More AD&D Gaming Thoughts from Daniel J. Davis

The episode of Geek Gab that Jeffro Johnson and I were on talking about the implied setting of AD&D has sparked some incredibly thought-provoking posts from author Daniel J. Davis on his Brain Leakage blog.

http://www.brainleakage.com/home/between-appendix-n-and-pink-slime

http://www.brainleakage.com/home/the-implied-apocalypse-of-dungeons-dragons

This is seriously good stuff, and you ought to start paying attention to this guy.

Also, don’t forget, there’s only 5 days left to back Wild Stars, which is also being adapted into a setting for Amazing Adventures 5e!

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Wild Stars: B/X D&D Stats for Griefs

Wild Stars is great adventure fodder for your tabletop RPG. So much so that there may be an Amazing Adventure 5e supplement created for it by Troll Lord Games in the not so distant future.

But you guys know me. I’m a B/X person, myself, and so are a lot of our readers. So to whet your appetite for the new 35th Anniversary Edition of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars, I’ve statted up the three species of Griefs for use in your Moldvay/Cook or [God help your players] your Holmes Basic D&D game!

For when regular dinosaurs aren’t bad enough and you want space dinosaurs, including ones that can use magic items…

[Boxed text is from The Wild Stars Navigational Chart: the Multiversal Guide appendix included in Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising.]

Wild Stars 3 Cover Tim Lim Version

Left: One-Eye, the Red Grief about to eat the Space Pirate Queen, Mark Wheatley. Right: Bully Bravo and Tall Trees Wolf attacked by a pack of Saurocats, Timothy Lim

Brown Grief: The largest of the three tyrannosaurid species native to Miri/Magus IV/Akara’s World. Mostly a scavenger because of their hulking size and slow movement, ugly is the word most often used to describe their appearance.
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 20
Move: 60′ (20′)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 6d6
No. Appearing: 1d2
Save As: Fighter: 10
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

 

Red Grief: A pack predator, red griefs are one of the three tyrannosaurid species on Miri/Magus IV/Akara’s World. Standing at the shoulder twice the height of a man, they look like a cross between a tyrannosaurus and a raptor and are only half the size of a brown grief. With a large, rounded blunt horn on the tip of their snout, the heads of red griefs are longer than a brown grief, and they have spinal armor plates all along their backs, tipped with long red needles that from a distance look like a crest of blood red feathers. They employ a pack strategy of noisy interaction amongst themselves, which is intended to make the herds they prey on accustomed to their presence and lower their guard.

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 10
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 3-18
No. Appearing: 1-7 (2d4-1)
Save As: Fighter: 7
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

Red Grief packs of 4 or more will have a “leader”, usually a female. These “queens” are 10HD + 4. When present, the Red Griefs will have Morale 10. If the queen is eliminated, the rest of the pack will have Morale 8.

DireGriefFace

Dire Grief, by Armando Gil from Wild Stars II: Force Majeure

Dire Griefs: These are the smallest of the three types of tyrannosaurid griefs native to Miri/Magus IV/Akara’s World, but by far the most dangerous. Usually solitary, ambush predators, they are unique from the other griefs because of their telepathic skills that are responsible for their other name, Vampire Dragons. They also have the ability of optical camouflage and can hide in plain sight if they wish. After they gained possession of a Marzanti trident, dire griefs also became known as Dragon Kings.

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 7***
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 3-18
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter: 7
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Special*
Alignment: Neutral

Special Abilities: May use Clairvoyance, ESP, Invisibility as at-will abilities.

Dire Griefs surprise on a roll of 1-5 on 1d6.

*:Sometimes Dire Griefs may come into possession of magic items, particularly staffs. If a Dire Grief is in a populated or trafficked area [lair is not all-wilderness adjacent or roads pass through hex], there is 25% chance of the Dire Grief having 1d4 magical items in their lair [at least one will be a staff-type item]. There is an additional 10% chance that the Dire Grief will have the staff in its possession. Dire Griefs are intelligent and able to use magic items with an 80% chance of success.

[These stat entries are unofficial and not directly affiliated with Troll Lord Games, their upcoming Amazing Adventures 5e system, or their upcoming Wild Stars RPG setting supplement for said system.]

Wild Stars Launches Tomorrow + Wild Stars RPG

Tomorrow, we begin taking pre-orders for the Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising and the rest of the 35th Anniversary goodies, but I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to this other crowdfund from Chenault & Grey / Troll Lord Games.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=amazing%20adventures

C&G / Troll Lord is a local Little Rock-based publisher, best known for Castles & Crusades. Last year, they also published Michael Tierney’s Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology.

The Amazing Adventures RPG crowdfund on Kickstarter includes a $50,000 stretch goal for a Wild Stars RPG supplement.

While admittedly, 5e does not feel very D&D-like to me, I’ve noted frequently in the past that it would be a good system for super-hero teams. And Wild Stars features all sorts of crazy aliens and monsters and immortal space warriors, so a system like Amazing Adventures could be perfect for it! If you want to see a Wild Stars RPG setting, you have 5 days to back and put them over that $50k stretch-goal.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that our upcoming edition of Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising contains an extensive bio-glossary appendix, Wild Stars Navigational Chart: The Multiversal Guide, effectively making this fall release one of the first supplements, valuable to old fans and new.

We’ll be launching our own crowdfund tomorrow morning around 9-10 CST.

Finally, on top of everything else, tomorrow our illustrated edition of Leigh Brackett’s Black Amazon of Mars drops! So if you haven’t pre-ordered it, be sure to do so!

Black Amazon of Mars Front Only

70th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of Leigh Brackett’s Enchantress of Venus Out Today!

Dark Secrets of an Inhuman Race Lie Hidden Beneath the Seas of Venus!

Eric John Stark travels the shores of Venus’ gaseous red seas seeking the whereabouts of a missing comrade. Pursuing this mystery puts him in the hands of the Lhari, a cruel and power-hungry family that rules over the pirate enclave of Shuruun!

Beneath the waves, the Lhari’s doomed slaves live and toil among ancient ruins, seeking out the lost super-weapon of the precursors. And Stark must join them or die!

If Varra, a vain and petty Lhari princess, can control both Stark and this lost weapon, all of Venus may be within her grasp!

An all new edition of Leigh Brackett’s classic planetary romance, fully illustrated by StarTwo and with a foreword by Jeffro Johnson, author of Appendix N: A Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons!

Enchantress Cover for ebook

How to Solve the Problem of Players Becoming Murder-Hobos

Marie Cham asks:

Dear , From one dm to another, how can you stop/prevent your players from always becoming murder-hobos and killing their way through your campaign? Sincerely yours, a desperate dm that has tried for 4 years.

Well, I may not be Matthew Mercer, and I may not play a DM on a Youtube show, but as someone who has DMed and been a part of groups that have cured players of their murderhoboing, I may be somewhat qualified to answer.

My recommendation is simple:

  • Play B/X
  • Do not use negative hitpoints
  • Let Characters die because Players make bad choices

The first point really is mostly a preference choice that facilitates the third point. But if you let the choices that players make have serious consequences, even power players will shift their play-style towards more creative solutions than “kill everything”.

Your players party WILL go through a “kill everything with fire” phase of abject terror, where they realize that the horrors out there will kill them, but they haven’t quite figured out how to deal with it. Parties will learn quickly, however, that stone structures do not burn well…

Murder-hoboing is a behavior that CAN be trained away. Social contracts and pleading for your players to behave differently is ineffective because behavior is often facilitated by the game itself (not just the system, but “game”, meaning the sum of the system, the players, the DM, the adventure, etc.). B/X is an excellent training ground for changing this behavior because it shifts the equation in favor of that change. Characters are not overpowered and mistakes/bad decision making can be lethal. No, don’t kill characters to kill them, but allowing characters to suffer the consequences of their choices can put a kibosh on murderhoboing pretty quickly.

This approach is a great remedy for “always chaotic evil” guy, who will start coming up with characters who contribute positively and meaningfully to the group. And it helps murderhoboing parties because that situation usually comes from the whole group rather than a single player. It’s a mind-set that consequences can break.

“Oh, my asshole character died because I made bad choices” is going to bring about real change in a way that sitting everyone down and saying “Can you please not play an asshole this time?” simply will not.

As an addendum, I will say that I absolutely HATE people who say things like “Just tell everyone that you won’t tolerate a murder-hobo campaign! I mean, we’re all mature adults, right?!”

It treats people’s gaming groups as disposable and interchangeable. Sure, kick out intolerable players whose behavior can’t be changed, many people have a limited supply of friends with whom they can play D&D. And the behavior CAN be changed by teaching. Such an approach is needlessly reductive and an unhelpful suggestion, because even though players CAN be taught to play better, this is saying “it’s not worth it teach your players a new way of playing; get new friends.”

You don’t need new friends. You don’t necessarily need a new game–after you’ve done your road-work on B/X, you can switch back to other systems, the skills your players picked up will carry over. What you DO need to do is understand that behaviors at the table can change and are shaped by consequences–reward and punishment, carrot and stick.

 

Goblin Slayer and the PulpRev

With the first series of Goblin Slayer wrapping up, I wanted to touch on the show that’s been not only one of the number one animes in North America but has also been rather popular among the PulpRev crowd.

I enjoyed Goblin Slayer, but when all was said and done, it occurred to me that not only was it not a great anime, it was not even a particularly good anime—what gave it the illusion of greatness was that it met all of the meager expectations it set, delivering in heaping doses what little it promised. It set a low bar and clears it with ease. You want to watch a show where a guy kills goblins? This is it, chief. The utter lack of pretension is far more delicious than the “fake depth” many shows try to coast on before crashing in a mess at the end. Goblin Slayer needs no apologia, and there are no great divides in the fandom over thema, symbolism, and other minutia.

goblin slayer

Is Goblin Slayer pulpy? The only reason I ask is that it’s pretty well loved by the PulpRev crowd. And thinking about it, not only is it not particularly pulpy or Appendix N-style fantasy, it’s Pink Slime fantasy to a degree even worse than Record of Lodoss War; it’s pure, in a vacuum, D&D fan-fic.

What separates it Lodoss, however, and many other pink slime fantasies is that the D&D it draws from (if indeed it is drawing from D&D; evidence abounds) is of the older, classic variety, in which the purpose of “adventurers” is to kill monsters, because monsters represent an existential threat to mankind and because they have treasure. Goblin Slayer lacks the pretense of the game in which great and powerful forces are at work and the heroes must act because the fate of the world is at stake and the party represents the champions of all humanity and all that is good.* There are no destined saviors, chosen ones, lost princelings, who are going to stop the Dark Lord. That none of the characters in Goblin Slayer even have names beyond what they do or have accomplished or what their profession is almost serves to lampshade this lack of “special” and “important” fantasy heroes in its narrative. In D&D terms, these are characters who lasted a couple adventures and gained reputations around the table, rather than being wadded up and thrown in the trash because they died—this in contrast to the contemporary trend in D&D to craft intricate backstories for the very-special-snowflake characters who are destined for great things and will almost certainly having nothing too bad happen to them because the player might throw a hissy-fit.

The first episode of Goblin Slayer, which created quite a stir for its brutality and graphic nature**, mainly served to illustrate that the kind of game that inspired Goblin Slayer*** is the kind in which level one characters die in the dungeon and you have to roll up new ones. There’s no point in bringing your very special bisexual tiefling princess with daddy issues who is the most beloved of her tribe to the goblin cave, because the goblin and his spear that will kill her don’t give a shit about your character’s backstory.

I think that, even though Goblin Slayer is shallow and derivative fantasy to the extreme, this is the reason why it resonated so well with the PulpRev crowd, a group that grew largely from the OSR and which preferred the more brutal old school style of Dungeons & Dragons to the modern narrative-driven style of play that’s come to dominate tabletop gaming.

*: This is going on to some extent in the background; the setting is the aftermath of an earlier such conflict—but the climactic battle is not to save the world or even a town, but rather the farm where the girl who likes the Goblin Slayer lives.

**: Yo, the way everyone was talking about that first episode, I was expecting Mezzo Forte levels of gratuitous…

***:Look at all the goddamn dice rolling and talk of gods rolling dice and try to convince yourself it’s anything but TTRPG inspired.

Running Holmes at AR RPG Con

I only ended up with two players at the con, but one was one of my regulars, and the other was The Mixed GM, so we made it work. Players ran two characters and I ran a “hireling”.

This won’t be a full run-down, but some observations and remarks on highlights.

Both times I’ve run Xenopus, the parties have known that the sea cliff where Lemunda might be held was to the west, and both times the parties made a B-line west. Main difference, this time the party was insistent on dealing with the out-of-depth 31 HP spider instead of going around it. They didn’t kill it, but they eventually hurt it bad enough that it wasn’t going to mess with them.

The party wanted some extra muscle, so I pulled out a character sheet for a pirate I’d played in a couple other games. Following a bad ‘you had to be there’ joke, Crusty Jim became Trusty Jim. And any character named Trusty just HAD to betray the party at some point. It made for a pretty wild fight in the sea caves, as pirates kept pouring in and Jim tried to make off with both Lemunda and the contract for the reward for her return.

Crusty Jim was going to try to convince Lemunda that he was the only one there to rescue her and he was rescuing her from the party. She might have helped him row away and beat the party chasing him. This didn’t happen, because Crusty Jim has CHA 4 and is OBVIOUSLY A PIRATE.

Just for the hell of it, I ran Lemunda as a MU; she tried to Charm Person Crusty Jim when they were in the boat together, but he succeeded on his saving throw. Her class was never relevant from that point forward. The players were unaware this even happened. Oh well.

Using the Holmes wandering monsters chart can land you with some weird stuff, but I just went with it. There was no good reason for a bunch of Norse Berserkers to be hanging out, but they somehow joined the party. And one of them fought a character to the death for the right to have the +1 sword. He also guzzled a potion of growth that someone asked him to just taste, so for a few minutes, there was a 12′ Nord romping around with the party.

The climactic fight ended up being with a neutral party of mouthy elves who’d mostly rolled utility spells. A random encounter roll had placed the large elf party in the same room with the ghouls. Two sleeps would’ve been the end of everyone, but bad rolls and poor economy of action resulted in the players overcoming and looting some dead elves.

They never found the wizard or his tower. Therefore, I didn’t get to use the little monkey mini my GF loaned me.

They went through maybe half of the 18 pre-gens I rolled up for the con.

Even without playing it straight and throwing extra pre-gens at big problems, two characters would’ve reached level 2, a dwarf and a thief. If the adventure had been played straight and not like a con game one-off, it could’ve easily been more.

Mixed GM’s dwarf actually survived the adventure from start to finish.

With two players, Holmes’ wonky initiative ended up not being a problem at all.

Dammit, they went into the Rat Tunnels! I ended up having to sketch out additional rat tunnels…