Monday, January 18, 2010

The Dragon #6 part 2

Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha: The glut of articles about this game continues. This time we get some clarification to a few mutations that were vague in their implementation. For example, for the mutation that makes you taller than normal, here is given the exact means of determining how tall. Some other powers are given ranges and the like – simple stuff that was forgotten in the original rules. There is also a change to the poison rules that allows for extra deadliness when PCs are poisoned multiple times in a short period – given that I'm using D&D saving throw rules, I doubt these will come into play in my campaign. There are also small changes to the rules for missile weapons and vibro weapons that would make more sense to me if I knew the MA rules, I'm sure.

From the Fantasy Forge: This article details the recently released official D&D miniatures from MiniFigs. I don't have any of these, and it's highly unlikely I'll be able to get any, so they won't come into use in my game. But there are a few things to note that the miniatures indicate. The first is that the Hobgoblins are the only goblinoids with sergeants and standard-bearers – an early sign of how militant they will eventually become. The kobolds are depicted in their classic dog-faced form, which fits nicely with the art we've already seen in Swords & Spells. The gnolls are similarly hyena-headed. This is the period where D&D is starting to solidify its visual identity.

The Gnome Cache Chapter 6: In this penultimate installment, Dunstan has taken up with a merchant caravan as a mercenary protector. The chapter ends with the caravan having been attacked by bandits, and Dunstan fleeing for his life.

As usual, below are the meagre gleanings I have gotten from the story:

  • After a week's journey, the merchant caravan crosses the Aarn River and enters the walled town of Rheyton.
  • The men of the distant western plains are small and wiry.
    The land that Dunstan hails from is known as Thalland, and the people that live there are called Thallites.
  • Northerners from Nehron or Kimbry are broad, burly and dark-haired.
  • The merchant is a Thallite known as Evan. The leader of his mercenary band is called Rufus, and Baldwin is his lieutenant. One of the Kimbry in the band is known as Vardabothet. All of them probably die at the end of this chapter.
  • The Kimbry live in the Kimbry Vale, beyond which are mountains.
  • After many days travel they reach the border keep of Blackmoor, which also has a village and a guardian castle. The Nehron peasants seem unhappy with their noble lord.
  • An evergreen forest begins a few leagues north of Blackmoor.
  • The bandits mention a Nehron uprising against Blackmoor, but this could be a ruse on their part.

Determination of Psionic Abilities: This is an alternate system for determining whether a character is psionic. Whereas the old system was reliant on the PC having high ability scores, this one allows any human character to test for psionic ability regardless of score. It also gives half-human character a chance for psionics, albeit a smaller one. The major departure is that here the abilities are no longer divided by character class – any character can possess any psionic ability. Otherwise things work much the same, but those with ESP can learn psionic abilities from others.

This will replace the psionic system from Supplement III at this point in my campaign, as the psionic potential of humans broadens.

Morale in D&D: This is an alternate morale system – not only for the NPCs, but for the PCs themselves! Each PC has a Bravery stat, rolled on 3d6 along with his other ability scores. This gives a modifier to the morale roll, as does the party leader's charisma, the character's loyalty, how frightening the monster faced, the number of clerics or magic-users in the party, etc. These modifiers are added to a roll of 1d10 and compared to a chart to see how the PCs react in any combat situation.

This is the sort of ruleset that anticipates things like the Sanity rules from Call of Cthulhu, but it's the type of rule that I'm opposed to on a number of levels. The biggest reason is that it uses rules to supercede the will of the players – anything that takes choice away from the player is bad (except for magical effects, of course, so long as they're used sparingly). I'd be inclined not to use this at all, but there's a little example setting here that saves me...

The writer describes his home setting of Fantorgn, where humans are predominant and demi-humans are rare and mistrusted. I figure on using this as a mini-setting that the PCs can get to. Pervaded by a palpable air of dread, they will be less able to control their fears while in this world – sort of like a prototype Ravenloft, a Demi-Plane of Dread. Some sample NPCs from this world are Klabath Durhn (a 6th level Fighter with a 14 Bravery), and Maygreth the Fierce (a 7th level Fighter with a 15 Charisma). The rest of their party consists of another 6th level Fighter, three 4th level Fighters, a 5th level Magic-User, his three 2nd level assistants, three village priests from the local temple, a half-elf guide and two elf hirelings.

So I'll use these rules, but only if the PCs happen to make their way into Fantorgn. It's my way of marginalising a rule-system that I really dislike, while foreshadowing some future developments like the Ravenloft setting.

Featured Creature – The Death Angel: Death Angels appear as winged men with scythes and awesome helmets. They have two purposes – the first is to warn someone of impending death, and the second is to kill someone as a representative of Death itself.

This is something they are really, really good at. They can teleport and fly, so there's little chance of escape. And every time they hit with a scythe attack, it's save or die, and even on a successful save you still lose a point of Constitution. They cant be dispelled, and turning only works on them temporarily. All that and 95% magic resistance makes for a pretty formidable foe.

Anyone killed by a Death Angel returns as one in three days. They can be bought back with a Raise Dead Fully spell, but even then the chance for resurrection is rolled as if the character had a Constitution score of 3. Any character killed by a Death Angel three times can't ever be brought back, even by a Wish.

Death Angels single-mindedly attack their target, and will return again and again until they are successful. The only way to kill one permanently is to cast Remove Curse after it is killed by its intended victim.

Death Angels are said to be 'Fingers of Fate', used only by Gods, Demi-Gods, and very powerful Liches and Evil High Priests.

I doubt I'll use these guys much at all, given that they are a one-off monster that was never brought forward into AD&D. Given the power of the beings that command them, I suppose that they are used sparingly, so I don't need a lot of justification for their rarity.

Next: The Dragon #7.


  1. Anonymous8:04 AM PST

    I've been following the "ultimate sandbox" posts with intense admiration! This is a really inspired feat of imagination.

    Have you actually started running this campaign? Do you think you will? I get the idea this is really just a thought experiment...

  2. Thanks for the kind words, but I think you exaggerate by calling it a 'feat of imagination'. It's more about organising, arranging and collating the work of others.

    No, I haven't run anything in this campaignas yet. You are correct in that it is something of a thought experiment. I wanted to see if it could be done, and what the result would be. It's also a way to keep my mind on D&D while I'm not really playing. But I do intend to use it as my long-term campaign once it's in a playable state. I figure that might be about the time I get to the World of Greyhawk Folio.