Monday, November 26, 2018

"They weren't very good merchants I guess," a Hommlet Podcast

I've gone on record as being a dude who doesn't care for adventure logs so I'm probably twice as surprised as anyone else that I've found myself listening attentively to GGNoRe*.  It's a podcast wherein a posse of gamers--who exhibit an array of southern accents ranging from full-Gomer Pyle on down to the guy who occasionally throws a "y'all" out--take on a bunch of modules and games from all around the RPG-verse. Of note to a crotchety old loon like me is their sojourn into everyone's favorite adventuring town: le village d'Hommlet.

This place? Again?
Before we go any further, I should warn you that the G'Gnore whippersnappers have an unabashed insouciance when it comes to TSR history, telling us with conviction that "the T [in T1] stands for tournament"--it obviously stands for Tamarack--and even asking listeners to write in if they have any info on how those tournaments played out. In their  defense, there is a disclaimer in the text of the website indicating that the DM might have been wrong about this.

There are no disclaimers about these other factual errors:

  • The DM proclaims that the module came out in 1980 even though a quick glance at the title page will reveal a 1979 pub. date, with a later edition in 1981. Perhaps because Jeff Dee signed his famous jacked-halfling cover illustration "D. '80"?
  • The DM also points out that the module, despite being labeled "for ADVANCED D&D Game" came out before AD&D was even a thing. It seems likely he reached this conclusion from his belief that the Moldvanian rules, published in 1981--apparently he did look at the title page of this one--were the first Basic D&D rules to be published and it presumably follows that a game called Advanced D&D would not precede the basic version onto the market--except of course that it was the 1977 Holmes basic rules that set the table for the advanced game.

Impressively, the gents are aware of Dave Trampier and his legacy--including his abrupt, unexplained break from TSR--though they are unable to discern whether the art in the book is his or Dave Sutherland's.

Anyway, the G'Gnoré dudes run through V of H using 5er rules (actually it could be 4th or even 3½th for all I know) and very nearly got their butts kicked on a few occasions--just like everyone else who's ever ventured into the ol' Heap-in-the-fen. I'm not actually sure how they didn't bite it in the crayfish hut; I think hit points must be handed out pretty liberally in 5ed.

What I like most is how the DM played up the Cuthbertian vs. Druidic conflict quite a bit, even going so far as to create a flow chart for determining potential actions the agitated Hommletians might get up to. Also positive: the PCs putting on drunken scheming "montages" when developing plans for achieving their mischievous goals.

What I liked least: the frequent use of the term "Yolo."

I won't spoil the action for you so if nerdy podcasts are something you're into by all means go have a listen. Also notable: if your kids wanna listen along with you the fellas, being good Southern gents, keep the language clean--other than the "yolo" thing.

And if you're wondering about the title of this post, kindly refer to this incident.

New Terms Learned:
Decrement: I think it means something like "incrementally decrease", as, at the end of every turn, the DM calls out "Decrement torches!" It's a pretty handy piece of vocab, even if I can't imagine that I'll ever bring myself to say it out loud. 
Mudbug: The first hundred times they said this it sounded like "Mudblood" to my non-southern ear.  Without any Harry Potter characters at hand, this was somewhat puzzling until I eventually figured out they were talking about the crayfish.

* I confess that, being a geezer, I had to google this term and now I can't unlearn it. Henceforth, I'm pronouncing it Gignoré.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Lareth Conspiracy Cont'd

Image result for lolth laveth
Dark Hope Jr...

Breaking News from the obnoxious jerks in the "I Told You So" dept. here at Dice Chucker Enterprises: according to an ancient tome my minions recently unearthed called Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, Lolth, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, has a daughter named "Laveth". Big whoop, you say? Well check out this quote from a highly esteemed and learned Greyhawk Scholar/Crackpot on the topic of Lareth in T1 Village of Hommlet:
"[O]n meeting the Demoness [Lolth], Lareth succumbed to her feminine wiles, casting aside his vows in favor of the indulgent life of the darkside." --Yours Truly
...and Sr.
Well, Laveth is only one letter removed from Lareth--less if your handwriting is like my friend Gordo's whose lower case 'r's are easily confused with 'v's. The aforementioned crackpot must have been onto something as it is now quite clear that Lolth conceived a child during her dalliance with Lareth and named her offspring after the father, the charismatic and well-endowed "dark hope of chaotic evil." Remember, she was so heartbroken at his death that she dispatched a 10th level assassin to murder the gang of low level PCs that killed him. Now we understand why. 

It should be noted that the Fiendish Codex misleadingly credits fatherhood of Laveth to a "handsome drow wizard." That was the official story passed off by the rabidly racist drow community down in the demonweb pits, but Lolth and I--and now you--know the truth. 

It should definitely not be noted that the very same crackpot has elsewhere endorsed the notion that Lareth and Y'Dey, Canoness of Cuthbert are one and the same. That scenario would certainly make conception rather problematic. But I'm sure Lolth could find a way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

C&C: Back Pack full of Pole Arms!

One of the highlights of the C&C's Adventurer's Backpack is the section on polearms in which they describe in detail all those freakin' polearms you could never figure out back in AD&D and its friends. Yes, all of 'em, Ranseurs, Glaives, Bec de corbins, Bill guisarmes, Bob Guisarmes. All of 'em plus a lot of others you never heard of--we're talking Asian pole arms here! It even provides illustrations for many (most) of them and  the description includes an explanation as to what they were used for, be it puncturing/rending armor, disarming opponents, denting helmets, etc. All very nice.

But best of all, they actually have rules for polearms in combat:
  • when closing with an opponent, the pole-armed always win the initial initiative, 
  • after that first clash of arms, they still retain the option of falling back on any round in which they win initiative, assuming they've got at least 5' of space behind them in which to retreat. I had a house rule similar to this once, so you know it's a good idea.

The questions remains: even if you knew what a bill-hook looked like and what its purpose was, would you use it?  Probably not.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Castles & Crusades: Adventurers Backpack and the demise of the Rogue

Until yesterday, I didn't fully understand my ongoing financial support of Castles & Crusades published by Troll Lord Games, and yet I keep buying new rulebooks whenever they come out. It's a perfectly good game, don't get me wrong, but I don't actually play it and every time I write about it I wind up getting my knickers in a bunch over some irrelevant bit of minutiae.

A couple of years ago I bought their Guidelines for the Keeping of a Fine Castle Worthy of Adventuring Within by Your Players, which was as lively as that title would lead you to believe, and yet that didn't stop me from procuring their latest tome: the Adventurer's Backpack. Old Timers will likely equate this book to AD&D's Unearthed Arcana; it's a book full of new spells, character classes, gear, and the like. It just arrived last night so I haven't looked at much of it yet but two new character classes caught my eye: the magic user and the thief. Yes, you read that correctly, the Trolllords are reintroducing the MU and thief; known respectively as Wizards and Rogues in Original C&C.

The new C&C Magic User is somewhat different from your standard spell-memorizing DnD MU in that the new MU has the innate ability to read and detect magic and a few other things that normal MUs typically have to cast spells to do, which is nice.

But the new thief class is exactly the same as the original rogue class thus making the "rogue" class completely redundant. If you know how I feel about the rogue class then you will understand that, clearly, the authors of C&C created the new thief class solely for my personal amusement which thoroughly justifies my ongoing support of the Troll Lords.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Olde Timey Hommlet Map

Renowned cartographer R.R. Calbick--whose work has been featured on such highly acclaimed sites as The Restenford Project--has proven that he and I have more than one town in common. He's drawn up a John Quick style map of Hommlet as well. Check this out:

 And let's not forget that town down the river, Nulb:

Hopefully Monsieur Calbick is madly at work on maps for Garrotten or Orlane as we speak. Or Saltmarsh even!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Warhammer! D-Chucker goes miniature

"My Blood is Bound! With Corn!"
Remember that kid I mentioned in my last post who started playing Donjons et Dragons? Well, on a semi-premeditated whim, I took him to the Games Workshop store near the ice rink yesterday, not really knowing what to expect except that there would be miniatures. I used to really be into miniatures, but they haven't been part of my own personal gaming renaissance to date, perhaps it's time to change all that.

So my kid and I wandered in, breathed in some glue fumes, and tried to avoid eye contact with the staffers by wandering around the periphery admiring the implements on the shelf. Alas, our efforts were fruitless, those dudes forced us to interact and even convinced me to sit through their sales pitch/game demo. The kid rolled outrageously high in the demo fight. Seriously, he rolled 7 dice with not one rating below a 5. Friggin' A.

Anyway, I walked out with a small starter selection of minis, a starter paint set and the following observations: 

  • I felt sorry for the guy running the demo for having to keep saying all these over-wrought names; I doubt he's being paid enough to say things like "Bloodbound" and "Retributor" with a straight face.
  • Sure sign that the staffers over at Warhammer Central are not on speaking terms with each other: The bad guys are called the "Khorne." Surely if their had even once been an actual conversation where someone said "Khorne" out loud, it would have been instantly obvious that, changing the c to a k and adding a couple of silent letters doesn't change the fact that the word is pronounced "corn."
  • Some of these little jokers have tied streamers around the shafts of their battle axes and warhammers. It seems pretty obvious that tying a friggin' streamer around your weapon is a really, really stupid idea.
  • The beauty of those plastic models is that they're open to a certain degree of modification. Don't like that silly head gear your Eternal Störmkåẞt Champion Bile-reaver is sporting? It's a quick snip with the pliers to excise the extraneous chapeau. Think those ornate, spiked backpacks your Cornstool Paladin Retributationer is sporting? Don't even take the thing out of the box; no one will ever notice. 
All that said, I've painted half of 'em. Need to get going so we can play already.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

AD&HD: Gaming with the Next Generation

As with many of us old timers who are raising youngsters, I've occasionally pondered how I would go about introducing my progeny to the ol' hobby. My thoughts on the matter have vacillated from force-feeding him a diet of J. Eric Holmes to caving in to my friend Drew's demands that Pathfinder is the platonic ideal of all gaming. I told the latter where to stuff his Diplomacy Checks but have otherwise ignored the matter up to now. So when the 10-year-old kid who lives in my house started playing Dungeons and Dragons after school with his friends, I was relieved to have the matter settled for me.

He told me about some of his adventures, the highlight being when his dwarf wizard sunk a pirate ship with a fireball, which sounds pretty cool. But when I asked if I could see his character sheet; he said:
     "What's that?"
     "The sheet of paper you write down all your character's stuff on"
This is rather gratuitous.
     "Oh!" he brightened, and revealed a piece of paper, blank except for two unlabeled columns of numbers. I deduced from his description of the action that one was his hit points--or "health" as he called it--and the other was "the stuff you get when you beat the bad guys" so, XPs? Maybe Gold? Hard to say for sure. I asked him where such trivial details as his class and weapons and armor--even his name--were recorded and he said "we just remember that stuff." Fair enough, but obviously the concept of ability scores was completely unknown to him. Still, pretty soon he was asking the question that I had hoped to hear for ages:
     "Can we play?"

So, Chucker, which edition did you decide to go with, you ask? Good question. Although the lad owns a copy of the PHB 3.5 that he bought from a friend for a buck and another kid in his posse has the latest version (is 5th ed still current? Are we up to 6th yet?), it's pretty clear that the kids aren't really adhering to any published rules, bless them. So I dug out my copy of  Swords & Wizardry thinking it's the most complete yet concise rule book I have on hand--my dreams of a Hackmaster campaign will have to wait until later, I fear. I showed him the character sheet from the back of the book and started pointing out basic items that he might want to know about--Strength, Int, special abilities, etc.--but it quickly became obvious that I could either spend the weekend teaching the kid how to play or we could just play. Which is to say, we're going to be winging this thing.
Not basic enough.

So in the interest of getting to the action before the kiddo lapsed into catatonia, I had him make 3 characters--there is no "rolling up" involved in this kid's concept of character generation--with the least amount of information I could tolerate. This involved naming them, picking their race and class and rolling their money. So there is a little rolling -up involved after all.

When picking classes for his characters he initially wanted a bard but dropped it when I informed him that they play musical instruments and tell stories. He said,
     "Oh, I just wanted one because they start out with a whip."
     After assuring him that whips are available to all character classes, he instead selected a dwarf knight, a human burglar, and a cleric. I tried not to discourage him on that last one, but he could sense my revulsion and changed cleric to an elf sorcerer. In case you're wondering, he chose the class names (knight, burglar, sorcerer) himself without consulting any books or lists of classes. Anyone who knows how I feel about "rogues" will appreciate how happy this made me.

We started to shop for possessions, but the Kid has less patience for shopping than I do so we just gave his guys some armor and weapons and picked spells and abilities as appropriate. Strangely, despite his interest in having a bard, he didn't select a whip for any of his characters. Probably because it wasn't in the S&W equipment list, a shortcoming I hope they address in future editions.

Here's a house rule I made up on the spot regarding burglars/thieves: burglars get the following abilities: pick locks, hear noise, move silently, hide in shadows, find secret stuff, and climb walls; they can choose Read Langs, Pick Pockets, or Back Stab as an elective. Being a silly kid, Caveman jr. went straight for pick pockets, but changed his mind when I told him back stab gives him double damage.

For hit points/health I had him roll 2 sixers** and take the higher of the two, adding one if you roll doubles, except elfs and Sorcerers who only roll 1d6, and dwarfs and fighters who add their 2 sixers together.*** This left him a little annoyed cuz in his game with his chums everyone starts with 20 health--a direct holdover from Magic the Card Game; he and his cronies have been devotees of said  game ever since they outgrew Pokemon cards.

We got a second round of character generation when the "knight" bought the farm in his very first fight--an ill-advised tussle with some zombies in the basement of a haunted house--so, in a time honored tradition, the kid took the survivors to the local tavern to rustle up some replacement characters. I rolled some dice and miraculously a druid and a barbarian appeared in search of adventure.
     "Cool! Can the druid turn into an animal?"
     "Not until 5th level" I said, wondering if that has ever been a rule, "at first level they can just talk to animals."
A prominent source of inspiration.
     So now druids can talk to animals at first level; who knew? And since the lad is a big fan of the adventures of Asterix the Gaul, they can also make potions a la Getafix, the druid who supplies the Gaulic villagers with the super-strength potion that allows them to pummel the Romans into submission time ad nauseum.****

I'll skip the play-by-play on account of how you probably don't want to read that crap, but I gotta' say that I'm pretty happy about a couple of things:
  1. he got into the game organically with his friends instead of at my prompting.
  2. they're poaching from other sources--gaming and non-gaming alike--for rules and inspiration
  3. they're making a complete hash of the rules and just doing whatever the hell they feel like.
I suspect the Boy finds my house rules pretty stodgy by comparison to his game with his friends, even though I've radically revisited my own efforts at rule streamlining, finding them just not sleek enough for a 10-year-old's attention span.

* No you didn't miss it; there is no "*" indicated in the text of this post. Unless you count Asterix.
** And a little more rolling.
*** If it ever comes up, Dwarf MUs and Elf Fighters will roll 2d6 and take the better of the 2.
**** Yet, despite his previously mentioned ignorance of the nature of bards, a bard character features somewhat prominently in the cast of Asterix. Despite the kiddos concerns at character generation, Cacofonix***** does not wield a whip and is famous for two things: singing horribly and getting gagged to prevent him from singing horribly.

***** For those unfamiliar with the source material, all Gauls in the Asterix saga have names ending in -ix; a trope that leads to incessant punnery.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

EROL OTUS Anagrams Revisited

Don't know how I missed this one last time around but it came to me like a bolt of lightning when I got back to work this morning: