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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Norse Magic-Users

OK, no screwing around here today with history lessons or long introductions, it's already late here and I have four PCs to create and stuff to do tomorrow so I can't waste any time.

Except to say the Old Norse word for Wizard is Vitki "Wise-Man", which is pretty cool and somewhat less cumbersome than Magic-User.

Magic-User 1-



Starting Coin- 140SP

Equipment-Helmet, Quarterstaff, Dagger, 95 Silver Pieces

Spell- Magic Missile

Brown Hair, 5'11" 155lbs, 22 Years Old.

OK, one bit of commentary here; I am not inclined to give the Magic-User Class any special leeway based on the campaign, being Magic-Users, they lead lives where they learn mainly esoteric stuff even in the Norse world. Combat training is not really a part of that esoterica, so I am not giving them shields or any bonus weapons (except staffs, which I think they should have already had, but don't in B/X). That said, there's no law against helmets, so I am thinking that most Magic-Users will probably avail themselves of them, given that they'll have the extra cash on hand.

Magic-User 2-


Str- 6
Wis- 17-8=9
Dex- 11
Con- 17
Cha- 4

Starting Coin- 70SP

Equipment- Helmet, Quarterstaff, Dagger, 15 Silver Pieces
Spell- Charm Person

Brown Hair, 5'1", 90lbs, 20 years old.

Wow, with a Charisma score like that I guess she's lucky I rolled Charm Person for her Spell, eh? Grimhild is a pretty fitting name too.

Magic-User 3



Starting Coin- 50SP

Equipment- Helmet, Quarterstaff, 25 Silver Pieces

Spell- Magic Missile

Red Hair, 6', 135lbs, 22 years old.

Isn't he a skinny, odd fellow.

Magic-User 4-


Cha-4 (What are the odds that both of the female Magic-Users would be total hags?)

Starting Coin-130SP

Equipment- Helmet, Quarterstaff, Dagger, 85 Silver Pieces

Spell- Sleep

Blond Haired, 5'6", 130lbs, 21 years old.

OK, I do find it a little odd that, without tweaking the Alignment odds at all, I got no Lawful Magic-Users. Maybe the Gods of D&D randomness are trying to tell us that sorcery is an inherently unlawful profession? While I was rolling these Characters up I couldn't help but think maybe I should just port the Elf Class over as a Fighting Wizard type human Class, obviously they would not get all the cool benefits of Elfdom, but access to armor and weapons might make people inclined to play them anyway, even with the huge XP/level.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Norse Clerics

Norse Clerics are an odd topic for me, they don't exist in a strictly historical setting, so I have to kid of hand wave them in since I have decided to run just a slightly modified B/X game here. The Norse people didn't have a strong tradition of professional priesthood, and especially not any sort of adventuring warrior priests. What temples did exist in the Viking age Norse world were mostly watched over by either professional, stay in the temple type priests, like at Uppsala in Sweden, according to Adam of Bremen; or were members of the local nobility* performing public religious rites for the good of the community. Most religion at the time was home based, not public, and didn't require a trained full time professional priesthood.

History lesson aside, anyone that wants to play a Cleric in D&D probably wants to be able to play the warrior priest from D&D, not a temple bound full time religious or an elected official with some public religious duties, and the Sagas do mention that there were people that were devoted to particular gods. Magic in the Norse world tends to be more sorcery than miracles, but even some of that is religious in nature, kind of, so I guess I can roll with this too. Now, the big three Gods of the Norse religion were, according to the surviving chronicles anyway, Odin, Thor and Frey, with Thor being the most popular, apparently by far. So I will randomly assign a Patron God or Goddess, with the big three being the most common and any others being less likely; except Loki, for whom there is no evidence he was ever worshiped at all, and would be kind of a pain in the ass to have as a party Cleric's Patron; then, unlike how I have done it in the past, I'll assign an Alignment based on compatibility with the Patron God.

Cleric 1-

Ivar Freysman


Starting Coin- 120SP

Equipment-Leather, Shield, Helmet, Spear


Blond, 5'9" 155lbs, 19 years old. Ivar is a golden boy, coming from a good farming family he is devout and open handed. Handsome and well mannered, athletic, healthy and good looking, lucky with the ladies. Fun to game with, even tempered, even when he loses money. Always willing to share his food and drink. A bit wanderlustful. He is a younger sibling in a large family, but he is devoted to both his older siblings and his younger siblings, as well as his parents and grandmother.

OK, Ivar just got pretty awesome stats right out of the gate, he'd have made a good AD&D character. I did away with the Cleric weapon restrictions for the same reasons that I did away with the Thief shield restriction, they didn't really fit the setting. This may come up later if I roll up a Cleric of Thor, but the Norse didn't really use War Hammers, they are more of a later period, plate armor cracking thing, same with Maces really. Clubs are fitting, but really as a weapon of last resort/desperation, so I decided to let go of some familiar D&D weapons and go with a more Viking Age appropriate weapon and armor list, so the Cleric of Thor is probably going to end up using a Spear, unless he can afford better. Also, some may question my decision to make Frey a Neutral God, I based this on a couple of things, first, in the Deities & Demigods book he is listed as Neutral Good, and he is a Vanir nature god, more associated with growth and plenty than with Law in my opinion, he is also associated with Alfheim, which is less a place of the laws of man; he strikes me as more a God that an AD&D Druid would worship than a conventional Cleric, but there you have it.

Cleric 2

Rannveig Freyskona


Starting Coin-100SP

Equipment- Leather, Shield, Spear, 5 Silver Pieces


Brown Hair, 6', 160lbs. 16 years old. The only daughter of a family of horse breeders, Rannveig has 5 older brothers and 6 younger brothers. Tough, but a little clumsy. Rannveig is strong in her devotion to Frey.

Interesting that with a 20% chance assigned to Frey, I have gotten two Clerics of Frey in a row so far. This one didn't do quite as well as her predecessor, but is still a pretty darned respectable B/X Character. The poor Dexterity score is going to hurt here though. I am going to kind of miss the bonus spells for high Wisdom from AD&D though, and so will the party I think.

Cleric 3

Greilad Heimdallsman (an unusual name for a worshiper of an uncommon God)

Con-7 (one of these was a 6 until it got hit by another and bounce off the keyboard)

Starting Coin- 120SP

Equipment- Leather, Shield, Axe, 15 Silver Pieces

Red Hair, 5'10", 215lbs, 18 years old, Greilad is a serious man. He came to this colony when he heard rumors of the unnatural creatures that dwell here, he is determined that no creature not belonging on Midgard will pass into this realm. He drinks only milk or water, so he keeps his wits about him at all times, he eats sparingly, so he does not become drowsy from too much food. He exercises and trains with his weapons daily to hone his skills. He is devoted to duty. He shuns the company of women as a distraction from his duties. He takes no idle pleasures.

Yep, that was min/maxxing, dropping the Strength from 15 to 13 left him in the same bonus category; my first instinct was to drop it from his Intelligence since he really gains no benefit from having the higher Intelligence score. I am tempted to port in the Intelligence tables from AD&D just because they start giving additional languages at 8 Intelligence, which would be helpful for the more well traveled Norsemen, and they don't address literacy, which is irrelevant in this setting (largely). Interesting that I got a non-standard God result too, although it is nice to have a Lawful Cleric option for the party available, I do fear that his low Constitution score will be seen as too much of a weakness, despite his other advantages. Odd Hair coloring and kind of beefy too, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to need to start adjusting my height/weight table; currently weight is linked to height, but everyone was starting to seem a little skinny to me and I was considering breaking out the old Dragon magazine tables that linked weight to height, but modified the whole thing with Strength, Dexterity and Constitution, I was using a much simplified version of that, based on an average height of 5'10" for men and 5'7" for women and then a deviation plus or minus from that.

Cleric 4

Yngvild Thorskona (finally, a Cleric of Thor)

Dex-13 (Here a 1 got knocked into a 5)

Starting Coin- 140SP

Equipment- Chainmail, Shield, Axe


Blond, 6'1", 235lbs, 22 years old, Good looking and well liked. Yngvild was orphaned as a small child and taken in by the local Gothi, if she has a fault it's that she may be too impulsive and trusting. She loves to brawl, feast and sing. She is broad shouldered and tall, she looks like a Valkyrie. She is merciless death on the battlefield.

First off, I can see people questioning me on the Alignment. Thor Lawful? Yes, the protector of Midgard and all mankind gets to be Lawful in the B/X Alignment system. AD&D's nine-fold Alignment system is certainly more elegant when it comes to describing personalities, eh? Secondly, I know I min/maxxed every other Character I created so far to make them more attractive members of their class, dropping the Ability Scores down as far as I could to make them have as high a Prime Requisite as possible within the limits of the rules, but this time I thought it would be better to leave the Strength a little higher and keep that bonus. My dice still in motion rule helped this Character as much as it screwed the last one.

OK, now some Saga based shield tricks for Fighters-

Shield Spin- If you are attacked this round, but missed, you can attempt to lodge your opponents weapon in your shield, then quickly spin it to disarm him. I haven't decided on the exact mechanics of this yet, so I am open to suggestions. For realism's sake we should probably record damage to the shield each time this is attempted, regardless of whether or not it is successful, since you are deliberately damaging your own shield to attempt to disarm your opponent; but I hate to get into that kind of bean counting.

Shield Punch- Stop using your shield for defense for a round and get an extra attack. I am thinking it does 1d6 damage if it hits, but it might cause you to drop your shield. They are only center grip after all. Maybe a Strength check modified by the amount of damage that you inflict? It seems like the harder you hit someone the more likely you would be to drop your shield doing this, but maybe that's too prohibitive.

Shield Rush- Kind of a charge maneuver, just throw your shield up in front of you and smash into your enemy with your whole body. The damage is less than with the punch, but you are not going to drop your shield and you are likely to either knock the enemy down or push them back on a successful attack roll; I am thinking 1d4 damage + Saving Throw or Dexterity Check to avoid the fall/push back, really more useful if I decide to go with the combat grid/miniatures tactical thing. Most people seem to like it, and it works pretty quickly in B/X or AD&D, I am just gun-shy after 3e.

Oh, and what do you do when your Shield has already been Splintered? Your Shield Boss can be used as a makeshift weapon, they do it all the time in the Sagas. I suggest, since it has become essentially a steel boxing glove when the wooden frame is splintered off, that it becomes a weapon that does 1d3 damage for a second attack in the off hand, however you handle two-weapon fighting. Since it's blunt, even standard Clerics could use them and they would do full damage against Skeletons.

*Although sometimes the local nobles sold or gave away the rights to perform those religious duties, they were rather prestigious; also, in Iceland the job was an elected position, but also came with the governing duties.

Norse Thieves

I decided to go with a more "straight" B/X approach to the game and stick with the character classes, more or less, as written. I may be getting a brand new D&D player, so I thought that might be easier, and I still have a pretty inexperienced player too, so she might appreciate less deviation from what she already knows. The one BIG change I am making though is that I am allowing Thieves to use Shields in combat, they won't be allowed to do all the cool, tricky combat maneuvers with them, when I finish writing them, that Fighters are going to get, but since Armor of any sort is so bloody expensive in the Norse world, and "Shields Shall Be Splintered" is going to be in effect and that is such a life saver, but would otherwise be denied to them, I decided to let them have them. I really don't think the extra point of AC is going to be a game breaker, and I have already decided that their Thief abilities won't work while using a shield; except maybe Backstab. It's hard to be all that stealthy while you are heavily laden with a shield though, and most Thief abilities are rather stealth dependent, except Climb Sheer Surfaces, and doing that while holding a shield would be pretty tough too. I guess Hear Noise would probably be unaffected. So would Read Languages I suppose. OK, the list of exceptions is pretty much half of their skills/abilities, still.

I'd have liked to come up with a better name for the class, something that fit the Norse theme better, for that matter, I'd have liked to rename all the classes, but the Thief is a particular annoyance of mine recently.

Anyway, here are the party Thieves-

1st Character-

Str-4 (ouch)

Starting Coin-130SP

Equipment- Short Bow, 20 Arrows, Quarterstaff, Quiver, Sling, 20 Slingstones, Knife, 10 Silver Pieces. 

HP:4+1=5 Alignment:Chaotic

Blond, 5'10", 140lbs, 16 years old. Harald is a kid from a respected farming family. Nobody understands why he turned out the way he did.

His excellent Intelligence and Wisdom scores allow me to min/max his already pretty good Dexterity up to an 18 without lowering either of them too badly. Too bad about the Strength though, that might make him get passed over in character selection. His randomly rolled Alignment and poor Strength make me think he was a weak kid that probably got picked on and learned all the wrong lessons from it, he seems kind of like a dick character, despite my desire to rehabilitate the Thief class. Maybe he had a childhood disease or a birth defect or something, or maybe he's just lazy and hates physical labor. Since I loaded him up with ranged weapons, I feel like I should point out that I also use the 3rd edition style "Sneak Attack" rule, rather than the literal "Back-Stab" of earlier editions.

Character 2-


Starting Coin- 80SP

Equipment- Shield, Helmet, Spear

Brown Hair, 5'7" 140lbs, 16 years old. Jorunn comes from a poor family of former thralls, she is determined by force of will to better herself by any means necessary.

Another Chaotic Thief, awesome; it's like the laws of randomness do not want me to rehabilitate the Thief as a class. Oh, well. I kind of min/maxxed her too, the loss of Intelligence didn't drop her a category and neither did the loss of Wisdom, but the points added to Dexterity were totally worth it. The only thing I worry about with her really is the crap starting cash and will people be able to pronounce her name properly? Should I just start changing the spellings to match English pronunciation? If I do that should I make all of the Js I or Y?

Character 3-



Starting Coin- 130SP

Equipment- Leather, Shield, Helmet, Spear, 10 Silver Pieces


Blond Hair, 6'3" tall, 195lbs, 20 years old. Torstein is the son of a wealthy farmer/raider and was raised to be a warrior. He has a lack of natural aptitude and physical strength that make it unlikely that he will ever be successful as a conventional viking warrior, so he has chosen to take a steathier path towards success.

 I can't say I was displeased with his alignment turning out Neutral. Two low Ability Scores might make him a less attractive option than th others though, despite his pretty decent starting funds, particularly since I couldn't raise his Dexterity to 18 like I did with the others. I did the best I could by him though to make him an attractive Thief character Dexterity-wise. Odd that both the male Thief characters ended up with below average Strength scores.

4th Character-



Starting Coin- 60SP

Equipment-Spear, Shield, 5 Silver Pieces

Alignment: Neutral

Blond, 6', 155lbs, 17 years old, alone and kinless, Borghild made her way to this colony from Norway by selling everything she owned to start a new life here. She was fleeced by a dishonest merchant, but it took her months to realize it. Rather than continue to live as a vagrant, she has decided to take up the life of an adventurer.

All I have to say is that my dice hated this poor girl, if it wasn't already after midnight, I'd have re-rolled her. Sure, she's playable, but my guess is she'll get passed over in the selection phase. She couldn't even be a Thief in AD&D, but there is no minimum Dexterity requirement to be a Thief in B/X. Best of luck to her, and I would be pleased if some one did take her and play her. I have a soft spot for hard luck cases I guess.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Curious... but read to the end.

Apparently I shouldn't lead with my dad's birthday and Dawn Patrol, very few hits and a follower left. Yesterday I wrote a pretty lengthy blog post with four distinct topics covering everything I did or thought about and talked with people about over the weekend, but I buried the D&D stories at the end. Now, I don't mean to sound like I am bitching or anything, but where's the attention span? Plus, Dawn Patrol is inarguably old school, as a matter of fact, when I was at Big Darryl's house I answered the phone because I was closest and he asked me to, he was stirring the marinara sauce, it was his other son Keith. Keith was surprised that I was there and asked what we were doing. I said "We're playing some Dawn Patrol.", he said"Wow, that's old school!", and was immediately transported back to about 1985. I don't think I have seen Keith since his wedding, which was maybe 1995? He moved down south for college and never came home, a sad thing that happens to all too many sons and daughters of northern New York when they get to the south and realize that they are away from the bad weather, are better educated than everyone around them and there are greater economic opportunities.

Anyway, I have to start making up the Viking PCs for the new campaign since we are starting on Sunday, so I thought I'd put them out here. I won't be using the, as yet unfinished, new PC/NPC country of origin table, because I have decided that this is a Norwegian colony. I will randomize the physical traits of the characters based on several arcane formulae I have designed over the years for NPCs. Today's lot will be strait B/X Fighters because I haven't had time to redesign the non-human classes into human variant classes or decide whether or not to create new Norse classes in the B/X style, and I haven't yet decided how to handle the traditional Cleric and Magic-User classes. I have also extensively rewritten the equipment table and switched to a silver standard. I am making half of the characters female because over half of my players are female*. I'll start with the males and alternate, giving them random names so I don't use all the cool ones up and buying them equipment off my altered B/X Norse equipment list.

1st Character-
Aran Fighter/1

Str-11+2=13+1=14 AC:9
Int- 14-4=10 HP:6+1=7
Wis- 12-2=10 Alignment: Lawful
Dex- 12
Con- 14
Chr- 9
Starting Coin- 60 SP

Shield, Fighting Spear, Knife, 8 Silver Pieces.

Aran is a tall (6'3"), skinny (172 lbs) blond haired kid (16 years old), from one of the poor families in the new settlement. He desperately wants to prove himself as a warrior and a man so he can be seen as a worthy member of society and change the luck of his family.

Pretty darned good in the raw scores department, but I used the B/X Ability Score Adjustment rule to make his Strength much better, I didn't have to raise it all the way to 14, and it wasn't the best min/max way to do it, but I thought it made for a more attractive Fighter. The low starting money is a downer, it's pretty much guaranteed he's going to not want to fight in the front rank until he scores some loot to buy armor. I assume that all starting characters start with one full set of clothes appropriate to the milieu, including belt and pouch, shoes, etcetera; so he didn't have to buy any of that stuff, lucky for him, eh?

2nd Character-
Snofrid Fighter/1
(the O in this name should have a line through it, but I am not interested in figuring out how to to that on the character map right now)

Str-14+2=16+2=18 AC:4
Int-14-4=10 HP:7
Wis-13-4=9 Alignment:Lawful
Starting Coin- 140SP

Leather Armor, Shield, Helmet**, Axe, 10 Silver Pieces.

Snofrid is a rather beefy, blond, 21 year old woman of average height (5'7", 160 lbs) for her people. She comes from a respectable family but is an uncommon only child. She stands to inherit her parent's small farmstead, but she wants more than that out of life and her parents have pretty much always indulged her.

Now we're talking, Strength raised to 18 and a natural 17 Dexterity, plus the coin to start with some armor or good weapons. She's a front line Fighter.

3rd Character-

Yngvar*** Fighter/1

Str-13+1=14 AC:6
Int-12-2=10 HP:3
Wis-6 Alignment: Lawful
Starting Coin-120SP

Chainmail, Spear, 15 Silver Pieces

Yngvar is the short (5'6"), chubby (190lbs), blond haired, 20 year old son of a local merchant who grew up on Skald's tales of war and adventure, Dragons, Dwarves and Gods. Now his head is full of these tales and he wants to be a hero of the Sagas too, and he's sure he's got what it takes. The boy's got heart, but is a little lacking in coordination and common sense.

OK, poor Yngvar, these are starting to look more like B/X character stats. I am guessing he will be one of the guys passed over in the initial picks. He only gets to burn Intelligence once and Wisdom not at all and has a crappy Dexterity. I even rolled bad for Hit Points. Decent starting money isn't going to save the day for him. I spent most of his money on the best available armor and he'll hope somebody dies without losing their shield or he survives the first dungeon foray, poor foolish, clumsy bastard.

4th Character-
Sunniva Fighter/1

Str-15 AC:7
Int-10 HP:6
Wis-9 Alignment-Lawful
Starting Coin-140SP

Leather Armor, Shield, Helmet, Axe, Spear.

Sunniva is the younger daughter of a wealthy household on the island. She has convinced her parents to let her have a go at adventuring and they have given her a year and a day to make something of her self before they step in and find her a suitable husband. Unlike everyone else so far, she has red hair and is tall and pretty fit (5'10", 160lbs).

OK, she's the only one whose stats I could not adjust according to the B/X rules. Not a bad character, brutally bad Dexterity score though. I can see her getting passed over in the first round of picks too. Good starting money though, I went all out and spent it all on gear, hopefully the first expedition will pay off for her. She's pretty well equipped.

For the characters I made a crude random table for hair color, since they were all of Norwegian extraction I skewed the results towards typical Norwegian hair colors, but almost everyone was blond. I did not differentiate between shades of blond, because I am not a woman, but I suppose it runs from the white-blond to the brownish-blond, and probably includes the reddish-blond, unless that counts as red. I was going to add a random eye color too, but since that's linked to hair color (kind of), I figured it'd be easier to let the players pick what they wanted if it came up, unless they want to break my realism immersion by suggesting something really unlikely or impossible, then I'll just probably say blue.

I also was going to explode 18s on the money roll, so some characters could start out, unlikely as it might be, with some real money. Maybe they are the favored kids of the wealthy or a Jarl's son or they stumbled across a hoard to finance themselves, whatever, but it never came up because I didn't roll an 18 anywhere, much less on the money roll. If it happens tomorrow or the next day we'll see, eh? Roll an 18, get another 3d6, roll another 18, get another 3d6. Theoretically it could keep going. Part of the consequences of my altered equipment cost chart is that I got people more realistically armed for a Viking Age game, but it also means that most people are going to at least start their adventuring careers wearing their normal clothes, even if they are Fighters.

That said, I have been thinking through some house rules for combat, since this is a Fighter heavy game and will probably be a little combat intensive and I have access to, and have read a lot of Saga literature, I am thinking of adding a little bit of Viking flavor through the use of Saga inspired combat maneuvers. I also will definitely be using "Shields Shall Be Splintered" and I am going to print it out and hand it around to the players before the game starts. The D30 will still be there. I am toying with the idea of adding in the old house rule that Steve S. used to use, where you could choose to alter your combat "stance", to Aggressive, Defensive or Balanced. Balanced was your normal stance, and didn't make any changes. Aggressive added to your attack at the cost of AC, Defensive was the opposite of that, you took a penalty to hit, but got a bonus to your AC. The good thing about those were that you could Aggressively attack weak stuff that posed little threat to you, or go all out on really tough opponents and try to kill them quick; conversely, you didn't lose all attacking ability like a parry rule when you went Defensive, it was more like a tank "Buttoning-Up", you could still attack, just not as well, but were better protected. I'll have more on House Rules tomorrow, and I'll have some more characters tomorrow too, unless I get a lot of feedback that says that you all hate seeing my pre-generated character process.

I found my missing Wedding Ring in my D&D dice today. It had been missing for weeks, I have no idea why I would have taken it off and put it in there, but if my regular Sunday game hadn't been canceled three times in a row I would have found it sooner.

*More like 3/4, but since I am making them in groups I figure we'll either get a better rounded party or people will play different from their own gender.

**The Helmet is costly, but worth it, given the 0 Hit Point rule I plan on using, Helmets save lives, if she'd been born wealthier, she'd have gotten a better helmet that offered more protection via nasal, oculars and aventail, but she got the best she could reasonably afford.

***(I almost didn't use this random name because I know a guy named Yngvar in the SCA, but then I thought if I don't use the randomly generated names just because they might also be associated with people I know in the SCA I am going to lose a lot of Viking names, especially the cool ones and the ones that are easy to pronounce.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

What I did over the weekend.

Pictured- a Nieuport 17, what the French were flying against us Saturday.

First off, my dad turned 69 on the 23rd so I was planning on having a small family celebration of that birthday on Friday and my brother was going to come home from New Hampshire on Thursday evening, but he had car trouble on the way back and canceled the trip home until next month. That cleared my Friday evening, because my mom decided to roll my dad's birthday celebration dinners from two separate occasions; one with family on Friday, and one with friends on Sunday, into just one on Sunday, but it did mean that I was going to be cut short on Sunday. I ended up just watching Star Trek with my kids on Friday night.

On Saturday I picked up Dalton and we headed over to Big Darryl's house for some Dawn Patrol. I had spoken with Little Darryl on the phone and we thought it best that we try and modify our completely random set up to something a little less random because the French hadn't had a chance to fly yet and Big Darryl hadn't played any pilot but Junior O'Brien and needed to start playing a different pilot off his roster. When I got there Big Darryl agreed that this was fair and reasonable, so we rolled a d4 and advanced the war 2 days from the last time. Big Darryl drew a German, which we had agreed upon, and the rest of us chose randomly. The teams were even this time because John had too much homework over the weekend. I randomly drew a German mission and got paired with Big Darryl, he got a bombing mission and I got a photo-recon, we decided that my mission was to photograph the bombing run he made. The French were a Fighter patrol in Nieuport 17s. I'll be damned if I can remember what the German 2-seaters were. I am bad with German 2-seaters I guess, I even made a note, and then left the note there.

So, Dawn Patrol 8 FEB 1917-

Vizefeldwebel Albert Klaussen was my pilot, my only surviving original German pilot, flying the same plane he flew last time. We never named his observer, but I think we should, so I am going to start calling him Gunter Schmidt, Gunter sees more action than Albert does usually, he fires his gun more often anyway. I am not going to lie here, I am getting pretty sick of playing missions where one side gets Fighter aircraft and the other gets a photo-recon mission or, in this case, a bombing run, and then runs for home being chased by the other side. When I go to play Dawn Patrol I go to do some dogfighting, not to fly straight and level for six spaces and then turn around and run for home, only dogfighting when I have to, or, in my case, because I am an aggressive player who will fight even when at a disadvantage.

This game came off as a German victory, the bombing run was successful, so was the photography run, there were a couple of things not covered in the rules though that made for a bit of tension at the game table between the two Darryls, both of them take the game, all gaming actually, pretty damned seriously, and not having a rule to cover a situation, or having a rule not adequately simulate reality really bothers them; and they don't really make rulings easily on the fly. Darryl Junior chased his dad all the way back to the German airfield and fired on him as he was on his final approach to land, which I didn't think was cool in 1917, a faux pas. Darryl Senior was frustrated at flying the 2-seater in the first place, hated being completely outmatched by the Nieuport 17 and was just trying to end the scenario; he lined up bad for his landing with a crosswind because he didn't want to be shot at for another turn or two and ended up crashing and destroying his plane, but both the pilot and the observer survived, unwounded.

I stayed in the air for a little longer, the battle had devolved into two separate dogfights, Darryl versus Darryl and me versus Dalton; it was only the second time he's ever played, but he's smart and a quick learner, and he had a fighter against my 2-seater; so it's not really as bad as it sounds, I wasn't picking on him. He made a couple of mistakes, but they were survivable, minor ones. In the end, our fight was inconclusive and he broke off the engagement over German territory, I landed safely, mission accomplished.

Still, I was slightly unsatisfied with the game, we decided next time we're going to play a meeting of fighter patrols, someone will almost certainly start getting some kills there. I am pretty sure that the lack of kills is what pushed Little Darryl so hard after his dad. My British pilot has one kill in game play from last time, it's a fluke, I scored three lucky engine hits in one shot on an already damaged engine. As a wargamer I thought I'd never say this, but it might be nice if Darryl and his dad dialed it back a notch or two and took it a little less seriously, nobody's life is really at stake here, it's just a game, it's scaring the new gamers. I was also a little annoyed at how long the game is still taking to play, the only reason, after set up, that we ever have to look things up in the book is for the maneuvers and they are just charted out on pages 5 and 6, I think; yet it still took us something like four hours to play through on small engagement. I looked this up on, this game usually plays in 45-90 minutes with 4-10 players. In the old days the game never used to take this long to play, we'd play three or four games in a day of gaming.

Which brings me to another small issue I am having with playing with Big Darryl in particular, he is an Air Force veteran and an airplane guy, he loves air combat games and is good at them, he has a lot of them. He also wants to Frankenstein them all together into a supergame and he's done it before. When I was a teenager and he was incrementally adding rules from other games to Dawn Patrol it was OK, it was one rule at a time, but in the end we were playing a completely different game that just happened to use Dawn Patrol counters because they were pretty. It was a complex mess of rules that I am pretty sure only Big Darryl completely understood, if even he did. It had phased movement based on speed, like Star Fleet Battles, and Pass-Through Attacks, that I think he invented, and spotting rules from Richtofen's War or Flight Leader? I kind of sucked at that game and I am pretty good at this one.

Big Darryl is lamenting the fact that everything that was wrong with this game he already fixed, even though we already agreed we were going to play this game, rules as written, until we were all up to speed and agreed to make any changes. Those are two conditions, the first has about been met, as far as I am concerned I am not really in favor of the second; altering the core of the game is a bad thing in my book, I am OK with well thought out house rules that enhance the exiting game, like maybe a random table for determining the anti-aircraft defense strength around a bombing target, which would have been useful on Saturday, but fundamental changes to the core system I am more reticent to make.

I went looking to see if there were any errata for Dawn Patrol on the internet, I knew it was a long shot, since it was a TSR game published in 1983, but if it was available it might cut down on some of the low grade rules bickering that has been going on. I didn't find any, but I did find the Fight in the Skies society and a couple of different FitS/Dawn Patrol sites with some pretty nice house rules and proposed rules for the (ostensibly) forthcoming 8th edition of the game. I will most likely be joining the FitS Society if we continue to play, but I am going to need to find my, once again AWOL copy of Dawn Patrol and start playing a bit here too. The lads need some more experience playing and I may be able to draw in some more players, if I can teach them the rules and get them playing in a less intense environment than at Big Darryl's.


Sunday, before my dad's (belated) birthday dinner, we got most of my D&D group together and decided to scrap the Cornwall setting. It was fun, but between missing 3 sessions and the dreadful historical novel I read to help me prepare for the setting I was losing interest and the game had lost momentum. So I pitched my "Vikings found a colony on a magical island in the North Atlantic" idea, and it was met with universal favor. We hammered out a few details during this organizational meeting, we're sticking with B/X, but I am modifying it to fit the setting. I am going to pregenerate the initial PCs, more than are needed and let the players pick from them, I have had a lot of success with starting games off in a more "Tournament" style approach before, I make the PC up with it's name and stats and equipment on one page, then after it gets picked I give out a page that gives a paragraph maybe about the personality of the character, and a sentence or two about their relationship to each other (possible) PC in the group. It's possible that I am a setting nazi, but I like this approach with more historical settings, it means I get to give them setting appropriate names and equipment and even motivations and attitudes for role-playing purposes.

I haven't settled on a hard date for the campaign yet, my gut tells me earlier is better, but I also want the cosmopolitan Vikings from everywhere possibility and I have in mind a table, like the Dawn Patrol beginning Pilots table, that will let me easily generate backgrounds for NPCs that arrive after game start or new PCs after the initial settler PCs start to die off. In Dawn Patrol our French Squadron has an American and two Serbs. I was thinking that all of the initial PCs here would be from Norway, but as the awesome finds and riches of this island spread it's fame, more Viking adventurers could come, mostly from the west, Norway and Denmark (maybe with subtables for which region of Norway or Denmark?), maybe Iceland or England's Danelaw (if I set it late enough), or the other Atlantic islands inhabited by the Norse- the Orkneys, Faeroes, and Hebrides, or Ireland, Scotland and Man (vast tracts of those countries are controlled by the Norsemen, again depending on how late we start this), or even Normandy (latest start). Give less a chance to be an easterner, and you could be a Swede, or Rus. I was also thinking that there might be a small chance of a foreigner joining the group, easy for the Irish or English, but could extend to even Greeks, Arabs or Cumans or, if we go really late, American Indians or Inuit.

I am mostly using the 2nd edition Viking Campaign Sourcebook as a guide for this, but I also have GURPS Vikings and Runequest Vikings to look through for inspiration. I kind of wish I still had the old D&D Gazetteer for Ostland, Vestland and the Soderfjord Jarldoms, since I am playing B/X that would probably be the most helpful from a rules standpoint. Did it have Rune Magic? I am thinking mostly the modification of B/X is going to entail dropping the non-Human classes, but I may just add them as human class variants, like I have seen done on some other blogs, or replace them with more Viking appropriate classes, like Berserker or Rune-Caster; I haven't decided yet. Clerics and Magic-Users are a tough call too at this point, because the setting idea is that magic ONLY works on this island.

That being said, the first time I ever ran a Viking D&D campaign it was before the Viking campaign sourcebook came out, and I'd never seen either of the other books; I used the standard AD&D classes of the day and just kind of Nordicized everything and it worked pretty well. Some of the same people will even be playing, and if I get to run more than one night a week, maybe more of the same old group; Lance and Darryl won't play together anymore, it's a long story, but mostly just boils down to the two of them not meshing together well and me not being able to get my separate groups of friends with the same interests to be able to get along with each other.

Hopefully this campaign won't be stillborn, I kind of want to use it as a gate-way for the Norsemen to get to Garnia. I talked about that a bit on my other blog.

Thieves Too!

The last thing that's been on my mind over the weekend is the Thief, the biggest dick class. I think I have finally figured out why though. The name of the class says "If you are a player that wants to screw over the rest of the party, play a Thief!". I know Conan was a Thief for a good portion of his career, but a lot of D&D players never read Conan, or Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser*, or even Thieves World with Shadowspawn, so, even though AD&D doesn't come out and say "Steal from your party", it does mention that most Thieves tend to be Evil and they see things like the drawing of the shirtless Thief robbing somebody at knife point in the 1st edition Players Handbook right under Thieves XP table, or the "There is no honor among Thieves" drawing in the alignment description section of the Dungeon Masters Guide and they assume that's the code of conduct for Thief characters. The Moldvay Basic book comes right out and says it " their name indicates, however, they do steal- sometimes from members of their own party". Dr. Holmes states a little more bluntly in their class description "Thieves are never truly Good and are usually referred to as Neutral or Evil, so that other members of an expedition should never completely trust them and they are quite as likely to steal from their own party as from the Dungeon Master's Monsters.". When you couple this with the fact that they have that Pick Pockets skill, what are they going to do? Screw the party, that's what they're going to do. They don't have to, they level faster than every other party member, so stealing the gems or some extra gold so the get bonus XP they don't have to share is just damned greedy, but they do it because they can, the system encourages them to.

So I got to thinking about this, if D&D is fantasy F-ing Vietnam, then Thieves are like the Tunnel Rats, or SF or some kind of specialized warrior minus the name-tag and the Pick Pockets ability; because when you think about it, what else have they got? Find and Remove Traps? That's a pretty awesome and helpful ability to have in a party, very Tunnel Rat-esque too. Move Silently? Also damned handy and kind of militarily helpful, in a stealthy commando style. Hide in Shadows, same thing. Hear Noise, again, same thing. Climb Walls, again, same thing. Open Locks is the only iffy one there, and I can see an argument for it being a militarily useful skill, or at worst, an espionage type skill**. Even their Backstab ability is a pretty bad-ass commando type ability, so these guys could have been called something else and saved us all years of intra-party conflict and douchebaggery.

I guess not every D&D Thief needed to be played like a raging douche, they could have been played as though they were modeled on Indiana Jones, he displays pretty much every single Thief skill (including Read Languages that I didn't mention because I was reading them out of the Moldvay Basic book and the Holmes Basic book when I listed them), but sadly, no, he's an Archaeologist, not a Thief (although that's a subtle distinction depending on when and where you are and who you ask); all I know is I'd rather have Indy in my party or a Tunnel Rat from 'Nam than any damned Thief, even if it is Conan. Conan occasionally screwed over his party***.

*I haven't for instance.

**Which brings me to the sad slippery slope argument that Pick Pockets makes for a great espionage type skill too. Maybe it would work if the Class wasn't called Thief and didn't have all of those references towards stealing from your own party and tending toward Evil.

***To be fair, if memory serves, they were usually Thieves that were planning on screwing him over, but you have to be careful about the company you keep.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Too Bloody Hot.

Odd weather here for March, but my lack of posting here is mainly due to the unseasonably hot weather for the month and getting a jump on some outdoor work both here at home and over at my parent's house. That and having my computer on in this small room heats the space up pretty fast.

I am probably going to re-reboot a new B/X campaign this coming Sunday, just because I am easily distracted and getting dissatisfied with missing games, particularly since we only play every other weekend. Three games missed is six weeks, that's a killer for campaign momentum. My new thinking is that I will play every Sunday, except on holidays, and if a player can't make it, they just don't play. B/X (and AD&D) don't have the rise in power between levels that make missing the odd session, or even every other session in a worst case scenario, all that bad. The new setting will definitely include Vikings, because I love them so, and I have some house rules and maybe some new classes in mind too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday D&D Game

Sadly cancelled. Lee's daughter's birthday party and Lance's daughter being sick made us down three players, so we just played some Star Trek CCG and hung out instead.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mike Mearls Hates D&D

I have been reading the column he is writing, and some of the commentary it is generating in the OSR blogosphere, I have even commented a little bit about some of it myself. I suspect it isn't just Mr. Mearls, but also the rest of the design team behind 5th Edition D&D, or D&D Next, as they think the cool kids are calling it. I reached this inescapable conclusion when I went back and examined the evidence- Mr. Mearls is playing B/X D&D, ostensibly to establish a baseline, but really because it is the best selling D&D ever, so marketing has got to be involved here. Anyway, he keeps wanting to tweak the system. I guess that's cool, we all use house rules, right? But he wants to test the system to destruction and rebuild it (again) anew, and that's not cool, that's what people who hate D&D want to do. I know, I have played D&D with people that HATE D&D a whole bunch of times over the course of my decades of gaming.

I have seen it coming from both sides too, D&D is too abstract and needs to be made more "realistic", with hit locations, a variety of skills, and what-not. D&D is too rules bound, it needs to be more like, name your favorite rules-lite system, this is usually leveled at AD&D when you add in all the extra books or 2nd edition once the splatbook frenzy started or 3e almost from the get go. I have seen the madness of rules breakers that try and smash the system so they can make a better system and it isn't pretty; but at least they were all honest about the fact that they hated D&D. Mike Mearls claims to love D&D. I can't see any evidence that he ever loved any pre-WotC version of D&D, he is apparently only playing it in protest trying to figure out what it's ancient arcane mystique was that held so many of us enthralled for so long.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the 1981 Moldvay/Cook B/X edition of D&D doesn't have room for improvement, in thirty-one years the state of the art has moved forward a bit and we can too. AD&D, both 1st and 2nd editions had some good stuff, yes, even in the splatbooks. 3e made some good design decisions too, along with a few that I would have liked to have seen be optional, and a bunch of stuff I thought was bad. I am almost completely unfamiliar with 4th edition D&D, so I have to refrain from comment, either positive or negative, except to say that I am sure that something good must be hidden inside.

Now, I was against what Mike wanted to do to with Save or Die effects, but I assumed it was a sop to the people that were raised on the somewhat more sissified style of 3rd and 4th edition D&D gaming where every character created is a special snowflake and it would just break you player's heart to see him or her die, especially in an unheroic manner; and it might just break your precious story train off the rails if one of the all important PCs died at the wrong time. Different style of gaming, vastly more time invested in character creation, sure, I get it, all the PCs are tanks and I am an old man saying "Back in my day...."; but back in my day we did have good stories for our characters, they just developed over time. We also had a real sense of accomplishment when we leveled up, because it didn't happen every time we played, and there was a real chance that some of our PCs weren't making it back every single time we went adventuring*.

But I digress, this week Mike moved on to fixing problems that don't even exist in B/X D&D, namely the Turn Undead ability of the Cleric. I can not even fathom what his problem with this ability is, except the whole lack of defined parameters for how long various undead remain turned and how far they have to run. Honestly EGG already answered most of the questions he has in in 1st edition AD&D, and a few others too. Anything else he wants to do I guess can be a simple house rule, it doesn't have to be made "official" D&D Next/5th edition; if you want free willed bad-ass Undead to just hover around menacingly once they've been turned like Vampires in a Hammer horror film, I am cool with that, really, but that's your game, and maybe mine, it doesn't need to be everyone's. He wants to plant all of this stuff in a stat block for each Undead monster, I feel this would unnecessarily clutter the game with stat blocks, so I'd rather prefer to leave it on the simple Turn Undead chart as a footnote, like on the 1st edition AD&D DM's Screen. He claims he doesn't want the Turn Undead ability to be an "I win" button for Clerics or a Fireball tuned specifically to the undead**, because B/X Clerics are too tough? Turn Undead is the only thing they have going for them at first level. They don't get a Spell, they have a D6 for Hit Points and are limited to weapons that do 1d6 Damage, they might have a good AC if they rolled good starting money.

Of course I don't really buy into the idea that he is all that invested in trying out B/X at all given that he is talking about Turn Undead being done using a Charisma Check with a DC and the area of effect being a 30' cone, that all smacks of 3e to me and that's the D&D I divorced. My guess is that if Mike Mearls or Monte Cook or anyone else on the 5th Edition Design Team wants to know what old school D&D was and is like, they should quit DMing and start playing some D&D using these old rules, with an old school DM. There are still some around. They might just find out that they like the game and that returning it to it's roots with some of the thirty-one years of game design innovation is cool, but I am still not cool with the market department deciding things like how often characters should level.

*It's worth mentioning here, as was recently pointed out at Tenkar's Tavern, D&D was originally published as a wargame. You sometimes get attached to certain units in wargames, particularly if they have a campaign play option, but it's kind of silly to mourn the loss of the Grossdeutschland division counter for too long. Yes, I picked that one on purpose because my wife mocks me for mourning it's loss during a drive on Moscow. They had performed so well, they were my lucky unit.

**Of course then he goes a little farther off the reservation when he starts talking about Evil Clerics and them just gaining abilities from other planar creatures, so I guess Carcosa has left it's mark on Mike Mearls. I can't decide if the addition of crazy new abilities to track is worth the bonus points for pissing off the religious right and maybe putting D&D's name back on the radar, so kudos to Mr. Mearls on the addition of Evil PCs and them getting extra special bonus abilities right out of the gate. I didn't see anything special for Good Clerics mentioned, even though an equal and opposite type of ritual ability gain should be possible through contracts with higher planar beings and divine rituals.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A bit of D&D trivia

So I was over on the "Old School Gamers" group on Facebook the other day* and there was a discussion thread about the Holmes edition boxed set going on, and people started chiming in about the differences between their various boxed sets when they got them. I am a sucker for any discussion about Holmes edition D&D, so I dutifully read through every single comment when I noticed that nobody had mentioned getting a boxed set with the same contents as mine. So I felt it was practically my duty to comment this- "That's the boxed set I started with. Mine had chits instead of dice and came with module B2. There was a coupon for free dice though."**.

Less than a minute later James M. Ward says to me; and this is the way I will always tell the story, since he responded immediately after my post; he says- "Another trivia point if anyone cares. Dr. Holmes wasn't hired to do the set. He actually did all of the work and sent it into Gary to see what he thought of the effort. I know this because I was there the day it came in the mail. The rest is printing history.".

First, I can not imagine anyone not being interested in learning that bit of D&D history. Second, wow! It's like he was talking to me personally. I love the internet for making it easier for us all to communicate, and I am even starting to like Facebook again, because of this group. Jim Ward isn't the only old TSR guy there either, I see Tim Kask posting stuff there all the time and some other familiar names too. Jeff Dee comes to mind.

*I'd have told this story earlier, but I wanted to write the Dawn Patrol report first.

**Although here I corrected a typo from the original.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dawn Patrol 6 FEB 1917

Pictured-Royal Naval Air Service Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter

I brought Dalton and John to their first wargame at Big Darryl's house, it was pretty much their first wargame ever. John had played some Axis & Allies with me before, which wasn't any help, but Dalton was totally new to the genre, having only played D&D and other RPGs before. When we got there Big Darryl and Little Darryl were waiting for us, so I had the new guys take pilots off my roster to play with, essentially my Dawn Patrol characters, so we could jump right in. I started going over the basics of how to play the game with them while we also figured out how to divede up the teams and Darryl Jr. determined a scenario for us to play. A key weak point in Dawn Patrol is the random scenario generation doesn't always give you compatible mission results, and we could not remember how we used to do this back in the day; which was, admittedly, over twenty years ago.

We also had seriously house ruled this game with lots of different things like spotting rules, phased movement and pass-through attacks, so by the end of our Dawn Patrol experience we weren't playing Dawn Patrol at all, but rather a game that was initially based on Dawn Patrol and used the Dawn Patrol counters and aircraft stat cards, although sometimes they were modified or superseded too, and we had made some of our own aircraft as well. We still have lots of extra charts and tables and copious amounts of hand-written rules in all of these Dawn Patrol boxed sets that we are playing out of, but mercifully, we decided by unanimous vote before the first game to relearn the rules as written before we attempted to add-on to, or modify them in anyway. Phased movement, for instance, fundamentally changes the nature of the game.

But, back to the report. The teams got divided up into Big Darryl, Dalton and me, and Little Darryl and John. I figured that was about as fair as it was going to get, both Darryl's are more experienced at aerial combat games than me, but both John and Dalton were total newbies. My side was the Allies and we drew British, and it was a photo-recon mission. We were getting two Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters, which are two-seaters, and a Sopwith Pup, which is a fighter. I suggested to Dalton that we let Big Darryl fly the fighter, he agreed. Big Darryl pulled his pilot Jr. O'Brien* from his roster, which is noteworthy only in that he was the same pilot that he used last time, so he is starting to rack up experience, which is important. I had never used either of my British pilots before, since I played the Germans last time, so I took my least experienced British pilot, Lt. Tom McGregor, just because he was on two-seater duty**, and gave my slightly more experienced pilot to Dalton simply because I wasn't thinking about the fact that he would also be flying a two-seater.

You see, when you create a pilot for Dawn Patrol, you randomly determine a few things about him. The most important mechanically is that he might have some experience at start. Something like half, maybe more, of all pilots start out with zero missions, zero kills; some can start out with missions under their belt and if you are really lucky at character generation, maybe a kill or two. The rest of the character generation stuff is nice to know, what year you were born, where you are from, what your rank is; really bare bones, your only game stat is missions/kills. Now over the years we added not just birth year, but month and day random rolls, at one point I had hair and eye color by nation based on national averages; that was not easy data to research in the pre-internet days. Height and weight, skewed towards short and skinny because they were WW I fighter pilots. Now, we added back the whole birthday, but the rest is up to the imagination, make your pilot have as much life as you want. I do think the nationality chart is fun though, our French squadron has two Serbs and a Belgian in it. Our British squadron has two South Africans, a New Zealander, a Scotsman, an Irishman, two Americans, two Canadians and an Englishman. Our German Squadron is from all over Germany, the tables favor Prussia, but until John and Dalton made their own guys and I made my replacements, Prussia was under represented.

I digressed again, sorry about that, The Germans were on a Fighter patrol flying Albatros D IIIs. There was a 10 MPH wind from the north, and no clouds. All of the fighter aircraft started at 17,500 feet, the two-seaters at 13,500 feet. Just one of the oddities of random scenarios again, we were deep inside German held territory (20 turns), and at these altitudes all of our aircraft performed like boxcars. I couldn't help but think to myself how damnably cold it must be for those poor pilots at that altitude, in their open cockpits. The Germans failed their surprise roll, so they didn't get to dive on us and attack, that was nice, we completed our photo-recon mission before they got near us and, in all likelihood, we could have just turned for home and called it a day, but that would have made for a boring day, so I climbed up to meet their attack, while Big Darryl dove with them to mix it up; Dalton followed my lead for the most part.

We had about the same mix of good luck-bad luck as last time, with the exception that Darryl Junior kept calling his bad luck, and I found it quite humorous. He didn't at the time I am sure, but I think in retrospect probably does. He probably should have shot me down, his aerial tactics were impeccable, he dropped below my observer's gun and shot me from underneath several times and his guns kept jamming and he kept missing at extremely close range; I would have been frustrated too. Darryl Senior didn't fare a whole lot better, he won initiative every single time it didn't matter and lost it every single time it did. My son John hit him with a brutal head on attack, causing a critical hit to his engine, that seriously impeded his performance for the remainder of the game. He eventually suffered another critical hit, this time on a lucky shot, that further damaged his performance, but he stayed to the end of the fight, trailing smoke for half the game.

My decision to let Dalton have my more experienced pilot bit me on the ass repeatedly, a pilot with zero missions under his belt can not tail the enemy, I lost tailing opportunities repeatedly in this game, much to my frustration. All this dogfighting, we were slowly moving closer to allied lines, but were still well behind German lines, when ultimately, both of Little Darryl's guns jammed on the same turn that I shot John down with a lucky two engine hits. The game had gone on for a good many turns when this happened, both John and Dalton acquitted themselves quite admirably, especially considering it was their first time out. I have to admit though, that the aerial victory was bittersweet for me, John was playing my most experienced German pilot- Max Von Seydlitz-Preussen***; and he died in the crash. Our battle had never dropped below 11,000 feet, OK, Dalton was briefly at under 11,000 feet, but I think I shot Max down at 11,250 feet. This would have been Max's 5th mission.

*The name alone is a taunt to the Germans, his most famous pilot from our old Dawn Patrol campaign was named O'Brien, and he racked up, I think, 36 kills and killed Little Darryl's most famous German pilot Dirk Ettle in an aerial duel; he survived the war. He got five kills in one day when I was his wing man and I took a critical hit to my wing strut and had to leave the fight, he covered my escape, shooting down the guy that was pursuing me as I could not maneuver, then returned to the fray and shot down the rest of the German planes, although, to be fair, two of them collided trying to dogfight with him.

**By agreement we decided that the least experienced pilots in the squadrons start in two-seaters, if they are available and it is mission appropriate. Obviously, a guy with zero missions is still going to get a fighter aircraft if that's the only one of your pilots available and the mission you draw is fighter patrol. This convention is mostly used to settle arguments about who gets stuck flying the two-seater, because they usually fly like buses or refrigerators.

***Yes, all of my German pilots are named after German ships. The Prussian ones especially, the Bavarian ones I often name after beers. Max here got named after two German ships because I thought it looked cool. My last pilot that died, when he crash landed, was Ernst Grolsch. I figure it's either that, or I start naming them after WW II generals, or just use the common German surnames from the US. My wife's maiden name is Shaffer, from the original German Schaeffer as near as I can tell, because we can't spell here in the US. I have seen, in my county alone, Shaffer, Shafer, Schaffer, Schafer and Shaeffer. My mother's maiden name went from Bernier to Barney over the course of one generation, her older siblings had various other misspellings on their birth certificates. Bernier was the name her father was born with, but not the one he died with; at some point in the early 20th century he and his siblings apparently sat down and decided to anglicize their surname. All that being said, I figure ships and generals are probably a better source of names for German WW I pilots than common German surnames of Oswego County because the common German surnames of Oswego County are going to reflect the peasant class of Germany, which, the film The Blue Max notwithstanding, is not well represented in the German air forces of the first world war and this isn't really a German rich county, we have way more Irish, Italian and Polish surnames to choose from; those would be the "big three" ethnicities here, and Irish has a lead over the other two, German comes in in an "also ran" place. Which, now that I think about it, is kind of odd considering my own ancestry, parts of my father's family have been here for a long time, the rest for over a century; his ancestry is Scottish and English on his father's side and English, Scottish and Dutch on his mother's. My mother's family is 100% French Canadian; which of course means that her father's mother was half American Indian, but nobody cared to remember what nation, Mohawk would make sense, given the area, but Ojibwe is suspected, given the only artifact we have a picture of; but they only moved here from up north after she was born.

Sorry, my bad.

I gave the teaser last night for the Dawn Patrol report and didn't get around to writing it today. I kind of got busy with some other game related stuff and fell into a groove. I wanted to keep working on that while the muse was with me; strike while the iron was hot so to speak. By the time I was done with that it was time for supper and a little TV with the family, then after the kids went to bed I spent some time talking about Crown Tourney plans with my wife.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teaser Dawn Patrol Report

I went and Played Dawn Patrol on Saturday, and I brought my son John and our friend Dalton from our D&D games too. Neither of them has ever had any wargaming experience at all. Big Darryl, Little Darryl and myself have played a lot of Dawn Patrol, but not for probably twenty plus years. We randomized the teams completely. The date was February 6th, 1917. It's almost midnight here though, so I am going to let the complete report be made tomorrow. Instead, I will give you a picture of a D&D style horse archer that I found while I was looking for a "Getting Back on the Horse" picture for my last blog post and thought was pretty cool, just not what I was looking for, and the ad for the cool Battlestar Galactica Colonial Warrior Flight Jacket that I wanted so bad when I was a kid, and a teenager and I still kind of really want.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Getting Back on the Horse

Getting back to blogging is harder than you'd think. I have been feeling better enough now for a couple of days at least to do this and just keep finding excuses to not do it. There are always more blogs to be read, I spent half the day yesterday arguing with political conservatives on the internet and getting really worked up over it; just for the record, it's an exercise in futility- you can not win, their minds are made up before the argument starts and no matter how many well reasoned arguments you make they will come back either with statements of "Nuh-uh", or pick a single sentence out of the many paragraphs you have written to take out of context offense to, and then attempt to refute that, usually while drawing in whatever other conservative issues they are passionate about to the argument. I am saddened by the fact that the average American has no ability to argue a point and is so close-minded that they are completely unable to even consider that the other side of the political spectrum might have something to offer.

While I was sick I did watch a lot of movies and TV series I have been meaning to get around to for a while, so I guess it wasn't a complete waste of time. I watched 16 Sharpe's movies, now I feel like I should probably read the books. I watched 10 Star Trek movies, all of the original series cast and Next Generation cast ones, my kids had never seen any of them, except one of them had seen The Wrath of Khan. I also got through half of season six and all of season seven of Deep Space 9 with my kids and all of the first season of Voyager and about half of the second. I am finding that I don't hate Voyager, which is strange for me since I hated it so much when it originally aired.

While I was sick I didn't get a whole lot of reading done though, so my awaited examination of the Cook Expert book is going to have to wait a little longer until I actually get myself disciplined enough to read through it again and take the necessary notes. I also haven't gotten very far into The Anarchy of Stephen and Matilda, which isn't exactly the book I thought it was when I pre-ordered it from Amazon. I thought it would be a history of the period, instead it's a historical novel, that's OK I guess, but I was searching history books on Amazon when I found it so I was a little surprised when I finally picked it up and started reading it.

On the gaming side of things, having completed the slightly altered Castle Caldwell, which I renamed Bodmin Moor Manor, I have made the momentous decision to send the party next to module B2- The Keep on the Borderlands. I am planning on starting a second B/X group with Darryl, and hopefully Chris and Lili, and whoever else we can scrounge together for a group in Liverpool. The second group I plan to start with "Knowledge Illuminates", technically not for B/X, but any OSR module is pretty compatible with any version of pre-3e D&D. My version of 1139 Cornwall is starting to gain a life of it's own. I like that the players are unfamiliar with the history of the period too, it makes things exciting for me, I can choose to let history run it's course or alter it as I see fit. I also have a Dawn Patrol game scheduled for tomorrow, so I'll let you all know how that goes.

Now, I'll weigh in on the great controversy of the week- Save or Die Poison- I am completely in favor of it. I don't think the players need to be mollycoddled with any nonsense about having their hit points be so low before the save or die mechanic kicks in or anything else. I honestly don't even get where this is coming from, I know the save or die went away in 3e, but poison was still possibly lethal and had negative effects. Ordinarily I would go out and get my 3e book and do a statistical analysis of how poison worked between all the editions I have available to me, I don't feel like searching through 3e for rules I don't really use or care about. Older editions of D&D that use the save or die mechanic have different rules for how poisons work, but they also have spells that are specifically targeted towards poison, and magic items too. From what I am seeing they want to make save or die only kick in if you are already significantly weakened, near death. Now, Saving Throws are not impossible to make, and if you are worried that Olaf the mighty, your 10th level Fighter might die because a Giant Spider got a lucky shot in, well, ordinary humans die from poison all the time, Olaf knew when he became an adventurer that the odds were against him and he'd probably end up in an unmarked grave or unceremoniously dumped in a ditch somewhere; but Olaf, being 10th level, has better odds on his side to make that save versus poison than an ordinary man, hell, he had better odds at 1st level. Assuming Olaf is an AD&D Fighter with no items that give him any bonuses to his saving throws, he needs an 8 is all to make that save. The odds are he'll make it, an ordinary 0-level man would've needed a 16. Making him only have to roll that saving throw when the chips are down and he's already near death is adding insult to injury and making poison not all that deadly to deal with otherwise. We're talking poison here.

That means that you could take Olaf and drop him naked with a dagger into a pit of Cobras (Snake Poisonous MM II page 111, assume they are the deadly 20 on the d20 roll -3 to saving throw, failure means death), they have 2+1 HD, so an average of 9 HP, Olaf is a 10th level AD&D Fighter, so he has 9d10(+Con bonus, if any, but probable, so let's call it +1)+3, average the 9d10 rolls to 45, add 9 for his Con bonus, that's 54, plus 3 for 57 Hit Points, and to be charitable to the Cobras we won't give him a Dexterity bonus to AC. The way I read this, they want to base the amount of Hit Points you have to be reduced to to be vulnerable to the poison to a function of the Hit Dice of the Attacking creature, these Cobras have 2+1 HD, so let's assume you become vulnerable to their poison when you reach fewer then the maximum Hit Points that 2+1 Hit Dice can give you, or 17 Hit Points. That means that the Cobras have to do 40 points of damage to Olaf before he has to start making Saving Throws. We'll also assume Olaf is proficient with but not specialized with the dagger and it's an ordinary dagger. How many Cobras will it take statistically to kill Olaf? Olaf gets 3/2 attacks per round, and probably has a Strength bonus, he is an AD&D Fighter after all, so his highest ability score roll probably got put there, and it was probably an 18, which is bad news for the Cobras since he then gets percentiles Strength too, I'll call it 51%, which makes him +2 to hit and +3 to damage.

Now, the Cobras are AC6 and Olaf is AC10, but Olaf is 10th level and has a Strength bonus, so he only needs a 4 to hit them, meaning he hits 80% of the time and does 4-7 points of damage an average of 5, he is probably doing 10 points of damage in the rounds he gets 2 attacks, which probably kills one Cobra. The other round he injures one to about half it's Hit Points probably. The Cobras are pretty lucky too, they only need a 6 to hit him, so they hit 70% of the time, but sadly they only do 1 point of damage per hit. I really don't know how to calculate how many Cobras are in the pit, they are only supposed to appear in groups of 1-6, but I have to assume these ones were captured and deliberately placed as a form of entertainment/execution, but they picked the wrong guy when they picked Olaf, because unless they are getting an unrealistically huge number of attacks per round or the pit is literally swarming with Cobras, I don't think they stand the chance of getting him down to the 17 HP threshold where he has to start making his Saving Throw, which would be an 11 for a 10th level Fighter against their deadly venom. I don't see the problem.

Look at it this way, at first level, Olaf almost certainly dies here in this Cobra execution pit, even if there are only the maximum of six of them, one would more than likely do the job, it's tougher than he is and it's poisonous. Olaf at 5th level is still scared, even of just a one, this is a deadly scenario. Olaf at 10th level shouldn't shake this off either, when you get dropped naked into a pit with Cobras and a Dagger, you aren't expected to win. 10th level Olaf has a shot, if there are few enough Cobras and his luck holds; he hits more often and saves easier.

Save or die is one of the few mechanics in the game that levels the playing field a little bit for everyone, not only is it an injection of realism into the game, but it keeps people from becoming complacent and assuming that they are larger than anything else in the campaign world, that they are superheroes or demigods walking around among the mere mortal NPCs. Save or die is the RPG that takes out the PC tank every now and again, it doesn't always do it, but the presence of it reminds them that they are mortal and there are things out there to fear, even small things sometimes. Large Spiders are classed as "Common" monsters in AD&D, they have a Save or Die poison, it's "relatively weak" so you save at +2, but they appear in numbers from 2-20, they are a 1+1 HD monster, so you find them pretty early in your adventuring career too.

I once killed half of a 1st level party in an encounter with two giant centipedes because the party was unlucky, they couldn't hit and they couldn't make their saving throws. They weren't super happy about the experience at the time, but they all still remember it to this day, and they all came out in favor of Save or Die poison staying exactly as it is.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Still Alive.

I actually considered titling this post "Not Dead Yet.", but figured "Still Alive" was more upbeat and hopeful. I wish I could say that I have been neglecting my blog because I have been doing awesome stuff like gaming all the time, or working out like a mad man to get ready for Crown Tourney, but no, I am still sick. I actually had to go to the doctor and get antibiotics and I spend much of my day sleeping or watching stuff because I can't concentrate long enough or well enough to either read for very long or blog coherently. I have been on the antibiotics for seven days now though and I think the worst is past, I played some D&D today. I didn't DM, Lee Ann took over and I ran her character for a short adventure against some mysterious pirates that raided the Cornish coast. We didn't perform well, but no one died and the pirates left.

I have had about a dozen blog posts that I started on various topics and abandoned over the last week or so, it's just hard to get all that worked up about anything when you don't feel good and you get tired and headachey just sitting up.