Sunday, January 22, 2017

Underwater Combat

SWIM  skill measures the capacity to move and float in water or liquid. The character is also trained to avoid drowning, exhaustion and hypothermia. Those with high swim skill rank are also well versed with aquatic or marine life. Typical DC for swim skill are: 


   9                calm water

  12               rough water

  15               stormy water

  20               quick sand              

            A character must make a swim check every turn he is swimming or travelling in water or liquid.    If successful, swim movement rate is 1/5th normal land speed.*  If a character fails his swim skill check by five or more, he has begun to drown. 

If not standing upon a solid object, instead of applying his armor penalty to the skill check, an immersed or swimming character will subtract the Square Root of weight of all his equipment (round fractions normally) from swimming or waterborne adventure checks.

                i.e., Melinda is wearing a hauberk (20#) and she has +2 longsword (4#) and +1 oak shield (5#) in hand.  She also has a dagger (1#), two healing potions (2#), three torches (3#) and a partially full backpack (16#); therefore, total encumbrance is 51#.  If Melinda falls into deep rough water (DC =12), her Swim check penalty for armor and equipment is seven (square root of 51 = 7.14)!    She does not have time to remove her armor, so if she drops her shield, her torches, and backpack ( 5 +3 +16 = 24) and keeps all her other stuff, then penalty for encumbrance is reduced to five (SQRT of 27 ( 27= 51 -5   -3 -16).

            To attack an opponent underwater, the attacker must first make a swim checkIf and only if the swim check is successful, then the character rolls a d12**  for his to-hit roll applying normal attack modifiers  Underwater, damage is halved if using cutting or bludgeoning weapons. Damage modifiers are applied normally. Ranged weapon use is severely limited underwater; about 1/10th range for arrows and bolts, while bullets generally travel less than ten feet! 

            If a character is drowning or intentionally chooses to stay below the surface, he takes damage from drowning once he is out of breath. A character can hold his breath under water in combat or other stressful activity for a number of rounds equal to five plus Con. mod. This duration is multiplied by d3+1 if and only if prepared, undisturbed and conserving energy. 

Damage for drowning is 1 hit point per round (12 seconds) without air for creatures without gills.  Certain creatures (undead, golems) either do not breath or do not require air. As long you do not go into negative hit points, drowning damage is non-lethal and heals at the rate of one hp per turn of rest.

*This value is generous for humans, dwarves, orcs and half-elves. Certain humanoid races might be faster swimmers based upon the GMz adjudication. The Olympic hero, Michael Phelps swims at speed of merely 3.6 mph  while the fastest human runner, Usain Bolt sprints at 28 mph!

 ** Roll d20 to hit an underwater opponent if and only iff attacking with a dagger or trident.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

SCROLL usage

SCROLL usage is basically like casting a spell, but the scroll must be read aloud and no material or somatic components are required.  Unlike a known or memorized spell which usually takes merely one round to cast, a spell read aloud from a scroll requires one round per spell level or casting time listed under spell description, whichever is greater. Written upon parchment or vellum, scrolls store their magical power within the substrate of their specially prepared inks.  Upon completion the incantation,  the ink sparkles and vanishes from the page.  Multiple spells may be contained on a single scroll.

No karma or personal energy is lost when casting a spell from a scroll. Once a scrollz magic is identified, the DC of casting a spell contained within equals TEN plus twice the spell level or five times spell level if spell restricted to another class.  Difficulty for scroll usage is reduced two (-2), if this scroll was personally prepared by the caster.

Examples; Presto, a 6th level mage, finds a cleric scroll with second level spell, cure moderate wnds, that DC for Presto the mage is 20 (10 = 2 x5) and casting or reading time is two rounds. 
Presto also has prepared his own scroll with the third level spell, lightning bolt; his DC to cast this spell is fourteen  (14 = 10 + 3x2 -2 ) and casting time is 3rds; if he was not in a hurry, Presto can ‘take 10’ assuring success.

When using a scroll, if the character rolls a natural ‘2’, the writing always fades harmlessly from the page with no adverse effect. When reading a scroll, a natural ‘1’ indicates the spell backfires with undesirable and unpredictable effects:    

d6 is rolled for  backfire  by the caster

            1)         Reader/ caster is subjected to spellz effects*  

            2)         Reader/ caster ages 2 years

            3)       Reader/ caster has minor body change**                    

            4)         Spell affects random target within range

            5)         Obscuring cone of glitter, smoke or butterflies 

            6)         Spell effect delayed for d6 rounds

* Any spell, scroll, RSW or magic item is reflected back on original user if cast upon another spell caster and opponent rolls a ‘20’ on his saving throw.  With area effect spells, roll the most powerful enemy spell casterz saving throw first.

** donkey ears, webbed feet, baldness, gynecomastia , etc.. Typically a remove curse will negate this visual (-1 Ch), but not visual handicap.

            Protection scrolls are often written in mundane or non-magical alphabets; therefore, language skill, instead of scroll skill, is used to harness their magic.  There is generally no ill effect from improperly reading a protection scroll unless it is secretly cursed.

Clearly, there is a historical distinction between divine and arcane based spell craft.  Prior to the papal inquisition of the Renaissance, magic was seen as a natural force under dominion of (not opposing) God.  Witchcraft or harmful magic was a crime prosecuted under secular courts and not necessarily demonic or diabolical in origins.  Other forms of magic (alchemy, dowsing, fortune telling, etc.) were often practiced openly and tolerated in the middle ages.  Hence, scientists, physicians and surgeons are considered magicians (Dr. Jekyll, Faust, etc.) while divine healing is clerical.

It was confessions obtained (many thru torture) during the papal inquisition that prompted the change of the jurisdiction of harmful magic or witchcraft from secular to church courts.***  There was a distinction in the High Middle Ages (11-13th century) between naturalistic, arcane or magical knowledge from that of divine power and wisdom. Much magic of this time period was concerned with mundane activities that concerned ordinary pursuits such as romance, husbandry, fertility, weather, dousing, etc..  Two examples from our own Earth’s history: Agrippa wrote one of the seminal texts on ceremonial magic and alchemy, yet he was a devout Christian.   Born in 1365 AD, the author Christine de Pizan was the daughter of Thomas who was both astrologer and court physician for the Christian King of France.

*** The legal ramification being that if convicted of heresy, the government would take your property, land and title.  If merely convicted of a capital crime, the government would take your life; however, the government could not take your land and title unless you actually confessed. This is not a minor distinction!  Imprisoned in a dungeon, as long as your will to resist held out, your family would not be denied the use of your land and property and your oldest son would inherit your title.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Hail the return of Chainmail PDF, but I really don’t like weapon versus armor class tables for modifying hit probability in RPGs or wargames. Players don’t like doing math before they attack and often conveniently forget to apply penalties that effect combat resolution.

Therefore, after a successful hit, I allow rerolling of ‘1’s’ on the Damage Dice if an attack strikes a vulnerable opponent.  Vulnerability is determining by comparing weapon versus armor type:

On the damage dice roll, ones will be rerolled if the attack is fire  or cutting/ slashing in nature and the defender or target is wearing Soft armor.

On the damage dice roll, ones will be rerolled if the attack is acid, cold or piercing in nature and the defender or target is wearing Flexible armor.

On the damage dice roll, ones will be rerolled if attack is electricity, sonic or bludgeoning in nature and the defender or target is wearing Rigid armor.

  When any die is rerolled, you must accept the result of the second roll.  A die can only be rerolled once!


            Soft armor is fashioned from animal skins or plant fiber.  This armor is primitive, affordable, lightweight and bulky.  Soft armor is vulnerable to fire & cutting weapons.  This is the default armor type for birds, plants and mammals.  Soft armor may be worn by any class except magic users.

Flexible armor consists of over-lapping steel scales or interwoven metal links designed to protect the torso and arms; an iron helmet will often accompany a suit of flexible armor.  Characters usually wear leather gloves and sturdy boots with this armor.  Flexible armor is vulnerable to acid & piercing weapons.  This is the default armor for most reptiles and sea monsters.   This armor is usable by fighters, barbarians, rangers, drifters and priests.

     Rigid armor consists of custom fitted plates, attached with leather straps designed to protect most of the body.    A sturdy helm usually accompanies this armor.  This armor is cast in bronze, iron or steel from molds.  This is the default armor type for most insects, crustaceans and dragons; rigid armor is vulnerable to cold, electricity & blunt weapons. Fighters, priests, clerics and heralds may use rigid armor.

In the above illustration by M Brook; the wise minotaur put his axe down in order to pound the snot out of the hoplite in rigid armor. Likewise, the Greek warrior selects his kopis (S) over the javelin (P) as a soft target (minotaur) is vulnerable to the cutting age of his curved sword.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Why I am Theist

  As a board certified neurologist who graduated college magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics,* I present the best evidence for divine creation – the human brain. The advanced development of the human brain is not an evolutionary advantage!

1).  To survive as a species you need to reach adulthood (strength, speed and size) and then adequately reproduce. In almost all human societies on this planet, the more educated and the wealthier you are (i.e., the smarter you are), the less children you have.
i.e., Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Noam Chomsky  and Neil DeGrasse Tyson have two or less children - genetically unfit according to Darwin.
2).  To agree with evolutionary theory, we accept that human beings are essentially cro-magnon people. When the Australian colonists abducted aborigine infants in the 18th century, they were able to educate them as well as their own children up until about 7th grade (i.e., puberty).  The Australian aborigine had previously been isolated from other human contact about 30,000 years, yet still had the capacity to perform calculus and write prose. Up until about 2,000 years ago those talents had no application to survival; therefore, they should have atrophied over numerous generations (i.e., become vestigial) according to evolutionary theory.
3).  The human brain consumes about 20% of your daily caloric requirements. There is no evolutionary advantage for an essentially hairless ape to read, write, perform calculus, appreciate music, gaze at the stars and/or engage in numerous other uniquely human intellectual pursuits.  Evolutionarily, those calories could have been better expended on speed, muscle mass or reproduction.  In the pre-gunpowder era, equal numbers of wolves  (speed and strength) versus humans (intellect) has a very predictable outcome.
4). The extreme complexity of the brain requires a prolonged time period for attaining complete maturity.  This creates a severe liability on the parents who have to divert a tremendous amount of resources to their progeny for a prolonged period of time.  A less developed brain would yield faster maturity thereby freeing resources to the parents which could be directed towards their own survival; migration, development growth or for production of further progeny.   Taking 14 – 18 years to reach physical maturity and 20 – 25 years to reach complete intellectual capacity is not a recipe for human survival or evolutionary fitness; however, rapid rates of maturity and reproduction are proven evolutionary strategies (i.e., insects and rodents).
* I understand that credentials do not always equal correctness, but these provide a foundation and insight for my observations. Successful argumentation stands on its own merits. For purposes of brevity, I have left out numerous examples to illustrate these four points.  I do deny reasonable aspects of evolutionary theory (scales to feathers to hair or fin to talon), but I am stating that evolutionary theory does not explain the tremendous complexity, capacity and wonder of the human brain that has just recently, evolutionarily speaking,  been harnessed.  I am not endorsing a particular belief, faith or religion on this post – that is your personal choice, an act of your free will.