Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our first Roll20/Google Hangouts test session

Okay, so last night we finally got our schedules together and did a test session logging in to Roll20 and Google Hangouts to see if we could get it all to work.  My friends Kirk and Steve came over to my place, with Kirk kindly bringing a couple laptops to share.  The rest of the crew, Mike, Bill, Kaiser, and Doug, all logged in from their respective domiciles.


Logging in to Roll20 was easy and some of us spent time filling in details on our character sheets in the online campaign space.  We played around with the die rolling functions, spell casting macros, chat area, and moving our character icons around.  At first I was annoyed by the size of the video windows on screen for the other players, but I found the controls to shrink them down out of the way of the starting tavern map.  I plan to work on tailored macros later but for 1st level characters you don't need much.  Moving the icons is very easy and the on-screen drawing functions worked well.

Not everyone found it easy to get into Roll20 but eventually all of us did.  Google Hangouts proved a bit more difficult.  The audio came and went occasionally.  Part of the problem may have been that most of the time we were trying to use both simultaneously.  Also, at my house the wireless bandwidth may not have been up to carrying three laptops running two video and audio feeds at the same time.  In future I'll be on my desktop which is cable connected to the router.  I did find that when I moved my headphones back from the borrowed laptop to the desktop where they had been all sound was weird.  I'm still working on figuring that one out.

So, we're just waiting for Bill to finish getting the campaign ready, Doug to finish his character, me to make a portrait for Doug's character, and (maybe) to see if Alex wants to join as well.  I expect we'll have our first session in a couple weeks.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Quick Potion Characteristics Tables for Old School Games

Okay, so here is a set of simple tables for quickly rolling up the characteristics of potions (or poisons or other liquids).  Roll one each of d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 and check the tables.  I'm thinking these are best when the characters first encounter a particular potion.  They can check out the color, scent, and other characteristics, including a small taste by maybe dipping a finger in it before actually quaffing it.  As each potion type is determined, write down the rolled characteristics for future use.  For instance, when they again find a potion which is Hot, Opaque, Bubbly, Orange, and Mushroomy, they'll know it's an invisibility potion without needing to magically identify it.

Potion Temperature (1d4)
  1. Hot (almost too hot to hold or drink)
  2. Warm
  3. Cool
  4. Cold (almost too cold to hold or drink)
Potion Appearance (1d6)
  1. solid/opaque
  2. swirly (roll one or more extra colors on the color table)
  3. floating spots/particles/chunks (roll one or more extra colors on the color table)
  4. silty
  5. clear
  6. glowing
Potion Texture (1d8)
  1. fizzy
  2. bubbly
  3. smoking/vaporous/steaming
  4. thick/lumpy
  5. watery
  6. gritty
  7. slimy
  8. contains small crunchy bits
Potion Color (1d10)
  1. red
  2. green
  3. yellow
  4. blue
  5. purple
  6. orange
  7. black
  8. white
  9. gray
  10. brown
Potion Scent/Flavor (1d12)
  1. Flowery
  2. Earthy
  3. Acrid/Bitter
  4. Bloody
  5. Salty
  6. Musky
  7. Mushroomy
  8. Cinammony
  9. Herby
  10. Fruity
  11. Smoky
  12. Buttery

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hooray! My Bones II Kickstarter minis are here!!



(Review and more pix later.  FYI, if you look closely at the lower right hand corner of the Thank You card, you'll see the signature "Jeff Vader".  I'm pretty sure it's a reference to the hilarious Star Wars Canteen sketch by Eddie Izzard.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Bones II minis are on the way!

So I just got the official email from Reaper Miniatures that my set of Bones II minis from the kickstarter are on the way--estimated arrival this Tuesday.  I can hardly wait for this stupid weekend to be over!!!!  (Er, wait, what am I saying?)

Some Thoughts on Converting AD&D Monsters to Old School Hack

 Okay, so I'm not quite done with my current design obsession with Old School Hack.  A little while back I posted some ideas for future design projects along this line.  If there's one thing I have little problem doing, it's coming up with new ideas.

Recently I was looking over the D&D classics pdf versions of old modules on DrivethruRPG.  I was pleased to see that they had the old AD&D Desert of Desolation modules.  I ran these for my group using the Chivalry & Sorcery rules back in the day.  We had a lot of fun with them even though my conversion to C&S was pretty rough and ready, especially when it came to AD&D creatures which my game didn't have.

So then I was thinking, hey, what if I convert the Desert of Desolation modules to Old School Hack?  Hmm, well being the the real-world Lawful alignment that I am I immediately knew that I needed A System for that.  Now, Old School Hack contains many of the general concepts from the old school D&D games, but it's absolutely not one of the "clones".  That means that in some areas a simple conversion rule will suffice but in others I need to actually do a bit of thinking.  Since I want to be able to convert entire AD&D modules the conversion rules need to be quick and easy to apply.

So I jumped right into the first module, Pharaoh, and grabbed one of the first encounter tables.  This table has a wide range of creatures, which makes is a good starting place.  Here is an excerpt:

DESERT OF DESOLATION SPECIAL ENCOUNTER TABLE

Dervish Hunting Party (AC 6; MV12"; HD 4; hp 4d10; #AT 1; Dmg 1-8 + 2; AL LN)

Symbayan Airlancers (AC6;MV12";HD4;hp4d6;#AT 1; Dmg 1-8+2; AL LG) fly overhead in the distance on the
backs of Pegasi (AC 6; MV 24"/48"; HD 4; hp 4d6; #AT 3; Dmg 1 -8/1 -8/1 -3; AL CG

Purple Worm (AC 6; MV 9"; HD 15; hp 54; #AT 1 and 1; Dmg 2-24 (2d12)/1-4; AL N; tail has death poison).

Okay, so we go from 4HD dervish hunters to 15HD purple worms all in the same table.  The main characteristics we will have to convert are these six (well, okay, so the last one is a generic catch-all):

AC
Move
Attack Bonus
Hit Dice
Number of Attacks
Damage
Special Stuff


Let's take them one by one:

AC - In OSH, AC is a roll-over system rather than roll-under and go from 8 (no armor) to 16 (Uber armor).  The AD&D ACs go from 10 (no armor) to -2 or more.  So we can do a rough conversion chart like this:
AD&D = OSH
10 = 8
9 = 9
8 = 10
7 = 11
6 = 12
5 = 13
4 = 14
3 = 15
2 = 16
1 = 17
0 = 18
...etc.

Move - Hmm, well OSH doesn't bother detailing movement rates; the easiest thing is just use the rates from AD&D.

Attack Bonus -  In AD&D character classes get increased attack bonuses with higher levels and monsters get bonuses which rise with the number of their hit dice.  OSH is a very flat system, where characters basically start with and stay with 5 HP and there are almost no increases to attack bonuses.  The easy fix is to go with what's in OSH, which basically means ignoring bonuses for all NPCs and monsters.

Hit Dice - The easy way is one AD&D HD = one OSH Hit Point; there, that was easy.

Number of Attacks - what it says.

Damage - Okay, here's where it gets tricky.  In AD&D, damage has high granularity ranging from 1d2 to multiple dice of varying sizes such as the 2d12 for the purple worm above.  OSH attacks, however, deal "wounds" which are low-granularity lumps of damage.  OSH damages is more "yes or no damage" versus "high or low damage".  Plus, OSH damage comes in three classes, normal (one point of damage), heavy (two points), and very heavy (two points, or three if you roll well over the opponent's AC).  Wow, this is tough.  We can simplify it down to:
AD&D = OSH
1 damage die = 1 damage
2 damage dice = 2 damage
3  damage dice = 3 damage
4 or more damage dice = 4 damage

This damage conversion approach is very rough and I don't think it will properly reflect the AD&D damage ranges.  A more "accurate" approach would be based on working out the average damage for the creature's attack and using that as the value for conversion to OSH damage.  However AD&D has many, many different dice combinations for damage and I really don't feel like making up a huge chart of them all and working out all the averages.  The above chart is much simpler.

So then, back to the encounter table above.  Applying the conversion rules above we get:

OSH DESERT OF DESOLATION SPECIAL ENCOUNTER TABLE

Dervish Hunting Party (AC 12; MV 12"; HP 4; #AT 1; Dmg 1; AL LN)

Symbayan Airlancers (AC 12; MV 12";HP 4; #AT 1; Dmg 1; AL LG) fly overhead in the distance on the backs of Pegasi (AC 12; MV 24"/48"; HP 4; #AT 3; Dmg 1/1/1; AL CG

Purple Worm (AC 12; MV 9"; HP 15; #AT 1 and 1; Dmg 2 / 1; AL N; tail has death poison).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This post over at WotC would make a good contest.

Okay, so over at the Wizards of the Coast D&D site there's a new article entitled "Campaign Backbone".  There's a great looking old-school style map and a set of NPC bust sketches.  I immediately loved the map and thought I could definitely make up a campaign using it as the "backbone".  The NPC sketches each cry out for a background story.

Well, that all would make a great design contest wouldn't it?  Use the map for hex crawl locations and work in the NPCs as minor or major characters.  Hmm, maybe for an upcoming blog carnival...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Slave Trenches of Hakotep (Pathfinder adventure path)

Right, so this is the fifth book in the Mummy's Mask adventure path.  This adventure takes place in a sprawling outdoor maze of huge trenches with lots of small dungeons and outdoor encounters areas.  And all that exploring is with the goal of activating a magic tractor team to bring down the flying pyramid (did we mention there are flying pyramids?) of the main villain.  It is a major undertaking for the PCs and will tax their endurance.



The adventure actually starts with the PCs defending the city where the entire path starts from a menacing smaller flying pyramid, one of a fleet fanning out over Osirion.  This is a fun albeit small dungeon and it foreshadows the big, nasty flying pyramid in the final book in the series.

As with the other books in the series this one has an extra article revealing the background of the ancient Shory empire, who ruled from flying cities.  I've been wanting to find out more about the Shory since I first came across them in the Serpent's Skull adventure path.  So this was a very welcome inclusion.

The art throughout is excellent, as it is in the earlier books in this series.  There are also more magic items, in this case with more extensive background lore.  The fiction story continues.  I'm not sure I like having bits of fiction in these adventure paths, since it's not why I brought the product, but they are good for getting you into the atmosphere and always include a small map handy for GMing.  The monsters at the back were pretty good this time, although I'd probably only use about half of them in my games.

Bottom Line: The overall format of this adventure was a pleasant surprise and the article on the Shory was welcome extra.  I'd recommend buying it if you're at all interested.