Aligned Swords and Cold Wars

I started reading Smart Things, or How Many Magic Swords Are There? by Rick Stump over at Don't Split the Party, which analyzes how common magic swords are in AD&D. Rick uncovers some surprises based on the random treasure tables, like...
"Holy Moley, over 1.2% of all magic items are talking swords! That means, if you use the random treasure charts, talking swords are almost exactly as common as Potions of Healing."
Sure, it's a relic.
But why bother with just this...
It's a great read if you're interested in 1e AD&D magic item distribution and answering why everybody and their duck has a magic sword.

I read something in the alignment section, and my mind took an offramp. Based on the treasure tables, 75% of magic swords with alignments are either Lawful Good (25%), Neutral Good (20%), True Neutral (20%), or Chaotic Neutral (10%). If you just look at the Good alignments, 50% of aligned magic swords are good. And the obvious conclusion follows:
"Advantage - the good guys. Implication - most aligned swords are made by/for good guys."
And I asked myself, "Why?"

Why do an overwhelming majority of intelligent magic swords play for the good guys' team?
  • Are good guys simply that much better at magical enchantment?
  • Have the good guys been systematically destroying evil artifacts faster than the bad guys make them?
  • Do the bad guys always try to build all-powerful doomsday weapons instead of mundane magic swords?
Or, and here's where the Cold War angle comes in...
  • Do the bad guys not need the best technology because their endless horde of volunteers can eventually overwhelm any force?
  • Do they know that evil lurks in everyone's heart, so they only need to tap into that to convert people to their cause?
  • Would a misinformation campaign have a higher return on investment toward ruling the world than the effort required to forge an intelligent sword?
Disclaimer: Granted, we're talking about alignment in the AD&D absolutist sense, which I don't use much, although Detect Evil (aka Paladin Radar) has caused some entertaining scenes in the past. And we're talking about AD&D random treasure tables, which spawned from very few creative minds without much analysis. And let's not even mention that a magic sword usually proves most effective in the hands of a Hero, a solo specialist on a specific and lonely path to do good outside of society - a description which screams Chaotic Good to me, but they only make up 5% of aligned magic swords.
...when you could get volunteers
enough for several armies?


What if the bad guys have conceded the arms race voluntarily in favor of capturing the hearts and minds of the commoners? What if proselytizing rhetoricians could sway people into logically supporting the bad guys without all that fancy and expensive technological investment in magical artifacts? What flavor would that impart to your game world?

How would your heroes need to adapt to fight an ideological conflict rather than relying on tactical superiority, technological equipment advantages, and optimized damage output? Would the subtlety of this campaign work?

Would you have fun playing in a world like this?

Thanks for reading!

Microadventure: The Necromancer's Lab

I've been working on microadventures lately. It looks like my target word count is right around 200 words, which fits on one side of a 3x5 card. I want something that I can throw in a backpack and pull out for a one-session adventure if the party takes a hard left and charges for the edge of the map.

Here's the question: Will that brief 200 word description give enough detail to run an adventure?

Hopefully you can help answer that question. Here's a sample:

Where It All Began

I knew I still had this kicking around somewhere, and recently I found it in an envelope labeled "Medieval Prints, etc." I present to you, for your amusement and edification, my first game hack and the board game/minis/RPG crossover game that paved my way into D&D.

The box disintegrated, but I cut out
and saved this much of the cover.
Back in 1980, possibly for my 11th birthday, I received a copy of Caverns of Doom. Check out its BoardGameGeek page if you want a full copy of the rules and map. It was a cheap D&D knockoff in board game form, complete with lead minis and a cheesy little painting kit. It had a fold-up dungeon map printed on card stock. The dungeon overflowed with monsters and treasure, populated anew in every game using die rolls against a table. I don't think it came with dice, but I scavenged a couple of six-siders and went to town.

It scratched an itch I never knew I had.

I solo-played the hell out of that game.

Creating Things

I haven't created a map yet this week, but I plan to this weekend. Work has been flat out with a data migration that got pushed from yesterday to sometime next week. It's taking a while to conclusively figure out why some money is being left on the migration room floor, and there's plenty of work yet to be done. So yeah, it's been a little busy in WombatWorkLand lately. Whee!

If only incubating ideas were this simple.
In the meanwhile, I've been floating an idea for a game product past a few friends. It's gotten generally positive feedback so far, so I'm moving on to hacking design issues and getting a prototype together. Getting everything to fit in a way that makes sense will probably be a challenge, but that's why we iterate through the design process.

Yes, I'm vaguebooking about this, but I want to have something a little more solid before I share it with a wider audience. That said, if you want to be involved with the process, drop me a line and I'll add you to the my Idea Incubation circle on G+.

I don't know how quickly things will happen, as there's a time investment I need to make, but hopefully I can get something together to demo in September. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!

The Glacial Forge

I had a few minutes listening to a conference call at work today, so I sketched out another quick map. It's a true 5-minute effort, so no bells and whistles. I call it the Glacial Forge.

The Glacial Forge
Drawn with a cheap "Gel Mini" pen from Staples - I picked up a box of a dozen for a buck - on the back of a meeting agenda. I scanned it in through the copy center at work and cropped it in Paint. Unlovely, but functional.

The icy passage widens into a chamber with stone and wood barricades. Dwarven guards take cover behind each barricade, ready to pepper any invaders with crossbow bolts before engaging with axe, hammer, and mace. The fourth barricade blocks the entrance to the living chamber. Some tend the iron pot while others catch what sleep they can in bedrolls on the ice floor. If the outer chamber is breached, the defenders spill the contents of the pot for whatever splash damage they can and retreat to make a stand by the forge under cover of the billowing steam cloud from the sublimating floor.

Progressing further, a tall and sturdy barricade blocks the entrance to the forge chamber proper, manned at all times by a handful of dwarven guards. A stone chair has been set up facing the lava pit for the resident pyromancer to stare into the molten rock and keep tabs on the enemy. To the left a pile of ore lays haphazardly against the wall, ready for smelting and transformation.

Two smiths ply their trade here, using the lava's natural heat to soften steel for working and the natural chill of the cavern's walls for quick tempering. The smiths look overworked past the limits of their legendary dwarven constitution, as does the pyromancer who enchants what items he can when he's not magically speeding the creation of weapons and armor for the war effort. Cold forged and elemental weapons both come from rare glacial forges like this one, and both are in high demand at the front lines.

Finished armaments move into the storage room, but most are taken daily by messengers requesting more supplies in the name of their commander. If foes overrun the forge, the surviving dwarves retreat to the storage room and collapse the forge chamber on as many of the enemy as possible. An ice plug in the floor conceals an escape passage, which will let the survivors remove any completed weapons before abandoning the forge. The lava's heat will melt the ice and recreate the forge chamber in short order, so hopefully the survivors can quickly rally a detachment to retake the forge if it falls.

(Hm. The description could use some cutting and tightening, but it's a stream of consciousness thing for now.)

Thanks for reading!