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Friday, December 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit

"In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit."

Mr. Jackson's version of Middle Earth is back in theaters and, like a good little nerd, I went to go see it. I didn't do 3D or 48fps, but see it on the big screen I did. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

(Like my John Carter review, the first part of this is spoiler-free, but honestly now; if you've never read the book or at least seen the animated Rankin-Bass cartoon or you haven't gone to see the film already, you are unique among my tiny readership.)

First of all, let me say I liked it. I liked it nearly as much as I enjoyed it when I first saw Jackson's Fellowship in the theater. Now, I saw FOTR five times in the theater, and I probably won't do that this time (Of course, I didn't have kids back in 2001, so that's a factor in my theater-going record since then.)

Hobbit is Hollywood-ized a bit compared to the books, but then so were the LOTR films. A few liberties were taken with some details, but the overall plot stayed true to the source. I was amused to see what looks like unused or prepared well in advance footage of Bilbo and Frodo (Sir Ian & Mr. Wood) during the prelude. It was a nice touch, I thought.

Martin Freeman does a wonderful job as the younger Bilbo. His flustered Brit is perfect for a Baggins who is swept off his feet and out his door into the wide world beyond. The dwarfs made sincere efforts to distinguish themselves among the throng, but tended to blur together at times. Perhaps by the next film they'll each have had more screen time to establish their personas in our minds.

Cosmetically things worked well. I will say that I would have liked an older-looking Thorin (he was nearly 200 at the end of the book), and a Kili with a real beard (at least a goatee, but STUBBLE? C'mon!)

The biggest issue I've heard about the film is the pacing. A few areas do seem to drag a little. It all comes back to the decision to make it into three films. I too find myself scratching my head at the concept. There simply isn't enough book there for a trilogy of 3 hour films. They are including material about Gandalf and the Necromancer (a topic only touched on in the source material), but even so, it seems excessive. I will give Peter Jackson the benefit of the doubt for now, though.

Now comes the spoiler-ish part:

The movie covers from the start (including exposition about Smaug coming to the Lonely Mountain) through the eagles taking the group to the Carrock. Which –if you're looking at the plot covers approximately a third of the book's substance– so good choice there.

I liked the scene with the trolls (the first real crisis faced by Bilbo & co.). There were a few small changes to the plot, but mostly superficial ones. The trolls were comical, yet menacing. The dwarfs put up a better fight in the film than the books, but having one sack after another plop down over the dwarfs' heads would have been dull viewing, in my opinion.

Rivendell was gorgeous, as expected. Elrond seemed in a less somber mood for most of it, but that was fitting considering the nature of his visitors. The White Council bit was interesting and provided some obscure (but canon) explanation for Gandalf's real interest in Smaug. He knows trouble is brewing. I tmay be a ways off, but its coming. He does NOT want an ancient dragon like Smaug in the equation. So, Gandalf seeks to find a way to remove him. He cannot find someone to slay the wyrm, so he helps the dwarfs on their way to -aheh- beard the lion in its den. I assume he hopes they will act as a catalyst and bring the situation to a head prematurely, though it seems a bit callous to me. Who knows? I won't meddle in those affairs.

The trip into the mountains and the giants were pretty cool, but present a fairly different view of Middle Earth than the LOTR films, where half a mountain will stand up and chuck the other half at some other titanic rock-creature just for giggles.

The secondary characters were hit or miss. I was nonplussed about the inclusion of Azog as a persistent antagonist, but I can see the dramatic opportunities it presents. I was pleased to see the inclusion of Radagast (a character I've always been fond of), but he was too comical for my taste. Perhaps it was an attempt to appeal to children (my friend's kids LOVED Radagast). I found the depiction of the Great Goblin –and Goblin Town– a lot of fun, but I understand how some people found it goofy. (More on that in a moment.) But first, Gollum.

What has it gots in its pocketses? An Oscar nomination!?

I thought Serkis was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination back in Two Towers. He was that good, IMO. The whole CGI thing made the Academy feel it wasn't a "real" role, but animation (different category). Gollum is every bit as good in Hobbit. I even like how they deal with him losing the Ring. The riddling is nigh perfect, too.

Okay, moving on. the movie finishes up with the dwarfs escaping Goblin Town in a Rube Goldberg-esqe fashion, reaching the woods and reuniting with Bilbo, only to get cornered by goblins and wargs, including our buddy Azog again. The resulting brouhaha is again, more Hollywood action flick than the book, but suitably impressive-looking. Bilbo gets a little bit badass by tackling an orc, but what the heck at this point. Again, like many scenes, it probably could have been a few minutes shorter but they have to fill the screen time somehow. The eagles arrive and rescue the group and take them straight to the Carrock. Everyone is in one piece (more or less), but definitely in need of some help. The perfect set up for them to go have a conversation with a giant werebear, don't you think?

Thank you for flying BIG FREAKING BIRD Air™

There is a final scene where we see Lonely Mountain and the massive hoard inside with a teasing peek at Smaug, but the big reveal is saved for later (as well it should be).

Overall, the film is solid. It's not epic, but it doesn't need to be. There and Back Again was originally a children's book, not a sweeping saga. There are whimsical elements present that are simply lacking in LOTR for the simple reason that the latter is intended for a different audience. If anything, I think the films might benefit from being shorter, lighter in tone, but faster paced. One film is probably not enough, but two long or three normal length movies would be ample, I'd think. I expect we'll see a lot of action time taking up in Smaug's attack on Lake Town and the Battle of Five Armies toward the end. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RMA: Sea Dragons

Seriously, has anyone ever used this monster? If not, we're all doing a TERRIBLE job as DMs!

What's more classic than a sea monster? 

...Just don't, okay?

Anyone who has read my RMAs has seen me comment on aquatic encounters and their relative rarity, so I have been kind of avoiding doing more of that theme. This fella deserves a mention, though. So let's get started:

Sea Dragon (from Cook)
No. App: 0 (1d4)
AC: 1
HD: 8
Move: 180' (60')
  (Swimming or Flying)
Attacks: 1 (bite or spit)
Damage: 3d8
Save: F8
Morale: 9
Treasure: H

For starters, it doesn't look all that impressive. 8HD is okay,  but not awesome. A decent armor class as well, and the damage from its bite isn't really terrifying, either. So what's so cool about Sea Dragons?

  • All the usual reasons fighting at sea is challenging.
  • They are intelligent, hence the so-so morale (live to fight another day, etc.). There is a 20% chance they speak. If so, that means they are automatically packing SIX spells (3 @ 1st, 3 @ 2nd level MU/Elf). That's a bit scary.
  • Their "breath" attack is a poisonous gob of spit TWENTY FEET in diameter with a range of 100'! (eww!) Don't forget, kids; that's 100 YARDS in the wilderness (p.X19), which is precisely where these fellas are likely to show up! The poison loses effectiveness after 1 round, but it's save or die. By the way, that's a save vs. Dragon Breath, not Poison, which means characters are MORE likely to fail.
  • They can pull a "flying fish." They leap out of the water and glide for up to six rounds. They can cover a lot of distance in that time, possibly getting an air-to-surface poison loogy off in the process. 
  • They can breathe underwater, so no sense waiting for them to come up for air. Their lairs are underwater too (often at the sea's bottom in a shipwreck or a cave), so even if you beat the thing, finding and getting that sweet, sweet Type H loot is its own challenge.
  • I don't even want to talk about the whole "1d4" appearing thing!

Keep in mind also that these are the AVERAGE stats for the Sea Dragon. The book allows for ± up to 3 HD depending on age. 

So give it up for the dragon's wet behind the ears cousin! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

RMA (ish): NPC parties

Cook's Expert Rules typically tries not to step on the toes of its predecessor, Moldvay's Basic. One area where BX does sort of repeat itself is with NPC parties.

Each book provides rules for the DM to use in creating a group of NPCs. Because of the change in PC power levels, things get ramped up a notch in Expert. Moldvay allows for up to 3rd level NPCs, whereas Cook gives rules for up to 12th.

I find both books' sections on this very interesting reading. Not just for encounter design, but also for the steps given for creating the parties. There is a lot of randomness in the process. I find that refreshing, though. Sometimes random results are the most interesting. There's a chaotic fighter and lawful cleric in the group? How does that work? Especially if one is significantly more powerful than the other. This can make for some interesting moments at the gaming table.

Fun fact: NPC spells are supposed to be assigned randomly! I love it when characters (NPC or PC) have some of the more unusual spells.

Another interesting part is the assigning of magic items to the NPCs. In Basic, you roll on a treasure type for the NPCs. In Expert, a % chance is assigned (determined by level) for each NPC to possess a given type of item. The fact these non-PCs are walking around with magic loot (and using up that cool wand's charges) should get the PCs interested.

I think a rival group of adventurers is an awesome encounter, and provides a lot of possible campaign hooks for a group. Even if the PCs don't end up fighting them, having another group of murder-hobos out there after the treasure is a powerful incentive to get off their duffs and DO something!

I have half a mind to assemble an NPC party by these rules and use them as pre-gens for my next adventure. The result could be fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fee Fie Fo- you get the idea

My group is getting ready for a run through of G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. It's been over 20 years since I played any part of the module, so it should be a fun time. (We're using LL+AEC if you're interested.)

Anyhow, this got me thinking about GIANTS. Even in BX, you've got the six varieties, in escalating size and power: Hill, Stone, Frost, Fire. Cloud, and Storm. I've often wondered why so many? It's kind of like dragons, I suppose, where the authors wanted to include lots of good bits from mythology and folklore, but not lump them all together in one monster.

One thing that strikes me about all the giants is the treasure. They all have the same type ("E") plus 5000gp. (The ogre –aka "Giant Lite"– is similar with Type C + 1000gp). Where does this come from? Jack & the Beanstalk? Mythology? Probably a combination. Regardless, giants are a pretty lucrative monster to fight.

Hill Giants seem to be basically bigger, tougher ogres. Primitive brutes who eat just about anything.

Stone Giants are fun with their bouder flinging skills and pet bears. A pair of 9HD giants + up to four cave bears is a scary place!

Frost Giants are the first "supernatural" giants, obviously borrowing a little from the Norse myths with their cold immunity. They like to keep polar bears and wolves about. Even just one of these blue meanies is a truly challenging encounter.

Fire Giants –based (I think) on Surtr from the Norse as well– are also magical, with fire immunity. They also keep nasty pets (hell hounds and hydras).

Cloud Giants have got that castle in the sky/beanstalk thing going on. Giant Hawks hang out with them if their lair is airborne.

Storm Giants are frankly weird. Maybe they're in the sky, or MAYBE they're on a mountain, or MAYBE they're underwater! Who knows?? They are the biggest and toughest of the bunch, but like (gold) dragons, the toughest is also the most likely to be the nicest with their Lawful alignment. Their storm powers are impressive as well.

I'm not sure I have a point to all this other than reflecting on these iconic creatures and seeing all the interesting little rules that were included with them.

...Also to mention that a Girdle of Storm Giant Strength is a potential campaign wrecker!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Monster: Time Goblins

While talking with my wife, I made a common lament. "Where does the time go in a day?" Her glib reply, "Time Goblins. They eat it." That stuck in my head, and here is the result.


Time Goblins

No. Appearing: 1 (1d6)
HD: 1d4 hp
AC: 7 (1 when invisible)
Move: 30', special
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4, special
Save As: F1
Morale: 8
Treasure: see below

Time goblins look like small (≈1' tall), pale goblins when they can be seen at all. They have the innate ability to turn invisible at will and are quite adept at sneaking around.

Time goblins do not typically attack with force. They prefer to stealthily rob those who pass too close to their lairs. They do not steal trinkets or coins, though. What they take is time.

Once per day, a time goblin can "steal" an hour from a group of up to ten people. There is no saving throw. The party is simply an hour further along in time than they thought. The day is simply that much closer to over. Any wandering monster rolls or replenishing of things like torches that should have occurred in that time happen at the end of the missing hour. If the party was moving when the hour was taken, a rest break is needed as well. 

No one knows what happens to the time, but it is believed that it somehow lengthens the time goblin's lifespan, often making them nigh-immortal.

Time goblins usually live alone, but sometimes small warrens of them can be found beneath fairy rings or in tunnels and caves. There is a 10% chance that, hidden in the warren, is a small crystal bottle of wine. Drinking the contents acts as a single dose of a Time Stop potion (2 round duration). 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RSA: Insect Plague

Maybe it's the fact that it's a higher level spell, but I don't think I've seen this one used too often. 5th level clerical spells include such standbys as Raise Dead and Dispel Evil, so – unsurprisingly– I.P. often gets left on the back burner.

That said, since clerics can pray for whatever spells they want from their list, I can think of cases where it could come in darned handy.

Insect Plague (from Cook)

Cleric: 5th Level
Range: 480'
Duration: 1 day

HOW long??! It can last the WHOLE FREAKING DAY! Of course, the cleric has to concentrate on it. The range is pretty impressive too. Don't forget that changes to 480 yards when you're outside.

Now let's look at what the spell actually does once it's cast. It creates a "vast swarm" of bugs (60' diameter) they "obscure vision" - meaning you can't see to target the cleric bringing the bug cloud down on you. It also "drives off" creatures of < 3HD. No limit on number, no save, just area of effect. So that horde of 1HD mooks you brought to mess with Father Locust? Off they run.

I mentioned the spell requires concentration, but the caster can also move the cloud around. I can imagine priests casting this and really messing with enemy troops on the battlefield.

Back to the grindstone. Ep33

Here's a new "normal" vlog entry. This time about horror and scary gaming:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Final 40K video

Part 6 is a short "slideshow" video with some general advice to my potential DH players. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RMA: Oliphaunts (Elephants and Mastodons)

I can stand the sight of worms,
And even microscopic germs,
But technicolor pachyderms,
Are really too much for me!

                                     -"Pink Elephants on Parade"

It's hardly surprising to find that elephants are pretty formidable opponents in D&D. They're big, they're strong, and they basically have SPEARS coming out of their faces. I have rarely seen them in play, though. Elephants –and their prehistoric cousins, the Mastodon– are rare on random encounters. Each only appears a single time (Grassland and Optional: Prehistoric) on the charts. Nevertheless, "modern" elephants are sometimes tamed in certain cultures and can make for an interesting encounter.

aka "The last thing Uncle Ted saw 
after setting off a firecracker on safari."

Elephant (from Cook)

AC: 5 
HD: 9
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 (tusks) or 1 (trample)
Damage: 2d8/2d8 or 4d8
No. App: 0 (1d20)
Save: F5
Morale: 8

First of all, up to twenty in a herd. Secondly, NINE hit dice. Their AC is decent, too. If you tick these things off, you have some heavy work ahead. 

They charge to start with, doing double damage with tusks, so that's potentially sixty-four hit points of damage right there. THEN they start trampling for up to 32 points per attack. Those 9HD means elephants hit often enough, but check this out: Against man-sized or smaller, they get a +4 to attack!!

Mastodons are pretty similar, except tougher (though they deal slightly less damage with their tusks).

Mastodon (from Cook)
AC: 3 
HD: 15
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 (tusks) or 1 (trample)
Damage: 2d6/2d6 or 4d8
No. App: 0 (2d8)
Save: F8
Morale: 8

The best way to deal with either of these creatures as foes? Scare them off. They're herbivores with so-so morale. Just don't be in the way when they stampede in a panic. 

The tusks of these creatures are valuable enough to entice some to take the risks (up to 800gp per). Hooks involving ivory hunters, vengeful druids, and elephant graveyards full of tusks could make for a fine adventure indeed!

Monday, September 24, 2012

RMA: Merchants

Let's get these pineapples to Hawaii before the price drops!

Probably every DM has used the "caravan guard" adventure hook at one point or another, and merchants themselves are not exactly the scariest of monsters unless you are particularly susceptible to extended warranty sales pitches. But the more I look at the Cook Expert listing, the more intrigued I am.

Like bandits, merchants are not so much a memorable encounter by themselves, as what -ahem- baggage comes with them.

The no. appearing is listed as 1-20. What's fun is the chart on X36. Depending upon how many actual merchants there are, the caravan just keeps growing. An average roll of 10-11 merchants means twenty wagons. That means at least 20 teamsters plus draft animals (mules, etc.); probably 2 per wagon. THEN there are the extra 1d12 animals. 

The merchants themselves wear chain and carry swords, so ten or so of them are relatively formidable. However, the really interesting thing are their guards.

For the 10-11 merchants, that's 45 fighters in tow. 

Forty. Five. 

What's more, that includes four 2nd-3rd level fighters plus a FIFTH level guard leader. 

I'm thinking these guys aren't going to be terribly easy to intimidate. Nevertheless, twenty wagons of goods and supplies plus forty or fifty riding/draft animals must be a tempting target for some. (Not to mention the weapons and armor from the guards, etc.)

Another aspect of the merchant encounter that is worth noting is how useful they are at handing out rumors and hooks. Merchants generally talk to everyone from all over and keep their eyes and ears open. Smart players will make nice with merchants, and pump them for every scrap of information they can. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

More 40K vids

I've posted two more videos as part of my ongoing project to educate my players about the 40k 'verse. One about living in the 41st millenium, the other about Chaos. More to come as well.

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, August 31, 2012

REF: Killer Bees

More Random Encounter Fun™ for your reading amusement.

Starting off, I thought I'd do a dungeon encounter instead of wilderness. Rolling a d8 for level, I got a 1. So we're talking a low level here (possible snooze alert!)

Next up I rolled a 9 for the monster type, giving us (drumroll) Killer Bees! OK, that sounds fun!

Not quite THAT big!

Since this is a wandering/random encounter, the number appearing is 1-6. I rolled a 2. (Just TWO??)

For hit points, the buzzers got a "hardy" 3 each.

KBs are supposed to be pretty hostile, but since they aren't at their hive and the random encounter distance came up at 70', I went ahead and gave them a reaction check and got "uncertain, confused." (8 on 2d6)

So, what we have here are a couple of big ol' bumblebees buzzing around a dungeon corridor not too far from the surface. How do we make that interesting?

Wellllll, lessee...

It says that the bees live in a hive of 5-30 (5d6), I went ahead and rolled those numbers (20, including these two and the queen, who has 11 hit points). Let's assume the two bees are not terribly far from their hive. Maybe there is an entrance in the dungeon, maybe it's just above the crawl on the surface. The bees aren't initially hostile to the party, but it won't take much to set them off. If the PCs keep their distance, they might avoid a combat. The bees aren't overly tough (AC 7), but neither are low level PCs. KBs are fast and their sting is save or die (though it kills the bee, too).

What are the bees doing underground? That's the question. Perhaps there is some scent they are attracted to. Maybe something disturbed their hive. A clever party might follow them back to the hive and try to steal the honey, which has magical healing properties. Twenty killer bees are a bit much for a low level party to take on in a straight fight, but some clever use of smoke or Sleep might do the trick.

Probably not enough to base a whole adventure around, but an interesting bit of dungeon dressing. Plus, if the party doesn't follow the bees to the hive, you can also tell the players after they die further on that you "gave" them access to magical healing (the honey), but they ignored it.  ^__^

Monday, August 27, 2012

RMA: Whales

Thar be whales here!

I have often remarked on how aquatic encounters are by nature more unusual than land-based ones. Looking over the Cook Expert rules, I'm trying to remember using a whale as an encounter. This seems odd because there is actually a long history of people actively going to sea looking for these creatures.

In the rules, there are three types of whales presented: Killer (Orca), Narwhal, and Sperm whales.

From Cook:

(I'm too lazy to type that out)

Now, there are many more types of whales in the real world than this, but these three give a good selection to start with.

Your Killer Whale pod of 1d6 cetaceans is a frightening mid-level encounter, especially without a large vessel to keep clear of them in. They are a polar/cold water species, so a lovely iceberg-shipwreck-slash-tiny lifeboat scenario can = good times! A d20 damage is nothing to sneeze at either.

Narwhals are a bit more of a macguffin than a foe, IMO. That possibly magical horn worth 1000's of gps should motivate at least some characters to hunt them. They're tough (12HD), but skittish (Morale 8). Considering they are listed as "intelligent" among other whales (not to mention magical), it's safe to assume they'll not just blindly attack or flee without trying to do the smart thing. 

Sperm whales are the juggernauts in the list. 3d20 damage (or 6d6 hull damage) but also more likely to flee than fight (Morale 7). The scariest part of the sperm whale is its swallow whole ability. Instead of succeeding on a 20, it just needs +4 over the minimum to hit. That's a lot of Jonahs!

I think whalers would be an interesting addition to a maritime campaign, or at least having them around ports and as possible ship encounters. (Ambergris as treasure, anyone?)

Friday, August 24, 2012

New video (40K)

I haven't posted in a bit, sorry about that. I thought I'd share a crude attempt at a "informative" video for potential Dark Heresy players. The idea would be to make a few of these, each covering a different relevant aspect of the 40K universe for DH/40K newbies. I'm hoping to make the videos a bit more dynamic in the future, but this is what I've got so far.

I've still got it in my head to run a DH game at some point. So we shall see.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Perfect video game-based RPG setting.

Sorry it's been a while. Taking my GM hat off lately has led to less bizarre ponderings and flipping through rulebooks. But I had an amusing thought this morning that I thought I'd share.

Normally I'm against taking things like computer games and turning them into an RPG setting, but this one is nigh-perfect.

Seriously. This game is a terrific sandbox. IMO, a minecraft-based campaign would be a lot of fun! Imagine this:

  • Your character(s) find themselves in a strange land, utterly without equipment.
  • The world is nigh-uninhabited and full of different climates/terrain.
  • Monsters come hunting by night.
  • Some monsters can destroy defenses (creepers, endermen).
  • You have the skills to survive, but there is no set plan to exactly how you go about it.
    • You can wander and explore
    • You can build and fortify
    • You can look for other people
    • You can grow/raise food or hunt/gather
  • Eventually, you may find natives (NPC villages), and trade with them (or raid them for food and supplies).
  • There is great wealth, but it isn't lying around. You have to explore deep caverns and dig it out of the earth!
  • Occasionally you encounter a treasure chest, but it's often gear and food more than magic or wealth.
  • Resource management is KEY. You need food, you gear wears out, your ammo runs out, and you can only carry so much stuff.
  • You can enchant items (with the proper equipment), make potions, travel to other dimensions, sail the oceans, and gather wealth.
  • There are lost temples and strongholds, too. 
  • If you really want, you can go fight a dragon.
Granted, in a tabletop RPG you might have more than just a few of the same monsters over & over, and maybe there's a point at which you can get back to civilization with piles of gold, but the concept is basically the same. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Setting Buy-In

I don't know if anyone pays attention to the little widgets on the side of the blog, but if you've been watching the "What I'm Reading" one lately, you'll have seen several Warhammer 40K novels (specifically by Dan Abnett *) tick by. I never played the miniatures games, but I have played a fair bit of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP). I'm a big fan of the setting and the gritty, grim tone. It's not what I always want to play, but it's fun sometimes.

As I've previously blathered about in my vlog, I'm somewhat on the fence about published and licensed settings. One the one hand, it gives people an additional way to get into the setting and get a handle on what it's like. On the other hand, it can be limiting ("That's not canon!") and can be off-putting to those who haven't played in the setting before or aren't as familiar with the source materials.

Now, as it happens, I own several of the WH40K RPG books (Dark Heresy, etc.) and part of me would really like to run a game, but I worry that most of my players are not up to speed on the 40K universe. Mechanically, it's similar enough to WFRP that I think they'd catch on to the rules quickly enough (several of them played in a long Marienburg-based campaign), but it's the fluff that has me worried. Warhammer and 40K are so much about the feel of the setting that I'd really want to get it right. I don't feel it's fair to hand out reading lists, etc. but some understanding of the setting seems pretty important, IMO.

Have other people run into this sort of thing before? How have you handled it?

*I highly recommend Abnett's books. The man can write!

No, you can't play an elf!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Basic and Leveling

From page 61 of Moldvay:
'If no one has reached the 2nd level of experience in three to four adventures, the DM should consider giving more treasure. If most of the players have reached the 3rd level of experience in this time, the DM should consider cutting down on the amount of treasure, or increasing the "toughness" of the monsters.'

I find this passage interesting for multiple reasons. 

  1. It explicitly states a metric for leveling frequency (a topic that gets debating frequently on message boards like Dragonsfoot). Granted, it's talking about going from 1st to 2nd, but still. The implication is that somebody (probably the thief or cleric) should level in the first two adventures. Considering that Moldvay states earlier (p.19) that the typical party consists of 6-8 PCs (not including retainers), and a PC needs at least 1,200 to level (2,200 on average), that's approximately 4,000 experience in monsters and treasure being handed out per adventure.
  2. The recommendation to adjust the "problem" is to hand out more loot. Implying that the majority of experience comes from treasure, not combat. This further reinforces the concept of the "exploration model" of adventuring. Your goal is not to fight, but to find. 
  3. The term "toughness" in the final part of the above quote is somewhat vague. The concern here is that the party is having it all their way and the campaign needs to check itself before it wrecks itself. An encounter can be made harder in a number of ways, some of which would also increase the XP awards by the book. i.e. increasing the number appearing, but staying within the prescribed guidelines. There is another implication here, though. Encounters can be made tougher by upping hit points to maximum; adjusting –or even forgoing– morale checks and reaction rolls (assuming hostility and fighting to the last); or even using more dangerous creatures. The idea being that fewer PCs survive to level at all! That's one way to solve the problem (perceived or otherwise).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

RSA: Commune

Like Contact other Plane, Commune lets the player peek behind the curtain a bit, asking for answers their PCs might not otherwise know. Unlike the magic user spell, the risks are lower. The spell does come with its limitations though, so it's easy to see why this spell isn't a common pick.

Commune (from Cook)
Cleric: 5
Range: 0'
Duration: 3 Turns

At fifth level, most PC clerics are probably looking at things like Raise Dead or Dispel Evil. Also the spell limits you to 1/week, three questions (less often, if the DM thinks you're overusing it), so you probably aren't memorizing it all the time. The answers are yes/no only, so phrasing is important. 

The 30-minute duration seems odd, but it could be fun for a cleric to cast it ahead of time and use it to confirm information from someone as they are conversing (The Inquisition would have loved it!)

I also find it interesting that the spell description includes a special provision for doubling the number of questions once a year. Perhaps it's a specific holy day and if the cleric doesn't use the spell then, he wastes the bonus. 

Raggis to Riches

Well, maybe not RICH, but I'm writing a module for LotFP's July IndieGogo campaign. Check it out:


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

He will be sorely missed

"...The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death."

George Graham Vest - c. 1855

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RMA: Gorgon

No, not her


The idea of gorgon as a petrifying armor-plated bull has interesting possible origins. One theory says that Hetrodotus originally wrote about the fantastic african beast, the Catoblepas (Yep! You read that right!). Then the greeks eventually folded that in/confused it with descriptions of the rhinoceros and named the resulting folklore after the Medusa-style gorgon for its stone-turning ability.

Whatever its genesis as a classic D&D monster, I don't see gorgons come up too much in games (despite my having a mini for it!). Maybe it's the naming confusion. I don't know. It does show up as a wandering encounter in dungeons (Levels 6-7), and a few terrain types. Rare or not, it's a nasty thing to throw at PCs.

Gorgon (from Cook)

No. App: 1-2 (1d4)
AC: 2
HD: 8
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 (gore or breath)
Dmg: 2d6 or petrify
Save: F8
Morale: 8

OK, first off this thing is physically pretty tough. Its scales give it plate mail-like protection and it has up to 64 hit points. In other words, it's not going down easily.

Its horns do respectable damage, and it gets to double that if it charges. Let's get real, though, the breath weapon is the moneymaker here.

As mentioned previously in this blog, petrification is a scary thing for PCs. Players, as a rule, hate it! The vapor covers a 60' long by 10' wide area and the gorgon is immune, so it might "ground zero" itself and catch any or all nearby PCs. Another tidbit, there is no listed limit to how many times or how often the gorgon can use this attack! So the odds are good that someone is ending up a lawn ornament (at least temporarily).

On the downside for this thing, it doesn't have a great morale and most versions' monster listings peg it at animal level intelligence; so you might drive it off. It has fairly decent treasure (type E), so it can be worth a party's while to track it back to its lair, but remember the number encountered in lair is up to four, so watch out!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New vlog post (Episode 31)

Talking about "being rational" whilst designing an adventure.

Geez! I look brooding in that thumbnail!

Friday, June 22, 2012

RMA: Chimera

Challenge accepted!

Okay, it wasn't really a challenge per se. Today's entry over at Lawful Indifferent did have a line that gave me pause, though.

"...[Chimeras are] one of the coolest mythological creatures that doesn't get any love. Sure, people f*king love elves and dragons and stuff, or even goblins or orcs, but never chimeras."
Well now, that sounds like RMA material to me!

At first I didn't agree about them not getting enough love. I had just used one in my now-complete Night's Dark Terror game, so they felt well-represented. Truth be told though, it had been a long time since one had shown up in my games before that. So maybe Mr. Wright is on to something.

Let's take a look at the stats, shall we?

Chimera (from Cook)

AC: 4
HD: 9
No. App: 1-2 (1-4)
Move: 120' (40')/180' (60') Fly
Att: 5* (2 claws/3 heads)
Dmg: 1d3/1d3/2d4/2d4/3d4
Save: F9
Morale: 9

*Breath Weapon: Fire (cone, 50'L, 10'W). 3d6, 3 times/day.

I typically play chimeras as vicious predators, but not particularly intelligent. Their mediocre morale would seem to indicate a more animal-like mentality. I find the Chaotic alignment amusing given that there are three heads to compete with each other in any decision making.

Like other mythological beasties, chimeras seem to be in most versions of the game and yet fairly  infrequent encounters. Looking at the random encounter charts, as a dragon subtype they are at least possible as wandering monsters in every terrain type (except cities), and they appear on the dungeon level 8+ wandering monster chart. So why are they held back?

Well, one possibility is that they are a relatively complicated monster to run. They fly and they get a crazy number of attacks per round (five!) plus a breath weapon!

Of course, all this should lead any GM worth his screen to now be saying, "Hmm!"

The amount of damage for the claws and heads aren't huge (d3s and d4s), but one good round can nickel and dime even a mid-to-high level PC into the Land of Hurt. Add in a blast of fire for good measure and you could see even a 9th level fighter type with typical hit points CON bonuses go down in a round or two! NB: The dragon head bites or breathes flame, not both in one round.

While it's not in the write-up, like raptors, I can easily imagine a chimera picking up a PC into the sky and dropping him. Maybe not a fighter in plate mail, but certainly a small or unarmored person.

Nine hit dice means it's hitting often and can take some punishment before going down (or fleeing), and AC 4 is respectable enough. What I find terrifying is the idea that you can run up against TWO of them in a random encounter! Never mind in the lair.

Speaking of lairs, the typical haul for a chimera's loot is ≈5K, so that should get the PCs attention.


I just watched the 2008 documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. It was an interesting bio-pic of the man and his works. Such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Peter Straub, and others are interviewed in the piece. for any HPL fans out there who haven't seen it, You can see it for free on Crackle.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Prop Fatigue"

My recent Song of Blades and Heroes video reminded me of something. About a year and a half ago, I posted a vlog entry about miniatures. In it, I briefly mention some of the drawbacks to using minis in RPGs.

Yesterday was Father's Day, and my brothers were over with their kids. We had some of our older ones playing a Labyrinth Lord game with us (my oldest niece running). I noticed the kids getting really distracted by my minis and the Chessex mat, and it occurred to me I had seen some similar things with adults as well.

While "grown ups" are less likely to start inventing a game with the minis on the table and ignoring the actual adventure, they often become distracted from what's going on in the game by worrying about things like minor details on a piece of terrain or miniature.

Most people who use minis and terrain have run into this on occasion; the figure has the wrong weapon or armor compared to what's described, or using a generic terrain feature like a pile of rocks to represent something else (like a cairn or standing stone).

But you said the orcs had axes!

The obvious reason for this happening is, of course, that whomever is supplying the props cannot reasonably be expected to have every possible option on hand for perfect representation. But that's not the problem (other than people won't pay me obscene amounts of money to stay home and paint my minis). The trouble isn't even in the inevitable periodic confusion it can potentially cause. No, the trouble is a broader issue, which I have decided to call "Prop Fatigue." (PF)

PF is the phenomena when the props themselves are taking away from –instead of adding to– the game. When players fixate on "the board" instead of the game. It happens when GMs (and I have been guilty of this once or twice) let worrying about getting a particular mini or terrain piece ready for a particular encounter (because it's a more accurate representation) to the point where they may alter the adventure! e.g. "I can't run the fight with the dragon until I'm done painting the mini!"

In a skirmish/wargame, there can be actual rules about how the appearance of a mini can limit what it represents (i.e. "That goblin can't represent an ogre."). Of course in rules sets that are particular about this, you can often run an unpainted figure or both agree to let things slide in the name of fun.

In an RPG like B/X, the use of miniatures isn't even required, so when mental noise or table debate about counting squares on the Chessex mat, or fretting about the fact that the bugbear mini doesn't have a helmet, or that the house is supposed to be log instead of stone is on the rise, it means your game may be suffering from PF.

What's to be done? Well, it depends. Sometimes it's an isolated incident and can be safely ignored. If the condition persists among the table in general, then it may be time to put the mat and minis away and stick to abstract visualization for a while. If the "propmaster" (the one doing the painting, etc.) is getting obsessive about it, the GM can gently take the paintbrush out of his hand and tell him "It's OK. I can use these d6's for the other orcs." If the propmaster is also the GM, you have a problem. The only thing to be done is for the players to tell him his paint jobs are too awesome to subject to the rigors of play. Minis painters cannot resist praise and may be distracted long enough for you to move events along before they start rooting through their case for "Just the right mini."

Hang on! Just let me re-paint it as tundra!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Song of Blades and Heroes

Here's a little video I just made showcasing part of a skirmish I played out using Ganesha Game's excellent Song of Blades and Heroes rules. It's not the whole battle, but it gives a sense of the rules and game play. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

RMA: Cyclops

Like some of the other mythological creatures I've talked about, it's not hard to figure out why the cyclops was included in the monster listings. It is, after all, a classic. 

The thing is, Mr. Monocle there doesn't seem to get a lot of table time. In a game with almost as many gigantic humanoids as slime-based monsters, it's not hard to -aheh- see how that could happen. You've got ogres, ettins, troll, and six kinds of giants to throw at the PCs. This is a shame, IMO, because the cyclops is such an interesting monster.

Well, not as interesting as YOU, of course!

Cyclops (from Cook)
No. App.: 1 (1d4)
AC: 5
HD: 13
Move: 90' (30')
Att: 1
Dmg: 3d10 (club)
Save: F13
Morale: 9

As a straight-up combatant, it's not so unusual. It's 20' tall and smacks you with a gigantic club (or chucks boulders at you for 3d6 damage). Its -2 to hit for poor depth perception is an amusing little detail, I think.

While there can be up to 4 of them, their morale isn't terrific, so they could easily break and run, hiding in their caves. Their AC is so-so, but 13HD is a respectable force to deal with (roughly on par with a cloud giant). Like many giant-types, cyclops also have very respectable treasure, making them a choice target for loot-minded PCs.

No, what I like about the cyclops are the little details. They are described as "stupid"  and escapable through trickery. The Expert book also says they raise their own sheep and grapes, which I find an incredibly cool idea. I am imagining cyclops vineyards and wines. 

The last little bit I want to mention is, of course, the cyclops'  Curse ability. It is rare (5%), and only usable once a week, but again. a wonderful bit of mythological flavor right out of Homer to add to a night's gaming that can set some fun hooks for future adventures.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Take that, you fiend!

Awwww yeah!

Well, since Night's Dark Terror has wrapped up, it's time for me to get out from behind the screen for a little while. Our group is going to do some round-robin GMing for the next couple months. The idea is to have each game finish in ≈3 sessions so we can give someone else a chance to run if they like. 

Tonight we're starting a Tunnels & Trolls game. We'll be playing 7th ed. (7.5?), and my familiarity is from having played 5th ed. years ago, but I'm psyched. T&T was always a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RSA: Detect Invisible

I sometimes wonder if this spell is not normally chosen because the of the B/X editorial mistake which left the description out of both books. I had to go to the Rules Cyclopedia to find the text.

Detect Invisible

Level: 2 (MU/Elf)
Range: 10' per level of the spellcaster
Duration: 6 turns
Effect: When the spell is cast, the spellcaster can see all invisible creatures and objects within range. The range is 10' for each level of the spellcaster. For example, a 3rd level spellcaster can use this spell to see invisible things within 30'.

At first glance, it seems more like a 1st level spell to me. After all, it's pretty specific. I expect it's second level to "counter" the 2nd level invisibility spell, which I suppose is fair enough from a game-balance perspective.

Of course, another facet is how often is a spellcaster is going to use up a spell slot for this? Not to mention how many spellcasters would even go to the trouble of putting a copy in their grimoire? Unless it's found as a scroll or spells are assigned randomly, I don't know that I've ever seen a PC with this spell. Still, I can imagine many scenarios where the spell could be extremely useful. I could see sylvan elves keeping this spell handy for dealing with annoying pixies. I expect a wizard trying to catch an assassin or cat burglar who is using a ring of invisibility would find this spell very handy.

I may try placing a scroll of this when there is a deliberate use for it later on in the adventure and see if it the players connect the dots. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

RMA: Giant Scorpion

Okay! Okay! I'm sorry I said this adventure was boring!!

Other people may feel differently, but for me, the scorpion is one creepy little crawly; certainly more so than spiders or other arachnids. Having lived in the southern United States for years, I would come across the unstriped scorpion from time to time, but the sense of alienness persists for me.

In real life, most scorpions' stings are no worse than a bee's (allergies notwithstanding). There are more venomous varieties, of course. The largest real-world scorpions clock in at about 8" long. Most are more like 1-2".

The D&D Giant Scorpion is described in Cook Expert as "the size of a small horse." Labyrinth Lord is comparable, saying 6' long. Which is middling for most of the game's "giant" creatures. Still, six feet of scorpion is ten feet too many!

While not precisely rare in adventures, these monsters are hardly common in my experience. People seem to save these for desert/mummy-type adventures, despite the fact that scorpions live in many climates. In fact, GSs are disturbingly common on the wandering monster tables. They appear on dungeon levels 6-7, and –since they are listed under the insect subtable– they can appear in six of the ten terrain types (and with two listings for insect under "jungle"). Oddly, since "insect" isn't an option there, you won't randomly encounter them in the desert.

The stats:

Giant Scorpion (from Cook)

AC: 2
AL: Chaotic
HD: 4*
Move: 150' (50')
Att: 3 (2 claws/1 sting)
Damage: 1d10/1d10/1d4 + poison
No. App: 1d6 (1d6)
Save: F2
Morale: 11

Chaotic? Really?? I would have thought that it would lack the brains for anything other than animalistic neutral, but I suspect that –and its impressive morale score– reflect its aggressive nature. ("will usually attack on sight.") 

Its poison is –of course– Save or Die, but the real kicker is the fact that a successful claw attack gives the monster a +2 to hit with its stinger. Even leaving the venom aside, 1d10 per claw is pretty rough. The nasty play (DMs take note) is to attack two different PCs, one with each claw, and then follow up with the sting on whomever gets "pinched." 

Their eight legs let them scurry faster than the normal character, closing quickly, and their shells are like plate mail. Round that off with 4 HD for hit points and attacks, and this thing is no pushover. 

Up to six giant scorpions per encounter is a scary time for anyone, but they are still susceptible to Sleep, so don't despair. Their saves aren't terribly impressive either. The best tactics against them is probably to keep your distance, pepper them with arrows, and hit them with spells if you can. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

RMA: Tigers

TIGER, tiger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

-Wm Blake, "The Tyger"

I don't think I have to go into a lot of detail about why these are formidable creatures. I'm including them in the RMAs because they are an uncommon encounter, IMO. This is most likely because of climate locations in most campaigns (like the aquatic encounters I've described before). Most folk consider tigers for jungle expedition adventures and the like.

In the real world, Bengal Tigers (the most common type) clock in at about ten feet long (with tail, 6-7 feet without) and can weigh close to 500 pounds. That's a big kitty!

Tigers are also known for being one the more likely man-eaters among large predators. While there have been numerous fictional stories about such specimens, it is true that some tigers start preferring "long pork" for their meals.

Okay, on to the gaming stats, etc.

Tiger (from Moldvay)

No. App: 1 (1d3)
AC: 6
HD: 6
Move: 150' (50')
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d6/1d6/2d6
Save: F3
Morale: 9

While they normally are solitary, it is possible to encounter a few at once. One is probably enough to give a low to mid level party a bad few rounds, or even a fatality.

Tigers prefer cooler climates and wooded lands (according to Moldvay). "Cooler" as opposed to the lion's veldt, I expect. Fun fact: They appear in Cook's wilderness encounters on the "Inhabited" table! Staying close to the food, I expect! In fact, they appear on three different climate tables: Inhabited, Woods, and River. Oh, yes. That's another fun, real-life factoid about tigers: They like water and can swim (even submerged)!

Diving for a tasty snack.
(He's looking that ticked-off because he's pinching his nostrils shut 
and keeping the water out of his ears. Still, eek!)

The monster description explains that the tiger's stripes help it hide, and in the woods the creature surprises on a 1-4! With its THAC0 of 12, there's a decent chance this thing is hitting for 4d6 damage before anyone knows what's happening. If your PC was the lucky one bringing up the rear, you better hope it doesn't gain initiative.

Fortunately for the PCs, this thing is just a normal animal. It would be scared of fire, and more interested in a meal than a melee. Its morale isn't great, so it would probably retreat under concentrated resistance. It's fast enough it will probably get away to lick its wounds and come follow from a safe distance, too. Its six HD means a Sleep spell isn't catching it, and it can probably survive a little damage before having to pick fight or flight.

As a GM, I see using this critter in nasty ambushes, causing party attrition. A hireling or pack animal killed. A PC badly injured so healing spells are used up. Heck, this thing roaring out among the trees might spook any riding or pack beasts into fleeing; preferably with valuable supplies on their backs!

A more nefarious scenario might be the classic "evil druid" with several of these things under an Animal Friendship spell.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lives Everlasting

(inspired by the RSA: Reincarnation post)

Lives Everlasting

This is a powerful curse bestowed by the gods or other similarly powerful beings, it is far beyond mortal spell-casting except through the powerful rituals. There is no saving throw. It basically denies the recipient the afterlife by trapping them in a cycle of rebirth. 

If a character subject to the curse dies of old age, they are reborn as an infant of their race with no memories of their previous existence other than a sense of loss and denial that plagues them for their whole lives. If the character dies before his natural span is done, then he is Reincarnated (as per the spell) and his new form is rolled randomly. The reincarnation occurs instantly, preventing any chance of Raise Dead or Resurrection being performed. The soul is bound to the new form irrevocably. When that body dies, the same conditions apply.

Only direct divine intervention can fully counter this curse. A Wish spell or item can break the cycle, but only if used to permanently kill the character. Certain powerful items, such as the Deck of Many Things (i.e. the Skull card. The Void leaves the cursed soul intact, though trapped.) or a Sphere of Annihilation can grant a character release from the curse, but only in the sense that he is destroyed. 

Closing In

I don't normally post about my campaign here. I usually just update the logs over at Obsidian Portal, but I realized that with Session #29 coming up tonight, we are closing in on the end of Night's Dark Terror. For those of you not familiar with B10, it's practically a campaign in itself. The story takes the characters all over most of eastern Karameikos. It's been a ton of fun, and I'm really pleased that we've managed to keep going through the whole thing. (knocks wood)

I will confess a certain level of GM fatigue, since I've been running this almost non-stop (with a few fun breaks) for the better part of a year, and trying to stick to a particular published module can be constraining at times. Perhaps when this is over someone else will run for a little bit. On the one hand that can be a relief, but on the other it's hard to step out from behind the screen and avoid backseat GM-ing. I can only say that if I end up playing instead of running, I will do my best to clam up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

RMA: Rhinoceroseseses


Like many other real creatures, this one hasn't seen a lot of table time in my experience. In fact, the normal rhino doesn't even appear on the random encounter charts; and the wooly version is only on the optional "Prehistoric" table.

While, in real life, rhinos are hardly racking up the kills (much more the reverse, actually), they are notoriously unpredictable. Looking at the stats and descriptions, it's totally understandable why PCs might give this fellow a wide berth.

Rhinoceros       Ordinary        Woolly  (from Cook)

No. Enc.:        0 (1d12)          0 (1d8)
Alignment:      Neutral           Neutral
Movement:     120' (40')         120' (40')
Armor Class:  5                    4
Hit Dice:        6                     8
Attacks:                  -butt or trample-
Damage:        2d4 or 2d8       2d6 or 2d12
Save:            F3                    F4
Morale:          6                       6

What the scariest thing about its stats (either version)? No, not the trampling damage. Give up? The answer is its morale! I know, but it's a trick question. You need to read the description to see why.

"If threatened, surprised, or charged, they will stampede in a random direction, goring all in their path for double damage on the first attack."
Get that? These suckers spook 50% of the time, then proceed to go barreling off who knows which way. Even if you are what scared them, they might come at you instead of fleeing. You can't predict it. If they happen to head your way, their gore attack deals 4d4 or 4d6 damage, depending on type. You are almost certainly dealing with several of them at once as well. Imagine a half dozen of these things thundering at you!

Once that first gutting is over, the things might stick around to finish the job. With 2d8/2d12 for stomping you into the dust, it might not take very long either.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fun with iMovie

I made this goofy little vid to promote our newest Faster Monkey Product (see "What I'm Shilling"). Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moldvay Musings VI: Encumbrance

I always forget that encumbrance in BX is an optional rule. I use it so often in my games that it seems integral to the system to me. I can totally understand someone choosing to "hand wave" the whole thing though.

It seems that encumbrance is one of those mechanics that RPGs tend to struggle with. Despite the simplicity of the idea ("Carrying lots of stuff is hard!"), different games have tried all sorts of methods to represent this. More often than not, they come up short, either in playability, or realism, or both.

The B/X method –being one of the oldest– is fairly simple compared to some, and while far from perfect, does the job well enough, IMO.

Two of the most commonly cited "weaknesses" of the mechanic are:
  • No Strength modifier for carrying capacity.
  • 10 coins per pound is a harsh scale.

The first is easily house-ruled. I commonly allow a character's STR adjustment (to hit/damage) to alter the allowed weights by 100 cn per ±1. So, for example, an 18 STR can carry 700 cn without being slowed down, while a 3 STR character could only carry 100 cn before being encumbered. 

The idea that an individual coin weighs 1.6 oz. means you're talking some serious metal discs and a LOT of gold per piece. It's easy enough to explain away though; a relatively primitive society, lots of impurities in the alloy (a "gold piece" would probably be more like 10K than 18 or 24K), etc.

One tidbit I like in the system is the idea of armor slowing you down regardless of weight. The very fact you are in armor limits movement, etc. It tends to make PCs a bit slow. When you love resource management and wandering monsters as much as I do, though, that's a feature not a bug! To me, it's as much a part of the challenge as fighting monsters when players need to sweat running out of torches, or the extra time it takes to move through an area, because of all the stuff they are carrying or wearing. Watching them debate taking that one more sack of coins but leave their rations behind? Priceless!