Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baskets of Notes

Was just looking at some old post and thinking about how far we've come in getting a better handle on those early days of D&D. 

For a very long time, just about everyone, myself included, bought into the message to varying degrees that Arneson was a hack who got more than he deserved.   Twas said he couldn’t write, didn’t write and was just some sloppy idea guy guilty of sour grapes.

Of course, old Dave really was a decent and kind gentleman and actually a pretty good writer, and his writings, if somewhat obscure, are clear and cogent.  Give me Trapman over LA anyday.

A lot of hay has been made over Tim Kask talking about the difficult task he faced when handed a “basketful of notes” that contained an apparently haphazard collection of materials for Supplement II.

Dave likely was a bit haphazard with his notes but the whole thing with Supplement II "basket of notes" is misleading.

Baskets holding project materials were standard operating proceedure at TSR in the early days, and the basket in question had been collected and futzed over by Brian Blume as the original editor on the project.    Its likely that the material Arneson had mailed in contained a manuscript and table of monsters (the Giant creatures), the Hit location section, the TotF, The disease section, and a character class manuscript with Assasin, Sage, and maybe Monk.  The rest of the material likely was a jumble of notes from Brian Blum and disparate materials written by Steve Marsh.  Its not fair to blame Arneson for that, but it is to Tims credit that he pulled it all together into a nifty little book.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Secrets of Monster Manual

The AD&D Monster Manual occupies an interesting space in D&D history.  Interesting because it was published years before the rules for the “Advanced” game itself.  Mike Carr’s 1977 introduction – only 3 years after D&D was published and roughly contemporary with Arnesons publication of the FFC – mentions D&D 13 times to AD&D’s 4 times.
Its been observed that the MM falls somewhere between OD&D and AD&D in conformity to the rules, and many regard it as an OD&D supplement with a few extras and indeed, for several years until the publication of the AD&D players handbook, it effectively was.
Mostly, that’s just an artifact of curiosity, but there exists on page five and the top of page 6 a mostly forgotten and rarely sited section called “Explanatory Notes” by Gary Gygax.  This little section has information not found in other OD&D or AD&D books (excepting Dieties and Demigods, where it is largely repeated verbatim), that goes a long way to clarifying the intentions behind a number of the OD&D monster stats that directly relate to in game play choices.  In Particular:
FREQUENCY:  Now this is an interesting stat.  For example, we are told a rare creature has an 11% chance of appearing in an “area or region”.   This seems to be unused information.  I suppose you could look at the tables of all the creatures that might be in a given kind of area – mountains lets say – roll percentiles repeatedly until you had narrowed the creatures to one “frequency” type - Rare lets say - and then roll against the list of rare creatures to find the one encountered.  I don’t think anybody really did this nor do I get the sense that the random encounter tables in the DMG are really keyed with this stat in mind (although they could be, I dunno).
NUMBER APPEARING:  Not explained.  We are told it is an “average” “guideline””to be altered … as the need arises”.  We are also told “It is not generally recommended for use in establishing the population of Dungeon Levels.”
So, what does it represent?  Well, looking back to Frequency, we could safely assume the number appearing is the population in “a region or area where it might be an inhabitant”.  This could mean a “region” of a dungeon level, presumably but not usually an entire level.
The alternative meaning is that Number Appearing is how many monsters would be randomly encountered if PCs stumbled onto them as wandering monsters.  This is how many have understood it.
Hmm, lets look a little further and see if there are more clues.
% IN LAIR:  We’ve looked at this one back in August, but here is something else interesting “…where it domiciles and stores its Treasure.  If a monster encountered is not in its lair it will not have any treasure unless it carries “individual” treasure…”
Which ties in to:
TREASURE:  these are the types listed on a table which can appear with a monster listing.  About these types Gygax writes that they “… are only found in lairs of monsters as found above.”; and “The use of treasure type to determine the treasure guarded by a creature in a dungeon is not generally recommended.”
Frequency covers “an area or region”
Treasure Types are meant for the domicile (Lair) in an area or region, not an individual creature and not as an isolated dungeon treasure of the sort used when placing a monster in a room.
Number Appearing should represent the creatures who will have the assigned treasure type in an area or region.  Otherwise, there is a guide given for region, a lair, and treasure to be found, but none for how many inhabitants may be found there.  If somehow the Number Appearing was not meant to function in harmony with the other stats but referred to wandering, out of lair encounters it would make more sense to list individual treasures for the wanderers, not lair treasures for the unknown number of the “domicile” population.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Book of Elder Magic

is now available here http://sites.fastspring.com/apriorcrs/product/thebookofeldermagic

and in print on Lulu.

So, what's this thing Boggs?  Well, it started as a fairly obvious idea: convert all the spells from Dragons at Dawn and Supplement into use for OD&D and then collect them (the non redundant ones anyway) together with all the OD&D spells prepared for Champions of ZED.  Create a nice little booklet for use at the table.  This was something I wanted for my games.  So that's what I started to do.  Then I thought, "Hey, the Dave Arneson Blackmoor books have OGL spells and some of them are kinda cool, why not convert them to OD&D so they get some use in the OSR?"  So I went through the Blackmoor books and started picking cherries.

Then I thought "Hmm, what about Dave's players creations - Fred Funks Freds World, Richard Sniders Powers and Perils, and Dave Megarry's Pentantastar?  And there's still a bit left to mine out of Adventures in Fantasy too...."  For Freds World I got permission to use a few spells; the others, being very different systems and being non OGL material could not be direct sources, but could serve as sources of inspiration in a few instances.

I ended up with a whoping lot of spells.  There's some 57 pages worth.

For good measure, I also threw in some of D@D supplement I magic notes, adapted to OD&D play; the reworked and expanded section on Spell Books from Holmes to Level 12, and the Dragons at Dawn spell magic redone as an Alchemist class, matching Arneson's brief notes on the class.

It's good stuff, and directly portable into any of the Classic or OD&D retroclones.  I'll be getting a lot of use out of this one, and maybe some of you will too.

I's in standard (US) 8.5 * 11 paper size, because that seemed the most practical.  I'll be converting my pdf to booklet when I print, so I left the font big enough (11 point) so as to still be legible, for those who may wish to do the same.

Monday, October 17, 2011

HE - Spaceship Combat

Okeydoke, the last adjustment I mentioned for Humanspace Empires that I thought should be addressed in the playtest rules, is a short section on space ship combat (the “aerial” rules).   I whipped up something short and sweet pretty easily a while back, mostly by using free stuff (Fokker) that’s already out there as a model.  But I hit a snag and left it sit for a bit.  The snag is that given space ships are fighting in 3D space, some maneuver rules are in order, but its been a long time since I played Star Fleet Battles or anything like it and don’t feel I have the proper experience to gauge the maneuver rules without a good bit of research and playtesting.

So..  I let it sit.  But then it occurred to me to just put up the rules I wrote and see if any of you out ther have ideas for the maneuvers.  So here goes:

Aerial/space rules for Humanspace Empires
Conduct aerial/space combat on a printed hexagonal grid.  Each combatant must have a figure and small marker next to it indicating altitude. 
Each turn roll 1d6 for each aerial combatant on both sides.  Add to this any piloting bonuses or other bonuses that may apply.  The combatant with the lowest score must move first, the next lowest second, and so on. If two or more combatants have the same score, roll again between them to decide their place in the move order.


Movement is alternate, and includes maneuvers.  A flyer may move any amount of their movement allowance in all possible directions, or none if they are able to hover/remain stationary.

Maneuvers are “trick” movements and can be specific to the aerial combatant, some having better looping or turning ability, for example.  However, for a simpler game the combatants may be treated as the same and use the default maneuver information given below.  Each maneuver has a movement factor and a direction factor, and may entail an altitude change.  For example, to perform a loop the flyer may have to move ¼ movement allowance forward and ½ backward, rising to a distance of 100 meters before returning to 0 or less.  Some well know maneuvers are:

1)      Immelman turn
2)      Loop
3)      Halt


Marksmanship: Characters who have received intensive training may have a Marksmanship bonus, but all others will start at 0.  For each confirmed kill in game, the victor will receive a +1 to Marksmanship.  There is no limit.

All combat takes place when all movement of all participants is completed. 

Aerial combatants with projectile or distance weapons may fire at the end of everyone's movement.  Each at a single target 30° either side of forward.

Rear gunners may also fire at 90° either side of backward (this may be a different target).

To calculate number of hits roll 1d6 and consult the following table:

Use the table appropriate to the targets Armor Class and roll 1d6.  Check attackers Marksmanship column, against the column giving the results of the die roll to determine hits.  For each hit indicated, roll appropriate damage. 
Apply any + or – attack modifiers, such as that for magic weapons, to the Marksmanship of the attacker.  Further, it is recommended that a +3(Point Blank), +2(Short), +1(Medium), 0(Long) and -3(Extreme) be applied to the attackers Marksmanship.    Subtract any defensive bonus from the number of damage dice to be rolled, meaning, for example, a shot fired against a +1 shield would require 1 six sided die be removed from the number of dice thrown for damage.

Armor Class 9
Armor Class 8-5

Armor Class 4-2







            The number of hits shown in the table represents individual strikes (missles, bullets, destructo rays, etc.) and may be divided among the possible targets in range or directed against a single target as the player desires.  If more than one target is chosen, the shooter must have a sufficient number of the projectiles, of course.
If the player targets opponents of varying AC types, they may take away one or more successful hit(s) from one armor class group for a hit against the other group or an attempt to roll against the second group if a miss is possible, but if the second hit is also successful it will only count as one hit, regardless of the numbers in the table.


Aerial combatants may also attack with projectile or distance weapons.  This is called strafing and is accomplished as against a flying target above.  

The above is a mash-up of the “Fokker” WWI combat rules, the OD&D Aerial combat rules, and the Champions of ZED projectile rules.  Marksmanship replaces CoZ Fighting Capability. – D.H. Boggs

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rescue Lotsa!

I hope everyone had as great a holiday weekend as I did.  This weekend was the annual Council of Five Nations – the worlds second oldest gaming convention after Gencon, so they say – held by the Schenectady Wargamers Association, and it was a blast.  I ran two events and participated in another – a playtest of Adventurer, Conqueror, King run by Tavis Allison.
I’m not much for after action reports for game sessions.  My eyes tend to glaze over when I try to read them and I write them even less often.  But such a great weekend deserves a little tale telling.
The First game I ran was a Dragons at Dawn event recreating one of the earliest Blackmoor adventures.  In 1971 Dave Wesely was home on leave from the army and joined Dave Arneson and the Boys on an expedition into the dungeons of Blackmoor.  Orcs had recently driven out Baron Fant and taken over the place.  Somehow they had also managed to kidnap Lotsa, daughter of the Elven king.  The elves promptly surrounded the place with an army and offered 10,000 GP and marriage to Lotsa (temporarily) to any rescuer.
For players I had only one of my usual D@D crowd, but once we had all our characters rolled up and the stragglers all setteled we got off to a great start.  SWA’s resident grognard (played D&D since 74) led the gang as Atroz the hedge knight and wasted little time with all the obvious passages and quickly discovered the elevators in the basement pillars.
I won’t do a step by step, but its fascinating to watch an experienced group of players make all the right moves and use the right tools to get the job done.  I guessed finding Lotsa in a 20 level dungeon might be a bit challenging, but the wizard used a location spell to discover an object known to have been in Lotsa’s possession when she disappeared.  A captured orc in the general area and use of a ward on a passageway to block the chasing hordes, and a tranqulize spell on a unruly Lotsa are some of the highlights.  In short, mission accomplished and a great time had by all.  Oh, and twas the lady wizard who won the bride….
Mention should also be made of the next game I ran.  Dave Arneson’s Haunted Lighthouse using OD&D, CoZ rules.  That was interesting in that I had 11 players at the table, 4 of whom were youngsters with their parents.  Again, efficient play ruled the day with the group sussing out and destroying the baddie (Atroz pushed him off a ledge into the nethervoid) with only one fatality.
And to round out the Blackmoor goodness of the con, Travis, unbeknownst to me, set his ACKS playtest in Blackmoor dungeon.  I might be proud to say that the humble Mage I played was one of only two characters to survive, escaping unscathed, except that was mostly due to hiding in the back and running like heck.  At least I wasn’t the player who managed to get killed twice by the same monster…..    Good Times.