Friday, March 16, 2018

Olde Timey Hommlet Map

Renowned cartographer R.R. Calbick--whose work has been featured on such highly acclaimed sites as The Restenford Project--has proven that he and I have more than one town in common. He's drawn up a John Quick style map of Hommlet as well. Check this out:

 And let's not forget that town down the river, Nulb:

Hopefully Monsieur Calbick is madly at work on maps for Garrotten or Orlane as we speak. Or Saltmarsh even!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Warhammer! D-Chucker goes miniature

"My Blood is Bound! With Corn!"
Remember that kid I mentioned in my last post who started playing Donjons et Dragons? Well, on a semi-premeditated whim, I took him to the Games Workshop store near the ice rink yesterday, not really knowing what to expect except that there would be miniatures. I used to really be into miniatures, but they haven't been part of my own personal gaming renaissance to date, perhaps it's time to change all that.

So my kid and I wandered in, breathed in some glue fumes, and tried to avoid eye contact with the staffers by wandering around the periphery admiring the implements on the shelf. Alas, our efforts were fruitless, those dudes forced us to interact and even convinced me to sit through their sales pitch/game demo. The kid rolled outrageously high in the demo fight. Seriously, he rolled 7 dice with not one rating below a 5. Friggin' A.

Anyway, I walked out with a small starter selection of minis, a starter paint set and the following observations: 

  • I felt sorry for the guy running the demo for having to keep saying all these over-wrought names; I doubt he's being paid enough to say things like "Bloodbound" and "Retributor" with a straight face.
  • Sure sign that the staffers over at Warhammer Central are not on speaking terms with each other: The bad guys are called the "Khorne." Surely if their had even once been an actual conversation where someone said "Khorne" out loud, it would have been instantly obvious that, changing the c to a k and adding a couple of silent letters doesn't change the fact that the word is pronounced "corn."
  • Some of these little jokers have tied streamers around the shafts of their battle axes and warhammers. It seems pretty obvious that tying a friggin' streamer around your weapon is a really, really stupid idea.
  • The beauty of those plastic models is that they're open to a certain degree of modification. Don't like that silly head gear your Eternal Störmkåẞt Champion Bile-reaver is sporting? It's a quick snip with the pliers to excise the extraneous chapeau. Think those ornate, spiked backpacks your Cornstool Paladin Retributationer is sporting? Don't even take the thing out of the box; no one will ever notice. 
All that said, I've painted half of 'em. Need to get going so we can play already.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

AD&HD: Gaming with the Next Generation

As with many of us old timers who are raising youngsters, I've occasionally pondered how I would go about introducing my progeny to the ol' hobby. My thoughts on the matter have vacillated from force-feeding him a diet of J. Eric Holmes to caving in to my friend Drew's demands that Pathfinder is the platonic ideal of all gaming. I told the latter where to stuff his Diplomacy Checks but have otherwise ignored the matter up to now. So when the 10-year-old kid who lives in my house started playing Dungeons and Dragons after school with his friends, I was relieved to have the matter settled for me.

He told me about some of his adventures, the highlight being when his dwarf wizard sunk a pirate ship with a fireball, which sounds pretty cool. But when I asked if I could see his character sheet; he said:
     "What's that?"
     "The sheet of paper you write down all your character's stuff on"
This is rather gratuitous.
     "Oh!" he brightened, and revealed a piece of paper, blank except for two unlabeled columns of numbers. I deduced from his description of the action that one was his "health" the other his money. Or maybe his experience points; he described it as "the stuff you get when you beat the bad guys." I asked him where such trivial details as his class and weapons and armor--even his name--were recorded and he said "we just remember that stuff." Fair enough, but obviously the concept of ability scores was completely unknown to him. Still, pretty soon he was asking the question that I had hoped to hear for ages:
     "Can we play?"

So, Chucker, which edition did you decide to go with, you ask? Good question. Although the lad owns a copy of the PHB 3.5 that he bought from a friend for a buck and another kid in his posse has the latest version (Is 5th ed still current? Are we up to 6th yet?), it's pretty clear that the kids aren't really adhering to any published rules, bless them. So I dug out my copy of  Swords & Wizardry thinking it's the most complete yet concise rule book I have on hand--my dreams of a Hackmaster campaign will have to wait until later, I fear. I showed him the character sheet from the back of the book and started pointing out basic items that he might want to know about--Strength, Int, special abilities, etc.--but it quickly became obvious that I could either spend the weekend teaching the kid how to play or we could just play. Which is to say, we're going to be winging this thing.
Not basic enough.

So in the interest of getting to the action before the kiddo lapsed into catatonia, I had him make 3 characters--there is no "rolling up" involved in this kid's concept of character generation--with the least amount of information I could tolerate. This involved naming them, picking their race and class and rolling their money. So there is a little rolling -up involved after all.

When picking classes for his characters he initially wanted a bard but dropped it when I informed him that they play musical instruments and tell stories. He said,
     "Oh, I just wanted one because they start out with a whip."
     After assuring him that whips are available to all character classes, he instead selected a dwarf knight, a human burglar, and a cleric. I tried not to discourage him on that last one, but he could sense my revulsion and changed cleric to an elf sorcerer. In case you're wondering, he chose the class names (knight, burglar, sorcerer) himself without consulting any books or lists of classes. Anyone who knows how I feel about "rogues" will appreciate how happy this made me.

We started to shop for possessions, but the Kid has less patience for shopping than I do so we just gave his guys some armor and weapons and picked spells and abilities as appropriate. Despite his interest in having a bard, he didn't select a whip for any of his characters. Probably because it wasn't in the S&W equipment list, a shortcoming I hope they address in future editions.

Here's a house rule I made up on the spot regarding burglars/thieves: burglars get the following abilities: pick locks, hear noise, move silently, hide in shadows, find secret stuff, and climb walls; they can choose Read Langs, Pick Pockets, or Back Stab as an elective. Being a silly kid, Caveman jr. went straight for pick pockets, but changed his mind when I told him back stab gives him double damage.

For hit points/health I had him roll 2 sixers** and take the higher of the two, adding one if you roll doubles, except elfs and Sorcerers who only roll 1d6, and dwarfs and fighters who add their 2 sixers together.*** This left him a little annoyed cuz in his game with his chums everyone starts with 20 health--a direct holdover from Magic the Card Game; he and his cronies have been devotees of said  game ever since they outgrew Pokemon cards.

We got a second round of character generation when the "knight" bought the farm in his very first fight--an ill-advised tussle with some zombies in the basement of a haunted house--so, in a time honored tradition, the kid took the survivors to the local tavern to rustle up some replacement characters. I rolled some dice and miraculously a druid and a barbarian appeared in search of adventure.
     "Cool! Can the druid turn into an animal?"
     "Not until 5th level" I said, wondering if that has ever been a rule, "at first level they can just talk to animals."
A prominent source of inspiration.
     So now druids can talk to animals at first level; who knew? And since the lad is a big fan of the adventures of Asterix the Gaul, they can also make potions a la Getafix, the druid who supplies the Gaulic villagers with the super-strength potion that allows them to pummel the Romans into submission time ad nauseum.****

I'll skip the play-by-play on account of how you probably don't want to read that crap, but I gotta' say that I'm pretty happy about a couple of things:
  1. he got into the game organically with his friends instead of at my prompting.
  2. they're poaching from other sources--gaming and non-gaming alike--for rules and inspiration
  3. they're making a complete hash of the rules and just doing whatever the hell they feel like.
I suspect the Boy finds my house rules pretty stodgy by comparison to his game with his friends, even though I've radically revisited my own efforts at rule streamlining, finding them just not sleek enough for a 10-year-old's attention span.

* No you didn't miss it; there is no "*" indicated in the text of this post. Unless you count Asterix.
** And a little more rolling.
*** If it ever comes up, Dwarf MUs and Elf Fighters will roll 2d6 and take the better of the 2.
**** Yet, despite his previously mentioned ignorance of the nature of bards, a bard character features somewhat prominently in the cast of Asterix. Despite the kiddos concerns at character generation, Cacofonix***** does not wield a whip and is famous for singing almost constantly, albeit terribly.

***** For those unfamiliar with the source material, all Gauls in the Asterix saga have names ending in -ix; a trope that leads to incessant punnery.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

EROL OTUS Anagrams Revisited

Don't know how I missed this one last time around but it came to me like a bolt of lightning when I got back to work this morning:


Friday, December 22, 2017

Maple Punk Campaign Setting

Ever since Fifa stopped dropping off the brown envelopes a couple of years ago--no idea why that happened--we've had to scale things back a bit at DiceChucker Enterprises, and nowhere was this more obvious than at Dicechuck-a-thon XXVI.333, staged last weekend. This year's event was relocated from the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan to a corner table at the fabled Royal Canadian House of Pancakes. To be fair, it was one of those big, round tables with the booth-style seating; we could've seated 8 comfortably.

Inspired by the venue, I decided to debut my new maple punk game. Set in an alternate earth some time after the Cold War came to a head with a limited nuclear war--a la War Day by Whitley Strieber & James Kunetka, or, for the less-literate, "Red Dawn" by the immortal Patrick Swayze--both the Soviet Union and the United States are vastly dissipated as a result, leaving Canada as the predominant force in the Northern hemisphere. Rumors spread that the nuclear strike was instigated by Moscow in retaliation for the Miracle on Ice, which induced Canada--outraged that they were left out of a war over a hockey game--to send troops across the north pole to claim the rich ice fields of Novaya Zemlya and simultaneously, in a move known as "Burgoyne's Revenge", invading the U.S. at several points in New England and the Upper Midwest, staking claim to the American rust belt and cornering the world's maple syrup supply.   

But the the Maple Leaf forces, upon reaching burnt out remnants of Schenectady in the east, or perhaps on failing to find the Ransom Money from "Fargo", decided there really wasn't much to be gained by the occupation and retreated back to their pre-war boundaries. But the remnants of the United States had broken up into various regional confederacies, none of which seemed to want anything to do with the frosty North Country territories that the Canadian troops had vacated, and made no effort to reclaim these lands. The area has now become a no-mans land stretching from Maine to Minnesota and as far south as the I-90/94 corridor in some areas. Populated by settlers and bandits driving rusted-out pickup trucks across frozen lakes, all sorts of freebootery take place in this zone but, this being the North Country, three commodities reign supreme: Labatt's, cheese curds, and the collected works of Irving Bacheller.  

I see it as a sort of Boreal "Road Warrior" or perhaps "Dukes of Hazzard" on snowmobiles. As such, I'm using a mishmash of Gamma World/D&D rules with stuff from Gangbusters--mostly firearms and vehicular combat rules--and maybe some Aftermath wherever that seems appropriate, like when I need some nuclear fall out. We played the shit out of it at the pancake bar on Saturday. Sorry to have missed you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Year End Filler: Erol Otus Anagrams

I was wandering around Wikipedia the other day and found myself reading up on everyone's favorite TSR illustrator of the early 80s who isn't Tramp, although maybe we don't even need to mention Tramp in that timeframe as--other than Wormy--his work is pretty much absent from TSR publications after 1979.

Anyway, EO's wiki states that there's a drow artist referenced in a TSR module (A4?) whose name is "Ool Eurts" which is a tribute to--and anagram of--Erol Otus. My first thought was, "Ool Eurts? That's the best you could do?" So I started messing around with the dude's name, coming up with names like Etru Sool, Sulteroo, Ros Leotu, etc. which led to this "It's December and I need 4 more posts to quell the Baleful Gods of Blogger OCD" post. So enjoy these anagrams and feel free to provide more of your own.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Palace of the Silver Princess Orange v. Green: module showdown feat. D Osgood

Orange, as in "Original"
Archaic D&D module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess, published in 1981, has a more interesting publishing history than most works in the genre. Written by Jean Wells--the only girl in the TSR boy's club back in the day--and printed up with a snazzy orange cover, Upper Management found the thing so shockingly offensive that they hunted down every known copy--purportedly going so far as removing copies from employees desks under cover of night*--and heaving them into the dumpster behind the Lake Geneva KFC. 

Green for "festering act of bowdlerization"
Not satisfied with this heavy handed gesture, the honchos of TSR then took the original manuscript and tossed it to the pack of underfed hounds in the writer's kennel, where Tom Moldvay snatched it from the grasp of Lawrence Schick and tore into the thing with his teeth, drastically re-working the text for a second publication under the same name but with a vomitous green cover.

What drove this effort to erase Ms. Wells's original work and chasten the offending author? Was it the risque art? The seditious messages hidden in the text? An aversion to the color orange? The debate rages on. 

Well, I'm not raging on about it; I've never had any contact with this module before now. But fortunately DiceChucker Caverns Platinum® member and guest blogger emeritus D. Osgood is seething with fury on the topic and has taken it upon himself to further the discussion by writing up a comparison. In a misguided effort to help publicize his plea--have you seen how few hits this site gets?--he called me up on the Bat Phone and we had this conversation: 
Osgood: "Hey Chucker, you haven't posted squat all year, I'm taking over your stupid blog."

Me: "Fine."  

Osgood: "Cool."
What follows is the transcript of a debate that Osgood facilitated at NerDivaCon '17 between Princess Argenta, damsel in distress in the Moldvay version of B3, and Lady D'hmis or D'jiminez or D'something, the sardonic pro(an?)tagonist of the original Wells version. Also, His Steaminess, Lord Osgood--as part of our licensing agreement I have to refer to him using this honorific--tells me there are Easter Eggs hidden in the copy. Let me know if you find them and you'll win something that I'm sure you will find incredibly unrewarding.

Osgood:  Princess Argenta of Haven and from the land of Gulluvia, Her Grace, Lady D'hummus. D'Thanks to both of these eminent women for joining our panel today. Princess Argenta would you care to start us off with a description of your version of the Palace?

Princess Argenta:      Why of course. My palace is made of shining white marble which glows like silver when the sun sets--hence the title of the adventure. It lies in the land of Haven, a bucolic valley hidden in the heart of the Thunder "All Through the Night" Mountains. Here the crops are bounteous, the rivers run fresh and clear, the weather is pleasantly mild, and the humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings live in interracial harmony. Everyone is good, fair, and free of acne. Teehee!

Lady D'hmis:     "Haven?" Please. The setting in my version is the Barony of Gulluvia and it’s All Mine, sister. Ever since my husband accidentally fell on my poisoned knife I rule not just one cutesy castle, but six thriving communities. Now the barony is efficient and safe for militant feminists of all the important races. Everyone, especially men, know their place. All except possibly the NPC tinker and his daughter who can be used as a plot device as needed.
            The closest princesses are to the south east in the lands of Glantri, past the Thunder Mountains and Abaddon Woods. My lands are also bordered by the Moorfowl Mountains and the Misty Swamp to the north. They are all nasty places that my adventure-writer put some thoughtful detail into.
           Your precious castle, my dear princess, doesn't glow at all because it lies in ruins up in the Moorfowl Mountains. And, it gives me great sadness to report that you, my dear, [Winking at the crowd] have been dead for centuries. 

PA:      My goodness. A little testy aren’t we? Fear not! It can't be as bad as that for Haven is defended by good faeries called the Protectors, and they are the adorable!

LD:      They’re green; like the cover of your module. And by the way, I submit that you would have fared better if you had some strength of your own rather than relying on some jumped-up faeries who couldn't prevent a third level cleric--that’s two whole spells, dearie, neither of which cause damage--from sacking your precious palace.

PA:      Anyway, all of my subjects adooooore me. So much so that when my dwarven miners discovered a ruby the size of an apple, as a token of their devotion, they committed it to me.

LD:      Bequeathed, bequeathed.

PA:      They named it “My Lady’s Heart.” Touching, isn't it? I was so pleased that I invited all the realm to attend a celebration of the wondrous gem.

LD:      Your palace isn’t that big. Where would you keep the sheep?

PA:      Hush. They’ll organize themselves. At any rate, the day before the celebration, a gorgeous knight in black armor arrived riding a glamorous white dragon. He was Ellis, a Knight of the White Drakes.

LD:      You do know that white dragons are evil, don’t you? And this is coming from a company that was so stuck on alignments and races that goblins were not allowed to have shamans. Their spellcasters were all crazy humans. Every time: The Caves of Chaos, The Palace of the Silver Princess…

PA:      My beau Ellis…

LD:      ...Horror on the Hill…

PA:      My Beau Ellis was a good and honorable, and so was his dragon steed Ariksbane. He requested to escort me to the celebration and since Haven is known for hospitality, of course I granted his request.

LD:      A valley tucked into the heart of the mountains and sealed off from the rest of world by little green men is known for its hospitality? It seems like a land so far, far away would not have a reputation at all. Sounds like a boring reputation anyway. Now my reputation… mwah hah haah!

PA:      Alas, at midnight, disaster struck. Dark clouds hid the moon and a freezing wind blew through the valley. The crops withered in the fields, the cattle fell ill and the valley began to die. An explosion in my alchemist's laboratory destroyed much of the castle and an eerie, red glow surrounded the palace. All of my people were turned to white marble, while my beau and I were trapped inside the ruby.

LD:      Let me guess, this adventure was written during the Cold War when fear of nuclear weapons was high, the peasants’ understanding of radiation was low, and when it wasn't considered racist to turn into white marble. 

PA:      Raiding bands of humanoids now roam the countryside, Haven lies in chaos…

LD:      Right on!

PA:      ...and even the Protectors have disappeared!

LD:      I warned you about relying on faeries. Just sayin’…

PA:      The situation has become desperate!

LD:      I’d say so. This is an introductory module; that means you're counting on 1st level characters to save your bacon. Here, let me fill you in on your future. In my world, what you've related all happened almost five hundred years ago. Your beau-legged Ellis was no knight in shining armor; he was a bandit intent on stealing the ruby. When he saw your beauty, he decided to take you as well. The extent of the disaster that struck at midnight was a confrontation between the knight and a small party of demihumans. The palace was not destroyed by your alchemist Napolean Blownapart…

PA:      His name was Silverheart.

LD:      Silverheart?! Seriously? Oh Tom, Tom, Tom. Excuse me a moment, I feel an attack of the vapors coming on… Right. The people were not turned to white marble – those are statues carved by... statue carvers one presumes. And you were not trapped inside a giant ruby.

PA:      I most certainly was! And for all its outer beauty, it was rather drab on the inside.

LD:     About that. Are you saying that the ruby was hollow? Didn’t anyone notice that?

PA:      The ruby was magical of course. Its true name was “The Eye of Arik.” Arik of the Hundred Eyes was an ancient being of great evil. Several centuries ago, Arik was banished to a special dimension where he was to be imprisoned for all eternity. He had been trying to escape from his prison-dimension for ages…

LD:      At least he wasn't stuck in a ruby.

PA:      ...and he desired to take over Haven and enslave all its people.

LD:      Small-time thinker.

PA:      He at last managed to send one of his eyes across the dimensional barriers into the heart of the mountains. There the dwarves mined it, brought it to the palace…

LD:      And that’s when you threw a party for an eyeball. That is disturbing, princess.

PA:      The Protectors would have sensed the evil, but by the time they saw the ruby it was too late. Arik had already struck.

LD:      What about your palace cleric?

PA:      Branaur? What about him?

LD:      Well. That’s a much better name than the one your alchemist is cursed with. Yes, this Branaur, then, why didn’t he detect the evil radiating from the demon eyeball? Pretty simple spell, right?

PA:      Ermmm...

LD:     You did take magical precautions, didn’t you?

PA:      Well, that’s beyond the scope of… that it to say, I am certain he would have taken a look after Silverheart was done with it.
LD:     [Wincing in agony] Can we just call him 'The Alchemist' from here on out? I don't think my intestines can withstand hearing that name again. But back up a bit. You were throwing a party for the ruby before you had court security take a look at it to make sure the gem wasn't cursed? Tell me again why princesses outrank baronesses? So then this eyeball attracted hordes of orcs and goblins and such to town?

PA:      Evil eyes have a reputation for doing that.

LD:      … Indeed.

PA:      And then it teleported the evil priest Catharandamus into the palace to prepare the ceremony that would allow Arik to escape his dimension and cross back into our world. Finally, the ruby created a magical force field around the palace to prevent help from arriving and stopping Catharandamus.

LD:      Katherine who? Yeah, yeah, I know. That name didn’t change between versions. Still, this plot is pretty convoluted. I can’t help but ask - “magical force field?

PA:      [sigh] Don't blame me; I'm quoting straight from the adventure text.

LD:      Well, that's a most fascinating tale. Now please allow me tell you how your fate was written in the original orange version. There was no mention of this Cthulhic demon of the hundred eyes named Arik--I suppose that's a better name than "Jawn" or "Pattee" but not by much. There was a dragon and a dragon rider, but this unnamed Knight of the Suave Hair did not fly into town on a white dragon. He crashed your party and ogled both the gem and your fair demeanor. Then, many weeks later, a red dragon terrorized the land and feasted on its denizens. A few people, mostly the uneaten ones, claimed to see a knight wearing silver and blue armor mounted on the dragon. You, dear princess, were never heard from again and the palace is now in ruins, presumably due to centuries of neglect rather than alchemical misadventure.
What?! No caption?
            Rumors abound as to your fate. Some say the rogue knight made off with you; others say you were slain and the palace looted, but most agree--for no good reason other than to entice PCs into the adventure--that the ruby still lies in the ruins. But fact is stranger than fiction -- well, you know what I mean--because what really happened was that both you and the knight became ghosts who, together, protect the ruby.

PA:      Oh, is that us in that drawing of the angry woman with the knight in shining armor? She has such fabulous hair and a lovely figure. Are my legs really that shapely?

LD:     Did you think it was just a couple of smashingly dressed adventurers with unfortunate headgear? 

PA:      It is rather excessive.

LD:      Finally, we agree on something.

Other changes

      Besides completely cutting out the setting and background; changing a helpful and interesting tinker and his daughter into green faeries who command you to rescue the princess, but won't talk to you or help you other than getting you through the red force field of death; completely altering the character of the knight and the dragon; introducing an extra-dimensional demon god; changing the nature of the ruby; and moving the destruction from 500 years in the past into the present; there are a few other changes that Tom Moldvay made.
      Tom deleted the drowning rules. What?! How dare he! I’m afraid he did.
      He changed Catharandamus from a recently renowned local figure with two dwarven retainers and a female werebear flunky (all with backgrounds and character concepts) into 7 orcs and a werewolf with no personality.
The illusion in question. Roll a save to disbelieve.
      Tom eliminated almost all of the new monsters. Most notably, the 3 headed, 3 armed, 3 legged ubues became bugbears, an ogre, and a wight. The hungry little bear cub was replaced with a black bear wandering around the halls. *sigh* Tom replaced several wandering monsters on the upper level (gelatinous cube, a faction of berserkers, bandits, and ubues) with ghouls, harpies, zombies, and a freaking medusa. He threw in a few white apes for muscle. Notably, he removed the illusion created by the decapus; said illusion had greatly affronted one of the TSR managers. The decapus was retained as a mutated plant creature; rather, it already was a mutated plant creature, but Tom made it a different mutated plant creature. Jean had placed it in a room without plants; Tom moved it to a garden room without access to sunlight and outside air.
      Tom changed the maps here and there. Jean had left 20 rooms unstocked, but had suggested where to put monsters, traps, and treasures. This was done with the intent of training new dungeon masters how to create their own adventures.
      Tom replaced Jean’s several closed portcullises to be moved by main strength with several closed portcullises to be cleverly opened by raising two levers, one in each of two siderooms. His intent was… I’m not sure. The kicker is that he tossed out her one page of straightforward descriptions in favor of a “choose your own adventure” written in 63 entries and covering five pages of a 32 page booklet.
      Tom claims that the palace is enchanted but he removed every single indication of enchantment. He retained the weird physical traps, like the pit trap with unflaming oil between two undescribed rooms; I like to think of them as the school room and the vending machine room.
      The main change was that Jean’s adventure was searching a dilapidated, haunted, enchanted castle in search of famous loot. Tom’s version is a desperate fight to save the land from centuries of oppression by a demon lord with detachable eyeballs.

*You really think I've got a  source for this? Ha! You could try Wikipedia though; they might know something about it.