Saturday, 16 June 2018

Creating a PC Class for Kobolds

Don't often post things so close together, but there's a discussion going on that I thought I'd record. This is a (slightly edited) series of my posts from the B/X Facebook group, where the topic of creating a PC Class for Kobolds (a B/X 'Race-as-Class') is discussed. The main point is that someone offered the opinion that Kobolds should be pretty much limited to what is in the 'monster' entry for Kobolds. I disagree and try to set out my reasoning below.


A Kobold chief has an average of 33 followers in his lair. Not sure that's really comparable to a 9th-level Fighter establishing himself as Lord of the Manor.

If you wanted to invent a 'Thief' class, and used Bandits as a base, you'd assume that max level for a Thief would be Level 2, but if you went above Level 1 you could retrain as a Fighter, Cleric or MU.

If you extrapolate from Acolytes to higher-level Clerics, you find that the maximum level for a Cleric is Level 5 and leaders fall in a curve of 40% L2, 30% L3, 20% L4 and 10% L5.

Max level for a MU ('Medium') from the Monster Lists is L3 (there are no L2 MUs).

My point here is that entries in the Monster Lists, for 'monsters that are also classes', are very sketchy as well as being underpowered (ie, what is statted is 'low level').

So if 'Kobold' is a class, then the 'Kobold' entry in the Monster List is not the whole range of what that class can do, and higher-level Kobolds are not provided for (why should they be? Your DM wants higher-powered opponents, that’s what Gnolls and Ogres are for).

PC Thieves are much more detailed and have more options (and different options, a PC Thief can't re-class as a Cleric at 2nd Level) and have much a greater level maximum than 'monster' Thieves, ie Bandits.

See also Mediums (Media?) and Acolytes and Veterans ie 'monster' MUs, Clerics and Fighters.

You can do the same for Elves and Dwarves and Halflings.

In all cases, the Monster List options are much more limited than the PC Class options.

Therefore, PC Kobolds will be much more detailed and have more options and have much a greater level maximum than 'monster' Kobolds. Their PC Class options will far exceed the Monster List just as the options and levels for PC Clerics, Dwarves, Elves, Fighters, Halflings, Magic Users and Thieves far exceed those of 'monster' Acolytes, Dwarves, Elves, Veterans, Halflings, Mediums and Bandits.

PC = complex. Monster = simple.

Kobolds as monsters are simple, just as 'monster' Clerics (Acolytes), Dwarves, Elves, Fighters (Veterans), Halflings, Magic Users (Mediums) and Thieves (Bandits) are simple. Kobolds as PCs need to be complex, just as PC Acolytes (Clerics), Dwarves, Elves, Veterans (Fighters), Halflings, Mediums (Magic Users) and Bandits (Thieves) are complex.

In short - the Monster List entry for 'Kobold' isn't equivalent to the PC Class 'Halfling', it's equivalent to the Monster List entry 'Halfling'. That can then be compared to the PC Class Halfling to show you what the PC Kobold class is missing. The Monster List entries are sketches nothing more. The detail comes in comparing Monster List and Class entries for the same categories.

... so in light of the comments above, comparing the Halfling Class with the Halfling monster entry, we see that Halfling PCs have on average 0.5hp less than monster Halflings, but there is no mention of their abilities re. large opponents, initiative bonus, missile bonus, hiding, or penalties on size of weapon for 'monster' Halflings. Also, though the 'Number Appearing' (ie, 'lair size') is 5-40, there are also Halfling villages with L2-7 leaders and 30-300 inhabitants, including 5-20 militia at 2HD each.

As for Kobolds, the monster entry ONLY details lairs (6-60, analogous to the Halfling lairs of 5-40, NOT the villages of 30-300). There is no mention of Kobold settlements like the Halfling villages. Why not? Because Kobolds are enemies and Halflings potential friends. PCs need to know about Halfling villages if they're travelling in Halfling areas, but needs to know about Kobold lairs if they're raiding them.

So what is missing from the Kobold monster entry compared to the Halfling entry is Kobold 'warrens' of (say) 50-500 Kobolds, each presided over by a leader of L2-7, and militia of 2HD each (importing directly from Halflings). This makes the guards of the Kobold settlements equal to the leaders of Kobold lairs (ie level 2) ( - actually, if the base for Kobolds is 1/2HD ie d4hp, a '2HD Kobold' should theoretically be L4).

Comparison of the Halfling entries would also suggest that what is 'missing' from the monster entry is: bonus against large opponents; bonus to hiding, bonus to missile weapon, bonus to initiative, restriction on large weapons, slight hp penalty, opportunity to go higher than highest listed level.

So, a reasonable way to stat Kobolds would I think be as Halflings with slightly worse hp (ie d4 base) and saves (Kobs use Fighter Saves) - still the same bonuses on missile fire, initiative, v large opponents, and hiding, and restriction on large weapons (Kobolds are 'small').

As extra bonuses, they have 90' Infravision, and I would also give them some Thief skills. 'They prefer to attack by ambush' so hiding and backstabbing seem appropriate. Traps... maybe, if that's how you see Kobolds (I do, I think they're sneaky but that's mostly from AD&D).

No way would I give them 'Thief' experience progression. They would be Thieves with 90' Infravision and initiative and missile bonuses and with a bonus when attacked by large foes - their only penalties would be they can't use Longswords and Longbows,  and they have worse Saves (80 total for Kobolds v 71 total for Thieves - low is good for saves). So the Thief progression would be ridiculous I think. They're 'better' than Halflings in terms of their abilities, but have a lower HD base and worse Saves (80 v 60). I think that would even out and I'd peg them to the Halfling experience levels.

I'd also make NPCs Gnomes attack them on a 1-2 on a d6. The Gnomes don't know if these Kobolds are 'good guys' (ie PCs) - they're just wandering Kobold scum as far as the Gnomes are concerned.

So, for what it's worth, that's how I'd stat up Kobolds.

I also think level limits are stupid but then again PCs so rarely reach higher levels it's pretty academic I think.


I have to at this point put in a recommendation for Erin D. Smale's 'Building a More Perfect Class' - running the numbers on this might be a way of trying to pin down Kobolds as a class.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Rift City Session 11

The roster for the latest session of our open table, on 10th June:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gibbet the Thief
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Shazam the Elf (and Keith the Orc),

and joining us especially for this session, two new players with their PCs Brüna the Dwarf and Bunny the Halfling.

Maybe there will be some comment about over this at the Disoriented Ranger blog, because Brüna's player, in an amazing coming-from-a-foreign-country-to-play-games-with-you situation, was JensD of that very blog, who's been visiting the UK and made time to come to our open table. It was lovely to show Jens and his partner something of our city, and Mrs Orc and I hope they enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed showing them around. Maybe we'll get to pay them a visit in the near future too.

The first thing the party did was try to return to the area of well-dressed stonework that they have recently been exploring. Unknown to them, one of the rooms that they had recently cleared, where the strange blobby creature lived in the dark, had been re-populated, by Orcs this time, as they seem to like to take over rooms in this area.

They managed to avoid too many wandering monsters on the way, the only disturbance being a crowd of bats that were agitated in the corridor. Something had disturbed them, though what that might be was not clear. The bats didn't really bother the PCs much, and the noise didn't summon any other monsters. The PCs have been bothered by enough bats to know they're a distraction and are best ignored. The worst they do is potentially cause enough noise that more wandering monsters might be summoned.

Having passed the place where the bats were, the PCs continued on to the spot where they'd fought some Orcs at the last session. The bodies were gone, seemingly having been dragged away, if the smears of black blood were any guide. Again, it wasn't clear what might have moved the bodies.

The octagonal room with the way down to the lower levels was as before - nothing has taken up residence there lately. The armoury room was also unchanged since 'yesterday'. Beyond that was a short corridor with a somewhat tricksy secret door. The party knows it's there, but it was closed, so I figured it's still invisible. There are 10 of them, and three of those are Elves, so rolling 7d6 trying to get a single 1 and 3d6 trying to score a 1 or 2, was bound to produce a result sooner or later, so they did find the secret door when Gene remembered it was the second brick over that needed to be pressed, not the third.

Opening the door, they discovered the room was still unnaturally dark. While hanging around trying to decide what to do, a guttural shout from inside alerted them to the presence of Orcs, who began shooting arrows at them.

Brüna set a flask of oil alight and tossed it into the room. It briefly illuminated some Orcs standing around. Brüna also asked one of the Elves to tell him some Orcish insults so he could shout at the enemy (he doesn't speak Orcish). A confused firefight ensued, with the Orcs shooting through the flames towards the door, and the party shooting into the room. trying to pick targets by the flickering firelight.

After a few rounds, where Karenza took an arrow (but didn't die), it was decided to charge the Orcs. The party definitely had the advantage as their better AC was turning the Orc attacks while their own attacks, though made into the low and flickering light, were taking a toll on the Orcish numbers. However, the Orcs passed a morale check and held firm. Bunny and Gibbet snuck in to find good firing positions as the rest of the party charged towards the now dying flames and engaged with the Orcs. The sudden charge and brutality of the assault, on top of the withering shooting, broke the Orcs' morale and persuaded them to surrender and throw down their weapons.

At this point the Orcs started trying to buy their lives with promises of treasure. The PCs decided to kill one of the Orcs to make sure the others knew they were serious. Gwynthor the Cleric dissented but he has a CHA of 3 so everyone is used to him being annoying and no-one took any notice. Brüna stabbed the Orc in the back of the neck as he was lying on the floor and the other Orcs, now deciding that they had no chance of surviving and were better off fighting for their lives, attempted to snatch up weapons and attack the PCs again. However, it didn't go well for the Orcs (they were lying on the floor, with weapons out of reach) and the party butchered them pretty quickly.

This was all too much for Keith, the charmed Orcish lantern-bearer. I figured that this was an event traumatic enough to give Keith a shot at throwing off the spell, and he did so. The result was that he remonstrated with his 'friend' Shazam asking how he could support murdering Keith's other friends after they'd surrendered. It seemed to be news to the party that these Orcs are from Keith's tribe. To be fair to Shazam, he'd taken no part in the butchery but he hadn't done much to stop it either. Keith anyway 'woke up' from his illusion that the PCs were his friends, threw his burning lantern at Bunny (it missed, smashing spectacularly on the wall near her), and launching an attack on Gwynthor (ironically one of the PCs not involved in the murder of prisoners, but Keith doesn't speak Common and Gwynthor soesn't speak Orcish) who was close by.

Keith fumbled his attack. There are no actual fumbles in my rules, a 1 is a 1 and a fail, a 20 is a 20 and generally a success, that's all, but given the darkness effect (not to mention Keith's blind rage) I decided that Keith's 1 should genuinely represent a catastrophic failure at this point, and he tripped over one of the corpses as he launched himself at Gwynthor, going sprawling at the latter's feet. Gwynthor decided, probably quite sensibly, that sitting on Keith's back was a viable way to keep him under control, while he called to Shazam to come and subdue Keith somehow. Deciding that disposing of Keith was the only option, Shazam killed his one-time 'friend' (dupe? pet? slave? I'm not sure really, Shazam did seem to have some sort of fondness for him) with a swift stab. That's how it goes sometimes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs were looting the Orcs, snaring some money-pouches containing several hundred GPs and a couple of gems. This turned out to be a considerable haul in the end worth around 950GP. I don't make the party bargain for gems, I can't see the point. If the gems are worth 350GP they get 350GP. Turning treasure into GP to turn into XP is a tedious enough business without requiring them to constantly check their CHA against the Morale or Reaction Rating of a bunch of NPCs, in order to determine what percentage of the value they are given. If they want to up the 'town game' element they can, if they want they can spend their entire time buying and selling gems at the various establishments around town, but that really isn't D&D for me. D&D is fundamentally an exploration game, not a trading game. I'm sure there are other games with more advanced trading systems. But if the players want to do that they can - there is no 'wrong fun' so it's up to them. I don't think they want to at the moment. Kicking in doors and robbing monsters is more fun.

Having looted the Orcs, Brüna suggested nailing Orcs to things as a warning to others. He volunteered to attach various Orc corpses to some of the doors and weapon-stands in the armoury. The rest of the PCs agreed and gave him some iron spikes to help.

Moving on from the Orcs' room they came to the last room that they have already explored. This was a room with a large statue, where they had found a secret compartment at the previous session containing a treasure-chest. No treasure-chest this time but only because I remembered that they'd found it - I'd forgotten to cross it off my list. Must get better at that, in fact I might go and do the paperwork before I get any further with the write-up. That dungeon won't master itself, I have to accept! I may have some simple systems, but it isn't yet fully-automated.


So, I've done my paperwork. Next session is prepped. Back to the report...

Brüna, busy trying to attach Orc-corpses to things in the armoury, met a strange wood-like beast. I have an image of I am Groot in my mind that I now can't shake. The thing was a Wood Golem, but I'm not sure Brüna knows that, he's never met one before. It seemed to approve of Brüna's treatment of the Orcs, not to mention his own polite greeting to it, and his lack of hostile action. In the end it decided it would be friendly, but Brüna, his task done, left to find the rest of the party.

The rest of the party meanwhile were exploring the next room, which seemed to be a trap-room, with spikes and blades all over the place from rusted traps. None however appeared currently dangerous. The room also contained some doors. Gibbet listened at the closest and heard noises from behind it. The party opened the door, and yet more bats were the result. There was also an old campfire (with some cold rat on a stick) and some bed-rolls. Ignoring the bats (they're little more than room-dressing really), Bunny decided she would play up to a Halfling stereotype, and ate the rat-on-a-stick. There was also a leather satchel with cash in it. It seems that someone had left not only their dinner but their treasure in something of a hurry, in the relatively-recent past.

Brüna rejoined the party at this point, not realising that there was a large crowd of Fire Beetles on their tail. Seven of them had come along, perhaps summoned by the sound of the bats, perhaps following some other instinct, and the party decided to try to take them out.

In fact it was a short and bloody combat. Some good shooting by the party on the one hand, and some hand-to-hand work, left the Fire Beetles dead pretty quickly. I ruled that some had been killed so convincingly that their glow-glands were ruined; any beetle who took more than twice its hp in damage I reasoned had been pulverised rather than surgically dispatched, and I diced for a few others, so only 11 out a possible 21 glands were available in the end. These were collected for sale at 5GP a pop to Gisuintha, the MU back in the city who fancies herself as an Alchemist.

After this encounter, the PCs decided to be on their way rather than explore any further. They nearly made it back without incident too. However, they did run into a couple of Skeletons, but Gwynthor compelled them with the power of the Mighty Yrt, He Who Manifests in Pinecones (according to what we understand of Gwynthor's weird theology anyway), and the bony undead ones were backed the wrong way down a passage while the party made its way towards the exit, Gwynthor bringing up the rear in case of further undead harassment.

Scampering from the caves, the party made it back to town to divide up their hard-gained loot, and that was another session wrapped up...

I think that was pretty much what happened anyway!

EDIT: except I forgot possibly the most important part, at least as far as the long-term progression of the table, the campaign and the PCs go - Gibbet the Thief, who has attended approximately 8/11 sessions (it might be 9 I can't remember but I know he's missed 2-3 sessions) has now made it to the dizzying heights of Second Level! WHOO-HOO! (Cue: small fireworks, bunting, a marching band playing a stirring fanfare and speeches by civic dignitaries, before we all have cake.)

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Rift City Session 10

Unfortunately I started writing this then got distracted. It's several weeks ago now, and I can't really remember much of what happened - so at a certain point, details become very sketchy! But as the next session will be coming up soon, it's probably best to post this up in its somewhat-truncated state.


We had our 10th session of the Rift City campaign on 13th May. This time the party was composed of:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gibbet the Thief
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Polly the Magic User
Shazam the Elf (and Keith the Orc)

and a new player, running Flenzack the Cleric.

The game started with the party assembling at the inn where they met a new chap called Flenzack who was looking for adventure. They teamed up (naturally - that's kinda the way the game has to work) and went off to the Rift together. Entering the cave-complex at the now-traditional fifth entrance they made their way through to where the finished stonework in the area run by the alliance of Orcs and Necromancers, disturbed only by some bats that were themselves disturbed by the party's lights. Instead of attacking the bats and making the situation worse, the PCs stayed calm and let the bats settle down again.

Continuing through the caverns to the nicer bits of dungeon, the PCs spied some Orcs ahead. Berg the Dwarf immediately threw a handaxe at them and charged. The handaxe missed (it was pretty extreme range) and the Orcs ran back round a corner. Taking a little while to charge after them Berg, Karenza and Flenzack rounded said corner to be met with a hail of Orcish crossbow-bolts. Karenza sustained a fleshwound but otherwise the party was OK and made short work of the Orcs. Looting the bodies turned up some gems for the which the party was quite grateful.

A little further on and the party came to a door. Listening revealed the fact that there was something inside making a rustling, scrabbling noise. So they knocked. The noise stopped.

Eventually, Shazam went in and poked about a bit. It was very dark. A thing moved, and he stabbed it. Turns out it was a sort of giant centipede, which didn't manage to bite him as he's somewhat tank-like (plate is the armour of choice for these guys, they didn't even bother starting with chain until they'd made some cash, they all just bought plate from day one). Not knowing whether the darkness was due to the centipede or the room itself, Polly came in and suggested cutting its head off to take back to Gisuintha the zooicidal Magic User back at the city.

Unfortunately, on going into the room, Polly set of the room-trap (a large pit) that Shazam had not, and failed her saving throw... shinning down a rope to try some elementary staunching, the party wasn't able to save her and unfortunately Polly, one of the the three PCs from the very first session, gasped her last on the floor of a 10'-deep pit. Then Gibbet, who was down in the hole but had tied up everything to the end of the rope to be hauled up, slipped as he was climbing out and fell back in, injuring himself rather... it was a bit of a comic catastrophe. But what can you do? There he was, trusting to his 87% climbing skill or whatever it was. It wasn't enough.

Gibbet, however, survived, and made it out with Polly's equipment. Apparently she's made a Will leaving all her worldly goods to the Home for Retired Cats or some-such. There isn't one of those in Rift City but there is a temple to a southern cat-goddess (which is infested by strays as the priestesses keep feeding them) so that will have to do.

Leaving the room where Polly died (I do need to find out what they did with the body as I now can't remember) they went north towards the room (also pretty dark) where the shambley squishy blobby dwarf-thing was. They found it and they killed it quickly. They also managed to get a little more treasure, but not much.

They tried to search of some of the rooms about, but ran out of time, I'm not sure how, as they didn't seem to do much. Some Robber Flies, and some Skeletons, may have been involved, but I may be mixing up the month before. Anyway, hell-for-leather out of there (fortunately not setting off any wandering monsters) and back to town for them, ready to adventure out another day...


Two things are becoming clear about the area the party is currently exploring. First, the monsters aren't tough enough. The party generally consists of 7-10 PCs, of which maybe 6-8 are around AC2. That makes it hard for monsters to hit them (as they're also mostly around hp4 though, it means anything that does hit them stands a good chance of killing them). Often the PCs outnumber the monsters too. For party that averages at 8xAC3 (let's say, it's a bit wibbly-wobbly) then 4 Orcs at AC5 are not a significant threat.

The second thing is that there isn't enough treasure. There have been 10 sessions so far. Gibbet and Gwynthor did 8, Galen has done 7 as did Polly, Shazam 4 I think. Sven did about 6, and other characters who died also did a fair amount of sessions. Only Gibbet is even close to Second Level at this point. So I need to offer more rewards, I think.

Too often encounters are brutally short and offer no challenge to the party, then the rewards are paltry, barely covering the cost of food for the day. Then once in a blue moon, for no good reason, a massive load of gold arrives. There's just too much faffing around for too little result.

Probably need to toss a bit more magic into the pot too. Healing potions, scrolls and whatnot.

I need to find a way of balancing all that out a bit better. This week I shall try to work on the balance a little more carefully.