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Monday, July 16, 2018

RSA: Floating Disc

This is a curious one. Anyone who has played old-school D&D has at least heard of this spell. In my experience, it doesn't get used much unless magic-using characters roll their starting spell randomly. When your entire magical arsenal for the day consists of one or two first level spells, a luggage cart just isn't likely to be your first choice.

Floating Disc (from Moldvay)

Range: 6'
Duration: 6 turns

Without quoting the whole spell description, the disc of magical force appears at the caster's waist height and stays no more than 6' away from him or her as they move about. It can carry 5000 coins in weight (500 lb.) and moves at the caster's movement rate.

Because it's a utility spell with next to no combat application (not to discourage player creativity), it has a decent duration. It's not all day, but an hour from a first level spell isn't bad. Since it basically dumps what it's carrying on the ground when the spell ends, you probably aren't going to use it as a caddie.

Here's where the spell gets interesting.

Five thousand coins carrying capacity. That's more than a mule can carry! The disc floats along behind he caster at the same movement speed. That means your unarmored, unencumbered, 120' per turn magic-user can carry more than a pack animal out of the dungeon faster than the big, brawny fighter. So one tactic for recovering as much loot as possible might be to load up the wizard's disc and have him sprint for the surface, towing the treasure. He can also carry out a wounded/fallen comrade. 

Nothing in the spell indicates the caster needs to maintain the spell, so he's free to cast others if he has them, fight, talk, map, etc.  It's described as the size and shape of a small round shield, which I interpret as about 2-3' in diameter. I find that an odd size for carrying the much weight. 

I'm not saying I would want to play a 1st level MU going into the Caves of Chaos with FD as my only spell, but I wouldn't say no to a scroll for the spell. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Let D&D be D&D

I don't generally use the blog to vent or rant, but I had a conversation reently that got under my skin a little and wanted to work out some of the thoughts it generated. It is gaming-relaed, but forgive the combative tone.

I was talking with my brothers about campaign ideas I had -specifically old-school BX style D&D. We have gamed together off and on over the years since we were kids and I was thinking about trying to ramp up a regular game again.

“You have some cool ideas, but it’s still wizards and elves and fighting monsters for gold or XP. We’ve done that to death.”

Needless to say, this was a little disappointing to hear. Mostly because I recently came to realization about gaming. It's not profound or anything, but I think it has finally sunk in with me.

Don't run a game you don't love.

Whether it's a campaign, module, or system, if it doesn't get you excited to see it happen at the table, you should not be behind the screen. Game-mastering is just too much effort. Especially as adults with families, jobs, and so many demands on our time. I might sit down to an adventure or a system that isn't my favorite as a player. Maybe it's to try something new or just to be social. More likely a member of the group is the one who is excited about it and wants to run it. That's fine. But gone are the days where I choose a game to run based on whether I think it might entice others to play.

Like Joseph Campbell's advice to "Follow your bliss," this idea applies to life in general, but this is an RPG blog, so I'm confining it to the subject at hand. This brings me to the title of this post.

Let D&D be D&D.

Yes it's a game of elves, wizards, orcs, dragons, and yes dungeons too. Yes you have many artificial mechanics that attempt to represent different abstract concepts with varying degrees of elegance or success. Yes its most basic premise is to go into a cave or ruin, fight monsters, take their stuff, and try to get more powerful so you can fight other monsters.

So what?

At a minimum it's still a chance to play a game that lets you have fun with friends. At its best, the 'game' part fades into the background and the players get to tell a story that none of them -DM included- got to see coming. Can other genres and systems do that too? Absolutely. Will some people find one game more fun to play than another? Sure. No one is saying you have to play a particular edition or version of D&D, or D&D vs some other system, or even that you have to play RPGs as opposed to any other hobby. But the "Been there, done that." attitude just irked me.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

RMA: Troglodytes

Literally, a "cave-dweller," the term originally referred to hermits or peoples who lived in caves, not monsters. Over the years it came to be used when describing degenerate humans and humanoids until it became the D&D stinky lizard people.

I won't say I've never seen trogs used in play, but they are oddly uncommon. I suppose that's not so strange when you think about how many options a DM has when it comes to humanoid foes a party might encounter underground, but troglodytes are more distinctive than most, so I would think they'd get more table time than they seem to. Stat-wise, they give a respectable -though not amazing- showing

Troglodyte (from Moldvay):

AC: 5
HD: 2*
Move: 120' (40')
Att: 2 claws/1 bite
DMG: 1d4 each
No. App: 1d8 (5d8)
Save: F2
Morale: 9

So to start off, a couple of notes from the description. They are called out specifically as "intelligent." Most other humanoid creatures don't get a mention of this. It may be reading into things too much, but it makes me think troglodytes should be run as at least human-level smart. Troglodyte is not listed as a language in Basic, but I imagine it exists. The book also states they use their hands "as well as humans." Despite the claw damage in the stats, I think Bill W's picture (above) has the right of it: trogs would craft and carry weapons as well. 

"They hate most other creatures, and will try to kill anyone they meet."  Ouch. That Chaotic alignment is really coming through there. Also, that's cuing me as the DM to probably not bother with reaction rolls.

The other fun tidbits about troglodytes are their camouflage and their "stench attack." They can color change to hide and so they can surprise on a 1-4. Also,"They secrete an oil which produces a stench that will nauseate humans and demihumans unless the victims save vs. Poison." Failure means -2 to rolls while in melee with ol' scale & stink. I may be playing a bit fast & loose with my interpretation here but because they can surprise so effectively, I would argue that troglodytes aren't continuously secreting the oil, so the smell is not always there.

Their morale is not terribly high, but given their hostile attitude and stealth abilities, I would think they might flee a stand up fight that was not going their way only to ambush the foe later.

The really interesting part to me is their treasure. "A" is a pretty generous category with high percentage chances for gold, platinum, gems/jewelry, and magic. I can totally see a party putting up with the stink to try and find the troglodyte lair. As a DM, I would play these creatures smart and mean to make the players earn such a haul from fighting 2HD monsters.

Monday, July 2, 2018

REF: Noble

Time to go back to the dungeon for another random encounter! Picking randomly, we end up on level 2 of the crawl. Rolling for our encounter, we get a 12, which is a Noble (2-12 appearing).


Like the Traders in an earlier post, a noble doesn't sound like someone you'd bump into as you are working your way through a dungeon. Going back to the monster listings, it describes a noble as "the lord of a castle and any of his or her relatives." In Basic, the encounter will be with a 3rd level fighter by default, but can be any class or level. The standard encounter will be the noble (F3), his squire (F2), and possibly 1d10 retainers (F1s). That's potentially quite a crowd! Not to mention the possibility of noncombatant attendants, like torchbearers or porters.

So let's dive in and see what we can make of this.

Since the lord of a castle is usually 9th level or more, I'm going to say this is a relative. For the sake of building a narrative, we'll say the baron won't let their heir go off adventuring, so this is a younger child/nephew/niece. Let's go with niece, just to break the stereotype.

This young lady thinks her cousin is a twit and doesn't deserve the title or estate. She goes off and becomes a tough adventuring type, making it to 3rd level. She hears a rumor of some item or treasure that might help her in some plot to discredit her cousin and put her in a position to be named the baron's heir instead. She gathers a few loyal troops and her squire (the d10 results in four 1st level fighters with her) , then heads to the dungeon seeking the object of her quest. While the PCs are working their way through the same crawl, the two groups run into each other.

The noble could be hostile or friendly. Perhaps she would consider joining forces or hiring the PCs to help. Things might get dicey if she decides that she was sole claim to whatever she's after, while the PCs see it as party loot. If the PCs refused to join or work for her, she might decide hey need eliminating. Fighting a half dozen fighters of 1st - 3rd level sounds like no picnic. What's worse, what if the PCs win and kill her? What if word gets back to the baron that his niece wasn't killed by monsters, but slaughtered by a group of local murder hobos?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Reverse Engineering

This is the section from Cook Expert (X11) about reversible spells. I’ve read this before, but hadn’t thought about all the ways it can open up amusing plot fodder.
“Clerics can reverse a spell simply by reversing the required words and hand gestures. However, using reversed spells is looked upon with disfavor by the powers the cleric serves, and may result in penalties (or even an alignment change) if overused. Lawful clerics use the normal form of the spell and should use the reversed form only in life-or-death situations. Chaotic clerics normally use the reversed forms and will only use the normal forms to benefit those of the same alignment or those directly serving the same power. Neutral clerics will have either the normal or the reversed form available, depending on the nature of the power they serve. No cleric should have both forms available.”
Let’s look at each of these points in turn:

  • “Clerics can reverse a spell simply by reversing the required words and hand gestures.” Unlike magic-users, they don’t need to decide ahead of time which version they will prepare, which makes sense when you look at the next parts.
  • “...using reversed spells is looked upon with disfavor by the powers the cleric serves, and may result in penalties (or even an alignment change) if overused.” This is the sort of thing that has been bandied about my games over the years but has rarely been explored as an actual consequence. Granted, I haven’t seen a lot of reversed casting, but it has happened occasionally. I could see a great deal of playing material generated from a cleric switching from L to C and having to find a new divine power to follow. Either that, or some sort of atonement/penance. Not to mention the potential difficulties of the next part with “good guy” party members.
  • “Chaotic clerics normally use the reversed forms and will only use the normal forms to benefit those of the same alignment or those directly serving the same power.“ So if a party’s lawful cleric suddenly finds himself chaotic, he’s not supposed to cast things like Cure Light Wounds except on other chaotics and the like.
  • “Neutral clerics will have either the normal or the reversed form available, depending on the nature of the power they serve.” Now this is very interesting. To me, it assumes a level of detail about clerics and religion that is not really spelled out in BX. I’ve seen campaigns where clerics are simply described as followers of Law or Chaos and are played accordingly. But when you start talking about different powers a cleric may serve within Neutrality, then your cosmology gets more complex.
  • Lastly, “No cleric should have both forms available.” I interpret this as simply underscoring what was said before. Not that the opposite versions are unavailable, but that using them should not happen without consideration and consequence.

By using these guidelines for clerics’ spell availability, the DM could also nudge a party to seek out different temples or priestly types. Your go-to NPC may be fine for you quick healings, but maybe he’s not so comfortable with casting some spells that are restricted by his faith.

Granted, this may not come up all that often. After all, when we look at the clerical spell list, there are a total of 34 spells, of which only ten are reversible:

  1. Cure Light Wounds
  2. Light
  3. Remove Fear
  4. Bless
  5. Continual Light
  6. Cure Disease
  7. Remove Curse
  8. Cure Serious Wounds
  9. Quest
  10. Raise Dead

For some of these, the alignment caveats make more sense to me than others: Reversed castings like Finger of Death or Cause Disease are pretty nasty magic! But others seem fairly tame in terms of reversals. Sure, casting Darkness isn’t sunshine and puppies, but it’s not like it’s actually dealing damage or anything. In the case of Remove Quest, you could actually be helping someone enchanted by a chaotic cleric. DM judgement applies as always, I should think.

Monday, June 25, 2018

House Rules for Thief Skills

There have been many posts and discussions about how low level thieves are not particularly good at their jobs. By that I mean their percentages in their class skills are nearly all pretty low. They even appear worse at hearing noises than non-thieves until they gain a few levels.

Along with this criticism has come many attempts to correct this, up to and including new skills tables, new mechanics, or even the whole class being scrapped. So I am suggesting possible ways to address this in my games. Feel free to use or ignore them.

Many of the thief skills are things that any person could reasonable attempt. Anyone can try to move quietly or climb something or hide in the shadows. The rules even allow non-thieves to check for traps and listen for noises. For my games, the only skills and abilities that are reserved as “thief only” are Open Lock, Pick Pocket, and Backstab. The rest allow for at least some chance of success to the non-thief, but thieves do have an edge when attempting them.

Find Trap: Everyone can try to spot simple traps (a trip-wire or snare, a covered pit, etc.). Only thieves can spot complex traps like tiny holes in the wall that shoot darts or vent gas. Thieves can also detect traps of a magical nature if there is something tangible to detect. e.g. a Thief might spot magical runes on a door (even if he can’t tell what they do), but he might not be able to tell there is a spell in effect inside a room.

Remove Trap: While non-thieves might be able to disarm simple devices by a player describing their actions and making a DEX check, like cutting a trip-wire, but a thief can disable a trap without destroying it. He can also disarm more complex traps like poison dart locks on treasure chests.

Move Silently: This isn’t a complicated one. As long as he isn’t wearing heavier than leather armor, any character can attempt to move silently at the same skill level as a 1st level thief. Non-thieves never improve beyond this ability.

Hide in Shadows: Like moving silently, the non-thief gets a base chance equal to a 1st level thief, but does not improve over time.

Climbing Sheer Surfaces: Anyone can climb “normal” surfaces like a steep hill, tree, or a rope. Thieves are the only ones trained in climbing nearly vertical surfaces like walls. In my game, thieves tools include things like “climbing claws” and shoe spikes. If a fighter wants up a cliff, he needs to get someone to lower a rope or find a ladder.

Hear Noise: This one is more about careful reading of the rules as written. Everyone can roll to listen for noise behind a door (as per the rules on B21), and so can the thief. But the thief can hear noises in other circumstances -like something slithering up behind them.

I haven’t put these house rules into practice in a game as yet, but they seemed a less invasive way to address low-level thieves lousy odds at success and the idea that other characters can try their hands at being “thiefy.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

REF: Castle Encounters

Castle encounters is an interesting subsection of the wilderness encounter tables. Despite the name, it’s not for encounter within a keep or castle, it’s for when the PCs stumble through the woods into the territory of the local lord and one of their patrols. It’s another example of how misleadingly compact the Moldvay/Cook rules are to include such a nifty bit of detail.

As the description states, “When characters discover a castle in the wilderness they will be unsure of the type of reception they will receive.” [X59] The encounter assumes A) the DM doesn’t have an attitude/reaction planned for the patrol and B) “the party does nothing either to arouse suspicion or inspire trust.”

The nature of the patrol (heavy or medium horse) depends upon the type of ruler (NPC class), but that’s a minor detail. Although I love the fact that it states “Note that the men listed are only part of the castle owner's forces. The rest of the force should include men and might even include special creatures such as trolls, or combinations such as superheroes mounted on griffons.”

I get chills.

The meat of this section are the possible reactions. Rather than the full monster reaction table, there are three basic possibilities: Pursue, Ignore, or Friendly. There is no CHA modifier (these are professionals), though I would probably allow a re-roll if the players showed some good role-playing.

Pursue: This isn’t necessarily a chase (though it could be). It could be a toll charged. Refusal can result in a fight or arrest.

Ignore: Just as it says. They pretty much give the PCs a “Move along.” It’s important to remember the ‘nothing to arouse suspicion’ caveat earlier here. PCs can act and look pretty suspicious sometimes without really trying!

Friendly: An invite of the keep’s hospitality. A fun tidbit: This can be offered by bad guys “for evil purposes” (!) Awesome.

A final note regarding demi-humans mentions “Elves, dwarves, and halflings are not given on this list, as their strongholds are special cases.” and suggests they would avoid contact. Fair enough, but that might vary from setting to setting.

So imagine the scenario of the PCs cutting cross-country, entering the territory of a 13th level wizard’s tower. It’s late afternoon and a patrol of a half dozen heavy horsemen appear. They are not hostile and even suggest the PCs might wish to shelter at the tower for the evening. The magus is always happy for guests. If they accept, maybe they come to the tower to find a bugbear mounted on a manticore is guarding the gate and lets them and the patrol enter without fuss.

Is the wizard evil? Are the PCs in for a really bad time? What would happen if they refused the offer? Maybe the mage is benign and he could even become an ally or resource for the party. All because they took a wrong turn at that gully and went one hex off-course.

Man, I love this game!

Monday, June 11, 2018

New BX Screen

I bought one of Hammerdog Games' landscape "World's Greatest Screens" a while back with the idea of designing a new one for my classic games. This is the result.

 The only tables on the player side are equipment costs, cleric turning, and thief skills.

Closer view of the custom art panel I made:

This was all done with open-source software. I copied the data for the tables into LibreOffice and then laid out the pages in Scribus. I exported the whole thing to PDF for printing. The images were tweaked a bit in GIMP. 

I'm not 100% sure about the readability of the tables' sizes, so I may lose the notes panel to allow for bigger table text.

EDIT: As per requests, here is a link to the pdf on my Google docs.

Friday, June 8, 2018

In Defense of Flavor Text

Flavor text, or boxed text, is a staple of classic adventure modules. The bit of copy set aside to read to the players. The part they can know, minus things like where the secret door is or the solution to the riddle carved on the wall.

In recent years, many (certainly not all) writers and reviewers of OSR-style products have voiced criticisms of boxed text. They find it distracting and disruptive to setting the pace of a game, even to the point of being jarring. The text can make also assumptions; such as the characters taking certain actions or that events having occurred in a certain sequence. 

These are valid complaints. While the GM can certainly amend text on the fly to reflect the current status of his individual game, part of the point to a published product like a module is to do some of that lifting for him.

When I have written flavor text for adventures, I have learned (imperfectly) to only present what can be immediately perceived upon entering a room or area, regardless of what may have happened before (within reason) and leaving further revelations to be determined by the players’ choices. Not all published products follow this model, so I can understand some people’s frustration. But before we throw the text out with the bathwater, allow me to offer my take on the value of flavor text in general.

As stated previously, boxed text takes some of the work off the GM’s hands. It gives him something to tell the players about their surroundings in an easily presented format. Granted, some boxed text can go on for far too long. A few sentences should be enough. Alternately, you can have a short initial description that breaks and allows for player agency. Then, if the players “trigger” the next part, there can be a followup box of relevant text. 

Of course, the flavor in flavor text is often the mood-setting, or atmospheric, descriptions to help people feel more immersed in the game. While this is a laudable goal, I often feel it is over-emphasized in boxed text. I mean, that clever imagery about the moon through the dead tree branches is cool and all, but not if I have to listen to a minute and a half of it before the GM tells me there’s a werewolf under the tree.

Another reason for prepared text is to help the players. Not just in setting the mood or presenting their initial impressions of their surroundings, but in filling in what I call the “perception gap.”

There is an old-school GM-ing conceit of “The player never expressly said they checked X, so they don’t know Y.” While this is fair as far as it goes toward allowing for player agency and their characters to stand or fall by their choices, there is a range between what one overtly sees or hears, and what one might realistically perceive if one were actually there. This is the perception gap.

Articles and books about adventure design often address this with advice like using all five senses when giving descriptions, not just sight or sound: What do they smell? Is it cold or hot? Dry or humid? and so forth. The idea is it helps the players visualize and become immersed more in the game. This is good advice, but has two potential pitfalls.

First, this can be a lot more work for the GM. Hence the previous point about using a published module. If an author has already incorporated some of these descriptors into the text, then the GM doesn’t have to. I am a proponent of not overusing this technique, though. Every room shouldn’t have a laundry list of sensory stimuli. Use the technique sparingly, and usually only when it will have an impact. Which brings me to my second point regarding the perception gap.

Providing more detail to players via prepared text not only for atmosphere, but to provide hints relevant to gameplay. A rotten smell might indicate zombies in the cellar, or a drafty room might hint at a secret passage. These are things that a person would probably notice just by being in a place, but may or may consciously register. Some may be less obvious than others, but still definitely perceptible. Unless you want to train your players to repeatedly stop you and ask for input for each sense, scattering some of these details in subdued ways gives players a chance to follow up on these cues without necessarily smacking them over the head with them. The tricky part is to make such cues normal enough in one’s “GM patter” that metagaming players don’t pounce on every adjective, but distinct enough that they were given a fair shot before saving throws are called for. This sort of lexical balancing act can be tricky, which is all the more reason to use text that was prepared ahead of time either by the GM or by a published module’s author. 

As with any aspect of game design, boxed flavor text can be done well or poorly or anywhere in between. When it’s done well, I feel it can be a real asset to the players’ experience, both for setting the mood and filling the perception gap. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Curious Objects: Staff of Wizardry

Once again, he is undeterred!

The staff of wizardry is arguably one of the most powerful magic items in the game. It's effectively the BX equivalent of AD&D's Staff of the Magi. Basically, it is three separate magic staves in one: in addition to its own distinct powers, it has all the abilities of the Staff of Power, which in turn can be used as a Staff of Striking. Let's start with the most straightforward of the three and move upwards, shall we?

Firstly, the Staff of Striking lets the wielder have a stronger melee attack than your average MU is capable of (2d6 damage, but costs a charge). While this staff is unusual in that clerics can also wield it, I do not think that aspect translates to the Staff of Power or Wizardry. While it isn't expressly stated, this is usually ruled to count as a magic weapon attack for purposes of hitting special monsters like gargoyles.

The Staff of Power gives the wielder some nice attack spells: fireball, lightning bolt, and cone of cold. Each dealing 8d6 damage! Sure it costs charges, but an Elf or MU toting one of those around is going to have something to bring to almost any fight. I particularly like that he has a variety of damage types to choose from. Fighting something immune to fire? Cone of cold it is!

The Staff of Wizardry is the main event, though. In addition to all of the above powers, it can also cast quite the laundry list of super-useful (and powerful) spells:

  • Invisibility
  • Passwall
  • Web
  • Conjure Elemental
These are some awfully nice abilities that aren't tying up a spell slot! Something I hadn't previously considered is that the elemental conjuration isn't just for one kind, it's any of the four! We're not done yet, though.

The staff also allows the wizard to create a whirlwind like a djinn. It also doubles as a wand of paralyzation. 

The last trick the staff carries is its "final strike." This release a fireball effect of 8hp damage per remaining charge (not rolled) to anyone within 30'.* This includes the caster or any friendlies, so it's a last-ditch effort, to be sure. It's still mighty impressive.

Staves in BX are found with 3d10 charges, and there is no BtB way to recharge them. So while this is a very powerful item, it is limited. The Elf or MU that found one would probably want to be conservative in its use. With an average of less than 20 charges, it's not going to last forever. In fact, I can imagine an NPC wizard with one who knows it's down to just a couple charges, but does his best to hide the fact in order to appear more dangerous. 

*Cook lists both 20' and 30' as the radius, but the Rules Cyclopedia says 30', so I went with that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

RSA: Snake Charm

While a fairly low-level spell, I don't see this one getting a lot of table time. Largely, I think, because it has a pretty narrow focus and the cleric would probably want to know in advance that it would be useful before preparing it.

Snake Charm (2nd level Clerical Spell, from Cook)

Range: 60'
Duration: Special

The cleric can charm 1HD worth of snakes per level. Given that the biggest "normal" snake in the books has 5HD (Rock Python), and the cleric needs to be at least 3rd to cast the spell, chances are he can deal with at least one reptile. The description doesn't specify whether the snakes get a saving throw vs the spell, but my assumption is that they would.

What's interesting is the nature of the "charm." The snakes won't do the cleric's bidding, they just rise up and sway, like in the movies.

Hostile (attacking) snakes will only sway for 1d4+1 rounds. Neutral ones will be "charmed" for up to 5 turns. Plenty of time to get past a nasty save or die situation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

RMA: Insect Swarm

One of the neat things about Basic/Expert D&D is the compactness of the rules and how much material they actual contain. This entry in the basic book is a good example of that. What could be a complex and unwieldy series of entries in the monsters section is distilled to one, easily re skinned, listing.

Insect Swarm (from Moldvay)
AC: 7
HD: (2-4)
Move: 30' (10')
    Fly  60' (20')
Att: 1 swarm
Dmg: 2 pts
No. App: 1 swarm (1-3 swarms)
Save: Normal Man
Morale: 11
TT: Nil

So, stat-wise, other than a high morale score it's pretty unimpressive. Of course, that's not the point of the "creature." It's role is to represent one of the more mundane threats in the rules. It gives the DM a handy tool for representing any horde of tiny bitey/sting-y things.

As the book states, "Swarms are not single creatures, but are whole communities of tiny creatures acting together." A swarm might be defending a nest, hungry, or just investigating a curious smell. A normal-sized swarm is 10 x 30', which means more than one PC can be enveloped, and swarms can be larger or appear in greater numbers. Imagine a 30' x 90' area filled with angry bees!

There are a few other things to keep in mind that can make these clouds of critters particularly dangerous.

1) "If a character is within a swarm he or she is automatically hit by the creatures and will take 2 points of damage each round."

Two points doesn't sound like much, but a PC will have a hard time outrunning a flying swarm and a few rounds can seriously mess up a low-level character. Not to mention that unarmored types like magic users take double damage!

2) Running away still means taking a few rounds' worth of damage (albeit halved) as the insects already on the character continue to bite or sting as he swats them away.

3) If you damage the swarm, they will pursue relentlessly. Your best bet is diving in water and submerging yourself.

Now, there are several easy ways to deal with swarms. Fire and smoke are among the easiest. Just swinging a sword won't hurt it, but it will help fend it off somewhat. A sleep spell will knock the whole swarm out, but burning a spell slot to deal with normal bugs seems costly.

Despite not having used these as a challenge in my past games, I hope to spring this one on some hapless adventurers in the not too distant future.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Curious Objects: Wand of Metal Detection

This is one of those very simple magic items, but one that has such an atypical power that it makes me wonder what sorts of interesting uses one could out it to. Like most wands, it carries 2d10 charges and is usable only by MU/Elves. It has a very short description as well.
"This item will point towards any mass of metal weighing 1,000 coins or more if within 20'. The user can detect the type of metal."
 I find it a nice touch that this method of detection involves the wand physically pointing in the metal's direction. I suspect that it was originally imagined as tugging in the user's hand, but I like to picture setting on the floor and letting it spin like a compass needle.

Interestingly, the wand has a very limited range. How often is a hundred pounds of metal within half a dozen paces and you can't already see it? This is highly tailored to dungeon crawling, where the treasure may be behind a secret door or a wall or similar.

Lastly, the user knows the type of metal as well. A thousand coin worth of iron or copper? It might not be worth tracking down. Gold or platinum? That's a different story.

The description also describes the detected metals as "a mass." This could be interpreted to exempt things like a scattering of miscellaneous metal objects like rusted weapons lying about a room or even a man in a suit of plate armor with shield and weapons (and maybe 100 gp or so in a pouch to round it off).

It's a pity thieves can't use the wand, it would be a great tool for a cat burglar searching a room for the hidden loot.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

REF (Random Encounter Fun): Prairie Petrification!

Time for another round of random encounter rolls! Last time, we had multiple dragons in dungeon, so this time let's return to the great outdoors.

Rolling randomly, our terrain is grasslands. I rolled "Unusual" for the encounter type (uh-oh). The result was Gorgons! Fortunately for our hypothetical party, they only meet one; just one measly, little, armor-plated bull with a petrification attack.

Encounter distance come up at 40 yards. Given that this boulder-making bovine can cover that in a single round, that's pretty close. Let's assume the PCs came over a hill and there it was on the opposite side; maybe just down the slope?

Next up, since there isn't anything in particular in the gorgon's description to indicate a default reaction, and it's of animal intelligence, let's make a reaction roll. An 8 indicates uncertainty and no immediate attack. If the players don't rush it, they might be able to just back away and avoid the fight. Let's assume they try to calm the beast with soothing noises and move around it. A second reaction roll gives us an 11! Since there was no offer to consider, it's fair to say the beast wanders off. Crisis averted.

Or was it?

One of the issues with random encounters like that is if you meet the monster away from its lair, then you're a lot less likely to see any treasure. A gorgon has type E treasure, and since it's a beast, it's not carrying its loot around with it. Greedy players might decide to follow the gorgon and see if it leads them to its lair. Rolling for the Number Appearing in lair (1d4), I got a 2; which means another one (its mate?) is back at the old homestead.

Let's assume the fight occurs and the PCs win (at least some of them). That's not so crazy. Heck, if they can down one of them, maybe the other fails its lousy morale. So what was their fabulous reward? Well, TT: E is listed with an average value of 2,500gp (B45), but we're doing random here! So I rolled for it. Turns out, the PCs did pretty well for themselves.

  • 1,000gp in gold coin/buillion
  • 9 gems (!), totaling 2,400gpv (including one 1,000 gpv stone)
  • 7 pcs of jewelry (!!), totaling 7,500gpv. The highest value piece rolled at 1,500gpv alone.

This give a grand total of 10,900gp worth of loot!

Defeating the gorgons is worth 2,400xp (8HD + special each). So the party could walk away from that with over 13K xp to split amongst them.

This is why PCs sometimes foolishly pursue risky encounters unnecessarily. Sometimes, just sometimes, it can pay off.

Now, that's the bones of the encounter. Let's put some meat on it.

I don't think we need to do much to explain the gorgons' presence. They are listed as living in grasslands, so that's just their habitat. How they heck did they get all that swag though?

Since as treasures go this has got a pretty high value-to-size ratio and is almost all in gems/jewels, it seems more likely to have come from one place than have been collected from many sources. Who has such things? Nobles do, but it seems odd for them to have been out on the prairie dripping in pearls. That doesn't explain the loose stones or the gold coin, either. So here's my idea:

Years ago (how long is up to the DM), a young gentlewoman was promised in marriage to some horrible old nobleman, but she was in love with a poor commoner-type. She decides to flee in the night, taking enough easily portable wealth for her and her paramour to start anew. Galloping madly cross country to meet him in the next town, she accidentally stumbled across the pair of gorgons. Her horse shied and threw her as it bolted, causing her to drop the bag of treasure. Thus, when the startled monsters breathed their petrifying fog, only she was turned to stone, not the gold, etc.

When her father's men searched for her, the fleeing horse's tracks led them off in the wrong direction. The stone figure of the girl and the small leather bag lying in the tall grass were all but invisible to searchers. The gorgons had wandered off but eventually returned to their preferred resting spot. Over the years, the gorgons and their kin have made the area around this hollow their home.

Perhaps the story of the lass and the treasure is a local legend. Maybe the lad was found out and it was assumed he killed her for the loot. Maybe he's been executed and he haunts the girl's family to this day. If the PCs find the petrified girl when they find the loot, a whole new adventure arc could spawn from a simple random encounter.

Assuming the PCs don't go full murder-hobo and just leave the girl as a rock and take the loot. Those Stone to Flesh scrolls ain't cheap!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Curious Objects: Helm of Teleportation

I mentioned in my earlier post about communication that the Helm of Teleportation is a bit, well, odd. I thought I would talk a little about that today.

As non-combat oriented items go, it's pretty powerful. It emulates a fifth level spell up to once per round! Albeit with a few caveats.

First off, it's a piece of armor that only magic-users or elves can use. That's not such a big deal. Elves can wear armor, and I usually picture items like this as more decorative than protective. Secondly, the helm is a one-time item when you first find it. To quote the description:
"This item may only be used once by a magic-user or elf. It will have no further effect until a teleport spell is cast on it"

So think about that for a moment. You find this bad boy and it will let you teleport ONE time. Then you need to cast the fifth level spell on it to reset it. After that, you can pop around all you want, UNLESS:
"The user may try to teleport another creature or item; an unwilling victim may avoid the effect by making a saving throw vs. Spells. If used to teleport an unwilling creature the helmet will only work once, and the helm must thereafter be recharged with another teleport spell before again becoming useful."
So if, for instance, your party is fighting some big, bad nasty and you decide the best course of action is to teleport it far away, fine. But then your helmet is out of gas until a new teleport spell is cast on it. Note that its magic is only dissipated if the target is unwilling. If you use it to teleport someone that wants to go, there's no problem.

The whole idea that to make this thing useful requires access to a 9th level arcane caster who already has the spell amuses me. I suppose a scroll would do as well. Remember too that Teleport is a spell fraught with its own risks: There is a not-insignificant chance of instant death when being teleported.


All this makes me think about how I mentioned using this spell or item as a communication tool in the previous post. I think it might be even rarer given the chance of failure. Keep in mind that the spell as written only teleports the caster or another creature. Not an object. You can't just send the letter, someone has to carry it.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Getting the Word Out: Communication in a BX World.

For a radical change of pace, I was looking at the Moldvay/Cook rules and noticed something that I found interesting: I've always assumed that a society with access to relatively reliable magic would be able to use it to communicate over long distances. e.g. relaying messages across hundreds of miles in moments instead of days, telepathic communication, etc. This came up as I was noodling with an idea for an adventure: A nobleman dies in the capital, and the PCs must get word to his heir out at the distant estate. Why, I thought, would the PCs need to be sent? Can't the people involved just magically notify the heir?

...or send a raven?

Turns out, not so much.

The fastest way to magically send a message, BtB, is the teleport spell. That's right. You need to zap someone from point A to point B via a 5th level MU spell. That means a name level wizard (or elf), a pricey scroll, or a Helm of Teleportation (a seriously odd item in its own right)  is involved. Things like a Crystal Ball allow for observing, but not sending to, distant locations. If one went full palantir, there could be a network of such items where the operators could check in at preplanned times and literally read the writing on the wall left for them to see, but multiple crystal balls quickly becomes an expensive proposition.

Every method in the BX rules that lets a PC communicate over long distances actually requires that the distance itself be traversed (even if instantaneously). Of course this led me to think of flying carpets and winged mounts like griffons or pterippi (look it up).

What if a country's ruler kept a small "fleet" of winged messengers for the most critical of missives? Sure it's way faster than a man on a horse, but it's not instant. The message can still be intercepted. Mounts must rest, and carpets carrying more than one person aren't terribly fast, so the rider probably needs to stop to sleep, so people wanting to literally kill the messenger would probably get at least one opportunity. The fact is, most long distance communication would be written on sealed letters and delivered by horse or ship and take some time. This would also have the effect of driving up the value of things like griffon eggs or similar. Likewise successful research into a long-distance sending spell.

I don't know why, exactly. But that makes me smile.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Endgame, part 6: Elves and Dwarves aka Tree-huggers and Stumpies

I put the last two demi-humans together to wrap this up and because the rules aren't very elaborate with either of them. Like the halfling, elves and dwarves have level limits in BX, meaning there is a point at which (BtB) they aren't really gaining much mechanically from adventuring.

Side Note:

I know this is one of the complaints against race as class, and I don't want to get to deeply into that here, but I would mention a couple of things I've observed over the years. First off, I've rarely (if ever) played or run in a classic D&D game where characters who started at 1st managed to run up against their level caps, even 14th for humans. Second, it's my belief that by the time characters reach those levels, a few more hit points or incrementally better THACO or another spell slot just isn't going to be that crucial. Hopefully PCs involved in the end game at that point are focussed more on the roleplay aspects of being commanders and high priests, etc.

Not to mention that when elves and dwarves hit their cap around 600K XP, the humans are all at about 11-13th anyway. Even if the demi-humans don't level up again and keep adventuring while the wizard is trying for another 400K or so, they'd still be seeing HUGE gains in terms of treasure (coin and magic) during that time.

End of tangent.


The Dwarf Lord follows a very similar model to the fighter's. He builds a stronghold and protects it. At 270K xp to reach 9th, the dwarf should have acquired enough loot for constructing at least along the Tarnskeep level of complexity.  He attracts members of various clans to his territory. There is a lot of leeway given to the DM in how these clans are organized; be it by bloodlines, trades, homelands, or what have you. In keeping with the stereotype, dwarf holds are largely underground and often in mountains or hills. Dwarves will only hire or retain dwarf soldiers, but can hire other races as specialists, etc. One bit on X7 that intrigues me as plot-fodder says: 
"There will be many different clans of dwarves, each gathered under the protection of a Dwarven Lord, but usually only members of the same clan will live together. Dwarven clans are generally friendly with each other and may join forces in times of need, such as when there is a war of natural disaster."
(emphasis mine) 

So the implication is that the clans don't necessarily get along. That's not to say that there is open warfare in the tunnels, but perhaps rivalries or petty feuds? Dwarves are known to hold grudges, after all. 
In some worlds, they have a book full of them!

The "may join forces" line leaves the door open to the idea that they may not. A good leader would need to herd those bearded cats in times of crisis, and that could make for some fun diplomacy sessions.


Elves can become lords of their lands at 9th level, which takes them 400K XP to reach. This puts them later than everyone except, interestingly, Magic-Users. The assumed stereotype has these sylvan elves creating a base of operations in some spot of great nature beauty and seclusion. An interesting conceit to balance the cost to the PC is that the efforts of beautification (elaborate woodcarving, landscaping, statuary, or what-not) means that even of the elf-hold is not made of great stone blocks, it costs just as much. Like the dwarves, I find the default assumption of demi-humans retreating from human lands and being somewhat insular a definite, though not exclusive, trait of a BX setting. Like the dwarves, the elf lord attracts other elves to his hold, and only hire elven soldiers. 

Elves have the interesting twist that they protect the creatures of the forest around them and, in turn, all the critters are friendly toward them. These animals can even bear messages to and from the elf lord. (!) Does this mean he can talk to these animals innately? Or does he give them a little scroll to carry a la "Game of Thrones" ravens? I say it's up to the DM, but personally, I'd let him speak to them and they can make themselves understood to the recipients via the elf lord's bond with them and his magical nature. 

(I don't know why I went all Rankin-Bass on this post!)

What a wonderful plot device for low level PCs to be at a village and have a fox come out of the woods to deliver a warning from the local NPC elf lord about some imminent threat!

Speaking of magical natures, I should also mention that as a 10th level spell-caster, like the magic-user, the elf lord-wizard is theoretically capable of spell research and magic item creation. So in addition to his duties as a leader among his people he can also play mad wizard in his laboratory, adding to his arcane powers.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Endgame, part 5: Halfings, aka "There's a new Sheriff in Town!"

Down, down to Hobbiton. You go, my lad!

Halflings are an odd one in BX. I've already espoused their general kickassery as adventurers. Their name level/end game scenario is quite different from the human classes', and only slightly less so compared to other demi-humans. A lot of this can probably be chalked up to the Professor's influence on the class' conceptualization. The LOTR/Hobbit overtones are quite strong. Some later TSR products, like "The Five Shires", offer some different takes on halflings, but we're dealing with straight BX for now.

Since the halfling XP chart caps out at 8th, they reach name level ("Sheriff") before anyone else (120K). As Sheriff, they don't get troops or apprentices. If they build a stronghold, they get "a whole community of halflings." Numbers aren't specified, and I assume are at DM's discretion, but it's interesting that the halfling gets by default what fighters need to entice to their lands. It should also be noted that technically, a halfling doesn't need to wait until eighth level. X7 specifically states he can set up a shire "any time a halfling has enough money."

There isn't any overt mention of clearing a hex or getting a title from the local rulers, but since halflings "prefer pleasant communities in fair countrysides," it seems unlikely that such prime real estate would be unclaimed in any civilized territories. Again, JRRT's idea of hobbits having a secluded nature is coming through here.

In terms of gameplay. I suppose a halfling sheriff would get taxes and could hire mercenaries to protect his borders (bounders), but he isn't really set up to do a lot high level adventuring. Unlike the human classes, he isn't going to progress any further (not in BtB BX, at any rate).

I do see some interesting roleplay opportunities when it comes to things like trade and diplomacy. A fertile land producing goods and commodities, which a powerful character protecting its interests could influence a lot of things in the wider world. Assuming you break with Tolkien's isolationist model enough to have the halflings get involved in such matters.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Endgame, part 4: Thieves in the Night

"Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

I saved thieves for last among the "Core Four" human classes, since he's a bit unusual. For one thing, he reaches name level sooner than any other class (160,000 xp). For another, he doesn't build a stronghold, tower, or castle. He usually sets up shop in an established area. Lastly, exactly how his endgame plays out can vary a lot more than most other classes, depending upon the DM and how the player wants to handle things.

A ninth level thief is not actually all that powerful a PC. With an average of only 18 hit points, limited armor options, and no spells he is not making anyone quake in their boots.Of course he has probably picked up some magic items along the way and made enough money that he owns quality gear, but he still isn't all that intimidating on his own. A name level thief's strengths lie in his ability to operate "off radar." The underground world of crime and corruption is bread and drink to the higher level thief. Dark alleys and shadowy corners are fine for a low level cutpurse or thug, but master thieves need to think bigger.

I've always thought Charisma should have been a prime requisite for thieves. Sure, DEX is nice, but eventually being able to convince and persuade is going to count for a lot more potentially. Ah well, a topic for another time.

Cook says that name level thieves "...a thief may construct a hideout (a fortified house in a city, a cave network, or so forth). A thief who has constructed a hideout will attract 2-12 1st level thieves who have come to learn under a master."

2d6 apprentices is not a lot to work with, manpower wise. However, he's not manning a castle or patrolling a barony, he running a gang of crooks. Sure the gang might one day rule a whole city's criminal underworld, but that's not something most DMs would just hand wave away. They'd play that arc out (as well they should!).

Furthermore, thieves don't need to set up shop in a city. They can be highwaymen, smugglers, spies, or pirates. The Master Thief can arguably adapt to settings or individual player concepts to what they want more so than the other classes. 

To use the pirate example, a sailing ship costs much less than our Tarnskeep example. A small ship might even be crewed by your 2d6 apprentices alone. Not to mention it provides convenient transportation to various parts of the world for the PCs and the thief can sack ships or raid coastal settlements as they go.

Name level thieves need to be smart more than tough, and willing to look at the different ways they can profit from their newfound status in the shady underworld of the setting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Endgame, part 3: Mages, Magical Studies, and Masonry

Magic-Users vary a bit from the previous classes since they don't necessarily have a role in a larger political or religious institution when it comes to reaching name level and building a tower. I like to think that the local rulers turn a bit of a blind eye to wizards laying claim to some lonely hill and starting construction. In truth, there are a couple decent reasons when I think about it:

  1. Wizards aren't (generally) trying to rule over an area. They just want a place to work.
  2. I mentioned in an earlier post how magic in a BX setting is somewhat limited in nature, so it doesn't really do to irritate high level MUs unnecessarily.
  3. Do you really want them doing magical experiments right in the middle of town?
While the wizard's redoubt is traditionally dubbed a "tower," I'm sticking with the Tarnskeep 175K price tag for simplicity. Also, there are other costs a name level MU incurs that we'll get to in a minute. At 600000 xp to reach 11th level (that's right, 11th, not 9th), The MU should be able to afford the place.

First off, I'm going to quote a chunk of Cook Expert's text about name level MUs from X7 and then break it down a bit:
"Magic-users may add more spells to their spell books through spell research. At 9th level (Wizard) or above, magic-users may also create magical items. Both of these activities are explained under Magical Research (p. X51). Upon reaching 11th level, a magic-user may choose to build a tower, provided that money to pay for the construction is available. A magic-user who constructs a tower will gain 1-6 apprentices of levels 1-3."
Spell Research:

So while any level MU can do research, it can get pricey. Page X51 sets it at 1000gp per spell level with two weeks' research. The other party members might find waiting around for weeks at a time as the MU plows through books a bit dull. Sure they can have a town adventure, but then the MU's player is left out, and that's no fun for him. Better to be in a play mode where people are more settled and have the facilities to do proper research. You can still have adventures. How awesome would it be for the wizard to find out that in order to complete the formula, he has to find the lost scrolls of Kalb-Th'arr? Time to go collect your pals and go raid a lost temple!

Item Creation:

Name level wizards can actually craft magic items. This is a time-consuming and expensive process. Having a "lab" and a place to work seems like an obvious choice. The expense of some items is why I leave the price tag for the tower as high as I do. Since a wizard (probably) isn't commanding armies or raising temples, he is probably adding to his knowledge and his magical skills. Not every mage is going to sell magic items, but they might. They might focus on strengthening their own power, or their tower's defenses. In either case, it can get expensive. I can envision some wizards seeking patrons instead, like powerful fighter or local rulers and going the "Court Magician" route. After all, spell research and item creation gets pricey when, "There is always a 15% chance (at least) that magical research or production will fail. This check is made after the time and money are spent." (X51).


1d6 apprentices is not a huge following, but keep in mind some of these might be up to 3rd level MUs. The idea is that they are there to study and learn from the wizard, not act as soldiers, They still could certainly bolster the defense of the tower. Nothing prevents a wizard from hiring mercenaries, either! (I have a vague memory that one flavor of D&D or clone allowed for the idea that chaotic wizards might attract monsters into the lower halls of his tower, I couldn't find it. EDIT: It was in the Rules Cyclopedia) Apprentice MUs can act as errand runners, too. Perhaps allowing for a split-level campaign where recovering rare materials for the high-level mage is a task for the lower level (N)PCs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Endgame, part 2: Fighters, aka The Lords of the Land.

Fighters are pretty straightforward. First off, the class information expressly states:
“High level fighters usually spend their time training and leading men-at-arms, clearing the wilderness of monsters, and expanding human settlements.” 
So the idea is that the whole “endgame” thing is a big part of what name level fighters do.


Fighters reach ninth level at 240k xp, which is fairly middle of the road, advancement-wise. Using our earlier Tarnskeep example of a 175k gp price tag, it’s likely the new Lord would have enough scratch to at least start the construction process.

Unlike clerics, BX fighters don’t automatically attract followers to their castles. In fact, only clerics and thieves gain followers by default. Why is this? Well, it seems to me that a cleric’s followers aren’t really his. They are followers of his faith. We’ll talk more about thieves in a later post. A fighter must gather men with the force of his personality (CHA) and by the promise of rewards. If he hires mercenaries and leads them well, he might recruit more easily in the future, but in the end the soldiers will want their pay.

Another fun tidbit mentioned on X7 is that:
“When a fighter reaches 9th level (Lord/Lady), the character may become a Baron or Baroness  and the land cleared and controlled by that character will be called a Barony.”
So the assumption is that the fighter joins the ranks of his homeland’s nobility. (Note: While it’s not really a “BX product,” GAZ1 (Karameikos) does do a pretty nifty job of integrating these aspects of play into the societal/political structure.) DMs can harvest a lot of plot fuel from characters that are not only vested in the current power structure, but under an oath of fealty to serve it!

This also makes a Baron or baroness all the more interested in attracting settlers to their lands in order to collect taxes to help pay for their soldiers. When the crown calls in the banners, a lord that cannot respond might lose their fiefdom!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Endgame, part 1: Castles, Clearing Hexes, and Clerics

Turning on Retro-Scope, I dredged up a post on this topic from that iconic Old-School gaming blog of yesteryear, Grognardia called “on the Loss of D&D’s Endgame.”  Rather than regurgitate it all here in bits and pieces, I urge you to follow the link and give it a read. Mr. Maliszewski has been kind enough to leave the blog online even though it has long been mothballed. It reflects many of my thoughts on the subject. Not to mention James is a far more articulate writer than I.

Once a character reaches name -usually 9th- level (so called because that’s when the character’s experience “title” stops changing and they are referred to by such grandiose labels as Lord, Wizard, Master Thief and so forth.

Most classes are going to construct some sort of castle, keep, or tower. There are short, but functional rules in Cook for costs, times, and more. But before the PCs can build anything, Cook has a few things to say (from X52):

“When building a castle or stronghold, a character must first clear a hex or local area of monsters, entering the hex with a force of men and dealing with any lairs the DM has set up in the area. (The DM may also require the character get a land grant from the local ruler, if any.)”

So it looks like the PC is going to be busy before the first stone can even be laid. There are critters to clear out! A character might pay some men at arms, or lower level adventurers, to do the dirty work. The bit about the local ruler is not insignificant, either. That’s the sort of thing a DM needs to think about for his setting ahead of time if he plans on getting into this aspect of the game eventually.

As sort of a baseline cost for these posts, I took the description of Tarnskeep from Threshold in the Karameikos Gazetteer and priced out something roughly equivalent. Without getting into all the particulars, a character wishing to build Tarnskeep would be looking at approximately 175,000 gp, including hiring two engineers from the specialists section, and a little under a year in building times.

Not to mention Tarnskeep's owner is a high-level cleric!

I thought we’d look at the human classes first, as they are the most common. Going alphabetically, we’ll begin with the Cleric. The cleric is also the class that’s going to reach name level sooner than most in the XP charts, so it seems as good a beginning as any. (Thieves are a bit unusual, so I’m happy to save them for later).

The cleric PC hits 9th level (Patriarch/Matriarch) at 200,000 xp. Considering that most of a character’s experience is coming from treasure, this means he should have a fair bit of coin to work with. Of course a good bit of it may well have been spent along the way, but he should still be pretty flush.

When looking at the rules for clerics, Cook Expert has several things to say about 9th level. Rather than quote a great block of text, I want to take each point in turn.

“When clerics reach 9th level (Matriarch/Patriarch), they may choose to construct a castle (see p. X52) or stronghold.”

Seems straightforward enough. This next bit is interesting:

“...the cost of building the castle will be half the normal amount due to miraculous assistance from the deity.”

So if you were wondering how those ancient civilizations managed to build such elaborate temples before you dungeon-crawled their ruins, now you know!

Once a keep or temple or whatever is built, it needs to be manned. No worries for a cleric though:

“Furthermore, once the castle is completed, fanatically loyal troops (the "faithful", who never need to check morale) will come to defend the cleric. There will be from 50-300 soldiers (5d6 x 10), from 1-2nd level, armed with various weapons.”

Wow. No morale check for an average of over a hundred soldiers. That is not insignificant in a portion of the game where things like having troops to call on can have a real impact. Never mind wars, take a look at this bit from the castle construction section again:

“When the building is complete, the character may want to clear the surrounding area of monsters. The cleared area will remain free of monsters as long as it is patrolled.”

Finally, there is a section about settlers moving in if areas are cleared and improvements are added as enticements (mills, inns, etc.). This can yield 10gp annually per family of settlers. That will help pay for a lot of the day to day expenses once things are up and running.

So even after looking at a fairly simple clear & build model for just one class, we can already see some of the shifts that this sort of play would lead to in a campaign. I can understand some folks questioning whether this sort of thing would be fun, or just more book-keeping. But I also have to ask, if you’ve run a character all the way up from first to ninth level or higher (after all, you don’t need to start building right at ninth), don’t you think you might be ready to try something different? Of course you could always just start a new campaign or play a different system for a while, but it seems a shame to me to shelve a character that has paid such heavy dues when there is a whole new sphere of play awaiting them. The potential scope and depth of the plot-lines that could unfold. Whether it’s the responsibilities of leadership, political intrigue, or even militarily.