20 October 2013

Why AD&D now? How to play online?

So, I just posted some house-rules for AD&D/OSRIC here!

Why did I do this, given my ongoing focus on various d100 games -- namely, RuneQuest 6, OpenQuest 2, Call of Cthulhu, Renaissance, Magic World, etc. -- my house rules for Swords and Wizardry, and my contributions to Crypts and Things?  Why go to AD&D now (albeit it with some tweaks to the rules that, no doubt, would infuriate certain kinds of grognards)?

Well, I haven't lost any of my enthusiasm for those other games.  Quite the contrary!  I would love to get a RQ6 or CoC campaign (or 'Dark Streets' or...) campaign up and running in the near future.

However, I'm trying to start up an online campaign with a couple of old friends, and we agreed (for reasons of unabashed nostalgia) to play some AD&D.  This would give me a chance to run some classic AD&D modules, ones that I either haven't run in decades (the wonderful U1-3 series), or that I have never run, but have long wanted to (e.g., UK4).

And I chose the Moonshae region of the Forgotten Realms (the 1st edition version, of course!) as the setting, because I rather like the 'Vikings-versus-Celts' feel of the place.  Essentially, the Moonshae Islands are a fantasy version of 10th Century Ireland and Scotland.  The region reminds me a bit of Jack Vance's Lyonnesse -- or at least that is how I interpret it.  And since I recently played through the classic CRPGs Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate (I'm old school even when it comes to my computer games!), I have been reminded of the main elements of the Forgotten Realms world.  (I'm ambivalent about the Forgotten Realms overall, but there are parts that I quite like.)

Since I'm trying to run this game online, and have never done anything like this before, I'd be grateful for any tips that you gentle readers might have.  I've looked at Roll20, and it strikes me pretty good, though I have yet to try it out.  Do others recommend it?

19 October 2013

House-Rules for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Akrasia’s House-Rules
For AD&D (1e) or OSRIC
Part I: Character Creation, Races, and Classes

General Points

  1. The page references are to OSRIC, as it is available online for free.  However, all of the rules are useable with AD&D (1e).
  2. The rules were designed for a very small group (two players with two characters each).
  3. These rules were written for a campaign set in the Moonshae Islands, which is a 'Celtic' region of the Forgotten Realms, hence the references to the 'Ffolk,' various FR deities, and so forth.  But the rules should be useable in any AD&D game.

Character Creation

  • Choose the character’s race
  • Determine initial ability scores by rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest die
    • Replace the lowest roll with ‘15’
    • Assign scores in any order
  • Apply racial modifiers to ability scores [see OSRIC, pp. 3-7]
  • Ensure that the character’s ability scores fall within the acceptable range for his/her race (e.g., a dwarf must have a strength of 8-18, dexterity of 3-17, etc.)
  • Human characters can add a total of 1 point to one of their ability scores, either +1 to two different ability scores (e.g., +1 to Strength and Intelligence), or +2 to one ability score (e.g., +2 to Dexterity)
    • No ability score can be raised above 18 this way
  • Non-human characters can add 1 point to their ability scores
    • No ability score can be raised above the character’s racial limit this way
    • (E.g., a halfling could not raise his strength above 17, an elf could not raise her dexterity above 19)
  • Human characters select their ‘background professions’ (see my article). 
    • Either: 
      • Choose one profession from Chart I
        • Or
      • Choose two professions from Chart II 
  • If the character is a halfling, half-elf, or half-orc, choose one profession from Chart II
  • Dwarves, elves, and gnomes have no background professions

  • Choose the character’s class and alignment
  • No evil characters permitted (thus no assassin characters)
  • No monks permitted (at least initially — they are foreign to the region)
  • It is advisable that classes from the following four categories be covered:
    • Warrior (fighter or ranger; paladins are rare, though permitted)
    • Thief (assassins not permitted)
    • Arcane spell-caster (illusionist or magic-user)
    • Divine spell-caster (cleric or druid)
  • At least one druid, ranger, or bard should be in the party
  • Paladins will not adventure (at least for a prolonged period of time) with characters of Neutral or Chaotic Neutral alignment 
  • Bards play an important role in this setting, so players may want to consider that class (even though bards do not fit neatly into one of the above four categories).
    • The alternative Bard class (from Best of Dragon #3) will be used

Races and Classes (General)

  • There are no level-limits on non-human characters
    • Humans, however, enjoy the following benefits:
      • 1 extra point to assign to ability scores at character creation (humans receive 2 points at character creation; non-humans only 1 point) (see above)
      • Superior selection of background professions (see above)
      • Maximum hit points at both levels 1 and 2 (instead of only level 1) (see below)
      • A +1 to any ability score upon reaching level 6 (an ability score may not be raised above 18 this way)
  • Racially-determined class restrictions apply, except:
    • PCs of any race may be clerics
    • Half-elves and Halflings may be druids (single-class)
    • Half-elves may be druids and fighters, druids and rangers, or druids and magic-users (multi-class)
    • The following multi-class options are available to non-human characters:
      • Dwarves: (a) fighter/thief, and (b) fighter/cleric
      • Elves: (a) fighter/magic-user, (b) fighter/thief, (c) magic-user/thief, and (d) fighter/magic-user/thief
      • Gnomes: (a) fighter/illusionist, (b) fighter/thief, (c) illusionist/cleric, (d) illusionist/thief, and (e) cleric/thief
      • Half-elves: (a) cleric/fighter, (b) cleric/ranger, (c) cleric/magic-user, (d) fighter/magic-user, (e) fighter/thief, (f) magic-user/thief, (g) cleric/fighter/magic-user, (h) fighter/magic-user/thief, (i) fighter/druid, (j) ranger/druid, and (k) magic-user/druid
      • Halflings: fighter/thief only

Hit Points

  • 1st level characters receive maximum hit points.
  • Human characters also receive maximum hit points upon reaching level 2
  • When rolling for hit points (levels 2+ for non-humans, levels 3+ for humans), characters take either the roll of the die, or half the die’s maximum, rounded down (so magic-users roll 1d4, and take 2 if they roll 1; fighters roll 1d10, and take 5 if they roll 1-4; etc.)


  • We will be using the ‘alternative’ Bard class from Best of Dragon #3
  • Bards play an important cultural role within the setting
    • The bards of the Ffolk serve many functions: historians, entertainers, poets, heroes, and spies
  • Most Bards are Neutral or Neutral Good in alignment


  • Northman (human) clerics typically worship the god Tempus (the ‘Lord of Battles’, ‘Foehammer’)
    • Clerics of Tempus generally are Chaotic Neutral, Neutral, or (rarely) Chaotic Good
  • Humans from the Moonshaes (both Ffolk and Northmen) may also be clerics of:
    • Azuth (patron of mages; LN)  
    • Deneir (God of literature and art; NG)
    • Lathander (God of Spring, Dawn, Vitality, Youth, Renewal, Self-Perfection; NG)  
  • Non-human clerics worship deities of their respective pantheons
    • Elves: Corellon Larethian, Solonar Thelandira, Hannali Celanil, Labelas Enoreth
    • Dwarves: Moradin, Clangeddin, Vergadain, Berronar
    • Haflings: Yondalla, Sheela Peryroyal, Avoreen, Cyrrollalee, Bandobaris
    • Gnomes: Garl Glittergold, Baervan Wildwanderer, Segojan Earthcaller, Flandal Steelskin
    • Half-Elf and Half-Orc clerics typically revere a ‘human’ god


  • Druids of all races within the Moonshaes revere the ‘Earthmother’.
  • Druids are common on each of the isles dominated by the Ffolk.  
    • There is a Great Druid on each of Gwynneth, Alaron, and Moray
  • Most druids are assigned a certain portion of one of their isles as their territory.  At the centre of this territory is a druidic grove.  
    • (PCs are assumed to be wandering druids, at least until they reach level 12, and thus do not have their own territories.)


  • Only single-class fighters may specialize or double specialize in a weapon (multi-class fighters may not specialize or double specialize in a weapon)
  • Fighters may specialize in one weapon at level 1 (see OSRIC, p. 14)
  • Fighters may double specialize in that weapon (the same weapon with which the character already is specialized) at level 3+ (see OSRIC, p. 14)
    • No fighter may specialize or double specialize in more than one weapon


  • Single-class rangers may specialize in one weapon at level 1 (see OSRIC, p. 14)
  • Multi-class rangers may not specialize in a weapon
  • Rangers (single-class or multi-class) may not double specialize in a weapon


  • Paladins may not specialize (or double specialize) in a weapon

Magic-Users and Illusionists

  • Magic-users and illusionists are held in suspicion by most of the peoples of the Moonshaes, thus they generally try to hide their profession whilst travelling. 
  • Magic-users and illusionists with an Intelligence of 16+ may prepare and cast one additional first level spell each day
  • Material components for spells cost the cube of the spell’s level in gold pieces (e.g., the material components for a 1st level spell cost 1 g.p., the material components for a 2nd level spell cost 8 g.p., and the material components for a 9th level spell cost 729 g.p.).
    • Note which spells for which your character has the necessary components, and remove those components when the spell is cast (obviously this applies only to spells with material components)
  • Material components pouch = 20 gold pieces (holds material components for up to 20 spells; weighs 2 pounds when full)
    • 1st level magic-users and illusionists start with one pouch
  • Spell books are necessary for memorizing spells
    • 1st level magic-users and illusionists start with one ‘standard’ and one ‘travelling’ spell book
    • Both books may be assumed to contain the character’s starting spells (4 spells, including ‘read magic’, for magic-users; 3 spells for illusionists)

Thief Abilities

  • Thief characters may either:
    • Use the base thief ability percentages listed in the class description (OSRIC, p. 26)
      • OR
    • Distribute the following points amongst the thief abilities at each level — except Climb Walls, Hear Noise, and Read Languages (which follow the chart on p. 26)
      • 1st level = 130 points
      • 2nd level = 022 points
      • 3rd level = 022 points
      • 4th level = 022 points
      • [Etc.]
    • Racial and dexterity adjustments are applied after base skill percentages are determined

09 October 2013

More Praise for Dark Streets

A few months ago I expressed here my very high opinion of Cakebread and Walton's Dark Streets, a guidebook to running Lovecraftian adventures in the London of 1749.  A very detailed and informative review of this book is now available at the RPGsite.  Check it out!

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).