Monday, March 21, 2011

Whadaya Mean I Can't Scribe a Scroll?

Magical writings. This is one of the great under served topics in old school role playing games. Jeff has been thinking about how players know what spells they start with and what that "min" on the table really means. ChicagoWiz looks at the other end of the gun with a quest to find the time and gp costs of copying a spell. Strangely I have been thinking about spell learning and scribing also. The way I interpret Jeff's table is the following:
1. You work through the level 1 spell list until you run out of spells or the number of spells known is equal to the max number.
2. If you have not hit your max but you are over your min, you are done.
3. If you have not hit your max and are still under your min, roll again for the spells you did not get last time until you are over the min. Repeat until you are over the min. Now you are done.

After tha
t, when you get a new spell you roll to see if you understand it. When you level all the spells you have that you don't understand you can check again for. While a caster cannot understand a spell they can still discern the complexity of the spell (i.e. the level). Additionally a caster can take a week per spell level of uninterrupted study in an attempt to understand a spell. At the end of the time the player rolls to see if the caster learned the spell. A caster can try again as often as they like. Remember there are 52 weeks in a year.
Swords and Wizardry Complete adds a spell level cap to the Intelligence score. The reason I was looking into the understanding thing was because you need to understand the spell to put it in your spell book.

Now, the big question I have for AD&D is: Why can I copy spells into my spell book, and if I so choose cast those spells out of my spell book as if they were scrolls (where they disappear off the page) but cannot create a scroll itself? If you can copy a spell from a scroll into a spell book, why not be able to copy a spell from a spell book to a scroll? Why wait for 7th (or 11th) level? Holmes makes the most sense here. If you can understand a 1st level spell, and have it in your book then you can copy it to a scroll. ChicagoWiz makes the point that Holmes does not mention the cost of copying a spell into a spell book. I think the cost unilaterally (OD&D, AD&D, Holmes, B/X, 3e etc.) is that you no longer have a scroll. But I figure that copying is copying and costs the same in all directions.

The time to create is pretty much a DMs call depending on how much he thinks the characters should be scribing. Holmes' week per level of the spell is probably based on the time that it took for a medieval monk to write a page of an illuminated manuscript working 6 hours a day for a week. But if you want the game to be run on the pursuit of treasure so you can pursue more treasure then you need things that the characters can spend their money on (like carousing). Scrolls become empty when they are used. That's a good hole in the pocket if I ever saw one. So I am tempted to say that it should be a day per level rather than a week. You still get PCs wasting a lot of time and also get them wasting money too.

Though what I might be inclined to do is this: if you want to scribe a scroll you need to gather the materials and set up a work space. This takes a week for whatever spell. Once you have set up shop you can pop them out at the day/level rate. But if you want to change spells, you have to "retool" your workspace and that takes a week. But then you hit the math-you-thought-was-small wall.

Here is my house rule on magical writing basics:
Spells can be stored in one of two ways: spell books are a kind of "permanent spell library" and a scroll is a kind of "temporary spell library." You can make copies from a permanent spell library without loss. Copying from a temporary library causes the loss of the library. Casting from both causes loss on both. Spell libraries can come in all different forms but involve writing and the above stated loss on casting or transferring.

To transfer a spell between libraries it cost 100gp/level of the spell. The time it takes is either 1day/level of the spell or 1week/level of the spell at the DMs discretion.

Research costs 1000gp/spell level and takes 1month/level to complete.

If a permanent spell library is destroyed memorized spells can be replaced in a day. Unmemorized but known spells are replaced as per the transfer rules or research rules as per the DM's discretion.
*Images from "ah-art" and "bloodmoonequinox" from deviant art respectively

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'll Swallow Your Soul!

Charisma has a lot to offer. While it often comes up as a person's charm or personality I think it should be more than the limitation on the meat-shield purchase plan. Charisma can also work well as a measure of your soul. Think about really charismatic musicians- they share a part of themselves in their art. Performers and speakers often are said to tap into their soul to convey their pain or idea. What is it that so inspires people to follow a particular leader? Why not have charisma measure how big that soul is? Getting more resistance against level draining monsters certainly will kick it out of the dump stat category.
Charisma indicates the maximum level for a character in any class. Monster powers that drain levels no longer drain levels- they drain Charisma. Charisma is now also a measure of your soul. When you run out of Charisma you die. Ignore Charisma damage when dealing with hirelings, followers and henchmen.
Addendum: I have just looked at the monsters that do level drain. Seems in LL and S&W level drain is the standard undead big bad power. Vampires drink blood and I would tie blood to Constitution rather than levels. Perhaps they also have a level drain? I would be hesitant to give them both. I am fond of stat damage as a measure of capacity for damage, but not a fan of recalculating things as the stats drop, hence the last line of the above rule. I should probably make my next post a treatise on how stat damage can be your friend.

Addendum addendum: Thinking about it I would remove the vampire's level drain and replace it with the ability to drain blood on an incapacitated or charmed or willing target, and say they can drain their attack damage points of Con per turn. This fits with the Dracula image better. As for the shadows I would say they drain life force so rather than Str, Dex, or Con I would have them drain just Con. If I did this I would not require a recalculation of hit points and abilities. And replacing level drain with Cha damage helps you avoid recalculating also.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Ultimate Tomb of Horrors

I like when stuff happens by accident. Over at Dragonsfoot there has been the discussion of false tombs of Acererak to go with the Tomb of Horrors. This has led Dragonsfoot to publish not one, but two false tombs in the last couple of months or so. They can be found here and here. But what is interesting is that as this happens, we also see Michael Curtis speculating about this. So there you go: Tomb of Horrors as a heist, but with two (or more) false tombs that you need to go through to find the real one... The idea of running as a whole campaign is pretty cool. And the false tombs make it even cooler. You don't do the heist once, you do it three times! Though the flaw in it all is that by the time you get to the real tomb, if you get there, you will be able to mop the floor with the demi-lich. Still it is one of the coolest accidental confluences of ideas I have ever seen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Wilderness Template and More On Hexes

Back in December of 2009 (am I really that infrequent?) I posted about the 6 mile hex being the ideal hex for wilderness adventuring hex crawls over its other frequently appearing cousins the 4 and 5 mile hex. I still think that is true. But what I wanted to revisit is the third part of the post about how to break down the 6 mile hex into subhexes. In that article I was breaking everything down based on the number 12. 12 half mile subhexes and those breaking down into 12 1/24th mile subhexes. This had the cool effect of fitting in a space of 44x44 battle mat squares. But then I noticed some problems.

I was aiming to create a one page wilderness hex map that could be used no matter what subhex level you were on. When I tried to print out and use a map of a hex 12 subhexes across the hexes were too small to really draw a map in, especially when you were on a 1/2 mile scale. Sure I could use the old B/X or Mentzer wilderness symbols, but the other problem was I wanted to use hex numbers to track which subhex I was documenting and the hex numbers would not fit into the subhexes of a hex 12 accross when it was configured to fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Granted I could put numbers in there but they would be too small to easily read.

The change works quite well. If you have 6 one-mile subhexes across a hex you can get large enough hexes to hold hex numbers and more map detail within the hexes should you want it. One mile hexes are good also for determining how far someone can see based on the 3 miles to the horizon principle I talked about in my previous hexagon article. Each of these 1 mile hexes breaks down to 6 880ft hexes, giving a good tactical scope to the one mile hex. These 880ft hexes have some interesting stuff about them: The longer range of historical bow shot was 200 to 400 yards and the standard practice range as set down by Henry the VIII was 220yds, or 660ft. So if you are in the middle of an 880ft hex, anything else in the hex is about 150 yards away. You could even shoot well into the next hex with some accuracy. So useing this scale, a good rule of thumb is that if someone is in the same hex or the next one with you, they are within bow shot. Another benefit is that Judges Guild hex maps on the 42.24ft per subhex scale can easily be rescaled to be 35.2ft per subhex having 25 of those fit in an 880ft hex. Since the structures displayed in these maps actually would get smaller it does not stretch the imagination and may be more believable. Also, 880ft is still a number that works well with the imperial measurements of chains and furlongs and acres. Furthermore 880ft hexes divide into subhexes of ~146 feet across. That fits on a 30 x 35 battle mat.

Additionally using hexes with 6 subhexes across you can go upward too. I good area for starting a sandbox campaign would be a superhex of 6mi hexes. This is about the size of a typical county in Texas. (30mi x 30mi) Apply the same again and you might be nearing the ultimate scope of a campaign. So I have given all the different hex levels a different designation. See the measurements below for these.

So here I have up here for download my take on the one page wilderness template. I have included it in form filled PDF, lined PDF, unlined PDF, Word with lines, and Word without lines. The graphic of the large hex is about as big as I can make it on 8.5 x 11. The lines are a little funky so expect these to get cleaned up sometime soon (probably next year).

Here are the measurements of the hexes and subhexes:

HexType: Face to Face, Vertex to Vertex

Scope Hex: 216mi, 252mi
Campaign Hex: 36mi, 42mi
Adventure Hex: 6mi, 7mi
Terrain Hex: 1mi (5280ft), 1.154mi (6093.12ft)
Tactical Hex: 880ft, 1016ft
Combat Hex: ~146ft (30 squares), ~169ft (35 squares)
Judges Guild Maps: 35.2ft, ~40ft (40.3)

Remember that the center to face is half the Face to Face distance and center to vertex is half the Vertex to Vertex distance.

Here are the templates in PDF. There are three formats: blank, lined and form field:


Happy wilderness mapping!