Ripper DMing: Temple of Elemental Evil VIII

We didn't get very far, but then again we haven't seen each other for almost a month, so the mouths were flapping! It was also that stupid daylights savings-time, so we had to quit early, however the main part of the game was to test out miniature play, so we did accomplish this goal.

We didn't get very far at all, only 2 rooms, and nobody moved more then a couple of yards. They had decided to set up a base camp within the dungeon itself, but before they could rest and reclaim spells, they first had to take over that section of the dungeon.

They had a skeletal gnoll which one of the clerics had stolen, they had him guard the main door; which kept all of the badies the heck away from that door, but it did stir up some curiosity on the part of the Ogre chief across the hall. He was too much of a coward to investigate it himself, or even send his own people over to see what was going on, so he sent a hobgoblin thief to sneak around back, and pop out of the secret door in the room the PCs were camped out in.

The hobgoblin wasn't a good thief, he got caught and got everybody in the secret chamber killed. Kim's character had heard the door opening, and Shannon ran both of his fighters over to defend the door. That poor thief didn't know what hit him! A huge battle ensued and we spent all of our gametime trying to figure out mini rules and deciding if we liked playing with them or not.

Here is the board that we used. I put a large piece of vinyl over the grid that I had made. Now it isn't perfect, but it worked better then if I had laminated the board. I marked out the rooms with colored dry erase markers, and instead of erasing and redrawing the rooms again, when the Players were ready to move. We just had to slide the vinyl over to the center of the map, or higher if we knew that we wanted to head in a specific direction.

Now, I don't have any monsters, but my wife picked me up a bunch of little cowboys and indians. They represent the monsters, but I'm going to have to glue pennies on the bottoms of all of them because they don't weigh enough, and the vinyl doesn't sit perfectly flat so they tend to fall over.

Prep took a lot longer, and we all were struggling with the rules; I myself have never played with miniatures. I also screwed up with my handout count, I forgot to print off a quick cheat list form myself and only had the bulky mini-handbook which I had posted to this blog to work off of. I assume that the more we use them, then the faster that we'll become at taking our turns.

Everybody was pleased with them! They had an easier time seeing what was around them, and for me, it just seemed more fair because I didn't have to pick who what getting attacked at random, which one has to do when playing with just one's imagination. It also aided in strategy.

While the game was very short, and we didn't get much done, I think that we all had a good time (which is most important to me), and everybody seems to be pleased with the new way of playing.

A Weapon PCs Can Love To Hate


I love weird weapons, the stuff that NPCs use but players would find worthless. I find that it gives the game a good appeal to add stuff off of the cuff. One of my favorite odd weapons is the bola. Now these things have made a comeback in recent years, but more as an outdoor toy called Ladderball. The toy ones are made of plastic, and the players compete against one another to see how many points they can make by wrapping the bolas around rungs of a short ladder. IT’S FUN! And very challenging, and the great thing about it is that it is a level playing field; kids have a good chance at beating an adult, it doesn’t rely on strength or intelligence but finesse and dexterity.

Bolas were ancient weapons, two or more hard balls tied to a rope, but instead of dishing out damage like a regular weapon, these things provide other nasty functions, namely hampering an enemies movement.

To use the bola, one simply twirls it over their head until they are ready to let go. The balls do the rest! These things are dangerous, the balls are much heavier then the toy ones that we use today. Typically the weapon used against man-sized targets are made of leather, the strap is about 56 inches, on the ends are 4 inch pockets for rocks or metal balls.

A simple weapon, but effective when working together as a team with spearmen. On a regular attack, a hit holds the victim fast, and they must spend a round trying to get out by making a successful STR check, else stay immobile.

Of course in the hands of an expert, these things have many other uses. Called shots against a targets legs not only prevents movement, but the target must make a DEX check (if they are moving at the time of the hit, there is a -3 penalty to the check) else fall prone.

Called shots against the arms causes the bolas to entangle either the enemies weapon hand or shield hand (attackers option), this stops either all attacks or removes the AC bonus for the shield until a successful STR check is made with a -2 penalty for the lack of leverage.

A successful Called Shot to the victim’s head can cause a knock-out, the victim must make a Saving Throw vs. Paralysis or be knocked unconscious for 1d4 rounds, plus additional rounds due to DEX bonuses of the attacker.

THE CRUNCH!

Bola cost 5sp to make, weigh 2lbs. Are M size weapons of the B type. They have a speed factor of 8. If you are a stickler, and the proper save is made by the victim, you can still have it inflict damage (though I never do) it can do 1d3 to Small or Medium targets, and 1d2 to large foes.

Bola has a rate of fire of 1/1. Short range is 6, Medium range of 12, and a long range of 18.

Strategy

Weapon grade bolas require room to get the thing going, almost 5 feet of room (an entire square), thus this is primarily an outdoor weapon. Individually, the weapon is practically worthless, but working with a team the bola can give spearmen an opportunity to attack targets without fear of being counterattacked, or at least giving them an edge. A good mixture of 20% proficient bola fighters, 5% bola specialists, and 60% spearmen could easily be a formidable lot!

Because this is such a simple weapon to construct, humanoids would have access to it. The bola can also be thrown while running, a typical bola fighter would have at least 3 bolas on his person, throw them and then leave the field while the spearmen or melee fighters do their jobs. Bolas must be retrieved before they can be used a second time, if this is possible, the bola fighters may stop and pick them up to continue fighting.

Alternatively, the bolas can be used by the fighters themselves as they rush an enemy and close for melee combat. In cases like this, they would typically all have 1 or 2 bolas, throw them, and then draw their primary weapons.

These weapons are non-lethal, a successful hit on a lone target would be in a heap of trouble as a full company of spearmen could have him surrounded in moments. Monsters could use this to slow down the retreats of pesky humans who are faster then they are. These are just some ideas on how to utilize these simple weapons, and while wizards may take a fancy to using them, the other classes would probably consider them worthless, relying on more traditional weapons.

DUNGEON! & Logic: Friends or Foes?


Dungeons are definitely the fun part of the game for everyone. The DM usually enjoys it because it makes prep work a cinch! Players love it because the action is more fluid and they make for lots of opportunities for decisions to be made.

With mapping software available for free all over the web, constructing maps is much easier today then it was back when I first started. We did have some tricks to doing it, besides the good ol’ fashioned graph paper. Namely this was stealing maps from published modules and re-keying the things. You could make them new or old, wealthy or deserted for eons, the possibilities are near infinite!

Today, people kind of tend to go crazy. You can, literally drive yourself cross-eyed considering all of the dungeon logic. Many Dungeon Masters keep a set pull-list of monsters for different areas, while others ponder the very deep workings of the dungeon world itself. Me personally could give a rats tail about it. The most important thing that I consider is always what works fast and easy. I do have my own tricks though.

DUNGEON LIFE

The first question that I ask myself when starting is what lives here? If I have an idea, or I already told the players what they are supposed to be looking for, then I don’t have a problem, but if I’m in a saucy mood and want to keep things random, then I’ll roll a monster at random from my notes. This is easier for me since I play in the World of Greyhawk, and the random encounter lists are complete. If this isn’t the case for you, the Monstrous Compendium Volume 2 has a complete listing of Random Encounters for a veriety of settings.

The monster that I roll is the dominate monster in this dungeon. It has conquered this place and lives in it, at least for the time being. Its laws are the way, naturally with wild animals also living in the place, some areas will be too dangerous for the humanoids to live (if it is a humanoid), these areas will probably be avoided, and may incorporate a trap of some kind as it is considered a natural hazard. A simple lure to trick others who aren’t so savvy as them, to wander into the hazard and get themselves killed.

DUNGEON SIZE

We also have to figure out how big we want the thing to be. Many random dungeon generators, such as the one which I sometimes use from the first edition DMG, will go on for days with no end in sight. We have to figure out how deep we want to go with this, and how big of an area that we want to take up. This is best figured out before we even put the digital pencil to paper. A large dungeon will support more life then a small one, and there may be more dominate creatures down there fighting it out about who is in control. If you want to make a rivalry, then simply roll another random encounter check and find out what the second most dangerous thing down there is.

FOOD & PROPERTY

Now we start moving into some headache area here. This is where some DMs like to give themselves trouble, but they are on the right track! Food is a basic need that our monsters can’t live without! Depending on the monster, and their ability to adapt their environments around them, offers us different questions and problems. The simplest answer is looking at the definition in the Monster Manual, the MM will tell you their basic life strategies. Most monsters steal for a living, they find weaker beings who are good at raising their own food, and they take it.

It is rare to find monsters who keep their own stock of underground meat, they just don’t know how to feed and maintain animals like that. Hell, they don’t wash themselves and rely on inhuman constitution to survive. The dungeon world is one filled with disease and rotten icky things because of our next consideration.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

What does the monster do with its waste? The answer is usually that this is somebody else’s problem. A monster will move in and use up every available resource that it can, and then it will move on to a new hovel. Of course, this sets the scene for a new monster to take over the dungeon, and brand new dangers. A fun dungeon can be one that has been abandoned. Not only will they leave their mess behind, which will cause the place to be a haven for new nastiness that lives off of stuff like that, but they will also leave their sick, injured, and weak behind as well. These things will be extremely dangerous, as they are starving and terrified, perhaps even mad from loneliness and confinement.

WATER

Part of my Quick & Easy mentality dictates that, for the most part, monsters are like pirates. They are typically as drunk and as lazy as possible, of course I mix it up so that nobody can tell what I’m doing. I’ll give some monsters a need or an industry of some kind, this way it is harder to tell what I’m doing behind the screen.

Water is a basic necessity for us, and for lots of creatures, however for the most part, a bunch of stinky monsters would turn their nose up at it. They would rather have booze and only bathe by happenstance. If there is a water supply, some monsters would love to just sit there and throw stuff in it for entertainment, same thing with really deep holes. If a monster is really destructive, such as the Troll, then after the creature leaves the water will be no good, and this could effect the upper world if we want it to.

A monster who depends on water would treat a water-source like gold, and defend it to the death unless another source was known. Water is a good place for natural hazards, the monsters who depend upon it will keep the ones who don’t out of that area, and use them to keep intruders out. Most humanoids will leave aquatic nightmares completely alone! This logic keeps our water supplies untainted unless it serves us to do otherwise.

WHY AIN’T THIS HOLE INFESTED WITH DWARFS?

Another thing to consider, before putting the pen to paper and drawing out your map, is to figure out what this hole is for. Who built it? Is it natural or was it constructed by someone or something?

The word Dungeon, as we use it, is a very confusing thing if you think about it. Rarely do we ever create dungeons that are really dungeons! For the most part, we could care less who made it, but sometimes it can be fun to figure it out. Was it an ancient culture? Even this question can bring some different answers, what with all of the demi-humans running around. Why did they move out, or abandon it? It could be a mystery as we all have similar problems here on this planet. This also can be used to figure out what the holes original purpose was. Was it a mine? A basement to some long forgotten and quite absent castle? Was it a secret church? A tomb? Perhaps remnants of ancient astronauts; with fantasy, anything is possible. A look into our own history gives us many of factual reasons why a large underground superstructure would be made.

While we must know who is the current holders of the dungeon, it can also be beneficial to know who, or what held it before they did; and how long ago had it been sitting. Has it been looted? If it’s got monsters, then the answer is probably yes. The questions are endless, but there is just something about building our own dungeon that lends to these creative decisions.

We can create mystery with open-ended scenarios and rooms which don’t belong, so just because something doesn’t make sense on the outside, we can hint at things which may or may not be. We must try to do our best NOT to over think the fun out of these things. We don’t want to know everything, but we should know just enough to make it look like we do.

Miniature Rules for Small Scale Combat

It took awhile for me to find these rules, and I just want you to know that this is just the cheatsheet that I'm supplying to my players. The "Player's Option: Combat & Tactics" handbook is still required for its charts and junk, as is the PHB and the DMG. These rules are written with 2e in mind; I have no idea if they can be used for other systems. Additionally, these rules are aimed at dungeon/small scale melee, not mass combat nor long range combat.

5 Combat rounds = 1 standard round
50 Rounds = 1 turn

Movement Rates

1 square per MR listed in PHB, typically 12 squares per round at a walking speed.

  • Exceptional characters gain a little more MR
  • STR = add hit prob. To MR
  • DEX = add Reaction Adj. to MR
  • Note that if there are neg. from low ability scores, these are also subtracted to the base movement rate.
  • Subtract encumbrance from MR as well.

Obstacles

If an obstacle just limits movement instead of blocking it completely, it can usually be crossed or climbed at the cost of a half-move for the character.

SET UP

Surprised creatures must place their figures first, though they must still have to observe the distance provided by the DM.

If neither side is surprised, the party begins the scenario in their established marching order, with some exceptions made by the DM to reflect specific actions (like a thief opening a door)

If the DM knows something the players don’t, he is not required to place the mini on the table (a spider above the party and nobody looks up.

5 Basics of Every Combat Round

  • Monster Action Determination
  • PC Action Declaration
  • Initiative
  • Resolution of Actions (Note: PC action can be changed, but will take place at the end of the round)
  • End-of-Round Resolution

Initiative Rolls

Roll 1d10 individuals add their base initiatives to the roll.
Winner of initiative attacks and moves first.
Missile weapons and Spells are determined first.
A faster character or monster can attack before slower creatures, regardless of initiative lost or won.

Some initiative rolls provide unusual results:
A roll of 1 accelerates the action phase of that side by one, so a slow character gets to go in the average phase;
A roll of 10 slows the action phase of that side by one step;
A tie results in a critical event. Reroll the initiative dice until one side or the other wins, and the DM consults the Crit Event Table.

Base Initiative

Monster Size - Base Initiative*
Tiny or Small Very Fast
Man-sized Fast
Large Average
Huge Slow

*Improve BI 1 grade for MR of 18 or better, reduce 1 grade for MR of 6 or less. Moderately encumbered creatures suffer a one-phase initiative penalty, heavily encumbered 2 phases, and sever suffer 3 phase penalties.


Weapon Speed

Weapon speed effects the base initiative, all weapons are assigned one of 4 speeds: Fast, average, slow, or very slow. When attacking with a weapon, you use the slowest score, thus a fast human attacking with a large weapon will attack after the fast human with a smaller and quicker weapon.

Magical bonuses change the Weapons Speed.
+1 offers no benefits to the base initiative. +2 or +3 improves the weapon speed by 1 phase, and a +4 or more improves it by two phases.

Combat Actions

Attack Fire Missiles Run
Charge Move Use a Magical Item
Cover Parry

Combat Actions & Movement

No-Move Actions

May move 1 square in either direction and change face with no penalty

  • Attack
  • Cast a Spell
  • Cover
  • Fire/Throw Missiles (normal ROF)
  • Guard
  • Parry
  • Unarmed Combat
  • Use a Magical Item

Half-Move Actions

Move up to half their normal MR and still perform some other action; there are limits to what can be done or how far a character can move and still accomplish these actions.

  • Attack
  • Charge
  • Fire/Throw Missiles (half the normal ROF)
  • Guard
  • Unarmed Combat
  • Withdraw

Full-Move Actions

Moving at full normal MR or even more before attempting other actions.

  • Charge
  • Move
  • Run
  • Sprint

NOTE ON FACING DURING MOVEMENT: During a players turn, he can face as many times as desired with no cost, however during the enemies stage, can only face once. Example: Kim moves close to two goblins, and hacks at one, then before her turn is over, she faces the other anticipating Shannon to finish the hit goblin off. After her turn, a troll gets way too close for her comfort, she can either face the troll to meet him, or keep facing the goblin, if she faces the troll, she’ll open up a free attack to the goblin, but this encounter could be fatal if she loses imitative to the troll.

Moving Through Other Figures in Combat

A character can move through a square occupied by a friendly figure as long as that figure isn’t threatened or attacking in the current round. Enemies can only occupy the same square if they are grappled or if one is prone. Otherwise, larger creatures can attempt to make an overrun.

Overruns

When a large creature attempts to move into a smaller, standing enemy’s square, it is called an overrun. Mounted figures use their mounts size for the purpose, so a human on a size L horse can overrun a human on foot.

Overruns create an attack of opportunity for the figure being stepped on. After the defender’s attack, the defender must roll a save vs. paralyzation or be knocked down. Even if he does successfully save, he is forced one square away from his current location. This save is modified by a -4 penalty for a creature two sizes larger then the defender, a -8 penalty for a creature 3 sizes larger, etc.

When a defender is knocked down, he may suffer a trampling attack. The trampler gets an attack of opportunity that inflicts 1d4 points of dmg per difference in size. Even though the defender is prone, no modifiers apply, DM can adjust dmg as he sees fit.

A prone creature with an enemy in its square may get up by using a full-move action. Since two standing enemy figures cannot occupy the same space, size always wins; the larger of the two creatures displaces the smaller one. In addition, the standing figure always gets to choose which square the displaced figure enters. If the creatures are of the same size, an opposed Strength roll is made to determine who stays and who is displaced.

The standing figure may wish to keep the other figure from rising, or the prone figure might want to fight it out rather then try to rise. If one figure wishes to keep another figure prone, an overbearing attack is necessary, but treat the situation as if the attack roll to hit AC 10 is automatically successful.


Choosing an Action

One doesn’t need to specify movement when declaring intentions. Simply stating that they intend to attack are enough until it is the characters turn to act.

If a characters action is blocked by the enemy, the attack or action is lost. However, a character is allowed to change his action as long as it hasn’t been blocked. The options for changing the action are restricted to hold, or abort the action. Holding an action involves delaying the intended action for one or more action phases. While abort allows the character to change its mind, however the new action will take place during the slow phase of the round.

ACTIONS

ATTACKS

Characters with multiple attacks make their first attack according to their weapon speed, and get their additional attacks during the slower phases of combat, one each until they have all been completed.

Characters can make a half-move and attack, or can stand their ground and attack as a no-move action.

Normally a character can combine a move and an attack only by moving fast and resolving attacks later, but a character can also attack first and make a half-move at the end of the round. Note that a creature can adjust their position each time they attack, so a hero with multiple attacks could attack several creatures standing apart from each other.

AoO don’t count as a character’s attack for the round.

One can choose a number of attack options, such as grab, block, trap, or disarm.

ATTACKING REAR & FLANKS

Flank attacks are figured with a +1 bonus to attack.
Rear attacks are figured with a +2 to attack.
A thief backstabs with a +4 bonus to his attack roll.

Shields defend only the front, and the shield flank.
Defenders DEX bonus does not apply to rear attacks.

MOUNTS

Mounted riders attack with a +1 to attack, while their opponents suffer a -1 attacking against them, but not their mounts.

HIGHER GROUND

If the attacker’s waist is higher than his opponent’s head, he gains a +1 to attack rolls. This doesn’t apply to larger creatures on level ground against shorter enemies, nor does it effect mounted attackers.

CASTING A SPELL

All spells are assigned an action phase just as weapons are. The character is considered to begin casting in the very first phase, and finish in the spells action phase. If the spell caster is injured by an attack during the casting, the spell is lost.

Spells, and spell-like abilities are assigned action phases based on their casting times:

Casting time - Phase
1-3 Fast
4-6 Average
7-9 Slow
1 round or more Very Slow

When a character casts a spell, they lose any DEX benefit to AC. Once the spell has been cast, the caster may again apply their DEX bonus to their AC. If the caster doesn’t cast a very slow spell, they may take a half-move at the end of the round.
Psionic powers take effect during a randomly determined phase, regardless of the psionic creatures regular Base Phase.

Random D10 roll* - Psionic Initiative Base Phase

1-2 Very Fast
3-4 Fast
5-6 Average
7-8 Slow
9-10 Very Slow
*add the power’s Preparation time to this roll.

CHARGE

Charge is a rapid close for combat and make an attack.
Charging is a full-motion action, but 1½ times his base movement when he charges. Example: A dwarf with a MV 6 can charge an enemy up to 9 spaces away.

Characters begin their charge on their base initiative, moving up to ½ their distance of the charge. In the following phase, they move the remainder of the distance. Unlike most attack forms, the charge attack is resolved the moment that the attacker arrives.

Charging grants the charger a +2 bonus on their attacks, and some weapons designed for charging (such as a lance) inflict double damage. BUT, they gain no AC bonuses due to DEX, and receive a penalty of +1 to their AC. If a character is guarding with weapons longer then the charger’s, they automatically strike first. In addition, characters can set spears against charges.

COVER

A character with a cocked and loaded crossbow, or an arrow noched and drawn can announce that he is covering an opponent in the weapons short range. One can only cover 1 square during that round, and only characters proficient in the bow or crossbow can perform this action.

The covering character automatically wins initiative for the square being covered. They can also hold their fire and choose to fire last in the round if they wish.

The shot itself is made with a +2 to attack.

Covering can be done with a melee weapon if the victim is stunned, dazed, pinned, unconscious, or surprised. Initiative is automatically won, the attack is made with +2 to hit.

FIRE/THROWN MISSILES

Can stand still and attack at full ROF, or half-move at ½ the normal ROF. One exception to the half-move attack are weapons with the ROF of 1/round. In this case, the character wielding such a weapon can move half his normal rate and still fire the weapon only on the initial discharge of the weapon, The weapon is assumed to be loaded and cocked, after this shot the character can only fire the weapon as a no-move action.

Firing or throwing missiles when a character is threatened by another creature creates an AoO. The only exception to this is during the same combat round that the threatening creature actually moves up to threaten the character. The character can get this shot in while his enemy closes, but after that he had better switch to a melee weapon.

Characters with multiple missile attacks in the same combat round perform their first attack on the normal action phase, and then follow with one missile per phase until they’ve completed their full rate of fire.
Monsters who have multiple missiles that are fired at once resolve their attacks in the same phase.

RANGE

Missile weapon ranges are listed in yards, there are 3 feet to a yard.
Melee weapon ranges are listed in feet, so no converting needs to take place.

LINES OF FIRE

A battlefield’s line of fire are described as clear, impaired, or severely impaired. Clear lines of fire are easy: The battlefield has no effects on missile fire.

Impaired lines of fire have no effect on missile fire within the range of 4d6 squares, so the first 4 squares of any missile fire are unaffected. After this minimum distance, targets are treated as if they had one step of hard cover more than they actually do; a target in the open actually has 25% cover, 25% covered targets are bumped up to 50%, and so on. This is because low branches or trees are obscuring the line of fire.

GUARD

Guarding is either a half-move action or a no-move action if the character wants to simply stand their ground. A guarding creature attacks the moment an enemy moves into their threatened squares, regardless of the actual initiative and action phase. The only way an enemy can attack a guarding character first is if they have a longer-ranged weapon. The larger ranged weapon always strikes first. Guarding characters are considered to be set for a charge, and spears or spear-like weapons inflict double damage.

If no one attacks a guarding character, they can abort to an attack at the end of the round and take a half-move to reach someone.

MOVE

Moving allows a character to cover a lot of ground without dropping his defenses. Moving normally a full-move action, but if a character only moves half his max move or less, he can consider it a half-move action instead..

Movement normally begins on a character’s base initiative, without modifiers for weapon speed. Each half-move a character makes requires one phase, so a fast character does half his move in the fast phase and finishes his move in the average phase.

PARRY

Parrying is a no-move action that is in effect for the entire combat round. If a character parries, he cannot move, attack, or cast spells.

Parrying reduces a no warrior characters AC by one-half his level. A 6th level Wiz with an AC 5 who parries reduces his AC to 2. Warriors who choose to parry reduces their AC by one-half their level, plus one. A 6th lvl fighter gets an AC bonus of 4 by parrying.

RUN

A character can double his base MV by running. Running is considered a full-move action; no other action can be completed in the same combat round that they run.

Running causes the creature to lose all DEX bonuses to AC and suffers a +1 to AC. He is considered to be charging if he runs into a square threatened by an opponent with a set spear.



SPRINT

A character can triple his base MV by sprinting. It is a full move action that drops the character’s defenses for that round (see running).

UNARMED COMBAT

There are four basic unarmed attacks: punching, wrestling, overbearing, and martial arts.

Anyone can perform an unarmed attack on his base initiative if he doesn’t have to move to reach his target, or he can take a half-move action to close for combat. Attacking armed opponents (including monsters with natural weapons) allows the armed enemy an AoO. The armed defender gains a +4 bonus on his attack roll and his dmg roll against an unarmed attacker.

USE A MAGICAL ITEM

Generally, a character can use a magical item as a fast action or make a half-move and use an item as an average action. Some magical items take more or less time, as noted. Below:

Item Phase
Potion Average
Scroll Very Slow
Rod, Staff, Wand Fast
Miscellaneous Average

For most magical items with functions that do not emulate combat or spell casting actions, the magic of the item is activated, the DM is the final arbiter. If an item combines weapon-like characteristics and miscellaneous magic, such as a rod of lordly might, it should be treated as a weapon when being used to attack and as a magical item when its other functions are being used.

WITHDRAW

Withdrawing is the only safe way to leave a square that is threatened by an opponent. Withdrawing is a half-move that takes place on the characters base initiative. A withdrawing character cannot attack or cast spells, else they open themselves up for an AoO.

ENDING THE COMBAT ROUND

COMBAT STATUS

Clear: Can make 1 free face (turn to meet enemy)
Threatened: if ignored, enemy gains a free attack of opportunity

ATTACKS OF OPPORTUNITY

Happen when one:
Attempts missile combat, unless it is aimed at threatening opponent
Moving away from the threatening creature, unless one is withdrawing
Turning away from the threatening creature.
Attempting an unarmed attack against any armed creature.
Attempting to move through a square threatened by a creature.

Attacks of Opportunity (AoO) are not possible with missile weapons, they are a free attack that does not take the place of a creatures planned attack. A creature can’t make more then 1 AoO per creature, however if the attacker has multiple attacks, he can use them against different targets if they are also open for such free attacks.

Warriors and monsters are allowed to make 3 AoOs + 1 per 5 lvls per combat round.
All others can make 1 attack per round + 1 per 5 lvls of experience.

Surprised creatures cannot make attacks of opportunity.

RETREATS

When one character inflicts melee dmg without being hit in return, they may force a foe to retreat. A defender may ignore the force to retreat if it is 4 lvls or higher then the attacker, or if it is 2 sizes larger. Also, a retreat isn’t possible if the defender has been knocked down.

A defender forced to retreat must move one square back, if this isn’t possible, then the attacker chooses a square in the defenders flank to press him. If the defender is unable to move into a flank, they must roll a save vs. para or be knocked down in the space he is in. In some cases a retreating character has a chance to avoid being forced back, if it will cause instant death or more damage (like falling off of a cliff).

An attacker who successfully forces a retreat can either follow that character, or stand still and hold their ground.

Retreats do not cause AoO.

KNOCKDOWNS

Some creatures can smash their opponents to the ground with raw strength or heavy weaponry. Knockdowns are based on the size of the atttacker’s weapon compared to the size of the defender.

Every weapon (including monster attacks) are assigned a knockdown die that is rolled with a hit is scored. Light weapons have a small die, while heavy weapons use a d10 or d12 for knockdowns. The size of the target determines what roll is required for a knockdown.

Target Size Knockdown Roll
T 3
S 5
M 7
L 9
H 11

Don’t confuse the knockdown die with the actual dmg caused by the hit, they are two different things. Some creatures are immune to knockdowns for logical reasons.

Knockdown Effects: Creatures who suffer a knockdown must roll a save vs. death or be knocked prone. If he has already completed his actions for the round, he must wait until next round to stand up.
Any character with a loaded and cocked x-bow must make a save vs. para or accidentally fire the weapon.

Monsters & knockdown: Monsters who wield weapons can use the knockdown die size that is listed for that weapon and then modify the die for their own size. Increase the die one step for each Size category larger than Man-sized or decrease it for each one under.

For monsters with natural attacks, choose a weapon that seems close to the attack type and then modify it for the monster’s size.


SITTING, KNEELING, & LYING PRONE

Getting up from sitting or kneeling is considered a half-move action, and attacks are still possible; however, getting up from a prone position is a full action.

Sitting or kneeling characters gain a bonus of -1 to AC from ranged attacks.
Attacking a sitting or kneeling character with a melee weapon grants a +2 to hit.

Prone creatures gain a -2 AC bonus against ranged weapons, but attackers with melee weapons get a +4 bonus to hit them.

Kneeling creatures can attack with no penalty.
Sitting creatures can attack with crossbows w/o penalty, but any other weapon will suffer a -2 penalty to attack (Riders are not considered to be sitting).

Prone characters can only use crossbows, or size S weapons while on the ground. A prone attacker fires a crossbow at one-half the normal RoF, and suffers a -4 to hit.

Why I Hate Lamination and learned to love the bomb

I have been one busy beaver since we last talked! I got one full mat made, and am working on the second. I was going to laminate the things, but I have a low tolerance for frustrating tasks, they are very dangerous to my health, and to those around me, so I did what any flustered geek would do in my situation, cuss at it and try to force it into submission all the while ignoring the physics of the act as well as how pointless my work was becoming. That sticky crap goes everywhere but where you want it to go! I'm just glad that it didn't rip up the poster paper that I had already marked into grids. Eventually I gave up and my loving wife must have anticipated my refusal for assistance of any kind, and had purchased a sheet of clear vinyl to just lay over the table. THIS WORKS!!!! It sure as heck beats looking like one of those stupid idiots on those dumb commercials. That stuff is terrible!

Anyway, I also got finished writing up cheatsheets for miniature rules. I looked over that Battletech Rules, or whatever, that TSR was always pushing, but all of that seemed to be just aimed at mass combat, and I don't need that. I finally found what I wanted from a book that I already owned, the Players Options: Combat & Tactics manual. IT WAS PERFECT! And it even goes with 2E rules.

We play again in a couple of weeks, can't wait to run a quick scenario to see how it goes.

I didn't forget about you guys either, here are just some random links that I discovered and thought that they might prove useful. Enjoy!

Imperial History of the Middle East in 90 seconds. Created by Maps of War, now who could refuse a name like that??
The top 10 most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts. An inspiring article on AncientX.Com.

Running a Greek Theme, or just interested? Check out Theoi Greek Mythology, a very cool webpage that can suck your day dry!

And finally, is this the real lost plateau of the Isle of Dread?

Ripper DMing: Temple of Elemental Evil VII

This post is two weeks late, and is marked by the last day that my old laptop was functional. I somehow got it booted up one last time, got all of my files pulled off of it and ran it's last game. Fear not! I now have my shiny new laptop, and got everything transferred over to it. I had to learn Windows 7, and tweak everything into submission, but I think that I've got everything set up now; YAY!

Tonight's game has been canceled, as Shannon is setting up house in a new home; right down the street! Which is awesome! Not the no gaming part, just that he lives closer now. Back to the game!

The players must had felt bad for drinking and fighting, they decided to explore different areas of Level 1, and almost got themselves killed by 2 harpies. Again, I forgot about elven super ability number 255, you can't charm an elf. After I had everybody charmed and was getting ready to eat them, Shannon had the brainfart that changed the situation and they were able to get the upper hand. I've even played an elf in the last campaign, and I should know this stuff, but I am a scatterbrain. I told them though, that it is their job to remind me about their special elven abilities during the game. I'm used to DMing for humans only, and that is how I think.

The fights were enormous, and they had a hell of a time keeping themselves alive. My wife felt that this was the hardest part, and they did kill almost a hundred HD of monsters.

I had reorganized the dungeon to catch them off guard. For the last three games they had taken the same route, so I set up an ambush, however when they took the different route, they didn't run into it. COOL!!!! It helped them on two separate fronts, the badguys who were part of the ambush couldn't be at their normal stations, thus they had an easier time fighting large groups, and two . . . well I lied. It was only one front but two fronts just sounds so cool, don't you think?

I also scaled off on the Random Encounters, I rolled one every once in awhile, but not on a regular schedule like I had been. This southern portion of the level seemed more dangerous then the Northern.

We also ran into a big problem, and one that I just wasn't willing to deal with, and hoped for the best which they got. The large collection of pirates laying low scared the crap out of me! We play inside of our heads, but this fight would definitely require miniatures to determine. Way to many men! And I'm just not prepared to do something like that yet, however I'm getting there. We went out and got some giant sheets of paper which I am in the process of marking. We'll put plastic around it and I can use dry-erase marker to mark the things. My wife said that she'll let everybody pick a mini from the collection upstairs, and for bad guys she purchased a huge tub of little plastic cowboys and indians to use as markers. Once I get everything put together and use it I'll definitely be posting about it! I have never used miniatures during a campaign before, and am in the process of ironing out the Mini rules. LOTS OF WORK TO BE DONE!!!

A bizarre event also happened. In the hall of bones, that trap set off and the evil aligned cleric actually rolled a twenty and seized control of one of the monster skeletons! HOLY CRAP!!! They made me play by myself to determine the outcome of that fight, and the monster skeleton won. Now they have a pet skeleton and I have to figure out how long the monster will stay with the party, and refresh my knowledge of stealing undead monsters. Actually, I've never had an evil aligned cleric in the party before, only good or neutral ones who had the ability to turn undead, but not steal it. I found out about that rule by years of playing Ravenloft. It may be just a Ravenloft rule, however I'll keep it in the game. It really isn't that big of a problem, it is just another henchmen right now, and they know that it is a time-bomb waiting to blow. As soon as they run into a high level cleric, he's going to turn it against them faster then a cat with a can tied to its tail.

Overall it was an exciting game! And everybody sighed in relief when it was finally time to put the books away and were really shocked when the XP earned was all in the 4 digit ranges. I think that everybody gained a level.

On a side note, not only was this my old PCs last game, but it was also Rydan's as well, so no more Wizzard :( Rydan loved playing Wizards, and even though he was brand new to the game, he taught me a ton. His favorite spell was "Grease" a spell that in all my years of playing was generally ignored, but he really got thing working for him! He was the deciding factor in many fights though brilliant use of a bizarre spell. I'll miss you buddy, and just want you to know that you will always be welcome at the table.

Seven Authors of lnfluence


I think that we all have different influences to our gaming style, and they come from many different kinds of media. Today I would like to talk about Authors who influenced me, of course, with a book worm like myself, there are too many to mention, so I’ll just talk about my top 7, now keep in mind that these aren’t in any particular order. All of these people are masters at what they do, and I simply can’t pick a favorite or more important influence among them.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous is not a new writer, he wrote the psychological thriller early in the last century called A Brave New World. In this bleak tale of a horrifying future, he takes the wonders of a utopian society to the logical outcome. It is one of the most well-thought out bios of human thought which features mass brainwashing, which is what drew me to it to begin with. Aldous created his own world, complete with culture and a brand new set of bias and bigotry as the taboos in the world darkly mock our own. As it was written in the 20’s, I believe, it is scary how accurate it is and how it figured us to be.

Through Aldous I was introduced to alternative ways of thinking in regards to law, society, and how people captured in bizarre circumstances keep insisting that everything is fine and normal. It taught me how to manage NPCs and keep them interesting by changing how they see the world and how they judge their place in it.

Bram Stoker

While Bram wrote more that just Dracula (Stoker was a dirty-bird), it is this title that is most famous.

Where to begin? Stoker was a genius when it comes to settings, and adding little details which truly bring the book to glorious life; but what inspired me the most, and why you need to actually pick up the book, vs. just watching some movie, is that in the book, you never see Dracula. We have no idea what he is up to, except through the eyes of the characters who must deal with him.

This is important because, unlike movies or most books and even videogames these days, one always sees the Point of view of the bad guy when he is planning something big, but Dracula keeps you in the dark and this shows us how we can do the same thing in our games. Dracula was a master manipulator, pulling strings in the background. His presence is always there, however he very rarely makes a true appearance in the book, and we just witness his handiwork. I strive to do this same thing with my games. Keeping the villain in the shadows, vs. an in your face kind of baddy seems to be preferred and really fit with the style which is required of tabletop gaming.

We can, instead of dealing directly with the cause, simply have to make due to confronting the effects of the bad guys choices, and trying to minimize the damage as much as possible.

H. P. Lovecraft

Like many of us, I think that Lovecraft has made the largest impression upon me. A master story-teller who has influenced almost everyone who has ever picked up a horror story.

Lovecraft has influenced my gaming style in more then just one way, but his greatest influence has always been mystery. How to take a simple object and really flesh it out. He also gives out secrets and tricks to pacing if you can read between the lines. Nobody could keep you on the edge of your seat, nor in the dark for so long, as the master Lovecraft could do.

I can’t single out any of his short stories, all are of equal greatness. He developed his own religion which threatens the lives and sensibilities of those who live in his world. He blended sci-fi with horror in such a way that we forget that his tales are science fiction. He also tricks us into his realm, he had a way of suspending our disbelief by a masterful blend of truth and fiction which is also something that we can learn from him.

His effect on terror was even larger, as the creatures which he brings to life were wonderfully kept in the shadows, we never quite know what they are, and only get brief glimpses of these horrors, many of which have made it into the Monstrous Manual, and one simply needs to enjoy his tales to figure out how to best present them. Presentation is also a major influence point, how to integrate a setting and characters into the players minds with the greatest efficiency and power as possible.

Steven King

A modern writer and no doubt the most popular on this list. While most folks would look at this list and only know a few names, this is the one that everyone will know. Steven King is the modern master of our time, and his tales will stand the test of time for generations of readers to come.

King is another writer where all you have to do is pick a title, any title will do. Everyone has their own favorites (as well as ones that they hated) but the deal with King is that he has taught me to think way outside of the box. He can take an everyday item, and twist it in a way that it becomes dark and foreboding.

Themes are big with him, but he creates his own themes which is really cool. He blends tried and true staples of the genre and mixes them with new ingredients that nobody has ever seen before. We should strive to do this with our own games. Not being afraid to try new things, if they are well-done then you have succeeded.

Anne Rice

Anne Rice is well-known for her Vampire Chronicles, but my personal favorite series by her are the Witches stories involving the spirit Lasher. While she struggles with characters, namely that it seems that all of her male characters have to be gay, her true strength is settings. Her settings are most definitely inspiring, she shows the reader how to increase tension through adding layers of elements together to form a perfect whole.

A DM normally struggles with this area, they use staple settings however they don’t bother blend other elements into them and truly paint an unforgettable portrait in the players minds.

Edger Rice Burroughs

Through this master, I learned how to add an element of fun! It is one thing to add everything together, but if it isn’t fun, then why bother? Burroughs was a master who created unforgettable characters, they didn’t have to be likable, but they did seem real. He knew where the audience wanted to go, and he took them there. In a time where there were many promises made, he actually followed through with the idea and pleased the audience.

Emily Bronte

My favorite title of hers, is Wuthering Heights. In this tale, characters are the centerpiece. She tells the story through gossip, which makes them a lot of fun to read. She also knew scandal (as did Anne Rice), but where she really influenced me is the love and care that she gives to her Villain, Heathcliff. You get to really know him, and understand why he does the things that he does. Heathcliff is broken and hurt, and while we come to follow his logic, we still can’t agree with his methods. An awesome biopsy of an evil mind, and one that we should put into our own games from time to time.

Random Junk

Here is just some stuff that I've stumbled over in my online travels seeking adventure and internet glory!

A 700 year old house

A cool cave map generator

One Bad-Ass Sandcastle

www.bugmenot.com to avoid over exposure, or joining sites just to see content, and probably never returning again. BRILLIANT!!!!

Drelb

Drelb Guardian (Haunting Custodian)

Climate/Terrain:
Dark, Subterranean
Frequency: Very Rare
Organization: Solitary
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Negative Energy
Intelligence: Average to Very (9-12)
Treasure: Special
Alignment: Neutral (evil)
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 2
Movement: Fl 6 (B)
Hit Dice: 5+3
THAC0: 15
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 3-12
Special Attacks: Chill, 90% seems retreating
Special Defenses: hit only by magic weapons, reflects psionic attacks
Magic Resistance: None
Size: M (6’ tall)
Moral: 12 (Steady)
XP Value: 1,400

The Drelb are seen as black, vaguely man-shaped clouds that have no true substance, but tend to shape themselves with two upper limbs, a torso, and a head with two glowing red eyes. Most people who see them mistakenly identify them as wraiths, however unlike wraiths, they cannot be turned as undead.

Combat: The touch of a drelb is so cold that it causes those struck by it to lose all body warmth instantaneously, which causes not just the damage (3d4), but also causes the victim to fall shivering to the ground, dropping all items which he was holding (no saving-throw). Victims of this attack are unable to act until this chill passes, or 1 round.
When confronted by a cleric attempting to turn it,or if prey is hesitant, the cunning monster uses a trick of illusion. It causes its form to rapidly diminish in size while gliding smoothly forward. This is 90% likely to give the viewers the impression that the drelb is retreating, while it is actually moving up to attack.
Magic weapons are needed to harm drelb; silver has no effect, unless it is magicked silver, which causes double damage. Drelb also have the faculty of imitation and/or reflection of psionic power. All power used within 30 feet of the creature or any psionic attack directed at it is imitated or reflected back upon the attacker.
Habitat/Society: Drelb inhabit the Negative Material Plane, but evil-minded persons will sometimes call them to the Prime Material Plane to serve as guardians of hidden wealth or secret places, so whenever they are encountered on this plane they are guarding something. Magic which draws the drelb to the Prime Material Plane is likely to function only from sunset to sunrise; so, much like undead, drelb appear only in twilight or darkness.
Ecology: Drelb serve as protection only, summoning them is considered an act of evil as the life of an innocent must be taken at the time of calling them forth from their own dimensions. While this spell has been lost to time, the Drelb do show up often enough to suspect ancient evil forces of great power is behind each and every one of them. It is also known that the Drelb is considered a minor spirit in the negative material plane, and many more powerful beings from this negative plane are more apt to using them successfully then a creature native to this plane—but of course that doesn’t stop people from trying to call them.

Ripper DMing Temple of Elemental Evil part VI

This game wasn't all that hot. It was half D&D, & half Shannon's Bday party, which essentially means that all of my players, with the exception of myself and the thief got wasted on rum.

Travis started play, pushing the PC party to 8, and everybody showed up. His character is a Neutral Evil cleric, an alignment that I allowed because everybody was playing Chaotic Neutral and I have learned to hate CN more than any other alignment. Seriously! NE is much easier for me to stomach these days.

What the party did get done was a whole lot of fighting. We are talking some serious hack-n-slash. Unfortunately they weren't all that thorough, and a lot got by them. We did have one interesting encounter that was made worse by a random encounter. The party had pinned down a couple of bugbears who had flipped the table over and was chucking spears at them, when along came a carrion crawler, YEAY!!!! I simply love those things! It almost ate Summer's cleric, too. Until my wife's fighter knocked it for a loop.

The MVP of the game, was without a doubt, Kim, who played the teams only thief. She had looted and picked her way to twice as many experience points than any one else! The next runners up were all of the fighters, they killed about 87 HD worth of monsters. I think that everybody had fun, but it wasn't as fulfilling to me. No problems on my side of the screen, it was just that everybody was so easily distracted. We ended up pulling the plug at midnight and just sat around jawing until 2 a.m..

I did run into one problem, I don't have any stats for a monster called a Drelb Guardian. I updated the necessary bits to 2e, so that I can run it in the dungeon, however I would love to see the entire listing for this thing. The module said that it was in the appendix, but somebody screwed up and never added it.

There is also a monster in the dungeon that uses psionics, and while I have retained most of my gaming knowledge from the good ol days, psyionics are completely lost on me, so I've been re-reading the Psionics Handbook (or however that word is spelled, cut me some slack I'm stoned on Cough Syrup). I've never been a big fan of Psionic PC's. I played one in the past, and it was always like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. While I don't enjoy Player Psionics, I do like Monsters that use them, and may even through in a classed Psionic badguy or NPC, which could be fun . . . if I can remember how these things work.

On another technical note, I tried to update my DM's Secretary 2.0 up to 5, but my rusty old laptop simply can't handle it, which is a bummer, because I have it on my main PC and I think that it would be awesome to play with. I'll just have to wait until TAX time when I get my shiny new laptop, YAY!!!!

Maybe then things will be more active around here, huh? Who knows. Until next time!

Technology And Tabletop Gaming


Video games and tabletop role-playing games are two different animals. I think that if Wizards of the Coast figured that out, then they wouldn’t be up the creak like they are. They believe that it is their job to figure out for us how to use technology in our games, when this truly isn’t their role. Not to mention, that in the past they have shown a blatant disregard for how we do use technology in our games.

Back in the day gamers did everything by hand. We had mountains of maps drawn on graph paper, if we were really advanced we’d use a typewriter to type up our games, but for the most part, we just used a 3-subject notebook. We made all of our own character sheets, and a character had to actually prove himself to us before we would make a permanent sheet for the guy – which by permanent I mean one which we created with a pen.

Back then; printers were worthless unless you wanted to hang a big dotty banner over the table, AND WHO DIDN’T? Sure, if we had access to a computer we’d put some stuff on those big old floppy disks, but that was hardly safe! However, I think that the biggest hassle was moving books around. A player didn’t have that hard of a time, with just the PHB, but as DM I remember hefting around a hundred pound duffle bag stuffed with hardbound books! Did you need them all? No, but the moment that you didn’t bring one, then you’d need that one!

I was one of the first geeks in my group to buy a modern PC, at the time they were still astronomically expensive, but the price was getting more and more reasonable as the months flew by. 2nd Edition was in its last legs, with the 2.5 books that hit the shelves, setting folks up for the 3rd edition. But my point is that Wizards released a CD-ROM that was an interesting experiment. I can’t remember all of the details, as it was so long ago and I some how lost the thing, but I do remember that it had digital copies of the 3 core rule books, the PHB, the DMG, and the MM. I don’t think that the search technology worked all that great, but even if it did it was way ahead of its time. Too far ahead really, because while the prices for desktop PCs were dropping, Laptops were still crazy expensive and way beyond the means of most gamers, thus you couldn’t bring the thing to the table.

This was also the first time that we could actually make our own Character Sheets even better! I remember spending hours creating sheets for all of the classes, now I don’t do that, we just print off standard character sheets which is probably as illegal as hell, which brings up another point. While Wizards may not have the best ideas anymore, they are very giving in regards to their products. I mean how many people are posting copyrighted material and Wizards just looks the other way? Well, for now they are, and I’d like to think that as long as we are doing justice by giving commercials free of charge to them, then they’ll continue not suing me for infringement.

I don’t mean to be negative on anybody, especially the current holder of the D&D franchise, a product that has kept my mind and soul fueled with ideas for years! However, some of their business ideas are just lost on me. Namely the PDF thing. A lot of people were pirating books, so they suffered the folks who were actually paying them, by forcing everybody to pirate books now! I don’t know what they were thinking? That if we couldn’t buy PDFs of out of print books then we’d just go out and buy 4th Edition? That is just crazy!

Besides saving DMs from back problems, PDFs were easily searchable. The Pirate PDFs usually aren’t all that good. You’ve got pages missing, corrupted, or infected with god-knows-what! That, and often the pirated PDFs are just scans of the pages, making them unsearchable half the time. Wizards missed the market on what could be done. Instead of banning them, they could improve them.

One of the greatest Pirates ever made is Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd Edition) Complete Set of 26 Books written by Dorian X. This guy was a madman! He hand-typed out 26 reference books, making it incredibly easy to find anything. There really isn’t any art, with the exception of MM pictures, and a map of Greyhawk, but as far as PDF.s go, this thing is indispensable for me. I own all of the hardcopys, so I really don’t feel all that bad about using it, but I can take all of these books with me on the go, and write my dungeons, or easily solve arguments at the table. I have used this PDF more then I’ve ever used my Tome of Magic book, I’ll tell you that.

My point is, that that PDF could be a model. There are enough fans out there that are willing to hand-type the originals, and they’ll probably do it for free, or be overjoyed with a nominal cut of the sales. You make decent PDFs and folks won’t even bother with the pirated crap anymore, or – sometimes, I just downloaded a pirate to see if I like the book, and if I did then I’d buy a good PDF of it. Finding hardcopies of books these days is getting harder and harder. Some of my original books are falling apart and I don’t want to open them anymore, PDFs, in this case, are superior to hardcopies because they don’t wear out.

MAPS

Wizards hasn’t always been clueless. All you have to do is go to their website and learn that! The Map-A-Week feature was gold! And their Free Download section is still one of my favorites. Mapping used to be difficult, I remember spending hours drawing basic maps on graph paper, but I am a slob! I’d smear my pencil marks all over the place, and make some of the ugliest maps that you’ve ever seen . . . just to lose them because they were all loose leaf. Now with great mapping programs like AUTORealm, anybody can pump out excellent looking maps which are clean and uniform, so that anybody who looks at it doesn’t have to first decipher my chicken scratches.

I think that TSR started some relationship with a huge mapping program, I remember seeing adds for it in Dungeon Magazine. This program was not just overly complex, outrageously priced (still is), but it was also a hog of one’s computer resources. I believe that this was the program that they used to make their own, professional maps, and they do look good but how many DM’s are skilled enough to use it?

Wizards has always been involved in making mapping cooler. On the CD-ROM which I mentioned above, there was a very crappy and basic mapping tool which, after you were done mapping, you could enter the dungeon in a first person, virtual reality perspective. This was bad ass, however, it was also completely worthless and impractical for how we tabletop gamers play games. Now I see that they are trying to bring this back. There is already a separate market for that, it is called Worlds of Warcraft, and it is its own thing. Let them have it, because the folks who are addicted to WoW still play tabletop games because we DM’s can do things that WoW will never have the tech to do.

NETWORKS

Probably the greatest Technical Advancement to tabletop games is, of course, the social networks. These things are bigger then Wizards, or even TSR ever could be. Folks don’t want OFFICIAL, they never did, they want great material, fresh ideas, and a place to express those ideas and get feedback with like-minded folks. In a sense, the social networks have replaced magazines, but they have also further splintered the players. No matter if you prefer 2nd Edition, 4th Edition, or OD&D, there is a network for that. Instead of fighting it, or trying to force folks over to some Official Site where you can charge them, just go with it, which, in a sense, Wizards, if they wanted to, could collect their lawyers and knock down all of the ivory towers. It wouldn’t be good publicity! But they would be fully within their rights to do it.

Folks miss magazines, but lets really look at this? What are your chances of actually getting a letter published in a magazines forum? I also think that the ideas on the web are much better then those published in Dragon. Sure, the art was better, and they were fun to read, but so is the Internet. Now we can also actually talk with the writers and get our own stuff read. No magazine publication on Earth could be this thorough!

As a DM, I can look over what a DM is doing over in Chicago or even in London, and maybe help him play-test his idea. If I have an idea I can usually get feedback from folks who have already tried it but couldn’t get it to work, or are willing to also try it and playtest it faster. Back in the day, you were limited to just the geeks in your Gaming Shop, now the entire world is at your fingertips. I think that the only drawback to this system is that I would love to play under a bunch of the Dungeon Masters that I’ve run into on the Networks, but I never will be able to. Ohhhhhhh Sad face 

TECHNOLOGY AND MY OWN PERSONAL GAME

I, probably like many Tabletop gamers, was at first, resistant to allowing a PC at the table. I’d write my scenes on WORD and then print them off, keeping a mountain of loose-leaf papers on a side-table, but I’ve now changed that.

Currently I am working from a Module which I don’t have an original copy for, which is fine because I hand-typed the whole thing and just up-dated it to my ruleset as I went. I created separate files for separate chapters, and I only print off things that I reference often and don’t want to go back to, because it is kind of a pain in the but.

Working off of WORD allows me to highlight text, and make changes as I need to. I do kind of miss writing in the margins, now I write on little notepads and I keep losing them.

I print off the maps, and keep them near me at all times. If a room is hard for me to describe, then either I can edit up a hand-out or draw it on a dry-erase board (which is also something new at my table).

I remember struggling with mapmaking software, and initially trying to make do without it, but once I tried AUTORealm, I was sold. I drew my first map at the table, and then reworked it in AUTORealm and it looked so fantastic that I kept using it. With AUTORealm, sometimes it is best to keep the map in the PC, and resize it as I need it. Now one can make some really advanced maps, which replaces those giant poster maps that have always been impractical for actual game use. Hell, the DM literally needed his own table to run many of them. Keeping the map on a laptop allows all of the players to have enough room and it keeps them from stealing a peek at the thing as well. However, when I am using AUTORealm at the table, I like to print off the key to it, this way I don’t have to switch back and forth too often, which slows down my ability to play.

There is also a great program which I use called DM Secretary 2.0. This program was made for 3rd Edition rules, and I’d love to be able to tweak it to reflect my own ruleset, however I’m just not computer savvy enough. It has a diceroller and I can keep track of players with it. Much of the time I prefer to roll real dice, but sometimes it is just easier to use electronic dice. Generating hit points for random encounters is reason enough to keep it open during the game.

When I am at home, I tend to use hardbooks, but most of my work is done at my day job, and PDFs are a godsend! Seriously, digital books are the one thing that I love more then any other technical advancement in regards to table top gaming! They are far from perfect, but the positives overweigh the negatives, which is why it blows my mind that Wizards discontinued their sale.

I have also found that by letting the PC do some of the work, it frees me up to focus on different aspects of the game which I tended to ignore before. Calculating XP, managing Time and tracking Movement just to name a few. After almost 2 years with a PC at the table, I can now say that my personal game has improved great enough to enjoy having it there.

I know that I am not the only person who was resistant to keeping one there, and there are other aspects of it that I haven’t even touched on, such as using pogs, printing maps for miniatures, I’m sure that the list isn’t yet exhausted, so take your own whack at it.

What is your favorite tool?
Can you go back to old-school gaming, or are you just too into drinking the Kool-Aid now?
How has the computer effected your gaming style? Did it make it better, or worse? Inquiring minds want to know!

Ripper DMing Temple of Elemental Evil session V

This game turned out much better then the last one did, but as a recap, I had a decision to make. I had forgotten that elves had infravision, and my mistake had led the party to believe that a darkness spell was in effect, and it did not allow the party to function as they normally should had. Shannon had already rolled up another character, as he had lost his other one to my failure. He should had been able to see that he was out numbered dramatically, and had time to change his tactic, and while I never liked making things a do-over, this was blatantly, my fault. I decided to give him his character back, and told everybody that it was a cognitive dream, a warning of doom, granted to them by St. Cuthbert.

I also felt that they didn't have enough muscle, so I had my wife roll up an additional fighter which she could play, as well as her witch. Both she and Shannon are experienced players and don't have a hard time playing two characters equally well at once.

The new Ranger (Shannon's character) and the new fighter (Misty's character) were companions sent on a mission to investigate the temple. The Druid in Hommlet instructed them to meet up with the party and join forces. The ranger had secret information about breaching the temple itself, but required a thief (Kim's character) and money to buy a mule (which they got sacking the moat house).

The other wizard didn't make it to the game this session, nor could Summer, who played the parties Cleric, which initially made me a bit nervous but decided to move along anyway. Kim showed up, and we have a new player ready to join us, but he just wanted to observe this session. Well, not really a new player as he's one of our old D&D buddies who moved back from Rockport Missouri, where, apparently, they don't play Dungeons & Dragons. HOW WEIRD IS THAT?!?! It's great to see his face again and I look forward to him joining. He has always brought an interesting dynamic to the table, and he's also an awesome DM so Shannon and I can have a break DMing, and actually play some!

Anyhow, back to the Temple. I took Mouse's suggestion of getting them inside of the Temple Ruins regardless of that impossible to make savingthrow against the front door, to heart. A secret chink was made in the armor of the Temple, a specific barred window could be breached with just the right amount of force. The Ranger was made aware of the hole by his superior, but needed a thief to scale the wall, which the party had. These two teams teamed up, amazing how fast friends are made isn't it?

They spent much of the session on the unoccupied level of the ruins, finding all of the little clues hidden throughout the place before venturing down below. Prepping for this session was much easier too. I knew roughly how far they would get, and spent much of the afternoon reading and correcting my way to Dungeon Level 2. Some of the first map isn't keyed very well, namely the stairs. It took me a half an hour to figure out where one of them went to because it didn't say.

I also improperly identified sturges, mistaking them for those stalactite monsters that fall from the ceiling, but quickly looked them up because I didn't remember them having bloodsucking abilities before, and they don't. Sturges are giant mosquitoes with bat wings, and I was able to quickly clarify the problem before we got too carried away with it.

Another problem that I ran into was with the Earth Elementals in the Earth Temple. I did my best to update it to 2nd edition, but didn't realize that the monster which it refers to was not in the MM, and I didn't know where it was. THOSE THINGS WERE MEAN!!!! THAC0s of 5, hit only by +2 weapons (which they didn't have) Rydan's mage had a +2 axe, but he wasn't at the table, and the mage was recovering from a wild night of drinking in the Nulb Hostle. The only thing that was their weakness was a Movement Rate of 6. We had to discus the best way to handle this situation in a way that everybody could agree with, and that was fair to everybody, including the earth elementals.

Misty reminded me that Huge creatures have a harder time hitting smaller creatures, so I looked it up and discovered that Huge monsters have a +9 to their initiative rolls. It was decided that since these creatures were in their element, if they hit their target, they would instantly do full damage, like it says in the 1e MM. However, since they were so slow, the only way that they could win initiative is if they rolled up a 1, and the player rolled a 10. Was it dangerous? YES! One hit meant fatality! But it was also fair. The player also had to roll a successful DEX check, else slip and fall, giving the Elemental an equal shot at initiative on the next round.

I assume that those creatures are in one of my MC books, but just didn't have time to look them up properly, but it is times like that that really make the game fun. Invention and brainstorming with the players is always a great time for me.

I'd also like to add that I really enjoy the Random Encounter method with ToEE uses. Instead of rolling %d and then rolling separate dice on a different chart, you just roll the %d. If the number is 11 or under, it tells you instantly what encounter you have, and if it is above that, then no encounter. I set the 10 min. timer and could quickly factor in search times and time spent doing other stuff, and didn't have to fuss over anything. IT WAS GREAT!!! Of course it doesn't factor in noise level or anything, but no system is perfect. As far as ease and speed, that system works awesomely.

I think that everybody had a good time. There wasn't any yelling or bitching and fighting going on this time around. The game was much easier to prep for because of the confined environment. Overworld prep just stresses me out! And no matter how much I prep for stuff, my players can always find themselves into spots that nobody even thought up before. It's much harder to do that underground . . . granted that it isn't impossible, just harder.

Ripper Ramblings: Snow D&D

I haven’t been very inspired lately, what with the weather and all. I live out here in the Midwest, and we’ve been pounded into submission by old-man winter. It is quite incredible; I’ve lived here my entire life, and have never seen this kind of snow nor these temperatures either. I suppose that I should use this as a lesson in how we survived in days before weatherproofing and electricity.


Twenty years after the end of the American Civil War we got temperatures and snow like this, but our lives are not nearly as complicated these days. It makes me wonder how our ancestors did it. How they handled such things.

Currently, the snows are so heavy that they are breaking roofs, some idiot actually got his snowblower up on the roof, how he did that I’ll never know, and I think that the only thing that I can say about that is that it didn’t end well.


In the mountains and up north, where they are used to getting several feet of snow each year, buildings are built to handle the strain. I’ve seen pictures of houses with mysterious doors up on the second level of the house, which are used in the winter-time, as that is how deep the snow usually gets and it totally blocks the main doors.


Warmth is also a problem, having enough fuel to get you through the winter has always been a problem. I grow up in the country and spent much of the warmer months clearing out trees and chopping them up for firewood for our stove incase the electricity was knocked out, and we could save a lot of money on energy bills by burning wood instead of propane. By wintertime, we’d have a huge horde of wood lined up along the fence-line, and by springtime much of it would be gone.


Back in the day there was no propane, nor electrical power plants. If you misjudged how much fuel you’ll need that winter, then the result was simple; you froze to death.


Cause and effect are typically the main duties of the DM to determine. What would happen if some magical, or spiritual being was the cause of such an extreme winter? Perhaps an ice dragon or an evil wizard bent on altering the weather so that new terrible beings can come through and wreck havoc, of course rewarding him while killing everyone else? Or perhaps the God of Frost is enraged and at war with another God, and decides to take it out on that gods followers. Would the people be prepared for it? And if not, what would happen?


My family and I have had to spend a ton of time indoors, snowed in because travel was all but impossible. It has snowed so much that the cities budget for snow-removal has already been used up. Machines used to plow the snow are breaking down because they aren’t getting any breaks, and now the temperatures are so low that the salts and chemicals that they use to melt ice aren’t able to cut it.


Fires are also a problem, which they always will be. I can’t imagine the risks that our ancestors took. Snow and low temperatures make a winter fire even more deadly. Machinery freezes up, as do the men who operate them. The emergency people are suffering because they have to go out in this stuff.


A fire in a winter catastrophe scenario would prove deadly when you are dealing with a fantasy setting, be it rural or city. Remember the Chicago fire? Buildings constructed out of wood, and built right next to each other. One small fire quickly turned into a citywide catastrophe which killed thousands, and left even the survivors lives in ruins.


Cause and effect: We pull one string and it affects all of the others. Keeping track of all of these strings and their functions is impossible, but as a creative tool, it keeps us on our toes. Personal experience is a great muse for gaming. Studying the real world around you can have great and lasting consequences to the quality of your games, if you let it. Observe my friends, and don’t be afraid to put these observations into your games.


FIND THE DOOR


I love dungeon delving, but I also like the game, Find The Door, and this kind of scenario would really fit in with that theme. One has to figure out if a savage winter is natural or not, and if it isn’t, then what is causing it?


On a fantasy level, crap like this would also affect the other beings in the world. Perhaps it would open up a channel for monsters that are normally further up north and away from humans to come down and have free reign in virgin territory and a new prey that is not ready and has no defense against them.


It wouldn’t take much of an imagination to see what kind of havoc this type of situation would create. Whatever discomfort and menace the humans or demi-humans are suffering can be measured ten-fold by the humanoid population which isn’t smart enough, nor have access to the resources to properly battle this problem. This may not even become apparent until well after the fact.


Come spring, it is noted that a natural resource is missing. Perhaps it is something as basic as food, or something as luxurious as a well-loved brandy? Whatever the resource is, all attempts to contact the small village that supplied it have resulted in loss of messengers. No word has come from this place since autumn. Adventurers are needed to travel to the small hamlet, and investigate what has happened too it.


Humanoids, noting the weakness of the people, and their inability to properly defend themselves have taken over the hamlet. Winter had decimated their numbers, parts of the hamlet collapsed from heavy snow, the small militia was kept busy trying to dig people out, and attempting to reach help, however that party met with disaster and the humanoids quickly stole the entire village, keeping those too weak or frightened to fight as slaves and food. What will the adventures find once they finally arrive? Will they be able to save the town? The possibilities are near endless!


The possibilities for mystery are epic, and because of the nature of winter storms, can be quite frightening as it can turn even an entire village into a snowbound menace, isolated and completely cut off from the outside world. Cabin-fever is a result of this, and was more of a problem in the past, then it is now. Imagine being snowed into a one-room shack for months at a time. Ones mind would eventually snap from loneliness, which can result in some fun ideas for role-players. A party trapped in a snowbound fortress, is it haunted, and if so, by what? What if we add an element of insanity into the mix? We can still have a real threat out there, but it can be mixed with the imaginings of a feverish mind. An illusionist could have a heyday with these people! Perhaps out of simply trying to amuse its self? The doomed crew of the HMS Terror became more of a menace to themselves then even the environment provided, the final resting place of this ship is still a mystery! Insanity brought on by food-poisoning, cold, starvation, and desperation. They found a small crew who died while trying to move a large boat full of worthless junk which they refused to abandon.


I suppose that one never really knows if the wolves howling outside of your door are truly hunting people, or if it is just all in their mind. A man who resorted to cannibalism, his attacks so grim that a healthy mind could never even fathom that the victims were savaged by a fellow human. They invent a monster do hunt for, ignoring all of the facts, while the madman, unable to deal with what he has done, erases the terrible deeds from his mind, dismissing them as nightmares; perhaps even leading the party because of some belief that he is psychically connected to the monster? The howling wasn’t a wolf at all, but a trick of the whipping and cruel wind.


Not to say that we don’t want to eliminate monsters completely, they too have their place, but it can be fun, from time to time, to battle the human monster. Perhaps the storm was caused because somebody took something away? An intelligent sword that kept the element of evil winter locked away, and no longer wants to be condemned to such a fate. The sword dominates its savior and wants to put as much distance between itself and the gate which became just as much its prison as it was the wicked elemental god. Something like this can take quite a while for a party to figure out what to look for, and it may take all of their wits and resources to get the sword back to where it needs to be.


These are just a few ideas for quick one-shots, or ideas that can be developed into a full blown campaign with just a little bit of work on your part.

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