Tag Archives: Pahvelorn

Ratlings in Pahvelorn

Rackham (source)

Rackham (source)

Or, how I discoverned what halflings were like in my setting.

The sequence of events was as follows.

  1. Gustie’s first PC, a fighter named Lune, was incinerated by a fire-breathing statue trap.
  2. For his next character, he decided to create a thief, Beni Profane, a rat-catcher.
  3. After an adventure, Beni went carousing and failed his saving throw. He rolled a 19, which is: When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving your sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.
  4. I asked Gustie what god or spirit Beni worshipped, to which he responded none. So I asked him what god he feared, and he came back with The Mother of Thousands, a six-armed rat spirit.
  5. And so was Beni was given a quest in his dreams by The Mother of Thousands.
  6. The problem, as it turned out, was that a group of ratlings was being persecuted by the Priest-King Agamos, lord of the stronghold of Ilum Zugot to the northwest (map).
  7. The ratlings had recently taken over some abandoned grave barrows as shelter, and were stealing grain from the Priest-King’s farmers and grain stores.
  8. The PCs successfully negotiated a deal between the rat-folk and the Priest-King where Agamos would give them grain in exchange for direction to more sealed barrows and spying on those around the Priest-King’s domain (especially Efulziton the Unseen, a necromancer to the south).

Ratling Class

  • 2d6 for strength and constitution
  • Level progression as thief
  • Hit dice as magic-user
  • Attack progression as cleric
  • No skill with armor, but see below
  • Only small weapons may be used without penalty
  • Weapon damage is “two dice, take least” or one die if wielded with two paws
  • May use their bite to attack (1-3 damage) or chew through things like ropes
  • Climb Walls, Hear Noise, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Pickpocket
  • Smell-based search rolls (including detecting poison) as Hear Noise
  • Natural AC as light armor (leather)
  • Round to round, attack ranks may be used to improve AC
  • +4 save versus wands, dragon breath, and disease
  • May speak to rats and related rodents (only general concepts)
  • Can squeeze through extremely small openings
  • For starting retainer roll d6: 1-3 giant rat, 4-6 young ratling

Ratlings detest most domesticated animals, but sometimes have giant rats (HD 1-1, AC 7, damage 1-3) as companions. Humans also will generally not follow them as retainers. Thus rather than a standard retainer, ratlings may begin with a giant rat or ratling youth. It is common for young ratlings to be taken on short tours of the world at large, to teach them how to hide from civilized folk and familiarize them with all the dangers that threaten rat-folk. Most return to their burrows terrified of everything, but a few rare ratlings acquire a taste for adventuring.

Ratling youth

HD 1-1, AC 7, bite, smell, and climb walls as above; convert to full ratling at 100 XP.

Silvered weapons

Image from Wikipedia

Some foes, such as lycanthropes and wights, are immune to standard weapons but vulnerable to silver, and most or all versions of D&D include silver versions of various items in the equipment list. OD&D prices silver arrows at 5 GP per arrow (compared to a quiver of 20 arrows for 10 GP), and Moldvay prices silver daggers at 30 GP (ten times as much as the standard dagger). Silver crosses are also available for 25 GP (the simple wooden variety is only 2 GP).

However, treasure hunting adventurers are not very price sensitive regarding mundane equipment, so increased cost does not have much effect other than during initial equipment buying. Thus, there should be some trade-off to using a silvered weapon other than just costing more initially. Otherwise, players will just outfit everyone with silver versions of everything, and then combattants will be assumed to always use silvered weapons, just in case. Most things that are unproblematically better are boring. So there should be some reason to not use silver weapons all the time.

A silvered weapon is not actually made of solid silver. Rather, it is an iron or steel implement that has silver bound to the blade in a process similar to gilding. Perhaps a ritual and some hedge magic or blessing is also required as part of the procedure. As it is used, the silver wears off. This process of wearing off is actually critical to the effective functioning of the silver weapon — you are essentially leaving traces of poison in the argyrophobic  creature.

A “silver die” (d6) should be rolled along with every damage die. On a silver die roll of 1, the silvering process has worn off, and must be re-silvered. Needing to roll an extra die also draws attention to the use of a silver weapon, making it more of an explicit choice, and less of a default. This makes silver arrows potentially more cost-effective than most silvered melee weapons (though note you can’t effectively fight with a ranged weapon if you are in melee). Also, a miss with a silvered melee weapon will not potentially degrade the weapon, but an arrow that misses may be damaged or lost. So the value comparison is not direct.

Most metal weapons can be silvered. The cost (following Moldvay) is ten times the normal weapon, and takes a skilled smith one week to complete. Given the cost of silvering, it makes sense to only use silver weapons when they are likely to make a difference. This is in effect a form of melee ammunition.

Silvered plate armor is available too, at the same cost multiple. Argyrophobic foes will generally prioritize attacking characters that are not wearing silvered armor, and will usually take a penalty when attacking combattants armored in silver (though this varies based on the specific creature). Silvered armor will also wear out in a similar manner (a silver die should be rolled per attack that is landed on the wearer).

Thief skills

Cropped image from Wikipedia

Eric recently did a clarification post on thief skills for use with B/X D&D, based on the idea of leaving the basic percentages as is (that is, working with the basics of the traditional system without completely rewriting it). The thief class in my Pahvelorn game is a version of the Greyhawk thief, modified slightly to fit the mechanics of the 3 LBBs. My general approach is similar to Eric’s, though I have not committed to writing how the skills are resolved (despite much rumination on the thief class in general). Here is an attempt at guidelines for thief skill use.

Thief skills include Climb Walls, Hear Noise, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Locks, Pickpocket, and Remove Traps. All of these are percentile skills, other than Hear Noise.

The following general principles apply to all percentile thief skills.

  1. Failing with a roll of 96, 97, 98, 99, or 00 means something goes wrong. The thief falls, the trap goes off, the lockpick breaks. Depending on the circumstances, the consequences of something going wrong may be dire (though a further saving throw might apply).
  2. Failing with a roll of 95 or less means the thief makes no progress, but does not suffer any other negative effects. Another attempt may be made. Most attempts take one turn, but see below.
  3. Succeeding by more than half means the skill use is quick. For example, if a thief has a 30% chance of success and rolls a 15 or less, the task was accomplished with alacrity. The exact amount of time required is up to the referee, but it should take much less than a full turn.

Move Silently is an attempt to approach or move past an enemy without being detected. Any action taken while moving silently automatically gains surprise.

Hide in Shadows allows a character to remain hidden even if someone is searching. Any action taken while hidden in shadows automatically gains surprise.

Regarding the two stealth skills, as specified above in principle 2, failing a Move Silently or Hide in Shadows roll does not mean that they are noticed (unless the roll is particularly bad, as laid out in principle 1). Neither Move Silently nor Hide in Shadows may be used in combat.

Characters other than thieves (or thieves that fail a stealth-related skill check) still have recourse to the standard chance of gaining surprise. This is 2 in 6 by default per encounter. It may be adjusted up or down based on the specific situation and character preparation.

Picking locks and removing small mechanical traps require tools and the special training of the thief. Larger traps must be disabled or avoided by player ingenuity. Traps may be discovered by using the same procedure for secret doors: 1 in 6 chance per turn (2 in 6 for demi-humans) given a 10′ x 10′ area, or by engagement with clues and explicit description.

Hear Noise functions exactly as the standard 1 in 6 listen at doors action, but with better chances.

Armor penalties apply to all percentile skills and are -20% if wearing chain and -30% if wearing plate. Hear Noise may not be attempted if wearing a helm.

I think this also reveals an interesting potential taxonomy. Listening and searching (the d6 checks) have to do with the state of the environment external to the thief. Whether or not a trap is present or a monster is beyond the door is not a function of the character. It’s either there or not. In contrast, all the other skills represent something about the character. Climbing, picking locks, removing traps, etc — these are all things that the character in some sense controls (particular task difficulty notwithstanding). Further, they are things that a character experientially can perceive the success of. They know whether they have failed to make progress climbing the wall or have fallen in a way that is different than a failure when attempting to use Hear Noise. Is there nothing there or did I just not hear it? This also explains why there is a Remove Traps percentage, but no Find Traps, as that is covered under the search action.

Thus, I propose the following final generalization: the d6 checks are rolled by the referee (to represent the objectivity and externality of the environment) and the percentile checks are rolled by the player. Even the Hide in Shadows and Move Silently skills, if looked at in the proper light, are not about being perceived by others, they are about the thief’s talent. Why shouldn’t the thief know whether or not they have successfully hidden in shadows? Thus, the thief can use the skill before they need to depend on it, unlike the surprise roll, which always happens when the thief is already potentially face to face with danger.

Note that this approach is more forgiving in several ways than the guidelines in Supplement I: Greyhawk, which specify (page 5):

The ability of a thief to climb is also a function of his level. There is a basic chance of 13% that a 1st level thief will slip and fall in climbing. With each higher level attained by the thief this chance is reduced by 1%, so that a 10th level thief has but a 4% chance of slipping.

And, regarding Open Locks, Remove Traps, Pickpocket, Move Silently, and Hide in Shadows (page 11):

A score above the indicated percentage means failure, and no further attempts may be made.

Robe Wards

Image from Wikipedia

Here are a collection of special wards that may be added to wizard robes. I’m not totally sure about the power levels and costs of some of these, but I don’t think anything is too crazy.

Any ward may be decoded with read magic (though see obscuring ward below) and destroyed with dispel magic (the wearer’s saving throw versus magic applies).

  1. Elemental ward.
    Choose one: fire, cold, lightning. You may re-roll the next failed saving throw of the given type. Doing so exhausts the ward. Minor effects related to the element in question often manifest around the wearer, though generally in subtle ways (a faint aura of cold, sparks when walking on stone, etc). Cost: 500 GP. Components: the remains of an elemental creature of at least 3 HD.
  2. Paralytic curse.
    Anyone other than the attuned magic-user donning the robe must make a save versus paralysis or be frozen in place indefinitely. If the save is successful, paralysis is avoided, but the wearer feels uncomfortable and nauseous (taking a -2 to all rolls). Cost: 500 GP. Components: the spleen of a ghoul.
  3. Obscuring ward.
    This ward disguises the nature of another ward. It either hides a ward completely or makes it appears as a different (non-functional) ward. Useful for disguising wards that may rely on forbidden magic, such as diabolism or necromancy. Cost: 500 GP. Components: blood of an adulterer.
  4. Flaming retribution.
    If the wearer is slain, a fireball detonates with ground zero at the wearer. Cost: 100 GP per die of fireball damage, max = robe level. Components: ash from a home that was burned to the ground.
  5. Protection from evil.
    Choose one: demons, undead, faeries. As per the spell. Any hostile action (referee determination; the player should be given information about what constitutes hostility) grants the creature a saving throw versus magic to destroy the ward. Creatures of this type can also sense the ward and thus have a -2 on any reaction roll. Cost: 1000 GP. Components: captured creature of the appropriate type (minimum 3 HD), sacrificed or ritually destroyed.
  6. Demonic sympathy.
    The true name of a demon is inscribed as a ward. If the attuned wearer dies, the demon is destroyed. If the ward is dispelled, the demon is freed. Cost: 1000 GP. Components: demon’s true name.
  7. Undead retribution.
    If the wearer is slain, she raises as a wraith and inexorably pursues the killer. Cost: 1000 GP. Components: fat rendered from the flesh of a person killed by terror or energy drain.
  8. Precipitative ward.
    Rain, snow, and other natural precipitation falls around rather than on the magic-user. Winds are calmed slightly, but not entirely (gale-force winds remain dangerous). Cost: 50 GP. Components: cloud, bottled and preserved.
  9. Relay ward.
    This ward must be created voluntarily with another magic-user. The other magic-user may cast spells through the wearer, though targeting is still up to the wearer. This also creates some form of unidirectional magical channel between the two, and the remote magic-user will always be able to sense the approximate direction and distance of the wearer (the remote magic-user also gains a +2 to all saves versus spells cast by the wearer). Some masters use this ward in order to control their apprentices. Cost: 1000 GP. Components: blood from both parties, freely shed, mingled.
  10. Sartorial ward.
    Robes may shift in appearance as long as they continue to maintain approximately the same surface area. All wards remain visible unless magically obscured. Robes must continue to appear as some form of clothing. Cost: 100 GP. Components: the ashes from a suit of currently fashionable clothing, burned.
  11. Necropotent ward.
    No life will come into being within 10 feet of the robes. Living plants will also gradually die, and animals will become uncomfortable (-2 reaction roll). Useful as a magical form of contraception. Cost: 100 GP. Components: crops spoiled prior to harvest.
  12. Seelie friendship.
    Must be created jointly with another magic-user of the Seelie court. +2 reaction rolls with members of the Seelie, -2 reaction rolls with members of the Unseelie. Generally awarded as a boon to magic-users that have helped the Seelie court. The reverse, Unseelie friendship, is also possible, but obviously not both at the same time. Cost: 500 GP. Components: blood shed in violence of a member of the opposing court.

Wizard Robes

The Beguiling of Merlin (source)

The act of spell casting opens up magic-users to dark forces and draws the attention of wicked spirits. In order to defend against such dangers, many magic-users wear garments imprinted with powerful and esoteric pictograms. Such wards help protect a magic-user against psychic pollution or opportunistic attack.

To function correctly, the wards must be imposed spiritually between the magic-user’s soul and the magical threat. There are some extremely powerful magical periapts that can accomplish this task without the symbolism of clothing, but they are very rare. More common are robes which stand directly between the flesh of the sorcerer and the external threat, particularly flowing clothing such as robes, which provide more space for esoteric symbols.

Just like physical armor, robes provide a defense rating, from 1 to 6. This rating functions as a bonus to the save versus magic and does not provide any bonus to physical armor class. Warded robes also function, by referee determination, as AC against certain special creatures (such as those that are ethereal). In Hexagram, the magic defense trait bonus does not stack with the bonus from warded robes, though the magic defense trait may be used to protect a companion (see the path of wonder trait descriptions).

The symbolism of clothing requires that the robes bridge the space between flesh and threat, so conventional armor may not be worn at the same time. However, most magic-users fear arcane assault more than physical assault (which may be guarded against by certain abjuration spells and loyal warders). Thus, many magic-users opt to wear robes rather than traditional armor (though they may forego wards and wear armor if desired). There are legends of warded mage armor, particularly among the faeries, but such treasures rarely come without strings attached.

The base cost of warded robes is as follows, by robe level. This includes the cost of materials and the labor of skilled tailors. Robes take one week per level to create.

  1. 10 gp
  2. 100 gp
  3. 500 gp
  4. 1000 gp
  5. 5000 gp
  6. 10000 gp

In addition to the saving throw bonus, warded robes may have up to N special wards (where N is equal to the level of the robes) which can provide special protection. The nature, cost, and availability of these additional wards are up to the referee, but often require special materials or far away knowledge.

Robes must be attuned to a particular magic-user. The cost of attuning a set of robes to a new owner is half the original cost. Additionally, the magic-user must cast a spell of level N as part of the attuning procedure. Warded robes that have not been attuned function at half-level (rounded down) until the garments are reworked to fit the soul of the new wearer. Some magic-users may also work curses into their garments (these would fall under the category of special wards) as insurance against theft.

In addition to psychic defense, warded robes also have social value. They advertise to strangers that the character is a magic-user. Such open magic-users are assumed to follow the laws of the ancient academy and to reject black magic such as diabolism and necromancy. One of the responsibilities of magic-users following the ancient rules is to hunt down and punish sorcerous rebels. Many magic-users are quite zealous in this task, in order to protect their fragile reputation. Within the society of magic-users, the complexity of robe symbolism also functions as a crude method of assessing another magic-user’s skill and power.

It is assumed that there are only three kinds of magic-users that do not wear robes openly. Those that are too poor or inexperienced to craft proper garments. Those that wish to conceal their nature (this is considered evil and is a crime in many places). And those, like the arch-mages of myth, that are powerful enough to need no external protection.

Level Drain

D&D wraith (source)

In my OD&D session this past monday, one of the PCs was hit by a wight and lost a level. Miraculously, four first level characters with a few zero level retainers defeated a group of 5 wights (3 HD creatures with numerous invulnerabilities and the fearsome energy drain). Thus, I had to clarify how level drain was going to work.

Talysman posted this interpretation of level drain back in January. When levels are drained, experience points are not decreased, though all level-associated characteristics (hit dice, spell progression, attack rank, turning undead, etc) are adjusted down. Assuming the character survives the ordeal, the lost levels can be regained. This separates the idea of experience points from the idea of level in this limited case, but I don’t think that will cause any major problems.

In Talysman’s example, gaining a single experience point is enough to recover a level, but no more than one level can be regained per session. So, in essence, a drained level forces a PC to be run at below strength for one or more sessions. This is a bit less final than permanently losing all that XP, but still costs the player time. I can see how this would make sense in game world terms, too. An encounter with undead should be a harrowing experience, and characters need some time to recover their confidence and abilities afterwards. I don’t think this weakens level drain too much, as the wickedest aspect of level drain remains: PCs killed and reduced to level zero rise again, adding to the ranks of the undead.

The basic idea works particularly well for Vaults of Pahvelorn, as HP is rerolled every session in any case. So there is no hassle about remembering the previous hit dice rolls. However, it does require a few minor adjustments to fit my other rules. For example, I award XP when treasure is spent, so by Talysman’s rules a surviving PC that has been level drained would immediately regain a level following the session (assuming they had some treasure to spend). I think that PCs should be required to run at least one session at the lower level for the drain to have impact. Thus, rather than regaining lost levels after accumulating more XP, one lost level will return per following session survived. Practically speaking, this is almost the same thing, as it is a rare session that results in zero XP.

Magical Research Assistance

Image from Wikipedia

The only method given in the 3 LBBs for acquiring new spells is magical research. No mention is made of copying scrolls into spell books, as is common in many later editions. The magical research system (detailed on Men & Magic page 34) is based on GP investment followed by a percentile roll for success. Costs per 20% chance are, by level of spell:

  1. 2000 GP
  2. 4000 GP
  3. 8000 GP
  4. 16000 GP
  5. 32000 GP
  6. 64000 GP

There are no spells above sixth level that can be prepared in spell slots (though there may exist more powerful ritual magic). The expense is cumulative, so that if you spend 10000 GP on researching a first level spell, there is a 100% chance of success. One week per spell level is required per attempt.

This is quite expensive, but in my game there are some house rules for increasing the chances of success without investing more GP. Here are some such ways (a few are based on ideas described in more detail in Spells by Reverse Engineering & Dissection). The epiphenomena of researched spells will likely be affected by the type of research employed.

Reverse Engineering
If you are willing to destroy a magic item in pursuit of magical insight, that is worth a 20% bonus to the spell research roll. The item must be relevant to the spell effect in some way. Note that this covers using scrolls in magical research rather than casting the spell from them directly.
If you can procure (by capture or purchase) a magical creature that is related in some way to the spell being researched, that is worth a 20% bonus to the spell research roll. For example, a creature that can use shadows as portals might be useful for researching dimension door. Mundane creatures are not generally useful for this bonus (thus, dissecting birds does not help with researching fly).
Studying Another Magic-User’s Spell Book
You can’t just copy a spell, but if you have access to another magic-user’s version of a spell, that is worth a 20% bonus to the spell research roll. Access to a grimoire works also.
Human Sacrifice
Magic-users with flexible morals may consume sentient, intelligent lives to help power their dark investigations. The number of souls required for a 20% bonus to the research roll is equal to the GP value of investment by spell level divided by 1000. Thus, a first level spell requires 2 while a sixth level spell requires 64. Not all spells can benefit from human sacrifice.
Places of Power
Some locations are inherently magical, either due to the echoes of past events, or strange connections to other places and times. Some examples are ancient standing stones and sites that exist half in the mortal realm and half in Dream-Land. Performing research for some kinds of spells in certain places is worth a 20% bonus on the research roll.
Self Sacrifice
Some magic-users crave power so much that they are willing to give of themselves. You may spend 1d4 ability score points or one hit die for a 20% bonus to a spell research roll. These reductions are permanent. Spells researched through self-sacrifice are said to be more deeply tied to their creator than other spells.
What are apprentices good for, if they can’t help you with magical research? An arcane entourage will provide a 20% bonus to spell research rolls. One apprentice per spell level is required for this bonus (so six assistants are required to get any benefit during the research of a sixth level spell). The assistants in question must be skilled enough to prepare spells of levels two beneath the level of the spell being researched.
Mind invasion
ESP along with a subdued magic-user that has a given spell prepared is much the same as having access to a spell book with the magic formula. Not for the squeamish or ethical.
Specialized Library
Large collections of specialized books are quite rare and valuable, but may in some cases be worth a 20% research bonus.
Demons know a lot about magic. If you give a demon or spirit something, it might help you out enough to get a 20% research roll bonus.
Image from Wikipedia

Each attempt must include at least one unit of monetary investment (for example, at least 16000 GP must be spent on any attempt to research a fourth level spell). In general, other forms of assistance may be used no more than once per attempt. For example, a magic-user could capture and dissect a salamander during the research for wall of fire, but capturing and dissecting another fire-oriented creature would not grant another 20% bonus for this particular spell.

Abstract magical research may be performed at any point, if the GP is available. This may be applied to any future specific attempt, but abstract magical research functions like carousing and requires a saving throw versus spells to avoid unintended (but often amusing) consequences.

What happens if the roll fails?
The preparation and investment are not totally lost, but some aspect of the magic-user’s understanding or ritual preparation was off. One of the 20% bonuses is wasted. So, if you only invested the minimum needed GP and didn’t use any other form of assistance, you must start over from scratch. The magic-user may try again in one moon with the reduced percentage (if any is left over), or invest further in the procedure. The same preparation may not be used for a different spell.
What about researching a spell in the rules versus making up your own spell?
Mechanically, these two cases are handled the same way. However, it will generally be easier to find non-monetary components to assist with the research of spells from the rules, as scrolls and NPC spell books will contain formula for those spells. Also, I have seeded the campaign world with other features and items that are useful for researching particular spells.
How does this interact with the grimoire system?
If you have a grimoire, and cast read magic to interpret a spell in it (only needed before preparing the spell for the first time), you may prepare the spell as normal. However, the spell is not “yours” and if you lose the grimoire in question, you will not be able to prepare the spell again. Researching a spell (either one from the book, or a new one from your imagination) does not allow you to create a grimoire, which is a special kind of magic item. Creating a true grimoire is the feat of a great archmage. Thus, finding a grimoire is the least expensive way to get access to a new spell that is not consumed after one use (as a scroll is so consumed).
How does this apply to clerics?
Clerics use the same system for magical research, but the list of potential aids is different, and will likely be covered in a future post. Cleric magic is more limited than the sorcery of magic-users; methods of discovering new cleric spells generally include activities like copying holy scripture and staging secret rites.
Image from Wikipedia

There are stories about guilds of magic-users that share spell books, thereby easing the cost of magical research (one only needs time with another magic-user’s spell book to use it as an aid in magical research). No such actual organizations near Pahvelorn are known, however, and magic-users tend to be a jealous, paranoid, secretive lot. Also, legend has it that learning another magic-user’s spells will give you insight into the weaknesses of those spells and potentially even power over their creator, much like knowing a true name.

Sightseer’s Guide to Zorfath

Welcome to Zorfath! Unfortunately, the town is not what it once was. In the 100 years after the ascension of Castle Pahvelorn to the overworld, the northeast, southeast, and southwest quadrants have fallen to ruins. The town itself, located in the northwest quadrant, is almost perched on the edge of the great chasm. It’s only a about a hundred paces to the Great Stairs, which leads to one of the entrances to the ruins in the pit. The abandoned parts of town are not safe; creatures from the surrounding wilderness often wander in, though they are prevented from entering the town proper by wards and the diligent town guards.

Oh, and stay away from the entrances to the old sewers. A cleric that came through town years ago sealed them all with holy power when the unquiet dead began to emerge and terrorize the town. Everyone assumes they are still trapped down there.

Here is a list of some locations that travellers like yourselves might be interested in, organized by what they provide.

Rumors, retainers, affordable lodging, and a good drink: THE GIANT’S SWORD. This is the best known tavern in Zorfath, so named for the huge rusty sword, the height of two men, thrust in the ground by the door. The blade was said to be wielded by a giant slain in the campaigns of the exiled Lord Arios.

Weapons and custom armor: BLACKSMITH’S SHOP. There’s only one, and it doesn’t really have a name, everyone just calls it the blacksmith’s shop. It is run by Master Greenscum and his crew of apprentices. Greenscum collects exotic weapons and will pay good GP for such items.

Exploration gear: THE GENERAL STORE. Pretty much what is says on the sign.

10′ poles, torches, lamps, oil, and other illuminates: take your pick of ARGOTZ LAMPMAKER & OILCRAFTER, SEVENTOOTH BLAZEWORKS, and VENDRANG’S ILLUMINATIONS. Lamp, oil, and other light-giving tools are one of the major products of Zorfath (fish, orange pottery, and green wheat being the other two major trade-goods). Any of the illumineers will pay for fire beetle glands, giant fireflies (more if alive), and several other creatures useful for light-crafting. The Zorfathian 10′ pole is used by the lamplighters and is generally fitted with a small metal hook at the business end.

Antidotes and other herbal concoctions: USETH’S APOTHECARY. Shilum the apprentice mostly manages the apothecary now, as his master Useth is gravely ill. Seeks undamaged corpses of poisonous creatures.

  • Wyvern antitoxin (500 GP per dose, limited stock)
  • Giant centipede antitoxin (25 GP per dose)
  • Other antidotes may be available depending on supply

Selling valuable loot and buying exotic items: THRACLE’S GRAND EMPORIUM. There are always a few strange and marvelous items to be found at the Grand Emporium, though they change frequently. Thracle is probably the richest person in Zorfath, though he is rarely present, as he has Emporiums in other towns and strongholds as well, and often organizes caravans. Some people believe he pulls the real strings in Zorfath, rather than the Sheriff or Council.

Learned consultation: STRODASTIN THE SAGE. He is employed by Thracle, and has chambers somewhere in the upper stories of THE GRAND EMPORIUM. He travels frequently, and so is not always present in Zorfath.

Specialist hirelings, treasure maps, and other resources for explorers: NULHOON’S LODGE. The home of the Society for Treasure Hunters. This is not open to the public and requires an invitation.

There are also numerous bakers and fishmongers, in addition to the CENTRAL MARKET, where rations can be procured. BEGGARTOWN lies on the west edge of Zorfath, and cheap (but often unreliable) help can sometimes be found there. That poor part of town lies just inside the geomantic wards that help prevent dark creatures from overrunning the town during the night, when the powers of chaos are strongest.

More rumors:

  1. The master smith Hovandam is said to live somewhere on the downlow in Zorfath. Supposedly, he has sworn never to make another blade, but maybe you can convince him otherwise.
  2. Zuhar the bandit chief has a hideout somewhere nearby Zorfath, though his raids have been infrequent lately (several caravans have made successful journeys without needing to pay Zuhar’s toll). Nobody knows why.
  3. Villagers have been going missing recently, approximately one or two per month for the past several months.
  4. The last group that went into the west caves did not return. Smoke is sometimes seen coming from it.
  5. There is an abandoned and despoiled shrine in the southeast quadrant. When the town was still larger, it was raided by wicked soldiers and the relics were carried off. The story goes that the raiders took shelter in the exposed ruins of the great chasm to avoid pursuit, and were never seen again.
Most of the buildings in Zorfath are built from orange bricks shaped from the clay of the Whiskerknife Hills, though this is contrasted with the dull gray imported stone of the old town and castle.
Map of town and surroundings to come in a future post.

3 LBB Thief

Hokusai Ninja

The thief class was not included in the original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set. The only classes at the beginning were the cleric, fighter, and magic-user. The thief was introduced in the first add-on product, Supplement I: Greyhawk (which, despite its name, is a collection of new game options rather than a setting). (Note regarding the image to the right: the oriental style is not really appropriate for Pahvelorn, but it’s really hard to find a good public domain image that evokes the thief archetype. Submissions welcome!)

Greyhawk also introduced a whole host of rules which will be familiar to players of later D&D (different hit dice for different classes, difference dice for different weapons, more influential ability scores) but which differ rather drastically from the game as presented in the three little brown books. If you play with all the rules changes in Greyhawk, the game begins to resemble proto-AD&D.

I really like the thief though, and want to include it in my otherwise “3 LBB only” setting. It only requires a few minor tweaks to fit in. Most of the following details come from Greyhawk unchanged. The divergences are noted.

  • Combat ranks: as cleric (steps based on 4 levels; 1-4, 5-8, etc)
  • Saving throws: as magic-user
  • Prime requisite: dexterity (bonus or penalty to XP like other classes)
  • Hit dice: as magic-user
  • Strike silently from behind: +4 attack, +1d6 damage per combat rank
  • 3rd level: 80% chance to decipher obscured treasure maps
  • May cast spells from scrolls with a successful save versus magic
  • 10th level: may use scrolls of all but the most powerful spells reliably
  • Name level is “Master Thief” at 11th level
Skills by level: climb sheer surfaces, open locks, remove traps, pickpocket or move silently, hide in shadows, hear noise. As per Greyhawk; just look the values up in the booklet or ask me. The progressions could probably be rationalized (I’ve seen several such approaches on blogs and forums), but my goal here is not streamlining so much as interpretation in the light of the original booklets (though I did make a few minor changes).
With the exception of picking locks and removing traps (see below), thief skills are not unique to thieves. Anyone may attempt to move stealthily or listen at a dungeon door. Thieves, however, are the only class that gets better at these things. Also, in most cases, the abilities function as a saving throw. That is, where a character of another class would fall, a thief gets a climb sheer surfaces chance. Where a character of another class would be noticed, a thief gets a hide in shadows chance.
WEAPONS (Greyhawk page 4):

Thieves can employ magic daggers and magic swords but none of the other magical weaponry.

Thieves may use any mundane weapon in my game. They may use magic daggers and swords to their full potential. Magic weapons other than daggers and swords count as magical for determining if certain creatures (like golems) can be hit at all, but do not grant any mechanical bonus to the thief. For example, an axe +1 would not get a +1 to attack or damage when wielded by a thief, but it would be able to hit monsters that can only be damaged by magic weapons.

ARMOR (Greyhawk page 4):

They can wear only leather armor and cannot employ shields. 

Wearing armor heavier than leather will result in penalties to thief skill rolls. Some skills may not be attempted or are penalized while employing shields (preternatural climbing and striking silently from behind for sure, and others by context).

TRAPS (Greyhawk page 4):

remove small trap devices (such as poisoned needles)

The thief ability to “remove traps” is not an arbitrary trap deactivation skill, but rather a limited skill to disarm small mechanisms.
SCROLLS (Greyhawk page 4):

Thieves of the 10th level and above are able to understand magical writings, so any scroll that falls into their hands can be used by them — excluding spells which are clerical in nature. However, with spells of the 7th level and above there is a 10% chance that the effect will be the reverse of that intended (due to the fact that even Master Thieves do not fully comprehend such great magic). This reverse effect can be known only after the spell is read.

Well, first thing, in the 3 LBBs there are no spells of the 7th level and above (there may be magic more powerful than sixth level spells, but it is not the kind of magic that can be prepared in a spell slot). So, by those rules, the 10% chance of failure would never come into effect. So I have decided to extend the use of spells from scrolls backwards to lower levels, given a successful save versus spells (failure miscasts the spell and consumes the scroll).

The ability to use scrolls (unreliably) at lower levels is the only substantial change I have made to the class. I think it is reasonable because it encourages fun play (“roll to see what fun way the thief is going to screw this spell up!”) and means that players of thieves will be more likely to get some use out of scrolls (since few characters reach name level). I don’t think this “save to cast from scrolls” steps on the magic-user’s toes because it will always be more reliable to give scrolls to magic-users (since they never fail when casting a spell from a scroll). At tenth level, thief scroll use also becomes reliable, though the thief never learns how to scribe scrolls and thus still must still find them or procure them from magic-users. Also, the same societal pressures regarding diabolism and black magic apply to thieves, especially since thieves don’t usually advertise any sorcerous power they may possess. Also, many magic-users will not look kindly on their secrets being stolen.

Though I have tried to stay within the parameters of the class as written in Greyhawk, my interpretations are heavily influenced by the following sources.

You can also check out my previous attempt at a thief class rewrite.

2012 10 30 edit: see also my clarification on thief skill use.

Cleric XP

Healing of the Demon-Possessed

The cleric part of my recent XP awards post was becoming too complicated, so I decided that it deserved its own space. The process of thinking through what clerics would spend money on was also revealing lots of setting details which seem naturally to belong together. See also the general post on clerics for more background. So here, without further ado, are some ways for clerics to convert their GP to XP, and serve their order in the process.

NAMING. Knowing the true name of a person or creature gives you power over them. Demons and sorcerers are particularly vulnerable to someone that has their true name. Thus, where possible, it is traditional to have a cleric perform a naming ceremony. In the process, the cleric will discover the person’s true name, and record it in the hidden language of law. That cleric, and any of their acolytes, will have access to this true name in the future. They will also sometimes bestow a use-name (some people consider this lucky). Most people willingly entrust their true name (and the true name of their offspring) to the clerics, because they would not want to live as a diabolist (and it is assumed that demonic influence is behind people becoming diabolists). Rich people will be able to pay for the entirety of the ritual, but the poor are dependent upon the cleric’s generosity. The ritual components cost 1d4 * 100 GP and require one day to prepare and execute. The procedures involve preparing special incense, meditation, and copying certain scriptures. When clerics meet, one of the common tasks is to exchange the true names so collected.
CONSECRATION. Some sites have been tainted in a way that can only be purified by the mysteries of the light. In addition, once hauntings have been dealt with, the sites must often be blessed. Cost is 1d6 * 100 GP plus a save versus magic to avoid consequences. Shrines may also be constructed for a similar cost, and do not require a saving throw (though they are really only worthwhile in a town or settlement that does not yet have a shrine). If the shrine houses a relic (the remains of a fallen cleric), special procedures are required (in addition to the return of the relics, if they are missing). Such a shrine has a level and can be used by clerics during level up. The cost of the consecration ritual is 1000 GP * level, in addition to any architectural costs required. The shrine of a great matriarch or patriarch, for example, may be an elaborate affair.
EXORCISM. Much like naming, rich people will be able to pay for an exorcism, but the poor will not. The components for an exorcism cost 1d6 * 100 GP and the ritual will usually take one day, but may take longer depending on the strength of the possession. A save versus spells is required for complete success, and a fumble may have extremely dire consequences (but then, continuing demonic influence may also have dire consequences).

EXEGESIS. The Mysteries of Light are deep, and there is always more to discover, both in the scriptures themselves, and by communing with higher powers. This functions in the same way as magic research, and also requires a save versus spells to avoid unintended consequences, such as the attentions of dark spirits.

JUDGMENT. In addition to being demon hunters, clerics carry the law of the True Empire wherever they go. This is one of the reasons that they often have problematic relationships with secular authorities in these degenerate times. Many clerics seek out the worms nestled in the timber of civilization. Communities generally don’t like to expose the skeletons in their closets on their own, so clerics must bring their own resources to bear on the problem. Spend 1d6 * 100 GP and make a wisdom check (less than or equal to on a d20). If successful, roll on the Pronouncing Judgment table (which I admit does not exist yet, and so will require improvisation). Otherwise, roll on the complications table (also still imaginary). Note that adventure leads, rumors, and other info may be discovered in the process of judgment.
Funeral Procession of Sir Philip Sidney

LAST RITES. The dead are particularly vulnerable to the attentions of necromancers and demons. Some believe that souls are unable to find their way to the afterlife without the final rites. Others believe that eternal peace and extinction of the soul (the alternative being endless purgatorial wandering) require a cleric’s rites. The mysteries are silent regarding the truth (at least, silent to the uninitiated), but few wish for their fate to be unending undeath, forever hungering again for the warmth of life. Cost is 1d6 * 10 GP for a commoner’s funeral in addition to an evening of work (or a full day if a gravedigger is not available). The rich will demand more lavish affairs, and will generally be able to pay for them. Putting the spirit of a great adventurer to rest, however, is a more involved affair and requires 1000 GP per level of the deceased character. However, such expenses are often wise: the wraith of a powerful warrior is a terrible thing to behold.

INITIATION. Most people cannot become clerics on their own (though there are exceptions, people who are able to figure out the beginning of the mysteries on their own, either from the panoply of a fallen cleric, or from visions). Instead, they must be initiated by an existing cleric. Clerics of fourth level or higher may initiate new clerics. This requires the copying of a holy book, and a ritual that consumes many rare components. The total cost is 1000 GP. Because of the great expense and effort that initiation involves, generally the aspiring cleric will serve a period of apprenticeship and training beforehand. The new cleric begins with the title Acolyte.

Note that most of these prices are either guesses or loosely based on the carousing costs. I reserve the right to change them later based on play experiences.