Monday, September 12, 2011

Advanced Dungeons for Dimwits, 3.14th Edition

Character Generation- Pretend to be an Elf.

Enter the Dungeon- Roll a six sided die.

  1. You fall in a pit and die.
  2. You get killed by a [monster]*.
  3. Waste time quoting Monty Python. Roll again.
  4. Injured. Roll again at -1.
  5. You survive the dungeon but don't level up. Roll again +1.
  6. You level up, congratulations! Add one to your level and enter a new dungeon.

*- replace [monster] with the following depending on your level:

1-3: Orc
4-9: Troll
10+: Demon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

4e D&D Starter Set – Review

I've had a chance to take a good look at the starter set and it's left me with mixed emotions. On the plus side, I really liked the counters which have some really nice art and are sturdy- just like the included dungeon tiles. I also found the DM's book to be pretty well done. It has a nice selection of low level monsters and just enough info to run a game - if you've played D&D before.

That brings me to the down side. The Starter Set is just woefully inadequate when it comes to actually being a starter set. I can't see how anyone who is new to rpg's would be able to take this boxed set and get near to playing what would be recognizable as D&D. It's not just that there's no character generation rules- other, better starter sets have done this before. This set is missing much more. What more do I expect? Examples, lots of examples and there are very few here. No combat examples. No example of play. The only real example is for a Skill Challenge which is probably the last thing a newbie needs to concern themselves about. Beginners need a lot more hand holding than this. And what makes this worse is the included "adventure" is only three encounters long. Three. So, you basically have about 2 hours of play time out of this before the fledgling DM has to start making up his own dungeons? The old 2e starter set had enough adventures to last at least a month of play time.

Another thing that I didn't like was the Quick Start book itself. It's basically the same that came with the Keep on the Shadowfell module. I didn't like it for two reasons. The rules are just a subset of what is in the DM's book so it's just a repeat of what you already have. That's six pages that could have been used for something else without having to raise the price any. Something else like a combat example or, I don't know, how a list of some stuff I could buy with all that loot I find in the dungeon!?! Yes, that's right. Treasure has no purpose in the starter set and is almost completely ignored. The other thing I disliked about the Quick Start book was that the pregen characters have to be cut out or photocopied to be able to actually play. This is just enough of an inconvenience to keep me from getting to play it. This is yet another mistake that the 2e version did not make.

I certainly hope that WotC puts more thought into their new boxed set coming out later this year. This set combined with a Player's Handbook would be enough to start playing. It's really more of a DM's Starter Kit than anything. By itself though, it's really incomplete as an introductory D&D game.

Update: you can view some treasure rules that were left out here- Excerpts: Economy & Reward and you can get some more kobolds to use here- Kobolds!.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review of DCC #59 Mists of Madness

I wrapped up my second D&D 4e session in Goodman Games Mists of Madness adventure module last week. It's a full module by Harley Stroh that only costs $2 (disclaimer- I bought the pdf during a recent sale at rpgnow for even less) and is for 1st level parties which is just what I needed. It is advertised as being 32 pages long, but after subtracting the OGL and advertisements is only around 25 pages in length. The adventure follows a well worn plot as the party must defeat a band of evil cultists before they can summon a lich. WARNING- there be spoilers ahead.

First the good parts. The interior art gives it a nice old-school flavor although I do miss the cover style that they used for their 3rd edition modules. The module details a ruined castle and its dungeons in a swamp that are pretty generic and are easily dropped into most any campaign setting. While the main plot of foiling the plans of cultists has been done to death, this one does have a clever twist to it by having a table of curses that characters may either start with as a hook or fall prey to while adventuring in the module. Some of the curses are helpful (but only at expense of others) like- "Anytime an uncursed PC suffers a critical hit, the cursed PC gains 1d6 temporary hp" and some are just evil like "The character develops an insatiable desire for human blood; his maximum hit point total is reduced by 5 every day that he does not indulge the mad craving." These effects were fun to use, but were kind of hard to remember once there were several of them in force.

The best parts of the module for my group were the big fights- the one against the cultists in the castle and then the one against the crazed wizard at the end of the dungeon. These fights were big and fun. Lots of minions to chop up and some fairly tough spellcasters backing them up. Both fights pushed my group almost to their limit and required some sharp tactics to win.

Ok, now the not so good. As written, this module is insanely hard. First, those pc's that have been cursed are supposed to roll saving throws every hour or they get another curse as well. That might be ok if the group could actually be expected to make it through this module in one day but I really doubt that's possible. My group was exhausted completely after fighting the cultists in the castle and needed to rest. Plus they had rescued a hostage which they needed to take back to town. So each cursed pc would have to make 24 saving throws to account for the day's length of time for the rest and the travel to come back which would have given them at least 10 new curses apiece on average. Umm... no, let's not do that. Next up there is an area that spawns an exact shadow clone of each character and they are supposed to ambush the group at some point. How exactly does a fight against an equal foe in every way not end up with half the characters dead? I removed that too. But that's not even the most dickish thing the module does. There is a teleport trap (practically inescapable too, I might add) that teleports the characters to an area with an EL3 fight... without their equipment. If I ran this as written, my group would have quit right then and there and I wouldn't have blamed them. And if they survived that fight without their stuff (my group barely did even with all their equipment), they then get to fight the BBEG still sans equipment. Good luck with that. Oh, and there's still the chance that the lich is summoned and kills them all without a breaking a sweat.

Another thing I had a problem with was that the module felt fairly railroady for a dungeon as there were a couple of areas where you either had no choice of which way to go or your choice really didn't make a difference. For instance, in the teleport trap mentioned above there really is no alternative to jumping into it. The way behind you has been closed off and there is no other way out. Railroaded.

Also, there were a couple of very complicated trap areas that were hard to comprehend as written and really needed a much better diagram of how things worked. The maps in the module were not sufficient in this regard. I ended up guessing and improvising much of the details and probably made the traps easier to deal with than they should have been.

All in all though, we did have fun and for $2 you really can't go very wrong.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Quick Start Characters are for Suckers

The Quick Start rules in HackMaster Basic allow you to create characters very quickly (10-15 minutes), but the characters made just don't compare to scratch built characters using the full rules. Why? Simple, they don't spend all of their available build points- in most cases, not even close to all their build points. Here's the breakdown-

Everyone starts out with 50bp. QS pc's all get a 50bp bonus for leaving their stats as rolled. 100bp total now. QS pc's are all human so every class costs 25 bp. So 75bp total. Every pc gets +2 stat points which costs 40bp. 35bp total.

Ok, so every QS pc at this point has 35bp to spend. This is where they diverge.

The Fighter spends 5bp on weapon proficiencies, 7bp (maximum) on 2 random skills, and 20bp for level one specialization in longsword. This only leaves him with 3bp left over. That's pretty fair.

The real problem is with the other classes.

The Cleric (True) spends 2bp on weapon proficiencies and 0bp on skills (all his skills are free). This leaves him with a whopping 33bp left over.

The Thief spends 4bp on weapon proficiencies and 6bp (maximum) on 2 random skills. This leaves him with 25bp left over.

The Mage spends 2bp on weapon proficiencies and 9bp (maximum) on 2 random skills. This leaves him with 24bp left over.

So you can see that every QS class other than the Fighter gets shafted. How do we fix this? The main thing that separates the Fighter from the other classes in efficiency is his specialization. This is kind of an advanced concept in my opinion and would be best if left out of QS pc generation. That would bring the Fighter back more into line with the other classes and leave him with 23bp left over.

Now to spend those left over points in the easiest, most effective way. Simply give each pc an extra point to add to any stat (worth an extra 20bp). Plus I'd give every pc a bonus skill- pick either literacy or observation for free (both skills that everyone can find useful and are fairly expensive). That should bring Quick Start characters to a more even footing with their made the hard way brethren.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How to disable all applications in Facebook

Tired of getting annoying Farmville requests from your stupid friends? Yeah you can hide requests from different apps and games one by one as they turn up, but wouldn't it be great if you could just disable them all, forever? Well, there is a way. Just follow these steps and you'll never be bothered with any of this stupid crap again. Bonus feature- it also seems to disable some of the advertisements in Facebook. I bet they don't realize that yet.

  1. Go to your Facebook page. (duh)
  2. Click on Account at the top right.
  3. Click on Privacy Settings.
  4. Where it says Apps and Websites, click Edit your settings.
  5. Where it says Apps you use, click Turn off all platform apps.
  6. Click the Turn Off Platform button.
  7. Enjoy your much less spammy Facebook account.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your Character is Not a Special Snowflake

How special is your average D&D player character? Obviously above average, but what exactly does that mean? Is he or she one in a million? One in a thousand? I decided to put it to the test and find out.

I wrote up a quick and simple program that randomly rolled (3d6) sets of stats which would compare them all and decide which one had the highest stats for a certain number of characters rolled. I then figured out the average point buy value for them by D&D 4e rules to see where that would put them.

So, how special is your average character? The highest level test I ran was for 1 million pc's. The one in a million pc was a whopping 50 point buy character. What does a one in a million character look like? Here's one picked at random- 13 17 16 14 15 17. Pretty nice stats, eh?

Ok, so my character isn't one in a million. He's still pretty special, right? Well, not really. I ran tests for a hundred thousand, ten thousand, a thousand, even one in a hundred; and they were all too high in point value. I found that your average 22 point 4e character is more like one in fifty. So in a small city of 5,000, there's around 100 people in it with stats as good or better than you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Treasures from the past

I've found some more stuff from my old site that I've been able to recover, so expect some old posts to find their way here soon. To start things off, here are two java programs I created for D&D some years ago.
Just download to your computer and double click to run the program. If you have problems running it, you probably don't have Java installed (correctly) on your system. You can download the Java VM at

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting ready for 3 Rivers Con

The website is now online. Come on out September 10th to Knoxville's only gaming convention. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gen Con 2011

Another Gen Con is over and I had an even better time than I had last year. Above is a pic of my youngest daughter and me in front of the Privateer Press booth in the dealer area. You can see the rest of my photos here. Most of them are of cool stuff I saw in the minis area.

Due to some schedule conflicts and some change of interest, I ended up making a lot of changes to my registered events. I played two Flames of War games, Spacehulk, Wings of War, Munchkin Quest, and a Pathfinder delve game. I also got in some short demos of the new Legend of Drizzt game and the Lego Heroica game.

The Good

Flames of War was so fun that I went back for a second game and was lucky enough to get a spot. The games were put on by the local gaming group Able Kompanie. They were very friendly and knowledgeable about FoW and had some great terrain and minis that really showcased the game in the best possible way. I picked up the Open Fire starter set and have resigned myself to spending too much money on tiny little tanks in the near future.

Lego had a large area set up for demoing their games and they did a great job of it. Heroica was a big hit for both me and the kids. I would have bought it there but they had sold out pretty quickly. I'll be picking this one up very soon though.

The Bad

The line for Will Call was ridiculously long and it almost made me miss my first game. C'mon Gen Con, there really is no excuse for this.

At both the Legend of Drizzt game and the Munchkin Quest game, we were basically just tossed a copy of the game and left to flounder as we had to figure out the rules ourselves. This is no way for companies to promote their games and both demos left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I was really looking forward to picking up Super Dungeon Explorers. Sigh, it wasn't ready by Gen Con though.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stat Rolling and Power Level

I greatly prefer rolling up characters rather than using point buy systems or standardized arrays, but I still want characters to be reasonably balanced amongst themselves and against the opposition they will face. Many games like D&D and Pathfinder provide power level guidelines for use with point buying but don't offer much in the way of help when rolling dice for stats. So I whipped up a program to help me see how different stat rolling methods ranked in terms of power level.

I used every dice rolling method I could think of that just used straight dice rolling or just dice plus or minus a set number. For power level comparisons, I used the point buy system and power levels given in Pathfinder. I did add two new levels to what they have- Gritty Fantasy (~5 points) and Super Hero Fantasy (~30 points).

Hopefully, the Methods are self explanatory. The Ranges are the limits of scores possible. The Avg. Stat is the mean score you would expect to roll. The Deviation is the standard deviation of the point values rolled for characters - the lower the better if you want your party to be fairly balanced. And the Avg. Cost is the average point buy value of characters.

Gritty Fantasy - 5 points or less

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
1d10 + 2d4 3 - 18 10.5 13.0 2.5
3d6 3 - 18 10.5 11.5 2.6
5d6 drop high & low 3 - 18 10.5 11.0 2.7
5d4 - 2 3 - 18 10.5 8.7 2.8
2d8 + 2 4 - 18 11.0 13.1 7.7
3d6, ones = twos 6 - 18 11.0 9.0 7.7
3d6 reroll < 7 7 - 18 11.0 8.8 8.4

Low Fantasy - 10 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
3d6 roll 7 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 11.2 10.0 9.1
3d6 reroll < 8 8 - 18 11.4 8.3 11.1
3d6, ones = threes 6 - 18 11.5 8.2 11.5
2d6 + 1d4 + 2 5 - 18 11.5 9.8 11.8
1d8 + 2d4 + 2 5 - 18 11.5 10.3 12.1
4d6 mirror 23 5 - 18 11.5 2.3 12.4
3d6 roll 8 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 11.6 9.6 12.7

Standard Fantasy - 15 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
4d4 + 2 6 - 18 12.0 8.1 15.2
3d6, ones = fours 6 - 18 12.0 8.1 15.2
3d6 roll 9 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 12.0 9.4 15.4
3d6 reroll ones 6 - 18 12.0 9.2 15.9
1d8 + 1d6 + 4 6 - 18 12.0 11.3 17.3
3d6 roll twice each, keep best 3 - 18 12.2 9.4 17.3
1d10 + 1d4 + 4 6 - 18 12.0 12.2 18.1
4d6 drop lowest 3 - 18 12.2 11.5 18.7

High Fantasy - 20 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
3d6, ones = fives 6 - 18 12.5 9.0 19.9
1d6 + 2d4 + 4 7 - 18 12.5 9.2 20.2
3d6 roll 12 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 12.7 9.5 21.2
4d6 mirror 25 7 - 18 12.5 3.9 21.5
4d6 mirror 27, 25, 23 - see comments 5 - 18 12.5 3.6 21.7

Epic Fantasy - 25 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
1d12 + 6 7 - 18 12.5 15.0 25.5
2d6 + 6 8 - 18 13.0 10.6 25.7
3D6, ones = sixes 6 - 18 13.0 11.3 26.1
3d4 + 6 9 - 18 13.5 9.0 28.8

Super Hero Fantasy - 30 points or more

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
5d6 drop 2 lowest 3 - 18 13.4 11.7 30.6
4d6 mirror 27 9 - 18 13.5 4.3 31.2
1d10 + 8 9 - 18 13.5 13.9 34.1
3d6, roll 6 times for each 3 - 18 14.2 9.5 36.7

And the Winners are...

My favorites for each power level are:

  • Gritty Fantasy: 3d6 Reroll < 7
    This method curbs a lot of the harshness of rolling up stats for an iron-man old school game. It's low deviation and high minimum of 7 should make for decent, if average, player characters.
  • Low Fantasy: 4d6 mirror 23
    It has a very low deviation and a decent minimum score.
  • Standard Fantasy: 4d4 + 2
    Comes in right at 15 points with a low deviation and a high minimum score.
  • High Fantasy: 4d6 mirror 25
    High minimum scores and a very low deviation make this a winner.
  • Epic Fantasy: 2d6 + 6
    This one comes closest to 25 points while also giving a smaller deviation.
  • Super Hero Fantasy: 4d6 mirror 27
    The best for creating a balanced group.

Thanks to Keith for reminding me of the mirror method (described in detail here- and here- It really does work very well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PathFinder Point Buy Calculator

Figure out the point buy value of your character for the Pathfinder role playing game with this calculator.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Tip: A substitute for 3d6

Do you just have one of those 7 dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d100, d12, d20) tubes and need to roll 3d6 (rolling up characters, playing GURPS, etc.)? Rolling 1d6 three times is lame and tedious. Just roll your d4, d6, and d8 together. You'll get the same result as using 3d6.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My first look at the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

The beta rules and Free RPG Day module have both been released now for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and I've seen enough to decide that it probably isn't for me. That's a bit sad as I've been enthusiastically following it's development for a while now. I do think it will probably do pretty well since it has superb art, nice production values, some nifty and interesting mechanics and will be strongly supported by Goodman Games modules.

What puts me off of it? Here are the things I really don't like-

  • Appendix N. As the game is supposed to be mainly based on them, I went back and read some of the old books referenced by Gygax in AD&D and I found that outside of Tolkien and Howard, there's not a whole lot that I really enjoy. My fantasy reading tastes and influences are usually pretty modern and the flavor of this game doesn't match up well enough with my tastes.
  • The Adventures. More Dungeons? Even though I like dungeons, I was expecting something more than just more dungeon crawls for this game. I already have plenty of games that do dungeons. Plus I like my fantasy to have much more of a LotR flavor than what they are obviously shooting for here.
  • Zero level play. I've run a game like that before using Labyrinth Lord rules. It was a lot of fun and very fast to play. I don't think I'll do it again though (TPK - 12 character deaths). I don't like using multiple characters per player and the jump to level 1 just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Fighters and thieves gaining their skills in play, ok. Wizards and clerics just picking up how to do magic, no.
  • The frigging dice. I just told you, I hate GS dice. Now you want me to buy another expensive set of them? I like the way the dice are used for the Fighter's attacks and for multiple attacks, but the need for yet more dice still seems like an unnecessary burden to play this game.
  • Way too many tables. Now I love tables - to read and for use in game prep, but in actual play I find having to constantly reference tables to be a big source of irritation. The spell tables take up way too much space and will bring the game to a screeching halt each and every time a spell is cast. Plus I pity the poor GM who has to keep track of the spells for all his villains. Combine those with the critical hit tables, fumble tables, deeds of arms tables, maneuver tables, counterspell tables, mercurial magic tables, corruption tables, etc., and my eyes start to glaze over.
  • Corruption. Say goodbye to ever having a magic user character like Gandalf in this system. Every wizard will eventually sprout horns or chickenfeet or some other nonsense. Every wizard is doomed to become hideous and shunned - no matter what. It's not because you chose to traffic with demons or tried magic that was beyond you - it's simply just because you will eventually roll a one.

I'll still be keeping an eye on the development of the DCC RPG as I know some things will change by the time it comes out in November, but I don't hold any real hope that it will evolve into a game that I would want to run. That said, I'd still love to play in a game sometime.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I hate Gamescience dice

I know this will get me thrown out of the old-school he-man munchkin hater's club, but I really dislike using those "precision" Gamescience dice. Yes, yes, I've seen Lou Zocchi's videos on why his dice are the best things since sliced bread. I've also read countless posts from gamers who love them. And now the DCC RPG practically requires you use them as only Gamescience produces most of the weird dice types needed to play.

Well, I've tried to embrace them. I've bought three sets over the past couple of years and while researching how to buy the additional ones needed for the DCC RPG, I just recently dug them out again. Now I remember why I hardly ever use them. Here's the top 5 reasons why GS dice suck-

  1. They're expensive. They usually cost about 3 times as much as other rpg dice.
  2. If you go the cheaper route and buy the un-inked dice, they are a pain in the ass to ink yourself. I'm way too lazy for this and plus they never look as nice as the ones that are inked at the factory.
  3. Defects. Precision, my ass. All of the dice usually have burrs or nicks in them. The d6's are typically slightly concave. You might enjoy spending your evenings sanding down your dice. I've got better things to do.
  4. They feel... wrong. Their light weight and sharp, poky bits combine to give me a negative tactile experience.
  5. They're just ugly. Compared to pretty much any other dice on the market they are really bland looking.

I know people swear by them because of their supposed fairer distribution of randomness. Well, I've done my own tests on my dice and sometimes the GS dice come out better and sometimes they come out worse. In any case, the differences in fairness are so minor as to make very little impact upon actual play. The differences certainly aren't worth the extra expense and time the GS dice cost you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Going to Gencon

I registered for Gencon yesterday and survived the rush of event registration. I like to try out new games at conventions so pretty much everything I signed up for is new to me. Here's my schedule:

Flames of War - The Battle for StalingradThu 2 PM
TalismanThu 9 PM
HackMaster - Not More Caves!Fri 8 AM
Space Hulk: Lost Hope Fri 1 PM
Knights of the Dinner Live ReadingFri 6 PM
Savage Worlds - Temple of the BeastmenSat 9 AM
Legends of Anglerre - Dreams on Dragon IslandSat 4 PM
Munchkin QuestSat 8 PM
Monsterpocalypse How to Train Your MonsterSun 10 AM

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dice Probabilities in Savage Worlds

The odds in Savage Worlds are a little hard to decipher at first. This is mainly due to the fact that die rolls can "Ace". An Ace occurs when you roll the maximum number for that die type. When this happens you keep on rolling and total up the sums of all the rolls. For example, if you are roll a 6 on a d6, you get to roll again and total both rolls (if you happened to roll another 6, you can keep on rolling).

To make this even more complicated, Wild Cards (pc's and powerful npc's) get to roll a "Wild Die" along with their Trait die and pick the best roll. This is almost always a d6. Extra's (most npc's and monsters) do not get to roll a Wild Die.

This leads to some weird probabilities that you would not normally consider to be correct. Take a look at the tables below and you can see where the strange spots are. They usually occur where the maximum normal roll for a die type is. An example of this is that it is easier to hit a Target Number of 12 with a d10 (12%) than it is with a d12 (11%).

Wild Card's % Chance to Hit a Target Number by Die Type
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
d4 96 83 63 50 32 27 19 16 12 8 4
d6 97 89 75 56 31 31 25 20 15 10 5
d8 98 92 81 67 48 38 25 22 18 14 10
d10 98 93 85 73 58 50 38 29 18 15 12
d12 99 94 88 78 65 58 50 41 31 21 11

Extra's % Chance to Hit a Target Number by Die Type
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
d4 75 50 25 25 19 13 6 6 5 3 2
d6 83 67 50 33 17 17 14 11 8 6 3
d8 88 75 63 50 38 25 13 13 11 9 8
d10 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 10 9
d12 92 83 75 67 58 50 42 33 25 17 8

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HackMaster Basic Quick Start Character Generator

Step 1:
Step 2:

Name: Race: human Class: Level: 1
Alignment: Gender: Height: Weight:

Quirks and Flaws

Hit Points
Previous HP Roll

Attack Damage Speed
Defense DR ToP
HackMaster game and content © Copyright 2001, 2010 Kenzer and Company. All rights reserved. HackMaster is a registered trademark of Kenzer and Company.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What are those wandering monsters up to?

Roll 2d6.
2 Returning to lair to heal up after a fight. (reduce hit points)
3 Fighting with another creature. (roll up another monster)
4 Returning to lair with prisoner. (roll up a prisoner)
5 Returning to lair with treasure. (roll treasure as if they were in their lair)
6 Just passing by on the way to somewhere else. (not looking for a fight, roll for reaction)
7 Defending territory. (warparty looking for invaders)
8 Hunting for food. (quiet, wary, and hard to surprise)
9 Chasing after another creature. (roll up another, weaker monster)
10 Running away from another creature. (roll up another, nastier monster)
11 Building new lair. (digging a hole, setting up camp, making a lot of noise)
12 Groggy from too much partying and looking for a place to sleep it off. (easy to surprise)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fantasy Business Name Generator

This is a random name generator for businesses that could be found in a D&D world. It's based on tables from the article, By Any Other Name (Part One) Sages, Shops, and Smithies by Owen K.C. Stephens, found in Dragon magazine Annual #5.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

WFRP - One Roll Combat

Combat in WFRP uses a fairly easy system, but the number of die rolls and table look-ups can get rather tedious at times. For a successful hit there are 2 die rolls (roll to hit, roll damage) and you have to look up the hit location on a table. That's not so bad, but for a critical hit there are 3 rolls and 3 tables to consult. Add in the math necessary for figuring actual damage by subtracting the target's toughness and armor and it all gets a bit much to handle for 6 pcs and 8 beastmen late at night.

Yeah, I know its still way simpler than <insert complicated game here>, but I'm stupid and I like simple. So here's what I came up with- combat that is resolved with 1 die roll and 2 tables max. And one table is so simple that its easily memorized. Here's how-

Step 1: Roll <= WS to hit target on d100. (as per normal rules)

Example- a pc with a WS of 35 rolls a 24 on a d100 and hits.

Step 2: Find location of hit by comparing the second digit of the to-hit roll with the table below-

0 - arm
1 - arm
2 - arm
3 - leg
4 - leg
5 - body
6 - body
7 - body
8 - body
9 - head

Example- the to-hit roll was 24. The second digit is 4, so the pc hits his target in the leg. (which leg is up to the gm or random roll)

Step 3: Damage = (sum of to-hit roll digits + weapon damage) - (target toughness + armor on location). Note: When adding the digits of the to-hit roll, a 0 is always treated as 0 - not 10.

Example- the pc has a SB of 3 and a hand weapon. The target has a TB of 3 and leather jack (1 armor on arms and body). The to-hit roll was 24. Damage done is 2 + 4(add the to-hit roll digits) + 3(SB) = 9. 9 - 3(TB) - 0(no armor on the legs) = 6 total damage.

Step 4: If the damage results in a Critical, the critical level = damage - target's remaining W. Consult the Critical Hit table for effect.

Example- the target only has 2W left and takes 6 damage to the leg. 6 - 2 results in a level 4 critical to the leg.

Rule changes-
Ulric's Fury does not happen with this system. All Impact weapons get +2 to damage instead of getting the better roll of an extra d10.

There are two bonuses of using this system besides being easier and faster. First off, damage potential increases with skill. The average damage done with a WS of 35 is 5.6, but a WS of 60 pushes the average damage up to 7. Any action that increases your WS (Aim, Charge, attacking an unaware target, etc..) will also increase your average damage.

The second bonus is that hit location is linked to the amount of damage done. Now getting hit in the head always means taking a lot of damage which seems a lot more realistic than the system in the rules. No more hitting a goblin repeatedly in the head with your battleaxe only to give it a headache.

I've run this system in a couple of game sessions and it has worked pretty well. If you give it a try with your group, let me know how it turned out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cadaver Dog

Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 2d12 (13 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+3
Attack: Bite +3 melee (1d6+3 plus paralysis)
Full Attack: Bite +3 melee (1d6+3 plus paralysis)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Paralysis, trip
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., scent, undead traits
Saves: Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 15, Con -, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Skills: Jump +6, Listen +4, Spot +3, Survival +1*
Feats: Track
Environment: Any
Organization: Solitary or pack (3-8)
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 3 HD (Medium)
Level Adjustment: -

Large, gaunt dogs with green glowing eyes.

Cadaver dogs are created whenever wild dogs scavenge on the dead bodies of evil beings. They slowly become undead beings with a hunger for decaying flesh. Because of this, they are usually found at the sites of recent battles and graveyards.


Normally cadaver dogs are content with scavenging, but if they outnumber potential live prey or if they smell fresh wounds they will attack. When attacking they will target either the smallest or the most wounded. They will attack this target with as many of the pack as they can with the remainder holding off any other opponents.

Paralysis (Ex): Those hit by a cadaver dog's bite attack must succeed on a DC 12 Fortitude save or be paralyzed for 1d4+1 rounds. Elves have immunity to this paralysis. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Trip (Ex): A cadaver dog that hits with a bite attack can attempt to trip the opponent (+1 check modifier) as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip the cadaver dog.

Skills: Cadaver dogs have a +4 racial bonus on Jump checks. *Cadaver dogs have a +4 racial bonus on Survival checks when tracking by scent.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating a new monster in D&D the easy way

Creating a new monster for D&D can be rather complicated and time consuming. Building one from scratch means a lot of chart lookups and quite a bit of number crunching. While it can be fun to do, what if you either don't want to or don't have time to do all the work yourself? The easiest solution is to take the stats for a standard creature and just make a few tweaks. Viola, a new monster to trouble your players is born!

I created the creature below to add to the free adventure module The Burning Plague. That adventure features a group of kobolds with their dire weasel pets. Now back when kobolds used to be little dog men maybe them having giant weasels as pets made sense. In 3rd edition, however, kobolds are little dragon men. I just can't picture them befriending mammals anymore. What they really need is a giant lizard to be their pet.

The easiest way to do this was to simply change the dire weasel into a lizard. I just change the name and the description. I dropped the weasel's low light vision and scent abilities and gave it darkvision instead. Now this is a pet that a kobold could love! And its perfectly balanced for play and ready to drop into any module as a replacement for the dire weasel.

Blood Skink

Medium Animal
Hit Dice: 3d8 (13 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 16 (+4 Dex, +2 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+4
Attack: Bite +6 melee (1d6+3)
Full Attack: Bite +6 melee (1d6+3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Attach, blood drain
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft.
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +4
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 19, Con 10, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 11
Skills: Hide +8, Listen +3, Move Silently +8, Spot +5
Feats: Alertness, Stealthy, Weapon Finesse
Environment: Underground
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 4-6 HD (Medium); 7-9 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: -

A man-sized lizard that has a round, sucker-like mouth on its jawless head.

Blood skinks are common predators found in most of the underdark. As they don't seem to like the taste of kobold blood and are fairly intelligent for reptiles, kobolds have been able to train them for use as guard animals. Because of this, blood skinks can often be found in and around kobold lairs.

Blood skinks grow to be up to 10 feet long and can reach a weight of 700 pounds.


Blood skinks ambush their prey in the dark. If they are able to attach to their prey, they will drain its blood until it is dead.

Attach (Ex): A blood skink that hits with its bite attack latches onto the opponent's body with its powerful sucker mouth. An attached blood skink loses its Dexterity bonus to AC and thus has an AC of 12. An attached blood skink can be struck with a weapon or grappled itself. To remove an attached blood skink through grappling, the opponent must achieve a pin against the creature.

Blood Drain (Ex): A blood skink drains blood for 1d4 points of Constitution damage each round it remains attached.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Evolution of the Fighter in D&D - Take 2

Here's a new look at the how the Fighter in D&D has changed over the years. I took the same fighters from my first experiment and created a new test for them. This time instead of seeing how many goblins they can kill before dying, I test to see how dangerous is it for him to fight just one goblin (or in the case of 4e - four goblins minions at once).

The test combats are pretty simple. First, I roll for initiative to see who goes first. Then the fighter and his goblin opponent take turns trying to hit each other. The first one taken to zero hit points is the loser. To get a good average result, the tests for each edition are run 10,000 times. The total number of fighter deaths divided by the number of tests gives the percent chance of the fighter dying in a combat with a goblin. I also graphed out the average length of combat per edition as that was also of interest to me. Here are the results-
0e - the almost complete lack of stat bonuses coupled with low hit points lead to a really dangerous game. You better hire some meatshields to help you.
Basic - even with rolling 3d6 for stats, it's much easier to get vital stat bonuses in Basic than in any other pre-3e version of D&D. This brings the death rate down quite a bit.
AD&D 1e - unless you are using greatly inflated stats, you're not going to see much in the way of stat modifiers and that one extra hit point from the d10 hit die isn't that much of a boost.
AD&D 2e - here's the big drop in fatality from previous editions. Weapon specialization is the big reason. +1 to hit, +2 to damage with 3 attacks every 2 rounds gives a big boost to fighter power. Of course, late AD&D 1e had these options too with the publishing of Unearthed Arcana.
D&D 3e - the fighter (albeit one that is optimized for this fight) is almost invulnerable now. It's very hard for the goblin to hit the fighter and almost impossible to crit him. Of course, the goblin still has a good chance to weaken him for the next encounter though.
D&D 4e - two different fights were done for the 4e fighter. First he fights the goblin warrior. He starts off with an encounter power that does an extra W in damage. After that he just attacks with his best at will attack. He also uses an action point to use his Healing Surge. The second type of fight is with 4 goblin cutter minions at the same time. This time the fighter uses his Cleave attack each round.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Evolution of the Fighter in D&D

This is a by-the-number comparison of your average first level Fighter found in the various versions of D&D. The ground rules followed for this comparison were: Human Fighter with the average stats that would be expected from using the standard stat generation method for a given edition. Stats were arranged in the same order for each fighter with Strength the highest stat and descending to Charisma with the lowest. Equipment would be long sword, shield, and the best armor (all AC's are stated as ascending AC's to make comparisons between editions easier) that average starting money would allow. After generating the fighters for each edition, they would then be paired up against an unending stream of Goblins (also from that edition), one at a time, to see how effective they were. The tests were run 1000 times each in a javascript program.

First up, the fighter from the little brown books-

OD&D Fighter
Stats - rolled 3d6 with highest roll in Str and then descending in this order: Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha.

AC- 18 (platemail and shield)
HP- 1d6+1
Damage- 1d6

OD&D Goblin
AC- 14
HP- 1d6
Damage- 1d6

It will take the Goblins an average of 7 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 2.8 Goblins with him.

Notes: The only bonus the OD&D Fighter gets from his stats is a 5% xp bonus from his Strength. All weapons in OD&D do 1d6 damage.

The fighter from the Moldvay Basic set-

BD&D Fighter
Stats - rolled 3d6 with highest roll in Str and then descending in this order: Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha.

AC- 17 (platemail and shield)
HP- 1d8
Damage- 1d8

BD&D Goblin
AC- 13
HP- 1d8-1
Damage- 1d6

It will take the Goblins an average of 11 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 4.1 Goblins with him.

Notes: The BD&D Fighter is more successful than the OD&D Fighter due to his higher hitpoints, increased damage from variable weapon damage, and much more frequent stat bonuses.

The fighter from AD&D 1st edition-

AD&D1 Fighter
Stats - rolled 4d6 (drop lowest) with highest roll in Str and then descending in this order: Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha.

AC- 17 (scalemail and shield)
HP- 1d10
Damage- 1d8

AD&D1 Goblin
AC- 14
HP- 1d8-1
Damage- 1d6

It will take the Goblins an average of 14.3 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 4.3 Goblins with him.

Notes: The AD&D1 Fighter gets a little better than the BD&D Fighter due to his better stats from rolling 4d6 and from having the d10 hit die.

The fighter from AD&D 2nd edition-

AD&D2 Fighter
Stats - rolled 4d6 (drop lowest) with highest roll in Str and then descending in this order: Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha.

AC- 17 (scalemail and shield)
HP- 1d10
Damage- 1d8

AD&D2 Goblin
AC- 14
HP- 1d8-1
Damage- 1d6

It will take the Goblins an average of 14.4 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 7.3 Goblins with him.

Notes: The AD&D2 Fighter improves over the AD&D1 Fighter due to weapon specialization which gives him +1 to hit and +2 to damage and 3 attacks every 2 rounds.

The fighter from D&D 3rd edition-

D&D 3e Fighter
Stats - 25 point buy with these scores:
Str- 16, Dex- 14, Con- 14, Int- 9, Wis- 10, Cha- 8
Feats - Weapon Focus(longsword), Toughness, Dodge

AC- 19 (scalemail and heavy wooden shield, Dodge feat)
HP- 15
Damage- 1d8+3

D&D 3e Goblin
AC- 15
HP- 1d8+1
Damage- 1d6

It will take the Goblins an average of 22.2 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 10.1 Goblins with him.

Notes: Increases in ability scores, hit points, and improved to-hit chance has again made the Fighter tougher than in previous editions. Critical hits were taken into account for this Fighter due to them finally being made a standard rule in 3e.

The fighter from D&D 4th edition-

D&D 4e Fighter
Stats - 22 point buy with these scores:
Str- 18, Dex- 14, Con- 13, Int- 11, Wis- 12, Cha- 10
Feats - Weapon Focus, Toughness

Tide of Iron (standard; at-will): +8 vs AC; 1d8+5 damage, push target 1 square, you can shift into that square.
Cleave (standard; at-will): +8 vs AC; 1d8+5 damage, 4 damage to adj enemy other than target.
Sure Strike (standard; at-will): +10 vs AC; 1d8+1 damage.
Covering Attack (standard; encounter): +8 vs AC; 2d8+5 damage, an ally adjacent to target may shift 2 squares.
Villain's Menace (standard; daily): +8 vs AC; 2d8+5 damage, you gain +2 attack, +4 damage bonus against target till end of encounter.
Miss: bonuses are +1 attack, +2 damage.

AC- 19 (scalemail and heavy shield)
HP- 40 (28 + 5(toughness) + 7(healing surge))
Damage- 1d8+5

D&D 4e Goblin Minion
AC- 16
HP- 1
Damage- 4

It will take the Goblins an average of 31.2 rounds to kill this Fighter.
The fighter will take down an average of 23.4 Goblins with him.

Notes: The 4e Fighter is assumed to use his Sure Strike power every round. He uses an action point to use his Healing Surge.