My synDCon Dungeon Delves @Luddite_Vic @flashedarling #ADnD #DnD #4e #RPG 

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I know you’re all sick of hearing about my new house, but hear me out. This is a D&D post. During my move, I found some things I had lost. Sort of. I have the original Word and PDF versions, but I found the bounded hard copies. First, some context.

Luddite Vic and I ran a gaming club called the Gamers’ Syndicate, and ran a convention about a decade ago called synDCon, playing off the association with the Syndicate. It took place in the DC area (Rockville, MD, to be precise); hence, the odd capitalization in the convention’s name.

I’m like a free agent: Unrestricted.

The current edition of D&D at the time was 4th, and one of the marketing efforts for that edition was the “dungeon delve.” These were 30-45 minute (if I recall correctly) collections of three or four combat-only scenarios. They were great at conventions for giving gamers something to do if their adventures ran over. In many cases, there were minor prizes for completing the delves, which wasn’t always easy.

Well, I took that idea and ran with it for synDCon II. It was my pet project because I was able to combine a couple of ideas to make it worth my trouble. I created delves based on iconic encounters in 1st Edition AD&D adventures, added in pregens created by Galen, and named the event synDClash (shut up). Here’s the rundown:

  1. Return to the Borderlands (easy): The Mad Hermit, the Owlbear, and the Minotaur, all based on Keep on the Borderlands.
  2. Giant Problems (easy): The kitchen encounter from Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, the frozen tomb from Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and the children’s barracks from Hall of the Fire Giant King (they were actually “Fire Giant Tweens”).
  3. The Ruins at Inverness (medium): The chessmen, the medusa and “strange apes,” and the fire giant from my favorite D&D adventure, Ghost Tower of Inverness, which I’ve converted to 4e and 5e (only characters were published).
  4. Erelhei-Cinlu Rises (difficult): A troglodyte, wyverns, and piercers in a cavern from Descent into the Depths of the Earth; the statute of Blibdoolpoolp and some kuo-toa from from Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and the married couple Belgos and Silussa (the succubus) from Vault of the Drow.
  5. The Great Metal Dungeon (difficult): The mind flayer and vegepygmies, the combat-based robots, and the bulette from second favorite D&D adventure Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
  6. The Pit of the Queen (very difficult, by which I meant impossible): The demonweb maze populated by various giant arachnids, the two drow clerics sitting on towers, and Lolth herself from Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

We also allowed DMs to run the Fool’s Grove Delve, which was published by WotC. For synDClash (shut up), it was medium difficulty.

As you might guess, the Pit of the Queen was completely unfair. For those of you that have knowledge of 4e, here are three features that stand out for the final encounter with Lolth. First, the encounter begins with a lot of space between the PCs and Lolth, but with spider swarms near the PCs. The swarms have a close blast 3 basic attack(!). That is, if one PC provoked, the spider would execute a blast that could affect multiple PCs, and considering the cramped space and the range of the attack, there were always multiple targets. Oh, and of course that attack went off the moment the swarm was destroyed. Second, she had some animated statutes that kept PCs prone. Third, Lolth had a power that made her appear as “artillery.” However, the moment more than one PC at a time was adjacent to her, it became clear she was a “soldier.” No one saw that coming. They thought that once they got nearby, they’d have her, but that didn’t happen. There’s no way PCs could win this encounter if the DM played it as written, but that didn’t stop PCs from trying.

Josie, if you’re reading this, you’re credited on one of these as a playtester under the name, Jamie Morgan. I have no idea how that happened. 🙂

I was happy to see how popular synDClash (shut up) was. There were some people playing multiple delves for an entire slot, and not because there weren’t seats available at regular games. They enjoyed the nostalgia as well. If we had run a third synDCon, my next plan was to make a bunch of delves based on fairy tales, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I also found this gem from 1986.

One of these days, I’d like to run these again, and having hard copies for the adventures and the pre-generated characters makes that easy.

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Tiamutt #science #biology #gaming #DnD #ADnD #Tiamat

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s from a Facebook D&D group I frequent. Here’s what was shared (on this post if you can see it):

I know. This blog hasn’t been kind to canines (too many examples to count). But whether you’re a cat person or a dog person, everyone likes both kittens and puppies, and I’m no exception, so no backhanded compliments on this post.

Everyone’s reaction to this was some variation of “It’s a hydra!” Have they never heard of taxonomy? Reptiles aren’t even in the same class as canines. No, this is its own thing, and its name is Tiamutt, lord of all canines. Always check with me before classifying D&D monsters. I’m apparently much better at it than you guys.

Now someone stat that shit!

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I Must Admit . . . #Caturday #DnD #ADnD #RPG

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So in this image, cats are cast in the role of goblins (or at least baddies). I must admit there’s some sense to that.

Checks out.

Cats don’t give a shit, but at least they have my respect. Dogs would never make good adventurers. They’re all a bunch of followers all seeking the approval of their superiors. Maybe those bears are in charge.

Cats >> dogs.

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Cats from 1st Edition AD&D Oriental Adventures #DnD #RPG #ADnD #Caturday

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Recently, I discussed the introduction of eastern folklore and mythology to the MCU, and specifically discussed the shishi in Shang-Chi. This inspired me to crack open my new PDF of 1st Edition AD&D‘s (“1e“) Oriental Adventures, which I’d never read before. So far, I’m impressed, though I’ve just scratched the surface. Three new races, 10 new classes (10!), a bunch of new spells, and 31 new monsters. I find myself wondering whether the typical 1e player considered this book bloat, but I digress. Today is Caturday, so here are the cats that appear in Oriental Adventures.

Hengeyokai (p. 12)

One of the PC races, the hengeyokai (I’m assuming that’s also plural) are shape changers. Though not lycanthropes, they have the same three forms: animal, human, and a hybrid of the two. One type of hengeyokai is a cat, which must be chaotic (of course), and while naturally dexterous, has a penalty to wisdom (exactly what you’d expect).

Not particularly wise.

Generals of the Animal Kings: Tiger King (p. 120, Level X)

Oriental Adventures states that

The oriental mind has organized the world into a unified whole. One particularly strong belief is that of the Celestial Emperor, a powerful being who heads the Celestial Bureaucracy, a type of government of the spirits. Like the bureaucrats of the real world, these spirit officials can be corrupt, disobedient, just, or incompetent.

Oriental Adventures, page 116

Yes, I know. The “oriental mind.” *sigh* Anyway, one part of the bureaucracy are the generals of the animal kings, and the most powerful (by XP) type of general is the Tiger General, who suppresses rebellions or doles out punishment. He appears as a giant, anthropomorphic tiger wielding magic, scaring the hell out of characters with his appearance, and regenerating 5 hps/round. The best part, however, is that he wields a +5 vorpal sword (+8 to hit, 3 attacks/round). There could be more than one of them, and each one is always accompanied by 100 tigers. Good luck with that.

Shirokinukatsukami (p. 128, Level IX)

This one’s weird. Okay, it’s all weird, but this is really weird. The shirokinukatsukami has “the body of a horse, the face of a lion, the trunk and tusks of an elephant, the tail of a cow [intimidating!], and the feet of a tiger.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s enough to count as a cat. It’s a shame this book doesn’t provide a picture. Good luck visualizing that.

Google is your friend.

It can have up to 5 physical attacks per round, casts a lot of spells, regenerates, +3 or better weapon to hit. . . it’s a bad ass, which explains why there can be no more than four in existence at any point in time. This is also explained by how difficult it must be to build something like that. Fortunately, its lawful good, so your PCs should be okay even if it shows up.

Neither of the monsters appear on the random encounter table. They aren’t the kind of monster you’d want to randomly drop on a party. They deserve planning.

That’s it. Oriental Adventures has a ton of new material, but not a lot of cats.


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Returning to My AD&D Database #ADnD #DnD #RPG 

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My brain had to take a vacation for a couple weeks, but I’ve finally returned to my 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“) database. Having recently discussed the shishi, it was a nice coincidence that I finished Fiend Folio‘s oriental dragons last night. There were a couple of things that bothered me in the technical writing (e.g., is their lack of infravision a mistake?), but there was a creative choice that bugged me as well.

In my conversation with Tanya last Friday, she pointed out how eastern culture has far more good-aligned dragons than the western world. This was my understanding as well. Then why are all but one of the oriental dragons neutral along the moral axis? I get why Sobek, the crocodile-headed Egyptian god of the Nile, was made evil in most (every?) editions of D&D. He looked evil, and they needed a balance between good and evil gods for that pantheon. His evil fulfilled a narrative role, and there was plenty of material presented to accommodate some wiggle room. Besides, DMs are free to change it. No harm done.

That doesn’t seem to apply to neutrality, though. Sure, if the Fiend Folio had gone into depth as to the role their neutrality took, then there may be a narrative value to that change. Instead, it appears that they were made neutral simply because none of the chromatics or metallics were neutral. If you’re introducing a different culture into your game, it makes far more sense to remain loyal to it, at least until you’ve got a certain minimal level of material. That is, to start, it’s better to give DMs something authentic/faithful so that they have the right feel for that material before you or they make it their own. As with the Egyptian pantheon, oriental dragons should have been a balance of good and evil, and if one of them was made neutral, it wouldn’t have struck me the wrong way.

Note: I’ve never opened the 1e Oriental Adventures, though I recently bought the PDF from the DMs Guild. I say this to point out that I have no idea how an expansion of those cultures played out in the D&D world beyond what’s in the Fiend Folio and 1e Deities and Demigods.

My conclusion is that I’m going to have to do some personal research and, depending on what’s in the 1e Oriental Adventures, may modify these dragons. I definitely like oriental dragons and intend to use them.

No subdual for you!

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The Ixitxachitl Lich #science #biology #gaming #DnD #ADnD #ixitxachitl

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s (loosely) using science to imagine a D&D creature.

Funny story. I never thought I’d ever be able to spell ixitxachitl, and only recently did it stick in my brain. Now I can spell it at will. Small victories, huh?

Now, someone stat this thing.

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Dumb Monsters Aren’t Dumb @alphastream #ADnD #DnD #RPG

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The Den Of Geek guide to making a scary movie monster - Den of Geek
There’s big money in dumb monsters.

Okay, that title is false. Dumb monsters are dumb, but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a purpose. I’m currently entering Fiend Folio data into my 1st Edition AD&D database, so I’ve got dumb monsters on the brain. This reminds me of countless articles I’ve read listing the dumbest monsters in D&D. I don’t agree with all the entries, and I’d guess many of you don’t either. One list had a Beholder on it. That’s got to be a minority opinion. And Teos will have words with anyone who criticizes the flumph. This is, of course, because these lists are subjective, but most of these lists do involve the usual suspects.

For example, let’s look at the mauler. Just look at it. Try not to give it too much thought. You definitely shouldn’t consider how the thing reproduces. That won’t end well because you’ll likely have to consider what it looks like from behind, especially while it’s rolling around. Anyway, there aren’t many things dumber looking than that. However, such a monster can serve a purpose to an adventure writer.

D&D takes place in a world of magic, and that necessarily leads to things that don’t make logistic sense. In fact, maulers don’t need to breed through a natural process. Phew! So, let’s say that your BBEG is performing an apocalyptic ritual. You decide that the ritual’s end goal is to cause non-sentient animals to gain sentience and kill all humans. You don’t want to give that away, but you need an adventure seed that hints at what’s going on. You decide that the early stages of the ritual must manifest themselves with increasingly strange effects on the natural world. The early stages of the ritual may be working out the fine details of the process, causing grossly odd mutations to normal wildlife in the meantime. Such mutations would probably be painful, which would anger temperamental animals such as big cats. Sure, you could give them stronger bites and extra claws, but that’s not so much “odd” as mere exaggeration. We already have exaggerated animals, whether prehistoric or “dire.” You want something far weirder than a larger animal with an extra couple of claws. That plays out no differently than just giving your normal animal more attacks with the claws it already has. The mauler fits this scenario perfectly, so you should be glad that the mechanics of how such a creature would work are already written for you.

The mauler helps in another way. As I was writing this post, I chose the mauler. From there, I had to reverse engineer how the mauler would fit into the example I gave above. I decided that the nature of the ritual was to grant sentience and anger to ordinary animals; ergo, the mauler inspired my writing. Its odd nature gave me the idea I didn’t already have. One of these bizarre creatures could inspire an unexpected story element.

Let’s also look at the carbuncle. That freak always makes the lists of dumb or “unusual” monsters. It has a very specific goal. The actual problem with this creature is that everyone’s aware of it, so players aren’t going to fall for its tricks. However, the carbuncle teaches us that we can come up with a silly little story idea then build a creature around it. I’m sure that’s how the thing came into existence in the first place.

Dumb monsters can fit nicely within your adventure and even help you write it. Once you’ve chosen to use one, you already have a shortcut on how such oddly structured creatures would play out in combat.

Now go insert a duckbunny in your adventure.

Note: I’ve exhausted all the posts I’ve written and don’t plan to write any more for a while. Sorry, but I’m not in the mood and won’t be for some time. I guess the current streak ends at 194 days in a row with a post.

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Last week, I discussed some issues with the calculations for experience points (“XP”) in 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“). When I finally play 1e again, my intent is to play the game as written (as weird and impossible as that is), and every statement I make below will be in the context of the rules as written (unless expressly stated otherwise). I’m fully aware of the fact that a dungeon master can do what they want, but what I want to do is run the game as written. With that in mind, I intend to use XP, though I’m not a fan of it.

It makes far more sense to use a milestone method for leveling up. In 1e, you can’t level up within the course of an adventure because leveling up requires an expenditure of both time and money. You must spend between 1 to 4 weeks training, spending 1,500 gold pieces per level per week just to advance to the next level. (There may be even greater money and time spent on other matters, but those are outside the scope of this post.) In this regard, 1e is a perfect system for milestone leveling. There’ll never be a need for a calculation at the game table to see if it’s time to level up.

My reacquaintance with 1e does give me new appreciation for XP. The source of this appreciation is baked into why it would be difficult to run 1e without XP. (None of this will be new to any of you.) I like that you can earn XP based on treasure, which encourages playing characters intelligently (i.e., don’t have unnecessary fights). More importantly, level drain is some scary shit, and it gives you a sense of danger. That in turn immerses you in the game world. That said, I pointed out on Facebook that level drain more excessive than it needs to be, and someone suggested XP drain instead: each energy drain effect drains 500 XP per level. To that, I add the possibility that 1) in no event does XP drain take you below your current level; and 2) the XP (or level) drain is temporary. XP facilitates fine tuning energy drain to meet the DM’s specific needs, especially if you’re a modern gamer giving 1e a try.

I can live with XP, but I don’t look forward to tracking it. 🙂

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Oni – The Traditional Japanese Demon @MythsExplained #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #ADnD #DnD #RPG

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Last Monday, I shared a bit of Chinese folklore. Today, I’m continuing with the eastern theme, moving northeast a bit. Here’s a video on the Japanese Oni. 1st Edition AD&D called them “Ogre Magi.” It’s no coincidence that the speaker points out how much they looked like ogres.

It isn’t all about Europe, or at least it shouldn’t be.

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