Friday, 30 December 2011

Here we go again - tinkering with combat

Yes I know it has all been done before, and you won't see anything not been blogged before by others, but with a new year pending I just can't stop myself.


Part 1:
Dexterity as evade score, shields modify evade score, helmet rules, armor reduces damage (not to hit probability)...

To hit an opponent
To hit an opponent roll a d20 (+ any modifiers) equal to or above an opponents evade score.
Dexterity bonus applies ‘to hit’ (melee and missile)
[Conversion from descending AC for most monsters: Evade score = 19 – AC]

To avoid being hit by an opponent
Evade score                               = Dexterity Score
Small Shield (150cn enc)           = +1 evade vs 1 attack
Large Shield (300cn enc)           = +1 evade vs 2 attacks

Strength bonus applies to damage from melee, thrown weapons, bows (not crossbows) etc

Armor Class
Damage reduction per die
Leather & padded hood
-1 damage per die

Chain & coif/helmet 
-2 damage per die

Platemail & helmet
-3 damage per die

Great Helm  
Additional -1 damage, surprised on a 1-3

A successful hit will always deal a minimum of 1 damage per die.
If head protection is not worn, armor will not reduce the damage of a 2nd successful attack that round.

Monster List for Labyrinth Lord demonstrates damage reduction not hard to apply to the majority of monster attacks. e.g. 2d8 damage and leather armor would reduce each d8 by 1 (minimum of 1 damage per die)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Kids D&D - Rescue the King

In September I introduced my two children (girl 7 and boy nearly 5) to D&D when they had an epic adventure to Rescue the Princess. You can read about it here.

When, as my kids like to refer to them, we had the 'cousins' to stay in early December (boy 11, girl 9 (who is reading the Lord of the Rings! after finishing the Hobbit), boy 7) it only required minimal of nagging from my two children, to return to the campaign world, because shock horror, and at my son's request, now the King had gone missing.  

Rescue the King

Once again I used Jimm Johnson's excellent Kid's D&D rules and character sheets. A perfect complexity for this age group.

I also had access to my Warhammer miniatures - goblins, characters a manticore!

For a map I did a quick google search for D&D castle maps and stumbled on drnuncheons gameblog who alerted me to this modification of Castle Caldwell by Warlock's Home Brew.

I only used the ground level map and made room 24 (where the King was being held) only accessible from the secret door in room 13. The secret door can only be opened with a password that must be spoken in elven.

Each corner tower has a magic mouth that gives the following letters in order. P E N O

Below are some notes I made.


AA - 6 goblins with bows (I made the dots in the room a metal portcullis which the goblins were hiding behind.)

1 - dining hall - magic food that heals if can answer a riddle

I found the first riddle from here.

Why are cooks cruel?
Because they whip cream and beat eggs!!

The next two riddles are from here.
Mary's father has 4 children; three are named Nana, Nene, and Nini. So what is is the 4th child's name?

It lives without a body, hears without ears, speaks without a mouth, and is born in air. What is it?

2 - sleeping quarters

7. Statue 
Crystal Statue from Labyrinth Lord
No. Enc.: 1d6 (1d6)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 2 (fists)
Damage: 1d6/1d6
Save: F3
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: None
XP: 65

10. Two tables with large table cloth - 2 goblins hiding and jump out

11 Church - pray, answer 1 question. (1 question per player)

13 - 'OPEN' in elvish to get through secret door
Manticore also from Labyrinth Lord

And I could use my Warhammer Dark Elf Miniature.

No. Enc.: 1d2 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Fly: 180' (60')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 6 + 1
Attacks: 3 (2 claws, bite) or 1 (spikes)
Damage: 1d4/1d4/2d4 or see below
Save: F6
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XIX
XP: 980

15 - Button on pillar 'Push me" - if do door locks and water starts to fill. Plug in floor.

21 - 2 large snakes in pit
Giant Python from LL
 No. Enc.: 1d3 (1d3)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 2 (bite, constrict)
Damage: 1d4/2d8
Save: F3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI
XP: 350

19/22 - sleeping quarters
= hidden gold in chamber pot, other pots have goblin wee. Yuck!

23 - empty

24 - king

25 - kitchen
Big ogre cook keeps saying
"Get out of my kitchen"
Ogre stats

The Kids D&D rules are superb. Maybe after a few sessions they'll be ready to try B/X.

The riddles went down very well with the kids.

My son (the youngest player by 2 years) kept wanting to bash walls down with his head and lose 1 HP each time, but wasn't that disruptive.

All in all a great session. Yesterday we played again, at cousin enthusiasm, which inspired me to first write up this session. The theme for yesterday was 'Rescue the Queen' (what an unlucky family) and an army of dragons, both at my son's request . Hope to tell you about that session soon!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Message from the Jovial Priest

Merry Christmas everyone

J.R.R. Tolkien (above, that's not me in case you thought it was) believed that God is the master STORYTELLER. All human history points to God's great STORY, and within this story all of human despair and hope is contained. God's STORY contains catastrophe (when hope fails) and its opposite, eucatastrophe (when out of despair hope shines through, often more miraculous then could have ever been anticipated or wished for).

Tolkien considered the fall of Adam and Eve to be the human catastrophe. Man rejected God and broke off the relationship.

The birth of Jesus is humankind's eucatastrophe, when God became man, to renew that relationship and bring hope to the world.

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Since humans are made in the image of God, our stories and myths all point to the STORY. In Tolkien's work the explicit themes of catastrophe and despair are frequently juxtaposed against eucatastrophe and hope - from Aragorn's arrival at the Battle of Pelennor Fields to Gollum's slip at the Cracks of Doom. This is where Peter Jackson would have most disappointed Tolkien.  PJ missed the point and robbed the story of its most profound and mythic moment. Though if he had gone with Tolkien I am sure many many viewers would have cried out, just like many have after finishing the book, '6 hours of watching (1000 pages) and Frodo fails at the bitter end, Gollum slips and it's all an accident!' Tolkien would have answered, 'that's no accident - that's eucatastrophe and the providence of God is clear.' 

Today, we remember Jesus' birth.

Merry Eucatastrophe from the Jovial Priest

PS I'm not a real priest.

PPS I am role-playing one.  Should that surprise any one reading this blog?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mandorla: Gods and Elves - Chapter One - uploaded to Scribd

Last month I took a mighty plunge into a deep sea of uncertainty, by starting to publish, Chapter by Chapter, my heartbreaker - a fantasy novel I started writing twenty years ago.

 As promised, here is Chapter 1 to follow on from the obligatory prologue.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Getting noticed for your heartbreaker novel: ePub or publisher

Bard raised a good point on my last post that publishers may not be willing to take on my novel if it has been released for free on the web.

It's a good point, and one I have considered very seriously.

For me the decision worked like this.

1. The chances of publishing an unwritten novel is 0%

2. If I don't find new ways to motivate myself (20 years remember) the chance of the novel being written is 0%.

3. Therefore I need to find new ways to motivate myself.

4. I found the feedback from writing my blog, motivating.

5. I will try to harness this motivation and use it to write my novel.


6. Putting my work online risks someone stealing my work.

7. Anonymity is a higher risk for new writers then theft.

8. There are legal avenues to address theft, if it were to occur.


9. I am a fantasy lover, I want to write a trilogy or more.

10. Publishing Book 1 online may just get me enough to be noticed and read by an 'important' person who will pay me a lot of money to write book 2 and 3.

11. Since I don't yet have a written novel I will publish what I do have as a serial in the hope I can use 5 to achieve 10.

Ummmmm...... yeah right.

Dreams, dreams, dreams

Sunday, 20 November 2011

With fear and trepidation I release my opus... sort of...

About twenty years ago, I started writing a fantasy novel with a friend. It was based on a D&D campaign I was dungeon mastering. My friend used the ideas, characters and my plot outline, to write and I then rewrote his initial words, until eventually we had a 1st draft of Book 1, at near 1000 pages.

My co-author grew less interested but I've never given up. I've also never finished the project. Over the last decade I started re-imagining it, and rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting; starting at the beginning over and over again. I'm further from the end of Book 1, then I was a decade ago.

The novel is now far removed from anything recognisable as D&D, and is very much my vision; and my torture.

By age 40 I vowed to have Draft 1 ready for publication. That vow passed uncompleted in January 2011.

I want this story out of me. I want this dream realised.

But my motivation is fickle, and family and work life all encompassing.

As has been said, 'writing is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration'.

I noticed while blogging how comments you all gave me, and seeing a few followers appear, inspired me to write more.

I started to wonder if this might be what I need for my novel. Writing to my own strength of will, has brought me nowhere. Perhaps I need to try a different tack.

So I've joined scribd. And uploaded the prologue of my novel.

I have nine chapters written, around 200 pages. My intention is to release one chapter / month, like a serial, and hopefully, here's really hoping, I will find the perspiration to just keep writing.

So click and read Mandorla: Gods and Elves - Prologue - The Death of Stem Faar

And feel free to comment, correct and criticise - either via this blog or a new email address I have started

It is thus with great fear and trepidation, I attempt once again to see this dream realised.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Links to Wisdom: Alive and 560 links kicking!

I know there have been some concerns about the demise of some OSR blogs. My own blog posting has fallen to zilch.

Blame no gaming group, work, family, Civilization 5, my fantasy novel opus, Civilization 5...

Whatever the case, Links to Wisdom is still going strong.

Just look below at the number of links to the contents below

Now I haven't checked every link but probably have checked more than 200. Of the links I have checked only one closed blog (sadly Axe and Hammer) and one link that needed fixing. That's not bad.

So provided Alex Schoeder isn't going anywhere (don't go anywhere Alex) the Links to Wisdom wiki is strong and here to stay. It's for everyone who wants to help preserve some of the memory of the OSR blogosphere. Feel free to add to it at anytime.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Rescue the Princess

My four and a half year old son was badgering me this last week to play Warhammer.

I knew he was a little confused, as I haven't played Warhammer in years. What he was recalling was the D&D campaign I played for my friends a few months back, and the battlemat and Warhammer miniatures we used. Since the campaign sessions often finished late I would leave the battlemat and miniatures out, so the next morning my son and seven year old daughter would see them, we'd roll a few dice and kill a few baddies over breakfast.

So today when he requested Warhammer I thought - perfect opportunity to play D&D.

I quickly printed off the 2 page KIDS' D&D HOUSE RULES BY JIMM JOHNSON  and two of his character sheets and we were ready to play!!!

I'd been saving these rules for just such an occasion. These rules really are fantastic - two pages long, 4 classes, no abilities.

With no time at all my son was the knight Flipback Bomb and my daughter Eliza the warrior princess.

My daughter was especially taken by the mission - rescue the kidnapped princess (a real princess).

We had great fun - the map and adventure I made up in my head 5 minutes before playing. I wanted monsters and combat, but also some traps and puzzles.

DM notes
A hermit had told them of a cave in the mountain where he thought the princess was.
Opening corridor was dark - they needed to use their torches from their equipment list.

Both would roll simultaneously for opening doors: 1-2 doors open and surprise any opponents.
1st room - two goblins - combat

West room - led to the kitchen where a goblin and orc were. In the kitchen was lots of raw and cooked meat. There were a few barrels - one barrel contained two ropes (originally one but sharing isn't the 4 year olds strength).

East room - led to a room with three cages against the opposite wall. The middle cage had a hungry lion in it. At the back of the lions cage was a door.

My daughter took great delight in thinking she could distract the lion with some food - and then remembering the meat from the kitchen!

Final room - a deep pit with Princess at the bottom, with three skeletons around the outside and one boss skeleton (since my son wanted to use a boss miniature)

My daughter used her rope to help the princess escape during the battle and the princess helped tthem defeat the skeletons.

A fine rescue. Apart from the tears from my daughter when reduced from 6 to 3 hit points. She still tells me she had great fun.

All up, I'm not sure who had the most fun - the son, the daughter or me.

My son wants the next mission to be - rescue the King... (he's trapped in an enemy castle....)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Should encumbrance reduce armor class?

The June / July talk about dexterity, AC and shields had me wondering about the role of encumbrance.

From my understanding of D&D's early history AC was just that, the armor class, that was determined purely by the type of armor worn.

Then things like dexterity started to modify AC, until it really should have been called Defence, since it was gradually being divorced from the armor type. This is even more apparent if we wish to consider the proposal that dexterity = armor class.

The appealing motivation of such a change is NOT to become more simulationist, D&D combat is at it's best when abstract, but it is increasing incentives to player choice that is most attractive.

In one of my most popular posts ever I wrote of my frustration that starting at Level 1, characters could afford the best non-magical armor in the world, plate mail. Why then should they care for chain, ever?

I still stand by that proposal and in my recent campaign the cost of armor is drastically increased.

Armor            AC   Cost     Enc
Leather           7       5        150
Chain Mail     5    150       300
Plate Mail       3    400      450
Shield            -1      10      150

When I played Keep on the Borderlands my players even contemplated casting a sleep spell on the town guard just to get their hands on some chain mail! The first two gaming sessions, if they had a theme, would have been the "Search for better armor'
So the new costing was a great success.

But eventually characters that are allowed armor find plate mail and that's the last they contemplate any other armor source. And certainly wearing no armor by choice, is just nonsensical.

It is no wonder then that D&D combat rules struggle to model for unarmored duelists, firearms and a myriad of other additions to a campaign setting you might wish to add.

It was thinking about firearms that led me to some new considerations on this topic.
It was the ability of firearms to penetrate armor that led to the fall in armor use in the late middle ages. I say fall, because armor certainly didn't die out as a concept.

The famous Australian bush ranger Ned Kelly in the 1800's put some armor to some short but iconic use.

In the end the lumbering knight gave way to the mobile cavalry, pikemen and red coats.
Protection was replaced by mobility, because in the world that was emerging, mobility was the new protection.

Some have modelled the power of firearms against armor by giving firearms armor penetration. I think this is an ok model if it is not based on a false conclusion. If I'm being shot by a bullet I don't suffer more damage because I am wearing armor, I suffer less. The reason wearing heavy armor against firearms on the battlefields may not be such a good idea, is because I am less mobile and more likely to have the bullet (or shot) hit me in the first place.

Now this could be modelled as weapon (firearm) vs AC.
Chain Mail +1 to hit
Breast Plate and helmet alone +1
Plate Mail +2
Plate +3

But what we are really saying is not that the bullet is better at penetrating plate armor then chain mail, it clearly isn't; no we are concluding that someone in plate is less mobile then someone in chain mail, and thus easier to hit. But, any visit to a historical reenactment, or the UK Royal Armoury in Leeds, will quickly dispel the myth that armor decreased in mobility in nice step wise increases in armor strength. So it isn't really that easy to say plate mail is much worse than chain. It might be, but it depends.

In D&D however, we already have a rule system in place to deal with issues of mobility, it is called encumbrance.

Now to a question? How often in your campaign does the character's mobility effect game play? Honestly, how often do your players get chased so that their movement rate is the difference between life and death?

I would think that most players, if they think of encumbrance at all, it is not in terms of their character's movement rate but in terms of how much they can carry.

Many of us are lackadaisical when it comes to keeping tabs on movement rate and it's enforcer, encumbrance. But with Raggi's rules or my own adaption of Delta's 150cn = 1 dungeon stone rules (outlined again below), encumbrance is fairly easily accounted for.

So how could penalties to AC based on encumbrance incentivise player choice?

1. It makes chain mail +1, or elven chain, a worthy, even superior, competitor to plate mail.

2. It makes a high dexterity character consider their armor choices carefully

3. It allows heavily encumbered characters to be missile targeted more easily (opening up firearms as a deterrent to heavy armor)

If we adapt from B/X

ENC             Mv          AC penalty       
<400             120'               0                     
401-600          90'              -1                      
601-800          60'              -2                      
801-1600        30'              -3                     

B/X armor rules
Leather         AC 7       200cn
Chain mail   AC 5       400cn
Plate mail     AC 3       500cn
Shield          -1 to AC  100cn

Or from my last post an alternative chart that emphasises the roll of initiative:

Movement (Encumbrance)
as determined by feet/turn
-1 personal initiative 
-1 personal initiative and - 1 AC vs missile weapons
-2 personal initiative and - 1 AC vs missile weapons
-2 personal initiative and - 2 AC vs missile weapons and - 1 AC vs melee

Perhaps, just perhaps, player consideration regarding what type of armor to wear, just for a moment, there was umm... maybe I won't wear this plate mail.

My encumbrance rules for strength

Notes regarding movement, strength and encumbrance.

Max Enc in Stone Weight
150cn = 15 pounds = 1 stone weight

Encounter Speed / round
1/5 Strength =

2/5 Strength =

3/5 Strength =

4/5 Strength =

5/5 Strength =

>5/5 Strength =
Run speedx3; explore speed x3 /turn

Encumbrance effects on Movement
120’ up to Str*1/5 in dungeon stone (1 dungeon stone = 150 coin encumbrance)
90’ up to Str*2/5
60’ up to Str*3/5
30’ up to Str*4/5
15’ up to Str*5/5
Can carry an additional 50% if not dead weight (eg piggy back) or dragging along the ground

150 coins = 15 pounds = 1 'dungeon stone' (as opposed to the normal 14 pounds = 1 imperial stone)
Strength score is multiplied by a fraction to determine max encumbrance for that given movement.
eg Strength 3, max encumbrance 3*5/5 = 3 dungeon stone = 45 pounds = 20kg or 30 kgs dragged along the ground. I think this might be reasonable for the AVERAGE 9 year old, who using grip strength as a real life comparator has strength of 3.
eg strength 10 average, max encumbrance 10*5/5 = 10 dungeon stone = 150 pounds = 68kg (I think this is pretty acceptable, I'm average, I could barely move with 68 kg unless I was piggy back someone, and I think my 50% increase rule, allows something almost realistic but simple to apply.
eg strength 18, max encumbrance 18*5/5 = 18 dungeon stone = 270 pounds = 122 kg.
Personally I think olympic weight lifters can be said to have strength exceeding normal human range.