Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Part 2

THE WILDERNESS: This section begins with a brief outline of the prototypical D&D wilderness - unexplored land, cities and castles, and the area immediately surrounding the dungeon. Like I said, brief. The ref is supposed to do a couple of things before the game starts - make a map of the ground level of the dungeon, a map of the area surrounding this, and a map of the town nearby. After that there are short descriptions of the two major campaign cities currently in existence - Blackmoor is said to be a small village (a one-horse town, apparently!) while Greyhawk is a large city with bazaars, inns, taverns, shops, temples, and a risky Thieves Quarter. I've no doubt that Greyhawk as officially released has all of this stuff. But is Blackmoor truly as small as is said here? It certainly doesn't sound right to me, but I don't know a lot about that campaign. Nevertheless I plan to include it in my version of Greyhawk, and have a few other ideas about it that are tied to some other places it has been linked to.

Then we get a note about off-hand wilderness adventures being made using the board from Outdoor Survival. Thankfully it's pretty easy to find on the internet - like here for example. I'll be using this map as an area very close to the City of Greyhawk.

Castles: The ponds on the Outdoor Survival board indicate Castles in D&D, and the inhabitants of those castles are determined randomly. The head of the castle is always an NPC with class levels, and he could have servants including anything from Balrogs to Manticores to White Apes - and that's not even including the soldiers that should be present. Taking on an unknown castle will certainly be risky business.

A Fighting-Man in charge of a castle will demand a joust from other fighters, and if he wins he takes the loser's armour. This is where the Jousting rules from Chainmail come into things. I just hope the players won't balk at a ruleset that doesn't take their character's stats into account.

Magic-Users are likely to Geas passersby and send them after treasure, which would fill a session or two, I guess. If I know players though, they hate being forced on missions. That Magic-User would be signing himself a death warrant, I'd wager.

Clerics require a tithe, or otherwise they'll use a Quest spell to send the PCs on a crusade of some sort. Again, I doubt the players will be amenable - but making their characters do unpleasant things is half the DM's fun.

Following this is a list of overland movement rates for various creatures and vehicles - the speeds are in hexes, each one being 5 miles across. A man on foot moves 3 hexes in a day, while the Roc and Pegasus are the fastest at 48. Most of the monsters seem to be faster than men, so fleeing will be problematic. Larger groups move slower, and there are the usual terrain penalties as well.

WILDERNESS MONSTERS: The rules for sighting and surprise are pretty much the same as in the dungeon, except that the distances are greater. Parties can get lost depending on terrain - and when 1-in-6 is your best odds, getting lost seems mighty easy. Lost parties get moved in a random direction, but it says they can make one direction change. I have no idea what that means, or the note that DMs should indicate which direction the party is lost in. Colour me confused as to the intent of these rules.

Wandering Monsters: These are checked for at the end of each day, with different odds for terrain. The monsters are split into categories: Men, Flyers, Undead, Giants, Lycanthropes, Animals, Swimmers, and Dragons. There are some oddities, such as the many creatures listed under Dragon, but mostly it's a solid list of random monster encounters. A few interesting things: there's a random chart for the Mars of the John Carter stories, which means I'll have to provide the players with a means of getting there. I know TSR produced a ruleset for John Carter in the mid-70s - how compatible with D&D is it? I might have to try and find a copy, if it isn't too rare.

The optional swamp chart has a whole load of dinosaurs, several of which I'm sure weren't native to swamplands - but more excuses to use dinosaurs are always welcome. The optional arid plains chart has more monsters like Tharks, Banths, Thoats, etc. I think that's more stuff from Mars. And finally there is an optional Mountains chart with prehistoric mammals such as cave bears and sabre-tooth tigers. So not only do I need Mars, I need one "lost world" swamp full of dinosaurs, and a mountain range with prehistoric mammals.

This section finishes up with the rules for pursuit. The most important factor here is the relative sizes of the two groups - it seems like smaller groups have a better chance of evading larger groups, and terrain plays into it, as does speed. It's another little subsystem of Gary's devising, but it's simple and it looks to work well. He even makes sure to remind the ref to roll for wandering monsters while the party is recovering from pursuit, just in case things are getting too easy for them!

CONSTRUCTION OF CASTLES AND STRONGHOLDS: Here are a set of guidelines for when a PC wants to build his own castle. The prices are given along with illustrations - for example, next to a picture of a Bastion is the price 3,000 gold pieces. So you pick exactly what bits you want on your castle, and total up the price. It would work pretty well, if it wasn't for the pricing confusion. Next to the top-down view of the Barbican, it says 14,000; next to the side-on view, it says 20,000. Which is it? That's not the only ambiguous thing on this page. I'm all for players building castles, but a price list that's easier to use would be handy.

SPECIALISTS: A number of NPC types that the PCs might employ are detailed in this section.

Alchemist: They have the ability to duplicate potions, as long as they have a formula. They can also research poisons, but it's majorly expensive.

Armorer: A player needs to have Armorers if he has soldiers in his employ, as their armor needs to be maintained. They're cheap though, and anyone high-level enough to have over 50 followers won't feel the expense. He can make armor as well (natch), but the output is pretty slow unless he has a raft of assistants.

Assassin: Not a PC class yet, and the rules here are very much up to DM fiat as to whether these guys succeed in their mission. The DM is also encouraged to limit the numbers of assassins used - a wise move I feel, as overuse of assassination could really play havoc with the campaign, especially if inter-PC rivalries start up.

Animal Trainer: You need one of these guys to train anything other than a horse or mule. You want to ride a Hippogriff? Animal Trainer is your man.

Engineer: You need one for tunneling and major construction. No consequences are listed, but presumably your castle won't stand up properly if an engineer isn't there.

Sage: Sages are there to answer questions. For some reason they can only be employed by Fighters - it must be an inter-guild rivalry thing, with Magic-Users and Clerics intruding into the Sage's areas of expertise. Again, DM fiat rules the day for sages.

Seaman: You need them to sail a ship. If you want ones that can fight, they cost extra.

Ship Captain: Gary just says it's a self-expanatory role, and leaves it at that. Surely it wouldn't have been too hard for him to squeeze out a sentence or two? It's not like he was ever short of words.

Smith: They can assist armorers, and you need them to maintain your horses.

Spy: Spies can be hired, and sent to infiltrate the desired force. Or they can be corrupted - that is, the player can bribe an enemy to become a spy. Chances of successful spying are again left to the DM to decide. It's much like that with the whole NPC list, really - it's just there to let the DM know what types of character players might like to hire, rather than giving concrete rules for their use.

MEN-AT-ARMS: Hired fighters get a section all their own. They can be men, dwarves or elves, but Chaotic characters get the super-awesome option of hiring Orcs, and they cost half as much. Elves on the other hand are fruity tree-huggers, and cost more than anyone else. It only costs 2 gp per month to hire a Light Foot soldier! This differs greatly from the guidelines in Vol. 1 - I gather those are the costs for characters you want to take into the dungeon and on adventures, and these are for the guys who man your castle or fight in your army.

Hiring Men-at-Arms and Specialists is a matter of posting notices and getting the word out, which costs 100-600 gold per week. This seems awfully expensive for a few posters, but there you go. The ref gets to decide how successful the offer is, and should also note that Dwarves, Elves and Specialists are all pretty rare.

RUMORS, INFORMATION & LEGENDS: Hiring a lot of people isn't something that goes unnoticed, and even leaving town may be noteworthy - in other words, don't expect the local Lord to sit idle while you raise an army, and don't be surprised if the local thieves ambush you for treasure on the way back from the dungeon. Jammed in here we get the price of a round of drinks - 10-60 gp! Presumably this is for when you shout the whole bar.

PLAYER CHARACTER SUPPORT AND UPKEEP: PCs have to pay an amount in gold equal to 1% of their XP (how often it doesn't say, but I guess once a month). So basically that means that the more powerful they get, the more they start to demand the good life. Once they build their own castles this is over, but I guess it gets replaced by paying the upkeep on troops and such.

BARONIES: Before a character can have a Barony, he has to clear out all the monsters in the nearby countryside. Once he's done that, just sitting in his castle is enough to make the place safe for 20 miles. Making it automatic robs it of the fun a bit, I feel. But anyway, there are a number of villages within the Barony, and the Baron can tax them for 10 gp per head. This could net him anywhere from 2,000 to 32,000 gp a month, so it's worth doing. There's a list of things the player might invest in to increase his profits, as if high-level adventurers needed more money.

ANGRY VILLAGER RULE: The gist of this rule is that if a certain character gets out of line, NPCs will harass him endlessly - thieves, the city watch, militia, even the possible insertion of a character like Conan to knock some heads in!

OTHER WORLDS: All this section says is that the D&D world doesn't have to follow the same rules as ours. Maybe characters can breathe in space? I'm taking these as examples, and not part of canon. Whether or not players can breathe in space will probably get answered when I make it to Spelljammer.

Tomorrow, I take a look at Land Combat, Sea Combat, and Aerial Combat, as well as some underwater monsters, time, and healing. That will finish up Volume 3, bringing me to the end of the original D&D boxed set.


jamused said...

Looking at the rules for Outdoor Survival it appears that players always moved their characters in a straight line, no backtracking, except when permitted by their "Direction Ability" chart to make a turn. I can't find an online copy of the chart, but it sounds like different characters and scenarios gave you a roll to see if you'd be allowed to deviate from your straight line course that turn. Traveling along a path counted as a straight line, even if the path twisted and turned, and crossing a path during your turn gave you the option of heading along the path for the remainder of your movement instead of continuing straight without it counting against your deviations allowed. If you leave a trail you continue in the direction the trail was headed unless you have deviations left.

It sounds like the D&D rule was something like you could move freely if you weren't lost, but if you were you reverted to the OS rules of rolling for direction and moving straight but you were always allowed one deviation (because you didn't have scenario cards, possibly?) You could probably substitute roll a d6 to see which direction they move, and move them in a straight line, allowing them to pick one place along the line to change that, e.g. they could continue to head for the mountains, or West, or whatever but they'd no longer be able to pick and choose to avoid obstacles like castles or skirt high-cost terrain hexes.

Does that make sense?

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Yeah, that does sound fairly workable. I have trouble with rules that take the power of choice away from the players, though. But that's part of why I want to try this project - not only to explore the origins of D&D, but to actually go back and use a lot of the rules that I would normally overlook.