Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Magic Items: A Pocket Full of Potions II

Chameleon Potion

Imbibing this potion allows the user to change the color of their entire body, and all carried equipment, as well as one additional individual of equal size as long as they are touching. The character may change color at will for entertainment purposes, but the potion is meant to allow the character to naturally blend into their environment.

This effect allows the user to blend into the background, giving them a +20% to Hide in Shadows if they remain perfectly still, or +10% if they move slowly. Normal walking movement will reveal their location. If the user manages to get out of sight again, they will regain their bonus.

The potion lasts for one hour. The entire potion must be drunk to take effect.

Elixir of Artax

This potion only works for horses! When given to a mount, the animal can then travel at full top speed for a duration of twenty four hours. The animal needs no rest, nor food and drink, during this period. Only one such potion can be used during a week (7 day period), or the animal must make a Save or die at the end of the second potion's duration.

The entire potion must be drunk to take effect.

The Ale of Heracles

Drinking this potion allows the character to perform eight hours of physical labor in one hour. It also has the effect of improving the character's armor class by one, increases bare-handed damage up to the next die size, and improves unarmed attack rolls by +2d6 (see unarmed combat, Swords & Wizardry) . No more than three such potions can be drunk within 24 hours, or the character must Save or receive 6d6 points of damage.

The potion lasts for one hour. The entire potion must be drunk to take effect.

The Draught of Narcos

Once consumed, the drinker will fall into a deep sleep for up to 7 days. During this time, it is nearly impossible to determine if the character is alive or dead. The character may set a time limit, and or a specific condition, that will wake them up before the full seven days have elapsed. If the character has been poisoned, or is losing hit points, these conditions will be halted until the character once again awakens.

The entire potion must be drunk to take effect.

Potion of Clarity

The drinker becomes immune to any illusion spells, or illusionary spell-like abilities, for one hour. The character will clearly know that illusionary images, sounds, etc, are not real and cannot be fooled nor harmed by them. Note that not all Illusionist spells are actually "illusions".

The potion lasts for one hour. The entire potion must be drunk to take effect.

The Dram of Nai Kavon (Hair of the Dog)

This potion will allow a character to prevent themselves from contracting Lycanthropy or Vampirism. If the character survives being bitten, they must drink the entire potion, mixed with either some hair or blood of the creature that inflicted the wound upon them. From then on, that character can never be infected from the attacks of that specific creature ever again.. Though they can still be wounded and killed.

Download all the potions from A Pocket Full of Potions I and II in PDF.

Monday, January 29, 2018

What Is My NPC Up To?

Every now and then, one of my players will drop in on an NPC for a visit, consultation, etc. Of course, while NPC's are not active Player Characters, they do in fact have "lives" and activities that happen in the background, even when not directly observed by a PC. Work on construction continues, shops trade in goods, shipments exchange hands, and wives are involved in maintaining households, etc. Put plainly, NPC's engage in activities, not just sit in one place waiting to interact with Player Characters.

So how does one determine what a particular NPC is doing at any given moment of the day, when a player comes calling? In our home campaign, we simply throw a d6. Of course, the time of day can directly affect, or modify, the outcome of the roll.

NPC Random Activities Table: Roll 1d6
  1. The NPC is currently resting/relaxing.
  2. The NPC is entertaining guests/has visitors.
  3. The NPC is currently taking a meal, or enjoying a snack/drink.
  4. The NPC is doing nothing of consequence/or importance (i.e. Reading, Hobby, etc.)
  5. The NPC is engaged in work and is busy.
  6. The NPC was just leaving to perform chores, visit someone, on an errand, taking some air.
This table is only used when an NPC's activities aren't directly dictated by prior information or details. If an NPC wizard is doing research, then he will probably be engrossed in research for days, with little time set aside for anything else. A blacksmith, at his shop, will pretty much be involved in his work. The dice roll can still affect these activities, but only in so much as they are directly related to whatever the NPC is currently engaged in.

The blacksmith might be taking a break between activities.
The goodwife might be "entertaining" (gossiping) with a neighbor.
The mayor might be enjoying a late lunch with a visiting alderman.

With a little creativity, most any normal activities can be randomly chosen, using this simple 1d6 mechanic.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

New Magic Items: A Pocket Full of Potions I

Potion of the Lycan

Drinking this potion allows the imbiber to assume the form of a wolf. The clothes and equipment of the character do not change with the drinker. The effects of the potion last for one hour during the day, or from dusk to dawn at night. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

Potion of Trollsblood

Allows the drinker to regenerate at the same rate (3 hit points per round) as a Troll, for one hour. Limbs severed within that duration may be reattached, but not regrown. Separating the head from the body will kill the character only if the head is not reattached before the potion's duration runs out. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

The Waters of Theros (Enhanced Potion of Fire Protection)

This potion acts the same as the spell, Protection from Fire, for one hour. The potion also allows the user to pass through (buy not breathe in) lava, boiling liquids (even molten metals), and super-heated steam, unharmed - though doing so cuts the remaining duration in half. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

Potion of Ogre Strength

Gives the drinker the strength of an ogre (treat as Strength of 18), for one hour. During that time the character will move as though unarmored, nor will they tire from any physical exertion. This potion may be used by any character type, even magic-users. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

The Bitters of Saint Cuthbert (Potion of Sobriety)

This potion will completely negate the effects of alcohol, for one hour. This potion will allow a character to make an immediate second Save at +2 against any ingested poisons, if drunk within one round of the poisoning. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

Potion of Restored Vigor

This potion will restore a character's physical and mental acuity as though they had received eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Spells may be recovered as though the character underwent complete rest. Only one such potion may be drunk within 48 hours. (The whole potion must be drunk to take effect.)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Optional Rules: Healing, Medicines & Magic - Part Two

For game purposes, medical attention, is defined as care provided by anyone competently trained in the arts of healing. But first, a clarification. First aid, that is the immediate treatment of wounds to stop bleeding, and prevent further injury, is a basic skill possessed by many. Anyone who has spent any time at all on a battlefield, or trained in the use of violence, learns rather quickly how to keep themselves and others from bleeding out until competent help arrives.

But, for game purposes, just who can be assumed to have training in competent medically related skill? Many, but not all, clerics will be trained in such arts, as long as it is appropriate for their deity/order. Druids have training in the healing arts, with an obvious leaning towards herbal and natural remedies. It is not unusual for Rangers and Monks to have access to such training. Some magic-users, with the appropriate areas of study, may be competent healers, even though they do not have healing magics. Paladins may use healing magics, but are usually not trained in the medical arts, unless their deity/order is associated with such knowledge. However, any character with a reasonable background explanation, could have access to healing skills.

Those with knowledge of herbalism and alchemy, can locate, identify, and prepare specific plants, fungus, and other substances for use in creating non-magical potions, tinctures, poultices, powders, and other concoctions, for either beneficial or harmful purposes.

Healers double the hit point recovery of those under their care, per day. Up to six patients may be under a particular healer's care per day, to receive adequate treatment.

Some DM's may require a healer to make a Competency Check, when treating patients under difficult circumstances or severe medical issues. Simply roll under x4 healer's Intelligence + level (if their class applies to healing), expressed as a percentile dice roll. Rolling under this target number means the patient was competently treated. Herbalists and alchemists may add an additional x1 Wisdom + level, to this roll, due to the additional benefit of their knowledge and medicines.

Treating poisons and diseases always require a Competency Check, and allow a character a second Saving Throw, to reduce or negate the deleterious effects. It is up to each DM to decide what effect such intervention should have in game.

Medical Treatments:

Advanced First AidWhen a character is wounded, a healer can immediately treat the character's wound the next round, restoring up to 1d3 hit points, but no more than the original wound, or above the character's normal hit point total. This may only be done once per day. The healer may only be able to do so if left unmolested.

Treat Poison - If a healer can immediately treat a patient that has been poisoned within one round, then add +2 to the character's Save.

Slow Poison - Should a character fail a Save, they do not immediately die, though they will become incapacitated and unconscious. If a healer can begin treatment within three rounds, they may slow down the effects of the poison by one hour per point of Intelligence + level, of the healer.

Treat Disease - A healer treating a patient allows a +2 to any Save the character must make against the effects of a disease.

Slow Disease - Some diseases have quick, debilitating effects. A healer can often slow down these effects for hours, if not days, in an attempt to keep the patient alive until magical healing can be applied.

Medicinal Preparations:

Herbalists, physicians, and alchemists/apothecaries, can make either fresh, or preserved, substances to help treat poisons, diseases, etc. Freshly prepared are usually made within 24 to 48 hours. Preserved are specially prepared to last longer before being used, but have reduced potency.

Antitoxin - When ingested, give a character a +1 bonus to Save vs poisons for the next hour. +3 to Save if the preparation is freshly made. Price: 50 gold pieces per vial.

Panacea - When ingested, gives a character a +1 bonus to Save vs disease, or infection. +3 to Save if the preparation is freshly made. Price: 30 gold pieces per vial.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Optional Rules: Healing, Medicines & Magic - Part One

The following rules alter the recovery rates of natural and magical healing to some degree over the RAW (Rules-As-Written). Each DM is strongly encouraged to study them carefully before allowing them into their own campaign.

As written (in Swords & Wizardry), natural healing restores 1 hit point per day of uninterrupted rest. And four weeks of uninterrupted rest and recuperation will restore a character to full hit points, regardless of damage taken.

Extrapolating from this, we have integrated the following rules into our home campaigns. We call these rules, the Four Weekly Stages of Healing. They may seem complicated, but they're not. The progress of tracking healing this way is very simple and intuitive.

First Week: The character must rest uninterrupted. Any activities will re-open wounds and cause the character to begin to "bleed", losing 1 hit point per hour until the wound is properly tended to again.

Second Week: The character must rest, avoiding strenuous activities, or they will not regain any hit points for each day they are active. After the first week, a character also adds their Constitution bonus, if any, to the number of hit points they regain each week.

Third Week: The character may perform light duties and still recover hit points.

Fourth Week: The character can perform some strenuous tasks, but overexertion will negate the recovery of any hit points for that day.

Injured characters, under medical care, regain hit points at twice the rates stated above.

Using magic to accelerate the healing process works as follows. Any day which a Cure (Any) Wounds spell is cast upon the character, automatically bumps that character's level of recovery up by one week, if they are not completely healed outright. This may only happen once per day, no matter how many healing spells are cast upon the same character after the first, unless the character is healed completely.

Efficacy of spells and potions are as follows. Each day, the first spell cast upon the character, or potion imbibed, will heal the character up to the full amount of hit points allowed by its type. Any further spells or potions are reduced by half normal. This reflects the fact that magic can only do just so much per day to restore a character's health.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Optional Rules: Giant Beasties

Sir Gawain battles a "Sea Dragon" - Prince Valiant - Hal Foster

I don't know about most new players these days, but back in my day, we used to get gnawed on by some of the nastiest giant critters around. I'm not talking about large monsters, though we ran into our fair share of those too. I'm talking about extra-large, to giant-sized, versions of normal animals. Of course, this was back before they started all this "dire" business with animals having sharp ridged boney plates.

Megafauna*, or "Giant" animals are nothing to sneeze at. Nature has spent millions of years honing dangerous predators to a fine killing edge, and with a little DM's help, larger versions become a real menace to even the most skilled and well-equipped adventuring parties. A random and unexpected encounter with a giant crocodile at a river crossing can really throw a wrench into your group's plans when they lose a mount or a pack animal, or four, within a matter of a few rounds!

Even animal types that aren't normally predators, become seriously dangerous when you increase their size. Aurochs, giant cattle, can quickly ruin your day when pissed off bull, the size of a large delivery van, decides to charge you. Normally harmless wild weasels that avoid human contact, become aggressive mean-eaters, when you make them the size of large hounds or even a horse. Keep in mind that "giant" anything generally have no normal natural predators in their habitat, because they are too dangerous to attack. Player characters often don't care about this fact and all too often underestimate these "stupid animals".

Giant versions of animals usually use the same successful hunting strategies of their smaller cousins. Hiding under the surface of the water, Laying in wait up in tree limbs, hiding in underbrush, or dugout holes. They can attack from hiding areas instantly, or cover enormous distances with horrific speed. As DM, don't be shy about using these tactics. Giant animals aren't just a collection of statistics to face off against. Don't just throw away some genuine opportunities to add color and bring the wilderness of your campaign to terrifying life. Use megafauna to your fullest advantage.

Because of their increased size, some DMs may rule that very large animals automatically gain initiative over opponents not attacking with reach weapons, such as polearms, or ranged weapons. Furthermore, they may rule that attacks using close combat weapons (most normal hand-held weapons) will initiate a free counter attack by the larger opponent. Even if attackers use spears and other polearms, some DMs may rule that the animal may get a free counter attack against the weapon, attacking an AC of 5 (plus any Dexterity bonus), to force the attacker to roll a Save, or lose their weapon to a break or disarm (roll 1d6; odds, the weapon breaks.. evens, it is torn from the hands of the wielder).

* - Megafauna, (from Greek μέγας megas "large" and New Latin fauna "animal life") are large or giant animals. - Wikipedia

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Optional Rules: Quick and Dirty NPC Stats

Sometimes, either due to a time crunch or unexpected turn of events, you as the DM must pull stats out of the air for an NPC. You could grab an already written module and yank an NPC out of the per-gens (pre-generated characters), or snag an able bodied candidate from the well-thumbed pages of the City State of the Invincible Overlord*, but you won't always have an easy resource like these at hand. You might even carry pre-written character sheets with you, but again, you might not have them on hand. Of course, the digital age makes finding a character generator as easy as reach for your cellphone, BUT that's IF you have signal, and data.

So what to do? Well, in our home campaign, we have a simple character ability array that can be dropped in quickly without any difficulty. The arrays are easy enough to note on the inside of a game book cover, or an index card and shoved into your game materials.

The following ability arrays are written for Swords & Wizardry characters, but are compatible for most OSR clones and D&D systems. They come in three tiers; Low (1-4 level), Medium (5-8 level), and High (9-12 level). These arrays allow for the possibility of a slight bonus for NPCs, but not enough to make them out shine an exceptional player character.

Low: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8

Medium: 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9

High: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10

If the character is a member of a character class, then place their highest stat in their Prime Attribute for that class. Place the other scores as befits the particular character to help emphasize their strengths, or weaknesses. Do not get into the habit of dropping their lowest stat into a Dump Stat, usually Charisma. Character then become predictable and boring.

Hit Points can be figured as follows, just assume they have hit points equal to one half their class Hit Die. For medium level characters, add +1, for high add +2. These are NPCs, not player characters, only truly exceptional NPCs should have higher stats and more hit points.

* - If you don't own a copy, then shame on you.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Myths & Monsters: Mogli


Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attacks: Bite (1d2), or Frenzy (whirlwind of claws and fangs) (2d3)
Saving Throw: 16 (+2 vs Spells)
Special: Very limited invisibility
Move: 9/12 (flying leaps)
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 3/60

Mogli (both singular and plural), have a very limited invisibility. They may only become invisible for a second or two, but not when being directly observed. The moment they are out of everyone's line-of-sight, they can become invisible for a short moment or two, just long enough to move to a different position before becoming visible again. While invisible, they may move freely in the line-of-sight of others, without revealing themselves. The normal rules for Invisibility do apply, so they may not attack and remain invisible.

When fighting defensively, or trying to fend off a minor annoyance, a Mogli will use its bite. They only fly into a Frenzy when grappled, or cornered. Being very intelligent animals, they will try breaking an attacker's line-of-sight to then use their invisibility to gain an advantage, or to escape. They do not have true flight, but can run along and use their wings to make great leaps and bounds of up to 9 feet or more, but they must have at least 10 feet of clearance to do so.

Unusually intelligent, Mogli can understand the languages of men, or other races they live in close proximity too. Totally self-absorbed, they will ignore anything said to them, unless it has to do with food, or praise, otherwise they couldn't care less and ignore everything unless it serves their self interest. Though they do not speak in any known language, they are able to communicate basic ideas, like feed me, scratch my belly, get out of my spot, etc. Sometimes when talked to, the speaker will reply to themselves using a different voice, interpreting the meaning of the Mogli's expressions and odd  mewling sounds.

Though reptilian, their skin is soothingly soft. Intelligent beings are often lulled into stroking a Mogli while it rests in their laps. The creature will give a little nip to indicate that it's had enough petting and scritches. It is not unusual for a Mogli to adopt an intelligent being to serve it. Such creatures will often give the Mogli small trinkets and treasures, most of which will be ignored in favor of whatever packaging they came in. Unless they make noise, in which case the Mogli will play with it endlessly while its servant sleeps.

On rare occasions, a Mogli will serve as a spellcaster's familiar.

Design Notes: Yes, Mogli are basically cats.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Myths & Monsters: Sthagati


"The Stranglers of Bombay" film 1959

HD: As per Level
AC As per armor, usually padded
ATK: Clubs 1d4 / Garotte 1d6
MOVE: 12,
SAVE: as per Level
CL/XP: As per Level

Special: Strangulation.

Sthagati, from the Sanskrit, meaning "to conceal", are murderous religious fanatics. They carry out ritualistic sacrifices in the form of strangulation of their victims, to appease their terrible goddess. These victims are often random encounters, but can also be targets of vendetta, or chosen by the leaders of the local cult for various reasons. This causes terror and compliance from the local population and officials, who are fearful of becoming targets should they speak out or interfere in any way.

Sthagati are treated as thieves, who use their skills to hunt down and kill their victims. Religious restrictions do not allow them to draw blood, so they use clubs and garrotes, with all sacrifices by garrote. They do this entirely out of zealous service to their blood-thirsty goddess, not for personal gain. It is not uncommon for the leaders of the cult to specifically target enemies for self enrichment and personal gain, but it is done carefully under the guise of their religion. They are not assassins, who's profession involves many various ways to infiltrate and multiple ways to kill targets.

Strangulation: Using Swords & Wizardry rules - add all additional backstabbing multiples as d6 to unarmed combat rolls.

A local cult will have 10-20 members, from all walks of life All should be treated as 1st level Thieves. 1 out of 5 will be a headman (sub-leader) of 3rd level, and 1 out of 10 will be a Leader of 5th level. Every 20 cultists will have an additional Master, of Cleric level 5. Every 100 will have an additional High Priest of 9th level Cleric. Sthagati priests will never bring the dead back to life, but they will create undead to guard their temples and secret meeting places.

Sthagati Cultist - Cultist / Headman / Leader

Level:                   Thief 1 / 3 / 5
Save:                    15 / 13 / 11
Climb Walls          85% / 87% / 89%
Delicate Tasks 
   and Traps          15% / 25% / 35%
Hear Sounds        3 in 6 / 4 in 6 / 4 in 6
Hide in Shadows  10% / 20% / 30%
Move Silently        20% / 30% / 40%
Open Locks          10% / 20% / 30%
Backstab               x2 / x2 / x3
CL / XP                 2 (30) / 4 (120) / 6 (400)

Sthagati Priests - Priest / High Priest

Level:                    Cleric 5 / Cleric 9
Save:                     11 / 7
CL / XP                  6 ( 400) / 12 (2,000)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Myths & Monsters: Belkest


(Daemon Lord of Tricks and Traps)

HD N/A (200 hit points)
AC 0 [20]
Atk 2 claws (3d6)
Move 12, Fly 12
Save: as level 20 Thief

Special: Daemonic Powers, fights as a level 20 Thief

Belkest, is the Daemon Lord of Tricks and Traps. There isn't any trick or trap that he does not know how to circumvent, or disarm. Any trapsmith, architect, or anyone else that builds or creates tricks and traps, all pay homage to him. Experts seek out priests of Belkest for their instruction on the construction of various deadly mechanisms. 

The inscription of Belkest's symbol, the curling horns, is a warning to thieves and interlopers that they face one of the deadliest and most challenging devices ever created. Such traps are always the most difficult to disarm, or bypass, giving huge penalties to any making the attempt.

As for Belkest himself, he possesses all the powers and abilities one would expect from a Daemonic Lord. He is immune to all spells, and spell-like effects, of 5th level and below. He may use any spell known to man, once per round, as a caster of 15th level. Can only be harmed by artifact level weapons, and can only be "killed" on the Mortal Plane. His Daemonic form reconstitutes in the Plane of Daemos, but he may not return physically to the Mortal Plane for one year and a day.

Belkest can disarm, or dismantle, any trick, trap, or lock mechanism without difficulty. Summoning him to perform such a task will require great payment. Multiple or frequent summons will try his patience, requiring greater payments, or he will collect the souls of those who have offended him. Gifts of blueprints to new inventions fascinate him, and are acceptable tribute.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Freebie: Original Cars Wars

Car Wars has come a long way since its publication in 1980, packaged in a little ziplock-bag. If you missed those first exciting years of this classic game, you can enjoy them once again, for FREE!

Download the original rules for, Car Wars, HERE!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Myths & Monsters: Slythern Wyvern

Slythern Wyvern

Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Attacks: Bite (2d8) or sting (1d6 + poison)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Poison sting, shapeshift
Move: 6/24 (flying)
Alignment: Neutrality
Challenge Level/XP: 10/1,400

Normal wyverns are a two-legged form of dragon, much smaller in size and not very intelligent. Slytherns, however, are possessed of a frightful cunning and intelligence, as well as  the limited ability to shapeshift to a man-sized, humanoid reptillian form. They also have all the abilities of the Assassin class, at the 5th level of ability. They keep their armor class, but increase ground speed to 12.

In their wyvern form, they possess the normal wyvern abilities of flight and poisonous sting, along with the limitation of only being able to bite or use their stinging tail, but not both, in the same round.

Knowledge of Slytherns is not a commonly known fact. Only a few sages have ever even heard rumors that these mysterious creatures exist. In fact, Slytherns have killed to keep their secrets safe.

For the DM: Slytherns are a mysterious reptilian cult, much like a draconic assassin's guild, that operate in secret at the direction of their Master, an ancient Black Dragon. There is a human assassin's death cult, known as the Wyvern Brotherhood, that operates as informants, support personnel, and assassin assault teams, but the Brotherhood is unaware of the true nature of their mysterious leadership and its goals.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Myths & Monsters: Melusine

Melusine (May-loo-ZEEN)

HD 8
AC 5 [14]
Atk 2 fists (1d6)
Move 12, Fly 12
Save 8
CL/XP 11/1700
Special: Cleric Lvl 6, Magic-user Lvl 5

A Melusine is a very rare creature. A member of the Fey, they rarely are seen in the lands of men, but do occasionally seek out sacred sites to partake in religious rites, or bathe in druidic groves to renew their powers.

Whenever they are in the Lands of Men, they appear to be human women of exquisite beauty, and charm. Tales speak of mortals falling in love with them and marrying them, unknowing of their magical nature. Rarely do these tales have happy endings. In order for a Melusine to agree to marry a mortal, they must extract a sacred oath from their lover. Should their lover ever break that oath, the Melusine's supernatural form will be revealed, and terrible consequences will befall the offending mortal.  If a mortal sees them in their Fey form, usually while they bathe, give birth, or perform sacred rituals in the forests, they will become very vengeful and punish the offending mortal.

In both human and Fey form, a Melusine possesses the powers of a 6th level cleric, and a 5th level magic-user. They do not require material components, or time to prepare or memorize their spells, however they are limited in the number of spells they may cast per day, determined by their class levels.

In Fey form, they appear as their human selves, though with a serpent's tail from the waist down, and sport bat wings with which they may use to fly. They possess enormous strength, and can break stone with their fists.

One tale even tells of a Melusine of great power that could take the form of a dragon.