Nov 27, 2010
I was digging through an old box in the basement when I found an old D&D (3e) campaign I had started, but quit after two or three sessions. It brought back great memories, and now I've decided to re-write the campaign for Labyrinth Lord (LL).
Nov 15, 2010
I was in a toy store the other day when I came across a new line of Schleich action fantasy figures. The line I'm talking about is called Bayala and includes a range of elves, horses, dragons, and complete setting such as elven strongholds. Most miniatures or action figures in toy stores are marketed directly toward one gender exclusively. This line is interesting because they attempt to straddle the gender line, or so it seems. Many of the elves, horses, and even the dragon Faraun is clearly feminine in presentation. Other characters are equally "male" oriented.
This is an exciting trend. Maybe I'll get a few items for my 17 month old daughter in the hopes that one day she'll venture down into the basement inquiring after the sounds of falling dice...
Nov 12, 2010
An old gamer friend of mine posted this on facebook the other day. I think it's absolutely hilarious. I'm sure many of you have seen or heard of it, but here it is anyway. It's got me thinking back to all the nights in Cameron's bedroom or Shad's basement gaming it up after a long day of work. Even though I'd worked 8-10 hours and finished a mid-term paper, all I needed was a 2-liter knock off Mountain Dew and a few polyhedrons. In hindsight, I see that I was often the irritating player such as referenced in this link, but fun times were generally had by all.
Posted by Digital Orc at 7:19 PM
Nov 11, 2010
IntroductionDark Crystal is a wonderful high-fantasy film made before the days of CGI. It took carpenters, hair-dressers, welders, dancers, actors, artists, ceramic specialists, puppet masters, and many other people with diverse skill sets years to complete Froud and Henson’s vision. Going to see this movie in 1982 with my dad was a memorable event.
The story offers original creatures, cultures, and worlds with little human-centered concepts for reference. As an eight-year-old, I had a hard time getting my mind around, what was to me then and still today, a complex story. The Dark Crystal has inspired novels, manga, comic-books, board games, fan websites, video games, and now a movie sequel. I’ve scanned the web looking for Dark Crystal-to-RPG conversions, but haven’t found any. In this post I convert the setting, creatures, and playable races to Labyrinth Lord (LL), taking many liberties and making many inaccuracies along the way. I have used production notes, fan websites, and personal invention to create this document. I produced a PDF version with images, tables, etc you can find here or on the top right-hand side of my blog.
The Dark Crystal supplement can be ran as a normal LL game with several small modifications as listed below. Primarily, there are no humans. The languages include: multiple Gelfling Tongues, Podling, and Dwarven. The Skeksis and Mystics share the same language descendant of Urskek.
SettingPlanet Thra has three suns: The Greater Sun, the Rose Sun, and the Dying Sun. These suns align once every one hundred years in what is called the Great Conjuction. This is a time of extreme magical importance. Music and sunlight play important roles in magic. Labyrinth Lords should include a musical or sunlight element to all spells, either in the effect or casting. The Crystal of Truth, a large crystal hovering over a bed of lava, collects powerful magical energy from the three suns and radiates it through Thra. This causes an abundance of biodiversity.
The cracking of the Dark Crystal split the Urskeks in to two different, but linked, races; the Skeksis and Mystics, or the UrRu. The Skeksis use the power of the Dark Crystal to control Thra, while the Mystics live quietly in seclusion. There were originally 18 Urskeks, so immediately after the cracking of the Crystal; there were 18 Skeksis and 18 Mystics.
Confusion and Skeksis civil war followed the cracking of the Crystal. Eventually, the mystics escaped the castle and found seclusion in the mountains to the East. The Skeksis, both enjoying the life-giving benefits of the Gelfling life-force and fearing an organized attack, began to hunt all Gelflings. Gelfling clans were slowly destroyed until only a few survived living either in hiding or staying in magically shielded environments.
GarthimNo.Enc.: 1d8 (2d6)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 2 (bite, club)
Hoard Class: None
The Skeksis, over time, have used the power of the Dark Crystal to create and control Garthim. These powerful armored warriors have infravision and are the principal force behind the Gelfling genocide. Garthim resemble gigantic, cumbersome crabs with numerous legs and two “arms”; one a gigantic claw and another a limb with long grasping digits. Garthim continually emit a loud clicking noise, making it impossible for them to surprise a party. Garthim are single-minded in completing their assignment, noticing and responding to stimuli only in that consideration. They can, however, be turned by powerful magic.
Crystal-BatNo. Enc.: 1d4
Movement: 9’ (3’)
Fly: 120’ (140’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Hoard Class: See Below
Crystal-Bats are spidery bats that the Skeksis have infused with magical crystals to broadcast visual data through the Dark Crystal. Crystal Bats follow Skeksis commands. Because they are linked to the Dark Crystal for both power and orientation, if there is any interruption in its contact, the Crystal-Bat is disoriented and will fall to its eventual death. Therefore, silence spells have no effect on the Crystal-Bat. The crystal in the bat can be removed from the its body and used to create a +1 dagger or crystal of seeing, in which the PC can see into the Great Chamber once per day for 1d4 turns.
LandstridersNo. Enc.: 2d4
Movement: 160’ (50’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (Stomp)
Hoard Class: None
Landstriders are tall leathery creatures with long limbs allowing for fast land speeds. They are skittish in behavior and wide-ranging habitat. If charmed, they can carry up to 2 Gelflings or 4 Podlings.
DwarfSee Dwarf (p. 10).
GelflingsSee Elf (p.10) with the following modifications. Female has wings which allow glide (not true flight) while carrying up to one other Gelfling or two Podlings. Both genders have Dreamfasting, which is activated on skin-to-skin contact. This happens only once, when two Gelflings meet for the first time or at times of high emotion. Dreamfasting and the power of the Crystal of Truth are the primary reasons Gelfling culture has been largely peaceful. Gelfling tribes prior to the genocide were matriarchal and tribe-based. Some tribes united under queens. Some have speculated that Gelflings are Sprite descendents.
PodlingsPodlings are small, generally friendly and whimsical humanoids. They have a racial reputation as gardeners and musicians. See Halfling (p.11) with the following aesthetic modifications: slightly smaller, wrinkled skin, no body hair other than head.
UrskeksThese advanced beings come from another world. They use the Crystal of Truth to capture the energy of the three suns for various magical exercises and longevity. Essentially demi-gods, the Urskeks are not a playable race.
Mystics (UrRu)Gentle wizards with four arms, long tails, and extended necks. These creatures tend to be extremely patient, calm, and wise.
SkeksisSkeksis are imposing bird-like humanoids with powerful voices and a thirst for power. These warriors live in the Crystal Castle, which their slaves have built around the original Crystal Chamber designed by the Urskeks. They tend to be extremely intelligent and cunning.
In order to create a Mystic or Skeksis character, the player must create both a Mystic and Skeksis that are polar opposites of a single Urskek. Because of this link, if one of them dies, the other does so as well. Mystics and Skeksis use the same character attributes as other races in LL, but they may be generated differently. The PC has three options for establishing attributes. Once attributes are set, the player must complete the Mystic character as a Lawful Magic User (LL p.12) and the Skeksis character as a Chaotic Fighter (LL p.11) following LL rules.
Option 1Each attribute is automatically set at either 15 or 3 (table 1.0). All normal penalties and bonuses apply. This method affirms that Urskeks have a combined 18 for each attribute.
Mystic: Str 3, Dex 3, Con 15, Int 3, Wis 15, Cha 15
Skeksis: Str 15, Dex 15, Con 3, Int 15, Wis 3, Cha 3
Option 2Modified dice rolls are used for each attribute.
Mystic: Str 1d6, Dex 1d6, Con 4d6, Int 1d6, Wis 4d6, Cha 4d6
Skeksis: Str 4d6, Dex 4d6, Con 1d6, Int 4d6, Wis 1d6, Cha 1d6
Option 3No modified rolls. Create each character using established procedures (LL p.6) and noting prime requisites.
Campaign Setting Idea 1: Movie PrequelThe years immediately after the Crystal of Truth is cracked present an excellence time for a campaign setting. The Skeksis, through a brief civil war, determine an Emperor and governing system. The Mystics, in mourning and confusion, search for an effective hiding location. The disparate Gelfling tribes begin to experience ever-increasing and vicious Garthim raids. They struggle to adapt to a changing and more war-like world. The Dark Crystal not only eradicates most form of previous life within a certain range of the Castle, but also mutates some creatures, driving them deep into the caverns beneath the wastelands.
Campaign Setting Idea 2: Alternate EndingJen never heals the Crystal. The Skeksis and Mystics are forever split, but unable to procreate and continue their race. It is several hundred years after Jen’s failure and Kira’s death. The Skeksis, having locked the Mystics away in various castle cells are faced with eventual death. They discover a way to store their essence in the crystal, from which they continue to control Garthim and exert their influence over Thra. The destroying power of the Dark Crystal has enlarged the wasteland and created a new group of mutant creatures. Small pockets of Gelflings have reformed into small tribes on the forest fringe and podlings live in ever-dwindling pockets of fertile soil. The valley of the mystics is now haunted by the ghosts of its former inhabitants.
Nov 5, 2010
Mentzer’s Player Manual (PM) clocks in at 63 pages and his Dungeon Masters Rulebook (DMR) at 48. Moldvay’s Basic Rules (B) is 64 pages long and Cook’s Expert Rules (X) is the same. So, there is a 17 page difference between B/X and PM/DMR. When you note that the PM has about 12 pages devoted to the introductory game via choose your own adventure, 29 pages is fairly significant. This is especially true when you see how packed B/X is. The B/X has a right-side page margin of 0.3 cm compared to PM’s 1.2 cm. Regardless, this helps explain how B/X accomplishes its goal with two books, and BECMI with three: PM, DMR, Companion (C). I know this is far more superficial detail than a general comparison requires, but I was curious, OK?
I find it interesting to read that some people feel B/X is written for a younger audience than PM/DMR. Having read through both, I thought it was the other way around. I’ll have to input some of each text and do an equivalent grade level analysis with Word. Maybe that will be another post.
IllustrationsB/X is illustrated by Jeff Dee, David S. LaForce, Erol Otus, James Roslof, and Bill Wingham. PM/DMR is illustrated by Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, and Jeff Easley. I won’t get into an art analysis here. People can like what they like. For me, I really don’t care much one way or the other. I enjoy looking through both. I think most fans agree that the artwork in the PM/DMR is more polished and consistent in style and composition.
Sure, these images are fun to look at, but in terms of actual game play, I’m not an advocate of the referee opening a book to show players what a monster looks like, etc. I think such behavior reduces the immersion in a game. A good referee knows when to describe and to what detail. In some cases having artwork available can limit the imagination. I guess it’s like comparing a novel with its movie. Again, this is my take. There isn’t anything wrong with using art. My current GM does a great job of incorporating art into our campaign.
From There to Here (and Back Again)
It’s my understanding that in 1977 Holmes created the original basic set by editing the Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D) rules and supplements written by Gygax and Arneson. This “Blue Book” was designed parallel to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D), whereas Moldvay and Cook created B/X in 1981 as a standalone game, essentially a streamlined AD&D. Mentzer’s PM/DMR is also a standalone, simplified AD&D. I see PM/DMR as a slightly modified B/X. As such, there doesn’t seem to be a substantial difference between B/X and PM/DMR. Both are called “Red Box” in many online forums, both are introductory, and both have the same fairly straightforward and simple rules.
To be fair I should be comparing BC and B/X more than PM/DMR. If we look at PM/DMR as part of BECMI, Mentzer adds a considerable amount of progression rules. There are also small differences with cleric’s powers (gods vs. beliefs) and wizard spells (automatic Read Magic, find versus automatic progression, etc). Having wizards find spells (B/X) as opposed to automatically getting more as they advance levels (PM/DMR) gives referees creative control over the relative power of wizards in their campaigns. Aside from minor monster renaming, I couldn’t find a significant difference. Though, now I’m curious about Holme’s Blue Book.
Which one should I use; B/X or BECMI? I’m leaning towards B/X because it’s self contained, concise, and has enough basic information to run just about anything I need in a good campaign. Of course, I’ll salt and pepper with a few house rules, but isn’t that what created the OD&D supplements and B/X itself?
Nov 4, 2010
After hearing so many talk lovingly of Moldvay D&D I decided to ebay a copy. Last night my B arrived (my X having arrived in a previous shipment). I was able to get the book sans dice, box, module, etc for four dollars. Another reason to celebrate old school: cost. At this point I have the original AD&D PHB and DMG. I now have B/X and all of BECMI except the immortals set. I have the D&D2e and 3e PHB as well. If I could choose any to run a campaign right now it would be BECMI.
Flipping through Basic I am impressed with the density of information packed into sixty-four pages. The reader is already making a character by page B5. The writing in general seems a little more advanced than BECMI. I also find it interesting that, while BECMI takes apparent great pains and lengths to introduce the player via a choose your own adventure style play, the Moldvay edition provides examples of play instead(B59-60). I find the Moldvay approach more appealing, but can see why the Mentzer may have slowed the immersion down since it was released while the D&D cartoon was probably pulling in younger and younger players. While both Moldvay's B and Mentzer's Red Box are for ages "10 and up", there is a clear difference, not only in presentation, but pace, complexity and depth.
Physically, I like the hole-punch. Moldvay describes future referees re-organizing their various materials as seen fit. This appeals to the creative and organizational aspects of a good referee. I'm reminded of the 2e Monstrous Compendium.
These observations are based on a cursary examination of Moldvay's B, only. I'm planning on reading B/X in the future a little more carefully, and hope to follow up these superficial notes.