Thursday, December 5, 2019

What the hell have you done to Stonehell?

I thought I'd increase the difficulty of running Stonehell slightly by reconfiguring the maps slightly. This is the test layout of the first level of the dungeon, although I will definitely make a couple more changes from the original layout to better suit the radial nature of the dungeon.

I always found Stonehell much to cramped for my tastes. Ideally I would actually disperse it more. I am not of the school where a megadungeon needs to be fully inhabited, but rather of the school of thought that a megadungeon is an underground environment with scattered enclaves of various groups, usually separated by dull empty space in which they can skirmish or sneak through.

Apologies if anyone manages to take away any actual information about the layout of the original Stonehell from this version, but if they do they are much more skilled than I.

Edited to add: And here is the final result I will be using.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Most Important Encounter Table

[Normally I'd just have pointed it out on G+, but...]

The Most Important Encounter Table (IMNSHO) first makes it's appearance in the original City State of the Invincible Overlord by the Judges Guild, as part of the encounter sequence. Now this was a set of tables that determines the encounter you had in the city and is still one of the best examples of it's kind (even if you can meet a god walking the streets of the city). You don't have CSIO then you can also find these tables at the start of Judges Guild ready reference Sheets, Volume 1 (there never was a volume 2).

Anyway the table in question is simply this one (the very first table of the encounter sequence):

1d6Type of Encounter
1Attacked by Surprise
4Questions Player(s)
5Propositions Player(s)
6Special Encounter (below)

In other words the most important part of the encounter is why it is an encounter. After all the city is full of people (and other things), so why are these people important to the characters? The CSIO encounter sequence then goes on to determine what is encountered (from a patrol of constables [naturally quite frequent given that OD&D adventurers tend to be suspicious looking types, to a chamber pot being carelessly emptied out the window).

Most encounter systems in D&D work the other way. They determine the what and generally assume the why is an innate hostility (or use a treaction roll to determine how friendly the encounter is). The emphasis is on what is encountered, which biases the nature of the encounter. On the other hand, with the CSIO, with a dice sequence of 5, 5, 1, 6 you have a Troll sexually propositioning one of the players, which is a much more intriguing proposition for an encounter (admittedly only a 0.02% chance of it though).

Of course this table is rather simple. Midkhemia Press created a much more involved encounter tables with their Cities supplement (later repreinted by Chaosium and used in their Thieves World setting. Although the nature of encounter is second to what is encountered, you still have motivation as the primary drive of the encounter. For example you don't just meet a Mercenary Warrior, you meet a lonely Mercenary Warrior who wants a friend, or a band of mercenary warriors recruiting for a mission. Context is king.

This should be applied to wilderness encounters as well. After all what you encounter in the wilderness is likely to be out there for a reason themselves and will have a reason for why this is an actual encounter as far as the players are concerned. For example a hostile encounter of a single deer may not be of much concern, but what if the hostility does not come from the deer itself but a later encounter with the Royal Forester as they are enjoying the fruits of their chance encounter with the King's Deer.

The boardgame Tales of the Arabian Nights modifies it's encounters by adding a adjective. You don't just meet a Prince, you meet a Vengeful Prince or a Foolish Prince or a Mad Prince. One of the nice tricks (which works for the boardgame but is less suited for a roleplaying game) is that the player then chooses how they wish to encounter the Lost Prince. Do they Grovel to, Aid, Rob, Avoid, Converse with, Attack, Court, Abduct or Honour the Lost Prince? Which action will lead to a story that is of the greatest benefit to the players. They (and the gamemaster) have a lot more information to go on by knowing that the Prince they have encountered is "Lost," and that shopuld affect what everyone does.

[Just an idle thought whilst I slowly go mad repairing my RPG collection database.]

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Military Unit Hierarchy Megapost

As with everything in the game, military units have a level, which is equivalent to every other level in the game (except for spells and magic items which are ranked instead). This will be used for various purposes such as determining the actual HD/level of the unit commander, or determining the extent of an event affecting the military (a local event for example will have a level of 1d6, whilst a major event [such as a war] will have a level of 3d6). Note that the military hierarchy is a social hierarchy that usually has precedence immediately after the aristocratic hierarchy. Officers will have a default social level in this hierarchy based on the level of their command, although regimental officers have a +1 bonus to their social level and general officers have a +2 bonus to their social level. That said, most senior officers will actually have a higher social level due to their membership of the aristocratic caste.

Please note that this is a rather generic table of organisation which will often vary considerably in practice, especially with regard to the number of soldiers in a company. For example some elite units might be very small, whilst some of the cheaper infantry units might be quite large (twice or even four times the number), but each of these, despite the difference in size, will still only count as a single company.

The following table is the actual heart of this post (also see the section on Civil Improvements below). That's everything you absolutely need to know. Everything else may be considered excessive verbiage.

0Soldier-1 soldier
1File[Veteran]3-6 soldiers
2Squad[Corporal]5-12 soldiers
3Patrol[Sergeant]10-24 soldiers
4TroopLieutenant24-40 soldiers
5-6CompanyCaptain80-120 soldiers
7BattalionMajor[1/3rd Regiment]
8-9RegimentColonel6-12 Companies
11DivisionLt/Mj General[1/3rd Army]
12An ArmyGeneralTypically 6 Regiments
12+The Army[Field] MarshalTypically 1-3 Armies

The three most important unit sizes are the company, the regiment, and the army. Lets start in the middle (because it will actually make more sense doing it this way). This discussion will focus on the armed forces of kingdoms; those of empires are an advanced topic (especially since an empire is often an empire because it conquered neighbouring kingdoms, which means it tends to have a more specialised military).

The Regiment

The armed forces of a kingdom may be divided into two types of forces. The first are the garrison forces that are considered organic parts of the various defensive structures in the kingdom. The second are the mobile forces that may be deployed on campaign, and which effectively form the standing army of the kingdom.

The standing army of a kingdom is composed of a number of regiments (up to two per county). These may be standing royal regiments paid by for, and under the direct command, of the king, or feudal troops under the command of each region's count (as the personal feudal representative of the king for that region). Most kings prefer a standing army that is answerable only to them, whilst most nobles prefer that the troops owe loyalty to the noble first (who is, of course, the king's most humble and loyal servant).

Soldiers will primarily identify themselves by the regiment they belong to, even if they are not members of a formal regiment (for example those feudal troops raised by the Count of Solisberry will consider themselves Solissberrians, even if there is no actual formal Solisberrian Regiment. Since regiments are generally raised and supported directly by each county, even if they are in direct service of the crown, there will have strong regional identities (and loyalties) anyway.

A regiment will consist of a number of different troop types, although they will be primarily composed of either infantry or cavalry. You will notice that the above table lists two different levels for a regiment and its commander. A level 9 regiment is generally the more expensively equipped cavalry or guard regiments, whilst the level 8 regiment is generally an infantry regiment. The commander of both is referred to as a colonel (in later militaries the junior colonel may be given the official title of lieutenant colonel, but will still customarily be referred to as colonel).

A regiment will traditionally consist of three battalions: the vanguard, mainguard, and rearguard. Formally this refers to the order in which these forces march and how they deploy on the battlefield (the vanguard to the right, ant the others to the left of it in order). Each of these is lead by a major (the battalion commanders). These are the senior regimental officers. Other regimental officers, such as the martial magistrate or regimental quartermaster, are also considered to be majors (if only for the authority this gives them other the captains of the companies that make up the body of the regiment.

Each of the battalions will generally consist of 2-4 companies, each commanded by a captain. A company is composed of similarly equipped troops that fight together on the battlefield as a single tactical unit. As for the regiment, the level of each company (and its captain) is determined by its type. A guards or cavalry company will be commanded by a level 6 senior captain, whilst a standard infantry company or an artillery company will be commanded by a level 5 junior captain.

Finally it is possible that additional companies may be attached to the regiment as support elements, but not considered to be part of any of the battalions. These will either deploy on the battlefield with the regiment. They are generally commanded by junior captains. An example is the catapult-equipped artillery company that is normally part of a Roman legion. Note that the ballista squads attached to each century are technically under the regimental command of both the captain of this company (even if they are directly associated with each century and normally accompany them.

The Company

A company is a unit of troops that are generally armed and equipped identically and which generally functions on the battlefield as a single tactical unit. As with the regiment, the exact level of the company and its commander is generally determined by the type of company it is. Infantry and artillery companies are generally commanded by a junior captain (of level 5), whilst cavalry and guard companies are generally commanded by a senior captain (of level 6). There are exceptions of course. For example the double-sized centuries of the first cohort in a Roman legion are commanded by senior centurians (the senior-most centurian being the primus pilus or "First Spear.") Again regardless of the actual level, the officer is just referred to customarily as a 'captain."

Similar to the regiment, and for much the same reasons, the company is divided into three troops (or platoons or sections), each under the command of a lieutenant. These are again the vanguard, mainguard, and rearguard, which describes the position they march in in column and the position they occupy on the battlefield (with the vanguard taking the right wing and the remaining troops deploying to the left of that in order). The senior-most lieutenant commands the vanguard, and seniority descends from there.

Other officers (such as those leading support elements like an attached artillery detachment) may also carry the rank of junior lieutenants. Finally the trainee officers of the company will have the rank of ensign (which is effectively a level 3 rank that that is actually inferior to the rank of sergeant). Note that if it is not a leadership position the commander of a support detachment will carry the equivalent rank of a sergeant (level 3). The unit armourer for example is considered the equivalent of a sergeant (as well as being a master craftsman, also a level 3 position in the guilds hierarchy).

Discipline in a company is maintained by the sergeants, who are typically large burly men who are good with their fists. Generally there are two sergeants in each troop, although they generally form their own squad (mess), rather than being embedded with the troops. The senior-most sergeant would hold the rank of company sergeant major and would technically represent the company's soldiers on the command staff. Note that sergeants will generally not lead troops into battle (in fact their normal position in battle or march is in a supernumerary rank behind the troops, and their responsibility in a battle is to encourage them to stay and fight). However a sergeant may often be detailed to supervise a work-party that does not require an actual leader.

Soldiers work, fight, eat, and sleep together in squads. In additional to their personal equipment, the members of a squad will also each carry a share of the squad's equipment, and share duties in the squad. The seniormost veteran is generally the squad leader, who can be given the rank of corporal to signify this distinction. A squad generally forms two files in the formation. The leader of the second file may be given the rank of lance corporal. The term lead is also intentional, as the file leaders are generally the first rank of the company, since they are generally veterans.

A patrol is generally composed of half a troop that has been detached from the company for a specific purpose (such conducting an actual patrol), and is usually led by a lieutenant with the assistance of a sergeant, whilst the other sergeant remains behind supervising the rest of the troop. It is generally not capable of prolonged independent operation, and will be required to return to the company proper within a few days.

As suggested above, specialised squads may be attached to a company. For example all Roman centuries had an attached artillery squad with a single ballista. These specialised squads are more important for independent companies that are not part of a regiment (such as mercenary companies). For example most mercenary companies will employ a squad of mounted scouts to ensure that they are not marching into an ambush. Such an element will not generally take part in the actual battle (but will usually maintain security on the company's baggage train). Similarly a squad of skirmishers might deploy ahead of a company in battle, but would fall back when the company itself enters battle.

When functioning as part of a regiment these support squads may be gathered together on the battlefield as an ad hoc company. For example it is common to group all the ballista squads of a Roman legion together as a single company on the battlefield, because they are more effective that way. But in general the individual squads are considered part of the company and the responsibility of the captain commanding it. That said most regiments will have their own support companies that perform a similar role on the regimental level. For example a legion will have an attached artillery company of catapults, or a company of mounted scouts, for example. These may be attached temporarily to individual companies but will remain regimental assets under the actual command of their own captain.

The Army

Finally we shall go back and deal with the largest units.

The first thing you have to realise is that an army is an entirely temporary structure that only exists for the purposes of an active campaign. The composition and strength of an army will vary each campaign season, as determined by the royal marshal (the supreme commander of all military forces in the kingdom).

By default an army consists of six regiments. This restriction is based entirely on logistics, and may be affected by the general terrain of the border regions. For example the offensive army on a mountainous border might be restricted to a single regiment - whilst the defenders would be able to mobilise a full six regiments of defenders in response (which is why these borders might be considered quite safe from warfare unless the enemy manages to bypass them (usually by suborning the defenders) and ignoring this deployment restriction.

A Kingdom is generally only able to field a single army, whilst a High Kingdom might field two armies, and a Great Kingdom can manage three armies. That said, generally only one army will be mobilised in each campaign season (summer), both for logistics reasons and because only a fool will fight on two fronts. Lesser sovereign nations may be able to field smaller armies on campaign. For example a sovereign duke might be able to raise a regiment or two, whilst a sovereign prince might manage as many as four.

The royal marshal is the supreme commander of the military forces of the kingdom. They determine which regiments will take part in the campaign this season. The decision to go to war is of course a political decision (although it may be a political decision of the enemy king). In a feudal society the royal marshal is often the duke (the most powerful noble of the kingdom), whilst in a barbarian kingdom it will be the designated war chief. Note that the opportunity to go on campaign may provide plentiful opportunities for loot and martial recognition, so many regimental commanders will attempt to influence the marshal in his choice of regiments.

The marshal will select a general (which may well be themselves), who will be the over-all commander of the army. The general will be aided in this endeavour by the general staff. This will include two sub-commanders, who will be considered to be lieutenant (or major) generals. These will often be selected from a pool of appropriate commanders. Again, like the selection of regiments, being an active general on campaign (rather than being part of the military college at home) is a prestigious position and influence will be brought to bear on the marshal (and competence in these matters often takes second fiddle to social consequences). In a field battle (with the entire army) each of these sub-commanders will command a flank (with the most prestigious command being the right flank), whilst the commander commands the centre (generally as a result of communication restrictions). Note that these generals do not actually lead any troops but rather maintain their own headquarters element and simply direct the battle via messengers. Troops are generally only lead into battle by lowly field-grade officers (captain and below). When your general starts fighting, you know things are desperate.

However a full army is generally a big and cumbersome thing, especially when moving through hostile territory. This is especially true if the army has to rely on foraging, rather than carrying its own supplies with it (an army also eats a lot, so foraging and purchasing of local supplies is encouraged [and necessary] with many pre-modern armies). As a result an army will often have to divide into three separate divisions whilst moving (or when setting up camp). These divisions will remain in general contact via messengers, and come back together if it is necessary for the army to fight a field battle. Each of the aforementioned generals will command one of the divisions, with the mainguard actually being commanded by the full general. [Note that while the term mainguard is used here each division will almost always have to take a different route, otherwise the trailing division will only start marching when the lead division has already stopped to set up camp for the next night, slowing progress heavily.

If an army has any allied forces these will generally be specifically lead by their own commanding general and will typically function as independent units on the battlefield. Allied generals are always considered to have the rank of major general (which is the same level as a lieutenant general, but inferior in rank).

In addition the general staff will contain a number of brigadier generals (or brigadiers for short) They will generally command smaller detachments from the army, often on an ad-hoc basis. Officially most people consider a brigade to be the size of two regiments, but the truth is a brigade can be any size. It can even be composed of companies from several different regiments, especially if a particular troop type is required for a specific mission.

Civil Improvements

What all of this discussion is really leading up to.

Military Level 1 - Company Barracks [requires Small City]

A mayor, count, or provincial governor may add a barracks for a company to a city (with royal permission of course). These troops will technically serve as the town guard, but may also be quickly mobilised to deal with any troubles within the local region (such as internal or slave/peasant revolt). It may not be sent on campaign however.

Alternatively this improvement may represent the winter barracks and home base of a mercenary company (which should also be constructed with royal permission of course). Most of the year the barracks will just house the support elements of the company (including the recruit training elements), but will house the full company over winter. Whilst generally a private concern, the presence of a mercenary company will bring a nice income to the community (despite the added problems of mercenaries). Many veterans of the company will retire to the region, and the families of the soldiers will often be found here. Thus even if the mercenary company is a private concern, it will still have strong ties and loyalty to its home city.

Note that an individual small city can generally only support one or the other type of barracks. Royal cities prefer the first type; the so-called free cities often are a haven for the second type.

Military Level 2 - Regimental Barracks [requires Medium City]

A count or provincial governor may build a barracks for a regiment. This will be a regular regiment (either infantry or cavalry depending on the culture of the region). Whilst based in the designated city, the actual support and personnel of the company come from the entire county. In a feudal society this will generally represent the assembled forces and supplies from the region rather than a central physical location.

A march (border county) will always have a regimental barracks, even if the county seat is only a small city (it is assumed that the rest of the kingdom actively supports the existence of the regiment. These will always be standing forces (see the notes on frontier regiments below).

Military Level 3 - Guards Barracks [requires Large City]

The count of a rich county or a provincial governor may build a second regimental barracks. This will be a guards regiment (better equipped and higher-ranking than the other "regular" regiment). However the guards regiment will generally be filled by the "better" class of people and as such may have less actual direct combat experience (even when on campaign) than their regular cohorts.

Frontier Regiments

Note that a march will always be home to at least one regimental barracks even if they are too poor to support one normally (in which case support derives from the kingdom as a whole). However the existence of the frontier regiment is why marches are generally larger than most - they also benefit heavily from tolls and tariffs on legal trade (and indirectly from smuggling of course).

This is the home of the Frontier Regiment that mans the defences of that frontier and responds to attacks from across the border. In addition to the static garrisons, the Frontier Regiment may be used for campaigns on that frontier, but for that frontier only. If a rich march has the opportunity to build a second regimental barracks, it will be for a regular regiment rather than a guards regiment. This regiment may be deployed normally, but it will often retain the border loyalties of their frontier regiment brethren.

The frontier regiments are almost always standing regiments and do not need to be mustered. They are always on duty guarding the frontier.

They often have a fierce loyalty to their local marquis, even if they a technically royal troops paid directly by the crown, and will often side with the marquis in a conflict with the crown. [Frontier regiments may march on the capital in the event of a civil war, leaving the border protected by just the local garrisons).]

Many frontier regiments are composed heavily of borderers who have a mutual antagonism with their opposite numbers across the border, thanks to generations of raids, skirmishing, and warfare. Whilst often under-equipped and irregular in nature, they may have more actual experience with combat than the other regiments of the kingdom. However, because of their relatively low status they also get the dirty and dangerous jobs on campaign. They are also more likely to commit atrocities against their traditional enemies.

Levies and Militia

Militia are considered to be garrison troops, and this generally outside the context of this discussion. Note that a company barracks improvement could be considered the barracks of a standing militia, which could then be deployed through the region (as normal for a company with a barracks). This is effectively what was done during the American War of Independence, before the formation of actual armies.

Levies are basically peasants and freemen that are conscripted into service. Whilst they are generally poor quality troops it is possible to raise a large number of them quite quickly, at the cost of doing substantial damage to the local economy (especially if they take excessive casualties - which they often will if they are on the losing side of a battle). As a result many countries have enacted laws that prevent nobles from directly raising the levy without the express royal command of the king. That said if a noble's estate is attacked, the peasantry will be expected to help defend it.

[Note that in a feudal society many freemen (the yeomanry) will actually owe military service as a part of their position, and will actually be counted as part of the feudal troops raised by the local regiment when it musters.]

Final Notes

This is a generic explanation and will almost certainly vary between different kingdoms. For example whilst the post-Marian Roman century is generally an excellent example of a company, the next level of organisation - the cohort - is probably best considered to be a battalion rather than a regiment. Whilst it does generally define the individual troop type (legionnaire or auxiliary) within a legion, it does not provide the logistical support normally associated with the regiments described above. Instead the organic level of independent logistical support is the legion, which is actually about the effective size of a brigade. Thus the legion is the equivalent of the regiment described above. However since these legions are twice the size of a normal regiment, an actual Roman army can only be composed of up to three legions. However as an empire, Rome is likely to be fighting wars on several frontiers at once, or dealing with internal problems (such as subject kingdoms deciding that they no longer wish to be part of the great Roman experience after all).

[Incidentally after the Julian reforms the centuries of the first cohort are of double size, which gives lie to the idea that the centuries are always a good match for the theoretical company.]

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: Judges Guild Encounter Chart Fragments 2

[I actually found another couple of pages, including the first page (page 5). So I can finally credit these tables to "the prolific and talented Judicator, Richard T. Mueller, of the Iowa City Wargaming Confederation." I will add the full credits and information when I go back and review page 5.]

Enchanted Monsters

If a random wandering enchanted monster was encountered directly in my old campaign it was usually because they had escaped the control of their dead master/summoner/maker. Such creatures were almost always considered to be Enemies and thus have a natural hostile reaction to any creature capable of making/summoning them. [In my current game they would roll 1d6 on the the Reaction Table instead of 2d6, increasing the chance of a hostile reaction to the player characters, but not automatically attacking.] Elementals would be particularly destructive as they attempt to reduce the world to their elemental nature.

Two of my favourite enchanted monsters are the Infernal Machine (essentially a magical killer robot with all the endearing qualities of a Berserker from Saberhagen's stories), and the Animus (an immaterial spirit that possesses things and animates them, usually with great animosity). Eradicating the animus was quite difficult as it needed to be banished (either by a cleric or a magical spell). Breaking the object that it was animating simply frees it to find another body. Fighting furniture may seem quite farcical, but can actually be rather dangerous (said, as the chair runs off with the magic user).

Whilst "Statue" on this table is supposed to represent an enchanted statue, I felt that these were better placed as part of a Ruin, which was a different part of my own encounter tables (which included encountering locations). Not to mention that my Special Encounters lucky dip box was initially filled with the contents of the Wilderland's hex crawl locations (as more involved and less improvised encounters). So "Statues" (with a lesser probability) became an encounter with a petrified creature. Roll again on the encounter tables and see who had the misfortune to piss off a medusa or cockatrice (the basilisk in my game was poisonous - in that it would kill you stone dead).

Clay Golem1317181513
Flesh Golem2127262118
Stone Golem2735322521
Iron Golem3141362722
Infernal Machine8685806266
Invisible Stalker9190877278
Air Elemental9595959091
Water Elemental9696969293
Fire Elemental9797979494
Earth Elemental9898989696
Clay Golem1011--0405
Flesh Golem1415080809
Stone Golem1617101010
Iron Golem1718111111
Infernal Machine5555545454
Invisible Stalker6767666969
Air Elemental8585858383
Water Elemental8686959191
Fire Elemental8989--9292
Earth Elemental9292969494
Clay Golem0416--03--
Flesh Golem0722--40*--
Stone Golem0826--05--
Iron Golem0928--06--
Infernal Machine4150547638
Invisible Stalker5660649148
Air Elemental8579809580
Water Elemental--869096--
Fire Elemental8888----90
Earth Elemental9191--97--

Other suggestions for encounters: Demon Warriors, Demon of the Black Hand, and Familiars.


This table was actually accompanied by an note (one of the few tables to have an explicit explanation of an entry).

"Note: Huorns are defined as all semi-aware plant life as might be affected by a speak with plants but otherwise non-communicative, non-mobile and relatively harmless."

There was also a helpful listing of various Carnivorous Plants (with OD&D stats) written by Greg Jacobs that accompanied this page of the encounter table in the Journal.

The revised tables I used in my campaign had a much greater listing of dangerous plants, based on the fact that an encounter shouldn't just be a passive meeting with something, but rather something that interacts directly with the party. For example encounter tables shouldn't provide an encounter with normal animals like a deer or a kangaroo. They may be frequently encountered whilst travelling but won't really interact with the party. Instead if the party wishes to interact with them they go on an explicit hunting expedition and depending on the hunter's abilities it determines what they come back with (and if the fumble their hunting roll, they get an encounter instead). Similarly if a character wishes to find a huorn, they can simply go look for one (I tend to use the Celtic Tree Calendar as a guide to the personality of each sort of tree).

Carnivorous Plants7568686960
Shambling Mounds8288868587
Running Vines9593939397
Carnivorous Plants8080635565
Shambling Mounds8989807070
Running Vines9696959095
Carnivorous Plants8868------
Shambling Mounds9080--99--
Running Vines9590------

Suggested others: Vampire Vine, and Vampire Tree.


This is table which was entirely too passive for my liking. Although I should state that "Monkeys" should be added to every encounter table. Both because they act in a similar manner to "Birds" (cf Avians below) that may alert others to your presence, but they can also be used to steal things and trash a party's camp looking for food. Plus they throw shit and can thoroughly be a bane to a party if they don't like you.

Carnivorous Apes0609121725
White Apes1619222735
Carnivorous Apes2525152020
White Apes3232252525
Carnivorous Apes2515--05--
White Apes3030--2197

Suggested others: Trogs, Mountain Apes, and Clakars.


Again the idea that an encounter should have a direct interaction with the party rather than simply be something the party passively meets had an effect here. In this case the bird species that are specifically named were all intelligent species in my old campaign (as a direct result of this table), and thus provided an opportunity for direct negotiation. Many could speak the common tongue (in fact a bird's tongue was the material for a tongues potion), although eagles generally didn't deign to converse with lesser creatures (unless they grovelled in appropriate awe of it's majesty).

The exception was storks, which were replaced by cranes as a symbol of good luck that granted you a Blessing. [I also added a few more mythical birds such as Firebirds to my version of the encounter tables.]

Birds was a fun one, because, unless you were suitably stealthy, they would raise a clamour which might alert others to your presence and location, increasing the chance for a subsequent encounter.

Great Eagles4547414339
Swan Maids8385807677
Giant Owls8486827882
Flightless Birds8587848384
Great Eagles3031423630
Swan Maids7070827777
Giant Owls7777848484
Flightless Birds7979858585
Great Eagles3426293845
Swan Maids6564555575
Giant Owls6865575878
Flightless Birds7868--59--

Suggested others: Finnish Eagles and Melnibonean Owls.


There are lots of reasons for me to dislike this one, and as a result it was the first table I modified. In fact I removed the dinosaurs and created a Lost World table that featured a lot more dinosaurs. In fact I eventually created two, one for Pleistocene megafauna as well. I believe a lot of my source material was the excellent Chivalry & Sorcery supplement Saurians.

The Surrounding Terrain exception was made a part of the initial terrain type determination. Along with coasts (CO), rivers (RV), ships passengers (PS), and aerial encounters (AE). The lizard and snake types were expanded so the nature of the snake was immediately determined. Amphisobeana and Hoop Snakes were added (of course). Crocmen were added (which are much more like the pictured Lizard Men - my Lizard Men were lithe and fast and great dancers and very aboriginal). Probabilities were altered to embrace Australian sensibilities.

Still it is interesting to see what was considered "Saurian" back in the day.

Giant Crocodiles----------
Giant Frogs--------27
Giant Lizards------1928
Giant Sea Snake----------
Giant Snake------2029
Giant Toad------2130
Giant Tortoise------2231
Lizard Men4331344049
Monitor Lizards----374655
Mottled Worms----------
Purple Worms4745394858
Sea Ropers----------
Sea Snakes----------
Surrounding Terrain000000----
Giant Crocodiles----3233--
Giant Frogs----353838
Giant Lizards2424363940
Giant Sea Snake----37----
Giant Snake2626384042
Giant Toad----3941--
Giant Tortoise----40----
Lizard Men4747494850
Monitor Lizards5656545154
Mottled Worms----------
Purple Worms6262565356
Sea Ropers----58----
Sea Snakes----59----
Surrounding Terrain----------
Giant Crocodiles--2120--
Giant Frogs--222106--
Giant Lizards16232207--
Giant Sea Snake----27----
Giant Snake--24--08--
Giant Toad--25--09--
Giant Tortoise1726--10--
Lizard Men70554964--
Monitor Lizards7758--67--
Mottled Worms----65----
Purple Worms8160------
Sea Ropers----83----
Sea Snakes----88----
Surrounding Terrain--00------

Suggested Others: Lybits, Remorhazi, Typhoonagators, Fire Snakes, Winged Serpents, Finnish Black Snakes, Dragon Lizards, and Ice Worms.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: Judges Guild Journal Encounter Fragments 1

Having recently uncovered some badly degraded copies of the Judges Guild Journal which contained the encounter tables that were the original basis for my old campaign's encounter tables, I thought I'd do a quickie review, page by page, for those who are interested in the sort of These are the three encounter tables from page 7 (these reviews will be badly out of order and pieces will be missing).

[I think I have another complete copy of this issue somewhere (plus a few others), but I thought I'd take the advantage of encountering these whilst going through boxes of papers to review them (and take a break from sorting boxes and boxes of old papers).]

The Great Races

I like the idea of having a Great Races table, even if creatures will also appear on other encounter tables (for example there is a Dragon encounter table for when you need Dragons and a True Giants encounter table for when you need giants). In particular if you need to know who is sovereign in a particular area (such as the nature of the village, castle, temple, army, or patrol you just rolled on the Master Encounter Chart(s), then this table is the one you would probably consult.

The encounters are by terrain type. So wilderness style terrains tend to be inhabited by non-humans, which is appropriate. But one of the things that is great about this chart is that you can also encounter races outside what might be considered their natural terrain. And this is where you really get to generate stories from encounter tables, explaining why you would find a group of ents in the city. I suspect that this is the reason why it was eventually determined that the Named Giants came from outside the World and were just travelling through it. The only "natural" giants were the Hill Giants who their kin considered degenerate brutes. It was suspected that if a giant spent too long in the World, they would eventually degenerate into a hill giant (albeit one with more natural HD).

I once worked out what the missing entry on the table had to be, but have since forgotten it.

Chromatic Dragon0101010101
Mithril Dragon1011111328
Red Dragons1112121429
Blue Dragons1213131530
Green Dragons1314141632
Black Dragons1415151733
White Dragons1516161834
Cloud Giants1718182037
Fire Giants1819192138
Frost Giants1920202239
Stone Giants2021212340
Hill Giants2122222441
Platinum Dragon2829273054
Golden Dragons2930283155
Silver Dragons3031293256
Bronze Dragons3132303357
Copper Dragons3233313458
Brass Dragons3334323559
Storm Giants3638353871
Half Elves5464587097
Chromatic Dragon0101010101
Mithril Dragon2828525654
Red Dragons3131535755
Blue Dragons3333545856
Green Dragons3434555959
Black Dragons3535596361
White Dragons3636606462
Cloud Giants3840626664
Fire Giants3941636765
Frost Giants40436468--
Stone Giants4144656966
Hill Giants4746667067
Platinum Dragon5252778079
Golden Dragons5353788180
Silver Dragons5454798281
Bronze Dragons5555808382
Copper Dragons5858818483
Brass Dragons5959828584
Storm Giants6262868990
Half Elves8181939494
Chromatic Dragon0101010101
Mithril Dragon1318170604
Red Dragons1419180707
Blue Dragons1720190810
Green Dragons1821200913
Black Dragons1922211016
White Dragons2023221119
Cloud Giants222524----
Fire Giants232625----
Frost Giants242726----
Stone Giants252827----
Hill Giants262928----
Platinum Dragon3134331341
Golden Dragons3235341443
Silver Dragons3336351563
Bronze Dragons3441362566
Copper Dragons3742372669
Brass Dragons4043382772
Storm Giants4347422900
Half Elves49575333--

True Giants

True Giants are the traditional enemies of Rangers! And yes, anything on this list could be a Favoured Enemy of Rangers (definitely including Humans). A True Giant encounter is more likely to be a more traditional (and probably hostile) "wilderness" encounter. If I roll on this table I'd probably use only 1d6 on my Reaction Table (which means that when encountered these creatures would be Unfriendly at best, and even have a chance of Attacking Immediately (a Hostile reaction would consider the odds and situation and react accordingly). And yes, I've had a lone goblin berserker charge a player (with the inevitable consequences) as a result. And so was born the Goblin Suicide Cult.

Pixies (*Nixies)0101010101
Half Elves6457586947
Umber Hulks8787879287
Cloud Giants8989899389
Hill Giants9191919491
Fire Giants9393939593
Frost Giants9595959695
Stone Giants9797979797
Storm Giants9898989898
Pixies (*Nixies)0101010101
Half Elves5555606261
Umber Hulks8484928989
Cloud Giants8686939090
Hill Giants8989949191
Fire Giants9191959292
Frost Giants9393969393
Stone Giants9595979797
Storm Giants9797989898
Pixies (*Nixies)01010140*45
Half Elves817664----
Umber Hulks929287----
Cloud Giants9393895959
Hill Giants949491----
Fire Giants959593----
Frost Giants969695----
Stone Giants979797----
Storm Giants9898989090

The possible others that they suggest might be encountered include (but are not limited to): Light Elves, Dark Elves, Nissies, Black Seers, Pan Tang Warriors, Myyrrhm, Ribhus, Indian Ogres, Hyborean Frost Giants, Greek Cyclopi, Satyrs, Norse Storm [presumably Giants], Norse Dwarves, Norse Stone Giants, Norse Rock Giant, Aliens, Mist Giants. Delmains, Chinese Fairies, and Homo Superiori.


Undead being unnatural creatures can appear anywhere. Actually one change I made when I adopted these tables was to give the chance of an aerial encounter with a Morkoth, or rather the Morkoth spiral, since I always considered it to be far more effective when viewed from above. There was one particularly shallow sandy bay that was dotted with many Morkoth lairs, including a big one for the Dire Morkoth at the centre. Nobody sailed or flew over the bay, although it was rumoured that a certain corsair had mapped the lairs had a hidden base on an island in the bay, full of treasure.

Special Mummy7630--

The suggested others include: Ollam Onga, Red Shadows, and Ghouls of Yaniadar.

[More reviews to come.]

Sunday, March 4, 2018

C&S Alignment

A Quick Review of C&S First Edition Alignment

The first edition of Chivalry & Sorcery actually had an Alignment attribute. This meant that it was possible to roll alignment (although most C&S gamemasters would allow a player to pick an alignment for their character). It featured the original Law/Chaos dichotomy of original D&D, but represented this as the Good/Evil morality of the medieval European mindset. As with many attributes in first edition C&S, it was accompanied by a brief description of what the number actually represented (for example a character with a 14 Wisdom was "Discerning," which meant that "the character reads other men’s characters well and tends to make sound decisions").

What I find interesting is comparing it to more modern interpretations of alignment as morality. In particular how selfish behaviour generally is shifted much more to the chaotic end of the spectrum. I mean how many people would classify "law-abiding" as neutral behaviour. But really, it is. Similarly a lot of people would classify the "base" behaviour as being fairly neutral (heavily-weighted self-interest).

Lawful Alignment
1Saintly: The character will take Holy Orders or join a Fighting Order. Wisdom is a predetermined 15+. He is an implacable foe of all Chaotics and “heretics.”
2Devout: The character will take Holy Orders or join a Fighting Order. Wisdom is a predetermined 13+.
3Good: The character chooses the “right” path at all times, eschewing the ways of evil and temptation.
4Virtuous: The character seeks the “best” path and, though he fails at times to do the right thing, he makes restitution afterward and does penance.
5Worthy: The character tries to live by a high standard but slips on occasion.
6Trustworthy: The character has flaws in his moral fibre but attempts to meet his commitments and do his duty out of a firm sense of self-respect.
7Honourable: The character can be counted on to do the honourable thing.
 Neutral Alignment
8-9Law Abiding: The character is tempted by self-interest but does the “socially correct” thing, particularly with respect to all matters governed by custom and legality.
10-13Wordly: The character is knowledgeable in the ways of the world and sees moral issues in the grey half-tones of his self-interest. He will not be a party to truly evil conduct but sees no real impediment to a little larceny or mayhem if it brings a profit.
14-15Corruptible: The character sees his duty as beginning with himself. He is not evil, but he has his price.
 Chaotic Alignment
16Unscrupulous: The character has no real scruples when it comes to his picking a pocket or slitting a throat. If he can he will try to weasel out of any of his obligations or cheat his friends. Yet he also cares about his reputation.
17Base: The character will stoop pretty low on occasion, pays lip service to all of the conventional prattlings about good and decency, and never lets himself be blinded to a profitable deal when he sees it.
18Immoral: The character is corrupt to the core; Capable of great iniquity and depravity, he enjoys every minute of it. This is the character of the true “robber baron.”
19Villainous: The character is capable of real depths of evil and no moral code or conscience worth speaking of. If he has any friends they have learned to count their fingers after shaking hands with him and never leave their backs unguarded in his presence.
20Diabolic: The character is the complete Chaotic — so utterly void of any sense of right and wrong and devoted to hellishness in all its forms that there is no crime, no atrocity, no sacrilege that he will refrain from committing. This malevolent personality is true Evil Incarnate, so fiendishly demoniacal that even the Dark One is ashamed of his excesses at times.

Since this was replaced by the more abstract Piety characteristic in the second edition of C&S, I felt it was worthy of a quick review.

[Aside: My current alignment system uses a Pollution/Corruption mechanic. If you have no Pollution or Corruption you are Holy. However to stay free of spiritual Pollution requires considerable effort (depending on the actual tenets of your faith many things might cause Pollution), but in return you automatically get the status of Blessed. If you have Pollution (the normal random amount is 3d6), you are Worldly, which means you have taken no special efforts to avoid minor spiritual pollution and to cleanse yourself of it. For example as a Christian you might have "coveted your neighbour's ox." Note that if you are not actually trying to purify yourself there is no need to keep track of your spiritual pollution during actual play. A Worldly character can generally pay for a temporary Blessing (and this is commonly done before embarking on a venture, such as travel or childbirth). A character that has even a single point of Corruption is considered Unholy. They have usually made a deal with the demons who are trying to overthrow and replace the gods, or done something equally heinous against the gods. whilst the gods are generally unwilling to help their worshippers (beyond extending a Blessing), the demons are often willing to reward their servants directly.]

Monday, June 12, 2017

Staffs and Wands

[To accompany the discussion of crafting magic weapons I probably should include those magic weapons used by spellcasters (in particular mages who externalise their sorcery). And yes, I'm intentionally using staffs to differentiate a wizard's staff from a stave, which is either a physical weapon (such as a quarterstaff) or something that hols up the tent. Not that when wielding in combat a want or staff is generally jabbed like a spear, rather than wielded using martial skills more suited for a weapon. Despite it's innate magical power and form, Monkey's Golden Wishing Staff is a stave, not a staff – intended for physical and not magical mayhem.]

Staffs and Wands

Staffs and wands in my game are tools used to help a magic-user cast spells, and are thus much more akin to magic weapons than they are the magical pistols and rifles of normal D&D. And they can also be used as physical weapons – a staff is considered a d6 weapons (which means that a magic-user without a Strength bonus needs two hands to wield it effectively), and a wand can bw a d4 weapon (although most non-combat mages will prefer a lighter wand that does less damage because they don't intend to hit anyone with it). [Note that there is an automatic -1 damage modifier for non-mages attempting to use a wand or staff in physical combat, or a mage attempting to use an unattuned wand or staff.]

Warmages (the military mage which is the standard template equivalent to the D&D magic-user) traditionally use staffs rather than wands (in fact the possession of a staff is an almost certain sign you are dealing with a warmage). For one thing, it is a heaver weapon, and thus more suited to the rigors of physical combat and can bear up better to the strain of being used as a focus for military magics. Lastly, but not least, it puts some distance between the magic-user and an opponent in melee. Warmages may still use wands though, and they are often used as sidearms, for when the presence of a fully-powered battlestaff might not be socially acceptable.

General Abilities

Spell Focus

The primary use of a wand or staff is as a spell focus. This allows the mage to apply the magic bonus as a penalty to the saving throw of the opponent against ranged magic. So a +3 magic staff gives opponents a -3 saving throw against spells targeting them. It also increases the combat range of a mage's spells from short range to long range.

Note that wands and staffs are not at all like guns; they are not point and shoot devices. The action is more akin gathering the energies in the staff and then physically hurling them at the target – the more flamboyantly the better (as with all magic). Wands in particular are wielded more like one would wield the handle of a whip. The upshot of this is that a mage needs freedom of movement to properly use a wand or staff.

Embedded Spells

Spells may be permanently embedded in a wand or staff when it is constructed. This requires the presence of a mage who knows the spell when the item is researched. This can reduce the effect Spell Point cost for casting the embedded spell by the magical bonus of the wand or staff. For example, if the spell magic missile is embedded into the a +1 magic wand (a rather common choice for a relatively low level wand), then the magic wan can be used to cast the spell magic missile as if it were a cantrip (at a cost of 1 SP). Note that the cost of casting the embedded spell cannot normally be reduced below that of a cantrip by this modifier.

The problem with using the full bonus of the wand or staff on a single spell is that means the wand is entirely dedicated to that spell. In the above example you have created a wand of magic missiles. If you apply a lesser bonus to each spell embedded in the wand or staff, then you can fit more spells within it. Note that if a wand is dedicated to an elemental energy (generally +3 or greater magic weapons) then this may reduce the cost of casting the embedded spells further.

Non-adventuring mages may often use a variety of low-powered special purpose wands for dedicated magical purposes, but the adventuring maze generally prefers to avoid the possible confusion and encumbrance of multiple wands. However, these special purpose wands can come in handy for non-mages that can use sorcerous devices (such as the Tomb Robber). For example, consider the possibilities of a wand of knock...

Special Abilities

Note that wands and staves are considered to be magic weapons and thus follow the same general progression of abiitities as other magic weapons:

+0 Magic Wand or Staff

This is an "ordinary" magic wand. It allows the mage to cast battle magic at long range and to be used as a weapon. but that is about it.

Note that the best magic wands are purpose-built for a specific customer (although no specific recipe is required for this). Otherwise it is a case of the mage adjusting themselves to the wand, rather than the wand being suited for the mage. The degree of adjustment required for a chance-found wand can be used by making a reaction roll on 2d6 (with a penalty equal to the bonus of the wand). The wand must be "persuaded" using spellcraft until it becomes an "ally" in order to unlock its full powers, making one adjustment roll each month of use. [Although in actual fact the wand is not being persuaded but rather the mage is adjusting themselves to the idiosyncrasies of their new toy.]

  • An "enemy" wand cannot be used at all. However this level of result is generally only possible if the mage killed the proper owner of the wand (directly or indirectly) and took it as a prize. In this case the reaction roll should have a negative modifier equal to the original owner's Charisma score (representing force of personality).
  • A "hostile" wand applies it's full magic bonus as a penalty to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells and special abilities cannot be used.
  • An "unfriendly" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells may be used, but with no reduction in the cost of the spell. Special abilities generally can't be used.
  • A "neutral" wand gives no bonus to it's use as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "friendly" wand provides it's full magic bonus as a spell focus. Embedded spells can be used at reduce costs. Special abilities are generally not accessible.
  • A "sympathetic" wand is fully unlocked, but attunement will regress if the wand is not used.
  • An "allied" wand is permanently attuned to the mage.

Needless to say beginning characters generally have to put up with a cheap second-hand wand that may need further adjustment.

+1 Magic Wand or Staff

This is a masterwork wand or staff (and as a result is likely also to be considered an artwork in and of itself as a result, increasing the cost of the wand by the workmanship and decoration).

It is common to find specialised wand of this level that carry a single embedded spell as special purpose wands. For example, a dowsing rod is just such a wand with the appropriate detection magic on it (these are one category of wand where the Spell Point cost can actually be reduced to zero (0).

+2 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons, a +2 magic wand is something greater than itself, and can develop special abilities not unlike those of magic weapons. One such special ability that is frequently built into the staves used by battlemages is that of Battle, which allows the magic bonus of the staff to be applied to physical combat as well as magical combat (and raises the damage die of the staff to that of the Magic Die of the user (uch a staff radiates destructive magical energies when wielded).

Spell-storing is another popular ability, giving the user of the staff the ability to precast spells into the staff and invoke them at will (costing only a single SP to cast). Not only does this count as a cantrip for casting speed, but the mage will presumably have recovered from the strain of casting the spell by the time it is activated.

Any of the other special and basic abilities available to magic weapons generally are also possible.

+3 Magic Wand or Staff

Like other magic weapons this is where a magic wand or staff acquires discrete mechanical abilities. For example a wand might be attuned to specific elemental energies (eg, a wand of fire) which makes using the wand to cast these magics easier (lowers the SP cost). This also affects the spells embedded in the wand (which must be associated with the elemental nature of the wand).

Another common ability at this level is Spell-turning which allows the wand or staff to effectively parry, deflect, reflect, and/or absorb the energies of the incoming spell (or even the actual spell itself).

+4 Magic Wand or Staff

Being associated with the Superhero Tier these are legendary items (albeit less powerful ones). The Staff of Power (note the singular "the") from D&D is probably the canonical example of the abilities possessed by a typical +4 Magic Wand or Staff. However all are really unique items at this level of power, and much of their nature will be determined by the intent involved in their crafting. They are also quite likely to be entangled artifacts.

+5 Magic Wand or Staff

These are the legendary items that can shake the world (or at least a Kingdom). The Staff of Wizardry from D&D is probably the canonical example of a +5 magic staff, although they are not simply repositories of spells that may be cast. For example the one-way anti-magic shell provided the Staff of Wizardry is a known unique ability of this magical weapon.

[Sometime this century I will manage to concisely describe the Title Nobility. I hope. Draft number 16 just hit the bit bucket. The problem is all the interesting historical variance (both temporal and cultural) that I keep wanting to add side notes. And really, it should just be a simple generic description – except generic is so bland. <sigh>]