Wednesday, March 5, 2014

20 Fairy Pranks

Your PC has attracted the attention of a fairy.  A fey creature of some sort attaches itself to him as an incredibly annoying sidekick. The little bugger can't be killed (he's invisible, teleports away just in time, or plays pranks while the PC is asleep) and will stick around as long as the PC is "entertaining".

The only way to get rid of the fairy is to accept the pranks in good humor and not give the him the satisfaction of getting angry or losing one's temper.

Here are 20 Faerie Pranks to get you started:

1) Hides something important
2) Takes something of the PCs and places is in a difficult to reach spot
3) Puts a propeller on the PCs hat or helmet
4) While PC is sleeping, draws moustache on PC if female, or applies whorish makeup if PC is male
6) Ties PCs hair or beard in knots.
7) Places doggy-doo in the PCs boots at night
8) Pokes the PCs horse with a needle when things get boring
9) Glues the PCs weapon in it's scabbard
10) Makes the PCs pants fall down when trying to impress someone (if male). If PC is female, blows up her skirt or unties/yanks down her bodice.
11) Cuts all the the straps holding the PCs armor together
12) Mimics the PCs voice to say obnoxious or insulting things to NPCs
13) Tailors the PCs pants to split during strenuous activity
14) Makes the PCs nose grow whenever he tells a lie
15) Uses illusion to make it appear as though the PC has ripped a massive fart (accompanied by a troglodyte-grade stench)
16) Enlarges the PCs boots to clown size. When boots are removed, PC notices that feet have been enlarged to match. Penalty to sneaking around.
17) Changes PCs sex at random intervals while nobody is looking.
18) Garnishes PCs food with 1d8 random bugs when nobody is looking.
19) Replaces the water/wine in PCs canteen/wineskin with horsepiss.
20) Steals things from other people and puts them in thief's pockets, backpack, or saddlebags.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trap: The Alchemist's Tower

The PCs enter a tower set up like an alchemist's lab. A potion can be seen brewring on the apparatus and filling up a large beaker with a glowing, blue liquid. A rack of similar potions stands next to the apparatus, already sealed and corked.

These are a modified type of levitation potion and have a sweet, fizzy taste. As soon as a player drinks a full potion, the drinker will begin to rise uncontrollably at a rate of 1 foot per second. If the potions are drunk in the tower, the drinker will have two minutes before he hits the ceiling where a razor sharp fan blade is spinning (instant death, no save).

Genre saavy characters may attempt to belch, to bleed off the gasses that provide the levitating effect. This will not work! Gas can only be bled off through flatulence.

A character who attempts to fart will succeed automatically on his first attempt. Roll a constitution check for every attempt thereafter (the PC may make 6 attempts per round). A fart will reduce the character's altitude by 20 feet for the first 5 successes. After that, the character will lose 30 feet for every successful fart. At 10 farts (the magic number), the character will continue to descend gently all the way to the ground. A character who makes an 11th successful fart will soil himself as the magic cuts out completely, and will plummet to the floor below, taking damage for the remaining distance. Altitude can easily be tracked with a simple line chart.

If any player is slain by hitting the fan or falling to the floor, a group of orange-skinned, 3 ft tall humanoids (treat as halflings) will filter into the room and perform an ironic song and dance routine.

The alchemist, Willhelm von Wonka, has left his notes scattered about haphazardly. If pieced together (takes about an hour), the recipe for these "Fizzy Lifting Drinks" (and details regarding their use), can be learned.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Twelve medicinal herbs for your campaign...

She's the one they call Doctor Feelgood...

Medicinal Plants & Herbs

Sometimes you need some good old-fashioned non-magical healing.  Plants have always been a source of medicine and our ancestors found a use for EVERY plant.  We've forgotten much of that old lore, but there's still a surprising amount of information that survived through the ages.  Google medicinal herbs and be prepared to have you mind blown.

It's not difficult to make your own fantastical plants and herbs, using real-world plants for inspiration.  Just decide what you want your plant to do and slap an exotic name on it.  In the meantime, here's a list of my own fantasy plants to give you something fun to do with that herbalism non-weapon proficiency.

1) Tuluni (Purgatus): This is a flowering vine with pale yellow or orange flowers. When the mature, woody portion is cut, a translucent amber fluid seeps from the vines .  This is a powerful natural laxative, but it does not travel well until it has been distilled into an oil by a skilled alchemist or herbalist. The purified oil is known as Purgatus, and a single drop is enough to get the most stubborn bowels moving.  The leaves can be boiled in a tea to produce a similar but weaker laxative.  Older folk sometimes use this tea to promote regularity.

2) Heshloi: This vine has small spear-shaped leaves and fluid-bearing nodules along the shaft.  The fluid inside is an emetic, used to induce vomiting.

3) Mugu: This shrub is mostly known for its bland, but edible berries and it's tiny blue flowers.  The leaves bear an anti-inflammatory agent that is often used to treat headaches and menstrual cramps, among other things.

4) Broadleaf (Wild Tea): A shrubbery, with large broad leaves and pink or white flowers.  It has caffeine and is often used to make tea.  Fresh leaves provide a stronger buzz but the flavor is inferior to dried leaves.

5) Goomuckle: This leafy vine bears a milky white sap when cut.  This sap relieves pain, induces sleep, and boosts the immune system (+2 to saving throws, +10% system shock vs disease).

6) Duliyec: This rare plant has long spear shaped leaves and a yellow flower with eight slender petals.  The leaves develop a hallucinogenic toxin when dried.  The leaves are then crushed and smoked, and used in dreamquests by the nomadic peoples of the Vardezzi grasslands.  These visions may or may not be helpful, but there's always a risk of insanity or burnout so the vision ceremony is never undertaken lightly.

7) Vejeldt: This thorny weed has a tangy, sour flavor to it.  The roots are nutritious (if bland) and the leaves are frequently added to salads to jazz things up and are a good source of vitamin C (prevents scurvy and is necessary for proper function of the immune system).

8) Whitestar: This is a slender tree with large white star-shaped flowers.  The berries have a beneficial effect on the immune system.  A small handful boosts the immune system against viral diseases (not fungal or bacterial diseases).  If taken before exposure to disease, it adds +3 to saving throws (+15% to system shock tests vs disease).  Once a virus has been contracted, it adds +1 to saving throws (+5% to system shock tests vs disease).

9) Friella: This small evergreen shrub contains a weak opiate. Crushed and ingested, it causes a sleepy state and a mild, happy buzz.  Offers good pain relief for minor aches and pains.

10) Strannus: This parasitic vine grows on tree trunks. The long thin leaves contain a powerful stimulant. It is usually chewed, but can be brewed as tea, or smoked. It can become addictive if used regularly.

11) Stirsey: This leafy shrub contains menthol, and the plant can often be smelt before it is seen.  It is used to treat coughs and as an aromatic herb.

12) Jahuul: Has a mild antibiotic effect.  As a tea, it can be drunk to cure many stomach ailments or boost the immune system.  To treat wounds, the leaves can be crushed and mixed into a poultice to keep a wound from getting infected. Adds +2 or 10% to to savings throws/system shock checks vs infection.  Check once per day.  If the save is successful, the bonus for the next check is 20%.  If that save is successful the patient will recover in d6 days as long as the treatment is continued.  If a save is failed, the bonus goes back down to normal.

NOTE: Antibiotics can only cure bacterial infections!  Viral or fungal infections cannot be treated with antibiotics.

I'm in yer gardin, eatin' yer herbs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bards 2, The 2E Bard

                                              The rarely seen dual class nun-bard

The Second Edition AD&D Bard is my favorite class in the game.

Unlike the 1E bard, the 2E bard has rather lenient stat requirements.  You need a 15 CHA, 13 INT, and a 12 STR.  That's not unduly harsh (even for a straight 3d6 in order), and most DMs are more lenient than that.

As the description says, the bard is a Jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.  He fights decently, has a few thief skills, can cast a good selection of spells, and has his own unique bardic abilities. There's also a good selection of magical and mundane equipment that he can utilize. He's a character that can be useful in almost any situation.

While he isn't a tank, he is a fair combatant.  His THACO advances at half the rate of the warrior classes, which puts him near the middle of the pack, lagging just a bit behind the cleric.

The cleric has the advantage when it comes to taking damage, though.  He's got better hit dice (d8) and can wear any armor and use any shield.  The bard will usually lag behind in hit points and is limited to chain mail or less, and can't use a shield.

But the bard is capable of dishing out a lot more damage.  His ability to use any weapon means that he can use the best weapon for the situation, and he can use heavier weapons that do more damage.  His ability to use a bow allows him to provide much better fire-support than the cleric (who is limited to slings).

Even better, the bard can take advantage of some of the really awesome optional proficiencies listed in the Complete Fighter's Handbook.  In particular, two-weapon specialization gives the bard the ability to dual-wield like a ranger, which doubles his combat attacks.  The cleric can't do this (he gets an inferior weapon/shield combo instead).

The bard's thief abilities aren't amazing, but they are useful and flavorful.  He can pick pockets, hear noise, climb walls, and read languages.  Climb walls, in particular, is a very useful skill in a game based on exploration, and hear noise and read languages aren't bad, either.  Picking pockets may or may not be useful depending on the DM, but that's a whole different issue...

The bard's best (and most powerful ability) is the ability to use magic-user spells.  Magic is incredibly powerful in AD&D and spellcasting classes have a huge advantage over those classes who cannot cast spells. While the bard cannot access magic spells of 7th level or higher, I would argue that he is the second best spellcaster in the Player's Handbook (behind the mage/specialist wizard).

Sure, the cleric has more spells (some very powerful), but clerical magic is much more restrictive, and it lacks the utility and damage spells that make the magic user list so amazing and versatile.  The clerical spell list has nothing like a fireball or a lightning bolt, or even something as simple and versatile as Grease.

And while the bard may have less spells and a slower learning rate than a typical wizard, he casts spells at the same power as a wizard once he learns them.  A 7th level wizard and a 7th level bard both cast Fireball spells with 7 hit dice.

The bard also has some unique class abilities of his own.  He can shift reaction rolls, buff his allies, counter music/sound based attacks, and he's got a special Legend Lore ability that allows him to know about obscure things in the game.

Legend Lore is an under-appreciated ability, but it can be extremely useful if used correctly.  Information is power, and the bard has a built-in ability to know a little bit about almost everything.

The bard's high natural charisma and ability to shift reaction rolls make him a great diplomat (or instigator), and a good party leader.  If you want to loosen up the tongues of a tavernful of townsfolk, there's nobody better than the bard for this task.  Put on an entertaining show, sing a few classic drinking songs, and you'll be pulling in rumors in no time.

He's also a good bet for scamming or weaselling his way into places where he can cause mischief.  Sure, the paladin might have higher charisma, but he's much too scrupulous to take advantage of anybody.  The bard, on the other hand, is naturally a bit of a rascal.

And speaking of bards and paladins, I've got a little story for you...

Back in an old high school game, I played the bard in our group, along with a paladin named Kylinar, and a couple of other characters.  We were all 2nd level or so, and we were doing a dungeon crawl when we came across a skull sitting on the floor, with gemstones in the eye sockets.

Knowing damned well that the DM was an asshole, I yelled out "Don't touch it, it's a demilich!"

So Kylinar, the paladin, walked over to the skull to poke at it with his sword.  And just as I'd suspected, the skull flew up and started screaming, and it killed everybody in the room... except for Kylinar.

Needless to say, we were all pissed off.  The DM was generous though, and he allowed the paladin to raise our characters from the dead, even though this is normally not possible if you die in this manner.  I guess the DM was feeling guilty for putting us up against something so nasty, so he gave us a little wiggle room to come back.

The first thing my bard did when he woke up was to compose a new song called "Kylinar the Klutz".  The DM thought it was hysterical (as did the rest of us who were slain), and the guy playing the paladin learned a valuable lesson when the song proved to be popular and it kept popping up in taverns wherever we went. It took him a long time to live that down.

Which brings me to the best part of the bard class, and the one thing that keeps me coming back to it again and again.

The bard is FUN.

The druid may be out of his element when he's in  dungeon.  The wizard may be useless once he's out of spells.  The fighter may be standing around, picking his nose, when there's no fighting to be done.  But there's always something useful to do when you play a bard.

As the "Swiss Army Knife" of character classes, the bard gets to be in the middle of everything. And quite often he gets to dominate the game, particularly in role playing situations where he shines.  The fact that he's not the "best caster" or the "best fighter" de-emphasizes the tendecy to power-game, and encourages the player to be creative and wily.  And the fact that he's an singing, dancing, juggling, attention whore brings out the role-playing element of the game out like no other character class.

I can honestly say that playing a bard has helped make me a better DM.  It's helped me loosen up, and take more risks as a role player, and has allowed me to really dig in to the personalities of the characters I play.

I don't get a chance to play very often anymore (I usually DM because it's hard to find  anybody else playing AD&D), but whenever I do, it's the bard that I gravitate toward.  Did I mention that the 2E bard fits nicely into 1E?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Magic Items: The Wand of Wonder

Back in my high school days I had a bard character that I played in one of our campaigns.  The bard had a name, but for the life of me, I can't remember it.  He was always just called "The Bard" (due to a high mortality rate, we weren't all that concerned about character).

Anyhow, I cam across a Wand of Wonder in one of our treasure hauls, and I convinced the DM to allow me to influence the outcome by coming up with a rhyme for the effect that I wanted to happen, in lieu of using a normal command word.

For example, if I wanted to heal somebody I might use this:

Boon companions to the end,
use your power to heal my friend!

Then the DM would roll the dice, consult the table, apply some DM bullshit and either my buddy would be healed or the wand would do something weird, like cover my buddy with nacho cheese.

If I wanted to use it offensively, I might use a rhyme like this:

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,
make the knight's armor turn to rust!

Hopefully, the knights armor would rust, but the wand might just as easily shoot him with 1d10 pickles.

The catch was that I could never use the same rhyme twice, so I had to be very clever about the effects I desired and the rhymes I used, and I had to think up something BEFORE I needed to use it.

Sometimes the effect would be different than what I wanted, but would accomplish something useful.  If I called for a lightning bolt to zap a pursuing enemy, I might get a spray of marbles that tripped up the bad guys.  If  I tried to turn somebody into a toad, they might turn into a giant flametoad that would start breathing fire all over the place, turning on friend and foe alike.

The best thing about it was that this was always a FUN and entertaining magic item to use.  I had to be creative in coming up with rhymes, and the DM had to be creative in coming up with silly or interesting things for the wand to do.

                                                 Wand of Wonder: Now Available in LEGO

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some maps I made a few years ago...

Last month I wrote a blog entry that talked about a large cache of my old DM notes that I discovered while going through my storage unit.  I'd thought a lot of this tuff was lost forever so I was quite pleased to find not just my notes, but also a bunch of maps that I'd drawn over the years.

This particular map was one that I'd gone to a lot of effort to create, inspired by those lovely maps for the Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms settings.  This map is intended to represent a huge peninsula attached to a much larger continent (if you look near the upper right corner you can see where the map continues off the page).  

Click to expand maps

This map is not quite finished, I left a few areas blank so that I could fill them in later once I'd decided what I wanted to go there.  There's large blank chunk of land in the lower right corner that represents a part of the main continent, and something that could be a large island or peninsula.  There's also a small blank island in the upper right quadrant.  More on that later...

The map was sketched out on a large sheet of heavy paper with a pencil.  I went back over the pencil lines with a fine Rapidiograph technical pen.  The colored areas were done with marker pens (hence the stripey look).

The areas in light green represent light forest, the areas in dark green are heavy forest.  Light blue represents shallow water, and dark blue represents deeper waters (some river areas are also very deep).  The orangey areas are desert, and the grey areas are mountains (some of which have snow).  There are also some light green hills drawn in over the grassy areas, representing rolling hills.

This section of the map shows the upper left quadrant in greater detail.  The upper center section has an area of canyons and badlands (the area with the elevation lines).  The lower right section shows the large forested mountain area in the center of the continent, and the large sea that it wraps around.  There is another large sea or lake near the west coast, and below that is a forested peninsula.

This shows the lower left quadrant of the map.  There's a large forest to the south, with a river delta that flows through the woods and empties into the southern coast.  There's a ring of mountains with a blank center (not sure what I was going to put inside it) near the center of this map.  There's also an improbably desert surrounded by forest areas.  Oops!

Here's the lower right quadrant.  There's a volcano near the top/center of the map (note the smoke coming out of it), and a forest with a marshy coastline on the east coast of this landmass.  Toward the west, the two large inland seas are visible.  The white areas were left blank to be filled in later, but are supposed to be connected to the main continent that this peninsula is attached to.

This is the lower right quadrant, and you can see where it connects to the larger continent in northeast.  Most of the interesting features have already been mentioned, but there is a small mountain pass drawn through the mountain range in the center of the map.  I think that was originally supposed to be a dwarven outpost where they offloaded stuff from the bay and routed it through the pass.

A lot of work went into this map.  While I'm not terribly happy with it, I do think that it looks great.  This was intended to be a player map, something that they could touch and see, to help them visualize the game world.  I planned to use the transparent hex overlays that came in the TSR boxed sets to measure distances, but this map never ended up being used, and was stored away for almost 20 years.

If you want to try a map like this, make sure you have a lot of markers because it takes a lot of ink to fill in those large areas.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bards- part 1

                                                   How to find wandering monsters.

Bards have been a part of the D&D universe for a long time.  Originally appearing in the 1st edition of AD&D, they have been a part of the game ever since.  In each version of the game, the bard has been radically different, changing more across each edition than any other class.

The first edition bard is one of the strangest, most convoluted classes the game has ever had.

It's also the hardest class to qualify for, requiring a 15 in Str, Dex, Wis, Cha, a 12 INT, and a 10 CON.  I looked up the odds for rolling that on a strict 3d6 (in order), and somebody figured out that 20 characters in one million would qualify.  Of course, you've also got to factor in the chance of character death on the way to becoming a bard, and since he's got to get to 5th level in fighter and thief classes first, that's a distinct possibility.

Now, it's true that the 1E game strongly advised against the 3d6 method that had been the standard up to this point.  The PHB flat-out states that a character should have at least two 15+ scores to ensure his survival.  Even stranger, the PHB does not tell the player how to roll his ability scores at all, instead telling the player to ask the DM (who will consult the DMG) who will presumably select a method that offers higher than average scores.

Now, given some of the extremely generous character generation methods proposed in the DMG, this made it much more likely that you'd get a special character class.  but even then the bard could be hard to get.  Method 1, probably the most popular option, only got you a bard about 1.5 percent of the time (to put that into perspective, Method 1 can generate paladins about 24% of the time) .

Unfortunately, a lot of DMs stuck with the old 3d6 (in order) enshrined in OD&D and the Holmes D&D set, which made it virtually impossible to get a bard.  It didn't help that the PHB and DMG were released a year apart, and that no character generation methods were presented in the PHB.

No wonder the 1E bard languished in obscurity.

Which is kind of sad, because it's actually a pretty interesting class.  It starts with 5-7 levels as a fighter, followed by 5-8 levels as a thief.  After that, they can start training as a bard, using the special advancement table provided.

While that might seem like a tall order, it actually takes less XP to get to 5th level as a fighter, thief, and bard than it does to get to 7th level as a single-classed fighter.

Unfortunately, the bard's fighter class doesn't really contribute much to the his skills, since the fighter doesn't really have any class-based skills of his own.  Only his d10 hit dice and THACO are retained, and the bard's THACO never improves afterward.  At low levels, this means that the bard is pretty badass compared to clerics, thieves, and magic users, but all of them will eventually overtake him.

A bard with maxed-out fighter levels (level 7) will be equal to or worse than level 10 clerics, and level 13 thieves and assassins.  Sadly, by level 16, wizards will actually hit more often than the bard does.  If he didn't max out his warrior levels he'll be even worse (and he'll have less potential HP too).

The thief's skills all carry over to the bard, however.  Effectively, this leaves the bard with all of the percentage-based skills, thieves cant, and backstab.

The bard's class abilities are based on a modified version of the druid (with weaker spellcasting), and the bard's own unique abilities.  He still gets all of the druid's goodies (including the ability to shapechange into animals), but he doesn't have to fight druids to advance, since he's technically a bard, not a druid.

The end result is a mediocre combatant with good hit points, with thief skills, druid skills, limited druid magic, and special bard abilities.  This is a very versatile character, but it's really not overpowered, since he's not allowed to use any of the higher level capabilities of his component classes.

Nonetheless, I think this is a good example of the worst excesses of the first edition.  It's unnecessarily complex (I'd hate to see that character sheet), hard to qualify for, and the individual parts really don't go very well together (fighter/thief/druid/bard?).  The whole thing feels rough and experimental, like a beta version that was never supposed to be released to the general public.

There's also this:  The PHB states that the bard must always have stringed instrument.  Fair enough.  But it never tells us why that is, or what would happen if his stringed instrument is lost or destroyed and he cannot find a replacement.  Given the delicate nature of stringed instruments, and the rigors of adventuring, it's bound to come up sooner or later.

Given the wonkiness of the 1E bard, it's no surprise that they were rarely used.  Sadly, it wasn't until the 2nd edition of AD&D that the bard really hit its stride.