Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Random F**king Character Generation

Getting back to the random character business, I just found this sweet site created by Ryan (just Ryan) that fills in your randomly generated character's gaping lack of a backstory in one snappy, profane sentence. And I do mean profane; the site is called "Who the fuck is my fucking D&D character?" after all.

Nice work Ryan.



Friday, April 29, 2016

N1:Sinister Secret of the Reptile God

Anyone who's followed this blog with any regularity has probably already determined that it's about time I started ranting about a new (old) module. The more obsessive devotees amongst you have probably further determined that the next object of my modular obsession is 94.8% likely to be N1 Against the Reptile God by Douglas Niles. And you'd be correct, cuz this bad boy has all the key elements of a module I love: a prominent town encounter, published before 1984, and... well, who needs more than that?

Furthermore, you've most likely heard several of my countless retellings of the apocryphal anecdote--at least I assume it's apocryphal since I made it up--on the link between this module and U1 Sinister Secret of Salt Lake. The way I tell it, back in '81 the Honchos at TSR tasked 2 groups to come up with a town-centric module to be entitled Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh; whoever turned in their draft first would get it published. The UK team won the race--not insignificantly, they left out the town component in their haste to cross the finish line--and thus walked away with the title, literally. Thankfully, the Lake Geneva braintrust saw the merit in Mr. Niles belated submittal and decided to publish it as well, though with the less inspired title Against the Cult of the Reptile God. But, as consolation, N1 got cover art from the under-utilised Timothy Truman.

Despite this fabricated association with U1, I can't help but look at this module as a reinterpretation of the venerable T1 Hamlet of Villoge, a module which has been canonized on this very blog. Both modules involve evil cults infiltrating a small town as well as some nefarious doings in a nearby swamp. The prime difference between the two settings being how their respective evil cults manifest. While in T1 the cult is fairly inert within the Village--there are a few spies gathering info but to no known purpose other than protecting the secrecy of the cult--in N1 the cult has a clear cut agenda: forcibly recruit new "members" and collect "donations" to the cause. Likewise, the transformation of agrarian, druidic Hommlet via the influx of Cuthbert-worshipping tradesmen is brought to much more baleful focus in N1's village of Orlanes where the crop-goddess worshiping natives are being invasively replaced with malevolent reptile worshiping cultists.

One of the prevalent symptoms of conversion to the cult--besides disappearing for a fortnight and, upon your return, pretending that you never left and never mind that you used to have a wife and a few more kids, what are you getting at?--is that new cult members are typically no longer any good at their professions. Farmers who once ran tidy, prosperous farms now disinterestedly toil in overgrown fields while their barns and chicken coops fall into a state of decrepitude; the carpenter's inept handiwork is a mockery of his former artistry, etc. There are exceptions: the blacksmith is still able to skillfully work his forge, but he's a man deranged now; his temper so violent that the primary occupation of his grown sons is restraining him from sodomizing everyone who wanders onto his yard. Even so, there are red herrings here; some of the tradesmen in town who preside over dilapidated establishments are just inherently ill-kempt people who've yet to visit the swamp lair of the eponymous reptile god.

Which brings us to what might be the one weak spot of the module. While it's obvious that Senor Niles was going for an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers vibe here, it seems that he scoured the Monster Manuel for some appropriate being to induce the pod personae and settled on the Spirit naga. Not inherently a bad idea--especially when the naga has such a deliciously descriptive name as "Explictica Defilus"--except that this is supposed to be an intro dungeon for n00b PCs. The naga, coupled with the prevalence of troglodytes in the lair (2 HD, 3 attacks/round, revulsion odor causes weakness, chameleon like powers) are tough customers for a 1st level party. Unless your DM is a big ol' softy, you're gonna suffer serous casualties. But given the trust no one vibe of this module--and the post-golden age pub date--the village is not going to be the recruiting ground for reinforcements/replacement characters in the way Hommlet or Restenford are. Even the two characters who seem like they could be the most useful--a pair of elves hired by the mayor to investigate the goings-on in town--are prohibited by Module-Writer's Fiat to assist the PCs.

Instead, to balance the naga's power, there's a 7th level MU hangin' out in town who exists solely for the purpose of helping the par-tee. Not only will he put his arcane spell-power to use for them, but he also offers up the services of his weasel familiar which can automatically lead the investigation to the cult's lair in the swamp. Although the author admonishes the DM to not let this become a case of Ramne and the Seven Dwarves, it seems like there coulda' been a better way.

Like maybe do away with the naga--and not just because it's too powerful for a first level party. The naga also doesn't fit the bill very well because its power is a permanent charm, not a soul-sucking mind controlling force. It's just too codified and bland for the creepiness that the cult emanates in Orlane. There's nothing about a charm, as defined in AD&D, that would cause the "converted" to lose interest in maintaining their farms, drive them to desecrate the holy texts of the divine being that they've dedicated their lives to worshiping, or several of the other things that happen in the module. I'm not criticizing the author for taking license with the charm, rather, I wish he'd taken it several steps further. Call the thing a "curse" rather than a charm and have some sort of customized creature or artifact doling out the madness from the marsh. Instead, we get a statted-out critter from the Monster Manny that every AD&D player worth his or her salt has already committed to memory. After the creepiness of the village, it really needed a special, heretofore unkown horror at the root of all this evil.

The Cult is actually kinda' tired.
Furthermore, the purpose of the cult is basically the same prosaic objective of every other cult in the history of cultiness: to take money from the blindly devoted. But since a side effect of the charm seems to be that the afflicted tend to lose interest in maintaining their previous livelihood, once you've been ensnared by the cult you're not really worth much as a source of funds anymore. So in order to make your monthly contribution you have to go out and recruit more cultists. Can you spell Pyramid Scheme? And there you have it: Explictica Defilus is nothing more than an Amway sales rep.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Random Character's Guild


I was wandering around over at the ol' Judge's Guild the other day when I discovered that they have  their own version of a random character generator (download it here), which also includes the one thing I really wanted to add to mine but didn't have the mojo for: a random name generator. The Judge's Guild version is made "For Use with the Universal Role Playing System" (URPS?) and contains character races such as ghuls, lunari, bardik, and confeds, but still, it's pretty cool.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Now with Clerics!

The other day, Commentor Antoine pointed out that the follower thing doesn't seem to roll clerics. Indeed, there was a flaw in the programming wherein druids and thieves overlapped on the cleric parameters. Anyway, I made a new version that basically just replaces druids with clerics. If it's your thing, by all means, go for it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Random NPC Followers Update: Now Downloadable!

On Friday I ran a piece about my Random Follower Generator but I failed to provide the link to download the thing. Here it is. Also, I made it more printer friendly
and, for those without an 80-sider handy, expanded the list to include 100 randomly created peons, henchers, and assholes. Go forth and impart these randomized roleplayers with souls!

Also, if anyone savvier with spreadsheet formulae than I makes improvements on it, I'd be interested to hear what you come up with.

Bon soir.

Friday, March 4, 2016

d80 Followers: Random NPCs at Wholesale Prices

Start heaving those 80 siders!
It seems some folks had other thoughts on what a post called "80 Followers" on a D&D blog like this would be all about. It's a reasonable assumption, so I got to work and came up with a spreadsheet for creating random NPCs. Sure, nobody needs it, and even less people want it, but, in the making of it, more fun was had than anyone could reasonably expect from something so inherently dull as spreadsheet software.

Each NPC falls into one of three "roles": peons, henchers, and associates; plus a bonus role called "rivals." But don't worry about them because they almost never deign to show their faces. Seriously, of the 10,000 odd NPCs I've randomly created in the last day or two I've seen precisely 2 "rivals." Everything is determined by the 6 randomly determined (3d6 style) basic abilities. One's role is a measure of how good his or her average ability score is; your level is affected by your charisma and intelligence--cuz I figure being smart and charming's gotta be worth something, right? And in a reversal of the way we roll the dice, NPC class is determined by hit points, which was a lot easier to program than trying to finagle it via the more traditional ability score approach. Besides, I prefer a world where clumsy thieves, feeble fighters and moronic mages overcome their handicaps and achieve a degree of competence at a thoroughly inappropriate skill.

As a result of this HP-class determination, the NPCs with the lowest HP to Level ratio end up being MUs. And since HP are influenced by Con, MUs tend to have lower constitutions than other classes, which I kinda' like. But there's enough randomness in the process that an unlucky character with a high constitution could very well find himself wearing a magically delicious pointy hat festooned with Lucky Charms.


Race is a function of various abilities in relationship to each other rather than strict max/minimums, so while elves tend to be dexterous but frail, they aren't precluded from being either clumsy or robust, although it is unlikely that they will be both simultaneously.  I haven't incorporated any race-class limitations, yet I have seen very few Dwarves or haffies dawning the MU robes. The Dwarves make some sense, as their ability ratio tends to favor a higher Con, but there is so much room for randomness in the system that it's actually kind of shocking that I haven't seen a single halfling wizard yet.

Anyway, I'm rather pleased with the outcome; download it here if you feel the urge.