Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Average Joe in New Basic D&D, or W. of the C. and I have something in common after all

As you already know, the latest Basic D&D rules abide by the old AD&D standard for rolling abilities: roll 4d6 and take the best 3.  But it also has a rule that, if you can't be bothered to roll your own dice you can just take a default set of "standard" ability scores and assign them to your character.  The standard scores are:
What's really astounding to me is that several years ago--a few years before I started this here bloggery-do--I was trying to devise anti-munchkinry character generation rules for AD&D, when I came up with the exact same idea, to the extent that the numbers are even strikingly similar.  Here's the standard set of ability scores I came up with back in '07:
The only difference is that they lowered the ceiling from 16 to a 15, which is in keeping with their whole "15 is max" ethos.  I'm pretty certain that we used the same approach to determine our standard abilities, whaddaya' think?

I came up with my standard by rolling thousands of sets of characters, ranking each character's abilities from highest to lowest and then averaging the ranked numbers in order to find an "average" character.*  In fact, I called the rule the "Average Joe Rule" and some perk was offered for taking the default ability scores instead of rolling your own, though I don't remember what the benefit was.  Of course, my players were so repulsed by such a notion that they never acknowledged its existence. Oh well.  But if nothing else the Wizard-boys seem to validate my statistics, which is nice.

*Seriously, there were over 100,000 "dice rolls" involved, though Excel did all the heavy lifting for me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Undead PCs

A few years ago I got into a debate with someone somewhere on the interweb--I think it was Rients--about what happens if you roll a 1 for your Hit Points and your Constitution is in the penalty zone: can a character be dead at inception?  Obviously that's not very satisfying, and yet hand-waving a minimum of 1 HP or re-rolling until you achieve a more arithmetically-pleasing result both seem like cop-outs. 

Your new character sketch
Then, suddenly, just moments ago, it came to me in a flash: when your Con penalty puts your brand new, freshly rolled PC's hit point total at 0 or less then he/she is undead: you get to begin your adventuring career as a zombie!  The perks:
  • You get to re-roll your hit points using 2d8 and ignoring your constitution score.
  • No more worrying about things like drinking water, oxygen, and sleep or charm spells.
  • Stick with this long enough and when you reach "name" level you get to be a freakin' Lich.
And some cons:
  • Your appetite for brains might be a bit off-putting to your adventuring colleagues. 
  • The cleric in your party can use Speak with Dead to force you to reveal embarrassing events from your past.
  • You will not be getting laid--not even a little bit--until you reach 9th level: Vampire.

Monday, July 7, 2014

New Basic D&D

Over the long weekend I celebrated American Independence by watching Copa Mundial on Univision--screw ESPN and its staid British commentary--and reading what other bloggers have to say about the newly released Basic D&D fantasy adventure game.  In order to keep my sheep credentials up to date, I thought I should follow the herd and compile my thoughts on the matter but, as a devotee of Advanced D&D, I can't really take anything called "Basic" seriously.  So, in lieu of my own analysis--which might require me actually reading the rules--I offer this cartoon by  Daniel Clowes:  
by Daniel Clowes, patron saint of outsiders

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Greyhawk: The Iron League

Reggie Dunlop: The Iron League, huh? Lotta' fights? 
Jack Hanson: Nah.
We all know that the Iron League was formed when a handful of small provinces broke off from the southeast corner of the Rauxes-based Overkingdom.  How this was achieved is not obvious until one remembers that the Hanson brothers of "Slapshot" fame were Iron League natives.  Though Jack, Jeff, and Steve had little to say of the land of their origin, one can assume--given their reputation for goonery--that Jack's statement that fighting was not prevalent there must be taken with more than a lone grain of salt.  The brothers, despite their youth and myopia, were big, tough warriors who foiled up their fists before each foray, never backed off from a brawl, and were not beneath the occasional (ubiquitous) low blow to gain the upper hand in a melee.  Sounds like the perfect combination of traits you want in a peoples if your intent is to break away from the largest, most powerful, and most criminally insane regime of the era. 
Against these dudes, the overking never had a chance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Oeridi-centric Bias in the Gazetteer

You don't have to read too much of the Greyhawk Gazetteer--or the later Guide edition for that matter--to realize that the thing was written by Oeridians.  And not just any Oeridians; more specifically, the author was most probably a member of the Aerdian clan that pushed eastward into the vast plains of the eastern Flannaes--though he or she is not too happy with the current state of affairs in the once Great Kingdom, he or she clearly takes pride in the past achievements of the Aerdi.  Below are a few of the more obvious indicators as to where the author's loyalties lie.

  • Dates are given in CY (Common Year).  This is only done within the current confines of the Great Kingdom.  Most former G.K. states reverted to Oeridian Reckoning--if they ever adopted CY in the first place, beyond "official" ceremony--once they achieved independence from the Overkingdom and non-GK states never adopted the CY reckoning to begin with.  In fact, oddly enough, the Oeridian Reckoning is dominant throughout the eastern Flannaes outside the GK.
  • Chronology begins at year 160 O.R.  Ignoring several millennia of history compiled by the Suloise, Olven, Bakluni, and Flan peoples, the chronicler chose a date very near to the Oeridian people's dubious beginnings as the point of origin of the Chronology and Brief History.
  • Refers to the Realm of the Aerdi as The "Great" Kingdom.  Outside the current borders of said kingdom, it is rare in the extreme to find someone willing to use that conflated descriptor.  Scholars might refer to it--at best--as the Great Aerdian Kingdom or similar.  In Keoland, the term "Large Kingdom" is used mockingly, stripping the name of its grandeur and also including connotations of excess, as in "portly" or "bloated" while the wags of Greyhawk  commonly refer to it as "The Overkingdom" which is a knock on the hubris of the GK's monarch while also implying that the kingdom has surpassed its date of expiry.
  • Assumes that the Suloise migrations into the Flannaes happened over land.  Only the aquaphobic Oeridians would overlook the significance of the sailing culture of the Suloise and assume that they traveled from their southern empire throughout the Flannaes on foot.  In fact, the Suloise had a vast maritime empire for millenia before the Oeridians crawled out of their termite hills in the Steppes or wherever they're from.  Though certainly some large scale movement of peoples occurred through the passes of the the Crystalmist, most major transit of Suel peoples throughout Oerth was by ship.  Certainly the only survivors of the RCF were those lucky enough to escape by sea as only a very small number managed to reach the safety of the mountain passes on foot before being swept up in the conflagration. 
  • Implies that the Common Tongue is a product of the Great Kingdom.  While it is true that the Common Tongue is the official language of the G.K., and it is widespread throughout most of the Flannaes, it is not an Aerdian invention, as the Gaz author(s) would have you believe.  Rather, as the Oeridians moved eastward, their spoken tongue was heavily influenced by the Flannish and Suel languages of the folks they met along the way.  What emerged was a Lingua Franca that is an amalgam of the various tongues and cannot be claimed by any single people or nation. The GK claiming ownership pf the common tongue is sort of like St. Louis claiming that it is the source of the Mississippi River. 
  • Aerdians portrayed as conquering hoard. In fact, they merely occupied the vast, empty plains of the central Flannaes which had been passed over by the Suel and Flannish peoples.  The Flan, being agoraphobes, prefer forests, hills, and mountain valleys to the prairies, and the Suel were, early on, leary of settling too far from the sea.  
  • Suel portrayed as malevolent slavers. Well, they're not actually wrong; this was true of the old Suloise Empire.  But most of the Suel settlers who acme to the Flannaes were refugees fleeing the oppressive regime; a not insubstantial number of them being themselves escaped slaves, and were not slavers themselves.  Often these people were Suel in speech only, having been members of oppressed ethnic groups during their time in the Suloise Empire.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Greyhawk: Guide vs. Gazetteer Discrepancies

From the chronology in A Guide to the World of Greyhawk (1983 Boxed set).  Years are Oerid (O.R.):
187 Oerid migrations east of peak point.
223 Invoked Devastation of Rain of Colorless Fire strike
Compared to the original Gazetteer (1980 Folio edition):
187 Oerid migrations east at peak point.
223 Invoked devastation and Rain of Colorless Fire strike.
These kinds of printing errors are great fun for historians trying to discern past events from copied texts, but anyone who reads "A Brief History of Eastern Oerik," which accompanies the timeline in both editions, will quickly learn that the Invoked D. and the Rain of C. were separate cataclysms, not a single, verbose event.

However, the item regarding Oerid migrations is a bit more of a conundrum.  While the terminology in the old Gaz is a bit ambiguous--it could mean that the volume of eastward migration of the Oerid was at its peak or it could also mean that peak point was a place that the migrants had reached--replacing "at" with "of", as some well-meaning but unknowing typesetter did for the Guide, makes the statement unambiguous: a literal translation of the Guide, as printed, insists that "peak point" be a place which Oeridian refugees were stumbling past sometime in the year 187 O.R.

That said, have any Greyhawkers who grew up on the Guide ever pondered where on the map this fabled Peak Point might be located? 

Where's Peak Point on this thing?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Community Visits the Prime Material Plane

Community's annual animated episode was a trip into the world of GI Joe, the 80s cartoon/toy tie-in show where Jeff "Wingman" Winger becomes the first GI with the capacity to actually kill people.  Pretty good stuff.  I won't belabor the story too much, cuz the point of this post is this: there's a pretty obvious D&D reference. When Abed's GI Joe persona "Fourth Wall" tries to explain the dilemma that Wingman is experiencing he draws this diagram of the known universe:

Need I say more?