Monday, 28 November 2011

Session VIII: The Sinister Shroom

[Well, I wasn't able to run this session as a dual epic cut-scene battle after all. A variety of factors conspired to prevent myself and most of the other players from meeting up to create their back-up characters. Instead, I'll wargame the success -or otherwise- of the defending forces back at the Temple later tonight using 2nd edition AD&D Battlesystem Skirmishes. Unfortunately, most of my mini's and terrain are still packed-away following the move. I'm afraid I'll have to use paper counters instead. A pity really, as I'd love to do a battle-report on the attack, but there we go. I'll be taking notes though. If enough people are interested in such a thing I can always set up the miniatures and terrain at a later date and take the photographs then]

Anyway, we left the players just as the opened a door to come face to face with the Sinister Shroom:

Character Roster

Exploring the Caves (players present):
Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 2/1. Played by Rhidh
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv
Friendly: Trog NPC. Played by Caroline.
Kallias: Human (Mycenean) Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) Male Dual Classed Assassin1/Bard 1. Played by Ali
Surly: Trog NPC. Played by Niall.
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Female Assassin 2
Xenos: HUman (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Camp (absent players, injured PC's and NPC's):
Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Bombata: Human (unknown) Male NPC
Euthalia. Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Merithena: Human (unknown) Female NPC
Thera: Human (Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall.
Thot: Half Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. NPC

Garrison at the Temple of Meerax (absent players and NPC's):
Antipater. Human (Mycenean) Male Ship's Master. NPC
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human (Mycenean) Female High Priestess and Princess of Mesos. NPC
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious: HUman (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.
The battle opens up with Shadowdancer (whose player was running late) fading into darkness while Boagris and Andros, each standing at the entrance of one of the two southern doors into the chamber, set to receive a charge. Ki Oman and Kallias keep an eye on the various corridors and doors behind the party. Friendly the Trog begins the actual combat by tossing all three of it's darts at the Sinister shroom, hitting with two. Kalias, out of spells, lingers at the back away from trouble.

Thanatos and Xenos, meanwhile, move into position behind the front rank fighters, ready to fight with their spears. At this point, the Shroom, still reeling from the two darts embedded in it's rubbery trunk, unleashes a nasty surprise on the party. It waves it's arms in the air as though spellcasting. Boagris, succumbing to the Shroom's spell, drops his spear and shield to the ground and blinks rapidly in confusion. Meanwhile the Shroom's unusually large podman bodyguard moves into action, advancing upon Andros who, thrown by Boagris' strange behaviour, merely knicks the creature with her set spear.

Surly advances to join Thanatos and Xenos in the second rank, wondering why the big tasty human in the front suddenly smells so off. He soon has his answer.

“Noooooooo! Don't hurt my Shroom!” Boagris, throwing his arms wide, leaps upon his fellow fighter Andros, wrestling her to the ground. The party's two front-rankers thereafter spend the remainder of the fight rolling around on the floor in a grapple, seemingly taking it turns to roll atop the other.

Friendly, Xenos, Thanatos and Surly take up the slack left by the brawling warriors, engaging the pod-man in vicious hand to hand combat. Thanatos, perhaps regretting her new found atavism, goes down hard on 0hp after taking a pummelling from the creatures fists. Ki, on the other hand, notices a door-way potentially leading into the Shroom-room from the west [I say suddenly, but what I really mean is that I had forgotten to include the damn thing in the room descriptions until Ali noticed it on the map] and hurries towards it, intending to flank the creature. Shadowdancer (whose player arrives around this time) follows. Friendly, meanwhile, is badly hurt by the Shroom's magic missiles but stays in the fight.

While the two fighters continued to play “king of the hill” on the floor, the brace of party-members fighting the pod thing finally begin to make a visible dent in it's considerable pool of hit points. Realising his body guard is about to go down, the Shroom flees -or rather, hops and slithers as fast as his slimy little stump will carry him- towards the rooms eastern exit, helped on his way by one of Surly's darts.

Ki Oman and Shadowdancer appear through the western doorway just as the pod man hops through the eastern exit. Flicking a switch, a portcullis falls behind it. The Shroom hops around to glare balefully at the two assassins following behind, who continue running towards the eastern door, hoping to find the portcullis switch.

[The Shroom chamber in my adaption of the module is considerably longer east-west that in the published version]

Just as Ki (in the lead) reaches the portcullis itself, the pod-man finally goes down and the Shroom unleashes a gobbet of black, mucousy goop. The globule strikes Ki full in the chest, sending him crashing unconscious to the floor on -2hp, the black gloop still smouldering on his chest.

Xenos runs into the room and, with Shadowdancer drags the wounded assassin/bard to one side, out of the Shroom's line of sight. Surly  and Friendly soon follow the others into the room. Seeing the imminent arrival of the two Trogs (and -correctly- suspecting that as former residents of the complex the Trogs know exactly where the portcullis switch is) the Shroom casts a web spell into the chamber, concentrated near the switch. The web catches both Trogs, Shadowdancer, Xenos, and Ki Oman. However, Shadowdancer is caught on the outskirts of the web and easily tears through the foot or so of gunky chord between himself and freedom. Xenos reveals his own, somewhat surprising, strength for the first time and also makes headway in freeing himself. Moreoever, the web provides no obstacle whatsoever to the two Trogs who, with cold reptilian strength, tear a path through the web towards the portcullis and it's switch.

Eyes glowing in alarm, the Shroom turns and hops away down a corridor to the south. It's too slow however, and is quickly caught by Surly, Friendly and Shadowdancer, joined shortly thereafter by Xenos. Even with four against one the melee is not a short one. It is Surly's spear that knocks aside the Shroom's longsword to pierce the rubbery hide, spilling black slime from it's fungal “veins”. Though this foul ichor covers the cavern floor, so too does a small amount splatter onto Surley himself. His arm dissolving in similar fashion to that of the late Glykeria, Surly calls out to Friendly to stay back.

“Tell the old one I died well.” he hisses fiercely, before running down the corridor out of sight and away from the equally susceptible Friendly.

Thanatos soon recovers consciousness and helps the others free Ki Oman from the web. Andros has, meanwhile, finally managed to restrain a weeping Boagris, though the former gladiator continues to struggle. His...ahem.. disposition is not helped when Xenos, his former owner and a slaver by profession, advances upon with some vine-rope, intent on tying him up. Eventually, unable to trust the violently struggling warrior in his present state, they manage to tie him securely. He is later released after having had a chance to calm down.

It's not long after this, while the remaining conscious humans and the single elf attempt to work out what to do next, that Kallias reports noise from the west. Arranging themselves in a rough combat formation, they are surprised to see Bombatta lead Merithena, Thoht (helping along a limping Euthalia) and Alexis (doing the same for a semi-conscious Thera) into the chamber. They have some disturbing news.

Bombatta: There is smoke to the south. A great deal of smoke.

Hearing the news spoken so matter-of-factly results in a great deal of swearing among the conscious members of the party. All to aware that they are a days travel from the Temple, they take the time to thoroughly ransack the Shroom's chambers. The haul of loot includes:

  • 2 rings of large copper plates containing the Shroom's spells
  • More than twenty vials of (potentially) magic potions.
  • Valuable books on Horticulture and Farming
  • Silver Goblets, Decanters and other sell-able valuables.
  • A presumably magical vest worn by the Shroom.
  • The Shroom's longsword.

These last two items are swiftly claimed by Shadowdancer. His decision to keep the longsword seems reasonable enough since he is the only party member familiar with such a long blade. However, he “forgets” to mention to the party that he has collected the vest.

They also learn (from a collection of mouldy tapestries) the sad tale of the Shroom's rise to power and his ultimate fall from grace after offending the Gods.

Returning to the camp, the party members see for themselves that there is, indeed, a great deal of smoke on the southern horizon and, in fact, now that the sun is finally beginning to set -they spent a loooong time searching the Shroom's chambers- they can also see the glow of flames reflected against the clouds.

What to do? What to do?

The possibility of bringing the Trogs and any survivors from the Temple back to the caves is brought up rather quickly, but just as quickly discarded. After all, they have yet to fulfil their bargain with the Trogs by clearing out the caves -they've left a lot of unexplored territory down there-. Moreover, they are getting somewhat ahead of themselves: the party doesn't even know if there are any survivors. Or even if the flames mean what they think it means. They discuss leaving right away for the temple, but quickly realise that, in the state they are in (with so many wounded) they might do more harm than good. It's quickly decided that someone will have to go and look.

Someone sneaky.

Everyone looks at Shadowdancer, who, knowing he is the only “sneaky” one in any position to take a look, agrees to set out in the morning with Friendly. Thanatos observes that, although struck unconscious, she has no lasting injuries and can depart in the morning with the aid of magical healing. In the end however, due to her lack of elf-vision, it is decided that Thanatos should remain behind. Plotting out the best route, the two assassins estimate that, taking into account the precautions Shadowdancer and Friendly will have to undertake in order to avoid meeting the Grey Demons, it may take as long as four days before they can return to camp.

We ended it there for the night. Before everyone left, I informed them that unless I rolled for a wondering monster before Shadowdancer and Thanatos returned, they would have four days of downtime. I didn't roll a monster, [at least, not for the guys still in camp *evil grin*] so I invited everyone to tell me their characters plans for downtime.


Shadowdancer take one of the six looted books with him when he and friendly leave later that night. Though where he expects to find the time to read it is an open question. I'll have to ask him if he intends to light any fires at night (you can't read a book with heat vision, after all). Shadowdancer also intends to experiment with his sword's cutting abilities while he travels (an attempt to discern if it is magical).

Euthalia, Thera, Thanatos, Kallias and Ki Oman all pick a book each and begin reading. I inform them that it takes a week of study and a full set of books to learn the arts of Horticulture or Agriculture. By swapping books amongst themselves they can make four days of head-way towards these goals. They wont be able to learn either skill until reading the book carried by Shadowdancer, however.

Xenos memorises (and casts) read magic on the captured spellbooks multiple times and thereafter learns the spells Jump, Charm Person, Identify and Protection from Good. On day four he memorises Identify twice, but only has to cast it once because the vest is missing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Shadowdancer “forgot” to leave it behind. This strikes everyone as odd. After all, it's a rather colourful and gaudy object, not the sort of item they imagine Shadowdancer would ever lower himself to wear, however powerfulit might prove to be.

Euthalia, Thera and Ki Oman obtain four days of bed-rest (reading a book still counts as bed-rest). Ki Oman only needs three to fully recover from his wounds. He spends the fourth day figuring out his first Bard spell (he's now a dual classed Assassin 1/Bard 2). He also spends part of the fourth day examining the party haul to see if he knows anything about any of the items looted... er, salvaged legitimately, thus far. Euthalia fully recovers from her wounds at the end of day four.

By then, Thera is still at -3 to all dice rolls. However, if I know Niall (her player, and I do) Thera will probably be insisting that Kallios return her armour and weapons next session (Kallias is currently wearing the female Paladins custom-made breastplate. Yes. I know. But given that Kallias' physical description has been summed up by the player as “pretty boy” he probably even looks good in it.).

Andros ensures all the groups weapons are in working order by cleaning, oiling and sharpening them personally.

I'll assume the others spend the majority of their time fishing in the pool and standing guard -at least until they tell me otherwise.

So ended day 8 of the Isle of the Eartshaker Campaign. We resume play on day 12.

[Personally, I thought the players did damn well this session. They were very deserving of the single largest haul of xp since the campaign began. I was fully expecting to see at least a couple of PC deaths during the Shroom encounter. In the end, all the PC's survived, though two were taken down and a  powerful NPC ally perished. I'd beefed up the Shroom by giving him some additional special abilities to make him more like a typical myconid and removed one of his bodyguards to compensate. Even so, if not for some truly jammy dice rolls on behalf of the players, it could have gone either way. Especially when you consider that not one spellcaster in the party had even a single spell left to their name before the fight had even started!

One thing I really enjoyed about this session was that Xenos finally had the chance to shine in melee. So far he's been rather over-shadowed by the sheer number of front-rank fighter types in the party. Usually, there's not even a need for him to strap on his armour and take his turn with the other "meat-shields". But this session, Xenos was finally able to show just how “bad-ass” he is when he straps on that armour and picks up a spear.

Leoni got some really good rolls when rolling up Xenos. Even though I don't allow multi-class fighters to specialise, it was great to see Leoni's glee when she realized that old Xenos can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Boagris and Andros and hold his own. I think she got a real kick out of it when I told everyone how much damage Xenos had taken after one particularly nasty critical hit. All around the table players were wincing and muttering “ouch, there goes our last fighter.” You could have heard a pin-drop when Leoni just shrugged and told the table she had plenty hit points left. Yup. Even as a first level fighter/magic-user, ol Xenos has more hit points than most of the single-classed fighters had at first level. Like I said, Leoni had some damn good dice rolls]

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Oriental OSRIC PC Race: Spirit Folk

Conversion Notes:
Added a fourth sub-group of Spirit Folk- the Mountain Spirit Folk character. Extensively revised the Sea Spirit Folk to make their power levels more comparable with other spirit folk – or rather, more powerful but usable less often. Added a +1 bonus to all dice rolls when in associated terrain. I'm considering expanding this bonus to all terrain that matches the associated terrain type rather than simply the particular geographic location to which the Spirit Folk's parent is linked. Comments on this idea greatly appreciated. Saving throw bonus' for sub-types that benefit from positive modifiers against two elemental types balanced by negative modifiers against a third element. Added Shukenja to list of permitted classes (doesn't make sense that a half-spirit can't commune with the spirits) and moved the Spirit Folks unlimited advancement class from Bushi to Shukenja.

Spirit Folk Characters:

Spirit folk are the product of a direct union between human and Kami, most often a minor Kami who watches over a small geographical area. This semi-divine heritage grants an unearthly beauty to Spirit Folk as well as something of an otherworldly air. Spirit-folk tender to be slender in appearance, possessed of graceful movements and pleasant voices. Both men and woman have sparse -if any- body hair, though the locks upon their heads are often silky and luxuriant. Many have unusual eye-colour or shape.

Kami tend to be attracted to humans of education and culture. Even when attracted to an individual of low birth, the Kami partner often takes a personal interest in improving the human partner's situation. Most Spirit Folk characters are therefore from relatively high status families. Most spirit-folk must balance dual-loyalties. Loyalty to their earthly family as well as to the divine hierarchy of their spirit ancestor. A spirit-folk character must decide for themselves which obligation carries the most weight, though it is generally felt by the Kami themselves that devotion to the spirit-family should be the character's primary interest. Fortunately, the Kami rarely call upon their mortal children to perform a service, yet when they do, these services invariably require a great deal of time, effort and dangerous activity on behalf of the spirit-folk character concerned.

Being half-spirit themselves, Spirit-folk are attuned to nature and the natural world, particularly the element and lands bound most closely to that of their spirit parent. All possess unusual powers derived from their ancestry.

Regardless of character class chosen, all Spirit Folk characters must generate a human family to which they belong. Even if not normally required to do so by the class chosen.

Common Racial Abilities:
  • 120ft Infra-vision
  • Treat all rolls on the Character birth table of less than 10 (Upper Middle Class) as 10.
  • Additional Racial Powers as per sub-type, below.


All spirit-folk characters, regardless of ancestor can speak the Common human language and the language of the Courtier. They gain additional languages by sub-type as listed in the individual entries below. They do not gain bonus languages for high intelligence.

Permitted Class Options:
Kami are attracted only to humans of relatively pure spirit, high social class, and cultured upbringing. Permitted classes include Samurai, Kensai, Bushi, Monk and Shukenja. If the optional non-human level limits are is use, a Spirit Folk character can advance to a maximum of 12th level as a Samurai, Unlimited level as a Shukenja, 9th level as a Kensei, 12th level as a Bushi and 12th level as a monk. If this optional rule is not in use then Spirit Folk characters have a 10% xp penalty.

Multi-class Restrictions: 
Due to their intrinsic ties to the spirits, Spirit Folk characters are able to gain the powers of a Shukenja relatively easily, without having to devote their life to such pursuits. Hence, Spirit Folk characters may multicass as Bushi/Shukenja, Samurai/Shukenja and Kensai/Shukenja, The aesthetic life of a monk does not lend itself well to multi-classing however. Spirit Folk Characters cannot multi-class as a Shukenja/Monk.

Movement Rate: 120ft

Racial Limitations:
If the characters maximum and minimum ability scores do not fall within these limits after racial modifications then the character cannot be one of the Spirit-Folk.
Strength: 6/18
Dexterity: 12/18
Constitution: 6/14
Intelligence: 12/18
Wisdom: 9/18
Charisma: 14/18

Bamboo Spirit-Folk Racial Abilities:
    Bamboo spirit folk are normally the children of a male human and a Bisan, a type of Kami similar to the Dryads of the Occident. They are closely tied to the Bamboo, Camphor, Teak or Mohogany  grove of their parent to the extent that their own health and well-being is entirely dependant on that of the grove itself.
  • 75% chance to identify normal plants and animals.
  • Pass Without Trace: When moving alone through wooded areas, the Bamboo Spirit-Folk leave no discernible trail and cannot be tracked by magical or mundane means. When travelling with a group that includes non Bamboo Spirit Folk, they reduce the likelihood of the party being successfully tracked by 20%.
  • Each time the Bamboo Spirit Folk goes up a level he can learn the language of another forest dwelling animal.
  • +1 saving throw bonus versus all effects related to the Elements of Wood or Earth, including plant-based poisons. However, the Bamboo Spirit Folk character is also slightly more vulnerable to Fire and has a -1 modifier to saving throws versus fire based effects.
  • Tree Grove: The Bamboo Folk character is tied spiritually and physically to the grove of his Kami parent. If the Bamboo Grove is damaged, the character looses a proportionate number of hit points. If the grove is destroyed, the character is killed instantly. If the grove is threatened in any way, he will be contacted by his Kami parent through dreams and visions. When the character enters his grove for the first time each day, he is affected as though by a heal spell. Inside his grove, the character receives a +1 modifier to all dice rolls, including attack and damage rolls. This only applies within the actual grove itself. Carrying a cutting from the grove or planting a sapling elsewhere counts as creating an entirely new grove and does not confer any benefits to the character.
  • The Bamboo spirit folk character can cast the second level Shukenja spell Commune with Lesser Spirit. He can use this spell-like ability to communicate with any forest or bamboo spirit within the province he currently finds himself. Alternatively, it can be used to commune with his Kami parent regardless of the distance involved. He can use this ability to contact his spirit parent once per day. He can also use this ability to commune with another Bamboo or forest spirit once per week per character level.

Mountain Spirit Folk:
Mountain Spirit Folk are often the product of a union between a human male and a Yuki-onno who has taken pity on a dying mountain traveller.
  • 75% chance to identify mountain plants and animals and natural subterranean animals.
  • Mountain Movement: The Mountain Spirit Folk character does not suffer movement penalties for moving through hilly, mountainous or broken terrain.
  • +1 bonus to all saving throws involving the element of earth, including plant based poisons.
  • Gains the ability to speak the language of subterranean animals such as moles and badgers.
  • Associated Mountain: The Mountain Spirit Folk character is tied spiritually and physically to the mountain inhabited and protected by his Kami parent. If the mountain is damaged or mined, the character looses a proportionate number of hit points. If the mountain is destroyed by a volcanic eruption or cataclysmic earthquake, so too is the character. If the mountain is threatened in any way, he will be contacted by his Kami parent through dreams and visions. When the character ascends to the summit of his associated mountain for the first time each day, he is affected as though by a heal spell. While standing on his associated mountain, the character receives a +1 modifier to all dice rolls, including attack and damage rolls. This only applies on the mountain itself. Soil carried away from the mountain or transported to a home or garden does not confer any benefits to the character.
  • The Mountain Spirit Folk character can cast the second level Shukenja spell Commune with Lesser Spirit. He can use this spell-like ability to communicate with any mountain spirit within the province he currently finds himself. Alternatively, it can be used to commune with his Kami parent regardless of the distance involved. He can use this ability to contact his spirit parent once per day. He can also use this ability to commune with another mountain spirit once per week per character level.

River Spirit Folk:
River spirit folk are associated with one particular river or other body of fresh water such as a stream or lake. Like other spirit-folk, their physical and spiritual health is tied to that of the water source itself. Such characters are often the children of a Numagozen who encounters a human with a close resemblance to her fallen husband.
  • 75% chance to identify fresh water plants and animals.
  • Swim: A River Spirit folk can swim 120ft per round and may breathe underwater without difficulty. All items in her possession remain completely dry when she is immersed in water. These powers apply to fresh-water only.
  • Lower the depth of rivers and streams by 10ft once per day for five rounds.
  • +1 bonus to all saving throws involving the element of water, including liquid based poisons.
  • Gain the ability to speak with fresh-water fish and fresh-water mammals.
  • Associated River, Stream or Lake: The River Spirit folk character is tied spiritually and physically to the body of water inhabited and protected by his Kami parent. If the body of water is damaged the character looses a proportionate number of hit points. If the body of water is poisoned, so too is the character. If it dries up, the character will die of thirst. If it is dammed or diverted in any way, the character will weaken proportionately (again loosing a number of hit points). If this body of water is threatened in any way, he will be contacted by his Kami parent through dreams and visions. When the character immerses himself in his associated body of water for the first time each day, he is affected as though by a heal spell. While swimming, boating or crossing this body of water in any way, the character receives a +1 modifier to all dice rolls, including attack and damage rolls. This only applies within the body of water itself. Water carried away from the associated body of water or transferring it into a large artificial container such as a well or fountain does not confer any benefits to the character.
  • The River Spirit Folk character can cast the second level Shukenja spell Commune with Lesser Spirit. He can use this spell-like ability to communicate with any fresh-water spirit within the province he currently finds himself. Alternatively, it can be used to commune with his Kami parent regardless of the distance involved. He can use this ability to contact his spirit parent once per day. He can also use this ability to commune with another fresh-water spirit once per week per character level.

Sea Spirit Folk:
Often the child of a human woman and a Shojo. Few of the drunken, red-haired Shojo are willing to accept responsibility for such a child. However, Watatsumi, Kami of the Sea, is quick to adopt such children as his own.
  • 75% chance to identify salt water plants and animals.
  • Swim: A River Spirit folk can swim 120ft per round and may breathe underwater without difficulty. All items in her possession remain completely dry when she is immersed in water. These powers apply in salt-water only.
  • Once per year the character can call upon the Kami of the Sea for one very powerful favour, such as the creation of a typhoon or a tsunami.
  • +1 bonus to all saving throws involving the elements of water and air, including liquid and gaseous poisons. However, the Sea Kami is more vulnerable to earth based effects such as petrification and spells of the earth element, imparting a -1 modifier to such saves.
  • Gains the ability to speak with salt-water fish and salt-water mammals.
  • Sea Association: The Sea Spirit folk character is tied spiritually and physically to the sea itself. However, while the sea is so vast that any changes are unlikely to affect the health of the character, nor do Sea Spirit folk gain any healing benefits from being immersed in sea-water. However, the character does receive +1 to all dice rolls made when travelling on or under the sea.
  • The Sea spirit folk character can cast the second level Shukenja spell Commune with Greater Spirit once per week for every 3 levels of experience. This ability may only be used to commune with Watatsume, the Kami of the sea.
  • The character has a 75% chance of accurately predicting the weather conditions for the next day.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Oriental OSRIC PC Race: Korobokuru

Conversion Notes: I changed the modifiers for magic and poison saves to +1 for every 3.5 points of constitution to bring this racial ability in line with OSRIC dwarves. Exchanged the level limits for the bushi class and the barbarian class. If most Korobokuru are Barbarians, it doesn't make sense for them to be limited to level 10 in that class but at the same time have unlimited advancement as a Bushi. Added the yari to list of permitted weapons as the background material in OA explicitly states they favor the weapon despite it not being on their list of permitted pole-arms.


The Korobokuru have been driven deep into the wild places of the world by the enchroachment of man. They reside in isolated villages and nomadic camps in remote areas of considerable natural beauty, frequently moving on when human settlement begins nearby.

Though many Korobukuru are hostile to the humans who scorn them and drive them from their homes, others, perhaps unwilling to leave the ancestral spirits of their race to the care of humanity, live in human lands still. Some even strive to become samurai.

Korobokaru stand approximately four feet in height, with arms and legs somewhat larger proportionately than humans. Their body hair is thick and course. Many sport unkempt, leonine hair or tangled beards. Their appearance is considered somewhat unkempt in the eyes of the more "civilized" oriental peoples.

Culturally, their society is considered far less advanced than that of their human neighbors. They subside through hunting, farming and fishing. What little art they produce is considered somewhat crude and artless. Their culture is considered somewhat "backward" as a result. Even those who live among humans are rarely afforded the same respect offered to a human of comparable status. Indeed, they are considered rude, pugnacious and even somewhat comical by the rest of world but, in particular, humanity.

Korobokaru tend towards chaotic or neutral alignments. They can be Barbarians, Bushi, Samurai or Wu Jen. Most are Barbarians. Their preferred weapon proficiencies include the yari, horse-bows, blowguns, shortswords, hand-axes and (when they can get them) wakizashi.

Korobokuru player characters should generate a family as per the normal rules for family generation.

Summary of Racial Abilities:
  • +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, -2 Intelligence.
  • +1 to saves vs magical rods, staves, wands or spells for every 3.5 points of constitution
  • +1 to saves vs poison for every 3.5 points of constitution
  • 120ft Infravision
  • 66% chance to identify any normal plant or animal.
  • +1 bonus to attack rolls vs bakemono, goblins, goblin rats and hobgoblins
  • -4 AC Bonus vs attacks from giants, oni, ogres, ogre magi, and titans
  • Due to size limitations, Korobukuru cannot use the no-daichi (2 handed-sword). Nor may they use any polearm other than a naginata or yari. Cannot use any bow other than a horse-bow.
Own tribal language, Common, Spirit-Folk, Hengeyokai. They do not know any alignment languages (assuming these optional rules are used) and may not learn any additional languages regardless of their intelligence score.

Permitted Class Options: 
Korobokuru may belong to the Barbarian, Bushi, Samurai or Wu Jen classes only. If samurai, they must serve a human master. If the optional non-human level limits are in use, Korobokuru can advance to level 10 as a Bushi, level 7 as a Wu Jen and level 6 as a Samurai. If the optional level limits are not in use then it instead costs a Korobokuru character 10% more experience points to advance to it's next class level.

Multi-Class Restrictions:
Korobokuru may multi-class as a Barbarian/Wu Jen.

Movement Rate: 90ft

Racial Limitations:
If the characters maximum and minimum ability scores do not fall within these limits after racial modifications then the character cannot be a Korobokuru.
Strength: 8/19
Dexterity: 6/18
Constitution: 12/19
Intelligence: 3/15
Wisdom: 3/17
Charisma: 3/16

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Oriental OSRIC: An Oriental Adventures Conversion Project

Over the next few months, it's my intention to go over as much of the old Oriental Adventures-related gaming material as possible and "convert" it (or rather, update it) to OSRIC. I'll be looking at old Dragon Magazine articles as well as OA rulebooks, adventures and even the Forgotten Realms Kara-Tur releases. An ambitious project, but one that I hope to handle in a number of bite-sized chunks. Once I have enough material prepped I'll probably start a new blog dedicated to Oriental OSRIC and move the whole project over there. But for the time being, this blog will be my usual work-space.

I'll be concentrating on adopting material concerning pseudo-Japanese (rather than pseudo-Chinese or Mongolian) settings first and other Oriental Materials later. What I won't be doing is re-working any of the second edition concepts such as class kits or any material published for 3rd ed -though I'll still be mining such things for ideas. I'll also be concentrating on mechanical info more than setting info. You won't for example, see me converting all the sand-box material in BA-1 Sword of the Daimyo to OSRIC. After all, what would be the point? There's nothing there that needs converting. Useful cultural information, on the other hand, might be worth while including.

My original plan over the new few days was to work out conversations for the OA classes to OSRIC rules. Or rather, tidy up the presentation a little given that they don't really need much in the way of conversion at all. Fabian over at Bladesharp has already down a great deal of the work in this regard by converting several classes to make them compatible with Labrynth Lord. I like his re-work of the ninja, turning them into a proper "single" class rather than the "multi-class" option they were originally designed to be. Though I'm sorely tempted to ask Fabian for permission to simply re-post and slightly modify his material, in the interests of both fairness and completeness, I'll probably just do my own write-ups of these classes as well.

Basically the classes I intend to make available to PC's in the campaign (and hence, convert to OSRIC) are the following:
  • Barbarian
  • Bushi
  • Kensai
  • Monk
  • Ninja
  • Samurai
  • Shukenja
  • Sohei
  • Wu Jen
  • Yukuza
All from Oriental Adventures itself. I also intend to look at the following classes from other sources:

  • Sumotori (Sumo Wrestler) From Dragon magazine 157 (two options)
  • Geisya From Dragon magazine 121
  • Genin (a ninja sub-class) from Dragon Magazine 121
The Sumotori were originally presented (in two versions) as an NPC class. I'd like to re-work them into a playable PC class, without so many of the class obligations that limit their utility as adventuring types. The Geisya is listed as an NPC class, mostly, I think, because it is somewhat lacking in abilities. I'll need to add a few new class abilities wholesale to make the class playable. Perhaps borrowing some from the Bard and Houri classes? Finally, the Genin were an attempt to make the Ninja a single-class character. It's worth looking at while I re-work the ninja, but it's not really worth using as written.

Finally, there is one class (from Dragon 164) the Paio Shih (dart wielding guards) which I may or may not convert depending on how I feel after re-reading the article.

Finally, here's a list of the articles and supplements I am (presently) aware of that might have material worth converting:

Dragon Magazine Articles:

Oriental setting: 
"Armor of the Far East"                                             31(23)  0D&D
"Arrows of the East"                                                146(80)  D&D1
"...And a Step Beyond That"                                    122(20)  D&D1
 "Step Beyond 'Shogun', A"                                      122(18)  D&D1
"Life and Death of a Castle, The"                             121(32)  D&D1
"Sun Dragon Castle"                                                 121(45)  D&D1
"Righteous Robbers of Liang Shan P'o"                     54(16)  D&D1
"Lords of the Warring States"                                   167(77)  D&D2
"Chinese Undead"                                                       26(20)  0D&D
 "Cham Fau and the White Tiger Monastery"           351(46)  D&D3
 "Cities of the Ages: Edo"                                         292(60)  D&D3
"Oriental Adventures Class Combinations"             289(80)  D&D3
"Chinese Dragons"                                                     24(8)  OD&D
"Dweomered Dragon Scales"                                   308(39)  D&D3
"Ancestor Feats and Martial Arts Styles"                315(64)  D&D3
 "Update: Oriental Adventures: Eastern Flavor"     318(39)  D&D3
"Geisya, The"                                                          121(38)  D&D1
"Genin, The"                                                           121(42)  D&D1
"Japanese Mythos, The"                                            13(11)  OD&D
"Earn Those Heirlooms!"                                        151(22)  D&D1
"Humanimals"                                                         266(40)  D&D2
"Lords & Legends"                                         123(42)  D&D1
"Soul-Swords & Spirit-Slayers"                     198(82)  D&D2
"Specialist Fighters"                                               310(36)  D&D3
"Other Orientals, The"                                           189(28)  D&D2
"Soldiers of the Law"                                             151(18)  D&D1
"Righteous Robbers of Liang Shan P'o"                 54(16)  D&D1
"Bazaar of the Bizarre"                                           40(44)  D&D1
"Bazaar of the Bizarre"                                         126(50)  D&D1
 "Bazaar of the Bizarre"                                        181(30)  D&D2
"Hand-to-Hand Against the Rules"                      139(58)  D&D1
"Art of Kuji-in, The"                                            342(84)  D&D3
"Flying Feet and Lightning Hands"                     161 Or 164(11) D&D1
"Playful Phoenix Fist V Four Scholars Boxing"  289(76)  D&D3
 "Flying Leaps, Deadly Silks"                              289(60)  D&D3
"Pressure Point Attacks"                                      336(103)    D&D3
"Warriors of the Animal Fist"                              319(68)  D&D3
"Marshalling the Martial Arts"                            122(46)  D&D1
 "Matter of Style, A"                                            326(99)  D&D1
"Menagerie of Martial Arts, A"                           127(48)  D&D1
 "New Kicks In Martial Arts"                              136(66)  D&D1
 "New Martial Arts Styles"                                  309(62)  D&D3
"Things Your Sensei Never Taught You"          164(14)  D&D2
"Iron Path, The"                                                  303(54)  D&D3
"Monk Styles"                                                    330(90)  D&D3
 "Variant Fist"                                                    310(40)  D&D3
"Wordly Styles"                                                 334(89)  D&D3
"Metered Style, The"                                         337(97)  D&D3
"Psychic Boxing: Psions of the Orient"            308(62)  D&D3   
"There Are No Generic Black Belts"                160(70)  Top Secret
"Mongols: History, Weaponry, Tactics, The"     36(31)  --
"Thunder and Fire: The World of the Kaiju"    289(66)  D&D3
 "Ecology of the Kappa, The"                           151(14)  D&D1
  "Dragon's Bestiary, The"                                151(28)  D&D1
"Ecology of the Yuan-Ti, The"                         151(32)  D&D1
"Voyage of the Princess Ark, The"                   160(41)  BD&D
"Whaddaya Mean, Jack the Samurai?"             121(16)  D&D1
"Ninja: Masters of the Silent Shadow, The"     318(24)  D&D3
"Black-Clad Assassins"                                    289(36)  D&D3
"Historical Ninjas"                                            351(86)  D&D3
"New Improved Ninja, The"                              30(13)  D&D1
"Ninja - the DM's Hit Man, The"                       16(7)  OD&D
"Art of Kuji-in, The"                                        342(84)  D&D3
"Shadow Way, The"                                         255(50)  D&D2
"Silent Warriors"                                              289(46)  D&D3
"Shadow Way, The"                                         255(50)  D&D2
"Other Orientals, The"                                     189(32)  D&D2
"Elements of Surprise"                                     354(86)  D&D3
"Oriental Opens New Vistas"                          104(20)  D&D1
"Born To Defend"                                            164(26)  D&D2
"Soldiers of the Law"                                       151(18)  D&D1
"PC Portraits"                                                   289(126)          --
"Samurai Vs. Knight: Who Would Win?        323(42)  D&D3
"Samurai"                                                             3(25)  OD&D
 "Samurai: An Honorable NPC, The"                49(18)  D&D1
"So, You Want To Be a Samurai?"                  195(10)  D&D2
"Samurai! Honorable Designer Speaks"            36(14)   Samurai
"Warriors of the Animal Fist"                           319(68)  D&D3
"Oriental Sea, The"                                           130(64)  D&D1
"Arcane Lore: Magic From East To West"      130(16)  D&D1
"Wards Against Evil"                                       133(40)  D&D1
"Where There Is One Sumotori..."                   157(32)  D&D1
"Art of D&D, The"                                   309(38)  D&D3
"Chinese Undead"                                              26(20)  OD&D
"Lords of the Warring States"                          167(77)  D&D2
"Weapons of the Far East"                                 32(6)     --
"Campaign Classics: Oriental Adventures"      229(54)  D&D2
Oriental Adventures/Kara-Tur:

10321e Forgotten Realms: Kara-Tur, the Eastern Realms
20181e Oriental Adventures
21152e Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur appendix
91641e Swords of the Daimyo
91861e Night of the Seven Swords
91951e Ochimo- The Spirit Warrior
92031e Blood of the Yakuza
92421e Mad Monkey vs theDragon Claw
92572e Ronin Challenge
9258 2e Test of the Samurai
9307 2e Ninja Wars
9402 2e Kara Tur Trail Map

2nd ed Forgotten Realms Horde Box-Set
2nd ed Complete Ninja's handbook
Sengogku Roleplaying Game
3.5 Oriental Adventures
OSRIC Unearthed
Dungeon Magazine issues.
If anyone see's anything not on this list that you think might be useful, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Session VII: Time of the Trogs.

Character Roster:

Exploring the Caves (players present):
Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 2/1. Played by Ridh
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Euthalia: Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Kallias: Human (Mycenean) Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) Male Dual Class Assassin 1/Bard 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human(Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Xenos: Human (Mycenean) Fighter/magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Camp (absent players and NPCs):
Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Friendly: Troglodyte Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Caroline
Surly: Troglodyte Guide.NPC. Temporarily played by Niall
Third: Trog Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Rhidh
Thot: Half-Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. Played by Rob

Temple of Meerax, Garrison (absent players and NPCs):
Antipater: Human (Mycenean) Ship's Master. NPC.
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human (Mycenean) Female 0 level Priestess of Heastia. NPC
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparios: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.

Glykeria: Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1. Death by poison. Session VI

Taking Menithera and Bombatta with them, the party return to their camp by the pool. The two former-prisoners quickly take the chance to rest. Kallias -a previously unconscious Cleric of Dion- and his Trog guide arrive from the Temple later that day with reports of heavy fighting between the Trogs and Gray Demons. Kallias brings with him word from Minerva that, if the party do not clear the caves quickly, she may have no choice but to let the Trogs join her in the Temple. After a brief discussion, the exhausted Kalias quickly joins the former prisoners in slumber, though not before scrounging some "weapons," a dagger and a hefty bronze ladle, from the companions. Although other weapons are available -and even Bombatta has been entrusted with a spear- no-one seems to expect much in the way of fighting skill from a pretty-boy priest like Kallias.  Alas, there is also no spare armour to be had.

Though many daylight hours remain, the party chooses to rest overnight to recover spells and prayers.

During the night, several of the characters have trouble sleeping, in part because they have suffered their first fatality, instead passing the time in conversation.

[The conversations in question took place on facebook while I was away for the day. Caroline sent me a transcript which I edited, removing some anachronisms, and altering a few paragraphs to cut out the odd bit of meta-gaming and a very small section of  God-modeing. Because of this impromptu RP session I learned that several of the players were having a hard time grasping the difference between player knowledge, character knowledge and player skill. I was naturally quite happy about this, as I'd rather not have to explain complicated subjects when we're sitting at the table. Unfortunately, the transcript of the facebook session is on my desktop PC, which is currently away for repairs. I'll have to post it later.]

In the morning, Alexis and Thoht volunteer to stay behind and keep an eye on the camp – not to mention the three Trog guides and the two Thyatians. Before departing though, Thanatos summons the group together. The assassin apologies for his previous behavior, explaining to the group that he is slow to trust and asking their forgiveness. He then goes on to explain that he has a secret to share, in order to prove his sincerity to the group and in the hope that they will then trust him. With that, the assassin unties the knot holding his long hair in place, shakes it loose and, removing a few outer layers of clothing, nervously reveals that he is, in fact, a she. The reaction is, perhaps, not what she was expecting. Far from being outraged by the deception, as most Myceneans (with their strict gender roles would be) the citizens of Mysos are instead somewhat confused. Why would she hide her gender when there are armed women -including professional warriors- among the group? Taking on a masculine role is no shame in the city founded by Dion. Instead, Thanatos is solemnly thanked by Euthalia and one or two others for her gesture of trust, and formally welcomed into the group as a “sister” rather than a brother.

Needless to say, the young woman looks somewhat relieved at her reception. Only Bombatta offers negative comment, claiming that she is just as “disgusting” as the other “mad-women” in the group who bear arms. This attitude is not, perhaps, surprising given Merithena's somewhat sparse “attire” and the bodyguards earlier refusal to let “that thing”, Shadowdancer, speak with him. The Thyatian's comment is simply ignored. However, his speech does give the group the opening they were waiting for.

The first question asked is, unsurprisingly enough, whether the extremely capable looking Bombatta will accompany the group on their foray. Bombatta's contemptuous snort might seem answer enough, but he goes on to add that “Where she [meaning Merithena] goes, I go. And since I clearly cannot permit her to enter the cave, neither can I.”

A few of the characters wonder at the bodyguard's word-choice. He certainly does not seem to speak of Merithena (who some party-members have taken to calling, “the Princess”) in a manner befitting her rank. Not to Mycenean ears at least. Nor does he present himself as being subordinate to her in any way despite being her bodyguard. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that Merithena seems to regard this behavior as perfectly normal. Bombatta continues to answer most of the groups questions even, on one occasion, cutting off Merithena mid-sentence. Regardless, few of the questions asked by the group result in useful answers, though they do clean the following information:

                 The Bull-Headed King rules over the city of Thyatis

                 The city lies perhaps two days to the east, going by Bombatta's assessment
                 of their present location and based on landmarks the PC's can provide.
                 Merithena and her party were ambushed. One moment they were walking, they next
                 they collapsed. Several guards were absent when they awoke in the cages. Only
                  one other bodyguard was present, and he was first fed into the grinder in their
                 prison before being fed to the creature in the cage-room pod.
                 Bombatta describes the skull-in-flames tattoo he wears on both wrists as his
                 “badge of rank.”

Perhaps strangely, neither former-prisoner seems at all interested in finding out more about the group or it's members. The group almost seem irrelevant in the eyes of the Thyatians.

Leaving camp, the group travel quickly to the second waterfall. Once again Ki Oman carefully descends the chute (climbing rather than sliding), and smiles contemptuously at the trap he finds in the chamber below: a series of spears hammered into a wooden plank angled to skewer anyone sliding down the chute.

Ki Oman: It's safe to come down... only kidding! Permit me one moment.

Still chuckling to himself, Ki Oman (the same Ki Oman who keeps warning people about touching strange or suspicious objects in a dungeon, the same Ki Oman who saw what happened to Gykeria just a day before, the same Ki Oman who discarded his gloves from fear of accidentally poisoning himself with contaminated blood afterwards, this same Ki Oman) reaches out his hand and attempts to move the spear trap.

Some time later, having heard nothing from below, the party members hiss a question down the chute to Ki Oman, Not receiving an answer, Euthalia, and Andros decide to risk climbing down the chute to investigate. Meanwhile Thera peers over the waterfall, looking for any signs of Ki Oman, but can't see him or the chute exit because of an overhanging slip of rock. However, despite Andros volunteering to go down first, Euthalia the cleric, concerned that Ki Oman might need healing, insists on going first. Euthalia effortlessly manages to control her descent down the chute, and climbs out in time to see a clearly paralyzed Ki Oman poised over the spear-trap, one hand touching the wood, his eyes (or rather, eye) being the only part of him still moving. Just as she is about to call the news back up the chute, Andros slips, careers downward, and knocks both herself and and the cleric onto the spears.

Luckily, both of them are just nicked, but Andros succumbs to the paralysis poison. Euthalia meanwhile, hisses a warning about the trap back up the chute. Drawing Andros' sword, she first pulls Andros off the spear-frame and then tries to lever it aside with her borrowed blade.

That's when Thera (watching from above) realizes they are not alone.

Thera: Euthalia, look out!

[Wandering Monster time]

Though not in a position to witness events in the vicinity of the spear-trap, from her perch looking out over the water-fall Thera is able to discern a fungal humanoid shape lunging towards the clerics unprotected back. Wasting no time the Paladin flings her spear at the pod-man. It's a long throw, with a bad angle, but the spear nearly strikes true. It grazes the lurching pod man's shoulder as it flies past. A small wound, but enough to buy Euthalia some warning. The pod-man's flailing limbs manage to wound the cleric, but only slightly, yet the pod man captures the clerics shoulder in a vice-like grasp.

Above, Thanatos tries to distract the thing with a thrown rock, knowing as she does that blunt weapons will not harm it. Meanwhile, Boagris, with a similar idea, hefts his spear into the melee and again manages to find the wrong target. His spear arcs across Euthalia's back, tearing a wound that leaves her screaming and open to the pod-man's next attack. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer slides gracefully down the shaft, rolling aside at the last possible moment to avoid impaling himself. Once in the chamber beneath the waterfall, he draws his weapons, ready to attack. Xenos unleashes a magic missile (the first of three he cast's during the encounter) at the pod-man, blasting a chunk from it's shoulder.

Euthalia, already badly wounded by Boagris' throw, goes down under a pummelling from the pod-man.

The plant is pelted with javelins, rocks and a magic-missile thereafter. Shadow-dancer triumphantly throws his coat over the beasts head. Above, Kallias, unable to pay a great deal of attention to his surroundings while he prays, casts a light spell on the cloak-enshrouded pod-man, both in the hope of blinding it and to provide better illumination for the party's missile attacks. A bright ball of light appears above the things head. Right. Next. To. Shadowdancer.

Shadow-dancer (using his elven heat-vision): AAAAAARRRRRHHHHHH!

[Elle's new character gets off to a less than sterling start by blinding the only conscious/non-paralysed PC in melee range of the monster. However, to be fair, Kallias neither knows that SD has heat-vision (elves arn't exactly common on Edarnia) nor can see events 30ft below him in a dark cavern very well either]

While Shadow-dancer desperately fends off blows from the (clearly not in the least bit cloak-or-light-impeded) pod-man with his spear, Thera, seeing his danger, leaps down the chute after him. The Paladin misjudges her roll terribly, impaling her arm on the spikes. Fortunately, she manages to avoid succumbing to the numbness spreading across her limbs and hauls herself painfully off the sharp wooden points. Boagris, perhaps hoping to atone for his earlier mistake, leaps after the paladin, using his bronze meat-hook to control his descent. He therefore arrives safely just as Xenos' last magic missile strikes home. Meanwhile, Thanatos, eagerly trying to climb down the waterfall into back-stab position, slips and falls from the overhang, landing on the spikes and poisoning herself. Thera's blows distract the fungoid monster long enough to draw it's attention from Shadowdancer, but she takes more wounds in the process. Finally, completely out of spells and desperate, Xenos throws her bolas into the melee. Fortunately, she hits the pod-man, not Thera, but as the podman falls it pulls Thera down on top of it.

Seeing the pod-man rendered immobile, Kalias leaps down the chute, dodges aside at the correct moment, and moves towards Euthalia with the intent of healing the downed cleric.

With Thera and the pod-man rolling about the cavern floor, no-one else is able to get a clear shot. Thera's attempts to slay the thing with her dagger are hindered by it's grip on her. With a solid punch to the temple, the pod-man lays the Paladin out and attempts to throw her off.

At this Boagris lunges forward, hauling Thera to one-side. Between them, Boagris and the half-blind Shadow-dancer manage to finish the wounded, hobbled and prone pod-man, but despite it's grievous situation it does not go down without a fight. Even Kallias manages to get a decent strike in with his dagger (though the ladle doesn't prove much use) much to the surprise of the two more experience party members.

Panting heavily, the heroes look about them with some degree of astonishment at the havoc wrecked by just one such creature. A creature not so different from the twelve the group tore through not a day before. That one alone could work so much carnage.....

Thera and Euthalia are down and near-death, though being tended by Kalias. Thanatos was not only wounded, but Paralysed. As were Andros and Ki Oman. Five of the group -fully one-half of their number- brought down in a single encounter!

The decision is unanimous – retreat to the surface to rethink, and re-group. The party set about rigging a harness to lift the wounded up the face of the waterfall, using shields, moss and cloaks to soften any impacts with the sheer walls on the way up. Shadowdancer stands guard and tests a theory, peering through the cloak with his elf-vision, he could see the heat-shapes of his companions clearly. He announced his suspicions regarding the pod-mans mode of vision to the group but later considers that, while the light spell had blinded him, it had not affected the pod-man at all.

By the means already described, the group has just finished hauling Thera and Euthalia to the top of the waterfall when Ki Oman finally regains control over his body. Just as they finish rigging Andros into the make-shift harness, she regains control of her muscles and sits up. Thanatos spasms slightly shortly thereafter. She has regained enough control over her numbed body to call a warning. From her prone position, ear pressed to the ground, she has heard the noise of skittering insect movements when -thanks to the roaring waterfall- no-one else can. The party -at least, those of them still below- mobilise themselves to face the threat. A number of centipedes, each as long as a man's forearm, come scuttling over the moss-carpet coating the cavern floor. With ease, the creatures are soon dispatched, Andros claiming the first kill and the final insect being splatted by a well aimed and hefty throw from Xenos. The former-slaver's driftwood stick claims another insect victim, earning the make-shift weapon a new title: “Verminator”.

[At least once in every session where Xenos has been present, the slaver, once out of spells and other options -including his bolas- has managed to kill something -usually vermin- with that damn lump of wood. It's become something of a legend, that stick. One or two of the party members have even demanded -half-seriously- that someone cast detect magic on the thing. For my part, I'm tempted to have it spontaneously develop magical anti-vermin properties. At least, if its record of killing vermin holds up for a few more sessions]

Back at camp, Thera and Euthalia are made as comfortable as possible. Though healing -magical and mundane- has saved their lives, it will take some days for either to recover fully from their wounds. Solemnly, the group -with the exception of the three Trog guides and the two disinterested Thyatians- discuss their remaining options.

Some voices, Thanatos and Ki's among them- call for simply abandoning the Trogs, the Caves, and the Temple altogether and making for the City. Others- Shadow-dancer for example- argue against this course, observing that they have no guarantee of the reception they will find there. Others are against abandoning their word. Kalias observes that the wounded from the Temple would never be able to make the trip. In the end, there choice is clear. They'll have to continue, but in order to do so they must demand that the Trog guides come and help.

Meanwhile, the three Trogs, Surly (roleplayed by Niall), Friendly (roleplayed by Caroline) and Third (roleplayed by Shadowdancer) have been having a powwow amongst themselves.

Third: The Grey Demons press us harder every day. We cannot tolerate any more delays.

Surly: It seems not. These human food-things do not seem as competent as they first did. Perhaps the old one was wrong to trust them.

Friendly: If the Grey Demons press so hard, why does the Old One not simply demand shelter in their stone house?

Third: The stupid man-things left without giving the old one any teeth.

[Collective exclamations -or rather, hisses- of stunned disbelief from Surly and Friendly.]

Friendly: The fools. Perhaps they really are worthless as anything but food after all?

Surly: If they are, then it seems we cannot rely on them. [To Third] Go back to the Old One. Tell him we are taking the man-food into the Home. Make sure the one that smells most like food – the thing with one-eye, gives you his teeth to take to the Old One.

Friendly: Hssssss. They are looking at us.

Third: Yes. Hush. The Big Tasty One (Boagris) seems to be trying to communicate to us.

Surly: How do you know he is not making a mating call?

Third: If you were attempting to attract a mate for spawning, would you wear the skin of your kin on your back?

Friendly: Point taken,

[Boagris wears the rotting, un-tanned Hide of a baboon as armor. Perhaps explaining why he smells so "tasty"].

Boagris fails to make himself understood, but when the three Trogs attempt to indicate that two of them will being go into the caves, the party quickly grasp the point. “Third”, the Trog who brought Kalias to the caves, stalks up to Ki, grasps his jaw with a clawed hand, forces it open and clacks a claw against Ki's teeth. Taking the hint, Ki Oman hands over the bag of teeth. Third quickly disappears into the rocks, his passage marked by the noise of skittering claws tapping against rock, while he runs back to his people.

Surly leads the PC's -minus Thera, Euthalia and Thoht- back into the caves. Friendly takes up the rear to make sure none of the stupid man-things tries to sneak away. They quickly try to lead the group down the southern passage, but the man-things insist on heading towards the blue goo chamber first.

Friendly: What could they possibly want with the spawning pool, anyway?

Surly: Outrageous, this is no time for mating!

The two Trogs watch in perplexed disgust while the fleshier party members dip various items into the sacred spawning pool. They don't attempt to stop them however. Perhaps it's some form of odd fleshy battle-ritual?

Tongues hanging out, mouths open, the two Trogs shake their heads and lead the party towards the main habitation areas of the Cave-complex. They continue down the southern corridor, and pause at the Cage room.

Friendly: Why have they left the short fleshy-thing in the fungus cage to rot?

Surly: Perhaps they intend to eat him later?

As they continue, the two Trogs are careful not to come into contact with any of the (to them) sweet-smelling pod-man remains. They have no intention of being infected by the Black-Death that strips them of their scales and eats them alive from the inside out.

After a few more tunnels, they party reaches a series of chambers carved from the living rock, with regular floors and walls, albeit with the non-familiar coating of fungus, moss and lichens. The tails of the two Trogs twitch irritably and they seem to have a hard time controlling their excretions of fear-scent. Still, they lead the party onwards.

In the first of the carved rooms, the party encounters three bubbling vats atop burning braziers, a work-bench and a number of papers. One of the vats reeks greatly of what the Trogs think of as the Black-Death, they avoid it, preventing the humans from exploring the room. Covering their snouts with their tails as they pass it at as great a distance as the geography will allow, the Trogs lead the party onwards. In another chamber they encounter what can only be described as a study or library. The Trogs seem to become more agitated with every new room. Clearly, they do not like what the fungoids have done with the place. They also uncover another pod-room, similar to the one they cleared the day before but much larger. Cautiously, they return back the way they came and enter another chamber.

And come face-to-face with the Sinister Shroom itself.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The First Level Cleric's Survival Guide

I've been putting-off this final old-school survival guide for quite a long time. Not because I didn't know what to say -on the contrary, the cleric is my favourite character class -but because of the high degree of variation seen in first level clerics from one set of rules to another. 

In some of the earlier D&D box-sets the cleric didn't get to cast spells at first level at all. In the original D&D and AD&D games clerics who used non-blunt weapons could expect to lose their clerical powers. But there are rules in use today that, while they do not to permit clerics to take proficiencies in non-blunt weapons, do still allow clerics to use them without divine censure. The only penalty suffered being the standard negative modifier to attack rolls for using a weapon without proficiency. The situation is further confused by the ability of clerics in some settings to use any (or only) weapons favoured by their deity, not neccessarily just blunt weapons. Deciding what assumptions to make in this guide proved something of a headache.

In the end, I've decided to base this guide on the assumption that the cleric in your game is restricted to blunt weapon proficiencies and can cast spells at first level. This seems to cover most of the old school retro-clones in common use. At least measured by the yard-stick of the old school blogging community.

Without further ado, here is the guide:

The First Level Cleric's Survival Guide:

You're a brand new cleric. You've got your bludgeon, your holy symbol, more hit points than anyone except the fighters and you've got an armour class that equals theirs. Time for your cleric to go down that dungeon. Heal wounds and kick ass! Right?

Hell no!


Sure your cleric can strap on plate mail and a shield with the best of them, and given your starting money in most old school systems, there's a darn good chance that you'll be boasting AC5 or better before the first time you even leave town. Top that off with your D8 hit points and you've got a good chance of surviving at least one hit before you need healing. Time to take your place in the front rank of the marching order?


That armour isn't there so you can wade into combat. It's there to keep you alive long enough to help keep everyone else alive. And not just with your healing spells either. Consider this: you might have the second highest hit points in the game, but a goblin wielding a longsword two-handed can still drop you with one hit. And if you go down, the whole damn party goes down. TPK. Campaign over.

Moreover, have you actually seen your weapon damage? Using most old school rules, the cleric is limited to blunt weapons. Blunt weapon's which typically (again depending on rules-set) do a lot less damage than anything the fighters are carrying. A fighter might drop that goblin with a single hit. In fact, with a weapons specialisation, he might drop two of them! But there's a good chance that all you're going to do (even to Mr 1/2 hit-die goblin) is make him mad. And if he's busy battering away at you with his sword, how are you going to heal the wounded party members when you're too busy defending yourself? Furthermore, being on the front lines means that any wounded characters who need healing have to stay near the enemy in order for you to heal them. Unless you want to turn your back on the monsters while the wounded guy stands behind you.

Come to think of it, do I have to mention just how many monsters there are out there that laugh at blunt weapon damage? Zombies, for example?

Consider then, the benefits of being in the second (or even third rank) of the marching order. From the second rank, you can heal a wounded fighter simply by reaching out and touching him on the shoulder. He doesn't even have to dis-engage from combat. Moreover, from the second rank you can still fight. Especially if you've chosen a proficiency with slings or the lucerne hammer. Or even a spear if your playing a system that won't strip you of your powers for using a sharp weapon. Even with a negative modifier for using a weapon you lack proficiency in, you'll still land the occasional hit. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in a party with an abundance of fighters and/or hirelings, you might even prefer to stand in the third row of the party marching order. This prevents any canny monsters from using their own pole-arms to strike over the heads of the fighters in front with the aim of killing you. You can still heal effectively from the third rank. Any-time a front line fighter needs healing, he simply switches places with someone in the second rank while you heal him. You don't even have to move.

Finally, the fact that you are almost as good at hitting things as a fighter at first level (assuming the fighter has specialised in a weapon) combined with your fairly high AC also makes you a good choice as the party rearguard. Especially if you've exhausted all your spells for the day. Just remember that, as rearguard, your job is to shout the alarm and hold off the monsters until the fighters arive. As soon as they do, make sure you place at least one of your fighter or hireling buddies between you and the bad guys. Don't throw you're life away. They'll need you to heal them when you recover your spells.

But remember this: when the clerics in the party have all run out of cure spells, it's time to go. Don't give into the temptation to explore "just one more room". There's always the possibility of a random encounter while you're making your way back to a place of safety.

If your group only has one proper fighter and no henchment or hirelings, or, in a real emergency such as when you're out of healing spells and your fighters are going down like pitchers of ale at a dwarven wedding, that's when you might need to fight toe-toe in melee. Hopefully by that point the party bruisers will have mown down or wounded enough of the enemy that you and your piddly D4 damage warhammer will be enough to save the day.

Of course, that being said, if things ever get that bad it might just be time to run. That is, of course, assuming that the big heavy metal-suit you were so proud of a few paragraphs ago doesn't slow you down enough to get you killed.


The weapon proficiencies available to a cleric vary between different rules-sets more than with any other traditional D&D class. Some systems allow the use of slings and flaming oil. Some don't. Some allow the use of lucerne hammers ( a warhammer mounted on a pole), some don't. Some allow clerics to use weapons not on their proficiency lists without losing their powers and angering their god. Some don't.

Given such a wide variation on permitted weapons, I can offer only two pieces of advice: Choose a ranged weapon at first level (if you can) and if you happen to see the lucern hammer on the list of permitted weapons, TAKE IT! TAKE IT! TAKE IT! After what we discussed earlier, I shouldn't have to explain the value of a blunt weapon long enough to let your cleric fight from the second rank. It does mean giving up your shield bonus to AC while you're using it, but are you going to need you're shield that much when your in the second rank? Probably not. Not unless you're fighting orcs with halbards or you're party likes to use the Tetsudo formation.


The cleric's role is to provide a supporting role for the party in all it's forms - not just through healing. The clerics divination spells make him the best investigator in the game. His morale boosting spells (such as bless) make the entire party more effective in combat. His abjuration spells and ability to Turn Undead help keep demons, devils and the un-dead at bay.

The cleric's job is not only that of party medic. He's also the party's intelligence officer, face-man and source of inspiration all in one. At first level (assuming you're playing a system that allows you to cast spells at first level) you're probably going to want to load up with Cure Light Wounds spells. Particularly if you're the group's only cleric. But  please don't discount the battle-winning possibilities of a timely Bless spell or the value of a simple Sanctuary spell while scouting a dungeon or impressing the local peasants with the power of your faith  (“may Thor allow this axe-man to slay me if I lie”). Finally, when you're expecting to encounter the un-dead, Protection from Evil can protect you from the terrifying prospect of being level-drained at first level (though depending on your system, the mileage of this spell can vary). Who do you cast it on? Why you, of course. You're the only one who can turn the damned things and heal the party. Who do you think those undead are coming after first?

Clerical spell selection during a dungeon delve is -and always will be- a matter of personal taste. Any advice I can offer on the matter is complicated further by the award of additional spells per day for high wisdom scores (in some systems at least). When planning how many Cure Light Wounds to memorise, it can help to look at the total number of clerical spell slots available to all the clerics in the party and work from there. Each cleric should have at least one cure light wounds spell memorised at first level and ideally at least one cleric should have memorised two. It's preferable have at least one Cure Light Wounds spell in the party per fighter, ranger or paladin. Only then should you consider picking other spells at first level.

Even when in town or resting in camp, it's a good idea to keep at least one Cure Light Wounds memorised per cleric. You never know when violence will find you. But when you're between dungeon delves, don't discount the utility of other, non-combat spells. Create Water can be a life saver when crossing deserts or barren lands. Detect Evil can come in handy when meeting a potential patron or perspective ally for the first time. Casting Purify Food and Drink is a sensible precaution when eating food offered by someone you don't fully trust or when your rations are in danger of going off.

The cleric's greatest advantage and appeal as a class is their versatility -and the single most versatile thing about them is the number and variety of the spells that a cleric with a good wisdom score can cast at first level. Don't stick to one standard spell package. It might seem less hassle in the long-run, but in actuality this is a lazy and foolish option. Unlike a magic-user, you know every single one of your classes first level spells at character creation. Why play a cleric at all if you don't intend to take advantage of all the options?


Even a low level priest is still a representative of his church, his faith, and his deity. In a typical party of fighters, thieves and magic-users, you are the respectable one. You represent an authority greater than your own. In a highly populated area you might be just one low-level-cleric of your faith among many. But in a typical small village or isolated hamlet you might very well be the only spell-casting cleric anyone has seen in months!

Don't forget it. In fact, use it. Imagine how grateful a small hamlet or village will be if, when passing through, you pause to conduct a short service, bless crops or a newborn or even perform a short marriage ceremony for a happy couple. Even if the nervous villagers shoot glances at your disreputable looking companions, they'll still be falling over themselves to share news and gossip with you. Only bards are likely to receive a better reception in such places than you are. And while bards might expect only to be given sleeping space on the common room floor, a reputable looking cleric (one who embraces his spiritual role as a leader of the faith) is likely to wind up sleeping in the village elders own bed.

A cleric of an openly evil or illegal faith might not be able to expect the same reaction in your typical village, but his status might still open doors for him in a pirate town (like the infamous Nulb from Temple of Elemental Evil) or in the more evil realms (such as the Horned Lands of the Greyhawk setting).
Regardless of whether your deity is loved or feared, of all the character classes (unless one of your companions happens to be of noble birth) you are the one most likely to gain an audience with a figure of authority, whether than be with the village elder or the mayor of a small town. While a first level cleric might not be able to gain direct access to a King or Duke by his own efforts, it's a fairly safe bet that, if he's been known for his diligence and respectability, he can at least arrange for an introduction from someone who can (such as the local bishop).


With the likely exception of the party magic-user, you may very well be the most educated member of the party. Indeed, in some settings -especially those which closely resemble the real life dark-ages- there's a very good chance that you and the mage are the only PC's who can actually read and write.

Make good use of this knowledge. Monks and lay-brethren used to make good money (and learned a great deal of gossip) by writing and reading letters for other people. When you're not adventuring, earn some extra coin (and possibly some kudos with your superiors) by using spells on behalf of the faithful in return for “donations”- and not just from cure spells either. Who wouldn't pay for a quick “detect evil” spell in the presence of their future mother-in-law? You also might be surprised at the things a Cleric might learn while making a house-call on a wounded or sick parishioner. The things people say in a fever....

  •  A good AC, 8 hit points and blunt weapons do not make you a fighter.
  • When you've run out of spells, it's time to leave the Dungeon.
  • You can't heal them if you're dead.
  • You're not just a walking bandage. You have other spells. Choose them and use them.