Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In the Land of Ooo

As a Dad I get to watch plenty of cartoons created for kids. I have been enjoying Dexter's Laboratory, Courage the Cowardly Dog and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack for a while now, but this past year a new series began that is appropriate material for Ye Auld Grog n Blog. I speak of course of Pendleton Ward's Adventure Time.

Mr. Benedicto over at Eiglophian Press may have already turned some of you on to the show. If not perhaps I can encourage you to check it out.

I really took notice when one of the recurring characters, the Ice King, referred to himself as a “Magic-User” in an early episode. That's a term normally heard only in D&D circles.

In a later episode, the Ice King used the term “Magic Missile”. Another D&D term. Now I was fairly convinced of some ties to old school D&D.

The recent “Dungeon” episode sealed the deal, of course, with a Mimic, a Gelatinous Cube and a Trapper, amongst other things, protecting, what else, treasure in a dungeon. There's no doubting that Mr. Ward has some ties to old school D&D.

I recommend the Dungeon episode to any D&D fan, and I heartily endorse Adventure Time as a series. It's off-beat and is beginning to develop rather nicely.


Monday, July 26, 2010

ODD Bits 1

ODD Bits is a web log series of trivia questions culled from the pages of Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of original Dungeons & Dragons. If you care to play along, answer each ODD Bit question to the best of your knowledge without referring to the source material. Answers are provided in the comments section, so don't peek there until you've tried to answer all five questions.

Grade yourself based on the number of questions you answered correctly*:

5: Unbelievable, 4: Outstanding, 3: Well Done, 2: Not Bad, 1: Not Good,
0: Embarrassing

* - Sham is the referee here, so any rules interpretations taken are final, even if viewed through his warped lens.

ODD Bits 1

1. Not counting Elves, name the three monsters able to Charm an opponent.

2. What's the to-hit and damage bonus of a Magic Arrow shot from a Magic Bow?

3. Characters with a Dexterity score of __________ or higher add 1 to their attacks when firing missiles. A. 12, B. 13 or C. 15.

4. True or False: In order for any character to change class a minimum of 16 is required in the new class's prime requisite ability.

5. Clerics first receive their highest level spells at what level of experience? A. 6, B. 7 or C. 8.

Good Luck!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Spirit of the Matter

The Spirit of the Matter, not the Subject nor the Sound.

It's nice to enjoy the musical tastes shared by other bloggers out there who have been encouraged by my short lived but inspirational Friday Flashbacks series. Sharing music vids seemed natch to me when I started doing so a couple years back. Now it seems rather ordinary to find Youtube vids along side D&D posts. Who woulda thunk it?

Recently my ears have been treated to pure audio gold thanks to the Music Genome Project at Pandora Radio. As I type this I am rocking out and alternating between my Stiv Bators and Johnny Thunders stations. Chew on that three-chord madness. It's both enlightening and scary as hell when you discover bands that are awesome as all get out yet were formed and disbanded before you ever heard of them. Argh.

Nevertheless, the internet once more proves to be mana from the gods, by Crom.

Anyway, all of this reminded me of a time when the "so-called OSR" (I have always loved that semi-derogatory term) was represented (there were countless others involed) by but a handful of bloggers (discounting the other forms of OSR types). Ha! Disclaimers abound.

To my knowledge I was the first fool to tie D&D to Punk Rock. It really stirred me up last year when some moron linked "fatbeards" with "punk" and old school D&D guys in general. Let me tell you that absolutely NO ONE ever related Punk and D&D back in the day and the very notion was downright silly. I was there in the late 70's/early 80's, D&D and Punk simply did not co-exist outside of my off-beat leanings. Perhaps that is why I eventually linked up with another self-proclaimed Punk in Amityville Mike. To see the opinions that I had spread across the blogosphere reduced to random uninformed insults almost made me delete my web log.

In many ways I should have been flattered. Ah well. To this day I am often surprised by what insults me, and that was certainly a weaker moment. But Ye Auld Grog & Blog survived.

Back to the point. Here's a proto-OSR post (yeah I know it's not even three years old yet) with comments from some important old school types who used to read my ramblings. The definitive OD&D-Punk post which at the time flew in the face of the accepted OD&D-Metal philosophy.

All of that floated out there, I am still taking the non-formulaic DIY approach to D&D. Maybe this post and older link will convince others to do the same.

Oh, and I highly recommend both Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators for your own Pandora stations. More on those two at a later date.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, July 23, 2010

Magic Swords in OD&D

I'm still considering the magic items in Vol 2, and once more the topic is Magic Swords.

If you aren't familiar with Magic Swords in OD&D neither this post nor the previous one concerning them will make a whole lot of sense, so maybe an overview is in order.

Magic Swords range from +1 to +3. This is a “to-hit” bonus only unless otherwise specified. Three-quarters of all of these enchanted blades are +1 to-hit, a little over half of which confer either increased to-hit and damage bonuses versus specific monsters, object location, or wishes. A Sword +2 is listed in two varieties, one with and one without a Charm Person ability. Lastly there is a standard Sword +3, a Sword -2 Cursed, and the 1 in 100 +0 Life Drainer. All of these types are randomly determined with a d00 roll on the Swords table.

It does not end there, however. There are nearly four pages of rules for determining the other features of a Magic Sword.

All Magic Swords possess an alignment, determined by a d00 roll, and a level of intelligence from 1-12. Alignment determines who can safely pick up a Magic Sword as they will cause damage to beings of different alignment who do so. Furthermore, alignment will help the referee when making decisions concerning these items in the continuing campaign.

Intelligence will determine the additional powers and communicative abilities of the sword, if any exist. These additional “Mental Powers” include the knowledge of Languages, Read Magic, Primary Powers and Extraordinary Abilities. Communicative abilities are: None, Empathy, Speech or Telepathy. The number of languages known is determined randomly and ranges from one to ten.

The Primary Powers are diced from a table of nine fairly generic dungeon-crawling detection and location powers. Included is the infamous “Detect Meal & What Kind” entry, a sure-fire, giggle-inducing tidbit from the olden days of nerdvana.

The Extraordinary Ability Table contains a dozen spell-like powers ranging from useful abilities like Clairaudience to Telekinesis, Teleport and Fly.

All Magic Swords with Intelligence of 7 or greater will also possess an Egoism score. Ranging from 1-12, Egoism is added to Intelligence during certain situations to see if the sword “takes over” the wielder.

Lastly, there is a 1 in 10 chance that a Magic Sword will possess a special Origin/Purpose. If so, based upon its alignment, the sword will grant yet another power. Swords aligned with Law will paralyze the targets they were fabricated to defeat while swords aligned with Chaos will disintegrate their targets. Neutral swords confer a +1 to all saves power when facing their specific foes. The referee chooses what the special purpose or specific targets of the sword is, for example a sword might be designed to defeat all (Chaotic) Fighting-Men.

Philotomy says it best so you could also benefit from his wisdom.

Anyway, on with the rambling.

Using this somewhat initially cumbersome method for Magic Swords will create plenty of variety. Even the most statistically common result, a Sword +1 aligned with Law and having an Intelligence 6 or below (indicating no special powers at all) only accounts for 11.38% of all random results. Beyond that, if using the Origin/Purpose rule as written, 10% of the swords will have a special purpose which automatically grants the blade a special power. That means the most statistically common result, essentially a run of the mill Sword +1, accounts for a mere 10.24% of all Magic Swords.

Admittedly one can achieve some fairly wacky results using the system in Vol 2 for rolling up Magic Swords. That in itself is part of the charm of OD&D's clunky method.

If you have Vol 2 and wish to not deviate from the original, here are the steps you follow:

OD&D Magic Sword Determination

1. 1d00 Swords Table
2. 1d00 Alignment*
3. 1d12 Intelligence: If result is 6 or less move to Step 8.
4. 1d00 Primary Powers: As determined by Intelligence.
5. 1d00 Languages Spoken: Skip this step if Intelligence is 9 or less.
6. 1d00 Extraordinary Abilities: As determined by Intelligence or Primary Powers.
7. 1d12 Egoism
8. 1d00 Origin/Purpose**: 91-00 indicates a special purpose.

* - Percentages are reversed for sword type 83 from Step 1 (drain life ability).
** - Listed last in my opinion because at this step no powers are subsequently added on as a result of moving Intelligence and Egoism to their maximum.

Granted, if you do not have access to Vol 2 these steps mean nothing to you.

Those wishing to get the same results with an alternate feel of clunk can try the revised version I've created which perfectly replicates the original statistically without duplicating the actual content of Vol 2.

Here's a scan.

I've made a PDF over there to the right in Sham's OD&D Stuff titled Revised Magic Sword Determination. Which reminds me, I have to finish moving all of my old Orbitfiles docs over to Mediafire one of these years.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unique Underpinnings

Revisiting a topic I touched on many moons ago, here's another look at the OD&D Vol 2 Magic Items tables. Discounting the wildly random aspect of magic swords, as addressed in yesterday's post, what are the rarest magic items in OD&D?

The following four categories each have but a 5% chance of being rolled on the Magic Items determination table: Misc. Weapons, Rings, Wands/Staves and Misc. Magic. Keep in mind that 25% of “items” are actually Maps and not Magic, then that 1 in 20, or 5%, is reduced to 3.75% for each of the four categories.

Now, within those four categories I will find the items with but a 1 in 100 chance of appearing, or a .0375% chance to be rolled randomly. There are 15 such items and each has 1 in 2,667 odds to be rolled randomly.

War Hammer +3
Spear +3
Spell Storing Ring
Ring of Many Wishes
Staff of Wizardry
Crystal Ball with ESP
Air Elemental Censor
Earth Elemental Stone
Fire Elemental Brazier
Water Elemental Bowl
Helm of Teleportation
Flying Carpet
Drums of Panic
Horn of Blasting
Mirror of Life Trapping

I was considering treating these “ultra-rares” as artifacts in some treatment in the near future. Before the players find any of these, I'll make a note as to where each one is located and remember to re-roll the result if by some slim chance one of these items pops up in a random fill. The end result is promoting the 15 items to some special status from which I can possibly create stories, rumors and even determine what protects or makes use of them within the underworld.

Although my intentions seem reasonable, there's simply no doubting the fact that I will continue to create new items; items which will invariably become more powerful than the ultra-rares. I always do and I'd be fooling myself if I decided to make these 15 rares the top of the magic item ladder, so to speak. The important aspect is these particular items are designated as unique in the campaign. This is not a new notion at all. In fact, I've read others mention that perhaps a campaign in which every single non-consumable item was unique would be interesting, a notion that I have shared myself in the past. For my current games, though, I have decided that the only unique items in the campaign, ones which will be re-rolled if they somehow appear in a random determination, are limited to the 15 rarest of the rare. For now I'll simply use the term “unique item” to describe the items elevated to this status.

Any item with historical notes, rumors and a predetermined location is deserving of a name as well. So I need to add that to the to do list for the unique items.

I think this is an exercise of note because I can already envision the numerous rooms, encounters and even sub-levels which will spring forth from such considerations. Being the dungeonista I am, you can be sure all 15 unique items will be in the deeper levels of my current underworld sprawl. Rumors and legends will beckon adventurers to seek them out and this entire process will create reliable underpinnings for both the dungeon and the campaign.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Somewhere Out There Waits Revoemag

A pointless exercise in order to create the most campaign-breaking random Magic Sword possible using the rules found in Vol 2 (just without the random bit).

Roll 1d00: 01-65 for a Magic Sword aligned with Law.

Roll 1d12: Intelligence of 12 for a result of three Primary Powers, one Extraordinary Power, as well as the abilities of the sword to understand Languages, communicate via Telepathy and Read Magic.

Primary Powers Table

For the three 1d00 rolls on this table I select 96-99, which states:

“Take two rolls ignoring scores over 95 except a roll of 00”.

Roll 1A: 31-40: Locate Secret Doors
Roll 1B: 41-50: Detect Traps
Roll 2A: 51-60: See Invisible
Roll 2B: 00: Roll on the Extraordinary Ability Table
Roll 3A: 00: Roll on the Extraordinary Ability Table
Roll 3B: 00: Roll on the Extraordinary Ability Table

The sword now has three more rolls on the Extraordinary Ability Table, for a total of four.

Extraordinary Ability Table

For the four 1d00 rolls on this table I select 00, which states:

“Take three rolls ignoring scores over 97”.

Those four rolls just became 12 rolls.

The following rolls are can't miss powers:

21-30: ESP
51-59: Teleportation

The sword can have double-strength powers from this table if the same roll results twice. The sword could have rolled each of the following powers twice:

41-50 twice: Double-power Telekinesis
60-68 twice: Double-power X-Ray Vision
83-87 twice: Double-power Flying
88-92 twice: Double-power Healing
93-97 twice: Double-power Strength Boost

Languages Spoken Table

A 1d00 roll of 00 indicates two rolls. 90-99 rolled twice indicates that the sword knows ten Languages.


A 1d00 roll of 91-00 indicates a special power when striking a particular opponent. For swords aligned with Law, this added ability is to Paralyze. The sword's purpose has been chosen as “Defeat Chaos”, which means all strikes upon those aligned to Chaos causes Paralysis.

I think that's it. Oh wait, as to the type of Magic Sword.

Roll 1d00: 79-80: Sword +2, Charm Person Ability

The Sword +3 and the Life Drain Sword are excellent candidates, but the possibilities with Charm Person added to the insane list of powers, generated “randomly” using just the Vol 2 rules, would be as much fun as a barrel o' barbarians.

Here's the synopsis:

Sword +2, Charm Person Ability
Intelligence 12
Ego 12
Situational Egoism 36
Revoemag can Read Magic, use Telepathy and understands 10 Languages.
The wielder of Revoemag gains the following “at will” powers:
Charm Person, Locate Secret Doors, Detect Traps, See Invisible, ESP, Teleportation, Double-power Telekinesis, Double-power X-Ray Vision, Double-power Flying.
The wielder of Revoemag gains the following limited use powers:
Double-power Healing: 1 point/3 turns or 12 points/day.
Double-power Strength Boost: 2-8 times Strength for 2-20 turns, twice per day.
Purpose: Defeat Chaos.
Special Power: Causes Paralysis when striking Chaotic opponents.

With a Situational Egoism of 36, this sword would constantly be at odds with any wielder not spending every waking moment attempting to annihilate Chaos.

Would one ever actually see a sword like Revoemag in one of my games? Sure, if the dice were friendly enough. Although the odds of this sword being rolled randomly are mind boggling to say the least.

Let's roll one using the rules to see how close to an honestly rolled campaign-breaker we can get:

Sword +1
Intelligence 7
Ego 2
Situational Egoism 9
Communicates via Empathy
Locate Secret Doors
Purpose: None
Special Power: None

That's much more like the average OD&D Magic Sword. Murdmuh is the type of sword that might remain in one's arsenal for a long while simply for the Locate Secret Doors power.

Ah well, I'll keep rolling them and my players will keep searching for that one in a quintillion sword.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee