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Download a TPK (Total Party Killer) from the Past

Return with us now to those thrilling folios of yesterday. The old Dragon rides again.

In the early years of Dragon magazine, we loved the amazing number of charts that used random die rolls: critical hit charts, random encounter charts, random location charts, and random treasure charts. We particularly enjoyed the critical hit charts, allowing the random results to provide extra spice to the combat results whenever the DM chores came our way.

Recently, a reader called our attention to “Good Hits and Bad Misses,” an article loaded with these charts from Dragon #39. In the article, a miniatures gamer named Carl Parlagreco (you can still find his rules variants for other games on the web) unveiled plenty of ways to make critical hits mean more than double or triple damage (though those possibilities exist, as well). Looking back, those critical hit charts were brutal. They were real party killers. Yet, they added something extra to the average combat

Just looking at those charts made me wonder what would happen if we were to modify the terminology slightly for modern use and print them in the magazine. Immediately, I realized that using these charts would quickly turn into pure craziness when applied in a 3rd Edition campaign. These charts offer an amazing number of results with NO saving roll. Also, since attributes were handled somewhat differently in the old days, some of the attribute penalties within these charts are also quite lethal. Nonetheless, the charts sparked our interest.

Then, we had an even crazier idea. With today’s marvelous die rolling programs, what would happen if we offered the charts as a free download on our website? Admittedly, using these charts could infuriate your players. On the other hand, allowing these critical hit results against monsters and NPCs could add considerable spice to an ordinary encounter.

If you would really like the ultimate TPK (Total Party Killer), download the Omnihedron die roller at http://divnull.com/ and install the program. (As of this writing, Omnihedron is only available for Windows, but a Mac OS version is planned.) Then, download the XML lists identified in this article into the Lists folder of your new Omnihedron folder. Then, when you open Omnihedron, the lists should appear at the top right hand corner of your screen as pictured below:

Next, all you have to do is place the cursor over the desired list and double-click. The Omnihedron program will perform the die roll (or dice rolls in some cases) for you and the result(s) will appear in the text box, as shown below.

Although we’ve retained as much of the original charts as possible, changes in the way SRs (Saving Rolls) and hit probability (Attack Modifiers) are handled have been reflected in the XML lists. Nonetheless, the charts carry the flavor of early D&D.

First Edition Critical Hit: Edged Weapons feature all of the nastiness to be inflicted with edged weapons (some of the results are quite similar to the way vorpal weapons function in today’s game). First Edition Critical Hit: Blunt Weapons lets you bash against your opponent with extra stopping power. First Edition Critical Hit: Missile and Thrusting Weapons lets you penetrate your opponents’ defenses like never before. First Edition Critical Hit: Animals offers a few more limbs to sever for ruthless monster killers. Finally, the First Edition Fumble Effects list offers a number of entertaining results for those memorable occasions (which happen far too often in some adventuring parties) when the PCs roll a 1.

These files are ideal for DMs who use their computers to keep track of campaign and character information. They are most useful for those of us who have trouble remembering where that special encounter chart, trade goods chart, or critical hit chart could be hiding. If, like some of us, you have trouble keeping track of what issue of Dragon (or Shadis, Pyramid, Star Wars Gamer or Backstab) had that fascinating chart in it, you never have to worry again. Just open one of these XML files (Windows users can use Notepad), and follow the data structure as you type in new charts. Save those new charts as XML files so that you’ll always have them available. For those of us who run PBEM (Play-by-e-mail) campaigns, this program is expressly useful because we never have to worry about whether we left the dice bag in the car or at work. The “dice bag” is always with us on our computer (or Windows-compatible PDA).

Watch for future downloads from our archaeological digs through the Dragon archives. And remember, should you type in your own files, it is not legal to distribute them without permission of the copyright owner. Also, if you enjoy these XML files, send us an email to pass along to Carl. He’s thrilled that we’re using the charts he published two decades ago.

XML lists available from Dragon #39 include: 1ecritanimal.xml, 1ecritblunt.xml, 1ecritedged.xml, 1ecritmissthrust.xml and 1efumbles.xml. (Right-click the links and save the .xml files to your hard drive. Place them inside the Omnihedron Lists folder to activate them.)

Try them. You’ll like them, but your player characters may not.


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