Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

by Solomoriah

It’s a refrain I hear (or read) over and over again.  Magic-users are too weak, especially those first-level magic-users.  Imagine, just one spell a day… then all they do is stand around and be useless.

Except, that’s not how it works.  Let’s discuss as an example a party with four characters:  Darion the Fighter, Apoqulis the Cleric, Barthal the Thief, and Lucas the Magic-User.  They’re on their very first adventure together, investigating the Olde Island Fortress.

Darion has 1d8 hit points, and is armored in chain mail (as he could not afford plate mail for his first adventure).  Apoqulis is armored the same way, and has 1d6 hit points.  Assuming no special bonuses, with shields in hand they each have AC 16.  Barthal is in leather armor, and while he can’t use a shield, let’s assume he has a Dexterity bonus of +1 (he is a Thief, after all), making his AC 14.  Lucas is unarmored, AC 11, but of course he’ll be at the back of the party, out of reach of most monsters.  Being unarmored also means he has the fastest movement rate, 40′, so he can outrun the other party members.  Recall that when a bear is chasing you, you don’t have to outrun the bear, just your comrades…

So they enter the dungeon, and shortly they encounter a group of four goblins.  Now, goblins have 1-1 hit dice, so each of them has an average of 3.5 hit points.  Rather than deal with the details, let’s just say each has 3 hit points.  We’ll be nicer to the adventurers and round their hit points up, so Darion has 5, Apoqulis and Barthal 4 each, and Lucas 3.  The goblins do 1d6 damage, or 3.5 points on average, while Darion, Apoqulis, and Barthal average 4.5 points each.  Finally, note that goblins have an armor class of 14.

So they fight.  Without digging too deeply into the numbers, the adventurers have only a slight advantage over the goblins; the odds are in their favor, but it’s quite likely that the fight will be over in four or so rounds, with at least some of the survivors being injured.  Should the adventurers win, remember that Apoqulis does not yet have a healing spell available.

Most merciful GMs will allow a starting magic-user at least one offensive spell.  If Lucas has Magic Missile, he can probably kill exactly one goblin.  If he has Charm Person, he can take control of a goblin and at least remove him from the fight, if not actually turn him against his comrades.  If he has Sleep, it may be all over for the goblins in the first round.

If Lucas casts his one spell, and it’s anything other than Sleep, he probably removes one goblin from the fight.  His friends are still fairly likely to be injured; when the fight is over, one way or the other, they will probably need to withdraw from the dungeon to return another day.

And on that other day, Lucas will again have one spell available.

If Lucas has Sleep, well, it’s entirely possible the adventurers will breeze by the goblins without suffering any harm at all.  After Barthal trips lightly through the sleeping goblin’s ranks, slaying each in his turn, the adventurers can move on to the next encounter, and it is possible that Lucas will indeed stand around doing nothing while they fight.  Of course, the smart thing for Lucas to do is to carry some daggers for throwing, and use them to whittle down the back ranks of their next group of foes; his chance of hitting at first level is equal to all the other characters, after all, so why not?

At higher levels the comparison holds out.  For instance, assume the party is now 5th level.  Each of the adventurers has a magic weapon, and probably some form of magical protection (armor, ring, etc.)  If, in the course of gaining 5 levels, they have found any magic-user-only items such as wands, naturally Lucas has received them.  Meanwhile, the number of hits each of the “heavy hitters” can sustain has been multiplied by 5 times, so now they can fight much longer.  But still, by the time Lucas has exhausted his own magic (five spells, one of which might blow away a large monster or a group of smaller ones), the adventurers should be ready to call it a day.

If you find, in your game, that it doesn’t play out that way, ask yourself why.  Have you allowed the fighter and cleric to receive powerful magic weapons and armor, making them into walking tanks that deal death without suffering a scratch?  If you did that, did you also allow the magic-user to receive items of comparable power?

Before changing the rules to make the magic-user more powerful in an attempt to achieve parity with the other classes, you should consider whether the rules are really unbalanced, or whether you have (intentionally or otherwise) stacked the deck against the magic-user in the first place.

Single Creator Syndrome

by Solomoriah

Adventure writing is like any other form of writing in many ways.  For instance, every writer has a style, and with experience you can recognize it.  Style shows not only in the words the author chooses, but also in the concepts and philosophies he or she promotes.

Really, there’s nothing wrong with having a style, but it’s important to avoid letting your style make you too predictable, especially if it’s an adventure you’re writing.

I don’t know how many times, in discussions held in person or online, that a GM has said “I don’t use monster X because I don’t like it.”  Sometimes it’s a game mechanical thing, sometimes its more a factor of the monster’s imaginary ecology or role or backstory.  It really doesn’t matter why, though.

So the GM whose existence we are imagining creates a new adventure for his group of regular players.  They all know him, so they know his style.  And in the course of the adventure, an NPC hints at the presence of a vampire (for instance) and all the players think, nah, our GM doesn’t like vampires, and they don’t even take it seriously.

I call this “Single Creator Syndrome.”  It’s the opposite of the defect often called “Design by Committee,” but while perhaps a bit less lame, it’s still a defect.

I’ll digress a bit, into the world of fiction.  One of my favorite science fiction shows was Babylon 5, and anyone who is a true fan of the show knows that many of the episodes, including basically the entire last season, were written by one man, J. Michael Straczynski.  He’s one of my favorite all-around writers, and the show was a masterpiece.  But in the final episodes, wrapping up the aftermath of the Shadow War, I noticed that the main characters all seemed to hold the same beliefs.  Not just similar beliefs… they all believed exactly alike, to the point that I couldn’t have reliably told you whether any particular quote was from G’Kar or Captain Sheridan or Delenn.  The reason is simple… they all shared Straczynski’s beliefs.  Single creator syndrome.

Back on topic.  I’ve also heard many GMs say that they never use adventure modules.  That’s too bad, really, because using an adventure module written by another author is one of the easiest ways to escape from Single Creator Syndrome.  Oh, sure, you may still go through and change some things you really don’t like, but the overall adventure will still be in the author’s style instead of in yours.

Another, harder, way is to create NPCs who hold beliefs that disagree with yours, and then don’t let them be just cardboard cutouts.  Do some reading.  Read things written by people you don’t agree with, and remember that, in any reasonably large and expansive fantasy world, there should be at least a few people (or dragons, or whatever) who believe just like that.

Stretch a bit.  Use the monsters you usually don’t like, or which for some reason you’ve just omitted.  I hardly ever use giants, a weakness I’m trying to overcome.  It’s not that I dislike giants, I just never think of them when I’m choosing monsters.  So I’m strongly considering running J.D. Neal’s Saga of the Giants adventures (found on our Downloads page) as a way to overcome that weak point and surprise my players.

The point is, don’t let yourself fall into a rut.  Whether it’s a matter of running an adventure module, or changing things up in your dungeon design, don’t let Single Creator Syndrome take the fire out of your game.

Module Review: The Zombraires Estate

by dymondy2k

In this review we will be running through The Zombraire’s Estate by Russ Westbrook. This is one of the modules contained in AA1 – Adventure Anthology. The adventure is recommended for characters of Levels 3 through 6. It contains a single map of The Estate and the surrounding area. There is no included wandering monsters but due to the small size of the adventure they really aren’t needed. It also includes a few included plot hooks to get a DM started.

Long ages ago, when the village near the marsh was settled (on order of the king, being all villagers were disgraced and exiled refugees), a family of Magic Users known as the Wrenwalds served as the settlement’s overlords. The Wrenwalds weren’t particularly good or kind, but they did protect the villagers from the ravages of the marsh’s beasts, and as long as the heavy and oppressive taxes rolled in, nobody died from Magic Missile. One day in the reign of Lord Justin Wrenwald III however, this all came to an end. One night while the family reveled with friends, the Swamp Witch Julieann demanded entrance as an honored guest. Seeing the ugly Hag (and fearing not the stories of her horrible power) the lord laughed in her face and ordered her put off the grounds. For this insult the Swamp Hag cursed the family, and horrible magics rose from Dark Realms. Many simply died; others transformed into living death, and the very estate itself took on the taint of Evil. A few villagers who served on the grounds escaped to the village to tell the awful tale, and since that night the villagers have avoided the grounds like the plague. It is said the ghosts of the dead still haunt the grounds, and the sounds of life can be heard from within, but that if anyone goes there, they never return. The current governor has done nothing to alleviate the people’s fear of the old ruin, and has decreed that anyone going to the ruins and not returning shall be deemed a suicide.

Setting the Hook
In the adventure before this, two of the adventurers died from a blast from a White Dragon. Their patron, the Wizard Elias Firebrand called in a favor with the high cleric of Chordax to raise them. As payment for this, she asked the party to look into the strange going ons at the Wrenwald Estate in the Norwood forest.

Fitting it In
It really didn’t take much to take the back story and work it into my campaign. I just stuck the town and estate into the northern section of the map. The only thing I did was make the Wrenwalds agents of the new Barony and the townspeople loyalists to the old government. Its obvious from the back story they aren’t really nice people so I stuck with that. The adventure never defined what happened when the Zombraire died so I decided that the curse was tied to him, so when he was destroyed, the curse over the surrounding land was lifted. So when the adventure was done, I bent the stronghold rules a bit and let my players keep the estate for themselves. It helped bleed some of the excess gold from them to get the place fixed up and to add a temple to Chordax there. I also had them petition the Duke to allow the town of Wrenwald to pay taxes directly to him at a much lower rate then they were paying the Wrenwald clan. They also presented the mayor of the town with the magic pitchfork they found.

Also it needs to be noted that although the swamp witch laid the curse on the Wrenwalds she doesn’t play into the adventure at all. I had a few of the NPCs that were local to the area know some rumors about her and she may tie into another adventure in the future.

The Playthrough
The players were all around level 3 when they went through this. The adventure was challenging to them and they took enough punishment that they needed to rest as soon as they could get into an area they could secure. However two of the toughest encounters in the adventure actually went really easy for them. The wraith in the main room was taken down pretty quickly due to some great rolls by everyone the first round of combat. The second was the Zombraire itself. I even allowed him to cast one of his spells ahead of time, but once again some great rolls by the players reduced him to ash pretty quickly.

Wrap Up
Let me state for the record that this was one of the most bizarre adventures I ever ran but the players LOVED it. It has alot of horror elements which give it a very creepy feel, but then some of the other elements such as zombie chickens and undead cows also give it a campy ‘Evil Dead’ feel as well. When the players opened up the stall and saw zombie milkmaids milking zombie cows and getting zombie milk, you could see the ‘What the Heck?’ look in all their faces before they all started laughing. Well that was until the cow attacked them. As stated earlier the players were around level 3 when they started and it gave them a good challenge without being extremely difficult. I would suggest that players be at the lower end of the recommended levels when running this. I think that a level 6 party would walk through this adventure too easily unless additional challenges were added.

Dungeon Ecology, and Other Religious Beliefs

by Solomoriah

I remember reading about the idea of having a proper “dungeon ecology” in the RPG magazines of the early 1980’s.  The fantasy RPGs of that era all included random dungeon generation tables, and many GMs would simply draw a map and then start rolling to fill in the rooms; this would lead to things like the stereotypical “dragon in a 10’x10′ room.”  So the RPG magazines of the era began publishing articles about planning your dungeons, really thinking about where you put the monsters, what they ate, even how they got air to breathe.

And yeah, this was an improvement, and a big one.  Not only was a sensible, logical dungeon design more pleasing to play, it allowed the players to actually reason about the adventure.  Having met an orc patrol, they might suspect the presence of a lair, for instance; or an encounter with a monster seemingly held prisoner behind a locked door would result in a search for its secret entrance.

Of course, this was more work, but it was worth it.  After all, everyone said it was, so it must be so, right?

Thus “dungeon ecology” became a thing that everyone was supposed to do.  All monsters had to make sense in the context of the imaginary environment, all treasures had to be reasonable, and all parts of the dungeon had to be assembled logically.

The only problem with that is, the real world doesn’t work that way.  So why should the fantasy world?

I’ve seen many old buildings where the arrangement of at least a few of the rooms makes little or no sense.  I recall an old school building where the third floor rest rooms were like handball courts, a few toilets lined up along one wall, sinks on another, and a bunch of empty space.  I think they were converted classrooms.  In another building, a staircase goes up to a blank wall where a doorway was closed off some time in the past.

I’ve seen large houses subdivided into offices, or apartments, or both, with varying degrees of strangeness left from the conversion.  I lived in such a house once, where I had a good lock on my main door keeping people out, but no lock on the attic stair door; that attic being connected directly to the other upstairs apartment.  They could have slipped in to my apartment and robbed me (though they’d have gotten little for the effort) or I could have done the same to them.  Of course, I put a lock on that door.

The point is, life is messy.  Plans get changed, items get repurposed.

Well, the true believer in dungeon ecology would say, then you need to think about that too.  When you design a dungeon, think about all the different creatures that lived there and how they would have changed or expanded the dungeon.

Gah.  That gets complicated fast, and there’s a better way.

Random tables.

Seriously.  Any adequately complex dungeon design of this sort, put together with all that deep thinking (which is hidden from the players, of course) will look pretty random in the end.  So go with the flow.  Roll up your rooms using the random design system of your choice (there’s one in the BFRPG Core Rules), and then go through the design with your map in front of you and think about what parts are pure nonsense.  Dragons in 10’x10′ rooms, for instance.  Rearrange, or change, whatever really doesn’t work, but don’t sweat the details.

Creating a dungeon shouldn’t be so much work that nobody wants to do it.  So why make it that way?

Note:  There’s another good reason to use random rolls at least part of the time for adventure design.  Stay tuned next time for “Single Creator Syndrome.”

Module Review: Crooked Rock Tower

by dymondy2k

In today’s review I will be taking a look at Crooked Rock Tower, one of the 3 adventures contained in Chris Gonnerman’s BF2 – Fortress, Tomb Tower series. The adventure is recommended for characters of level 3-6. It contains maps for the tower and 3 distinct dungeon levels. There is no included wandering monster tables for the adventure.

Chris has included a very deep back story for the adventure so instead of just repeating it verbatim here I will try to summarize it. The area the tower is located on has a very long and varied history. The first is the rock itself. It contains an ancient Lizardman temple where a sword of great power was buried thousands of years ago. During the adventure the party will run into a group of Lizardman looking for the sword. Long after the temple was lost to time, A wizard came to the area and built the Crooked Rock Tower as well as the dungeons below it. He turned one of the levels into a manufacturing facility where he created a race of clockwork men. He lived there for several years before he suddenly disappeared. A few years later another wizard came to the tower in search of the clockwork men he thought might still be hidden within. He tortured the remaining clockwork man he did find, to get it to reveal where the army was hidden, but the creature would not tell him. During one of these tortures, the wizard killed a woman in hopes of making the clockwork man talk. When it didn’t, he spared the life of her child and made it a servant instead. When the child became an adult it turned on the wizard and killed him before fleeing the tower. It has remained empty since.

Setting the Hook
The characters were hired by a lumber company owner to investigate a string of kidnappings at a lumber camp called Mosquito Marsh. When they arrive at the camp they find out the kidnappers are Lizardmen and that night repel an attack by a band of Lizardmen. They get word of a man in camp who followed the last band to a tower deep in the forest. They pay him to lead them to its location and from there the adventure starts.

Fitting it In
Chris created these adventures for his own campaign setting of Glain so I did have to do some major tweaking to get it to fit into mine. I located the tower deep in the Mirewood, a forest/swamp that fits in well with the Lizardmen. I kept the deep back story about the Lizardman and the sword the same. However I expanded on the Lizardman currently in the keep. They are searching for the sword to cement the clan chief as ruler over all other Lizardman clans. I also kept most of the Clockwork Wizard in as well, except I tweaked him to have some tie-in to my own custom race, The Soulforged. I did remove the manufacturing facility level from the adventure, because I am considering using it as a standalone piece later on. so I made the secret door behind one of the jail cells in room 11, lead to the temple instead. I also had the party find some of the abducted villagers in the tower basement. The other major thing I did was make the elevator mechanism work, just because I thought it was a cool addition. I just made the thing loud as hell when it ran.

The Playthrough
The adventure through the tower itself, was pretty uneventful except at the top level where the party was ambushed by 8 lizardmen. At first the Lizardmen were more interested in capturing the adventurers as more slaves so it was the first chance I got to use some brawling and wrestling rules from the core rules. It turned into a good fight and with another nasty fight with Lizardmen in the basement, the players actually had to return to the camp to heal for a few days.
Now in the first level dungeon Chris created the ‘Count Down Trap’ in Room 14. This was very ingenious and has a very cool ‘Lost’ countdown clock vibe to it. But while my players headed back to town to heal I knew the Lizardman Clan Chief wouldn’t just be sitting around so I did some random dice rolling to have them wandering around this level. And lo and behold, they found both the Stirges in Room 13 and the trap in 14. So when the party returned to the ungeon they found 13 dead stirges and one dead Lizardman in Room 13 and some very starved and dehydrated Lizardmen in Room 14. the party had found a set of numbers earlier and talked the Lizardman through turning the dials. This freed them but they were in no condition to fight so the party locked them up in cells in Room 11.
One thing I learned is that Chris loves Golems and constructs and the temple level is full of them. This level single-handedly gave my players a serious butt whupping, especially Room 35, where they lost the cleric. Even though Chris didn’t mention it in the adventure I decided that by destroying the drummers, the metal Godzilla Chris put in this room would become inanimate.
One of the other cool rooms in the temple level is Room 29. A mummy trapped here by a God as punishment for her misdeeds. The party had destroyed the mummy earlier in the adventure so this gave me a cool idea. I decided that I would raise the cleric, but he would no longer be a cleric of his old god, but of the God that trapped the mummy here in the first place, Vordane, The God of Retribution. It was all very cool, the armor changed color etc. So when they finally found the Sword Sashra, there was a loud explosion and the sword was gone, but now the Cleric’s mace pulsed with the same light as the sword. So I basically made the sword into a mace with a new name, Vorhaze.

Wrap Up
As I mentioned earlier this module took some work to fit into my campaign. Not all of it was the the fault of the adventure, I just saw an opportunity to expand some of the pieces into something greater later on. Chris’ modules are always the most challenging that I run, because sometimes the smartest thing to do in his adventures is to not fight. Plus he always throws in something that puts the players on their toes, either a puzzle or something else that involves using your wits to figure it out. I would recommend that they party be on the higher end of the level requirements because there are a couple of fights that were touch and go for the party and I believe they were all around level 4 when they went through this.

Module Review: Night of the Necromancer

by dymondy2k

Greetings everyone. My name is Dave Gerard, known around the BFRPG community as DymondY2K. I will be writing a new column for the blog where I take a look at some of the  adventures offered on our downloads site. I will be giving a quick overview of the module, how I fit it into my campaign setting and how it played. I will then give some pointers on the good and the bad as well as tweaks on how to run it.

To kick things off I will be reviewing Night of the Necromancer. It is one the adventures contained in the AA1 – Adventure Anthology One. It is written by Raymond L. Allen and is intended for character levels 3-5. It contains a straight dungeon adventure as well as some encounters that occur in the town and includes maps of both areas. There is no included random monster tables.

The characters arrive at the village of Stull and spend some time in the village before nightfall. While in town the party may learn that many families on the outlying farms have already packed their belongings and left due to the recent and seemingly
unstoppable advance of the undead. That evening they participate in defending the village from an attack of zombies that are originating from under the mausoleum of Bruk Stull, the founder of the village and the forefather of the lumbering operations in the area. This is a small dungeon where an “eco-necromancer,” Thaen Ygmay, has made his lair. The characters must enter this dungeon, defeat the necromancer and his foul undead, and destroy the Orbs of Necromancy that are allowing haen to create and control so many undead at once.

Setting the hook
I took the entire town of Stull and plopped it into a small corner next to the Bramblewoods to keep with the theme that it is a lumber town. The players had just finished up another adventure and were heading down a main thoroughfare so I begin to have them come across refugees heading east. I gave them the impression of bags and carts being packed in a hurry and a strange haunted look in their eyes. Once they questioned the refugees they found out about the undead stirring in the town of Stull. This was enough of a hook to get my players to change direction and head towards the town. I had the townspeople point them towards the mayor.

The play through
This is the first module I ran that had a few encounters with a sense of real urgency. I mean skeletons are attacking school children for gods sakes! I had to improvise their movement speed as they ran through the town to get to the school yard. It was frenetic and I could tell that the players were truly invested in saving those kids. Then as soon as they could catch a breath, another attack by zombies at the lumber mill. And the another at the Mayor’s house. And in the end it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, people died, setting the tone for the exploration of the mausoleum the next day. The dungeon crawl piece of the adventure has no surprises but is well done. The players definitely wanted some payback on the necromancer and his cleric side kick and got some when they found him. Sometimes adventurers seem to take all the right turns and they found the main villain the first day they were down there. They spent the next day backtracking through the dungeon to find the necromatic orbs and destroyed them after a tough encounter with some ghasts.

Wrap Up
As I mentioned earlier this was the first module I ran with my group where there was a real sense of urgency to some of the encounters. This in turn made the players emotionally invested in this town and its people. This carried forward to them eagerly wanting to go into the crypt to find the person behind all of this. Sometimes things don’t go in the order they are supposed to so the party ended up killing the necromancer and the cleric before they even found out about the Orbs of Necromantic Power. But I used the encounter with the students of necromancy as way to convey that information to the players, with one of the students actually being helpful (Garrett). After the adventure and back in the town, Raymond did such a good job of painting the town as being run down that my players picked up on it and wanted to know why. This kicked off one of the coolest PC/NPC interactions I’ve ever been part of and created the first real story arc of my campaign. I had to change very little to get this to fit into my campaign. I think all I did was change the references to some of the Gods to those that exist in the world.

I really liked this adventure and think it would be a great one to run right around Halloween. Not just because of the undead, but because they just aren’t in the crypts, they are overrunning the town as well.

Swords & Wizardry

by Solomoriah

I can remember when I first saw Mythmere’s announcement of Swords & Wizardry on the Dragonsfoot forums.  I had a long familiarity with Mythmere’s work, gained by too much time spent on Dragonsfoot, and I expected anything he set out to do would be good.  I downloaded that early version and was suitably impressed.

It has been suggested that, on this Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, we should post something of use in an S&W game.  So here you go:

One of the most wonderful things about true Old School games is their broad interchangeability.  Any of the adventures, and many of the other materials, available on the Basic Fantasy RPG downloads page (and for that matter, in our Showcase and Workshop areas) should be usable in a Swords & Wizardry game with few or no actual changes, and the same applies to using S&W materials in a BFRPG game.

Converting a monster from S&W to BFRPG?  Take the S&W ascending AC figure and add 1 to it (necessary to line up with the different combat progression in BFRPG).  Taking a monster from BFRPG to S&W?  Subtract one from the AC, or if you like descending AC, subtract the AC from 20.  Most of the other stats will work directly, or with similar minor adjustments.

Not sure how to do it?  Ask, in the comments here or in our forum.  We’ll help you with the transition in either direction.

S&W Appreciation Day!

by SmootRK

S&W is a great game in itself.  I love how all the various retro-clone games can utilize their materials rather interchangeably. Rather than blather on about my experience with S&W, I would rather just share a couple original races that can be utilized in S&W games.  There might be minor mechanical differences to iron out between the game versions, but usable nonetheless. Both are original creations, though one is inspired by a great author.

Copyright – R. Kevin Smoot 2009, originally within “New Races Supplement” for Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.  Images are copyright of Cory “Shonuff” Gelnett and should not be utilized outside of Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game endeavors without direct permission from him.

The first is a race inspired by my beloved dog whom passed away some time ago.


Canein Mage

Description: A legend exists that there was a wizard who loved his dogs. This mage kept dogs as pets, trained them to guard his estate, and even used them in magical experiments to enhance their ability to serve. They were gifted with greater intelligence and a more humanoid stature. It is unknown whether the legend is entirely true or not, but it is generally assumed to be the genesis of the Caneins.

Caneins are a race of dog-like humanoids, known for their extreme sense of loyalty whether to liege, friend, or family. There is a great deal of physical variance among the individual Caneins, with some short and stocky, others leanly muscled, and variations in the colorations of their coats. However, all Caneins share a similar facial structure similar to the various bulldog or boxer type dog breeds, having jowls and squat features. Caneins vary in their height, but are rarely larger than the average human. Caneins often form almost knight-like codes and attitudes, often serving a patron in exactly that capacity.

Restrictions: Caneins can be any class, although they seldom become Thieves. Even when a Canein Thief is found, he typically uses the skills of that profession in more honorable ways than the typical rogue. A Canein must have a minimum Constitution of 9, and are limited to a maximum Intelligence of 17.

Special Abilities: Caneins have a keen sense of smell, able to identify individuals by their scent alone. This power olfactory sense allows the Canein to determine the presence of concealed or invisible creatures, and any penalties associated with combating such foes is halved for the Caneins. For instance, a Canein suffers only a -2 penalty when attacking an invisible pixie. All Caneins can track as Ranger of equivalent level, and an actual Canein Ranger (if the class is allowed by the GM) gets a bonus of +20% on Tracking rolls.

Caneins have +2 on any reaction rolls involving other canine creatures. However, Caneins do not like vile beasts such as werewolves, hellhounds, and the like, despite any similarities.

Saving Throws: Caneins save at +2 vs. Death Ray or Poison as well as vs. Paralysis and Petrification effects


The next race owes its origins to C.S.Lewis’s Narnia.  Frankly, I am continually surprised that more  material from him does not appear in RPG form.  Certainly he brings a great vision of fantasy at least a good (if different) than Tolkein derived material.

Faun and Ibex

Description: Fauns are a fey related race that resemble a sort of strange cross of goat with that of a small human or elf-like being. Standing only about 4 to 5 feet tall, they have human-like torso and head, but the legs and feet of a goat. One can find Fauns with other small features reminisce of goats such as small horns or large ears. Fauns share the Halfling love of simple agrarian life, especially with respect to vineyards, as they prize wine (among other brews) above most things in life. Fauns love frivolity and are often quite adept at musical pursuits.

Restrictions: Fauns may become any class. A Faun will typically follow the tenets of nature deities, and Clerics and Druids can be found equally in their societies (when allowed by GM). A Faun must have a minimum Constitution of 9, and are limited to a maximum Charisma of 15 generally accounted to overly gregarious personalities and lack of inhibitions. Fauns may not wear typical human style footwear.

Special Abilities: Fauns have Darkvision out to 30 feet. Fauns are resistant to charm-like effects from fey beings, getting an additional +4 on relevant saves. This includes charms of dryads, nixies, and similar beings (GM decision when necessary).

Saving Throws: Like Dwarves, Fauns save at +4 vs. Death Ray or Poison, Magic Wands, Paralysis or Petrify, and Spells, and at +3 vs. Dragon Breath.

Ibix: The Ibix are a sort of cousin to the Fauns. Ibix appear like Fauns except that their heads are much more goat-like. Unlike Fauns, Ibex are ill tempered and generally considered evil, sometimes even allying with humanoids such as goblins. They have identical statistics to those listed above, except that they do not speak Halfling, instead learning the languages of Goblins more commonly.

What Are We Risking?

by Sir Bedivere

Chris has made a comment to the effect that if the player characters can’t get killed, there is no point in the game. I take this to mean that risking something makes the game meaningful, and I agree. However, these characters are inventions no more real than Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; how could it possibly matter if one dies? After all, if one is killed, we just roll up another. So, what exactly is it that we’re risking by making our characters genuinely mortal? Is there, in fact, any risk?

Some may say “No,” and those folks can stop here and go find something more interesting to read. I, on the other hand, think there are two ways to say “Yes.” But I’m only going to offer one here: What we risk is our own emotional involvement with the character and the game world: The more we are involved with the character, the more we risk.

This presents us with a dilemma: We need to be attached to a character to really be risking anything, but since Basic Fantasy is fairly lethal, it doesn’t make sense to create a character we are immediately attached to. Other games require a player to spend some time coming up with a somewhat detailed background, and that’s one way to develop player involvement in a character. The BF player shouldn’t do that; his character can die in the first encounter, and all that time will be wasted. If some attachment is necessary to care, a little detachment goes a long way to keeping the game fun.

I think the answer to the dilemma, quite naturally, goes back to something Chris said in the post, Special Snowflake Syndrome, “Player characters don’t begin as special snowflakes, all unique. They become that way by being played.”

Very existentialist for a role-playing game, and very right. We care little about our first level character because we hardly know him, but by fifth level he’s an old friend; we’ve been through a lot together.

Still, I want to care about that first level character, just a little, just enough to be risking something when he steps into that first musty, subterranean hallway. So, I answer one simple question about any new character I create: Why is he there? That usually results in a few sentences that tell me a lot about how to play the character, and which also give me a good base from which the PC can grow organically. That much, fifteen minutes maybe, is enough of an investment for me to be risking something.

What about you?

Kicking the Tires

by Sir Bedivere

Solomoriah has given me the keys to the blog (wisely or not, I don’t know), so I’m checking it out, seeing how fast she’ll go, whether the radio works, that sort of thing.

I plan to mostly write about game design, with some posts about other random things related to BF. As for schedule, I will keep a very strict calendar of posting only when I have something to say, though I promise not to step on Solomoriah’s Friday spot.

Okay, let’s see if this Publish button actually works. (I’m skeptical, myself. Don’t I have to roll something for this?)