Monday, April 05, 2021

Romance!

During a recent game session, my players' characters had a lengthy wilderness journey with some NPCs.  Among the many things that might happen along the way, one of the possibilities I considered was a romantic entanglement.

Romance is not something I've ever really tackled seriously as part of D&D.  Yes, there was juvenile sex stuff going on in the game when my friends and I were teenagers, but that's an aspect of those days I'd rather forget.  Nowadays my interest is in running D&D as a simulation, and let's be real here, sex and romance are a huge part of our everyday lives. It feels a little odd that the game puts so much effort into different possibilities and aspects of life, but gives zero guidance in that area.

I mean, I get it.  It can be a touchy subject, and one that a lot of players probably just don't want to deal with at the table.  Leaving out the potential trouble that can come from being socially entwined with certain NPCs (and DMs who want to use those connections to screw the players), there's also the possible awkward situations that can come when you have to roleplay a sexual encounter with one of your mates, or even worse, with someone you only know on a casual basis.  All of this could wreck the tone of the looting and monster-killing fun times that D&D reliably provides.

With those reservations in mind, I decided to take a crack at it anyway.  My first resolution was to take myself out of it as much as possible.  I might decide as a DM when an NPC falls in love with a player character, but I've been trying to avoid that kind of thing.  My current style as a DM is to leave as much to random chance as possible, so I had to set about writing up some rules.

The first thing I determined was that these rules don't apply to the players in any way.  I'm against any rules that take choices away from the players, or dictate their behaviour in any way (magical influence excepted, of course).  I don't even enforce alignment, unless someone is playing a paladin or a cleric with a strict alignment code.  So these rules below are for determining how NPCs feel. Players get to decide who they're attracted to, and who they might want to pursue a relationship with.

One thing to consider with these rules is that we're not just talking about characters falling in love.  We also have to figure out whether there's an attraction in the first place.  And the starting place for that is to determine their - oh boy, I know I'm stepping into a minefield here - sexual preference.

To figure this out, I did some statistical research.  As far as I can tell, about 4% of the population identifies as gay.  I suspect that number is low, but it came up in a number of surveys, so I'm going with it.  So I begin with a percentage roll for each NPC that could be a potential romantic partner to determine their sexuality: 95% heterosexual, 4% homosexual, and 1% bisexual.  If the preference matches the sex/gender of the PC in question, we can move on to the next step.

Now we determine if the NPC is attracted to that character. There are three factors in play here: the PC's Charisma score, the race of the two characters in question, and their respective alignments.

I figure I'm stepping into another minefield with the race thing, but "race" in D&D terms is a very different thing than in the real world.  I'm not suggesting at all that humans of different ethnicities would be less attracted to each other, but when it comes to D&D I like to maintain some of the stereotypes. So yes, I am suggesting that elves are less likely to be attracted to half-orcs, or dwarves. Take that as you will.  The chance is still there, and I would definitely try to play it out if the dice came up.  And we all know how the dice work in D&D: assign a chance to something, no matter how small, and it's going to come up.  Anyway, here are the racial modifiers I came up with:


NPC Race: PC Race = Dwarf Elf Gnome Half-Elf Half-Orc Halfling Human
Dwarf   +5 -5 +2 -2 -5 -2 -2
Elf   -5 +5 -2 +2 -5 -2 +0
Gnome   +2 +0 +5 +0 -5 +2 -2
Half-Elf   -2 +2 -2 +5 -2 -2 +2
Half-Orc   -5 +5 -2 +2 +5 -2 +2
Halfling   +0 +2 +2 +2 -2 +5 -2
Human   -2 +5 -2 +5 +0 -2 +5

For alignment, a modifier is determines based on the relative alignments of the character in question.  For the Law/Chaos axis, there's a +6 modifier if the characters have the same alignment, and a -6 modifier if their alignments are opposite.  If the alignments are only one away from each other, there's no modifier.  The same applies for the Good/Evil axis.  So if one character is lawful good and the other is chaotic evil, that's a -12 modifier.  If both characters were lawful good, that would be a +12 modifier.  This is the closest I could come up with for whether character like each others' personalities.  Alignment is pretty much the only concrete part of the game that defines a character's personality, so I'm using it here.

Both of the above modifiers are added to the Charisma score of the PC in question.  Then the whole lot is doubled, and that gives a percentage chance to see if there's an attraction.

As an example, say that Morf the Dwarf (a PC) is spending a lot of time with Barvork the Half-Orc (an NPC).  As the PC is a dwarf and the NPC is a half-orc, that gives us a -5 modifier to the roll.  Morf's alignment is neutral good, and Barvork is lawful evil.  Lawful and neutral are only one step away, so there's no modifier there, but good and evil are opposites, so that makes for a -6 alignment modifier.  Finally, Morf has a Charisma of 13.  The percentage chance is 13 (Charisma) + 6 (alignment modifier) -5 (race modifier), with the total being doubled.  That gives a 14% chance that Barvork will be attracted to Morf.  Not a huge chance, but large enough that it could definitely come up.

That's just attraction, though, and doesn't factor in whether an NPC might fall in love.  Having gone fairly in-depth with the modifiers above, I decided to go simple for this roll: it's simply another percentage roll, with the chance being 1/4 of the chance for being attracted.  In the case of Morf and Barvork, that's a 3% chance.

Finally, I came up with a chart to figure out the intensity of love/attraction.  I didn't come up with any rules beyond what's here, but I figured I'd use the chart below as a guide for role-playing.  I've considered implementing saving throws for each category below, for when a PC tries to use love or attraction to coerce an NPC into something they might not otherwise want to do, but I haven't figured those numbers out yet.

  • 01-50 - Mild attraction/love
  • 51-70 - Moderate attraction/love
  • 71-85 - Strong attraction/love
  • 86-95 - Intense attraction/love
  • 96-99 - Irresistible attraction/love
  • 00 - Dangerously obsessive attraction/love

In play, I rolled on the charts above for every NPC that would be travelling with the PCs.  There were six NPC, and two PCs.  Of twelve romantic possibilities, I got a hit on three: the half-elf Noble Nightbreeze had a strong attraction to the half-orc PC, and the NPC leader - an elf named Erian Silverbough - had a mild attraction to both PCs.

One thing I didn't want to do was force these kinds of interactions  on my players, so I simply told them (after some Wisdom checks) that they were picking up on signals that there was an attraction there.  Alas, neither of my players tried to take things further.  The player of the elf PC said that he considers his character asexual, so he's obviously not into exploring this kind of thing with this character.  The half-orc PC made some jokes about it, but didn't bother to pursue things; he's fairly goal-oriented in the game anyway, so I figured he wouldn't be all that into it.

With the lack of interest from my players, I left it there, and that's how I intend to use these rules.  I'll roll this stuff in secret and let the players know the possibility is there for romance, but if they don't bite I'm not going to push it onto them.  I didn't get much interest with this group, and if I'm being honest I'm not sure that this is an avenue I want to go down too deeply, but I'm happy enough to have rules for this kind of thing in my game.  Like I said, I'm into simulation, and romance is part of life.  I'll keep using theses rules, and I might report back here if they ever come up in my game in any significant fashion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

On the Benefits of Randomisation

In recent games I've been trying to run things a little more sandbox-style, going off-the cuff moreso than relying on pre-planned adventures.  It's resulted in some more dynamic and surprising games, and also in some that have kind of petered out without much of a sense of a climax, but I'm liking the results so far.  Events in the game are flowing more organically and naturally, based much more on what the PCs want and how the various NPCs are reacting to their actions.

That said, I am a planner by nature (not so much in real life, but definitely where D&D is concerned). I like to plan ahead, especially if I know where the game is likely to go in the next session.  One of my recent games involved a week-long wilderness journey where the PCs had to take the inert body of my setting's god of light to a rendezvous point, and hand it over for safekeeping.  They had members of the local resistance movement with them to act as guides, so I was about as certain as a DM can ever be about where the game was going.

With that knowledge, I set about figuring out what would happen along the journey.  Normally I'd have placed set encounters that fit the adventure and tried to lead it along a certain plot path, but right now I'm trying to take the "plot" out of D&D as much as I can while still planning ahead. So rather than pick the encounters myself, I decided to do the whole thing using random charts.  Below I'll detail how I put the adventure together, and how I also drew quite a bit of setting inspiration from the results I rolled up randomly.

The first step was to work out how long the journey would take at the party's optimal speed. They were travelling light (aside from the big old crystalline god torso they're lugging about), and the journey to the rendezvous point and back to the city of Port Bracken came to about five days.

Next, I started rolling for random encounters using the tables I'd made when I drafted up my maps.  (I really should put up an image of the wilderness region, but I only have it as a hand-drawn map. I need to scan it at some point.)  The 3rd edition rules call for a random encounter check for every hour of travel, but that's way too often.  I can't be rolling twenty-four dice per game day, especially on the fly.  Instead, I've split the day into four time periods: morning (6am to 12pm), afternoon (12pm to 6pm), early night (6pm to 12am) and late night (12am to 6am).  I make one check for each of those periods, then roll a d6 to determine the hour in which the encounter happens.

Another wrinkle I've added to random encounters is the idea that sometimes you'll see signs of a creature rather than the creature itself (the howling of wolves, an old campsite, an animal that's been killed by the creature, etc.).  Whenever an encounter is indicated, I give it a 1-in-4 chance that the encounter will be signs of a creature.  The next time an encounter comes up, there's a 3-in-4 chance that the encounter will be with the creature indicated.  This allows a little more foreshadowing to be added to random encounters, and gives the PCs more of a chance to plan ahead.

For the journey I rolled the following:
  • Seven dwarves around midday on the first day
  • Signs of wights at the end of the second day
  • A wight encounter on the morning of the fourth day
  • An encounter with bombardier beetles around midnight of the fourth day
  • An encounter with an escaped refugee on the final day
  • A mixed encounter a few hours later, with Priests of Malak (the god of darkness) and hippogriffs
The dwarf encounter was easy to figure out (although I had to resist the urge to do a Snow White riff).  The timing had it happening at a bridge, so I set them up as cutthroat bandits making travellers pay them to use the crossing.  I threw in a little bit of background about them being a troupe of jesters who've had trouble finding work, and also made a note that they'd be extra-curious about the body of the light god if they caught a glimpse of it.

For the wights, I figured a destroyed camp would be the best way to foreshadow them; I didn't want anything too immediate, because there was going to be a pretty big gap between the sign and the encounter.  So I placed a camp with some abandoned tents and bedrolls, along with the corpses of some dogs that had suffered an energy draining.

The wight encounter I just placed as a simple ambush/attack, noting that the head wight was being served by lesser wights who were the former inhabitants of the ruined camp.

The encounter with the beetles was a trickier one, as I was struggling with ways to make it interesting.  It was set to happen around midnight, and I find encounters can be a little trickier to realistically set up when the PCs are camped, especially when the monsters aren't all that intelligent or mobile. I resigned myself to making it a straight-up predatory ambush, but I was saved when I got around to rolling for random weather.  A thunderstorm came up at pretty much the exact time the PCs were set to encounter the beetles, so what was going to be a boring slugfest became much more potentially interesting, as the beetles would be stirred out of their nest by the lightning and thunder and stampede into the PC camp.  (Well, I thought it was going to be awesome, but the PCs ran away from the wights and turned that encounter into an overland chase. They ended up a few miles away from where the beetle encounter was set to happen, and I didn't want to railroad them back into it, so I shrugged my shoulders and let it go. I still think it would have ruled, though.)

The refugee encounter and the one with the priests of Malak and the hippogriffs were set to happen within an hour of each other, so it made sense to connect them. After all, the priests are pretty much in charge of Port Bracken, and they're definitely the sort of folks that someone would be trying to escape from.  So I made this refugee a member of the Resistance, and gave him a minor connection to one of the NPCs the party was travelling with. (As an added call-back, I made him a member of the Hucrele family from The Sunless Citadel, which I'd run very early on in this campaign.)  The priests of Malak would be in pursuit, and would no doubt stop to question the PCs, who would have to decide whether to risk their necks for someone they hardly knew.

That just left the question of the hippogriffs.  One thing I've done to spice up my random encounter tables is include a result that calls for rolling on the table twice, with both groups being encountered simultaneously.  The idea was that it would be up to me to make sense of the combination, and that the results would make for some more dynamic encounters.  The evil priests of Malak being combined with generally good or neutral hippogriffs seemed on the face of it like the PCs should stumble into a fight between the two groups, but with this encounter being so close to Port Bracken it didn't feel quite right.  Hippogriffs are often used as mounts, and with the priests being a hunting party it made sense to go that way.  I tweaked it a little by making the hippogriffs into zombies, as use of undead slaves is a big part of how the priests of Malak operate.  Yeah, I'm not sure zombie hippogriffs would be able to fly either, but the 3rd edition rules say they can, so I went with it.

That final encounter added a lot of detail to my setting: a new NPC, more information about the Resistance and the NPCs travelling with the party, a mention of the "labyrinth cells" below the Temple of Malak, and the idea that the temple's hunting parties use zombie hippogriffs as steeds. None of this existed before I rolled on the random tables.

Because I had some extra time to plan, I decided to roll up a different set of random encounters just in case the PCs happened to make the journey while slowed due to encumbrance.  I don't remember the results as well, because they weren't used in the game, but what was effectively pointless busywork still gave me some setting details.  After the thunderstorm (because I was still using the same weather results), I rolled for an encounter with giant centipedes.  Then, I rolled for an encounter with dire wolves and giant centipedes together. Then, I rolled for an encounter with ogres and dire wolves together.

The giant centipedes coming out after the storm was a really nice bit of serendipity that mimics how certain creepy-crawlies pop out after the rain in the real world.  The dire wolf/centipede combination was an odd one, but the subsequent ogres/dire wolves combo made sense of it all.  Obviously, these ogres prize like to eat giant centipedes, and they're out hunting after the thunderstorm using their pet dire wolves to track them.  This is the kind of thing I'd probably never come up with on my own, but came to me almost right away when I was forced to make sense of the whole thing.

So at the moment I'm enjoying this way of creating adventures, with my own design biases being guided by random tables moreso than by my own whims.  It's forcing me to think outside of my usual box, and I'm liking the results.  No doubt it will be harder to do effectively when I have to roll these things on the fly, but hell, everything in D&D is harder when you have to do it on the fly. Practice will hopefully make these things come more naturally. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Returns & Resets

Well, it's been a while. Looking at the blog I see that I haven't posted since August. I haven't had any particular health problems, and no mental issues aside from the usual amount of pervading existential despair, but I have had a bunch of other stuff going on and a very odd family situation that's recently resolved itself (I hope).  So I'm ready to return to blogging, even though I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to blog about in regards to D&D.

I should probably start by mentioning that I've been running games again.  Over the last few months I found myself living with a couple of my players, so we decided to make Saturday nights the time to revive my 3rd edition campaign.  That campaign started way back circa 2002, and has been going on and off since then (mostly off since my son was born in 2008).  The initial portion was set in a lone fort in a savage wilderness, and culminated in the fort being besieged by an army of barbaric orcs.  That wrapped up pretty satisfyingly (I wrote it up here if you feel like reading about it), and I was fairly happy to end it at that. The main thrust of the campaign was done and the major plot threads had been dealt with, and my playing group were all getting married and having children, which was making things harder to schedule. I was just glad we'd gotten to go out on a climactic high note.

I have one player, though, who pretty vocally wanted to continue. The thing with this campaign is that it's a continuation of a 2nd edition campaign I ran in the late 90s. I set up a lot of threads in that game that never got resolved due to an unfortunate TPK. Most of threads involved the main four PCs being heroes of prophecy, which is a dumb idea when you're playing a game that can turn on a die roll.  What can I say, I'm wiser about that now.  So when I was designing my 3e campaign, I just said screw it, why throw away the work I've already done? The set-up was that a few centuries passed, and the forces of evil won because the heroes of prophecy failed. I didn't make that clear at the campaign's beginning, but the player I mentioned earlier figured out pretty quickly that this was the same world.

This player is still dead keen to find out the answers to plot threads I set up over two decades ago, and it didn't take me much convincing to start running again. My intention was to bring in a completely different style though. Whereas before I've been running discrete adventures set up with obvious plot hooks, this time I was planning on running more of a player-driven sandbox. And since the 3e adventures before that had been in a fort surrounded by hostile wilderness, I wanted the game to transition to more of a city-based game.

To set up the sandbox, I had to do some heavy rail-roading. It's a contradiction, but I wanted the campaign to move to a new area and I politely asked my players to go along with it. I would have preferred to do it a bit more organically, but the plan was that once I'd gotten done with that transition adventure I'd let the players drive things  completely.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way, due to events set up earlier in the campaign. As I've mentioned in earlier posts on the campaign, I went a little buck-wild with magic items, and among the things the PCs brought with them were the torso and left hand of the god of light, who had been dismembered by the god of darkness a few hundred years ago. Given that the PCs have entered a city ostensibly run by the priests of that god of darkness, with a resistance operating from the catacombs, things had to unfold in certain ways so they wouldn't end up thrown in a dungeon or killed on a sacrificial altar. I've given the players complete freedom to act within that framework and take charge as much as possible, but they've been led around by NPCs a lot more than I'd have liked. That scenario's been dealt with for now, with the god's body parts having been taken away to a safe place by the resistance, and I think things are finally ready to open up into a truly player-driven game.

What has worked really well is the transition to a city-based game. The fortress they'd previously lived in didn't provide a lot of opportunities, but the city of Port Bracken really opens things up: major cities give the players a lot more things to do and a lot more tactical options (as well as more ways to get themselves into trouble).  The game's shifted into one with a lot more factions and intrigue, and it's a positive change.  When the first session back culminated in the players ambushing a pirate captain outside of a brothel, I knew that the tone of the game had shifted considerably.

So I'm in new territory for the blog, which has mostly been me ruminating about a game that I've barely played since 2008.  I made a conscious decision a while ago to shift my D&D efforts to focus more on actively playing, which is part of why my Recaps & Roundups series stalled out back in August.  As such, I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to be doing here.  I'll definitely post about my current gaming activities, and any observations I have about running that campaign.  I'll try to make those posts general, but given that I'm running 3e it's going to a bit more new-school than the blog's focus has been so far.  As for what else I'll be doing, I don't know.  The Ultimate Sandbox has always been more of a pie-in-the-sky mental exercise, although I'd like to make it my standard game after I finish with the current campaign.  Recaps & Roundups will probably return, because I do enjoy that sort of historical/chronological analysis. For now though, I'm just going to ease myself back in, and post on whatever D&D-related stuff takes my fancy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Recaps & Roundups: JG37 First Fantasy Campaign part 4

Into the Great Outdoors: The section on wilderness adventures has a short bit about the use of the map from Outdoor Survival (I wonder which of Gygax or Arneson used it first?).  Following that is a short selection of random encounter tables; the most notable thing on those is the separation between Trolls and True Trolls.  There are references to True Trolls in the earliest D&D books, but no indication as to what the difference is between them.  I suspect it's the regeneration ability, but that's just my own gut instinct.

After some wilderness movement rates for various vehicles, and a chart showing the value of various goods and how likely they are to disappear on an overland journey, Arneson gets into the processes of determining where the monsters live.  And boy, it is involved.  There are rules for how many monsters are in the lair when the PCs arrive, and how far away the wanderes are.  Population growth is dealt with, as is migration during Spring.  Arneson actually says that the DM should play out any battles when a monster group migrates into an area that's already inhabited.  A lot of stuff in this section suggests that Arneson spent significant time playing out campaign events on his own, assuming that he used these guidelines himself.

There's also a section to help a DM draw their own map, which is done by random determination of terrain.  Like a lot of stuff in this booklet, this gets really fiddly: there are rules for determining how many hills are in a hex, and how many miles wide each hill is.  I guess this sort of detail can be important if you're running things more like a wargame, but it's well outside of my own tastes.

Blackmoor Dungeons: This is the main attraction for me here.  Included are ten levels from the Blackmoor Dungeons, as well as two networks of tunnels between levels, and some smaller levels labelled as "Glendower"; how all of these fit together is a bit of a mystery.  Inevitably, these materials are disappointing.  The notes are sparse and not particularly evocative: as with Greyhawk, these early megadungeons lived in the minds and games of their creators, and can never truly be captured in published form.  The maps are very nice though.  I'll include a page of maps and a page of notes to give you a sample.



Pretty much all of the keyed entries are like those above, with little more than monster numbers and treasure.  Three features are described in more detail by Arneson: the Orcian Way, Sir Fang, and the Elves who currently hold the castle above.

The Orcian Way is a stairwell that descends from level 1 all the way down to level 10, where hundreds of orcs, ghouls, ogres, and a couple of balrogs await.  Once players are on the stairwell there are only two ways out. One is to fight the monsters at the bottom, and the other is through a trapdoor at the top that magically teleports anyone entering it to the middle of Blackmoor Bay, where they are likely to drown or be eaten by the Great Kraken of the Bay.  (Arneson may have been more whimsical about it, but I'm starting to suspect that he was far more of a Killer DM than Gygax.)

Sir Fang was originally Sir Fant, a player character, until he fell prey to a vampire. Now he roams the dungeons upper levels, and has control of thousands of rats that he uses as his spies.  He's said to be a "Vampire x5", although I'm not entirely sure what that would mean.  Five times the amount of Hit Dice?  It's hard to say without knowing exactly how Arneson's rules worked.

The castle above the dungeons is currently ruled by elves, who test entrants to the dungeons by making them drink holy water, and guard the dungeon exits from evildoers with garden hoses filled with holy water. (I did say Arneson was whimsical.)  Their whole set-up sounds kind of like a carny, where they try to sell things to the PCs, and have turnstiles installed on the dungeon entrance, and prizes for anyone who makes it back out.  It's a weird tone; a little silly and anachronistic for my tastes, but it's obvious that everyone was having fun with it.

Magic Swords & Matrix: Arneson gives some sample magic swords, and his rules for randomly determining their abilities.  As in OD&D, swords have more special abilities than other weapon types.  Most of what's here is implementing the same ideas as in OD&D, but the rules themselves are sometimes quite different.

The main difference that jumped out at me is that there are fighter's swords, magician's swords, and holy swords (presumably usable by clerics, although I don't think it's specified).  This is a big departure from D&D, where the ability to use magic swords is one of the major benefits for fighters.  I feel like allowing them for all three classes undercuts fighters significantly.

Gypsy Sayings & Chance Cards: These detail various methods Arneson used to determine future events in the campaign.  The first is a random chart of gypsy sayings, most of which are vague, although a few are campaign specific.  The second is a table of "legends", which is little more than a list of artifacts or treasure hoards and their locations.

The third is of more interest: chance cards, which are listed here in chart form.  Each card details an event that will happen in the campaign; apparently Arneson used to draw out a year's worth of cards to plan for future occurrences.  There are things like raids, migrations, uprisings, storms, earthquakes, plague, etc.  There are 35 results, although quite a few are variations on the same thing; with a bit more variety I could see this being very useful indeed for planning out how events in the area will progress independent of the actions of the PCs.

The Original Blackmoor Magic System: This is a brief section on Arneson's magic system, which sounds similar to that used in D&D, with magic-users preparing their spells ahead of time and requiring material components for each casting (which came in with AD&D, but was notably absent from OD&D).  Constitution also seems to be a factor in Arneson's system, with some casters being unable to function due to fatigue.

This is followed by some  magical items, all of which sound rather technological.  One of the items is called a tricorder, just to leave out any ambiguity. This is in keeping with "The Temple of the Frog", which had a technologically armed villain running things.

Special Interests: This discusses some ways that PCs can find to spend their money, as well as the way that Arneson's XP system worked.  Characters could hoard their wealth to earn XP, but if that wealth was stolen the XP would be lost, and the PC would potentially lose levels.  The only sure way to earn XP was to spend money on wine, women, and parties.  XP can also be earned for fighting monsters, but only if their was a witness to the deed who can spread your renown.  Extra points can also be earned on spiritual quests or religious experiences.  The final thing that can earn XP is spending money on your PC's hobby, whatever that may be.

Svenson's Freehold: These are maps of the keep owned by Greg Svensen's character, who is 15th level at the time this book was written.  It's noted that two other characters reached 20th level, which earned them "a free dinner, a pat on the back, and a retired character".  Is losing your favourite character really a reward?

The book ends with a real mish-mash of stuff.  There are some house rules from one of Arneson's players, some details about the swamp area Loch Gloomen, and rules for various D&D monsters.  It's all a bit piecemeal, and there aren't any startling revelations in there, so I'm going to wrapthis up.

First Fantasy Campaign is a weird product, cobbled together from bits and pieces of Arneson's campaign with no particular rhyme or reason.  I struggled to follow a lot of it, as Arneson does nothing in the way of a gentle introduction.  Honestly, I think I could have learned more about Blackmoor with a couple of hours on Google.  There's some good material in here, though, especially the maps.  The rest is hidden under mounds of other stuff though, and I'm not sure I'd recommend this one to any but the hardest of hardcore Arneson fans.

NEXT: Well, unfortunately there may not be a next.  For personal reasons I'm taking some time off from the blogging grind - I would have done so earlier, but I didn't want to leave First Fantasy Campaign half-finished.  Will I be back?  I'm really not sure.  Blogging takes up way too much of my time, and I definitely need a mental break from it.  If I miss it, I'll be back.  If not, I guess this is where Save or Die! comes to an end (although I'll probably still post here and there in any case).  Thanks to all of my regular readers, I hope you got some small measure of entertainment from what I was doing here.  If you want to keep in touch, I'll still be on Twitter, @NPMahney.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Recaps & Roundups: JG37 The First Fantasy Campaign part 3

There's a whole section on Blackmoor town and castle. It's said to have a population of about 1,000 peasants, plus 100 soldiers, 100 elves, and a bunch of others (wizards, trolls, a dragons, etc.).  Blackmoor was described by Gary Gygax in one of the earlier D&D books (possibly D&D Vol. 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventure) as a "one-horse town", and I suppose that by the standards of other fantasy cities it is rather small.  In terms of resources it's rich in iron ore and coal, and the main form of livestock is a large type of bison.

The current ruler is Baron Fant, who was placed in charge of the castle after the first invasion by the Egg of Coot. His biggest ally is Sir Jenkins, who rules the northernmost area of the Great Kingdom.  He was a former bandit, but achieved great honours after the first Coot invasion, and married Fant's cousin to strengthen the alliance (Fant also married one of Jenkins' relations.)

Blackmoor Castle itself is said to have been built during the third year of the reign of Robert I, "King of all Geneva", primarily as a defense against the barbarians from the north.  (The mention of Geneva I take as a reference to the wargaming groups of Lake Geneva in the real world; in universe I suppose it means the Great Kingdom).  No exact time frame is given for when the castle was built, but the moat surrounding it was created some 400 years ago by a Wizard named Pissaic.  The castle was taken during both invasions by the Egg of Coot, but in both instances it was retaken.

One of those instances happened about 40 years ago, during the Second Coot Invasion.  The Keep's ruler at the time, Baron Ra-all the Wise, was promoted to King of Vestfold, and Blackmoor was placed under the rule of someone known as "the Weasel".  Blackmoor was besieged by barbarians, and the Weasel decided to try to negotiate a truce.  The barbarians sent ten delegates, but through magic unleashed by a wizard, the delegates transformed into hideous creatures and slaughtered the inhabitants of the castle.

Near the Blackmoor walls there are seemingly bottomless pits that connect to underground caves that riddle the area, leading to the netherworld and the dungeons beneath Castle Blackmoor. 

About five miles northwest of Blackmoor is a ruined temple that once belonged to the Dark Lords of the Egg of Coot. It was razed about 500 years ago.  In the middle of the temple is a great orange jewel on a black pedestal; adventurers have taken it several times, but each time those thieves have met a violent end, and the gem has returned to its resting place.  This is expanded on later: the place is also known as the Temple of the Id Monster, the gem is guarded by undead Super-Heroes, and anyone who steals the gem is pursued by the Id Monster, which only they can see. The creature will devour them and take back the gem, and the thief will wake up naked on the town garbage heap having experienced being eaten alive.

Northeast is the abode of the Wizard of the Wood (who was either called Pete, or played by a guy named Pete).  His abode is guarded by illusions of hideous monsters, a trio of Ents at the entrance, and a Fire Elemental in the fireplace.  "Pete" apparently died after playing for two years, on a trip to the City of the Gods, but his home is still there.

Not far from there lies the Super Berry Wood, a timeless place where all who enter lose track of time, and don't want to leave (anyone inside must make a save vs. charm person every turn).  The great "Berrium Maximus" grows there, also known as Super Berries, which are the size of pumpkins and have magical properties depending on the season, the phase of the moon, and the maturity of the berry.  Arneson doesn't elaborate further, mostly because his own players haven't figured a lot of this stuff out yet.

Wolf's Head Pass lies to the northeast, leading to forests dominated by Ents and Wood Elves of uncertain allegiance, and then to the southern lands of the Egg of Coot.

The Comeback Inn in Blackmoor has cheap food and lodgings, and is apparently a good place to find rumours, but it has a magical charm that prevents those inside from leaving; only by having someone outside the inn pull the person wanting to leave through the door can place be escaped.

Details are then given about Blackmoor Castle itself. It has a basement and five floors.  Many of those rooms are said to be haunted.  There is the ghost of Baron Alvarez, who was killed by barbarians, and whose appearance foretells doom. The Lady of Lust is fated to take any man who wanders into her grasp (apparently she was cursed for being an "uncooperative wife" which is uhhhhhhh uncomfortable, let's say).  There are ghosts of plenty of other former rulers, most of whom are scary but harmless.  A Lord Alfred was caught by his wife with a serving wench, and the gruesome beheading she gave him is replayed in one room.  A former ruler known as Balfred the Bald kept a "jungle beast" as a guardian; after he was killed by it the room was sealed up, but when the room was reopened, and the beast was gone.  Rumour persists that anyone who has betrayed Blackmoor that enters the room will suffer the same fate as Balfred.  These hauntings give the place quite a bit of flavour, but as far as I can tell the maps don't show where they actually take place.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Recaps & Roundups: JG37 The First Fantasy Campaign part 2

Last week I started reading Dave Arneson's The First Fantasy Campaign, inwhich he sets forth a bunch of details from his Blackmoor game.  It's got far too much content for to cover in a single post, so I've turned this into a series.  let's continue with part 2.

The next section is entitled "Blackmoor's More Infamous Characters", and details some of the PCs and NPCs of significance in the game.

The Egg of Coot is said to have been of human description millennia ago, but now nobody seems to know what it looks like: a mass of jelly, a giant egg, pure energy, a mass of living rock, and a man have all been suggested.  From the description he seems very much like a petulant, power-mad child, who who will go out of his way to crush anyone who gives him even a moment's inconvenience.  (At the risk of alienating certain of my readers, he does sound familiar...)  From other writings, my impression is that he rules the lands to the north of Blackmoor.

The Ran of Ah Fooh was a servant of the Egg of Coot, but left his service when he found himself able to create more perfect spells than the Egg.  The Ran - a 10th lever fighter and magic-user - is logical to a fault, and one hundred percent convinced of his own perfection.  He's renowned for his dragon breeding pens, and is also building up an army of zombies/androids.

There's a bunch of stuff in both of the previous entries about these villains running spell workshops that churn out spells.  The Egg's spells have a failure rate of 30% or more, while the Ran's spells have a failure rate of just 15%.  It seems like anyone can use these spells, as long as they are shown how.  I guess they are like D&D scrolls, with no class restrictions.

Gin of Salik is one of the greatest wizards in the world, and a renowned ladies man, who travels from place to place to woo the most beautiful women.  If he doesn't get his way, he devastates the region with spells and turns the one who refused him into a loathsome creature with a spell.  I suspect a teenage player might have been playing this charming character.

Marfeldt the Barbarian is a seemingly invincible warrior, who is said to have been created a year ago by a wizard that he promptly slew.  He's said to have wrecked several kingdoms to the east, and to be responsible for the upheaval in the Great Kingdom (that's a busy year...).  In addition to being an incredibly ruthless Conan knock-off, he seemingly has the power to infect others with his own mindset; anyone in his presence for more than a few turns will assume his mental characteristics, and can only be cured by a Wizard.

This description is followed by an account from the "archives of Rhun", in which Marfeldt rose through the military ranks of that country, leading it to victory against his enemies but leaving it so devastated that he himself was able to kill Rhun's Duke and entire army single-handedly.  (There is something of a charming absurdity to a lot of this material, but I also feel like it comes with a large dose of "you had to be there".)

The Duke of the Peaks is a perennial turncoat in the wars between the Egg of Coot and the Duchy of Ten, switching sides pretty much any time his forces come under threat.  The only reason his lands have never been conquered is that they shower any invaders with debauchery, and any garrison left there is subsumed into the population within a fortnight.  This doesn't apply to Marfeldt, who rolled through and killed a third of the population because he was disgusted by their wantonness.

The Blue Rider was formerly William of the Heath, who became the Blue Rider after finding a magical sword, plate armor, and a fully-armed warhorse (which seems to be highly intelligent, never eats, and runs on lamp oil).  There's an amusing bit at the end that hints that the armour is some sort of machine, and that the Blue Rider wants out but has no way to stop the thing.  Arneson's humour is weird, but I'm starting to dig it.

Mello and some other hobbits inhabit a village at a crossroads to the east of Blackmoor.  He's the lifelong sidekick of the Blue Rider, and if I'm reading this right is taller than him due to maxed ancestry?  A 5'6" hobbit?  Arneson's sentences don't always quite make sense.

The Great Svenny is the First Paladin of the kingdom, and as described seems to be its primary heroic character (despite a certain reluctance to enter the dungeons beneath Blackmoor castle).  Both the orcs and the Egg of Coot have promised rich rewards for his head.

The Bishop of the Church of the Facts of Life doesn't have much written about him as a person; most of the write up goes to his church, which sounds very much like a shrewdly run business.

That's it for this entry.  I think I'm starting to get a feel for Blackmoorand its idiosyncrasies.  Arneson's writing can be a little hard to come to grips with, though; he really needs a good editor, and it's pretty obvious that he didn't have one for this product.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Perusals & Progressions: Detect Magic

Continuing through through the 1st-level cleric spells, we come to detect magic.  I don't expect that this spell will present too many problems or revelations as I go through its history, but you never know.

ORIGINAL D&D (1974)

Detect Magic: A spell to determine if there has been some enchantment laid on a person, place or thing. It has a limited range and short duration. It is useful, for example, to discover if some item is magical, a door has been "held" or "wizard locked", etc.

This is about as basic and uncomplicated as this spell can get.  It's the first spell described in OD&D, and note that the range and duration aren't defined with specific numbers.  It seems odd, given the game's origins in wargaming, that these categories wouldn't be numerically defined, but perhaps Dave and Gary didn't think that this spell required it.  They must have changed their minds pretty quickly, because a year later in Supplement I: Greyhawk it's given a range of 6" and a duration of 2 turns.

The cleric and magic-user versions of the spell are identical.

HOLMES D&D (1977)

Detect Magic — Level: 1; Range: 60 feet; Duration: 2 turns
A spell to determine if there has been some enchantment laid on a person, place or thing. It has a limited range and short duration. It is useful, for example, to discover if some item is magical, a door has been "held" or "wizard locked," etc.

This is the exact same wording as in OD&D, and the range and duration from Supplement I have been incorporated.

B/X (1981)

Detect Magic
Range: 60'
Duration: 2 turns
This spell determines if there has been an enchantment laid upon a person, place, or thing, causing any magic item within 60' to glow. Several items may be tested until the spell's duration has ended. It is useful, for example, to discover if some item is magical, if a door has been magically "held" or "wizard locked" (see Magic-user and Elf Spells), and so forth.

There are two minor changes here: the magic that is detected now glows, and there are very rough guidelines as to how many items can be "tested" during the spell's duration.  What this means is unclear; if everything magical within the range glows, why would items need to be tested at all?  There shouldn't be a limit on the number of items detected, as long as they're all within 60 feet.

BECMI (1983)

Detect Magic
Range: 0
Duration: 2 turns
Effect: Everything within 60'
When this spell is cast, the cleric will see magical objects, creatures, and places within range glow. It will not last very long, and should be saved until the cleric wants to see if something found during an adventure is, in fact, magical. For example, a door may be held shut magically, or a treasure found might be enchanted; in either case, the magic item, creature, or effect will glow when it is within the effect.

The glow caused by this spell is clarified to be something that only the caster can see. To reflect that, the range of the spell has been changed to 0, to indicate that it affects the caster rather than the magic being detected.

The magic-user version of the spell ends with a different example: "Shortly after casting this spell, a magic-user walks into a room containing a door locked by magic, a magical potion laying nearby, and a treasure chest containing a magic wand. All the magic will glow, but only the door and potion will be seen: the light of the glowing wand is hidden by the treasure chest."  This clarification that the spell is a line-of-sight effect, and doesn't work through solid objects, is a direct contradiction of AD&D.

RULES CYCLOPEDIA (1991)

Detect Magic
Range: 0
Duration: 2 turns
Effect: Everything within 60'
When this spell is cast, the cleric will see a glow surround magical objects, creatures, and places within the spell's effect. The glow will not last very long; clerics should normally use the spell only when they want to know if particular objects already within sight are, in fact, magical. For example, a door may be held shut magically, a stranger might actually be an enchanted monster, or a treasure might be enchanted.

This spell is pretty much exactly from BECMI, and just as in BECMI the magic-user version of the spell clarifies that the caster can only detect magic on things that are in plain sight.  It seems like a bit of an editorial oversight not to include that in both versions.

That's the Basic line done, and as usual it's all very consistent.  Now let's move to AD&D.

AD&D 1st EDITION (1978)

Detect Magic (Divination)
Level: 1
Range: 3"
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1" path, 3" long
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: None
Explanation/Description: When the detect magic spell is cast, the cleric detects magical radiations in a path 1" wide, and up to 3" long, in the direction he or she is facing. The caster can turn 60 degrees per round. Note that stone walls of 1' or more thickness, solid metal of but 1/12' thickness, or 3' or more of solid wood will block the spell. The spell requires the use of the cleric’s holy (or unholy) symbol.

The range, duration, and area of effect are all changed, and the spell can detect things through solid objects (to a point).  I always find it odd how different Gary went with some things in AD&D, and that Moldvay and Mentzer didn't follow his lead on the Basic line for consistency.  There's also some trademark Gygaxian overcomplication here, with the spell being blocked by 1/12' of metal; just call it an inch, Gary!

The magic-user version of the spell has a duration of 2 rounds/level, an area of effect that stretches to 6", and a casting time of 1 segment.  It also doesn't require a holy symbol, obviously.

Druids can cast this spell, and their version has a duration of 4 rounds/level, an area of effect 4" long, and a casting time of 3 segments.  Illusionists cast it as a 2nd level spell, but their version is otherwise the same as that for magic-users.

AD&D 2nd EDITION (1989)

Detect Magic (Divination)
Sphere: Divination
Range: 30 yards
Components: V, S, M
Duration: 1 turn
Casting Time: 1 round
Area of Effect: 10-foot path
Saving Throw: None
When the detect magic spell is cast, the priest detects magical radiations in a path 10 feet wide and up to 30 yards long, in the direction he is facing.  The intensity of the magic can be detected (dim, faint, moderate, strong, overwhelming). The caster has a 10% chance per level to determine the sphere of the magic, but unlike the wizard version of the spell, the type of magic (alteration, conjuration, etc.) cannot be divined. The caster can turn, scanning a 60-degree arc per round. A stone wall of 1 foot or more thickness, solid metal of one-inch thickness, or a yard or more of solid wood blocks the spell.
The spell requires the use of the priest's holy symbol.

The magic-user version of the spell has different range and duration as in 1e, and as noted above can detect the type/school of magic.  It also ends with the following paragraph that's not in the cleric version.

Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may confuse or conceal weaker radiations. Note that this spell does not reveal the presence of good or evil, or reveal alignment. Other-planar creatures are not necessarily magical.

It's interesting that the cleric version of the spell has had its range converted to yards, whereas the magic-user version is still using feet.  In previous editions the magic-user spell had more range, but now they've been swapped.  Just as it did with detect evil, 2e introduces the idea of different aura intensities, but doesn't show how they are actually determined.

AD&D 2nd EDITION REVISED (1995)

No need to reproduce these versions of the spell, because they're identical to those in 2e except for some minor formatting changes.

D&D 3rd EDITION (2000)

Detect Magic
Universal
Level: Brd 0, Clr 0, Drd 0, Sor/Wiz 0
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 ft.
Area: Quarter circle emanating from you to the extreme of the range
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute/level (D)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No 
You detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject: 
1st Round: Presence or absence of magical auras. 
2nd Round: Number of different magical auras and the strength of the strongest aura. 
3rd Round: The strength and location of each aura. If the items or creatures bearing the auras are in line of sight, you can make Spellcraft skill checks to determine the school of magic involved in each. (Make one check per aura; DC 15 + spell level, or 15 + half caster level for a non-spell effect.) 
Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may confuse or conceal weaker auras. 
Aura Strength: An aura’s magical power and strength depend on a spell’s functioning spell level or an item’s caster level. 
Strength Functioning Spell Level Item Caster Level
Dim 0-level or lingering aura Lingering aura
Faint 1st-3rd 1st-5th
Moderate 4th-6th 6th-11th
Strong 7th-9th 12th-20th
Overwhelming Artifact or deity-level magic Beyond mortal caster

If an aura falls into more than one category, detect magic indicates the stronger of the two. 
Length Aura Lingers: How long the aura lingers depends on its original strength: 
Original Strength Duration
Faint 1d6 minutes
Moderate 1d6 x 10 minutes
Strong 1d6 hours
Overwhelming 1d6 days

Note: Each round, you can turn to detect things in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.  Outsiders and elementals are not magical in themselves, but if they are conjured, the conjuration spell registers.

Just as detect evil did, 3rd edition adds a lot in terms of determining the strength of an aura.  The area of effect, which started as a sphere in OD&D and became a narrow line in AD&D, is now a quarter circle.  The only simplification that's been done is that the cleric and magic-user versions of the spell are the same, rather than having their own arbitrarily different ranges and durations.  I should also mention that it's become a 0-level spell, effectively a cantrip, which means that it's much more likely to see use during a game.  The school has also changed from divination to universal, probably so that there won't be any specialist wizards who don't have access to it.

D&D 3.5th EDITION (2003)

Detect Magic
Divination
Level: Brd 0, Clr 0, Drd 0, Sor/Wiz 0
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: 60 ft.
Area: Cone-shaped emanation
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute/level (D)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No 
You detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject: 
1st Round: Presence or absence of magical auras. 
2nd Round: Number of different magical auras and the power of the most potent aura. 
3rd Round: The strength and location of each aura. If the items or creatures bearing the auras are in line of sight, you can make Spellcraft skill checks to determine the school of magic involved in each. (Make one check per aura; DC 15 + spell level, or 15 + half caster level for a nonspell effect.) 
Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may distort or conceal weaker auras. 
Aura Strength: An aura’s power depends on a spell’s functioning spell level or an item’s caster level. If an aura falls into more than one category, detect magic indicates the stronger of the two.
Spell or ObjectFaintModerateStrongOverwhelming
Functioning spell (spell level)3rd or lower4th-6th7th-9th10th+ (deity-level)
Magic item (caster level)5th or lower6th-11th12th-20th21st+ (artifact)
Lingering Aura: A magical aura lingers after its original source dissipates (in the case of a spell) or is destroyed (in the case of a magic item). If detect magic is cast and directed at such a location, the spell indicates an aura strength of dim (even weaker than a faint aura). How long the aura lingers at this dim level depends on its original power. 
Original StrengthDuration of Lingering Aura
Faint1d6 rounds
Moderate1d6 minutes
Strong1d6x10 minutes
Overwhelming1d6 days
Outsiders and elementals are not magical in themselves, but if they are summoned, the conjuration spell registers. 
Each round, you can turn to detect magic in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it. 
Detect magic can be made permanent with a permanency spell.

There have been some formatting changes, and a switch back to the divination school, but the 3.5e spell is much the same as that from 3e.  The major difference is that the durations for lingering auras have been greatly reduced, except for those of overwhelming power.

D&D 4th EDITION

Detect Magic (Trained Only)
Your knowledge of magic allows you to identify magical effects and sense the presence of magic. 
Identify Conjuration or Zone: Minor action.
DC: DC 15 + one-half the power’s level. You must be able to see the effect of the conjuration or zone.
Success: You identify the power used to create the effect and its power source and keywords.
Failure: You can’t try to identify the effect again during this encounter. 
Identify Ritual: Standard action.
DC: DC 20 + one-half the ritual’s level. You must be able to see or otherwise detect the ritual’s effects.
Success: You identify the ritual and its category.
Failure: You can’t try to identify the ritual again until after an extended rest. 
Identify Magical Effect: Standard action.
DC: DC 20 + one-half the effect’s level, if any. You must be able to see or otherwise detect the effect.
✦ Not a Power or a Ritual: The magical effect must be neither from a magic item nor the product of a power or a ritual.
Success: You learn the effect’s name, power source, and keywords, if any of those apply.
Failure: You can’t try to identify the effect again until after an extended rest. 
Sense the Presence of Magic: 1 minute.
DC: DC 20 + one-half the level of a magic item, power (conjuration or zone), ritual, or magical phenomenon within range.
✦ Area of Detection: You can detect magic within a number of squares equal to 5 + your level in every direction, and you can ignore any sources of magical energy you’re already aware of. Ignore all barriers; you can detect magic through walls, doors, and such.
✦ Success: You detect each source of magical energy whose DC you meet. You learn the magic’s power source, if any. If the source of magical energy is within line of sight, you pinpoint its location. If it’s not within line of sight, you know the direction from which the magical energy emanates, but you don’t know the distance to it.
✦ Failure: Either you detected nothing or there was nothing in range to detect. You can’t try again in this area until after an extended rest.

In 4th edition, detect magic is no longer a spell, and has become an application of the Arcana skill.  "Sense the Presence of Magic" is the use that's closest to the old spell, but its implementation is so different that there's not much point in comparing it to other editions.

D&D 5th EDITION (2014)

Detect Magic
1st-level divination (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
For the duration, you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic. if any.
The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt.

5th edition pares things back, getting rid of the differing power levels and lingering auras.  The area of effect has returned to being a radius.

D&D Nth EDITION

This spell is fairly consistent in its basics across editions, with only two major contradiction.  The first of these is whether it can detect magic through barriers.  As I'll do in most instances, I'm going with the majority here, and ruling that it can.  The second is the spell's area of effect; is it a radius, a line, or a cone?  I prefer detect magic to be a fairly wide-ranging spell, so I'm going to go with a radius effect.

I've kept the detection of lingering auras, but have gone my own way with the durations, having them progress as rounds/turns/hours/days.  It's an easier progression to remember than either of the two used for 3e and 3.5e.

For aura strength, I considered consolidating the ranges used for spells and magic items, but I'm not yet sure how I'm dealing with things like caster level for magic items.  For now I'll stick with the 3e method until I've looked into things more closely.

Detect Magic
Divination
Level: Cleric 1, Magic-User 1
Components: V,S,(Clr M)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 30 ft. radius
Target: Self
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 turn
Saving Throw: None
Magic Resistance: No 
When the detect magic spell is cast, the caster detects the presence and location of all magical items, creatures, places and effects around them to a range of 30 feet. Those that can be seen will appear  to the caster to glow with a faint light. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject: 
1st Round: Presence and location of each magical aura. 
Subsequent rounds: The caster can determine the strength and school of one magical aura within range.  It takes 1 round to determine an aura's strength, and another to determine its school. 
Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may distort or conceal weaker auras. Extraplanar creatures are not magical in themselves, but if they are summoned, the conjuration spell registers. 
Aura Strength: An aura’s power depends on a spell’s functioning spell level or an item’s caster level. If an aura falls into more than one category, detect magic indicates the stronger of the two. 
Strength Functioning Spell (Spell Level) Magic Item (Caster Level)
Faint 3rd or lower 1st-5th
Moderate 4th-6th 6th-11th
Strong 7th-9th 12th-20th
Overwhelming 10th+ (deity level) 21st+ (artifact)

Lingering Aura: A magical aura lingers after its original source dissipates (in the case of a spell) or is destroyed (in the case of a magic item). If detect magic is cast and directed at such a location, the spell indicates an aura strength of dim (even weaker than a faint aura).  How long the aura lingers at this dim level depends on its original power. 
Original StrengthDuration of Lingering Aura
Faint1d6 rounds
Moderate 1d6 turns
Strong 1d6 hours
Overwhelming 1d6 days

The spell can penetrate barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. 
Detect magic can be made permanent with a permanency spell. 
Components: When cast by a cleric, this spell requires the use of a holy symbol.

The above version is for the Nth Edition emulation of AD&D and Modern D&D.  For Origjnal and Basic, it will be as below.

Detect Magic
Divination
Level: Cleric 1, Magic-User 1
Components: V,S,(Clr M)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 30 ft. radius
Target: Self
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 turn
Saving Throw: None
Magic Resistance: No 
When the detect magic spell is cast, the caster detects the presence and location of all magical items, creatures, places and effects around them to a range of 30 feet. Those that can be seen will appear  to the caster to glow with a faint light.
Magical areas, multiple types of magic, or strong local magical emanations may distort or conceal weaker auras. Extraplanar creatures are not magical in themselves, but if they are summoned, the conjuration spell registers. 
The spell can penetrate barriers, but it is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. 
Components: When cast by a cleric, this spell requires the use of a holy symbol.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Recaps & Roundups 69: JG37 The First Fantasy Campaign part 1


Released around September if 1977, First Fantasy Campaign was a separate product from Judges Guild's usual bi-monthly subscription service.  It's written by Dave Arneson, and details the development and play of his Blackmoor campaign, literally the "first fantasy campaign of the title.  Since the booklet is 63 pages of very small type, I'll probably tackle this one in multiple installments.

I'll begin with the maps, of which there are two: a black & white judges' map that details the lands of Blackmoor, and a colour map for players that leaves a lot of the details blank.  I'll show the colour map below.


The book opens with a quick "Forward" (a misspelling that seems endemic to old-school RPG products), and move to an introduction by Arneson, where he gives some brief details about the campaign.  There's some interesting stuff in here, the first being that he wasn't the only DM; eventually, other players developed their own castles and dungeons, and there were half a dozen dungeons and upwards of 100 players at the campaign's height.  By that point Arneson was more of a coordinator than an actual DM, which is different from anything I've ever seen or read about in any D&D campaign.

He talks about placing Blackmoor between the Great Kingdom and the evil "Egg of Coot", and using conflicts with those two forces to drive action in the campaign.  The dungeons beneath Castle Blackmoor were originally six levels deep (for ease of generating random locations back before funny shaped dice were available), and used only those monsters available in Chainmail.  Gradually Arneson added more, name-checking gargoyles and giant beetles.

The notion is brought up that in his campaign, players only get XP for spending their treasure, which was a springboard to other adventures: often the items bought would have to be shipped into Blackmoor, and the PCs would accompany the shipment to see that it arrived safely, because they'd lose that XP if the goods were lost.

Combat is described, along with Arneson's use of hit location tables.  It sounds like the complexity of Arneson's system very much depended on the types and number of combatants involved, and that he'd change it up depending on the circumstances.

The intro ends with a somewhat sad note that after only four years Arneson's involvement in Blackmoor is very much reduced.  He says that there are still 20-30 people meeting monthly to play, but that the campaign pretty much runs itself without him.

Blackmoor, the Campaign

This segment begins with a quick description of the Great War between the good guys and bad guys that took up the majority of the third year of the campaign.  (I'm not sure here if Arneson is talking about a real-world year or a game year).  The forces on the evil side include the Egg of Coot, the Duchy of Ten, the Nomads of Ten, the Men of Maus, and the Monk's Vikings.  On the good side are the Earl of Vestfold, the Northern Lords (described as seamen), the Horsemen of Peshwah (from somewhere off the map), Bramwald (dwarves), Glendower, Boggy Bottom, the Wizard of the Wood, the Monks of the Swamp (from Supplement II's "Temple of the Frog" adventure), and the Great Kingdom (off the map to the southeast).  There are also neutral forces, which include Loch Gloomen, the Sage's Tower, the Tower of Booh (hobbits), Blackmoor, the Wizard of Mi-Karr, and the Regent of the Mines (dwarves).  Very few of these names mean anything to me, but I'm hoping that reading this product will give me a better grounding in Arneson's campaign.

It appears that the evil forces were on the offensive early on, taking Blackmoor and other fortifications while the good forces built up their armies.  Good took a pounding over summer, and started whittling down the evil forces in autumn.  By spring of the next year, the good forces were forcing evil into retreat, with more reinforcements on the way.  (It sounds as though Arneson was using some sort of card system to determine the number of points the sides could spend on troops each season, but he doesn't go into detail.)

From there it gets into the resources that each side had available to them, including incomes and the price of different troop types, and this takes up multiple pages.  I thought perhaps I could glean something from the different fantastical troop types available to each nation, but they pretty much just break down by alignment, without a lot of differentiation otherwise.

The next few pages deal with investments that PCs (presumably those at the point where they can build their own strongholds) can make: roads, bridges, canals, hunting, armories, animal breeding, religion, exploration, ship building, farming, fishing, trapping, tourism, land and sea trade, etc.  The time and gold required for all of these ventures is discussed in detail, and it's all pretty handy information to have.  (Apparently it takes over a year to make a longbow, which I had no idea about.)  Some if this gets into levels of minutiae that feel a little too much, though; do we really need to be tracking new arrivals of people down to the individual?  It's a little too granular for my tastes.

Campaign Map Notes

Arneson talks a bit about the development of the campaign map, and the Great Kingdom map also.  Apparently the map of the Great Kingdom was drawn from some old Dutch maps.  He talks about their being a phase of the campaign where the Outdoor Survival map was used, after a "bad scene at Lake Gloomy".  The way this booklet is written seems to assume that the reader is familiar with this material already.  Nothing is introduced, Arneson just mentions players and events with no context.  These things happened, but don't ask me what any of them mean or who the people involved were:

  • The area ruled by John Snider was covered in deadly yellow mist, and nobody knows what's going on in there.
  • A nomad attack from the Duchy of Ten was wiped out by Svenson and the Sniders
  • There was a great peasant revolt that wiped out Monson, badly hurt Nelson, and was then put down by the other players
  • An expedition to the City of the Gods, located in a desert south of Monson's area, cost the lives of Nelson and Gaylord.
  • Both Sniders were killed in an expedition to the home of Father Dragon, and an offspring took over Richard's holdings.  (I guess Richard is one of the Sniders?)

That's it for this week.  I'm only a dozen pages in, but I don't want to gloss over this stuff, especially where it comes to campaign details.  I've far more familiarity with Greyhawk lore than Blackmoor, and it's something I'd like to rectify.  The way Arneson writes makes it pretty difficult to piece together, unfortunately.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Perusals & Progressions: Detect Evil

Before I begin, I'll note here for anyone interested that I made a quick edit to the post on cure light wounds.  I decided to keep its ability to cure paralysis, as I had a look at remove paralysis and saw that it affects multiple targets.  The cure wounds spells being able to un-paralyse one person is a reasonable application that doesn't make remove paralysis worthless.

Anyway, on to detect evil.  I think it's safe to say that this has always been a problem spell for D&D.  I feel like its original intent was to detect supernatural evil, like evil spells and people who are possessed, that sort of thing.  Somewhere along the way it became an all-purpose bad person detector, and a crutch for low-level parties to solve mysteries.  (To be honest, the paladin ability is more problematic than the spell, being at-will, but the principle is the same.)  I could be wrong about the above, but part of the purpose of this series is for me to fully explore the origins and development of each spell. It's good to go to the source, and explode any misconceptions I might have.

Alright, let's start with detect evil.

ORIGINAL D&D (1974)

Detect Evil: A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil.
Duration: 2 turns. Range: 6".

This spell already starts off ambiguous, with its detection of "evil thought or intent".   I wonder if this ambiguity was a result of there being no specifically evil alignment in OD&D?  Anyway, to me it seems like the intention is that the spell will tell you if somebody or something means you harm.  The  above spell is the magic-user version, and a 2nd level spell; the cleric version is 1st level, and has a duration of 6 turns and a range of 12".  It's also reversed for Chaotic clerics, with no explanation of what that means.

HOLMES BASIC (1977)

Detect Evil — Level 2; Range: 60 feet; Duration: 2 turns
A spell to detect evil thought or evil intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Poison, however, is neither good nor evil.

Holmes Basic doesn't change anything up here, except to convert 6" to 60 feet.  The cleric spell has a range of 120 feet and a duration of 6 turns.  The reverse of the spell is named as detect good, but that name is all that's given.

B/X (1981)

Detect Evil
Range: 60'
Duration: 2 turns 
This spell can be used to detect evil intentions, or evilly enchanted objects within 60' causing the creatures or objects to glow. Actual thoughts are not detected; only the "feeling of evil". The exact definition of "evil" is left to each referee, and players should discuss this point so that all are in agreement; "Chaotic" is not always "evil". Poison and physical traps are neither good nor evil.

Now the ambiguity intensifies, as the definition of evil is being specifically left up to the DM.  The advice to discuss it with players is a sound one, but we're already off into the weeds with this spell.  The clarification that it doesn't detect actual thoughts is a good one though.  The cleric spell has the same increased range and duration, but is no longer reversible for some reason.  I suppose when a spell is reversed to detect "good intentions" it's not so useful.  The bit about the affected creatures glowing is an odd one as well.  Is this a glow that everyone can see, or just the caster?

BECMI (1983)

Detect Evil
Range: 60'
Duration: 2 turns
Effect: Everything within 60' 
When this spell is cast, the magic-user will see all evilly enchanted objects within 60' glow. It will also cause creatures that want to harm the magic-user to glow when they are within range. The actual thoughts of the creatures cannot be heard. Remember that "Chaotic" does not automatically mean Evil, although many Chaotic monsters have evil intentions. Traps and poison are neither good nor evil, merely dangerous.

Okay, this is a little better: it specifically detects evilly enchanted objects and creatures that mean the caster harm. Much less ambiguous, and much less likely to cause debates about the nature of evil.  It even clarifies the glowing as something only the caster can see.  As in previous editions, the cleric spell is better.

RULES CYCLOPEDIA (1991)

Detect Evil
Range: 60'
Duration: 2 turns
Effect: Everything within 60' 
When this spell is cast, the spellcaster will see a glow surround all evilly-enchanted objects within 60'. It will also cause creatures that want to harm the spellcaster to glow when they are within range. The spell, however, does not allow the spellcaster to hear the actual thoughts of the creatures.  Remember that Chaotic alignment is not automatically the same as evil, although many Chaotic monsters have evil intentions. Traps and poison are neither good nor evil, but merely dangerous.

The Rules Cyclopedia follows BECMI's lead, without making any changes.  The Basic line, as usual, has done a pretty good job of taking the OD&D spell and refining it, and in this case ironing out most of the ambiguities along the way.

AD&D 1st EDITION (1978)

Detect Evil (Divination) Reversible
Level: 1
Range: 12“
Duration: 1 turn + ½ turn/level
Area of Effect:  1" path
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: None 
Explanation/Description: This is a spell which discovers emanations of evil, or of good in the case of the reverse spell, from any creature or object. For example, evil alignment or an evilly cursed object will radiate evil, but a hidden trap or an unintelligent viper will not. The duration of a detect evil (or detect good) spell is 1 turn + ½ turn (5 rounds, or 5 minutes) per level of the cleric. Thus a cleric of 1st level of experience can cast a spell with a 1½ turn duration, at 2nd level a 2 turn duration, 2½  at 3rd, etc. The spell has a path of detection 1” wide in the direction in which the cleric is facing. It requires the use of the cleric’s holy (or unholy) symbol as its material component, with the cleric holding it before him or her.

That's the cleric spell above; the magic-user spell is 2nd level, has a 6" range, a duration of 5 rounds/level, a casting time of 2, and doesn't require any material components.  This is where the spell starts to detect actual alignment, and note that nothing is mentioned here about "evil intent".  This is an alignment detector, plain and simple.  It also has a much narrower focus, a 1" path rather than the 60' radius of the Basic version.

AD&D 2nd EDITION (1989)

Detect Evil (Divination)
Reversible 
Sphere: All
Range: 120 yards
Components: V, S, M
Duration: 1 turn + 5 rounds/level
Casting Time: 1 round
Area of Effect: 10-foot path
Saving Throw: None 
This spell discovers emanations of evil, or of good in the case of the reverse spell, from any creature, object, or area. Character alignment, however, is revealed only under unusual circumstances: characters who are strongly aligned, who do not stray from their faith, and who are of at least 9th level might radiate good or evil if intent upon appropriate actions. Powerful monsters, such as rakshasas or ki-rin, send forth emanations of evil or good, even if polymorphed.  Aligned undead radiate evil, for it is this power and negative force that enable them to continue existing. An evilly cursed object or unholy water radiates evil, but a hidden trap or an unintelligent viper does not. 
The degree of evil (faint, moderate, strong, overwhelming) and possibly its general nature (expectant, malignant, gloating, etc.) can be noted. If the evil is overwhelming, the priest has a 10% chance per level of detecting its general bent (lawful, neutral, chaotic). The duration of a detect evil (or detect good) spell is one turn plus five rounds per level of the priest. Thus a priest of 1st experience level can cast a spell with a 15-round duration, at 2nd level he can cast a 20-round duration spell, etc. The spell has a path of detection 10 feet wide in the direction in which the priest is facing. The priest
must concentrate - stop, have quiet, and intently seek to detect the aura - for at least one round to receive a reading. 
The spell requires the use of the priest's holy symbol as its material component, with the priest holding it before him.

The magic-user spell has the same differences as in 1e.  2nd edition walks back the pure alignment detection of 1e, going back to detecting "intent".  It even makes the spell completely unusable on characters of less than 9th level; there's definitely no solving low-level mysteries with this version.  I like the specification of different types of monsters that register.  The introduction of degrees of evil being detected is a little half-baked though, with no indication of how to judge it.  As for the difference between expectant and malignant evil, your guess is as good as mine.

Oh, I just noticed that the range is way high here.  The Basic line converted OD&D's ranges of 6" and 12" into tens of feet, but 2e has gone with tens of yards.  I know that movement rates and missile fire ranges are supposed to be converted into yards in the wilderness in AD&D, but does the same apply to spell ranges?  I've always been iffy on that.  It does seem like an absurdly long range to me.

AD&D 2nd EDITION REVISED (1995)

There aren't any significant changes here.

D&D 3rd EDITION (2000)

Detect Evil
Divination
Level: Clr 1, Rgr 2
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 ft.
Area: Quarter circle emanating from you to the extreme of the range
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes/level (D)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No 
You can sense the presence of evil. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject: 
1st Round: Presence or absence of evil. 
2nd Round: Number of evil auras (creatures, objects, or spells) in the area and the strength of the strongest evil aura present. If you are of good alignment, the strongest evil aura’s strength is "overwhelming" (see below), and the strength is at least twice your character level, you are stunned for 1 round and the spell ends. While you are stunned, you can’t act, you lose any Dexterity bonus to AC, and attackers gain +2 bonuses to attack you. 
3rd Round: The strength and location of each aura. If an aura is outside your line of sight, then you discern its direction but not its exact location. 
Aura Strength: An aura’s evil power and strength depend on the type of evil creature or object that you’re detecting and its HD, caster level, or (in the case of a cleric) class level. 
Creature/Object Evil Power
Evil creature HD / 5
Undead creature HD / 2
Evil elemental HD / 2
Evil magic item or spell Caster level / 2
Evil outsider HD
Cleric of an evil deity Level

Evil Power Aura Strength
Lingering Dim
1 or less Faint
2–4 Moderate
5–10 Strong
11+ Overwhelming

If an aura falls into more than one strength category, the spell indicates the stronger of the two. 
Length Aura Lingers: How long the aura lingers depends on its original strength: 
Original Strength Duration
Faint 1d6 minutes
Moderate 1d6 x 10 minutes
Strong 1d6 hours
Overwhelming 1d6 days

Remember that animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil; this
spell does not detect them. 
Note: Each round, you can turn to detect things in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

Well, 3rd edition certainly took the "degrees of evil" bit from 2e and ran with it.  And we're back to the spell being an alignment detector, with no hint of "evil intent" being a factor.  In a big departure, the spell can't even be cast by wizards anymore, and the area has widened from a 10' line to a quarter circle.  The range is back to feet, not yards.

D&D 3.5th EDITION (2003)

Only two rules changes are made in 3.5 that I can see: the spell is no longer available to rangers, and the numbers have been tweaked for how long evil auras linger.  The tables for determining aura strength have been combined and greatly simplified in presentation, though.  I can't be bothered doing the formatting right now, so I'll just link to the d20 SRD if you want to check it out.

D&D 4th EDITION (2008)

I'm not entirely sure about this, but it looks to me as though this ability doesn't exist in any form in 4e.  I can't say I blame them for getting rid of it.

D&D 5th EDITION (2014)

DETECT EVIL AND GOOD
1st-level divination 
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes 
For the duration, you know if there is an aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, fiend, or undead within 30 feet of you, as well as where the creature is located. Similarly, you know if there is a place or object within 30 feet of you that has been magically consecrated or desecrated. 
The spell can penetrate most barriers, but it is blocked by 1 fool of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or'3 feet of wood or dirt.

The more I look at 5th edition spells, the more impressed I am by how much they cut away the bullshit.  This spell isn't really detect evil though, at least not in any form it's had previously.  It's not an alignment detector, and it's not an "evil intent" detector, but rather a spell to detect undead and extraplanar creatures.  4e ditched the original, and 5e brought it back in name only.

Nth EDITION

Okay, so the first question I need to answer is this: what does this spell actually do?  I'm going to start with the 3e version as a base, which means it detects evil as an alignment, but I don't want it to detect just regular folks.  For the most part, it's going to work on outsiders, undead, and high-level clerics.  For regular people, humanoids, etc, it will only register faint evil for those who specifically want to harm the caster.  I feel like that covers pretty much all the uses of the spell outlined above.

As in earlier editions, this will be a 1st level spell for clerics, and a 2nd level spell for magic-users.  I'm only developing the game elements from OD&D at the moment, so I don't need to do anything for other classes yet.  I won't bother with the better range and duration for clerics: I figure that getting it as a 1st-level spell is bonus enough.

For the area of effect, I'm going with the 10 foot line rather than the cone, or the radius effect.  I prefer this spell to be as tightly focused as possible.

I thought about ditching the lingering aura stuff, but I kind of like it as a possible tracking method.  It's an extra complication, but it's the sort of thing that's not going to come up very often.

I've also simplified the whole bit about good clerics being stunned by overwhelming auras.  3e uses a formula to figure it out, but I've just boiled it down to a saving throw.  Seems easier that way.

The advanced version of the spell will look like this:

Detect Evil / Detect Good
Divination
Level: Cleric 1, Magic-User 2
Components: V, S, (Cleric M)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 60 ft.
Area: 10 ft. wide, 60 ft. long
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes (D)
Saving Throw: None
Magic Resistance: No

You can sense the presence of supernatural evil, and evil creatures that wish you harm. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject:

1st Round: Presence or absence of evil. The following are detected: evil creatures that wish you harm; evil undead; evil extraplanar creatures; evil magic items or spells; high-level evil clerics (see below).

2nd Round: Number of evil auras (creatures, objects, or spells) in the area and the power of the most potent evil aura present. If you are of good alignment, and the strongest evil aura’s power is overwhelming (see below), you must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to the HD or caster level) or be stunned for 1 round.  This ends the detect evil spell.

3rd Round: The power and location of each aura.

Aura Power: An aura’s power depends on the type of evil creature or object that you’re detecting and its HD, caster level, or (in the case of a cleric) class level; see the accompanying table.

If an aura falls into more than one strength category, the spell indicates the stronger of the two.

Creature/Object Faint Moderate Strong Overwhelming
Evil creatures that wish the caster harm All - - -
Undead and extraplanar (HD) 1-2 3-6 7-12 13 or higher
Cleric of an evil deity* (class levels) - 7-8 9-12 13 or higher
Evil magic item or spell (caster level) 1-2 3-8 9-12 13 or higher

* Note that clerics of evil deities don't radiate an evil alignment until they gain the ability to cast 4th level spells (usually when they are 7th level)

Lingering Aura: An evil aura lingers after its original source dissipates (in the case of a spell) or is destroyed (on the case of a creature or magic item).  If detect evil is cast and directed at such a location, the spell indicates an aura strength of dim (even weaker than a faint aura). How long the aura lingers at this dim level depends on its original power. Note that creatures who only register because they wish the caster harm leave no lingering aura.

Original Power Duration of Lingering Aura
Faint 1d6 rounds
Moderate 1d6 minutes
Strong 1d6 hours
Overwhelming 1d6 days

Animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil, and as such this spell does not detect them.

Each round, you can turn to detect evil in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.
This spell is reversed as detect good.  It works exactly as detect evil, but detects creatures and magic of good alignment. 
Components: A cleric requires their holy symbol to cast this spell.

For the simpler version of the spell for OD&D and Basic, I've stripped out the lingering auras and the stuff about aura power, as shown below.  I also switch the alignment detection from evil to chaotic, as the Basic line has no evil alignment.  In those games, chaotic pretty much equates to evil so it should work.

Detect Evil
Divination
Level: Cleric 1, Magic-User 2
Components: V, S, (Cleric M)
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: 60 ft.
Area: 10 ft. wide, 60 ft. long
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes (D)
Saving Throw: None
Magic Resistance: No

You can sense the presence of supernatural evil, and evil creatures that wish you harm. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject:

1st Round: Presence or absence of evil. The following are detected: chaotic creatures that wish you harm; chaotic undead; chaotic extraplanar creatures; chaotic magic items or spells; high-level chaotic clerics (those capable of casting 4th-level spells).

2nd Round: Number of evil auras (creatures, objects, or spells) in the area. If you are of lawful alignment, and the Hit Dice or caster level of the strongest aura is 13 or more, you must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to the HD or caster level) or be stunned for 1 round.  This ends the detect evil spell.

3rd Round: The location of each aura.

Animals, traps, poisons, and other potential perils are not evil, and as such this spell does not detect them.

Each round, you can turn to detect evil in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it. 
This spell is reversed as detect good.  It works exactly as detect evil, but detects creatures and magic of lawful alignment.  
Components: A cleric requires their holy symbol to cast this spell.

NEXT: Next time (probably Monday) I'll be looking at detect magic.