Friday, March 28, 2014

R.I.P. Tramp

Dave Trampier has passed on to a higher plane.  http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/03/david-a-trampier-obituary

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Restoring Lost Art - Pictures from Monster and Treasure Assortment Set Three: Treasure

In the final installment of the pictures included in the loose leaf Monster and Treasure Assortment, here are two unattributed pictures.  The first one reminds me of the art work on pages 172 and 173 of the DMG.  Probably the barefoot guy.

Finding Treasure

I'm tempted by the amount of shading on the second to assign it to Trampier, but I really can't say for sure.  Again speculation is welcome in the comments.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Restoring Lost Art - Pictures from Monster and Treasure Assortment Set Three: Ogre Magi

Another Sullivan piece, an incautious fighter negotiating with Ogre Magi.  Note the third one behind the screen, there's a scent of betrayal in the air
Cutting a deal
. This does a nice job of bringing out the oriental background of this monster.  It's a good companion to the illustration DCS did in the Monster Manual.
Monster Manual Ogre Magi
Although the others probably teased this guy about his nose.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dirty DM Trick - droit d'aubaine

I was researching travel in the Age of Enlightenment and I came across Tobais Smollet's Travels in France and Italy.  These are the letters he wrote to his friends during his sojourn - and boy howdy, if he wasn't an 18th century Scots novelist, he'd have been the original ugly American.  To say that his prejudices shine through would miss the chance to say the he revels, nay, glories in his smug provincialism and Brit-centic view of the world.  He classifies the inhabitants of Boulongne as nobles, merchants and canaille (blackguards/dogs/skunks depending on your translation of choice.)  His opinion of all of them is scathing; as is his opinion of innkeepers anywhere.  But I digress.  Here is a local custom with which to eliminate excess cash and magic items belonging to the late characters and their henchmen.

"When a foreigner dies in France, the king seizes all of his effects, even though his heir should reside upon the spot; this tyranny is called the droit d'aubaine founded at first upon the supposition, that all the estate of foreigners residing in France was acquired in that kingdom, and that, therefore, it would be unjust to convey it to another country."

 Imagine that, the characters are toasting the memory of poor Smedley, who bravely was the last one to turn to run from the troll, when the local bailiff shows up with the tax collector to pick up the shiny +1 sword  Smedley no longer has a use for.

Now apply that same ruling, even in cases of resurrection.... <Cue maniacal laughter.>

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Restoring Lost Art - Pictures from Monster and Treasue Assortment Set Three. Umber Hulk

This time I have an action shot by David C Sutherland III, an Umber Hulk snacking on a fighter as his henchman reconsiders his employment.
Umber Hulk in Action
Compare this picture to Sullivan's Umber Hulk in the Monster Manual and it appears rougher and cruder.  Also it has a full head of hair. 

Monster Manual Umber Hulk

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Domains at War Kickstarter Update II - It's (almost) shipping

In the email today.  D@W has completed converting the print layouts to PDFs, including the counter sheets and will be emailing the PDFs to the PDF reward level backers.  The PDFs are available for backers to download now.  No firm date on the dead tree editions, but they hope/expect/promise/sacrifice small animals that D@W will be on sale at Kickstarter at Gencon this summer.

If I have time I'll grab the online PDFs and post a review over the weekend.

Also in the email bag WoTC announced via rpgDriveThru, the rerelease of 2e module Ravenloft:Masque of the Red Death, Forbidden Lore and Planescape: Something Wild.  I'll defer to Stelios over at d20DarkAges for reviews on anything 2e.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review - Quag Keep

Quag Keep by Andre Norton, was as I mentioned during February's Blog Hop, the first D&D themed novel I ever read.  Indeed it is the first one ever published.  It was published in 1978, and I have the a paperback copy from the Daw September 1979 printing, which puts it right after I started college and coincidentally right after I started playing AD&D.  The book has been traveling around the country with me, thanks to the fact that most of my moving was done at the taxpayers expense.

My memory of it was that it was an unmemorable work by a major author.  It is a fairly lame premise, gamers encounter mysterious miniatures sent to 'well-known players' and are magically transported to the world of Greyhawk, where a wizard sends places them under a geas to find and oppose whoever sent them.  A bit circular but that's the premise.

The intrepid troop, travel across a recognizable version of the Flanaess; each one gets their chance to take center stage by having a unique talent/ability/possession that will get the group past this chapter's literary obstacle.  Eventually they find the eponymous castle in the middle of a swamp in the middle of the Sea of Dust where they defeat the wicked Referee, who is plotting on merging the two worlds.  Character development zero, comprehensible rational for the villain zero. Which I think is par for the course with Norton.  I read many of her works when I was younger, but never felt she was at the level of Heinlein, Asimov, Anderson or Tolkien.

Still if the plot is second rate, the individual scenes are done by a master wordsmith. She makes buying horses for the journey a scene full of background knowledge for the setting; humor and wraps up with a sense of foreboding.

I'm not a fan of any D&D setting fantasies; of the ones I've read, this one has the best writing, but the plot limits my recommendation to two skulls.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Restoring Lost Art - Pictures from Monster and Treasure Assortment Three

A few weeks ago I posted a scan of Trampier's Manticore from the Monsters and Treasure Assortment playing from 1978.  What I've done here is run the manticore and the accompanying dragon pictures through GIMP to delete the blue background from the card stock they were printed on in an attempt to bring out the original pictures as the artists drew them..  Unfortunately, the heavy card stock (and the cheap scanner) ended up with many shades of blue on the scans, so they're still not pristine.  Still here they are, cleaner than they've been seen since 1978.

Trampier's Manticore

Full Frontal Dragon

I suspect that Sullivan is the artist for he dragon, but please leave your guess or knowledge in the comments.  I'll post the rest of the illustrations from the Assortment as I get them cleaned.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Firearms in Fantasy Campaigns III - Damage

Continuing my look at firearms technology and how to mesh it with a fantasy campaign, I've spent some time researching the technology by by era.  As previously stated, firearms need to be categorized by range, rate of fire and damage.  The first two concepts are reasonably straight forward and documentation for them can be found in many locations online.  The third concept, damage, or more precisely it's target - hit points, has been a source of contention within the hobby for years.  D&D has always embraced the ever increasing hit point side, while RuneQuest and Warhammer allowed characters only minor increases to the amount of damage they could absorb at a time over their dangerous careers.

The second point of view, where characters' hit points are treated as a physical characteristic which remains near constant, is actually easier to model with firearms.  One bullet, like one arrow can kill a man and often will.  What I would like to come up with is a model which can handle either end of the system.   One other consideration in rule tinkering is playability.  The fewer number of rolls needed to resolve a situation, the better.

Facts and Figures

A weapon is any object that is used to apply physical force a creature with the intent of damaging or subduing it.  With that definition, it becomes apparent that damage is related to physical force, so the first step is to measure the physical force each type of weapon produces.  Physical force is equivalent to Kinetic Enegery KE and can be calculated in foot pounds by the formula (Velocity in feet/sec) squared * (Projectile weight in grains) divided by 450,240.

Weapon TypeProjectile Weight
Muzzle Velocity
Arrow (Clothyard shaft)65621064
Handgonne - short11560192
Handgonne - medium11552771
Handgonne - long1151527630
Wheellock Pistol494305102
Matchlock Musket494457229
Flintock Pistol
(Thompson Pistol)
Flintlock Musket
(Brown Bess)
1851 Colt 'Navy' Revolver80840125
Prussian Dryese Needle Gun47830599
Colt .45 M1911A1230850369
M1 Garand17426402693
Browning M2 Machinegun
(One round, included for OMG!)

At first glance the above chart tells the whole story about why guns replaced bows and arrows - but it's deceiving.  I included the information on the longbow as a baseline for missile weapons, the limited force it applies (enough to hunt big game with) is outweighed by it's superior range and rate of fire for centuries.

You can see that if we scale damage linearly, we end up with a WWII M1 Garand doing 42 times the damage that a longbow is capable of.  That certainly takes care of hit point inflation, one shot one kill on many dragons and small gods.  But that's too powerful, many, but not all shots by a modern weapon will kill or at least functionally incapacitate the victim, but by no means all, so I have to scale it differently.  I decided to do damage brackets, using increasing multiples of 64 ft/lbs, so 64 ft/lbs and down would be one die of damage,64-196 ft/lbs would do two die of damage, etc.  I wasn't satisfied with the vanilla damages over ever increasing ranges, so I divided each range in thirds, thinking that I could use different die sizes (4,6 and 8) with the same multiplier.  But that doesn't work because 3d8 is more damage than 4d4.  That's when I had an 'aha!' moment, the die sizes can differ, producing a smoothly scaling damage model.  I also centered the first range bracket on 64 (Representing a standard arrow) and used the lower range for smaller than usual damage amounts.

RangeKEBase DamageDamage Range
0-96: 1 die damage0-1611-1-1
97-224: 2 dice damage97-1391d6+1d42-6-10
225-416: 3 dice damage225-2882d6+1d43-9.5-16
417-672: 4 dice damage417-5023d6+1d44-13-22
673-992: 5 dice damage673-7794d6+1d45-16.5-28
993-1376: 6 dice damage993-11205d6+1d46-20-34
1377-1824: 7 dice damage1377-15266d6+1d47-23.5-40
1825-2336: 8 dice damage1825-19957d6+1d48-27-46
2337-2912: 9 dice damage2337-25288d6+1d49-31.5-52
2913-3552: 10 dice damage2913-31269d6+1d410-35-58
One of he last questions on damage is the Critical Hit multiplier, in researching this I discovered that 1e did not have Critical Hits (funny I thought it did, maybe we house ruled them). For d20 systems a standard arrow does *3 on critical hits and the highest multiplier for any weapon is *4.  Of course, at 4*damage an M1 Garand will do an average of 130 points on a critical hit.  So I'm going to rule pistols and Handgonne's use a *3 multiplier, rifles and other long guns use a *4 multiplier on Criticals.

Knockdown - getting hit by a bullet involves the transfer of a lot of energy into a bag of flesh, often that will be enough to knock the victim off of their feet.  For Pathfinder, if the damage from a single round exceeds the victims CMD, they are knocked down.  For 3.x they will make a Fortitude save DC = damage to remain standing.  For 1e Save vs Paralyzation or be knocked down.

Massive Damage for all systems, I'll use a variation of the d20 Massive Damage rule.  If the damage exceeds 50 points (and you're still alive) Fortitude save DC (15+ damage/10) or die.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Game Report - Battle of Smålplotz

When last seen our intrepid party (minus the dwarf) had just entered the settlement of Smålplotz, consisting of a large ornate hunting lodge belonging to Baron Ludendorf, a cousin of the Elector-Count and a half dozen small dwelling of the local hunters and trappers.  Inquiring at the lodge they found that the lodge keeper was quite willing to rent out rooms when the Baron wasn't likely to find out and the dwarf was sitting drinking with a unkempt looking human dressed in a peasant smock, but wearing a beautiful wolf skin, clasped with a copper wolfs-head brooch.  The dwarf seemed none the worse for wear, and based on what the human was wearing, the party quickly deduced that Brother Peter was a cleric of Ulric; a member of an order known as 'The Brother's of the Wolf' or 'Ulric's Dogs' to the vulgar.  The wolf skin would be from an animal that he had slain singlehandedly with weapons he made himself, a la the opening scene in 300.  The bard and the elf had heard the rumor that all of the Brothers are lycanthropes themselves.
     After explaining to the lodge keeper that they had been exploring the mountains from Wolfenburg, which he didn't believe but they paid cash,  the party picked up a few rumors of a hill giant organizing goblins in the mountains, a nearby wizard's tower and had a lengthy discussion about a fox raiding the local chicken coops once a month.  A fox that none of the locals, despite making their livings as trappers and hunters, had been able to capture.  A series of strange killings of animals and an old prospector out by the hills.  Brother Peter told them of his dreams sent by Ulric involving a blood red moon and and a haunting piping.  The party decided to ignore all of the adevnture hooks and to travel on with the nun and the aircrew to the nearest town of Hovelhof where a coach might stop by in a week or two. (You can lead players to adventure but you can't make them follow clues.)  The elf having a financial interest as the nun had promised them money.
The following day, halfway to Hovelhof they encountered Sergeant Hans Schultz, his nephew Johann and two other mounted sergeant's at arms and several dozen levied peasants marching up the road to Smålplotz. 
   Schultz questioned them about where they had come from, as he would have remembered such a strange party (two elves and a dwarf) and of course the beautiful Fraulein, had they come through Hovelhof. 
   When the party told him the tale of having come from Wolfenburg, he informed them the province of Hochland was raising it's forces in response to the sack of Wolfenburg and Hans and his lads had been dispatched to deal with a band of chaos beastmen said to rampaging through the area.  He praised them for bravely cutting their way through escorting the beautiful Fraulein and said he needed experienced fighters like them to lead the pimply faced lads in the levy.  This was not greeted with enthusiasm by the party, especially when he offered to send Johann and one of the other sergeants as an escort for the nun and her companions to Hovelhof.  The elf insulted him by questioning his men's trustworthiness;  Hans pointed out that if they hadn't heroically escorted the nun, then they had deserted.  And the Elector-Count was a kind man who would probably let them stay in a dungeon for a long time before, regretfully, passing judgement and having their sword hands struck off. (You can however make the choice just a little bit clearer.)
     The nun offered to write a letter of introduction to her boss, which was accepted in bad grace as she refused to let them read the contents before she sealed it.  The elf is fearful that it's a Rosencrantz and Guidenstern letter.  All they know is that it's addressed 'Oldenhaller - Nuln' and that she sealed it with some sort of housemark.  And so they bid adieu for a time to Fanny, Captain Mario, Dietrich, Volf the Intrepid and Mrs Munchner.  Zilda's player having decided to bring in a new character (Zolda?) to rather than continuing to play Volf.