The Fiend Folio as implied setting

Some time ago, Jeff Rients posted something about running D&D with only the Fiend Folio as the monster manual.  I don’t remember exactly how detailed he got with that, and haven’t been able to find the exact post (this?  or this?) , but since I was looking over the Fiend Folio the other day, I started thinking about what the implied setting of the Fiend Folio might look like.

One thing that might stand out is that there are some knock-offs of standard monsters. Hoar foxes fill the niche of Winter wolves (though they are smaller, fewer HD, and not as evil), for example.

Another thing is that there are many references to standard races and monsters, so really you need to decide whether, say, Flinds require the reintroduction of Gnolls, Nilbogs require the presence of Goblins, the Norker entry allows in Hobgoblins, and so on. You could just ignore those references, or you could grandfather in the things that the FF listings assume. Either choice seems legitimate to me.

The first thought I had was how the options for PC races would look. There are no dwarves, no halflings, no elves other than the Drow, and no gnomes other than Svirfneblin. Drow elves do not seem appropriate for PCs due to their evil nature. Both dark elves and deep gnomes have so many inherent powers that you’d need to (ok: I’d want to…) introduce some kind of extra rules to ration them out as they gain levels, and that isn’t appealing to me either.  Lastly, those races are supposed to be enigmatic, barely-known races of the underdark, and having them as PCs would undermine (hah!) any attempt to keep the underworld mysterious, IMO. Githzerai and Githyanki may have become available as player races in 2e/Spelljammer, but they too seem so alien and mysterious they’d be better left as monsters.

If you wanted to allow some of the FF monsters to be player races, there are not a lot of good-aligned humanoids. I think alignment might matter because in AD&D as it stands, the allowed player races were all good-aligned in the Monster Manual — with the exception of half-orcs, who are not given a separate entry in the MM. Come to think of it, though, most of the human listings are neutral, so probably neutrals are ok too.

That leaves us with a few oddball humanoids, like the Aarakocra, which were ported in as player races in the 2e book of humanoids, and are also good-aligned, though their power of flight seems like a potential headache. The Quaggoth could be a neat mock-Mok, for a Thundar inspired campaign. The Qullan, which seem to be a source for the Talislantian Thralls (or at least share a common ancestor), would be ok as a colorful (hah hah!) option, perhaps replacing Half-orcs, and maybe Sulks could replace Halflings.

I’d be tempted to consider Grimlocks as a possible player race too, because although they are evil, there were several attempts to stat them up for players — both a semi-official Dragon article (#265) and a much older zine I no longer have (it was a small fanzine, I gave it away and don’t even recall the title). The idea of blind berserker is just too fun to leave out of your campaign.

One last thing on the player side of world-building is deities and religion. If you stick to the deities presented in the Fiend Folio, you get a very dark fantasy indeed! Lolth, the Elemental Princes of Evil, and two Slaad demigods. Oh, you also get the Aleax, which the gods send to punish you for varying from your stated alignment.  The Death dog, being descended from Cerberus, sort of implies that there could be Greco-Roman gods in the setting (and the Aleax, which also looks fairly Classical era, would be typical of the Greek gods’ screwing over mortals). Because Retrievers were designed by Demogorgon, I guess we have him too. The Sons of Kyuss mention an unnamed evil deity. The Eyes of Fear and Flame were created either by chaotic evil gods to destroy the lawful, or by neutral/lawful gods to test the lawful. The upshot, then, is that you better not look to the gods for hope or help in the Fiend Folio world.  If they notice you at all, it will probably mean they send an Aleax after you, who will fight you and either take half your XP and all your stuff, or if you are lucky, take you out of the campaign for a year and a day. Fortunately, most of the things that look like undead in the book are either not turnable or not really undead, so you won’t miss having a cleric (unless you encounter 4-40 Nilbogs, which can only be hurt by healing spells!).

So I’m getting the sense that this Fiend Folio world is really dark.

Anyway let’s look at the monsters that look like they might be undead.

Crypt thing

Obviously NOT undead

Turnable undead: Apparition, Coffer corpse, Huecuva, Penanggalan (flying head form), Poltergeist, Sheet ghoul, Sheet phantom, Son of Kyuss

Non-turnable undead: Death knight, Penanggalan (human form), Revenant, Skeleton warrior

Not actually undead & non-turnable: Adherer, Crypt thing, Eye of fear and flame, Gambado, Githyanki*, Necropidius, Vision, Yellow musk zombie

*Like the Meazel, the Githyanki are obviously based on the Iron Maiden mascot “Eddy”.

githyanki

Iron Maiden album art from “Somewhere in a dungeon”

githyanki

Githyanki

Only a minority are turnable, and most are turned as wights, wraiths, or specters, so your cleric has little chance.

All those non-turnable undead and pseudo-undead also remind me that the FF is sometimes criticized as consisting of a lot of screw-the-player gimmick monsters.  While there are a good number of gimmicks, you have to admit the Monster Manual has plenty of those too (Ear seekers, Shriekers, Gas spores, Rot grubs, Rust monsters, Yellow mold, Brown mold, and so on and on!).

I guess we should also look at the giants and dragons, as those are staples of fantasy, and I admit they are a little underwhelming. The giants are not bad — at 12 and 14 HD, they are as tough as anything in the Monster Manual, and the Mountain giant certainly looks like a classic storybook giant.  The Fog giant, with his surprise ability, looks deadly, though they should probably have the ability to generate fog too. The dragons, on the other hand, are maybe the weakest thing about the Fiend Folio world.  Instead of being the benevolent spiritual beings of Chinese folklore, or the destructive forces of nature of Western folklore, they seem to be inscrutable spirits of nature — not necessarily hostile, but capricious and dangerous.  Some demand tribute, some accept bribes, but none have much in the way of clear or useful motivation.  They are all shades of neutral, and that makes them seem more like animals than dragons, despite their generally high intelligence. The trolls of the Fiend Folio are all pretty good though — in fact I like them more than standard D&D trolls.  They are certainly more like Norse trolls, and the Ice trolls and Spirit trolls suggest they are more supernatural than standard D&D trolls.

So if I were to describe the world of the Fiend Folio, I think it suggests that monsters tend to be otherworldly — ethereal, elemental, or undead, or else they are beings from the underworld of dungeons and caverns. The animal-type monsters are mostly botched magical experiments like Gorilla-bears, or gigantic vermin like Giant Bats and Giant Hornets, or else super-predators like Babblers.

Babbler

Babbler

The humanoids are often alien (Kuo-toa, Firenewts) though some resemble the primitive or militaristic subhumans we find in the Monster Manual. So, it is certainly recognizable as D&D. It is just a little darker, a little wackier, and maybe a little more dangerous, since there are almost no “standard” low-level monsters that you can just fight (exceptions being things like Xvarts and Norkers, though the Norker’s high armor class makes them a real danger to first level PCs). For example, Quaggoths (HD 1+2) go berserk and fight to negative hp; Qullans (HD 2) have super-sharp swords that score bonuses to hit and damage (but of course the blades quickly lose this property when looted!)

Looking at the dungeon monster tables in the back of the book, all the “weak” monsters are thieves or ambushers like the Jermalaine, Mite, and Snyad. Humanoids like Bullywugs can make three attacks, or have boosted AC like the Norkers.  And that is just the level I monsters.  As you go to higher level charts, it seems that the FF monsters tend to have boosted AC, HD, or other powers, compared to their Monster Manual peers.  However, I have to say that dungeons stocked according to the FF charts would be a lot less predictable than the standard DMG tables.

So — and this looks like my second or third attempt to wrap up, I always sucked at conclusions — so anyway, the Fiend Folio world looks like something it could be pretty fun to run. It would slightly crank up the weird and the deadly, and downplay clerics and demi-humans. The only thing I’d really miss are the original dragons and some of the staple, dare I say iconic monsters like orcs, beholders, and rust monsters.  Instead, we’d have norkers, slaad, and disenchanters. Which is to say, the kid gloves would be off and the difficulty cranked up to Ultraviolence. Sounds like a plan!

C’mon in! The ichor is fine!

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (12)  
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Would you trust these murderhobos with your campaign?

So with the ACKS Barrowmaze campaign on indefinite hiatus, we’re trying out some fairly BtB AD&D 1e!

 

pcs-1

Click to embiggen!

The original idea was to have each player make 2 PCs, since we’ve all been so erratic about participation, but in the end six players showed up so we had 12 PCs the first night!  One guy is out-of-town tonight, but another is back from having a procedure.  The crew from the first session is pictured above — I don’t recall most of the names but have (left to right) a 1/2 orc Fighter/Assassin,  Human cleric, elf thief/MU, human fighter, dwarf fighter, elf Fighter/MU/thief, 1/2 elf cleric/MU, 1/2 elf fighter/thief, human druid, halfling fighter, human monk, 1/2 orc fighter.  The pairs (front/back rows) are each controlled by a single player.  The returning player, I hear, will run an elf assassin and a human ranger.

I think most of these minis have featured before on this blog.  The monk and druid are the oldest paint jobs, the rest having been painted in the last five years or so. Grenadier, Reaper, Heritage, Ral Partha, even TSR sculpts are on display, as well as a Citadel/Milton Bradley joint mini for HeroQuest.

They are all 5th level (or 4/4, or 3/3/3) and I believe we are playing in the Slavers series…though that is based mostly on the fact we’ve been sent to deal with bad guys in the Pomarj, the nature of whose crimes we never even asked, because hey, there is a bounty.

<Update: Ack! Fighter/assassin 3/3 and Fighter/thief 3/3.  Damn your eyes, wight!>

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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AD&D Yrth campaign session 5: The best little keep on the borderlands

This session was really packed with action — none of the PCs had immediate missions or goals so we just decided to explore the area and caves a bit more.  Marc, who plays the paladin, could not make this session, but everyone else was on hand: Matt (Galad of the Golden Egg, m-u), Richard (Geiron the Mighty, ranger), Chad (“Master” Bader, dwarf fighter/cleric), John (Alaban, elf m-u/thief), and myself (Brother Morax, half-orc assassin/cleric).

First my PC broke into and looted the heretic friar’s home, using the platemail looted from one of his acolytes as a disguise to avoid suspicion.  I got some coinage and an odd book about ‘opening gates to the underworld’ which also linked the heretic friar to a cult of a goblin saint/wizard. Busy, busy, busy.

Then as a party we set off to look into the shack we saw in the marsh.  It turned out to be home to lizardfolk, and the four adults attacked us on sight.  We realized (after killing them) that the other lizardmen we’d found in the marsh must have been a hunting, rather than war, party, and when we found six young and six eggs hiding in the shack, even the icy heart of Morax the Rutterkin/Adept shrank from slaying them.  He eventually remembered that lizardmen are deemed to have souls (oops!) and even serve the Church as warriors, so he brought the lot of them to the curate back at the Keep as orphans. Some of the other adventurers regretted missing out on “lizardman omelets” but I think the fewer monsters we eat, the fewer juveniles we murder, and the fewer eggs we abort, the better — at least when they are humanoid.  I’ll stomp on carrion crawler eggs or kill baby basilisks with the best of them.

Next, the party spent some time in town, getting some training (a weapon master offered to teach proficiency in any weapon for $400) while the magic-user met a mentor who taught him a few more spells.  Thus bolstered, we felt ready to explore the caves some more.  We decided to approach from above rather than walk right into the valley like we own the place, and we ended up choosing a cave that had a sign outside it reading “Safety and repose for all humanoids who enter” (in orcish, goblin, and kobold, rather like a royal Hellenistic proclamation…).  Sensing a trap we sent the elf ahead to scout out the caves, where he was surprised by a bugbear.  A few minutes later the rest of party began to wonder what was keeping him so we followed and find the elf being prepared for a spit.  We slew the three bugbears at some cost and decided to flee with the elf.  Hating to leave a dungeon empty-handed, Morax stole a gong hanging near the entrance but then threw it down into the valley, creating a noise that drew nothing more than furtive peeks from the orc caves.

We made yet another foray, which was much longer and more lucrative, although we came close to TPK (total party kill) country a couple of times.  Continuing in the bugbear cave, we barged in on the bugbear chief and his concubine, who gave the party some trouble, as they actually surprised us (probably an eye bleach moment for our hapless PCs to witness bugbear foreplay).  A sleep spell and a command spell put them both out though and we recovered a goodly pile of loot.  In the bugbear chief’s love nest we found a secret door which led to a corridor, that ended with another secret door, and beyond that, caves, where we fought some glowing beetles and then were badly mauled by stirges, which brought us all to single digit or negative hit points.  Things looked grim.  Our spells were mostly spent, we were low on hit points, and we were quite far from the way in.  We began to back track, hoping to hole up in the corridor with the two secret doors, which seemed like the safest place nearby.  But on our way we found an armored minotaur munching on the dead fire beetles!  We fought desperately, and Brother Morax saved the day again by killing the thing with a poisoned arrow.  From there we followed the minotaur’s tracks back to his lair, and found another vast haul of loot.  But still we were precariously perched on the edge of a TPK.  Fortunately, the elf found another passage from the caverns leading to the surface, and we fled back to the Keep to count our coins, identify magic items, and in some cases … level up!

We may not be playing this campaign again for a while (the DM is likely to travel next week and has a baby coming any day after that) but we certainly ended on a high note.

The post-game chit chat touched on B2: The keep on the Borderlands (which the DM is running, with a lot of modifications).  Salient points:

  • Tom noted that the later the edition of D&D you’re playing, the easier the module gets (in Basic it is a real killer; in 3rd it would be kind of a pushover)
  • Also, the treasure far exceeds the expected treasures in the DMG (I don’t know if he compared it to the B/X rules)
  • John recalled a rumor that TSR modules were intentionally over-laden with treasure so that players would want to play (i.e., BUY) them
  • I mentioned that I’d read that B2 was written mainly to secure royalties for EGG as the other module packaged in the Holmes set was by someone else & Gary wanted to make sure he was getting “a taste”
  • For all that, we agreed it is a fairly awesome module, whether or not it is deadly, “Monty Hall,” illogical, etc.

(I’ve been wanting to use the line “Best little keep on the Borderlands” for years now…)

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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AD&D Yrth session #4: To kill a priest

So, the mostly by-the-book AD&D 1e campaign rolls on, and in the fourth session Tom,  our DM, decided that BTB initiative and surprise is bit “wonky” and he’s adapted a new, simpler initiative system after looking over Old School Hack.  The basic plan is, PCs (and monsters) choose from among four “phases” to act in: 1-Defend/protect, 2-Shoot/Throw, 3-Move/Melee, and 4-Use/Cast.  Each side then roll initiative and plays each phase in that order (winner does phase 1, then loser, then phase 2, etc.).  This has sped things up considerably, as we just turn up a card with a 1-4 written on it each round, then roll for initiative.  There is no “holding” actions or waiting, except that if you chose 2, you can shoot in a later phase but only once, regardless of RoF.  One result is that no matter what the initiative roll, spell casters will always be interruptible, since even if they lose initiative, the other side gets to shoot and/or melee before spells go off (surprise would be the exception).

Tom also introduced two pages of combat rules that clarify or change other things, but they are all either BtB AD&D or house rules similar to what we’ve been doing already.

Session four had several milestones … our party planned (and screwed up, and re-planned, and narrowly pulled off) an ambush, which led to my PC completing his first “mission” (Die, friar, die!).  We fought and defeated out first spell-casting opponents (TPK very narrowly averted when our ranger spotted that Friar Tanin was roused from a Sleep spell by my attempted coup-de-grace, and the ranger just had time to interrupt Tanin’s attempted Hold Person on our four-man party!).  And it only took four sessions for Richard to begin exploring his options regarding the torture of captives. 😦 

Although two players could not make this session, and we started very late, it was a blast.

One other thing the DM did which I never really thought of before was: although each PC has a ‘mission’ that led him to the Keep, and completing the mission is an XP bonus, said XP is divided among the whole party.  That actually makes a lot of sense and for some reason I always assumed Party mission = party XP, individual mission = individual XP. But dividing up an individual’s mission XP will have the (very good) effect of encouraging the whole party to cooperate on each other’s goals, rather than (say) having one PC run off to do his little side mission while the rest of the party is doing something else.  I like.  Maybe in a more cut-throat/PvP campaign I’d go the other way.

Anyway what follows is my XP-grubbing session report, mainly on interest to the DM and players, but posted here for posterity:

A letter from Morax the Hospitaller to his superior:

From the Keep on the borderlands

Dear Bro. Joshua,

I trust you will have had no problem decoding and translating this missive, and it will have found you in good health.  I am pleased to report success in my mission to eliminate the heresiarch.  I have attached myself to a party of adventurers who have proven themselves invaluable as allies, and also to provide an excellent cover for my operations, as they move freely about the Keep and its environs.  With them I have brought the sword to many unclean creatures of darkness. Surely Christ has smiled upon our cause and will continue to aid us in eliminating heresy and error.
In the course of the mission, we persuaded F*T* and two of his acolytes — a pair of half-orcs — to accompany the party on our expedition to the Caves of Chaos, a den of numerous humanoid tribes which have been harrying the Keep.  Once outside of town we split off from F*T* and his acolytes, crossing a raging river, in order to backtrack and surprise them.  En route we encountered a series of lizard men, which must have been a hunting party that had itself become strung out along a wide are as they did not attack in force but only one at a time.  I feared it was all a ploy to lead us into their own ambush but after we slew a handful of lizardmen we crossed the river again unmolested except by a giant fish.  Our ambush was aborted when we found that four more armed men were meeting with F*T* and wearing his livery.  In the end we slew them all and were unable to take a captive for questioning.  I suspect they must have a secret lair outside of the Keep and will investigate that at my first opportunity.  In the meantime I plan to pose as one of the acolytes back at the Keep, in order to gain access to F*T*’s chambers and discover what I can, if that be God’s will.
The Curate at the chapel seems to be an honest man and trustworthy enough. But I do not yet trust any in the Keep apart from adventurers Sir Ashcroft, The Mighty Geiron, Gladys of the Golden Egg, and — believe it or not — an elf and a dwarf who, so far, have proven themselves trustworthy and even brave, despite the debased and atrocious standards of their subhuman kinds.  With God, all things are possible, and perhaps I will even befriend the wretches.

Brother Morax

P.S. I have taken the precaution of concealing my affiliation and have assumed the name Borax and the identity of a Templar at the Keep, so address any replies to that name. 

P.P.S. The Lord has also blessed us with the catch of a monstrous Gar — enough to meet the Lenten needs of whole village, but I am afraid we will not be able to smoke or dry it in time to make use of it. Mysterious indeed are His ways.

P.P.P.S. While I have no interest in earthly rewards I do recall being promised a certain sum of silver on the successful completion of my mission, and would obviously put such funds to good and proper use.  Righteousness has proven to be an expensive companion and I must spend all my funds on the costly equipment my work requires.  My living at the Keep would scarcely support the lifestyle of an extreme Franciscan, and I fear my cover will be compromised if I can’t afford to make at least the pretension of being the humblest of Templars.  I trust your next letter will include ample funds keep me indoors and fed.  Also I have found arrows to be exceedingly expensive at the Keep due to wartime profiteers and should very much like an additional allowance to procure sufficient arms to meet my needs.   

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Yrth AD&D session 3: kobold genocide (w/pics)

Once more unto the breach! Our DM retconned that the fallen PCs may not be dead yet and their players could each control a man-at-arms (m-a-a) or two, as the survivors agreed they needed to hire some meat shields.  They all chose to do so and so once again we set off for the caves.

Short version: after several forays, we rescued the captive PCs just as they were about to be had for a feast in kobolds’ hall.

In the first attempt, our elf found a trap … and fell in.

The elf disappeared down a pit trap, and a horde of rats appeared on the left.

The dwarf rushed past the rats to kill off some kobolds that had been 'slept' by the elf right before he set off the trap. Some rats followed.

Things began to look grim as the two m-a-a with the dwarf fell, and my half-orc was reduced to one HP, forcing him to fall back.

Another m-a-a falls...

One m-a-a fell into the pit at the start of the battle, right after the elf did; the others were all knocked out by the rats but the party survived and we patched up all the m-a-as to come back again later...

On the next pass, the elf, scouting ahead, found some orcs, who opened fire with their bows and knocked him out...

Curly, Moe, and Larry ponder how to rescue the fallen elf ... the orcs had eyes only for the elf, though, and in the daylight didn't see the rest of the party back another 90'. This gave us a chance to set up a simple ambush.

Well, that was not what we planned. One orc felled by my arrows and the m-a-as butchered.

Somehow we pulled through, recouped at the Keep, and returned yet again to enter the kobold caves and with caution and sleep spells, made our way to the kobold warren at last!

The final showdown featured a cast of dozens ... snotlings standing in for kobold women and children. The psionic ranger confused the kobold chief with a mind blast, and the elf slept all the warriors, leaving the fight a mop-up operation. Despite the post title, we did not massacre the kolbold women and children (curse you, Gygax, for even putting them in there, you creep!). They handed over the loot and we let them go to be eaten by the orcs, gnolls, ogre, and so on in the other caves.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 9:23 am  Comments (6)  
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Multiclassing BTB; plus the Headless

When Tom agreed to run AD&D, I went back to the Player’s Handbook to check out how multi-classing works in 1e.  I never liked the 3e version of multiclassing, which was a bit too easy to exploit (I recall running a half-orc barbarian/rogue/ranger that was certainly an ass kicker but I would have rather played an AD&D fighter/assassin…).

Since I was pretty set on running a half-orc cleric/assassin, I wanted to see how stuff like HP and XP would work after he hit the 4th level “ceiling” in cleric.  I think this may be where the AD&D rules are a little harsh.  The PHB write-up on cleric/assassins mentions that they are a good choice because of the extra HP from the cleric HD.  By the book, a cleric/assassin will have slightly better HP (for the first 4 levels) but afterward the drop-off is steep, because as the character continue to gain assassin levels beyond fourth, the HP accumulated are still divided by two.  That is, for any multi-classed character, HP are (total HD / classes).  So, at the beginning a multi-class gets a HP total that would be midway between the expected total for a character of the same level in either class (a 4th/4th c/a would have (4d8+4d6)/2 HP).  That’s cool.  But a low level limit in one class (and half-orc clerics are the most extreme case) will cause your c/a to have astonishingly low HP compared to PC of similar XP, as each assassin level of 5th+ will net just (d6/2) HP.  By 8th level, whatever advantage those first four levels with their extra 1 HP on average had has been lost.  From here on out, the character’s HP are worse than single-classed assassin of the same level (i.e., a character with 1/2 the XP).  Don’t get me wrong, the ability to cast a few clerical spells is damn nice for an assassin (command, light/darkness, sanctuary, and remove/cause fear at first level, and the killer Hold person and Silence, 15′ radius).  But it’s sort of a double-whammy, isn’t it?  Never get spells above 2nd level, and advance at 1/2 rate with 1/2 HP?  I know some old schoolers blanche at any mention of the dread word “balance” but what did Gary have against half-orcs? In my experience it’s those damn half-elves that unbalance everything 🙂

At any rate in Tom’s game he’s going with the slightly more lenient level limits in Unearthed Arcana which allow half-orc clerics to reach up to 6th level, and the hope of access to a third level spell makes this bargain much more palatable.  We can expect about 10-12 sessions max before the campaign goes on hiatus due to the bambino, so even the 4th level limit is probably not something we’ll be bucking against any time soon.  Still, it’s nice to think the combination is viable for the long term.

So enough whining about rules that will probably never actually come into play.  Joesky tax time:

New monster: The headless.

Aberrations created by some forgotten, but obviously mad, magic-user, these creatures appear in a human form lacking a neck and head.  Their senses somehow allow them find and attack their foes, perhaps through magical or psionic means.  Light, darkness, and purely visual illusions have no effect on them, but they can be fooled by illusions that incorporate sound or other tactile components, and they do respond to sound despite their lack of ears, so moving silently may allow one to slip by them.  They wear no armor and use no weapons on their own, as they are most often encountered, but Headless in the service of other monsters or NPCs (most commonly Beholders, magic-users, and evil high priests) may be armed and armored and would increase their AC and damage accordingly.

They do not seem to need to eat or drink, but are not undead.  It is unclear if they are created from normal humans or created entirely in a laboratory.  They can obey simple commands when led but if encountered with no NPC or monster leader, they move about in a loose flock, keeping with 10′ or so of each at all times.  They attack humans and demi-humans immediately (although some secret spells can control them) and will simply pound them into mush if they can, leaving the bodies uneaten but unrecognizable.  They carry and hoard no treasure but their lairs may be surrounded with the incidental leavings of their victims (a wilderness hex containing a headless lair should have treasure type B scattered about in small hoards, accompanied by piles of mush or splintered bones.

No. appearing: 2-16 (4-24) ; HD 2 ; AC 13  or by armor ; dam. d6 (fists) or by weapon ; Mv. 12″ ; Save: F2 ; Morale: 8.

If you played Ultima IV or V, or Ultima Underworld, you’ll recognize these guys.  If you want make them a little creepier, maybe use the Fletcher Hanks version with a single eye in their chests:

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (5)  
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Back to being a player … I’m stoked!

Meet Morax, aka Brother Hush:

Oh, she was a bad person ... probably an evil witch or something.

 S17, I14, W14, D16,C16, Ch11, HP5, Cleric/Assassin 1/1.

We’re playing AD&D with a few tweaks — alignments are basically done away with (although we do have allegiances); ascending AC is used; exceptional strength is removed, although fighter types get better benefits from high Str as they do Con; and characters have “prime” stats similar to C&C, although the mechanic is that attribute tests are rolls of X d6 vs. the attribute, and primes get to use one less d6. 

Character generation was spread across the tail of the penultimate Telengard session (where we rolled stats — 4d6, must have at least two 15+ rolls — and chose classes and applied modifiers for age — so my raw rolls were a very respectable 15,14,14,16,14,13) &  this session, in which we spent the first hour and a half catching up (it’s been two weeks since last game night) and getting the rest of the sheets filled in.  Tom added a nice homage to Fantasy Wargaming, having characters roll to see if they know how to swim, climb, ride, and read/write.  Poor Morax had no chance to know how to ride, and missed his Swimming roll, but being an assassin automatically knew how to climb, and being a cleric was literate.  All the other characters also got a roll on the ‘secondary skills’ chart too, so most of the PCs have some other useful skill, but Morax was clearly raised in a monastery to be a killer for the faith and has no secondary skills.

The game world is Yrth, the setting described in the GURPS fantasy supplement but which is unbelievably poorly documented online.  Basically it is a planet where, about 1000 years ago, a magical mishap pulled in bits and pieces of many other worlds and times, including Earth, so the dominant human cultures are descended from the Roman empire (a Byzantine/HRE mishmash), feudal Europe, and medieval Islamic.  So, my character is a fanatical member of a religious order (the Hospitallers) and is actually getting along swell with the group’s paladin (who is probably either a Templar or Hospitaller too). [Yeah, those orders came later than 1000 AD in real history, but I think the “banestorm” which is pulling bits of other worlds is an ongoing thing, so even more modern stuff can pop up once in a while.]

Each of us got a 1 paragraph mission/background note explaining why we are going to … The Keep on the Borderlands.  Although Tom was referencing the maps and NPCs there, I am sure things will be changed around, but in any event I’ve never actually played B2 so I’m pretty stoked about that as well.

We set out from Hawkwood, and learned the area is beset by vampires.  Our choices were to travel through the thick-canopied forest path which follows a river or to head out west and travel through the desert.  We decided that the refuge offered by running water was more important than the open space of a desert (which would make ambushes less likely).  The party consists of a dwarf cleric/fighter, an elf magic-user/thief, a human ranger, a human paladin, a human magic-user, and my half-orc cleric/assassin. (Sorry, no names, those are on my sheet which the DM keeps between sessions!) The lack of alignments does not mean the paladin and ranger can ignore the ‘no evil acts’ rule.  But since there is no alignment, alignment is not in itself a conflict for the party. 

On the road we camped on a sand bar in the river, and the second watch was awaked by a girl’s pleas for help.  Turns out she was a vampire, and while the vamps couldn’t get to us across the water they did send a pack of wolves and later a horde of rats, which we managed to defeat.  I came close to death in the wolf fight. Tom is running initiative and melee very much as written in AD&D…going by segments, so we declare before rolling initiative.  It made the fight pretty exciting.  The vampires then stalked off to seek easier prey and left 100 or so rats waiting for us on the banks of the river, which the ranger cleared by sweeping them into the current with his halberd.

Later we encountered a deer and killed it for food, and then the ranger felt that something was up — something else was stalking the woods.  We found bear-sized bird tracks and realized it was an owlbear!  (That may be straight out of B2.)  Lust for treasure in our hearts, we followed the tracks to its lair, and hoped to find it empty, but instead I found another owlbear, its mate no doubt.  This was Morax’s chance to shine, as I had already scampered above the lair entrance when we got there, and when the elf sneaked in to peek around, the owl bear came out.  A trap I had set at the entrance went off and gave me a chance to assassinate the owl bear!  (At 5 HD, I had a 35% chance, and rolled a 04! )  Having averted a TPK we looted the nest, finding a fancy gold cross, and then proceeded to the Keep. 

En route some elves asked us for help with a village of gnolls nearby, but we averred, having more pressing missions at the keep.

At the keep, we began to pursue our missions and make contacts, but time ran out and stopped for the evening.  I think we all wanted to keep going but it wa approaching 11 PM and most of us have day jobs, so that’s all for this time.

Published in: on August 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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