Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #17

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 17: The Thief in the Briars

Blood lies in the snow. Wolves stalk the borders of the city. A man is killed. His dead body hangs in the thorny bush that surrounds the Ursuline convent. He is struck by a crossbow bolt in his belly. It seems he was murdered.

Download the seventeenth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here!


OSR Experiments #22: Not all Weapons are Equal

Ok, I'm still watching the videos, but here's a few thoughts I'd like to share. TrentB alerted me to the ARMA medieval fencing masters, who study the real thing. Not the stats, the number crunching, the Great Shield debates, or the abstract hit point related simulation systems called chainmail or D&D. They do the real swordfighting, live.

And on this swordfighting lesson video the teacher (I'm not sure if it's John Clements, but could be) explains the difference between a longsword vs a side sword. The latter, he explains, is rather effective on the battlefield, but the former is much more effective in the street - vs. a single opponent.

That's because the reach of a longsword is greater, even if just a bit. And one hand is kept free, to parry with for example. So, the longsword is excellent to carry around "on the street", because you can quickly take down an opponent with the longer reach. But in the battlefield a side sword (broadsword?) is more useful, because you can create a swooshing barrier to keep enemies from all sides away from you.

I'm not too sure if the difference between a battlefield situation and a one to one situation is at all reflected in D&D (or other) game rules. I know of no example. But I figure it should be, or at least it would add to my enjoyment and feel for the game if that were the case.


OSR Experiments #21: Just another thought on Shields

Why are shields underused in dark Dungeon? I was a bit nagged by the idea that my "better" system would provide such an unrealistic result. But then a thought struck me.

Dark Dungeon heroes are equipped to fight, but they don't go out to fight unless they really have to. It's not like they enter dungeons every second scene, or go into a battle. If they would, then wearing a shield would make much more sense. Especially if they would work in formation, and go in to clobber up orks with their shield wall, riot control style. Or if they went into a duel, viking style, with a few shields for spare if one got axed up.

But that's not usually the case. Heroes in DD2 are more often carousing, traveling, patrolling, visiting local nobility, solving mysteries...

And if they fight, it's because they were surprised, coming to the rescue, or are sniping from a distance anyway. And the ones that do jump into the fray prefer twohanded weapons, or another weapon in the second hand. Many of them are nobility too, who would scoff at using a big shield.

So, maybe it's not all that crazy. But I'll soon surprise them with a goblin shield wall anyway. 

Image gratefully borrowed from Wikipedia Commons.


Pick #56: Sauron also Blogs...

On a completely silly note, I thought I might alert you to a few wargaming blogs out there. Here is one for starters that's not really about wargaming at all.

While it's way too late at night, and I should be asleep, I've just been updating on the wargames section on the Dark Dungeon Vaults. And guess what I found? Uncle Sauron also keeps a blog roll. And I mean, this guy (Erik David Even) really looks from the perspective of the bad guy. It's actually Sauron talking about his strategies and plans - in a humorous way. You can even follow Sauron's tweets!

You can find the lidless eye's blog here.


OSR Experiments #20: Winged Syren

As a nod to Ancient Vaults I thought I'd do another conversion and messup to Dark Dungeon rules and mythology. Here 't is.

Winged Syren

The winged syrens or "Seethers", named after the wyzard who first encountered them near the hellish depths of the Etna volcano, are extremely beautiful women-like, bat-winged demonoids. Master Seeth's expedition never returned, but his writings did survive. According to him, the winged syrens are protectresses of Coatlicue, the goddess with the "skirt of snakes".  Coatlicue was the one that gave birth to mankind, and saved those who travelled between the stars and gave them new life. But most depict her as an insatiable monster that consumes everything that lives, with two snake heads and foul wings.

The seether priestesses fly high above the smoldering lava, and breathe the sulphurous fumes as if they are one with them. They are about human sized, with wings extending fifteen feet from tip to tip. Whether they can interbreed with mankind is unknown. In all probability they will just attack from above, and render their hapless prey before they can resist. Master Seeth descibes how one of his guides was picked up and held in a crushing and kissing embrace while he was lifted high, and then dropped down in the pits of Hell.

STR 5, DEX 6, APP 5, magickal seduce 5, flight 5, hug and lift / bite 8 (weapon class 1),
breathe befuddling fumes 5 (short range only, single target, target must evade or resist on WIL or CON to avoid being charmed in a state of bliss, which makes it impossible to attack or resist. this effect only wears off after a few hours or immediately once the victim is painfully wounded)

UPDATE Chgowiz didn't do the Ancient Vaults site - but Bat. Thanx to you :-)


Pick #55: Real Flashing Blades

A few posts ago I already introduced you to rather %$#&! impressive swordfighting in European style, twice. This time, I stumbled on another frantic fight video - of real medieval technique. I was actually showing my eight year old daughter what you can do with real swords, if you train well enough so that you don't hurt eachother. She kind of fancies a rather realistic stage fencing epee that lies around the house, so why not? So, I showed her the gladiatores - and then I also saw this one by the fencing guild of Trnava in the Czech Republic.

I first thought they sped the camera up. But they didn't. Have a look.

Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #16

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 16: The Hungry Winter
The new year has come, and the winter has set in. Snow falls heavily on the fields, roofs and streets, and the canals and river freeze over. Most people stay inside longer, many try to sleep their way through the cold days. And there is indeed too little grain to go around. Not everyone will be free from hunger.

Download the sixteenth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here! 


Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

The oddest thing just happened. I walked past the outside steps of an office building where I often work - to have lunch with best friend and fellow designer in his office. And outside the steps sits a redhaired, red bearded man with an oddly familiar look. Thumbing through the newest Iain Banks novel, he looks back at me. And before we know we're grinning and shaking hands.
He's an old friend and role player. He used to play in my Dark Dungeon group when it was a few hundred people strong, in the nineties. Alright, he played more GURPS and WFRP, but his regular group also played in my games - a lot. We kind of lost track of eachother almost ten years ago, and guess what? He's working in the same building as I and fellow DD2 designer, for the past three and a half years. And we never noticed that we were so close! Weird!

He still plays - every monday - with the same regulars as then. For twenty years now.
Unbelievable, I say.
I also still play - nearly every friday or saturday - with my own group of regulars. I see him grin. Unbelievable.

My fellow game designer at first doesn't recognize our fellow gamer.
But then he exclaims "wait a minute, you have a huge painting made by me!".
"That's right, it's on my son's wall, in plain view!"

Some things don't really change - even if they do. Even if we lose track of eachother.
That's good to know.


OSR Experiments #19: Shields Should Matter in DD Too

Recently there was some discussion about shields in D&D. They don't really pack the punch in the game as they do in real life. And that's a shame. So, the most cheered solution was a reshuffled Armor Class table (thanks J.D. & Stuart). One where shields are more useful. A solution which rather resembles using the existing “weapons vs. armor” modifier list in AD&D, as Nagora noted. You know, the table which nobody ever uses or looks at because “it's too complicated”? Gygax has the last laugh again, I guess.

But, apart from me being less happy with forementioned shuffle solution than most – I don't play D&D – it's not the only game where shields suffer. My game in practice also lacks shield use. One commenter rightly noted that he'd seen more shields in D&D than in DD2 – albeit it many magickal shields. So, I figured it time to rethink, or at least restate the shield rules in my game too.

Shields in Dark Dungeon

Blocking with Shields
Those using a shield may use it to block or deflect blows from from weapons, making a succesful roll on their shield skill. Bucklers gain a +1, small shields a +2, large shields a +3 on blocking attacks. The shield is trained as a second hand weapon, which means that you may block a blow with the one hand, and attack with the other hand in the same round without penalty.

Attacking with Shields
Shields may also be used to attack, if they are not used for defense in the same round. Spiked shields are weapon class 1, other shields class 0. You may add your shield skill to your shield attack as with normal weapons, but not the special shield bonus.

Drawbacks of Shields
Large shields are bulky, and impair movement and dexterity checks. Large shields can only be used in conjunction with a short sword or similar shorter weapon. Medium (or small shields) with nothing larger than a longsword. Bucklers may be strapped to the arm, and be used with a hand-and-a-half weapon. Twohanded weapons cannot be wielded with shields. Lances, javelins and spears can be used with any shield.

Breaking Shields
Shields may be purposely destroyed with a succesful special attack (12+) of a heavier weapon (a heavier weapon class). Wooden and wicker shields are armor class 1, reinforced shields armor class 2, steel bucklers and hoplite shields 3. So wooden shields can be hacked with an axe of class 2, reinforced shields with a bastard sword of class 3, and so on. Fumbling on your shield roll will also break it.

Shields as Missile Cover
Shields may be used as cover against missiles, especially if used in a shield wall. I haven't quite figured how to simulate this effect best, but you might give a -3 on missile attacks vs a shield wall, and -6 against a testudo formation (“tortoise” with shields both in front, side and above the formation).

Testudo Formation photo by Neil Carey, from Wiki Commons


Pick #54: Swords & Sorcery French Style

The French have done it again! This time they did not invade Texas, but a few of them joined in on the OSR Retroclone OGL movement. That's role playing like D&D, but in French, named Epees & Sorcellerie. Freely translated "Swords & Sorcery", by Nicolas Dessaux.

And now, for those of you who do not speak French as a native, Epees & Sorcellerie has been translated to English by David Macauley, under the flag of Frightful Hobgoblin, and made available on Lulu. Free as a pdf, or for a fistful of dollars or euros as a pocketbook.

Actually, it looks quite nice, simple and atmospheric. With medieval woodprints for artwork, and some nice original spells and monsters. And a few rules that might actually be better than D&D pure style. E&S is a kind of tiny rival to S&W, certainly not lost in translation.


Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #15

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 15: The Attack on the Road

While our heroes are on the road between Baarn and Soest, to the west from Ammersfurt, they are alerted by cries and shouts of panic. When they approach they see a knight on horseback being subdued by a group of men armed with strange weapons. One uses a long pole with a noose to pull the knight to the ground. Others move in with jagged blades and warhammers. The knight fights well, but needs help. And then the knight's visor opens. It's a woman.

Download the fifteenth part
of The Secret of Ammersfurt here! 

Art repro in public domain, St George by Rafael Santi.
UPDATE: link now loads part 15 and not 1


Pick #53: The Compleat D&D Review Project

Have you ever wondered how many D&D products are out there? Why Holmes was BLUE, and Moldvay and Mentzer were RED? Why modules start out with strange letter codes? Whether there was life before 3rd edition? I did. But I wonder about everything.

You may not care. Or you may never find out. But if, if, if you have a craving for knowing D&D before 3e, Pathfinder  or 4e, then you can probably satisfy your needs a long way by visiting the website of (once?) London-based IT specialist Mark Bertenshaw. His review listings are truly extensive.

Actually, they're even fun to read.


OSR Experiments #18: "Shields Should Matter" hack

Paladin in Citadel just posted a very true observation. Shields only give a 1 point bonus on your armor class in D&D. That's a 5% difference. But a real shield is much more effective than that. If you ever watched or joined an SCA rally, or tried your hand at swordfighting, you'll know what I mean.

For me it was a main reason to switch game systems to "something more realistic", like RuneQuest (this was in 1983 or something). The other reason was wanting to use spell points instead of memorizing spells.

A shield is very effective to hide behind when being shot at, and it's almost as effective when being hacked at. When many shields are combined into a "shield wall", with each soldier next to the other overlapping shields, it's much like a tank coming at you. Shields are much more than a +1 on AC.

So, unless you also want to switch systems (to my Dark Dungeon 2nd ed for example, hint hint), you might want to try this D&D hack instead.

Shields need one free hand to use, and give a +1 on your armor class. But...

You can also use them to go "on the defensive". Then you really hide behind your shield, and forfeit some of your chances to attack. The effects are then according to this table.

buckler:            too small for this tactic, just a +1 on AC
normal shield:  +3 on defense, -3 on own attack in same round
large shield:     +5 on defense, -5 on own attack in same round

Note that the defensive tactic is especially handy when used against missile fire (where you don't couterattack anyway), and for higher level characters with better attack skill.

The extra defense value of the shield is in a single direction only, or two hexsides if you use hexes.
Shields can be hacked to pieces if hit by heavier weapons (when the hit would normally be enough to hit AC 9). A normal shield should have about 5 hits, a large one 7, reinforced shields one or two points better.

I'd use a shield if I'd play a fighter with these extra rules. See what your players do. See what the sentient monsters and NPCs do... like an orc with a shield. What a way to introduce that rule, with a horde of orcs with large shields :-)


Pick #52: Rogue Space is Out There

Sometimes it seems to me that every RPG blog out there is actually a showcase for another new role playing game. My own blog is no exception. Rogue Space is another one. But it's also one of the more interesting ones. The Rogue Space RPG is a nifty, simple bare bones science fiction system by C. Brandon. One you might actually try out for an evening, because it's so simple. And because it has a few unexpected features. Like alternative ability scores. No STR, DEX and CON here. But Fighting, Acquiring, Scientific, Empathy and Repairing. Who knows, this small difference might spin a whole different game experience. Rogue Space is downloadable for free, in two versions (normal and wander rules). And there's a small but packed supplement too: Aliens & Androids. Have a look, if you dare, 'cause there's a whole new universe right next door.


Ye Olde Character Sheet #2: Ben de Blop

Ben is a man's name. But Ben de Blop (Ben “the Blob”), was a woman, played by player Benjamin. She started out as a he, but a magickal cubicle caused a sex change, and the player left it at that. He even seemed to enjoy the idea. His character was mostly silly anyway. And peskering his fellow player character Pirliwi the Leprechaun was just as possible as a female as a male.

Ben was a magic user, with new magic user rules. As a game master I was fed up with endless spell lists to be memorized. And I wanted to give players more freedom. So I introduced a spell point system. Mages had as many spell points as their intelligence score, and intelligence could be raised a point for every experience level. Every spell cost double its spell level in points. And points could be regained by meditation and sleep.

The makeshift system worked fairly well, and held out for a long years campaign. It sure gave more freedom and more creative spell use. Minor annoyance was that Ben de Blop regularly went to sleep in the middle of an adventure to regain points, which was a bit silly at times. Especially as Ben used up many points for show-off cantrips (1 spell point each).

Another thing I then introduced in my home brew was the fumble (roll a 1 on d20). And having to roll for the success of spell effects too. Ben utterly demonstrated these rules by fumbling six times successively, and killing herself by teleporting completely into the ground to negotiate a mere six foot chasm.

That was utterly weird.


Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #14

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 14: the Crossmass Relic

It is around Crossmass time, when the days of the year are shortest.
Gretchen Mariadottir, an immigrant girl at the Ursuline convent has had recurrent dreams of a gilded cross made of dragon bone. Every time she dreams of it, she sees that is hidden in a chapel, and that a hooded monk in black is protecting it. A voice in her dreams keeps repeating that it must be brought back to save Ammersfurt. The cross appears to be the lost cross of St. Martin. Our heroes, burghermaster and the masters of St. Joris convene with Gretchen to figure out what to do. Is the vision real? Where is this chapel then?

Download the fourteenth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here! 

Artwork repro in public domain, St. Martin by El Greco. 

PS If, by chance you feel it is silly to play a winter time adventure during early summer, by all means change your date of play in the real world or the game world, or move to the Southern Hemisphere.


OSR Experiments #17: The Hog Men

Following up the Panzer Bear experiment last issue, I encountered Pig Men on Digital Orc. So, why not do a similar trick and give it another "The World Beyond" spin?

The Hog Men

TWB stats:

Clobbering with Fists 5     (weapon class 4, fist + 3 STR)
Armour Class: 4 (fat leathery skin+3 CON)
STR 3, DEX 3, CON 3, INT -2, APP -4

Numbers: 1 to 6

"Hogs and men are genetically closer than apes and men" the wizardress Circe said. And she demonstrated how close they were by transforming Ulysses' men into hogs. Or more specifically into hog men. Aggressive, boisterous, rude, fat and dead ugly creatures. Their minds were completely gone, and all they enjoyed was filth, violence and horror.

Some say Ullyses talked Circe in returning his men back to normal. Others say he saw little difference from what his men were before, and he still sails the seven seas in his ghostly ships, and his murderous crew of... the hog men.

Thanx to Dylan for the first creepy idea.


OSR Experiments #16: Panzer Bear

John Becker from B/X Blackrazor posted a pretty inspiring bear monster yesterday - in D&D B/X compatible stats. Okay, it's from Pullman's His Dark Materials, so it's not a new idea, but it's cool. And first thing I thought was - what would DD stats be like? And what would my twist be?

With my conversion table it's actually not that difficult anymore:


Armor class: 4 (Plate Armor 3+1 for siz &con)

Claw 8 (weapon class 2)
Bite 8 (weapon class 3)
STR 8, CON 7

Numbers: 1 or 2

On Nirdday and its mirror world Yaddrin, the Panzer Bears are only known as weaponized polar bears, used by the Northern Elves in punishment expeditions. They are in all probability of extra-terrestrial or even extra-planar origin. Their most notable difference with normal polar bears is their high intelligence, and speech. Their armor was forged by the elves who bound them, and the armor also serves as a kind of soul prison - forcing the bears to attack ferociously if the elves give the attack commands. Sometimes the panzer bears are used as sentries to protect polar bases or gates to other worlds, and then given magickal standing orders. A panzer bear that is freed from its helmet may either turn out thankful, or go stark raving mad and attack.

With thanks to JB and Phillip Pulmann for the basic crazy idea.