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Friday, August 28, 2020

The Sea-Changed (New Monster)

Ariel's Song from the Tempest as illustrated by Virgil Finlay

A new monster for your Portown, Saltmarsh or other coastal D&D campaign, inspired by this thread on ODD74which shows a photo of a skull undergoing a "sea change". As a bit of further explanation, the modern expression "sea change" originates in Shakespeare's The Tempest (click on the image above to enlarge it so you can read the full quote), which was memorably referenced by Gary Gygax in the Example of Play in the original AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. I've taken it one step further by using it as the basis for a monster.

The Sea-changed

Move: 60 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 1 + 1
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: special
Alignment: lawful evil
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6

Sailors whisper that a corpse that comes to rest in the brine may undergo a mysterious and sinister transformation, rising again in a calcified skeletal form known as "the sea-changed". 

The sea-changed seek to spread their animating force to the living by touch of calciferous claws or an equally mineralized weapon or tool used during life such as a cutlass, harpoon or even anchor.

A hit with such will, in addition to inflicting damage, encrust the area of the wound with the sea-change unless a successful saving throw versus poison is made. Failure results results in the loss of one point of dexterity per day as the calcification spreads. Once dexterity reaches zero, the victim will be transformed into one of the sea-changed.

The spread can be kept at bay, but not cured, through daily application of vinegar. It is rumored among sailors that the merfolk know the secret of how to reverse the sea-change.

Each sea-changed has a 1 in 10 chance of having pearlescent eyes (roll on the gem table for value).

The sea-changed are subject to turning as zombies.

9/24 Update: Added an alignment, which I had inadvertently left out: Lawful Evil like mummies, wights, wraiths & spectres in Holmes. Thanks to Lore Suto on Twitter for pointing this out to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Original Printing of The Maze of Peril on Amazon

The cover of The Maze of Peril (1986)
9/18: The seller has continued to add new copies as the listed ones sell out; 3 available right now.

8/15: 5 copies in stock right now.

8/9: It sold out yesterday and then was back in stock today, and then sold out again. I suggest checking back each morning to see if it has been relisted. 

8/8: It's back in stock. The price is $9.95 which is $3 higher than before. 3 copies are listed as being available as of the time of this update.

8/7: Apparently there was a fair bit of interest in this and only a limited number listed on Amazon, which are now sold out. I'm hoping they have more stock available and will relist it soon. I'll update this post again if they do.

The Maze of Peril, J. Eric Holmes' 1986 fantasy novel, is now available for convenient order via Amazon from the original publisher, Space & Time Books. Follow this link to find itThe Maze of Peril (Amazon Associate link) or click on this image:

(Amazon Associate link)

For the uninitiated, this novel details the meeting of Boinger the Halfling and Zereth the Elf and their first grand adventure. They had previously appeared in three short stories in Dragon magazine, and before that in several campaign stories in the Alarums & Excursions D&D APAzine. 

This new retail outlet was brought to my attention via a thread on Dragonsfoot, and a commenter there that purchased the book confirmed with photos that this is remaining stock from the original 1986 printing

The cost via Amazon is just $6.95, which is the original cover price, plus shipping & tax. This is the same price I ordered my copy from them via check almost twenty years ago. Tavis of the Mule Abides reported back in 2008 that 1,000 copies were originally printed and about half had been sold at the time.

The novel has since been reprinted in Tales of Peril by Black Blade Publishing (click here for ordering information) along with the short stories and other writings of J. Eric Holmes.
Despite the reprint, I still have a fondness for the original printing. Reading this book kickstarted my interest in the work of Holmes which eventually led to this blog. 

The original printing is zine-sized, with shiny cardstock covers and 147 pages plus endpapers. It has a few features not found in the reprint, including the pastel blue cover art by Dan Day (echoing the Holmes Basic rulebook color?) and a frontispiece illustration by Gregario Montejo. There are two excerpts from the story before the frontispiece, and another on the back cover (which you can see in the Dragonsfoot thread linked above). There is also an author bio for Holmes along with each of the artists.

Several reviews of the book:
Dragonsfoot review (2006) - by myself, points out the many similarities with Holmes Basic
Carjacked Seraphim review (2010)
Delta's D&D Hotspot review (2011)

And a few years ago I began a Tales of Peril Book Club and made it through most of the first chapter of the Maze of Peril (warning, spoilers abound). I hope to return to this series eventually.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Combining OD&D Attack & Saving Throw Tables

Attack Matrix I annotated with the Saving Throw Categories

Above is a hypothetical format for combining two tables in OD&D: Attack Matrix I, which is used for PCs when they attack, and the Saving Throw Matrix

It's easy to do this because both rely on d20 rolls, and both tables advance the classes in the groups of levels (3 levels for Fighters, 4 levels for Clerics, 5 levels for Magic-Users). 

A 1st level fighter needs the same score (12) to Save Versus Poison as to hit AC 7, and the other saving throw categories likewise correspond to AC6 to AC3; i.e., Wands = AC6, Stone = AC5, Breath = AC4, Spell = AC3, as annotated above.

The higher levels match well enough. There is a bit of discrepancy in the spots where the Saving Throw table jumps differently. 

But a Fighter 10-12 saves 9/8/7/6/5 in the combined table versus 10/8/8/7/6 on the Saving Throw table. That's not more than a 5% difference between any two rolls.

In order to retain the relative saving throw bonus/penalties between classes, the following adjustments would also be used:

Magic-Users get a -1 to Poison, Wands and Breath, and a +1 to Stone at all levels, plus a +1 to Spells for each rank they are in (+1 at 1-5, +2 at 6-10, +3 at 11-15 etc). 
Clerics get a -1 to Spell & Breath, a +1 to Wands at all levels, and a +1 to Poison for each rank they are in (+1 at 1-4, +2 at 5-8, +3 at 9-12 etc).

This table can also be used to adjust the saving throw values. Poison by default would be AC7, but you could have weak poison (AC9) or a strong poison (AC5). One could also add a new easier category, like "Falling" at AC8, perhaps increasing the "AC" for every additional 10' fallen.

This is similar to using difficulty class (DC) values in 5E. To illustrate this, here is a further modified version with Descending AC replaced by Ascending AC/Difficulty Class:

Looking at OD&D in terms of 5E, one would view the saving throws in terms of Difficulty Class (DC), with Poison having a DC12, Wands having a DC13, Turned to Stone having a DC14, Dragon Breath having a DC15, and Spells having a DC16.

The table at the top of this post could also be used with Holmes Basic, which uses the OD&D tables, but with the addition of a Normal Man column prior to the Level 1-3 column (this was an addition to Holmes' manuscript by Gygax/TSR).

(Adapted from several posts in this recent thread in ODD74)