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:


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):

Attack Bonus
Hit Dice
Number of Attacks
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:
10 = 8
9 = 9
8 = 10
7 = 11
6 = 12
5 = 13
4 = 14
3 = 15
2 = 16
1 = 17
0 = 18

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:
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:


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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Secrets of the Sphinx (Pathfinder adventure path)

Okay, so I'm doing up reviews of the rest of the Mummy's Mask adventure path books from Paizo Publishing for their Pathfinder game.  This path is set in the part of their game world which is a fantasy version of ancient Egypt called Osirion.

This adventure is split into two parts: a sandbox hex crawl, then a huge dungeon.  The hex crawl locations were great, lots of variety to keep the players guessing and challenged about what's coming next.  Among the encounters are several interesting NPCs who could re-appear in later adventures if you wanted.  One possible problem with the hex crawl, typical to all hex crawls, is what to do if the players take it into their heads to go totally in the wrong direction and off the map.  I guess that's where the GM's creativity comes in.  The big dungeon, which is actually inside of a huge sphinx, is quite a challenge.  The encounters in here are also quite varied and will keep the players challenged and entertained (even if they don't survive). 

The book also has two extra small encounter areas which can be added to the hex crawl or any adventure.  There is a great section on curses to inflict on the PCs, a set of monsters which I actually liked this time, a bit of fiction (part four), and new items.  The major NPCs get extensive write-ups in a section at the back, which is very handy for GMs to reskin them for re-use later.  The art was excellent, as it has been in the previous three Mummy's Mask books.  I'm glad to see them continue applying ancient Egyptian themes successfully in the NPCs and creatures.  I have six of Paizo's adventure paths and this one compares very well to the others.  Some I buy just for the ideas, but I would actually run this one if I got the chance.

Bottom Line: yes, this was worth the money and I can recommend buying it if you're at all interested. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Neo School Hack: Combat Maneuvers

The original Old School Hack rules didn't specifically cover some areas (because, well, it's old school).  One of these is the various attacks or combat maneuvers other than normal weapon attacks.  Games like Pathfinder and D&D have a lot of specific rules for these--probably too many rules.  But here are some ideas on handling them in OSH.
  • Bull Rush: just make a Brawn vs. Brawn check
  • Disarm or Sunder: attacker makes a normal weapon attack roll (but declared before rolling as disarm or sunder) versus a Cunning check by the defender
  • Feint: attacker first must win a Cunning check against the defender's Awareness check; if win that contest, then follow with an attack roll with +1 bonus; if fail then defender gets immediate free counterattack (no bonus)
  • Grapple/Toss/Drag/Push/Pull: just make a Brawn vs. Brawn check
  • Breaking on-going Grapple/Toss/Drag/Push/Pull: make a Brawn vs. Brawn check to muscle out, or a Cunning vs. Daring to wriggle out