Great Khan Enthroned

Great Khan Enthroned

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge


Fine. I'm in. Lets see what alphabetically related D&D musings I can come up with over the course of April.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today's Mail March 30th Edition




My Ebay miniatures purchase offensive continues unabated. This batch I got all from the same guy, and while I thought he might have shipped them via Pony Express rider, they arrived today and I am rather pleased with my purchase. Once again all photos taken from the Ebay auction because my wife's phone camera sucks. Some of them I don't even think I'll strip and repaint.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday Gaming.

I took my daughter Ember over to her friend Rachel's house yesterday. Her friend Rachel's dad is my old gaming buddy Lance W. , so I wound up staying there for the day and gaming with him and the girls. We played the new Talisman from FFG. The "new" Talisman is essentially the same as the old 2nd edition Talisman from GW. Only with "better" art and higher quality components. Personally I liked the game board old art better, but this was certainly decent. We played that for several hours until the girls both got too bored and antsy to play anymore. Then we picked it up and called it a draw between us so we could play another game.



I don't remember the name of the second game. It was a pretty simple jet fighter combat game where we each got two fighters, a heavy one and a light one, and used maneuver cards to dogfight. The game started off with me feeling like I was going to lose as I missed three times in a row with missiles, then did superficial damage with the next two. The whole game I only lined up one cannon shot, which hit but only did superficial damage too.

In the end I was triumphant, shooting down both of his planes, but I did lose my light fighter too. I thought about some alternate missile rules for the game that would make missiles more deadly, because the current missile rules make missiles as weak as cannon fire, but I suspect they will just make the game shorter and more deadly. Honestly, this simple game just whet my appetite for a meatier air combat game. The maneuver cards reminded me of Dawn Patrol, which I haven't played in over a decade. The jet combat made me think of flight leader, which I haven't played since, at the latest, the early 1990's.




It was a good time though. My daughter had fun hanging around with her friend and I had a good time reconnecting with Lance over some games.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shrines Too

It occurred to me that everything I wrote about sacred springs and pools could also apply to shrines, so I went looking via google to find some inspirational shrine pictures for you all. They come from a variety of religions and range in age from ancient to modern.

Enjoy!






















Magic Pools and Sacred Springs II

I got to thinking maybe I should show how I run this stuff instead of just commenting on it. Now I usually randomly determine an alignment/affiliation for the site. Given that Garnia is located on a plane that emanates good, I slightly weight the results towards good. This also depends on the location in question, obviously you aren't going to find a Good sacred spring in a temple of Orcus.


Using the new (to me) concept of 1d8 + 1d12 tables-

2- Really Bad

3-4 Bad

5-7 Slightly Bad

8-14 Nothing

15-17 Slightly Good

18-19 Good

20- Awesome!


This assumes that the drinking/bathing character is of the same alignment as the pool or spring, or at least not of an oppositional alignment. For character's of opposing alignments reverse the results so Really Good becomes Really Bad, etc.


Then I move on to a subtable for each result,generally 1d6-


Really Bad


1- Sacrifice: Character is compelled to kill the rest of the party as a sacrifice to the pool, if alone will kill self.

2- Struck Dead: Save vs Death Magic or die!

3- Level Drain: 1 level of experience gone!

4- Stat Loss: Save vs Spells or lose 1d4 Points from your Prime Requisite.

5- Hit Point Loss: Save vs. Death Magic or lose 1d6 HP permanently.

6- Gate Opens: A random extra-planar creature of appropriate alignment to the pool appears to lay the smack down on your ass.


Bad

1- Comatose: Save vs Spells or become comatose for 2d6 days.

2- Change Alignment: The character's Alignment changes to match the pool, Remove Curse to reverse.

3- Disease- Save vs. Spells or be afflicted with a magical disease (Mummy Rot is my favorite)

4- Stat Loss: Save vs. Spells or lose 1d4 points from a randomly determined stat.

5- Damage: Take 1d10 points of damage, Save vs. Spells for half.

6- Curse: As a Cursed Scroll (DMG 121).


Slightly Bad

1- Body Odor: The character's body odor becomes much stronger and very distinctive, for 2d6 days random encounters occur twice as frequently as a result.

2- Body Odor II: For the next 1d6 days the character has Carrion Stench like a Ghast (MM 43).

3- Blindness: As the 3rd level Cleric spell.(PH 46)

4- Disease: As the 3rd level Cleric spell (PH 46)

5- Flatulence!: The next time the character enters battle a Stinking Cloud spell (PH 72) is emitted centered on the character.

6- Mute: Character becomes unable to speak for 1d6 days.


Slightly Good

1- Infravision: Character gains 60' infravision for 1d6 days, if they already have infravision 60' is added to the range.

2- Lucky: The character re-rolls next failed saving throw.

3- Cured: Cures blindness or non-magical disease afflicting character.

4- Blessed: Character is affected by a Bless spell (PH 43) during their next combat.

5- Protected: Character is recipient of Protection from Evil spell (PH 44) during their next combat.

6- Suave: Character makes next reaction roll as if their Charisma were 18.


Good

1- Healthy as a horse: Character gains 1d10 HP until they are lost as damage.

2- Remove Curse: The next time it would be appropriate the character gains the benefits of a Remove Curse spell (PH 47) as if cast by a 12th level Cleric.

3- Disease Immunity: The Next time it would be appropriate the character gains the benefits of a Cure Disease spell (PH 46).

4- Stat Gain: A random stat increases by 1d4 points.

5- Real lucky: Character automatically makes next saving throw.

6- Aware: Character cannot be surprised for the next 1d4 days.


Awesome!

Regardless of die roll alignment changes to match pool.


1- Hale and Hearty: Character gains 1d10 HP to their permanent total.

2- Prime Stat Gain: Character adds 1d4 points to their prime requisite.

3- What's That There?: A random beneficial magic item floats to the surface for the character.

4- Are You Experienced?: Character gains (1d4x100)x level experience points from a religious vision.

5- Infravision II: The character gains 60' infravision permanantly.

6- Proof Against Disease: Character gains disease immunity as a Paladin (PH 22) unless alignment changes.

Magic Pools and Sacred Springs


Remember how back in the day there were always magic pools and stuff in dungeons? Things you needed to take a chance on, a gamble with your character that might end up with you dead, or you might wind up with some awesome addition to an ability score. I also thought it was pretty hard-core that you couldn't remove the water for analysis in any way, just drink and take your chances!


When I moved to a more wilderness based style of play; where even if you found a dungeon it was likely to be a ruined temple's crypts or catacombs beneath a ruined city or the sewage system of a living city, I lost a lot of the old mega-dungeon tropes and the magic pool type thing was also lost. I ditched a lot of the mega-dungeon tropes in search of verisimilitude too.


I have been thinking about this because I have recently been considering the way I randomly add places to an encounter table when I make them for an area. A typical encounter table in my Garnia campaign for, say, a wooded area might have a goblin patrol, a wild boar, a bear, a human warband hunting goblins, an abandoned wood-cutter's hut, a shrine to a random god, change in weather, etc. Some of those will only be encountered once, thereafter treated as no result. The shrine gets me thinking about those pools, particularly in Garnia with it's Celtic veneer, because pools and springs were often sacred sites to the Celts.


I have to admit I was also inspired by my recent rediscovery of my Talisman game. In Talisman there are several waters that give different, although fixed, effects; one each for Life, Strength and Craft. Of course those are only good for a fixed number of points each too, which differs from most D&D magic pools as I recall.


The Romans even took advantage of the sacred significance and reputed healing powers of Celtic sacred pools, most notably at Aquae Solis (Bath, England); mind you they were pretty fond of baths to start with. Since I already have non-recurring sacred sites popping up in my random encounters in the form of shrines, I figure maybe it might be a good idea to bring back the pools and springs.


Anyway, for some inspirational viewing, a variety of sacred springs and pools from around the world; some ruined, some still in everyday use; both in natural settings and worked by the hands of man.









Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Steppe Stuff

Alexis over at Tao of D&D posted about food and had this picture of kumiss-

I have had kumiss and it's not bad, Matt S. (Steppe Warrior ID: Sengum) made some for the first Steppe Warrior gathering back in December of 1997.

Anyway, that inspired me to look for some more images of Mongol stuff to put up for a lazy post today. I am a little under the weather and not particularly interested in doing any deep thinking and philosophizing.

My wife has made buuz; it's pretty good, particularly if you like lamb or mutton.

The next image is of a ger in Mongolia. They are also known as yurts. My internet/Steppe Warrior alter ego lives in one.

I have seen some in real life, at SCA events.

This is a typical yurt interior.

They don't seem to live too bad for nomads, eh?






Monday, March 21, 2011

Today's Mail Post Equinox Edition


I love me some Ebay! Once again all photos are from Ebay, because the camera on my wife's cell phone sucks.


This guy I used to have and somehow lost, he was my Jagatai mini I kept next to my monitor for inspiration.




I never had this Basic book, despite it being the one that "worked" with the Expert book.


The expert book could have been in better shape, and I'll probably keep looking for a better one, but the price was good. My original copy was a casualty of me going to college and my mom deciding to "clean my room"*.



This is one of the Gazetteer series I didn't have back in the day, surprising since I dig Mongols so much. Plus I thought it might give me inspiration for some Steppe Warrior adventures!

Happy spring time everyone!

*As near as I can tell, that's a euphemism for throw away everything you think you can possibly get away with without it being missed.

Literacy in D&D



The presumption of literacy in D&D has always been something that kind of bothered me. Assuming that all characters are literate breaks the willing suspension of disbelief in the implied quasi-medieval setting. 3rd edition codified that all characters are literate except Barbarians. Earlier editions just kind of assumed it, as evidenced by the presence of magic scrolls usable by anyone or magic tomes for every class*. I always went the other way in my campaigns, including my 3e ones, and assumed everyone was illiterate unless they had a good reason to be literate. Clerics and Magic-Users got a pass, I just reasoned that the level of education required for those classes also required literacy. This may be a little hypocritical on my part because I generally ruled that if you could do it in real life then your character could do it too, like with swimming.

Anyway, if you want your Fighter to be literate give me a reason. Maybe your Fighter was the son of a scribe or a librarian. Mostly I let the secondary skills table define your character's pre-adventuring past, but I am always open to working with a player that has a reasonable character background in mind**. I like a little bit of background for characters, it gives me something to build off of. If you do roll "no skill of measurable worth" I am willing to assume that you are a second generation member of your character class OR a younger son of a minor noble*** farmed out to an apprenticeship with your class mentor.

*I am willing to hand wave magic scrolls and tomes for Fighters and Thieves based on the fact that they are magic items. Maybe the scroll just has to be unfurled and displayed for the spell to take effect, or the magic in the scroll causes the words to usher forth from the character's mouth. Perhaps the tome just burns the knowledge it is attempting to impart into your head as you look through the pictures in the book. Plus Thieves eventually learn to decipher all manner of languages as a class skill.

**Reasonable should obviously avoid being ridiculously clichéd or uber-power-gamer-ey. I will die happy if I never meet another player whose character's family was wiped out by ANYTHING, I mean for god's sake don't any adventurers choose the life for any other reason than childhood trauma? Also princes and demigods and other super special or supernatural backgrounds can NOT show up again too. Whatever happened to wanting to be an adventurer because it sounded more exciting than plowing fields all day?

***Keeping in mind that nobles don't really get much of an education themselves in the middle ages, they keep literate people around mostly to do the stuff that requires literacy. They train in weapons and small unit tactics and estate management.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

RIP Jim Roslof 1946-2011



Jim Roslof is one of those artists from the early TSR period that defined D&D art for me, and probably my entire generation of gamers. He will be missed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Clerics and Druids



When most people think of Clerics in D&D they have an image in their mind of a guy that is part templar knight, part inquisitor and part village vicar; essentially a wholly Christian dude that kicks ass for what-ever god they choose, but is really Christ in fantasy disguise. I can see the appeal of this and have played as a fantasy Christian crusader priest myself once or twice. I think that vision of the cleric is better than the "Combat Medic" view that makes Clerics less fun to play in a heroic game. The final view of the Cleric is the undead slayer, which is pretty cool, but is essentially just a Christian priest crusading against a very specific type of religious enemy.

However, I don't necessarily default to this crusader adventuring priest mode because I grew up reading Greek and Roman mythology in my formative years and even in my early D&D playing years I was influenced by my knowledge that Julius Caesar was himself Pontifex Maximus of Rome*. When I think of a polytheistic priesthood, I usually default to the Greco-Roman pagan model.

As I got older I developed an interest in the Vikings and their culture, mythology and religious practices, and that gave me an even wider view of what Clerics in D&D could be. I got interested in the Celts too, but I'll discuss them later with the Druids.

Plus you got the pretty serious dude holding the heart in his hand in the Player's Handbook (pg. 43), of all the pagan priests shown he was the most hardcore. He did challenge my thoughts on Clerics using edged weapons though. Maybe it's just a ceremonial thing to use edged weapons to dispatch sacrificial victims?

The real problem with Clerics in D&D is that, holy wars aside, clergy don't tend to go adventuring; instead they are temple attendants or community leaders or both. A wide variety of taboos make adventuring pagan priests unlikely**. You need to create certain game-isms to make adventuring priests likely and I think that the assumed setting of D&D does that quite well with all of it's humanoid hordes rampaging about and evil cults attempting the destruction of civilization as we know it; really religious communities might even send their young men (and maybe women) out to fight evil where they can find it the same way Mormons send out missionaries.

Druids are an unusual problem for me in D&D. Gary Gygax states in the 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook that "Druids can be visualized as medieval cousins of what the ancient Celtic sect of Druids would have become had it survived the Roman conquest. They hold trees (particularly oak and ash), the sun, and the moon as deities." which is utter nonsense, apparently taken from romantic notions about "noble-savage" Celts and their wonderful in-tune-with-nature lifestyle. So the entire Druid class is based on a false premise and has contaminated the game ever since with that balance keeping nonsense. Druids in real history were simply the priestly caste of Celtic culture. They had a wide variety of religious and temporal responsibilities, many related to law.

According to the Greeks, the Druids were scientist and philosophers. They also believed that the Druids could sing spells to raise or calm the waters, assume the form of any animal, cure ailments and prophesy***. The Romans ascribed to them the gift of remarkable intelligence, but also made them the leaders of a savage cult that practiced human sacrifice and urged war on Rome; ultimately they would exterminate the Druids that fell within their grasp****. Considering human sacrifice still occurred under exceptional circumstances in Rome*****, I have always found the anti-Druid propaganda of the Romans to be somewhat hypocritical. Additionally, gladiatorial combat was evolved from a ritual sacrificial combat during funeral rites that the Romans adopted from their Etruscan masters when Roma was young.

My point being that the Druids weren't balance worshiping nature priests historically, they were thought to be wizards, prophets and healers with regards to their mystical powers. Sacred groves were their "temples" in some accounts. Mistletoe was considered to be a spell component, a plant with magical properties, not some kind of holy symbol. If you had to pick a medieval evolution for the Druid then Merlin would be a better example than the AD&D Druid; or you could look at medieval Hinduism, since Hinduism is the closest related surviving member of the "ancient Indo-European religion" tree. That might make for an interesting class actually considering the early medieval period produced the Kama Sutra******.

*An unofficial title of the Pope today, according to Wikipedia.

**Obviously not impossible though, considering just the example of Gaius Julius Caesar who was "adventuring" through Gaul and into Germania and Britannia; he just happened to bring a literal army of Henchmen and Hirelings. He became enormously wealthy as a result and achieved extraordinary temporal power, albeit briefly.

***Clearly these abilities largely made it into D&D.

****The Druidic caste in Ireland was destroyed by the rise of Christianity, largely due to the proselytizing of St. Patrick; in Scotland it is said to be St. Columba that took them out.

*****Vestal virgins that violated their vow of chastity were buried alive. It is believed that some prisoners were ritually drowned during the second Punic war. Roman legionaries were decimated for cowardice not only as a disciplinary measure, but also to make things right with the gods of the legion.

******That last bit is actually a joke, I am pretty sure I wouldn't want to play in a game where the party Druid used the Kama Sutra as a sacred text. Not only do I run a pretty PG-13 campaign, I also play with my kids.