Friday, 23 January 2015

Greek to Me 3: Lamia for DCC

Lamia: Init +2; Atk tail grapple +4 melee (1d6+2); AC 14; HD 6d8; hp 30; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP Charming gaze, constrict, kiss, death throes; SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +4; AL C.

A beautiful woman from the waste upwards, and an enormous serpent from the waist down, Lamia was transformed by the jealous goddess Thera to her present state after Lamia bore the hero Aclueus by the goddess’s husband, Xanxes. Lamia was forced to devour her mortal children, and cursed with a great craving for the lives of the young. It is also her desire to inflict revenge upon all men, and especially upon Xanxes and Thera, their priests, and their followers.

Lamia can charm another with her gaze, using an Action Die. Her victim must succeed in a Will save (DC 12) or do nothing on his next initiative except move in a straight line towards Lamia at his best speed. Lamia cannot charm adult women, although she can charm girls below the age of 10, and males of all ages.

When Lamia makes a successful grapple with her tail, she thereafter constricts for 1d6+2 damage each round thereafter until either she or her victim are dead, or her victim succeeds in a DC 15 Strength check. Lamia can kiss a willing victim automatically, or a grappled victim with a successful attack roll. Each kiss causes 1d3 points of Strength damage.

When Lamia is reduced to 0 hp, a swarm of venomous serpents issues forth from her wounds, and forms from her spilled blood. These serpents attack everyone in a 20’ radius for 1d3+1 rounds, and then the swarm disperses. Each remaining hit point the swarm possess when dispersed indicates a surviving serpent, and each of these serpents becomes a member of the Brood of Lamia.

Venomous serpent swarm: Init +4; Atk swarming bite +3 melee (1d3 plus poison); AC 12; HD 6d8; MV 30’; Act special; SP swarm traits, poison, transformation; SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +0; AL C.

The poison of these serpents does 1d3 damage, with a Fort save (DC 10) to avoid 1d3 Strength damage as well. Each of these serpents grows into a brood-born of Lamia over a period of 1d12 months.

Brood-born of Lamia: Init +2; Atk tail grapple +2 melee (1d4+2) or spit venom +3 ranged (poison); AC 12; HD 2d8; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Spit venom, constrict, kiss, death throes, transformation; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +2; AL C.

Any serpent that survives from the venomous serpent swarm becomes a brood-born of Lamia. This creature resembles her progenitor, but is clearly reptilian even in her upper extremities. Her scaled head is crowned with a frilled crest rather than hair, and her unblinking eyes are incapable of charming anyone. Like Lamia, though, the brood-born can constrict with a successful attack, doing automatic damage each round (Strength DC 12 escapes grapple).

The brood-born can also spit a stream of venom in a line up to 10’ long. Those who come into contact with this venom must succeed in a DC 15 Fort save or take 1d5 points of Strength damage (1 point on a successful save).

When a brood-born is slain, it loses all of its human features, becoming nothing more than an enormous frilled serpent. When only one brood-born remains, it goes through a transformation lasting 1d24 hours, during which it sheds its skin to become the reborn Lamia. During the transformation, the brood-born has only a 1d16 Action Die. Afterwards, it has the full powers, as well as all of the memories, of the original Lamia.

The only ways to truly end the threat of Lamia are to destroy all of the venomous serpents before they can transform into brood-born, or to destroy the last brood-born before she can become the reborn Lamia.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

More Greek to Me: Euryale

Euryale: Init +2; Atk short sword +2 melee (1d6) or bite +1 melee (1 plus serpent bites) or serpent bites +0 melee (1d3 plus poison); AC 15; HD 5d8+5; hp 33; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP infravision 60’, serpent bites, poison, scream, immortal; SV Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +3; AL C.

Euryale is one of the sisters of Medusa, a creature shaped like a woman with poisonous serpents for hair. She possesses fangs like a viper, and if she bites she gains an attack with her snake-hair serpents as a bonus attack. Although Euryale’s bite is not poisonous, those of her serpents are (1d6 damage; Fort DC 15 or also take 1d4 Strength and 1d3 Agility damage).

Three times a day, Euryale can scream with potentially lethal effect. All within 30’ take 3d8 damage (Fort DC 15 for half). All between 30’ and 60’ take 2d8 damage (Fort DC 10 half). All farther than 60’ away, but who hear the scream, take 1d8 damage (Fort DC 5 half). Euryale must wait 1d5 rounds between screams.

Euryale is immortal. When reduced to 0 hp, she does not die, but must withdraw, moving at half speed, until she can find a place to recover. She can be hindered. She can be hurt. But she cannot be damaged worse, apart from cosmetically. 2d3 weeks later, Euryale emerges at full strength, and probably eager for revenge. Even if her body is burned and the ashes scattered, Euryale is restored.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

All Greek to Me: Three Demons of the Aeliusian City-States

Charonite (Type I demon):  Init +1; Atk staff or claw +4 melee (1d4 plus soul rend); AC 13; HD 2d12; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60’, darkness (+4 check), half damage from non-magical weapons and fire, safe passage, soul rend; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +4; AL C.

Charonites are Type I demons in the service of Charon, the infernal ferryman of the river Styx. They appear much as their master – tall skeletal figures wrapped in dark robes, possessing a simple pole, and always mounted upon a boat. A Charonite can be summoned with demon summoning, burning a soul in the censor of Charon, or by adding three drops of water from the River Styx to any mortal body of water, fresh or salt. A Charonite can only be summoned where there is a body of water in which its boat can appear. A mist arises, and from that mist the Charonite and its boat appear.

A Charonite can accommodate up to 16 passengers on its boat, and the boat is always sized to the expected number of passengers. Each passenger must pay 2 coins (of any denomination) for the trip, and the Charonite can take its passengers safely to any point where a body of water meets the land, in any plane of existence.

If attacked, a Charonite’s attacks can rend the soul from its victim. Each successful attack requires a DC 10 Will save or the character takes 1d3 Personality damage. If Personality drops below 3, the victim collapses, and takes 1 point of permanent Personality damage each round until the Charonite is either defeated or driven away (spells like holy sanctuary, protection from evil, and restore vitality can interrupt this process). If the victim’s Personality reached 0, the Charonite rends the soul from the victim’s body, and immediately withdraws from this plane, delivering the soul to Charon himself on the River Styx. If the victim is to be restored, the demonic ferryman himself must be bargained with, and Charon does not give up the dead easily.

Empousa (Type I demon): Init +3; Atk bite +1 melee (1d4) or claw +2 melee (1d3); AC 12; HD 1d12; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SP darkness (+4 to check), charm, half damage from non-magical weapons or fire; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +4; AL C.

Empousai are demonic female vampires, whose fiery-haired seductive beauty is marred with a bronze leg and a donkey’s foot. They are able to charm men, who must make a Will save (DC 12) or be entranced, allowing the empousai to approach and attack unopposed (no Agility or shield modifier to AC). Each round where an empousa successfully attacks, or each round where a companion attempts to bring the victim to his senses, grants a new save; if successful, the character can act beginning the next round with a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all rolls for the remainder of the encounter.

These demons of Hecate exist to devour men. They do not attack women.

Erinyes (Type III demon): Init +4; Atk fiery whip +12 melee (1d6+4) or claws +8 melee (1d5+4); AC 16; HD 9d12; MV 30’ or fly 50’; Act 2d20; SP infravision 60’, darkness (+12 check), immune to weapons of less than +2 enchantment or creatures of 5 HD or less, half damage from fire/acid/cold/electricity, teleport at will to Hades or any point on the material plane, crit range 18-20, constriction, fire, powers against oath-breakers; SV Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +10; AL C.

Also known as Furies, the Erinyes are demons of Hecate which serve to bring vengeance against those who break their word, especially vows made with the gods as witness. They appear as vulture-winged women of hideous aspect, armed with iron talons and fiery whips. A victim struck by a whip attack must make a DC 20 Reflex save or be entwined. Such a victim takes damage automatically each round from constriction and flames, and anything flammable on the victim bursts into fire. An Agility or Strength check (DC 18) can be made each round to get free, but the flames continue to do 1d6 damage each round until extinguished with a DC 10 Reflex save. A constricted victim has a 50% chance of being unable to use each arm; both must be checked separately.

Oath-breakers are the Erinyes’ lawful prey. An Erinyes attacking anyone who has broken an oath taken in the name of one or more gods gains a +2 on all saves.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Meaningless Encounters

Imagine, if you would, an encounter occurring which has no relevance to the scenario in which it occurs. It adds no verisimilitude, adds no flavour to the game milieu, and has no impact or potential for impact on future events. Moreover, the encounter is neither fun nor challenging in and of itself. It is a complete waste of time.

Game systems can encourage elements of this kind of encounter. For instance, in games where resources are intended to “reset” after each encounter, it is easy enough to remove the potential for impact on future events. 

A hypothetical game system that takes two hours to resolve a chance glimpse of a deer in the woods would make what is otherwise five seconds of description a chore that removes all fun. If a system “balanced” encounters so that the PCs were expected to win, and turned encounters into formula combats that took hours to resolve, a chance encounter with an ogre (for example) could easily be removed of its potential fun and challenge.

An adventure writer can also encourage elements of this type of encounter. “No matter what the PCs do, X will occur….” and “If the PCs kill X, assume that an identical X takes its place….” certainly reduce the potential for impact, if the GM actually follows those suggestions.

Yet, few and far between are those encounters which are completely meaningless, unless the system or the GM makes a clear distinction between “relevant” and “irrelevant” encounters. If this is the case, yes, you can make any encounter irrelevant. Doing so does not improve game play IMHO and IME. Forcing the players to determine the relevance of encounters to their own goals – or allowing them to create that relevance themselves! – is, to me, an important aspect of game play.

Crappy encounters do exist. If we take the elements of verisimilitude, flavour, potential for impact, challenge, and intrinsic fun, we can see that the more of these elements an encounter has, the better an encounter it will be. Consequently, the fewer it has, the crappier it will be.

IMHO and IME, adhering to an encounter template or a “plot” to which all encounters must conform is the most common way to create crappy encounters. YMMY, and if it does, party on! Never throw away something that works for you because some jackhole on the internet has a different idea, or different experiences. “Even if that jackhole is you?” Friend, especially if that jackhole is me. What works for me might not work for you. And vice versa.

Here’s the second biggest source of crappy encounters (IMHO & IME): Lack of planning. In order to have meaning, an encounter must both have impact on the setting and be able to allow the players to have impact. That means that there has to be some structure to hang the encounter on, and that there has to be enough leeway in that structure that the PCs can change it through their actions.

So long as those conditions exist, no encounter is truly meaningless. And your chance of having a crappy encounter go down considerably.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Tao of Failing My Will Save

How odd that there are people still who seem to believe that I am preaching the 'one true way.'  Feel free to agree with me and expand on what I've written. Most every comment like this highlights the best parts of my post, adds things I never thought of, deliberates over the nuance of a particular ideal and straightens out my thinking.

Perhaps it is the title of the blog - the apparent insistence that I know the path the reader must tread, that I am demanding that the reader tread it and that if the reader refuses, the reader is an idiot or a fool.

Rumson, however, does not confirm the thesis.  He proposes an alternative thesis ... but he doesn't ask if Holbrook agrees.  He makes it clear: "This is so.  There is no room for argument."  That's because Rumson isn't proposing a thesis ... which is, after all, the entire point of Logan's play.  Rumson knows.  That's why, when Holbrook answers that he doesn't agree, Rumson doesn't care.  He gets to the root of it.  Holbrook doesn't agree because Holbrook doesn't understand.

[T]here IS a path. One that we are walking upon together, arguing, challenging one another, pointing out details along the route. 

Don't piggy-back on my blog and offer an alternative method for 'how you do it.' I am writing here about how I do it. Either address my method, or go write your idea on your blog.

I don't care that the reader agrees.  The response, "I agree with some of what Alexis writes, but not all of it," is pure Holbrook.  I am not Holbrook.  I am Rumson.  Rumson knows.

I don't care that the reader agrees. Feel free to agree with me and expand on what I've written. 

If you want to disagree with me, fine. Do so. I better see a source or a credibly prescient example from your personal experience, and that example better be specific, detailed and ungeneralized. It better be in the first three sentences, too.

[T]here IS a path. One that we are walking upon together, arguing, challenging one another, pointing out details along the route. It better be in the first three sentences.

I am Rumson.  Rumson knows.

How odd that there are people still who seem to believe that I am preaching the 'one true way.'  

Sources:;; - this last is the comments form for Alexis' [Rumson's] blog, which demands that you feel free to agree with him, or, if not, present a cogent, detailed, and well-referenced argument in three sentences. 

Rumson is right in Logan's play because the author deems that this is the case, and unless you assume that you have a special relationship with the "author" of reality, one should not assume that they are right simply on the basis of their pronouncements. Para 3, above, is almost the definition of "one true way", and the insistence of Alexis that he is Rumson (Rumson knows) should make things clear. There is a reason people believe Alexis is preaching "one true way". But it is not clear to Alexis.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Revisiting Old Predictions

We often make predictions, but how often do we go back to see how accurate they were? Alexis did me a solid this morning by reminding me of this blog post that I responded to way back in 2012. I am pretty sure that wasn’t Alexis’ intention, but let’s treat it as if it were.

My base prediction was:

It wasn’t the fault of fans that a toxic atmosphere was created, nor is it the fault of fans that 4e wasn’t well-received. Nor will the success or failure of D&D Next be due to anything other than the success or failure of WotC to put out a good product, market that product well, and undo to whatever extent they are able the ill-will their handling of the 4e release created.

And they have definitely taken some steps in the right direction, although I think that the NDAs for the beta playtest are a really bad idea (not required by most recent rpgs, including Pathfinder and Dungeon Crawl Classics, despite Mike Mearls’ claim to the contrary), and I don’t think 5e will fly without the OGL.

The systems that are doing well right now have the right combination of “good system + goodwill”, and I don’t think Hasbro is going to allow WotC the leeway needed to recreate the goodwill that was seen with the advent of 3e.

The rest of the discussion is actually, I think, worth reading. You will notice quite a bit of “IMHO” and “I think”, and this is largely because, as is obvious, no one can really be so sure what the future holds!

(1) The success or failure of D&D Next (now 5e) is the result of a combination of the product and of the goodwill WotC can generate.

If comments from Mike Mearls are anything to go by, 5e is a real success, and Hasbro is happy that target numbers have been reached. I doubt that anyone is going to claim that this is the result of “toxic fans” or a lack of good will towards WotC. In fact, between the time that I wrote my responses in the blog post and the release of 5e, WotC went out of its way to address the ill will generated with the 4e release strategy.

It is of interest to me that Mike Mearls continues to hedge in relation to the OGL, or what licensing 5e will eventually have. This suggests rather strongly that, despite 5e materials being created right now under the OGL, the system will have a different licensing arrangement. A return to the OGL would have been announced early, because it would generate interest and goodwill.  On the other hand, by deferring the question, WotC can hope to build up enough interest and goodwill related to the system itself that, whatever the eventual licensing, people will be too invested to quit.

And that was, AFAICT, the initial scheme:  Play it for a year, and then we’ll tell you the details about the licensing. Maybe.

(2) The NDA was a bone-headed move.

The NDA did was prevent prolific and prominent bloggers from discussing D&D Next explicitly. It was violated almost immediately, and anyone who wanted them could easily obtain the playtest materials.

But, in this case, perhaps that was the point. By making these materials appear hard to obtain (and that clandestinely), WotC may well have raised the interest in 5e in a way that an open playtest would not have.

(3) Hasbro will not allow the leeway needed to give 5e the goodwill seen with 3e’s release.

The jury’s still out on this. Certainly, that 5e is a better system than 3e or 4e has been touted regularly on various blogs and forums. Equally certainly, renewing access to early editions in PDF (and sometimes print) formats has generated a lot of goodwill. There is certainly a sense that WotC is listening.

As an obvious corollary, if 5e is wildly successful, that will be because of Wizards, not because of the fans. They will have produced and marketed a good product, and overcome the ill-will generated around the release of 4e. It will be an achievement.

Yes, I said that. So far, WotC does seem to have managed that achievement. In part, I suspect, by postponing the licensing announcements until player investment is heavy.

For 5e to be “D&D Next” it needs to feel like coming home…like a game that DM’s can take ownership of. It needs to not feel like a game you play only at the whims of WotC’s legal department.

I still hold this to be true. Whether or not DMs will feel that ownership once they discover the licensing terms is a whole ‘nother matter.

Well, I already know my opinions. Please “hijack” this blog by telling me what you think. I promise not to perma-ban anyone for not simply regurgitating my own thoughts!*

*And, yes, Alexis, that is me tweaking your nose. And no, I did not discover your blog post by searching from "searching for a name" on Google to stir up some controversy in order to maintain readership. Your blog is still on my reading list because, despite the many posts about how everyone else sucks, you do occasionally have very interesting things to say.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Creator and Final Arbiter

"It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. Never hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you, if it goes against the obvious intent of the game. As you hew the line with respect to conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general, also be certain that the game is mastered by you and not by your are the creator and final arbiter." 

- Gary Gygax, Afterword from the 1st edition DMG

These words hold true for (nearly?) all role-playing games, not just Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Rest well, Gary. You are missed.

Doctor Who: Death in Heaven

Have you seen Doctor Who`s season finale, Death in Heaven?

If not, skip this post. If so, highlight to read:

Don`t be so sure that Osgood is dead. Jump back to The Day of the Doctor, and you will note that Osgood frequently used an inhaler, and the lack of inhaler indicated her Zygon duplicate. Following the ratification of a treaty between humans and Zygons, why wouldn`t Osgood-Zygon be allowed to maintain a liaison post with U.N.I.T.?

No inhaler. Not Osgood.

Expect the character to return.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

All In

This could well be the adventuring party...
My youngest child, at 8 years old, is now dipping her feet into the icy waters of role-playing games. I have, therefore, had the delightful task of re-writing the rules to match her interests and willingness to undertake risk. In this game, character death is off the table. She’s just not ready for it yet, although in a few years I hope to be able to introduce her to “harder” games.

One of the fun things about writing material that will never be used outside your own home – no restrictions on what you can use! So hobbits are hobbits, instead of halflings. And – why not? – there are fraggles exploring “Outer Space” in this game ala Uncle Traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock. And I get to use a bunch of creatures from Luke Pearson’s Hildafolk books. Fun stuff. Did I mention that she also watches Land of the Lost, and that Sleestaks will be encountered?

It’s nice working for publication, but it is also very cool working for your own enjoyment. In my home Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, I can easily use materials from MERP, Gamma World, and AD&D, but if I convert these materials, I cannot publish the results. I have also been statting out creatures, characters, items, patrons, and spells from Appendix N fiction (and have shared some of this work here), but the Appendix N Cyclopedia I am working on will, ultimately, be for my reference alone. Likewise the Doctor Who rpg I am working on – stealing the best bits from FASA, Time Lord, and Cubicle 7, but ultimately for in-house use only.

I do this stuff because I love it. It’s damn nice to be able to share with all of my children.

Good gaming!

Players' Map for the starting area of my youngest's adventures....