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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!