Sunday, June 2, 2024

Monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

 An enduring and old complaint about D&D and similar RPGs is "what are the monsters doing in those rooms?". Well, they don't have to stay there.

Many published dungeons seem to treat the monsters in any given room and the entire room itself as if it is frozen in amber waiting for the PCs to turn up. The used of pre-written description text sure doesn't help dispel this notion (I recall one adventure with 6 or 7 paragraphs describing a room and in the last sentence it mentions the 1st thing PCs would notice... a Beholder). Many critics, DMs and publishers seem to forget that while the published dungeon may be fixed and as is on the page the monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

 For reasons of record keeping and to keep the pressure on the random encounter with wandering monsters is an old tool to make the dungeon feel more menacing and alive.  You know what also does this even better... the monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

A dungeon comes alive if the residents react to the presence of PCs storming through the dungeon. The setting gains verisimilitude and the excitement cranks up form 7 to 11 if the monsters react to the presence of the PCs by not staying in their rooms.

Are there different factions in the dungeon? You know what explains that better to the players than anything else: seeing a member of one faction double-cross or take advantage of another faction while the PCS are interacting with them. 

Do monsters have their own motivations? Show it by having the kobolds in room 12 sneaking in and carrying away the loot in room 11 while PCS are fighting the gnoll guards that came running from room 10.

Are the PCS making a LOT of noise... you know by kicking in a door and killing everything on the other side while maybe blasting off a spell or three? They should hear all the nearby monsters threatening them, nailing the door to their room shut, raising the alarm, or rushing to attack the PCs.

Verisimilitude is more important than trope. Monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

I've had players freak out and get into the game even more when the actions of their PCs triggered 4 or 5 (or more) rooms worth of monsters to show up during a fight. 

If you want more than simple murder-hobo dungeon crawling you have to give the players a reason to consider stealth, scouting, research, and diplomacy. Monsters reacting to changes in their environment before the PCS otherwise get to the monsters as things happen goes a long way toward this. If the players do want a big massive multi-room battle sprawling down hundreds of feet of hallways that's' great...monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

This happened in a session I dm'd maybe 18 years ago:   

The party of 10 adventurers was strung out down a corridor. One player wanted to open a certain door at one end of the group... another wanted to pen a different door. There was three or four other doors and passages in view. One door was opened... oh no a group of orcs! The fight begins... the gnolls behind the other door at the other end open the door to see what is going on. A pcs panic that a third door near them has something dangerous behind it too and starts to spike it shut. The orcs are dispatched and the fight with the gnolls is going poorly for the gnolls, one of the party members at the end of the encounter near the orc room is swallowed by a giant snake attracted to the commotion... oh no ... more gnolls turn up forcing the party to react, they deiced to force the door one of them spiked shut open... oh no ... a wraith is in there. The party choosing to escape the wraith maneuvers away from it and the giant snake.... the wraith slays the snake and the PC that was swallowed and not yet dead. The ghouls down the way lay and ambush hearing all of this going down... all of that happening in maybe a dozen or so rounds of game time and a wild hour or so at the table. All much more exciting and dangerous than having the monsters stay put and wait for the PCs to march from room to room. A few of the gnoll wander back to their lair and run away with some of the tribes loot. Monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

Have the monsters react to changes and noise as it happens and as they are capable. Remeber the monsters motivations and habits the scenario may show their location and maybe even spell out their motivations but that can change as the environment around them changes. The monsters have movement rates... get them moving. Monsters don't have to stay in their rooms.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Deep Spores (Monster, BFRPG)

 Deep Spore

Armor Class 11

Hit Dice 1/2

No. of Attacks special

Damage special

Movement 20'

No Appearing 1-4(2-8)

Save As Normal Man

Morale fearless

Treasure Type NIL

XP Varies... yeah I'm being a stinker here. 

Deep spores are knobby leathery globes 2-5 feet in diameter sporting at least one large eye spot that float about the dark deep underground realms and caves. They appear to hover as would a balloon but some are too heavy for this so sages speculate they poses a levitational ability. Different populations of Deep Spores react to different stimulus and when harmed of over stimulated will burst often hampering or harming those nearby. They are immune to all illusions except those of their specific stimulus which they will save vs at -4.

Stimulus- These Deep Spores are drawn to... (pick one or roll 1d8)

1-2 Noise, these deep spores will be drawn to any noise greater than the ambient environment

3-4 Light, these deep spores will be drawn to the brightest light source within 300'.

5-6 Heat, drawn to anything warmer than the natural surroundings. Body heat will be enough in many dungeons. 

7 Movement, these deep spores will be drawn to anything moving 10' a round or quicker.

8 Magic, these deep spores will be draw to spell cast at a distance up to the spell level x 100', permanent magical items will only draw their attention if brought within 60'.

An attack on a Deep Spore that reduces it to 0 HP will cause it to explode.

Explosion will cause...(pick or roll 1d20)

1 Yammering, these deep spores talk confusing anyone they come within 20' of. If they explode anyone within that distance will be frightened if they fial a save and be compeled to run away for the next 2-5 rounds.

2 Sneezing Dust, a 20' diameter cloud of sneezing dust will fill the air, those exposed and fail a saving-throw vs poison will be overcome with sneezing, unable to move more than 1/2 speed and incapable of spell-casting, hiding, or moving silently due to constant sneezing for 2-20 minutes. The dust will linger for 1-10 minutes (a save is only required on initial exposure per explosion).

3 Itching Powder, a 20' diameter burst is coated in a dust that forces those present to save or be distracted by constant annoying itching (-4 to all actions while suffering for 2-20 minutes). The dust remains bothersome to the area if covers fort the next hour (but saves are +2 after the initial explosion)

4 Sleep Dust, a 20' diameter burst of spores fills the air causing anyone that breathes them in to save vs poison or fall asleep for 2-5 hours. Only the initial explosion is risky. 

5-6 Paralytic Mist, a fine mist spray out filling a 20' area that will cause paralysis to those exposed and fail a saving throw for the next 1-4 hours.

7-8 Petrifying Dust, a chalky dust billows forth that will cause flesh exposed to turn to stone for the next 2-12 hours if a saving throw fails.

9-10 Thunderburst, a loud an sudden boom will cause those within 60' to be bowled over and deafened for 1-4 hours (small beings in the area will be thrown away up to 20'). The boom can be heard up to 2000' feet away but isn't hazardous outside of 60'.

11-14 Poison Gas, a 20' diameter cloud of poison gas is released. The cloud will be hazardous for 2-12 rounds. Each round of inhalation will cause 1-6 points of damage if a save is failed.

15 Blinding Flash, in a 60; radius any facing the exploding deep spore must save vs rays or be blinded for 3-30 minutes

16 Acid Spray, a 10' diameter burst of acid coats all that fail a save in a foul acid that will cause 2-4 points of damage per round for the following 2-5 rounds unless it is washed off.

17 Explosive Shrapnel, an attack as if from a 4HD monster is made against all within 40' causing 2-16 points of damage on a hit.

18 Rust Mist, a spary of caustic liquid will cause those that fail their save and don't get the goo washed off within 2 rounds to see their armor and weapons in hand to rust away, sheathed weapons will be at risk in 4 rounds, an items in regular baggage have a 33% chance of rusting after 6 rounds. A quart of vinegar will neutralize the goo on one person. Full immersion in water will also wash it away.

19 Fireball, explodes in 10' radius causing 3d6 damage , save for 1/2 damage.

20 Lightning Burst, explodes in a burst causing 2d8 to any within 10' radius(save for 1/2 damage).... BUT if related spores are within 40' a lighting arc will be thrown to them causing them to explode in turn exposing all close by and between the location of both deep spores. -2 to save if holding a conductive weapon, -4 to save if wearing metal armor. Each arc and each burst causes 2d8 damage.

Anyone slain within the radius of a Deep Spore has a 33% chance of being infected and if their remains aren't properly treated they will sprout 1-4 mature spores (of the same variety) in 2-7 days (the infection is noticeable within half that time as the deep spores grow)


These are a variation of the classic Gas Spore. They came up on a Facebook post and I realized I've never posted this. Note: their having more than 1 HP keeps players on their toes.

Thursday, March 21, 2024


Shadow Survey about D&D and WOTC:

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Starting Hit Points?

 So Yeah starting HP for 1st level PC's are garbage in old-school games. It's a perk... it's a's a darned annoyance even when the longest part of character generation is buying equipment. Yup I said it.  After years and years of play anemic one swat and your dead HP aren't a whole lot of fun anymore. Do I want later era style HP.... NO not really. 

What are Hit Points anyway? I have an old post that highlights how they are really "plot significance".. how cool a character is to the campaign. I still think this is it. While Hit Points are generally referenced as physical endurance in practice they are really defined that way in the throughout old school rules they are also skill,luck, will-power, and divine favor even when this makes the healing spells make no sense at all.

So how to make 1st level characters a tiny bit tougher without smashing the game apart:  1st level characters (not 0 level) have their Prime Requisite as Hit Points until their HD roll is higher. This will allow 1st level character to feel like they have a little skill, luck and will-power at 1st level. If a character has multiple prime requisites use the lowest one the character has.  So if the Prime Requisite is 14 the character has 14 HP at 1st level and they'll have 14 at 2nd level unless they roll higher with the HP roll (re-roll all the dice until the original score is broken).

So Whammo the Magic-User with an Intelligence of 14 will have 14 HP at 1st level., and 2nd level, and and at 3rd level and probably at 4th level... a class with large HD will gain HD earlier in the life of the character but under this scheme the overall weight and total of HP are not bloating throughout the life of the character.

Bodkin Bob a 1st level AD&D Fighter with a STR of 17 will have 17 HP at 1st level.  when he reaches 2nd level Bodkin Bob's player will roll 2d10+con adjustment per level... if this roll is higher than 17 Bodkin Bob now has more HP.

Under this method 1st level characters will be a more durable than 1HD monsters and NPC most of the time but by 2nd level or 3rd level there will be no significant difference. The 1st blow the character suffers isn't likely to slay them (but it could) but the 2nd or 3rd is still a serious risk. HP will not be skewed upwards throughout the life of the campaign PCs will look identical by 4th or 5th level across the board to characters with traditional old-school starting HP. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

D&D is turning 50!

Haven't posted a lot lately but there's no way I'm passing this up. 

D&D is 50 as of 1/27/24!

50 years of a style of game that would move throughout media and entertainment. Too bad the current publishers and trademark owners don't' understand what they are selling, that doesn't keep me from celebrating the 50 years we've had and the decades to come.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

"Making Ogres Tougher" or "How to implement Old Rules to make tough combatants tougher."

 "I thought Ogres would be Tougher"- Following two rounds of combat initiated by a party of 1st and 2nd level pcs vs a pair of Ogres. Something I have experienced for decades outside of playing Basic D&D.How to make "tough" combatants tougher?  By looking back to the early days of the hobby of course.

Once upon time Ogres were fearsome opponents that made parties quake in the their boots; 4 HD and 1 attack doing 1-10 points of damage was pretty fearsome vs a party of characters averaging 4 hp a piece. Over the years expanding combat options and incorporating critical hits would seem to make them more fearsome but it didn't it made them more vulnerable.

How do we get Ogres, Trolls, Giants and even Grizzly Bears to be a fearsome as they were once upon a time? By looking back to the origins of the game.

Once upon a time RPGs were a subset of wargames, they were even sold as such. The rules were written to that reality and would carry a lot of that baggage into the modern days but this influence reduced and this had an impact on games that followed. Once upon a time only 4th level fighters were heroes and 8th level fighters were superheroes and there were wizards,monsters, and normal men mixed into the fray.

One of the most signifigant rules passed by over the years is allowing combatants with multiple Hit Dice to engage against multiple "normal" foes alllowing one attack per HD. AD&D softened this to Fighters being able to make multiple attacks against "0-level" opponents equal to their level as a fighter... wow exciting, if people remembred this.

I favor the notion of PCs and multiple HD monsters layign to groups of normal combatants and sweepign them aside enmasse and dont' think standard improvements in hit and damage capacity serve to provide this facet to the game. There is a lot to consider however.

While 0-level NPCs are certainly normal men, what about goblins or even orcs, how about thieves and clerics? 

Are 1st level characters "Normal Men" or are they "Heroes"? If you have 1HD you are "Normal". If you have more than 1HD you are no longer "Normal" but you are not yet "Heroic".

"Heroic" combat kicks in at 4th level for Fighters and 4 HD for monsters. Before you are "Heroic" you are essentially "normal". 

An ogre mentioned above (having 4HD) is allowed to make 4 attacks against normal opponents under such a consideration. This 4 attacks against 1 hopeless normal man or 4 attacks against a mob of peasants. As a minor methiod of balance it is advised these blows cause 1d6 damage and are not otherwise modified for strength or allowed to deliver critical hits. Player Charcaters may still use thier melee weapons dmage ratign but lose any strength adjustments to damage and still deliver no criticals. I call this capability in my campaigns "Combat Dominance".

If you are a Heroic Combatant you keep adjacent allies from falling victim to sweeping blows or flurries of attacks delivered by more capable opponents. The ogres mentioned above can still deliver a single blow for 1d10 damage but they are forced to contend with the Heroic Combatants in reach and as such lose the abiltiy to sweep aside normal foes in the manner they normally would. 

Now I already see an issue. Are all PCs able to deliver multiple blows?  I say no. I want fighting-types to be special and distinct from other charcter types. Are all non-fighters "normal" defenders? No. Let's give PCS a fighting chance (for defense) even if they aren't fighters. It is necassary (in y consideration) to introduce the "Stalwart Defense" capability. This is any character able to offer a reasonable defense agaisnt monsters and other fearsome combatants. When a charcter is capabel of "Stalwart Defense" they may only have 1 attack directed against them by a multi-HD foe with "Combat Dominance". Now if singled out by a monster capable of making multiple attacks in a round you may still fall victim to those attacks.

How these guideleines are clarified in my campaing:

Monsters with 2 or more HD that have won initiative for the round can choose to attack a group of normal combatants with a flurry of blows. These attacks are made at normal chance to hit and will deliver 1d6 damage. A heroic combatant among your foes blocks this option. Monsters to do portect allies in heroic combat. Special attacks that poison or parlayze foes do not do so durign a flurry of blows.

Fighters of 2nd level and higher have "Combat Dominance" and are "Stalwart Defenders". On rounds when their side has initiative they are allowed to engage in single combat as normal or choose to make a flurry of blows(or sweeping attack if you wish to imagine it as such). This flurry of blows allow 1 attack per fighter level to be made vs non-heroic opponents. If the defender is a "Stalwart Defender" yuo are allowed no more than one attack per round agaisnt them in this manner.

When a fighter has reached 4th level they are a "Heroic Combatant" and may block monsters and others from attacking adjacent allies with a flurry of blows, Monster and NPCs can still attack allies as per standard single combat.

At 8th level Fighters are "Super-Heroic Defense" and may block others from attacking adjacent allies even in normal combat by taking the attacks upon themselves on any round they have won intitiavie over their opponent. This must be declared before the attack is resolved. Only one super-heroic foe per round may be so foiled (being any PC-type capabel fo super-heroic defense or monster with 8 or more HD.)

Clerics are "Stalwart Defenders" at 2nd level but do not have combat dominance. They may defend others as a hero beign "heroic combatants" at 5th level and are capabel of "Super-heroic defense" at 9th level. Clerics may exercise Combat Dominancce vs groups of undead and demons starting at 2nd level.

Thieves are "Stalwart Defensers" at 3rd level and "Heroic Combatants" at 6th level, they never become "Super-Heroic Defenders". They do not gain Combat Dominance.

Magic-Users are "Stalwart Defenders" at 4th level. They become "Heroic Combatants at 7th level and "Super-Heroic Defenders" at 10th level (but ony if they have not expended all their spells*). Magic-Users gain Combat dominance vs Demons and Elementals starting at 2nd level.

*no spell needs to be cast but the ability is lost if the MU has cast all their spells this day.

Heroic Defense rules apply on rounds one has and has not won initiative.Superheroic Defense only applies on a round the defender has won intiative.

What is Single Combat? This is when a combatant focuses all their normal range of attacks on a single foe. Monsters with mutliple attacks are only allowed to attack multiple foes with succesive attacks (if they normally have 2 or more listed) if they have hit another foe with an earlier attack. 

NOTE: Flurries of Blows( or Sweeiping attacks) due to combat dominance only apply to melee attacks not ranged attacks.


Now back to that pair of Ogres I mentioned at the top. Had that pair of ogres won intitiave over a band of PCs of 1st and 2nd level they would be able to lay into them with flurries of blows. Capabel of attacking 4 pcs for 1d6 damage or splitting multiple attacks as desired upon multiple foes. If a character in that party were a "stalwart defender" they could only suffer on hit (from eahc ogre) in a single round.

Those Ogres go from poetentially dealing 2d10 damage vs the party to dealing 8d6 the party.... Ogres are fearsome again, not to mention Grizzly Bears, Giant Boars, or tigers.

Note: All Humanoid monster Types with 2HD or more become much more fearsome under these rules but not orwhelming as the initiative must still be won to gain the option of multiple bloews.

Which intiative rules to use: whichever you normally implement. If using a side vs side intitive method where the highest roll has won it is recomended a side that outnumbers another gain +1 to the roll. A side attacking with heroic or super-heroic combatants against a force with neither should gain an additional +1 to the group inittivie roll.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

"Secret Alignment System"

My most preferred current version of fantasy dungeon games is BFRPG, there are no alignments in that game. This frees players that want their characters to be heroes to act as heroes and those that want to be anti-heroes to fill that role without worrying about cosmic retribution...right? Wrong.  Nope the universe is still watching but a character's relationship to the cosmos emerges in play.

Where does that leave NPCs?  Well they get an alignment in my notes. That alignment is however a bit more about generic outlook, faction involvement and interaction with others as opposed to cosmic ethos. The underlying model builds off of fairytales. Is that critter likely to eat you? Is that goblin wicked or just greedy?

I assign NPCs and monsters one or more attitudes and motivations:

Benevolent - Hey it's happy and friendly most of the time!

Honorable - Driven by expectations of honor, tradition, and society. Bargains are respected. 

Pious- motivated by their faith and have it govern their daily behavior. The broad dictates of their faith can create a wide range of reactions in this broad category as Cultist of The Purple Spider have a very different code from the Sword Saints.

Timid- It's not dangerous and will seek to disengage from conflict most of the time. 

Selfish- motivated by self-interest but has no outward desire to harm others. Selfish individuals typically put themselves above other concerns. This can create internal conflict that they are forced to confront.

Greedy- The acquisition of wealth motivates everything. They are loyal to their purse strings and only honor bargains to maintain the promised cash-flow.

Aloof- It really just doesn't care about the world of men and wants nothing to do with it. Some Aloof creatures will go out of their way to avoid others, and some will react with shocking cruelty to those that interfere with their plans.

Hungry- all it cares about is eating. Doesn't try to make others suffer but if it's a carnivore you are on the menu if you aren't close friends.

Hostile- aggressive and seemingly always looking for a fight. Does not tolerate the presence and behavior of mannish folk. Hostile creatures are dangerous to interact with.

Wicked- nasty and evil. Rules are made to manipulate others and aid in the destruction of the weak and innocent. Wicked creatures will be scheming and unwholesome but are not always overtly dangerous. 

<faction name>  - this indicates membership in a faction and this involvement provides motivation to the NPC.

In an NPC write-up the first attitude is the most important with up to two others governing that.


Gufflebore Dwarves, A: Greedy, Honorable - these fellows are motivated by greed and lust for gold but are likely to honor tradition and negotiate if proper procedures are followed but their palms are always welcoming of a few extra coins.

Muck Ogre, A: Hungry, Hostile- always looking to fill their maws and you my friend are on the menu. They can be diverted or distracted by a ready supply of food as the favor eating over fighting.

Willow Elves, A: Seelie, Aloof, Benevolent- they are apart from the world of men and involved with the rulings and politics of the Seelie court above other matters. They are oddly helpful and will be kind and helpful to individuals as the situation mat dictate.

The Weeping Sisters, A: Hungry, Unseelie, Hostile - these phantom elfin maidens seek to feed off the essence of mannish folk.

 The "secret" here is not every NPC wears their alignment like a badge but interaction during encounters will expose and govern behavior of NPC in relation and reaction to PCS. A PC that frequently battles members of the Seelie court would be dealt with a hostile manner by those aligned with that court. Aloof creatures will not seek to engage with PCs unless PCs push the matter. 

There is no cosmic balance written into this but there is a system that governs interaction and expectations to those that learn about the attitudes and alignment of others.