Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meandering Monsters: Hippogriff

There are a few creatures in classic mythology and fantasy gaming that are really just kind of silly, but cool. One relatively common theme across multiple mythologies is the addition of wings to almost anything. I guess, the dream of flying has always been a desirable thing for mankind. The combination bird-mammal series of creatures includes the Griffon, Manticore, Peryton, Pegasus, Owlbear, and Hippogriff.

More than likely, the Hippogriff's first appearance in fantasy gaming came in the AD&D Monster Manual (TSR, 1977). According to Thomas Bulfinch's Age of Fable (1913), Volume IV 'Legends of Charlemagne':
Like a griffin, it has the head of an eagle, claws armed with talons, and wings covered with feathers, the rest of its body being that of a horse. This strange animal is called a Hippogriff.
In the Arnold Sundgaard (1909-2006) poem 'The Hippogriff', the creature is more described as the offspring of Griffin and a horse:
When Mare and Griffin meet and mate
Their offspring share a curious fate.
One half is Horse with hooves and tail,
The rest is Eagle, claws and nail.
As a Horse it likes to graze
In summer meadows doused in haze,
Yet as an Eagle it can fly
Above the clouds where dreams drift by.
With such a Beast I am enthralled,
The Hippogriff this beast is called.

Hippogriff by Jerry Teleha

MR: 80
Combat Dice: 9d6 + 40
Special Abilities: Fly Me
Special Damage: 4/Pin and Peck
Special Hindrance: Oh Go Away! (Griffin) 
Appearing: 1-2
CON: 80, STR: 38, WIZ: 18

Some would say the Hippogriff originated from the mating of a Griffin and a horse. Others would contend that they are the result of magical experiments of powerful wizards at some point in the past. The body and hind legs of the Hippogriff resemble that of a horse and eagle-like front limbs and head very similar to a Griffin with a sharp talons and a powerful beak. Like a griffin, they also have feathered wings that allows them to fly. 

In combat, Hippogriffs use their large beaks as a primary attack as well as the razor sharp talons on their fore legs. Being the size of a large horse, it will try to use its strength and size to overbear and pin a smaller sized opponent to the ground with its front legs, leaving it vulnerable to its vicious beak.

Hippogriffs are very intelligent and can be trained to be a mount for wizards and warriors alike. For this reason, their eggs are highly prized and command a hefty price. If for some reason a delver decides that trying to tame a wild adult Hippogriff is a good idea, the challenge should be quite substantial. The first instinct of the creature will be to fly straight into the air and attempt to dump the rider back down to the ground. Magical aid, or a delver that has some abilities with taming wild animals should be the first course of action before attempting such a dangerous task.

Hippogriffs prefer to live in regions that are away from populated areas. They will be found primarily in mountains and dense woodlands. If a mated pair is encountered in their lair or nest, they will more than likely attack to defend any eggs or younglings that they are tending to.

Griffins are a natural enemy of the Hippogriffs and tend to attack them on site because of their fondness for horse flesh. Because of this, Griffins cause fear in any Hippogriff which could result in their attempting to flee an encounter, unless they are defending a nest.

Fly Me
Hippogriffs can fly at will, provided their wings are not damaged or they are otherwise fatigued.

Pin and Peck
During combat, the Hippogriff is able to pin a smaller or equal sized opponent to the ground with its front limb claws (SPITE 4). This pinning action will cause the initial 4 SPITE damage, bypassing armor, to the victim.
Peck - An additional 2d6 damage is then rolled, also bypassing armor, as the Hippogriff pecks quickly at weak or exposed areas of the pinned opponent. 
If there are others still attacking the Hippogriff, it will hop free of the pinned opponent for the next combat round. The first round after such an attack, the victim should only be able to apply half of her combat adds.
Pinned - If the Hippogriff is not being immediately attacked by any other opponents, it will use its Strength to pin its victim and continue pecking until she is defeated. An opposed roll versus the Hippogriff's Strength can be attempted to wiggle or force her way free. Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), or even Luck (LK) can be chosen by the victim when trying to get free of the Hippogriff's grip.
Oh Go Away! (Griffin)
A Hippogriff's first inclination when seeing a Griffin will always be to flee, unless defending its nest. A trained Hippogriff will still have an urge to flee in this situation, but a Level 3 SR (CHR) can be attempted to prevent this and urge the Hippogriff to follow its riders commands.

Copyright © 2012, Jerry Teleha

Monday, April 16, 2012

Converting to Tunnels & Trolls - Part 5 - Adventure Points

(I originally started writing these 'Converting' posts regarding some of the issues/topics that would spring to mind as I started getting a bit more involved with T&T as opposed to what I have been playing pretty much my entire life, which is some form of AD&D 1E and 2E.)

I guess I am not so much 'converting' to T&T anymore, at least not from the player side of things. Between the various online sessions via Google+, local conventions, and Troll Hoots, I have played more T&T than really any other game as of late. I have also written a GM adventure for an upcoming Elder Tunnels and begun running a MSPE campaign for the boy, converting our Top Secret characters.

Awarding experience has always been a rather arbitrary process no matter what system you run. That is not to say that some rules systems do a better job than others when offering guidelines or rules around how it should or is recommended to be done. Case in point is the aforementioned Top Secret (TSR) system which I still cannot really wrap my head around.

For AD&D 1E, the awarding of experience almost exclusively revolved around values for slain monsters or opponents. There was also experience awarded for magic items and gold piece value that my group over the years never paid much attention to. In fact, as I have played over the years and created house rules and different ways to handle things, I sometimes forget what the actual rules are as written. While doing some research on this topic, I ran across this statement in the 1st Edition DM's Guide, page 85 regarding the proposed system for converting GP to XP:
While it is more "realistic" for clerics to study holy writings, pray, chant, practice self discipline, etc. to gain experience, it would not make a playable game roll along. Similarly, fighters should be exercising, riding, smiting pelts, tilting at the lists, and engaging in weapons practice of various sorts to gain real expertise (experience); magic-users should be deciphering old scrolls, searching ancient tomes, experimenting alchemically, and so forth; while thieves should spend their off-hours honing their skills, "casing" various buildings, watching potential victims, and carefully planning their next "job". All very realistic but conducive to non-game boredom! ~page 85, Dungeon Master's Guide©1979 TSR Games
This is an interesting take on the notion of character 'downtime', but at the same time, really puts the focus on combat and treasure acquisition that so often gets associated, and rightfully so, with AD&D. You get experience by defeating monsters - that is all. Everything else is just boring..

The 2nd Edition DM's Guide did a much better job of providing some guidelines that could be a bit more useful. Still there is the focus on experience based on defeating your foes, but also now officially presented in AD&D is the awarding of class specific experience.
  • Warriors (and Bards) got bonus XP for defeating his foes. 
  • Priests got bonus XP for successful use of granted powers, casting spells, and for creating potions, scrolls or magic items. 
  • Wizards got bonus XP for casting spells, researching spells, and for creating potions, scrolls or magic items. 
  • Rogues got bonus XP for successful use of a special ability and for gold piece value of treasure obtained
An optional rule in 2E was to use general 'Individual Experience Awards', basically for role-playing. This was quite common in 2E where the goal must have been to 'ease' the old timers into the new edition by offering these rules with the 'Optional' tag. These experience awards included XP for clever ideas, role-playing well, encouraging others to participate. What was once primarily a wargame pretending to be a RPG was now officially actually acknowledging the role-playing part of the RPG in the system.

When it gets right down to it, TnT has these types of things already covered. I do not have any copies of previous editions, but the below chart that is in the MSPE rulebook basically lays out in a bit more detail what you can read about on pages 102-106 of the 7.5 rule book. Adventure Points are awarded for 'Daring',  'Combat', 'Saving Rolls', 'Role-Playing', and anything else that would deserve AP's.  

Coupled with the use of AP's to increase your character's abilities, the AP system for Saving Rolls is wonderfully efficient and I have found, very rewarding, pardoning the pun. While in many other systems, you have to wait until you reach a certain plateau to get your all or nothing level advancement benefits, T&T gives you the ability to constantly 'level up' so to speak by increasing those things that you use all the time - your attributes.

Sure - it is nice to get that level bonus for your saving rolls when you do advance in level in T&T, and getting that new talent is always going to be something to look forward to. But, being able to immediately improve in areas that you know you need to work on is one huge plus in my opinion. It just seems to work quite well. Thankfully, it is only x10 in 7.5 instead of the x100 to increase an attribute in 5th edition. That does seem to be quite excessive.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coming Soon in the Spring Elder Tunnels...

Since the newest issue has taken a bit longer to come out than expected, I have been holding off on this entry for some time now...I guess now is a good time to let it fly...

The upcoming Elder Tunnels publication from Peryton Publishing will include my submission, a GM adventure entitled 'Days and Nights in Baru-Kesh'. This Spring issue is non-Western themed, and my contribution is loosely based on the Arabian Nights stories.

Here is the Introduction to my adventure:

I believe in providing various options to the players when running an ongoing campaign. While there will always be times that you will have a pre-determined adventure or scenario to run, I love to give the players the opportunity to explore and be free to choose their course of action. That is why I have grown to love running city adventures where the possibilities can be endless for the imaginative GM.

This GM adventure could be used as brief interlude for traveling characters, or the start of an ongoing city campaign spanning multiple sessions. It is designed to use with Tunnels & Trolls 7.5 for up to six characters, Levels 1-3. Higher character levels could easily be accounted for by adjusting Monster Ratings or Challenges presented. Being a fantasy take on an Arabian culture, common non-human kindred will be out of place, but not unaccepted. Other kindred can be played, but may be treated more as an outsider or with fear/distrust.

Some highlights of the adventure include:
...and that is just from my contribution. There will be plenty more T&T goodness that you will be able to sink your Trollish Teeth into!

Keep an eye out for this new issue of Elder Tunnels, release date of April 13, 2012.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An Alternate Take on Talents in T&T

I was reading my electronic copy of the 7.5 rules on my Kindle Fire and I came across the following passage in the character section for the Citizen:

Pg 10: "If you play a Citizen, you are advised to work on your Talent(s) above all, so that perhaps you will be able to create a memorable character who's very, very good at just one thing."

One frustrating thing about the Talent system as presented in the 7.5 rule book is the roll for your Talent bonus. Picture this: you have risked life and limb, you have survived vile sorcery and evil death frogs. You finally push one of your attributes that allows you to advance a level and get a new Talent. You have had this idea for the last few playing sessions - and you are now ready to make your roll for your Talent Bonus - and you roll a '1'. You are now stuck with a very ineffective bonus to your Talent for the rest of the character's long or short lifespan.

One option proposed on the 'Walla (I believe by Zanshin - correct me if I am wrong)
  • Roll 3 dice and pick the 2 you would like
  • Pro - I think this could be a good idea as one option for Talents that will increase your chances for DARO...but
  • Con - I believe it would also totally eliminate any chance of a 'fumble' roll of 1 and 2 (1-1-2 would DARO on the 1, 1-2-2 would DARO on the 2)

Another Option: Track your Talent usage ala MSPE and apply bonuses based on actual usage

Which brings me back to MSPE and its record keeping, but in this case, I think it is something that could be effective. In MSPE, you receive 50 AP after just attempting any of your skills. After 20 such attempts (1000 AP), the character would then be Level 2 in that skill. Level 3 required 3000 total points (60 total attempts), and the level tree gets progressively larger, using the same one that is used for the base character level advancement.

We already write down experience for every SR that is successful; why not also make a mark for your talents as you use them?
  • Mark every time you use the talent in the margin - when you get to 10 or 20, increase your bonus by +1 to a maximum of +6. I can see with this method, starting the Talent at +1 and then use the XP system to build up to +6.
  • Pro - the character is rewarded for 'working' on the Talent
  • Con - one more thing to track which could in and of itself be a bit overbearing

In the original words from the rule book, this would be a way to 'work' on your talents, by actually using them.