Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Strategic Review #3

ARTICLES NOT RELATED TO THIS PROJECT: This issue begins with a nice rant by Gary regarding a negative review of D&D - classic Gygax. There's a news section that assures us Empire of the Petal Throne is nearly done, and also gives the odd bit of news that Gary is full-time with the company. There's a humour article featuring new monsters that are so obviously intended as a joke that I won't be using them. An article on the Battle of the Ebro River, and a song about a unicorn round things out.

And now, a whole lot of monsters!

YETI: These white-furred monsters live in the snow and aren't seen much by men - which is lucky for them, because like most D&D monsters Yetis like to eat people. As expected, they're extra-vulnerable to fire. They're also hard to spot, and if they surprise you there's a chance you might look into the beast's eyes and be paralyzed.
It could be hard to get these monsters into the campaign - there aren't too many snowy environments near Greyhawk. But perhaps when I get the PCs up north to Blackmoor (which I intend to do through the Adventurer's Guild portal) I'll throw some in. They'll certainly be a standby for random encounters in snowy areas.

SHAMBLING MOUND: Or as they are otherwise called, "Shamblers". They are basically a giant heap of intelligent, rotting vegetation. There's a bit of biology, noting that the Shambler's brain is right in the centre of its body. They're also resistant to lots of attacks - fire does nothing, cold is only 50% effective, and lightning actually heals them. Even weapons deal half damage, so it's almost as though the creature has 12 to 18 hit dice instead of 6 to 9. Their deadliest feature, though, is their ability to smother and suffocate any foe they hit twice in one round.
Fitting Shambling Mounds in ought to be no problem - swamp or forest encounters will fit, and even some dungeon locations would work.

LEPRECHAUN: Ah, more irritating fey. And these ones are irritating by design, as they like to steal things and frustrate players with their wide array of magical powers and resistances. The only consolation you might get from these annoyances is in tricking them out of their treasure, but even that is hard. Though they do love wine...
Being so specifically Irish makes them a poor fit for D&D at least as I envision it - but I'll enjoy harassing my players with them, so it's all good.

SHRIEKERS: Great purple mushrooms that shriek loudly when light or movement is nearby - attracting monsters of course! I notice here that they can move around - I never knew that. And they are a prized food of Purple Worms and Shambling Mounds, which gives me a pretty good idea of what might be attracted to their shrieking.

GHOSTS: For some reason they are said not to be true undead - but they are the spirits of totally evil humans, and hate all life. The sight of one can age you ten years, and its touch ages you from 10 to 40! Mostly they try to possess you, though, which seems to me a lesser evil. And being incorporeal, they are absolute bastards to hit.
The comment about not being true undead is curious. I can't think of what separates them from something like a Wraith or a Spectre. Perhaps ghosts never crossed over into the land of the dead, and so can't be considered "un"-dead, having never officially died in spirit. Or something.

NAGA: There are three varieties of Naga, all snake-like in body. The Guardian Naga guards treasure for Lawful beings, and can spit poison in addition to being able to cast Cleric spells. Water Naga (the most common sort) usually live in palaces at the bottom of lakes, and can cast magic-user spells. Spirit Naga are evil, and have human heads as well - and they have a gaze that can charm you permanently! And if that doesn't work they can cast both types of spells, so they're not to be messed with.

WIND WALKER: Telepathic wind monsters that live on high mountains or deep caverns. Only other wind creatures (such as Djinn, Aerial Servants, etc,) can melee them, and there is a very limited range of spells that can affect them (mostly weather-based). Storm Giants often force them into servitude.

PIERCER: Unfairly maligned, I think. They are basically monsters shaped like stalactites that cling to the roof and drop on adventurers, attracted by noise and heat. Sure, they're more of a trap than a monster, but I love them in all their nonsensical glory.

LURKER ABOVE: It's a manta ray with a rocky hide that can cling to ceilings to become undetectable. They attack by dropping on victims and smothering them, which seems a good way to take out a few adventurers at once.

That's the new monsters done, but there are a few other articles of interest to follow.

GALLERY OF GUNFIGHTERS: It's an article about gunfighting in the Old West, which is pretty interesting. But why am I talking about it here, in a D&D campaign? Go take a look at the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide - there's a section in there about converting Boot Hill characters to D&D. Boot Hill was TSR's game about the West - and if Gary is providing a method for using it with D&D, then I'll have to find a way to include it in my mega-sandbox. The Adventurer's Guild portal is the obvious answer - I'll hide a key somewhere in Castle Greyhawk that leads to 1885 in the USA, and watch as my players flip out.

DESERTED CITIES OF MARS: We also have an article about the architecture of the races of Barsoom (which we know as Mars). Some rules for Mars were already included in OD&D, so it's already a destination I have planned for. I'll use this article to help design buildings and such.

MAPPING THE DUNGEONS: This is mostly a round-up of some minor D&D happenings, but one report comes from a certain Dave Arneson, and involves a foray his players made into Nazi Germany! Here's the text:

"We had an interesting game this weekend in preparation for the great SUPER-NAZI confrontation. A band of heroes went through the ol’ teleporter, and after mucking around awhile (robbery, kidnapping, murder, rape, etc.) the locals sent the police and army after them. (The Germans thought it was guerrilla activity.) The army finally found the farm they were using as a camp and moved in to search it. While thus busily employed the heroes returned from a foray and ambushed them. It was The Great Svenny, Marty the Elf, Richard the Hairy, and 5 berserkers against 26 soldiers with 2 cars, 2 trucks, 4 light mg’s, 2 mortars (60 mm), and the usual bevy of small arms. Marty the Elf and 2 berserkers were killed, while the troops lost 7 KIA and 1 wounded before fleeing — good thing too, for shortly thereafter the remainder of the heroes’ force arrived, 3 magical types and another 12 berserkers! The Nazis will certainly be back in strength, and this will result in a big battle . . . "

Not only do we learn the names of 3 prominent adventurers of Blackmoor (The Great Svenny, Marty the Elf (who dies), and Richard the Hairy), we learn that somewhere in Blackmoor is a teleporter that leads to Nazi Germany. And not only that, but Gary follows it up with a story of similar goings on around Greyhawk. There's a lot of dimension-hopping hinted at in the last few entries, that's for sure!

TOMORROW: The Strategic Review #4

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Stretegic Review #2

This issue begins on a rather sombre note, by mentioning the recent death of TSR co-founder Don Kaye. I don't know how influential he was on the game itself, but he certainly helped to shape the company, and his death here was the earliest seed of Gary's eventual ouster from TSR.

From there it's an editorial by Brian Blume, some stuff about the Strategists' Club, additions to Cavaliers and Roundheads, and a round-up of recent Wargaming news - none of it relevant to the project at hand.


The first section deals with combat - it mentions that the regular Chainmail combat system is intended for large battles mainly involving humanoids, and that Chainmail's Man-to-Man and Fantasy Supplement systems are for battles of smaller size. The 'alternate system' provided in D&D is recommended for important melees - and aren't they all? I won't be using the Chainmail systems for anything less than skirmish combat, so it's of little concern.

The next paragraph mentions that there is normally only one exchange of attacks per round. It's then clarified that all attacks deal 1d6 without regard for weapon type, unless otherwise noted. Since I'll have already introduced variable weapon damage from Supplement I, this is also of no concern.

What is of concern is the clarification that PCs get multiple attacks when fighting creatures of 1 hit dice or less. It's not stated whether this only applies to Fighters. In AD&D it does, but for OD&D I'm inclined to let every class get multiple attacks based on Fighting Capability. So when your Fighting Capability says you fight as 2 Men, you get two attacks against creatures of less than 1 hit dice.

Initiative and surprise get a brief mention. It is stated that initiative is checked every round, and adjusted by Dexterity - high Dex grants a +1 to the roll.

The combat example shows a 4th Level Fighter getting ambushed by 10 Orcs. Its interesting in that it provides perfectly workable grappling rules that I've never seen elsewhere. Basically each side rolls a number of dice based on their hit dice total, and the higher result wins the grapple - grapplers may also be thrown off and stunned for a number of turns. I really like this, it's simple and easily used at the table.

Monster saving throws get a mention - most monsters save as a fighter of the same hit dice, and those with magic resistance might save as magic-users.

Morale is mentioned, seeing as it did not get covered in OD&D. PCs and unintelligent monsters don't use it, but others do. The simple system provided involves a roll of 2d6 where low is bad and high is good. It's much like the one from Chainmail, so no problems there.

Experience points for magic items are discussed, even though no such possibility was brought up in OD&D. Rewards range from 100XP for a magic arrow to 1,000 XP for a +1 Sword to 5,000 XP for a 'Genie Ring' (presumably a Ring of Wishes). The rest if this section reiterates what is said in OD&D, adding that creatures with special powers should be worth more XP.

This concludes with a discussion of spells, and how many spells a magic-user can cast in a day. It also clarifies that spells cast from scrolls disappear. The usual Vancian stuff.

THE ROPER: It's a new monster! This 'mass of foul, festering corruption' is cigar-shaped, about 9' tall, and has six sticky tentacles that cause weakness that it uses to drag victims into its maw. It's immune to a lot of stuff - lightning, charm, half-damage from cold, and 80% magic resistance to top it off. Fire is more effective against it, and since that's usually a Magic-User's first go-to weapon they'll find that out quickly enough.

This is one of the first instances we have of treasure inside a monster - the Roper often has gems in its gizzard.

Ropers are yet another cool monster that I've never used in a game - more a factor of infrquent gaming and my games petering out before high level than the monster itself.

RANGERS: It's a new class! This Ranger is heavily based on Aragorn from Lord of the Rings - the warrior that protects civilization from the monsters of the wild. They first appeared in Chainmail as slightly tougher Heroes, but here they are expanded into a class all their own.

It's much like the 1st Edition AD&D Ranger. Strength is their Prime Requisite, but they also require a high Intelligence, Wisdom and Constitution - not many characters rolled by 3d6 in order will qualify. But that's ok - I prefer the more powerful sub-classes to be a rarity. They also have to be Lawful, and if they stray lose everything except their abilities as a Fighter.

Looking at their XP chart, they take longer to advance than Fighters, but they start with 2 hit dice at first level. At much higher levels they get the ability to cast both Cleric and Magic-User spells, which I suppose is intended to model some of Aragorn's powers.

Despite these advantages, there are a few drawbacks - they can only own what they carry, they can't hire servants, and only two can work together at any one time.

They automatically get a 25% bonus to XP! That's pretty good, and just about negates their steep advancement chart - except that it's lost after 8th level. They can also track creatures, are difficult to surprise, and get a damage bonus equal to their level against monsters of the Giant class - from the Wandering Monster charts, this includes all the evil humanoids and giants.

At higher levels they get access to more magic items, and they automatically get some followers. Most of these are similar to the PC types, but other options include Werebears, Hill Giants, and even Golden Dragons! Something tells me that some of these options will get excised when AD&D rolls around...

In campaign terms, all of these guys are going to be much like they were in Lord of the Rings - the ancestors of ancient kings of men that lurk at the fringes of society and protect it from evil monsters. Once rumours of the dungeons reawakening get out Rangers will start investigating that and become part of the Adventurers Guild - not through their own guild, but as part of the Guild of Fighting-Men.

MEDIEVAL POLE ARMS: Aaaaaaaaaah! It's Gary banging on about pole arms for a couple of pages - if you own a copy of Unearthed Arcana you've already seen it in all its ghastliness. This is the first iteration, but by no means the last. At least it provides stats for using some of these in Chainmail. About this point I'll probably introduce a weapons vendor who keeps trying to entice players into his shop with glaive-guisarmes and bohemian earspoons.

On Monday I continue with The Strategic Review #3, which sees the introduction of a whole host of new monsters, as well as... Nazis and Cowboys?!? Believe it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 9

More magic items today, followed by a wrap-up for Supplement I and a dissection of the illustrations.

DUST OF APPEARANCE: Throw it in the air and it lets you see creatures that are invisible, out of phase, or in the astral plane. Whether it allows you to attack astral and out of phase creatures is left vague, but I would rule that it doesn't.

DISAPPEARANCE DUST: Makes anyone it's sprinkled on invisible, and that invisibility is undetectable by magic. I remember that later versions of this aren't negated when you attack, but this version doesn't mention that power (which I exploited oh so effectively in Curse of the Azure Bonds).

DUST OF SNEEZING AND CHOKING: If it's thrown on you, save vs. poison or die. The intent is that players will think it's one of the above items and try to use it, but in my experience it's more often deployed as a weapon against monsters.

TALISMAN OF LAWFULNESS: This is great - it gives any Patriarch the ability to 'sink an Evil High Priest to the center of the Earth forever.' Sweet.

TALISMAN OF CHAOS SUPREME: The opposite version of the Talisman of Lawfulness. It's cooler, though, because it is evil.

TALISMAN OF THE SPHERE: Increases a Magic-User's chance to control a Sphere of Annihilation, and damages anyone else who touches it. More on the Sphere later.

JAVELINS OF LIGHTNING: What it says - javelins that become lightning bolts when thrown. Why is this in Miscellaneous and not Weapons?

ARROW OF DIRECTION: Seven times a week you can ask a direction (nearest cave, way out of the dungeon, etc.) and the arrow provides it.

SAW OF MIGHTY CUTTING: Allows you to cut down a tree in about an hour. I don't know much about tree-cutting, but it doesn't sound all that impressive.

MATTOCK OF THE TITANS: It's a great hammer that's primary utility seems to be in smashing down doors. Alas a player can't use it in combat - it's sized for Giants and Titans.

SPADE OF COLOSSAL EXCAVATIONS: Dig a hole of 1 cubic yard in ten minutes. Pretty good, but again not exceedingly magical.

WINGS OF FLYING: Stick them on your back and you can fly like a Gargoyle.

CUBE OF FORCE: Creates a force field around the user that can only be brought down by a few things, including a ton of flaming oil.

PORTABLE HOLE: A hole you can carry about with you whereever you go. It opens into an extradimensional space, but that space has no oxygen.

HORSESHOES OF SPEED: They make your horse go faster.

SPHERE OF ANNIHILATION: A globe of nothingness that utterly destroys anything it touches. It is moved via force of will, and if there are two potential users a contest of wills can occur. The players in my campaign have got a Sphere at their disposal at the moment, which may have been a mistake - but I have plans...

CHIME OF OPENING: It's worth 30,000 gp, but its true value is that it opens any locks or doors nearby when it is sounded.

PIPES OF THE SEWERS: Wisely, they didn't call these sewer pipes. But when you sound them you can summon 10-60 giant rats - that's pretty awesome! There's a small chance they won't be obedient, but that many giant rats are always going to come in handy.

LYRE OF BUILDING: Negates a Horn of Blasting, and can also do the equivalent of a week's work by 100 men.

FIGURINES OF WONDROUS POWER: Figurines that come to life and obey your commands. There's an Ebony Fly that can be used as a mount, a Marble Elephant that can be used as a war animal, 2 Golden Lions which also melee, an Onyx Dog that can sense things like a Robe of Eyes, and 3 Ivory Goats. The goats are: The Goat of Fleeing, which can carry you to a named haven; the Goat of Fighting, which is pretty badass in combat; and the Goat of Slaying, which is even more badass and has horns that convert to magic weapons.

WIZARD'S ROBE: Dramatically increases the effectiveness of Charm, Hold and Polymorph spells. These robes all have an alignment, but how this affects anything is left unexplained.

ROBE OF BLENDING: This robe changes to match the surroundings - and as well as mimicking terrain it can make the wearer look like nearby creatures as well.

ROBE OF EYES: The wearer can see in all directions, and detect invisible and hidden enemies. The best thing about it, though, is that it makes the wearer immune to surprise.

ROBE OF POWERLESSNESS: When you put it on, you forget all your spells and become weak, stupid and foolish. Some characters may appear to be unaffected.

MANUAL OF PUISSANT SKILL AT ARMS: And now we come to the various manuals, each one keyed to give Experience Points to a certain class. This one grants extra XP to Fighters, but if a Magic-User reads it it breaks his brain and he loses XP.

MANUAL OF STEALTHY PILFERING: As above, but keyed to Thieves, and any other class reading it loses XP.

BOOK OF EXALTED DEEDS: Any Lawful Cleric who reads this immediately gains a level. Neutral Clerics lose 1, Chaotics lose 2. Chaotic Clerics also have a 50/50 chance to repent and become Lawful. Anyone else either loses XP or hit points - some Lawful book this is!

BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS: So iconic they named a 3e supplement after it. It's the reverse of the Book of Exalted Deeds, but it's even nastier to those who read it - Lawful Clerics are stricken insane, Neutral Clerics become Chaotic, and Paladins need a whole suite of divine blessings or they lose thier Paladin status forever.

LIBRAM OF SILVER MAGIC: Much like the Book of Exalted Deeds, this advances Lawful Magic-Users, changes the alignment of Neutrals, and drains a level from Chaotics.

LIBRAM OF INEFFABLE DAMNATION: Best name evar, and it's the opposite of the Libram of Silver Magic.

This implies that Law and Chaos are important factors to Magic-Users, or at least they were when these books were first created. More to think on.

MANUAL OF GAINFUL EXERCISE: Gives anyone who reads it a +1 bonus to Strength.

MANUAL OF BODILY HEALTH: As above, but +1 Constitution



TOME OF CLEAR THOUGHT: +1 Intelligence


MANUAL OF GOLEMS: Teaches magic-users how to make a specific type of Golem, Flesh being the most likely and Iron the least. Fighters and Thieves only have to handle the thing to be damaged, and Clerics that read it lose XP, which is a shame - I like the idea of Clerics creating Golems. Anyway, they're expensive - 1,000 XP per hit point!

BOOK OF INFINITE SPELLS: Has a number of pages, each with a spell on it. When the book is open to a certain page, the spell on that page can be cast as many times as the caster likes - but as soon as a page is turned it can never be turned back, and there's a 10% chance of the page turning every time the spell is cast. Not to mention wind and other regular things that can turn pages...

The Books all appear to be identical, and there's certainly a story in that - were they all invented by the same culture at roughly the same time? It seems likely.

DECK OF MANY THINGS: Ah, breaker of many a game, instigator of many an adventure. There's nothing like a Deck of Many Things to make a game interesting. It has the potential to ruin your character utterly, or to propel him to some giddy heights.

Basically, you pick a card from the deck, and whatever comes up affects your character for good or ill.

Ace of Hearts - +50,000 XP
King of Hearts - Gain a Miscellaneous Magic Item - of your character's choice!
Queen of Hearts - Gain 1-3 Wishes
Jack of Hearts - Help from an 8th level Fighter with lots of magic items

Ace of Diamonds - Map to richest treasure on dungeon level
King of Diamonds - Gain 5-30 pieces of jewelry
Queen of Diamonds - Scrolls of 7 spells, no 1st levels guaranteed
Jack of Diamonds - +1 to any score you want

Ace of Spades - -1 level
King of Spades - Lord with magic items attacks you, and his magic items even disappear when he's defeated
Queen of Spades - Die, no save!
Jack of Spade - Surprised by 5th level monster

Ace of CLubs - Alignment change!
King of CLubs - Lose your favourite magic item
Queen of CLubs - Turn to stone (No save)
JAck of Clubs - -1 to Prime Requisite

Joker - +25,000 XP or pick two more cards

It's not as fun or game-breaking as the version in AD&D, but there is still plenty of mayhem to be had. It should be placed into a campaign only with extreme caution - or if you don't care about such things go ahead and leave it in the random chart. Just be aware of the potential for chaos.

And gods be praised, that is all for magic items. We're now through the section of Supplement I that corresponds to OD&D's Vol. II (Monsters & Treasure), and are into the area that covers Vol. III (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).

This begins with an expanded list of tricks and traps, and there are some doozies here. For my campaign I plan to incorporate all of these into Castle Greyhawk directly, or into other dungeons nearby.

The standard array of traps that befoul mapping attempts and drop the PCs to lower levels of the dungeon are present, but there are a few more interesting samples as well. Some highlights follow:

A box of animal crackers which spring to life when grasped. This highlights the often whimsical nature of the Greyhawk campaign, especially when you might get a bear that will dump its bowl of porridge on the head of a player. It's not really my thing as far as humour goes, but there are some other viable options as well.

Various gases are mentioned, and of particular interest is the one that changes the victim's sex. This is a common theme that Gary repeatedly returns to.

Another testament to the free-wheeling nature of OD&D is the variety of effects that can be had by pulling strange levers. Aside from old standbys like alignment change, a PC could change class, or even become a monster.

A room full of animated furniture is mentioned, and it is specifically noted that a variation of this dubbed "The Living Room" is a part of Castle Greyhawk. Pied Piper Publishing has released a product by Rob Kuntz detailing this room, and I'll be adding it to my version of Castle Greyhawk when the time comes. The full description for posterity:

"Furniture which is animated to trip, confine, and smother (rugs and carpets) or move about and hug and kick (stools, chairs, divans) or blinds and throws down (tapestries and wall hangings). (Ours is known as "The Living Room".)"

A type of lice that becomes a burrowing killer if disturbed is mentioned - an obvious precursor to the Rot Grub of later editions.

Bas-Relief Faces which might bestow great knowledge, or possibly cause the viewer to become a wart on the face... Abraham Merritt's Face in the Abyss is specifically name-checked as an inspiration here, but I haven't read it yet.

Treasure as part of the monster! Anyone who has ever read the AD&D Monster Manual knows what I'm talking about - valuable fur, gems in gizzards, that sort of thing. Gary used this a lot.

A forge for magical items that is run by near-invincible creatures. The items can be bought, but they might not necessarily work. So Gary wasn't against magic item shops, just ones that provided a benefit to PCs. Ones that screw them over are all fine and dandy! In a similar vein he also mentions the possibility of a gambling hall where all the games are fixed.

Following this is a section on unusual monsters, and monsters used in combination:

The multi-headed giant that can never be surprised seems to be a prototype for the Ettin.

Fire-resistant mummies are mentioned, the first of many monsters specifically designed to go against what the PCs have learned in their adventures.

Skeletons that can hurl their finger joints like magic arrows. This one is memorable, simply because I saw it in the Mentzer Basic Set, my first D&D product.

It is mentioned that Castle Greyhawk had a fountain on Level 2 that issued a continuous stream of snakes. More tidbits, huzzah!

A list of similar monsters acting in concert: Medusa riding a Gorgon, a Balrog riding a Red Dragon (yikes!), a Frost Giant on a White Dragon, etc.

Dissimilar monster combos:

Troll with magical spear riding a Purple Worm (so random it's awesome)
Thieves and Bugbears acting in concert (this one tickles me for some reason)
A Cloud Giant riding a T-Rex!

And finally, for maximum coolness and just plain WTF-factor...

Mars mounted on the shoulders of Talos

Yes, the Roman god of War, Mars, on the shoulder of Talos, the giant man of bronze. Weird. But it does establish that the Greek/Roman pantheon is around in this era of the World of Greyhawk.

Other weird monsters:

Gary's love of puns gives us the Ogre Jelly, which is an Ochre Jelly shaped like an Ogre I guess.

A few others are mentioned, mostly variations on oozes, but I especially love the Symbiotic Dragon which spits Ochre Jelly and Black Pudding.

RANDOM MONSTERS: The tables for wandering monsters in dungeons get completely replaced to incorporate the new monsters from this Supplement. This is how I plan to introduce those monsters to the campaign - first I'll substitute the old charts for the new, so the PCs will start encountering new stuff occasionally, then I'll start adding in some set encounters with Greyhawk monsters. It's just a shame that the Wilderness Encounter Tables didn't get the same treatment.

And that's Supplement I done. I just need to go through the illustrations for some possible ideas:

JAPANESE OGRE: This is an illustration of the Ogre Mage, and it really hammers home what this monster is really supposed to be - the Oni of Japanese myth. Plus, it's another Earth-based reference - more ties between our world and Greyhawk.

GREAT STONE FACE: There's a picture of a stone face, sort of like the heads on Easter Island, in a dungeon chamber facing two archways. It's listed as an 'Enigma of Greyhawk' and I've seen Gary discussing it, so it will be going in my Castle Greyhawk in some form.

BOOBS: Yep, it's a naked woman being sacrificed to a giant snake, while a barbarian tries to rescue her. Nothing like the classics! It just means I'll need to include a snake cult that sacrifices women to its serpent god, and that's no problem for me.

BUGBEAR, GHOUL AND FRIENDS: The Ghoul is awesome. The Cockatrice is cool, that snake thing is fine. It's the Bugbear that's the problem. You know the one - it has a halloween pumpkin for a head. The big shaggy body is fine and suitably Bugbear-ish, but that head doesn't square with any later depiction of the monster. So I have a solution - Bugbears wear carved pumpkins on their heads as a sort of ceremonial battle mask. I don't know why and I may never explain it, but that's all I can come up with for that picture.

And that's a wrap on Supplement I - Greyhawk. Tomorrow I'll be delving into The Strategic Review #2 - more monsters, and the first D&D FAQ.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 8

And now we come to the section of items that is always the most interesting - miscellaneous! It holds up the Supplement I tradition of utterly brutal cursed items, as well as providing some other mainstays. This is a long section folks - expect it to eat up a couple of days.

CRYSTAL HYPNOSIS BALL: Whoever tries to use this item will be hypnotised, and if there is a Magic Mouth on the ball, he'll carry out any orders the mouth gives.

MEDALLION OF THOUGHT PROJECTION: It looks like an ESP Medallion, but it actually projects your thoughts whenever you try and use it - meaning your enemies know exactly what you're thinking.

AMULET OF INESCAPABLE LOCATION: It looks like it would protect you from scrying, but instead it makes finding you via scrying a certainty. I could see some uses for this, but its intent is as a cursed item, I feel.

SCARAB OF ENRAGING ENEMIES: Causes all enemies with a 6' radius to become enraged, which may not be all bad - they might attack friend as well as foe. But it does make them fight to the death.

SCARAB OF INSANITY: Makes all creatures nearby go totally insane, with the mechanical effect left up in the air.

SCARAB OF DEATH: Ooh, this one's just nasty. It looks like a magic brooch but when held or worn or stored in a backpack, it turns into a beetle and burrows its way into your heart. Ouch.

BAG OF TRICKS: It's a bag see, but when you reach in you can pull out any one of a random selection of animals. It might be a bear, or it might be a jackal. I'm a big fan of randomized magic items like this - any magic item that might save your ass or doom you depending on the roll is a good thing for the game - there's always a bit of tension when it gets whipped out. This one is pretty useful all around though.

BEAN BAG: This bag has beans in it, and if you plant them you might get treasure or you might get a monster or a curse. This one is explicitly left up to the DM to adjudicate.

BAG OF TRANSMUTING: It's like a Bag of Holding, but it turns precious metals into lead - the obvious intent being that PCs will try to store their coins in here.

BAG OF DEVOURING: Another personal favourite - it's 'actually the extension of an extra-dimensional monster'. Anything that goes inside will be eaten, but look out when giving this to PCs - it can make a pretty effective offensive weapon.

CENSOR OF SUMMONING HOSTILE AIR ELEMENTALS: You think you're summoning an Air Elemental to help you, but... no, it's just going to kill you instead. Beautiful in its simplicity.

LUCKSTONE: This makes the wearer more lucky, by giving him a bonus to rolls for treasure division - you know, when the players are dicing to see who gets first pick of magic items. My current players usually just give stuff to whoever wants it and discuss any disputes, so this would be pretty useless to them.

LOADSTONE: Ha ha, see what Gary did there? It seems to be a Luckstone until you're fleeing from monsters, at which time it gets really heavy and slows your movement. Is it just me, or was Gary having a lot of fun thinking these up?

BRAZIER OF SLEEP SMOKE: Gary was really digging cursed items that at first appear to be useful ones. This one looks like it could command Fire Elementals, but when used the smoke it emits puts everyone into a permanent sleep, that can only be negated by Dispell Magic. Cue the wandering monster checks...

BOWL OF WATERY DEATH: Love this one. Again, it looks like an elemental summoning item, but when used the wielder shrinks and is plunged into the bowl - where he is likely to drown unless the shrinking is magically negated somehow.

BOOTS OF DANCING: Again they appear useful, until you have to flee - then they make you start dancing. (One such dance named is a Shuffle off to Buffalo, and I honestly have no idea what Gary is going on about here. It's just his weird sense of humour, I think.)

FLASK OF CURSES: A curse is loosed when this bottle is opened - as usual for OD&D curses, the DM is encouraged to get crafty.

JUG OF ALCHEMY: Pours forth whatever liquid the user desires. The intent seems to be for regular liquids - water, oil, acid, etc. Naturally occuring stuff. Wine is named, and presumably beer would be available as well - sweet. But what I wonder is whether you can use it to create endless streams of magic potions. I would say the answer is no, but the possibility isn't nixed. And hey, a non-cursed item!

DECANTER OF ENDLESS WATER: When you open it, water comes out and it never stops. This is probably one of the most versatile items out there - there are any number of uses it can be put to. Just remember it only puts out about 1 gallon per minute - flooding dungeons will be a slow process.

BEAKER OF PLENTIFUL POTIONS: Contains a number of potion types that can each be poured forth once per week. A nice space saver, I guess, and reusable potions are always handy.

ANIMATED BROOM: Ah, cursed items how I missed you. It's another screw-job in disguise, as this appears to be a broom of flying until you try to use it - then it attacks you mercilessly. Killing a PC with a broom sounds all kinds of amusing.

HELM OF BRILLIANCE: First off, this thing is set with gems and worth 50,000 gp, so it's pretty good just as treasure. But the awesome far outweighs any monetary value: it gives double-strength fire resistance, can create a Wall of Fire, allows Fighters to create a flaming sword at will, and lets Magic-Users add +1 damage per die on Fire Balls. Clerics get a small benefit as well, being able to cast double their normal quota of light spells and also set flammable objects alight. And to top it off, it makes fire-using creatures friendlier to you. Sure, it's at the cost of alienating cold-users, but who's afraid of them? It's the fire-guys you gotta look out for.

RUG OF SMOTHERING: Wraps around any poor bugger that sits on it and suffocates them.

DRUMS OF DEAFNESS: Deafens anyone nearby when it is struck.

HORN OF COLLAPSING: When you blow it, the roof collapses on your head. If you're out in the open, rocks fall on you from nowhere. Not even logic can withstand Gary's cursed items.

HORN OF VALHALLA: Summons berserk warriors from Valhalla to fight for you, and that's the first mention of that realm in D&D so far - another piece of the D&D cosmology falls into place. There are three different strengths here - Silver, Iron and Bronze - and each one respectively summons a more powerful type of berserker than the last.

HORN OF BUBBLES: Hahahaha. You think it's going to summon awesome berserkers that will make you look bad-ass, but instead it summons bubbles that obscure your vision and make you look like a tool.

GAUNTLETS OF FUMBLING: Gauntlets of Fumbling! Cursed Item in Disguise! When your character's life is at stake, the gauntlets make you drop things and lose 2-5 Dexterity. Like most cursed items, you'll need Remove Curse to take them off.

GAUNTLETS OF SWIMMING AND CLIMBING: Swim as a Merman and climb as a 9th Level Thief. Nifty.

GAUNTLETS OF DEXTERITY: +2 Dex, no limitations - though they'd be pretty useless to a character who was already at 18, as no bonuses for stats that high as yet in the game.

GIRDLE OF FEMININITY/MASCULINITY: It maeks you think you're getting the much-coveted Girdle of Giant Strength, but in actual fact it just changes your sex, and can only be removed with a Wish. I've found that there's little in D&D that gets you mocked more than putting one of these on - although I've never seen it happen to a female player.

NECKLACE OF MISSILES: Each bead on this necklace can be detached and hurled as a fire ball. And I have always said that you can't have enough fire balls.

NECKLACE OF STRANGULATION: When you put it one it strangles you to death in a few rounds - and you need Wish or Limited Wish to remove it! Harsh. Barring wishes from items, you're going to need at least a 14th level Wizard around to save your ass.

POISONOUS CLOAK: Speaking of arbitrary... You put this cloak on and you are DEAD, no saving throws, no take-backs and definitely no whining. It basically guarantees that once found players will never try a cloak again, seeing as how OD&D has no means for identifying items before you try them out. This one I find just a bit too cursed. Plus, you'll suffer through hours upon hours of the PCs trying to sneak up behiond their enemies and put it on them.

MIRROR OF MENTAL PROWESS: A scrying device that can do clairaudience, clairvoyance and ESP, as well as answering one question per week about any image summoned to its surface. Mirror Mirror on the wall...

MIRROR OF OPPOSITION: If you look in it, a duplicate of you jumps out and attacks. This happened to a character of mine, and he was killed by himself - it was awesome.

TRIDENT OF WARNING: Lets its user know when A) there are hostile sea creatures about; B) how far away they are; C) how many of them there are; and D) whether the user is going to need a bigger boat.

TRIDENT OF COMMANDING WATER CREATURES: Like a Staff of Commanding, but for fishes and other watery types.

TRIDENT OF SUBMISSION: Any creature hit by this must make a saving throw or instantly surrender. Very nasty.

TRIDENT OF YEARNING: The holder of this weapon gets the urge to immerse himself in the nearest deep body of water - but it doesn't give him the ability to breathe once he's in there.

EYES OF CHARMING: Contact lenses that let you charm like a Vampire.

EYES OF PETRIFICATION: "Cool, I'll be able to turn monsters to stone like a Medusa!" Ah, no actually, they turn you to stone when you put them on. Sorry!

GEM OF BRIGHTNESS: If you look in this gem it is so bright that you get a penalty of 1-4 on attack rolls - permanently. It's easily healed, though. And it's not all bad - you can direct a beam with it to blind your enemies.

JEWELS OF ATTACK UPON THE OWNER: Well, that's a mouthful even for Gary. It doubles the chance of random encounters appearing, so don't go adventuring with the guy wo has it.

BRACERS OF DEFENSE: They function in place of armor, allowing magic-users and thieves to get their defenses up a bit.

BRACERS OF DEFENSELESSNESS: Lowers your Armor Class to 12. Which in OD&D is very bad - in fact there are no charts to even tell you how to hit this number. I'll need to make some numbers up for sure.

ROPE OF ENTANGLEMENT: A rope that can wrap around a whole bunch of dudes.

ROPE OF CLIMBING: Climbs stuff and fastens itself at your command.

ROPE OF CONSTRICTION: Another classic from Gary - when you try to use it like the two ropes above, it wraps around you and any of your mates nearby and crushes you all to death. It's great the way this thing is just a TPK waiting to happen.

Out of the 49 items listed above, a full 30 of them are cursed in some fashion. It's a massive shift in the tone of the game from OD&D, where pretty much everything in the book is useful. OD&D with the Greyhawk supplement is a much more adversarial game than without.

Tomorrow I'll be finishing up with Miscellaneous Magic, and wrapping up the Greyhawk supplement in general.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk part 7

There are a whole lot of new magic items in this supplement, as well as updated treasure tables that incorporate them all. So at about the time I introduce the new Greyhawk monsters, I'll start using the new magic item tables as well.

I'll be covering everything except Miscellaneous today (as that section is a whopper). We begin with swords, to which are added quite a few new special types.

NINE STEPS DRAINING: This one's a corker - the first time you roll a natural 20 with it, it drains one level from the victim. The second time, it drains 2 levels. Then 3, then 4, and so on until it deals a hit that drains 9 levels. After that it's just a normal +2 sword, but man that's really cool. And if you really want to be a Rat-Bastard DM, put one that's at the point of draining 9 levels into the hands of an enemy of the PCs.

HOLY SWORD +5: This sword's true abilities only function when wielded by a Paladin - it negates all spells in a 1" range. I'm of the opinion that Paladins are powerful enough as is, they certainly don't need complete magic resistance to help them along. And don't forget that this baby will be intelligent as well, with all the extra powers that entails.

SWORD OF COLD: It's the original Frost Brand, being +3 normally and +5 against fire monsters. It also deals triple damage on a 20, dispells a Wall of Fire, and acts as a Ring of Fire Resistance. Plus Drizzt has one, so it's just gotta be cool. (Old-school cred... fading... fading...)

DRAGON SLAYING SWORD +2: Does 4-40 damage against a specific dragon type. Very specific, but when it comes into play it would be so awesome. And with the low hit points dragons have in OD&D compared to later editions it would be extremely effective.

SWORD +1, CURSED (-2 also): Never leaves the wielders hand, and forces him to fight as many monsters as possible - it basically forces the player to an eventual death unless Remove Curse or Wish is used. Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

DANCING SWORD: After a few rounds of melee it leaves the wielder's hand and fights by itself for three rounds. So the character can get two attacks if he wants, which is pretty rare in OD&D.

SWORD OF SHARPNESS: Another type of Holy Sword, but on a high enough attack roll it can sever head or limb. It still has the anti-magic ability for Paladins as well! You know, I never knew that all of these were Holy. It's a great weapon, but it kind of pales in comparison to...

VORPAL SWORD: Like the Sword of Sharpness, but it always severs the neck. Only Lawful Fighters can use it, and only Paladins get the anti-magic. But it totally cuts people's heads off dude! It's every 13-year-old kid's dream to have one of these things. I never saw a DM with the guts to hand one out.


Some more classics appear here, and the bonuses now go all the way up to +5. It's noted that +4 armor is always made from 'mithral' (is TSR already getting hassled by the Tolkien estate?) and +5 armor is made from a strange alloy known as 'adamantite'. Mithral I will run pretty much as it is from Tolkien, and if I remember rightly Adamantite is usually found in meteorites, so the inhabitants of Greyhawk will view it as some kind of divine gift from the skies.

And now some specific armors:

SHIELD OF MISSILE ATTRACTION: Appears as a regular magic shield, until someone fires a missile at the character. Then the shield attracts the missile and gives the wielder a -1 AC penalty. And just to head off PCs testing these things with a spot of target practice, the shot must be fired 'in anger'. So what happens if a skeleton or something without emotions fires it? The obvious intent is for any missile fired by an enemy. I always figured this would be a great item, because who wouldn't want a shield that draws arrows directly to it? I guess it doesn't quite work that way, though.

ARMOR OF VULNERABILITY: Appears as +1 to +4, but is actually the reverse, revealed again when the opponent 'strikes a blow in anger'.

ARMOR OF ETHEREALNESS: It's the most magical of all armor, at least so far. It's +3 normally, and the wearer can become ethereal. He's able to pass through objects, and can only be hit by other ethereal creatures. I always wanted a set of this armor for my thief, but I never did get any.


ARROWS OF SLAYING: Yikes. A hit from one of these will kill the target instantly. They can either slay any monster, or only work on a specific type (Undead, Giants, Flyers, Enchanted, etc.). Best handed out sparingly, I feel.

CROSSBOW OF SPEED: This is a pretty nifty item. It allows the wielder to fire even when surprised, and also grants a +3 on his initiative dice. It cocks itself, and so can be fired as quickly as a bow.

CROSSBOW OF DISTANCE: Crossbow. It fires further. Move along. (It's unimaginitive magic items like these that really get my goat, but that's a topic for another time and place.)

MACE OF DISRUPTION: Ooooh, I love these. It works like a regular +1 mace, until it hits some kind of undead - and then it, and I quote, 'disrupts its molecular structure'! Any undead hit must roll as if turned by a Patriarch, which means that anything other than a Vampire, Spectre or Mummy is automatically destroyed.

CURSED SPEAR OF BACKBITING: A normal magic weapon until it's used on an enemy. At that point it curves around and stabs its wielder, whether thrown or thrust. It's a nice little cursed item, but it only works once before the PC will throw it away.

I'm noticing a trend here - This book is chockers with cursed items. It seems to me that a lot of Greyhawk is designed to include stuff that screws over the players (in a good way) and makes them more cautious about their magic items. The new monsters are similarly those created to mess with the tactics of certain players. The D&D arms race started right here.


There are only a few new potions here, and two of them are just improved versions of old ones. Not much to discuss here.

EXTRA-HEALING: A triple-strength healing potion.

SUPER-HEROISM: It's like a potion of heroism, but better. Remember it only works on Fighters, though.

OIL OF SLIPPERINESS: So what, like regular oil then? A character has to rub this on himself, and it makes him immune to being caught or tied up - but it takes 24 hours to wear off, which I'm sure is a recipe for unintended hilarity.

OIL OF ETHEREALNESS: Much like the armor, the character can walk through walls and such.


Again just a couple here. One is very nice, and the other's cursed.

SHOOTING STARS: A handy little ring, which isn't too overpowered offensively. It can cast Light spells, fireballs that do 12 points of damage, or a ball of force for similar damage. If I understand rightly, this is all without charges, so it would be a nice one for wizards once their spells run out.

CONTRARINESS: Makes the wearer act in the opposite way he intends at all times. I can see all sorts of wrangling with this one, and players saying they want one thing to get their character to do another thing. Items that take PC control away from players are never good. Won't stop me using it though!


There are some real game-breakers in with this bunch.

STAFF OF STRIKING: This one appeared in OD&D, but it's clarified that the staff uses a charge whenever it is used to strike. The same also applies to the striking power of the Staff of Power and Staff of Wizardry.

ROD OF CANCELLATION: This one is pretty potent - if you hit a magic item with it the item loses all of its power permanently. It's good for getting those unwanted items out of the game, but it's also good for making your players want to punch you in the face. Use at your own peril!

ROD OF BEGUILING: Charms all enemies in a 20' radius, which is pretty super. It only lasts from 4 to 16 turns, though - so be prepared for angry monsters once it's done.

ROD OF ABSORPTION: The rod can absorb spells and redirect them back at the caster.

ROD OF LORDLY MIGHT: This is a favourite of mine. It has a number of buttons and catches, and can transform into a number of weapons - a glaive-guisarme, a flaming sword, a +2 axe, a +3 spear, and even a ladder. Not only that, but it can paralize enemies, or make them flee. Plus, say it in a fake British accent - LOOOOORDLY MIGHT! Awesome.

ROD OF RULERSHIP: Lets you command from 200 to 500 levels worth of creatures - GOOD GOD GARY WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!? Actually, its power only extends to 10', so good luck getting those 1,000 kobolds into the area of effect. It probably means 10' in D&D scale, which would be something like 1,200 feet if my math still works. Still, this is super-powerful, and by my reckoning it ought to be an artifact.

ROD OF RESURRECTION: Whoops, something's gone wrong here. It starts off by saying that the rod allows the user to resurrect people, then it gets to rambling about ESP medallions and other such things that make no sense. Errata is required methinks.

Tomorrow I'll try and get through the section on Miscellaneous Magic Items. But be warned, I went a bit overboard there - it might be a two-parter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 6

Ah, monsters. Everyone loves 'em, and if there's been a better influx of monsters into a game than this supplement, I haven't seen it. But before we get into the new additions, a couple of old monsters get updated and clarified.

VAMPIRES: It's clarified that all Vampires are affected by the cross regardless of their previous religious background. This fits pretty well with my use of the cross as a powerful symbol of Law - the undead are as big an abomination against Law as there is. Just to make things a bit more interesting, though, Vampires don't flee from the cross but are merely held at bay, and might try to gain advantage through clever positioning. The possibility of other symbols is brought up, and Vampires from the Middle East are mentioned - they are invisible, but lack the regular vampire's ability to charm. The mention of the Middle East is yet another link tying Greyhawk to Earth - more on this down the track.

ELEMENTALS: Previously hit by any magic weapon, it now takes +2 weapons to damage Elementals. Creatures with 4 hit dice or more can now wound them with natural attacks, though. It seems that Elementals are learning to attune themselves to the magic of the material plane. Or something like that.

And now, the new stuff.

DRUIDS: The Druid appears in the game first as a monster rather than a class. They are described as Neutral priests, combining the spellcasting abilities of Clerics and Magic-Users, all with pretty high levels as well. In addition they can shape change three times a day, once each into a reptile, bird or animal. Size can range from a raven to a small bear, so while there's a lot of versatility there isn't much scope for great power. They usually have a bunch of barbaric followers, so this religion is a bit more than some random cult. I'll need to come up with an explanation for what brings them out of the wilderness and into the area near Greyhawk city, but the recently resumed delving into Castle Greyhawk is my current go-to excuse.

TRITONS: More powerful mermen who all have spell-casting ability and very high magic resistance. There's not much else to be said about them, really, as details are scanty. They don't even get an explicit alignment. Aside from the cooler name, I'm not sure what they bring to the game that Mermen don't.

BUGBEARS: Yeah! Hairy goblin-giants! Though their gait is shambling, they're sneaky bastards and their chance to surprise is increased. Bugbears are the coolest, and I'm explicitly going to have them as an interbreeding of goblins and ogres. They also fill a niche that was missing, that of the 3 hit dice humanoid.

OGRE MAGI: Stated to be Japanese Ogres, which again links the D&D world to Earth. They get a host of tricksy abilities - invisibility, flying, darkness, regeneration, charm person, sleep, and the ability to appear in human form. Their major attack is a nasty cone of cold, but they only get it once per day. Their general MO is to raid for human slaves, which they also eat on occasion. They make really good mid-level masterminds with their powers, but thematically they don't quite fit Greyhawk, I feel - at least so far as the core continent goes. As a rarity from across the ocean I think they're cool.

STORM GIANTS: The last of the classic giants enters the game, typically found in castles underwater or on clouds. They're smarter, taller, and deal more damage than all the other giants, and they can cause storms in battle when they're pissed off.

SHADOWS: Briefly mentioned in OD&D, Shadows now get a full entry. They're smart, but they don't have solid bodies, and so can only be harmed by magic weapons. They hunger for life energy, and their touch drains 1 point of Strength (don't worry, it wears off eventually). As expected, anyone drained to 0 becomes a Shadow. They're said to be not exactly undead, so they're immune to items that affect undead. Presumably this means turning as well, but it doesn't say. Even so, they have the immunity to sleep and charm that other undead share.

My only real problem with them is that the Strength damage is so minimal. Your average character needs to be struck 10 times before he's drained. Perhaps they would work best in hordes...

TITANS: Like Giants, but more handsome, more intelligent (even moreso than Men) and way more powerful. As well as fighting like Storm Giants, they can cast up to 7th level spells as both Magic-Users and Clerics - ouch. They were also mentioned briefly in OD&D.

WILL O' WISPS: Clever creatures that try to lure their victims into a deathtrap so they can feed on the life force as the victim dies. Usually they're found in deserted places with quicksand and mires for the unwary to be tricked into. Only metal weapons can harm them, though I question the wisdom of sticking a sword into a ball of lightning. Their own attack is a lightning bolt, though much weaker than the spell. They can alter shape and brightness, as well as disappear at will. This indicates to me that they're the classic 'balls of light', but at this stage I'm guessing. Also, if reduced to under 3 hit points they can be persuaded to reveal their treasure - which at Type A is going to be plenty good.

LICHES: Undead magic-users or M-U/Clerics! They're kept alive by magic and will 'because of being in some way disturbed' - in other words, they're all batshit insane. They're at least 12th level, and commonly 18th, so nothing to trifle with here. They're no slouches in melee, either, as their touch causes paralization with no saving throw. And just so they don't have to deal with common rabble, the sight of them sends creatures of under 5th level fleeing in fear. Stronger creatures might flee as well, if they know what's good for them.

(Also, I just got repeatedly annihilated by Liches in Might and Magic VI, so I hate the bastards at the moment.)

HARPIES: A creature of classical myth that I'm dead surprised didn't make it into OD&D - they covered just about all the other major ones. Anyway, as in myth they have the lower bodies and wings of eagles, and the upper bodies of women. They're opposed to mankind, and will always try to kill them, which saves a few rolls on the Reaction Tables I guess. They do this by luring them with enchanting song, before killing and eating them. For some bizarre reason they Charm their victims with a touch before killing them - perhaps it makes them taste better? Or maybe they just don't like their food to struggle.

DRAGONS: We've already been introduced to the five chromatic dragons, as well as the Gold Dragon - now we get four more good dragons, as well as the King of Lawful Dragons and the Queen of Chaotic Dragons. (Gary even has a snide comment aimed at Women's Lib types who might object to the Queen being evil. Gawd bless 'im.)

Brass Dragons have a breath weapon that puts the targets to sleep and another that induces fear. They are found mainly in sandy deserts.

Copper Dragons have an acidic breath weapon, as well as one that slows opponents. They live in arid, rocky climes.

Bronze Dragons breathe a bolt of lightning or a repulsion effect. They live near the coast, and the ones able to talk and cast spells can appear as animals.

Silver Dragons breathe a cone of cold or gas, and live in the sky - on mountain peaks or clouds, or even behind winds (neat trick). Those capable of magic have a habit of taking human guise, often as an old man or fair damsel. Dragonlance readers will be familiar with the latter tropes, I'm sure.

The Dragon King, also known as the Platinum Dragon, lives in a palace behind the east wind. He can shape change at will (which sounds pretty damn handy) and is served by a host of 7 Gold Dragons. His main goal is to oppose the Dragon Queen and her host. He can breathe a cone of cold, a cloud of gaseous form (not quite sure what this one actually does), or one that disintegrates. He's another vital bit of D&D lore - although his name has yet to be revealed.

The Dragon Queen, also known as the Chromatic Dragon is a being who struck terror into the hearts of all Saturday morning cartoon watchers. She's a huge dragon with five heads, one for each of the Chaotic dragons, and she's also got a Wyvern's tail. I never knew that, but the poison sting is yet another powerful attack she's got. She can employ all her heads at once either to breathe or cast spells - unfortunately the spell levels only go to 5th, so none of the really nasty stuff. Five breath weapons at once ought to do in just about any party, though. She lives in a stupendous cavern far beneath the earth. A prison, I wonder? She's accompanied by one of each type of Chaotic dragon, just in case the Queen herself isn't enough of a challenge for you. And in case you missed it, her main aim is to spread evil.

Man, everyone loves Tiamat (though she's not named as such yet). She's an iconic D&D monster, and yet has inexplicably never appeared in a core Monster Manual after 1st Edition. Unbelievable, really.

LIZARD MEN: Another monster I thought would have been a dead cert for the original box. They're aquatic, with a 'rude intelligence' (which doesn't mean what you think it means). It means they're slightly primitive, and use weapons like spears or clubs. Despite being Neutral, they love to eat humans, and will capture as many as possible for tribal feasts. Their general use in D&D lore has been as the humanoid race you might possibly be able to work with if they don't eat you first. They're a staple archetype of sword & sorcery, and thus an essential D&D monster.

DOPPLEGANGERS: Mutable creatures that can shape themselves to look like anyone. In this form they'll try to attack or infiltrate the party - it seems the more far-reaching uses of this power are as yet beyond their thinking. They're immune to sleep or charm, which to me seems like a good way to test for them, and they're also highly magic resistant. You're probably sick of me saying how much I love everything, but that's how I feel about Dopplegangers as well - they're the perfect monster to bamboozle parties with, so long as you don't overuse them.

WERERATS: The last of the classic lycanthropes is upon us. Extremely intelligent, and they have a habit of taking prisoners to hold for ransom. Although they can assume human form, most prefer their rat-man persona, which is not usually how I've seen were-types portrayed. Just to make them even sneakier, they can move silently like a 7th level Thief. And they can command rats as well, so they're overall the most versatile of the lycanthropes. And no D&D campaign is complete without Wererats in the sewers!

LAMMASU: It's hard to use these monsters when players assume guttural Japanese accents and shout "LAME ASSU!" But that aside, these monsters are winged lions with human heads. Sounds like a sphinx to me, but anyway. They like to aid and protect Lawful characters with their host of magical abilities - invisibility, dimension door, protection from evil 10' radius, and the ability to cast spells as a 6th level Cleric. They can also speak any human language of Lawful or Neutral nature - and if even languages having alignment doesn't paint Greyhawk as morally black-and-white I don't know what does.

These Lawful-type monsters don't often see a lot of use in the game, but that could change in a megadungeon with a lot of random encounters. When you're trapped in the 10th level of the dungeon with 1 hit point, a rusty dagger and a guttering torch, rolling a lammasu on the random chart would be such an awesome moment. You know, assuming that you are Lawful.

SALAMANDER: Yet another monster that got a brief write-up in OD&D, as a type of free-willed reptilian fire elemental. That's how they're described here as well, with some additions. They're highly intelligent, Chaotic, and they like to live in temperatures above 300 degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius?). They normally use weapons, but their touch causes fire damage, and their snake-like tail can constrict. They're another weird creature with two Armor Classes - 5 for their humanoid torso, and 3 for their snake-like tail. I rule that players who make called shots get the appropriate AC, and otherwise I decide which it is based on the player's positioning.

BEHOLDERS: Ah, here we go - one of the absolute icons of the game. There's no monster that screams D&D quite like this one.

They're also called the Sphere of Many Eyes or Eye Tyrant. Their body is a globe about 3 feet across, with a large central eye on the body and ten eyestalks on top. They can levitate themselves and float around, so they aren't immobile and they don't roll. Rather than having rolled hit points like other monsters, Beholder hp are set - 40 for the body, 10 for each eyestalk, and 20 for the central eye. AC is different for each body part as well, and subject to the same system I describe under Salamanders. Funnily enough the eyes are the easiest part to hit, so the body and eyestalks must have some serious armour plating. Each eye has a special power, with 1-4 of the eyestalks being usable per round. They are: 1 - Charm Person; 2 - Charm Monster; 3 - Sleep; 4 - Telekenesis; 5 - Flesh to Stone; 6 - Disintegrate; 7 - Fear; 8 - Slow; 9 - Serious Wounds; 10 - Death Ray; and the central eye is an anti-magic ray.

In terms of behaviour, Beholders are avaricious. Somewhat uncharacteristically, they're listed as Neutral in alignment, with tendencies towards being Chaotic. I would have placed them as heavily Chaotic myself, but I guess there's something to be said for an alien mindset that doesn't give two figs about the fundamental forces of the universe.

UMBER HULKS: And here's yet another icon. About 8' tall and 5' wide, they have heads that resembles bushel baskets (whatever that means), and gaping maws with a pair of sharp mandibles. Even so, they are said to be of shape somewhat similar to humans, and in the dark can be mistaken for something far less deadly. They have claws harder than iron that can burrow through stone, but their deadliest weapon is their four eyes, which cause confusion. They like to eat human flesh, but who in the D&D world doesn't, I ask you?

DISPLACER BEASTS: They just keep coming, don't they? There was a Displacer Cloak in OD&D, and now we have the Beast, a black puma with six legs, tentacles on its shoulders and hellish green eyes. They always appear 3 feet away from their actual position, which is what makes them a bastard to fight, and just so they don't get killed by area effects their saving throws are also high. The tentacles are their main form of attack, as they have thorny edges. They hate Blink Dogs, but I've never found out why. They do have similar powers, though, and that could have something to do with it.

BLINK DOGS: They resemble African wild dogs, but are really smart and can teleport. They travel in packs, and when fighting they teleport around at random based on die rolls - could be a pain to fight as well as a pain to run. They're Lawful, and hate Displacer Beasts - see above.

HELL HOUNDS: Red-brown evil dogs that can breathe fire - and if you don't think fire-breathing dogs are the business then you are dead to me. Their hit dice and breath damage range from 3 to 7 dice, so there's a good scope for using this monster at a range of levels. They're stealthy, and can also sense invisible creatures with a 75% chance - good sense of smell, I guess. To go with the element motif, they're often found as pets for Fire Giants. They're also fairly intelligent.

PHASE SPIDERS: Among the most annoying monsters in the old Gold Box PC games. They appear to be regular giant spiders, but can shift out of phase and become immune to nearly all forms of attack. It shifts back in only to use its poisonous bite. So what we have is a monster that's almost impossible to hit, that can kill you with a single attack. Your best bet is a Phase Door spell, which will put it in phase for 7 rounds. Oil and Armor of Etherealness send the player into the same phase as the spider, so they're handy as well. But a few of these could do for just about any unprepared party.

RUST MONSTERS: Icon. A seemingly inoffensive creature that turns ferrous metal into rust with a touch. Their attacks cause armor and weapons to rust, and attacks that hit them do the same - not even magical items are immune. They do this because they eat rust, and they are all around just an awesome monster. Perhaps not so effective anymore as a single encounter, but drop a couple into a room with some club-wielding ogres and you've got a challenge. And for any player that complains about losing their stuff? The armadillo thing ate it, now harden up.

STIRGES: The stirge is a sort of bird-like monster with a large proboscis that drinks the blood of the living. When they hit, they attach themselves and start drinking, not leaving until the victim is a 'bloodless corpse'. And although they only have 1 hit die, they attack as 4th level Fighters - a flock of these things can wreak havoc on a party. Nothing is mentioned about how to remove them, but presumably the method below for Giant Ticks is valid.

For some reason Stirges always seem to appear in my games whenever PCs wander off from the party. It's a weird coincidence.

GIANT TICKS: Another blood-drinker, this time a giant insect. To detach one it needs to be killed or burned with fire. Even after that the victim needs a Cure Disease, or he'll contract a disease that will kill him in 2-8 days. Giant Ticks are way cool, but this is the first monster in a while that isn't a bona fide classic D&D monster.

OWL BEARS: Well, the classics didn't stay away for long. This is simply a bear with an owl's head - though they are only described as 'creatures of horrid visage and disposition'. That bit about disposition is no lie, as they attack everything they see and fight to the death. They have furry bodies, feathered heads, thick skin, weigh about 1,500 pounds and stand 8 feet tall. The reference to 2" claws presumably means actual inches, not game inches that really measure 20 feet. Their great weapon is their hug, which happens if it hits with both claws and deals a pretty decent amount of damage. Still, I question the wisdom of taking a bear and grafting the head of a less deadly creature onto it. It's not exactly how you make the ultimate fighting beast, is it? Certainly they must have been magically created somewhere along the line - the alternative just doesn't bear thinking about.

CARRION CRAWLERS: 9' long multi-legged worms that have 8 paralyzing tentacles. They're scavengers, and generally they attack to make more corpses they can scavenge. They can also move on walls and ceiling, which would aid in surprise attempts - and surprise from one of these nasties can wipe an entire party out in no time. Just ask anyone who's played the sample dungeon from the Mentzer Basic Set...

GELATINOUS CUBES: Any monster that's evolved to fit the exact shape of a dungeon corridor is ok by me. They're big cubes of jelly that move through the corridors and eat up all the stuff on the walls. They're clear, and difficult to spot, so PCs might walk right through one. This isn't fun, as their touch dissolves flesh - but it also anesthetizes, so you won't instantly recoil when burned. They're immune to cold, lightning, paralization, fear, and polymorph. They also often have treasure inside, since they can't dissolve metal - it's a good incentive to get PCs to blunder into one.

Much to my horror, I have never seen a Gelatinous Cube in a game of D&D. I've just never really found an appropriate place to use one - that will change, I assure you.

GIANT SLUGS: The greatest omission from the 3e monster books. Their rubbery hide makes them immune to blunt weapons. They're strong enough to bust doors down easily, but they don't need to since they can eat wood and burrow through hard earth, as well as squeeze through narrow openings. They have a bite, but it's pretty wimpy compared to their acid spit - which has a 50/50 chance to hit at 6", and a higher chance at closer range - it totally ignores Armor Class! Luckily it always misses the first attack. But you know what? I can't find the damage for the acid spit. I just remember from Curse of the Azure Bonds that it was pretty high. I'm sure AD&D will come to my rescue, but hopefully there's an errata somewhere down the road. Anyway, this thing is so big it can't turn around in corridors - so if adventurers sneak up behind it it's easy pickings.

FLESH GOLEM: No general description, but it's strong enough to bust doors and wooden structures down, and deal considerable damage. It also only hit by +1 weapons, and it's immune to all spells except fire and cold, which slow its movements by half. Hits by Lightning restore hit points, which serves to play up the links to Frankenstein's Monster.

No hit points or movement are listed - yeah, we really need some errata here folks.

STONE GOLEM: Twice as strong as Flesh Golems, and they can cast a Slow spell on one opponent per turn. Only +2 weapons affect them, and spells are limited to those that affect rock, and fire spells which slow it down. A Rock to Mud spell will inexplicably repair it - I would have thought Mud to Rock would be more appropriate..

IRON GOLEM: Three times as strong as a Flesh Golem, and they can breath a cloud of poison gas (which I don't remember from any computer games with them in). Only hit by +3 weapons, and immune to all spells except that they are slowed by lightning. Fire heals them - I've always wanted to run a combination Red Dragon/Iron Golems fight, ever since I read the idea in Dragon.

So that's monsters, and to my mind there was very little introduced after this point that you need for a game of D&D. Tomorrow I start on magic items, which might take me a couple of days to get through - there are a lot!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 5

Today, it's on to the Cleric spells. Their 1st level selection hasn't changed at all, so we go straight on to level 2.


SILENCE, 15' RADIUS: Can silence an entire party, or one object. Yet another spell that negates the usefulness of the Thief.

SNAKE CHARM: The caster can charm one hit dice worth of snakes per level. Handy, but a little niche. I couldn't see many Clerics packing this one unless they know there are snakes ahead.


PRAYER: Ah, the classic indispensable Cleric buff spell. Here it's a bit weaker than I recall - it lowers a group's saving throws by -1 per five levels of the caster.

SPEAK WITH DEAD: Allows the caster to ask three questions of a dead body. The higher level the caster is, the longer the body can have been dead - and 20th level Clerics have utterly no time limit at all, which could result in some interesting conversations. Again the ref is encouraged to answer in riddles - sweet.

There are no additions to spell levels 4 and 5, which was as high as they went in OD&D. So it's 6th level spells ahoy.


ANIMATE OBJECTS: Makes inanimate objects come alive and obey the caster's commands. The type of object dictates the properties and combat abilities, but it's pretty much up to DM fiat.

FIND THE PATH: Leads the caster out of a maze by the safest route, which in a megadungeon campaign could be a life-saver. It even works on the Maze spell - and I'm a sucker for when spells interact with each other, so cool.

BLADE BARRIER: Creates a barrier of whirling blades that deals 7-70 points of damage (!!!). That's pretty massive. Plus, the spell has one of the best visuals, at least in my head. It's a rare example of a Cleric spell that does damage, but it's still defensive in application.

WORD OF RECALL: Teleports the caster back to a designated spot - the ultimate escape spell. In the old days we had a Cleric PC who abused the hell out of this spell, as we'd come to the wrong conclusion that it also allowed the Cleric to return to the dungeon from where he left. Needless to say - not this time, chaps!

SPEAK WITH MONSTERS: Pretty self-explanatory, though Gary is careful to note that Monsters aren't all that interested in polite conversation.

CONJURE ANIMALS: The Cleric can summon 1 large animal like an elephant, 3 medium ones such as lions, or six small ones like wolves or dogs. Cannon fodder, basically.


EARTHQUAKE: Creates a tremor that can collapse a small house, rampart, cliff, etc. It can also open cracks in the earth to swallow 1-in-6 creatures, but their fates are left up to the ref.

AERIAL SERVANT: Summons a more powerful form of Invisible Stalker. It's only purpose is to bring the Cleric something he desires, be it a person or an object. Alas it can't fight, but it's strong, and can carry about 500 pounds. Someone with a Strength of 18 or higher can break free, and if this happens the Servant goes berserk, returns to the Cleric and tries to kill him. What a sore loser.

WIND WALK: The Cleric and possibly one other person become mist-like, and can travel really quickly to wherever the caster desires.

HOLY WORD: Will deafen, stun or kill creatures affected - and it doesn't specify Chaotic creatures either. It seemingly works on anything and everything.

ASTRAL SPELL: Just like the M-U version, but chances of failure are halved.

SYMBOL: Again, just like the M-U version, but the Cleric one can't cause permanent harm. Stupid Clerics.

CONTROL WEATHER: Like the M-U one. Clerics are a bunch of copy-cats.

RAISE DEAD FULLY: This is what Resurrection used to be called. It's like Raise Dead, but it restores all of the target's hit points, and he doesn't need to rest afterwards either. The reversed version of this spell is frightening - death no save, doesn't matter who you are. Having the right magic item is the only thing that can save you.

RESTORATION: At last, a counter to energy draining undead - this restores levels lost to those critters. Evil clerics cast a reversed version that drains a level from the target. The good version incapacitates the Cleric for 2-20 days, and so NPC Clerics won't usually cast it - Gary's dangling that carrot again... And note that the reversed version doesn't incapacitate the caster, so look out.

On Monday, I delve into my favourite part of any D&D supplement - monsters!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I Greyhawk Part 4

Today we get to new spells, and there certainly are a lot in Supplement I. And they're all classics - you'd be hard-pressed to find any spell here that isn't carried forth to later editions. So away we go, with the first level Magic-User spells.

(Also, be warned that when I first wrote this I went too far overboard in detailing every spell. This is a long post.)


CHARM PERSON: This spell was in OD&D, but it gets changed a little. Whereas before the charm lasted until it was dispelled, now the victims receive a periodic saving throw against it, with high Intelligence making the save more frequent. It ranges from every 6 months for the stupid, to every day for the super-genius. So it seems that after a while techniques to resist charms start to become widespread.

SLEEP: Again, this is another spell from OD&D that is changed. It's clarified that there is no saving throw against this spell, that it affects only one creature of 4 or 4+1 hit dice, that it is ineffective against stronger monsters, and that it has no affect at all on the undead.

SHIELD: A barrier that provides the caster with AC 2 against missiles and AC 4 in melee. A D&D staple.

MAGIC MISSILE: I find it hard to fathom that this spell wasn't in the original set, but here it is now. It conjures a missile equivalent to a magic arrow, which means that it deals 1d6+1 damage. An extra two missiles appear for every 5 levels the caster attains - and there's no cap, so theoretically this could result in huge volleys of missiles. And note that it isn't stated that the missile hits automatically. It's said to work like a magic arrow, so I'm giving it an attack roll just like a magic arrow. That makes it a bit weak (since it has a decent likelihood to miss), but them's the breaks. magical research will eventually come to light that makes it always hit.

DETECT MAGIC: This spell from OD&D now gets a range and duration. Nothing to see here, move along.

VENTRILIQUISM: Yep, that's how they spell it. The caster can make his voice come from somewhere else. A nice little utility spell.


DARKNESS, 5' RADIUS: Causes complete darkness in the area, and foils even infravision. It's countered by a Light spell, and of course by Dispell Magic.

STRENGTH: Now that Strength is the all-important combat stat, we get a spell to boost it. Fighters get the biggest boost (2-8), while Clerics get 1-6 and Thieves get 1-4. Clerics and Thieves wouldn't get much use here anyway, since only Fighters get the combat bonuses. The spell lasts for 8 hours as well, so it's basically an all-day buff. Sounds like a must-have to me.

WEB: This appeared previously as an ability of the Staff of Power, but now it's a spell in its own right.

MIRROR IMAGE: Creates 1d4 images of the caster that do exactly what he does. Hitting an image dispels it. Classic defensive spell.

MAGIC MOUTH: Creates a mouth upon an object that can be programmed to speak a message when certain conditions are met. As an old-school Bard's Tale player, I have come to adore magic mouths and their cryptic riddlings. Also, we meet here a named NPC - Flubbit the Wizard. Nothing else about him is described, but he's at least 11th level so he's managed to rise above his name somewhat.

PYROTECHNICS: The spell causes an already existing fire to explode like fireworks or cover the area in smoke. The effects of either aren't detailed. but it's not hard to come up with some scenarios where they'd both be useful.


EXPLOSIVE RUNES: These runes can be placed upon a book or parchment, and if someone who isn't the caster reads it, it blows up in his face and deals 4-24 damage. But you might not want to put this on your master spell book - it destroys the thing its written on! An M-U two levels higher than the caster has a chance to detect and remove the runes, and I'm always a fan of this kind of thing.

ROPE TRICK: Isn't this 1st level in later editions? Anyway, it's third here, and I love it. Basically, it makes a rope stand upright, and if you climb to the top you'll enter a pocket dimension where you can hide. The rope can be removed, and this means that when whoever is inside the dimension tries to escape, they're due for a fall.

SUGGESTION: You can give orders to any affected creature. There's a 1% chance that a suicidal option will be followed, and this can be increased with careful wording. It's a different form of Charm Person, basically.

MONSTER SUMMONING I: Summons a group of monsters from the Level 1 table - so goblins, kobolds, giant rats, that sort of thing. Not so great in combat at this point, I feel, but having throwaway mooks is always handy for exploration.


CHARM MONSTER: Like Charm Person, but it can affect non-humanoids. The higher the target's Hit Dice, the better chance it has of breaking the spell on its weekly check.

ICE STORM: The red-headed stepchild of offensive spells. With a flat 3-30 damage, it doesn't have the awesome scalability of a Fire Ball or Lightning Bolt. But it won't melt that dragon's treasure hoard either...

FEAR: This works like the Fear Wand from OD&D, making targets run away and possibly drop whatever they are holding.

MONSTER SUMMONING II: Summons monsters from the Level 2 table - hobgoblins, gnolls, etc.

EXTENSION I: The earliest form of metamagic, it increases the duration of a level 1-3 spell by half.


MONSTER SUMMONING III: Same as the others, you know it by now.

EXTENSION II: As the first version, but works for 4th level spells.


LEGEND LORE: This grants the caster knowledge of a legendary object, place, or person - but it can take from 1 to 100 days to cast! Also, the answer always comes in the form of a cryptic riddle or rhyme, which qualifies the spell for instant awesomeness. But potentially losing 100 days of time for a riddle that may or may not help you out? Harsh, Gary.

REPULSION: Causes objects moving towards the caster to move in the opposite direction - it would certainly be a good protection against missile weapons, as well as attackers.



You know it's serious business when we're told straight off that all the spells from this point on have no saving throw unless otherwise indicated.

DELAYED BLAST FIRE BALL: Just like a Fire Ball, but it can be delayed for up to ten rounds. A nice tactical spell, but there's no gain in damage from the third level version.

REVERSE GRAVITY: Does what it says on the tin - everything in a 3" radius falls upwards. This could be a lot of fun from either side of the screen.

LIMITED WISH: This spell can alter reality past, present or future - but within limits. It's not as powerful as a regular wish, and it can't bring you treasure. Still, this is the most versatile spell in the game thus far.

POWER WORD - STUN: Ah, the power words - each one a damn fine spell. This one stuns a creature for a number of turns, with the duration depending upon their hit point total. It doesn't affect anything with over 70 hit points, but remember - no save, so this one will hurt.

PHASE DOOR: Creates an invisible door in a wall that only the caster can use. It works seven times, and only really powerful casters can dispell it. This one would be great for exploration and scouting, and for M-Us working by themselves, but not so great for larger parties.

CHARM PLANTS: Charms a number of plants that will obey the caster as long as it's within their ability. This one seems a bit weak - I'd have expected the plants to animate at the very least.

MASS INVISIBILITY: An invisibility spell that can work on 100-300 men. I can see this one coming in handy, especially in high level play.

SIMULACRUM: Creates a duplicate of whoever the caster wishes, but it requires a few other spells to animate, including Limited Wish, so it's no easy feat. It only has 30-60% of the knowledge of the original, unless the original dies, and then it can get to 90%. More of an Evil Mastermind spell, methinks, but a lot of the possibilities are nixed by the ease of telling clone and original apart.

MONSTER SUMMONING V and EXTENSION III: Like the previous versions.


MASS CHARM: A charm person that works on up to 30 hit dice of monsters, with saves at -2 - this could result in an M-U with some seriously nasty henchmen. A potential gamebreaker if the dice go awry - but those gamebreakers are half the fun of old-school D&D.

CLONE: With a piece of the victim's flesh, an exact duplicate can be grown. It has all the abilities of that character at the time the flesh was taken - so it's a useful back-up plan if your character gets disintegrated to leave some flesh behind for a henchmen to clone or something. If a clone and the original exist at the same time the clone will attempt to kill the original, or they will both go insane. I can get behind either option.

POWER WORD - BLIND: Blinds a creature with no save, so again the Power Words prove to be very effective.

SYMBOL: A rune inscribed on something, that if read has a specific effect chosen by the caster. The effects are Fear, Discord, Sleep, Stunning, Insanity, or Death. There's a whole lot of dungeon tricks and traps that can key off just this one spell.

PERMANENT SPELL: This spell makes other spells function permanently. Some examples given are Detect Magic, Read Magic, Levitate, Detect Evil, Haste, Fly, and Water Breathing. It's recommended, though, that a person be limited to two permanent spells upon themselves - so choose wisely! It's also really hard to Dispell this one - you need a total caster level of double the original caster.

MIND BLANK: Gives the caster immunity to pretty much all the scrying spells and objects, including things like Contact Higher Plane. Essential when some wizard or other is out to get you.

POLYMORPH ANY OBJECT: This can turn any object into any other object, but the duration is based on similarity. So you can turn a feather into a bird and it will be permanent, but turning a rock into a bird won't last as long. So there's a lot of DM fiat involved with this one.

MONSTER SUMMONING VI: Wanna summon a Balrog? This is your spell.


METEOR SWARM: Throws four 10-dice fire balls, or eight 5-dice fire balls. The premiere damage spell in the game. Gary's protests of "Jim!" throughout the entry suggest Jim Ward's involvement in this spell somewhere.

SHAPE CHANGE: The caster can become whatever he wants, and change as many times as he wants for the spell's duration - it's the ultimate polymorph spell.

TIME STOP: Freezes time in a 3" radius for every creature inside except the caster. It doesn't say whether the caster gets to then slit the throat of everything in sight, but logic says yes.

POWER WORD - KILL: Instantly kills any creature up to 50 hit points. And in OD&D, 50 hit points is a lot.

GATE: Opens a cosmic portal to summon some god-like being - the examples given are Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, the Shining One, or a demi-god. The caster must name the being desired, and there's a 95% chance it will come. The 5% chance of something else coming through promises awesome times, though. There's also a 5% chance that whatever shows up will just bugger off again, which is pretty funny.

So we have our first named gods and god-like beings, and they're all from mythology or pulp sword & sorcery (although I don't know who the Shining One is). It establishes that the World of Greyhawk is either heavily tied to Earth or an alternate version of Earth. But it's awesome to have guys like Cthulhu and Odin in the campaign.

WISH: Does pretty much whatever the caster wants, so long as he words it carefully enough not to get screwed over. Also note that the caster can't cast spells for 2-8 days after - so use it wisely.

ASTRAL SPELL: Sends the caster's astral form out into the Astral Plane - which is the first of the Planes to get specifically named. The caster is invisible, and he can cast spells - but there's a chance that doing so will send him back to his material form. And get this - "If while the magic-user has left his body and is in the astral plane his body is moved beyond the spell range or destroyed the magic-user's astral form is immediately sent to jibber and shiek on the floor of the lowest hell".


MAZE: Puts the target in an extradimensional maze, from which it takes them a number of rounds to escape. Smarter characters escape faster.

PRISMATIC WALL: Calls up a multi-coloured globe, with each colour having an effect on whoever passes through. Weak creatures that even look at the thing are blinded. Each colour has a specific spell that negates it. I'll run through them:

Red - negated by Ice Storm, blocks magic missiles, deals 12 damage
Orange - negated by Lightning, blocks normal missiles, deals 24 damage
Yellow - negated by Magic Missile, blocks breath weapons, deals 48 damage
Green - negated by Passwall, blocks location magic, save sv. poison or die
Blue - negated by Disintegrate, blocks cleric spells, turns to stone
Indigo - negated by Dispell Magic, creates a force field, crystalizes victims so that they are dead and irrecoverable.
Violet - negated by Continual Light, blocks unusual magic(?), drives victims permanently insane.

This spell is specifically said to apply well to Permanency. I've had a complete Rat Bastard DM trap in the back of my head that uses this one - stick one at the bottom of a pit, with a trampoline just underneath. The victim falls through once going down, gets bounced back up again, and falls again - passing through the wall at least 3 times. That'd screw most players I feel, but I'm too soft-hearted to ever use it.

MONSTER SUMMONING VII: Summons a level 7 monster, but since there isn't a table a few examples are given here: a Stone Golem, a group of Hell Hounds, a pack of Displacer Beasts, an Iron Golem, an Umber Hulk, a 10-Headed fire-breathing Hydra, a 15th level Thief, and a 20th level M-U Lich. There's some serious discrepency in power levels here - the Lich especially is obscenely powerful, possibly more so than the caster of the spell. Why anyone would pick the other options over him is a mystery to me (though the 15th level Thief would make a handy temporary scout or henchman).

Tomorrow I'll be going through the new Cleric spells (and there aren't nearly as many.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 3

ALTERNATE HIT DICE: This section introduces the different hit dice types for each class. It's a much easier system to use than the one presented in OD&D - characters roll one die for each level they attain until they hit name level, and after that they get a small fixed amount per level. Fighters roll an 8-sided die, Magic-Users and Thieves a 4-sided, and Clerics a 6-sided. My explanation? While training gets more consistent and Fighting Men are better able to resist damage, Magic-Users are being subjected to more rigorous magical studies and no longer have as much time for physical activities and combat training.

Also, I was previously using a system whereby the players would reroll their hit point totals at the start of each session. Once these rules come into play, they'll be keeping the same totals from game to game.

Monsters also get a boost here, going from 6-sided hit dice to 8-sided. Looks like they're getting more use to raids by adventurers as well.

CLASS TABLES: There's not much to note here, just the spell progressions for Magic-Users and Clerics for the new spell levels above 6th, as well as the table for Thieves. Their Chainmail attack progression look to be close to that of Clerics. As for their Thief abilities, they run on a percentile system with the percentages determined by level (aside from Hear Noise, which works on 1d6 like for other classes, with Thieves getting a bonus).

Dwarf, Elf and Hobbit thieves get bonuses to some of their thief abilities. Dwarves are good with traps, locks and hiding. Elves are good at hiding and picking pockets. And Hobbits are naturals, with bonuses across the board. Although, the +1 to Hear Noise may actually be a penalty, as the bonuses in the table above are expressed as negatives. So while a hobbit thief is better at listening than a non-thief, he's not as good as a Dwarf or an Elf.

Rolling above the percentage noted for a thief ability results in failure, and once you've failed you can't try again in that particular situation. Also, characters being pick-pocketed might detect it, with the chance being higher as they gain levels.

EXPERIENCE POINTS: There's a new system for awarding experience points, as Gary has decided that the old one (that of giving 100XP per monster hit dice) was "ridiculous". Now there's a chart with much more modest awards for monster hit dice, with bonuses to be added if the monster has a special ability. Powerful special abilities like petrification are given double the bonus. Otherwise it's the same, with 1xp per gold piece, meaning that now much more of a character's advancement will come from treasure rather than killing monsters. It's a positive change, I feel.

My justification? The first crop of PCs were truly exploring the unknown, as I'm going to set things up so that they're the first adventurers in Greyhawk for a good long while. Once the campaign has progressed a little, new characters will already have heard stories and know more of the abilities of the monsters, so they don't gain as much experience from fighting them.

Also, NPCs now get a half-share of the XP. They don't get a full share, because they're under the direction of another, but it's better than the zero share they were getting before.

COMBAT: We begin with a note that Thieves have the combat progression of Clerics, and the saving throws of Magic-Users. Not such a bad combination, actually.

WEAPON TYPE VS. ARMOR: The Chainmail system already had such modifiers factored in, and this table is drawn from there. Basically, it's a big chart of all the weapons in the game, with modifiers that show how effective they are against different types of armor.

This is the sort of rule that I find to be more trouble than it is worth. It's just too much hassle to remember these things. Thankfully it only comes into play against humanoid monsters. The upside is a bit of increased realism (i.e. a guy with a dagger will have a hard time penetrating plate mail), and also that it encourages variety in weapon choices, which gives the Fighter another advantage. I will introduce it eventually, but if it bugs me too much I'm going to drop it.

There's a part at the end that I like, though - a little chart that shows what bonuses you get for attacking someone who is on the ground. The result is that a guy in plate mail is a sitting duck once he's fallen over. I'm up for any rule that makes players think twice about buying the heaviest armour.

WEAPON DAMAGE: To go with the new hit point system, we also now get damage dice based on the weapon used - swords do 1d8, maces 1d6, daggers 1d4, etc. Also included is a column for damage against creatures of larger than man-size - some weapons do less, and some do more. I've never much seen the point of this rule, but players sure do love breaking out that d12 for the sword.

In addition, some weapons (such as the battle axe and morning star) now require a minimum amount of space to each side to wield - making them a little awkward in a dungeon setting. It's also noted that pole arms and pikes aren't generally usable in dungeons, which is going to upset the pole arm freak in my party. He might actually have to get within melee range of something.

Again, this will be another piece of training introduced by the Adventurers Guild. They are able to teach the players to use some weapons more effectively, and also to minimize wounds from others (i.e. the ones whose damage die becomes lower with this sytem). Monsters learn quickly through observation, so after the players have been into the dungeon with this system once, the monsters will adopt it also.

MAGIC ARMOR AND SHIELDS: In OD&D magic armor subtracted its bonus from the attacker's roll, and shields only came into effect if their bonus was higher than that of the armor. Now the bonuses adjust the player's armor class, and the shield and armor bonuses stack - Armor Class totals of below zero are now possible. This is the system used in AD&D, and it's a lot easier to remember than that in OD&D.

But the following sentence is baffling to me - "attacks from the right and/or rear consider armor only when two or more opponents attack". For the life of me I can't see the logic or intent here. If the sentence was in reference to shields it might make sense, but armor? I might have to house-rule this, as much as I am loathe to do so in this project.

Anyway, what this new system means for the campaign is that someone has unlocked the secret techniques of using magic armour and shield together, and passed the information on. The Guild gets it, and thus so do the players. I might have the information on a scroll or book that the PCs can find in Greyhawk, or perhaps I'll have some NPCs find it.

MONSTER DAMAGE: Just as players get damage by weapon type, monsters are learning how to use their natural weapons more effectively as well. Some now get multiple attacks per round, and there are a lot that have their damage output increased significantly. The Cloud Giant, for instance, has gone from doing 3-18 damage to doing 6-36. The largest Sea Monsters do 5-50, this being the deadliest attack in the game thus far. And just as with some weapons, there are some monsters whose attacks grow weaker - the PCs will have learned by this point to minimise these attacks.

Tomorrow I go through the Magic-User spells - all the way up to 9th level!