Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holdings of Lord Tomas (part2)

Upon the Holdings of Lord Tomas one will find two churches dedicated to the Celestial Orthodoxy.
Tomas is not a very religious man and generally only makes token gestures of faith. Despite that he is not very trusting of ancient Olrinian paganism or other Terrestrial faiths. Modern Tahlmyrian law permits no restriction of inoffensive religion but a great many folk still distrust terrestrial practitioners. A number of ancient and mostly disused Terrestrial shrines are present in the wastes near (and even within) the holdings of Lord Tomas. Use of such places would be discouraged by the Baron and his men not to mention the clerics at the church.

There is a church of the Celestial Orthodoxy in operation at the village of West DeAdrippa is subordinate to the Church in Ortossa. The church at West Adrippa is served by Parish Priest Father Olmanda and a number of Celestial brothers as the church serves as a learning annex to the monastery at Tormanto in addition to it's duties to the local parish.
The Church at West DeAdrippa maintains some significance outside the immediate family and holdings as it contains a mausoleum for a small number of entombed knights including the once famous 7th Baron Adrippa who served as a Paladin under the Grand Patriarch Vistandus II of the Celestial Orthodoxy. A great grandmother of Lord Tomas was very religious, becoming a cleric in her dotage and some considerable machinations on her part have served to maintain the importance of the church to this day; she is also responsible for the construction of the larger chapel in the manor castle itself.
Olmanda and the majority of the brothers have left to tend the spirits and bodies of the troops serving at the border with Jolumbria , leaving behind Brother Dollop as acting senior at the church with a pair of oblate brothers and a small number of novices. Some folks consider the friendship between Lord Tomas and Brother Dollop (of the local church) to be curious but they would be ignorant of Dollops military service in his youth and the times the baron and he campaigned together.
The parish church of West Adrippa is most obvious and fairly large for such a rural location. It's bell tower is the tallest point in the village and would be used as a lookout on times of need. The bells of the church ring at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon and sundown if the oblates can be motivated to keep track of the time.
There are a number of smaller support buildings very near or built alongside the church proper. These house the brothers, the novices, a pair of classrooms and a fair sized library for a village church (actually larger then that of the ranking Bishop). The Church was built over a number of years and each era can clearly be seen in the color, size and set of the stones of each section. There are at least five ways into the church and each is normally only open according to some obtuse schedule know to Father Olmanda, since his absence the doors generally remain open or closed until really needed.
Despite the chaos of architecture the Church itself is rather plainly decorated with but a single altar at the front. there are a small number of benched pews towards the front and rear of the main space but most of the parishioners must kneel and stand with no assistance. One decidedly curious feature of the altar is the presiding priest will stand facing the congregation instead of facing away form the congregation while delivering a sermon. There are a number of small stained glass windows in this church praising the lessons of the saints or warning the faithful of sin.
The knightly tombs may be entered from a portal on the inside of the church or through a small bulkhead that is usually locked form outside. The tombs are generally sealed except for certain holy days and may be used as the resting place for a knight for a year after his death but the remains are not kept there with those that are permanently entombed from years before. The tomb entrance to the private Tomb of the 7th baron is the most elaborate and well maintained.
The church is typically a fairly bus place for a parish church due to it's role as a learning annex of the faith but lately it's moderately quite outside of the thrice daily services. One would still only expect to see the place crowded on holy days .
There is a small infirmary at the church that usually tends to a variety of work related injuries or the occasional unfortunate illness. With most of the brothers absent only limited healing is possible within.
One building adjacent to the church maintained by the brothers serves as a small brewery. The beers brewed within are generally reserved for the clerics but are sometimes released on holy days if supplies are large enough to warrant such generosity.
A small entry hall off the west side of the church is used as a makeshift court every fortnight or so by the Baron or his Seneshal to settle minor disputes and keep check on working sof the estate. This is an old tradtion established many years before when the manorial keep was pretty small and the then reignign baron found it bothersome to have the place overcorwded by the residents of the village. It's now considered a friendly gesture by the baron to the commoners.

Pilgrims or very rarely those seeking sanctuary visit the church now and again and recieve lodging within the structure.

The Chapel at the manorial Castle is built in the mid ward facing to the east. It is a stone building standing some 30' high at roofs-peak with a small bell tower off center rising at most 15 feet above the roof of the chapel proper.
There are two entrances to the chapel the first is the rather obvious front doors; The double doors to the chapel are decorated in a painted carving of the procession of Saint Gallant on his life's quest, the paintwork is a little faded as of late and likely to be refreshed soon if the lady of the manor has her way.
The front doors open to reveal a larger foyer and cloak room illuminated by large windows with a massive transom letting illumination into the worship space beyond. The doors leading in from the foyer are decorated with carvings of two visions of paradise from the poem "The Seven Paradises of the Heavens Above", by DeGaunte. There are no pews for there are no pews for the worshippers but one will find a number of leaning bars tat allow one to kneel and rise with relative ease and comfort. The floor of the chapel space is a warm marble with cushioned kneeling bars at the front two rows. Perhaps a 100 could worship here at one time. There are a number of small altars within the chapel one each dedicated to all five of the third generation of saints and a main altar at the fore.
There is a garden beside the chapel with a path decorated with stepping stones bearing the slightly faded carvings of the quotes of Saint Bartholos on the Knightly Virtues. One may enter the Chapel through the bell tower if the two doors are unlocked by the bell keeper. The bell keeper, known as brother Mellot, maintains the bells ringing them on the hour during the day and tends to the chapel garden, being a halfling he is the only non-human to dwell on the grounds of the manorial castle. The room at he foot of the bell tower is a simple one with a small window lighting the chamber before one enter the chapel beyond. There are three short stories in the tower above this chamber each hosting a separate room: the living quarters of brother Mellot a warm sitting room with a tiny but well equipped kitchen and a small bed, above that a workshop and the bell pulls, one finds the three tower bells above that,(Note: despite the form of address Brother Mellot is not a cleric of the celestial faith but he has long been in service at the chapel bell tower)

The chapel is used for most needs of the Family of Lord Tomas , his wife may typically be found there for an hour or so each morning. The family only attends services at the village church on special occasions and specific holy days. The baron will send his scribe to the church library to fetch him a book now and again and may be seen fetching one himself on rare occasion. The village court mentioned above is held every fourteen days or so.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holdings of Lord Tomas (Introduction and part 1)

The Holdings of Lord Tomas will be a series of entries I hope to post on and off for a fair time to follow. Lord Tomas (also to be frequently mentioned as Sir Tomas) is a noble NPC who was part of an AD&D campaign I dm'd in the late 80's to the mid 90's. His estates and the neighboring territories were the site of many a low to mid level adventure. The posts that follow should be considered a work in progress, a flexible notebook, as I may collect them at some point in the future as part of a larger game work. I hope to cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to the Holdings of Lord Tomas in an enjoyable, informative and gameable fashion. Hopefully the posts that follow will provide hints and details others can work into their own games.

The adventuring party in my campaign at the time first met Lord Tomas lame in bed due to a wound the local clergy could not treat after meeting a clergyman (Brother Dollop) and a page on the imperial highway where it bisected a local road seeking help against a menace that threatened the manor that the wounded Lord Tomas was unable to meet.

Here now is the body of the First of hopefully many entries:

Lord Tomas Adrippa is a Baron and Knight of the Tahlmyrian empire. His holdings in the Old Olrinian March are modest but not insignificant. Three fortifications are present: the manorial castle, a village stronghold and a watchtower all staffed by a small a garrison of troops.
Tomas Adrippa is the 15th Baron in his family line to own these holdings. He is 53 years of age. He has four adult sons, the eldest two have answered a call to duty and are campaigning at the southeast border where goblins, orcs and worse menace the people at the edges of Jolumbria. His third eldest son is serving as seneschal to a doddering uncle of Lord Tomas far to the south near the coast and the youngest of his adult sons is an officer in the Imperial Legions serving to maintain order in the High Vales. His third wife has borne him three children to date, a son now seven years of age soon to be offered as a page to another lord, a daughter of 5 and an infant boy.
He also has two married adult daughters and a few grandchildren.

His nearest neighbors are Andros Adrippa (a distant cousin and one of the reasons we will refer to the holdings as those of Lord Tomas instead of those of Lord Adrippa), The Duchy of Ortossa to the south and the sizable but poorly maintained holdings of the Leifco family to the north (who are more interested in their ancestral holdings far to the south then in the backwater region that the holdings of Lord Tomas are a part of).

The holdings of family of Lord Tomas were once politically significant to the Empire as it fought, defeated and assimilated the Olrinian successor states. Economically the region is of little serious economic value beyond farming and grazing. A fair number of ruins can be found within a couple days march of the holdings of Lord Tomas: ancient Olrinian edifices, ruins from the times of imperial expansion, remnants from the era when the old marches were a booming frontier region of the empire, fortresses and villages that have remained empty since the goblin wars and even recent leavings of those that have moved on to seek fortunes in the new frontiers.

The northern border of holdings of Lord Tomas are marked by a river which is overlooked by a old watch tower (once the family keep a very long time ago), the eastern border is a secondary imperial highway running more or less north to south, the western border is a ridge of hills rising from the forests and the southern border is a half league south of the old west road (now disused except for access within the holding). The neighboring Adrippa lands maintained and owned by his cousin run more or less east to southeast along a new road branching off of the imperial highway and with a total territory three times that of the holdings of Lord Tomas.

Lord Tomas is vassal to no man directly as the family holdings were granted by imperial writ but as an imperial knight is sworn to protect the empire, the emperor and the senate. He has traveled to the imperial seat in his youth to make an oath of imperial duty to then reigning emperor (actually Empress Aribeth III ) but has never been called to make the oath before the current emperor or the senate.
Two vassals of Lord Tomas have holdings that will not generally be accounted for in these writings one holds a small hill fort overlooking the river on the northwest edge of Lord Tomas' holdings and the other maintains a pleasant villa on a lake at the border of the Duchy of Ortossa due to the extent and location of his holdings he has been compelled to swear fealty to the Duke in addition to Lord Tomas.

Monday, July 27, 2009

[Real Life] Having a baby.

In real life my wonderful wife and I are expecting a new baby any day now, within the week actually. This will be my third child and my first with my current wife. It's been a long pregnancy as she has suffered a host of complications including hypertension, gestational diabetes and sciatica; and the woman still claims to love me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mutant Berries III

More berries for your Mutant Future campaigns.

Yellow Gloom Berries
The berries grow on small withered black leaved bushes in areas generally devoid of other vegetation. These "glowing" berries don't provide enough light to see by and if eaten will expose the gourmand to an intensity 1d4+4 radiation attack, per berry eaten.
It's not well known but it is the seeds of the yellow gloom berry that retain the radiation.

Gloom Berry Syrup.
About 20 gloom berries must be harvested and carefully skinned. The skins are retained and are boiled in a pot with 2 quarts of saltwater. The liquid should be boiled off until the skins have mostly dissolved and there is not more then 2 cups of liquid left behind. The syrup may be applied to cloth, armor or other surface to resist radiation blasts; any directed radiation attack will be considered 2 intensities lower. the syrup retains it's effects for 1-3 days after application.

Nox Berry
Small black berries with yellow spots that grow on high bushes. These berries produce body wracking purgative effects. Eating one will sicken a human or humanoid for 1d6 turns. If eaten within a turn of a poisoning a new saving throw is allowed against a poison, any damage suffered previously is adjusted to account for the new save. Mutant animals will suffer the effects of a 1d8 intensity poison if they ingest a nox berry.

Floyd Berry
A variety of small oblong berries that grow on low rambling plants. During midsummer a patch of floyd berries will typically have 3d10 ripe berries on any given day.

Purple Floyd Berry
Eating a purple floyd berry will cause one to go blind for 1d6 turns. Otherwise they are nourishing and rather nice tasting.

Purple Floyd Berry Wine
Collecting the juice and skins of 24 purple floyd berries and allowing them to ferment will produce about cup of Purple Floyd Berry Wine. Drinking this wine will blind one for 2d6 turns but afterward they will discover they have precognition (as the mutation) for the next 2-7 hours.

Blue Floyd Berry
Getting the juice of one of these berries on the skin of a human or humanoid will force them to make a save vs poison or be overcome with vivid hallucinations rendering them helpless for 2-7 rounds. If one eats the 2 or more the hallucinations will render one helpless for 2-8 hours. Mutant animals, plants and androids are uneffected.

Lemon Floyd Berry
these bright yellow floyd berries smell of lemons. If 3 or more berries are eaten a save vs poison must be made or the victim will fall into a deep sleep for 2-7 hours and can not be forcefully woken until at least half that time has passed.

Lemon Floyd Berry Dust
If the seeds of 12 Lemon Floyd Berries are collected dried and ground up they will produce a powder that will reverse any soporific condition in but a round. (They wake one up). This will work to reverse ingesting lemon floyd berry itself even if half the sleep time hasn't' passed yet.

Yellow Floyd Berry
These berries are about as bright yellow as the lemon floyd berry but they do not smell like lemon. If one gets the juice on their fingers from a Yellow Floyd Berry they must make a save or be paralyzed for 2-7 turns. Eating the berrys will kill a human or act as random intensity poison vs humanoids and mutant animals.
Yellow Floyd Berry Paste
If 12 or more yellow floyd berries are collected and rendered stewed to a mush, dried, pulverized and then reconstituted they produce Yellow Floyd Berry paste. Each does of this paste will produce a paralytic poison of intensity 11 if injected in a foe by dart or coating a weapon . There is one does produced for each berry over 10 used to create the paste.

Silver Floyd Berry
Are harmless and have no effects on human or mutants. The leaves of the plant carry a contact poison requiring a save to be made if precautions aren't taken by one collecting the berries or expose the victim to a soporific toxin that will force them to collapse into sleep for 2-12 hours.

Silver Floyd Berry Incense
If the leaves of the silver floyd berry plant are carefully collected. Coated in the juice of the plant and allowed to dry and then tightly rolled (the contact poison has no effect once dried) a bundle of such rolled leaves can be burnt for 2-5 turns which will require all insects within 20' to make a save (each round of exposure) or fall asleep for 1-6 turns. Some people complain the smoke gives them headaches other say it calms them slightly but not enough to have considered impact on combat or wakefulness.

possible market values
Yellow Gloom Berries .... 3 lp
Gloom Berry Syrup. .... 20 up

Nox Berrys .... 2 up

Purple Floyd Berry ...... 5 pl
Purple Floyd Berry Wine .. 25 up per glass
Blue Floyd Berry .... 8 lp
Lemon Floyd Berry .... 3 pl
Lemon Floyd Berry Dust .... 9 lp
Yellow Floyd Berry .... 5 up
Yellow Floyd Berry Paste .... 6 up per dose
Silver Floyd Berry Incense ...2 up per roll

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vehicle speeds and Mutant Future.

Recently on the mutant future forum over at goblinoid games forums have been posting vehicle stats that were in line with the vehicles posted in Mutant Future. The top speeds for vehicles is posted in mph. Which isn't the handiest figure for a game where pulse pounding action is resolved in 10 second rounds.

There are 60 rounds per 10 minute turn and as such there are 360 rounds per hour. A mile is 5280 feet long. Divide 5280 by 360 and we get the handy figure of 14.667 ft ; not the handiest measure.

To make the math all a little cleaner later we could crank this up to 5mph increments. That's 73.35 feet and as such for the sake of still easier math I recommend bring this down to a tactical speed of 70ft a round per 5 mph of true speed.

Sounds great but that is damned fast and not easily factored into the rest of the movement rules.

As per the rules an unencumbered humanoid runs 120' a round, that's a real speed of 8.18 mph. Not Olympic greatness in sprinting but certainly enough running speed for long distance hauls.

Vehicle speeds could always be assumed to be "running" speeds of course but a vehicle moving even 5 mph by my math above will be out racing an unencumbered humanoid. For the sake of game reality turning down the per round movement of vehicles could be a safe way to go.

I'm gonna recommend 50ft per 5mph of speed so bottom speed vehicles can occasionally be caught up with by people on mounts. It also works out to handy 10' per mph in a round.
Yes it bends reality but it works for a game.

A vehicle going 50 mph will be covering 500 a round. Much slower then reality but easy to keep track of if we don't worry too much that a round is 10 seconds long. It also lets us pretend that running characters are actually approaching running speeds.

So for quick and dirty math / easy conversions 10 feet a round for each mph, when dealing with vehicles.

Now someone just has to figure out how you keep track of adventurers moving 30' a round compared to a jet roaring along at 560 mph.

Lunchtime Art

Here's a piece I did during lunch today. I was inspired by reading a post over at originaleditionfantasy.


Research, research and more research; not the players or the PCs, me. Doing some research on horses for an article here. Boy oh boy there is sure a lot to read about horses.

I actually started out wanting to do a piece on jousting and was quickly distracted by the role of the horse . I've always felt the horse was given pretty short treatment in most rpgs. It's not a motorcycle that sits there and waits for you. It's a living being with it's own limitations and abilities. Not just an item on an equipment list. Horses should really be treated like an NPC. Horse traits in the 2nd edition AD&D DMG and the Hackmaster GMG actually are the best treatments on the horse as an individual and different living creature I've ever seen in any RPGs. But they leaveme hungry and wanting more information.

Historically horse is a prestige item, a necessity and different breeds and types of horse really have a big impact on what you can use them for. Thankfully my wife used to live on a horse farm so I was able to consult her and talk about horses for a while to give me a better idea of what I was looking for online.

The internet might give us a lot of dubious information but it is also one of the greatest gifts to DMing that ever came along. Now I just have sort through things and dance that line between Sim and Game, realism and fun. Sometimes it all requires a bit of research.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

(ART) Wandering Monsters

Had a little fun doing some digital fantasy art.

Here is the rendering of the 3-D models as prepared in Poser. I tweaked the face in the base model to get the base species the same for all three humanoids, each one has some personal tweaks in their appearance and size. Stretched and compressed a few body parts to make them a bit less human.

I traced them in IllustratorDid some coloring in Photoshop.

Not sure why I went for tracing and then colorizing. just let the artistic juices flow I suppose.

I know I wouldn't want to be bumping into these fellows following a failed surprise check.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Put Something in the corridors.

I can't say this enough, put something in the corridors of your dungeons/redoubts/space stations. Far too many RPG adventures reserve the corridors for wandering monsters and the occasional pit trap. You can tell by how seldom one sees keyed corridors on a dungeon map.

It will cut down on the "there's a door there must be an encounter" syndrome. It'll make your adventures more interesting.

Some suggestions for the typical underground fantasy world labyrinth beyond placed monsters:
* Chalk marks showing direction and maybe warnings. These can be in a commonly known argot, simple pictograms or directional arrows.
* A square clearly drawn in chalk, ink or blood on the floor. Just try keeping players away from that or conversely try to get them to step on it.
* Tracks that are easy to notice. There is nothing wrong with using this technique to warn the players about impending dangers or lead them into a death trap. This is an excellent harbinger for
* A wall built up across the corridor. this shouldn't block the corridor and clearly isn't original construction and makes a good spot to post guards for a nearby chamber.
* A pile of dung or garbage. Refuse has to end up somewhere, the contents of the refuse could provide clues as to what us lairing nearby and or dangerous diseases and parasites.
* A Body. (See : )
* A stray weapon. Simply a weapon layign in the corridor, mayhaps it is a cursed item or someone dropped it during a fight?
* A tangle of roots. A harmless enough feature most of the time but it can reduce vision or tangle up folks trying to pass through quickly.
* A broken up uneven patch of floor. Unstable footing can prove dangerous and is an even more difficult spot to identify hidden traps.
* Cobwebs. Plain old cobwebs, no one passed this way recently or mayhaps strands of old webs are attracting lots of dust.
* A corridor wall lined with shelf fungus.
* Walls lined with torches, lanterns, sconces lit or unlit. Lit sconces indicating someone nearby is keeping them lit and imagine the reaction if they spontaneously extinguish.
* Scattering Vermin. Cockroaches, mice and centipedes scatter as the noise and lights of the party draw near.
* A barricade. Not a clearly well built wall as above but certainly enough to provide some defense to folks manning the barricade and it will certainly slow an advance. Picture the alarm if the party discoveries themselves coming up on the defenders side of the barricade.
* A spike driven into the wall. Good old iron spike driven into a crack in the wall.
* A rope tied to a spike driven into a wall. There has to be some reason to drive spikes into the wall.
* A puddle on the floor. thsi puddle can be very shallow and harmless, maybe makignthe surface underneath dangerously slippery. If the puddle isn't water the material may be far more dangerous then dirty dungeon water.
* A change in the floor surface, gravel, dirt, mud, sand.
* The ceiling is clearly propped up with extra timbers and beams. This area may tumble at any moment if the supports are disturbed. The timbers and beams could be recent indicating the activity of residents maintaining the dungeon or they could be ancient and mouldering.
* A rivulet of water, sewage or chemical waste runs down the side or middle of the corridor.
* A drain in the floor. This drain could lead to virtually anything but shouldn't' usually be wide enough to allow PC races entry, it most likely leads to a pipe which empties into some sort of nearby cistern.
* Furniture set up in the corridor, table, benches, stools. Could be stacked for storage or recently used by residents.
*Barrels or crates lining the corridor. Unlike video games these shouldn't explode or have anything all that interesting inside that would aid least not all the time.
* Water fountain. Drink it if you dare ! Could be a magical fountain but typically it isn't.
* Potted Plants.
* a beast of burden or incongruous relatively harmless animal just standing there. This animal may flee on first sight, follow the party, be easily captured or be downright grumpy. Some pack animals may have some supplies strapped to their backs.
* A short run of stairs going up or down no more then 2 or 3 steps.
* Mural
* Fresco
* Bloody hand print on walls. Bloody footprints on floor.

Additional features for modern/futuristic corridors:
* Television screen/monitor mounted in wall or near ceiling. Good place to drop clues or window dressing.
* Mirrored lined section of wall. Nothing to worry about, unless it is a two way mirror.
* Security Cameras. Seemingly dead or certainly active and following the party.
* Cork-board/notice- board mounted on wall. A spot to find clues about the recent residents or the origins of the structure.
* Trashcan.
* Fire extinguisher/hose or fire axe in recess in wall.
* Flashing lights.
* Warning alarm.
* Hand truck leaning against wall.
* Safety/police tape blocking corridor or laying on the floor.
* Water bubbler.
* Coffee nook. Either fully stocked or a bunch of empty containers and no usable grounds.
* Map of complex. Legible or illegible, defaced or pristine. Might just be a corridor guide which reveals nothing but main corridors and emergency exits.
* Warning/notice sign.
* Leaking ceiling.
* Loose wires. These can lay on the floor, across the floor or hang from the ceiling.
* Exposed ducts.
* Exposed plumbing.
* A pile of garbage bags.
* A bunch of empty plastic bottles.
* Paint cans, tarps and a ladder.
* Hall Lockers. A greet place to find random junk and clothing if it hasn't' been looted before.
* Body outline. Surrounded by chalk or tape indicating foul play under investigation.
* Stained rug.
* A big lump under a rug. Dare anyone look at what is underneath?
* Ceiling tiles overhead are loose or in disarray.
* Grate from air duct lose or on the floor. Is there any indication of the duct being used for covert travel?
* Graffiti on the walls. Warn folks about the nearby gangs or related threats.
* Beer cans and cigarette butts.
* Trip wire running across corridor. could lead to a simple alarm, explosives or nothing at all.
* An old mattress lie son the floor or leaning up against the wall.

Every corridor need not have a special feature but dropping them in now and again makes the runs of corridor more interesting then their width, height and length until the next door is reached.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What happened to the CRT ?

Seeing as the roots of RPGs are clearly in Wargames I just have to wonder whatever happened to CRTs (Combat Result Tables) ?

It's a fairly easy means to express of a wide range of combat results. Compare attack and defense, roll dice look the results up on the table. How much simpler could it be?

A sample CRT for melee combat:

A wide range of results, some risk to the attacker and the defender. No math to speak of beyond being able to figure out odds.

Where did these tables go?

Saturday, July 18, 2009



An old norse word for ferns, still used to identify a genus of coarse ferns.
Bracken can turn up in all environments except for deserts.

Bracken are a popular food supply for a wide variety of invertebrates. Bracken growths are dense enough to provide shelter for birds to nest within.

Bracken Fiddleheads , which are the immature tightly curled fronds of the plants, are often consider a culinary foodstuff. The author himself will readily admit to enjoying them.

Some bracken are poisonous to rodents and cattle should they ingest the plants and this makes them a nuisance to herders.

Getting some use out of Bracken in gaming:

Bracken can grow so dense it is virtually impassable. What looks like a patch of leafy ferns can turn out to be a super dense riot of foliage that can drastically slow one down.

Bracken can grow voraciously and the roots can go deep. Near surface ruins and dungeon chambers can easily be choked shut by the super dense growth. Since the plants like to grow in slightly dry spots where it is known to grow it can also be a way to spot where ruins and dungeons may be standing awaiting discovery.

A variety of beasts can lair within the bracken.Some of the insects known to dine on Bracken carry dangerous infectious diseases, such as ticks that carry lyme disease in north america. Birds use the shelter of bracken growths to protect their nests so too could a variety of more fantastic beasts such as cockatrice or basilisk.

I also simply like the word...Bracken, it just sounds cool.

Mutant Berries II

Thump Berries
These Bight green berries with red bands grow on high bushes in batches of 7-12 per bush. While fresh they have no unique properties beside modest food value.

Squishy Thump Berries
when thump berries become over ripe (thypically a week after beign picked) they are dangerous if bitten or hurdled against a solid surface or smashed they will explode for 3d6 damage to all within 10'. Carrying them is very dangerous, any time a user falls or is exposed to a explosion or impact of 4 or more points of damage each squishy thump berry has a 2 in 6 chance of detonating.

Thump Berry Nectar
Ripe thump berries (but not squishy ones) can be juiced and the juice treated so it doesnt' ferment and this sticky nectar becomes an wexplosive that reacts to heat (and must as such be ignited) but it doesn't react to impact. Four Thump berries produce enough nectar for an 8d6 explosive that will harm all within 20' (save for 1/2) on ignition.

Thump Berry Cider
Ripe thump berries are juiced and the juice is allowed to ferment (1% chance per berry in batch that the batch detonates durign fermentation). 20 berries produce a liter of biodiesl fuel about as flamamble and dangerous as your average biodiesel after fermentation settles down.

Lash Berries
These are yellow berries wih vibrant red spots that grow along the ground on small plants. They are ripe during the late spring. 14-24 are usually ripe in a 50' patch.
Anyone foolish enough to eat Lash Berries (which are nice tatsing and nourishing) will develop a distinct odour 1-3 turns later that will attract predators wihtin 200 feet for the next 12 hours.

Lash Berry Bombs
The juice of Lash Berrys can be collected and distilled into a gooey syrup. thsi syrup is uaully collected into fragile vessels to form a grenade that will coat everyone within 10' (that fails a a save) in a stench that will attract predators for the next 2-5 hours. 6 Berries are needed to make enough syrup for one such grenade.

Possible Market Values

Thump Berries .............. 8 pl
Squishy Thump Berries .... 8 lp
Thump Berry Nectar ...... 40 Up a charge
Tump Berry Cider ...... 5 Up a liter
Lash Berries ...... 3 pl
Lash Berry Bomb ...... 10 Up

(prices are for 100 plastoons = 10 lead pieces = 1 uranium piece, pricing)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hardly NEVER

In one of many replies to a heated comment by RPGpundit this portion of a post was typed:

"The will to play is still there (and still strong). What is breaking is the group dynamic that gets enough people at the table regularly to sustain repeat play over long periods of time.

At at the bottom end of the demographic, that play pattern is NEVER taking place. We've already raised a 5 year cohort of gamers (2003-2009) who don't have the most basic "we all got together at Joe's house every Saturday for D&D last summer" experience that I bet 99% of the gamers 30 and up had. Without that foundational expereince as a touchstone, a critical tipping point has been passed.


Really? My son is playing in a regular weekly game with other teenagers. All it takes to be part of the culture of regular face to face gaming is to do it. The parents of the kids involved are all happy to see the kids interacting with other kids in person. There is no impassable tipping point, civilization hasn't changed, the need for companionship hasn't changed.

The kids willing to play regualr games are out there I'll wager most of them just aren't aware of the range of options that are actually open to them. The other boys my son games with were almost totally unaware of using the computer to get access to RPG stuff, news and info and these kids are not internet illiterates. The industry and the hobby as it is now seems to be failing to reach these kids, maybe it doesn't even really try.

Mutant Berries I

The weird worlds of the Mutant Future are of course rife with a riot of beings with bizarre and unusual abilities, wild appearances and new discoveries. The Flora of such worlds is just as likely to be strange and unusual as is the animal world. Here now are the first collection of mutant Berries that scavengers may find in their Mutant Future.

Yellow Frink Berry
Grows on a low bush, the Berries are ripe in the summer months when 2-12 berries will be available. A Frink berry bush usually will not be within a couple hundred feet of another Frink berry bush.

Fresh Yellow Frink Berries
Fresh Yellow Frink Berries produces a hallucinogenic poison. If one is consumed treat as Class 8 poison but instead of suffering damage the damage roll reflects the % chance each round for 3-18 rounds that one will be overcome and incapacitated by the hallucinations produced.

Fuzzy Yellow Frink Berries.
If Frink Berries are allowed to age a 2 weeks or longer they have a 33% chance of developing a slight golden fuzz (this is a a mold). Eating a fuzzy berries will expose anyone to a Class 3 Hallucinogenic poison that lasts for 2-12 rounds (as above). Mutants with mental power will find the ranges (but not area of effect if applicable) have been increased by 50% for a hour.
Eating multiple berries extend the probability of being overcome by hallucinations but does not extend the duration of the range increase for mental powers.

Red Frink Berries
A different variety of frink berry that glows on a bush with long black fronds covered in thorns. the thorns may be annoying but are relatively harmless.

Fresh Red Frink Berries
Red frink berries are typically ripe in the spring. A bush will produce 2-5 berries each year.
A normal human or any mutant eating a red frink berry will develop a random mental mutation for 2-12 turns if they fail a saving throw versus poison (one can not choose to forgo the roll)

Frink Berry Wine
This reddish-orange wine is made by collecting the juice of 40 Red frink berries and 20 fresh yellow frink berries and allowing the mix to ferment. A batch of such wine will provide 8 doses.
Each dose (small glass) of Frink Berry Wine will grant the drinker a randomly selected mental mutation for 7-12 hours but each time the drinker comes under stress a save vs poison must be made or they will be incapacitated by hallucinations for the next 1-6 rounds.
A batch of Frink berry wine will produce the same mental mutation for the same character types (roll for each type but use the same result if drinkers of the same type drink from the same batch). Frink Berry wine made from the same batch of plants only have a 20% chance of producing the same mutations as the previous vintage.

All Frink Berries will shrivel and rot in 3-6 weeks after harvest.

Possible Market Values
Fresh Yellow Frink Berry .... 5 lp
Fuzzy Yellow Frink Berry .... 2 Up
Red Frink Berry ................. 5 Up
Frink Berry Wine (8 drinks) .... 300 Up

(prices are for 100 plastoons = 10 lead pieces = 1 uranium piece, wasteland scavenger pricing)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Descending or Ascending AC ?

Apparently it's all the rage to post on Descending AC versus Ascending AC. I am certainly not above the debate and I've certainly gotten embroiled in it in the past. How AC is defined and used in the game should be part of that debate.

What do you want from your armor class score, your AC? Do you want a handy dandy score that makes to hit rolls crystal clear? Do you want a relative index that makes things easy to gauge?

AC as Index:
If your game has a combat system that uses charts it simply doesn't matter. The AC score is an index it could run from A to Z, I to IX, 9 to 0, 1 to 100, 10+ and it wouldn't make a difference,
combat resolution would be based on consulting the chart. An index can be used a Fixed index or a Floating Index.

When using AC as a Fixed Index don't use it as a floating value. This is a place AD&D screwed up with the weapons vs armor chart, it added a layer of complexity that didn't help game play. If you really must use it as a floating value keep all your bonuses going the same direction (If you have a +1 shield being a boost then a stat modifier of -1 boosting AC does add confusion).

An (old) Trick you can use with Fixed Index AC scores:
Attacks vs armor charts- If AC m always means someone is wearing chain mail and AC p means banded mail and large shield one can set up a combat chart that lists different attacks with to hit scores versus different AC scores. If the AC value changes the utility of such a chart breaks down.

How to Use AC as a Fixed Index and have modifiers for size, agility and such:
In such a system the AC score stays fixed:(AC 5 is chain mail. AC 3 plate) but one also records the total of modifiers along with it. These modifiers alter the target number or the to hit roll depending on the range of scores your game uses. AC 5+3 meaning a target in Chainmail that requires a score 3 points higher then listed works with little effort and immediately sorts out issues that occur again and again with AC systems (What's your AC with no DEX bonus?).

Ascending AC scores:
If your game uses ac as a target number and keeps track of folks attack score and resolves combat by dice roll+attack value >= AC means a hit then ascending scores work better.

Ascending ACs do make it difficult to visualize how different AC scores are. AC 18 doesn't seem all that different from AC 21 but AC 2 vs AC -1 definitely are different. Ascending AC does have the advantage that it is indefinitely scalable, the numbers can keep on going up; however eventually the numbers don't mean a thing other then "your adventurer must be this level or higher to play".

Ascending AC and Dividing the AC:
I've seldom seen this done and it does alter play significantly. Divide AC by the number of opponents engaged when in melee combat. So if one has an AC of 18 vs a single foe (and this is the standard score) they would have an AC of 9 vs 2 opponents. This method get rid of the need to keep track of bonuses for multiple foes and makes ganging up on opponents a very sound tactic. One could limit the max number of foes that could attack or put a floor on the score.
example: Thogrok the mighty is AC 40 and is set up on by 10 foes this would mean an AC of 4 vs these foes in straight division, luckily for him he is playing in a campaign where ACs can't be divided to less then 10. This method lets a large number of opponents have a good shot at a high AC defender, widening the level spread that can participate in adventures. Don't use it for ranged combat, you'll never get PCs within 100' of opponents if you do.

Sacrificing AC for additional chance to hit:
This option comes up a lot and it works well enough. Subtract 1 or more points from AC to add one or more points to the attack roll.

example:Thogrok the mighty is AC 40, he's fighting soemone else who has the same AC that may not fight as well so he sacrifices 10 points of AC to be +5 to hit.

this method can work with other AC systems but the math isn't as quick or clean.

Descending AC scores:
Starting high and going low is an oldie and a goodie when it comes to recording ones AC. It does however introduce a range of issues. Some folks can't grok lower in score is better, they just will never get it. I myself see no difficulty with a lower number equals a small chance of being hit but not everyone sees math the same way.

A common problem with the Descending AC system is all bonuses being noted as a "+", think of it as a shift along the to hit chart and it's a little easier for folks to visualize.

Descending Ac scores are often used as a floating Index and sometimes as a Fixed Index (see above for notes on that). Keep bonuses going the same direction +'s mean good and -'s mean bad and things are fairly smooth.

Descending ACs do give one a clear cut-off point for typical and special, the move from positive to negative numbers is very obvious and at a glance is easy to visualize as special. The scoers if 18 vs 25 just do not look as different from each other as 3 vs -10, it could be nostolgia talking here but it is also cleraly evident.

THACO and the Descending AC:
It originated (along with other variants like THAC9) to make combat quick and not require a chart all the time. It works but not well. Folks often miss the simplicity of THACO style combat: roll your to hit if you'd have hit the # then you clearly hit all ACs that don't offer greater protection (If THAC0 is 14 and you get a hit roll of 15 you have clearly hit every AC worse then AC 0) no math is required. When you number is over thaco or under you have to do math some math.

THACO combined with a Fixed Index weapon vs armor chart doesn't work well because everyone always has to know what AC they are attacking and the convenience of THAC0 is lost.

Another issue with THAC0 is it poorly reflects tables with special results at extreme ranges of the action. The repeating 20's of AD&D being one example and the damage bonus for certainly going to hit in BECM d&D.

Here are some nice little house rule tricks you can do with descending AC:

Damage Reduction:
Negative AC scores reduce damage. So if a combatant is ac -2 and is struck for 6 points they only actually take 4 pts of damage. One can rule that at least 1 point is always inflicted or magic weapons always do at least their + in damage as other methods where negative AC grants damage reduction.

Magical Weapon Threshold:
Negative ACs require magical weapons. Folks can't hit or do more then minimal damage (1/2 roll or simply 1 point) unless they are carrying a magical weapon of the inverse rating AC or better. So a +2 sword is needed to hit AC -2, a +3 sword is needed to hit Ac -3 and so on, hits made with non-magical weapons do but 1/2 the die roll with no additional bonuses allowed.
This works best when negative ACs don't stray too far from zero.

Yes it is completely possible to do the above with ascending AC systems but you have to do more math (oh no) or have separate scores for things like "damage reduction" or "magical threshold" . It's nice and handy to have a single score keeping track of such things.

The truth is there is no better method to AC. It doesn't matter if it ascends or descends it is just necessary for the GM and players to understand what AC means in the rules they are using.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Variant Saving Throw System

Here is a variant saving throw system that I've used in the past. A threat with a save allowed has a level and an ability score it's related to.

Example: Poison N 4th level Con Save.

All or most saves in the game have a die score which must be met or exceeded. there is a lot of room for fiddling here and a high or low score can really set the tone for how deadly and frequent situations that warrant a saving throw are within a campaign.For light fantasy adventure I find a 13 or higher rolled on d20 does it for me. A campaign with a target score over 15 would make things very tough for characters facing higher level threats.

So for a player to save versus that poison N mentioned above they have to roll a 13 or higher to make a saving throw if the target number was 13 for the campaign.

Saving throw rolls are modified by level and ability modifiers.

If a character has a level equal to or within 1 level of the level of the save there is no modifier to the roll.
If a character is 2 level or more greater then the level of the save they get a +4 to their saving throw roll.
If a character is 2 level or less then the level of the save they get a -4 to their saving throw roll.

Ability modifiers are added to the die roll.
If an ability score is a "Prime Requisite" as defiend by the game you are using allow +2 to the roll.

our victims for the examples (using LL ability mods)
Able 6th level Fighter
Str 17, Int 5, Wis 8, Dex 15, Con 14, Cha 5

Zed 3rd level MU.
Str 6, Int 16, Wis 12, Dex 10, Con 15, Cha 10

Example 1:
Able and Zed are exposed to a threat of poison.

Poison N 4th level Con Save.
Able is 6th level so he gets a bonus of +4 to the saving roll and has a Con of 14 for another bonus of +1. He gets a total bonus of +5 to the savign roll.

Zed is 3rd level so he gets a penalty of -4 to the savign roll and has a hardy Con of 15 so he gets a +1 bonus for that. Zed has total penalty of -3 to the saving roll.

Example 2:

Zed and able are beign confronted by an illusion.

Illusion 3rd level INT save.
Able is 6th level so he gets a bonus of +4 to the saving roll. He has an INT of 5 for a penalty of -2. Able has a total modifier of +2 to the saving roll.

Zed is 3rd level so he gets no bonus or penalty for his level. An INT of 16 gives him a +2 bonus. INT is also his prime requisite so he gets another +2 bonus. Zed has a total modifier of +4 to the saving roll.

I like this method becasue it's fairly easy to be a tiny bit fiddly; It reflects charcter levels, ability scores and classes (if prime requisites are a factor). It's also infintely scalable but has a reasonable cap on modifiers.

DMs that worry about "how tough is this save ?" really can relax and key it to the level of the module in question with a minor shift in the score hera and there. 6th level of the dungeon, well it's a 6th level save unless it sdhould be tougher. Bit by a 8HD monster with toxic fangs , it's an 8th level save. Some saves shouldn't get more difficult with dungoen level but DMs should really call that for their own games.

NOTE: Swords and Wizardry has a flat save score for all catagories that varies by level. this score can serve as the target number for making saves.
I'd recomend altering the spread for difference in levels vs the threat and the modifier as well since some of this is built into a save score that already changes by level.
I've used a 3 level spread but the same modifier.
3 or more levels above the threat is a +4 to the roll.
3 or more level under the threat is a -4 to the roll.

so a 5th level charcter would have no modifiers vs 3-7th level saves but would be -4 vs 8th level and above saves and +4 vs 1st& 2nd level saves.

D&D Characters I've played

I've been playing D&D for a good long time now and haven't had all that many PCs of my own as I am very often happily the DM. It's fun to look back and recall who I played.

My first PC I can recall was a Dwarf rolled and played with the original basic set. I can't recall his name, it was a long time ago. He got killed and raised a couple of times via DM fiat (or possibly we had a few other books floating about by then). It was mostly solo adventuring and building up a small army of dwarves for him to lead. Last he was seen he had taken over a tower from the ever-present evil wizard and was using it as a base of operations to take over a nearby mine.(79-81)

The summer following my move from shabby satellite city to semi-rural suburbia I got involved in a D&D group organized by the school system. We switched off DM and charters moved from adventure to adventure with no real over-arching campaign. My PC was Arfrand the Elf (rolled up with second version of basic) and was the only character to survive from the 1st session until the last. He was nothing special stat-wise but was always trying crazy stunts but didn't hog the lime-light. The biggest memory I have of those days is his being the only fighting type to survive one really horrible battle by being able to move fast enough to run away he, the thief and the M/U in the party survived because their move rates were 90 or better, for some reason all the other fighter types and cleric in the party had moves of 60 or less and were doomed when conditions went against us, after that only the occasional fighter type wore plate in that group. Arfrand lasted two semesters of school and a summer break. (81)

Next Braddoc Bai-din. A fighter with 18/something strength and a high charisma who favored two handed swords. We played using Holmes basic, a couple of the early supplements(greyhawk, balkmoor) and a Monster Manual. Braddoc was the bastard son of a mid-power Daimyo of an invading Samurai Empire that was taking over the typical medieval/celtic D&D realm. In time he got recognized as an heir, his father was disgraced, Braddoc got revenge and started to cut his own kingdom out of the empire and bordering territories. Somewhere along the lines he got this really munchkin dragon tattoo that would allow him to summon a dragon once a day by sacrificing HP to get a dragon with that many HP. I liked Braddoc and he'd make reappearances over the years that followed and I'd usually tasteful ignore the tattoo other then mentioning how cool it looked.(81-90)

Next PC was Milo Underroot (called "My He's Underfoot" by some of the other players). He started out as a straight halfling and somehow morphed into a fighter/thief by a random combination of rulebooks. He adventured through some of the old modules with his companions in a campaign that centered around the keep on the border lands long after we had cleared out the Caves of Chaos. He eventually retired after building an Inn on the road leading to the keep and started a carriage company to run services between the two cities that were at either end of the road in that game. I revisited that DMs campaign years later, Milo had long since passed on but the Inn and carriage company had remained part of he setting.(83-86)

Shadow Blade started as a companion to Braddoc in a brief couple week long campaign using the UA rules. He started as a Drow MU/Thief and by player and DM fiat dropped the Drowness at some point. He was an acrobatic swashbuckling thief that only used his spells sparingly, sometimes folks were surprised to learn he knew how to cast spells at all. Shadow Blade lasted for years got a new buddy PC and eventually got passed on to another player so that fellow could play in a campaign I was DMing.(86-94)

Next was Furde the fearsome. Furde was a big northern fighter who liked stealing stuff. His lock picking technique involved bashing open doors and locked chests with a big mace or hammer sure some potions were lost but it worked most of the time. Furde made frequent appearances with Shadow Blade over the years and he just like Shadow Blade was passed on to another player; they both died in "THE GREAT TPK" sometime in the early -mid 90's. (87-94)

My next D&D character was Tinmifallen Addergapst a half-elf Bard usig Second Edition AD&D. Imagine bugsbunny mixed with the grey mouser and it's about right for Tinmifallen. He almost got himself killed and me the player beaten when he walked right to the gates of the big baddies castle and pretended he was a slaver being chased by a party of adventurers (the rest of the party), we got in ran amuck and won the day so hey no harm right, so what if they all had to escape from the prison cells first. We had a hiatus in that campaign and I lost the character sheet during the break...i found him shoved in an odd game box years later, I think it was sabotague by a fellow player.(91-93)

Following my bard was Min a female Halfling Fighter (2nd ed). she had the highest strength possible for her race and gender and used the biggest mace she could manage. She was a little crazy almost a halfling berserk, she liked flirting with gnomes and couldn't stand wimpy soft male halflings. She eventually died defending the parties retreat. (97)

I had a Fighter/Sorceror in a long running on and off 3.0 game. I don't' recall his name, pretty sad as he's my last most recent regular D&D character. He was careful and liked dynamic tactical options. He carried a +1 sword made one of the parties wizards as soon as that fellow was bale to manufacture it, that wizard died but my PC insisted on carrying it into battle ever after as a tribute to his fallen companion. We moved from non-descript fantasy to crazy city of mages and onto the Legend of the Five Rings setting. I think he only died once and was raised. (00-04)

I've played a great many one-shot and very short lived campaign over the years so I've played more then those mentioned above but those were the PCs I recall the most and used the longest while playing D&D in one form or another. I playd in a number of camaigns where we statered out with name level charcetr sand soem of those were certainyl fun but not the same thing to me, I like my charcters to start week and become strong. Seems I like tactical gimmicks for my PCs. Braddoc liked jumping on things, sahdowbalde got the most out of acrobtics and backstab I could, Arfrand was as advneturous as someone with no outsandign score possibly could be. I think it is funny I can't recall the name of the most recent PC might say something about that version of the rules.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good Kids

My son is playing D&D once a week with some kids here in town age 13-16. He just recently joined the group and is really liking it. One part I like is the boys who were already members of the group had decided to forgo 4th edition and instead are playing 3.5 because the 4th edition makes a bunch of changes for no good reason then to try to make the company more money, according to the older two boys who own the most books other then my son. I find this interesting because they were exposed to zero old school evangelizing.

They are trading off DMing duties every month or so it seems and my son has gotten the reigns to DM for group with 1st level characters again, that way all the new players and old players can start with the same level characters so it's fair for everyone. These are pretty cool kids.

My son left a copy of Mutant Future with one of the boys and has apparently gone on to mention some of the other old-school games I enjoy; seemingly he has started one of them off searching the web for more about games like BFRPG, LL, S&W and Osric. I hope they like what they see and give more games a chance and really get a chance to learn what old school games are like.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hexes for indoor maps

For years I've avoided using hex-grids for my dungeon and castle maps using them mostly for outdoors adventuring and some caves. You just can't get rooms with 90 degree angles to look right, or so I thought.
Poking about the web I came across some maps for the old board game Cry Havoc ! Some of the Cry Havoc ! maps had some pretty decent looking buildings with right hand angles, on a hex grid. This is something I'd always felt was a no-go and just simply wouldn't work. Well I was wrong.

Here is a map I whipped up, it doesn't take advantage of hexes all that much but does clearly show one can very easily map a dungeon with right angles on hex-grids.

Very little wasted space on "unused" hexes. The right angles don't look wrong. I'm certainly going to have to work up some dungeon levels that use hex-grids and take advantage of the hexes more after working this up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mutant Future Additions

Here are some additions for Mutant Future campaigns.

Additional Ability Modifiers

Score.... Cognition Modifier
3........... -3
4-5....... -2
6-8....... -1
9-12...... 0
13-15..... 0
16-17..... +1
18-19..... +2
20-21.... +3

Will Power
Score.... Psycho-Active Modifier
3........... -3
4-5....... -2
6-7....... -1
8-13..... 0
14-15.... +1
16-17.... +2
18-19.... +3
20........ +4
21......... +5

Cognition Modifier- May apply to situations where a keen intellect could add to perception (at GM discretion) and as per noted below.

Psycho-Active Modifier- May apply to areas where ones use of Mental powers is in question and not resolved with a mental attack (at GM discretion) and as per noted below.

New Materials and Devices:

Technology developed with crystals as the main component or entire structure of an item. this may have been a technology developed prior to the ruin or a new emerging Post-ruin technology.

Crystal Weapons Melee and Thrown weapons have a base To-Hit modifier of 0 or +1 and the wielders Psycho-Active modifier may be applied to To-Hit rolls made with such a weapon.

Crystal Armor.
+1 armor of one of the archaic styles. Psycho-Active modifier applies as save modifier vs Energy Attacks and Stun /Attacks when worn (bonuses to this save if one has a crystal armor and shield do not stack)

Psycho-Kinetic Devices
These are either complicated high-tech items developed shortly before the fall of civilization or they are a new technology developed after minds have been widened by the impact of mental mutations. One may use Will-Power instead of Intelligence when trying to figure out how to operate Psycho-Kinetic Devices (at GM discretion).

Psycho-Kinetic Weapons
Melee, thrown and Ranged weapons with a base To-Hit modifier of 0 to +2.
The wielders Psycho-Active Modifier may be applied to To-Hit rolls and Damage.

Psycho Kinetic Armor
Primitve and advanced armors may be manufactured with Psycho Kinetic technology.
Psycho Kinteic Armor has a +2 bonus to AC. A wearer of Psycho-Kinetic Armor applies their Psycho-Active modifier to AC, any beneficial modifier is lost while the wearer is surprised.

Precog Matrix
An integrated system that adds a precognitive edge to actions at hand. A Pregoc Matrix is an integrated system and may not be removed and added to another device. A keen mind is required to gain a benefit from the increased sensory input/

Precog Matrix Enhanced Weapons
Any weapon with a Precog Matrix adds the users Cognition Modifier to the To-Hit roll.

Precog Matrix Shield
Any shield with a Precog Matrix adds the users Cognition Modifier to AC.

Precog Matrix Integrated Armor
Any armor with an integrated a precog-matrix may add their Cognition Modifier to thier Initiative. (GM Discretion)

Advanced High-Tech ceramics developed before the ruin. Some automated facilities may still be capable of manufacturing Ceramax gear. Ceramax gear typically weighs 3/4 the weight of standard gear.

Ceramax Weapons:
Primitive Weapons with blades, points, edges and spikes are +1 to hit and damage if manufactured from Ceramax. If a Ceramax weapon inflicts max damage the user must roll a d20: on a roll of 1 the weapon breaks.

A high-tech Poly-Alloy. Plasteel gear weighs but 1/2 as much as standard gear that is normally made of metals.

Plasteel Weapons
Weapons made of Plasteel with blades, points, edges and spikes are +2 to hit and damage.

Plasteel and Ceramax armors retain standard ACs but have weight reduced as per the material.

Suggested Cost Modifiers
Crystal Weapon, +0 ..... +1,000 u.p.
Crsytal Weapon, +1 ..... +2,000 u.p.
Crystal Armor ............. +3,000 u.p.

P-K Weapon, +0 .......... +1,000 u.p.
P-K Weapon, +1 ........... +3,000 u.p.
P-K Weapon, +2 .......... +5,000 u.p.
P-K Armor ................... +6,000 u.p.

Precog-Matrix Weapon... +750 u.p.
Precog-Matrix Armor..... +500 u.p.
Precog-Matrix Shield..... +1,000 u.p.

Ceramax..... standard price x 50
Plasteel...... standard price x 150

(prices are for 100 plastoons = 10 lead pieces = 1 uranium piece wasteland scavenger pricing)

Saving Throw Catagories

You may have heard this critique of Saving Throws in D&D and related games in the past "the saving throw categories are just random, illogical and incomplete ". My answer...Change them.
That's it, come up with your own saving throw categorizes if you can't bear the ones that come with the rules.

There are three good reason to do this in my book: 1 you just can't stand it that staves and wands are in two separate categories, you are a totalist who needs everything spelled out or you just want your current campaign to feel different from campaign X (the last is the best of the three reasons really).

A Revised List of Saving Throw Categories (for a different Feel):

Bindings, Runes, Symbols and Power Words:
saves versus magical compulsions, elder symbols, wards and spoken words of true power.

Glammer, Deception and Phantasms:
saves versus minor magical trickery, shady misdirection and illusuinary influences.

Elemental Forces, Gases and Exposure:
saves versus Dragon Breath, Fireballs, Noxious Gases , Freezing cold and Searing Heat.

Petrification, Transformation and Confinement:
saves that would change ones form, shape or physical freedom.

Necrosis, Poisons and Paralyzation:
saves versus Death, Mummy Rot, Poisons (Ingested and Injected) and the Paraylzing Touch of Ghouls.

Passion, Ill Humours and Domination:
saves versus emotional assaults, diseases and other effects related to the humours and mental domination.

There is certainly some cross over on these categories. I recommend one go with the source over the effect to determine which save category to use.

Magical items, charms and player precautions may provide a bonus versus a single subcategory but generally shouldn't involve the entire category.

The above list is just a suggestion, not dogma. Feel free to ignore it or more hopefully be inspired by it to work up a list of your own that will develop a unique flavor for your own games.

Friday, July 10, 2009

You want me to go where?

Fantasy RPG heroes spend a lot of time striding dungeon corridors that are 10' wide with ceilings that are 10' or more above their heads. There is generally plenty of room to do some maneuvering. Real life "dungeons" seldom offer such luxuries of space.
A few situationa that follow have examples of LARPing experience and the terrain features mentioned, I gernally call this semi-real-life as the weapons and armeo still aren't generally as heavy and restricitve as real gear).

The sizes of corridors and doors and heights of ceilings can do a lot to provide players with a wider range of decisions in equipment selection, tactics and even character races. I'm inspired by previous gaming experiences, "Cities of the Underworld" on the History Channel and home repair I've been engaged in of late (crawling about under my porch). Things just aren't conveniently built to make life easy for men about 200 lbs in wieght and 6' tall to maneuver about under things.

A Few years back a small dungeon complex in my game was about a yard wide and 4' to 5' high. After the whole party trying to muscle it's way into the complex the (very large) party sent the small folk in the party down into the depths to sort things out.

Corridors but 2' wide will have prove ultimately unnavigable to people with large back packs, bulky armor and larger weapons. Speeds will be greatly diminished and combat options decidedly limited. It's an excellent situation to send a gnome of halfling adventurer ahead of the party.

People tend to build things that are barely just big enough for peple to navigate a goodly amount of the time. Imagine how tight traveling could get if the locals were only 3' tall. Treasure chambers, redoubts and escape tunnels would surely be off limits to the typical adventuring party.

Narrow door ways slow down how many people can pass through the portal at a given time. A low doorway forces the person passing though the portal to bend and provide advantage to anyone defending the portal against intruders.
A murder hole adjacent to a narrow/low door should prove to be more effective against the intruder with restricted movement.
(LARP: I've stood on one side of a door way with only a pair of other folk and was abel to fight off an increddible number of opponents that literally filled the doorway with weapons but had great difficulty passing through to harm us, suicide tactics and magic were the only things that allowed the enemy access.)

The height of ceilings can have a lot of impact on travel and combat within a room or tunnel. Low ceilings clearly force one to duck down to pass through but they also limit the effectiveness of large weapons which can't be swung effectively with the low ceiling. The center of a ceiling may be higher then the sides, only those moving through the center and fighting within it will have optimal mobility. Small defenders would be able to move more quickly about man-sized foes if those men were to keep to the center of a corridor with a arched ceiling.
Flying beings will be a distinct disadvantage the lower a ceiling the less room they have t maneuver, they may be challenged in a traditional dungeon chamber but lower that ceilign further and mobility is threanted.
A change in the height of ceilings as an intentional defensive feature is very effective. A low door could then lead to a low portion of the chamber beyond whch forces one to continue to stoop, defenders beyond the lowered section of ceilign would habe full mobility and decided advantage afgainst intruders.
(Larp exposure to the lower ceiling: followign the entry into a "dungeon" we discovred the way blocked by a short but wide segment of corridor that was only 4' high, o the other side stood a small number of defenders in a chamber with a high ceiling. It was a very tough fight tying to stoop down and bring our weapons to bear against the polearm equipped enemies who seemed to be able to poke at us with impunity.)

The height of a corridor applies as it does for all ceilings but it will also slow movement and adds t the atmosphere of oppresion for those trying to pass through them. Men can pass each other in a 5' wide corridor whne walking but one man can easily block the corridor in combat and even narrower corridors greatly limit which weapons can be effective (or even possible to carry around corners).
It's not uncommon for coridors leading to shrines or other holy places to force man0sized folk to stoop and even crawl slightly to add to the majesty of the holy space beyond and to make the person traveling the corridor to be humbled before they gain access.
Worker comunication and travel corridors to provide service to areas of a complex will only necessarily be wide enough to allow travel from one point or another by a single file of labourers and will not aid an aggressive attack force, travelign through a low and narrow corridor in armro and with a shield may indeed be impossible in such a space.

Stair Steps:

The steps one tread on a staircase may be designed to restrict speed of travel and ease of access. A person is slowed traveling up or down a shallow set of steps with a severe pitch. Little folks may be more able to travel such a staircase but larger folks will be at a disadvantage.
Spiral staircases can also be built to diminish the effectiveness of weapon used from those either ascending or descendign the staie depending on the direction the stairs turn again giving the advantage to thge defender.

Holes/Spider Holes:
Intnetionally tight and small spaces much smaller then an ordinary door makes the ever popular "kick the door in and charge " style of dungoen riomping all but impossible. A clothed adult male can pass though a 18" by 12 " gap but thee is no chance someone in any type of armor is doing such a thing.

(Larp:In the dungoen in th eprevious example the party I found myself with stumbled into a chamber where a pair of warriors were doing battle with a air of undead beings that hopelessly outclassed our capabilities, we were fleeing a pack of goblins all seemd lost when one of the memebers of my party spotted a tiny crawl tunnel and everyone jumped in, I followed in the rear beimgn the most capable of holding off the undead long enough for everyone else to escape. The hole was small but we all splipped in quickly. Halway down the corridor I discovered it had gotten narrower and I was stuck as I was alos the largets memebr of the party. It took me a while to relaxe and figure out how to wiggle on.)

How to use this stuff. It all depneds on the game system and your playing style. Weapons could be outrght resticted or be penalized in to hit or damage chances if they are too large. Defenders could gaina bonus to attack vs intruders and small folks may be unhindered when larger folk most certainly are. I worked up chart with sizes and modifiersfor dungeons in the past but have yet to fidn an optimal set of modifiers, it's likely best to note the poetential hiderances and go with what feels right.

Keep track of size of features within a dungeon and all of a sudden gmones and halflings look wise and viable choices in tunnels 6' tall knights couldn't bring their weapons to bear against opponents.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Save or Die Slowly...The Drum Beat of Death

Lot's of folks aren't big fans of the good old "Save or Die" method of RPG threats. I'm generally in agreement that it's usually no fun. I am however in favor of Save or Die Slowly which I also fiendishly cheer as The Drum Beat of Death.

Scenario 1a:
DM: "oh no, the sargath worm has bitten Normo for 1 point of damage, it's wicked fangs drip with yellow ichor, make save versus posion"

Dave (playing Normo): "I get a 7, oh crud that doesn't make it does it"

DM: "No, you shake in horrible spasm spitting up yellow humours and die."

The rest of the party, following the death of Normo and the sargath worm: we split up Normo's gold and everyone can pick an item from his gear and we move one.

Scenario 1b:
DM: "oh no, the sargath worm has bitten Normo for 1 point of damage, it's wicked fangs drip with yellow ichor, make save versus posion"

Dave (playing Normo): "I get a 7, oh crud that doesn't make it does it"

DM: You start shaking violently...

Round #1 following the poisoning

Fred : I slay the sargath worm...

Dave: Am I okay?

DM: just a moment let's resolve Fred's attack on the worm

Fred: A 17, for 7 points of damage...wooo hoo.

DM: your blow splits the worm is half, both halves writhe briefly dripping foul ichor on the floor as it's spams dwindle.

Dave : okay i search for treasue.

DM: you are starti to feel nausea and shaking too fiercely to do that, Normo suffers 2 damage.

Dave : oh no...quick someone heal me.

Ann: I only have 2 cure light wounds spells left.

Dave: Well, give me one.

Ann: I'm not sure it will work.

Dave: Please!

Ann: first I'm going to make sure nothing is coming up behind us.

Round #2 following the poisoning.

Fred: I clean my sword off I don't want to end up like Normo.

Dave: hey!

DM: Normo starts spitting up yellow bile, that's another (rolls a die) 4 pts of damage.

Dave : oh no...heal me now !!!

Ann: okay, okay...that's 6 points back to you.

Dave: great I'm also back to full. How do I feel?

Round #3

DM: you still feel awful, it's like your intestines are being tied in knots until they burst within you... that's another 4 pts of damage.

Dave : What ! oh no !! Quick heal me again.

Ann: It will not work. I'll start last right on you now if you want.

Fred: I search for treasure while Ann gives Normo last rights.

Dave : what ? No.

round #4 following the poisoning:

Dave: can't someone suck the poison out or something.

Ann: I'm not doing that.

Fred: do I find anything, I'll put Normo out of his misery for you Dave.

Dave : No , wait...can't I do anything?

DM: sure, you shake in horrible spasms. 3pts damage. Fred you found an old silver dagegr among the skeletal remains.

Dave:I drink some wine maybe that'll slow it down.

Ann: I don't think you should drink wine while I administer last rites.

Rounds #5 following the poisoning

Fred: I put the dagger in my belt, let's move on.

Dave: No.. wait, can I walk?

Dm: with effort you may move, you take 6 more points of damage.

Ann: well that screws up the last rites.

Dave: I rush for the main staircase maybe I can get to camp and the stash of healing potions before I die.

Fred: oh no you don't.

Ann: I try to comfort Normo.

Round #6
DM: Normo staggers towards the door and Ann blocks him (right?).

Ann: yes I do, I kindly but firmly put my hand n his shoulder.

Dave: Normo slips away.

DM: Normos staggers away from Ann and suffers 5 more points of damage...

Let's close the door on that scene.

As you can see a lot more play action comes out of "Save or Die Slowly" then comes out of "Save or Die".

How do I do it?
Well normal saves and then damage each round until the # of dice the poison should do is accumulated. If its normally save or die I'm a kind soul and cap the damage at 2 or 3 dice per HD of monster/module level. Sometimes if the save would mean 1/2 damage the character suffers 1/2 the total number of dice.
Really noxious poisons and fearsome obvious effects (boulders crushing you) do a fair amount of damage up front (maybe 1/2 total) and the drumbeat follows.

This system tends to be in the "gritty" end of the adventuring spectrum and requires a tiny bit of extra record keeping and it certainly makes the death of a fellow adventurer noticeable and more active part of play, not just an "oh shucks he's dead, let's move on" sort of situation.

I can certainly see some groups not enjoying this situation so a DM may want to avoid it or use it as a tool so the players have their characters really avoid being poisoned. There is the freak chance the character can be saved in such a situation or possibly die a heroic death fighting on knowing death is certain regardless of the outcome fo the next fight.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Embarrassing Cartography

Since I dared to use the word dingle and got a high brow response and could not help myself from responding in kind I can't help but convey this simple little tale of cartography:

On a lavishly illustrated map with keen lettering and colored terrain features that I made at 16 or so I had a forest called - The Murken Wood. My father being the ever careful, sensitive and calcualting man that he is burst out laughing and told me what that word (well if properly spelled I got you there dad, ha, I spelled it differently) the word Merkin meant...

Oh dear me, sort of ruined that map.

Oh yeah, don't do an internet search for that word without filters turned on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dingles and Dragons?

The following is hopefully the first of many articles on terrain (even if brief like this one). The intent is to make use of language and nature to beef up outdoor adventuring in all our RPGs.

Dingle- 'a deep, narrow cleft between hills; shady dell.
from Middle English: a deep dell, hollow; akin to Old English: dung dungeon

How cool is that?

A silly word in modern english (here in the states at least) a terrain feature with links to the name of THE game.

So how are dingles and dungeons related? I know in olden time people would keep sheep in little secluded valleys mayhaps prisoners were briefly kept in such features as well. An old man and a boy with a dog or two could certainly keep a person trapped in one until someone in authority could be reached or a proper gathering could be called to pass judgment. Of course I could be leaping to conclusions.

I know a dingle could certainly shelter an rpg dungeon entrance.

A dingle could be difficult to spot, they shouldn't be very large and are likely sheltered in some form. The sides should be steep enough it's a little difficult to get in and out of. Could shelter a modest sized party or band from being noticed while camping. A great spot to hide something or keep something.

The Shield (combat variants)

The shield as present in most DND-esque RPGs is not the most useful of devices typically improving ones armor class by a single point. Thus reducing the chance of getting hit by 5%.
In real life, even semi-real life (LARP) the shield is far more effective then it is made to look in most games.

The typical weakness of shields over rates the effectiveness of non-shield fighting styles. But from personal experience the fellow with a shield has a decided advantage over someone fighting with two weapons, a two handed weapon or caught off guard with but a single handed weapon.

I myself have been prone to fairly complicated shield variants in the past to expand the effectiveness of shields to be more in line with real life effectiveness as I have experienced and studied but often it's just too much. Basing variants off existing rules and mechanics seems to be the way to go.

Advantage to maneuver:
The shield can be used as a battering ram improvign ones odds to get a lethal blow in against a foe. If one has a STR bonus they are allowed to apply that bonus to initiative when engaged in hand to hand combat to reflect their ability to bash aside body and weapon with the shield.

Advantage to defense:
The shield is much better at aiding ones defenses then it is typically credited in RPGs and an easy method to show that is to negate AC penalties when so armed with a shield if clumsy and added then again or the agile above what is already awarded.

So Kelfdin the mighty is armed with sword and a shield, has a DEX of 8 and a STR of 16 in LL he would find himself to be AC 5 normally. With the mods listed he would be AC 4 with an initiative bonus of 2 when engaged with a foe.

Gerald the Bold is armed with a mace and has a shield for defense, he has a Dex of 17 and a STR of 12 in LL he would normally be AC 6 (shield and dex) but under these rules he'd find himself to be AC 4 agaisnt foes he could block with his shield.

Further variants: The impact of shield size. For thsoe wishing to differentiatie shields further

Buckler... good 1 foe, no initiative bonus, not usable against missile weapons.
Small... good vs 2 foes,no initiative bonus, only usable 1 thrown weapon.
Medium... good vs 3 foes, initiative bonus, usable against 2 thrown or ranged weapons
Large... good vs 3 foes, initiative bonus, usable against missile weapons
Tower...good against any foes to front, initiative bonus, usable against missile weapons

possible prices for shields:
Buckler 4 gp, small shield 7 gp, medium shield 12 gp, large shield 20 gp, tower shield 30 gp.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Two Drums and a Cymbol Fall Off a Cliff...

Falling and falling damage, it's been a topic that has generated some heated debate among RPG players over the years. A straight d6 per 10' fallen seems to do the trick well enough until folks start gaining mid-high levels and start trying to climb a bit too high. Jumping down 60' deep pits isn't too big an issue for a 10th level Fighter if he only faces 6d6 damage.

So why do folks fall? And How can we I beef it up a little to make it more "fun"?

Why by dressing things up with tables of course. Good and clever playing should alter these situations and feel free to come up with your own variations and share them.

They walk over the ever popular pit-trap:
Too often this is an instant effect and really screws over a lot of thiefly types. Early rules just had a small chance such a pit trap would open and drop the hapless person treading on it into the depths below, not too shabby and it works. It can be a little more exciting-

Pit Trap!!!
roll larger dice the less dangerous the situation is for the charcetr involved.(ex: A cunning wily thief searchign for traps could get a d20, a Knight runnning down the hall 1d6.)

1- totally surprised...down you go. You and all others adjacent fall.
2- You are totally surprised, everyone else in area gets a save (or dex check)
3- You fall, flailing about and pulling the next member in the marching order into the pit.
4- You start to fall, next person in marching order can grab you and save you (open doors or strength check)
5- You fall and your finger scrape the edge of the pit as you go down, make a hit roll (ac 7) (or a DEX check) to grab the edge. You plummet if a friend can't haul you up in 1d6+1 rounds.
6+ You don't fall in the pit.

The edge of dangerous precipices:
Walking in places you really shouldn't be can send you over the edge with a simplel misstep. Ledges and tight mountainside trails are dangerous places.
(clueless-1d12, careful 1d20, surefooted 1d100)
1- You fall, dragging you nearest ally with you.
2- You fall
3- You fall grasping the edge.
4- You slip bumping the nearest ally. Both of you get a save to avoid falling.
5- You slip but keep yourself from tumbling. Items in hand are dropped into the depths.
6+ you don't fall.

Climbing a wall:
Walls are meant to keep you out and trying to climb them can be dangerous.
Roll if a climb check fails.
(a clumsy fellow 1d6, a agile climber 1d8, skilled climber with lots of gear 1d10)

1 down you go striking an ally who may be beneath you. Both take damage.
2-4 down you go.
5 you slip but catch yourself 1/2 way down unable to ascend or descend in the odd situation you find yourself. Upside down, choking on your cloak hooked on the wall or your foot is caught in a crevice.
6+ You slip trying to catch yourself as you go down. You fall but only suffer 1/2 damage if you make a climb roll or dex check.

Standing somewhere to close to the edge is an invitation to your allies to see if you can fly.
1-2 you fall
3-5- you fall and can try to catch self on ledge
5- you fall and catch yourself halfway down.
6- you pull your foe over with you, you both fall
7-8 y0u pull your foe over with you, you are snagged halfway down and must cooperate or you both will fall.

Okay so you fall and hit bottom.
Take damage and move on...not so quick let's dress that up a bit.

Hit the Bottom:
(lucky- 1d20, not so lucky 1d12)
1 Make save vs paralysis or con check or hurt spine leaving you paralyzed.
2 Save versus paralysis of suffer a serious head injury losing 1d4 points of WIS or INT.
3 You land on your feet, dex check or break both legs
4 Make a petrification save or break a limb (leg,arm, choose)
5-6 you hit bottom and are knocked out
7-8 you hit bottom and are incapacitated for 2-7 rounds
9-10 you hit bottom and are stunned for 1-12 rounds
11+ you are okay.

No more jumping 60' feet wihout worrying about the consequences.

Just how fast is that thing?

For all you old-schooler and retro gamers out there who don't want to do the math and play games with 10 second rounds but are curious as to just what those movement speeds actually mean. I present this handy dandy table:

Movement per round to MPH
move .... mph
10 .... 1.136 mph
20 .... 2.3 mph
30 .... 3.4 mph
40 .... 4.5 mph
50 .... 5.7 mph
60 .... 6.8 mph
90 .... 10.2 mph
120 .... 13.6 mph
150 .... 17 mph
180 .... 20.5 mph
240 .... 27.3 mph

The math: feet per round x 600 / 5280 = mph

How about for really fast things rated in mph converted to ft per round?
Well here we go.

MPH to movement per round
mph .... ft/round
10 .... 88
20 .... 176
30 .... 264
40 .... 352
50 .... 440
60 .... 528
70 .... 616
80 .... 704
90 .... 792
100 .... 880
150 .... 1320
200 .... 1760
300 .... 2640
400 .... 3520
500 .... 4400
600 .... 5280

If rounds are 10 seconds long that means there are 600 rounds in an hour. So mph to feet per round is : mph x 5280 / 600

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Lesson from Carcosa

What follows isn't a review but an observation based on reading the original un-purged version of Geoffery McKinney's Carcosa.

Carcosa taught me a lesson in campaign design, one which I fear many of us playing fantasy RPGs have forgotten. Magic should be magical. Granted the magic in Carcosa is certainly dark and terrible and casts deep shadows on the entire campaign if one ponders them too deeply but it is certain that rituals of the Carcosan sorceror are Carcosan Magic.

The magic within that setting defines it and is built into it. It feels like magic that belongs there. When a sorcerer is involved in dark rituals, well the sorcerer most certainly is involved in dark rituals. Rituals that are written into the campaign. There are places that must be visited for their bits of lore, beings to be dealt with and rare goods to be gathered that are campaign defining.

In Carcosa the magic isn't a bolted on extra it's part of every character and is woven into the land. Too many games and campaigns treat magic as just another option another set of gear, skills or FX, just some gloss to make 6d6 damage a bit more stylish. It could be more, it could be a part of the campaign woven into the landscape and into the beings of the campaign.

Every setting need not be dark as Carcosa and magic doesn't have to be terrible but I can't help but imagine as immerssive a treatment of magic could work for a great many campaigns. Magic should be noticeable and mean something. Players of Wizards shouldn't skate by treating the acquisition of magic spells as if they were hunting down mere recipes. Telling someone you are a wizard shouldn't get as little notice as telling someone you are a carpenter. The practice of magic shoudl mean somehting within the campaign.

So when next I am working up a fantasy campaign, magic shall actually be a part of the game beyond the concerns of one or two players in the group and a set of powers to bolt onto villain #105. I want Magic to be Magical and makign magic a definign element of the campaign looks like a lesson learned well from readimg Carcosa.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Musings on the range of classes in a campaign

Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric ,Thief , Elf (as Fighter and Magicuser) and Dwarves and Halflings which were also Fighters. Were the initial Mix of character classes for me and my fellow players and a little while later I snagged a copies of Greyhawk and Blackmoor (before we got the PHB) and were separating race and class and had paladins, assassins and monks also. With the PHB we had more races and more classes.

I've been playing a little S&W:white-box with just Fighter, M-U and Cleric as classes and it does make the game feel different. Which got me thinking about the role classes have in defining the game and the campaign setting.

Take the Basic D&D model that was clearly expressed in the second basic set where they clearly separated the main classes and the demi-human classes (it had been done in the first basic set buty it was a little fuzzy). This makes it pretty clear the 4 human classes classes are different and Dwarves, Halfling and Elves just aren't the same thing as humans. The range of classes defines the roles the players will have and defines the setting.

AD&D actually screwed stuff up by making the Fighter the weakest of the Fighting Classes. Paladins and Rangers are clearly better Fighters then the Fighter, sure they have stricter requirments to qualify but with that many different character methods of AD&D it wasnt' unlikely to qualify and it always made the Fighter seem inadequate as it was the class to settle for when you weren't buff enough to qualify for Ranger or Paladin.
Sure there are lots of role-play reasons not to play Rangers or Paladins but it takes a while for that to really matter to players and DMs.

Unearthed Arcana added some special abilities for Fighters in the form of weapon specialization but didn't make it clear they were the reserve of Fighters alone and added Cavaliers and Barbarians to the Fighter class mix. There lot's to like and not like about the Cavalier and Barbarian but my main gripe is that once again they are better fighters then the Fighter. The campaign was now further defined by the presence of snotty knights and uncooperative fighters with a lot of new special abilities.

Now "what's wrong with options?" you might ask and "nothing at all" would be my reply. But the options available should define and add but they shouldn't' undermine and weaken other options.

The dreaded 3.x opened all the classes to all the races (and all the monsters too) which didn't bother me much at all mechanically but it did rip down definitions. What does it mean to be a Ranger when there can be Rangers among any group of people or a Paladin or a Monk? Not much really just a different ability package. I should note Fighters were the best Fighting class again at least until splat-books and 3rd party stuff flooded the game with so many options there were no clear choices and no definitions in any of the choices. If you have a campaign with 20, 30 or 40 classes which often overlap each other in abilities the definition of the character class becomes a virtually pointless one (not to mention the impact of willy-nilly multi-classing). Definitions are smeared and names become meaningless.

So where am I getting at here? From observing the cases above (and more i am not covering here) it's the range of classes a DM has available in his campaign that defines how the players are going to experience the campaign. It's going to trump all sorts of lovingly detailed campaign setting design because it will be experienced by the PCs through the character classes.

So my fellow DMs and would be DMs I recommend a careful selection of available classes and a tweaking and invention of them as you wish to define your campaign. A campaign with the classes of Charlatan, Seer, Alchemist, Scribe, Aristocrat and Tough is going to play differently from one that contains the classes of Archer, Knight, Knave and Sorcerer. Of the two ranges just given which one would makes more sense in an Arthurian inspired campaign and which would work better with foppish dandies and miscreants in a decadent metropolitan setting? Doesn't require much thought to figure it out does it? That's the power class availability and definition has on defining a campaign.

Stop trying to hammer Druids, Rangers, Paladins and such into every campaign and expect to have your campaign feel different. Drop some, create some, define them for they will be the main tool in how your campaign is realized by the players.

Level limits, racial selections, skills or proficiencies I'll leave those for another time.