Wednesday, May 29, 2013

[In Memoriam] Vancian Adventurer

In honor of the inestimable Jack Vance, who we sadly lost this last week, I am re-posting my Adventurer class for use with Labyrinth Lord.

The adventurer class is an alternative to most other human classes (it is suggested that only the fighter and thief be used otherwise, and if using other races, use only racial classes for those races). It enables players to play a character that can do a little bit of everything. This class is inspired by the adventuring, sneaky, sword-wielding dilettante rogue spell casters of Smith’s Hyperborea and Vance’s Dying Earth. Examples include Turjan of Miir, Cugel the Clever, and Rhialto the Marvellous.

Prime Requisite: None.
Minimum Ability Scores: None.
Racial Level Limits: Human Unlimited.

Hit Dice: Adventurers use eight-sided dice (d8) to determine hit points. Adventurers gain one hit die per level up to and including 9th level. Two hit points are gained per level after 9th, with Constitution modifiers no longer applicable

Armor: Any, however, armor use can cause issues when using magic spells or thieving abilities.

Fight As: Thief
Proficient Weapons: Choose any four
Non-Proficiency Penalty: -2

Adventuring Abilities: An adventurer begins play at 1st level with the following abilities:
  • 1st rank of weapon mastery in one weapon of proficiency;
  • 1st rank of skill in all eight thieves abilities;
  • The ability to cast spells, along with four spell books, each containing one spell.
Saving Throws: An adventurer begins at 1st level with a base saving throw of 16 in all five categories. At 1st level he divides 10 points among the five to lower the scores; he may spend no more than 5 points on any one saving throw in this fashion. Every level thereafter the adventurer lowers two saving throw scores by 1 point each. Once a saving throw reaches 7, it can only be improved 1 point by applying both points for that level to that saving throw. No saving throw may be improved to better than 3. Example: Artano the Erudite begins play at 1st level by hedging his bets and divides the 10 points equally by placing 2 points in each saving throw, for saving throw scores of 14 across the board. At 2nd level he decides to put 1 point in Breath Attacks and 1 point in Wands, lowering those scores to 13. At 3rd level he lowers his saves in Poison or Death and Petrify or Paralyze. Then at 4th he lowers Spells or Spell-like Devices and Wands again.

Spell Casting: An adventurer can cast spells. Spells are cast at a level equal to the adventurer’s level.

If an adventurer has a low Intelligence score, he has a base chance of spell failure with each spell based on the “Spell Failure” chance listed under Wisdom modifiers.

If the adventurer casts a spell while wearing armor, there is a chance of spell failure. The chance is equal to any base spell failure chance plus 10% per point of defense the armor provides (not including magical bonuses) plus 5% per level of the spell, less 5% per adventurer level, less 5% per point of Intelligence bonus. If the failed roll is in the lower 10% of the chance to fail (rounded up), Something Bad happens.

Example: Ffaunce the Fair (6th level Adventurer, Intelligence 17, wearing chain mail [AC 5, 4 points of armor]) tries to cast Melf's Third Invocation of the Incandescent Orb (fireball) at a pack of voormis. His chance of failure is 40% (armor) +15% (3rd level spell) -30% (adventurer level) -10% (Intelligence) = 15% chance of failure, with a 2% chance of Something Bad happening.

Spells named as rituals require both hands be free, and additionally the caster suffers double the normal spell failure chance if he is wearing armor. Spells named as spells and formulae require that both hands be free to cast the spell. Spells named as cantrips and charms require at least one hand free; the other may hold a weapon, shield, or other item. Spells named as eyebites and invocations do not require any somatic components, do not require a free hand, and, if the caster makes a saving throw versus Spells, can successfully be cast out of initiative order (though counts as that round’s act). Note that Arturzax’s Invocation of the Roundabout Plummet is of such efficacy that it can always be cast instantly without need to make a saving throw.

The adventurer begins play at 1st level with four spell books, each containing one spell: Murgen’s Primary Arcane Filter Spell (read magic) in one and random spells in the other three. To determine the spells known, roll a d6 and a d20 on the 1st level spell table. On the d6, on a 1 or 2 add nothing to the d20, on a 3 or 4 add 20, and on a 5 or 6 add 40. If you re-roll a spell it means you were stiffed by your master and were taught one less spell.

Note that spell books are quite large and very bulky. Each book contains only one spell, and thus spell books are virtually impossible to carry with on an adventure unless the adventurer carts them in a wagon or carries them in a bag of holding or similar magical item.

The adventurer can only learn spells that are of a spell level equal to half his level rounded up. An adventurer must have a minimum Intelligence of 18 to learn 9th level spells, a minimum Intelligence of 17 to learn 8th level spells, and a minimum Intelligence of 16 to learn 7th level spells.

While Murgen’s Primary is not needed to determine an unknown spell contained within a spell book, its use is required in order to read and attempt to learn the new spell (the spell is required to interpret the arcane ciphers, runes, sigils, and diagrams included in the spell). The adventurer must spend the usual time and gold to learn the spell, roll a Learn Spell check based on his Intelligence score, and if he learns it, he can thereafter memorize it. He can only learn spells by acquiring other spell books or by researching and recreating a spell (i.e., the bonus spell gained by choice at each level).

Scrolls and scroll-like devices cannot be used to learn spells.

If an adventurer fails to learn a spell, he may attempt to learn that spell from another spell book after he has gained a level. Note that the Intelligence-based minimum and maximum spells known is not applicable to adventurers.

The adventurer must memorize spells in order to cast them, just as in the normal rules. The adventurer can memorize a total number of spell levels at any one time equal to his level plus his Intelligence bonus. He cannot memorize the same spell twice. He must have the spell book of the spell to be memorized present in order to memorize the spell. Spell memorization is automatic and requires merely one minute per spell level if the adventurer had at least eight hours of sleep since the last time he memorized spells (singly or as a group of spells memorized immediately after sleep). Otherwise, memorization requires 10 minutes per spell level and the chance to successfully memorize a spell is equal to the adventurer’s chance to learn a spell less 5% per spell level; if the failed roll is in the upper 10% of the chance to fail, Something Bad happens.

As each spell of a type is always the exact same regardless of who owns the spell book containing the spell, an adventurer can memorize a spell he knows from spell books other than his own. Thus, if Artano the Erudite already knows Melf’s Magic Missile Charm he can memorize it normally from another adventurer’s spell book without additional chance of failure.

An adventurer can attempt to cast a known but not memorized spell directly from a spell book. This requires one full round per level of the spell. The chance to successfully cast the spell is equal to the adventurer’s chance to learn a spell, plus 5% per level, less 10% per spell level; if the failed roll is in the upper 10% of the chance to fail, Something Bad happens.

An adventurer can also attempt to cast any spell from a spell book, even one he does not know, providing he is able to apply Murgen’s Primary to read it. The chance to successfully cast the spell is merely 5% per level, less 5% per spell level; if the failed roll is in the upper 10% of the chance to fail, Something Bad happens. And yes, negative percentages increase the critical failure chance accordingly! Note that the Judge should not inform the adventurer the level of the spell before he attempts to cast it!

Adventurers can make one-shot magic items that function as scrolls, though anyone is able to use these items. One-shot items cost 100 gp and one week time per level of the spell, and can usually be sold for two to five times the cost (if a buyer can be found). When the item is used, the wielder checks against a chance equal to the maker’s chance to learn a spell; if the roll fails, the item fails, and if the failed roll is in the upper 10% of the chance to fail, Something Bad happens.

Thieves Abilities: Adventurers possess all the basic thieving abilities at 1st level, and may advance in them as part of their adventure path. No thieving ability may ever be at a higher rank in ability than the level of the adventurer. The backstab ability advances as follows: max plus roll at 1st rank, double maximum plus roll at 5th rank, triple maximum plus roll at 9th rank, and quadruple maximum plus roll at 13th rank.

An adventurer may wear armor while attempting thieving abilities, but suffers the usual penalties for doing so.

Weapon Mastery: At each rank of weapon mastery gained after the 1st rank the adventurer gets 1 hit point permanently. When fighting with the mastered weapon, the adventurer fights as though he were a fighter of the level of his weapon mastery rank or as a thief of his level, whichever is better. At 1st rank of weapon mastery the adventurer gets a +1 bonus to hit and a +1 bonus to damage with that weapon. At 3rd rank of weapon mastery the bonus improves to +1/+2, at 5th to +2/+2, at 7th to +2/+3, at 9th to +3/+3, at 11th to +3/+4, at 13th to +4/+4, at 15th to +4/+5, and at 17th to +5/+5. At 6th rank they may make 3 attacks every 2 rounds with their specialized weapon; at 10th rank they may make 2 attacks every round; at 14th rank they may make 5 attacks every 2 rounds; and at 18th rank they may make 3 attacks every round. Second and third attacks come at the end of the round, after both sides have moved and attacked.

Adventure Path: An adventurer chooses his own path for advancement in his fighting, thieving, and magic skills, though at times his previous adventures may choose his path for him. Every level gained the adventurer may choose one of the following:
  • Advance weapon mastery in one existing weapon mastery by  one rank and advance four thieves abilities each one rank; or
  • Advance weapon mastery in one existing weapon mastery by  one rank and learn one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher); or
  • Gain 1st rank weapon mastery in a proficient weapon (provided he can find and hire a teacher) and advance four thieves abilities each one rank; or
  • Gain 1st rank weapon mastery in a proficient weapon (provided he can find a teacher) and learn one new spell his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher); or
  • Advance in all eight thieves abilities each one rank and gain proficiency in one weapon; or
  • Automatically learn two new spells of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher) and gain proficiency in one weapon; or
  • Learn one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher), advance any two thieves abilities each one rank, and gain proficiency in one weapon; or
  • Gain proficiency in two weapons and advance any three thieves abilities each one rank; or
  • Provided he can find and hire a teacher, gain the ranger’s tracking ability at a base of half that of normal; or
  • Advance his ranger tracking ability base percentages each by 5 points (up to the normal Ranger class level), and gain proficiency in one weapon; or
  • Provided he can join a temple hierarchy (usually requiring training, bribes, and certain spell casting knowledge, if not also adherence to dogma), he can gain the cleric’s turn and/or control creature ability at 1st rank. The ability applies to any one of the creatures or creature types that are considered abominable or congenial to the deific entity (note the broader the group, the more powerful the temple, and thus more difficult and expensive it is to join). Many temples have both an abominable foe (turn) and congenial ally (control); or
  • Advance his clerical turn or control ability one rank and learn one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (from among those taught by his temple); or
  • Provided he is a member of an appropriate temple, has attained the 5th rank in his control ability, gain the ability to assume a normal animal shape appropriate to the congenial type of the temple once per day; or
  • Gain one additional use per day of his ability to assume normal animal shape; or
  • Provided he has gained three uses per day of his assume normal animal shape, he may gain the ability to assume a giant version of the appropriate animal shape once per day; or
  • Provided he can find and hire a teacher, learn the fighter’s Sword & Board technique; or
  • Provided he can find and hire a teacher, learn the assassin’s Disguise ability; or
  • Provided he can find and hire a teacher, learn the assassin’s Poison Use ability; or
  • Provided he has already gained the Disguise and Poison Use ability and can find and hire a teacher, gain the 1st rank in the assassin’s Assassination ability; or
  • Provided he has already gained the assassin’s Assassination ability, advance one rank in that ability.
1st Level Adventurer Spells
1. Ahlissa's Invocation of Beguiling Amity (1st level Magic-user spell, Charm Person)
2. Ahlissa's Invocation of Dissident Beauty (1st level Magic-user spell, Allure)
3. Al'Akbar's First Apotropaistic Invocation (1st level Magic-user spell, Protection from Evil)
4. Allanon's Cantrip of Covert Perambulation (1st level Druid spell, Pass without Trace)
5. Allanon's Charm of Bindings Verdural (1st level Druid spell, Entangle)
6. Allanon's Charm of Zoomorphic Elucidation (1st level Druid spell, Speak with Animals)
7. Allanon's Invocation of Adenoidal Vellication (1st level Druid spell, Divine Weather)
8. Andoq’s Invocation of Plastic Solitude (1st level Cleric spell, Sanctuary)
9. Arturzax’s Invocation of the Roundabout Plummet (1st level Magic-user spell, Feather Fall)
10. Atsum’s Ritual of Cool Manumission (1st level Cleric spell, Resist Cold)
11. Bakke’s Charm of Small Static (1st level Magic-user spell, Shocking Grasp)
12. Balul’s Invocation of the Discoid Curiosity (1st level Magic-user spell, Shield)
13. Barchier’s Cantrip of Irrepressible Luminosity (1st level Magic-user spell, Dancing Lights)
14. Bigby's Jarring Hand Charm (1st level Magic-user spell, Jarring Hand)
15. Biriga's Bestial Binding Ritual (1st level Druid spell, Animal Companion)
16. Calling Forth and Binding of the Arcane Disjunction Ritual (1st level Magic-user spell, Summon Familiar)
17. Calling Forth of the Silvertine Mists Ritual (1st level Illusionist spell, Wall of Vapor)
18. Chisirion's Charm of Amaranthine Caliginosity (1st level Illusionist spell, Darkness Globe)
19. Chisirion's Invocation of the Scintillated Refulgence (1st level Magic-user spell, Light)
20. Cuthbert's Obdurate Enhancement Formula (1st level Druid spell, Shillelagh)
21. Dostaan's Formula of Aqueous Fabrication (1st level Cleric spell, Create Water)
22. Eddives’s Hungry Essence Eyebite (1st level Cleric spell, Putrefy Food and Drink)
23. Felojun's First Hypnotic Spell (1st level Illusionist spell, Hypnotism)
24. Ferdi’s Invocation of the Bleak Masquerade (1st level Illusionist spell, Refraction)
25. Genneriel’s Invocation of Proportionate Opposition (1st level Magic-user spell, Hold Portal)
26. Harrizang’s Invocation of Parabolic Escape (1st level Magic-user spell, Jump)
27. Immanent Manipulandum of Imix Charm (1st level Magic-user spell, Manipulate Fire)
28. Keoghtum's First Ritual of Revivifying Melioration (1st level Cleric spell, Cure Light Wounds)
29. Llothol's Invocation of Arachnidic Escalation (1st level Magic-user spell, Spider Climb)
30. Lo-Pan's Charm of the Seventh Scarlet Hell (1st level Magic-user spell, Burning Hands)
31. Melf's Magic Missile Charm (1st level Magic-user spell, Magic Missile)
32. Mikelchan’s Unobtrusive Attendant Ritual (1st level Magic-user spell, Unseen Servant)
33. Murgen's Arcane Impressarium Ritual (1st level Magic-user spell, Identify)
34. Murgen's Occultic Penetration Eyebite (1st level Magic-user spell, Detect Magic)
xx. Murgen's Primary Arcane Filter Spell (1st level Magic-user spell, Read Magic)
35. Naroth's Cantrip of the Chromatic Wave (1st level Illusionist spell, Color Spray)
36. Nodrog's Charm of Victual Lustration (1st level Cleric spell, Purify Food and Drink)
37. Nolzur's Efficient Erasure Formula (1st level Magic-user spell, Erase)
38. Nolzur's Invocation of Phantasmal Discernment (1st level Illusionist spell, Detect Illusion)
39. Nolzur's Puissant Ritual of Enscription (1st level Magic-user spell, Scribe)
40. Nystul's Spell of Arcane Aura Enticement (1st level Magic-user spell, Magic Aura)
41. Oberon's Fey Aura Eyebite (1st level Druid spell, Faerie Fire)
42. Oberon's Fey Invocation of Spriggan Aggrandizement (1st level Magic-user spell, Enlarge)
43. Oquilda's Aqueous Annihilation Eyebite (1st level Cleric spell, Destroy Water)
44. Palgora's Facile Reconstruction Ritual (1st level Magic-user spell, Mending)
45. Phargon's Phantasmal Force Charm (1st level Illusionist spell, Phantasmal Force)
46. Phora’s Charm of Somnolent Usurpation (1st level Magic-user spell, Sleep)
47. Quaal's Charm of Pupillary Refraction (1st level Druid spell, Invisibility to Animals)
48. Quaal's Charm of Propitious Revelation (1st level Druid spell, Detect Snares and Pits)
49. Rao's Invocation of Recreant Amelioration (1st level Cleric spell, Remove Fear)
50. Rao's Invocation of Malominious Ascertainment (1st level Cleric spell, Detect Evil)
51. Riggby's Invocation for the Denouncement of the Veil (1st level Illusionist spell, Detect Invisibility)
52. Sargath's Charm of Otic Punctuation (1st level Illusionist spell, Auditory Illusion)
53. Shimrod's Excellent Linguistic Concordance Formula (1st level Magic-user spell, Read Languages)
54. Shimrod's Magical Missive Charm (1st level Magic-user spell, Message)
55. Shimrod's Occulted Utterance Invocation (1st level Magic-user spell, Ventriloquism)
56. Siandor's Invocation of Authority Nonpareil (1st level Cleric spell, Command)
57. Tasha's Desultory Disguise Eyebite (1st level Illusionist spell, Doppelganger)
58. Tasha's Ineluctable Charm of Auric Discernment (1st level Druid spell, Locate Creature)
59. Tenser's Floating Disc Formula (1st level Magic-user spell, Floating Disc)
60. Zulquor's Invocation of Etheric Cerebral Cocatenation (1st level Magic-user spell, Comprehend Languages)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Mystara Monstrous Compendium Has Been Released in PDF!

Being a Mystaraphile, it should come as no surprise to any of my readers that, in my opinion, one of the BEST Monstrous Compendiums to ever come out of the 2nd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the Mystara Appendix. Wizards has finally released the PDF on DriveThruRPG. Being designed for 2E, it is readily compatible with Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades, so you should definitely check it out if you want a collection of weird and interesting monsters!

I've included the info from the DTRPG listing below. I gotta say that I really enjoy the historical info on all the new PDF releases from Wizards.

Rare dragons, wondrous giants, bizarre humanoids... For years such creatures have filled classic D&D campaigns set in the world of Mystara, along with the exotic hivebrood, rakasta, thoul, and many more.

Now, for the first time ever, more than 100 of Mystara's unique and most popular creatures have been developed and defined in AD&D game terms! This must-have volume will delight and horrify players of the new AD&D Mystara campaign as well as any fan of the all-time favorites within.

Product History
The Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994) was produced by John Nephew, Teeuwynn Woodruff, John Terra, and Skip Williams. It was published in August 1994.

Moving Mystara. In Dragon #197 (September 1993), Bruce A. Heard announced that the Known World of Mystara would "be granted much greater attention and support as a major TSR line." To allow for this, Heard said that the Known World was "graduating" to the AD&D game. According to TSR's original plans, the new line was to kick off with a Monstrous Compendium, a dungeon adventure, a Castle Amberville Gazetteer, an almanac, new novels, and a new accessory about the Savage Coast.

Fans were a bit shocked, and some protested that AD&D didn't need another game world - and they were right there, as TSR's proliferation of game worlds was probably already causing them economic problems. What they didn't realize was that Basic D&D had been losing ground to AD&D for over a decade, and that TSR had been flailing about trying to find some way to support Basic D&D since 1990 - without success. The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game (1994) would end up being the last release for TSR's introductory gaming system. If Mystara hadn't transferred over to AD&D, the world would have died.

Although TSR supported Mystara for only three years as an AD&D game world, from 1994-96, along the way they produced some handsome boxed sets and largely fulfilled their original plans. It all kicked off in August 1994 with two releases - Karameikos Campaign Setting and Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix.

Sources. The Mystara Monstrous Compendium is a rather impressive collection of almost 15 years of Known World material. It contains numerous monsters from the core sources that you'd expect, including the first four BECMI boxes (1983-84), six B-series Basic adventures, almost every X-series Expert adventure, three CM (Companion) adventures, and two M (or Master) adventures.

It also goes further afield, reprinting monsters that appeared in the DA (Blackmoor), XL (Licensed), XS (Solo), and O (One-on-One) series, as well as monsters from some later releases like Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark (1993), and "Rage of the Rakasta" (1993).

Prior to the publication of the Mystara Monstrous Compendium, Known World monsters had largely been collected in three volumes. Monsters from the rulebooks had been compiled in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) while monsters from adventures were compiled in AC9: Creature Catalogue (1986), which was later revamped as DMR2: Creature Catalog (1993). The Mystara Monstrous Compendium largely supersedes those previously compilations, though it of course updates everything to AD&D.

Because the Mystara Monstrous Compendium is such a comprehensive sourcebook, it also brings together some previously separated classes of critters, such as the living statues, the spider-kin, and the worms. (Yes, for some reason the Known World has tons of worms.)

Monsters of Note. This compilation is most notable for the deeply Mystaran creatures that it brings over to AD&D, among them the hutaakans of the Hollow World, the tentacular kopru, a variety of lizard-kin and spider-kin (the latter including the popular aranea), the lupin of the Savage Coast, pegataurs, the racoon-like phanaton, and the cat-like rakasta.

The Mystara Monstrous Compendium also includes several interesting typed creatures, most notably the unique drakes and crystalline dragons of Mystara - though the sapphire dragon was sadly misplaced. There are also some new inhabitants for the elemental planes, including Mystara's sentient answer to the quasi-elementals, which mix Law and Chaos with the standard elements, and a set of weaker elemental fundamentals.

The most infamous monster in this book is doubtless the decapus, which caused some problems in its original appearance in B3: "Palace of the Silver Princess" (1983).

Sadly, very few of the monsters from Mystara have influenced more recent editions of D&D. The bhut, the Neh-Tallgu brain collector, the choker, the frost salamander, the athach giant, the mud golem, the kopru, the nightshade, and the aranea spider-kin are the only monsters to appear in major Wizards of the Coast supplements for third edition. Several more iconic monsters like the lupin and the phanton showed up in Dragon or Dungeon magazine thanks to interest at Paizo.

About the Creators. This creatures in this book were originally created by a variety of authors over a 13-year period, then revamped and edited by freelancers and TSR staff alike. No doubt this overhaul was a major internal effort at Wizards!

About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

Thursday, May 2, 2013

[Southland] New Version of Outdoor Survival Map

When I need to get my game on, but can't really concentrate on writing and can't get together with anyone to play, I draw maps. Call it a kind of occupational therapy, if you will.

Once upon a time I did that by hand... but now I mostly use Hexographer. Going through  my "Campaign Setting" folders, I stumbled upon the work done on Southland, the post-Blackmoor setting Dave Arneson used after his group essentially trashed the original campaign. The setting used Avalon Hill Game Company's Outdoor Survival map, as was mentioned in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures booklet in OD&D. Robert Conley created a fine Judges Guild style version of the map long ago

I decided I wanted to play around with the map, maybe make a few variants, so I put together a base, "original" version of the map. My version does not include the "Encounter Areas" that Rob's does, but is otherwise pretty close. Later variants will develop the region more, and include different climate versions.

If you want a larger PNG or the original Hexographer file, drop me an e-mail...

Click to embiggen...