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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Delays

Well another Christmas deadline, another year missed...Happy Holidays to everyone from Rogue Ranger Games and the World of Onn! I actually started a new job on December 20th and on the weekend of the 18th and 19th found a huge layout problem that affected all the projects I've been working on. With the Holidays here though no work will get done until after the 1st of the New Year, but even though with a delay, in the end a better book will be done!

Thank you all who continue to support Onn with your emails! May your stockings be full and your Holiday be felled with the love of Family and Friends!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

State of Affairs

Things are coming to a close now for work on the Onn Player's Guide, Onn Referee's Guide and Onn Supplement II for Swords & Wizardry. It's taken way longer than anticipated with several RL interruptions to my gaming and work on the projects. Suffice to say, I hope for those of you that find the material useful and interesting to your tables, these new items retain those qualities.

I still have a few things to iron out among the playtests of changes that have been made, but I'm shooting for at least a week before Christmas.

Keep watching for further news!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hit Dice Beyond Name Level

Ok, so with damage scaling uncapped by most spells (as it should be), eventually you get to a point where even saving for half will decimate characters and kills them. I've been thinking about something Bart (a good friend in one group I played with in the past), made a suggestion that a character should continue to get new HD, but a slower progression. Instead of gaining a fixed number of HP at levels beyond Name Level, the character would have levels where no HD or HP are gained, but then gain an additional HD (adjusted by Constitution).

This is twofold in nature by not just allowing Constitution to play a factor in the acquisition of HP of the early levels and to continue to be a factor for the character throughout his career, but something else as well. HD is also used to determine when characters and monsters become immune to the effects of certain spells and effects and not their level. This would mesh well (in theory) with that, especially in the case of higher level magic. I've been turning this over in my head and came up with this (extremely untested):

Optional HD at Higher Levels

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Forum

I repurposed my old NWN forum for the World of Onn and S&W game discussion. If anyone is interested, the forum can be found here: the main reason being its easier to deal with any opinions, questions, or whatevers in a forum setting where everyone can see and respond  instead of 15 emails floating around at various times.

I still plan on keeping the blog moving along, posting more as the workload of the 3 books winds down.

Thanks all, for your continued support!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vendee's Missile Magnifier

Vendee's Missile Magnifier
Spell Level: Magic-user, 2nd Level
Range: Touch
Duration: 48 turns (8 hours)

The caster may 'magnify' up to 20 pieces of ammunition per 4 caster levels, lasting until the missiles are fired or the duration expires (whichever occurs first). Missiles affected by this spell inflict 50% more damage on a successful hit. Magnified missiles are considered +1 per 4 caster levels (maximum of +3) for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction as well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Asarlai (Character Race)


Long ago the Asarlai were human, before the Fire in the Sky decimated Onn. After the devastation some monsters, such as lycanthropes, thrived in the aftermath due to their resistance to physical damage and the sudden rarity of humans and other races wielding magic and weapons that could harm them. Of the few Humans on the continent of Karsin that survived the cataclysm, lycanthropes hunted them down mercilessly and left none alive or unchanged when they were found. In the millennia since when human explorers from Var-Ultar landed on Karsin’s shores they found cities of men with an advanced society under the banner of a nation called Asarlai. To these new visitors the Asarlai were just another race of Men, but in a relatively short time it was revealed that the Asarlai were the descendants of the lycanthropes that ravaged Karsin. Their ability of a full animal transformation had been long lost through the centuries as the bloodlines intermingled, but they retained an animalistic quality and could perform a minor transformation to bring the traits of their ancestral animal line out. Rumors speak of Clerics of Dalamon that retain their ability to fully become animal still, but they are unproven to the world at large.

Most Asarlai worship Dalamon Wolf-Mage, an ancient hero, as their race’s savior from the Bloodline Wars. When the lycanthropes noticed the ancestors of humans-turned-lycanthrope from after the cataclysm were losing their ability to transform, many decided to purge those weaker elements from existence. Due to the hero Dalamon’s leadership and personal efforts (as the Asarlai historians record it), the lycanthropes were nearly annihilated and the Asarlai settled into an advanced nation who now trade briskly with the Empire of Ankh-tor and are only beginning to set their sights on trade with the ports on Ossus’ shores.

A character must have at least a 9 Constitution to be an Asarlai.

Favored Class: Asarlai have unlimited advancement in the Druid and Ranger classes.

Damage Reduction: Due to their lycanthropic heritage, Asarlai have Damage Reduction 0+ Constitution adjustment (minimum of 0) / silver.

Nightvision: Asarlai can see up to twice the distance as a man in low-light or torch/lantern-lit conditions.

Animal-like Senses: Asarlai have a keen sense of smell and hearing. They gain a +2 bonus to any rolls to detect creatures or objects by their scent and when listening for noises.

Animal Form: Asarlai are descended from a type of lycanthrope and can take on the physical qualities of their ancestor animal for a short time (1 turn + Constitution adjustment). At the end of the transformation the character is treated as if exhausted. When the character is created the player selects one of the animals from the list below and when he transforms he takes on a humanoid form with his ancestor animal traits.

Bat - The descendants of were-bats can glide short distances (20 ft) as part of their movement and gain echolocation 60 ft (the ability to sense their surroundings through ultra-high frequency sounds).

Bear - The descendants of were-bears gain a bite attack (1d6+Strength adjustment) and a +2 bonus to any climbing checks.

Cat - The descendants of were-cats gain two claw attacks (1d3+ Strength adjustment) and can leap 20 ft once per 5 rounds if unencumbered.

Rat - The descendants of were-rats gain a bite attack (1d3+ Strength adjustment) and 2 claw attacks (1d2+Strength adjustment).

Shark - The descendants of were-sharks gain a bite attack (1d6 + Strength adjustment) and a +2 bonus to any swimming skill checks.

Wolf - The descendants of were-wolves gain a bite attack (1d4+ Strength adjustment) and a -1 bonus to initiative checks.

Languages: Asarlai speak common.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

World of Onn: Core Rules Player's Guide

A quick rundown of the contents of the Player's Guide for those interested:
  • Ability Scores: Generation and tables for all 6 abilities for scores of 1-25 (keeping in line with AD&D's maximum scores), also included bonus spells table here now.
  • Races: Men, Asarlai, Dwarves, Elves, Endu, Forged Men, Giantkin, Gnomes, Gnolls, Halfling, Tigrans, Trollkin
  • Classes: Priests (Clerics, Druids, Shao Disciples), Warriors (Fighting-men, Barbarians, Divine Champions, Rangers, Spellblades) and Wizards (Magic-users, Bards, Illusionists)
  • Equipment: Lots of goodies here, some new things as well.
  • Sections on Playing the Game, Hirelings, Initiative and Combat
  • Spells for Clerics, Druids, Illusionists (1st - 7th level) and Magic-users (1st - 9th level) including even more new spells from the original Onn campaigns.
  • An Atlas section containing common knowledge descriptions for player characters about the major places and kingdoms of Onn.
  • Several Appendices with further useful information for players.
There's alot in there. I'm shooting for 150 pages (9pt, single-spaced, single-column). I didn't forget about the Asarlai description for the blog either, just haven't gotten around to it yet!

Onn Updates

Even though the blog has been slow there's alot going on for Rogue Ranger Games. I've been furiously chewing through the editing for the Core Rules Player's Guide, Core Rules Referee's Guide and Supplement II like there's no tomorrow. Some of new art is coming in from Kimberly now and the playtests that are going on are going very well. While it may seem like things are moving slowly (and in a sense they are, working 3 books at once isn't an easy task combined with family and work), they are happening.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Carrion Worms

Now of course you can't have a low level game without familiar catepillar-like, tentacle ringed mouth monsters that climbs walls and eats whole parties at once. For the World of Onn, an old favorite, with a slightly new take.

These odd creatures resemble a 10 ft long armored and segmented caterpillar. On the monster’s head are two large black eyes and a beak surrounded by six long tentacles. Carrion worms inhabit deep places and popular ruins, places where animals and people die frequently so they can feed off of the corpses. A carrion worm has no qualms about killing for its meal either and will attack groups of smaller creatures in the hopes of securing something to take to a safe place and let ripen for feasting on at a later date. In combat the carrion worm lashes out with its tentacles. The tentacles are covered in a slimy substance that causes paralysis to those creatures struck (Toughness saving throw negates), so they are rightly feared by those that know of them as well. Sages suggest these creatures were once one of the experiments of the ancient Zuhn Empire in their magical laboratories.

Carrion Worm (L)AC 5[14]; HD 4; Att 6 tentacles (1 hit point + paralysis); Save 13; Morale 7; MR Nil; Special causes paralysis; Move 120 ft (40 ft); TC A; CL/XP 6 / 400

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Desert Nomads Campaign Info

I'm running the 'Desert Nomad Series' Modules X4 and X5 for my Thursday night World of Onn RPG group. I think I'll start to post the old module covers when we start a new module so the beginning of any campaign has an immediate reference for you, the readers. Please feel free to post or email any questions about how anything has been handled or how I may work something 'behind the screen' and I'll be happy to share. Thus far, the World of Onn ruleset has been a perfect mesh for the D&D modules and module bits I've run over the last year. This is the first (hopefully of many) full module series I plan to run for my group. Thus far the module has run stock and as-is with no changes needed by me to smooth any rule inconsistencies or monster issues. I did change the NPC that kick starts the adventure series, making him a Magic-user since the group didn't need another Cleric. The core group consists of:

Cortain - a male elven Spellblade, level 10
Val - a male gnoll Ranger, level 10
Steel - a forged man Fighting-man, level 10
Yurur - a male dwarven Cleric of Gromlun, level 12
Richard (NPC) - a male human Magic-user 11

Core Rules, 2nd Print Update

Time and the evolution of the game is changing my view on how the Core Rules are best presented. While I am still so into the Cook/Moldvay/Marsh idea of the successive sets and their cover-within-a-cover scheme for each successive set, I've had to drop that in favor of putting all of the player's infomation into one book and the Referee's information into another. The upside is that individually each book is going to be geared towards what information is needed by each to play and now I can cram more things into them both without bleed-over of information.

This also means that there will be no 'Companion' volume either (at least where the rules are concerned). The Core Player's Guide and Core Referee's Guide will have the information for levels 1-25 for both Referees and players, including higher level spells. Also included is the Barbarian class that was slated for the Companion and a new player character race, the Asarlai, more Fighting-man Combat Options more monsters, magic items and Referee advice and guidelines for running their games.

Stay Tuned for more exact details!

Desert Nomads, Session 3

Session 3 begins with a short rewrite of history. At then end of Session 2 someone was found resting in the center of the strange hut. The younger nephew of one player joined our gaming group, so in the interests of getting him into the game, his PC was found as well, making two people found in the hut instead of one.

Once introductions were made, the Forged Man offered the name Steel and the human man that was resting nearby called himself Delf, both sides exchanged stories of what had befallen them since being trapped in this strange area of the swamp. Steel and Delf had been trapped a number of weeks (by Steel's reckoning) with no other living things to be seen. Cortain, even utilizing his Elven senses, couldn't discern a way out and several ideas for traveling in various directions from the hut back into the swamp always brought the person back to the hut's clearing. At one point Steel threw a rope and grapple into the thick swamp thicket surrounding the clearing and tugged on it until it caught something, then followed the line into the swamp...only to reappear from the same place he passed into the scrub following his rope line. The spellcasters consulted one another and it was decided that several spells would be needed on the morrow that the casters didn't have currently memorized.

Using the hut as shelter, the night passed by uneventfully. Everyone in the party had more nightmares, especially Yurur who suffered them before coming into this place. Once the bleak light of morning arrived, the group prepared themselves, but noticed Richard studying his spell book longer than usual. On closer inspection, he was found sitting quietly and still breathing, but his eyes were vacant and he was if his mind were gone. This spurred the group to some immediate action. They gathered Richard, with Cortain ensuring none of the others damaged Richard’s spell book, and exited the hut.

Yurur called upon his deity Gromlun to show him the source of the evil in this place and the hut and a pool of muck beneath it gave him an unsettling response. Short discussion followed that ended with Cortain destroying the hut and muck pool with a fireball, sending bits of flaming wood and muck everywhere.

A party member tried to leave again, ending back at the clearing again. Still sensing a dark presence at the hut's former location, Yurur called upon Gromlun to dispel the dark presence. Yurur's holy symbol flared to life with a golden pulse and immediately everyone heard a bitter feminime voice in their heads telling them to go. Quickly the party beat feet out of the clearing, with Richard coming to whilst riding on he shoulder of a party member and wondering what was going on.

The party exited the clearing exactly where they left the trail, days ago. Standing there was the coward guide, asking then what they found. It was ascertained that no time had passed in he world outside the hut's influence and they pushed onwards north through the swamp.

With a day of hard travel and the light fading, they only found one mound of dry ground large enough for everyone to camp overnight upon. Camp was quickly established and watches set up.

Early in the morning in the pre-dawn light a large and powerful-looking swamp dragon landed from out of nowhere and in an aggressive stance immediately breathed a cloud of corrosive gas on the group, critically wounding many of them and killing the cowardly guide. Combat was joined and the creature fought ferociously, taking down Yurur's crystal golem protector and nearly killing Val (the group's only surviving Ranger). Cortain attempted several spells at the dragon, but the creature proved highly resistant to his spells. It was grievously wounded however and few off, taking some arrow fire as it left.

One of the group's members discovered the dragon's aggressive actions almost immediately after they were sure it wasn't flying around for another attack - there were large-sized rocks poking out of the soft that were not rocks, but instead dragon eggs! Unwittingly, they must have stumbled over the dragon's egg nest. A very quick discussion over dragon mounts like the heroes of legend or the going rate for dragon eggs in any market was made then ended. A few minutes later, a female elf with emerald green eyes dressed in greenish-scaled armor trudged out of the swamp, hailing the group. Cortain, an elf himself realized she was no elf but more than likely the dragon in humanoid form, stepped up to parley with the newcomer. She proved to be not unfriendly but at the same time Cortain recognized the danger they were in, as she was standing before them in a presumably weaker form than her natural one and openly. Cortain managed to talk her into letting them go unmolested in exchange for not harming or removing any of her eggs. She agreed and gave them an hour to vacate or she would take action. Yurur healed everyone as best he could and Cortain produced a scroll he had been saving for he right time. He offered to Yurur to use it to restore the golem enough so that it could be healed and the group could move on. Yurur thanked him for the boon and Cortain, much to the surprise and dismay of Richard, used his scroll of limited wish to bring the golem back to functioning so they could be on the move.

Hard travel to put as much distance between the egg mound and themselves gradually brought them out of the swamp and into the stony badlands of the Great Waste. By the late afternoon they arrived at the caravan track and set up camp to deal with the hot sun and wait for Richard's caravan. Late in the day it arrived and after a meet and greet, the group got hired on as guards as the caravan made its way west across the Waste.

A couple days of plodding travel into the Waste the group found themselves on outrider duty with Val in the lead. On the horizon a dust cloud was kicking up, with Val shouting for everyone to get back to the caravan - he determined a large force was charging across the badlands and figured it was better safe to assume bandits or the Master's followers than friendly forces.

The caravan master's captain ordered the guards into formations to combat the incoming bandits. A few minutes later the bandits came in a well-organized attack, dividing its forces so that every formation of guards would have 2 waves to deal with. Val, Steel, Delf, Cortain and Yurur's Golem made a good showing, almost killing a bandit to every hit. The battle was long fought with the eventual killing of the bandit leader after he produced a horn that magically blasted Richard and several of the pack animals and driving off of the remaining bandit forces, but more than half the guards were slain as well as some of the animals. Yurur used the blessings of Gromlun to heal who he could and the rest of the wounded were patched as best as possible.

Session 3 ended here...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Divine Arcana

Divine Arcana
Spell Level: Cleric, 7th Level
Range: Self
Duration: 6 turns

When cast, the Cleric gains understanding in how to activate the functions of magical items restricted to arcane spellcasters of all classes. This allows the Cleric to cast arcane spells of 1st through 3rd level from scrolls and to be able activate and make the use of magic items normally restricted to the arcane classes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Minor Restoration

Shadows have the ability to temporarily drain its victim's Strength score. This creature ability has existed in D&D and its retro-clones from almost Day 1. What is missing though is a way to combat the draining of such creatures or heal this damage. Thus, new to Onn (and your own D&D or S&W game) is a healing spell capable of remeding this situation:

Minor Restoration
Spell Level: Cleric, 4th Level
Range: Touch
Duration: Immediate

When cast, the recipient is healed of all of the temporary ability damage to a single ability score (such as the Strength drained by a Shadow). If the recipient has been affected by some form of unnatural, permanent ability drain the caster can choose instead to restore a single point permanently lost by the recipient with a 25% chance of success, plus his Wisdom and Level.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Optional Two-weapon Fighting Rules

Since the World of Onn clarified the way I use Two-weapon Fighting (TWF) in my games, I've been giving it some more thought. Now, there are always dissenting opinions (and I welcome them here or through emails) on what guidelines or processes work 'best' or how to better reflect historical accuracy or make it more player friendly (ie, removing any TWF penalties). A long ways back I had thought of an alternative to the TWF Penalties Chart:

When TWF with an allowed off-hand weapon, the character's attack with his off-hand functions at half the character's actual level. If the character is using a weapon in his off-hand not on the allowed list, his offhand attacks at one-quarter of the character's actual level. Lastly, if the character is not proficient in TWF, his off-hand attacks are always made as if he were 0-level. Off-hand attacks may never make more than one strike per round.

This chart should help make things more clear for any math challenged among us (I know I am at times, and besides, I like charts!):
Two-Weapon Fighting Attack Bonuses
Character Level
Primary Weapon
Off-hand Allowed Weapon
Off-hand Not Allowed Weapon
Unskilled Off-hand

Supplement I Sale

For anyone on the fence after all this time about buying Supplement I for your Swords & Wizardry game, take 15% off by using the code BEACHREAD305 from now until August 15th! That lowers the cost of Supplement I to $8.50 US for a printed softcover manual!

Though I only market the book as S&W compatible, it is also compatible with OD&D, 'Red and Blue B/X', RC and Mentzer B/X D&D.

A virtual steal!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Give 'Em a Fighting Chance - Revised Fighting-man Combat Options

Fighting-men in the OD&D rules and retro-games such as Swords & Wizardry are mechanically cookie cutters of each other. While the personality the player puts into his character is what everyone remembers most, every player wants his character to be unique in some way or be able to perform some special maneuver that is (generally) his alone to do, bringing not only a unique personality to this character, but maybe a special fighting-style as well that he will be known for.

The Fighting-man Combat Options have been revised and expanded somewhat for the Core Rules 2nd Printing, previewed here. In addition, they are compatible with OD&D, AD&D, "B/X", RC (if not using Weapon Mastery, otherwise it gets crazy), Mentzer D&D and of course S&W Core and Whitebox.

Fighting-man Combat Options (1st level) - Fighting-men learn one combat option at 1st level. Additional combat options are gained at 5th level and every 5 levels beyond.
Fighting-man Combat Options that have a number noted in (parenthesis) beside the name cannot be taken until the character reaches that level or higher.

• Armor Mastery (15th+ Level) - Choose a class of armor you are proficient with (Light, Medium or Heavy). While wearing an armor type of this class, you gain DR 2/-.

• Armor Optimization - Choose a class of armor you are proficient with (Light, Medium or Heavy). While wearing an armor type of this class, your skill penalty due to armor is lessened by 2 (minimum of 1).

• Berserk - This grants a +2 bonus to the attack roll and damage rolls for one entire combat, but the character takes a +1[-1] penalty to armor class as well. Immediately after the combat ends, the character must rest for 1 turn or be exhausted, suffering a -2 penalty to all die rolls and a +2[-2] penalty to armor class for the rest of the day.

• Cleaving Strike (5th+ Level) - If you kill a melee opponent of 1 HD or more, you can make an immediate free attack on another opponent within your melee reach, but no more than once per round.

• Combat Defense - You can voluntarily take a penalty to attack rolls up to the value of your Bonus to Hit (pg 48, to a maximum of -4) and gain this penalty as a bonus to armor class until you decide to end the defensive stance.

• Critical Strike - You quickly determine weaknesses you can see in your opponent’s fighting style. You can score a critical hit on a natural roll of ‘19’ (if you can hit your opponent) and ‘20’.

• Disarm - The character can attempt to remove his opponent’s weapon from his grasp. If the character makes a successful attack no damage is inflicted, but the target must make a Dodge saving throw with half the attacker’s level applied as a penalty to the die roll or his weapon falls 1d10 ft distant.

• Flying Kick - When fighting unarmed and charging, you deal an extra 1d6 points of damage with your unarmed attack.

• Holding the Line - If an opponent charges and moves through your attack area, your free attack will halt their charge if it is successful and they fail a Toughness saving throw.

• Lance Attack - When charging with a lance, the character inflicts triple damage on a successful hit.

• Manyshot - You can make a bonus missile weapon attack each round by hurrying your reload at the expense of accuracy. Your regular attacks suffer a -2 penalty ‘to hit’ and the bonus attack suffers a -4.

• Melee Archer - When throwing or firing a missile weapon while in melee combat, the character does not generate a free attack from his melee opponent(s).

• Mounted Archery - You are proficient in fighting from horseback, moving wagons or chariots with missile weapons and do not suffer penalties for unstable conditions.

• Mounted Combat - You are proficient in fighting from horseback, moving wagons or chariots with melee weapons other than the spear or lance and do not suffer penalties for unstable conditions.

• Overpowering Strike (10th+ Level) - When using a two-handed melee weapon the character can choose to make only 1 attack in a round with a -4 penalty to hit. If the attack hits, the target is flung 10 ft away from the attacker if it is the same size or smaller, taking an additional 1d6 damage if he strikes a hard surface and has a 50% chance of being knocked down.

• Pugilist - The character does +1 point of damage when striking with his bare hands or feet. He is considered wielding an allowed off-hand weapon and to have the Two-weapon Fighting ability while fighting unarmed.

• Sharp Shooting - When firing a missile weapon into melee combat, the character halves any chance to hit blocking melee combatants.

• Shield Hurl - If you are using a Light shield, you can hurl it with the same range and as a hand axe.

• Shield Mastery - Choose 1 type of shield (Light, Medium or Heavy) you are proficient in. While fighting with this shield type, the character gains an additional -1[+1] bonus to his armor class from the shield.

• Shield Strike - You can use a shield as an off-hand weapon and keep its AC adjustment. You are considered to be wielding an allowed off-hand weapon and to have the Two-weapon Fighting ability while shield striking. Light shields inflict 1d4 damage, medium shields inflict 1d6 damage for you.

• Shield Optimization - Choose a class of shield you are proficient with (Medium or Heavy). While using a shield type of this class, your skill penalty due to your shield is halved (minimum of 1).

• Single Weapon Style - Fighting with a one-handed weapon and nothing in your off-hand, grants you a +1 bonus to Dodge saving throws and a -1[+1] bonus to your armor class.

• Skewering Strike (5th+ Level) - If attacking with a lance, pole-arm, spear or trident any critical hits you make also strikes the creature in the 2nd rank behind your foe for normal damage.

• Smash (10th+ Level) - If you only make a single melee attack in a round at a -4 penalty, you add half your Strength score to your damage.

• Spear Maneuvers - When fighting with a spear the character can reach the 2nd rank while fighting 1-handed. The character may set a spear or trident against a charging opponent and if the character hits (attack roll required), he inflicts double damage to the charging opponent.

• Strike Mighty Blow - When using a two-handed melee weapon, you gain a +1 damage bonus.

• Taunt - Once per combat, you can enrage an enemy within 30 ft and get him to close into melee range with you, ignoring everyone but you if he fails an Ego saving throw.

• Two-weapon Defense - When fighting proficiently with two weapons, you gain a -2[+2] bonus to armor class.

• Two-weapon Fighting - You can fight with two weapons with less of a penalty to attack rolls with certain weapons (see pg. 46).

• Two-weapon Rend (10th+ Level) - When fighting proficiently with two weapons, if both weapons successfully hit the same opponent in the same round your opponent takes an additional 1d6 points of damage.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Desert Nomads Recap Session 1 & 2

Session 1 - The party was traveling from a decimated Norsicar village they were working out of to one of their trade partner villages of the Vedine tribes in the Great Waste. They arrived at the Vedine village to find it had also been attacked by dark-clad desert warriors that appeared in the night, disappearing just as quickly afterwards. Searching discovered the enemy tracks simply stop in the desert not far from the village as if they were there and then just not there.

Word was given of another village with more defensible walls about 3 days march to the west by the Vedine Matriarch and part of the group went out to advance scout the way between while the rest remained behind to help protect the ragtag people still left and pack supplies.

The advance group arrived at the village of Paramya to find it breached and sacked, only 3 survivors remaining and one about to leave for safer places. One of the survivors was a madman suspected to be a plant of the enemy, but interrogating him got the party no coherent information and one member lost part of an ear when he pressed the crazy man for information (who then fled the village for the desert while screaming wildly). One man remained who claimed to survive the attack by hiding and told a tale of dark-clothed desert warriors appearing from the night and disappearing as quickly as they came. He also knows of the swamplands north up the river and how the locals believe they are holy land.

The rest of the group arrived a few days later with the remaining villagers. The decision was made by the Matriarch to shore up the walls and stay in the place.

In the middle of the night a man appeared in the desert near a sentry, calling for aid as a creature of pure darkness coalesced near him. After a pitched fight, the creature was sent back to whomever summoned it in defeat and the man, Richard, High Magos of Delphius, plead for aid before passing out from exhaustion and his wounds. Wasting no time, he was taken into the village and care was begun for him. Of note on his tattered robes was a patch of an eagle with a stylized Eye of Horus.

The first session ended here.

Session 2 picked up on the next morning. Richard awoke from his harrowing experience and when questioned told his tale of being an agent of the Eagles’ Nest, an organization devoted to supporting free trade between any and all kingdoms. He explained a mysterious person calling him or herself the ‘Master’ has been slowly and methodically gathering power in the western portion of the Sundered Shield Mountains, enlisting the more warlike tribes of desert people and other mercenaries as well as monsters to make quick strategic strikes while he masses his armies for all out invasion of Norsicar and Brunn.

The master itself ruled from some dread place in the Bogs of Mourn in an ancient Temple of Death built by a lost, ancient civilization. He pleaded with the adventurers to aid him in his task to defeat or weaken the Master by striking at him in the Temple itself. The rest of his group were destroyed by the creature in darkness that was driven off the previous night and he was in need of those that could protect him and see the deed done should he fall.

The group agreed and Richard produced a map of the Great Waste, detailing caravan paths through the desert. He revealed a caravan would be passing near the north side of the swamps that were upriver in 4 days time and the trip would take at least 3 if they couldn’t find a guide through the swamplands. The group eventually hired out the coward villager (since he owned the only boat and claimed the ‘unholy land’ was mere rubbish since he’s been in and around the swamps for years.

Making ready to leave the next morning, a wizard riding a wyvern swooped in and dropped 3 trolls into the water around the barge. The wizard then hasted the trolls and blasted the group. In the fray the Wyvern got polymorphed and hit the water, while the magic-user got lightning bolted while in the water and fried. The trolls took some punishment and dealt as well as they got until they were felled. Working quickly, the group patched up and made off. Poling the barge by day using the Cleric’s golem, the barge got stuck near evening. Three giant crabs surfaced, attacking the barge. After a hard-hitting fight they were defeated, but more damage was inflicted as well. Rok, one of the Rangers in the group, jumped into the murky salt water to retrieve one of the giant crabs for dinner and he was surprised and consequently mauled to death by a giant alligator laying in wait for just such an opportunity. His body retrieved and the alligator driven off, they continued north into the swamp until there was no river left to barge through. Exploring with the cowardly guide in the lead, the group spied a hut off the beaten path and decided to investigate, leaving the guide to wait for them.

Searching the clearing, the group tried to leave again only to find breaking through the thick reeds and saw grass brought them back to the clearing with the hut. They entered the hut only to find it bare except for a Forged Man laying under a blanket who has been trapped here as well for a long time…

Session 2 ended here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Master of the Desert Nomads in the World of Onn

Last week on 7/1 my Thursday night gaming group began running through one of my favorite module series from B/X D&D - X4 and X5, the Desert Nomad series. It's a litmus test for the Core Rules on more than a few levels and central to why they exist. I created the Core Rules because they are the game I want to play in the style I play.

With the simple framework the Core Rules are based on (Swords & Wizardry and the d20 SRD) after 2 sessions and about 6 combat encounters (and various interaction encounters) I have to say I'm extremely pleased with the results. So far, the only change I made to the module (other than cosmetic changes to place it in the Great Waste of Ossus) was to change the NPC that grants the quest that sets the adventures in motion (and this was only because I wanted to have him accompany the party and they didn't need another Cleric).

Not to give anything away for those who are playing in X4 currently or have a Referee considering running it, but the module has thus far been 100% (actually 110%) compatible with the Onn Core Rules. I say 110% because using Swords & Wizardry's single save mechanic meshes just fine with the creatures in the module, or using the standard saving throw mechanic from D&D (most often the monster save as a Fighting-man of a level equal to their HD). Attack rolls (Ascending or Descending depending on your taste), damage, spells, magic items...everything works as if it belongs and was always there.

The module recommends a level range of 6-9th level per character but a total of 50 levels for the entire party. The characters running through the module are a 10th level Spellblade (about the same as a D&D Elf-class), a 10th level Ranger, a 12th level Cleric, a 9th level Ranger (who died and was replaced by a 9th level Fighting-man) and an 11th level Magic-user - for a party level of 52, slightly higher than the recommended levels, but with less players and no real hirelings (although the surviving Ranger has some small insignificant animals companions, with the crowning achievement of an Owlbear companion, for the most part these are non-combatants).

Thus far there have been 2 major encounters - one Soul Eater and an Evil Patrol of a Magic-user riding a Wyvern with 3 hasted Troll foot soldiers. The party has been banged up and hurt by these and a couple of smaller encounters - to the point where after dealing with the Evil Patrol the party was travelling and didn't have time to fully heal, encountered some aquatic creatures (and defeated them after some more damage was inflicted) and when the one ranger got in the water to retrieve one of the creature bodies, a large crocodile laying in wait got a couple of bites on him and killed him.

This module thus far has been more interesting to run than at any other time ran it in the past for D&D and despite the PC death thus far, the players are having fun.

The addition of using Onn's Target d12 skill system has been a boon as well for the module, having preconverted all of the various "10% chance to notice the wyvern flying in fom the setting sun" (hey that's a Detect Hidden/Secret check agains a target of 12) or "1-in-6 chance to find an object lost in the swamp" (another Detect Hidden/Secret check against a target of 14) references has streamlined the module's mishmash of skill-type resolutions (not that I consider this a flaw in any way, but I prefer a loosely defined skill system personally so this was a boon to me).

All-in-all, thus far every pace I've put Onn Core rules through has been what I'd hoped (using the 2nd printing for its final playtest run has been very helpful as well). The real measuring stick I use to determine this though is the enjoyment of my players, because without them (and the players that came before them that allowed me to lay the foundation of what has become the Core Rules) this would just be another project that sits on my shelf with all the other games I don't play.

An additional cherry on the top of my pie was also the fact that the player that had the Ranger die rolled up a 9th level Fighting-man from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. That seems to be my break point in character genning, and he wasn't hardcore generating, as he had to wait on me to answer questions he wanted information on while I was continuing the adventure for the living PCs. Just pure awesomeness (to me at least).

Onn-ward Adventurers!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Character Sheets

I've been fiddling around with various character sheets lately in my spare time. Even though I like a minimalist-style game system, the nuances and additives a character gains by virtue of his ability scores, race, class and equipment can create a complexity. I'm a HUGE fan of the old AD&D overly-informationed character sheets and I used then as the basis for what is, so far my favorite style of character sheet for my Onn game. Here's a peek at the front:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Core Rules, 2nd Print Revisions

I finished up the revisions to the Core Rules for its 2nd Printing today. I talked with Kimberly over some additional art I'd like to put in as well and a small but solid list came out of it. So, when the artist is done, the new volume will be out.

The book itself still remains in a single column, 9-pt format and increased from 238 total pages to ~250 total pages. Inside are a new class (Barbarian), 30 additional monsters, new magical items, tons of new spells, errata from feedback on the 1st printing and more!

At a later date I may try a 2-column format to reduce the page count (and price), but that'll have to simmer on the back burner until Supplement II is completed...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

2nd Print Supplement I is out!

I finished up the 2nd printing of the original Supplement I for Swords & wizardry, incorporating the minor errata, expanding on the description of Onn and Ossus and added an overly detailed character sheet and spell book lists to the back of the book as well. If you haven't picked one up, now is a good time!

Link to the storefront can be found near the bottom of the nav column on the right!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Magic Items

A couple of the new/old magic items being added to the 2nd print of the Core Rules I thought I'd share (and compatible with Swords & Wizardry as well):

Prayerbeads of the Ages: This string of prayer beads contains a bead with the symbol of each deity inscribed on it (though some may be incomplete if found already used). If the prayer beads are used during 30 consecutive days when a divine spellcaster prays or worships to his deity and a bead dedicated to the deity is on the string, the bead disappears and the character’s Wisdom is raised by 1 point permanently. Usable by: Divine spellcasters.

Circlet of Power (-1, -2 or -3): This electrum band is worn about the head and possess a black pearl flanked by twin diamonds. While worn by a spellcaster, victims of his magic save with the penalty indicated. Usable by: Spellcaster classes.

Amulet of Magic Resistance (10%, 20% or 30%): Wearing this amulet grants the stated magic resistance to the wearer against all spells used on him. Usable by: All Classes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Oldguy is back!

After a months-long absence Chgowiz, of the 'Old Guy RPG Blog' has made a return. His many thoughtful posts, ideas and insights have spurred some of my own takes and ideas into fruition in the past and I'm glad to see his return.

The link to the Chgowiz Old Guy RPG Blog is now active again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

For all of you gamers out there who have started growing the next generation and those that still have the parents that brought you into this world, Happy Father's Day!

For myself, finished up the second printing of Onn Supplement I for Swords & Wizardry this morning. Later this week, after I recieve the proof and have a chance to review it, it will go on sale (maybe by Friday). The second printing incorporates the errata for the first printing as well as updated information for Onn itself and Ossus (the lands featured on the Supplement).

Thanks to everyone for their support and Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Core Rules 2nd Print Progress III

With the family events going on, I've had little time to post or work on projects. I did manage to get through the Monsters section and only increase the page count by 8 for monster descriptions. Currently when there is time, I've been adding the new monsters to and reworking the encounter tables. I'm still polishing up the Lairs and Tribal Spellcasters sections (still about a page long).

Then it's on to the Treasure section. There are only minimal changes planned for there, so hopefully there are no suprises. I plan on adding minimal information to the Atlas, mostly things like national exports, dominion type for kingdoms, and the ruler's name. If there is something you (the readers) want to know or think is useful, let me know in the comments or email me.

With everything going on, the only other project I've touched is Onn Supplement II for the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. This has been shaping up extremely nicely and I hope it's a worthy follow up expansion to Onn Supplement I for your Swords & Wizardry games.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Core Rules, 2nd Printing Progress II

Over the last few days I've gone through the Referee Section. There wasn't so much clairifying of the previous rules, as they were heavy enough to work on their own without turning them into a railroad, but remain more like guidelines and advice (as they should be). Several sections were added or added to with additional information. This information took the page count from that section from 8 pages up to 15, and included additional things like:

General Guidelines on new condition types (like being dazed, stunned, diseased, etc)
Rules for spells that rely on Concentration to maintain their effect
Dungeoneering Skills have been expanded (but not really clairified so they remain loose guidelines)
Some notes on environmental effects (like underwater combat)
The appendix for Strongholds and Fiefdoms has been expanded upon and added to this section as well
Reputation Rules, Item Saving throws and much more!

Next up I'm tackling the Monster Section. It's 54 pages of Monsters that will need reformatted and I plan to add about 30 additional monsters (hopefully only about 10 pages additional) and some guidelines for lairs and monster spellcasters (about a page worth). We'll see how it goes!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Ethereal Barrier

Ethereal Barrier
Spell Level: Magic-user, 5th Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 1 turn / level

Ethereal Barrier causes a bit of Ether to be drawn into the caster’s presence and formed into a wall, cage or sphere. The barrier is indestructible to any means short of a disintegrate, wand of negation, limited wish or a full wish or an etherite weapon inflicting a total of 10 points per caster level on the wall. Magic cannot be cast through the wall or sphere versions of the Ethereal Barrier. The barrier also extends into the Ethereal Plane, thus creatures such as shifter cats can be trapped and even teleport-type magics are useless to escape the sphere version. The wall is 1 inch thick, and has a surface area of 200 feet (usually 10 ft x 20 ft); the cage can affect up to a 20 ft cube while the sphere affects roughly a 10 ft radius.

Ray of Weakness

Ray of Weakness
Spell Level: Magic-user, 2nd Level
Range: 90 ft
Duration: 1 turn

When cast, this spell creates a grey beam from the caster’s hand that receives a +2 bonus on the ‘to hit’ roll. If a successful hit is made, the victim receives a -1 penalty on all melee ‘to hit’ rolls and damage rolls per 6 levels of the Magic-user and has his encumbrance limit halved.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gaming Limbo

Lots has been going on lately, forcing me to cancel my normally-running Thursday-night Onn game last week and this week and to miss the 1st session (and probably 2nd session as well) of a new 3.5-with-a-retro-feel campaign being run by my buddy Bart (which I am so looking forward to because his last campaign was something us old-times still talk about and it's been something like over a decade).

The Thursday group Sirac Point campaign has been put on indefinite hiatus, running a higher level game has opened a door I was waiting for those characters to level up high enough for me to do: Run some Expert-level D&D modules that I've had forever with World of Onn. Eventually when I get back to gaming, hopefully next week, we're going to be playing the Desert Nomad series X4 and X5. I'm not sure about running X10 since it contains all elements Mystara and may take too much to convert to Onn.

Man am I looking forward to this!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Energy Drain Poll!

It's come up in several forums, blogs and emails I get from people. Energy Draining is one of the deadliest forms of non-kill (outright at least) attack forms a monster possesses. As a Referee, I see it as a debilitating attack form that should be rightly feared (and one that there are few avenues of recourse for). I've heard from others that simply slam the ability as 'nerfing' a character, 'crippling' a character, that it's a Referee's way to 'beat' a party that is too powerful for him to handle (I think this one comes from someone disgruntled with his Referee, but I'm not sure as it's not from anyone in my own group).

Energy Draining has been a staple of D&D and it's clones and is something a select few creatures in Onn possess. I'm curious now what others think of the ability and how they handle it.

The Scorn

Scorn (L)
Armor Class:0[19]
Hit Dice:6+6 to 9+9
Attacks:great spear (1d6+4) + tail (1d6+poison)
Saving Throw:11 (6HD), 9 (7HD), 8 (8HD), 6 (9HD)
Morale:8 (6-8HD), 9 (9HD)
Magic Resistance:Nil
Special:Strong poison
Move:150 ft (50 ft)
Challenge Level/XP:7 / 600 (6HD), 8 / 800 (7HD), 9 / 1,100 (8HD), 10 / 1,400 (9HD)

Once long ago the Scorn were natives to the midlands of Var-Ultar, before the Fire in the Sky. When the Fire carved its path of destruction through Ossus and Var-Ultar, the land and people that dwelt there were changed horribly - the land became a dry desert where only the hardiest plants could survive. Of the people, the few not killed outright by the event were horribly mutated. Most of these died off as well, but those who call themselves the Scorn are a tauric combination of man and giant scorpion that thrive in the dry wastelands. Scorn combine the body of a giant scorpion, but where the ‘face’ should be sprouts a bloated humanoid torso. Occasionally a slight mutation leaves a newborn scorn with the claws of the giant scorpion as well, granting 2 additional attacks for 1d6+1 damage each. The scorn are divided into tribes that criss-cross the Ironsands Desert. For the right price, they can be hired out as guides...but most enjoy the life of desert raiders.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Core Rules, 2nd Printing Progress

I've been working on this over the last 3 months, based on feedback from other groups that bought and play the game and my own group. Most of it was minor tweaking here and there, but there have been 3 major changes/additions -
  1. Bards were folded back into a Magic-user subclass. They started out that way in the Onn S&W Supplement I. I just like the idea of 3 base classes and on their own as a fully-fledged class they just don't seem right.
  2. Saving throw progressions now match a character's attack progression ability, so a player need only make changes all at once when he reaches a plateu in combat ability, instead of having to check everything at each level.
  3. I've decided to include the Barbarian in the 2nd print Core Rules as a Fighting-man subclass. In order to remain compatible with the 1st print, the Companion Book will include them in an appendix for those still playing 1st print.
In addition to errata there is some new material, especially in the magic section. The addition of new spells makes for a robust selection, but still has enough gaps for players to research their own innovative magics. Spell errata varied wildly from the feedback I recieved and even in my own group.
  • Clerics now have access to 12-1st, 11-2nd, 10-3rd, 9-4th, 9-5th and 9-6th level spells, total count 60 spells.
  • Druids now have acces to 16-1st, 16-2nd, 16-3rd, 15-4th, 15-5th and 15-6th level spells, total count 93 spells.
  • Illusionists got a major overhaul with 19-1st, 17-2nd, 15-3rd, 11-4th, 10 5th and 9-6th level spells, total count 81 spells.
  • Magic-users have been expanded to 28-1st, 26-2nd, 23-3rd, 23-4th, 21-5th, 19-6th and 16-7th level spells, total count 156 spells.
This is as far as I've gotten, but I have plans to include about 20 more monsters across the level ranges, more Referee information and some new magic items. If time permits Kimberly, hopefully there will be some new art in the layout as well.

In regards to the Companion, I will use an appendix to keep compatibility with the 1st print rules (aside from the Bard and Barbarian, there is very little since Saving Throws are all listed in the Core Rules for all levels). So no matter what there's something for everyone.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Energy Draining and Restoration

Few things scare the hell out of old school players like petrification and energy draining. These are attack forms for which few recourses are available to reverse and in some situatons, are irreversible. Energy draining in particular is nasty for a character as in the most common form of D&D and its variant rulesets energy draining removes experience points from a character and lessens his effective level on the spot. No saving throw, no immediate recourse. Being hit multiple times results in multiple level losses (and some creatures can do so with each attack!) and create diminishing returns on a character's experience points on defeat of the creatures.

Also, the determining method as where the character ends up on the experience points needed to level from his newly reduced level depend on the game and version - from the minimum needed to be the new level, to the midpoint, to just 1 point shy of the old level. Experience is used as a nebulous measure of how much a character has learned / been through / understands what he has lived through, but yet the draining creature gains no benefit (other than healing a few hit points in some editions) and those points are lost forever. The most commonly used versions of the Restoration spell carry a heavy price for the caster and only restore enough experience to be at the minimum needed for the next higher level. If a character has been drained multiple levels, it can be an expensive endeavor.

Toying with various systems when working on Onn, I settled on a system that is similar to the scare-the-hell-out-of-you old school way, but with a twist:

Energy drained characters gain a System Shock saving throw and if that fails they lose level(s). Now, Onn's System Shock values are low enough that this seems like a good deal (17+ Constitution has a value of 20%, roll d% + level up to 10, trying to achieve a result equal or higher than your System Shock value). But this still means at least once out of every 5 or so attacks that hit will drain a level (or more, depending on how fickle the dice are).

Losing a level carries all of the connotations of D&D - the affected individual loses a number of hit points, his combat ability lessens, he loses the ability to cast some spells, etc and becomes a character of his new level. The draining creature heals a few hit points, sucking some of the character's life force away. The character keeps the same number of experience points though. He still retains his memories and knowledge, but becomes less able than someone else of the same experience point total due to his being drained of a part of his vital life essence, that intangible thing that makes adventurers a cut above normal members of their race.

When the character accrues enough experience points to advance, he still advances, but is considered one or more levels (depending on how many levels he has lost) less than another character of the same class. If at a later date, the character has a Restoration cast on themselves or some other similar effect, he gains the level(s) back.

For example, a 5th level Fighting-man with 30,000xp gets wacked by a spectre, fails his System Shock roll and loses 2 levels, becoming a 3rd level Fighting-man with 30,000xp. He still has the XP he has gained, but is less of a character for the draining he took than another character of the same XP total. When he reaches 32,000xp, he goes up a level just like any other Fighting-man, but is only 4th level since he has been drained 2 levels. If he has Restoration cast on him twice, he regains the 2 levels, becoming 6th level like any other character of his XP total.

This reduces the book keeping on both sides of the screen since the Referee need only note that the character has been drained 'X' number of levels. No finagling with experience point totals so characters simply continue to accrue them as normal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Transmute Flesh to Shadow

Transmute Flesh to Shadow*
Spell Level: Illusionist, 6th Level
Range: 20 ft
Duration: Permanent

When cast, if the victim fails a Toughness saving throw he becomes a shadow in all respects but he retains his armor class, hit dice and hit points unless those of a shadow are better. He will resemble his former self, even using shadow versions of his weapons and armor (these do not affect the combat statistics of the shadow).
The reverse of this spell, transmute shadow to flesh, will restore a transformed victim back to normal, or can be used to transform a shadow creature into a flesh and blood creature of a kind closely resembling the shadow with a failed Toughness saving throw (Flesh 'Shadow' - AC 7[12], HD 3+3, Att claw (1d4+Str drain), Save 14, Morale 7, MR Nil, Special strength drain, Move 120 ft (40 ft), CL/XP 4/120). In either case, if a System Shock saving throw is failed, the victim recieves 6d6 points of damage from the transformation.

Shadow Link

Shadow Link
Spell Level: Illusionist, 2nd Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: 5 rounds + 1 round / level

Shadow Link creates a metaphysical link between a creature and his shadow. If the target fails a Toughness saving throw, his shadow can be attacked with normal physical attacks and the damage inflicted on him as if he took the blow. The armor class of a shadow is 7[12], adjusted for Dexterity.

Shadow Bolt

Illusionists dabble in more than merely the mind - they depend wholly on as much local conditions as much to produce magical effects that seem believable so their opponents believe they are real. Some of their magic comes from places and planes of eternal twilight and shadow however. Because they access these planes moreso than a Magic-user manipulates the Ether, they can turn seemingly innocent or harmless things into semi-real and highly dangerous things.

Shadow Bolt
Spell Level: Illusionist, 3rd Level
Range: 40 ft
Duration: Immediate

When cast, the Illusionist throws a crackling bolt of charged shadow energy 30 ft in length that follows the same rules as per a lightning bolt with respect to obstructions. Victims in the path of the Shadow Bolt recieve 1d4 points of shadow energy damage per level of the Illusionist and are blinded for 1d4 rounds. Victims succeeding a Toughness saving throw recieve half damage and are blinded for 1 round.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Dr. J.E. Holmes, RIP (1930-2010)

A couple of months ago, rumors that Dr. J. Eric Holmes, editor of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, had died. No one I talk to on a regular basis could confirm this as fact. Allan Grohe did so yesterday in a post on Dragonsfoot Forums, where he relayed information he'd received from Dr. Holmes' wife about his passing. According to Allan's information, Dr. Holmes died on March 20 as the result of a stroke (not his first). He had been of ill health for some time, being unable to attend at least one convention where he was to be featured as a guest of honor because of a previous stroke.

Another icon of the early days of gaming and one of the shapers of my own gaming experiences early in the 'old days' has moved on to the next table. Copies of his 'Blue Book' sit proudly on my shelf, alongside works by Gary, Dave, MAR Barker and other giants that helped shape the way I share my game and introduced me to the good friends I've met and made over the years thanks to this game.
Rest well gentleman and never be forgotten.

Hideous Merriment

Hideous Merriment
Spell Level: Illusionist, 2nd Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 5 rounds

When cast this spell will affect 1d6 living creatures. For victims that fail an Ego saving throw, they begin laughing hysterically and dancing a mad jig for the spell’s duration, unable to attack and losing any positive Dexterity adjustments and possible shield bonuses to armor class. When the spell ends, the victims are forced to make a Toughness saving throw, with failure indicating they suffer from exhaustion.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Wall of Thorns

Wall of Thorns
Spell Level: Druid, 6th Level
Range: 80 ft
Duration: Permanent

The Druid conjures up thorny vines filling a 5 ft x 5 ft x 10 ft cube per two levels. Creatures in the area of the thorns suffer 2d4+2 points of damage. Hacking through 5 ft of vines with edged weapons inflicts full damage, whiel blunt weapons and piercing weapons inflict minimum damage. Each round spent hacking through the wall inflicts damage to the character. Each 5 ft section of the wall possesses 24 hit points plus the caster's level. Moving through a hole created thusly inflicts half damage each 5 ft moved due to the stray vines sticking and hanging out to catch the unwary. Normal fire is ineffective against the wall of thorns, but magical fire will burn them, creating an effect similar to a wall of fire for 1d4 turns if the damage is not enough to outright destroy it.


Spell Level: Druid, 1st Level
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 turn

The Druid can enchant a wooden club or staff to be a +1 weapon that inflicts 2d4+1 points of damage. For the purpose of damage reduction, it functions as Arc Wood as well.

Divine Disciple

Several times in my games players of Clerics have asked if they could use the holy energy of 'turn undead' to accomplish other things. In 3rd edition, this is commonly encouraged by the taking of various 'divine feats'. Since Onn uses no such 'modern' system, I've winged it and allowed various (minor) effects from time to time, since in my estimation, a Deity provides what (it) feels his faithful needs to accomplish their tasks of providing worship and attracting prestige, wealth and new followers.

Since Onn only allows for limited turning attempts in a single day (2 to 5, based on the Cleric's Wisdom adjustment), I thought a spell appropriate to define what else a Cleric can do with this ability. The effects are minor, especially since it effectively allows for a variance of effects and grants additional powers to a powerful class already, but they are useful, especially to a Cleric of 3rd level or higher who has some spell slots to play with.

Divine Disciple
Spell Level: Cleric, 1st Level
Range: Self
Duration: 48 turns (8 hours)

Divine Sacrifice allows the Cleric to put the holy energy his Deity provides for his ability to Turn Undead to other uses. After this spell is cast the Cleric can choose what effect his use of each individual turn undead attempt will have (if he chooses not to actually turn the undead):
  • All allies in the area of effect are healed 1 hit point (dying allies are treated as if they succeeded at their System Shock roll for the round).
  • The Cleric can affect Demons and attempt to exorcise them as a Divine Champion, but at half his Cleric level.
  • Clerical wards and sealing spells / effects can be destroyed with the same chances as dispel evil, but at half the Cleric’s level.
  • A turn attempt can be used to augment a healing spell immediately cast after it, increasing the effect of the healing spell by +50%.
The Referee may decide that other uses may be possible as well, at his discretion.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Slow Blogging - May

There may be a slowing down of material on the blog for the next month.

I'm hard at work finishing up OB1 - Expedition to Haindrad's Tomb, which is as much wilderness exploratoration as a site-based adventure as it is a location-based adventure for 1st-3rd level characters. Kimberly has submitted several cover concepts for it. One I liked particularly well and I'm hoping it turns out as good as I think it will.

I started drafting up OB2 - Grimwood Keep, a location-based ruin and dungeon for 2nd-5th level characters.

OE1 - Jotun Pass is a site-based wilderness adventure for 8th-12th level characters that I'm pulling together as well.

Work on a Second Printing vesion for the Core Rules is moving along. The major change involved is slowing down the progression of saving throws to match the attack matrix/bonus of the class being played. This helps spells and effects keep their punch better at mid levels instead of the yawn fest that happens when a player or Referee asks for a save and a natural '1' isn't rolled.

As well, work on the Core Rules Companion is going on too.

The major reason is that family is visiting for the majority of May from across the Atlantic (from Norway) so my time, when not working and sleeping, will be taken by enjoying their company and visiting with family. They only get to visit a couple of times a year, so understandably, I will be very busy this coming month.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dungeoneering Skills for Onn

While some people decry using skills in D&D and D&D-clones as 'modernization', using ability checks and the x-in-d6 chance for things has existed since Original D&D first came out way back in the 70's. There were no Thieves in that very first game (they being added in Supplement I: Greyhawk) and all characters could perform 'dungeoneering skills' like sneaking and picking locks.

My first skill system for the World of Onn used a d12 with a 1-4 chance of success instead of a d6 with a 1-2 chance of success, because I like using modifiers for conditions, difficulty and ability scores (as a side note, this can make things as simple or as complicated as you let it be). Through the playtesting though, I found it easier to have a specific target number (much like the modern 'DC' D&D 3.x and 4 use). In addition, it just makes things easier to figure out on the fly when dealing with running a modern module and using Onn (or Swords & Wizardry).

I still use a Target12 system for my skills, finding a d6 too small to use with almost any modifiers, but a d20 way too huge and leading to skill bloat. Besides, the d12 is like a red-headed stepchild and needs some love (or maybe it's my odd liking of things...odd).

Dungeoneering Skills
Relevant Ability Score
Appraise Item
Decipher Writing
Detect Hidden
Disarm Trap
First Aid

Open Doors
Pick Locks
Wilderness Lore

Of course, keeping Onn a retro-style game means the skill list should be small and these are the ones that have been the most relevant in both campaigns I've run. The skill challenge targets I codified in the following manner:

Dungeoneering Skill Targets
3.x/4e DC
Very Easy*
5 or less
Very Difficult
Nearly Impossible
*Only roll if character is under duress or failure has major impact, otherwise use your judgement.

This was done for two reasons: 1) since all the new material is written for a skill system like 3.x/4e it's easier to have some form of conversion written down to keep things consistent; 2) Having a solid targtet number to work with keeps the game flowing smoother if you're using any skill system. The Target12 system still uses a d12 to roll the check and is basically the following formula:

d12 + any racial adjustment + relevant ability score adjustment + misc adjustments

If you equal or exceed the target number, you have a success. A natural 12 is also considered an automatic success and a natural 1 is an automatic failure. As noted many times though, the Referee should use his judgement where skills are concerned. If a character has set himself up to succeed by creating favorable conditions and/or is using the proper tools for the job (with a proper amount of stress-free time), then generally they should succeed at any difficulty of task eventually.

One may also notice that there are no social interaction skills. Charisma can be used to affect the reactions of NPCs and monsters and the degree of success (or failure), but a die roll should never be used to replace the social aspect of a ROLE-playing game, as discussed many times at length (such as the last post and across the OSR blogosphere).

I may use this expanded version of skill challenges in Onn's 2nd printing, but even though it works well for me I don't know if the feel is right for the retro-feel I want Onn to have.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Skill Challenges and When to Roll

Where D&D is concerned, some people consider it an 'evolution' of RPGs to have a 'singular' or 'unified' mechanic that everything can be formulized down into. The 3.5e and 4e games took this concept (which in truth has been around for a long time in other game systems) and ran like the wind with it. One of the side effects (or possibly the driving forces) behind this is the codification of skills in a class and level-based game system. Is there a reason why a character gets better at weapon smithing if he spends 3 months earning a few levels and is in a dungeon a majority of the time? How does he learn about smithing and practice it while he's down there? Other skills are more appropriate to everyday adventuring, like searching (and knowing where to search) and sneaking. Adventurers practice these skills every day of their lives.

The other side of the coin is when do you make a character roll a skill check and how often is it important? I embrace the randomness of the dice at every opportunity in my own games. But, that's where they become tools for creativity and not enslavers to the rules. Actual skill checks are made when I deem it important to know if a character can fail at such a task and if said task has reprecussions that could have a major effect in the game. Case in point: a 1st level Ranger I would have roll a skill check when encountering tracks to determine if he can tell the aproximate age, number of creatures and type of tracks. Does he know the difference between a giant and an ogre? The same Ranger at 9th level I would simply give the character the 'simple' information, but make a check for anything more exotic, such as if any appeared to be weighed down (with treasure or captives) or if any appear wounded or decrepit (by the way one particular set of tracks compared to others of the same type).

Player knowledge and actions play an important role at my table as well, which is why I frown on systems that use their unified mechanic where role-playing can be an important part of the game, such as when gathering information or dealing with an important NPC. Now, not every player has incredible social skills or the intimate knowledge of the campaign world's peoples, but if a player makes an honest attempt and uses whatever knowledge the party has gained through its adventuring then he should succeed. If a 'skill check' is needed for some reason for any type of PC to NPC interaction, the Referee should roll a check to the NPCs reactions and apply the speaking character's Charisma adjustment to the roll, along with a bonus of his choosing that reflects how much the player is using the knowledge the party has gained that might be relevant to the NPC. For this, I love players that take notes. Sometimes I give out alot of information. Usually most of it isn't relevant at the immediate moment, but down the road the tidbits become useful. When a player takes the time to commit the information to memory via notes and then uses them later in the campaign, I know they are enjoying the campaign because they are interested in what's going on (some people don't ever need to take notes and can quote something you said 6 months ago, these types of players are just as good since they are 'living notebooks'). In these cases, I treat all hostile results as indifference, unless the player is making some huge blunders when interacting with an NPC that simply cannot be overlooked (and this happens in real life as well on occasion, so you can use it to generate more adventure opportunities so the adventurers can 'save face' with the NPC group in question).

The players' knowledge should never be confused with their characters' knowledge, but they should be allowed to play the part of their characters when given the opportunity. Telling a player that he cannot do something because his 'skill level' isn't high enough flies in the face of the old school notion that characters can attempt do anything, even if they don't have a good chance for a favorable outcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Tale of the Dice

My dice hate me. Most people comment on how a bad roll during this one game affected the outcome, or that one time years ago they had a character die because of a fumble or rolled a natural 1 on a skill check or critical failure doing something important. That’s blasé where my dice are concerned. Oh sure, once a year or so they go on a hot streak and my players bemoan their fate for that evening, but knowing if they survive what is sure to be hours of pain for their characters the rewards will be truly awesome (because I usually randomly roll most treasure on the spot as well), but most of the time my dice just plain suck.

Case in point last night. The Sirac’s Point group rolled up higher level characters to take a couple weeks off from the normal low level campaign. I gave them a set of guidelines for character creation and on the 250k XP, we ended up with an 8th level Spellblade, an 8th level Ranger, a 9th level Ranger and an 11th level Cleric. Now, each player could draw as much mundane equipment as they wanted (and could reasonably carry) and after generating magical gear, most was par for the course as far as magic goes (there were a couple of powerful items, but nothing overly powerful). The Cleric wanted a crystal golem (something he invested most of his adventuring coin in was used as the explanation) and was allowed, the Spellblade had a ‘3rd level’ dog familiar, one Ranger a pair of ferrets, a war dog and hawk for animal companions and the other ranger a giant centipede for his animal companion (which he was ridiculed for as such an odd choice, but later turned out to be a good choice since it was combat-capable). No one had an AC better than -1[20].

After doing the details, ordering food and finally getting down to play, there was one major encounter - a group of 5 hill giants. At +8 to hit and inflicting 2d8 damage per hit, the combat was pretty one-sided. The players took light damage (except for the Cleric, who was a dwarf and used as bait to draw them in), but my dice consistently rolled 2 through 6 (10-14 with the +8), which wasn’t enough to hit even these lightly armored adventurers. The giant’s treasure, about 5k in gold value, when traded out came to 2 gems worth less than 225 gpv. No magic items, not even a potion.

They (wisely) avoided an encounter with a herd of at least 4 gorgons (my rolls failed to detect the sneaking Ranger who was scouting). In retrospect though, the armored dwarf Cleric could have been scouting and they would have continued grazing unawares by the die results.

When they camped for the night, the lone success I had was with a black orc. It crept into the camp while one of the rangers was on watch and successfully stuck him in the back. It didn’t come close to killing the Ranger, but the fact that after all the mods he successfully sneaked in and got off a successful attack, well the deck was stacked against him. He was cut down in short order, but he served his purpose. The dice went back to normal though, granting the orc no treasure, except the crappy short sword he carried and his padded armor.

This becomes a problem for games I Referee, because the players and their characters will go mostly unscathed unless you concentrate a majority of your attacks on a single character and alpha strike him, thereby allowing the players to pick you apart. Sometimes I’ve outmatched the group by 3x or 4x their level with encounters on purpose (and this would spell TPK or near TPK in other groups I’ve played in over the years), but while difficult and occasionally deadly, most of my groups survived mostly intact. All because of my dice. I should note I don’t play antagonistic towards my players or as a me vs. them mentality, but one of the aspects of the game is to provide combat challenges…keyword being challenges. It’s pretty darn hard to provide said challenges if the random generation aspect of the game doesn’t seem all that random, and is consistently on the bottom side of the number generation ability of the dice.

In both groups I play in, tales of my dice and their ability to snatch defeat from the arms of victory are legendary. For every story of something cool that has happened, my friends can give you two stories of how things have gone horribly wrong for me because my dice hate me. The funny thing is, over the years I’ve acquired new dice, been given dice as gifts, found dice in gaming products I’ve bought in old bargain bins and off of e-Bay and their story just adds to the living legend of “Jim’s Dice”. In a way it’s frustrating because I love this hobby a lot, but one of the integral parts of it doesn’t give me a lot of love back.

Over the years I’ve come to embrace the tough love, knowing there will be a session where the dice go red hot for just a bit and allow me to do something phenomenal and I take a bit of twisted pride when someone else at the table goes on a cold streak and someone says “it looks like you’re rolling Jim’s Dice”.

In my circles of gamer friends, I’ll take that claim to infamy, as long as they enjoy the games.

Roll on!