Gothic Earth Session 14: The Hot Winter

Last nights game was all about movement. The party got out of Switzerland and their search for Fu Manchu and the Sacred Spirit Blade has finally had a break; George Weathermay discovered that the artifact had been sold in an auction in Egypt. Boarding a pleasure cruise, they sailed to the Far East, and all feel that they were led by their nose by the Celserial Order of the Si-Fan, but what are they to do?

The trail has taken them across the world into the exotic jungles of British Controlled Burma where they will find themselves learning more about their enemy than they probably want to.

 I love movement! It is a big part of the game. The game was liner, we had skipped October, tis a busy month, I didn't even have time to blog, and the writing time that I did have was spent researching and prepping.

You never know what your players are going to do, but I was shocked when they told me when their boat landed at Morocco, their first port, that they were just going to spend their time on the ship and not leave. WHAT?!?! Who does that? I had even posted some cool films of Tangiers on our Communications page to get them wondering why it was there, and they watched them; but, "we've decided that we are staying on the ship and relaxing." I told them they can relax in Tangiers so that they could find the clue and we can play this game.

I had written a murder mystery for them as well, but they weren't feeling it, so I didn't push it. They were interested in the main story arc, THANK GOD! A twisting and turning web that has them wondering what is going on, and a return to the true campaign.

I hope that they enjoyed their break this game, it is always calmest before the storm.

Speculation on the Wargames biggest influence on D&D

There are camps in the RPG community, those that prefer to campaign, and those that don't. Where did the idea of campaigning start? The answer is that its roots go back to wargames, and I can see how this came to be.

There are two kinds of wargames: your standard single games, one and done, and then there is a much more difficult game which is the campaign. In the campaign, you've got to preserve your troops as those who survive will be moving on to the next game. It changes the way that we play completely! But, why do we do this?

I was playing a WW2 game, and I saw that the enemy was going to take a city. My best course of action was to withdraw and move as many units as I could to a more defensible position. It didn't look good, I had made a mistake and my opponent was capitalizing on it. He was going to overpower my major artillery and take it all away if I didn't play my cards right. I was looking at a losing game.

Enter the 3rd Infantry. These guys were tough, I knew that but I had to sacrifice them to get my tanks and less tough infantry out of the area, so I ordered them to hold their ground for as long as possible so that I could move the majority of my forces back behind a river. I didn't know how long they could hold it, but if I didn't I was definitely loosing everything.

It was at this point that something extraordinary happened. The 3rd Infantry held. They were blasted by everything that the enemy had, but through lucky rolls and fate this piece not just held its position, allowing me to retreat without taking losses, but it was destroying the enemy. I was even able to get the 3rd Infantry out of there as well, once their job was done I was amazed. It was so much fun watching this take place. Once I got them out of danger I moved them behind my lines and didn't ask any more of them. They were very beat up and another attack on them would have wiped them out. I felt something for this unit. Even though this was just a game, something in me felt proud in that little marker. It became more than just a marker, it had guts and stamina that I had never seen before.

I ended up wining that game, all because the 3rd Infantry had done their job. I enjoy this game and played it again but the 3rd Infantry was no longer the stoic band of heroes that it was during that game. Even in winning that scenario they were gone at the end of it, never to appear again. I still treat that piece with reverence though. I remember what it had done as if it was a real thing.

You see this in wargames. Specific pieces do something that is so surprising that they become important to the player. We want to know more about them, and a story took place. We use them again and again! When we are playing a campaign, that specific band of heroes can continue. We'll treat them differently. For me; even though my tanks did more damage, the 3rd Infantry was still my favorite.

I am sure that Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax felt the same way about specific members of their forces. They became more than just a painted piece of lead, this piece did great things once! What if we could break that group down and play them individually and that is the point of the game? We can learn even more about this unit! That sounds like fun! And it is, we call it D&D.

I myself prefer campaign style, especially when it comes to D&D. No one-shots, I want to see my character succeed against bad odds, to fail on his own terms, to be more than just a cardboard counter, a little lead sculpture, or a collection of digital 1's and 0's.  D&D allows this to happen in a way where even folks who never had an S.S. Panzer  Division tear into their enemies like an unstoppable monster.

Gothic Earth: Session 13 (Ding Dong)

I had gotten some excellent advice from our friend Scott Anderson, I had designed an overly precise flaw to the dungeon, and none of us were really paying attention to the game. So, we had to back up. I asked my players what they wanted to do, and told them what my thoughts were. Most of the last game wasn't a total loss, we did good work! We decided to back things up to just before the party left the elevator, the relic of Sebaldus gave everyone a dire warning of what lay ahead.


I also had to correct some mechanical flaws that have crept into the system. Masque of the Red Death, I don't feel, was designed for higher levels of play. I don't think that the designers ever thought that folks like us would be playing it long term.

If I could go back to the beginning I would have blended the two spellcasting classes into one class, and added psionics as a fourth class. Mystics are just too limited in what they can do, and they are reduced to spell work because if the bad guys are able to close, folks are going to die. To correct the problem I have abandoned the Priest Sphere system and allowed the player to pick spells based off of role-playing rather than the very limited system core to Masque rules. The altered casting times still apply! But the system for acquiring spells doesn't work. To give the player an offensive option I also gave her a psionic wild talent, which play-tested fine.

With combat, I had to drop the Rate Of Fire as it applies to firearms. As it sat, a random encounter of eight 0th level bandits who got the jump on the party, all of them having 6 shots apiece, would TPK even our 8th level party in a couple of rounds, which won't work, so I reverted back to Core rules of 3/2 for fighters and one shot for everyone else. I've got a PC who has a trick shooting proficiency, I let him fire into melee with no penalties.

The AC issue (everyone's base AC is 10) was addressed by reminding them all that AC floats, it improves with taking cover and using your environment. On my end, I had to apply this system to my creatures.

These changes all improved the game. Combat was much swifter and more fair for everyone.


This dungeon was my own design, because of events outside of the game which was beyond our control, they were all killed. We went back to the beginning of the 9th dungeon level, and I let everybody know that this was it. No takebacks. The party could not leave this dungeon, and they must finish tonight. If at the end of the night they still haven't slain the Belalp witch, they lost. She escapes and entombs them all in the dungeon and the game is over.

The players had taken over the elevator and made it secure. Two players were unable to attend the game, their characters controlled the elevator and guarded the supplies that they had so the active party was unencumbered.

Play Begins

The players went back up to the main dungeon and systematically cleared it out and found some nice weapons and armor that I had placed up there. I had hidden some Drow Platemail+5 as well as a Drow Longsword+5. Both of these items helped immensely and disappeared as soon as they left the dungeon.

I had wanted to take away their guns, this tomb hasn't been opened for a thousand years, everything except for the witch is dead and cursed, mostly ogre skeletons and zombies, and another section for the huge undead giants. Guns were pretty worthless, but I had old-fashioned arms scattered around to deal with them. The trick was to increase your AC. We had four players show up for this session and the game was well balanced, tons of XP to go around nice treasure, and the player who had put on the Drow armor and was a tank managed to find a huge spider which she rode around the giant section of the dungeon.

One player did end up dying, the victim of a giant banshee, but she was resurrected before she turned into an undead herself. It was a dangerous place and I expected some fatalities. By searching the dungeon before taking on the 9th level they were ready to take on that dangerous stuff.

Right out of the elevator, on the bottom level they had to face an entire unit of lawful monster skeletons who fought like centurions, it was a brutal battle and this time they were more evenly matched. It was still a long encounter, powerful undead fighters who were also very difficult to hit. The party figured out a way to punch a hole into their defense and managed to control the pace of the fight. It wasn't just a dice-fest either, which made things go more smoothly and we all enjoyed it more.

Finally, they fought their way to the Witch and after a long tricky battle she tried begging for mercy and they promply executed her. They had control of the dungeon and it was getting late so we decided to skip the battle with the undead centurions, choosing to quickly summarize it, the skeletons would have done the exact same thing, and offered no challenge.

They fetched the Relic, this time the witch was dead so the Demonic god was weaker and Sebaldus had a chance of defeating it . . . a 25% chance, but since the witch was dead, the party could still escape if Sabaldus lost. I had them roll the dice. They needed a 75 or higher to defeat the devil: they rolled a 76. Sebaldus destroyed the sentient idol, breaking the curse on the land and finally defeating this dungeon.

Sebaldus rewarded those who showed up in different ways. The Cleric was granted the Wild Talent, The Gunslinger was given more strength, the German Spy was granted Dexterity, and the Explorer was given the ability to know Latin.

The fun that we all had from this session more than made up for the last session!


This was my most ambitious game design. It incorporated a lot of OD&D principles, and while the initial prep for it was intense, there was virtually no prep once we started playing it. The entire scenario lasted us seven sessions.

It featured two separate dungeons; a mine and a witches lair, both reset themselves in a way that they could always be explored and offer challenges. We didn't finish the mine section, it had one more scenario hidden in it which was never triggered. 

Overall, it offered something for everybody at the table. A very difficult mystery to solve, a living world to interact with, tons of NPCs which were fun to run, and enough XP to bring the regular players up to level so they can take on even more grueling challenges ahead, as I now think that they are ready to get back on the trail of the main campaign villain, Fu Manchu. So! It is off to London, which I will write and maybe play with some Play-By-Post via Facebook. We are skipping the game for the month of October, and opting to have a Halloween Party instead.


Gothic Earth: Session 12 TPK

Well, last weeks game had some major issues and ended up falling apart. Technically, everybody died, but there were things going on beyond our ability to control. It was horrible. Nobody had their thinking caps on and this is a very hard game. I knew that from the beginning. Whenever something like this happens, you learn a lot, and we did.

Lets back up. We took a month off and are playing twice this month, this being the first session to make up for August. I had beat them down with a dragon, and their characters needed time to heal up. This gave us a week where they just stayed in their cabin, and I really don't like that much missing time, especially since this campaign will only last for 10 years of in-game time. To fill the gap I wrote some fiction.

There were things that I wanted to recap, and game elements which weren't being utilized, such as the mystics tarot cards. I never wanted to shut the game down for the time it takes to focus on divination, not in real-time anyway, so I took the opportunity to do that. Providing hints, and clues and basically telling them that it is time to move. They are transporting the bones of Saint Sabaldus, he is their knight, but there is a dark knight as well, and the party can't fight him, Sabaldus has to.

I also revealed that there were three parts, the Dragon, the creature in the mine, and the Witch, these were all connected, not separate at all, but one big problem. In order to tip the scale in Sabaldus's favor they had to eliminate at least one of these targets.

I also decided to bring the character who died last adventure back to life. I have never done this before, in all my years of gaming nobody has ever been resurrected. It was a pointless death, but I also had the Holy Relic. The character had served the town, so the town served her. They fetched her body from the canyon and returned her to the party where Sabaldus gave her back her life. In exchange for this, they lost the girl that they had saved to the witches. This also speeds up the clock, once she is made a witch they will form a coven, and this will allow the ancient witch who is imprisoned under the church to escape.

I introduced a new character as well, a German Detective who has been hunting them ever since they left Germany with the artifact, he showed up with a ton of men and they have now taken over the village of Belalp, and they arrested Van Helsing, so he is off of the table as well.

At that point, we began the game. Everybody really loved the story, the player who had died was jazzed as I had told her to keep this to herself, she rolled her Resurrection survival and passed it. Then they cleared out of town taking the artifact with them.

I thought that they were going after the dragon, they almost killed it last time, and it is injured still; I'd figure that they'd go finish the job. They didn't, instead they went right to the Tomb of the Witch, and broke the seal. There was no going back now, the Witch was officially loose.

This specific dungeon was the hardest thing that I have ever drawn up. It hasn't seen a living soul since Father Sabaldus trapped her in there back when he was alive. Inside is a living nightmare, those who followed the Witch Kevra were entombed as well, and a war over supplies raged inside until every one of them were dead. This war repeats itself over and over again. Even the dead here cannot be slain, the curse always brings them back.

Somehow, I don't know how they do it, my dungeons are always mazes, but they always seem to stumble right where they need to go. The nastiest trap in the place, they figured out. An elevator which must be locked at the bottom, it goes to the Witch's chambers, and she controls the undead to lower the elevator if she wants to. If the players don't pay attention to this elevator, they will be the ones who are entombed down there as it is the only way in or out.

So, the players fight their way to the witch's chambers, and find an evil sentient statue of some forgotten pagan god, it is casting spells, and the witch appears but gets blown away. The players take the Relic into the room, Sam knows that this is where the artifact belongs, and then the war begins, the horror of true good vs. evil, but since they didn't really kill any of the beasts party (the witch, the dragon, and whatever is haunting the darkness in the mine) Sabaldus can't win. I am describing this battle of light and telling them that it is getting darker and darker and they aren't doing anything about it. They are just sitting their listening to this. Finally I just shut down the game.

We've been playing this game for almost a whole year. Everyone was distracted and having difficulty. They didn't understand what was going on, I thought that it was obvious, but was wrong. A couple of the players were loving it, it is harder than hell. The Wizard didn't show up to play, so they had no offensive spells. We also figured out that the Mystic is unbalanced and unplayable at the level that she is at. When they designed the Masque of the Red Death box set, it was meant for a one shot adventure, but we've been playing it long-term. She is not a normal cleric, and is so restricted in her spells that all she is is a medic, and she hated it. We talked after the game and decided to grant her an offensive psionic power which hopefully will give her character that little boost that she needs.

I felt like a failure. I take things personally, I do! I did make a big error during the game. I couldn't find the stats for the ancient witch, it wasn't on my stat block sheet, instead I had placed it right on the Random Encounters sheet and had forgot, so I improvised. She had a Fake Kevra, which I ran, but I gave it way too much power, and hit one of the fighters almost killing him instantly. Afterwards I found my mistake, so there is that.

I offered two options: We could either hold the game where it is at, or we could reboot it from where the PC resurrected. So far they have opted to hold, they returned to the elevator and locked it between floors so they are safe, but I told them that there is only one path to win the scenario. They have to kill this witch tomorrow. If they flee, they'll be killed. With all of the bumbling they did end up cornering both themselves and the witch, but with the injuries that they have, they are in a very tight spot.

I feel like a cad for stopping the game because of TPK. We've got a character who has no hp left, a high level cleric who is helpless in a pit of the undead, a fighter who can't enter the Demon room, and another fighter who was charmed by the statue and is now working for it. Only the thief of the party is unharmed, and they hope to kill the witch in her own domain. Personally, I think that they are doomed if they follow this path.

I don't know. I didn't give them any XP because I was angry, but calmed down during the post game discussion. There are lots of reasons why the game collapsed, but it still feels cheap. I am not willing to take it easy on them in regards to fighting the witch. That would be a huge disservice to them. Like I said, the majority of the players were cool with the difficulty level, but we all agreed that we weren't mentally in the game as the game required us to be.

What would you do?

Do you think that it was wrong to not TPK a party for one off night? It was many factors: my bumbling, bad dice rolls, and caring for a player who was not able to play. I have no problem TPKing early games, but we've been playing these characters for over 10 years, they got us back into the hobby. I can't do that to them.

Bad games are a bummer!

Game of Thrones > Le Morte D'Arthur

On the GOOGLE+ community Literary Role Playing Game Society, our Friend, Vb Wyrde from Ethos RPG made an interesting comment the other day in regards to Game of Thrones, I responded and have decided that I want to keep this response for future reference as I feel that this is a good summary of my current thoughts in regards to game design. Click here for direct quote.

The Gamemaster can write the past, but the players write the present. The future belongs to the dice and cause & effect. The Gamemaster can influence the present, just like the player can influence the past with good ideas but when a DM tries to write all of it then they aren't playing the game.

The story is a bi-product of play. Our brains just do that. We put stuff in order. We make order from chaos. With that said, I think that one of the game's strengths in regard to the medium is that one can lose, one can lose big! And while a computer would shut the game down, the movie would grind to a halt, the table-top RPG keeps going, and will probably be more interesting because of the loss.

Game of Thrones is a magnificent muse for a homebrewed setting. An excellent example of Feudalism at work, the mythology of the land, the cities, and the ruling houses . . . specifically the mythology of the noble houses. This isn't anything that I've ever thought of doing before!

Hell, I would say that how they present Knights is a game changer too. In the past, all of my knights were based on Lancelot, a knight who failed, betraying his king, his family, and himself.

Watching it, and marveling at the world they built. We can do that. Making our NPCs more effective, especially in terms of back ground movement.

I think that many of us base our games on the legends of King Arthur, but this was a cautionary tale. Arthur and everyone in it failed. The politics implied aren't all that well defined. I think that Game of Thrones provides a much stronger picture of life in a feudal society.

The Gay Agenda vs. AD&D

When I was a teen the world was a different place. My generation was one where we excepted the freedom of blacks, my grandfather hadn't yet, but he learned. Now the folks who are homosexual are dealing with acceptance, and just as my grandfather before me, I saw a dumb idea that was taught to me for what it was.

I don't typically express my own politics, but this really isn't a political issue. This has to do with basic human rights. Hate is hate, and hate is wrong. If a dude wants to marry another dude I don't really see what business this is of mine. It's not hurting me one way or the other. If that family wants to adopt kids, cool! Better then the alternative. I know the system and the system is not a kind place to be trapped in. I guess that this is political isn't it? But, I still think that gay people make better parents than idiots who rally against it.

As far as my game is concerned, I'm not going to limit it by not exploring the subject. It is just too interesting not to incorporate it. As DM my job is to make your character's lives as difficult as possible, regardless of faith, race, or creed. I'm an equal opportunity trouble maker. As a player I've played female characters, as well as gay ones. It is Role-playing! Why would I want to play myself?

I've seen examples of DMs treating players really badly. They do this because they are dumb asses, and I don't play with dumb asses. I do, however, steal their players.

At my table we explore politics. Not our politics, mind you, just politics in general. All table top RPG games are political games. We each have the right to use stereotypes, enforce bizarre laws, target minorities with slavery and violence, not to mention actively engaging in genocide as this is a sound strategy. As Dungeon Masters we cause problems, and if the players don't go looking for trouble, well then, we'll make sure to bring that trouble to you. Through exploring topics which are difficult to swallow, we become better people. It need not be in your face, nor should the DM be on a soap box. We don't judge our players, we judge the game. Politics move the game along, and bad political decisions become speeding hot rods. With that said, there is a difference between being a dumb ass and playing the game. In the game, if the players are interested in creating social change, they can. That is the point.

If you want to repress women, create racial slurs, and execute pillow biters, do it, but allow your players to cause social change. If somebody complains that you're being a pig, just agree and challenge them to do something about it. We can't fix idiots in the real world, but we can in ours.

This honestly shouldn't even be a problem, and I doubt that it really is. The person who made this an issue is no better than any other hate mongering pig and deserves to be treated as such.

Gothic Earth Session 11: The Legend of Zudet

In our last game of the summer, we lost a character. As DM I get rather fond of them, and I am always attempted to cheat, but that just isn't the way that this game works. Most character deaths are not brave or noble. There is no great sacrifice, or dying at the hands of a worthy opponent. Most PC casualties are stupid and pointless. As a player, that more often than not was the case for me. D&D is about taking risks and doing your best to minimize them, but eventually, especially with fickle dice, your luck is just going to run out. Trouble, more often than not, comes from rushing ahead. You rarely see the one that gets you until it is too late. When it happens, you typically feel stupid, and hindsight automatically kicks right in.

The players believed that they needed more power before entering the Vault of the Witch, and I agree, but it did cost them dearly. Magic items in my games are pretty hard to find, it's not that they aren't there, it is just that they are typically out of the way and off the beaten path. The players know this, but game time is so limited they really tend to keep focused on different goals. This goal on game day was searching the wilderness for what is going on out there.

They have found a sign of dragon. The kobolds are using the mine to pay tribute to a reptilian god. I never came out and said it, but there was enough out there to suggest an ancient evil living in the mountains. This is a modern game, taking place in 1890, the dragon I placed in the area is modified from the Monstrous Manual description (as are all of my monsters) to fit a more folklore feel.

They knew that the dragon was wealthy, and they are fairly high level, especially for us! They took a vote and decided that they would go dragon hunting. I didn't help them in any way, the players moved around the play map, slowly exploring different sections, I had had enough areas out there prepped to have a good idea of what is out there, but much of the fine details were determined randomly, and it was one of these that ended up causing the incident.

I knew that there was probably a rope bridge that led over a deep canyon on the main map, but I didn't know where it was. We found it and it was the way that was made by the kobolds to get over the canyon, of course, kobolds are not known for giving much thought to safety, so this 3 rope bridge that stretched at least a mile in length was dangerous as all get out!

I like skill checks, but I also like them to be a mixture of old Dungeons & Dragons where player agency and ideas were prized over the dice, and AD&D, which favors the dice to decide stuff like this. The character in question, a spy, had very good DEX, so her player figured that she could scoot right across there, she rolled over her DEX score, and I allowed a saving throw which she failed as well and she was gone.

I really enjoyed the character, her player was a novice who became very good very quickly. It isn't easy to keep low-level AD&D PCs alive, but she was able to do it. Her story was magnificent, through play she took what was going on very seriously and became a good leader. She was a German spy who worked for the old regime which was being replaced. She went back to Germany and extracted the former Prime Minister and her King from the hands of his enemies and delivered him safely to Zurich. It was an amazing story!

She stepped up to the call of duty again in Belalp, when the Sheriff was attacked, she took over his duties, ignoring her own agenda until law was restored to the village. Now she is dead because of something stupid, at least it was an ending. Her death will have consequences, she must now start a new character and take this novice PC into a very difficult dungeon.

While everybody else played, she rolled up a new PC and we got it introduced before the session expired. A Russian specializing in thieving abilities, and a fellow member of The Watchmen. It will be interesting to see where she takes this one.

The players had spent much of the night, frustrated because I wouldn't just put the dragon's lair somewhere randomly, I had already placed it and I stuck to it. Eventually, they found it. A cylinder-shaped tube deep in the earth, lined with a kobold apartments. At the bottom was discovered an ancient pyramid made of onyx, its top broken off and overflowing with treasure. The party quickly took a couple of things and ran for it. After a couple of hours, the creature realized that something was wrong, the rest of the day, they are racing out of there while the sounds of roaring and menace echo through the mountains, and creatures run for cover. They hurry as fast as they can to get across the rope bridge before the sun goes down, and when dusk does arrive the lamentations of the dragon Zudet stop and the creature's hunt has begun.

They had made a predictable escape and kept running through the night, when the dragon saw them, and made its attack, the players reacted at the same time, their tiny guns against sheer power. Only one player made their saving throw against the blast of flames which engulfed them, this looked like a total party kill, instantly two characters dropped below 0, just shy of death. The players shot wildly, missing more than they hit, the one exception was the explorer. He took the full brunt of the blast, heavily injured but still standing, his shots hit the mountain's monster, doing just enough damage to trigger a morale check, which the dragon failed. It turned itself invisible, and hide itself to heal and stew over what had happened.

The players knew that there was no way that they could survive a second attack, the healer was able to quickly get to the two downed characters and stabilize them before they died from their wounds. So far, they have kept their treasures and their lives, just barely, but they came at a very high price. The party was able to return to civilization, but minus an important member of the team and heavily injured. Through magic and rest they will be healed enough after a week or two to attempt to explore the Witches Vault. This will have to wait for September :(


The movement rates that I had set in the snowy mountains was too low, movement was only possible on the roll of a 5 or a 6, I had to correct this during play because we were getting bored.

The players were also keen on trying to get me to put things in every space that they were in, searching each hex. I had to improvise a better system on the fly that allowed a more limited chance of a feature being discovered. They were literally only moving one hex at a time, when the game was set for them to move much faster. This could had been why I was getting bored, they probably did this around 30 to 40 times.

Prior to play I designed a better system to flesh out the underground cave system which was never mapped, and hid some features down there that can be discovered randomly. I also hid treasures within, but one of the treasures was designed for the character who died, this was moved to a new location, I had failed to identify the dragon's hoard and had no idea that the players would decide to seek this out.

The player's felt happy with the work that they had gotten done. The explorer really wants to go back and finish off that dragon, which may not be a bad idea, though creatures of myth and legend are never that easy, and a creature this old and who has kept itself a secret for so long is not going to fall victim to a bullet.

While they lost a character, the gunfighter who hasn't changed in a couple of years now has finally gained a level. This is a huge achievement! While 8th level in many games is obtained quickly, my game progresses much slower, progression slows down dramatically after 5th level, this is years of dedicated play and keeping a risk taking player who is always there in the thick of things alive. He is heavily scarred and beat up, but he is still one of the most dangerous men alive in my world, who is now even more elite.

I am glad that they didn't decide to break the seal of Sabaldus, that dungeon is going to take multiple sessions, and skill to defeat, an 8 week break between sessions would really suck. Are they ready for it now? I don't think so. The new character is 1st level, and while she will progress quickly taking her into the finale of a complex and devious death trap is really expecting a lot.

Wizard's Weapons Fixed with the wave of a wand!

I've never been all that happy with the wizard class, specifically in regards to Weapon Proficiency. At
Level 20 they have Four slots. This is fine! This isn't my problem, the problem is that the 2nd Edition AD&D Players Handbook picks these weapons for you.

  • Dagger
  • Staff
  • Darts
  • Knife
  • Sling

It adds that the weapons that require no training can be used, this would imply that nobody needs to be proficient in them, but whatever. The deal is that, for me personally, most of these five items are not things that I mentally associate with wizards.

Dagger, and staff: Okay, I can see that. But, where did all of that other stuff come from? The answer probably goes back to OD&D, a wizard's weapon does 1d4. I can get behind this! Regardless of what a wizard chooses, mixed with his god-awful THAC0, if a mage is proficient in a sword of some kind, it still does 1d4.

I know that in my own games, we identify staff as a quarterstaff and give it the damage of 1d6. Dudes like Little John were specialized in the quarterstaff and could dish out serious damage, while a wizard probably just dorks the other guy. The 1d4 rule makes more sense; Playing a wizard, I would except that ruling.

I don't know about you, but when I think of a wizard I don't see him attacking with a dagger or swinging a staff around. In my mind's eye it is always a wand. That is what I see! Now I'll admit that I have never read the Vance series of bookswhich the AD&D system is based on. I will also admit that the biggest inspiration to what I know about fantasy wizards was gleamed by collecting stickers in the 80's (it was a thing), and ain't no rainbow summoning wizard walking around carrying a dart. That said, would it break the game to give the wizard a wand? Now, I'm not talking about those weird wands of power found in the Dungeon Master's Guide, I'm thinking just a basic everyday wand that a wizard can use in melee.

Let's stat it out:

Item: Magic Wand
Cost: 10gp
Weight: 0 lbs.
Size: S
Type: P
Speed Factor: 2
Damage: S-M 1d4, L 1d3

It acts like a missile weapon.

ROF: 1
Short Range: 5 feet
Medium: 10 feet
Long: 15 feet

If you want, you can even have it augment spells, but you don't have to. Naturally, this could open up a new can of worms if you let it, and it might be interesting! But, you don't have to. You can just judge that it is a melee weapon, and that is all. A quick burst of magic that is regulated by the users crummy THAC0.

Alternatively you can rule that a basic magic staff can be constructed at 10th level which has a longer range (10/20/30) and is required to augment spells of 5th level and beyond.

Augmenting Spells shouldn't be overly powerful, maybe just reducing the casting time of spells with Somatic, or verbal/Somatic components only by 1. Or keeping the Somatic based spells as is but doubling the casting time if the caster doesn't have a wand.

Spells can also be developed specifically for wands. Now keep in mind that I suck at writing spells, if you can improve the wording do it. This stuff isn't play-tested either, but I really can't see how this can break the game.

CREATE WAND (Alteration)

Spell Level: 2nd
Range: Touch
Components: V, M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 3 days
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: None

This spell can merge a magical component into a stick cut from a hardwood tree specifically for this purpose. The magical component can be collected from a magical and rare plant, and ground Ornamental stone of at least 10gp value. The magical component, over the course of three days which include regular breaks for eating, and resting, is verbally coaxed inside of the wand forming its core.

Once completed, a magic word is chosen to activate its basic power, as well as a specific flick which will cause a quick burst of magic which can be aimed at a specific target with a normal attack roll which inflicts 1-4 hp of damage. The target does not receive a saving throw, however magic resistance of any kind will always be immune to this attack.

WARNING: Augmenting spells which require the material components of stones, jewels, and/or gems which are consumed during casting tend to destroy the stones inside of the wand as well, rendering it useless forever more.


Spell Level: 4th
Range: Touch
Components: V, M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 3 days
Area of Effect: Special
Saving Throw: None

This spell can merge a magical component into a stick cut from a hardwood tree specifically for this purpose. The magical component can be collected from a creature of mystical origin (Phoenix Feather, Unicorn Hair, Ground Dragon Claw etc.) given to the caster by the creature in freewill. The magical component, over the course of three days which include regular breaks for eating, and resting, is verbally coaxed inside of the wand forming its core.

Once completed, a magic word is chosen to activate its basic power, as well as a specific flick which will cause a quick burst of magic that can be aimed at a specific target with a normal attack roll which inflicts 2-5 hp of damage. The target does not receive a saving throw, though Magic Resistance will function as normal.

A wand constructed of a creature which has the same alignment as the caster, will act as a wand+1, +3 against targets which are natural enemies of the creature regardless of magic resistance. A target of the same alignment as the creature may not be effected at all.


The only problem that I really see with this is the lack of expendables. I tend to just charge a monthly living fee to players, having a wand puts them in at least the Middle-High Living Class, if they drop below Middle Class the wand can become damaged and break on the roll of a 1.

A wand can also break if it becomes subjected to a Saving Throw, if this is the case it falls under Wood, thin on the Item Saving Throws table.

A wand is also ruined if it is subject to Dispel Magic.

A wand cannot be used if the caster is unable to speak, flick their wand, or if magic doesn't function in that area. Areas of wild magic can also cause some weird things to happen.

Wand attacks work exactly the same as missiles, targets gain bonuses for taking cover, and if the armor vs weapon type is used, damaged is halved. It is also dangerous to fire a wand into a melee, see the rules for how to run it.

A basic wand may be commercially available or the player had to buy one from his instructor.

A captured or found wand must be attuned to the finder. The captured or found wand functions normally until either a natural 20 or a 1 is rolled. 20 indicates that the wand is attuned to the user, if it was captured the wand now belongs to the new owner. If a 1 is rolled before a natural 20, the wand rejects the new owner and no longer functions, if not, in the case of an improved wand, outright cursing them. Of course attuning oneself to a found or captured wand can be done through practice, the player just keeps rolling until a 20 or a 1 is rolled. Alternatively, an improved wand can be a bit more difficult, a limited amount of time (maybe 10 tries) can be attempted against a specific target, (INANIMATE OBJECT= AC 10?) failure to hit within that window results in the wand ignoring you.

A cursed wand always rebounds on the user with the roll of a 1. Always strikes a random person on a successful hit, and only hits the specific target if a 20 is rolled. The user of a cursed wand refuses to see that it is a problem until the curse is broken.

Finavryn brought up a similar idea on the OD&D Discussion Forum, writing a cantrip spell he calls ZAP, which can be found HERE 

Gothic Earth Session 10: The Lost Village of Old Belalp

I forgot to jot down my notes from last game. I made up a quick play session out in the fringe of the village, blatantly ripping off one of my favorite movies, The Witch. They were able to defeat the scenario really quickly, and save a young girl who they have taken on as a potential henchmen. What? Didn't see that coming, but we'll see where it goes.

The players have been reluctant to explore the wilderness, so I put some pressure on them, Mr. Harker, who is now just down the mountain helping with research in the city of Brig has been followed by a German Detective, he had been seen with PC Sam White at a bank in Zurich. He is smart and looking to recover the Relic of St. Sabaldus. Harker had to risk sending a pigeon up to the players, but it is unknown if the message had been intercepted or not.

In other news, the scholar who has written a book on the Belalp Witch has finally been able to finance an expedition to search an area where she believes is the best spot to find old Belalp, and the players manage to get hired on to lead this expedition.

It just so happens that one of the players were able to decipher the clues found a few sessions back and had a really good idea where the church was, but they were able to get there with a bigger party and on somebody else's dime. It was a bit more difficult than they thought, the church wasn't where the cryptic map suggested. Well, it was, but it was buried deep under the ice. After more searching they found a chimney sticking out of the glacier of Mt. Sparhorn, melting the snow, the Explorer PC climbed down and discovered the perfectly preserved medieval village of Belalp trapped under a dome of blue ice.

The scholar had also hired some big strong locals who were far too large to climb down the narrow chimney, but this presented a problem. The party needs to HIDE the Relic of Sabaldus in the church, and it will do no good to have the world know about this place. Exploring the entombed village, they find a cave to the south which leads to the medieval Cathedral they have been searching for for so long.

Exploring the Cathedral, they find an ancient church which the cathedral was built around, and in the basement of this church they find a stone seal with a terrible warning, beyond this seal, placed by Saint Sabaldus himself, is the Witch of Belalp, however this seal is unbroken.

The players return to Old Belalp and spend the night in an old inn hoping that the scholar and the rest of their party get bored and just go away, or something; which doesn't happen. In the morning they find the scholar feeling betrayed which she is taking pictures of this amazing place.

Long story short, the players finally discover the cave system in the area, they exited the cave on the other side of the Massa River, traveling in hours what would normally take days. The scholar is pissed, she wants to go back to Old Belalp and further study the medieval village for her next book. The players agree but this time they exit the cave all the way back at one of the abandoned mines just outside of current Belalp. The Scholar is pissed, after all of that work, she got a few pictures but the village of Old Belalp is still lost! This pleases the party. She might have pictures, but she has still been bamboozled.

They now know that they can reach the church through the Belalp #2 mine, now it is just making some decisions about what to do. Breaking the seal and entering the tomb of the Belalp Witch is going to be incredibly risky, this dungeon is the meanest and most difficult that I have ever designed, I don't know if they are ready for it yet, but we'll see what happens.

Game wise, I was lazy. I had to work overtime the night before, and I was exhausted. I rolled for random encounters but we had no combat at all. We still had a blast though! I did run off script, changed the look and feel of the old Medieval village, originally it was supposed to be open air but I think that the last minute change was a lot more fun.

I have no idea what is going to happen next game, the secret BBS that my players use is buzzing, and the spell casters are getting together tonight to come up with some ideas on how to best manage their spells. I'm excited!

Global Trade made Easy

The Rug Merchant: Arnedeo Simonetti
There is a class in D&D that your players aren't necessarily interested in playing, but they are a big piece of what makes our worlds work. The Merchant class! This stuff doesn't sound like it effects the players, but it does. It effects them a great deal. It is they who the roads were built for, and it is they that allow civilizations to become empires. Only by working together as a whole is civilization possible.

I have already written an article about basic trade and gave a brief outline of how it functions on a local and national level. What it does is it helps you develop color, and purpose to your NPCs which in turn makes them easier to run. It is a little game that you get to play all by yourself during prep. 

It will tell you what kinds of things will be in the stores, give you a quick NPC template so you can keep things both fast and consistent when inventing on the fly, and make the world seem viable.

Naturally, in D&D, we aren't playing a real Medieval world, but a glamorized and modern take on what we wish that the world was like. We needn't be overly focused on Social Studies, but if we add just a few basics to our games it adds a psychological element which helps everyone at the table suspend their disbelief, not to mention that it does give us some solid adventure hooks to work with.

In brief, locals trade with locals so that everyone can live better. Small populations supply large populations with raw materials needed for finished goods, these finished goods move out and other finished goods from other communities move in, which improves the quality of life for everyone.

There are limitations. A region can grow the best peaches in the realm, but fruit is a difficult product to move because it rots, this restricts how far away the peaches can be moved. The farmer loads up the peaches and sells them in town, that is now the problem of somebody else. Technology dictates how far away the product can get, rivers can move product faster than roads, but these peaches are good sellers!

The town takes a good load of peaches into a city, and sells them to a merchant who has developed a new technology; he can turn those peaches into brandy which is no longer a perishable item, in fact, this brandy is highly prized and everybody wants some, which draws attention to the regions peaches. The royals who live far away will pay a lot of gold to have special orders of peaches quickly carried to them, and will do whatever it takes to keep this supply line open. The merchants will be making a killing on this product and take care of the people all the way down the line. This translates into power, and from a DM stand point, this stuff writes itself.

Naturally, most rural places won't have these peaches, but they will have other things. If we look at the area, we can generally decide how this network makes its living. A town high up in the mountains mining metal will have to have a lot of stuff shipped in just to survive up there.

FOOD, WATER, SHELTER these are the basics of survival. Grain and ancient mans ability to master it is what gave birth to culture. It isn't glamorous, but without grain the nation starves. Society is also dependent on water and man's ability to move it where it needs to go. Irrigation, supplying enough water for everyone in a city and moving dirty water out is required. There can be a rich supply of gold somewhere, but unless there is water for the miners it is going to stay there.

Then you have trees, this is a finite resource that had to be planned wisely. A large castle out in the boonies, though it looks like it is a stone structure, requires entire forests of timber to build. We don't need to go all realistic on our game, but timber is definitely a valuable resource, everybody wants it! All of our fancy cities and towns need wood to expand, it is used for everything from barrels, to carts, to ships, not to mention providing fuel. There is never enough wood, but what if a northern nation who can't grow grain has a huge surplus of lumber? This is when our worlds can expand!

Via: Pinterest
Global trade helps us on an even larger scale. Just as trade can help us figure out local politics, find adventure hooks, and provide color on a local level, this helps us color places that may not even be on our maps! We never have to draw them, either, they are just out there.

Lets say that the barbarians of the north exist. They have large cuts of meat, a surplus of fir, and wood. Now lets say that one of the tribes has become almost civilized, well, civilized enough to want to trade for some of our Iron. Politics will tell us that chances are that this brute is making steel, but we out number him and eating nothing but goat and fish is boring.

We also know that the other barbarian tribes aren't going to just stop attacking our northern border, but this union might give us a foothold and allow us to make some threats. We'll tell the barbarian “King” that we'll trade. We know he is planning an attack, but so are we. We covet those trees and eventually we'll push the barbarians back, and give more power to this so called King as long as he is behaving.

None of this will matter to the folks who have to live on the norther border, but we DMs will know it, and use this information to help us figure out what is going on.

Politics! Politics is a hard concept to grasp, but if we use global trade this abstract idea is easier to manage.

Lets get to the lists, shall we? 

I don't care if you use Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, or whatever; this stuff will be present. I'm going to use real world terms and let you figure out where this stuff goes. These products are a sampling of global trade during the medieval ages, now keep in mind that these resources are large enough that a nation or region can afford to trade them off for stuff that they don't have, so at least one of these items will appear on a detailed play map. You don't want the country that the players are actively in trading something like tin without ever seeing a single community dedicated to extracting this resource. It is meant to be a tool to help you world build faster.

  • Coal
  • Textiles
  • Tin

  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Tallow
  • Timber

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Silver
  • Wine
  • Textiles
  • Coal

  • Amber
  • Flax
  • Fur
  • Hemp
  • Honey
  • Slaves
  • Tallow
  • Timber
  • Wax
  • Whalebone

  • Carpets
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Horses
  • Iron
  • Mercury
  • Paper
  • Precious Stones
  • Silver
  • Slaves
  • Textiles

  • Cotton
  • Gold
  • Ivory
  • Salt
  • Slaves

  • Gold
  • Ivory
  • Precious Woods
  • Slaves

  • Animals
  • Carpets
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Naphtha
  • Paper
  • Textiles

  • Carpets
  • Copper
  • Drugs
  • Gold
  • Indigo
  • Iron
  • Precious Stones
  • Precious Woods
  • Textiles

  • Brocade
  • Fine Textiles
  • Jade
  • Rhubarb
  • Silk
  • Slaves

  • Brocade
  • Camphor
  • Porcelain
  • Satin
  • Silk
  • Sugar
  • Taffeta
  • Tea

  • Aromatics
  • Drugs
  • Gold
  • Precious Wood
  • Spices
  • Tin

  • Ambergris
  • Aromatics
  • Cowries
  • Drugs
  • Indigo
  • Ivory
  • Precious Stones
  • Spices
  • Textiles
  • Tortoise Shell

The Role of Woman in D&D

Joan of Arc
Oaks Spalding, over at Save vs. All Wands has been discussing an article written by a lunatic with too many readers and a rather low opinion of women. I think that there is some validity to the subject that she is writing about, but because of her personal arrogance, she can't write about it and be taken seriously. I'm sure that professional women within the industry did get the shaft, but that may have been due to standard office politics of the era.

As far as private games go, they are all different. All players are different too, but there are risks that we take. These risks apply not just to women, but to the younger crowd as well. People can take advantage of others, and I do believe that we do a terrible job of policing ourselves. We aren't exempt from predators, and while I know that there are a lot of decent people who won't sit idle while somebody is getting worked over,  there are still too many in this hobby that will do anything to avoid confrontation and just do nothing.

The role of women in gaming goes beyond characters. They are leaders, innovators, muses, artists. Are they properly recognized? I think that they are now, however, if they were properly compensated for their efforts is a different subject altogether.

It does feel that men have an easier time getting new ideas accepted and that women either take supportive roles or are forced to stay in them. I think that the greatest influence that women have had on my game personally, is in regards to story. I've pulled back on story-based gaming, but it has been said over and over again that the players (both male & female) want to know that this is going some place. They like reoccurring characters, they like slippery villains, they like having things going on in the background. They like long-term story arcs, and being able to walk around in a storybook world which reacts to them.

This, I have found, can be accomplished without forcing the players to play a linear story. I know that many DMs have a hard time grasping these theories, they translate into terrible modules, but the idea isn't creating a scripted game, the idea is to have a script running in the background which must be written and rewritten as the game progresses. My players love to be challenged by a railroad designed into the game, and it is their job to get off the tracks.
Some can credit other sources for the interactive story, but to me personally, it was Laura Hickman. She is co-credited with her husband, Tracy, but it was this format which got me started. The modules required a lot of cooperation from the players, but the principles, once separated and broken down into their basic components, showed a very advanced approach to game design and theory. Not settling for JUST Dungeons & Dragons, but constantly redefining it, and molding it to fit a larger vision. Creating worlds where there is something going on, a meta-plot which stays in the background. Defined objects that have meaning and history.

Laura taught me the joy of background. She gave me the courage to redefine old ideas and not be afraid to put elements of myself into the mix. It has taken a long time to find a good combination of old and new, but the effect that it has on the game is amazingly satisfying for everyone. I think that it is a warmer, and more personal game than just enforcing the same rules all the time.

My wife yells at me when I stray too far from this path. She reminds me that she and the other players can go anywhere to play Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, it is my mind that everybody enjoys crawling around in. The men who play are of the same opinion, but we don't talk to each other like that.

"Bulgar Warrior" via: Pinterest
Perhaps it wasn't Laura who started me on this path, she just gave me something solid that I could study. It was the DM who was my best friend and years later would become my wife that taught me this lesson. She would run games with no Boxed-Setting, and only the memories of the world that she had played in when she was a little girl to guide her. Her games were way more advanced and personal than the rest of the club member's were. It went beyond just exploring castles and dungeons, there was stuff going on, she would beat us up and we'd have to crawl our way back up from the agony of defeat. NOBODY was doing that at the time. The YOU WIN! Games had already taken hold. She could infuriate you, but you never felt discouraged. This came naturally to her. Me? Not so much. Adding emotional and psychological elements into the game without causing harm, that is a skill that men (or at least I) had to develop over time.

Emotion. That is the magic element right there. Tragic villains with motivations beyond just because they are evil. NPCs with nuanced emotional ranges beyond those found in the average cocktail weenie. These are elements which I learned from playing under and developing games for female players. I don't think that I would have ever gotten there by just running games for a group of guys, and the guys who do learn to play this style have a very difficult time going back.

Are Thief Player Characters Still Relevant?

Albrecht Dürer - Cupid the Honey Thief. 1514
Since adopting more elements from OD&D into my gaming, a style that is less skill based and more player driven, I've noticed that many of my fellow tinkerers have opted to remove the thief player class from the game. Now, long-time readers of this blog know that even though I am very critical of skill based systems, my favorite class to play is the Thief. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

It's not that I think that the entire skill system is bad for the game, I just feel that systems like Pathfinder and modern D&D have allowed it to take center stage. It controls too much! People have gotten too reliant on them, and use the skill system to bypass fun parts of the game. It alters the flow, speeding it up, and I feel that it interferes with immersion.

To make a long story short, specifics can correct the problem of mechanical interference, but that doesn't mean that we should completely scrap the NWP system; and then we have the thief class. A skill based class that relies upon them to function.

In a game where the traps are specific, we know how they function and the players can locate them with tools or equipment, and come up with a plan which may or may not result in disarming them, where does the thief fit into this?

  • Thieves are more expendable.
  • They can figure out the hidden workings of advanced traps.
  • They do more for the team than just disarm and locate traps.

Handling Checks

In my last post, I suggested that we try to stick to specifics as much as possible. The DM listens to the plan, and translates the odds of success to the d%; however, there are times when the players are going to have to make checks. In times like these, I prefer the d20. It is fast, fair, and usually in the player's favor.

d% Thief Checks

via: Pinterest
I never really thought about it before, why do thieves roll d% for thief ability checks? I suppose that it is just a hang-over from 1st Edition AD&D. It gives the illusion of player control, but it really isn't all that functional.

As a player, the thief skill system doesn't work at early levels of play and offers no challenge at higher levels. The best games are when you are gambling with your character's life. As a player, if something is dangerous, I'm not going to even attempt it unless I've got at least a 70%. If things get desperate, I may attempt it at 50%, but never below that. If something has no risk, I will just sit there and roll dice until we all get bored or it works . . . hours and hours later in game time. That sucks, and that isn't playing the game.

I know that there is a huge population of gamers who think that the NWP system is broken, but I don't feel that it is, of course, the way that I design my games I enforce no reliance upon the system to use it. It can allow a user to bypass an obstacle, or make a section easier if you are successful, but play doesn't stop because of a failed check; that is a symptom of bad design. It all boils down to percentages, the d20 just uses increments of 5%. If a character has a DEX of 15, with a -2 to his ability check, he's got a 65% of succeeding. That is actually lower standards than I would normally allow for a dangerous task that will kill me if the dice say no. 


It was this book that got folks prepared for 3e. It focused on a reliance on skills over the traditional game. It even stripped the class system that we all loved in favor of building some character class that made it even slower to roll up new characters, and caused players to stop play to look at the weird rules in this thing. I hated it. I'm still not a fan.

Regardless if you like the book or not, it did say something interesting . . . if you could find it. It suggested turning thief skills into NWP. How stupid is that? I mean, it goes against years and years of tradition! Besides, thief players aren't going to want to sacrifice NWP slots on skills that they used to have from the start of the game, right?

RAVENLOFT: Masque of the Red Death

This boxed Campaign setting actually predates the Skills & Powers book, but it had lots of mechanics which were unique to it. It isn't a medieval fantasy game, this one takes place in our world during the 1890's. It altered all of the classes, but the most affected were the Thieves.

All of the characters had been depowered, there are no super-heroes in this game, what makes them playable is the skill system, however, this still isn't a skill based game. You aren't going to find the Pathfinder like rules which are overly strict, you pick your skills which define your character, and you play. The skills are passive. You still use specifics over rolling the dice, but I digress.

Thieves are no longer a class. While the other classes still use skills, the class that is dependent upon them is called Tradesmen. If a character doesn't use magic, and can't be defined as a soldier, they automatically become Tradesmen, thus, this is the dominant class.

via Pinterest
It is still possible to play thieves, but since all traditional thief skills have to be purchased with NWP slots, you've got to build them. The skills function as NWP too, you don't have to build them up through gaining levels, if you chose to know how to pick locks, then you can pick locks.

As a fan of thieves, this method works great! I always preferred to play against the grain. I never played The Greymouser type thieves, I could probably count the times that I've used Pick Pockets on one hand, and I never started building it up until I was satisfied with my other scores.  It just sat there, ignored. In this system, I don't have to pick it at all! I can replace it with some other skill that I want instead, something useful to me and how I want to play my character.

But wait . . . didn't I just say that Skills & Powers was stupid?

It is. It provides very little motivation to play-test the ideas held within it, however, this system has been play-tested at my table, and it works. It works amazingly well! Masque of the Red Death, to myself and the other members of the club, made D&D fun again. Its higher level of challenge changed not just how we game, but how we see the game itself.

  • Thieves are all different
  • Thief skills work from the start
  • The challenge is consistent, regardless of level
  • The thief skill system does not place limitations upon the system as a whole
As a DM I am sold, and the players are happy with the results that they get. This will be adapted into all future D&D games.

But Percentages gave more to the game than yes or no answers

As a player, I was always torn. I like rolling my own results, but sometimes I wanted the DM to keep the actual results a secret from me. I wanted to simulate thinking that I'm moving silently but not really being sure if I am or not. As a DM, these thoughts were amplified, but I was stuck because I couldn't figure out how to simulate the event without taking away player agency. This system actually allows that.

Either the DM can translate the d20s into percentages, or tell the player who succeeded their check that they believe that they have found a route which is possible to move silently and hide in shadows, then get confirmation that they still want to do the action or not. If they do, then the DM rolls the percentile check to see exactly how quiet they are.

The point is that no matter what we do, we've taken the traditional Thief Skills System, which was closed and set in its way, and changed it into a Skill System which allows the player and the DM to open it up when they want to.

  • Players can no longer get a 95% chance of success
  • A perceived penalty imposed on low ability scores
  • Player's who do want to play traditional thieves hate this
  • A psychological loss of control
  • Requires a talented DM to function
  • Cleaner Character Sheets
  • The Level Cap has been removed
  •  Custom Characters without breaking the system
  • Fast and Easy NPCs who are competent without cheating
  • Creating Hirelings that grow with the game and aren't static
  • Easier to level up (and level down)
  • Rewards Imaginative Play
  • Skills can be given to Races without weird limitations

Before closing, something needs to be addressed. Since the players are spending slots on abilities, should they get more slots to spend? The answer is no. They still get the same amount. This is balanced by the abilities themselves being useful as soon as they are chosen.

Unmodified skill checks do place caps on abilities. DEX of 18 = 90%, and on the low end, 9 = 45%.

The 3d6 method of STAT Generation prefers to give results in the 11-13 range, which gives you some good numbers that are fun to gamble with, 55%-65% but aren't fixed in my games, they go up and down. If you choose, the Thief Ability Table found in the 2e DMG can be used in conjunction with this system if you need to lean on it now and then. Since the system is open, we can change the difficulty level of a task as we see fit.

Most of the time, it really doesn't matter. The core Thief System is a nitpicker. Either the thief can pick a lock, or he can't. The players can decide to break the door, spend a spell opening the door, or ignore the door and walk away from it. Who cares if the Thief picks a lock? Why impose that restriction at all?



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