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

Monday, February 2, 2015

A megadungeon concept based on Sword Art Online

Okay, so I just finished watching the first two story arcs of the anima Sword Art Online.  As an anime it was okay, but I wasn't really excited about it.  Anyway, the basic idea of the first story arc is that fully immersive virtual reality gaming becomes a reality and the main game is called Sword Art Online.  The catch is (spoiler alert!) that the person who programmed the game has rigged it so that once you log in you cannot log out and if anyone attempts to remove your VR helmet while you're in, it will kill you.  The only way out for the trapped players (whose real bodies end up on life support in the meantime) is to beat the game--all 100 levels of it.  But another catch is that if your character in the game is killed, your VR helmet will kill the real you.

A game based directly on SOA doesn't appeal to me and in practice the real-life part outside the game wouldn't really affect play at the table.  But it gave me some ideas for a megadungeon, who which I'd add a bit of City of Ember for extra flavor.

The setting is that players live in an underground city-state, sealed there for ages for some reason (lots of scope for campaign deep background) but now their little world is dying/collapsing/etc.  Someone finds a secret way out, maybe revealed by the gods/ancients who put them there in the first place or whatever.  But this way out only leads into the big megadungeon which was actually out there all along without anyone knowing about it.

So they have to clear a path through the huge megadungeon to get their people out.  This doesn't mean they have to clear the entire thing, just create a safe path to the outside.  Monsters have to be killed, enemy groups neutralized, and friends and allies made.  The collapse of their home area provides a constant time pressure to get on with it.  In the archives of their little world will be many clues to the huge dungeon, most of which were previously thought to be mere legends and myths.  Some will mention the various intelligent peoples/races, some the monsters, some particular regions of the dungeon, and several the "promised land" which might lay beyond.

I would run it where there are several "promised lands" mentioned.  Some will require the party to actually go all the way there to confirm what it is, others will be revealed by clues found in different dungeon locations.  Also, the intelligent creatures/races of the dungeon will have their own legends, myths, and stories.  Some of those will confirm the information from the character's sealed world, some will offer different versions, some will be completely new.

I think this is actually a better start for a megadungeon than having the players outside delving in.  The problem with delving in from the little starting town or whatever is that there's always the distraction of wandering off to see the rest of the outside world.  And there's no pressure to get on with it.  They can totally take their time resting up, training, crafting, etc. and go down whenever they're fully rested and ready.  The "reverse dungeon" approach would work well for a megadungeon setting tailored for it.

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 61

I rested, but did not sleep.  Deep inside me, the Light is strong and I feel It renews my energies. 

Today, we return to the palace, and the captain of the guard tells us the Kalif left yesterday.  This is not correct.  He is lying.  We avoid a major confrontation, so we leave the palace grounds.  Brute tells me there are guards loyal to the Kalif, and other guards, rougher, that seem to take their orders from the captain.  Brute wants to meet the loyal guards where they can speak freely.

We wait until evening and go to the tavern, as Brute must meet with the guards. Trevor wants to celebrate.  He did provide the invisibility for us all to escape without being noticed.  As Brute starts talking to the guards, Trevor orders a fine wine where the barkeeper must fetch it from the back room.  A few coins transfer hands, and Trevor takes a sip from his glass.  I turn away from that scene of smugness to focus on the meeting.  There is smoke in the air, and a strange smell.  Then I begin to relax.  I don't hear much from Brute's talk with the guards, but I am in awe.  Brute has a natural way to converse with these guards.  It is effortless.

Then my mind returns to the orphanage.  We see Cass, bloody and hurt.  She explains that one of the three prisoners left.  She tried to restrain him and was hurt.  Ohm Uri runs towards the palace hoping to catch him.  We gather our selves for another night to slip into the palace.

We catch up to Ohm Uri, who found the man, dead on the ground.  This is just strange.  Maybe the palace guards found and killed him.

We quickly enter by the servant's gate, and make our way, with Cass' help, to find the Kalif.  When we find him he is in a charm, the same charm as the other man.  Then, he speaks.  The words do not come from him, but we hear his words in our heads...

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 60

Ohm Uri dashes past me and up the gentle slope of the passageway.  Brute and Kull continue to battle the monstrosity.  Cass and I move out of reach of it and find Trevor.  We survey the scene, which does not seem real.  Unconscious children lay all over the passageway.  Before we can think on what we should do, Ohm Uri starts pushing a wagon to roll towards us.  Is he mad, or has he an idea?  He must intend to guide the wagon into the monster.  But, he is waiting, he is holding the wagon back.  The children are in the way!  I help Cass and Trevor move the children to a safe place. 

Without thinking, I close my eyes, and the forbidden power is there, ready and waiting.  I mentally reach for it, and mold it with my hands.  I shape it into a force flying but motionless, above the ground.  We lay them on it, as many as we can.  Then I move them to wide spot of the passageway. 

Mindlessly, I continue to move all of the children out of the wagon's path.  We signal it is clear.  Ohm Uri is awkwardly trying to hold the wagon and get a torch from the wall.  If he stumbles, the wagon will roll over him.  I motion for him to come, and yell to him that I can set the wagon on fire.  Then in an unbelievable display of agility, Ohm Uri jumps into the wagon, steering it as it gains speed.  He bumps into the wall on the far side, sending sparks into the air.  He wants to keep it from steering into the children.  He passes us and jumps.

The sorcery energy waits impatiently for me, a second time, and jumps at me when I think about it.  In an uncontrolled push, I thrust it to the wagon.  With a will full of rage, I think of the people that died to feed this creature's appetite, I think of the children possessed by it, I think how can the Kalif be so diabolical to harbor a creature like this.  The raw power, in seconds, tears into the wagon, breaking splinters off, making it an uncontrolled rolling mass of wood, metal and liquid fire.  It leaves a burning trail as it smashes into the creature, creating a huge fireball, and sending it back to the depths of its home.  I had forgot that Brute and Kull were still fighting the monster.  We run into the room, and find them safely behind the gong.

We take the children up the pathway to a second wagon, and we carefully place each child in it.  Trevor waves his hands in strange gestures, says words that I don't understand, and strangely cannot remember.  Then, all of us, including the children and the wagon disappear.  Ohm Uri makes a timely diversion, which confuse the guards and they open the gate in confusion.  This is our queue.  We steer the wagon right past the guards.  Ohm Uri gets up, running in the opposite direction from where we are going.

When we return to my orphanage, and I have my two acolytes get my other students from the temple.  I am exhausted.  We unload the children, putting them safely under blankets to keep them warm.  Kull makes swift work of turning the wagon into firewood to keep the chill away.  Brute checks on Veronica.  When my students return, they take control of the children, and of the saved prisoners.  Time will help them heal.

I retire to a corner of the room and record the events.  Upon reading my journal, I sob, dripping tears on the parchment.  Twice, I broke my vow not to use It.  The first time, was to help.  The second, was to destroy.  My anger used the power in rage.  What fate is for me at my temple, when I tell them?