Sunday, May 19, 2019

At Last, Nutrition Rules

I have Sterling to thank for much of the content below.  He sent me a system in January 2018 that I thought was simple and brilliant.  I have adjusted it, of course.  That is the nature of these things.  But I want to stress that the organization and the ground work is essentially Sterling's and he deserves much applause for it.

I'll be posting this on the wiki in a few days, but in the meantime I'm going to preview it here on the blog.  Poke holes in it if you can (with purpose, please) ~ it will make the wiki post better for it.


In addition to the amount of food that characters must consume, another consideration is the nutritional value of that food. Characters cannot simply live on bread and water, but should eat the best of possible foods. This isn’t always easy when adventuring, particularly when we consider how this food is to be prepared and cooked.

Each ½-day period follows the meal prior, either the breakfast/early day meal and the evening/late day meal. Bonuses and penalties therefore apply to either the day or the night, following the early or late meals.

Food Quality

Foods are rated in “quality” according to their durability and nature of ingredients. There are five standards of quality: durables, staples, fresh, selective and premium:

Durables include preserved meats such as jerky, dry sausage, salt-pork, sauerkraut and dried fish; potable plant products such as polished rice and dried pulses; and durable forage such as dried mushrooms, grains, wild nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Food that is foraged falls into this category. These are products that have a shelf-life of months, even years.

Staples include foodstuffs such as flour, salt, honey, cheese, butter and biscuits; root vegetables and tubers; and beverages such as beer, mead, wine or distilled drink. The weight of these latter beverages will raise the quality of the meal, but do not count towards the weight of food that must be consumed daily. These are products that typically have a shelf-life of 2-8 months.

Fresh foods include leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh meats, milk and cream ~ products with a shelf-life of 2-12 days. Longer shelf-life products include common herbs such as basil, chamomile, cumin, dill, rosemary, parsley and sage are included, as are dried tea leaves and roasted coffee beans.

Selective foods include fresh foods that have been collected in the last 24 hours, including butchered meats ~ all of which are of the highest standard, lacking bruised fruits, discoloured vegetables or meats that have been improperly butchered. Selective quality reduces to fresh after a day (unless somehow preserved).

Premium foods include items that are of the most distinct imaginable: caviar, foie gras, bird’s nest soup, eels, turtle, cabrito, suckling pig, unusual distilled spirits or wine, kumiss, cicitt and so on. These are of variable shelf life, and are often transported great distance (magically or otherwise).


There are six “standards” of preparation, requiring utensils and space that varies from nothing but the cook’s hands to a fully equipped kitchen. How foods are readied, cooked or blended can adjust the experience of eating, which subsequently affects the diners’ health and mood.

Cold camp fare describes eating in the outdoors, effectively cooking in one’s lap. This allows cleaning with water, peeling, the use of a knife or a scraping rock, mashing, pounding and mincing, but the food cannot be safely blanched or boiled, nor can it be browned and sweetened. Durables and staples are designed for cold camp rations. Fresh vegetables, fruits, beverages and spices can be used, but fresh meat would need to be eaten raw. Selective food is slightly better. Most premium foods are somewhat processed and can be eaten in a cold camp (caviar, for example), but without other viands it can be a dreadful waste.

Campfire fare describes the benefits of an open fire, the use of the open flame, boiling water, various means of wrapping foods to be cooked in coals and as much variety as a fire will allow. Most preparation is done on a rock or upon a board on the ground, cleaned with boiled water.

Galley fare describes the food that might be prepared around a rolling cookwagon or vardo, a kitchen or aboard ship. If there is a fire, it is built on a raised, open stone box, with a flue or opening above, or a campfire is employed. Ship’s galleys included a brick cook oven. Fresh and selective foods are rare aboard ship, due to the distance from land; but they were often procured for a few days.

Scullery fare describes food from a typical home kitchen, with small fireplace and chimney, counters, a large washbasin, bins for flour, grains and seeds, bottles, cold storage, a variety of utensils and space for large cooking pots. Typically a cook’s knife and a few cook’s tools would be all that a small house could afford. Many larger mansions include a scullery for secondary work, in addition to a guestkitchen.

Guestkitchen fare describes food that is cooked in a spacious and clean environment with excellent tools and good ventilation. A guestkitchen is designed to cook multiple meals at once for scores of people at one time. Typically the room has been seasoned by years of operation. A wide assortment of knives and other tools is available. Guestkitchens often have one or more sculleries attached, which may be used for baking or for washing up dishes.

Lord’s kitchen fare describes food that is typically prepared as a feast for hundreds of people at a time, from a massive stone building with a score of preparers working together and giving much attention to specific dishes. The knives are kept sharpened, the plates used for the elite diners are of high quality and even the barracks that are served from the kitchen gain the benefit of food grown on the property and stored in large amounts inside the kitchen. Resources to maintain the kitchen are plentiful. Enormous pots and continuous fires allow for long-term preparation that may stretch out over days.


Together, the food quality and preparation combine to produce an eating experience, as shown on the table.

In order, grub describes food that is hardly palatable but is choked down because it keeps us alive; chow is hardly better, but the diner can remain indifferent to the taste, enough that eating isn’t a chore; nosh is agreeable, encouraging the diner to scrape the remains from the plate; savory has a sharper taste gives a feeling of being content and wholesomely satisfied; tasty is distinctly pleasurable and almost always calls for seconds; flavorful causes the diner to cease conversation and actively enjoy the taste of the food; delicious calls for the diner to share aloud the eating experience, declaring its noteworthiness; piquant is distinct and memorable, the sort of meal that one would certainly recall weeks later; mouthwatering cries for the food to be gobbled, even protected from others, as the diner cannot get enough; and ambrosia is simply ecstasy, eaten with eyes closed and at one with one’s pleasure.


Depending on the taste of the food (coupled with its substantive healthiness), the effect upon the diner is organized on the included table below. Each result describes the health (mental and physical) of the character during the ½-day following either the breakfast or the evening meal.

Some of these effects will be severe if the character is already on half-rations or is somehow afflicted. The DM should treat such circumstances as increasing the effects of either half-rations or the disease accordingly.

Affliction: the character acquires an gastro-intestinal affliction, as described under disease.

Diarrhea: late in the ½-day period, the character will be struck with a round of violent bowel movements that will dehydrate the victim and force bed rest. They will receive a -3 penalty to strength and will have no appetite to eat the next meal, so that the penalty will last throughout the next ½-day.

Elated: the character is in such a fine frame of mind that they will display generosity (giving away gold coins to commoners and others, granting freedom to slaves, releasing persons from commitments) and uncommon bravery (a willingness to enter a joust or other combat, perform an act of risk for the pleasure of it). Treat them as if they are a full age younger with regards to their ability stats for the ½-day following the meal.

Grumpy: receive a -1 penalty to charisma and therefore to charisma checks as well. Lower the morale of hirelings when within two hexes of the character.

Happy: the character is in unusually good spirits, gaining a +1 saving throw generally, and a +2 save against charm and other mentally affecting attacks.

Misery: receive a -1 penalty to strength and dexterity, and therefore to checks as well. The character will be bad-tempered and moody; during the day, the character will demand a halt after half-a-day’s travel or labour, sullenly refusing to continue.

Sated: the character will rest especially well at night, gaining +1 hit point in healing without the need of a full day’s rest.

Tired: receive a -1 penalty to both intelligence and wisdom, and therefore to checks as well. The character will complain a great deal and be unable to push themselves to forced movement. Reduce daily movement by 10%.

Vomit: halfway through the ½-day period, the character will throw up a good portion of their dinner. They will receive a -1 penalty to constitution and will have little appetite until the next meal. Treat as being on half-rations (see food) until then.

Tarot Sheets

I've been meaning to get this work done for ages, since Pandred brought it up and Agravain found the images for me ~ thank you again, good sir!

These are my tarot card descriptions, which were first posted on my Same Universe Wiki back in 2011, before it collapsed and I eventually put together another wiki to survive it.  These images never made it, however, so this is the first time they've seen the internet in about seven years.

In my world, Tarot is an occult practice, which is deciphered by those links to my wiki.  The actual descriptions for the cards can be downloaded from my Google Drive.  I'll add to this by posting the images below, as well; though because it is blogger, it will make a mess of the website.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Little "Fun"

The above is a screen shot of the water use calculator (available for download) I've written to simplify the dehydration page of my wiki.  It simply shows how much water in fluid ounces, or pints, that a character needs to drink per day, based on their body weight, the ambient temperature and their food intake.  This is a job half done ~ it doesn't take into account what a character would need if they had a disease that caused diarrhea or vomiting, but those things can be calculated on a case by case basis.

The table on the left, labeled in green, is not part of the calculator, but is a simplification chart for quick reference if the DM would rather not use a calculator all the time.  It represents the typical amount of water a character drinks in cups (8 oz. or 237 ml) per half-day, when travelling or performing ordinary labor.  Do note that the food eaten is taken into account, so that 60 lb. creatures can get their water intake, most of the time, from the food they eat.

For ease, halve the amount if the character is resting and double it if they have fought a battle that day.  If the weather is hotter than sweltering, use the calculator.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Small Update

There, at last I've made these links all work.

Give Proficiency: grants possible skill with an instructor’s weapon proficiency.
Give Secondary Skill: grants an ability acquired by the instructor from his or her progenitor.
Harden Commoner: lessens the experience needed for a commoner to become hardened as a combatant.
Reading & Letters: provides skill in teaching others how to read & write.
Train Man-at-Arms: provides the training needed for a comrade to become a man-at-arms.

I meant to have that done Tuesday, but I got hung up with the progenitor's list, which is an upgrade of the secondary skills post I added in April.

Lots done, lots to do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Desert Island

"What this means ... is that you don't have to learn the rules about how long your character is stunned, about what you are or aren't allowed to do, while you're in a certain mode, or if you're poisoned by a power-up or whatever the case.  You don't have to learn those rules.  The game knows and keeps track of it for you ~ and you can just test the limits of what you've got.  And if you can do it, it'll allow you to do it."
(compared to rules in traditional games)

Rather than talk more about rules, let's talk about game-play itself.  To elaborate on this, let's say that you and I are playing in a game called "Desert Island."  This is a real life game that begins with fourteen men, with guns, seizing us both, putting us in restraints, flying us to an island in the Pacific and abandoning us there, with not so much as a film crew.  The "rules" are clear.  After an unspecified amount of time, we will either be found and rescued (we may assume the kidnappers plan to tell no one of our existence), or we will die. In most aspects, not a very fun game.

There are many other rules which we are subject to.  We need to eat.  We need to avoid injuring ourselves or each other.  We need to learn everything about our island, so that "being found and rescued" might include putting ourselves off the island and reaching a more inhabited place.  The point is, we have no control over how to change the rules, because the rules are set by nature.

The game-play, then, is the thing.  We have a myriad of possible approaches to the game ~ and a great deal about our approach is going to be caught up with how we approach ourselves within our approach to the game.  How long will it take to emotionally get over our situation?  How long will it take before we trust one another?  How innovative can we be?  Are we going to give up and die in just a few days?  No one can tell.

The game play is entirely, completely, at our discretion.  No matter what the island is, how threatening it is or how weak we are, the situation in no way limits our innovation.  We are always hearing that this or that sort of rule-set "limits" our innovation or encourages it.  This is nonsense.  We limit our innovation.  Either by who we are before the game starts, our approach to the game, our willingness to accept the consequences of our approach and ~ in the end ~ if we're biologically able, through mental or physical prowess, to BE innovative once we're forced to be.

In this game, there are no do-overs, no hard barriers that can be wished past and no hope that something will fudge us out of this.  This is real ... but it is immaterial that this is real.  The only material thing that matters is do you want, and are you capable of, living long enough to be found?

I don't want to get into that aspect.  I want to emphasize that game play, no matter what the game, is always up to us.  This is true whether we're on a desert island or if we're playing Pacman.  Our approach to the rules of the game defines the quality, the level of fun we have, the passion we feel or the innovative behaviour we apply.  If we are not fun people, every game will effectively suck and we will make other people feel that.  If we aren't capable of passion, we will bury everything in a wet blanket.  If we are unable or unwilling to be innovative, we will resist expectations to do so.  If we're the wrong person to be left on a desert island, we will die.  Some, pretty quickly.

It is ridiculous to blame the rules for an attitude problem that affects the way we play.  If you have a player who hasn't got a girlfriend, has trouble making a shower work, grunts at moments that call for empathy, constantly leaves the seat of your toilet up, no matter how many times you tell him not to, never cleans up his garbage, works a job you wouldn't take if it paid double the income you're earning now and so on, don't be surprised that this same person chafes at the rules, hates any moment that turns serious, derails the game, kills NPCs randomly, has to be told the purpose of the quest every session and uses every opportunity to steal from or kill other player characters.  This person is losing at the BIG GAME, the life on a desert island game.  Your game world is just the corner of the player's particular desert island being used as a convenient gong pit.  You should not redesign the rules of your game world, make concessions, fudge the dice, give extra treasure or retcon events in order to make this person "happy."

Though arguably, you're doing it because this is the level of friend that YOU have, and perhaps need, because this is the last apple in the bottom of your barrel.  And what does that say about you?

Let's come back to the quote at the top of the post.

Most of us have played more hours of video games than we have played D&D.  If you're on the Steam platform, you are regularly and uncomfortably reminded how much time this really is.  When you play a computer game, knowing you won't be able to change the rules, and that you don't even have to know the rules, you train yourself to reflexively resist the concept of having to actual learn and memorize rules for a non-video game, particularly if the rules are as extensive as they are in D&D.

Moreover, you've trained yourself to regard any resistance in a game that you can push or press against as a fair way to manage your game experience.  Your "innovation" in a video game consists of testing absolutely everything, until you come to that sweet spot that Ian Danskin mentioned in the video I embedded on my last post.

The desert island will do all sorts of things to kill us.  But it won't stop us from doing something we can find a way of doing, because the island isn't sentient.  It is nature, but it is no more than nature.

The computer game is built in such a way that you can find elements of the system that will let you squeeze out some sort of action that gives you more power than the designer's intended.

But D&D is made so that the thing you push and press against isn't the rules, it's the Dungeon Master.  And if the Dungeon Master is weaker emotionally than you are, or needs you enough as a friend, or has some measure of empathy that you can bend to your will, or can be manipulated in a way that forces a decision between the rule and you're affectation of unhappiness, then the DM because the system that can't stop you from what you're doing.

And the DM is way, way, way easier to compromise than a desert island or a computer game.

I believe that there's an argument to be made that video games are training untold numbers of people to treat the DM as the obstacle and not the DM's setting.  And justifying it under the rubric that it is legitimate to wreck anything that is wreckable.  And in fact, to do so because it is wreckable.  So that every DM who feels at all ashamed or doubtful of their power, or their potential to kill a player, or the conscious fear that a player will disapprove, or a weakness of heart that someone's fun might be compromised by a die roll, that the DM views as a responsibility not wanted, is utterly, completely, mercilessly at the beck and call of the wreckers.  And more to the point, the new D&D has been designed to both incentivize the process and mock any other process.

The game the wreckers are playing is not D&D.  The game being played is how to wreck D&D.

You, as DM, shouldn't be playing with these people.  Not if a game experience really is what you're searching for.  The phrases you're being told, and the rhetoric being hurled against you, isn't about improving game play; it's about circumventing it.  And that's not the game.

Your vulnerability to that rhetoric is the key to your game.  As a DM, you are charged with obeying the rules, carrying forward the rules, defending the rules and enforcing the rules.

If you doubt your resolve or responsibility to do this, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If your responsibility to take a hard line on the rules makes you feel uncomfortable and ashamed, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you're willing to compromise your role, to sacrifice it, because you're unwilling to let a player dislike you for even a few minutes, because you desperately need to be liked, or can't stand not being liked, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you see it as your job to carry the emotional baggage of other players, to ensure they have fun, instead of trusting them to take that responsibility onto themselves; or if you're prepared to innovate for them because they're unable to do so; or if you're going to empower them because you feel they can't do it without you; or if you're unable to make them accept the consequences of their actions, because YOU can't bear the consequences for their actions, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you're willing to break a rule, so that others won't be held to the standard of the rules, then you shouldn't be DMing.

If you can't be a desert island, then I don't want to be trapped on you.

Allowed by the Rules

Since I have a good example of creating a rule to expand the game experience of the player, I'll use it.

Problem: the clerics and mages of the party want to use swords and bows.

Solution I:  eliminate the rule that bars the use of weapons, so that the new rule is that anyone can use any weapon.

Effect: momentary happiness, followed by all characters quickly adopting only the most obviously useful weapons.  This then results in a thin greyness of weapons use, adding to the ever growing ennui as every nuance of game play is steadily shellacked over until it is impossible to distinguish one characteristic from another.  Characters around the table eventually adopt the habit of dropping character names, replacing them with numbers, making it easier for the DM to remember that the first player on the left is always referred to as "number 1."

Less humorously, providing the players with easy access to whatever they want may temporarily please the DM's group, but it does little to add to the game experience, which relies upon the players feeling that they've produced a sort of achievement through innovation.  Answers like Solution I dispel the need for innovation, by simply handwaving the obstacle away.  There are dozens of examples like this that have been emerging in later editions, which some will insist are "advancements" but which are, instead, a call for conformity.  Without the need to innovate to overcome obstacles, we get the sort of rhetoric that argues that "rulings," rather than "rules," can produce innovation ... except that most rulings fall under the heading of solution I, which kills innovation to get around problems.

Another word for this conformity is the call for game "balance," where every player is given the same opportunities and privileges ... but again, that only eliminates the need for a player to find the quality in some character drawback and ~ through innovation ~ prove that it actually is an opportunity for gaining advantage.  I point the reader to the following video; I may have linked it before, but watch it again anyway.

But innovation isn't easy.  And most players will sit and pout and complain about limitations because they can't be motivated to innovate past them ~ they want and they want but they don't work, and they don't think that they should.  In fact, from the players point of view, rulings implies a possibility of massaging the DM into making a decision that will bypass the need to innovate, while rules put a bullet in the DM's gun when the player is being told, "No, I'm not giving you something for free."

Solution II: find a pathway that circumvents a hard rule and make the pathway a new hard rule.  Ensure the pathway is possible and perhaps not even hard to accomplish, but ensure it is time consuming and contains elements of hard obstructions.

Effect: some players will advantage the rule, though not all.  Some players will despise the rule, but not all.  Some players will complain and rail as they go through the motions of the rule, eventually emerging on the other side with success that they will, at first, view with suspicion.  And then, steadily, they will begin to comprehend two things.

First, that they earned this change.  At first, it will simply seem like a bunch of needless hoop jumping that could be waved away by the DM, but once they've accumulated the time they will see themselves as entitled to that change whereas others are not.  This will mean that others can't just co-opt what they have earned and they ~ the players ~ will argue very strongly that the rule should not be hand-waved.

Second, the players will become more conscious that the mage or the cleric they have now, that is able to use a sword, will not be as easily replaceable as mages and clerics once were.  If the character dies, yes, they'll be able to go through the hoops again ~ but it will require going through the hoops again, which means a clear understanding that a character is not just what we roll up at the start of the game, but is something we obtain through work.

I cannot remotely begin to express the importance of this.  A huge failing of 5e is that no matter how much time you put into your character, it doesn't feel like you're achieving anything of real importance.  Another player joins the game and is automatically given what you've just taken a year to accumulate.  Your character dies and you're automatically given what you took a year to create the first time.  At no time do you feel that anything matters, not to you, not to the other players, and certainly not to the DM.  There are no pathways that you can take in the game that give you any sense of real acquisition.

Because treasure, magic items, extra skills, even levels ~ these things are not "real."  They are elements of the game.  Referring to the video above, if your fox character dies, you can have another fox. The only thing that makes it "real" is the creation of the tournament, which means you're losing ~ and something more meaningful than just another set.  The tournament becomes the achievement.  Playing the game without keeping track of your wins doesn't provide enough meat to keep playing.  You've got to play towards a purpose, towards something that you can feel passionate about ... or else you really are just going through the emotions.  And however much fun that was at the start, after a while, it's not fun any more.

Players create all sorts of side games to give a particular game session meaning to them.  It ceases to be about the character and what the character can do, or the achievement of the quest, or even the storyline of the DM's imagination.  More and more it becomes the jokes that you can tell, or the opportunities to prove you're clever with a phrase that will humiliate a fellow player or make the DM blush.  After a while, you're settling in to take advantage that there are four or five people contained inside a room doing anything, so that you can be sharp-witted as you jump your brain ahead of your neighbour in making the best possible joke in the least amount of time.  The jokes are real.  The jokes aren't pretend events, they're actual demonstrations of your personal ability to innovate successfully.

This is what the game is meant to provide.  But if the game won't, then real life, and real human relations, will step up.

The rules of D&D have to be more than just boundaries and barriers.  They have to be building blocks and pathways and full of complex perspectives that, employed just so, will produce a new combination of tactics that one player, and only one player, will invent on the spur of the moment.  Which, in turn, the DM has to allow because the rules provide the player the power to say, "I'm doing this, and you can't fairly make a ruling that stops me."

This, I know, scares a lot of DMs.  But me, I love it.  I absolutely love it.

"I just hope you see how it's even possible for something so weird and seemingly innocuous to inspire so much passion.  How a party game that's basically the [pretend game] equivalent of a twelve-year-old smashing their toys together can be fun, hilarious, freakishly complex and, from the right vantage point, even ... beautiful."
~ Ian Danskin, Innuendo Studios

Monday, May 13, 2019


Play around and game design long enough, and eventually you'll shatter some intricate fabric of the game that you've been playing for 40 years.

I can't possibly explain how many times I've been in conversations ~ and arguments ~ about classes being free to use weapons in D&D.  I would expect the issue itself is dead as a dodo in 5th Edition, but that doesn't matter because the weapons are indistinguishable from one another anyway with regards to the effects of combat.  For me, the weapon by class restrictions have long been Biblical.

I have mostly argued that they exist because something needs to balance the power of the cleric or the wizard, and give a benefit to the fighter who, let's admit, never lacks for needing benefits.  So I have taken a hard stand, a slightly unrealistic stand, arguing for playability, enduring all the mentions of Gandalf's sword (who is, incidently, NOT a wizard, look it up you morons), Elric of Melnibone (who is barely a wizard), and Friar Tuck from that brilliant 1938 Robin Hood movie.

Okay, I made up that last one.  No one on the internet has ever seen the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood, and so they don't know that Friar Tuck uses a sword in it, though he is obviously a cleric, but that is my cross to bear, isn't it?

A friar with a sword?  Ridiculous!  Eugene Pallette squares off with Errol Flynn.

Incidentally, the film ~ and the legend ~ has a bard in it, mixing up Will Scarlet and Alan-a-Dale.  Ah Hollywood, what a minx you are.

The youngster was clothed in scarlet red,
In scarlet fine and gay,
And he did frisk it over the plain,
And chanted a roundelay.

Describing Will Scarlet, circa 1600.  But I digress.

Without intending last night, I was sketching out some of the details for my post earlier today, and realized there was a way of looking at weapon's use that I hadn't considered before.  For a couple of decades I had adjusted my thinking to the simple logic that clerics weren't able to use edged weapons simply because their masters didn't bother to teach such things.  We use bludgeoning weapons because we always have, and we always will, goes the call, and if that doesn't sound like religion, nothing will.  How is a mage going to learn to use a sword when there is so much time needed to learn how to cast spells and cantrips?  Where would a druid find a crossbow?  That sort of thing.

And of course the classes do use these weapons.  Fighter/clerics, mage/rangers ... there's plainly nothing wrong with a spellcaster using a sword if the training is there.  It doesn't mess up the magic or the prayers when it's part of a multi-classed character.  So there's room for flexibility.

I think I've found a nice formula for this, that fits into my ideas for allowing player characters to advance common ordinary people into roles as soldiers and even levelled persons.  I've had this spontaneously happen in more than one campaign and the players seem to love shepherding non-player characters into tougher, stronger roles.

I've made this link live, this evening: Give Proficiency.  It explains how the player character with the Instruction sage study can teach anybody ~ well, almost anybody, there is a restriction, though it isn't class ~ how to use a sword.  Or a bow.  If you have the stats (and they're not that high), and you put in the time, then yes.  Your illusionist, mage or cleric might be able to use a long bow.

And the way I've put it together, I don't think it breaks the game at all.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Next Step: Defining Instruction

I suppose this is what is meant by other Patreons offering pre-information to people before it is published generally.  But I'd rather just publish content as I conceive it for the general public, especially if it isn't finished.  I occasionally get an idea from a reader I hadn't considered, and that informs my thinking process.

This is the links page for the sage study, Instruction.  I'm just piecing this content together from notes I've been keeping in my head for about three years now.  The links provided are placeholders for the moment: I'll be adding to them from today until Tuesday, I expect.  I just want to post this to keep the reader in tune with my intentions, hoping that you'll see the big picture even if the little details are still obscure.

This is what would be potentially available to a 1st level fighter that took Instruction as their primary sage ability.  All of these would be useful, particularly if the goal was to build up some followers from the outset.  I have no problem with that as a DM; I think one of the most overlooked benefits of game play is the opportunity to create allies ~ and to use them in more interesting ways that combat.  Properly managed allies can act as caretakers for the party's things and animals, as a source for information, as persons posted in varying villages and towns throughout a region, even as a revenue source if they are provided with the means to set themselves up in business.

Unfortunately, the rules surrounding loyalty always presumes there's a LARGE chance that the follower will try to stab the liege in the back, and has to be watched constantly.  This does not fit at all with human behaviour, particularly if proper care is taken to instruct and bring aid to followers.  That is one of the purposes of this sage study, but I'm still working out the particulars in my thoughts.

Anyway, big picture:

Instruction provides a fighter or ranger with the skill to train others in the fields of animal training, leadership [fighters only], mastery of arms, training and wilderland [rangers only]. However, while the focus of the instruction is upon fighter and ranger sage abilities, opportunities for training in other persons in secondary skills and like skills exists.

The study allows the training of non-levels as well as levelled persons in numerous techniques, even providing some improvement in the combat abilities of spellcasters and thieves.

What can be taught is limited by the ability stats of the student and the knowledge possessed by the instructor. The instructor cannot teach what is not known ~ and in many cases the knowledge that can be provided to the student is less than the instructor knows. However, since the study includes the possibility of a student obtaining levelled status, there is room for a student to ultimately surpass the instructor, given time.



  • Pass Along Ability: enables the possible acquisition of a sage ability from a study in which the instructor is an authority.
  • Train Levelled Fighter: provides the training needed for a man-at-arms to advance to a levelled character.

As I said, I'll be giving more information afterwards, particularly with that rule, "give proficiency."  I think players are going to love me for it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Preliminary to Instruction/Training Rules

This is food for thought.  A lot of the links here won't work for a few days, but I want to get a response on the base information.  The problem has always been to fold ordinary persons into the levelled class system without having to ignore the powers and hit points of that system.  After a lot of thought, I've been feeling of late that I can put this together at last.


Representing the bulk of human inhabitants within a civilized region, often possessing a single sage ability of some type, such as farming, fishing or herding. Many other humanoids will also have commoners among their number, but among demi-humans and more primitive humanoids it is far less common to have persons with so little skill in armed combat.

As non-levelled persons, commoners have only as many hit points as their body mass provides, typically 1d8 for males and 1d6 for females. Commoners will die if damage reduces them below -3 hit points.

As combatants they are very poor. They have a morale ranging between 9 and 12, which they must succeed at before they will find the will to enter a combat. Otherwise they will flee, cower or surrender, depending on the circumstance.

Commoners are only able to fight with tools that they use every day, and suffer a -1 penalty to hit even with those. These usually function as a club causing 1-4 damage. With any other weapon they will suffer a -6 penalty to hit. They usually cannot afford armor and are far too clumsy to fight in it anyway. If over 21 years of age, roll 2d6 + 1d4 to determine their ability stats, if these are needed. Younger commoners may yet have better potential, and 3d6 can be rolled for their stats.

A great many hirelings will be commoners, and may find that because of their association with a player party that they will have to fight for their lives. A commoner can gain experience, but in calculating the shared experience bonus, they count as only ⅛th share.

If a commoner is able to accumulate as much as 200 x.p. (which they may gather through accident, injury or combat), they will become hardened; thereafter they are known as comrades.

Anyone with the minimum necessary ability stats, the financial means, a tutor and sufficient time ~ usually a minimum of 5 years ~ may become a character class. This is rare for an adult, as usually only children, between 10 and 13 years of age, are chosen by sponsors.

A player character that has studied instruction may tutor any commoner, if they so wish.


These non-levelled characters are tougher and more worldly than commoners. They have more control over their bodies when under stress and always have a standard morale. Often they will possess a mundane sage ability like a commoner, while having a secondary skill they’ve learned, such as foraging, make art, prospecting, sailing or woodcutting. Most in these professions will be comrades rather than simple commoners.

As non-levelled persons, comrades gain a +1 bonus to their hit points above those that their body mass provides, so that males will typically have 2-9 h.p. while females will have 2-7 h.p. Comrades will die if damage reduces them below -3 hit points.

As combatants they are helpful. They do not need to make a morale check before entering combat. They have a 21 THAC0, and are proficient in either a club or a quarterstaff. They suffer a -5 penalty to hit with any other weapon than the one they know. They are able to fight in a helmet and padded armor, but cannot usefully manage a shield. Roll 3d6 to determine their ability stats, if these are needed.

Hirelings that are artisans or heavy laborers will almost always be comrades. Comrades start with zero x.p. and can gain experience, but in calculating the shared experience bonus, they count as only ⅕th share.

If a comrade accumulates 400 x.p. (through accident, injury or combat), they are considered experienced enough for training to be a footman or other man-at-arms. They cannot further advance as combatants, or in other character classes, without this training.

Anyone with the minimum necessary ability stats, the financial means, a tutor and sufficient time ~ usually a minimum of 5 years ~ may become a character class. This is rare for an adult, as usually only children, between 10 and 13 years of age, are chosen by sponsors.

A player character that has studied instruction may tutor any comrade, if they so wish.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Redux Rules on Spellcasting

I've written this kind of post before.  But every time I struggle to expand the concept, I think I get a little closer to the detail I want.  My desire is to be able to describe the original purpose and play of AD&D spells, without changing the rules that I've accepted for 30 years.  I want the player character to have a better understanding of just what is going on with spellcasting and magic ~ not so much that the player can change it [these being rules] but in the sense that the player will cease to view learning, regaining, casting and discharging of spells as a singular, logical and scientific process, that can be used in role-play as well as in sound rules play.

I consider these two things perfectly compatible, the more so if the DM is ready to put in the work necessary to explain why the world works in a particular way, rather than running to the default that "it doesn't make sense."  I think it probably does, if we're ready to give it sense.

So, with this in mind ...


Also known as an incantation, a spell is a means of controlling unnatural power in order to cause an effect. The acquisition, casting and discharging of a spell is a complex formula that certain classes are able to manage ~ though often generally spoken of as “magic,” there are in fact five forms of spellcasting: bardic, clerical, druidical, illusionary and magical, as cast by bardsclericsdruidsillusionists and mages. These are known by the general terms, “spellcasters” or simply, “casters.”

Acquisition of Spells

Spells are acquired through characters gaining levels and choosing spells from a list that can be found by following the links of the spell-using classes above. Different spellcasters receive different numbers of spells as they advance in level. Clerics and druids gain bonus spells through wisdom. Mages have many choices, but these choices are limited by the mage’s intelligence. Illusionists and mages both gain cantrips as well as spells. Some spellcasters have considerable more power than others, and the amount of experience needed to go up a level often reflects this. A spell may not be duplicated (i.e., the caster cannot possess two or more of the same spell at the same time).

On a daily basis, casters must reacquire spells they have used, a process often described as “forgetting” and “relearning” spells. Sometimes the latter is called “memorizing” a spell. These words should be taken figuratively. The English language lacks proper technical terms for what’s really happening, so these words serve as placeholders.

In actual fact, when a caster is organizing a spell in their mind, the process is like putting together a complex thought-puzzle, in which various mental pieces are fitted together in a fashion that can’t be fully understood by a non-spell using perspective. This process of mental manipulation is the art that spellcasters are taught for so many years before they succeed in becoming 1st level in their class. Moreover, the puzzle-making is different for each form of magic, so that a cleric cannot cast magical spells, having no more knowledge of how magical spells work than a fighter does. The process of assembling this puzzle takes time and must be done once fully rested.

Once the spell is in mentally place, it will remain there until it is intentionally dismantled, no matter how long that is. The caster knows the key order of phrases and thoughts that will dismantle the spell’s mental structure, enabling the spell to be employed and thus “forgotten” in the caster’s mind. To regain the spell, constructing it once again, requires a night of rest (minimum six hours). The caster simply cannot obtain the clarity and sensibility to reform the complex mind-puzzle once again without this rest.

The time necessary to reform a spell in the caster’s head, or to either “learn” or “memorize” it (the terms mean the same thing), is 15 minutes per spell level. Thus, a third level spell requires 45 minutes to learn as a spellcaster. Cantrips are considered half-spells, so each requires 7½ minutes to learn. The learning process requires concentration and cannot be interrupted; if it is interrupted, the caster must begin anew, with any previous effort being considered lost.

Spell Forms

Bards weave spells through performance or contemplation, depending upon the form of art which they practice. The mental structuring of the spell is similar to that which is described above; the bard dances or sings, feels a mastery over materials, juggles, writes or mumbles poetic lines … each amounts to the same thing, the slow puzzling together of spells so that they will be ready to cast. In each case, the focus is most likely an instrument of some kind, a tool or the bard’s own body, depending on the specific art.

Clerics pray fervently to gods or demi-gods for the necessary time period, while feeling the passion of these superior powers filling their minds and hearts. In effect, it is as though the cleric were a bottle being filled; once the spell is in place, the cleric mentally places a stopper over the top of the bottle and the spell’s power remains held within the cleric, until the metaphorical stopper is removed.

Any number of gods in a cleric’s pantheon may be called upon for specific spells; generally which god provides which spell is not pre-determined, but the character can be given this information if it is requested. A monotheistic character may still pray to more than one source. A Christian may pray to God, Jesus, Mother Mary or any number of Saints. A Moslem may pray to Allah or call upon the spirit of Mohammed. Most religions are flexible in this manner.  Naturally it is presumed that the cleric should seek to serve these deities and maintain their favour, since the cleric’s spell use depends upon it.

Druids seek to commune with the natural world on a deeper level than the five senses will reveal. In a way that’s difficult to explain, the druid becomes supernaturally aware of the movement of energy, living things, water and earth all around ~ even the heat and magma far beneath the world’s crust. This tremendous power is “tapped,” or gathered by the druid as the complicated form of the spell is constructed in the druid’s mind. These natural, elemental or even “astral” forces are always present, and therefore remain always available to the druid when forming spells for use.

Illusionists & Mages, who possess spells of greater power, rely upon spellbooks to store the complexity of their magic. To learn their spells, they must study the pages of these books. Illusionists and mages depend greatly upon the maintenance and care of these books; losing a spellbook is a very unfortunate affair.


Once a spell is acquired and learned, to unleash the spell it must first be cast. Casting is a time-sensitive process that must be done with great concentration and without interruption. If a spell’s casting is interrupted, and the caster’s attention is broken, even if for an instant, the effort to learn the spell is lost and the spell cannot be discharged. “Breaking” a spell while it is being cast can require as little effort as thumping a caster hard on the shoulder, giving them a push or shouting very loudly in their ear (though the last may allow an ability check for the caster’s primary attribute). Needless to say, damage from combat or some other source, an earthquake, a rush of water or heavy rain, a gust of wind or similar circumstance will also break a spell as it is being cast.

As such, spellcasters are very careful only to cast spells when they are fairly sure they will not be interrupted while doing so. This is made more difficult in that all spells have distinctly obvious verbal and somatic components. These cannot simply be performed subtly ~ they must be performed resolutely and at the appropriate volume, which means that any witnessing intelligent creature will know perfectly well that the spellcaster is “weaving” a spell (another way to describe casting). This will probably mean that an enemy will forego attacking a mere fighter a few feet away, preferring to hurl a dagger at the spellcaster to break the spell before it is ready.

Because of the nature of casting, the caster cannot dodge such an attack. In fact, the caster must be minimally conscious about what is going on all around, as the spell is everything. Therefore, if an attack is made against the caster, the caster’s dexterity is not applied to the caster’s armour class.

Take note that an ally who enters or passes through the combat hex containing a spellcaster must make an intelligence check to avoid disrupting the caster and ruining the spell. A +4 modifier is granted to this check.

1st and 2nd level spells usually require a full round to cast. As spells increase in power, they take more rounds to cast. Some spells, specifically not designed for the battlefield, may take hours to cast. Most cantrips take only a few action points in order to cast.

While casting, spellcasters are allowed to move no more than 1 combat hex per round, provided the ground is distinctly flat and free of obstacles. A caster would be presumed to trip over roots if attempting to move while weaving a spell amidst trees. Likewise, a caster could not move through water, or spy around a corner before walking into full view. A caster cannot perform any action with their hands, or use their voice to speak, as these are taken up with the process of casting the spell.

With cantrips, the time of both casting and discharging is included in the casting time, describe on each cantrip.

Holding Spells

On the threshold between casting a spell and discharging it, the caster may “hold” the spell for the right moment. While the spell is held, the caster continues to be vulnerable in the same manner as during the process of casting. However, with certain spells, the exact moment of discharge can be very important.

The concentration required, however, does have a time limit. The caster is able to hold the spell comfortably for as many rounds as they have points of constitution. For each round thereafter that the caster attempts to hold the spell, a constitution check must be made. If this check fails, exhaustion overtakes the caster and the spell is ruined.

Cantrips cannot be held in the manner of spells.


Causing a spell to manifest itself in actuality is called “discharging,” or releasing the spell from within the spellcaster. Once discharged, the effects of a spell are real and cannot be taken back.

The act of discharge requires 1 action point. A new spell or cantrip cannot be cast in the same round that a spell or a cantrip is discharged. This also means that two cantrips cannot be cast/discharged in the same round.

Additional Notes

Spells do not require material components.

Gaining a new spell upon reaching a new level presupposes that the character has already given that spell a great deal of thought. They have memories of teachers explaining things to them about magic that have not yet taken root in the spellcaster’s mind. However, at the moment of reaching a level, the caster is assumed to have obtained an epiphany. At last, they understand the words of their teachers and comprehend how the spell is ordered in the mind, or otherwise obtained. This empowers the caster to expand their spells.

See Also,
Bardic Spell Acquisition
Clerical Spell Acquisition
Druidic Spell Acquisition
Illusionary Spell Acquisition
Magical Spell Acquisition
Player Characters

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Paladin's Warhorse

Also known as mearas, an unusual breed of wild horses, the largest of which are chosen by a benevolent holy spirit called a luris, or being of light. Thereafter the spirit and the mearas become one, becoming familiar as a paladin’s warhorse. The animal is as intelligent and long-lived as any human or demi-human, and literally exists to serve the paladin once they have achieved sufficient power ~ that is, upon attaining 4th level.


At this point the warhorse will present itself, remaining by the paladin’s side, as a companion, mount and protector. The paladin’s warhorse will share an understanding of the paladin’s needs that resembles ESP ~ but while the warhorse will perfectly understand the paladin, the warhorse is only able to communicate with the paladin as would an ordinary horse. Typically, a paladin will therefore speak ordinarily with the warhorse, asking questions to obtain the warhorse’s knowledge or desire.

The warhorse will likewise recognize the value of the paladin’s companions, and will seek to protect them also, if able to do so without abandoning the paladin. The warhorse will allow any rider whom the paladin accepts, and actively take care of such persons to the best of its ability, even if not in the paladin’s company. For example, if the paladin indicated that the warhorse should bear the party’s mage to another land or region, the warhorse would willingly do so, for as long as it took, thereafter returning to the paladin, with inherent success.


The warhorse is almost always a destrier, or great horse, of enormous size, 17 hands tall, with flanks that make for easy riding and a steady, smooth and even bearing, regardless of what particular gait being taken. If the paladin is too small in stature for such an animal, the paladin’s warhorse may be a courser that is 16 hands high and only 1,900 lbs. The other stats as shown on the right hand table, however, are the same.

The warhorse will appear fine and very strong, most commonly in a color that best suits the tastes of the paladin (the player is free to choose) and of a like gender (which may also be chosen). Males will appear as geldings.

The paladin’s warhorse will have powerful hindquarters, so that it is able to easily coil and spring to stop, spin, turn or sprint forward. They have a short back and well-muscled loin, strong bone and a well-arched neck. The mane and tail hair is typically lush and quite long, though it can be trimmed if desired. Overall, the warhorse’s color is startlingly rich, and at night the animal has been seen to shine with a glisten that resembles the surface of frost or rime in moonlight, though no light-source is present.


When defending itself without a rider, the warhorse will rear upon its hind legs and kick forward, or kick backwards with its hooves. The warhorse can attack either forward or backward in a given round, but not both. If bearing a rider, the animal will be able to attack with its teeth.

In caretaking a rider, the warhorse doubles the amount of horseback riding knowledge possessed by whichever rider is mounted, when related to horse handling or horse-mounted combat. If the rider has less than 10 points of knowledge, and depends upon assisted riding, the warhorse will gently carry the rider as a passenger.

Other Notes

The warhorse cannot be sold or given to other persons. When its tasks are done, it will always return to its liege paladin. If the horse is deliberately sent away forever, it will wither and die within 60 to 90 days.

See Player Characters

Thinking on the Paladin's Warhorse

"Thus was Advanced Dungeons & Dragonsborn, and the death knell of the loosey-goosey, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants OS style of play."
~ Tim Kask, former TSR employee

Sorry to post this quote a second time, but it's a big belly-laugh for me.  If this was the goal of AD&D, the writer and editor fell way short of the mark ~ as we knew when we started playing the version in 1979.

I said earlier this week that we fell in love with AD&D.  That is only half true.  It was something like falling in love with a slacker or a wastrel with potential.  If only something could be done about their shortcomings, they'd someday grow up to be a wonderful person ... but for the present, they're still sadly lacking.

As I was reminded today as I undertook to write proper rules for the paladin's warhorse for my wiki, which I've never really done.  Seems there have been many concepts that I've skimmed over these past decades, as I've concentrated on codifying more contentious material.  There's always another subject, another detail.  And with something like the paladin's warhorse, I've relied on my memory of old rules and my perception of the animal, why it exists and what it ought to be good for.  I wouldn't actually need the original rules to write my own, as I've run paladins with horses many times.

Still, it was rational this morning to return to the past and remind myself what the old AD&D books said about it.  Just to be sure I hadn't missed anything.  Doing so, I found a flood of memories ~ of how really miserable and petty the advanced rules were, and how clumsy, loosey-goosey and fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants were the details.  Here's the entirety of what AD&D had to say about the paladin's warhorse.

At 4th level ~ or at any time thereafter ~ the paladin may call for his warhorse; this creature is an intelligent heavy warhorse, with 5+5 hit dice, AC 5, and the speed of a medium warhorse; it will magically appear, but only one such animal is available every ten years, so that if the first is lost the paladin must wait until the end of the period for another.
~ Player's Handbook, p. 22.
When the paladin reaches 4th or higher level, he or she will eventually call for a warhorse. It will magically appear, but not in actual physical form. The paladin will magically “see” his or her faithful destrier in whatever locale it is currently in, and it is thereafter up to the paladin to journey to the place and gain the steed. As a rule of thumb, the journey will not be beyond 7 days ride, and gaining the mount will be an impossible task. The creature might be wild and necessitate capturing, or it might be guarded by an evil fighter of the same level as the paladin, and the latter will then have to overcome the former in mortal combat in order to win the warhorse. In short, the gaining of the destrier is a task of some difficulty which will take a number of days, possibly two or more weeks, and will certainly test the mettle of the paladin. Once captured or won, the warhorse knows its role and relationship to the paladin, and it will faithfully serve thereafter for 10 years. Thereafter, the paladin must seek another mount, as the former one will be too old to be useful.
The intelligence of a paladin’s warhorse is 5-7 points. The number of hit points per hit die of the steed will never be fewer than 50% of the level of the paladin, i.e., a 4th level paladin means the warhorse he or she gains will have at least 2 hit points per hit die, excluding the additional bonus of +5, while a 16th level paladin’s special steed will have maximum hit points per die.
If the character loses paladinhood for any reason, there will be an immutable enmity between character and mount, and the former will not be able to ride the latter, while the steed will escape at first opportunity.
~ Dungeon Masters Guide, p. 18.

Seriously.  What a bunch of dicks.  You can have your horse, but you have to adventure for it, and that adventure should be a 50/50 chance of dying, and if you fuck up as a paladin, you lose the horse, and if you lose the horse, you have to wait years and years.

And what is this horse?  It has hit points.  Is an attack specified?  No.  It's smarter than a horse but it's still pretty dumb, so don't expect a lot.  Big whup.  Does it explain what the horse does?  What real benefits the horse offers?  What the limitations are?  Will it fight on it's own?  Will it die defending the paladin?  No idea.  And this is what Kask calls "codified."  This is what he calls the end of grab-ass role-playing.  Pfffft!

I'd forgotten what a cretinous "benefit" this thing was according to the books.  I've never demanded a paladin fight for a horse, I've always immediately assigned a new horse when the paladin lost one (with a reasonable expectation for the paladin to return to civilization), I've never made it difficult.  The horse has always "understood" the paladin's wishes.  The one time I ever had a paladin "fall from grace" (my early days, when I was still deluded but such ideas), the horse did not defect.  What a ridiculous freaking concept.

But I admit ... I've not really nailed down what's going on, either.  What is the horse?  What is its motivation?  How much power & ability does it add to the paladin?  What precisely are the benefits?  These are questions that should be explored, not because they limit the horse, but because knowing what these things are gives additional power and control to the player.  If you don't know what the magic wand does, it's just a stick.  One great benefit of rules like this is they transform a utility into something wonderful.

I want to give it a little more thought, but I think the paladin's warhorse should be something quite special ~ and not just for the paladin, but for the whole gaming party.  Every player should feel the presence of the horse is a boon and an asset, not just for the one player but for everyone.