Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Running a Blackmoor style Wilderness:


Maps
Ubiquitous to original style roleplaying is the map.  For the upper world, just as in the dungeon, the players will have a mostly blank sheet of paper.  The referees map will be fuller - full enough to cover at least the evenings’ gaming.   Since the players themselves draw their own map as they go along, if they draw something wrong, or make a wrong guess about some location, the referee should only correct them unless it's an obvious mistake the characters wouldn't make.

The referee’s map will have a few fixed locations, more or less fleshed out – key villages or ruins or whatever it may be, as in the Loch Gloomen example, but at least some of the referee’s map should remain undetermined in terms of the inhabitants and their lairs.  This is because the encounter roll is a key feature of wilderness adventure.

Checks
Ultimately, how often and when an encounter check should be made is a decision the referee must make.  For overland travel Underworld and Wilderness Adventures dictates but one check and that at the end of the day.  This method would seem to miss opportunities as characters travel en route.  The First Fantasy Campaign does not specify how often to check, but the underlying assumption seems clearly to be that a new check will be made for every 10 mile Hex entered.  Adventures in Fantasy is more explicit however, “The area is a 10 x 10 mile section” (Book of Adventure p 28) and “For each area traveled there will be one die cast… to determine if anything is encountered by the party during that day.  …each party traveling (horse or foot) one Area per day.  (Optionally, a completely mounted force could travel two Areas per day.  All water movement is three Areas per day (three chances for an encounter)…” (ibid p. 36)  Travel rates in the FFC are also  one 10 * 10 mile hex per day for open areas but are half as much for woods and deserts, and cut by 2/3 for mountains and swamps.

Personally I prefer to check once per 5 mile hex entered, regardless.


% Lair
When the players enter a Hex. I do an encounter roll, and then if positive a % Lair roll to see if the party has found a lair or just some of the lair inhabitants. If the characters have found a monster but not its’ lair, the lair will still be somewhere in that hex from that moment forward.

The Monster
So far the approach followed is about the same as in OD&D, but the next step in OD&D would be to  roll a d6 encounter chance die followed by a d8 on the "Encounter types" table (animals, flyers, lycans, etc.) followed by a d12 on the monster lists under each type.  Back in 1971, Arneson simply rolled a d20 on a single table that had some specific monsters (Ogres, Trolls etc.) and some blank spaces indicating no encounter; see Encounter Matrix I, (FFC 1977, p 34).  My approach is a compromise.  I use the category titles created for Champions of ZED, (because they are a little more flexible than the “flyers” or “giants” of D&D), but I’ve put them into Dave’s Blackmoor encounter matrix to create Blackmoor style wilderness and encounter chances, while allowing for a greater variety of monsters.  So for example, where in Dave’s table he had “ghouls” I put “undead” in mine; where he had “goblin” I put “Humanoid” (called Giant in OD&D) and so forth.   Non-Hmnd (non-humanoid) encompasses the OD&D categories of Flyers, Swimmers, and Animals, but also includes any kind of monster that does not fall into one of the other categories, such as Medusae or Basilisks.   Trolls were the only really tricky one to deal with on Arnesons table.  I categorized trolls/ogres as humanoid, and True Trolls as Non-humanoid, mostly because it seemed to work better that way.  Here is the table:

D20
OPEN
RIVER
MOUNTAIN
DESERT
WOODS
SWAMP
1
Lycan
Lycan
Non-Hmnd
Dragon
Humanoid
Lycan
2
Undead
Humanoid
Dragon
Lycan
Humanoid
Humanoid
3
Humanoid
Non-Hmnd
Undead
Undead
Lycan
Non-Hmnd
4
Human
Undead
Dragon
Non-Hmnd
Humanoid
Humanoid
5
Lycan
Humanoid
Humanoid
Humanoid
Non-Hmnd
Undead
6
Human
Human
Lycan
Human
Non-Hmnd
Non-Hmnd
7
Non-Hmnd
Undead
Humanoid
Non-Hmnd
Undead
Humanoid
8

Non-Hmnd
Non-Hmnd
Human
Non-Hmnd
Human
9


Humanoid
Human
Humanoid
Non-Hmnd
10


Undead

Human
Dragon*
11


Humanoid

Lycan

12


Human

Lycan

13


Non-Hmnd

Humanoid

14


Non-Hmnd

Non-Hmnd

15






16






17






18






19






20








So from this table, go to the specific list and either pick or roll for the exact monster.  A d20 result landing on an empty space indicates no encounter.  Note: I cheated with the dragon in the swamp.  Earth elemental was listed twice here in Arnesons list, and it really seemed that a dragon should be there somewhere.

Enjoy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Howling Wilderness



As others have remarked (see this excellent write-up by Wayne Rossi for example http://initiativeone.blogspot.com/2013/05/od-setting-posts-in-pdf.html ) the wilderness given by the rules in OD&D is a wild, fantastic place crawling with nightmarish creatures and punctuated by tiny struggling beacons of civilization.  Generating the monstrous population of this “upper world” wilderland is done through a series of tables.  What distinguishes these tables most from later versions of D&D is that each table is given a creature type category and each type is generated on a separate table first.  For example, one one might roll “flyers” on the first table and then roll giant eagles on the Flyers table.

But why go through this extra, seemingly superfluous step?  No doubt the reason is to allow a referee to create custom lists of creatures for their wilderness while maintaining the same encounter type frequencies called for in the rules.

The creature types given in the rules are:

Men
Flyers
Undead
Giant (kind)
Lycanthrope
Animal
Swimmer
Dragon (kind)

All the monsters and characters of D&D fall into one or other of these categories, (possibly more than one) and all these categories have a pretty wide variety of creatures – except for Lycanthropes.  Lycanthropes are the most specific of the categories, having the least members – only 4 in the 3lbbs.  Why aren’t lycanthropes simply folded into the “men” category or some other?  Perhaps the answer is simply a result of Gygax and Arneson’s conceptualization of the category types.  In the entry on vampires, Lycanthropes are stressed as a separate type not to be confused with undead.  I suppose the logic was that if they are neither undead nor normal men they must be a separate type, more or less by default.  The upshot is that using the OD&D wilderness tables as is will give a much higher occurrence of the four kinds of lycans than any other monster. 

Perhaps though, there’s a little more to the story than simply a fluke of classification.  The wilderness encounter tables of OD&D appear to be derived and expanded from Dave Arneson’s “Encounter Matrix I”, a copy of which can be found at the start of the “Into The Great Outdoors” section of First Fantasy Campaign.  Encounter Matrix I is a d20 table Dave Arneson came up with in the very early days of Blackmoor to generate random monster encounters when the Blackmoor players first began to leave the dungeons and explore the countryside.  The derivation of the D&D wilderness encounter table from Encounter Matrix I is fairly obvious in that both have exactly the same location categories except that D&D adds one new terrain category “cities”.   An important distinction however is that the FFC list has only individual monsters taken from the CHAINMAIL miniatures rules – Ogres, trolls goblins, air elementals etc., instead of the creature type categories of D&D.  Both lists however share the category “Lycanthropes” in common.  Perhaps even more interesting, Lycanthropes occur most frequently in woods on both lists, at very nearly the same frequency 21.4% (FFC) to 25% (D&D).  So the curios  abundance of lycans in the D&D wilderness appears to be as much a carryover from the early Blackmoor wilderness as anything else.


Now I don’t want to get carried away with this.  Undead for example appear more often in Arnesons’ lists than in the OD&D list.  There are ghouls and “wrights” in the Mountains in the Blackmoor wilderness where as no undead are listed in D&Ds mountains, but the general character of the Blackmoor wilderness does seem to have set the stage from which the D&D wilderness was crafted and the predominance of Lycanthropes appears to be an artifact of this relationship going to the earliest milieus of the game.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stocking Blackmoor Adventures in 1972

After “messing up” the defence of Blackmoor during the great Coot invasion in the spring of 1972,  the Blackmoor players were banished to the area of Loch Gloomen (Lake Gloomy).

We are fortunate this happened, because it led Dave Arneson to create new stocking tables for the buildings and ruins found in the area.  Unlike whatever stocking tables Dave made for Blackmoor dungeon, these tables survive, mostly intact, though in a jumbled format on pages 86 and 87, 1977 print of the First Fantasy Campaign.

In fact we not only have the tables, but we have the results Dave got when he used the tables, which is really useful when sorting out certain lacunae and typos in the tables themselves.  So I’ve sorted it all out, in a much more user friendly fashion.
Note: the tables below only cover the stocking portion, and not the generation and distribution of the adventure areas themselves.

Once the areas to be stocked were known, Dave assigned “Magic” points.  These are in fact what he calls Protection points in Blackmoor dungeon – the points to buy the monsters, not the points to buy the magic items (see yesterday’s discussion). Dave used “magic” and “protection” points separately in Blackmoor dungeon, but here the term is conflated.  For further confusion, Arneson’s notes specify the point range for any given adventure area as 30 – 180 (3d6 * 10) but the lists themselves have nearly double that range (90, 110, 110, 120, 140, 170, 190, 310, 330, 330, 370).  Strangely, there’s nothing in the 200’s. <sigh>

A way to emulate the actual range found in Loch Gloomen would be (3d6 +1) * 10 and I suppose you could add 200 points ¼ of the time.  It’s worth noting here that several different methods seem to have been used on different levels in Blackmoor dungeon and perhaps I’ll ruminate more on that in another posting.   
Once points have been assigned it is time to pick monsters.  Arneson gives us this list for  Lock Gloomen:

2d6
Monster
2
Giant
3
True Troll
4
Roc
5
Air Elemental
6
Ogre
7
Basilisk
8
Goblins
9
Ghouls
10
Lycanthrope
11
Balrog
12
Dragon

No doubt monsters were usually chosen to match the amount of protection points in an area, but clearly they could be diced for also.  The cost of a given monster is as given in CHAINMAIL, however, should one wish to, any monster can be used with this protection point method by using its average hit points as its cost.

In Loch Gloomen, where there were monsters, there were treasures, and every place had a monster.  Here is how Arneson generated the treasure: follow the results on the table below to the subtables indicated.
  

D6

1
Wealth
2
Potions & Amulets*
3
Weaponry
4
Tech and Intel
5
Combination Two of the above
6
Combination Three of the above
*33% chance (1 or 2 on a d6) it is an amulet instead of a potion.  Note what I labeled "Tech and Intel" Arneson had labeled as "Information".

Wealth  = 1d20 +4 times 1000 (4000 – 24000) Gold Pieces.

Potions & Amulets
2D6

2
Shape Changing;
3
ESP
4
Longevity
5
Flying;
6
Strength
7
Sight
8
Obedience (animal)
9
Reaction Time
10
Magic Spells
11
Invisibility
12
Teleportation; (Maximum 6 Turn Durations and 12 Uses)

Note: in the text it reads “Magic 7 Amulets (+1 …2)” – I think this means magic amulets instead of potions on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6. The number seven looks like a typo.


Weaponry
2D6

2
Super Roc, level  8
3
Super Roc, level 4
4
Swords
5
Fireball Wand
6
Super Horse, level 4
7
Swords
8
Armor
9
Bow and Arrows
10
Lightning Bolt Thrower (laser) (Wand)
11
Super Horse,  level 8
12
Bow and Arrows

Note: The fire ball wand is not listed, but there is no listing specified for pip number 5 or for 11 either.  Since fireball wands show up twice in the Lake Gloomen rooms, it must have been in one of these slots.  Also at the spot in the FFC list where one would expect number 11 to be is “super animals 4-8” and notes indicating that horses are at pip slot 6 and Rocs are at pips 3 and 2)  So horses level 8 (lower probability) are presumably at the 11 pip slot where the note was positioned, and level 4 horses at pip slot 6.  So, by default the empty pip slot 5 is where the missing fireball wand must be and that fits with its relatively frequent appearance in Lake Gloomen rooms.

Tech and Intel
2D6

2
Special Devices
3
Flying Machine
4
Teleportation Machine
5
Ancient Books and Manuscripts
6
Clothing, etc.
7
Store of Normal Weapons
8
Ancient Books and Manuscripts
9
Crysta1 Ball
10
Fighting Machine
11
Water Machine
12
Special Devices

Note: Special Devices - I suppose this could be anything, however the only unaccounted treasure found in Lake Gloomen rooms is scrolls of level 3 spells.  Scrolls do not appear anywhere on these tables so I assume the spell scrolls were chosen via Special Devices.  I'd recommend substituting scrolls in the special devices slot  to anyone wanting to use these tables for stocking,