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Astounding Tales: Back to The Drawing Board

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My busy holiday season with a sick foster dog and relatives in town has kept me from posting much more about my ideas for Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery. I'm sorry to report that this may have been a good thing. We held a few playtest sessions with a couple of free members from my OD&D game. We discovered a number of problems.

Players consider the hit dice system "too fiddly". The magic system just does not work well. It is far too easy to cast high level spells as rituals. Characters have a good number of hit points, but players seem to watch them like they were 1st level Magic-Users with 1 hp. The varying number of hit points available each day seems to be partially responsible.

The major problem here is the hit dice system. As it is the core of the current Astounding Tales system, the fact that player find it "too fiddly", seem afraid to "spend" hit points to do things, and are confused by the new hit point total every day tells me that there is something fundamentally wrong with the game system. No matter how nifty a design is on paper if it does not work in practice or most players do not like it, it needs to go back to the drawing board. The system works pretty good (better than the magic system), but everyone who has playtested it has disliked it.

What does all this mean? I'm going to have to take a Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery back into the workshop, rethink things, and try again. This dashes my hope of releasing the rules as a 0e supplement in January. The project will probably go on the back burner for a while, at least until I can come up with a different core system to base things on.

Original D&D Set (6th Printing) Sells for Over $8000!

Now that I've given all the collectors over at The Acaeum a heart attack, let me add that this "sale" was at a charity auction. Regular readers of this blog may remember I had a fund raiser in July for our huge cancer-related bills (the joys of no health insurance in the US) and offered "whoever donates the most during this time period will receive the OD&D special: the three LBB (Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures -- sixth printing purchased without a box in 1979 or 1980, probably never used), Supplement I: Greyhawk (3rd printing but well-used) and Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardy (2nd printing, excellent -- but not mint -- condition)."

The largest donor was a small private foundation. They paid one of out bills completely and got the OD&D materials for this years charity auction. The theme for the auction was "20th Century Rarities." This wasn't the type of auction you have at ebay or at an estate sale, but what happens when you have a group of wealthy people vying to donate money to a cause they believe in. In other words, the people bidding aren't really interested in owning the item for it's value, it's just a fun way to donate a lot of money to a good cause.

I got an email from my contact at this foundation last night telling me the OD&D materials I gave them raised $8200 for them. Given that they have less than 1% overhead, that means about $8100 that they will use to help more people like my wife and myself. The D&D items I gave them actually raised more money for them than the bill they paid for us which I think is really neat. This was far from the largest "sale" at their annual auction last weekend. They raised over $250,000 from the sale of 18 items.

BTW, we are still accepting donations in any amount to help us pay the huge bills from my wife's oral cancer. While I don't have any more OD&D sets to offer, everyone who donates gets our Donor-only old school PDFs: you'll get pdf copies of the two issues of The Grimoire I published in the late 1970s (which I blogged about here: The Grimoire #1 and The Grimoire #2 a copy of The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed, a set of house rules for a BECMI campaign I ran at a game shop in the mid-1980s, and a copy of Microlite74 2.0 Special Digest-Sized Edition. You can donate by clicking the Paypal button below or via this link: Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund. Thanks in advance for any donations, they will make the holiday season here less stressful.

Astounding Tales: The Sorcerer Class

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The Sorcerer is one of the two classes in Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery (the other is the Fighter). The Sorcerer class is intended to represent both pure magic-users/priests and mental/scholarly professions that just might know a few spells. All Sorcerers have a background, a general area of expertise representing their pre-adventuring background or training. Some examples would be enchanter, hedge wizard, necromancer, priest, sage, healer, scribe, and exorcist. The enchanter, hedge wizard, necromancer, and priest backgrounds are pure sorcerer backgrounds. The others are examples of mental 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 sorcerers have 6 hit dice. Those with a pure sorcerer background roll D6s. Those with a mental 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 sorcerer gets a full night's sleep and hasn't taken any Long Term Damage Points, he will roll either 2d6+24 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 3d6+18 or 3d8+24. More details on how hit dice are rolled in a future post.

Pure sorcerers have a base armor class of 9. Those with a mental profession have a base armor class of 8. 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). Casting spells is hard in armor and subtracts from the spell success roll.

Sorcerers can use any weapon and but aren't trained in the most effective way to use weapons to do the most damage so they are much less effective with weapons than a fighter. In a sorcerer's hands weapons do the following damage:

1d8--Two handed weapons
1d6--Heavy weapons
1d4--Medium weapons
1d2--Light weapons

Casting spells requires both hands to be free, although holding a wand, a staff, or special magical implement does not count.

Sorcerers have good saving throws against magic and fair saving throws against physical things. Sorcerers have a fair chance to hit, a THAC0 of 11. Sorcerers can cast spells and use many magic items.

Pure Sorcerers start knowing minor magic, arcane blast, and six spells (of any level) of their choice. Mental professions start knowing three spells (of any level) of their choice. Priests may get other special abilities instead of minor magic and arcane blast depending on the deity they follow. Initial spell choices may be limited by the GM. Additional spells may be discovered as treasure during the game.

Spells cost energy in the form of hit points to cast, 1 HP per level of the spell if the spell is considered white or gray magic. 2 HP per level if the spell is considered black magic. Black magic can either be any spell used to harm/control others without just cause or it can be a specific list of spells, GM choice. Spells only cost energy id they are successfully cast. Unsuccessful attempts do not cost any energy.

To successfully cast a spell, you have to roll the spell's level or higher on 1d6. Spending extra time, extra resources and the like add bonuses to this roll. Wearing armor and other disadvantages subtract from the roll. This means spells of 7th level of higher cannot be cast without taking special effort to provide bonuses.