Monday, October 16, 2017

OSR: Optional Spellcasting System [UPDATED]

While I've only played the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG once, I keep hoping to find time to try it out someday. One of the reason is the method that wizards and clerics cast spells: by rolling on a chart for each spell.

It's inspired me to develop a more general chart for other DnD/OSR games.

Whenever a spell is cast, arcane or divine, the caster has the option to roll a d20:

On a roll of 1, the spell fails and the spell slot is lost, additionally the caster gains a cumulative -1 to all d20 rolls when making a Saving throw vs Spells.

On a roll of 2 through 4, the spell fails and the spell slot is lost.

On a roll of 5 through 16, the spell succeeds, but the spell slot is lost.

On a roll of 17 through 19, the spell succeeds and the spell slot is not lost.

On a roll of 20, the target(s) of the spell have a -3 to their d20 rolls when making a Saving throw for that spell.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Halloween Treat: The Headman for Shadow of the Demon Lord

Over the last several years, the legend of the Headman has grown throughout the city. When the decapitated heads of victims were being found in the poorest parts of town with no corpse to be found, many gossiped with morbid glee over the murders. But as the number of victims grew and bodiless heads were found in the Merchant district and even the Banking District, the gossip turned to angry concerns and cries for justice!

 The Council of Burghers has recently created a task force to search out the monstrous killer. The few witnesses that have been found claim to have seen a tall, masked monster with a bloody axe and strange gurgling mutter. A being born of iron and shadow who weapon slices through a full-grown man's neck as if it were wheat.

Size 2 frightening human
Perception 12 (+2)
Defense 14; Health 60
Strength 15 (+5)   Agility 13 (+3)   Intellect 8 (-2)   Will 9 (-1)
Speed 12

Axe (melee) +5 with 2 boons (2d6+2 plus gory 
   blow on attack roll 20+)
Gory Blow The target is impaired until completes a 

Frenzied Attack The headman attacks two different targets with its axe, making each attack roll with 1 bane. 

The Headman is Job Karakas, a former marine and lumberjack, whose mental illness has been used by his cousin, Phineas Blofeld, to gain organs for the black market for wealthy and royal customers. Job was a capable and decorated marine through three campaigns, but he had trouble transitioning to civilian life when peace finally came. He found some peace as a lumberjack, living with Mother until her death. Then lost he sought out his cousin, Phineas, tormented by his Mother's death and his violent past in service to the Marines.

Phineas, who had toiled as a graverobber for several decades, saw the trauma that the war had inflict on Job and convinced his cousin to aid him in his organ harvesting business, claiming their operation would punishing "those in charge" for ignoring his pain and others like him.
  While several of his clients have made the connection between the Headman legend and Blofeld, none have been willing to lose what to them is both a valuable contact and a fearsome opponent.

Size 1 human
Perception 14 (+4)
Defense 12; Health 15
Strength 9 (-1)   Agility 12 (+2)   Intellect 14 (+4)   Will 12 (+2)
Speed 10

Scalpel (melee) +2 with 1 boons (1d3)

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Halloween Treat: Dead Until Dawn Actual Play

Last night, we took a break from my Tamoachan DnD 5E game so that I could run a Halloween game. I chose to run Schwalb Entertainment's Dead By Dawn adventure written by Rob Wieland for Shadow of the Demon Lord.

The adventure comes in at 6 pages and I spent about 20 minutes reading it the night before, making some notes for about 15 minutes the next day, and then a final pass about 5 mintues before we started playing later the same night.

The set up is that the Players (all starting characters or 0 level in DnD) are staying at the Goathorne Inn (The two owners pronounce it differenty, by the way) close to a road winding through a foreboding forest.

My opening scene was set a bit before dinner and gave the Players, an orc, a human ex-marine, a human student of religion and magic, and an inquisitive human healer, time to meet each other and introduce them to Gelda and Ananda, dwarven adventurers who have settled down to run the Inn and their empolyee, Bester, a fair-haired kid.

Soon, dinner was ready and Ananada asked David, the magician, to go fetch Horvath, a local staying with them, from upstairs. Horvath's door was locked and David called for help, Ananda sent the keys to the room up with Matt, the healer. After they got the door open open, they found Horvath, naked upon his bed and dead for at least 24 hours. Amongst his belongings was a fur pouch with mystical symbols, identifying it as a blood ritual to David. At that moment, Horvath rose and began uttering a curse, but Matt used his dagger to stab the corpse in the head. The pair called up the rest of the group and as they spoke about him rising as a zombie they began to hear moaning and beating upon doors and the shattering of first floor windows. 

The group sprang into action and began beating back zombies in the kitchen and then fortified the rest of the house.

David learned that the ritual was a protection from an evil tree that grew in the forest and that Horvath was to complete it. He explained that if they could survive until dawn, the tree's power would collapse under the daylight and they would be safe until the next nightfall.

Dead Until Dawn presents a system for a five part siege, with each part lasting 2 hours. During each part a player can attempt to fortify, rest from fatigue, heal, work the ritual, or run for supplies. If the ritual is worked, it requires blood and the more blood offered the fewer zombies might appear for that part, however it is best to use the caster's own blood, as another's blood adds Banes (my Player's did this for 2 parts before they caught on). Fortifying can also help reduce the number of zombies that appear for that part.

After actions are declared, there a d20 table for Unusual Events which affects, often negatively, that part. Finally, there is a Threat rating for the zombies for that part, if the ritual succeeds, the number of blood spent allows the players to remove specific undead (comprised of Animated Corpses and Zombies from the SotDL rule book). The number of successful fortification roles for that part also can lower the Threat rating (which defaults to 2). Additionally, if Gelda, Ananda, or Bester help to a Player, they add Boons to the roll.

It's a well done way to organize the chaos of a zombie siege and my Players and I loved it.

My group managed to make it until dawn, as David, their magician ran very low on blood, but the Orc, Benth, spent most of the night learning the ritual so he could finish it for the last 2 hour part. Sadly, Bester died (due to a roll on the Unusual Events table that would have required someone to go outside after him).

When dawn broke, the Orc (who had suffered an insanity) and Ananda (who was already a bit unstable) left the area together. Gelda, however agreed to accompany the other into the forest to take care of the evil tree.

My one-shot has turned into a (at least) a two-parter.

I can't recommend Dead Until Dawn enough!

Great game for a great Halloween Adventure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion

I just wanted to take a minute and spotlight Cross Plane's Products on the and

I released a new product for the first time in over a year last week and I'm developing some other projects at the moment.

Products on for the Black Hack and the Cypher System.

Products on the for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Blueholme Jorneymanne Rules

I've taken a keen interest in the OSR again and I've been exploring what  separate Holmes' Basic from B/X and BECMI. Thanfully, Michael Thomas of Dreamscape Design allowed me access to a PDF copy of his Blueholme Journeymanne Rules for review purposes.

For those not in the know, Blueholme Prentice and Journeymanne Rules are based on Dr. Holmes version of the first Basic DnD published by TSR, which only went to 3rd level (as so do the Prentice Rules).

The Journeymanne Rules go all the way to 20th level.

Some key aspects of Dr. Holmes and the Journeymanne Rules are that weapons only do a d6 of damage, not all Ability scores modify things in the game, Races and Classes are separate, there are far more spells than in B/X by Moldvay and Cook, and nearly any Race or Creature in the game can be used by a player.

First let's talk about the look of the book, which is 121 pages. The blue cover is well illustrated and find the imagery inviting. It channels the feel of it's inspiration very well.  The interior art is all black and white and I find it's quality to be exceptional and for the pieces to hit the right tone.

What drew me to read the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules was that it delivered a complete ruleset across 20 full levels. And it fully delivers on it's mission.

If you are familiar with DnD or most retroclones you know what to expect for Ability scores. However, in Blueholme Strength and Wisdom Ability scores provide no bonus.

Races are not specifically laid out, because with some advice in Chapter 6 any monster can be used as a Race for your game and it's up to the Dungeon Master to determine what Classes are open. Additionally, the Monster descriptions provide a good overview for the DM to use.

The Classes are the Big 4 we all know and love. The biggest change I've noticed is that Fighters get a damage bonus starting at level 4, which I approve of as a fitting class feature.

Combat is as you expect with Descending AC and AC that defaults to 9 unarmored, but a section of siege weapons is included.

The Creatures section is very extensive and takes up nearly 30 pages.

The Spell section is much longer than what I've seen in DnD B/X or Labyrinth Lord and also covers nearly 30 pages. I'm very impressed with the amount of Spells presented and they go up to 7th level for Clerics and 9th level for Magic-Users.

One of the bright spots for me, as a tool for newer DMs, is Part 8's focus on running Campaigns and breaking things down by Setting, Goals, Villain, Sub-Plots, Factions, and Rumors. And further defining the setting by the Underworld, Wilderness, and the Realm.

What impresses me about Blueholme is that is very much draws inspiration for the very roots of our hobby, but it's treatment highlights how playable those roots still are, while fleshing them out and extending the game itself.

I really can't recommend Blueholme Journeymanne Rules enough. The Prentice Rules are free if you are intrigued and if you like what you read then please pick up the full rules.

Michael's work has shown me why 30+ years later Dr. Holmes version of DnD is not merely relevant but very, very playable and of a style we often don't associate with other editions.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

GameStorming: Running a World of Warcraft game with Blueholme Journeymanne

I've been wanting to run a game using an older edition of DnD and I've been thinking about running a game set in Azeroth with the players being part of the Horde.

I've recently gotten the opportunity to review Dreamscape Design's Blueholmes Journeymanne Edition Edited by Michael Thomas. I had been thinking of using BECMI's Orcs of Thar for the basis of the game but Blueholmes' approach to races works so well that I think it would fit much better.

I'm not looking to emulate the WoW classes in Holmes' Basic DnD, just run a game there. In my initial brainstorm I've contemplated running Keep on the Borderlands, actually, as I've never run it before. In this instance "the Borderlands" would be between the Horde and Alliance. Perhaps in this version of the story the Caves of Chaos are instead tainted by Demons of the Burning Legion or some site important to the machinations of Sargeras.

It's very much in the beginning phases and I still have a 5E game to finish running first.

I should have my review up for Blueholmes Journeymanne Edition up in a few days.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Halloween Treat: Scroll Golem for Labyrinth Lord

   "We need to be careful.  My research indicates this was the lair of a clone of Heironomous Ludwig Von Damme, the Ultrarcanist of Dath.  He was served by all kinds of twisted beings of his own creation" said the Magic-User.

   "I heard he created a golem that could cast spells" said the Thief.

   "What?! A golem that can cast spells? cried the Fighter.

   "Yes, I have heard that his golems were made of spell scrolls" said the Magic-User.

   The Thief and the Fighter turned to look at the Magic-User and then all three look to their leader, the Dwarf.

   "The time for second thoughts is well past, manlings" said the Dwarf.

  The Thief grumbled to himself, "A spellcasting golem," and moved to let the Dwarf take point.

Scroll Golem 
for Labyrinth Lord
AL N, MV 60', AC 6, HD 7, #AT 1 [claws or spells], THAC0 13, DG 1d6, SV 4 fighter, ML 12 XP 320

At the start of each of the scroll golem’s turns, roll a d6:

1: The golem does not cast a spell and will attack the nearest enemy with it's claws.

2: The golem casts invisibility.

3: The golem casts 1 magic missile.

4: The golem casts magic missiles

5: The golem casts lightning bolt.

6: The golem casts power word stun.

OSR: Optional Spellcasting System [UPDATED]

While I've only played the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG once, I keep hoping to find time to try it out someday. One of the reason is the ...