December 1, 1997
The Alyndrian Chronicles
Introduction: Welcome to the Alyndrian Chronicles!
Welcome to the very first edition of the Alyndrian Chronicles. The purpose of this e-zine is to provide the subscriber with useful, handy RPG resources. The e-zine is aimed towards AD&D.
This month's theme is, appropriately enough, New Beginnings. This is in celebration of our inaugural edition, but serves an important purpose. In keeping with the theme, this edition will be devoted to low-level campaigns. In my opinion, there is a definite lack of useful material for low level parties. I, for one, find the lower levels to be some of the more interesting ones, so wanted to provide some resources for low-level campaigns.
In conclusion, welcome to The Alyndrian Chronicles!
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Puzzles, Posers, Problems and Perplexities
Contributed by: Ron Glasmann
One of the often overlooked aspects of a good adventure is puzzle solving. A chance to use their brains to pass an obstacle is often welcomed by many players as a diversion from frequent combat. If you are using puzzles as part of a live game, be sure to match the difficulty of the puzzles closely with the skills of your gaming group. A puzzle that is too difficult will bring game play to a screeching halt. On the other hand, a puzzle that is too simple will not serve as much of an obstacle at all.
I find the use of puzzles in a play-by-email (PBEM) or message based game on the internet to be particularly enjoyable. This format lends itself well to the use of puzzles -- especially the more difficult ones. The inherent slower pace of this type of gaming forum allows players time to mull over their solutions and try different avenues without grinding the pace of the game to an absolute standstill.
If you like to create your own puzzles, preparing them and using them in your favorite RPG game should prove rewarding. The creation of puzzles for game play is normally thought of as the domain of the game master. However, players who enjoy this sort of thing should think about the role playing possibilities of having puzzles prepared for their characters before the game. Imagine your Bard being able to entertain this night's tavern guests (and the other players and gm) with an actual story puzzle. A good game master would award a significant experience point bonus for such creativity.
If you don't feel up to creating your own puzzles, there are numerous resources to turn to for inspiration. The "Games" section of any bookstore will contain puzzle books. Look for those with story problems. Most of these can easily be rewritten into a format that fits your style and campaign. Some can even be converted to full-fledged adventures.
The internet also has several puzzle resources. Try the following URLs:
The Grey Labyrinth: An EXCELLENT site with several puzzles that are just the type you want for conversion for use in your favorite RPG. Definitely check this site out!
The Big List of Puzzle and Riddle Pages: A comprehensive list of puzzle sites on the 'net. Some of the listed sites are good and some are not so good, but you do have over 50 to choose from.
rec.puzzles Archives: Lots of puzzles in a variety of categories. You should find multiple puzzles for use in any game here.
The following is an example of how to use puzzles in your games. This should be easily modified to work in just about any campaign. Enjoy!
This one works great when your players have been captured by the villain. It fits particularly well when you have plans for the villain in question to be a recurring nemesis for this group of characters, but they are meeting the villain at a low level before they would be ready to take the violin on directly.
Once the party has been captured, have the minions of the villain bind three of the characters to sturdy stakes in such a way that they form a straight line with them all facing a single direction. For instance, the last character in line (C3) will be able to see the backs of the two in front of her. The second character in line (C2) will be able to see the back of the character in front, but not be able to see the character behind her at all. The character in front of the line (C1) will not be able to see the other two at all.
Take a look at the diagram below. The arrows indicate the direction each character is facing.
They should be bound in such a way that movement of the head to see anyone not directly in front of them will be impossible. For example, the first and second characters in the line will not be able to view the character(s) behind them.
The characters are then shown five headbands. Two of the headbands are a deep purple. The other three headbands are a striking bright yellow color.
At this point, all the characters are blindfolded. This includes any characters present beyond the three that are bound in a line. The main villain should now say something to the effect of:
"You almost spoiled my plans here! I should kill you all for that! However, today I am in an especially generous mood. I am sure you all recall the headbands you were just shown.
"My men are now placing one of these headbands on the head of each of the bound prisoners. Once this is completed, we will remove the blindfolds.
"To show you just how forgiving I can be, if just ONE of you can tell me the color of your OWN headband, I will let all of you go without harming any of you.
"Once the blindfolds come off, there is to be absolutely NO communication whatsoever from any of you unless it is to speak the color of your own headband. If we hear anything except 'purple' or 'yellow' you will all be killed without a second thought. Is this clear?"
Make sure the players understand the rules of this twisted little game before you state that their blindfolds have been removed. In order to simulate the situation, you should now pass notes to each player that indicate what their character sees. For example, the player of the character at the head of the line (C1) will not get a note since she cannot see the colors of the headbands of the other characters. The player of the character that is next in line (C2) will get a note with the color of the headband on the character first in line. The player of the character that is last in line (C3) will get a note with the colors of the headbands of both characters bound before him.
If you have players beyond the three that are bound, go ahead and pass them a single note as a group containing the colors of all three headbands. The villain should warn non-bound characters that they are not allowed to speak AT ALL while their comrades are bound. If they give away the game, they will all be killed.
Remind your players that communication between their characters will result in instant death. You should not allow discussion between the players as this point. Let them struggle with it for a bit. They may ask questions directly of the game master for information pertaining to the situation if they wish, but they may NOT discuss the puzzle among themselves at this point.
One of them may solve it at this point or one of them may foolishly "guess" and throw the entire group on your mercy. If no one starts to get it after a few minutes (how many is up to you), go ahead and let them discuss a solution as a group. Make it clear when "out-of-character" communication begins and ends. DO NOT let the players share their character's knowledge of the colors of the headbands. They should only discuss the methods of a solution. Hopefully, they will get it now. If not help them along as best you can.
IMO, only very foolish players should have their characters killed by a puzzle. A very real threat of death should be there in this one, but if they just can't get it, I would not arbitrarily kill them. Of course, this is up to the individual game master. The idea is to get the old grey matter churning, not spoil the fun by gutting helpless heroes.
You probably want to know the solution yourself huh?
Ok, the key is to be sure the FIRST character in line has a YELLOW headband. The colors of the headbands of the other two don't really matter. I would do it like this:
Only the FIRST character in line can solve this with certainty. That's right, the character that can't see any of the headbands holds the solution.
Here's how the reasoning should work:
C3 sees a yellow band (on C1) and a purple band (on C2). She should realize that her headband could be either yellow (67% chance) or purple (33% chance). Does she play the odds or remain silent?
C2 sees a yellow band (on C1). She should realize that her headband is yellow (50% chance) or purple (50% chance). C2 should also realize that C3's silence indicates that she does not see a definite answer (2 purples), so C2 now knows that C3 either sees two yellows or one yellow and one purple. If C2 saw a purple headband on C1, C2 would now have the answer. However, C2 sees a yellow headband on C1, so C2 still has only a 50/50 chance of being right. Does she play the odds or remain silent?
In order for C1 to solve the puzzle, she must be able to follow the reasoning presented so far and realize that C2's silence added to that of C3 means that the only possible color of her own headband is yellow. If C2 had seen a purple headband on C1, C2 would has spoken up with the answer. Since C2 is silent, C1's own headband must be yellow.
Ron Glasmann Role playing games at 10% to 30% off!
Merchant (3rd Level) Free original material, online tools!
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In keeping with the spirit of New Beginnings, the arch-mage Melvidar has volunteered some of his lesser-known, low-level spells.
Contributed by: Christian Liberg Nielsen
|Range:||5 yards per level|
|Components:||V, S, M|
|Area of Effect:||1 Creature (man sized or smaller)|
With this spell you can wrap a person in bandages from a distance. This stops all bleeding, and prevents an unconscious character from bleeding to death (if the optional "Hovering on Death's Door" rules are used). For example, Karthos the reckless fighter becomes mortally wounded and is in need of help soon else he will die. He is behind the enemy lines and there is no way the rest of the party can come to his aid. Luckily Sonnet the Wizard has Instant bandage memorized and casts it. Instantly Karthos is wrapped in bandages making sure he does not bleed to death. If the person so wrapped should move or be moved, the bandages will fall of, leaving the persons wounds open once more.
The spell can only be used on wounded creatures, who are man sized or smaller.
The material components are a length of bandage, which the caster must wrap around her hand. The bandage is not consumed in the casting.
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Vault of the Assembly
Dagger of the Dale
Contributed by: Garry J. Sled
This is a small dagger +1. It's handle is wrought from the horn of a slain bull, and is slightly curved. The blade is dark black, and emits a deep chill, which can be sensed by anyone within 5'. This chill does no damage.
White runes run down the side of the blade, written in an ancient language. Spells such as identify will not translate the runes, but a comprehend languages would. If a PC has the ancient languages non-weapon proficiency, or a sage is consulted, and the runes translated, they read "Ice of death, smite my foes".
If these words are chanted by the dagger's wielder, the blade will glow with a soft white radiance. The next creature struck by the dagger must pass a successful save vs. spells or suffer the effects of a chill touch spell. This ability may be used but once a day.
Each time the dagger's chill ability is used, there is a flat 5% chance that the blade shatters due to the extreme cold, and the dagger is rendered useless.
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Working the Magic
One of the parts of the AD&D game that provides players with the most grief is the spell system. DMs continually struggle with game mechanics in order to please themselves and their players while at the same time trying to capture the exact feeling of how magic should work in their worlds. As many DMs as there are in the game, there are probably almost an equal number of variations on the use of spells in the AD&D world.
Well, I am no different.
Here's a spell system I have created and wish to share with you. This system was created for use in my own campaign world, called Elderus, because I wanted to have a certain flavor of magic in that world. For more information on the world of Elderus, go to http://www.geocities.com/~denmaster.
Why Modify the Spell System?
This is a question probably every DM will have a different answer for. My own reasons are probably not uncommon. Probably my biggest complaint is that low-level wizards can only cast one or two spells per day. In most campaigns, the 1st-level wizard is usually considered the "tag-along", having little participation in the party's activities, especially in combat where the wizard usually hides behind the tougher characters.
My next complaint is that even at higher levels, a wizard has little flexibility in what spells he can cast per day. He must memorize each day the spells he wishes to cast, then those spells are locked in until cast. Then, a higher level wizard can only memorize one, or perhaps two 8th-level spells, and only five 1st-level spells. Why, one might ask, can't a wizard forego use of an 8th-level spell in favor of multiple lower-level spells?
These are the concerns that have plagued me, and perhaps countless other DMs in the world of AD&D. And to answer my own questions, I took it upon myself, as many others have done, and created my own, modified spell system. This system has been tested in my Elderus campaign, with positive results, so I offer it to you in hopes that it might fill the same gaps it has filled for me.
The World of Elderus Spell System: Spell Points
The first modification to the AD&D spell system under the Elderus system is to convert the wizard spell progression table into spell points at a one-per-one trade. This means that if a 5th-level wizard can cast four 1st-level spells, two 2nd-level spells, and one 3rd-level spell, he has seven (4+2+1) spell points. In addition, if the wizard is a specialist wizard, he gains one extra spell-point per spell level he can cast. Thus, in the example given above, the 5th-level specialist wizard would have 10 spell points, the three extra because he can cast up to 3rd-level spells on the wizard spell progression table. There are no limitations on how the wizard has to apply this extra spell point, as there are in the Player's Handbook's rules for specialist wizards, but the penalties of that class (such as being unable to cast opposing-school's spells) still apply, and it is left to the DM to referee whether or not the supposed specialist is studying appropriately to his chosen school of magic.
The spell-point cost of casting spells is easily translated. The level of the spell dictates the cost in points. Thus, a 1st-level spell costs one point, while a 9th-level spell costs nine points to cast.
So far, you might be thinking, "So what prevents a 5th-level wizard with seven spell points from casting a powerful, 7th-level spell?" Well, simply, it's because of the limitation rule I'm about to describe.
A young wizard, who is just learning to channel the forces of magic through his body, and to focus those energies into specific effects, cannot hope to harness powerful magics without a tremendous amount of practice and experience. This means starting at the bottom, and slowly strengthening his body until it is ready to handle more powerful magic.
Keeping in line with AD&D's original system, a wizard cannot cast a particular spell level until he reaches the level at which the wizard spell progression table in the PHB allows him to. So, a 4th-level wizard, regardless of his number of spell points, can cast only up to 2nd-level spells. Once he reaches 5th-level, he can cast 3rd-level spells, and can even cast multiple 3rd-level spells as long as he has enough spell points.
In the Elderus system, a wizard need not memorize his spells, as he does in the traditional AD&D system. However, the wizard must still continue to study and practice his spells so he does not lose the knowledge he has gained. Whenever a wizard encounters a new spell he does not yet know how to cast, he must roll his percent chance to learn the spell, based on his intelligence, just as a wizard does under the AD&D system. If the roll is a failure, it is assumed the wizard cannot understand the exact intricacies of the spell in question, and is unable to ever learn the spell, unless his intelligence is somehow increased, at which time he can make one more attempt to learn the spell. If a wizard's intelligence were ever somehow reduced, however, he would have to roll again to re-learn his entire repertoire of spells. Spells he already has learned could suddenly become incomprehensible to him.
In order to keep his knowledge fresh in his mind, a wizard must study his spells daily for a period of time equal to 15 minutes per experience level. This study keeps the intricacies of the wizard's spells fresh in his mind so that he will be able to instantly draw on the knowledge of how to cast a particular spell. If a wizard fails to, or is unable to spend his time in study each day, he acquires a 1% chance of spell failure for every 15 minutes he failed to study. This penalty is cumulative each day the wizard is unable to meet his study requirements. For example, if a 3rd-level wizard, who is required to study 45 minutes each day, misses three days of study, he will have a nine-percent chance of spell failure for each spell he casts until he makes up his study time.
Failing in the casting of a spell doesn't necessarily mean the wizard has forgotten how to cast the spell. It simply means his knowledge has become sloppy. In the midst of combat, the wizard might be halfway through that fireball spell then suddenly fail to remember the next word. Two seconds later, he remembers what the next word should be, but by then the spell has already fizzled, burning up the appropriate number of spell points in doing so.
Recovering Spell Points
A wizard regains spell points depending on the nature of his activity. During periods of normal activity which can include light travel, setting camp, dancing at a tavern, or other activities that do not cause too much physical stress on the body, a wizard can regain a number of spell points in two hours equal to half his experience level, rounding up. Thus, a 1st-level wizard regains one point every two hours at normal rest, and a 10th-level wizard regains five points every two hours at normal rest.
During periods of complete rest, in which the wizard is moving very little, such as quietly preparing a meal, or reading a book, even studying his spell books, the wizard can regain one spell point every two hours for each of his experience levels. So, a 5th-level wizard at normal rest would regain 5 spell points every two hours.
While sleeping, a wizard will regain an amount of spell points in an hour equal to his experience level. This means that after a full eight-hours of sleep, a 5th-level wizard would regain 40 spell points, obviously more than he will likely have.
Of course, all these recovery rates assume healthy conditions for the wizard. If the wizard is greatly injured (has less than 25% his normal hit points), is going hungry, is lacking sleep, or is suffering some other highly stressful physical or mental condition, he may be unable to regain spell points at all until his condition is improved. It is up to the DM's sole discretion to decide when a wizard's physical or mental condition prevents or hinders his regaining spell points. Also, a wizard is unable to regain spell points under harsh conditions, such as melee, forced marches, trekking through a dangerous dungeon, and other occasions the DM deems appropriately harsh.
There are two options a wizard has for casting his spells. The first method provides the wizard the most flexibility to choose a spell at exactly the moment he needs it, but the second gives the wizard a better chance to gain advantage over his opponents in melee. The DM need not limit the wizard to one system. The choice is fully up to the wizard as to how he wishes to cast his spells, and he is free to employ both methods simultaneously to build a plan of attack that is most suitable to his needs.
In the first method, the wizard need do no preparation to cast his spells. He goes along throughout the day, selecting the exact spell he needs to cast only when he needs it, spending the necessary spell points to do so. If the wizard comes to a barred door and needs passage, he simply casts a knock spell. A few rooms later, he encounters another locked door and decides to recast his knock spell, as long as he still has enough spell points. This is the simplest way for a wizard to manage his spells, and probably the one he will rely the most on. As a note, though, a wizard must already have learned a spell to be able to cast it. He cannot simply wish up any spell effect he desires.
The next method of spell-casting the wizard has is more complex as far as game mechanics go, but it has some desirable pay-offs. This method is often termed "precasting" or "hanging" spells by many wizards, and is a good way to give the wizard an edge during important altercations.
With the first, and normal, method of casting, the wizard decides what spell he will cast when he decides to cast it. It then takes the wizard a certain amount of time to complete the spell. For example, a fireball will take three segments to cast, time that might be precious to the wizard in a battle against half-a-dozen trolls. Then there is always the chance an enemy's attack will disrupt a spell being cast.
To circumvent these limitations, a wizard will instead spend the time and spell points in advance and "hang" the spell for later release. The spell's effects are withheld, thus hanging it, much like a robe in the closet, in the ether around him. Later, when he needs that spell, the wizard need only issue a thought to release its effects. So for example, a wizard decides in the morning that he is in hostile territory and a fireball spell might come in handy during combat. He spends the three spell points, takes the time to cast the spell, then postpones the spell's effects, hanging it in the ether. Later, his party of three is ambushed by seven orcs. The orcs attack brutally quick, scoring hits on the wizard. Now, had the wizard not prepared his fireball spell in advance, the orcs' attacks would have disrupted the spell, and it would have fizzled, leaving the wizard drained of the spell points, and without a fireball having gone off. By having precast the spell, there is no casting ritual to disrupt, thus the wizard's spell goes off automatically as soon as it is his initiative. Treat the hanged spell as a casting time of 0 for purposes of determining initiative.
There are two limitations when precasting spells. First, not every spell can be hanged like this. The DM should use his own discretion in what spells he will allow to be hanged. As a general rule, spells with complex rituals, such as gate, should be unsuitable for hanging. Simple spells such as magic missile, strength, fireball, and teleport should be easy to precast.
Next, the wizard must sacrifice half the spell points, rounding down, to maintain the hanged spell. So if a wizard hangs a fireball spell, he must first spend three spell points for the precasting, but then he can only regain one of those spell points (3 / 2 = 1.5, round down to 1) until he releases the spell. Releasing the spell implies either releasing the effects, such as tossing that fireball into a group of enemies, or deciding to allow the hanged spell to just dissolve. Once the spell is cast or dissolved, the spell points will be regained at the normal rate (see Recovering Spell Points above).
Going Beyond Limitations (Option Rule)
So far, there are still all these restrictions. The wizard has only so many spell points, and he can only cast up to a certain spell level regardless of his number of spell points. That's not very realistic, one might comment. Many athletes, and even non-athletes, in the world have exceeded their limitations for brief moments, based on sheer will-power alone.
The same should be true for wizards. But, just like anyone else, if the wizard exceeds his normal limitations, there is a chance he could permanently injure himself. Normally, a wizard taps into the vast magical energies surrounding him, shaping them to his needs and desires for wondrous, and not so wondrous, effects. A wizard's spell points reflects the amount of magical energy he is able to tap into before casting spells starts to take a dangerous toll on his body. In times of dire need, though, a wizard might need to push himself that extra length and cast that one more spell, or cast that more powerful spell, the one that will save the party from death.
There are two ways in which a wizard might exceed his limitations. The first is to cast a spell that is a higher level than he should be able to cast according to his experience level. The second way is to cast a spell which takes energy beyond his allotted spell points. Once a wizard exceeds his normal capacity for spell casting, he risks serious injury.
When a wizard decides to cast a spell that is of higher level than he can normally cast, he must roll a Constitution check with a penalty equal to double the difference between his normal casting level, and the level of the spell being cast. For instance, if a 5th-level wizard (able to cast 3rd-level spells), casts a 5th-level spell, he makes his Constitution check with a -4 penalty. A failed check means the wizard falls unconscious for 1d8 hours plus a number of hours equal to the spell level cast. Whether the check succeeds or fails, the wizard will immediately drop to zero spell points, be unable to cast spells again for a full day, and will only regain spell points at one-quarter his normal rate. Thus, a 5th-level wizard, while at normal rest, would regain only five spell points in eight hours, rather than the normal five points every two hours.
When a wizard who has fewer spell points than are needed to cast a spell decides to cast the spell anyway, he must roll a Constitution check with a two point penalty for every spell point he lacks. Thus, if a wizard with only one spell point left casts a spell requiring three spell points, he rolls his check with a -4 penalty. If the check fails, the wizard falls unconscious for a number of hours equal to 1d8 plus the level of the spell being cast. On a successful check, the wizard is merely unable to cast spells again until he is at least back to one spell point. When spell points are below one, the wizard regains only one spell point per hour.
If a wizard is attempting to cast a spell that is both higher than his normal spell level, and costs more spell points than he has left, he must roll both Constitution checks as described above. Failing even one of these check means totaling the penalties for failure in both. Thus, failure means the wizard is unconscious for a number of hours equal to 2d8 plus double the level of the spell being cast. Also, the wizard is unable to cast spells for two full days in which he cannot engage in any activity more strenuous than normal activity or he must roll a Constitution check where failure means he lapses into a coma for 1d4 days.
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THE DUNGEON MASTER
Garry J. Sled
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be humorous. I'm really not quite as egocentric as THE DUNGEON MASTER. Almost, but not quite. THE DUNGEON MASTER welcomes your questions. He can be reached at:
Warning: THE DUNGEON MASTER is something of a megalomaniac, so his views and opinions may offend. 'Nuff said.
Greetings. I am THE DUNGEON MASTER. Please take note of that. My name is THE DUNGEON MASTER. I have no small case letters in my name, as I am much too important for anything other than upper case. THE DUNGEON MASTER is my full name: diminutives (such as "da DM", "TDM", or "TeD-M") are neither acceptable nor appropriate.
I will be writing a column in this fine publication, in which I will give you the advice of my many, many, many years of gaming experience. How many years, you might ask? More than you. Remember that. In any situation in which you disagree with me, you are wrong. If you can accept that fact, then we will get along fine. If you cannot, I suggest you go back to playing your MUD, or whatever ridiculous little pastime satisfies you most.
THE DUNGEON MASTER knows everything about the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) role playing game (RPG). He knows nothing about any other RPG. This is because all other RPGs are small, silly systems (SSS), designed to copy AD&D. They are not worth playing.
I will be answering your questions here. You may have the benefit of my wisdom, and may take advantage of my vast store of knowledge. I suggest you do so. Remember: all my rulings are correct, and should be taken as the final word in any given situation. If this advice disagrees with a published rule, then take a pen and change those rules in your source books.
And now, on to the questions.
Dear THE DUNGEON MASTER: In a recent game, my elven thief was trying to pick a lock. While he was working, his friend Berin, a fighter, got too close and jogged his elbow. This set off the trap, and my elf lost three fingers. Berin apologized, after he stopped laughing. How should I deal with this problem? - Seven Fingered Pete
Dear Seven Fingered Pete: I suggest you contact a local troll or goblin tribe. Many such tribes will pay handsomely for elven body parts, useable in most stews, meatloaves, and pastries.
Dear THE DUNGEON MASTER: How exactly does the first level mage spell "sleep" work? Can it affect my 7th level fighter? How long does it last? - Confused
Dear Confused: Yours is an extremely silly and mindless question. The spell description is straightforward and concise. You are either very dense, or too cheap to buy the Player's Hand Book.
Dear THE DUNGEON MASTER: For quite some time now, I've had a problem with my mage, Fursa the Mighty. Once a month (on or about the full moon), he wakes up in the morning, covered in blood and fur. What's more, no matter how much he slept the night before, he's still tired in the morning. Also, for some reason, he's developed a strong aversion for wolfsbane, and now likes to eat his meat raw. What could be wrong with him? - Fursa the Mighty
Dear Fursa the Mighty: Sounds like a head cold to me. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. The problem should clear up on it's own in about a week.
That's all for this issue. Remember, get those questions in to THE DUNGEON MASTER as soon as possible. Include your e-mail address, and you can see your name in lights!
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Our First Contest
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I hope you have found our first issue entertaining and useful. Any suggestions, comments, or constructive criticisms are always welcome. If you have something to say, you can let me know by clicking the e-mail link below.