26 November 2016

Advice For Video Reviewers & Podcasters

A few brief words of advice for persons doing gaming related videos and podcasts.

Short intros, then get to the subject at hand.

Stick to the subject.

Use your natural speaking voice.

If you don't have a pleasing speaking voice, get someone to do your broadcast for you or with you.

Try to have new information in your podcast, something more than that found with a casual Google search.

If you're doing a video review? Exploit your medium by having visuals and props. If you're doing a podcast choose a location with good acoustics and a minimum of background noise.

No filler! When you reach the end of your useful information, stop talking!

19 November 2016

The Unblemished

An unofficial arm of the Church of Law. The Unblemished are soldiers and unsanctioned guardsmen in towns or cities where Law holds sway. Because of the church's annual receipt of tithes from the these troops tend to be very well armed and trained. The Unblemished will typically be armed with mace or club, fighting spear, and dagger; they are almost always clad in plate and carry shields.

Sometimes these men and women, almost always humans, operate with the blessings of The Nine and the leading members of the local clergy. Other times they operate independent of the local clergy under the command of a Cleric, who may or may not answer (or at least confer) with the local clergy.

The Unblemished always cover their faces when in uniform, communicating only in the Lawful alignment tongue. In stressful situations, any being unable to communicate in same will often be detained. The Unblemished are very often fanatical in their devotion to The Nine and will usually err on the side of dogma in pursuit of their duties. These fanatics are often rigid and unyielding in their faith, even to the point of great personal cost.

Unblemished soldiers are always found preferably in groups of nine or multiples of nine. In such a case there will be one soldier bearing the sigil of one the deities on his tabard, all of The Nine will be thus represented. In smaller communities where numbers are lacking they will resort to groups of three.

If your campaign uses paladins, this is a great source for them.

30 October 2016

Variant Humans: The Elorran

Basically, I've decided to have six human ethnicities in my new supplement, one for each physical attribute. So, what I've been working on in my spare moments is the new races. It isn't just coming up with a backstory, but coming up with a decent name for them. 

The Elorran are slender humans characterized by roman noses and strong foreheads. Their fingers and toes also tend to be very long, though they are no more dexterous than other humans. The Elorran inhabit the region closest to the Upper Serpent River and the western arm of the Frostfang Mountains. The Elorran are tinkerers, inventors, sages, and wizards. They are strategic fighters and though they  are not particularly warlike, they are implacable foes once aroused.  The Elorran have a not undeserved reputation as humorless, stoic, and overly analytical.

Elorran average 3"-6" taller than human norm, with light colored hair. Hair color is usually light brown, blonde, and so blonde as to be almost white. Eyes tend toward blue or grey. Elorran roll 3d6+1 for INT and 3d6-1 for STR, and add +1 to saving throws versus mind influencing spells. Elorran society is lax when it comes to matters of spirituality, so they produce few clerics, but some of the finest mages the world has known have come from the Elorrans. The Archmage turned Sage "Ahmechs the Wise" is Elorran.

29 October 2016

Variant Human Race: Heptamoni

The Heptamoni (singular: Heptamon) dwell mainly in the northern reaches. They prefer loose-fitting clothing made of unbleached woven cloth, leather stained in light colors, or furs. They average 3"-6" shorter than typical humans, are hirsute and heavy browed, as well as heavily muscled in their frames. Hair and eyes trend toward dark brown. A Heptamon will typically have a one-syllable first name, the name they go by in everyday life, with a rarely used last name consisting of their mother's first name name followed by -childe; or -childemon in the case of a multiple birth. Multiple births are 10% more common among these humans. Their society is matriarchal and worship of Iskela is foremost among their beliefs.

Heptamoni prefer weapons that take advantage of their strength, such as bashing or two-handed bladed weapons. Clerics are revered among the Heptamoni, indigenous magic-users are rare and all MUs are treated with a mixture of respect, contempt, and fear.

The Heptamoni get +1 to all saving throws versus cold-based attacks or magic, roll 3d6+1 for Strength, and 3d6-1 for Dexterity.

01 October 2016

What I'm Working On

So, Wobbly Goblin Press (WGP) is basically a one-man operation, though nothing is truly one-person. We all use editors, proof-readers, artists, layout person, etc. Still, I'm the driving force behind WGP so things move slowly, then leap ahead in a fit of manic creation, then stop completely for trips to England or Asia or even Denver CO (who knows where next year, it depends upon which way the wind blows).

So, all the verbiage is in place to dispel any hopes the following announcement will bring. It's not a big flashy [COMING SOON!!!] and the product won't be a leather bound, gilt-edged paper mega-production. It's just another hobby publisher putting out a product.

I'm writing a campaign. I'm trying to go full smash with history, geography, new bestiary, (some) custom spells and magic items, you get the idea. The idea is to pick the book up and have something that both uses your favorite set of pre-1983 rules set or rules clone but is without a doubt not Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, or any other major published work.

Work will be slow. It may be a long time, probably years, before it sees the light of day. But I'm telling you, gentle reader, all this because I'll be posting bits and bobs of it here on this 'blog as I work and I wanted you to know the overarching theme behind a seemingly randomly series of post topics.

A few years back I wrote an alternate psionic system for use with Matt's excellent Swords & Wizardry rules. Unfortunately, the finished product was lost during a move and never published. I finally found a much earlier draft of the rules and I'm working to recreate what I wrote. These will be included in the final campaign book. I'll also release them here.

The final work will be free for download as a PDF or available at cost as a print product. Anything I publish here will be freely usable, may be freely printed, and can be distributed ad lib, though I would appreciate an attribution by name (Cameron DuBeers or Cameron S. DuBeers) on the frontispiece or wherever you attribute other sources in your work. Consider anything I post here, unless otherwise qualified in the text of that particular post, as Creative Commons 4.0:


28 September 2016

Let Them Eat Cake!

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Butter or Oil
  • Water
  • Baking Soda 
  • Baking Powder

Cake. All cakes and lots of other baked goods have these same ingredients but not all cakes taste alike.

You do not have to be hungry to eat cake, you will rarely say but I had cake yesterday and I just don't feel like eating some cake today. It's cake!

Use a lot of butter and you get pound cake. Whip the eggs and you get sponge cake. Add cocoa and get chocolate cake. Eschew the use of flour and get cheese cake. Use yeast and get coffee cake. Change the ratio of ingredients slightly and cook it on a griddle to get pancakes. Change it again and bake it in the oven on a cookie sheet and get biscuits. Then there's bread, crackers, scones, cookies, pie crust, pastries, ad infinitum ... 

It's the same with D&D and most other RPG's, okay? Same ingredients, so as you're mixing them up you may think you're fixing the same old thing. You're not. That batter may look like every other batch of batter you've ever seen, but it's your special touch and a handful of nuts, or cinnamon, or fresh slices of apples, or vanilla extract, that make it something different.

Don't let the fact your campaign isn't completely world-changing in scope and depth stifle your creativity. Create a campaign in your own vision.

26 September 2016

Ratlings: Evil Mooks For Your Campaign

One idea I've pondered is the whole OD&D as a toolbox idea always being tossed around. Let's take that a bit more literally as we look at aspects of the rules. In this case, the monster listings. What if they were, let us reasonably suppose, merely to stimulate a budding referee's imagination with regard to his own (ahem) fiend folio

Which brings us to the mook. You know, the storm troopers from Star Wars, goblins from Lord of the Rings, red shirts in Star Trek, anyone serving with or fighting against Arnold Schwarzenegger in pretty much any film he's been in, etc. They are the ones that need to be mowed down to (a) show how tough our hero is, and (b) to get to the Boss Monster. 

Mooks are fun. They give your 5th level players a chance to realize how tough they've become. A lone mook with a single hit die at first level is a credible threat, a group of 4 or 5 at fifth level is barely a challenge. Sure, they can be annoying. They siphon off hit points, cause the party to expend valuable resources such as arrows, healing spells, offensive magic; but it's cool to mow down hordes of bad guys! 

Here is a proposal for non-goblin mooks. Nothing wrong with the goblinoid races but it's nice to have something different in your campaign. 


Simply put, voracious and proliferate anthropomorphic rats. These can range from ½ HD to 1+1 or even higher per the needs of your milieu. Armor class is 6[13] for mundane types, with natural DAC[AAC] improving for leader types. These leader types may also be in armor, especially if they can get their hands on especially ornate/shiny armor or magical armor. 

Ratlings breed everywhere but tend to be found in places man-types typically avoid: sewers, deserted houses, garbage heaps, midden heaps; not because they necessarily like these places but because they are typically undisturbed while nesting there. This is not to say they are not encountered in the wild, there are also wildling and barbaric tribes of ratlings extant. 

Ratlings are dangerous for many of the same reasons mundane rats are a threat. They carry disease, create conditions where disease can thrive, and consume or contaminate food intended for human consumption no matter how securely it is stored. Ratlings are also dangerous for reasons mundane rats or not, they are intelligent, vicious, chaotic, and when their hoards reach a certain number of members they become extremely war-like. Thus it always in the best interests of humans and other man-types to deal with ratling infestations before they can become too well established. 

Ratling tribes typically consist of a horde of mooks with several lieutenants, the leader's personal troops, and the leader himself. Armor class and hit points/hit dice increase as one goes up the chain of command. The leader himself can be a typically large ratling specimen, or a stronger monster of some type who has assumed rulership of the tribe. The tribe will also have a selection of rules-standard fighters and thieves, as well as shaman and witch doctors; these are typically few in number. 

Ratlings have a weakness for hording shiny things. Treasure will tend to consist of coins, gems and jewelry, as well as magical weapons and armor (notable in most campaigns for being ornate and shiny). Less common are miscellaneous magic items or magic-user specific items, though these may be present on a random basis.  

There you have it. An enterprising referee could really develop this concept to include all rodentia in his campaign. Thus there might be ruling class of hamster-like humanoids, with exploring otters, fighting mongooses, scout field mice, etc.  Have fun! 

Note: after coming up with this concept I did a Google search and found out it was not so original as I thought. No matter, my campaign (as are most I've played in) is a pastiche and I've no issue with the idea being possibly influenced by other works I'm familiar with or have at least been exposed to. I just thought I would say this upfront to avoid any "HA HA! Got you! You stole this idea!" type of replies in the comments.

21 September 2016

Sword Breaker Rule (Beta Version)

Sword Breaker: this weapon might more accurately be described as a sword catcher since the chance of actually breaking a well-made blade is remote. The sword breaker is typically used as an off-hand weapon and requires a Dexterity 15 or greater. In lieu of a +1 "to hit" the player may use the sword breaker as a shield, effective only against 1 melee opponent, ineffective versus missile fire. During melee, if the player is engaged with a blade-armed opponent and rolls the exact number "to hit" versus his opponent's DAC [AAC], that causes the opponent to lose his next attack. 

Rules Variant:  have the opponent be disarmed with a precise hit, rather than merely lose an attack. Suggested by reader Scott Anderson.  Thank you for the input Scott!

Note: this is basically the same rule I posted to the S&W G+ group. I only slightly changed the wording to make it sound more like an official rule.


19 September 2016

Swords, Revisited and "Game-ized"

In an ongoing series of posts about various aspects of the rules, I'm revisiting the "You Call That A Knife?" entry. As I've been told, and as my research has shown me, the various categories of bladed weapons are pretty tough to pin down. However, this is not a treatise on the history of swords but a look at the game rules. It is almost ridiculously simplistic but one would do well to keep in mind D&D is, after all, a game. If one has an interest in real life medieval swords, the Oakeshott's Typology of The Medieval Sword is an excellent starting point for your research (my thanks to Wayne Rossi for the link).

Dagger: a short and relatively light one-handed weapon. Daggers are typically double-edged and are allowed in all but the most restrictive of societies. Often worn concealed.

Short Sword: a short one-handed weapon, worn openly. Lighter and faster than longswords, short swords are favored melee weapons for missile troops and thieves. The latter often use a main gauche, or parrying dagger, in tandem with the short sword.

Long Sword: the longest bladed weapon intended solely for use with one hand and often used in tandem with a shield or, less typically in this era, a main gauche.

Bastard Sword: longer than a long sword, the bastard or "hand-and-a-half" sword can be wielded one- or two-handed. Typically used one-handed by stronger fighters, and as a two-hander by weaker humans and man-types of shorter stature.

Two-Handed Sword: a very long bladed weapon intended for two-handed use by full-size humans of no less than average strength and more often by stronger than average fighters.

Variations on bladed weapons include one-edged, two-edged, pointed, curved inward, and curved outward variations. The endari (High Elves) on Khordesh favor a long sword with an extended hilt, basically making it a smaller bastard sword. Thieves and Scouts use a main gauche instead of a shield, which grants a shield +1 bonus to AC against one melee opponent and is of no effect versus missile fire. We are still considering allowing the main gauche variant of sword breaker into our milieu. This would allow the wielder a free attack in certain conditions.

01 September 2016

You Call That A Knife?

A few disclaimers: there are all kinds of swords. There are varying names for each type of sword, depending upon the expert you're talking to. And the terminology for swords has evolved over the ages, so that a term may mean one type of sword in one era and a different one the next century. So take my terminology as how I use it in my campaign and not a definitive listing.

Straight Bladed, Double Edged Blades

Most common in my campaign are the straight-bladed two-edged weapons. These typically are suited for both cutting and thrusting. Common materials are bronze, iron, and steel.

Dagger: think "almost sword." This is a heavy weapon along the lines of the Bowie knife. The blade is shorter than 16" and both single- and double-edged types are commonly encountered.

Short Sword: has a blade varying between 1.5' and 2' in length.

Long Sword: has a blade from 2' to 3.5' in length and is the longest blade intended exclusively for wielding one-handed.

Broad Sword: approximately the same length has a long sword but with a wider blade and less pronounced point. Broad swords are intended mainly for cutting attacks.

Bastard Swords: has a four foot blade and longer hilt. This weapon can be used either one- or two-handed.

Two-Handed Sword: a long bladed weapon, together with hilt the weapon is about 6' long. Intended for wielding with both hands. While it can both cut and thrust, it is primarily a cutting weapon.

Straight Bladed, Single Edged Weapons


Falchion: this is a cutting weapon that looks a bit like the modern machete. Similar examples include the Chinese dao and the Persian shamshir. Falchions are popular among mercenaries and as a result the weapon has acquired a bit of low reputation among the highborn.

Backsword:  has a long single-edged blade with point. The backsword could be used for both cutting and thrusting. Cheaper than a longsword and, like the falchion, is popular with sellswords.

Curve Bladed, Single Edged Weapons


Scimitar: the most easily called to mind example. The scimitar is primarily a slashing/cutting weapon and has many variants in Earth cultures. Examples include the Turkish kilij and the Indian talwar. Scimitars and variants of the scimitar are popular weapons among the humanoids.

Other Types

Khopesh: the Egyptian sickle sword that probably evolved from the battle-axe.

Kopis: a heavy knife or short sword with a forward curving blade.

Kukri: similar to the kopis but with a much shorter blade.

24 August 2016

Hey Barkeep! Fantasy Redux

Dwarven Iron Brew: the top of the heap when it comes to strong drink. This beer puts lightweights under the table with one serving.

Dwarven Brandy: another drink known for high alcohol content and strong flavor. Few besides the mountain folk can stand the taste, which has been described as earthy and dark.

Endari Moon Wine: the high elves serve up this dark maroon wine only rarely to outsiders. The taste is said to produce feelings of melancholy and futility in non-elves.

Nordari Sky Wine: wood elves produce wine, though they tend to prefer ale. Sky wine can lift the spirits of any human or demi-human, removing any penalty to morale (though it will not increase morale above normal). Sky wine is so called due to it's sky blue coloration.

Nordari Ale: the preferred brew of the wood elf clans. A heady brew with a faintly fruity taste.

Gnomish Mead: the gnomes brew a variety of meads ranging from almost beer to cloyingly sweet.

Gnomish Small Beer: this brew is quite popular among the hill folk. It has a sharp taste that distinguishes their brews from others. Non-gnome brewers cannot duplicate that sharpness and gnomes aren't sharing their secret as to what it is.

Ent Draught: brewed in the Free City of Coleston, this beer is not truly the rumored drink of the tree-giants. This beer is famed for flavor and balanced taste.

Hey Barkeep!

I'm Parched!

What is there to drink in your typical quasi-medieval medieval campaign milieu?


Beer: an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt flavored with hops. Beer and it's variations were popular among the poor and working class.

Ale: a type of beer with a bitter flavor and higher alcoholic content. In medieval times it was produced without hops and would therefore not taste like its modern day namesake.

Bitters: beer that is strongly flavored with hops and has a bitter taste.

Small Beer: a beer or ale with low alchohol content. Similar to what is known in modern terms as a session beer.


Wine: an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice. Popular among the aristocary and gentles. Wine was often watered down.

Mulled Wine: is a beverage made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. It is served hot or warm and may be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It is a traditional drink during winter, particularly around holidays.


Mead: is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water.

Metheglin: mead blended with herbs.


Distillates: distillation was known but primarily used to produce medicines. Two commonly imbibed distillates were aqua vitae and brandy.

Aqua vitae: translated as the water of life, this is the forerunner of the various forms whisky. This was also popular for fakirs and magicians for use with their trick of fire breathing.

Brandy: distilled wine.


Cider: made from apples and could also be blended with pears.

Claret: red Bordeaux wine.

Hippocras: claret sweetened with honey and flavored with spices.

Malmsey: as hippocras but even sweeter.

Punches: were much prized and also had the distinction of people believing that it helped prevent tooth decay.

Milk: not consumed by adults, being reserved for the poor and elderly. Even then, it was typically buttermilk or whey that was consumed rather than milk as we commonly drink it.

Tea or Coffee: not consumed in Europe before the 16th or 17th centuries, though they were popular in East Asia and the Muslim world.

Water: due to concerns over purity and the belief alcohol was an aid to digestion, water was not a popular choice as a beverage.

21 August 2016

Attacking From A Distance: Missile Weapons

Self Bow: a simple bow made from a single piece of wood. The famed English longbow was a self bow, as are short bows. Seasoning of the wood notwithstanding, a self bow can be constructed in a day.

Longbow: a self bow with impressive range and penetrating power. Massed longbow fire is very demoralizing to all but the most disciplined of troops. These were as long as a man is tall.

Shortbow: or more simply bow that is simply a shorter self bow. A preferred missile weapon in dungeon environment, where the shorter length makes it easier to carry around in confined quarters. Less range but an equal rate of fire to the longbow. 

Composite Bow: (aka laminated bow) similar in appearance to the self bow but constructed of horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. Size, range, penetrating power are similar to the self bow, but these are more sensitive to moisture. Composite bows require a week to construct.

Recurved Bow: a bow with limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. Recurve bows grant greater power in a shorter bow and are popular with archers in confining terrain such as brush or forest. Recurved bows are also popular with mounted archers such as Turcopoles. A disadvantage of the recurve bow is that is makes more noise when used. If the recurve is extreme, the bow can be quite unstable while being strung.

Crossbows: a stock with a crossarm that is cocked either by hand or with a mechanism, firing a quarrel (or bolt) when the trigger is pulled. Crossbows removed the need for the years of training the longbow required, basically changing the way battles were fought (though not to the degree firearms did later).

Crossbow, Heavy: likely intended by the game's authors to be cranequin (hand cranked), or windlass (foot stirrup and cranked with both hands) type weapons. This would grant greater penetrating power against better armored opponents, but with the disadvantage of a lower rate of fire.

Crossbow, Light: smaller crossbows with pull or push levers. Typified by a higher rate of fire but with a shorter range and less penetrating power than a heavy crossbow.

Hand Crossbow: (or pistol crossbow) this is the smallest of crossbows and is intended to be fired with one hand and rapidly reloaded. Pistol crossbows sacrifice range and penetrating power in the name of portability.

Stone Bows: bows and crossbows of any type but constructed to shoot lead bullets or rocks. Primarily used for hunting wildfowl, these usually have a double string with a pouch between the strings to hold the projectile. Also referred to in modern terminology as pellet bows. Stone bows are more commonly found in areas in our campaign lacking wood (or good types of wood) and thus usually resemble composite weapons more than self. 

Bow Strings: hemp, flax, or silk.

Bowstaves: yew was the preferred wood for the English longbow, but woods such as ash, elm, and others were also in wide use.

Arrows: poplar, ash, beech, and hazel.

Bolts: (or quarrels) the arrow-like projectiles fired by crossbows, typically constructed of the same types of wood. These are shorter but heavier than arrows.

Other Missile Weapons: 

Dwarven Bolt Rifle: a curious bit of equipment, the bolt rifle resembles a heavy crossbow but lacks the crossarm. Bolt rifles are cocked with a lever and fire a mundane crossbow quarrel, which is magically propelled without a bowstring. The actual propulsive force or mechanism is unknown. Range, rate of fire, and damage are all as the heavy crossbow. These are carried by Dwarven Elite Heavy Infantry, anyone else seen carrying one of these is considered an enemy of all dwarves.

Slings: a simple projectile weapon used to throw a lead bullet or stone. This is an effective weapon in the hands of a skilled user. Missile troops equipped with slings are referred to as Peltasts.

Sling Ammunition: lead bullets, clay, well-rounded stones.

Special Sling Ammunition: lead bullets with drilled holes thought to contain poison. These could be used to produce an intimidating whistling sound when hurled, at the coss of less damage.

Knife: usually a last defense type of missile weapon, though knives specifically designed for throwing are formidable weapons at closer ranges.

Hand Axe: similar to the knife, the axe may be used as both melee and missile weapon.

Rocks: short range and varying weights make these a last choice. Advantages are they are still a ranged weapon and the supplies of same are often quite plentiful.

Spear: spears are usually intended for either melee or missile. In our campaign the former are referred to as spears and the latter as javelins (or sometimes just throwing spears). Either can be used as missile weapons but we grant a longer range and higher rate of fire to javelins.

Darts: not modern day pub darts, these are the same as javelins in our home campaign.

Bolas: a missile weapon consisting of weights on the end of interconnected cords. These are favored by brawlers in our campaign, as they are meant to immobilize and incapacitate rather than kill. Number, size, and weight of the weighted ends varies widely, but a good bola will stop and temporarily neutralize a fully grown adult human.

Blow Guns: (aka dart guns, needle guns) long tubes of wood with plain or fletched darts, primarily used for hunting game rather than as weapons of war. Blow guns are associated with assassins and poison in our campaign. At best, reactions from Lawful types to anyone openly carrying one of these will be at a large penalty. At worst the local assassin's guild will be hunting down the rogue agent operating on our turf, and they are not known for their kindness and understanding.

Boomerangs: are throwing sticks of two types, returning and non-returning. The former were used as hunting aids, primarily to decoy birds or scare up small game. The latter were used as killing weapons.

Anything Else: anything that can be picked up and thrown will be given the range of hand-hurled rock and damage as an improvised weapon. Rate of fire will likely be once per round, circumstances allowing.

17 August 2016

Every Three Levels, How To "Wing" It

There are lots of opportunities for ad-libbing in the OD&D rules set, but they boil down to a few general options (with as many variations of these themes as there are referees).

  1. Referee Fiat
  2. Ability Score Based Roll
  3. Level Based Roll

Referee fiat means the ref arbitrarily assigns a chance of success and the player rolls the dice. An ability score roll requires the player to roll under an ability score, typically on 3d6 or d20. For example, he may have to roll his Strength or less on d20 to perform a feat of physical prowess. A level based roll is based upon the player-character's level in some way, such as the Thief ability scores from Greyhawk.

We ourselves have pondered the nature of ability versus level based challenges since an excellent article incorporating player level into the outcome of Chainmail's jousting system appeared in the pages of the Dragon magazine.

First, a quick word about how dice rolls work. This is only basic information so if one is a probabilities wonk please do not get stuck on the simplified language.

Linear versus Weighted Distribution

A linear distribution assigns an equal chance of any result. The OD&D monster level tables in Volume III pp. 10-11 are a good example of a linear distribution. They are generated with a straight die roll, that is, if one has 10 possibilities then a ten-sided die is rolled and giving an equal chance of any result in the table. 

A weighted distribution is the dreaded bell curve from school days. Weighted distributions have a higher likelihood, on average, of producing a typical result than an extreme result. Take your travel time to and from work: on most days your commute will take an average amount of time, say 20 minutes give or take for the sake of the example. On a summer holiday weekend your commute may stretch out to 35 minutes as you fight hordes of vacationers on the road, whereas on Christmas morning when the whole world is opening presents your may make it to work in 12 minutes. So if you were dicing for that result you would want the most common result to be 20 or thereabouts, to reflect your typical day. The ability score generation 3d6 dice rolls are good examples of this, forcing abilities such as Strength or Intelligence toward average but with a chance for higher or lower results. These chances decrease as you go toward the extreme results of 3 or 18. Weighted distributions are generated by rolling multiple dice and summing the result.

Ability versus Level 

So the reflexive argument for options #2 vs #3 above is the former does not take PC level into account whereas #3 does not take ability into account. Could a young boxer with a great deal of talent (ability score) kayo an experienced but less talented boxer (levels)?

At any rate, a common solution to skill checks typically involves rolling dice on a weighted distribution based upon 2d6 or 3d6. The former is often based around the OD&D reaction table (found on OD&D Volume I page 12) and the latter based upon ability scores.

We propose using the latter: 3d6 for generating a weighted curve of results ranging from 3 to 18. These would be based upon the most pertinent ability score. To solve the dilemma of level versus ability? One could simply modify the sum of the die rolls by +1 per 3 levels, as inspired by Attack Matrix 1: Men Attacking (Volume I, p. 19). This could be further modified in the same way the combat matrix by reducing the bonus to every four levels if the referee feels level is of decreased importance, and by 1 per five levels if level is only minimally important.

In this way experience could compensate for lack of natural ability and increase desired outcomes. The more experienced the PC? The greater the likelihood of a good result.

The table can also be used for random "reaction table" type die rolls but with 3 dice instead of 2. One such proposal is included here. Roll 3d6 on the table below. Give a bonus of +1 per 3 levels (alternately, per every 4 or 5 levels). Results of 7 or higher may be reattempted. Astute readers will note results are weighted toward neutrality, with experience increasing chances for success.

This table may also be used if the referee determines a player must be of minimal level to attempt something. In such a scenario he may subtract -1 per 3 levels (or any part thereof) below the target level from the sum of 3d6.

15 August 2016

Going To The Dogs: Dogs In The FRPG Milieu

Most of the early era D&D books mention dogs, though mostly incidentally or by implication (animal trainers, for example). Here are some specifics sorted by edition. This is not an exhaustive index, merely a quick list of any significant information. 

No Listing. The section on NPC Specialists has an animal trainer with no specific mention of dogs. The monster section has a Small Insect Or Animal listing that could be used to stat out a dog but has no specific reference to them.

Blue Book
No Listing. Dr Holmes did include a monster entry for Blink Dogs that could be used as inspiration for statting a mundane dog.

No Listing. Basic mentions both wolf and dire wolf cubs could trained as dogs if the referee allowed, leading a referee to perhaps use the statistics for wolves as a basis for dogs in his campaign. Expert has an entry on Animal Trainer that specifically mentions dogs as a possibility for training. There is also a Blink Dog monster entry that might also give guidance for creating one's own dog statistics.

No Listing. Beyond references similar to those in B/X, no specifics on dogs and their capabilities.

Dog, guard 25 g.p., Dog, hunting 17 g.p. Beyond the price listing, no real specifics about dogs or their training.

Monster listings for Dog, War; and Dog, Wild. The first actual printed rules regarding the statistics for dogs in a D&D campaign world. Unfortunately, there is little useful information in the monster listings for running dogs as NPC companions.

Mounts And Beasts Of Burden (Sled Dog). Scant useful information.

A few mentions, with the discussion of them as beasts of burden on p. 60 being one of the better references of refereeing NPC dogs among a rather sparse field of same. 

Swords & Wizardry, Any
No direct reference. 

Labyrinth Lord
List prices for dogs. Stats blink dogs and references dogs in the Wolf monster listing.

Delving Deeper
Lists dogs in encounter tables, both dungeon and wilderness. Stats out dogs, gives description.

List dogs in various encounter tables. Stats out dogs, gives descriptions.

All That Aside?

We have our every day knowledge of dogs and their capabilities to guide us. Dogs are the oldest domesticated animals and have adapted to us as completely as we to them. So what can a dog do and, more importantly, what can a dog do that we (humans or our demi-human kin) cannot? 

Dogs have a superior sense of smell: they are able to track specific individuals over great distances. They are also able to detect approaching strangers: monsters, known enemies, anyone not its owner or his allies. Dogs can also be alert for specific smells, as using drug-sniffing and bomb-sniffing dogs has shown us.

Dogs have a superior sense of hearing: when serving in a guard capacity they can hear approaching enemies much farther away. They are more likely to awaken from sleep at the approach of a monster to camp. 

Non-Reliance On Vision: a dog's keen senses means it will detect invisible or otherwise magically veiled creatures or even objects. Their honed senses means this non-visual detection will be far more accurate than a human's. 

Sensitivity to magnetic fields: they can sense the approach of bad weather, for example. This also makes them sensitive to seismic events well in advance of their occurrence. Magnetic field sensitivity allows dogs to sense electrical current, giving warning adventurers of electrified traps if trained properly. 

Intelligence: while we will refrain from assigning specific INT ability scores to them, dogs are demonstrably intelligent. They are able to memorize and follow hundreds of commands (both verbal and gesture) and in at least one case, two thousand separate commands.  

Symbiosis: in addition to intelligence and learning, dogs are adept at reading human body language (including facial expression, posture, and emotion). This means a dog will be able to sense a person of malicious intent hiding behind a friendly face. 

Symbiosis Again: dogs have adapted well to the human diet and thrive on foods their wolf ancestors would be unable to live on. 

Anecdotally: dogs are able to sense spirits both malevolent and benign. Thus invisible spirits, possessed individuals, demons masquerading as humans, doppelgangers, even a polymorphed creature if the dog is familiar with the scent of either the true form or the represented form of the entity before it. 

The Bottom Line 

We've only scratched the surface of usefulness of dogs to a D&D player-character. We suggest the Monster Manual as a good starting place for dog statistics. Give them preternatural awareness (as discussed in my house rules, basically the ability to know your surroundings independent of vision) based upon their keen senses, and a strong sense of protectiveness regarding their master and secondarily his allies. Dogs should be able to sense strongly magical or otherwordly entities, and be able to sense storms, earthquakes, invisible creatures, as well as beings with hostile intent. Suggested statistics follow, for use as is or for inspiration:

Dog: AC 7[12], MV 15, HD 1+1, #ATT: 1, AL: N, MR: Standard, INT: Semi-

11 August 2016

Pardon Me, But Your Destrier Just Bit My Rouncey

These are the various classifications of horses used during medieval times. This may provide the referee a bit of guidance and flavor for his campaign. Note the term classification ... these are not breeds, they are ways of classifying the type of horse.

Palfrey: a lighter weight riding horse with an ambling gait, suitable for riding long distances. An unarmored knight would ride one of these to travel long distances, then ride a charger into battle. Referred to in the OD&D rules as a light horse.

Charger: a warhorse, that is, a mount specifically trained for battle and bred for both speed and agility in addition to great strength. Chargers came in 3 classifications: destrier, courser, rouncey. Chargers were often stallions because of the natural aggression of male horses.

  • Destrier: the most prized of the heavy warhorse types. Destriers stood 14-15 hands and mainly differed from palfreys in strength and training more than size. Unfortunately, destriers were difficult to find, resulting in many knights riding coursers or rounceys. Classed in the OD&D rules as a heavy warhorse. 
  • Courser: prized for being light, fast, and strong. Coursers got their name from their running gait. In addition to serving in battle, coursers were often used as hunting horses. These are labelled as medium warhorses in the OD&D rules. 
  • Rouncey: (or rounsey) a good all around horse, similar to a typical riding horse, trained for battle. These were often used a riding horses or even pack horses. The least desirable of the charger type warhorses. Rounceys could be both heavy or medium warhorses.

Sumpter: a packhorse, but note the term packhorse could traditionally be used for a horse, mule, donkey, or pony. A sumpter is a horse bred for sturdiness and used to carry goods or supplies on its back, usually in sidebags called panniers. These animals are built for endurance not speed.

Draught: also called draft horse (USA) or dray, as well as cart horse, heavy horse, or work horse. These animals were bred for pulling loads such as wagons or carts. Draught horses are very tall specimens with heavy musculature. They make poor warhorses because they were not very agile, though some evidence suggests they may have seen some service in battle.

Donkey: (or ass) a male donkey is called a jack and the female is a jenny. Donkeys have a much stronger sense of self-preservation than a horse and are therefore far less likely to be forced or frightened into doing something, giving rise to their reputation as stubborn. These are typically used as draught or pack animals.

Mule: the sterile offspring of a male donkey (jack) and female horse (mare). Typically used as packhorses, though their size, and therefore use, varies widely depending upon the size of its dam. Mules are considered more intelligent and less obstinate than donkeys, and are typically the only packhorse found in an underworld setting. In fact, mules (and hinnies, see below) are considered to embody the best aspects of both horses (strength, ability to travel) and donkeys (endurance, less food).

Hinny: the sterile offspring of a male horse (stallion) and female donkey (jenny). Hinnies are far less common than mules. They also tend to be smaller and have shorter ears than mules. 

Pony: a small horse, ponies for known for their temperament. A fact to which this author can personally attest: these are mean little bastards. They are treated as packhorses and are typically sure-footed and strong. Ponies can serve as warhorses, and in fantasy campaigns smaller human-types will often mount their cavalry upon them.

10 August 2016

So ... "Fantasy" Iron Rations?

If one wanted to have a reasonable depiction of iron ration in the fantasy world, what form would they take? I like my fantasy realm to be about a half-bubble off plumb. That is, I want them to be familiar enough the typical player knows what they are, but fantastic enough to give a bit of flavor beyond real world equivalents. So like every struggling referee, I stole some ideas I really liked!

Qith'Pa: elven iron rations consisting of bars of pressed dried fruit. I always pictured these as tough and chewy like jerky but very sweet. Not the best meal perhaps, but more satisfying than more common forms of iron rations. From Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance series of novels.

Lembas: elven iron rations that were at once savory and satisfying. Just one portion of one cake would sustain a man-type for a full day's march. I always pictured these as faintly magical and retaining their goodness so long as they were kept in the green leaf wrapping. From Tolkien's LotR series of books.

Cram: (or possibly Kram, I pronounce this with an "ah" as in "yahoo") small seed cakes about palm-size. I always pictured these as looking vaguely like compressed cakes of birdseed and having a faintly sweet and spicy taste. These are sustaining but leave the typical person feeling vaguely dissatisfied. I'm having a deuce of a time tracking this reference down. I seem to recall these are gnomish in origin from Brook's Shannara series of novels. If you remember better than I, please let me know, google is singularly unhelpful in this instance.

Mundane: dried sausage, dried smoked jerky, dried vegetable bars, dried fruit, smoked nuts, hard cheeses, twice-baked biscuits. These will be wrapped in waxed paper and bound with twine, often with protective runes inscribed upon them. These are available in just about any settlement of size, and can be produced rapidly from supplies on hand if not pre-prepared. These are filling and somewhat satisfying, though dissatisfaction increases with each consecutive day of this fare. After a week of iron rations, reduce NPC morale by -1.

07 August 2016

What Exactly Are Iron Rations?

On a whim, I decided to look into iron rations and any real-life analog to them. I found a reference to the WWI German Army's iron rations, these were later adapted by the militaries of other countries. Given the co-authors depth of knowledge regarding wargaming, I'm going to assume were the likely inspiration for both the name and the concept.

So what were they? One source lists a standard iron ration as:
  • 1 lb. preserved meat
  • 3 oz. cheese
  • 12 oz. biscuit
  • 5/8 oz. tea
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 oz. salt
  • 1 oz. meat extract (meat broth or bullion perhaps?)

Another source lists an iron ration as:
  • 300 grams of hard crackers (such as Zwieback [twice-baked] crackers)
  • 200 grams of preserved meat
  • 150 grams of preserved or dehydrated vegetables or pea sausage 
  • 25 grams of artificial substitute coffee
  • 25 grams of salt

Then, of course, the US Army's much maligned K-Ration bears mentioning here. Descriptors such as "palatable" and "better than nothing" seem to be used a lot regarding them. There is also the nautical forerunner of hardtack that seems to be at least partial inspiration for the K-ration.

No matter the specific form? Iron rations were notable in their lack of so-called extras such as cigarettes, chewing gum, or instant coffee. They were the bare minimum needed a fully grown, healthy, fit human needed to remain active and were only intended for short term use. Both are vaguely cracker-like in size, appearance, and texture; and are reportedly difficult to chew. The taste was only bearable and better than nothing sounds a lot like damning with faint praise.

This may explain why trail rations are more desirable than iron rations. The former tastes more like "real" food and is more satisfying to the appetite, with the drawback of being bulkier. The latter will sustain an adventurer but will not be satisfying in the least.

May you always roll 20's!

04 August 2016

Chain (Chainmail) & Plate (or Plated) Mail, A Primer

Pedants will insist the words chain and mail mean the same thing and chainmail is therefore redundant in much the same way as the terms cash money and past history. While this is not as clear-cut as one may have been told, the argument can be made for that usage so we will employ it here.

Chain is familiar enough to most readers as to render a detailed explanation unnecessary. Instead, we will focus on terms commonly used in conjunction with chain.

Lets us begin with a common form of chain, the chain shirt. A knee length chain shirt is a hauberk. If mid-thigh length the term haubergeon is used. A chain coat, popular in medieval Europe, was called a byrnie.

There are several patterns to assembling the rings for chain armor, with the most common being 4-to-1. This means each link links to 4 others. These links were riveted, though sometimes riveted links were alternated with solid links. Less effective were butted links. Butted means the ends of the wire link touch each other but were not fastened. Welded links appear to have possibly been used as well.

Material used in most D&D campaigns would likely be wrought iron, though steel or bronze could also be used.

Effectiveness of chain rests upon four factors: link type, link material, link weave density, link thickness. A well made suit of chain was effective versus slicing and piercing attacks, but less effective against bashing attacks. A full suit of chain would also include leggings, head protection, and even mittens.

Plated mail, the type referred to in the D&D rules as plate mail, was simply chain with plates attached to it. It is typically the best mundane armor protection in the rules as written.

This is not the type of armor normally seen in museums or conjured up by young lads dreaming of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. That type of armor is referred to as plate and is not part of early versions of the game until Unearthed Arcana for AD&D was published by TSR in 1985. There it was given the values AC 1 for field plate and AC 0 for full plate, basically light and heavy versions (respectively) of the same type of armor.

02 August 2016

Leather Armor, A Primer

A few caveats before I begin. It's a shame to have to say this but there are actually contentious persons lurking on the web ... and pedants. So let me just state right up front I'm no Master of HistoryTM. I'm just a fellow who did a bit of research. There's always someone with more knowledge and long list of exceptions to general knowledge. Okay? This isn't that post. This is just a bit of information a referee may find useful. If you'd like to shed some authoritative light on any of the bullet points below, feel free to share.

Leather armor isn't soft or supple. It's hard as nails and effective protection. Those two qualities also mean it is stiff and unyielding. Leather armor or cuir bolloi was made by boiling a shaped leather piece in tallow or oil. It's closer in aspect to a piece of flexible sheet metal than a soft leather jherkin (which is how many neophyte players to the game picture it).

So, why leather armor if chain or plate was so much better? Well, leather was plentiful and inexpensive in relation to metal. It could be produced faster than metal armors.

Why not leather armor? Metal was better. So, if you were a big deal you would seek the best protection you could find. Metal armor was much more difficult to come by in terms of both availability and cost, so leather armor was better than nothing.

On a side note: I've been told by those who know better than I that leather armor was more effective than typically represented in the pre-1983 D&D rulebooks. Given I've heard the same about shields? I can buy that. I've no desire to change it because I'm of the opinion that, as a game-ism, it works just fine. But if you're a hardcore simulationist you may want to take a closer look at that aspect of your campaign.

So what was studded leather armor then? I've been told by Medieval wonks that this simply did not exist in the way described in some rules sets. It's possible the author was confusing it with jack or brigandine.

29 July 2016

Why A Supplement & Not A New Game?


The question of why write a supplement and not a new game has indirectly arisen surrounding my latest work "Journeys In The Land Of Khordesh." I wrote it to translate my OD&D campaign, which I began in 1975, into Swords & Wizardry: CoreTM (S&W:C) written by Matthew J. Finch and published by Mythmere Games. I'd like to take an opportunity to address this and another question at this time. [Neither I (Cameron S. DuBeers) nor Wobbly Goblin Press are associated with either Matthew J. Finch or Mythmere Games in any way. --ed.]

Why a supplement? 

Several reasons, actually. Chief among which is the belief there is no real need to rewrite Matt's work just to make a few minor changes to the rules. I'm not exactly of the mind there are too many 1974 retroclones on the market, but I can certainly understand the point of view of persons feeling that way.

Another reason is, given the nature of the works inspiring S&W:C? A supplement adding to and even changing aspects of the game is quite within the spirit of the pioneers of the hobby. Booklets detailing aspects of both co-authors' long-running campaigns were in print very shortly after the original boxed set was released.

Last of all, there is already a well established community of folks playing S&W:C. I flatter myself to think at least some of my house rules may be of use to my fellow gamers. It's nice to see how someone else solved the same problems you have. Some gamers favor complex expansions of the rules, but I and many others just want to nudge the rules a bit to get what we want out of them. My "swap your prime requisite score for any other rolled ability score" adjustment came from a local referee in whose B/X game I played, Alex Johnson. The gaze attack rules were written by Jason Cone and published on his website. Both are simple and straightforward solutions to issues I've had with my campaign. Many of the rules I either made up, based upon similar gaming systems rules, or absorbed through years of play and have long forgotten the source. As such? They are freely offered to other referees in the hope these rulings will help their campaign as they helped mine.

Why Swords & Wizardry: Core and not Delving Deeper?

One of my adult children was interested in participating in my campaign. He had heard bits and bobs of it in his childhood but for reasons unimportant to the discussion neither he nor I were ever able to play a game. So, now he's an adult and is interested in participating in the old man's campaign. In his current city of residence he played for a brief time in a S&W campaign and was already partially familiar with those rules. So, I used S&W:C for that reason.

Why not Delving Deeper (DD) is another question I get asked, often with didn't you write that game? tacked onto the end. Well, yes and no to the latter part. I wrote the initial version submitted to Brave Halfling Publishing (BHP) after BHP broke away from publishing Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox. The DD rules have passed into the hands of another, Simon Bull, who has done a wonderful job of tuning them up and presenting them as a polished work ready for publication. I am a big fan. So, while it is technically correct I wrote DD? That really only applies to first and second editions of the game. In its current iteration so much of the work is Simon's I really don't consider it "my" work any longer. I think DD is a fine game and I highly encourage everyone to check it out.

As to the why I didn't use DD if I like it so much? That's simple, my son was already familiar with S&W from his brief local experience and I thought it would be easier to get him up to speed with the same rules. Play-by-post can be challenging for a new boot, and he would be in the game with experienced players, so I wanted to ease him into the game as best I could.

Additionally, Matt's Core edition of S&W was much more in line with way I ran a campaign. This is so subjective I'm going to avoid going into more detail because gaming style discussion invariably provokes a fruitless debate. I'm simply not interested in justifying my gaming style to someone who likes a different way of playing. There is plenty of table space for all of us, no need to fight over which is better.

Other random FAQ style bits.

Kordesh? My old campaign was actually referred to as Warhaven and there is still a formidable walled city/fortress by that name in the campaign. Warhaven sounded good to my college-aged self but sounds a bit too fanciful to my older self. So, I changed the name for publication.

Why 2 Elvish Races? That was influenced by Tolkien's elves and for no other reason. I made them short because that's how I always pictured elves.

What about gnomes? The original boxed rules mentioned them as player-character races but basically put in a short aside about them being "shorter dwarves." Taking my lead from the co-author's constant exhortation to make the rules mine, I decided to expand them a bit and differentiate them for their cousins.

Why no evil characters? What kind of evil are you talking about? Morally ambiguous is okay, I allow thieves in my campaign after all. Murder, rape, arson, slaughter of innocents ... basically the whole "murder hobo" mindset is out. I run a basically heroic campaign and don't find refereeing the whole chaotic evil overlord type of character to be fun. And face it: running a campaign is too much work to do if it isn't "fun."

I hope this adequately addresses any questions you may have.

29 June 2016

A Brief Synopsis of D&D Movies

I've posted a similar list but I'm trying to generate a bit of buzz for the upcoming D&D film Dungeons & Dragons: The Hand of Fate (D&D-IV) by Warner Brothers. First, those which came before.

Dungeons & Dragons (2000) aka D&D: The Movie, by New Line Cinema. This film had the potential for greatness with an A-list actor in a major role and quite a few familiar faces. The tone of the movie, however, wandered from serious to slapstick and back again in a rather aimless fashion. A low budget and freshman director were the two major problems with the film. Rumors also speak of increasing friction between Sweetpea Entertainment and TSR's CEO Lorriane Williams.

Dungeons & Dragons Wrath of the Dragon God (2005). A sort-of sequel to the first, this made-for-tv film is my favorite of the lot. In spite of a far lower budget and C-list actors, this film managed to get across the feeling of player-character party on a quest quite well.

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012). Another television movie but not set in the same milieu as the first two, D&D:TBoVD takes a rather darker turn. The unknown actors do a reasonable job for most of the film but come across as a Community Little Theatre Group at times. This one is my least favorite, in part for the storyline and in part because it looks as if it were shot on video. When I bought my copy it wasn't even available for retail in the USA.

Which brings us to Dungeons & Dragons: The Hand of Chaos (2017, unconfirmed). What do we know? As Ed Greenwood proudly told us last year, it will be set in his Forgotten Realms milieu. I'm only familiar with FR from the PC games, but know enough about it to know this is an encouraging development. Too bad they couldn't get Greyhawk from Gary's estate but I'm happy for Ed.

Besides a title and setting we also have a possible protagonist, Ansel (Divergent) Elgort. I'm not familiar with this young man's body of work but that is no surprise, I'm neither of fan of YA fiction nor of the movies they spawn. I've seen no hard evidence he is confirmed, only "in talks."

We have a direction, that is, Guardian of the Galaxy (2014) meets Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Though the studio executive was careful to avoid stating as interpreted by Peter Jackson it would be difficult, to say the least, to convince me he was thinking solely of the books.

We know Courtney Solomon and Sweetpea Entertainment, responsible for the first 3 films, is involved in the production. The director will be Rob Letterman, who brought us Goose Bumps (2015) and Shark Tale (2004). The script will be penned by David Johnson who brought us Wrath of the Titans (2012) and is apparently also writing the DC Super-verse film Aquaman (2018).

Sweetpea Entertainment is joined by Warner Brothers and Hasbro in the film production. Zinc Entertainment, one of the production companies for films II and III, is not listed on the IMDb page.

There you have it. As of today? That's what we know. I'm guardedly optimistic, but I tend to be that way. I know most geeks like to broil things early, before we know much, to give themselves a head start on dissing any fan property. Personally, I'm not attending a movie to figure out ways to hate it. If it gives 2 hours of entertainment, I'd say it was a good film.

10 May 2016

The First Variant

I've been thinking, with all the discussion of what goes into a campaign, about the variants I encountered in the early days of the hobby. First of all, it should be said that folks didn't talk about playing D&D so much as they spoke of playing in Cameron's Shattered Lands Campaign. I think that speaks to the mindset of the rules being a starting point and not some sort of goal to be acquired.

That aside? The first variant I encountered was not a critical hit/miss system or spell points. Those are the ones that I always hear "everyone used." Oddly enough, it would be a long while, almost 10 years, before I encountered either of those in play (and I've never used either so you know at least one old school referee who didn't). It was a home-grown called God Rating (GR).

GR was basically roll high on d20. If you beat a target number you rolled again, receiving a little extra perk for your character. I seem to recall I got another d8 hit points. I've long forgotten the name of the referee who came up with the rule, I only played in the campaign for a short while, but I recall the rule. I played a Ranger in that game, I remember the PC because it was my first 18 Strength fighter-type. He was slain in his first combat by a wild boar but fortunately I was playing 2 player-characters and just kept on going.