Content is Overrated
Updated: Jun 2, 2021
I have nothing to say about AD&D right now except the things I've already said. Instead of repeating myself, I'm going to share some bits of the new campaign----which I hope to kick off in July...assuming the universe cooperates, which lately....not a great track record.
Nevertheless, this post is very little to do with AD&D and more about, I suppose, an actual example of me starting a campaign using AD&D as the foundation. For those of you who just happened by for the first time, I just wrapped up a 7 year campaign that culminated in the Abyss. Demogorgon was slain with the help of Orcus, blah, blah, meow, meow...
Building on all that transpired in those seven years is central to my values. At the same time, I want to start fresh. So there will be an initial period where Players will no longer have access to any of the characters they are familiar with. Eventually, yes...but not right away.
I have to be cagey these days because some of my players now frequent my blog. I have seven regular players, none of whom were willing to relinquish their seat at the table for the game starting in July. This means the same crew. And it means I can now realistically only share what has already transpired lest I give away the goods.
But, in the downtime, I have initiated the foundations of the new campaign on a private forum. I figured it might be interesting for some of you to see what my players see and how I frame the opening of what will likely be an expansive milieu.
After 7 years of almost entirely by-the-book play, I am going to add some house rules this time. I'm going to slightly modify the effects of holy water and acid for example so that they offer greater utility. I'm going to apply some utility and mechanics to the mysterious holy symbol hierarchy itemized in the PHB on page 36. I think I'm also going to adopt Gabor Lux (aka Melan)'s undead rules as I think they are almost perfect. I'm going to do a few more things as well. But the biggest thing I'm going to do at the start is protracting the lowest level there is. Level 0.
I'm going to start the party at negative XP...though they are free to make choices that will modify just how deep in the hole they begin. What follows is a duplicate of the introduction the Players have already received. You will find some house rules therein and perhaps an example of how I frame the beginning: providing context and some limitations. With the context and limitations in place (and after the initial choice) further railroading is abolished and Players are free to do whatever they can under the circumstances.
Here then, is the kick off for my next AD&D campaign, which is technically already underway:
Wicke Castle has been emptied; the same war bringing ruin to your family has redirected the attention of any potential buyers. The family has liquidated everything. You have your clothes, your patentes of nobility, and the money from the fire sale.
This seems to be all that’s left of a lineage and legacy that has, for the moment, outlived its glory. War is everywhere. The Six Kingdoms are neck-deep in blood. Even Ormolu is now fending off zeppelins over the Great Cloud Rift.
But the Wickes were cunning warriors before they were cunning merchants and you will not go down without a fight.
So you have gathered, with the few loyal servants and staff that have opted to see the family drama through to the end, and have set your eyes on the far north.
Though rumors of war are building even there, between the Country of Mirạyhr and the Kingdom of Greymoor, conflict has not yet erupted. In the foment lives an opportunity for the Wickes, to leverage their name and reputation, capitalize on the needs of anxious governments, and thereby survive to rebuild the family’s holdings.
Until now, you have lived exclusively in the warm and pleasant south, a climate you prefer. As purveyors of fine oil and exquisite lamps, the Wicke name is synonymous with fire and your heraldry, a blazing torch is known from Bablemum to Iycestoke as an emblem of quality. The word of a Wicke is often contract enough in the South, but you know little of the Hinterlands and expect your heraldry will mean far less there.
Some of your ancestors moved north when there was a schism in the family, but that was centuries ago and they were outcasts, cut off from the family wealth. Where they settled is unknown.
Therefore, with no leads, you have disseminated a rumor that the Wickes are seeking in-roads with the governments of the north.
This course has now produced two very different proposals, delivered only days apart, but seemingly about the same point of interest. Unfortunately, neither proposal relates to mercantilism or matters of court. Instead, both seem anchored in difficult, filthy work—work your warrior ancestry would be more familiar with.
There are no rules. No handbook for how to proceed. But this window of opportunity may not stay open for long. This is why you have gathered in the great, echoing hall of Wicke Castle, sitting with its back to the Highlands of Tue. The hall is barren, the leaded glass flung open, and from your sun-drenched hilltop several miles east of Skaif you overlook the green mystery of the north.
Both proposals pass among you even though you have re-read them many times. All of you have equal stake in the outcome and no particular loyalty to either government. Although you can presumably change your mind later, you have—for the moment—decided not to split up. The money is set aside. Enough for air passage for all of you to one destination or the other. And that is the purpose of this final meeting in Wicke Hall: to decide whether you fly to Skellum, Seat of the Witchocracy [or] Woonsocket, stony finger on the hand of Ivar Gulseth, King of the Granite Throne.
Greetings! Through municipal sources, your name came up in a list of likely charter applicants. As a result, the Country of Mirạyhr would like to extend a preemptive invitation to you and your esteemed family.
We understand the Wicke name has held particular weight in the south and, if you are looking to establish value with the government of Mirạyhr, Parliament does have a unique opportunity to refine your image.
There is, in a remote region of Mirạyhr, a property that has fallen into disrepair and come under enchantment. The deed has gone missing and the property is in dispute. As the Kingdom of Greymoor has, through a forged document, wrongfully laid claim to lands surrounding the Castle, the Country of Mirạyhr has decided to assert its right to secure the property.
Preparatory to this action, free-swords of exceptional ambition are being sought to explore the Castle and dissolve the enchantment upon it. In addition, payments are offered for the undamaged return of various artefacts known to be housed on the premises.
As the Kingdom of Greymoor has inauspiciously criminalized all five languages of magic (Unknown Tongue; Secret Tongue; Warding; Withil and Eldritch) the Country of Mirạyhr seeks to expand its border and thus protect against the madness of book-burning and scholarly oppression that have begun to encroach on its lands.
If you are interested in becoming independently wealthy as authorized agents of Parliament, come to Skellum without delay. This is an open invitation and competition will be fierce.
Skellum’s excellent services will allow you to succeed.
Please inquire at Parliament, Three-Eye Hill, Office of the Viscountess, and bring this letter with as your document. May your journey be swiftened by Mizraim.
Authorized by the Office of the Viscountess under G, Ahminashta Jabril,
through Ravyn Barlow, Parliament
Sister of the 6th House
To the Wicke Family,
I will come to the point as soon as I am able. This is, however, a difficult missive to compose.
My name is Alistair Crypt and yes I know. Let me assure you that if I were a villain, I would have changed my surname years ago to avoid the problem of first impressions. A friend of a friend passed me your name and said you were an individual looking for opportunities.
I own a guild of scribes in Greymoor, in a backwater town called Woonsocket and I have a dilemma, which might come as an advantage to you. As you might know, tensions between Greymoor and Mirạyhr have been rising this year and have now begun to froth over. The Witchocracy wants to re-establish a military foothold on Greymoor’s doorstep by taking possession of a ruined castle in the borderlands between the two countries.
Unfortunately for them, the deed to the castle was signed over, strangely enough, to my brother’s wife, from her grandmother. From there it was passed to my Nephew, now a twenty-two year old orphan and my partner at the guild.
The property has no intrinsic value as it is, being generally shunned and situated in dangerous territory. Many complications prevent restoration, money among them. So, rather being an inheritance, it has been left to rot.
All of this would have remained unchanged except that, due to current hostilities, the castle is now a point of interest to his majesty, the king, who is not so interested in seizing the property, as ensuring that it does not become a stronghold for witches.
A steward has been appointed over Ravens Fell—the freshly minted moniker for those previously nameless and desolate lands in which the castle lies. Steward Wilmer Banddahl lives at Mothshine Estate, here in Woonsocket. Being less than enthusiastic about his new duties, Mr Banddahl has paid—as little as he can—to keep the onus of the king’s task with my nephew, the deed holder.
Therefore, in compliance, and in the interest of helping my nephew, I am reaching out to whomsoever might hear my plea. Our hope is that the castle can be cleared and occupied against the Witchocracy. Thus, to the point at last. The crown has appointed a Steward, who has paid my family to occupy the castle, and since we are unable to do so, we are desperate to spend a portion of the funds in supporting a company—hopefully your company—with an initial investment of gear and retainers.
Have you ever wanted to live in your very own castle?
The Indigo Feather is located on the 2nd story of the historical Moore Building in Woonsocket. I hope that you may arrive quickly to discuss the particulars.
Guild Master, Indigo Feather
[NOTE: although there was apparently some disagreement between the Players over which location to start at, it has now been determined that the group will be flying to Woonsocket]
The DM’s voice will be heard through Oliver Wicke, a member of the family who is present at the meeting in Wicke Castle:
♂ Oliver Wicke (71 yrs): Fighter 1st | AC 8 (leather) | MV 12 | HP 1 | THAC0 20 (melee) 20 (missile) | DMG 1d6+1 (club: 4sf) 1d4 (light crossbow: 6|12|18) | Att 3/2 rounds with crossbow plus 1 free shot prior to initiative on first round | quarrels: ooooo ooooo | tunic with family crest | LN | STR 16 | INT 14 | WIS 14 | DEX 12 | CON 10 | CHR 6 (curse) | CMS 15 | handsome but crotchety, ever-cursing, ever-proposing what will probably go wrong.
Each player makes up to three characters.
Each character is either a Wicke, or a member of the House Staff
The number of Wickes, however, is capped to the number of Players plus one
Wickes (CMS is 4d6, for the rest assign each ability score one roll.)
2d5+1 (Wicke Family Curse: this score can never improve, even by Wish)
House Staff (CMS is 3d6)
3d6 for each ability score (add +2 to Ability Score of choice)
Establish Family Tree / Pecking Order (relationships/roles)
Players will be allowed to play ONE character at a time; unless the second character is a henchman or hireling whose level must never exceed half the level of the lead character.
Players must establish the fictional familial ties and previous household duties of each character
Perhaps the Wickes protect themselves by using their staff to engage with more dangerous errands
Or maybe the staff attend less hazardous, more mundane tasks while the Wickes seek glory
Use age categories to flesh out and add color to the family structure:
Young Adult (1d7+13 years)
Begins as ZERO level (-1,875 XP)
May re-allocate 2 points among Ability Scores (flexibility of youth)
May not re-allocate the Cursed Wicke Score
Mature (1d20+20 years)
Begins as ZERO level (-1,250 XP)
50% chance of Wealth Bonus
Middle Aged (1d20+40 years)
Begins as ZERO level (-625 XP)
Automatic Wealth Bonus
Old (1d30+60 years)
Begins as 1st level class of choice
Automatic Wealth Bonus
Wicke (Wealth bonus is marked *):
0-Level Pray-for-it Caster: 1d6 x 200 + 400 silver crowns [or] 3d6 x 200 + 10,800 crowns*
0-Level Fighter Type: 1d5 x 200 + 800 silver crowns [or] 5d4 x 200 + 12,000 crowns*
0-Level Study-for-it Caster: 1d3 x 200 + 200 silver crowns [or] 2d4 x 200 + 4,800 crowns*
0-Level Thief Type: 1d8 x 100 + 300 silver crowns [or] 2d6 x 200 + 7,200 crowns*
0-Level Monk Type: 1d10 x 10 + 90 silver crowns [or] 5d4 x 20 + 1,200 crowns*
House Staff (Wealth bonus is marked *):
5d5 x 100 silver crowns [or] 5d5 x 100 + 5,000 crowns*
Less Than Zero
Poison/Paralyzation/Death Magic: 16
Breath Weapon: 20
Upon reaching 0 XP, a class is selected.
Ability Scores that do not meet minimum requirements for that class are elevated to minimum upon attaining 1st level.
An appropriate trainer must be found in order to attain 1st level in any class
Zero Level characters roll 1d6, divide this by 2 and multiply the result by 100 (a roll of 1 = 50; a roll of 6 = 300). CON adjustment (+1 or +2 at most) is also divided by 2 and then multiplied by 100 (granting either +50 or +100). Zero level characters therefore have an effective HP range of from 50 to 400.
All dmg dealt to Zero Level Characters is multiplied by 100. Zero Level characters are unconscious at 0 hp and die at -100. Thus, when a Zero Level Character with 250 HP takes 2 dmg from a dagger, he has 50 hp remaining. If he takes 1 more point of dmg, he is at -50 and unconscious. Another point of dmg kills him. When a Zero Level Character is unconscious, he loses 10 HP per round.
This system adds ½ hp granularity for zero-level dungeon design and effectively reduces the negative hp cushion (-10) enjoyed by level 1 characters while still allowing reasonable time for stabilization once a character is KO’d.
When a Zero Level character reaches 1st level, divide their Zero Level HP by 100 and add that number to the result of the First Level HP Roll.
Example: Pinhead (1st Level Assassin) used to be 0 Level. He had 400 hp including CON. Now that he’s 1st Level he rolls a d6 and adds 4 to the result. Pinhead rolls a 3. This bumps his roll to 7 and he now reapplies his CON bonus (2). Pinhead now has 9 HP as a first level Assassin. This is the reward for beginning at level zero.
Non-lethal damage can be dealt with fists or weapons; 25% of this subdual damage is real, but the remaining 75% disappears 1d3 rounds after zero HP (KO) is reached. Most living creatures (including PCs) can be subdued.
Sanity is a new house mechanic with specific usefulness in the Ravens Fell Campaign
Max sanity = WIS score and mirrors WIS score fluctuations
A Sanity Check is accomplished by rolling the PC’s current Sanity or lower on 1d20
If a character’s Sanity Score is less than 11, it means the character has some kind of behavioral tick or trait that must be role played. Such quirks or ticks can be phobias; imaginary allergies; addictions; hatred of certain colors, animals, etc.; speech impediments; twitches and so on.
Whenever a sanity check is rolled, Chance of Episode is rolled immediately after. If sanity is damaged, the Episode Check must take it into account. If an episode is indicated on the die, the DM will determine what action the PC takes via secret roll. Chance for an episode can also be called upon DM request.
At zero sanity the character automatically snaps and will thereafter (unless restrained) either attempt to murder others (berserk rage) or kill themselves depending on coin flip. Suicide is automatic unless the character is successfully grappled in the SAME ROUND they snap.
PCs regain 1 sanity per week of pure rest. But those that reach "clinical" can no longer regain sanity in this manner and can ever after only regain sanity at an asylum. The cost of treatment is typically 200 silver crowns per day.
Roll 1d20 per 5 days of treatment. A result of 20 means the PC is cured (restored to full sanity). Asylums of varying quality may charge more or less.
A Heal Spell is the only magic that affects sanity: restoring it to full.
Wicke Family Curse
The Wickes are extraordinary individuals accustomed to the comforts of nobility. Their ability scores often reflect this long association with privilege and reputation, however, there is a “curse” of sorts that afflicts every member of the bloodline—though it is never mentioned outside the family. Typically the “curse” is easy to conceal and, to date, no one but the Wickes themselves know it exists. Even the staff have historically been excluded from this knowledge: the servants know only that the Wickes prefer gold, for example, and often tip generously to avoid making change.
The “curse” consists of two parts:
First, not only is one ability score stunted, but no magic in existence is able to elevate that flaw. Wishes have been wasted, it is written in the family lore. A hundred years ago, the story goes, not even Gauntlets of Ogre Power were able to elevate Ulrich Wicke’s enfeebled state, who was bedridden most of his life.
And second, there is the curious allergy to silver.
All Wickes take +1 dmg from silver weapons and, if silver is carried on their person, Wickes suffer a reduction of 1 HP per 20. Thus a Fighter with a maximum of 43 HP would incur a penalty (while carrying silver) that would reduce her maximum HP to 41. Although no damage is taken from touching or handling silver, a Wicke can detect the metal immediately by touch alone, for it is an irritant and causes an almost instantaneous, albeit mild, reaction in the skin.
For generations, the family books have been scoured for answers and solutions; neither of which have ever been found. Among their own, the Wickes refer to both the metal and the condition in cant as “silsyk” and speculate a connection to or curse from Aluvum, whose seven silver stars have always seemed to twinkle with a merriment molted out of schadenfreude.
Available Classes to both Wickes and Staff Members:
*Assassins use the Fighter to-hit progression
All bonuses from high STR allowed
All bonuses from high DEX allowed
Attack on the Fighter Matrix
May use any weapon
Deities of the Region
While PCs may select any deity, the following powers have representatives and worshipers in the region. Selecting a deity from this list ensures that shrines, temples and clergy will be present for the PC to interact with.
Changing one’s religion later IS of course permissible though there might be minor repercussions.
The deities below are listed in order from the most widely worshiped and accepted, to the most obscure and shunned:
Sibuln (the Sign of Dusk: cult…but also the dominant religion in the region)
Mizraim (the Sure Passage: church)
Demmindain (Sign of the Storm: church)
Hale (Sign of the Stand: church)
Aluvum (the Seven Stars: cult)
Thool (Mark of Death, Circlet of Life: cult)
Garthane (Solon of the Seven Sages: cult)
Mamre (the Sword Below, God of Fire: cult)
Geryon (the Wild Beast; Arch-Devil: cult)
Mamrax (Mark of Chaos: cult)
Dsojakth (Sign of the Wound: cult)
Baradaith (the Unknown Scrawl, Mark of the Enigma: cult)
[ I know there will be a desire among the Players to establish some kind of secrets and rivalry within the family, and while I will certainly approve of minor intrigues, when we gather on character generation night, I will remind them that their family is in dire straights, that they must pull together as a unit to have any hope of success, and that it is my job to shred them----and that I don't need any help.]
And happy gaming!