Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Pathfinder Mechanic for Expanded Criticals

  1. Roll a Critical Threat and Confirm
  2. Determine base damage
  3. Roll D12 body parts below
  4. Apply critical damage (with modifiers) and effect if the victim is not wearing a blocking piece of armor. If blocked, critical is normal critical damage.

Body Parts Table
DiceBody PartBlockEffect
1HeadHelmet / GogglesReroll Head Shot
2Left HandGauntlet / Glove-2 to Hand Actions (Weapon Attack, Skills)
3Right HandGauntlet / Glove-2 to Hand Actions (Weapon Attack, Skills)
4Left ArmBracer-2 to Arm Actions
5Right ArmBracer-2 to Arm Actions
6Left FootBoot-5ft/rnd to base speed
7Right FootBoot-5ft/rnd to base speed
8Left LegLeg Armor-5ft/rnd to base speed
9Right LegLeg Armor-5ft/rnd to base speed
10StomachBeltBleeding (-1 hp / rnd)
11ChestNoneBleeding (-1 hp / rnd)
12Full BodyNoneNone

Head Shot Table
1-2General HeadHelmet / Headband (1/2)+1 Critical Multiplier
5Nose / MouthMask+2 Critical Multiplier



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ogres and Captives

So, our story this week finds the band of 5 (Half-elf Rogue/Druid Felix, Elf Ranger Corrail, Gnome Sorceress Ally, Human Bard Don the Magnificent, and Human Fighter River) still trapped in the Dungeon of Ruins.  Corrail and Felix had just narrowly escaped the clutches of a brain ooze.

The party gathered back up (5 PCs and two animal companions) and started deeper into the ruins.  A number of traps paved the way to two new rooms.  The first room was a kitchen where humanoids of various sorts were being cooked into a stew (mostly bullywugs).  Unfortunately, a particularly dangerous magical trap was triggered by the half-rogue as he tried to disarm it, at the same time drawing out two ogres into the dungeon hall.

The fighter rushed into action with corrail close behind.  The double-ended sword went snicker-snack, and ogres started to fall.  The rogue got pulled into an adjacent room and was healed.  The bard did an excellent job of distracting one of the ogres and gaining his favor, until another ogre and an ogre mage appeared.  The cooperating ogre became quickly ugly at the sight of his 'boss'.  The sorceress and bard fled down the hall, while the fighter and Corrail continued fighting the charging ogres.  Felix got in some strikes as did his tiger.

Suddenly the ogre mage disappeared and out of sight flex down the hall, following the gnome and bard.  Upon reappearing, he slashed the bard to death with a huge katana-like greatsword.  The cloaker on the bards back took up the fight -- he tried to engulf and attack the orge mage.

Soon the rest of the party were scurrying at the mage.  A charm spell from his fingertips removed Corrail from the fight, but also freed him up to heal his friends.  The gnome blasted the ogre mage with fire breath twice before falling to a terrifying katana strike.  And as the party was about to find victory, the ogre mage vanished.

Still under combat turns and moving down the hall, exhausted and thirsty, looking for traps, the group passed two sleeping quarters for the orges.  In one, the smell of the ogres' toliet pit drove the back.  One possible exit of the dungeon is blocked.  Their map holds no other possible exits and the party worries that someone or something is out to get them.  Moving along down the hall, searching, they spied two chained humanoids in a room.

Cautiously, with Felix lurking in the shadows, they tried to draw out any hidden foes to no avail.  Inspection of the room found a halfling woman covered in dark leather armor with a single shining metal sleeve and glove.  At her feet lay a wooden cleric's shield.  Next to her, hanging from him chains, a human cleric missing one arm swung without words.  The party helped the two loose and the woman took up a crossbow and strapped her shield on immediately.  The man slumped to the ground and was helped along by the fighter.

Perevius, a halfling with dark hair and a "let's gets moving attitude" follows the group down the hall.  After a brilliant disabling of an electrical trap by Felix, the group finds shelter in a room with a couple of old minecarts.  They push them into place to barricade the door so they can rest safely.  Ally meditates to regain her magic spells.  Perevius curls up in one of the carts and sleeps.  Six hours go by without incident when their is suddenly a pounding at the door.  Perevius takes up a position in the corner with her crossbow.  The others, startled but sure that the carts will hold, wait out the pounding on the door.  Perevius fills canteens and sharpens her bolts for battle.

The doors is unbarred and the rogue sneaks quickly away to check a nearby room.  He pies the ogre mage, who quickly drops an arrow through his chest.  Staggering back, he passes the fighter waiting anxiously for Perevius to disable the lock on a set of double doors they spotted someone slipping through.  Perevius throws open the doors to find a couple of ragtag golems wandering about and a rather busy looking dwarf.  The bard charges in to speak to the dwarf, setting off a trap in the process.

The dwarf is bitter to be interrupted, but seems slightly interested in the fact that he and the bard are wearing the same necklace.  The bard coaxes the dwarf to just let them leave.  A quick alignment check by the dwarf on the bard leaves the dwarf in a foul mood, pulling out a sword sheathed in electrical charge and swearing "If the golems don't finish you, I will."

The fighter hits a golem hard, dropping its arm, as Felix and the Tiger move to flank the mithral golem.  Greed drips from the rogue's face as he admires the mithral, but falls in shocks as the lost mithral arm disintegrates as it hits the ground.

Here the battle stops until next week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Way Out

So our band of unnamed adventurers found themselves fighting the might hoard of 8 bullywugs down one fighter this week.  The gnome sorceress Ally took up position about ten feet from the door to heal the half-elf rogue/druid Felix who had taken several arrows.  The former paladin fighter Rodar flanked the door to take out incoming frog dudes with his double-ended sword.  Corrail, the elf ranger, grabbed a position 25 feet straight back and continued to pump arrows into incoming.  The bard found a back corner out of the way to play inspiring music.

Slowly but surely the boggard tribe marched towards the doorway.  Magic missles flew from the sorceress.  Arrows from the ranger took down champions.  The bard enchanted a rope and was able to tangle up one of the lesser frog men.  Felix's spiked chain ripped at the incoming.  After several rounds and a brief attempted fight between the bard with a broken glass bottle and a frog, the hoard was stopped.

Again the sorceress started her whining about stopping to rest.  The rogue, fighter, and rogue's tiger continued down the hall looking for traps while the rest of the party contemplated perhaps resting or moving on.  A large rumble came and the dungeon shifted again, as it apparently had done before in the past.

The blood drained out of the bard's face and he gasped out, 'We're leaving.'.  The pull of the amulet stuck on his neck gave him insight into a great undead force beneath the level where they now stood.  It was an undead force so large that it could only be explained by the stories of the thousands, perhaps ten thousand, dwarves lost in the lower levels of the mine when the dungeon of ruins first became a ruin.  They all knew the stories of the collapse of the lower levels.  "An army of more zombies than you can imagine, " the bard restated.

They clamored quickly back to the room where they had entered.  The tunnel was collapsed and covered in thick stone.  They estimated the location from the map of the original entrance.

Blundering down the hallway at a run, the bard foolishly passed the rogue who was searching for traps, and found a trap of his own.  A fireball rolled from the floor and left the bard singed but not too much worse for wear.  The party slowly gathered nearby in safety.  The rogue went in.  Felix disable the first trap, then the second, and then found the entrance room filled with more traps and a collapsed entrance.

Trapped.  No Way Out.  The gnome was panicking.  After having previously casting the Scroll of the Desert, the party had no water, and perhaps had only enough healing potion to keep them alive for a few days.  In any case, digging through solid rock was not going to be a fast enough option to save them before lack of water took them.

Down the next hallway they went, remembering that this dwarf processing level had a hallway that hooked it to the mine.  There might be a way out there.  And some of the group realized that with a mine, there might be riches... jewels... adamantium... mithral.

The first room they found a tower shield, several bottles, and a belt hanging on the wall hooks.  The rogue attempt to grab the belt, but blue fiery sparks from the belt, giving his three points of damage and forcing him to drop it.  The fighter picked it up without incident and put it on.

The fighter became female.  Shock rolled through the party.  The bard called out the name of the belt -- the belt of gender change.  The fighter tried to pull off the belt, but it would not be removed.  After a moment, after the initial shock of the change, she spoke, recognizing the opportunity of the situation.

"This is what I want.  Rodar is dead.  Tell the tales of how he died in this dungeon saving the party.  Let the shame of his paladin status lost die here."

The bard would have no part of the telling of lies until a wand to the neck by the gnome gave hime incentive and a wicked burn.

"You can just call me River now.  River, a fighter, that you found along the way."

The next room had old rotten chests and moldy bedrolls along with a stack of firewood.  It was an old sleeping quarters with a hearth where perhaps someone had recently stayed.  Corrail search the room and found some odds and ends gold.  The rogue check the hearth for an escape route but found only collapsed rock.

The next room had a stuck door that the fighter forced open.  Pushing it open, the rogue saw a brown-black cloak.  A dog emerged from a nearby hole in the wall and began barking at the door of the room.  "Bark.  Bark.  Bark.  Bark."  The range spoke to the dog and he seemed to be worried about some sort of danger.  The only description he could make out was bat.

Felix rushed in and grabbed the cloak, thinking it was the cloak of the bat that he had been searching for.  As he pulled it around him, the cloak itself animated and pulled itself tight around him, engulfing him.  Sure enough, it was a cloaker, and the rogue had just willingly fed himself to it.

The ranger and fighter tugged at the cloak, and with a 24 strength check, the fighter pulled the cloaker off the rogue. It flew to the ceiling.

There was much speculation as the cloaker floated above.  Was it going to attack?  Could we just leave it behind?  Can we make friends with it?  A lucky roll left the cloaker currently with no appetite so it cowered away.  The dog, once calmed by the ranger and fed, stopped barking.  Using diplomacy and good judgement with the creature, the bard was able to befriend the cloaker and thus a cloaker cloak. (Whoa! -- CR 5 companion)

Meanwhile, Felix wandered into the next room, a dwarven library, to be attacked by 4 animated books.  Written across then was the title 'Dwarven Library Defense', with volumes 1 through 4.

The fighter ran in and attacked with her double-ended sword, slicing the books to paper shreds.  Looking about, she found 5 scrolls.

Felix entered the library office only to be then startled as a brain ooze dropped from the ceiling.  Corrail entered the room as Felix fled.  Corrail was under attack after launching an arrow at it.  It hit him hard and missed the neural pulse that would have drained 1d6 intelligence.

He ran for the door, and after two more misses by the creature, they were able to close the door to contain it.  (Three GM rolled 1's let Corrail get away with no neural pulse damage -- it was a moment of great luck for him.

Talking to his dog, Corrail learned that a group of clerics had been through the dungeon this way, but they were dragged away by ogres, presumably to be eaten.  In addition, the dog seemed to think there was something going on beyond the ogres, but he hadn't seen exactly what.

Next week, we shall see the group finds its way out or if they too shall become part of the legend of the dungeon of ruins.

Wasteland and Baldur's Gate

Check out the article here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Weapons of the Foe

One of my players mentioned the other day that is a foe uses a weapon he should be able to use it, although he qualified their being an exception maybe for size (a giant's weapon).  So how does Pathfinder rules apply?

Off to research: ...

Basic Weapons
So basic rules are anyone can use any weapon they can pick up.  They get a -2 attack for each size difference the weapon is off by from the wielder.  In addition, there is a -4 if the wielder isn't proficient with that weapon, or the weapon is improvised.  Similarly, don't expect to use special weapon abilities on weapons that you aren't proficient with.  Tripping with a whip takes knowledge of how to use a whip, for example.

Magical Weapons and Items
Magic items can be keyed for use by only specific characters or character types.  They can be usable only by a single class, alignment, race, person, and any combination thereof.  There might even be other constraints, depending on the situation.  Imagine a lyncathropic amulet that gives +3 to strength only on the three days of the month when the moon is most full.

For GMs, this constraint on the use of a magic items gives us some flexibility.  For example, a single mage taking on a group of 6 adventurers might have a heck of a time with standard gear.  Throw in a magic weapon, and now you have a battle.  But, hand that weapon then to a PC, and there is a balance problem.

The other problems is the struggle of good vs evil.  With a group of do-gooder adventurers fighting evil, the do-gooder adventurers shouldn't really be picking up every magical item conjured from the dark side of the force, strapping it on, and going about their merry way.  There is a price for using magic items conjured from evil.  Constraints give those items personality so the demon hand of killing can't be picked up by a paladin and used.  Quite simply, the consequence to the paladin if that were allowed should be an alignment penalty.  But, in a campaign where evil alignments aren't allowed, the logical outcome is not to allow the magic to be compatible so it could happen to being with.  That doesn't mean a paladin can't lose his lawful good alignment or the support of his deity, but it does mean that a character can't just change their alignment at will to get better equipment.

The other advantage is that keying a item reduces its resell value.  I get to give PCs better items for the effective loot value by keying the items.

The counter to keying is the Use Magic Device skill.  UMD allows a PC to activate an item blindly, read a spell scroll, use a wand, or emulate a class, ability score, alignment, race, or class feature to activate an item.  Though these rolls are tough they can be used.

Armor and Clothing
Armor and clothing is a different matter.  In this case, size matters a lot.  And though our group ignores armor check penalties, this generally means that the armor (and other clothing) pretty well has to be made of the individual and fit properly.  Picking up and using any armor is tricky.  Expect there to be negatives to this.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some New Painted Minis

I just finished a big batch of winter minis that I have painted.  Sorry in advance for blurryness -- I'll try to take a few better pics and replace them later.

Adamantium Golem




Pengium, Turtle, and Fox Familiars

Gnome Barbarian

Old Ogre

Guards carrying Chest


Ogre Mage

Red-Headed Fighter

Winter Wolf and Regular Wolf

Advanced Race Guide

I am excited about this.  Maybe for my next campaign.  Only 15 more levels to go.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Anti-Magic, Hyper-Magic, and Wild Magic Fields

Magic in the alternate timeline of Faerun that my campaign is in flows from Mystra and the weave.  However, remnants of battles and worlds and events present and past influence the flow of magic.  In the alternate timeline, leaking weave energy is also influencing magic.

Places where catastrophic magic occurrences have taken place or places so cursed may be influenced by anti-magic fields.  These fields decrease the amount of magical energy available, effectively increasing the level of spells that can be cast, and, in extreme cases, even completely eliminating magic.  For a mage, these areas are dangerous two fold:  1)  Their normal magical defenses and offenses will not function well or perhaps at all.  2) In extreme cases, the effect may in fact result in a magical shadow curse that sucks permanent hitpoints right out of them (see previous post).

Wild magic areas may exist in regions where the flow of magic has been warped.  Wild magic areas result in concentration checks required for all spells and magical items to function properly.  In the case of failure, unexpected magical effects may take place, putting the castor and those nearby in potentially grave danger.

Hypermagic areas are perhaps the most dangerous areas in all of Faerun.  In hypermagic areas, the magic field that permeates Faerun is increase manyfold.  Magical spells increase in power and intensity with unknown limits.  Magical items can explode with power and overload.  Even non-mages can accidentally trigger magical spells by speaking or gestering with intent.  In summary, anyone can cause bad things to happen, and those with power can cause really bad things to happen.

For the GM, the stats are easy.  Antimagic fields are characterized by an effective level increase of spells cast, or by simply 'no magic'.  Wild magic fields are characterized by their concentration DC check.  Hypermagic fields are characterized by a mutiplier (i.e. x3, x10, x100) that affects spell outcomes.  At x10 and above, the GM also may interpret actions into spells as relevant to the actions and the environment.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Shadow Curse

The original shadow curse in the Dungeon of Death causes PCs to lose one prime ability score point per hour while in the dungeon.  What a pain!  That means each character sheet is changing constantly while going through the dungeon.

So, talking with some of my players, I proposed this alternate Shadow Curse:

  • Characters lose 1 permanent hit point per hour while in the dungeon.
  • These hit points can be restored 3 ways:
    • While at full hit points, take a potion of curse serious wounds (or better)
    • Use a healing potion that restore ALL hit points.
    • Any restoration spell
  • Resting for 8 hours after leaving the place that is cursed.
Keep in mind that the dungeon of death has over 40 rooms, and averaging 10 minutes per room, that is 400 minutes of in-game time, not counting rest.  That is 7 hit points lost.  Throw in a few rest 8 hour rest periods for mages, and that is some serious motivation to keep healing the hit point loss.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A GM Adventure: Converting the Dungeon of Death to Pathfinder

I was able to pick up an excellent copy of Dungeon of Death the other day on Amazon.  For being published in 2000, the copy I got was impressive, almost new.  The Dungeon of Death is the second major dungeon in Lurkwood, the first being the Dungeon of Ruins.  I wrote my own Dungeon of Ruins, but it seemed fitting to try to convert the original AD&D Dungeon of Death.

Though conversion from D&D 3.x to Pathfinder is pretty straightforward, with there even being a conversion guide, converting AD&D is not.  There is not conversion guide, so far as I can find.  So basically I get to convert the entire adventure piece-by-piece using my GM instincts, a stack of bestiaries, and a lot of gaming paper.

As I go through this process, I think I'll post my experiences on here, as reference for other GMs that might take on a similar conversion.

First Impressions:

There is nothing quite like a well-written AD&D adventure.  It has an entirely different flow and context that later adventures.  THACO.  The mine level, being too large to really map, was converted to a flow chart.  The primary maps were on the inside and back inside covers, but are given in 10 foot squares.  Overall this looks like quite an undertaking.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Referencing this:

Individual, group, and no XP?
I look at each obstacle that must be overcome and award XP based on whether this obstacle is overcome by the group or the individual.  For example, a monster or a trap in most cases something that the group will work together on, so everyone gets equal XP for contributing.

However, there are obstacles that are individual.  Everyone has to walk the tight rope to the other side of the bridge, or fall in and swim.  XP for this task is given individually just like they must individually complete the task.  If they figure out a group method (we take a boat across) the task becomes a group task with group XP again.

Absent player XP?

Absent players don't get XP.

Awards for roleplaying, miniatures, backgrounds, pizza, etc?
I use karma points as a reward for these things.  Karma points give you a save from death, allow you to autostabilize to zero hit points, allow you to take extra actions, allow you to reroll any roll, and other things you wound't normally be able to do.

Other awards come as flexibility from the GM.

Recently I had a player realize that playing a male paladin was not for her.  To keep her as a happy, contributing member of our group, I threw in a story line that got her paladinic powers taken away (letting her become a fighter) and soon she will find a belt of gender change so she can have her female fighter character.  The drawback is that I am only letting her move a couple points of charisma around in her attributes (since logically a charismatic male doesn't really translate to a charismatic female).  The storyline also will make things more interesting for the rest of the group and be a source of endless 'you used to be a man' jokes.

Another player is a ranger that gets an animal companion.  Rather than forcing him to buy a companion, I just make sure that one appears under relevant circumstances in the story.

When do you level up?
Leveling up needs to occur in a safe civilization.  To accommodate the rarity of making it back to a safe civilization, I will let players close to leveling up go ahead and level up with their group so that they don't get behind a level for an entire adventure that may last weeks.  This somewhat normalizes out XP differences due to individual XP and an occasional absence.

GM Day

Don't forget March 4th is GM Day!