Saturday, 30 April 2011

Z is for ZAT's IT: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

I have done it. Blogger Challenge - yeah, yeah yeah.

What have I learnt?

Well firstly, what have you learnt? Has anyone gone out and purchased / found / dug out a copy of the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide because of this series?

I've learnt a number of Gems
1. Without the discipline and motivation of the AtoZ challenge my copy of the DSG would have sat in a darkened loft space, for another decade unread. Like my copy of the Wilderness Survival Guide. Or Greyhawk, Dragonlance and many, many modules I have purchased in the last decade from eBay. So I thank the AtoZ organisers for the inspiration.

2. I never purchased the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, in my day. I was still playing, but it was expensive, and I would have bought the Wilderness Survival Guide instead (all those weather systems). After exploring it for a month, I can't say I have learned to love the DSG. In the end, it's too verbose, rules for the sake of rules, too campaign setting (alluding to TSR's future publication obsessions - Forgotten Realms, campaign world after campaign world); but still their are moments when the DSG lifts one's imagination. The art certainly helps. And for that I am glad to have spent the last month with it.

3. We have yet to escape the fact that RPG companies be they LotFP or WOTC, must continue to make new products to make money. This is because in my opinion, they must sell, more to the converted. Because new sells, and old dies on shelves. The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide was part of that mentality. Publish or perish. What if we merely expanded the numbers playing, using the same old but trusted books. The world becomes your oyster, and we almost become a club trying to get new members, their membership fee, the classic books. The business model - support your current fans, encouraging them to find new fans.

Okay it's a dream. And one destined to poverty.

I have another dream.

An Adventurer's Survival Guide (produced by the OSR Community)

You see, I like rules. And I'd love to make a rules supplement to deal with different settings.

Wilderness (horse rules, carts, roads, mud, quicksand, weather)
Waterborne Travel (ship to ship combat)
Underwater Adventures
Aerial Adventures
Spelunking - because as we learnt the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide has precious little to do with dungeons. Deepearth and the Underdark are probably TM. Could we use Caves and Caverns, The Adventure/ Journey Beneath, Underearth (used by Douglas Niles in his Intro to the DSG, see below)

But all in OSR style.
Short, sharp, house ruleable, adaptable. With great OSR art.

Heck, Links to Wisdom wiki, almost has all the material we could want.

I can't do this alone. I don't want to do this alone.

We need a team - editing, graphics, setting out, computer skills.

We would need to get the material into the blogosphere for comment and play test it.

Is anybody with me?

I leave the final word for this April AtoZ 2011 series on the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide to Douglas Niles and his forward to the DSG. Thanks for staying with me.

Go on WOTC, release the PDF or republish. You might just get some sales.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Y is for Year: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

The Year is 1986, and the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide was released by TSR.

A lot was happening in TSR in 1986, none of it good.

But first the good news, in 1985 Unearthed Arcana was released, and weren't we all excited. It was fantastic, new character classes, new horizons, written by EGG.

But 1986...

"In 1986, Brian Blume decided to leave TSR and sell his shares to Lorraine Williams.  Gygax tried to prevent this move and took the matter to court - and lost. Tired of the battles in business and his private life (he was in the middle of a divorce), Gygax gave up and sold his shares and other interests to TSR. The Blume-Williams deal was closed, and Lorraine Williams, grand-daughter of the man who introduced the world to Buck Rogers, until then a complete outsider to the RPG game industry controlled the majority of the TSR shares and thus owned the company for the next twelve years."

This is old ground in the blogosphere, that I won't dig through. I'm digging for gems in the DSG and I want to put the DSG into it's publishing context.

"In 1986, a small design team (Steve WinterJames M. Ward and Jon Pickens) under the lead of David "Zeb" Cook started work on that massive project. The idea was to write an advanced version of the game based on the 1st Edition core rules including the Unearthed Arcana, enriched with the experience and knowledge that the years have brought."

2nd Edition AD&D, released in 1989.

What were the final 1st Edition TSR products. Forgotten Realms - which proved very popular for TSR. Wilderness Survival Guide (also 1986)

This were the best links I could find on the publication history.


The Acaeum let me down as well. As did Dragonsfoot. Even D&D Wiki.

Disappointing someone hasn't compiled a chronological list...

Penultimate gem we should take
1. The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, mid-silver age according to Grognardia 1984-1989.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

In honour of the BIG DAY

All rise for the National Anthem

Don't forget to listen through to the 2nd and 3rd verse - no one knows them.

I'll explain them to you, and no I won't give you the Sex Pistols version. Oh ok then. Sex Pistols version.

I think I can do better... ahem...

God Save the DM


God save our gracious DM, 

Long live our noble DM, 
God save the DM: 
Send us victorious, 
Happy and glorious, 
Long to reign over us: 
God save the DM. 

O DM, our party dies
Scatter her enemies, 
And make them fall. 
Confound his politics, 
Frustrate his knavish tricks, 
On thee our hopes we fix: 
God save the DM. 

Thy choicest gifts in store, 
On us be pleased to pour; 
Long may we venture: 
May we defend his laws, 
And ever give us cause 
To sing with heart and voice 
God save the DM 

From every latent foe, 
From the assassins blow, 
God save the DM! 
O'er his thine arm extend, 
For our party's sake defend, 
Our bastard drunken friend, 
God save the DM!

X is for Xeno: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

Xeno, my dictionary says, "indicating something strange, different, or foreign."

This is a physical dictionary mind you, not internet version.

Interestingly, well for me anyway, I have just purchased two dictionaries for another project: Ancient Greek and Middle English.

Xeno: The DSG has lots of xeno. A whole campaign world. One Chapter in the DSG is called, "The Cultures of the Underdark"

Makes me think I would love to run a campaign where a group of characters escape from their deep deep deep, subterranean prison, maybe they have been there for generations, and seek the sunlight. On their journey they come across many of these cultures. Campaign ends when they reach the top.

Lets look at some Xeno with images from Google Images.

Drow - yeah, yeah, drow, let's move straight on.

Kuo-toa, "The kuo-toa have passed their prime as a race, and now struggle simply to retain their current holdings and some degree of cultural integrity." They worship the Sea Mother.

Duergar = evil dwarves

I just love this image from Ben Wootten. Maybe this is how the characters find their way deep underground. Check out his Gallery.

Mind Flayers or illithid.
Don't forget to use this post by Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, when trying to DM these super intelligent monsters.
Another Ben Wootten image

Another great image this one from Goatlord51

"From a human point of view, this sinister and mysterious race is doubtless the most alien underground culture."
Let's go with a classic image from Monster Manual II, and featured in Risus Monkey's Post

A more modern image can be seen here.


A Jim Holloway picture as featured in Jeffs Gameblog

"Members of this mysterious race are referred to as the true children of the earth... strong ties to teh Elemental Plane of Earth"

Here's a nice miniature

Gems we should take
1. Sure we have D1-3, but the DSG does give you ideas for a whole subterranean world - it just doesn't do dungeons. Perhaps, Deepearth Survival Guide, or The Underdark Gazette - hey that would make a nice blog title...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

W is for Water: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

After Volcanoes (fire) the opposing element is water.

Sunken caverns, water filled lakes, Gollum, a Kraken, chances of drowning, cold caves, even colder water, hypothermia.

Rules on hypothermia, yes the DSG doesn't let the DM down in this important area of advice, though it does present Hypothermia as an optional rule.

Page 42: "A character becomes subject to hypothermia (a disastrous lowering of body temperature) after one turn of swimming in a typical underground body of water. If a character is moving through water between knee and waist deep, hypothermia effects do not begin for one hour; if the water is shallower than knee deep, hypothermia is not a threat. After hypothermia sets in, the player must make a Constitution Check. If the check fails, the character loses ld6 hit points. The check must be repeated every turn, with all hit point losses accumulating until the character reaches some external heat source that can warm his chilled body. Hit point loss continues even after the character has gotten out of the water, if no heat source is found. If a means of warming up, such as a fire or the close presence of other warm-blooded creatures, is located, [it just shows how little I matured from my teenage years when I read this phrase] the character regains 1d6 hit points per turn until the losses have been fully recovered."

I won't outline them fully but there are rules for the flow of water and its implications:

There are rules for damming a river, I kid you not!
In an average waterway, water held back by a dam fills a 10-foot cubic area (10 ft x 10 ft x 10 ft = 1,000 cubic feet) times the waterway’s flow rate per turn. Thus, if an average-width waterway with a current of five is dammed, the water backs up at a rate of five 10-foot cubic areas (5,000 cubic feet) per turn.

You see! You thought I was joking.

And there is a whole section on Underground Water Travel. Including magic Folding Boats (you carry it to use if you come across a lake while spelunking.) Don't forget to take those non-weapon boat proficiencies if you hope to stay alive.

Good luck! Enjoy these 2 Greg Harper pictures from the DSG: The Raft and the Boating Magic User

If anyone knows of a web site of Greg Harper images, let me know. I think he is under-rated.

A to Z, are we nearly there yet!

Are we nearly there yet.
A to Z, you haven't beaten me yet...

Though look at this fall off in views for April
Is there anybody out there?

It's not all because you think the DSG is boring, and I have failed to convince you otherwise.

March was a big month for me. 

On the 9th March Tim at Gothridge Manor very kindly awarded me his Newbie Blogger Award
Then I was lucky enough to team up with Alex Schroeder and found the Links to Wisdom wiki. Luckily for the wiki, it has been championed by many others, not least Daddy Grognard who ran the logo competition for the wiki, which was won by Anthony Hunter of Battleaxes and Beasties.

The wiki gave me lot's of hits, if only from association with its founding.

The biggest drop off in views has probably come for a reason totally outside my control.

For my Christmas message I gave 10 Chosen Ones of Prophecy from film and novels. It became my number one hit!
Why? For this picture...
Anakin (yawn) Skywalker

A staggering 5300 hits, nearly all from Google Image search for the A man!
Next best for me is, B/X Indiana Jones with just over 1000 (and yes there is a picture of Indy, so who knows if anyone is reading and not just trawling for images.)
3rd best, 300 odd hits, my well regarded (mentioned by Tim, when he awarded me the Newbie Blogger Award), Acquirement and a Silver Based Economy.

So what's happened. Up until April, if you searched Google Image Anakin Skywalker I used to make the top 10 images!!!!

But I have been usurped, which doesn't bother me since I usurped someone elses image originally.
Now the Lightsaber Wiki makes the top 10 with this image. And my hits in April - they have fallen.

And who cares... I'm still here and I have four more AtoZ posts to make!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

V is for Volcanoes: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

What's a deep underground fantasy cave complex without volcanic lava.

Well the DSG gives you all the fall to your fiery death opportunities one could hope for.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, check out Peter Jackson's face book with first look at filming of the Hobbit.

Back to the DSG

Volcanoes are a major cause of subterranean fires and poisonous gas emissions, as well as other problems, like...

Hot Lava: Molten lava has a temperature of approximately 1,800° F, and quickly kills any non-fire resistant creature forced to come into contact with it.

If you are unlucky you might have to fight a fire elemental like this:

[June 2011: This image has gained this post enormous popularity. It is always my usual practice to source any image back to it's origin, preferably the artist. For this image I failed to do so. I obviously found it in Google Images. If anyone knows the source, please let me know and I will provide the link.]

The campaign world of Deepearth, as outlined in the DSG, have some hot areas.

Like a whole region called Lava Caves, with a Lava Sea, where fire giants sail upon.

How cool, I mean hot, is this description.

"The fire giants have devised an unusual means of transporting themselves from one island to another: they have sculpted massive granite boats that they row or sail across the surface of the fiery liquid. The boats are often propelled by wide stone paddles, used much like the oars on a galley. Occasionally, however, gusts of air, steam, or other gases sweep across the sea, and then the giants hoist sails to propel their boats. The sails are made of a mysterious cloth, perhaps magically treated, which resists the intense heat. When a forceful gust occurs, it can push the massive boats along at a clip that would do justice to any surface sailing ship. The lava boats range in length from 80 to 240 feet, with a width of about 20% of the length. Boats longer than 160 feet are equipped with a pair of masts, while the shorter boats have only single masts. In appearance they resemble a clumsy version of a Viking longship. Each boat has one pair of oars for every 40 feet of length. A stone tiller in the stern aids in steering."

Go on, take on a fire giant will you...

Gems we should take.
1. Lava is hot!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Old School Thief: built using the best rule suggestions from the blogosphere

Old School Thief: built from the best of the blogosphere

Okay, what's the best is purely my own opinion.

I have used three key sources
2. Dyson Lygos: 2d6 thief skills for that real old school feel, yes I know percentile dice were in OD&D. That was a mistake.

So here is the Jovial Priest, thief class. DOWNLOAD THE PDF
Level Title XP HD
1 Apprentice 0       1d4
2 Footpad 1200       2d4
3 Robber 2400       3d4
4 Burglar 4800       4d4
5 Cutpurse 9600       5d4
6 Sharper 20000       6d4
7 Pilferer 40000       7d4
8 Thief 80000       8d4
9 Master Thief 160000       9d4
10 Master Thief 280000       9d4+2

Thief SkillS (2d6)

Level Fav Skill Oth Skill Cl Walls  Hr Noise
  1          10+             11+           5+           1-2
  2          10+             10+           5+           1-2
  3            9+             10+           5+           1-3
  4            9+               9+           5+           1-3
  5            9+               9+           5+           1-3
  6            8+              9+            4+           1-3
  7            8+              8+            4+           1-4
  8            7+              8+            4+           1-4
  9            6+              7+             4+           1-4
 10           5+              6+             4+           1-4
 11           4+              5+             3+           1-5
 12           4+              4+             3+           1-5
 13           3+              4+              3+          1-5
 14           2+              3+              3+         1-5
Favoured skill is one of  Open Locks, Find Traps,
Remove Traps, Pick Pockets, Move Silently or Hide
in Shadows. Dex Bonus applies to Favoured skills,
Other skills and Climb Walls. Read Languages is
gained at Level 5 (5+ plus int bonus). Read Magic is
gained at Level 10 (3+ plus intelligence bonus). All
2d6 except Hear Noise 1d6.
Snake eyes ALWAYS fails regardless of any bonus

Thief skills are resolved on a 2d6 roll except hear noise 1d6. Dexterity bonus/penalty is applied to Open Locks, Remove Traps, Pick Pockets, Move Silently or Hide in Shadows and Backstab. Intelligence bonus/penalty is applied to Find Traps, Read Languages and Read Magic. Snake eyes (double 1 on 2d6) always fails, regardless of bonuses [The 2d6 roll with ability score bonus gives a greater probability for success then the percentile system and I prefer its granularity and old school feel]. One skill from Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, Pick Pockets, Move Silently or Hide in Shadows can be chosen as a Favored Skill by the thief character at character creation. No modifier is applied to Hear Noise and only 1d6 is rolled.  

Thief Skills
Open Locks (player rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty) 
Open Locks takes 1 turn. If the 2d6 roll, modified by dexterity and quality of the thief's tools, is unsuccessful, a further attempt can be immediately made, taking another 1 turn. A double 1 roll, always fails and one of the thief's tools snaps. Usually a set of thief tools will only have two suitable implements for each size of lock.

Find Traps (DM rolls 2d6 modified by Intelligence bonus/penalty) 
[Here I would like to suggest the reader glances at my rules retrospective and interpretation post on Find Traps]
Anyone can detect Large Traps with a 1 in 6 chance.
Dwarves can detect Large Traps when underground with a 2 in 6 chance.

Only thieves can detect Small Traps
Thieves use the better of 1 in 6 chance to detect/find Large Traps or their 2d6 thief skill [with dexterity, even at 1st level 2d6 is equal or better than 1 in 6 chance]; but must use the given thief skill 2d6 roll to remove the trap.
Small Traps always use the given thief skill 2d6 roll at all levels, to both find and remove traps.

Searching for traps takes 1 turn and can be repeated as often as required.

Additionally thieves detect secret doors using their Find Traps Skill. Searching for secret doors takes 1 turn and can be repeated as often as required. [This gives thieves an additional important role in dungeons]

Remove Traps (player rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty)
As above, thieves can remove small traps.
Removing traps takes 1 turn and can be repeated as often as required.
A double 1 roll, always fails and the trap is sprung!

Pick Pockets (player rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty, DM applies any hidden modifiers and gives outcome)

A pick pocket attempt only takes one round.
2d6 is rolled, modified by dexterity. For every level the thief is above the intended target add 1 to the roll. For every level the thief is below the intended target subtract 1 from the roll.
A modified roll of 2 or less always fails and the thief is detected.
If the roll is a fail but not 2 or less, the pick pocket attempt fails but the thief was not detected.
A double 1 roll, always fails and the thief is detected.

Pick pocketing a fellow thief, is a dangerous undertaking. If a thief is pick pocketed by another thief, the thief victim gets to roll their own pick pocket roll, and if this roll is successful (modified by the difference in levels between the thieves), the thief victim has detected the attempt!

Move Silently (DM rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty)
From Robert Fisher: 
"Anybody can move quietly. I like to use a variation on the listening at doors mechanic (p.B21) to determine whether a character moving quietly is heard.
Demihumans have a base 2 in 6 chance of hearing noise. The chance for thieves depends upon their level. For everyone else it's 1 in 6. (The DM will choose a base chance for each monster.) If the sneaking character is wearing metal armor or walking on a particularly noisy surface, increase the chance of being heard by 1 in 6. (i.e. 1 in 6 becomes 2 in 6. 2 in 6 becomes 3 in 6.) If multiple or extreme factors are involved, the DM may increase the chance further.
Increases beyond 5 in 6 should go to 7 in 8, then 9 in 10, then 11 in 12.
Thieves, however, have a chance to move silently. If successful, there is no chance for the thief to be heard. If the thief fails to move silently, they should still be considered to be moving quietly.
Note that if he is moving silently, a thief is not hiding, in shadows or otherwise. Move silently & hide in shadows are mutually exclusive. There is no double jeopardy."

2d6 is rolled modified by dexterity for the thief. A double 1 roll, always fails and the thief is heard. If the roll is successful the thief can not be heard short of magical means. If failed, and not a double 1, the thief is moving quietly, roll for opponents hear noise.

Hide in Shadows (DM rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty)
From Robert Fisher again:
"Anybody can hide. Hiding is an all or nothing thing. Either you're hidden or you're in view.
Thieves, however, have a chance to hide in shadows. A thief generally prefers to hide rather than to hide in shadows. It's nice to have a chance to hide in shadows when you need it, though.
Halflings have a similar ability, having a 2 in 6 chance of hiding in shadows. They also have a 90% chance of hiding in woods or underbrush. (p.B10)
Note that to hide in shadows, the thief cannot be moving, silently or otherwise. Hide in shadows & move silently are mutually exclusive. There is no double jeopardy."

2d6 is rolled modified by dexterity for the thief. A double 1 roll, always fails and the thief is detected. If the roll is successful the thief cannot be seen short of magical means. If failed, and not a double 1, the thief may or not be seen. If the thief is in darkness (not shadows which are half lit rooms/areas) and wasn't seen moving into the shadows, he is still hidden. The DM may allow a perception roll (hear noise equivalent), if the thief is doing something to attract attention, but in normal circumstances the thief will not be seen. If the thief fails his roll and is attempting to hide in shadows (half lit rooms/areas), he is seen. Hiding in mere shadows is something a beginning thief should not attempt, hiding in darkness is almost always successful for a thief of even 1st level.

Climb Sheer Surfaces (player rolls 2d6 modified by Dexterity bonus/penalty)
Robert Fisher:
"Anybody can climb. Generally, the DM can simply declare something climbable or inclimbable. In stressful or unusual situations, the DM may call for an appropriate ability check.
Thieves, however, have a chance to climb sheer surfaces."

Thieves climb normal obstacles with no chance of failure unless they are doing something particularly stupid, or trying to move rapidly (greater than their Encounter speed eg MV 120’/turn = 40’ / round), in which case they roll on their thief skill.
For sheer, almost impossible looking surfaces, 2d6 is rolled modified by dexterity for the thief. A fail or a double 1 roll, and the thief falls. Thieves climb sheer surfaces at ½ their Encounter Speed.

If a roll is required one roll is made every at the half waypoint, or every 50’ whichever is more frequent.

Hear Noise (DM rolls 1d6 with no ability score modifiers, other circumstances may modify the roll at DM discretion)
Robert Fisher:
"Anybody can hear noise. Demihumans (dwarfs, elves, & halflings) have a 2 in 6 chance. Everyone else has a 1 in 6 chance. (p.B21)"
A great helm will reduce hear noise by 1 in 6 for all characters.

Hear Noise can be more than just an aural sense, and can double as a perception roll. 1d6 is rolled. A low roll is desired, compared to a high roll for all other skills. Success means the thief perceives a noise or 'something' from his senses, if it is there to be sensed. A fail means nothing is sensed.

Read Languages (player rolls 2d6 modified by Intelligence bonus/penalty)
Gained at Level 5 owing to the 'dead' level from Level 4 to 5.
2d6 is rolled modified by Intelligence for the thief. 5+ is required for success. A small parchment, message (approximately 20 words) will take 1 turn to decipher. Failure means nothing is deciphered that turn. A double 1 roll, always fails and the thief can not make any further attempts to decipher that message until gaining another level. He is stumped.

Read Magic (player rolls 2d6 modified by Intelligence bonus/penalty)
Gained at Level 10.
2d6 is rolled modified by Intelligence for the thief. 3+ is required for success. A magic-user scroll can be read in one round. Failure means the spell backfires!

Backstab (player rolls a d20 to hit, modified by +4 AND by Dexterity bonus/penalty)
If the thief attacks unseen or unheard, OR has surprised his/her opponent; the thief has backstabbed his opponent. The player rolls a d20 to hit, modified by +4 AND by Dexterity bonus/penalty. A successful roll does (damage roll + strength bonus/penalty + magic item bonus/penalty) times 2. ie the double damage is double once all modifiers have been used, not just double the damage die roll.

That's my thief. [Download PDF here]

I also plan on using 2d6 roll to advance a level. [Not included in my above description as I felt too radical] A thief advances in level on a 10+. With game play I have decided this is static and does not increase with levels.

Roll to Advance Class Threshold
Cleric and Thief 10+
Fighter 11+
Dwarf, Halfling, Magic User 12+
Elf 13+

At the end of every session of game play (~ 3 hours) the DM awards each character 0, ¼, ½, ¾ or 1, XP point. Usually 1 XP point is awarded per game session. But this is at DM discretion.
The player notes this on their character sheet and XP points accumulate over time.

At the end of every game session, players roll 2d6 modified by Intelligence Bonus/Penalty to see if they advance a level.

If the roll to advance is successful for their class, they advance one level, if unsuccessful the player may spend any XP points they have accumulated, including from the just completed session, to modify the roll so it is successful. Any spent XP points are then lost. Any non-spent XP points can be held over to the next roll to advance at the end of a subsequent session.

I found this system, reduced traditional XP counting considerably, sped up level advancement, which is important when one can only play infrequently, and added tension and fun to the end of the night.