Ringing in 2015 with some Classic D&D

Jack Daniel

Warning: this post is very long, but it’s fun if you’re as pedantic as I am. ;) I’m posting it because some people might find it entertaining or useful; and because I need an easily searchable document to reference as I run my next game session.

I haven’t played any D&D since August! Aaaaaaaaaaaggggghhhh!!!—Ahem. Sorry, just had to vent there for a moment. I knew I’d be too busy for it this last semester, so after my last campaign ended, I didn't start up a new one. But, hey, I aced all my classes, so I guess it was worth the hiatus.

Oh, and half my players moved away at the end of the summer, so that also kind of threw a wrench into the works. But they’re back for the holidays, at least temporarily, so you know what that means!


Yes, a singular adventure to be played out over the course of a one-day, marathon-length game session! I love those! Not as much as I love campaigns, to be sure, but one-shots do offer other opportunities. For example, they’re great environments for experimenting with new house-rules. You can tinker with the game mechanics in little ways to try out new things, without having to worry that your machinations will ruin an entire months-long campaign down the line. If you’re a relentless house-ruler, that’s awesome!

The other great thing about a one-shot is that it’s a chance to cut loose. You don’t have to be any kind of serious in a one-shot. Over-the-top action, comedy, cinematics… the more madcap hijinks you can pack into the game, the better. In devising the adventure that I plan to run this holiday, I thought to myself, “what should it be about?” and the answer came back, “…PIRATES!!!” That was easy. Then I sought a theme… and, perhaps because I’m presently in the middle of binge-watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus, this time my addlepated noggin returned, “…extended Monty Python joke reference!” So that’s my adventure design bible: a pirate-centric, Monty Python themed adventure module. I’ll get to that in a moment (don’t worry, it’s fine; my players are casuals and don’t read gaming forums, so they won’t be spoiled). First I want to talk about the rules.

Da Roolz (and da Wurld)
My game of choice these days is OD&D, 4th (Mentzer) edition, but using just the red Basic and blue Expert booklets. Tacked onto this is my steampunk setting for the same, Engines & Empires. But, while I’ll begin with the rules from E&E, I won’t be using its setting (Gaia) for this particular adventure.

I devised the Gaia setting to do three things in particular: (1) to reflect a world in which the concept of demi-human “race-as-class” (i.e. all dwarves are fighters, all gnomes are technologists, all centaurs are cavaliers, etc.) is a deeply-ingrained, fundamental rule of the universe; (2) to meld together a variety of influences from fantasy that I personally adore, chiefly the video games Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Shining Force, and most especially Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; and (3) to bring suitably simple and easy steampunk rules to OD&D.

But now I want to experiment with something a little different. Just because differential equations and thermodynamics have kept me from actually playing D&D these past few months, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing what DMs are always doing naturally, that is, cooking up ideas, tinkering with worlds and rules. And one of the ideas that I had recently was a world called the Lands of Älyewinn, which, likely inspired by the recent spate of Hobbit movies, is a total Tolkien pastiche. It’s basically Middle-Earth plus steampunk. What if Saurman and goblinkind brought more industry and machinery to bear in the big war, and after all was said and done, men and dwarves turned this technology to peaceful purposes, bringing about less nature-rapey sort of industrial revolution than the bad guys would have? Then fast-forward the timeline about two generations, and you have a setting conceit right there.

To that end, I realized that I needed a far more parsimonious list of races and monsters than I’m used to. (A Middle-Earth type world is emphatically not a fantasy kitchen-sink.) Also, I wanted to try ditching race-as-class, opening things up a little for non-human characters. Finally, I wanted to try my hand at yet again balancing out the martial and magical character classes. (The inspiration for this last goal was undoubtedly D&D 5E’s new warlock class. I really like the mechanics behind all of 5E’s classes, but the warlock is my favorite—it got me thinking, “what if all the spell-caster types basically worked like this?” The end result is actually a bit more complex than a classic D&D magic-user, but I love how it balances out on both a per-day and a per-encounter basis.)

Ability Scores
I’ve put far more time and thought than might be considered strictly healthy into ability score generation. I don’t know what it is about “rolling stats” that has such mystique, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who worries about it to an inordinate degree. Arrays and point-buys are terrible things for OD&D: they invite min-maxing into a place where it should never be allowed to go. Plus they’re boring. Dice are the only option here, but they present two inherent problems. First, they can create a wild imbalance between players within the same group who roll well versus those who roll poorly. Second, they have a tendency to produce hopeless characters with debilitating penalties. Any version of OD&D from the 3rd (Moldvay) edition onward uses an ability score table where modifiers for most of the scores can range from –3 to +3. This is quite an impactful spread! And, personally, I quite like that ability scores have an impact on the characters mechanically. I’m not an adherent of the school that says one should look to the very first edition of OD&D, pre-Greyhawk, and just limit bonuses and penalties to a +1 for very high scores or a –1 for very low scores. But neither do I want players to suffer running characters with heavy penalties.

I think the problem of disparity between characters actually takes care of itself thanks to the rarity of rolled characters with lots of extreme scores. Generating abilities with a simple roll of 3d6 already produces a bell-curve; on top of that, the Moldvay/Cook//Mentzer//Denning/Allston ability score table exaggerates that curve by shrinking the ranges of scores that give very high or low modifiers. Frankly, disparate character power from rolled scores is a problem that can occur, but rarely does.

Rolling up a hopeless character is another issue altogether. After tinkering with a variety of more or less clever dice mechanics for a while, I decided that the best way to deal with it is simple, brute-force elimination. Exclude the low scores by fiat, but keep rolling stats on 3d6 as usual, so that high scores remain relatively rare. Then, if after all is said and done, a player’s scores still add up to more penalties than bonuses, a full re-roll is permitted.

Thus, the first rule for my one-shot: player characters roll their abilities using 3d6, in order. Any score below 6 (carrying a penalty of –2 or worse) can be re-rolled immediately. Once all six scores are generated, the character is valid of the sum of all penalties and bonuses is zero or positive. Finally, the player may swap any one pair of scores, if desired, to make the rolled character more suitable to whatever class the player might wish to play.

This last rule, one swap of any two scores, is an old favorite of mine. It helps players make the character they want without altogether giving up the randomness of rolling in order, and I use it in place of OD&D’s rather intricate and clunky rules for raising one’s prime requisite by lowering other scores.

The Races
I noticed something odd the last time I sat down and really thought about what elves and dwarves are like in Tolkien’s literature (and its many imitators) vs. what they’re like in D&D. Things don’t quite add up. For instance, I don’t recall any mention of dwarves being able to see in the dark. Indeed, infravision seems to be entirely invented for the sake of D&D’s dungeon-crawl conceit, an advantage that elves and dwarves have for the sake of having an advantage. (And between humans carrying torches and their demi-human allies trying to see in the dark, it’s frankly quite an annoying thing to adjudicate while playing—better to eliminate the ability for player characters altogether!)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that giving demi-humans lists of special powers and annoying little modifiers was something I’d like to avoid this time around. Instead, I wanted to give the non-humans in this new setting I’m working up no more than one or two very limited, very situationally useful, and very flavorful abilities. A lot of what follows here was actually inspired by Dennis L. McKiernan’s “Mithgar” novels (of all the Tolkien knockoffs out there, he’s my favorite because his books are such shameless imitations—really, read The Iron Tower trilogy, you’ll love it).

Okay, so the five playable races for this setting are humans, dwarves, gnomes, ogres, and elves.

Humans have no real special abilities and no ability score requirements. They do get two bonus skill points (I’ll expound upon my skill system in a moment). The world is home to two major human civilizations. In the north are the Lands of Älyewinn, which are all the free kingdoms who acknowledge of the rule of the High King of Índright: old, storied, decaying lands in the north like Bǽlgode and Fordonster, and all the bustling little merchant-principalities along the seacoast in the middle of the continent—Dúguth, Gladmón, Tylwýth, Fríthinglow, Séylvad, and Hýragild. (Like all Anglo-Saxon sounding names, the stress generally falls on the first syllable—the accent marks are denoting long vowels. They just look nicer than macrons.) Opposed to the free kingdoms is a vast human empire that fills the southern half of the continent, a tyrannical theocracy known as the Ephesian Confederation (with a culture that draws on a combination of Hellenistic Egypt under the Ptolemaic pharaohs and medieval Byzantium).

Dwarves are pretty much just like you’d imagine dwarves to be. In the Lands of Älyewinn, there is only one great dwarven kingdom left, under a mountain range called the Chozelrunds. Within the dwarven halls, society is strictly hierarchical and utterly Machiavellian. Dwarves have minds like iron and wheels: always calculating, assessing, scheming. There are two ways to elevate the status of one’s family within dwarven society: illicitly, by disgracing or assassinating the competition; or legitimately, by purchasing a higher social position with huge sums of gold. Thus, acquiring treasure is of utmost importance to kingdom-dwarves. However, not all dwarves are like this: a great many of their kin live on the surface in towns and villages, some amongst the human kingdoms, and many more in the Heathlands. These surface-dwarves tend to be the most technophilic and inventive of all the common races, more inclined to science and engineering than even humans are.

A dwarf must have a Constitution score of at least 9. Dwarves have the innate ability to spot unusual stonework, including the ability to notice gradual slopes and intuit relative depth under the ground. Any path that a dwarf has trod before, a dwarf can always retrace flawlessly from memory, even if blindfolded: thus, dwarves rarely get lost in mazelike environments, and they are almost never fooled by shifting walls or passages.

Gnomes dwell in the Heathlands, a vast stretch of mostly unpopulated wilderness in the interior of the middle of Älyewinn. Some live in villages on the edge of the vast northern forests; most live in sprawling settlements of hillside burrows surrounded by simple farms. Quiet, pastoral types, gnomes basically fulfill this setting’s halfling/hobbit/warrow/nelwyn/kender role. A gnome must have a Dexterity of at least 9. Mechanically speaking, the gnomes’ small size is their only noteworthy trait. This prevents them from wielding the largest weapons, but it also means that they can squeeze into small spaces that others can’t reach; hide with relatively little cover and go unnoticed by most if they choose; and in battle, move through spaces occupied by allies or very large monsters almost unhindered.

Elves of Älyewinn are magical because they are dragon-blooded. The mythic past of Älyewinn is a long and twisted history of the gods creating various life-forms to populate the world, only to discover that each successive generation of beings proved despotic once it rose to dominance. The dragons were created to free the world from the tyranny of the stone giants, and they themselves became conquerors and tyrants once the giants were defeated. When the gods turned on the dragons, some—the firedrakes—did as the gods asked and went to sleep beneath the earth. Others pacted with the evil god Mórgrundel and were warped into dragons of darkness and cold—the murkwyrms. Before the firedrakes vanished from the world, though, they left behind descendants—a mingling of dragon and human blood, a race of vast magical power called the eldar. The eldar, as a hybrid and magical race, are almost immortal—practically demigods—but they have difficulty reproducing amongst themselves. Mingling their blood further with humans, though, has produced a lesser race of what might rightly be called either half-eldar or dragon-blooded, and these are the common elves.

Elves possess a lifespan of two or three centuries, but they are neither ageless nor immortal. Since the true eldar are so few anymore, they rarely leave their forest sanctuary at Eádnessa. Instead, the elves are their agents in the world, their eyes and ears abroad. They serve both the eldar and the even more mysterious Gáldre, immortal beings cloaked in mortal flesh who act as prophets and messengers of the gods.

An elf must have both Dexterity and Wisdom of 9 or higher. Elves are attuned to the heavens and always know the precise position of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, even when they are deep underground or have been unconscious for some unknown length of time—thus, an elf always knows the precise day of the year and time of day. Elves are highly sensitive to both magic and evil: should an elf spend a full turn (ten minutes) or more in any area that would by itself set off either a detect magic or detect evil spell, the elf will become nauseated (by evil) or intoxicated (by magic) until they can spend a full turn resting in an unaffected area. At the DM’s discretion, elves may sometimes be capable of extraordinary feats of balance or perception, according to the situation—but these moments are highly circumstantial and often come upon the elf like a vision or a waking trance, without warning and not precisely under the elf’s control.

Ogres are a giant-blooded race, kin to humans, strong of arm and green of skin. They fill the role of the D&D half-orc or the Elder Scrolls orc, without actually using the name “orc” and carrying its implication of “evil goblinoid”. Ogre society is nomadic and clannish, with individual tribes named after a particular totem animal. The five greatest ogre nations are the clans of the cat, the serpent, the eagle, the wolf, and the bear—and the bear clan has always been the most noble. The bear totem is important to all ogres of all the clans. (Ogres are likewise inspired by Middle-Earth’s Beornings, as well as Viking berserkers—thus their racial ability.) An ogre must have a Strength of at least 9. Whenever an ogre falls to 0 hit points in battle, the ogre must roll a saving throw. If the save is failed, the ogre falls dying, like any other wounded character; but if the save is made, the ogre remains conscious and able to fight, consumed by a berserk frenzy. The ogre is +2 to all damage rolls, barely able to distinguish friend from foe, and will continue fighting until wounded again (and thus likely slain) or until all foes have been slain or routed, at which point the frenzy will end and the ogre will then succumb to the original wound and fall dying.

Other races operating in the world include the Gáldre, mysterious demigods who go about disguised as wandering wizards in service to the Válodre, the gods. The gods number six: Ánzehu, the mother-goddess and patron of humans; Aéltfyr the fire-god, patron of elves and firedrakes; Vordúlven, earth-god, patron of dwarves and stone-giants; Léoma, storm-goddess, patron of gnomes and growing plants; Yechéla, frost-goddess, patron of ogres and wild beasts; and Mórgrundel, chaos-god, patron of murkwyrms and evil humanoids. Mórgrundel brought two humanoid races into being: goblin-kind (kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, orogs, and bugbears) and troll-kind (gnolls, trolls, and ettins). Numerous other monster species exist in the world, most of them created by one god or another at various moments in the world’s long history. Of special note are the wood-wosen, the tree-folk; they seem to have existed for always, even going back to that distant age before the gods found the world and started filling it with life; and the wood-wosen owe their only allegiance to some deeper spirit within the world that predates even the gods.

Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Jack Daniel

The Classes
This is where the crap gets cool. I love devising class systems so much… okay, so there will be six classes for this game, one tied to each of the six ability scores: the Fighter (Strength), the Expert (Dexterity), the Brawler (Constitution), the Artificer (Intelligence), the Druid (Wisdom), and the Sorcerer (Charisma).

Fighters are masters of armed combat and battle-tactics. They possess a trained psychological battle-focus that unlocks certain special maneuvers usable only by fighters. The opportunity to use a maneuver will only present itself a few times during any given engagement, thus maneuvers are limited to only so many attempts per battle, according to the fighter’s experience level.

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Special Abilities
[/U]1    1d8        +2         Focused strike 1/battle
2    2d8        +2         Perfect parry 1/battle
3    3d8        +2         Split focus 1/battle
4    4d8        +4         Whirlwind attack 1/battle
5    5d8        +4         Focused strike 2/battle
6    6d8        +4         Two attacks per round
7    7d8        +6         Split focus 2/battle
8    8d8        +6         Perfect riposte 2/battle
9    9d8        +6         Focused strike 3/battle, Turn undead 2/day (caster level 3rd)
10   9d8+2      +8         Whirlwind attack 2/battle, Cast one spell, learn 1st level spells
11   9d8+4      +8         Split focus 3/battle, Cast two spells
12   9d8+6      +8         Three attacks per round, Caster level 4th
13   9d8+8      +10        Focused strike 4/battle, Learn 2nd level spells
14   9d8+10     +10        Power smash 1/battle, Recover 1st level spell 1/day

Fighting: Fighters (and brawlers) are good at fighting; experts and druids less so; sorcerers and artificers, not so much. A character’s fighting capability is a bonus to hit any given armor class. A target in leather armor, for example, is AC 7, while a target in a full suit of plates is AC 1. To hit a target with a melee weapon, you must roll equal to or less than (the target’s AC + your fighting capability + your Str mod) on 1d20. With a missile weapon, the formula is the same, except that Dex replaces Str, and range penalties apply (–2 to hit for medium range; –5 to hit for long range). Fighting capability also delineates a character’s ability to make a saving throw, and again, fighters (and brawlers) are superior in this area. A character’s chance to save against any hostile circumstance (spell, trap, breath weapon, whatever) is 5 + fighting capability + Wis mod. Rolling this target number or less on 1d20 makes the saving throw.
Focused Strike: Use of this ability must be declared before the fighter rolls to hit, and a miss ruins the attempt. The fighter attacks, and if he hits, he deals maximum damage instead of rolling dice for damage. (On a critical hit, the extra damage must still be rolled.)
Perfect Parry: This ability is used only as a response to an enemy attack; thus it does not use up the fighter’s action during a combat round. Once per battle, when an enemy melee attack would otherwise hit the fighter or an adjacent ally, the fighter may roll a saving throw to negate the damage. If the fighter carries a shield, a ranged attack may be negated in similar fashion; but if the fighter only carries weapons, parrying a ranged attack will halve rather than negate the damage. At 8th level, this ability is replaced by the “Perfect Riposte”: now useable twice per battle, it also grants an immediate, free counterattack against a successfully parried attacker in melee.
Split Focus: Like the focused strike, the use of this ability is declared before the fighter rolls to hit. This maneuver allows the fighter to strike two adjacent foes with a single attack. The fighter makes a single attack roll and compares it to both targets’ armor classes, with normal damage occurring for one or both targets hit.
Whirlwind Attack: The fighter makes a single melee attack roll. All enemies within 10’ of the fighter who would be hit by the attack take normal damage.
Multiple Attacks: Fighters make two attacks round after 6th level and three attacks per round after 12th level. Multiple special maneuvers are permitted in a round, so long as the fighter has sufficient attempts-per-battle remaining.
Power Smash: The most powerful of the fighter maneuvers, use of this ability (as per usual) must be declared before rolling to hit. On a successful hit in melee, the fighter adds his entire Strength score to the damage dealt, in addition to all the usual adjustments from Strength bonus, magic bonus, and so forth. This ability may also be used to perform a “Precise Snipe”, which is functionally identical, but for ranged attacks: in this case, the fighter adds his Dexterity score to the damage dealt on a hit with a missile attack.
Name Level—Paladin: A 9th level fighter stops rolling hit dice and thereafter adds +2 hit points per level. A 9th level fighter is called a paladin and is capable of turning undead twice per day, as if the fighter were a 3rd level druid. A 9th level fighter cannot yet cast spells from memory, but can read spells off of druidic scrolls. (No other druid-only magic items are permitted.) At 10th level, the fighter becomes capable of learning 1st level druid spells: the fighter’s effective caster level is also that of a 3rd level druid. The fighter can have up to (2 + Wis mod) spells memorized and therefore ready to cast, and can cast one of these spells in a day. At 11th level, the fighter can now memorize a selection of (4 + Wis mod) spells from his list of known spells, and can cast two spells per day. At 12th level, the fighter’s effective caster (and turning) level becomes that of a 4th level druid for the purpose of variable spell effects. At 13th level, the fighter becomes able to learn and cast 2nd level spells. At 14th level, the fighter acquires the “Spell Recovery” ability: once per day, after the fighter has used one of his two spell slots to cast a 1st (but not a 2nd) level spell, the fighter may spend ten minutes resting in order to recover the spent spell slot. (NB, turning undead counts as a 1st level spell that the paladin always has memorized. Even after using up his two daily uses of turning undead, a 10th level paladin can continue to use this ability by expending spell slots; and after reaching 14th level, he can use his spell recovery ability to restore a spell slot used to turn undead.)

Experts are adventurers who specialize in an eclectic mix of manual skill and ranged combat ability. They can be practically any profession imaginable—burglars, bards, scholars, tradesmen, diplomats, gunslingers, bounty-hunters, salesmen, scouts, wanderers, rogues, and gamblers. An expert’s hallmarks are extraordinary skill and uncanny luck.

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Special Abilities
[/U]1    1d6        +2         Lucky Shot No. 3
2    2d6        +2         Backstab
3    3d6        +2         Sniper's Aim (–1/–2)
4    4d6        +2         Second chance 1/day
5    5d6        +4         Crit ×3
6    6d6        +4         Alertness (1-in-6)
7    7d6        +4         Evade area spells
8    8d6        +4         Steal the initiative
9    9d6        +6         Crit ×4, Skill mastery, Combat improv, Cast a spell (Lv1, CL 3)
10   9d6+1      +6         Second chance 2/day, Armored sorcery
11   9d6+3      +6         Evade breath weapons, Cast two spells
12   9d6+4      +6         Two attacks per round, Caster level 4th
13   9d6+6      +8         Crit ×5, Learn 2nd level spells
14   9d6+7      +8         Perfect Awareness, Recover 1st level spell 1/day

Lucky Shot No. 3: The expert’s basic ability is getting lucky in combat. Where most characters have a 1-in-20 chance to score a critical hit in combat, an expert has a 3-in-20 chance.
Backstab: A 2nd level expert is better able to take advantage of unawares opponents. Whenever a 2nd level expert strikes an opponent from behind (such as during an ambush, when surprising an opponent, or when attacking a fleeing opponent with a "parting shot"), the expert rolls to hit at +4 (instead of the usual +2 bonus for attacking from behind).
Sniper's Aim: For most characters, attacking at medium range imposes a –2 penalty to hit and attacking at long range imposes –5 to hit. Experts are excellent snipers, with only –1 (for medium) and –2 (for long) range penalties after 3rd level and no range penalties at all once they reach 14th level.
Second Chance: Once per day at 4th level and twice per day at 10th level, the expert is able to re-roll any one attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check and take the second result if it’s better.
Critical Damage: An expert of 5th level causes triple damage on a critical hit or backstab. After 9th level, this improves to quadruple damage, and after 13th level, quintuple damage.
Alertness: Where most characters are surprised when the DM rolls 1 or 2 on the surprise roll (1d6), experts of 6th level and higher are surprised only half the time, when the DM rolls a 1; and upon reaching 14th level, an expert is never surprised.
Evasion: A 7th level expert is able to partially negate the effects of area-effect spells, such as fire ball. Whenever the expert is hit by a spell that allows a save for half damage, the expert takes half damage automatically and one-quarter damage on a successful saving throw. After 11th level, this ability also applies to breath weapons that allow a save for half damage. Use of this ability relies on complete freedom of moment, so it only applies if the expert is wearing light armor (such as leather) or no armor at all.
Steal the Initiative: An 8th level expert always acts first in combat, before the initiative order. (In this respect, they’re sort of the opposite of zombies, which always act last, after the initiative order.) If opposing sides in a battle both have experts of 8th level or higher, the experts all take their actions first and simultaneously, and the DM adjudicates the results before handling all the other actions that take place during the normal initiative order that round.
Skill Mastery: Explaining this ability requires briefly explaining the skill system. Engines & Empires has twelve skills: Athletics, Civics, Craft, Diplomacy, Entertain, Knowledge, Medicine, Outdoors, Perception, Pilot, Stealth, and Trade. Originally, characters’ skill levels were ranked from 1 to 5, and the skill check made on 1d6, mirroring the many sub-systems and game-mechanics in classic D&D which are handled in that fashion (such as bashing open stuck doors, or elves finding secret doors, or thieves hearing noise). But skill checks as originally conceived were entirely independent of ability checks, and not in any way affected by ability score modifiers. In an effort to simplify things and fold these two systems together, this game will use a more unified mechanic: ability checks are made on 1d12, with the check passed if the roll is equal to or less than 4 ± the associated ability score modifier. (This replaces the old “roll your score or lower on 1d20” ability check system.) If a skill would apply to the situation, a character’s skill rank is added to the chance-in-12 to pass the check, thus making the target number 4 ± ability modifier + skill rank. Characters of the fighter, brawler, artificer, druid, and sorcerer classes begin the game with (6 + Int mod) skill points to distribute amongst the twelve skills. They may put up to four skill points in a single skill (thus, the maximum skill rank for most characters is 4, and the maximum bonus from a skill to an ability check is +4). After 1st level, characters gain one further skill point at every level from 2nd to 9th, and then one further point on odd-numbered levels above 9th (the 11th and 13th levels). Humans of all classes add +2 bonus skill points at 1st level.
Experts start with (10 + Int mod) skill points at 1st level (again, with +2 extra points if human), gain 2 additional skill points per level from 2nd up to 9th level, and then one further skill point again at 11th and 13th levels, just as other characters above name level do. A 9th level expert has the “Skill Mastery” ability: characters of this level and above may raise a skill as high as rank 6, for a potential +6 bonus to skill-modified ability checks. (This means that an expert with a high ability score might conceivably achieve a 12-in-12 chance or better to pass a skill check. Under these circumstances, a natural roll of 12 on the die will still fail the check. But a high chance of success might negate other penalties imposed by the situation, such as, for example, attempting to sneak in heavy armor.)
Combat Improvisation: An expert of 9th level or higher can fight “Jackie Chan” style, dealing 1d4 damage (rather than the usual 1d2) with unarmed strikes; 1d6 damage (rather than the usual 1d3) with improvised weapons; and full damage rather than half damage with ordinary weapons used in unusual ways (such as 1d8 damage for throwing a longsword, where other characters could only cause 1d4 damage by doing this). A 9th level expert has only a –2 penalty to strike with off-hand attacks, rather than the usual –4 penalty imposed on other characters.
Multiple Attacks: A 12th level expert is able to make two attacks per round.
Perfect Awareness: A 14th level expert is never surprised, suffers no range penalties when attacking with missile weapons, and can hide practically anywhere, even when in plain sight and without the benefit of shadows or cover.
Name Level—Professional: An expert of 9th level or higher is called a professional. Above 9th level, professionals stop rolling hit dice and add +1.5 hit points per level (with the half hit point “rolling over” and adding up to a full hit point on odd-numbered levels). A high-level expert is a formidable foe indeed. While some might settle down and found a guild, many keep working as elite operatives: spies, ninjas, assassins, or secret agents. A professional can often pass himself off as a lower-level member of another class, such as a fighter, a brawler, or even a sorcerer—because professionals are able to learn spells of sorcery! At 9th level, a professional becomes able to both read sorcerer spells off of scrolls, and to learn, memorize, and cast 1st level sorcerer spells. (No other sorcerer-only magical items are usable.) A 9th level professional has the effective caster level of a 3rd level sorcerer; is able to memorize (2 + Cha mod) spells from his spell-book; and can cast one of these memorized spells per day. After 10th level, the professional becomes better able to cast spells in armor, reducing the chance of spell failure by 10% for the armor type. After 11th level, the professional can memorize (4 + Cha mod) known spells at once, and can cast two of his memorized spells in a day, in any combination. After 13th level, the professional can now learn 2nd level sorcerer spells and cast them with his two daily spell slots. Finally, at 14th level, the professional gains the ability of “Spell Recovery”—once per day, after having used one of his spell slots to cast a 1st (but not a 2nd) level spell, the professional can spend ten minutes resting to recover the spent spell slot.

Brawlers are masters of unarmed combat and internal energy, which manifests itself as extraordinary feats of toughness and reflexes, and then borderline psychic powers. Some brawlers are monks or martial artists who attribute their abilities to “qi”—life force and meditative “breath” control. Others may be wild warriors, barbarians whose power comes from a spirit totem that focuses the warrior’s fighting style into an imitation of some ferocious beast. Still others may be ordinary pugilists and street-boxers, whose capabilities would appear to stem from the same intense mental focus that drives a fighter’s battle-maneuvers.

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Special Abilities
[/U]1    1d8        +2         Brawl 1d4, Off-hand –2, Deflect missile 1/battle
2    2d8        +2         One-inch punch
3    3d8        +2         Brawl 1d6, Tough as nails +3
4    4d8        +4         Stunning fist 1/battle
5    5d8        +4         Brawl 1d8, Off-hand –1, Deflect missile 2/battle
6    6d8        +4         Two attacks per round
7    7d8        +6         Brawl 1d10, Tough as nails +7
8    8d8        +6         Fists of fury
9    9d8        +6         Brawl 1d12, Off-hand –0, Deflect missile 3/battle, Feel qi
10   9d8+2      +8         Stunning fist 2/battle, Focus qi
11   9d8+4      +8         Evade breath weapon, Control qi
12   9d8+6      +8         Three attacks per round, Project qi, +1 qi point
13   9d8+8      +10        Evade area spell, Speed of breath
14   9d8+10     +10        Brawl 1d16, Flow like water, Touch of death

Brawl: The brawler’s basic ability is unarmed fighting. Where most characters cause 1d2 points of damage with unarmed strikes, brawlers progress through all of the die-types from 1d4 up to 1d12, and then even up to 1d16. Brawlers are only able to use their improved unarmed damage (and, indeed, most of their other abilities) if they wear no armor or light armor—either a leather jerkin or the incredibly rare mythrill maille-shirt.
Off-Hand Penalties: When most characters engage in two-weapons combat, they roll to hit with their main-hand at no penalty and their off-hand at –4 to hit. For brawlers, off-hand attacks come at a lesser penalty: –2 at 1st level, –1 at 5th level, and no penalty after 9th level (in effect, a brawler’s off-hand attack is a free bonus attack at 9th level and above).
Deflect Missile: Once per battle at 1st level, twice at 5th level, and thrice at 9th level, the brawler may negate the damage from a missile attack that would otherwise have hit him. Use of this ability is an automatic success for most missiles, up to and including arrows, quarrels, and other such projectiles. For extraordinary missiles (musket and pistol bullets, blunderbuss shot, magic missiles, boulders hurled by a catapult or the arm of a giant), a saving throw is required to negate the damage.
One-Inch Punch: When a 2nd level brawler drops a foe to 0 HP, and another foe is within reach, he may cleave through into the next enemy, making one additional attack against this new target. After 8th level, this ability improves, becoming “Fists of Fury”. Now the brawler may continue to make additional attacks so long as each previous attack has reduced its target to 0 HP, and new targets are available within reach.
Tough as Nails: A brawler gets +3 bonus hit points at 3rd level and a further +7 bonus hit points at 7th level.
Stunning Fist: Use of this ability must be declared before rolling to hit, and a miss ruins the attempt. If the brawler attempts to use this ability while wearing armor heavier than leather, it has a chance to fail, just like an arcane spell. The brawler makes an unarmed strike, and on a successful hit, in addition to normal damage, the target must save or be stunned for 1d3+1 rounds (reduced to one-third movement speed and unable to act for the duration of the effect). A creature must have a living anatomy to be affected by this power, so undead and magical constructs are immune.
Multiple Attacks: A brawler makes two attacks per round after 6th level and three attacks per round after 12th level.
Evasion: An 11th level brawler is resistant to dragon’s breath, just like an 11th level expert. Whenever the brawler is struck by a breath weapon that allows a save for half damage, the brawler takes half-damage automatically and one-quarter damage on a successful save. After 13th level, this ability also applies to area-effect spells, the same as for a 7th level expert.
Flow Like Water: The brawler’s capstone ability, whenever the brawler is confronted by enemies with 2 HD or fewer (but not 2+1 HD or better), the brawler may forego his usual number of attacks per round and instead make one unarmed attack per experience level against the throng of weak enemies—and any foes which are destroyed by a blow in this “heroic fray” grant the brawler extra attacks by virtue of his Fists of Fury ability!
Name Level—Master: A brawler of 9th level or higher has access to “qi” powers. Such a brawler takes the title of “master”. The master has qi points equal to (3 + Con mod). At higher levels, these are spent on powers, and recovered on a per-day basis, just like spells. Any of a master’s spell-like qi powers have a chance to fail if the master wears armor, just like a sorcerer casting spells. A 9th level master has only one qi ability, and it is automatic and persistent: the master can “feel the flow” of qi, which grants the master partial alertness, reducing his chance to be surprised before a battle to 1 in 6, just like a 6th level expert. A 10th level master can “focus qi” downward against gravity, allowing the master to leap to great heights or slow a fall and reduce damage taken—10’ per point of qi in the master’s qi pool in either case (maximum qi, that is; spending qi on other powers does not reduce the effectiveness of the master’s focus). An 11th level master controls qi, healing by means of pressure points—this requires an expenditure of 1 qi point, and will heal the master or another target touched of 3d4 HP. A 12th level master can project qi into a destructive bolt of energy, which may be hurled as a missile at any target within 150’. A hit causes 3d6 points of damage, and 2 qi points are expended to produce the missile. For each additional qi point spent, the damage of the missile can be increased by 1d6. Since the bolt is made of kinetic force, a shield spell will defend against it as it would a magic missile. Also at 12th level, the master’s qi pool becomes (4 + Con mod) qi points. At 13th level, the master gains the “Speed of Breath” power, which allows the master to hasten himself for the duration of one battle by expending 3 qi points. Finally, at 14th level, the master gains the feared “Touch of Death”: for 4 qi, the master can charge his fist with deadly energies and then attempt to strike a pressure-point on a living enemy’s body (undead and golems are immune). A miss ruins the attempt, but a hit forces the enemy struck to save or die.

Artificers are adventuring engineers who make use of super-science gadgets, alchemical concoctions, advanced weapons, and steamworks. Artificers live and die by their technology: to be effective, they must carry a bewildering array of tools, parts, chemicals and reagents, finished inventions, and big portfolios filled with blueprints, schematics, and formulas. The average artificer looks like a walking, one-man junk-shop (and smells like a chemical plant placed between a mechanic’s garage and a munitions store).

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Devices  P/S/T    Miscellaneous
[/U]1    1d4        +2         1        1/1/0    Craftsman
2    2d4        +2         2        2/1/1    —
3    3d4        +2         2        3/2/1    Smithy
4    4d4        +2         2        4/2/2    Breakthrough invention
5    5d4        +2         3        5/3/2    —
6    6d4        +4         3        6/3/3    Jury-Rig 1/day
7    7d4        +4         4        7/4/3    —
8    8d4        +4         4        8/4/4    Greater Smithy
9    9d4        +4         4        9/5/4    Breakthrough invention
10   9d4+1      +4         5        10/5/5   —
11   9d4+2      +6         5        11/6/5   MacGyver 2/day
12   9d4+3      +6         6        12/6/6   —
13   9d4+4      +6         6        12/7/6   Master Smithy
14   9d4+5      +6         6        12/7/7   Breakthrough invention

Devices: An artificer’s basic ability is the creation of devices, small single-use items that produce some scientific or alchemical effect. Artificers are able to prepare a number of devices per day given in the table above (one device per day at 1st level, up to six per day at 12th level). Devices are prepared according to scientific principles that the artificer understands—this is the list of technological degrees that the artificer has mastered.
Degrees: All of the special effects that an artificer can realize as items are described by technological degrees. There are twelve degrees in each of the three fields of scientific artifice, physics/mechanics, chemistry/explosives, and biology/pharmaceuticals. The list of degrees is reproduced here: their effects are found in the Engines & Empires setting guide. A technological degree is usually equal in power to a spell level of one-half the degree, e.g. 6th or 7th degree technology is about as powerful as 3rd level magic.

[U]Degree   Biology/Pharmaceuticals   Chemistry/Explosives     Physics/Mechanics
[/U]1st      Herbal Healer             Chemical Smoke           Ballistic Projectile
2nd      Stimulant/Depressant      Psychotropic Compound    Optic Flash
3rd      Pheromones                Metallic Alloy           Magnetic Field
4th      Growth/Reduction          Explosive Combustion     Kinetic Engine
5th      Cellular Transparency     Toxin/Antitoxin          Flight/Submersion
6th      Vile Venom                Corrosive Acid           Electric Induction
7th      Ectoplasmic Distillate    Adhesive/Lubricant       Sonic Vibration
8th      Disease/Vaccine           Flash Freeze             Holo-Projection
9th      Wonder Drug               Polymer Plastic          Radio Telegraphy
10th     Genetic Mutation          Protoninc Solvent        Analytic Engine
11th     Tissue Reanimation        Crystal Lattice          Gravitational Field
12th     Tissue Regeneration       Radioactive Plasma       Quantum Shift

Unlike spell-casters, artificers acquire their degrees automatically with each experience level. Every artificer designates one of the three fields as his “primary” field of study and other two as “secondary” and “tertiary”. The artificer learns one degree in his primary field at every level up to the 12th, and he alternates between his secondary and tertiary fields, learning degrees from his secondary field on odd-numbered levels and from his tertiary field on even-numbered levels. Thus, the five most powerful degrees in a given field are only available to an artificer who has specialized in that field as primary (at least until the artificer passes beyond Expert-level play and into the Companion Set rules).
Craftsman: Artificers are all about making things. As a consequence of their background, all artificers begin the game with 2 bonus ranks in the Craft skill, in addition to their normal number of starting skill points.
Smithy: A 3rd level artificer is good at crafting useful tools. For 300 silver pieces (my games always use a silver standard!), an artificer is able to make a fine masterwork tool that grants a +1 bonus on appropriate skill or ability checks—but such fine and delicate tools can only grant this bonus five times before the tool is ruined and must be repaired or replaced (costing another 300 silver). After 8th level, the artificer can confer a +2 bonus on such tools (for a cost of 600 silver pieces), and after 13th level, a +3 bonus (for 900 silver pieces). The time required to create a master-crafted tool is 2d6 hours. At the end of this span of time, the artificer must roll a successful Intelligence + Craft check; if the check passes, the tool was created or modified successfully; otherwise, all of the time and half the resources (money spent) have been wasted.
From 9th level onward, the artificer can create permanently master-crafted tools for ten times the cost of a temporary modification.
Breakthrough Invention: At each of the 4th, 9th, and 14th levels, the artificer may select from his known degrees one device effect, and work this effect in a permanent item which can be used multiple times per day. The invention takes the form of a gadget, weighing 10 lbs., which only the artificer can properly operate. The artificer can choose to build the device in a “stable” configuration (it can be used three times per day, with no chance of failure), or as an “unstable” prototype (the player rolls 1d6 each time the invention is used; on a roll of 6, the device breaks down and fails to work again until repaired; and on a breakdown, the player must roll the die again, and if a second 6 results, the device has backfired or exploded). A full day’s work is required to repair a broken invention, or to shift an invention between its stable and unstable configurations. If an artificer wishes to change out one breakthrough invention for another, this requires one week of work and an expenditure of materials costing 500 silver pieces per degree of the replacement invention. (A 13th level “master smithy” can change out his breakthrough inventions at a reduced cost, 400 silver per degree and five days’ work.)
Jury-Rig: Once per day, a 6th level artificer can spend one round to “jury-rig” one of his daily prepared devices into a different device based on another degree that he knows, provided the new device is drawn from the same field of science (biology, chemistry, or physics) as the original device being replaced. The degree of either device doesn’t matter; only the field. After 11th level, this ability is replaced by the “MacGyver” ability: now the artificer can perform this feat twice per day, and he can swap any device that he has prepared for any device that he could otherwise prepare, regardless of its field. Alternatively, an 11th level artificer can use his MacGyver ability to try and salvage the materials from a used-up device. With a successful Intelligence + Craft check and 30 minutes’ work, the artificer can thus attempt to prepare an extra device during the adventuring day, provided he has already expended one of his daily devices already, and therefore has used-up materials to salvage from.
Name Level—Inventor: An artificer above 9th level stops rolling hit dice and adds only one hit point per level. A name-level artificer is called an inventor, and is able to create all manner of gadgets and gizmos, widgets and tonics, and vehicles and automata, using the normal rules for magical item creation. An inventor can also permanently enhance weapons, armor, and other tools, and research new technological degrees.

Druids are wandering “white wizards” who serve the gods, working their will in the world in subtle ways, so as not to impinge upon the free will of mortals. They follow an organization known as the White Order, founded long ago by a prophet of the gods who was almost certainly one of the Gáldre in mortal guise. The mission of druids is to protect civilization from chaos and evil, and to seek out and destroy abominations of the same—especially undead and the spawn of Mórgrundel, murkwyrms and the foul goblin and trollish races.

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Slots   SpLv   Recovery   Special Abilities
[/U]1    1d6        +2         0       —      —          Turn undead 3/day
2    2d6        +2         1       1st    —          —
3    3d6        +2         2       1st    —          —
4    4d6        +2         2       2nd    1          —
5    5d6        +4         2       2nd    1          Destroy undead, Sig. spell Lv1
6    6d6        +4         2       3rd    1/1        —
7    7d6        +4         2       3rd    3/1        —
8    8d6        +4         2       4th    3/1/1      —
9    9d6        +6         2       4th    3/3/1      —
10   9d6+1      +6         2       5th    3/3/1      Signature spell Lv2
11   9d6+3      +6         3       5th    3/3/3      —
12   9d6+4      +6         3       6th    3/3/3      Two attacks per round
13   9d6+6      +8         3       6th    3/3/3/1    —
14   9d6+7      +8         3       6th    3/3/3/1    Signature spell Lv3

Turn Undead: The druid’s only starting ability is the power to drive off undead. Thrice per day, a druid can produce an aura of light (either in a 30' radius around himself, or in a 60' cone in the direction he faces) that instills fear in undead. All undead caught in the area of effect must roll a saving throw or else flee (as if they’d failed a morale check). For a druid of 5th level or higher, any undead with half or fewer as many hit dice as the druid has levels may destroyed by the druid’s power. On a failed saving throw, these undead are instantly destroyed; and even on a successful save they are turned and flee. (Chaotic druids may produce a shadow instead of light, which will bolster, rebuke, or after 5th level, utterly dominate undead.) A druid of 2nd level or higher may expend spell slots for additional daily uses of this power. Turning undead counts as a 1st level spell for the sake of spell recovery, so from 4th level onward, if a spell slot is expended for extra turning, the druid may use spell recoveries to refresh the used slot.
Spells: Druids cast spells drawn from the list of clerical spells found in the Basic and Expert sets, and the druidical spells found in the Companion and Master sets (or pretty much just all the divine spells up to 6th level listed in the Rules Cyclopedia). The above table gives the druid’s number of daily spell slots (one at 2nd level, two at 3rd level, three after 11th level) and the spell level of the druid’s spell slots. A slot may be expended in order to cast any spell of that level or lower that the druid has memorized. The druid may memorize a number of spells equal to twice his daily number of slots (viz. 2 at 2nd level, 4 at 3rd level, 6 after 11th level) plus his Wisdom modifier.
Spell Recovery: At 4th level, after a druid has used one of his daily spell slots to cast a 1st level spell (or to turn the undead), he may spend one turn (ten minutes) resting in order to recover that spell slot. As druids gain experience levels, they also gain the ability to recover slots expended on higher-level spells. A higher-level spell recovery point may always be used to recover a spell slot of the given level or lower. Thus, for example, a 14th level druid has spell recoveries amounting to 3/3/3/1—the druid can thrice per day recover spell slots used on 1st level spells (or turning undead), thrice per day recover slots used on 2nd level or lower spells, thrice per day recover slots used on 3rd level or lower spells, and once per day recover a spell slot used to cast a 4th level or lower spell. Recovering an expended spell slot always takes one turn’s rest. Note that spell recovery can only be used to refresh the druid’s daily spell slots; it cannot be used to recover the druid’s three free uses of turn undead, or any free uses of signature spells.
Signature Spell: A 5th level druid may select one of the 1st level spells that he knows and designate it a signature spell. This has two benefits. First, the signature spell may be cast up to three times per day without expending any of the druid’s daily spell slots. Second, a signature spell is at all times considered memorized, such that if a druid has used up all three free uses of his signature spell that day, he can then continue to cast the spell by expending spell slots, without it counting against his normal limit of (2, 4, or 6 + Wis mod) spells memorized at any one time. The druid may choose a 2nd level signature spell at 10th level and a 3rd level signature spell at 14th level. The choice of signature spells must be made carefully, for a druid’s selection of signature spells is all but permanent. A druid can only change one of his signature spells by means of a full week of seclusion and deep prayer, and with an expenditure of treasure (the amount determined by the DM) as a sacrifice to the gods.
Multiple Attacks: A druid of 12th level and higher makes two attacks per round in combat.
Name Level—Arch Druid: A druid of 9th level or higher stops rolling hit dice and instead adds only +1.5 hit points per level thereafter. An arch druid is capable of researching new spells and crafting magical items.

Sorcerers are spirit-binders, conjurers who command unseen beings to work their will. As casters of black magic, sorcerers are beholden only to themselves and to the spirits for their power. The arcane spells scribed into a sorcerer’s spell-book are actually detailed instructions for intricate rituals of summoning and binding: when a sorcerer studies his grimoire and memorizes his spells, he is actually calling out to the spirit world, drawing unseen entities into his psyche, and trapping them there in some cage-like corner of his own mind. Only sheer, psychic force of will (represented by a high Charisma score) enables a sorcerer to command and contain otherworldly intelligences in this fashion. When a sorcerer actually casts a spell, he is uttering a few simple trigger words to undo the binding in a safe and controlled way—the spirits flee from his brain, escape back to their own plane of existence, and the small tear in reality that results is what allows the magical effect to leak into the material realm. Sorcerers must always use great caution when dealing with spirits from beyond, and they must take care to purge their minds from time to time, clearing and refreshing their spells each day—otherwise, the spirits may begin to possess and influence the sorcerer’s personality. If a sorcerer should be slain with spells still memorized (and any sorcerer who dies in battle almost assuredly has a full suite of spells prepared), those spirits may escape into the physical realm as undead, either on their own as incorporeal ghosts, or inhabiting any nearby corpses (including the sorcerer’s)!

[U]Lv   Hit Dice   Fighting   Slots   SpLv   Recovery   Special Abilities
[/U]1    1d4        +2         1       1st    —          —
2    2d4        +2         2       1st    —          —
3    3d4        +2         2       2nd    1          —
4    4d4        +2         2       2nd    1          Signature spell Lv1
5    5d4        +2         2       3rd    1/1        —
6    6d4        +4         2       3rd    3/1        —
7    7d4        +4         2       4th    3/1/1      —
8    8d4        +4         2       4th    3/3/1      —
9    9d4        +4         2       5th    3/3/1      Signature spell Lv2
10   9d4+1      +4         3       5th    3/3/3      —
11   9d4+2      +6         3       6th    3/3/3/1    —
12   9d4+3      +6         3       6th    3/3/3/1    Master of sorcery
13   9d4+4      +6         3       6th    3/3/3/1/1  —
14   9d4+5      +6         3       6th    3/3/3/1/1  Signature spell Lv3

All of a sorcerer’s special abilities (spells, spell recovery, and signature spells) are identical to those of a druid, except that Charisma rather than Wisdom modifies a sorcerer’s number of daily memorized spells. A sorcerer's spells have a chance to fail if the sorcerer wears armor. In light armor (a leather jerkin or quilted gambeson), the chance of spell failure is 10%. In medium armor (a maille hauberk or brigandine/jack-of-plates), the chance is 20%. In heavy armor (scale armor or a plate cuirass), 30%; and in a full suit of plates, 40%.
The sorcerer casts spells drawn from the magic-user spell list described in the Basic and Expert sets or in the Rules Cyclopedia, with the following alterations:
Read magic is replaced by bind spirits, a spell which can have one of three effects: (1) it is used to decipher magical writings found in spell-books, in order to learn new spells, just as read magic normally does. (2) It can be cast to issue a one-word command, just like the clerical spell of the same name, but it only works on incorporeal beings—wraiths, shadows, and so forth. (Beware: undead will inevitably ignore a command to "die".) (3) It can be cast on the sorcerer himself, enabling the sorcerer to command whatever minor unseen spirits might be nearby at the moment. This allows the sorcerer to perform cantrip effects (as per the AD&D 2nd edition version of cantrip) for one hour per caster level.
The other alteration is one I commonly make to the OD&D magic-user spell-list for the sake of game balance: haste moves up to 4th level, and ice storm falls down to 3rd level in its place (where it rightly belongs, I should think, alongside its fellow elemental attack spells, fire ball and lightning bolt). The alternate form of the ice storm spell, wall of ice, remains at 4th level as the reverse of wall of fire—so any sorcerer who learns wall of fire automatically learns wall of ice as well, and vice versa.
Master of Sorcery: A 12th level sorcerer acquires two benefits: first, the bind spirits spell described above automatically becomes an extra signature spell for the sorcerer: usable thrice per day without expending spell slots, and always automatically treated as memorized. Second, a 12th level and higher sorcerer is able to change out his other two or three signature spells by means of an elaborate week-long ritual of spell-preparation and an expenditure of materials costing 1,000 silver pieces per level of the new signature spell.
Name Level—High Sorcerer: After 9th level, a sorcerer stops rolling hit dice and adds only +1 hit point per level. A high sorcerer is able to research new arcane spells and craft all manner of magical items.

Last edited:

Jack Daniel

Hey, look, a character sheet:

The Adventure
Since I hope to see as many of these abilities that I’ve just so painstakingly written up as possible actually used during the adventure, I’m going to implement a very fast experience table for the sake of this one-shot adventure:

Level: XP Required
1 … 0
2 … 600
3 … 1,400
4 … 3,000
5 … 6,000
6 … 12,000
7 … 24,000
8 … 48,000
9 … 82,000
+34,000 XP per level above the 9th. Yes, that seems like an esoteric figure, but trust me, there was a bunch of math and… stuff… that went into settling on this XP chart.

XP awards! Monsters aren’t worth much, as per the usual XP-for-monsters table. But treasure! Characters get 1 XP for every 1 silver piece that they spend! That should keep ’em lean of purse and hungry for more treasure. Always a good thing.

With respect to treasure, I make the silver piece the standard, which just shifts the coinage types by one category each. Traditionally, D&D’s coins are as follows: 1 platinum piece = 5 gold pieces (the standard) = 10 electrum pieces = 50 silver pieces = 500 copper pieces. To switch to the silver standard, I’m just relabeling the treasure table as follows: 1 gold piece = 5 silver pieces (the standard) = 10 billon (that is, silver-copper alloy) pieces = 50 copper pieces = 500 iron pieces. Platinum and electrum thus fall off the treasure table and become truly rare coinage metals, only ever found in a treasure-hoard when the DM consciously puts them there, so as to telegraph that “this treasure-hoard is really ancient and something special!”

Okay, onto the adventure.

It begins when the player characters wash up on a beach. Whatever their past, whatever their individual motives, they’re now shipwreck survivors, castaways on the southeastern shore of a tropical island, the Isla del Loro Muerto.

Map! — http://imgur.com/qP2mx6v

Somewhere on the Isla del Loro Meurto lies the buried treasure of the infamous Capt. Arthur “Bloodsheds” Jackson. But the treasure is locked in a safe of such fiendish contrivance that it can only be opened by one who possesses all six Skeleton Keys, hidden meticulously around the island by a weird enchantment. Each key can only be obtained by finding one of six Wooden Amulets in the dungeons underneath Fort Gersput, bringing the amulet to the proper island shrine, and then performing the correct ritual or spell. This will replace the amulet with a key. Then all six keys must be brought to Room 14 in the Temple of Keys, and there the safe can be opened to obtain the treasure.

Overworld Key to the Isla del Loro Muerto
The player characters will begin on the southeastern shore of the island, the “x” marked “shipwreck”. The island map is marked with six magic shrines (the boxed letters: W, L, I, D, S, and A); ten encounter locations (the circled numbers 1–10); the town of Slotermeyer; the old commodore’s fortress, Fort Gersput; and the final dungeon, the Temple of Keys (marked by the keyhole icon).

The scale of the map is one-third of a mile (or one-ninth of a league) to the hexagon. Walking along a well-cleared path or following a beach, the player characters might be able to travel at a pace of nine hexes per hour; but most of the island’s interior is covered with thick jungle, which reduces this pace to about four and a half hexes per hour, or 15–20 minutes to hike through one hex. Every half hour spent hiking in the jungle carries a 1-in-12 chance of random encounters with monsters. On the southern half of the isle (that is, everywhere south of the “W” shrine), encounters are 50% likely to be with bandits or outlaws and 50% likely to be with monsters rolled on the 1st level dungeon encounter table. Everywhere north of the “W” shrine, the Isla del Loro Muerto goes full-blown Isle of Dread: roll random encounters off the Expert Set wilderness encounter table for jungles.

Note that only the island’s northwest coast, the south shore around the town, and a small stretch of the southeast shore (within a few hexes of where the player characters wash up on shore) is sandy beach. Most of the rest of the island rises to a much higher elevation, a hundred feet and more above sea-level, and therefore the coastlines are actually dominated not by beaches, but by high, sheer cliffs. This is especially true of the island’s southwest shore, where the Old Fort stands; and all along the peninsula that juts out from the northeast of the island.

The Town of Slotermeyer
I only had time to slap together a rough sketch for a town map, but it will suffice. An abbreviated key appears on the map itself; the locations and NPCs are described below.


1. Governor’s Villa. Governor Wolfgang Tomas Gersput is the grandson of the town’s founder, Commodore Slotermeyer Nünsing Gersput. The Commodore was a fierce pirate-lord; Captain Arthur “Bloodsheds” Jackson was the best prize-taker to sail under his flag. Once the Commodore and his gang had amassed enough wealth, they decided to found their own buccaneer nation at Loro Muerto, and so they captured the fortress and magazine there from the Ephesian Navy and founded the town at Slotermeyer. Governor Wolfgang is an idle, easily-manipulated gentleman. While he has no compunctions about dolling out harsh buccaneer justice, he has never gotten his own hands dirty (or bloody) and would balk at the prospect of personal violence. As long as tribute (the town’s form of local taxes) keeps flowing into the Governor’s coffers, he’s contented and comfortable to let things go on as they do.

2. Home of Professor Graham. Professor Nicholas Graham is a druid who lives in a spooky three-story house on the north edge of town. He was dispatched to this island by the White Order years ago, to keep an eye on things and make sure that the treasure of “Bloodsheds” Jackson only falls into worthy hands. To that end, if the player characters seem good and heroic, Graham will help them with healing and knowledge. If they come off as greedy or villainous, he will seek to mislead them and refuse to help them with magic.

3. The Hall of the Brotherhood is basically a guild-hall for pirates. Anyone seeking work under a buccaneer captain can probably find it here, but it’s a hard life and certainly no good way to book passage back to civilization—the contracts indenture a sailor to a ship for seven years!

4. Apothecary. The town Apothecary, Dr. Aristotle Philbert, is an aged man who actually served as cabin boy on Capt. Jackson’s ship. To that end, he still has a bit of PTSD and treats all strangers with wariness and suspicion. He abhors violence; that’s why he’s become a healer. He can sell healing drafts for 25 silvers and potions for 100.

5. Jackson Square, the town square, has a statue of the infamous Captain Bloodsheds: patch over one eye, peg-leg, hook, and macaw on his shoulder. An inscription on the statue, in the island vernacular, reads as follows: Six shrines, six carvings, six keys, one path I were too wicked to follow.

6. “She Sells Seashells” is a general store run by a pretty (and rather forward) widow, Mrs. Delilah Kurtz.

7. Fisherman’s Market. There’s nothing interesting about the Fisherman’s Market except for the high incidence of young pickpockets. Tim and Mungo, two sneaky and lazy gnomes who all but run thievery in Slotermeyer, tend to be found loitering around here.

8. The Quay always has numerous boats in harbor at all times of year. Most are buccaneer vessels, well-guarded.

9. “Jolly” Jack’s Alehouse is the center of culture in Slotermeyer. Jack Johansen, the barkeep, is portly and good-natured, but also vicious in a fight (and he relishes a brawl, even if it damages his alehouse). Also found here are Ella Flameblade, an elvish songstress and wandering bard (Exp3), and Gerwyn of Bǽlgode, a warrior-maiden in the service of the noble Athelingas house who would relish the chance to join in a treasure-hunt (Ftr2).

10. The Naiad’s Grotto is the local brothel, run by a stern madam named Lola Ratzberger.

11. The Loose Noose Inn is a place to get a comfortable bed, reasonably safe from muggers and other unsavory types. The owner and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Eau-St.-Claire, hire muscle to keep the place free of riffraff.

12. The Shipwrights’ Offices and Canvassers’ Guild is mostly just a dull building full of papers and ledgers. A few secretaries and a guildmaster run the place day-to-day.

13. The Aces Full is the ship of Captain Richard “Deadeye” Dunharrow. The captain is a crack shot with any kind of gun, from pistol to cannon. While his crew is on shore-leave, some of them have disappeared into the jungle to meet up with old friends who are now part of bandit gangs. The captain doesn’t like this very much, but tolerates it. Player characters should beware, lest they get press-ganged into replacing the missing crewmen!

14. Wagner’s Winecasks is run by the town cooper, Gerhart Wagner, a serious and wiry middle-aged man.

15. The Tradepost is operated by “Gentleman Jingles” Geoffreys, a pirate-turned-merchant who thinks everything of displaying wealth and status (he’s always covered by cheap trinkets, chains, and jewels). He can sell just about anything to anyone, and he knows it. His store is well stocked, but he charges a premium for rare items.

16. Elowen’s Sawmill is the center of carpentry and lumbering for Slotermeyer. Elowen is a quiet, reserved woman who always seems on edge, as if she’s keeping a secret or hiding from someone.

17. The Shipyards are always busy with workers, at least during daylight hours. At night? Who knows…

18. The cove is a prime spot for crabs and clams, and young scamps who aren’t pickpockets are often found here digging for seafood to sell at the market.

19–20. The west lighthouse is tended by an old man named Tobin; the east lighthouse by his wife, Mistral. Tobin and Mistral are in the middle of an argument right now and not speaking to each other. After a few days pass, they’ll be back to flashing coded messages to each other at night.

21. The Longshoreman’s Lodge is a cheap inn for sailors and workers, mostly just a big common room filled with double-bunks. The owner, Winston Weston, is a retired Ephesian Navy lieutenant (dark black skin, bald head, handlebar moustache). He doesn’t see to any security within the lodge, so sleep here at your own risk.

22. Olafsens’ Ironworks is the town smithy, run by Bjorn Olafsen and his daughter Thora. Thora is human like her father, but her late mother Zurra was a dwarf.

23. The Vander Waldingham House is the second-largest manor in the area, after the governor’s own villa. A many-roomed mansion, it’s owned by an old bachelor, Hans Vander Waldingham, who fancies himself the town’s preeminent citizen. He will often finance public works and other charitable ventures, all to glorify his own image. But he has no heir, and would very much like to marry the governor’s adopted ward, Rosa-Marie Randolf (an orphan whose parents were both lost at sea when a buccaneer ship was sunk by the Navy). Rosa-Marie is a mercenary little thing who is intentionally leading Hans on because she enjoys making him jealous; but she also knows that she has no better prospects in town when it comes to having a wealthy and comfortable future.

The Old Fort
This is the location of the biggest dungeon on the island. I opted to put “Dyson’s Delve” here—it’s a wonderful little dungeon, definitely check it out if you get the chance; and who doesn’t love Dyson’s maps?

Anyway, the purpose of this dungeon is twofold: it’s a place for the player characters to explore, fight monsters, and acquire treasure, thereby leveling up. Second, it’s where I’ve hidden each of the six Wooden Amulets which must be brought to the shrines on the overworld in order to obtain the Skeleton Keys. I placed the amulets in largely random locations within Dyson’s Delve, but I made sure to spread them out over all the dungeon levels, and to put them in largish treasure-hoards which were not concealed behind secret doors.

Each amulet is a wooden carving, around six inches in length, somewhere bearing the stamp of Capt. “Bloodsheds” Jackson: a skull and crossbones, beneath which is a piercing stiletto and two drops of blood falling from the blade. The six amulets take the form of (1) a disembodied foot, like that which ends the opening animation sequence of every Monty Python episode; (2) a larch-tree; (3) a set of Spanish-language question-marks, i.e. “¿ ?”, on a circular medallion; (4) a carving of a hedgehog with the name “Spiny Norman” inscribed on the belly; (5) a wooden replica of a tin of Spam, but labeled in Spanish: “El Spamón”; and (6) a wooden carving of a coconut still bearing its husk. The amulets are enchanted and radiate magic if scanned with an appropriate spell; they are also very difficult to destroy, and all but impossible to dispel.

The Six Island Shrines
This is where the jokes get blatant, folks. These six shrines for the most part resemble stone statues looking down over altars, in the middle of clearings in the jungle. All of the statues have an inscription of some sort, in the Island Vernacular (which is a corrupted form of Imperial Ephesian—dictionaries of this language can be found in the possession of Prof. Graham, Gov. Gersput, and Badger the Hermit).

[W.] The Shrine of Silly Walks. A statue of an island native, balanced precariously on one leg (he seems to be in the middle of some wild dance), stands before a low stone altar with an inscription that says, “With work, it could be something.” Placing the amulet of the disembodied foot on the altar and performing some kind of silly walk before the statue will cause the amulet to be transformed into a small iron key.

[L.] The Shrine of the Lumberjack. A statue of a manly, musclebound woodcutter wearing some of the most elaborate high-heeled footwear imaginable. The altar inscription says simply, “Bene sum,” i.e. “I am well.” A player character must stand before the altar wearing clothes appropriate to the opposite sex in order to change the amulet, a little wooden carving of a larch tree, into a tin skeleton key. (Note: this shrine is somewhat difficult to access, since it sits on a stony bank overlooking a rapid river that rushes down the mountainside. One would have to either swing to it from vines that hang over the river, or ride a fallen log down the rapids and steer it to the stony bank where the shrine stands.)

[I.] The Shrine of the Spanish Inquisition. This shrine is more elaborate than the others: the jungle trees and vines have been woven into a vault-like ceiling resembling the interior of a cathedral. A statue of three robed priests stands above the altar, one with his hand raised in imperious benediction. The altar inscription reads, “Nobody expects us.” Placing the amulet (a round medallion bearing Spanish question marks, i.e. “¿ ?”) on the altar and reciting a list of any three or four items will transform the amulet into a zinc key.

[D.] The Shrine of the Piranha Brothers, Doug and Dinsdale. The island where this shrine can be found is swarming with dire fauna: giant badgers, weasels, hedgehogs, and porcupines. A wooden carving of a hedgehog named “Spiny Norman” is the proper shrine offering here. The shrine itself is a statue of two rough-looking thugs and their pet tiger; one is petting the tiger and the other holds up a large carpenter’s hammer. An inscription reads, “Head to the floor.” One must kowtow before the Piranha Brothers, say something sarcastic or ironic, and then place Spiny Norman on the altar to change it into a copper key.

[S.] The Shrine of Spam, Spam, Spam… This elaborate shrine shows a bedraggled kitchen-wench holding a frying pan, while four rowdy Vikings flank her, cheering and celebrating. The inscription under the statue of the woman says, “I don’t like it.” The shrine offering here is a wooden carving of a meat-tin labeled “El Spamón”; place it on the altar and sing, “Spam, Spam, Spam…” to a hearty tune to change it into a silver key.

[A.] The Shrine of Arthur, King of the Britons. The statue here is obviously King Arthur, holding Excalibur aloft, while Sir Bedivere and Sir Lancelot look on in awe. The wooden carving of a coconut must be placed on the shrine, while two halves of a real coconut are clopped together during a frank discussion about something mundane like swallows and flight-speeds. This will change the carving into a golden key. Note that the rocks and little islets in this region are very dangerous: there are koprus in these waters.


Jack Daniel

Island Encounter Locations
When the player characters first wash up at the shipwreck site, they are very likely to encounter Badger the Hermit, a weird old man who very obviously looks like a castaway himself. (In fact, he looks just like the “It’s” guy who opens every Monty Python episode.) Badger will happily invite the weary shipwreck victims to his own home for rest and food, provided they don’t treat him with rudeness or violence.

1. Home of Badger the Hermit. Badger is a crazy old man dressed in tattered rags, banana leaves, and monkey furs. He lives in a comfortable little hovel made of fallen palm-trees, filled with assorted junk and disheveled old books. Badger is quite mad; he eats only mushrooms and talks to his pet snake, Montague. But he’s pretty much harmless. If attacked, he’ll flee (and he knows the island so well that he can disappear nigh instantly). Badger can offer nutty clues as to what one must do at a shrine to unlock a key (which he will report matter-of-factly, as if the connection is obvious).

2. Dire Boar Lair. Four ordinary wild boars and two giant boars are apt to be encountered in this area. The boars are encountered 1d3 at a time, with the giant boars appearing last. (Signs of these great beasts are obvious here.)

3. Old Store & Magazine. This small, cool, dry stone building has gone all but unnoticed. From the outside, it almost looks like an overgrown old crypt. But within are six full barrels of powder, two barrels of shot, a crate of bullets, a crate of fuses, four braces of matchlock pistols, a rack of matchlock muskets, two six-pound cannon, and one (damaged) twelve-pound cannon, along with about a dozen heavy cannonballs, two dozen light balls, and a dozen small canisters of grape-shot.

4. Singing Stone Heads. In this valley clearing, a dozen stone heads of varying sizes, from four to sixteen feet in height, seem to hum a tune resembling the prelude to the Lumberjack Song whenever wind blows over the treetops above.

5. Bandit Hideout. This group of some four-dozen pirates refuses to follow buccaneer law. Instead, they’ve set themselves up as bandits and outlaws, stealing whatever they can, until they can either amass enough coin to buy a ship, or until they find themselves in the position to take one as a prize. Most of the bandits are ordinary men, but their leader is a skilled thief: Osmund Adelhelm, Exp8, possesses a rapier +1, leather armor +2, and a short bow +2 of infinite arrows. The bandits have so far stolen 6,200 silver in treasure (actually an ecclectic mix of iron, copper, silver, billon, gold, and gemstones), which is kept in Osmund’s tent in a poison-protected strong-box.

6. Castaway’s Grave & Abandoned House. On the south shore of this island is a simple hut that still stands. There are empty coconut shells, a spyglass, and a journal written in a strange language (actually an arcane spell-book with a random assortment of sorcerer spells). Not far from the house, the bleached bones of a man can be found. Amongst the bones is a staff +1 of flame.

7. False Buried Treasure. This location has a great sandy mound, an “x” of dark sand seemingly painted atop it, and shovels and picks strewn about. Nothing is actually buried in the sand, but any length of time digging here may draw wandering monsters.

8. Goblin Cave. There’s a shallow cave here which actually opens up into goblin tunnels. From time to time, a patrol of a dozen orc soldiers will emerge from the cave and scout the area, usually at night. These orcs have no treasure, but anyone who is taken down into their tunnels would seem to be lost forever (with a 1% chance per day thereafter that the character will wander back into town, harrowed and traumatized, with little memory of what occurred).

9. Bog Witch. A horrible hag dwells on the edge of the swamp here. She’s crafty, and would like nothing more than to snatch a straggling traveler for a meal. Should the hag be slain, a variety of scrolls, tomes, books, and wands can be found in her hut, along with a sack containing 594 gold coins.

10. Ruined Temple. These stone ruins have obviously been knocked in by something big. A 10-HD murkwyrm (i.e. black dragon, but with cold instead of acid breath) dwells in the ruins, atop his treasure hoard (roll up the treasure only if the PCs manage to defeat the beast and claim it).

The Temple of Keys
The final dungeon is a temple which was built by Captain “Bloodsheds” Jackson’s inner circle—a group of fanatical loyalists who were almost cultic in their worship of the captain. He was literally a god to them, and they built this temple in his honor—as well as to hide his most prized possession, an enormous ruby called the Bloodstone.

Map! — http://imgur.com/gDQtdkh

The temple does not sit on the surface of the island; rather, it is only accessible from a sea-cave which must be reached by boat, navigating up the inlet between the cliffs; and even then, it’s only easily reachable at high tide. At low tide, one must somehow climb up onto the pier. Within, some rotten old barrels and crates and a bit of tattered rope sit outside the mouth of a tunnel with stairs down. NB: wandering monsters here are standard for an 8th level dungeon.

1. Antechamber. This chamber has six statues, replicas of the island shrines, arranged along the walls and flanking the exits.

2. Throne-room of a pirate king. Here, Arthur "Bloodsheds" Jackson held court for his own little cult. Tattered tapestries on the walls depict the mark of Bloodsheds, a skull and crossbones above a piercing stiletto with blood droplets falling from it (this same mark is carved onto all the island shrine statues and the wooden talismans that become keys).

3. Alchemists' lab. The equipment is ill-maintained, and whatever reagents were once kept here are now spoilt. Three complete potions, all toxic, can be found amongst the ruins.

4. An odd choice for a pirate lair: a confessional. Bloodsheds was fanatical about loyalty, and this was where "sinners" confessed their wrongs to him. Inscriptions near the ceiling read: "Merciful is the pirate god." When someone crosses the threshold into the room and steps on the x-marked area, ghostly pipe-organ music plays a somber tune. Then a voice shouts, "Arr, kneel! Kneel, and confess thy sins against thy laird!" The player characters might try to converse with the disembodied voice, but it will only respond to confessed sins against Captain Bloodsheds, for which it will offer unconditional forgiveness and acceptance back into the cult.

5. Lounge. Long table with cushioned chairs, a fancy round fireplace in the middle of the chamber. Old maps strewn about, along with some writings. Opium-smoking paraphernalia.

6. Dungeon Cell. Just some old skeletons in chains here, including one whose head was mysteriously nailed to the floor.

7. Office. Here, a secretary under the captain kept track of all his treasures and offerings. Perusal through the parchments on the desks here indicates absolutely huge sums of silver and gold, gems and jewels, and something called the "bloodstone", worth more than all of it put together.

8. Den. Comfortable furniture; paintings on the wall; black pudding on the ceiling. The stairs leading down to this room quickly give way to a slope which is easy to slide down, but somewhat difficult to clamber back up. Furthermore, stepping on the x-marked square will trigger a trap that shuts and locks the door. A stone coffer set against the east wall contains 20,000 copper, 1,000 silver; a necklace worth 3,000 silver; a pair of earrings worth 5,000 silver each; a cutlass +1 flametongue; and the key that opens the door. (Without the key, the lock might still be picked.)

9. Crypt. Four sarcophagi stand in the corners of the room (each contains a mummified body of a pirate with no treasure). A gorge in the middle of the floor leads down to an underground river, which may be ebbing or flowing depending on the tide.

10. Shrine of Ashes. Two statues of robed women overlook a long, low table covered in urns. The urns contain human remains: ashes and bits of charred bone.

11. Padded Cell. Rotting in this cell is a mad old man, who appears to be half-dead (or undead): he’s actually an 8-hit die werewolf who also casts spells as a Chaotic 8th level druid. Underneath the straight-jacket he wears a suit of plates +1 and a periapt of wisdom.

12. Arsenal. Nothing in here but old weapons racks and rusty old blades.

13. Vault. There are many chests here, most of them opened and empty, except for two. One is actually an 8-HD mimic; the other contains 24,000 copper and 5,000 silver.

14. Inner Fane. The statue of Bloodsheds Jackson here has six keyholes. Inserting and turning each of the six Skeleton Keys will animate the statue into a 12-HD stone golem, but it also opens the vault underneath: a cache with 10,000 gold pieces and a huge, glowing red stone (the Bloodstone), a gem worth 1,000,000 silver pieces (and experience points!).

—The End!—


Very cool. As a B/X player myself I really like some of the stuff you've done with the classes. I'll be interested in hearing how it turns out.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases