Showing posts with label Legacy DnD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legacy DnD. Show all posts

Saturday, August 22, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 22 Rare

I am what I would call a casual collector of old-RPGs.  I don't think I go crazy to find certain items, but there are some I am always on the lookout for.

I am particularly fond of anything printed in England for example.  I have mentioned before I am an anglophile and a huge fan of anything English/British/Celtic/Gaelic.  So I have made some effort to get some of the older D&D/AD&D books that were printed in England by Games Workshop.

All these books are softcover, which is kind of interesting.

On my list is a Holmes Basic box published by Games Workshop.

I don't have one of these and all the ones I have found are really expensive.

I am also not an autograph hound, but I have a couple items that I am proud of.

First, Deities & Demigods signed by Jim Ward and a couple of the artists. 

Need to get some more of these.  Erol Otus and Darlene are my goal.

And my only Gary Gygax signed item.


One last thing on my list is a carded set of Dragon Dice.  

I used to get these at B. Dalton's Bookseller in Springfield IL.  Had I know how much they go for now I would have bought a couple extra sets.

Yes I know. There are superior dice. And what I would pay for these I could several dozen sets of other dice. But what is the point of going to grad school for 14 years and living on popcorn and pineapple for a year if I can't spurge now?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

BECMI: Companion Set Review

We are now at the part of my hand-made maps of the world where I leave the dungeons (Basic) and wildernesses (Expert) that I knew so well.   I am now in an area of half-rumored tales and speculations.  Stories from other travelers, with tales that are both familiar and yet foreign to me.

Join me on my exploration of the new worlds of the D&D Companion Set.  But a warning, here there be Dragons!

D&D Companion Set (1984)

I don't think it is too much to say that the Companion Set contains some of the most interesting changes and updates to the D&D than any other product TSR had published to date.  I will talk more about these in the review, but first a look back.

I had eagerly awaited the Companion set for D&D ever since I got my Expert Set.  That is, by B/X Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert Set.

The Companion Set, as promised by the Expert Set rules, mentions that characters will now go to 36th level and there will be a way to cure undead level drain!  Such promises. Such hope!

D&D Cook Expert Set, page X8

Though it was not to be and the B/X line stopped there, only to be "rebooted" in 1983 with the BECMI line, though we were not calling it that back then.

By the time the Companion did come out I had moved on to AD&D. I no longer had any interest in the Companion rules having discovered the world could also have Assassins, half-orcs, and 9 alignments.

I did manage to read it once.  I was in college and it was at Castle Perilous Games in Carbondale. Of course, at the time AD&D 2nd Ed was the new hotness and I had no desire to look backward.  What I saw though at the time did not impress me.  I think the entire Mentzer set at the time (AT THE TIME mind you) made me think of it as D&D for little kids (now I see it differently).

Looking back now I see I made a BIG MISTAKE.
Well...maybe.  I mean I would not have traded my AD&D time for anything, but I do wish I had given the BECMI rules more of a chance.

Now I can fix that.

Today I am going to cover the BECMI Companion Rules.  I am going to cover both the DriveThruRPG PDFs and my recently acquired box set.


The Companion Set follows the rules as presented in the BECMI Basic and Expert books. But unlike those books, the Companion Rules sets off into uncharted directions and gives us some new material.

While the claim can be made that Frank Mentzer only edited and organized the Basic and Expert rules based on previous editions, the Companion set is all his.  While there may be some influences from earlier editions such as Greyhawk (with it's 22nd level cap [wizards] and some monsters) and AD&D (some monsters and the multiverse) this really feels new.

Companion Player's Book 1
The player's book is 32 pages with color covers and black & white interiors. Art by Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.
Opening this book we get a preface with a dedication to Brian Blume. A nice touch and yeah he is often forgotten in the tale of D&D's earliest years.  The preface also firmly situates us in time. We 10 years out from when D&D was first published. The design goals of this book, and consequently this series, have never been more firmly stated.  This is an introduction to the D&D game and designed to be fun, playable, and true to the spirit of D&D.  It certainly feels like this is the successor to the Original D&D game; maybe more so than AD&D.
One page in and we are off to a great start.

The title and table of contents page tell us that this game is now "by" Frank Mentzer, based on D&D by Gygax and Arneson.  As we move into the book proper we get a feel for the "changing game."  Characters are more powerful and once difficult threats are no more than a nuisance or exercise.  The characters are ready to take their place among the rulers of the world.  This makes explicit something I always felt AD&D only played lip service to.

We get some new weapons that have different sorts of effects like knocking out an opponent or entangling them. We also get some unarmed combat rules.    Now, these feel they really should have been added to the Basic or Expert rule sets. Maybe they were but were cut for space or time.

Up next is Stronghold management from the point of view of the player characters.  Again here D&D continues its unwritten objective of being educational as well as fun.  More on this in the DM's book.

Character Classes
Finally, about 11 pages in we get to the Character updates.  Here all the human character classes get tables that go to level 25; again maybe a nod to Greyhawk's level 20-22 caps, and caps of 7th level spells (clerics) and 9th level spell (magic-users).  Clerics get more spells and spell levels.  The big upgrade comes in the form of their expanded undead turning table.  Clerics up to 25th level and monsters up to Liches and Special.  This mimics the AD&D Clerics table; I'd have to look at them side by side to see and differences.  One difference that comes up right away is the increase in undead monsters.  There are phantoms, haunts, spirits, and nightshades.  Nightshades, Liches, and Special will be detailed in the Master Set.

Something that is big pops up in the cleric listing.  A Neutral cleric of level 9 or higher may choose to become a Druid! Druids only resemble their AD&D counterparts in superficial ways.  They have similar spells, but the BECMI Druid cannot change shape.  It is an interesting implementation of the class and one I'll discuss more in a bit.

Arguably it is fighters that get the biggest boost in the Companion Set.  They gain the ability to have multiple attacks per round now and other combat maneuvers such as smashing, pairing and disarming. This is a big deal since they got so little in the Expert set. Fighters can also "specialize" into three paths depending on alignment.  There are Knights, Paladins, and Avengers.  Each type gives the fighter something a little extra.  Paladins are not very far off from their AD&D counterparts and Avengers are as close to an Anti-Paladin as D&D will get until we get to the Blackguards.

Conversely, Magic-users do not get as much save from greater spells. We do get the restriction that any spell maxes out 20dX damage.

Thieves can now become Guildmasters or Rogues.  A name that will come up more and more with future editions of D&D.

BECMI "Prestige Classes?"
The Druid, Knight, Avenger, Paladin, and to a lesser degree the Magist and Rogues represent what could arguably be called the first Prestige Classes to D&D.  Their inclusion predates the publication of the Theif-Acrobat in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.
Prestige Classes are classes that one can take after meeting certain requirements in other "base" classes in D&D 3.x and Pathfinder. Often at 10th level, but can occur anytime the character meets the requirements.  This concept is later carried on into D&D 4 with their "Paragon Paths" (chosen at 11th level) and even into D&D 5 with their subclasses (chosen at 2nd level).
The BECMI Avenger and Paladin are the best examples of these working just like the Prestige Classes will in 15 more years.   This is interesting since it also means other classes can be added to the basic 4 core ones using the same system.  An easy example is the Theif-Acrobat from UA or even the Ranger from AD&D.  Though here the problem lies in the alignment system.  Rangers are supposed to be "good" for example.

Demi-Humans
Demi-humans may not advance any more in level, but they are not idle.  This is also the area of the Companion Set that I most often go wrong.  Each demi-human race has a Clan Relic and some demi-humans could be in charge of these clan relics, making them very powerful. There are also clan rulers and they are also detailed.  What does all that mean?  It means there is a good in-game reason why demi-humans do not advance in levels anymore.  They are much more dedicated to their clans than humans. So after a time it is expected that they will return home to take up their responsibilities to the clan.


That is not to say that these characters do not advance anymore.  Each demi-human race can still gain "Attack Ranks" as if they are still leveling up.  They don't gain any more HP, but they can attack as if they are higher-level fighters.  They also gain some of the fighter's combat options. Each class gets 11 such rank-levels.   It seems to split some hairs on "no more levels" but whatever.

We end with a map of the expanding Known World.  This is the continent of Brun of Mystara, but we don't know that yet.  But I will discuss that later this week.

This book is a lot more than I expected it to be and that is a good thing.

Companion DM's Book 2
The DM's book is 64 pages with color covers and black & white interiors. Art by Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.
There is a lot to this book.  First, we get to some General Guidelines that cover the higher levels of play and planning adventures accordingly. There is sadly not a lot here.
We follow up with Part 2: The Fantasy World.  This continues some of the discussion of stronghold management and dominion management as well.  Now here is quite a bit of good information on what happens, or could happen, in a dominion. 
This section also includes the hidden secret of the D&D BECMI series.  The War Machine Mass Combat system.

War Machine
Around the same time TSR was also developing the BattleSystem Mass Combat system.  The two are largely incompatible with each other.  I always thought it was odd that two systems that do essentially the same things were created and incompatible with each other.   Later I learned that D&D BECMI lived in what we like to call a "walled garden" in the business.  It was out there doing it's own thing while the "real business" of AD&D was going on.  The problem was that D&D Basic was outselling AD&D at this point.  This was not the first time that TSR would woefully misunderstand their customers and sadly not the last time either.
War Machine has an elegance about it when compared to BattleSystem.  I am not saying it is simple, but the work involved is not difficult and I am happy to say it looks like it will work with any edition of D&D.

The Multiverse 
A big part of any D&D experience is the Multiverse.  This section allows the DMs and Players to dip their toes into the wider Multiverse which includes the Ethereal Plane and the Elemental Planes.


Space is also given to the discussion on aging, damage to magic items, demi-human crafts, poison, and more. We also get all of our character tables.

Monsters
About halfway through the book, we get to the section of monsters.  A lot of familiar AD&D faces are now here, though a bit of digging will show that many of these are also from OD&D up to the Greyhawk supplement.  Most notable are the beholder, larger dragons, druids (as a monster), and many elemental types. Monsters are split into Prime Plane and Other Planes. 
Among the monsters featured are the aforementioned Beholder, larger Dragons, and bunches of new Undead like haunts, druj, ghosts and more.  A few that caught my attention are the Gargantua (gigantic monsters) and Malfera.  The Malfera REALLY caught my attention since they are from the "Dimension of Nightmares."  More fodder for my Mystara-Ravenloft connection.
Monsters from the Other Planes focus on the Elemental planes.

Treasure
Lots of new treasure and magic items.

Adventures
There are three short adventure or adventure hooks for companion level characters.

All in all the Companion Set is full and had many things I did not think it had given my very casual relationship to it over the years.  Reading it now and in-depth for the very first time I see there is a lot I could have used in my games back then.

Also reading this gives me a lot of ideas for more Basic/BECMI sorts of campaigns and plans for classes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Retro Revival Blog Challenge Week 3: Toys

Today I am joining the Retro Revival Blog Challenge.  Seem like a good fit, they talk about a lot of 80s and so do I.  This is Week 3 and the first one I wanted to chat about.

This week's topic is on Toys.  Now the original post was about favorite toys. But instead, I want to talk about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line from LJN.

I was never a big collector of these, to be honest.  I had a few figures that I thought were cool, Kalek for example, but that was about it.  My brother had collected some and I bought some myself, but always said they were part of his collection.  I was 13-15 at the time and was not into buying toys anymore.


So a few years back I got the whole collection given back to me by my brother with bits my youngest brother added to it.  I remember buying the Ogre and the Umber Hulk.  The others were new to me.


You can see all I have left of Kalek is his spellbook.  Maybe I'll put that in my witch figure display in my game room.  I really like the ogre and the hook horror.  That hook horror looks like he walked out of my Fiend Folio and I still prefer this look to the "revised" one we get today.


Of course what my son was most psyched about is the Tiamat figure.  She does not have her wings anymore, but he quickly said "she is the god of dragons, she can fly without wings if she wanted to".  Plus he has been coveting my aspect of Tiamat D&D mini for a very long time.  So this is a nice little prize for him.


When I first got these from my brother I thought I would not use them in my games, but recently I have used the Ogre as a proto-Orcus demon and the Troll as Vaprak the Destroyer.

In the adventure, the boys were transported back to the Dawn War where He Who Was was killed by The Destroyer (who will become Demogorgon) and Dis, the god that dies and then becomes the demon Orcus.


I am not sure if finding the other toys in this line is something I want to pursue.  It would not be easy and it would not be cheap.  I hit plenty of swap meets, flea markets, and second-hand-stores though that when I find one, I pick one up.

Of course, no discussion of these toys is complete without mentioning Skylla.
I have taken my obsession with this character to, well, my typical levels of obsession.

She is the evil magic-user/with from the LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toyline and Basic/Expert modules. So there is a lot of reason for me to like her.  So I made witch stats for her for every game I currently play.

I even made a Hero Forge mini of her to use in my games now (more on that tomorrow).





There you have it!  There is a great listing and discussion of all these toys at The Toy Archive.


Check out the other posting this week at Retro Revival.

http://retroramblings.com/retro-revival-blog-challenge-week-3-toys/
http://retroramblings.com/retro-revival-blog-challenge/

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New Releases Tuesday: Black Box BECMI Supplements

The mid 90s were an odd time of gaming for me. I started out very excited about the new AD&D 2nd Edition game, moved completely over to Ravenloft and in the end had left D&D completely in favor of games like WitchCraft and Mage.   Consequently, I started the 90s as a college kid and ended the 90s a house, a wife, a kid and ABD on my first Ph.D. so I saw a lot of change.

What that all adds up to is that there were a ton of D&D-related releases that I not only didn't experience or play but also never even heard of till much later.   "Black-box BECMI" was one of those.  Again, as I mentioned, I was into AD&D2 pretty hard and then left D&D, so BECMI was not something I paid attention too.  Fast forward to the mid-late 2000s I started to discover these boxed sets.  In some ways they seem so retro; a boxed set with board-game like pieces in a world edging towards glossy (and thick) hardcovers.

At a +Games Plus auction I was able to pick up these,



They are a ridiculous amount of nostalgia and I REALLY want to use them some time as the start of a pure BECMI campaign.

Well today we got two new releases in this line on DriveThruRPG, The Dragon's Den and The Goblin's Lair.

I have no idea how the scans are. The box interiors have quite a lot of pieces.


So it will be interesting to see how they scanned all of this.  At $5 a piece, that is not too bad of a deal really.   The "Black Box" is not available on DriveThru yet, so you will need to use the Rules Cyclopedia for these.

I don't have a campaign in mind for this at all, outside of knowing I want to use Quest for the Silver Sword as the next adventure after these.  I am always a sucker for a haunted house adventure.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

DIY D&D

One of the great things about the whole self-publish, self-produce, osr movements is the ability to  not only have games we loved in no forms, or books we never had (B/X Companion and Adventures Dark and Deep) but it has allowed us unprecedented access to all sorts of material both new and old.

My fondness for PDFs is pretty well known.  But I love books, first and foremost. Hardcovers especially.  Thankfully I grew up in a town that had a book bindery so I managed to get this done:


It's not great, but it is a hard cover of the old Realms of Horror "super module" of the S series.
The nice thing is it has lasted me nearly 30 years.  So I guess I should not complain.

Today we have Lulu.com and DriveThruRPG/PRGNow (and I assume others) for our PDF or physical book needs.  We just have to provide the digital files.

Since I already was providing the files for the print copies of The Witch and Eldritch Witchery, I thought I would make my own hardcovers as well.


I like the hardcover a lot.  I generally like the hardcover Witch better than the softcover one, but prefer the softcover Eldritch Witchery to the hardcover.

Since I was at I thought why not round out the whole collection.


I am not selling these.  You can still find my old netbooks online somewhere. But these were for my own collections.

You might see where I am going here.

So what am I supposed to do when I have this:


But my Rules Cyclopedia looks like this:


Sad. I know.

Well. I love the RC, but cover never really struck me as being "D&D" enough.  But you know what is D&D enough? Uriah Heep's "Demons & Wizards".  So some scanning. Some work late night when I couldn't sleep and I have this:



I will freely admit I am unsure of the legality of this.  I mean I will never sell it (I have my name in it now anyway).  It looks like if I own the PDF I can print it for my own use. Of course I don't own that cover art.  This would be a "table copy".
That aside I think it looks pretty sweet.


It has been a nice little challenge to put together versions of book I have physical copies and pdfs into something new.

My favorites are this combined Basic and Expert hardcover and a combined World of Greyhawk one.


Again, just my own private use at the game table.  But I think they are pretty nice.

I have done something similar to some print outs I made of the Basic and Expert PDFs, which can see here: I Cut up My B/X books!   I think I am going to have to print out the B/X Companion as well and stuff it into this binder.

Now we just need Wizards of the Coast to start giving us more POD options for classic D&D books.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Second Chance: Swords & Wizardry (Frog God Games)

A while a back I posted that I was giving some products another chance.  One of those products was Swords & Wizardry.

I picked up the Frog God "Complete Rulebook" and spent a lot of time with it.  I think my biggest issue with S&W is that was sold to me as "0 Edition" or "OD&D" and it isn't. I played OD&D and S&W is nothing like it. Well, not "nothing" but it's made some serious changes.  Those changes I think kept me from enjoying the game for what it is.  So after staying away from the game for a number of months I came back and looked at in a different light.  I dropped the idea that is an OD&D clone but instead a Retro Clone stripped down to it's most basic form.  Now that is game I can get behind.  If you ever played any version of D&D or any clone you can play this.  S&W is really the basic essence of what D&D is. The most basic stuff you need to play.  In this new light I saw the changes for what they were, really nice and intuitive changes.
The classics are really basic, but they work. In this Frog God edition you have a more classes, Assassins, Paladins, Rangers, Druids and Monks join Thieves, Clerics, Magic-Users and Fighters.  Races are Human, Elves, Half-elves, Halflings and Dwarves. So again all easily recognizable.
There are a set of good multi-classing rules (which is always nice in an OSR game).
Spells go up to 9 for Magic-Users, 7 for most others.
There are plenty of monsters, tons really.  The monster blocks are simple like everything else.

Really S&W does take a lot of what made OD&D/Dasic D&D so fun, the advances in AD&D and the features that made 3.x so popular.  Yes. It has Ascending AC (which is still the best, sorry old school guys) and I like single saving throw bonus.
This Frog God version shares a lot of the art that appeared in The Tome of Horrors Complete and the layout.  This is not a big deal as far as I am concerned.

At a 134 pages it is a complete game. You don't really need anything else here, though you can use it with nearly other OSR product or any of the scores of products created for S&W.

I am glad I gave this another chance.

If you have this then The Tome of Horrors Complete is a great supplement to have.

If you are new to S&W then there are some other supplements to help you out.

MCMLXXV (aka 1975) is a new introductory module and old-school primer.
At just under 24 pages (minus cover and ogl) this is designed to be something akin to Keep on the Borderlands for S&W, only not as big.  The adventure is small, but in old school terms it is good sized really.  There is less in terms of pages of descriptions than modern day modules. It leaves far more to the imagination of the players and GM.  If there was a Frog God Games S&W box set then this would be included.
Great little adventure that really helps set the tone of the S&W game.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities is a new monster book.  New in that is newly published, but some of the monsters we have before either in the SRD or other books.  That though does not detract from it's value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters.  The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers.
There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook.  While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art.  Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new.  Actually the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art.
Honestly there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have.  I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.




OD&D
If you really want a game that is close to what OD&D really was like you do have some choices.

First up there is the OD&D set from WotC coming out this fall.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/02/original-d-premium-edition.html

There is also Spellcraft & Swordplay, a personal favorite of mine.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/04/s-is-for-spellcraft-swordplay.html

While S&W has some neat ideas, S&S comes closer to OD&D for me.

In any case you can use all of these game to party like it's 1975!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Return to the Tomb!

I'll detail this more, but wanted to share this now.

I am going back to the Tomb of Horrors.


I got the new Dungeons of Dread today.
Here is the history of my S4 collections.



Back coverleaf (not the cover itself).


My hardbound editions.  Yes that is a hardbound version of Realms of Horror which was out in 87.  No you didn't miss out on something, it was only softcover.  I had it hardbound at a local book boundary.
The 87 Realms of Horror was a redo, the new Dungeons of Dread is the original modules in presentation.
The last is the 4th Ed update of Tomb of Horrors.

Again. More later.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Teratic Tome: Print Verison

I picked up the Teratic Tome on PDF a while back.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-teratic-tome.html

I liked it. So I decided to pick up the hardcover too.

It fits in nicely with all my other 1st edition-ish books.


The author,  Rafael Chandler, did a really good job of capturing the look of the 1st ed books.







Maybe too good of job in fact.  In any case it fits in nice with my books as a Monster Manual 4 or Fiend Folio 2 (if Monsters of Myth is MM 3).

What really swayed me on this is the fact I am running a 1e game with my kids and I could use a couple of these.

If you buy the PDF you get a coupon to get hardcover at $6.66 off.  If you buy the hardcover at full price you get a free PDF.

Pretty nice really.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Original D&D Premium Edition

Well it was going to happen sooner or later, but Wizards of the Coast will be releasing a Premium Edition of the Original D&D.  But it's not just a reprint.  


http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/45390000


Volume 1: Men & Magic
Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
Supplement I: Greyhawk
Supplement II: Blackmoor
Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

Comes in a wood-grain or faux-wood-grain box with dice.
New cover art, but all the original art inside.

Price?  $150.00.  Honestly, that is not a bad deal.  This is a collector's piece and I am sure some will balk at that price I think it sounds about right to be honest.
I have been wanting to play some Original D&D again.  Haven't since 1987 so this might be my excuse.



Friday, June 8, 2012

This blog has a point but...

http://uadnd.blogspot.com/2012/05/dear-wizards-of-coast.html

But the trouble is WotC/Hasbro can't not publish a new edition.
The number of old core books that they can sell has an upper limit.  Afterall you can still get copies of most editions on ebay or your FLGS.  Some stores still have overstock of 3.x in fact.

It's a nice idea.  But I can't see it working.

I would like to see some POD myself, there are lots of things I'd like to buy, but the demand just isn't there to make it work really.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Undead: I Don't Like Level Drain

I don't like level draining attacks from Undead.


I have never liked them.  I also don't like 3.x "Negative" levels solution either, although it is getting closer.

See "Level" to me has always been an abstraction, a short hand way of saying you are of a certain skill and power.  But the level itself doesn't mean anything.  Loosing them is not even properly scary. Really it isn't.
Play some Call of Cthulhu or Kult where there is no such thing and I can tell you, things are scary enough.

I also don't like them since it has nothing to do with why an undead needs them or even would be able to do this.  If you say the undead "feed" on levels I counter with "ok, why do they even bother with 0-level humans?" OR more to the point, how do 0-level humans survive as long as they can/could/need-to-for-plot-reasons?

Take the example of Dracula.  Are you saying Lucy, who we can assume was attacked by Dracula multiple times, but let's just say three, was at least 6-level?  6th level in what? Mina and Harker too?

Lets look at this from the perspective of a low-level character.  Loosing a level is bad news.  How about from a higher level one, well...bad yes, but not as bad.
Look at the example of the Magic-User.  At 8th level they can cast 2 4th level spells, but after a vampire attack they...forgot them?  Ok so memory loss is not an uncommon thing after an attack, but something that specific?  Ok, so maybe you can stretch and justify it there, what about a Cleric.  He doesn't memorize spells, he prays for them. Now after an attack from a vampire he is no longer worthy for these magics?  Lost me there.

For me, level drain never made much sense at all.  If it is an abstraction of "Life Force" then we already have that in something much more precious than a level and it fits better.  Ability Scores.

Constitution is listed in the AD&D 1 Player's Handbook as:
"Constitution is a term which encompasses the character’s physique, fitness, health, and resistance. Since constitution affects the character‘s hit dice and chances of surviving such great system shocks as being changed by magic spell or resurrected from the dead, it is of considerable importance to all classes."
Instead of levels I say Vampires (and I'll get to other undead) should drain 2 points of Constitution.  It fits better.  The more blood loss you have the weaker you become.  The less likely you will survive a system shock.

Let's say the average Constitution Score for everyone is 10.  Some one like Lucy, described as frail and weak might only be an 8 or even a 6.  Certainly enough to survive multiple attacks, not more than say oh... three.  Mina, who is described as robust and full of life survives more attacks.

The draining attack needs to be tied into the type of undead, how it was made and what it needs.  We already have a precedent for it; the AD&D Shadow drains Strength.  Vampires, who feed on blood (or was that forgotten in AD&D?) should feed on Constitution.  Other undead then fall in line.

The Monsters

Skeletons, Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts
The various members of the "Walking Dead" typically do not have drain attacks, though some could have fear based ones.  Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts can also number among the "Hungry Dead" where they eat the flesh, living or dead, of others.

Ghosts, Banshees, Poltergeists
These creatures feed on fear for the most part, so causing fear is their primary goal.  The Banshee can kill with her scream and the Ghost can prematurely age a victim.
Drain: None.
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal, aging can be reversed

Lich
The mere touch of a Lich is a paralyzing cold attack that has less to do with actual temperature and more to do with the chill beyond the grave.
Drain: None. Paralyzing
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal

Mummy
The rotting disease of the mummy is well known, but mummies can also attack via a draining attack.  This attack, sometimes known as the Mummy's Curse, will drain the victim of Dexerity and Charisma.  Worse yet, the curse is applied after only 1 successful attack and the the abilities are drained at the rate of 1 point each per day till one of them reached 0.  At this point the victim dies and can not be raised.  They will then on the next full moon become a zombie.
Drain: 1 point of Dexterity and Charisma.
Restore: Remove Curse, Heal or Wish only.


Shadows
Shadow already drain Strength.  As intangible, incorporeal creatures they lack the physicality needed to interact with the world.  Draining Strength then makes them feel more alive, but it is temporary.
Drain: 1 point of Strength.
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per hour of rest.

Spectres

These frightful ghostly shades are the result of a curse. They are removed from the physical world, but loathe it.  Like the Shadow, the Spectre drains away Strength, but it can also drain Wisdom.  Strength is lost much the same way and for the same reasons as a Shadow.  Wisdom, the center of reason, is drained because it was something the Spectre lacked to get itself cursed in such a way.
Drain: 1 point of Strength or Wisdom
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.


Vampires
These apex undead predators feed on the life force of their victims.  They drain the blood (and thus the Constitution) from their victims.  A vampire can choose to drain 2 points of Constitution per attack, but many will toy with their victims, draining only once per night.
Drain: 2 points of Constituion
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per week of complete bed-rest.

Wights
Most wights were soldiers or fighters in their lives.  Some of that keen intelligence lives on in undead flesh.  Since their lives were cut short due to their physical prowess, or lack thereof, the wight jealously steals Strength from it's victims.  It does this with a cold touch from beyond the grave.
Drain: 1 point of Strength
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

Wraith
The Wraith is a more power incorporeal undead than the shadow, but not quite the twisted evil of the Spectre.  The wraith attempts to drain any ability score it can, targeting the lowest score and draining it till the victim reaches 0.  They do this not so much out of malice, though that is certainly true, but because they need the life force the ability provides.
Drain: 1 point of lowest Ability Score.
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

Succubus
The kiss of the succubus is as deadly as it is desirable.  Men (and women) who have survived it can barely describe it, but all agree that no mortal embrace can ever compare again.  While the succubus can withhold the draining feature of her amorous attack at will, she won't often do so.  This is because the attack of the succubus will drain Wisdom as well as Constitution.  Any victim that has lost more than 1/3 of their total Wisdom score becomes hopelessly in the thrall of the succubus. Only a Wish or similar magic can save them.  Once the succubus has used up her pawn she may opt to drain Constitution as well or only to finish of the hapless mortal and return to her master with their soul.

Drain: 1 point of Wisdom and Constitution, or 2 points of Wisdom or 2 points of Constitution
Restore: Magical healing, till 1/3 is lost then only via a Wish

Guidelines for Abilities Drained
Other undead or other demons may also have a level draining attack, here is how to convert those attacks to  Ability Draining and how to choose which ability is the most appropriate.

Strength or Dexterity: Any attack where the creature is incorporeal, lacking a true body or is otherwise reminded of their own past physical life. Ex. Shadows and Wraiths lack true physical forms and Wights were mostly fighters.

Constitution: The basis of life-force.  It is used in system survival roles and adds to hitpoints.  Any creature that drains life will drain Con.

Wisdom: The basis of willpower and the desire to continue on.  Also the "mature" side of our minds. People with less wisdom give in to temptation easier.

Intelligence: The domain of the mind. Anything to do with mental prowess, psychic awareness or magical talent lies here.  Ex. Mind Flayers feed on the minds of others, they "eat" Intelligence.

Charisma: The personality of the character.  Also tied to willpower.  Some faerie creatures will drain the life and personality out of a person by draining their Charisma.  Ex. The Leanan Sidhe or Psychic vampires.


There are certainly other ways to do this and we can even argue which ability various undead can drain.  But I think ability drain is far superior to level drain.

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Questions

The latest OSR Blogger meme is making it's rounds.
This one comes from Untimately, http://untimately.blogspot.com/2012/02/20-quick-questions-rules.html

Here are mine.
  1. Ability scores generation method?
  2. 4d6, drop the lowest arrange as desired.  I am not interested in average people, I want heroes in my games.

  3. How are death and dying handled?
  4. Dying at 0hp, death at -CON

  5. What about raising the dead?
  6. Only clerics can do it.  Elves and Witches can't be raised, only reincarnated.

  7. How are replacement PCs handled?
  8. I keep a stack of sheets handy.  I can always work a new PC into the ongoing story.

  9. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
  10. Individual

  11. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
  12. Yes.  Critical hits on natural 20s, double damage.  Fumbles on a 1 and attack is lost and "something bad" happens.

  13. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
  14. For AC, no.  For role-playing effects yes.  So if a character is wearing a helmet and a shot misses I'll say it glanced off their helmet.

  15. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
  16. I give players the benefit of the doubt that they have worked together and know what works and what doesn't.  I am more interested in drama and story than whether or not they hit each other.

  17. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
  18. Oh, HELL YES.  Sometimes the only recourse is to run away.

  19. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
  20. Not really.  Undead drain abilities like STR, CON, CHA or WIS as needed.  Trust me, my undead are plenty scary even with no draining ability.

  21. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
  22. No.  Bad rolls should NEVER dictate a game's outcome. Yes bad things happen, but we have that, it's called "Real Life".  The game is about heroes and their struggle, not a bad roll or a bone-headed DM that can't see past that.  Besides, there is enough to kill you in my games that I don't have to resort to passive/aggressive ways to kill characters.

  23. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
  24. Eh.  If I think the players have too much then I mention it.  With magic anything is possible.

  25. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
  26. No new levels until the characters can get trained, and that means in between adventures.  Spells have to learned.  Most wizards have schools as sources. Which means I get to limit which spells they have access too.

  27. What do I get experience for?
  28. Good role-playing, defeating (which is not the same as "killing") monsters, treasure, completing an adventure.

  29. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
  30. Traps are left where traps would be located.  NO random death traps.

  31. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
  32. I use old D&D Basic morale (1-12).  Retainers are group NPCs and have to paid and taken care of.

  33. How do I identify magic items?
  34. Wizards have a basic chance based on level.  Otherwise a spell.

  35. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
  36. There is exactly ONE place where you can in my world and it is very famous.

  37. Can I create magic items? When and how?
  38. Yes. Of course. Where do all the magic items in the world come from.  It takes research and craft and years of work though.

  39. What about splitting the party?
  40. No.  That's suicide in my dungeons.  Former party members tend to come back as flesh eating undead.

Here are some others:
http://untimately.blogspot.com/2012/02/20-quick-questions-rules.html
http://dungeonsddx.blogspot.com/2012/02/20-quick-questions.html
http://lasgunpacker.blogspot.com/2012/02/utimately-20-questions.html
http://backtothekeep.blogspot.com/2012/02/another-20-questions.html
http://daddygrognard.blogspot.com/2012/02/untimatelys-20-questions-and-my-answers.html
http://the-city-of-iron.blogspot.com/2012/02/20-quick-questions.html
http://d20dialectic.blogspot.com/2012/02/untimate-quiz.html

Others to be posted I am sure.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jean Wells 1955-2012

Jean Wells, one of the early pioneers of gaming and long time TSR developer has passed.

Here are some of the links that can better explain her contributions than I can.
http://poleandrope.blogspot.com/2012/01/jean-wells-1955-2012.html
http://www.facebook.com/groups/121390094630920/permalink/172923566144239/
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2012/01/rip-jean-wells-1955-2012.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Wells

Among her other contributions to the game and to the hobby she was also famous, or even infamous, for her original B3 Palace of the Silver Princess module.

B3 was one of the first adventures I bought to run as a DM and read and reread that adventure 100s of times.
A sad day in gaming indeed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

If I were an OSR publisher...

Then I would be looking at my upcoming catalog and seeing what I have that is remotely AD&D like and get it out in time for the reprints.

Think of the ads you could use.  You never have to claim compatibility except where the OGL is concerned.
"Love the new reprints of the Classic game?  Well you will also love..."

I have had the chance to talk to some younger generation gamers and many (but not all) are of the mind to get these, just to see what they are all about.

This could be one of the biggest PR opportunities to come in a very long time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WotC to do Old School

Woke up this morning from a crappy night's sleep to find this.


"Wizards of the Coast to produce First Edition Premium AD&D books"
http://www.wizards.com/ContentResources/Wizards/Sales/Solicitations/2012_04_17_dd_1stED_Solicitation_en_US.pdf

So not only is WotC re-releasing the the original Gygax trinity of books for sale, they are doing to raise money for the Gygax memorial fund. There will be new covers on these books and they will be limited editions.
I might have to pick up two sets (one for me, one for my kids).

Of course despite all of this I am sure people will complain about what percent will actually be going to the Gygax fund. Or about the price of the books.

The PHB product page is here, http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/02410000

So basically WotC out-OSRed the OSR.

Better reserve your copies now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jeff Dee kickstarter

Jeff Dee has new Kickstarter project to recreate all his old Egyptian gods art from the original Deities and Demigods (one of my favorite books).

I guess at some point TSR threw out all the art he did. So he is not only redoing them, but also doing some new ones for gods not pictured.

You can read more and donate some money here:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeffdee/re-creating-my-egyptian-art-from-deities-and-demig

I have supported other Kickstarters in the past and would love to support this one too.
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