One Page Monster Manual

Apparently my effort toward participating in the Fight ON! Fantasy Table Competition paid off big time and I managed to get the third place (which oddly got published under my real name and not my nom-de-plume). Which is WAAAY better than I expected. One Page Monster Manual is the result of compiling previous work on what monster entries are really about in a more organic form, adding some tidbits to it to make it more self-standing and less sucky. And, most importantly, not using on the viral SRD licence.

I’m really, really inspired by the other entries: it looks like a lot of people did a very very nice job. Al got the second place with a very nifty entry that I’m going to use for sure in my games, for example.

I’d like to keep the “FO! version” under cover until the mighty fine Fight On! peeps put it out, but if you’re wanting to use a previous version it you can find it (together with many other crunchy bits) almost at the end of the free download Transcription of the Lost Pages: Volume 1 (in a multipage A5 version with a lot of whitespace).

And yes, I have more improvements. But without feedback (which is obviously very welcome and always appreciated) I’d rather concentrate on working on other things.

The Chemistry of Dungeons, or: help me I need dungeons and I just have an old organic chemistry book. Also, writing to Gary.

I’m going to write possibly the nerdiest post ever.

Suppose your players left the village of Somewhere Away and decided to pursue the Dodgy Villager That Secretly Is A Pawn Of The Villain: you need a dungeon where the DVTSIAPOTV and his boss can meet.

And you just have a chemistry book: opening the book for inspiration, you see  meaningless chemichy blabber about lignin. Wood and paper are made of this stuff. What if you could turn all that drivel that allows us to keep our lifestyles possible in a fantastic adventuring locale? Behold lignin:

Instant Dungeon! And a big one!

First of all, the theme: lignin is about wood or paper, so it could be something like a dungeon full of constructs and animated objects, or full of books, or a library, or a magical miniature castle made of paper that you can enter if you touch, or a network of treehouses.

Now, what do you do with this map? how do you read it?


And requires zero knowledge of chemistry:

  • the lines (bonds) that links atoms above are CORRIDORS: 3 in 10 are either hidden, closed by a locked door, closed by a door. To determine which room has the key, roll a dice on the map and that’s the room: It can be either hidden or held by a monster (50%).
  • C means CARBON and Carbons are rooms with four exits, or CROSSROADS. Roll content as per empty room. You should also come up with a small random monster table adequate to the location (6 entries are good, too many seem really random and nonspecific).
  • O means OXYGEN or OBSTACLE. It can be a room with some nastyness: usually to stop intruders; traps, guardian monsters, locked door, trapped locked room with monsters, or simply a cave in that makes the passage unsuitable. Oxygens have 2 exits, like a passage. If an oxygen is lonely next to a carbon you have a DOUBLE BOND (described later).
  • H means HYDROGEN, and hydrogens are room with a single exit. They contain stuff and nasties.
  • N means NITROGEN and also NETWORK: the (usually three) rooms connected to it form some kind of small cluster of logically connected rooms, like a guardpost with barracks, studio, den or apartment. Dress accordingly, and use for important stuff peculiar to the dungeon.
  • DOUBLE BONDS happen when you count the exits between rooms and some are missing, while in some graphs are displayed as a double line. Two distinct passages link the two rooms, usually one of them is secret/locked/hidden/trapped, or one of the two rooms is split into two parts by a chasm, bars or whatever you prefer. See it as an occasion for interesting tactical choices in combat or exploration. Also, read MinnenRatta’s comment below.
  • If you have other letters, throw in random stuff according to the atom, or not if you can’t be bothered: it’s just there to kickstart your imagination and its deconstruction it’s only for your benefit. If you see strange lines connecting stuff, treat as special/trapped/secret passages. If you see, like in the picture below,  three/four lines connecting, it’s a CARBON/CROSSROAD. If there’s a bend that bend is a carbon crossroad that has two hydrogen rooms next to it (unless double bounds are present, reducing the number of hydrogen/rooms adjacent). The bit to the right is a long corridor with 10 rooms spread between the two sides, and a room at the end. I guess the below dungeon is good for a drug smuggling hideout.

  • To finish, sprinkle secret doors that link more or less remote areas of the dungeon. And pick a number of exits.
  • Of course you might expand the meanings above to elements of the same groups. Halogens such as Fluorine and Clorine are EXTREMELY NASTY ROOMS, chalcogens like Oxygen ans Sulfur are obstacles and so on.

DONE. Ok, my nerd club membership has been renewed for the next 15 years or so.

And now the occasional tiny letter to Gary.

Hello Gary,

I know you’re dead and you can’t read me me. Also I guess you can’t read wordpress. I guess this makes me look a bit stupid, or romantic. Well, I wanted to thank you post mortem for having published my favourite game. I never met you and I can’t say much about you, but thanks for having given me such an empowering hobby.

That’s it. Ok, enough time spent writing to corpses buried thousands of miles away. Back to science!

Wizard spell progression

The other day I started toying with the idea of having spell levels map directly on spellcaster levels, and streamline the number of spells per level as well. This way we would have level 5 MU casting level 5 spells. Except “the other day” was weeks ago, stuff is keeping me extra-busy till september.

There are a number of ways to get there:

The Ur-d20/Otherguy way (as it was allegedly used in early d20 system development and also by another guy can’t remember that comes from the Internets, but I forgot much about both systems so details have been reworked)
Split each spell level in two, obtaining typically 18 levels. Each spell level usually have less powerful and more powerful spells, so it would be just matter of splitting the spell lists: I’d put magic missile on level 1, sleep on level 2, mirror images on level 3, web on level 4, fireball on level 5, lightning bolt on level 6 and so on. This can take a while tho, and would make things confusing (“is that spell level 5 in the old or new system?”).

Spell progression rules: 1 spell a day for each spell level equal or less than character level, plus 1 spell a day for each level equal to character level -5, plus 1 spell a day for each level equal to character level -10 and so on. This keeps the overall spell progression remarkably close to the original

lvl 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 and so on
 1  1
 2  1 1
 3  1 1 1
 4  1 1 1 1
 5  1 1 1 1 1
 6  2 1 1 1 1 1
 7  2 2 1 1 1 1 1
 8  2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
 9  2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
10  2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
11  3 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1


Exactly as above, but spell levels are simply doubled. In addition spells are split in traditions or some kind of affinity (fire, illusion) or some schools do a better job at teaching them or some pupils at learning them. Depending on these relationships a character can access some level 2 spell at character level 3 instead of 4: overall similar to the above, but allows for greater character customization and wanting to recover lost tomes describing better ways of casting spells, or looking for better teachers. Apprenticeship is not only for pre level 9 mages (as suggested by Mentzer).

Powerful mages
I reworked the MU level progression so that they would need as many XP to gain character level 2  as they would need to be able to cast spell level 2 and so on. A horribly steep progression indeed, needing 4 times as many XP at each level (simply doubling would keep the magic user 1 level beyond other characters). Which is kind annoying as the mage progression loses smoothness and, in addition, HP would be in average lower in systems that reroll all the HD at level gain and take the new total only if it’s better. In addition the caster level would be half for the same amount of XP unless we corrected by doubling it. So I opted for a progression that would allow earlier access and more hp to compensate for lack of casting level. A table for OD&D might look like this:

HD       XP 1 2 3 4 5 6
1d6       0 1
2d6      5k 2 1
3d6     15k 4 2 1
4d6     45k 4 4 2 1
5d6    135k 4 4 4 2 1
6d6    405k 4 4 4 4 2 1
7d6    810k 4 4 4 4 4 2

So, less xp to get high level spells, with overall marginally higher hits and way less powerful level-bound effects like fireball damage.

Don’t touch anything and let MU rock the world, casting more powerful spells earlier
MUs are so flimsy I actually am considering using this for a change: at level 1, magic missile, level 2 levitation, level 9 meteor swarm. Warriors build fortresses, mages make stars fall.

Bin everything and use the awesome system from the first edition of the Empire of the Petal Throne
Which is way clunkier but way, way cooler and more colorful. ‘Nuff said.

And now it’s time to eat lunch and get ready for tonight’s Bad Religion gig. 🙂