The Great Kingdom Mess

Earlier today, I posted an update about the Great Kingdom D&D Documentary Kickstarter, along with an update on all my outstanding Kickstarters.

The first documentary to fund on Kickstarter was Dungeons & Dragons A Documantary. They also have a Facebook page, but it hasn’t been updated since June.

I missed backing this one, and their KS page is still active. However, their last backer update is from January. They do have some active comments. A comment from November 9, 2016 said, “I think it was said early that, at least with The Great Kingdom, the money is in escrow and if they lose all the backers get that money back, since the money wasn’t transferred from KS to the defendants.”

That is good news, and if true, makes me wonder why the only response to my inquiries didn’t get that answer.

My only concern, is that the credit card I used is expired, and the account number changed. How will KS get the money to me?


I don’t care what conflicts these people had amongst themselves. Grow up and make a movie so we get it.

I plan to get my money back somehow. When I do, I will add it to the RPG History Project by Pat Kilbane. Here’s the article I wrote on Multiverse.  I’ve also written about it on this blog here, and here. Fair warning, I like what Pat has done, and will be the biggest cheerleader I can for his efforts. If he gets enough support to speed the process, he could deliver his documentary before the courts settle the dispute between the others.

There is also the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons. I did not find a Kicstarter for this. I assume they have all the financial backing they need, as I have not seen any mention of crowdfunding for them. I don’t see any mention of a release date.

And the Secrets of Blackmoor movie project. Also on Facebook.  I assume they also have all the financial backing they need, as I have not seen any mention of crowdfunding for them. I don’t see any mention of a release date.


On October 1st, I sent the following email to the Great Kingdom people. It took a while to find a way to contact them. When Kickstarter pulls things down, the only way to contact the creator is through the KS messaging system. I did try sending messages via Kickstarter, but never got an answer.

I don’t remember what google searches I had to use to find the movie’s website. It was there that I found their email address. Since it is so hard to find a way to contact them, I don’t feel that I need to obscure their email address. This will avoid me fielding all the emails asking how to contact them.

To Whom It May Concern,
I sent a message via Kickstarter asking about a refund on October 1, 2017 and have had no response.
I found this email via the internet archive in an attempt to contact you.
I pledged $50.00 and would like my money back ASAP.
Please either refund my money or deliver my pledged reward as indicated in the email below that I received when the project funded and I was charged.
The original ruling by the court,, does not mention anything preventing you from issuing refunds or communicating to your backers.
If you have been barred by the court from issuing refunds, then please communicate this fact, with a link to the court ruling.
If you have been barred by the court from communicating with your backers, then please communicate this fact, with a link to the court ruling.
[My Signature Text.]
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Kickstarter <>
To: Me
Sent: Sunday, July 20, 2014 11:30 PM
Subject: Thanks to you, The Great Kingdom by The Great Kingdom has been successfully funded!
Thanks to you and 890 other backers, The Great Kingdom has been successfully funded. We will now charge your credit card.
Pledge Summary
Amount pledged: $50.00 USD
Reward: DVD/BluRay + Pre-Release HD Download – You get the Digital Download before everyone else does, plus you get something you can treasure and keep. Think of it as an heirloom to give to your descendants. That is unless DVD/Blu-Ray become obsolete…which will probably never happen. And to sweeten the deal, your name will be listed on our website under the heading “Even More Awesomer People That Helped Get This Movie Made”. $15 extra for International Shipping. (Sorry, International People…we wish it was less expensive).
Estimated delivery: Jul 2015
When your reward is ready, The Great Kingdom will send you a survey via email to request any info needed to deliver your reward (mailing address, T-shirt size, etc).
If you’d like to visit the project page, click here:

I had to send another email before I got a response:

This is he response I got back from Andrew Pascal:

FROM: TheMostEpicGame <>

hi larry –

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AD&D at Gamehole Con with Luke Gygax

Luke is just a regular guy, nice and we had a lot of fun with the module he ran.

He didn’t have his pre-generated characters for the adventure. While we were rolling up characters, I mentioned to him an idea that I had read about, and written about here and here, for spell casters to write down the page numbers of their spells next to the name of the spell. He had never heard of that simple idea and liked it. Cool! Even those from back in the day can still learn something new.

A bad roll for placement of a fireball by a different player left a few other players rolling up new characters so we could finish the adventure.

The one bad experience in the whole thing was that DURING PLAY people kept coming up to Luke and asking for pictures and autographs. I wish that he had asked them to wait until we had a break or were done.

I missed out on autographs because I didn’t realize there was an organized autograph table that different guests had a scheduled time for autographs. That’s on me for not paying attention. I kept seeing so many of the old guard that I wanted autographs, but it was always when they were in the middle of a game, or I had grown tired of lugging my items to be signed. My parents taught me good manners, and if it means my paltry collection doesn’t get signatures, then so be it. I can live with it. The memory of visiting with them means more to me than a signature. I know to pay attention next time and read the big sign with the schedule that was up the first day….

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Outstanding Kickstarters Update

I haven’t posted an update on my Outstanding Kickstarters in a while. I built a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to keep track of them all. I even have a column to remind me which ones I need to review here on the blog. [I’m way behind on reviews….]

I added a bunch of new ones in 2016. I massively failed my save vs. cool things. I am excluding two non-RPG related items.

The Great Kingdom is the one I am most disappointed about. I sent a message a long while ago, and no response. I sent one in the fall asking for a refund, and got a response that they were focused on the litigation.

While the City State of the Invincible Overlord re-print is my oldest outstanding Kickstarter, I am not worried about it. They recently switched to weekly updates about the number of pages added to the layout. They made a lot of mistakes in not having the work done first, and adding minis. However, I think that was a hard learned lesson, and they are moving forward to completion.

I read the Schlock Mercenary web comic. I backed for the book THE SEVENTY MAXIMS OF MAXIMALLY EFFECTIVE MERCENARIES. There are a couple variations on the book, and the one I want is now supposed to ship in February.

Metamorphosis Alpha: Epsilon City last updated that they have printer proofs, so there will be delivery at some point in the nearish future.

The Marmoreal Tomb had some delays due to health of both creators, and some other unexpected delays. There are updates, but it is not as clear what is outstanding, nor how soon to completion.

My final four outstanding Kickstarters are all slated for delivery in 2017, so none of them are late. Unless something unexpected occurs, I expect them to all be on time. They are either experienced users of Kickstarter, or a newbie who asked all the right questions from the start.

Lairs & Encounters 12/28/2016 Mar 2016 12/19/2016 Last update about shipping. One person online posted a picture of theirs.
Dungeon Grappling RPG Supplement 12/06/2016 Apr 2017 12/22/2016 Backerkit Survey
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E 11/20/2016 Aug 2017 12/19/2016
Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook 3rd Printing 11/07/2016 Jan 2017 12/14/2016
Worldographer: Hexographer 2 – Easy Map/World Creator 09/14/2016 Feb 2017 12/01/2016
Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.’s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter 09/02/2015 Mar 2016 12/06/2106 Last update about maps.
Metamorphosis Alpha: Epsilon City 09/02/2015 Mar 2016 12/23/2016 Last update about printer proofs.
The Planet Mercenary Role Playing Game 05/18/2015 May 2016 12/20/2016 I only backed the 70 Maxims Book.
The Great Kingdom 07/20/2014 Jul 2015 Unknown     In Litigation with the other D&D Documentary.
City State of the Invincible Overlord 04/23/2014 Nov 2014 12/22/2016 Weekly Updates last few weeks. Layout page count updates, etc.
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Magical Protections in AD&D

This is the third part in a three part series of articles spawned by my research into undead in AD&D. [Part 1] [Part 2]

One or another of the various forms of magic circle are mentioned by name among various spells, scrolls, and decorations in the various AD&D manuals. These are all based on real world symbols used in various magic practices. Some claim to be from antiquity, some seem to be more recent inventions.

I began looking into these circles in the context of AD&D and undead, but wondered a bit why certain ones seem to be efficacious against demons, and others devils. I will touch on just enough of what Wikipedia says about these things to give context.

Pentacle does not refer to five, but is any object used as protection. It can even be a hexagram, six pointed star, or other shape. Often a talisman. Modern practitioners distinguish a pentacle as a star inside a circle, where a pentagram is a five pointed star.

Pentagram – 1 point up = good, 2 points up = bad.

Magic Circle – In mathematics: , and magic:  (using salt or chalk)

Thaumaturgic Triangle – Thaumaturgy = magic or miracles. . Here’s more on the thaumaturgic triangle/circle.

Circle of Protection – see magic circle

It seems that nearly all of these symbols can be worn as amulets as jewelry or designs on clothing, or even temporary/henna tattoos, or tattoos on the skin. For the purposes of RPG’s they don’t need to be detailed, just know that they can be drawn or carved on the ground/floor.


p. 42 – Magic Circle, Pentagram, Thaumaturgic Triangle used with the spell Aerial Servant.

p. 65 – Circles of Protection interrupt, but do not dispel charm person/monster, etc.

“Magic circles of protection (spells or specially drawn) will break the communication link and seemingly cause the charm to be broken, but unless magically dispelled, or until the power of the magic wears off, the effect is again evident when the charmee is outside such protection.”

p. 117 – Magic Circle is needed to create magic user scrolls.

“Clerics must have prayed and specially sacrificed to their deity, while magic-users [and illusionists?] must have drawn a magic circle and remain uninterrupted.”

pp. 128-129 – Protection scrolls generate a magic circle (not globe) around user. The below quotes are under scrolls of protection from demons, but the next section says that scrolls of protection from devils work the same way.

“The circle of protection generated springs out-wards from the scroll reader in a 10’ radius. No demon protected against can penetrate the circle physically or magically or in any way, but the person(s) within can launch attacks, if otherwise possible, upon demons. The protection moves with the reader of the scroll.”

“Note that the protection radius is not an actual physical globe, and if the user forces a demon into a place from which further retreat is impossible (e.g., a corner), and then continues forward until the demon would be within the radius of the circle, the demon is not harmed, and the protection is considered
voluntarily broken and disappears. There is no way in which this can be used as an offensive weapon.”

p. 218 – Appendix I – Magic User Furnishings lists magic circle, pentacle, and pentagram.

p. 41 – Glyph of Warding – This goes more in depth to various types of glyphs, which can be used to guard, repel, or damage. While this is a third level cleric spell, I don’t see why other spell casters couldn’t use similar spells.


p. 47 – Third Level Cleric spell Glyph of Warding. Not a lot of specifics, have to turn to the DMG p. 41.

p. 50 6th level cleric spell Aerial Servant requires one of a Magic Circle, Pentagram, or Thaumaturgic Triangle. The cleric’s holy symbol or a religious artifact can also be used.

pp. 61 & 62 6th level druid spell, Conjure Fire Elemental. Neither concentration nor a magic circle are needed for protection/control.

p. 67 1st level MU spell Protection from Evil – “requirement of powdered iron and silver as the material components for tracing the magic circle”

p. 79 5th level MU Conjure Elemental spell. “N.B. Special protection from uncontrolled elementals is available by means of a pentacle, pentagram, thaumaturgic triangle, magic circle, or protection from evil spell.” This adds pentacle to the list of round inscriptions that provide protection.

pp. 86 & 87 7th level MU spell Cacodemon. “The spell caster must be within a circle of protection (or a thaumaturgic triangle with protection from evil) and the demon confined within a pentagram (circled pentacle) if he or she is to avoid being slain or carried off by the summoned cacodemon.”


The Description of the Ensnarement spell on p. 60 goes into detail about what the various round magical protections are used for:

  • Magic Circle – (for creatures from the upper planes or the Astral Plane)
  • Pentagram – (for creatures from the lower and infernal planes).
  • Thaumaturgic Triangle – (for creatures from the Ethereal, Elemental, or Concordant Opposition planes)

There is also the difference between drawn and inscribed protective symbols on page 60 in the description of the magic user spell Ensnarement. A drawn circle could be smudged/distrubed. An inscribed or carved circle would need to be prepared in advance and would require a skilled craftsman to do it correctly. The benefit being that they cannot be disturbed so easily.

p. 62 – 7th level MU spell Torment has another mention of these devices.

The term glyph does not occur in it as per a search of the PDF, other than in the list of third level cleric spells.

This manual does not list any monsters.

The term pentacle does not occur in it as per a search of the PDF.


This manual does not contain the term pentacle. Nor magic circle, Nor pentagram. Nor pentacle. Nor thaumaturgic triangle. Nor glyph. Holy water is only mentioned as a spell component. No mention of Circle of Protection.

Oriental Adventure’s list of monsters does not contain the word undead, and turn is not used in relation to undead.


No mention of glyph, pentagram, or thaumaturgic triangles.
p. 16 – pentacle vs. demons.
p. 20 – magic circles vs. devils.
pp. 43 & 44 – Only ghasts & ghouls are mentioned as being kept out by circles of protection. The ghast requiring powdered cold iron.

NOTE: Cold iron is terrestrial iron, and hot iron is meteoric iron. From the Wikipedia article, it seems that steel made from cold iron counts as cold iron.


Does not contain the terms: glyph.

A pentacle is mentioned on p. 35 for conjuring greater demons.

A pentagram is mentioned on p. 27 for protection from demonkind. & p. 28 for blocking entry of demons into the material plane.

pp. 128-129 – Xag-Ya & Xag-Yi “A circle of protection (spell, magic circle, thaumaturgic triangle, or pentagram) will repulse attacks of either kind of creature.”

Magic circle – p. 44 provides protection from devils.

Holy & unholy water are mentioned as affecting some creatures from other planes, or undead.

Turn Undead is only mentioned as the ability of some creatures.


Magic Circles vs devils.
Pentacle vs. demons

Holy Water is mentioned by how it affects undead and other evil creatures, like demons.

No glyph.
No Rune.
Pentagram none mentioned.
Thaumaturgic Triangle none mentioned.
Circle of Protection none mentioned.

Manual of the planes – glyph on p. 12 or in spell lists. No magic circle. No circle of protection. No pentacle. No pentagram. No thaumaturgic triangle.


I only have a legal PDF without the Cthulhu & Melnibone mythos, and I don’t want to get out a hard copy and read right now.

Glyphs only mentioned on p. 44 as part of the word hieroglyphs in the Egyptian mythos section. pp. 50 & 51 have some hieroglyphs.

Runes mentions on p. 99 in the Norse Mythos section.

No pentacle. No magic circle. No thaumaturgic triangle. No circle of protection.

Holy/Unholy water is mentioned for creatures that are susceptible to it or for imersion of some sacrifices in it.

Pentagram is only mentioned on p. 69 as the symbol of Tyche.


Holy Water is only mentioned as a spell component and as as doing damage to undead.
Pentacle is mentioned in the cacodemon spell and as decoration in a mage’s room/tower.

Pentagram is mentioned as decoration in a mage’s room/tower.
magic circle is mentioned for the same spells in AD&D and in decoration in a mage’s room/tower.

Thaumaturgic triangle is mentioned vs. demons.
Circle of protection is mentioned as a generic term vs. demons & devils.


There is a disparate and scattered use of various terms across the many manuals I searched in PDF form.

All of the protective designs are basically circular/surrounding. They can also be used to contain things within them. So to simplify, I will simply use the term “magic circle” to include all of them.

If magic circles work for ghouls and ghasts and demons and devils, I would rule that they would work for other undead. Similar to the effect of a holy/unholy symbol. I would rule such circles would need to be enchanted/blessed/prayed over by a cleric of sufficient level to turn such a creature. Using an existing mechanic is always easiest.

The use of salt, powdered chalk, and cold iron filings in such circles describes the effort and care needed to draw/pour a circle.

I’m a theater of the mind player, so I don’t need all the drawing and elaborate symbols in detail. I would rule that spell casters of all classes would have to refer to books, scrolls, and communal knowledge to learn symbols, but unless the player(s) involved were feeling particularly creative/inspired, there is no need to draw anything.

Other types of creatures, such as Lycanthropes are kept somewhat at bay by wolvesbane and belladonna, such items mixed in with other ingredients and runes & glyphs could make a magic circle to protect one from Lycanthropes or keep a Lycanthrope contained to protect the person and others. Page 128 of the DMG mentions a scroll of protection from Lycanthropes. Included in the possible list of creatures such a scoll is good for is shape changers in general, such as doppelgangers, and druids of sufficient level.

Another type of creature for which there are protection scrolls are elementals. Using the existing rule metric, I would rule that magic circles would protect against elementals, but require items of that element. For example, fire for fire elementals. Another DM might rule opposite elements to contain them, so water/earth, air/fire, or whatever the DM views as opposite. I guess corn starch would be good vs. water elementals, if corn (maize) exists in your world.

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Blog Reorganization

I’m working on cleaning up the layout and presentation on the blog.

I’m moving and consolidating information from the right sidebar into pages. See links for pages at the top.

It’s a bit chaotic at the moment, and the information on the pages is in rough form. Trust me, I know it needs work.

I didn’t want to take the blog down while making these changes, so I didn’t have to deal with messages about it being down.

I’m debating whether or not to change the theme. However, organizing/cleaning up come first.

I plan to have a couple professional artists do up a new blog image for a rotation. One will be available soon, and the other will be sometime after the first of the year. SO COOL!

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Undead in AD&D Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about Undead in AD&D, with a focus on the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide.  [Part 1]  [Part 3]

I got a lot of likes and comments on it, some wanting to see what I had to say about the Fiend Folio.

So today, I will touch on undead as mentioned in the other books in my collection. As someone with a BA in history, and learning to do research via card catalog and actually handling and reading books, the search features of PDFs and other electronic media is so handy. I will ignore the AD&D books I have in physical form, but have not gotten the PDF form.

To be thorough, the Unearthed Arcana does not have any monsters, so no undead there.

Oriental Adventures’ list of monsters does not contain the word undead, and turn is not used in relation to undead.

Fiend Folio
Different searches gave different results.
“turned as” only brought up the Apparition
p. 12 Apparition turned as spectre.

“undead table”
p. 19 Coffer Corpse as wraith
p. 83 Son of Kyuss as mummy

“undead” finds the three above, plus the following:
p. 26 Death Knight – can’t be turned. (I would argue against that.)
p. 51 Huecuva turned as wight
p. Necrophidius (death worm) not an undead so can’t be turned.
p. 71-72 Penanggalan – one form can’t be turned. true form turned as wraith.
p. 73 Poltergeist – wandering poltergeist turned as skeleton, in its “home” turned as ghoul.
pp. 75-76 – Revenant – cannot be turned motivated by sheer force of will. (Magical protections and turning would have a chance and might require a high level cleric for turning in my opinion. Liches combine their force of will with magic, so why not be able to turn a revenant? )
p. 78 – Shadow Demon turned as Special.
p. 78 – Sheet Ghoul turned as spectre
p. 78 – Sheet Phantom turned as wraith
p. 79 – Skeleton Warrior – no chance to turn (they are lich-like, why not turn as a lich or special?)
p. 97 – Yellow Musk Zombie – not a true undead, so can’t be turned. (I’m ok with that. In a sense they are like golems, automata, or animated statues. A druid might be able to turn a plant/fungi type creature.)
p. 115 Undead Subtable that includes MM1 & FF undead on one encounter by terrain table. (There is no such table in MM2.)

There is no revised Turning Undead Table in the Field Folio. I think this would be really handy if you are going to use the undead from this book.

p. 21 Crypt Thing – It does not say it is undead, but its name gives one that initial idea.

Monster Manual 2:

After trying to find one term for searching ended up being “undead” for the Fiend Folio, I stuck with it in other PDFs.

p. 100 Phantoms “Phantoms are often mistaken for ghosts, haunts, or groaning spirits, but they may not be turned as undead. The clerical spell exorcism will dispel a phantom.”  (I would argue that such a thing can be turned. Perhaps as a higher order undead or special.)
p. 109 Skeletal Animals turned as normal skeletons.
p. 32 Demilich – ghost form and wraith form, only ghost form can be turned. (I argue that all “true” undead can be turned.)
p. 131 – Juju Zombie – turned as a spectre
p. 131 Zombie, Monster – turned as a ghast

There is no combined undead sub table with all the undead by terrain type, as we found in the Fiend Folio. Neither is there a revised turn undead table.

I built my own updated turn undead table. It is crude, but illustrates the information one may wish to include.

The groaning spirit (banshee) falls between the mummy and spectre in hit dice, so as I suggested in yesterday’s article, use that to help decide how a cleric can affect it.

TYPE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9-13 14      
Skeleton 10 7 4 T T D D D* D* D* Poltergeist, Wandering (FF p. 73) Skeletal Animals (MM2 p. 109)  
Zombie 13 10 7 T T D D D D* D*      
Ghoul 16 13 10 4 T T D D D D* Poltergeist, “At Home” (FF p. 73)    
Shadow 19 16 13 7 4 T T D D D*      
Wight 20 19 16 10 7 4 T T D D Huecuva (FF p. 51)    
Ghast 20 19 13 10 7 4 T T D Zombie, Monster (MM2 p. 131)    
Wraith 20 16 13 10 7 4 T D Coffer Corpse (FF p. 19) Penanggalan (True Form) (FF p. 71-72) Sheet Phantom (FF p. 79)
Mummya 20 16 13 10 7 4 T Son of Kyuss (FF p. 83)    
Groaning Spirit                          
Spectreb 20 16 13 10 7 T Apparition (FF p. 12) Sheet Ghoul (FF p. 78) Juju Zombie (MM2 p. 131)
Vampirec 20 16 13 10 4      
Ghostd 20 16 13 7 Demilich, ghost form (MM2 p. 32)    
Liche 19 16 10      
Special**f 20 19 13 Shadow Demon (FF p. 78)  

Of course, if I missed an undead creature, please let me know.

I also searched my OSRIC PDF and found the following information:

Turning Undead table on pp. 129 & 130 lists the same creatures as on the table on page 75 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Monsters are organized by type, so Undead are all in one place on pp. 245-252, each undead has a type number to know how easily it is turned, from 1 to 13 for fiends (term used for demons & devils.). NOTE: Some undead from the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual 2 are included, and others not. I don’t know why this might be other than author preference or copywrite issues.

Banshee (Groaning Spirit) (turned as type 13) This is the same as Special! Wow! That makes a banshee seem even more powerful.

Coffer Corpse (turned as type 7)

Ghast (turned as type 6)

Ghost (turned as type 11)

Ghoul (turned as type 3)

Lich (turned as type 12)

Mummy (Turned as type 8)

Poltergeist (Turned as type 1 or 3)

Shadow (turned as type 4)

Skeleton (turned as type 1)

Spectre (turned as type 9)

Vampire (turned as type 10)

Wight (turned as type 5)

Wraith (turned as type 7)

Wraith (turned as type 7)

Normal (turned as type 2)
Monster (turned as type 6)

Zombie, Juju (turned as type 9)

So one ends up with quite a lot of varied undead, 27 by my count. I am sure there are many new undead ideas in all of the OSR and perhaps other editions of D&D that I am not familiar with. I won’t continue this exercise with other versions of D&D, or OSR products at this time. If I did, it would only be those resources I already own in PDF. It still takes an hour a book to do all the searches I do.

To keep the size of this article under control, I will have a separate article on holy water and magical protections in AD&D. If all goes well, I will post it tomorrow.

NOTE: All the links for the AD&D books are Affiliate Links that help me support my RPG/Blogging habit.

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Undead in AD&D

I was reading up on the various undead in the Monster Manual, and noted which ones in their descriptions specifically mentioned throwing holy water on them would hurt them. [Part 2] [Part 3]

For some reason, the articles on ghouls, ghasts, shadows, ghosts, and liches do not mention them being affected by holy water. I thought this was wrong, so I turned to the DMG and found on p. 65 “All forms of undead, as well as creatures from the lower planes (demons, devils, night hags, night mares, nycadaemons, etc.) are affected by HOLY WATER.”

Similarly, “Paladins, lammasu, shedu, ki-rin, and similar creatures of good alignment (or from the upper planes) are affected by UNHOLY WATER.”

In addition to affecting undead, on p. 228 in the glossary of the DMG, it says, “Useful as a weapon against undead or to slow the effects of poison.” Further on p. 115 it slows the effects of becoming a lycanthrope or undead for 1-4 turns.

I also found the bit on holy/unholy areas having an affect on the ability to turn on p. 66 of the DMG.

And of course the ability to make holy/unholy water is limited to at least a 5th level cleric with a font. Fonts are limited to one per religious edifice. and can only be used once per week. See pages 114-115 DMG. If there is a sudden outbreak of undead, the availability and cost of holy water will be a factor. Determining the day of the week the cleric makes holy water will determine just how many spells for healing or other purposes the cleric has prepared that day. Of course, this will only be an issue if there is only one cleric of sufficient level to create holy water.

Some undead have the ability to create like or lesser versions of themselves, from those they have slain. Skeletons and Zombies lack this ability, but Ghouls have it. The AD&D ghoul is the closest analog to zombies in relatively recent media that cause those killed by them to become one of them.

Ghasts are a “super ghoul”, in that their paralyzing touch can affect elves, but it doesn’t mention that those killed by a ghast become a ghast. I would rule that they do, since they are otherwise identical to ghouls.

Of the higher order undead, mummies, ghosts, and liches victims do not become undead. Of these, only a ghost’s victims are permanently dead. The ghost is the only undead with such an unforgiving and irreversible condition. I would rule that a limited wish, wish, or alter reality spell could change that.

Draining powers have some variability. Shadows drain strength, while wights, wraiths, spectres, and vampires drain levels. Ghosts are the only one that age.

Oddly, only the ghoul and the ghast are mentioned as being repulsed by circles of protection. I would rule that the right efforts put into such protections would be effective. This only makes sense, since holy symbols in the hands of clerics are beneficial.

The different speeds of undead is also interesting. The slowest are zombies, mummies, and liches at 6″. The fastest land speeds are ghasts and shadows at 15″. With flying speeds of 18″ for vampires in bat form, to 24″ for wraiths, and 30″ for spectres.

It appears that only ghouls and ghasts get 3 attacks per round. All the rest only get 1 attack per round.

The fear affect by some undead is quite powerful, either causing one to flee, or be inactive with fear, in the cast of a mummy, or flee in fear if under 5th level for a lich. The fear effect of a lich is even greater than that of a huge ancient dragon which “only”
affects up to 4th level characters/4 HD monsters. Since a lich is at least an 18th level magic user, it makes sense that their fear effect is greater, as an 18th level magic user, who acted smartly, should be able to take out an ancient dragon on their own. Thus, the power of a lich could easily result in a cooperative agreement between the lich and an ancient dragon.

The groaning spirit (banshee) is an undead, but is not listed on the turning table. It falls between the mummy and the spectre in hit dice, so consider its special abilities and defenses when deciding where to place it on the turning table.

I find it interesting that a wight has more hit dice than a ghast, but the ghast is harder to turn. With that exception, the turning table on p. 75 of the DMG is in HD order.

As I prepared the image to go with this article, I realized that Dave Trampier seems to have illustrated all of the undead.

Of course, this is only the undead in the original Monster Manual. A separate article or more may be needed to review the undead in the Fiend Folio, Monster Manual II, and other AD&D resources.

Read Part 2 here.

NOTE: All the links for the AD&D books are Affiliate Links that help me support my RPG/Blogging habit.

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Mini Review – Automata Run Amok by John Carlson

As I have mentioned multiple times here on the blog, I am in a weekly Wednesday night AD&D [Aff] campaign, Graveyard of Empires, on Roll20. We hit session 132 on November 23rd. John Carlson, our DM, has published an adventure on DriveThruRPG [Aff] & RPGNow [Aff] based on our first few sessions in the game. Being one of two players still running the same characters from session 1, I can say that this look behind the scenes is interesting.

You can read the release announcement on his blog Dwarven Automata, which is the name of his publishing venture.

Here is the marketing blurb:

Out-of-Control automata have driven a wizard from his shop. He would like the PCs to solve the problem (without damaging his creations) while his rival will pay for evidence of the wizard’s dabbling in forbidden knowledge.

This is an adventure suitable for four to five low-level characters written to be compatible with OSRIC and early editions of the world’s most popular RPG.  In addition to full details on a tinkerer-wizard’s tower overrun by rampaging automata, this module includes:

* Random tables to generate elements of a bustling port city situated in the tropics and titles for books on both magic and techno-magic

* Twenty unique magical items of variable usefulness and danger with which to tempt players

* Several unique NPCs and monsters, from a clock maker revolutionary to a brain floating in a machine animated by the spirit of a long-dead racist dwarf

* Eight illustrations by the wondefully talented Luka Rejec

This twenty-page adventure should provide between four and eight hours of Old School fun. Enjoy!

I will say up front that I admit my bias. I think John is an excellent DM who has detailed his world and it is a living campaign where player actions influence the flow of events. Looking back on this from what we have learned over more than 100 sessions shows just how much planning went into this adventure. Even though it is PWYW, and I have  the pre-release, I am buying it.

This 23 page booklet has it all, art by Luka Rejec, maps, new creatures. tables with rumors, random encounters, new magic items, and an introduction for a setting with promises of more cool stuff to come. Luka Rejec is also credited as the editor.

The premise is that a mage has been driven from his tower by ancient automata he has activated but drove him from his tower. The party has multiple ways to get involved with working for the mage, and can even end up working for a rival. Politics and rivalries within the city of Midmark are outlined, and there are suggestions for the GM in different contingencies the players may take to accomplish their mission(s). It is suitable for 4-5 players of 1st or 2nd level.

Luka Rejec’s art is awesome! I love the front cover. Having lived through this adventure in the campaign, my mental images are totally different than the characters and creatures depicted in this booklet. However, that is a personal thing and in no way is a slight to the pictures within.

Of course, John left out things that we haven’t learned yet in the campaign, or that might influence us. What he put in place is a well thought out adventure with various options for how to handle the players depending on what kinds of things they might do in an effort to wrangle the automata.

Our group had opportunity to see the PDF before the art and make suggestions. Finally, we had a look before the PDF was released for final comments and typo spotting.

What I liked:

  • The art and layout is sharp.
  • There is vocabulary to learn.
  • The table of contents is hyperlinked.
  • There is a one page isometric map of the tower showing how each level fits, and each section on each level has the level map.
    • On the following page it completes a DM Quick Reference Sheet with a timeline tracker, options in case of party retreat, and lose ends and future opportunities.
  • New monsters are stated out with a checklist for the DM to keep track of them.
  • There are suggestions for how to deal with the various puzzles/challenges present in each level.
  • There is a table to generate random book titles that is useful beyond this module.
  • Bestiary for new monsters.
  • Table of minor/interesting magic items the players might find searching different locales in the wizard’s tower.
    • These are some very creative items that many will easily find a use for in their game.

What I’d Like To See:

  • In all honesty, there’s not much else I’d like to see, other than the actual DM notes….
  • Seriously, I can’t think of what I’d add. As I mentioned at the start, I am biased and impressed with the scope and breadth of John’s campaign.
  • In the author’s note, I don’t think the bit about ascertaining his talent is needed. A quick glance will show John’s talent.

In John’s blog, Dwarven Automata,  he writes about his campaign and reviews session write ups by the players from his perspective.

I look forward to more modules in the future.

I interviewed John about our weekly game hitting 100 sessions here.

NOTE: Links followed by [Aff] are affiliate links where a portion of your purchase price supports this blog and helps buy products for use and review.

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UCon 2016 in Ann Arbor, MI

This weekend is my second con – Ucon, after Gamehole Con last weekend.

After my failed attempt to blog each day of Gamehole Con, I won’t attempt it at UCon. I’m also running four games and my youngest son, Zach, is coming with me for his first con. He is 19 and not sure what he is getting into. I’m sure he will have fun seeing his dad in a different environment.

I’m looking forward to catching up with friends I haven’t seen for awhile, and some of the same ones I just saw at Gamehole last week. I will also me online friends in real life, and of course, make new friends.

I have most things packed and ready to load in the car.

Tonight is session 130 of the weekly AD&D game I play in on Roll20. Before last week’s session, I had just over 800 hours on Roll20. Now it says 810, so should be about 814 when we break at midnight. So after tonight, I will have played about 30 hours of various RPGs, and will add 16 hours of running games, and I think another 16 hours of games I play in. Wow, that will be over 60 hours of gaming in a week and a half! It’s been a long time since I’ve played so much in so short a time. Thankfully not the sleep deprived super marathon all weekend sessions we used to do in high school and college.

I’m still dragging from Gamehole Con, so hopefully, my internal clock lets me sleep in a little tomorrow.

I’ve got some articles and other things in the works with Multiverse, after meeting with Jayson Elliot, of the new TSR, at Gamehole Con, so I’m looking forward to that once I’m back from the con and things settle down.

May you all enjoy your weekend and if you’re not at a convention, may you still be able to play!

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Dungeon Grappling – A Review

I am honored that based on my review of the grappling rules in +Tim Short’s The Manor #8, +Doug Cole asked me to review the current grappling rules for the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter as is.

I can confirm that the layout is complete with placeholders for all of the art. The Table of Contents and Index are not yet finished.

Doug confirmed to me that he has taken +Erik Tenkar’s Kickstarter suggestions to heart, and learned from other successful Kickstarters. With no physical product, this PDF only offering will be very easy to deliver once the art is complete.

The one thing that concerned me as soon as I opened the file was that it has a background color/image, but it is faded to the point of no issue where text is concerned. The text is legible on both my computer’s LED monitor and the glass screen of my tablet. Those of us with aging eye will appreciate that.

This paragraph early in the PDF gives the whole reason for such supplemental rules.

Grappling rules do not have to suck the fun out of a
game. The key is to take rules that are usually well
developed and understood, and not fight the base
mechanical system when it’s time to grapple. All of
this is in service to the story, contributing to a sense
of action, excitement, and danger. If the rules get in
the way, or if the mechanics do not produce interesting
outcomes, then why bother?

Scattered throughout the text are quotes from 16th century combat manuals, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other stories about wrestling and grappling.

As one who loves history, I know that knights in full plate were afraid of being pinned and approached with weapons designed or suited for the gaps in their armor. The current growth of medieval martial arts touches on more than just waving weapons, but using them and one’s body to take down their opponents. One can easily find such things on YouTube.

Grappling applies to characters, NPC’s, animals, and monsters.

I was asked on G+, “What rules systems does it use?” It is aimed at the original game, but applies to any version, variant, and clone.

Chapter 1 – Core Concepts

  • Grappling actions use the same dice and mechanics as the rules for weapons.
  • 3 Concepts: Attack Roll, Defense Target Number, and Effects
  • Grapple Difficulty Class (DC) – Basically Armor Class for grabs.
    • Factor in strength & dexterity and level.
    • Characters and Monsters have different calculations
  • There is a basic calculation and then options based on different abilities, and different rules.
    • Dexterity, PFRPG, Fifth Edition, and Acrobatics
    • Feats and Class Features are also mentioned.
      • New 5e feats are presented for consideration.
      • Suggestions for PFRPG feats are given.
  • Control Points are analogous to Hit Points, and are based on hit dice, but are not the same as HP.
  • One handed grappling, such as using a dagger in the other hand is addressed.

Chapter 2 – Grappling Effects

The goal of grappling is to gain control and force consequences on one’s opponent. Such as being pinned in a wrestling match.

Control Points are explained as counting up from zero instead of being reduced from a maximum. As CP increases, effects such as grabbed, grappled, restrained, etc. occur. There is a Control Point Effects table that lists the effects of different degrees of CP.

The Control Maximum (CM) is the most CP a target can take before being incapacitated. There are two options for the base rules, and an option for 5e, and one for PFRPG. In the base rules, one has 10 CP plus or minus modifiers. There is a bit different for 5e & PFRPG.

The Control Point Effects table and its explanation gives spell casters a chance to cast spells in various lesser states of being grappled. That’s not to my taste, but as an old school player, I don’t have an issue ignoring a rule. However, as I read the explanation, I can see that grabbed might not ruins some spells. I’ll have to think more about that.

There is also an Attacking Grappler Effects table. It lists the effects of grappling an opponent. For example, wrapping one’s arms and legs around an opponent causes the grappler to also be immobile for the duration of that grapple.

The section on Instant Conditions discusses how to grapple a foe and gain control instantly.

There is a list of conditions specific to 5e, and a list specific to PFRPG.

Chapter 3 Grappling Techniques

Means of ending the fight: points (like a wrestling match), fight-ending position, change foe’s position, inflict pain, render unconscious, injury, kill.

One can tell that the author has experience with wrestling and martial arts by some of the descriptions. This takes verisimilitude and applies it to the system without breaking the system. A very rare thing.

Wrestling for items is also mentioned.

Size is also important and refers the reader to Monstrous Grappling. My brother had a large weight advantage to me in high school. While walking down the hall he’d shove me and I’d go across the hall. I’d try shoving him, and I moved more than he did.

The sued of weapons and magic is also covered. Some weapons, like whips are designed to grapple. Entangle is used as an example of a spell with grappling effects.

Chapter 4 Monstrous Grappling

This quote exactly describes why monsters would grapple:

But many creatures, especially beasts, aren’t trying
to kill you because your alignment is different than
theirs is, or they’re acting on orders from the evil
Foom the Woc God. They’re trying to kill you because
they’re hungry, and for whatever reason, you look
like a moveable feast.

An example of how to convert a monster with a system that doesn’t have all the information in its stats block as some systems, shows how easily one can implement this system on the fly. A later example shows how converting an early edition ogre gives a similar CP value as using the 5e formula. This indicates that the author has a quick, flexible, and accurate solution to determining this value.

There is a size adjustment table that illustrates how size inhibits or enhances the effectiveness of a particular creature at grappling.

Tiny and small creatures get a table for how much lower their control damage is due to their lesser strength.

Finally, this chapter concludes with ten sample monsters using PFRPG, S&W, and 5e variants. There are representative monsters for each of those systems, but not a listing of each of those monsters in all three systems.

My take – This is something that has been needed in RPG’s for a long time. The Grappling Rules in AD&D are notoriously challenging to implement in play. The short and simple system introduced in Manor #8 is expanded in these pages. It gives a bare bones system and adds options and touches on how it can be used in specific systems. The basic rules will work for variations of the original game and clones, as well as later editions and variants of the original game.

The system is built on a basis of normal combat resolution. I like this approach. Use what is there instead of building a new system that doesn’t feel right. Another good example of this is what +James Spahn did in White Star with vehicle combat using the same format as individual combat.

I can’t think of a situation not explicitly covered in these rules. I wrestled a lot with my brothers growing up

Caveats – I don’t know the 5e rules – I’m way behind on reading them. I don’t have PFRPG, and never played so I can’t comment on how well these rules fit those systems.

I didn’t have time to do a test of these rules as part of this review. However, based on the similarities to regular combat in AD&D, this looks to be a useful replacement for those grappling rules.

What I’d like to see – These are all fitting for the end of the PDF.

  • One page with all the tables
  • A summary of the suggested calculations for each rule variant.
  • A listing of the various conditions and effects.
  • These later additions in black & white for clean & simple printing.
  • A Black & white option for the entire PDF for printing whether at home or a print shop.

A five dollar buy-in for the PDF is a definite bargain. Pledge to the Kickstarter if you’re interested.

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer