Friday, October 29, 2021

Hell's Own Temple

Here's a little treat for folks on a Friday before Halloween.

Hell's Own Temple is a short adventure I penned a couple months back for Prince of Nothing's No Artpunk Contest. Sadly (for my ego), my entry was not among the contest winners (the top eight submissions were pretty darn spectacular), but Prince still had some kind words for my attempt at a high level, one-off adventure.

Since it didn't make the cut for the compilation volume (Prince does plan on including it in a supplemental book along with all the runners-up), I've decided to make the adventure available to my blog readers. It's short (only about 10 pages) and not tarted up for publication, but it should be complete enough to run; you can download the files here:

There is no overland map of the island, although my original model for the thing was Easter Island, whose map can be easily found on the internet. My original concept was actually an island assault, but I scaled the whole thing waaaay back in order to meet the contest parameters (this also helped with the time crunch I was under). More background info can be found in this old blog post, for the interested.

An AD&D adventure suitable for six to eight PCs of 10th-14th level. Happy Halloween!
; )

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Nostalgia Bias

Recently, I read a retrospective review of adventure module I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City over at Reviews from R'lyeh. It was less than complimentary, stating in part:
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City is a module with a huge number of problems. In terms of its most basic design, it has a split personality between the tournament play elements (with advice how to run the entrance tunnels as a tournament, but not the means, since the module is not part of the part of the ‘C’ or Competition series of scenarios) and the sandbox aspect once the Player Characters are in the Forbidden City. The former is highly detailed where the latter is not, the former has the players pushed in one direction, whereas the latter does not. Now whilst at least one of the encounters in the tunnels makes sense, the actual city is underwritten, with little description as to its current state or background as to its origins or who its original inhabitants were, with only the bases for each of the factions receiving any real attention or detail. And of those factions, the Yuan-ti suffer from the same issue. The module also treats its NPCs badly, few of them being named...Further, even the one named NPC in the scenario who will readily come to the Player Characters’ aid, an Elf Magic-User who is the only survivor from a previous expedition, has an unpleasant manner which will only serve to at least annoy the Player Characters, if not completely drive them off...

Worse, I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City ignores the primary reason for the Player Characters to travel as far south as the Forbidden City—the treasure from the caravans. It is completely omitted from the scenario, leaving a motivation to be unfulfilled. And without that, once the chieftain’s son has been rescued, there remains little motivation for the Player Characters to stay in the city. Now, there are plenty of potential motivations and adventure ideas given at the end of the module, but these are not used in the module as written despite the fact that they are infinitely more interesting than the very basic ones of searching for treasure (which does not exist) and rescuing the chieftain’s son given at the beginning of the module. As a consequence of their not being written into the module, there are no sewer systems filled with jungle-ghouls, no lost temple of Ranet, no temple to tentacular thing from another plane, no spy network, no travel back to explore the city in its prime, and so on. 

The fact is, I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City is begging for all of these—and more...
Long-time readers of this blog may remember me writing of Dwellers with glowing praise...I have said, more than once, that it's one of my favorite adventure modules of all time. On my list of most "inspirational" adventure modules (i.e. inspiring me to play D&D) I ranked it #2, just behind Queen of the Demonweb Pits. I likewise ranked it #2 on my personal Top Ten list of all time D&D adventure modules, just in front of Q1 and just behind White Plume Mountain (though I noted that I "preferred the flavor" of Dwellers to S2). I've run the adventure module probably four or five times AS WRITTEN...i.e. without any further development. Truthfully, I never had any need to develop it further, because every party that braved the thing ended up dead or on the run for safer, greener pastures.

In other words, the way I feel about Dwellers of the Forbidden City could be readily compared to the way many, MANY people feel about I6: Ravenloft

Here's the thing: the criticism RfR has of Dwellers is fair. More than's pretty spot on. When he writes:
Wolfgang Baur is right to suggest that the module is best remembered for its monsters...I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City is neither a classic, nor does not deserve its revered status, and it certainly does not deserve to rate as high as thirteen on the list of greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventures of all time by Dungeon magazine for the thirtieth anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons. As written, it simply is not that good, its tournament versus sandbox style of play giving it a split personality and its sandbox elements severely underwritten and underdeveloped in far too many places for the Dungeon Master to bring to the table and make playable without undertaking a great deal of development work.
...he's not wrong at all. When I've run the thing I had the same complaints: I just pushed hard on the "chief's son" premise, and ignored all the failings of the thing, because the adventure didn't last long enough for those failings to appear. The "competition entrance" is pretty much a linear obstacle course. If you ignore that most of the city is undeveloped, PCs can simply wander the streets until they find one of the (detailed) "faction areas" where the adventure suddenly continues. There is a ton of under-utilized, unrealized potential in the adventure...more, there are a ton of unanswered questions that really demand answers: the yuant-ti, the missing trade goods, timelines of the disparate groups interactions with each other, etc.

Lost cities! Snake people! Killer jungle plants! Hell, there's even an illusionist. I love this sort of thing. But my love of these things undermines my ability to look at the adventure critically and rationally, with the jaded, middle-aged (thus, experienced) eyes that I use for the other adventures I've analyzed (like Ravenloft and Dragonlance). My bias for the adventures I love...and that I have nostalgia just as strong and, yes, irrational as what I see in others.

That's a good thing to realize. It is something I need to be cognizant of.

Anyway, I would disagree with pookie that Dwellers of the Forbidden City should only be considered a "classic" for the new monsters it introduces, or that it should be restricted from such a prestigious designation due to the work a DM needs to put in to make it playable. A classic (when used as a noun) is defined as:

a work of art of recognized and established value

and I think that, with regard to adventure modules, there must be a certain amount of "player mass" (i.e. individuals that have played the adventure) for it to be rightly called a classic. And as an adventure published at the height of the game's popularity...and being present on store shelves for years... I1 probably has that mass in a way that many latter day adventures simply do not. And I think that it has established its value in the entertainment it's provided. 

But I'm biased.

[Ravenloft could also be rightly called a "classic" by the same reasoning and, for the record, I never said Ravenloft was not; I simply said it wasn't a very good adventure based on the rule set for which it was written]

Friday, October 22, 2021


A little Friday action that I wasn't expecting to do. What do ya' know: I got a good night's sleep for a change (about eight hours) rather than waking up between 2am and 4am as has been happening the last week or two.

[stress affects everyone different]

Have spent most of my "free" hours the last couple days researching Clallam county, Washington...specifically the geography and history around Port Angeles, which I intend as the site of my "new Ravenloft." Lot of good stuff there, though I will probably end up filing the serial numbers off (or, at least, slightly modifying) many of the proper names. I don't generally bother doing this in my actual "home campaign" but when publishing for others, I don't want to run the risk of offending (for example) the indigenous people of the region who will be taking the place of Ravenloft's menacing gypsies.

Just picture a castle
overlooking the sea...
The more I dig into it, the more I am really enjoying the creation process. My father was born and raised in Port Angeles, his siblings and most of my relatives on that side of the family still live thereabouts. We used to visit the Peninsula once or twice a year when I was a kid, and there's something about the region that still calls to me...the grey, wet, windswept coast, the high bluffs, the dense forests looming over the highways. 

I don't get the opportunity to get out there as much these days (doesn't help the relatives are all estranged, each for a different reason), though we did get out there a couple times over the summer. West of Sequim, it really doesn't appear that much has changed the last 40 years...which is yet another reason the area is GREAT to replace "Barovia." Probably The Wreck Tavern (once owned and operated by my grandfather) is still out there...though I wonder if my uncle is still running it.

Of course, it's not lost on me that Forks, Washington is in county Clallam...I have a second (third?) cousin that lived in Forks and what I heard about the town wasn't...mmm..."complimentary." But that was back in the 20th century (maybe the tourist trade drummed up by the Twilight trade has spruced it up?). Regardless, my population totals and distribution are based on the 1880s and Forks was just a dairy farm in the middle of the woods back then...that's not going to be the site of a castle and town. No vampires out that way in MY world. Werewolves, maybe. Lots of werewolves.

Working on the "math" of the Ravenloft encounters, I become more and more convinced (if I wasn't already) that this was originally designed as a LOW LEVEL adventure...probably for characters levels 3rd to 5th. Run in the B/X system, nearly every encounter circles around 4 hit dice. The "iron golems" in area K78? I'm just substituting Moldvay's Living Statues, Iron (page B37) for the pair. They are *ahem* also four HD creatures. 

The real stinker of an encounter are the four small red dragons, who should absolutely destroy ANY party because of their breath weapons (18 hit points each x four = 36-72 automatic damage, depending on saves). It should probably be viewed more as yet another railroad plot-block (like the mist that auto-kills PCs leaving the town) since they only attack parties trying to leave the castle (*sigh*). Interesting that dividing those little dragons' 18 hit points by 4.5 would give you 4 hit dice. Hmmm...

Even the new "Strahd zombies:" four hit dice. For me, there's no reason to do this: the "severed body part" thing is cool, but it's just color, and one can simply double the number of zombies encountered. What's the problem with normal zombies? Is it just the need to have them "turn as mummies" (in order to FORCE PCs to fight them and thus experience the cool color of severed zombie parts attacking?)?, that's not necessary. Even the auto-destroy of a 5th level cleric (assuming I'm reworking this for levels 3-5) only affects 2d6 hit dice of zombies.  Make sure there's enough left over (on average) that a few will need to be dispatched in the usual (sword-swinging) fashion. No nerf, everyone wins.

Converting the giant spiders to B/X is a little tricky because (surprise!) the monster is more specific in Moldvay than the abstract version found in the MM. Fortunately, black widow spiders are native to Washington State, so putting giant ones (3 HD, but deadly poison) in Clallam county makes perfect sense.

SO...things are coming together. I *do* want to add a flesh golem to the monster list (because for the horror trifecta there's that need to reference Frankenstein) but the monster as written for AD&D is a little too tough for that 3rd-5th level range in B/X. Dropping it's damage to 2d6 per punch makes it better (though the special defenses are rough) and I'll probably go with that. But then, should I be adding a mummy? A creature from the Black Lagoon? Where does the madness end? 

[probably with the coven of witches in the upper tower]'s all fun stuff. My vampire is a countess, not a count. The werewolf in the dungeon is a 5 HD pack leader, desperate to get back to his people. The flesh golem is kind of a Ser Robert Strong bodyguard type, though I haven't decided if he is a former husband, lover, or son (or sons) of the countess. The zombies make for cheap servants and soldiers that don't ask questions about the castle's goings ons. And the people of the town, far from being terrorized by their ruler (and needing to be saved) are in on the secret, feeding outsiders to their monstrous liege lord in exchange for being left in relative peace. 

It's fun. I like it. And (for whatever reason) it feels very Port Angeles to me.

[a quote from my father: when asked why Port Angeles has"issues" that it does, he responded "Well, what I've observed from most small towns I've visited (in the USA), people are pretty big into their religion. But folks out in Port Angeles, well, they never really took to religion." Personally, I always suspected it might have a little something to do with being a town full of sailors, but whatever. For my purposes, it's vampire country]

All right, that's it. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Beating, Beefing Up Ravenloft

Was not intending to write a post today (extremely busy today), but hot on the heels of yesterday's post, I started going through Ravenloft to make it a playable, B/X one-shot. 

Oh, boy, is it awful.

And I feel a little bad writing that after giving it some (faint) praise in my prior analysis, specifically I wrote:
There is no way in hell I would ever rank Ravenloft "the second greatest adventure module of all time." I wouldn't even call it the second greatest adventure module written by the Hickmans! But it's not's pretty great as a light-hearted one-off played for a spooky theme night. 
Perhaps I wrote that in one of my "come to Jesus" moments of trying to see things in as positive a light as possible. Because it IS terrible...back to front. It's not ALL terrible, but much of its individual parts (and the sum of its whole) is pretty bad.

At least from the perspective of D&D adventure design.

[before I dive any farther, understand there'll be *spoilers* and I will be writing this from a B/X orientation as there is substantial evidence to suggest that the original adventure was written with OD&D as the designers' frame of reference...for an "AD&D" adaptation of an adventure penned in '77, it shows quite a few missteps and misunderstandings of basic PHB/DMG/MM systems. B/X being largely based on OD&D+Greyhawk, I'm fine with using a more lenient view based on its systems]

Let's look at some of the raw data:

Total Number Encountered Areas: 128
Total Monsters Encounters: 25
Total Encounters with Treasure: 16

This does not include Strahd or the random artifacts (the Sunsword, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, the Tome of Strahd)...none of which have any monetary (x.p.) value...that will be encountered within the castle. 

That's a lot of nothing. Mmm...scratch that. It's a lot of empty padding. Every encounter area has a read-aloud bit of boxed text that will (presumably) help "set the mood" for an atmospheric dungeon crawl. Assuming your players don't get bored and start punching their DM. Even making a list of emptyrooms that had something INTERESTING in them (creaky stairs, hanging skeletons, bronze doors, a bathtub, etc.), I still find upwards of 45 numbered areas that have NOTHING WITH ANY INTERACTION AT ALL. And, I'm not counting the double "nothing" entries as multiples (for example there are two separate encounter areas marked K12 and K13 on the main floor, both with zero going on, but I'm counting those as "2" not "4" despite the potential for a party encountering the same useless box text twice).

Remember your Moldvay instructions on dungeon stocking? Here's a quick refresher: after placing special monsters and treasures in appropriate rooms (for I6, this would include Strahd and the aforementioned artifacts), the ratio should be roughly:
  • one-third monsters (half with treasure)
  • one-sixth traps (one-third with treasure)
  • one-sixth special (one-sixth with treasure)
  • one-third "empty" (one-sixth with treasure)
With 128 numbered encounters, I'd be expecting more than 40 areas with monsters (and a similar number with some type of treasure). But maybe such wasn't wanted because of the scope of the adventure (as discussed, meant to completed in a single evening's play). In which case the adventure site may simply be too large for its intended purpose?

Let's work backwards for a moment. Throw out the living tower and guardian portrait (both of which might be considered "traps" or "specials" despite having monster stats being countered with combat), and we've got 23 monsters. Still probably too many for a single evening's play, but let's go with it for the nonce. That would indicate some 69 encounter areas. Throwing out the nothing descriptions of corridors and stairways (i.e. the 45 worthless entries listed above) gets you down to 83. Remove the outer courtyard from the encounter areas (are PCs really going to explore the garden?) and you're down to 76. Toss the closets, smokestacks, slippery roofs, creaky stairs, and "mechanism" rooms (or incorporate them as part of existing encounter areas) and we're down to some 68ish, which would be just about right. Heck, I could probably shave more off (and probably will) but as I said I'm running low on time today. And, anyway, looking at the scale of a number of medieval castles, it's not terribly off, except for its height: the tallest castle tower in the world is 55m (about 180'), and Ravenloft has three that top that (190', 260', and 360'). 

Treasure is awful. A bag of coins here, a coffer of coins there, a scattering of coins under the accountant's paperwork, or a crypt with "three pieces of jewelry valued at 5,000g.p." The magical Icon of Ravenloft in the castle chapel (area K15) is described as "a small statue;" that's it. Statue of what? Doesn't say. The box text tells players that a piercing shaft of light "falls directly on a small statue." The DM text tells us "the small statue is the Icon of Ravenloft." It is carved from "purest silver" (no value given). "It is 12 inches tall and 6 inches across." Gar. Bage.

I already wrote that the total treasure amounts to a bit more than 120,000g.p. total, but I was including the witch's spell book in that total (about 47K worth of spells for the AD&D game). For OD&D or B/X this wouldn't be worth anything and the total monetary value found is very, very low. Too low to justify PCs (of the requisite levels) exploring the cavernous emptiness that is vampire Strahd's castle. And nothing about the stuff here is tempting in any's placement is just an afterthought. 'Oh, here's a bag of platinum coins sitting under a chair on a balcony." this asking us to risk anything? Is it rewarding PCs for taking the time to sit down? What the hell is this?

The monsters are crappy; here's the list:

4 small (18hp) red dragons that are sometimes statues
8 gargoyles that are sometimes statues
2 "Strahd" zombies (4HD, turn as mummies)
1 vampire "maid" scrubbing floors
2 wraiths
5 giant spiders
3 black cat "familiars"
7 "witches" (2 HD magic-users)
3 normal zombies
10 skeletons
1 shadow demon (immediately attacks)
1 werewolf (befriends and betrays party)
6 "Strahd" zombies
2 iron golems (!!!)
1 ghost (jack-in-the-box)
1 spectre (jack-in-the-box)
15 wights (jack-in-the-box)
1 vampire "wife" (jack-in-the-box)
1 banshee (jack-in-the-box)
3 huge spiders
1 trapper (12 HD)
3 hell hounds
1 nightmare

[a "jack-in-the-box" monster is one that jumps out after the party pops the lid off a crypt. There's a bunch of these in the catacombs]

This is...uh...not great stuff, and it's all over the board. Huge spiders? Black cats? Skeletons? Waaay too weak for the expected character levels. And yet iron golems, ghosts, and banshees are far too powerful. I won't even go into the wandering monsters, but they are fairly addition to being rather bland.

All right, I really have to go now (I'm actually 30 minutes past were I expected to cut off). I apologize for the bashing of a beloved favorite adventure of many, many folks. I still give a lot of credit to the authors for writing this when they were just kids (and creating a whole franchise from a movie Dracula knock-off)...that's, frankly, amazing. But I6: Ravenloft is bad. Really bad. 

I have my work cut out for me.

He's laughing at me. I can tell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Treading Old Ground

In preparation for my series on building campaigns, playing campaigns, the importance of campaigns, exploring my own campaigns, I went back over my old posts (some as far back as 2009) and found that a lot of what I wanted to write about...well, I've already blogged it in one form or another. Thoughts I've had recently are the same I've had prior, even such basic ideas as defining "campaigns" and the difference between what the term once meant and what it means to todays (5E) gamer.

And, of course, I'm not the only one to have these thoughts...Maliszewski was writing about this in 2008 (you know, back when 4E was first "a thing"). SO, because I'd rather break new ground than re-tread the old...and because I have to go check in on my mother who just had hand surgery...I'm going to put this series of posts on hold, at least till I've had a chance to think of a new, useful angle from which to attack them. 

Meanwhile: the weather is grey and gloomy, pouring rain. Classic Seattle-in-October weather, in other words; the kind that always inspires me to play Dungeons & Dragons. Really, what else would one rather do? Maybe add a hot toddy on a coaster next to your dice shaker. But it is perfectly lovely for indoor gaming, and I love, love, love it. 

The boy really wants me to run something for his gaming group for Halloween. I have been thinking a LOT about revamping Ravenloft as a low-level, B/X one-off. I don't think it would be that hard to do...which is generally a sign that it would be VERY hard to do. But I might try it, even so. I mean, I basically outlined how to do so already...could I reduce the thing to something that would fit a three-hour one-shot?

Maybe. It would definitely be a challenge...and challenges always fire me up. 

We'll see if anything comes of the idea; if it does, I'll throw out a PDF of the adventure notes for folks interested in using the scenario.
; )

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Changing Seasons

The family Blood Bowl season ended over the weekend, with my boy's wood elves triumphing over the ork team (me) 4-3.  He beat me fair and square despite having (in my opinion) a pretty crushing advantage in terms of team. But I had a costly mistake to end the first half, and I got greedy with my fouling (leading to two ejections) leaving me no room for error in the second half. Thus when the double skull roll came up for my star black ork...and the elves were able to take a two TD lead...the game was effectively put away. "Catch up" is just not a game the orks can play, and my third TD was what NFL fans would simply call a "garbage time" score.

On the bright side, that means we'll be getting our dining room table back (finally!), which increases the possibility of OTHER types of gaming.

So, too, does the end of the school soccer season. This coming Saturday will be our final game, and while year round soccer will continue for both my children, my coaching responsibilities will be coming to an end, as will the Tuesday-Thursday practices. The kids are already planning playdates and a Halloween "D&D party" (via zoom) that they expect me to DM.

Should probably prep some sort of adventure for that.

Diego re-started his D&D club at school this week and, surprise-surprise, he has decided to go back to the B/X system, albeit with some modification (specifically: bumping up hit dice to AD&D levels and adding negative HPs to increase player survivability). He is capping his group at six, though he already has kids on a "wait list" to join the game. He is also using my book The Complete B/X Adventurer, which he spent the last couple days reading. "You're a pretty good writer, Pops," he told me. "Reading your book makes me want to play D&D!" That kind of thing is always nice to hear.

Regarding the print copies of the new book: my printer can't do hardcover and couldn't recommend any other local printers. I found a couple via the internet and requested quotes on print costs: no response. It's like people don't want to take my money or something; I really don't get it. Right now, I am strongly considering just doing a Print On Demand thing with DriveThru though I'd prefer not's less money in MY pocket, and I can't exercise any quality, I get no hard copies on hand to sell to local retailers, etc. On the other hand, it's a lot less hassle to just use their services (assuming I can make the thing work). *sigh* I don't know. At least the PDF has been selling well...gross sales have surpassed my costs, and the thing appears to have driven a resurgence in my other books' sales as well.

SO...gaming stuff. The seasons are changing. We are deep into Autumn. Holidays just around the corner. Conventions are out (for me), but D&D is definitely IN. 

I think I want to talk about campaigns. Let me scribble some notes and I'll come back with a proper post. Dentist appointments today.

Friday, October 15, 2021

D&D: Past & Present

Okay, let's forget all declarations that there's a "true" version of Dungeons & Dragons. I'm still running AD&D, I'm still advocating for folks to try it...and that's about it. Going forward, I intend to use it as my "base template" for discussion, but a lot of what I write will probably apply to other early edition versions of D&D (and they're respective, "clones") and I hope it will still be useful and/or interesting.

With regard to "D&D theorizing" I find that I've been torn in multiple directions, three or four. Something about the lack of heroes in B/X. Something-something about alignment. Ideas about running campaigns. And another thing about the push-pull between designing adventures and designing worlds. Other stuff.

These things...these "concepts"...have changed for me over the years. Some have changed based on my experiences. Some have changed because of time spent in contemplating conflicting view points. Some have (?) that I've held for a while (years) but that have been too amorphous, tough to pin down and are only just starting to "crystalize."

None of which matters much if you're not playing the game. And just lately (like the last month) I haven't been playing. Not nearly enough.

So let me get back to playing. I'm going to knock-off any hard and fast (or loosey goosey) D&D discussions until I have a chance to ramp up my play. Put some of my ideas into action. Do some experiential research, not just theory-bashing and declarative statements of provocation. 

It's Friday. The kids have the day off from school (they're sleeping in, at the moment). I think we're going to a pumpkin patch today. I believe we will be having out Blood Bowl "World Cup" championship game as well. The goblins beat the wood elves in the semi-finals 5-4 (in overtime) but it was a pyrrhic victory as two star players (including their best offensive weapon) were eaten by a hungry troll in successive turns (a 1-in-1296 chance of occurrence) and half the team ended up with broken hips, bashed skulls, or tomb stones. As such, they've withdrawn and the final will be played between the wood elves and the orks...the same match-up that kicked off the tournament back in August.

Hope everyone has a good weekend.
: )

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Straight Up Villains

A potential buyer of the new book, started a discussion thread at DriveThru with this:
"Information on running a villainous campaign for aspiring champions of evil" How does this part work? Does it provide a structure or sandbox tools for a campaign of forces of darkness besieging the "points of light"?
Figured I might as well turn my answer into a blog post while I while away the early (Sunday) morning hours.

COMES CHAOS as a B/X supplement, provides rules (game systems) for ripping apart the fabric of your campaign's "reality" with incursions of chaos. It's not Rifts (though some sort of mash-up of B/X, Comes Chaos, and Mutant Future would make for an interesting game), but there are tears caused by the worship of demonic powers that allow access to a different dimension: the Chaos Realm. As people do "bad things" these tears/rips open wider allowing the stuff of Chaos to blight your regular D&D world, creating mutants and monsters and wrecking the joint, as well as allowing demons to enter and cause more mischief and misery. 

That's the "default" idea behind the book: that you're going to use the rules to run a blighted campaign, where the PCs get the chance to fight back against the spread of Chaos, attempting to stem the tide. DMs can make the campaign as heroic or as hopeless as they want. You want this to be Elric and Moonglum fighting a losing battle against the forces of Pan Tang and the might of the Chaos dukes? You can do that. You want the PCs to be inquisitors and witch-hunters rooting out secret covens in the heart of the kingdom? You can do that, too. 

Of course, B/X is (generally) a game of looting crazy dungeons and hauling off tons of treasure; with Comes Chaos, you have a reason such places exist as towns and regions conquered by Chaos become havens for insane monsters chaos worshippers, hoarding the treasures of their terrorized (or converted or eaten) subject peoples. PCs that liberate such dungeons not only help beat back the blight, but can also get rich in the process!

Art by Kelvin Green the question asked. It is perhaps inevitable that folks will want to use Comes Chaos to play individual Chaos champions in the old-timey Warhammer fashion. While the book provides rules for creating NPC champions (including the gifts of their patron demons, the mutations that will eventually consume their bodies, and the minions that will serve as their slaves), these same game systems can be used for player characters wishing to be straight up villains. Such a campaign would involve the PCs working "cooperatively" (I use the term in the loosest of all possible senses) to spread blight themselves by conquering regions of Law and order. Scenario ideas are provided, x.p. adjustments, rules for several Chaos powers (which could, of course, be expanded upon by the enterprising DM), in addition to the systems needed to gradually transform player characters into hideous monstrosities or (even worse) mindless NPCs!

It's all good fun, and I imagine it would probably work in conjunction with the mass combat rules found in my B/X Companion (not sure, as I haven't tried doing so). Such campaigns, however, require participants to approach them with a different perspective than "standard D&D," as bits of player vs. player conflict are bound to crop up in such a game. For some groups this is a boatload of least in the short-term. But it does not make for good, long-term gaming, and the rules in Comes Chaos are written to ensure such forces of evil don't last. Chaos champions have a built-in shelf life, and even should they survive the challenges and conflicts that pervade their existence, their careers will eventually, spectacularly flame-out...generally in mutation and madness.

Hope that all makes sense. 
; )

Friday, October 8, 2021

Friday Updates

First a couple updates about the new book (COMES CHAOS): people are buying it (thanks to all my customers) so hopefully there will be a review or two in the near future. Some folks have had issues opening the original file, but this only seems to be the case when using the latest Adobe idea why. However, I've updated the product at DriveThru so that the purchase includes a cover-less PDF, and that has (so far) opened fine in ALL formats.

***EDIT: It appears the cover issues have been fixed.***

New Book...Fun!
I've been asked a couple times now about a print version of the book. That's in the works, but I don't have a release date yet. I wanted to get the book out and available so that folks would have it in time for any Halloween gaming escapades (it does have some "horror" elements)...but mainly it's been sitting on the hard drive so long, I just wanted to get the thing out and into the world. 

More biz updates (hopefully) in the next couple/few days.

[some folks might be curious why I'm bothering to publish/promote a B/X-based supplement when...for the last many moons...I've been writing fairly exclusively about AD&D and how it's the "truest" form of Dungeons & Dragons. There are multiple reasons, not the least of which are: the book was already written, B/X is still the system I'm most comfortable designing for, B/X is still an edition that is "worthy" of being played...AND I understand that for plenty of folks B/X is their preferred system (because it's streamlined, because it's quicker/easier, because it's a sensible, mostly complete game, etc.). Still, the main reason is: it was a nice piece of writing, and I want to be known as a dude who writes for this game, not just some balthering idiot with a blog. It makes my ego feel better to have published something]

Regarding our Blood Bowl World Cup: it is still on-going, but one team has its spot in the finals (Bubblegum Dynamite), and the other semi-final game is halfway done (we plan on finishing the 2nd half today). It's tough finding time to play full games with our busy schedule, but we're close, and will probably have a champion crowned by Sunday. The orcs punched their ticket to Cup game by demolishing the Amazons 1-0 (not a high scoring affair, but only five of the 'Ladies were left on the pitch by the end of the game). Unfortunately, their thrower was killed two games back and they will be forced to go with their "ground game" against a high scoring team, regardless of the outcome (the halftime score of our other semifinal? 3-2. And we're expecting more TDs in the second half of this classic shootout). Rough.

Of course, there are parallels to be drawn with the Seahawks losing their quarterback in last night's fiasco. Not that this concerns me over-much. I mean Gino Smith isn't Russell Wilson, no, but this season the quarterback isn't the problem. The defense is the problem. And the problem with the defense is f'ing Jamal Adams. You cannot build a proper orky defense around a goblin, and that is what Adams is. Well, in Blood Bowl terms. Watching him get erased by Cooper Kupp (a wide receiver one analyst described...the size and physique of a dentist) to spring a 29 yard run is at least as egregious as watching him give up 68 yard receptions and get beat like a drum in the endzone by a middle-of-the road tight end. In NFL terms, he's garbage...currently ranked the #70 safety in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

[for non-football fans: there are 32 NFL teams, and each has two starting safeties. Being outside the top 64 would mean sitting on the bench...and yet the Seahawks made him the highest paid safety in the game. Crap. Tastic.]

I blogged earlier that I'd softened my stance on Adams. Okay, yeah, no. No more. The book is out on him around the League: he is the pigeon of the defense. The, Rams...simplified their offense immensely in the 2nd half of last night's game: just go after Adams. In the run game. In the passing game. Doesn't matter. Where's #33? There he is. Call the play that attacks his position. For a guy who wanted to be paid more than B-Wags? An All Pro who will be in the Hall of Fame one day? No. Current BB stats:
#33 Goblin : MA 7 ST 2 AG 3 AV 8 Skills: Dauntless, Dodge, Right Stuff, Stunty, Thick Skull
He's still a better-than-average goblin (his line has four advances in the stat line), but he can't cover, he can't block, he can't tackle, he gets stood up by gutter runners...just sad. Damn, Seahawks. Losing at home...again. To the Rams...again.

Ah, well. MY orc team is built around solid defense. Yes, they have a goblin...he never saw the field in the semi-final. He is a last ditch, act-of-desperation player. Not the centerpiece to a defense. Good thing...the Seahawks are giving up 450 yards per game on defense this year. We'll see if they can fix it. In my opinion, they can't until they cut bait with Adams.

All right, that's enough bitchin-moaning. It's Friday for goodness sakes! And I've got a new book out (probably why I'm not as bitter, resentful as I might be...YES, I am actually in a good mood at the moment!). And lots of soccer to watch! Halleluja!

Have a great weekend, folks. Seriously. I fully intend to. At least I know my Sunday won't be wrecked by a dumpster-fire Seahawks game.
; )
Burn that uniform, gobbo.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Comes Chaos (for B/X)

SO...completely unrelated to anything I've written over the last few weeks, the new book (at least in electronic form) is finished.  That is to say: the PDF is available for purchase...or will be, once it's been vetted over at DriveThruRPG.

It's called COMES CHAOS. It is a campaign setting supplement for B/X. It is 64 pages long and features artwork by Kelvin Green. For the background/story of this work (started back in 2016...when I was still in Paraguay!) you can check out this old post on the subject.

Here's the marketing copy:
COMES CHAOS is a campaign setting designed for use with the B/X fantasy adventure game (and compatible retro-clones). It contains the information needed to transform your home campaign into a chaotic hellscape populated with mutants and demons, dark sorcery and depraved cultists. 

The book contains new ways to use old character classes. It contains dozens of spells of dark sorcery. More than 100 mutations and "gifts" of the dark powers. New combat options. Scores of monstrous foes and demons. More than 50 unholy magic items. Rules for creating chaotic wastelands, rules for corrupting player characters, rules for demons and cultists and for running a setting of ever encroaching chaos and the heroes that struggle against its rising tide. Information on running a villainous campaign for aspiring champions of evil, as well as guidelines for redeeming those who fall to darkness.

A 64 page book, illustrated by Kelvin Green. Whether you're looking for a unifying theme for your fantasy adventure game, or simply want to spice up your campaign with demonic possession and vile enchantments, COMES CHAOS has plenty of demented ideas for your enjoyment.

Cheers, folks. Happy Thursday!
: )

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Vids

[man, I've been writing some longwinded posts lately]

Waaaaay back in the comments on my "Drift" post, John Higgins wrote:
When I started playing in the 90s, we had two texts to draw from when learning how to play D&D: we had the Classic D&D Game boxed set (which has pretty much all of the same rules as Mentzer Basic and Moldvay Basic, any differences are minor to the point of trivial), and we had whatever AD&D 2nd Edition hardcovers and splatbooks we could get our hands on with what little money I and my fellow teenagers could scrape together (and the text of 2nd Edition is *terribly* prescriptive, always harping on the reader to practice "good roleplaying" over desiring high stats or powerful magic items or a powerful character, really driving home the dissonance between the venerable AD&D rules and the then-ascendant "trad" culture that said RPGs were all about story and character). 

And what did my friends and I learn from these texts? Very little, actually, because before we had ever rolled our first d20, we had already been thoroughly corrupted by JRPGs - Final Fantasy VII in particular - and assumed without even paying a jot of attention to the texts or the rules of (A)D&D that a role-playing game was a story simulator with some combat rules bolted on, just like the console and PC RPGs we were already familiar with. And so that was how we (mis-?)(ab-?)used (A)D&D.
This was a comment I meant to come back to, but never did (in my defense, I did have a lot of other stuff I wanted to jot down on Ye Old Blog before forgetting about it). However, John's comment in Friday's post about Second Edition Story Awards gave my brain a poke:
While I would never defend 2nd Edition's XP system, I'll say that it at least gets a perfectly functional implementation in the Infinity Engine video games (Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale). Monsters are worth exactly as much XP as in the tabletop 2e core rules, but every time the party completes a task or mission or quest (or slays the "final boss" of a dungeon), some fixed XP award is granted which appears to bear no formulaic relation to anything else (beyond, likely, the built-in assumption that the party will be of a certain level when they complete the task, and so the reward is vaguely commensurate with the difficulty and XP needed for a party of that level). I would even go so far as to say that Baldur's Gate is an example of the 2e XP system "working as intended" - insofar as it deviates from the text of the rulebooks but lines up quite well with how I remember every single 2e-playing group I've ever encountered actually running things.
So let's talk about the video game thing. Specifically computer RPGs that emulate fantasy adventure gaming in a style similar to Dungeons & Dragons.

I have, of course, played a couple/three of these over the years, but probably not as many as one might expect of a geeky D&D blogger. Fact is, my family didn't even have a personal computer in the house till sometime around 1988 (an Amiga 500 for the curious), which was purchased around the same time I was entering high school. This probably seems crazy to folks now, but my parents even debated whether or not we NEEDED a computer (this is before the ubiquitous internet, young 'uns) and while, sure, it was easy enough in those days to say "computers are the FUTURE," there wasn't much imagination for what one would USE a computer for in the home. I mean, we had a typewriter for goodness sake (which I used to type term papers and such in middle school). Would a word processor alone be enough reason to justify the expense? 

Because the MAIN thing most kids were doing with PCs in those days was playing video games, and my parents weren't big fans of such things...for any number of reasons (most valid). They certainly weren't getting the 'puter for that. We may have had some idea that I would have learned how to code or write BASIC with the thing...but once we got it home we found the thing's proprietary "user friendly" OS was absolute shit for this purpose (you couldn't even ACCESS code with it), so those dreams died on the vine. In the end, it did turn out to be a pretty shitty investment. I wrote a few papers using Word Perfect in high school (that I could just have easily done by hand), and I played a handful of video games before the system became obsolete (sometime around 1992). But my parents were divorced by then, and I was in university (or, later, work) where I had access to computers when I needed them.

I didn't buy a computer for myself (my first laptop) till after I was married and had purchased my first house (circa 2005). And that was with the idea that I might start doing some writing stuff (like games or books or something). 

I give this brief history as a way to explain: I have never played games like Baldur's Gate or Pool of games published in collaboration with TSR and aimed at emulating the AD&D game. For gamers of a certain age, these video games were their introduction to tabletop gaming...their development as D&D gamers were largely informed by these games, and their assumptions and expectations of play exhibit the sentiments instilled by these products.

Contrarily, I was tabletop gamer looong before I ever fired up "Bard's Tale" on my old Amiga, and as such I come to the CRPG genre with a different perspective: here is a way to play (in abbreviated fashion) D&D when D&D isn't otherwise available to you. At times when I didn't have a solid gaming group, and yet still had a deep desire to play, it was something that could scratch an itch. These games SUCK compared to the thing they were supposed to emulate, but they were OKAY.  Plus, no need to juggle schedules with all the players: fire the thing up and the entire party is present. Sure, they lack the personality of real players (I hope!) and probably the creativity when it comes to challenges....but they are, at least, absolutely reliable.

Not D&D
But I'm not relying on these games to teach me how D&D works or plays. I am not looking at these games to show me how (as a DM) to design a campaign. I see them as the limited entities that they are: SSI's game Phantasie III is cool enough to have PC's travel to other planes of existence (the Plane of Light, the Plane of Darkness, and the Netherworld)...and, at the end, also gives you the choice whether to join the bad guys or good guys by the end (saving the world or damning it)...but compared to an ACTUAL game of D&D, even such choices and options are incredibly limited.

At least, if you're used to running a game that isn't a railroad / adventure "path" travesty.

Hey, I played one or two of those old "Fighting Fantasy" books (Choose Your Own Adventure with dice); they were a little better than a CYOA (or TSR's "Endless Quest" series), but you're still only playing someone else's story. A computer RPG is a bigger, sweeter version of the same thing, using the computer's computing ability to juggle and care for all the fiddly bits and dice rolls. But it's still just playing out someone else's story. And it is constrained by the limitations of the medium, in a way that the human mind and imagination just is not. And fun as it is, as awesome as it may be to play, NONE of these CRPG's provide adequate teaching or preparation for running your own campaign as a Dungeon Master; at best, they can give you some ideas on how to be a storyteller, just not the same thing.

Because it's not just about drawing dungeons or wilderness maps, and it's not just about coming up with good "scenarios." To paraphrase an old war aphorism: all campaign ideas seem good until they make contact with the players. Managing that, is really what being a Dungeon "Master" is all about. 

[though being a "master" of the system is also an important bit]

Now, I joke fairly regularly about being an Old Man...I do that on the blog, I do it with my family, I do it with 20- and 30-somethings I come in contact with. But I'm not really that old at all...I certainly don't feel "old" (middle aged, yes...and I've got some creaky past injuries that bother me from time-to-time). Despite my slow start with getting into the "computer thang" I'm not completely hopeless/lost/uncomfortable when it comes to technology...if I'm resistant to it, it's mainly due to my annoyance with having to learn new ways of doing things, not an incapacity/fear of doing so. But while I'm not really an "old man," I am old enough that (especially with regard to gaming) I straddle two worlds: life before ubiquitous (user friendly) computers/tech, and life after. And because my formative years were from "the time before" so, too, are my sensibilities about a LOT of things. I watch too much TV and read too little compared to what I once did, for example, but my opinion of what is "too much" and "too little" is directly informed by the fact that once there was less TV to watch and more books worth reading on the shelves.

[ooo...someone's probably going to get mad about that last statement]

My particular perspective is a shrinking one: the more years pass, the more folks are born on the other side of the Great Divide. Plenty of people born before the advent of the "smart phone" have grown up never really knowing the "inconvenience" of a phone tethered to your wall. Plenty of folks in their 30s have never known a television that didn't have at least "basic" cable...or even the days of changing a channel without a remote control (can you imagine!). I was just explaining to my kids how, when I was their age, MOST of the home baseball team's 162 games could only be heard on the radio...and how that allowed folks to do other things (while still listening to the call) instead of sitting on their ass in front of their video altar.

The Dungeons & Dragons game was published by a middle aged man, but it was written for folks of a younger (and more imaginative) persuasion. And it is still being published for those types of individuals. But the number of "young people" of the '70s and '80s, are far outnumbered by the "young people" of the '90s, '00s, '10s, and (now) '20s...and that outnumbered sensibility is only going to get greater the more time passes. My own kids, now D&D players, have never yet played a computer RPG...but even their sensibilities are colored by the time in which they live. They have so much more need of much more need of being entertained instead of finding ways to entertain themselves. Video games and tablets and cell phones and laptops are just such an easy drug to hook up to...let alone a television set with a gazillion channels and streaming services.

Damn frigging insidious.

To all my "young" readers that are trying to unlearn D&D lessons taught to them by computer games...or the lessons of editions of D&D that were written to emulate video games that were created to emulate D&D: I feel for you. And I don't judge you or your particular notions of what D&D "is." And I will try to help (if I can) or point you to better bloggers/writers than myself (when I can't) to try to offer you different options, a different perspective. I'll try. 

But right now, I have to wash some dishes. They haven't yet invented the app to do that.

Friday, October 1, 2021

"Story Awards"

[file this under the "bashing someone's edition" category]

Comments on my Wednesday post had me going back and forth a bit with Dan regarding 2nd Edition AD&D and its reward much so that I had to go back to my battered copy of the 2E DMG (I keep one on hand for reference) and try parsing out the system yet again. 

First, a note on my experience with 2E: it ain't much. I quit playing AD&D around 1988 after my original gaming group "broke up." Met some kids in my high school who still played, but A) they continued to play 1E even into the '90s, and B) D&D just wasn't my "scene" any more (at that time). We gamed together, but it was generally Palladium, Vampire, Stormbringer, or something weird (Toon or random shit). Later on, in my 20s and looking to get back into D&D I delved deep into the RC/BECMI realm...and could find no takers. So I decided to buck up and get the 2E books. Ran one aborted game (the group dissolved in argument before we even started) and played in another with an experienced 2E DM...however, while I had fun with the latter the whole thing degenerated into a shit-storm because:

A) we wouldn't play on the DM's rails, and
B) all the PCs had different agendas

[the party consisted of a ranger, a rogue, and a "war-priest" (this latter being a mechanical fighter who fashioned himself the holy man of a god who did not grant spells or turning ability, but instead allowed edged weapons and better combat prowess). The ranger was happy to do whatever (as long as he could shoot guys with arrows), the "priest" wanted to build his religion (asserting dominion over bandit groups and whatnot by besting their leaders and converting them), and the rogue was being played like an old-school thief, picking pockets, sneaking around and stealing shit, etc. The DM eventually threw his hands up at trying to manage us into his adventure]

I own exactly three 2E-era modules, and only one of them have I tried running (as a 1E adventure); two of them I picked up"research" purposes. We'll get to those in a minute. Point is: not much experience with 2E. Had a buddy in college that wanted to start a 2E campaign (can't remember, but he might have wanted ME to run it. Didn't happen), but that never got off the ground. Still, while I have read the books, once or twice, I'm far from an expert on 2E, nor have I any experience of running or playing in a 2E campaign. Its nuances are bound to escape me.

[oh, wait...I did some SpellJammer stuff with/for Steve-O. That's 2E, right? But that was a loooong time ago; we played far more Rifts than SJ]

Back to yesterday...Dan wrote:
You keep calling Individual XP "standard" when it's specifically called out in the book as an optional rule. Never used it, and never played with any else who used it either.
Dan is correct. On page 46 of the 2E DMG; here is what it says in the Experience Point Awards section:
There are two categories of experience point awards: group and individual. Group awards are divided equally among all members of the adventuring party, regardless of each individual's contribution. The idea here is that simply being part of a group that accomplishes something teaches the player character something useful.

From a strictly game mechanics point of view, this ensures that all player characters will have the opportunity to advance in experience points at roughly the same rate. Individual awards are optional, given to each player based on the actions of his character and his character's class.
Emphasis added by moi. This is the only place where it is noted that class XP awards are is NOT noted on page 48 (where the class awards are listed), although there is a side bar regarding individual awards for clever ideas, role-playing, encouragement of others, etc. that is EXPLICITLY noted as being an "optional rule." When you list one "optional rule" in a sidebar to another section, I think you can be forgiven for making my mistake (especially when the section text begins with "there are two categories of XP awards: group and individual..."). Ah, well. 

[I will note my one stint playing in someone's 2E game, these individual awards were NOT deemed optional, which was part of what led to our breakdown in play: fighter was trying to fight, thief was trying steal, etc. Does not make for a cooperative atmosphere]

SO there are only two ACTUAL, non-optional XP awards in 2E: combat awards (hello 3E, 4E, and 5E!) and story awards. Combat awards are strictly mechanical: there's a table based on a defeated opponent's level/HD which is modified by special abilities...very similar to all prior editions of D&D. The "story award" is different; here's what the text says:
This other group award is that earned for the completion of an adventure. This award is determined by the DM, based on the adventure's difficulty. There is no formula to determine the size of this award, since too many variable come into play. However, the following guidelines may help:

The story award should not be greater than the experience points that can be earned defeating the monsters encountered during the adventure...

The story award should give a character no more than 1/10th the experience points he needs to advance a level...

Within these guidelines you have a great deal of leeway. 
There is more to the section but it offers nothing concrete, only discussing how XP is used to monitor (and regulate) character progress, some notes about handing out arbitrary "survival" awards (properly noting "survival is its own reward"), and penalizing XP earned by PCs that died during an adventure.

What isn't discussed is...well, a lot. Like the fact that different character classes require different XP amounts to level so that "one-tenth" limitation isn't going to apply equally among classes. Nor is there a discussion of what constitutes a "story" or its "completion" or what to do when the party deviates from what the DM feels is the story proper.

[is Bilbo's story about killing a dragon or is it about stealing some gold from its hoard or is it about finding self-reliance, courage, and leadership? And is his story the same as the Thorin's?]

So, I spent the morning digging through the closet in my office (a monumental feat if you've never seen it) to find the three 2E adventures I own for a little guidance on this whole "story award" thing; they are: Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (John Rateliff), Return to White Plume Mountain (Bruce Cordell), and Night Below: an Underdark Campaign (Carl Sargent). Hoo-boy!

As I noted back in 2017, Rateliff in RtKotB strongly urges DMs to use the "optional" (old edition) mechanic of giving XP for treasure found. This in addition to "any appropriate story awards." Regarding the latter Rateliff writes:
Appropriate story awards are listed at various points in the text; generally speaking, rescuing hostages, defeating the plans of evil characters, and eliminating a threat to the Keep are all achievements worthy of experience point awards. For each cave in the Caves of Chaos that is completely cleaned out, give the group a story award. 
He then lists some actual numbers: 100 XP for Caves A through E, 200 XP for Caves F, G, H, and J, and 300 XP for Caves I and K. 
These story awards are in addition to any experience points gained in actually exploring said cave [note: Rateliff's emphasis, not mine]. When the adventure deviates from the established script [??], extrapolate the story awards listed in the text to come up with appropriate awards for your player characters.
Okay, then. What story awards are actually listed in the text? Nothing. There are none. Good work, Rateliff.

[please feel free to point out any I missed. I read/skimmed the book twice today and found nothing]

Okay, so: "completing the adventure" equals "genocide." Or something. I see why he "strongly urges" DMs to use the old x.p. for gold system. Moving right along...

Cordell's Return to White Plume Mountain is the adventure I have (years ago) tried running with 1st edition rules; it didn't go very far, but I am familiar with it. Cordell's a pro's pro and explicitly lists the (2E) XP Awards in a prominent section at the end of the adventure:
The characters may be eligible for additional experience points based on their actions. Each character actively involved in ending the threat of the False Kerapti should receive an XP story-award of 1,000 times his or her level. If the heroes save the child-Keraptis from the shade of the vengeance, each receives an additional 2,000 XP. If they refuse to give the child-Keraptis up to the Resistance (the easy way out), but instead find a good and proper foster home for him, award each PC an additional 3,000 XP. 
Well, that's all pretty cut-n-dry right? Defeat the bad guys, save the kid, and get him to a good home and you can earn 12,000 to 15,000 XP (the adventure is for characters 7th - 10th level). Which is a bit outside the one-tenth guideline limit for story awards, but it's close (unless you're playing a rogue).

What's NOT cool, though is this: you've got a fairly brutal, 80+ encounter dungeon with a "hook" that has NOTHING to do with defeating "false Kerapti" or "saving a [special special] child." The (multiple) hooks boil down to:
  • Retrieving a stolen magic weapon (yours or someone else's)
  • Rescuing an old friend
  • Investigating "rumors of evil"
  • Curiosity (anything in that-there mountain?)
Screw. You. Cordell.

SO, assuming you're running the adventure straight AND you're not using any optional rules AND your DM isn't telegraphing the plot like a madman (i.e. railroading, etc.) THEN the only x.p. you could potentially end up with is from the monsters you fight? What does that encourage PCs to do?

I *thought* (briefly) that perhaps "story XP" would be awarded for recovering the various magical weapons. I mean, that's one of the main hooks for the adventure (go find Wave). And look here! Each of the magic weapons lists an "XP Value" with its description. That must be what it's for, right?

No. ALL magic items in 2E have an XP Value. But I thought 2E didn't award XP for finding treasure. It doesn't:
Note: XP Value is the number of experience points a character gets for making an item.
[DMG2E, page 135]

Remember those "optional" individual XP awards? Right. Wizards (optionally) earn XP for enchanting items. If your 2E wizard makes Blackrazor (and the DM is using the optional individual awards), you character will get 8,000 XP. D&D, that.

SO...we go on this cool adventure...that has a hidden goal/objective. We spend multiple sessions exploring its multiple levels of danger. We maybe NEVER accomplish the "hidden" story award of the thing. But as long as we're fighting and killing everything we encounter, we'll earn experience towards leveling. 

Great. Plowing ahead...

Big Fat Adventure
Night Below!
This book is massive. I ordered it POD off DriveThru sometime back, and it's a couple hundreds of pages (not counting dozens of maps). Originally a three-book boxed set, it is considered one of the finest offerings of the 2E era (here's a review); it is an ENTIRE CAMPAIGN designed to take PCs "from 1st level to 10th level and beyond." Check this part out (from page 9 of the introductory chapter):
Earned XP
This campaign assumes that characters gain XP for monetary treasure, at the rate of 1 XP for each gp value of the treasure. DMs not wishing to employ this optional rule should increase XP story awards to compensate, ensuring that the PCs advance at a sufficient rate to meet the challenges of the adventure. Playtesting shows that to maintain campaign balance, PCs should earn some 60% of XP from sources other than slaying monsters.
Oh, 2E.  When it comes to XP for treasure, 2E says "I just can't quit you."

Night Below offers an interesting sub-system called Social Collapse Points (SCPs) that PCs earn as they destabilize the evil subterranean societies, and succeeding at bringing about this collapse does earn the characters bonus XP in the thousands, but almost all of the things that earn SCPs are either slaying monsters or destroying/vandalizing property. But that's part of the "story awards" for Book 2 of the campaign (that section effectively ends once collapse had been achieved). The story awards I could thus find include:
  • 1,000 XP for concluding Book 1 IF the PCs can wipe out the bad guys in a single foray.
  • 5,000 XP for earning 50 SCPs in Book 2
  • 5,000 XP for earning 100 SCP's in Book 2
  • 100,000 XP for destroying the ultimate Big Bad in Book3
But there IS a lot of treasure in Night Below....though probably not enough, considering the lack of XP awarded for magic items in 2E.

Hey, folks. I know the following thought is probably going to be met with some ire, but I'm going to post it anyway. In my last post, with regard to "story awards," Dan wrote:
I have no idea where you get the idea that this discourage self-starters. An adventure is an adventure, regardless of whether the DM lays it out on a platter or the PCs choose it themselves. Finding a goblin lair in the wilderness and looting it is a completed adventure just as much as slogging through a boring Dragonlance module is. I have never run a game with XP for treasure in my life, and player engagement has never been a problem.
How does one define adventure? In B/X, it is a single game session; does this hold true for 2E? If not, where is the adventure's beginning? Where is its end? Who says when it's over? The DM? In a B/X or 1E game, PCs can beg off at any time...because they don't like the scenario, the risk versus reward, whatever. But this idea that a "story" must be "completed" is a shitty, shitty concept.

What it SOUNDS like...and please disabuse me if this is that 2E advancement is, at its simplest, just "combat experience multiplied by two." That is, you get experience points for defeating opponents, and then you get the same experience ("x.p. equal to defeated opponents") whenever the adventure is considered to be "done." Which...well, that's just 3E again, but with a different formula for calculating it, no?

Am I mistaken?

I want to continue this discussion (somewhat) in my next post, but it won't be about 2E specifically. In an effort to be constructive, I'm going to talk about the positive aspects of 1E's reward system.

Have a good weekend, folks.
: )