Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Random Names Magira Style

featured a random name generator based on the names found in the J. E. Holmes basic set of D&D.  It’s a great little tool for coming up with new names and a lot of fun.  I like the idea a lot and have used it a few times with happy results.  One caveat for me though is knowing Holmes D&D didn’t shy away from such campy names as Presto and Boppo or common names like Fred.  I started to think I might like something a little more exotic, foreign and less Holmesian.  That’s when I hit upon the idea of looking to Magira.  Magira is the world collectively created in the late 1960’s in Germany as the location of a character based war and adventure game.  It’s pre D&D European roots seemed like a rich opportunity for a different feel altogether in the names generated.  So I turned to the 1970’s novella about an adventure set in the game world as written by one of the original Magira players, titled “Wargamers World” in the English translation.  Between the character and place names, there was just enough to make the new syllables list given below.  The procedure for using it is otherwise exactly that given on the Zenopus archives blog – repeated here with permission.

First, roll d100 for the # of syllables in the name:
01-10 One syllable (double the last letter if desired)
11-70 Two syllables
71-90 Three syllables
91-100 Four syllables

Syllables can be placed together to form one word, or separated by spaces or hyphens.

Second, roll d100 for each syllable: 
1.        Ma
2.       Gi
3.       Ra
4.      Ci
5.       Jo
6.      Yn
7.       Nis
8.      Wol
9.       San
10.    Or
11.     Hu
12.    Ac
13.     Gra
14.    Mor
15.     Ag
16.    Ur
17.    As
18.    Su
19.    Hon
20.   Dan
21.    En
22.   Ir
23.    On
24.   A
25.    Tar
26.   Cy
27.   Ysh
28.   Mir
29.   Yd
30.   An
31.     Dav
32.    Il
33.    Pesh
34.   Kar
35.    I
36.   Kan
37.    Di
38.   Zan
39.    Gi
40.  Tam
41.    Orn
42.   Tess
43.   El
44.  Ope
45.   Ar
46.  Lil
47.   Pel
48.  Im
49.   Thu
50.   Phel
51.     E
52.    Thars
53.    Torn
54.   Dad
55.    Var
56.   In
57.    Beg
58.   Tis
59.    Heg
60.  Ris
61.    Lin
62.   Hoen
63.   Dis
64.  Mer
65.   Ol
66.  My
67.   Than
68.  Os
69.   Ri
70.   Lo
71.    Ric
72.   Ster
73.    Ic
74.   Sci
75.    Bruss
76.   Cha
77.   Ra
78.   Ter
79.   Ast
80.  Veg
81.    Ti
82.   Son
83.   Lys
84.  Sha
85.   Sorc
86.  Haz
87.   Zon
88.  Rhi
89.   Am
90.   Es
91.    Ran
92.   Ki
93.    Mah
94.   Nib
95.    Ve
96.   Gad
97.   Kron
98.   Ger
99.   Va
100.                        Nad

Finally, if desired add a title (pick or d20):
of the North/South/East/West/City/Hills/Mountains/Plains/Woods/Coast
the Bold/Daring
the Barbarian/Civilized
the Battler
the Black/Blue/Brown/Green/Red/Yellow
the Fearless/Brave
the Fair/Foul/Lovely/Loathsome
the First, Second, Third, Fourth etc (roll d20)
the Gentle/Cruel
the Great
the Merciful/Merciless
the Mighty
the Mysterious/Unknown
the Old/Young/Boy/Girl
the Quick/Slow
the Quiet/Silent/Loud
the Steady/Unready
the Traveller/Wanderer
the Unexpected 
the Hooded/Cloaked/Robed

Sample Magiran names generated randomly:

Thanar
Di
Gadkan
Tornva
Ag
Raope
Zonpel Ran
Tiris
Oshuic
Ma’ag






Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Miscellaneous Treasure

Treasure, and the hunt for it, have been at the heart of D&D since the beginning.  Tables for randomly generating the fantastic wealth to tempt adventurers long have been a staple of the game.  The OD&D treasure types included chances for copper, silver, gold, gems, jewelry and magic items.  AD&D changed these tables but little, adding only electrum to the treasure spectrum.  Conspicuously missing from these lists is a staple of Hollywood style treasure hoards – miscellaneous objects of value, such as tapestries, ivory, works of art and so forth.

When Arneson & Snider wrote Adventures in Fantasy, a lot of old ideas were reworked and repackaged, body types and hit location from Supplement II, for example.  Treasure Types were another idea that received a re-skin.  There are none of the familiar lettered treasure types in AiF, but there is treasure still.  The same categories are there – copper, silver, gold, gems, and jewels, but rather than assign a particular type to particular monsters with varying chances in each category as D&D does, AiF uses a one-size-fits-all 10 x 10 table allowing the possibility of almost any treasure being assigned to any eligible monster.

A different approach, to be sure; but, for the most part, familiar hordes of silver and gold result.  However, of the 100 possible treasure options, 4 contain a new category of either 1 or 2 objects of Miscellaneous treasure.

The category of Miscellaneous Treasure is one of the most interesting and potentially useful distinctions found in AiF.   Basically, it works as follows; when a miscellaneous treasure is called for a roll is made on a table containing these ten categories:

Kegs (various goods)
Tapestry
Tableware
Decorative weaponry
Riding Tack
Clothing
Ivory (raw)
Sculpture
Artwork
Furniture

Except for kegs and ivory, each category has a value modifier that is multiplied times an amount of coin – 5 gp for example – determined randomly on a table.  Some items’ value modifiers are fixed at 1 and some have a range of 1-4 or 1-10, so some items, such as a tapestry can range from a few coppers to thousands of gp in value.

There is also a subtable for the contents of kegs:
Iron
Copper
Wine
Ale
Salt
Spice
Ambergris
Perfume

The keg items have fixed gold piece values, except for perfume, which ranges in value from 100 to 600 gp.

For the most part, details, such as what kind of clothing or sculpture or piece of art, are left to the referee to invent.

All in all, The Adventures in Fantasy miscellaneous treasure is a fairly simple yet versatile way to add some real color to your treasure haul. 


Integration with D&D is fairly seamless too.  In AiF there is always a 4% chance any given treasure will contain a miscellaneous item or two.  In D&D there is likewise always a chance any given treasure could contain gems or jewels, so all one needs to do is add one more roll when generating a D&D treasure and allow a chance for a miscellaneous treasure too.  I go with 5% instead of 4% just because chances on the D&D tables are always in multiples of 5.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Shakespearean Magic in D&D.


Move over Jack Vance….

So The Tempest, a play by Shakespeare written in 1610, features a wizard named Prospero living in a seclusium on an island in the sea.  That’s pretty cool; cool enough that I’ve been intrigued by it for some time.  So I checked around and discovered this excerpt of a book by William J. Rolfe from 1904

Prospero has all the trappings of a D&D Magic-user:
His robe is a magic garment
He carries a magic wand that can move objects, including removing weapons from the hands of enemies.
He possesses a magical staff of great, but unspecified power.

Prospero practices a kind of  Elemental magic, effecting his spells through the command of “spirits” of the four elements.  These four elements are "in sea or fire, in earth or air," as Rolfe points out by quoting Hamlet from a different play.  Specifically these spirits are “sea nymphs” (water), Ariel (fire), goblins (earth) and elves? (air).  It doesn’t require much imagination to equate these “spirits” to Jack Vance’s idea of “plasmids”, the magical creatures who cause “Vancian” magic in his novels.

To cast spells, Prospero masters and commands these elemental spirits; "..my spirits obey,.. untie the spell," as one line puts it.  Rolfe notes that Prospero is able to command, cajole, and compel these spirits to create the magical effect he desires because of his commanding intellect.  As with D&D, intelligence significantly improves Prospero’s ability to perform magic.    

Nevertheless, spells can be spoiled, especially by noise or commotion. “Hush, and be mute, or else our spell is marr'd.”  D&D may be a bit more lenient in this regard, but it is a familiar theme.

It isn’t a simple matter of intelligence, will and a few undisturbed moments however.  Prospero acquires his ability to create specific magic through the study of spell books. His spell books  were of key importance to his art; for without them “He's but a sot”, and does not have even “One spirit to command.”  Prospero must first resort to his books to prepare his spells.  Without them, he cannot prepare a new spell.  Take away a D&D Magic-users spell books under the original rules and eventually they will exhaust their spell and, like Prospero, have no ability to cast magic.

The last point to mention about Prospero and his magic in relation to D&D is its’ abstract nature.  Shakespeare, unlike his contemporaries does not surround Prospero with grotesque details.  His magic is clean, intellectual and as Rolfe puts it “at once supernatural and natural… the highest exercise of the magic art”.  There’s no eye of newt and dissected goat livers involved, no midnight chicken sacrifices, or anything of the sort.  His magic is primarily verbal, a manifestation of power through will and ability, not devilish gimmickry.  Again, it’s an awful lot like original D&D.

I’m not suggesting that Gygax and Arneson modeled D&D magic on Shakespeare.  It could all be a coincidence, but Its an interesting parallel for sure.  Then again there may be a path of influence though Vance.   I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Vance was at least somewhat inspired by The Tempest and there’s no doubt that Gygax modeled his idea of Magic-users on Vance’s excellent work.