Saturday, December 03, 2016

Do the alignment shuffle

"The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons And Their Relationships to Good and Evil" first appeared in issue #6 of The Strategic Review, the predecessor to Dragon magazine, but I first encountered it in the first Best of Dragon.



This essay is part of Uncle Gary's efforts to formulate alignment as a key component to his unique cosmic vision for the game.  Personally, I'm not that into the Gygaxian system of Outer Planes.  And I've never taken alignment that seriously in my games as anything other than 1) a simple system for knowing whether the PCs can trust an NPC or monster and 2) a way of indicating which side someone would fight on when Ragnarok happens. 

But I find this chart from "The Meaning of Law and Chaos" to be a fascinating artifact from a transitional stage in Gygax's theory.  You can see Gygax moving from the intermediary five-fold system to his final nine-fold alignment plan right here in this chart.  But that's not what I find interesting today.  


What's intriguing here is the monsters that are in the wrong places.  With Good at the top of the chart, Evil at the bottom, Law to the left and Chaos to the right, some monsters appear in a different spot than one would expect from the alignment listed in their entry in the original Monster Manual.  To make it more obvious how the nine-fold system maps onto this diagram, I've added red lines subdividing it into 9 boxes.  


Under this scheme, the upper left box is Lawful Good and the bottom right box is Chaotic Evil.  Here's a comprehensive list of monsters whose position on this chart is at variance with the official listing in the MM.

Some Silver Dragons might be Neutral Good instead of Lawful Good
Some Hobbits/halflings might be Lawful Neutral instead of Lawful Good
Pegasi are Neutral Good instead of CG
Gnomes are definitely Neutral Good instead of "neutral to lawful good"
Bronze Dragons are Neutral Good instead of LG
Platinum Dragons (plural!) are Chaotic Good instead of LG
Sprites are Chaotic Good instead of N(G)
Rocs are Neutral Good instead of Neutral (smart enough to have a non-neutral alignment?)
Ents (treants) are Lawful Neutral instead of CG
Unicorns are also Lawful Neutral instead of CG
Dwarves are Lawful Neutral instead of LG
Mummies are Lawful Neutral not LE
Ogre Magi are Lawful Neutral not LE
Kobolds can be Lawful Neutral not LE
Werewolves are Lawful Neutral not Chaotic Evil (!)
Liches are Lawful Neutral or True Neutral (!!)
Centaurs are all True Neutral rather than neutral to chaotic good
Djinni are Chaotic Neutral or True Neutral, rather than Chaotic Good
White Dragons are Neutral rather than Chaotic Evil 
Assassins are True Neutral to Neutral Evil, rather than any evil alignment
Copper Dragons are Chaotic Neutral rather than CG
Hippogriffs are Chaotic Neutral rather than True Neutral
Brass Dragons are Chaotic Neutral rather than CG with N tendecies
Weretigers are Chaotic Neutral rather than N
Wyverns are Chaotic Neutral rather than neutral (evil)
Efreeti are Chaotic Neutral rather than neutral with LE tendencies
Gnolls are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Minotaurs are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Vampires are Lawful Evil rather than CE
Black Dragons are Neutral Evil rather than CE
Ogres are Neutral Evil rather than CE
Wererats are Neutral Evil rather than LE
Beholders are Neutral Evil rather than LE
Orcs are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Green Dragons are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Blue Dragons are Chaotic Evil rather than LE
Giants (no subtypes specified) are all over the map.  They can be any Good, True Neutral, or Chaotic Evil.

Some of the implications here are rather minor.  Making orcs chaotic evil doesn't change much, for instance.  But a few items above are pretty darn interesting, particular in the LN and CN sections.  Unicorns and treants as Lawful Neutrals certainly cast the fairy woods in a different light.  Perhaps LN mummies, ogre mages, werewolves, and kobolds are misunderstood by common folk.  Meanwhile gnolls, minotaurs, and vampires punch the clock at Lawful Evil, Incorporated.  And neutral assassins suggest that paid murder can just be a regular job.  Neutral Liches!

The lesson I take aware here is that a simple alignment change can lead one to reconsider the place a creature has in your campaign world.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016

the Broodmother cover, a better look

(Click to embiggen.)


And here's the official ad copy written by James Raggi (which I must admit I signed off on):
THE MOST AWESOME ADVENTURE EVER 
Since the invention of the adventure module, there have only been five adventures that were rated the most awesome, the most epic. Broodmother Sky Fortress leaves them all behind. It’s got these creatures that are half shark. Half elephant. All badass. They fly around in this cloud fortress, wrecking everything in the campaign until the players step up to stop them. It’s all terribly exciting! And all brought to you by none other than the world-famous Arch-Mage of Old-School, Jeff Rients! 
As an added bonus, we’ve included a Greatest Hits of the ol’ Arch-Mage’s essays and game tools to build your campaign into the unstoppable juggernaut you’ve always wanted it to be. Your game won’t suck anymore! 
Broodmother SkyFortress: Buying any other adventure is just throwing your money away

I like how preposterous that last line becomes given that LotFP is releasing another great product simultaneously.


“Wouldst Thou Like To DIE Deliciously?” 
The year is 1617, and the only thing on the minds of every noblewoman and aristocrat in Europe is CHOCOLATE. The act of eating this modest confection brings so much PLEASURE, it has become more prized than tea, spices, even liquor ... and it all comes from one place: LUCIA DE CASTILLO’s factory in northern Friesland. 
This one businesswoman has Europe by the balls, and some will pay handsomely for the secret to her success. But Lucia’s factory isn’t what it seems to be. The horrors and cruelties that exist within its walls defy IMAGINATION ITSELF. Nobody ever goes in ... and nobody ever comes out! 
BLOOD IN THE CHOCOLATE is a psycho-sexual romp that pits characters not just against their enemies, but against their own twisting, melting, inflating, or poisoned bodies. 
This adventure comes from the imagination of Kiel Chenier (Dungeons & Donuts, The Hell House Beckons), brought to life by the lurid illustrations of Jason Bradley Thompson (Mangaka: The Fast & Furious Game of Drawing Comics, Dreamland). 
An adventure suitable for low-level characters for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing and other traditional role-playing games.
 I'll update all y'all again once I have a link to a product page.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Broodmother is a real thing.

Hey all!  I must pause in my preparations to teach the youth of America a second day on how awesome Beowulf is in order to provide a brief update.

Photo: Gangsta.
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I haven't opened them up and checked them yet, but unless I make a frothy, raving rant in 15 minutes assume they will be at Dragonmeet on Saturday and then go on sale on the webstore on Tuesday.

Broodmother backers will get a PDF tomorrow.

This menacing figure is none other than game designer and publisher James Raggi, of Lamentations of the Flame Princess infamy.  In his hand he holds some sort of flintlocky pistol (is it a prop? a toy? an actual firearm?  I don't really know) and 2 books.

One of those books is Blood in the Chocolate, an adventure by cool guy Kiel Chenier that, as I understand it, is all about Willy Wonka taking a break from murdering children to spend time murdering your PCs instead.  Good, clean, wholesome fun.  Everyone reading this post should buy one.

The other book is nothing less than an actual copy of Broodmother Skyfortress, the adventure I wrote quite a while back now.  A few copies will be on sale this weekend at Dragonmeet, a convention in London.  Copies for all the wonderful people who put up money before I even wrote the thing will start shipping shortly thereafter.

I want to thank everyone who pledged, for both their initial faith in me and their patience.  And to everyone who emailed me over the years to ask when this darn thing was coming out, I thank you for accepting my vague promises.  I am so super-pleased that you will be getting your long awaited book soon.  It honestly fills me with joy to know you'll soon be holding your own copies.  And I hope you all like it.

By the by, the original design spec in the IndieGogo campaign called for a 32 page adventure.  The adventure actually runs longer than that and there's a bunch of bonus content in the back.  The last version of the PDF I saw ran 162 pages, or more than 5 times the content you were promised.  I hope that serves as a little apology/bonus for the absurd amount of production delays.

Also, if you haven't read Beowulf, you should totally get a hold of a good translation.  It's one of the wellsprings of modern Western heroic literature.  I teach R. M. Liuzza's more scholarly edition, but there are lots of other good ones.  The Seamus Heaney version is easy to find and quite popular.  A new edition of Tolkien's translation came out not too long ago as well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Apparently PCs are very sound sleepers

Here's a crowdsourced thing from G+ I wanted to preserve for posterity. The challenge was to come up with cool alternatives to the "wake up in a dungeon cell" method of starting a scenario. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

How do we start this crazy adventure? (d100)
01-02 PCs wake up in a mausoleum inside a haunted graveyard.
03-04 PCs wake up at the starting inn, but it is on fire.
05-06 PCs wake up getting shaved and tattooed and branded, before being hung up to give transfusions to diseased cultists. =)
07-08 PCs wake up in a wagon during a high-speed chase.
The PCs wake up hungover after a bacchanal
09-10 PCs wake up slung and tied over a horse.
11-12 PCs wake up on a sinking ship.
13-14 PCs wake up standing over their sleeping bodies.
15-16 PCs wake up tied to the belly of a boar
17-18 PCs wake up washed up on a beach after a shipwreck
19-20 PCs wake up falling from an airship
21-22 PCs wake up on a tower during a storm
23-24 PCs wake up during surgery... alien surgery.
25-26 Wake up with a knife to their throat
27-28 Wake up in a village, only they are still alive.
29-30 The PCs happen to be travelling down the road together when a horse-drawn carriage comes barreling around a turn towards them.
31-32 PCs wake up in a wizard's laboratory, decapitated. Fortunately for them they are being magically kept alive and just need to find their bodies. Also somewhere nearby there is a single golem that follows voice commands.
33-34 Pcs wake up in the inn. Water surrounds their beds. The inn is floating down river on a flash flood.
35-36 They wake up in individual coffins
37-38 They wake up strapped to various torture devices in a dungeon. Good way to introduce themselves as the torturer interrogates them.
39-40 PCs wake up each holding a fragment of a treasure map.  Between them they do not have the whole thing.
41-42 They wake up in each other's bodies. Sally the halfling thief is now playing a dwarven male fighter. They have to find each other in the city.
43-44 They wake up in a pitch black room that smells, and they are waist deep in acid. Something splashes nearby (they are in a giant's stomach, it unfortunately has worms. Big worms).
45-46 Being dragged from the sea by strange man-frog fishermen in walrus leather.
Wake up in a crater, smoking.
47-48 PCs wake up (unarmed and without their gear) with a headache, in a caged wagon, including an armed guard escort, and they are traveling in place they are not familiar with.
49-50 Same as above above, except they are traveling through an unfamiliar village and while being insulted and mocked by villagers, and being pelted with rotting vegetables and waste. They are quite aware of the shouts of "Witch!, Burn! Warlock! Demon Worshipper! Burn!" that can be heard amidst the other slanders, taunts, and insults
51-52 PC's wake up to find a rather large dragon attacking. As each pc is slain, they wake up once again, only they are not anywhere near their home,. They are all in a strange outdoor place with a glowing extra-dimensional gate or portal that is quietly powering down. The summoning wizard/wizardess is standing immediately before them.
53-54 PCs wake up in the menagerie garden of the Emperor
55-56 Wake up in a conference room with Dr. Doom.
57-58 PCs all wake up (with hirelings too) naked in bed together. A big bed.
59-60 They wake up underwater, surrounded by a maze of coral and seaweed. They have gills.
61-62 Wake up in hot air balloon that is descending
63-64 Wake up inside Kansas farm house In a tornado, tumbling through sky.
65-66 Wake up at your moms house, have an existential crisis, realize you need to go kill something and  take its gold.
67-68 They don't wake up. They never sleep. Insomnia has been constant for a month and now at four a.m. the dark sends a strange guest
69-70 They wake up outside of an already raided dungeon, unfamiliar magic items in hand
71-72 They hit middle age and none of their dreams ever happened and there are dragons out there and the bills are getting higher
73-74 They emerge spontaneously from the forehead of Zeus
75-76 They reverse-nirvana out of oneness with the universe and somebody in a dungeon did it
77-78 They wake up mid-brawl with each other. A neat sum of XP is offered the sole survivor. They were pregens, they roll up characters who were placing bets. The survivor won the privilege of guiding them into a dungeon
79-80 PCs wake up covered head to toe in unknown rune-tattoos
81-82 They wake up in a mesmerists room in Victorian London. He says that was a pretty good session but they need to regress again to find out where the special snowflake treasure went. They wake up in a dungeon.
83-84 They go to sleep on the night of the equinox and pass through The Gates of Ivory and Horn...
85-86 Waking up in a morgue has been done by Torment of course, but it has more applications than that.
87-88 They wake up under an upturned, burning wagon
89-90 The players (not the PCs), wake up naked in this strange temple. There is an old person in priestly robes staring at you
91-92 PCs wake up in the tavern, but the village is completely empty of other people. Half-eaten meals and cooking fires still burning. Footprints end mid-stride.
93-94 Wake up inside tubes full of fluid, which are slowly draining while an alarm sounds.
95-96 PCs wake up shrunk to 3 inches tall and inside an iguana terrarium. 
97-98 PCs wake up naked in the Sultan's harem as scimitar-wielding eunuchs enter the chamber.
99-00 PCs wake up chained to barrels of gunpowder, longs wicks sizzling towards their doom.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Deadliest Page

So it's early into the evening of Election Day here in the good ol' U.S. of A. and the present political climate has me sufficiently freaked out that I have started drinking.  So please forgive me if parts of this post are incoherent.

Anyway, I wanted to take some time before I get fall down drunk to tell you about the Deadliest Page of the original Dungeon Masters Guide.  There are several pages in the DMG that will severely ruin your PC's life.  My favorites include page 28 (where we find out that not wearing a helmet will FUCKING KILL YOU), page 225 (the gods damned ENCUMBRANCE RULES), and page 80 (the item saving charts will WRECK ALL YOUR COOL MAGICAL SHIT).  But the deadliest page of the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide is page 182.  Imma explain why.

There are two rules for wandering monsters on this page that I have NEVER seen applied.  Not in my own campaigns and not in anyone else's.  (If you've used them, please let me know!)  Rule the first is the Psionic Encounter rules.  The basic idea seems to be that psionic monsters are attracted to psionic powers or--and this is the kicker--spells that resemble psionic powers.  A lot of low level spells appear on the list titled Spells Resembling Psionic Powers: cure light wounds, detect evil, detect magic, charm person, feather fall, enlarge, ESP, invisibility just to name a few.  The upshot of this rule is that if your party casts ANY of these spells there is a 1 in 6 chance that the next wandering monster comes from the Psionic Encounter Table rather than the normal wandering monster matrix.  This table is no joke.  Not only does it include all the standard psionic monsters like intellect devourers and mind flayers, but all the sundry denizens of the Seven Hells and the Abyss also show up on it.

This means that under AD&D1 rules as written it would be theoretically possible for a 1st level cleric on their first adventure to cast detect evil and find nothing, only for Demogorgon to show up a few rounds later.

The other, and I think more important, section is Patrols.  The DMG asks DM to designate all outdoor areas as either inhabited or uninhabited.  One of the key differences between the two is that inhabited areas are patrolled.  In fact a full 25% of wandering monster encounters in inhabited areas will be with patrols.  A patrol looks like this:

  • Commander: a fighter (or ranger, if appropriate) level 6-8
  • Lieutenant: figher (or ranger) 4-5
  • Sergeant: figher 2 or 3
  • 2-3 first level fighters
  • (All of the above have plate, shield, lance, flail, and longsword, mounted on warhorses
  • 12-24 zero-level soldiers with chain or scale armor, bow or xbow, and some hand weapon, mounted on riding horses
  • either a cleric 6-7 or an MU 5-8
In other words, 1 in 4 encounters in inhabited areas involve a shit-ton of cops trying to ruin your murderhobos' day.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Ard times for MU's

So this exchange appeared in my tumblr feed yesterday:


That's pretty darn great if true, but a citation is lacking, so I hit up the online Oxford English Dictionary.  Here's the entry for the suffix -ard:

-ardsuffix


Etymology: < Old French -ard-art, < German -hart-hard, ‘hardy,’ often forming part of personal names as Old High German Regin-hart Raynard,Ebur-hart Everard; also in Middle High German and Dutch a formative of common nouns, generally pejorative, whence adopted in the Romance languages. Used in French as masculine formative, intensive, augmentative, and often pejorative, compare bastardcouardcanardmallard,mouchardvieillard.

 It appeared in Middle English in words from Old French, as bastardcowardmallardwizard, also in names of things, as placardstandard (flag); and became at length a living formative of English derivatives, as in buzzarddrunkardlaggardsluggard, with sense of ‘one who does to excess, or who does what is discreditable.’ In some words it has taken the place of an earlier -ar-er of the simple agent, as in braggerbraggarbraggardstanderstandard (tree). In some it is now written -art, as braggart; in cockade, orig. cockard, corrupted to -ade suffix.

The OED's first definition of wizard ("A philosopher, sage... Often contemptuous") confirms this negative connotation.

My conclusion is that etymologically wizards are close to mad scientists, in that both concepts express the fear that there is such a thing as too much knowledge.  That's basically what I do in the latest version of my Wessex campaign already.  Magic-users are twisted by their secret knowledge into cosmic conspiracy kooks.  Their paranoid insights into the universe are considered blasphemies against the established order of the universe, even when they are true.