Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflection and prognostication

Reflection and prognostication, all the cool kids are doing it. This tome a year newspaper, t.v., radio and the interweb is full of 10 ten lists, the best and worst of the year, navel gazing and fortune telling. I would be lax in not joining in a little.

During the past year of gaming I finally made the leap and started my own blog. The Old School gaming thing is growing and we're seeing more products and wider distribution for Old School titles. Some trends seem to be developing, old undercurrents being tapped into and even classic revisited with energy and ambition (Swords & Planets, Science Fantasy I'm looking at you). The last several titles I've purchased have been old school titles. Skirmisher released a number of Mutant Future products I gobbled up. StoneHell inspired me. Fight On! magazine is looking good and I must catch up on the back issues I missed.

The blogosphere has been full of a lot of useful and fun old school gaming goodness. I just started to type a list up and decided...nah, not going to go there list-mania is probably a bit too much this time of year. Check my followers do some Google searches follow some links, you'll find more then I could point you at.

In my personal life my family has grown by a new child. My D&D campaign was put on "indefinite hiatus" for a mutant future game. I did a ton of home construction this past year, got to play with a jackhammer and fix my septic system (lucky me).

Next year promises a bunch of new Old-school releases. Mars is going to get some new attention. Planet Algol looks promising to me. Hopefully the deeper level of StoneHell will be as good as the upper levels were. Swords & Wizardry White Box has a new publisher and is actually getting a box. Labyrinth Lord is getting a companion volume to allow play not at all unlike AD&D. I'm going to be jumping into self publishing after years of absence with my first gaming title "Fomorgard" to be released some time this year.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year and that 2010 is full of dice rolling for all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Post Zombie Massacre !

1-Post Zombie Massacre Mini-Game
Can you and your fellow cast of PC's survive a Zombie Massacre? Will they survive to the inevitable sequel?

Ability scores-

Players get 7 points to build a character. Put pts in each score.
Cool- Ability to keep it together and not freak out
Run- How fast you are
Shoot- how well one shoots guns and hits with other ranged attacks
Brawl- how well one fights in hand-to-hand combat
Brains- how clever, smart and perceptive one is

HP- players have 2dice worth of hit points + per point of Cool and Brawl. When damaged you lose HP, when HP reach 0 a player character is dead.

DF- defense factor = 2+ Run + Brawl

Doing Things-

when a player character tries to do something and the GM isn't sure if it would be immediately successful the player rolls 2 dice + the relevant ability score and tries to roll over the DS (difficulty score) set by the GM. (usually a score from 7 to 12)

Hitting Things-

players attack zombies by trying to roll over a zombies DF. 2dice + shoot to hit something with a gun. 2dice+ brawl to hit something in Hand to hand combat. 2dice+ Brains to hit something with a clever trap or gimmick.

Getting Hurt-
when players are hit by zombies they suffer 1dice or more damage. If a 6 is ever rolled the PC is infected and will become helpless in 1dice scenes from fever and then Zombify in 1dice-1 scenes after that. (the GM makes these rolls in secret)

Hurting Zombies-

Zombies don't usually have HP like players do. Zombies have a Body score. Any time a die of damage equals or beat the body score roll on the zombie hit chart to see the effect of the damage. only check once for an attack except for explosives.

1- Eyes Hit - zombie is blind, can't attack but can still be trouble
2- Zombie Disemboweled- everyone but PC making hit must make a Freakout check 1st time they see this.
3- Zombie cut in half- everyone must make a Freakout check 1st time they see this.
4- Arm ripped off -3 to attacks
5- Leg ripped off -1 to speed.
6- Head Hit- Zombie destroyed

Freaking Out-
Whenever something really gross or spooky happens a player has to check against freaking out. This is a Coll check of 7 or higher. on failure roll on chart--

2, Scream -(could attract extra zombies)
3,4 Stagger/Jump Backwards (could be dangerous, GM discretion)
5,6 Drop Things in Hand
7 Hesitate (no actions for 1 turn)
8,9 Start Shaking (-2 to all actions for 1dice scenes)
10,11- Panic (must flee from all zombies for 1dice turns)
12- Lose -it/Collapse- you are useless and must be dragged about for 1dice-1 scenes.


Players start with equipment appropriate to the scenario set by the GM.
Only 1 piece of equipment will be available to a player in a sequel per level.
Players can sensibly collect equipment during a feature as it unfolds.

Attack Damage-

Punch 1 die HTH
Knife 2 dice HTH
Bat 3 dice HTH
Machete/Sword/Axe 4 dice HTH
Chainsaw- 5 dice HTH
Low Calibre gun, thrown weapon 1 die
Med Calibre gun, Bow 2 dice
High Calibre gun 3 dice
Shotgun 4 dice
dynamite stick 2 dice
grenade 3 dice
plastic explosive 5 dice

Features,Scenes and Turns-

A Feature is a Zombie Massacre adventure. A sequel is a new feature with new and surviving characters. A Feature should be playable in an evening but can stretch into 2 or 3 if player and GM are willing to do so.
A Feature can progress like a film or open RPG session as the GM feels is appropriate.

A scene is an encounter or situation in an extended encounter set up by player actions or GM decision. A scene has multiple turns and can have a clear objective such as "The Players have to run from the car into the house".

A turn is when the player get to do something it's usually a single action sometimes more can be done, sometimes an action can tie a PC up for the rest of the scene.

Run Away-

If players try to flee Zombies before an encounter they must roll 2dice + Run vs the zombies rolling 1 die + speed to get away. This is usually only done once a scene.

Escaping from hand to hand combat without suffering any attacks from zombies requires a roll of 2 dice +Brawl vs 2 dice + speed for zombies.

Avoiding a Surprise attack from a zombie is 2dice+Brains vs 1dice+ Speed of zombie.

Levels and Experience-

Every 10 kills a Player gains a level and gets to add a point to an ability score. A multi kill of 2 or more zombies in a single attack is only counted as 2 kills towards experience. A Pc can only level up in the beginning of a scene they are active during.

Some Types of Zombies-

Shambler- Defense 4, Body 3, Speed 1, React- 0
Squishy- Defense 5, Body 2, Speed 2, React- 0
Groaner- Defense 5, Body 3, Speed 2, React 1 (noisy undead a bunch can freak PCs out)
Bloat- Defense 4, Body 2, speed 1, react 0 (destruction causes toxic bile to spray all nearby , PCs must save on DS-6 Brains check or become infected)
Ghoul- Defense 7, Body 4, Speed 3, react 3 (can taunt: must make freak-out check DF-6)
Chaser- Defense 4, Body 4, Speed 4, react 3
Hulk- Defense 6, Body 6, Speed 2, react 1 (rolls 2 dice of damage)
Vampire- Defense 8, Body 5, speed 4, react 5 (can direct attacks of other zombies, can taunt: must make freak-out check DF-7)
Revenant- Defense 9, speed 3 , react 6 (fully reanimated dead person. They have 2dice +12 HP (same rules as PC wounds) and can use weapons, control nearby zombies and taunt.)


The scene after a player is hurt they can use bandages/medicine to recover 1/2dice worth of lost hit points after DS-6 Brains check . Resting for a scene restores 1 HP. No resting while nearby zombies are groaning or taunting.

Zombie Reactions

Roll 2dice+react score for Zombies encountered unless the GM has designed a special encounter.
2 or less ..... The zombies seem oddly distracted by something else and don't pay you any attention this scene
3-4 ... The zombies seem confused by the stimulus of fresh meat (roll again next turn)
5-6 ... the zombies are surprised by the walking talking meat before them, they stand there for a turn salivating (roll again next turn)
7-11... The zombies stumble onward ready to attack
12+ ... The undead are thrilled to see the PCs, they howl, scream, moan, groan or murmur "brains"as appropriate to draw more of their ilk to the oncoming feast before they attack.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mutant Future gameplay

In my current mutant future Mutantbox campaign the hardy band of scavengers has gone deeper into the hospital after battling some pigmen that came snooping about in the lobby area previously occupied by the Mansquitos and their hemofowl. Fluffy was almost killed in the battle with the Pigmen and was rather sheepish about his wounds for a while. Carhoo manged to dispatch the last of the Pigmen with his gas weapon.

One wing of the hospital proved to be secured and seemingly untampered with. After failing several attempts to gain access via door the party set to hammering their way through the walls and after a fair amount of time. Gevin and Enkay first explored through the hole the party dug in the wall and ran afoul of security robots resulting in the female mutant fleeing down the corridor and Gevin being hauled away to a vivisection chamber.

In time the rest of the party managed to regroup with Enkay and find their way into the secret sub-tunnels under the hospital where they encountered orange clad security men with stun pistols. Craniax and Bay Aluminum battled the security men and robots for a time until Craniax set ff deep into the tunnels to find the power source for the place.

Bay fell to the security robot after dispatching the security guards with the help of
a nearly dead Fluffy. While fluffy was reviving the other members of the party Bay was hauled away.

Luckily for all Craniax ran into the path the security robot was traveling with Bay and found his way into the heart of the complex. He discovered vivisection chamber just as Gevin was having an arm removed by a medi-bot acting under the instructions of three freakish Whitecoats he was able to silence with a captured stun gun.
We ended the night with Craniax attempting to still the medi-bot and save Gevin while the rest of the party was trying to find safety in the tunnels from an oncoming security force.

Due to a number of recent issues and scheduling problems we haven't played for a month so it was fun to leap back into the game. I had prepared a simple map of one wing of the hospital on a sheet of paper and simply changed the room contents on the fly as the party explored with just a couple of possible encounters pre-planned and in mind.

Fomorgard: Castle Sketch

Here for folks curious in the matter is a low resolution, low detail sketch of Fomorgard.

The sketch is lacking a lot of detail and the simplicity conceals the size of the place. The outer walls themselves are huge, high enough to keep giants out. Being the visual person that I am, I'll be working up models and renderings of the details of the place to post here on the blog and have some art inside the finished work.

Fomorgard: Spelte Vaettir

Here now are some of the potential occupants of Fomorgard or the nearby wilds.

Spelte Vaettir (Harvest Elves, Speltev)
No. Enc.: 2d6 (6d10)
Alignment: Neutral (Evil)
Movement: 120(40)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: As weapon
Save: F2
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: III x 6, X x 2
XP: 38

The Spelte Vaettir, also known as Harvest Elves are a grim reminder of how cruel nature can be. The Harvest Elves consider themselves to be the true masters of natures bounty and demand tribute of the younger races that would till the soil and graze beasts in their fields. Those that do not comply or offend ancient tradition may escape wrath for years but when vengeance comes it will be savage and certain. Unlike many elves, they are a tall people (6-1/2 ft) but still of the very slight build associated with most elves. Their clothing and hair match the autumnal colors of the deciduous forests and hillsides they dwell within and their skin is a silvery-grey not unlike moonlight. They can see only a short distance in total darkness (having 30 ft infravision) but can see for hundreds of yards in a starlit night. They can easily move silently 90% of the time and are all but invisible when hiding in the outdoors. All Spelte Vaettir are able to cast 3 spells a day drawn from those of 1st level illusionists and 1st level druids.
In a group of 10 or more one will include a Harvest Knight (60%) or Green Jack (40%) able to act as F4/I2/D2 or T4/I3/D3 respectively. In their lair or in special raiding parties there may be individuals with the abilities of the Fighter,Illusionist, Druid and Thief classes that range as high as 6th level in any of the classes.
The Harvest Elves arm themselves with spears, strange polearms, long-bows, axes, sickles and long swords. They protect themselves with unusual armors that look to be a scale made of leaves, these armors never survive into the next spring if captured in battle or stolen away.
If somehow trapped by iron bonds a harvest elf can not escape and will actually lose all will to do so in short order (after failing a save vs wands), they will obey masters if possible but will shortly wither and die (in but a century or two).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Who Dwells in Fomorgard?

I've begun preliminary work on a commercial old-school adventure-site module currently bearing the working title of Fomorgard. The module will center on a massive castle originally built by the Fomorians from where they did rule as far as their great reach did extend. The castle changed hands a number of times over the ages and each era's occupants have left their mark on it's massive walls and grand towers. Now nominally abandoned this castle draws the attention of brave adventurers willing to pit themselves against horrors rumored to dwell in vast halls guarding treasures long lost to the world of man.

There is a lot of work ahead of me and I ask you my gentle readers for a bit of advice as my notes are not yet tied to any one set of rules:

What rules system would you like to see this written for?

1. Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion.
2. The Basic Fantasy Role-playing Game (BFRPG)
3. Swords and Wizardry, core rules
4. Sword and Wizardry White-Box
5. House Rules meant to supplement any old school rpg
6. House Rules written as rules adequate enough to run the adventure.
7. Generic Fantasy rpg
8. other

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Battles in the heart and mind.

Morale and battles.

Morale plays a pivotal role in battles and it's often underplayed and ignored in Fantasy RPGs. In typical old school situations morale is checked in a very limited range of conditions or this pivotal element is left to DM fiat. It's my opinion that ignoring morale and the impact it can have in battle robs the game of some flavor it could have.

Throughout this article I will use a scale of morale based on scores of 2-12, higher scores reflecting a force with stronger morale then a force with lower numbers. Troops are assumed to be drawn up into companies of varying size and to be of uniform morale regardless.

To make a morale Check: roll 2d6 vs morale score.

These suggestions are meant to be applied in mass battles where the engagement of hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands may be played in a manner to make such large battle play out differently from regular melee.

On First Sight
When troops first spot the enemy on the battlefield initial impressions can have serious impact on the remainder of the battle.

Make a morale Check.

If the die roll is 2 the regiment is En-heartened and raises the units morale by 3.
The unit also gets a +2 to hit and on all saves until it fails a morale check for the remainder of the battle.

if the die roll is less then the morale score by 5 or more points the unit is Determined raise the units morale by 2. The unit also gets a +1 to hit and on all saves until it fails a morale check for the remainder of the battle.

If the unit rolls it's morale score exactly they are forlorn. The morale of the unit is reduced by 2 for remainder battle,If a future morale check succeeds the morale penalty is lost. The grim reality of the battle to come provides the unit with +2 to hit or save for 6 battle turns or until it fails a morale check.

Failing the check by 1 to 3 points makes the unit hesitate, it will not engage an enemy unit for 1-3 turns but may otherwise maneuver. If pressed during this time they suffer a morale penalty of 2 points. A charismatic character may be able to rally the unit before the 1-3 turns are over.

Failing a morale check by 4 or more points makes the unit quarrelsome. The unit will not respond to orders for 1-4 turns and will not maneuver. If pressed during this time they suffer a morale penalty of 3 points and are -1 to hit and save. A charismatic character may be able to rally the unit before the 1-4 turns are over.

Failing a morale check on a roll of 12. The unit surrenders the field of battle. A charismatic character may be able to rally the unit and get it to return to the battle 7-12 turns later (if the battle is still on).

Orders to advance
An advance is any move bringing a unit within a half move of an enemy unit.

When a unit is ordered to advance any unit with a morale under 9 must make a morale check.

A roll of 12 the unit balks . It's morale is reduced by 2 points. The unit will not advance or maneuver for 1-3 tunrs.All friendly units nearby suffer a 1 point morale penalty.

On a failed roll the unit hesitates and will not advance on enemies this turn. it suffers a 2 point penalty to morale if engaged before the turn is over.

On a roll of exactly the units morale score the advance falters, covering only half the distance. It will not engage an enemy unit this turn.

Motivating a unit to successfully charge the enemy can be difficult and a charge that falters can turn the day.

A roll of 12 the unit balks . It's morale is reduced by 2 points. The unit will not advance or maneuver for 1-3 tunrs.All friendly units nearby suffer a 1 point morale penalty.

On a failed roll the unit will move no more then 1/2 normal and has it's morale lowered by 1 point. Will not close with enemies this round.

On a roll of exactly the units morale score the unit charges but gains none of the typical benefits of making a charge. It also suffers a penalty to morale of 1 point.

On a roll of 2 the unit is emboldened. Increase the units morale by 3.

Holding ground vs a charge.
if a unit is charged by another unit it is forced to make a morale check. Make this check before other results of the charge are resolved.

On a roll of 12 a unit is scattered.

A roll that fails by 5 or more points will retreat.

A roll that fails this morale check by 1-4 they will not set weapons vs charge and will suffer a 2 pt morale penalty and a -1 penalty to hit and save until next successful morale check.

on a roll of morale score exactly the unit will stand ground but doesn't set weapons vs charge.

on a successful roll the unit stands ground and may set weapons vs charge.

on a roll of 2 the unit is emboldened. the unit stands ground and may set weapons vs charge. it and all adjacent units get a morale bonus of 2. This unit is +1 to hit and save until it fails a morale check.

Being attacked from rear.

Units attacked from the rear can be thrown into confusion and quickly overrun by being outmaneuvered.

rolls a 2, unit is enraged at cowardly enemy tactic, add 2 to morale. +1 to hit for remainder of battle!

Makes morale check, unit stands ground

if unit fails roll by 1-2 points the unit is shaken, -2 to morale. -2 to hit and save until next successful morale check.

if unit fails roll by 3-4 points the unit retreats. -2 to morale. -2 to hit and save until end of battle.

if unit fails roll by 5 or more points the unit is broken. -3. to morale. May rally 2-12 turns later

on a roll of 12 the unit surrenders/is overrun

Unit loses leader-

roll of 12 the unit is scattered

failed roll the unit is broken

roll morale score exactly the unit retreats. -2 to morale

successful morale the unit stands ground. -2 to morale

roll of 2 and one of the members of the unit steps to fore and leads unit with enthusiasm. +1 to morale.

Retreats- Unit gets an extra half move which must be used to move away from immediate threat. -2 to morale. All allies that witness the retreat are -1 to morale.
Unit will move up to full move each following turn until it rallies. Friendly units it passes during this period must check vs morale as if they themselves have been charged.
A retreating unit may counter attack if enagaged by enemy units but is -4 to hit in such a situation.

Broken- the unit is thrown into confusion. No maneuvers may be made nor may counter attacks. Unit is -2 to Ac and saves while broken. If the unit fails a following morale check the unit is scattered. A broken unit may rally.

units are removed from the battlefield. A rally may be made to reform the unit 7-12 turns later.

checks to rally may be made on turns following a serious morale failure or as directed above.

A roll of 12, the unit scatters

A failed roll and the unit does not rally.

on a successful roll the unit rallies.

on a roll of 2 the unit rallies with pre-battle morale. Nearby units are encouraged by this and gain 1 morale.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yet More of the Unknowable

over at grognardia the value of not having all the answers came up in this post: The Unknowable.

While I myself do enjoy long richly detailed histories and long hidden secrets driving the action behind the scenes RPG campaigns really don't need all that all the time.

By Example my current Mutant Future campaign takes place in the remains of a massive coastal metropolis that might have once looked like a 21st century American city. I have no idea what city it is, I have no idea how long ago "the apocalypse" happened, who killed who, why they did so or what weapons were involved. It will never matter to the campaign, even if we get a year or two of play out of it I can't imagine how it will ever be relevant. Time spent answering those questions would be wasted and only lead to more questions with answers that don't matter one bit or that will restrict me as GM.

My campaign has plenty of mysteries to resolve in just the remains of one moribund megalopolis, I have no reason to worry about the whole world and the why behind it all is play a game and have fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fight On! No.7

Just purchased the pdf download of Fight On ! Number 7. This is the first issue of this old school fantasy gaming zine that I've purchased. I'm enjoying it so far, I'm certainly tempted to pick up back issues now.

This 88 page zine has about 2 dozen pieces of old school goodness, several adventures, some good advice, some nasty critters and a good amount of evocative art. I'm not going to review everything in here but I'll cover some of what I like. This issue also has a number of articles for Tekumel/Empire of the Petal Throne.

Knightly Orders by Robert “Treebore” Miller is a 2 page article on knightly orders meant as a way for knightly PCs to personalize their fighters. Two Solid examples are given and should serve well as a jumping off point for other knightly orders.

The Shaman a class for the original EPT by James Maliszewski provides a new "uncivilized: spell casting class for EPT games with a new list of professional skills and a tailored spell list for the class. The class also provides the opportunity to play something different in Tekumel an outsider spell caster that isn't' tied up directly to the mythology of EPT but doesn't clash with it.

Details: Pé Chói by Baz Blatt provides 5 pages of rules, background and examples for more detailed play of Pé Chói in EPT even other old-school games. I'm fond of the format of the article and the use of random roles to assign background details and special abilities.

The Song of Tranquility is an interesting looking adventure by Jerry Stratton. The adventure is inspired by a variety of certified old school sources and the site is marked by a wooden cross that could possibly reveal the resting place of Noah.

Tables for Fables by Age of Fables provides some random charts for Pits, Teleportation, Lingering Effects of Being Raised and more.

The Wandering Harlot Table Compensated Companionship for Mutant Future by Adam Thornton generates the specifics (and oh boy is it specific) for Mutants of the Red Light District for customers of all tastes (or poor eyesight), it's an eye opener and certainly in the adult end of gaming.

Notes from (the Tekumel) Underground by Aaron Somerville provides descriptions and summaries of portions of the authors campaign within his version of the underworlds of Tekumel. Good stuff covering a number of interesting situations with Description, the authors notes and what happened in his campaign when the players got to the encounter.

There is a one page Tekumel Adventure and a longer 9 page adventure neither of which I've had the pleasure to digest just yet.

Taking It With You by Lawson Reilly covers the hiring and bearers from The Guild of Porters.

The above is just a portion of what is in Fight On #7 there are adventures,articles, variants, monsters and spells I just haven't had the time to read yet but what I have read leaves me recommending this to fans of Old School gaming.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

They Can Be Heroes !!!

Folks often argue fighters feel like they lag behind in old-school and not so old school rpg campaigns. Their combat prowess, decent Ac and hit-points eventually seem to play second fiddle to the world shaking encounter ending spells of the Magic-User.

Recently playing S&W where fighters get 1 attack per level against foes of 1 Hit Die or less really opened my eyes in how effective and heroic the fighter can be. Even being second level and getting 2 blows per round vs common foes of 1 HD or less really makes the player of the fighter feel heroic.

This heroic combat prowess fades as levels go up to some degree but I feel this can be countered simply by raising the flunky HD the fighter is able to fight against. In my last post I touched on this in by allowing a random chance to increase the HD the fighter is able to get multiple attacks against.

A 6th level fighter able to get six attacks per round vs 3HD monsters (for example) doesn't' break the game, it actually frees the DM to toss in more monsters and have fighters that just might be able to face off against hordes/companies of the enemy leaving the fighters standing triumphantly upon a mountain of corpses.
Higher HD monsters are still evidently really tough as the fighter that is able to wade into combat versus dozens of orcs with a touch of confidence is now clearly in a bitter battle for his life only able to get in one blow against a horrible foe of high HD, the fighter feels like a bad ass facing foes that are a distinct challenge and in being able to slash into a horde of enemies, they can be heroes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random Old-School Character Improvement

Here now is a random system for character improvement as a variant meant to replace traditional character improvement by level. This is a 1st draft.

Characters Receive 3 rolls each time they gain a level, 2 of those rolls must be associated with the character class of the PC, one roll may be made on another classes
table at the refs discretion (based on PC behavior).

Fighter Improvements
1 - 20 Gain 1 Hit Die
21- 30 Improve Fighting Prowess
31- 40 +1 to STR
41- 50 +1 to CON
51- 55 +1 to DEX
56- 57 +1 to CHA
58- 70 +1 to hit w/weapon of choice
71- 75 +1 to damage with weapon of choice
76- 80 +1 to AC when Parrying
81- 85 +1 to save vs death and poison
86- 90 Combat Master, increase hit die of foes by 1
91- 100 Improve Saving Throw rank.

Cleric Improvements
1 - 10 Improve Turning Rank
11- 30 Improve spell casting
31- 40 +1 WIS
41- 50 +1 CHA
51- 55 +1 INT
56- 60 +1 CON
61- 65 +1 to hit type of monster
66- 70 +1 to damage type of monster
71- 80 +1 to save vs death and poisons
81- 95 Improve Saving Throw Rank
96-100 +1 to hp healing spells

Magic-User Improvements
1- 30 Improve spell casting.
31- 45 +1 INT
46- 50 +1 WIS
51- 60 +1 save vs spells
61- 70 +1 save vs scrolls
71- 80 +1 save vs rods,staves & wands
81- 90 Improve Saving Throw Rank
91-100 foes -2 to save vs spell of choice

Thief Improvements

1- 10 +1 DEX
11- 15 +1 INT
16- 20 +1 CHA
21- 25 +1 to AC when withdrawing from combat
26- 35 Improve Saving Throw Rank
36- 45 +5% climb walls
46- 55 +5% remove traps
56- 65 +5% pick pockets
66- 75 +5% hear noise
76- 85 +5% hide in shadows
86- 95 +5% open locks
96-100 Improved back-stab damage

Fighting Prowess: How well the character fights and improvement in fighting prowess mroves ones chance to hit to the next step on the combat table. (Depending on game and class +1 to +2 or, 1-2 to 3-4, 1-4 to 5-8)

Saving Throw rank: as Fighting Prowess above but as for saving throws.

Spell Casting: all spell casting character start as per level 1 for their class but may only improve with by the appropriate casting level.

Turning Rank: Clerics start at 1st level as normal and make a step in improvement on each improvement roll when diced.

Combat Master: I play allowing 1 extra attack per level vs foes of 1 HD or less for fighters, improvements increase the HD cap.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

oops scheduling problems

my regular group couldn't get together last night to play our Mutant Future game but my son was chomping at the bit for some RPG dungeoneering so the Wife, kids (all 3 of them) and I whipped up some characters and played using the Swords & Wizardy WhiteBox rules.
We used my variant races and randomly rolled levels and ended up with this party:

Erin Starkill an L3 Amazon Fighter
Bugbane the Sweaty another L3 Amazon Fighter
Jannay a L4 Amazon Magic-User
Bee Wee a L3 Pygmy Cleric (played by the wife and 4 month old baby)

We journeyed into the Dismal Depths: Tunnels of the Molemen (from sham's Grog & Blog: ).
On night on the journey from the town to the dungeon the party was sneak attacked by a trio of mangy looking Morlocks, two of which attempted to flee with the sleeping Bee Wee while the largest battled Bugbane as a distraction, the escape of the cannibal pygmy-nappers was thwarted by a phantasmal forces spell causing the morlocks to hesitate long enough to be caught and dispatched by the amazon fighters.
The molemen demanded tribute from the trespassers and one of them accidentally insulted the amazons and the molemen slaughter began. Bee Wee spooked off one large number of moleemen using a light spell which surprised and demoralized the fuzzy subterraneans. Creepie Crawlies almost took out Erin when she decided to root about in a garbage pit but a sleep spell ended their assault. Later after 2 days rest a sleep spell was instrumental in slaughtering a number of molemen and a moleman priest of sorts.
The slightly different monster selection, variant races and simple rules made for a quick and fun romp.

How's a 4 month old role play you ask? Mom helps out of course. Bee Wee only was bright enough to speak his native language of Pygmy and the only member of the party which understood Pygmy was played by his mother so mom would consult with baby and play out bee wees actions as seemingly appropriate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Heralding Soliloquy

Far too often DM's and GM's short themselves and everyone at the table by failing to use one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal...words. All to many a time descriptions fall on two grim poles of verbiage they are either woefully scant in their brevity or works of mind-numbing encyclopedic prose and accounting of mercurial minutia that beats all fun and excitement out of an encounter just as it starts.

Why not let the villains and fiends our adventurers throw themselves against do the talking?

It's as old as the words of the immortal bard, a corny but evocative tradition of comicbooks, a twisting hint of drama to come.

I'll leave you with three examples of the same situation:

1- A balrog wreathed in flame steps out of the portal.

2- Your attention is drawn to the 20' by 20' metallic portal, it's profane metal runes become stained as by a furnace flame and all hint of moisture is boiled away. A shadowy form is coalescing out of smoke lit by an unseen light from the depths. The now suffering portal formed by the stygian priests of Xelbec who fell before the priest kings of Dorn are now surely open as from that gate now a huge demon wreathed in flames fueled by malice steps out. Its wicked whip some 15' in length formed from succubi hair licks the air like lightning, it's great 10' ebony sword forged by grues in the deepest furnaces of the abyss projects a malice of it's own. The demon grins as you behold the visage of the master of fear and flame.

3- A dark voice booms as a huge demon steps through the dark runed portal with unyielding confidence in it's stride. It speaks:
"Hark,the quivering shadows make haste to flee my presence,
secrets once consigned to darkness are revealed,
coruscating demons of dream ride out on nightmares of eld,
death shall be the last blessing, boiling blood a passing sacrament
a hymnal of screams shall fill the blazing night
your souls are forfeit, before this searing dawn the lucky shall die .
Behold, I am the Master of Fear and Flame."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let me print it

Here's a gripe I have with pdfs. I don't mind they can't be edited, that's fine and while i like to be able to copy and paste turning that feature off is okay but when I can't print the pdf because printing is disabled I'm not going to buy the product.
If it's a pdf preview of a print only title, that makes some sense but it had best be free or almost free if that is the case. If it's a pdf only title it's never going to be purchased by me if the print option is turned off. I like to use my gaming materials at the game table and don't fiddle with electronics there. I also love the ability to scribble the heck all over a printed pdf, I've actually bought pdfs of print books I have so I can in fact scribble all over them as I play and not ruin the nice bound original copy. But no printing , no scribbling, no printing no use at the table top and if I'm not going to be able to use it at the table top I'm not going to buy it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

First session in the Mutant Box

We had our first session in my MutantBox campaign last night. It was fun.
The Characters:

Fluffy- A 17' long mutant wolverine. Weather Control, Increased Balance, Gigantism
Carhoo- A bearman. Negative Empathy, Phantasmal Damage, Accumulated Resistance (kinetic),Ancestral Form, Toxic weapon (Gas cloud), Phantasm Generation
Bay Aluminum- Basic android, combat model, look droidish. Night Vision, Thermal Vision, Optic Emissions (gamma eyes)
Enkay- female mutant human, Bizzare Appearance (glows, even in daylight), Intellectual Affinity (Tinkerer), Increased physical Attribute(Dexterity)
Craniax- Mastermind. Pain Sensitivity, Quick mind, Control Light Waves, Damage Turning
Gevin- wolfman. Forcs Screen(greater), Plane shift, Ancestral Form, Increased Balance.

I decided to pass on using the hex map and simply use the rough sketch-map instead, it has more character.

The players started with a simple goal, scrape up enough loot to get themselves some armor, Fluffy needs some barding.

They left Freshpond quickly leaving the safety provided by Lookout Hill to travel along the southwest border of The Cinders before they were inevitably drawn to the lure of 175th street.
They discovered the northern route into 175th st was mountains of debris, ancient garbage and useless junk. In the maze of junk they were jumped by a rabid wolf-rat (no one got contaminated) and were ambushed by a potential ally. They managed to claim a damaged laser, two sensor device, an energy grenade and an auto-grapnel after the ambush.

Moving down into 175th st past the mountains of garbage they discovered 175th st to be everything they were told a spooky surprisingly intact stretch of city that was less and less battered as they traveled in towards it's center. They were walking down the mostly clean and broad avenue when they came across a line of old worn sneakers in a crosswalk just laying there as if people had been wearing them walking across the street. Bay Aluminum spotted a sniper looking at the party and they fled to a nearby alley and began to sneak towards the sniper, a while afterward they heard a scream.
Investigating the scream the party found a lair of blood sucking mutants dwelling in the lobby of an ancient hospital. The party took a slight beating against the blood suckers and their pets but the fight was quick. They gathered up the blood suckers feeble loot and are getting ready to explore the hospital.The grenade was used by Craniax to save him from a flock of red roosters but the party found some coin and a couple of medical devices as reward.

I incorporated two dangerous encounters from The Savage After World
I'll leave them up to folks to search out and read there if they wish as I don't want to give more away then I may have above for those fun and enjoyable encounters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You got a problem with that Gorethon?

I know it's old news to many, but I liked the D&D segments from Freaks & Geeks, probably one of the few genuine treatments of D&D that was ever broadcast on television:

Importance of Resources in the MutantBox

"Resources" - food, ammo and the cheap treasures. What they are, where they are and how can the PCs get their grubby hands, claws and tentacles on them?

For sandbox play I feel it's important for resources to be scattered about, each town should not have a general store that supplies most adventuring needs. Enforcing travel, risk and contact with NPCs keeps the campaign busy.

Start cheap. I'm all for limiting the amount of starting equipment available. It supports the scavenging/scrounging limited stuff model of post apocalyptic adventure and gives the players early and clear goals. You want to see a motivated player?: have all but the lowest grade of armors be too expensive for initial purchase.

Food. Lot's of folks gloss over this to some degree, food is heavy, takes time to prepare, is sought after by everything else that eats and it goes bad too. A case of cup-o-noodle is a pretty good haul for a post apocalypse scavenger, ready-to-eat and self-heats are even higher value hauls. I like to keep track of food in "meals" and track the use of these meals. Put a random encounter chance on eating/preparing different foods and what rations the players pack becomes more important then scribbling "Iron Rations 1 Week" on a sheet. Another trick I favor but use nowhere near as often as I like is putting food going bad and other food related events on random encounter/event tables; it can sound minor but in campaigns where it matters "bread grows mold" is a fairly notable occurrence and will bother penny pinching players more then 20 mutant tribesmen would.
Freshpond is the place to go for fresh food but that requires one to avoid offending the locals and dealing with an active militia force.

Water. Three days without water and you are probably dead. People need a surprising amount of water to stay healthy and active. Less then a quart a day is almost as bad as no water. Most adventurers are going to need 2 quarts or more a day, even more if they have mounts.
I've got a lot of water sources on my mutantbox map, deciding where to collect it is something the players are going to have to learn. Would you drink water from a pool in the tar-pit? Is it safe to drink out of the centuries old cistern? Can you drink acid rain (you know that really dangerous RPG acid rain)?

Ammo. Sure you got a bow, crossbow, musket or SMG but just where does one get ammunition?
The presence, manufacture and availability of ammo can play a biggie on choice of tactics and influence where and how far the PCs will wander.
Spillside is the place to go in my MutantBox if one is looking for blackpowder, this requires travel, dealing with wily merchants and dangerous gangs of toughs to get a large and economic supply.

Wild Goods. The goods of the wild wastelands and all they offer will certainly keep players busy and on the move searching out supplies. Some mutant powers could carry over to the hides or other goods scavenged from the remains of mutant kills; surely leather armor made from the hide of a gamma sloth has more going for it then then that made from some three horned cows.
The mutant berries I've posted in my blog are a resource to be sought out with some recognized value, some of them require processing and these secrets require PCs to learn them from NPCs.

Recreational Consumables. Drink, smoke and stupider ways to abuse ones own body for entertainment have been popular since the birth of civilization (I once read that bread was invented as a mobile beer kit instead of as a food source itself at first). These make great bargaining devices, moderately portable treasures and some players just can't be kept away once they discover they are available. Who makes them, where they are stashed and how much you can score the goods are again a reason to keep the PCs moving and involved with NPCs.

To keep resources important have NPCs treat them like they are important. The old RPG hooks of monster X is threatenign the village, the caravan needs guards and we need macguffin X from village Y but no one has come from there in a while all require resources someone in the campaign cares about. If that someone who cares is the players then the campaign can acquire a life of it's own.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Time Marches On

Just spent the weekend in a Inn/resort in New York full of family fun and relaxation. While there one can't help but notice the march of time.

My extended family has been going there once a year for over a dozen years now and while much is familiar seeing a place once a year shows time. The working farm that was once part of the inn has declined to garden plots for the family that lives there. The new tree-house built by the young teenager who lived there is long abandoned and a little decrepit, it's builder now a college graduate living states away with his wife and children.

Further afield and the old saw mill on the property which was once falling to shambles has new metal shutters and has seen repair and re-purposing as a storage facility. Not far from there along hidden by and overhang by a small water fall you can still see the slightly stylized carving in the rock face of the inn as it existed in the late 19th century, if the nearby waters don't wear it away that otherwise sheltered carving could outlast the inn.

There is an old gazebo now blocked with a warning sign that has had the names of youths and lovers carved in it for over 70 years , Ive done so twice myself, it probably will not be standing much longer.

A covered bridge stretched over the previously mentioned waterfall and a few hundred yards upstream there is was another wooden bridge that I once walked on (careful) that is now gone and the fading trails that led to it are barely visible. Further away across the property is another broad stream where one can find the decrepit stone footings of a bridge built over a century ago, nothing remains of the wood that once spanned the water there and no clear trail leads to it. If one wanders out from the stone remnants of that bridge a nearby hill has a gentle incline that slowly reveals an old road that climbs along a ridge that stretched away along a local river, a road to some center that people have built new routes to over time or simply forgotten.

The inn itself , revealed by photos on it's walls, has grown from little more then a house with a kitchen attached to a sprawling building an other outlying buildings with several dozen rooms. No one who vacationed there before the civil war would be able to recognize the place today but to a modern eye the place looks old and quaint.

There are many little secrets on those grounds, old foundations, long over grown farm plots outlined by stone walls, soot smudges in little caves along the brooks that are decades old.

It's one place a charming country Inn and the march of time can be seen all over. How much more would there around a thousand year old temple or "lost" city?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trial Hex Map

I whipped up a trial hex map for my MutantBox setting using the free version of Hexographer. I screwed up the horizontal dimension a bit so east-west isn't as large as it should be; I counted hexes east/west instead of carefully figuring out the distance conversion to hexes when measuring from the original map. I'm figuring on 1 mile hexes as I want things to all feel local. I'll have to come up with shorter then one day long outdoor turns considering the map scale.
There are no labels on this lo-res sample map just in case one of my players checks out the blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PCs for the MutantBox

Tonight we put our regular D&D game on hiatus and rolled up characters for the MutantBox.

A quick overview of the characters (I'm sure I missed something):

A 17' foot long wolverine (thanks to giantism) with weather manipulation
A Basic Android that is obviously a mechanical man with thermal vision, night vision and optic emissions (radiation)
A bipedal albino wolf with a force field, increased balance, planar shift and ancestral form.
A bipedal bear with pain sensitivity, phantasm generation, kinetic resistance, negative empathy and a toxic gas weapon.
A Mastermind with light manipulation,damage reflection, phantasmal damage

I've started everyone poor with 3d6+18 U.P. (I'm using my alternate wasteland coinage)
We are using a slightly expanded price list that incorporates some of the extra equipment and weapons I've posted here on this blog.

We have two other players joining us who haven't rolled up characters yet.

I gave the players a look at the sketched map and explained a couple of the features to them.
We'll be starting in Fresh Pond.

Monday, November 9, 2009

To Hex or Not to Hex?

So I find myself wondering, should I use hexes in my MutantBox ?

Hexes make lots of sense for wargames when you have two players competing over large areas and regulating movement to be as fast as possible without having to fall back on using rulers to measure distance.

Directions with hexes aren't very organic, depending on alignment of the hexes relative to north and south you have: North, Northeast, Southeast, South, Southwest and North West or East, Northeast, Southeast, West, Southwest and North West; in both cases you are losing a cardinal direction.

Hexes work when numbered for placing of encounters and features but again it's a short hand and not absolutely ideal. Dots (or other symbols) on an un-ruled map with an index code would function just fine and some features could be less then a hex apart from each other. A numbered grid would also work just fine, it's also pretty easy to use coordinates listed om the map edge with a grid and not fill a map with numbers as one often sees with hex maps that are so keyed.

Hexes for regulating movement seems nice and simple and is if one doesn't worry too much. movement is usually factored for the hex being entered (if moving into a mountain hex yuo pay the cost for the mountain terrain to enter that hex) but it doesn't consider how far one enters the hex or how easy it is to get from one hex to the other. Possibly figuring out the cost to cross the border from one hex to another based on the nature of each hex is the way to go?

Subdivingor reducing hexes for smaller scale details can be a pain. Often detail scale hex maps align 90 degrees to the larger scale hex map they are detailing, I find this annoying in the extreme. Also if one has a 24 mile hex (for example) is it measuring from center to center, edge to edge or point to point, it doesn't' matter too much on the large scale but when zooming in for a smaller scale detail map it makes a difference.

So hmmmm... to hex or not to hex, that is the question?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Civilization Among the Ruins

There are a couple bastions of "civilization" in the MutantBox I'm brewing.

FreshPond and Lookout Hill- A Small Township composed of two villages, the agrarian village that rests mostly along the western side of Fresh pond and the remainder on the nearby fortification of Lookout Hill.
Fresh Pond is mostly Agrarian with communal and individual farm plots spreading about the pond and towards the Merry Gloom River. People tend to live clusterd in the village proper with only those farm plots nearest to the center of the territory occupied at night in small farmhouses.
Look Out Hill is at it's core an ancient structure that has been reinforced, expanded and fortified over the years. The population of Lookout Hill serves as the local militia as of late with members drawn from among the general population of Fresh Pond with about 100 militia composed of a handful of officers and lifers but mostly 4-year men who serve before gaining the right to farm nearby. Lookout Hill provides a good view of all the farms of Fresh Pond and notable incursions can be quickly spotted and reacted to; the fortification also provides a goodly view of The Cinders, The Shells and the somewhat ominous towers of 175 street.
Current rule is by "The Coop" a Cooperative of established elder farmers and three senior officers from Lookout Hill.
population: 1,200 mixed (30% Pure Human, 50% Mutant Human, 20% Mutant Animal)
goods: food,cloth, some alcohol, beasts of burden and leather goods

Spillside- Once a growing concern this center of rubble scavengers and chemical distillers has shrunk in recent years due to incompetent leadership and rampant crime. The community still holds together by inertia waiting to utterly fail or for new leadership to guide it along a new path.
Current rule is divided among merchants and gangs, no one has dared to call themselves mayor for 3 or 4 years.
Population: 500 mixed (mostly Mutant Human with a few resident Mutant Plants)
Goods: Alcohol, Black Powder, Junk and numerous Chemicals.

Bay Town- Nestled among the half sunken ancient structures of Black Bay is this growing religious community permits outsiders to travel and fish in the waters but not to go treasure hunting above or below the waves in it's territory. The Sea Temple is run by approximately 40 priests known as The Acolytes. Androids, cyborgs and Robots are "deactivated" and stored beneath the waves.
Current rule is divided between The Commodore and The Acolytes.
Population: 800 (40% pure human , 55% mutant human, 5% mutant animals)
Goods: Salvaged metals (seldom irradiated), newly forged weapons and armor, seafood, pearls and the best boats in the area.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More locations in the MutantBox

A few more locations in my MutantBox.

The Tumbles
- once a vast array of public housing for a thriving ancient metropolis they have all since collapsed. The curiosity of this mass of ruins is how it looks like they all slipped and tumbled over with entire sections seemingly more or less intact before being enshrouded in rubble and overgrown as they are now. It's been known for scavengers to simply be walking along a well used trail and fall into a stories deep space that suddenly opens beneath them. (some megadungeoning here)

The Merry Gloom River- and ancient river that has walked east and west of it's former route a number of times. It currently is lost somewhere in The Crack. Surprisingly enough most of the fish within the river are edible and most of the vegetables seem to be generally edible.

The Groves- A patch of forest once a large swath of suburbia which was washed clean of a great deal of waste by the Merry Gloom in years past before it settled in it's current banks. the groves have a lot of good fruit and hunting ;who is the hunted and the hunter can change from minute to minute of course. (a couple trees from The Groves can be seen in the northwest corner of the map shot)

Pleasant Valley Tech- a large technical college that has long been surrounded by multiple layers of security fencing and other defenses since the before times. Some claim the barriers have been expanding outwards in recent years. Nothing is known of those who may live there as all attempts to breach it's defenses have failed and there is no front doro to knock on. (Partially visible on the map shot posted previously on the western edge)

Dry River Bed- this stretch of ground used to be the course of the river that became the merry gloom. There is a brackish marsh where the sea still laps inland during high-tides. It's widely known to travelers and scavengers that the Dry River Bed is the hunting ground of a large pair of Goliaths.

The Last Bridge- an ancient superhighway bridge spans the Dry River Bed and can be seen for miles about. The population of avian mutants that nest here can prove to be a challenge for anyone trying to cross.

175th Street- an amazingly well preserved stretch of high-rises, office buildings and shops somehow survived the destruction of most of the city and what remains proves a draw for scavengers and beasts to this day. It's an eerie reminder of what was lost.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mutant Future Campaign Development (MutantBox)

So After a bunch of unrelated games I'm going for it and developing a mutant future campaign.
To coin popular current terms it'll be sandbox and megadungeon campaign. I suppose I'll be calling it the MutantBox for now. I sketched out the setting in a flurry of inspiration here is a bad webcam shot of some of the sketched crude map:

(yeah not amazing yet but it was whipped up quickly and shot on a webcam)

Some of the locations on the shot of the map posted here:

The Petrified Forest- an ancient forest transformed into a hard stone like substance, leaves like blades keep sane folks out. What secrets could it keep safe?

The Dead Flats- nothign taller then 6 feet occupies this pulverized stretch of scrub overgrown rubble. Avian predators are a menace during the day and at night it's rumored the dead roam hunting for the flesh of the living.

The Tar Pit- A vast flat patch of oozing tar with the remains of ancient vehicles and salvage materials serving as a haphazard maze to gain access to the structure in the middle. Predators and scavengers of all sorts are drawn to the edges and out along the makeshift bridges to feed upon those that find themselves stuck in the tar. (possible mega-dungeon location)

The Glow- A flattened stretch of land that glows with an eerie light each and every night.

The Dome- A great golden dome half buried within an age of rubble. (obvious mega-dungeon location)

The Crack- A huge fissure in the earth hundreds of yards wide in places and possibly a mile deep. A river ruins into it's depths ands is lost. Many dozens of cavities and entrances can be seen along it's shattered walls. (possible mega-dungeon location)

Green Hell- A vast and riotously overgrown span of ruins full of a bewildering array of mutant plants.

There are more areas shown on the shot above and several more off the edges of the area shown. As time goes by I'll update and expand.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Villains are not always much of a BBEG

Villains in fantasy gaming are often over the top, the BBEG, the boss monster. Step back from this and you can get a much more rewarding game playing experience.

In campaigns past I've gotten a lot of mileage out of one simple villainous feature- re-occurrence. For a villain to be really notable they have to be in play more then once. Players have to grow to hate them.

Black Pate an orc chieftain leading a modest sized tribe of raiding orcs. Black Pate wasn't tied to one dungeon and would sometimes hire his tribe out to other baddies as mercenaries. He was a cunning careful bully that cajoled his underlings and got them to take the blows and fled when needed. Stat wise he wasn't amazing being a pretty straightforward Orc chieftain as per the MM. He got his name form a noble woman's wig he had captured years earlier and liked to wear to make him highly noticeable (it also added a bit of memorable ick factor for the players). Eventually Black Pate met his end in battle against the PCs. The ick factor and his showing up for more then one fight made him a memorable villain.

Kleep was a goblin flunky of a more obvious BBEG (Kurg the Fearsome a Half-Ogre anti-paladin). He served as a combination lapdog, court lackey and jester for the great Kurg and when Kurg met his end Kleep was quick to praise his slayer as king. After a time it turned out Kleep was untrustworthy and dangerous, he managed to escape justice and turned up now and again in the service of an evil wizard or accompanying other balckhearts; kleep was last seen on a pirate ship the Pcs were fire-balling (mostly because Kleep was on it). Kleep was slightly exceptional having 5 or 6 levels of thief, he was still no match for a mid-level band of PCs.
Turning up again and again made Kleep a memorable villain.

Don't suicide your villains on direct attacks. Give time to display personality. Let them escape if they rightly can. Their recurrence will mean far more to your campaign then all the HP and speical powers ever will.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Split the Party

An old RPG adage runs "never split the party". It's both to make life easier for the belabored DM and increase the odds of PC survival and effectiveness. It makes some sense indeed for the players to always have their PCs pool resources and capabilities, that's why there are adventuring parties after all. For the novice DM or one with a host of immature players it's a good tactic to keep everyone in the same mob sometimes DMing can indeed feel like "herding cats". After years of play it's my considered opinion that never splitting the party is cheating the players and the DM of a wider range of adventure experiences.

The DM needs to master 2 techniques to make splitting the party work: record keeping and the cut scene. With record keeping the DM must keep track of where and when PCs are active, PCs will quickly displace themselves in time given the opportunity to do so and the DM has to be accurate and firm in keeping track of this.
Note doors kicked in and bodies and loot left behind.
The cut scene should be used to create cliff hangers without otherwise upsetting the flow of play. A random encounter is much more exciting presented as a cliff hanger then the standard presentation and pretty easy to pull off with careful record keeping aiding the DM.

Additional tricks to keep splitting the party fun:
Verisimilitude in encounters: have encounters that make sense, more low level monsters present as opposed to high level monsters that always conveniently are the right level to challenge 6-10 adventurers of the dungeon level. Big tough monsters that folks get plenty of warning about so they can decide to gather the adventurers together since they can't be tackled by just 1 or 2 PCs.

A pair of ghouls is short work for all but the most inexperienced of parties but a lone fighter or 1 or 2 thieves will feel very differently about such an encounter than an entire party would.

Small treasures worth winning for 1 but not for 1 dozen.

The chance to harm allies. Keep descriptions of folks trying to creep down tunnels and go unnoticed vague. "You see three shadowy figures sneaking down the corridor avoiding the center of the passage. " gives a lot more room for misunderstandings and accidental assaults on fellow adventurers than dose "you see Mort, Nelson and Valdra walking down the hall". Check for surprise for each party, if surprised allow for a save of some kind and on the first round the surprised party can act they will act as if they were in a typical dungeon encounter (flight or fight). You have to be loose and fancy free with this and every now and then someone is getting fire balled by a friend.

Scouting missions. The quiet sneaky guys can move ahead of the rest of the party and check things out an hopefully not have to deal with major encounters. This is the easiest method of split part to encourage

Have players play some monsters. You want to see the dungeon beasties attack with cunning and awful ferocity, let one of the uninvolved players take the role of one or more monsters during an encounter; the fight will be more memorable for everyone involved.

When a wandering encounter comes chasing some of your friends down the hall it's a lot more exciting. Since folks can move around over a larger area of the dungeon they are going to be encountering more foes if they are not careful and possibly bringing them to their friends to deal with.

Let players do what they want. Don't let players act on knowledge their characters couldn't reasonably be privy to. It's safe to assume all the PCs at a table know about a trap when all the adventurers meet up at the local tavern but not while they are in two separate parties crawling about the depths until they are able to meet up in space and time. By letting players do what they want with the knowledge they have when the party is split up the actions of one player do not always immediately impact the play experience of everyone else at the table. The pesky thief doesn't' have to be ruining the game for everyone at the table with his exploits and failed pick pocket rolls if the whole party isn't present (the last one thief was seen in a campaign was his boots on the feet of a beggar a day or two after he went on a pub-crawl)

Get the players used to giving up time. Keep one fraction of the adventurers to no more then 15 or 20 minutes of table time.

Multiple characters per player. Let players run multiple characters if they wish but encourage them to split up by time sharing, the folks that can't bear losing table time will split up their characters or face large swaths of waiting for their turn.Sometimes players can end up playing the retainers and henchmen of other players, I like this arrangement but it's a tricky method that one shouldn't forcefully encourage.

With these techniques I had PCs running about on different continents, three time zones and multiple planes of existence all in the same gaming session, in a campaign that lasted for years.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Dming last night for my regular weekly game and I got one of those, "gee you guys could pay a little more attention" moments.

The PCs are on a long ocean voyage and after a messy ambush by Sahuagin they had to land at a nearby port and let the capatian recruit soem fresh blood to replace the sailors lost to the Sahuagin raiders.

A bit of poking about and the PCs discover there is a small band of bandits harassing the farmers and ranchers of the islands uplands, 2,5000 gp for the female Leader of the bandits alive or 2,000 gp for her Dead.

after some quick and clever play the party locates the suspected hideout of the bandits in a ranch they may have taken over. The party sent in a scout under protection of invisibility, who discovered most of the farm family and hands trussed up (but still alive) in a smoke house.
On the porch of the meager ranchhouse a scrawny an shifty fellow greeted the PCs and invited them in for dinner where they discovered an woman cooking and preparing to serve the guests and an older man sitting at the table. Just before it was too late one of the party members spotted a couple figures moving in the rafters above them and the battle was on.

The bandits occupying the ranch house turned out to be lycanthropes a number of wererats a pair of werewolves and a weretiger. The fight was quick and furious. The weretiger grabbed the party MU and dargged him back up to the rafters to where she could deal with him. He luckily got off a disintegrate spell before the were tiger killed him; the rest of the party dealt with all but one of the wererats that escaped with some loot, they even managed to capture the female wererat that was pretending to serve them food.

To their horror when they got the wererat back to the governor of the island and it was discovered the wererat was not the leader of the bandit gang, the weretigress had been and alas no body no reward.

One of the players went "oh crud I knew it" havign noticed me mention "she" and "her" a few times describign the wer tigers actions but hadn't caught on enough to warn the other players. If the MU had paid a little more attention they might just have gotten their reward.

New Character Race: Mutak (first draft)

Hit Dice: 1d6 per point of CON
Mutations: 1 mental and 1d4+2 physical mutations

Mutaks are amazingly mutated descendants of humanity. They are considered freakish even by the standards of the Mutant Future. They are ever changing and one would be hard pressed to recognize a specific Mutak from year to year. Mutations that are physically noticeable are always extremely noticeable (even outlandish). Mutations that may not typically have a physical manifestation may indeed have one should the ML and player wish to create one.

Mutation Development: For each mutation rolled determine it's development according to this table. 1d8 at character creation, 1d10 when gaining a level.

Die Roll....Development
1-2.............Latent, the mutation is present but not currently useable by the Mutak
3-4............Vestigial, the mutation is present but minor. the mutation may be used but once per day. If normally always active it is only usable for an hour day. If a drawback it can be willingly suppressed for 1 hour a day. All variable numbers are lowest possible score no roll required.
5-6............typical, as per description in book.
7-8...........Developed/Chronic. Usable twice as often. Fixed score are improved by 1. Damage causing mutations receive a bonus of 2 pts per die. Drawbacks are twice as severe.
9-10.......Purged, the mutation disappears.

When a Mutak gains a level it re-rolls the development of all mutations. A Mutak could find an effective mutational power becomes undependable or a scourge could disappear.

If a Mutak fails 3 saving throws versus radiation in one day the the Mutak develops a new mutation. When a Mutak gains a new mutation there is a 20% chance it is a mental mutation, otherwise it is physical mutation.

Mutaks are considered unstable and undependable by most who are aware of their true nature. This prejudice and their own personal attitude about others being likely to treat them poorly gives Mutaks a -2 to their CHA score.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"some characters might want to do this."

Among a hosts of topics in a recent post over at Grognardia ( a poster claimed there was little or no support for the "supposed" D&D end game of stronghold/barony building that there was little more than "some characters might want to do this." I say this claim is bogus and ill-informed. Here are where the rules and guidelines for one wantign to brign the "end game" into play may be found-

on page 6 of Men&Magic "Top-level fighters (Lords and above) who build castles are considered "Barons", and as such they may invest in their holdings in order to increase their income (see the INVESTMENTS section of Volume III). Base income for a Baron is a tax rate of 10 Gold Pieces/inhabitant of the barony/game year. "

Already more then "some characters may want to do this" on the first mention of strongholds and baronies.

on page 7 of Men& Magic "When Clerics reach the top level (Patriarch) they may opt to build
their own stronghold, and when doing so receive help from "above". Thus, if they spend 100,000 Gold Pieces in castle construction, they may build a fortress of double that cost. Finally, "faithful" men will come to such a castle, being fanatically loyal, and they will serve at no cost. There will be from 10-60 heavy cavalry, 10-60 horsed crossbowmen ("Turcopole"-type), and 30-180 heavy foot.
Note that Clerics of 7th level and greater are either "Law" or "Chaos", and
there is a sharp distinction between them. If a Patriarch receiving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed!
Clerics with castles of their own will have control of a territory similar to the "Barony" of fighters, and they will receive "tithes" equal to 20 Gold Pieces/ Inhabitant/year.

Again far more than "some characters may want to do this"

Pages 12 and 13 of Men & Magic cover recruiting NPCS to a PCs employ and NPC loyalty. I consider such territory essential as I'm pretty sure a stronghold/barony is going to have a few NPCs on it.

Pages 20 & 23 of Wilderness and Underworld Adventures
gives a "draw it yourself" castle design method and costs for typical features/constructions. It covers a whole lot with a paragraph and a page of illustrations and list of expenses.

Pages 20 & 23 of Wilderness and Underworld Adventures
cover specialists and the monthly wages they are to be paid when in the employ of a PC. The functions of these Specialists are clearly in support of a stronghold/barony. What good is an armorer in a dungeon? An animal Trainer? An essential role of these specialists is to support a lords holdings.
Men-at-arms are listed and these fellows are far more use marching on another Lords Barony then they would be in a dungeon. What role would Heavy Horsemen play inside a dungeon?
Costs for all these NPCs are given as "Monthly Costs" and surely these months are not meant to be taken up in a dungeon where such types would be fodder at best for the teeth and claws of the dungeon denizens.

Pages 24 of Wilderness and Underworld Adventures
We are given a the guidelines for Character support and upkeep and are informed A PC must pay 1% of EXP a month in support and upkeep until such a time as they build a stronghold. Again more about strongholds than "some characters may want to do this"

Within the section discussing Baronies we learn what the requirement for claiming an area as a Barony is, the population a Barony may support, the revenues a barony may generate and possible investments a baron may make to improve a barony. These improvements are indeed a simple list and construction times are already given for buildings and the costs for some specialists are given.

All told there are more then 1200 words in the original D&D rules (a work of about 41,000 words) that cover rules and guidelines that cover the stronghold/barony building "end game" of D&D. Decidedly more than "some characters might want to do this."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What's in a Name? or Ability Scores and their names

Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma are the old school ability scores. Many a game-night and many a tale that followed did flow from using those six ability scores and the names they were given. But would different tales and games unfold if those abilities bore different names?

Let's start with Wisdom, this is often the most essential attribute for clerics and sometimes provides an advantage to save vs magic. Let's call this ability Piety; it'll do everything a Wisdom score used to do but will have a tighter reflection on how devout a character is and how in tune they are with the spirits/gods of their faith.

Next Dexterity, this often is used to apply a modifier to chance to hit with ranged weapons, get the heck out of the way in combat and possibly dodge traps, well let's call this Luck and see how it feels. Characters with high Luck scores get lucky shots in, manage to not be standing in the wrong place and are good with cards. Thieves are often linked to Dexterity, with that becoming luck a Thief shifts very slightly from a capable nimble fellow to an opportunist willing to test their fortunes in a wild and dangerous world.

Now Charisma, hmmm this is leadership and appeal let's try calling it Glamour not fashion celebrity but the ability to sway others opinions and perceptions of oneself. The quasi-magical nature of this can add an air of mystery and otherness to those with extreme scores.

Intelligence is often used as a measure of how much one knows and their ability to learn. Unfortunately the player of the character is often not always as intelligent as their character so how to make this work in play possibly by redefining as Lore a characters ability to know and use information.

Next up Constitution this is often used for health and hardiness. Change it to Spirit to reflect a oness drive and determination and we have a new definition for a set of modifiers that is otherwise identical.

finally we have Strength reworked as Stature which reflects one size and reach. A character with greater stature still get the combat modifiers associated with strength but with the reworking of the score as it relates to size it's application to non-human races can have some impact.

Let's look at the same character with the old and new Definitions

Str: 15 ,Int: 12 ,Wis: 9, Dex: 14, Con: 9, Cha: 11
A strong character, on the brighter end of average, not the most sensible of people but certainly nonbodies fool, failry agile and coordinated, of ordinary health at best and pretty average appeal.

Sta: 15, Lor: 12, Pty: 9, Luk: 14, Spt: 9, Glm:11
A large character, with a bit more knowledge then the avergae man but not exceptional, no great faith but also hardly a slacker or heretic in his faith, with better then average luck with a a lack of overt determination and no notable ability to dissuade or influence others.

Identical scores, identical modifiers that go along analogous but not completely identical characters. Playing with names and definitions and we get a different campaign.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Combat Variant Armor Classes

Here are some combat options and related variant ACs for descending AC. Not perfect, not playtested, just some ideas.

WAC- Waylay/Wallop Armor Class.
This is ones AC versus attempts to waylay or wallop them upon the head so as to stun or knock one out.

WAC Table
Hat/Skull cap...5
Great Helm......0
...........normal AC improved by 3.

If a target is harmed by a wallop attack they are required to make a save if damage suffered is > HD or Lvl.

Waylay/Wallop effects
Target Level.........Effect
1 to 3.....................Knocked out for 2-5 rounds
4 to 8.....................Stunned for 1-3 rounds
9+..........................Staggered, other attacks against target +2 to hit this round.

CON and DEX bonus apply to WAC if defender is aware of opponent.

GAC- Grab Armor Class.
This is ones Ac versus attempts to grab.

GAC Table
Spiked Helmet....................6
Spiked collar&bracers.....5
Spike G&B w/spiked
Spiked Armor....................2
Monster W AC 3 or better
.............use monster AC improved by 2

STR& DEX bonus apply to GAC if defender is aware of opponent.

Unless surprised a foe is allowed a free attack against one attempting to grab them. Special attacks can change the situation. Successful free attacks cancel the grab attempt.

A grabbed opponent can be hit by allies at +2.

A large creature can't be completely neutralized by being grabbed unless the total number of folk grabbing are greater then the creatures HD.

An attack of a large creature, such as a lions bite can be neutralized by a successful grab.

On following rounds A foe can break off a grab with a successful grab attack against the grabber unless special abilities prohibit this.

Grabbed opponents are -4 to attack others. Situations and natural attacks can mitigate this. (avoid trying to grab a Wraith)

KBAC- Knock Back Armor Class.
This is ones armor class vs attempts to knock one back or down in melee combat.

KBAC= Normal AC improved by 2 and modified as follows

STR bonus applies to KBAC
Medium sized.....improve by 1
Large sized........improve by 2
Huge sized........improve by 4
four or more legs.... improve by 4

Effects of KBAC attack
small weapons.... 1d6
medium weapons....2d6
large weapons........3d6
blunt weapons.... +1d6

Target only suffers 1 normal point of damage but if Knockback is greater then or equal to target STR, consult chart:

Knockback -STR......result
less then effect
0.................................Staggered, any other attacks against target are +2 this round
1-6.............................Knocked to knees, target loses DEX bonus to AC and is -2 to own attacks.
7-12...........................Knocked Back, target is sent sprawling up to 10' away.
13+..........................Sent sprawling up tot 10' away, target drops weapons and is knocked prone. Stunned for 1-3 rounds if save failed.

quickie STR calculation:

10+monster HD + any hp bonus listed.
If small divide by 2
if large add 6
if huge add 12

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Level Dungeon Adventures

From this post over at grognardia I got to wondering what no level D&D like gaming could be like. By "no level" I'm meaning no PC levels, no exp.

Here's some suggestions:

Start with your favorite old-school fantasy rpg change things as below.

Hit Points: PCs and Villains get a number of HP = CON + 1.5 x HD type. So if the class has 1d8 HD and the CON of the PC is 14 we are getting a PC with 26 HP.

A spell using character starts with 3 first level spells if they get them at 1st level normally. They start with no spells if they don't start with spells at first level normally.

The highest number of spell levels a spell-caster can have ready is equal to the PC's primary ability score associated with spell casting. A MU with INT 15 would be able to have a total of 15 levels worth of spells ready. ( maybe 4-1st level, 1-2nd, 1-3rd and 1-6th level spell)

Spells are acquired by tutelage or theft. A Cleric would have to maintain a prayer book of spells.

Spells that do variable damage do a number of dice equal to the spell level.

Class skills/ability checks:
If a class has a skill that requires dice rolls to resolve that are normally tied to levels use ability checks. Roll 3d6 vs a ability for class skills, 6d6 vs a ability when it isn't a class skill.

normal-man/non-fighters- THAC0 20
semi-fighters- THAC0 18
fighters- THAC0 14

Saving Throws- use the scores your original game would use for 4th level characters.

Clerical Spell Acquisiton Mechanic

from the AD&D 1st edition DMG: "the character is dedicated to this deity and is able to perform as a cleric thereof. It is this background which enables the cleric character to use first level spells. ...continued service and activity on behalf of the player character's deity empower him or her to use second level spells as well, but thereafter another agency must be called upon. Cleric spells of third, fourth, and fifth level are obtained through the aid of supernatural servants of the cleric's deity... Cleric spells of sixth and seventh level are granted by direct communication from the deity itself."

Carefully read this is a major limiting factor on cleric power. I've never seen this played out in the game or related games, possibly because there were no related mechanics.

Here now is a possible set of mechanics:

Clerics are able to gain spells of 1st and 2nd level without consulting the following table so long as they maintain their faith.

Acquiring spells from Intermediaries
3 or less.......Atonement Required
4-5...............Stern Refusal
6-9...............Spell Refused
10-14...........Granted Reluctantly
15 or more...Spell Freely Granted

roll 3d6 apply the following modifiers.
-1 per regular service missed
+2 for praying at temple of faith
+2 for praying at altar dedicated to Intermediary.
+2 for incorporating relic linked to Intermediary.
-1 if Cleric CHA 6 or less
+1 if Cleric CHA 13-15
+2 if Cleric CHA is 6-17
+3 if Cleric CHA is 18+
+2 to all requests if lesser sacrifice has been made today.
+4 to all requests if greater sacrifice has been made today.

results explained-
Atonement Required- spell denied not further spells may be requested from entity until cleric atones by spending 2-8 days in prayer, fasting, and contemplation. May try to gain spells again after atonement but even so will still suffer a -2 modifier to roll. Other Intermediaries may not be contacted to gain ANY spells of that level or greater until atonement is complete.

Stern Refusal- spell denied and all further requests for spells will be made with a -4 modifier. Spell may not be asked for by that Intermediary for 2-5 days. Other Intermediaries may be contacted to gain the a sternly refused spell but a request for that spell will require a -3 modifier.

Spell Refused- spell denied. Cleric may ask again in a day. Other Intermediaries contacted on the same day may grant the spell but the appeal is at -2.

Granted Reluctantly- Intermediary reluctantly grants spell. All other requests from Intermediary for the day are made at -1.

Spell Freely Granted- cleric is granted use of the spell.

Acquiring spells from Deity
4 or less.......Atonement Required
5-7...............Stern Refusal
8-12...............Spell Refused
13 or more...Spell Freely Granted

roll 3d6 apply the following modifiers.
-1 per regular service missed
+2 for praying at temple of faith
+2 for incorporating relic linked to Deity.
-1 if Cleric CHA 6 or less
+1 if Cleric CHA 15-17
+2 if Cleric CHA is 18+
+1 to a request if lesser sacrifice made.
+2 to a request if greater sacrifice made.
+6 to all requests if Major sacrifice made this week.

Atonement Required- spell denied not further spells may be requested from entity until cleric atones by spending 3-18 days in prayer, fasting, and contemplation. ANY spells of that level or greater are lost unless Deity grants their use for a quest related to atonement. Intermediaries contacted for lower level spells during this period will do so with a -4 modifier.

Stern Refusal- spell denied and all further requests for spells will be made with a -2 modifier. Intermediaries contacted for lower level spells for the next week will do so at -2.

Spell Refused- spell denied.

Spell Freely Granted- cleric is granted use of the spell.

Contacting multiple Intermediaries-
As can be inferred from the table above multiple Intermediaries can be contacted by clerics. A cleric should start play only knowing the prayers and rituals required to contact a single Intermediary. The means to contact additional intermediaries can be sought out or made available as the DM established for the campaign.

A DM could limit the spells that will be granted by speicifc Intermediaries thus compelling the player of the cleric to seek out the means to contact specific Intermediaries to gain access to some spells.

The DM may freely apply situational modifiers. This sub-subsystem weakens the power of the cleric but builds player involvement in the role of playing a cleric.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Shazarot"...uh no..."shagzamot" it's "Shamaazak" !

Alternate MU spell casting sub-system for old-school games

This sub-system is an example making magic use more involved at the tabletop as discussed in my last post. It's an attempt to model forgetful old wizards and magical duels.

Every MU has the same number of spells ready as defined in the rules used. Each spell is not automatically cast nor is it expended when cast.

Readying Spells.
Readying spells takes a considerable amount of time and effort. A hour per spell level must be spent to ready a spell known to a MU. It takes a high level MU a great deal of time and effort to ready a full range of spells. (What do folks think wizards are doing in their towers after all?)

Casting A Spell
Spells are not automatically successful. A MU must make a casting check each time they attempt to cast a spell.
A Casting Check is made by rolling 3d6.
The following modifiers apply to the roll
-1 if the level of spell being cast
+1 if the level of the MU
-2 if the MU has weapons or device in hands other then magical apparatus.
-3 if the MU moved this round or is mounted
-9 if the MU is engaged in melee
-12 if the MU is held or bound
-12 if MU damaged while spell casting
+2 for each MU helping (multiple MU can aid each other if they have spell prepared)

Casting Check Results Table
4 or less...spell lost
5 to 8.......spell forgotten
9...............spell miscast
10 to 15......spell delayed
16 or more...spell cast

Explanation of casting check results:

Spell Lost- the spell is removed from the list of ready spells.

Spell Forgotten- the spell is marked as forgotten and may not be cast until it is remembered. (see remembering spells)

Spell Miscast- spell simply doesn't work

Spell Delayed- casting isn't complete caster is able to act next round, it is then successful.
An enemy MU can counter if in area of effect.

Spell Cast- spell is successfully cast. An enemy MU can counter if in area of effect.

Counter Spell
All MU are able to counter the spells of other MU without risking loss of readied spells. A MU attempting to counter spell must be the target or within the area of effect of the spell to do so.

roll 3d6.
+1 per level for counter spelling MU
-1 per level for casting MU
-12 if counter spelling MU cast a spell this round
-2 if counter spelling MU has weapons or device in hands other then magical apparatus.
-3 if counter spelling MU this round or is mounted
-12 if counter spelling MU is engaged in melee
+2 for each MU helping (multiple MU can aid each other if they are in area of effect)

Counter Spell Check Chart
3 or less....Counter Stunned
4 to 12.........Counter Spelling fails
13................Spell Halted
14 to 15.......Casting Delayed
16 or 17.......Counter Spelling Successful
18+........... Spell Reflected

Counter Stunned- counter spelling fails and MU attempting to counterspell is stunned for 1-3 rounds
Counter Spelling Fails- counter spelling fails

Spell Halted- spell goes off midpoint between caster and target, casting MU can cancel spell if
higher level then the countering MU.

Casting Delayed- incoming spell is delayed one more round.

Counter Spelling Successful- spell is successfully countered, will not function.

Spell Reflected- spell sent back to casting MU, it "goes off" at max range if range to target and back to caster greater then spell range. A higher level MU can cancel a spell reflected if Mu would still be in area of effect. A MU may attempt to Counter a spell reflected back at them but shoudl carefully consider modifiers when doing so.

Remembering Spells
A MU can spend a full 10 minutes trying to recall a forgotten spell at any point in time.
A MU may attempt to quickly recall a forgotten spell as a free action once a day per level (not in the same round they forgot a spell however)

The chance to Remember a spell is tied to Intelligence

INT score....Chance to Remember Spell
9 or less......45%
10 to 14.......55%

If one is attempting quickly recall a forgotten spell subtract the spell level from INT to determine effective INT to determine the chance to remember the spell.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making magic magical (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

3. Tie Magic to Non-Character Resources
by non-character resources here I mean equipment, items and other elements that are not defined in the rules as being part of the defining elements of a character or character class. A MU must seek out and resupply such resources. The resources could involve supernatural/magical energies that must be sought out, special materials that must be sought out or simply a mix of components that must be present to enact magic.
Magical energies could include such things as elemental essence or soul-force. It must be actively sought and harvested by a MU. A likely source would be other MUs and magical beings putting the MU in a role of having to engage in potentially dangerous activity to collect enough power to produce the really powerful magical spells. This is similar to spell points as often expressed in RPGs but it isn't a renewable quality of the MU alone but a resource that must be collected from somewhere else.
A magical material (incantium, magicum, etc...) is needed to cast spells. This differs from the above in that non mages may collect and transfer the substance and the material itself directly provides the energy for magic.
Components as the energy source that powers magical spells. The mage combines the components and the method this is done powers the magical spells. Many games and campaigns use components but not extensively and they provide little room for the player to experiment.
A versatile range of components with lesser and greater effects and some components requiring additional preparation on part of the mage adds involvement and utility to component based magic.

4. Make magic use more involved at the tabletop
Many a campaign the player of a mage announces: "I cast spell X" , effects are determined and that's it. Not very exciting or magical. This situation is relieved somewhat by requiring a roll for success to build in drama. If one makes this roll different from combat or skill checks (if your game has them) magic stands a bit apart by having it's mechanics a little different.
Allow use of gimmicks that add to success of a mages spells; a mage with a lock of hair from a victim or calling out a targets true name or wielding a wand dedicated to a specific target should all aid the mage.
There is a lot of room in making magic more involved by adding new subsystems to the game. I only really hinted at some solutions here and hope to have more with mechanics on later posts.

5. Making Magic Rare
Making magic rare would certainly make magical more wondrous and exciting. Raising requirements for spell casting characters. Increasing spell casting times or renewal; by example if clerics could only renew spells once a week and otherwise obeyed all rules of the game then clerical magic would indeed be rarer. Forbidding more then one spell caster of a certain class to operate in the same party at the same time.
Perhaps spell casting requires magic items, this reduces the immediate availability of a spell if the device i not present. Knowledge of the fireball spell or possession of a fireball wand alone do not permit one to cast a fireball spell one must have knowledge of the spell and the wand to use the spell. One would have to allow relatively inexperienced mages access to manufacturing of magic items, either by rules that allow them to manufacture the item themselves or contact with more powerful mages who can provide the devices. This method makes magical rarer through expense.
Limit frequency of casting. The laws of magic as they are could forbid a spell from being cast immediately after it was cast and or maybe no more then three times a day. This forces more variety in spell casting and limits some frequently abusive RPG tactics.

The techniques in this post and the earlier one will not alone make magical more magical in every instance. Balancing multiple methods will certainly have impact to make magic feel different from one campaign to another which uses uncertainty to increase the mystery element of magic. NPC reactions to magic (and encouraging players to go along) in seeing magic as wondrous and exciting certainly should add to the success of making magic feel magical.

I hope to provide more detail and possible rule subsystems for making magic magical in future posts as keeping the fantastic as just that makes fantasy role playing games special.