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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!