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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!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The Sirac's Point group is taking a hiatus from the campaign for the next 2-3 weeks. Tomorrow (4/22) we're playing higher level (8th-11th) characters for a break from the low level campaign and letting the group see what the high end of mid-level play is like.

Thus far we have a Giantkin Ranger, a Gnoll Ranger, an Elven Spellblade and a Dwarven Cleric of Gromlun. We'll see how the party fares against the denizens of northeastern Ossus since most of my games have been set in the southern portion of the continent.

In the same vein as my Sirac's Point game, mostly everything has been generated randomly and fitted together so it makes sense (even if it takes reality-warping explanations that don't make sense, it makes sense!) but instead of a sandbox, they group is playing a module-type game. We'll see how well they fare...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Power Word Sleep

Power Word Sleep
Spell Level: Magic-user, 6th Level
Range: 120 ft
Duration: 6 turns

When a Power Word Sleep is uttered, 4d6 hit dice worth of enemies of 7 Hit Dice or less in a 20 ft cube are put into an enchanted slumber, beginning with the weakest creatures first.

Tales from Sirac's Point, Session 11

Played Thursday, April 15th...

Mirus 5th, 5231 AC

Inexplicably, the group decided to trek back to the army camp they left the previous day. Flambo, citing his faith, regretted his negligence in looking for any portable forges that an army of that size would have carried. Also, there were some other things that other members of the group wanted to investigate. Rak'Shan, who wanted no part of going back, went 'looking for his lion' and would rejoin the group back in Sirac's Point in a week's time.

Making the trek back to the camp, Galeena (who was scouting) suddenly stopped and the group barely heard her screaming. Rushing to her last known position they found a large hole, nearly 10 ft across, dug into the earth. Below, they could hear her screaming to get her out and there was something moving in there with her. Flambo, remembering he had wings, took to the sky to keep a vigilant watch while she was fished out. Galeena scrambled topside, screaming that something was following her and Flambo noted at the same time there were several of the holes dotting the nearby area.

Seconds later, half a dozen stag beetles erupted from the burrow holes. There was furious combat with some impressive wounds, with one of the beetles impaling Autumn and dashing her to the ground before being dispatched. Flambo reported there were more holes all around them and the decision was made to leave the area quickly since there was the possibility of a colony under their feet.

They arrived back at the army camp and Vendee excused himself to start a patrol. The others set about searching for the mobile forge, eventually finding it. With what was left of the day, Flambo set about performing minor repairs to the party's weapons and armor.

Mirus 6th - 8th, 5231 AC

With the materials at hand, Flambo (with Autumn and Cregg's help) set about creating a mold for a rather large hammer that Flambo could reasonably wield with two hands. Going over the stocks for the campsite and the party's resources, there was some lamenting that they did not have access to any alchemical reagents to bond silver with steel to make a weapon-grade silver weapon. While the hail and rain fell over the camp Flambo was hard at work casting and forging his hammer, Vendee and Galeena relaxed.

Mirus 9th - 11th, 5231 AC

With Flambo done the rough casting and essential forging, he had a giant hammer (30 gp, 1d12+1, SF 8, 40 lbs, two handed for Large-size, cannot be used by Man-size or smaller) that he could work on with the forging tools while they travelled. Leaving early on the 9th of Mirus and under clear skies, the party again set their sights to the southwest, and back to Sirac's Point.

Mirus 12th, 5231 AC

In the afternoon, the party stumbled across three human bodies that were savaged by slashing attacks. Deducing either sword, axe or extremely sharp claws, the wounds were fresh and while not oozing blood still, the blood had not dried out yet. Flambo took to the sky with Galeena (citing her ability to find things well in just about any situation) to make sure there were no hostiles nearby. The rest of the group searched them quickly, one was found to possess a copper signet ring with the design of a lion's head. The rest of their equipment was mundane except for a short sword on one of the men’s' belt. It looked of common (old) design, with bronze wire wrapping the handle (a more common thing during the height of the Zuhn Empire and their advanced technology). Vendee drew the weapon, revealing a gleaming silver blade with golden inlays unworn by time or use. Cregg cast a detect magic revealing it has some magical enchantment. Not seeing any writing or enchanting runes on the weapon, Vendee cast read magic, revealing in magical writing the word "Evnar" written on the blade.

Reading the word aloud, Vendee felt a presence in his mind, but pushed it back out again and quickly sheathed the weapon, wrapped it on canvas, wound it in rope and placed it in a sack. By this time, Flambo and Galeena returned and reported the all clear. Discussion of the sword and its effect on Vendee were made and it was removed from the wrappings and bag so that Flambo could examine it. Being a representative of the Forge God, he may be able to deduce something about it the reasoning went. As a precaution though, Flambo cast protection from evil on himself before handling the weapon. He examined it, noting the old design and antiquity, but other than its sharp edge and new looking blade, could find nothing else about it. Autumn was offered a chance to handle the weapon, being a pure warrioress but she declined citing Galeena's handling of the black orb and unknown magical items' effects. Rewrapped and replaced in the bag, the group moved on.

Mirus 13th - 15th, 5231 AC

Under clear skies and warming weather, the group finally arrived at Sirac's Point on the morning of the 15th. Stopped at the Trader's Gate, a member of the guard informed them that skirmishes with units from the Kingdom of Brunn has made things uneasy for the citizens and all weapons larger than a dagger are required to be tied or confiscated. Brunn forces have made several investigatory movements and there have been two known ship conflicts on the seas.

Cregg made mention of the battlefield they stumbled across as well as the camp, much to the rest of the group's dismay. When pressed, the guard revealed the Brunn soldiery wore purple tabards, the same ones the fallen soldiers wore. The guard sent a runner for the captain and thanked them for the information, hustling them along and out of the gate so that others could pass through.

The rest of the day was spent visiting Cicero's Books with Haindrad's Journal. Cicero confirmed that the writing was indeed authentic, matching several plans he once owned dealing with Haindrad's Keep and when asked to read the end he closed the book and gave it back. "You have the most valuable work currently ever recovered from the Zuhn Era and a death sentence. If this was magically warded then whomever did so will know it has been recovered, please take it from here quickly!" Cicero would have nothing else to do with the book, even refusing to house it in his vault for fear of who may come looking for it, explaining "Apathos teaches his faithful Haindrad was a great hero and died faithful. If the priests learned otherwise, the carriers of the book would all be hunted down and put to death for their heresy to his church." The group agreed to take it and asked about the plans he mentioned. They were told to return in three days or so to give Cicero time to locate them.

They visited Suelomon's Wonders, dumping off several oddities they had found over the last month or so of adventuring, including some of the idols and statuettes. Producing one of the stag beetle heads, Flambo scared his assistant, making her jump on a table while screaming. She retrieved Vargas, head curator and promptly left. He examined the items and asked for a few days as well to properly evaluate them.

The group pretty much split up at this point, taking their shares of treasure and heading off into the market. Vendee visited a gunsmith trader from Kurtonus, purchasing several grenades for the three servitors; Galeena bought a suit of plate mail; Cregg and Autumn bought better armor and weapons as well (Cregg noticed all of the infrequent stares and whispering references to the Apathos symbols adorning his armor and decided to go lower profile for the time being).

Lastly Vendee ended up at Towere Sorcerere. Attended to by one of Varja's apprentices, he bought several scrolls to add to his spell book and Flambobought a silver horn that summons berserk warriors to aid him and nearly bought a magical weapon the apprentice called Tania's Staff of Holding. As it turned out, Vendee looks down on 'mage weapons' but Cregg did purchase a magical armband that once belonged to a faithful of Tymira and Autumn bought a magical scimitar. The group also paid to leave several items with the apprentice as well so that their magical properties could be identified and would return for them in a few days.

Here is where the session ended...

CharacterSex/RaceXP GivenXP TotalNext Level
Curate Flambo of VulknarMale Endu1,50013,86027,000 (+10%)
Vendee the Arcane GuardianMale Elf1,50014,52916,200 (+10%)
Galeena the WarrioressFemale Halfling7506,4077,600 (+5%)
Curate Cregg of TymiraMale Human1,50012,63527,000 (+10%)
Rak’Shan the DiscipleMale Tigran75010,36915,200 (+5%)
Autumn the WarrioressFemale Human7506,2287,600 (+5%)
Flambo and Cregg have reached the level of Curate!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Busy Weekend

Normally I keep things rolling out on the blog over the weekends while others go into 'weekend hiatus'. Fortunately (for me) this was a Gaming Weekend with my regular World of Onn - Tales from Sirac's Point game on Thursday the 15th and Saturday's 3.5e Magister Series game run by Jake. My work schedule covers weekends as well, so between being father, worker and gamer I had little time to have an online presence.

The Sirac's Point game has reached a point where, while it has been sandbox-heavy, there are things that go on whether the PCs have a hand in them or not. My players though seem to have a knack for being in the middle of the biggest poop though and several relevations came to light during Session 11. I'll post the full session log on Monday (my 1st day off next week!).

Something interesting has also been happening to the Saturday group for a while now, but I've refrained from commenting on it. Most of the people in that group are longtime gamer friends that stretch back into the AD&D days. They play 3.5e now, but there is a retro-culture movement in the group. While I was working on my Onn Core Rules, I took my leave from gaming on Saturdays so that I could put my free time into writing. While away it seems that oldschool elements have found their way back to the gaming table, albeit slowly, and are changing the game. One great example of this was last night. The topic of 'bouncing' lightning bolts off of walls and floors and fireballs that expand to fill their volume came up. The group all voted in favor of such things again. Jake (DM) said the change would be made, but he wasn't going to change the current rules in the middle of the session so there would be some consistency.

Now I know the major reason for the group playing 3.5e is as much economical as anything else. I sold off my entire collection of rulebooks in the summer of '08 to some lucky guy on e-Bay and never looked back. But easily, other people in tha group have spent over $1,000 for rulebooks, complete books, supplements, etc like I did. The amusing thing (as I see it) is we played the perfect game for the group back in the day and even with the modern version of the game, I've noticed the little bits being put back into it are directly from this era most of us played so long ago.

I gave out Onn Core Books to them as (very) late Christmas gifts because they were the group that primarily playtested my game and I would have never had the opportunity to create it without them. Maybe down the road I'll ask them to consider playing it in between the current-running campaigns as a filler if my work schedule allows for it and they seem receptive to the idea.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Knockspell #4 Available

Knockspell Issue #4 contains a veritable cornucopia of gaming content for your retro-clone or out-of-print fantasy campaign! Here's a preview of the table of contents:

From Kuroth’s Quill - Allan T. Grohe, Jr.
Beneath the Crossroads: an Adventure - Joshua James Gervias
Artist Interview: Christopher Burdett
Megadungeon Adventuring Tactics - Matt Finch
Isles on an Emerald Sea 3: An Adventure - Gabor Lux
Random Tavern Generator - Robert Lionheart
Artifact Type & Attributes - Scot Hoover
Spell Interval System - John Stater
Online Roleplaying: A Quick Overview - Marcelo Frossard Paschoalin
Rats in the Walls: an Adventure - Jeffrey P. Talanian
Stealing the Histories - Michael Curtis
Free-Form Rules as a Referee’s Toolbox - Al Krombach
Rolling Along: Wheeled Magic Items - James Bobb and Kimberly Nicholson
Weird Weather and other Unexplanable Phenomena - J Shoultis, J Larrey, J Hartleb
Review: The Dungeon Alphabet - Allan T. Grohe, Jr.
Weapon Generator - J.R. Cone
New Magic Items - James Bobb

Knockspell #4 is now available in both print and pdf versions from Black Blade Publishing.

My minor contributions (and Kimberly Nicholson's as well) to this issue are a few magical wheels and some other miscellaneous items of varying use to enterprising adventurers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Psychic Weapon Examples

To the casual observer, a Psychic appears much as a spellcaster does, invoking powers that seem magical and create effects that sometimes are similar in nature to magic. Here are several weapons that make use of the Psychic's Astral Field and seem similar to magic, but to the Psychic are as mundane as the physical weapons they are created in the image of.

Psychic Weapons Table
Weapon NameCostDamageSFWeightNotes
...Battle Axe100 gp1d842-
...Hand Axe20 gp1d622-
...Dagger40 gp1d412-
...Long sword300 gp1d842-
...Short Sword160 gp1d622-
Mind Gun3000 gp1d8+112-
Mind Rifle6000 gp1d12+164-
Thought Whip100 gp1d3527

Psychic weapons all resemble a crystalline handle (Astrillium) of different designs. The design of the handle determines the shape of the weapon. When held by a Psychic or a Natural Talent, the crystal focuses a fraction of the wielder's Astral Field into a solid, tangible weapon. Mind Guns (pistols) and Mind Rifles (rifles) form the Astral Field into small bursts, fired by the weapon at the appropriate time. Thought Whips have the same abilities as a normal Whip (notation 7). Damage inflicted is the same as a normal version of the weapon in all cases.

Optionally, the wielder's Charisma (instead of Strength) can be used to determine bonus damage if the Referee deems Charisma to be in line with determining a character's 'force of personality'.

New Materials

Items, weapons and armor made from non-traditional materials has been a hallmark of every fantasy game and movie since the dawn of...well...fantasy games and movies. Conan's Starmetal Sword, the Amber Sword at World's End, Dragon-scaled Shields, there can most certainly be an exhaustive list created for those so inclined. Presented here are two special materials that see use on the World of Onn - Etherite and Astrillium.

Etherite is a rare, light grey metal found when the boundary between the Ethereal Plane and the mortal realm weakens deep underground. The iron ore in the affected area is mutated in some manner and takes on quasi-magical properties. Weapons made of Etherite consider 1 point of their damage to be magical damage while armor negates 1 point of purely magical damage from a magical-based attack (such as magic missile or a magical weapon). Other types of items can be made from Etherite as well, with any special effects being determined by the Referee. Enchanting Etherite items only require half the time since they take enchantments so easily.

Etherite items cost 20x more than normal to manufacture.

Astrillium is created similarly to Etherite - in places where the mortal realms and the Astral become close, the minerals are especially receptive to the energies of the Astral and mutate into Astrillium, a crystalline mass as hard as diamond and flexible as steel. Weapons made from Astrillium consider one point of their damage to be psychic damage while armor infused with it negates 1 point of psychic damage. Other types of items can be made from Astrillium as well, with any special effects being determined by the Referee. Astrillium is difficult to enchant, requiring twice the time as magic simply will not easily take to the crystal, while infusing psychic power into an Astrillium item takes but half the required time.

Astrillium items cost 20x more than normal to manufacture.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Scott's Gnolls"

One thing of note, I introduced the party to Gnolls for the first time during Session 10. Around the gaming tables of both groups I play in, "Scott's Gnolls" evokes a sense of uncertainty and dread. Scott (who plays with Brian in the Saturday 3.5e game) ran games way back in the AD&D days and his Gnolls were every bit as crafty and dangerous as PCs. They hunted in packs, they used tactics, they tracked you down and hunted you to exhaustion, then they would play with you like a chew toy until they were ready to go in for the kill. As much as we came to admire and hate Brian's Orcs for their military might and regimen, we outright feared Scott's Gnolls for their intelligent application of their feral skills.

Imagine your common wolfpack (or hyena pack) but man-shaped and just as intelligent, possessing the natural abilities and tendencies practiced over hundered or thousands of years. Now you just attracted their attention. You know there's a pack of them and you see a few, but you know and feel more...watching, waiting...for just the right moment when the packlord signals them in for the kill...

You run...thinking you got away, but then you feel it...that dread...that sense that you're wrong...heart racing, scanning the brush, trees, squinting into the tall grass...

You feel something on your side, look down and an arrow, slick with your blood is sprouting from you. You look up again and as things go dark, you see them circling and closing in, sensing their Hunt is at an end...

Yeah...Scott's Gnolls are something to rightly be feared....even after all these years...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tales from Sirac's Point, Session 10

It felt good to get behind the wheel again after being off for 2 weeks. Lots of developments from randomness and reinforcement that my dice hate me (or just like my players more)! Session recount will be available in a few days.

Updated 4/11 -

Solenus 25th - 32nd, 5231 A.C.
After the crypt was thoroughly searched, the group decided since the hole in the nearby room was seemingly the only way outsiders like the orcs could gain entrance into the tomb, they would use one of the larger sarcophagus lids and shatter some statuary for heavy rubble and plug the hole. Vendee and Cregg used scraps of leather from fallen enemies and cut cloth strips from cloaks to make a hammock for Galeena and attached it to the former orc chief’s throne and a statue. They hunkered down for a week like this, the Clerics trading off tending to the wounded.

Cregg got some lessons over the week from Vendee how to best fight and move about in heavy armor and though it wasn’t as intensive as formal training from a master, he feels more confidant about wearing it in combat. Vendee, for his part, identified the magical properties of the magical items the group had collected, but couldn’t identify the properties of the weapons or armor.

Haindrad’s journal was read as well, revealing that the assassin’s blade did not kill Haindrad as Apathos’ church teaches, but rather paralyzed him and gave him the appearance of death. Haindrad turned from his Deity in that moment, for letting him allow a traitor into his midst and Apathos cursed him for his willful defiance. When the clerics attempted to heal Haindrad, Apathos would not allow their magic to function, instead commanding them to inter Haindrad in the lower crypts and ward his tomb so that no evil could pass. They did so, interring Haindrad alive in his tomb, undisturbed for the better part of 5,000 years.

About 4 days into the week though, something heavy started pounding on the plug, shaking it slightly. Rak’Shan was keeping watch and reported something was amiss. The group made ready to put down whatever could break through the heavy stone plug, but after half an hour, the thudding stopped and did not start up again. On the eighth day, Galeena looked and commented how much better she felt.

During the week it was discussed whether to leave by way of the temple sub-level they entered through or see where the tunnel in the cracked room led to. This was voted down by the fact the group had obtained their objective and knew there were an unknown number of orc slavers who knew of the cave’s existence and probably knew something was inside the cave since it was blocked off now.

A lengthy discussion was made about whether or not to retrieve the long sword with Arek’s symbol from the upper level. There were some worried it would be found and used to great effect by an evil creature, others worried about it’s effects on the bearer (even if not actually used) and one member voiced their opinion that Galeena would make an attempt to steal it if left where it was. (She was indignant and explained she would have a bit of a hard time smuggling a sword as tall as her, and an even more difficult time wanting to play with something obviously magical and cursed after the ‘gem incident’.

Lirus the Apprentice’s body was recovered from where the group laid him to temporary rest and the trek was made to the surface where they entered the temple sub-level from. The warm-metal holy symbol ‘key’ was removed from the shrine’s altar and the group returned to the sunlight of the surface for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.

Travelling back to the expedition site where the Thunderwicket was resting, they noted the bodies left behind of their former comrades were missing hands and feet…wasting no time, they gathered any supplies they could scavenge, Vendee laid Lirus to rest and the group started the return trek to Sirac’s Point.

Mirus 1st - 2nd, 5231 A.C.

The first 2 days of travel were uneventful until the late afternoon of the second day. Having gotten clear of Haindrad’s Hills, the group entered the tall grasses of the savannah-like rolling plains. Rak’Shan was scouting in the lead since their scout went missing weeks ago, and suddenly he stopped. Surrounding the group were 15 gnolls, standing slowly up from hidden positions in the tall grass. Despite Rak’Shan’s heightened animalistic senses, the gnolls managed to surround the group. Sniffing the crosswinds, Rak’Shan noted he only smelled the tall grasses…the gnolls must have hidden their scent.

In broken common, one of the gnolls commanded the group - “100 gold to pass or your life!” Flambo, who grew up on the southern continent of Var-Ultar where gnolls rule one of the two most powerful empires, cautioned the group to make the payment. He knew the gnolls are a hunter race and some of the greatest trackers in the world, never giving their prey up easily. “Fine!” Vendee shouted back “100 gold!”

The two lead gnolls conferred for a moment and looked surprised. The rest of the gnolls looked like they were ready for a fight. “100 gold EACH” the lead gnoll retorted back. Rak’Shan threw his purse to them “here, this should cover all of us”. He turned to the group, “I can’t keep it all anyway, consider this my good deed today for all the healing”. The gnolls seemed surprised even further by this, being paid in full and by a tigran no less. They took payment and faded back into the tall grasses, gone as quickly as they came.

Mirus 3rd, 5231 A.C.

Waking up to an overcast day, the group set off, trudging through the waves of grass. The weather was still a bit chilly for this late in the spring too. After several hours of trekking through the wild, they happened across a battlefield, sever weeks old, littered with the bodies of purple-tabbarded humans and orcs with a red-claw tattoo on their forehead. Hundreds of bodies littered the field and seemed untouched by intelligent hands as there was broken gear and equipment littered everywhere on both sides. The field was searches but nothing valuable was recovered. Tracks were found leading to the site and the party back trailed them a few hours to the human’s camp.

Hundreds of tents were neatly lined in rows, most had fallen though. The group searched a few and eventually found a tent where a priest of Apathos was housed and the command tent where maps, plans and missives were strewn about by the wind. Gathering as much as they could, they discovered the leader’s name was General Tiberus and he moved thousands of troops out of the nearby ruins of Ventes, a small fishing village overrun by orcs. Several more groups of soldiers were supposed to meet the main host and smash the orcs, but no confirmation could be found. There was also found a letter from someone named Isold, begging Tiberus to return to Pax Valis and restore his family honor. The maps and missives the group gathered along with more supplies to augment their dwindling provisions. They made camp on a nearby hill to watch the site for any activity over night.

Mirus 4th, 5231 A.C.

Waking up to another chilly, overcast sky, the party left the camp behind and returned to their southwestern course of travel for Sirac’s Point. The clouds were getting darker from the northwest as they trekked and they started looking for a group of trees or tall shrubs in case a storm broke out. By late morning, rumblings could be heard overhead as the sky darkened. They found some trees and got into a nearby low position. Some time passed, but suddenly they were being pelted by golf ball-sized hail. Shields were raised over heads and they formed a shield wall to protect each other. Almost half an hour later, the hail subsided but the sky didn’t lighten up much. They continued on, wary lest they be pelted unexpectedly.

Later in the afternoon, they encountered a stone moai head, floating in the middle of nowhere. After eventually ascertaining it to be harmless the party learned it was a ‘Wise One’ and could tell them anything that existed and may be able to tell them the most predictable path their short term future holds. Through the ‘Wise One’ they learned the orcs had been wiped out and General Tiberus was still alive. Before much else could be learned, the ‘Wise One’ sank into the earth, muttering something.

The group circled up and could feel rumbling through their feet. Moments later, a gigantic, fanged-maw worm with deep purple skin burst through the earth to a height of about 15 ft. Deciding there was no where they could run and get away from the monstrosity, they attacked. Several minutes of furious combat ensued with Rak’Shan taking a horrible mauling but still on his feet. The worm spent a few minutes attacking ghostly weapons Cregg and Flambo conjured in the name of their Deities. Flambo took the worst though, being mauled and nearly swallowed whole by the creature, but instead went unconscious. The creature’s spiked tail popped through the earth near Vendee at one point, nearly skewering and poisoning Cregg who resisted the poisons covering it. Eventually the thing was driven off, not finding what it thought may be an easy meal of some herd animals. Flambo was gotten back onto his hooves by Cregg and the group moved on a bit before camping down for the night.

Here is where the session ended for the evening...

CharacterSex/RaceXP GivenXP TotalNext Level
Vicar Flambo of VulknarMale Endu2,39512,36012,600 (+10%)
Vendee, Arcane GuardianMale Elf2,59513,02916,200 (+10%)
Galeena the WarrioressFemale Halfling1,0475,6577,600 (+5%)
Vicar Cregg of TymiraMale Human2,39511,13512,600 (+10%)
Rak’Shan the DiscipleMale Tigran2,4959,61915,200 (+5%)
Autumn the WarrioressFemale Human1,0475,4787,600 (+5%)

Rak'Shan is now a Disciple!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dispelling Chances

According to the rules, the caster of a Dispel Magic or Dispel Evil (and a handful of other spells that refer to the chance of success Dispel Magic uses, notably Remove Curse), has a percentage chance to dispel the magic against which they are faced. The chance for a successful Dispell attempt is 50%, +5% per level of the Dispeller, but -5% per level of the caster of the magic being diepelled. I created a simple chart for fast reference (covering levels 1-10 for posting purposes since tables sizes can run off of the visible area):

Dispel Magic Chance of Success     Spell Effect Caster Level
Dispeller Level1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th10th

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gone and not Forgotten

Today marks the 1st year RPGs has had to move on without it's foundation stones, the second of which is David Lance Arneson (October 1, 1947 - April 7, 2009). Even if you can't play today, roll some dice and enjoy the thinking about some of the best moments you and your friends have had.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Psychic Class, Part 2

Manifesting Psychic Power
When a character manifests a psychic ability the player rolls 1d20 + Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma adjustments and consults the chart to determine if he is successful or not. No matter what the adjustments are, rolling a natural ‘1’ indicates psychic burnout - the character must succeed at an Ego saving throw with the psychic power’s level applied as a penalty to the roll. If failed, the psychic character is left reeling as if he were stunned for 1d10 rounds. In any case, the psychic cannot summon up the mental strength to manifest any additional powers until he has a good night’s sleep. Rolling a natural ‘20’ increases all of a power’s numerical factors by +50% and does not count against the number of times a Psychic can manifest his powers.

Manifesting Psychic PowersPsychic Level
Power Level1-23-45-67-89-10
Level I1917151311
Level II-19171513
Level III--191715
Level IV---1917
Level V----19

Gaining New Powers
When a Psychic character earns a new level, he gets a roll on the Psychic Powers chart under the appropriate level to determine whether they earn a new power or ability. If the character rolls a duplicate Psychic Power he may select one from the same level as the duplicate. Rolling a duplicate Psychic Ability allows its usage more times per day.

New Psychic Powers
Psychic Level
Power Level1-23-45-67-89-10
Level I01-9501-5001-3301-3301-33
Level II-51-9534-6634-5434-49
Level III--67-9555-7550-65
Level IV---76-9566-80
Level V----81-95
Psychic Ability96-0096-0096-0096-0096-00

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Psychic Class

This is the first of two posts detailing Psychics and their abilities for the World of Onn. This post will cover the class specifics and the second part will cover the mechanics for using psychic powers and abilities.

Hit Dice Type: 1d6 per level. After 9th level, +1 hit point per level.
Armor/Shield Permitted: Light armor; Light and Medium shields.
Weapons Permitted: Hand Axe, Club, Dagger, Flail, Light Mace, Spear, Staff, Short Sword, Short Bow, Light Crossbow, Dart, Sling.
Prime Attribute: Charisma, 5% experience bonus for 13+.
Attack Table: As per Clerics.

Some characters possess the ability to make things happen by an act of tremendous will. They have no training in the clerical or mystical arts, but yet exhibit a talent others unfamiliar with would call magic. An experienced Psychic character can be as powerful as any other regular spellcaster and some hide behind the guise of magic to protect their secret.

Psychic characters can be intelligent and wise, but it is the force of their personality that drives their powers. Due to the conflicted nature of the Charisma statistic, a character (especially a Psychic) with a high Charisma may not readily possess good looks or an abundance of wit or charm, but something makes people take notice of the Psychic. It does not always have to be definable or may sometimes be deemed that a Psychic has a presence or creepiness you can just feel when looking at them.

Psychic Class Abilities

Manifesting (1st level): A Psychic has the ability to manifest his psychic powers a total of 1 time per day, plus the character’s Charisma adjustment, plus half the total number of powers he knows. A starting Psychic has access to 1d2+1 powers. At each new level, the player rolls to determine his new psychic ability or alteration, if any. Because psychic ability is not a learned path, Psychics gain their powers in a haphazard, random manner.

Sixth Sense Psychic Ability (1st Level): Psychics can feel the threat of immediate danger just before it happens and possibly react. If the Psychic’s party is attacked from surprise or a trap is sprung, the Psychic gains an Ego saving throw. If the saving throw is successful, the Psychic may act immediately to shield an adjacent character from an attack or pull a character that will be affected by a trap out of harm’s way or some other similar reaction to the feeling. This will doubtlessly put the Psychic in harm’s path, with any applicable saving throws allowed or attack rolls made. If the Psychic reacts with their own self-preservation in mind, they gain a +1 bonus to any saving throw allowed or a -1[+1] bonus to AC against any attack roll made in the surprise round.

Psychic Power Research (1st level): A Psychic may meditate on and practice a power he doesn’t have for at least a month and spend time researching knowledge of it at a cost of 1,000gp per Power Level squared. At the end of the research time, the player adds his character’s Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma adjustments and his level and must roll 1d100 against the total. If he rolls under his total, he may choose his researched power when he gains a new level when he is high enough in level to manifest it.

Psychic Item Creation (1st level): Psychics with access to a meditation chamber may imprint a power into a small crystal (called a Power Stone) or a crystal rod (called a Focus) and use it as a 1-shot magic item, much like a potion or wand, using the following rules:

  • A power can be imprinted into a small crystal and affect any who will the stone to use its imprinted power. Only powers with a range of Personal or Touch can be imprinted into a power stone. The crystal used costs 100gp per Power Level squared and requires 1 day per Power Level to imprint.

  • A power can be imprinted into a focus for use by the Psychic or another of his class. Only powers with a range of Touch or greater can be imprinted into a focus. Foci cost 250gp per Power Level squared and takes 1 week, plus 1 day per Power Level to create. Foci created have 4d6+4 uses before burning out.
The Psychic has a chance of successfully performing one of these tasks equal to 20% plus 5% per level, minus 5% per Power Level, on a d100. If a 100 is rolled, a psychic backlash is caused, inflicting 1d6 points of damage per Power Level on the Psychic. All failures ruin the item to be created and require the Psychic to begin over from the start.

10Psychic390,000+1 hp657
11Psychic500,000+2 hp546
12Psychic610,000+3 hp546
13Psychic720,000+4 hp546
14Psychic830,000+5 hp546
15+Psychic+110,000+1 hp546

The Psychic will appear in the forth-coming World of Onn: Core Rules Companion Supplement and levels above 15 will be covered in that volume as well.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Short Leave

There won't be any more posts until Monday. I'm kicking it new school with the 3.5 Saturday group and doing the family thing for Easter. Everyone enjoy the holiday if you observe it (or are kindly forced to by others)!

Friday, April 02, 2010

About the Logo

It is worth noting (and I can't believe I didn't before), that the 'ranger' of Rogue Ranger Games pictured in the logo is myself (ok, that isn't the important part), and the picture was taken by Ms. Kimberly Nicholson at Rocky Ridge State Park, here in York County, Pennsylvania. In the middle of August in a heat wave, I'm dressed up in one of my Renn Faire outfits with my favorite rapier and sword-breaker and a black cloak. Let me tell you, a black cloak in the middle of horrid heat is NOT the way to go...

Ms. Nicholson has a few artistic talents and her photography from that day has given another gift to Onn.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Core Rules Review

The Core Rules got it's first review at In Like Flynn:

If you're on the fence about getting your own copy, Lulu has a promo going on today only! Use the code APRILFOOLS and you'll recieve 10% off!