Friday, 21 December 2012

48fps combined with a 'no reveal' = a strange director's choice.

I saw the Hobbit on Monday at an IMAX screen 48fps 3D.

I went in wondering what I would make of this new technology. At first it was, no big deal what's everyone worrying about, and then it was very quickly - that looks wrong - now I see it.

By the end of the film I was in the world and it looked fantastic - best CGI ever - Gollum as real as Bilbo, fighting scenes in the dark at least were visible and clear, unlike most other movies.

But that beginning few minutes in Dale and Erebor. What in the end doesn't work, in my humble opinion Peter Jackson, is you show us a new technology which looks TV like on the big screen, and then because you don't want to reveal Smaug in movie 1, you resort to amateurish low budget TV tricks often seen in Sci-Fi. For example,  moving trees for Smaug flying over, people staring at the sky looking at nothing we can see; all as a way of conjuring a dragon attack. The combination makes the 48fps, even more noticeably TV like. And the combination doesn't work.

On a different note, PG-13 or 12A (UK) was disappointing, when I had read the Hobbit to my 8 and 6 year old in preparation for the movie. I wanted them to be blown away, like I was with Star Wars at a similar age. However, having been recently burnt as a bad parent (twice) showing Brave to my then 5 year old (everything else more appropriate on at the time, I couldn't stand), who then when I showed it to him again in a second cinema trip, thinking he would be better the second time, only to have him ask to leave the cinema. Anticipation of the scary bits made it worse for him. I decided no Hobbit for the kids if it was a 12A. They were disappointed and said if they couldn't see it, Daddy couldn't either. A £5 bribe each if it was a 12A, silenced that disaster! I paid up on Monday.

Final Hobbit verdict - when can I see it again? A three times cinema movie I am sure. And when I do go again it will be IMAX 48fps 3D, it's how Peter Jackson wants it to be scene, and who am I to disagree. Though I worry he has surrounded himself with yes men and women - Lucas like...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

You're really smart Jovial, you must speak a lot of languages.

I speak English only, and even that with an Australian twang.

The more I live in England, and the more Continental Europeans I meet, the more I realise that linking intelligence to number of languages known is non-sensical.

What, every child in Continental Europe has an intelligence of 13 or above because they can speak English and their native tongue?

I think this reflects the ango-centric nature of the rules. Maybe in the USA (not Canada you lucky guys and gals), the UK and Australia you have to be pretty bright to be offered the opportunity to learn another language at school. But not so for vast areas of the world, where bi, or even try-lingualism is the norm. What everyone in Switzerland has a 17 intelligence (+2 languages) in their tri-language country?

I don't think it's even historical in England - French and English being commonplace in England during the middle ages, not to mention those that also knew Latin. Every vaguely educated person = 17 intelligence, I don't think so.

I suspect, assuming a basic intelligence, that number of languages spoken is cultural rather than intellectual. Perhaps languages known should be campaign driven rather than ability score driven? Social standing is probably a better guide to number of languages known, than one's intelligence score.

Intelligence might be used to modify speed of language learning?
You travel somewhere, how quickly do you pick up the lingo? Depends on your intelligence score.

Every week roll to advance, modifying roll by intelligence score. If fail, add +1 to roll for each subsequent week, until advance to the next level.

Level 1 = Tourist (starting level) Où sont les toilettes ?
Level 2 = Rudimentary (Requires 1 on a d6 to reach)
Level 3 = Conversational (Requires 1 on a d10 to reach)
Level 4 = Fluent (Requires 1 on a d20 to reach)
Level 5 = Native (Requires 1 on a d100 to reach)

Additionally, or perhaps, it is time to abandon the link between intelligence and number of languages known, and use it for XP bonus. 

You catch on quick: Only Intelligence gives XP bonus

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Rolling more dice in combat, and making shields more fun...

We all know shields are underrated, even with such rules as Shields shall be Splintered and all the good comments here.

I'm interested in shields and their offensive capability and I want more dice rolled. I would like shields to be treated as if they are an off-hand weapon.

My house rules:

If the player has a strength greater than 12 a shield not only grants +1 AC, but also can be used offensively using the following options.

Shield Bash
Roll a 2nd d20 'to hit' with the shield. If successful does 1-2 damage plus strength. Any shield magical bonus are applied to both the shield 'to hit' and the damage. The shields bonus to armor class is not effected.

Shield Overpower
Roll a 2nd d20 'to hit' with the shield. If successful it inflicts no damage but the opponent is -1 initiative for the next round. Strength bonus is additive as well as any shield magical bonus which is applied to both the shield 'to hit' and the penalty to initiative. The shields bonus to armor class is not effected. (I think this ability will prove very useful.)

Additionally a shield can be used by any character regardless of strength to cower.
COWER behind shield: – can’t attack, -2 AC (2 better AC), +2 saving throws. Any strength or magical shield bonus is additive.

If the player has a dexterity greater than 12, a 2nd off-hand weapon can be used to attack. If the strength is also greater than 12, two medium sized weapons can be wielded, one in each hand, otherwise a medium and small weapon can be wielded.

Both weapons get a 'to hit' roll, without penalty.

If the player has a strength greater than 12, a 2nd damage dice is rolled when wielding a two-handed weapon, and the larger number is taken as the damage.

Umm, woops, power inflation. Any suggestions...

Friday, 3 August 2012

Waterborne Adventures 
: Random Events and Monsters Tool

One of my projects, long on hold was the creation of the Old School Adventure Guide.
Re-inspired by JB which allowed me to find Jeff's eXPloration 2009 post (my vote is for 100-600 XP per wilderness hex explored, shared by the party), and having abandoned any HP loss for overland travel mechanic, here's something to add into the mix. 

And don't forget, everyone likes choosing cards. Blanks left for you to suggest and if you like blanks, you will find many more, in fact mostly blank, in the OS Adventure Guide. Join the project.

Waterborne Adventures 

Random Events and Monsters Tool
Daily roll 1d6, on a 1-2 get the players to draw a card…

54 Deck of Cards (2 Jokers)

♥ = Relational

♦ = Situational

♣ = Confrontational

♠ = Environmental

Joker = Draw 2 more cards and ‘somehow’ link them.

♥ = Relational

2♥ = one of the crew or passengers has a secret (traitor, spy, monster)

3♥ = one of the crew is to be punished for a minor offence (the punishment will be severe)

4♥ = trouble with the natives (at the next shore stop, the crew cause trouble or are accused of trouble)

5♥ = there is a thief onboard

6♥= betrayal (you will be betrayed)

7♥ = raucous rum filled party (join in or try and stop the fun)

8♥ = learn some wisdom (new song, new tale, new rumour)

9♥ = Contraband is in the hull

J♥= duel (after an argument on board, one of the players is challenged to a duel)

Q♥= one of the male crew or passengers is a she not a he

K♥ = mutiny on the high seas

A♥= one of the crew or passengers has formed a deep attachment to one of the players)

♦ = Situational

2♦= one of the crew / passengers has disappeared

3♦ = food / water spoilage 

4♦= slavers ahead

5♦= strange force at work disables all magnets AND Magic

6♦ = merchants on the seas

7♦= a strange darkness

8♦= buccaneers ahead

9♦= lost

10♦= the map is damaged / a fake / or just plain wrong

J♦= the stars seem different tonight




♣ = Confrontational

2♣= Whale

3♣= Termite, Water

4♣ = Snake, Sea

5♣ = Shark

6♣ = Serpent, Sea

7♣= Sea Dragon

8♣ Squid, Giant

9♣ = Hydra, Sea

10♣= Octopus, Giant

J♣ = Ahoy, it be pirates

Q♣ = Mermaids (and maybe Mermen)

K♣ = Dragon (flying)

A♣= Dragon Turtle

♠ = Spades (Environmental)

2♠= Becalmed for 1d6days

3♠= Extreme light breeze for 1d6 days (movement reduced to ⅓)

4♠ = Light breeze for 1d6 days (movement reduced to ½)

5♠ = Strong breeze for 1d6 days (movement increased by ⅓)

6♠ = Good winds for 1d6 days (movement increased by ½)

7♠= High winds for 1d6 days (double movement rate but lose 1d10 hull points)

8♠= Gale (triple movement rate but in a random direction and lose 2d10 hull points)

9♠ = 

J♠ = 

Q♠= Iceberg 

K♠= Tidal Wave

A♠= Maelstrom with/without Whirlpool 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Poison, made simple

Don't like save or die, confused by Neutralize Poison rules? 

Then what I have introduced may be helpful.

Poison does damage over time. Roll for damage, roll for time, start the poison. Simple, and it is even realistic.

For example, in my Kids D&D campaign, a poison dart hit the thief and she failed her saving throw. On the fly I said it gave 1d6 damage over 1d6 rounds. I rolled in secret 2 damage, 3 rounds. She had 6 hit points. First round 2 damage. She panicked, took healing. Then 2 more damage. She waited. Then 2 more damage, more healing taken. No more damage.

Player anxiety, time to heal, no save or die. I am going to use this mechanic for all my poisons. Easy to scale up or down depending on strength of poison eg 1d10 damage over 2d6 rounds.

No healing available, time for that farewell speech. Unless one likes, "Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

IQ and brain power

Sometimes you get a strange email.

Hi there,

My name is Alexa and I came across while exploring issues related to IQ and the brain. Myself, along with a team of designers and researchers have created a graphic which illustrates facts about the brain and how intelligence can be improved.

I would love to share it with you, if you're interested let me know. :)

Thank you,

Alexa Phillips

Well here it is. It's nice to be noticed, even if for obscure topics. If you want to read my posts on IQ click here.

Master Your Brain: Raise Your IQ
Created by:

To embed the image on your site
<a href=""><img src="" alt="Master Your Brain: Raise Your IQ" width="500"  border="0" /></a><br />Created by: <a href=""></a>

Monday, 30 July 2012

XP Drain not Level Drain

The words that have been spilt on this topic.

Here and here and of  course Grognardia with 83 comments.

It was DM'ing kids D&D, watching my young players all buy silver daggers, and then silver swords (100gp) in case they faced a wight. After the first session no wight but they all had just over 100 hard won XP. And I thought, losing that XP would be a tough loss, and then I had for me a eureka moment. An elegant solution to all the debate. Well for my campaigns anyway.

Undead will drain XP not Levels and each hit will will drain the XP you might have gained for killing the undead creature. So a wight in B/X is worth 50 XP. Therefore each hit by a wight drains 50 XP.

Still something players will seek to avoid, no one likes to lose XP, but it is not the total downer that level drain is. Zero level NPCs still die with one hit. Higher levels can now contemplate fighting undead toe to toe. But who wants to go into melee range? Enough hits and one might lose a level but in play, most often it will be easy to wipe XP off the characters XP total, without any fiddly ability score loss, or time based effect. That's it, the XP are gone, drained away by all that negative energy.

You want a pirate ship crewed by wights and captained by a vampire. That's what I am now planning. Previously certain death unless a powerful cleric is in the party. Now... armies of XP draining undead are possible.

Previously the name level fighter would run faster away from a wight than he would a huge dragon. Level drain was that fear invoking. Now wights are for low level characters, en masse for higher. And that sits very comfortably with me.

B/X Rules
Wight = 50 XP drain / hit
Wraith = 175 XP drain / hit
Spectre = 725 XP drain / hit
Vampire = 7 HD (1250 XP drain / hit), 8 HD (1750 XP drain / hit), 9 HD (2300 XP drain / hit)
(or if you want to be double drain for Spectre and Vampire like in the rules = double the XP drain, a couple of hits from a vampire will make most players cross but not quitting!)

You could easily apply for AD&D as long as you know the hit points. Page 85 DMG.
AD&D undead generally hit harder than B/X undead.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Kids D&D: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I'm a bit behind in posts and have, in the meantime, played three Kids D&D sessions, that I am yet to write up. Ahem, Diablo 3, moving right along...

But I want today to get some general thoughts down on DM'ing kids.

I DM my own two children (girl 7, boy 5) and my niece (10) and nephews (8 and 12). You can read about their adventures here.

I was using Jimm Johnson's excellent Kid's D&D rules and character sheetsThey had reached as high a level as Jimm's rules really allowed for (3), I could have stretched on, but the wizard was already casting 3rd level spells (level = spell level in Jimm's rules). I felt it was time to graduate them to B/X D&D and onto the red book (though it was Mentzer first for me) that brought me into the hobbit. 

There was more resistance to the idea than I anticipated. Starting new characters and at level 1, wasn't appealing to my young players. There was some confusion over who the new character would be, could they try and be the same old character again? But then they discovered equipment lists! Yep, shopping. They had gold, and a list of items they could buy. That was all it took to convince them to go with the new rules. It also led them to wish to buy, tuna pasta, sleeping bags, pizza, toilets (where do you go on campaign), and lots of other items not in Basic or Expert set (or any edition for that matter).

So that's my first piece of DM'ing for kids advice - never underestimate the desire to shop. Now onto  a few home truths I have learnt.

The Good

  1. Nothing beats the feeling of five people begging to play D&D. 'When can we play next?' I loved this game and I love sharing it anew. They love the puzzles, the fighting, the variety of encounters, the victories.
  2. Kids are a very forgiving audience. Most of my adventures I have not written down, just a few ideas and I run with it. It doesn't take much pre-preparation.
  3. Originally I played with miniatures, which worked well enough. When we were all camping, I ran with no miniatures, just character sheets and dice. Back to how I always played. It worked even better. Kids have great imaginations. They don't know what a war game is, so they are happy to just imagine and run with it.
  4. Your kids don't like maths? Get them playing D&D and they are adding and subtracting all by themselves. It's part of the game. Maths becomes fun. 'You have found 600 silver pieces', 'That's 120 silver each' says one of the five kids. And away they go trying to add to their current silver.
The Bad
  1. Kids characters can't die. It is just unthinkable to them.
  2. It's a railroad. They want and need direction. It's your story and it's hard to get them to role play, think as their character or act things out. They want to know what happens next, in a passive story telling way, and you are the story teller. That's not to say they don't suggest things they want to happen, but the expectation is that you deliver it into the story, not that they go and find it in the campaign world.
  3. Kids won't surprise you. Well not at the age of my players. Usually their suggestions follow how you thought things would work out. It's not collaborative, though the fun is.
  4. Kids are rivals. They hate if one person gets more than another. It is very hard to just give out 1 magic item, there needs to be one for each player. They don't really get that different characters have different strengths and weaknesses. The thief, because she can attempt to open locks, despite always failing, appears stronger than the other characters! She has more choices = stronger. Everyone needs to do something that shines, each and every session, to enjoy the session.
  5. Kids choose names for their characters that are 'unique' (being kind here) or directly from another source such as a movie or book, and they often like to change names between sessions. 'Shampoo' was one name I recently overruled - but only for the second oldest, the younger I leave their name choices well alone.
  6. You are their performer and entertainer. They expect you to perform and entertain.
  7. This may feel a strange one, for someone who is an OSR blogger. But confession time here. I feel kind of strange, teaching them an out of print game. Strange enough when they say in public and to their teachers how they played D&D. Stranger still when the game I am teaching, can only be bought from eBay and is 3 times older than they are. Yes, of course I know about the clones, I own most of them, but try explaining to kids why there are clones, and why they are playing D&D, but the book they are using isn't called that.
The Ugly

Photo of my 5 year old son's ripped and screwed up level 2 fighter character sheet form the end of last session.
He didn't go up a level and the thief did. No matter the elf in the party is still only level 1.

  1. Kids D&D comes with tears. As the youngest, my son is often in tears. When he fails a saving throw, tears. When the rust monster rusts his armor, tears. "But now I'll have to buy new armor and I don't want to waste my money!" See, I told you they all love to shop.
  2. Kids D&D can make you feel like a bad parent. When my daughter was in tears after a session. I learnt, through the tears it was because her character didn't get to do anything. This was true. Her 1st level wizard with charm person and no one in the session to charm. 1st level wizards do suck, but despite my explanation of incredible cosmic powers to come, tears. Also I learnt from my daughter that I would rush her turn by saying, "Right if you can't think of anything to do, we'll miss your go." Ouch, did I say that? Unfortunately, yes. Even experienced players struggle to think of actions for their 1st level wizard to do, let alone a 7 year old. So not only am I a terrible DM I am also a terrible Dad. Advice - sometimes you are harder on your own kids than the other kids - don't.
Despite the negatives above, they still want more and it is a joy. 'Uncle Jovial, when can we play next..." I'm hoping, as much as they are, it won't be too long until the next instalment.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Combat musings

I am very close to abandoning traditional D&D combat.

Defence = current movement rate in inches.
Dexterity modifies Defence.
Encumbrance reduces movement rate, which in turn reduces defence.
To hit an opponent, roll above their defence on a d20.

Armor reduces the amount of damage inflicted per damage die rolled. All successful hits deliver a minimum of 1 damage per damage die.

Leather amor -1
Chain -2
Platemail -3
Plate -4

Shield = +1 defence, -1 damage.
Two weapon fighting = +1 defence, +1 attack per round (i.e. roll 2 d20 attacks)

eg Bob the Fighter, dexterity 13 (+1) wearing plate mail and shield has a movement rate of 6". He is attacked by a bite that may inflict 3d6 damage.
Defence = 6+1+1 = 8.
Monster rolls 9, a hit.
Damage roll for 3d6 = 5,2,6.
Armor reduces damage by -3 plate, -1 shield for each damage die (i.e. total of 4) = 1,1,2 = 4 damage.

So people who wear armor are easier to hit, but harder to damage.
Simple, I like it.

I just need to play test, next opportunity. Might even add into my Kids D&D.

Now, any idea how to make a horse, movement 24", able to be hit on a d20?
The law of unintended consequences - back to the drawing board.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for Zat's it: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Well Zat's it. I made it but only just this year, with flagging energy toward the end.

I stand by what I have said already,

"What would I have liked to have seen then and what would I like to see now.

I think if the book had been broken into terrains, it would have been stronger, far more useful and have become inspirational.

e.g. Arctic - with rules for cold, a new equipment list (sleds, warm clothes, eye protection, new spells, and monster section (including huskies, polar bears etc).

And so on for desert, forest, plains, mountains

You see as DM, the setting can often fire the imagination. Rules don't do it alone, and I like rules. Wilderness is just too broad a terrain type!

I might want to take my players to Hoth - if so I want rules that deal with this easily accessible, not rules on cold spread throughout the entire guide. After reading these imagined arctic rules, perhaps I may have been inspired to take take my players to Hoth, even if it had never occurred to me before.

Or Tatooine, or up the mountains. Or in the open plains, where horse lords rule.

I also think these guides would have been more effective if sold with a DM screen - all relevant tables must be on the DM screen. How much can one remember otherwise?

My dormant Old School Adventure Guide - of course gives Kim the last laugh. He has published I have not! So, take a bow Kim for the WSG, you at least were an important part of the silver age of D&D

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for Yeoman: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

If I was a yeoman adventurer,

the WSG

would not be my SAS survival guide.

Friday, 27 April 2012

X is for Xeno: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Weird monsters - nup.

Weird terrain - nup.

Wacky - nup.

Wealistic - maybe.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for World of Weather: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

A whole appendix on Weather...

with tables like

You know... I am losing interest. Maybe another day.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Vitals: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Grub, food, water, sustenance, it's all needed in the wilderness.

Going without
Combined Strength and Constitution     Tolerance level (days)
<=15                                                             4
16-19                                                            5
20-24                                                            6
25-30                                                            7
31-35                                                            8
36+                                                              10

Then every 12 hours make a Str or Con check (at +1 cumulative per check) or else... you are weakened (-1 on attack rolls and reflex saving throws cumulative per day in this state). Also now cumulative +2 on subsequent checks. Fail again... distressed (max 2 hours strenuous activity per day). Fail again.... incapacitated (no voluntary physical activity) and in danger of starving to death within hours (losing 1d6 hit points per hour)!

Going without
Max 3 days without water until bad things happen!
Females can manage an extra day! Get that - something in the rules making it advantageous to be a female character.
Other modifiers depending on type of food if available (watermelon a good one to have), heat etc

After this time weakened, then as above to the worsening states, except 1d8 hit points loss per hour when incapacitated.

How much must one eat in a day?
Human, dwarf, half-elf, half-orc = 1-2 pounds of solid nourishment per day.
Elf 3/4 this much, halfling or gnome 1/2.

In game terms...

Standard rations = 200gp encumbrance. Assume 140gp is food, 60 is bulkiness. 140gp = 14 pounds. 2 pounds of standard rations must be eaten per day for a human, meaning standard rations last 1 week.

Iron rations encumbrance is 75gp. 5 gp is bulkiness, since the food is more concentrated and occupied less space)  therefore 70gp or 7 pounds remains. 1 pound of iron rations must be eaten per day for a human, meaning iron rations last 1 week.

Ok, I know the author Kim Mohan completely fudged this so that rations last one week. But it aint a bad fudge!

There is even a table on water requirements per day depending on activity and temperature; range 5-16 pints per day for a human.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U is for Unusual Hazard: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

An unusual hazard, one best to avoid, is being struck by lightning.

I reproduce here what the WSG says about this unusual event. I found it quite amusing.

The exact chance of lightning hitting a character is left up to the Dungeon Master, but this list does offer relative rankings, using 1 to represent the smallest chance. In all cases except the last, this list assumes that the character has divested himself of armor and other large items of metal and has taken the best available opportunity to  protect himself.

1: Inside a solid, nonmetallic structure and not touching the structure itself. (If someone is sitting or leaning against the side of the structure, treat this as a relative chance of 10.)
5: Protected beneath or within a natural shelter that is not the highest point on nonfeatureless terrain, or a shelter that is expansive enough to absorb the force of the lightning (under a large rock overhang; beneath a thick grove of equally tall trees).
15: Partially protected on featureless terrain (lying in a ditch in the middle of a field, or at the bottom of a gently sloping hill).
30: Scantily protected beneath a large object in the middle of otherwise featureless terrain (standing or lying under a big tree in a field).
50: Unprotected on featureless terrain (standing, sitting or lying in the middle of a field).
100: Unprotected, and asking for it, on featureless terrain (standing fully armored in the middle of a field).

The damage that can be suffered from a lightning strike extends through a wide range of possibilities. A character who has taken no precautions to prevent injury will be killed on a 4 in 6 chance, and if he doesn’t die outright he will lose 40-90% of his maximum total hit points (which may still result in death if  the character was not at or near full hit points to begin with). A character who has taken the best precautions available to him and still gets hit will be killed on a 2 in 6 chance, and otherwise will lose 10-60% of his current hit points.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for Terrain Hierarchy: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

This may not sound like much but I think quite useful. Page9.

1. Seacoast
2. Swamp
3. Forest
4. Plains
5. Desert
6. Hills
7. Mountains

A hierarchy of terrain. If a territory has two or more different types of terrain consider it the higher terrain (1 highest, 7 lowest). The examples given are a sandy beach bordering an ocean is a seacoast not a desert. A low lying area with standing water with lots of trees is a swamp not a forest.

Common sense is advised but may help to guide which wandering monster table to use, which terrain movement modifier etc.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

S is for Starting from Scratch: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Towards the end of the WSG is a chapter called, Starting from Scratch, where Kim Mohan outlines how to create a world map.

I quite enjoyed the chapter actually.

He starts by discussing Realism vs Fantasy, with some appropriate advice for DMs and fantasy writers, to keep their 'fantasy' under control. Earth like human centric worlds allow role players and readers to step into the world quickly and easily.

Kim says, "When a fantastic feature of this sort is localized, it remains intriguing; when it’s used everywhere throughout the world, it loses its distinctiveness and becomes an obstacle instead of an oddity."

He outlines a step by step world / map creation

1. Settle on scale - 20-40 miles per hex recommended

2. Start at the bottom - where the coasts are

3. Now take it to the top - put in the mountains, locating the tallest peaks individually

4. Place it on the planet - where is the land you have drawn located in relation to the poles and equator?

5. Just add water - time fore rivers - flowing from mountains to the coast

6. What's for desert? - He gives explanation on why deserts on Earth are where they are.
"On Earth, most deserts are located in subtropical climate and the part of the temperate zone closer to the subtropical area (the southern half of the zone in the northern hemisphere, the northern half in the southern hemisphere). This is because of global wind patterns; the prevailing winds blow generally east to west around the equator, and usually in the opposite direction in the temperate regions. When they meet each other in the upper atmosphere over the area in between, the cool upper air descends. As the air gets lower, it gets warmer, and its ability to retain moisture increases; thus, the water vapor in the air remains suspended and is not released as precipitation."
 - this is D&D at its best educating as well as entertaining - the things I have learnt about the world and history through gaming.

7. May the forest be with you - showing that Star Wars was close to many gamers hearts(as it still is). Put in the forests.

8. None of the above - everything else is hills and plains

9. Large scale details - oasis in deserts, pass through mountains

10. Points of interest - volcanoes, wonders

Then one moves into politics, cities etc. Smaller scale, more detail.

Finally he ends with Winging it and this piece of advice, which is the end of the book just before the Appendix on weather, so really the last word, "As has been said many times within the AD&D game books, all the rules we can create still provide nothing more than a framework upon which your world and your adventures are built. In effect, we’ve given you the pieces to a puzzle that has an infinite number of different solutions. Now it’s up to you to put those pieces together."

Hard to disagree.

Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Rockslides: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Rockslides, Avalanches and Mudslides

Is like being attacked 4 times / round for 1d4+1 rounds by a 5 HD creature doing 1d4 damage each hit. Dex check to half damage (minimum 1 damage).
I like the concept of the rockslide being like an attack.
If more than 20HP are taken, you are swept off your feet and take abrasion and impact damage (? how much - see complicated tables on falling)

If climbing, a shield will deflect an successful attack 75% of the time, assuming the shield can be readied. 1 round to ready shield if strapped to back. 1/2 round (?? 5 segments then?) if shield carried on one's belt.

Vertically falling rocks onto a climber - each character attacked by 0-3 rocks per round for 1-2 rounds at 7HD, doing 1-6 damage, if damage roll is 5 or 6, blow to the head, 2 blows = unconscious.

Anyone caught in an avalanche will take 2d10 to 3d20 hit points damage.

So effectively every normal man dies, Which is an interesting problem with our abstracted hit points when we try and give challenge for high level play, we would kill off any other human / demi-human in the way.

Ah, but if you curl into a ball, you can half the damage.

Pass a bend bars or be swept away.

Whatever the case find yourself buried in 2d3 feet of snow (4d3 if bottom of the slope). Make a constitution check to see if conscious. If conscious dig out at 1' / round. If curled and passed bend bars, you will know which way to dig, else pass wisdom check, or dig in the wrong direction!

Hold breath may be important here. 1/6 constitution in rounds (rounded up), since no chance to take a deep breath - normal deep breath hold = 1/3 constitution, half that if no deep breath.
Luckily 1d6+4 round of air, in an air pocket, will be available to breathe on first.

Chance of finding a buried companion - base 10% plus intelligence score + 25% if companion trying to dig out. Roll once for each searcher and each companion missing. Check every round.

Dig the com anion out at 2' / round or 3' / round if using an implement. Each extra character digging add +1' / round.

Will be carried down with the mud unless can grasp something solid and not moving.
Abrasion damage depending on how far fell.
See yesterdays post for swimming in mud.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for Quicksand: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

What's a wilderness without quicksand?

Varieties can be mud, and the dreaded (and worse) sand and water version.

But these rules, rather than having the movie 'sucking' quicksand of rapid death, have the more realistic, but more boring, option of allowing the victim to tread water in the mud/sand.

Sorry that's all for this post - real life really intervening on my AtoZ challenge - but not failed yet! Come on Sunday rest day.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Precipitation: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Sort of like the weather outside. Rain rain go away...

The WSG index has:

collecting - maths formula for volume in a cylinder, melted snow to water ratio is 10:1,

determination - coming soon W is for weather

effects on combat - will make the effects for gusts and gales worse

extraordinary - rain that goes on and on

extreme - Hail, Sleet, Lightning, Snow (interesting just descriptions and timings for how long the precipitation will last - not really linked to mechanical effects)

portable shelters - covered in C is Camping and Comforts, with the moisture resistance for certain types of tents and shelters.

(quick post today)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for Oceans: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Swimming (drowning) rules.

"Only characters with proficiency in swimming" can swim.

Rules are provided for encumbrance on swimming and its effect on endurance, speed, diving and surfacing.

Endurance (turns of swimming) = experience level + constitution score
Speed = base (40 feet / round humans, demihumans 30') modified by strength, current, above or below the surface.

Diving and surfacing base = 20' per round.

Other rules
Treading water (turns) = double endurance

No proficiency in swimming = tread water for strength score in rounds.

Breath holding - did this one in A (2011) Dungeoneers Survival Guide
1/3 Constitution in rounds

Not too bad.

Shipping (more boating) rules follow with capsizing rules depending on boat size and wind, portaging, movement modifications for large move (miles / day) and small move (feet / round) covering normal sail, max sail, normal oar and max oar.

Monday, 16 April 2012

N is for Non-weapon Proficiencies: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

"WSG gets proficiency checks right, correcting a major DSG error". So said Carl Sargent in White Dwarf 85.

It is an interesting point. I wasn't overwhelmed by the DSG non-weapon proficiencies.

But I have to confess I am struggling to find the difference, or at least see why the WSG is better than the DSG.

The DSG states "Under normal conditions, there is no chance of failure involved when characters attempt to use most nonweapon proficiencies... A Proficiency Check for use of a proficiency is necessary in two cases: to determine if the specific task is performed within a given set of limitations [time pressure, inadequate resources], or to gauge the quality of a piece of work when such an evaluation is desired."

This sounds pretty good to me.

Compared to WSG "Unlike a weapon proficiency, the possession of a nonweapon proficiency does not always mean that the character can realise the benefits of having a certain skill"

Mechanism in WSG is: d20 roll against proficiency using one of the six ability scores as the base, 19-20 automatic fail (exceptions exist).

Wilderness Proficiencies on offer (some of the 25 anyway):
Alertness - surprise only on 1, first make prof check against wisdom at +1 penalty
Animal Handling, Lore
Direction sense
Fire building
Healing - same as DSG able to give 1d3 hit points back to wounded character if character tended within 1 round, increase healing per day if healer in party, and if can tend character in same round as poisoned +2 to save. Additionally in WSG, healer can treat diseases.
Plant Lore
Riding, airborne - gain some flying feats to impress the ladies with
Riding, land-based - as above, but on the ground - vault into a saddle, urge mount to jump obstacles, spur mount onto greater speeds, leap from the back of mount and make a melee attack at +4
Running - sprinting or distance options
Survival in cold and heat, desert
Tracking at half chance as ranger
Weather sense

So any idea what was right and what was wrong in the Survival Guides, when it came to proficiencies?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for Mounted Combat: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Mounted Combat

Pages 47-48 deals with flying mounts, with a number of tables giving mount, encumbrance limits for normal load and max load, with move rate, manoeuvrability class with a rider or with a load and stamina. And rules for chance of falling from the flying mount. Base chance of 0% sounds good, until +1% per wind mph, +2% per Dex or Str less than 12 (plus many others); and all checked every 3 turns. I vote for the fully strapped in -200% chance of falling.

I would have liked to have seen a check required if damage taken and at +1% chance of falling for every hit point damage to mount or character.

Page 86
Land Melee combat from a mount
+1 to hit unmounted opponent if same size
0 modifier if unmounted opponent larger size
-1 to hit unmounted opponent if smaller size

Unmounted attacking mounted, -1 attack. If 'to hit' is exactly what is needed to hit, mount hit instead. (Interesting, realistic?)

Swooping flying attack is made at +2.

Missile combat from a mount
Requires riding proficiency for that mount.
- 1 attack if mount moving less than half full movement rate, -3 more than half full movement rate, -5 more than 3/4 full movement rate; in addition to any penalty for range and visibility.

Falling from a mount (example if mount killed) rider takes 1d3 damage, and the rest of that round and the next, is used getting their bearings.

Jousting - a natural 20 will dismount opponent, (riding proficiency to save).
Similar chance an unmounted opponent dismounting a mounted, if weapon 5-9 feet in length. Natural 16-20 and weapon greater than 10' will dismount opponent.

Pulling an opponent from their mount, attack roll at -4. Again riding proficiency check to avoid dismount.

See the next post for the dreaded N is for Non-weapon proficiencies.

Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Light: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Light and vision, important for any adventurer, and well covered in the WSG.

Page 40
Overland movement in reduced visibility.

Clear moonlight, 2/3
Darkness snow, 1/4

Pages 72-75 a whole section on Vision and Visibility
Table 41: Outdoor Range of Normal Vision

Clear daylight 500 yards to make out a man sized creature. Double for L, half for S.
Twilight 300 yards, moonlight 50 yards, darkness 25yards.

And rules for overcast; moderate fog; heavy fog, rain or snow; heavy snow with wind; blowing sand/dust.

While perhaps more options than needed, the 500 yards for M size figure - actually very helpful.

Rules for Infravision (page 73-74) quite good descriptions, and would have been helpful as a DM, who always struggled with infravision.


Some interesting rules about torches being effected by wind velocity.
Wind 11-25 mph, illumination 30' instead of 40' and will burn out in 4 turns as opposed to 6.
It takes 1 round to light a torch, plus 1 round for every 10mph wind velocity.
A lighted torch can be seen 200 yards away in moonlight and darkness.

Page 86
Fighting in poor visibility
eg moonlight -1 attack, and -1 all saving throws related to dodging or evasion

In darkness, if the modified attack roll is 0 or less = will have struck another creature or object (must save vs crushing blow).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for Kim (the author): Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

So Kim, you wrote a Silver Age D&D publication?

A definition from Grognardia:
Silver Age (1984-1989): The Silver Age is a transitional age that marries a sophisticated (some might say "decadent") interpretation of Gygaxian naturalism with a growing concern for "dramatic" coherence. The Silver Age is one of "fantastic realism" and the construction of believable worlds and stories is its great concern. It's also the age where the Great Wyrm begins to eat its own tail, being influenced not just by epic fantasy generally but more specifically by second or third order epic fantasies that were themselves influenced by D&D. The Silver Age is when the mass marketing of the game begun in the late Golden Age reaches its fullest flower.

Unfortunately for me, the WSG is just too unorganised and not inspirational enough, to work as anything more than a guide for the sake of a guide. Rules for rules sake. It is a Silver Age publication, for these reasons, and fails for the same reason.

I have been asking myself if I would have felt any different in 1986. I think the answer is no - but that is a difficult one.

Now unorganised may feel harsh when the contents are very clearly set out, but the rules are spread throughout the entire guide. So land-based mounts are: characteristics 90-91, combat 16,86, fatigue 88, lack of food 52, movement 32-33, reactions 92.

This might sound like the Dungeon Master's Guide, but it had an inspirational charm, that surpassed it's design flaws.

I'm not sure what publishing pressure Kim was under, but the WSG comes up short, and much shorter than the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. The DSG made me want to take my players spelunking.

Could I have done better?
I am sure I could not. For proof, see my dormant Old School Adventure Guide - yep empty.

What would I have liked to have seen then and what would I like to see now.

I think if the book had been broken into terrains, it would have been stronger, far more useful and have become inspirational.

e.g. Arctic - with rules for cold, a new equipment list (sleds, warm clothes, eye protection, new spells, and monster section (including huskies, polar bears etc).

And so on for desert, forest, plains, mountains

You see as DM, the setting can often fire the imagination. Rules don't do it alone, and I like rules. Wilderness is just too broad a terrain type!

I might want to take my players to Hoth - if so I want rules that deal with this easily accessible, not rules on cold spread throughout the entire guide. After reading these imagined arctic rules, perhaps I may have been inspired to take take my players to Hoth, even if it had never occurred to me before.

Or Tatooine, or up the mountains. Or in the open plains, where horse lords rule.

I also think these guides would have been more effective if sold with a DM screen - all relevant tables must be on the DM screen. How much can one remember otherwise?