Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Playing old characters

ThayziakI am having a discussion with a friend about doing a play by post game. He wanted to know which of my characters I wanted to play. Initially I thought I should do two new characters, maybe a Fighter and then a multi-classed Magic User/Thief/Cleric. However paging through the book, I discovered you really can not do that, so then I thought maybe a Fighter/Thief and a Cleric/Magic User. After fiddling around with that for a while, I found it rather unsatisfying and could not decide what I wanted to do. This morning I was doing some work on the Wiki I use to keep track of all my game setting data and I came across the old Companions of Xarth PC list and there towards the bottom was the only character I played in that campaign, Thayziaik. Being a gaming pack rat, I of course still have his character sheet, so I thought maybe this was the way to go.

This is one of those things that comes from playing D&D for so long, you end up with a lot of characters with history. I did not play Thayziaik much, at 3rd level I suspect he did not see play for more than 15-20 games and the last time I played him would have been 1989 or 1990. Assuming he was around 20 years old (Minimum starting age for a human Magic user) when I last played him, and game time has progressed at the same speed as the real world, Thayziaik is now 45 years old, he is still 3rd level, so he has not been out adventuring, what has he been doing for the last 15 years? I am thinking he has been cloistered inside the Companions of Xarth Guild house, most likely using his identify spell along with his Arcane Lore skill to determine what various magic items the adventuring teams come back with are and what the probable value is. He of course charged very reasonable fees for preforming this sometimes dangerous task.

The conversion to HackMaster was pretty straight forward, I think he does not look too different from his original incarnation as an AD&D1E character, pictured above.

Str 16/01, Dex 15/12, Con 16/08, Int 14/36, Wis 13/19, Cha 12/10, Com 10/04
Race Human, Class Magic User, Level 3, Alignment Chaotic Good, Hit Points 39
Skills – Common 100%, Arcane Lore 50%, Spellcraft 25%, Riding 25%, Reading/Writing 25%
Talents – Blind Fighting
Robe, Cloak, Boots, Gloves, Cloak, BackPack, Staff, Hunting Dog, Ring of Truth
Spells: Armor, Find Familiar, Identify, Magic Missile, Mend, Munz’s Acid Bolt,
Ray of Enfeeblement, Web.

40th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons

This weekend will mark 40 years since Gary Gygax introduced the world to D&D, for good or for ill. I make no secret that D&D has been very significant to my life. Some of the best moments of my life were not spent in this world, but rather in the world of D&D, with my friends, doing the things we literally dream about. Sure, none of it was real, but to me it was no less important. The experiences of Evro and Brandon or Bob the barbarian and Simon (picture Dumb and Dumber in plate mail), were just as important as the things that happened to us in the real world. I can say with some certainty that I preferred the D&D fantasy to the reality of High School. Even today, when my life sucks, I look forward to Friday night, when I can uncork my imagination and spend a few hour with my best friends drinking ale, killing orcs and seducing bar wenches. So thank you Gary Gygax, you may not have cured cancer, but you did provide an awkward teenage boy with a life long passion and several lifetimes of friends and experiences to match. Thank you.

Game design and Theory

I have been thinking about variations on the basic class system used by Dungeons and Dragons. For those of you who don’t know, the class system in D&D is there are 4 classes; Cleric, Fighter, Magic User and Thief. Some of these classes have sub classes, like; Druid (Subclass of Cleric), Paladin (Subclass of Fighter),Illusionist (Subclass of Magic User), and Assassin (Subclass of Thief),What I was thinking is a more structured line of sub-classing and eliminate the need for multi classing of character. Basically all subclasses are a combination of two classes, with a major class and a minor class, something like;

Cleric+Fighter = Paladin
Cleric+Magic User = Druid
Cleric+Thief = Bard

Fighter+Cleric = Monk
Fighter+Magic User = Battle Mage
Fighter+Thief = Ranger

Magic User+Cleric = Sage
Magic User+Fighter = Arcane Warrior
Magic User+Thief = Illusionist

Thief+Cleric = Charlatan
Thief+Fighter = Assassin
Thief+Magic User = Ninja

Gaming thought of the week

Back in 1980 when I was just starting out playing D&D, the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook cost just $10, the Monster Manual was $10 as well and the Dungeon Masters Guide was a whopping $12. Today, reprints of those same books are selling for $35 a piece. I acknowledge this was a different time and inflation has cause the value of the dollar to go down. However, I do not remember $10 being too expensive, everyone I know bought a copy of the PHB without blinking. Today, I think this hobby has simply gotten to expensive for kids to get into cheaply.

So one of the things I am mulling over in my head is a dirt cheap RPG, where a hard copy can be bought under $10, heck maybe even under $5. I am thinking specifically about printing it in a 32 page Comic Book format. Three books, a PHB, a Monster Manual and a GM Guide, each for $5. They would not wear well, but replacement would be cheap and if demand warranted it, I could produce a consolidated book in the form of a 128 page Trade Paperback, for say $20 to pay for better binding, higher quality paper, and an adventure. One of these days I might find a Printer outfit and get a price on printing say 1000 copies of each of the books I am proposing. If I can get them printed for say $1.50, that is a $1,500 investment that might yield me back say $2,000 assuming I can find a distributor who will purchase them for about 40% of cover or about $2 per copy. Of course this does not include things like paying art, advertising, marketing or god forbid getting a cut myself. The first run would most likely be a money looser, even if every copy sold.

One of the things I plan to do this year

FBTunnelsTrolls5th0001One of the things I really want to do is play, rather than GM some sort of RPG. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind GMing, in fact just the opposite. However, I do really enjoy playing as well, but unfortunately, I really don’t have time to dedicate to another full time game group. So my plan is to do some solo questing.Playing D&D solo is a lot like masturbating, while it is not nearly as satisfying when done with other people, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

One option I have is to start with Judges Guild Survival of the Fittest. It is a solitaire dungeon for 1st level D&D characters. Reviews seem to indicate it takes about one evening to complete (4-5 hours). I really do not have that kind of time to dedicate to this, I will probably play an hour a night maybe 3 times a week if possible. Hopefully I will finish it up inside of say 2 weeks. After finishing this, I could probably entertain myself pretty steadily with randomly generated dungeons.

Another option I have is a company called Avalon Games publishes modified Pathfinder RPG system designed for solo play. They have a couple of quest books out which are suppose to be complete campaigns for solo play or playing in a group with no GM.

Finally, rather than D&D, I can go with Tunnels and Trolls, for which I have a small pile of solo adventures that I bought over the years but never played. Additionally, there seem to be a lot of other T&T solo adventures there that are either free or extremely cheap.It really looks like I have access to material here and this is probably my best bet.

It is a good possibility this will bore me in much the same way World of Warcraft bores me, but there is only one way to find out.

Early campaign map

CalDoom_v1I found this map in the same folder I found Brandon’s character sheet. This is a very early version of my Caldoom game world. I am thinking I made this in 1980 or 1981. The map has evolved over time and only vaguely resembles this map. If I remember correctly, the scale of this map is 5 miles per hex or 20 miles equals about 1 inch.


My favorite D&D character

Its no secret that Christmas makes everyone nostalgic. For me that nostalgia takes the form of wanting to play D&D like is 1979. So while looking through an old notebook, I discovered a copy of my first successful character Brandon. By successful, I mean, survived passed 2nd level, although he met his untimely demise at 4th level at the hands of an assassin hired by another player character named Rufus Kraki. I suspect the reason he hired the assassin was so he could get Brandon’s magic items without having to fight my character, although he was 5th level, he was not much of a match for Brandon. I had the last laugh, because with my dying breath I prayed Byzangi, the god of practical jokes, to deny everyone in the party my magic items. Byzangi, being who he was obliged a dying man his request to screw over his friends and enemies. Here is what Brandon looked like as a character the last time I played him in 1981.

Brandon – Human – Fighter – 4th Level – Age 22
Str – 18/33 (18/00 w/Helm of War)
Dex – 12 (18 w/Helm of War)
Con – 12 (18 w/Helm of War)
Int – 9
Wis – 8
Chr – 11

Experience Points 8122
Hit Points 28 (44 w/Helm of War)

Language – Common
Secondary Skill – Hunter/Fisher

Bastard Sword
Battle Axe
Light Crossbow

Special Abilities – Race
Vision: Normal
Unlimited level progression

Banded Mail + Medium Shield AC 3 (AC -1 w/Helm of War)
Bastard Sword – Damage 2d4/2d8
Light Crossbow + 25 Bolts – Damage 1d4/1d4
Iron rations – 4 weeks
Wine skin + Wine
Flask of Holy Water – 1
Flask of Oil – 4
11 Foot Pole
Rope – 200 feet
Hammer + 10 spikes
Tinder box w/Flint & Steel
Lantern, Bullseye

Magic Items:
Healing Potions – 6 doses
Mitherial Bastard Sword (+4 to hit and damage)
Helm of War (Str 18/00, Dex 18, Con 18)
Gauntlets of Fire & Ice (Makes weapon either a Flame Tongue or Frost Brand)

Ghosts of Christmas Dungeons Past

Christmas time is always nostalgic, it reminds of the things we loved most about our childhoods and we in turn try to pass this on to the next generation. For me, Christmas is the time of year I pull out my old AD&D Players Handbook (PHB) and browse through it, remembering those early games. My Mom gave me this PHB for the Christmas of 1979 and this paved the way for a life time of happiness and enjoyment. I remember very little about High School, I have no idea who our class president was or the quarterback of the football team or even the name of a single cheerleader. What I do remember is the D&D games. I remember those over crowded nights in my Mom’s apartment, the Vortex games in Bruce’s parents basement and Stomper’s game at Frank Steven’s house. I remember amazing amounts of detail about these games.

More specifically, I remember Christmas vacation 1979, there was a butt ton of snow on the ground and we stayed in most of that time, playing, you guesses it D&D. I remember my first character dying after running into giant centipedes. I remember we fought Tiamat and after killing her, we razed her treasure horde. It was a complete Monty Haul game, we were the paragons of the Hobo-Murderer-Thief character type, although I personally prefer Transient Genocidal Kleptomaniac term. These games were also a ton of fun to play, none of us over thought anything, we simply bashed down the door (sometimes the lock was picked), killed the monsters and took their stuff. In other words, we gamed like it was 1979.

the-holmes-basic-setaddphbThese were the games we played, when we were Munchkins, young and proud.

How to be a good RPG player

1. Know the rules of the game you are playing. You don’t have to memorize every book, but you should at the very least be able to roll up a character and understand the basic dice mechanics of the game.

2. Know how to make a decent character, know what constitutes a good character. Building a D&D character that averages less than 1 point of damage per turn is a useless character, on the other end of that scale, a Call of Cthulhu character whose primary skill is shooting/punching things, is likewise useless.

3. Know your group. Try to get to know everyone in the group, try to find out what they want out of the game and what their strengths and weaknesses are. If you are not a good fit for the group, politely drop out of the game.

4. Know your GM, know what kind of game he wants to run. Find out what his expectations are, does he like a fast paced shoot em up game, or does he prefer a slow burn plot. Build characters that play to your GM’s strengths, don’t build characters that exploit or highlight the GM’s weaknesses.

5. Be a player that other players like to be around, play characters other characters want to be around. If you find yourself uttering the words “I am just playing my character!”, you have failed this one.

RPG’s that come and go

Each year a slew of new role playing games come out, occasionally one of these games becomes popular. I generally refer to these games as the darlings of RPG.net. I have written about a game called Noblis before, this is the paragon of this type of game. Basically this type of game is an RPG that sounds good in theory, this generates a lot of excitement in various gaming circles and by extension the internet. You start seeing thread after thread on RPG.net “Sell/Unsell me on XXXXX” and everyone gets on the thread and praises the brilliance of this new RPG and how it is going to replace D&D. Then the game reports start trickling in, it becomes obvious no one is playing more than 1 or 2 games with this new RPG and eventually it fades from site without anyone really saying what is wrong with the game and why it lost momentum.

Usually, as was the case with Noblis, is the game is just plain boring. Court intrigue style games are entertaining for about 20 minutes, after that 99% of all gamers get bored. With other games it is the lack of support material, this was true of The One Ring. The core books came out then it was almost a year before there was a  follow up product and by that time most everyone assumed the game was dead and moved on. The other primary reason is a tragically flawed game system, this is where games like Adventure! went down, either it was too easy to build an unbeatable munchkin or it was too hard to build a reasonably fun character. Alternately combat is slow and bloated with no good way to house rule it without switching to a new game system.

The newest RPG.net darling is Numenera, I am starting to see the threads¬† and even some “I have not played this yet, but I am going to review it anyway” articles. I am thinking about starting a pool so we can bet on how long it will take for Numenera to go from darling to damned.