31 October 2017

The Hin (Halfling) Friar, an optional PC Cleric variant.

AD&D 1e (in Unearthed Arcana) and AD&D 2e allowed the major PC races to take the cleric class, but for the demihumans, level limits in the rules prevented them from accessing the high level spells. In a setting like the Known World, where all the major PC races have their own nations and cultures, it is a little awkward that the demihuman classes lack religious leaders and the ability to ask their gods for the same favors humans can.

We can assume, as the game always did, that these personages exist, but are left to the NPCs of the world, but I've always disliked the idea that NPCs get options that are not there for the PCs. That is why I present this optional class for Hin “clerics”, originally developed a few years back with my friend Rich Trickey. The Hin (Halfling) Friar, an optional halfling "cleric" class for Classic D&D!

The Hin Friar (236kb PDF)

This file is provided for your private use. Please do not redistribute it without discussing it with me beforehand. Thanks!

30 October 2017

The Thunder Rift, the "other" D&D default setting

The Known World, later rebranded as Mystara, is a rather sprawling, large campaign, and choosing where to begin can be a little daunting to a DM or group just getting started, but here's an option that is ideal for those groups who just want a smaller scale map with some settlements and a wilderness in which to find adventures.

The Thunder Rift
Many Classic D&D players who got their start in the early 1990s cut their teeth on the Thunder Rift campaign, a small scale "world" made up of a large valley about 40 or 50 square miles in area. The Rift is home to a handful of settlements, as well as a fully mapped out wilderness with a few planned adventure locales and plenty of room for the DM to add his own. The trick is, Thunder Rift is a demi-plane of sorts; and though some fans have plotted a physical location in the known world for the valley, access between the realms is extremely limited to magical portals. The sheer, towering cliffs that form the valley's walls are impenetrable to mundane methods of escape.

Thunder Rift starts out with the Thunder Rift adventure and setting (TSR 9357) and continues with a short series of adventures that develop the encounter areas noted on the map in that book

Quest for the Silver Sword (TSR 9342)
Assault on Raven's Ruin (TSR 9350)
Sword and Shield (TSR 9387)
The Knight of Newts (TSR 9434)
Rage of the Rakasta (TSR 9435)
In the Phantom's Wake (TSR 9436)

Finally, DMR1 Dungeon Master's Screen (TSR 9437,black cover with green dragon art) include the mini-adventure Escape from Thunder Rift, which allows the heroes to venture out into the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (or wherever the DM wants to put them next).

The 1992 Character & Monster Assortment (TSR 9363) bears the now familiar Thunder Rift graphic presentation on its cover, but it's just a collection of fold up 3-d cardboard gaming miniatures and doesn't offer any new material specific to the Thunder Rift setting.

To those who just want to use the adventures but not the setting, the good news is that these are mostly generic adventures in the tradition of the other Basic D&D adventure modules, and adapt easily to wherever you want to place them.

29 October 2017

Roots of the Known World as D&D's default game setting

Although the early incarnations of OD&D and Basic D&D (namely, the Holmes and Moldvay Basic Sets) included sample adventures and teasers for Greyhawk and Blackmoor, the Expert set (Cook edition) was the first to truly present a setting to set your adventures in. Cook's "Sample Wilderness" introduces us to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos for the first time, and includes notes on the folk, terrain and settlements of that region. That Expert rules set also included the adventure module X1: Isle of Dread, but we'll get back to that in a bit.

Prior to its publication, the Known World had existed as the home campaign world of Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick, and though their world map is strikingly different, many of the locales and names later included in the published Known World are instantly recognizable.  Lawrence Shick recently posted some background information and early maps from that era at the Black Gate website: http://www.blackgate.com/2015/02/07/the-known-world-dd-setting-a-secret-history/#more-95547

It's a great bit of nostalgia and trivia, and it would be possible to use Lawrence's maps with some of the later material to construct an alternate Known World setting, but that's left to individual fans with the time and desire. Let's get back to the Known World as published in the Classic D&D rulebooks.

With the relaunch of the Classic D&D with Frank Mentzer's BECMI series, it was once again the Expert set that really adds material to the Known World setting, though some of the background info in the Basic Set group adventure was later adopted into the setting. The Expert set once more delves into the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, this time showcasing the town of Threshold, a moderately sized city in the mountainous wilderlands of the region. This edition of the Expert set also included the X1: Isle of Dread adventure module, more on that later.

The BECMI series of rules sets continued with the Companion rules, and while there is not a lot of text devoted to the Known World therein, the inside back cover of the player's manual includes a drastically larger map of the world around the "Known World" region, and sets the framework for the fantasy multiverse in which the Known World exists. The next set in the series, the Master's rules, continues in the same vein, presenting the entire world map, and further developing the settings multiverse of planes. Likewise, the final rules set, the Immortals rules, contains a lot more material on the multiverse and the immortals (the Known World's "gods") that inhabit it.

The information contained in either Expert set is plenty for many DMs to start a great, long lasting campaign, and the expanded Companion and Master's world maps add a lot of places to develop a home game, most of which were never detailed in later material.

After the BECMI series, the Classic D&D rules were compiled into the Rules Cyclopedia, a great book that includes an entire chapter presenting the Known World as a ready to use campaign setting, with color maps of large areas of the world and enough information for extensive campaigns in the setting.

The later, black box "Classic D&D Game" Basic sets don't contain any material relevant to the Known World setting, though their sample adventure, Zanzer Tam's Dungeon, could be placed in any setting you wish. It's actually not surprising that all of the Basic D&D rules sets include no real setting information. The Basic game is about dungeon crawling, and the world beyond isn't really dealt with until the Expert level sets.

Some of the Basic level adventure modules do touch on the world around their dungeons, and many of adventures published for the game, at all levels of play, include material expanding the Known World. I'll go down the list, with a brief mention of what material is in each adventure, so you can tell which ones would interest you as Known World resources, not just adventures.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (TSR9044)
Look for the orange cover original version, as it includes a map and brief details on the Barony of Gulluvia, a province of the Principalities of Glantri.
Palace of the Silver Princess exists in two published forms, the original orange covered version, and a revised edition with a green cover. The revised edition replaced some controversial artwork (that supposedly represented some TSR employees in an unflattering light) and more importantly, removed the setting map and a few encounters the PCs face on the way to the Palace.

You'll want to get the orange cover version, which sadly fetches insane prices on ebay and online outlets if and when you can find it, but don't fret, for many years, TSR/WotC offered this adventure as a freebie pdf download on their website. Now lost on their site due to years of reorganizations, you should be able to easily find the file for download on google.

As mentioned above, the Barony of Gulluvia is part of the Principalities of Glantri, but it features everything you need to run adventures with no further setting material, including settlements, wilderness areas and of course, the Princesses doomed Palace. If your players grow bored with the adventure hooks in the small barony, just send them out into Glantri and beyond into the Known World.

B6 The Veiled Society (TSR9086) This adventure is set in the city of Specularum, capitol of the Grand Duchy of Specularum, and includes maps and details on locations in the city. Be aware that this early version of Specularum's maps differs considerably from the revised version seen in later products.

B10 Nights Dark Terror (TSR9149) This adventure explores many different locales in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, including Threshold, Rifflian and Xitaqa, an ancient ruin.

B11 Kings Festival (TSR9260) Another adventure set in Karameikos, introducing the town of Stallanford. Note that the king referenced in the title is Halav I, a historical figure. In this adventure, Stefan Karameikos is still Grand Duke, not King. There's quite a bit of Karameikan history spread throughout this adventure, it's a great resource for that region of the setting.

B12 Queen's Harvest (TSR9261)
This module continues where B11 left off, and includes more information on the Stallanford region of Karameikos, including maps.

CM1 Test of the Warlords (TSR9117) This adventure expands the Known World setting northward, into the lands of Norwold, and includes maps and information on those lands.

CM2 Deaths Ride (TSR9118) This module continues exploration of the Norwold region, with a close look at the Barony of Twolakes vale.

CM7 The Tree of Life (TSR9166) The first half of this adventure takes place in the elven realm of Alfheim, and has some information on the land's locales and personalities.

CM9 Legacy of Blood (TSR9210)
An adventure set in the Republic of Darokin, including material on Darokin city and the town of Fenhold.

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (TSR9172)
DA2 Temple of the Frog (TSR9175)
DA3 City of the Gods (TSR9191)
DA4 The Duchy of Ten (TSR9205)
This series of adventures takes the Blackmoor setting, by D&D co-creator Dave Arneson and sets it explicitly in the northern realms of the Known World. A mini-setting in and of itself, the four volumes include plenty of maps and information on the history, personages and locales in Blackmoor.

DDA1 Arena of Thyatis (TSR9284) As the title implies, this adventure explores arena fighting in the capitol city of Thyatis, and includes a lot of information on the cities locales and people.

DDA2 Legion of Thyatis (TSR9296) Continuing on the DDA1 adventure, this one includes more material on Thyatis city, and a lot of information on the Thyatian army.

DDA3 Eye of Traldar (TSR9271) Set in Karameikos, this adventure features material on the Black Eagle Barony, Fort Doom and the town of Luln.

DDA4 The Dymrak Dread (TSR9272) Another adventure in Karameikos, exploring the Dymrak forest and its surroundings.

IM2 The Wrath of Olympus (TSR9189) This extraplanar romp starts off in the Republic of Darokin, and includes maps and a portal in the Republic's broken lands region leading to Mount Olympus.

M1 Into the Maelstrom (TSR9159)
Before venturing out into the planes, this adventure is set in and around Norwold, and includes maps of the coasts of Norworld and Alphatia, and the seas between them.

M2 Vengeance of Alphaks (TSR9148) Another adventure in Norwold, with more information on the history of those lands, and new color maps.

M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom (TSR9204) This module revolves around the city of Lighthall in Norworld, and includes some information on that city.

M5 Talons of Night (TSR9214) This adventure introduces the Isle of Dawn, a large region northeast of the Known World between Norworld and Alphatia, and includes details of that island and the history of Alphatia and Thyatis's efforts to conquer it.

02 Blade of Vengeance (TSR9108)
An adventure set in the Canolbarth forest region of Alfheim, including maps and details of that area.

X1 The Isle of Dread (TSR9043) I mentioned this adventure while running down the Expert Rules sets because both versions of those rules included X1 as their sample adventure module. Aside from a fun "lost world" style wilderness adventure, X1 includes a nice map of the Known World, including the Sea of Dread and the Island chains to the south. To supplement that map, there is a handy directory of all the Known World's nations, with a thumbnail description of each. Tanoroa village, and the others like it on the Isle of Dread itself is well detailed also.

X3 Curse of Xanathon (TSR9056) This urban adventure is set in the city of Rhoona, in Vestland, and serves as a great source of information on that city and the realms around it.

X4 Master of the Desert Nomads (TSR9068) The desert wilderness where this adventure is set is located west of the Republic of Darokin, providing details on those lands, and the western fringe of Darokin.

X5 Temple of Death (TSR9069)
Continuing the adventure in X4, this module ventures into the Black Mountains and the land of Hule, greatly expanding the Known World to the west of the X1 map.

X6 Quagmire (TSR9081) This adventure details the Wild Lands of the Serpent peninsula, the long strip of land at the southwest corner of the Known World.

X7 The War Rafts of Kron (TSR9079) The adventure in this module takes place mostly on the floor of the Sea of Dread, and details the locations found there.

X8 Drums of Fire Mountain (TSR9127) The Isle of TekiNuraRia, where this module takes place, is located in the Sea of Dread, southeast of Thyatis. The adventure details the island and its inhabitants.

X9 The Savage Coast (TSR9129) The Savage Coast is a big expansion of the Known World setting, far to the west of Hule and the Serpent peninsula.

X10 Red Arrow Black Shield (TSR9160) Combining elements of the Companion Rules War Machine mass combat system and the AD&D Battlesystem skirmish rules, this adventure pits the nations of the Known World against the Desert Nomads from X4 and X5, with details on the armies of all the nations, and some interesting maps.

X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord (TSR9165) This module introduces the realms of Wendar and Denagoth, just north of the Principalities of Glantri, with material on both regions.

X12 Skardas Mirror (TSR9188) The quest for the artifact this module is named for explores some more minor locales around Karameikos.

X13 Crown of Ancient Glory (TSR9218)
The background material for this adventure offers a lot of history and current events information for Vestland, and explores some new locales in that realm.

XSolo1 Lathans Gold (TSR9082) This solo adventure expands on X1 a bit, visiting some new locales around the Sea of Dread, including a nice map of trade routes among the coasts and islands of the Known World.

Beyond the rule books and adventure modules, the Known World blossomed into a complex and detailed world setting with the release of the D&D Gazetteers, each of which explored a different nation of the setting.

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of KarameikosGAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches
GAZ8 The Five Shires
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans

The Gazetteer boxed set, Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia rounds out the Gazetteer series.

28 October 2017

Side Treks from the Known World - Castle Amber and Averoigne

If you've enjoyed adventure module X2: Castle Amber (aka Chateau D'Ambreville), you've dabbled in the fantasy realm of Averoigne, whether you realized it or not! That adventure, in which in the PC heroes explore a strange, seemingly haunted mansion which acts as a sort of planar gateway into the world of Averoigne; a fantasy realm inspired by real world historical France.

I'll be honest here, I've not read a lot of CA Smith's work, and I can't speak authoritatively on his worlds. I include Averoigne in the Known World setting mainly because it is a canonical D&D offshoot setting in adventure module X2: Castle Amber. The adventure presents a stand alone quest for the PCs that is inspired heavily by the material it is based on, and Iecommend further research and reading to DMs who want to create further adventures in those worlds.

To learn more about CA Smith and his fantasy writings and worlds, check out the following sites:

http://www.eldritchdark.com/ Eldritch Dark - The Sanctum of Clark Ashton Smith
http://www.blackgate.com The Averoigne Chronicles at the Black Gate fantasy fiction site. There's a really cool little hex map here of the province of Averoigne that would work perfectly as an "area map" for X2: Castle Amber if you establish that at certain times, the "castle" manifests in the Known World, and at other times into the fantasy France inspired Averoigne "demiplane", similar in size and scope to the Thunder Rift setting for D&D.

27 October 2017

Weapons for Halflings and other small sized creatures

The Known World holds a bit of a distinction among the major D&D campaign settings; it's the only one with a detailed, developed Halfling homeland central to the campaign world. Sure, Forgotten Realms has a Halfling nation, but it's way off the beaten path in a corner of Faerun pretty much ignored by the setting material. Other worlds, like Greyhawk, just throw Halflings in as an afterthought, giving little or no thought to where they came from.

Taking that into consideration, it makes sense that the Hin, and their nation, militias and "military" (limited as it is) would craft weapons of their own, rather than just borrow from their human neighbors. With that in mind, I put together the following chart, modified from the D&D Basic Set:

WeaponDMGHands Cost  Notes
Hand Axe 1d4 3 gp
Battle Axe 1d6 5gp
Hin Crossbow 1d4 20gp May be used 1 handed by larger creatures, Known as a "hand crossbow" to humans and dwarves. Ammo cost is 6gp for 30 quarrels.
Short Bow 1d6 25gp
Hin Bow 1d4 18gp Too small for use by larger creatures. Ammo cost is 3gp for 20 arrows.
Hin Dagger 1d2 2gp Silvered version costs 20gp
Hin Greatblade 1d8 15gp Basically the same thing as a human normal sword
Hin Sword 1d6 1 Hand 10gp Basically the same thing as a human Short Sword
Hin Smallblade 1d4 5gp Basically the same thing as a human Dagger.
Hin Mace 1d4 3gp Usable by Clerics
Light Club 1d2 1gp Usable by Clerics
Hin Halberd 1d8 4gp
Sling 1d4 2gp Same as human version. Ammo cost is 1gp for 30 stones, or they may be foraged (DM discretion on availability) at the rate of 1d20 per hour.
Short Spear 1d4 1            2gp Also known, among humans, as a javelin
Hin Battlehammer 1d4 3gp Usable by Cleric
Hin Smallspear 1d2 1gp Too small to be used as a missile weapon by larger creatures, may be used by those folk as an improvised stabbing weapon though. Human original is found in the Expert Set.
Shortstaff 1d4 1gp The Shortstaff is about 3.5 to 4 feet long. Human original is found in the Expert Set.
Hin Hilt-and-a-half Sword (aka Hin Bastard Sword) 1d4+1 (one Handed)

1d6+1 (two Handed)
1 or 2 8gp Human original is found in the Companion Set.
Hin Fork (Hin Trident, among mariners) 1d4 2gp Human original is found in the Companion Set.

The Hin versions of the Bola, Blackjack, Net and Whip, from the Companion set are effectively the same weapons as their Human counterparts.

There are no Hin versions of the Blowgun or Heavy Crossbow, from the Companion set. In addition, the Hin are a little less deviously innovative with weapon variants than their Human neighbors, and the only common Pole Arm type found in the Shires is the Hin Halbard, listed above.

Likewise, the Hin are not common practitioners of artillery or siege warfare, and these machines are not usually found within the Shires. Where Catapults and Ballistas are found, they are identical to their Human equivalents, except that when the crew is made up only of Hin, one extra crewman is required per machine.

The basic rule, derived from the D&D 3rd edition Arms & Equipment Guide supplement, is, take the normal, human version (aka "medium sized weapon"), decrease the range by 1/2, rounded up, and drop the damage down to the next lower die type (so 1d6 damage becomes 1d4, etc). Price is roughly 1/2 of the human version, rounded up. This should suffice for a quick conversion of any nonstandard weapons you've added to the lists in the rulebooks.

26 October 2017

Five Shirefolk

Good D&D campaigns always need interesting NPCs, and Classic D&D caters to this need with the excellent Shady Dragon Inn supplement, a collection of myriad pregenerated characters with thumbnail sketches of their personality and background to get the DM's imagination going. For those who lack access to that book, or who want some NPCs tied a little closer to the Known World setting, I present the first in a (I hope) ongoing series of articles introducing a handful of personalities to use in a game. Whether they act as contacts, hirelings, villains, or even replacement PCs for players whose luck is less than ideal is up to you.

Keeping with this month's "Hinuary" theme, here are 5 Hin from around the Five Shires to add to any campaign.

Liam "Bearclaw" Longbuck
3rd level Lawful Halfling, male, age 35; ST 13, DE 13, CO 12, IN 9, WI 10, CH 14; HP 12; AC 5 (Chain Mail); Money: 43 GP; Items: Sling +1

Liam is short, even for a Hin, standing just an inch under 3 feet, but he makes up in spirit what he lacks in stature. Always a gung-ho soul with little thought of fear, he's a hero of sorts in Ober's Mimbur, having once killed a large brown bear that had wandered into the field behind the Grinning Elf tavern single handedly by perching atop the tavern's roof and pelting the beast with sling stones. He collected one of the bear's paws and had it turned into a necklace that looks comical on him given his small size, thus gaining the nickname Bearclaw among the town's residents.

Liam will gladly join an adventuring party, given that he sees enough risk in their endeavor to make it "fun". He's loyal and enthusiastic, not given to complaining about long marches or sitting watch at camp, but his penchant for gambling and tendency to react to encounters with a volley of sling stones, even when a more subtle approach might be better, may cause the party some minor headaches now and then.

Liam owns a small cottage in Ober's Mimbur, and will gladly offer it to PCs who enlist him in their party or befriend him in town, since lately he's taken to camping in the hills around town, searching for Ober's lost treasures (see D&D Gazetteer 8: The Five Shires for details on this lost treasure hoard), a place that most other folk in town are terrified to even approach given the tales of ghost sightings near the ruin. Liam is eager to find the treasure, and the dungeon rumored to contain it, and has started trying to encourage adventurers who pass through town to join him in "poking around a bit," but so far, he hasn't succeeded in rallying help.

If encountered outside Ober's Mimbur, Liam will generally be on his way home, fresh with stories of his latest adventure, or may be in the company of other NPCs, eager to enlist the party in aiding in whatever quest they are off to undertake.

Sherl Watcheye
2nd level Lawful Halfling, female, age 30; ST 17, DE 14, CO 14, IN 7, WI 9, CH 11; HP 9; AC 7 (Leather); Money: 5; GP Items: Dagger +1, +2 vs. Kobolds

Sherl's an imposing Hin, fully 4 feet tall and well muscled, reflecting her early life as a mason's daughter. Although her first couple adventures, exploring caves in the Achelos Woods with some other adventurers from Wereskalot, went well, earning her the magic dagger she readily brags about to anyone who will listen, she hasn't had any luck joining a real adventuring party, and is eager to do so. For now, she's reluctantly helping her father (Rand Watcheye) with his masonry business and tending to her young brother, since their mother passed away 3 summers ago from a nasty bout of the flu. In Wereskalot, she'll be encountered mostly at night, frittering away the meager pay her father gives her on Rockhome mead, which she has a notable weakness for, and attempting to latch on to any adventuring party she comes across. During the day, she might be found at her father's workshop (which doubles as the family home) or out running errands.

Outside of Wereskalot, Sherl will be encountered with her father and kid brother, attending a fair or festival around the Shires or Karameikos, or meeting with miners about new supply contracts. Rand will be annoyed at seeing her run off with adventurers, and although he's no more than a nuisance, he'll hold a lengthy grudge against the PCs if they recruit her, hassling them a bit whenever they visit Wereskalot, even if she eventually moves on or goes home.

Sherl is a capable fighter and stalwart companion though, if perhaps not the brightest girl the PCs might meet. She dreams of a heroic career adventuring, and longs to visit Shireton one day to see the "big city". She then hopes to settle back in Wereskalot with a wealthy husband, as long as he isn't a mason, she resents that life.

Ronwyn "Fish" Idelwise
5th level Chaotic Halfling, male, age 48; ST 12, DE 11, CO 13, IN 10, WI 12, CH 10; HP 22; AC 3 (Leather +1); Money: 37 GP; Items: Leather Armor +1

Ronwyn is a quiet, grim fellow, unhappy with his life as a guard on Tothmeer's docks, but lacking the ambition to do much of anything else with his life. He's known around town as one of the few Fangs (Militiamen) assigned to dock duty that can't swim, and jokingly called Fish by those who know him.

Adventurers who try, for some reason, to recruit Ronywn will be met with a doomsday speech about the futility of trying to do good in the world, and only the most outrageous offers of pay will give him the inclination to run off on an adventure. He's grudgingly friendly with his fellow Fangs, but few who know him really trust him. When not on duty or at the dockside Fang station sleeping, he can usually be found at the Riverwalk tavern nearby, playing in a quiet game of dice with other Fangs, or just drowning his sorrows in a glass of brandy. He's somewhat of an oddity in the Shires, proclaiming an intense dislike of beer and ale.

Asking about the fine leather armor Ronwyn wears is a quick way to earn his (brief) admiration, since he is extremely proud of it. The story around town is that when Lora, the now teenaged niece of Sheriff Sildil Seaeyes, was a youngster, she was accosted by thugs while playing on the docks with some friends. Despite being outnumbered and unarmed (he was on the way home from the tavern and out of uniform), Ronwyn lept to the rescue, leaving the troublemakers clinging to a small raft floating in the harbor. As a reward for his courage, Sheriff Sildil held a feast in Ronwyn's honor, and presented him with the handsome suit of leather armor. Ronwyn loves to brag about this, and PCs trying to get in his good graces will go far by flattering him on this, as well as buying a round of drinks or two "to toast the hero".

Ronwyn's secret
Fish isn't above being bribed, in fact, it's one of the few things in his miserable life that makes him feel important. PCs up to shady business on the docks would do well to get to know Ronwyn for this reason alone.

Caution is wise though, Fish is only loyal to hard coin, and rivals, or authorities, willing to beat the PC's bribe will find themselves quickly betrayed by the dour little Hin.

Giana "Gee" (as in "Gee Whiz!") Hairytoes
4th level Chaotic Halfling, female, age 41; ST 11, DE 18, CO 11, IN 13, WI 8, CH 14; HP 22; AC 4 (Leather); Money: 1570 GP; Items: Rope of climbing, Elven Cloak

Giana is a self proclaimed master burglar, usually found around the shadier taverns in Sateeka, selling her pilfering skills to the highest bidder. While generally friendly and easy going, she is pretty cocky about her abilities and stubbornly overconfident, often accepting jobs she is under-qualified for and getting herself into a world of trouble. She's been lucky so far though, escaping harm's way and landing only short stints in the jails of Karameikos and the Shires.

Giana will gladly join a party that can meet her price (left up to the DM to reflect the economics of the individual campaign), but she bores easily, and if there isn't enough action and danger, she's likely to wander off in search of thrills elsewhere.

Gee is pretty good at what she does, but she's got a little history that her new friends will have to contend with sooner or later. About a year ago, she took a job looting some artifacts from a College of Magic in Specularum for the infamous magic users Bargle, in the Black Eagle Barony. Although she successfully retrieved the books she was hired to, she decided the Baron wasn't paying her enough, and sold them to a rival buyer (an anonymous magic user in Luln) for 3 times the price. She is hunted by agents of Bargle (usually magic-users, devise them to rival, but not overpower, the party), who are fairly nasty folk and have no qualms about roughing up the party to get at Giana.

Gerro Weefoot
8th level Neutral Halfling, Male, age 84; ST 14, DE 12, CO 18, IN 10, WI 9, CH 15; HP 52; AC 5 (Chainmail); Money: 10 GP; Items: Short Bow +4

Gerro is a little old for a vigilante, but he's still spry and crafty, and spends his days patrolling the streets of Shireton with his merry band of fellows, which he has affectionately dubbed "The Defenders". For many years, banditry in the city was a major problem, with Jaervosz Dustyboots, there's still a few bands of hoodlums out making mischief. Gerro, a veteran of the Fangs, has decided to continue his patrols, and has attracted a band of 15 to 20 (the number varies as members come and go, or perish in their "duties") to help him.

PCs will likely first meet Gerro and his band if they are accosted along in town. Within 1d4+2 rounds of combat ensuing with bandits, Gerro and 1d6 of his men (err, Hin...) will charge into the battle, aiding the PCs (unless of course, they are the bandits...) Goodly PCs will find Gerro to be a gruff but useful ally, devout in his self imposed duty to protect the people of Shireton from villainy.

Gerro is a grizzled veteran of many adventures in and around Shireton, and knows the city well. He'll be reluctant to leave his Defenders alone for long, and wont actually join the party for any missions away from the city, but he can serve as a handy contact when the party is in that area, being well aware of pretty much every rumor that spreads on the streets and alleys of the town..

Gerro's also a close personal friend of Sheriff Jaervosz, and will gladly send a letter to him vouching for them if they are acting in what he sees as the best interest of the city and the Shires and need his assistance.

25 October 2017

Hin (Halfling) Specific Level Titles in the Known World

The demihumans of the Classic D&D game kind of get cheated in regard to their level titles. Generally, the game just takes the fighter class titles and adds a "dwarf/halfling" modifier, or with the elves, just compounds the fighter and magic user titles.  I decided that the Hin of the Known World are common enough, and established enough in their own homeland that their culture should assign its own titles to its heroes. Here's what I came up with:


Standard D&D Title

Five Shires Hin Title


Halfling Veteran

Gaffer (m) / Gammer (f)


Halfling Warrior



Halfling Swordmaster

Protector (of the Five Shires)


Halfling Hero

Hero (m) / Heroine (f) (of the Five Shires)


Halfling Swashbuckler



Halfling Myrmidon

Cohort (of the Five Shires)


Hafling Champion

Advocate (of the Five Shires)




Inside the borders of the Five Shires, the "of the Five Shires" formality of some of the titles is rarely used, other Hin know what you are a protector, hero, cohort or advocate of with you telling them. Most Hin characters only use the full, formal titles when travelling abroad and introducing themselves to folk who might not know of their homeland.

Sheriff is a word often used informally to show respect to accomplished militia or military servicemen, retired or otherwise. I wanted to remove the confusion between actual Five Shires sheriffs and other high level Hin characters.

Similar to the generic use of Sheriff to show respect to an accomplished warrior, some Hin also use the term Gaffer/Gammer to honor non-combatant neighbors (Hin consider everyone living in their city or town to be a neighbor, and all the natives of the Shires to be almost-neighbors, be they fellow Hin or otherwise) of fame and accomplishment in their profession. This is similar to how 1st level Halfling, as well as other demihumans and human fighters, are called veterans. They are above and beyond the average 0-level common folk of their race.

Example: Miija Copperkettle, a renowned Hin baker, owns and runs a small shop in Seashire. It is the custom of most Hin to refer to her (directly) as Gammer, and indirectly as Gammer Copperkettle.

24 October 2017

The Mind of the Mule (or, The Wise Ass of Eltan's Spring)

One show I like to have on for background noise is Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum, a random collection of interesting stories connected to obscure items from the artifact collections of different museums. The other night I was working on reports for work while a 'marathon' of reruns played in the background, and one fun story caught my attention.

Lady Wonder, the mind reading mare of Richmond, Va. tells the story of horse whose seeming ability to not only understand and communicate with humans but also possess prophetic psychic abilities enthralled 1920s Virginia. Although supposedly debunked by scientists of the time, the story got me thinking about how to use the idea in my game. Here's what I came up with.

The Mind of the Mule
While resting at the Crock & Goblet tavern in Eltan's Spring, or even one of Threshold's alehouses, the PCs hear strange rumors of Juliana Ironshoes, a Hin mule breeder who has a small ranch north of Eltan's Spring near the woodbridge, where she and her sons raise mules to sell to folk around Lake Windrush. The Ironshoes mules are known as sturdy and reliable, though unremarkable in intelligence, but recently visitors to the ranch tell wild tales of Miss Petunia, a young molly (female mule) who can tell the future!

As the stories go, the molly is kept in a comfortable barn on the ranch, where gammer Juliana charges visitors a Royal (1gp) to see her and ask her a question. Petunia then scratches her answer in the dust of the barn's floor, using the old Traladaran runes, which the eldest Ironshoes son, Lorello, then translates for the patron.

Lorello Ironshoes & "Miss Petunia"

PCs who investigate the matter discover that the stories are absolutely true! Upon visiting the Ironshoes ranch and inquiring, Juliana leads the party to a small but sturdy barn among the oak trees near where the woodbridge crosses the small river. The double doors on the front of the barn each bear a bright, cheerfully painted symbol, one of the Immortal Faunus, patron of Centaurs and equine creatures, the other of the Church of Karameikos. Juliana then requests a donation of one Royal (1gp) from each visitor to help with Petunia's upkeep, since she feels it wwould be an affront to Lord Faunus to sell the blessed beast like the other mules she breeds. If pressured on this matter, she explains that she also donates half of the coins donated to Petunia to Patriarch Sherlane at the Church in Threshold, to help with "feedin' and learnin' the poor orphan chillun' of that burg". If the PCs get overly rude or violent, Juliana whistles loudly, summoning a number (equal to the number of PCs + 2) of her hired hands (treat as normal Halfling 'monsters' per the Basic rulebook to calm things down.

Once inside the barn, the PCs meet Lorello, a tanned and healthy looking Hin teen in clothing typical of a farmer, brushing and feed fresh hay to a young molly with pink and green ribbons in her mane. A few coins and minor knick knacks (valuing 1d6gp total) are scattered among the hay at the mule's feet. Lorello instructs each party member with a question to politely and clearly ask Petunia their question, upon which the mule scratches her hoof in the dust and hay, clearly spelling out old Traladaran runes. If noone in the party reads that forgotten script, Lorello translates.

Petunia's answers are generally correct, Roll 1d6:
The base chance for a false answer is 2 in 6, so if a 1 or 2 is rolled, the answer given in incorrect. The DM should roll this secretly, neither Lorello or the PC asking the question will immediately know the nature of the answer.
For characters who are either Centaurs*, Neutral or worshippers of Faunus, the chance for a false answer drops to 1 in 6. A character who qualifies as all three of those options has no chance for a false answer.
In either case, true or false, Petunia's answers are fairly vague and open to interpretation, unless the die roll results in a natural 6, in which case the answer is fairly clear and direct. For all results, the wording and accuracy of the answer is left to the DM's discretion to suit the campaign story.

Adventure Hook: The Mule Thief!

As one might expect, rumors of a magical fortune telling mule are bound to attract nefarious persons wishing to control the beast's power. Bradenial of Darokin (Chaotic human Merchant, level APL*+2) is no exception. Outcast by his Darokini peers for dishonest business practices, Bradenial has taken up residence in Threshold for now, where he conducts shady and even outright illegal business as a fence and agent for clients too disreputable to show themselves in public at the Gold Dragon Inn, a popular gathering place for adventurers in the city. Bradenial dreams of the deal that will restore his reputation and allow him to return to his comfortable life in Darokin, and a magical prophetic mule to amuse his peers seems like the perfect score.

Bradenial visited the Ironshoes ranch, perhaps the same day as the PCs to allow them to make the association between him and the coming crime, where he was escorted away by Juliana's hands after refusing to pay the donation and threatening her. After returning to Threshold with a growing grudge, he hired a band of brigands he'd contracted for some minor "legbreaking" and other intimidation jobs in the past. Last night, under the cover of a strong, cold rain, Bradenial's thugs broke into Petunia's barn and absconded with her, causing an uproar in Eltan's Spring, where the PCs are when Lorello contacts them at the Crock & Goblet Tavern in a panic, begging them to help rescue the mule before she comes to harm, which he says is inevitable.

Lorello explains that for reasons known only to Lord Faunus, Petunia's gift works only in her barn, where she was born and raised, being too small and frail for the normal training given the other mules. Lorello fears, correctly, that the thugs will become enraged when they discover that Petunia's gift is "gone" (though it will return if she's brought home to her barn) and kill the poor molly, who is useless as a mount or pack animal. On behalf of his mother, he offers the party 150 Royals, the amount of coins in Petunia's stash not set aside for Baron Sherlane. If the PCs are hesitant or ask for more, Lorello reluectantly offers them all 300gp, as long as the "swear solemn-like to make right with the Church" later. Either way, Lorello only has 1d4 x 10 gp on him at the time to offer up front, the rest will be paid upon Petunia's return.

If the DM feels the party could use another swordarm, Lorello's younger brother Stevan (Normal Halfling 'monster', short sword, short bow) comes into the negotiations and offers his service, free of charge.

Tracking and overtaking the thugs is rather easy, since they are dragging a scared and angry mule along with them. They offer to betray their employer for the amount of 500 Royals, twice what he is paying them to deliver the mule. If that is refused they attempt to continue along the road, fighting only if blocked or threatened. There are a number of Brigands (as the 'monster') equal to the PCs, including Stevan if he's there, plus 1d4.

If successful in saving Petunia, the party is paid, and earns the friendship and hospitality of the Ironshoes, their hired hands, and the folk of Eltan's Spring. Bradenial is another story, after 1d8 days have passed, he will confront them in Eltan's Spring or Threshold. If he feels he has a reasonable chance of defeating the party and taking their valuables, he will attack them immediately, using his Merchant magic in whatever way seems best. If the DM prefers, he may simply curse and threaten the party, slinking off to return at some point later to harass them.

*Centaur PCs are explained in the Creature Crucible: Tall Tales of the Wee Folk sourcebook.
*APL refers to average party level, just add up the total levels of all PCs and NPCs (discarding minor nocombatant hirelings) and divide by the number of PCs for a rough measure of their 'total hit dice' for assigning monsters to challenge them.

If the party looks into it, perhaps by asking Petunia herself, her gift is a result of being an equine born in that barn, which was unknowingly built upon the ancient, forgotten burial site of a Traladaran Cleric of Faunus, who simply communes with the world through Petunia in order to aid good intentioned individuals in the quests and toils.

06 October 2017

House Rules - Magical Wands (Includes New Known World Magic Items!)

New enchanted wands for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on wands.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a wand has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Mentzer Expert: 20 charges (2d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 20 charges (2d10 when found) and DM's option 30 charges (3d10 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of wands:

Minor Wands have 10 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Wands have 20 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Wands have 30 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Wands have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded

The different classifications of wands otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of wand is found:

d100   Wand Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a wand, minor wands halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major wands double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic wands are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create.

It is important to remember that the classification of a wand has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the wand is capable of holding.

For all types of wands, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the wand's powers costs one charge, and a wand may only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge wands, Epic/Legendary wands may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

These are standard Classic D&D items, a couple of which are tied to the Known World setting. Don't need to use my Casting & Components stuff to use them!

"Wand of Panic" - When used, this wand causes extreme fear and dread in the target creature. If the target fails a save vs. RSW, it will panic and immediately flee from the wand's user via the most direct route available. After 1d4 rounds, the panic fades a bit, and the creature may once again approach the wand's user, but after a failed save, subsequent saves against the same wand are made at -2.

Non-Intelligent creatures, constructs, mindless undead, and similar monsters are unaffected by the wand, and a Remove Fear spell will instantly nullify the wand's effects, including the penalty to subsequent saves.

"Wand of Paranoia" - Conjuring within the targets mind visions of whatever it is he fears most and leading him to mistake the creature nearest to him as the object of that fear, this wand causes a target who fails a save vs RSW at -2 to immediately attack the nearest creature (PC, NPC or Monster) to him for 1d3 rounds, or until that creature is slain. The DM should determine which creature, enemy, ally or neutral, is closest if miniatures are not used.

A Remove Fear spell grants the affected creature a second save vs RSW, without any penalty, to remove the effect of the wand.

"Wand of Intense Magic" - This wand is used in conjunction with spellcasting, and causes the spell cast to be extra-potent, causing a -2 penalty (or -10% to magic resistance or anti-magic) to any saves against it. At the user's option, two charges may be spent, doubling the potency of the spell to provide -4 to the save (or -20% MR or AM).

"Wand of Reach" - This wand similarly empowers spells cast while it is used, allowing the range of the spell in question to be doubled. Only spells with an actual range are so empowered. Personal, zero-range spells and those requiring the caster to touch the target may not be so enhanced.

---The above two wands were created in part to satisfy players with a background in 3rd edition/d20 and later editions and variants of D&D who are fond of 'meta magic' feats which allow tinkering with the ranges and other variables of spells by the caster. Given the limited charges of most wands, and the fact I have intentionally left out a wand that flat out increases the damage caused by a spell, I don't think they unbalance the game too much, and let the magic users have a little fun for once---

"War Wand" - Created by human magic users for use when their daily spells were used up, these wands grant one of the following boons, chosen at the time of activation, to the user for 1 + user's level rounds:

+1 to all to-hit rolls
+1 to Armor Class
+1 to all damage rolls

Only one boon may be active at any time.

"Eirak's Frost Wand" (Unique item, major wand) - Eirak the white was a self styled 'frost mage' from Noslo island, in Ostland. Adept at blending into the snowy terrain during winter raids with his band of brigands, Eirak lamented being easily seen when tromping through dungeons or out on rare spring and summer expeditions. After years or research and trial and error, he created the wand that bears his name, to hinder those who would see the face of their foe.

Eirak's wand creates a 20 foot diameter cloud of wet, icy mist anywhere within 100 feet of its user. Any flame based, non-magical light sources within the cloud are immediately extinguished, and more importantly, any creatures within the mist cloud who rely on infravision to see must make a save vs. RSW or be blinded for 1d6 rounds by the sudden shift in temperature around them.

"Andreja's Coffin Spike" (Unique item, minor wand) - The young magic user known only as Andreja is a newcomer to Specularum, having fled the terror filled rumors of Vandevicsny village. Having seen her family killed by the restless dead that stalk that sleepy town, Andreja now lives and studies magecraft in the city, hoping to gain the knowledge and power to rid her home of its undead scourge. Sadly though, her prized possession, a self made wand she calls Coffin Spike, has been stolen!

If the PCs are in Specularum, they may be approached by Andreja, seeking help in recovering her wand from the thieves who robbed her of it, otherwise they might come across the wand in any usual fashion as the spoils of conflict in their adventures.

Andreja's wand is aptly named, having been crafted from an ash stake once used to destroy a vampire near Vandevicsny. The wand must be activated by touching the undead target, requiring a to-hit roll against the target creature (though AC is calculated at 10 - magic and dex bonuses, if any. Armor is ignored for this 'attack'.) A successful hit deals the creature 1d8 points of damage per hit, using one charge. A failed attack roll means no charges are spent.

"Wand of Introspection" - These wands are rumored to have been created by the mischevious but kind hearted pixie folk of the Alfheim woodlands. The fact they tend to be only 6 or 7 inches long gives credence to that rumor (though that size would still make them a staff to a pixie who wielded one). While causing no direct harm to a creature, and designed merely to incapacitate a foe long enough for the fey folk to escape, the lingering effect of the wand's magic could put a target creature in temporary grave danger.

The target of this wand must succeed at a save vs. RSW or be overcome by feelings of peace and introspection, causing her to simply stand (or sit, or lay, if already doing so), smile and ponder how great and wonderful life on Mystara is. The victim becomes oblivious to everything around her except for actual damage to her person, which immediately ends the magic's effects. While in the trance, though, she suffers a -2 penalty to all saves, loses any dexterity bonus to AC, automatically fails any ability check and is incapable of any actions up to and including combat. The trance ends after 1d10 rounds, or upon physical HP damage to the victim.

"Wand of Procrastination"
- The target of this wand's magic suddenly becomes lethargic and unmotivated unless a save vs RSW is made. If the save is failed, the target automatically waits till the last possible moment to take any actions, causing him to automatically go last in initiative order for 1d6 rounds after which the magic fades.

05 October 2017

House Rules - Magical Staves (Includes New Known World Magic Items!)

New enchanted staves for your Magic User PCs, and some thoughts on Basic D&D's 'evolving' rules on charges for a staff.

As you may have noticed, the different editions of the Basic Rules have different notes on how many charges a staff has:

Original D&D (Book 2, Monsters & Treasures): 200 charges (2d100/2d% when found)
Holmes Basic: 100 charges (1d100/d% when found)
Moldvay Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found)
Cook Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Basic: 10 charges (1d10 when found) Implied but not clearly stated
Mentzer Expert: 30 charges (3d10 when found)
Mentzer Companion: (DM's option) 40 charges (4d10 when found)
Rules Cyclopedia: 30 charges (3d10 when found) and DM's option 40 charges (2d20 when found)
"Challenger" (Post RC) Basic: Not stated. This 'edition' also (erroneously?) states that staves are only usable by clerics, so I consider it irrelevant for this topic

To reconcile these differences, I simply use 4 classifications of staves:

Minor Staves have 20 charges, 1d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Standard Staves have 30 charges, 2d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Major Staves have 40 charges, 3d10 remaining when found as treasure or purchased/traded
Epic/Legendary Staves have 100 charges, 10d10 remaining when found, purchased or traded. Consider also that many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

The different classifications of stavess otherwise function as described in the relevant rule book. Roll d%/d100 to determine which class of staff is found:

d100   Staff Classification
0-25   Minor
26-70  Standard
71-95  Major
96-00  Epic/Legendary

When a PC or NPC wizard is creating a staff, minor staves halve the time and money required to complete the task, and major staves double the time and money required. In addition, the DM may require the creator (or her PC customer) to procure a rare, exotic or magical material to be used in the creation of a major wand, sometimes requiring a side quest by the party.

Epic staves are the stuff of legends, created in the distant past or on the exotic planes of the Immortals and otherworldly beings. Such items are beyond the ability of mortal magic users of the Known World to create. Again, many Staves of this magnitude would be considered proper Artifacts, and governed by the different rules for items of that type, explained in the Master Rules.

It is important to remember that the classification of a staff has nothing to do with its powers, it reflects only the number of charges the staffis capable of holding.

For all types of staves, unless specifically noted in the description of the item, each use of one of the staff's powers costs one charge, and a staffmay only be used once per round. Note that in both the Moldvay and Mentzer basic rules, in the general notes on all magic items with charges, it clearly states that unlike other (advanced or d20ish) versions of D&D games, in Classic D&D, charged items may not be recharged. Though many DMs will surely houserule and override this, I will present this material in compliance with "canon" rules-as-written. In any case, even if you do bend the rule and allow PC or NPC magic users to recharge staves, Epic/Legendary staves may never be recharged, for the same reason they cannot be created by mortals of the Known World.

New Staves

"Stone Staff of Mirabilis" (Unique Item, standard staff)
SPOILER WARNING: This item assumes that the events in the (revised Green Cover edition) adventure module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess have transpired and been brought to a successful conclusion; in other words, Haven is freed from Arik's curse and most of the folk of that land and Princess Argenta's palace have been restored to life, with one exception, it is assumed that the palace magician, Mirabilis, did not recover from being petrified and perished. If you plan to use that adventure in the future in your campaign, wait until afterward to introduce this item, or change the background to suit events in your campaign story.

When the curse of the vile immortal Arik fell upon the valley of Haven, only the courage and swift actions of heroes freed the land and restored the doomed citizens of Princess Argenta's court from eternal petrification, but no hero is perfect, and a small handful of the folk of Haven perished during that sad affair. Lady Argenta's trusted court magic user, Mirabilis, was one of those lost souls.

Shortly after the heroes defeated the minions of Arik and broke the curse, Mirabilis's apprentice, Shaylee, returned from an errand in Velders, a small town on the border with Glantri that she'd been sent on by her master a few days before the curse struck. Shaylee was horrified to find the broken shards of stone that had once been her mentor, and gathered them all for an honorable burial in the palace cemetery, saving only one small sliver of stone, from what had been her master's heart, to craft into a magical staff to help prevent anyone suffering a similar fate in the future.

The staff Shaylee created is made from oak and stands a full 7 feet in length, beautifully carved with images of flowers and subtle runes related to peace and protection. The head of the staff appears crafted of stone, in the (literal, anatomical) shape of a humanoid heart, a striking contrast to the beauty of the rest of the staff. The staff head is actually the petrified heart of a medusa, purchased by Shayla for a small fortune from a band of adventurers who had slain the gruesome creature in some lost ruins in the Malpheggi swamplands. Embedded unseen into the wooden shaft just below the headpiece is the sliver of stone from Mirabilis's heart.

PCs who visit Haven, or one of the nearby towns (The original, orange covered version of the B3 module contains a map of Haven and its surroundings, on the western border of Glantri. This document was included in the free pdf library on previous incarnations of the Wizards.com/dnd website, and may still be available via dndclassics.com or other online sources.) may hear the troubling rumor of thieves and assassin's loyal to the cult of Arik who returned to Haven to finish their work. Though most of the cultists were killed or captured during their unsuccessful mission, a handful escaped, taking the stolen staff with them! Recovering the staff from the small band of brigands is left to the DM to work out, but if the party does recover it and returns it to Shaylee in Lady Argenta's court, she will be eternally grateful and reward them with what minor scrolls or potions the DM decides she has access to. In addition, since Shaylee herself hasn't the heart of an adventurer, she will insist that any apparent lawful or neutral PCs keep the staff, to use it in battling the wicked monsters of the world that employ petrification magic.

The Stone Staff has the following powers:

Functions as a quarterstaff +1, +2 vs creatures with an innate ability to petrify opponents, such as a Medusa or Basilisk. This aspect of the Staff functions for any wielder, regardless of class, though only a MU or Elf (or variant PC class capable of using MU items) may use the other powers.
May cast Flesh to Stone, as the spell, once per day, costs 2 charges, requires a touch 'attack', target is entitled to a save vs P/P to avoid.
May cast Stone to Flesh at will, costs 1 charge
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

Note: The astute reader might recognize this as a Known World adaptation of the White Staff of Meldorf, from Teutonic myth, as it appeared in the Role Aids rpg supplement Fantastic Treasures, vol. 2 (Mayfair Games, 1985) My apologies to the source myths for any liberties taken in this adaptation.

Staff of Lordly Magic
In the days of Alphaks I, Imperial court wizards held lofty positions of power and influence in the imperial government of Alphatia (and still do, to a lesser degree), and many would craft mostly ceremonial staves of great beauty and grandeur to denote them as high mages of the empire. Though the practice of creating staves like these has long since fallen from general use, a few of these ancient staves are known to yet exist, scattered throughout the Known World over time.

The wielder of a Staff of Lordly Magic inspires feelings of respect and admiration in those around her, with the following game effects:

+1 to wielder's CHA ability (18 max) when the staff is actually held
Verbal Understanding - By spending a charge, the wielder of the staff may speak with any one creature within 10 feet of her for 10 minutes, regardless of shared languages. Treat this as the 1st level MU spell Read Languages, but applied only to verbal, not written, communications.
Charm Person - As the spell (treat as 8th level for spell variables), costs 2 charges
The staff's abilities all become inert once the charges are spent.

These staves are highly sought after by current Alphatian magic users, who will sometimes pay as much as 5000 gp for an example with charges remaining (Half that for minor versions of the staff, double for major versions. No known Epic/Legendary examples have ever existed.)

04 October 2017

House Rules - Casting Times & Spell Components for Clerics, Druids & Shamans

Magic-users and Elves aren't the only characters in the game who cast spells, of course, Clerics get important spell abilities when they reach 2nd level of experience. Somewhat unlike the former casters, the Cleric's spells are critical to the success of the entire party, healing and protecting the Cleric's allies when things get tough.

Since the rules are not totally clear, many players interpret them to suggest that Clerics get to choose their spells on the fly, not needing to memorize them daily like MUs do. I personally don't like this. Like the Elf, the Cleric gets spells and pretty respectable combat prowess, so why further punish the player who picks a MU by only applying the "Vancian" rule to them? Given that thought, I require Clerics to pick their spells daily just like their MU compatriots, with the caveat that, as in later versions of d20 D&D, they can swap out a prepared spell for a healing spell of equal or lesser level on the fly, provided they succeed on a wisdom check (equal or less than their WIS on a d20 roll) at the time of casting.

But, you might point out, these posts are all about getting around Vancian spellcasting! Right, and Clerics get similar options.

Clerics* who cast their spells on the fly without daily prayer and preparation suffer the same penalties to their initiative as MUs do; -1 to individual initiative per spell level of the desired spell.

Like MUs, the player may choose to use material components to remove the initiative penalty, in the exact same way as MUs. The only real difference is that in addition to the optional spell component, the Cleric must always have their holy symbol during spellcasting, or the spell fails. Of course, a lenient DM may take mercy on the Cleric whose symbol is lost or destroyed through no fault of their own, allowing them to perform a WIS check, with a +2 penalty to the roll, to cast spells without their symbol, as long as an effort is being made to replace it ASAP.

The power of Gygax compels you!

The required components for each spell are similar in nature to their MU spell counterparts, but the Cleric player who wants to swap out for non-standard components should take their particular deities dogma into account. While a god of nature and peace would be fine with a bundle of fresh herbs being used to invoke a Cure Light Wounds spell, for example, a savage god of war might prefer the heart of a freshly killed enemy. DM discretion rules the day, as usual, in regard to work works and what does not.

Here are my suggested components for the official Basic Rules 1st level cleric spells, to get your creative juices flowing:

1a Cure Light Wounds - 1 vial of holy water (considered to contain the divine essence of the patron god)
1b Cause Light Wounds - small chunk of metal, wood or stone from a broken weapon (to invoke the now inert damaging potential or bloodlust of that weapon)
2a Detect Evil - the preserved eye of an animal considered in the Cleric's culture to be friendly or "good", like a domestic breed of dog, songbird, sheep, etc (most cultures acknowledge the enhanced senses of animals)
2b Detect Good - as for Detect Evil, but from a bad or evil animal, like a snake, rat or pirahna (same as Detect Evil)
3 Detect Magic - the preserved eye of a cat, raven or crow (these animals have a strong symbolic connection to wizards and witches)
4a Light - a live or preserved firefly (a creature thought to be sent by the gods to guide their faithful in the darkness)
4b Darkness - a preserved wing (or freshly harvested one) of a bat (bats are known to "see" and fly straight in the darkness, after all)
5 Protection from Evil - 1 vial of holy water (to invoke the essence of the god for divine protection)
6 Purify Food and Water - A handful of salt (often used to preserve food, salt is thought by Clerics to have divine properties that drive off rot and decay)
7a Remove Fear - a small children's doll (to recapture soothing memories of home and security)
7b Cause Fear - the preserved head of a snake or other nasty small animal (the fact that most sane folk fear and avoid snakes leads Clerics to believe the gods mark those creatures with a fearsome aura to warn us of their danger)
8 Resist Cold - a chunk of coal or sulphur, unburnt (to invoke the latent flame spirits thought to live within)

I suggest giving Cleric players a lot of flexibility in choosing alternate materials to substitute, as long as the player is making some creative effort to play out the faith of her PC. While some MU types, though not so much Elves, consider magic to be a rather exact science, Clerics view divine magic as the malleable will of their patron god, infinitely adaptable to intent and circumstance.

With these notes and the guidelines from the MU article before them, you should be able to freely add these options to all the spellcasters in your game without too much difficulty or bogging down of play, all that is really required is a bit of creativity and some minor bookkeeping by the players.

*Clerics, in the context of this article, include Druids and Shamans, and any other variant classes (such as an OD&D paladin, perhaps) with similar divine or spiritual magical abilities.

03 October 2017

House Rules - Casting Times & Spell Components for Magic Users, Elves and Wicca

One part of playing a spellcaster in AD&D, either 1st or 2nd edition, that I've always found fun is the use of material components for casting a spell. For those unfamiliar with the idea, it basically means that most spells require a little bit of some physical material that is used to harness and focus the magic required to cast the spell. The components are usually figuratively or metaphorically (and often somewhat humorously) connected to the spell being casting, so the Identify spell to determine the nature of a magic item requires a pearl (pearls of wisdom), and a fireball needs a pinch of bat droppings (as anyone who's had bats in their attic knows, the stuff is highly flammable when it dries out). I tinkered with different ways to use the idea in a Basic game without overly complicating things, and here's what I've settled on. We'll start with Magic-Users and similar classes today, and get back to actual material components in a minute, first we need to talk about casting times for spells, another AD&D mechanic I borrow to balance the use of components.

Spell Casting Times:
Usually in Classic D&D, when a spellcaster wants to cast a spell she has memorized, the player just announces that intent and when their turn comes up in initiative, the spell is cast and takes affect.

This optional system does not change that at all, spells memorized for the day according to the rules are cast normally, and 'go off' right when they are cast on the caster's initiative segment.

However, to give the players of spellcasters a little more flexibility in choosing spells for the day, the DM may allow the use of casting times, whereby the player may choose any spell known to the caster as long as they have an unspent spell 'slot' of that level available for the day. In this case, where spells are chosen on the fly instead of selected and prepared in the morning, an initiative penalty of -1 per spell level of the desired spell, to reflect the additional time required to recall and cast the spell, which was only briefly reviewed that morning. If standard group initiative for the party is used, the penalty applies only to the caster, not her allies.

Example: Luna wants to cast a lightning bolt against her enemies this round. The DM rolls initiative for the monsters on a d6, as normal, resulting in a 4. The party rolls a 5 for their group initiative, but Luna is casting an unmemorized 3rd level spell, so she gets a penalty of -3 to her individual initiative, so while the party wins initiative and goes first on a 5, Luna goes on 2, after the monsters.
Since the DM is probably choosing the spells for NPC casters on the fly anyway, this procedure is not used for NPC or monster casters. It is intended solely as a cheat for the players who don't want to be restrained by picking their daily spells before the day begins.

Material Spell Components
Now, what if you want the flexibility of casting on the fly, but don't want to suffer those nasty initiative penalties, which essentially guarantee that higher level magic users casting 5th or 6th level spells will always lose initiative? That's where material components (MCs) come in.

An MC is a small bit of material that serves two purposes in spellcasting. First of all, the metaphorical relation to the nature of the spell being cast helps jog the caster's memory and focus his thoughts on channeling the spell. Second, because of that same figurative relationship to the spell's intended effect, the presence of the material substance helps the caster more quickly gather and focus the magical energy to power the spell.

If the Magic-User* possesses the required material component and uses it to empower the spell, the spell's casting time is negated, allowing the spell to go off on the caster's unmodified initiative segment. The component is 'spent' in the process, and though it may still physically remain in the caster's hand, it is forever drained of its innate magical potency and is unusable as a future material component.

For now I'm only going to suggest specific MCs for the standard 1st level spells in the Basic rules, to give you an idea of the possibilities to guide you in assigning MCs for other spells.

SPELL - SUGGESTED COMPONENT (Metaphorical Meaning)
1. Charm Person - A 4 to 6 inch piece of olive tree branch (symbolic of peace or friendship)
2. Detect Magic - An owl's Feather (symbolic of wisdom and insight)
3. Floating disk - A marble sized chunk of Lodestone or Magnetized Metal (symbolic of the property of magnets to repel other magnets with the same charge), allowing one to 'float' above the other if carefully positioned)4. Hold Portal - A large nail or small spike forged of iron or steel (symbolic of literally spiking a door shut)
5. Light - The intact body (dead or alive) of a firefly (repesentative of the ability to create light)
6. Magic Missile - An arrowhead previously used in battle (representative of the arrow's potential to strike and wound)
7. Protection from Evil - A miniature carved copy of the holy symbol of a lawful or goodly god (symbolic of a god's power to protect his followers)
8. Read Languages - A lense from a monocle or spectacles (symbolic of aiding the ability to read)
9. Read Magic - A scrap of parchment, vellum or paper once part of a spell scroll or spellbook page (representative of magical writing)
10. Shield - A scrap piece of metal from a suit of armor (representative of armor's protective qualities)
11. Sleep - a scrap of cloth from a child's blanket (representative of peaceful 'babylike' sleep)
12. Ventriloquism - A 2 or 3 inch diameter carved or sewn dolls head (representative of a ventriloquists dummy)

MCs for 1st level spells should generally cost no more than 1gp, and if the PC is unable or unwilling to forage for them in the field, can be purchased in most general stores or apothecaries in towns or cities, or from fellow magic-users, though these folks may insist on barter or trade instead of coin.

As the level of the spells increase, the DM is free to limit availability of components to reflect the rarity of more potent substances and items, and the average price/value of the MC will go up, generally as follows:

Spell Level - Suggested Average Price/Value
1 - 1gp
2 - 5gp
3 - 10gp 
4 - 25gp
5 - 50gp
6 - 100gp
7 - 200gp
8 - 350gp
9 - 500gp

Improvising Spell Components

Sometimes a specific component may be unavailable, or a creative player may suggest an alternative component from items they find or have on hand. I'm all for this as long as there is a bit of thought and creativity behind the suggestion. A PC could suggest using a stirge's beak instead of an arrowhead for the Magic Missile spell, or a handful of phosphorescent moss instead of the firefly for a Light spell, for example. You should always reward imagination and creative problem solving in the game, so this kind of thing is perfectly fine. I simply require the Magic-User succeed on a simple INT ability check (a roll of equal or less than their INT score on a d20) when casting the spell with the alternate component for it to operate as intended. If the ability check fails, the spell still works, but the normal initiative penalty described above applies. 

as used in this article, include the Elf class and Wicca/Wokani class option for non-standard 'monster' classes. Other classes with similar spell casting ability may qualify as well with the DMs approval.
That's about it for Magic-Users.

02 October 2017

The Known World Setting - Spellcasting in the Five Faceted Faith

I was thinking over some general ideas about how the different magic using classes approach their spellcraft, and how it fits into the Five Faceted Faith. None of this has any real impact on game play, it's just a little in character flavor to make the characters something more than a checklist of available spells.

The only optional "rule" I'd consider in regard to all of this is maybe requiring an INT/WIS check (whichever is applicable) for one type of arcane or divine caster to learn spells from a caster of a different type. Arcane casters cannot learn Divine spells at all, and vice versa, but making the subtle differences in how magic users, elves and wiccas approach magic, for example, come into play with a fairly easy ability check once in a while might make the setting a little more interesting.

Arcane Caster Types
Magic Users - Whether they actively participate in the "religion" of the sphere or not, most magic users relate to the sphere of thought closely. Their approach to magic is an esoteric mix of math, science, allegory and symbolism, and obscure knowledge that allows them to start to understand how the multiverse operates. By subtly manipulating aspects of all five of the spheres, they begin to be able to cause real changes in reality that manifest as spells. Though some of their rituals may resemble religious ceremony or dogma, there is really nothing spiritual or divine about how a magic user invokes her magic.

Elves (and creatures like dragons with innate spell casting talents) - Some creatures are literally born magical, the balance of the five spheres that results in mundane life is slightly tweaked in one way or another in these creatures, sometimes giving them the ability to use spell like powers without having to learn, memorize, or cast them in a normal fashion. Elves are a special case, existing on a figurative border between the real, balanced realm of the Known World and the mysterious and magical world of Faerie. While elves are blessed with an innate magic that aids them in quickly understanding how to use spells, they still have to learn those magics like humans do. Elven magical lore is not quite as technical or mathematical as that of humans, and borrows some concepts that seem to derive from druids or shamans.

Wiccas - Wiccas tend to hail from cultures and societies that are a little more primitive, relatively speaking, than the human standard. Rather than science and mathematics forming a strong part of their approach to magic, they focus much more on the symbolism, allegory and simple practical application of magic. Proper magic users claim that this simple, undisciplined approach is why wiccas are incapable of mastering the advanced, high powered magic that high level wizards can, but most wiccas would respond that such magics are frivilous and not worth the effort anyway.

One quick note about the use of the term Wicca. For whatever reason, this is the term the Classic D&D designers of the 1980s chose to assign to hedge mages, tribal wizards and other "minor" users of arcane magic. In the context of the D&D rules and the Mystara setting, absolutely no connection to the religion philosophy of the same name in the real world is implied or intended.

Divine Caster Types
Clerics - While most clerics have at least a rudimentary understanding and acceptance of the Five Faceted Faith, they choose a unique way of invoking magic from it. Rather than learn to influence things themselves, clerics form a pact of sorts with a being or beings of Immortal existence, in which their devotion and service to the agenda of those beings is rewarded with the ability to channel a small portion of the divine power of their patrons. Some clerics are narrowly focused and only directly serve one Immortal, or a small selection of allied Immortals, while others serve the will of all the Immortals of one sphere, or those of all spheres equally, but there is no difference in the manifestation of clerical powers which of these paths they choose.

Druids - Druids view nature and reality as a delicate balance of all five spheres, and through this understanding, they learn to subtly tweak that balance in order to invoke their magic. Most druids are careful never to push things too far and upset the natural order, and will often spend time in meditation and contemplation before acting to avoid any unwanted side effects.

Shamans - Shamanic magic is similar to that of clerics, in that their power derives from other entities. Rather than distant Immortals, however, shamans look to the natural spirits around them; dead ancestors, the essence of living and non-living natural things, and so on. Also, rather than channel the power of these spirits directly, as clerics do, the shaman's service to the spirits is rewarded by the spirits basically creating magical effects for them. Clerics claim that the inferiority of these spirits to true Immortals is the reason for the somewhat weaker nature of shamanic magic, but most shamans and the spirits they serve find this attitude pretty insulting.