Chapter I: The Goblin

My name is Gragord, I hail from a small village within the Great Kingdom where I worked as a sage, making a decent living at it and still having time for my studies. As is common knowledge, when the Bone March fell to the humanoids, the Overking became irate. I fled my home in the cover of darkness, for the Overking was forcing all men of my talent to feed themselves to the humanoid armies; something that I am not ashamed to admit that I wanted no part of. The Grand Army is not known for providing protection, nor comforts, which my stock depends upon; so, I deserted my home, and decided to make my way to the Free City of Greyhawk. A place far enough away from my King’s contact that I could effectively disappear.

I suppose, that if I had made it to the city of Greyhawk, then my life-path would be different, but that wasn’t so. I traveled the roads alone, in the blanket of night, dependent upon my spells to keep me safe. I, unfortunately, had not gotten so far as a days travel away from my home when the royal guards placed me on their wanted lists and began combing the country-side. I knew well that I could not depend upon the docks, so I had to change my original plans, and decided to risk movement through places where I knew that the soldiers would be reluctant to go. Death in the swamp would be more noble then feeding the gears of a war I cared nothing about.

I made it almost to the Kingdom of Nyrond when I was captured by a tribe of Goblins. I suppose that one would think that a man of my skill could easily destroy these humanoids, and I could, but then I decided that with the war taking place in the north, the Humanoids of the south would not be cooperative with the local human leadership of the kingdom, and I was right. There was much resentment between the goblins and the soldiers who offered to pay a modest prize for my capture, but this bounty was ignored and no information as to my whereabouts were ever released to them.

I allowed myself to be detained into a manner of slavery. I wasn’t taken below ground to help dig the massive network of caves with the other human slaves, instead I was taken to the goblin tribal leader, he informed me that their Cleric had recently been killed, all of his books regarding the religions and customs of the goblin people were scribed in some secret language which the former cleric had used to make himself seem more irreplaceable. I agreed to transcribe these works in exchange for comfortable conditions and a small measure of freedom, and this was how my new life began.

For many moons I worked, and lived among the goblins. I became enthralled by their ethnicity, it then dawned on me that no books that I have ever seen had ever been dedicated to cultures of the lesser human races. My guess is that writers are, by nature, a cowardly lot; thus, I decided to begin a side project, while working among them: To record the facts and behaviors which I witnessed, and, once I finished serving them, I was made good my escape, and I chose to seek more humanoids in which to study. This book is the composite of my work. I write it for those interested in how these monstrous beings live, either for a historical perspective of our world, or to use as one will.

Chapter I
THE GOBLIN



The goblin is a squat, thin creature. Their faces are rather piggish; with snout-like noses and sharp protruding teeth that are too large for their mouths. Their arms are too long for their bodies, and they have sharper and pointed ears when compared to elven variety. Their skulls are unique to them, easily identified as goblin once all of the flesh has been cleaned from the bone.

Their skin color varies by tribe, varying from yellow, orange, to a deep red. Eyes are different depending on tribe as well, varying from reds to yellows which, in low levels of light, appear to burn into the darkness.

NATURAL EMPLOYMENT

In the last few centuries, mans technology has grown in leaps and bounds. The same cannot be said in regards to the lowly goblin. They have evolved to a specific plateau and have never improved. This is due to their nature, they have a specific pecking order amongst themselves, ones status is improved through acts of violence and murder. If one goblin appears to be getting ahead, either his subordinate will use him as a stepping stool, or the goblin above him will kill him to protect his own status. Because of this, they have very little history to show for themselves.

While the goblin spends almost his entire life below ground, they have no idea how to work metals, they obtain tools through thievery and slavery. Surprisingly enough they do possess one marketable skill, that of leather working. When it comes to tanning and working with leather, I have seen no peers equal to their skill. Each goblin seems to have great cleverness when it comes to producing this material. The leader of the tribe is especially well protected, his leather armor is both beautiful and functional.

While it is unclear what the goblins hope to obtain, they are always mining. This probably has more to do with their sanitation problems then any real gain. They defecate where they eat, cleaning is alien to them, thus they are always on the move. These tunnels and passageways are rather complex and well-built. Looking upon their craftsmanship, I can recognize their work as forming the foundations of many underground networks in many castles and fortresses around the Flanaess. They typically move around thick deposits of metal, however they mine precious stones, probably just to spite the gnomes who are always looking for them.

RELATIONSHIPS

Like most humanoids whom I have studied, the goblin shares with them a strong disdain for their treatment. One which raises their tempers up faster and hotter then one would imagine possible. They have vowed to destroy the “surface creatures”, regardless of the fact that they require us to survive. They raise no cattle for meat, they grow no food, they live only on what they can kill or steal, yet they despise us! In fact, the only creatures that they despise more then humans, are gnomes and dwarves.

There is a saying in the underdark, “Raka Snetha, P’pootha kik”, roughly translated, it means that one should not suffer a gnome or dwarf to live. Many great wars have raged on between these two peoples, the reason for this war has been lost to both, but the pain and memory of it remains as fresh in their minds as their need for water. If one looks upon the numbers, a dwarf is not mature until he is well over 100 years old, while a male goblin reaches maturity in just 4 years. A short lived goblin does more damage to the dwarven race by killing just one of their kind then a dwarf can possibly do even by destroying an entire tribe.

They have no love for other creatures, they spend so much time fighting with themselves, and jockeying for positions that it would be insulting to take friendships beyond the tribe. I think that I am an exception to the rule. Once I noticed the trends and how things work I myself entered the quest for power, and have become a human bodyguard for the leader of this violent bunch. While they respect strength, and observe fear, they are a cowardly lot, more then often doing nothing independently. If a political assassination is going to take place, the goblin behind it will first rally his supporters and make promises to each one for their co-conspirators in the bloody revolt. I fear that if I had overstayed my welcome longer then I did, jealousy and revenge would no doubt be my ending. I made few friends while among them, but the ones I made, I made sure were powerful and it took much work to keep them that way.

The goblins seem to understand their place in the pecking order in regards to the other humanoids as well. A mouthy goblin will always keep himself in check when in mixed company. They don’t care for Kobolds, but the other humanoids, your hobgoblins, gnolls, etc., they will seek nothing more then some pointless attempt to earn respect which they will never obtain. Even a goblin leader will cater to the lowest ranks of humanoid, treating them as royalty higher then themselves.

Within the humanoid races, their closest alley, if one could call them that, would be the bugbear. These two races have long had a pact with one another and have never entered war or conflicts with the other. The goblin respects their strength and power, while the bugbears respect their dedication and talent for ambush. This race alone, have the goblins ever felt any kinship too.

One exception, however, is in regards to halflings. There is a halfling village somewhere nearby and they quietly trade goods back and forth, apparently the halflings have no qualms about fencing stolen merchandise, they are also similar in size which may make for some sort of kinship among the peoples. It is even listed in their religious materials that it is ill-luck to slay a halfling.

RELIGIONS OF GOBLINKIND

If one can put a word to their beliefs, that word would be brutality. They worship slavery and blind obedience. All of their religious observances must be practiced with a living sacrifice. Dwarves and gnomes are the preferred victims of their evil and dark rites, but they will settle for quantity as well. The last day of my stay with them, they horrified me by rounding up an entire village of elven children, despite my protests and tears they slaughtered the lot of them. This act was what broke the pact and alliance which I had among them, and it is these feelings of compassion and respect for life which led to all of my greatest difficulties when it came to producing this book that you are now reading.

Unlike halfling races, the names of the gods are uniform for all goblins. It never changes, neither by location or time these gods have reigned over the goblin souls. Key of the gods is Maglubiyet, a god that they share with their superior cousins, the hobgoblin. Maglubiyet is a god of war, and also the goblin patron of law, who demands his followers sacrifice the living. This right is preformed by decapitating their victim with an axe. There are four major celebrations of Maglubivet, on these days hobgoblins and goblins converge to pay homage to their saint with blood.

The goblin does have their own god as well, which they do not share with any other humanoid. This beings name is Khurgorbaeyag, a god of slavery and oppression. Both of these elements are key to goblin survival. Slaves of all races are kept for work and in thin times, for food. The goblin leaders, and especially the goblin kings all utter his name when passing judgments and making important decisions. The symbol of this god is the whip. Unlike how humans worship their gods, the goblins believe that they are slaves to Khurgorbaeyag, and typically serve their priests with the abandon of a zealot, only questioning him if they aren’t suffering enough, a consideration usually taken by an underling to a tribal cleric who leads the revolt, however in the case of recent events, it was the tribal leader himself who grew tired of being undermined by the former cleric.

GOBLIN FAMILY STUCTURES

Goblin women lead horrible lives, and considered to be below the human and demi-human slaves which the tribes keep. Woman are for breeding only, and it is their function to raise the young. If one wishes to hear the true haunting voice of despair, one simply needs to listen to the wailing and crying which comes from the breeding caves.

Women have no rights, and are not taught anything. The young are typically beaten by the adult males in order to teach them their ranks immediately. If one survives their youth, they are initiated by pain, taken from the care of their mothers and beaten remorselessly by an entire group of goblin men, those who resist fighting back against their kind are allowed to live, while those who fight back are almost always beat to death unless they are able to kill all of their attackers, these goblins are considered special.

GOBLIN MAGIC

Goblins seem to be incapable of wizardry, but the shamans and priests of Khurgorbaeyag are quite skilled. I stumbled upon a few scrolls in my work of copying the religious rites, and while I am not accomplished in the ways of the gods, I was able to determine that much of their body of work seems to revolve around pain and suffering. They are also skilled at manipulating the darkness. According to my contact within the church, they are specialized at casting spells from the spheres of divination, protection, and reversing the spells of both the healing and the sun spheres of priestly magics.

While the creatures are susceptible to all forms of magic, they are resistant to spells which cause depression, this of course, being a byproduct of their god. Their lives are hellish, depression is a daily happening for them and their kind, one cannot be lower then the goblin and they know it.

GOBLIN RACES

The goblin does not appear to be compatible with demi-human blood, there are no half-goblins of any race, however within the humanoid races, it is my belief that many of them share goblin blood. As I’ve already stated, the goblins share gods with many of them, and are considered minions. In human society, the goblin would be considered royalty, as it possesses the cleanest and purest blood, however this is one instance where the humanoids rebel against this philosophy. Even the Hobgoblin, which is definitely goblinoid, considers itself to be above these lowly creatures.

The goblin, despite variances of skin and eye colors, are all of the same blood and they do not have any racisms against their own kind in this regard. Goblin tribes exist in every land with the exception of the far northern territories, as they are not physically sturdy enough to survive arctic temperatures. While they can keep alive during winters, this is the worst time for them as they have no concept of packing or saving away for these times of strife, this is also why goblin raids are more common in winter moons, then the warm summer ones.

The further north you get, the more bestial they become, but the northern goblin is also the most skilled at taming the wild and dangerous worg wolves. How they can do this remains a mystery, the worg wolf is a primal and very violent creatures which forms no desire for relationships of any kind, perhaps this trait is something that the goblin and worg shares and have thus formed an alliance.

A word about these northern goblins; I have mentioned the rite of manhood which they suffer upon all of their youth, it may be that the powerful goblins who are able to defeat up to 10 of their kind, are sent up north. That the northern tribes are crack teams of the best fighters, this is simply a theory of my own invention. During my time with the goblins I had never seen any goblin defeat the gang of their attackers. When I asked the tribal leader about this, he was definitely evasive, only telling me that these goblins were considered special, and that is it. If this is the case, and the goblin nation is amassing an army of violent, highly trained fighters . . . well, perhaps investigating this rumor is best left to better men then myself. . . .

THE GOBLIN LIFE-CYCLE

Goblins typically live short, pointless lives. They are capable of living for up to 50 years, but this is rarely the case. All venerable goblins are shamans, and are crazy. The shamans keep the goblins healthy, skilled at mixing herbal remedies. The rest of the goblins are terrified of them, even the tribal leaders give them a wide path. Most other goblins, if they are not killed in battle, they are murdered by their own kind in the eternal goblin struggle of rank and file.

Because of the initiation rites, weak, sickly, or feeble minded goblins are quickly slain. Goblin women do not get old, if they do not suicide themselves, they are typically burned once they become barren.

Every goblin male has his position and his duty which he is aware of. He is also aware of every goblin above him in status, as well as who he is responsible for to boss around. All property is communal, and kept with the tribal leader for safe keeping. The tribal leader is responsible for paying his tithe to the Goblin King and staying in contact with him. Privacy is absolutely unheard of! The goblin defecates where it stands, sex has no taboos, clothing is functional only, and nudity means nothing to the goblin. They are a shameless lot, they never groom themselves, nor avoid their own excrement. Lice and other vermin are typical within the goblin caverns, it is unclear how the goblin can be so resistant to disease and the parasites which is normally associated with this kind of living, though this could be attributed to both the tribal shaman, as well as a monstrously high constitution.

GOBLIN LAWS

The only law which is enforced with any strictness what-so-ever, are the laws which involve the chain of command. While it is acceptable to murder the goblins under you, and it is legal to murder the goblin directly above you, it is illegal to kill any goblins above your direct superior. Goblins who become too ambitious are typically dealt with quickly and quietly.

Goblin justice knows only violence. Stealing from the tribe is a capital offense as well, and the goblin is executed on the spot, however this is a rare offense which is typically unheard of. Failure to perform ones function or duty are seen as acts against god, and punished by the church. Goblins are terrified of this, as their souls are cast out, and not allowed to join the army of the afterlife. Oddly enough, this is a common occurrence, very little proof is required to prove someone incompetent.

While all property is communal, pay is in the form of a weak, but highly addictive narcotic. I regret to admit that I myself became a victim of this vile material. It is a mixture of mold and root which they call Snuff. It is manufactured by slaves, and comes in three forms which is distributed by rank.

The first class of snuff comes in the form of a short fat plug, this is distributed to most goblins, who bit off a chunk of it. The snuff is kept between the cheek and the jaw and the juice is swallowed. This narcotic aids with depression, but is more or less weak in effect but highly addictive. Consuming this stuff did nothing for me, however after just one trial I immediately became ill until I took another dose.

The second class is better quality drug and is distributed to higher ranking officers as well as specialists within the goblin armies. This is ground down into little sprigs, the sprigs are placed under the tongue and is very soothing to the soul, however a specific mindlessness takes over ones being while on it. This drug lasts longer, and the goblins under its influence are easily spotted as their eyes become dull and less reflective, which serves as a benefit to goblin sentries, as they lose that unsettling blazing of the eyes.

The third class of snuff is the best in quality, and only reserved for leaders and extremely powerful goblin generals as well as royalty. This class of snuff is ground finely down, and instead of being ingested by placing it in the mouth and sucking on it, it is snorted up ones nose. This is a powerful stimulant! I was allowed to partake in this form of snuff but once, and I am ashamed that I cannot recall much of the influence of it, however the pleasure that I reserved from it was extremely unsettling. It is this drug which possibly makes the goblin under its influence more capable in one-on-one combat. Constant use causes muscles to become more defined, it causes the body to function faster, and the senses to be keener then usual. A side-effect, of course being suicidal blood lust and fits of uncontrollable rage, which are all common among the goblin elite.


GOBLINS AT WAR

War is a responsibility of religion. A goblin who is not at war is offending god. A goblin who does not die in battle is offending god. This religious zealotry is very related to the Bugbear, and it is this bond of beliefs which keeps these two cultures as eternal allies.

The goblin is not stupid, quite the opposite really. Goblins are advanced strategists, highly skilled at setting traps and ambushes, which is their typical means of survival. Despite their religious beliefs of dying in combat, to their core they are a cowardly lot. One on one combat is unheard of, for obvious reasons. Individually, the goblin is weak, but working together they become a force to be reckoned with.

The tools of the goblin are typically stolen, or provided by bugbears. Goblins are skilled with axes, their preferred weapons when fighting in melee, but they also are proficient in morning stars, short swords, and spears. Those working with bugbears and other humanoids often form unites who train with simple polearms if they are available, more often then not preferring the military pick. For ranged combat, they avoid bows and arrows, and prefer slings as each can make their own with leather and there is never a short supply of ammo.

One of the most important tools of war to the goblin are the worgs. Worg patrols are among the most elite of goblin solders, the worgs are provided by the goblin king and farmed up north. Each tribe is provided for.

A few goblins are skilled fighters, they are normally specialized with axes and responsible for grand armies of goblins. Clerics are also in charge of armies and are capable fighters. Goblins trained in the arts of thievery are much more common, their thieves rivaling those of the halfling variety which are normally considered to be most skilled in their arts.

THE SLAVES OF THE GOBLINS
All goblin tribes rely on slavery to exist. Slaves prepare the snuff which is the basis of their financial system, slaves also dig the tunnels and expand the caverns which goblins require to occupy as they hate the sunlight. Because of the frail form of the goblin body, manual labor is beyond them, the slave population is composed of humans and elves. Snuff is the typical method of bondage, but the slaves are never allowed out of their chains, the locks are permanent and have no keyholes. Children caught in bondage suffer the most, as the shackles do not allow for growth of any kind. Children are used to dig in the deepest section of the mine, as well as grinding up the snuff into fine powder for royalty, a highly dangerous job as the air is full of this narcotic. The life expectancy for a snuff miner is a few months, once the fetters become infected or the slave becomes ill he is taken to the refinery and forced to grind the snuff, life expectancy in this part of the mine is measured in days! Hence its rarity and its high value.

GOBLINS OF THE REALM

As a race, the goblin is more organized then any other. Communications between the tribes are constant, and considering the reaches of this race, this is a colossal undertaking which makes them a serious menace to mankind. Tribes are hidden in every nation of the realm. They breed diseases and parasites which they themselves seem to be immune too, but we are not. Coupled with their devotion to causes, and their shear numbers, how much longer can mankind hope to keep this race pinned down to the mountains, forests, and swamps is unknown, but eventually the dam will break. If a races success shall be measured in numbers instead of land, the true rulers of the Flanaess is not mankind, but truly the Goblin. Take away from this text what you will, but I warn you to not underestimate this race simply because of their size and discount them as simple cowards. Behind hate and malice, the goblin mind is sharp and keen. Beware!

DM’s Notes:

While most goblins are not classed, a few of them are. A classed goblin can achieve the following levels of experience max.

Fighter: 10th
Cleric: 9th
Shaman: 7th
Thief: 12th

Goblin thieves have the same racial modifiers as halflings to their skill levels.
You can take the word Shaman to either mean healer or wizard. While none of my sources have mentioned wizardry, there is no restrictions on the goblins intelligence. While they would have trouble joining established wizardry schools, learning on ones own really isn’t out of the question, but understandably, goblin wizards would be unique in many ways. In other respects, one can just assume that shamans aren’t regulated by lawful institutions and can act chaotically.



New Project to begin soon

I was shopping in one of those Antiquarian bookshops, hoping to score some old pulp magazines. I’m not sure how I found it, I was just walking by the section on occult and arcane religions, when for whatever reason, a book from the bottom of a pile seemed to catch my eye. Many of the books were on thick wooden shelves, however the overflow, like much of the place, was simply stacked into heaps and placed hodgepodge everywhere. For whatever reason, I started moving books, to see more clearly the book which called to me. The letters were bizarre, in a script that I have never seen, almost runic; well, there wasn’t anything almost runic about it, it was definitely hand-written in runes that were definitely not Germanic, Nordic, nor Celtic; but besides the mysterious text, the inside was illustrated, also by hand, with strange beasts the likes I had only seen in my nightmares! Laughing hyenas which walked upright on two legs, like a man, yellow demons armed with bizarre instruments of war the likes I had never seen and couldn’t place culturally, the more I flipped through the pages, the more intrigued that I became. What kind of fantasy was this?

I’m not sure why I carried it up to the front and purchased it. I mean, I collect old books, but this was definitely beyond my means, paying for it set me back quit a bit, forcing me to live off of soup and little else for the next few weeks, all for some book which I couldn’t even read!

The cover was constructed of dyed leather, stained a lustrous blackish-red, and stretched across what I assume to be some high quality wood. It opened upon three tiny, silver hinges, and the title of the book was foiled in silver as well, mixed with some kind of gemstones which I have never been able to properly identify.

The paper inside is thicker then I’ve ever seen before, almost like that stuff that the trendy magazines use, but without the glossy finish? And the ink was strange too, in the light I noticed that it seemed to glitter, as if some sort of stone had been ground down extremely finely and mixed in with the ink itself.

I needn’t tell you that this book mystified me! It appeared to be ancient, yet it was just too polished, and too perfect. I tried to find a copyright date, but was unable to find one. Surely this was a hoax of some kind, but why?

While flipping through its pages, a slip of paper fell out into my lap. This was written in English, and it stated that this book was obtained and brought to shore by a Nantucket whaling ship called the Despot Pride. Apparently they spotted a ship a few hundred miles off the coast of Cuba, at first they thought that it was an Asian junk of some kind, but nobody could identify the style. Moving into investigate, they discovered that the men on board were not Asian, but almost gypsyish. The boat was too small for ocean travel, it took all of their efforts to keep the small ship afloat, the Despot Pride quickly arrived to their aid, pulling the little junk out of the water and giving the brown gypsy people a ride to the coast.

They reported that the gypsy junk was colorfully painted, the carpenter inspected the little ship and said that he couldn’t identify the timbers used to make her hull. The instructions that the gypsy captain gave to the Nantucketters was odd as well, they requested not to be taken to Cuba, but to some nameless patch of water between Florida, Cuba, and Bermuda, which the whalers did. Upon leaving, the gypsy junk presented the captain of the Pride with the book.

Needless to say that nobody ever reported the Junk again. The only thing left from this experience is this book that I purchased hundreds of years later. I was at a loss, but then it occurred to me that the Captain (or who ever wrote this history) stated that the gypsies spoke English. Could it be that the tome was written in English as well? Now, my grandfather and I would spend our Sundays doing Cryptograms. Just out of curiosity I decided to try and decode the bizarre runes by finding single letter words, and from there, I was able to begin translating the codes into a readable form of English. This worked after a few weeks of sticking to it. I admit now that I became obsessed, but I believe that I am finally making some headway.

Apparently, this book was written in 563, but not of this world, at least I don’t think so. The places described in the first few paragraphs describe no place that I am familiar with, and a few of the illustrations contain maps that are not matching with any known coasts.

I believe that this text was written in a dimension called Oerth, a world much like our own, however one which, if my theory is correct, could be bleeding off our magic to their own plane. I think that the gypsies were from this dimension and accidentally slipped into our own and became temporarily lost.

This book appears to describe humanoids, written by a man who chose to live among them, I will attempt to translate the runes into modern letters, but this process is slow. I only hope that the quality of the posts to come will make up for the lack of quantity.

Reversing as Story Element

While I strive to play the game as close to core as I can, one of my greatest pleasures is pushing the boundaries of what was intended. One of the best ways to do this is, again, through alignment.

You take a character or NPC which is normally always associated with one idea, and you reverse it. This is a common tool which writers use in an attempt to freshen up and revitalize old ideas, and it works! Well, sometimes it works, nothing is fool-proof.

Lets take a Necromancer, as an example. When you think of necromancer you always think of a old man with a beard who is chaotic evil and 20th level. They live in black castles out in the middle of noplace and . . . well, do I really need to go on? I’m sure that everybody gets the idea. There is nothing wrong with this description! Things should be as one expects them to be, that is a good formula and players absolutely love the scenario! It is fun! But what about this, instead of an old man, we’ll make him a young man, and instead of 20th level, we’ll make him 1st or 2nd level; and instead of him being Chaotic Evil, we’ll make this specialist Chaotic Good.

The boy dresses in black, he is extremely focused, his family was slain by an evil Necromancer and he plans on taking the evil-doers powers and using them against him. He constantly fights evil, choosing to fight fire with fire. If he can resist the ever-present draw of evil, he will grow to be one of the most powerful forces of good in the world. We can either create this guy as a PC or keep him as an NPC. The problem with him is that at low levels he is extremely weak, he is more of a liability to a party then a benefit. I think that I would keep him an NPC that travels with the party, agreeing to aid them if he can, and instead of them paying him, he’ll pay them. He’ll seek knowledge and experience, he is a minor character who will, hopefully, if he is protected, turn into a major one.

The Con of having him in your party is that you must keep him alive and protect him. The Benefit is that he’s smart, he knows much of the occult and you can use him to pass along myths and legends which the party wouldn’t normally be privy too. He’ll also have access to institutions of higher learning, and be seen as an authority figure on the subject. He is a specialist in all things undead. He will be opinionated, and it is his opinions which will bring the party into trouble from time to time as the wrong people will use his opinions to hide themselves, aiming him at the wrong target which he will attack with zeal only to find out that he has been tricked and maybe he done the wrong thing. He is walking a thin line, a line of evil and his judgment will be foggy at times because of this.

He won’t raise his own dead, he knows that this is wrong, but he will steal the undead from others and then use them until he feels that it is time to return them to their graves. The trick here, is of course to keep the game in balance, from time to time he can fuel an adventure, but we don’t want to turn the game on him, it should be more about the PCs then some NPC and we don’t want to put too much value in him early on, because if he dies then it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. This is a risky campaign idea that in the hands of a weak DM can easily turn into a Railroading situation where the DM will take over the game with his own PC which takes all of the glory. I know that it sounds like I’m making this guy out to be a hero character of the DM but I’m not. This character is essentially broken, it can take a party places where they normally wouldn’t go because they have more common sense then that. A Necromancer is pretty pointless until 6th level, then he can start doing some damage, but until that time he must be babied which I don’t think would be much fun for a full time PC.

Another thing that I like to do is remind folks that not all monsters are monstrous. Well, some are, but sometimes I’ll throw in a curveball. A horde of goblins is seen outside of town, and the public officials want these things killed. The trick is that even low level adventurers can easily wipe them out, they are pacifists who have been banished from the goblin kingdom for weakness. They just want to be left alone and the real goal of the adventure is to see how long it takes before the party figures it out. Then they have to relocate the goblins to a place where they will do some good, perhaps they have a magic item which they worship, and believe that their job is to cultivate a forest (which farmers wouldn’t like) in another part of the area lays a dead ranger, killed by a troll invasion and the forest has darkened and is dying. The trolls must be exterminated and the goblins moved in to restore the balance as the forest guardians.

Of course the trick to this type of adventure is to avoid being to preachy, whatever happens happens, right? But someday down the road perhaps the goblins will form their own little community which can spawn further adventures, and perhaps become a testing ground to see if this new race would make a good stock for PC characters to come from.

I think that that is my beef with the Humanoids Handbook, none of that stuff is play tested well, and dropping the wrong creature into a campaign can destroy it quickly. I believe in slow experimentation. When introducing a new race or class I think that it should be eased in, and I let the PC playing it know that I can pull it back out at any time. I also try to make the PCs as responsible for the world as possible. If the players play this scenario successfully, then they can earn the right to create Goblin characters, but if they fail at the goal, then this goblin stock will be lost forever. I don’t see why anyone would just drop something into their campaign for the hell of it! I have played by share of humanoid creatures, the most powerful being a Wolfwere, but the difficulty of the game was equal to the power. The DM also trusted me not to destroy the game with it, I was hiding in a human setting, and if I were to be discovered for what I really was I’d be killed. It takes the right kind of player to playtest a new race, preferably one who is interested in roleplaying and has experience DMing so that he knows how to be agreeable and not take this advantage to try and beat the system.

Medusa Cactus

Medusa Cactus
Climate/Terrain: Dry/Desert
Frequency: Very Rare
Organization: Solitary
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Water, Sunlight
Intelligence: Semi- (2-4)
Treasure: P,Q(x10),X,Y
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 7
Movement: 4
Hit Dice: 3
THAC0: 17
No. of Attacks: 4
Damage/Attack: 1d3+1
Special Attacks: Needles cause flesh to stone
Special Defenses: see below
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M (5’-7’ tall)
Morale: Average (8-10)
XP Value: 650

The medusa cactus looks exactly like a normal cactus in the area, however close inspection will reveal eyes.

Combat: The medusa cactus stalks its victims, moving only at night and so slowly that it can’t be observed. It is covered in needles, many of them harmless, but some contain a venom which mimics the wizard spell Flesh to Stone. At will the cactus can project these needles, its range is 1/2/3 and can fire 3 normal needles, plus 1 venomous needle per round.

The Medusa Cactus regenerates all of its hit points by 8 hours of inactivity.

Habitat/Society:The cactus, because of its nature is almost impossible to spot, it lives with normal cactus plants which looks exactly like it, however they are not intelligent. Their lairs are filled with statues of creatures, forming a lush and beautiful garden oasis, which the cactus enjoys tending, and is always on the look out for new displays. The treasure in the medusa cactus’ lair will be incidental, it doesn’t value these items, except for either items of beauty or lures for more victims.

Ecology: The medusa cactus is a solitary creature, they will not attack their own kind, but they don’t enjoy each others company either. They reproduce upon death, seeds deep inside of it are released, the carcass spawning 1d6 cactuses which stay in the area until maturity, when they each fight for their parent’s garden. The winner of these contests keeps the established garden while the others leave to seek their own fortunes. The only way to stop this birthing process is to burn the dead cactus.

A few individuals have attempted to harvest the venomous needles, however it has never been successful, as the venom is only effective for 3 hours after being fired by the cactus, no magic seems to have the power to delay this natural reaction and it is yet a mystery as to the exact biology or anatomy of this dangerous intelligent plant.

Low Level Adventures & Monster Treasure

Yeah, I’ll be taking your treasure now. You kids have found some good stuff!, but don’t you be worrying about it, I won’t leave you empty handed, you see, I’ve got some advice for you to take with you. I know that you are going to hate me for this, but some day, you’ll be thanking me because if you are as good as I think that you are, you’ll be doing this to when you get to be my age too. I also know that you think that you’ve earned it, but let me tell you something. You didn’t earn nothing yet!

You want to talk about earning something, try staying up all night in the pouring rain and having to march all day on the next! Try having to leave your brother behind because he broke his leg any you’re surrounded by half-mad ogres! When you can survive a week on your own in the Troll Finns, THEN, young one, then you have earned it.

You see, we in the business call this paying your dues. You can’t just come into the city and expect to find work! This is my work, I’ve got enough competition around here without lazy little piles like you stealing from me. You’re lucky that Strumtum didn’t catch you before I did, he would have taken more then your treasure, and that is a promise. You see here you are a very tiny fish in a very big ocean, and you’d think with a population as big as this city has, that it could sustain just one more band of adventurers, but let me tell you, it can’t! We who stay here, and call this place home, we are cut-throats because we’ve got to be.

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to rent you a room for the night, and make sure that you get a decent breakfast, and then you and your friends here are going to leave this city, and I’ll tell you why you want to do that.

Out there in the country, they need people like you. Here wannabe adventurers are a dime a dozen, but out there beyond those walls, there are folks out there that are willing to work with you. You go find a town, a really small one, and you’ll find adventure, trust me. There are lots of bad things out there in the world right now, evil seems to be creeping up from the streets itself. You do that, you go to some little hole in the wall village that nobody’s ever heard of, and you call it home. You protect it, you make yourself known, you make yourself available, you make a real name for yourself, and you’ll get something that is worth more then this here treasure that I’m relieving you of, you’ll get respect!

Pay your dues. Folks like me and Strumtum are too damned old to be tramping around the countryside, besides, we’ve done our time doing that sort of thing. Our backs are twisted from sleeping on rocks, our bodies covered in scars, we’re tired, young one. But you aren’t, and that is exactly why you need to go out there. Leave the easy city-work to us old men, and you go take care of the crap that we can’t, and when you’re done, and if you survive it, you’ll find an empty soft bed that you can call home every night waiting for you long after I’m gone.

Well, I’ll be leaving you now. Once you get out of those ropes, you boys head on over to the Aging Dragon Inn and tell them that I sent you, they’ll fix you up good so that you can prepare for your journey.


City work is dangerous, yes you have more resources, better equipment, cheaper prices, and better chances to fence the stuff that you’ve earned for usable gold, however like the story above illustrates, the demographics aren’t in your favor. If you think about it, a large city has a huge population of real classed adventurers. The best fighters, the strongest wizards, the sneakiest thieves, hell there are probably Paladins in the city. This translates to loss of work, and it ruins a low level parties chance of success.

Leaving the city, and taking your adventures out into the country puts the demographics more in your favor, while a city houses hundreds, if not thousands of 1st level fighters, a tiny village being harassed by bandits probably has just 1 or 2 1st level fighters, if any at all!

ENTERPRISING

A player can really give a DM a headache, and upset the balance of the game simply by collecting all of the enemies weapons after a melee and selling them. We can quickly snuff this kind of deal by not having a market for them to sell their wares. A small town’s shop will be centered around the industry that it has access too, of course some arms will always be present, for personal defense, but not enough of a market for the merchant to justify buying a large lot of swords.

Also, if one thinks about it, bladed weapons require care and maintenance to keep them in functioning order, a classed humanoid may properly care for his weapon, but as a general rule, it is up to you to determine how industrious the humanoid in question is. A goblin horde with their own weapon-smith would be very dangerous! Typically a goblin will own a weapon which he found or stole from some place, and he won’t have the common sense, or know-how to properly maintain it. Instead, he’ll just replace the old dull blade with a better one from defeated enemies. More often then not, humanoids will use weapons that don’t require that much care, your bludgeoning-type weapons would be more desirable to them then a sharp blade, unless they know how to sharpen it, it would only serve well for a week or two, maybe less under lots of use.

Because of this, whenever we roll a 1 or a 20 with a humanoid weapon (or any found weapon really), we’ll roll a saving throw for the item against crushing blow. A broken weapon will have to be replaced. I know that lots of fighters, who when they change weapons, just drop what they were using and draw the new one to save on attack time, well a humanoid would be all over that! A good sharp sword would be a rarity, and something to risk your life for.

Armor is much the same way, the many humanoids don’t wear armor, especially not sophisticated stuff because it needs to be oiled and hammered out too, and they just don’t have access to that kind of skill. A critical hit (or a 20 since I don’t really use crits) would also have to make a saving throw else lose a point or be ruined completely depending on the situation and how the DM wants to call it.

Any found weapon or armor would be subject to this rule, with the exception of an enchanted weapon. Enchanted items are more durable and can be left unattended for long periods of time, they are magic! They cut through sharpening stones, resist bending, and repair themselves on their own. At lower levels of play, however, one is typically dealing with +1 weapons, these aren’t necessarily enchanted, they are just of a better quality then the normal blade. Their cost should be double, but if a 1 or a 20 is rolled, you can enforce the item saving throw, if it is failed, the blade doesn’t break, but the +1 is gone. Of course you should modify this saving throw in the players favor, because this is a quality sword and should be able to put up with some punishment. I have heard of folks giving items hit points which I suppose works, but is just way to much paperwork for my liking.

In other words, what I just did was lowered the value of humanoid weapons. They are tarnished and dull and junk, who is going to buy them? I suppose that a really industrious player could restore the blades, but would that really be worth their while?

Food for thought!

Exploring Specialized Fighting Styles

All right, lets play catch-up! I owe you ladies and gentlegamers a post in regards to Specialized Combat Styles! Now this assumes that you know how Weapon Proficiencies work, but it works just slightly different. Dedicating 1 Weapon Proficiency slot to a fighting style means that you are now specialized in its use. Most of the time only straight up Fighters can specialize in anything (Rangers & Paladins may not specialize as they are a sub-class) however fighting styles are a bit different, so it pays to go back and look at the previous post here.

One-Handed Fighting Style

Folks who are specialized in this method of combat, are tricky fighters! They are much better at blocking and parrying then unspecialized characters, and this grants them a bonus of 1 to their Armor Class.

A Fighter may spend a 2nd slot on this fighting style and gain a bonus of 2 to AC but that is the limit.

In order to qualify for this bonus, you can’t be using a shield, but this does allow you to have a free hand to grab objects, or punch people square in the face if you’ve got them pinned down with your weapon.

2-Hander Fighting Style

Folks who are specialists of this style are much faster in combat then others are, the benefit is that the player shaves 3 points off of his weapon speed. This bonus only applies to fighting with weapons which either require two hands to operate, or can be used two handed (i.e. bastard sword). Of course to gain any benefits from this, one has to be applying weapon speeds to their initiative.

Additionally, most folks don’t realize that lots of weapons can be used two-handed, if a player states that he is doing this, and he is specialized in this fighting style, he gains a +1 to damage.

Weapon & Shield Fighting Style

This is the one that got me confused, because I already wrote about this, but I’ll list it again. Specialists of this fighting style can chose to make an additional attack with a shield punch. When doing this, you don’t gain the AC bonus for the shield for that round, additionally you suffer a –2 to attack with your weapon, and a –4 to attack with your shield. If you put an additional slot dedicated to this fighting style, your weapon attacks normally, and you only suffer a –2 to attack with your shield.

For more information on shields click here.

Two Weapon Fighting Style

As a general rule, we only want Rangers to attack with two weapons without penalties because this is a class bonus specific to that sub-class, thus we want to keep it that way. However! How we fix this is that we demand that the weapon in the characters off hand must be a size smaller then the one in the characters favored hand. Now the Complete Fighters Handbook disrespects this rule, so here I will be drift away from its suggestions, but I realize that not everybody has my mentality thus as an option, a specialized fighter can wield weapons of equal size, and only suffer a –2 to the off hand attack.

I don’t follow those rules because I feel that this steps on the toes of all Rangers, I do however grant the normal attack, and –2 penalty (unspecialized fighters make attacks with –2 penalty to their favored hand, and –4 to attack with their off hand)

What this also allows, is for a fighter to make two separate tactical attacks, if he chooses too, he can parry with his off hand (+1 to AC) or pin with his good hand and attack with his off hand. Whatever he wants to do, if the 2 attacks are different from each other, he’ll give up a –1 to all attacks just because he is watching for 2 different things.

It should also be stated right here that a Ranger who chooses to specialize in this fighting style does not gain bonuses to attacks, he can’t improve his natural ability of two-handed awesomeness, thus he is already specialized in this attack form and can choose one of the other fighting styles to specialize in if he wishes to.

Overview

All of this stuff is advanced, but it does fit well in the core rules. Advanced players use this kind of stuff because after a while, standard combat can get boring as heck! If you want to make the game more challenging or different, then I suggest paying more attention to fighting styles, a good DM will also apply this to their NPCs, monsters who only attack with their fists could qualify for different attacks. Take the Flesh Golem for instance. Anybody that ever read Frankenstein knows that the monster was much more entertaining then simply rolling dice to determine hits and damage, spice it up some by letting them interact with their environment!

Fighting styles aren’t just limited to what I’ve put forth from the Complete Fighters Handbook, we can also come up with our own, all we need is an idea and to come up with an effect. PC characters won’t have access to all of them, don’t be afraid to try new things, if they don’t work then just don’t do it again or try and tweak it until you find the right recipe. As long as we are having fun, then we are doing it right.

Plants, Dangerous: Fear Weed

I have this odd love for D&D plants, which probably borders on unhealthy, but so be it. It is just too bad that there aren’t enough of them! Plants are great because you can put then damn near anywhere, and they aren’t your average “monster”. You can put them to be a pain in the butt, effecting both parties or just the good guys. Skeletons are normally associated with low-level play, however if you give them the right conditions to fight in, they can really ruin your players day regardless of level.

Today’s Sunday Supplement is a plant that I enjoy, I’m not sure if it is original or not, it is a pretty simple concept but I don’t seem to have it listed in any of my books, regardless I hope that you enjoy it!

Plant, Fear Weed
Climate/Terrain: Any Tropical/Temperate woodland
Frequency: Rare
Organization: Clusters/Patches
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Sunlight, soil
Intelligence: Non- (0)
Treasure: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 2-20
Armor Class: 8
Movement: 0
Hit Dice 1
THAC0: 20
No. of Attacks: None
Damage/Attack: see below
Special Attack: Radiates fear
Special Defense poisonous
Magic Resistance: 40%
Size: L (8’+ long)
Morale: Nil
XP Value: 650

Fear Weed

The fear weed is a long leafy vine, they grow in clusters and quickly take over entire areas. The vine itself radiates an aura of fear, as the 4th level wizard spell, which extends 3 feet beyond its size. The plant has bright red berries which are highly toxic if consumed, however getting them is equally dangerous, as any harm done to the fear weed will result in its defenses kicking in, a cut results in splatter of a liquid which is a contact poison (Poison Class M), burning it releases the poison in a vicious toxic cloud (Class J Poison).

Halflings have discovered that the only safe way of destroying this plant is by pouring a bottle of wine on the root, something about the fermented grapes kills it in 1 to 4 days.

Societies and Factions in the D&D World

I don’t know what it is about Societies that is so attractive to me. Perhaps it is their secret nature, or just the fact that it gives elite Player Characters something to strive for. Not every character should be allowed to join a society, or a group because if we allow that to happen, then they become meaningless.

Some sub-classes really lend themselves to the idea . . . nay, require a little bit extra work on the Dungeon Master’s part to create them. Paladins, Rangers, Specialty Priests, all three of these require some sort of organization in order to be effective, especially Paladins! They are required to pay tithes to someone, as well as take orders from superiors. Rangers, while normally chaotic by nature, and loners, still require some kind of system incase an area becomes too much for one ranger to handle. While it isn’t as tight of a network as the Lawful Paladin, it is still a network all the same.

Specialty Priests, the most widely documented being the Druid, demand a military like infrastructure. But what other classes can benefit from a guild? We know that Thieves use them, Clerics also must follow orders of their superiors, even if this superior is a god whom only he can hear. Fighters, typically always honed their trade in the military or a militia which by nature is also strict. Wizards too, while very loose and secretive about what they do, also, no doubt, have some way of policing their own, as well as forming intelligent societies to further their own alignment beliefs.

You can see where I am going with this now, can’t you. I think alignment is key here, again, we’ll use it as a tool. This is too much work to do at one time, so we’ll just do it on a need-to-know basis when the existence of these societies and groups come into question.

All professional trades rely on guilds, being a carpenter required a youth to spend much time under a master who taught them the trade in exchange for the youth to do pain in the butt tasks which the carpenter shouldn’t be wasting his time doing. It is kind of funny to look at old books on carpentry, today this profession is wide open, but back in the day the trade was very secretive! Looking over antique books dedicated to carpentry is enough to baffle and stupefy any reader as they were written to be as complex and drawn out as possible. Applying complex mathematical formulas to the simplest projects, this was not a profession to be taken on by the laymen! This is serious stuff, which requires years and years of tutelage in the proper institutions!

This wasn’t done out of meanness, but in protecting ones value and industry. Now we are learning a huge lesson which goes with demystifying trades, as our jobs are slowly being replaced by robots or cheaper workers, but I digress, I’m getting too carried away and straying away from my original point.

GUILDS!!!!

Lets invent some! But before we do, we have to have some sort of direction. Our guilds have to have some sort of reason for being, and some structure. They have to have benefits for the members, and a goal or purpose.

REASON FOR BEING

Our game worlds are regulated by an important tool, this tool is called Alignment. NOW QUIT ROLLING YOUR EYES! It’s rude! Alignments aren’t just for rules lawyers, or things to ruin our players lives with, but honest to god tools to make the process of creation easier.

Take a book as an example, and I mean a really good one. One that you love. It has a plot, but if you are like me then you probably love the really complex ones which can’t be described in just a sentence or two. This book has a plot, but it is buried deep inside and hidden within the mechanics of the book. We don’t notice it, of course we know that it is there, but when we are reading the book, it isn’t important to us. The plot is a skeleton, and if we use alignment as a tool, like we are suppose to, then we’ll cover up the alignment just as tightly and neatly as a well written book covers its plot.

You’ve got 9 different Alignments, these alignments show us the relationships among them. Opposing alignments hate each other, Tight groups get along, and mixed groups can tolerate the other and perhaps work together if the need arises (or go through periods of hostility too). Chaotic Evil and Lawful Good will always fight amongst each other, that is the way it works, if this doesn’t happen then our worlds aren’t in balance, and while the real world doesn’t need to make sense, fiction does. This is a mechanic, and mechanics are there for a reason.

Since our mechanics aren’t meant to be obvious, we’ll cover them up with purpose. A good guild should have many goals, however they should also have a purpose that is as fixed as the rising and the setting of the sun. . . or at least appear to be.

A Chaotic Good Wizard’s Guild opposes all Evil, they aren’t as organized and probably meet only once per year . . . if that. To make it really mysterious, we’ll have the meeting be held only 1 time per decade during the Eclipse, this is a meeting which requires all of their energies to keep the forces of evil at bay. Perhaps they meet at a Stonehenge, which is in fact a gate to hell, and if they don’t show up on this date, and if they don’t direct their energies towards this goal, then the gate will be flung open and unleash hell on earth. Well, at least that is what they believe that they are doing, the fact is that nobody really remembers a time when they didn’t do this and a few of the members think that this may just be a waste of time. Evil and Good are just illusions, we of course know that this is a tool of the beasts wishing to be released.

There is also a lawful evil Cleric society, it’s goal is to release these monsters from the Stonehenge. They believe that they can direct the creatures, most of the time they can worship there, except when the CG Wizards guild shows up, they just aren’t strong enough to oppose them face to face. They get along with a Chaotic Evil wizard society, as well as the local Chaotic Neutral Guild of thieves. The master thieves think that both parties are crazy, but might is right, and even though they turn on the LE Clerisy by extorting as much money as they can from the union, the Clerics in charge continue to enjoy the spies, and thorns which the CN thieves constantly place in the CG Wizards guild.

Well, I could go on, but you get the picture of how the alignment tool works. It practically writes itself! Not all guilds will have such an important task, many will simply be there to police their own and to provide a reputable house of knowledge to folks who may require or depend upon it.

Now, honestly, we don’t need to create an enter Lawful Evil Cleric society to appose the CG Mages, all it would take is one evil Cleric who is the main tool of the devil buried under the rocks of Stonehenge. A Lawful Evil Cleric society would have a bigger goal then simply opening a pit to hell, that is just too easy. One man can do that! The main goal of a Lawful Evil Cleric Society would be to infiltrate a Good religion and corrupt it.

On the outside, they would appear to be Lawful and Just, but they manufacture fear. They keep their flock suspicious of each other, they engineer witch hunts, taking out high profile individuals under the guise that they have been corrupted. They would use good clerics to be their foot soldiers, they would get off on the idea! The ruse is undetectable unless the most inner circle is exposed, which is protected by secrecy and fear. Everyone thinks that the inner-circle is a myth, the fact that the church is controlled by evil is insane! They feed the poor and protect the populous from the ever present evil. It wouldn’t take much of the stretch of the imagination to see how powerful this cult could be. Corrupting the church of an entire nation, turning it against their King unless he cooperated with the Inner Circles goals, becoming just a pawn in their quest for greater wealth and power. Anyone who apposes them, their property is seized, their family bloodline discredited, their execution and torture imminent. Since they are lawful, they probably have an entire order of Paladins unknowingly perpetuating their evil plans.

Groups should have goals which are appropriate to their size and power. If one individual can do it on his own, then why have an entire society working to do it? Lawful orders will have more members then Chaotic ones, and will have bigger goals as well as the ability to realize much grander schemes. However, if a Chaotic Order is spread out far enough, this is when they can become dangerous! Chaotic Orders survive on the powers of truly awesome individuals. Great minds are normally associated with your Lawful alignments, however this isn’t always so, Chaotic philosophies embrace the power of independent thought and reward ambition.

Chaotic Evil Bandits are very popular enemies in D&D, most of these guys aren’t even thieves, just big buff bullies who simply take what they want and murder anyone who tries to stop them. Management is usually horrid, if not completely inconsistent. This is their weakness. Even when they do find some kind of direction, say from our LE Inner Circle, these people are simply used as fodder, they serve a purpose only as long as they are useful. The LE Clerics would use them to fake evil miracles and frame the innocent, however if they begin to feel that the CE Bandits are a liability because they know too much, then they will just as easily turn on them, murdering them all quietly in their sleep.

Chaotic Evil Orders require much more thought and planning then Lawful Evil ones do. Thankfully there is a recipe, CE respect only one thing, and that is violence and fear. In CE Orders, you will find highly specialized leaders, or generals. Each of them bring something unique to the table. They will have their own underlings, but they will keep them weaker then themselves. If they believe that anyone within their ranks has more potential then they do, they will seek to destroy that person before he turns on them and takes their position. Members of an order will be highly skilled at this.

Each general will probably be of a different class, so an order will have a further reach then the single classed lawful societies do. The generals will be given orders from a really mean and bad, bad dude! Someone who even a 20th level mage would be terrified of! He will be even better at making himself irreplaceable then they are, a seemingly impossible goal. A demigod in his own right, a mystery man whose name has to be a myth, but it is still whispered just in case.

CE Societies always begin as an infection. Perhaps a LE society invites them into their inner circle, a major mistake, because as soon as the time is right, the CE society will murder and kill the LE masterminds and take over the entire order, and once they have a foot solidly in the door, it will take a full scale war to remove them and most nations don’t have that kind of resources or the skill required to get the job done quickly. Just because a group is Chaotic, it doesn’t mean that they are stupid. Once they become organized in their own way, they are worse then LE. Nobody is happy under them.

An example is a state policed by Murder. The King is never seen, and folks like it that way, he’s been in power for centuries perhaps it is a family name, but there are rumors. Life in the area is harsh, and secretive. Superstitions are high, garlic hangs in every window, small shrines decorate the streets. Pay your taxes, or disappear! This is a military state, however it is worse then that. A secret militia composed of monsters! Few people are aware of this, and those that figure it out are never heard from again. The highest ranks are filled by were-creatures, through mysticism, suspicion, and spies, they secretly deal with individuals in the night. Humanoids are allowed in the city and treated as equals, the human population is kept in check as serfs, each having a job to do, extra money being paid to those who have information about their neighbors. Most religion is outlawed, only evil deities can be openly worshiped, and worship is required by law.

Apposing them is an even more secretive society, a Neutral Good order whose ranks even include humanoids who believe in the old ways, that their kind should return to the wilderness. Their goal is to find out the identities of the individuals who form the secret police force, and assassinate them. They are aware that the King is a monster, but as of yet, no way has been discovered to eliminate him directly. There numbers are much smaller then the Kings, and casualties on both sides are a daily occurrence. The Neutral Good order has had to become more flexible then normal, because of the stakes. They use underhanded tactics believing correctly that the only way to fight fire is with fire.

Man, I just realized that that sounds exactly like the Karagat in Ravenloft, which is cool as it is a magnificent idea! In the art of DMing, one has to know how to take old ideas and make them your own.

Neutral Evil groups are typically associated with thieves, but frankly, that is just too easy. Bram Stoker had struck gold with his classic “Dracula”, in it, the Chaotic Evil Count operated unopposed in his homeland, only being thwarted when he tried to expand his power to the West. His minions were many, but most memorable were the gypsies. Gypsies are a mixture of bard and thieves, but also contain fighters, clerics, and mages in their ranks. Gypsies are more of an alternative human race with mystical and mysterious qualities. Dracula had formed an alliance with them, in return for protecting his interests during the day, and doing his evil bidding, they were allowed to live the life they wanted to live unopposed. This relationship is common with NE groups. They will align themselves with a powerful individual and thrive! Dracula would never turn on them as a whole, he wouldn’t feed off of their people, they were protected and they knew it. A gypsy caravan travels from town to town, they don’t care if the people know they are evil or not, it doesn’t matter, if they do know it is all the easier to operate. They don’t settle down because they have an undying love for travel, they provide entertainment, rumors, potions, and trade, but at a cost, they steal, and swindle the population. They spread fear and do the bidding of their evil master. Harm one of them, and the entire tribe will take their pound of flesh not just from you, but from your loved ones as well, even your children’s children are fair game to them! Never cross a gypsy, this lesson has been learned long ago, they are quick to anger and a powerful enemy that will never forget the slightest misdeed.

The Break Downs

There you have some examples of different factions. Rarely should a PC be able to join one of these things, and then, only after 9th level, and it should always be treated as a big deal.

Some factions are open, while others are highly secretive, have fun with the alignments, treat them as the tools they are and not inflexible borders which always lead people to trouble and abandoning them entirely.

Different Fighting Styles for Different Classes

Weapon Fighting Styles known by class are known at begin of play and cannot be improved upon, nor can a class learn a fighting style that he doesn’t have access to by spending Weapon Prof Slots.

Fighters
Single-Weapon Style
Two-Hander Style
Weapon & Shield Style
Two-Weapon Style

Cleric
Single-Weapon style
Two-Hander style
Weapon & Shield style

Rogue
Single-Weapon style
Two-Hander style
Two-Weapon style

Mage
Single-Weapon style
Two-Hander style

Single-Weapon Style is just that, a character using a weapon such as a sword or a club, without the benefits of a shield.

Two-Hander Style refers to weapons which require two hands to make the weapon functional. A bow, a spear, etc.

Weapon & Shield Style requires a single handed weapon, and a shield. Note that at the start of play, only Fighters and Clerics can use shields.

Two-Weapon Style allows a character to fight with 2 different weapons, but the weapon in the characters off hand must be smaller then the weapon in the good hand.

Of course, we can’t stop a rouge from using a shield, however he will be considered non-proficient and except the attack penalties, as if he wasn’t proficient in his weapon of choice.

A single class warrior can specialize in these fighting styles, and additionally, all other classes, except Mage, can choose to SPECIALIZE in any fighting style that they have natural access too. This is a big change, as normally no other class with the exception of single classed fighters can specialize in anything! Of course that there are limitations to this. A class who is not normally able to specialize (all classes except Fighter), are only allowed to spend one slot on specialization. The second limitation is that a new, first level fighter is only allowed to spend 1 slot on fighting style specialization, but may spend additional slots as he earns them by advancing.

I could have sworn that I already did a post on fighting style specialization, but for some reason, it isn’t in my archive. Let me go through it again to make sure that I’m not crazy, and if I am and I never wrote it, then I’ll follow up on this article with the effects.

(NOTE Added August 13th, 2009) I looked all over the blog, isn't it terrible that not even I know what is here anymore?, and I didn't find what I thought that I wrote. I write lots of posts, but not all of them make it to the publishing-block. In the near future I'll make sure to write this article up. Sorry for the unprofessional nature of this post, I write without access to the Internet on a laptop and my files on it are incomplete . . . not to mention that I have the memory of an 'etch-a-sketch'. Again, my appologies.

Thief Skills for the Masses

There comes times in everybody’s game where things come up which aren’t exactly clear. When exploring a mountain range, we need to know the base chance that a character has of climbing. Same goes for looking for traps in a all too quiet passageway, hiding in wait behind a keg of beer, quietly slinking across a chamber floor and listening to what is being said on the other side of the door.

BUT RIPPER! You say, These are Thieves skills! Why, yes they are, but did you know that anybody can use them? Taking a gander at the base thieves skill list, this will tell you the base chances of using them. While anybody can use these skills, only a rogue or a few sub-classes with rogue-like powers, can improve upon them.

Beyond table 26., which I will talk about in a minute, a few other charts are helpful in figuring out the characters chances of success. They are: Table 27: Thieving Skill Racial Adjustments, Table 28: Thieving Skill Dexterity Adjustments, & Table 29: Thieving Skill Armor Adjustments.

These apply to all characters, not just thieves, as ones race, DEX, and choice of armor all factor into the characters chances of success.

Picking Pockets: 15%

Gaffing a key, smoothly handing over a fake map, while passing the real one off to someone behind you without getting noticed, placing false evidence on somebody’s person, all of this can be handled by anybody, of course thieves are the best at accomplishing it without getting caught, but when you are in a pinch, and there isn’t much hope of accomplishing your goal anyway, a last ditch effort can be attempted.

Open Locks: 10%

Sometimes we are faced with a problem, more often then not a good solid axe can help us with it, but other times, such as being trapped in a cell for a crime that we didn’t commit, our captors have a nasty habit of always relieving us of our trusty axes. If we can find some sort of small object, such as a bone or something, we can use it as an improvised lock pick. This challenging feat does require some sort of tools to accomplish . . . unless the lock is large enough to stick your hand in, which would be a rare lock indeed! The rules for improvised lock-picking tools are found in the thieves handbook, but if you don’t have that tome, just make the player make a DEX check, if it is successful, then he can attempt to roll his 10%, failure of course means that the tool broke.

Again, this is a last ditch effort, but it sure beats hanging around waiting for your executioner to show up.

Find/Remove Traps: 5%

If the searching rule works better for this, then still use it, however they are probably going to set the thing off by searching. This roll is checked exactly like a rogues, it takes more then noticing ropes, chains, or a mysterious statue, this roll dictates that those who are successful understand how the trap works, and can either decide to attempt to avoid it, or . . . um . . . disarm it. Good luck with that! But hey, stranger things have happened, right? This of course assumes that a trap CAN be removed, after all, the dice aren’t magical.

Move Silently: 10%

Clearly, anybody can sneak around. This number dictates their chances of doing it. Some races, such as elves, have a really good base (90%) for moving silently in specific environments, such as woods, this rule supersedes this base chance. Though, if he is trying to sneak down an ally street or in some other environment other then the one specified in his racial benefits, he uses this number instead.

Hide In Shadows: 5%

This is more then just hiding in shadows, this is hiding in general, but Hide In General doesn’t sound as cool as Hide in Shadows, does it. Normally it is up to the DM to decide if you are hiding good or not, but if there are any arguments, then you can fall back on this system. Naturally there has to be something to hide in, be it shadows or behind some cover. Again, the DM can add or subtract bonus and penalties has he sees it, a dark warehouse full of boxes should be pretty easy to hide in.

Detect Noise: 15%

This can be used for both eavesdropping and identifying odd noises which seem to always be present in spooky old dungeons and caves. There isn’t anything supernatural about what a thief is doing when he is trying to detect a noise or while he’s listening, he just better trained at it then normal.

Climb Walls: 60%

While a thief can climb a smooth surface, anybody can climb a rough one, and this is the number which dictates his success. Be it scaling a rotten castle wall, or climbing a cliff with death waiting on the bottom, this is our base chance of being able to do it, and THIS number comes up more then any of the others, so we really don’t want to forget about it. It is also worth noting that the Mountaineering Non-Weapon Proficiency modifies this base chance some, or may replace it all together, but this is a most helpful number regardless.

More 2e Love

At Grognardia’s blog I got a big boost of confidence from a few posts that he made in regards to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. He had asked for folks to chime in about their favorite 2e era modules, and was shocked at the amount of responses he received over it. I can’t say that I blame him, I was shocked too. I really hadn’t put much thought into 2e modules, I see the flaw in them, which of course is that they are almost always railroad jobs. Story driven adventures aren’t all that fun, I agree with Grognardia’s position of the story being incidental.

Over the years, ever since the introduction of 3e, I have heard lots of complaints about 2e, and I think that I’ve addressed this in the past, but I would like to take some time out and really put my feelings on digital paper again.

I don’t think that it is fair to compare apples with oranges, which I consider 3e+ to be a completely different game then Dungeons and Dragons. I know why the changes were made, and I have heard my share of complaints and name calling in regards to 2e enough to know what really bugs people the most about it, and chiefly, all of their complaints really weren’t targeted towards the core system at all, but with their dealings with Dungeon Masters.

I think that games like the 2nd edition live or die by the skill of the Dungeon Master, many of the rules are deliberately left open, to be decided by him on a case by case basis. Almost all of the rules are optional, so one can make it as easy or as hard as they think that they can handle. If you and your players start getting bored with how things are going, then simply add another layer of rules on there, try adding weapon speed, or enforcing the encumbrance rules. These things force the players to think more, and that is the basis of the game!

My problem with the later editions is that by making it easier to DM, by making the rules less up to interpretation, they eliminate the heart and soul of why I, and many others play the game, and that is what allows a truly gifted DM a chance to become special.

I have played under very bad Dungeon Masters, and I’ve played under some really good ones too, I think that the point of being a DM is to become the best that you can. A good DM doesn’t necessarily need to be a rules master, he doesn’t need to know everything about the game, but he does have to have experience playing. I truly believe this! You see Dungeon Masters out there that hate playing, or never got a chance to play. Not to say that they are all crappy DMs but I bet you that if they would had spent more time playing they would be a heck of a lot better at it then they are today!

I have played every class, from Psionics to Fighters. I know what each class is capable of, what they want out of the game, and how to challenge or entertain them. This stuff can’t be found in the DMG! In order to DM 2nd edition, one element is required, and that is experience!

D&D is more then just putting heroes up against monsters, it is about tactics, describing the worlds you are creating, making unique NPCs, managing the heroes gear and controlling what they have, keeping magic magical, providing different experiences every time they sit at the table, being fair, and most importantly, being unique.

2e is about trust, and in order to have the players trust, you must be trustworthy. The players have to have faith in you, if any of them start taking stuff personally then you need to correct the situation as soon as possible. You don’t have to give them what they want all the time, but giving them what they need and keeping them wanting. Making them earn everything that they have instead of just gifting it out. That is a really big one. I know of lots of inexperienced DMs who just start giving everybody magical swag, when quite honestly, the stuff in the DMG should keep you supplied with unique and powerful items for decades and still not be exhausted! If players think that they are entitled to Portable Holes and Flame-tongue swords then you really need to pull back! A fighter should have a plus weapon at some point, and a wizard needs to be kept supplied with new spells, but other then that, that is all you are required to give them, and even all of that stuff should be earned. If you just give things away then the players won’t respect them. Don’t do it.

But on the same token, don’t force them into combat against a monster that requires an enchanted weapon to hit when they don’t have one. That is how you lose respect. You have to know when to give, and you have to know when to take away, and you learn this by playing under a good DM.

I like 1st edition, however I don’t play it. I own the manuals, and I take what I want out of them, things which were left out of the 2nd edition which I enjoyed, none of it ground breaking. Assassins aren’t needed, anybody who kills for money is an assassin, I agree with my Ruleset that this shouldn’t be a player class, but an NPC.

Monks are specialized fighting/clerics who are more physical then mystical. Psionics are kept relevant by a couple of kick butt monsters that pop up from time to time, and I keep that class open, but few people want to play it. They too make better NPCs then they make playable classes.

I enjoy my specialist mages and priests. Folks complain about it but I, for one, will never understand the heat that they get. I just think that that system, while rather complex, is just so damned neat!

I like skill challenges, things that make the game that much more interesting. I enjoy Save or Die rolls, by removing them, you remove a lot of suspense from the game, nothing stops a player cold faster then being told to make a saving throw or die! I’ve been in that position more times then I can remember, and losing a character to it is something that happens. If I got myself into that position, then I don’t blame the DM for it (again it goes back to trust). I also enjoy level draining monsters, nothing hurts worse, or generates the dread and fear of a monster that can drain your experience! It is maddening when it happens, but it does improve the game by having that danger there.

I enjoy the common themes of the game! If you find a toilet, then you simply HAVE to put a carrion Crawler in there, you just have to! I hate fighting lichs, but only in the way that I secretly love it.

Trust, and being trustworthy is the name of the game. And trust is just as important as the funny dice are to the DM. Yes, you can fudge rolls, allow folks to make another check, there should be some give and take there, after all, the game requires that you cooperate with the players too! And as far as I can tell, this has been the #1 problem with 2e haters, they got burned by DMs who weren’t trust worthy, which happens. Nobody can just start DMing and be good at it, it is like playing a wizard, it takes lots of practice and you fail but keep going anyway.

I don’t want to sound like I am knocking anybody, that isn’t what I wanted to do today. Everybody has their own preferences and styles of play, most don’t even know that 2e can cater to all styles.

SUPPLIMENTS SUPPLIMENTS SUPPLIMENTS

The 2e game itself was cheap, at least in theory. There are only 3 core books, the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Master Guide, and the Monstrous Manual. That is it! That is the core rules, and it is all you need to play the game . . . well, once you know what you are doing.

Naturally, this won’t make money, and in order for TSR to stay operating long enough to supply us all with great hardcover core books, they also have to sell other products. The supplements contained things that one could had easily done ones self, but providing a hard copy of it. The most famous of these supplements was the Complete Guide series. There were LOTS of these things, which were actually kind of fun and ground breaking, but of course some were better then others.

Chief among the supplements were the four basic class guides. These were filled with alternative rules, new items, new weapons, new NWP, a new system for handling Weapon Profs, new combat rules, they introduced kits, and roleplaying tips. The four Complete Guides to the classes are some awesome books! I will even put the Complete Guide to Psionics up there on my list of Core Books.

Races guides were also pretty good. Dwarf, Elf, and the Gnomes and Halflings were tossed together. All three had excellent advice and new stuff to add to your core rules if you wished it. None of this stuff was required, but it could be handy if and when there was any confusion in regards to how the core rules are handled, and they offered alternatives if you just couldn’t get the core rules to work for you.

They provided teaching points on how to modify things to your liking. Where they started to stray is keeping the series going, the guide to Paladins, Rangers, Bards, and Humanoids was just a waste of paper to me. While I suppose that specialist players could appreciate them, I think that they should had put all of the Subclass books together and never had printed the Humanoid Handbook, but I know that that is just my personal opinion, so take out of it what you please.

Hardcover Supplements also came out. Many of them weren’t needed, but provided some more material for the DM to work with. The Tome of Magic, Deities and Demigods, Book of Artifacts, & the Monstrous Compendiums (some better then others) all masqueraded as core, and could be treated as such. The Tome presented more schools and spheres of spells, introduced us to Wild Magic, and gave us some more magical items, none of which is very ground breaking. If this book is missing from your collection, don’t bother picking it up. Deities and Demigods . . . well, I think that I still prefer my 1st edition copy of this book and it hadn’t changed much. I’ve never actually used this book for more then looking at pictures. I’ve never really ran a real world campaign where the gods themselves stepped in, I suppose that that is just my own personal style, and I am glad that I have them, but I really don’t use them.

Artifacts and Relics actually has been useful to me, it teaches you how to create your own. I think that I would throw this book on the core pile too. The lay-out was excellent, its easy to find the stuff that you are looking for, and it is full of excellent advice. Best of all, you don’t have to read it all day to get what you need out of it, as far as a reference book, this is exactly what you want out of one!

I’ve talked at length about the MCs, and it was so recently that I don’t really think that I need to repeat myself.

The other supplements which came out were targeted towards DMs themselves. This was called the Complete DM’s Reference series, most of these titles were pretty good. The Catacomb Guide was an excellent recourse for both new DMs, and for folks who wanted to build their own milieu from scratch. I own the Castle Guide, and found much use for it, and I would love to finish off my collection by finding a guide to sailing and ships, but those things are kind of hard to come by. I’m not sure how many books were in this series, I know that a Complete Guide to Necromacers came out, fleshing out the wizards school of the same name with spells designed for NPCs and villainy, though I must say that I’ve gotten along thus far without it. Of course, you also have such insane titles as Monster Mythology, one of the most needless books TSR may have ever written. Why they bothered with this is beyond me, all of this should had been put in the MM but since it wasn’t then I think that it is safe to assume that it really doesn’t matter what gods the monsters worship, besides, this should be up to the DM to ponder, not some book.

Other core books which came out were the Players Option’s series, better known as 2.5e. This stuff was just insane, and unless you write a blog about 2e, you probably don’t need them. I have found some uses for them, but not many, definitely not enough to warrant publishing them in hardbound! But they did publish paperback versions as well. They are interesting reads! Though, they aren’t worth altering the character sheet over, and I think that rolling up a new character takes long enough as it is, without throwing even more options at a PC. This is clearly 2e getting ready to transition forward to 3e. Offering different skills and some newfangled point system which wasn’t attractive to me. I think that after I initially read them, I was all gung ho but nobody else wanted to play any differently then what we did, so I never got to play with them . . . I don’t think that I lost anything except for the initial money spent on them. I wouldn’t play with them today, or any day, but have found some good stuff as a blog writer inside of them. I guess that they are good for talking about D&D but don’t offer much help in terms of actually playing D&D.

Much of the products above all served a purpose, no matter how small or pointless that purpose may be. Why anyone would require an entire book to learn how to play a barbarian is beyond me, but the fact is that people bought them and that kept TSR open for at least another hour.

ADVENTURE AWAITS!

The core rules are awesome, the supplements deeper then the Mississippi River, and wading through the oceans of information was no easy task. THAT is a legitimate complaint with an easy solution. DON’T BOTHER WITH THE SUPPLEMENTS! And if you do, then just get what you think that you need.

Of course, rules are no fun without a module or two to play them. Most of us wrote our own adventures, if we were in a bind then we’d chop out maps, keys, and NPCs from these things as typically the stories of the modules didn’t go where we wanted to go.

The module is also where TSR bit off their own leg. For some reason, in the RPG business, it is expectable to make fun of other products to make a short term sale. The 2e books discredited 1e, pointing out all of that systems failures (which, again, most of these failures were more along the lines of mistakes on the part of poor DMing rather then true flaws in the system itself. But 2e didn’t stop there, they kept pumping out all of these settings, and all of them were excellent! In them, they would take swipes at their own products, and they were put out with the regularity of comic books. Every week you could mosey on down to the gaming store and find a variety of new TSR goodies to buy.

I saw one of the most laughable quotes a few years back in regards to the TSR marketing strategy. I can’t remember who it was, but they stated that it was always intended that you could drop any of the modules that you purchased into any setting. This is such a line of horse manure. None of these modules could be just DROPPED in anywhere. All of the settings had different rule sets, each of them was unique, and with so much variety out there, the very term GENERIC was shunned as if it were a white can of beer, labeled BEER in big black letters. At the time, THIS was truly TSRs greatest sin. The writers verbally bashed products while touting their own, and then they’d turn around and make them irrelevant come next months deadline.

Nobody, and I do mean NOBODY played every TSR product that came out, there was more of a supply then there was a demand. Forgotten Realms guys didn’t have time to switch over to Dark Sun, Ravenloft players weren’t interested in Dragon Lance, and nobody wanted to have anything to do with Greyhawk anymore. The company was putting out more books then the sane person could read (or that the Game Shop could sell) and the house of cards collapsed, the pieces being picked up by a card game company that honestly has no clue as to how to run the RPG business either.

Not to say that all of TSR’s modules were trash! That was the challenge at Grognardia’s this week, to recall modules which were good, in spite of the settings. Of course, the biggest difference between 1e and 2e is the lack of consistency. No module were ever considered to be MUST PLAYED! There were no common stories, no rites of passage. No common enemies. . . . or was there?

The Box Set was a remarkable tool at the time. A good box set should take a 1st level character, and provide enough XP to get him up to at least 15th level. Box sets such as Under Mountain, and Night Below became classics. While Under Mountain was just to damned big, and not really ever finished, Night Below is one of the greatest TSR Mega-Modules of all time. The story is provided, and it doesn’t get in the way because unlike regular modules, the box contained the entire campaign. It had tough encounters, and it required a good DM to make the proper transition and run encounters to fit the group playing it so that they would be ready. This thing was an excellent teacher! A very very long game, but a well written and rewarding one all the same.

In my list I also put “Night of the Walking Dead”, this is my favorite module of all time. A very very short and direct 1st level adventure that was tough and dangerous, but at the same time it avoided all of the regular misconceptions of what an entry level dungeon should be. No goblins or orcs running around waiting to be stabbed. This one put you against a serial killer, and a legion of undead! It presented a mystery, and could be played in just a session or two.

I think that every DM keeps at least one module around him at all times, and this, for me, is that module. This was the one that I cut my teeth on, I ran it several times and it gave me the skills I needed to move on and try new things. Learning to DM isn’t easy, especially learning to DM a system that requires a good one in the first place. I still refer to this module from time to time. I like the way that it was printed, the order of everything, how it is compiled. It isn’t very big, only about 15-30 pages, a couple of little maps, and a few handouts, to me it is the perfect game.

Another one of my favorites is The Bleak House. This is another box set which takes everything that you know about what D&D can do, and turns it on its head! It hurts the characters, but not in a silly way, which Ravenloft modules tended to do. I don’t know how many of them start off with the players dying and being brought back as Flesh Golems or talking and floating brains, it was terrible (and not scary terrible either). This box set had you stuck on an island insane asylum, and before you know it, you become not just stranded, but a patient as well. The game mentally tortures you, and escaping this island is one of the hardest things that a roleplayer can do. If you succeed, you get to enjoy probably the best haunted house modules of all time. But what makes this game unique is that it isn’t combat driven, but purely Role Playing Driven . . . imagine, Role Playing in a RPG. I know, the very thought of it these days is mind-numbing.

I suppose that that is what makes a good module to me. A philosophy of Role-Playing, I mean, if you try and take on Night Below with full-frontal attacks every time, you aren’t going to live very long. You have to form alliances with races (some are very dangerous alliances at that!), you have to master hit and run tactics, you’ve got to watch out who you offend and who wisely chose who you are going to trust. Nothing is straight forward, 8 different parties can play that game and come out with 8 different ways to go about doing it.

Sure, there is always fun to be had in a good old fashion dungeon crawl or hack and slash massacre, but when the chips are down at the end of the night, I will always take true role-playing over any other style of game out there. I get that from 2nd edition AD&D. My friends and I can sit down and have a great time for hours, and I think that that is where the true sweet spot is at, don’t you?

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