Monday, October 20, 2014

Basic Psionics Handbook Update

Thanks particularly to Matthew Skail and Eric Potter for their input so far on Basic Psionics Handbook. Eric is running a BX game where the average player age is 12, and Matthew is coming at this as someone who seems to know early edition psionics top-to-bottom. The dichotomy of those two POVs has proven to be incredibly insightful in making a complete and cohesive psionic ruleset that is also coherent (especially in BX terms). Following are just a couple of what I see to be key updates to the most current version...

Updates to Attack/Defense Mode Interaction
If you've looked at pages 76-77 of the DMG at any length, you know that the Attack/Defense Mode charts can be a little daunting. But I didn't want to do away with the concept. I really do like that each attack and defense mode has a methodology behind it, and how they interact is based on how those methodologies interact. If you recall, I'm using psionic “to hit” rolls (psionic level vs. Mental Class = target on 1d20). If successful, each attack mode does a number of dice of PSP (psionic strength point) "damage" equal to the psionic level of the attacker. However, the type of dice to be used is based on the combination of attack and defense modes (see chart below). The number to the left of the slash = the dice type. The number to the right of the slash = the adjustment to the saving throw which avoids additional effects (beyond the PSP loss).



Addition of a Monk Class
This is a class based on an "enhanced" shaolin-type monk, with psychometabolic psionics (plus some other relevant disciplines). This is no monk/mystic/Europe/Asia identity crisis thing. And there's none of this "speaks with animals" bullshit. This is a bare-handed fighting machine (and easily a fighter replacement).

Streamlining of the Disciplines
Some of the other updates include: 1) streamlining the PSP costs for the different disciplines (to the point where they're pretty easy to memorize the PSP cost for each based on whether it's a devotion or science, and which chakra they belong), and 2) streamlined the layout of the disciplines (using a top-of-page index strip to help quickly identify which of the 6 chakras you're viewing).=

Wild Psionics "Tweaks"
Wild psionics have been a struggle for me. I'm theoretically opposed to them, but almost everyone I've talked to want them included. Here's my reasoning... in BX, there's no such thing as "wild magic spells," nor are there "wild thieving abilities." In that context, what sense does "wild psionics" make? What I have to realize is that many folks are using BX/LL rules, but playing 1e classes (e.g., LL AEC). So I've made wild psionics one of the appendices, rather than having it appear between the discipline descriptions and the psionic combat sections. I've also make attack/defense modes available via wild psionics.

Okay. I think that's it for now, but I'm sure I'll have more updates soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New BX/LL Character Classes: Small Mammals 2-of-2
Otters, Skunks, Squirrels, Weasels

Picking up from yesterday's post with beavers, hares, mice and rabbits.

Just an FYI, I will be compiling all of the animal
character classes I've been working on into a book.


OTTERS

Otters tend to be tough, self-sufficient extroverts born to a life of wandering and adventure. They are natural swimmers and excellent fighters. The prime requisite for an otter is Dexterity. Otters with Dexterity score of 13 or greater will gain a bonus to earned experience points.

RESTRICTIONS: Otters determine their hit points using six-sided dice (d6). They may advance to a maximum of 6th level of experience. Otters may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Otters may wear any type of armor, and may use shields, but may not swim if wearing metal armor. The maximum Strength score for an otter is 15.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Otters are capable swimmers and swim at a rate of 180'(60') if unencumbered and wearing no armor. They are able to swim at rate of 120'(40') if wearing leather armor or carrying only only their normal equipment. They may swim at a rate of 60'(20') if wearing leather armor and carrying their normal equipment. An otter may not swim if carrying more their normal equipment or if they are wearing metal armor. Otters fight and save as a fighters of the same level.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Otter Veteran 0 1d6
2 Otter Warrior 2,500 2d6
3 Otter Swordsman 5,000 3d6
4 Otter Hero 10,000 4d6
5 Otter Swashbuckler 20,000 5d6
6 Otter Myrmidon 40,000 6d6


SKUNKS

By default, skunks tend to be loners. However, they can also be loyal to a fault. Though the body of the skunk is slightly elongated, their relatively short legs and arms are, in fact, well-muscled. The prime requisite for a skunk is Constituion. Skunks with Constitution score of 13 or greater will gain a bonus to earned experience points.

RESTRICTIONS: Skunks determine their hit points using six-sided dice (d6). They may advance to a maximum of 4th level of experience. Skunks may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Skunks may wear any type of armor, and may use shields. The maximum Strength score for a skunk is 15, and a skunk’s Constitution score must be 9 or greater.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Skunks fight and save as a fighter of the same level. Furthermore, skunks possess the ability to spray a noxious cloud from their tail end a number of times per day equal to their level. This 10' diameter cloud causes all those caught inside of it to become naseous for 2d4 rounds (on a failed saving throw vs. breath weapon), suffering a -1 “to hit” penalty and a +1 AC penalty for the duration.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Skunk Veteran 0 1d6
2 Skunk Warrior 2,500 2d6
3 Skunk Swordsman 5,000 3d6
4 Skunk Hero 10,000 4d6


SQUIRRELS

Squirrels are more likely to search for treasure than adventure (which is simply a means to an end). They are not necessarily greedy—they simply want their fair share for their participation. They are fearless in battle and any victory (large or small) is usually cause for a squirrel to celebrate. The prime requisite for a squirrel is Dexterity. Squirrels with a Dexterity score of 13 or greater will gain a bonus to earned experience points.

RESTRICTIONS: Squirrels determine their hit points using four-sided dice (d4). They may advance to a maximum of 4th level of experience. Squirrels may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Squirrels may wear only leather armor and may not use a shield. The maximum Strength score for a squirrel is 12.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Squirrels possess the entire suite of thieving abilities, all of which they are able to perform as a thief of the same level, except climbing sheer surfaces, which they are able to perform as a thief at 2 levels above their own (e.g., a 2nd level squirrel climbs as a 4th level thief.) Squirrels make all saves against fear effects with a +1 bonus. However, they make all saves against confusion effects with a -1 penalty. Otherwise, squirrels fight and save as a halfling of the same level.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Squirrel Apprentice 0 1d4
2 Squirrel Footpad 3,000 2d4
3 Squirrel Robber 6,000 3d4
4 Squirrel Burglar 12,000 4d4


WEASELS

The conniving nature of weasels is too often amplified by their daring and audacious behavior. For weasels, adventuring is simply a means to an end—the acquisition of treasure. Their keen senses aid them greatly in this pursuit. The prime requisites for a weasel are Intelligence and Dexterity. Weasels with Intelligence and Dexterity scores both 13 or greater gain a +5% bonus to earned experience points. Weasels having an Intelligence score of 13 or greater and a Dexterity score of 16 or greater will gain a +10% bonus.

RESTRICTIONS: Weasels determine their hit points using four-sided dice (d4). They may advance to a maximum of 6th level of experience. Weasels may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Weasels may only wear leather armor and may not use shields. The maximum Strength score for a weasel is 15.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Weasels are able to use all thieves abilities as a thief of the same ability. Weasels are moderate swimmers and swim at a rate of 150'(50') if unencumbered and wearing no armor. They are able to swim at rate of 90'(30') if wearing leather armor or carrying only only their normal equipment. They are restricted to a swimming rate rate of 30'(10') if wearing leather armor and carrying their normal equipment. Weasels fight and save as a thief of the same level, and are afforded the same backstabbing bonus (+4) if attacking an opponent from behind. Furthermore, weasels have an ability to find weaknesses in melee opponents. If a weasel fights the same opponent for a total of 3 rounds (consecutive or not) during the same encounter, the weasel gains a +1 “to hit” bonus against that opponent for the duration of the encounter. Should the weasel meet the same opponent after a period of 6 turns or more, any advantage during combat until the weasel fights that opponent for another 3 rounds (as outlined above).

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Weasel Apprentice 0 1d4
2 Weasel Footpad 3,000 2d4
3 Weasel Robber 6,000 3d4
4 Weasel Burglar 12,000 4d4
5 Weasel Cutpurse 24,000 3d4
6 Weasel Sharper 48,000 4d4

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New BX/LL Character Classes: Small Mammals 1-of-2
Beavers, Hares, Mice, Rabbits

Unlike most intelligent animals (which are generally a tad smaller than their non-intelligent counterparts), the small mammals are slightly larger than their non-intelligent counterparts.

BEAVERS

Beavers are honest and hard-working, but they also pride themselves on their cleverness and understanding. The prime requisites for a beaver are Strength and Wisdom. Beavers with Strength and Wisdom scores both 13 or greater gain a +5% bonus to earned experience points. Beavers having a Strength score of 13 or greater and a Wisdom score of 16 or greater will gain a +10% bonus.

RESTRICTIONS: Beavers determine their hit points using six-sided dice (d6). They may advance to a maximum of 6th level of experience. Beavers may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Beavers may wear any type of armor, and may use shields. The maximum Strength score for a beaver is 17.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Beavers fight and save as a cleric of the same level, but are only permitted those magic items allowed to fighters. Their knowledge of construction and generally savvy nature regarding such things allows beavers to detect new construction one-third of the time (1-2 on 1d6). Beavers are also able to chew through wood at a rate of 1 cubic foot per round. For each 18 rounds of chewing, a beaver will need to rest for 2d4 rounds. In addition to common, beavers speak the language shared by beavers and gophers. It is not uncommon for beavers to “whistle” when they talk (due to the size of their teeth).

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Beaver Apprentice 0 1d6
2 Beaver Journeyman 2,500 2d6
3 Beaver Expert 5,000 3d6
4 Beaver Artisan 10,000 4d6
5 Beaver Master 20,000 5d6
6 Beaver Grand Master 40,000 6d6

HARES

While visually quite similar to rabbits, hares take offense when accidentally identified as rabbits, as they pride themselves on their physical “superiority” to rabbits. The ears and legs of a hare are longer than those of a rabbit, and the hare is slightly quicker as well. Finally, hares are nesters, preferring to live above ground. The prime requisite for a hare is Dexterity. Hares with Dexterity score of 13 or greater will gain a bonus to earned experience points.

RESTRICTIONS: Hares determine their hit points using six-sided dice (d6). They may advance to a maximum of 6th level of experience. Hares may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Hares may wear any type of armor, and may use shields. The maximum Strength score for a hare is 15.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Hares are even quicker than rabbits, and have a movement of 180'(60'). Hares have only a slight predisposition to magic. While they are not able to cast spells, they are permitted magic items exclusive to magic-users (including scrolls). Hares fight and save as a elves of the same level.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Thumper 0 1d6
2 Sprinter 3,000 2d6
3 Runner 6,000 3d6
4 Strider 12,000 4d6
5 Hurdler 24,000 5d6
6 Jumper 48,000 6d6


MICE

Despite their small size, many a mouse fighter has made a name for himself, often reaching truly legendary status. Some mice see themselves as defenders of the downtrodden, while others simply crave the life of an adventurer. Regardless of their motivations, mice make truly formidable fighters, even against opponents of a large size. The prime requisite for a mouse is Dexterity. Mice with Dexterity score of 13 or greater will gain a bonus to earned experience points.

RESTRICTIONS: Mice determine their hit points using four-sided dice (d4). They may advance to a maximum of 6th level of experience. Mice may use any weapon which has been smithed at the size for a mouse. However, due to their diminutive stature, daggers wielded by a mouse do only 1d2, and all other weapons do a mere 1d4. Mice may wear any type of armor, and may use shields. The maximum Strength score for a mouse is 12.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Due to their small size, the cost of any armor or weapons of mouse size are 50% the normal cost. Mice are able to move silently as a thief 2 levels higher (e.g., a 1st level mouse moves silently as a 3rd level thief), even while wearing chain or plate armor. Finally, mice possess a “hamstring attack.” If attaching a legged creature from behind, the mouse gets a +4 “to hit” bonus and, on a successful “to hit” roll, cuts the hamstring of the creature. For each cut hamstring, the movement of a creature is permanently halved (unless the creature possesses regeneration, or is healed by magical means); for example: 1 cut reduces movement to one-half normal, 2 cuts reduces movement to one-quarter normal, and so on. Armed creatures with cut hamstrings on all of their legs will be forced to crawl. Armless creatures with cut hamstrings on all of their legs will be unable to move. Mice fight and save as a fighters of the same level.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice
1 Mouse Fencer 0 1d4
2 Mouse Swordsman 2,500 2d4
3 Mouse Challenger 5,000 3d4
4 Mouse Gladiator 10,000 4d4
5 Mouse Bladesman 20,000 5d4
6 Mouse Master Bladesman 40,000 6d4


RABBITS

Rabbits are sociable, inherently-magical creatures who dwell in underground burrows or holes. For this reason, it is not uncommon for rabbits to be found dwelling amongst halflings. Compared to hares, rabbits have shorter hindlegs and ears. The prime requisites for a rabbit are Intelligence and Dexterity. Rabbits with Intelligence and Dexterity scores both 13 or greater gain a +5% bonus to earned experience points. Rabbits having a Dexterity score of 13 or greater and an Intelligence score of 16 or greater will gain a +10% bonus.

RESTRICTIONS: Rabbits determine their hit points using four-sided dice (d4). They may advance to a maximum of 8th level of experience. Rabbits may use any weapon of normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords. Rabbits may wear any type of armor, and may use shields. The maximum Strength score for a rabbit is 15.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Rabbits are quicker than most other intelligent animals, and have a movement of 150'(50'). Additionally, beginning at 3rd level, rabbits are able to cast spells as a magic-user 2 levels below their current level (e.g., rabbits at 3rd level are able to use spells as a 1st level magic-user, at 4th level are able to use spells as a 2nd level magic-user, and so on). Furthermore, rabbits may use any magic item permitted to magic-users. Finally, rabbits fight and save as halflings of the same level.

Level Title Exp. Points Hit Dice Spells
1 2 3
1 Rabbit Assistant 0 1d4 - - -
2 Rabbit Shuffler 3,500 2d4 - - -
3 Rabbit Seer 7,000 3d4 1 - -
4 Rabbit Medium 14,000 4d4 2 - -
5 Rabbit Conjurer 28,000 5d4 2 1 -
6 Rabbit Magician 56,000 6d4 2 2 -
7 Rabbit Enchanter 110,000 7d4 2 2 1
8 Rabbit Warlock 220,000 8d4 2 2 2


Tomorrow... otters, skunks, squirrels, and weasels!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

BX Psionics Playtest Signup

Many will heed the call. Few will be chosen.

Send your answers to the following questions to:
psionics(at)newbigdragon(dot)com
(Feel free to copy and paste the text below)

There are no wrong answers to any questions (be truthful). I'm seeking all types.

Your name (that you go by):

Your name as you'd like it to appear in credits:

Your primary game edition (choose one of the following)
OD&D -or- Swords & Wizardry -or- BX D&D -or- Labyrinth Lord -or- AD&D -or- OSRIC?

How familiar are you with BX D&D (including BECMI but not Labyrinth Lord)?

How familiar are you with Labyrinth Lord (including AEC, but not including BX or BECMI D&D)?

Have you have used psionics in D&D before?
(If yes, which editions?)

Do you have a group already assembled that you plan to include on playtesting of these rules?
(If yes, how many in group?)

Which of the following playtesting scenarios
will you be able to perform over the next few weeks?
(Choose all that apply: launch a new campaign, incorporate into existing campaign,
one-off adventuring, just want to run some combat scenarios)?

How many hours a week can you REASONABLY and TRUTHFULLY
spend playtesting over the next 3-4 weeks
(not including any time required to read or become familiar with the rules)?

1 more illustration down, 8 to go!

This is one of those illustrations for the Creature Compendium that I've putting putting off for a while. It's a re-do of a re-do. I think that's why I've been pushing this one off for so long. Then yesterday, while hanging at Starbucks and sipping my grandé nonfat 2 Splenda latte, I decided to abandon my original intention for the illustration and just sketch from scratch. Seems to have worked out pretty well. This leaves only 8 illustrations to finish before I feel like the book is pretty-close-to-complete. 7 of those will be easy/no-brainers. The eighth, well, it's actually a full page illustration that will feature 7 different monsters on the same page (the animal mummies).

BTW, if you want the stats for the creature in the illustration below(the carriage worm), or if you just want to see the original illustration (before the first re-do), you can find them here.

That leaves only 8 illustrations to finish before I feel like the book is pretty-close-to-complete. 7 of those will be easy/no-brainers. The eighth, well, it's actually a full page illustration that will feature 7 different monsters on the same page (the animal mummies).


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It only took 35 years
(New BX Monster: The Intelligent Wooly Rhino)

34 years ago, I purchased my first every RPG product... what has since come to be known as "Cook Blue," though I prefer call it "Cook/Marsh Blue." This was the product that started it all for me (apart from the friend who introduced me to the concept while waiting for a Mardi Gras parade to pass earlier that year). This past year, there were a couple of key highlights during my time at the North Texas RPG Con. One of them was meeting Steve Marsh, the guy who wrote the majority of that very same book. The time he took to sit with me at the con and share his kind words about my Three Castles award-winning Valley of the Five Fires is among my fondest gaming-related memories.

Partly spurred on by that encounter, and partly spurred on my long-intended want of a BX psionics system, I started the quest to do the latter in earnest a few months back. My mystic class, and the inclusion of a "Planar Primer" and "Planar Travel Guide" in my Basic Psionics Handbook, are built on a vision for a plane-traveling mystic class originally penned by Mr. Marsh, but merged with Gary Gygax's devine class by Tim Kask.

"Psionics were added to D&D as the result of two character classes, the mystic and the devine, that were in process. Mystics were finished, Devines (who used the psionic attack and defense modes) were not. Tim Kask cut the material up and put it into Eldritch Wizardry."

Steve Marsh, November 28, 2005, indie-rpgs.com

During the process of writing the Basic Psionics Handbook, I've occasionally emailed Mr. Marsh to get some clarification or deeper information on statements he's made in previous interviews. So when it came time to write up the monsters for the Basic Psionics Handbook, I just had to do something in response to the following...

"Erol Otus mocked my idea of having the Wooly Rhinos be intelligent, so that got canned (I liked the idea of a potentially psionic group of Rhinos in the far north, coordinating the defense of the herd against predators)."

Steve Marsh speaking about writing the Expert Rulebook,
April 11, 2005, Dragonsfoot.org

So I started writing up an intelligent, psionic-using, wooly rhino... and I passed the drafts by Mr. Marsh, who provided great insight regarding his intentions, and specifically mentioned having them use enfilade and defilade tactics in battle. So I re-wrote the listing a couple of times, sent him the final draft a couple of days ago, and received an email yesterday morning which said simply, "Really well done." (At which point I clenched my fist with a "YES!")

Well, it only took 34 years for this vision to come to life (assuming the idea came about the year before the Expert book was published), but without further ado, I present the Steve Marsh-inspired (and Erol Otus-mocked) intelligent, psionic-using wooly rhino for the BX rules. (BTW, the "rho'tha" name was an invention of mine, but the Xhosa-inspired clicking sound in the middle was Steve's idea).



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another one of those updates
about where I am on everything...

Since the header for this post says it all, I'll just dig into the updates...

Basic Psionics Handbook
Close to having the final monster descriptions done. This week I wrote up the descriptions for the following: ki-rin, limbo gish (OGL githzerai), mind thresher (OGL mind flayer), neothelid, opinicus, ro'tha, shedu (lesser & greater), and all the zzlahds (OGL versions of slaads, including red, blue, green, gray, black and white; the white is an addition of mine). By the way, the ro'tha (prounounced ROH-tchick-chah, based on an African dialect) are based on the intelligent wooly rhino concept that Steve Marsh wanted to include in the Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook, but caught shit from Erol Otus on it, so the idea was dropped. As I've been working on it, I've been passing drafts to Mr. Marsh and getting his input on them. (How cool is that?)

Creature Compendium
As I've mentioned before, most of what's left here are some illustrations. This week I did the following illustrations and got them into the layout: dunter/redcap goblin (this is like the 4th time I've redrawn this one, and I'm FINALLY happy with it), hyrcinian bird (a small bird that "glows in the dark"), the jogahs (3 types in 1 illustration; again, this is one I've redrawn several times; I'm still not super-happy with it, but feel like it's as close as I'm going to get for now), and the lympago (a.k.a. mantygre).

New Character Classes
I'm almost finished with a new Egyptian priest class I'm tentatively calling the "wenwet." It's actually part magic-user and part cleric (e.g., they have the ability to heal, create illusions, create dimension doors, part water, move earth, etc.) It's actually intended for Dragon Horde #4. I know what you're thinking, "Did I miss Dragon Horde #3? Nope. Still working on that one too, but I already have satyr and faun classes slated for that issue. Besides, I'm looking at Dragon Horde #4 being an Egyptian-themed issue that will support adventure extensions from The Ogress of Anubis. BTW, later this week, I should have a few more animal classes to post to the blog. I'm continuing to collect the BX/LL animal classes into one volume for later release tentatively titled the Animal Class Codex. This will hopefully be accompanied by a sister BX/LL volume called the Character Class Codex which will include the various classes from the zines (the völva, the chroniclist, the satyr & faun, amd the wenwet), along with the beastmaster that appeared on this blog, and a few BX/LL NPC classes I've been working on in the "background" (a scribe and an alchemist, and possibly a sage). There's also an outside possibility this latter volume will include a couple of others (yet to be revealed).

BX DM Screen
I actually finished laying this out a couple of weeks ago, but I need to sit down for a few dedicated rounds of proofreading. With any luck, the kickstarter for this will be launching early October. There are going to be a lot of little extras as part of this, but will reveal all that later.