Tag Archives: D&D

What RPG games do you want on deserted island?

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deserted islandIf you were stranded on a desert island, what five RPG games would you want with you?

The RPG Circus podcast posed this question at the beginning of December and it got me thinking. For the purposes of the question, it was assumed you would be able to choose the systems you were stranded with and that you could have all the dice, supplements, paper, pencils, etc. that you needed. It also assumes that there would be other people stranded with you, so you’d have players.

Here’s my list of five:

  1. Classic World of Darkness – Yeah, okay, I’m kind of cheating with this one, since it’s actually five separate games. But I love this setting and I’ve had many happy hours playing it. If I absolutely had to pick only one of this games, it would be Mage: the Ascension.
  2. D&D – No brainer, right? The grandaddy of all RPGs. The only real problem here would be if I had to choose an edition. I’d either want 1st ed AD&D or 3rd ed (d20). Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but if I had to choose, I guess I’d go with 3rd ed., since I find it a more flexible system. But I’ve also got a soft spot for 1st ed, since it got me started in gaming.
  3. Savage Worlds – I wanted a generic system in this list and I love Savage World’s innovative dice system (combined with playing cards) as well as the “wild die.”
  4. Traveller (4th edition, also called “Marc Miller’s Traveller”) – Yes, this edition had issues with editing, but it was the first version of the game that made me go “Oooh, I want to play that,” despite the fact that I also have a good chunk of the original “Black Box” books. I love the campaign setting and reading it gave me more campaign ideas than I could possibly use in a lifetime. I also prefer it to the “Black Box” edition partially because computers no longer take up a huge amount of your ship’s capacity and you can’t die during character creation. I’ve never gotten a chance to play in a Traveller campaign, but it’s on my bucket list of games.
  5. Skyrealms of Jorune – I’ve only gotten a taste of this game in a campaign that lasted about three sessions, but I would love to play more in this unique setting. I figure if I’m stuck on a deserted island, I’d have the time to sit down and really learn the game setting as well as being able to convince other people to play it.

It was hard to choose just five. I figure I’d also have Amber, because I already have everything I need to run it in my head. But I’d have loved to include Everway, Cyberpunk 2020, Trinity, Shadowrun and In Nomine, as well.

What about you? What five game would you want with you if you were stranded on an island and why?

[Image courtesy of steve conry via Flickr Creative Commons.]

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Twinned Magic Items

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Want to add a little spice to your old-school game? How about something unusual that won’t contribute too much to a character’s power base? Here’s an idea: link two magic items of the same type to a shared pool of charges.

I’ve recently been going through some of my old game files from way back and I thought I’d share some of the ideas from my days of running 1st edition AD&D. This is a magic item, or rather pair of magic items, that allowed me to add a twist to my campaign.

How twinned items work

The twinned magic consists of two magic items of the same type (both rings or rods, etc.). Each item of the pair can perform a separate type of magic–for example, you could link a wand of fire and a wand of lightening, but you couldn’t link a ring of protection and a wand of enemy detection.  Take the number of charges each item has separately and add them together. That’s the total number of charges the two items have to share.

For example, if the wand of fire had 50 charges and the wand of enemy detection had 65 charges, both items would share a pool of a 115 charges.  They could draw from the pool equally until the total number of charges ran out. That means the wand of fire could potentially be fired 115 times, as long as the wand of enemy detection was never used.

Of course, the fun comes when a PC possesses one of the linked items. Most commonly, a party would find one item in a treasure hoard, not realizing it was linked to another magic item elsewhere in the game world. In this situation, the pool of charges linked to the item in the PCs’ possession will have randomly lost 0-5 charges (1d6-1) since the last time they used it. (Not that the players will necessarily know this).

If both items are used simultaneously, one of the them will not work. If the PCs have only one item, give their item a 15% chance of not working because its linked twin is also being used. If this is the case, nothing happens and no charges are deducted from the shared pool.

Frequently, a party won’t realize that there’s anything unusual about their wand (other than, possibly, intermittent “glitches”) until they try to recharge it.  They will be unable to recharge it without its twinned item also present. You can make it difficult for the PCs to determine the reason by requiring the use of some type of divination spell. And even if they discover the nature of the their item, it should require a quest of some sort to find the twinned item.

Creating twinned items

Linked items give magic-users an advantage, in that they’re quicker to create than two completely independent items.  Creating a set of twinned items takes less time than it would take to create each item independently. If you chose, you could also discount the materials cost.

Use the creation method described in the  1st ed. AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (pp. 87-88) with the following changes:

The items to be enchanted are obtained and prepared normally, as if you were creating two completely separate items, following the instructions given on p. 87, Finding the Right Materials and Preparing the Materials. Once the MU has prepared the items to receive magic, he can begin the process of enchanting them. He needs to touch both items, simultaneously and continuously, during the entire enchanting step and while casting the link spell (described below). The casting time for the enchant an item spell on both items is 24 hours plus 8d8 additional hours.

Immediately after casting the enchant an item spell, the magic -use must cast a link spell. Again, he must touch both items simultaneously and continuously during this stage of the process, which takes 8 + 2d8 hours. This step creates the pool of charges the two items will share.

Only after casting the link spell, does the MU place the desired individual magics in each of the items, as described in the DMG. The desired magics are cast on each item individually, as if the he were creating two separate items. The number of charges in the shared pool equals the total number placed in each item, added together.

For example, Elsa the Enchanter creates two linked items: a wand of frost and a wand of magic detection.  She places 20 charges in the wand of frost and 13 in the wand of magic detection,  creating a total combined pool of 33 charges which can be used by either wand.

Recharging Twinned Items

To recharge a linked pair, the magic-user must have both items within 1′ of her during the entire recharging process, even if she only wants to recharge one of them. Any attempt to recharge an item without its twin present will cause the the process to fail  and any time and/or material components used are lost.  Otherwise, recharging proceeds as outlined in the DMG, p. 88.

The MU can cast cast the recharge on only one of the items, but both items must make the required saving throw individually. If either one  of the items fails its saving throws during recharging both items crumble to dust.

Spell description

Link (Enchantment/ Alteration)

Type: Magic-User
Level: 6
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: 2 items
Saving Throw: neg.

This spell links two items with a common pool of shared charges. After successfully casting enchant an item on the items, the magic-user casts a link spell. Both items to be linked must be touched simultaneously by the caster. This touch must be constant and continuous during the casting time, which is 8 + 2d8 hours.

Once the spell is finished, the magic-user can cast the desired spell on the items, one at a time. The total number of charges available to both items is equal to the number of charges cast on each item, added together. Note that this link doesn’t allow the items to share powers, only charges.

The material components for this spell are two items to be enchanted. These items are not consumed in the course of the spell.

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“I hit him with a BoAF*… I mean Fireball!”

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*Ball of Abysmal Flame

One of my all-time favorite RPGs is Ars Magica. I love the fact that it doesn’t try to impose game balance limitations on mages. I also love the troupe-style play where everyone gets to play a magus/maga and something else. As a Storyguide, I love the fact that the group as a whole works together to create at least some of the NPCs (grogs).

But something else I hadn’t expected when I started playing Ars was how much it would improve my D&D characters.

I’d never really played many magic-users in D&D 1st ed., mostly because (and my current DM and fellow players are going to laugh at this) I couldn’t figure out how to use spells effectively. Seriously — beyond Magic Missle, Lightening Strike, and Fireball, I’d look at my spell list and my brain turned to jelly. Nothing MUs were able to do seemed to compare to the ability to pick locks, do massive amounts of damage with a two-handed sword, or lay hands to heal people.

Enter Ars Magica.

Ars has something of steep learning curve. Its magic system is definitely very different from D&D. It threw me for quite awhile, but after several game sessions of watching my fellow magi at their best, something clicked. I started to be able to see different uses for my Arts and Spells. I came to love Ars’ Sponteneous Magic. To this day, I rarely use formulaic spells.

Then I came back to D&D. I decided I wanted to give magic-users a try again, hoping my experience in Ars would help me. It did. I had a little difficultly refocusing my mind on formulaic spells, rather than spontaneous casting, which led me to prefer the sorcerer over the wizard class. Yes, I was still constricted to a spell list, but at least I could use any spell I knew any number of times. Truthfully, though, it wasn’t so much a number of spells or the amount of times I could cast one that made the decision for me: it’s the idea of the sorcerer as a natural caster that appeals to me.

I admit, when I create a new magic-user in D&D now, I think of them in Ars Magica terms first, then translate that into D&D as closely as I possibly can. For example, I’m currently play two different sorcerers in two different games. I’ll break them down into Ars concepts, then show the translation to D&D

Galen Gerhardt: In Ars Magica terms, Galen would be a member of House Jerbiton. He’s a court sorcerer and bard (and spy, but that’s neither here nor there…) of a powerful prince, with a Gentle Gift and an Animal Affinity. His specialty is Rego Mentum magic, though he’s got a strong amount of Rego Animal in there, too. In D&D terms, that translates into a human sorcerer heavy on the charm magics and people skills. His favorite spells: Eagle’s Splendor, Charm Monster, Charm Person, and Touch of Idiocy.

Feynan Starshadow: In Ars Magica terms, Feynan would be a rather stereotypical Flambeau, except his magic focuses on electricity rather than fire. Still, he’s heavy on the Creo Ignum magics and has faery blood. In D&D, he’s a half-elven sorcerer of the blaster type. His favorite spells: Lightening Bolt, Electric Loop and Lesser Orb of Electricity (from the Spell Compendium), frequently combined with Web.

By thinking of my magic-user in Ars terms, I’ve managed to create two completely different characters. I haven’t yet tried it with other game systems, but I can image it would work for them, too. And I’m sure this thinking would work for characters other than magic-users. How about you? What other systems have you drawn on to create D&D characters?

Oh — and for those of you wondering:

ArM Code 1.5 4- Ca+ R H++ L- G+++ Y1995 T– SG P++ HoH Cr+ Tr+ Ty++ J+ FZ C+ :-) Cd