Realms of Crawling Chaos!

One of the prizes I won* in the OPD contest is a print copy of Realms of Crawling Chaos.  I was hoping against hope that I’d get that, because I like Labyrinth Lord a lot, and I like Lovecraft, and although my current game is much more ‘standard fantasy’ than ‘dark fantasy,’ I do like me some dark fantasy.

It came yesterday in the mail and I have only had about an hour to flip though this 61 page tome of awesome but everything I’ve seen so far is pretty damn good.

Nice art, readable text, a complete table of contents for quick reference, lots of neat tables, plenty of new monsters, spells, and character race/classes, and more.  An appendix gives the sources on many if not all of the elements in the book, and the sources are pretty much all HPL stories with a dash of Clark Ashton Smith.  No crummy August Derleth type non-canonical Lovecraftiana, just pure uncut HPL. (Clark Ashton Smith gets a pass because he was HPL’s buddy and has his own weird ideas with nary a tentacled cliché!)

There is a table of d100 random artifact effects, d100 object types, and d100 strange properties for said artifacts.

There are rules for the effects of reading eldritch tomes.

I’m not a fan of psionics but if you’re gonna use them fit in a dark fantasy setting OK.  There are three pages of rules for them that look playable.

A new kind of magic (“Formulae”) that are spells for creating special substances.

And maybe best of all, a four page essay on “Lovecraftian dark fantasy” which really seems to “get it.”  (Hint: it’s not about tentacles and worshiping a pantheon of mythos beings. It is about pessimism and alienation.)

You could buy it as a PDF for less than $5, or get the print version for $17.95, which seems like a very fair price.  It is printed by Lulu, looks good, and is saddle stitched (i.e. folded sheets bound by being stapled in the fold — a very durable format).

I can’t recommend this too strongly to anyone who might want to introduce a few Lovecraftian elements to their game, whether they go full-tilt “Swords against the outer dark” or just want to sneak in some serpent folk or white apes here and there.  On a scale from knobkerry to godentag, this is a skull-crushing tetsubo! (A few illustrations by Erol Otus or Stephan Poag would push this all the way to godentag)

Note that this is not a complete game in itself but a  supplement suitable for use with Labyrinth Lord (original or Advanced Edition) as well for use with any old school version of D&D (B/X and AD&D would be easiest to adapt); I think it would go nicely with LotFP and any “retro-clone.”  It also has some notes for using it with Mutant Future, a Gamma Worldish retroclone.

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*The organizers of the OPD contest asked the winners which prizes they wanted, as there were a LOT of prizes donated.  That was pretty damn nice.

Published in: on June 1, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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LL vs. B/X vs. BECMI

(Sorry about the alphabet soup title. Spelling them all out would make a ridiculously long title.)

The differences between Original D&D and its retroclone Swords & Wizardy are pretty obvious and occasionally commented on. But the differences between Labyrinth Lord and the B/X D&D books seem rather significant to me, now that my brother dug up our old basic set book and I’ve had a chance to look at it. The major changes I notice include clerics (B/X: no spells at 1st level, LL: spells at 1st), the experience tables (B/X uses mostly round numbers, LL has some really odd numbers), and the equipment lists (B/X prices plate armor at just 60 GP, easily within the reach of most starting PCs, who get 3d6 x 10 GP, while LL uses the much higher prices you find in AD&D). There are of course others but these three are apparent right from the start when you’re rolling up characters.

I suppose LL could simply be modeled on the Mentzner BECMI rules, and not B/X as I’d assumed; I have never read Metzner’s version. But LL retains many artifacts from B/X (I had totally forgotten about the attribute checks, and that variable weapon damage is presented as an optional rule in B/X!).

I always liked the idea of the Rules Cyclopedia (which I understand compiles BECMI with some additional material?), but I find myself drawn much more to B/X (because of perceived simplicty, nostalgia, and the Erol Otus artwork!). Unfortunately that means houseruling LL to bring a few things more in line with B/X, or just accepting the changes LL makes. A big motivator for me to use LL to begin with was the fact that players could in principle get a free copy of the rules if they wanted to, rather than trolling eBay and what not for the B/X books.

Grumble.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Comments (7)  
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The not ready for primetime Labyrinth Lord, or, Telengard session 1

Last night, more or less on a whim, I decided to go ahead and run the first session of my Labyrinth Lord game.* We were going to be short one C&C player and Tom, the DM for that game, has been exceptionally busy at work, so he was hoping to put that game on hiatus until we have full attendance. Last time we played Capes, which was a fun little game, but I’ve been itching to start, even though there is TON of stuff I’d have liked to prepare first (for example, a level or two of the local megadungeon, a key to the city map, some NPCs, some handouts, etc. — all I have done so far really is the house rules).

Still, Tom found time to create a custom character sheet (all on one side of a page, yay!) and everyone was OK with a “quicky” intro to the game, so off we went.

I had everyone make 2 PCs, and start at 1st level, despite my earlier inclination to start higher and with henchmen. Thinking it over I just didn’t think it would be a good idea to introduce a new game with higher level characters. Tom made a Dwarf and a Halfling, Richard made a Thief and Fighter, and John made an Elf and a Fighter.  So, the party looked pretty formidable despite Richard’s abysmal starting gold rolls (something like 40 and 60 GP… Leather armor for his fighter and no tools for his thief!).

I had several OPDs printed out and thought I could use one of them, but ended up going with The Ogre Chief’s Grasp,** which was just right for a short session after character generation. Had I been better prepared, I’d have made extra copies of the equipment lists, as that proved to be the main bottleneck in creating the party. Otherwise it was quite a zip. I love older editions of D&D for that reason.

I should note that the module as written included five ogres (four cronies and the chief) and I thought that seemed to be too much for 1st level characters.  Instead I replaced with two of the crony ogres with d6 half-orcs (Orcs with slightly better armor in LL terms). The party managed to kill everything without losing any PCs, although most were pretty beat up. The “Shields will be splintered” rule certainly saved Richard’s fighter’s bacon!

All three players are experienced (Tom mainly as DM, Richard as a casual but long-time player, and John as both a DM & player)*** so I wasn’t too surprised that they used caution and ingenuity. One moment of hilarity was near the start, when the Halfling was sent sent down by a rope through a trap door in the roof of the fort. When an ogre burst into the room that the Halfing had been lowered into, the Dwarf leaped off the roof to bring the Halfling out quickly…which smashed him against the ceiling, then pulled him through the trap door opening and finally pinned him between the crenelations of the battlement on the roof. The Halfling was hurting from that, and both characters were run by my brother, who I guess should be credited with getting the Halfling out FAST but also debited for doing something pretty dumb for a professional engineer. :)****

Anyway the module instructed the GM to roll the hoard class (XX) for EACH ogre present, which came an immense sum (valued over 6000 GP all told, and as luck would have it, including a ring of invisibility, which is an awesome score for a first level party). I think that might be excessive but I’ll check the LL rules tonight.

Fabulously well to do, the party equipped everyone (except the thief) with plate mail, which means I can definitely not worry about pulling punches, this party should have no problems with a level 1 dungeon! Unless they ever need to flee something big and fast, or swim…

Anyway this adventure was basically a “trial” put to them by the Adventurer’s Guild to see if they were ready to try entering Telengard itself. I think they are.

For my part, I’ll try to have a level or two stocked and also get my handouts together for next session.

*I could have put it off indefinitely. Like having a child or starting a business, if you wait until the time is “right” to start a campaign you’ll just never do it.

**I ended up winging quite a bit for this, though. I’d worried so much about which “quicky adventure” I was going to use that I never gave much thought to how to introduce the mission. Although I did not even think to name the “mayor” and “sheriff” of the halfling village, I did try to make them distinct characters and either could appear again later. The module only gave one way in to the “fortress” — the front doors — and I couldn’t imagine it would be unlocked, so I added an access hatch on the roof. Tom tried digging a hole in the roof to get in, which I thought was an interesting idea, while the other two began clearing a pile of rubble that looked promising (I figured there’d have been some way for defenders to get on the roof, but that the small wooden tower over the hatch had collapsed from disrepair). It seems to me that winging things will be important as I get more comfortable with the role of GM.

***Before the game I was pretty intimidated by the fact that both Tom & John are experienced GMs, but I think they both appreciate not having to be the GM enough that they were not too critical of the game.

****See his comment below. Apparently taking friction into account makes his move a lot more sensible. I was just looking it at as heavy dwarf yanking light halfling with the force of gravity, but friction could seriously reduce the force. I’m not 100% convinced there would be much friction for the entirety of the dwarf’s fall, but it looks like there should have been no falling damage for the halfling.

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (8)  
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Labyrinth Lord skills — revised

Skill checks all require rolling equal or lower than the skill on d6.  A skill of 6 fails on a roll of 12 on 2d6.  The skills will all default to one, except as indicated.  Thieves will get four points at first level and two at each level thereafter to improve them.  Other characters just get on one point at creation to increase a skill as their “background.” The final skill list will be:

  1. Climb (climbing sheer surfaces)
  2. Hear noise. Elves & Halflings start at 2.
  3. Read Languages.
  4. Search (find secret doors, hidden items, etc., but not traps as this involves touching things)  Elves & Dwarves start at 2.
  5. Sleight of Hand (pick pockets, palm objects, etc.)
  6. Stealth
  7. Survival (includes tracking, identifying natural poisons, and added to foraging checks)
  8. Tinkering (pick locks, disarm traps, and other mechanical operations)
  9. Traps (find or set traps). Dwarfs start at 2.

Note that a D&D Thief could put three points on Climb and one on Back Stab (below) to begin with skills comparable to a 1st level Thief in B/X D&D or LL.  Advancement remains pretty close to the percentage charts, at least at low levels.  So Raggi pretty much hit the nail the head on the head with 4/+2 per level idea.

Other abilities:

Back Stab: Any character with surprise or who is attacking an unaware foe gets +2 to hit.  Characters with points on Back Stab (allocated from among skill points) increase this to +4, and also add a damage multiplier for each skill point (so a Back Stab of 1 deals double damage, two deals triple damage, etc.)

Underground orientation: Dwarves can detect new construction and determine their depth underground, as well as notice slopes and grades in underground passages.  This requires a round or more of careful observation but usually automatically succeeds.  The DM may require a Search roll if the grade is very subtle, the new construction is deliberately hidden, etc.

Vanish: Halflings can disappear (being effectively invisible) by just standing completely still in even the slightest cover.  Outdoors they have a 5 in 6 chance of remaining hidden; indoors a 4 in 6 chance.  This ability is not a skill and can’t be improved.

Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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