Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Dragon #10 part 1

There’s a lot of stuff to get through with this issue of The Dragon, so I’ll be brief when it comes to the stuff that does not pertain to D&D. The Dragon Rumbles editorial is mostly concerned with the aftermath of Gencon X, as well as the reorganisation of the magazine and the clear marking of rules variants. Snit Smashing is the first board-game by Tom Wham, and it looks to me like rollicking good fun. The Tactics of Diplomacy in Stellar Conquest discusses how you can implicitly use diplomacy in a game where negotiations with other players are strictly forbidden. And over in the comic strips, Wormy is preparing for an encounter with some dwarves, while Finieous Fingers is still dealing with hobbits.

Orgies, Inc. by Jon Pickens: Now that’s an attention-getting title, make no mistake. It’s also slightly misleading. What the article is actually about is getting all of that surplus loot out of the hands of the PCs. The method put forward? “Instead of receiving experience for gaining treasure, players would receive experience only as the treasure is spent.” It’s a great idea that has been picked up and expanded by a number of old-school bloggers, and it seems to me that it would help greatly in capturing the feel of the pulp heroes of yore. The author even name-checks Fafhrd and the Mouser in the article, so he’s off to a good start.

In the system described, the amount of GP spent is divided by the level of the character to determine the amount of XP earned. So already the 1 gp = 1 XP paradigm has been broken here; not only will the use of this system get rid of the players’ excess loot, it will also slow level advancement significantly.

There are a few set ways that this money can be spent. The first, open to any characters, is to sacrifice it to a god or a demon. Good idea, but I disagree with the optional note at the end that the recipient of the sacrifice will grant a wish or favour for a sacrifice of over 100 gp per level of the character. That’s far, far too low for such a thing.

Philanthropy is the second option, open only to Lawful characters, so your paladin can give his gold to the poor rather than having to resort to some of the seedier options presented later.

Magic-Users and Alchemists can spend the money on general research, including the research of new spells.

Dwarves can just give it all to their clans, as can anyone else of a clannish nature.

The last option is where the title of the article comes in: Orgies! Yes, your character can overindulge in drink, drugs and dames to his heart’s content, limited by his Constitution score. This one’s open to fighters, bards, thieves and any Chaotic characters, but paladins, rangers and monks are forbidden.

One potential problem with this system is the use of treasure that wasn’t earned in the dungeon, but the author demonstrates that the amount will be negligible as a result of the XP being divided by level. He then goes on to detail some alternatives to rid players of treasure, such as robbers and other devious means, but he also rightly points out that too much of this sort of thing can piss your players off.

The article ends with a short and fairly pointless bit about gambling, and an appendix detailing the effects of orgying on psionics (mostly that it drains your psionic points for a while).

I plan to use this option for a little while in my game, perhaps until the rules for training costs come in. With the restructuring of the Adventurers’ Guild, it’s possible that there just aren’t enough trainers there now, and the adventurers will have to find other means of increasing their prowess.

Designing for Unique Wilderness Encounters by Daniel Clifton: This article provides a series of charts to randomly determine wilderness terrain features. The battlefield is divided into four quadrants, with each one having a terrain feature rolled for on the chart. There’s a table for steepness of hills and slopes, and also the direction rivers flow in. It’s nice and simple, and doesn’t seem like it would take up too much time at the table. I’m definitely going to include this with the Holmes rules.

Random Monsters: It’s 1977, and already DMs are having trouble with players who have memorised all of the monsters in the game. The solution given here is a series of charts to randomly create a brand new monster. It’s pretty thorough, and covers all the bases so far as I can see. It’s a shame that the monster types are limited to Mammal, Reptile and Undead, but that does actually cover a large variety of stuff. There’s even a great special ability for undead that allows them to turn clerics – and I’m totally stealing that. My players can definitely expect me to roll up a few nasties on this table for inclusion in my game.


  1. I think this is one of the issues I've got the most out of, between "Orgies, Inc." (which I use as a house rule, but as a potential 10% xp bonus rather than the only way to get treasure xp) and "Let There Be a Method to Your Madness" (which I loved in the old days, then moved away from, and have now re-embraced since I figured out it's a way to generate ideas, not the way everything in your dungeon HAS to be).

  2. I tie the GP directly to level advancement by requiring "tuition payments" to level up. Afterall, someone is training them, a school, a master, something, and they aren't doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

    I put the GP total at half or lower of the XP total needed for advancement. Thus, the "tuition" for 2nd level training would be about 1000 GP. So, that character would then have to earn about 1000XP and 1000GP, then SPEND the money, in order to level up.

    Anyway, it keeps them on their toes, and soaks up massive amounts of cash as they progress. Keep em lean and hungry, I say.

  3. Tuition fees will come in eventually - probably when I get to the DMG. But for the moment that rule hasn't appeared in any of the products I've reviewed, so it won't be in my campaign until later.