Chronepsis the Death Dragon

September 15, 2015

As the silent watcher of time and draconic fate, Chronepsis rarely interacts with those who are not dead or dying. It is said that he is a counterpart to Io; where Io is the beginning of all things, Chronepsis is the end of all things. He guides the spirits of the draconic dead to the afterlife, and determines the location of their final rest. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mathematical Beauty of THAC0

September 2, 2015

Over the years since Wizards of the Coast replaced AD&D 2nd Edition with D&D 3rd Edition, I’ve seen a lot of invectives hurled at THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0). It is considered frightening; when people mention an old computer game that uses it, such as Baldur’s Gate, almost invariably someone will say something to the effect of “Oh god, THAC0!” But THAC0 shouldn’t be frightening, and it isn’t even a difficult system. At its heart, it is a simple form of algebra, and quite beautiful.

Take for example a situation where a 3rd level fighter comes across an orc wearing scale armor. To figure out whether the fighter hits the orc, there are three components: the fighter’s THAC0 of 18, the orc’s Armor Class of 6, and the Attack Roll; they function much like the sides of an algebraic equation:

AC | THAC0 | Attack Roll
The relationship between these sides is as follows: AC and THAC0 are both descending from a positive number to a negative number, while the attack roll is ascending. The correlation between these numbers makes the system easy to use and flexible.

With these numbers, there are actually two ways of figuring out what numbers need to be rolled to determine  whether the orc is hit. The most common way is to modify the THAC0 score with the Armor Class. Since you are essentially moving from one side of an equation to the other, you subtract the Armor Class from THAC0, resulting in a modified number of 12 (i.e. it becomes THAC6, or To Hit Armor Class 6; in this way you could say you are “solving for THACx” as in an algebra equation). Another way to do it is to treat Armor Class as a bonus to the Attack Roll; i.e. add the AC of 6 to the number rolled; if it is larger than the THAC0, it is a hit. In either case, you can see that a roll of 12 or higher hits.

In more advanced scenarios, there are modifiers to the rolls. Such modifiers will always be bonuses or penalties; as described above, such modifiers can be applied to any one of the three “sides” (so long as they are only applied once). A bonus to a creature’s Armor Class can be seen as a penalty to the THAC0 or the Attack Roll, while a bonus to an Attack Roll can be seen as a bonus to THAC0 or a penalty to Armor Class. Take for example the following scenario:

The fighter is under the effects of a bless spell while using a sword +1, gaining a total +2 bonus to hit, but the orc has donned a ring of invisibility, which penalizes attacks against it by -4. These numbers can be applied to any individual aspect of the system (so long as it is only applied once). For example, one can apply these numbers to the orc’s armor class, resulting in an AC of 4 (6, +2 for the bless and sword to 8, then -4 for the invisibility to 4). Alternately, one can apply these numbers to the THAC0, resulting in 20 (18, -2 for the bless and sword to 16, then +4 for the invisibility to 21); this number would then be used instead of the original 18 to determine the fighter’s ability to hit an AC of 6. Finally, these numbers can be applied as modifiers to the attack roll; using the original THAC0 of 18 and AC of 6, the number rolled on the die would be penalized by -2 (+2 for the bless and sword, -4 for the invisibility). In most circumstances, individual modifiers would be added to different sides, however; one-time or short-term bonuses or penalties (such as the bless spell and the invisibility, cover, terrain, etc.) are best applied to the attack roll, while long term or semi-permanent modifiers are best applied to the Armor Class or THAC0 (Dexterity or Strength modifiers, magical weapons and armor, spells that will stay in effect for a whole battle, etc.). This results in a flexible and easy to use system, that also teaches or reinforces basic algebraic concepts.

One final note about the beauty of THAC0: With one exception, each group advances on a mathematic progression. Warriors advance one point every level, priests advance two points every three levels, rogues advance one point every two levels, and wizards advance one point every three levels; all starting at 20. The exception is the monster progression, which gains two points every two hit dice, starting at 19, with creatures less than 1 HD having a THAC0 of 20. Setting aside the slight variation of the monster progression, this regularity adds to the elegance.

On the gaming aspects of this system, the progression of both Armor Class and THAC0 from a positive number to a negative number means they are logically constrained, being limited to the opposite negative number of the starting positive number. This aspect keeps the numbers grounded and tied to specific aspects of the physical game world (while still being abstract), whereas an unlimited system completely severs the system from the physical world of the game.

Astilabor the Hoardmistress

August 3, 2015

Astilabor is the goddess who represents the desire most dragons have for gaining status amongst their peers, mostly through the acquisition of wealth and treasure. This is not greed in the normal sense, for the wealth is not desired for its own sake or to deprive others of the opportunity of gaining it; that is the realm of Task. The importance of status and wealth to most dragons has made Astilabor one of the more powerful draconic deities, and while she feels her wealth places her above the other deities, she does not think her abilities surpass theirs in all things. Read the rest of this entry »

Arcanic the Learned

July 13, 2015

Arcanic is a minor demipower introduced in Council of Wyrms, as a LN deity of magic. As that setting had additional material presented in Dragon Magazine (and later included in the hardbound re-release) for sage-dragons, it seemed suitable to make Arcanic the patron of that kit. I also made his relationship with Kereska something like the relationship between Azuth and Mystra in the Forgotten Realms, with a focus on wizardry rather than magic itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Zorquan the High One

April 13, 2015

Zorquan is the deity who embodies what it is to be a dragon, representing those features all dragons share. His primary concern is with the survival of the dragon races as a whole rather than individual dragons. Read the rest of this entry »

Dragons and Their Gods

March 16, 2015

Virtually all dragons revere Io, Chronepsis, and Zorquan. Io’s priesthood is rare, although all dracoforms are his children and he welcomes them all. Similarly, the death of all dracoforms are the realm of Chronepsis, and he may call any of them to his service. Finally, even though all dracoforms may look to Zorquan for guidance and assistance in improving themselves and their skills, Zorquan only accepts true dragons into his service, and his priests will refuse to train unusual dragons (Faerie Dragons, Dracohydras, etc.). Rogue dragons may worship, and become priests of, virtually any deity; for example, a Gold Dragon who becomes hateful of life may turn to Faluzure, or a pyromaniacal Faerie Dragon may turn to Garyx’s faith. Generally, dragons who are only slightly different in alignment (NG rather than CG for example) are just considered odd or strange, while more significantly different (CE rather than CG) are considered true rogues; dragons will react to such rogues in much the same way as they would react to dragons who are normally of that alignment. The following list includes the primary deities dragons would worship, as well as some deities favored by rogues. Those deities bolded are the most common favored deities. Some of the details are likely to change. Read the rest of this entry »

Priestly Dragon Magic

March 9, 2015

As with wizardly magic, many dragons naturally gain access to priestly spells as they age. These spells are not granted by the draconic gods and  require neither prayer nor memorization. As with the wizard magic, such spells are cast with a Casting Time of 1 and only a Vocal component, regardless of the spell’s description. Such spells are gained automatically and haphazardly; as such, they should be rolled for randomly. They should make some sense, however; Warp Wood is of little use to a desert-dwelling dragon, and such results should be rerolled.

Note that spells restricted to specific deities, even dragon priests, should not be gained by normal dragons unless they worship said deities; for example, a red dragon who worships Tiamat would have a chance of gaining spells restricted to Tiamat’s priests (as an aside, dragons need not worship their own gods; a gold dragon may gain the special spells of Torm if he is a devout follower of that deity). Because of this, some draconic magic is substantially more powerful than a humanoid spell of the same level; even should a humanoid become a priest of a draconic god without an established humanoid faith, they should not gain access to the spells that are listed for the deity. It would not be unreasonable to assume a dragon worships a deity who shares an alignment and/or temperament when creating a list upon which to roll. As an option, non-priest dragons who worship a specific deity may gain only spells from the spheres listed for that deity’s specialty priests.

For those dragons who choose to become priests and forgo their normal wizardly magic, as well as those dragons who gain no access to wizardly magic normally (such as radiant dragons), it is advised to introduce a handful of the draconic wizard spells as commonly available priest spells. Those spells are: Calm (Wiz2); Hand (Wiz2); and Sharptooth (Wiz3). All three spells can be found in either the Cult of the Dragon accessory or the Wizard’s Spell Compendium volumes. In addition, another common spell granted by the dragon gods to their priests follows:

Craft Draconic Holy Symbol (Pr 1; Alteration)
Sphere:   All
Range:   Touch
Components:   V, S, M
Duration:   Permanent
Casting Time:   1 hour
Area of Effect:   Special
Saving Throw:   None

This spell creates a draconic holy symbol from raw materials. In order to create the holy symbol, the dragon must have on-hand a volume equal to twice the material necessary for the final holy symbol, although the form does not matter. In order to perform the spell, the caster must hold the materials in its claws while chanting the spell; at the completion of the chant, the material has reformed into the appropriate holy symbol. Most dragon-priests can only create symbols for their own faiths; the exception being those of Io and Zorquan, who can create any holy symbol. Excess material is consumed by the magic of the spell; the spell does not require the use of a holy symbol to create a new one. Holy symbols created in this manner radiate minor magic, but this is a residue of their creation, and have no inherent magical power.

Annam the All-Father

February 2, 2015

Annam is the patriarch of the giants, mortal and divine. He is said to be the creator of worlds, laying the foundation upon which other pantheons have built upon. The eons he has existed and the disunity of his children has caused him to withdraw from the daily activities of his family, abdicating much of his responsibility to Stronmaus and Hiatea. While his power is nearly unrivaled, he spends much of his time watching the events of the multiverse from afar. Read the rest of this entry »

Formalized Rules for Dragon Priests

January 19, 2015

I’ve completed a set of formal rules for handling specialty priests for dragons. These rules are compatible with the Council of Wyrms Dragon-Priest kit and can be used with PCs. They are also usable outside of that setting, and replace the rules in the Cult of the Dragon for draconic specialty priests. These rules will be familiar to those who are familiar with the previous post I made on draconic specialty priests, as well as my entry on Tiamat, although they are now more detailed. Read the rest of this entry »

Vaprak the Destroyer

January 8, 2015

Vaprak is the deity of ogres and trolls, and as befits those races, he is a savage and destructive god. With an alternate view of Vaprak from Elminster’s Ecologies, he becomes a much more interesting god than a single-mindedly destructive god, although that is still his predominant personality trait. Read the rest of this entry »