Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on Oriental Adventures (1st Edition)

One of the weird things about Oriental Adventures is that a lot of its supplements feature random Chinese characters as part of the art - that is not so weird by itself, but almost all of the (random) characters say "fu" (foo). So, it basically says, "fu fu fu fu fu fu fu fu fu fu," in various ways, with the various meanings that "fu" can have (float, rot, abundant, etc.), depending on which character it is. But why did they choose "fu?"

Another characteristic of Oriental Adventures was the addition of a new ability score, i.e. Comeliness. Originally, the Charisma score basically handled both personal charisma and physical appearance, but this new mechanic basically split these two apart. Further complicating things, high Charisma affected Comeliness positively, while low Charisma affected Comeliness negatively, so that one could have extremely high (or low) Comeliness scores if one was very lucky (or unlucky).

In practice, however, it is quite difficult to roll up an extraordinary Comeliness score due to the very low possibility of ever rolling both a high Charisma and high Comeliness; thus, most PCs end up with rather mundane looks at best (I created a Javascript Oriental Adventures PC roller here so you can try and see for yourself here), if scores are rolled in the traditional 3d6 x 6 method.

Separating Charisma into Charisma and Comeliness enabled players to be able to have ugly yet nice, or beautiful yet prissy PCs, where in the past these two features were averaged together in a single ability score (Charisma). In 2nd Edition AD&D later on, Charisma seemed to be relegated to personality only, with looks being decided by the player on his or her own; however, Forgotten Realms campaigns continued to use Charisma in its old double meaning.

Regarding character classes, Oriental Adventures offered a bunch of new classes, as well as a few old ones. I enjoyed the kensai (which should be "kensei") and sohei most; the bushi was redundant (a fighter who could pickpocket), the samurai was too powerful (why should a samurai be any better than a bushi?), the shukenja (which should be "shugenja") was too weak, and the yakuza was kind of silly. The kensai was pretty cool - a warrior who put his whole life into the perfection of a single weapon; the sohei was also interesting, as a temple warrior with some priestly powers. The wu-jen was a sort of strong wizard-type, as he had 1d4+1 hp/level (as opposed to just 1d4); with martial arts, you could have a fairly strong wu-jen with naturally high AC, fair hp, and good melee damage as well. (I played a crane hengeyokai wu-jen online for a while at DND Online Games, until the (somewhat flaky) DM quit! Ah well, it was fun while it lasted!)

The monk, mostly the same as its Player's Handbook incarnation was mostly still the Kwai Chiang Kain-esque barehand martial arts master - which is, of course, strange, since Chinese martial monks were known for using various weapons, including iron-shod staves and sickle-bladed spades, but also scimitars, swords, double hook swords, and so on. Of course, they were still quite powerful without any weapons, but the addition of weapons obviously made them even more formidable in battle. (Shaolin monks, for example, were famous for their staff techniques, while Wudang ascetics were known for their sword skills.) The monk class, while potentially quite deadly at higher levels, was exceedingly weak at lower levels, and so it probably would have been better to at least give them access to some of the more powerful weapons.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Gorbel (Fiend Folio)

The gorbel is one of those "weird" monsters in the Fiend Folio (along with other weirdies, like the flumph). Although non-evil, it is mischievous, fickle, irritable, and quick, and is thus still very likely to attack parties of PCs, without reason, of course. DMs of a strange mood or character will enjoy using gorbels to wreak havoc on their players (who have little chance to avoid gorbels through diplomacy or even escape).

The globular, six-eyed gorbel attacks by leaping on its opponent's back (for 1d4 damage). If it successfully hits, it has grabbed its opponent with its claws and cannot be removed (lowering its own AC to 10); every round thereafter, it slashes its opponent automatically (for 1d6 points of damage) until it is destroyed.

If the poor PC party is equipped with only blunt weapons, the gorbel is invincible; otherwise, a successful hit with a good pointy or edged weapon will cause the gorbel to explode, doing 1d4 points of damage to all in a 5' radius.

Gorbel Statistics

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 1-20
Armor Class: 3 (10 - see below)
Move: 18"
Hit Dice: See below
% in Lair: Nil
Treasure Type: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 1-4 or 1-6
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Non-
Alignment: Neutral with chaotic tendencies
Size: S (3' diameter)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defence Modes: Nil/Nil
Level/X.P. Value: II/32 + 2/hp