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.