Thursday, January 28, 2021

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 4: Long Overdue Edition

 Things have been happening and I've been too lazy to work on this, but here we are finally with part 4!

Dinosaurs (Yep, All Of 'Em)
Three stars for dinosaurs may seem a little harsh, but mainly this is just a personal gripe with how they are laid out. Dinosaurs are objectively cool, especially the scientifically inaccurate big lizard fellas depicted in the Monster Manual. However, the fact that they are all labeled by their scientific names, the fact that few of them actually have illustrations, their obscenely large numbers of hit dice, and the relative redundancy of having so many similar species listed, all makes my opinion of these entries go down significantly. I would use dinosaurs in my game, and I might pick and choose a few from here, but this isn't how I would go about it.

Displacer Beast
These critters are interesting, I've actually read the story that inspired their physical appearance, and honestly I think these are slightly more neat than the coeurls that inspired them. However, they don't really fit with my home setting, though they could be encountered in the wilderness of Lost Carcosa. This is really a case of "neat concept, but I personally wouldn't use it" so I only give them 3 stars. 

I don't really know that much about Middle Eastern mythology, so I can't really argue how accurate the depiction of djinn in the Monster Manual is, but they just really don't seem like my cup of tea. Elemental creatures already don't float my boat, and chaotic good pseudo-wish granting ones just aren't that interesting to me.

Useful creature stats but also come on Gygax please just have a mundane animal table.

Again, just a real animal, but here is a weird thing: their intelligence is listed as "very", which is above the average human intelligence. I have no idea if this was intentional or not.

I love Doppelgangers, they're such an interesting creature, but they are unfortunately somewhat difficult to run, at least with PCs being imitated. They work great if you have hirelings though. Also I absolutely love their illustration.

Black Dragon
I can dig cave/swamp dwelling dragons that spit acid, that sounds awesome! It certainly helps that these critters' illustration looks like a snake of some kind.

Blue Dragon
Out of all the chromatic dragons, blue dragons are the most boring to me. I do find it interesting that they dwell in deserts, and spitting lightning is appropriately intimidating, especially if there is a loud thunderclap whenever they use their breath weapon. But something about them just doesn't click with me.

Every Metallic Dragon
I don't get why there need to be "good" and "evil" dragons, especially since these dragons are mostly based off of European mythology (some aspects of gold dragons give off vibes similar to the lungs/longs of Chinese mythology). It just seems unnecessary for them to exist except 

Chromatic Dragon (Tiamat)
An evil goddess of dragons with the heads of each of the different types is interesting conceptually, I just don't know why Gygax tied her to the Mesopotamian deity Tiamat. Like I'd give her a 3 out of 5 if it wasn't for the meaningless connection to the mythological deity.

Green Dragon
This is a solid dragon, I can get behind a poison spewing green bat-lizard that lurks in forests. The medieval venomous aspect of dragons is often overlooked in my opinion. It is kind of weird to me that the poison is specified as chlorine though

Platinum Dragon (Bahamut)
I dislike Bahamut for the same reasons I don't like metallic dragons AND for the same reason I don't like Tiamat. Why tie the god of good dragons to a mythological fish that holds up the world? Its just bizarre to me.

Red Dragon
I was going to give these fellas a 4/5, but then I had a vivid memory of my father reading me the Hobbit for the first time, and remembered the wonder and terror I felt at hearing of Smaug sniffing out Bilbo beneath the Lonely Mountain. Fire breathing, winged dragons are just such an absolute staple of fantasy that I can't rightfully give this creature anything less than a perfect score.

White Dragon
Not the coolest of dragons by far, but it gives off this weird viking feel that I appreciate and can't quite put into words. Also, the illustration reminds me of the gyaos from the Gamera series.

I had to google the origin of the word "dragonne" and it literally is just the feminine French version of the word dragon. I have no idea why Gygax just took a word meaning "lady dragon" and decided its an all new species of dragon with the head of a male lion. I also can't see any real reason why this creature needed to exist.

Dragon Turtle
I like dragon turtles because they remind me of the legend of sailors going onto an island, starting a fire, and then realizing to their horror that it is the back of a sea monster. It would make for an interesting encounter in a pirate-styled game, and the fact that they breath clouds of steam is interesting. However, they are aquatic creatures, so I have little use for them in my mostly dungeon/wilderness exploration home games.

Though based off of a Greek creature, the dryads of D&D give off such wonderful faerie vibes to me. I especially like the detail that they will charm and steal away men only if they have a charisma of 16 or higher, it adds a lot that these beings don't steal away people for any need of sustenance, but just because they think they're hot. I love the fact that 50% of those stolen never return, and those that do only return in 1-4 years. 

I may be giving dwarves a little too much credit with 3/5 stars, but once again my love for The Hobbit takes over. The illustration is nice, and the description of dwarf clans being competitive but not hostile makes for interesting worldbuilding. However, I dislike that they have a universal alignment of "Lawful Good", their culture is barely given any shred of explanation, and I hardly feel that there needs to be a distinction between regular dwarves and mountain dwarves. Also, while I'm complaining, why can only NPC dwarves be clerics in AD&D 1e???

Anyway, sorry for the delay in this post, I've been busy with work, a game of Adventuring in Distressingly Hazardous Dungeons run over Discord, writing a story for the Bogleech Creepypasta Potluck (which you can read HERE), reading the Simon Necronomicon, and watching through Supernatural with my spouse. 

Next time: Monsters starting with the letter E!!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Answering Vayra's 10 Setting Questions For Visterra

1) What class knows the most martial arts? Are they real martial arts like kung fu, or made up ones like krav maga?

If you're a fighter, you get a better base attack bonus, so probably fighters, but that being said there are literally only fighters and magic-users. However if you're a magic-user you could cast strength on yourself and you could play that off as some form of occult martial arts. And there probably aren't any kung fu practitioners on Visterra, unless some humans from our reality got sucked into a wormhole or something, but I'm sure there are various martial arts disciplines practiced both within and outside of the Known Lands.

2) Can I start out having already made a deal with the devil or do I have to do that in game?

Hell yeah you can start out having already made a deal with an archdemon, that's like the coolest backstory for a magic-user! There isn't a "Devil" in Visterra per se, but Lufidiax the deceiver, archdemon of serpents and lies, seems pretty close. Get a little scaly imp familiar dude that cackles constantly and speaks ominously of a future price to pay.

3) Do you want me to write an 8-page backstory? Can I write an 8-page backstory, if I want to? If I write something down in it like I'm the timelost princess of the brass city and the daughter of the sun and I commanded legions in the Hell War but was betrayed by my father's vizier but I don't know that, or that I'm elf conan and cooler than everyone else, will that be true?

You can write an 8 page backstory, but probably no to the planar stuff, elf conan sounds awesome though and you can definitely be elf conan. Please play elf conan.

4) If I eat someone's heart, will I gain their powers? What about their brain?

Maybe if you get afflicted with a weird form of vampirism, but otherwise probably not. If you want to be a magic-user with a spell that grafts their brain on to yours, until you have a big bulbous head full of other peoples' memories, lets talk and see.

5) These classes are boring, can I be one from somewhere else? What about from a different system entirely?

Tell me what kind of character you want to play and if it doesn't fit into the broad categories of "Fighter" and "Magic-User", I'll maybe let you play a new class. Otherwise most classes are just variations of those two with slightly different theming and equipment, and you're welcome to ask me about other possible options and strange equipment.

6) If I make a sword, which one of us gets to name it?

You do, but if you name it something like Stabby McSwordface or something I'll cry on the inside.

7) Am I allowed to kill the other player characters? What would I have to do to be allowed to? Do I win if I kill them all? Actually, how do I win in general?

No you're not allowed to kill the other player characters under normal circumstances, and you'd have to do some pretty incredible co-operative role playing to get me to consider otherwise. You win the shithead of the year award if you kill them all, and you win in general by successfully adventuring long enough to reach Level 5 and then retire.

8) What language stands in for 'Common'? Or what are we all talking to each other in? Like the party, mostly, but also everyone else?

Most folks in the Known Lands speak Low Imperial, which is basically like the Visterran equivalent of middle English. High Imperial is latin, and is only spoken by Syngianite priests. 

9) How do I learn how to talk to rocks? No not once a day just, like, normally?

Get cursed by one of the Fae, or find a magic talisman of rock speaking. 

10) Which kinds of wizards get to serve kings and live in towers and shit and which ones are run out of town or stoned to death in the streets? Can I be both? At the same time?

If you are friends with someone powerful and have money, you can probably get away with whatever you want and still live in a big tower. However, if you don't have that kind of protection and reputation, you might get run out of town very quickly. People in the Known Lands are kind of scared of magic, as a result of living under a regime which demonized its practiced for such a long time. Despite the Holy Empire of Norenlund falling 200 years ago, people are still frightened of the supernatural. So you can probably be both at the same time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Making FKR characters using Zweihander

Inspired by this post by Wizard Lizard over at Underworld Adventures.

I like Zweihander from an aesthetic standpoint, I really do, but unfortunately I have OSR/FKR brainrot and so I can't run or play a system that complicated. However, what I could do is use the character creation method from that game and tweak it for use with a less complicated system.

The stats in Zweihander are Combat, Brawn, Agility, Perception, Intelligence, Willpower, and Fellowship. Normally you roll for these stats by rolling 3d10 and adding 25 to the result for each, but that's a little too complicated for my tastes, so instead how about you just roll 3d6 for each. Write down any stats that are noteworthy, ignore average stats.

13-18    Skilled Fighter
9-12      Average
3-8        Poor Fighter

13-18    Tough
9-12      Average
3-8        Weak

13-18    Agile
9-12      Average
3-8        Clumsy

13-18    Perceptive
9-12      Average
3-8        Inattentive

13-18    Smart
9-12      Average
3-8        Stupid

13-18    Strong-willed
9-12      Average
3-8        Spineless

13-18    Charismatic
9-12      Average
3-8        Socially Inept

Next roll a d6 to determine your race/species. A 1-4 indicates you are human, 5-6 indicates you are demihuman, the exact type of which is determined by the table below.

1. Dwarf
2. Gnome
3. Halfling
4. Ogre
5. Elf
6. Half-Human; roll again to determine other half

Next, roll a d6 to determine your archetype (and then roll a d12 to determine your profession based on that archetype)

1. Academic
2. Commoner
3. Knave
4. Ranger
5. Socialite 
6. Warrior

Academic Professions
1. Adherent
2. Anchorite
3. Antiquarian
4. Apothecary
5. Astrologer
6. Diabolist
7. Engineer
8. Informer
9. Investigator
10. Monk
11. Preacher
12. Scribe

Commoner Professions
1. Artisan
2. Barber Surgeon
3. Boatman
4. Camp Follower
5. Cheapjack
6. Coachman
7. Doomsayer
8. Jailer
9. Laborer
10. Peasant
11. Rat Catcher
12. Servant

Knave Professions
1. Beggar
2. Burglar
3. Charlatan
4. Footpad
5. Gambler
6. Graverobber
7. Guttersnipe
8. Highwayman
9. Sex Worker
10. Smuggler
11. Vagabond
12. Vigilante

Ranger Professions
1. Animal Tamer
2. Bailiff
3. Bonepicker
4. Bounty Hunter
5. Gamekeeper
6. Hedgewise
7. Old Believer
8. Outrider
9. Pilgrim
10. Reeve
11. Slayer
12. Trapper

Socialite Professions
1. Anarchist
2. Courtier
3. Cultist
4. Entertainer
5. Envoy
6. Fop
7. Jester
8. Provocateur
9. Racketeer
10. Raconteur
11. Rake
12. Valet

Warrior Professions
1. Berserker
2. Bravo
3. Buccaneer
4. Dragoon
5. Hedge Knight
6. Man-At-Arms
7. Militiaman
8. Pit Fighter
9. Pugilist
10. Sellsword
11. Squire
12. Watchman

There are number of different tables for determining additional features for your character, but I don't feel comfortable copying down wholesale an entire slew of tables from a non-free game. Similarly, this is why I didn't note down the starting equipment you get by your archetype.

You can use this character creation method with whatever system you want to, but I'd personally bolt a slightly modified version of SUDS for the resolution system, renaming the 3 "hits" granted to starting characters to "wounds" for that warhammery flavor.

Using this "system" here are some sample characters rolled up in a few minutes. I rolled quite badly on most character's stats, so I doubt many of them would survive an encounter with the forces of chaos.

Pelgrana, Female Elf Rake
3 Wounds

Poor Fighter

Coin purse, fancy shoes, fashionable clothing, foppish hat, holy symbol, knuckleduster, mandrake root (3), mantle, neck ruff, shoulder bag, writing kit, rapier

Ludmilla, Female Human Gamekeeper
3 Wounds
1 Armor


Animalbane (3), antivenom, backpack, bullwhip, heavy boots, holy symbol, suit of fur/hide armor, survival kit, torches (3), traveling clothes, waterskin, wilderness cloak, wolfsbane, hunting bow with arrows (9) and quiver

Jarla, Female Human Pilgrim
3 Wounds
1 Armor

Poor Fighter
Socially Inept

Animalbane (3), antivenom, backpack, bullwhip, heavy boots, holy symbol, suit of fur/hide armor, survival kit, torches (3), traveling clothes, waterskin, wilderness cloak, wolfsbane, woodsman's axe

Heinz, Male Human Rake
3 Wounds


Coin purse, fancy shoes, fashionable clothing, foppish hat, holy symbol, knuckleduster, mandrake root (3), mantle, neck ruff, shoulder bag, writing kit, throwing knives (3) with bandolier

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Dungeon Encounter Proportions (And Crab Knights)

Oh boy its rambling theory crafting time yet again here in the Bogeyman's Cave! I'm gonna be comparing the general proportions of empty rooms, traps, monsters, and special rooms in dungeons by edition of D&D.

Now, Original D&D has a very simplistic suggestion of rolling a d6 for each room and space, with a 1 or 2 showing that a monster is there, 3 to 6 showing that there is no monster. There is no consideration for traps or "tricks" as OD&D called special rooms. This crude system gives us the proportions of 33% monster encounters and 66% empty rooms (or at least, rooms without monsters).

As near as I can tell, Holmes Basic D&D didn't have any guidelines as to Dungeon encounter proportions, instead just allowing DMs to wing it using the included dungeon geomorphs and monster and treasure assortment. 

AD&D had a rather complex random dungeon generation system, with a bunch of tables to fool around with. However, I'm gonna be focusing on TABLE V. F.: CHAMBER OR ROOM CONTENTS. Instead of a d6 roll to determine room contents, one rolls a d20, with 1-12 indicating that a room was empty, 13-14 indicating a monster, 15-17 indicating a monster with treasure, 18 indicating a special room, 19 indicating a trick/trap, and 20 indicating just treasure. This gives us a 65% chance of an empty room, 25% chance of monsters, and a 10% chance of tricks/traps/specials. 

The Moldvay Basic Set returns to a d6 based system, albeit more complex than OD&D's with 1-2 representing monsters, 3 representing a trap, 4 representing a special room, and 5-6 representing an empty room. This gives us the proportions of 33% monsters, 33% empty, 16% traps, and 16% special.

I'm not sure if BECMI has a different system, but I do know that the D&D rules Cylopedia uses the same generation system as B/X, and as near as I can tell AD&D 2e doesn't even have random dungeon generation rules (at least not in any of the core rulebooks).

Here are the proportions as shown side by side for easy comparison.

Room Type



Basic D&D

















Now which one of these systems is best? Is it a good idea at all to randomly stock dungeons in this way, or should one simply use them as guidelines? Does it even matter?

I've always been a big proponent of using the guidelines of "For every 10 rooms, have 3 empty rooms, 3 combat encounters, 2 traps, a special room, and a room with an NPC to interact with". And for the most part, I do think that this system holds up, hell, the game I'm currently running has had every adventure thus far use those proportions, and its going smoothly.

But its important to note that the designers of these games didn't seem to care that much about encounter proportions. Take a look at any module by Gygax and you'll quickly see that he clearly didn't have just 5% traps and 25% monsters. 

Its most likely that these random generation systems are meant as training wheels for novice game masters, a tool to use to help start things out but not rigid laws to follow.

Anyway to pay the Joesky Tax here are stats for crab knights

Source unknown, please let me know if you know the artist

Crab Knights
# Appearing: 1d3
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 17 (as platemail+shield)
Movement: slow
Attacks: 1 sword (1d6+1), 1 claw (1d6)
Special: Crab Knights can only move sideways, in order to change direction they must spend their movement action to turn. 1 in 6 crab knights have magic powers (roll randomly for a spell known).

Once errant knights on a quest to slay a vile water dragon, the Crab Knights were cursed by a sea hag to become creatures of the deep. They can spend short amounts of time on land, but inevitably must return to the sea. They are driven by a fierce longing to be human again, and become violently jealous upon seeing human beings, flying into a murderous rage. Crab Knights can be broken free of this rage by being shown the heraldry of their old knightly order, which restores them to rationality for a time.