nor with followers or henchmen, this is considered a huge breach of trust, and anybody that suspecting is simply too dangerous to hang around. Trust is a big thing!

Strangers who have this spell cast upon them are likely to take this as a prelude to an attack and lash out before the PC can, else perhaps demand to be allowed to cast the spell him/herself.

The spell itself is completely obvious to everyone around the caster, it isn’t a spell that can be done discretely, or privately. Much of the time, it is a total waste of a spell. Especially powerful beings can foil any attempt to be probed with this spell, and make the caster get whatever impression that they want them to. A lich in disguise can easily foil it and appear to be of any good alignment that he chooses, all the while laughing at the players ignorance and stupidity.

CLASS ABILITY

The Paladin presents an easy to manage problem. They can detect evil, but this evil must be true evil, it isn’t precise enough to detect actual alignments. A lich would definitely not be able to hide from a paladin with such easy trickery as he could with a cleric or wizard; but a pirate or barbarian easily could! A being from the negative plane, or who contains so much evil magic and/or intent that they radiate it permanently, this is the enemy of the paladin and they cannot hide from him.

Of course, this works both ways. Paladins reek of pure goodness, alerting truly evil and powerful beings to their presence well in advance of their actual arrival.

END NOTES

I try to give nothing away. Naturally this can’t always be done, but we have to make this spell make sense, or give them an edge once in a while. Using it to detect the alignment of powerful magical items makes sense. Or casting it on a mysterious religious object found deep in the ruins of some long forgotten temple. But as far as trying to catch a killer, perhaps it could point out who is capable of such an act, but it certainly isn’t hard evidence of any wrong-doing. Even a wizard-king would laugh if presented with such evidence.



ART BY: Tim Hildebrandt

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