This is a nerdy blog, so even Christmas must be nerdy here. I’m stealing this from a Facebook friend, SMK. In Christmas of 1977, when I was 9, I received this as a gift:
As with most gifts I received, it was really a gift for my brother, but I managed to have a lot of fun with it until he felt it was too nerdy for him. At that point, I was ridiculed for playing it until the Satanic Panic kicked in. Then I was forbidden from playing it, and it was destroyed. No worries, though. I have a close, personal relationship with my lord and savior, eBay.
I played from 1977 to 1981. Other than my sporadic flirtation with the FASA Star Trek RPG in the mid to late 80s (I had no way to connect with gamers back then), there was no RPG gaming until 2005, which is when I started playing Living Greyhawk with the D&D 3.5 crowd. That’s how I met almost all of you, and for better or worse, that’s how most of you got (had?) to meet me. I recently stopped playing, but you represent an extension of the Christmas gift that kept on giving, even if it took a long hiatis.
We’re still in need of DMs to run D&D at the All-Star Comic Con, on June 8-9, 2019, at the Sheraton in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The gaming schedule is up (available by clicking here), but only the Pathfinder and Starfinder games are allowing sign ups (do so!) because those are the only ones with assigned GMs. We still need DMs for our D&D games.
If you’re interested, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know which games you’re willing to run. I have two half-price badges for the con available to the first ones to sign up as DMs for a few slots.
On another note, I’ve recently been made aware of a 5th edition sequel to my favorite AD&D adventure, the C2: Ghost Tower of Inverness. I’m still reviewing it, but this is faithful to the original in that it’s written as a competitive adventure. If you’d be interested in running that, I can easily replace some adventures with that one, and I’m happy to run a table of it myself. Even if we can’t get signups for multiple tables at the same time, I can keep track of the scoring from session to session and email the results to all involved after the convention is over.
In any case, let me know if, when, and what you’re interested in running.
I’ll be running the Ghost Tower of Inverness this weekend at 1d4 Con. Yes, I’m a broken record about this mod, but this post is here just to provide some resources for those that will be playing on Saturday.
Any gamer that knows me well knows that Allen Hammock’s Ghost Tower of Inverness is my favorite RPG adventure of all time. Allen wrote it for the AD&D tournament at Wintercon VIII. I’m arranging to run my 4th Edition D&D conversion again, and that inspired me to post my versions of the pre-generated characters for that game in case my players, or anyone, wants to use them. As 4th edition is often played with 6 characters, I created my own character, Three, which I’ve provided as well. I also took some liberties with the races of the characters for the sake of stirring the pot and updating to the modern gaming community. These were created some time ago, and I’m no min/maxer, so you might want to make some modifications if you’re going to use them.
In case you didn’t hear: You can now download PDFs of prior edition Dungeons & Dragons materials over at http://www.dndclassics.com/. My first mod, B1: In Search of the Unknown, is free to download … 100% legal. With that, I point you appropriately to my article from Loremaster.org, The Rise and Fall of Norrin the Barbarian (Loremaster.com is no longer available).
This is a guest post from DM extraordinaire, Erik Nowak. I was one of the players in this game and have used Rotting Toes in the last season of D&D Encounters. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
In a recent D&D 4E session set in Neverwinter, the players needed access to the city’s orc-controlled River District. They approached a gate guarded by several bored orc soldiers. Some of the orcs were lightly dozing, while others were gambling, playing a dice game in the dirt. It was to be a simple role-playing exchange: the orcs act tough and demand 10 gold pieces per character to enter their territory – either the heroes paid, or they act tough and refuse and a fight breaks out. Instead it went like this:
“Can I make a check to see what game they are playing?”, one player asked.
[Rolls a skill check; super high result, of course.]
I responded, “Um… sure. It’s called, uh, rotting toes.” That sounded fittingly orcish.
“How is it played? And can we join in?”
“Sure, the orcs are happy to take your gold.”
Then I found myself in a pickle: I needed a dice game! I don’t know any dice games other than craps, and I didn’t want to use that.
So I made one up on the spot.
The first thing I thought of was the old school AD&D method of rolling for ability scores: roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die. I started there and was able to tie it in with the name by thinking that the die-dropping represented a toe rotting away from a diseased foot. Then I made the rest up right there and let the players have a go!
The game has its root in the story of an orc warrior who was suffering from a wasting disease of the foot that resisted magical healing. A shaman of Yurtrus, the orc god of death and disease, told the warrior that his fate was in the hand of Yurtrus alone, and the inscrutable, silent god would do as he pleased, unmovable by deed or prayer. All the other orcs could do was bet on whether or not the warrior’s toes would rot off.
(What happened to the orc, you ask? His toes all rotted off. Then his foot, followed by the rest of the leg. Then he died. Orc tales don’t have happy endings, people.)
Playing the Game
To play rotting toes, you need 4 six-sided dice and a group of several players with coin, one of whom is the Hand of Yurtrus, or “the Hand” (the dice roller). The role of the Hand switches to a new player each round.
The Hand places a bet, typically 1 gold piece. Other players place bets on whether the Hand will lose or win (“rot” or “not”). The Hand has three chances to roll doubles in 2 separate throws of the dice. If 2 throws yield doubles, the Hand wins, and the players who bet on a loss lose their coins, which are distributed evenly amongst the Hand and the players who bet on a win. Otherwise, the Hand loses, and his coins, plus the coins of the players who bet on a win, are evenly distributed amongst the players who bet on a loss.
Order of Play
1) First Throw: The Hand rolls 4 dice, looking for any set of doubles. Regardless of whether or not doubles were rolled, the lowest die is removed from play (a “toe” has “rotted away”), and the Hand rolls again.
2) Second Throw: The Hand rolls 3 dice, again looking for a set of doubles.
If doubles were rolled previously, and doubles are rolled here, the round ends and the Hand wins.
If neither throw yielded a set of doubles, the game ends and the Hand loses.
If doubles were rolled in one of the throws, play continues to a third throw with the lowest die removed from play.
3) Third Throw: The Hand rolls 2 dice, again looking for a set of doubles.
If doubles were rolled previously, and doubles are rolled here, the round ends and the Hand wins.
If a second set of doubles is not rolled, the Hand loses.
Playing Rotting Toes in Your Campaign
To play rotting toes in your D&D game, have a PC take the role of the Hand and place a bet. Allow other PCs to make win or lose bets as well, but these bets are optional.
The Hand then rolls the dice until he wins or loses, as outlined above. For ease of use, I didn’t bother recording the number of actual rotting toes players or how each one of them bet. I simply said that when the Hand won on a 1 gp bet, he gained 2d4 gp to represent the winnings taken from the pot. Anyone betting on the Hand to win gains the same amount. If the Hand loses, any PC who bet on the Hand to lose gains 2d4 gp.
One character in my game – the rogue, of course – asked if he could cheat. I allowed for it, but due to the number of eyes on the dice, it would be difficult to do unless the cheater brought his own weighted dice – which the orcs would never allow! To cheat, the Hand throws the dice and makes a Hard DC Thievery check. On a success, the Hand may change the result of one die thrown. A failed check makes the other players suspicious, and the DC for future checks increases by +2. A second failed check confirms the players’ suspicions, and will get the thrower ejected from the game (at best), or attacked. When playing with orcs, a Hand caught cheating is very likely to be killed immediately.
Additionally, it is a little-known fact that when playing with orcs, winning too many times as the Hand will also arouse suspicions of cheating, whether the winner actually cheated or not. Typically, if a player wins more than 3 times in a row as the Hand, he is given a savage beating – even if there is no evidence at all of cheating – just for being “too lucky” and making a mockery of Yurtrus’ judgment.
As some of you know, I published an article entitled, How to Build a 4th Edition Dungeon Crawl for Heroic and Paragon Tiers, which sprang from my conversion of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules into 4th edition adventures. The “standard” system of encounter design (i.e., the one presented in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide) didn’t work. As I pointed out in the article, I could suspend my disbelief in fighting dragons, devils, and slaadi, but the “15-minute” adventuring day was too much for me to accept as applicable to a dungeon crawl or a trek across the wilderness. That is, if the PCs were in an underground dungeon consisting of 100 rooms, it was unrealistic on so many levels to think the PCs could go through those rooms at a rate of 3-5 per day (i.e., the standard system assumes an extended rest every 3-5 encounters). Every 30 minutes, they should expect their rest interrupted unless the DM provided some ridiculous deus ex machina to justify 6-8 hours of peace and quiet. Obviously, another system of encounter design was needed. My conversions started with C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tomachan (before Wizards of the Coast announced they were doing one), C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (which I adapted as an LFR MyRealms adventure), L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, S2: White Plume Mountain (available here), and G1-2-3: Against the Giants (again, before WotC announced their conversion). Not being a professional game designer, I didn’t have the luxury of extensive playtests, instead relying on my Loremaster blog to supplement the article as I continued to refine it. As I progressed, I realized that what I had written was really appropriate only for levels 1-15. Once the PCs reach 16th level, some new math was required, which would eventually lead to the proper math at epic level (necessary for the next phase of the adventure, the conversion of the Drow series D1-2-3 and Q1). One of my home groups started G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King last night. It’s my first attempt at the new math. The results were remarkably good considering they were the result of my rough estimates as to what the new numbers should be.
What Am I Talking About?
Let’s start with some context. For those that haven’t read the article, read it dammit! Oops . . . . Sorry. For those that haven’t read it, the basic premise of the Dungeon Crawl system is that each individual encounter creates less of a drain on party resources while maintaining the threat level on the party. Moreover, through the use of “thematic encounter templates” (TETs), the system can be adjusted very easily on the fly for the varying number of players that shows up on any given night (much more accurately than, for example, the encounter adjustment rules provided by the Living Forgotten Realms campaign). The consequences are two-fold. First, for parties of 4-6 PCs, the party can address 10-15 encounters before having to take an extended rest. Second, for parties of only 3 PCs, the encounters create the same threat and resource drain as you find using the standard system, which means you don’t have to cancel your session because only three players show up on a given night.
How It Played out
So, now that everyone’s up to speed on what the system is, let’s talk about last night. I had only three players, so it was “game on,” but the encounters should feel like they would in the standard system. We had a ranger, a paladin, and a warlord, all level 17. There was a lot of role-play and a clever avoidance of combat by the PCs, which means there were only two combat encounters. For those encounters, looking at daily attack powers, daily powers associated with weapons, and healing surges, the PCs went through 30-40% of their resources. Considering they went through 40% of the number of encounters they should expect to face before an extended rest, and things will get harder, this seems to be about right. I have only two data points, but the numbers worked out ideally, and it felt right, so I’m very optimistic that, at the very least, I’m on the right track. Give me a few more weeks, and I’ll be writing the second edition of the article, which will include support all the way up to level 30, though not in the way you might expect. 🙂