03 February 2019

Religion of the Cleric: 4th Level Spells

Continuing my discussion of how Clerical magic can help us understand his religious beliefs. In this post I come across some interesting implications. The Deity which the Cleric worships may be the creator of life in the universe.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Animate Dead
This spell allows the caster to make animated, enchanted skeletons or zombies from normal skeletons or dead bodies within range. These animated undead creatures will obey the cleric until they are destroyed by another cleric or a dispel magic spell. For each level of the cleric, one Hit Die of undead may be animated. A skeleton has the same Hit Dice as the original creature, but a zombie has one Hit Die more than the original. Character levels are not counted (the remains of a 9th level thief would be animated as a zombie with 2 HD). Animated creatures do not have any spells, but are immune to sleep and Cham effects and poison.
     Lawful clerics must take care to use this spell only for good purpose. Animating the dead is usually a Chaotic act.

This seems to be explicitly an evil spell, or in other words a spell used by those who fight against the Church. This is clearly a desecration of the dead, meaning the Church respects the dead and generally wants to leave them to 'rest in peace.' What constitutes a good purpose, and how would a good Cleric justify the use of this spell? Possibly as guardians of an artifact or tomb or some other sacred ground. I really can't think of any other 'good purpose' for a cleric to use this spell.

Create Water
With this spell, the cleric summons forth an enchanted spring from the ground or a wall. The spring will flow for an hour, creating enough water for 12 men and their mounts (for that day, about 50 gallons). For each of the cleric’s levels above 8, water for twelve additional men and mounts is created.

This is direct evidence that the Church and the Deity worshiped by the Cleric gives life to supplicants. Water is not just representative of life, but also a literally necessary to sustain life. with this a 36th level cleric could provide water for 348 men and 348 horses with a single spell, and he could do this nine time in a single day if necessary. A single high level cleric could provide water for an army in a desert; this is very reminiscent of Moses and the Israelites.

Cure Serious Wounds
This spell is similar to a cure light wounds spell, but will cure one creature of 4-14 points of damage (2d6 + 2). 
     The reverse of this spell, cause series-wound, causes 4-14 points of damage to any creature or character touched (no Saving Throw). The caster must make a normal Hit roll to cause the serious wound.

The Church is a source of healing to believers. The Cleric doesn't just preach a message of healing, but literally heals the wounded. And the enemies of the Church will do the opposite. Evil Clerics will bring pain and injury instead. There is stark contrast between these two philosophies.

Dispel Magic
This spell destroys other spell effects in a cubic volume of 20’ x 20’ x 20‘. It does not affect magic items. Spell effects created by a caster (whether cleric, magic-user, or elf) of a level equal to or lower than the caster of the dispel magic are automatically and immediately destroyed. Spell effects created by a higher level caster might not be affected. The chance of failure is 5% per level of difference between the casters. For example, a 7th level cleric trying to dispel a web spell cast by a 9th level magic-user would have a 10% chance of failure.

Interestingly this implies that the Church not only has greater power than secular magic-users, but is also opposed to them. This spell does not specify any type or class of magic that is dispelled; all magic within range is affected indiscriminately. Apparently the Church claims to have the right to choose where and when magic is allowed to be practiced. I would envision a dogmatic enforcement of a ban against non-clerical magic in most urban centers.

Neutralize Poison
This spell will make poison harmless either in a creature, a container (such as a bottle), or on one object (such as a chest). It will even revive a victim slain by poison if cast within 10 rounds of the poisoning! The spell will affect any and all poisons present at the time it is cast, but does not cure any damage (and will thus not revive a poisoned victim who has died of wounds). 
     The reverse of this spell, create poison, may be cast, by touch, on a creature or container. It cannot be cast on any other object. A victim must make a Saving Throw vs. Poison or be immediately slain by the poison. If cast on a container, the contents become poisoned; no Saving Throw applies, even for magical containers or contents (such as potions). Poisoning is usually a Chaotic act.

So this again reinforces the idea of a message of healing. I think it also speaks to an idea of purification. Something that was unclean or dangerous now becomes purified and harmless. and the reverse for evil Clerics reinforces the idea that the enemies of the Church bring death to others.

Protection from Evil 10’ Radius
This spell creates an invisible magical barrier all around the caster, extending 10’ in all directions. The spell serves as protection from “evil” attacks (attacks by monsters of an alignment other than the caster’s). Each creature within the barrier gains a + 1 to all Saving Throws, and all attacks against those within are penalized by -1 to the attacker’s Hit roll while the spell lasts.
     In addition, “enchanted” creatures cannot attack those within the barrier hand-to-hand. Enchanted creatures can attack with missile or magical attacks however. An “enchanted” creature is any creature that is magically summoned, animated or controlled (as with a charm spell) or can only be hit by a magical weapon. Creatures that can be hit by silver weapons are not enchanted.
     If anyone within the barrier attacks an enchanted creature, the barrier will no longer prevent the creature from attacking hand-to-hand, but the bonus to Saving Throws and penalty to Hit rolls will still apply.

The Deity worshiped by the Cleric provides protection to his followers. Also enchanted creatures are enemies of the Church. Because the extra effect against enchanted creatures only applies if the Cleric doesn't attack implies a generally pacifistic Deity. He will protect his followers as long as they act peacefully.

Speak with Plants
This spell enables the cleric to talk to plants as if they were intelligent. A simple favor may be requested, and will be granted if it is within the plants’ power to understand and perform. This spell may be used to allow the cleric and party to pass through otherwise impenetrable undergrowth. It will also allow communication with plantlike monsters (such as treants).

This reinforces the Deity as one connected with the natural world. It also implies that plant life is sentient (though not necessarily sapient), and can voluntary move. Very reminiscent to the forest which traveled a great distance in The Lord of the Rings. In any case the Deity worshiped isn't exclusive to Humans, but also has a connection with the mundane plants and animals of the world. this may imply  the Deity created the world or this connection might come from another source.

Sticks to Snakes
This spell turns 2-16 sticks into snakes (detailed below). The snakes may be poisonous (50% chance per snake). They obey the cleric’s commands, but will turn back into sticks when slain or when the duration ends.

This more than any other spell so far implies a power over life itself. The Deity, and therefore his followers, can cause an inanimate object to come to life(if only briefly). This requires a complete restructuring of atoms and molecules, and maybe the creation of new atoms that would be present in a living snake, but not in a stick of wood. This is very interesting. I think this spell really requires us to think about who this Deity is and the source of his power/abilities. It is extremely likely that if this Deity did not create the world, he very possibly created life itself.

26 January 2019

Shadows of Esteren Road Map

I ran Shadows of Esteren for the first time last night. the system really is as simple as it appears, and combat is extremely deadly. The party(3 PCs) got the drop on a guy in a cave and killed him before he could react to defend himself. The PCs started in the town of Smarag, where they were tasked by their mentor with instigating rumors of children disappearing in a nearby village. Turned out one of the villagers had gone mad and was dressing up in wolf pelts, killing the local livestock as a cover for his kidnapping of the children, and then cooking and eating those children. He hid all the evidence in a nearby cave, where the party camped out and saw him enter his lair.

So to help me in the future I did a quick digitization of the original map so that I could know distances traveled on the roads, the result is below.

09 January 2019

Plans for Threshold

So I have finished finally detailing Threshold. Right now I just have the basic details filled in; the only people with names are those mentioned in canon sources, so most of the town is just Farmer and wife, or Innkeeper, etc. I am not going to make an actual map of the town yet, first I want to map the first 3 levels of a megadungeon under the town. I also am going to continue my thoughts from here and work on a series of posts exploring the purposes of a map in an RPG and how to effectively map urban areas. After I know exactly what I want from a town map I will come back to Threshold. Below I have provided a few screenshots of different ways to look at the town based on the current data.

Displays what each building is used for; majority of the new town is homes, significant number of inns and taverns scattered throughout the town, most workshops centered near southern wall, and concentration of shops along a single street in new town have given it the name of merchant street.

Different guilds of the town; merchants appear to be most numerous, thieves have extended control of island, and the hostliers also are a large guild given the number of Inns and Taverns

Distribution of population in the town, seems to be fairly random, I was hoping the population would be denser on the island

A sort of Height map of the city, the island and the inner town definitely have taller buildings

Materials of buildings, most of the stone buildings are old and left over from earlier settlements, this is also true of many of the mixed stone and wood building, and original stone building or the ruins of one were expanded with wooden structures. Brick is a newer source of building material, hence its rarity. Most of the town is made of wood because of the easy supply available from the nearby forests and Threshold is a center for shipment of lumber downstream.

Now that I know what is where in Threshold I can begin to design the megadungeon. My idea for it is this: underneath the town are ruins of an older city, and parts of it remain as cellars of some of the old buildings or buried just under the surface, so there are these disconnected buildings beneath the current town, and some of them have surviving connections to an old sewer or canal system below the ruins. The ruined buildings will act as the 1st level of the megadungeon, and the sewer system will be the 2nd level. From the the second level there will be a few select passages to the 3rd level, which will be a classic maze-like megadungeon. I also have a few ideas for lower levels, and I am thinking of connecting the lower levels to caves in the hills nearby inhabited by humanoid tribes.

Areas mentioned or detailed beneath Threshold in canon sources are caves and canal beneath the juggling ogre from Trouble in Threshold, a dungeon beneath the old mill from the Expert set, a maze of tunnels made by Purple worms from the Expert set, the cellar under the Crossed Swords tavern leads to old sewers from Night's Dark Terror, and the possibility of old Traladaran/Hutakkan ruins of Lugsid or Zadreth from Hail the Heroes. Other areas I want to detail for the 1st level of the dungeon include ruins of an old villa under the adventurers guildhouse which I have already made a basic layout for, and catacombs under the churchyard.

07 January 2019

Town Generator

I've been working on populating the town of Threshold in Karameikos, and at first couldn't decide which businesses should be in the town and what ratio should be business to home. So I have finally come to a solution which satisfies me for now. I created a tool using excel based on information from A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe and a few other random places. I based the numbers for adventurers on Alexis Smolensk's demographics posts. I made it so you can easily change the population of a city, both human and demi-human, to get results for different cities. This will make it much easier when I want to detail other cities I am planning to work on eventually.

Excel Town Generator

01 January 2019

Being a Better DM

So, recently at the Save vs Poison blog, there was a post describing a failed game session. I want to talk about the discussion that has happened around the post both in the comments and here and here.

In the comments of the post, there is continual mention of different editions and the different play experience of different games or editions of D&D. I feel like everyone is focusing on the wrong thing. The author of the post talks about his players not adjusting to a different playstyle because of the edition he is running. My question is, why is the playstyle different if you are still the one running the game and it's D&D? A DM should be running the game in the same manner no matter what rule set they are using. D&D is D&D, why should it feel different if you use different numbers or dice to roll to hit or damage? The style or feel of a game should only change if you change genres; if you go from playing D&D to a horror or sci-fi game there should be a noticeable difference. As the DM you are in control of how the game feels, the impression the players get from the game, and just which rules to use when. When running a Star Wars game, the game should feel like Star Wars and be DMed the same whether using the d6 rules, the d20 rules, the the new Fantasy Flight games; it's should be immediately recognizable as Star Wars. The same goes for D&D, or Call of Cthulhu. It doesn't matter whether you are using Pathfinder or BX or 5e, D&D should feel the same when the same DM is running the game. The system is subject to the DM, if you want to run in an 'old-school' style then you should be doing that in every D&D game. If the players don't like playing a different system, that means the DM is changing how he runs the game. I agree with Alexis when he says that it is the DMs fault when a bad session happens, but we need to learn from that and be proactive in solutions. Don't blame the failure on the rules. The players enjoy most of your games, right? So if you change systems, but are maintaining genre and the base conceits of the game, then the factor which was unenjoyable was how you ran the game. Figure out what you did different and learn from it. If the players are exhibiting behaviors you want to avoid it is because that is what they learned from games in the past. Figure out how you can encourage different behavior though natural play. Every DM should always be working to better themselves, and never assume they know 'how to DM.' It may be easy to begin your career as a DM, but it can be extremely difficult to measurably improve. A good DM is constantly analyzing their game sessions, looking for mistakes and areas of possible improvement because it is the DMs responsibility to run a good game.

22 December 2018

The Religion of the Cleric: 3rd Level Spells

Continuing my look at religion based on the spell list of the Cleric, a lot of this analysis may seem repetitive; I am trying to look at what each spell says about the theology of the religion independently. Thus, when a spell is similar to a previous one they will have similar message.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Continual Light
This spell creates light as bright as daylight in a spherical volume of 30‘ radius. It lasts until a dispel magic or continual darkness spell is cast upon it. Creatures penalized in bright daylight (such as goblins) suffer the same penalties within this spell effect. If cast on an opponent’s eyes, the victim must make a Saving Throw vs. Spells or be blinded until the effect is removed. This spell may be cast either in an area or upon an object.

This spell shows the literal manifestation of a message of light and casting out darkness. Juxtaposed with this is the role of the cleric as a Van Helsing like vampire hunter. The effects of this spell are equivalent to daylight, allowing the cleric to cast out undead and other 'evil' creatures(like goblins) from their dens of darkness. Another implication is architectural. The temples and churches of this religion would be full of light, unlike many of their medieval counterparts.

The reverse of this spell, continual darkness,creates a completely dark volume of the same size. Torches, lanterns, and even a light spell will not affect it, and infravision cannot penetrate it. If cast on a creature’s eyes, the creature must make a Saving Throw vs. Spells or be blinded until the spell is removed.

The effects of this spell implies a priest who does not require light to worship their god, in fact they require darkness in order to worship. This spell not being affected by the standard light spell implies that darkness is more powerful than light. Also the negation of infravision is interesting. this means that no part of the electromagnetic spectrum can penetrate this darkness, how this might affect the physics of the local area I'm not sure.

Cure Blindness
This spell will cure nearly any form of blindness, including those caused by light or darkness spells (whether normal or continual).It will not, however, affect blindness caused by a curse.

This spell promotes a message of healing, of bringing sight to the blind, very reminiscent of the New Testament and Christianity in general

Cure Disease
This spell will cure any living creature of one disease, such as those caused by a mummy or green slime. If cast by a cleric of 11th level or greater, this spell will cure lycanthropy.

This spell also promotes a message of healing. The curing of lycanthropy tells us this a religion of men. It is about bringing out the good nature of humanity and suppressing the bestial. Civilization is greater than the Wilderness, and this religion teaches how to no longer be beasts and become civilized men.

The reverse of this spell, cause disease, infects the victim with a hideous wasting disease unless a Saving Throw vs. Spells is made. A diseased victim has a -2 penalty on all Hit rolls. In addition, the victim’s wounds cannot be magically cured, and natural healing takes twice as long as usual.The disease is fatal in 2-24 days unless removed by a cure disease spell.

The ability of the evil priest to cause disease shows us that the enemies of the Church spread pain and suffering. Also because Lawful Priests may use this spell rarely implies that their Deity also is willing to punish his enemies.

Growth of Animal
This spell doubles the size of one normal or giant animal. The animal then has twice its normal strength and inflicts double normal damage. It may also carry twice its normal encumbrance. This spell does not change an animal’s behavior. Armor Class,or hit points, and does not affect intelligent animal races or fantastic creatures.

A connection to nature seems to be inherent to the Deity worshiped and the teachings of the Church. This implies that the priest, or men in general, are meant to be a steward of the common animals and is meant to use them productively.

Locate Object
This spell allows the cleric to sense the direction of one known object. It gives no information about distance. A common object(such as “stairs leading up”) can be detected;otherwise, the cleric must know exactly what the object looks like (size, shape,color, etc.). The spell will not locate a creature.

The effects of this spell seem to pretty straight forward. An omniscience of the Deity worshiped is implied here.

Remove Curse
This spell removes one curse, whether on a character, item, or area. Some curses - especially those on magic items - may only be temporarily removed for a short time,DM’s discretion, requiring a dispel evil spell for permanent effect (or possibly a remove curse cast by a high level cleric or magic user).

This spell allows the cleric to relieve the suffering of others and/or counter the power of the enemies of the Deity.

The reverse of this spell, curse, causes a misfortune or penalty to affect the victim.Curses are limited only by the caster’s imagination, but if an attempted curse is too powerful, it may return to the caster(DM’s discretion)! Safe limits to curses may include: -4 penalty on Hit rolls; -2 penalty on Saving Throws; prime requisite reduced to normal. The victim may make a Saving Throw vs. Spells to avoid the curse.

This is another example of the powers which the enemies of the Church have to bring misfortune on others. Also implied here is the ability of the lawful Church to punish its enemies.

Speak with the Dead
By means of this spell, a cleric may ask 3 questions of a deceased spirit if the body is within range. A cleric of up to 7th level may only contact spirits recently dead (up to 4 days). Clerics of level 8-14 have slightly more power (up to 4 months dead), level 15-20 even more (up to 4 years dead). No time limits apply to clerics of 21st level or greater. The spirit will always reply in a tongue known to the cleric, but can only offer knowledge of things up to the time of its death. If the spirit’s alignment is the same as the cleric’s, clear and brief answers will be given; however, if the alignments differ, the spirit may reply in riddles.

From this spell we learn quite a bit about the afterlife. The spirit is connected to the body in some way for at least four days after death. And even after this time has passed, the Deity worshiped still has power over deceased spirits, enough at least that they can cause the spirit to be summoned by the clergy of the Church. Based on the attitudes of alignment we can assume that any beliefs held in life carry over into the afterlife; grudges against individuals and the worldly knowledge of the spirit remain same as at death.

This spell allows any one weapon to inflict 1-6 additional points of damage per attack(like a magical staff of striking). The weapon will inflict this extra damage for as long as the spell lasts. The bonus does not apply to Hit rolls. If cast on a normal weapon, creatures affected only by magic weapons may be hit, for 1-6 points of damage per strike (regardless of the weapon; only the magical damage applies in such cases).

This spell is a direct method fro the servants of the Deity to harm the enemies of the church. This god is not bashful about declaring war against his enemies or granting special dispensation to his clerics to punish them.

18 November 2018

Wandering Monsters and Quantum Mechanics

"rules for wandering monster movement in B/X D&D—there aren't any. While player food, light and movement through the dungeon are all tracked meticulously, all of that is hand-waved for monsters.

Monsters (or townspeople) just appear when a wandering monster roll says they should, and nobody worries about their precise location before that. Their precise inventory doesn't matter either, not until they're dead and examined more closely.

Until it actually matters, most of this stuff is completely undefined, held behind a "curtain of vagueness," until it matters."

I ran across this and it got me thinking about quantum mechanics and Schrodinger's cat. The wandering monster is a better analogy/explanation than a cat in a box. This just clicked for me, I guess you could say others have already explained this with the quantum ogre to some degree, but I'm thinking more in terms or actual physics and less gaming. The common presence of wandering monsters in old school games is the clearest way of explaining quantum physics to the average person that I have seen.

If you substitute electron, or other subatomic particle, for monster and human measurement for roll, then the above paragraph is an apt explanation of how quantum mechanics (at least as I understand them).

While in standard Physics every particle and object can be all tracked meticulously, all of that can be in a state of flux for subatomic particles.

Subatomic particles just appear when a measurement made by our instruments says they should, and their precise location before that is unknown. The position and Characteristics of these particles on the smallest scale are not defined until they are examined more closely.

Until it actually matters, any information about these particles is undefined, held behind 'a curtain of vagueness,' until it matters.

Basically it is our measurement of the "quantum realm" (to use a Marvel term) which brings it into focus, before such measurement the quantum is present/existent but unknown. Like the wandering monster, it is there and has a possibility of appearing, but until a roll is made its exact features and location are unknown and could be anything within a certain range of possibility.

I find Schrodinger's cat to be flawed because the cat is either dead or alive, poisoned or healthy. your knowledge of it does not change the fact that it is dead. The cat can't be both dead and alive, it is one or the other, no matter whether we can see into the box or not. In comparison the wandering monster has both a possibility of being in the same location as the party and not being there, until the die is rolled the monster occupies both locations/possibilities and neither of them at the same time. Quantum Mechanics operate in a fashion more similar to the wandering monster, it is both here and not here a the same moment until it is measured.

So that's a little perspective on science for you.