Sunday 31 May 2020

Throwback: Weird on the Waves

As you have probably heard, Kiel Chenier has recently released Weird on the Waves, his sourcebook for old school naval adventures. This project started out small, but has grown into a 224-page tome!

Now it includes tons of material for ships, naval combat, a playable mermaid class, a bestiary of aquatic and piratical fiends, and a whole campaign setting for the Caribbean of 1666.

A couple of years ago while 'Weird' was still taking shape, Kiel and I collaborated on a two-page adventure, the Hounds of Low Tide, which is perfect fodder for Weird on the Waves!

Download the adventure and check out Weird on the Waves!

Tuesday 26 May 2020

B/X Loot vs. Danger

Continuing my investigations into B/X monster treasure, I wanted to understand how dangerous it is to get xp from different types of creatures. There are some well-known outliers - Dwarves have the high-density type G (which is unique to them), kobolds guard a pile of slag, and dragons have the chart-topping hoard "H". But where are goblins, ogres, minotaurs? Read on!

As a simple proxy for how tough a lair is to raid is, I used the creature's xp value, multiplied by the average number appearing in lair. For its lair gp value, I used the average treasure value of its treasure type.

With these numbers in hand, I have a fairly simple way to scatter the monsters across a graph of 'loot' vs. 'danger'.

Scatter plot of B/X monster lair danger vs. loot 
The graph mostly speaks for itself, but there are a few interesting critters.

One, kobolds are the absolute worst. They have substantially less treasure than normal rats! Kobolds carry type P, but this add insult to injury as you now have to go through their pockets to round out the miserable haul.

Moving up the left side of the cluster takes us on a tour of the easiest pickings - giant rats, halflings, carcass crawlers, bandits, dwarfs, troglodytes.

The right hand side of the cluster holds the creatures that make you work for slim pickings. Stirges, thouls, gargoyles, bugbears, ogres, and minotaurs. The minotaur is the toughest non-dragon creature on the graph, but it only has the same treasure as giant rats. That'll teach you to go looting in a prison!

Perhaps worst of all is the basilisk. If this chart is anything to go by, a nest of basilisks will leave you stone dead and dead broke.

Dragons are interesting because they all have type H. Red dragons are substantially tougher than black or (especially) white dragons, but they all have the same hoards.

Monday 25 May 2020

B/X Treasure Types

As I put the finishing touches on Johnstone's stats for the B/X Trilemma Bestiary, I've been asking myself, "Does this creature have too much treasure? Too little?" Follow me down this rabbit hole!

Basic D&D's treasure types are more than a little quirky. They're easy enough to reference in play, but choosing among them is tricky. Is there any rhyme or reason to them?

My starting reference is Necrotic Gnome's excellent Old School Essentials wiki, which lists all 22 treasure types from B/X. Types A through O are "hoards", types P-T are individual coin purses, and U and V are group treasure. The wiki also helpfully lists their average payout values.

Throw a coin to your.. oh nevermind
While poking away at the treasure types, I got interested in weight. Some of the treasure types are made up of large numbers of low-value coins, while others are heavy on the gems. Low-density treasure is a special challenge:  shovelling, bagging and hauling hundreds of pounds of coins is noisy, takes time, and weighs the adventurers down.

Treasure density seemed a really good way to look at treasure types. My average treasure values are slightly different from Gnome's because I put in placeholder values for magical items. Rightly or wrongly, I used these values:

  • Magical item, 50ct, 300gp
  • Magical item (weapons, shield, or armor), 100ct, 300gp
  • Magical item (not armaments), 20ct, 300gp
  • Scrolls 1ct, 100gp
  • Potions 10ct, 100gp
Here's what I found (click to expand):

B/X Treasure Type Avg. Value vs. Weight
Treasure type H, 'dragon hoard' is interesting because it's almost exactly the density of gold. There are gems and magical items, but there's also great mounds of low-value coins to balance it out. If you're choosy, you can probably take quite a lot of value of an H-type hoard without carrying much weight.

Among the hoards, treasure type I stands out for high-density, portable riches: just platinum, gems, and jewellery. Strangely, I can't find any monsters that have it as treasure!

Treasure type J, "kobold slag" so heavy for its value that it's barely worth taking.

Types L, N and O are outliers among the hoards because they're just a bunch of gems, potions and scrolls, respectively.

Individual treasures, P, Q, R, S, and T are just coins of varying value; they form an orderly line up toward type L (gems).

Group treasure type V (favored by bears, great cats and lizards for some reason) is the high-density good stuff. It's almost as valuable as hoard type C, but is nearly 100x more dense.

* * *

Okay, that's useful for comparing treasure types, but what's appropriate for a given monster? How hard does B/X make you work to get treasure from monsters? In the next post, I'll be looking at how much XP worth of monsters you have to defeat (in whatever way) to get that sweet, sweet loot.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Spy Thriller Engagement Roll

Right now our group is playing a game modelled on Night's Black Agents: burned spies fighting a conspiracy of vampires.

I say modelled, because we're using the Ironsworn RPG as the rule set. It's been making the rounds, so we thought we'd give it a try. Ironsworn has great support for solo play, so why not try it as a five-player GMless game?

Well.. I think we're way out of its sweet spot. GMless games need some sort of scene framing rules, or some way to divide up roles at the table. (See The Quiet Year or Microscope for good examples of that.) On the plus side, Ironsworn has tons of handy random tables that help provide answers on the fly for when things go wrong, unexpected plot twists, and so on.

One table that I'm hankering for, however, is a genre-appropriate "engagement roll". Once we've identified a target, this gives us some way of figuring out how the scene starts instead of playing out the whole approach. ("Rolling for surprise" in D&D is the archetypal engagement roll.)

Having an engagement roll lets us repeatedly start in medias res, and helps keep the pace brisk.

For example, when you learn about the warehouse where the deal went bad and the party decides it's their next target as part of this session, just press fast forward, roll 2d6 and find out where the action resumes.

When you've engaged your target, as play begins..
They're compromised. You're on your way in; one of you is already in deep cover
You've made your approach and you're on the way inside
You've been able to assess for some time
You have a short time to assess the situation before it gets dynamic
They've been spooked and/or tipped off
You've been made, and they've prepared for you specifically.
Compromised! Someone on your team, or your whole mission serves them.

Modify to taste - roll with advantage if you have useful intel and/or mission support, and with disadvantage if you've failed to maintain a low profile in some way, or if the target is especially sophisticated or hardened.

5e Bestiary on DriveThruRPG

It's done! The PDF version of the 5e bestiary is now available on DriveThruRPG. If you use Trilemma Adventures to round out your 5e campaign, this will help you adapt them much faster.

The bestiary is:

  • a 182-page PDF
  • containing stats for 112 creatures like the Onddo, Soil Mother, Dradkin, the Nuss, Ghost Selks, Brass Soldiers and tons of others!
  • packed with art, including 23 new illustrations by me and the talented Zé Burnay

A 6x9 softcover will also be available the minute that the pandemic-related logjam at DriveThruRPG's printing clears up.

Next up.. bestiary editions for B/X, Dungeon World, and Fria Ligan's Forbidden Lands!

Be safe!