Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fight On! #1 Cover to Cover - Part 11

Enchanted Holy Symbols 

by Jeff Rients

The idea behind this short article is to make cleric's holy symbols something more than just the focus that allows clerics to turn undead. Everything else seems to be magical, so why not holy symbols?

There are five examples given, and they provide ideas from spell storing to turning different monsters. I am in favour of this idea, and used it to great success in one campaign with a sect of spider priests. There is also a medieval-inspired picture depicting a battle, and a prophet in the background holding a cross, that I assume illustrated the idea of a holy symbol.

I would have liked to have seen more ideas in this article, perhaps different or gradated holy symbols representing hierarchy in the church, and an examination of generic vs religion-specific symbols and its implications on the game. The Wicked Frog Totem has a great name, but  its abilities were mundane. I think I'd like a bit more "gonzo" in this article. All told, it is a solid article that may give a GM some new ideas, but fails to really break new ground for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fight On Cover to Cover - Part 10

Puissant Priestly Powers
by Santiago L. “Zulgyan” Oría 
This collection of new cleric spells takes up just over a page (it would have fit on one page without the classical rendition of Jesus getting baptized by John the Baptist, but I suspect asymmetry is good unless your name is Sheldon).  There are eleven spells offered in all, ranging from levels 1-5. The main problem is: would you select them? Level 1 is usually taken up by Cure Light Wounds, and at 5th level people love Raise Dead and Cure Critical Wounds.  All told, the spells seem useful, and not overpowering. Most of them seem to be very Old Testament in their inspiration. Here is one example:
  LEVEL 4 
Eye for an Eye: affected subject will lose as many hit points as he deals out in combat, and will be subject of the same effects he produces by magic, receiving normal saving throws against them (for example, if he casts a death ray upon someone, he will also have to save or die). Duration: 1 turn/level.  
I can see preparing this one for use on a dangerous adversary.

There is one quite arresting spell called Tentacles of Demogorgon; this is a GREAT spell for an evil adversary to have. I wonder how many player characters' clerics would cast this one?

I think if I was playing any OSR-based game, I would edit my rules document and drop these spells in; they are balanced, interesting and useful, and the cleric's spell list could use a bit of fattening up.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fight On #1 Cover to Cover - Part 9

Setting up your Sandbox
by Calithena

The next article discusses one of the most important parts of setting up your game - how to start a world. Often you draw a good map - now what? Calithena offers advice on locality and starting small, how to block out areas of adventure, when to expand them, and the process of creating hooks and feeding the information to the players. He then gives examples.

The article itself is two pages of text, and a one-page sub-continent black-and-white hex map. Calithena puts his theories into examples that are easy for a prospective DM to follow. I liked it so much I yoinked the map for may Mazes & Minotaurs sandbox, adding color and creating a players map version.

This would have made an outstanding blog post, but I am happy to have it in magazine form where it is easy to keep referring back to it.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fight On #1 Cover to Cover - Part 8

The Tomb-Complex of Ymmu M'Kursa 
by Gabor Lux

The Tomb-Complex of Ymmu M'Kursa is a four-page adventure for intermediate characters. I place it at levels 4-6, and ran a 4th/5th level party with two clerics through it to test it. This adventure is taken from the author's own campaign world of Fomalhaut, and describes one of the numerous burial vaults in the undercity below a decadent city-state of the desert. I am not sure if the proper-name references in the dungeon are campaign specific, but I don't think that is important. In my OD&D campaign I dumped it as a forgotten mausoleum five miles south of Verbosh.

The dungeon suggests the standard 1-in-6 chances of random monsters, and an uninspired wondering monster table that basically reads like a list culled from the monster manual. I was a bit disappointed, although there are one or two twists in the list to liven it up a bit.

On the right side of the page is a gridless map of the dungeon. This was my first exposure to a gridless map, and at first I was not keen on it. Now, I appreciate it a lot more. The map is very like the catacomb maps of our own world, and gridless map design allows the designer to break free from the constraints of the 10' square and 90-degree turns. I found the map key to be unclear, and quite often during play read the wrong description or misplaced monsters or had to make some guesses as to what the designer intended. The map flow is fairly good, with many circular routes, sub-areas and branches.

The adventure has 15 numbered locations, with most of them having sublocations (a., b., etc.). There are chances to fight monsters in about half of the locations, numerous traps, locked doors and secret passages. The treasure is frequent, but usually cursed. This location seems to reward the nothing-nothing-motherlode type of dungeon exploration, which may cause a major re-think on parties used to the smooth experience/treasure curve used in many campaigns. Using Labyrinth Lord as a base, the entire dungeon contains approximately 9254 xp in monsters, 7100 xp in treasure, and four magic items and three cursed items. In approved old-school fashion, much of the treasure is in forms less obvious than coins and gems.

The strength of the module is the originality in description and concept of the named undead who are buried therein. These creatures truly bring the wonder and terror of crypt exploration to life, and redeem the module. There are a few specials thrown in to add a bit of variety, and a possible ally that my players used to good effect. There is one mood-setting piece of artwork which looks appropriate, but neither added nor took away from the presentation.

My first reading of the module was negative - I thought it was deadly, a bit monotonous, low in treasure, and half of that treasure was cursed. I decided though that the proof was in the pudding, and ran a party through it. Their first foray was disastrous, but then they changed their approach and spell selection, and cleared most of the tomb (they did miss one sub area). The feedback was unexpectedly positive, and they really enjoyed the riddles. They thought they were a level too low, but I am not sure I agree.

So, if you have a party that is willing to be clever instead of hack-and-slash, and likes a bit of horror and the supernatural, then send them through it - they will probably enjoy it