Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Quick Note on Race Specific Classes in Lands of Eira

As I’ve mentioned before my favorite version of Swords & Wizardry is the Third Printing. That printing of the S&W rules featured an option to play as one of the three core classes (Cleric, Fighting-Man and Magic-User) or as a slower moving but further advancing race specific class.

In a lot of respects this was really cool for people like me who love dwarves and love to play as the proto-typical, Tolkienish Dwarf.  However, these race specific classes (The Dwarven Warrior and the Elf Adventurer) were pretty much rehashes of the Fighting-Man and Magic-User but with slower level gain.

The wonderful part about this is that it allows the player and the Referee to craft an individually unique class and identity for their elves and dwarves. The option for this, in fact, creates a sandbox of sorts for the players to create, destroy and experiment. The player and the DM can, with these race specific classes create entire mythos around the culture of elves and dwarves. Questions can be raised as to why with the new sun an elf must chose either the sword or magic, or why the dwarves have such a martial background.  Honestly the pure thought process and brainstorming of these questions can produce reams of material to be folded into a Referee’s world, campaign and so on.  Are the dwarves so martial because they are the last defenders (or maybe guards) of an ancient sleeping god and don’t even know it? Are the elves forced to choose a different path every day of their lives because of the sins of their greatest ancestors? How would the players discover these things? Again glorious work and I will always love Matt Finch for it.

Now that I’m working on my own campaign setting, The Lands of Eira, I’ve expanded on this idea of not race as class but race specific classes that Matt included in the Third Printing. Every race in the setting but one are bound (at the moment) to two or three classes that only that race has. There is of course some cross over as almost every race has an arcane magic-user and two have divine magic-users, but, even with the course over each class is tailored to its race so that no two classes can ever be called interchangeable.

The difference between what Matt did in the Third Printing and what I’m doing with Eira is that I’ve trimmed down the size of the sandbox considerably with lore, background information and the like. However, this information and lore is as broad and as generalized as I can make it without losing the flavor of the world being created. Huge and campaign changing questions may not be asked anymore, but smaller more personal ones may. Does the Dwarven warpriest mock the human ardent for refusing to wear armor? Does the Cat-Sith Fili look at the Pixie Trickster in disgust? How do the similar, yet vastly different, warriors work together toward the common good? Can a squad of Dwarven Defenders work as a fluid unit with Human Highlanders?

I can’t lie, the creation of these classes bother me in some respects as it takes away some of the player’s power, some of his or her’s own story. However, the beauty of a campaign setting has always been in letting others into your sandbox and seeing what comes of it.

As a bit of a bonus here is the first draft of the Pixie. Pixie - Races of Eira

Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Space, the Final Froniter ... 3

Fleet Security

Security Officers are assigned to starships, bases and ground bases controlled by the Federation. Security Officers are typically responsible with keeping their duty station secure and to assure the normal operations of their duty post. Security Officers are responsible for the prevention, investigation of criminal acts as well as to provide personal protection of Starfleet personnel, foreign dignitaries and the like.

In times of war and during away missions, Security Officers act as the frontline defense of the Fleet. Security Officers are usually broken into small squads with set stations during times of conflict. However, even alone, a Fleet Security Officer is a formidable force and it is not unheard of for one Officer to hold an area from an enemy assault.

Primary Attribute: Strength and Dexterity +13 (5% bonus to experience)
Hit Dice: 1d8/level (+3/per level after 9th)
Defense Bonus: -5[+5]
Weapons Permitted: All

Fleet Security Abilities

Tactical Training: Fleet Security Officers receive a +1 bonus to initiative rolls. If using group initiative with a d6 dice, the Security Officer gives a +1 to the group initiative roll. This bonus does not stack if there is more than one Security Officer in a Party.

Weapons Training: Fleet Security is trained in a variety of Fleet and Alien weaponry and can quickly adapt to the use of archaic, modern and futuristic weapons. The Security Officer gains a +1 to hit with all Phaser, Disrupter and Laser based pistols and rifles.

Demolitions: Security Officers has a variable chance based on his level to turn any device with a fuel source into an explosive device in 1d6. All explosive devices created this way cause 1d6 damage within a 30’ radius.

 Table 1: Security Officer Advancement Table

Saving Throw

Quick Note: Fantasy Grounds Virtual Con

Just a reminder or a heads-up for everyone out there! This weekend is Fantasy Grounds Virtual-Con 2013. Virtual-Con is a full weekend of online table-top gaming featuring a variety of systems and play-styles Using Smiteworks Fantasy Grounds 2 VTT. The Con starts on Friday, May 31st and runs until June 2nd. Now for the best part, you don’t need a paid version of Fantasy Grounds to be a player in any of these games during the Con as all the Referees, DMs, GMs, Storytellers have ultimate licenses on their copy of FG2.

Now, unfortunately, yours truly won’t be attending this year as I’ll be on my second trip for my daughter’s dance troupe. However, I can tell you from last year that the Virtual Con is a fun event and every one in attendance had a very jovial mentality and were very willing to help anyone unfamiliar with a system.

So, get going, and get registered!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Attributes pounderings

Well, one vacation down and another coming up! But enough about that, let's discuss the idea of attributes!

As a few of my posts have shown, I am not just planning and thinking about my Celtic/Gaelic/Welsh setting "Lands of Eira". I am also, working slowly on a fan rpg of Star Trek. Obviously this is redundant with games like "Spacemen & Space Ships", "X-Plorers", and "Stars Without Number",  but I am a redundant person.

So, while on my three-day weekend, and mini vacation, I was pondering about the default attribute system that has been a part of the world's first rpg since, apparently, its inception with little change (and those only to modifiers). No reason to fix what isn't broken and the six attributes have always worked. However, I believe it could be modified for faster play, especially with younger players and new players. Also, while the six attributes are humanity boiled down, some checks (in later systems) and tables/saving throws in earlier and OSR games, don't seem to make sense to me.

The idea I have is to keep the six attribute system, Strength, Dexterity,Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma but split them into two distinct categories. These categories would be Physical and Mental, with Strength, Dexterity and Constitution falling under the physical and the rest mental.

Now, the player would roll his scores as normal, 3d6 down the line. Once those scores are created, take the three for physical and average them,the bonus received would be the same as the normal bonuses. Rinse and repeat for the three attributes that fall under mental.


Cinderella the Barbarian rolls her dice and comes away with: 18 10 13 for her physical and 14, 12, 17 for her mental. Next she would take her three results for physical and average them: 13.67 (round down) 13 for a bonus of +1. She does the same for her mental attributes and gets a 14, also a +1. Since Cinderella is a fighter class character she would still apply her natural strength bonus, dexterity bonus and constitution bonus to things like parry, hit-points per level and combat bonuses. However, for anything else, like say moving a boulder, jumping over a chasm, etc. the +1 from the averaged scores would be used (if the referee allows such things to be added to saving throws).

Why do this though, it seems needless complicated and adds to another stat. I'm looking at things from the prospective of the person making the character sheets for other players. My daughter and her group, love to play and love to tell me what they want to play. However, they as of yet have not grown to wanting to create those characters for themselves. The pre-existing character sheet typically has a place for damage bonuses, AC bonus, number of parries,etc. The default sheet doesn't however have anything for possible bonuses to saving throws, so when the player wants to jump that chasm they have to search the sheet. Having a huge header, PHYSICAL +1 draws the eye, and makes the player have a general idea for any basic thing they want to do. Woo the princess? Mental. Translate that ancient gnomish scroll? mental.  Pick up a boulder and throw it? Physical. In the end it lowers the amount of time between asking the player for a result and getting one.

Now this also works in Science Fiction to help speed things up and keep the tension going. Take Captain Kirk's fight with the Gorn and his building of the bamboo cannon. Obviously not everything would be a saving throw, but I would estimate there would be at least five. By having the averaged bonus, Kirk's player would get through the scene quicker and be off to woo Orion slave girls.

Now for the negative. Averaging the scores does make it so that one of two things happen. The first is that the averaged score will always be low, the second is that the player will almost always have a bonus.

As always, opinions and such are greatly welcomed. And remember the greatest thing about the oldest form of The Game is just how adaptable it was. Play around if you haven't already!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pair Dadeni - Mystical Items of Eira Preview

According to Welsh mythology the Pair Dadeni is a large cauldron that can bring the dead back to life. The cauldron has no origin outside of being among the belongings of the giants Gyfnewid and Cyminfoll. Tragedy seems to follow the owners of the cauldron as the giants were burned out of their home by locals, the next owner one of the Chieftains of Wales lost it to avoid war after his son, murdered a major chieftain of Ireland’s horses. In the end, the cauldron was destroyed during a war of vengeance between the Welsh and the Irish when the same chieftain’s son who murdered the Irish horses shattered the cauldron from the inside.

In Eira, the cauldron is a mythical artifact, hidden away since the dawn of time when the goddess Eira created the land. The exact location is unknown, but stories tell of a temple on an island located on Loch Sevel, hidden by mists and protected by two giant-kin. It is said that the Pair Dadeni, can bring the dead back to life, although not always as themselves, that it can restore the grievously wounded and aged to their prime.

Table 1: Pair Dadeni Results
True Resurection
-1 lvl
+1 lvl

It should be noted in the Eira setting, Clerics and Magic-Users do not have access to resurrection, reincarnation or wish spells, so any character that a party wants to bring back must be taken to the Pair Dadeni cauldron … wherever the cauldron may be.

Another note, the Pair Dadeni is a large cauldron, filled with mystical waters. The weight alone should make it impossible for the Pair Dadeni to be moved from the temple it is rumored to be. However, should some inventive and creative adventurers find a way to move the cauldron its abilities will be rendered null.  

A short post tonight. Sorry folks was alone with the kids. Good news though, I seem to have all of next Tuesday to work not only on the blog but on my Races and Classes of Eira book. yay!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Magic User Option - Familiars

In Swords & Wizardry Core and Complete a Magic-User gains and retains his spells through the use, manufacture and study of a spell book. At the beginning of each day the Magic-User must study his spell book to commit to memory those spells within the spell book that she believes will be most useful to her that day.

In fantasy fiction the spell book, by a variety of names, is the typical accessory of the wizard and many an iconic scene show the wizard with her book in hand.  However, there is another accessory, just as much a part of the popular image of the spellcaster as the spell book; the familiar. A witch’s black cat, a wizard’s owl and many other combinations of animals and spirits, have accompanied the magic-user throughout the realms of fantasy.

Given that the spellcaster’s familiar is as much as, if not more than, a prominent figure as her spell book, it is interesting that the familiar has not been looked into more.

In the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons both Wizards and Sorcerers gained the ability to summon a familiar that would both offer a bonus to a skill and could attack. However, this reduced the familiar to nothing more than a parlor trick, another spell (or in this case spell-like ability) up the spellcaster’s sleeve.  Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide included the “Witch” character class who stored her spells in a familiar animal; however, the familiar was reduced to being a tribble. Useless save for its one able (tribbles = soothing, familiars = magical USB drives).

In both cases (and there could be more, but these are the ones my sadly rpg-starved mind knows) the familiar is treated as an accessory, a prop and not as an integral part of who or what the wizard is and represents.

Now, take the familiar a different way, say as a manifestation of a tutelary spirit or power animal (spirit guide/spirit animal) and a whole world of possibilities on how to treat a familiar begin to become manifest.

Tutelary spirits/power animals are guardians and guides in the world; a link, subconscious but still there, between the Ward and the other world. It is the job then of the tutelary spirits to assure the safety of their Wards, to assure that the paths taken are the ones best for the Ward and to help impart to the Ward knowledge and wisdom.

Remove this concept from the metaphysical of the real world and place it in the realm of fantasy, take the tutelary spirits away from the subconscious and astral planes and you get the wizard’s familiar.


The majority of magic-users in the world begin their apprentice-ship under a full fledged wizard at a young age; usually under the age of ten. For three years the apprentice studies under her mentor, learning the basics of law and theory, mathematics, science and herb-lore. During this time, the apprentice knows nothing of her familiar nor that of her master’s familiar.

On an apprentice’s thirteenth birthday, she undergoes “the rite” for three days she is left alone in a wild area near her mentor’s tower. She is given no food, no water and no supplies to aid her in those three days. Instructed to mediate during “the rite” the apprentice waits. If successful at some point on the third day the apprentice’s familiar will appear to the apprentice and will bond with her. It is after this bond is created that the apprentice’s training truly begins.

The Rite: During character creation, roll 3d6 and add together the result. Follow the table below. It is suggested that if available the Referee and player should roleplay through “the rite”

Table 1: The Rite
-1 spell per level
+1 spell per level

Familiars: Familiars are guides to spellcasters. It is with them that the majority of the spellcaster’s power lay. Familiars are empathically linked to their Wards offering the Ward insight into the emotions of any given situation (+2 saving throw social) as well as adding their own resolve to their Ward (+1 fear effect).

Familiars as guardians can defend their Wards against threats; however, as their duty is to their Ward and not her friends, the familiar will not enter into conflict unless its Ward is directly threatened. (See Familiar Table for AC[AAC] and Atk).

If a familiar should happen to fall in combat or by any other means, they will disappear from the material plane for 1d4 hours. During this time the magic-user will have access to only half of her spells, and need to make a concentration roll (60%) to successfully cast her remaining spells.



Unfortunately there is no way that I can think of to properly express in game terms the relationship between a Magic-User and her familiar and a familiar and her Ward. Out of game terms, the relationship is one of a dance with each partner leading and following, being parent and child. The relationship is deep and that is reflected, in game terms by the fierce loyalty shown by the Familiar in combat and by how much the loss of a familiar emotionally affects the Magic-User.

Anyway, as usually I hope everyone out there enjoys this, and it can be used no need to ask permission. I just ask that if these rules are put into a book that is placed for sale, I be given credit for what it mine. Also, tell me what you think as I don’t play caster-types so I have no idea if I hit a homerun or struck out.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Party's Good Luck - A Spell for Clerics

Spell Level: Cleric, 7th Level
Range:  60 feet cone
Duration:  See description

This spell summons a spirit bird from the planes of Law to guide the caster and anyone within its influence to the nearest temple of a Law-aligned deity and cannot be dismissed until this task has been completed. While under the influence of the Albatross, the caster and all those within its influence will not come to the notice of any creatures, will not trigger any traps, and will not suffer the effects of terrain, weather, or bodily needs. 

However, for every three rounds the Albatross is summoned everyone within its influence, save the caster, must make a saving through with an increasing -1 modifier per saving throw round. If the saving throw is failed those who failed must immediately attack the Albatross (AC 9[10]). When attacked the Albatross will disappear forcing those that were under its influence to suffer all effects, attacks, etc that they avoided while under the influence of the Albatross.

An albatross was a ship's good luck, 'til some idiot killed it. - Captain Malcolm Reynolds

Gaming on the Road

Sometimes on longer road trips, my daughter will ask to play “The Game”, which is obviously our OD&D/Swords & Wizardry game that I have been running for her over the last two years. These games are spontaneous; I don’t know they’re going to happen or that I should prepare for them as she doesn’t always ask. Add to this the fact that I’m easily car sick and you can see there is almost no reason to bring a rule book, dice or character sheets on a road trip.

With nothing to guide us, no rules, no dice to reign us in or keep us honest, complete chaos should rule, right? Actually, no, and I’ll explain that at the end. First, however, I will explain what we ended up doing instead.

All you need is your imagination, a basic understand of the rules of OD&D/Swords & Wizardry and a deck of Uno cards. It is hard to explain so I will run you through a quick example and then try to explain.

Swords & Wizardry Uno

Referee: You crawl through the tunnel, deeper and deeper, your elvish vision making the way easy to see. Up ahead you see a flickering light, as if from a candle.

Cinderella the Barbarian: I want to be really quiet and sneak forward!

Cinderella looks at her Uni hand and sees she has a blue card, the card on the car’s centr console is also blue, and she drops it with a smile. The Referee looks at his hand and sees he has neither a blue card nor a matching number. He picks up a card from the draw pile.

Referee: You continue to crawl forward, not even you hear the sounds a person would make when crawling. Soon you reach the tunnel’s end and see two small goblins sitting around a fire. They don’t know you’re there.

Cinderella the Barbarian: I want to sneak behind one and stab it in the back.

Cinderella drops a yellow 2 which matches the number of her previous dropped blue card. The Referee smiles and drops a yellow 9.

Referee: Sorry, little Barbarian, but as you crawl out of the tunnel you slip on some loose stone and stumble. The Goblins hear you and scramble to their feet, drawing their rusty short swords.

Success in both saving throws and combat depend on two factors. One being able to match the card already in play and two being the higher number card. So, if Cinderella had dropped a blue 3 and the Referee had dropped a Blue 2 Cinderella still would have won the saving throw as she had the higher number. The only exceptions to this are the “Draw 4” card and the “Skip Turn” cards.

If the “Draw 4” card is dropped then the person that dropped the card automatically wins the save or hits her opponent. The other player cannot drop her own “Draw 4” card to counter. The “Skip Turn” card works in a similar way as it disallows the other player from even attempting to do anything. If the “Skip Turn” card is dropped the next move by the player who dropped it is considered to be a special* action in the same turn.

*Special: A coup d’gras, a super flashy killer spell, something unique and cinematic to make the player seem as if she just did something wonderful.

One thing you need to do before play is to remove all special cards from the Uno deck save for the “Draw 4” and “Skip Turn” cards.  If using the “Disney Princess” Uno deck keep the dragons and treat the dropping of one of them as a special event (Referee has VETO) determined by the person who dropped the dragon.

Damage and health are handled in maximum x 2 … or at least as far as you can remember it. So if a weapon has 1d10 damage, then it does 10 damage. If you can’t remember exactly the amount of HD that Goblin has, be fair, but make it interesting. Some improv. is needed.

You Promised!

So earlier, I promised to explain how a no rules, no dice, no character sheet game would work on the road. Well the answer is simple, be a fair and kind father and let the kid win. Also, a little bit of a guessing game in place of dice or Uno cards gives the kid the illusion that there are still hard rules and that you aren’t just winging it.


Cinderella the Barbarian: I want to stab the goblin!

Referee: Okay think of a number between 1 and 20 (the number is 13)

Cinderella the Barbarian: a number between … 15!

Referee: The goblin lets out a gurgling sound as your dagger bites into its flesh, in a moment all life goes out of its eyes.

So yes, gaming without dice, or a rulebook or even Uno cards is possible, but once that kid figures out what number your thinking about … *breaks down into old man grumblings*