Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Strategic Review #5

The Strategic Review #5 opens with a note that Blackmoor has just been released, and a general round-up of how TSR is expanding (quickly, by the sound of things). They also provide a number of bios on the various folks who work there, none of which is relevant to the project, but informative nonetheless.

STURMGESHUTZ AND SORCERY: As noted in an earlier post, characters from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign have made forays into Nazi Germany. This article explores Gary's own attempts at such a game, and establishes that travel to the World War II era is possible near the City of Greyhawk as well.
The fantasy characters that were used in this game involved the Servants of the Gatherer, a motley force of undead, ogres, trolls, and orcs under the command of an Evil High Priest (who I take to be the Gatherer himself). They are said to live in a castle, so I'll be using these guys as the inhabitants of a castle on the Outdoor Survival map for when the PCs make wilderness forays. There are stronger warriors that normally inhabit this castle, but they're away warring with a Neutral Lord who insulted the Gatherer. I'll need to establish who this Lord is as well – I'll probably make it Lord Robilar, who was a prominent character in Gygax's campaign, but more on that at a later date.

The situation is that a fog has sprung up west of the Gatherer's castle, which leads into Nazi Germany. After a bit of scouting and such, a pitched battle erupted between the fantasy characters and the Nazis, with the Nazis taking the worst of it. The Gatherer loses a couple of ghouls, a troll, and his giant scorpion, not to mention various orcs. These events will be a part of the history of the campaign world - should the PCs everenage in drunken conversation with the Gatherer, he might start rattling off old war stories about Nazis soldiers.

Following this is a guide to rules for using the Nazi weaponry in combination with D&D rules. It's heavily reliant on the Tractics rules, which I understand is a miniature wargame for World War II. It's all handy stuff, though, especially the chart for damage for various firearms and cannons. A cross-genre campaign like this one needs this kind of material.

Oh, and there's a rough map showing the castle and its surroundings, which I must remember should the PCs come across it.

The possibility of sending the PCs into World War II appeals to me, and I like the idea that a randomly occuring fog can roll in at any time and send them there. I'll be including it as a possibility on the wilderness encounter tables, with a very low chance of occuring. I'll probably also include a way to make the Adventurers' Guild portal lead there as well, in case the PCs get the urge to make regular Nazi-smashing trips.

MIGHTY MAGIC MISCELLANY: A few magic items get introduced here, the first of which is the Robe of Scintillating Color. Usable by any class, it appears as an average robe, but it can only be activated by a character with a combined Intelligence and Wisdom of 25. It can be used to form a dazzling pattern that makes the wearer harder to hit – attackers get -1 to hit on the first round, -2 on the second, until -5 is reached. It also has a 5% cumulative chance per round of hypnotising anyone who looks at it (and it's even more effective out of combat).
And because OD&D always throws in something awesome like this: if a magic-user with an Intelligence of 17 or 18 gets hypnotised, there's a chance he'll go permanently insane. Cool!

The other item introduced is Prayer Beads, usable only by Clerics. They're a string of valuable beads, with a chance that some of the beads have divine powers. There are a few types listed. Beads of Atonement give a character a chance to regain an old alignment if he has transgressed. Beads of Response allow him to directly communicate with his patron deity, though they don't guarantee the response will be favourable. Beads of Damnation are great, in that they allow you to (unwittingly, I assume) communicate with your patron's nemesis – always a bad idea. Beads of Karma temporarily increase a Cleric's level. Beads of Succor increase the chance that a god will respond to your prayers, and Beads of Hindrance reduce this chance.
The catch with this item is that each strong of beads has an alignment which affects how it will work. For example, a Chaotic Bead of Damnation actually contacts a Lawful deity! So it's difficult to know exactly what these beads are going to do without careful study.

This is also the first mention I've seen that players can pray to their deity of choice, with a chance of reply. I like the concept, but something mechanical would be nice. I'm tempted to go with a flat 1% chance, with the caveat that the gods don't generally like being pestered too much.

GALLERY OF GUNFIGHTERS 3: This is a description of the life of Ben Thompson, another western gunfighter who will be roaming around as an NPC if the players ever visit the Old West. (See earlier posts for my reasoning in including western characters.)

CREATURE FEATURES: One classic creature and a couple of others get the treatment here.

Rakshasa: These 'evil spirits encased in flesh' are noted as originating from India, which I will take to mean the area of the World of Greyhawk that corresponds to India. As is usual with D&D monsters they eat people, and to aid themselves in this they have a host of abilities, including illusions, ESP, Cleric spells of 1st level and M-U spells up to 3rd level. They're also pretty nasty in melee with teeth and claws, and are almost impossible to damage – spells under 8th level don't affect them, they're immune to non-magical weapons, and weapons under +3 only do half damage. The best weapon against them is a crossbow bolt blessed by a cleric, which kills them instantly. I take this as a simple Bless spell. This might seem a bit simple, but I'll be making this information difficult to come by. Anyone who gets a hold of the knowledge will deserve it.

It's interesting to note that we're still in a time when it's assumed players will have certain knowledge outside of the game – there's no description here of just what a Rakshasa looks like.

Slithering Tracker: A transparent dungeon predator that is difficult to see, it rarely attacks immediately, preferring to follow its chosen victim and kill it in its sleep. The Tracker has a semi-fluid body that can slip through very small gaps, and a touch that paralyses its victims. And once you've been paralysed, it will suck out your plasma in 6 turns. That's right – your plasma!

Trapper: Another predator that has adapted to dungeon life, this one is an amorphous thing that can make itself look like a regular floor by altering its coloration. So it waits on the dungeon floor for someone to walk over it, then it wraps around and suffocates them. Simple, ridiculous and awesome.

That's it for The Strategic Review #5, except for an ominous message that is recurring through the issue – THE DRAGON IS COMING!

But that's for another time. In the next post I'll be tackling The Strategic Review #6.


Roy Berman said...

Have you considered that the fog mentioned there could be the Mists of Ravenloft? Maybe instead of going to real Nazi Germany it was a Ravenloft domain, where the dark lord was a particularly vicious SS commandant. It might be a neat way to tie together the cosmology that wouldn't be developed for several years.

Unknown said...

couldn't be ravenloft; ive read this article, and the mists allowed travel in both directions, whereas ravenloft mists are one way only