Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Hope I Passed The Audition

This Is An Outrage!

Go to hell, Mike!  You refused to include my favorite weapon, the Mattock, in the DnD:Next Open Playtest. 

But I see you have no compunction with including a 4E fan-favorite, the Maul.

That's it, consider me out.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Slapstick Humor And DnD

I'm cheating just a bit here, putting the above image and the magic user spell, Fumble, together.  The preceding Sutherland illustration appears on page 11 of the ADnD Players Handbook, while the Fumble spell description appears on page 77.  Combining them in this post helps highlight an important feature of early versions of Dungeons and Dragons: humor.

I've already spent some time on this blog discussing the illustrations of Will McLean.  Will McLean's cartoons graced the pages of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide and early Dragon Magazines.  His style of humor was welcome tonic to the too-serious arguments over rules minutia that occurred during Dungeons and Dragon's early development.

What I like most about the preceding Sutherland illustration is the great contradiction inherent in the barbarian's fall: did he truly slip on a banana-peel, and if so, what is the point of the spell-casting wizard's inclusion in the cartoon?  Or did the spell-caster just recently summon the monkey which ate the banana and dropped the peel, which the barbarian then slipped on?

Absolutely Enchanting

Sometimes the artwork attached to an ADnD spell description is just ever so slightly incongruous.  The Dave Trampier illustration attached to the spell, Enchant An Item, is one of those situations. 

While it's true that the illustration shows an item being crafted -- one of several steps involved in making a magic item -- it would make more sense for the illustration to show the spellcaster interacting with the item, and somehow imbuing the item with the desired dweomer, rather than a weaponsmith busy with his more mundane tasks.

The last two paragraphs of this spell description fall on the next-following page in the ADnD Players Handbook, and I think it is easy to forget that the process of enchanting items came with some unpleasant risks, chief among them the chance of losing a point of constitution while casting Permanency on an enchanted item.

Does the same circumstance threaten magic-users in 3E and 4E?  I suspect, like many other game design features inherent in early versions of DnD, all of the advantages have been transferred into subsequent rule sets, while the risks have been discarded as "not fun" for the players.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Otto's Irresistible Dance

I was mentioning a couple of days ago that several spells in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons are named after famous characters from the original DnD campaigns.  Otto's Irresistible Dance is one of those spells.

The accompanying illustration by Dave Sutherland, of a capering Umber Hulk, once again demonstrates the capacity for creators of the early versions of DnD to have fun, and make fun, of themselves and the game they were playing

New school DnD, by comparion, takes itself far too seriously.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grognard H8te Cr1mes

Overheard on the WOTC DnD Forums, in reaction to the release of the DnD:Next open playtest materials ...

4E Fan 1: "Hey, we're just trying to have a good time, Grognard.  Why do you want to destroy us?"

4E Fan 2: "Don't commit your h8te cr1mes here!  H8TE CR1MES!"

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

Allow me to add my voice to the growing chorus of voices singing the praises of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game.

As a big proponent of the FLGS system, I try as much as possible to purchase my gaming items from my FLGS, The Sentry Box, rather than online.  So while the rest of you were receiving your mailed copies of DCCRPG, I waited patiently for mine to arrive at the game store.

The call came yesterday afternoon: my copy had arrived in the store, complete with introductory adventure!  Huzzah!

I picked up my copy of DCCRPG an hour later, and have been stealing a few minutes, here and there, over the last 18 hours, browsing its contents. 

Much of what i`m reading in DCCRPG is already familiar, since I perused the beta rules during the original open play test, but its great to see it all come together in this 470 page tome.

The art is uniformly excellent, and frankly, the amount of artwork is a little overwhelming.  I hate to single one artist out, since it is all so damn good, but I found myself lingering the longest on the Russ Nicholson illustrations.

I`m puzzled by the following piece of art appearing on page 55.  Can anyone tell me who the artist is?

Edit:  I've been advised that the above illustration is by Mike Wilson.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

THE Balthazar Strikes Fear Into Our Hearts

Why should Erin Palette have all the fun?  Balthazar, yes, THE Balthazar, strikes fear into our hearts with his review of spooky Cthulhu Dice.

Hold me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Megadungeon Inspiration

Hill Cantons has another inspirational post about real-life subterranea.  I find this information endlessly fascinating, and am linking to it here, for later reference.

Leomund And Named Magic User Spells

Unlike Larodrm the Leaper, Leomund is well-known for his magic user spells.  Two of Leomund's more useful non-combat spells appear in the 1st edition ADnD Players Handbook published in 1978:  Leomund's Tiny Hut and Leomund's Secret Chest.

The above illustration, by David Trampier, accompanies that later spell.

It's intriguing to consider the number of spells appearing in the Players Handbook, named after one of the magic user characters participating in the earliest Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.  Tenser, Nystul, Leomund, Rary, Bigby, Mordenkainen, Otiluke, Drawmij, Serten, Sustarre and Otto all have spells appearing in the Players Handbook. 

What is more telling is that there is not a single Illusionist spell named after its creator.  It could be argued that unlike Magic Users, the Illusionist class was not an organic ougrowth of actual game-play, thus explaining the lack of character named spells.

At any rate, Larodrm has a long way to go to have any of his spells recognized in a treatise on famous spell-casters and their invented spells.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monty Hall Was Here

Dave Hargrave's Arduin Dungeon adventures read like how-to guides on how not to design modules. 

Arduin Adventure No. 2, "The Howling Tower", is chapter two in that how-to guide.

"The Howling Tower" is an adventure for character levels 1-4.

The Howling Tower adventure consists of three dungeon levels and a tower, from which emanate blood-curdling howls from dusk 'til dawn.

Don't forget your earplugs.

If the illustration above seems passingly familiar, it's only because Dave Hargrave "drew inspiration" from many sources, including Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.  This fellow looks to be a cross between a Stormtrooper and Cylon.

Arduin was the first multi-genre role-playing game, with Science Fiction and Fantasy co-existing in more or less equal measure.

Erol Otus and Greg Espinoza are the illustrators of The Howling Tower.  Below is the front cover, showing the dungeon entrance to the adventure, with the Howling Tower itself behind and to the left.

The back cover, by Erol Otus, shows an idol and fiery brazier.  Does this not seem faintly reminiscent of the cover of the ADnD Players Handbook?

Here is the map for the tower levels of The Howling Tower.  With only six levels, it seems rather stout, compared to the illustration on the front cover.

And here we have more treasure cards.  Again, if i'm not mistaken, all of these were illustrated by Greg Espinoza.
Stormtrooper Gear, Dragons Orb, Elder Sword, Spartakkons Gear
Heiro's Headband, Heaven Harp, Devouring Shield, Whirling Death
I mentioned earlier that The Howling Tower adventure is rated for 1st to 4th level characters.  Given that rating, there really is no excuse, other than pure monty-hallism, for some of the magic items, above.

Take the Elder Sword.  It is a +4 sword, that drains 1-3 life levels from an opponent as a result of a successful strike.  Or the Devouring Shield: it provides the wielder with an additional shield attack, which, if successful, results in one's opponent being completely devoured within 1-3 rounds.

Hiero's Headband is worth 10,000 gp, and provides the wearier with permanent True Sight, and +6 on all saves versus psychic attack.

Gonzo to be sure, but also seriously overpowered, for a introductory adventure.

Battlebones, Gameron, Skullmonculuous, Triclops
Braineater, Hellhorse, Battlespider, Priestmage of Cthulhulos

Dave Hargrave always had the best monsters.  These would be right at home in the Fiend Folio.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How To Design A Bad Dungeon

If you're looking to design a bad dungeon, you can take a few pointers from Dave Hargrave.  His most salient advice?  Secret doors.  Lots and lots of secret doors. 

Dave Hargrave designed four adventures for use with his Arduin Grimoire game system.  The first adventure, entitled "Caliban", was designed for 8th+ level characters.  Caliban is purported to be a ageless, self-aware, malign tower formerly lost to time and space and now revealed once more, for your looting pleasure. 

Caliban's adventure maps provide few hints of a towered structure.  Instead, Hargrave fills each dungeon map-page to the border with odd-sized rooms and interminable secret doors. 

The front and back covers are by one of my otherwise favorite Arduin illustrators, Brad Schenck.  The front cover is not one of his best efforts.

Brad Schenck's back cover is better, though still not stellar, by any stretch of the imagination.

Treasure: Living Scroll, Hell Hand, Demon Ring, Idol of Doom
Skeleton Key, Dragon Horn, Silver Cat's Garb, Black Belana's Garb

This adventure is accompanied by two sheets of cards, one containing treasures and the other one containing new monsters.

Monsters:  Death Tree, Kraken, Wardroid, Warwheel
Dragon Wurm, Phoenix, Death Hydra, Quetzocoatl

The artwork on both card sheets is by Greg Espinoza.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Arduinian Resource Cards And Descriptions

There's but one word that springs to mind when I think of the remaining artwork of The Arduin Adventure: gratuitious. 

I mentioned earlier that The Arduin Adventure is 16 pages thicker than its' Holmesian equivalent.  A great many of those additional 16 pages are devoted to illustrations and descriptions of various weapons, armor and magical items appearing in the Arduin setting.

Like Hargrave, I intend to be equally gratuitous, and show you some of the illustrations and accompanying text of those items.

Of course, it is not only within the pages of The Arduin Adventure that those items appear.  Hargrave also published Arduinian treasure cards, like the two card sheets displayed below. 

On the front side, illustrations of the items.  On the back, descriptions of the items, along with space to customize the items to your game.

Several different sets of Arduinian treasure cards were published.  I have several more sets, which accompanied the dungeon adventures published by Hargrave.  If there is any interest, i'm happy to reproduce them here on my blog, for review and educational purposes.

Without futher ado then, here is a visual retrospective and representative sampling of the items and descriptions appearing in The Arduin Adventure.