Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Monks in First Edition:How Do They Do That?!

note: I still have a cold, so serious editing will come later.

  I have already written about 1e monks (here) and I am very fond of them. I have played 3 monks: Ti-Gun (who once solo-killed a t-rex with his +3 hand-axe) who is 13th level, Xing-chao, who is 5th, and Tamsen, who is still 3rd. I recently rolled up another (3d6 in order) so I will play him, too, someday.
  Now, monks are rare. If you roll 3d6 in order (as Gary intended) you get monk stats about 1 in every 2,500 rolls. Of course, that means 1 in 2.500 potential player characters. If you look at the 1e DMG you'll see that only 1 in 100 potential henchmen is a monk, implying that only 1 out of every 100,000 NPCs is an adventuring monk (which I also talk about, indirectly, here). I calculate that my main 1e setting (which has a monk's holding, which I will talk about later) has about 7-8 wandering NPC monks.
  But how can monks do the things they do? Get a better armor class, do a lot of damage with their bare hands, do more damage, eventually a LOT more damage, with weapons, etc?
  While the story goes that the monk was originally based of the main character in the Destroyer series I am sure we can all agree it has as much to do with the Hong Kong movie explosion of the 1970's.
  BTW, if you get a chance to read the Destroyer series, take it - they are hilarious.
  So let's look at some martial arts movies and see if we can figure out just the heck they are doing.

  The most often question I have heard over the years is - why does their armor class keep getting so much better? I mean, my thief is dodging attacks, too!.
  let's look at the first method - dodging. here is a scene from the Jackie Chan classic, Drunken Master;

 The monk/martial artist is doing a lot more than 'just dodging'; he is acting in unpredictable ways to confuse his foes. With simple props and more technique he can also face weapons, as seen in this glip for the Kid with the Golden Arm (skip to about 2:15):

Another great example of 'monk improved armor class vs. weapons' is in this clip from Iron Claws:

 Or the initial part of this scene from Executioner of Shaolin

  In these cases the monk is able to evade and defeat men using weapons.
  The second part of that clip from Executioners shows the other method monks have of improving their armor class - they just shrug off weapon attacks! An even better example is in this clip from Five Deadly Venoms;

  Right at about 1:00 the monk in yellow (using Toad style) simply ignores a sword strike - the blade does him no harm. In this scene from Crippled  avengers another master of the Iron Shirt (i.e., weapon-proof skin) demonstrates both the ability to shrug off attacks and the weaknesses:

  Back to Five Deadly Venoms we see that once the master of the toad style's vital point is hit he is no longer able to shrug off damage:

  A common trope in the films is a master of a style like toad, iron shirt, etc. who has vital points/vulnerable points where he can be hurt - this is an obvious 'hook' for explaining an improved armor class.

In creased movement is both one of the most underestimated abilities of a monk and one that seems to bother people who talk to me. There is the example from movies like House of Flying Daggers:

  And the ultimate expression is easily Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:

  But the master of 'realistic' moving very fast through heavy terrain and battles is Jackie Chan as you will see in the next few clips:

Perhaps a lot of the speed is simply overcoming/ignoring things that would stop or slow down others, plus pure speed, plus leaping. Lots of leaping:

Which also covers the 'falling from a height' ability, too!

  How about more damage from hand-to-hand attacks? Well, it could be just 'more force:

  Or it could be accuracy and hitting vital points:

And this also applies to the extra damage with virtually any weapons - a combination of accuracy:


  And accuracy/hitting vital points:

That last clip, where a monk uses a stick (club/jo stick) to defeat a sword master, is a ton of fun.

  The extra damage from hand-to-hand could be based on multiple hits (a 'flurry of blows') delivered as a single attack:

  And this works with weapon attacks, too:

In a future post I will be covering special abilities, surprise, etc.

  Of course, the question I get from people as often as 'how do monks do what they do' is 'why, why, are there Oriental monks in my European fantasy game?!'

  Let's talk about that.

  First, there are plenty of things tossed into the TFRPG that is 1e/the OSR; halflings are from a set of fantasy novels from the 20th Century, for example, so while they have ample connection to 'European-themed fantasy fiction' they have no connection at all to Medieval Europe.
  We also have to consider that even during the Medieval Period Europeans liked to be entertained about foreign lands: one of the characters in the tales of Charlemagne's Paladins is a Muslim convert to Catholicism who brings an exotic viewpoint to the tales.

  "They aren't historical" is something I read recently.
  You want to know what else isn't historical?
  Druids. Yes, druids.
  Walk with me a minute:
  Everything we know about the druids we have second hand through Greek and Roman sources with a smattering of other reports here and there. All we know is that they were a social class of people that included philosophers, legal scholars, and people that had something to do with religious practice. Druids are first mentioned about 500 B.C., first described about 50 B.C. and vanish from history by, oh, 300 A.D. The only ritual described is something we get from Pliny who heard it from... somebody, we aren't sure who... and who wrote it as a footnote when describing mistletoe.
  That's it. No written records, no confirmed artifacts, images, or anything. Nada. Zilch. Everything you "know" about druids is almost certainly derived from at best Medieval entertainment like The Cattle Raid of Cooley which is a bit of fiction from 1,000 years after the druids ended. The only other real sources of modern ideas of druids are from 18th Century eccentrics and the Order of Druids, which has nothing to do with history and a great deal to do with being an offshoot of a lodge of Freemasons.
  So - we have no idea what real druids were like and they all vanished long, long before the appearance of Charlemagne and the development of chansons, Romantic literature, etc. Slapping a druid into a vaguely 11th-16th Century Europe themed game is on par with dropping a Mercury space capsule into the same thing, temporally.

  But I am not aware of anyone dropping druids from their 1e game because they don't belong there.

  What druids do very well is act as 'something exotic' in the game; a peek into an older world. Monks, to me, are much the same. The world is big (trust me, it is bigger than you think) why not have an Oriental monk visit from a distant land?

  Another plaint is "they aren't realistic". No, they aren't. Neither is a guy casting Fireball nor a raid by orcs looking for halfling slaves.

  Lastly, the great thing about the over-the-top, unrealistic martial arts stuff is that its genre, now called wuxia, is both cool and old. Stories about wandering martial artists with damn-near superhero level skills fighting evil are as old and integral to China as knights in armor, etc., are to Europe. The movies I love so much are based on many years of books and novels in the same general vein, just like westerns and books like Ivanhoe. I love being able to tap into that and add it to my game.

  Next: Monk Super Senses and Abilities

Monday, September 7, 2015

Second Edition Character: Marko Ziga, Halfling Rogue

Two of my sons are Co-DMing an AD&D 2e Skills and Powers campaign so I am making three characters (we are going to jazz band adventure).
  My first is Marko Zigo, a halfling rogue.

Strength/stamina: 9  /muscle: 9
Dexterity/aim: 17  /balance: 17
Constitution/health: 12  /fitness 16
Intelligence/reason: 13  /knowledge: 17
Wisdom/intuition: 8  /willpower: 8
Charisma/leadership: 16  /appearance: 12

Racial Abilities
Stealth: When not wearing metal armors and alone or well in advance of a party he surprises as an elf.
Saving Throw Bonus: He gains a Constitution/health based bonus on all saves versus poison and magic.
Detect Secret Doors: He detects secret doors as an elf.
Mining Abilities: He detects direction underground in a 3 in 6 and he detects slopes/grades on a 3 in 4

Thief Skills (totals at 1st level)
Find and Remove Traps (40%)
Open Locks (35%)
Hide in Shadows (40%)
Move Silently (45%)
Pick Pockets (40%)
Climb Walls (55%)
Detect Noise (30%)

Other Class Abilities
Followers (at 9th level or above)
Weapons Specialization as a fighter (at 6th level and above)

Weapons Proficiencies
Short Sword

Non-Weapon Proficiencies (using my 2nd Edition Master List of Skills with inverted check numbers)
Tumbling 10+
Throwing 9+
Juggling 10+
Singing 15+
Prestidigitation 10+

  Marko was raised by humans from a clan of Travellers. His adoptive parents have told him all of his life about how he was found in a blackberry thicket not far from a burning wagon and how his halfling mother had hidden him from attacking bandits before she, herself, had died. The Ziga clan had taken him in and raised him as one of their very own.
  Marko enjoyed his childhood of travelling between various villages and towns, entertaining the locals for food, drink, and a few coins, then moving on. He became a skilled performer, himself, and he took to the other skills of the Zigas, such as opening locks and remaining unseen, with an innate talent. His keen sense were also well trained.
  After many years as a Ziga Marko was ready to join the clan as a full adult, gaining his own wagon and being given a bride by the clan elders. His adoptive sister, Jili, took him aside and told him truths that shook his understanding of the world. Jili, who had been 8 years old when he was found, told him that he had been stolen from his parents in retaliation for his father having a Ziga arrested for theft. The clan appreciated his skill but he would always be a Foreigner, an outsider, to them; he would never have his own wagon, he would never sit in council, and he would certainly never have a Traveller wife.
  Marko, who knew how much Jili loved his as a brother, accepted the truth immediately. He gathered his hidden wealth and departed immediately. Jili could not remember where his home village had been (she was very young) but she gave Marko an amulet that had been in his swaddling clothes.
  Now Marko, still in love with the footloose life, wanfers the lands searching for adventure and clues to his own family.

  Marko is a genuinely happy person, always ready to laugh, smile, make friends, sing a song, and drink an ale. While always smiling he is also always watching and listening, catching every fleeting expression and every crack in the wall.
  He is slow to trust others, but is trustworthy himself, almost to a fault. After learning his entire life was based on lie he refuses to lie. Having learned that his 'little tricks' were actually robberies of others he is now uses his skills to search for lost hoards, not to work a crowd.
  Because of his upbringing he has a very human outlook on life and tends to dress like a human (linen shirt, linsey-woolsey trousers with suspenders, a linsey-woolsey vest, leather boots, and a porkpie hat) rather than as a halfling.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Patron-Only Sneak Peek

  As I am preparing the various parts of my main campaign, Seaward, as a series of adventures and as a campaign book all maps, encounter charts,NPCs, etc. will be released to my patrons for free.

More blog entries tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Patrons-Only Content is Out for This Month

  With more to come! The dice bags are in process, links to a free book are going out later in the week, and I am working on the Tower of the Air adventure.

  Plus I think I might just make extra stuff for patrons because why not?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Patreon Milestone: No Ads on this Blog

  Thanks to my patrons this blog is now free of ads- no more AdSense, no more Tip Jar, and you have to go to the Products page to see links to my for-sale stuff.
  Thank you, patrons!