Wednesday, July 24, 2019

OD&D Half-Orcs

Orc or Half-Orc? 

An Orc by Greg Bell from OD&D Vol 1, looking more human than later depictions...

Half-orcs were first introduced into D&D in late 1977 in the Monster Manual in a section at the end of the entry for Orcs, which notes orc-human hybrids as just one type among others (orc-goblins, etc). Following Gygax's pattern of briefly introducing concepts and then expanding on them in later rulebooks, the next year's AD&D Players Handbook added them as a full-fledged character race. Here I imagine what the entries might have been had they been introduced back in the original D&D booklets and then carried forward.

Fictional LBB entry:

"Half-orcs: Generally feared, but characters are assumed to be of the rare type able to pass as human. While they may opt only for the fighting class, due to their warlike nature they may progress up to 9th level (Lord). They are able to speak the language of Orcs, and see well in dimness or dark but do not like bright light as noted in CHAINMAIL. Tribal affiliation should be noted (Orcs of the Mountains, etc) as there is often great inter-tribal hostility".

Fictional Greyhawk entry:

"Half-Orcs: Half orcish and half human, they are on average about five and half-feet in height, muscular in build, and weigh 180 pounds. Characters are assumed to be among the rare 1 in 10 half-orcs that can manage to pass as human. Like half-elves they gain some abilities from each heritage. Half-orcs have infravision and can see monsters up to 60' away in the dark."

In addition to working up to 9th level in fighter, half-orcs can work up to the 5th level (Cutpurse) as a thief, and those with 17 or 18 dexterity can work up as high as 6th level (Sharper) or 7th level (Pilferer), respectively. Half-orcs can work simultaneously as fighters and thieves, but no bonuses for abilities above the normal are then given, and earned experience is always divided evenly even if the half-orc can no longer progress in the thief class. When acting as thieves, half-orcs can wear only leather armor. 

Half-orcs with a wisdom score of 9 or more may also become Anti-Clerics (Clerics for Chaos), and only working up as high as 3rd level (Village Priest). If they so opt all experience will be divided in equal proportion between fighting and clericism."

Blackmoor would then add half-orc assassins with unlimited advancement.

Fictional Holmes entry:

"Half-Orcs — are part orcish and part human, about five and half-feet tall and muscular in build, weighing 180 pounds. Most look orcish, although the rare individual appears mostly human. Due to their competitive and combative nature they excel as members of the fighting class. Half-orcs have infravision and can see 60 feet in the dark, and can speak Common, albeit in a gruff and ungrammatical fashion, and the language of Orcs. A tribe of origin should be noted, such as Orcs of the Vile Rune, as the different tribes cooperate poorly and often fight among each other.

Also, in the CREATING CHARACTERS section add a minimum of 13 Strength and a maximum of 12 Charisma.

Notes
-The level limits are reverse engineered from AD&D. For other races, most of the maximum level limits of the LBBs are one lower than that in AD&D. So, a max fighter level of 10 in AD&D gives them a corresponding max level of 9 for the LBBs (this limit is not modified by Strength as this doesn't factor in AD&D for Half-Orc Fighters).

-For OD&D, no ability score adjustments as these are AD&D additions; dwarves, elves, and hobbits don't get ability score adjustments in OD&D.

-For the Holmes entry I modified the assumption that characters appear human, as he was less humanocentric than Gygax and half-orcs appear in several Boinger and Zereth stories:


  • "Trollshead" (Dragon #31) has a number of half-orc brigands. Being brigands, these wouldn't need to look human.
  • "The Sorcerer's Jewel" (Dragon #46) has four half-orc servants of a lady in town; this is what I was thinking of - they are quickly recognizable as half-orcs to Boinger, so that indicates they aren't mistaken for humans. So orcish-looking half-orcs are okay in town in Holmes' imagined setting.
  • "Witch-Doctor" (bonus story in Tales of Peril) also has a relatively civilized half-orc character.

See also:

20 OD&D Backgrounds which includes "Orcish".

Gygaxian Orc Tribes

Friday, July 19, 2019

Save or Die! Podcast #154



I recently had the pleasure of returning as a guest on the podcast Save or Die!, this time with DMs Carl, Courtney and Chrispy, and it is now available for listening:
Save or Die! Adventure 154 - Holmes Basic
"The three hosts are together again in the latest Save Or Die! where we talk Holmes Basic with our guest the Arch Zenopus himself Zach of the Zenopus Archives. A SOD favorite gets reexplored as we take a deep dive into what makes Holmes Basic such an endearing part of D&D history."
Also, don't miss the Actual Play of the dungeon run by Carl, the first part of which is at the end of the episode (I'm not part of this).

Links for Further Reading on Topics Discussed on the Show:

The Warlock D&D Rules

Holmes Manuscript Part 3: "Elves Muse Decide"

Holmes Manuscript Part 16, covering attacks per round in combat

Holmes Manuscript Part 10, section on Magic Missile

Holmes Manuscript Part 17, section on The Parry

Article on origins of the Ochre Jelly and Blob

Summary of Tolkien References in the Blue Book

Holmes Manuscript Part 19: "If One Wanted to Use a Red Dragon..."

Holmes Manuscript Part 46: "Zenopus Built a Tower": intro to the Sample Dungeon

Zenopus Dungeon Factions, including the Thaumaturgist

Article in a New Cthulhu Zine, Bayt Al Azif issue #1

The Tower of Zenopus in Ghosts of Saltmarsh


Earlier Save or Die episodes that may be of interest:

Side Adventure 20: NTRPGCon Wrap Up 6/14/19 --- at 17:30 Carl talks about how I guested as his version of Zenopus in his Sat night Discos & Dragons game

Side Adventure 16: Favorite Boxed Set 1/7/19 --- at 8:50 Carl talks about Holmes Basic and mentions this site

Side Adventure 14: House Rules! with guest Chris Holmes 10/6/18

Episode 124: Save vs. Zenopus 7/17/16 --- my previous occasion as guest

Adventure 136: Michael Thomas on Journeymanne Rules 5/16/17

Side Adventure 12: J. Eric Holmes Seminar NTRPGCon 8/14/16 --- Audio recording of a  panel with Chris Holmes, Allan Grohe & myself 

Episode 122: Save vs. Chris Holmes 5/11/16

Episode 117: Save vs. Blueholme 11/16/15 --- guest Michael Thomas

Monday, July 1, 2019

d12 Hauntings in the Dungeon of Zenopus

Detail from a Clarkson Stanfield illustration
"...but then neighbors and the night watchmen complained that ghostly blue lights appeared in the windows at night, that ghastly screams could be heard emanating from the tower at all hours, and goblin figures could be seen dancing on the tower roof in the moonlight". 
As told in the introduction to the Sample Dungeon, after the demise of Zenopus his tower was haunted by mysterious forces until it was destroyed by the town. While this stopped the above ground hauntings, it seems likely they would continue in the passages beneath. To this end, here I've written out 12 possible  hauntings that may visit a party exploring the dungeon. You might add a chance of one appearing when making a wandering monster check (e.g., a 1 on the d6 is a standard wandering monster, while a 2 is instead a haunting). The ones marked with a star should only appear once.

1*. An insane antiquarian (DX 10, AC 5, HD 0, hp 2, #AT 1 fists for 1 point) wearing an octopoid crown rushes the party, yelling for submission to the eight-armed sea queen, and pummeling whoever is closest. The antiquarian will (temporarily?) regain sanity if the crown is removed and they are brought out of the dungeon. The crown was found in an ancient chamber discovered when a cellar was excavated in Portown, and cannot be removed once worn (treat as a cursed ring of protection +2 that slowly drives the wearer mad).

2. A column of sickly green flame, 5' wide and 10' high, spouts from the floor (1-3 = ahead 10-100', 4-5 = behind, 6 = directly under party). All viewing it feel increasingly queasy (save versus spells each round or flee for 1d6 rounds). If touched or hit, the cold flame suddenly leaps on to the attacker and burns away vital forces (one point of Constitution per round; make a new save to break away). Once Con is exhausted, the victim's flesh withers, leaving an animated skeleton wearing their equipment. For survivors, Con is regained at the same rate. The column burns for 1d6 rounds after last touched. 


From the HP Lovecraft wiki

3*. An old skeleton (DX 6, AC 6, HD 1/8, hp 2, #AT 1 touch with green fire) wearing tattered blue robes totters unsteadily down the corridor. A cold green flame burns in its eye sockets. It feebly attempts to grab anyone approaching within 20 feet (the limit of its "sight"). If touched or hit, the green flame reacts as in #2 above. If the skeleton is destroyed the fire burns for 1d6 rounds. It wears a gold ring with an italicized "Z", value 50 gp. This is a former servant of Zenopus slain when the green flame engulfed the tower fifty years prior.

4. A ghostly blue light illuminates the corridor, slowly coalescing into a shape vaguely like a blue-robed figure. If the party lingers, the character with the highest Intelligence must save versus spells. If they save, the spirit will assault the next most intelligent character, and so forth. Failure results in a whispering in the mind urging the character to spend the night in the dungeon (save again to leave). Each night in the dungeon temporarily drains a point of Wisdom, until zero when they are under control of the spirit, which is that of a sinister wizard from the past, wishing to return to life (optionally, this is Zenopus himself).


Cover art for "L'Affaire Charles Dexter Ward"

5. A lone ghastly scream is suddenly heard in the distance, but the direction is not clear, and it is not immediately repeated. Roll again for a chance of a wandering monster.

6. A shadowy goblin-sized figure (DX 18, AC 2, HD 1, hp 5, #AT 1 claws for 1d6) hangs from a wall at the edge of the party's light source. It hisses and dances away if the light advances. This is one of many small otherworldly familiars summoned by Zenopus to aid in his laboratory, and now trapped in our world. If a magic-user approaches alone and converses with the creature it may agree to serve as a familiar (make a reaction roll).


From "A Special Trick" by Mercer Mayer


7*. An armored zombie (DX 8, AC 5, HD 2, hp 8, #AT 1 claws every other round for 1d8) begins following the party. It does not attack unless attacked itself. An unsuccessful adventurer, it seeks the way back to town. It wears chainmail, a helmet and a leather backpack, which holds equipment and a note from one Griselda of Portown, dated months ago. If destroyed and the body returned to Griselda she will reward the party with 100 GP. If the party does not destroy the zombie, it will follow them out and return to her on its own.

8. A salty sea fog rolls across the floor and begins to fill the corridor or room. Each round it grows 1 foot higher, continuing no matter how far the party travels during this time, until it reaches the ceiling. Once, this occurs visibility is reduced to 1 foot (and all attacks are made at -2). After 1d6 turns, the mist will dissipate. 

9. A wind of fine sand picks up, gentle at first but but increasing in speed and particle size to a hail of pebbles and then a gale of rocks. All torches are extinguished in 1d6 rounds, and all who stay in place may take damage (roll an attack by 5 HD monster for 1d6 damage each round) before it subsides (2d6 rounds). The wind can be avoided by finding cover or going around a corner, as it only blows in a straight line.

10*. A ghostly crabber stalks the party from fifty feet behind; loud wet footsteps are heard. The ghost is covered in sucker marks and kelp (a victim the pirates fed to the giant octopus). If the party halts it stops and wordlessly points in the direction of the pirates (Cave M). If approached, it vanishes and reappears behind them. This keeps up until vengeance against the pirates is achieved, when it fades away, leaving a golden crab worth 1,000 gp.



11*. The shadow of each character begins to divide, forming a second one doubling the first. Each turn there is a 1 in 6 chance of noticing this; after 1d6 turns the shadows detach and attack the respective characters (if unnoticed, surprise is on 1-3 in 6). Each character fights their own shadow (AC 9, HD 1, hp equal to character, #AT 1 shadow weapon for 1d4). Extinguishing all light will delay the progression for an equal amount of time. 

12*. The enormous bloated corpse of a former Portown bon vivant and charlatan slowly shuffles towards the party. It smells terrible, and mutters in a strange multi-voiced manner. It is not undead, but is instead animated from within by larvae (human-headed hellworms; see the Monster Manual for a description). If struck by any weapon it explodes in a shower of swamp gas (save vs poison or attack at -2) and larvae (2d4 total; AC 7, HD 1, hp 5, #AT 1 bite for 1d4+1), which surprise on 1-4 in 6. Hidden in the intestines of the corpse is a stolen blue diamond worth 500 GP, which caused their death when swallowed to hide the evidence.


Larvae by David C. Sutherland III