Monday, August 31, 2009
It’s been a fairly creative last couple months, and while I realize converting old modules to B/X “ain’t no big thang,” it was still a fun exercise. Plus I figured out a way to do a sphinx which is something I’ve been struggling with for my B/X Companion (I believe my sphinx will be closer to Mentzer’s in the BECMI Master book, but I needed a way to make it more mid-level friendly for White Plume Mountain…the “young sphinx” is a nice compromise). Ugh…once again, struggling with tweaking things “perfect” (doesn’t happen).
Anyway...my lack of computer work Sunday, as well as packing tonight and familial obligations tomorrow (Dad will be in town and we’re taking him to dinner!) means I am NOT going to be putting the finishing touches on my Companion prior to leaving for Montana Wednesday. However, while I fully intend to do a ton of hiking with the beagles, I WILL be bringing my laptop and sketch book with me. I need to start working on some line-drawings (I think I’ve managed to round up a couple of amateur illustrators with two more “possibles,” but I’m pretty sure I’ll be contributing my own artwork as well…Siembieda, eat your heart out!).
I suspect posting will be scarce over the next week (though don’t hold me to that) as I should focus any “spare” writing time on my supplement.
Hmmm…although I MAY have an idea for a follow-up to this morning’s WPM work….
18. This pit is unremarkable save that it is 10’ deep, fills the width of the corridor, and may be missed as it is underwater.
19. The copper plates on the walls of this corridor are 6’ high and 6’ wide and cannot be damaged not removed. Metal passing between the plates becomes hotter the farther it is brought…at 40’ metal armor is hot enough to do 1D8 damage, progressing to 2D8 at 50’, 3D10 at 60’, and 4D10 at 70’. A person attempting to run the length of the corridor in armor will take all this damage. At 50’ metal is hot enough to burn through any cloth wrappings or rope being used to drag it. Fire resistance allow characters to take no damage with a successful save vs. spells, half damage with a failure, and wand of cold or ice storm spell will cool the plates enough for the party to dash through.
20. Behind the secret door, 8 ghouls (HD 2*, Hps 10 each, B35/LL76) lie waiting to ambush the party. They wear necklaces that prevent turning by a cleric.
21. No encounter notes.
22. The two section A areas are 10’ pits lined with rusty razor-sharp blades; anyone falling in takes 1D12 damage and (unless making a save vs. poison) contracts a virulent super-tetanus that is absolutely fatal in 2-5 rounds (curable with a cure disease spell).
23. The frictionless surface of the area B (between the razor pits) is utterly frictionless such that a person so much as setting a foot on the floor will immediately begin sliding and ricocheting like a billiard ball until inevitable sliding into one of the razor pits). The wall at C is illusionary; objects thrown or fired at it simply disappear as they pass through. No movement spells (fly, levitate, teleport, etc.) will work in this room. There are NO monsters in this room.
24. There are SIX small, two-man kayaks in this room.
25. Sir Bluto Sans Pite (AC -1, HD 10, Hps 50, +3 to hit and damage with Strength 18) and his 8 fighter henchmen (AC 4, HD 4, Hps 20 each), all with swords, will ambush the characters here. Sir Bluto is immediately recognized as being wanted in civilization with a reward of 10,000gps. He wears plate mail +2, shield +1, and boots of traveling and leaping. He also carries a key that will open the secret doors for area 25.
26. No encounter notes.
27. The monsters in this area are as follows:
Level B: 6 Giant Crabs (HD 3, Hps 15 each, X29/LL68)
Level C: 6 Giant Scorpions (HD 4*, Hps 22 each, X39/LL93)
Level D: 4 Polar Bears (HD 6, Hps 27 each, B31/LL64)
Level E: 3 Manticores (HD 6+1, Hps 41, 29, 24, X35/LL85); the manticores have had their wings clipped and may not fly.
The safe set in the north wall of level E contains 6000sps and a jeweled scepter worth 3000gps. Failure to disarm the trap on the safe results in the triggering of a vibration device that destroys all glass walls in 1D6 rounds. A magical force wall will prevent the water from flooding room 27 to the south until all water has drained (in about 20 turns, through four small lava tubes). The magical wall disappears once all water has drained.
28. Quesnef the Ogre-Magi (HD 5+1**, Hps 35, see the New B/X Monster section at the end of this document) has disguised himself to look like a doughty Halfling warrior, a captive of Keraptis. In reality, the creature lost a bet with the wizard and is now forced to serve him for 1001 years.
Quesnef’s treasure (casually shoved beneath a sumptuous divan) include Blackrazor and the following: 1000eps, 200pps, a necklace worth 6000gps, a pair of earrings worth 1000gps each, and a jeweled bracelet worth 3000gps, a potion of healing, a scroll with the clerical spell protection from evil, and a set of cursed plate mail (AC 9).
END NOTE: If the PCs are leaving the dungeon for the final time and have managed to recover two or even three of the magic weapons, they will find the force wall back in place at area #2, blocking their exit. The sphinx will be gone (if she was still alive) and in her place will be two efreeti (HD 10*, Hps 40 and 36, X31/LL72), named Nix and Nox, here to re-claim the weapons from the PCs. If the PCs can defeat the efreeti they may leave the dungeon. If not, or if they choose to surrender, they are taken to Keraptis’ Indoctrination Center (see area #9) where they are enslaved, set to be the new guardians of the items of power!
ADDITIONAL REWARDS: Due to the ratio of Monster XP to Treasure XP it is suggested that surviving PCs receive an additional reward of 10,000gps (each) from the owners of the magical weapons upon said weapons return. If PCs are unable to reclaim all three weapons, they should still receive additional reward of 3000gps (each) for each recovered weapon returned to its owners (an extra 1000gps “bonus” would have been paid to each PC for recovery of the entire set). Failure to return recovered weapons will result in the party being tracked and hunted by the rightful owners.
FINAL NOTES: This module works best for 4-10 players of levels 5-10. Experience points for monsters listed has not been included as each compatible game system has slight variations in how XP are calculated for individual monsters. When adapting White Plume Mountain to B/X, BECMI, or LL play it should be noted that XP is not awarded for overcoming specific tricks or traps…the treasure found is commensurate with the XP being given (after including reward for the return of weapons); it is not expected that additional XP be granted for solving riddles and such. However, riddles that result in the bypassing of a monster (for example the sphinx or bone golems) should reward full monster XP as per “defeating” the monster(s) in the encounter.
New B/X Monsters
Armor Class: 3………….No. Appearing 1-4 (1-4)
Hit Dice: 5*………….Save As: Magic-User 5
Movement: 120’ (40’)………….Morale: 8
Attacks: see below………….Treasure Type: D
Damage: see below………….Alignment: Chaotic
Kelpies are a semi-intelligent form of carnivorous aquatic plant. They may shape their bodies into any form they choose, often appearing as beautiful human women, though their substance is still that of green seaweed-like material.
Once per day, the kelpie may cast a powerful charm person spell (-2 to save) that only affects males. They will use this to lure men to a watery doom, beckoning them into the kelpie’s undersea embrace. Wrapped around his neck the kelpie will drown the man in short order (taking 2-20 points of damage until surfacing or slain).
Armor Class: 4………….No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-8)
Hit Dice: 5+2**………….Save As: Fighter 7
Move: 120’ (40’)………….Morale: 10
Attacks: 1………….Treasure Type: G
Damage: 1D12………….Alignment: Chaotic
Ogre magi are slightly larger than their normal ogre brethren, but much more intelligent, capable of great cunning and wickedness. In addition to their great strength, they can fly (as the magic-user spell), create darkness, become invisible, and polymorph into any form from the size of a rat to a 12’ tall humanoid. Once per day they may cast charm person and sleep, assume gaseous form (like the potion), or create a cone of cold (like the magic wand). They are fond of magic items and will use any that come into their possession, instinctively knowing its powers.
Armor Class: -1………….No. Appearing 1 (1)
Hit Dice: 8**………….Save As: Magic-User 8
Movement: 150’ (50’)………….Morale: 10
Attacks: 2 Claws………….Treasure Type: E
Damage: 2D4/2D4………….Alignment: Neutral
The young sphinx is but a shadow of the creature she will one day become. Incredibly intelligent, she has the ability to cast spells as an 8th level magic-user and can also use the following spells, at will: detect magic, read magic, and detect invisible. Sphinxes read and speak all languages.
Her lion body, while powerful, is still young and she flies at the same rate as the normal movement. She is obsessed with puzzles, riddles, and trivia, and combat may be avoided with one simply by interesting her intense intellect.
Mmm…post #200…has it been only three months? Less I guess. But having a chance to get my thoughts insta-published (not to mention have folks throw commentary like a monkey slinging…well, you know) has been fun.
Plus, it’s led me places I wasn’t expecting to go. Originally the idea was to write about my own RPG experiences (mainly past) and thoughts/critique about the subject. For posterity, you understand? So that when I start to forget things (more than I already do), there may be some record. Um…isn’t that kind o what a blog is all about?
For Post #200, though, I might as well go back to my roots…well the roots of this blog anyway, started SO LONG AGO (in June…jeez!). I’ll make this as easy as possible:
This post is freely distributable as non-copyright material as a free conversion of the Lawrence Schick “adventure module” White Plume Mountain (initially published by TSR, later re-published by Wizards of the Coast). These notes include only conversion notes for use with the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh (“B/X”) Dungeons and Dragons adventure game, as well as compatible game systems like Frank Mentzer’s Basic & Expert set or Daniel Proctor’s Labyrinth Lord; they are not an intended infringement of TSR or Wizards of the Coast copyright and they are not meant for commercial use. In order to use these conversion notes you will need to FIRST own or purchase a copy of the original copyrighted material and maps, freely available at Wizards of the Coast’s web site.
WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN
NOTES FOR ENTIRE ADVENTURE MODULE: Because of the moisture and condensation in the dungeon, most areas (except where stairs lead upwards) have a foot of warm, muddy water filling them. This water reduces movement by one-third on all situations and makes it very difficult to keep silent, run (without falling), or depend on invisibility (as a character will be given away by foot-shaped holes!).
Every two turns, the DM should check for wandering monsters. There are few monsters in the area (only encountered on a 1 in 12 roll), but those found have been entirely indoctrinated by the arch-mage Keraptis and are immune to charm spells or the PCs’ powers of persuasion. The DM should keep this in mind when making Reaction rolls for monsters found. The following table should be used when the dice indicate a monster has been encountered (roll 1D6):
1. Black Pudding (HD 10*, Hps 45, page X29/LL65): doing its best to keep the dungeon clean of trash and remains.
2. 5 Bugbears (HD 3+1, Hps 19, 15, 13, 12, 10, page B32/LL61): hired muscle sent on menial step-and-fetch duties for the dungeon denizens; resentful.
3. 2 Gargoyles (HD 4, Hps 21, 19, page B35/LL75): probably ‘sleeping,’ acting like hideous statues. If they surprise the party they will come to life with the party in their midst…otherwise will be groggy in their first round.
4. Invisible Stalker (HD 8*, Hps 33, page X34/LL82): this is the wizard Keraptis’ right-hand “man servant” and has been sent on an important mission. It will never surrender to the party nor betray Keraptis.
5. 3 Ogres (HD 4+1, Hps 21, 18, 17, page B40/LL89): more hired muscle, but better paid and with a bit of swagger. They will attempt to engage the party in a place where they will not be “bottle-necked.”
6. 2 Wights (HD 3*, Hps 18, 15, page B44/LL101): slain adventures, experimented and brought to hideous “life” by Keraptis. They will attack the living with no remorse.
It is recommended that no wandering monster encounter be used more than once.
All encounters below correspond to the numbered areas on the original map. No description will be noted unless necessary to explain a trap or trick of the encounter area. Page references for monsters are provided as “B” for the Moldvay Basic set, “X” for the Cook/Marsh Expert set, or “LL” for the Labyrinth Rulebook.
1. No encounter notes.
2. Access to the three-way corridor is blocked by a young sphinx (HD 8**, Hps 38, see New B/X Monster section at the end of this document) and a mysterious wall of invisible force (the wall may be defeated by a dispel magic, passwall, or disintegrate spell). The bedraggled sphinx squats in the muck of the corridor on the opposite side. If the party can answer the sphinx’s riddle, she will dispel the wall and allow the adventurers to pass. If they defeat the wall through another means, she will attack.
3. A huge patch of green slime (HD 8*, Hps 38, B36/LL79) lays on the floor of this corridor a length of nearly 20’. As it is under the water, it will probably not be detected until it has eaten through the PCs boots and started on their toes! Flaming oil will be ineffective on the slime as it oil will simply float on the water, though a fireball will still wipe it out.
4. The door to this room appears to be a simple iron-bound door, but upon entry it will slam shut, locking the PCs in the room. The door is entirely impervious to any type of magic, may not be forced in any fashion, and will only open to the proper key.
Each globe on the ceiling is easily shattered, dropping their contents into the much. In order they contain:
1. 3 Shadows (HD 2+2*, Hps 12, 10, 9, B41/LL93), 300 worthless lead coins, and a fake key.
2. Potion of gold dragon control, and a fake key.
3. A necklace worth 12,000gp, a fake key, and an enraged air elemental (HD 8*, Hps 33, X31/L73) which immediately attacks!
4. Ring of telekinesis, and a fake key.
5. 11 glass gems (worthless), and a fake key.
6. Fake, paste and glass jewelry and a fake key, entirely obscured by the gray ooze (HD 3*, Hps 16, B36/LL78) covering them.
7. Wand of paralyzation (1 charge) and a fake key.
8. Real key and the fantastic ring.
9. Six 100gp gems and a fake key.
5. This room contains five Bone Golems (HD 8, Hps 30, X33/LL78) each numbered as provided. Unlike typical bone golems, these only have two arms apiece. If the answer to their riddle is guessed correctly, the golem chosen will serve the party faithfully (as a henchman with Morale 12). Otherwise, all five golems attack .
6. This space is blocked by a steel turnstile that turns only one way (forward). The PCs will have to somehow destroy it to move back through the corridor (a bone golem or creature with giant strength can easily do so; a PC with gauntlets of ogre power has a 40% chance to break the turnstile). There is no monster present.
7. PCs will need to use their wits to make their way across this cavern. Falling into the mud 50’ below will result in the character taking 3D6 damage from the fall and 2D10 damage every round as the character is boiled alive. Geyser A erupts every five minutes, and geyser B every three minutes. Characters on a disk adjacent to an erupting geyser must roll a strength check at -5 (see page X51), or be washed off the disk. Characters not on adjacent disk must also make strength checks, but they receive a +1 to their roll for every disk removed between them and the geyser.
PCs also take damage from the boiling mud of an erupting geyser: 4D10 at the point of eruption and reduced one step for each ten feet of distance: 4D8, 4D6, 4D4, 2D4, and 1D4 if at least 50’ away. The algal scum in this cavern is faintly phosphorescent, giving an eerie illumination to the entire chamber.
8. This chamber is clouded by a continual darkness spell. Ctenmiir is a standard vampire (HD 8**, Hps 40, X41/LL99), though one compelled to stay and guard the hammer, Whelm. Being a chaotic creature, he will not wield the weapon, but will do his best to thwart others from taking it.
In a niche beneath the vampires coffin is the following treasure: 10,000sps and 9000gps in six leather sacks, two potions (ESP and black dragon control), and a scroll with the magic-user spells ventriloquism, dispel magic, and teleport.
Whelm is a Lawful +3 Warhammer (+5 when wielded by a dwarf)with an intelligence of 15, and an ego of 18. Its purpose is to slay trolls, giants, and goblins (including bugbears, thouls, and hobgoblins). If wielded by a dwarf it returns when thrown, and it always detects the presence of gold, gems, and goblins (60’ range). Once per day it may be struck on the ground, sending out a shockwave that stuns all opponents (cannot move, attack, or cast spells) within 60’ that fail a save vs. spells; the stun lasts 1D4 rounds. The wielder of Whelm acquires acute agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and will fight at -2 to attack when not indoors or underground. It is obvious that Whelm is a dwarven weapon.
9. At the bottom of this ten-foot deep pool may be a found a valve wheel. Although it may only be turned by characters with a combined strength of 36, doing so opens several tubes that will drain out all the water in the corridors within 10 turns. Also at the bottom of the pit is a secret door (only discoverable with a detect magic spell) that leads to Keraptis’ Indoctrination Center (see END NOTE).
10. The creatures inhabiting this room are two Kelpies (HD 5*,Hps 26, 27; see New B/X Monster section at the end of this document. They will attempt to charm male characters. Section C of this area is the kelpies’ lair containing 600gps, a tiara worth 2000gps, and a suit of chain mail +3 in excellent condition). Section D contains nothing.
11. This corridor contains thirty feet of a spinning cylinder, coated in slippery oil, and rotating at a constant 8 miles per hour. It is possible to slide through it, but no one can keep their footing while crossing it.
12. Watching though a spy hole at the end of this passage is the fighter Burket (AC 4, HD 4, Hps 18, +2 to hit and damage for 17 Strength). He waits till parties are halfway through the cylinder and then fires a flaming arrow to ignite the oil of the cylinder (damage is 2-16 the first round and 1-4 every subsequent round, burning a total of 2-8 rounds). He then closes the spy hole and moves to guard the door with sword and shield while warning Snarla of the invaders.
Snarla is a 7th level magic-user and a lycanthrope (AC 9, HD 7**, Hps 17). Her memorized spells are: Magic missile, shield, sleep, phantasmal force, web, dispel magic, haste, confusion. If Burket is killed or she is caught and cornered, she transforms into hew wolf form (AC 5, HD 4*, Hps 26, B38/LL84). The only treasure in this room is Snarla’s spell book (contains the same spells she’s memorized).
13. This room is disguised by a phantasmal force to appear sumptuous, when in reality it is rather plain. The chest holds Snarla’s treasure: 400eps, 300gps, 6 gems worth 200gps each, and one gem worth 100gps.
14. While theses iron doors are shut, they open easily by pushing so long as they are not holding back any water from area 15-17 (they are emergency doors to prevent flooding to the rest of the dungeon). From the north they have handles that likewise allow ease in pulling.
15. No encounter notes.
16. No encounter notes.
17. Giant crab (AC 0, HD 15, Hps 60, #Attacks 2 claws, Damage 3-18/3-18, Alignment Neutral). On the creature’s left claw it wears a rune scribed band of copper that renders it immune to all mind-affecting magic. The band is only attuned to the crab and is worthless to anyone else.
The membrane of the chamber may be easily punctured by most any sharp object (missed arrows and sword thrusts for instance). A person who makes a hole in melee will 1D4 damage from a jet of scalding hot water, and major gashes (from an axe or two-handed sword, for example) will cause the chamber to collapse in 1D6 rounds, boiling and drowning those without fire resistance and water breathing ability. Spells like fireball and lightning bolt will have a similar effect.
The heavy chest attached to the floor at the north end of the chamber contains the following treasure: 1000gps in small sacks, 3 large gems (two worth 1000gps, one worth 5000gps), a pearl necklace worth 4000gps, a ring of djinni summoning, and a wand of cold (with 17 charges). The chest also contains Wave.
Wave is a Neutral trident +3 (does damage as a spear). It has an intelligence of 14, an ego of 20, and the purpose of causing death or disfigurement to any that will not worship the sea god Poseidon. It possesses both speech and telepathy, allows water breathing (as the spell) on the caster, and acts as a potion of control animals (though only aquatic animals). When rolling a natural (unmodified) “20” on an attack roll, it dehydrates its target, draining one-half of the victims remaining hit points (calculated AFTER normal damage). Once per day, Wave can create a sphere of force around the wearer (and those standing close by) that prevents any and all attacks, physical or magical, from penetrating; this effect lasts 6 turns and can only be destroyed by a wish or disintegrate spell. Wave will communicate this ability to potential converts of the sea god, and it may be used to save PCs from boiling to death in a collapsing bubble!
Friday, August 28, 2009
I’ve got a full third of the monsters written up (twenty-five) and the formatted page count is just a paragraph over 5. That means probably 16-17 pages total for monsters after editing, intro stuff and a few (small) illustrations. And I may leave some of the monsters on the cutting room floor, anyway (do I really need a one-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple-people-eater, or “Oeohflyppe” as I was calling it? No, there is a line to be drawn at “delightful whimsy”).
That being said, the editing is already pretty tight…and I don’t want the formatting to be so small as to be difficult to read.
Still and all, 64 pages definitely looks do-able, even with the (assumed) illustrations added. Right now, the B/X Companion table of contents is shaping up like this:
- Cover page and forward – 2 pages
- Part 1: Introduction – 1 page
- Part 2: Player Character Information – 3 pages
- Part 3: Spells – 10 pages
- Part 4: The Adventure – 4 pages (this might be wishful thinking)
- Part 5: The Encounter – 8 pages (including mass combat)
- Part 6: Monsters – 16 pages
- Part 7: Treasure – 10 pages (may leave off the B/X treasure tables)
- Part 8: DM Information – 7 pages (including Dominion rules; no wandering monster tables)
- Part 9: Special Adventures – 2 pages (may cut down to 1)
Total page count: 63, giving me the choice of adding an extra page to Monsters (more illos!) or adding in a re-worked treasure lists (don’t want to infringe on any copyrights!).
By the way…checked out the old list of WotC product identity to make sure I know which toes NOT to step on. Pleasantly surprised to see the term “DM” isn’t there even if “Dungeon Master” is. I guess DM can stand for a lot of things: from Dimension Master to Demon Master.
I suppose in my game it will be “DRAGON MASTER.” You heard it here first! Copyright JBeazie, MY product identity.
Of the monsters listed as "product identity," none are any I’m particularly worried about. My naga are more like yuan-ti than the naga as presented in the MM, and I’m semi-considering leaving my CHUD-like umberhulks out all together. But I can do without beholders, mind flayers, and gith (I don’t have space for psionics), and the carrion crawler and displacer beast are already in B and X respectively.
Oh…and I have no idea what a “gauth,” “tanar’ri,” or “baatezu” are. Actually I think I had tanari chicken at the Indian restaurant last week…and isn’t there a batsu sauce used in some sorts of Japanese tempura? Some kind of food monsters, apparently (WotC: eating YOUR money).
Just so folks know, I have a busy weekend planned with the following priorities: sleep, wife, and writing. Blarging is not on the list, and I have moved my day off from Monday to Friday starting this week, so don’t expect my usual 5-10 Monday posts. Frankly, I’m most excited for my little project's completion…hopefully, I’ll have completed the rough draft in the next few days so that I can polish it up over next weekend when I head back to Montana for Labor Day (probably WILL go to a used bookstore while there, though not THE used book store of my childhood; THAT one is in Missoula (if it still exists) and I will be up in Polson; my grandmother has a cabin on Flathead Lake). Montana is wonderful and I always find it relaxing and rejuvenating (well, less so since we started taking the beagles…there’s no fenced yard!), and I am almost as excited about the trip as I am about completing my game.
Hmmm…’course I should probably get some WORK work done before I go. All right, that’s enough for now!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Not that I have been anything but worthless this morning. Fortunately staff meetings have occupied most of my time…otherwise I have just been surfing Dragonsfoot forums (thank god I didn’t go through these BEFORE I began my Companion project…I never would have started! So many opinions, so many BECMI and Mentzer fans, so many house rules and different ways to play! Ugh…I truly wonder what kind of interest this little project will generate when completed…).
Gotta’ admit, it’s difficult to come up with substantive posts when my brain is full and my body is on auto-pilot. My fingers want to type, but putting things together in a coherent fashion is a challenge. Ah, well…one of the things I’m working on in this present life incarnation is NOT allowing perfectionist perceptions to stall me from action. It’s one of the great reasons my 64 page Companion is such a nice little exercise…I am forced to leave things on the cutting room floor, hopefully making it better.
Huh…just noticed that some people have been commenting on my sushi post…very kind of them. This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I’ve been trying to write up the Ponaturi forever, but the idea was daunting. So many amphibious humanoids already lurking around the D&D world after all…bullywugs, locathah (the REAL murlocs), lizard men even. I knew what I wanted, but how to get there in a simple way, still leaving room for other DMs to use the critter as their own?
Well, it’s down in writing now (“copyright JBeezie,” as my brother would say). Now I can move on to greater undead, I suppose.
Ugh…I am looking forward to sleeping a bit tonight, maybe even this afternoon if I can swing it. As my blog swiftly approaches its 200th post (not to worry, I have something already in mind, though NOT Companion-related) I can’t help but be slightly amazed/amused/disgusted at the hundred o pages linked under the Blackrazor title bar…if I’d bother putting together an outline or two, I could probably bang out a paperback novel in the same length of time. Ah, well…we all have different strengths and mine is running my brain in random RPG thoughts.
Wow…it’s already lunch time. Think I’ll grab a Quiznos.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
About five weekends ago I journeyed into an abandoned (by civilized folk) dwarf mine in the guise of the B/X cleric Diomedes. The session log can be found here.
However, for whatever reason the dungeon itself really resonated with my character, a priest of a “Toad God.” After completing the exploration of the upper level, I decided that the place would make an ideal location for a temple-stronghold.
Sure, it would take a little work to get it up and running (a rickety bridge would need to be replaced, new furnishings added, kicked-in doors re-built). But for the most part, the place was of good dwarvish construction, had its own water supply, was located only a day from civilization (a little out-of-the way from curious travelers, but not inconvenient for obtaining supplies). Plus the waterfall and underground pond/river, and the small pool outside all said, “great-place-to-worship-amphibious-deity” to me.
I staked my claim and told the other players I fully intended on re-furbishing the place as a new Toad Temple. Once the place was completely cleansed of “infidels,” that is.
Unfortunately, Diomedes died during our last session, and my new wandering wastrel thief has no intention of settling down anywhere, at present.
But the incident raised the question: why SHOULDN’T PCs claim empty dungeons as strongholds?
After all, strongholds are expensive to build…both in time and treasure. Plus (from a player point of view), the damn thing has to be designed, and I’m not much of an architect. If an existing dungeon is in serviceable or semi-serviceable condition, why not clean it up and hang your flag out the front door?
As kids, whenever we completed a dungeon (not all that often), we would generally collapse it, blow it up, or burn it down. The place would be in shambles…fireballs and lightning bolts destroying support structures, blood and guts strewn everywhere. But one would think that with the money saved in construction costs, you could hire a cleaning crew, right?
Now of course not every dungeon makes a good fortress-stronghold. Cave warrens are terrible, dank places, fit only for folks of orcish blood. Many ruined cities are far off in the middle of no-man’s land, too far away from civilization to be of use (X1 and I1 I’m looking at you). Other dungeons may already fall within the domain of a ruler (usually the same ruler that hired you to clean out the complex in the first place).
But others are downright perfect. The hidden fortress “Q” in B1: In Search of the Unknown is an excellent example; heck, it was designed BY adventurers FOR adventurers (just hope said adventurers don’t return after you set up shop). The dwarf mine was excellent. The moat house from T1 and the haunted keep from Moldvay’s Basic set might work as well, once their exterior damage was repaired.
The secret lair of the Veiled Society in Specularum (module B6) would make an excellent hide-out for a gang of thieves; after all, this is what it was for the Veiled Society! The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief might seem a bit on the big size, but one could probably install interior walls and smaller doors…the other giant lairs are probably a bit too far from civilized lands.
Anyway, this idea JUST dawned on me a few weeks ago (as I said, in the past we never worried about cleaning up the blood and bodies), but you better believe that from now on I’ll be scouting the real estate value of every dungeon I delve. A fellow PC of our on-line campaign “claimed” the second dungeon we explored in Session 2 (a tower and stable about a day’s journey from the dwarf mine) and I can see this as a trend of things to come. For those character types that build strongholds, why not build on the remains of ancient ruins?
Isn’t that the idea behind mega-dungeons anyway? Multiple owners/inhabitants building layer after layer of dungeon? The PCs have now joined the Campaign Ecology!
[side note: is every British actor with some name recognition going to make an appearance in the Potter films? I mean really…about the only ones they’re missing are Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Julian Sands (Warlock), which I suppose is understandable. I fully expect Jeremy Irons and Hellen Mirren to show up in the last installment…though of course Irons already played a wizard in that stinky Dungeons & Dragons movie, so I suppose he’s out, too. Boy THAT’s worth a post of its own!]
So, anyway, witches…where the hell are they? In D&D, I mean.
Now of course I refer to pre-D20 editions; I’m sure there are at least a half-dozen “witches” with various adjectives attached to their names (“blood witch,” “bog witch,” “sand witch,” etc.) floating around the various D20 tomes. But in earlier editions we find REFERENCES to witches without any actual witches!
To me this appears to be an over-sight…the question is was it deliberate or not? Oh sure, you might simply assume a witch is a “female magic-user” or even an “EVIL female magic-user,” but nowhere in the description of magic-users do I find any reference to witches. Moldvay’s basic set names Merlin the Magician as an example magic-user, but that guy was a wizard not a witch.
Um…at least I distinguish wizards and witches as two different things. With all due respect to Hairy Bottom fans, I grew up thinking the male witch was a “warlock” not a wizard; I owe this more to watching many, many syndicated episodes of Bewitched as a child, not D&D.
Though I DO note that the 6th level magic-user title in the Cook/Marsh expert set is Warlock/Witch (Cook and Marsh must have watched Bewitched, too). Of course, this is the only place I find where witch is mentioned as a level title for magic-user (2nd edition has none, OD&D and AD&D don’t use it, and BECMI leaves off all female level titles…apparently women had stopped playing D&D by the time Mentzer released his rule set; such a shame).
Not that it makes a lot of sense for a 6th level magic-user to be a “witch” anyway. In fairy tales and folklore (AND J.K. Rowling books!) witches are especially known for their ability to transform others and themselves (you know, princes into frogs or changing themselves into dragons). Certainly you’d think a magic-user would need to master the polymorph spell (at least one of them) prior to taking up the title of “witch.” But polymorph (self or other) is a 4th level spell…and magic-users don’t gain access to 4th level spells until the 7th level.
Hmm…this reminds me that I never did overhaul the magic-user level titles, as I did with both the cleric and the fighter. I’ll have to get back to this one day.
So, sure…one could say a “witch” in D&D (at least according to Cook/Marsh) is a 6th level magic-user. But I don’t think this is the best way to consider the class. After all, the witch is generally treated as a “monster” in the text of these early editions. Let’s look at the mentions of witches throughout D&D:
In OD&D we have no mention of the witch as a magic-user (in descriptive text or level titles); we DO see an illustration of a “beautiful witch” along with an “Amazon” (in LBB 3, I believe). Throughout most of the LBBs, these illustrations represent creatures on the monster list, though no witch is listed in LBB2, even as a suggested possible monster (at the end where they write about the possibility of robots and gelatinous cubes).
In Holmes D&D they mention that male characters with a high Charisma can escape transformation and be retained as a love slave; this is in the same paragraph where it is cited that female characters with a high charisma will be kept captive instead of be eaten by dragons (see? Dragon = Witch, i.e. monster).
In Moldvay’s Basic book we find references to Morgan Le Fay and Circe the Sorceress (classic antagonists) but no witches. I can’t help but think that if the polymorph spell had been present in the Basic set, Moldvay would have created a monster type called a “Witch” that used it. After all, Moldvay gave us the HD 2 Noble, the HD 1+1 Berserker, the HD 1 Bandit, and the ever esteemed Normal Man monsters. He seemed to have a good handle on not needing a particular type of human to equate with a particular class/level.
The Cook/Marsh Expert set DOES have polymorph, and even references a save versus polymorph (of which there is none in B/X, unlike AD&D).
AD&D…well, the Monster Manual DOES have Night Hags and Sea Hags, and I have always found “hag,” “crone,” and “witch” all to be interchangeable when it comes to fairy tales and folklore…take a look at Baba Yaga, for example. And speaking of Baba Yaga, her hut is also present in the DMG, though I don’t remember if it mentions her as being a hag (it might even refer to her as an arch-mage! I’ll have to check my DMG later…).
2nd edition AD&D of course has NO BALLS when it comes to anything that smacks of Satan, witchcraft, or El Diablo. However, the VERY interesting Return to White Plume Mountain, DOES include “the Witch Thingizzard” as a MONSTER, not a character class and is the closest thing to what I’m looking for.
In fact, I had both Night Hag and Sea Hag scheduled to go into my B/X Companion, and instead of making them knock-offs of the AD&D/BECMI versions, I may just make them knock-offs of Thingizzard and throw ‘em all under the “Crone/Hag/Witch” category (without designation of “Sea” or “Night” variety)! I think the rich, literary history of the wicked witch deserves a decent D&D monster, rather than a Vancian spell-slinger.
By the way: all apologies to the Wiccan community. I’ve known many Wiccans and self-professed Witches (who considered themselves different from the former), and all were fine upstanding folks with no Satanic human sacrifice or devil worship anywhere to be found (though the “witches” were raging alcoholics…). In the 21st century I’d guess that most folks would back away from the idea of witches as monsters so as not to offend followers of the Wiccan religion (well, except Kevin Siembieda), but for a pulpy game like D&D I think it is appropriate to have some corrupted individuals of the Brothers Grimm variety present. As I said…all apologies. I will probably NOT use the term "Crone" in my B/X Companion as I realize this is a sacred part of the life cycle in Wiccan tradition ("the wise grandma") and should not be correlated to the derogatory term “hag.”
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Man…what am I going to do about art for this mother?
I’m starting to get a bit worried about the page count. Even short-changing Part 2, 4, and 8 it is going to be way tight. I’ve pretty much decided that Mass Combat is going to go in the Encounter section (it’s just another type of Encounter after all), which means I can devote a simple 1-2 page Part 9 (Special Adventures) to something weird like other planes and dimensions…maybe a shout-out to John Carter’s Mars?
Realized there’s still some stuff to clean up in the Mass Combat section (including how XP is awarded) and things that need to be moved elsewhere (Smiths! Back to Part 4!).
It’s Part 6: Monsters that’s really making me nervous. I should probably complete that sooner rather than later, as I anticipate the page count to be the most problematic. Mmm…I may need to drop some critters from my Companion. Aaarrgh!
Monday, August 24, 2009
You like solving puzzles and devising strategies as well as defeating impossibly difficult foes, struggling until you eventually achieve victory, and beating other players.
Each BrainHex Class also has an Exception, which describes what you dislike about playing games. Your Exceptions are:
» No Mercy: You rarely if ever care about hurting other players' feelings - mercy is for the weak!
Learn more about your classes and exceptions at BrainHex.com.
Your scores for each of the classes in this test were as follows:
Now I have to say that a bit of this is bullshit, as I clearly care whether or not I hurt other folks' feelings. At the same time, from my behavior I understand it can APPEAR that I don't care. Certainly, I have a higher threshold of tolerance for things like character death than some folks do (it IS just a game, after all), but I recognize that not everyone shakes things off as quickly (my wife for one!) and being cognizant of this, I also have compassion for it.
I said earlier that I was going to explain why I don't include G1-3: Against the Giants in my top ten list of all-time favorite adventures, and this is that post.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
"...Also a female with high charisma will not be eated by a dragon but kept captive. A charismatic male defeated by a witch will not be turned in a frog but kept enchanted as her lover, and so forth."