Thursday, 25 April 2013

2nd Edition Paladins -- Perfect?

Well, not really, no . . . and 2e is my preferred system.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've begun posting my "Sir Ivon" stories on the Greyhawk page of my blog to facilitate discussions about Paladins and the problems I see with some of the kits featured in The Complete Paladin's Handbook. These "problems" I speak of are nothing more than the changes that were made between the various kits, some of which make no sense to me and – at least from my point of view – were done without reason.

Naturally, fault can be found with any "rule" system and we all have our favorite; favorite fault and favorite rule system. In 2nd Edition we have The Complete Paladin's Handbook as a guide and information source. A very handy publication to have on hand for quick reference, but as I said, I see problems with the way some of the kits “work.” There are too many kits to discuss them all here, so let's make a quick examination of the differences between just two of the kits and perhaps you'll see what I'm talking about. We'll compare the “True Paladin” template (standard Paladin) to the “Ghosthunter Paladin” template.

The “True Paladin” gets the abilities: Disease Immunity, Cure Disease, Laying on Hands, Aura of Protection and a possible +5 Holy Avenger sword – via a quest.

Compare this to the “Ghosthunter Paladin,” who gets the abilities: Dispel Evil, Paralysis Immunity, Improved Ability to Turn Undead and possible holy sword availability, the +3 Purifier.

Now at first glance, we see that they are substituting immunities; Paralysis Immunity for Disease Immunity. It also appears that they're trading Dispel Evil for Cure Disease. I suppose that's all fair enough – at least on the surface – though I'd prefer Cure Disease, myself. What I feel compelled to ask is: Why is it that a Ghosthunter can't Lay on Hands? Why is it that the Ghosthunter cannot learn Priest Spells?

For me, there is no logical reason for these two particular restrictions, among others. First of all, to take any kit, you must be a Paladin – plain and simple. By taking a kit, the Paladin is simply choosing to specialize in their "calling." If anything the Paladin should gain one – or possibly even two – “extra” powers by choosing to specialize, not lose one or more of the basic abilities of the Paladin.

For example, the Laying on Hands is an ability that belongs to the “basic” Paladin class. It is a power that the Paladin receives from his/her God/Goddess and that he/she – realistically – uses on him/herself more often than he/she does upon others – a simple truth. To me, all Paladins – regardless of kit – should retain this ability. There is no explanation – reasonable or otherwise – as to why this penalty is applied to the "Ghosthunter" kit.

The same can be said of Priest spells. For example, the hunting and slaying of Undead is a sacred calling for all Paladins of Pelor, though not all spend the majority of their careers pursuing only the Undead. So why would Pelor wish to “punish” a Paladin who chose to follow this specialty path – making it his/her life's calling – by denying him/her the Laying of Hands, or the learning of Priest spells; such as Cure Light Wounds? It simply makes no sense to me. As I see it, by taking on a kit a Paladin chooses to be “extra special” and it makes no sense to “punish” them by denying them basic Paladin powers and abilities. 

That's why I change this “rule” in my games. It's another one of the reasons I refer to the “Core Books” as Guidelines, rather than "rules."

A second contention I have is with the description of Valor – another "rule" that I bend. The example given on page 39 of The Complete Paladin's HandbookSir Geffen's battle with the Ogres – is a poor one. Valor would require that a Paladin be the last to withdraw – most certainly – the last to "leave the field of battle," but it does not require him to deliberately “fight to the death,” and that's the impression their example gives. Such an action is sheer stupidity: neither Sir Lancelot, nor Sir Galahad, behaved in such a reckless manner and the champion Roland died with the rear guard – not alone. So, should a Paladin be the last to withdraw from the field of battle? Again – most certainly. Should the Paladin "stand and die," even after his companions have reached safety? No, of course not.

What about a third contention: Wealth Limits and Tithing (pages 30-32)? I know of no "religious" book that put a limit on wealth. As for tithing, we are most familiar with it from Jewish Law. We read of some tithing in ancient Babylonian text, but then “hear” nothing about them until the coming of Abraham and the Jews.

In Jewish law, the first mention of tithing was when Abraham and Melchizedek exchanged tithes – giving to each other. Tithing also played a part in the Mosaic Law Covenant for Israel, though the Christian Greek Scriptures (or New Testament) clearly show that Jesus' death did away with tithing, so that it was not compulsory upon Christians.

Neither was there a limit placed on wealth for Christians, although the love of money – the blind pursuit of it – was strongly condemned, since such a course of action would severely interfere with the believer's devotion to God; but the mere having of money was perfectly acceptable.

So where are these game restrictions coming from? Why is the possessing of wealth forbidden to Paladins? And why is tithing made obligatory upon all Paladins in the game? Do their faiths not play a part? Upon what "Real World" religious teachings are these two “rules” based? Were the writers of the Handbook Mormon perhaps? While the Mormons do have punishments for failing to tithe the church, other Christian religions do not, recognizing that it is no longer obligatory.

So it is obvious to me that, while some Oerth Faiths may require tithing, it's just as obvious that other Faiths would not. So, I hold that while some Paladins would have to tithe their church, others would not. It would completely depend upon the God that they served.

It's probably going to seem as though I'm cutting this “conversation” short, but we can't go into everything in one post, even for a single subject, such as Paladins. And I'm sure that any responses I get to this post will only lead to another post, thus "giving" a fuller discussion.

I've used these three particular subjects as a demonstration of why I use the Core Books as guidelines for my game play, as opposed to accepting them as hard and fast rules. The Core Books present to us other peoples' “(game) world views” and thoughts on how something within the game should work, but I have my own thoughts as to those matters and so I make whatever adjustments to them I deem necessary.

Please feel free to “jump in” and tell me why you think I'm wrong, conversation and argument are what keep the game alive. And remember, arguments is – “a discussion involving differing points of view; debate.” So there's nothing wrong with having one!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Let's Talk Armor

Okay, so I said the next post would be about 2nd Edition's "The Complete Paladin's Handbook," but I've received some comments that were a little at variance with my stance on full-Plate armor. So I'm going to use this post to express my thoughts a bit more. It would have been nice if they had commented here on my blog, but given our long friendships . . . all is forgiven! LOL
It's not that I hate full-Plate, or anything like that, it's just that I consider it a little too "modern" for the game "flavor" I'm looking for. So, basically, what we consider "Plate armor" can be said to have had its beginnings in Ancient Greece, though at that time it was more like partial plate. At any rate, that's the view that I have of their Bronze Cuirass, a piece of armor dating as far back as the 5th Century b.C.E.

Now add to that date the fact that the Romans fought against Gothic tribesmen wearing Chain Mail armor as far back as the 3rd Century b.C.E.  Consider too that the Romans, themselves, used chain mail in the beginning of the Republic, when each citizen was responsible for supplying their own equipment. However, as the Republic began to experience substantial growth their attitude changed, the Republic's rapid growth causing them to abandon the practice. This was due to the fact that Rome's growth caused the Republic to recognize its need for a standing army, thus forcing Rome to begin outfitting their soldiers at the State's expense – and chain mail armor wasn't cheap!

Baring all of this in mind, it is easy to see some individual soldier prowling the now quiet battlefield, bending over to pick up a battered piece of armor and saying to himself: "Hey, if I put this Bronze Cuirass over my chain mail hauberk that would make it even stronger!" And thus was born half-Plate armor . . . who can say in what century this might have occurred.

So the use of half-Plate could – conceivably – be a couple of thousand years old; not so full-Plate armor. In truth, full-Plate armor – as we think of it – was developed only a relatively short time before flintlock weapons came into use; yep, gunpowder. And we all know that I don't allow gunpowder weapons in my game – in spite of Murlynd.

Admittedly, it's no great "leap" to conclude that – in later centuries – the Knights' constant antics at jousting played its part in the development of full-Plate. It's just that . . . I don't see a lot of "jousting" going on in the World of Greyhawk; which is the world that I game in. In fact, most of the Orders of Knighthood for Greyhawk – in the Canon sources – don't even qualify for what I would consider a Knight . . . that is a Knight in full-Plate armor. I think many others might feel the same way about it.

Full-Plate armor – as most of us think of it – was "conceived" during the 13th Century A.D. and reached its "height" during the 15th and 16th Centuries A.D. This places its "advent" after the time of Richard I, (the Lion Heart {1157-1199}) and Sir Ivanhoe. During this brief "life-time" flintlocks were invented and, from then on, manufacturers of gunpowder weapons raced to keep pace and very soon no amount of plate armor could stop the bullets. That's when full-Plate armor went the way of the Dodo bird.


When gaming, I like to play a little "earlier" in the time stream than many others do and half-Plate armor covers a period of a couple of thousand years, whereas full-Plate armor is relatively "new" and has a short life-span. Also, I find it hard to rationalize how full-Plate armor would have been deemed a necessary development, without allowing certain other items that I am not particularly fond of. But let's stick to armor for now . . .

Consider also that the spell Heat Metal aptly demonstrates that full-Plate armor has its distinct disadvantages. Not only does it take a couple of people to help you get into the armor, how do you get it off – in combat – when struck with Heat Metal? That's why castles had "murder holes" built over the gate and in the roof of the Gatehouse. Machicolations were also used as "murder holes."

Boiling oil, or boiling water, would be poured through the murder holes and the advancing knights would – quite literally – be "cooked" in their armor. Both the oil and the water would find every crack and crevasse in the armor and get onto the soldier's flesh. I once had boiling water thrown on me, while wearing clothing. It peeled the skin right off and "fighting" never entered my mind. Oil was worse than water – and much more expensive and so it was rarely used – given that it would "stick" to the target and thus inflict more damage. So, while full-Plate armor had its advantages on the "open" battle-field, it also held some unique disadvantages.

I'm not denying that half-Plate would suffer the same disadvantage, but to a lesser degree – given that it's easier to get off – I'm just pointing out that I see no over-riding factor for the development of full-Plate. (Incidentally, a Green Dragon's acid breath and the spell Acid Splash would work much in the same way.) 

Going a bit further, these facts also demonstrate that a Dragon's breath weapon would not have been any great incentive for the development of full-Plate armor either. When one considers that half-plate armor – which primarily reinforces head, chest and back protection – does a very good job of stopping both arrows and crossbow bolts, there's even less reason to "dream up" full-Plate. Consider too that chain mail armor – found underneath half-Plate – is almost perfect against slashing weapons, which includes most simple pole arms, such as Bills and Halberds. (Pole-axes – in truth, any type of Battle-axe – can be devastating against almost any kind of armor, so long as the wielder knows its proper usage.)

One thing I allow – given the great quantity of Canon source pictures depicting them – is eye glasses, even though eye glasses as we know them – and as the pictures depict them – weren't invented until 1286 A.D.

Too many of those "modern inventions" brings the game much too close to the Renaissance period for me. Oh, sure, you can invent many reasons for adding all these "nifty" gadjets, the primary reason being: "It's a fantasy world, Mystic!" Sorry, but that just doesn't work for me. I like just a little "reality" thrown in; i.e. no one survives a fall from a five thousand foot cliff, even if they do roll a "natural twenty." (Personally, I think all the Feats and Skills have gotten a little bit out of hand, but that's another discussion.)

Anyway, we all play it differently, but that's my "more in depth" reason for not wanting to use full-Plate armor – even though I do. Damn players! ROFL

Now you're free to "beat up" my premise, so have at it!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Let's talk Paladins

I've commented in the forums at “Canonfire!” regarding my thoughts on Paladins before now, but my opinions are always evolving and my mind is always seeking new angles from which to address various topics as they pertain to the game.

I have often stated that it is my belief that Paladins are first and foremost “Good” and are only “Lawful” afterward. I wish to enlarge upon that statement here, hopefully without sparking religious debate. I only offer the following scriptural quotations so as to allow you – the Reader – to follow my thought processes on the subject, not to spark a different debate.

Within the game we have the "Fighter" class, which covers all fighter types, but we also have "specialty" fighters, such as Knights and Paladins. I like to differentiate between the two, not make them – basically – the same. To me, Knights serve the Secular Authority, whereas the Paladin is a “Knight” of the Church of whichever faith he/she follows. Since Paladins exist in our own world history and – at least in the Western world – are prominently associated with Christianity, I will use Christian scriptural teachings to demonstrate a few of the points I will make.

A Paladin manifests certain abilities, such as the Laying of Hands. Such power does not come from a man – such as the king – it comes from a "god;" be it Pelor, Heironeous, et al. Even in the game, we sometimes have two kings, who serve the same god, fighting each other. Upon what basis do we suppose that "Pelor" is empowering the Paladins on both sides? This is a contradiction that has no rationale, no explanation.

At Mark 12:17, Jesus told his followers: “Pay back Caesar's thing to Caesar, but God's things to God.” (Emphasis mine)

The scripture clearly demonstrates that there is a marked difference between the “things” -- i.e. Loyalty and Allegiance -- owed to “the King” and those owed to “God,” be the god Pelor, Pholtus, Hextor, et al.

Jesus' apostles enlarged upon this comment at Acts 5:29 where the apostles answered the San'hedrin: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Emphasis mine)

When the various game Editions speak of “lawful authority” they are almost always referring to the “Law of the Land,” that is – to “the King,” be it the King of Furyondy, of Keoland, of Nyrond, et al. In my view, however, a Paladin's first “duty” is not to the “King of the Land,” or to the King's “laws.” No, for me, the Paladin's first “duty” is to his/her God/Goddess, the Being supplying the Paladin with his/her powers. The Paladin's “duty” to the King's law is secondary at best – if the Paladin has any “duty” to it at all. A Paladin is not responsible for upholding the “law of the land,” a Paladin is responsible for upholding the “law” of his/her God/Goddess – Their teachings, doctrines, dogma, et al. History is rife with Bishops and Cardinals having their own knights, this was especially true in Germany from about 1050 A.D. until 1300 A.D. -- and beyond. These Prelates occasionally loaned -- and sometimes even rented -- their knights to the Emperor, but the knights still "served the Church" first . . . the Prelate could recall them from the Emperor's service.

So, I say that a Paladin -- in my game, at least -- is first and foremost “Good,” rather than "Lawful," because that's how I perceive and use them. Paladins are “Good,” anti-Paladins are “Evil.” (I've yet to see – or devise – a term I like for Neutral church knights. Suggestions anyone?) But I've heard and seen the title “Blackguard” used in association with “Evil” Paladins and that term works well for me also.

So, for me, a Paladin can be Lawful Good, Neutral Good or Chaotic Good – depending upon the God/Goddess the Paladin serves – as long as he is “Good.” And yes, I've seen the “nine” titles used in Dragon Magazine, but to me, those terms are senseless, they serve more as a Prestige Class  then as a term for the "holy knight" him/herself and that's not what I'm after. I don't want nine terms/titles, just three: Paladin, Anti-Paladin and another for Neutrals. (I'm working on that.)

So a Paladin in service to a “Lawful” God/Goddess is lawful. A Paladin in service to a “Neutral” God/Goddess is neutral. And a Paladin in service to a “Chaotic” God/Goddess is chaotic. Trithereon quickly springs into my mind when speaking of “Chaotic Good” and – in my opinion – the prestige class “Holy Liberator” would be perfect for one for his Paladins.

For me, Paladins are “Good,” Anti-Paladins/Blackguards are “Evil” and a third term/title for Neutrals is waiting to be found. And I will stress this one more time: In my game, Paladins need not be “Lawful” in the eyes of the Secular Authority; they have no legitimate “duty” to “the King.”

As for a Paladin being a type of Knight, 2nd Edition's “The Complete Paladin Handbook” makes that point on pages 5 & 6, under the heading "The Roots of the Paladin." Do I agree with everything in there? No. I'm a fan of 2nd Edition, but that doesn't mean I don't think some adjustments are needed.

We're not finished talking about Paladins, there will be other posts. Such as, what I don't like about the kits in The Complete Paladin's Handbook and while we're at it – since Paladins are knights – why should fighters do slightly more damage than a Paladin and why should fighters get slightly more hit points?

But again, these are just my thoughts on how the Class should be played. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Let's talk setting atmosphere.

What kind of setting do you like to DM?

Me? I'm a “Late Dark Ages - Early Middle Ages” kind of guy – say 900 AD to about 1200 AD. This is the age before full plate armor. Personally, I prefer that my players not have access to anything more substantial than half-plate, but you can well imagine how hard that edict is to enforce! So full plate armor is my one “exception to the rule.” It's an “exception” in that plate armor and gunpowder co-existed for quite some time (the 16th Century saw the "arrival" of flintlocks), but I absolutely do not allow gunpowder in my game.

So, what type of setting do I like to DM?

I can best answer that question by quoting from the book: "1066 The Year of the Conquest," pages 12-19. This is the year that William the Conqueror invaded England. These particular pages describe “life” in the village of Horstede, which existed at the time of William's invasion and was located only a very few miles from where William's forces actually landed. I reprint the information here, for your consideration:

"A village was surrounded by a fence, and its land by another outer fence. Beyond that were miles and miles of primeval forest and heath, empty and wild . . . For ordinary people, to see the nearest town might be the event of a year or even a lifetime, and to meet a stranger was a nine days wonder. If a traveler approached the village, he blew a horn before he crossed the outer fence to show he was coming openly. . . .

"Within his own village, an Englishman knew everybody and almost every tree and animal. . . . But he had no conception of a map, no mental image of the shape of the country as it might be seen from hundreds of miles above, or of the relative positions of places in it. . . . He lived in a world that had his own village as its center. . . .

"Conversely, the news of the outside world that came into the village was vague, brought by peddlers, or filtering down from mouth to mouth from the house of the Lord, or rumored at the occasional district meetings. . . .

". . . The Thane, whose name was Ulfer . . . was the only man in the village likely to travel far . . . he had to appear and share judgment of crimes and disputes in the hundred court, which met once a month, and perhaps in the shire court which heard more serious cases twice a year. . . .

"Horstede was less isolated than many of the villages of England . . . Horstede people could reach the outside world without much trouble if they wanted to. But isolation, imposed on most villages by distance, was also an attitude of mind. There was no reason for them to go to Lewes (12 miles away), except on an annual expedition to sell the produce they could spare; no reason ever for them to cross the river to the Roman road (2 miles distant). No doubt when they did go to town they felt out of place and a little apprehensive, like any country people, and were glad to get home again. . . .

"There was one link that joined Horstede to the social system of England, but it was not the town, it was 'the hundred.' Though rule at the top was autocratic, the English of that age were great committee men. Horstede, and any other village, organized its own affairs at a village meeting, a moot, and if they had a problem they could not solve they took it to the hundred moot. Above that was the shire moot, and above all the witena gemot, the embryo parliament which advised the King. . . .

"One senior citizen of Horstede would therefore ride out once a month . . . to attend the hundred moot."

I invite you to keep in mind that this description shows village life as it was approximately 500 years after the supposed reign of King Arthur, who historians now believe was based upon a real – though minor – Saxon king.

This information helps us to appreciate that in our own real history “ordinary people” – the simple farmers and fishermen – did not travel very far from their place of birth during their entire lives. In addition, the inhabitants of the “village” did not receive all the "latest news” and what news of the outside world they did receive was usually distorted in some form, or fashion. All of this helps us to appreciate that the population was rather thinly spread out. Also, as was shown above, the isolation that the villagers experienced was – to a considerable extent – self-imposed. It was an attitude they, themselves, had. The “ordinary people” of the village couldn't have given a wandering traveler directions to London – they had no idea where it was in relation to their own village.

In my game world, the population is just as “thin” as it was during the time of William the Conqueror, and the “ordinary people” just as “out of touch” with the “greater world” lying outside of their immediate environs. That's the type of setting that I like. In my opinion, it makes for a much better “hero” generating environment. It makes it rather easy to conceive of the people living in such remote isolation – during a time of crisis – as spending much of their time wondering just “who” was going to rescue them from “the Orcs” threatening their existence? Or were they about to be wiped out? After all, the villagers in question are not warriors, or fighters – they're just farmers; tending their flocks, their herds and their fields.

And so, in my game . . . along comes a “hero/heroine,” the proverbial “knight in shining armor," who receives the “hero's welcome” he/she will so richly deserve. This is the game I play, sans 21st Century morals and sensibilities. The people of those times simply did not “see” things the way we do today. Consider the "Slavers" modules; it would be easy for some of the people of our time to be offend by those, even though no offense was or is meant. That's simply the way the world worked back then and that time period is the game's over-all setting.

I try to incorporate as much of that atmosphere, that “feeling,” into my game as I can. That will bring us around to languages in the next post. Given Horstede's isolation, it is doubtful that any of it's citizens were bilingual. "Common" anyone?

So, how do you play it?

Sunday, 7 April 2013


OMG! Another Blog!

Hey, we can always use another blog, right? So, what's the purpose of this blog? Well, what's the purpose of any blog? It's a place to express my views and thoughts on “The Game.” To contribute my proverbial two cents to any subject that might interest me, written for anyone who might, in turn, be interested – few though they be.

I will also showcase select pieces of my writings here; specifically, whatever I am working on at the moment. There are links across the top of the page for placement of these stories. I also have a Web Page for archiving my stories, thanks to our good friend “Maldin.” He was interested in being a part of my creative processes given the fact that – for some strange reason – he actually likes my stories. So, my Web Page is hosted by “Maldin's Greyhawk” and there is where you will find a link to it. Of course, it can be directly accessed here:

And allow me to mention here that it is due to the kind efforts of my good friend, Rory -- a.k.a. "DarkHerald" -- that I even have a blog. Much is owed to this very kind individual, so please be sure to visit his blog, located at

Those who know me are aware that I've written several pieces for the web site Canonfire!, but the process of making it to the Front Page is simply too long, as there are so many others interested in showcasing their own work there; which is only right and proper, to be sure. However, if I were only one of, say, four or five contributing to Canonfire! then I would still only get, maybe, eight works on the Front Page each year. Well, I write more than that. Now understand me, I have no desire to “hog the lime-light” – as they say – still, like any other writer, I'm eager to get my work “out there” as quickly as possible and this blog – along with its associate Web Page – will help me accomplish that.

At present, only the first ten chapters of my story “That Infamous Key” can be found on the web page, but much more is on the way. I'm also still “playing” with the background and graphics, so some of that may change. And please feel free to comment on those stories here on my blog, I'd really like to know what you think I did “right” and what you think I got “wrong.” So join in the fun!

Though my favorite Game setting is without question the World of Greyhawk, I do write about – and thus talk about – other worlds. Most of my stories take place in a world of my own creation – and who doesn't have one of those – but some also occur in Pathfinder's World of Golarion. I've gamed in Golarion a few times and the character I write about is the one that I played – yes, another Wizard, from Osirion.

But I do have reservations about Golarion, because it is even more overt in its use of science; Numeria and The Shackles come readily to mind. I do not like such science in my game and it never appears in my stories. Each author is entitled to write what he pleases, to be sure, but I cannot help but feel that such authors are really engaged in an effort to remove Magic from their world and replace it with Science; the World of Krynn comes to mind.

Personally, I dislike that, but then, to each his own. I am a Sword & Sorcery guy, plain and simple. By all means, share your comments and thoughts with me and feel free to disagree. Healthy debate is the life blood of Communication and the means by which “The Game” grows and is enhanced

I am, sad to say, unfamiliar with OSR, Sword & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, et al., but am interested in learning. This learning process comes mostly from our friend “Google” and from visiting other blogs. So feel free to make comparisons to these systems as I comment, I'm looking forward to the “education.”

Looking forward to hearing from each and everyone of you.