Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Build a Better Player...

I've noticed a bunch of posts about building a better DM and improving ones DM skills. I've come to realize something over the years: a good game needs good players.

I'm stuck in a rut because of my regular group of players:

My dad plays a neutralish fighter with a cross of knightly and forester characteristics.

One of my oldest buddies always plays the freakshow supernatural character, usually a spell caster but not always.

Another plays a hulking marauding pillager.

One youngster plays mr unlucky...he'll go through 6 characters in the same time everyone else is on the same character they rolled up. He doesn't mind, he's not really wreckless but he gets his character killed so often he really hasn't gotten his groove.

My son plays a slight oddball marksman youth longing for greater things.

This happens in every campaign we play. For three of them it's pretty much described the past 25+ years of game play. I've seen such trends with other regular groups of players and it leads me to imagine this might be a universal problem. For games to be different players have to be able to play different characters.

Better DMs need better players.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

So far so good...

Just hanging around and enjoying the weather.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rigors of the Crossing

My current campaign takes place in The New Lands far from the homelands of the PC's. Anyone traveling to The New Lands faces health threats from enduring the rigors of the crossing.

Rigors of the Crossing:
All occupants of a vessel that make a crossing of the Allatian Sea must make 1d4 saves per crossing or face a malady with each failed save.

Maladies for Men and Related Races
1 -1 STR, Rickets
2 -1 CON, Grippe
3 -1 DEX, The Shakes
4 -1 CHA, Gull-pox
5 -1 INT, Magnus' Palsy
6 -1 WIS, St. Germaine's Malaise
Each month on land without particular treatment allows a save to remove one ailment acquired during the crossing. Bed rest for a month provides a +4 bonus to that save. A months' bed rest is an expensive luxury in remote colonial settlements.

Beasts making the crossing may suffer even more than men do having to make 2-5 saves or suffer as follows on each failed save.

Maladies for Horses and other Beasts
1 lose 1d8 h.p. , Whimpering Whinnies
2 move reduced by 10', Pawrot
3 -2 to saves vs physical elements, Belly Ripples
4 -2 to save vs magic, Druid's Bane
5 -2 to morale, Whitemane
6 -2 to attack rolls, Smokey Eye's

If a beasts malady is not specifically cured within 3 months it is permanent.

This chart serves 2 purposes it serves as a gross abstraction for how draining long sea voyages can be and it discourages frequent trips back and forth across the sea from colonies to homeland.

Big Brother is Calling.

For the past two weeks a couple times a day I get a call from "Big Brother" as identified by my caller I.D., I pick up the phone to answer and no one is there.

I'm lead to believe either...

Big Brother is watching and want's to let me know he's keeping tabs and really has nothing to discuss because I should know what I'm doing


The Big Brother association is trying to get donations and their call system sucks


I live in a matrix-like universe and someone is tryign to get me to wake up to reality...

Two of those are great hooks for an RPG adventure. Anyone else have ideas for the mysterious "Big Brother" phone calls?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yeah it's a full time job

Dming is a job. But it's not really a job if course, it's a hobby that's part of another wider hobby. It can require a heck of a lot more "work" then other players are asked to put into the game of course.

I might be on the extreme edge but I likely spend 28 hours or more a week working on my campaign, reading game rules, reading about other folks games, exploring new tools, fiddling with maps and graphics, and doing research that is really ultimately game oriented. Along with actually DMing a few hours a week.

I haven't worked up all the details and certainly haven't communicated them to my players but there's a lot more then they are aware of or capable to immediately interact with going on at any moment. I've put the work in so I know what I mean when I say "You see a Riperian settler still a little worn by passage and a Frontiersman of mixed-descent in hillman dress, both are lightly armed" and the good game player will learn what that means.

Would I like the time to draw more to illustrate my games? Sure.
Would I like more tools? Sure would.
It'd be great for my job as DM to be easier and for me to quickly present more detailed encounters but that wouldn't keep me from putting in the "work" to build and run a campaign.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Remember to Save Your Files

Last-night I couldn't sleep for a while so I pulled out the old Outdoor Survival map, fired up Adobe Illustrator and started reproducing a modular variation using those post-apocalyptic hex graphics I posted recently. Pretty awesome idea isn't it ?

The map was looking pretty sweet and I was pulling off a minor variation to allow them to be reassembled as per wilderness geomorphs...when blammo, the application decided my work of 90 minutes or so could go poof as I had forgotten to save my progress to that point.

Arggghhghghhhhh !!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Equipment and Treasure Cards?

I've been playing with the notion of equipment and treasure cards for the players for some time now. It seems darned handy for four reasons:

First off the players can have all the information about the item all in one spot and accurately recorded. One can record saves for the item and even things like freshness dates for rations and potions, all the stuff that players would usually never bother keeping track of or simply don't have ready access to in one place.

Secondly it makes encumbrance relatively easy...count the cards or tally the weight on the cards.

Easy book keeping, if you have the card you have the item or the treasure, don't have the card you don't' have it.

Lastly a DM can confirm the item card is actually on hand as it has physical presence, no "magical" appearances on character-sheets and no forgetting one is hauling around a ladder or other large item.

Secret and incomplete info has to be kept secret from the player and tracked by the DM, sure this is the normal situation but it does reduce the true utility of keeping cards.

A bunch of cards can be hard to keep track of physically and a person losing their cards in the real world loses them in the game world.
A DM would likely have to invest in some card holders to keep track of all the cards.

Big parties with a number of henchmen,hirelings, and pack animals are going tot need a lot of cards.

This method does introduce an interesting chance to alter play style. Instead of a DM reading a long list of items found after a good haul the DM can simply drop the cards on the tabel and have the players paw through them and discover what the treasure is, player actions will slow down play not a reading by the DM.
It may make sense to contain the contents of a pouch or chest in an envelope.
Maybe wrap the items held and carried by a foe in a rubber-band.

So any good ideas or criticisms against homemade equipment and treasure cards?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Early Critical Hit Systems

Critical hits and their place in D&D have been a matter of contention and common house-rule and core rules over the editions. Many an old timer rejects critical hits, forgetting they were with the game from the origin.

Does the game really need them, no of course not, if you don't want them don't use them. I'm going to give a brief overview and criticism of early critical hit systems.

House Rules from Unknown Times (that may or may not have gotten into the rulebooks later)

The Ancient Critical Hit on a 20 houserule:
On a to hit die roll of 20 the blow scores double damage.
Players love this rule until the monsters that dish a lot of damage also deal out critical hits. Well okay some players still love getting characters bitten in half. The bummer factor with this commonly applied house rule is when you roll a 1...woo hoo 1x2 is 2 a massive 2 potions of damage, not so exciting or all that critical a wound.

The keep on hitting critical rule:
On a hit roll of 20 you get to make another attack. Apply damage for successful attacks. Kinda cool, you aren't likely to get stuck with a massive critical hit of 2 points of damage but you also might not get any extra damage at all. It also slows down play with more dice rolling but there is the exciting chance of more and more hits and a non-hardass DM might allow the extra attack against another target if the first would likely be finished off by a single blow.

TSR Critical hits
In the olden days the critical hit was included in D&D from the get go and in supplements and in a similar game.

Arial Combat Criticals from Book 3 of the original rules.
The originasl edition of D&D had a subsystem for arial combat in book 3 and hits on flying creatures could score critical hits in arial combat.

Depending on angle of attack one had different odds of striking a flying target in the head, wing, body, tail or rider .
Once the location hit was determined it was then possible to determine if a target was reduced to 1/2 speed, forced to land, forced to withdraw or crashed.

This was clearly some sort of carry-over from WW-I flying games and certainly meant to play out combat between such combatants as roc riders and dragon riders. This method however does have potential to carry over into the rest of the generally abstract nature of the game but it curiously was restricted to flying monsters.

Hit Location and Blackmoor
In the second official D&D supplement a detailed hit location system was presented and while it wasn't explicitly a critical hit system it sure functioned like one by allowing folks to deal and suffer even more random death upon foes.

Combatants could each be struck in different locations and each location had it's own HP score based on type of creature and full HP. Your head had 15% of total hp, the chest 80%, the arms 20% each and so on.

You were killed when total damage suffered to various body parts reached 100% of the normal total or when ones head or chest was destroyed by taking it locations total in damage. Limb damage caused a crippling loss of dexterity.

Now all that was sort of realistic but it was also a bummer as most characters and monsters in D&D lacked HP totals to make it much of a point to calculate the results. Almost all 1st level characters are instantly killed on a head hit (as 15% of 6 is 1). 50% of all head blows would end up killing any foe with less then 30 total HP.
Brutal indeed but D&D characters really don't have enough hp to make it fun paperwork it was really a "bang you are dead" critical hit system.

I did use this system with a GW campaign and it worked great there, but the average character in that game starts with 33 hp.

EPT Double Damage and Instant Death
In the Empire of The Petal Throne game which was described as some in the olden days as being vanilla D&D (vanilla? really more like ginger and rose water if you ask me) was essentially a D&D rules variant published by TSR and one could find a critical hit rule within that may have spawned one of the common house-rules mentioned above.

In EPT any hit roll of 20 does double damage and entitles the attacker to make another roll to try for an instant kill if a second roll comes up 19 or 20.

Pretty fierce and random along with the excitement of 2 pt critical hits. I'm not surprised the instant death variant wasn't a popular variant in many a house-ruled campaign.

So there you go an exploration of early critical hit systems in D&D. Critical hits add excitement and an increased random chance of death of beloved PC's and Mary Sue NPCs with varying degrees of playability and annoyance. I've used all of them in my games but one saw very limited use and I know I'm going to explore that one for future use in my games and in a future post.

More Post Apocalypse Map Graphics

20 more map symbols/icons for post apocalyptic hex maps .
Not sure if I'm all that thrilled by how the twists look but I like the concept too much.

Legal Mumbo-jumbo:
These map symbols are copyright 2011 by James D. Jarvis, anyone is free to use them for private, shared or commercial projects all I ask is to be notified about the project (a comment here would work fine) and to be credited for my contribution to your project (a link to this post would be cool). An exact copy of the specific image above isn't authorized for redistribution.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Post Apocalypse Hex Map Graphics

Here are a few hex map icons/symbols for some color traditional style RPG hex maps.
I'm whipping these up for future projects along with a gentle request for constructive criticism and to share with others.

Legal Mumbo-jumbo:
These map symbols are copyright 2011 by James D. Jarvis, anyone is free to use them for private, shared or commercial projects all I ask is to be notified about the project (a comment here would work fine) and to be credited for my contribution to your project (a link to this post would be cool). An exact copy of the specific image above isn't authorized for redistribution.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old RPG Campaign Newsletter

The Ryth chronicle was recently rediscovered and comment on it has been floating about the internet.

It's a fascinating glimpse of gaming past. It's interesting to see others organize a campaign and grapple with the idiosyncrasies of early D&D. Go check it out if you haven't yet.

As a side note I realized my old campaign in 88-92 era had an irregular newsletter called the Gullcraw Gazette . Nothing as elaborate as The Ryth Chronicles, it was mostly my campaign rumor sheet but it also had notes on rules and campaign background. It's long gone and I don't seem to have any copies myself and the disks are likely long gone, I also think it had a fair bit of "borrowed" art in it so it's probably a good thing I don't have it to share now.

Did anyone else out there have a campaign newsletter?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Worse Than Death

In my last post I mentioned death and how there's a whole lot of it in RPGs (at least in the ones I like to play).

There are fates for PCS that are worse than death for their players.

Permanent Disability and Varying Degrees of Defeat
Players hate permanent disability, at least most of the ones I know and have ever gamed with.

I've been using various death and maiming tables in games on and off the past couple of years. I really like them as it adds more options of loss but many players don't seem to like them much.

Here's an example of such a table (rolled when hp are 0 or less)
1.... Dead for real.
2.... Maimed, permanently lose 2 points from a randomly selected ability score.
3.....Traumatized, -1 to hit and save vs attacks from type of foe in the future
4.....Mauled, incapacitated by wounds no other special effects, heal normally
5.....Clobbered, recover in 2d6 turns with 2 hp/level (max)
6.... Second Wind, in 1d3 rounds bounce back into action with 1/2 normal HP

Dead for real doesn't bother the players much.

Maimed...some folks really cant deal with that, losing ability points.

traumatized, some folks feels this robs their character of their heroic mojo

mauled...not such a big deal

clobbered- players like it but he munchkins chafe they can't apply their bazillion bonuses to the 2hp a level.

second wind- players love it, who wouldn't?....until they discover foes can have a similar fate when vanquished, some players really get their knickers in a twist when monster they defeat don't stay down. Many players really don't want to play fair.

I'll take defeat that isn't death any day of the week but many a player can't really deal with it. HP going up and down doesn't bother them and death really doesn't but if you screw with numbers other than the HP on their character sheets it's an unspeakable horror.


Getting turned into harmless animal or a lump of stone is a fate worse than death. There's an embarrassing token of ones defeat left laying about and is it proper form to roll a new character when the old one is still technically there?


Having their stuff stolen is a horrible fate for the average PC. I think this again is because it screw with something the player wrote on their sheet. I've seen folks moan and groan to no end over losing a mundane item to a thief when they are carrying enough coin to replace it 10 times over. Perhaps it's because many a campaign and game has theft rules that are a one way street and doesn't give the victim many options so it feel like an arbitrary edit of one's character sheet.
Players also have a feeling that if something isn't in their immediate sights or on their character sheet it's gone forever.
I say find the thief and get revenge or just get over it and replace the loss.


Having one's PC captures is one of the most horrible fates that can befall a player of an RPG game. I've seen player that will happily re-roll another character after the PC they've been playing for 6 months is roasted by a dragon but if they have a character captured they flip out, scrunch the character sheet into a ball and toss it across the room with much wailing and teeth gnashing.

Losing a character's freedom is to lose control of the only piece a player gets to move in the game. Die and you get a new piece. Get captured and you lose your stuff (really screwing with the character sheet here) and lose freedom of action.

To me capture is fun. It's one of the heroic action bits in fiction that let's the bad guy have a meaningful dialog with the heroes and handily position the heroes in a position where they can regain their freedom or get closer to the villain to finish him off without having to fight through 1001 mooks. But to most players it's a fate worse than death.

Whole Lot of Death.

Most RPG campaigns have a whole lot of death in them.

Enlightened members of the OSR know D&D is about exploration which is why 70% or more of the rules is about killing things, ways to avoid getting killed, getting better at killing things and a host of stats on opponents to kill.

PCs can be fried by spells and dragon breath, turned to stone, expire thanks to death- rays, get eaten, get dissolved by acid, fall to their doom, get squashed by a giant, get poked by spikes, slammed by stone,drown and more.

There's a whole lot of death and rules about it becasue that's the challenging part that is often better abstracted with game rules. Sure we can play cops and robbers style..."bang your dead", "am not", "are too", "am not", "bang...see I told you were dead"...but that gets a little tedious after a while and we mostly accept the game rules and dice rolls to avoid this.
Ever get in a fight in a free-form "game"? Eventually some jerk just isn't going to be beaten no matter the situation or the cleverness of their opponent and the free-form goes boom...it dies becasue conflict can't be resolved becasue not everyone plays fair.

In real life we can dance with pretty girls and/or hot guys, we can haggle with merchants (which is a lot of fun when really only window shopping), we can go bar hopping (and not get in a brawl), we can roll on the rand ladies of the night table if we car to, we can run for political office and start a new business, go for a hike in the woods, get in a long philosophical argument and go web surfing and the vast amount of the time no one gets killed. We really don't need RPGs to do those things do we?

Even in games where there isn't a whole lot of combat it's becasue we know the combat leads to death and loss. The death part makes the not dying a bit more exciting.

Friday, August 5, 2011

2nd Best Apes Movie Ever

No spoilers, I promise.

Saw Rise of the Apes with the wife tonight and I was actually impressed.

The story was decent and entertaining. You could actually hear and see people in the audience saying to each other "this is a lot better than I thought it would be".

There are bits of homage scattered throughout the movie a few familiar names and it certainly set's itself up for sequels but stands on it's own.

I like it more then all of the original planet of the apes movies except the first one and I'm an apes fan so far back I saw all the original films at the drive-in.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Map of The New Lands

The PCs in my regular Tuesday-night game having screwed up their homeland by unleashing an immense horde of undead a number of months back took passage on vessels leaving their homeland and continent before doom could descend on them and their likely to be upset neighbors and superiors.

Here's the map of The New Lands as known to them.

Night of the DWights

Recent game-play at my table

The PCs are off on a wilderness expedition seeking the village of black roofs where they hope to find out the location of some Cities of Gold rumored to exist by a fellow explorer. They have enticed some locals into following them along with their impressive magics and alcohol supply.
They've been making an impressive 8-10 miles a day pulling their wagon along and stopped for a day of rest and a little fishing and hunting.

Mid morning the party is spurred into action and curiosity by some of the locals. They are led to a clearing in the otherwise dense forest where a megalithic stone stands atop a curious knoll with a lone old tree and some stones near a notable hollow.

The party moved cam closer to the hill and the clearing. The locals refused to go near the clearing or the hill Tasmetus's followers were left behind as security as the party went on to explore the hill.

The stones to the left were overgrown and engraved, after a bit of work the following petroglyphs were exposed:

One of the explorers checked the stones behind the tree and noted hints of petroglyphs there as well and after much work the following was viewable:

The party (and players of course) spent a good while arguing over and tryign to interpret the images carved into the stones. A host of wild hypothesis were thrown about and the party went on to delve into the hollow at the base of the hill discovering a chamber beneath (who would have thought?). Tasmetus tried to detect magic and was overcome by a surge of magical energy, he recovered shortly after.

From the entry chamber the party descended down a narrow and low ceilinged passage to find a small chamber where their progress was blocked by a great stone disk decorated like a Mayan calendar, after a bit of poking about and labor they rolled the disk aside to discover a short passage.

The short passage led to a larger chamber where stood an immense clay urn 8 feet wide and almost as high. In nooks to the left and right of the urn there were mummified remains wearing delicate and elaborate masks. One adventurer (DeVoto) poked at one with his sword to have it knocked from his grip by the now animated mummy, Tasmetus attempted to conjure a bolt of magical energy to dispatch the mummy and was again overcome by a surge of magical energy. The mummy let out a moan of despair which rendered Devoto and Brom briefly overcome with despair while the remaining companions (Dan Black, Thorgrim and Questor a Henchman) battled the mummy.

The mummies mask crumbled to dust after he was slain and the party all descended as one upon the remaining unanimated mummy to batter it to bits, the cloud of black mold that erupted from the dashed remains did harm to Dan Black and DeVoto who were both sickened and weakened by the the toxic cloud.

Not caring to retreat to recover just yet the party examined the Urn. The Dwarf Thorgrim quickly noted there was a great stone trap door under the huge urn. Examining the urn revealed it to be too heavy to move and it was filled with a bitumen-like resin and bones of malformed and monstrous dwarves. Fearing a trap, animated corpses and such the party set the resin alight and exited the dungeon hoping to burn off enough of the contents to move the urn on the morrow.

Returning the next day the party found the urn split from the heat and much of the former contents burnt away but a royal mess was left behind. They spent a good two hours or more clearing the debris away from the stone trapdoor before opening it and descending down the shaft beneath.

The shaft led to a wide but low chamber which ended in a room flooded by murky water on it's far end. Exploring the water revealed a passage beneath that led not too far off to another partially flooded chamber beyond, guarded by a half dozen golden masked figures.

Not willing to let a little water keep them from the hoped for bounty of the golden masks the party shed their armor and went for a swim. Were it not for the Superior swimming abilities of Dan Black the party may have failed in their endeavors and lost their armor in the water filled passage. Luckily the guardians in the other chamber wee unwilling or unable to enter the water and the party was able to get their armor back one while out of reach of the fetid vermin bearing breath of the raging guardians.

So there they were waterlogged in a half flooded chamber facing a half dozen gnarled and twisted raging dwarf sized undead guardians and the practical thing of course was to attack.
Tasmetus dared a spell again and once once more overcome by a surge of magical energy he would have drowned were it not for the support of his henchman Questor as his companions rushed to battle the guardians.

The battle was fast and furious. The players were dismayed to discover the breath of the guardians was indeed vilely toxic sickening those who failed to resist the airborne pestilence and some weapons that struck the undead guardians began to corrode and deteriorate as did the armor the hands of the horrors buffeted. The party didn't retreat or falter despite the serious morale blow the players were suffering. In the end the players prevailed no PCs were slain, but a suit of armor was all but ruined, a +2 battle axe was now but a +1 battle axe and a spear was now a bent stick.

The masks the guardians wore were indeed golden with beards of turquoise a wealthy find indeed. At the far side of the chamber is a large and sealed obsidian double-door...


So play stopped with the party bemoaning their fate and relieved they survived. The Obsidian doors have to wait for next session. DeVoto and Thorgrim are still feeling feverish and are diseased because of the guardians breath weapons.

The "DWights" were what the guardians were called in my notes as they were Dwarven Wights which had Wight stats except they breathed a nauseating and diseased breath weapon at a single foe (instead of level drain), armor they struck would deteriorate and weapons that struck them (unless made of silver) required the bearer to make a save or they degrade by -1 to hit and damage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Heartless Dungeoneers and Animals.

There are many a tool that a successful dungeon explorer may make use of and one that is not ignored by the ruthless and uncaring are animals.

The original AD&D PHB has a list of common animals adventurers could buy and was certainly set up for homesteading but they also offered some use in dungeon exploring.

Here are some recommended uses for common livestock for the heartless dungeoneer.

Chickens: chickens are good eating, don't forget that a live chicken stays fresh longer a good bit longer than a dead one.
Chickens may seem to be noisy and a detriment to dungeon exploring but once removed from the light they start to become quiet and calm down. A chicken can be carried lightly bundled with it's head covered and it will not make much noise.
A chicken tossed into a doorway or around a corner will certainly serve to surprise what ever lurks beyond the threshold and may get all the attention of the beasts beyond thus giving the adventurers more time to launch an attack or observe the presence of monsters without immediate threat of attack, the chicken probably isn't long for this world when used in such a manner.

Cows and Oxen: Did you know you can ride a bovine? They are a slow but steady steed that isn't ill served for wilderness travel as long as one isn't in a hurry and doesn't mind being ridiculed by virtually everyone they meet. That said they are of limited use in dungeon settings will they will react poorly to the darkness, strange smells and simply refuse to go down stairs as cows will generally go up stairs without much struggle but are darned resistant to going down stairs.

Dogs: Guard dogs, hunting dogs and guard dogs seem a great companion animal in dungeons. Dogs can be fearsome combatants, have an excellent sense of smell and are loyal. They however are noisy, loud and react to things in a different manner from men and demihumans; the PCs may want to parlay with the molemen but it's really tricky to do that when one is hanging from your guard dog's maw.
Dogs require constant supervision in a dungeon environment and can't climb anywhere near as well as a man can so their mobility will limit a party that finds itself climbing ropes and ladders.
A reaction roll should be made for the parties dogs whenever a new group of men, humanoids or monsters is encountered. Dogs may note the presence of other beings long before PCs do but they may react by cowering, barking or even running away. Each round a dog barks may result in increased rolls for wandering monsters.

Donkey: capable pack animals men may be able to con into going into a dungeon. They will be more difficult than normal in a dungeon and prone to bolting with supplies and treasure on their backs.

Goat: they can be used like chickens but are heavier and not as easilt kept quiet. A bleating goat is likely to attract monsters in the dungeon so it may be useful bait but otherwise is a likely detriment.

Hawks: keep them out of dungeons they will be prone to react poorly and slowly in dungeon depths.

Horses: a horse may be dumb but they aren't dumb enough to go in a dungeon. the amount of things a horse fears are high and the dungeon is just full of them.

Mule: mules are even more caapble pack animals than are donkeys but they are also larger and harder to get to cooperate when they think they are in risk. Not recommended for use underground.

Pigeon: a pigeon can be used to send a message from a short distance inside a dungeon or readily from inside a castle if they are of the homing variety (and much higher expense), otherwise they are a quieter smaller chicken for all intents and purpose.

Pigs and Piglets: These animals are smart, horrible pack animals and tasty. Leave them on the farm or bring them along to use as food in the wilderness if your party is large enough but leave them out of the dungeon.

Sheep: If you see a sheep in the dungeon some kobolds just stole it or it's an illusion, be careful.

Songbirds: Tiny delicate birds have been used for centuries by miners as an alarm against noxious gases. A songbird will react to a smaller portion of gas than is required to harm a man or demi-human and will react to gases, mists and other air born threats earlier. A songbird must save vs a noxious airborne threat 20-50' further away than men and less sensitive beasts. If folks are not actively monitoring the birds they will fail to notice them swoon or die on a 5 or 6 in d6 roll. Some birds will swoon if gases are harmful to them but not all that harmful to men so sometimes this tactic is of limited use.

If one doesn't charm a songbird with magic a cage is needed.
Suggested cost for cages:
small wood cage 8 c.p. 1/4 lb
small brass cage 3 g.p. 1/2 lb
large wood cage 2 s.p. 1 lb
large brass cage 8 g.p. 3 lb