Friday, March 31, 2017

How to Create and Manage a Monster Character.


This discussion is a re-think of Arneson's notes from his first fantasy campaign on the topic of monster player characters.  By re-think I mean looking at the general principle rather than the specific formula Arneson gives.

" There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e. a player wishing to be a Balrog would have to begin as let us say, a "young" one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee. " Men & Magic, 74:8

In the section Titled "How to Become a Bad Guy" (pg 78 of the 1977 edition, p52 0f the 1980) Dave Arneson tells us that the "facts" he's about to give us on "bad guy" monster characters were specifically for "small group...Hero Type" monsters. 

Nothing is said at all regarding large group monsters.

Likely, this is because "large group" monsters - aka "normal" types, need little or no new rules.  They can and should be treated just the same as the "large group" monsters that are already player character types - I'm referring here to elves and dwarves.  Similar, low Hit Die tribal monsters, like orcs and goblins and what have you, can be treated the same as dwarves or humans, more or less, and be played as any of the usual classes you allow. Tweak as you please, but definetly  have non-heroic monsters progress in classes exactly the same as men, or elves, or dwarves.

 It is only heroic type monsters that need special considerations beyond the normal class system.  Those large hit dice creatures - the Balrogs and the trolls and the ogres etc. present a special case.  Here is where Arneson tells us to start:

"...divide all  HD by 1/2 (AC and the rest stays the same). "

At face value, this isn't very practical.  If you want to play a 13 HD Herex (giant insect), as you well might, starting off as a "first level" 6 HD monster is wonky at best, a game wrecker at worst.

So here's where I want to start throwing out some specifics and just look at the principles. 

If a hero is 4 times the strength of a normal man, then shouldn't a 1st level fantastic "hero-type" monster also be 1/4 the strength of usual monster?  That would mean dividing HD by 4 instead of 2 to get the base, starting HD, and that is certainly far more workable.  Our Herex will now begin life as a 3 HD character.  Powerful compared to a human, but not outrageously so.

Let's look at what Arneson says next.
" To progress to the next level (which in Blackmoor meant getting 50% more HD per level, although our combat system did not really use HD).  To figure out when you got to a higher level, you took the creature's Hit Dice (whatever it was on that level) and AC and multiplied by 1000 for the points needed to progress to 2nd level. After 2nd level, the creature would simply need 50% more points for each subsequent level: 2000, 3.000, 4500, 6,750, etc.  A creature could never become more than ten times as powerful as its 1st level type."

The formula Arneson gives here for XP is nonsensical.  I won't go into why but the gist of it can be found here LINK HERE

It can be made workable if you reverse the AC numbers so 9=2, 8=3, etc., but whether you try to follow this formula to come up with the XP requirements or create them through some other means, what is most important to note here is that Arneson is talking about RACE AS CLASS.

The principle here is that all hero-type, small group, fantasy creatures are a CLASS unto themselves, and each one must be handled separately as a new class by the referee, with its own custom XP chart and its own power progression.

Arneson then tells us, by way of example, to have a look at Richard Snider's dragons found in another section of the FFC. (page 83 in the 77 print)  There are 6 dragon types listed there and each type has 10 levels - apparently a reflection of Arneson's never "ten times more powerful" rule.  Snider's dragons are not meant to be player characters, so there are no experience points given, but it would be easy enough to create an XP table to go along with the dragon level table.

There's not much point in reproducing the dragon stats here, but what we do see in them is an increase in HD, in the damage and range of their breath weapon, in the speed of flight, and in size, with each increase in level.


That progression is all custom designed by Richard Snider, and that's the lesson really.  Any monster, even a dragon can be made into a player character.  For tribal type, low hit die "normal" monsters they can simply progress in the normal classes, but when it is a fantasy creature, a "small group Hero type" the dungeon master will have to design the level progression themselves on a customized basis.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Making Sense of Encumbrance in OD&D

The guidelines for Encumbrance in OD&D can be found primarily on page 15 of Men and Magic.  They are quite sparse.  We are given the weight that can be carried in GP for three movement rates per turn.  The slowest rate is 6" carrying a weight of 1500 coins or 150 lbs - equivalent to Armored foot rate.  Heavy foot rate (6")  allows 1000 coins/100 lbs, and light foot movement (12") can be achieved with up to 750 coins/75 lbs of weight.

These same values apparently apply to all characters, and while that's certainly simple, it seems a bit strange that someone with the strength of a child can carry just as much as a barbarian warrior. 

In order to add the sort of granularity that would distinguish wimp from warrior within the existing guidelines, we would have to know exactly who the M&M figures are supposed to be for.  Specifically, are they representative of the typical Strength 10 character or are they representative of the strongest possible Str 18 character?

In cases like this, I will sometimes look for clarification in Dave Arneson's  and Richard Snider's Adventures in Fantasy(TM) game from 1978.  AiF is d100 based, so a direct correlation shouldn't be expected, but there is often a principle that can be brought to bear.  In this case, Arneson says "...roughly 2 lbs of weight can be carried without difficulty (the maximum being 200 lbs. for a character with a strength of 100.)  Without physical training the character can only use 75% of his strength rating."  (AiF Bk1 p2,3)   The training referred to here is a special weightlifting training detailed in the book.   So, unless your character is a professional weightlifter, the most even the strongest of men can carry without suffering a steep fatigue penalty is 150 lbs.  That's just the same as the maximum weight in Men & Magic.  

So from the perspective of at least one of D&D's creators 1500 coins/150 lbs. should be the maximum a Strength 18 character can lug around without a fatigue penalty. 

Now, in D&D terms, the point spread between 3-18 is 16 pips of course, so if we accept that 150 lbs is the maximum weight a person with a strength of 18 can carry (without fatigue penalties) then we have a figure of 9.375 lbs (93.75 coins) per strength point for D&D.  

The table derived from this approach would look about like this:
Strength Score

Full Strength Load Foot Movement (6")
Up to 2/3 strength Load Heavy Foot Movement (9")
Up to 1/2 Strength Load  Light Foot Movement (12")

COINS/LBS.
COINS/LBS.
COINS/LBS.
3
94/9
62/6
47/5
4
188/19
125/13
94/9
5
281/28
185/19
141/14
6
375/38
248/25
188/19
7
469/47
310/31
235/24
8
563/56
372/37
282/28
9
656/66
433/43
328/33
10
750/75
495/50
375/38
11
844/84
557/56
422/42
12
938/94
619/62
469/47
13
1031/103
680/68
516/52
14
1125/113
743/74
563/56
15
1219/122
805/81
610/61
16
1313/132
867/87
657/66
17
1406/141
928/93
703/70
18
1500/150
990/99
750/75


It is important to stress that these encumbrance figures are not a measure of how much a character could lift or even carry for a short distance while staggering under the weight.  They are how much a character can carry without undue difficulty and becoming fatigued.  

There are no real guidelines for Fatigue in OD&D, but there are in CHAINMAIL.  For Champions of ZED, I combined these with fatigue rules Arneson gave in his Garbage Pits of Despair adventure (part 1, M3), as follows "Strength and Dexterity suffer a -1. Fatigued characters must also subtract 2 from all attack rolls and damage rolls, drop 1 Morale Condition automatically, before any throws are made, and drop to 1/3 normal movement rate."

No doubt, some player at some point will try to have their character limp, grunt and puff along at 4" per turn carrying as much as they possibly can.  If the referee is inclined to allow this - for comedy if nothing else, AiF does give some guidence regarding both the maximum load possible and how quickly fatigue sets in as follows "(at) 25% or more of his normal burden, the fatigue rate is doubled, and at 50% it is tripled.  A character cannot carry more than 150%..."(AiF Bk1 p2,3)

In D&D, a character can normally travel 5 turns without fatigue.  Thus applying the AiF rule, a character overloaded by 25% could travel 3 (2.5 rounded up) turns normally, and a 50% burden would allow only 1 turn of unfatigued movement.   
And even the strongest of the strong couldn't take a step if they were trying to carry 375 pounds or more. 

Now as a side note, I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of Gus L's encumbrance method, Details Here  so I've also worked up a table listing the 2/3 and 1/2 amounts of the Strength score itself .  This way players using Gus's method having a character with a strength of 10 will know they can carry 5 "significant things" and keep a movement rate of 12" or 7 significant things and move at 9" per turn.


Strength Score

Full Strength Load Foot Movement (6")
Up to 2/3 strength Load Heavy Foot Movement (9")
Up to 1/2 Strength Load  Light Foot Movement (12")

# Significant Things
# Significant Things
# Significant Things
3
3
2
1
4
4
3
2
5
5
4
3
6
6
4
3
7
7
5
4
8
8
5
4
9
9
6
5
10
10
7
5
11
11
8
6
12
12
8
6
13
13
9
7
14
14
9
7
15
15
10
8
16
16
11
8
17
17
11
9
18
18
12
9

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Converting the FFC swords to OD&D.


Following up on my post here The First Magic Swords , this will be a look at how to convert them to an OD&D game.  Certainly there's an appeal to the idea of using these swords in an "old school" game today, especially if your game is set in Blackmoor.   For example, I've been adapting the lower level of Arneson's Blackmoor Dungeon to OD&D, where some of these swords appear in their original form.  This conversion method would also work for any new swords created using the old method.

Of course, the FFC swords could be used as is, but they are quite different from the standard swords and don't integrate well with other magic weapons that might be floating around in your campaign.
 
As it happens, the same problem was faced when TSR published Adventures in Blackmoortm for use with the BECMI classic rules by Frank Mentzer.  There are at least three of the FFC swords present in the Rogues and Rascals section of AiB: 

Bolitho's "White" sword
Svenny's "Maroon" 
Philo's "Weasel" (this last is apparently sword "M" in the FFC).  

These three swords were converted to BeCMI stats, and while not exactly the same as standard OD&D, these conversions can provide a good guide to follow.

I won't bore you with the exact stats for each - you can of course look them up if you like.  Instead, lets jump straight to the meat.

First, in the FFC there's a clear power differentiation between the Lettered swords and the Colored swords, with the colored swords being the more powerful and more magical. Accordingly,  AiB converted each differently into the standard D&D "+" rating.

Lettered swords convert to +1 and to +3 versus "Double Value" enemies. 

Colored swords convert to +2 , and to +3 versus "Double Value" enemies. 

Double "doubles values" in the FFC were simply ignored, and several similar monsters were converted into a single type like "undead".   The AiB conversion also sometimes ignores some of the FFC double value monsters - Balrogs for instance - but I would include them for OD&D.

Determining Intelligence:
The original FFV swords don't have an intelligence or an ego rating and with only three cases to look at, it is impossible to say for certain how the AiB numbers were arrived at.  The FFC swords do have an intelligence increase bonus that is granted to the wielder, and I note that if you add 6 to that bonus you get the Intelligence scores listed in AiB.  However, that's not really going to work for us.

The reason why has to do with how Intelligence determines the number of Primary Powers in OD&D.  In fact each pip of intelligence above 7 adds a new Primary Power.  In the FFC, the "Special Values" each sword has are equivalent to the Primary Powers of an OD&D sword, so for the Swords Intelligence score to match its number of primary powers the score has to be a specific minimum number.  Here is a conversion table:

#SV
INT


1
7
2
8
3
9
4
10
4 + magic
11

12

Where a sword has a double or more Special Value, I treated each case as an additional power.  To convert these to OD&D terms is a case by case thing but will usually involve doubling the distance or power of the effect.

Determining Ego:
For Ego, we can look at the existing scores for the FFC and come up with a number that matches the ego scores given for the three swords found in AiB.  Now I doubt very much that the method I detail below is what TSR actually did (they probably just rolled a new one) but using this method allows the use of the original numbers found in the FFC, and will give you a consistent conversion rather than a random one.

So to determine the swords Ego, add the FFC swords Combat Increase score to the Strength score and divide by 2 (round up).

Magic Ability:
OD&D swords don't normally have spell casting ability, but it fits in just fine, and I keep this feature of the FFC sword in my campaign.  If desired, the DM could drop this ability in exchange for an extraordinary power.  Magic ability requires a minimum 11 Intelligence.

In the FFC, Arneson himself tells us how to handle it for D&D, "Magic Spells (Referee determines it secretly) - roll once for level of the spell using a 6 sided die and then roll again on the standard basic spell list for that level to determine which spells are being carried on the sword." (77:67)

Alignment:
The FFC swords apparently had an alignment, as we know from Greg Svenson.  Unfortunetly that information is not in the FFC, so you simply have to roll for it again, following the usual proceedure.


That's all there is to it.  Here are two examples of converted swords:

A (Neutral)
+1
+3 vs Dragons, Undead, Elementals, Balrogs
Int 9
Ego 5
Powers:
Detect Evil, Cause Morale Check -1 (100'), Detect Magic

 "Green" (Neutral) ,
+2
+3 vs Lycanthropes, Goblins, Ogres, Trolls, Elementals, Orcs, Balrogs
Int 9
Ego 6
Powers:
Detect Invisible 120'. Detect Magic, Cause Morale Check -1 (100')