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Astounding Tales: The Fighter Class

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I've renamed my new "no level advancement" project. It's now Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery which should have even less chance of being confused with Matthew and Jeffery's upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG.

The Fighter is one of the two classes in Astounding Tales and it is intended to represent both pure warriors and physical professions like burglar, woodsman, witch hunter, etc. All Fighters have a background, a general area of expertise representing their pre-adventuring background or training. Some examples would be archer, swordsman, knight, barbarian, burglar, hunter, seaman, and witch hunter. The archer, swordsman, knight, and barbarian backgrounds are pure warrior backgrounds. The others are examples of physical profession backgrounds. The player and GM need to agree on the basics of what expertise the selected background provides. The GM will take this expertise into account when the character does things within that expertise.

All fighters have 6 hit dice. Those with a pure warrior background roll D10s. Those with a physical profession background roll D8s. As will be explained when I cover hit dice, hit dice are rolled every day when the character awakens from sleep. Assuming a fighter gets a full night's sleep and hasn't taken any Long Term Damage Points, he will roll either 2d10+40 or 2d8+32 to determine his hit point total for the day. Some days you wake up with more energy than others. If the character had to stand watch for one-third of the night and had no Long Term Damage Points, he would roll either 3d10+30 or 3d8+24. More details on how hit dice are rolled in a future post.

Pure warriors have a base armor class of 5. Those with a physical profession have a base armor class of 7. They can wear any armor, but some physical profession abilities may be less effective in some types of armor (e.g. it is hard to move silently in metal armor).

Fighters can use any weapon and know how to most effectively use weapons to do the most damage. In a fighter's hands weapons do the following damage:

2d6--Two handed weapons
1d10--Heavy weapons
1d8--Medium weapons
1d6--Light weapons

Fighters have good saving throws against physical things and fair saving throws again magic. Fighters have a good chance to hit, a THAC0 of 15. Fighters can use combat stunts to trade accuracy for damage or the like. Fighters can command warrior hirelings, giving those hirelings a bonus in combat and to morale when they lead them into combat.

Under the Pyramid: A Megadungeon -- Level Three (Part One)

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I made the mistake of saying "Coming soon: Level Three" in my Under the Pyramid: A Megadungeon -- Level Two post on November 7th. Here it is -- or at least the first half of it. Better late than never, I guess.

The third level under the pyramid is a group of five major areas only loosely connected together. Many characters only discovered the major area with the serpent men and never found the other areas in the rush to get to deeper levels. This was a shame because most of the really good treasure was in the other areas -- and one of those areas could provide a strong ally against the serpent men. I'll describe the this level by areas.

The Serpent People area is over half the level area-wise. There is a large cavern with a village of serpent people (and a temple to Set at one end). Over 300 serpent people (men with a serpent for a head like in the Conan stories I stole the idea from.) live in the village. All have a poisonous bite (save vs poison or paralyzed for 1d6 hours), can use minor illusions (change self type), and appear to be invulnerable (they take damage normally but look like they are never wounded until they fall over dead and the illusion fades). Most fight as 1st level fighters and favor wicked looking swords (that do 1d6+2 damage but shatter if a six is rolled). However, there are 30 "sergeants" who are second level fighters and 10 warleaders who are third level fighters. The two under-chiefs are 4th level fighters (their wives are 4th level clerics of Set who can use magic-users spells as well as clerical spells) while the chief is a 6th level fighter with two wives. They are human sisters and are the real powers behind the throne. One is a 6th level magic-user, the other is a sixth level cleric of Set. The chief and underchiefs (and their wives) have magic items, nothing super (plus +1 weapons, minor magic wands, etc.)

There are a number of rooms and chambers off of the cavern, including a prison and torture area, a "gatehouse" area where the sloping passage from level one terminates, a magic lab for the magic-using wives, a treasure vault guarded by a minor demon, a snake hatchery, and a small arena for combats.

There are no immediately obvious connections to other levels except the sloping passage from level one, a staircase going up to level two (also in the gatehouse area) and a staircase going down to level 4 in a room behind the large statue of Set in the temple. There are, however, hidden ways to other parts of the level. All but one are known to the Serpent people and are guarded either with warriors or traps.

Believe it or not, the Serpent People will be happy to let people who are not enemies (that is, are not known to have attacked and killed serpent people without cause) pass through their area for a nice donation. They make a good profit selling passage to level four for a 10gp per head donation to Set. Coming back usually costs 30gp per head, but if the returning party is badly damaged they may just try to kill them and take their stuff, depending on reaction rolls/prior history. Note that if a group fights their way out of this and returns, they will pretend like nothing happened and sell them passage again.

The Serpent people are meant to be too powerful for lower level parties to be able to wipe out. Stupid players will attack them, smarter players will treat them as a "passage tax" and wait until they are much more powerful to try to get rid of them.

Next Pyramid Post: The rest of level three.

New Project: Astonishing Tales of Swords and Sorcery RPG

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It's been a couple of weeks since I posted. My wife and I having to share a computer (as her motherboard died and cancer bills don't leave us enough money to replace it) accounts for part of why I haven't been posting. The main reason, however, is that I've been working on a new RPG, tentatively entitled Astonishing Tales of Swords and Sorcery (hereafter referred to as just Astonishing Tales). This game is a development of Microlite74 and Mazes and Monsters, well sort of, and like Microlite74 will be released as a free download.

Astonishing Tales is designed for swords & sorcery campaigns where magic is somewhat common, more like the Young Kingdoms of Elric than the Hyboria of Conan. Characters can be either Fighters or Sorcerers and start off as heroes rather than farm boys, but do not really increase in level as game goes on. In fact, there are no levels in the system at all. A Character's Reputation increases as they kill monsters and accumulate (and spend) treasure. Gaining a point of reputation does allow the character to increase slightly in power (something like the small level advances in Mazes and Monsters), but the main benefit is social. The higher your reputation, the greater the chance that others know of you and perhaps seek you out with missions and opportunities -- and the greater the rewards they are likely to offer to get you to take them.

I've always wanted to have a Classic Traveller like fantasy game when the characters started off fairly competent and gained in power more from the items they find and the connections they made rather than from continual increases in character level until they become fantasy superheroes. However, I never thought there would be much interest in such a system as "leveling" seems to be one of the main attractions to most even slightly popular fantasy roleplaying games.

All the players in my current OD&D game really liked the idea once I came up with the "reputation levels" with their small character benefits. So I hacked a quick system together, they created characters and we gave it a try. The first two games were a real trial of patience as we seemed to spend more time tweaking the rules than actually playing, but the game last week showed that what we hacked out works and is fun to play.

I hope to have a playtest edition available before Christmas, but cannot promise this due to our "two people who normally use a computer all day sharing one computer" situation. This edition will be written Microlite style, but if there is interest in the system beyond my group, a second edition will be released in a less terse/more complete style in 2010. I'll be posting more on how Astonishing Tales works over the next couple of weeks.

Free Old School RPG: Monsters and Mazes

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Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, John Garwood wrote a small roleplaying game called Monsters & Mazes. It was published as a text file designed to be printed on a printer -- complete with "end of page" codes to break the file into its proper pages. Some mistook the game as a parody, but it actually plays quite well as an "old-school" RPG. Here is the description of how to play from the rules:

First thing read booklet. Second make characters (one for each "player"). Third have GM construct maze. Fourth "stock" maze. Fifth play.

Playing in this game means the GM describes the environment the characters are in or can see. In turn the characters ask questions,move,perform actions, fight monsters,collect treasure, and most of all have fun. Then the process repeats itself over and over till the Maze or "Adventure" is finished.

In construction of maze sertain tables may have a general skill modifier placed on roll done on that table. There is four"skill levels" that are suggested they are Beginner, Novice, Expert, and Difficult.

Those tables with a preceeding @ sign may be decreased and those tables with a preceeding ! may be increased.
Beginner........No modifier 0
     Novice..........+1
     Expert..........+2
     Difficult.......+3
Results that go off the table use the lowest or highest accordingly.

Using "miniatures" adds a lot of fun to the game. You can use a chessboard or vinyl mats for the grid. The GM simply redraws or exposes that portion of the maze that the characters can see or are in on the playing board. In combat place the monsters strategically and place the characters at the point where the characters first "see" the monster/s. Commence movement as each square = 10' so the movement rolls = number of squares the participants can move. Example if Goerge the fighter rolls a 6 then Goerge moves 6 squares (60') and may attack. You may use the rule that no 2 characters can occupy the same square at once and fight or cast.
There were 11 classes (Wizard, Conjurer, Magician, Ranger, Fighter, Martial Artist, Robber, Knight, Paladin, Cleric, and Holyman) and you could roll 2d6 to determine your class (with Fighter, Martial Artists, and Robbers the most common rolls) Class were distinguished by armor and weapons they could use and some special abilities. Spells were described in one line each. For example:
Spell          Dice  Durat.  Effect  Description
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Fireball       4d6   inst.   30'r   Exploding ball of flame
Ice Storm      4d6   inst.   50'con Cone of ice shards
Lightning Bolt 5d6   inst.   50'lin Bolt of electricity that bounces
*Mr. Sandman   n/a   3d6 rnd 30'con Puts all within asleep
Advancement was very fast, but each level only gave the character one new ability of the player's choice: a new spell, a new hit die, a better save, more ability with a given spell, etc. What advances were possible varied by class.

Combat was simple and abstract -- a hit and parry system. No minis were really needed. Critical hits and fumbles were included.

Monsters were simple and like spells were described in one line (although a special abilities list was needed). Here are some examples:
TYPE      TH/IH   HP      # ACTS TREA # app. DAMAGE/OTHER
-----------------------------------------------------------
Skeleton  8/6     2d6     1      n    2d6-1  wep/1d6
Werewolf  5/6     6d6     6      y    1d3*   2Cl 4d6,Bi 3d6
Zombie    7/5     2d6+2   1      y    1d6+2  wep/1d6+1,Dis.
TH was the "to hit" roll (on 2d6). IH was the "is hit?" (aka parry/defend) roll.

Treasure tables, random dungeon generation tables, and a character sheet rounded out this little game. A complete old school RPG in about 20 pages of ascii text. It is actually quite good and fun to play. If you'd like a copy, you can download it from the following link.

Download Monsters & Mazes (60K Text File)

M74/OD&D Play-By-Post (for Cancer) Idea

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As many of longtime visitors (especially if you visited the Retroroleplaying forum) may know, I have wanted to run a play-by-post Microlite74 or OD&D game for a long time. Unfortunately, my wife has vetoed this idea every time I suggest it as she does not want me devoting any more time to the computer than I do now. Until now, she has said that I could either run my Sunday face-to-face game or a play-by-post game, but not both.

We were discussing this a couple of days ago and she suggested that if I really wanted to run a play-by-post game I could if all the players made a donation to the cancer fund to play. I just laughed and said that no one in their right mind would pay -- especially the $100 donation she wanted -- to play in a play-by-post game no matter how good the cause. This was the wrong thing to say and I ended up in the doghouse.

To get out of the doghouse, I had to agree to mention this idea in my blog and forum to see if there was any interest at all. I did get her to compromise a bit on the donation size -- it's down to a slightly more reasonable $30. I still don't expect much (actually any) interest, but I want out of the doghouse so this idea is getting posted. If you are actually interested (and willing to donate $30) please post to this idea's thread on the RetroRoleplaying message board. (If you think this is a dumb idea, no need to say anything as you definitely aren't alone.)

Under the Pyramid: A Megadungeon -- Level Two

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Sorry for the delay, I had intended to do one level of the dungeon every day. Unfortunately, offline life is not cooperating. However, here is a description -- taken from my old design notes -- of the second level of my Under the Pyramid megadungeon from the 1970s.

Before I start, I need to add a bit of information to my description of the first level. In each of the goblin camp areas, there is a temple to a serpentine deity. One faction sacrifices a captive on the new moon, the other faction on the full moon. If there are no captives, a member of the tribe is selected at "random" so there almost always are captives. The altars have strange symbols that look like humans with snakes for heads.

The second level was a maze of passageways, open chambers, and hidden rooms. The passageways and chambers were empty except for wondering monsters (25% goblins from level one, 25% serpent men from level three, 50% random from the OD&D charts). Most of the many hidden rooms are empty except for odd remains of contents and former inhabitants. There is a 2% chance per person/per turn searching a room that some random bit a treasure will be found. There is a 1% per turn after the first spent in a hidden room that some party member will be exposed to a disease (save to avoid) that causes a loss of 50% of the character's HP to fever and exhaustion under cured by magic or a week's bed rest.

Most of the passageways and chambers have unnerving and even obscene reliefs carved on the walls in a one foot band near the ceiling.

One hidden room contains the statue of a young girl in the center of a fountain. If anyone drinks from the fountain they can hear the statue whispering insanely about evil monsters from beyond time and space. If a drinker makes his save, he will also be cured of 1d6 points of damage. Another hidden room will seal completely (the door disappears) once the party enters. The door will reappear in 1d10 turns. There is no way out of the room (short of a wish or divine intervention) while the door is missing. Random monsters appear in the room every turn the door is missing. They are illusions, however. One hidden room is a circular pit with a staircase winding down. It winds down several hundred feet before plunging into water. Fifty feet further down is a locked door that will not open without key found on level 5. Inside the room is the crypt of a vampire with lots of treasure.

There is a hidden complex of rooms on this level that is the former home of a evil cleric and his followers. They are now all ghouls. Very hungry ghouls. A second hidden complex rooms the lair of a pair of Ogres and their bugbear servants. They just want to be left alone. A diamond worth 10000 gp is hidden in a trapped chest behind a secret door. The Ogres aren't aware of it, but one of the bugbears is.

Several staircases lead down. Two lead to level three. One leads to level 4 and turns to a slide once everyone is on it.

Coming soon: Level Three.

Using Google Wave for Gaming

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Google Wave seems to be the new "must have" thing on the Internet judging by the buzz on sites like Lifehacker. Gamers are already thinking about how to use it in online games. So far, most people I've seen using it for RPGs are using it like a chat room and not taking much planned advantage of its special features.

Will Hindmarch had a interesting article on using Google Wave for gaming on his gameplaywright blog. Although his blog is aimed more at Story Games than pure RPGs, his ideas for using Google Wave in gaming are quite adaptable and very much worth a look: Playing On A Wave.

Under the Pyramid: A Megadungeon -- Level One

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The very first dungeon I created was a double pyramid. Imagine a diamond shaped building buried in the ground do that only a large pyramid is visible. As might be expected, this dungeon was awful. People had fun playing in it, but it was boring, packed with rooms to the point that it would have needed lots magic to keep it from collapsing in on itself, and far too random. So I blew it up when I created a new dungeon.

There was a huge explosion and pieces of pyramid went flying everywhere. When the dust cleared and people got brave enough to go to the site, they discovered a huge hole in the ground with a over 400 high colossal statue rising out of the pit so that only its head and shoulders were above ground level. The statue appeared to be of some unknown deity of chaos. While it never seemed to move while being watched, its stance would shift slightly with time. No one knew what it was. After a time the common story was that it was a forgotten deity of chaos somehow imprisoned in slow time -- slowed to where one year seemed like only a few seconds. Truth? No one knows, but it made a great story.

One could climb down the statue with some effort and equipment, but adventurers soon discovered that one of the giant teeth was a illusion hiding the entrance to a tunnel leading to a staircase spiraling down the center of the statue to a hidden door in the left foot of the colossal statue. Oddly, this stairway did not seem to make too many people doubt the frozen chaos deity story.

I did not draw out this dungeon on graph paper. Instead I mapped it the way we had made maps for the "Adventure" game on the DEC10 in college (called often "Colossal Cave" when it became one of the first text adventure games for home computers), circles for rooms connected by lines. The numbered room descriptions gave actual room dimensions and info on connecting corridors in a handful of words (e.g. "40x40 ft stone room, stone corridors north and east, locked wood door east").

The first level was huge and centered more or less on the statue. This level had been the home of a large goblin tribe, but the chief had died and the tribe had split into two factions that had their headquarters in the northeast and west respectively and constantly fought for control of the level. There were lots of empty rooms to fight over. One corridor leading from the statue room to the major staircase to the next level was magiced to repel goblins. A strange low level magic user with a item that let him create and control zombies lived in a hidden sublevel. He had goblin zombies, naturally. A staircase in a hidden room lead up as far as one wanted to climb but went nowhere -- yet there were persistent rumors of odd creatures using it to enter the dungeon. There were at least three magical fountains on this level, one in each of the goblin home bases and one that seems to move about randomly. According to the both groups of goblins, there was a hidden treasure room where their former chief kept his loot but he took its location and the secret way to enter to his grave. There were several ways down to lower levels -- including a fissure with a red glow far below.

Why am I describing this mid-1970s dungeon design effort? I discovered my notes on the dungeon in a file over the weekend and figured that others would be interested in what I did.

Coming soon: the second level.

October Cancer Fund Drive: Final Chance At the Giveaways

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Tomorrow, November 2nd, is the last day to make a Retroroleplaying Cancer Fund donation and have a chance at one of our October giveaway items (e.g.
rare Traveller fanzines (Working Passage & Imperium Staple) and the RPGA limited edition AD&D Modules R1 (To the Aid of Falx) and R2 (Investigation of Hydell)). All donors receive the usual PDF downloads every donor has access to.

The highest donation so far is well under $100. Unlike the July drive there are no huge $1500+ donations from foundations to compete with. This time around you don't have to be rich and give a huge amount for a good chance of receiving one of our giveaway items.

Send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal by midnight November 2nd for a chance at the giveaway items. My apologies for having to ask for donations and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who donates -- and a special thank you to those who donated items to our giveaway. If you cannot donate but wish to help, please spread the word about my request and offer. Thank you very much in advance.