I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ford's Faeries (free OSR bestiary)

It's been a while but I think I have never mentioned this one in the blog... Well, I did share the Moon-Headed Giant, but not the finished product.

Anyway, back in the G+ golden days, Eric Nieudan issued an invitation/challenge for OSR creators to make up creatures using Henry Justice Ford's illustrations. He then turned into a free product (Ford's Faeries). I contributed with the one above; many great OSR creators contributed too. It gathered amazingly positive ratings and reviews. 

There are awesome, out of the box entries... collective creatures, time-travelling portals, random tables... Well worth your time!

Here is the blurb:

A bestiary inspired by the masterful work of Henry Justice Ford.

Meet the Moon-Headed Giant, the Leechlich, and the Fencer Familiar, and more than 50 other weird creatures fit for campaigns of every level. The full-page illustrations, often taken from fairytale books, have led our 15 authors to create original monsters that will give a quirky twist to your game. They all come with enough material to become the centerpiece of the session.

Contributors: Dan D., Daniel Lofton, 
Dat Epic Fish, 
Emmy Allen, Eric Diaz, Eric Nieudan, Goblin’s Henchman, Guillaume Jentey
, HD Atkinson, James V. West, Jean-Marc "Tolkraft" Choserot, 
Ktrey Parker, Magimax, 
Roger SG Sorolla, 
Sébastien d’Abrigeon, 
and Vance Atkins.

Stats are compatible with most early editions of Dave and Gary's game and their retroclones.

NOTE: none of the contributors are making any money for their writing. I (Eric Nieudan) collect a small margin (a little over a US dollar) to try and pay for the 60 or so hours spent on coordinating, editing, and layout. I'll appreciate the help if you get a copy!

Henry Ford's illustrations, of course, have the perfect OSR vibe:

FYI, "old Eric" pictured above has no relation to the author of this post or the book. ;)

So, if you're looking for an OSR bestiary... try this one! Get it here!

(Note: there is a Halloween sale going on in DTRPG . Almost all of my books are on sale. There are also new free titles every day. [affiliate links] Check it out!).

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

How far can you see (in hexes)?

Just a passing thought.

From the top of the Everest, you could theoretically see things that are more 300 kilometers away. I'd assume, however, that conditions are not always perfect, and that getting to the very top of the Everest is an adventure in itself (taking 6 to 10 weeks).

Six-mile hexes are almost 10 kilometers.
2. Horizon. Your average human in a flat area without any obstructions in view (think a becalmed sea) can see up to 3 miles. Thats the distance to the horizon best case scenario. So a party travelling straight through a 6 mile hex is not going to see out of it. Unless they climb a tree or find a high place with a view. But the idea is that a 6 mile hex with varied terrain covers the distance that the party can see. A good rule of thumb is that if they take the time to survey the surrounding land then a party should be able to be aware of the terrain of the next hex over. Some pushback might come with the idea that you can see a mountain quite a ways away. But mountains are tricky in that you really can't tell how far away they are until you are a few hexes away. Getting a good vantage point (like the top of a hill or mountain) could be the opportunity for adventure in itself and being aware of the lay of the land can be its own reward. If you want to be able to tell your players how far they can see when they climb up the hill or tree or tower a good rule of thumb is that the distance to the horizon is the square root of thirteen times the height they are viewing from (http://enwikipedia.org/wiki/horizon).
"The square root of thirteen times the height" would be okay if I could come up with mountains heights easily, which I can't (conveniently enough, the Everest is almost 6 miles high; an easy way to remember how tall the highest peak in your setting might be).

For my games, I'd prefer an easier formula, even if a bit inaccurate.

So, here is what I'm thinking: pick a number from 1 to 10. 1 is finding and climbing a high tree, 10 is finding and climbing the highest peak... IF available in your region (finding it should be easy!). That's how many hexes you can see. Also, if the number is 2 or greater, it takes at least as many days to get there - in addition to any hexes you traverse while getting there (I always thought that the expedition to the Amber Temple, in Ravenloft, should be very hard...).

(Here is a post on how to make a map, BTW).

Not sure this would be useful. Seeing further than a few hexes would be good if the players were looking for something specific. Maybe the Tomb of Annihilation? I often consider running this one again. Or other campaign that involves mapping and exploring. Let's see...

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Small Press Spotlight Sale - huge discounts

DTRPG is having a Small Press Spotlight Sale. This includes more than fifty thousand titles (all of my books are on sale).

I went looking for " titles has been marked down by up to 60%". I haven't found many books with 60% discount... except for my own! Dark Fantasy Basic is only 2 bucks right now. Probably one of the best prices I ever had.

Teratogenicon is also heavily discounted. The print version is (hopefully) coming soon, and I'll send customers of the PDF version an e-mail with a discount when ti comes out.

Other than that, here are some books that might be of interest:

Low Fantasy Gaming Deluxe Edition is a great take on sword and sorcery OSR. I review an earlier version here.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is also a great AD&D sword & sorcery clone - this is the second edition, there is a third edition on the way.

Into the Unknown is one of my favorite "minimalist 5e" out there. Completely compatible with 5e.

Mythras is a d100 game (adjacent to Runequest) with cool combat mechanics, analyzed here.

The Chapel on the Cliffs is one of the best 3rd-party 5e adventures I've ever played. If you're looking for a 5e Halloween adventure, this is it. Recommended.

Warlock! and Troika! are "British OSR" games, inspired by Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Both look fantastic in different ways, but I haven't played them yet.

Did you find other good deals? Let me know in the comments!

*These are all Affiliate links - by using them, you're helping to support this blog!

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

HP bloat in old-school systems

We usually talk about HP bloat as a modern problem in D&D; something that started (or at least accelerated) in 3e and peaked around 4e and 5e. To sum it up, the idea is that a 9th-level fighter might have 50-60 HP in B/X, but more likely about 80-100 in modern D&D.

(I'm using B/X and 5e as my examples here because these are my favorite versions of D&D. The comparison is not perfectly suited for other editions. AD&D has bigger numbers than B/X overall, and BECMI goes all the way to level 36, while 4e goes to level 30)

Some people will even notice how modern PCs got it easier since they have more HP. In the old days, even a goblin could drop you with a single hit!

Well, this second part is just wrong. A 5e fighter has about 12 HP while a B/X fighter might have half as much. But while a B/X goblin might deal 1d6 damage, the 5e goblin deals 1d6+2 damage; it also has twice as many HP and can hide with a bonus action, which mean it is likely to attack you with advantage, increasing the chances of a hit (and of a critical hit). It's attack bonus is +4 (instead o ZERO), which you usually make PCs get hit more often than they did in B/X.

(As an aside, if you allow AD&D fighters extra attacks against HD 1-1 creatures, a 9th level fighter might have a BETTER chance against nine goblins than a 5e fighter!)

So, maybe the problem is not HP bloat, but everything bloat; HP is higher, but damage is also higher, and more powers are available. In 3e (and even more in 4e), attack bonuses and defenses were also a lot higher when compared with old school games. The same applies to skill bonuses, saving throws, and so on.

(This might be a problem when the inflation becomes REDUNDANT; say, by doubling all HP and ALSO all damage, or by giving ludicrous skill bonus but also enormous DCs. The advantage is that this gives more granularity; maybe too much).

5e dialed it back almost everywhere except HP and damage. A 9th level fighter might have a +8 or +9 attack bonus, while a B/X fighter has +5 (+7 on level 10). [This is part of what they call "bounded accuracy, BTW]

We could think of it this way: a fighter has to be level 7 on B/X to get that +5 bonus. At this point, he has 7d8 HP at least (it is likely that he has a bit more due to Con bonus; let's say about 35-40 HP). In comparison, a 5e fighter STARTS with a +5 attack bonus (and about 12 HP). This is unlikely to change until level 3 (which means about 24 HP).

In short... if you compare fighters with the same attack bonus, the old school fighter has more HP!

In other words, I think the right question is not "how many HP a 7th level fighter has in B/X when compared to 3e (or 4e, 5e)", but "what level do you have to be in 5e to be comparable with a 7th level fighter in B/X"?

There is not a perfect answer, but I'm guessing it would be about 3 or 4. Ultimately, this is comparing oranges and apples. But we can certainly say that a 7th level fighter in B/X has more in common with a 4th level fighter in 5e than a 7th level fighter in 5e!

Of course, this changes when you reach level 9; in old school games, your HP will raise slower after that. However, since you gain levels a lot faster, the amount of HP per XP is raised too!

Anyway... modern D&D does not exactly inflates HP; what does is that it takes PCs to a higher magnitude of power

For example, while in B/X you would reach (at most) level 14th with (at least) a +9 attack bonus and (at least) 9d8+10 HP, in 5e you can do the same by level 9, and you still have 11 more levels to go.  

Now, I'm not saying the modern method is better; in fact, I usually stop my campaigns by level 10 when playing 5e, and even published campaigns usually stop around 10-13th. The "additional tiers" of play that modern D&D adds are a lot less useful for me than each of the 14 levels you can get in B/X. My own game stops at level 10 (which is roughly comparable with level 14th in B/X). Because of that, material for higher levels are mostly "filler" for me - but they might be useful and fun for other players.

In short, "HP bloat" is not really a thing that can be separated from "power bloat" (or, at least, "numbers bloat"). The important part is not how many HP you've got, but what kind of heroes (or superheroes) you want to play.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Warduke's armor and nostalgia ramblings

With 5.5e coming soon, I was made acutely aware that some of my love for D&D (including 5e) is driven by nostalgia. I have noticed the new products are not for me since Tasha's, at least. 

I still like 5e, but I do not think I'll convert to 5.5e. If I can ever finish it, I'll be playing my minimalist 5e instead.

In addition, I have more 5e books than I need, and I don't think I'm buying new books unless they came up with a good campaign (like Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation, despite all the flaws of both products). Is The Wild Beyond the Witchlight this book? Not sure, I'll wait for more reviews.

The thing that made me curious about the book is the presence of Warduke. I barely remember anything about him except his cool looks (which haven't been improved in the picture below IMO), but, again, it does hit me in the nostalgia.

This version by Timothy Truman is probably my favorite. The helmet looks better, IMO, and the bare chest gives him a "barbarian" (or gladiator?) look. And the short stat block is awesome... Imagine if all 8th-level fighters could be described in a similar space... the game would be a lot lighter.

But does the armor make sense? Well, by the looks of it, it might have been made from bits and pieces of other sutis of armor. Even the boots are different from one another. Maybe he is indeed a barbarian and a full suit or armor is hard to come by. It counts as "plate mail" anyway.

Would it be useful in a fight? Yes, as long as the armor protects the side of the sword - while the shield protects most of the rest (unfortunately, some artists seem to forget that). This is the reasoning behind some gladiator's armor (although I've also heard that defeat by dismemberment was less enjoyable to the Roman audience...). 

I can imagine not armoring your shield arm to make yourself lighter. It could work for a one on one duel, although in grappling or war you could easily be stabbed in the gut...

Anyway, no version of D&D that I can remember has rules for asymetric armor. Maybe some version of Runequest or its derivatives.

I prefer to keep these thing a bit more abstract. Here is how I do it (in case you haven't read this before): "Let the players choose how they present their armor, as long as it makes sense. Chain mail with breast plate and no helmet? Cool! Shoulder pads to protect you in your right arm, big scary helmet, and bare chest? Nice!"

Just abstract the looks and judge armor by its weight. And quality too - but that adds another dimension. I wrote a book for 5e on this matter - 5e Manual of Arms: Armor & Shields. If you like the subject, check it out! Or take a look at my other posts on armor.