May 30, 2008

Castles and Crusades Campaign Continues

We will all mourn for the passing of a great and noble warrior. Nords the Dwarf has passed to stone, in the fashion of the Dwarf people. He was slain while fighting Great Goblins in the Grotto of the Ice Hunter Goblins - hot on the trail of the goblin chieftain that the heroes are pursuing to retrieve the Kreftring. In the bottom of the multi-layered Grotto (a mountain dungeon system built in the Southern tailbone of the Rakers, at the edge of a glacier) is a gateway that leads to mysterious dungeons beneath the Fortress of the Shadow Rose (a castle in Keoland! halfway around the world, but it is where the Goblin chieftain is hiding out).

The players were sorely tested, even though Viney Badeloch took a co-role in performing "rogue" abilities with Clematis, the halfling.

The evening of adventure started out pretty good. The party had been holed up in a room where they had slain some ogres and giant spiders. The group was in uncharted territory, so they had bolted shut the doors and spiked them closed. Then they took turns watching while all got some rest (about 8 hours) and while Annalise (the female cleric of Ehlonna) got enough rest to concentrate and meditate on getting her spells back.

Finally they were rested up and proceeded out from their room into the wider dungeon. The group faced down a number of undead (ghouls, zombies, and skeletons) until coming to a room tha was heavily guarded by Great Goblins and Ice Hunter cats. A fight broke out and the heroes were victorious. Along the way, however, Nords passed along. He was facing down two great goblins, having interposed his body in front of Annalise so that she could pull back from the front line of fighting. The maneuver was successful, but it left Nords (exposed in the room) facing off against two Great Goblins and being shot at by a couple of Goblin archers.

The two Great Goblins were too much. Especially when one got a critical hit. Nords was down to 4hp left, and he didn't bother to tell ANYONE (how infuriating - he might still be alive if he had but asked Annalise for a single healing spell. But he did not. One of the great goblins (as mentioned) got a Critical hit, and Nords took an additional 24 points of damage (which made him go approx 20 points negative, certainly dead and not coming back).


May 26, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Seven - Hunting Trolls

The chief occupation of adventurers in FRPG, when it comes to the realm of adventurer-troll relations, is that of population control. Adventurers kill trolls. Or they die trying. This final installment in the week of trolls (which is being posted a long weekend too late, but hey - its my blog), is concerned with a few topics related to killing trolls.

First, the topic of killing trolls begins with the meat and potatoes of adventurer combat skills - the weapon. A long out of print (but locally written, produced, and printed) game that bore more than a passing resemblance to Runequest 2nd Ed., called "Element Masters", once featured a weapon in it called the Trollkiller. It was a hefty two handed weapon (that had a steep strength minimum in order to wield it) that did 3d6 damage. In Runequest, especially when using hit-locations, that was enough to nearly guarantee if not the death of the standard troll, then at least a severing of a limb or head. Sever a head and it lives? Well, it depends on the troll, its cult, its runes, spells, etc - it gets complicated quick.

In AD&D, especially when weapons did different damage against large creatures (which Trolls classify as), the two handed sword is a great choice. It is slow - bummer - but it does hefty damage. Now, the classic AD&D troll has 6+6HD - which is to say 6d8 + 6 points, or (on average) 33 hit points. Up to a maximum of 54 hit points. Now, take your average fighter. He might have a magic sword of say, +2, and he might have a str bonus of say, +2/+4, which means that with a two handed sword (which does 3d6 vs. large), he is going to dish out, on average, 17 points of damage, and depending on which rules you use, he might get 2 attacks a round. IF he is lucky, and if the troll doesn't finish him off first (not a bad chance, considering he does a maximum potential damage of 28 points of damage per round), then the Fighter might finish off a troll in 2 rounds, 1 round if he is very lucky. Ahh, but trolls regenerate, you say, and they come back, and all of the other devious things that trolls can do as posted in the first part of the week of trolls. And, of course, they travel in packs sometimes.

Which brings up an interesting point - teamwork against a pack of trolls. Do you concentrate on one? Or pair off against individual trolls? Well, every dungeon is different, and every combat unique, but I would suggest concentrating on one troll at a time, and then if the resources are available, have the weakest member of the adventuring party make sure that the remains do just that - remain, and not reform into regenerated trolls.

Point two - weapons that do real damage to the troll. Everything discussed above, with the typical fifth level fighter, and his typical +2 magic two-handed sword is all well and good, but that damage to a troll is just a tickle. A walk in the park. A minor obstruction. He regenerates, you see, and Mr. Troll does not like to wait around. He'll start reforming the instant he is dead, and just a few short rounds later, he is up and at it again, kicking in all he's got for the Troll regiment. So how do you dish out damage that really matters - damage that will keep Uncle Ugly down permanently? Well, it boils down (basically) to either fire or acid. Adventurers dealing with trolls should ignore everything about infravision and ultravision and dark vision and twilight vision, and this vision and that vision. Carry torches. Every member of the party should be armed with a fist full of fire. The more the merrier. It might ward off trolls, or if they are desperate or stupid enough to attack, then it provides the means for permanent damage. And if a troll is downed, then a party member can use a torch to begin scorching the troll remains. Other options, if available, are fire based spells and firebrand (or flaming) magic weapons. As summoned fire elemental does nicely, but if you can pull off that trick, it seems a waste to use against some trolls. Which brings us to point three...

Acid. Ah, it seems so useful. Just "immerse the body parts in acid" the first edition monster manual states. Think of this - a large, gangly, rubbery humanoid freak with a height over 8 feet tall - how big are those body parts going to be? How much acid do you need? That little flask the adventurer carries in his belt to use as a desperate hand grenade isn't going to do it. A couple of jugs of the stuff. Or maybe a pool of acid (found in the better dungeons) should do the trick. One final option comes from the world of Cidri (revealed in the published materials from Metagaming related to "The Fantasy Trip").

Universal Solvent. What a great idea! Some made alchemist devises a material that can dissolve anything. ANYTHING. Nearly instantly. And he renders it into liquid form (what do you keep it in?). Luckily the forward thinking alchemist was wise beyond his years, and he made it a two part compound. You can carry those parts quite safely, but combine them - and you have local meltdown happening. Now, to me, this should do the job quite nicely on Mr. Troll. And the Mrs., and all the children. But it is dangerous. And what happens when you use Universal Solvent on the pile of troll parts, to dissolve a nice breadbox sized hole right down through the pile, and it continues on through the floor, down 15 feet through the bedrock, and down into the chamber with the angry green dragon in it a level down? Doesn't matter, those troll parts won't be regenerating though....


May 22, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Six - Troll Magic

Trolls casting spells, spells featuring troll components, and spells specifically related to trolls (either augmenting them or harming them) is the topic if this, the next to last posting in the Week of Trolls.

Trolls casting spells is a great thing. After all, most of the humanoid races have their shamans, priests, and wizards. Version 3.0 and 3.5 of AD&D allow for troll character class progression (see the Night Hunter troll for an example).

Imagine a cult that is dedicated to worshiping trolls. This would no doubt be an evil cult, and might even have a priesthood. It would have clerics, but I don't think (in the spirit of a 2nd edition AD&D gamer) they should have access to all the same spells as a normal cleric. Here is my proposed spell list (modified for C&C):

Troll-Cult Priest
HD - D8
Level Advancement - as Cleric
Abilities - as Evil Cleric, but replace Control Undead with Control Trolls (at 6th level)

Recommended Spells:
Orisons (Level 0)
  • Detect Evil (rev)
  • Detect Magic
  • Detect Poison
  • Purify Food & Drink (rev)

Level 1
  • Bless (rev)
  • Command
  • Cure Light Wounds
  • Detect Snares & Pits
  • Faerie Fire
  • Invisibility to Trolls
  • Light
  • Locate Animals or Plants
  • Remove Fear (rev)

Level 2
  • Detect Charm
  • Enthrall
  • Find Traps
  • Hold Person
  • Know Alignment
  • Obscurement
  • Silence, 15-foot Radius
  • Slow Poison
  • Speak With Animals
  • Aid
  • Augury

Level 3
  • Animate Dead
  • Call Lightning
  • Continual Light
  • Cure Blindness or Deafness
  • Cure Disease
  • Feign Death
  • Glyph of Warding
  • Locate Object
  • Positive Plane Protection
  • Speak With Dead
  • Starshine

Level 4
  • Cloak of Bravery
  • Cure Serious Wounds
  • Detect Lie
  • Divination
  • Free Action
  • Imbue Troll with Special Ability
  • Neutralize Poison
  • Reflecting Pool

Level 5
  • Atonement
  • Cure Critical Wounds

Level 6
  • Heal

Level 7
  • Astral Spell
  • Confusion
  • Exaction


May 21, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Five - the Malleable Nature of Trolls

Trolls are made of interesting stuff, it appears. Not only can they regenerate, but they also appear to occur "naturally" in a number of different forms and environments.

It was mentioned early on in the week that Trolls are rather susceptible to changes brought on by environment or magic. To that end, we will explore some of the many different changes that can be granted to trolls, either accidentally or on purpose, due to exposure to random or chaotic fields of magic.

Some of these effects might come about due to gifts from chaotic or insane wizards or magical beings, and others might just occur due to eating the wrong magical fungus or living in close proximity to a magical device or portal.

The initial list is of twelve items, and no doubt this will grow or perhaps will be sub-compartmentalized.
Iron Skin
Tough metallic skin gives the troll AC20, and a move of only 20 ft.

Fire Breath
The troll can breathe fire for 4d6, 10 ft. range, victim may save vs. Dexterity to avoid.

Acid Vomit
2d6 first round, 1d6 each of second round and third round (4d6 total). Range of 10 ft., victim save vs. Constitution for half damage. Those adjacent to the victim get half effect (1d6/1d3/1d3), save vs. Constitution for half.

Extra Arms
two additional arms grant two extra claw attacks, or one additional weapon attack.

Strength Glyph
Extreme strength grants the troll an addition +2 to hit and +2 damage.

Speed Rune
Affected permanently as per the Haste spell (double all physical attacks, or 1 additional weapon attack, and move at double speed).

Forge Fire
Troll affects all metal items as if a heat metal spell were cast on him. If the troll uses a metal weapon, it will do an additional 2d4 of heat damage.

Troll is capable of becoming invisible 3x per day. If the troll attacks, then it is immediately visible again.

Hive Skull
Troll's head is rotten on the inside and is a permanent home to a swarm of insects. Affects as per the spell Insect Plague, but with a 20 ft. diameter (centered on the troll).

Electric Hide
Each blow on the troll causes a 1d6 lightning bolt to arc between the troll and anything within 10 ft. Save vs. Constitution for half damage.

The troll has huge bat wings that eneable it to fly at 30 ft. per round.

If this troll falls, the act of reforming will actually grow two complete new trolls. In addition, each point of damage that the troll regenerates contributes to a new troll forming on the back of the original. For every 20 points of damage that regenerates, a new troll with 20 hit points separates from the back of the original, and it will then continue to regenerate until it reaches full strength (the full hit points of the original). Note that it two will spawn new trolls. (This might lead to some interesting book-keeping for the Castle Keeper.)

Roll 1d12 to determine such gifts, or in response to a "Bestow Troll with Special Ability" spell (see Week of Trolls - Day Six - Troll Magic for more details).

Troll Special Abilities
  1. Iron Skin
  2. Fire Breath
  3. Acid Vomit
  4. Extra Arms
  5. Strength Glyph
  6. Speed Rune
  7. Forge Fire
  8. Invisibility
  9. Hive Skull
  10. Electric Hide
  11. Winged
  12. Parthenogenic


Week of Trolls - Day Four Supplemental - the Friends of the Trolls

In the Day Four entry on Ethnic Diversity of Trolls, it was mentioned that the Cloud Troll often is encountered with the Flying Wyrm as a mount, and that the Trider often is encountered with the Troll Spider as a companion. Below are the Castles and Crusades statistics on each.

The Flying Wyrm is a very large (60 ft long) winged serpent, distantly related to a wyvern.
Flying Wyrm
SIZE: Large
HD: 11(d10)
MOVE: 20 ft., 60 ft. (fly)
AC: 18
ATTACKS: 2 Claw (2d4) and Bite (2d10), or Sting (1d8)
SPECIAL: Darkvision 60 ft., Poison, SR8
INT: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
TYPE: Dragon
The Flying Wyrm is a variant of the Wyvern, specially bred to serve as flying mounts for Cloud Trolls. The Flying Wyrm is amazingly resistant to most magic (hence its SR8 rating).
Combat: The Flying Wyrm will attempt to use its claws and bite if facing a foe on the ground, or if mounted by a Cloud Troll. If fighting on its own, or fro the air, then it will attempt to use its tail sting, which is poisonous.
Poison: The tail sting of the Flying Wyrm requires the victim to make a constitution save, failure means that the victim takes 2d4 damage in the first round, and an additional 1d4 damage for the next two rounds, and the victim is paralyzed for 3d4 rounds. If the save is successful, all damage is halved, and no paralysis occurs.

The Troll Spider is a variation of a giant spider that was created by dark elf sorcerers via magical means. They have an unusual affinity for both Triders and also Trolls.
Troll Spider
SIZE: Medium
HD: 4(d8)
MOVE: 30 ft., 20 ft. (climb)
AC: 15
ATTACKS: Bite (1d6)
SPECIAL: Poison, Web, Regeneration, Dark Vision 60 ft., Immunity: Acid
INT: Animal
TYPE: Animal
Troll Spiders are quite aggressive, and often accompany Triders and Trolls. Troll Spiders seem to have a rudimentary understanding of commands issued from these creatures, as well as from Dark Elves.
Poison: The Troll Spider, upon biting, injects a poison that requires the victim to make a constitution save. If the save is a success, no further effects occur. If the save is a failure, then the victim takes an immediate 1d6 damage, and must make a second save the next round. If the second save is a failure, then the victim takes an additional 1d6 damage, and is paralyzed for 1d4 hours. Success in the second round means no additional damage. Some troll spiders (50%) can spit their poison up to 30 feet.
Web: The Troll Spider can create a web, as per the web spell, up to 8x per day.
Regeneration: The Troll Spider can regenerate as per a troll, at the rate of 2HP per round. If the Troll Spider falls, it will reform in 3d6 rounds. The Troll Spider's unique physiology mean that it is immune to acid attacks, and can only be kept from regenerating or reforming by flame attacks or burning the bodily remains.

Day Five is coming. I believe that the Week of Trolls is going amazingly well. This is so much fun, I may do something similar in the future for another one of my favorite monsters - the Bugbear.


May 20, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Four - Ethnic Diversity

As pointed out on the wikipedia Troll (Dungeons and Dragons) page, there are a large number of variant trolls. Here is a partial list.
Black troll
Also known as demon trolls, these horned trolls reside in the Abyss and possess powerful magical abilities.
Blood troll
Lawful evil red-skinned trolls who often serve devils.
Cave troll
Powerful, feral trolls that often live underground.
Crystalline troll
Charismatic troll with crystalline skin.
Deep Sea troll
These trolls have a primal connection to water. They terrorize the oceans and coastlines.
Desert troll
Chameleon-like, intelligent ambush hunters.
Fell troll
Huge, two-headed troll.
Fire troll
Immune to fire and acid.
Forest troll
Includes variant "muskwart".
Giant troll
Giant trolls are the result of trolls breeding with hill giants.
Gray troll
Having been nearly energy drained to death by undead creatures, these emaciated trolls forge strong ties to negative energy and have venomous spittle.
Ice troll
Cold-dwelling trolls.
Mountain troll
Massive trolls that prowl mountains. Includes variant Halruuan mountain troll.
Planetouched creatures descended from the mingling of trolls and demons.
Phaze troll
Mutated by great concentrations of magic or Underdark radiations, these trolls possess some magical powers and are more intelligent than their brethren.
Troll from the Far Realm with the pseudo-natural creature template.
Rock troll
Trolls with an affinity for earth, they possess natural camouflage in areas of stone. Rock trolls sometimes are found on the Elemental Plane of Earth.
These are aquatic cousins of the troll.
Slime troll
The bodies of these underground-dwelling trolls constantly secrete acid.
Spirit troll
Spirit trolls are a crossbreed of troll and invisible stalker.
Stone troll
Stone Trolls have rough, somewhat rocky skin and are generally native to mountain ranges
Tree troll
Small arboreal trolls created by magic gone awry.
Troll hunter
An ordinary, though more cunning than usual troll who is not satisfied with merely eating civilized beings but trains to hunt them relentlessly.
Two-headed troll
These creatures are a horrendous crossbreed of troll and ettin.
War troll
Trolls bred for war that form mercenary companies.
Wasteland troll
Found in mountains and badlands of the deserts.

While these trolls are certainly a good coverage it has come to my attention that there currently at least two subtypes of trolls missing. The Cloud Troll, and the Trider.

The Cloud Troll is a creature specially bred by magical means by Ogre Magi serving Vaprak. They were intended, originally, to wage ware against the holdings of Cloud Giants, and have several abilities that mimic a cloud giant. It is reported that Cloud Trolls have a natural affinity for a special breed of giant wyverns (known simply as flying wyrms), and have been known to use them as mounts. Cloud Trolls use weapons and armor, and so are definitely among the more advanced subspecies (see the article on Trolls and Technology).
Cloud Troll
SIZE: Large
HD: 9(d8)
MOVE: 40 ft.
AC: 17
ATTACKS: Bite (2d6), Weapon (+4 str dam)
SPECIAL: Fog, Mist, Levitate, Dark Vision 60 ft., Regeneration
INT: Ave.
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
TYPE: Giant

The Cloud Troll is encountered singularly if by random encounter or in a dungeon or wilderness setting. If encountered in a cloud realm, then there will be a group of 2-7 (1d6+1) on a mission against a particular cloud giant. In such a case, one of the cloud trolls will be a leader, with 11hd(d8) and spell caster ability as a level 4 cleric. In all cases, the cloud giant is almost always (75%) accompanied by his flying wyrm.
Combat: The Cloud Troll will prefer to fight with weapons, if available. He will employ either a great sword and shield (the great sword does 2d8dam +4 for STR; speed factor 8), and the shield will add +2 to the AC of the Cloud Troll. In certain circumstances, a great club will be substituted, but it is a two handed weapon (3d6 dam +4 for STR; speed factor 10).
Fog: The Cloud Troll can create a fog cloud as a 9th level Wizard casting the 2nd level Wizard spell. Usable 1x per day.
Mist: The Cloud Troll can create an obscuring mist as a 9th level Druid casting the 1st level Druid spell. Usable 3x per day.
Levitate: The Cloud Troll can levitate as a 9th level Wizard casting the 2nd level Wizard spell. Usable 3x per day.
Regeneration: The Cloud Troll regenerates as does his earthly cousins. 2HP regenerated per round. Damage suffered from fire or acid cannot be regenerated. The Cloud Troll that falls in combat, will reform 3d6 rounds later.

The Trider, on the other hand, is the results of an effort at deliberate cross-breeding (with the assistance of dark magic, etc). It seems that a renegade enclave of Drow Elves, tired of being on the losing end of things with aggressive neighbors. So, in the meantime, it seemed like it was a good idea to pump things up. This was done by taking the magical constructs known as Driders (part giant spider, part male drow elf), and cross-mixing it with the brutish Troll. The result is a large, barbaric, troll-spider hybrid, that has a number of unusual abilities of regeneration, and phasing through stone structures.
SIZE: Large
HD: 8(d8)
MOVE: 30 ft., 15ft. (climb)
AC: 18
ATTACKS: Bite (2d6), 2 Claws (2d4) or Weapon (+4 str dam)
SPECIAL: Web, Poison, Dark Vision 60 ft., Regeneration, SR3
INT: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
TYPE: Aberration
The Trider is a creature arising from magical manipulation of a troll and a giant spider. It appears as the upper torso of a troll (green, lanky, rubbery skin, etc.) attached to the body of a very big spider. The creature was originally created by renegade dark elves to counter driders, but some have escaped and now live on their own. They may be encountered singly or in small hunting groups. They will sometimes be accompanied by (50%) troll spiders (1d3 per trider), (30%) trolls (1-4) or (10%) dark elves (2-12 per trider).
Combat: The Trider will sometimes (50%) fight with weapons (favoring a great trident, 2d8dam +4 from STR; speed factor 10), or with his claws. Both bite and claw can deliver poison (see below). Triders fighting with weapons will usually wear bits of armor as well, giving a +2 to AC.
Web: The Trider is able to create a web as per the Web spell, 3x per day.
Poison: Whenever a successful Trider bite or claw attack is made, the victim must make a constitution save. If the save is successful, the victim is temporarily paralyzed for 1-2 rounds. If the save is failed, then the victim is paralyzed for 4d6 rounds, and takes 2d6 damage.
Regeneration: The Trider regenerates in a manner similar to Trolls. The Trider regenerates 4HP per round. If the Trider is slain, but not by flame or acid, then it reforms in 3d6 rounds.

Note that the statistics on both the Flying Wyrm and the Troll Spider appear in a supplemental posting.


May 18, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Three - Technology

It turns out that there is a quite a wide dichotomy concerning the conceptualization of trolls and Technology.

Evidently, many depictions of Trolls in the source material depict them as naked (or near-naked) savages that exist primitively, eating what they can catch, living where they can climb up into a safe hole, and communicating only rudimentarily, until some weaker but more intelligent or advanced of an ally race comes along to recruit the troll.
But trolls have the intelligence to use tools, armor, weapons, etc, and often collaborate with beings for whom these artifacts are commonplace. In fact, it is this depiction, or aspect, of the troll that todays entry is based on. Trolls and technology - whether it is purpose built arms and armor for the troll, or just the ability of trolls to pick up anything and use it, or some special magic items designed to augment the natural abilities of Monsieur Troll.

The troll usually seems quite capable on his own, thank you very much. And most of the source material is quite clear on whether they are depicting the troll as the nearly-naked savage (handsomely decked out only in loin cloth; relying on his wits(!), claws, and fangs for survival), or the more sophisticated beast, nearly civilized, wearing clothing and bearing arms. The troll description for Castles and Crusades, for instance, differentiates between the clothing wearing (very similar to the trolls in the Hobbit) fellows known as Hill Trolls, and the more usual (at least as far as D&D based trolls are concerned) naked fiend known as the River Troll. There is some basic combat difference (different hit dice) between the two, as well.

Angus McBride (rest his soul) depicted for MeRP's Cardolan supplement an absolutely wonderful image of an armored war troll. This is a good example of a simplistic, not-too-intelligent looking troll being shown with armor. He is still, however, carrying a basic spiked club as a weapon. This may be of choice (the great club is the favored weapon of Vaprak the Destroyer), or it may be because some armor has been scrounged, but not weapons suited to those huge hammy fists have been found...

In terms of physical attacks, the claw/claw/bite of the basic troll (an additional capability exists for the primitive river trolls of C&C - if the claws strike, then a special "rend" attack, for additional claw damage, is possible - nice) is pretty well off. Adding weapons, however, in a universe where magic is routinely captured into objects, is an added bonus. A troll with a sword of wounding for instance, would be a right nasty beast. How about a flaming battleaxe? Or a great morningstar that when it does a critical hit delivers a piercing critical as well as a blunt critical? Recall that the troll is a large creature, and as such its physical attacks have a speed factor of +6 (in 2nd edition AD&D style initiative systems). In light of this, how about a simple pair of spiked cesti of speed (speed factor 2, do 1d4+1+str, or 1d4+5 for our friend, Sir Troll). The truly ingenious dungeon keeper would hire some unscrupulous dark alfar mage to craft enchanted fang-tips for his trolls. Now that would be something to spring on the most jaded of players. "You suddenly find yourselves fighting a trio of particularly vile looking trolls, wearing bits of blood-encrusted chain armor, and with a magic dweomer emanating from the golden caps on their fangs..." My friends, now that is an encounter.

Additionally, armor is a big consideration as well for trolls. Nothing will make that regeneration count for more than having the armor class of the troll be raised from 16 to about 19. Sweet music to my ears. Again, other than just enhancing the (already formidable) combat statistics of our dear species, armor introduces the capacity for new abilities. What about a chain shirt that adds +2 to the AC, but also silences the troll and all around him for approx 5 feet. Not only would that enable the most diabolical of sneak attacks, but it would also have completely maddened the troll to the point of performing the most hideous atrocities. How about an enchanted breastplate (+3AC) that places a permanent blink effect on the troll? Nasty. How about a padded hauberk made of Nilbog hide? Look it up if it doesn't ring a bell. Here is one that I like- I came up with this a number of years back, and put it into a dungeon I designed. The players never came up against it, but ooooh, I really was hoping...
Blackiron Trollhelm - A magical helm, sized to fit large humanoids, adds +2AC for head attacks and defends against head criticals. Whenever the wearer is close (engaged in combat) with a foe, the helm transfers either one point of intelligence or one point of wisdom per round from the foe to the wearer of the helm. If the wearer of the helm is killed before the helm is removed, the loss of int and wis is permanent. Otherwise, the stats return at the rate of one point per hour (if either the wearer escapes alive, or if the helm is removed). Note that lost spell and skill slots in case of permanent int or wis lowering will be in effect until the stats are restored.

As debilitating as it would be for the player character to lose a couple of points of int or wis (or a combo), imagine the damage a troll with an int of 11 could do?

Finally there are items that are created to either augment troll natural abilities or to add additional ones, other than in the areas of arms or armor. A terrific example would be a magic item augmenting regeneration. Consider the Amulet of Vaprak - this magic amulet, if worn by a troll, adds to the troll's regeneration any additional points of damage that the troll scores against a human or demi-human foe by biting.

I suspect that I would not honor the memory of many players in previous campaigns if I did not bring up the case of Trolls In Technology. By this, I mean, magic items that I have devised over the years that feature trolls. One of my all time favorites are troll coins.
Troll Coins - these are slightly large, distinctive (in some way - perhaps design or thickness) gold coins that are found as part of a regular treasure. If these coins get completely wet for whatever reason (likely in a dungeon), then 3 rounds later they disappear and summon a troll that immediately attacks the bearer.

Having a small sack of a half dozen such coins is a wonderful thing to do, especially when there is a dwarven thief in the group.

May 17, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Two - Tactics

Although there is some interesting cultural information concerning trolls from other worlds (such as Glorantha, or Discworld), the basic orientation I will take is of a standard D&D type world, for a game from that family or RPGs (D&D, AD&D, D20, C&C, HackMaster, OSRIC, etc).

Readers of Gaming with Chuck will no doubt realize that I prefer gaming in the World of Greyhawk primarily, but the Forgotten Realms secondarily, if for not other reason that that these settings are designed to support FRPG situations, and also because of their familiarity. I actually prefer to do a bit of world design on my own, but even published worlds leave a lot to be developed, so I can strike a happy medium as a DM by using a published world (Greyhawk, Harn, Forgotten Realms, etc), and then developing a lot of filler for the world on my own. My ideas, presented here, on the tactics of trolls fill this area.

Tactics of trolls. Trolls are amazing beings. Ignore the regeneration bit, that was covered in Week One. Other than that, Trolls are natural climbers of the most astonishing ability (I believe that they have, according to an early write up, an 80% chance to scale sheer walls, and even higher for craggy surfaces). They can exist for extremely long periods with very little material resource. They are vicious, unrelenting, and nearly fearless in combat. They can adapt to and apparently mutate to accommodate nearly any sort of environ that they can be encountered in. Trolls have the animalistic cunning and enough intelligence to craft the most devilish of ambushes and trap-situations.

Tactically speaking, a creature with these attributes is incredible. A group of trolls could set up some sort of bait, with a nearby ring of ambush trolls hiding in some environ-appropriate concealing terrain. This might involve trolls hiding down a well, clinging to a ceiling, hiding under or inside furniture or wagons. Trolls can attack from having spent time (l-o-n-g time, if necessary) inside furniture, from a pool of quicksand, from underwater, or clinging to some overhead, out of the way, out of site hiding spot. Given their cunning ability to set traps and ambush victims, this might lead to some sort of distraction or bait being used to ferret out a party of adventurers.

Perhaps a lesser allied group of warriors (goblins, orcs, etc). this will create a loud ruckus, usually, and this is what the troll is counting on. The noise will alert the nearby trolls, who in a near torpor-like state, have been lying in wait in the most unlikely of places. Lets take a typical dungeon scene. An open (30' by 50') balcony area, overlooking a cliff down to a great underground river. The river is occasionally traffic'd by drow trading barges, but they are far below, and out of mind for the typical adventurer. Guarding some heaps of treasure on the balcony are a group of orc warriors (a dozen level 3 warriors, lead by a single level 5 chieftain). These orcs are bribed to stay here by the local trolls, who reward the orcs with baubles taken from the drow barges below (which are also ambushed by the trolls, from underwater). The trolls know that the orcs are not strong enough to keep the loot, and that adventurers or even other subterranean races will be attracted to the loot, fight the orcs, make a large noise, attract the trolls, and become lunch. I suppose that anything in the human or demi-human culinary tradition must taste better to a troll than orcs, goblins, gnolls, or any of the other lesser humanoid races they ally with.

In our example scenario, the orcs are found out by adventurers, attacked on the balcony, fought to near extinction, and create a large ruckus in the process. Now, a group of trolls in ambush attack. Some scurry up the impossibly high cliffs, creep over the balcony guard-wall, and attack. Some drop from the stalactite encrusted ceiling above the balcony, and some leap up out of the pit of offal that the orc guards have created in the process of living here for some time. This is a half dozen trolls, dropped in among the ranks of adventurers, spreading out and attacking all of them. By the third round, if the adventurers have not been able to recover and concentrate their attacks, the trolls will (as a group) begin regenerating 18 hit points per round (3 per troll). This is more than usually a couple of adventurers will average per round, so that the trolls will last for some time and should take at least one or more adventurers with them.

This brings up another tactical consideration of trolls. Trolls in the natural have three attacks (with approximately something around +6 or more per attack). These attacks are 2 claws (d4+4 damage each), and a shredding bite (d8+4 damage). Even if the troll turns in one of the claws for a weapon (perhaps a d8 sword, turning the d4+4 to sword damage +4, along with whatever magical bonus the sword may have - in our example above, imagine a troll with a drow blade), it still has another claw attack and a bite attack. If it turns in both claw attacks for a two handed weapon attack (perhaps mimicing the great spiked club of Vaprak, the deity of Trolls and Ogres), it might have a single attack of 2d10+4 damage. But it still retains the bite. What this means is multiple attacks. Multiple chances for a critical hit. If the troll has filth induced poison or special damage, then multiple chances to confer this to the target player.

I prefer to think of the rarest of instances where a troll gets three critical hits in one round (claw/claw/bite) as a troll trifecta. That will certainly make even a mid-level fighter step back a round or two and cry for help from the cleric.
Speaking of which, if you aren't using the critical hits from Arms Law/Claw Law, but rather something more conventional like the Good Hits/Bad Misses system from dragon magazine, perhaps it is useful to think of the claws as slashing attacks, and the bite as a piercing attack. It makes the critical hits from Monsieur Troll that much more interesting.

Additional Tactical concerns for a troll encounter would be either the trolls reliance on some sort of magical or shamanistic aid (perhaps from a troll shaman or cleric of Vaprak, or perhaps from some magical baubles that the troll has acquired from previous raids or ambushes). The troll certainly requires little in the way of healing (perhaps a charm or rune to enhance the regeneration?), already has a decent enough attack factor, does decent damage, is quite mobile in most physical locales, and is nearly fearless. The only area where magic seems needed would be in rendering some additional elements to the attack types - maybe adding a flaming or acidic or electrical component to the troll's claw attacks? Perhaps making the bite poisonous? Maybe even injecting some parasite creature that leaches off the life force of the victim? All good. All useful.

The troll uses its innate abilities (hide, climb, exist in a secure place near infinitely) to perform a debilitating ambush. As a group, there are multiple attacks, from the trolls, coming to multiple targets in the groups. There is a chance for critical with every attack (which do considerable damage). Even if the trolls are defeated, this is a strong foe for the DM to use. Even with very little outside influence this becomes a challenging encounter. Add an interesting setting, some compelling plot elements, perhaps a meta-encounter, and something that will engage the players, threaten the characters, and amuse the DM ensues.

Thank you, Mr. Troll, for providing such a good time.

May 16, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day One - Regeneration

The biological process of Regeneration is a wonderful thing that never ceases to amaze me. Why some creatures and not others? Surely this would be a wonderful trait in just about any prey creature, no? Sacrifice a limb to your predator, and away you go. Mostly, just like new, back to normal. Sometimes, not.

And then there is the troll. A creature who lives for combat and violence [Sidebar: I especially like the history of the Uz, or trolls, in the Runequest world. While they do not regenerate, as a rule, they are creatures who have come to embrace a sort of racial anger and hatred of all others - especially surface races such as men and elves. The anger comes from repeated cursing from the gods, which has left the Uz race to not breed true, to bear mutated children, and to remain stunted and stupid as a species. Certainly, these are all reasons to embrace violence. And professional wrestling.] and who inhabits forgotten locales of the world (above and below the surface) that are prone to accumulate wonders and treasures, will not doubt sooner or later have a run in with well armed adventurers of all sorts. These leads to what would otherwise be a nice meal, rather to an exercise in getting one's own limbs chopped off. Repeatedly. Over time, you could see how regeneration would be a useful survival trait here.

Most trolls (of the D&D and related family of games) have a standard sort of trollish regeneration that is something like 3 hit points per round, starting with the third round after damage is accumulated. Some of the subspecies of troll actually have higher rates of regeneration - how about 6 points per round, beginning with the fourth round. Or how about 10 points per round for a Fire Troll, whenever it is immersed in lava or magma. I'll take two of those, wrapped for travel, please.

If you remove a body part of a troll (easy to do with a Sword of Sharpness, a Vorpal Weapon, or certain Lawn Implements), it will eventually begin regenerating on its own. Several versions of several games have had different points of view on this, but I like the fact that every arm and leg will grow into a new troll, or find a way to rejoin it's sibling limbs.

Does being regenerative lead the troll to be more fearless? Sure having your hand burnt or slashed or chewed off hurts, but you can always grow a new piece. This leads me to an interesting point. Using a firebrand or acidic blade to fight a troll is all well and good, but it does not keep the parts from regenerating. Sure it might slow the process down, but unless you completely destroy the inanimate parts with fire or acid, then the scorched or burnt parts will eventually rot off, and the clean tissue underneath will begin regenerating again. It is a beautiful machine, the troll.

As dungeon denizens, I can think of none better. They have a (admittedly rudimentary) intelligence - enough to be given items to occasionally use (armor, weapons), they can be crossbred with any number of other species (giants, ogres, goblinoids, man, etc) for interesting results, and is terribly receptive to magical mutation. Perhaps all of these traits trace back to the regeneration ability? The implications are certainly there. And how do you starve a troll? They will eat anything. Anything. In times of desperation or hunger, presumably this means torn and shredded parts of themselves. And after eons of living in some stony vault deep beneath a mad wizard's tower, the troll might (having consumed his own limbs many hundreds of times over) occasionally cry out to dark forces of the night in desperation or madness. More on that later...

In practical terms, I prefer to just keep a running total of the damage on the troll, where I add in the damage done each round by the players, then subtract the regeneration bit. If a troll were allied to somewhat smarter beings, they might employ it somehow where it could bottleneck a trapped foe, such that only one or two of the trapped party might attack the troll, giving its regeneration a sustained chance at keeping the troll alive long enough to harass the party.

One thing to point out is that the presence of the dreaded grey troll leads us to presume that not only Physical damage can be regenerated by the troll's amazing physique. The grey troll is what results when a normal troll is subjected to the level drain (by undead, or other) and is drained to the point of death. Later on, the whole body regenerates back the lost "part" - soul, spirit, lifespark, animus - yet is now not entirely sane nor of its own faculties. The regenerated troll understands enough that it realizes that it has died - at the hand of some supernatural being - and wants to gain vengeance since it (the troll) has now regenerated back to "life".
Magic Item - Trollblood Mail - this is a magic armor made by a certain tribe of Duergar to aid in their ongoing battle against a large clan of trolls. The mail shirt is a +2 hauberk of chainmail that magically sizes to fit any humanoid torso that attempts to wear it. Once worn, the magic of the shirt begins to affect the wearer, however. The wearer starts gaining a +1 to his constitution, once per week (cumulative). With this bonus, the physiology of the wearer begins to approach that of a troll - faint greyish-green rubberiness of the skin, the thickening and darkening of the blood, etc. Once the constitution reaches 21, the change is complete and the character has some outward trollish marks. Also, a regenerative ability is gained, of 1 HP per 10 minutes - which is usually associated with a constitution of 25, but is conferred by the magic in the mail. This item is usually only reserved for the most devout and dedicated of duergar fighters, as the effects are not reversible (nor is the shirt removable) without a wish.

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May 15, 2008

Trolls - what wondrous beasts


You know, the regenerating FRPG version, not the fairy tale "live under the bridge and harass commuters" version - are such a wonderful idea. As far back as the 1974 version of "Monsters and Treasures" (volume 2 of the original D&D), trolls were an integral part of the monster hit list for fantasy roleplaying.

Lets take a look, for a second, at the entry from "Monsters and Treasures" for this venerated beast -
TROLLS: Thin and rubbery, loathsome Trolls are able to regenerate, so that beginning the third melee round after one is hit it will begin to repair itself. Regeneration is at the rate of 3 hit points per turn. Even totally sundered Trolls will regenerate eventually, so that unless they are burned or immersed in acid they will resume combat when they have regenerated to 6 or more hit points. In strength they are about equal to an Ogre, but as they use only their talons and fangs for weapons, only one die of damage is scored when they hit an opponent.

This early view gets some of the essentials right (in fact, it established them) - the trolls are thin and rubbery. They are loathsome. They fight with fangs and talons. They regenerate. Let me stress that last point - the troll regenerates. I think that many gamers pass this over as merely a way to extend the combat effectiveness of the troll, and forget some of the fun aspects of adventuring and dungeoneering this could lead to. But more on that later. This view of trolls is somewhat unique - for it differs from trolls in Norse legend, and it certainly differs from the image of trolls in Tolkien. Again, more on these topics later.

One of the nice things about trolls, evidently, is that their basic makeup renders them very susceptible to magical alteration. A source of strange energy is apparently all it takes to create a new subspecies of troll. In fact, from the vast domain of official 2nd Edition AD&D monster pubs, we have the following types of trolls (other than the normal troll, which is similar to He described above): Desert Troll, Fire Troll, Freshwater Troll, Giant Troll, Gray Troll, Ice Troll, Legacy Troll, Phaze Troll, Saltwater Troll, Snow Troll, Spectral Troll, Stone Troll, and the Two-Haded Troll. And this is not even getting into the multitude of Troll Types and Troll Variants espoused by v3.x of AD&D.

For the next week, I will do one troll posting a day, where I discuss attributes of the trolls, or some subvariant of troll. Here on Gaming with Chuck, it is the "Week of the Troll".


May 9, 2008

Castles and Crusades - Campaign Update

Castles and Crusades campaign continues last night, to the gleeful delight of the Castle Keeper (who is writing this from deep within his fortress of rectitude), and the mild amusement of the players.

First, a list to earlier posts (from oldest to newest, in order) of the campaign updates for the game so far.

Last night, the players, still in the Glacial Grotto of the Ice Hunter Goblins, pressed on ever deeper, looking for the portal that leads to the Fortress of the ShadowRose in Keoland. Along the way, in the Glacial Grotto, the group met up with acid-spitting Ice Spiders (the small variety), fire breathing Lava Lizards, and finally Ogres.

There was a little trouble in jumping across a 10 foot pit, but it got worked out. Then there was the instance where a magical crown was found, and the group decided to not bother, once Gilmore started describing its history ("created by a vengeful Efreet lord", "designed to kill mortals", "all will perish", etc - the normal stuff).

This led to the intimidation and "intensive questioning" of a goblin guard - a process that derived some sense of direction to delve deeper into the dungeon. At which point, it was time to shut the doors on a defensible chamber, spike them shut, and hole up for some sleep.

Next time, it is deeper into the dungeon, where the group will no doubt encounter some undead, more undead, and even more undead, and some really big lava crabs.

The Ice Spiders are still out there, my friends. Still lurking and awaiting their chance to make you their next frozen dinner.

May 8, 2008

Most Common Monsters Ever

Humans make the most ubiquitous monsters ever. Good old human beings. They exist in just about every setting (sci fi, fantasy, etc), probably because all of these fictional worlds are created by human beings. If someone knows of a fictional world not imagined by a human being, please pass it on to me.

I do think that some notable exceptions to worlds without humans are those that have human equivalents - like anthropomorphic animals, or human-analogy robots, etc.

Humans are everywhere, they have every sort of motivation, they have access to all of the weapons and technology and magic that the players can access (usually), and they often have access to the same game abilities as player characters. [I would guess that some exceptions would be in something like Vampire, where humans are definitely below the level of the monsters. But no sensible gamer would associate with Vampire players anyway. Sheesh.]

Now, keep in mind, that although they are common and quite flexible, I would turn down humans every day of the week for orcs. Much cooler (see below posts on the king of monsters - the orc).


minas tirith

This is a very cool project to build Minas Tirith out of matchsticks.

This, once painted, would make really very nice wargaming terrain, but I think it might be rough getting some 12 figure cavalry units to stand up on that hillside.


May 6, 2008

Bilbo of the Gate People

Bill Gates still gaming, after all these years.

Thank you, Onion.


Mutants and Death Ray Guns

Mutants and Death Ray Guns

All the mighty goodness that was Gamma World is brought together in this seemingly wonderful set of miniature rules. The PDF has a list of suitable figures that are available, as well. I might just have to give these a try. Usually I try to avoid games that require collecting figures that aren't universally useful, but this seems almost too good to pass by.

And when I say Gamma World, I don't mean the d20 poop put out by Sword and Sorcery - although I am sure it is a very fine game, it ain't the classic. Which isn't quite dead, as it seems to still stir up some interest and controversy on the web, now 30 years after its first publication (TSR 1978). Here are some links that might be of interest...

My own personal take on the whole thing is that the first and second editions were pretty good. The third edition (with the ACT Table) had GREAT stuff - the writeups on mutations, organizations, and equipment were so very very cool - but the ACT was a total mudpie of a gaming mechanic that it was not playable as presented. BTW - I feel the same way about Marvel Superheroes. Totally unplayable (as if any superhero game other than Champions would get a thumbs up from me . . . well maybe DC heroes, but it was largely Champions derivative). So, if you can get the books, run second edition rules, or perhaps even the modern Sword and Sorcery D20 rules, but use the great artwork, feel, and write ups from third edition. Heck, even the maps and stuff in that version were really cool. In the meantime, I will take a look into MADS and see about that miniatures list...

Yexil Ho!!


Hypertext d20 SRD - online

Hypertext d20 SRD

This is a great web resource. Currently I am not running a d20 game, per se, but I can still recognize that this is an incredible resource on the web.

I wonder how much of the goodness that is d20 (in terms of pervasiveness, if not in terms of "old school" feel) will survive the move by WoTC to 4th edition. I hope that many of the folks that have resources like this will keep them accessible, for the hordes of players that will keep with d20.

Its almost enough to have me consider 3rd ed. following the C&C game.



May 2, 2008

Orcs - Recommended

The first two parts of this series:
1. Orcs - Considered
2. Orcs - Defended

Made the case that Orcs are not only popular and useful, but a good opponent for adventurers.

I will go one step further and recommend that you use them in a game, very soon.

First, there are a lot of orc resources available. If you don't have the miniatures to use, then these paper figures are an excellent resource. As are these, by the same artist. If you would like to include allies for your orcs, then there are also goblin figures and kobold figures.

Second, there are great online dungeon and treasure generators. If you want excellent, free, maps of dungeons and castles - and any other encounter location - then you could do much worse than to check the online Map archive at the Wizards of the Coast website.

Now, take your dungeon, with treasures. Add some traps (difficulty to find and disarm appropriate to the level of the scenario, and also to the likelihood of a thief being with the players). More if you like them. A couple of magic fountains, and some interesting dungeon flora and fauna (fungus with magic effects; natural dungeon dwellers such as bats, giant ticks, stirges, or other party guests) should round out things nicely. Help from AEG's Toolbox, or the (most excellent) 1st Ed. AD&D DM's Guide, or the new Engineering Dungeons title from Troll Lord games should all help.

Once the basic environment is set, then you can add your orcs. Lots of them. In interesting and diabolical combinations. Have a good half dozen or more per populated room (about 50-70% of the rooms should have some sort of challenge in it - either a monster, some orcs, or a puzzle/trap). Make the Orcs have a level approximately 1-2 HD lower than the players. If you need lesser creatures, then a subservient tribe of orcs, or lower caste orcs, or some of the lesser beings - such as goblins or kobolds can be used.

When placing the orcs in the dungeon rooms, and setting up the architecture of the rooms, consider it a challenge. The Orcs aren't stupid, and are quite martial minded, and they would set up all sorts of defensive mechanisms. So you have a few trapped hallways? The orcs should know the way around. They can dig (in a fashion) and if taking up a semi-permanent residence in a dungeon complex, they would set all sorts of traps, ambush points, and escape tunnels. In other words make it a Challenge for the players.

Example Room:

43 - This room once served as the meditation room for the priestess of lolth who built the dungeon. It contains some lovely tapestries on the wall with Drow artwork and motiffs in the designs (very heavy, but worth approx 900gp to a collector). The room has a stone gargoyle carved in the north wall, with a fountain flowing out. The water in the fountain is magical, and will serve to immaculately clean any metal implement (and restore it to perfect working condition - sharp, repaired, shined) that is placed in it. In the room, seated at a heavy wooden table, in chairs that were once upholstered, are four orc warriors {4HD, 25hp, AC16, +6 to hit, broadsword (init+8, dam2d4+3)}. Around the upper level of the room, on the east and west walls there are small eyeslits that can be viewed from the gallery level of the third level of the dungeon (rooms 32 and 34). There might be anywhere between 4 and 8 goblin archers {1HD, 5hp, AC13, +2 to hit, short bow (init+6, ROF2, dam1d6)} on each side. In a hollow compartment of one of the table legs there is a potion of heroism and a map through the ankheg maze on level 6.

The Heroes in the game are tough enough. So when designing a challenging adventure, make it nasty, make it fun, and make it surprising. I recommend the orcs. If they aren't enough, toughen them up with magic, bugbears, or trolls. Yeah, trolls. ooooooh.....


Campaign Update - Up the Mountain, Down the Glacier, Out the Other Side

The Castles and Crusades campaign, set in the World of Greyhawk, continued last night with a great little game. We only had two players show up (Elliott and Marcy), but I hope we all had as good a time as I did.

So the players traveled, once they cleared out the Norker bear-cult nest, on to the Dwarven city of Kreftheim. Analise (cleric of Ehlonna) is now firmly a member of the party, with her two followers (Byron, starry-eyed bard; and Hilda Ironbottom, reformed Duergar fighter). There they met the lovely wife of Nords (one of the party members, a Dwarven Fighter of no small renown), and the High Priest of Clangeddin Silverbeard. From these two, it was clear that the Dwarven Kingdom is in turmoil - with the Old King wanting to keep up good relations with the new Baroness (that the players are questing for), and the young Dwarves (swayed by Great Kingdom gold) who want to sever ties with the Humans, and deliver them up to the Great Kingdom.

In the turmoil, the players left the city, under cover of darkness, and rescued one Viney Badeloch, along the way. Viney has knowledge of where the Kreftring is - the heirloom treaty ring that the players are questing for. It seems as if the ring has been stolen, and taken (by a Goblin warchief and his body guard) through a gate clear across the continent to Keoland.

Following Viney up the mountain, to the base of the glacier, the players find a cave, the entrance to the Glacial Grotto of the Ice Hunter Goblins. Once down in the cave, they uncover a grand dungeon (obviously not built by these primitive goblins), with a thriving subterranean eco-system. Viney remembers little of his trip through here (he was on the run) but does recall numerous undead and vast plains of edible fungus. The first tentative explorations by the players meet with combative goblins and ice-hunter cats.

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May 1, 2008

Sigh - too much french, not enough elf

It appears that I was too hasty in comparing the Elves to the French. After all, the French have such great French Military Gear.

They have all of the tools necessary to fight.

They are up to date on all of the greatest arms.

It appears that elves only look good. Sort of. Even the Dark Elves.


Elves. Heh.

French Military History

Is there a good example of Elven military victory? The most in depth fantasy history out there is the collection of works by Tolkien describing the history of Middle Earth. In almost every case, the elves are great at snatching a defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Much like the French. Lets consider - both have a lovely, lyrical language. Both have a love for and appreciation of all things epicurean. Both favor artistic expression over martial prowess.

So, Elves = French?

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