Monthly Archives: December 2011

Why I am an incurable SotU fanboy

I would like to start this post by wishing you all a happy (somewhat belated) holiday season.

So, Searchers of the Unknown.

I LOVE SotU! You can print it on one page. You can print it on one small page. You can modify it to be landscape, and clearly split in the middle, so you can print it on both sides and cut it in half and have two even smaller copies. And THEN you can print it smaller! Which I’ve done.

I have several copies in my wallet at all times. In two languages. They are available here, of course.

The system itself is easy to remember, easy to look up, easy to use and easy to improvise around. It’s (supposedly) compatible with everything published for any D&D edition. Some rules are omitted (movement, for example), but could be looked up or improvised. (You might need Labyrinth Lord at the table. Your players won’t.)

Also, it’s pulp as heck! No magic using characters, everyone is a fighter/thief (like Conan, for example) and heroes are captured instead of killed. (And they heal off-screen, like in the movies!)

So what’s not to like? My theory is that casual players want three things out of their game (besides fun): easy to remember/look up rules, minimal reading necessary and lots of options. In SotU, you can choose your weapons, armour and name. An experienced player might enjoy the fact that the characters are distinguished by the players instead of the stats. But if you, for example, are playing D&D with pornstars, They might want mechanical differences between the races and roles. I too catch myself developing race and class options for the game (that I’ll publish later).

All in all, if you ever get cornered by a gang of rabid D&D fans, demanding that you run a game for them or die, you should have a tiny copy in your wallet just in case. And a d8, d20 and d12 is all you need.

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Posted by on 2011/12/27 in myself


Level- and Geography-based Reputation

I don’t know how this occured to me, but I wanted an easy system to handle party fame/infamy.

Assuming players stick to a region as they go adventuring (like in Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil for example), they gain fame as they advance in levels (and deeds) in an increasingly larger territory. If they are constantly on the move, that makes this method mostly useless (though it’s still useful for tracking the fame of powerful NPCs).

Download/view: PDF (as Google doc)

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Posted by on 2011/12/20 in repost


Mass combat

This is my answer to a Secret Santicore request.

Dear Secret Santicore…

For my Secret Santicore, I’d like a simple sub-system that allows me
to run a skirmish-type battle with a couple dozen combatants (not
hundreds, like this).

I ask because I recently had a large skirmish, without enough figures
or handy white-board space, and even with the players keeping track of
half of the stuff, it still took an hour and a half to complete.


Sadly, I got flooded with work recently and didn’t have the time to play-test this, but hopefully it’ll only need a few tweaks.

The main concept is to abstract groups of combatants (or even whole platoons) into a single NPC with appropriate abilities. It’s written for D&D, but is probably system-independent.

Mass combat (<100 soldiers)

  • You group the combatants on either side (not counting PCs) based on their HD (or level), AC and class. Add the group’s health into one number (each should have the same health, to make keeping track easier, though you could average the total). Add their damage dice into one pool as well (they can mix and match melee weapons or ranged weapons, bot probably not both).
  • You roll initiative for each group (and the PCs) if you’re using individual initiative. This order doesn’t get re-rolled, until someone new enters the fray (reinforcements).
  • When rolling to hit, consult the opposing groups’ list to see if any AC has been hit (you should probably do this when rolling for a group, not a PC, because the PCs’ position might matter).
  • Roll the attacking group’s damage pool, subtract from the defending group’s health.
  • If the health of the group drops below an individual member’s health, he/she is dead. Remove his/her damage die from the pool.
  • Groups shouldn’t attack PCs, as they are a less abstract part of combat. Separate an individual from the group and let him/her fight the PC. (Don’t forget to lower the group’s damage pool for that round).
  • You can vaguely keep track of positions, but I advise against it.

Large scale combat (>100 soldiers)

  • Say, you have two armies of organised soldiers with the same training and standard equipment in each.
  • Every group of the same type (cavalry, archers, infantry, magi, clerics) is represented by a single character. Separate groups like earlier in mass combat.
  • Their equipment is the equipment shared by every soldier in the group. Their health is the number of people present.
  • Group damage is 1d10 x (number of attacking soldiers left / 10). Consider causing (number of attacking soldiers left / 10) damage even on a miss.
  • Resolve combat as normal, or abstract it further by using the mass combat to-hit rules (damage the group with the worst AC on a miss). Morale checks are especially useful.
  • Keeping track of the position of groups is more realistic in this case.
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Posted by on 2011/12/13 in practical


Items of The Sword: Witch’s Vision

After defining what all the kinds of vision I could think of mean to me, it’s time to utilize it!

Witch’s Vision:
Mentioned in the song Arrows in the Dark.

These rare items are crafted by warlocks and witches to grant its user supernatural sight. They resemble an ordinary lantern, but instead of oil, they burn eyes. The vision the lantern grants is whatever vision the eye’s owner possessed. If it had several, choose the most supernatural.

They burn one eye for each four hours, or 24 turns, and have an effective light radius of 30 feet. Everyone who sees this light will see the area with the vision granted by the lantern. The lantern doesn’t modify the user’s vision, but casts a special light that renders the surrounding area in that form of vision. As such, despite vision in general not having a range restriction, the user only sees things in the granted fashion inside the distance specified.

Because of the fuel needed to activate the lantern, the object may cause discomfort in most nice characters, and some favour might be lost to nice clerics utilising the device. On the other hand, harvesting the eyes of your foes is not a nice thing to do, and might cause anything from divine wrath to alignment shift. DM’s discretion, naturally.

An additional effect of the light is that it can only be seen with a form of vision different from the one it grants. So if granting normal vision, only creatures with some additional form of sight will be able to see the light of the lantern. Otherwise, the viewer will see the area as dark/room temperature/featureless/whatever. Any other vision is converted, from whatever distance the meager light of the lantern travels. The psychological effect of a creature with only darkvision suddenly seeing the reds and blues of infra are, again, left to the DM’s discretion.

PS: The line in the song could be interpreted as referencing a vision of the third witch from Tres Brujas, who will “show you the way”. That, though, is unsubstantiated and also boring.

Disclaimer: the “items of” series is in no way affiliated to it’s source media. The descriptions are entirely unofficial and sometimes contrary to the original intention on purpose. No claim of ownership intended.

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Posted by on 2011/12/09 in The Sword, tidbit


Forms of vision

I was thinking about putting some items found in The Sword lyrics into D&D. One such item got me thinking about forms of vision. After a lot of reading (especially regarding infra) I came up with my own interpretation.

Infra works regardless of light conditions, though daytime above ground is usually too warm for visibility. Since most light sources in a quasi-medieval setting are heat sources aswell (torches especially), they tend to overload and blind infra (especially at close ranges).
Every normal creature is a heat source, but a much weaker one then a torch is a light (or even heat) source. So they won’t “light” their surroundings. Taking that into account, having infra ranges makes as much sense as having vision ranges. They’re probably a balancing attempt based on light-source ranges.
Visibly, when using infra, most normal creatures are double sized, because of the heat they radiate (Imagine it as a dark red flame surrounding them). Getting wet or standing at a place with strong winds or drafts negates this effect. Another difference (and a less positive one) is that see-through things like glass aren’t see-through in infra, and reflective materials don’t work either, you just see the appropriate heat of the object (probably room temperature). Creatures in water can not see or be seen with infra for the same reason.
Because of balancing issues and realism, I’m assuming a relatively mediocre quality infravision. That means footsteps cool too fast to be useful (<30 seconds) and faces can not be distinguished. I’d make and exception for powerful creatures or sentient creatures born with infra, but in that case, the eyes glow red. In the latter case faces and footprints still must be at arms reach to distinguish (climb on all fours to follow footprints).
Watching Predator and Predator 2 will educate you on the visuals of infravision.

Darkvision is a relatively new concept, developed to keep infravision but distance it from its real life counterpart. As such, it only works in complete darkness, but it’s user can not be blinded. In the presence of a light source, the user simply reverts back to normal vision. (The question remains about the effects on darkvision-only creatures.)
The quality and distance of vision is normal, but the user only sees shapes in black and white, not even grayscale. Colours and patterns can not be distinguished, making reading impossible. Naturally, reflective and see-through materials don’t work for such vision. If the Dungeon Master rules that the concept of darkvision is magical in nature, he or she can devise a material that mirrors such vision, or allows users to see through it. (Non-glossy iron could be an example for a mirror.)
As far as I can tell by googling, there’s only one picture in all of existence of what darkvision looks like. It’s in the 3.5 DMG. As a substitute, get a line-drawing of an underground locale, and invert the colours.

Low-light vision, or nightvision can be found in nature relatively frequently (cats are a well-known example). This is the same type of vision, it collects a larger amount of ambient light, allowing better sight in darker environments. As such, daylight (or similar strength light) blinds its user, if they don’t switch to a different method of vision.
With nightvision, starlight or the light from distant torches allow vision similar to darkvision: strong contrasts, minimal details, no reading or colours, though mirrors and glass work as normal. Moonlight or equivalent on the other hand allows for mostly normal vision, though mostly in a bluish tinted grayscale.

Ultra, a form of vision introduced into Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion, is a surprisingly difficult form of vision to reconcile. The reason is that ultraviolet vision in real life has none of the magnificent attributes given to it in the rulebook.
Basically, ultra gives its user a few additional colours to see (which is great for secret messages and seeing some otherwise well hidden plants and creatures). That would not be enough to make this form of vision useful in-game, so I added the ability to see radiation, magic and high-technology to its capabilities.
Ultra enhances the vision in twilight by the presence of background radiation form the Sun, giving the user perfect vision at dusk and dawn. As radiation is a strong form of UV, a strong enough source can blind its user. High-technology (more advanced than what we have) and magic spells are clearly visible (depending on strength) in ultra, but do not light their surroundings. Magic items and radiation on the other hand can be strong enough to act as a light source for the uv user.
If you don’t know what ultravision looks like, go watch CSI.

That’s the best I could do with these 4 forms of vision. As closing, an interesting tidbit I found regarding changes in lighting conditions:
“Pirates, for example, often wore eye-patches over one good eye – not because they were blind in that one eye, but because they often had to quickly go below decks into the dark. Changing the patch from one eye to the other allowed them to function without pause, but if one had to wait for their eyes to adjust to the darkness, that could take several minutes, which they could hardly afford during a pitch battle.” – James L.R. Beach

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Posted by on 2011/12/08 in theoretical




My nickname is 3llense’g (L-N-shaig), also known as Lance Toth (my real name is Tóth László though). I’m a hungarian, 26 year old nerd.

I like roleplaying. I started playing AD&D2 in elementary school, then we breefly switched to D&D3 when trying to hold the group together in high school (we all went to a different one). I also played old Star Wars for a little while, and Vampire: the Masquerade.

A few years passed reading D&D3.5 core books after which I looked around for a free alternative, and bumped into the dawn of the Old School Renaissance. Osric wasn’t done yet, so I picked up Labyrinth Lord, printed it, and loved it!

My first DMing gig came a little later, with almost a dozen complete newbies, 30 minutes a week in school, and my (in retrospect) terrible misplaced adventure that I suspect is the reason none of them will ever play again. I think I got better since then.

Having no one to play with (either as a DM or player) slowly ground down my interest in the OSR, and a quit for a few months when I didn’t have the time to read the forums or blogs. I came back recently, and ConstantCon is being organised! I wanna get in, but I might be forced to DM, and I’m not up to that yet. I might be playing in a PbP on the Goblinoid Games forum later.

I have a few things I’ve posted on forums or newsletters here and there over the years, that will be re-posted here, so I’ll have some content. Hopefully it will all be done offline before posting, so nothing will be lost, as that tends to happen with my blogs and posts. Hopefully I’ll develop enough of a backlog to hold me over the rough patches. 🙂

Bad things about me:

  • I am terribly inexperienced when it comes to Old School play, sandboxes and publication history.
  • I once thought Castle Greyhawk was good (it isn’t a typical dungeon crawl, that was my only reason).
  • I’m lazy, I stop doing things (posting on my blog, writing songs, programming my game) on the slightest provocation.
  • My job is stressful and kinda far away, so I have just 2 hours of free time on bad days.
  • I live in Hungary, as in Eastern-Central Europe, as in the other side of the world from the US. That makes any live interaction difficult. Raggi can sympathize, I’m sure.
  • I live with my mom, because she can’t afford the flat on her own (or at least that’s my excuse).
  • I tend to sound like an asshole.

Good things about me:

  • I love making music (even if it’s not the best music), if you need a bard in your game, or a custom soundtrack, I’m your man. (Though remember: lazy!)
  • I love one page stuff. Settlements, dungeons, creatures, generators. Hell, rules! (Searchers of the Unknown is my favourite game, that might be a bad thing, depending.)
  • I sound like an asshole, but I’m kinda nice.

I’m 3llenseg on twitter, Lance Toth on G+, 3llense’g on the GG forums and interstellar_deity on e-mail.

That’s who I am, now enjoy the show!

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Posted by on 2011/12/06 in myself