About Me

Friday, April 28, 2017

RMA: Wood Golem

Looking over my many old RMAs, I see that I've now covered every golem from BX except this one. I'll be honest. The wood golem has never seemed that impressive to me. They are, to be sure, the weakest of the golems; both in terms of  puissance and any special abilities. Let's just jump into the stats first, shall we? Since it's so brief, I'm including the full write up of this variety for reference.

Wood Golem (from Cook)

AC: 7
HD: 2+2
Move: 120' (40')
Atk: 1 (fist)
Dmg: 1d8
No. App: 1
Save As: F1
Morale: 12
TT: Nil

These monsters are crude manlike figures about 3' tall, rudely hacked from wood. They move stiffly and have a penalty of -1 on their initiative rolls. They burn easily, saving at -2 and suffering one extra point of damage per die from fire-based attacks.

So! Where to begin? Even with golem immunities, this thing is pretty wimpy. with an average of 11 hit points and the armor class of a hireling, the only thing keeping it going is the need for magic to hit it. It packs a punch for something kobold-sized, but then its punch is essentially getting hit with a baseball bat.

It's fire vulnerability and slowness are the kickers, though. There is a pretty good chance that someone in the party goes first. At that point, the thing is an oil flask and a torch away from oblivion. So what's the problem? It's a starter golem. Something easy for the players to smack down and move on from. After all, we don't want to make things too hard on th- BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

aheh - Sorry! I couldn't get through that sentence with a straight keyboard. That is NOT how things are done here!

OK. So we've got a lemon of a monster. How do we make some limoncello out of this?

Of course you can tweak the stars, make a giant one, and so forth. But lets work with the numbers we've been given, shall we?

"crude manlike figures about 3' tall, rudely hacked from wood." But does it HAVE to be crude? I mean, that's really just cosmetics, right? A grey orc's stars aren't necessarily any different than a green one's, so why do all wood golems have to look like this? What if they were, I don't know...


They'd still be slow and flammable, but infinitely more unnerving to have one staring at you than something like Little Wooden Boy:

Now admittedly, that's just flavor text. What about making them more effective monsters?

One thing to keep in mind is that golems are created by someone. Usually at great effort and cost. Even a wooden golem isn't cheaply come by, so you want some kind of ROI.

So who says Wood Golems are for combat?

The relevant definition of "Golem" here is "an automaton or robot." A wood golem could be a handy little servant for some wizard, possibly carved into a whimsical shape. It's size would allow it to move through small passages (Like a -heheh- "dumb. waiter"). It could also be a form of home security by scurrying about, triggering traps according to circumstances. If anyone came across it and it wanted to conceal its nature, it could just go limp in a corner.

My players would go to extreme lengths to leave that scene the hell alone!

If caught, it can fight, albeit but not extremely well. That's not its function though. Its job is perform various tasks for the master. It's a spanner in the works. A little robotic assistant that can cut the rope or pull the lever while the PCs are busy fighting the "boss." It can be sent off to run some errand while its master is doing something completely different.

After all, there are no strings on it!

RMA: Bone Golem

We miss you, Steve Z.

When I was a lad, playing 1st edition AD&D, golems were flesh, clay, stone, or iron. It wasn't until I discovered Moldvay/Cook years later (my "Basic" had been Holmes) that I found out about bronze, wood, amber, and bone golems; not to mention living statues.

To me, these somehow underscore "Classic" D&D's distinct flavor, especially B/X's. There's a weirdness to B/X that always seemed lacking in AD&D to me. Maybe it's the artwork, maybe it's the more streamlined rules, but some of these critters were just more wild and FUN to me. I'm sure that's just a personal bias, but there it is.

Anyway, on to old tanglebones here (that's for you Moorcock fans).

Bone Golem (from Cook Expert) 

AC: 2
HD: 8
Move: 120' (40')
Atk: 4 (weapons)
Dmg: by weapons
No. App: 1
Save: F4
Morale: 12

OK, first off. One of the things I love about the BG is that it looks kind of like an undead, but it's not. So clerics might waste time trying to Turn Undead or people might waste holy water (Or does one dare hope a Protection from Undead scroll?) on the thing. Also, in my games undead radiate evil for Detect Evil purposes, and this fella doesn't.

Next up, it's got all the great golem immunities: sleep, charm, hold, gas, and non-magical weapons.

Each golem type listed in Expert has a fun little ability or twist to it. Granted the wood golem's are disadvantages (fire and poor initiative), but I still appreciate the extra effort in the details. The Bone Golem's is 4 attacks per round (!) due to extra limbs grafted on. It can only target two people at a time, but still! Even with smaller weapons like shortswords, the thing is a macabre Cuisinart. 8 HD means it's attack rolls aren't too shabby either. A fun twist is the option to give it two 2H weapons (e.g. polearms) and let it do more damage per attack with only 2/round.

It's AC is decent but not unhittable. Again, 8 HD means it's probably in the fight for a little while.

Its Treasure Type -like all golems- is Nil, which means players may want tot think carefully about whether engagement is worth the effort.

So, tactics for it and to fight it?

As a GM, I would place this as a guardian for some tomb or temple. Maybe the bones of heroes were used to serve the cause without foul necromancy being involved. Tactically, it might appear as a pile of bones in an ossuary, magically assembling itself if the sacred place is desecrated.

"Creating a golem is costly, time consuming, and beyond the power of player characters in the D&D Expert rules." (X33) So they shouldn't be random fodder or too casually placed in the game. Someone, at some point, went to a lot of effort to put it wherever it is, so make it count.

Depending on the group it faces, it might focus all four attacks on one PC at a time until it drops the strongest foe, before moving on.

Fun thought #1: Give it two swords (1d8 each under the variable damage rules) and a longbow in the other pair! If you allow missile attacks while engaged in melee, the thing can be peppering the mage with arrows while fending of the melee types.

Fun thought #2: Cover the BG in armor head to toe. Even if it doesn't affect its AC, it may take the PCs a little longer to figure out what they are dealing with.

Fun thought #3: Use up one hand to give it a shield for -1 AC.

Fun thought #4: It's a walking weapons rack. The magic weapons in the treasure hoard are the ones it's using. If the fighter wants that shiny +2 longsword, he's going to have to beat the thing wielding it. I once gave a Bone Golem a +1 battle axe and a +1 glaive. The dwarf (I let them use battle axes as traditional weapons despite their @h status) and polearm-favoring fighter PCs were very happy after they beat the thing. The dead thief's player, not so much.

When facing the BG, players should have magic weapons and straight damage spells (fireball, etc.) available. Golems are nasty business in general. In most cases they have a specific task to perform and if you have to back off and come back better prepared, then do so. If you absorb some punishment, it shouldn't be too hard for non-beginner PCs to whittle down its hit points. Ranged attacks are your friend if it's sporting only melee attacks, and it's not too terribly fast (or slow) movement-wise.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A funny little thought

I was perusing some old blog posts and stumbled across this old RSA about the Read Languages spell. It got me thinking about the "Common Tongue" conceit in D&D. Other games have their versions as well; Runequest's "Tradetalk" springs to mind. In the post I mention that the spell doesn't seem to see a lot of use in-game and being a stickler GM about languages can be potentially annoying/un-fun for the players.

So here's an idea: the Common Tongue is just that; a tongue. i.e. a spoken language. That means there IS no written form. It's a pidgin of various words and grammars into an almost slang. Sure you can chat up the shopkeeper in Common, but odds are the sign on his door is in his native language.

This can open up more reasons that learning a language can matter as well as knowing the Read Languages spell. It's not TOO punitive, because it doesn't preclude all communication. It just makes knowledge a tad more useful. Which can be really handy in old-school games where that 16 INT magic-user knows five languages, but is tapped out on spells for the day.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Breaking Stuff

I've not given up. I've been working on several ideas for running a game. It will (probably) be FAGE, but possibly Crypts & Things. I've even painted a few minis!

Anyway, here is a random idea I had while looking at some old Runequest stuff (gawdz how I loved that game!)

Weapons Materials and Damage

The idea is that there's three types of weapons (melee): Bronze, Iron, and Steel. Now "bronze" is not exactly like real world bronze. It's softer and heavier than iron for these purposes (there are plenty of sources online explaining bronze vs iron in reality). For fantasy purposes, bronze is an element, not an alloy.

Bronze is cheaper and more readily available in remote areas and places like remote villages. It is also (like cold iron in folklore) the metal that fae creatures fear.

Iron is cast iron. It is the default metal for much of the world. It's harder and slightly lighter than bronze. It is also a bit harder to find, though by no means rare.

Steel is almost like Valryian steel in GoT. It's lighter, harder, and tougher than the other metals. It's also expensive and rare. In D&D terms, many +1 swords would simply be steel.

A harder metal can damage a softer one. Any metal weapons can harm a wooden one (including pole weapons like spears). Weapons carry a "toughness" of half their maximum listed damage (without PC bonuses). So, in Fantasy AGE, a battle axe (2d6 damage), has a toughness of 6. missile (not thrown) weapons all have a toughness of 3. A shield's toughness = its Defense Bonus and armor's = its AR.

In FAGE, an attacker can use the Sunder stunt (see below) to try and damage the target's gear.

Sunder (4sp): Instead of hurting the target, you damage his equipment, Damaged armor loses 1 AR, shields lose 1 point of Defense, melee weapons are at -1 damage, and missile weapons are at -1 to hit.

The damage is permanent until repaired by someone with the appropriate skill(s). If an object's toughness is reduced to 0, it is permanently broken and cannot be repaired.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Baby Steps

The adventures are nearly ready. Mostly it's a question of cleaning up my "cocktail napkin" notes into coherent paragraphs. There are one or two maps that need doodling as well.

I painted! As I mentioned on my long-suffering painting blog, some minis received pigment.

Lastly, I've agreed to run a short Roll20 game for some members of the Fantasy AGE G+ community. It's just a one-shot, and it's virtual, but dammit! It's gaming.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Waiting for Get up and Go

I've been pretty quiet for the last couple months, but the truth is the issue has been going on longer than that. Without going into all the drama, my motivation took hit a couple years ago when Faster Monkey Games suffered a "creative setback" as one member pretty much decided to go his own way and developed a game and ran his own Kickstarter for it apart from FMG. While he was perfectly within his rights to do so, the result was some hurt feelings and a pretty severe blow to FMG's "normal" chaotic process. In the end, after kidding myself we could limp along, Faster Monkey formally shut down last fall. 

Long story short: It pretty much killed any joy in developing products for me. Now that's on me, not him. My motivation, etc. is my own responsibility and no one else's. Be that as it may, it really sucked the wind out of my creative sails. My writing, mini painting, and gaming has slacked off a great deal.

Fast forward to the present: I've been on (another) hiatus from my regular gaming group. As my former Monkey is no longer part of the group either, the chemistry has changed. Everyone still there are cool people, but when you find yourself in a funk, it's all too easy to find excuses to not do things that remind you of what caused the problem. It's also unfair to the group when I halfheartedly commit to play (or worse, run) a game and then flake out because I'm unmotivated to continue. It's supposed to be FUN, not a chore. The few times I have tentatively hit upon something that kindles a spark, any resistance or setback snuffs it before it can gain traction.

The thing is, I miss gaming. I miss painting minis. I miss writing goofy adventures and putting them up online. I want to want to do those things, but I've had a terrible time summoning the enthusiasm. 

</emo venting>

So here I am trying to move forward a bit. I have two adventures that I had started a little while ago. One for Fantasy AGE and one for Crypts & Things. They aren't any great epics, but both are 90% through first draft stages. I'm setting myself a goal to complete at least the rough drafts and maps before March. I will post both as free pdfs and at least have accomplished that much.

I also have scads of Reaper Bones minis unpainted, with more on the way. I'm going to clean up the painting table and put paint to brush again, even if they end up looking terrible. So a mini a week seems a reasonable goal.

I also signed up to attend Garycon this March. I'm not running anything, but I am going and rolling some dice, darn it!

I don't know if doing all this will help me get my groove back, but doing something is better than to keep on doing nothing.