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March 26, 2009

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Thursday Thaumaturgy: Dread of the Scarecrow

March 26, 2009

This spell will be making an appearance in my Forbidden City Sandbox campaign:

Dread of the Scarecrow

Spell Level: C3, M2
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 day per caster level

This spell causes an aura of fear and dread to form at a 10′ radius around a scarecrow or similar object. Creatures that enter this aura must save or flee in panic for 1d6 rounds back the way they came. Those that save will still feel uncomfortable within the aura and wish to leave it. Avoiding looking at the scarecrow gives a +2 on the saving throw.

That’s not a Statue?!?

March 26, 2009
Definitely NOT a guy holding up a sword on the roof of that building

Definitely NOT a guy holding up a sword on the roof of that building

Here’s something pretty funny that I figured out recently when beginning work on my Forbidden City Sandbox campaign. Down in the southwest corner of the city, near the entrance to the valley leading to the amphitheater of the yuan ti, is the building pictured at right.

You see that partially-collapsed roof? And the cracks radiating from the missing section?

For more than twenty years I’ve thought that was a statue of a guy holding up a sword.


Looking at it now, especially zoomed in a bit, it’s clearly not.

I’m a little disappointed. In fact, I’m so disappointed that maybe, just maybe, in my Forbidden City that is a giant rooftop statue of a guy holding his sword aloft and not wreckage like on so many of the other buildings.

Forbidden City Sandbox

March 25, 2009

I’ve decided to scratch something that’s been itching me for more than two decades.

I’ve really been wanting to get something going with the new Swords & Wizardry White Box rules set. The short and simple system, a retro-clone of the three original LBBs without material from the supplements, shouts “sword and sorcery” to me, and I’ve been trying to decide exactly how to approach it.

I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City by Dave Cook (1981, TSR)

I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City by Dave Cook (1981, TSR)

My decision is that I’m going to launch a sandbox-style campaign with the old AD&D module I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City. This was the first module we ever played, and my brother sent me through it in about 1983 or 1984. (I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this may have been the first time I played an NPC from my campaign named Kilgore as my own player character.)

The module itself provides a rather intriguing setting and a number of encounters. Beyond that, there’s not a lot to it, and that’s what I’ve always liked about it. The basic hook in the module is that the adventurers are on a mission to see who has been interfering with trade caravans (it turns out to be the yuan ti in the city, the first appearance of these popular creatures), but given the size of the place and the excellent map, the surface of the setting’s potential is barely even scratched. I’ve long wanted to change that, and now I’m going to.

My basic plan is to map out some of the surrounding territory and provide some interesting encounters in the wilderness. I’ve already begun keying every building in the city. I the map into the computer and numbered every building, and I’m using 3×5 index cards for notes. I figure I can write up each building in as much (or as little) detail as needed, pull the card when required, and make changes or write up an entirely new card when actions by the player characters alter things. I’ll probably use cards for wilderness hexes, as well.

Those that own or have played the module know that the overwhelming majority of the buildings in the city are uninhabited and basically empty. Rest assured that this will not be the case in my Forbidden City. In addition, I am working on several ideas regarding the sewer network mentioned in the module, a megadungeon-type labyrinth with at least one entrance somewhere in the city, and a number of other ideas to greatly expand the possibilities. The setting (dense jungle, ancient ruined city) and the inhabitants (demonic snakemen, degenerate human-animal mongrels, native tribesmen) are just screaming for the old-school swords and sorcery treatment.

My hope is to have an ongoing setting where the majority of the adventuring takes place in or under the Forbidden City itself, but there’s plenty of room to explore the surrounding wilderness (and run into some surprises I’ve got in mind while doing so). Also, things like that Egyptian-style pyramid and the temple-looking building with two winged demons flanking the entrance aren’t going to be there just for looks any longer. I’m developing a bit of backstory and the inhabitants of the city are not completely isolated. Rather, the city is part of the larger world, and caravan raiding is not the only contact between those in the city and those outside.

Eventually, I think there will plenty be room enough for at least one main campaign and additional smaller groups running simultaneously. (Oh, for only enough time and enough players to make something like that happen!) I’ll probably also have some one-shot scenarios set in the region for pick-up play if needed.

Now that I’ve decided on this, I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll be writing about some of this as I develop it. If I can get even half of my grand ideas into action, it’s going to be good times in the old jungle!

Tuesday Treasure: Evermore Coin

March 24, 2009

Back in the shadows of the narrow alleyway, Agvo held the strange gold coin in his hand, inspecting its rough but gleaming surface. “Muult’plii,” he whispered, wondering if the sage’s information had been worth the high price and the days of waiting while the old greybeard poured through ancient scrolls and musty tomes.

At the sound of the magic word, the coin shimmered for an instant and then a second coin, a perfect duplicate of the first, appeared in his hand. Agvo’s jaw dropped open in surprise.

“Muult’plii,” he whispered again. This time both coins shimmered and two duplicates suddenly appeared. “Muult’plii,” he said again, not whispering. In a flash, he held eight gold coins in his hand. “Muult’plii!” he said excitedly. The eight became sixteen. “Muult’plii!” Thirty-two.

Out on the street, Kilgore hurried along as best he could without attracting attention. Any second now the city watch would spot them, and it would time to fight yet again. They had to get out of town before that happened. So where in the Abyss had Agvo got to now? In fact, why had he been skulking around since they arrived four days ago?

In the alleyway, Agvo gazed at the coin. This was going to change everything! No more picking pockets for a couple of coppers to buy a meal. No more creeping into dark dungeons in search of gold. No more listening to anyone telling him to be mindful of what he spent. Agvo’s day of leisure had come at long last!

“What the Hades is this?!?” a voice roared. Agvo was so startled that he dropped the coin. He turned to see Kilgore rushing down from the street. Behind him was the sound of a great commotion.

“Oh,” Agvo began. “Remember that coin in the box in that chamber with the tapestry and wine rack?”

Kilgore pulled up short, glaring at him. “Devil take the coin, the tapestry, and the wine!” he shouted. “The city watch is coming! Dig yourself out of whatever deviltry you’ve been fooling with and let’s get out of here!”

Agvo looked down. He was standing in a pile of gold coins up to his knees. He hadn’t remembered making that many. He was about to reply when shouts from a group of watchmen echoed down the alley. He reached down for a coin but Kilgore had yanked him up and out of the golden heap and was dragging him roughly down the alley. As he tried in vain to break free from the warrior’s iron grip, he saw the watchmen stop at the pile of coins and begin stuffing their pockets.

“My gold!” Agvo wailed.

“Whatever the Hades you were doing,” Kilgore muttered, “you’re better off without the trouble that always accompanies that sort of sorcery…”

Evermore Coin

At first glance, this coin appears to be a normal, if old and worn, gold piece. Detect magic reveals its enchantment, but only research by a sage or similar expert can reveal its power. Upon uttering the magic word “Muult’plii,” the coin duplicates itself. Every copy within 5′ of the original will also duplicate itself if the word is said again, meaning that the number of coins can be doubled as fast as the owner can repeat the word.

If this seems to good to be true, be assured that it is. Firstly, anyone using the Evermore Coin‘s power must save vs. magic or be overcome with greed and become unable to stop multiplying the coins without outside intervention. This could lead to disaster in enclosed spaces.

Secondly, all the duplicate coins will transform into iron after one hour, meaning that anyone who purchases something with duplicate coins may have some explaining to do shortly thereafter. The original coin, easy to lose among a pile of golden duplicates, remains golden and enchanted.

The recent discussions of coins and weight reminded me of this creation from back in my early days of DMing. I can’t recall if the PC (played by my brother) who discovered the power of this item managed to grab a coin from the pile he had half buried himself in or not. If so, it must have been a copy and not the original, because I don’t remember further uses of it. It obviously has a lot of potential to unbalance things economically, but the resultant excitement when the riches turn to iron is sure to deflate anyone’s grand plans of free and easy money.

Possibly Switching Lairs

March 24, 2009

I started this site a few weeks back more or less on a whim when I wanted to create a new ID for commenting on blogs and forums. But, having created the blog, I was not about to let anything that crossed my mind go unpublished, and now I find myself trying to get up at least one post per day on various gaming-related topics.

I’m using the free system, and I must say that it’s pretty nice. It’s been years since I’ve looked at any of the free hosted services, and I am impressed. My guess is that the latest version of Blogger is just as good. I sure wish that tools like this had been available when I began writing online in 2003.

And that leads into the real topic of this post. I’ve been a regular blogger (in other fields) for over six years now, and I have a lot of disk space and bandwidth available at my hosting service. Though this system is certainly very nice, some of the features I’m used to using are only available via paid add-ons. Now, I don’t have a problem with this model, but as I’m already paying for hosting and various software packages, I’m not real keen on paying more for the same things here.

I’m strongly leaning towards moving this little site over to my existing hosting and publishing under my own domain. This is the sort of move that should be made sooner rather than later so as to minimize the complexity of the move and the number of links pointing back to the old site. A number of other bloggers have kindly linked to Lord Kilgore already, and moves like this are a bit of a headache for everyone.

Hopefully I’ll decide what to do by the end of the week and, if I do decide to forge ahead and move shop, I’ll get it taken care of this weekend.

More on coin sizes and weights

March 24, 2009
Ancient Coins - How many per pound?

Ancient Coins - How many per pound?

Bat in the Attic has a post up about the topic of coinage. He generally uses a system where silver is 250 coins per pound (much, much smaller than most standards) but gold is 16 coins per pound (more in line with most by the book systems):

What I found that a system where you have a one common coin and one coin that is really large in relative value works better as far as giving the sense that treasure is valuable. The hordes of silver pennies are appreciated but it is the rare finds of gold crowns that make the players go oooo.

That’s an interesting take. As I mentioned yesterday, I keep thinking about going to the 100 coins per pound system in light of treasure-heavy old-school dungeons, particularly given Labyrinth Lord’s encumbrance limits. However, while such a move might be looter-friendly, the physical size of massive treasure hoards would suddenly become, well, less massive. The mix of smaller lesser coins and larger gold coins could be one way to address that. It’s something I’ll keep in mind as I try to settle on a simple, fair, and fun system for my old schooling.

Note: I like how a topic that surfaces on someone’s blog or on a forum seems to catch fire and spawn all sorts of posting from various writers. Gives us all a chance to look at various takes on the issue.

Monday Monster: Giant Scorpadillo

March 23, 2009

“This whole place is filled with pits!” moaned Janella as she struggled to her feet. This one was probably about ten feet deep, just like the others they had fallen int that afternoon. “Do any of you up there still have any rope?”

“Hold on,” muttered the elf Artimis as he pulled off his pack and began rummaging through it for his rope. “I managed to get across fine. Isn’t that the third time you’ve set off a trap door? How much did you eat last night?”

The cleric decided not dignify that with a response. She tried to brush some of the dirt out of her robes but realized it was hopeless. They’d have to be replaced.

From above, there was the sound of a sudden gasp and a dropped sword clanged on the stone floor. It sounded like that man-at-arms that Ronadare had hired, Janella figured. She shook her head. That poor guy had no idea what he was getting himself into when he signed on with this bunch. “How about that rope?” she called up, irritated.

“Just hold on,” came the reply from Artimis. “I said I was–” but his voice trailed off. He certainly needed someone to keep an eye on him, Janella thought. He’s distracted by every little thing.

Up in the corridor, Artimis knelt over his pack, coil of rope held forgotten in his hand. He looked back across the pit opening at the other two members of the party, his mouth open in shock. He dropped the rope and reached for his bow, pulling an arrow from the quiver at his side.

The scene across the opening was beyond belief. Ronadare was on his hands and knees looking down into the pit. Completely unnoticed beyond the kneeling halfling, their man-at-arms had dropped his weapon and was staggering against the cold wall of the corridor, seemingly choking. Behind the stricken man was an unearthly-looking  four-legged beast, nearly the size of a black bear. A small head with pointed ears protruded from a shell-like body, and a massive jointed tail, like that of a scorpion, arched over it, a deadly-looking stinger on the tip. It was this, Artimis realized immediately, which must have struck the man-at-arms from behind.

“Look out!” Artimis shouted, loosing an arrow at the creature. The halfling didn’t waste time looking and immediately rolled to one side. The plunging stinger missed him by inches. Artimis’ arrow struck its mark but bounced away harmlessly into the darkness. Meanwhile, the man-at-arms began to cough up a nasty, pasty foam. With a gurgle, he collapsed, his body wracked by a fit of convulsions.

Artimis nocked another arrow while Ronadare reached for his sword and Janella called from below in a vain attempt to find out what was happening. Silently, the creature advanced, its menacing tail jerking this way and that as it prepared to strike again…

Giant Scorpadillo

No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90′ (30′)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 2 (bite, sting)
Damage: 1d4/1+poison
Save: F4
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: VII

These creatures seem to be the twisted creation of a demented sorcerer from ages past. Combining the armored body of a huge armadillo with the poisonous sting of a giant scorpion’s tail, these beasts are equally at home in labyrinths or in the wilderness. They are naturally aggressive and do not hesitate to attack.

Anyone stung by the tail of a giant scorpadillo must save vs. poison or immediately go into convulsions and die in 1d6 turns.

The underside of the giant scorpadillo is armor class 7, but the creature is low to the ground and such attacks are difficult at best. If means to strike at the vulnerable underbelly are found, the giant scorpadillo will curl up into a ball to avoid them. This maneuver leaves the tail free to continue attacking anyone within five feet.

This account of the meeting with the dreaded giant scorpadillo was played out in grisly detail not long ago during a Labyrinth Lord session. Fortunately for the party, an elven hunter that had been rescued from a trap earlier in the day used a few well-placed arrows to keep the monster at bay while the halfling and another fighter closed in to deliver some killing blows. Alas, it was too late to save the poor man-at-arms. The deadly scorpadillo poison finished him off.

For an iconic image of the giant scorpadillo, check out the classic at Jeff’s Gameblog.

Coin Size and Weight Limits

March 23, 2009

Fitz has done a little research into the “10 coins per pound” rule by looking at some ancient Roman coinage and found that it’s not too far off. I’m not surprised.

Athenian tetradrachm from c. 490 BC

Athenian tetradrachm from c. 490 BC

I personally have waffled between 10 and 20 per pound, as a general rule, reckoning that typical coins are about the size of a US nickel.

As I’ve gone old school and the looting of hoards has taken precedence over story goals and other such elements, I’m wondering if smaller (say, dime-sized) coins at 100 per pound might not be in order. That seems a bit too small, though. Think how many it would take to make a bed for good old Smaug.

Labyrinth Lord uses 10 coins to the pound and rules that characters with more than 40 pounds of equipment lose movement rate.

Swords & Wizardry (both Core and White Box), on the other hand, uses the same 10 coins per pound rule but states that characters can carry up to 75 pounds before losing movement rate.

Sure, I could house rule the weight allowances in LL, but they actually seem closer to “reality” to me than the 75 pound limit. At the same time, characters seem overly-limited in the amount of equipment they carry to begin with by the 40 pound limit, and once the characters discover some treasure they immediately drop into the next-lower move rate because they’ve dropped items from their inventory in order to stay at a decent move rate.

Another consideration is that I plan on running both LL and S&W, and the wide discrepancy between the two on this matter may be confusing.

I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do about this.


March 21, 2009

A lot of folks are up in arms about the lack of gnomes as PC races in recent games. Perhaps this explains their absence:

Alien Gnome Bandits

Alien Gnome Bandits

Swords & Wizardry monster stats below…

Alien Gnome Bandits

Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: weapon (1d6-1)
Special: grab gnome attack
Move: 9
HDE/XP: 1/25

Alien gnome bandits are bizarre creatures from an alternate plane of existence. They travel to our dimension in order to kidnap gnomes for unknown (but clearly unsavory) purposes. Alien gnome bandits have a +1 to hit vs. gnomes and on a roll of “20” have successfully grabbed the gnome, allowing further attacks by alien gnome bandits to hit at an additional +1. This bonus is cumulative (i.e., if two alien gnome bandits successfully grab a gnome, further attacks are at +2). If two or more alien gnome bandits grab an unarmed gnome and hang on to him for three consecutive rounds, they wink out of our plane with their victim, never to be seen again.

Garden-variety Alien Gnome Grabber figures available at the Wireless Catalog.


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