Thursday, April 28, 2016


Here's a challenge for anyone and everyone:

Write a guide that allows someone without a rulebook or previous experience to a solo using 750 words or less.

On your marks, get set, go!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Deluxe Magic Staves

What are they, who makes them, what do they do, are they dangerous, where can you buy them and why would you want one?

They were there in the first rulebook I ever saw and we have had them in our games forever - but who understands them?

Our understanding comes from the 5.5 rulebook and the information there is pretty sketchy (which is how I think it should be!). The basic understanding runs like this:

  • the staff (or wand) has a demon trapped inside it
  • the demon has an INT value and if a wizard with a lower INT grasps the staff the demon will possess the wizard
  • the demon also has a WIZ value and a wizard controlling the staff (DMS) gets to use that WIZ - like a battery
  • the demon's WIZ recharges just as the wizard's does
  • the wizard can cast a spell himself or get the DMS to (the DMS learns all the spells the wizard knows)
The reason we 'grew up' with DMS' in our games is that we adventured early on in Andy Holmes' seminal 'Goblin Crag' dungeon (now a museum in our Trollworld) and two DMS' featured there. One, called Ominous Thunder, was won by the wizard House Elf (now a member of the Wizards' Guild High Council in Khaboom), the other came with the dwarf wizard, Souza Fortescue, rescued from L2 of the dungeon - and a fellow High Council member. Souza's DMS, Nazik, is a ring and simply has a WIZ rating; Ominous Thunder is special - it actively casts spells to protect its ownerr and is like having a heavy duty bodyguard.

Perusing various rulebooks, I see that DMS' are for sale! The price has fluctuated between a meagre 5,000 GPs and a hefty 50,000. I have no hesitation in leaning towards the whopping great price tag but...

Let's look at that 'but' more closely.

I imagined a L1 wizard named Noddy the Weak who finds a DMS in a dungeon. Noddy is very lucky indeed! Doubly so, in fact, because Noddy has an INT of just 12 and the DMS, 'Pffff' has an INT that is one point lower. Pffff has WIZ of a feeble 7 so it is not the greatest prize ever found in a dungeon.

 What's the benefit of ownership to Noddy? Basically, that he can do an extra spell without exhausting himself and dying. Nice but not often a game breaker. If he had 2000 GPs to spare would be buy Pffff or purchase a L2 spell from the Wizards' Guild? I'd say that Poor Baby, Omnipotent Eye, Little Feets, Hidey Hole and the like are much more likely to benefit him and any party of delvers he's adventuring with so the value (to Noddy) of Pffff is significantly less than 2,000 GPs.

So is it just a matter of how much WIZ the DMS has? After all, if Pffff had WIZ of say 100, Noddy could blast away until the cows came home (in pieces).

Perhaps not... What is a smarter wizard stole Pffff from Noddy. :Let's imagine this wizard has INT of 30 and is L3, knowing all the L1-3 spells. This wizard, Smuglips, would make much better use of Pffff, instantly 'teaching' the DMS a bunch of spells and casting them all based on a much higher INT. Maybe the best thing Noddy can do is avoid Smuglips and get on and sell Pffff to a high level wizard at the Guild.

But hang on, Pffff only has WIZ of 7 and still only knows fairly simple spells. Why would the Guild supremo want Pffff?

We seem to be stuck with DMS' coming down to how much WIZ the demon possesses - plus an opening danger of it's INT overhwhelming a new owner.

Let's turn now to the question of who makes them. As mentioned before, they are for sale (presumably at Guild shops). We might imagine a transaction taking place:

Atomcruncher (promising L7 wizard with INT of 72): Good morning. I'd like to look at some of your DMS' please.

Ritayllakki (humble shop worker): Let me get my tape measure, sir - we wouldn't want any mishaps with something you couldn't handle!

Atomcruncher: We certainly wouldn't but I can tell you my INT is 72 so just show me the gooodies.

Ritayllakki: Very well, sir. We have many staves that would suit sir. Do you have any particular requirements - apart from not being possessed and humiliated?

Atomcruncher: Naturally, my good fellow. I want the maximum amount of WIZ a staff with an INT less than mine packs.

Ritayllakki:Of course sir does! Well, I won't show you the little one with WIZ of a humerous 3. I think you'll like this whopper - it has WIZ of 500.

Atomcruncher: Oh yes! I'll take that baby home and love it! How much does it cost?

Ritayllakki: Oh, they all cost the same. 50,000 gold pieces please. Just count them out in piles of 5, if you would be so kind.

So, what do we do? Just charge based on a multiple of WIZ?

I don't think so - mainluu because I don't care for the idea of them being easily makeable or for sale.

Let's think about how they are created.

My first take on Wizard Guild creation is that if they could make them, the market would be flooded with them! As soon as a benevolent high ranking wizard was faced with the proposition that dedicating his or her life to such a task would save many, many lives, that wizard would create a range of them with INTs to suit all sizes, packing as much WIZ as possible. I'm going to scratch that one out.

Now, I suppose just as a very powerful wizard can summon a demon or banish one, so one might be trapped within some wood but I think that would cost an awful lot of WIZ and would be inherently dangerous (in that one in eighteen times, the binder would roll a critical fumble) - so we can say this is possible but very rare. I'm picking such a spell to L20 or so on a par with 'Born Again' - except maybe for very puny demons if anyoine wants to argue the toss.

OK then - they can turn up in dungeons because mighty wizard gods and witch goddesses make them.

Apart from that?

I think that powerful demons make them. Why? My notion is that something on the Trollworld plane has pissed them off and they cannot travel there themselves so they charge their minions with doing as much harm to wizards as possible. That would mean that they would make DMS' with as high INT as they could (and let's assume they are not generally catastrophically intelligent!). What about WIZ? I'd think they would need to put a fair amount in to make them able to take over wizards.

Given all that, the tougher the dungeon level, the more dangerous INT-wise a DMS put there would likely be - and the more WIZ it would contain to power its work.

Turning back to the money question, what's a DMS worth? They would not be shop stocked items and it would be a matter of a willing seller meeting a willing buyer - a perfect capitalist equation for once. I don't think there would be many willing sellers because to have a powerful WIZ battery that you can cast spells through - thus reducing the risk to the wizard if a spell backfires - would be too good a treasure to part with.

Still, if they are just batteries (and if you don't play the 7.5 rule requiring an INT check to cast a spell they would seem to be no more than that) they are not want I think they should be!

Take a bow, Andy Holmes! The idea that Ominous Thunder actively protects its master is what makes a DMS exceptionally valuable. I think that could be applied to each and every DMS given their rarity.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nerdlinger Gets A Romantic Notion In His Own Little World

Nerdlinger's feeling romantic now. He can see things going well for him in this new world and is ready to settle down with the first nice girl he meets. As you can see above, nice girls are not necessarily packaged as expected out here in the alternative world. Still, he's ready to flash a smile if he can just get that sparkly magic transferred from his left hand to his teeth before she does it for him.

But what's that? Someone else is lurking, about to crash in on his date?

Ah! It appears the belle dame is already spoken for but her husband is infertile and keen to adopt a son and heir. Maybe Nerdlinger can get his head round this switch and be a credit to the family - or will the Oedipus syndrome stretch out its grasping tentacles to this dimension too?

A Look Down The Wolf's Throat

You can see Fair and Square doing their doormen thing...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Wolf’s Throat Dungeon

This adventure came about when a very stupid and very unlucky character was rolled up. He also was very low on charisma. Aren’t such characters always fun to develop? He was given the name ‘Fut’ – a solid first step towards the history books.

Fut wanted to go down a dungeon but was advised to take a wizard with him. To find such a partner in likely doom, he did what all non-thinking men do and went out drinking. It was a while until his pub crawl netted him a fish as most magical candidates turned their noses up at such an unpromising treasure-gathering buddy. He came across a very shortsighted wizard who presumably failed to see his disadvantages and who needed a get-rich-quick scheme. He went by the name of Flamebeard and to see him was to know why.

Flamebeard had it in his head that another tavern, a rather exclusive one at that, called the Honeydrippers had a special way to get to a dungeon he had heard tell of known as the Wolf’s Thraot Dungeon. This was good enough for Fut and so the ungainly pair set out to meet their destiny and make their fortune. The transporter to the dungeon’s mountaintop location turned out to be the lifting section of the bar and they stumbled their way through and beyond to the point of no return.

The dungeon entrance is in the form of a giant wolf's skull - you have to go down the throat. It is guarded by two large, ponderous ape-golems, Fair and Square. Fair and Square bare passing resemblance to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - they are amiable at heart and even gave the travellers a night's rest in the skull and lit a fire to keep them warm against the mountain's chills.

Inside the dungeon the next morning, Fut learned (courtesy of a series of doubles) that his leather armour was enchanted to be flame-proof. This he was very happy to find out when a freak of magic enchanted his arms to be flaming arms in the same fashion as Flamebeard's chin.

Because Fut was so incapable at so many things, the player took a talent for going unconscious to save him from the gravest of indignities. As for Flamebeard, it gradually unfolded that his near blindness related to the mysterious fact that he could see invisible things but very little that was normally seeable. This unusual state of affairs, he seemed very reluctant to own up to.

Before long, the pair rescued another delver - Pencilvania, a vampire with a magical talent for bringing drawings into being. This talent would serve them time and time gain although Pencilvania struggled to make his beautiful sketches come to life. And when they did, they lasted barely 30 seconds most of the time.

Frequently, what he drew either didn't materialise or, if it did, had a flaw that thwarted their escape from danger. The WOlf's Throat dungeon turned out to be a series of rooms which were traps in themselves - getting through to the next room seemed to be the only reward.

After a few such rooms, they discovered that the creator of the dungeon was himself on trial. A watching gaggle of wizard-gods and witch-goddesses were sitting in judgment, evaluating the amusement provided and adherence to rules.

This fledgling dungeon master was the French Taunter, known well in another life t Monty Python fans. As his voice and views became heard, delver dialogue descended to dire levels of diatribe. The Taunter naturally catapulted animals at the party. Although the cow did not survive its flight, the horse did and was promptly added to the party once they assessed it as being extremely lucky as its legs did not break on landing. They then had th problem of getting it through man-size doors but Pencilvania attended to that, as best he could.

These are the rooms they got through:

·         The Stench Bench - Roman-style toilet benches, escape route underneath.
·         Boomerang Keys - deadly little flying keys; needed to capture one to unlock a door near the ceiling. Pencilvania drew a bomb whichtook care of that danger.
·         Chocolate Box - unususal centres, just vile or sometimes poisonous - a drawn stomach pump camp in handy.
·         Magnets - they lost their armour but another drawing of a tin opener did the trick.
·         Invisible Door/ 78 Visible Doors - well, to Flamebeard there was just one door, so not a problem to this crew.
·         Mad Surgeon - brother of tailor and perfume-maker; offered weird transplants - wings, brains, horns, etc - from a wide range of creatures; Fut got gargoyle wings that act as a shield but he can't fly, Pencilvania got bat wings that did get him aloft. Flamebeard got an extending frog tongue.
·         Tailor (Invisible Garments) - the nudity factor did not bother Flamebeard but upset Fut alot; Pencilvania ended up with a suit in the form a giant pencilcase.
·         Perfume-maker - his perfumes attracted monsters but they were slain by the now-proficient dungeon crew. He got paid exorbitantly by the Taunter for the operations, which were meant to be fatal.
·         Minefield - Flamebeard was blown to pieces and Fut committed suicide in protest but the reliable Pencilvania drew them back to life. The horse made it too.        
         Flea-ridden Carpet - fire accounted for these dog-sized horrors.

The team are almost out and free but the Taunter has breached Dungeon Etiquette by not providing treasure (he had already been reprimanded by his peers for not providing a safe means through the Minefield). On top of that, he cannot afford to pay the Surgeon for his work.

The Powers That Be have decided on a one room challenge - the Taunter must come up with a deadly room using five different items (there must be a way of circumventing death and there must be treasure on offer); Fut, Flamebeard, Pencilvania and the horse have the same challenge but for them the stakes are 20,000 GPs a head rather than continued membership of the DM Guild.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Fellowship of the Slumbering

What a monumental effort!

A huge task expertly and lovingly done. After sooo many years, truly amazing.

It seems like the Fellowship is sleeping now and that rest is well deserved and understandable. It is hard not to be regretful after so many exhilarating dice rolls, when the appetite is whetted.

I don't suppose all five play the game themselves. One or two, maybe, but I'm only guessing.

A pity that the energy seems to lie mainly outside the origin group. The continuation in whatever form is welcome though.

Does this seem mean-spirited of me to write this? I hope not for it is not intended to be. Cyber-communications often go astray though - as has just happened in the Darksmoke game I've been playing in at the Trollbridge.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Nerdlinger's Parallel Life

Things are going well for the alternatively-charged electron wizard. In this universe, wizards are set up with flying ability powered by flaming fists.
They also get to summon ridable monsters they can goad forward and feed with energy globs spewing from their fists (these can be formed into damaging globs rather than nutritious ones).

All in all, life here looks peachy for Nerdlinger who thinks himself well rid of that other universe. Make hay while the sun shines, I think...