Kilgore Edition Game

Kilgore on October 10th, 2010

As my son and I continue to plow ahead on our homebrew Wizards & Warriors game, we’ve reached the point where we have started to write up magic items. We’re using B/X and Labyrinth Lord as our starting point with these, leaving the items listed in LL’s Advanced Edition Companion off of our lists. One reason for this is space; I’m trying to get our 8 level game to fit into 48 pages and if we included all of the advanced magic items we wouldn’t make it. As this ruleset is not intended for general release, I don’t have to worry about pleasing gamers I’ve never met or making sure that everything we’ve written is put together in such a way that it’s usable by anyone who picks it up.

I’m thinking that magic items will be a bit more common in our game than normal. I’m usually pretty stingy with permanent items, but the nature of our Wizards & Warriors game will probably mean that we’ll be seeing more items than usual, many of them color-specific in some way or other.

Another reason that we’re sticking with the more limited number of objects is that I’ve always sort of felt that the extensive lists of magic items were a bit much. Great reading and good for inspiration, but not necessarily a key requirement for a set of game rules. A few basic items listed and described to give DMs an idea of how such things often work, and let the imagination run wild after that. If the items don’t really follow the accepted norms for how magical objects work because the creator is unfamiliar with the existing standards, SO MUCH THE BETTER.

I considered including random tables of items but no descriptions. When the dice roll up Gauntlets of Ogre Power, for instance, it would be up to the DM to rule how the item worked. No two pairs of Gauntlets of Ogre Power would be exactly the same, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I also thought about writing up the items but using only those from the Moldvay Basic set and not including those in the Expert set. This would give a few things to randomly generate if needed and would set a baseline for how magic items worked, but the relatively small number of items (54 total) would still leave things wide open.

In the end we chose to go with the B/X/LL lists and short descriptions as a good compromise. Like our spell and monster write-ups, we’re working hard to boil each magic item down to its bare essence and spelling it out as briefly as we possibly can.

Compare this Labyrinth Lord write up:

Staff of Withering [C]: This staff functions as a +1 staff that deals 2d4+1 hit points of damage when a charge is used. By using 2 charges and successfully striking an opponent, the staff ages a victim by 10 years. If three charges are spent in this attack, one of the victim’s limbs will shrivel into a mummified, useless member (saving throw versus spell-like devices is allowed). The aging effect will automatically kill most creatures that have a short lifespan. Also note that effects of spent charges are cumulative, such that if 3 charges are used, the victim will not only receive damage, but he will be aged and have a withered limb.

With ours:

Staff of Withering +1 to-hit, 1 charge causes 2d6 damage, and a second charge also ages hit target 10 years. One additional charge will cause hit limb to wither and become useless.

Note first that they aren’t exactly identical, as we’re tweaking a few things here and there as we go and also standardizing some stuff such as making staves do damage in multiples of 1d6 as a normal staff is a 1d6 weapon. Secondly, a lot of the details are left to the DM to sort out. The 1e DMG (which devotes 44 pages to magic item descriptions) notes that the aging effects of the staff of withering won’t do much to a dwarf and may actually help a dragon. We’ve decided not to make such notes a part of our ruleset.

Finally, a lot of the details in magic items and spell descriptions seem to be codification of rulings made at some point in the past. I noted this when looking at spell descriptions a while back.

For instance, the LL chime of opening item description notes that it will not work if used in a silenced area. That makes perfect sense, but we’ve elected to not include that note and leave it up to the DM to decide whether or not it is the sound of the chime that opens the locks and can be defeated by silence or if the sound itself is incidental and the chime works anyway.

Another example is the LL write-up for dust of appearance. It notes that the dust “likewise negates the effects of mirror image, cloak of displacement, and elven cloaks” despite having earlier specified that the dust “coats all objects within a 10′ radius, making them visible even if they are invisible.” We’ve decided that since we’ve specified that the dust will “all objects in 20’ area even if invisible, ethereal, etc.,” we don’t need to spell out that it affects those specific instances cited. Does this mean that we may run into a situation where someone with a cloak of displacement wants to argue that the dust shouldn’t affect him? Yes. And DM will have to make ruling, which is one of the DM’s main responsibilities. Also, we didn’t even bother mentioning how to go about blowing the dust through a tube; that sounds like an ingenious idea that some player had at one point and was ruled on by the DM. Then it was added to the rules themselves. We’re just dispensing from that last step.

With the infinite nature of magic item lists, we think that we’ll be just fine with a basic collection of standard-type items that can help inspire unique creations which will probably be found as often as the old stand-bys.

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Kilgore on October 6th, 2010

As we continue to tinker on our Wizards & Warriors Five Color Game, I am once again looking at spells and how they grow in power as the caster gains levels.

Numbers in this post will all be from Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion. It appears that the spells that were in the core Labyrinth Lord rules, which were based on the 1981 B/X D&D rules and used a lot of fixed durations and ranges, have been copied directly into the AEC. Spells in the AEC which were not in the core set, including virtually all of the druid and illusionist spells, seem to make a lot more use of effects which ramp up as the caster increases in level. This approach wasn’t used much in B/X but was quite common in AD&D.

There are a number of basic methods of spells increasing (or not) in power as the caster improves:

  1. Some spells are completely static. Sleep, for instance, has a fixed range (240′), duration (4d4 turns), total number of hit dice affected (2d8), and maximum HD level (4+1) that can be affected. These numbers do not change as the caster goes up in level. Sleep , even when cast by a high-level magic-user, only affects that number of that HD creatures for that long. There is no difference between a sleep spell cast by a first-level magic-user and a ninth-level magic-user.
  2. Some spells are static, but there are “improved” versions of the spell available for higher level casters. Cure light wounds, for instance, is a fixed first-level spell (cures 1d6+1 points of damage) that has an improved version, cure serious wounds (cures 2d6+2 points of damage) at 4th level. The improved version is also fixed. So while there’s no difference between a cure light wounds cast by a first-level cleric and ninth-level cleric, the ninth-level cleric will have cure serious wounds available.
  3. Some spells increase in power as the caster increases in power (level). There are many ways this is handled.
    • Fireball, for instance, does 1d6 damage per caster level. A third-level caster does 3d6 damage while a ninth-level caster does 9d6. The fireball is simply more powerful.
    • And for every five levels a caster has gained, two additional magic missiles may be fired with each spell. A first-level magic-user fires one while a ninth-level magic-user fires three. Each missile is as powerful as any other, but there are more of them for higher-level casters.
    • Range and duration are often dependent upon caster level, such as pass without trace (lasts one turn per caster level), warp wood (range of 10′ per caster level), and phantasmal killer (lasts 1 round per level and has a range of 5′ per level).
  4. Some spells use other various methods of taking the caster’s level into account. Examples include exorcise and dispel magic (where the chance of success is dependent in part upon the caster’s level), and raise dead (where the length of time since the subject died can increase as the caster goes up in level).

I’m considering changing all the spells in #2 (improved versions available at higher levels) to #3 (spells ramp up in effectiveness as the caster increases in level). This would negate the possibility of a caster knowing the better version but not the basic version. An illusionist, for instance, could know improved invisibility but not invisibility? I’m not sure if that makes much sense. And in our game we require clerics to learn spells like magic-users rather than having all spells available to be memorized, so a cleric could potentially know how to cure critical wounds but not minor ones?

Sorry. I know I was just able to heal the dwarf after his battle with the troll left his spleen hanging out, but I can’t do a thing about that smashed big toe of yours.

A discussion about our series of cure spells brought this up last spring, but I’ve resisted the idea until now.

Lately, I’m thinking about adjusting a few things that will negatively affect compatibility with the standard game, but we’ve already got a significant gap and I’m hesitant to stick with things I want to change just to preserve compatibility. After all, this game is meant for us only (no plans to publish it in any way other than making it available for others to look at) and I don’t have others’ ability to convert things to worry about.

What do you guys think? Is there a reason to NOT make a simple cure wounds spell that looks something like this:

Cure Wounds

Level: 1
Range: Touch
Duration: Instant

Permanently heals 2d4 hit points of damage. For every two levels the caster gains, add 1d4. Alternatively, the spell may cure paralysis instead of healing damage.

So a third-level cleric would cure 3d4, a fifth-level cleric would cure 4d4, and so on.

In addition, I’m wondering if at least some of the spells on the #1 list (completely static) might not be worth considering for the #3 list, as well. I believe that at least a few of them do have level-based specs in AD&D.

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Kilgore on August 22nd, 2010

Here is the what we’re calling the Alpha version of our Five Color Game Wizards & Warriors:

Wizards & Warriors 5 Color Game Alpha by Lord Kilgore

Wizards & Warriors ALPHA
Free PDF

It’s the 22 page player’s section and still needs some work. But a number of readers have expressed interest in this project and we’ve got a rough version of the player’s half ready, so here it is. Check it out if interested and, by all means, give us some feedback.

This product is not intended for any sort of professional or money-making publication, and so there is currently no art other than the frontpiece currently serving as the “cover” of the coverless Alpha PDF. I doubt there will be any art in the “finished” product.

Something else that is “missing” from this are how-to-play tips, in-depth descriptions of game concepts, and detailed examples of gameplay. As this is not intended for sale or for non-gamers to pick up on their own and learn, none of that sort of thing is included. It’s D&D with a few different classes and variant rules; no reason to start off explaining what a role-playing game is or give too many details about what armor class represents or how hit points work. The mechanical crunch is defined in simple, easy-to-tweak terms. And that’s about it.

Be aware that this has undergone nothing resembling playtesting in its current form. Many of the rules are our house rules from Labyrinth Lord and have been used for a while, but the chracter classes are brand new and untried. I think we’ve got a great start here, but no doubt some tweaking will be required along the way.

I can’t say when the GM section is going to be ready. I’d been thinking we were mostly done with monsters but upon looking again I see we’ve got quite a ways to go. And magic items have not even been started yet. Also, I’m not exactly sure what else is going to go into the GM section. I want a 48-page book when we’re done, so we’ll have to see how much room is left.

So check it out if interested, and let me know what you think. We like what we’ve got so far, but we also realize that we’re probably overlooking some obvious issues and we know that it can be improved.

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Kilgore on July 26th, 2010

Last week I wondered aloud about the possibility of reorganizing the spell lists and spellcaster classes into five schools or spheres based loosely on that one card game. As I’ve thought about it some more and got my son involved, we’ve come to like the idea more and more. So, without further ado, here is the list of spell levels 1 through 5 in PDF form:

Five Color Magic by Lord Kilgore

Five Color Magic - Free PDF

There are, I think, a lot of benefits to doing something along these lines. Most of all, it gives five fairly equally-playable classes instead of four where one (the druid) is often seen as out of place and another (the illusionist) is often not viable. Plus it solves the issue of “just what is the cleric class doing in the game, anyway?” which has always bugged me a bit. Rather than one powerful spellcaster and one supporting cast member, there are five flavors of adventuring wizard, each with strengths and weaknesses.

I should say that this list is not exaclty what we’ve come up with for our own game. We’ve added a few spells (such as a full complement of cure wounds spells) and some other minor tweaking along the way. I wanted a fairly standard list for others, though, so I’ve removed our own spells and used the standard names from Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion.

One thing we’ve done on our own list is to slightly adjust the spell’s flavor to better suit the color it ended up in. For instance, in our list the illusionist spell obscuring mist is in the red list so we changed it to obscuring smoke to better match red’s theme of fire. And some of the overtly-religious spells have also been re-named while keeping the same mechanical effect. Bless, for instance, became rally.

Some of the slotting decisions were arbitrary, and no doubt others will want to adjust things to their liking before giving it a try. Our own list is still in a state of flux and will probably continue to be so for some time as we keep tinkering. One thing that I did leave in from our take are the separate elemental conjuration spells (as the druid handles it) rather than the all-in-one conjure elemental magic-user spell. Splitting up the conjuration and banishment of elementals from the various elemental planes really plays to the strength of the color-based system, so I included it here.

Our basic idea is to use five wizard classes, one for each color. A wizard will only be able to cast spells of his own color or from the “colorless” list which consists of general magical function spells. An optional idea is to allow wizards of higher levels to begin getting access to lower-level spells from the two sympathetic colors (white and red for green, for instance). We haven’t quite worked out how we’ll manage that.

Another thing we’ve been thinking about is making spells of seventh-level and above require cooperative casting by wizards from two or more colors.

One thing I should say is that this does not at all, I think, turn D&D into some sort of Magic: The Roleplaying Game. The spells themselves remain the same as in the original game and the number cast per day is unchanged. This is simply an attempt to look at an alternative class system for spellcasting adventurers.

Take a look if interested and, by all means, give me some feedback on this. It has gone from something done out of curiosity to something that is looking more and more worthwhile to use in our game. In fact, my son’s enthusiasm for the idea has us working on taking some of these ideas beyond just the magic system and re-tooling our homebrew game in a more significant manner. I’ll have more on that in the near future if we keep at it.

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Kilgore on May 6th, 2010

I’ve always found it odd that cleric’s cure wounds spells were on levels 1, 4, and 5, with heal at level 6 and resurrection at level 7. (Well, I also find the existence of the 5th level raise dead odd, but that’s something different altogether.)

Spell levels 2 and 3 are skipped when it comes to hit point healing spells, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that clerics don’t advance in their healing power from first level until they reach seventh level. So for our homebrew game we’re doing this:

Cure Light Wounds

Level: Clc 1, Drd 2
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores 1d6+1 hit points of damage or can remove paralysis.

Cure Minor Wounds

Level: Clc 2, Drd 3
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores 1d8+2 hit points of damage or can remove paralysis.

Cure Major Wounds

Level: Clc 3, Drd 4
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores 2d6+2 hit points of damage or can remove paralysis.

Cure Serious Wounds

Level: Clc 4, Drd 5
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores 1d6+1d8+3 hit points of damage or can remove paralysis.

Cure Critical Wounds

Level: Clc 5, Drd 6
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores 3d6+3 hit points of damage, can remove paralysis, or can restore 1 point of STR or CON lost through energy drain if subject makes system shock check.

Heal

Level: Clc 6, Drd 7
Duration: Instant
Range: Touch

Restores all but 1d4 hit points of damage and cures diseases, blindness, paralyzation, poison, amnesia, and feeblemind or can be used to restore 2 points of STR or CON lost due to energy drain if subject makes system shock check.

Note that the duration is instant (meaning that the damage is immediately restored and then the spell is complete and gone) rather than permanent, which we are defining as meaning a spell that functions indefinitely.

Also note the final two spells being able to restore points of STR or CON lost due to energy drain attacks. In our game, energy drain can reduce STR, CON, or character level depending on the creature. Levels lost via energy drain can still be regained using the restoration spell as usual.

Finally, I realize that the names might not really be in the most intuitive order. For instance, I think that major wounds sounds worse than serious wounds, which is higher level than major. We kept the original levels of the original names in order to facilitate compatibility with standard systems.

Regarding the number of points restored by each spell, the progression looks like this:

cure progression

The red shows the possible range and the blue line shows the average result.

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Kilgore on April 28th, 2010

In our game, the mystical force commonly known as “magic” has two sides, Light and Dark. These sort of, but not exactly, mimic the Positive and Negative material planes of existence in the traditional games also sort of, but not exactly, represent the ideals of good and evil. The three alignments in our game are Light Sided, Dark Sided, and Unaligned.

Clerics directly access either the Light or Dark sides for their spells and undead turning; they cannot be unaligned. Druids access both sides, but only after it has been filtered through nature; they must be Unaligned. Magic-Users and Illusionists essentially “hack into” magic, accessing whatever side (or both) as their arcane formula direct them and harness the energy for their purposes; they can be of any alignment.

Between this basic relationship of magic to alignment and my own desire to both limit the number of magical items in our game and simultaneously make them “more magical,” I’m thinking that many, if not most, permanent magical items should have an alignment. They were created with energy from one side or the other and draw upon it for their power, making them in tune with either Light (good) or Dark (evil).

I think the basic premise is sound and has a lot of potential, but I’m not exactly sure how to mechanically implement it. Should Dark Sided items simply not function for Light Sided characters (and vice versa), should they actually damage them, or should it be something different. Maybe a Dark Sided +3 sword of dragon slaying is merely a +1 sword for anyone not of the Dark Side. Maybe an intelligent-sword-type battle of wills would be required to utilize an item of a different alignment.

I’m figuring that lesser magical items like potions would usually not be aligned, and I also want to avoid turning every single permanent item into an artifact/relic level item. I would like to avoid “Oh, look, another +1 long sword…does anyone want it or should we just sell it?

Simply giving names and/or histories to items can add a lot of flavor, but I would like at least some mechanical meaning to this if we go ahead with it.

Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing? I’ve got a few ideas, but I’d sure love to hear what others think.

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Kilgore on April 18th, 2010

While on a long drive yesterday, my son and I spent some time discussing counterspells, which I plan to include in our homebrew game Magic & Monsters. During the explanations, examples, and answering of questions, the subject of permanent magic came up.

Permanent magic spells are something that I’ve always had trouble getting. Not the idea that effects are permanent, of course, but the exact nature of a permanent spell versus one that is instantaneous. In short, I think that most spells that are listed as “permanent” should, in fact, be “instant.” At least as I’m understanding it. Which might be completely wrong.

Here is how I see it:

  • Permanent spells create an enchantment that persists, well, permanently. Continual light creates an enchantment which produces light, and the enchantment does not expire. Similarly, Arcane (Wizard) Lock, Feeblemind, and Polymorph Other create a sorcery on something or someone that continues to effect them and does not run out.
  • Instant spells are enchantments which do something that has a permanent effect but are not perpetual magic. Fireball creates a huge ball of fire which wreaks all sorts of havoc, but then it’s gone. The fires it started burn on normally, but there is no magic left other than maybe a few residual traces. In the same vein, teleport, push, and cone of cold do something magical and then are gone.

My issue, though, is with the majority of spells normally listed as “permanent” which have permanent effects but are not, in my opinion, actually permanent spells. Cure light wounds, for instance, heals someone and the healing is real and permanent. But is the subject still under the effects of a spell? I say not. A detect magic on the subject or wound would not return a positive result, would it? A dispel magic would not undo the healing, would it? A typical high level adventurer is not walking around with dozens or hundreds of healing spells on him forever, is he?

I think that most “permanent” spells would be more accurately classified as “instant.” The enchantment of permanent spells goes on indefinitely and can be detected and or dispelled. Instant spells can not.

Does this make sense? Am I missing something?

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Kilgore on April 9th, 2010

Something I’ve thought about for a while but never tried is giving magic-users a low-power combat power. The main point would be to give low-level magic-users something more to do; a side benefit would be that it would help address our desire to make low level characters a bit more survivable without doing too much to unbalance the design of the game.

What I’m thinking is that magic-users would gain the ability to fire a “magic blast” each round which requires a normal to-hit roll and delivers 1 hit point of damage if it hits. It would have a range of 20′. The way I’ve got it written right now is that on a natural 20, it delivers 2 points of damage instead of 1. The caster would require a wand, staff, or other “focus object” to cast the spell.

I’m not sure about its ability to hit creatures only struck by magic weapons. I’m leaning toward allowing it, but only for those struck by +1 weapons. Some of the more powerful sorts, which are struck only by +2 or better weapons, would be immune to the piddly little magic blast.

I’ve seen others suggest similar things in the past. Has anyone played with something like this? Any feedback or suggestions?

UPDATE: I meant to add that I see this sort of along the lines of the characters in Harry Potter going “Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!” with their wands in the fight scenes.

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