Friday, April 4, 2014

Relief for the Common Fighting Man

At character creation, a player may choose one of the following options to further reflect a Fighting Man's specific prowess in melee:

Image credit Inkthinker

  • Berserker: +2 to hit when berserk, Requires a Save vs. Spells to stop fighting when all enemies are down else will attack allies; may be subdued - as a Dragon - if needed to protect allies.
  • Shield Fighter: use of a shield grants an additional +1 AC bonus, a shield fighter may ignore one non-surprise attack per round; suffers a -1 AC penalty when fighting without shield.
  • Two-Weapon: Player chooses one effect each round; +1 to AC or +1 To-Hit.  Weapon pairs may be twin weapon types or mixed weapon types. A fighting man's Strength determines the type of weapons that may be dual-wielded. Weapons are divided into Light (d4 damage), Medium (d6), Heavy (d8) and Two-Handed (d10 damage), which cannot be dual-wielded. A fighting man with a Strength of 8 may dual-wield Light weapons, Strength 10 allows dual-wielding Medium or mixing one Light and one Medium weapon, Strength 12 allows mixing one heavy and one medium weapon, Strength 14 allows dual-wielding Heavy weapons. Damage should always be the largest die.
  • Zweihander:  May apply a single attack roll against up to three adjacent foes.

Image credit D&D Wiki

Monday, April 8, 2013

Serendipity, sort of

The first thing one of my players asked me about after I published my February 7th post Kicking My Imagination in the Butt (or Ask and Ye Shall Receive) was “Can I play one of these guys?”

And I was all like, “What?  No, these are the perpetually restless natives that are going to make your adventuring lives a living heck!”, but then I thought about it.  I have these tribes of Aztecosaurs living all throughout my map so inevitably some of them are likely to prove friendly to the player-characters and humanity and demi-humanity in general (random rolls on the Monster Reaction table ensure that!).  So okay, “Yes,” the possibility of an Aztecosaur (really have got to come up with my own name for these guys as I’d hate to end up forcing the nice people over at Kingsisle Entertainment to sue me for copyright infringement) player-character is no longer out of the question.  But how should they be perceived by their human and demi-human friends?  In other words, what 'race-as-class' should they be?

I’d already planned on my Avemetatarsalia inspired tribesmen being ‘Hunter/Gatherers.’  So naturally, my savage dino-men would best be represented as Huntsmen!  Happy accident indeed, most of the hard work is already done!  So how are my dino-sapiens different from human Huntsmen?  Dino-men?  Sauro-sapiens?  Sauro-men (no! no Tolkien puns!)?  I guess dino-sapiens will do as a general term but I think I’ll take my cue from the creative people at Kingsisle for the more specific names…

Anyway, let’s look at the stat blocks I came up with for them and work from there, just like I did with the Goblins.  Only, wait.  I haven’t come up with any stat blocks or I’d have posted ‘em here already, right?  So much for the work being already done!  But I’ll need the stat blocks sooner or later anyway so let’s cobble ‘em together, shall I?

Based on the original illustration (above) and Mr. Stater’s article on the LAND OF NOD site different types of dinosaurs equate to different (in my case) tribes of dino-sapiens.  So looking at the original art from Kingsisle starting on the left we have an obvious carnivore or raptor inspired tribe; being meat-eaters and knowing that their dinosaur equivalents ate other dinosaurs they will serve as my ‘bad’ tribesmen, filling the role of headhunters, cannibals and such.  Clearly Chaotic.  Now I need to name them.

A quick review of ancient Mesoamerican cultures via Google turns up a number of possible name sources.  In no particular order I have the Aztecs (unavailable), Olmecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Incas and Mayas; remember I’m not trying to be exhaustive about this or anything, just looking for some good names.  For our carnosaurs I’m liking Toltecosaur, no particular reason; though the word Toltec does put me in mind of the German word for the dead, Tote.  Anyway, these mobs should be fast, relatively protected and their natural attack is clearly a nasty bite.

Next up is what looks like a Hadrosaur inspired tribesman.  I’m thinking they should be slower than the dino-sapien norm and rather hardy.  A tail sweep melee attack seems in order to help them survive.  All mobs in melee range should save vs. Dragon Breath or be knocked off their feet.  As for a name, I’d like to differentiate this vegetarian race from the Toltecosaurs so I’ll steer away from the –ec ending names and I think I like Mayasaur for these gentler dino-sapiens.

Thirdly, we have a beefy looking tribesman apparently inspired by Styracosaurus, at least if I'm reading that head frill correctly.  Again I’m thinking he should be slower than your average dino-sapien, but tougher too.  A good fighter.  Maybe a charge or a gore attack?  Might as well make it a gore attack, what’s that horn for otherwise?  As for their name, I like Olmecosaur, puts them on equal footing with the Toltecosaurs.

Because I could easily see Mayasaurs and Olmecosaurs banding together for mutual protection and greater numbers, I believe that they both should be Lawful in alignment.

Finally (sorry, no undead dino-sapiens, at least not yet!) we have the pterosaur inspired tribesmen.  Fast, even light on their feet (hollow bones, you know) but not as hardy as the other types.  The pterosaur appears to be another meat-eater from the looks of those teeth, likely fish and other small game that they swoop down upon, so their attack will be a bite as well.  As these pterosaurs don’t have the plant-eaters’ herding instints nor the carnosaurs aggressiveness I’m thinking their alignment should be Neutral.  As I don’t much care for the alternative, I’ll call the pterosaurs Incasaurs.

Okay, time for the stat blocks:


                                   Toltecosaur            Mayasaur    Olmecosaur           Incasaur

Armor Class:         6                                   7                        5                                  7

Hit Dice:                  1                                   1+1                    2                                  1-1

Move:                        120' (40')                   90’ (30’)          90’ (30’)                    120’ (40’)

   Flying:                   --                                  --                       --                                 180’ (60’)

   In water:              --                                  120' (40')         --                                 --

Attacks:                   1 bite or                      1 tail sweep      1 gore or                    1 bite or
                                     weapon                      or weapon        weapon                      weapon
Damage:                  2-7 or                          special or         2-7 or                         2-7 or
                                     weapon + 1                weapon + 1     weapon + 1                weapon + 1
No. Appearing:                 -----------------           2-8 (6-36)      -----------------

Save As:                   Fighter: 1                   Fighter: 1         Fighter: 2                  Fighter: 1

Morale:                    10                                7                        12                                8

Treasure Type:     D                                D                        D                                 D

Alignment:             Chaotic                      Lawful              Lawful                        Neutral     

Dino-sapiens are a varied race of intelligent humanoid reptiles with many characteristics common to dinosaurs.  Dino-sapiens are tribal, living in small, extended family groups.  Because of their reptilian strength, all dino-sapiens gain a bonus of + 1 on damage rolls.

The Toltecs are meat-eaters and aggressive, with a reputation for cruelty and savagery.

The Mayasaurs eat plants and are by far the friendliest of the dino-sapien species.  Mayasaurs enjoy swimming and are quite good at it.  A Mayasaur’s tail sweep inflicts no damage but requires everyone in melee range to save against Dragon Breath or be knocked prone.  Mayasaurs can be found in larger villages living with Olmecosaurs.

The Olmecosaurs are also plant-eaters but tend to be more assertive than their Mayasaurian cousins, with whom they often live.

Incasaurs eat meat but are not as aggressive as the Toltecosaurs.  Incasaurs can fly under their own power and can hunt while doing so.

Okay, stat blocks are done.  Good work everybody!  Now let’s take a look at the huntsman class in light of this new information.  Hmm, Hit Dice and Armor Class are the two points at which we have issues.  I can increase the Hit Dice for the dino-sapiens but that’ll mean a big bump in current XP requirements.  Also, looks like our dino-sapien hunters may be foregoing any non-magical armor as their natural Armor Classes are equal to or better than most leather armor!

Okay, finally, back to the original point of this post; I present:

The Dino-Sapien Class

Dino-sapiens are a varied species of intelligent humanoid reptiles with many characteristics common to dinosaurs.  They live primitively because their civilization is nearing the end of its decline, though the ruins of their former greatness dot the verdant landside.  Like human Huntsmen, the dino-sapiens are prized for their wilderness survival skills and the additional combat power of their animal companions.  Dino-sapiens are often hired out as local guides or even porters for their familiarity with the wilderness.  Players must specify which particular race of Dino-sapien their character is from and gain that race’s specific natural attack for d6 damage plus any Strength bonuses.

The prime requisites for a dino-sapien character are Strength and Intelligence.  If a dino-sapien has scores of 13 or better in both Strength and Constitution, the character will gain a 5% bonus to earned experience.  If the dino-sapien's Strength is 13 or better and his or her Intelligence is 16 or better, the character will earn a 10% bonus on earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Dino-sapiens use eight-sided dice (d8) to determine their hit points. They may wear nothing more protective than leather armor, and may not use a shield. They may, however, use any type of weapon.  A dino-sapien’s combat ability progresses as a Cleric.  A dino-sapien character must have a minimum Intelligence score of 9.  Dino-sapiens make their saving throws as a Thief of equivalent level.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: If a dino-sapien surprises a target, usually by making a successful Move Silently or Hide in Terrain roll, he gains a +4 bonus to hit and inflicts double damage with any ranged weapon during the surprise round.  At 3rd level huntsmen may tame and train an animal companion who will fight for and beside them.  Only normal or giant animals can be tamed and the animal’s hit dice cannot be greater than the dino-sapien’s level.  A dino-sapien's skills includes learning how to plan ambushes and set snares, survive in specific environments, move silently in natural settings, hide in terrain, read tracks, remove snares, pitfalls and other natural traps and spot ambushes, and how to hear noises in the wild better than other humans.  As a Dino-sapien progresses in level, he or she becomes more proficient in these wilderness skills.  Use the same table as huntsmen for determining a Dino-sapien's success in each category (depending on his or her level of experience). 


A Dino-sapien may only advance up to 9th level (Master Dino-Huntsman). However, this is balanced by the dino-sapien's special abilities, especially their combination of strong natural and regular weapon attacks, natural armor class, animal companion and wilderness skills.  Dino-sapiens may still found a lodge, which might well become the center of a new village!


 Master Dino-Huntsman

Just to show how out off-base I was with my dino-NPCs only plan, while I was writing this post one of my other players got in touch with me and when I told him about the contents of this post he was all over me saying he’d assumed that the dino-sapiens would be a player character option from the moment he read the first post and what the heck was I thinkin’ thinking otherwise!

Regretfully, I can see it now, an all dino PC group bent on fighting the incursion of the humans and demi-humans into their tribal lands and not at all in favor of desecrating the final resting places of their ancient ancestors!

Not at all the D&D campaign I was setting out to make…

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fateful Lightning

Magic weapons, especially swords, are one of the most highly-prized rewards for dungeon delving in the D&D game.  The Expert D&D rules provides information on seventeen different swords; three magic swords (swords with pluses to hit and damage rolls), six nemesis swords (magic swords that gain additional pluses against a particular type of monster or enemy), six effect swords (magic swords that also produce spell-like or otherwise magical effects) and two cursed swords (swords that appear magic until used in earnest which then subtract their ‘bonus’ from the player’s to hit and damage rolls).

While some of the swords from myth and literature may fall into these categories such as Orcrist and Glamdring (which I see as nemesis blades targeting Orcs/Goblins) most do not.  Where are the Durendals, Excaliburs,  Nothungs and Tyrfings?  Clearly it’s up to the DM to come up with swords that are of anything other than the bog-standard variety.  I present a few of my own:

Sword +1, Avenger: This sword allows its wielder to ‘answer’ back an attack that reduces the wielding character to zero or fewer hit points.  This ‘answering’ attack is made immediately against the NPC (man or monster) that triggered it and is made at an additional +2, regardless of current initiative or the wielding character has already made an attack this round.
Additional names suitable for this type of sword would include: Responder, Reply, Rejoinder, Punisher, Revenge, Retaliator, Repudiator, Rebuttal, Insolence, Impertinence, Impudence, etc.

Sword +1, +2 vs. Jellies, Molds, Oozes, Puddings and Slimes: This nemesis sword is immune to the deleterious effects of these invertebrate monsters but will always affect them properly.

This short sword is marked with runes spelling out the words ‘Butter Knife.’

Sword +2, Giantbane: When first struck by this weapon any giant must save vs. Death Ray or perish; otherwise hits from this sword inflict maximum damage, including adjustments for the wielder’s strength, no roll necessary.

These swords are forged in fires fueled by the bones of their target species and then quenched in the blood of the same.  Other types of baneblades may exist; dragonbane, trollbane, demonbane, etc., whatever your DM is willing to allow.

Sword +3, Tempest: This elfin weapon releases a clap of thunder when drawn causing all opponents to immediately test morale and on a roll of natural ‘20’ to hit (or a critical hit) does an additional d6 of electrical damage.
This elfin longsword has two elementals bound within it, one each of Air and Water.  The two elementals war with each other for dominance within the weapon resulting in a thunderstorm within the metal.  Thunder rumbles constantly while the sword is in use and occasionally lightening flickers through the blade electrifying the metal.

Sword +1, +3 vs. Chaotics, Terrible Swift: This nemesis blade inflicts an additional d6 of damage against chaotic or evil intentioned beings, an attack roll of a natural ‘20’ (or a critical hit) pierces the target’s heart causing instant death unless a save vs. Death Ray is made and always strikes first in combat.
The weapon of choice for religious warriors if one can be obtained; flaming versions (another d6 of fire damage) are frequently borne by the servitors of the Creator.

General Update #4

Ugh.  As of this Thursday, it will be six weeks since my last blog post, six!  That’s not very good considering that I’m only just getting started.  Part of that delay has been an increased demand from my job, being ill for five weeks running and the fact that I have been struggling to get my map together.  I’ve always done this sort of thing by hand before and learning to use GIMP and trying to work with real-world sources has been harder than I thought.  Old dog, new tricks and all that jazz.

The good news is I’m finally feeling better and work is getting back on an even keel.  So, presented for your perusal is my work-in-progress (wip) map of Bramblewood.  Hex scale is six miles per hex as most movement rates in Expert D&D is divisible by six.

Also expect more magic items… Immediately!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kicking My Imagination in the Butt (or Ask and Ye Shall Receive)

The provision of my Lord and Savior is always inspiring to me and in this case it’s extremely timely as well.  As I’ve covered in my last post I’ve been struggling with coming up with ideas for this new campaign and not making any real progress.  I’ve been surfing my usual sites looking for inspirational sources and discovering that almost half of them have been quite for at least a month and in some cases much longer.  So no help there.  And honestly it’s hard not to want to ‘borrow’ whole-cloth from some sources, BaronVonJ and LeadAddict’s Beyond the Wall campaign is brilliant, why couldn’t I have thought of that?  Oh well.

So now you’re wondering, I thought something good happened based on the first sentence but he’s just lamenting his current lack of creativity and that he can’t find inspiration in the usual places.  Hang on, I’m getting there.  One of the key factors for me as a DM in crafting a campaign is an interesting idea or two to hang the setting's history or backstory on, and thanks to John Matthew Stater of LAND OF NOD fame I think I’ve found it.

Matt’s been writing a series of posts about Mythic Races, where he makes races out of various pagan pantheons, and the latest one in the series - the Primordials in which he combines Aztec deities with dinosaurs - just clicked with me.  My reading of this particular post just happened to coincide with my discovery of the Aztecosaur species in the KingsIsle MMORPG Pirate101 (My exploration of the Spiral in KingsIsle’s companion MMORPG Wizard101 had not yet made me aware of the Azteca location’s existence until today’s internet research session).

My exposure to this idea from two separate and discreet sources has really sparked something for me, and remember I believe in providence not coincidence.  So thanks to the inspiration that has been given me, my campaign setting is no longer the temperate woodlands that I had been imagining; now it’s a lush sub-tropical forest with geography not unlike the Seattle,WA area, with plenty of marshy, swampy areas and the ruins of Mesoamerican-style stone cities and step-pyramids poking up through the forest canopy.  I now know what pre-human ruins my ill-fated abbey has been built upon.  And I have a pretty good idea as to what kind of savages might be lurking around out in the wilderlands…

Thank you Lord!  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

General Update #3

When did this get so hard?  When I was younger and playing and running in the Islandverse (The meta name for my weekend group’s multi-dm campaign) I was crafting a new campaign setting every time I ran, which was every couple of weeks.  The Isle of Ice, the Haunted Jungles of Pirate's Haven (home of my infamous Sea Liches), the Lands of the Witch Queen, etc.  Now I can’t seem to get a coherent thought together, never mind on paper.
The why is complicated, even from my perspective, partly the pressure I’m feeling comes from the fact that I’d like this setting to be my masterpiece, the home to all my future campaigns or one-shots.  So, no pressure there, right?  Really?  Sheesh, talk about your own worst enemy.  Worried about being able to fit everything I want in a fantasy game into this setting and not even sure I should try.  Of course, this has caused a lot of hesitancy and procrastination on my part and hence the flood of gaming material and not so much campaign stuff.  Just need to kick my imagination in the butt...

So the only real news today is that the Basic D&D Expert Rules was released as a PDF.  Get it at  Don't miss out; I got mine already so now I can start on my dream project - combining the two rules sets into one document.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Carrion Mage

Here’s an undead ghoulie inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft that I posted in the Dragonsfoot ClassicD&D forums sometime ago; yes, I am Strange Vistor lurking there.  
"The nethermost caverns," wrote the mad Arab, "are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl."
 -- H.P. Lovecraft, The Festival

Carrion Mage*

Armor Class:         3                                  No. Appearing:     1
Hit Dice:                  11–14**                      Save As: Wizard: 11–14
Move:                        120’ (40’)                   Morale:                    11
Attacks:                    1 Touch or                 Treasure Type:     F 
                                   1 Spell
Damage:                  1–8 + paralysis         Alignment:             Chaotic 
                                     or by Spell or
                                     by engulfment

Carrion Mages are undead created when the specially prepared body of a dead Chaotic magic-user is devoured by scavengers, such as worms, beetles or other vermin.  The scavengers, dominated by the dead magic-user’s will, assume a human form made up of a swarm of the vermin that feasted on the spellcaster’s dead flesh.  Carrion Mages always return to their former lair or can be found wherever they are needed to further their nefarious schemes.  A carrion mage is still able to use spells as it did while alive, which makes it a formidable adversary.

Carrion Mages will always clothe themselves as though they were still alive, using gloves and a waxen mask of their former face to complete the illusion.  Carrion Mages can even speak, though their voice is the dry rattle of multitudinous insect parts rubbing together or the whisper of countless worms sliding over one another.  Once the carrion mage’s true nature is revealed, however, all characters must save vs. paralysis or flee in abject fear; those who make the save still suffer a –1 to all rolls while within the carrion mage’s presence.

A carrion mage may also shed it's human shape altogether to enable it to engulf characters as an Insect Swarm (B37) with increased Hit Dice.

Carrion Mages can only be damaged by fire, spells or magical weapons, all of which will only do half damage.  They are unaffected by charm person, hold and sleep spells.  Note that morale is given as 11, but if a carrion mage finds itself in actual danger, either from adventurers or some other threat, they may disperse the individual vermin that make up their gestalt form, which will scurry away into the darkness, disappear down tiny crevices or otherwise affect an escape.  A carrion mage can reform its horrid swarm body in a number of hours equal to its hit dice.

Supplemental/Supporting Information on Carrion Mages:

Cleric Turning Table

Cleric Level
Carrion Mage

This entry goes on the Cleric vs. Undead table (Expert Set, page X5), after the entry for Vampire.  As you see above carrion mages cannot be destroyed by a cleric, only turned.  If at higher levels (15–36), a ‘D’ result is possible the carrion is dispersed rather than destroyed.    In any case, if a cleric gains a T or D result when attempting to turn an undead spellcaster, like the Carrion Mage, the undead may make a saving throw vs. spells to avoid the effect entirely.


Carrion Reincarnation                                                                           Range: 0’
                                                                                                                            Duration: 24 hours
If a Chaotic magic-user is killed before the expiration of this spell, regardless of how his body is disposed of, he will rise from death as a carrion mage in one year and a day.  Only burning the body to ashes can prevent this gruesome resurrection.

Additional Comments:

Unlike Advanced D&D, the Vampire is the high-end of undead fiends in Basic/Expert D&D and I have always wished for something more, like AD&D's Lich, an undead magic user.  So the Carrion Mage was my answer, inspired by Lovecraft.  Carrion Mages are meant to be the scheming, plotting heart of terrible events in a campaign, always at the center of a complex and convoluted plan to bring local civilization to its knees and under the carrion mage's heel.

I've also toyed with a version called a 'Carrion Faithful' that's an undead cleric cursed (blessed?) by some eldritch horror for the cleric's dutiful service to a writhing eternity of service to its loathsome, inhuman master(s).  Swap out the origins and substitute Cleric spells for Magic User's and you're done.  Mix, match and dispatch; player characters, that is.