Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Time Traveler

There's a viral video going about that's getting a lot of media attention. The originator claims it shows a time traveler:

Seems the time patrol missed this one so far. In a few days it will be proven to be a hoax and then the evidence will be removed from the time-stream and only a few of us will ever remember the incident. ;-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My old D&D Boxed set

I thought it would be fun to go through one of my D&D basic boxed sets and chose the one I use and not the one in storage.

This D&D boxed set is the original Basic D&D edited by Eric Holmes. The box is a bit battered with a split corner. There's a blue sticker on the cover so this means it's not the first one I had as a kid but a copy I got at a Yankee swap one christmas in the mid-late 90's.

The blue covered basic rulebook is in pretty good shape, two different reams of paper were clearly used in the printing as the middle fold of the book has whiter pages then the outer fold of pages. A previous owner took an orange marker to the book and underlined some passages throughout the book. It's the second edtion november 1978 printing and is a little different from the original one I had but I don't currently recall all the differences.

Next in is a character sheet written on lined notebook paper for Sir Smasher a human fighter, a sheet my son used judging by the handwriting. Sir Smasher earend all of 46 exp. The equipment section on the sheet lists EV along with some items (Tunic 1 EV, Tulwar 2 EV) hmmm?

Following that is a copy of B2 Keep on the Borderlands. This module is old and worn but still usable. This module didn't come in this boxed set, it was with another copy of basic. The outdoor map had a couple numbered locations penciled in sometime 30-25 years ago. The chart in the back of the book for additional NPC characters is mostly full. There are a number of elves with elfquest-like names and a number of "tribesmen". Some of the classes include Hunter and Healer.
There are a couple of printed out sheets beefign up a few encounters shoved into the back of the module. Lair A, once the kobold lair is ransacked. The orcs in lair B are the "Spittlegore" orcs composed of cast-offs from the horde of Thar, they are tough and on the lookout for mates and loot. (I'll post the full set of noted sometime).

Next booklet in is "Monster Manuscript" from grenadier models (1986).An okay thin monster manual that had stats for a line of grenadier models, some duplicates of D&d monsters, some new monsters and some variants.

After that the "Bones of Power" a book full of dice charts that incorporated a skull die and a devil die from gamescience. The dice are not in this box (they wouldn't fit). I don't know if I ever used this much at all in the past.

Deepwr into the box there is a wad of notebook paper. One sheet has a sketch of the outer ward of the keep on the borderlands with the only labels being "provisoner" and "Blacksmith", not in my hand writing. A charcter sheet for a Human Wizard by the name of Killer Jr. He's got 46 exp also, he was palyed by a freidn of the family and clearly went with Sir Smasher mentioned earlier and he has a spell of mending that isn't in homes. Another sheet is the character sheet for Father Gary who also earned 46 exp. There's a sheet for ransack holds-a-lot the thief who is armed with a tulwar as smasher was above. There's a sheet for Sir Gillian Alabaster a fighter with scores marked for horsemaship and Inspire who earned all of 14 exp.

Another wad of papers follows that, these folded in half and labeled "Goblin Caves" in my handwriting, they are the sheets of a party slain in the caves of chaos. Kipper the thief who earned 12 exp, William the wizard who never earned exp, killer the fighter who never earned exp, Gelgamesh the fighter who had 0 g.p and no exp and last but not least Poofta an elf with 75 g.p. and had earned 12 exp. All these sheets look like a cross of basic and C&C.

After the hapless crew of PCs there is an old mon0chrome copy of B1 that came with this box, it's in excellent shape that waslikely never used, I had another copy of B1 but it's not in this box.

The Monster and treasure assortment sets-one-three:level one-nine is also stuffed in the box. It's in surprisingly good shape for how much I used it back in the olden days.

Mors hseets are in the bottom of the box Pegolaff the elf and Bimbli the dwarf share space on a character sheet written in my son's scrawl. On another sheet there's a crude but seemingly accurate map of a portion of the sample dungeon in the rule book. Tarni the dwarf is on another sheet of paper with 9 HP and 340 g.p of treasure. A no name fighter with 2 HP, plate armor and 5 torches along with a week of iron rations is on the back of that sheet. Tostina the thief is here with 2 hp and all her encumbrance figured out for here equipment. Clerk the cleric is after her at 3rd level and 274 g.p. he can cast protection from evil and cure light wounds, he own 11 weeks of rations but is only carrying 2. These are all followe dby a used tally sheet with notes for encounters with scorpions, 53 skeletons, small monsters, a wight and 12 more skeletons.

So that's what was in my D&D boxed set. What's in yours?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Horror Averted

My Halloween adventure slotted for tonight has been averted due to head colds.
Pity too as I the PCs were stumbling into a cluster $%#! of a situation.

Towards the end of last session the players scoped out sources and bills posted in taverns to find a "job". The Barbarian in the party spent three days at searching out posted bills until he realized...he can't read, and the players thought I was just being obstinate when I kept informing the barbarian he wasn't' finding anything of note in the posted bills for three whole days.

Eventually the party scouted up a request and potential monster clearing bounty at a vllage not too far away. So with notions of G.P.s and slaughter dancing in their eyes they set off for the sleepy ville and didn't get there until just about sundown three days later.

The party was stuck on the far side of a river and could not hail attention from the other side river. There were still some boats tied up but no one in view paying attention to activity riverside. Only a fraction of the homes had smoke coming from their chimneys and there were a large number of crows in the as of yet harvested crops (it's harvest time in the campaign). Through their amazingly powerful (x 3) spy glass they spied there were a number of people patrolling the low walls of the stronghold on the far edge of town on a small hill and a crowd of people by the gate.

The players attempted a few gimmicks to get attention and decided to build up a big fire to camp and draw attention and warmth in the growing darkness. Shortly afterward they heard some cries, some were certainly those of people facing death, someone in the village on the opposite shore jumped into the river and was swept away by the current and lost in the darkness. Shortly after that there were more cries and a building on the edge of the village burst into flame...

I have to wait at least another week to spring the reveal on the players.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Captured PC

A few sessions back (as mentioned in this post) a plight that horrifies many players, a fate that is often reacted to worse then death of a character befell my teen son's PC in my regular game: Capture.

I've seen mature adults freak out rip their character sheet into shreds and sputter and curse when their character is captured. Gladly my son took it a little better then that he is however a little resistant and annoyed at having his character captured.

My son has rolled up a new character to adventure with the other PCs but is also getting a little while each session to play his captured character. He's having a little trouble with this as he isn't used to solo play and is clearly used to the protection of the rest of the party.

In one escape attempt he was being chased by a horde of ice gnomes and managed to get up onto thte outer wall of the palace and leaped off ... he may have been trying to escape or kill off the PC , unfortunately for him he survived to find himself chained to a wall in a cell. In that cell with him was a yeti chained to the opposite wall (yetis are pretty much mountain wookies in my campaign and this is the first appearance of one). My sons attempted escape with his PCs spell casting abilities and screwed up timing and revealed he was a spell caster so the ice gnomes zapped him again and secured him more then they had and he's destined to end his days in the arena where his death agonies will entertain the Ice Queen.

My son is floundering a little with the solo PC but the other players are enjoying the interludes that have been dressign up the shopping trips and planning segments that crop up all the time with that group. I feel I'm being fair giving him plenty of reasonable chances to make his escape but it also is serving a campaign purpose as I'm showing the other players it isn't the end of the world to have a character captured as more adventure can follow.

Weapon Damage by Hit Quality.

Maldoon the Mighty closes in on the dragon Hearthwrack ithas been a long and grueling combat and had had it been for the magics and missiles provided by his now suffering companions Maldoon would not be ready to strike this final blow
Player: oh yeah a 20 !
DM: and it's a hit of course
Player rolls his 1d12 and it's a 1...whoopie 1 point of damage

...Has this ever happened in your game?

A common solution to this heartbreak of unsatisfying dice rolls is the critical hit. A doubling or tripling of the damage roll that is just as prone to be unsatisfying. Possibly slow the game down with extra die rolls (not that drama isn't worth focus) or big charts of results.

Why not have the weapon damage tied to the quality of the hit roll? How about only requiring the hit roll?

Here is a brief suggestion to supply fixed damage scores where damage varies with the quality of the weapon blow.

I'm going to suggest 3 magnitudes of a hit; there shall be a graze/glancing blow, a sold blow and a devastating blow.

On a hit roll of the score required to hit a target and up to 2 points higher a glancing blow is inflicted.
On a hit roll 3 points higher to 9 points higher a solid blow is struck.
On a hit roll of 10 or more higher then the required score a devastating blow is inflicted.

Damage scores are needed for each weapon that reflect the glancing blow/the solid blow and the devastating blow. If coming from a game that uses variable damage dice by weapon type it's not to hard to work up some numbers. We need the minimum, average and maximum damage for each weapon.
To find damage from a glancing blow take the minimum and aveage damage scores and divide this score by 3. Round down any score of with a fraction of .5.
To find damage from a solid blow take the average and use that score. If the average has a fraction round up to the next whole number.
To find damage for a Devastating Blow double the maximum (if you want to have a critical hit degree of wepon dmage as I do, otherwise use the maximum).

Factoring in STR modifiers to weapon damage. As STR has an impact on the chance to hit it already improves the damage score, this must be accounted for (unless of course STR doesn't modify hit rolls in yuor game).
Always apply a penalty to a hit roll but the penalty can't drop a glancing or solid blow to less then 1, nor can a devastating blow be dropped to less then 2.
When one has a Damage bonus from this bonus it isn't applied to a glancing blow. A STR bonus (as indicated by your rules) is applied to solid blows and devestating blow. I recommend agaisnt double the damage bonus for devastating blows as STR typically improves the quality of the weapon blow already.
Magic weapons get a big oomph as they add the damage bonus to all grades of damage so even a glancing blow from a +3 weapon will be a big deal.

Pre-calcualted glancing/solid and devastating blow damage for some damage scores form die roll based damage:
1-4 ..... 1/3/8
1-6 .... 1/4/12
1-8 .... 2/5/16
1-10.... 2/6/20
2-12.... 3/7/24
2-16.... 4/9/32
3-18.... 4/11/36
4-24.... 6/14/48

Here's a sample combat table that precalculates glancing/solid/devastating Blows.

(Click to enlarge and get a clear view)

There you go now the scenario above could have ended differently:

Player: oh yeah a 20, that means Maldoon the Mighty does 21 points of damage!!!
DM: The dragon is slain.

(note in the example here the player already recorded weapon damage with properly factored modifiers, good luck getting the other players to all do that)

So there we go, a presentation for a possible method to alter how damage to fit the hit rolls could be applied to a host of games (and maybe even speed up combat).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 Home Brews in 15 minutes

5 Home brews in 15 minutes.

Describing 5 home-brew campaigns/games in 15 minutes (give it a shot if you can)

1. AD&D, Garforne Sanctuary and the Crack- I'm sure the campaign world had a name, I don't remember what it was. Action started in the enlightened feudal state of Garforne where man, dwarf, halfling and elf united against the goblins and giants. In time the party got a ship and spent some time "hanging out" in Sanctuary before getting swept up with even greater wander lust and finding a really grand canyon full of dungeons that ripped into the depths of the earth: The Crack...hmmm, horrible jokes aside I might want to revisit The Crack.

2. Talymria , The High Vales and the Hundred Isles- my longest running RPG campaign it saw three different groups of straight up AD&D characters in an ever rules tweaked version of the game (we used a spell point system for the last 1/3 of the campaign's life. Lot's of adventure in many regions, a few planes and three time zones.

3. Victorian Mars- I Liked the idea of the GDW mars game but hated the rules and always liked sword and planet adventures. So we played D&D bent to fit Victorians on mars many times over the years.

4. Cymrian Realms- D&D rules cyclopedia rules in a Celtic flavored campaign where I had a terrible OCD detail attack where I mapped the locations of hundreds and hundreds of villages and holdings. I could even tell you who lived in a lot of them...

5. N-th Wave, homebrew campaign and rules beyond cyberpunk. Flippies, mirror shades, trans morphic genering, nasty corporations that couldn't really pull off the ever present mega-corp thing, street gangs with super guns and shark teeth. Players ended up dressed as Dimney Corp characters escorting Bernie the Dinosaur while a vampire super-soldier stalked the canals of Boston and a horrible truth about the Public-Eye safety system was revealed.

15 games, 15 minutes

15 games in 15 minutes and what I could type about them.

1. D&D
2. Gamma World
3. Worlds of Wonder
4. Call of Cthulhu
5. Mutant Future
6. Star Fleet Battles
7. Star Frontiers
8. The Fantasy Trip
9. CarWars
10. BootHill
11. Aftermath
12. Traveller
13. Star Trek (FASA)
14. Empire of the Petal Throne
15. Runequest

Honorable Mentions: Traveller:2300, Twilight 2000, Chill, Judge Dredd, Tunnels and Trolls, Rolemaster, Grand Theft Auto, Unreal Tournament, Castle Wolfenstien (3D & original), Doom, Gettysburg, Starship Troopers, Rivets and Chitin:I

D&D- self explanatory. I don't have a favorite edition either and I'm lumping in tons of awesome OSR goodness in here too.

Gamma World- the longest runnign not D&D camapigns I've ever had have been Gamma World. I like 1st, 2nd&4th. My longest running GW campaign was with the actual 4th edition of the game.

Worlds of Wonder- easy, quick compatibe fantasy, sci-fi and superheroes all in one box. This was my go to fill-in game for almost 20 years.

Call of Cthulhu- a mood rpg that doesn't suck.The universe isn't what yuo thought ti was and it's going to destroy you and nothing really gives a damn either which way about how you feel about that.

Mutant Future- This is the gem of the whole Retro/OSR movement to me. It joins together two of my favorite games very smoothly and while it borrows a lot there is also a whole bunch of new and exciting there.

Star Fleet Battles- few games could excite me more about moving 1 pt of energy from one starship system to another. Awesome interstellar battles 1 hex at a time (and a whole bunch of sheets of paper).

Star Frontiers- I simply liked this straight-up don't worry too much about science sci-fi game. My grand father did too.

The Fanatsy Trip- it's a board game, it's and RPG I can't get anyone to play a whole campaign in. It's two awesome games I never got to play as much as I want in one package (well actually 2 packages and 3 more rulebooks but hey relax)

Car Wars- oh yeah, Johnny can speed. "Cut me off will ya? Eat my Vulcan Double MG."

Aftermath- too much math, awesome detail and an insane combat flowchart in the ruins of civilization, it hit a nerdy gamer sweet-spot for me.

Boot Hill- ."I intend to bring you back to promise city, or kill you trying"
"Mighty bold talk for a balding early middleaged couch potato"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Making material components matter

Material components are an aspect of old school spell casting that is often entirely ignored or employed to severely limit the playability of Magi-c-Users. As DM it's an annoyance to keep track of components used by NPCs so DMs often let this aspect of play slip into obscurity. It's a pity really, spell components add a lot of flavor to the game and provide goals to spell casters and their allies.

One way to remedy this situation would be to allow a vast number of spells to be cast without material components (perhaps to lesser effect) and have special spell effects for when spells are cast with select material components.

Here are three classic spells rewritten (as example) to reflect a campaign where material components are not always required but do boost minimal impact of the spell and have enhanced effects thanks to use of special material components.

Magic Missile
Level:1, Duration:instant, Range: 120'
The caster sends forth a dart of magical energy that will inflict 1d4+1 points of damage on a target if a successful ranged attack is made at +4 to hit.

Material Component #1: Arrow, if the caster employs an arrow as a wand when casting this spell any target fired upon will be treated as AC 9 (still +4 to hit) and damage will be 1d6+1. On a damage roll of 1 or 6 the arrow used as a magical component is consumed.

Material Component #2: Silver headed Arrow, if the caster employs an arrow with a silver arrow-head as a wand when casting this spell any target fired upon will be automatically struck for 1d6+1 damage. On a damage roll of 1 or 6 the arrow used as a magical component is consumed. For every 5 levels the caster has an additional arrow may be fired. (note: if any of the missiles come up a 1 or 6 for damage roll the silver-headed arrow is consumed)

Material Component #3: Magical Arrow, if the caster employs a magical arrow as a wand when casting this spell any target fired upon will be automatically struck for 1d6+1 damage with an additional bonus equal to that of the the arrow (so a +2 magical arrow used to cast a magic missile spell will do 1d6+3 points of damage). On a damage roll of 1 or 6 the arrow used as a magical component is consumed. For every 4 levels the caster has an additional missile may be fired. (note: if any of the missiles come up a 1 or 6 for damage roll the magical arrow is consumed)
When using a magical arrow as a wand the caster also adds 10' per experience level to the range of the spell.
Should the magical arrow have any properties beyond a normal bonus those properties are not applied to a magic missile.

Level 1, Duration: 3d6 turns, Range: 240', Area: 20' radius.
A sleep spell causes a magical slumber to be inflicted upon 2d8 HD worth of creatures within the area of effect of 4 hitdice or less that fail a saving throw.

Material Component #1: Alcoholic Beverage, If the caster quickly imbibes an alcoholic beverage while casting a sleep spell no save is allowed. Multiple beverages may of course inflict drunkenness upon the caster.

Material Component #2: Pixie Dust, If the caster hurls forth 2 drams of pixie dust into the air while casting a sleep spell it may either put to sleep (with no save) 2d6+12 creatures of 4 HD or less within the area of effect or allow a single target with greater then 4 Hitdice to be targeted by this spell, a target of 5-8 HD/levels saves at +2, those of 9HD/level save at +4. Duration all inflicted by this spell is until the target is intentionally shaken awake (1-3 rounds per target) or until they hear a rooster crow.

Level 3, Duration: Instant, Range: 240'
A fireball is created which streaks towards it target and denotes in a forceful burst of fire inflicting 5d6 damage to all within a 30' radius. If Hit roll as per a grenade-like weapon is required to target an area with a fireball and a fireball will bounce and detonate 30' from it's intended target on a miss. Interposing barriers and creatures in melee may inadvertently cause premature denotation of a fireball. Casters may not intentionally "bounce" a fireball.

Material Component #1: Bat Guano, A caster may employ a handful of dried bat guano when casting a fireball. The guano is consumed and the fireball will inflict 1d6 pts of damage per casters level (to a max of 10 dice). The fireball is targeted as a grenade like missile at +2 to hit and bounces no more then 20' when using Bat Guano as a material component.

Material Component #2: Dragon Dung, A caster may employ a handful of dried red dragon dung when casting a fireball. The guano is consumed and the fireball will inflict 1d6 pts of damage per casters level (no maximum). There is no to hit roll required when casting this spell with Dragon Dung.

Hope the examples served their purpose in demonstrating a possible method of making material components matter in allowing more effective castings of some spells over the base with the use of material components. I did take the notion that most descriptions assume the use of unspecified components, a DM has no requirement to do so when adapting this to his own campaign of course.
A DM should decide how such knowledge of material components will be presented to spell casters. I'd recommend two separate sets of spell descriptions one for the DM and one for players. Players may be savvy to some of the material components or none at all. The DM thus has a new resource to award PCs/players with.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Building a Sim-economy

last night i went a little nuts and did a little work on scraping together a slightly more realistic economy for D&D-esque campaigns. It's all based on reworking food to be affordable in a still cash heavy society where workers are grossly under paid. I'm nowhere near "done" with the idea yet but I felt like sharing.

It's all based around the cost and production of a large loaf of bread (2 lb, 2200 calories, a man could live on this many calories).

I set a low but noticeable price for a baker to charge for a large loaf of bread of 4cp.

the 4cp price assumes the costs of making bread roughly based on real world home baking costs.
1 lb of flour = 1 cp
1 tsp salt = 1/100 cp
yeast = 7/100 cp
fuel = 1/2 cp
costs to make a large loaf of bread= (2 + 0.02 + 0.14 + 0.5) = 2.66 cp

the darned baker makes a darned profit of 1.34 c.p. per loaf of bread! But of course he also has to pay for his own bread, drink and shelter out of profits.

I also worked out a 1 lb loaf of bread to have a purchase price of 2.5 c.p.

The baker likely saves a lot on fuel because he has a good oven that fits lot's of bread but I don't want to go too crazy figuring out prices of things.

Someone baking at home can likely produce their bread cheaper then buying it at the bakery if allowed to do so legally (and might be factored in sometime somehow, eventually).

So where does that flour come from to make that bread? Well it's milled from grain harvested on a farm of course.
A bushel of grain will produce enough flour to make 30 large loaves of bread.

An acre of land can produce 30-50 bushels of grain (the yield of modern non irrigated wheat, in the 19th century some folks were managing far more but the 30-50 bushels and acre figure feels safe and I'm going with it)

Using an average of 40 bushels an acre of land produces enough grain to be ground into flour so folks can bake 1200 large loaves of bread from the produce of one acre. That will keep a no-farmer alive for 39 months (assuming the grain and bread doesn't spoil before it can be eaten). A farmer is likely going to need twice as much food so really we're feeding a farmer for about 19 months from that yield (if he got to keep an eat all of it). Of course if the farmer eats all of it it never goes to market or feeds a lord or his men-at-arms.

What's the grain worth from an acre of land? It produces enough flour to bake 1200 large loaves so that's , 2400 c.p. worth of flour. But it isn't flour until it's milled so by totally arbitrary fiat I set the price of grain to 1/2 that of flour so that's 1200 c.p. worth of grain. But that's at market square prices, in mass quantities and wholesale rates that grain is going to go for as low as half that so 600 c.p. worth of grain harvested in an acre of land. That's 6 g.p., farmers would be loaded...but of course they have to eat themselves and pay/trade for help not to mention the taxes and fees of the local lord.

What are folks drinking anyway? In pre-modern times water wasn't the safest thing to drink, the common drink was beer (or ale whatever the locals call it and the local recipe produced).

One gallon of beer takes about 4 lbs of "sugars" (we'll use grain here as a raw and sane measure). So with an acre producing 2400 lbs of grain (40 bushels x 60 lbs a bushel) we've got enough grain to make ourselves 600 gallons of beer.

A pint of beer has about 200 calories in it and it can get you drunk too. A pint of beer with a market not too far from production would cost about 1 c.p.
An acre of land would be producing the ingredients (other then water) for 4800 pints of beer. That's 4800 c.p. for the village local (too bad he doesn't get his beer for free).
A large loaf of bread and 2 quarts of beer will supply a man with his calories for a day (just barely). So it costs this unspecified meager diet worker 8 c.p. a day to eat and drink. That's 56 c.p. a week or 2912 c.p. a year. Assuming one get's their bread and beer at market prices. Baking at home (if legal) will save 487 c.p. a year (if paying market prices for ingredients) so the homebody laborer needs 2425 c.p. a year to eat and drink in minimal form.

Folks back on the farm, and that's about 90% of everyone there is, is getting grain at 1/4 the price of the not too far off market place. Of Course they have to pay to get that grain milled to make flour (but not necessarily to make beer) so let's say they lose 10% of their grain in milling fees. Folks back on the farm can manage to bake their own bread with flour that costs them (assuming they had to "pay" for their own grain) much less so they can produce a large loaf of bread for 1.215 c.p. (assuming fuel costs are as much as in the market place). The farming family baking at home and brewing beer (which I'm pricing at 2/3 market rates because I'm lazy) is going to be able to keep a man in a meager poor diet for 3.88 cp a day, it costs a farming family 1412 c.p. a year to feed a man for a year.

So in a rural village one can hire a man for 1 s.p. a day for short term work as this is providing enough coin for 2.5 days worth of food (this feeds a man, his wife and a child for a day). Long term labour costs more if one is hiring a man away from a great deal of work and upkeep of his home.

In a market town that man is going to cost more to hire then his purely rural counter part as he has to pay much more for his food (and his shelter, be getting there sometime). Paying a man for 2.5 days worth of food and drink as a guide to cut rate short term employment is going to cost at least 20 cp (or 2 s.p) a day. This will likely only be buying the labor of unskilled youths,bachelors or old men with no families or residence of note to maintain.

In a market town 1 g.p buys one a low skill labourer for 5 days. This laborer will be able to scrimp together 34 c.p. a week if he doesn't have to pay for his housing and clothing. If he has to pay 1/2 his post diet income he'll be shelling out 17 c.p. a week for housing, that's a lot for a market village (it's paying to feed the owner of the residence, his wife and a child for 44 days, assuming they are paying market prices for a meager diet). If clothing costs half of what's left the poor labourer is going to spend 442 cp a year on clothes and shoes. Assuming he's frugal and can keep 1/2 his money safe after taxes,fees and upkeep the unskilled bachelor will be able to save up 2 g.p. a year. But he's not, he's human, he wants to drink and eat better so that fellows saving at best 5 s.p. a year.

That puts the 105 g.p. average adventurers start out with in perspective. That's enough to support a young bachelor day labourer for 4 years, it'd take that poor sod 210 years to save up those funds.

How much does it take to hire a skilled labourer in a market town who has a wife and a child?

The fellow would need food for 2.5 people. He'd need to clothe them and provide shelter. shelter wouldn't cost 2.5 times as much it might only cost twice a much (and that is high) as it did the unskilled bachelor. That's 1768 c.p. a year for housing.
1/2 that for clothing and other material household goods so another 884 c.p. a year there.

Next is food. He'll want to eat and drink better then the young bachelor or widower codger so that's 10 c.p. a day for him. 8 c.p. a day for the wife and 4 c.p. a day for the child, requiring 6864 c.p. a year for the family food.

Let's not forget taxes and fees which we'll access to be at least as much as cost of clothing and other goods. so another 884 c.p. a year. Townsmen that don't make a lot get off easy on taxes.

So the Skilled labourer has to make 10,400 c.p. a year or 33.1/3 cp a day to make ends meet. Since the wife can cook at home the price for food is actually less but since there is a desire to eat better then barely at all the cost of food is still 3/4 the calculated level but this frees up 1716 c.p. a year. If 1/4 of that can be saved (4g.p., 3 s.p and 9 c.p.) the skilled labourer is saving up the average adventurers starting funds in a little over 24 years.

Hiring the skilled labourer for but a day would actually cost one about 8 s.p. as they'd need to compensate for other trade they may lose.

Now we come to a skilled artisan. They are more expensive. A skilled artisan is going to need to earn more then a skilled labourer to pay for upkeep of household, apprentices and household. Making twice again as much as a skilled laborer will mean a household income of 20,800 c.p. a year. Taxes and guild fees are taking 20% of that in a year so the artisan is still going to have 16,640 c.p. a year on hand to house and feed family and apprentices. 14742 a year to feed 4.5 people (Artisan, wife, 2 apprentices, child) ... how does an artisan make ends meet? From the benefit of the apprentices labour which rakes in an extra 2912 c.p. a year (taxed at same rate as master) so the true income with a master and 2 apprentices is 4659 c.p. a year for a grand total after tax income of 22,129 c.p. a year. Giving a savings of 923 c.p. a year. Providing a young adventurer with his starting funds in 11.5 years.

Such an artisan could be hired away for short term work at 10 g.p. a week.

Unusual crafts and trades can earn 3 to 5 times as much.

What about the very small rural free farmer? He owes 1/4 his produce to his local lord.
To feed 2.5 people a very small rural free farmer would have to maintain a farm of 4 acres. Those 4 acres will supply 160 bushels of grain. The farmer gets to keep 3/4 x .9 of that for a remainder of 108 bushels. The farmer will need to keep 90 of those bushels for seed and to feed the 2.5 people. Leaving 28 bushels for sale out of the 4 acres of land giving the rural free farmer 420 c.p. a harvest in cash to provide for clothing, tools and sundries. if 1/4 of 1/4 can be saved that's 26 cp a year in savings.

Peasants get to keep 1/2 the grain they produce in a year. Peasants would have to work 6 acres of land to feed 2.5 people.

To feed 1 lord, 1 lady, 3 children, 1 lady in waiting at twice the common standard and 4 household servants and 10 soldiers and half again the common standard would require 96096 c.p. a year (let's not worry about horses for now).
To collect that much from produce of sales of grain raised on the land would require over 320 acres worked by serfs.

Now let's add on horses. 2 quality Riding horses for the lord, 1 quality horse for the lady, 4 ponies for lady in waiting and the children, 1 war horse for the lord and 5 hackneys for the men at arms means 9 bushels worth of grain a day. An acre of land produces 40 bushels so it takes the production from an additional 162 acres to feed the horses for a year. Let's not forget grooms now that's 4 more mouths to feed for the estate. A smith would also need to be employed that's another 4.5 mouths for the estate. That's another 19 acres of land so a total of 500 acres for the estate to feed the lord, his family, dedicated servants and a retinue of 10 soldiers. 3/4 of the land is farmed by serfs the other 1/4 by freemen means the total population of the estate will be about 124. With no cash surplus. oh dear the lord need more land to earn enough to maintain his retinue ... (to be continued)


All of that from setting a price of a large loaf of bread at 4 c.p.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dismiss Elementals- Beefing up Magic Users

Ever feel like your magic-users aren't very magical? Experimented with spell variations in the past but never found something you like? How about a new Special Ability?

Dismiss Elementals

Under this variant Magic-Users gain the ability to dismiss elementals and their closely related kin through use of arcane lore that is not embodied by spells. To dismiss an elemental a M-U must remain stationary and within 240 of a visible elemental for two rounds. If the M-U is unharmed during these two rounds a roll to dismiss the elemental may be made at the end of the second round. This ability may be used against one type of elemental at 2nd level or greater. A second type of elemental may be dismissed when the MU reaches 7th level and a third type may be dismissed when the M-U is 11th level (an 8th level M-U could, by example, dimiss Earh and Fire Elementals but be unable to Dismiss Air or Water Elementals and when that M-U reaches 11th level they could choose to select one of the later to Dismiss) . A dismissed elemental is banished from the material plane and sent to it's plane of origin. One may not dismiss an elemental (or elemental kin) on it's home plane.

Dismiss Elemental (3d6 Roll)

M-U levelup to 4HD 5-8 HD9-15HD16+ HD
2-3 16 ---
4-5 14 16--
6-7 12 1416-
8-9 10 121416
10-11 8 101214
12-13 6 81012
14+ 4 6910

Intelligent Elementals are allowed a save vs. paralysis to avoid the effect.
Un-intelligent Elemental under direct control of an intelligent spell-caster are allowed a save as per their masters class and level.

A Magic-User may Dismiss no more then twice his/her level in Hit Dice of Elementals in 10 minutes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let Me In [film]

Caught the movie "Let Me In" with my highschool age son. We both enjoyed it, I liked more then he did. It's a remake of a swedish film I've never seen and was hardly aware of to those that care for such things. There is nothing terribly surprising in the film but it's mood holds up and it's entertaining. It's a suspense/horror/romance/comming of age/nostalgia/teen revenge/vampire film and pulls all that off (no small feat there). Best of all no sparkly vampires.

I'd recommend it for folks that like horror films that are a little more then sub-par splatter fests.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Just picked up the pdf versions of Fight-ON! #10 and NOD #4 at
I've only skimmed them but both are jam packed with old school gaming goodness.

They are both clearly worth the purchase price. A bunch of monsters and sandbox adventuring in Nod #4. Tons of useful bits to add to any campaign and a bunch of adventuring goodness in FO#10.

Best of all for the next couple days you can get both with the promo code FALLREADS at a 40% discount. I got them both for less then the price of Fight On #10.

I'm not affiliated with either book other then being a terrible fanboy of both journals .Give the previews of both a look and save yourself a couple bucks if you like what you see:

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to keep the players out

The last session of my Tuesday night game my prep-work was a little under par. After the first encounter with the Ice Gnomes within site of a palace of snow and ice at the end of the previous session which resulted in one PC being frozen solid and captured the rest withdrew to plot the rescue of their companion and heal up from the battle.

So I had a whole week to prep for the session.

I spent about 15 minutes sketching out planning maps of the approach to the palace of snow and Ice, an overall simple plan of the palace and a slightly more detailed map of the outer ward of the palace of snow and ice, and scribbled in a few notes. That was all the prep work I did before game night... uh oh.

Luckily the players spent a lot of time healing up and not getting killed in their mountainside camp when we played this week. Now, I could have bluffed/pulled out of my fertile imagination the whole castle but I didn't. Once the players crept back to a safe spot within sight of the palaxce of snow and ice I described the patrol groups of ice gnomes both on foot and mounted on caribou most in bands of no more then a dozen , the players hesitated (thankfully) and then I slathered on the stay away detail (knowing it could backfire at any moment). " Oh no you almost got spotted by that really large troop of two score", "hmmm...I don't think you guys appreciate how large this place is" and I whipped up a sketch of the palace and compared it to Minas Morgul surrounded by a moat covered in a thin layer of ice with shadowy forms moving beneath instead of the gnomish snow fort the players must have imagined it to be originally, they were breaking but could have grown courage at any moment.

So, at the last moment: "As the sun dips behind the mountains you see a great white dragon landing atop the highest tower of the palace". And that was the moment my failed prep work wasn't exposed and the PCs set off back to their camp (dodging an ettin totally unassociated with the palace on the way) and then back to town to talk with the wizard they were working for and try to drum up some assistance.

So I dodged having to play with shoddy prep work and put the fear of doom into the players, who might actually be afraid of ice gnomes now.

Of course now I have to live up to the hype and get enough work in on the palace for the captured PC to possibly escape on his own.