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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Marco Arnaudo's Pulp! skirmish rules from Osprey, a first impressions review

 This weekend I've been reading the rules to Pulp!, Osprey's latest skirmish title, by Marco Arnaudo who most of you probably know from his Youtube boardgame reviews.

Presentation-wise it is a classic Osprey blue paperback. It has a good number of photos of painted minis in nice scenery, mostly from Bob Murch's Pulp Figures and some paintings of pulp adventure scenes. 64 pages inside the cover.

Like other blue stripe Osprey titles, the layout still suffers from my pet peeve, tables with small print and alternating dark blue gray and light blue gray backgrounds. I'd much prefer Osprey to use white and an even lighter blue gray backgrounds for the alternating stripes to maximize contrast with the text for my aging eyes. And bump the text size a step. I'd rather pay a few more dollars for rules that don't cause so much eye strain.

It's a lighter game than Pulp Alley, with more focus on combat than other adventure perils, less character customization, and a simple D6 combat system. Each player will be typically moving around a dozen figures, most of them in small groups of 2-4 with a few heroes, sidekicks, and villains as singletons. The character stat bar has 8 columns, pretty typical of a combat oriented skirmish game.

You are dicing for initiative each turn, and activating by alternating groups. Before the general activations phase begins there is a continuing melee phase where both combatants in a continuing melee from the previous turn have option to withdraw, hidden choice, and if neither do they fight again. If either or both do, the one that stood the ground can activate normally but withdrawing figures are spent by their withdrawal move. When a group takes its turn, it must roll to activate, easier for heroes than mooks, and will have a reduced defensive Partial Activation on a failure with only a few options. A group that gets too separated, with some figures outside of a 3" cohesion distance, will have the out of touch figures suffer a penalty to their activation roll which they'll roll separately after the in touch part of the group is resolved. I like this activation scheme pretty well as it sits about halfway between, say, Mordheim and my own Rencounter. One of the possible actions is marking for Reaction Fire, which allows a shot at a moving or shooting target.

Combat is a D6 to hit, with a save ala GW rules, that varies with the armor level or agility of the defender.
A low quality character that is hit is taken out. A high quality character is suppressed by the first hit, wounded by the second, and taken out by the second wound from the third hit, with certain special actions accelerating that to inflict both a suppression and wound together. Suppression is a penalty to activation, reduces melee defense, removes Reaction Fire tokens, and halts movement if suffered while moving due to Reaction Fire. A suppressions clears after it affects the activation roll.
Movement speeds vary from 2" to 8" depending on what the figure is doing. Armor is a heavy penalty, medium armor halving moves and heavy armor quartering moves & preventing jumping. This armor movement penalty strikes me as too much, since characters slowed that much make for boring game play. Also, in real life, armor doesn't slow you down much, except for all out racing. It fatigues you faster instead. It's probably the one thing I'd change. I'd either reduce the effect to 3/4 and 1/2 or actually model it as fatigue by having 2" and 4" (walk) moves unaffected and charge 6" and run 8" moves require a follow on activation check that causes a suppression if failed, with heavy armor checking at a -1. I might also reduce the effect of shields, heavy, and medium armor against guns by a point or two depending on the setting and modernization of the armor.

The status changes you'll be tracking or marking on figures are suppression, wounded, reaction fire, defensive stance (an action that gives a one attack defensive bonus, one of the Partial Activation options), usage of single use weapons like grenades or thrown spears, and a small pool of special points, 0-4, depending on the unit, which can be spent for the figure or unit to use one of a menu of special benefit actions, once per turn. There are about 20, described on pages 28-31.

There is also a Life Experiences profile option, which brings a semi roleplaying element, reducing a figure or unit's Special Benefits choices to a thematic pair and granting an additional thematic special rule for the unit to make up for the reduced special benefit options.

There's the typical weapon and gear charts, animals list, terrain rules, guidance on building teams and scenarios, a handwave towards campaigns, a fully developed example scenario, etc. Vehicle rules are explicitly not present, just a mention that if the pilot does not survive in some remote setting the remainder of the team might be trapped in the locale and be a scenario loss.

Overall, I like the rules in Pulp! and plan to give them a try. It's actually a testament to quality when there is only one rule in a skirmish set that I immediately want to change. It's a set that is definitely worth paying the cheap Opsrey blue series price for.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

New Old School Campaign

 On Wednesday nights, I've been playing online with some of my oldest gaming friends, a group that goes back to the 80s, scattered now around Northern California & one in Arizona, using Discord and a couple virtual tabletops, lately Owlbear Rodeo. When I joined into Wednesday nights, Martin wrapped up a campaign and Pete was getting an Old West themed game started, set around SF around 1880, and we got in a few sessions of that. Pete got busy with work so Stu started a Basic Fantasy OSR game to fill in. Stu's work calendar clarified to only alternate Wednesdays being good for him t run, so, feeling the itch to DM again, I started a very impromptu OD&D & house rules campaign for the alternate weeks. Pete might pick back up at some point. Martin also has something brewing, possibly with Barry co-gming.

Since I was starting very ad hoc and unprepared, I picked out what books to use, and settled on the three little brown books and part of Greyhawk. I might grab a snippet from Blackmoor but there is not much there that appeals to me. I'm using the spell casting part of my 80s house rules and turn undead variants on this blog, and following Barbarians of Lemuria for weapon damage D6L, D6, D6H, etc. I grabbed the old Judges Guild Wilderlands map of the area around the City State of the Invincible Overlord, but didn't have any key handy to it, so just randomly placed them in a hex to start. The initial session had only three characters in it, Stu having managed to actually roll OD&D Paladin stats at first go, and so began Sir Manus Handofitay. Martin playing an FMC Half Elf Marinus Vanderlube, and Jim the thief Wardenson. Asked them if they were knockabout freelancers or wanted to be on a mission, they went with the latter, and after a few dice rolls we discovered there was a Priory of a Holy Order in service of St Cuthbert in Landmarch, Sir Manus is member of the Order, and they were on a mission for it, which turned out to be prisoner transport from the village nearest the starting hex back to the Priory. Some dice to determine the prisoner, and more discovered he had escaped just before they arrived. They set out hunting him with the help of a couple local lads and a dog for tracking.

The second session saw Barry and Pete join in, and both had attributes that said cleric to them, so we have two clerics (Barry: Joseph of Aren and Pete: Brardor Nusk ) showing up with the barred wagon that had suffered a breakdown and fallen behind the lead group. They get directed to the pursuers, leave the wagon in the village, and hustle to catch up. The rest of the session saw the party track Esdin, a soldier devoted to Hextor, through the woods south of the village, have a peaceful encounter with a couple goblins, and follow Esdin's trail through the night to Skaney, which the dice told us is a hive of scum and villainy. Jim's thief tracks Esdin's trail over the town wall but he loses the trail atop it and drops into town to try to pick up the trail. The rest talk their way in at dawn at the south gate and find lodging at a local inn. Once rested they take the dog for a walk along the inside of the town wall and pick up the trail, leading to the back alley door of a house in a run down neighborhood. Then the clerics, having learned that there is a small temple to Odin in Skaney, and Pete's cleric Brordor Nusk is in service to Odin, so they go there to ask about the house. Barry's Joseph of Arran serves Istus, Goddess of Fate. The priest is away, but the old woman caretaker tells them of the recent death of the old residents. Meanwhile the others do some scouting of the street the house fronts on, and spot a couple of young lookouts, indicating the house is in use by some sort of nefarious gang.

Before the third session I determined that the house is occupied by a cult, not a secular criminal gang, and some particulars of the cult. Just before the session I sketched a floorplan map of the house and set it into a row of outlined houses.

The third session begins with a small retcon of departure of the clerics from the temple, in which Brordor Nusk has a mysterious vision from Odin giving some foreshadowing hints about a dark ritual in the house that is their target. Most of the party hung out on the market cross street watching the Paladin perform a religious soap box sermon/rap battle with a rival speaker/rabble rousing effort to stir the mob against the cult house. Wardenson snuck through the neighboring ruined building to the right and looked for sneaky ways in. He ended up crossing roof to roof and into a dormer window of a leader in the cult. He had an encounter with a guard in the upper hall that took a shine to him (boxcars reaction roll) and snooped out some of the upstairs rooms, spying upon two important figures in the cult before fleeing down the stairs, and past the front door guard. Running to the rest of the party, he escaped and with a quick decision to attack, the party split, the two clerics down the back alley and the rest to the front door. In a quick series of fights they stormed the ground floor of the house and took down most of the cultists, two in a particularly grisly way as they were thrown into the statue of a vine tentacled dark god that drained them to husks and then activated to attack our heroes. By dint of luck and tactics the party overcame the statue after defeating the cultists, all without losing any party member.

The fourth session saw the group dealing with the aftermath of their attack on the cult house. They collected clues, loot, fought Esdin as he showed up at the back door with some hired ruffians that he expected to introduce to the cult to take on a mission. A sleep spell took out Esdin and the thugs, and a brief fight defeated the half plant woman in the front room, before searching the upper floor and exiting quickly to be met by the cordoning Watch that had arrived after reports that there was fighting around and in the house. Notably, the pit down to the cellar before the statue was not much examined, and they had a glimpse of plant creatures down there. They were taken in for questioning by a magistrate, who released them and let them take their prisoner away. Returning to the village of Shavenoar, they were feted when one of the prisoners they had freed showed up in the company of watchman dispatched from Skaney.  They locked Esdin in the wagon and drove back to Landmarch, capturing a bandit chief, and meeting an Order patrol along the way. The session ended with some treasure examination and a report to Prior Adelbert. A lot of XPs were calculated from all of the foregoing and some of the characters reached level 2.

Tonight, unless one of the other GMs wants to run something, we'll explore the mission Prior Adelbart gives them, probably including a return to Skaney to deal with cultist loose ends.

Character sheets for Organizations and Powers in a Roleplaying or Wargame Campaign

 I found some old notes about a side project on quantifying and generating groups like governments, religions, thieves guilds, cults, and the like. So capturing them now to the blog.

This was inspired by various sources. Tony Bath's book "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" is the biggest influence. It's still available as part of "Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming" on Amazon for a reasonable price and worth getting.

The iteration of the idea that I am looking at today has the following attributes with a note to roll 2D6 for each or set them to values to model a specific idea. The idea was to stat out a variety of clashing organizations and then at time intervals roll to see what they do in a Monte Carlo campaign simulator backdrop to a roleplaying campaign. The rolls would generate & resolve actions that would be fleshed out descriptively to give some life to the campaign world. There was also an idea of fractally defining larger and smaller groups that are nested, a guild in a city in a county in a country, or a squad in a platoon in a company in a regiment in an army for examples.

The attributes list:

Size: Might be land area or numbers in membership. Might be split if both of those should be distinctly captured

Wealth: Can they buy what or who they want? High wealth and low power might mean they are more a target than an actor, or that most of their wealth is committed in ways that make it less useful as a tool for group to group interactions.

Power: If they take action, how much power can they bring to bear? Should correlate somewhat with wealth but some organizations will have other forms of power. This is probably the main stat for conflict resolution.

Cohesion: How unified in mindset and purpose is the group? A low cohesion group is more likely to have internal faction fighting or break up into separate, possibly rival groups.

Aggressiveness: How likely is the group to try to expand  & attack other groups

Activity: How fast is the group to take action to seize an opportunity or react to a threat?

Scruples: Will the leadership of the group tend to honor agreements? Can they be trusted to deal honestly?

Centralization: The higher it is, the fewer people need to be in agreement on actions

Alliances: Does the group have relationships with other groups that might assist it or call upon it for assistance?

Infiltration: How much of the group has outside loyalties that conflict with their loyalty to the group? Probably covaries with Cohesion

Example Group:

Knights of the Flame

Size 5

Wealth 10

Power 8

Cohesion 7

Aggro 4

Activity 4

Scruples 9

Central 7

Allies 10

Infil 8

Once an active military order, the Knights of the Flame have become a body of elder statesmen and councilors of the King. They are very well connected in society, wealthy, and honorable, not prone to act in haste or indeed at all in many cases.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Vaccinated Gaming

Well, we're back to playing in person. A couple games of GMT's Apocalypse Road, a couple one on ones of Stargrave, and now a group minis game, a variant of Frank Chadwick's Men Under Fire, with a scenario in Japan's drive through Malaysia, in 28mm. It was John Carnahan's lockdown project and a good looking game. I'll need to transfer some pictures from my phone. 

I'm four months into a #hobbystreak, posting WIP photos on Twitter @edallen and on Instagram. More reliably on Twitter, with grouped catchups on Instagram. It's helped me stay focused on painting. I've actually put a dent in my backlog. 

 It's been a long time since I posted anything to the blog, but I'm starting to feel the itch again. So maybe?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Fantasy Miniatures Campaign full deck

 In 2014 I did a blog post about my late 70s fantasy miniatures campaign. At the time I could only find half the deck of cards at the core of it, since I had bagged it in two small bags, and lost one of them. Well, yesterday, I was poking around a bookshelf, and spotted some telltale red in a small plastic bag, deep on a different shelf than the one where I had just seen that half-deck of cards. Dug in past the stuff in front, and YES! the missing baggie of cards. So now I'm going to fill out that deck list started in that previous post. 

Then I will go hunt for the campaign notes and rules folder, and when I find it, reproduce the map, rosters, and miniatures rules, and see if I can resurrect that game. When I have the full list entered, I plan to look into having the list printed as deck by one of those online custom card printers that support game designers.

As I type these in, it brings back the memory of sitting in the high school library writing some of them up. They are all in black felt tip on red construction paper that I must have cut out to card size with a sheet cutter. When I have the full list entered, I plan to look into having a set of real cards printed from the list.

This is a now-old school system (then new-fangled) intended for fair minded interpretation as cards are played in a friendly campaign game as a scenario generator. It is not suitable for a seriously competitive game. At the time, I remember we switched sides as we met for subsequent sessions, and maybe even between battles on the same night, so did not have an interest in arguing vague points for advantage. I'd recommend playing it the same way.

A note on resource abbreviations: 

  • GT - Gold Talent, think of it as about 100 Gold Pieces in old D&D. 
  • GTJ - one Gold Talent's worth of Jewelry, 
  • ST -Silver Talent, about 100 Silver Pieces. 
  • CG - Common Goods, maybe 100 GP worth of food, beer, ordinary furnishings like sturdy but unadorned furniture, farming or crafting tools, militia armaments, etc. Bulk cargo requiring wagons, boats, or a pack train to transport
  • PG - 100 GP worth of Precious Goods, a mix of things like gems, jewelry, arms and armor for the nobility, artworks, alchemical tools and ingredients, fine wine, and spices, much more compact to carry than common goods

We never actually played a scenario from a dungeon expedition card, but I did draw up maps, and the idea was to try a hybrid dungeon crawl using the skirmish minis rules for combat and pulling in what was needed from original D&D to flesh out exploration mechanisms, with the opposing player stocking a map that had one to three dungeon levels with reasonable contents to give the dungeon crawling group both opposition and treasures if they succeeded, if I hadn't already gotten to fully stocking first. It would play somewhere between original D&D and something like Heroquest in terms of detail level. The skirmish system was basically scaled like Chainmail with 1 to 2 OD&D hit dice per hit that a model could take. It would have either been one player running the whole expedition while the other DMs it, or roping in some other friends and dividing up the expedition among them for a session.

The Deck

Tithes B 1
Tithes must be sent by the Temple of the Goat to the City of the Gods to the amount of 50 GT. 10 GT may be collected from each allied force to pay part. One raid may be conducted to pay the tithes. 1/2 force, plus 1/3 of allies called by Summon Allies.

Tithes B 2
Tithes must be sent by the Priests of Godseye to the City of the Gods to the amount of 50 GT. 10 GT may be collected from each allied force to pay part. One raid may be conducted to pay part. 
1/2 force, plus 1/3 of allies called by Summon Allies.

Royal Entourage B 3
The Great King and twenty knights and their retainers will travel through on a pilgrimage to the City of The Gods. The Lord of Orly Castle must protect them and house them at the expense of 20 GT.

Ambush E 4
The Orcs of the Wild Wood may ambush one party on the High Road with up to 1/3 of their force. Allies may be called, up to 1/4 of each may help if a Summon Allies card is played.

Ambush E 5
The Great Orcs may ambush one party on the High Road with up to 1/3 of their force. Allies may be called, up to 1/4 of each may help if a Summon Allies card is played.

Ambush E 6
The Badlands Goblins may ambush one party entering the Pass of Skulls or Carrion Gulch or traveling on the Holy Road with up to 1/2 of their force. Up to 1/3 of the Hillmen or the undead may be called if allied and a Summon Allies card is played.

B 7
The Undead may ambush one party on the High Road or the Path of the Dead. Up to 1/2 of each kind of undead may be attacking. The Undead Lord will not be present.

Treaty B 8
The High King will invoke peace on all warring armies. Having determined the war to be the fault of Lawful forces, they must pay the Evil ones 10 to 60 GT in tribute. All prisoners must be returned. Ransom of 5 per Hit may be demanded.

Treaty B 9
One war will be settled by negotiation. No tribute will be paid by either side.


  • 1-6 per warrior
  • 2-12 per monster
  • 5-30 per leader

Treaty B 10
Due to pressure from his Queen, the High King has invoked peace on all wars. She has him declare that evil armies must pay lawful ones they are at war with 10 GT each in damages.

Ransom: 3 per warrior, 10 per monster,  20 per leader

Truce L 11
Any Lawful army may demand a truce with one enemy for one week. Prisoners may be exchanged.

Ransom: 3 per warrior, 10 per monster,  20 per leader

Truce E 12
Any Evil army may demand a truce with one enemy for one week for prisoner exchange.

Ransom: 3 per warrior, 8 per monster, 16 per leader

Truce B 13
A one month truce is imposed in honor of the High King's Birthday. All prisoners must be exchanged at no ransom. 

Mercenaries B 14
All mercenaries leave to accept a higher offer from a warlord to the north.

Mercenaries B 15
All mercenaries are inducted into royal service and immediately leave for the Great Kingdom.

Invaders L 16
Army of conquest(30 LF, 12 HF, 12 archers, 3 2H Knights and 1 warlock) enters from the east and attacks the evil forces. It will attempt to capture one evil stronghold to dwell there.

Invaders E 17
A band of nomad raiders from the Dry Wastes swings down from the N.E> and attacks Demsley.
Nomads: 18 M. Horse, 4 M. Horsebow, 1 3H M. Horse Hero

Weather B 18
Week-long rainfall stops all fights, reduces movement to 1/3 normal. Rivers are flooded and impassible except at bridges.

Weather B 19
Battle prevented by terrible storm.
Either side may withdraw. If neither does, the fight will commence the next day.

Weather B 20
Air elementals revolt. High winds prevent all missile fire and make all spell-casting -2 on success. Any air elemental summoned will become double strength and hostile. (duration was not specified, but probably intended to be somewhere between one battle and one week).

Disease B 21
Plague strikes one stronghold. Roll die for each occupant.
1-3 no effect
4-5 ill for one month
6+ killed
If besieged, add one to the die. Presence of Bishop or Patriarch will subtract one from the die.

Disease B 22
One army is struck by a strange, magical malady. Roll for each member.
1-3 no effect
4-5 ill for one month
6+ killed

Famine L 23
The Vulture Badlands are struck by a famine.30 CG must be expended by the Goblins and 10 by each Hillmen tribe for food. For each CG short, one starves. One raid may be initiated to gain funds or food. Up to 1/2 may go. 

Famine E 24
Demsley and Bannock's Freehold are struck by a famine. One CG per fighter must be expended for food relief. Any shorted will die. One raid may be attempted by each in order to capture enough food. Up to 1/2 may go.

Holy War B 25
One third of all lawful knights and men-at-arms must travel to the Great Kingdom to fight in a crusade. After two months roll one die for each.

  • 1-2 slain in war
  • 3-6 returns with 1-6 CG, 1-4 PG, 1-10 GT and 1 additional hit. Any leader going will also gain 1 magic weapon.

Quest E 26
One lawful warrior or leader will be summoned to the City of the Gods to perform a Holy Quest. After 1 month roll a die.
1-3 slain
4-6 returns with +1 Hit, 3-30 GT and a magic weapon.

Quest L 27
One Evil warrior, monster, or leader will be summoned to the City of the Gods to perform an Unholy Quest. After 1 month roll a die.
1-3 slain
4-6 returns with +1 Hit, 3-30 GT and a magic weapon.

Travelers L 28
A band of 1-6 adventurers of 1-4 hits each comes up the High Road to the Last Chance Inn and will join the lawful force there. Each will possess 1-6 GT, 1-10 GTJ, and have a 1/3 chance per hit of possessing a magic item. Roll for each:

  • 1-2 Fighter
  • 3 M-U
  • 4 Cleric
  • 5 Elf (1-2 F, 3-4 M-U, 5-6 Both)
  • 6 Dwarf or Hobbit

Travelers B 29
A company of 3-30 pilgrims (1-3 are clerics, 1-3 are multihit fighters) will come from the Great Kingdom headed for the City of the Gods. The lawful side must see to their safety. If all survive, reward is 30 GT. If some survive, no reward. If party wiped out pay 50 GT penalty to the High King.

Travelers E 30
A band of evil adventurers comes from Seaspray to join the Wizard in the Wood. 1-6 adventurers of 1-4H. 1. Fighter, 2. M-U, 3. Ogre, 4 Cleric, 5 Troll, 6 Were beast or Gargoyle. Each will possess 1-6 GT, 1-10 Street, 1-3 PG and have a 1/3 chance per hit of possessing a magic item

Summons E 31
The Lord of Orly Castle and at least 3 retainers must journey to the Great Kingdom to appear at the wedding of one of the High King's sons. Each will return with 1-6 GT and 1-3 PG as guesting gifts.

Undead L 32
The Undead will assist the lawful side in one battle. 1/2 of each type will appear. The Undead Lord will come on a 1 or a 2.   (slightly rephrased for clarity to match E 33)

Undead E 33
The Undead will assist the evil side in one battle. 1/2 of each type will appear. The Undead Lord will come on a 1 or a 2.    

Rebellion B 34
One captured stronghold will rebel against the garrison with one half their original strength but without a leader.

Rebellion B 35
One captured stronghold will rebel against the garrison with 2/3 their original strength and a leader equal to the one who originally led them if that one is dead or not present.

Tribute E 36
must be sent by the lawful forces to Sea Spray in the amount of 50 GT to the Great Kingdom. If it is captured, it must be sent until one shipment gets through.

Tribute L 37
must be sent by the evil forces to Sea Spray in the amount of 30 GT. If it is captured by someone en route, more must be sent until one shipment gets through.

Taxes L 38
Taxes may be collected by the lord of Orly Castle from tributary territories to the north to the amount of 12 GT, 30 ST, 40 CG, and 10 PG.

Taxes E 39
Taxes may be collected by the Wizard in the Wood from subject towns to the east. The amount will be 8 GT, 40 ST, 30 CG, and 15 PG.

Dungeon Expedition L 40
One party may go from any lawful group to the Dark Citadel. This may include 1/4 of its force plus 1/4 of any ally called by the Summon Allies card plus ALL lawful adventurers if any.

Dungeon Expedition E 41
One party may go from any evil group to the Dark Citadel. This may include 1/4 of its force plus 1/4 of any ally called by the Summon Allies card plus ALL evil adventurers if any.

 Dungeon Expedition E 42
One party may be sent from any evil group to the Great Stone Mountain. This may consist of 1/3 of its force plus any evil adventurers.

Dungeon Expedition L 43
One party may be sent from any lawful force to the Great Stone Mountain. This may consist of 1/3 of its force plus any lawful adventurers.

Dungeon Expedition E 44
Any evil adventurers may go to either dungeon.

Dungeon Expedition L 45
Any lawful adventurers may go to either dungeon.

Reinforcements L 46
4 knights, 6 men at arms and 6 crossbowmen come from the Great Kingdom to enlist at Orly Castle.

Reinforcements E 47
12 Heavy foot and 2 Evil Vicars come from the City of the Gods to join the troops at the Temple of the Goat.

Reinforcements L 48
6 heavy Foot and 1-6 Adventurers join Demsley or Bannock. They come from Sea Spray. Adventurers:
1 Fighter
2 MU
3 Cleric
4 Elf (1-2 F, 3-4 M, 5-6 T)
5 Dwarf (1-4 F, 5-6 T)
6 Hobbit (1-3 F, 4-6 T)
1-3 Hits each, Each possessed 1-6 GT, 1-3 GTJ and has a 1/3 chance for each hit of having a magic item.

Reinforcements E 49
1-2 8 Goblins and a Bugbear join the Badlands Goblins from the East.
3-4 6 Orcs and an ogre join the orcs in the Wildwood.

and 1-6 adventurers join the Wizard in the Wood. (See card 30 for specs.)

Summon Allies B 50

Summon Allies B 51

Summon Allies B 52

Summon Allies B 53 

Summon Allies B 54

Summon Allies B 55

Magic! L 56
The Lord of Orly Castle searches his armory and finds the Sword of the Mists. It is +2, does double hits to ogres, and casts spells as a seer. (If the Sword of the Mists has been found already, roll for another magic item.)

Magic! E 57
The Goat God bestows on his High Priest the Staff of Kings. It strikes as a flail +1, finds secret doors and casts spells as a lawful vicar.( If the Staff of Kings is already in play, roll for another magic item.)

Magic! L 58
A wandering gnome digs a well for the town of Demsley which once did him a good turn. The Goodly Well crates a magical elixir which can be drawn forth once a week and acts as a potion of healing. If it goes unconsumed for a month, its magic dissipates.

Magic! E 59
The Wizard in the Wood perfects a ring which summons one gargoyle per month.

Mercenaries L 60
A mercenary company 0f 12 H.F. and a 2H leader heads to Orly Castle from the Great Kingdom. They will offer their services for 20 GT a year plus support.

Mercenaries E 61
A mercenary company from the City of the Gods heads to the Temple of the Goat for employment at a rate of 20 GT a year plus support.

Mercenaries: 12 Heavy Foot and a 2H heavy horse hero.

Mercenaries L 62
12 mercenary dwarves and a 2H hero dwarf come down to the Last Chance Inn from Seaspray. They will hire on for 6 GT per month plus board.

Mercenaries E 63
A company of 18 mercenary orcs come from Seaspray to the Wizard in the Wood for service at a rate of 20 GT per year plus board.

Caravan B 64
A caravan loaded with 80 CG and 12 PG travels from the City of the Gods to the Great Kingdom.
It will leave 5 CG at each stronghold along the way in payment for services. Its guard force consists of 8 longbowmen, 12 heavy foot, 6 medium horse, and 1 Magician with 8 wagons.
(Note, both are offmap locations, so this is crossing the map.)

Caravan B 65
The Sorcerer Bortus is taking his magic wagon from the Great Kingdom to Seaspray loaded with 60 GTJ. It is self-propelled, 18" move, 4 lances mounted on the front. It is magically invulnerable to fore and spells. Bortus and his 6 elven helpers add +2 to their defense and +1 to attack when fighting from the top.

Caravan B 66
A caravan loaded with 30 PG and 40 ST is going from Panjud to the City of the Gods. The guards are 6 Elf light horsebow and 6 Elf heavy foot.

Spy B 67
For 5 GT a spy can be hired. When he is sent into an enemy camp roll a die. On a 1-3 he is captured and slain. On a 4-6 roll again. A 1-5 indicates the number of cards that the hirer can examine from the opponent's hand. On a six, he was too inquisitive and caughtCards to be examined should be determined randomly.

Spy B 68
For 10 GT a spy can be hired. When he is sent into an enemy camp roll a die. On a 1-2 he is captured and slain. On a 3-6 roll again. A 1-5 indicates the number of cards that the hirer can examine from the opponent's hand. On a six, he was caught. Determined which cards randomly. If he survives he can check again the following month for an additional 5 GT. In later months, he can try again until caught.

Assassin B 69 
For 20 GT an assassin can be hired to slay one enemy leader.
On a 1 or 2 he will be successful. A 1 to the roll if the target is a spellcaster. Subtract 1 if the assassin is aided by a spellcaster.

Raid E 70
Raid by Badlands Goblins on Bannock's Freehold to capture Bannock's daughter. Up  to 1/3 of Goblins plus up to 1/4 of card-called allies.

Raid E 71
Raid by the forces of the Wizard in the Wood up target of choice to capture treasure and slaves for experiments. Up to 1/2 of Wizard's force plus up to 1/3 of any allies called by cards.

Raid E 72
Raid by up to 1/3 of any evil force plus up to 1/4 of any card-called allies up any lawful force.

Raid L 73
A raid by up to 1/3 of any lawful force plus up to 1/4 of any card-called allies up any evil force.

Raid L 74
A raid by up to 1/2 of the force at Godseye may be made against the Temple of the Goat to capture the High Priest. Up to 1/3 of an card-called allies may help.

Raid L 75
A raid by the army of Orly Castle on the Hillmen tribes. Up to 1/3 of the force plus up to 1/4 of an card-called allies may attack. 

War B 76
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

Break Alliance B 77
Break one enemy alliance.

Break Alliance B 78
Break one enemy alliance.

Break Alliance B 79
Break all alliances of one enemy force.

Break Alliance B 80
Break all alliances of one enemy force.

Alliance E 81
Any evil force may form an alliance with any other evil force.

Alliance E 82
Any evil force may form an alliance with any other evil force.

Alliance E 83
Any evil force may form an alliance with any other evil force.

Alliance E 84
Any two non-allied evil forces may form an alliance.

Alliance L 85
Any lawful force may form an alliance with any other lawful force.

Alliance L 86
Any lawful force may form an alliance with any other lawful force.

Alliance L 87
Any lawful force may form an alliance with any non-allied lawful force.

Alliance L 88
Any two non-allied lawful forces may form an alliance.

Attack E 89
Any evil force may attack one lawful force with up to 2/3 its strength plus up to 1/2 of all card-called allied forces, if it has declared war on that force using a War card.

Attack E 90
Any evil force may attack any lawful force with up to 3/4 of its strength plus up to 2/3 of all card-called allies, if war has been declared by one force upon the other by use of a War card.

Attack L 91
Any lawful force may attack any evil force with up to 2/3 of its strength plus up to 1/2 of all card-called allies, if it has a declared war on that force by either one or the other playing a War card.

Attack L 92
Any lawful force may attack any evil force with up to 3/4 of its strength plus up to 2/3 of all card-called allies, if war has been declared by one force upon the other by use of a War card.

War B 93
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

War B 94
Any force may declare war on any opposing force.

War L 95
Any lawful force may declare on any evil force.

War E 96
Any evil force may declare war on any lawful force

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Thinking out loud about Procedural Generation

DunGen has been around awhile now. The theming tags are a success in making the kind of rooms & monsters used make sense together when applied, but the random placement is still lacking for what I'd like it to be. I think they need at least one more level of tagging that would help organize usage, maybe "inner" versus "outer" for each room label, and a clumping algorithm that tends to make rooms from the same theme clump together adjacently more often, with "outer" room labels being used more around the edges of clumps and inner labels more where they don't border labels from other themes. Still make it all biases and not absolute so there can be serendipitous adjacencies to spice things up. Then do something that creates explicit bosses and groups them and the bigger treasures more in "inner" rooms. Entrances could be made explicit, and be "outer" rooms. I'll need to think about algorithms to get this effect. I'd also like some sort of explicit locks and keys mechanism where some rooms have elements that are made accessible by bringing some item from another room. I'd like to have something of the vibe of the computer game "Unexplored" in that feature. Another pass through adding an attribute to every label doesn't sound like much fun to do, but I think it might be worth it for this effect. It probably would be a good idea to clump creature types somewhat as well.

 So maybe the room count is established, then the graph gets linked up. Then instead of the random rolls for each room, roll up separate lists of room labels, retaining the whole object for each, and a list of monsters (or blanks) and traps (or blanks) and quirks (or blanks) and hooks (or blanks). Sort the lists by monster theme tags and level total, or room theme and inner or outer. Then draw off of these as decks, starting by placing the entrance and several edges away the boss room or boss rooms, which should also be spread apart if of different factions. Then deal out inner room labels in rooms adjacent to boss rooms and outer labels for the entrance and adjacent rooms, and then remaining inner rooms around similar theme inner rooms and outers to fill in the gaps. Some sort of shuffle and draw might place creatures, traps etc, as objects, only rendering out to strings at the end, so the final result is editable by the DM using the tool.

 This is still more ideas than implementation, but I think something along these lines could move DunGen the next step along towards making coherent, useful procedurally generated dungeons with less tweaking needed between generation and worthwhile playability. It's concrete enough for me to start thinking more clearly about implementing it.

Another, back of the mind thing I've been thinking about is doing classic multi-level dungeons, from midi to mega size, with built in side views,  themes for different levels, and linking entrances/exits that jump you from one level map to another. This would probably make more sense to do after a rebuild along the lines above, but keeping it in mind, while working up what goes into a level.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Warding Undead - adding partial effect to the Turn Undead roll

The cleric's Turn Undead effect in OD&D is an awfully binary affair. Even in the rolled range, the result is T or nothing.  Some drama could be added by having a close miss on the roll have partial effect. Here's a possible rule: A turn roll missed by one or two points give the effect W, Warded. The cleric's holy power is having some effect on the undead but it is still contested. While the Warded condition is in effect, undead attacks that just do conventional damage have it halved, round up and undead attacks that do drains have it downgraded to dice of damage. A shadow's strength drain or a wight's single level of life drain becomes a die of damage, a spectre's two level drain adds two dice of damage while warded. So there is still a fight on, but the party is protected temporarily from the scariest effect of powerful undead, their life drain. The warding effect emanates in a 30' radius around the cleric.

So, how long does warding last? That depends on how strong you want it to be and how much mechanics are worth keeping track of. The simplest answer is one combat round. Next might be 1D6 rounds, or a round plus at the cleric's next action, there is a new roll, that either resolves the condition or continues the ward. There could be rolls against WIS or CHA to maintain concentration each round, or when damaged by an undead, or other finer grained mechanics.

I think I would go with this: the cleric can maintain the ward until choosing to reroll for resolution or damaged by one of the warded undead. While maintaining the ward, the cleric can attack but not cast spells.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Temple of Zozer

This is an example of starting from a run of DunGen, and digging in and editing the results until a usable scenario emerged. It was a basic run, so makes a midsize, unthemed dungeon for a low level party, approximately 1st-3rd in OD&D. I put in about an hour and a half making edits and figuring out what it is about. And another hour and a half making it into the blog post and revising some more. I relabeled edges, added more description & elements to rooms, moved some linking edges, customized the entrance rooms on the map to make them stand out, tweaked names, moved some items to rooms they fit better, renamed monsters, etc, to adjust it from being a hodgepodge to what it is now.

Most of the spiderkin started out as "spiders" but when I looked at it, they needed sentient agency, so the spiderkin were born. Zozer and his religion started out by rationalizing and expanding on some vague hooks. The hooks got religious themed because the preponderance of random rooms that weren't caverns happened to be religious theme rooms. 

On the tip of a peninsula stands the crumbling ruin of a lighthouse and in the caverns beneath, an ancient temple of the god Zozer who traveled the sky in his skyship. The temple is desecrated and overtaken by a Spiderkin cult (think lesser ettercaps, mostly level 1, led by a mad science inclined wizard). Some unlucky mushroom men got captured by the Spiderkin and a few who escaped and are trying to get out completely are on the wandering monster table. They might talk the PCs into rescuing their comrades from the wicked experiments of Vvixx. There are a couple of ways here to draw Zozer's attention and one way to make a distant magical travel to another place for a sequel scenario.

Location Descriptions 
1: Spiral staircase down Tp: Filled with magical darkness,
This trap can be disarmed by concealed lever in the shape of a ship's bow, 
projecting from the wall, just inside the darkness at the head of the stairs.

An incautious person might stumble and fall when stepping onto the first stair in the dark or fall if out into the open space in the middle. The drop is 30 feet.

2: Bridge in cavern A ten foot oar leaning in the corner
A ghostly scene of priests boarding a ship that flies into the sky plays out and repeats hourly.
Ts: 100 silver, Jewelled brooch worth 10 GP
Mg: Necklace of Accents

3: Fane There is a small, empty basin projecting from one wall, 
and an empty oil lamp on another. 
A healing aura will fill the room if holy water is poured 
in the basin and sacred oil lit in the lamp.

4: Cave crossed by stream
M: 3 sick zombies lurking in ambush beneath the water
Ts: Bracelet worth 480 GP

5: Fane
Empty, but for a broken basin and ugly marking scratched into the walls. 
There is are niches that used to hold oil lamps near head height on the walls.

Loose bones, about half a human skeleton, 
are around and some under, the fallen part of the stone basin.

6: Fortified cavern M: 7 spiderkin, 1 is Sivvik, a 3HD monstrous boss who wears a necklace roughly set with the four blue sacred gems (@1000GP as treasure) that fit and activate the altar in the Curtained Cavern (7)
Ts: Torc worth 20 GP, 10 silver, 4 electrum
7: Curtained cavern Hook: Stone altar shaped like a ship, 
stripped of 4 sacred gemstones.
If activated by their replacement, it will heal, cure of conditions, and emit a 30' radius Protection from Evil aura.
This will also draw the attention of the diminished god of the Sky Ark, Zozer.

8: Pentagonal room
Ts: Illuminated Hymnal of Zozer worth 550 GP
Mg: Potion of Levitation
Hook: Rare imported spices in small jars, 
would be very valuable sold to nobles or rich merchants. 
Enough to spice about 100 meals richly, 
200 GP is the maximum value they might sell for.

9: Chapel
Tp: leg breaker pit near entrance
M: 2 spiderkin hiding behind statues
Ts: 20 gold
Mg: Mace +1, +2 vs undead held by statue of Zozer
The mace, Zozer's Fury, will draw the attention of Zozer,
and give its wielder dreams of restoring his power

10: Chamber M: 4 spiderkin pacing, one is poisonous and 2HD

11: Laboratory M: Vvixx, spiderkin wizard 2 and 2 spiderkin assistants performing weird experiments on a mushroom man wired to a strange machine, 
with two more horrified mushroom men in a cage.
Vvixx wears the Ring of Protection +1, with a crown shaped like a winged golden ship.
Ts: 500 silver, Jewelled box worth 120 GP, 40 electrum
Mg: Strong healing potion that can cure spider poison

12: Stream Torchlit by ghostly torches
A skittering voice in the dark
Tp: spiked pit, triggered by opening door
M: 2 unquiet spirits, incorporeal, drain 1D4 constitution (recovered at 1 point per hour) on a hit, 1 HD, AC 0, vulnerable to holy water, turn as 1HD undead
M: 1 water spider
Ts: Ring worth 878 GP beneath the water
Mg: Healing potion lodged amongst some detritus along the bank

13: Stockroom Remains of food stored in amphorae, 
4 red jars of sacred oils (fire plus holy water effect if set alight), 
and moth eaten vestments.
Hook: inscribed pillar
The pillar remains from previous use as a temple. 
The inscription, if deciphered, is in the ancient tongue of the Primacy of the Sky Ark, 
effectively a scroll of a spell that when spoken will transport all in the room to the Sacred Sky Ark, 
a place of holy power, now desecrated and occupied by unholy enemies.

14: Cave with pool Tp: slippery oil trap on sloped floor, 
triggered by tiny earth elemental that looks like a rock, 
would make victims slide into pool and risk drowning
Ts: 5 x 10 GP gem

15: Lair A crumbled lighthouse tower. It shows signs of a sea bear having laired here. 
The sea bear is out on a hunt and won't be back for 4D12 hours. 
A corridor leads away into the remains of the curtain wall.

blocked tunnel 7: Curtained cavern to 3: Fane
channel 1: Spiral staircase down to 3: Fane
rope climb 8: Pentagonal room to 3: Fane
crawlway 2: Bridge in cavern to 7: Curtained cavern
archway 13: Stockroom to 3: Fane
narrow hallway 6: Fortified cavern to 8: Pentagonal room
empty room 12: Stream to 2: Bridge in cavern
barrel vault 5: Fane to 2: Bridge in cavern
secret tunnel 4: Cave crossed by stream to 1: Spiral staircase down
subterranean river 11: Laboratory to 3: Fane
subterranean river 14: Cave with pool to 2: Bridge in cavern
long tunnel 10: Chamber to 6: Fortified cavern
corridor with collar of spikes trap to deter the seabear 15: Lair to 1: Spiral staircase down
passage blocked by huge corpse 9: Chapel to 4: Cave crossed by stream
door 6: Fortified cavern to 7: Curtained cavern
stream 14: Cave with pool to 4: Cave crossed by stream
winding subterranean river 2: Bridge in cavern to 3: Fane
spiked door 10: Chamber to 14: Cave with pool

Wandering Monsters
1: 2 least demonspawn, one is malicious, both have a spiderlike aspect
2: 1 Yellow Slave cultist waiting for orders:
Othoix Boneshaver: charismatic fighter 2, charmed by the Spiderkin wizard Vvixx
3: 5 mushroom men evading capture, one is ribald
4: 3 giant spiders guarding, one is infectious
5: 4 spiderkin

Possible hook: The wizard Whaltis hired the party to retrieve the Ring of Protection from Zozer Caverns. 

Basic spiderkin are 1HD, look like a cross between people and spiders, and have chitinous hide equivalent to leather armor.  The spiderkin have a poisonous bite they can employ in the round following a successful grapple. Each spiderkin can use this bite once per day.

Organizations involved:
The Sky Dancers - descendants of the cult of Zozer
The Yellow Slaves - Spiderkin cult

Settlements nearby:
Henoxcross, population: 41, middling, half a day's sail to the northwest. Dark Jarfer, population: 126, wealthy, four days walk to the southeast. Chael, population: 50, middling, two days sail to the southwest.