Thursday, June 30, 2011

A One-Session Delve in the Open Gaming Table

Interested parties have learned that the secluded monastery of Pelor on Perch Hill has acquired copies of several* volumes from the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil. Retrieve these documents by any means necessary and bring them to the temple of Quasxthe; ask for Viblet Kewne.**
* we suspect five, though the exact number is not known
** 1,000gp per volume

I mentioned in an earlier article that I created the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil to serve as a handy evil macguffin whenever I need it. This was the first thing I used it on (and indeed, I created the EEoE for this scenario).

Because I didn't ban it, most people were making evil characters. So I figured, okay, here, have an evil bounty (moreover, an easily-accomplished evil bounty, unlike the already-established "find merfolk to feed to Sir Bigglesworth's pet elephant" and "bounty for dead metallic dragons").

I don't think it was quite a conscious decision on my part, but it did wind up being completable in only one session. Which goes slightly against some of the originally-stated intentions of the open gaming table (among other things, "squeeze as much playtime out of as little material as possible"), but it worked out okay.


So, my first task: come up with a map for the monastery. After some searching for "monastery" and "temple" and "temple of Pelor" and so on, I found the Covenant of the Hallowed Doctrine Monastery, on page 111 of Heroes of Horror, and adapted it to my use.

Monastery of Pelor battlemap
1 entryway
a cloakroom (some bright yellow cloaks)
b weapon storage for guests (empty)
2 cleansing/purification room
3 dining room
4 dish room
5 kitchen
6 changing room
7 training room
8 arsenal (a few maces, one or two of some other things)
9 communal sleeping room
10 abbot's chambers
11 chapel, sacred vessel (BoED 37) on altar
12 greenhouse
13 smokehouse
14 gardening shed
15 stables
16 guest quarters
(light blue) duck pond
T tree
S stairs down

Randomly distributed around the grounds: 6 generic mongrelfolk (i.e., monks without monk levels, who I will henceforth call cenobites, which I'm sure is the name of some obscure prestige class, but that's okay). There was also a lantern archon in the chapel because lantern archons are neat, and Abbot Waxter (a cleric) and Prior Trakis (a paladin) in various places. (When the PCs actually got there, I discovered that I couldn't effectively open more than one character in Heroforge at once without slightly more effort than I wanted to go into in the middle of a session, so Waxter happened to be elsewhere at the time, probably ministering to Endeesy or one of the villages.)

So the players decided to take on this bounty. They somehow convinced the Lawful Good monk that it was a corrupted temple (I'm sad that nobody brought up Pelor, the Burning Hate).

So off they went! When they got to the monastery, the PCs came upon a peaceful cenobite weeding the garden, and after a brief conversation, promptly bludgeoned him into unconsciousness. Then, noticing some stables, the monk went to free the horses to cause a distraction, and came upon another cenobite tending the horses. There was a scuffle, and the cover was blown.

The rest of the party barged into the monastery itself, and bluffed most of the cenobites they found into going after the monk. They came upon Prior Trakis in the training room and the lantern archon in the chapel, and these two individuals would have none of it.

After a fair amount of battle, one of the cenobites had gathered up some injured others and escaped, the lantern archon teleported away to find Abbot Waxter, and Prior Trakis had been killed and his body looted (he had keys to all the doors in the place).

Then they went downstairs!

Monastery battlemap basement
1 confiscated objects room (iron door)
2 empty crypt (the monastery was too new to have anybody to put here, though I'm sure Prior Trakis is there now)
S stairs up
c cell (iron door with small window)

In the confiscated objects room, the party discovered copies of the Book of Blight, Compendium of Corruption, Opuscule of Offensiveness, Report of Wrath, and Volume of Villainy, which they divvied up amongst the party members. They also discovered a male erinyes in antimagic shackles trapped in the furthest cell. The erinyes promised to do each of them a favour if they released him. They released him. Some of the party tried to get the erinyes's true name out of him by threatening him with holy water, and he was filled with glee and mirth and applauded this diabolical effort, but denied it with the "no wishing for more wishes" exemption. (The erinyes told them to call him Feathers, instead.) They then arranged for following the favours:
1.) never hurt any of them
2.) tell them everything he knows about the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil (which basically turned out to be everything in the item entry on the subject)
3.) never use any of the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil
4.) steal the volumes of the EEoE from Viblet Kewne once they cash in the bounty, and never tell anybody (not even the party) where he put them
5-6.) the erinyes just gave each party member a feather and told them to break it when they want to cash in the last favours
(3 and 4 might have been merged together, and Feathers owes them three, I can't quite perfectly remember, though I'm sure I wrote it down somewhere...)

Then they returned to the city and Viblet Kewne was just as slimy as they expected. The engineer dragon shaman pretended not to have one of the books so he could keep it, but they cashed in the other four for a cool 4,000gp. Then they went to a tavern, and after a bit, Feathers popped in to report that he had successfully reacquired the books.

I gently suggested that everybody should probably move one step closer to evil based on the events of the session, though it was only a suggestion rather than a command and I don't think anybody did (one evil mission might just be temporary misguidedness, plus they still wound up keeping the books out of the hands of the slimy Viblet Kewne and in the hands of an erinyes who has made a verbal contract never to use them (and devils are all about the contracts, so everything should be hunky dory so long as Feathers stays away from Helms of Opposite Alignment, though even then he'd turn Chaotic Good, so they should still be fine)).

All the same, an evil job well done!

--- least until next session, when they'll discover the following bounty added to the list:

Information sought leading to the whereabouts of a band of evil adventurers who broke into the monastery on Perch Hill, terrorized the monks, and murdered Prior Trakis, a paladin of the faith. See Abbot Waxter at the Monastery with any information.
Be on the lookout for a group consisting of:
> an orc-descended man, in possession of a horse
> an engineer man
> an Omorashi human woman
> three additional human or elf men
Be warned: these individuals are armed and extremely dangerous. They may be in league with an evil erinyes devil – this creature is very powerful and should not be engaged without proper training. They may also be in possession of copies of several volumes of the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil – if found, these books should not be read and may be returned to the Monastery for an additional reward.
Authorized by Pelor’s Archbishop of Shell, Jov Sauart

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apparel of Severing

These plain adjustable silver loops come in a variety of sizes, appropriate for neck, wrist, upper arm, torso, ankle, upper leg, or finger.
When the loop is cinched tight around some portion of a living organism, the loop splits into two, along with whatever it's fastened around. If you cinch a bracelet of severing around your wrist, for example, your hand immediately falls off. The stumps are flat, featureless silver. Through the apparel of severing, the severed limb is still connected (through a warp in the fabric of reality) in every relevant way (veins and arteries, nerves, muscles, etc) to the body, no matter how far away the limb is taken. Spells cast on one part of the body affect the whole as if they were still attached. The wearer of the apparel of severing can still control any severed limbs as if they were still attached, though movement is limited by the form.
The apparel of severing can be removed only with application of a remove curse spell, though this does not repair the damage, it only deactivates the connection. Missing limbs must be reattached or regrown with a restore extremity power or similar (or raise dead, in the case of a severed neck). If the two halves of the apparel of severing are in close proximity to one another when remove curse is applied, they become one dormant apparel of severing. If they are separated when remove curse is applied, each half has a 50% chance of becoming a dormant apparel of severing.
A limb that has been removed with the apparel of severing and glued back on with sovereign glue functions as if it were a normal limb (and negates any spell failure chance), though the apparel still occupies a magic item slot. If two people trade limbs (by using apparel of severing to sever matching limbs and sovereign glue to attach them to each others' stumps), then both are affected by any spell which targets one of them.

Choker of Severing
Also called the choker of headlessness, this is one of the most common forms of the apparel of severing. It goes around the neck and causes the head to fall off. In addition to the usual effects of apparel of severing, a wearer of a choker of severing has a 50% chance to negate the harmful effects of a vorpal enchantment, even if his head has been secured to his neck. If your head has been severed, your body can still move at its normal move speed, provided you can see it. If you cannot, you are treated as blinded for the purpose of your body's movement.
Not all possibilities are listed here (in particular, we shall refrain from speculating on non-finger uses for the ring of severing); only those which merit additional special considerations are listed.

Bracelet of Severing
Also called a bracelet of handlessness, this item is both a blessing and a curse for mages. It imposes a 15% arcane spell failure chance, but touch spells may be delivered through the severed hand. Particularly devoted clerics have been known to give a severed hand to their allies to perform healing without getting too close to combat.

Armband of Severing
Also called an armband of armlessness, this item imposes a 30% arcane spell failure chance.

Belt of Severing
If your legs have been severed from one's torso, your legs can move at your regular move speed, provided you can see them. If you cannot, then you are treated as blinded for the purpose of your legs. You can use your arms to drag your torso about at a 5 foot move speed.

Ring of Severing
If a thumb or index finger has been severed by a ring of fingerlessness, you incur a 5% arcane spell failure chance. Severance of other fingers incurs no spell failure chance. You may deliver touch spells through a severed index finger, but no other severed fingers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fixing Leadership and Thrallherd

The Leadership feat (and, by extension, the Thrallherd prestige class, which is effectively "Leadership but better") is commonly recognized as potentially game-breakingly powerful. The common response is to just ban them, and perhaps that's a sensible response. I've never encountered any players who wanted to go to the trouble of figuring out how Leadership works just for its own sake; the only reason most people want to take it is to abuse it. "Has minions" is certainly a fun character archetype, but D&D makes it awkward enough to make it undesirable.

But it's never fun to take away options. So what can we do to fix it?


Well, the first two questions which spring to mind: what, exactly, is the problem with Leadership (and by extension with Thrallherd)? Does Thrallherd add any extra problems on top of that?

I don't know what most people use their Followers for, but they're not likely to be of much use for anything other than setting them up in a city running a business and funneling most of their profits to you, and if you want to take a feat to get a little bit of the pittance that NPCs can earn in a lifetime, that's fine. So the followers are not a problem.

While I'm on the topic of followers, I'll answer the second question before returning to the first. The main difference between the thrallherd and the Leadership feat is that the thrallherd can abuse his believers mercilessly with no penalty, while the leader takes a penalty to his leadership score if he does so. So the thrallherd can potentially have, for example, an infinite number of human sacrifices.

Solution: if that many people are going missing, the authorities are going to start investigating. Paladins and celestials are going to start coming after you, in large enough numbers as to constitute a genuine inconvenience.


So, having dispensed with any problems inherent to followers/believers, the main problem with Leadership the cohort. Specifically, that the cohort is effectively an extra PC (a couple levels lower than the others, but who doesn't take experience away from the party).

We can fix that by obeying the rules laid out on pp. 105-106 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. Specifically, two things: first, the player can attempt to attract a cohort of a particular race, class, and alignment, with no guarantee that this attempt succeeds; second, the PC can control his cohort's actions in combat, but the DM controls all the specifics of the build. So if the PC tries to attract a gray elf batman wizard, the DM is entirely free to hand him a goblin commoner instead.


So the problem is satisfactorily solved. Done. I would, however, like to consider actual modifications to the rules, for those who aren't satisfied with the above easy solutions, or for DMs who don't want to go to the effort of building cohorts and punishing Charles Manson PCs in-character.

To wit: limit the classes. Followers and believers can only ever be NPC classes (or, far better but slightly messier, tier 6 classes). Cohorts and thralls start as NPC classes (or tier 6 classes, or maybe let them take tier 5 classes), but you can take additional feats to improve the list of classes they can take.

So, feats:


Without the following feats, cohorts and thralls are limited to Samurai (Complete Warrior), Aristocrat, Warrior, or Commoner. Followers and believers are always limited to those four classes.

Improved Cohort I
Prerequisite: Leadership and character level 8; or thrallherd level 2
Benefit: Your cohort or thrall may take levels in Fighter, Monk, Ninja, Healer, Swashbuckler, Soulknife, Samurai (Oriental Adventures) Expert, Paladin, or Knight.

Improved Cohort II
Prerequisite: Improved Cohort I; and character level 10 or thrallherd level 4
Benefit: Your cohort or thrall may take levels in Rogue, Barbarian, Warlock, Warmage, Scout, Ranger, Hexblade, Adept, or Marshal.

Improved Cohort III
Prerequisite: Improved Cohort I-II; and character level 12 or thrallherd level 6
Benefit: Your cohort or thrall may take levels in Beguiler, Dread Necromancer, Crusader, Bard, Swordsage, Duskblade, Factotum, Warblade, or Psionic Warrior.

Improved Cohort IV
Prerequisite: Improved Cohort I-III; and character level 14 or thrallherd level 8
Benefit: Your cohort or thrall may take levels in Sorcerer, Favored Soul, or Psion.

Improved Cohort V
Prerequisite: Improved Cohort I-IV; and character level 16 or thrallherd level 10
Benefit: Your cohort or thrall may take levels in Wizard, Cleric, Druid, Archivist, or Artificer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pumpkin Smash

So I'm playing a little bit of Ogre Battle again, and it occurs to me: there's Pumpkinhead creature in most Ogre Battle games, and this creature's attack is unique among the game's creatures: it always reduces its target to half its former hit points (unless the target is already a.) at 1 hp, in which case it either kills him or has no effect (I'm not sure which and/or depending on the game); or b.) undead, in those games where undead have no hit point score, in which case the pumpkin smash is one of three ways to kill it (the other two being clerics healing it and hitting it with holy weapons)).

And so it occurs to me, what if we incorporated this mechanic into D&D? My first inclination was to create it as a spell, but the downside to that is the players might get access to it. The other option is to give it to some creature as a special ability, in which case the DM (in this case, me) has more control over when the power gets used, and moreover can tweak it on the fly. On the other hand, I'm more likely to get feedback on it if it's a spell, and feedback is the lifeblood of this little test kitchen.

I'm sure somewhere in one of the bazillions of splatbooks, somebody has made a "target loses half its current hit points" spell. But I can't find it with a cursory inspection, so let's make one of our own.


I think it'll be a Megiddo Mehida spell, because that's most of why I introduced Megiddo Mehida into canon, so I'd have somebody whose name I could stick to the beginning of new spells, because the "[Person]'s [Adjective] [Noun]" naming convention appeals to me, it feels old school. So Megiddo's... what? Pumpkin Ray? Smashing Pumpkin? Actually, I kind of like that. Megiddo's Smashing Pumpkin.


My next thought: it definitely should allow a save, I think to negate ("you lose a quarter of your hit points instead of half your hit points" is a little weird), unless I also make it a ranged touch attack, in which case the save should halve the damage, because otherwise there are just too many points of potential complete failure (spell resistance (which it should definitely allow, because it's a magical effect applied to your target, not an object conjured up and thrown at your target); touch AC; save) for it to be worth casting.

But what kind of save? Do we want it to be a mist or a projectile or a mind-affecting spell or what? Let's try to figure out what the least-commonly-targeted save is, and target that one. I pulled up SpellForge and sorted the list of spells by save. Any given result may well be off by an order of magnitude, but I only want an estimate. The estimate is that 177 spells and powers allow reflex saves, 391 spells and powers allow fortitude saves, and 786 spells and powers allow will saves. BUT, all breaths and most traps allow reflex saves, and all poisons and diseases allow fortitude saves. So that's not conclusive. Let's preliminarily say "not a will save".

Since I think I do want to make it a ranged touch attack (to allow more points of potential failure, because "you lose half your hit points", while not half as bad as "you die" (you lose half your hit points, you're still in the fight and can easily be healed; you die, you're out of the fight and it's more expensive to heal you), is still pretty bad (though, again, I don't want to add so many points of potential failure that nobody ever uses the spell, though a homebrew spell that is too weak is more desirable than a homebrew spell that is too strong)), which already incorporates the possibility of dodging out of the way (and because Mettle is much rarer than Evasion), let's make it a Fortitude save.


Let's call it a Necromancy spell, because in my mind it fits, especially if you've played enough Ogre Battle to be familiar with Deneb, creator of the Pumpkinheads.


It's obviously a Sorcerer/Wizard spell. Megiddo Mehida was a wizard/archivist/mystic theurge, so I'm briefly tempted to add it to the Cleric list, too, but clerics shouldn't get too many blasting spells. I'm tempted to add it to a domain, but archivists don't get domains (even if they can acquire the ability to cast domain spells with a permissive DM). What other class spell lists might it fit?

The assassin's list is entirely things to aid in sneaking up on and ganking people.
Blackguards don't get many blasting spells, but they do get a number of "be a dick" spells, of which this qualifies, so that's possible. I can certainly see Megiddo being amused at fallen paladins casting his spell.
Druids get mostly support spells, but I can definitely see a druid bludgeoning something with a magic pumpkin, so that's possible.
It certainly fits the hexblade's spell list, plus they need as much love as they can get, so onto their list it goes.
The duskblade's thing is "I'm in mêlée, hitting you with a stick and also hey look spells". I'm always a little taken aback that they get ranged attacks, too. But their spell list has no real coherent theme to it at all. Sure, they can have it, why not.
I can never quite divine what the shugenja's fluff is supposed to be, so better safe than sorry and leave it off their list. Same with wu jen and spirit shaman.
Warlocks get invocations instead of spells, and there doesn't seem to be much overlap, so that's a no.
Warmages get blasting spells and only blasting spells, but no spells quite so subtle as this (compared to half a hundred variations on "you do xdy damage on a ranged touch attack" and "target dies or nothing happens", yes "the target loses half his hit points" is subtle), so I think that's a no, even though warmages kind of need a little love (a sorcerer can be a better warmage than a warmage can, even though the warmage does get Edge).

Ehh, ok, let's call it Blackguard, Druid, Duskblade, Hexblade, Sor/Wiz.

Now, what level spell shall it be? Power word kill is level 9, but it doesn't allow a save or require a touch attack (though it doesn't affect creatures with more than 101hp). Megiddo's smashing pumpkin is much weaker than that.

The 4th level spell Phantasmal Killer is a much better comparison. It instantly kills the subject. It allows two saves: a will save which cancels all effects, and a fortitude save which reduces the effect to 3d6 damage. It's also [mind-affecting], so it doesn't affect half the creatures you might expect to encounter (most undead, oozes, vermin, many plants, et cetera). Two saves (of which one negates, one reduces damage to 3d6) is comparable to a ranged touch attack and a save (of which one negates, one reduces damage to half). The [mind-affecting] tag is worth a spell level or two, if it could affect every foe it would be a level or two higher. But death is, as established above, more than twice as much of an inconvenience as losing half your hit points, so that's a couple spell levels weaker. So let's call Megiddo's smashing pumpkin oh, say, level 4.

One situation in which Megiddo's smashing pumpkin is actually clearly better than Phantasmal Killer is against creatures which are immune to death effects. But these are relatively rare, and mostly very high level, and if you're high enough level to face something immune to death effects then you've got better options than Save-or-Dies anyway.

Yes, the poor Tarrasque is a joke (lollercoaster @ Toughness 6 times), but he's the archetypical CR20 monster. So: you cast this on him, you need to defeat his SR32 and his fortitude save of +38 (his touch AC of 5 is a joke). If you do, you do 429 damage. That seems preposterously powerful for a 3rd level spell, but Phantasmal Killer would do the same thing at the one level higher but better than twice as well.

Now consider a lizard. Defeat its touch AC of 14 and its fortitude save of +2, you do 1 damage. That's a joke, even for a 3th level spell. But then, if you're casting Megiddo's smashing pumpkin on a 2hp creature, you deserve to be pointed and laughed at.

So 3rd level is fine.

It doesn't quite perfectly fit the druid's concept, so let's make it a level higher for them. Blackguards and hexblades can't cast spells higher than level 4, and those only very late in their careers, so I'm almost inclined to bump it down to 2 for them, or at least for the hexblade. But is it a little too good for a 2nd level spell? Better safe than sorry, even with the hexblade.

So: Blackguard 3, Druid 4, Duskblade 3, Hexblade 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3.

--- Let's throw it all together

Megiddo's Smashing Pumpkin
Level: Blackguard 3, Druid 4, Duskblade 3, Hexblade 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3
Components: M, S, V
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close
Target: One creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude half
Spell Resistance: Yes

A moldy, rotten pumpkin flies from your hands and beats your opponent about the head and shoulders before crumbling into nothing.
Make a ranged touch attack. If it hits, the target takes force damage equal to half his hit points before the spell's effect, rounded down (put another way: his hit points are effectively reduced to half their previous total, rounded up). A successful fortitude saving throw halves this damage (leaving him with 3/4 of his previous hit point total).
Like any attack, this spell deals a minimum of 1 damage. If the target had 2 or fewer hit points, his hit point total is instead reduced by 1.
Material Component: A single pumpkin seed.


Now that we've got that done, we could create a pumpkinman monster, for even closer adherence to Ogre Battle. There are two possibilities: the easy possibility and the hard possibility.

The easy possibility is this:
Take the standard skeleton template.
Replace its head with a pumpkin.
It can cast Megiddo's smashing pumpkin as an at-will spell-like ability (save DC wisdom-based).
CR increases by +1.
It retains the undead type, but it is susceptible to spells and special abilities that target or affect plants.
You can use animate dead to create a pumpkinman of this sort by adding a fresh pumpkin as an extra material component.

The hard possibility is this: create a custom monster. This was my original plan, and I even found a CR calculator to aid the process, but then I realized I'm quite content with the easy version and I don't know that I could improve upon it.


EDIT: I have found a spell in the Spell Compendium: Avasculate. Ranged touch attack, subject is reduced to half its current hit points (rounded down) and stunned for 1 round. Fortitude negates the stun. This is a level 7 spell. That, um, is kind of crap compared to the 4th level Phantasmal Killer. I maintain my original judgement of the proper level of this spell.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dynamic Random Encounter Tables

For the Open Gaming Table, I've always used custom random encounter tables. For each region, I painstakingly constructed a custom table.

For example, the random encounter table for the Cave of Burning included every demon below a certain CR, every creature with the [fire] subtype below a certain CR, several fire-related non-creature encounters, and creatures which wandered in from the surface or from connected caves.

Each time a party enters a new room, I rolled to see if there were creatures there. I never got this system perfected. I was mostly using d2s, and then not rolling for a cleared room for a couple days after it was cleared, before going back to rolling for it again. If I were to go back to a system like this, I would probably roll 1d4 (1 = no creatures; 2-4 = creatures) for an unexplored room, 1d2 for a room that was previously cleared or empty.

Then, after I perfected a dynamic random encounter table for the gladiatorial arena, I realized that, as much sense as it makes for the arena, it makes even more sense for encounters out in the wild.


The principle is this: you have a list of all the encounters that one might find in a given area, and each one is associated with a number. That number is how many encounters of that type are wandering around in the general area, and it's also a range of numbers on the die. Each time the party eliminates an encounter, tick this number down by about one.

The approximation is a judgement call. If the encounter was "1d6 bugbears", and you rolled high so the party encountered and killed 6, consider ticking the number down by two. If you rolled low and they only encountered 1 bugbear, consider not ticking the number down at all.

If half of the encounter escaped and the other half died, consider ticking the original down by 1, and add an extra encounter to the list consisting of exactly the number of creatures that got away (with a note to yourself specifying which PCs they now know to fear).

If the party encounters an immobile encounter and does not kill it, tick it down from the random list and add it to the map as a regular (i.e., non-wandering) encounter. Shrieker fungi don't tend to wander away. (Obviously, if the party does kill something, you should add its corpse to the map.) If you get an immobile encounter in a previously-cleared area, feel free to reroll unless you can quickly think of a good reason how it got there (or if you feel like saying "sure let's go with that" once one of your players comes up with a plausible theory).

Also on the encounter list are options to pull from nearby regions. If the Stank Cave is connected to the Don't Drink This River, then the DDTR random encounter table has a "roll on Stank Cave table" option, and the Stank Cave random encounter table has a "roll on DDTR table" option. If this option comes up and the encounter is defeated, you may want to tick the number on both lists down by 1.

For example, if the party is exploring the DDTR and get "roll on Stank Cave table" and then get a shambling mound from the Stank Cave, and they kill the Shambling Mound, that represents a shambling mound wandering from its Stank Cave home to the DDTR. If the shambling mound is killed, that's one fewer shambling mound in the Stank Cave, so you tick that number down by 1. It is also the case that a monster wandered from the Stank Cave to the DDTR and never came back, which may dissuade other monsters from doing the same, so tick the "roll on Stank Cave table" option down by 1. This latter half is probably more advisable if the areas are populated largely by relatively intelligent creatures. If it's all mindless vermin, don't tick down "roll on another table", only tick down the encounter that was actually killed.

Another possibility to consider: you could actually tick the "roll on other table" option up each time you roll it, to signify that creatures from this other location are obviously making efforts to expand their territory, if you're encountering them elsewhere. Or, probably better (if your lists aren't sufficiently segregated by race), you could (on a case-by-case basis) simply move creatures from one list to another. If the party encounters kobolds in hobgoblin-controlled territory, maybe there are a few groups of kobolds scouting out hobgoblin lands on a long-term basis.

The third kind of thing on the encounter list is "Nothing" (which I always set to a higher number than any one encounter, and usually a substantial fraction of the total). Instead of rolling in each room to see if there's a monster there or not, simply always roll on the random encounter list, and if it comes up "Nothing", there isn't a monster there.

Never tick "Nothing" down. As adventurers exterminate monsters, the likelihood that they encounter a new monster grows ever smaller. This is perhaps the most elegantly simulationist aspect of the dynamic random encounter table, and the part that most closely cleaves to the philosophy of the Open Gaming Table.

More monsters can be added, though I would suggest each time new monsters come in it be treated as a medium-big deal, and possibly be a quest hook. The surface random encounter table (yes, you should have one for the surface, though its "Nothing" value should be higher than in the dungeons) looking a little sparse? Add a bunch of bandit encounters to the dynamic table and have some villagers mention a recent surge in bandit activity, and build it into an adventure where you hunt down and kill the bandit king, which doesn't eliminate existing bandits from the table, but it means more bandits won't get added.


I originally had all my random encounter tables set to total up to 100 (so I could roll a d%), but that doesn't work if you want them to be dynamic. Then I realized: heyy, I'm using Excel (Excel is easily the most useful program I own, don't knock it), I've got the RANDBETWEEN function, I don't need to aim for a target number at all. So now I have some dynamic tables in the 80s and some in the high 200s.

For those of you playing along at home and want to know exactly what format I'm using, each table has six columns, of which the first two are hidden because they're purely for system use. (I could just as easily have had four, and incorporated the first two columns right into the third, but I didn't happen to do that, because it didn't occur to me until after I was done converting all my tables to this new system in the first place.)

Yes, I know this part is of the sort where if you know anything about Excel you'll be rolling your eyes at what a monumental noob I am, and if you don't know Excel you may be baffled and terrified and have no idea what's going on. Indulge me.

The five columns (we will consider row 3, which is the first data row on most of my tables):

A: Min die roll. Take the max die roll of the previous row, and add one. (B2 happens to be empty, but A3 should = 1 anyway, so it works out fine.)

B: Max die roll. Add the min die roll to the number of monsters of this type and subtract 1 (to get a proper dice range - if you have a 5% chance, that's 1-5 on the die, but adding 1 and 5 would get you 6).

C: Dice range. The first IF is to leave this field blank if there aren't any encounters of this type (yes, I know, it would be easier to just check to see whether there's anything in D), mostly so I could leave several blank ones at the end for later use. The second IF is to return a single-number range if there's only one encounter of this type (if there's only one ettin wandering around, it's more elegant if the ettin's dice range reads "82" rather than "82-82"). The third (it was originally a third IF, but that was silly, A3<B3 is the only possibility left) returns the range from min die roll to max die roll.

D: Number of encounters. This is the all-important number associated with each encounter, which you set to however many encounters of this type there are in the region, and tick down every time the party kills an encounter.

E: Encounter name and brief details (e.g., "1d6 Medium Centipedes", "CE Justice Archon wearing a Helm of Opposite Alignment").

F: The sourcebook in which that encounter is found.


And then, as mentioned, you can put an automatic die roller someplace on the sheet. To roll a die and get a random encounter from the table, you can simply do something very simple like this, where # is the last row of the table (it works even if D# is blank, i.e., if you have some blank ones at the end, which you should):
It isn't remotely tricky to hook it up such that it automatically pulls the encounter name/details/sourcebook from the list for you, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader.


UPDATE: I did wind up doing that last bit on my own tables. It involves the vlookup command.

And, as an example of what it should look like (or what it looks like for me): the table for the Dwarven Tombs west of Serpent Pass in my setting:
Example dynamic random encounter table

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adventures In Rebasing 2: The Payoff

Though I closed out my last post on the subject with speculations about where to acquire suitable bases to rebase minis to, I kept searching for suitable options, as anyone who was following my twitter feed knows. In great detail.

I looked for blank, unstruck quarters, on the theory that they might be cheaper and less illegal to deface than completed quarters. But no, they don't seem to sell those, which makes sense. (In related news: Google thinks it's smarter than me, but it isn't. If I wanted to search for blankets or coin banks I wouldn't have searched for planchets and coin blanks.)

I considered high-end radiochemistry equipment, but they only seem to sell those in lots of a thousand.

I tried to find slugs punched out from junction boxes, which one produces as waste in massive quantities when one wires or rewires one's house's electricity, but nobody seems to sell (or even give away) the slugs. Though they do sell "Slug-Buster Knockout Punch Unit"s, which may replace "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" as the best porn name ever.

I looked for washers, then I looked for holeless washers, and it turns out no, there's not really any such thing.

Then I suddenly realized I had a tin full of old arcade coins from LASERTRON (which I always intend to bring with me to spend when I go to LASERTRON, but always forget). Not being legal tender, I can only assume these coins are fair game for defacement. I compared them to Medium bases, and they are almost exactly the proper size. I counted them, and I had 42 of them, just barely more than enough for the minis I wanted to rebase (I had 41 minis, of which I ruled out the green army girl for not having any conceivable D&D use, the pillar-like object for being too difficult to separate from its base, and the lion rampant for being too clearly Large rather than Medium). I would have preferred to stack two coins on top of one another to achieve closer to the right height, but the heft of the bases wound up being satisfying enough. All in all: perfect bases.

LASERTRON coins showing unpainted and painted sides, and a successfully rebased Mage Knight mini


I was pleased with how easily all the Mage Knight and Heroclix minis popped off their bases, with hardly any prying necessary; they were only glued on. The Dreamblade minis needed a sharp knife, though, because they were molded right to their bases. If I were to do this again, I would probably mostly get Mage Knight minis. They're a little more generic than the Dreamblade minis, but they're su much easier to, uh, debase.

So there I was, with a bunch of baseless minis, and exactly the right number of coins of exactly the right size. I needed two more things: glue and paint.

The internet recommended superglue. I had somehow gone my whole life without realizing how mighty superglue is. Superglue, much like friendship, is magic. Holy crap is superglue aptly named. So that's that question answered.

I seem to have misplaced my craft paints, so we searched for a little while and eventually turned up some black Volvo touch-up paint. My parents recently arranged to bring a silver Volvo into our lives, replacing the last in a long string of several black Volvos, so we figured we would be unlikely to need it. Plus, your traditional Volvo is likely to be made of metal, so maybe this paint will stick properly to the metal coins. The main problem was perhaps that the brush was really too big for such delicate work, but we may not even have any more suitable brushes.


In retrospect, I should have tried painting the coins before gluing the figures on, though the way I did it had some features to recommend it.

For one thing, the Internet recommended gluing, then painting. I didn't know why until my dad mentioned that glue can act as a solvent on paint, so I could well have wound up having to just repaint around the feet (the most delicate and difficult to paint area) anyway.

For another, it's very difficult to paint coins. This way I had something to hold on to (the mini itself) as I painted the bases.

Plus, superglue fumes leave little white residues, which I was only too happy to paint over (though in retrospect perhaps I should have tried washing it off first).

The main problem, of course, as you can see in the pictures, is that sometimes the minis got black paint on their shoes. They look like they're trudging through black mud. Oh well.

The completed set


So, the procedure, gleaned from common sense and various places on the internet, was very simple:
- Squeeze some superglue out into a puddle on the disposable sheet you're working on
- Touch the feet of the mini to the puddle of superglue
- Affix the mini to the coin (some of them didn't stand up on their own; you only need to hold these for a few seconds before the superglue takes properly)
- By the time you've glued all the minis, the superglue on the first few is well and truly dry. Squeeze a little paint into a puddle, hold the minis by their bodies, and paint the bases, trying not to get too much on their wee little shoes. Paint the edges of the bases, too, it looks better.

The completed set

(Actually, there was one additional step before any of the others: glue the sword arm back onto one of the pirate wenches who lost it (In the above picture: second row, center and center-right. I can't recall which is the one who lost her arm). I briefly considered gluing it back in a different position, possibly brandishing it as a weapon rather than leaning on it, to distinguish the two minis if nothing else. But it just looked too weird; it's too obvious she's resting her hand on the hilt, not gripping it.)

I used very close to 100% of the remaining paint. (If there was any left, my procedures for eking the very last of the paint out would have rendered it dry anyway.)

I had four coins left over, so I just painted them black and left them mini-less. Maybe I'll use them for swarms, or else as miscellaneous markers.

The completed set

Yes, the bell golem has a different colored base than the others. It's less evident in the photograph, but in person, the coin is almost exactly the same colour as that particular mini. I liked that effect, so I opted to leave its base unpainted.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Custom Reincarnate Tables 2: All Of Them

If you are looking for (or wish to return to) the central list of my updated Reincarnate tables, click here.


Some time ago, I posted my procedure for generating a custom reincarnate table, as well as a sample humanoid table to replace the default one.

Since then, I've noticed one of the more regular sources of traffic to this blog has come from people searching Google for alternate reincarnate tables (Giant in particular). So, for your consideration, I present my full set of custom tables. Including my personal Humanoid table, which has the template option and Engineer.

I make no claims as to absolute usefulness; most of these data were near-automatically imported and sorted according to an algorithm, without too much in the way of hands-on analysis. This is only a baseline to work from. Feel free to reroll if you get a result you find too bizarre, especially if you've stumbled upon this while googling in the middle of a session.

(For example, a dragonwrought kobold might come back as a 20HD LA+8 (or so) Young Adult Gold Dragon. Depending on your DMing style, this probably calls for either a.) rerolling on the table or b.) treating it as an Epic Destiny a la 4e - "Your character is now 28 levels stronger, 3 size categories larger, and a legit True Dragon. He is so far beyond the power of the rest of his party that no more good could come of their adventuring together, so he graciously takes his leave and flies off. Roll up a new character.")

Yes, you can be reincarnated into a swarm with a hive mind. If this displeases you, ignore it.

Anyway, without further ado, the reincarnation charts I use:


Choose the table appropriate to the Type of the creature to be reincarnated. Roll on that table.

If you get a result that indicates another type, reroll on the indicated table. If you get a result of "Other", roll on the list of types to determine what the creature's new type is, then roll on the table for that type.

If you get a result of "Reroll, + template" on any table, reroll on that table and roll once on the Templates table, applying whatever result you get on the Templates table to the result on the other.

1-6 Aberrations
7-12 Animals
13-18 Constructs
19-24 Dragons
25-30 Elementals
31-36 Fey
37-42 Giant
43-58 Humanoid
59-64 Magical Beast
65-70 Monstrous Humanoid
71-76 Ooze
77-82 Outsider
83-88 Plant
89-94 Undead
95-100 Vermin
- Templates

1 Aboleth
2 Ahuizotl
3 Athach
4 Avolakia
5 Balhannoth
6 Beholder
7 Beholder, Gauth
8 Carrion Crawler
9 Catoblepas
10 Chilblain
11 Choker
12 Chuul
13 Chwidencha
14 Cloaker
15 Darktentacles
16 Darkweaver
17 Delver
18 Destrachan
19 Drider
20 Dustblight
21 Ethereal Filcher
22 Ethergaunt, Black
23 Ethergaunt, Red
24 Ethergaunt, White
25 Ettercap
26 Fihyr
27 Fihyr, Great
28 Gibbering Mouther
29 Grell
30 Grick
31 Harpoon Spider
32 Hook Horror
33-34 Howler Wasp
35 Howler Wasp Queen
36 Ixitxachitl
37 Ixitxachitl, Vampiric
38 Julajimus
39 Lodestone Marauder
40 Lurking Strangler
41 Mageripper Swarm
42 Malasynep
43 Maulgoth
44 Meenlock
45 Mimic
46 Mind Flayer
47-48 Mindshredder Larva
49 Mindshredder Warrior
50 Moonbeast
51 Morkoth
52 Naga, Dark
53 Naga, Guardian
54 Naga, Sprit
55 Naga, Water
56 Neogi, Adult
57-58 Neogi, Spawn
59 Ocularon
60 Odopi
61 Odopi, Elder
62 Otyugh
63 Otyugh, Lifeleech
64 Phasm
65 Phiuhl
66 Psurlon, Average
67 Psurlon, Elder
68 Psurlon, Giant
69 Roper, Prismatic
70 Rot Reaver
71 Rukanyr
72 Runehound
73 Rust Monster
74 Seryulin
75 Seryulin, Greater
76 Shivhad
77 Shrieking Terror, 10-headed
78 Shrieking Terror, 5-headed
79 Skum
80 Skybleeder
81 Slasrath
82 Snowcloak
83 Spectral Lurker
84 Stonesinger
85 Susurrus
86 Swarm, Abyssal Ant
87 Tunnel Terror
88 Uchuulon (Slime Chuul)
89 Umber Hulk
90 Will-O'-Wisp
91 Windghost
92 Wyste
93 Yuan-Ti, Anathema
94 Zern Arcanovore
95 Reroll, + template
96 Magical Beast
97 Outsider
98 Monstrous Humanoid
99 Undead
100 Other

Animals cannot have intelligence greater than 2. If a sapient creature is reincarnated into an animal, change the animal's type to Magical Beast.
1 Ape
2 Baboon
3 Badger
4 Barracuda
5 Bat
6 Bear, Black
7 Bear, Brown
8 Bear, Polar
9 Bison
10 Boar
11 Camel
12 Caribou
13 Cat
14 Cheetah
15 Constrictor Snake
16 Constrictor Snake, Giant
17 Crocodile
18 Crocodile, Giant
19 Dire Ape
20 Dire Badger
21 Dire Barracuda
22 Dire Bat
23 Dire Bear
24 Dire Boar
25 Dire Eel
26 Dire Hawk
27 Dire Horse
28 Dire Jackal
29 Dire Lion
30 Dire Puma
31 Dire Rat
32 Dire Tiger
33 Dire Toad
34 Dire Tortoise
35 Dire Vulture
36 Dire Weasel
37 Dire Wolf
38 Dire Wolverine
39 Dog
40 Donkey
41 Eagle
42 Eel
43 Elephant
44 Fox, Arctic
45 Hawk
46 Hippopotamus
47 Horned Lizard
48 Horse, Heavy
49 Horse, Light
50 Hyena
51 Leopard
52 Lion
53 Lizard
54 Lizard, Monitor
55 Manta Ray
56 Monkey
57 Mule
58 Octopus
59 Otter
60 Otter, Sea
61 Owl
62 Penguin
63 Pony
64 Porpoise
65 Rat
66 Raven
67 Rhinoceros
68 Roc
69 Sea Lion
70 Sea Tiger
71 Seal
72 Shark, Huge
73 Shark, Large
74 Shark, Medium
75 Smilodon (Saber-Toothed Tiger)
76 Snapping Turtle
77 Squid
78 Stingray
79 Tiger
80 Toad
81 Viper, Huge
82 Viper, Large
83 Viper, Medium
84 Viper, Small
85 Viper, Tiny
86 Vulture
87 Walrus
88 Weasel
89 Whale, Baleen
90 Whale, Cachalot
91 Whale, Orca
92 Wolf
93 Wolverine
94 Woolly Mammoth
95 Reroll, + template
96 Magical Beast
97 Vermin
98 Dragon
99 Giant
100 Other

Only constructs with the [living construct] subtype can be reincarnated. If a non-construct or a construct with the [living construct] subtype is reincarnated into the body of a construct, apply the [living construct] or [native] subtype to the new body, at your discretion. These subtypes indicate and are a function of the presence of a soul, so if a soul is inserted into a construct body, the result must possess this subtype.
1 Animated Object, Colossal
2 Animated Object, Gargantuan
3 Animated Object, Huge
4-5 Animated Object, Large
6-7 Animated Object, Medium
8-9 Animated Object, Small
10-11 Animated Object, Tiny
12-13 Automaton, Hammerer
14-15 Automaton, Pulverizer
16 Blackstone Gigant
17-18 Bogun
19 Bronze Serpent
20 Cadaver Collector
21 Cadaver Collector, Greater
22-23 Caryatid Column
24-25 Clockroach
26 Clockwork Horror, Adamantine
27-28 Clockwork Horror, Electrum
29 Clockwork Horror, Gold
30 Clockwork Horror, Platinum
31-32 Clockwork Mender
33-34 Clockwork Mender Swarm
35-36 Clockwork Pony
37-38 Clockwork Stallion
39 Demon, Retriever
40-41 Dread Guard
42 Golem, Alchemical
43 Golem, Blood Golem of Hextor
44 Golem, Brain
45 Golem, Brass
46 Golem, Chain
47 Golem, Clay
48 Golem, Coral
49 Golem, Demonflesh
50 Golem, Dragonflesh
51 Golem, Fang
52 Golem, Flesh
53 Golem, Gloom
54 Golem, Hangman
55 Golem, Hellfire
56 Golem, Ice
57 Golem, Iron
58 Golem, Mud
59 Golem, Prismatic
60 Golem, Sand
61 Golem, Shadesteel
62 Golem, Stained Glass
63 Golem, Stone
64 Golem, Web
65 Grisgol
66-67 Homunculus
68 Inevitable, Kolyarut
69 Inevitable, Marut
70 Inevitable, Quarut
71 Inevitable, Varakhut
72 Inevitable, Zelekhut
73-74 Iron Cobra
75 Juggernaut
76-77 Maug
78-79 Necrophidius
80 Nimblewright
81 Raggamoffyn, Common
82 Raggamoffyn, Guttersnipe
83 Raggamoffyn, Shrapnyl
84 Raggamoffyn, Tatterdemanimal
85 Rogue Eidolon
86 Runic Guardian
87 Seaforged
88 Shield Guardian
89 Slaughterstone Behemoth
90 Slaughterstone Eviscerator
91 Warforged
92 Waste Crawler (Anhydrut)
93 Wicker Man
94 Zodar
95 Reroll, + template
96 Undead
97 Elemental
98 Plant
99 Ooze
100 Other

1-6 Ambush Drake
7-10 Dragon Eel
11-15 Dragon Turtle
16-17 Dragon, Chromatic, Black
18 Dragon, Chromatic, Blue
19-20 Dragon, Chromatic, Green
21 Dragon, Chromatic, Red
22-23 Dragon, Chromatic, White
24 Dragon, Gem, Amethyst
25-26 Dragon, Gem, Crystal
27 Dragon, Gem, Emerald
28 Dragon, Gem, Sapphire
29 Dragon, Gem, Topaz
30-31 Dragon, Metallic, Brass
32 Dragon, Metallic, Bronze
33 Dragon, Metallic, Copper
34 Dragon, Metallic, Gold
35 Dragon, Metallic, Silver
36-42 Felldrake, Crested
43-48 Felldrake, Horned
49-54 Felldrake, Spitting
55-56 Hellfire Wyrm
57-58 Linnorn, Corpse Tearer
59-61 Linnorn, Dread
62-64 Linnorn, Gray
65-71 Pseudodragon
72-76 Rage Drake
77-79 Sea Drake
80-83 Ssvaklor
84-85 Ssvaklor, Greater
86-89 Sunwyrm
90-94 Wyvern
95 Reroll, + template
96 Animal
97 Elemental
98 Magical Beast
99 Outsider
100 Other

Elementals cannot normally be reincarnated. There is no existing subtype which indicates an elemental with a separate soul. If a non-elemental is reincarnated into the body of an elemental, apply the [native] or [living construct] subtype, at your discretion (ignoring the convention that these subtypes be applied only to Outsiders and Constructs, respectively).
1 Avatar of Elemental Evil, Black Rock Triskelion
2 Avatar of Elemental Evil, Cyclonic Ravager
3 Avatar of Elemental Evil, Holocaust Disciple
4 Avatar of Elemental Evil, Waterveiled Assassin
5-6 Belker
7-8 Breathdrinker
9-10 Caller from the Deeps
11-12 Chraal
13-14 Dust Twister
15 Elemental Weird, Air
16 Elemental Weird, Earth
17 Elemental Weird, Fire
18 Elemental Weird, Ice
19 Elemental Weird, Snow
20 Elemental Weird, Water
21 Elemental, Air, Elder
22 Elemental, Air, Greater
23-24 Elemental, Air, Huge
25-26 Elemental, Air, Large
27-28 Elemental, Air, Medium
29-31 Elemental, Air, Small
32 Elemental, Earth, Elder
33 Elemental, Earth, Greater
34-35 Elemental, Earth, Huge
36-37 Elemental, Earth, Large
38-39 Elemental, Earth, Medium
40-42 Elemental, Earth, Small
43 Elemental, Fire, Elder
44 Elemental, Fire, Greater
45-46 Elemental, Fire, Huge
47-48 Elemental, Fire, Large
49-50 Elemental, Fire, Medium
51-53 Elemental, Fire, Small
54 Elemental, Storm, Elder
55 Elemental, Storm, Greater
56 Elemental, Storm, Huge
57-58 Elemental, Storm, Large
59-60 Elemental, Storm, Medium
61-63 Elemental, Storm, Small
64 Elemental, Water, Elder
65 Elemental, Water, Greater
66-67 Elemental, Water, Huge
68-69 Elemental, Water, Large
70-71 Elemental, Water, Medium
72-74 Elemental, Water, Small
75-76 Fire Bat
77-78 Galeb Duhr
79 Immoth
80-81 Inferno Spider
82-83 Invisible Stalker
84 Living Holocaust
85-87 Magmin
88 Omnimental
89-90 Stone Spike
91 Tempest
92-94 Thoqqua
95 Reroll, + template
96 Construct
97 Dragon
98 Ooze
99 Undead
100 Other

1-5 Domovoi
6-9 Dryad
10-16 Feytouched
17-20 Fossergrim
21-27 Jermlaine
28-29 Joystealer
30-31 Kelpie
32 Lunar Ravager
33 Nymph
34 Ocean Strider
35-36 Oread
37-42 Petal
43 Rimefire Eidolon
44-49 Rusalka
50-52 Satyr
53-57 Shadar-Kai
58-60 Sirine
61 Spirit of the Land
62-65 Splinterwaif
66-68 Spriggan
69-73 Sprite, Grig
74-78 Sprite, Nixie
79-82 Sprite, Pixie
83-88 Uldra
89 Verdant Prince
90-92 Vodyanoi
93-94 Yuki-On-Na
95 Reroll, + template
96 Humanoid
97 Outsider
98 Giant
99 Monstrous Humanoid
100 Other

1-8 Ogre
9-14 Ettin
15-21 Fensir
22-26 Fensir, Rakka
27-28 Firbolg
29-30 Fomorian
31 Geriviar
32-38 Giant, Bog
39-42 Giant, Cloud
43-45 Giant, Craa'ghoran
46-48 Giant, Fire
49-52 Giant, Forest
53-56 Giant, Frost
57-62 Giant, Hill
63 Giant, Mountain
64 Giant, Ocean
65-66 Giant, Shadow
67-71 Giant, Stone
72-73 Giant, Storm
74-76 Giant, Sun
77-82 Ogre Mage
83-89 Troll
90-94 Troll, Cave
95 Reroll, + template
96 Animal
97 Fey
98 Monstrous Humanoid
99 Humanoid
100 Other

1 Bugbear
2 Dark One, Dark Creeper
3-7 Dark One, Dark Stalker
8-12 Dwarf
13-15 Dwarf, Duergar
16-19 Dwarf, Glacier
20-24 Elf
25-26 Elf, Drow
27-31 Engineer
32-33 Githyanki
34-35 Githzerai
36-37 Gnoll
38-42 Gnome
43-44 Gnome, Svirfneblin
45-48 Goblin
49-53 Goblin, Snow
54-58 Halfling
59-61 Hobgoblin
62-66 Human
67-70 Kobold
71-72 Lizardfolk
73-75 Locathah
76-78 Merfolk
79-82 Mongrelfolk
83-87 Neanderthal
88-91 Orc
92 Selkie
93 Skulk
94 Troglodyte
95 Reroll, + template
96 Fey
97 Giant
98 Monstrous Humanoid
99 Outsider
100 Other

Magical Beast
Roll 1d2. On a result of 1, roll on the Magical Beast 1 table. On a result of 2, roll on the Magical Beast 2 table.
Magical Beast 1
1-2 Abrian
3-4 Ankheg
5 Aranea
6-7 Ash Rat
8-9 Ashworm
10-11 Asperi
12 Avalancher
13 Basilisk
14 Bearhound
15 Behir
16-17 Blink Dog
18-19 Blood Ape
20-21 Blood Hawk
22-23 Bloodsilk Spider
24-25 Branta
26 Brood Keeper
27 Bulette
28-29 Camelopardel
30 Chaos Roc
31-32 Chekryan
33 Chimera
34 Chronotyryn
35-36 Cloaked Ape
37 Cloud Ray
38-39 Cockatrice
40-41 Corollax
42-43 Darkmantle
44-45 Death Dog
46 Digester
47 Disenchanter
48 Displacer Beast
49 Dragonne
50 Dunewinder
51-52 Eagle, Giant
53-54 Ethereal Marauder
55 Feral Yowler
56 Fiendwurm
57 Flame Snake, Greater
58 Flame Snake, Lesser
59-60 Flame Snake, Minor
61 Frost Salamander
62 Frost Worm
63 Gambol
64 Gathra
65 Girallon
66 Gorgon
67 Gravorg
68 Gray Render
69 Griffon
70-71 Grimalkin
72-73 Hammerclaw
74-75 Hippocampus
76-77 Hippogriff
78 Hydra
79 Hydra, Cryo-
80 Hydra, Pyro-
81-82 Ice Toad
83 Ironclad Mauler
84-85 Jackalwere
86 Kraken
87-88 Krenshar
89 Kuldurath
90 Lamia
91 Lammasu
92 Leviathan
93 Lucent Worm
94 Manticore
95 Mivilorn
96 Mivilorn, Elite Demon War Mount
97 Mooncalf
98-99 Moonrat
100 Mudmaw

Magical Beast 2
1 Nethersight Mastiff
2 Nightmare Beast
3-4 Owl, Giant
5-6 Owlbear
7-8 Pegasus
9-10 Phase Spider
11-12 Phase Wasp
13 Phoenix
14-15 Phoera
16 Purple Worm
17 Quanlos
18 Ramfish
19 Rampager
20-21 Raven, Giant
22 Razor Boar
23 Remorhaz
24 Roper
25-26 Sand Hunter
27 Sea Cat
28-29 Seawolf (human form)
30-31 Seawolf (hybrid form)
32-33 Seawolf (natural form)
34-35 Senmurv
36-37 Shadow Asp
38 Shadow Spider
39 Shedu
40-41 Shocker Lizard
42 Sisiutl
43-44 Skiurid
45 Spawn of Tiamat, Blackspawn Stalker
46-47 Spawn of Tiamat, Bluespawn Ambusher
48 Spawn of Tiamat, Bluespawn Borrower
49 Spawn of Tiamat, Bluespawn Stormlizard
50-51 Spawn of Tiamat, Greenspawn Leaper
52 Spawn of Tiamat, Greenspawn Razorfiend
53 Spawn of Tiamat, Redspawn Firebelcher
54 Spawn of Tiamat, Whitespawn Iceskidder
55 Spellgaunt
56 Sphinx, Androsphinx
57 Sphinx, Canisphinx
58 Sphinx, Criosphinx
59 Sphinx, Crocosphinx
60 Sphinx, Gynosphinx
61 Sphinx, Hieracosphinx
62 Sphinx, Saurosphinx
63 Sphinx, Threskisphinx
64-65 Spider Eater
66 Spirit of the Air
67-68 Stirge
69 Swamplight Lynx
70 Swarm, Cranium Rat, Average Pack
71 Swarm, Cranium Rat, Greater Pack
72-73 Swarm, Cranium Rat, Lesser Pack
74 Swarm, Hellwasp
75 Tarrasque
76-77 Terlen
78 Thunder Worm
79 Thunderbird
80 Tlalusk
81 Tomb Spider
82-83 Tomb Spider Broodswarm
84-85 Unicorn
86 Urskan
87 Varrangoin, Arcanist
88 Varrangoin, Lesser
89 Varrangoin, Rager
90 Winter Wolf
91-92 Worg
93 Yrthak
94 Zezir
95 Reroll, + template
96 Aberration
97-100 Other

Monstrous Humanoid
1 Abeil, Queen
2 Abeil, Soldier
3-5 Abeil, Vassal
6-7 Boggle
8 Braxat
9-10 Centaur
11-12 Derro
13 Desmodu
14-15 Doppelganger
16 Ethereal Doppelganger
17-19 Frost Folk
20-21 Gargoyle
22-24 Goatfolk (Ibixian)
25-28 Grimlock
29-30 Hag, Annis
31 Hag, Green Hag
32-34 Hag, Sea Hag
35 Harpy
36 Jackal Lord
37-38 Khaasta
39 Kopru
40-42 Kuo-Toa
43-44 Loxo
45 Marzanna
46-47 Medusa
48-49 Minotaur
50 Minotaur, Greathorn
51 Nagatha
52-54 Nycter
55-58 Ophidian
59 Ormyrr
60-62 Sahuagin
63 Sarkrith, Spelleater
64 Sarkrith, Thane
65 Scorpionfolk
66 Skindancer
67 Spawn of Tiamat, Blackspawn Raider
68 Spawn of Tiamat, Bluespawn Godslayer
69-70 Spawn of Tiamat, Greenspawn Sneak
71 Spawn of Tiamat, Redspawn Arcaniss
72-75 Spawn of Tiamat, Whitespawn Hordeling
76-77 Spawn of Tiamat, Whitespawn Hunter
78 Spell Weaver
79-81 Thri-Kreen
82-83 Yak Folk
84-85 Yeti
86 Yuan-Ti, Abomination
87 Yuan-Ti, Halfblood
88 Yuan-Ti, Ignan
89-90 Yuan-Ti, Pureblood
91-92 Yurian
93 Zern
94-95 Zern Blade Thrall
96 Aberration
97 Fey
98 Giant
99 Humanoid
100 Other

1-9 Aquatic Ooze, Bloodbloater
10-18 Aquatic Ooze, Flotsam Ooze
19-24 Aquatic Ooze, Reekmurk
25 Arcane Ooze
26-27 Bloodfire Ooze
28 Bone Ooze
29-32 Conflagration Ooze
33-34 Corrupture
35-36 Ethereal Ooze
37 Flesh Jelly
38-40 Ooze, Black Pudding
41-43 Ooze, Brine
44-51 Ooze, Gelatinous Cube
52-59 Ooze, Gray Ooze
60-64 Ooze, Lava
65-70 Ooze, Ochre Jelly
71-74 Pudding, White
75-81 Reason Stealer
82-86 Snowflake Ooze
87-93 Summoning Ooze
94 Teratomorph
95 Reroll, + template
96 Magical Beast
97 Outsider
98 Monstrous Humanoid
99 Undead
100 Other

Only outsiders with the [native] subtype can be reincarnated. If a non-outsider or an outsider with the [native] subtype is reincarnated into the body of an outsider, apply the [native] or [living construct] subtype to the new body, at your discretion. These subtypes indicate and are a function of the presence of a soul distinct from the body, so if a soul is inserted into an outsider body, the result must possess one of these subtypes.
Roll 1d2. On a result of 1, roll on the Outsider 1 table. On a result of 2, roll on the Outsider 2 table.
Outsider 1
1 Formian, Worker
2 Ether Scarab
3 Planetouched, Aasimar
4 Planetouched, Maeluth
5 Planetouched, Mechanatrix
6 Planetouched, Tiefling
7 Planetouched, Wispling
8 Archon, Lantern
9 Devil, Lemure
10 Planetouched, Chaond
11 Planetouched, Zenythri
12 Vargouille
13 Bacchae
14 Bladeling
15 Imp, Filth
16 Demon, Quasit
17 Demonhive, Attendant
18 Demonhive, Demonet Swarm
19 Devil, Imp
20 Kaorti
21 Nerra, Varoot
22 Planetouched, Shyft
23 Windblade, Windrazor
24 Aoa, Droplet
25 Arrowhawk, Juvenile
26 Demon, Abyssal Maw
27 Demon, Abyssal Skulker
28 Demon, Dretch
29 Demon, Nashrou
30 Tojanida, Juvenile
31 Xorn, Minor
32 Formian, Warrior
33 Imp, Bloodbag
34 Imp, Euphoric
35 Triton
36 Vorr
37 Wrackspawn
38 Yugoloth, Skeroloth
39 Azer
40 Demon, Skulvyn
41 Ravid
42 Mephit, Air
43 Mephit, Dust
44 Mephit, Earth
45 Mephit, Fire
46 Mephit, Glass
47 Mephit, Ice
48 Mephit, Magma
49 Mephit, Ooze
50 Mephit, Salt
51 Mephit, Steam
52 Mephit, Sulfur
53 Mephit, Water
54 Rast
55 Yeth Hound
56 Yugoloth, Voor
57 Barghest
58 Hell Hound
59 Visilight
60 Achaierai
61 Devil, Advespa
62 Dwarf Ancestor
63 Salamander, Flamebrother
64 Arrowhawk, Adult
65 Celestial, Cervidal
66 Formian, Winged Warrior
67 Half-Fiend, Durzagon
68 Howler
69 Nerra, Kalareem
70 Shadow Mastiff
71 Slaad, Mud
72 Tojanida, Adult
73 Demon, Abyssal Ravager
74 Demon, Babau
75 Formian, Taskmaster
76 Sylph
77 Xorn, Average
78 Barghest, Greater
79 Canomorph, Haraknin
80 Demon, Jovoc
81 Demon, Maurezhi
82 Demonhive, Queen
83 Devil, Desert (Araton)
84 Keeper
85 Archon, Hound
86 Chaos Beast
87 Deva, Movanic
88 Devil, Hellcat (Bezekira)
89 Genie, Janni
90 Nightmare
91 Xill
92 Formian, Armadon
93 Guardinal, Avoral
94 Rejkar
95 Trilloch
96 Yugoloth, Canoloth
97 Yugoloth, Corruptor of Fate
98 Archon, Justice
99 Devil, Bearded Devil (Barbazu)
100 Dwarf, Midgard

Outsider 2
1 Eladrin, Bralani
2 Night Hag
3 Windblade, Windscythe
4 Genie, Djinni
5 Genie, Efreeti
6 Genie, Qorrashi
7 Maelephant
8 Marrash
9 Yugoloth, Piscoloth
10 Demon, Succubus
11 Demon, Zovvut
12 Devil, Bone Devil (Osyluth)
13 Vaporighu
14 Celestial, Lupinal
15 Devil, Chain Devil (Kyton)
16 Dune Stalker
17 Formian, Observer
18 Glimmerskin
19 Lillend
20 Salamander, Average
21 Slaad, Red
22 Canomorph, Vultivor
23 Demon, Whisper
24 Devil, Amnizu
25 Yugoloth, Mezzoloth
26 Demodand, Farastu
27 Demon, Bebilith
28 Demon, Palrethee
29 Deva, Monadic
30 Formian, Myrmarch
31 Rilmani, Ferrumach
32 Slaad, Blue
33 Yugoloth, Echinoloth
34 Arrowhawk, Elder
35 Demon, Jarilith
36 Devil, Barbed Devil (Hamatula)
37 Eladrin, Ghaele
38 Xorn, Elder
39 Devil, Erinyes
40 Guardinal, Leonal
41 Rakshasa
42 Tojanida, Elder
43 Canomorph, Shadurakul
44 Demon, Alkilith
45 Demon, Arrow
46 Demon, Glabrezu
47 Devil, Malebranche
48 Hell Hound, Nessian Warhound
49 Salamander, Noble
50 Slaad, Green
51 Steel Predator
52 Yugoloth, Marraenoloth
53 Couatl
54 Demodand, Kelubar
55 Demon, Kastighur
56 Rukarazyll
57 Slaad, Gray
58 Yugoloth, Yagnoloth
59 Demon, Vrock
60 Devil, Ice Devil (Gelugon)
61 Aoa, Sphere
62 Demon, Nalfeshnee
63 Ethereal Slayer
64 Slaad, Death
65 Rilmani, Cuprilach
66 Scyllan
67 Yugoloth, Nycaloth
68 Angel, Planetar
69 Demon, Hezrou
70 Demon, Kelvezu
71 Justicator
72 Demodand, Shator
73 Devil, Horned Devil (Cornugon)
74 Nerra, Sillit
75 Demon, Wastrilith
76 Demon, Marilith
77 Devil, Xerfilstyx
78 Angel, Astral Deva
79 Archon, Trumpet
80 Demon, Sorrowsworn
81 Yugoloth, Arcanaloth
82 Yugoloth, Ultroloth
83 Formian, Queen
84 Concordant Killer
85 Devil, Pit Fiend
86 Demon, Myrmyxicus
87 Marruspawn Abomination
88 Demon, Balor
89 Devil, Paeliryon
90 Titan
91 Rilmani, Aurumach
92 Angel, Solar
93 Demon, Deathdrinker
94 Demon, Klurichir
95 Reroll, + template
96 Aberration
97 Dragon
98 Fey
99 Humanoid
100 Other

1-5 Assassin Vine
6-10 Battlebriar
11-15 Battlebriar, Warbound Impaler
16-20 Bloodthorn
21-25 Briarvex
26-30 Fungus, Shrieker
31-35 Fungus, Violet Fungus
36-39 Greenvise
40-43 Ironmaw
44-47 Ironthorn
48-51 Kelp Angler
52-68 Myconid
69-70 Needlefolk
71-72 Night Twist
73-74 Oaken Defender
75-76 Octopus Tree
77-78 Orcwort
79-80 Orcwort, Wortling
81 Phantom Fungus
82 Plague Brush
83 Porcupine Cactus
84 Red Sundew
85 Saguaro Sentinel
86 Shambling Mound
87 Sporebat
88 Tendriculos
89 Treant
90 Tumbling Mound
91 Twig Blight
92 Vine Horror
93 Wizened Elder
94 Yellow Musk Creeper
95 Reroll, + template
96 Construct
97 Ooze
98 Undead
99 Vermin
100 Other

Undead cannot normally be reincarnated. There is no existing subtype which indicates an undead with a separate soul. If a non-undead is reincarnated into the body of an undead, apply the [native] or [living construct] subtype at your discretion (ignoring the convention that these subtypes normally apply only to Outsiders and Constructs, respectively).
1 Abyssal Ghoul
2-4 Allip
5-7 Ashen Husk
8 Banshee
9-10 Bhut
11-13 Blackskate
14 Bloodhulk, Crusher
15-16 Bloodhulk, Fighter
17 Bloodhulk, Giant
18-19 Bodak
20 Bone Naga
21-22 Boneclaw
23-24 Bonedrinker
25-26 Bonedrinker, Lesser
27 Charnel Hound
28 Corpse Gatherer
29 Crawling Apocalypse
30 Crawling Head
31 Crimson Death
32-34 Crypt Thing
35 Deathbringer
36 Deathshrieker
37-38 Defacer
39 Demon, Blood Fiend
40 Devourer
41 Dust Wight
42 Effigy
43 Entombed
44 Famine Spirit
45-47 Ghoul
48-50 Ghoul, Ghast
51 Gravecrawler
52 Hullathoin
53-54 Icegaunt
55 Jahi
56 Mohrg
57-58 Mummy
59 Necronaut
60-62 Necrotic Carnex
63 Nightshade, Nightcrawler
64 Nightshade, Nightwalker
65 Nightshade, Nightwing
66 Plague Spewer
67-69 Plague Walker
70-71 Quth-Maren
72 Ragewind
73-75 Shadow
76-77 Spawn of Kyuss
78-79 Spectre
80 Ulgurstasta
81-83 Vampire Spawn
84-86 Vasuthant
87 Vitreous Drinker
88-90 Wight
91 Winterspawn
92-93 Wraith
94 Wraith, Dread
95 Reroll, + template
96 Aberration
97 Construct
98 Elemental
99 Plant
100 Other

1 Ant Lion, Giant
2 Ant, Giant Queen
3-4 Ant, Giant Soldier
5-6 Ant, Giant Worker
7-8 Bee, Giant
9-10 Beetle, Giant Bombardier
11-13 Beetle, Giant Fire
14 Beetle, Giant Stag
15 Bonespear
16 Brine Swimmer
17 Centipede, Monstrous, Colossal
18 Centipede, Monstrous, Gargantuan
19 Centipede, Monstrous, Huge
20-21 Centipede, Monstrous, Large
22-24 Centipede, Monstrous, Medium
25-26 Centipede, Monstrous, Small
27-28 Centipede, Monstrous, Tiny
29 Century Worm
30 Chelicera
31 Crab, Monstrous, Colossal
32 Crab, Monstrous, Gargantuan
33 Crab, Monstrous, Huge
34 Crab, Monstrous, Large
35-36 Crab, Monstrous, Medium
37-39 Crab, Monstrous, Small
40 Knell Beetle
41-43 Leech, Giant
44 Leechwalker
45 Megapede
46 Neogi, Great Old Master
47 Praying Mantis, Giant
48 Scorpion, Monstrous, Colossal
49 Scorpion, Monstrous, Gargantuan
50 Scorpion, Monstrous, Huge
51 Scorpion, Monstrous, Large
52-53 Scorpion, Monstrous, Medium
54-56 Scorpion, Monstrous, Small
57-58 Scorpion, Monstrous, Tiny
59 Siege Crab
60 Snow Spider, Large
61-62 Snow Spider, Medium
63-65 Snow Spider, Small
66 Spider, Monstrous, Colossal
67 Spider, Monstrous, Gargantuan
68 Spider, Monstrous, Huge
69 Spider, Monstrous, Large
70-71 Spider, Monstrous, Medium
72-74 Spider, Monstrous, Small
75-76 Spider, Monstrous, Tiny
77 Swarm, Bloodfiend Locust
78 Swarm, Centipede
79 Swarm, Jellyfish
80-81 Swarm, Leech
82 Swarm, Locust
83 Swarm, Plague Ant
84 Swarm, Rapture Locust
85 Swarm, Scarab Beetle
86-87 Swarm, Spider
88 Swarm, Wasp
89 Termite, Giant Queen
90-91 Termite, Giant Soldier
92-93 Termite, Giant Worker
94 Wasp, Giant
95 Reroll, + template
96 Animal
97 Magical Beast
98 Ooze
99 Plant
100 Other

1 Anarchic
2 Axiomatic
3-5 Celestial
6-9 Chameleon
10-11 Child of the Sea
12-15 Draconic
16-17 Dragon Vassal
18-21 Dragonspawn
22 Dry Lich
23-24 Entropic
25-28 Feral
29-31 Fiendish
32 Ghost
33-34 GraveTouched Ghoul
35 Half-Celestial
36-37 Half-Dragon
38-39 Half-Elemental
40 Half-Farspawn
41-42 Half-Fey
43 Half-Fiend
44 Half-Illithid
45 Half-Troll
46-47 Half-Vampire
48 Hooded Pupil
49-50 Insectile
51 Lich
52-55 Lolth-Touched
56-59 Mineral Warrior
60 Mummified
61-65 Necropolitan
66-70 Primordial
71-75 Risen Martyr
76-77 Shadow
78-79 Spellwarped
80-81 Tainted One
82 Vampire
83 Vivacious
84-86 Werebear
87-89 Wereboar
90-92 Wererat
93-95 Weretiger
96-98 Werewolf
99-100 Woodling

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rewarding Backgrounds and Pictures

"A good background is like a skirt. Short enough to keep my interest, but long enough to cover the important bits." -- Ertier

In general, giving a good DM a background for your character is its own reward (for reason #2, below, which should be standard practice for all good DMs), so I always come up with one when I play in somebody else's game, even if it isn't asked for or rewarded.

When I DM, I usually reward players who give me a background in two ways:
1.) A small lump sum of bonus experience to start them out. (Usually 100 to start out with; more if the background is good.)
2.) Your background gets worked into my plot. (You were cursed by Vecna as a child and your entire squad got wiped out by sahuagin? You bet your bippy you're going to see more sahuagin and cultists of Vecna than you can stand.)


I encountered a reference to DMs who also reward players for drawing/photoshopping pictures of their characters, which sounds like a splendid notion. On Vaxia, where I played for years, it's standard practice to provide pictures for every character - sometimes several. Certain characters had one for each mood they might happen to be in, for example. Maybe a couple for when they grow their hair long during winter...

Anyhow, as I was saying, to visualize a character and make them more real, it helps to have a picture of them in front of you. Now that I think of it, I would mandate this instead of simply rewarding it, but that would entail coming up with and printing pictures for each of the pre-generated characters I've come up with, and possibly some major NPCs as long as I'm at it. Which I might do anyway, now that it's occurred to me.

While I'm at it, I could also reward creating/painting a custom mini -- so long as it's roughly to scale with the rest of the minis; a LEGO minifig only works if your character is on the very large side of Medium. (I used a LEGO minifig for Ludgeblatt Curdlegut, my first character, with exactly that jusification.)


P.S. Here, have three generations of Maliös:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Infinite Level 0 Spells

I've frequently heard a sentiment that Pathfinder, the 3.5e update created by Paizo Publishing, doesn't accomplish what it sets out to do, i.e., fix 3.5e. It fixes polymorph, sure, but it doesn't do much else that needed doing. All the classes are still in the same tiers, with maybe one or two exceptions; wizards and clerics can still break the game, fighters and monks are still craptastic. They supposedly either nerfed or buffed Power Attack, and nobody can quite come up with a straight answer which it is (as far as I can tell, they nerfed it for high-optimization purposes and buffed it for low-optimization purposes, which is good). Moreover, they did a lot of pointless little changes that are easy to lose track of, because they're so minor and there's so little reason for them.

So the idea that rings truest to me is this: treat Pathfinder as Unearthed Arcana II: a set of rules variants to pick and choose from at your leisure, applying some to your game and ignoring most.

And the rule change that seems biggest, and which I've most frequently heard praised, is that Pathfinder lets you cast infinite level 0 spells (known as cantrips if you're arcane, orisons if you're divine).

So, let's consider introducing that variant into our game. What do we need to consider?


Well, obviously, given a minute or two between encounters, it will make it possible to heal back to full health between each combat, because clerics can cast Cure Minor Wounds to heal 1hp of damage as many times as they want. But, oddly, the the things that have been sending the PCs back home in my games have mostly been ability damage recently, rather than HP damage. So this may not even have any effect. If it does have an effect, it will be to mitigate the effects of the 15-minute adventuring day at low levels, where HP and healing spells are the resources you most need to conserve. (It does nothing for high levels, where high-level spells are the only resource that matters, if you let your players get away with a 15-minute adventuring day at that point, which you shouldn't.)

Moreover, blaster casters can still contribute, albeit not much, even after they've used up all their spells. Acid splash, ray of frost, and other such level 0 spells let you keep doing damage, 1d3 points at a time.

I was worried about letting, say, a cleric cast any level 0 spell ever at will. But I consulted how Pathfinder does it, and it does it exactly how I was already inclined to do it: it's not just "infinite level 0 spells". It's "casting a level 0 spell doesn't unprepare it (for prepared casters)/use up a spell slot (for spontaneous casters)". Which is to say: a prepared caster can prepare a number of level 0 spells, and then use those spells an infinite number of times that day. I'm much more comfortable with that.

The other thing that worried me: there's at least one sorcerer feat that lets you use up two spell slots to cast a spell one level higher. If you have that feat, this could give you infinite level 1 spells, which is much less permissible than infinite level 0 spells. I'm sure there are plenty of other effects that work on the same principle. So let's add this blanket sub-rule, which I don't think is specified in Pathfinder: "If you use a level 0 spell or spell slot to do anything other than cast that particular spell, it still unprepares the spell/uses the spell slot." (A side-effect of this rule, which I don't mind at all, is that clerics must use one of their orison slots to prepare Cure Minor Wounds, because spontaneously casting it with another spell will still unprepare that spell.)

What of metamagic (ab)uses? Well, if you apply most metamagic to a cantrip/orison, it doesn't count as a level 0 spell anymore, so this rule doesn't apply. If you prepare a metamagicked cantrip as a level 1 spell, then it obeys all the rules of a level 1 spell, including using up the spell/slot once you've cast it. But some metamagic doesn't change the spell level! Such metamagic is in theory so weak that spending a feat to be able to apply it to a cantrip an infinite number of times per day should be more than a fair trade, but I don't trust it. So: "If you apply a metamagic effect to a level 0 spell, casting it unprepares the spell/uses the spell slot, even if it doesn't change the spell's level."


Additional possible variant: level 0 wands have infinite charges, and possibly level 0 scrolls don't vanish once they're used. (There's no way to justify potions not being consumed when you drink them.) I'm not sure whether this affects the game more than the original variant does; probably substantially, with the rule of thumb that however broken magic is, magic items are even more so (given that any character can potentially use certain magic items to cast any spell they want).


Having playtested this rule variant for a few sessions, I'm inclined to suggest this change: it works for every level 0 spell except cure minor wounds (and repair minor damage, and any other spells that restore hit points). HP are intended to be among the resources a party should take care to conserve, and allowing infinite cure minor removes that vital element of resource management. This change is distressingly arbitrary (what in-game reason is there for every other orison and cantrip to work infinitely while only these two don't? A better solution may be infinite cantrips but not infinite orisons, which is fine until you get a party where the tank is a warforged), but probably necessary.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Evil Encyclopedia of Evil

One of the several fun things about Blades of Avernum was item creation. I spent long hours, once upon a time, writing up scenarios, and I would always populate these scenarios with a multitude of custom items. A brief survey of such items:

Tin Foil Hat
Doorbane Axe
Science Pole
Gobbet of Flesh
Tasty Bugs
Meat of Malevolence
Lord Hammer's Hammer
Evil Candle of Doom
Coins of Costliness
Succubus Skirt
Pants of the Archangel
Miracle Pants/Miraculous Pants
Silk Panties
Pants of Pollution

Forgive me, I was young and BoA offered a "pants" item slot.

Anyhow, the set of items I most frequently tried to include into my scenarios as macguffins were nothing more than a list of alliterative names. Recently, when I was trying to decide what evil macguffin or plot coupon an evil priest of Quasxthe might want adventurers to steal from the monastery of Pelor (the mantra of the Open Gaming Table: options, options, options), it occurred to me to dust off this list. (The name is not actually redundant. It's less like the Evil League of Evil and more along the lines of the Monster Book of Monsters and the Invisible Book of Invisibility - it is an encyclopedia about evil which is itself evil.)


Each individual volume of the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil is a lesser artifact. Collectively, the entire encyclopedia qualifies as a greater artifact.

Evil Encyclopedia of Evil
Centuries ago, before the Inundation, the evil archtheurge Megiddo Mehida, adventuring companion of the first Count Rogan, made decades of work out of (very carefully) studying copies of the Book of Vile Darkness, Book of Exalted Deeds, Tome of Ancient Lore, Tome of the Stilled Tongue, Book of Infinite Spells, as well as lesser documents like Tomes of Understanding, Tomes of Leadership and Influence, Tomes of Clear Thought, Manuals of Quickness of Action, Manuals of Gainful Exercise, Manuals of Bodily Health, Golem Manuals, Vacuous Grimoires, and uncountably many scrolls. He learned more words of the Dark Speech than any sane mind could possibly contain. He worked for further decades, copying, writing, and splicing pages whole to construct a single document which would combine the powers of all these books and contain all the power that words collected together could possibly contain.
Megiddo worked so long and hard that one day, his minions entered his libratory to find it deserted; the only thing remaining of their master was a multi-volume encyclopedia. No one knows the details, but it is thought that Megiddo put so much of himself into his work that his physical form ceased to exist, and everything of him was subsumed within the encyclopedia itself.
The next part of the story is uncertain, but it is known that all the volumes of the encyclopedia were somehow dispersed to all corners of the globe even before the Inundation. To this day, evil cults still seek to recombine the scattered portions of the encyclopedia and wield its immense power for themselves.
The Evil Encyclopedia of Evil has seventeen volumes. Perusing each volume has a different effect on the reader. Once a character has begun to read, he is compelled to continue in whatever manner he began until he has finished (which takes 4d6 hours) unless he makes a DC20 Will save. If a character reads the book aloud, everyone within earshot must make a DC20 Will save or stand fascinated until the recitation is complete. If the book is read silently, only the reader suffers its effects. If the book is read aloud, all listeners suffer its effects. No two readers or listeners can ever quite agree on the specific contents of the volume they read, only that it was profoundly distasteful.
A character who suffers the effects of reading or hearing a volume read aloud takes an effect as if a spell had been cast on them, specific to each volume. Treat this spell as cast by a level 20 wizard or archivist, save DC 17+spell level. The effect of this spell is permanent, and can only be removed by Remove Curse or Dispel Magic.
Volume : Effect
Album of Agony : Angry Ache (BoVD 85)
Book of Blight : Unholy Blight (SRD)
Codex of Catastrophe : Earthquake (SRD)
Compendium of Corruption : Corrosive Grasp (SpC 53)
Dictionary of Doom : Doom (SRD)
Manifesto of Malevolence : Malevolent Miasma (SpC 137)
Manuscript of Malignance : Love's Pain (BoVD 98)
Omnibus of Obscenity : Blindness/Deafness (SRD)
Opuscule of Offensiveness : Addiction (BoVD 84)
Palimpsest of Plague : Contagion (SRD)
Paper of Pestilence : Plague of Rats (CD 174)
Publication of Profanity : Desecrate (SRD)
Report of Wrath : Rage (SRD)
Text of Turpitude : Red Fester (BoVD 102)
Tome of Tyranny : Geas/Quest to kill your closest friend (SRD)
Treatise of Terror : Fear (SRD)
Volume of Villainy : Morality Undone (BoVD 99)
If all 17 volumes are brought together and read aloud, all participants suffer all 17 effects once the reading is complete. Additionally, an Apocalypse From The Sky spell centered on the readers takes effect immediately after the completion of the recitation. The books themselves take no damage from the apocalypse.
It is possible to copy a volume of the Evil Encyclopedia of Evil using mundane skills and materials. A proper copy is identical in power to the original. However, the copier takes the effect of reading the book, but they automatically fail all saves, and the effect cannot be removed except by the application of a Wish, Miracle, or spell of similar power.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Open Gaming Table In Practice 2

For the third Open Gaming Table session, they went back to the mines. Two players brought new characters of their own, which was good. The duskblade returned, and three players played pregens.

I did indeed change to describing the mines rather than laboriously drawing them. One of the two rooms I had to draw, because there was combat in it, I simply could not get right, no matter how carefully I copied my original map, so eventually I gave up and called it good enough.

Two other highlights in this session:

The random encounter table turned up 1d3 horses deep inside the mines. Keep in mind, these mines have been infested with giant centipedes and abandoned for many weeks. In retrospect, "you come upon three horse skeletons" would have been a much better solution - the random encounter doesn't necessarily have to be alive, after all. Instead, I betrayed the principles of the random encounter table and said "No, that's preposterous, I'm rolling again." Alas.

The other highlight is a completely unpredicted situation. One room contains an empty barrel, which I decided on the fly happened to have been filled with some kind of booze at one point. One player figured the barrel, soaked through with old alcohol, is probably super-flammable. So he picked it up, carried it until there was an opportunity to use it, lit it on fire, and rolled it down a tunnel into the next room.

At which point I noticed my map key for the next room read:
northeast corner is shored up with extra supports
Due to the layout of the corridor, the barrel was aimed directly at the northeast corner of the room. The wooden supports merrily caught fire.

The PCs fled the suffocating smoke and angry swarm of centipedes. When they return, they're likely to find that room has quite collapsed in all sorts of interesting ways, for the same reason it had that extra bracing there in the first place.


The fourth game, I tested out the "cantrips/orisons as a free action" rule, and introduced the gladiatorial arena. I was secretly hoping the players would pick the arena, because I was a little excited to try it out, and, happily, they did. All the players but one brought their own characters, which is good.

They went through Round 4, then one of them had taken some poison, so they took their winnings and went home and slept for three days and came back and went through Round 5. Which is pretty impressive for level 1 characters, though they got lucky on the second go through, they got a First Blood match in round 4 against a single earth elemental. Which was a good combination, as earth elementals have quite high AC for that level, but somebody still rolled really high in the first round and took it out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adventures In Rebasing

So I recently came into possession of some super-cheap Mage Knight and Dreamblade miniatures, plus some old City of Heroes and Villains Heroclix I got as part of a promotion, and figured I could try using them for D&D as-is, or else have a fun adventure rebasing them.

The minis themselves vary. Some of them are very close to your standard Medium D&D mini, some are Large, some are a slightly terrible size between Medium and Large.

Dreamblade mini; Mage Knight mini; Medium D&D mini

You can pop the clicky outer/lower part of the base off some of the Mage Knight minis, and the inner base is about 1.25" in diameter. Very close to acceptable, but too big by a quarter-inch!

Nine Mage Knight figures, of which two have been removed from the clicky part of their bases and three have been removed from their bases entirely; a Heroclix mini; Large, Medium, and Small D&D minis

The Heroclix bases and some of the Mage Knight bases are of a slightly different design than the above mentioned bases. These minis are attached to the bigger portion of the base, which makes it a pain in the neck even to do the eponymous clicking thing, let alone pry part of the base off, and even if you did get it apart, you'd still be stuck with the wider base.

The Dreamblade minis are all on 1.5"x1.5" squares, which is even worse. If they were 2"x2", that would be fine for Large, but this in-between nonsense is unacceptable.

Ten Dreamblade minis; Large, Medium, and Small D&D minis

So, my aesthetic sense refuses to allow them to be used too regularly as-is. So, a rebasing quest!


I'm a little leery of destroying the monetary value of these things in order to turn them into things that are more valuable by dint of being more useful to me, but they were pretty close to dirt cheap, and they're not as likely to appreciate in value as genuine 3.5e minis are. (Though the D&D Minis line has been discontinued, D&D will always exist, and even if it becomes though it has become almost unrecognizable (hoho, 4e burn!), it will probably always be played on a 1"x1" grid; Dreamblade as a game has been discontinued entirely, and soon nobody will be able to find anyone to play it with. Especially if madmen like me keep defacing the miniatures!)

Although (unsurprisingly, given their limited-edition nature) the CoH/CoV heroclix currently seem to be selling for more than your average D&D mini on eBay - maybe I shouldn't have taken them out of their original packaging. Oops! I could have made back all the money I spent on that CoV box (on which I already effectively made a $10 profit, because I paid $5 and it came with a free month of game time worth $15, plus I still get to keep the in-game badges and other goodies). Oh well.

The Heroclix and Mage Knight figures are simply glued onto their bases, and are easy to snap off, with a knife or sometimes just by hand. The Dreamblade minis seem to be sculpted to their bases, and will need to be cut free with a very sharp knife.

Mage Knight mini snapped off its base; Small D&D mini; Dreamblade mini


The first step is to find new bases to which to rebase them. And the first step there is figuring out exactly how big the bases need to be.

Well, I figured it out, by measuring and then confirming on the internet: Medium minis use a 25mm base, though 1" would be close enough for government work. Large minis appear to use a base that is very close to 2". If you happen to find a mini small enough to qualify as Small, they use a base almost exactly the size of two US pennies stacked on top of one another (not that I would ever advocate defacing the currency of any country, that's a federal crime), or 20mm. If you find a mini large enough to qualify as Huge, that base is actually 3" (the smaller ones are presumably just shy of 1" and 2" to fit better in close proximity to one another, while you're not likely to have multiple Huges, there's enough space in the corners to have some maneuvering room anyway).

All mini bases appear to be 3/16" thick, but I'm guessing one can choose 1/8" or 1/4" without too much noticeable disparity.

I've got one mini that definitely qualifies as Large, and the rest are pretty firmly within the upper-Medium range. This is going to be irritating, I'm probably not going to be able to get one 45mm base (or even just a small number of 45mm bases) and a bunch of 25mm bases.

Two Dreamblade minis and a Medium D&D mini


The next step: acquiring new bases of the appropriate size.

We could just use US quarters. They're very nearly the right size, and you're likely to have them on hand. However, they cost you $0.50/base (or $0.25, if you're okay with bases half as tall as all your other minis, which might actually help slightly to ameliorate the problems inherent with the non-D&D minis being larger in scale than D&D minis), approximately the worst available value. Plus, as above, the federal crime thing. Also, quarters have ridged edges. So don't do this.

Gale Force 9 offers Econo Bases, with 125ish or 250ish bases for $10 or $15. The smaller amount winds up approaching $20 when you include postage, for about $0.16/base. (These guys make you create an account before they'll tell you how much shipping is, which makes me want to punch them and also withhold my dollars from them.)

LITKO Game Accessories offers Circular Miniature Bases. I probably won't need more than 50, because I only have about 42 minis that need rebasing and I don't intend to acquire too many more. (These guys let you get a number for shipping costs without making you make an account or fill in any information, which is nice.) This winds up being about $15, or $0.30/base. (If I wanted 100, it'd be $18, for $0.18/base, but that extra $3 is a frivolity.)

Warhammer and Warhammer 40k bases ("bits"? "bitz"?) seem to be going for much cheaper from various sources, but I can't seem to pin down an actual detailed description of what these are like. From what I can tell, their edges seem to be tapered in a way that D&D mini bases are not (a trivial concern, yes).

You could, of course, go to the nearest craft store and see if they sell small wooden circles of the appropriate size. But as long as we're rebasing because a circle (or square) is a quarter- or half-inch too big, we might as well get the new bases perfect, and good luck finding 25mm x 3mm circles at a craft store! They mostly seem to sell them by the inch, which might be close enough.

Three Dreamblade minis; three Mage Knight minis, of which two have been removed from their bases and one has been removed from the clicky part of its base; a Heroclix mini; Small, Medium, and Large D&D minis


Read the thrilling conclusion to this epic tale here!