Saturday, January 27, 2018

Reflecting and projecting

January 26, 1985 is when I was married.

Fifteen years later, January 26, 2000 my life was in ruins in so many ways.  I was fat, 265 lbs.  I was fifteen years older.  Three of my children had died.  Physically I was a mess as well.

How bad?  Well, when I began the long slow road to physical health and started at a gym, I could move between 20 and 40 pounds on the machines, generally whatever the lowest setting was on the weight machines.  Walking even a mile was difficult for me.

It has been thirty-three years since January 26, 1985.  Fifteen years to disaster.  An interregnum.  And then rehabilitation. 

Now I weigh a good deal less.  I can walk fifteen or more miles, with a full backpack over the Appalachian Trail's ups and downs.  In so many ways things are so much better.

It came to mind as I read a story on Facebook that wrapped in someone who was looking at a shipwreck in many ways.  They were getting divorced, they were older and they had gained a lot of weight.

I reflected on that because I identified with them.  I tried to express that, but did so poorly.  Got told I was disgusting and fat shaming.  The people I was trying to talk to didn't get it.  I wasn't shaming the other person -- I had been in their shoes -- and I wasn't claiming sympathy as an excuse to deride them.  I had been that person whose world had crashed apart.

But, things are better now.  I was lucky enough not to face divorce (though burying three children in the space of five years was terribly hard and the death of so many dreams).  I lost the academic career I had been building towards with publications and seminar presentations.  If you've been 5'5" and 265 pounds with no muscle tone at all you know I was a mess.

It is a terrible place to be.  Yet. 


Yet yesterday, January 26, 2018 I was glad to be alive.  Today, January 27, 2018 I am glad to be alive.  There is so much joy possible.  The person I was commenting on seems to see that, I hope that they mean what they wrote.

But it was good for me to look back and see myself in their shoes as well.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Falls the shadow.

Falling Shadow


1.       Building a road through dream.
a.       Dream terrain:
                                                               i.      Real/fixed
                                                             ii.      Fanciful
                                                            iii.      Mutable.
b.      Dream weather:
                                                               i.      Fear
                                                             ii.      Hope
                                                            iii.      Passion
                                                           iv.      Memory
                                                             v.      Loss
                                                           vi.      Confusion
                                                          vii.      Peace.
c.       Dream Encounters
d.      Dream Inhabitants.
                                                               i.      Aberrations.
                                                             ii.      Shadows.
                                                            iii.      Dreams.
                                                           iv.      Creatures.
                                                             v.      Clockworks.
e.      The anchors and road way.
2.       Falls the Shadow City
a.       The factions
b.      Typical city encounters and issues – all five have cross-purposes and alignments. (each needs two out of three things).
c.       Journey from West Anchorage to Redoubt short of the City.
d.      Embassy seeking cooperation in seeking a bending on the gate to allow the dream road to pass through to the mountains.
                                                               i.      Master’s position is that if they can get three factions, he can make it happen.
                                                             ii.      Two factions support.
                                                            iii.      Need to gain a third, without losing any of the two.
                                                           iv.      Offers.
                                                             v.      Encounters.
                                                           vi.      Reversal.
                                                          vii.      Redoubt in Mountains.
                                                        viii.      Anchor set or failure.
                                                           ix.      Other possibilities. 
                                                             x.      Return or other choices.
1.       Redoubt in mountains can anchor to Star strands location permanently.
2.       They can choose to stay in City.
3.       They can return to West Anchorage, either by road, overland, or through Star strands.

Island Adventures
1.       Starting campaign in the islands.
2.       Character generation.
3.       Initial campaign choices and missions.
a.       Explore
b.      Harvest
c.       Pacify
d.      Oppose Kraken discharges.
e.      Hunts.
f.        Delving in ruins.
g.       Cross-Island possibilities.
h.      Cross over to shadow in unsettled areas.
4.       Launching to Ostend.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fixing my wiki entry

If anyone can help, I'd appreciate it.

          That is the way it should be.  Some bizare edits have been made.

            For example, I was born in Los Angeles County, but that has been deleted. I did live in Las Vegas, but I graduated High School from Mountain Home, Idaho. I lived four years in Alaska (the longest of any place I lived until I got married).  Not that big of a thing but perplexing.

          More strange is the fact that someone edited my page to make it look like I went to TSR while I was doing my undergraduate work rather than in the summer after my first year of law school.

          I graduated from CSULA in 1979 and started law school in 1979.  Went to TSR in 1980 (where I wrote the Expert Set -- Zeb Cooki did the real editing, *without* computers, and made the Expert Set line up page for page with the prior rules so you could put them in a loose leaf binder and swap out pages if you wanted to -- something a number of people thought would be impossible to do by the deadlines).

          2016 did have have a reprise of City of the Revenant and the Planes of Fire and Ice.  2017 had the City of the Revenant, An OD&D scenario and one other (I ran three for 2017).

           I section hike the Appalachian Trail with the trail name of "d20" and my wife uses "Happy"

         I've tried to fix the wiki page a few times, the bots always revert.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pre-OSR System for NTRPG Con Across the Sea of Stars

Pre-OSR System

All Damage comes from one of three sources:
Physical Environment.

Three character classes:


Each character has 1d6 per level, characters are measured by HD.  For the convention, everyone has a 6HD character.

In a melee round, a character allocates their HD.  A fighter  usually allocates all HD to attack, so a 6HD fighter would roll 6d6 in the attack.
A mage can allocate HD to magic effects or cast a spell.
A cleric can attack in combat or can allocate HD to restore others or to affect Undead or to clerical effects.

Mages can wear light armor, use light weapons.
Clerics can wear medium armor, use shields and use medium weapons.
Fighters can wear heavy armor, use shields and/or use heavy weapons.

Light armor +0        Light weapon can have +1 to Attack or +1 to Defense  (mages)
Medium armor +1   Medium weapons split 2 points between Attack and Defense.
Heavy armor +2       Heavy weapons (2H weapons) are +3 on Attack
Shield is +1
Missile weapons -1Hd per 10’ of range covered by missile.
Magic missiles (such as a magic arrow) do not lose HD for range.

Magic user weapons are the following.
Dagger:          +1 Magic, +1 in combat Attack
Wand:                        +2 Magic, +0 in combat attack.
Staff:               +1 Magic, +1 in combat Defense

Some examples.

Frederick of the Hills is a 6HD Dwarf Fighter.  He wears heavy armor (+2 on defense) and uses a medium weapon (an axe, +2 on attack).  He is facing a 3HD Orc in light armor with a light weapon (+1 attack, fire hardened spear).

The highest HD character attacks first.  Otherwise roll d6+Dex to see who goes first.
Frederick rolls 6d6.  Since he is using a battle ax, he adds +2 to each roll.

In defense, the orc rolls 3d6.  With light armor, he adds +0 to each roll.

Let us suppose Frederick rolls 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  That becomes 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.

The Orc rolls 6, 6, 6.  8>6 so the Orc is down to 2 HD.  7>6 so the Orc is down to 1 HD.  6 = 6 so the Orc doesn’t lose that HD. 5>0 (Orc is only 3 HD) so the Orc loses another HD is now 0 hit dice and incapacitated.  4>0 and the Orc is dead.

Had the Orc had surprise and gotten to go first, let us assume 6, 6, 6.  Frederick rolls 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  With +2 on his armor, that becomes 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3.  With +1 for the spear, the Orc gets 7, 7, 7.  8>7 so no effect.  7=7 so no effect.  7>6 so Frederick loses 1 HD and only gets to roll 5 HD for his counter-attack on the Orc.


First Level     Stun area (sleep)
Second Level Stun single target (charm/hold)
Third Level   Damage area with mage’s element
Fourth Level Damage with alternative element
Fifth Level    Specials

Effects (affects are limited to HD effects of ½ the HD of the character)
            1HD Effects
                                    Detect Magic
                                    Hold Portal
                                    Read Magic
                                    Read Languages
            2 HD Effects (uses 2HD)
                                    Detect Invisible
                                    Locate Object
                                    Detect Evil
            3 HD Effect
                                    Dispel Magic
                                    Protection normal missiles.
                                    Water Breathing

Attack Spells
                        1st         2nd       3rd       4th        5th
1HD                1
2HD                2
3HD                3          1
4HD                4          2
5HD                4          2          1
6HD                4          2          2
7HD                4          3          2          1
8HD               4          3          3          2
9HD                4          3          3          1          1

Area spells affect all in an area.  The HD are divided between all the targets.  So, a 3HD mage who casts sleep, gets a 3HD attack on all in the target area.  If three Kobalds of 1d3 each in the area, the mage would roll 1d6 against each Kobald.


Assume a 6HD cleric in combat, armed with a Mace.  They could strike a foe with a 6HD attack in melee.  They could use 3HD for a 3HD effect and use 3HD to support another character (in either attack or defense).  They could use 2HD for a 2HD effect, use 2HD to heal another character and use 2HD against an undead creature.  Or any similar breakdown.

Effects (affects are limited to HD effects of ½ the HD of the character)
            1HD Effects
                        Purify food & water
                        Detect Magic
                        Detect Evil
            2HD Effects
                        Find traps
                        Speak with animals.
                        Silence 15’ from caster.
            3HD Effects
                        Remove Curse
                        Cure Disease
                        Speak with recently dead.

Vs. Undead  Roll HD.  Double the roll and apply in an attack at up to HDx10’ against the undead.  Thus 4d6 would become 4d(2d6).  On a push, if the Undead has no hit dice left other than ones remaining from the push, the undead flees.

Pre generated Characters (pre-OSR)

Human Cleric

STR     9
DEX    15
Con     13
INT     14
WIS    18
CHA    11
Medium Armor
Mace (+2 attack) +1 Magical in attack, +2 when attacking undead in combat or by dispel.
Has a llama

Fae/Elf Harpist

STR 12
DEX 16
CON 14
INT 13
WIS 17
CHA 12
Medium Armor
Harp (functions as a shield and as a weapon +2 to defense, +1 magic to defense in combat or magic, +2 when dispelling undead).
Has a llama

Mage Human/Earth

STR 10
DEX 14
CON 13
INT 18
WIS 10
CHA 13
Ring of +1 to defense against magic
Uses a staff, which is magical, +1 to combat defense, +1 to magical attacks.
Has a llama

Mage Korlinth/Air

DEX 14
CON 14
INT 18
WIS 14
Ring of +3 to CHA
Uses a dagger, enchanted to +1 to combat attacks, +1 to magical attacks.
Has a llama

Frederick of the Hills, Dwarf Fighter

STR 19
DEX 11
CON 16
INT 10
WIS 10
CHA 12
Heavy Armor, +1 enchantment to defense
Heavy Weapon, two handed ax, enchanted to +1 on attacks.
Dwarf, adds +1 to rolls vs. physical hazards
Has a clay mule construct

Arkat Dark-Breaker, Human Fighter

STR 16
DEX 10
CON 15
INT 12
WIS 10
CHA 16
Heavy Armor, +1 enchantment to defense
Shield, +1 enchantment to defense, +1 to defense from magic
Medium weapon, battle sword, +1 to defense, +1 to attack, enchanted +1 to attack.
Has a llama.

Fighters also have swarm ability when fighting from a mount that has swarm capability (other character types do not).

Llamas are 2HD, move as a medium horse, carry encumbrance as a light horse, swarm
Clay mule is 4HD, move as a medium horse, carry as a heavy horse, cannot swarm.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On hit dice and “to hit” tables and magical creatures.

My approach to hit dice in D&D has always been that they reflect primarily the life energy, the force, will and mana, that each character (whether PC or NPC, monster or other) has.  From this I differed from Gary Gygax who saw them reflecting and abstracting various trinkets, skills and improvements a character obtained as the character reached higher levels combined with the physical presence/size of the character.

Gary was right that D&D works the way he saw it.   You can run Runequest vs. D&D character melee (and Runequest is clearly a model that embraces a mostly Gary Gygax view of character leveling) and it works very well.  The D&D hit points and armor class pretty much work against the parry, etc. so that (after taking into account that the RQ character has improved will/POW with higher “levels”) it is pretty transparent.  

When Steve Perrin pointed that out, I was amazed, then impressed. The active avoidance of Runequest vs. the passive incorporation of it all as hit dice/hit points really works either way.

That said, that wasn't my approach.  Instead of approaching hit points as an approximation, I approached them as a measure of the additional life force one gained with leveling.  That fits many culture myths and legends very well.  Characters who have overcome and "leveled up" have superhuman vitality and personal force in such myths.
In that light, I approached magic items, especially +0/+1/+etc. weapons as an extension of life force and energy.  (Silver = +0).

A living weapon, whether it be a werewolf’s claws or a dragon’s bite, allowed the application of the magical force of the character against an opponent.  That fit in well with every few levels or so ~ +1 weapon for hitting things that require magical weapons to hit.  

There are many variations to this.

Thus a hero/4 hit dice creature can hit things that require silver/+0 to hit – if they hit with their bare hands/teeth/fangs/etc.  0-4, can’t hit.  4-8 hit things that require +0.  8-12 hit things that require +1, etc.  Perhaps with some tweaking or adjusting to the scale.

Or, to go to the rules, the most common variation is that 1-4 hit dice creatures using their natural weapons hit as +0/silver weapons, 4-6 hit as +1, 6-8 as +2, 8-10 as +3 and 10+ as +4 weapons for figuring out what they can hit.

You can this starting with Chainmail, where a “hero” can hit and kill some magical creatures, with or without a magic weapon.  The charts seem natural to carry over to the Brown Box set and the “fights like a hero” or “fights like a superhero” categories as characters progress. 

Thus variations on the rules allowing more hit dice/levels allowing characters and creatures to hit things that otherwise require magic started with Chainmail and made it into various editions of the rules.  This got into the rules without much explanation as to why, other than to avoid problems such as where a dragon could be slaughtered by a two or three hit dice creature or creating special cases (such as PC races with shapeshifting being able to hit things requiring magical weapons while shapeshifted) or or creating consistency with prior rules.

But the general rule and rational I liked was that immunity to normal weapons had to do with the magical nature of the creature with the immunity, coupled with it possibly not being completely present on the physical plane.  The power of magical weapons to hit such creatures had to do with the magical weapon being alive in a sense, the same for silver weapons that channeled the power of the moon through the magical correspondence with silver.  Thus the more alive a weapon was, the more things it could reach and hit.

Monsters with natural weapons worked into that system well.  PCs?  Well, they had to hit things with their hands (unless they were shapeshifters).  Just because they could hit things, did not mean that they wanted to.  Monks and Mystics aside, a DM would look at a player and ask “Do you really want to hit that wraith with your hands?  Life drain works on contact after all.  It drains you every attack, you drain yourself every time you hit back.”  Makes for a short and brutal melee if the character decides to go with fists instead of a holy symbol or fleeing.  Which reminds me, an interesting tweak in Chainmail is that a wight is inferior to a wraith at everything except fighting wraiths.

I had meant to write that approach up into a rule, but it is one of the things I never got done – for good reason.  

There were distractions, and the rational for it was not one that everyone agreed on.  

Everyone was pretty clear that higher hit dice creatures should in general be able to hit magical things because most higher hit dice creatures were higher hit dice creatures because they were intensely magical (think Balrogs).  But did that general condition that really mean that a blue whale could hit anything just by virtue of being large and thus having lots of hit points, or was there more to it?  

Should you use a sliding scale so that each size above “normal” you slide the critter doing the hitting down a few hit dice for figuring out what it can hit with natural weapons?  Where did each approach take you, where did each explanation lead?  Was this a rule that really needed an explanation or that was better for having a rationale?  Was it better off as just a rule of thumb without explanation?

In this essay you can see my rationale.  If you’ve played in games I’ve run you’ve seen how I make it work, which is it rarely matters, but it provides the flavor for why the rules are as they are.  You can also see the official rules that eventually got written and put into print in the various editions.

You can make your own determination as to what you want in your game. 

I know I do.  I know Gary hoped that everyone would make their own determinations and find what made the game more engaging and fun for them.  I hope this helps you find the approach and variations that fits what makes it fun for you and that you feel empowered to choose what you prefer rather than what someone tells you to do.

And that is what I was trying to do when I had rules, and did not have them.