Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tools for the Cheapskate DM ~~ DIY Binder Clip DM Tools

Disclaimer--I have researched the internet for something like this, but have yet to find anything exactly like it. I can honestly say, that this is an original thought for me. It felt like a brainstorm at the time...so I hope it will be useful to you. This will either seem like a great idea or hmmmm....been there done that...
So here it is, for what it's worth.

DIY Binder Clip DM Tools.

Here's the situation. I've often wanted to incorporate images the players can view while the game is in session. If your game table is like mine, space is scarce being filled up with notes, figures, dice, more dice, rulebooks, DM binder, DM screen, oh and more dice. I've seen DMs place post it notes along the top of their screen and I thought that I could improve this a little. Let's say, I have a cool image of an enchanted forest (maybe download from National Geographic's website) and I want to display it to help set the atmosphere when the players enter the forest. I can use binder clips to make this happen.

Another use for this would be to display a coat of arms whenever the PCs enter certain noble's territory or maybe the file card can have a picture of the orc clan's totem to declare to the PCs that this is the tribal lands of the Broken Bone clan.

Here's what I've done.

You will need: two binder clips (small ones work great), one paperclip, and one filecard.

Step 1: Put the binder clips back-to-back.
Step 2: Place the paperclip between the two binder clips, holding them together.

Step 3: Fold up one binder clip's metal arms (but leave the other down).

Step 4: Yes, this may be a painful one (especially if you have a brand new Labyrinth Lord DM Screen!) but dm screens are meant to be used. Clip this creation to the top of your dm screen making sure one set of binder clip arms are sticking up.

Step 5: Place file cards, photos, etc. in the clip arms. It should keep the file card secure and allow your players to view the object without getting in your way.

That's it! Love it or hate it, maybe you can use it for your game!

For another DM Tools project check this out!

enjoy!  ~jcftao

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker...Magic Candles That Is!

Magic candles are useful for the DM. They can provide some useful magical ability to the PCs but can be short lived. As a DM I've gained a reputation for being a tightwad when it comes to parceling out magic items. Handing out too much magic, cheapens the whole idea of it. "Bah! Another enchanted sword, got three already..."
So, a good compromise between a dearth of magic and a glut would be introducing useful, but temporary items such as magical candles.

Here are some I've created, it's really easy to make variations like these...
Cursed Candle of Scuttledrig--This rough, black, waxy candle is made from the carapaces of exotic beetles. When lit, the candle summons a swarm of crawling, biting beetles that will attack the person who lit the candle. They will continue to pursue the target for 6 rounds after the candle has been extinguished. [The beetles are treated as a 4 HD Insect Swarm, see LL p83]

Smudge Stick--This squat, yellow, magic candle sputters and gives off small wisps of acrid smoke when lit. The real effect happens when the candle is blown out and thrown. It creates a billowing cloud of yellow smoke that acts like a stinking cloud spell, except that the smoke fills a 10 square foot area each round for 6 rounds (for a total of 60 square feet cube in 6 rounds). The cloud obscures vision and any entering it must save vs poison or become helpless with nausea until the cloud disperses (after 6 rounds). [I mention that the candle is thrown otherwise the user will suffer the spell effects also.] This candle is usable only once.

Holy Candle of Communion–This holy candle is marked with symbols of a particular deity and is usable not only by clerics but also by magic users. When lit the candle functions as a commune spell allowing the user to ask three “yes” or “no” questions of the deity. Each candle is created for a specific deity and may not always be the user’s deity. The markings will be instantly recognizable to members of that particular faith. If the user is of a different religion than the deity, the GM may roll on the monster reaction table. A result of “unfriendly” or “hostile” will mean the deity sends a summoned monster (GM’s choice). This candle may be lit only once.

Holy Candle of Unity–This candle is usable by all. When lit, this candle will function as a tongues spell, allowing all within a 5′ radius of the candle to speak and understand one another. For reasons unknown, the speakers must whisper. Speaking in normal voices or louder will not allow the magical effect to work. This candle when new has a burning duration of six hours. Each time the candle is lit, a minimum of one hour of usefulness will be deducted from its life.

Silent Taper–This slender candle is usable by all, but favored by thieves. When lit, it acts as a silence spell but with only a 5′ radius. The burning duration of this candle is one hour. It may be used for a shorter duration than this and then re-lit at a later time, but each lighting reduces the candle life by a minimum of 10 minutes.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Monsters, magic, and other tables

I've been adding more content. Check the sidebar and look around...there are no traps, so have no fear if you've left your 10' pole at home. Sit down and help yourself...I hate leftovers.

Monsters added...Widdershin and Shu'mai
More Free Stuff...Table of Death and Dismemberment, Table of Hirelings
Magic...Table of Levels of Magic Use
Pendria Campaign World...I've added some background material regarding nations.


The Illunari

In the world of Pendria, the Illunari are set apart from other humans. They are unique among all humans in that each of the Illunari has fey blood to a greater or lesser degree. This elven ancestry sometimes exhibits itself through innate magical powers. All Illunari have an ingrained ability to discern the flow and energy of magic, but a few of this race have an ability which is a discernable magical talent. The talent takes form in one area. It could mean that a particular Illunari could conjure fire or perhaps communicate with a specific species of animal. The kind of talent found is not predictable nor is it hereditary.

The Illunari are the original people of the Pendria, the Lost Kingdom.

The Illunari are tall, fine featured humans with silver hair and green or hazel eyes.

Areas of magical talent include:
  • Earth (earth based spells)
  • Air (air based spells)
  • Fire (fire based spells)
  • Water (water based spells)
  • The Spirit World (communication with animals, nature, ghosts)
[Game Mechanics] 
The magical talent could be limited to one particular spell or specific effect. For example, the ability to conjure fire. The talent grows in power as the Illunari gains levels. A Illunari PC would have an innate magical ability at 1st level. Then the ability grows in power when reaching levels divisible by 4 (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th levels.)

Minor uses of the magical talent will not tire the users and could be performed at will. Any use of the talent at a level of power similar to a 1st level spell or greater will require the user to rest immediately afterwards or be considered fatigued [as per the LL Rulebook, the subject will...suffer a penalty of -1 to hit and damage rolls until they have rested for 1 turn.] The number of times per day that magical talent can be used in this manner is equal to 1 + the Constitution modifier.

Extra effort may be attempt to boost the power of a magical talent. This will increase the power one level greater than normal (example, a 4th level Illunari really wants to increase his fire conjuring talent to help his friends in a battle. He may exert himself and temporarily have the magical ability that an 8th level Illunari can wield.) Doing this has a price. The Illunari must immediately make a Constitution check and succeed. If he fails, he falls to the ground unconscious for 1 turn. If he succeeds, his power is increased temporarily for the duration of the encounter, and he is considered fatigued. 

[I'll revisit this and add more details on power levels]


Friday, May 18, 2012

So, here's the deal...

No baloney...what I post is what you get...use it or not...I'll probably keep posting regardless.

No edition wars or rants...we each drink our own flavor of kool-aid.

No comments...if you like something I've posted or want to chat about rpgs or whatever, look me up on Google+ (John Feldman, dorks w/ dice, or shoot me an email jcftao at yahoo dot com mention 'dorks w/ dice in the email heading). I could care less about pageviews and followers...sure it's nice to get validation that someone out there cares about what you do, but I'm not driven by that.

This is not my day job...I will on occasion create an adventure for publication and have no qualms about advertising it, but I'm not trying to make my living hawking stuff you don't want or need. I'm not a self-proclaimed authority on much of anything, just a small fish in a big pond.

What I can promise is that this site will offer some of my work (some good, some not so hot).
I may include fiction, background information on several fantasy settings I am working on, magic items and spells, stories about current games I am playing, and pretty much whatever else I may want to write about. Some of it will be game specific to Labyrinth Lord. Much of it will be generic. All of it should be easilly adaptable for any rule system.

I like pen-and-paper role-playing games, in particular Labyrinth Lord (a retro-clone) of Basic D&D. I currently write/think about the game much more than actually play it, which I feel is not too far off the mark for many of you. Regardless, there's something inside me that wants to create new stories and write just for the sake of writing.


Here we are again....

Well, it's time to blow the dust off this blog and begin again. Check back soon, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back in School...Old School that is...

    Since I last updated Dorks w/ Dice, I have begun an immersion into the ODnD world.  The rulesets I am working with currently are even older than the AD&D 1st edition that I played as a kid.  My first recollections of Dungeons & Dragons came about from a news story on tv.  It showed people college aged and older grouped around tables.  They were moving painted metal figures and rolling dice.  The newscaster said something about roleplaying and Lord of the Rings.  Before this, I had taken interest in the Hobbit and LOTR and the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard.  I knew that this was something I wanted to get into, but how?  I grew up in a small town in rural southern Illinois.  We had no gaming stores or comic book shops nearby.  My comic collection consisted of used comics bought for a nickel each at garage sales.  Many of the books were in bad shape and missing the covers.
    I happened upon the red box of Basic Dungeons and Dragons (Moldvay) at a bookstore or maybe Sears.  Anyhow, I brought the game to my friend's house and it was the start of a three decade love affair with all things D&D.  I bought the Expert editions (blue box) and then picked up the Monster Manual (AD&D 1st Edition).  It wasn't long before I had the 1st ed. DMG and PHB as well.  I didn't have the opportunity to purchase any of the previous D&D books.  I'd heard of Chainmail, but had never seen it on the shelves.  I did have some early issue Dragon magazines, picked Greyhawk and then went on to purchase Fiend Folio, MM2, Deities&Demigods (Cthulhu edition!), Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, Dungeoneering Guide and so on.  Like a loyal fan of TSR I bought into the revisions...2nd edition (the big Monster Manual binder really was a lousy idea in my opinion), 3rd, 3.5, and even started investing in 4e.  I never did buy any other campaign settings besides Greyhawk.  I always wanted to make my own settings.

    As time went on, I began to be bothered by the abundance of rules for everything.  Often our game sessions would bog down dramatically due to having to research this rule or that.  At times I felt jaded about the game.  I put it aside for awhile, but always had the desire to get back into it.  I looked around for other rpgs and found GURPS.  I had played some other games such as Dawn Patrol, Boothill, Marvel Superheroes, Chill (monster hunters), 007, Twilight 2000, DC Heroes, Car Wars and also dabbled in Traveller and Call of Cthulhu.  But D&D was the grandaddy of them all.  I discovered FUDGE and loved the rules and the simple yet elegant system.  Yet I've never really played it much with other folks.

    Now I am back with an interest in the original Dungeons & Dragons retroclones.  I love the Osric rules.  I've read many of the other retro rules sets and decided that Swords & Wizardry core rules was the game I wanted to play.  The great thing about all the fine retroclones is that you can find a rules set that matches any of the dnd versions you may have played in the past.

    Anyhow, I purchased the hardcover Swords & Wizardry, the Oe Monsters Reloaded, 1st issue of Knockspell, and have many free resources from the web.  I've started as a player in a play by post internet game, and I begun a new campaign world using the SW core rules.  I'm glad to have found the d20 Microlite Rules as well.  It was my springboard into the retro rules on the web.  I really feel that my gaming hobby can withstand any revisions and new editions now.  The shackles are off...game on!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'

Well, the old gang (or part of it) came back together Saturday night.  We ran a short adventure using the Microlite20 rules.  I knew that it would run smoothly due to the games Thomas and I ran the past couple weeks.  Couple of points I noted...character creation was painless, the players and DM actually tried different things with their characters than we might have normally done.  We spent more time playing the game and less time sifting through rulebooks.  It was a great adventure and fun for all.  I didn't feel the game was lacking any substance whatsoever.  The rules allowed us to run with it and keep the adventure moving along.  I for one would like to return to the Old School days of gaming and I know I want to see how this turns out.
A couple fun segments in the adventure...dwarven headbutts...spear wielding magi...fighting goblin heroes on the rope bridge...and fleeing in terror after unwittingly releasing an ancient experiment.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gaming Tools

I made a DM tool this weekend that I'm really proud of and would like to share. Have you ever tried to roll dice on a crowded table or better yet on a book while lying on the living room floor?  Or how about playing a game with little ones who tend to throw the dice off the table?  We I got to thinking about this.  I've seen dice mats on line, but being a cheapskate, I would never shell out the big bucks for these.  I thought about making my own dice table out of wood and staining it a dark color, but then I thought about something easier.  A trip to Walmart and about $4 later and I have a perfect dice table that any DM would be proud to own.  Picture frames come cheap (plastic ones anyway).  And I was able to find one with an antique brass colored frame.  I popped the glass out, used some spray adhesive and attached a black felt cloth to it.  The felt actually had a backing on it and had I inspected it more carefully, would have realized that the paper pulled off and had a sticky backing ready to go.  Nevertheless, when reassembled, I had a flat, noiseless, rolling surface with a classy frame.  The dice stay in really well (unless you get carried away and really fling them hard).  This could be solved by finding a frame with deeper sides.  Anyway, there are millions of styles of frames out there and many are cheap  to come by.  The whole process took about ten minutes and was well worth it.

Osric rulebook (free download) is pretty much a clone of the AD&D 1st edition rules reorganized.  I used it for some adventure ideas and for the monster manual.  I could easily use my 1st edition books, but it was just as easy to have it installed on the laptop for quick reference.  I used Open Office Draw and MS Paint to create simple maps.  Open Office makes a great (and free) word processing application.  It took me very little time to draw a simple map of the Winding Woods and make ten encounters for the adventure.  The kids had a blast playing and so did I.  Thomas and I each have two new characters now [3rd level all, dwarven cleric, human fighter, human ranger, and elven wizard]

House rules—we added a few rules to the Microlite20 for our campaign. Charge rule, cover and concealment modifiers, starting spellbooks, surprise, flanking and attack from behind.  Just a few extra goodies to add to our game.  And best part is that none of it will cause us to dig open the books.

Thanksgiving Day Goblins

I spent some vacation time play testing the Microlite20 rules with Thomas and his cousins.  I found the rules led to greater freedom to just “run” with the adventure.  I was at times tempted to dig into rule books for help adjudicating, but decided against.  Reason being I really had no big rule book.  Microlite20 rulebooks are about 5 pages long for the pocketmod edition.  Also, I recently purchased the HeroQuest 2nd edition rules.  I haven't had much time to read through it, but it also describe points in the adventure where the Gm needs to ask himself if this would go towards progressing the plot in an enjoyable way for all.  Case in point, one player was playing the human ranger.  We encountered a pack of wild dogs in the forest.  The ranger had a couple options (presented by the DM).  He could try to use his ranger skills to befriend the dogs or attack them with his longbow.  He chose the former and I had him roll a d20.  It was a great roll and I decided that one of the wild dogs became friendly with the ranger and followed the ranger for the rest of the adventure.  The dog was even there to help defend the ranger against a harpy attack later on.
This last weekend, we encountered assassin vines, a giant troll, bandits, harpies, an elven hunting party, and even a barbed devil.  The rules (light as they were) were very enjoyable to play and at no time did I feel unfamiliar with the rules or mechanics.  It felt like old school D&D.  Best part about it was more fun—less down time!