Monday, December 28, 2020

Making A Monster: Cave Crawlers

This is somewhat similar to my "scalable statblocks" post, but I wanted to go through my steps on how I create creatures nowadays.

I love monsters, they're among my favorite parts of role playing games. Making a monster, however, has always been a little difficult for me. I know there are no real "rules" to creating creatures in OSR games besides "going with your gut", but I've come up with a rough set of guidelines that I use.


Throughout this guide, I will use the notation "L" to denote the dungeon/adventure level that the monster is appearing on.


Lets say I'm trying to create a pale, crawling humanoid thing that evolved from humans but became monstrous and unintelligent after generations in the underworld, similar to the crawlers from the film "The Descent".



First I need to determine the Hit Dice of the monster, using the following chart. This also determines how many should appear at once.

Toughness/Size

Hit Dice

# Appearing

Rat

L-2 (minimum 1 hit point)

4d6

Human Child

L-1 (minimum 1d3 hit points)

3d6

Adult Human

L

2d6

Wolf

L+1

1d6

Cougar

L+2

1d3

Bear

L+3

1d2

Rhinoceros

L+4

1

Elephant

L+5

1


The adventure I'm making is intended for a party of 2nd level characters, and I imagine these creatures are about as tough and as large as adult humans, so I give them 2 hit dice. I give monsters 1 attack for every 2 hit dice they have (rounding up), so the crawlers get 1 attack. 

Next I need to determine their armor class. I decide that as an adaptation to living underground, they will have somewhat tough, leathery skin, so I give them an armor class equivalent to that of leather armor, thus they get an AC of 12.

I next want to determine how much damage they would deal, so I check the following chart.

Damage Equivalent

Points of Damage

Cat scratch

1

Punch/Kick

1d3

A 1 handed weapon

1d6

A 2 handed weapon

1d6+1

Having a log fall on you

2d6

Being Poisoned

Ld6

Dragon’s Breath

D6s equal to the monster’s hit dice value


I decide the crawlers have claws that are about as dangerous as a dagger, so I decide they deal 1d6 damage with their attack.

From here, I need to decide how fast they move. My system only has the movement speeds of "slow", "average", and "fast". I think that having them move quickly like a huntsman spider sounds creepiest, so I give them as "fast" movement speed.

The final step is determining any special abilities or weaknesses. I want them to be able to climb up sheer surfaces with ease, and to be vulnerable to bright lights. I note down that they can climb up walls and on ceilings, and that they take a -1 penalty to hit when exposed to bright light.

So now I've got a basic statblock that looks like this:

Cave Crawler
# Appearing: 2d6
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 12
Attacks: 1 claw (1d6 damage)
Speed: fast
Special: can climb up walls and on ceilings, take a -1 penalty to hit when exposed to bright light.

I hope this has proved interesting to y'all!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 3

Now we arrive at the part which is gonna be a real pain in the butt; the D section of the Monster Manual. I've decided to split this up into two parts, starting with demons and devils and then doing everything else in another post for the sake of my sanity. But before that, I wanted to plug some people who have been inspired by these posts to make their own reviews!


Both Marsworms of Save Vs. Worm and Phineas of the Cosmic Orrery have started their own reviews of the Fiend Folio, which can be found here and here.

Meanwhile, Locheil of The Nothic's Eye has begun work on reviewing the Planescape Appendix, and his first review can be found here.


But, without further ado, here is my review of all the demons and devils in the 1st edition Monster Manual!



Demogorgon (Prince of Demons)
★★★★★

Demon lords are great, I love demon lords. They function well as unspeakable evils which you can't really slay but can temporarily stop, similar to Cthulhu. My campaigns are always low level, but its easy enough to lower their stats, or to argue that you are facing an "avatar" of the creature. Demogorgon in particular is great, and I've always thought he was cool ever since I got the Monster Manual 2 for 4th edition D&D. He is incredibly powerful, as befits a demon lord, and he gives off a slight air of Lovecraftian horror, which I appreciate. The design of an enormous, tentacled scaly being with a forked tail and two mandrill heads is jut so unique, and he is truly an iconic D&D monster.




Juiblex (The Faceless Lord)
★★★★★

As with Demogorgon, Juiblex is also Lovecraftian to me, though to a much greater extent than Demogorgon. A horrible shapeless blob of green and black filth with bulging red eyes that is shunned by all creatures except slimes is just incredible. I really ought to try to use him in a campaign sometime, and just me thinking that is the hallmark of a good monster.




Manes
★★★★☆

Manes are the souls of the dead who get sent to the abyss, transformed into "sub-demons". They're unintelligent monstrous humanoids and are apparently sometimes turned into shadows or ghasts (which I thought must have been a typo for ghosts with the reprint monster manual, but after checking the original it is completely accurate). Their illustration is alright, and I find it neat that they turn into vapor and reform if "killed", but other than that they're just sort of average, so I'm gonna give them 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because I would probably use these in a dungeon.




Orcus (Prince of the Undead)
★★★★☆

Gonna be honest here and say Orcus isn't one of my favorite of the demon lords, since he's honestly not that distinctive, just being an obese satyr-like creature with a venomous tail and wings, but he is among the most useful of the demon lords. The undead are a common enemy from the very beginning of most D&D games, so having a creature centered around them with god-like power is interesting. I also like that he is apparently the nemesis of Demogorgon, which could lead to interesting infighting between their cults.




Succubus
★★★☆☆

I don't honestly think I'd ever have any use for these creatures in my campaigns, as I run very very non-horny games. They're also to blame for the whole trope of "sexy demon ladies" in RPG related media, which depending on who you ask is a good or a bad thing. Still, they're solid enough monsters, so I'll give them a 3 out of 5.




Type I Demon (Vrock)
★★★☆☆

These demons are functional enough, and I like that they're birdlike, it calls to mind the works of Hieronymous Bosch. I find it odd that their description says they like precious metals and stones and then also immediately states that they aren't likely to accept bribes because they're too stupid.




Type II Demon (Hezrou)
★★★★☆

Frog monsters are good and this is a demonic frog monster. I also really like that they apparently will take any excuse to beat the shit out of Vrocks. Also their illustration kind of looks like a bad old daikaiju suit, which I really like.




Type III Demon (Glabrezu)
★★★★★

Legitimately my favorite of the lesser demons for their design alone. A dog faced humanoid with 4 arms, 2 of which end in crab claws? These guys rule.




Type IV Demon (Nalfleshnee, etc.)
★★★★☆

I can't help but like these guys' design, I mean they're corpulent ape-boars with tiny wings! I do like the information about how you can bargain with them if you know their name, that's just so interesting to me. 




Type V Demon (Marilith, etc.)
★★★★☆

I appreciate that these demons incorporate the design of a naked woman without being overtly sexualized, instead basically being described as capable warriors. The detail about them desiring the sacrifice of great warriors is neat to me, and the 6 limbs reminds me of the scene in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad where Koura animates a statue of Kali to fight against Sinbad (Admittedly the film is Quite Racist, especially with all of the whitewashing and the treatment of Hinduism as some sort of bizarre demon cult, but it does have some nice visuals at times).

"In the trees... The demon! Its coming! Aaauughhh!"



Type VI Demon (Balor, etc.)
★★★★☆

This is obviously meant to be the balrog of Middle Earth, and I find it neat that Balor is specified as being the name of a specific Type VI Demon, which implies that Nalfleshnee and Marilith are also specific names. I quite like that only 6 are known to exist. The illustration reminds me of the film Night of the Demon, which I watch every Halloween, further cementing my appreciation for them. 




Yeenoghu (Demon Lord of Gnolls)
★★☆☆☆

Yeenoghu is my least favorite of the Monster Manual demon lords, primarily just because he isn't that interesting. He is a big, emaciated gnoll that can summon gnolls and ghouls, and he wields a big flail. The most interesting thing about him to me is that he receives homage from the "King of Ghouls" who I personally would love to hear more about. Is this possibly a reference to Richard Upton Pickman, who if I recall correctly was described as the King of Ghouls in an edition of Dragon magazine?




Asmodeus (Arch-devil)
★★☆☆☆

I'm gonna be honest, I don't like devils in D&D, they seem superfluous when you also have demons. Asmodeus himself is also quite dull, being just a very tall fellow with a goatee and horns, the archetypical Satan. I give him a 2/5 because I know that some folks will want there to be a handsome Satan person in their games, so it makes sense for him to exist.




Baalzebul (Arch-devil)
★★☆☆☆

I do like the illustration, and that is all that saves this poor bastard from getting 1/5 stars. He receives so little information in his description and just seems dull and boring.




Barbed Devil (Lesser devil)
★★☆☆☆

Like a lot of the devils, they're not bad per se, just quite boring. The illustration is decent but they don't have much personality to me.




Bone Devil (Lesser devil)
★★★★☆

I like these guy actually, they're nasty torture skeletons and their illustration is just gleefully evil. If they just had a little bit more description and interesting quirks I'd give them 5/5 stars.




Dispater (Arch-devil)
★★☆☆☆

I was initially going to give this guy 1 star because he seems to just be a smaller, weaker Asmodeus, but reading his description and finding out he lives in a city full of zombies and that only his left foot is cloven saved him from that. He also looks a little bit like the Roger Delgado Master from Doctor Who.

Her face here kind of looks like a Speed Racer screenshot



Erinyes (Lesser devil)
★★★☆☆

These are interesting enough, being winged devil women sent to collect more souls for Hell and to tempt the innocent into sin. They also aren't nearly as horny seeming as succubi, which is nice. I also just like the concept of devils pursuing specific targets. 




Geryon (Arch-devil)
★★★☆☆

Like so many arch-evils, he is just (pardon the pun) damn boring. At least he looks like something interesting instead of just a dude with horns.




Horned Devil (Malebranche, Greater devil)
★★★★☆

I'm a sucker for these guys because they're just so enthusiastically classic in their design and attitude. They fear and hate more powerful devils but obey them, they have bat wings and 2 tined forks or whips, and they can have names like "Dogretch" or "Bent Wing". They're a little generic but they're still just great. 




Ice Devil (Greater devil)
★★★☆☆

These guys are weird. I can appreciate humanoid insect monsters, and even monsters based around ice and snow, but combining those two and making them a devil makes my brain feel odd? Still, they have a fairly unique design if nothing else 




Lemure        
★★★★★

These are unironically my favorite kind of devil. Blobby masses of flesh that were once the souls of the damned? Hell yeah! That is just awesome, and its cool that they're used to create wraiths and spectres. Honestly I don't have much more to say about these guys, they're just wonderful.




Pit Fiends
★★★☆☆ 

Very boring description, I would have given them a 2 out of 5 if not for how much they look like Chernobog from Fantasia.


Next up: Dragons!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 2

 Continuing on from my previous Monster Manual post, here are my reviews of the monsters starting with the letter C!

Wild Camel
★☆☆☆☆
We all know my opinion of mundane animals by now.

This guy rules and you can't tell me otherwise


Carrion Crawler
★★★★★
I love carrion crawlers, I always have, ever since I first saw them in the monster section of Moldvay basic. They make sense in the context of a dungeon ecology, they look cool (who doesn't love a giant caterpillar with octopus tentacles?) and they are scary to low level adventurers. They're incredibly good and I especially love the older illustrations of them.



Catoblepas
★★★☆☆
These creatures are interesting, but I'm unlikely to use them. Instant death abilities are always a bit iffy to me, though petrifaction bothers me less. However, the sheer foulness and feeling of mythological significance makes these interesting to me. They genuinely seem like a creature that the local townsfolk live in fear of and have told stories about for generations.

Wild Cattle
★☆☆☆☆
I don't need stats for cows Gary.



Centaur
★★★☆☆ 
I think centaurs are interesting, but the fact that they are listed as chaotic good throws me off. I've always seen centaurs (other than Chiron) as chaotic neutral at best, but more likely to be chaotic evil as described in greek mythology. These noble horse people don't seem as interesting to me as the animalistic barbarians of mythology.

Giant Centipede
★★★☆☆
Centipedes are cool, that's literally all I have to say about these guys.

Cerebral Parasite
★☆☆☆☆
I hate these folks because, once again, it is a monster based around the godawful psionic mechanics of AD&D, and it doesn't even have any physical appearance. Its almost completely useless.



Chimera
★★★★☆
Another mythological beastie, I find chimeras really interesting from an aesthetic standpoint, and multi-headed monsters are always fun to me. Like most mythological monsters, I feel like it would work best as a lone creature in a small wilderness lair.

Quite frankly I love this illustration


Cockatrice
★★★★☆
Basically another kind of basilisk, and in fact in the real world the two terms are sometimes interchangeable. However, I feel that having the basilisk divided into two creatures, separated by the two most common depictions of it (as a serpentine rooster or a multilegged lizard), is a good move. Personally I would have had them be the same species but different sexes, but I still think they're cool.



Couatl 
★★☆☆☆
These guys are honestly sort of disappointing to me. They're basically just derivative of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl turned into a weird "exotic" monster. Their name is just straight up the Aztec word for serpent, and they don't really have a clear role in the game. If they were better developed and maybe not such a blatant bastardization of a much more interesting being I think I'd like them more. As it is, I don't hate them but they're not that interesting.

Giant Crab
★★★☆☆
Giant crabs are objectively cool. I watched the Ray Harryhausen version of Mysterious Island when I was a kid and the scene where they fought the giant crab has stuck with me, plus I unironically like the Roger Corman film "Attack of the Crab Monsters".

Giant Crayfish
★★★☆☆
I had a pet crayfish when I was a kid, plus crayfish are such an interesting choice to have as a giant monster. They're also just plain cool in real life. 

Crocodile
★★★☆☆
These are just real animals, but crocodiles get a pass because they're actually interesting and have a decent precedent as dangerous beasts in swords and sorcery and weird fiction. If I can see Conan the barbarian wrestling one then they're probably alright.

Next time, I'll be reviewing the monsters starting with D, which should be an incredible task, seeing as that includes all the dragons, demons, devils, and dinosaurs.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Scalable Monster Statblocks For OSR Games

I've been thinking while working my way through the AD&D monster manual about how many monsters I would use if only they were lower in power. Obviously one can easily scale the monster down to a more reasonable level, but I wondered what a scalable statblock would look like.


Armor class could remain fairly constant, if you are assuming a low level system/setting, with a bounded armor class, so that wouldn't need to scale. The main things that would need to scale would be hit dice and attacks/damage, which you could decide to link together.


For scaling hit dice, I will use the notation "L" to represent the dungeon level. So a monster's hit dice could be written as L+1, indicating that their hit dice are equal to the dungeon level plus 1. Thus, a monster of that type encountered on the 3rd dungeon level would have 4 hit dice. This can also work in reverse, with a monster have L-2 hit dice. A monster whose hit dice would be considered 0 actually has 1/2 of a hit die, and a monster with hit dice in the negatives is treated as having a single hit point.


As a general rule when designing monsters, I give them 1 attack for ever 2 hit dice they have, rounding up. So a monster with 3 hit dice would get 2 attacks, and a 5 hit dice monster would get 3 attacks. If using this system, one could simply write down how much damage a monster does, and have attacks be dependent on hit dice.


Special attacks are more difficult, but you could use the simple route of dragon breath's damage, having special attacks deal damage equal to the monster's current hit points.


So, as an example, here is a scalable statblock for a giant black widow spider


Credit to DeanSpencerArt on deviantart

Giant Black Widow
# Appearing: 1
Hit Dice: L+2
Armor Class: 14 (medium)
Damage: 1d6
Movement: Average
Special Attack: The Giant Black Widow can choose to bite as one of its attacks, requiring the target to make a CON challenge roll or take damage equal to the Black Widow's current hit points. A successful roll halves the damage taken.


Sorry for the kind of rambling post, I just got off work and HAD to write this down.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 1

I actually own two Monster Manuals, one is a reprint and the other I got at a used book store.

I love the main 3 monster manuals for AD&D (the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II), they're aesthetically pleasing and to me have always set the standard for role playing game bestiaries.

I figured I'd read through them and review the monsters therein. I don't know how long I'll be doing this, but maybe this could become a daily post thing for a while. 

I'll be starting out with the original Monster Manual, starting from the letter A. Each monster will get a rating out of 5 stars as well as a short explanation of why.



Aerial Servant
★★☆☆☆
Not off to a great start, the aerial servant always seemed kind of bland to me. That is to be expected, seeing as its one purpose is to be summoned as a servant by a cleric, but the fact that its an invisible air elemental which is routinely compared to the invisible stalker just makes it stink. It gets 2 stars instead of 1 star however, because I do think having clerics summon invisible elementals to carry their stuff is cool.




Anhkheg
★★★★☆
Anhkhegs are cool as hell, being basically giant weird centipede mantis critters which spit acid, and that is just plain awesome. They make great wilderness encounters, and it would be really easy to have a small little adventure where a farmer is terrorized by a group of these creatures. 




Giant Ants
★★★★☆
When I was a kid one of my favorite movies was Them!, which dealt with giant ants (though of a slightly larger size than the ones detailed here). Ever since then I've had a soft spot for these guys. However, at the end of the day they're just bigger versions of a real animal, so I can't give them a 5/5 stars.

Ape (Gorilla)
★☆☆☆☆
Literally just a real animal, useful but not what I come a monster manual for.




Carnivorous Apes
★★★☆☆
Why do Carnivorous Apes get 3/5 stars when gorillas get only 1? Because intelligent/semi-intelligent flesh eating apes are a cool swords and sorcery trope, and I really dig having them around. However, they're not quite as flavorful as, say, Moldvay Basic's White Apes.

Axe Beak
★★☆☆☆
Basically just a gastornis. Not that interesting, but I do like the name and think they could be useful for a lost world setting, so they get 2/5 stars.

Babboon
★☆☆☆☆
Another normal animal. 

Badger
★☆☆☆☆
ANOTHER NORMAL ANIMAL

Balluchitherium
★★☆☆☆
Another normal animal but it gets a slight pass because its a prehistoric rhinoceros.

Barracuda 
★☆☆☆☆
Not only is this fishy bastard a normal animal, its also an aquatic creature, meaning I will never get any use out of it.



Basilisk
★★★★☆
A good classic creature from mythology. I really really like the illustration for this guy, as well as the information on how it moves. I wish more information on its habitat and behavior was in its description though.

Bear
★★★☆☆
Now you might be asking, "Tristan why are you giving bears 3 stars, they're just animals?!" and while I agree that it is a little annoying to see another mundane critter in what is supposed to be a manual of monsters, I find that 1) bears are terrifying, and 2) their stats are useful as a benchmark for nasty predatory creatures.

Giant Beaver
★☆☆☆☆
Fuck you Gygax

Giant Beetle
★★★☆☆
Giant beetles are good, old fashioned, useful critters. It makes sense why they're in the dungeon, there are multiple varieties of them, and fire beetles give some useful loot for beginning adventurers! They're not the most interesting critters, but they are cool.




Beholder
★★★★★
Hell yeah!!! Beholders are great! Evil floating orbs with tons of eyes and magical abilities?? Sign me up! They're a little complicated mechanically but conceptually they are golden, and I love that. First 5/5 monster in the book.

Black Pudding
★★★★☆
Shoggoths are cool and black puddings are basically off-brand shoggoths, which I can appreciate. Ooze monsters in general are just so iconic to D&D and so interesting to deal with, and black puddings are no exception. 

Blink Dog
★★★☆☆
They're not bad per se but I just don't really know what to do with them? Also its weird that they're listed as intelligent but there is a suggestion of how much trained blink dog puppies would cost if sold.

Boar
★★★☆☆
Another mundane animal I actually kind of like, boars are scary as hell and also the prehistoric ones are listed here as a subtype, which is always a plus. This entry reminds me of the Wicked Tinkers song "The Hog".




Brain Mole
★★☆☆☆
I will never use this monster in all likelihood, since it uses psionic mechanics and those suck, but the illustration is so endearing and silly that I can't give it 1/5 stars.



Brownie
★★☆☆☆
Another monster I don't really know what to do with, and also their illustration is just... incredibly bad. Also I have no idea why their armor class is equivalent to plate mail.

Buffalo
★☆☆☆☆
*Sigh*




Bugbear
★★★★☆
Bugbears rule, I love the concept of these huge, tough goblins who are super sneaky and quiet. Its scary and makes them unique in a way that a lot of other humanoid type monsters just aren't. Also I love bogeymen archetypes. 




Bulette
★★★★★
Bulettes get 5 stars, which is a little weird considering how I've rarely even given them thought until now, but they deserve it. Their appearance is based off of a plastic dinosaur toy, their description says they are a hybrid of armadillos and snapping turtles with demonic blood, and they are the natural predators of halflings. They're so unique and interesting, I love them.

Bull
★☆☆☆☆
I swear to god can we just have like, a generic table of mundane animal stats? Its a little ridiculous how many normal animals are in the first monster manual.



Well that's all for this post, tomorrow I'll be going over some more. Hopefully I can keep up enough steam to review every monster from the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II. Thank you for reading!


Sunday, December 6, 2020

I Made A Free Kriegspiel Revolution Ruleset

If you're curious as to what the Free Kriegspiel Revolution is, give this post a read here.

I've been constantly thinking about new settings recently, with the three below being the chief among my considerations:
  • O.C.D (Occult Containment Department): A top secret international organization which hunts down and contains (or destroys) supernatural objects and beings, inspired by the SCP foundation, the X-Files, and bad reddit creepypastas.
  • Starship 2000: A retro-futuristic science fiction setting where Mars and Venus are inhabited planets and the Interplanetary Coalition explores the stars in search of new worlds to discover, inspired by Star Trek, old 1950s B-Movies, and old "space men" toys.
  • Contact Lost: Semi-hard science fiction setting focusing on space marines investigating extraterrestrial colonies, space stations, and research bases that have lost contact with Earth, inspired by Aliens, DOOM, and Event Horizon.
Initially I sought to design variations of my ADHD game system for each of these settings, complete with new classes and rules to suit the genres. However, I kept finding that a dungeon crawling chassis didn't seem to work very well, and many of these games would require either extreme simplification of rules or greater complexity. I chose to go with the former option, and came up with what I now call SUDS: Simple Universal D6 System. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Here's A Dungeon, Sorry For Not Posting

 Oh jeez oh god I haven't posted in a month, here have a very simplistic set of encounters/rooms for a 10 room dungeon involving a vampire countess:

Empty Rooms

  • Bats roosting in a wine cellar, there is some wine of a good vintage which can be sold for a considerable profit.
  • A pile of staked vampire corpses; the remains of the vampire countess's husbands who she grew tired of.
  • A stable with extremely anemic and emaciated horses.
Darkest Dungeon has good vampires.


Combat Encounters
  • A guardian werewolf chained to a stake in the center of the room using a silver chain.
  • The sleeping quarters of the countess's husbands, filled with luxurious coffins. The countess's husbands are all rather feral vampires, dressed in fine silk clothes and chosen for their handsomeness. They wear high quality jewelry.
  • The countess's chambers, containing the countess herself and a velvet lined coffin. She wears a ruby necklace and wields a knife with magical anti-coagulant properties, causing excessive bleeding in victims.
From Pinterest, thought this would work as one of the countess's husbands.



Traps
  • A trapdoor drops down into a pit which contains weakened, starving former husbands of the countess. 
  • A spring loaded pike fires from the wall, impaling anyone unfortunate enough to activate the trap's pressure plate.
Special
  • A blood transfusion station, consisting of a chair with straps and an IV containing the blood of the countess. This is used to turn humans into vampires.
NPC
  • A man named Vladimir is chained to the wall in a cell. He is very anemic and has several puncture wounds on his body. He knows a little about the layout of the countess's keep and desperately wants to escape.
Rumors
  • The countess knows the secret to eternal life, and it can be found within her keep.
  • Handsome men keep going missing, and the trail leads back to the countess.
  • Vladimir went to the countess's castle to see if the rumors are true, and he never came back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

ADHD Update: Two Classes Only!

 

Click the image to check out the new version!
So I know literally only last month I redesigned the magic system, but I did it again. Not too much has changed, but there are now only 36 spells available, split into 6 elements of magic for the convenience of rolling randomly.

The bigger change is that I removed Prophets and Rogues from the class list. This is likely to be a controversial opinion, but here is my reasoning:

Prophets didn't really have a decent reason for existing, at least in that state. They were basically just Sorcerers shifted slightly to the left. This is already an issue for me with Dungeons and Dragons, and I just amplified it by allowing all classes to use any weapons/armor. Just having a Sorcerer with slightly different abilities didn't make much sense aside from forcing into the world an arbitrary separation of divine and arcane magic, which historically didn't really exist.

So now instead of Sorcerers and Prophets there are just good ol' Magic-Users.

Rogues are gone because the only reason thieves/rogues/specialists/whatever you want to call them exist is to provide skills which can be used outside of combat. Now, I have issues with having skill systems that can only be used with one class, since it inherently limits the actions of others! Once you have a class with explicit rules for picking pockets, members of any other class without that skill can no longer attempt it.

Since I already use a simple "roll d20 under your stat" system for non-combat challenges, it didn't really make sense for me to have an entire class dedicated to having better chances at those challenges. The only other feature of the class was that they could make sneak attacks, and realistically I realized anyone should be able to do that. 

I also changed how stats work to be a little bit more simplified, with less penalties for lower stats as well. Someone with low stats will already have difficulty with challenge rolls, I figured its not worth it to penalize them much more than that.

So now, sneak attacks are a universal feature, there are no rogues, there are no prophets, and spells are more organized. I also took the liberty of extensively reducing in size the referee's section, as I began to get a headache from all of my own advice, and decided to cut it down to two pages. 

Does this mean you can't play a traditional cleric-like character using ADHD? Absolutely not! As an example, I rolled up one down below:




Name: Brother Timothy
Species: Human
Class: Magic-User
Background: Priest

STR 13 (+1 to hit and damage in melee combat)
DEX 10
CON 13 (+1 to Hit Points)
INT 10 (2 languages known)
WIS 14 (+1 to certain spell effects)
CHA 12 (1 follower maximum)

HP 7

Special abilities:
Grimoire (2 spells at first level)
Spellcasting

Spells Known
Heal wound (2/day)
Strength (2/day)

Equipment
Mail armor (medium, AC 14)
Mace (1 handed melee, 1d6+1 damage, +1 to hit)
Holy symbol
Backpack
5 torches
Flint and steel
5 rations
10 stakes
Hammer
Water skin
7 bandages
Grimoire

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

ADHD Update!

 I've been fiddling around with my OD&D based house rules; Adventuring in Distressingly Hazardous Dungeons, and I think they're ready to be shared in an updated form. 

Notable changes:

  • I've added a simple (and optional) background system to help flesh out characters.
  • I've changed the spell system, quite frankly I thought the spell point based method was a bit too involved and complex for my tastes. Now, spells are similar to those presented in Empire of the Petal Throne, with a limited number of uses per day depending on the spell. However, these spells in ADHD are also completely level-less, with exceptionally powerful spells having certain restrictions to avoid being overpowered. This does mean a level 1 Prophet can cast Resurrection though.
  • I've removed most of the playable species except for the core four of Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling, since frankly I wasn't very pleased with how the others turned out, they might be added back later, but maybe not.
  • I've changed the level progression system and also added many optional rules for other level progression systems.
  • I reworked the referee's section to be much smaller and simpler, though as always it can be ignored for the referee's own personal preferences.

If you'd like to check it out, the link is down below! Thank you for reading!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UMZm-0QO0r1_Kqb3d5ek8q2qDSK1CDKh/view?usp=sharing

Friday, September 18, 2020

XP For Gold Is Stinky

I don't like XP for gold because I like making randomly generated dungeons, and having a system where people gain in experience by how much treasure they acquire makes randomly generating treasure a lot more complicated and quite frankly I'm bad at math. 

XP for gold has the following upsides:
  • Provides a mechanical reason for players to want to acquire treasure
  • Encourages exploration and critical thinking over combat
It also has the following downsides:
  • Doesn't make sense from an in-universe standpoint (though leveling systems barely do anyway)
  • Doesn't make sense for certain kinds of characters (what does a hermit monk need all that gold for?)
  • Gives the player characters way too much money to play around with, which is only a good thing if you're trying to do some domain play
I propose this instead; for every 10 obstacles a character overcomes (obstacle being defined by the referee, for example a very easy fight with 2 giant rats might not be considered an obstacle, but successfully navigating through a storm in a Moon-beast ship would be), the character gains a level. This is summarized by the table below.

Level    Obstacles Overcome
1            0
2            10
3            20
4            30
5            40

Alternatively, if you want an exponential leveling system like that of traditional old school D&D, use the table below.

Level    Obstacles Overcome
1            0
2            10
3            30
4            70
5            150


Once I finish tinkering with the dungeon generation tables I've been fiddling with, I'm going to try to put these methods into practice in a home game, particularly the more linear system of character advancement.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Can Orcs Be Fixed?

UPDATE: In view of recent discussions on the OSR discord server, I'm not sure how much I agree with this initial post I have made anymore. The basic gist of the argument against this post was that it is inherently a colonialist, white supremacist attitude to at all assign any species the role of being a killable Other for the purpose of the game. I'll have to rethink this a bit, but for now I am leaving this blog post up for the consideration of others.

Disclaimer: This article is written from the perspective of a white man, and as a result should be taken with a grain of salt, I am not and never will consider myself to be an expert on racial issues, and the voices of people of color should hold more weight than my own in this context.

D&D's orcs are racist caricatures. This is a bad thing and should not continue.

Those two statements form the premise for the rest of this post, if you fundamentally disagree with those two statements, I don't care about your opinion and I don't want to discuss it with you. If you comment disagreeing about this, I will delete your comment, because I don't care and its not what I want to discuss.

I want to discuss how to fix this problem, and if you have any input on that, I would be very happy to hear from you.

There seem to be two main groups of thought in how to fix orcs. The first is to portray orcs as complicated sentient creatures with emotional depth, rather than sacks of hit points with racial stereotypes tacked on. The second is to try and separate orcs from racial stereotypes, and to instead emphasize their purpose as sacks of hit points.

While the first idea is the most popular, the second idea is the one I like more, though I do understand the first solution and think it has merit and is a valid solution.

My reasoning is that D&D fundamentally needs monsters to fight in order to be a fun game, at least for the kind of game I want to run. And I don't like morally complicated things. Its partially due to the nature of my mental illnesses, which makes me have difficulty seeing in shades of gray, and partially because when I sit down to write or play a game, I do so out of a desire for escapism, and I don't want to have to make difficult moral choices (this isn't to say I want my games to be apolitical, sometimes escapism can be beating the shit out of fictional bigots, and anyone who tries to claim that arts/games/whatever can be apolitical I'm going to have to disagree with). 

So, it is very very obvious that orcs, as they stand now, are not good for my purposes, which is to be uncomplicated monsters. So how can I fix this? 

If I go the more popular root of humanizing orcs, I simply make orcs another species that exists in my world. However, there are three difficulties with this solution, at least for me.

1. If I wanted to go in the direction of portraying orcs as a fantastical version of people of color in a non-offensive and well thought out way, that is very very difficult. It is hard to present a fundamentally non-human being as an analogue for a person of color without it being incredibly racist and in bad taste.
2. Presenting orcs as an analogue for people of color, even if somehow done incredibly respectfully and in a progressive manner, still seems like a way of getting around just having actual people of color in your campaign world, and takes away the spotlight from them somewhat.
3. I still wouldn't have a group of 1 HD monsters for my players to fight without feeling bad about. Which, depending on the game you're running, could be a good thing, but its not what I'm looking for.

There are two other potential solutions that I find would work for me specifically much better.

Solution 1: Orcs as Fascists

Fascists are an easy target for morally simple violence, because a fascist is viewed as evil for good reason. A fascist is violent because they want to be dominant and in control, because they hate difference and want themselves to be the sole power in existence.

This solution is not without its problems, because presenting an entire species as fascists takes away the agency of the individual to be evil. It is essentially reducing the evils of fascism to "orcish nature" rather than the actual complex system of hatred, propaganda, and evil that it is. Nobody is born a fascist, they are molded into one by politicians and bigots.

A solution to this is to have orcs literally be human beings that are shaped by an evil ideology, one so corrupted and cruel that it physically twists their bodies into a crueler form. Half-orcs are those that were raised in the ideology but escaped soon enough to not be corrupted wholly, though the physical effects are still evident. Humans become orcs over time, and orcish babies start out as humans. This also fixes the "what to do with baby orcs" problem, since inherently it means that orcs are not genetically chaotic evil, so one has a moral imperative to save the orc babies and take them to an orphanage.

Of course, this physical appearance needs to be completely divorced from the racist depictions that already exist. This also applies to all the other solutions I have. Don't have your orcs have dark brown/black skin, thick lips, dreadlocks and wear "primitive" clothing. These fascist orcs I described might wear jackboots and armor emblazoned with the symbols of their cruel ideology, their skin color isn't really important, its whatever it was before they were turned, perhaps more rough and thicker though. They still have fangs and pig snouts, the better for sniffing out victims and ripping them apart.

Don't make your orcs look like this, especially the one in the middle. From the 4th edition D&D Monster Vault.

However, this solution does have the problem of potentially making those who were raised in bigoted environments feel like monsters, and that there is nothing they can do about it. You could have it that as a half-orc does good deeds and unlearns their ideology they become more and more human, both physically and mentally.

Solution 2: Orcs as Completely Non-Human

This is less of a replacement of orcish behavior and attitudes and more of a replacement of orcs entirely. Instead of having humanoids with piggish features and a militaristic attitude, there instead are literal bipedal boars that live in colonies similar to ants, and function on instinct rather than intellect. These man-pigs don't fight because they're evil, they aren't sentient, they fight for the protection of the Sow-Queen and to expand their colony.

The swine from Darkest Dungeon

Or maybe there is a sorcerer, putting demons into the bodies of innocents and forcing them to fight his battles, the demonic presence within them changing their body into one more suited for combat. These aren't war-like humanoids, they are victims of demonic possession, modified for war and designed to spread conflict. They have jagged fangs and claws and beady red eyes that reflect back fear and horror at their own actions, even as their bestial throats bellow forth war cries. Maybe the sorcerer is long dead, but his army still lives, wandering the world and inhabiting dungeons.
Not quite what I'm describing but the deadites from the Evil Dead franchise are close.


But What If I Want My Players To Negotiate With Orcs?

If you want your players to be able to negotiate and make peace with orcs, then why not just replace them with humans or some other, new species of your own creation? This article is about how to preserve the role of the 1 hit die cannon fodder that can be slain without guilt, for more complex characters like that, something else is required. Replace them with a band of cave dwelling bandits or descendants of humans that evolved to live underground and have been fighting out of necessity and fear. These both would make for interesting role playing opportunities.

But we can have a fun role playing experience without falling back on old stereotypes and bigotry in order to have "bad guys". We don't need to be old school in our rulesets AND our ideology. Yes, D&D is just a game, but games are art, and works of art reflect the beliefs (both consciously and unconsciously) of those who create them.

I understand the need for violence in a lot of old school games, I really do, its a core part of the pulp fantasy nature of the game. I'm not complaining about that. But we don't need the monsters that our characters fight be racist caricatures.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

LOST CARCOSA IS RELEASED!!

Its finally here folks! Thank you all so much for your support with this project, this was really a labor of love and the kind words y'all have commented have really helped me throughout this process.

This supplement isn't going to be for everyone, obviously the style and ruleset is going to be a little alienating, but I hope that given the restrictions of the OD&Desque format and horror influences I've made something that can be quite usable. 


Also, I wanted to make a quick note on how mental illness is treated in this supplement, since obviously anything that deals with"insanity" is gonna be a little weird. I'm mentally ill, I don't talk about it much but I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, among other symptoms which have yet to be given formal diagnoses. Part of what has drawn me to the King in Yellow and the Cthulhu mythos are the themes of obsession and being driven mad from forbidden knowledge, which to me feels almost relatable and definitely pretty close to home. Madness and insanity are core themes of these works, so if I stripped them out of Lost Carcosa it would be a bit odd. Nevertheless, I feel like works dealing with mental illness often treat the DSM-V like a monster manual rather than actually have tasteful and complex depictions of mental illness. I've tried to tend towards tastefulness here.

I hope you all enjoy this, and get good use out of it! If you want to, feel free to review it on your blog, I'd love to hear your feedback about it!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Lost Carcosa Update: Nearly Finished!



This might be the last or second-to-last update I make about this, since I have good news! Supplement 🜏: Lost Carcosa is nearly finished!

The most recent iteration of the document is 64 pages long, but the finished product should be 70-75 pages long.

Here is a list of what is currently featured:

  • Descriptions of 14 deities to be worshiped or feared, ranging from the benevolent Bast to the vile King in Yellow.
  • Descriptions of 13 (or 12, depending on how you count horribly mutated fused royalty) NPCs which can be encountered in Carcosa.
  • 350 interesting things to find while exploring the wilderness of Carcosa, spread across 7 regions, along with random encounter tables for each region.
  • 36 monsters with combat statistics for old school fantasy games.
  • 11 new spells drawn from weird fiction.
  • 21 eldritch and unnatural magic items.
  • 3 new playable character species.
  • A mutation table.
  • A detailed system to generate the Dark Young of Sheol-Nugganoth
  • Shoddy, amateur layout!

By the time the supplement is finished, it will also feature:
  • Tables for creating small dungeon delves to be placed in the uncharted wilderness.
  • A small sample dungeon to get things started quickly.
  • Optional, simplified rules for hex crawling in Carcosa.
  • A list of Carcosan names.
  • Carcosan dungeon encounter tables.
Hopefully I'll have a draft done in a few days, after which I'll do some testing and revise it. After that, I'll be putting it up for sale on DrivethruRPG.

Thank you all so much for your advice and support, and I hope you will enjoy reading and using Lost Carcosa as much I did making it!