Review: Assault on the Review of Nations

Assault on the Review of Nations is a 1st level adventure for the OSR system Shitlord: the Triggering. It is the first 3rd party product for the system and is available for free here from the Mixed GM.

Assault on the Review of Nations has the appearance of a fairly straight-forward dungeon crawl, though does have a few interesting opportunities for roleplay and negotiations which leave the module open ended.

The map, created by Gozzy’s “Random Dungeon Map Creator” is fairly generic, and comes more from the Holmes school of dungeon design than the Gygaxian. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, however it would’ve been cool to see something that captured the flavor of the Review of Nations, maybe something that looked like an eagle or somesuch. Still, it’s serviceable and, as this is a 1st level adventure, will not be too difficult for a neophyte mapper to get a handle on.

Judging by the wandering monster encounters, this would probably be best for a smaller group; with the exception of the giant beetles, whose 2d6 numbers could easily end up as a TPK at first level, most random encounters would be a pushover for a standard 6-man B/X party. I’d recommend adjusting the number of monsters by an additional die or die size for each additional Player beyond the 3rd.

Though showing the page number where the monsters may be found in the Shit:T core book is helpful, including a simple statblock would be nice.

One interesting direction taken with the Cheese Puff Golem and Lou Richly are the bonus hit points. Typically, with monsters that are X HD + Y, the Y will most often be 1 and almost never greater than X. The plus generally functions as a way to prevent 1HP monsters, make monsters just a touch more powerful, and negate an obscure Fighter bonus. The Cheese Puff Golem and Lou Richly are 2HD + 10 and 3HD + 9 respectively. That’s something you almost never see, but has a few interesting mechanical implications. Monster attacks in B/X are primarily based on their hit dice – the more hit dice they have, the better the chance they have to hit. With these bonuses, you have monsters with roughly 5 Hit Dice worth of HP only attacking with +2 and +3. This makes encountering them much more survivable by 1st level characters with decent armor while allowing them to take a bit of a walloping.

Overall, this is an amusing little adventure that will help you bring the joke to your table if that’s something you really want to do. Perfect for a one-off gag. Not meaty enough if you’re wanting to run a ‘serious’ adventure, but there’s only so much seriousness to begin with if you’re playing Shitlord. Let’s face it, while someone COULD put together something of the scope of Death & Taxes for S:tT, at that point it’s almost missing the joke.

Solutions to Bring Vancian Magic into Your OD&D/Holmes/Moldvay Game

I’ve written in the past how Basic D&D’s magic system isn’t truly Vancian. I’m not talking Vancian in the “Fire and Forget” manner which has become so reviled because it is so misunderstood. I’m talking Vancian in the sense that the flavors of the mechanics evoke the sense of one having to scrounge for and collect ancient lost and forgotten arcana at great cost.

In OD&D and (to a lesser degree) Holmes, Magic Users have access to all spells at levels they can cast at. There are even rules that imply they can simply go down to the spell emporium and buy a replacement spellbook at fixed cost to replace any spellbook they lost. In B/X, Magic Users only learn one spell/add one spell to their spellbook per level. In all of those cases, there’s no finding scrolls to learn new spells by adding them to your spellbook.

Shitlord: the Triggering settles on a hybrid of Holmes and AD&D that allows you to incorporate truly Vancian magic into your setting, and it arrives at the place that my own house-rules on magic were more or less heading.

S:tT uses Holmes’s Intelligence chart for chance to learn spells and minimum/maximum number of basic spells per level for its Bullshitter (Magic User) class. It specifies that “a beginning Bullshitter’s spell book contains as many of the eight basic first level spells as the newb character can know.” However, it goes on to specify that a MU would need to find and copy new spells into his spellbook. So, here is how it would work:

-At first level, the DM would select the MU’s INT guaranteed 1st level spells, then MU would roll to see how many of the other 1st level spells they know. Based on the wording, the rules imply that those spells are simply not in their spellbook, but they CAN be learned in the future if a)the MU finds the appropriate scroll, b)the MU has not reached the maximum known spells for their INT, and c)the MU succeeds on the chance to learn the spell.

-At third level, when an MU gains ability to cast 2nd level spells, instead of suddenly gaining access to a new spellbook full of all 2nd level spells that they either can or cannot cast, the MU can begin to inscribe 2nd level spells that he finds. Up to their minimum spells per level number, the MU would not have to roll to learn the new spell. Once the minimum number of spells per level has been reached, the MU would need to roll their % chance to learn the new spell.

While not flawless in its explanation (some of this is my own extrapolation), this offers a potential model, along with the necessary charts missing from Moldvay, of how to do AD&D-style Vancian magic in a Basic game.

 

Parrying: I Get It Now

Sometimes you can know something, or two somethings, but they don’t quite click in your head for whatever reason.

I’d never been a fan of Parrying skills; why spend time not attacking when clearly the obvious way to stop being attacked is to kill the monster that’s in front of you? Games like Neverwinter Nights that are basically “D&D without a party” makes Parrying seem even more useless because while you’re parrying, no damage is being dealt!

One of my big pet peeves is that a lot of people do melee wrong; in D&D, once two characters are in melee, they are in melee period, until one of them dies or spends a round trying to run away. Characters who are in melee can be attacked by characters not in melee without those characters attacking becoming locked. Now, this is important for a reason: high HP low AC fighters and clerics lock down the bad guys by getting them into melee – those baddies so engaged  cannot just say “Well, I’m going to attack the squishy wizard/thief now because I’ve randomly chosen a new target!” They are stuck fighting those opponents until they die, run away, or kill them. While stuck fighting the bruisers, the baddies can be backstabbed and bespelled with impunity by the thieves and magic users, unable to strike back.

In comes Shitlord: the Triggering, which has a Dex-based Parrying skill unique to the Dickpuncher (Fighter) class. For each point of Dex over 13, the Dickpuncher can effectively improve his AC by one against the combatant he’s in melee with instead of making an attack. Now, my first thought is “He’s wasting his time parrying; why would he not just attack instead?” Then it clicked:

With an active defense vis a vis Parrying, a Fighter character can potentially lock down a much tougher opponent longer without sustaining damage to give thief classes more opportunities to backstab. As strong as a fighter’s attack is, a Thief’s backstab is ALWAYS better. Depending on the system, you could easily be doing 3-4 times as much damage per hit with a bonus against the enemy’s AC. The high dex parrying skill negates that huge attack advantage monsters tend to have over PCs and classed NPCs so that a fighter can go toe to toe against something that could very well cream him otherwise for an extra round or two. Yeah, he may not get his chance to do 1d8 damage, but the Thief is almost guaranteed to get 4d6 damage. As long as the DM is abiding by proper melee rules, the Fighter can always keep one baddie locked down so as to ensure that the Thief can get his backstab on.

Thank you for opening my eyes to this, Shitlord: the Triggering!

Also, this is not a real review, but silly Alt-Right shit-talk aside, S:tT looks like it’s a pretty solid retro-clone. It borrows from the best and presents it well, but it also brings in a few original ideas that are absolutely worth incorporating into your game. My group is fairly liberal, so I don’t know if I could get away with running this even as a one-off except for April Fool’s, but I’ll probably borrow several bits and bobs from it.  Also, thank you for not sorting spells by level.