18 March 2017

Lock and Trap qualities

Editor's Note: This is another slightly edited and cleaned up post from the blog archive, by original blog owner Rich Trickey, aka chatdemon.

I like to give some variety to locks and traps, to make things a little more interesting than the old "ok, roll to unlock/disarm it". While intricate detail of the workings of the device is overkill in most cases, I found that a simple system to differentiate the quality of various devices doesn't slow things down too much. Here's what I came up with.

Lock/Trap QualityOpen Locks and Remove Trap Adj.Notes and probability
Shoddy+10%Very poor quality; bad worksmanship, cheap materials and outdated technology. 1-15% chance of device being this quality.
Poor+5%Poor quality; bad workmanship, cheap materials or outdated tech. 16-40% chance of device being of this quality.
Average0Average quality. 41-75% of device being of this quality.
Good-10%Good quality. High quality materials used. 76-90% of device being of this quality.
Excellent-20%Very good quality. Excellent materials, workmanship or innovative tech. 91-98% chance of device being of this quality.
Peerless-40%Exceptional quality. Excellent materials, workmanship and innovative tech. 99-00% chance of device being of this quality.

I also added a set of higher quality thieves picks and tools to the equipment list. The "Peerless thieves picks and tools" cost 250gp, but grant a 10% bonus to all OL/RT checks made by the thief using them.

In addition, I came up with a system allowing for multiple attempts at picking a single lock. By the book, if the thief fails the first attempt, he must wait until he gains another experience level before attempting it again. This is a little unreasonable, in my opinion.

I rule that the first attempt at picking a lock takes 1d4 minutes. Each subsequent attempt is made at a -10% (cumulative) chance of success, and takes an additional 1d6 minutes (so, the first attempt is 1d4 minutes, the second is 1d4+1d6 minutes, the third is 1d4+2d6 minutes, etc)

Olga's Options: Death, Dying and Hit Points

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of posts where I share some of the house rules, tweaks and interpretations that I use when running Classic D&D. In my, admittedly limited years DMing, I've come up with a few things on my own and borrowed others from the more experienced players in my group, and even adopted a few things I found on other blogs and forums online; I'll try and give proper credit where due in those cases. I don't pretend to be a master of the game, so I welcome any feedback, criticism or suggestions you might have on implementing these ideas in a game.

Death's Door

I notice that many later editions of D&D and its variants, either officially or as an assumed unwritten rule, don't treat 0 hit points as dead, as it is written in the Basic Rules. Systems seem to vary on what negative hit point total means actual death, but 0 or lower HP just seems to mean the PC (but oddly enough, not the NPCs or monsters, go figure) is simply unconscious and bleeding, sure to die if help is not given by a comrade quickly.

The Hackmaster RPG (4th edition, the AD&D 1st ed. "clone" parody) takes a different approach, granting every PC, NPC and monster a HP "kicker", 10 extra hit points for everyone. While I don't like shaking up the rules to that extent, and further dragging out low level combat as 1st level PCs and low HD monsters literally hack each other to pieces attempting to deal 14 to 118 points of damage, I do like that at least the system is fair to the DM's cast of characters and creatures, <b>everybody</b> gets the 10 bonus points.

The compromise system I came up with follows the basic idea of the 0 HP means unconscious rules, while incorporating a little of the Hackmaster rule spirit as well. Here's my proposed Death's Door rule:

At 0 HP, a PC or NPC is unconscious, and dying from bleeding, even if that bleeding is internal, from blunt melee weapons. The character will lose 1 HP per game round unless healing is given by an ally through magic or successful use of a healing skill, if you use those options. If the character's HP total falls below -(1+CON Adj)*, he is dead.

If the character is returned to 1 HP or higher through healing, he must make a saving throw vs. Death or permanently lose 1 point of CON ability score. This loss of ability score does <b>not</b> retroactively affect the character's hit point total, but will affect future HP gained at level up if the characters CON score adjustment changes.

That's for PCs and "named" NPCs, the DM's cast of characters that are more than just bystanders or riffraff using the Normal Human, Elf, Dwarf, etc monster descriptions. Monsters do not gain the death's door option, they are still dead at 0 HP, but instead, they get a 1 HP per HD kicker, always rounded up. So a Kobold or Goblin gets 1 extra hit point, while a 10 HD Dragon gets 10 extra HP. I think this balances things out ok without forcing the DM to keep track of half a dozen or more unconscious and dying monsters during an encounter.

* As shown on page 36 of the Basic Set, characters with a high Constitution score get an adjustment to their HP. This is the ability score adjustment I'm talking about. +1 for a score of 13-15, +2 for 16-17 or +3 for a score of 18 or higher. A character with a 17 CON can therefore fall to -4 (1+ +3 con adj) HP before actually dying. Negative Con. adj for a low ability score are ignored for this purpose.

Aleena, and the fine art of annoying the party with their hirelings

Aleena and the Bargle incident are often remembered with tongue in cheek fondness by many gamers, and for good reason, she's a memorable NPC, it's a cool campaign starter adventure hook, and Larry Elmore's art for her is D&D cheesecake gold.

But, let's look at her dialogue for a minute:
"Greetings, friend! Looking for the goblin? You might - Oh! You are hurt!
May I help?"
"My name is Aleena. I’m a cleric, an adventurer like yourself. I live in the town nearby, and came here seeking monsters and treasure. Do you know about clerics?"
"Well, the goblin went that-a-way, “He came through here so fast I almost didn’t see him. You hit him? Good for you! Goblins are nasty"
So far so good...
"Since you don’t know about clerics, let me explain. Clerics are trained in fighting like you, but we can also cast spells. I meditate, and the knowledge of spells enters my mind. One of the spells I can cast right now is a curing spell, and you look like you need it!"
"feel better? Would you care to sit and rest a bit? I’d like to tell you a few things that you will need to know later."
Um, actually chica, I've got a goblin to slay, thanks for the healing and all though...
"If you didn’t know about clerics, you probably don’t know about magic-users. They are adventurers, like you and me, but they study only spells, and rarely fight. They have different spells than we clerics do, and instead of meditating, they learn their spells from books. There are a few magic-users living in town, but not many."
"If you are attacked by a bad magicuser, you might be able to avoid the magic, but it’s harder than avoiding poison. Spells can be helpful, but they can
be very dangerous, too.

By the way, that looked like a snake bite that I cured. That can be very bad, because most poison is deadly; you were lucky that it didn’t cause more damage. Some other creatures also have special attacks, like poison. Some can paralyze, and some can even turn you to stone by just looking at you - unless you look away in time. And
dragons are the worst! They can breathe fire, acid, or other deadly things. You can never avoid all the damage from their breaths, but you can lessen it if you cover up in time."
Huh. Not only preachy, but a metagamer, this is going to get old fast.

She goes on blabbering in this preachy, almost condescending manner right up until ol' Bargle shows a little mercy on strong fighter's mental state and fries her with a magic missile.

Now, of course, this type of hand holding is probably useful to someone who is picking up D&D and the heroic fantasy genre as a whole for the very first time, but to experienced players, when read to them as npc dialogue, it gets irritating, fast.

And that's a good thing.

Especially among low level parties, the temptation to use hirelings as party crutches can be a problem in a campaign. "What, 6 of you and noone rolled up a cleric? Great, I supposed you expect me to run one for you, so you have a paramedic tagging along while I'm trying to run the monsters, npcs, etc"

Yeah, sometimes you have fewer players than the game assumes, or PC attrition during a campaign or a player absence from the game makes hirelings and other tag-a-long NPCs useful, if not required, but, if your players begin to lean on them too much, getting lazy or careless because they know the hireling will bail them out....

Make them like Aleena. Annoy the living hell out of your players every time they call on the healer or torchbearer to do their job. You don't have to go as far as having the hired thief steal from them, or the hired cleric refuse to heal those not of his alignment, just have the thief be an arrogant prick, have the magic user be overly intellectual and condescending of their mistakes and silly ideas, have the cleric preach endlessly about the glory of his faith and the sins of the players, have the fighter be a loudmouthed boor who never fails to break down parleys with insults hurled at the enemy.

You get the idea. Eventually the party will get tired of the BS and release the npc from employment, or murder him in his sleep...

Getting things back in order

I've been working the last couple months, since joining the blog, getting some of the old posts updated, edited and expanded, writing new material, and generally trying to organize 7 or 8 years worth of posts into something coherent so we can go ahead with a real relaunch of the blog very soon with a better idea of where we're going and where we've been.

You'll notice that the product guide pages; an illustrated reference to all the different official TSR, Inc. products for Classic D&D over the years, are restored. Those pages are found via the links in the horizontal pages menu above.
Also back now are the pages showcasing the different Campaign Worlds for Classic D&D, the official ones from TSR and TSR UK at least. Check out the links to those in the sidebar to the right.

Last thing for now is Darva's excellent Complete(?) List of Classic D&D Character Class Options, also linked in the sidebar. I tweaked the formatting on that one and we added some fun graphics to liven it up as well.

Thanks for being patient as we work on getting this thing back up and running. I know it's been irregular over the years, but I hope to change that moving forward!

See you soon!

Classic DnD Dungeon Magazine Adventure Index - part 5

As you can see, I've made these indices a bit more helpful than those usually found online, including notes on the intended setting, party make up & levels, and a brief description of the premise of the adventure to help you pick an adventure that's right for your group and campaign. Additionally, since a lot of folks have a favorite author or two whose work they value above others, I've listed the author of each adventure.

28 (Mar/Apr '91)
Title: Night of Fear
Setting: Generic Urban
Levels: 1
Suggested Party Make-Up: 1 PC
Note: This is a 1 player, 1 dm adventure, not a true solo aventure
Description: The PC is spending the night at a roadside inn when the innkeeper is mysteriously murdered. Will he join the other patrons in finding and dealing with the perpetrator? Also included are a bunch of Shady Dragon Inn style NPCs.

Issue: 34 (Mar/Apr '92)
Title: Isle Of The Abby
Setting: Generic wilderness and dungeon crawl
Levels: 1-3
Suggested Party Make-Up: 4-6 PCs, including at least one cleric
Description: The local mariner's guild wants to build a lighthouse on a fairly remote island, problem is, a ruined monastery and haunted graveyard are already there. The party is hired to clean things up so construction of the lighthouse can proceed. As I said, there's a haunted graveyard and lots of undead encounters, clerics will come in very handy.

Issue: 39 (Jan/Feb '93 - my copy is mistakenly labelled 1992)
Title: The Fountain Of Health
Setting: Known World outdoor ruin (Glantri)
Levels: 1
Suggested Party Make-Up: 4-6 PCs, with at least one thief and one fighter
Description: Years ago, when the Princes of Glantri expelled all clerics from their lands, they ordered the keepers of this monastery and its healing well to provide support (healing) to their armies. The keepers refused, and the army and its magical servants sacked the place, leaving it in ruin. Now it's up to the party to clear the ruin of the remaining magical guardians and discover the healing secrets within.

Issue: 41 (May/Jun '93)
Title: A Way With Words
Setting: Thunder Rift Urban
Levels: 1-3
Suggested Party Make-Up: 3-6 PCs
Description: A gnomish archaeologist with a penchant for poetry has had one of his prized books stolen. He thinks he knows who the culprit is, and hires the party to retrieve his book. The thing is, someone stole it from the thief as well, leading the party to solve the mystery by tracking a dimwitted band of kobolds who think the book is a spellbook and are attempting to unlock its magic. A great tension breaker type adventure for a serious campaign.

Issue: 42 (Jul/Aug '93)
Title: Ransom
Setting: Known World wilderness (Karameikos)
Levels: 3-5
Suggested Party Make-Up: 4-7 PCs
Description: The son of a noble landowner near Threshold has been kidnapped. Deciding to pay the ransom rather than risk his son's life, the noble hires the party to make the payment exchange. Or so he says... Turns out he's loaded the chest the party is given to pay the bandits with fake coins, hoping the ensuing fight (when the kidnappers assume the party has tried to dupe them) will dispatch the kidnappers and free his son.
Issue: 10 (1983)
Title: Under Construction - The Beloved Rose Garden of Nedragesor
Author: Mary Kirchoff
Setting: Dungeon Location
Levels: Expert or Higher (4+)
Suggested Party Make-Up: Any
Description: Under Construction is a series of rules light, one page dungeon locations to drop into an existing dungeon and spice things up. In this episode, the heroes encounter a room where the rosebush murals come to life and trap them, unless the riddle is deciphered and the trap deactivated. Although these articles are rules light (as well as intended for both AD&D and Classic D&D), I determined the suggested level based on the damage the trap does if the party tries to brute force their way out of it. The damage is far too deadly for Basic level characters. Note that I have given these scenarios their subtitles based on their content, they were simply called Under Construction in the magazine.

Issue: 13 (1983)
Title: Under Construction - The Garden of the Abyss
Author: Mary Kirchoff
Setting: Dungeon Location
Levels: Expert or Higher (4+)
Suggested Party Make-Up: Any; Magic-User, Elf or Cleric of level 7+ would be helpful, but not required
Description: Designed to stand alone, or as a follow up to the Rose Garden room from issue 10, an enchanted portal whisks the characters to a strange garden in the abyss. The heroes must decipher the riddle and unlock the secret of the cursed statue to return home. The magic required to lift the curse from the statue require a spellcaster of significant level, though the encounter is escapable without doing so. Note that I have given these scenarios their subtitles based on their content, they were simply called Under Construction in the magazine.

Issue: 15 (1983)
Title: Encounters - The Mirror of Worlds
Author: Mary Kirchoff
Setting: Generic Wilderness
Levels: 2-4
Suggested Party Make-Up: Any
Description: Edries ancient map leads the way to a forgotten tomb. The party might join up with her to find the tomb, defeat its guardians, and claim its treasures, the most interesting of which is a magical mirror that allows travel between worlds. The mirror is intended as a device for introducing characters from other games (Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, Gangbusters, etc. Or any variant world the DM concocts) and vice-versa. The guardians of the tomb are simple living statues, shouldn't be too much trouble for Basic level heroes. Note that I have given these scenarios their subtitles based on their content, they were simply called Encounters in the magazine. These are not fully fleshed out adventures, but instead, a sample NPC, a little bit of backstory and an adventure idea to go along with him or her.

Issue: 15 (1983)
Title: Encounters - The Mirror of Worlds
Author: Mary Kirchoff
Setting: Generic Wilderness
Levels: 2-4
Suggested Party Make-Up: Any
A long time back on the Dragonsfoot Forum, I compiled a list of 'official' Classic D&D PC class options, and had the hubris to call it complete. Boy, was I wrong. This post is an expansion and revision of that post, covering all versions of Classic D&D from OD&D's 3 brown books and their supplements all the way up to the Rules Cyclopedia and the handful of black box Basic/Classic D&D games that accompanied it.

One thing I should point out is my opinion on NPC classes. Sometimes, I see a class presented in Dragon magazine that is quite obviously better suited to use with an NPC. This is simply because the character type is ill suited to adventuring life, combat, etc. I do not hold to the idea that a player should be barred from using a class, however ill suited I might think it is, just because TSR said it was for NPCs only. If I ban a class from PC use, like the Samurai from Dragon Magazine, they are not going to meet any NPC Samurai's either. Goose and gander, fair is fair. I include the NPC classes in this list with that in mind.

"Core" B/X, BECMI rulebooks:

Magic User

Companion (Also in the RC):
Druid (high level Cleric subclass)
Knight (high level Fighter subclass)
Paladin (high level Fighter subclass)
Ranger (high level Fighter subclass)
Magist (high level Magic User "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Magus (high level Magic User "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Guildmaster (high level Thief "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)
Rogue (high level Thief "subclass", more of a role than a class, no real unique abilities)

Master (Also in the RC):
Mystic (sort of a cloistered monk class)
Guidelines for non-human (and non-elf) spellcasters, handy if you use one of the spellcasting add ons for shaman types found in the books below.

Immortals (See also the Wrath of the Immortals accessory):
This set obviously introduces a bunch of new options for ultra-high level PCs, but these are beyond the scope of basic class options.

"Splatbooks" including Mystara and Hollow World Supplements:

Gazetteer 2, The Emireates of Ylaruam
Dervish (a desert themed druid variant)

Gazetteer 3, The Principalities of Glantri
Magic Crafts: (variant "specialty" class options for magic users)

Gazetteer 5, The Elves of Alfheim
Special rules for "splitting" the elf class to focus on either fighting or magic use

Gazetteer 6, The Dwarves of Rockhome
Dwarf Cleric

Gazetteer 8, The Five Shires
Halfling Master (Spellcasting class for Halflings)

Gazetteer 9, The Minrothad Guilds
Merchant Prince (seafaring spellcaster with a pirate flavor)

Gazetteer 10, The Orcs of Thar
The above classes are all basically thefighter type class for the each of those various humanoid races.
Shaman (this is an add on to the race based classes above, giving them minor cleric spellcasting)
Wicca (this is an add on to the race based classes above, giving them minor magic user spellcasting)

Gazetteer 11, The Republic of Darokin
Merchant (a travelling trader with minor spellcasting)

Gazetteer 12, The Golden Khan of Ethengar
Horse Warrior (a fighter subclass for the mounted warrior)
Bratak (a thief subclass with a penchant for spying, diplomacy and riding)
Hakomon (a magic user variant)
Shaman (a cleric variant for the less civilized)

Gazetteer 13, The Shadow Elves
Shadow Elf (a minor variation on standard elves)

Gazetteer 14, The Atruaghin Clans
Shamani (another totemic cleric variant)

Dawn of the Emperors Gazetteer (Boxed Set)
Forester (a human version of the magic using fighter elf class)
Rake (a thief variant geared toward burglary and adventuring instead of backstabbing and muggings)

Creature Crucible 1 - Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
Wood Imp
These are, with a couple exceptions, just the typical "fighter" versions of these races, but as with the Orcs of Thar, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Creature Crucible 2 - Top Ballista
These are, with a couple exceptions, just the typical "fighter" versions of these races, but as with the Orcs of Thar, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Creature Crucible 3 - The Sea Folk
Aquatic Elf
Sea Giant
Shark Kin

Creature Crucible 4 - Night Howlers
Devil Swine

Hollow World Campaign Setting
Warrior Elf (an elf variant with no magical ability)
Krugel Orc
Kubitt (actually just a variant human "race", they use the normal human classes but have racial modifiers and abilities)
Malpheggi Lizardman
Once again, rules are included for adding on to the class to grant some spellcasting abilities as well.

Hollow World, Kingdom of Nithia Sourcebook
The above classes are all just variant fighters, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
War Cleric
This is just a variant cleric, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Mage Scribe
These are all just variant magic users, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Royal Seal Bearer
These are all just variant thieves, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities

Hollow World, Milenian Empire Sourcebook
Cleric of Halav
Cleric of Matera
Cleric of Petra
Cleric of Protius
These are all just variant clerics, with specific bonuses offset by reduced general abilities
Griffon Rider (A variant fighter class)

OD&D Supplement I: Greyhawk

Dwarf Fighter
Dwarf Cleric (technically presented as an NPC option, but I won't tell TSR if you let your players use it)
Dwarf Thief
Dwarf Fighter/Thief
Elf Fighter
Elf Cleric
Elf Thief
Elf Fighter/Magic-User/Thief
Half-Elf (Treat as the standard Elf class, but note the level limits vary)
Half-Elf Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric (with lofty ability score requirements)
Hobbit (Halfling) Fighter
Hobbit Thief
Paladin (1st level start, different than the standard Companion Rules "prestige class")

OD&D Supplement II: Blackmoor


OD&D Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry

EW is also the source of the Classic D&D rules for PC psionics, If you care to adopt them.

Strategic Review Magazine #2


Strategic Review Magazine #4


Strategic Review Magazine #6


(The) Dragon Magazine #2


(The) Dragon Magazine #3

Woman Fighter
Woman Magic-User
Woman Thief
Woman Cleric
Apparently Len Lakofka's campaign setting has no female Elves, Dwarves or Halflings ... harumph! All kidding aside, I included these for completeness, I doubt anyone would actually use them in 2014 :)
Dwarf Fighter
Dwarf Thief
Dwarf Cleric