Friday, December 12, 2008

Electronic rule books OF THE FUTURE!

I'm proud of my substantial collection of game rule books. But they do take up lots of space. And they can hurt my back when I haul a portion of them to and from game sessions. All of us know that sooner or later we'll be using those PADDs from out of Star Trek. Some of you might not know that the future is now!

Never mind's Kindle device. Although it is swell for reading novels, the screen is too small for use as a technical manual. If we want to consult tables and charts from a game rule book, we need to be able to see it clearly without a magnifying glass. I'm not knocking the Kindle. It's a good device. And it looks like it's selling well.

What would really be useful is a device similar to the Kindle that has a large screen and that you can load up with your own PDF files. I think the Plastic Logic Reader is what we gamers have been waiting for.

Just look at it! The device itself is the size of an 8.5"x11" pad of paper. The screen is about the same size as the content of a magazine page. And it's actually thinner than most hardbound rule books. Imagine this thing holding all of your core rule books and splat books from all editions of all of your games.

Well, to be honest, the Reader won't be able to hold that much information. And it's in black and white. But this is only the first model. It's only a matter of time before memory capacity is dramatically increased and the screen is replaced with a color one.

I think that this sort of device will change how pencil-and-paper role-playing games will be played. Not only can you keep copies of your game rules handy, you can keep character sheets, treasure lists, campaign journals, and so on. I imagine that this device could be used in tandem with a laptop computer, but not replace it. The Reader is useful for referencing documents. Not for running programs or entering data records. I've used a laptop as reader, but it's a little cumbersome. I'd rather read from something as light as a magazine and as easy to handle.

This reader is small, lightweight, and serves the specific purpose of reading documents. And it can make that stack of heavy rule books go away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ramblings about Pathfinder vs. 4E

I haven't been posting in a while because of work. But I've been reading the RPG blogs every day. Today I noticed a link to a very interesting blog entry at Chad Perrin: SOB titled How Paizo Fixed D&D. Then I noticed a response to that blog entry at The Core Mechanic. So I've come out from under my rock to post some of my thoughts regarding this issue.

I am no longer enthusiastic about 3.5E. And I'm even less interested in 3P, as the Pathfinder system is being labeled. The set of D&D rules that accumulated since the publication of 3E back in 2000 became a bloated mess. D&D is an exception-based rule system and the amount of exceptions became monumental and sometimes contradictory. The amount of preparation on the part of the DM became too much. The game's complexity is a turn-off to newbies.

When I returned to gaming in 2005, it was with D&D 3.5E. But even though I had decades of experience with playing RPGs, I was constantly at a disadvantage because I didn't have the level of skill with the 3.5E rules as my fellow gamers at the table. The group I was with was very unforgiving and lacked patience for newbie gamers. I saw several newbies come and go from that group. Newbies who had the time to play but were either rejected because of their seeming "unwillingness to learn the rules" or either just plain lost interest. Right before I left that group, it was suggested to me that I should just play a fighter since it was the simplest character class.

Good grief! There shouldn't be this massive learning curve for RPGs!

When I started my own gaming group, I DM'd in the fashion that I thought would be friendlier and more accommodating to newbies. But there was still that barrier of rule complexity. One fellow who joined my group was a really great guy who knew the 3.5E rules very well. Even though I was the DM, I found myself deferring to his wisdom regarding rule mechanics. Since I wasn't running a store-bought 3.5E module, I had to write up monster and NPC stats for each game session. The amount of time I spent preparing materials was massively disproportionate to their amount of game-time use.

This is the part where I start raving about the virtues 4E, right? Well, maybe.

When 4E was announced, I was excited about it. The more I learned, the better I liked it. The folks at WotC seemed to be mirroring many of my opinions about the shortcomings of 3.5E. They rebuilt the entire game from the ground up. Monsters are much easier to create from scratch. The skills are simplified. The classes are now balanced in a very precise and consistent manner. I like how the system of PC powers, feats, and tiers easily guide development so that you can have butt-kicking fun at all levels. This is in contrast to 3.5E, where you eventually discover that you have to meticulously plan character development in advance through careful examination of Byzantine rules in God knows how many splat books in order to make manifest your perfect snowflake. Massive programs have been written by third parties to assist with 3.5E character creation. 4E character development isn't nearly as complicated.

4E has some drawbacks, though, in my opinion. I miss Vancian magic. Most of the rules for PCs only relate to combat. Many aspects of 4E, so I've been told, strongly resemble World of Warcraft and collectible card games. The game now seems entirely focused on the goal of elevating PCs to inevitable apotheosis.

Nevertheless, 4E is simpler than 3.5E. But its style is heavily influenced by the popularity of computer RPGs and I'm not sure I like that. Ever since 4E was published, I've been wondering what this role-playing game thing is really all about.

I'm an old-timer who started gaming when the hobby was becoming mainstream. Only a few years after I started gaming, the adventure path style was beginning to coalesce in the form of Dragonlance, as James over at Grognardia recently pointed out. Although pre-generated characters following a scripted story repelled me, I eventually found myself buying into the idea that all good RPG adventures had to have a story arc. I convinced myself that I couldn't be a good GM unless I was a good writer. I've come to realize that this idea was utter nonsense.

As I recounted in an earlier post, I learned about the term, "sandbox campaign." I was also turned on to various blogs and forums pertaining to the "old school" gaming style. Since then, I've decided that old school sandbox campaigning is my preferred way of playing any RPG.

Then there is Pathfinder. (Were you wondering when I was going to get to that? I was too.) It is the continuation of the 3.5E rule set and is ideal for people who are not interested in the drastic changes of 4E. Apparently, much work has gone into making it a fine product. But it is not for me.

One would think that an old-timer like myself would abbhor 4E in favor of 3.5E. Or perhaps it wouldn't be surprising if I called myself a grognard that would rather play OD&D or 1E. But I'm not too sure I will abandon years of gaming evolution and return to an earlier, simpler system. And Swords & Wizardry is just about as simple as it gets!

No, what concerns me the most about modern role-playing games is the idea of the adventure path versus sandbox campaigning. In my very humble opinion, I think this bifurcation of attitude towards playing RPGs is at the heart of many discussions dating back 30 years. I think that it's at the heart of the dissatisfaction of grognards towards modern rule sets. And I also think it's at the heart of the Pathfinder vs. 4E debate. But I'm not sure that many people realize it yet.

(Here's where I really go out on a limb and where I will probably start ducking rotten fruit flung at my head.)

The 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons is fantastic for old school-style sandbox campaigns.

There. I said it. Call me completely insane. But I think it's true. I'll try to explain why.

I've decided that story arcs are a bad idea. The adventure path is gaming entertainment and not actually a game. Paizo's Pathfinder is the culmination of that gaming tradition. It's in the name of their game, for God's sake. They've published not modules but adventure paths.

The premise of 4E is the "points of light" concept. This is as it should be. When I started my own campaign last year, I wanted it to take place in a period of time similar to that of the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. That way there could be isolated settlements, perhaps a few warring kingdoms, and plenty of ancient ruins for dungeon crawling. I didn't want the campaign world to be too civilized like Greyhawk or other published settings. I wanted it to have as much wilderness as possible. After I dreamed up this campaign, I found out that this is exactly what was intended for 4E. In fact, the points of light premise inspired Goodman Games to publish a book detailing four sandbox campaigns in their Points of Light source book.

And then there is Mike Mearls himself who is running a sandbox campaign using the Wilderness Survival map, as suggested by Gary Gygax back in 1974. Hello? Did anyone else notice this? One of the lead developers of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons is looking at the weird ways of old school gaming. Check out what he had to say about The Keep on the Borderlands. Even his blog is a play on that title.

4E is completely stripped down. Many have noticed that there is not much beyond combat rules in the core rule books. Is this a bad thing? Maybe. Or maybe it isn't. One of the virtues of old school gaming is the lack of rules. The DM and players of OD&D and AD&D were expected to make up rules on the spot if it was ever needed. Inventing house rules was part of the fun. Why is it impossible to take the rules presented in 4E and build upon it with house rules?

Another criticism of 4E is the lack of fluff in the Monster Manual. Well, there wasn't much more than crunch in the OD&D monster decriptions, either. Over the years, the lore regarding orcs and goblins became more and more detailed. Just take a look at the description of those monsters in the OD&D books and then look at how they ever so gradually expanded in 1E, 2E, and 3E. As of 3.5E, those creatures were fairly well defined in terms of fluff. In 4E, they are not. That's because it's now up to you. Again. As it was in OD&D.

So here I am, a quasi-grognard who thinks that 4E can be great for old school-style sandbox campaigns. The trouble is that almost all of the gamers playing 4E want video game-style "quests" handed to them on a silver platter so that the PCs can take part in the DM's scripted adventure path. And almost all of the gamers who want to play it old school want to do it using OD&D, AD&D, OSRIC, or Swords & Wizardry.

What's a weirdo misfit gamer like myself to do? Keep blogging, I guess.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Zagyg's gate to Barsoom

In E. Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, I noticed that part of one of the room descriptions reads as follows:

If the CK desires, this cave can serve as a gateway to a SMALL RED PLANET (not unlike Mars), where a lesser gravity is in effect and where 4-armed green giants, blue men resembling plants, huge albino apes, and six-legged riding beasts dwell; the world by and large ruled by the green giants and various colors of humanoids. The Castle Keeper can either develop such a setting whole cloth, utilizing any and all appropriate fictional resources as inspiration (such as the novel John Carter of Mars by E.R. Burroughs) or wait until such a supplementary adventure to the Castle Zagyg pruduct line is released.

Did Gary loose his marbles in his final days when he wrote this? Absolutely not. In fact, it's entirely consistent. And very deliberate. Furthermore, the Peter Bradley cover illustration of the Mouths of Madness booklet included in Upper Works is a scene depicting the cave that connects to said gate to Barsoom.

James Maliszewski, in many of his recent blog entries over at Grognardia, has been discussing the various literary influences upon the work of Gygax. As James has pointed out, Gary was not influenced by Tolkien when he created his fantasy role-playing game. Instead, he was very much influenced by pulp fantasy writers such a Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, and many others. Edgar Rice Burroughs is also one of the authors that Gygax cited as inspiration in the appendex of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Many gamers assume that Tolkien's popularity in the 1960s and '70s was the impetus for D&D's invention. I confess that I made this assumption for a long time. Several years ago I discovered that this was not the case at all.

I've read Tolkien, of course. And I've read a few other fantasy novels. But not many of them. It's about time I took that dive into Gary's reading list. For me, it's long overdue.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Free plug for Fight On! #3

Good news, everyone! The third issue of Fight On!, the fanzine dedicated to old school D&D, has been published. I first learned of this magazine several months ago via Grognardia. It's filled with essays, ideas, tables, monsters, and adventures that can spice up any fantasy campaign. Even if you don't play any of the older editions, there are plenty of cool things found within that can liven up even a 4e game.

Although I had embraced 4e D&D, I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to find a game group who will play it. Some of my friends are mildly interested in playing D&D but are not that keen on actually studying vast quantities of rule books. I may be returning to OD&D and dive into the old school revival that has been going on recently.

At the same time I purchased Fight On! #3, I also ordered from Lulu a copy of Swords & Wizardry. This game, which I have mentioned before, is kind of an updated version of OD&D. I look forward to reading it because I'm considering writing and publishing a dungeon or two.

Addendum: As some of you may have noticed, I haven't been posting very many blogs lately. As with any hobby, work gets in the way. I haven't had much time for D&D lately and so I haven't been able to devote much thought towards expressing myself in a blog. My current work project is nearing completion and I think I'll have more gaming time during the holidays.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stop whining about GG and Castle Zagyg

This whining about Gygax Games shifting gears with the publication of Gary Gygax's legacy is beginning to annoy me. It annoys me far more than the recent business decisions of that company.

Am I the only one who was wondering why it took so long to release Upper Works? That thing was supposed to be on store shelves years ago. YEARS AGO. I could only guess why. My best guess was that Gary's failing health delayed its completion. Or maybe it's because of something about the nature of Troll Lord Games? I don't know.

It's so easy for people to jump to the conclusion that the family of a deceased celebrity would exploit the deceased's estate to selfish ends. Such scheming might be likely if the family in question had nothing to do with the life of said celebrity. But, as far as I know, Gary's family was supportive of his work.

I think it is likely that the Gygax family is very protective of Gary's legacy. So much so that they have their own ideas of how his intellectual property should be handled. Call me crazy but I think it stands to reason that the surviving members Gary's family are the only ones to make that decision. Fans can cry and stamp their feet all they want. The reality is that they are the ones calling the shots and there isn't anything we can do to change this situation.

Does anyone remember the existence of hobbits in D&D? Gary wasn't interested in incorporating elements of The Lord of the Rings in his game. He was far more interested in the works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber than that of J.R.R. Tolkien. But the folks that Gary gamed with demanded elves, orcs, and hobbits. So the first incarnation of D&D included those fantasy races. But the Tolkien estate took issue with this. Specifically, they objected to the use of hobbits, a fantasy race that was invented by Tolkien and was central to his stories. They did not object to the game itself. In fact, they did not pursue the issue further once the name of the D&D race was changed to "halfling." And eventually there was published a role-playing game based on Middle-earth. (I would be interested in reading the precise legal details of this conflict someday.)

Did this make the Tolkien family money-grubbing ogres? No, it didn't. Did they ruin the legacy of one of the greatest authors of the 20th century? No, they did not. They realized the importance of his work. They protected it. They were very cautious about handling their inherited intellectual property. Ralph Bakshi's movie aside, it was a very long time before that family allowed the production of a movie based on The Lord of the Rings. Tremendous care was taken with Tolkien's remaining notes and letters about Middle-earth. Books pertaining to his invented mythology were published slowly. They did not "sell out" or exploit his epic work in an unreasonable manner.

There isn't any doubt that Gary Gygax was the godfather of all role-playing games. It can be argued that Arneson and others were indispensable to the precipitation of the genre but that's the subject of another discussion. The fact remains that Gygax and his Castle Greyhawk mega-dungeon was one of the primary testbeds of Dungeons & Dragons. The dungeon beneath Castle Greyhawk was the axis about which the entire Greyhawk campaign revolved. Many of Gary's famous modules set the example for others. But his most famous dungeon, for whatever reason, remained unpublished for all of these years. Make no doubt about it. The dungeons of Castle Greyhawk was his epic work.

I won't get into the history of Gary's relationship with TSR and other companies. When he planned to finally publish his epic mega-dungeon, he had to change the name to Castle Zagyg for legal reasons. Historically, Gary's Castle Greyhawk was just a dungeon and nothing more. No surface ruins, no local environments, nothing. So when he decided to publish it, he rightly thought it important to properly place it within a sandbox campaign setting. Putting it in WotC's Greyhawk campaign was out of the question. But he managed to work around it. This took time and delayed the publication of the actual dungeon itself.

Why did it take so long? As I said, we can only guess. Personally, I was annoyed with the never-ending delay of the release of Castle Zagyg. It stands to reason that the factors contributing to the delay of its publication were directly related to Gary himself, the people he collaborated with, and the game company publishing the product. Those factors and nothing else were the reasons for the seemingly never-ending delays. But Gary ran out of time and now he is with the Great Gamer in the Sky. The future publication of Castle Zagyg now has absolutely nothing to do with the factors that have heretofore delayed its release.

The bottom line is this. We haven't seen any part of Castle Zagyg produced by Gygax Games. We don't know how quickly it will be produced. We don't know anything about its quality or how closely it follows Gary's plan for the dungeon's final published form. It is not our place to second-guess the abilities of the Gygax family to handle Gary's legacy.

So settle down and just wait and see. For all we know, further publications of Castle Zagyg may be of astonishing quality and released very quickly. Or maybe not. The fact is that we have no reason to think it will be one way or another. We have no choice but to place our faith in Gygax Games and respect whatever decision they make. Because that's the way it's gonna be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The adventure path is gaming entertainment

I recently joined a D&D gaming group. In one of my message exchanges with the DM, I asked him if this was to be an adventure path or sandbox campaign. He explained that it would be a mixture of both. Curiously, he also explained that he was sometimes frustrated with his players because they seemed reluctant to interact with the world around them. And when NPCs react to their actions in a negative manner, they seem "shocked."

After writing a lengthy response to this recent message, I realized that it was too long. So I decided that a long-overdue blog post would be in order.

My new DM explained that his campaign is a mixture of both adventure path and sandbox. In my humble opinion, I would argue that it can't be a mixture of both. It must be one or the other. Either you have a story you wish the players to follow or you don't. If you have a story, it is not a sandbox campaign.

As for his occasional frustrations with his players, the problem (again, in my humble opinion) he is having is that he is giving the players the freedom of a sandbox campaign when he is actually running an adventure path. They are expecting the DM to provide the next "cut scene" (to use video game parlance) that presents to the players the next stage of their quest. They are depending on the DM to entertain them, to tell the story. They want the DM to have the king summon them to the throne room and present the quest. They want the DM to roll out the red carpet before them and present the goal of the next quest on a silver platter.

Dungeons & Dragons was not originally designed to play adventure paths. This mode of game play has evolved into being over the years because of our natural inclination to appreciate a good storyline. In my continually humble opinion, playing RPGs in this manner should not technically be called a "game." A better term would be "gaming entertainment." It is a perfectly valid form of game play. It is not "false" or somehow wrong.

Pro wrestling is not a sport but rightfully termed "sports entertainment." That is because there is a written storyline and the wrestling matches are generally choreographed. The opponents train and rehearse together beforehand. Back in the old days, pro wrestling was real. And wrestlers really did get hurt. Promoters realized that if their star wrestlers were getting hurt, they were not in the ring and therefore not attracting large crowds. So they decided to fix the matches. And, ultimately, they scripted them with the goal of entertaining the crowd and thereby making lots of money. This formula has worked for that industry for decades.

My new DM is definitely running an adventure path campaign. He has a story. He naturally wants to see it completed. He went to the trouble of planning it. He spent the time writing it. Perhaps he spent money on a module that he wishes to have the players see to completion. He might even envision how the big showdown with the bad guy is going to play out. He and his players have made an investment in this business of playing Dungeons & Dragons and they expect to see a return. The point is that they won't see the end of the DM's story if the PCs die. So the DM will be tempted to look the other way if there is a bad die roll. He will be tempted to create a deus ex machina in order to avoid the much-maligned Total Party Kill. That is the line that is crossed and that is where D&D ceases to be a game and becomes gaming entertainment.

In an earlier post, I extolled the virtues of sandbox campaigns and I declared that I would only play that type of campaign from now on. Well, I'm eating my own words! In the area of the country where I live, gaming groups are few and far between. After unsuccessfully attempting to restart my local D&D group, I've been putting out feelers to join an existing group. This new DM seems like a nice guy and he's planning to run a campaign set in Greyhawk. If it is to be an adventure path, that is fine. I'll help the party see it to completion. But hopefully along the way my rogue will rise in power and take over the local underworld!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Swords & Wizardry

The good folks at Mythmere Games have published Swords & Wizardry, a new version of the Dungeons & Dragons game as published in the early 1970s. It appears to be something in between the booklets of 0e and the Holmes' basic edition. As it states in the introduction, it is "an approximate re-creation of the Gary Gygax original fantasy role-playing game, created using the Open Game License." The PDF version is a FREE DOWNLOAD but you can also pay a few dollars for a printed copy.

I heard about this work via James Maliszewski over at Grognardia. Although I don't always agree with James' harsh criticism of 4e, I intensely enjoy his perspectives of "old school" fantasy RPGs. As a matter of fact, he was the editor of this S&W rule book.

I'm glad that someone has gone to the trouble of reinterpreting the 0e rules for modern gamers. Although I have PDFs of the original game, they were written for gamers who were already familiar with strategy war games and at a time when the term "role-playing game" was not yet coined. Even if you are not interested in actually playing S&W, it is sure to provide insight into the early days of D&D. It should also provide some guidance for conducting your own "old school" style of gaming. Maybe it will inspire the reader to simplify gameplay.

Who knows? Perhaps it will inspire me to take advantage of the OGL and publish my own S&W adventure module.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

4e Monster: Aerial Servant

This is my first monster that I've created for 4e. It is the first monster listed in the 1e Monster Manual and I've added it to my list of 1e Monster Manual monsters for 4e. You might notice that I've added Frequency, Environment, No. Appearing, % In Lair, and Treasure Type. This is because I'm putting together my own house rule Monster Manual with the intent of playing 4e D&D in the old school fashion.

For reference, I used the descriptions of the aerial servant from the 1e MM p. 6 and the 3.5e Tome of Horrors p. 9. If you are familiar with the AD&D aerial servant, you'll know that it can be summoned by a PC cleric. In 4e terms, this obviously requires some sort of ritual spell. Unfortunately, I have not defined such a ritual here.


Frequency: Very rare
Environment: The Elemental Chaos
Number Appearing: 1
% In Lair: 0
Treasure Type: Nil

The aerial servant is a semi-intelligent form of an air elemental. It is typically encountered only due to summoning.

Aerial Servant Level 16 Solo Lurker
Medium elemental magical beast (air) XP 7000
Initiative +17 Senses Perception +8
HP 770; Bloodied 385
AC 32; Fortitude 29, Reflex 30, Will 25
Immune disease, poison, non-magical weapons; Vulnerable 10 thunder
Speed fly 12 (hover)
Action points: 2
M Airy Crush (standard; at-will)
+21 vs. AC; 2d8+7 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). The grabbed target takes 2d8+7 damage at the start of its turn while grabbed.
r Wind Blast (standard; recharge 4 5 6)
An aerial servant can release a blast of wind. Ranged 8/16; +21 vs. AC; 4d10+7.
Natural Invisibility
This ability is constant, allowing an aerial servant to remain invisible even when attacking. This ability is inherent. This ability does not function when an aerial servant is on the Astral Plane or Ethereal Plane, but instead grants the creature lightly obscured concealment.
Spellcaster Link
When summoned, an aerial servant creates a mental link between itself and the caster who summoned it. Should the aerial servant fail the mission it has been assigned, it returns to the caster and attacks him. The aerial servant can find the caster as long as they both are on the same plane of existence. If the caster leaves the plane, the link is temporarily broken. Once the caster returns or the aerial servant enters the plane the caster is on, the link is immediately reestablished and the aerial servant moves at full speed toward the caster's current location. Only when the aerial servant or caster is destroyed, is the link permanently broken.
Str: 23 (+14) Dex: 21 (+13) Wis: 10 (+8)
Con: 18 (+12) Int: 4 (+5) Cha: 11 (+8)


Aerial servants attack by using a shearing blast of wind as a weapon or by grabbing an opponent and crushing it within their powerful grasp. Aerial servants can only be killed on their native plane. If slain elsewhere, they simply dissolve into wisps of vapor and return to their home plane. An aerial servant's natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.


A character knows the following information with a successful check.

Arcana DC 10: Aerial servants are semi-intelligent creatures from the Elemental Chaoes that often roam the Astral Sea. They normally are only found on this world as a result of some sort of summoning ritual and commanded to perform some task, often being required to use their immense strength to carry objects or aid the summoner.

Arcana DC 15: Aerial servants can carry weights in excess of 400 pounds.

Arcana DC 20: If the aerial servant is frustrated from completion of its assigned mission it becomes insane, returns to the spellcaster which sent it forth.

[Disclaimer: I'm relatively new to making 4e monsters. Although I'm pretty sure I did a good job, I may have missed a few details. If you think there needs to be changes, let me know.]

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

1e Monster Manual monsters for 4e

This is an index of all the monsters listed in the first edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual written by E. Gary Gygax and originally published in 1977. Each entry has either a link to home brewed statistics written for the fourth edition of D&D, a page number indicating where it can be found in the 4e MM, or page number references to information that can be found about the monster in various previous editions of the game.

Most of the monsters are from The Monster Project over at EN World. That effort has the goal of creating 4e stats for monsters that appeared in any of the previous editions of the D&D. My index focuses exclusively on the 1e Monster Manual. My index is not intended to supersede The Monster Project in any way. If you create your own 4e version of monsters from any of the previous editions, I highly encourage you to post it there.

As part of my ongoing blog, I will occasionally post my own 4e versions of 1e MM monsters. I will, of course, update this blog entry with a link to my own work.

I will try to continually update this blog entry. Click on this link and then create a bookmark for this blog entry so you can check for updates in the future.

Entries that are colored red and in bold face have yet to be defined in 4e terms.

If anyone knows of 4e statistics of any of the listed monsters, please let me know.

In this list, I use the following abreviations:

1e: First edition D&D rules. a.k.a. AD&D.
3.0e: Third edition D&D rules.
3.5e: The revised third edition D&D rules.
DaD: Deities and Demigods
DMG: Dungeon Master's Guide
ESH: Expanded Psionics Handbook
FC1: Fiendish Codex I
FC2: Fiendish Codex II
Frb: Frostburn
LoM: Lords of Madness
MoF: Monsters of Faerun
MotP: Manual of the Planes
MM: Monster Manual
Snd: Sandstorm
ToH: Tome of Horrors


Aerial Servant
Ant, Giant
Ape, Gorilla
Ape, Carnivorous
Axe Beak


Badger, Giant
Baluchitherium (1e MM p. 8)
Barracuda (1e MM p. 8)
Basilisk (4e MM p. 26)
Bear, Black
Bear, Brown
Bear, Cave (4e MM p. 29)
Beaver, Giant (1e MM p. 9)
Beetle, Giant, Bombardier (1e MM p. 9)
Beetle, Giant, Boring (1e MM p. 9)
Beetle, Giant, Fire (4e MM p. 30)
Beetle, Giant, Rhinoceros (1e MM p. 9)
Beetle, Giant, Stag (1e MM p. 9)
Beetle, Giant, Water (1e MM p. 9)
Beholder (4e MM p. 32)
Black Pudding (1e MM p. 10; 3.5e MM p. 201)
Blink Dog
Boar, Wild (1e MM p. 11; 3.5e MM p. 270)
Boar, Giant (4e MM p. 35)
Boar, Warthog (1e MM p. 11)
Brain Mole (1e MM p. 11)
Brownie (1e MM p. 11; 3.5e ToH p. 48)
Buffalo (1e MM p. 11)
Bugbear (4e MM p. 135)
Bulette (4e MM p. 38)
Bull (1e MM p. 12)


Camel, Wild (1e MM p. 13)
Carrion Crawler (4e MM p. 40)
Catoplepas (1e MM p. 13)
Cattle, Wild (1e MM p. 13)
Centaur (1e MM p. 14)
Centipede, Giant
Cerebral Parasite (1e MM p. 14)
Chimera (4e MM p. 41)
Couatl (1e MM p. 15; 3.5e MM p. 37)
Crab, Giant
Crayfish, Giant (1e MM p. 15; 3.5e ToH p. 73)


Demon, Demogorogon (1e MM p. 16; 3.5e FC1 p. 61)
Demon, Juiblex (1e MM p. 17; 3.5e FC1 p. 66)
Demon, Manes (1e MM p. 17; 3.5e MM p. 45)
Demon, Orcus (4e MM p. 206)
Demon, Succubus (4 MM p. 67)
Demon, Type I (Vrock) (4e MM p. 58)
Demon, Type II (Hezrou) (4e MM p. 56)
Demon, Type III (Glabrezu) (4e MM p. 54)
Demon, Type IV (Nalfeshnee, etc.) (1e MM p. 19; 3.5e MM p. 45)
Demon, Type V (Marilith, etc.) (1e MM p. 19; 3.5e MM p. 44)
Demon, Type VI (Balor, etc.) (4e MM p. 52)
Demon, Yeenoghu (1e MM p. 19; 3.5e FC1 p. 78)
Devil, Asmodeus (1e MM p. 20; 3.5e FC2 p. 155)
Devil, Baalzebul (1e MM p. 21; 3.5e FC2 p. 151)
Devil, Barbed (1e MM p. 21; 3.5e MM p. 51 "Hamatula")
Devil, Bone (4e MM p. 62)
Devil, Dispater (1e MM p. 21; 3.5e FC2 p. 143)
Devil, Erinyes (1e MM p. 22; 3.5e MM p. 54)
Devil, Geryon (1e MM p. 22)
Devil, Horned (Malebranche) (4e MM p. 67)
Devil, Ice (4e MM p. 63)
Devil, Lemure (1e MM p. 23; 3.5e MM p. 57)
Devil, Pit Fiend (4e MM p. 65)
Dinosaur (list incomplete)
Displacer Beast (4e MM p. 70)
Djinni (1e MM p. 28; 3.5e MM p. 114)
Dog, War (1e MM p. 29)
Dog, Wild (1e MM p. 29; 3.5e MM p. 271)
Dolphin (1e MM p. 29)
Doppelganger (4e MM p. 71)
Dragon, Black (4e MM p. 75)
Dragon, Blue (4e MM p. 77)
Dragon, Brass (1e MM p. 31; 3.5e MM p. 79)
Dragon, Bronze (1e MM p. 32; 3.5e MM p. 80)
Dragon, Chromatic (Tiamat) (1e MM p. 32; 3.0 MotP p. 118; 3.0 DaD p. 93)
Dragon, Copper (1e MM p. 32; 3.5e MM p. 82)
Dragon, Gold (1e MM p. 32; 3.5e MM p. 84)
Dragon, Green (4e MM p. 79)
Dragon, Platinum (Bahamut) (1e MM p. 33; 3.0 MotP p. 133; 3.0 DaD p. 58)
Dragon, Red (4e MM p. 82)
Dragon, Silver (1e MM p. 34; 3.5e MM p. 86)
Dragon, White (4e MM p. 84)
Dragonne (1e MM p. 34; 3.5e MM p. 89)
Dragon Turtle
Dryad (4e MM p. 96)
Dwarf (4e MM p. 97)
Dwarf, Mountain (1e MM p. 36)


Eagle, Giant (1e MM p. 36; 3.5e MM p. 93)
Ear Seekers (1e MM p. 36)
Eel, Electric (1e MM p. 36)
Eel, Giant (1e MM p. 36)
Eel, Weed (1e MM p. 36)
Efreeti (4e MM p. 98)
Elemental, Air (1e MM p. 37; 3.5e MM p. 95)
Elemental, Earth (1e MM p. 38; 3.5e MM p. 98)
Elemental, Fire (1e MM p. 38; 3.5e MM p. 98)
Elemental, Water (1e MM p. 38; 3.5e MM p. 98)
Elephant, Asiatic (1e MM p. 38; 3.5e MM p. 272)
Elephant, African (1e MM p. 38; 3.5e MM p. 272)
Elf (4e MM p. 106)
Elf, Aquatic (1e MM p. 39; 3.5e MM p. 103)
Elf, Gray (1e MM p. 39; 3.5e MM p. 104)
Elf, Half- (1e MM p. 39; 3.5e MM p. 102)
Elf, Wood (1e MM p. 40; 3.5e MM p. 104)
Ettin (4e MM p. 108)
Eye, Floating (1e MM p. 40)
Eye of the Deep (1e MM p. 41)


Flightless Bird (1e MM p. 41)
Frog, Giant
Frog, Killer
Frog, Poisonous
Fungi, Violet


Gar, Giant
Gargoyle (4e MM p. 115)
Gas Spore (1e MM p. 42; 3.5e LoM p. 148)
Gelatinous Cube (4e MM p. 202)
Ghast (1e MM p. 43; 3.5e MM p. 119)
Ghost (4e MM p. 116)
Ghoul (4e MM p. 118)
Giant, Cloud (1e MM p. 44; 3.5e MM p. 120)
Giant, Fire (4e MM p. 123)
Giant, Frost (1e MM p. 44; 3.5e MM p. 122)
Giant, Hill (4e MM p. 121)
Giant, Stone (1e MM p. 45; 3.5e MM p. 124)
Giant, Storm (4e MM p. 124)
Gnoll (4e MM p. 132)
Gnome (4e MM p. 134)
Goat, Giant (1e MM p. 47)
Goblin (4e MM p. 135)
Golem, Clay (1e MM p. 47; 3.5e MM p. 134)
Golem, Flesh (4e MM p. 142)
Golem, Iron (1e MM p. 48; 3.5e MM p. 136)
Golem, Stone (4e MM p. 142)
Gorgon (1e MM p. 49; 3.5e MM p. 137)
Gray Ooze
Green Slime (1e MM p. 49; 3.5e DMG p. 76)
Griffon (4e MM p. 146)
Groaning Spirit (1e MM p. 50)


Halfling (4e MM p. 152)
Halfling, Hairfeet (1e MM p. 50)
Halfling, Stout (4e MM p. 152)
Halfling, Tallfellow (1e MM p. 50; 3.5e MM p. 149)
Harpy (4e MM p. 154)
Hell Hound (4e MM p. 160)
Herd Animal (1e MM p. 51)
Hippocampus (1e MM p. 51)
Hippogriff (4e MM p. 146)
Hippopotamus (1e MM p. 52)
Hobgoblin (4e MM p. 138)
Homunculous (4e MM p. 156)
Horse, Draft (1e MM p. 53)
Horse, Heavy (4e MM p. 159)
Horse, Light (1e MM p. 53; 3.5e MM p. 273)
Horse, Medium (1e MM p. 53)
Horse, Pony (1e MM p. 53)
Horse, Wild (1e MM p. 53)
Hydra (4e MM p. 164)
Hyena (1e MM p. 54; 3.5e MM p. 274)
Hyena, Giant (1e MM p. 54; 3.5e MM p. 150)


Imp (4e MM p. 63)
Intellect Devourer (1e MM p. 54; 3.5e ESH p. 202)
Invisible Stalker
Irish Deer (1e MM p. 55)


Jackal (1e MM p. 56)
Jaguar (1e MM p. 56)


Ki-rin (1e MM p. 57; 3e MM p. 170)
Kobold (4e MM p. 167)


Lamia (1e MM p. 59; 3.5e MM p. 165)
Lammasu (1e MM p. 59; 3.5e MM p. 165)
Lamprey, Normal (1e MM p.59)
Lamprey, Giant (1e MM p.59)
Larva (1e MM p. 59; 3.5e FC1 p. 108)
Leech, Giant (1e MM p. 60; 3.5e ToH p. 255)
Leopard (1e MM p. 60; 3.5e MM p. 274)
Leprechaun (1e MM p. 60; 3.5e ToH p. 256)
Lich (4e MM p. 176)
Lion (1e MM p. 61; 3.5e MM p. 274)
Lion, Mountain (1e MM p. 61)
Lion, Spotted (1e MM p. 61)
Lizard, Fire (1e MM p. 61)
Lizard, Giant
Lizard, Minotaur (1e MM p. 61)
Lizard, Subterranean (1e MM p. 61)
Lizard Man (4e MM p. 178)
Locathah (1e MM p. 62; 3.5e MM p. 169)
Lurker Above (1e MM p. 62; 3.5e MM p. 38)
Lycanthrope, Werebear (1e MM p. 63; 3.5e MM p. 171)
Lycanthrope, Wereboar (1e MM p. 63; 3.5e MM p. 170)
Lycanthrope, Wererat (4e MM p. 180)
Lycanthrope, Weretiger (1e MM p. 63; 3.5e MM p. 172)
Lycanthrope, Werewolf (4e MM p. 181)
Lynx, Giant (1e MM p. 64)


Mammoth (1e MM p. 65; 3.5e MM p. 272)
Manticore (4e MM p. 184)
Masher (1e MM p. 65)
Mastadon (1e MM p. 65; 3.5e MM p. 272)
Medusa (4e MM p. 186)
Men, Bandit (4e MM p. 162)
Men, Berserker (4e MM p. 163)
Men, Buccaneer (1e MM p. 67)
Men, Brigand (1e MM p. 67)
Men, Caveman (1e MM p. 67; 3.5e Frb p. 145 "Neanderthal")
Men, Dervish (1e MM p. 68)
Men, Merchant (1e MM p. 69)
Men, Nomad (1e MM p. 68)
Men, Pilgrim (1e MM p. 69)
Men, Tribesman (1e MM p. 68)
Merman (1e MM p. 70)
Mind Flayer (4e MM p. 188)
Minotaur (4e MM p. 190)
Mold, Brown (1e MM p. 71; 3.5e DMG p. 76)
Mold, Yellow (1e MM p. 71; 3.5e DMG p. 76)
Mule (1e MM p. 72; 3.5e MM p. 276)
Mummy (4e MM p. 192)


Naga, Guardian (4e MM p. 194)
Naga, Spirit (1e MM p. 72; 3.5e MM p. 192)
Naga, Water (1e MM p. 72; 3.5e MM p. 193)
Neo-otyugh (1e MM p. 73)
Night Hag (4e MM p. 151)
Nightmare (4e MM p. 196)
Nixie (1e MM p. 74; 3.5e MM p. 235)
Nymph (1e MM p. 74; 3.5e MM p. 197)


Ochre Jelly (4e MM p. 202)
Octopus, Giant
Ogre (4e MM p. 198)
Ogre Mage (4e MM p. 201)
Orc (4e MM p. 203)
Otter, Giant (1e MM p. 77)
Otyugh (4e MM p. 211)
Owl, Giant (1e MM p. 77; 3.5e MM p. 205)
Owlbear (4e MM p. 212)


Pegasus (1e MM p. 78; 3.5e MM p. 206)
Piercer (1e MM p. 78; 3.5e ToH p. 420)
Pike, Giant
Pixie (1e MM p. 79; 3.5e MM p. 235)
Porcupine, Giant (1e MM p. 79)
Portuguese Man-O-War, Giant
Pseudo-Dragon (4e MM p. 91)
Purple Worm (4e MM p. 214)


Quasit (1e MM p. 80; 3.5e MM p. 46)


Rakshasa (4e MM p. 216)
Ram, Giant (1e MM p. 81)
Rat, Giant (4e MM p. 219)
Ray, Manta (1e MM p. 81; 3.5e MM p. 275)
Ray, Pungi (1e MM p. 81)
Ray, Sting (1e MM p. 81)
Remorhaz (1e MM p. 82; 3.5e MM p. 214)
Rhinoceros, Wooly
Roc (1e MM p. 82; 3.5e MM p. 215)
Roper (1e MM p. 83; 3.5e MM p. 215)
Rot Grub (1e MM p. 83; 3.5e MM p. 421)
Rust Monster


Sahaugin (1e MM p. 84; 3.5e MM p. 217)
Salamander (1e MM p. 85; 3.5e MM p. 218)
Satyr (1e MM p. 85; 3.5e MM p. 219)
Scorpion, Giant
Sea Hag (1e MM p. 86; 3.5e MM p. 144)
Sea Horse, Giant (1e MM p. 86)
Sea Lion (1e MM p. 86)
Shambling Mound (4e MM p. 232)
Shark, Giant (1e MM p. 87; 3.5e MM p. 279)
Shedu (1e MM p. 87; 3.5e FF p. 153)
Shrieker (1e MM p. 87; 3.5e MM p. 112)
Skeleton (4e MM p. 234)
Skunk, Giant (1e MM p. 88)
Slithering Tracker (1e MM p. 88)
Slug, Giant
Snake, Giant, Amphisbaena (1e MM p. 88)
Snake, Giant, Constrictor (1e MM p. 88; 3.5e MM p. 280)
Snake, Giant, Poisonous (1e MM p. 88; 3.5e MM p. 281)
Snake, Giant, Sea (1e MM p. 88)
Snake, Giant, Spitting (1e MM p. 88)
Specter (4e MM p. 244)
Sphinx, Andro- (1e MM p. 89; 3.5e MM p. 232)
Sphinx, Crio- (1e MM p. 89; 3.5e MM p. 233)
Sphinx, Gyno- (1e MM p. 89; 3.5e MM p. 233)
Sphinx, Hieraco- (1e MM p. 89; 3.5e MM p. 234)
Spider, Giant (1e MM p. 90; 3.5e MM p. 288)
Spider, Huge
Spider, Large
Spider, Phase
Spider, Giant Water (1e MM p. 90)
Sprite (1e MM p. 92; 3.5e MM p. 235)
Squid, Giant (1e MM p. 92; 3.5e MM p. 281)
Stag (1e MM p. 92)
Stag, Giant (1e MM p. 92)
Stirge (4e MM p. 248)
Strangle Weed (1e MM p. 93; 3.5e MM p. 334)
Sylph (1e MM p. 93; 3.0e MM2 p. 192)


Thought Eater (1e MM p. 94; 3.5e EPH p. 211)
Tick, Giant
Tiger, Sabre-Tooth
Titan (1e MM p. 94; 3.5e MM p. 242)
Titanothere (1e MM p. 95)
Toad, Giant (1e MM p. 95)
Toad, Ice (1e MM p. 95)
Toad, Poisonous (1e MM p. 95)
Trapper (1e MM p. 95; 3.5e ToH p. 346)
Treant (4e MM p. 251)
Triton (1e MM p. 96; 3.5e MM p. 245)
Troglodyte (4e MM p. 252)
Troll (4e MM p. 254)
Turtle, Giant Sea (1e MM p. 97)
Turtle, Giant Snapping


Umber Hulk (1e MM p. 98; 3.5e MM p. 248)
Unicorn (4e MM p. 257)


Vampire (4e MM p. 258)


Wasp, Giant
Water Weird
Weasel, Giant
Whale (1e MM p. 100; 3.5e MM p. 282)
Wight (4e MM p. 262)
Wind Walker (1e MM p. 101; 3.5e ToH p. 365)
Wolf (4e MM p. 264)
Wolf, Dire (Worg) (4e MM p. 265)
Wolf, Winter (1e MM p. 101; 3.5e MM p. 256)
Wolverine (1e MM p. 101; 3.5e MM p. 283)
Wolverine, Giant (1e MM p. 101)
Wraith (4e MM p. 266)
Wyvern (4e MM p. 268)






Zombie (4e MM p. 274)

Version History

Corrected errors: Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Flesh Golem, Stone Golem, Homunculus, Guardian Naga, and Shambling Mound now listed as being present in the 4e MM.
Added link: Huge Spider (Thanks, Gregor LeBlaque!).

Created original list.

My book of 4e stats of 1e monsters

Well, it's not a book that I'll personally publish. It's my own house rule book. In my last entry, I complained about the lack of 1e monsters in the 4e Monster Manual. Since a 4e Tome of Horrors is not going to be published anytime soon, I seem to have little alternative.

Several gamers on the internet have created many 4e monsters. But the pace of production is slow, at best. And there seems to be only a few places that have focused on compiling monsters for 4e. The first place I found is the Monsters section of ENWiki over at ENworld. Another place I found 4e monsters is at the WotC forum thread, 4e Monster Compendium. If there are other places, please let me know.

So what am I going to do? Well, as I said, I'm putting together my own house rule monster book. To this end, I've made up a list of all the monsters in the 1e Monster Manual and I'm systematically finding any 4e versions of those monsters on the internet. I've been able to find several of them. But many more have yet to be made. So I'll try to make a few of my own.

In the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide, there are rules given for creation of original monsters. Thankfully, this system is less ambiguous than any of the previous editions. New monsters can have its combat statistics clearly defined from the outset and further details can be ironed out by looking at similar examples in the 4e Monster Manual. Defining the powers is the tricky part. But it's far from impossible.

I will create a single entry on this blog that I will bookmark and periodically update. It will contain a list of all the monsters in the 1e Monster Manual. Each entry will link to known home brewed 4e stats for each monster. Some of them will link to monsters that I create myself. Others on the internet can bookmark this blog entry and link to it. This will be an experiment and I don't know how well this will work out. If it doesn't work out, it's no big deal. Ultimately, I might have to move the list to a proper web page on my own web site.

Monday, October 6, 2008

WANTED: 4e Tome of Horrors

The one thing keeping me from running pre-4e modules with 4e rules is a severe lack of updated monsters. Every time I think I want to plan a game with an old module, I'm always blocked by this obstacle. Bullshitting the rest of any given module is no problem. But if I want to use specific monsters, I need to have them prepared ahead of time. And 4e does a really good job with its new method of handling monsters. But I can't run Castle Zagyg in 4e without many of the old monsters from the 1e MM.

I don't pretend to understand the liscensing controversies surrounding third-party 4e products. I don't care. Wizards of the Coast, whatever the problem is, fix it.

Oh, and gimme my DDi stuff. Gimme, gimme, gimme.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

4e Morale Check: A DM utility power

A Dungeon Master utility power? Why not?

Even though I've decided to use 4e from now on, I'm keenly interested in applying 1e concepts and traditions to the modern rule set. To that end, I've been composing my own 4e house rules.

One set of rules that I feel are neglected by 3.5e and 4e are the ones pertaining to morale checks. The morale check was an important part of D&D before 3e. In 3e, this fight-or-flight rule is essentially eliminated. Instead it is incorporated into 3e's system of attack bonuses. In 3.5e and 4e, whether or not monsters or NPCs flee while in the midst of battle is entirely up to the DM.

At first, I thought that adding morale checks to a set of 4e house rules might be a simple matter of just using the rules provided in the 1e DMG. But upon closer examination, I realized that these rules seemed archaic in the context of 4e. For example, it uses a percentage dice roll. Well, why not simply use a d20 and divide the bonuses by 20? Then I got to thinking that rules pertaining to morale could be somehow created for 4e D&D in manner that is consistent with the rest of the rules.

How can combat morale rules be created that are consistent with 4e? As detractors have observed, all of 4e D&D seems to revolve entirely around the axis of combat. Everything is defined in terms of character powers and abilities. But morale rules, something that has everything to do with combat, is strangely absent. The 4e DMG is mostly fluff and advice with scant rules pertaining to rigid conduct of the game. This was done with the purpose of simplification. Perhaps this is good because it has produced a much more unified system of rules. Perhaps this is bad because the game seems to only focus on combat.

In 4e terms, what is a morale check? In 1e and 2e, it was a roll made by the DM during combat at appropriate predefined occasions. It is never a roll made by the players. Well, I thought, perhaps a morale check could be something akin to cause fear, the 1st level cleric attack power? Fear is certainly a factor. But a morale check is not something that is rolled by a player so it can't be a character power. If it's a roll made by the DM, what does he roll against? A "moral score?" In 2e, all monsters had a moral score included with each monster description. Adding a new statistic to every single monster in 4e seemed to be counter to the spirit of the streamlined rules of 4e. Furthermore, modifying the combat system with a subset of rules handling morale checks seemed counter-productive. There has to be some way of safely inserting an optional morale check rule without "breaking" the game.

Then it hit me. Why not define morale checks in 4e as a "DM utility power?" Powers are, by definition, optional. The DM would not have to use it at all. And if the ability used in the "attack" is simply a placeholder, then the only concern would be bonuses.

So this morning I whipped up some 4e Morale Check rules:


The morale check is a utility power used by the DM against monsters or NPCs. It is never used against PCs. It can be used to check the morale of individuals or groups of individuals. In the case of groups, use the average Will score of that group.

The morale check DM utility power does not use a character ability for its "attack." Instead, the DM's Morale "ability" has a "score" of 10 and therefore has no "ability modifier." The DM merely rolls a d20, adds any relevant bonuses, and compares the result with the target's Will.

Morale Check DM Utility
You determine whether or not an NPC or monster withdraws from combat.
At-Will * Fear
Immediate Reaction Personal
Trigger: Surprise, facing an obviously superior force, ally is slain by magic, 25% of group has fallen, 50% of group has fallen, companion slain after more that 50% of group has fallen, group leader deserts or is slain, fighting foe that cannot be harmed due to magical protections, ordered to attempt a heroically dangerous task, offered temptation (bribe, chance to steal, etc.), told to act as rear guard, directed to use up an encounter power, directed to use up a daily power, directed to use charge from a personal powerful magic item, given chance to surrender, or completely surrounded.
Prerequisite: You must be the DM.
Requirement: You must be a grognard. ;)
Target: One creature or group of creatures with averaged Will.
Attack: Morale vs Will
Hit: If the attack roll succeeds, the target will fall back but keep fighting (save ends). If the attack roll succeeds by 3, the target will disengage and/or retreat (save ends). If the attack roll succeeds by 6, the target will flee in panic (save ends). If the attack roll succeeds by 10, the target surrenders.

Morale Bonus

Listed below are conditions and situations that can affect morale check bonuses.

Target abandoned by friends: +6
Target bloodied: +6
Target is chaotic: +1
Target is fighting hated enemy: -4
Target is lawful: -1
Target is surprised: +2
Target's group is fighting wizards or magic-using foes: -2
Target is level 5 to 10: -1
Target is level 11 to 15: -2
Target is level 16 or more: -3
Target is defending home: -3
Target has cover: -1
Target's leader is of different alignment: +1
Target's most powerful ally killed: +4
Target is PC ally NPC that has been favored: -2
Target is PC ally NPC that has been poorly treated: +4
None of target's enemies have been slain: +2
Target's group is outnumbered by 3 or more to 1: +4
Target's group outnumbers opponents by 3 or more to 1: -2
Target is unable to affect opponent: +8
Target group has magic-using creature: -2

Perhaps the wording of the trigger entry could be simplified. And perhaps the list of morale bonuses could be simplified, eliminated, or somehow incorporated into the power's description entry. I'm open to suggestions.

One interesting side effect of applying the 4e mold to this 1e concept is the idea of essentially treating the effects of a morale check as a saving throw. I like how 4e simplified saving throws and treats them just like an AC defense score. If a morale check power is applied in this manner, fleeing creatures might make a saving throw and return to battle.

The idea of a DM utility power could be a practical solution to re-introducing old school game concepts to 4e. I haven't tried this in actual game play. But my intuition tells me that it might work just fine. If this concept of a DM utility power is viable, I have a feeling that this might open up tremendous possibilities.

As described at the beginning of the fourth edition Player's Handbook, Dungeons & Dragons is an exception-based set of rules. From my perspective as an amateur programmer, it also appears to be modular in the sense that you start with a core library of functions and then build upon it. Unlike previous editions of D&D, 4e seems to be more conducive to this mindset. DM utility powers could open up an entirely new "library" of "functions" that are waiting to be written.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I never understood ear seekers until now

It's a minor thing, really. But I think it reveals a great deal about my gaps in D&D lore.

Ever since I read the entry for ear seekers in the 1st edition Monster Manual, I had never understood how they were employed in the game of Dungeons & Dragons. Gygax described them as small insects that live in wood and need warm places to lay eggs. That's all.

Well, how does that work? How do they "attack?" Do they wait around in the rafters and then drop on the heads of unwary adventurers? Do they crawl into the ears of sleeping adventurers camped out in the woods?

I never understood why ear seekers were in the D&D rules at all. The presence of dragons in the Monster Manual needed no explanation. Orcs and halflings might require some knowledge of the writings of Tolkien. Perhaps the existence of otyughs needed explanation as a component of self-contained dungeon ecology. But ear seekers? What the heck?

It wasn't until I read something recently that I finally understood. (I think it was in Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works or maybe in the Hackmaster rulebook. Or maybe it was someone's recent blog? I'm not sure.) Ear seekers are meant to be the bane of people who listen at doors. It's as simple as that.

For the last 30 years I had no clue. This says a lot about me. For starters, I feel I never got my fair share of dungeon crawling experience and I've always been itching to do much more than the scant amount I got to play in my youth. I also think it says much about the fact that the old school style of playing D&D might become a forgotten art.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I miss the old spells

I'm a fan of 4e D&D but there are many aspects of the older editions that I miss. One of them is the handling of magic spells. There are still some aspects to the new spell rules that strongly resemble the Vancian magic system. These are the daily powers specific to wizards. Although I agree that making certain spells available at-will is useful, the structure of the 4e rules makes the invention of new spells a little difficult. Or does it?

As soon as I heard about the new fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, I declared that I was going to buy it as soon as it was published and use it from then on. I tried to learn as much as possible beforehand. I bought the preview books and listened to the podcasts made by Wizards of the Coast. I understood the wisdom of the drastic restructuring of the rules. There needed to be a balance to all the character classes. They achieved that. But the result is a radically different game. I'm still getting used to it.

The wizard is my favorite player-character class. It has always been my favorite since my early days of gaming. I loved pouring over the vast variety of spells given in the various rule books. Over the years, new spells were invented. However, inventing new spells seemed arbitrary. Much like new monsters, new spells were created by comparing the effects to previously published spells. This philosophy has changed with 4e.

A new aspect to D&D in 4e are ritual spells. This appears to be the catch-all for the spells that can't be rationally incorporated into the structure of character powers. But if you want to create new ritual spells for 4e you have to compare them to the ones given in the ritual spell list.

But what about creating new spell powers? Would that throw the game out of balance?

I'm not sure I like being married to spell powers. To me, it seems that a wizard should be able to switch out at-will, encounter, and daily powers as he or she desires. Perhaps a fair set of house rules could address this?

Time will tell. And I have a feeling that a future splat book may greatly expand upon the handling of 4e spell powers.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You've got to make the time

The number one killer of a gaming group is schedule conflicts. All too often role-playing games are relegated to the bottom of the list of life priorities. But if you really love to play your favorite game, you have to learn to make the time. Or else you will never get to play anymore.

Work is the usual cause of schedule conflict. That is understandable. Work hours always takes precedence. Unless you have a job with flexible hours or a very understanding boss, there is little you can do except try to convince your group to move game sessions to a different time or day.

Family is the second most common cause of scheduling problem. This is sometimes unavoidable. Especially if you have kids. Having no kids myself, I can provide little advice in this regard. If you are a single parent with an infant, I imagine that gaming is almost out of the question unless you are the one hosting the game nights. If you are a parent with a spouse with children who are out of diapers, it seems to me that some sort of arrangement can be worked out. As children become older, it stands to reason that accommodating your favorite hobby might become easier.

Young people sometimes have problems scheduling games because of a boyfriend or girlfriend who is either uninterested in gaming or thinks it's a waste of time. If your significant other has never gamed before, you could try to get them interested and bring them along to a game session. This usually never works out but it's worth a try. It's very rare that a previously uninterested boyfriend or girlfriend will suddenly take an interest in tabletop strategy role-playing games. Even worse, you might have a romantic interest that is actively trying to prevent you from gaming because it's time that's not spent on her. This latter variety should be dumped. Your partner should respect your interests as much as you respect theirs. But this is a subject for Dear Abby.

Very young gamers can sometimes come into conflict with parents about gaming. Sometimes it's just a matter of doing your homework or getting good grades to earn the right to game. Then there are those parents who still believe the myths from the 1980s about D&D being somehow unwholesome. Even worse, there may be parents who are extremely oppressive. The only thing you can do is put up with their rules until you are an adult.

The bottom line is that it's your hobby. It's your passion. Engaging in your favorite pastime makes you happy. You look forward to the sessions every week and you feel satisfied when they conclude. Along with work, family, and romance, gaming is an important part of your life. If you want to play your favorite game, you have to make the time. You have to make it clear to everyone around you that this is an activity that you love and you should not be somehow ashamed of it.

Look at what others people do. They seem to be able to devote large quantities of time to other activities. An unreasonably high percentage of people in my country spend a half a dozen or more hours each week devoted to just watching some sport on television. Some people play football or soccer with their friends once a week. Or maybe they're members of a bowling or softball league. Personally, I find the time, money, and real estate usage dedicated to golf to be a complete mystery to me. All sorts of people engage in a variety of pastimes. You, as a gamer, like to engage in one of those pastimes. It's what you are. It's what you do.

In my humble opinion, one of the problems that face the gaming community is a lack of unified structure or organization. I have never been a member of the RPGA but perhaps I should investigate that further. I am trying to use to organize some sort of gaming group at my local Civic Center. I know there are RPG tournaments conducted at conventions. Why not outside of conventions?

Anyway, I have found that once you establish gaming as something important in your life and you make a point of devoting a regular time slot to your favorite hobby, the people around you in your life will eventually accomodate it. You might be surprised when your wife says to you one day, "I was going to invite the Smiths over for dinner on Tuesday but then I remembered that Tuesday is your game night."

It can happen. But you have to make the time.

Friday, September 19, 2008


This is one aspect of D&D that I've never fully experienced. I have long dreamed about it ever since I got my 1e DMG back in the early '80s. But none of the campaigns I played endured long enough to warrant the building of a stronghold for my characters. The adventures I played always seemed to have been one-shot affairs. We would prepare characters and dive into a published dungeon.

As I mentioned earlier, I never became involved with an ongoing campaign until around 2005. For the first time, the players I was gaming with were actually developing their own fiefdom. But as I explained, I never had much say in that group and I eventually left it.

I'm wondering if building a stronghold for PCs is a dead art. Is it all about adventure paths? Judging from the resurgent interest in old school sandbox gaming, it might make a comeback.

To this end, I want to draw attention to a relatively recent splat book, Stronghold Builder's Guidebook. I believe that it was published before the advent of 3.5e. However, I think that it can be perfectly useful for any edition, including 4e. It's similar to some of the rules presented in Gygax's 1e DMG but with much more detail.

But then the next question is how do you conduct seige warfare in D&D? What about large-scale battles? I wonder...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why no hirelings or henchmen?

Even though I played D&D in the early days of its popularity, I never took full advantage of the rules pertaining to hirelings and henchmen. Although I confess ignorance of 2e D&D, the Charisma attribute has no relevance to the recruiting of henchmen in 3.5e or 4e.

James over at Grognardia blogged about an old set of hireling miniatures. In the comments, I confessed that I never used henchmen or hirelings. Most people in the comments also confessed that they never really used them either. Why not?

When I returned to D&D after 2000 and actually started playing again in 2005, I felt that they were sorely missed. Without hirelings, who is going to watch the camp outside the dungeon and help carry your loot? Without henchmen, how else does one start a fiefdom?

I saw Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf last year. It's a great inspiration for D&D adventure. I pictured the hero as a high-level fighter with a large group of henchmen. I lament the fact that such an arrangement is no longer a part of the rule mechanics of D&D. Any henchmen or hirelings are now adjudicated by the DM and do not have anything to do with on Charisma scores. There are no guidelines.

Even though Gary Gygax provided some rules in the DMG for hirelings and henchmen, how they are found by the PCs is left up to the DM. Like much of early D&D rules, knowledge of medieval culture is assumed to be already known by the players. Rules governing such NPCs was largely open-ended.

In my opinion, hirelings and henchmen should be an integral part of old school campaigns. If there were some sort of splat book dedicated to the subject, common usage might increase.

Is there any rules about them Hackmaster? Other game systems? Splat books I don't know about?

How about some tables indicating the chance of finding a particular type of hireling or henchman in a different types of towns and cities? Check once per day, perhaps. Just a thought I'd throw out there.

Jeff posted some nice box art. Take a look!