Monday, April 27, 2020

Supplemental Material

Started work on a new OD&D supplement this morning (my personal "Book IV"), mainly because I wanted to capture the new illusionist material. My intention, once completed, is to have a working "campaign Bible" to supplement (ah! That's the word!) my edited version of OD&D. At this point, it is perhaps putting the cart before the horse, considering I haven't yet set down one word of Book II.

[there are a couple reasons for this "hole" in The Work. First off, I haven't really needed the book yet: I own two copies of Book II anyway, and many creatures in my adventures to date have been hand-designed or else adapted from other sources. But mainly, I'm really considering an entire overhaul of Book II's structure, organization, and contents...and I'm still considering the exact paradigm I want to use. Is this supposed to be a book for me? Or a book for anyone? Or a book for players and DMs who want to use my campaign setting? Or what? I *do* eventually want some "bestiary" type book, but I'm not yet sure exactly what it will contain...perhaps every entry will have an "ecology" section while the tables have the necessary short-hand combat info for inclusion in adventure write-ups]

[oh, yeah...I also want to completely overhaul or do away with the treasure tables as designed. I do make use of them - somewhat - for identifying how much treasure a monster tends to have in its lair, but then I tailor each encounter's hoard individually to suit my needs. And while I have been using the included magic items as "templates" and inspiration, I am striving to make each one unique and special, and none of them are being generated via random roll. Figuring out how to rewrite THAT section is a bit of a bear, and I might not even do so, instead simply throwing some hasty notes into an appendix of Book III]

Why throw a PC class like the Illusionist into a supplement? Because I'm not yet ready for the class to be "open" to players (some things shall be "revealed" in time). For a similar reason, gnomes (as I conceive them) will not be added into Book I but, rather, left for the "supplement;" they are my own strange species (call them "svirfneblin lite"). Besides, I can't be adding a race with an illusionist option before I've introduced the illusionist, can I?

The new supplement should also include the Thief class, once I've overhauled the damn thing. Despite his Gord the Rogue writings, I'm starting to get the impression that Gygax disliked the thief concept, and I'm starting to feel the same. However, I continue to feel a lot of love for the assassin as a concept, and a thief baseline is thus a necessary evil. Starting player characters at 3rd level mercifully solves the issue of new assassins having no thief skills, and the idea currently bumping about my noggin is that of assassins as a sort of "prestige class;" that is, there aren't any 1st or 2nd level assassins (at least, not as player characters). Non-human thieves are NOT going to be the "go to" class (caused, I'm sure, by the unrestricted leveling); instead, any such character is going to be some sort of outcast from their society, probably restricted from training or progression in ANY other class.

[might make an exception for half-elves with a wisdom under 13; i.e. half-elves who are unable to progress as clerics. To me, half-elves are the true "jack-of-all-trades" character]

Of course, that would do away with my favorite multi-class combo: the gnome illusionist/assassin. But since gnomes, illusionists, and assassins are all going to be part of the supplemental material, maybe they'll get some sort of exception, too. Or maybe not...phantasmal killer is fine and dandy for any illusionist styling herself an "assassin."

[as is using a phantasmal image to conceal a booby trap, pit, or hidden assailant]

Bards will probably be a similar story (i.e. unavailable except as a single, restricted class). But then why would anyone choose to be a thief if you could get all the abilities - albeit at reduced level - plus magical abilities, bardic charming, an increased (d6) hit dice?

Why indeed.

I am, of course, looking at bards as originally presented by Doug Schwegman in The Strategic Review (volume 2, issue 1). This particular bard had none of the multi-classing madness (even though it would have functioned better and more sensibly in OD&D...). Schwegman's bard is also available to elves, dwarves, and hobbits, unlike the version Gygax gives us in the PHB. While half-elves are not mentioned, I would guess that this is a case of the class being submitted to TSR before the publication of Greyhawk (or before it was read by Schwegman), just as happened with Aronson's illusionist class (requiring his later update in The Dragon #1). Schwegman's class is a bit over-powered...attacks and saves as a cleric, magic-user spells up to 7th level (hmmm...guess he did read Greyhawk), bardic charm and legend lore, double languages, chain armor, and d6 hit dice, plus unrestricted weapon use. Sheesh.

[can you imagine a teleporting bard with the ability to cast delayed blast fireball?]

I see why A) Gygax threw the class into an appendix as an optional class, and B) attempted an update to make the thing playable within the spirit of the original, while preserving some semblance of "balance" (OR, alternatively, making the class as hard to play as possible in order to dissuade its use). I haven't yet got around to my (planned) post on the AD&D bard, but...well, now I've got this OD&D trainwreck to deal with.

[one might ask why bother? Multiple reasons, not the least of which my soft spot for the class after spending the majority of my AD&D career playing bards. Recently, I've been reading the old MZB Lythande stories...part of my research on Thieves World, one of the major inspirations for my campaign setting...and I am considering how such a character might best be modeled in the game. "Bard" would be a fair choice...]

As for other stuff that will be in the Supplement: info on the campaign world, including its geography, cosmology, history, etc. The various deities, the PC races (how and why they interact with each other), major political entities, etc. Probably The Haggard Goat (the tavern/inn that is the PCs' base of operations) and its proprietor, Meredith. Assuming she survives the players' antics.

Yes, there will be rangers as a playable class...but again, they have not yet been introduced to the campaign (they are outside the city my players are currently exploring). This isn't Tolkien. And even in Tolkien, "half-orcs" appear (to my reading) to have been very much a product of magical cross-breeding (a la Saruman), NOT the biological offspring of two distinct species. My orcs are not the "fecund race" of 1st edition. I'm not yet quite sure WHAT they are (my players haven't encountered any); once I figure that out, I'll consider blogging about it. Maybe.

[probably some sort of magically created slave race, engineered in the misty past by decadent, sorcerous elves. Would explain why elves speak their language, as well as the animosity between the two species. In fact, done. That's the short answer to the "orc question"]

Monks? Ummmmmm...haven't decided. Need to run some mock combats between monks of various levels with a variety of opponent types. That's a loooong way off, at this point. Assassins first.

Druids? Yeah, maybe, probably. This isn't really a foresty setting (as currently conceived). Mostly sand and scrub and swamp and sea...the four S's of environments (also snow and subterranean...six S's, I guess). My original intention was to include them as a character class (the "neutral cleric" option), but I kind of like the neutral clerics I've already added to the game. Nothing in OD&D prevents a player from playing a "neutral" cleric; they're simply limited to 6th level of experience (i.e. no 5th level spells). This has allowed me to add multiple "minor (i.e. neutral) deities" to my world along with perfectly competent clerics that have no ability to raise dead, commune, or create food (they still have the potential to turn any of the undead types). Adding the druid diminishes the impact and utility of such characters...why go to a lesser cleric when one can find a druid? Mainly, however, it's more of a setting/environment thing. I'm not sure yet how many bears and beasts are going to be in the setting. Still developing.

Anyway. Huh. I sat down to blog about elves this morning and I got completely distracted with my own thoughts and ideas. And I didn't even talk much about the campaign, just thoughts on what's going into the supplemental material. *sigh*

Apologies folks. More later.


  1. I'm interested in how you reorg Book 2. It was the thorniest for me to assemble, particularly the combat section as the LBB talk very little about combat. I'm not certain there is a sentence that says "Roll a d20 to see if you hit." It just says (paraphrasing) "use the matrices below".

    1. @ PatW:

      To be clear, the combat info is in Book 1, not Book 2...unless you’re talking about the monster matrices at the beginning of Book 2 (and how they are supposed to be used)?

      To be fair, I believe the matrix itself says something like “number needed to roll on 20-sided die” (I don’t have my books right in front of me at the’s the middle of the night and I’m fighting insomnia). Mainly, I deleted most Chainmail references, kept the “alternative combat system” as the only combat system, incorporated Gygax’s clarifications (like initiative rolls) from The Strategic Review, and moved the monster combat chart to Book 3 (along with the experience info).

      The whole thing could probably do with a textual rewrite, but for now it works just fine as a basic set of rules. I’ll throw a download up on the blog one of these days, but right now I’m having computer issues.

  2. You are correct, what little combat information there is is located in Book 1 of the LBBs. My reorg moved it to the second book. Apologies for the confusion.

    There is a lot of critical material in the Strategic Review #2 about combat and spell casting. I never realized it until I tried to populate those sections myself. Greyharp's One Book Edition helped me here.

    I started playing with AD&D 1E and played every edition after that as they came out. I only recently (2019) had a chance to play Original D&D and it draws me to it. It may end up being my favorite edition as it is easy to play and easy to tinker with. I'm grafting a few options from later editions that fit without breaking anything (like advantage and disadvantage from 5E) and keeping a few odd bits from the rules as written (Fire Ball has a 1 Turn duration and Humans may not be Thieves).

    I'm thinking about moving the treasure section to Book 3 to even out the page count. I named the books Characters, Conflict, and Campaigns, respectively. Book 1, Characters, has everything to create a character. Book 2, Conflict, has the exploration rules, the combat rules, and, the monster listings, and the treasure tables and explanations (which makes it quite plump). Book 3, Campaigns, has all the referee rules on making and stocking dungeons, running campaign advice, and building castles, which is surprisingly compact.

    Once I get some wordsmithing done on the draft, I'll post downloadable versions on my blog. I'd very much like to see your version as well - seeing how others approach similar issues helps me see other options and learn.

  3. I like what I'm hearing - not sure about orcs - but I'm just really enamored with my "they're just people with a magical disease that makes them an aggressive hive mind" - like you can have an outbreak of orc-pox and next thing you know "dungburg" has sprouted smokestacks and is churning out raiding parties until someone can convince them that they are better served by relocating to somewhere far away or something.

    Druids - it's a sticky one, I'd almost be tempted to pull it all the way into the modern World of Warcraft Conception - basically a class of naturalist skinwalkers and shapeshifters who have taken a single spirit of place into themselves (wait now we have warlocks?!) and whose major ability is to shift into a bestial form. So effectively a less competent mage that can go bearserk for 1 turn a level?

    1. At the moment, I’m thinking of druids as a bit of an endangered species...they were once a major force but there just aren’t all that many left in the world. Still fleshing it out.

      The more I’ve gone down the road of “orcs as magically created slave race” the more I like it. This is the reason elves speak both orc and gnoll (yep, I’m tying the whole thing to linguistics)...both languages are a bastardized form of elvish used to communicate with the (former) slaves.

      My elves owe far more to Moorcock’s Melniboneans than to Tolkien’s firstborn, as will be discussed in a future post.
      ; )

  4. I made elves plant-based lifeforms. In my current campaign, they invaded from the Venus equivalent swamp world way in the past. Their civil war between their colonists and the homeworld got messy, dropping rocks from orbit on each other and smashing their civilization. The colonists on the game world literally went underground for relief and to hide. The local populace revolted and further smashed the elven colonies, leaving a few very outnumbered settlements hidden in the deep forests. Below ground the colonists follow the Eightfold Path and hate surface elves as imperialists. These are my drow. High Elves remember "the good old days" and secretly want to reestablish control over the "lesser races" and maybe reestablish contact with the homeworld. Wood elves are those elves that decided to adapt to the situation, let go of their imperial past, and rebuild with what they've got. The other short-lived races have pretty much forgotten all this during the past millennia, the exception being dwarves who remember they hate elves but have lost exactly why.