Wizards Releases OD&D PDFs

January 26, 2016

od&dWizards recently released the 3 Little Brown Books from Original D&D as PDFs.  I take it these are the versions from the premium reprint they did a couple of years ago.  You can get them here, if you’re interested.

Presumably, the other supplements will also be released, in due course.  Personally, I hope this means they’ll release a PDF for Chainmail, as well.


The Revenant – Wilderness Campaign Inspiration

January 18, 2016

untitledI saw The Revenant today, which is a great film.  However, this post isn’t really a review of the movie.  Rather, the whole time I was watching the movie, I kept thinking “this is what a D&D wilderness hex crawl should be like.”

Replace the natives with orcs and goblins.  Replace beaver trapping with treasure hunting.  Replace bear attacks with owlbear attacks.  Place everything in the howling wilderness, weeks or even months away from anything remotely resembling civilization.  And give the players actual wilderness hazards to contend with: blizzards, rain storms, floods and the like.

I’m sure the old school grognards have probably been doing this all along, but I noticed in the hexcrawl games I’ve played (particularly Pathfinder), the grit of the wilderness seems to be missing.  Certainly, high level play takes a great deal of the sting out of the wilderness, what with teleportation and instantly summoned magic huts, and all that.  But even at lower levels, one rarely gets the sense of the isolation and majesty of the wide open wilderness.  Anyways, it’s something to think about for the next campaign.

If you’re looking for good inspiration for subjecting your PCs to starvation and exposure, The Revenant is a good place to start.  Cheers.

WotC Releases 5th Edition SRD & OGL

January 12, 2016

On the off chance you haven’t seen it elsewhere already, here’s the link:

They’re also offering something called “Dungeon Masters Guild.”  Not having really looked into it yet, it sounds like a way for people to sell 5E material through WotC.

So, I wonder if there’ll be a 5E version of Pathfinder?  Also, I wonder if the 5E OGL can be legally combined with the 3E OGL to, say, meld aspects of the PFBB and 5th Edition?

It’ll be interesting to see what third party publishers do with the 5E rules.


PFBB Bestiary – VAMPIRES!!!

December 31, 2015


I thought I’d ring out the old year with some monsters…vampires, in point of fact.  I based the master vampire off of a level 5 wizard (evoker), applying the vampire template.  I’ve also BB-ified things quite a bit, so please forgive me if they aren’t exactly like PF core vampires.

Still, these BB versions of vampires are quite nasty, especially with their energy drain and dominate attacks.  A standard BB party, unprepared for vampires, could easily face a TPK.

Cheers, and Happy New Years!

Caves of Chaos – old school one-shot

December 22, 2015

Sunday I had the opportunity to run a one-shot session of the Caves of Chaos for a few friends.  I used no particular rule book or system, instead employing a hodge-podge of rules from OD&D, 3rd Edition and 5th Edition.

To jump-start the action, I printed out a bunch of 0-level DCC ‘funnel’ characters (using Purple Sorcerer’s character generator).  Each player controlled three 0-level peasants.  As you can imagine, the body count was quite high, but I let them replace losses right away so nobody was out of the action for long.

Bring out 'yer dead!

Bring out ‘yer dead!

By zerging the caves, they managed to clean out the goblin area, and most of the hobgoblin caves.  However, there were two near TPK’s (with lucky survivors running away when the situation was clearly hopeless).  One of the players also managed to antagonize a patrol from the keep, so you can chalk up 5 more keep guards (and a clever cover-up to avert suspicion, aided by most of the conspirators perishing the next day in one of those aforementioned near TPKs).

The amazing thing was, once the funnel characters managed to scavenge some decent weapons and armor, and the players employed some basic old school tactics, they did fairly well.  There was, of course, a dreadful sort of natural selection going on, with weak characters dying (or deliberately sacrificed) quickly, and hardier characters getting the better equipment.

I wouldn’t run a normal campaign like this, but for a one-off it was fine, and everyone said they had a good time.  What’s more, I may have gained a couple more converts for old school gaming goodness.  Cheers.

PFBB Bestiary – Bugbears & Ogre Magi

December 14, 2015


Here’s another PFBB monster conversion: Bugbears and the formidable Ogre Mage.

I removed some of the Ogre Magi spell-like abilities, both to save some space and because I didn’t see them coming into use too often during a BB style game.  None-the-less, I left the monster at CR 8, for it’s Cone of Cold ability is dangerously lethal to a 5th level character (especially when combined with it’s innate fly and invisibility abilities, allowing for the perfect ambush!).

As usual, please let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or notice any errors.  Cheers!

LWC – The Collegium Lacunae

December 11, 2015


Tucked deep in the bowels of the Grimhau lies the most complete post-Cataclysmic library, belonging to the enigmatic Collegium Lacunae.  The Collegium is a collective of sages, scholars, priests and, primarily, wizards, dedicated to the preservation of knowledge, and the reversal of the Cataclysm.  In particular they prize magical knowledge, especially magical knowledge relating to the Cataclysm.  They are well known to pay in gold for any tome or manuscript, regardless of condition or subject matter.


The Collegium itself comprises about a dozen members, half of whom are in residence at the Grimhau at any time.  The Collegium’s master is rumored to be an ancient elf, one who was old even when the colorless fire rained down upon the hapless Empire.  But the master has never been seen in public.  Indeed, only a few of the Collegium’s elite cadre have ever met the Master.

Don't let appearances fool you; these chains are enchanted.

Don’t let appearances fool you; these chains are enchanted.

Despite its secure location, and the additional protection of resolute dwarvish guards hired directly from the Grimhau itself, the Collegium’s library employs two additional safeguards: chains and curses.  All of the library’s hundreds of books are chained to walls and shelves.  The most valuable (and dangerous) of these tomes are chained in a secure vault, enchanted with various wards and curses.  Visitors must possess impeccable credentials to enter the library, and even then a hefty gold deposit is required, with guards in constant attendance.

Some members of the Collegium travel the Riverlands, tracking down leads to forgotten texts.  There are always at least two members, attended by servants and a formidable body of dwarvish guards.  They are known for carrying gold and silver with them, for the acquisition of books and the occasional magic item.  But make no mistake, attacking a Collegium expedition is no light undertaking.

The Collegium has been known to hire adventurers for more dangerous tasks (or, sometimes, require such services from adventurers requesting admittance to their library).  They are happy to perform minor favors for those who serve them well, including magical healing, the identification of magic items, and providing answers to obscure questions.

LWC – Morale Checks

November 28, 2015

Pathfinder0_1000The Long Winter Campaign will not use the encounter building rules.  Thus, it is entirely possible that a party could find itself in over their heads, with few options for escape or evasion.  In general, I’m fine with the players killing themselves off through overconfidence or incaution.  However, I still think there needs to be a bit of a safety valve, of sorts, and I believe a simple morale system will fit the bill.  Indeed, in old school D&D the morale rules, while an artifact of the wargaming roots of the hobby, more-or-less filled the same role.

To be clear, morale checks apply only to NPCs.  Player characters never have to make a morale check (fear-based saves, such as caused by dragons, are a completely different thing), though any NPC retainers or hirelings the PCs bring along might, at the GM’s discretion, have to make a morale check.  So, for the most part, these rules apply to monsters.

Check morale for groups of monsters.  If you have a group of orcs and a group of goblins fighting together, you might treat them as two separate groups.  Solitary “apex” monsters, such as dragons, should check for morale individually.

Good times to check for morale are:

  • When monsters take their first casualty (or first hit, in the case of solitary monsters), particularly if the PC party hasn’t taken any casualties/hits yet
  • When the monsters’ numbers are reduced to 50% or less (or a solitary monster is reduced to 50% hit points), and the PCs outnumber them, or obviously outclasses them
  • When the monsters’ leader is killed, incapacitated or otherwise “defeated”

To make a morale check, use the creature’s Will save.  For groups of monsters with a clear leader, use the leader’s Will save.  The first time a morale check is made, the DC is 10.  If a second morale check is called for, the DC increases to 15.  If the monsters pass two morale checks in the same combat, no additional morale checks will be required during that combat.  Modifiers for bravery/vs. fear apply to the morale checks.  The GM may apply other modifiers deemed appropriate to the circumstances.

Mindless creatures, and fanatics, never make morale checks; they’re always willing to fight to the death.

Creatures that fail a morale check will attempt to flee by the most expeditious route possible.  If escape is impossible, intelligent monsters will attempt to surrender.  If their surrender is declined, they will fight to the death.

I’m inclined to not award experience points for monsters that flee or surrender due to a failed morale check.

Fallout 4 – Building a post-nuclear society

November 16, 2015


I’d intended to write up something about Fallout 4 a few days ago, but what free time I’ve had in the past week or so has been spent playing, well, Fallout 4.  In many respects Fallout 4 is similar to Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas: blasted wasteland, murderous mutants and raiders, cool weapons, scavenging, power armor, companions, etc.  But I’m not here to write about the usual Fallout features, which you can read about anywhere.   I want to tell you about the newest and, to me, most interesting feature: settlements.

F3 and NV gave you houses, which you could customize and use as a base and storage facility.  F4, on the other hand, lets you rebuild civilization by establishing settlements…over 30 of them, spread throughout the Commonwealth wasteland.  When many A-rated games offer at most a dozen hours of gameplay, Fallout 4’s settlement feature alone gives you potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay (let alone the main storyline, numerous side quests and random wasteland exploration).


The building blocks of civilization.

Within your settlements you can do almost anything: establish defenses, grow crops, construct infrastructure and power grids, and build unique buildings using modular blocks (like the picture above).   Your settlements require resources to grow, mainly wood and steel, but also things like cement, copper, cloth, circuitry, fiber optics, oil, gears, springs, screws and much, much more.  You can acquire these resources by scrapping salvage within the borders of your settlement, or by scavenging them from the wasteland and transferring them into your settlement’s workshop inventory (which automatically converts them to the necessary resources as needed).  Finally, there’s a use for all that random junk you find in the wasteland.

settlement 1

Someone’s custom home.

Settlements won’t amount to much without settlers.  You can build radio transmitters to attract new settlers, who’ll need food and water, a bed to sleep in and protection from raiders.  If you provide for them adequately, their happiness will increase (as will their productivity).  If you fail, their happiness can decrease and you might loose control of the settlement.  Fortunately it’s pretty easy to see what’s bothering your settlers and remedy the situation.  And then you can put your settlers to work.  At first they’ll be growing crops and standing guard against raiders, but eventually you can put them to work in shops (to make caps for you), scavenging, and to maintain the vital supply lines between your growing network of settlements.  You can also tell them to move to other settlements, distributing your population as needed.


Build shops in your settlements to generate income.

Supply lines between settlements are worthy of a post all their own.  They allow you to share construction resources between connected settlements.  They also share excess food and water, enabling a synergism that allows the settlement system to really shine: specialization.  Instead of every settlement having to grow its own food and produce its own water (a logistics nightmare), using supply lines you can have specialized farms, water purification centers, scavenging centers, trade centers, logistical hubs, and even firebases (yes, you can eventually get artillery for your settlements).  Conceivably you could even have specialized “breeder” settlements, optimized for attracting new settlers, then relocate them to where their labor is needed most.


Artillery goes BOOM!

On the downside, while the controls for building settlements can be a bit kludgy, the controls for managing your settlers is nearly anachronistic.   There is no central interface for managing settlers, so you have to track down each settler individually (they wander around, and some of the settlements are HUGE), give them a command and then run back across the settlement to tell them what you want them to interface with.  You can construct a bell to summon everyone in a settlement to one spot, but it can still be a hassle to figure out which settler is doing which job.  And re-routing your supply lines is a near Sisyphean task.  To cancel a supply line, you have to talk to the actual settler doing the supply run…and yes, they actually travel across the wasteland between settlements, in real time (well, real game time).  This usually entails waiting for them to show up at a settlement, which can take quite awhile.  This is perhaps “realistic,” in a sense, but it would have been nice to have a tool to centralize the management of workers and supply lines.  I imagine such features will be amongst the early mods to be released by the community.

Fallout also does a very poor job of explaining the settlement system to new players.  To be fair, much of the system is intuitive, and there is a help feature which adequately covers the basics, but you’ll still spend a lot of time and resources experimenting with different features (either that, or spend a lot of time researching what you need on the internet).  However, some players may feel this is a feature, rather than a flaw.

Finally, while supply lines share resources between all your connected settlements, there is no global resource tracker for all your settlements (at least, none that I’ve found so far).  So it’s not easy to see your total food and water production vis-à-vis your total population.  For me, this is a minor annoyance, and I’m sure the modding community will come to the rescue in due course.

So, if you’re a fan of Fallout and Civilization, Fallout 4 should be right up your alley.  Honestly, I cannot imagine playing Fallout without settlements now.  In terms of value, if you enjoy everything Fallout 4 has to offer, you should reap scores, if not hundreds, of hours of play time from this game.  Just be warned that settlement management can easily suck you in.


Edit:  So, the last couple of days I’ve noticed some glitches with settlement management.  When I’m at a settlement and check it’s status via the workbench interface, everything is fine.  Plenty of food, water and beds…everyone’s happy.

However, when I go do some missions or exploring, when I use the PipBoy to check on my settlements, it doesn’t always register all of the settlement’s resources.  Sometimes food is lacking, or it says there aren’t enough beds, and happiness declines significantly.

So I quick travel to the settlement to see what the heck is going on, and everything is just the way I left it before, except for the settlement’s happiness level (which is usually about 5 points lower).  I can’t pin the problem down, and it’s becoming very aggravating.

Edit:  Okay, a little research shows a lot of people are getting this bug.  The consensus is that it’s one of two things bugging the settlement:  1) powered TV’s, or 2) fast-traveling from within the build limits of a settlement.  My two most bugged settlements have powered TVs in them, so I will try deleting them and seeing what happens.  Besides, watching too much TV is bad for your eyes. :)

PFBB Bestiary – Giants!

October 31, 2015


Here’s another Pathfinder Beginner Box monster conversion for you on this all hallows eve…giants!

Actually, I wanted to do vampires for Halloween, but they just have too much going on to fit in the standard Beginner Box monster format (that, and vampires may be just a little too deadly for BB characters to handle).  So, you got giants instead. :)

I took some liberty with their Rock Catching ability, but I couldn’t really see it coming in to play very often, so I don’t think it’ll matter much.  Have fun smashing puny humans!

Edit:  I just realized that I forgot to add the giant’s long reach abilities.  DOH!  I’ve attached a corrected version.  Sorry about that.


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