Tuesday, February 27, 2007

d20 Herbivores: Part III

Today's entry was inspired by a thread on EN World.

The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.

Giant Turtle

Size/Type:Huge Animal
Hit Dice:10d8+60 (105 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), swim 20 ft.
Armor Class:23 (-2 size, +15 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 23
Base Attack/Grapple: +7/+17
Attack: bite +7 melee (2d6+3)
Full Attack: bite +7 melee (2d6+3)
Space/Reach:15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Capsize
Special Qualities:Hold breath, Low-light vision
Saves:Fort +13, Ref +7, Will +6
Abilities: Str 25, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 2
Skills:Hide 8*, Listen 6, Spot 6, Swim 15
Feats: Alertness, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Endurance
Environment: Temperate aquatic or marshes
Organization:Solitary or bale (6-11)
Challenge Rating: 4
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 11-21 HD (Huge), 21-30 HD (Gargantuan)
Level Adjustment:

These enormous herbivores spend most of their time basking on the shore or floating in lakes or marshes, where they are often mistaken for tiny islands.


Giant turtles are usually passive creatures, but will bite when provoked.

Capsize (Ex)
A submerged giant turtle that surfaces under a boat or ship less than 20 feet long capsizes the vessel 90% of the time. It has a 30% chance to capsize a vessel from 20 to 60 feet long.

Hold Breath (Ex)

A giant turtle can hold its breath for a number of rounds equal to 4 × its Constitution score before it risks drowning.

A giant turtle has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.

*Giant turtles have a +8 racial bonus on Hide checks when submerged.

While this beastie has a ton of hit points, it is a noncombative herbivore, which reduces its combat ability significantly.

For an aggressive, predatory giant turtle, make the following adjustments:

Initiative: +4
Armor Class: 21 (-2 size, +13 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 21
Base Attack/Grapple: +7/+22
Attack: bite +12 melee (2d6+10)
Full Attack: bite +12 melee (2d6+10)
Special Attacks: Improved Grab
Fort +13, Ref +7, Will +4
Feats: Alertness, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Endurance
Challenge Rating: 6

Monday, February 26, 2007


Will we see the merger between roleplaying games and collectible card games? If so, what direction will it come from?

I don't know much at all about CCGs. I've never even played Magic. I do, however, see RPGs embracing some CCG-like tropes. Exalted was explicitly designed with a CCG aesthetic in mind. More recently, D&D's Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords was released with an even more CCG-like aesthetic. The Wizard's website even released downloadable maneuver cards. Perhaps more subtly, the D&D marketing gimmick of releasing new feats and prestige classes in various books is similar to the CCG marketing strategy. I'm not even going to go into their miniatures line...

How far can this go?

I could see a game in which character sheets were replaced by decks. That could work easily enough, though I'm not sure if there would be much benefit to it. I suppose if the mechanics for individual abilities were in the deck, then each deck would be self-contained and not need to reference a book. That would be kind of neat.

Is there creep in the opposite direction?

Are CCGs becoming more RPGlike? I don't know.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cartography Tools

I was poking around on EN World and found this beginning cartography tutorial by J├╝rgen Hubert. It uses Inkscape and GIMP, both of which are free open-source programs. Since Inkscape is a vector-based program, the maps produced can be altered without completely redoing them.

The tutorial itself looks decent, but the thread as a whole is full of links to other tools, resources, and tutorials for people interested in learning about map-making. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cool Tool: Town Generator

I haven't looked at the other generators on the site yet, but Justin "Quirk" Dunmyre's Town Generator is impressive. It comes up with tons of NPCs, each with a names, race/class/level, gender, and distinguishing characteristic. It also generates taverns, stores, and shops of various sorts, each with staff and notes about the shop's peculiarities.

Obviously, it doesn't go into depth, but it gives more than enough to serve as a great idea generator... or a crutch for when the party goes looking for a jewelery shop and you don't have anything prepared.

Go check it out while I look at the other generators on the site.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Draconic Ecology

I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine back in the 1980s. I remember when the issues would show up in the mail. They tended to come around the same time every month (maybe the 5th or so? that seems familiar), and I'd be waiting for them. They were just about the best thing to show up in the mail.

My favorite regular article series were, probably, the Marvel-Phile and the "Ecology of..." series that was written by, I think, Ed Greenwood.

Each article in the "Ecology of..." series focused upon a particular monster. I fondly remember articles on hook horrors, aboleths, and rust monsters. Generally, they were once written 'in-character' from the point of view of a sage who was giving a scholarly lecture or producing a treatise. The articles added depth and some internal consistency to monsters that might otherwise be difficult to use in a campaign that values some level of verisimilitude or internal consistency. There were usually very few game mechanics in these articles. Most of them focused on the good sort of fluff - handy information that could be used to generate plot hooks, interesting encounters, and fleshed-out backgrounds.

I haven't read a Dragon Magazine since 3rd edition came out. Apparently, they still do "Ecology of" type articles. I don't know what they are like anymore.... and, despite the fact that most of the monsters actually listed in the description don't sound terribly interesting, I want this. Badly.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Tetris Effect

I played a lot of Boggle this weekend.

Whenever I've looked at a block of text today, I have had to catch myself before I started making words. This reminds me of how the world looked when I used to play a lot of Tetris.

I also have to stop trying to figure out how to use Boggle as a randomizer in an RPG. As amusing as I find the idea, it would be clunky and take too long.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Maxximum Oddity

Last night I re-watched the first few episodes of The Maxx for the first time in probably about a decade. It was every bit as strange as I remembered it being. Possibly more so.

There are probably some deep observations I could make paralleling The Maxx and RPGs, talking about escape into fantasy worlds and heroic self-images and such. Instead, I'm just going to say that The Maxx is awesome, in a totally-screwed-up sort of way.

One of my favorite scenes focuses on this kid at a gas station, filling up his car and moping about how nothing interesting ever happens to him. In the previous episode, we saw The Maxx and Mr. Gone (which is a great name, btw) battling on top of the gas station, and this kid's life becomes briefly interesting, if not so pleasant. It was a wonderful innocent bystander moment.

Anyway, it also reminded me of this idea for an RPG that I had a long time ago (and which I don't think I've mentioned in this blog). It was tentatively called In Our Dreams We Are Heroes, and it focused upon people who, when they slept, traveled to an alternate world in which they had incredible powers. The game would play as a (somewhat odd) superhero-type game in that world and a dark, quasi-conspiracy-style game in the "real" world - where the PCs could relate to each other and bond, but most anyone else would think them insane. When I came up with the idea, it was based on A Nightmare on Elm Street III, some novels by Charles de Lint, and assorted other things... but The Maxx actually fits it better than just about anything.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

D20 Herbivores: Part II

The wizard bird isn't much of a threat on its own, but they could leave characters fascinated and vulnerable to other creatures.

Wizard birds may be valuable as sources of material components or ingredients for potions or alchemical items. Their feathers may be particularly well suited to be used as quills for scribing illusion and enchantment spells.

The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.

Wizard Bird

Size/Type: Medium Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 3d10+3 (19 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), fly 40 ft. (poor)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+3
Attack: Bite +3 melee (1d4+1)
Full Attack: Bite +3 melee (1d4+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: -
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60', Low-light vision, Hypnotic Dance
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +2
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 12
Skills: Listen +6, Spot +6
Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative
Environment: Warm plains
Organization: Solitary, flight (4-9), or flock (10-40)
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 4-5 HD (Medium); 6-8 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment:

These large birds resemble brightly-colored ostrich-sized turkeys. Their feathers are typically a deeply-hued blue or purple, with sharply contrasting striped patterns in yellow or orange on their wings. When they engage in their hypnotic dance, they wave their wings about, and the stripes seem to hover in the air.

Poor fliers, wizard birds typically on savannas in groups where they forage for bitter roots. They are not above opportunistically preying on insects or small animals, but they are not natural hunters.

When threatened, wizard birds usually perform their hypnotic dance as a distraction and flee. If they do not believe they can escape, they may seek out other prey animals and render them fascinated with their dance, leaving them as offerings to predators. Some particularly wily predators will follow flocks of wizard birds to take advantage of this.


Hypnotic Dance (Su)
As a standard action, a group of four or more wizard birds may begin a dance that acts as a the hypnotic pattern spell with a caster level equal to one half the number of dancing birds, maximum 10 (Will DC 12 negates). The fascinate effect lasts for a number of rounds after the completion of the dance equal to the caster level.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I doodle

I am a horrible fidget. I always have been. I remember my friend Brian used to get incredibly annoyed at me in my seventh grade math class for clicking my pencil. That's the earliest point at which I can remember being called a fidget. That was somewhen around 20 years ago, though.

While gaming, fidgeting can get incredibly annoying to others. I do try not to be one of those people who is constantly playing with dice. Dice make noise. They tend to be shiny and distract others when moving. If you're rolling them it is unclear to others whether you are rolling them in response to something going on in game, or if you are just rolling them for the sake of rolling them.

I can't realistically not fidget, though. Instead of playing with dice, I generally turn to paper and pencil. I divert my urge to fidget into a doodling urge. I try to assure my GMs that I'm not doodling due to boredom; I just need something to do with my hands. On occasion, I will doodle something appropriate to the game, but more often than not I end up with abstracts... or abstract faces. I don't know why I've been ending up with so many faces of late.

Anyway, here is something I extracted from my Aberrant character sheet that I think is vaguely cool. Not all of the fine lines and shading show up well in this scan. Pencil isn't the best thing to draw with when scanning.

Monday, February 12, 2007

D20 Herbivores: Part I

In our typical fantasy worlds, we have a lot of monsters. People like their monsters. One problem with the plethora of monsters we usually see in D&D and similar games is that they tend to be all carnivores. Carnivores are scary. In general, herbivores are less scary... with some notable exceptions (hippopotamus, I'm looking at you... and backing away).

Of course, carnivores typically eat herbivores. If we're going to have a world full of large carnivores and we care about verisimilitude at all (which you may not, but many do), then we need things for them to eat. What would they eat? Largish herbivores would be good. Something that breeds like bunnies would be... Hey! How about:

The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.

Dire Rabbit

Size/Type: Medium Animal
Hit Dice: 3d8+3 (13 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 60 ft. (12 squares), burrow 5 ft. (1 square)
Armor Class: 16 (+4 dexterity, +2 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/+3
Attack: Slam +3 melee (1d6+1)
Full Attack: two slams +3 melee (1d6+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: -
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent, swift retreat
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +2
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 18, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Jump +13, Listen +12, Spot +7
Feats: Alertness, Run
Environment: Temperate plains or hills
Organization: Solitary, pair, or herd (6-30)
Challenge Rating: 1
Advancement: 4-7 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment:

These large grazing herbivores tend to live in herds for much of the year.

Dire rabbits create burrows in hills where they raise their young. They cannot burrow into solid rock, but can move through just about any material softer than that. A dire rabbit usually leaves behind a usable tunnel 5 feet in diameter when burrowing unless the material it’s moving through is very loose.

A dire rabbit is from 5 to 7 feet in length and can weigh up to 300 pounds. They often have a bony skullplate between their large ears.


Dire rabbits usually run away from threats. If encountered in a herd with young, they may circle their young protectively. If forced into combat, they attack their opponents by slamming them with their heads or their powerful rear legs.

Swift Retreat (Ex)
As a full round action, a Dire Rabbit can withdraw from a threatened square while moving at its full run speed.


Dire rabbits have a +8 racial bonus on Listen checks and Jump Checks. Dire rabbits use their dexterity modifier for Jump checks.

I figure it is a good start.

The Peace of Winter

Once again, I missed Winter War. Really, the big gaming draw for me was Jeff's Encounter Critical game - but that filled up on Friday. The other big draw was dealers and the auction, but I wasn't feeling like being around a crowd... and I really don't need an excuse to drop a ton of money on gaming stuff.

It is probably for the best that I missed it. I've been sick, and I needed the rest. I got some sleep. I painted a bit. I spent some quality-time with small, gray fur-covered things. I saw Pan's Labyrinth. I ate Pad Thai. There are worse ways to spend a weekend.

Pan's Labyrinth was good, but it is definitely not a feel-good fairy tale movie. Instead, it is a dark, creepy, brutal fairy tale movie. A friend described it as the Narnia Chainsaw Massacre or something... but, while I can see where she was going with that, it isn't quite right. It wasn't chainsaw massacre gory. Instead it had more of a deliberate brutality to it (in the non fairy-tale bits); a sort of prison camp brutality.

The fairy tale bits were creepy in their own way. The creature designs were incredible. The faun was macabre and completely inhuman... but still recognizable as a faun. It presented a wonderful mix of promise and menace. Just the right tone for a creepy fairy encounter.

Friday, February 09, 2007

+0 LA Drow

Here's my first bit of Open Game Content.

I've seen a number of complaints on this here intarweb-thing about Drow. Namely, the complaint is that Drow are supposedly impressive spellcasters, yet the game mechanics don't support that. With a +2 level adjustment, a Drow is going to be far behind a high elf or a human spellcaster of the same effective character level. In addition to the obvious lag in caster level, there is a less obvious hit point lag - which is more notable when you consider the Drow have a Constitution penalty. An ECL 10 Human Wizard has few enough hit points. An ECL 10 Drow Wizard is going to have significantly fewer.

There are a few ways of dealing with this. One is to bite the bullet. Sure. An ECL 10 Drow wizard isn't as good as an ECL 10 Human wizard. This might miss the point, though. All other things being equal, a Drow wizard with 10 character levels is going to be better than a human wizard with 10 character levels. The point is that Drow tend to have more character levels under their belt than other races.

This answer is fine if you are only using Drow as NPCs. If you plan on including them as PCs, however, the weird balance issues begin to show up.

I came up with an alternate solution. It is based on a few assumptions. First, it assumes that Drow are racial supremacists. They've been depicted that way before. If you don't like that depiction of them, you might as well stop reading as you won't like this alternative. Second, it assumes that Drow are not intrinsically any more powerful than other races.

What do we have, then? We have a +0 LA version of Drow. It doesn't provide them with many of those abilities that we think of when we tend to think of Drow. Instead, we add on to that the ability Drow have to take levels in a revised Drow Paragon Class. Because Drow are racial supremacists, many Drow take levels in the Paragon Class - even those who would normally take levels in NPC classes.

The material enclosed in the boxes below is released via the Open Game License.


racial traits
  • +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution.
  • Medium size.
  • A drow's base land speed is 30 feet.
  • Immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.
  • Darkvision (120')
  • Weapon Proficiency: Drow are automatically proficient with the rapier and short sword.
  • Weapon Familiarity: Drow treat hand crossbows as martial weapons, rather than exotic weapons.
  • +2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A drow who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Elven, Undercommon. Bonus Languages: Abyssal, Aquan, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Gnome, Goblin.
  • Light Sensitivity: Drow are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
  • Favored Class: Wizard (male) or cleric (female).

Drow Paragon (revised)

Level BAB Fort Ref Will Special Spells per day
1+0 + 0+ 2 + 0 Spell-like abilities
Spell resistance

2+ 1+ 0+ 3+ 0Master race +1 level cleric or wizard
3 + 2 + 1 + 3 + 1 Improved Spell Resistance
Ability Boost
+1 level cleric or wizard

HD: d6

Class Skilles: The drow paragon's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Hide (Dex), intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str).

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features:

Weapon and Armor Proficiency:
Drow paragons are proficient with all simple weapons, longswords, and hand crossbows, and with light armor.

Spells Per Day
At 2nd and 3rd level, a female drow paragon gains new spells per day as if she had also gained a level in cleric. A male drow paragon instead gains new spells per day as if he had gained a level of wizard. The paragon does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (bonus metamagic feats, and so on). This essentially means that the character adds the level of drow paragon to her level in cleric or wizard, then determines spells per day and caster level accordingly.

If the drow paragon is female and has no levels in cleric, or is male and has no levels in wizard, this class feature has no effect.

Spell-Like Abilities
Drow Paragons can use Dancing lights, Faerie Fire, and Darkness as spell-like abilities once per day each. Their caster level is equal to their Drow Paragon level plus one-half of their other class levels.

Spell Resistance
At first level, a Drow Paragon gains spell resistance equal to 5+character level. At third level, this increases to 11+character level.

Master race
At 2nd-level a drow paragon adds a +1 bonus to the save DC of any Enchantment spell cast targeting humanoids other than Drow.

Ability Boost
At 3rd level, a drow paragon may raise either Intelligence or Charisma by two points.

So we can now compare a Drow Wizard 7/Drow Paragon 3 to a Human Wizard 10. The Human will have a one level advantage in caster level, an extra bonus feat and a more powerful familiar; but he will be at least a one point disadvantage in terms of spell saving throw DCs (due to the drow paragon's Intelligence boost and Master Race ability). The Int boost will also narrow the gap in spells/day between the two. Moreover, the Drow will have three spell like abilities (at CL 6), better martial capabilities, and spell resistance.

Yes, the Human is still a better Wizard. I think, however, that this closes the gap considerably.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

OGC plans

I'm thinking of beginning to include some Open Game Content in this blog. I have two character classes that are written: one that is essentially a remake of the Hexblade from the ground up, focusing upon melee combat, intimidation, and cursing (I call it the Dreadblade) and a Tinker class that is somewhere between Artificer and Bard. I'd like to write up some stats for some creatures both specific builds of monsters with class levels (such as the Invisible Stalker Assassin) and new creatures, including a bunch of herbivores. Everyone ignores herbivores.

I also keep coming up with ideas for individual spells and feats and such that I never do anything with... I'd like to have something to do with them. Putting them up here seems like a good enough plan.

If I do this, I might actually finish the Polymorph rewrite that Jeff has been bugging me about.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Culture-making checklist

I'm in the middle of a project that involves sketching out various cultures for use in D&D campaigns. I'll provide more details on this as the project progresses, but I thought it might be worthwhile to go through a bit of the process here.

The following list was drafted as a set of guidelines. It is not complete, but it is probably more detailed than I'll need in many cases. What I tried to do was touch on different elements that might be relevant to the description of a society. When I think about the society, I make sure that I consider each of the bullet points. There's plenty of overlap between categories here. That isn't the issue. I consider this a brainstorming tool and thought others might find it helpful.

  • Agriculture (crops, farming methods, harvest)
  • Architecture (aesthetic styles, buildings, materials, streets, waste disposal, walls or defensive structures)
  • Art, visual (common art forms practiced, styles, how are artists supported, how important is art/what is its societal role?, religious art)
  • Art, performing, non-musical (dance, theater, street performers)
  • Calendar/Holidays (harvest, solstice/equinox, other)
  • Climate (average rainfall and temperature, noteworthy adverse weather conditions)
  • Crafts (local materials, level of technology, relative worth of materials, styles, kilns, forges, and furnaces)
  • Crime (criminal underground, common crimes, contraband, illegal magic)
  • Cuisine (beverages, dietary restrictions, methods of preparation, range of foods, spices used, typical meals)
  • Dangers (native beasties, likely pitfalls of visitors, diseases)
  • Economy (coinage, employment_
  • Education (schools, apprenticeships, higher education/sages)
  • Entertainment (gambling, festivals, sports, games, what do they do for fun?)
  • Environment (flora, fauna, geology, water, biome)
  • Etiquette (dining, grooming, group functions, formal vs casual, taboos, bodily functions, behavior around offspring)
  • Humor (satire)
  • Industry
  • Family Structure (extended family, living situation, marriage, child rearing)
  • Fashion (clothing styles, materials, different social groups, body modification, cosmetics)
  • Foreign Relations
  • Government (selection, church & state, important ruling figures/offices)
  • History
  • Languages (writing, accents, dialects)
  • Law Enforcement (watch/guard details, honest or corrupt, punishment)
  • Laws (how formed, how codified? how consistently applied?, criminal laws, civil laws, religious laws)
  • Literature (poetry)
  • Livestock (mounts, pets, hunting animals, food production)
  • Magical Traditions
  • Medicine/Health (who is it available to?, magic or science?)
  • Military (special units, army, navy, air force, siege weapons)
  • Music (instruments, styles)
  • Naming Conventions (surnames, nicknames)
  • Religious Traditions (rites of passage, death rites, daily/weekly practices, mythology, marriage)
  • Romance (casual sex, courtship/dating, what is considered attractive?)
  • Secret Societies/Mystery cults
  • Social Classes
  • Subcultures
  • Superstitions (lucky charms, ill omens)
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Trade

Game Drama II

So, it appears that the player who was having secret identity issues in the Aberrant game has dropped out. This both saddens and frustrates me.