So here is a fun munchkin question .. Say you were invited to a Level 30 Epic campaign, almost anything from 3x and Pathfinder can be used -- What would you play?
For me it would be an Wizard 5 Incantrix 10 Abjurant Champion 5 Force Missile Mage 5 Argent Savant 5
This is between the metamagic abuse, the truly horrid magic missiles, a plethora of boosted force spells and the lovely fact that that you can pop off a quickened +11 shield spell should be able to handle almost anything.
One of the complaints about D&D magic seems to be that its not very “magical” well I guess thats true after a fashion, D&D magic is methodical and efficient to an almost scientific degree.
This really doesn't bother me though. Real world magic was mostly used for perfectly practical purposes (love spells, fertility , protection ) and it was scientific and repeatable at least in the minds of its practitioners. And I have no doubt that if it were possible to blast people with fire, our ancestors would be memorizing fireball at every battle.
The only real grumps I have is that fact that there really aren't enough “day to day” spells for my NPC's to use. I think such a supplement “Practical Magic” might be really fun for old and new school DM's
Of course this is going to look pretty different than the originals and I am not arrogant enough to think my list is very important but here is, excluding history books what truly inspired my games
Note that I had the benefit of coming in when gaming was just taking off and fantasy started to blossom in its modern form. This gave me a much wider range to choose from than Gary and Dave and the originals would have had
Notice too, my "peak gaming" era for me was 1989-1991. I started well before this (with Holmes Blue Book) but those years were the ones where I gamed the most and gaming took off for me.
Lastly I have read of the things that inspired the earliest gamers (save The Broken Sword which I have not yet seen a copy of) but these are the most inspirational ones
So without further adieu My Appendix N
The Ace Conan series. Yes I know this contains more than a little pastiche material. Thats OK. Even diluted Howard's works contains enough vibrancy to feel real in ways that say Tolkien does not
The Hobbit and to a lesser degree, Lord of the Rings.
Brian Froud's Faeries – that book scared the heck out of me as a kid for various reason.
Brian Froud's Faeries movie
The Conan Movie for pure visual appeal
Bestmaster 1 and 2, great fun and good inspiration. The Kaber or whatever it was called throwing Iron crossed with made its way into many a game as the Kel
Katherine Brigg's Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures
Edith Hamilton's Mythology especially the Norse bits
Smurfs (yes Smurfs) Gargamel and Azrael are very much archetypal mad wizard and familiar
John Norman's Gor. Once you delete the Fem-Sub BDSM its very fun Sword and Planet stuff with wonderful historical pastiche
Deed of Paksenarion by Elizabeth Moon – probably the best D&D Paladin yet
Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar stuff
Fritz Leiber's Newhon stuff
Louis L'Amour's The Walking Drum and Haunted Mesa
Ken Follet Pillars of the Earth
The SCA who will get its own post
Paradoxes of Defense by George Silver, this is how real medieval fights went and once I saw this it made a HUGE difference in how I perceived this stuff worked
Pretty much every pirate and swashbuckling movie ever made …
Phantom of the Opera musical
Starcraft. Misunderstood lines from the Protoss made up entire cultures in my game world.
Original Star Tek in particular Friday's Child (the Cappelans and their weapon the kligat were a big inspiration for the Vara) and the ahn'woon from Amok Time
and last Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town for starting me on the road to fleshing things out.
#1 Optimization increases survivability and decreases the "wiff factor" a well built character with a decent life expectancy is more fun to play and elp a new player who may not have been exposed to any RPG (even something like World of Warcraft) feel like they have "won" . This can increase immersion and the chance of a second session
#2 Many RPG's are complex enough that adding more layers will make a start up game harder than it needs to be. Keep it simple to start, not dumbed down but easy to play and if the game clicks, players can add complexity as they learn the rules over time.
#3 Boring characters are well just that boring. My favorite trick is to give everybody an off kilter ability or a special ability (within the rules of course) that gives them an extra fun thing to do in the game. This gets players thinking a bit and gives them something extra to do that can be fun at just the right time.
All familiars have a starting INT of at least 8, more if appropriate and can speak Common.
This rule is pretty much the same for all editions.
The reasons for it are simple, it makes familiars a bit more useful without granting them huge amounts of extra power, ets me give PC's hints as needed. and is simply more fun for me to have another NPC with a mind of its own rather than a "pet"
In rules such as Pathfinder where certain familiars and only those are granted speech (such as the raven in Pathfinder) the familiar gains the special ability to speak any normal language its "master" can.
There were the easiest. The only temptation I had to avoid was to make them Garden Gnome Size or smaller like in the Gnomes books.
Instead I made them Small tricky woods oriented Fae suitable for PC's
They got a tiny hint of Hugi (from Poul Anderson's excellent Three Hearts and Three Lions) a hint Gnomes from the books, a hint of David the Gnome from TX, a little roaming Gnome,and Garden gnome (just kidding) and some Gamer Gnome.
These guys were a real chore to get right. I don't much care for the proliferation of Elves like we see in most games these days and to tell you the truth, don't much like Elves as PC's either. Its just a thing.
However they are essential in most generic fantasy worlds, so well I had to make something.
Eventually my Elves became a smidgen of Gamer Elf, a drip of Katerine Kerr's Deverry, lots of folklore Elves, a tablespoon of Terry Pratchet's Lords and Ladies and a spalsh of home brew.
The White Elves got a dash of Tolkien, The Grey Elves a tad of Star Trek Vulcans (who yes are in fact Space Elves) and the Drow got both Gygax and Realms style addenda.
Probably the most jarring changes in appearance were removal of pointed ears and the cats eyes from all of them (Elves look like perfect humans,usually Nordic types on Midrea) and the corpse white skin of the Drow.
Yes corpse white, I mean come one they live in a grim, albeit well lit cavern deep underground.
Ignoring the unfortunate implications of the skin color, Black skin rankles my makes no sense even for fantasy instincts and so has to go. Of course they are going to be palid, not black skinned.
The general non religiousness of Elves just felt right to me. Tolkien's elves were semi divine beings and religiously faithful types (well for whatever religion they have on Middle Earth) and I wanted to get away from this. The gamer elves just have pantheons, which bugs me too.
So I made them non religious (excepting Drow, ignore that implication too) -- to paraphrase -- works for me ....
Also to rant I really hate the Wood Elf, High Elf Split, Sea Elf, Plastic Elf, Hospital Elf, ettc etc etc so that had to go.
White Elf (Basically OK with humans) Grey Elf (more standard folkloric Elf with a hint of scholar ) and Dark Elf, suited me better.
Hopefully my players (who have yet to play an elf) will like it as much as I do.
The origin of these guys was pretty prosaic, 100% gamer dwarf -- aka a race of craft crazy, mining and gold obsessed Gimli wannabes with bad Scots accents
This is fun and easy to play and well understood by everybody.
However of late I have wanted to add a little more variety to the breed and make them more clever (most of the time than doughty)
My never inspirations include The Hobbit (note that the Dwarves in that are often sneaky as much as fighty) Faerie Tales, Norse Myth, a bit of Gamer Dwarf (including Warhammer and D&D) C.S Lewis's Narnia and the excellent Advanced Races: Dwarves by Green Ronin.
This gives me a more cunning and sly dwarf while not disallowing the occasional warrior dwarf,
As I mentioned in my original article here my Halflings were kind of an afterthought, well players might want them I better put them in kind of thing.
Seeing as how I kind of was shanghaied into adding them I felt I ought too add whatever I liked so lomg as I left them intact enough to meet expectations . So I added a bit of the GURPS Yrth Halflings , Nelwyn's (Willows People) Warrows (from the McKeiernen's Silver Call) some modern D&D Halfling (mine tend to be taller) some Birthright Halfling and of course plenty of Tolkien to the mix. The stew was easy to create as that was pretty much all the media on Halflings anyway.
I took out the barge folk (I have humans for that now) the gypsy haflings (redundant when I have Human Tinkers) and I can tell you other than height and maybe random pouch tables not a drop of Kender got in the mix.
Once it was sorted add one local, an gate world fir an origin and viola, Halflings of Midrea
So, how about y'all tell me about your reluctantly added races, what you did to reclaim them and what you did to create them.
This is my list of class ideas designed with B/X-LL in mind. It does use race as class but each of that races archetypes was to provided as an option.
To note I haven't designed all these classes as of yet and may not ever in fact. TIf I do I will likley put them in my "Old School Companion" with the XP tables built with one the design methods and tweaked to taste.
A couple may require some explanation. Bounder is a patrol fighter, Thornwalkers patrol the Hedge that keeps foreigners out of the Shires and are analogous to Rangers. Herbalists use herb lore and nature spells. Last Guardians are like Paladin/Undead Hunter types
Dwarves have a few less class options in this version (as vs my "Cunning Dwarf" ideas below ) Clan Dwarf is the standard Dwarf with some trade skills, Dwarf Rager is a Berserker, Runecasters do well Rune Magic, Stonespeakers have Earth Magic, Ancestor Speakers are a shaman-cleric. Of course Tunnel Scout subs in for Rogue.
#7 3x3 background and skills system (here) will be used
#8 Level drain is gone. Instead it is replaced by taint. When taint equals the character level, they die and other bad things may happen. Ghost aging is also gone and will be rpelaced with other unpleasant powers
#8 The following non human classes are available thus far
Changeling (aka Half Elf) these function as per book however they cost an additional 15% XP to advance in any class a human could and have no level limits
Dhampir -- These are humans with a vampire parent . They gain the additional ability to sense undead (as per spell at will) immunity to vampire charm domination and ghoul paralysis and may strike undead as if they had an appropriate magic weapon. This costs an additional 15% XP
Dwarf -- Cunning Folk rather than Doughty Warriors, Dwarfs tend to default to Thief or Black Wizard rather than Fighter, See here
In addition two magic using classes are allowed Wizard and Archivist.
In order to take more than half ones level or advance to a a level that could cast spells greater than the intelligence modifier would allow in magic using classes a feat must be taken at 1st level
Greater Gift Preq Human Int 15+ Con 13+ Bonus Possessor may take any number of wizard or archivist levels up to the second casting level of the INT. In addition they gain +1 on all saves Regular: A person may only take ½ level of caster classes up to second casting level of INT
Prestige Classes Classes are permitted as appropriate. Ask for any specific requests.
And there you go, an example of world building via house rules
Far in the past, an ancient race of men hungry for power at any cost dabbled in forbidden powers, changing their very nature to something Inhuman. They became the Sorcerer Kings. Even after the Ageless War their Empire, House bound Anment Var persists today.
As a citizen of the free lands you may you must make you way in a dangerous world filled with monsters, terrible ruins and the ever present hunger for domination of the Sorcerer Kings.
Your fate is in your hands
Against the Sorcerer Kings is a modified version of Pathfinder set in a decaying world of Sword and Sorcery.
I have been thinking about humanocentric gaming of late and have come to the conclusion that while there is nothing wrong with well thought out non human PC's, they are basically unnecessary.
Most of the pre Tolkien fiction doesn't have them except as half breeds. Now certainly there are of historical tales (some quite recent) involving someone alleged to have some non human ancestors like a Troll in the family lineage,Changeling (usually the human taken by the Fae) a Vampire (the Dhampir archetype that is so popular right now) and maybe someone like Cú Chulainn who was essentially god blooded and even others from non European parts of the world like the Philippines, Polynesia or Africa
Still until the influence of Tolkien (mostly) the idea of a non human protaganist was unknown. No one would have a complex non human culture or even contemplate a truly alien protagonist outside (possibly) of Sci-Fi.
I think in some ways this approach might be better. It takes encounters with Elves and Dwarves (even more cunning ones) and whatnot into the realm of the strange and mysterious, in other words the broader realm of adventure . It also gives those rare PC's a direct connection to that realm, like it or not, they were born into it.
Instead of the Mos Esiley Cantina we can concentrate on the various human cultures even cribbing from them as needed "of course those guys talk with Scots accents. They are Highlanders after all" this roots the mundane part of the game world into something like our more prosaic reality and gives us a hint more verisimilitude.
Worlds where Pseudo French, Quasi British, Kinda Irish and Sorta Scots sit down at a table make more sense than a Human, a Hafling , an Elf and a Lizardman doing the same. In the event a non human race is desired for the world it makes them even more "other"
A little Delving Deep, a little Dwarf Fortress and a little Hobbit minus Bilbo.The Delvers is a 7 person, all Dwarf mercenary group ready for most anything. They specilize in "Dungeoneering" but are certainly open to most other jobs. Like all Hire-Dwarves they are very expensive, about twice what human mercs would charge. Most consider them well worth the cost
I also rather like magic knives and daggers as they can be used by many classes, used many ways and are a tiny bit less iconic than swords.
#1 Thunder: One of the twins. This is a +2 dagger that deafens its target for 1d4 rounds on a successful hit (save vs magic to negate) it can also find its twin (as per locate any object spell ) at will.
#2 Lightning: The other twin. It is also a +2 dagger with the same locate ability. It does exra electrical damage as per a shocking grasp. If both dagger are wielded the user may once per round cast a lighting bolt as per his level. This bolt also stuns (1d4 rounds ) deafens (1d4 rounds) and knocks targets down if they fail a second save (first for half damage, second to negate) The user takes 1d4 subdual damage if this ability is used
#3 Shard Dagger: A Shard Weapon that resembles as clear black glass knife
#4 White Knife: A +1 dagger that does subdual damage against Law normal damage against Neutral and double damage against Chaos.
#5 Earring Dagger: This +1 weapon can shrink down at will into an earing or charm, complete with clasp and when shrunk radiates no detectable magic.
#6 Hornet Knife: A +1 Dagger does 2d4 when thrown and returns automatically on a miss. It cannot be thrown stealthily as it makes a loud buzzing sound when thrown or returning.
#7 Black Knife: A +1 dagger that does s double damage against Law and normal damage against everyone else
#8 Dagger of Poison. This +1 dagger has a hollow reservoir that can hold one dose of poison or holy water. On a successful hit the user may apply this venom instantly with perfect safety to him or herself. After that the reserve will need to be reloaded.
I like naming magic weapons and giving them a little background. It makes them a lot more interesting than "sword +1" and I think this makes for a more fun game. So without further adieu, a list of swords with random numbers for your convenience.
#1 Cleave Heart -- Broadsword +3
#2 Heart Harrow -- Cursed Arming Sword, a +3 weapons also but causes suicidal depression and rage in the bearer. It can dropped willingly if the bearer does not have significant personal grief. Otherwise you need a remove curse
#4 Fortunes Friend -- Luck Blade, finds treasure as defined by bearer at will.
#5 Stirge -- Vampiric Rapier +2 drains 2HP granting 1 to user per blow.
#6 Dead Cutter +1 Sword ignores all special defense of undead.
The next 4 are Shone made great weapons
#7 Tal Ayelo -- The Northwind Blade -- A Great Weapon aligned with treachery. Grants +1 per 4 levels to the user that may also be applied to tasks involving treachery. Wounds caused by this weapon and not healed by magic will ache with cold for the rest of the persons life.
#8 Fas Ayelo -- The Southwind Blade -- A Shone Made flame tongue sword aligned with honor. Any task of honor associated with this weapon gets a +1 per bonus per 4 of the users levels.
#9 Vas Ayelo -- The Westwind blade also known as the Death Dealer. This weapon gains +1 per 4 users levels, does double damage to living things. Persons slain by this weapon cannot be raised in the same body . Also the bodies of those slain cannot be animated.
#10 Hahl Ayelo -- The Eastwind blade also known as the the Sunrise Sword. Gives off soft light equal to daylight (including its effects on undead) in a 20' radius. Its grants +1 per 4 levels to any task involving saving lives and this bonus does apply to AC!. Used in combat otherwise its a +1 weapons.
A Magic Scythe I've never had time to use in game.
This heavy black +1 weapon can be wielded as proficient by any bard . It gives off an invisible aura of mild despair that can be felt by all within 10 feet that has no game effect. When wielded the user and his allies can also hear faint music. Carved on the side is an inscription "Hey Now, Hey Now Now Now" anyone finishing this phrase in song will active the scythes power and it will become a +3 acid scythe.
If you look at the silliness inherent in early D&D with its anagram names, stuff like Gutboy Barrelhouse, the humor in the AD&D DMG you can tell that D&D was not meant to always be played straight .
I'd be even money that in jokes and the ancestors of the Monty Python References (whatever was hilarious in 1974) probably flew across the table back in Lake Geneva just as they do ours.
In my experience my second best ever D&D campaign was one I have mentioned before (Midrea Unglued) a very extended one shot in 2e where the leads were Hans and Franz from S&L and the rest of the cast included a talking squirrel named Rambo, A Swedish Minder named Inga (who had a Shojo frying pan BTW A Satyr Bard and a Mute Coroner/Psion named Hayabusa. We played the rules mostly straight but laughed our butts off.
Why it was so much better than most is really simple, everyone got involved and everyone had fun.
Those two things are the real keys two a great game.
Let me repeat
Everyone gets involved and everyone has fun
If that works for you like it did for me than let me suggest that you lighten up and let the laughs fall where they may. Laughter after all may be the best medicine for your sick game.
It was inspired by a blog post (now lost) suggesting that thief abilities be given to everyone.Its also lets me use the d12 a bit which I really like and works easily with existing abilities (double them)
1st things first,
The thief class advances as per your system of choices , saving throws, weapons and such remain the same though where the class hit die is a d4 it is raised to a d6
However the thief skills have changed. Instead these are called adventuring abilities. Anyone can use them and all of them start at an 11 or 12 on a D12.
These abilities are as follows (some taken from LOTFP)
Stealth Climb Search Find Traps Woodscraft Languages Sleight of Hand Backstab Tinker
Everyone gets 2 points at L1 and 1pt thereafter to add to one of these abilities. In addition Dex or Str mod applies when light or no armor is worn.
Thieves however as specialists get 4 at L1 and 2 points thereafter. At higher level additional abilities such as disarm magic locks and traps, wall running and others may be learned with DM permission.
What I use is a 3x3 system , 3 sentences and 3 guidelines
#1What is your background?
This needs to include where you how you grew and up and where.
For example, Roger the Dog Mage MU1
Raised a freeman , a kennel keepers brat at Castle Weland, in the Middle Kingdoms. This tells us he knows something of middle class life, castle life, dig training and may have friedns and foes at the castle
#2 Where you learned to be a PC.
Trained on the sly with Corian the local Hedge Wizard
#3 Why you are now adventuring?
Decided he wanted fortune , glory and excitement so he grabbed his stuff, bade his family farewell, took grip his warhound Grip and headed off for adventure.
Now to make this work you need 3 guidelines
#1 Whats said is said. If you make it up, its that way till its changed in play.However feel free to make stuff up as you play with DM approval as it makes great play hooks.
#2 The important stuff happens in play not in the backstory
#3 You are already a capable person out the door, tough as a man at arms and probably a journeyman in one or more skills. To make your skill roll, simply roll vs stat and be done with it. Thats all thats needed.
And viola, simple, flexible old school skills system.