Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Location that inspired me

I lived in my hometown my whole life and occasionally get to see some off beat location decades after I visited them as a kid. During high school I would walk two miles to play DnD at a friend house. To get there I had to cross one of the older (and largest) cemetery in my town. Just beyond its border was a ravine that I had to follow a path down and up before I reached the road my friends' house was on the other side of the woods.

The place where I crossed the stream in the ravine never ceased to amaze and inspire me especially in mid afternoon when the sun is hitting the area at the right angle. To me it looked something out of Middle Earth and got me pumped up to play ADnD.

A few days ago my family wanted to get out of the house and take a walk. I suggested the area as the last time I visited it was a decade ago when my kids were younger. The walk was great except at the end where we a turn and the trail turned rough when it dipped into a tributary of the main stream. We had to work our way down into the main ravine and it turned the hike into a bit of an adventure.

But I took some photos and hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19, the Wilderlands and Printed Poster Maps

I just got a notice from Onebookshelf that their card/poster printing facility was shut down as part of their state's efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. All card and poster options are set to private.

Accordingly any purchase of any Bat in the Attic Wilderlands Map PDFs product made on or after March 21st (this covers a handful of existing purchases) will be matched with a discount coupon to buy the print copy at cost plus $1 (so it shows as a sale).

The only issue is that I won't be issuing the coupons until after Onebookshelf starting printing cards and posters again. This is because these coupons work on private projects. However OBS makes it easy to identify (by customer #) who purchase products and to issue a discount coupon.

The print copies of the guidebooks still can be purchased.

The at-cost prices
Wilderlands of High Fantasy $4.80
Fantastic Wilderlands Beyonde $4.80
Wilderlands of the Magic Realm $3.84
Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches $3.84
Bundle: $17.28

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wilderlands of High Fantasy reduced in price!

Given the what happened recently with Judges Guild I have not been promoting my products even though I still offer them for sale. Still I have been getting a steady stream of sales and I thank everybody who purchased one of my products.

With problems caused by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) many companies been offering various products for free or at reduced price. Most of these have been foundation products like Green Ronin's Fantasy Age Basic Rules.

DriveThruRPG link for Fantasy Age.

I am offering the PDFs of first set of maps for Wilderlands of High Fantasy for half off and reducing the price of the print version by $5. Remember the PDF of the guidebook comes with the maps so you only need to buy the guidebook for $5.99 if you want a print copy.

Rob's Note: Offering a combo map/book product was also an experiment. You can't bundle them due to the fact that OneBookshelf has two different printing services for posters/cards versus book. I thought I would make the map the primary product and the guidebook the add-on.

In hindsight this would have been better if the guidebook was the primary product with all the PDF including those of the map. And the poster product was the add-on. The PDF option for the poster would be free and be a promotional brochure. I will talk more about this when I release the Wild North.

As for the Wild North, I am in the midst of drawing up the towns. There are five important towns in the setting. The major difference is that Russian houses are built on lots and have fenced in yards. So it is more open then a traditional medieval city. Of course at the center is the kremlin or citadel. Most of town at this point in the history of the Wild North only have wooden kremlin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The hard facts of Covid 19 (Coronavirus)

I hope everybody is keeping safe. As I am not involved in the medical profession or politics there is little I can do other than follow the guideline that have been outlined by various health departments and help my family to do the same.

However the situation is confusing to many so last night I thought to put some of what I learned  about writing toward outlining the threat that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) represents.

Hope this helps everybody understand what we are facing.

  • In a normal flu season for every individual infected 1.3 additional people get infected. Of the people who got infected less than .1% died thus giving 35,000 to 40,000 annual death in the United States due to the flu.
  • The H1N1 virus circa 2009 was around 1.5 people infected for every person who came down with the virus. Fatality rate was three time higher at around .3%
  • In contrast for Covid-19, for every person infected 2.2 (Jan 2020) to 2.7 (Feb 2020) additional people will get infected. Of those people who get the disease 3.5% will die.
  • Different age bracket respond differently with those 70+ have been suffering a 16% fatality rate due to Covid-19
  • Covid-19 numbers slightly more deadlier than to that of the 1919 Influenza virus which has an infection rate of 1.8 and a fatality rate of 2% to 3% The 1919 influenza 'Spanish Flu' had a 4% to 20% death rate. Misread the table comparing past influenza outbreak.

This based on data using standard epidemiology procedures in place for decades.

Furthermore these are fatalities, an order of magnitude (10x) more cases do not result in death but do require medical intervention and hospitalization.

In the case of the flu the annual flu shot means that actual number are far less than just multiplying the fatality rate by the population.

For my small rural town which has a population of 30,000 (city and the two surrounding townships) this means the following

  • During a normal flu season (Nov to April) we can expect around 30 flu related death. The actual number will be less because of the flu shot. We can also expect 300 cases requiring hospitalization spread across those months. The actual numbers will also be less because of the flu shot.
  • With Covid-19 which has no vaccine at this point, my town can expect 900 deaths probably spread across three months. More seriously we can expect 9,000 severe case requiring medical intervention like hospitalization.
  • This compounded by that fact that in the case of the annual flu the onset of the disease is 1 to 4 days. For covid-19 the onset period is 3 to 14 days. A person can pass on the infection during the onset period for both.
  • Moreover the fact without further measures to help the medical system handling Covid-19 cases this means all the other things like those having complication from the annual flu, trauma, infections, seizures, cancer, etc will have problem getting proper treatment thus driving up their death rate.

My town can't handle that. Nobody can handle that which is why we saw in Wuhan emergency hospitals being erected overnight.

What we can do is slow down the spread so these 9,000 cases and 900 death are spread across a longer span of time. So that those cases and the other cases get needed medical attention. And just maybe a vaccine will be developed or enough of a quarantine is place so that the cases start declining.

Be safe and I hope the above helps you make an informed decision about what you and your family needs to do.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Frodo Lives!

Some welcome news today, the publishers of Tales from the Loop signed an agreement with Sophisticated Game the license holder for both The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth. The agreement will take effect this summer at which point the Free League will announce their product release schedule.

My bet is that the first item on the schedule will be the The One Ring 2nd edition that was previously announced by Cubicle 7. Then maybe the Rohan Region Guide which made it to PDF but not print.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Demi-Humans in B/X and OSE just got a little more scarier.

So Tim of Gothridge Manor pointed out some details on the Light spells. Including this tidbit found in Old School Essentials
Reverse: Darkness, creates a 15' radius of magical blackness. It prevents normal sight, but not infravision. It can be used to blind creatures or to dispel a light spell. . 
I went to the copies of B/X I bought and sure enough it is the same.

In OSE and BX both Dwarves and Elves have infravision. This means that Dwarven allies or Elves themselves can cast a Darkness spell. This results in the Dwarf or Elf being able to attack normally if they are inside the darkness spells but everybody is attacking them as if they have been blinded. In DnD B/X blinded creatures can't attack.

I will just let that one sink in.

For reference here is ODnD take on darkness found in the Greyhawk Supplement

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Of Spell Memorization and Phantasmal Forces

Spell memorization seems straight forward for classic editions. You have a magic user or cleric who have some spells slots and then you pick some spells. However I discovered while writing material or running campaign that have a lot of NPCs magic users it gets rather tedious even picking spells for lower level magic users. Along with falling into a rut and picking the same spells over and over again.

Three years ago I figured that it would be good to come up with a way to randomize this for Swords and Wizardry.

I coded up the tables using NBos' Inspiration Pad Pro and tweaked the results until they look about right. After that I had everything I need to write up Random Memorized Spell Generation for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. Note that the I used the spell lists out of Swords and Wizardry Core edition.

In the 2017 post I talked mostly about the difference between random tables and random assortments. However I didn't get into how I weighted the tables.

It been my experienced that with all else being equal some spells are just more useful than others. That they are useful in more situation than other spells. So rather than assigning an equal chance to all the spells being memorized, I weighted the result based on my experience roleplaying and refereeing  magic users.

For example 2nd level spells for Magic Users

Common Level 2
1     Darkness, 15' Radius
2-3   Detect Evil
4     Detect Invisibility
5-6   Detect Thoughts
7     Invisibility
8     Knock
9     Levitate
10    Locate Object
11-12 Mirror Image
13    Phantasmal Force
14    Strength
15-18 Web
19    Wizard Lock
20    Uncommon Level 2

Uncommon Level 2
1-15  Continual Light
16-20 Pyrotechnics

Adjudicating the usefulness of spells
The first thing about the 2nd level spell list for magic users is that there is no single goto spells. For first level Charm Person, Magic Missile, and Sleep are very common. For 3rd level you have the ver popular Fireball or Lightning Bolt.

For 2nd level spells the most common I have taken as a magic user for my 2nd level spell slot is web. It effectively immobilize your enemy within in its area of effect and also serves as a barrier. However Detect Evil, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Images also all seen frequent use. The least commonly used spells in my experience are Continual Light and Pyrotechnic. The rest of the spells all have their uses in various situation.

So I am going to weight the odds of memorizing second spells like this.

1st Tier

2nd Tier
Detect Evil, Detect Thought, Mirror Image

3rd Tier
Darkness, Detect Invisibility, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Phantasmal Force, Strength, and Wizard Lock

4th Tier
Continual Light and Pyrotechnics.

The tough call is Invisibility, arguably it probably a 2 1/2 Tier spell. I wanted to use a d20 roll as the randomizer and keep the sub tables to a minimum. So I decided that Mirror Image had enough of an edge over Invisibility to warrant a 10% change as opposed to a 5% chance. The main reason is that Invisibility drops if you attack and Mirror Image lasts for the duration of the spell and potentially prevent crippling damage.

Feel free to rework the tables if your judgement call on various spells differ from mine.

Phantasmal Force
Another spell I will be re-evaluating is Phantasmal Force. I don't have the link but on one of the old school forums somebody did an analysis of the history of the spell.

If you look in Chainmail 2nd edition, the one that predates the release of Dungeons and Dragons on page 28 to 29 you have.

Phantasmal Force (Chainmail 2nd Edition)The creation of the apparition of a unit or creature for four turns, maxi-duration.

In Original Dungeons and Dragons you have

Phantasmal Forces (ODnD)The creation of vivid illusions of nearly anything the user envisions (a projected mental image so to speak). As long as the caster concentrates on the spell, the illusion will continue unless touched by some living creature, so there is no limit on duration, per se. Damage caused to viewers of a Phantasmal Force will be real if the illusion is believed to be real. Range: 24”.

Here it is a more general purpose illusion spells but still echoes it use in Chainmail. Swords and Wizardry adapts the above but added an limitation that the illusion can only be used to deal up to 2d6 damage. 

So I decided to alter the spell in the Majestic Fantasy RPG to the following. To keep it utility as an illusion spells but also to call back to its original use in Chainmail.

Phantasmal Force
 (Magic-User, 2nd Level)
Range: 240 feet; 
Duration: Until concentration ends; 
MI: Yes; Art: Web;
The caster creates a realistic looking illusion of a creature, object, or effect. When the illusion is touched or attacked, the character makes a saving throw. If the save is made, the character realize it is an illusion and the illusion is dispelled. If the save is failed, the character believes the illusion is real. 

Phantasmal Force can also be used to create a creature or effect that is capable of inflicting damage. Anything that is capable of dealing 12 points of damage or less can be created as an illusion with this spell. For example a wolf or a flaming pool of oil (does 1d6 per round). 

When a target is attacked they get a saving throw vs spells to see if the target know it is an illusion. Success means the illusion is dispelled, failure means the target believes the illusion to be real. Combat is then resolved using the normal stats of the creature. 

Focused Art: The illusion is more effective. Creatures or characters that can deal up to 18 points damage can now be created by this spell.

The changes make Phantasmal Force more like a Summon Monster spells except those interacting with or are attacked by the spell get a saving throw.

I think this removes a lot of the grey area for how Phantasmal Force is used in combat and increases the utility of the spells compared to its original wording.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Thoughts on Detect Evil

Tim at Gothridge Manor looks at the Detect Evil spells in Old School Essentials.

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 120'
Objects enchanted for evil purposes or living beings with evil intentions are caused to magically glow.
-Intent only: it does not grant the caster the ability to read minds
-Referee must decide what is 'evil'.

Here is the original found on Page 24 of Men and Magic in ODnD

Detect Evil: A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil. 
Duration:2 turns. Range: 6”.

I am also familiar with Sense Foes from GURPS Magic that Tim refers too.

My own take emphasize the danger sense aspect of the spells. While it is something I prefer it is also in part necessitated by the fact I haven't used alignment in decades and still don't. 

I have two added wrinkles that in the case of magic it also senses when somebody been affected by magic against their will. For example a character under influence of a Charm Person spell. This type of magic is considered a hostile enchantment. It also detect demons and anything demonic. In my campaigns demons represents absolute evil in a spiritual sense.

Here the current write up for Detect Evil from my draft rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

Detect Evil (Cleric, 1st Level;)
Range: 120 feet; Duration: 1 hour; MI: No; Art: Lantern;
Detect Evil (Magic-User, 2nd Level)
Range: 60 feet; Duration: 20 minutes; Art: Lantern;
The caster detects the following dangers for the duration of the spell: hostile sentient beings, hostile monsters, and enchantments/auras that causes damage or some type of harm. It does not detect traps, poisons, and other mundane dangers. Demonic and demonic effects are always considered hostile.
Focused Art: For clerics the spell’s range is extended to 180 feet and the duration for 2 hours. For magic users the range is extended to 90 feet, and the duration to 40 minutes.

Rob's Notes
I have some additional mechanics in my take on Swords and Wizardry. MI is magical immunity. It determines whether is creature with magical immunity is effected by the spell. Since Detect Evil pertains to the caster it doesn't apply. 

Focused Art is an option in my rules where a magic user can focus on one of the ten arts of magic. If they do they get a small bonus effect to spells of that art. An aspect of the Art of the Lantern that it covers spells that impart knowledge of some kind. For clerics it depends whether the art of magic falls into the deity's sphere of influence. In the Majestic Fantasy Realms this would be Thoth the Lantern Bearer the God of Sages and Knowledge. 

Originally a focus in the art of magic would meant +1 caster level for that spell. But in Swords and Wizardry so few spells are affected by caster level that I had to come up a customized focus effect for each spell.