Friday, September 29, 2017

Optional Rules: Fur Trade

Recently, in our home campaign, characters have been using more barter exchange than coin exchange. The trade of goods and services have become more prevalent, and so the necessity of establishing relative "values". Especially for items that aren't normally represented in the provided "equipment lists", found in various game systems.

This installment involves fur trading. The following Fur Value table below is based upon the value of the beaver skin, which was the standard of the fur trade. A "Made Beaver" (MB), was the prime quality skin from an adult beaver weighing about 50 - 60 pounds. Some beavers can weigh as much as 110 pounds. All values are based upon how many of a particular item equals 1 MB. For example, it takes three Marten skins, two otters, or one pound of Castoreum, to equal the value of one "Made Beaver".

For ease of conversion into various game systems, 1 MB is equal to the value of one standard long sword.
  • In Lamentations of the Flame Princess, 1 MB is roughly equivalent to 20 silver pieces.
  • In Swords & Wizardry (all editions), 1 MB is roughly equivalent to 15 gold pieces.


1 to 1
Adult Beaver “Made Beaver”
3 to 1
2 to 1
1 to 1
Otter, Exceptionally Fine
1 to 1
2 to 1
1 to 1
1 to 1
One pound Castoreum
1 to 1
Bear Cub
2 to 1
8 to 1
Pair (2) Moose hooves
1 to 1
10 pounds Goose Feathers
1 to 2
Black Bear hide
20 to 1

  • Marten - a type of weasel, includes sables.
  • Castoreum - a bitter strong-smelling creamy orange-brown substance that consists of the dried perineal glands of the beaver and their secretions, and is used especially by perfumers and healers.
  • Goose Feathers - It takes 12 adult geese per pound of goose down feathers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DM's Toolbox: Alien and Mystical Writing

There comes a time when every DM needs to translate a written passage into a mysterious clue or script for their players to find and attempt to decipher. Sometimes you even need to do it on the fly, because you were caught by surprise. Either way, not every DM has the time to memorize a new alien alphabet, much less be able to use it in a timely manner. Fortunately the internet is a vast and wondrous place, full of bizarre goodness for players and DMs alike.

A common "magical" script that's freely available, is the Theban Alphabet, also called the Witch's Alphabet, said to protect the contents of the Book of Shadows from prying eyes.

You can down the Theban Alphabet font for free, here. There is even a real-time English (or language of your choice) to Theban translator on the page so you can write what you want and save it as a png file to print, or display on screen.

If you're interested in background, you can read about the Theban Alphabet, here.

The next font is the Fez Font. I use this for the alien language of an ancient race that no longer walks the world of men.. or so my players believe.

This alien font can be downloaded for free, here. Again, there is an on-line translator window that allows you to translate on the fly and save as a png file for printing, or screen display.

If you're looking for something a little different, I suggest the First Temple Font. This works as a nice script for non-human writing.

It can be downloaded for free, here. And, for your convenience, again an on-line translator is available.

A simple on-line search will help you find many freely available fonts. If there is no on-line translator available for the font you're looking for, simply download and install on your computer for use in your preferred word processor, or graphics program. Please do not ask me for help installing fonts on your computer. You are better off reading the help files that come with the programs you are using.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Optional Rules: Offensive / Defensive Stances

Basic combat is a give and take economy. For each action, there is a reaction, for each risk taken, there is a corresponding cost. The standard combat rules give us how the "average" combat round goes, where risks and strategies are balanced. But from time to time, players (and monsters) will attempt to take greater risks than usual as they go on the offensive, or perhaps choose to go on the defensive if things start to go sideways.

In order for a character to engage in one of these combat options, they must declare they are doing so before Initiative is decided for the round. If the enemy gets to act first, any penalties or bonuses that would apply to the character are applied at that time, even if they have not yet acted.

Here are several typical "Combat Stances" that may be performed:
  • Flailing Wildly - The character is desperately overextending themselves and being reckless in an attempt to strike their opponent. (+2 to hit, -1 damage, AC suffers by 1, no shield use for defense this round.)
  • Powerful Attack - The character forgoes defense to make a more successful and telling attack (+1 to hit, +1 damage, AC suffers by 2.)
  • Fighting Defensively - The character attempts to protect themselves at the expense of offense. (-1 to hit, AC improves by 1.)
  • Total Defense - The character goes all out defense, forgoing attack opportunities. (AC improves by 2, no attacks this round.)
If the DM so wishes, they may have monsters engage in combat stances according to the action, or they may roll randomly to see what the monster is doing. It is suggested that the DM use these options sparingly, choosing the appropriate maneuver that best suits the situation and temperament of the combatant.

Roll 1d6:
  1. Flailing Wildly
  2. Powerful Attack
  3. Normal Attack
  4. Normal Attack
  5. Fighting Defensively
  6. Total Defense
We would be very interested in other people's ideas on this, so please feel free ask questions and discuss below.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Moon Gates & Other Portals

Mysterious portals to other worlds, and dimensions, are a staple of fantasy, and science fiction. Whether technological, or mystical, these structures allow individuals to travel from their home-world to another realm, in order to have grand adventures. It is only natural that gaming campaigns would include such a useful story mechanism. In campaign use, Portals can be used to link familiar oft-used locations on the same world, or connect to one-off adventure locations elsewhere. This opens up convenient ways for DMs to drop their players into any setting of their choice, even different genre milieus of other games!

One type of Moongate from Ultima

In the early 80's, Judges Guild released a series of "Portals" adventures, Portals of Torsh (1980), Portals of Irontooth (1981), Portals of Twilight (1981). Each adventure taking place in another location where some of the basic "rules", or way of life, are significantly different from what the player characters may be used to. Portals of Torsh took place in a world where dinosaurs had evolved into the dominant humanoid species. Portals of Irontooth was set in a world where Rust Monsters were prolific, making metal items an endangered resource, and metal working practically non-existent. Portals of Twilight is set on the planet, Halfworld, a world similar to our moon, half light and half shadow, with only a narrow strip of land that's habitable.

A Stargate from the television series of the same name

In our home campaign, we have several gate systems in play, but one of the most ancient, and mysterious, are the Moon Gates. No-one is certain where the Moon Gates originated, who built them, or even why, though there is no end to the speculations. All that is known about these mysterious structures is that each one links the world of men to another realm, whether it be an alternate world, or an alien dimension. The means to activating a particular portal are a secret that seem to be discovered, lost, and rediscovered again, sometimes seemingly as if the Moon Gates themselves want someone to open them.

There is no end to the variety of gateways a DM may have in their worlds. They don't all have to look, behave, or even open the same. The following are some of the various ways different gateways have been controlled in our home campaign.

  • Gateway only opened at a certain time and place, during which some sort of celestial alignment took place.
  • Portal was opened and controlled by a magical (technological) artifact.
  • Inter-dimensional rift was opened after performing a specified ritual and making the appropriate offering.
  • Runestone was part of a larger network of teleportational way-points.
  • Several similar gates were activated by magical pieces of jewelry (specific rings or medallions).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Optional Rules: Shield Wall!

Even the hot blood of the bravest on the battlefield grows cold in the daunting face of a shield wall. A barrier of wood and iron that makes assault upon those behind it difficult, and opens an attacker to a whole new level of danger. A small and determined group of defenders can successfully hold off a larger number of attackers using this simple technique.

Conditions For Forming A Shield Wall:
  • A shield wall must have no less than three participants, unless two participants are in a tight area that offers a solid defense on each side (i.e. corridor, doorway, etc.)
  • Each participant must be using a normal, heavy, or tower sized shield. Bucklers can not be used to form a shield wall.
  • Only fighters, paladins, and clerics (but not druids) have the necessary training to perform a shield wall.
  • Any character that can use a shield, and has spent time training alongside those with experience, can learn to participate in a shield wall.
  • A spell caster that has trained with companions may use a Shield spell to participate in a shield wall, and acts as a tower shield.

Advantages of a Shield Wall:
  • The armor class of those participating improves by 2, above and beyond what their shield already provides.
  • Participants are 50% immune to normal missile fire (1 in 2) when using normal shields.
  • Participants are 75% immune to normal missile fire (3 in 4) when using heavy and tower shields.
  • Magic Missile spells are subject to the above immunity rules, even if set to "autohit".
  • Enemy combatants can not directly attack those standing behind the protection of the shield bearers.
  • Enemy combatants that rush a shield wall automatically provoke a free attack by one (possibly two) participants of the shield wall.
  • Participants gain a +2d6 to their Unarmed Attack roll when attacking and defending. Losing to an Unarmed Attack means that a hole has been made in the shield wall that round.
Disadvantages of a Shield Wall:
  • Defenders may only use thrusting weapons, or one-handed striking/chopping weapons, no daggers, thrown, or two-handed weapons.
  • Those standing behind a shield wall may only use weapons with reach, like spears, polearms, etc.
  • a breach/hole must be made in the shield wall to allow a spell caster to send a spell through, unless the spell uses an indirect method of attack, i.e. Flame Strike, Call Lightning, etc.
  • The shield wall is limited by the speed of the slowest participant.
  • A shield wall loses all benefits when attempting to move into an area that does not allow the participants to maintain formation.
How to Breach a Shield Wall:
  • In order to breach a shield wall, an attacker must make a successful Unarmed Attack (Overbearing) against a participant. The defender gets a +2d6 to their roll.
  • Any successful attack that kills, stuns, or otherwise incapacitates a shield bearer opens a hole for that round, until someone else can step in, or the wall reforms. A wall can not reform with less than three shield bearers.
  • An attacker attempting to breach the wall, by overbearing, is subject to a free attack by one (possibly two) defenders.
  • Many spells are capable of opening a breach, subject to the DM's discretion.

(These rules are written to be compatible with Swords& Wizardry Complete, but may be suitable for use with other OSR-based systems.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Swords & Wizardry: Thieves' Skills For Everyone Else

Many times, during play, there will be times when someone wants to move silently, hide in shadows, or perform another task that directly reflect a thief's skills in-game. Personally I have no problem with this, but I have encountered DMs that either won't allow it (because those are class specific skills), or who will then use a completely different method of determining success than the one already established.

The table below is what I use in my campaign. You'll notice that each skill is slightly reduced (-5%) from those of a first level thief. The only exceptions to this are, Hide in Shadows, and Move Silently, as these two skills are something nearly everyone has experience with. Wearing armor heavier than leather can adjust the percentages of performing certain skills as the DM decides.

Yes, I do allow a very slim chance for non-thieves to perform delicate tasks (pick pockets), deal with traps, and possibly open locks. No, these percentages do not increase as the character levels up.

Climb Walls
Delicate Tasks
and Traps
Hear Sounds
Hide in Shadows
Move Silently
Open Locks
2 in 6

Climb Walls
Delicate Tasks
and Traps
Hear Sounds
Hide in Shadows
Move Silently
Open Locks
(Tables compatible with Swords & Wizardry Complete)

Optional House Rule

This rule is entirely a house ruling used in my personal games, and may not be suitable for everyone's campaign.  Rangers may perform almost all thief skills, as a thief of two levels lower than themselves (much like an Assassin), in a wilderness setting. This allows Rangers to find and deal with traps set in the wild, climb surfaces, and perform all the other logical skills of a wilderness scout. However, Rangers do not get the Delicate Tasks (pick pockets), or Open Locks skills of a thief (though they may still attempt these skills as per the rules above). Nor do Rangers gain Backstab , or any other thief skills outside of those shown above.

Wearing armor heavier than leather can adjust the percentages of performing certain skills as the DM decides.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

DM's Toolbox: Random Dice Tables

Once again we'll be looking at dice rolls, but dice rolls of a different sort. Today's topic is using random die rolls to help stimulate your brain when you get stuck for inspiration. Exact interpretation of the die roll isn't necessarily important as long as it gives you a point of reference to start with. These tables go along very well with Redcap's Universal Table.

  1. Open
  2. Stuck
  3. Blocked
  4. Trapped
  5. Locked
  6. Locked and Trapped

  1. Minor Coinage
  2. Gold
  3. Gems
  4. Potion / Scroll / Other Minor Magic Item
  5. Weapon / Armor
  6. Magic Item

  1. Sunny
  2. Partly cloudy
  3. Rain
  4. Thunderstorm
  5. Whirlwind
  6. Snow / Blizzard

  1. Trap Door / Pit
  2. Falling / Crushing
  3. Spiked Pit / Walls
  4. Projectiles
  5. Guillotine / Scythe
  6. Gas / Spray

Armor / Clothing:
  1. Head
  2. Torso
  3. Feet
  4. Hands
  5. Arms
  6. Legs

Time of Day:
  1. Early Morning
  2. Late Morning
  3. Noon(ish)
  4. Afternoon
  5. Early Evening
  6. Late Evening

Encounter Difficulty:
  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Easy
  4. Equal
  5. Equal
  6. Tougher

Roadway / Corridor:
  1. Obstacle / Doorway (Mud, Fallen Rocks, etc)
  2. Intersection (Tee or Cross)
  3. Left Turn
  4. Right Turn
  5. Straight
  6. Incline / Decline (Hill Up or Down, Stairs, Ladder)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

DM's Toolbox: Quick Tavern & Inn Name Generator

A quick search online will reveal dozens, if not more, name generators for taverns and inns. These lists aren't uncommon or hard to find, but most all of them aren't public domain, or free to use in your own products. That's where this article comes in. You are free to use, alter, and publish these tables as long as you give credit to myself, Gerald "Redcap" Williams.

Roxburghe Ballads c1633

To generate a name, first roll 1d6

1 – 3 List of Colors
4 – 6 List of Actions

Then roll another 1d6

1 – 3 List of Animals
4 – 5 List of Birds
   6 List of Fantastic Beasts

List of Colors (Roll 1d8)

  1. Red
  2. Blue
  3. Green
  4. Yellow / Gold / Golden
  5. Brown
  6. Black
  7. White
  8. Gray / Silver

List of Actions (Roll 1d8)

  1. Laughing
  2. Dancing
  3. Sitting
  4. Drinking / Drunken / Hungry
  5. Singing / Roaring / Barking
  6. Sleeping
  7. Fighting / Rampant / Raging
  8. Jumping / Leaping / Running

List of Animals (Roll 1d12)

  1. Bull / Cow / Calf / Ox
  2. Bear
  3. Deer / Hind
  4. Lion / Leopard
  5. Boar  / Sow / Pig
  6. Badger
  7. Horse (Stallion, Mare, Foal, Pony)
  8. Dog (Fox, Hound, Wolf)
  9. Goat (Sheep, Ram)
  10. Rabbit (Hare, Coney)
  11. Weasel (Stoat)
  12. Beaver (Otter)

List of Birds (Roll 1d6)

  1. Rooster (Cock)
  2. Hawk
  3. Goose
  4. Owl
  5. Swan
  6. Seagull / Gull

List of Fantastic Beasts (Roll 1d6)

  1. Chimera
  2. Dragon
  3. Wyvern
  4. Unicorn
  5. Griffon
  6. Harpy

Click HERE for a free copy of these tables in PDF format.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Recommended Video Series: Voices & Accents by DawnforgedCast

Making NPCs come to life is an important aspect of Game Mastering. No matter how well-written an adventure is, if the non-player characters are as interesting as flat cardboard cutouts, your players probably won't become as invested in interacting with them as they should. Your NPCs will virtually become little more than walking experience point totals, and loot drops.

While researching different accents and character voices on-line, we came across a five part series by, DawnforgedCast on YouTube, called Voices and Accents. It starts off with basic human-type character voices and accents, progresses through common monsters, and eventually presents the Diabolical inhabitants of the Nether Realms.

Part 1: Monstrous Voices: The Core Races - Runtime: 20m 30s
Part 2: Monstrous Voices: Female Voices - Runtime: 2m 55s
Part 3: Monstrous Voices: Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds, Giants.. - Runtime: 9m 40s
Part 4: Monstrous Voices: Elementals - Runtime: 5m48s
Part 5: Monstrous Voices: Demons and Devils - Runtime: 8m 22s

After you're finished with this series, you may find yourself interested in their other videos. Be sure to leave them a comment and maybe thank them for posting useful content.