Gamehole Con IV

I built the skeletons for four posts about my experience at Gamehole Con IV last year, but I never posted it. Rather than trash all the posts, I consolidated them into one post. I wanted to post it for memories to look back on.

I highly recommend Gamehole Con. It is well organized and well ran. the staff is very helpful. The venue is laid out and that was used in a way that made sense.

I only had minor niggles for complaints, none of which caused any problems.

I am signed up to run games at Gamehole Con V, November 2-5, 2017 in Madison, WI.

So now let’s get to my write up for last year’s GHC:

Day 0

I arrived, checked out the venue, found will call and picked up my stuff, and got settled at my hotel. I didn’t get the hotel on site, but the next nearest hotel. It was quite a distance, too far to walk with all the books I brought to get signed.

Day 1

I had 3 games:

  • Fri 10 AM – A Stay at the Warden Hotel x 1 Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim Ward himself!
  • Fri 02 PM – DGS Presents: One In the Gun, Four On the Floor x 1
  • Fri 08 PM – Mythus Tower with Bill Webb x 1 Swords & Wizardry

A Stay at the Warden Hotel – Jim Ward This was AWESOME! Jim is a quiet and easy going guy. However, he is not a GM to challenge. He tells you what you can do, and if you try to push it, you can do one or more less than the first thing he said. Erol Otus showed up and Jim said, “Ah yes, Mr. Otus will be your illustrious captain!” Erols eyes got big, he was hoping to show up and just play. He did fine, but alas, died. He is very cool! (I didn’t have the books with me I wanted him to sign! I didn’t realize there was an autograph table with a schedule until the last day when I had walked by the sign multiple times. I just had too much to take in, and kept running into friends to catch up with.)

Of course most of us died, including me. Here’s a picture of Jim tearing up my character sheet. Two players made it to the end and got limited edition MA minis.

DGS Presents: One In the Gun, Four On the FloorDead Games Society

This was a Gamma World 2e game ran by +Chad Parish himself. I had met Chad at Gary Con 8 in the spring, so we knew each other a bit. It was a fun game. During a brake we got to talking and he mentioned that he was from a small town in Missouri. I asked the name, he said, “Oh, you’ve never heard of it, it’s really small.” I said, “I grew up in Missouri and know a lot of people from all over Missouri, and know a lot of places.” He humored me, and said the name of the town. I rattled off the zip code, (There are actually four towns in Missouri with that name, but the one where I grew up is the one with a zip code.) He said, “Panther?” I said, “Orange & Black?” He then said, “Do you know Robert Hamilton?” I held up my name tag. “Are you related to Robert Hamilton?” “He’s my brother.” “He;s like the best DM ever!” I said, “I know right?” It turns out that I was about 7 years ahead of him in school, thus the reason I didn’t know him. That was very odd.

Chad and I were telling that story the rest of the con and for a while after. Chad even shared it on an episode of the DGS Podcast.

Chad had another interesting encounter, it turns out his father is from the same town +Stephen Chenault is from in Arkansas.

Mythus Tower with +Bill Webb – Swords & Wizardry – I played in a Day 0 pick up game and a regular game with Bill at Ucon last year, and had a lot of fun. I have a dwarf character that survived that session that he said I can use in any game he runs. (He might get tired of me, since next weekend at UCon, I signed up for another of his games.) Unfortunately, that dwarf died so the next game I play will be a new 1st level character.

Day 2

I had two games I signed up for:

Sat 10 AM – The Cave of Wisdom AD&D 1e with +Luke Gygax as DM. This was a great game. A player not knowing to not throw fireball underground killed half the party, so we had a delay while some new characters were rolled.

The only thing I didn’t like about this game is that autograph seekers came up and interrupted the game. The same thing happened in Jim Ward’s MA game. I wait for a break or between game time to get autographs. I don’t care if the GM says it’s OK. I will NOT be one of those who interferes with the fun of others.

Sat 06 PM – Gaming & BS Presents: Relagul’s Quest & The Secret Temple of Bast This was an AD&D game ran by +Nicholas Abruzzo. It was an interesting game with higher level pre-gens. A few interesting concepts. There was a castle model that involved a sheet to hide an interesting secret. I’m not much for terrain and models, but this fit the GM’s style and the tone of the game. He also had some assistants portray some NPC wererats in full costume.

Day 3

I had signed up for two games on Sunday, but one got cancelled.

Sun 10 AM – Escape From The Purple Planet. It was supposed to be ran by Jon Hershberger, but we had a woman, whose name I can’t find. She did a great job running the game. The players came together, and none of us had played this one, but we managed to make the right decisions and got done an hour early. I know I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t think anyone else was either.

The cancelled game was one by Venger Satanis, but his twins are due about this time. I had a credit for that, but before the con did not find anything at the available time. I got to meet him in 2017 at Gary Con IX.

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Mini Reviews vs. Reviews

When I do a review, I indicate on my post if it is a mini-review, meaning I skimmed the material and highlighted what jumped out at me. When it just says review, it means I read the whole thing and took lots of notes.

I have a long list of things I have on my personal review list – all the Kickstarters I have backed. I also have a few things in the pipeline that include D&D 5e modules and resources.

A few month ago, I added a page on my review policy since I am being approached by more and more people to do reviews. Please see that link if you are interested in having me review your RPG product.

 

 

 

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Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource has a Kickstarter to help fund a new website described as an index for the OSR. It won’t host the content of others, but point to cool OSR goodness in all the corners of the web, whether blogs, G+, FB, and so forth. There will also be new content on the site.

+Matt Finch of OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry fame, along with Zach Glazer are behind this. Matt has started a new You Tube channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. He asks that subscribers to his old channel subscribe to the new one.

This sub-heading from the Kickstarter page lays it out: “A unified website for old school D&D, with searchable links to the old school community’s locations, plus content from Matt and others.”

While the Kickstarter hit its initial goal quickly, they would like to reach the $7,500 stretch goal to ramp up the website and You Tube efforts to their maximum potential. This is a shorter run Kickstarter with just 9 days left to go. If you like the OSR and like the idea of having a central place to find the stuff you don’t yet know about, consider backing this. This update video explains it a bit more.

I went crazy and backed at the highest tier to sponsor a video. I can’t stretch beyond that with cash, so I’ll back it with my online efforts.

We had a website a bit like that with the former OSR Today, but its creator had health issues limit his ability to continue that project.

D&D 5e is seen as OSR like by many, so this isn’t a Kickstarter just for grognards from back in the day, or those who like OSR style play.

While Matt and Zach are both connected to Frog God Games, this is an independent effort, although personally supported by +Bill Webb.

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Thoughts on Character Death

Yesterday I uploaded a YouTube video on the death of the character in my weekly Wednesday night AD&D game I play in on Roll20. You can read the other posts I have about the game here. There is a companion video to this article here.

One of the other players in the game commented on the G+ posting for the video. As I answered him, it hit me that it didn’t bother me about the character’s demise, as I am not really in the same place in my life to play a taciturn dwarf. While I can easily play a dwarf fighter, there is something about it that I am not in a head space that it feels like a go to character. It just isn’t the specific character.

In the last few months and especially the last few weeks, I have had a realization that I am not in the dark and cloudy haze it is too easy for me to fall into. I am generally more happy and satisfied with life, and far more productive personally and professionally than I have been for some time. I have made progress on other things, and not used my need to write for one blog or another or make a new video as a reason to avoid other things.

I am downsizing my stuff. Things I haven’t touched in years, and most likely will never touch except to move them out of this house. I’ve been divorced about eight years, had one relationship since, and a few dates via online sites. I don’t need that. I’m OK with being single (but still open to the right person). So much so, that I deleted my online dating profile.

I have greatly limited my watching of shows through the summer, and only watched a few movies on Netflix here and there, with only an occasional binge, instead of most weekends. It is AMAZING how much one can get done when cutting out shows.

While in the process of reducing the cruft in my life, I am focused on defining what it is I want and what personal projects really matter to me. I find that as I let go, that I am more at peace. In some ways, I would make a good dwarf or dragon hoarding stuff. It’s not like I can’t get in or out of my house, but I have so much stuff I haven’t really touched since my divorce, and some before.

This new perspective and attitude has subconsciously affected the type of characters I want to play. Part of it is my age. I’m in my early 50’s and my life-long worrying about what others think seems to be nearly gone. The, I’m not taking crap off anybody mentality – “Get off my lawn!”

I’ve also always wanted a long beard, so I quit cutting my hair and beard in late April/Early May. It was a lot of fun to see the reactions of people at Grand Con who hadn’t seen me in several months. If it weren’t for arthritis, I’d be braiding it. Perhaps once it’s longer I can manage it.

My demeanor and disposition is noticeably different and others at work and home have commented on it.

I’m just curious if others find this in their own roleplaying, if their head space nudges them towards certain character concepts, i.e. race, class, background, and actual presentation of the character via roleplay.

I’m avoiding adding a lot of new stuff to my plate. However, I have plans to add a planned amount of things, like playing in and later running a 5e game and running something at my FLGS. Before that, I will be adding more content to the blog and more videos to my You Tube channel. I got more memory for my computer so videos render faster, but my upload speed is now the bottleneck. My new video editing software defaults results in huge files, so I’ve got to get a better handle on the settings so I’m not spending two plus hours uploading a five minute video.

I’ve got opportunities to really grow my blog and YouTube channel and other social media. Getting my stuff “right-sized” for the life I choose to live will really make a difference.

I’ve got it figured out how to get out of debt and still go to the cons I want. Things are coming together quite nicely.

 

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Grand Con 2017

I attended two events at Grand Con, visited with friends, and spent a bit of time in the vendor hall.

Grand Con is in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is about an hour away from where I live near Kalamazoo. I elected to drive back and forth each day, as time and cost of gas seemed worth it to me vs. a hotel nearby.

I signed up for one game each day, with the plan of lots of visiting or perhaps running or playing pick up games. A few weeks ago, I got an email that the Saturday game was cancelled. Plans changed as my son’s car has issues and he has been borrowing my car to get to work.  He works nights and this particular weekend, he worked all three evenings of the con.

Friday I took him to work, played in a game from 7 to 11 pm, I didn’t get home until about 12:20 and bed about 1 am. Getting up to get him from work before 6 am meant that I was just too tired to safely drive. Having tried sleeping and driving about 25 years ago, I don’t recommend it, and definitely don’t wish to repeat it. I took a nap for the first time in I can’t recall, and spent Saturday doing very little. Sunday I drove up for the 9 am game and was delayed by a 5K run that held me up for 10 minutes a mere 100 yards from the site and parking garage. I was nearly an hour early, so it was not a problem. I learned that those in the con had no idea about it.

Don't Sleep & Drive
Don’t Sleep & Drive – I choose not to do a repeat.

Friday’s Game

The Friday game was one hosted by the group, We Hate Bards. I’m sure there’s a story behind that name. The GM was Raven, the 4th or 5th female GM I have had. (I am glad that there is more variety in GMs in my experience. Even better that I am loosing track of just how many it has been.) It was D&D 5e and the session was called, Welcome to the Iron Realms: Play Smarter, Not Harder.

There was only one other player, so I am glad that I ignored my thoughts of not going Friday night. She had a neat hand drawn map in her GM notebook to show us the layout of her campaign world. We had to find out why the trolls were interrupting the iron trade, which gives the name of Iron Realms. Each character has 5 “minions” to help us. They dwindled to one each by the end of the session.

We avoided an unnecessary combat and gained allies to help us deal with our first fight and guided us into the swamp. We also avoided fighting a giant frog that probably would have smoked us. By playing smart and gaining allies and avoiding a fight with the frog, she awarded us 2nd and 3rd levels.

We took a moment to note out new hit points and new feats/abilities/paths. I chose a dwarf barbarian. I got to roll the abilities and create my character. She had a few pre-gens, but had not completed that process yet.

I specifically chose a 5e game, as I need to play it more to get familiar with the specifics of its rules. Even though I leveled up this character, I did not catch that he was resistant to bludgeoning damage until after the consequences of being knocked out were resolved. Even with a fancy printed character sheet, it was a general sheet and not optimized for the class. There was just too much to look at to find the option, and I wrote it in a corner of the sheet in a way that it did not stand out.

I am not used to there being different categories of damage and having the ability to resist different types. I skipped 3e, 3.5e, and 4e, so it is a new concept to me. This is similar to when I played in +Satine Phoenix’s game at Gary Con 9 that not until the last initiative of the game did I roll with advantage like I should have all session.

For me, I can handle a lot of options once I am familiar with them all, but with as many options as a 3rd level character has, I need a character sheet that is not “busy” with bits I don’t need, and all that I do need is on one side of the page. Combat related things need to all be on one page. Surprise, initiative, resistances, and anything that aids combat (melee or ranged). Spells are a different matter.

It was a great game with an interesting puzzle that took us a while to figure out, but we did it.

I am used to the rules being easy enough that I have a pretty good idea of what a character can do. Granted AD&D is not rules light, but there are not so many races and classes in the core rules that one can’t easily have at least a general idea of what they can do. With 5e, even though I have the core books and have read them, there is so much to them, that for even an experienced player, with out regular sessions to keep up with the details, one can quickly become overwhelmed. With that much involved with a character, character death would definitely suck. I can see why many prefer to always play the same class and race in 5e, as they have that one figured out.

The Iron Kingdoms
The Iron Kingdoms

Sunday’s Game

I played DCC with +Brendan LaSalle on his birthday! The Inn At Five Points. We were all second level. I elected to play a wizard. There were only a few first level spells. The only spells that I was able to put to use in the situations we found ourselves, was flaming hands and invoke patron.

Brendan used his d50 for the Minor Mercurial Effects table from his contribution to 50 uses for a d50. I left mine at home. I need to add it to my dice bag (I think it will fit).

I asked about invoke patron, and as my character is neutral, I ended up with some nondescript entity best described as “Mehhhhh” (be sure to emphasize the shrug). I wish I had a recording of the way Brendan said it.

In short, the neutral cleric in the party did something and rolled a crit that changed the whole nature of the scenario. Instead of fighting for our lives, we were taunting the bad guys. The two clerics, one neutral and one chaotic, an elf, and my wizard all invoked their deities and patrons. The chaotic cleric was able to spell burn in this situation. The neutral cleric got a lot of help from fleeting luck and halfling luck, and the elf and I spell burned for 20s. Once we all had 4 20’s our dieties and patrons helped us out and got us to the ultimate destination for the evening. We were set upon by beasts  that nearly killed us while we were still in need of 3 weeks of rest to recover from so much spell burn. We managed to beat the beasts and find a safe place to hold up and rest.

Finally, we encountered some sprites that would help us if we took out their greatest nemesis. We managed to find this creature and our dwarf stonemason who rolled poorly to OK rolled a 20 to set the trap to destroy the creature. The one to trigger it rolled really well and luck boosted the efforts to smear the beast into a stain.

It is great how spectacular rolls make for a game unlike any other. Brendan did a great job of rolling with the flow of our rolls and choices, and he had as much fun as the rest of us. I’m glad I got to help give him that present.

The Inn At Five Points
The Inn At Five Points

Vendor Hall

The room with the vendor hall was a huge cavernous room. The vendors were along two sides with the board game tables in the middle.

I visited with +John Reyst of Open Gaming Store and James Means of Game Science.

Open Gaming Booth
Open Gaming Booth

Game Science has plans for a new d100 with an improved braking system. It is manufactured in Adrian, Michigan, and will be available soon. I bought the last of the prior version of the d100 they had, as I had not yet acquired one.

They also plan to have a d30 in 2018 and a d7 in late 2018 or early 2019. I confirmed that it is OK for me to share that on the blog.

Game Science Dice
Game Science Dice

 

Final Thoughts

Grand Con celebrated its fifth year. The location at the DeVos Place was bigger than they needed. Without a contiguous allocation of space, there was a lot of confusion. My arrival Friday evening was after they got the kinks worked out and I had no difficulty finding the RPG space. However, the RPG space was well separated from the vendor hall and board game area.

They do a good job with their online registration system, and picking up my pre-registration items was easy.

Grand Rapids doesn’t like giving you free parking close to downtown sites, $10 a day! Also the DeVos Place didn’t have a sign that I could see, so people who don’t spend a lot of time in Grand Rapids would have a frustrating time figuring out what building it is, when Google Maps doesn’t tell you you’re there until you are past the parking entrance and showed me that I should cross the street to the government building. Also, the city communicating with the venue and the venue management passing that on to the con would have helped with the confusion Sunday morning with the 5K shutting down traffic.

Other than getting to the con location, I really didn’t have any problems. I had a good time in my events, and didn’t stay long enough to partake of the limited on-site food.

You can read +Clayton Williams’ con report here with details of the entire con.

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Adventure Hooks and Encounters Inspired by Cicadas

Over on G+, +Greg Gorgonmilk shared a picture of a cicada. This got me to thinking, “How would this affect various creatures in D&D?”

What if there were forms of various burrowing monsters, Ankheg, bulette, etc. that had a cycle like the 17-year cicada. There are not just one group of cicadas, but multiples, and not just 17 years. I believe there is also a 13 year cicada. There are both Periodical, every 13 or 17 years, and Annual Cicadas, which have a life cycle of 2-4 years.

Inspired By Cicadas

Their base stats would be the same as in their source book. Keep it simple, right? Each monster type would just need to kill a certain number of HD of “food” in a set period before burrowing for the next sleep cycle. Say 2-3 weeks, each HD of creature needs to “eat” 2-3 HD for every HD it posses.

Solitary creatures would emerge to eat and mate. Eggs would hatch for laying species, making voracious babies needing several times their HD in food for the rapid growth that occurs before they burrow to hibernate.

Placement & Cycle

To place the groups lay out your campaign map and drop a die indicating how many are in that location. the number could represent either groups or individuals. Roll a d12+6 to see how many years in the cycle for each group.

Of course, there is nothing to say that the cycle is in years, that would put them in living memory. What adventurers wouldn’t want to go out and find the fresh burrows/dens to slay monsters, find treasure, and collect parts for wizards? Better yet, have the cycle in decades or centuries, depending on which race’s living memory will lose track of them. That way, they emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. Only some dusty old tomes might mention it.

By being outside of living memory, it would make even more sense for the crazy weird creatures to emerge when and where they do.

Duration of Last Cycle

To determine how long since the last emergence, either roll those same dice , or 2d6, if using years. For decades or centuries, use what suits your campaign. For worlds that evolve over many campaigns, this would be another aspect to help it come alive.

Alternatively, assign a percentage chance that this year is the end of their cycle, or that they emerge early, as some 17-year cicadas emerged 4 years early this year.

Encounters

For sandbox games a burrow of say, hibernating bulettes, could be placed on the map and set to emerge when the party reaches that hex. Or you could have a random encounter prepared to come up when the party is travelling.  Here, the term burrow or den is used loosely. Some monsters are not found in groups, if you want to go by the book, so a den or burrow would be a generalization for an area where the creatures congregated before burrowing. For bulettes and other very large creatures, they might be spread over many square miles of territory.

If you have a creature you really want to show up in your game, use this to make it happen.

Ecology

Players that encounter such a variation on the usual type of monster might get the bright idea to go dig up these slumbering creatures for “easy” XP. That is easily solved when these creatures curl up and secrete a substance that encases them in a hard shell that disguises their identity and also protects them from scrying. This will make it impossible to determine what kind of creature is in the “shell” if it is found, and reduce the ability to find it.

The secretions will reduce the ability to find it via scrying by 5% per day for the first week. 5% per week for the next month, and 1% per each subsequent month. So 35% after 1st week, and 55% at the end of the month after that, and 67% the year after that.  If one sticks with an additional 1% per month, after an additional two years and seven months it would hit 100%. I would say it shouldn’t be 100% effective. Based on how your preferred rules handle scrying, there should at least be a chance. Rolling 01 on a d100 should find it, unless other modifiers make it impossible.

Earthquakes, floods, new construction, wizard battles,  wars, and battling titanic monsters, like dragons, are some of the things that interrupt the normal cycles. Character wants to build a stronghold, assign a chance that they happen to pick a site  near or over a “burrow”. For example, 10% chance to be near (1d6 miles, hexes, etc.) from a burrow, and 1% chance to be over one. The GM can roll for it, or make the player do it.

Change It Up

To make them different from the book descriptions, make them a different color, smell, size, or flavor of meat (if the party eats its kills).

Where’s the Table?

This should be something each GM can make their own table. But for starters, here is what I am thinking for my own table.

CREATURE BASE CYCLE (Years, Decades, Centuries) TIME SINCE END OF LAST CYCLE PLACEMENT NOTES (Map Location, Treasure, etc.)
Ankheg d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under farmer Bob’s barn
Bulette d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under, within, or next to the dungeon

Keep going with each burrowing monster, or monster you re-skin as a burrowing monster.

Make a new table for each genre you run. Of course, some creatures could easily be used across genres.

Vary the cycle units (years, decades, centuries) and number and type of dice used to set the base cycle and time since last cycle.

For placement set one color of dice for each creature and roll all at once. Vary the number of dice used based on the size of your campaign map. If you have a world map, use more dice than a map that is only a portion of a continent.

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of all this, especially the location. Once you know a location, how can you make it interesting? If a location is a far off place, be sure to have the party encounter that cluster of creatures, especially if you haven’t used this variation yet.

If the location is within a dungeon, perhaps the builders of the dungeon avoided waking the creature(s) through blind luck, or build around it on purpose. Another way for creatures to get into a dungeon when “it doesn’t make sense.”

Conclusion

Have you ever placed creatures in this manner? Is this something you would use in your game?

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Modding The Sleep Spell

I’m an AD&D 1e player & GM. There are parts I really like about it. Recently I was thinking about the lowly Sleep spell and how it has the same efficacy for all levels of spell caster.

I see two different ways to mod the spell without making it over-powered. After all, magic missile adds more missiles, fireballs adds more hit dice.

Number of Dice

By changing the number of dice used with a formula of an additional die per 5 levels, it raises both the minimum and the maximum. The high end of the hit dice affected don’t change, but rather the chances of affecting an ogre. Boosting the chances from 50% to 75% and finally automatic. Why shouldn’t a name level Wizard be able to take out an ogre? An ogre with maximum hit points has 33 and the average damage from an 11th level fireball is 38.5 hp.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level Wizard 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 5d4 (5-20) 6d4 (6-24)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12) 4d4 (4-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d4 + ½ d4 (2-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Size of Dice

Changing the size of the dice raises only the maximum affected, but use similar changes for the top tier as in the number of dice example.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d6 (4-24) 4d8 (4-32)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d6 (2-13) 2d8 (2-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6) 1d8 (1-8)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Other Possibilities

A third possibility would be to allow the spell to affect up to 5 to 6 HD creatures on a 1d4, with a roll of 4. However, there aren’t many monsters in that category, other than NPCs. At that level, I’d give a saving throw if they were affected.  But to me, boosting the level does make it seem overpowered.

Another possibility would be to increase the Area of Effect, so instead of a 3″ diameter circle. For example, add 1″ at 6th level and another 1″ at 11th level. This wouldn’t change the number affected, just the size of the affected area.

A final way to mod this spell would be to boost the minimum. At 6th -10th level make the minimum affected be half the count, and at 11th+ make the minimum 75% of the count, such as below.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d4+4 (8-16)* 4d4+8 (12-16)**
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d4+2 (4-8)* 2d4+4 (6-8)**
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d4+1 (2-4)* 1d4+2 (3-4)**
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4,1 (1),2+ (2) 2 Creatures
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

* Add 1 to all 1’s rolled
** Add 1 to all 1’s & 2’s rolled

If one wants a more powerful sleep spell, one could make an Improved Sleep of a higher spell level. There is nothing to prevent a PC from researching this. Some ideas for this are for affecting either higher hit dice creatures, or perhaps creatures unaffected by sleep. The latter might require some ingredient from a ghast, since their touch affects elves. Discovering this spell when up against an enemy spell caster would really get the players’ attention.

Conclusion

I’m not sure if I will add one of these to my house rules. I had to write this out so I could pull back and consider the ramifications for game balance. I don’t often mod spells, but this one captured my attention. At time like that, I just need to write it out. Then I can come back later and review it after I have had time to ponder it.

Have you modded the sleep spell? Did you make it more or less powerful?

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Announcement From Frank Mentzer

Frank Mentzer was talking about this at Gary Con 9, and said he hoped to Kickstart in a couple of months. Obviously, things of this scale take a bit longer.

Frank has a letter from Gary Gygax giving permission to include his campaign in the Greyhawk setting. Frank makes clear in the comments on the FB thread that there will be no official Greyhawk information and Greyhawk will only be released in the introduction to the work in reference to the note from Gary.

What’s really cool in the comments is all the tidbits mentioned. All the old school artists still in the field have expressed interest. As is clear from the announcement, Darlene is doing the maps! Frank mentioned that he has ran his campaign via online methods for over 11 sessions across 25 years! Here I thought that 263 sessions over 3.5 years on Roll20 was a lot! [I play in a weekly AD&D game Wednesday nights.]

Here’s the Announcement from Facebook:

Press Release:
Historic Dungeons & Dragons® Campaign Returns

Loxley, Madison WI, August 11 2017

Legendary game designer Frank Mentzer, famed for his worldwide version of the Dungeons & Dragons® game, has teamed with fiction author Ted Fauster to revisit one of the earliest known D&D® fantasy worlds. The game continues to be one of the most popular of all time, and Mentzer’s version is still available in fourteen languages, on every continent.

In 1981, Mentzer was given written permission from E. Gary Gygax (co-author of the original game in 1974) to establish and develop this little-known portion of Oerth, one of the game’s original settings. This new realm of Empyrea has a 40-year history (starting with simple materials from Judges Guild) and is still actively used. The artist Darlene, who painted Gary’s maps in his 1980 product, will create similar maps for this one. Other famous artists of that era — including Caldwell, Dee, Diesel, Easley, Elmore, Holloway, Jaquays, and Otus — are being invited to join the project.

Empyrea is on the mysterious and isolated continent of Aquaria, east of Gygax’s World of Greyhawk™ setting. Until now, knowledge of this portion of the world has remained largely a mystery, as the broad and dangerous Solnor ocean separates the two. The continent is briefly described in the Advanced D&D® adventure “Egg of the Phoenix” (Mentzer & Jaquays, TSR Inc., 1987).

“It’s time to share this Dungeons & Dragons® world with hobby gamers,” Mentzer says. “Unlike others, Gary approved this personally. Empyrea combines both traditional fantasy and science fiction elements. Magic is dominant, but technology lurks. And it’s one Realm… this isn’t a cluster of medieval city-states like Greyhawk.”

Author Ted Fauster has accepted the role of Creative Aide, which was Mentzer’s original title when he worked with Gygax at TSR in the 1980s.

Mentzer and Darlene will finance the set through crowdfunding, with support from Judges Guild. It will be compatible with the most recent Fifth Edition D&D® game (D&D 5E) as well as Mentzer’s own world-famous “Red Box” edition of the game.

An official start date for the Kickstarter will be announced shortly after the GenCon® 50 Game Convention in August.

For More Information, contact:
Loxley LLC
Mentzer: LoxleyKey@gmail.com
Fauster : ted@tedfauster.com
(Ownership of trademarks indicated is not disputed)

Ted Fauster shared it here.

+Joseph Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard shared it here.

[UPDATE] 

Here’s a video to learn more about +Ted Fauster who is working with +Frank Mentzer on this.

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Simple Bombs In Fantasy RPGs Without Gunpowder

I try to think of ways to use my real world knowledge to add things to the game. Last November at UCon, +Del Teigeler played in the Delving Deeper game I ran. His character poured his water down a tunnel that sloped gently downwards away from the party, then poured oil on it, which floated, then lit the oil. Del is a firefighter, so quickly used his actual knowledge to benefit the party.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about using the Rule of 9’s for hit placement, from my training as an EMT.

I decided to write about BLEVEs today. A Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion is why pressure cookers have relief valves. Fill a pressure cooker with war oil and no relief valve, and you get a device that will cause a lot of damage. However, it has to receive constant heat until the vessel fails.  If you don’t want to read the linked Wikipedia article, see the video at the end of the article.

In a fantasy setting, these will require decent quality metal and the skills to craft them. They will have to have an airtight seal that will hold until the vessel fails. Poor quality metal and/or in adequate skills will lead to leaks that may cause a gout of fire on one end, but it won’t explode. Slightly better materials and/or skills could result in an explosion while those intending to use it are still in range. The fire has to be stoked and kept burning until failure.

The requirements for decent quality metal and adequate skills to manufacture would limit this to “higher” civilizations. for example, dwarves and gnomes could be expected to have such things. Some human nations may have them, as well as others with the adequate stuff. Goblins might try to use them, but have as much chance of hurting themselves as their victims.

Wizards might have them constructed and use heat and fire based spells to set them off quickly. This would depend on the GM’s ruling. A fireball with one or more “supplemental” fireballs  from these devices would be devastating in a battle.

These devices would work better as traps or “mines” to hold an enemy at bay while retreating. For example, a cluster of them could be placed in a building that is abandoned and burned to cover a getaway. A trap could cause a room to seal and a fire to light that heats such a device. If the party can’t extinguish the fire or get out of the room in time, they suffer the effects.

A dragon could have its minions construct these devices to be placed in all the narrow entrances to its lair. A blast of dragon’s breath would be sufficient to cause instant failure of the vessels.

The size of the vessels would indicate the area/volume that is affected and the damage.

The formula for the area of a sphere is: (4/3) [pi] r3  Here is a link to a calculator from Google. It shows that a 20 foot radius (40 foot diameter), as from a fireball, has a volume of 33,510.32 cubic feet. A 10x10x10 room has a volume of 1,000 cubic feet. Thus a fireball will fill 33.5 ten foot sections of room/dungeon/underground.

Therefore, if your pressure vessels are spheres, you will need this formula to figure how much oil, or other substance, is in them. A 12 inch sphere (6 inch radius)  has a volume of 904.78 cubic inches or 0.52 cubic feet. A BLEVE would hurl heated vaporized and boiling oil plus shredded metal at least 100 feet, if not confined. (I don’t have any facts to back this up, but it seems reasonable. ) Within a close distance, in addition to burns from fire, one would have burns from boiling liquid.

Using water instead of oil will result in shrapnel, and scalding from steam and hot water.

If a metal with a melting point lower than that of the failure point of the pressure vessel is used, one has shrapnel and molten metal to deal with.

A 24 inch sphere (12 inch radius) has a volume of 7,238.23 cubic inches, or 4.19 cubic feet, basically 8 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere.

18 inches for the radius (3 feet diameter) equals a volume of 24,429.02 cubic inches is 1.77 cubic feet.  This is 27 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere (3 inch radius).

I built this spreadsheet so you can run the formula on different size increments. As you can see, a 60 inch sphere (5 feet, with 30 inch radius) is 1,000 times the volume of a 6 inch diameter sphere! If you plug in a different number in the yellow box (cell C2) the only thing that changes is the volume, all the other cells are steady. NOTE: The spreadsheet has been shared as read only, so you will need to copy it to make changes. I also left out the units, so you can plug in your numbers and get the results desired, just add units.

Damage would decrease with distance. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use 1 die of damage per 6″ of diameter within 100 feet. With half damage out to 100 feet.  Combine with a save for half, and one can easily take no damage at 100 feet. I would limit the size of a sphere to six feet in diameter. Time time and cost to construct larger and larger spheres makes it extremely impractical.

Here’s the Table:

(Note: Save for half damage.)

Diameter of Sphere Cost in GP Construction Time Damage within 50’ Damage within 100’
6 Inches 1,000 1 week 1d8 Half
12 inches 8,000 2 month 2d8 Half
18 inches 27,000 6 months 3d8 Half
24 inches 64,000 1 year 4d8 Half
36 inches 125,000 1.5 years 5d8 Half
72 inches 216,000 2 years 6d8 Half

The type and number of dice used can easily be modified to suit your taste. Such as, d6 instead of d8.  One can easily modify this to have separate damage dice for shrapnel and the contents. For example, 1d6 for shrapnel and 1d6 for fire damage per 6″ of diameter.  If you want you could use different sized dice for each type of damage.

For more verisimilitude, pick the size of dice to role, such as a d12. Orient the d12 with the 1 up and the 3 facing you. Determine if this is facing the NPCs/monsters or the characters. Roll another d12 and determine which side on the first d12 is indicated. That would be the side that failed first. This would indicate the direction the contents go. The majority of the vessel would go in the opposite direction. If you roll 12, this indicates it fails on the lower right area.

I based the cost and time on how much bigger each size sphere is than the base 6 inch sphere. Since this is the OSR, you can adjust any part of this to suit your needs.

About my experience:

Way back in high school I was a Junior Firefighter. I took the EMT class in the Spring of my junior year of high school. When I turned 18, shortly after my senior year started, I received my EMT license and became a volunteer firefighter. I achieve firefighter II certification, via training at the station. I was not able to maintain licensing and certification when I went off to college.

Instead of getting the approval of the teacher who was on the board of the fire district to respond to fires and accidents, I got to make my own decision. I never had a call while at school my senior year. Once while still a junior firefighter, I got out of school to help with a major grass fire.  I don’t think they’d do that today.

I think this is a clip from one of the training films we had, or they re-used the narrator’s track. That guy narrated everything!

DISCLAIMER: This article is not an endorsement of making devices in the real world with the intent to harm others or otherwise break the law. It is merely a thought experiment using a snippet of my real world knowledge for inspiration to enhance a narrow aspect of fantasy role playing games (FRPGs). If you are not capable of understanding this, then you are not qualified to be part of any organization or agency overseeing such things.

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8th Anniversary of the Blog

Today marks the eighth anniversary of this blog. Over 650 posts, almost 320 G+ subscribers, nearly 220 Twitter followers, and about 35 followers on Facebook. I’ve dipped my toes into YouTube this year and have a whopping 21 subscribers.  Last Wednesday I was interviewed on Nerdarchy!

This year I started off with a new social media avatar and blog header by +Satine Phoenix. Recently I added a second blog header by +Del Teigeler. Now there is a rotation of headers. Two styles by Satine and the one by Del. I opened a CafePress store to sell shirts and hoodies with the logo by Satine. She really likes the one I gave her at Gary Con 9.

Satine Phoenix Approves This Shirt
Satine Phoenix Approves This Shirt

I started off writing stories from “back in the day” and then telling about introducing my sons to D&D. I’ve done reviews, interviews, made tables, shared thoughts on settings and more. Most of my focus has been on old school gaming. However, I recently had my first review of a 5e module.

Elsewhere I’ve written that after reading the sentiment somewhere online, that I think I should at least know 5e well enough to run a game, since most people new to D&D will come to it through 5e. I’ll still have an eye to running with an old school style of play. I’m still looking to get into a 5e game to ease into the differences in the rules so I’m clear how to DM it without too much rules consulting.

I’ve been contributing to Multiverse for over a year, and helped promote the TopSecret: NWO Kickstarter, which wraps up in just over a week. I have written in multiple forums, in addition to my blog, that the new TSR has that name because WotC let the Trademark lapse. Some seem to think that owning the TSR trademark makes all the old TSR games that are no longer published under the new TSR. People confuse copyright and trademark for some reason. Owning the name and owning the right to the words on paper are two different things.

I’ve got a set convention schedule for every year: GaryCon, Marmalade Dog, GrandCon, Gamehole Con, and UCon. I may try to add in North Texas RPG Con next year.

Basically I spend a lot of time and money backing Kickstarters, going to conventions, and spending a lot to run a blog and now make videos. Adding in hotel costs, meals, gas, incidentals, web hosting, domain name, blog art, webcam, editing software, Kickstarters, etc. I spend a couple thousand probably about 3.000, but I’m a little afraid to add it up. My only sales on CafePress have been to myself for giving to family and friends.

I’ve made maybe ten cents on YouTube, and enough via DriveThruRPG/RPGNow/DMsGuild affiliate links to help buy products I use & review.

As long as I have my current job, I can easily afford this much spending. I like it and have made some great friends online and added them to real life friends at conventions. However, I should realistically look to at least negate my expenses. I have really slowed down on Kickstarters this year.

If you like what I do with my blog and YouTube, consider using the affiliate links and watching my YouTube to help offset my costs. I had an Amazon affiliate, but no one bought anything, so I lost it. I plan to try again, so things you can buy online will have those links. I might try to do a Patreon, but that won’t happen for awhile. I need to be more consistent in my blogging and videos. I don’t expect to make a living at this, but off setting a large percentage of my expenses would be awesome!

Here’s to more time sharing what I love about RPGs!

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer