Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Enemy Location Table


In theater-of-the-mind combat can get a little confusing. Without the visual aid of maps and minis to keep you grounded it is very easy to lose track of exactly where everyone is. And it is hard for players to visualize where their enemies are.

This table simplifies things a bit. When the party encounters enemies the GM will describe their relative distance as being immediate, near, or far. When specific distances are needed to help make combat decisions or decide if a spell's range will do the trick the GM can roll 1d6 on the table and give a concrete distance rather than winging it.

d6 Roll
5' melee
5' melee
more than 240'

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Frimmsreach Episode #39



Game Date: 01-05-15
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth

Varlix is dead! But nobberlochs approach in vast numbers. The team flees up through the sarcophagus bottom and back into Varlix’ tomb.

A nasty surprise…just outside the door stands another serpentine figure reading from a scroll that turns to dust in his hands. Nobberlochs surround him, pushing the door closed to seal the victims inside. What magic is this serpentine man working? The tomb seems…changed somehow. Darker. More evil.

Azmooth looses her arrow to no avail, Sparruu uses his red dragon dagger, breathing a cone of flame on his enemies! The nobberlochs are burnt to a crisp and the serpent man feels the heat as well. But he quickly slithers off to escape. Argus slams into the door to keep it open and the crew piles out of the room to engage the enemy as more nobberlochs enter the next chamber from the broken wall outside Varlix’ tomb.

Despite their efforts, Sparruu and Frothgar are unable to hear their gods or feel their presence. No miracles are granted during this fight. The tomb has become sacred to a dark power…Frimm and Miana Musina are unwelcome here!

In the melee a nasty nobber gets its wormy mouth on Argus’ bare chest! That sucks. Now he feels the pain and pressure in his gut as something…nasty…grows inside. This could be bad for our muscled marauder.

Once the nobberlochs are put down and before more can rally the team retreats back through the tomb, through the sarcophagus rooms of Lumix and Rumix. But wait! Lumis is not in his tomb! The snake man…was Varlix’ brother. Could this mean Lumix will seize the title of high priest? What of the Terror Worm?

Up the intrepid heroes go and all the way to the front door. Heave, heave, and the door gives way. The heroes stumble out and back to Bjarn’s store where the fiasco began. Once there, Sparruu feels the presence of Miana Musian again. He prays and is able to heal Arugs, removing the thing growing inside him. The barbarian will live. The cellar door is locked and barred.

But what of Quilliam? What of the village? The night is silent and deep. Snow has fallen nearly 4’. No one is around. Sings of struggle…blood on the floor.

Moving outside, they find a silent village. Bodies lying like humps under the snow. What happened here!?

Moving to a house with a light they discover the healer Aggi Migloden hiding along with two children.

Monsters.” She says. “Many monsters came…took the people, dragging them across the ice…or killing those that fought back.”

This shall not stand!

End of Episode #39

Frimmsreach Episode #38



Game Date: 12-29-14
Cast: Sparruu, Frothgar, Argus, Azmooth

Down in the Tomb of Lost Children the black blood of worms slickens the floors and the smell of foul nobberlochs is never too far away. Alix warns the others that if Varlix is allowed to escape he will fully establish the Shrine of Worms anew and raise the dreaded Terror Worm, eater of villages!

The heroes chew the worm, spit its foulness upon the tomb’s door and the door responds by opening. Cultists are gross.

Inside lies the sarcophagus of Varlix. They examine it closely. The only image on its top is that of a great snake with four black eyes. Alix, the would-be assassin of the high priest, seems to know little about how to actually get the job done. It seems very little real planning went into this venture. Steeling up his nerve, he reaches forth to find a way to open the sealed lid. The risk is high…and he pays the price! A zap of lightning fries poor Alix in an instant and his body is disintegrated!

Reeling from the shock of losing their companion, the intrepid tomb raiders say a prayer for the fallen hero. It is then decided that more investigation is needed. The entire room is closely examined for clues. And one is found…a cryptic notation written into the base of the sarcophagus, barely detectable:

The right hand of Rumix
And the left hand of Lumix
The eyes of Varlix
For the love of the Deep Mother

A plan is made. The diamonds on the lids of the other sarcophagi are harvested and placed in the lid of Varlix to fit into the snake’s dead eyes. The eyes light up, the lid is shoved off. The heroes immediately fall upon the coffin’s occupant with terrible fury!

Sword strokes, prayers to the gods, arrows to the eyes! Varlix drops the false bottom of his sarcophagus to make a hasty retreat into a dark tunnel. The heroes pursue with all intention of ending this evil high priest before he can fully awaken the Shrine of Worms.

Soon the deed is done and the heroes stand victorious. But wait…a horde of nobberlochs approaches from deeper in the cave! Dozens of them…

End of Episode #38

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Magic-User With Sword

I was reading an article in Dragon #66 discussing the rationale behind banned weapons for Clerics and Magic-Users. This is a topic I've often thought about. The article gets it right in the beginning by stating that these prohibitions are only there for game balance. But then it goes on to discuss possible justifications, such as the metal in a sword disrupting magic.

I disagree. And in my campaign a Magic-User actually did tote a short sword around for a while...and used it to good effect against a sabertooth ogre.

Here's how it works in my game.


A wizard might grab a dead orc's sword and stick it in his belt. Maybe when his spells are tapped out he whips out the blade, feeling more confident than with his dagger. In combat he can either cast a spell OR use the sword. Not both. And if the sword is not already out it takes him 1 full round to get it out. He's not trained after all.

He gets no penalty to hit. Magic-Users already suck at hitting things. The penalty is built in.

He cannot cast any spells and hold the sword. He cannot drop the sword and cast in the same round. He needs his hands free prior to the round in order to have his bag open and his spell goodies at the ready. In my game you need to be able to speak, use your hands, and have access to your wizardly bag of stuff in order to cast. You can't do that if you've got a sword in your hand.

And one last thing. If the wizard uses a prohibited weapon in combat he earns no XP for that combat. You want to pick up that magic broadsword? Go ahead. You can even use it. But it will cost you something.


If a Thief can sneak, climb, and pick pockets in leather armor then a Magic-User should be able to move well enough to cast a spell. However, the restrictiveness of the armor reduces the wizard's ability. In my game there is a spell roll and the armor applies a negative penalty to the roll. Anything heavier than chain mail prohibits casting at all.

For normal games I think this rule would work: The Magic-User has a chance-in-ten of casting a spell in armor equal to the armor's AC rating. Thus leather would be 80% successful casting. Studded leather is 70%, scale is 60%, chain is 50%. And anything better than chain prohibits any casting at all. A shield prohibits casting since it ties up one hand.

So the Magic-User who feels vulnerable walking around with a 9 AC could consider strapping on some Studded leather. He just needs to be aware that 30% of his spells will be ruined because of it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thieves' Skills


You're playing a Thief. You want to pick a lock. You take a peek at your sheet and see that your chance is 15%. That sucks! Surely you can do better than that?

I think you can. I think the Thief's skills are not meant to replace existing stealth rules (such as they are), but to augment them. This is what I mean:

You try to sneak through a room where some orcs are playing bones in the corner. The dice are thrown and the result is 55%. That's well above the 20% you needed to move silently. What does that mean? It means you didn't move silently. It does NOT mean the orcs heard you. It simply means you made some kind of noise that might be heard. So the DM should then make the normal roll to determine if the orcs heard a noise or not.

If you were a Fighter sneaking through the room you'd only get the second roll, not the first one too. So the Thief has an added layer of rules to cover stealth.

Same for hiding in shadows. A failed skill roll means you could be seen. It does not mean you actually were seen. When the Thieves' skill rolls fail you simply fall back to normal rules such as a surprise check or hear noises.

I don't know if this was how the rules were meant to be used or not but this is how I've been thinking of them for a long time. It makes a thousand times more sense to me now than before and it means I don't necessarily have to house rule the Thief (though in all honesty I still do...).