Saturday, July 15, 2023

Part of my AD&D House Rules, Part 2 - Stealth and Surprise

Sometimes we internalize years of rules that it becomes hard to explain on the fly. Recently, there's been a lot of questions around the idea of surprise and stealth. I've taken the time to spell it out for how I rule things citing the AD&D rules where at all possible, explaining reasons when not.

There's not a lot in hard, fast, or concise rules in AD&D but some can certainly be extrapolated. A few items are because I wanted to codify how some scenarios played out for transparency.


Surprise (meaning to engage in combat in any way) standards apply. Rushing into a room of monsters where they are unaware calls for surprise. 

  • Surprise is not stealth. 
  • Surprise circumvents stealth when the attack is initiated.
  • Surprise can only be attempted outside of hearing range.
  • Random Encounter surprise distance will be 1"-3". YMMV for planted encounters.
  • Surprise checks starts the moment the surprised party could be aware of the opposition (line and direction of sight, as well as sound).
  • Undetected (stealth, invisible) Surprise Chance is 4-in-6 (PHB103, MM39 "Elves")


Sneaking with Move Silently

If you can hear an alert monster, they will hear you if you fail to move silently within certain distance.

  • All distances are as the Ghost flies.
  • Provided that they are intact and the walls are of standard thickness, doors HALVE the ranges below (my rule).
  • Loud noises DOUBLE the range (my rule).  (sounds of battle, chopping down a door, chipping away a brick wall)
  • Unalert HALVE the ranges. (distracted, sleeping, eating, bickering over dice, etc)
  • Overwhelming noise halve the ranges. (active mining, a loud thunderstorm with a downpour of rain, etc)
  • Rangers enjoy 60' for metal armor due to facilitating their surprise. 
  • The below distances are based on a pursuer listening for someone, which is equivalent to monsters being alert (DMG68).
    • Given the above, characters in metal armor moving cautiously (1/10th movement, PHB102) can be heard at 60 feet, 30 feet for rangers.
  • The below section under NOISE is extrapolated to loud, normal, and quiet noises(my rules). 
  • Spellcasting and normal conversation is normal (my rule).
  • Loud noise always puts monsters on alert at best, gets them to come investigate at worst.
  • This applies to monsters.
  • Detect Noise, spending the time and a successful role could give the approximate distance.

Quick examples

  • A solid room (walls a few feet thick, intact, enclosed) with solid closed doors, but loud noises would balance out. (example: hammering away at a brick wall in a closed chamber is monster-audible for 90 feet. Open the door, because you're a prankster who hates your friends, and it's 180 feet).
  • A solid room with solid closed doors in the middle of an active slave-mine where pick axes and mine carts and making a ton of noise will bring the range of two fighters in a battle with two gnolls in half twice (90 to 45 to 22.5 feet). The guard station 40 feet away won't hear it, unless someone swings open the door.
  • An open door in a giant quiet crypt chamber, while adventures are chipping off mineral build up, with hammers and chisels, off of a big sarcophagus is going to be 180'.
  • A magic-user casts invisibility in a closed room can be heard 30 feet away.

Really Drawn Out Examples

Situation A: A fight breaks out with oil bottles shattering, zombies being lit on fire and the frenzied snarling zombies ripping vines out of the wall to free themselves (this is sounds of battle). Small monsters to the north are busy feeding a big monster. I'm going to call shattering glass alone on the same level as loud, which means they are now on alert from 90'.

Red guy heard zombie violence only 55 - 60 feet away.

Situation B: A bunch of noise just came from the south. The monsters are in a depression in a big cavern excitedly communicating with each other over what they just heard. One of the monsters towers up over the edge giving it only a quick roll of the eyes or turn of the head to see what made the noise. 

Red monster is alert.

A thief needs to get about 10 feet closer than 30 feet to look at the edge to get the information he is after because of line of sight. He makes his intentions known and says he is going to move silently. A character in leather armor (so relatively quiet) makes a move silently roll as they creep forward to look over the edge of the pit.

Damn it, geometry!

He is level 1 (base 15%) with a dex of 18 (+10%), so 25%. He rolls a 40 and fails the roll. Relatively quiet is 30', therefore his noise is heard. He's been spotted.

Situation C: Situation A just occurred. The party has no thief. Just fighters in metal armor, all human too. Dirty, boring, filthy humans. One of the fighters decides to peer around the corner after the zombie-smash bottle fiasco. Unfortunately, the smashing bottles and frenzied zombies had put the monsters on alert already. They can hear his loud-ass platemail creaking a significant distance away.

Situation D - Sneaking with Move Silently and Hide in Shadows: Similar to situation B. A bunch of noise just came from the south. The monsters to the north are on alert. A thief needs to get about 10 feet closer than 30 feet to look at the edge to get the information he is after because of line of sight. He makes his intentions known and says he is going to move silently and hide in shadows, sticking to the sides to try to take advantage of the shadowy folds. 

A character in leather armor (so relatively quiet) makes a move silently roll as they creep forward to look over the edge of the pit. He also makes a hide in shadows roll (to blend into dark areas, conceal body heat behind rocks, flattening himself, etc). His chances are respectfully 25% and 20%. 

Outcome 1:

He rolls a 34 and a 14. As established above, he makes noise creeping forward, however with his very slow and careful movements to stick to the shadows, he remains hidden.

The noise is heard 30' away, but they can't see what made it. The thief is safe for this very second, but the monsters might come looking for him. Does he try to slink off? Or is going to wait like shadowy death at stab one of the fuckers when it comes looking?

Outcome 2:

He rolls a 30 and a 68. Shit. He's been heard AND spotted. They heard the noise, they looked, and he wasn't as well hidden as he thought.

Situation E: The elf has silently peered around the corner. He successfully creeps past the passageway north to rejoin his party, a paladin in plate-mail and a magic-user. He gives them the situation: two ghouls, at least, are in the cavern to the north chewing on femurs. 

The paladin has no fear, only distain, for the creatures and rushes to attack, hoping to gain surprise. She has to travel 40 feet to the passage way. As the ghost flies, she is 40 feet away from the nearest ghoul. She inches (1/10th of her movement) her way 10 feet closer, because she's one hell of a meta player. The ghouls are unalert so the 60 feet goes to 30 feet. She would heard if she were attempting stealth further. However, she is attempting to engage in combat and this calls for surprise.

The ghouls roll a 2 and they are surprised for 2 segments as she starts charging. Her movement rate is 9, which means she's moving 36 feet in her charge, which gets her to the passage to the ghouls chamber as she continues her charge.

Situation F: The elf had listened to the door and heard the sounds of something slurping merrow out of bone. He reports this back to the party who has been careful up to this point. The ghouls inside are not alert and behind a solid closed door in a solid room. This causes their hearing to be quartered. The paladin in platemail (creeping, so 60 feet) can actually only be heard 15 feet away. 

The party decides to burst through the door and kill what's on the other side, hoping for surprise. They quietly get into position, the thief ready to open the door so the paladin can rush in.

Surprise is checked at this point, fairly.

Situation G: The elf assassin, peering around a statue, sees a ghoul up ahead. 40', sniffing the air and peering around in the hallway.

The assassin decides he's going to sneak but not hide, since hiding would dramatically reduce his move speed. He is concerned that this ghoul will run off to join it's pack in the caverns to the west. His move silently is 30%.

Outcome 1: He passes his move silently check, closes the distance and the Ghoul is surprised on a 1-4 out of 6.

Outcome 2: He fails his move silently check, but has committed to closing the distance for the strike. If the ghoul is alert, it hears him 30 feet away. The noise, even if minor, was picked up on the alert ghoul 30 feet way. Surprise is checked normally (1-2 on a d6) and even with the surprise success, the thief still has to cross 30 feet.

Had the ghoul not been alert (eating a rat instead of actively sniffing the air and looking around), he could get within 15 feet moving relatively quiet which would make his success on surprising require less distance to travel (and therefore more time for attacks).

Situation H: Replace the above Elf Assassin with a Half-elf Ranger.

The ranger is in metal armor, but moving cautiously and 20 feet more south (30 feet hearing on the alert ghoul), peering behind the statue. He moves up carefully to try to get the jump on it. He knows he's gonna have to go for it immediately.

Outcome 1: He surprises on a 1-3, meaning at a movement rate of 9, he's getting to 18 feet in 1 segment, 36 feet in 2 segments (giving him his charge attack), 54 feet in 3.

Outcome 2: There's a door in between them, but he knows the ghoul is there. 

A surprise roll of 2 (36 feet) or 3 will suffice for getting the charge in on a surprise.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Forgotten Realms Didn't Always Suck, Part 3

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

FR9 - The Bloodstone Lands

Full disclaimer, we spent years playing on this map in high school. There's a lot of nostalgia there, but also there was a lot of my DMs creativity that ran free during that time. The Bloodstone Lands allowed him to do it. You could own this and no other FR products and you get a 'here's a kingdom, there's these towns here, this barony there, and here's some influential shit that happened, now you fill in the rest'.

Historically, this takes place after the events of H1-H4, which you can happily ignore. Zhengyi's forces were overrunning Damara, the heroes defeated him, but the kingdom is left without a solid grasp on who the current king is. That's all you need to know.

The map is something I've run in my games plenty of times. I've converted into hexes, I've knitted together the surrounding kingdoms, and it saved me the trouble of naming a bunch of places and detailing every single city and town. While I've moved on from this recently, it gave me exactly what we needed for our groups in terms of: well-varied terrain, plenty of adventure rich locations, plenty of civilization and wilderness to explore, and it never once stepped on our nuts.

There is plenty of material inside that we never even got to. Like the adventures section, it gives you plenty of information to build on. 

There's even a suggestion on how to play a campaign out, that we never used.

What we used was simply the map, the town guild, the history, and the major NPCs. If you wanted a setting that, especially at the time, didn't have a dozen novel NPCs that players may or may not have read about, where expectations were pre-set, and you felt like you were in a campaign straight jacket, this was the place for you.

FR11 - Dwarves Deep

Dwarves Deep was printed during a time when the product line was starting to fall apart. The actual game usefulness for some of the FR series (I'm looking at you FR7, 8, and kind of 10) was questionable. It was fluff. NPCs from novels that might have been cool if you and the other 15 year olds were constantly arguing over who was tougher, Drizzt or Dragonbait... Elminster or Raistlin... Wulfgar or Caramon... we did this. I'm not sorry. I digress.

Most of the FR products coming out were really just not something that were helping people run games. The FR line was going the way of the rest of the TSR product line, even leading the way. However Dwarves Deep brought it back to usefulness.

Information about families, runic alphabets, brotherhoods, clans were all good to see examples of. And if you're like me, you're not going to weave an entire Dwarven Civilization from nothing. This can save you some time to inform your design decisions. Why is this abandoned dwarf mine like this? What kinds of stuff can players find evidence of? 

There's a lot of information on society and religion that can help that too, but you probably won't need it.

Too greedily and too deep?

However, Dwarves Deep gives us The Great Rift. This isn't an adventure. It's an overview where it could be expanded into it's own setting by itself.

There's a great section on The Lost Kingdoms which gives you just enough of a mental starter to form your own 'what remains of those lost Dwarven kingdoms?' What drove them out? Where did they go? What lives there now?

Finally, there is a dwarf name generator and information on Dwarven Runes (and Runestones, which is probably where Dwarrowdeep drew some inspiration). Seeing an example of the Runestone shows how the dwarves write in a wrapping spiral and how they express numerals. Little things like that help bring an old Dwarven ruin to feeling like one.

The Ruins of Undermountain

Often brought up in conversations about Megadungeons, Undermountain gets passed over. Why? Because it's not a full service Megadungeon. The boxed set just has three levels. And those three levels aren't even fully detailed. Over three massive, sprawling maps, there's 70 keyed locations. Some of them repeat too.

This thing requires patience to the degree of either 1) just taking stuff and moving it to your own dungeon or 2) sit down and key out a few hundred rooms yourself. Do you want to keep the ideas intact? Do you want to use the maps? 

Whatever the answer is, there's cool keyed areas in here. There's not that many compared to the scale of levels covered. While the room descriptions are almost Arden Vol in length, but they are usually worth absorbing. 

Fun fact about Undermountain. Portions of the maps were lifted from B1, B3, B5, and Empire of the Petal Throne.

If you ever found yourself looking for inspiration on how to set up some dungeon rooms, then flip this PDF open and pick a room at random. Most of the time you'll walk away with some pretty great ideas.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Forgotten Realms Didn't Always Suck, Part 2

If you haven't read part one yet, give that a read first. The Forgotten Realms line of products used to be useful and in this series, I talk about the ones worth pira... buying off eBay.

FR3 - Empire of the Sands

Empire of the Sands is a great supplement if you plan on introducing a desert-like kingdom to your game. It primarily details three major cities in the region, but does an admirable job providing ideas for desert raiders, social customs, and a lot of notes on climate and geography. Honestly, it's a weaker entry but not without value if this kind of setting is one you are looking to flesh out.

There's notes in here about certain slang phrases, which really can set apart an area in a very subtle way. Probably what has more heft is describing how the collective city mentality is. For example, "poverty is the ultimate sin."

FR4 - The Magister

How many of you AD&D guys use UA for basically just spells and/or magic items? This is a book of kick-ass new magic items. This really doesn't need to be a Forgotten Realms product. It just needed to be an AD&D product. If this had been expanded on scale, this would have been the best orange spine since Monster Manual II. It has a section that adds on to the DMG for magic item creation that might be useful to others. Additionally, it has new spells.

FR5 - The Savage Frontier

The cold north, the icy seas, barbarian tribes, and the settlements in between. Many of you will just be running games in a more centric area. However, there's the chance that your campaigns will grow to the icy howling winds of the north tundras. I love this shit. 

You get a snapshot of the people, how travelling in an chunky ice sea works, the mountains and rivers of the north, and a gazetteer style explanation of all of the areas which you can shamelessly borrow to flesh out your north. And it's well-written; look at who wrote it.

FR6 - Dreams of the Red Wizard

FR6... is awesome. Expansion of the world map, a unique nation based on... pretty fucked up wizards. A gazetteer of the area is well detailed, of course. But the politics in this area are very revealing. Giving this a read will really think about how you give wizards rulership roles in your world.

Of course, there are new spells. Nothing earth-shattering, but there are pages of them. Not everything in this book is original, reprinting spells and items that have been seen before in Dragon Magazine.

Finally, FR6 has a whole battery of adventure hooks to steal, rob, modify, or mangle. Multiple pages. Anecdotally, back in the day, we laid out all the FR maps from all the different products at the time and filled my living room. It was vast. Do you have an evil empire or kingdom? This has a ton of things to inspire you or let you steal from it.

FRE1 - The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar

Okay, okay. I know. The cover sucks all the dicks. The art has that 2e stink. It reeks even. Just ignore that because the inside is really nice. The only shameful thing about it is that TSR sucked ass at this point in time and made Ed Greenwood truncate this entry. There should be a kick-ass second level and more entries but we got just most of one level. But that level is solid.

Seriously, just ignore that 2e logo and art.

It opens up with some local flavor. You can ignore that. You won't be needing it. Just plop this bad boy in there somewhere and let her rip.

Now this module (as with most of TSR modules) is going to need a read through and some note-taking, but it's worth it. This thing is full of solid traps, kick-ass treasure, and proper exploration. It even has some new fuck-off monster that lives in locks just waiting for someone to peek through or try to pick it. 

You can expand upon the place easily by putting entrances downward at 14 and 31, near the crumbled areas. It also can fit in with an upper level that's a stronghold of at least 45 kobolds. Yeah, you gotta do the work. But maybe you already have a few maps that fit the bill and this can save you a whole floor of planning.

Drop some kobolds, traps, and treasure here.

There's also new magic items and the aforementioned locktrap monster and a winged cat. Cool shit.

Expand it or just run it by itself and it'll be a good time. Especially if you get them with the doppleganger.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Forgotten Realms Didn't Always Suck, Part 1

The Forgotten Realms. 


Fantasy Seattle.

WotC's toilet paper.

It's a setting that the past 25-30 years have beaten the D&D consumers into an exhausted pulp. It's the home of 5e's fantasy Seattle. It's the place that just keeps changing to fit the times and new editions. It's been sanded down so hard and waterlogged for so long that any interesting aspects have been made flavorless. Something like 300, many disconnected, novels have only added to that. It became impossible to think of the Forgotten Realms without connecting it to Drizzt and Elminster. However, Forgotten Realms from it's bits in early Dragon magazines and the earliest published materials was very good. 

Greyhawk had a weaker setting, but some of the best adventures ever written and it was originally more conducive to applying exploration to. The Known World, later branded as Mystara, was... a world. To a lesser extent, a worse Greyhawk. Dragonlance should never be gamed in, as a setting that was built on the railroading DL series, then a failure to expand that into a gameable world. Other settings such as Spelljammer, Planescape, and Ravenloft existed in more of a 'other place' rather than a traditional D&D campaign. Birthright came after people stopped caring and revolved around resurrecting domain play.

But overall, anyone reading this blog doesn't want to use any of that except Greyhawk because running T1-4 and G1-3 make it look so attractive. However, I present the old Forgotten Realms material as a candidate. Not a candidate to run your own games in directly, but a candidate to look at the source material for your own worlds.

FR0 - Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting Boxed Set (1e)

I had posted a review in 2006 on Dragonsfoot for FR0 (The 1e Campaign Setting Boxed Set). I honestly have very little recollection of writing the review, only that I did it. But you know what? I'm going to plagiarize myself.

The following parts set the stage for the rest of the products I am going to detail. The history of how and why are of minor importance, but it's useful context.

The Forgotten Realms existed in Ed Greenwoods mind and short stories since the sixties, but when D&D was created, he made it his campaign world in 1978. He had run a number of his campaigns in that world, which his players helped him shape. In some early issues of Dragon magazine, he had published a few pieces which were set in the Forgotten Realms. Jeff Grubb was charged with contacting Ed and seeing if there was a developed world. There was, so Ed and TSR began working on the campaign setting. Ed would be the go-to guy to make sure future Realms products wouldn't conflict with the overall scheme of the world.

Since this was to be the new quintessential TSR world, many projects were squeezed into Ed's original world. The Moonshea Isles was Celtic-flavored project that Douglas Niles had worked on, and now would have a home in the Forgotten Realms. The Bloodstone Lands, based off of Douglas Niles H-series of modules were included as well. A few other places (some better than others) were developed and shifted to fit other accessories and novels until the realms was complete in TSR's eyes.

What was written in the set was how the major gods, locations, NPCs, and cities looked like at a high level. It provided maps, most with areas that aren't detailed.

The boxed set as I hold it in my hands was the finished product for the original campaign setting. For intent and purposes, the boxed set detailed the western Faerun continent while leaving the peripheral areas to future accessories. This would give us a close up of what is known as the heartlands, while releasing separate accessories for the outlaying lands (FR1 - Waterdeep and the North, and FR2 - Moonshea were released at the same time as the boxed set).

The set came with two books, the first (Cyclopedia of the Realms) being more of a players sourcebook to the realms that touches on certain things a character in the realms may know. This detailed the Forgotten Realms gods, with a portfolio of what they stand for. This also gave information on towns, kingdoms, and races of the realms in alphabetical order. There is also some good city detailing. Not all cities and towns have complete maps with keys, but there are enough to flesh out some of the more important towns.

The second book (The DM's Sourcebook of the Realms) was a DM's book that contained NPC's of the realms, some spells (and the cryptic spellbooks that they were hidden within), as well as two adventures. The NPC's were displayed in a minimalist fashion, detailing only the basic information of class, level, and alignment. As with all entries in both books, everything is encyclopedic with three sub-sections for each entry. First you get your general information, then Elminster's* Notes, and finally game information. The general information is self-explanatory, while the Elminster's Notes are more knowledgeable and more first-hand information from the sage's point of view. The game information is where statistics of mechanic related notes were made.

So you have a big continent, a write up about how the kingdoms are set up, major cities, npcs, etc. But the main take away is that it provided a good canvas for adventures. 

The two adventures that came with the book are set within Myth Drannor. Myth Drannor is an ancient elven city that has since fallen into ruin, which leaves endless possibilities for subterranean exploration. There were two dungeons that could be found there, which were solid.

One of the many dungeons spread around Myth Drannor

The set also comes with four maps. Two are larger scale maps of the continent, and two are more conventional closer-view maps of the heartlands in which the boxed set details. It also comes with hex overlays to give good measurement when parties are traveling across the continent.

Can it hexcrawl? Only if you re-draw the map as a hex map. Is it worth hexcrawling? Maybe. If you were going to redraw the entire area as a hexcrawl and then seed those keyed locations in with content, then you might as well start writing your own hexcrawl.

Let me reiterate: The Forgotten Realms can be stolen from with ease.

I've owned three copies of this in my life. The first, which I still have the 2 sourcebooks for, was bought with paper route money from a place called Toy City. The second, which was lost with most of my stuff was bought on eBay in the early 2000s to replace the absolutely decimated boxes and maps. And the third was bought in 2021 because it's something I felt I always wanted in my library.

Look at the gods, see which ones you can adapt, combine, and throw away for your own world. Look at the NPCs, is there someone like that you'd want in your game that might run a city, be a rival adventurer, or use as a blacksmith with a bit more history? Look at the gazetteer-styled entries and then look at your own. Did you forget something? 

FR1 - Waterdeep and the North

Waterdeep and the north came in a 64-page booklet, like a double-module, complete with a slip cover and fold out map of Waterdeep. Using this directly as Waterdeep could result in having a detailed city with movers and shakers spelled out ahead of time, but nobody who plays old school games wants to play in Waterdeep. However, the material goes beyond that, much like FR0.

There's more gazetteer-styled entries on the surrounding areas which might be valuable to mine. However, the usefulness comes with being able to model your own large cities. There's a sewer system to consider. Have you thought of one for your games? Would a history be beneficial to your game? What about the laws and government? Are the guards in your city heavily patrolling certain areas over the others? What if you got caught fencing stolen property? How long would that jail time be?

The booklet goes on to detail wards of the city, the households (noble and otherwise), temples, dress and mannerisms. Do the people of your major city have a certain way of acting? Does that matter to you? There is information, more importantly, for factions and guilds within the city. 

Chapter 9 gives seven adventure hooks to steal as well. If not steal, they do provide good inspiration for your own city-based adventures. Finally, there are common building floorplans included. Do your players get caught up in a breaking and entering situation in a grand residence and you need an idea of how the floorplan looks on the fly? Waterdeep and the North might have something for you.

FR2 - Moonshae

I mentioned above (and in my Dragonsfoot review 17 years ago) that the Moonshea Isles weren't originally part of the Forgotten Realms until it made it to TSR. Douglas Niles was working on a series that didn't yet have a home and it got placed off the Sword Coast originally.

Moonshae is a resource best used as mineable content for a Celtic area. The gazetteer for the islands, the conflicts that exist there politically, and environmental overviews that might be useful for one setting up a Celtic area, complete with random encounter tables. 

There's the legendary Leviathan provided as well. Do you have a Leviathan? There's the Kazgoroth, a 16 HD disruptor of balance (a big theme in Moonshae with lots of druidic influence and king unicorns and such) that can inflict lycanthopy with it's bite and summon up to 500 blood warriors. I don't know if you need THAT, but this book definitely has some cool monster entries.

Moonshae does include some adventure suggestions, as well, but the primary one is to play out the Moonshae novel trilogy and that is awful. However the new magic items section is pretty cool on it's own.

REF5 - Lords of Darkness

Forgotten Realms adventures don't have the best reputation, which is a sentiment well-deserved. However, there is still gold out there from the beforetime. I have precious few that I'd recommend and the first is Lords of Darkness. This 1988 anthology doesn't necessarily take place in any specific part of the Forgotten Realms, but does include some monsters that belong to it. 

Alternatives to level draining are introduced and the concept of non-evil undead is discussed. But this isn't what we're here for. We are here for the lairs of various undead types. This anthology gives lairs for skeletons, zombies, ghouls and ghasts, wights, shadows, mummies, vampires, ghosts, spectres, and a lich.

Not all of these are gold. I'd skip skeletons and zombies right away. The shadow adventure sucks. Deborah Christian wrote Skeletons, Shadows, and Spectres. And she did some Dungeon Magazine story gaming level shit for this. 

Jump to Jennell Jaquays Ghouls and Ghasts. It's a solid adventure as a hex entry and provides good opportunity for exploration, a reason for things happening, and challenging encounters to overcome. You'll have to ignore the introduction to the horror mechanic in the beginning, but if you read further into the ecology of ghouls you can get decent suggestions for running them such as them being able to track like a 7th level ranger using Unearthed Arcana.

Steve Perrin's Wight adventure is a little weak, but I was delighted to see a Wight Advancement table:

Jennell Jaquays Mummies is pretty fucking rad. Lizard men, Mummies, and Undead Dinosaurs? Hell yeah. This one alone is worth the cost of admission. The adventure itself is cool, but there is a bit of lore tie-ins with the Forgotten Realms, which are easily replaced by locations, factions, and the like. Nothing is specific. Steal this.

Fuckin' A

Jean Rabe's and Vince Garcia's Vampires is almost great. The first major strike against it no fucking map. There's a keyed area, and those keyed areas are solid, but there's no map. Such a shame. 

Vinca Garcia's Ghosts is decent. It's a haunted mansion adventure and has a decent map to explore. Like kind of a 'Mom, can we stop and get Tegel Manor?' 'We have Tegel Manor at home.' 

This is Tegel Manor at home.

Finally, we get to Liches. Bitches.

Ed Greenwood, some might think, didn't do good stuff. I'm here to fuck that up for you. In part 2 and 3, I'm gonna rip your nostril hairs out to make you sneeze so hard you fart.

The lich, The Dread Lair of Alokkair, is a 10th level adventure. This is set in the Area of Shadowdale in a haunted cave. We can just yoink that and drop it into our own. We start off with some mild resource expending encounters into a really nasty trap. I should steal it. It introduces a new monster, the Ghost Spider, which isn't so much for a 10th level party to handle, but they would make mean low-level encounters.

That's going to be par for the course on the first half. Cool traps, mild encounters, but plenty of exploration and interaction. Once you get to the back half of the dungeon, you get more challenging encounters. The environmental hazards are sure to bring of wear and tear on the adventurers, as is the thieving Gargoyles who try to snatch magical items and the animated weapons. 

Throughout the whole thing, the Lich is using illusionary magic to keep the PCs from retreating, which is given plenty of suggestions of what to employ. The lich itself is nasty, clearly written by someone who is no stranger to higher-level spell battles. The spell list almost feels like cheating. Solid stuff.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Changes from AD&D to AD&D 2e

This is going to be another one of those posts that keeps getting updated and referred to about once a month. As I think of more changes, I will update this blog post.

Changes from AD&D1e to AD&D2e

Bolded are the most impactful to how the two systems result in play.

Macro changes

  • Multi-classed characters were weakened (multi-class clerics limited to cleric weapons, multi-class magic-users limited to non-metal armor)
  • Stronghold construction, particularly for magic-users? So less emphasis on potential domain play.
  • Weird standardization of 10's of yards which resulted in 10's of feet in 1e on spell ranges being 10's of yards. A 10th level fireball can travel 200 feet in 1e. A 10th level fireball can travel 330 feet (or 110 yards).
  • Spell lists conflated into just wizard and priest spells, divided up by school. This changes the effective level certain classes gain access to some spells.
  • Demons renamed to Tanar'ri, Devil's renamed to Baatezu, etc
  • Many monsters changed between editions (example: Dragons are beefier)
  • XP for gold replaced by a more fiat (quest, roleplaying, etc) XP reward system, a raised monster XP award, while keeping magic item XP.
  • (Optional) Although nonweapon proficiencies were mentioned to be optional, it's worth mentioning that they were brought forward into the core game as most 2e products released after the core books referred back to NWPs. It's noted that the Rangers tracking ability directly refers to the Tracking NWP.
  • 2e introduced size categories above Large
  • In addition to spells being moved around to accommodate two lists, which changed level thresholds, some spells would change in an insidious way. Example: Command being almost exactly the same but the range increasing from 10 feet to 30 yards.
  • Many spells have a cap on potential. For example, Fireball being capped at 10 dice.

Misc. Changes

  • Ability score tables now list scores from 1 to 25.
  • Minor ability scores changed slightly, such as weight allowance for scores less than 10, open doors changed to a d20, and % chance to learn spells for scores from 10 to 16.
  • Silver is 1/10th of a gold

Race changes

  • Racial level limits are significantly higher
  • More multi-class options
  • Removal of Half-Orcs
  • Gnomes now get -1 wisdom, +1 intelligence
  • Elves can be resurrected
  • Halfings ranged bonus lessened (counting 1e MM as a source for racial bonuses)
  • Many minor changes (such as halfings only having a change to have infravision)
Dwarf Feet

Class changes

  • Fighters get specialization
  • Ranger is completely different, opting for a lighter armored scout in 2e.
  • Specialty wizards for all schools of magic
  • Illusionist replaced with specialty wizard of the Illusion school
  • Specialty priests for all spheres
  • Druid replaced as a specialty priest
  • Bard as a 'prestige' class now is a subclass of Rogue
  • Assassin removed
  • Monk removed
  • Removal of name-levels, which meant also the implications such as druids only being able to have 3 archdruids, as an example.
  • Adjustable thief skills


  • Addition of UA armor (Field Plate, Bronze Plate, Full Plate) to the core equipment list.
  • Addition of UA weapons (Examples: Whip, Hook Fauchard, Garrot) to the core equipment list.

Combat system

  • Surprise is no longer in segments, but in an entire surprise round.
  • (Side-eye) The surprise mechanic isn't even in the combat section of the book. This was an often overlooked mechanic.
  • Surprise from 1 or 2 on a d6 to a 1, 2, or 3 on a d10.
  • You can move half movement and attack (melee and missile), no more engage in melee lessening the impact of charge.
  • You can target which melee combatant to hit
  • Initiative is done a d10 vs a d6 with no round 'spillover'. (example: spells always complete mostly)
  • Casting time is straight additive to initiative
  • Weapon speeds are now additive to initiative
  • (Optional) Death at -10 HP is now an optional rule, though most every group used it.
  • To hit tables now flattened into THAC0
  • Specific small modifiers to initiative, called shots, etc
  • (Optional) Weapon vs Armor type tables have been flattened out to three categories and the math of that consideration changed. Most groups didn't use this.
  • (Optional) Initiative modifiers were flatted for magical items. A wand in 1e might have specific segment costs, but it's presented that all wands cost +3 segments. (example: Wand of Fear is specified to cost 1 segment in the 1e DMG, the segment cost is omitted in the 2e DMG)
  • Unarmed combat is completely different.
  • Turn Undead affects 2d6 instead of 1d12

Explaining the bolded changes, in order...

Spell lists flattening. The entire casting system has been combined into two lists, partitioned by schools of magic. This has a few median effects:
  1. Spells for Druids or Illusionists no longer being in their own lists results in a certain amount of spells that are now attainable at different levels of spellcasting. (example: Dispel Magic)
  2. The resulting specialty wizards were pretty popular, but the real effect came when priests could opt into being a specialty priest. Though, this was largely controlled by what splatbooks or house rules were allowed.
XP for gold being replaced resulting a lot lower money campaigns. However the massive change that this brought was the direction of motivations in AD&D. The adventures were now more geared towards story-focused, overland travel rather than exploration in the wilderness and seeking out dungeons and other adventure sites for monetary reward.

Racial limits being significantly higher resulted in a lot more demi-human play. In fact, humans were hardly ever played compared to AD&D. Even though they had level limits, those limits were often so high that it wasn't at all a decision point for players.

The class discussion is a branching web of a ton of minor deviances. The removal of Monk, Assassin, and the traditional Bard weren't as huge. The change to Rangers elevated them up even higher than they were, but the Bard was a fast leveling caster which often made it an extremely attractive choice.

Being able to move half-movement and still attack, on top of being able to choose your melee target, is one of the biggest differences between AD&D and any other game. 2e, in this regard, opted for the B/X combat methods which de-emphasized positioning, movement utilization, and the impact that charge has. In other words, combat became less tactical and more 'I hit the one who was already hurt' on repeat.

Spire Kingdom Info for Players

Placeholder for compiled player documentation for my Spire Campaign Groups.

House Rules can be found here.


World Map

Abstract, purchased as a painting



wip document here

  • Alaunus - The Sun God, Father of Light (see below)
  • Aenahn - The truth (see below)
  • Apate - God of Deciet (see below)
  • Asmodeus - The Devl Archduke (see below)
  • Orcus - Fat Undead, skinny ones too.
  • Sylvanus TN - Lord of Nature
  • Set LE - The Chaos
  • Magus TN - God of Magic, The North Star,  this is commonly worshiped by High Elves and Magic-users.
  • Halthanis NG - is the Elven God of The Seasons and Immortality. He is the default god of the wood elves.
  • Sergeldin CG - is the Dwarven God of Workmanship, Stonework, and Smithing. He is the default god for all dwarven cultures.
  • Ralathap TN - the Punisher, god of order, cosmic law, and the rule.
  • Seperaldu NG - gnomish god of progress and invention.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

AD&D Combat Example 2

 AD&D/OSRIC Combat Example

The party:

Level 3 Magic-User: 10 HP, AC: 8, Dagger: 1d4/1d3, (2/1: Sleep, Magic Missile, Mirror Image and a scroll of Fireball)

Level 3 Fighter: 21 HP, AC: 2, Long Sword+1: 1d8+1/1d12+1

Level 3 Ranger: 20 HP, AC: 4, Spear +1: 1d6+1/1d8+1

The monsters:

A Cultist Priest served by his two cultists and the ghouls in their service.

Level 5 Cultist High Priest: 24 HP, AC: 2, Mace +1: 1d6+2/1d6+1, (3/3/1: Light, Cure Light Wounds, Command, Chant, Hold Person, Silence 15' Radius, Dispel Magic)

Level 1 Cultist Guard with long sword: (HP: 6, AC:4, Long Swords: 1d8)

Level 1 Cultist Guard short bow and short sword: (HP: 6, AC:5, Short sword or bow: 1d6)

Ghouls (HP: 13, 11) AC: 6, Move 9", HD 2; 3 attacks for 1d3/1d3/1d6 damage, SA: paralyzation

Distance is rolled as this is not a set encounter: The result on a D6 is 1+4 = 50 feet away.

Surprise is rolled: Players get a 5, Monsters get a 4. Nobody is surprised.

Round 1:


The monsters are going to attack, the High Priest is going to cast Command on the Fighter to 'Die!' which will cause him to drop to the ground for one round.

The party is going to charge the ghouls while the Magic-user, in a panic, casts Mirror Image on himself.

Initiative is rolled: 

The players roll a 6, the monsters roll a 4. The players act first on segment 4, the monsters act on segment 6.

However charge operates outside of iniative. The only segment consideration for charging is covering a distance. The fighter has a movement rate of 6 (plate mail) and the ranger has a movement rate of 9 (chain mail).

Here is how the segment order would be broken up:

It will take 3 segments for the ranger to charge to his target (moving twice the speed for 18' per segment for 54' feet). 

It will take 4 segments (moving twice the speed for 12' per segment gets him 48 feet) for the fighters charge to terminate within 10' of his target. 

Casting will take 2 segments for the Magic-user which starts casting at the start segment 4, and finishes at the end of segment 5. (Casting means <initative roll> + <casting time> -1 = end of that segment)

The ghouls will be able to return attacks on segment 6 from the charging characters as they weren't engaged in combat.

The cultist guard swordsman has been ordered to defend the High Priest, so he holds his action.

The cultist guard archer will shoot the magic-user, his first shot happens on segment 6 and again at the end of the round.

The High Priests Command spell happens at the end of segment 6 as it has a casting time of one segment (so using the above quick math: 6+1-1= end of segment 6)

End of the round second shot from the bowman.

The ranger charges and rolls a 5, modified with +1 from the magic spear, +2 from charging and he hits AC 10 which is a miss but will still be 1 AC worse when attacked this round.

The fighter charges and rolls a 11, modified with +1 from the magic sword, +2 from charging and he hits AC 4 which is a hit. The fighter does 4 damage to the ghoul bringing it to 7.

The Magic-user's spell completes and 4 copies of him appear.

The fighters ghoul makes three attacks, claw, claw, bite. Rolling a 10 (miss), 18 (hit), 19 (hit). The ghoul did a total of 6 damage, bringing the fighter to 15 hp. The fighter rolls a 15 on a needed 13 for his saving throw vs paralysis and succeeds. Charging penalty was irrelevant.

The rangers ghoul makes three attacks, claw, claw, bite. Rolling a 2 (miss), 1 (miss), and 4 (miss). Charging penalty was irrelevant.

The archer shoots at the mob of magic-users. The archer rolls a 12, which would normally be enough to hit. However he only has a 1-in-5 chance of hitting the Magic-user. The random determination is rolled and one of the 'clones' is destroyed.

The High Priest commands the fighter to 'Die!' and the fighter is allowed a save vs. spell. He succeeds.

At the end of the round, the bowman fires at the magic-user posse, rolling a 10 and missing.

Round 2:


The magic-user is going to attempt to cast his fireball scroll (perhaps not realizing that the fireball will cook his friends too, or not caring). The rest are continuing to fight.

The priest is going to dispel magic on the group of magic-user images. The ghouls and the archer are going to continue their attacks. The swordsman cultist is going to run through the doors to the east to go raise the alarms for the rest of the cult.

The players roll a 2, the monsters roll a 6. The monsters act first on segment 2, the players act on segment 6.

Here is how the segment order would be broken up:

The cultist swordsman is not being contested so operates out of initative order, simply just running at the start of the round. His movement is 9, so he's covering 18 feet by the time segment 2 starts. He has 45 feet total to go, so he'll get there (and well away from the fight) before the end of the round.

The ghouls will attack on segment 2.

The archer will first attack on segment 2.

The High Priest will begin casting dispel magic on segment 2.

The fighter would attack on segment 6 (tie breaker on weapon speed if you want to get granular).

The ranger would attack on segment 6.

The magic-user would start reading his scroll on segment 6.

The end of segment 7, dispel magic will complete. 2+6-1= end of segment 7)

The end of segment 8, fireball will complete. 6+3-1= end of segment 8)

The archers last shot.

The fighters ghoul makes three attacks, claw, claw, bite. Rolling a 15 (hit), 4 (miss), and 7 (miss). He does another 2 damage to the fighter. The fighter also rolled an 18 on his saving through and is not paralyzed.

The rangers ghoul makes three attacks, claw, claw, bite. Rolling a 12 (barely a hit), 6 (miss), and a 11 (barely a miss). He does 1 damage to the ranger who rolls a 3 on his saving throw and is now paralyzed.

The archer shoots the magic-user and rolls a 5, hitting nothing.

The High Priest begins casting.

The fighter attacks and rolls a 14, which is a hit. He does 8 points of damage, killing the ghoul.

The ranger is paralyzed.

The magic-user begins reading the scroll.

The High Priest completes his dispel magic. The mirror images disappear and the Fireball is cancelled.

The archer takes aim and hits AC7, dealing 4 damage to the Magic-user.

Reinforcements for the cult will be arriving soon. The magic-user is exposed. The fighter will try to save the ranger from the ravenous ghoul.

Round 3:


The magic user is going to cast sleep, aiming to eliminate the archer. The fighter has to engage the ghoul which is pouncing on the paralyzed ranger.

Three cultists soldiers will run into the room to assist their leader. The ghoul will rend the ranger. The High Priest will cast Hold Person on the fighter.

The players roll a 6. The monsters roll a 4. The party begins on segment 4, the monsters on segment 6. 

Here is how the segment order would be broken up:

The reinforcements are simply moving and before segment 4 are able to get just at the doorway.

The fighter is able to engage the ghoul in combat, therefore distracting it from it's meal.

The magic-user's sleep spell completes at the end of segment 4.

The ghoul turns its attention to the fighter and no attacks can be made during engagement.

The archer will fire his first arrow on the magic user on segment 6.

The High Priest casts Hold Person starting on segment 6 (6+5-1= end of segment 10)

Reinforcements arrive at the doorway and are continuing to move in.

The fighter has engaged the ghoul.

The Magic-user's sleep spell completes and rolls a 2 and a 2 on 2d4 for 1 Hit Dice creatures. The area of effect coincides with the cultists at the doorway. All four fall asleep.

The ghoul has been engaged.

The archer is asleep.

The High Priest completes Hold Person. Unfortunately, the fighter rolls a 10 on his save with a -2 penalty and has been held. The ghoul will eat well today.

Round 4:


The magic-user runs (movement of 12).

The High Priest cannot catch him, so decides to wake the archer.

Initiative is pointless here, so the magic-user simply runs away. The ranger and the fighter are eaten.

Part of my AD&D House Rules, Part 2 - Stealth and Surprise

Sometimes we internalize years of rules that it becomes hard to explain on the fly. Recently, there's been a lot of questions around the...