Monday, March 18, 2019

Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 & Game Reprint


The Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 kick starter just funded. What people may not know it is also to enable a reprint of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set. Granted it is a bit pricey at $95 however if you wanted one stop to get into GURPS, the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is your ticket, now with more monsters.

I realize many appreciate relatively rules-light RPGs these days. However the virtue of GURPS that is is a well designed system where things you want do as your character have a one to one relationship with the mechanics. There very little in the way of abstraction or fiddling with mini game mechanics. And when it comes to character customization GURPS is still without peer.



Also check out Douglas Cole's The Citadel at Norðvorn kickstarter which is a viking themed Dungeon Fantasy setting.


Friday, March 15, 2019

So about OD&D presentation and style.

There long been a thread of thought that ODnD is poorly written and organized. When criticism is charitable it a result of ODnD being Gygax's first attempt at writing about a tabletop roleplaying game. When it not it because Gygax's ability as an author is also being criticized.

So this came up again in a forum that I participated one. To date the general gist of my response has been
Part of ODnD are uncleanly written but as a whole it is a work of genius and a lot of what is unclear is a result of Gygax writing for the miniature wargaming hobby as it existed in the early 70s.
But this time I got thinking that I never really dug into many of salient. So I decided this time I would look at ODnD with fresh eyes.

Men and Magic

The crucial section is on page 5 of Men & Magic titled Preparations. Here at the first Gygax summarizes and outlines everything he going to talk about.
The referee bears the entire burden here, but if care and thought are used, the reward will more than repay him. First, the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,” people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level. This operation will be more fully described in the third book of these rules. When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.” Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.” First, however, it is necessary to describe fully the roles possible.
Breaking it down we see this involves
  1. the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,”
  2. people them with monsters of various horrid aspect
  3. distribute treasures accordingly
  4. note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level.
  5. Explicitly states that the above will be more fully described in the third book.
Then
When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.”
But
Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.”
Then for the remainder of Men & Magic, Gygax outlines how how characters are defined, and some of what they can do or have like equipment, combat and magic.

It is in the details where writing for his expected audience of miniature wargamers is most evident. He assume that his reader has experience running or playing other miniature wargame campaigns. That they are familiar with the idea of initiative, and combat turns. That what needed to be spelled out are details to make it work at the level of the individual character. One method is the alternative system. Another is how to integrate with Chainmail, a rule system that he know many of his potential customers already have and are using to handle not only medieval melees but one and one combat as well.

Another part where his intended audience comes into play is that he doesn't offer anything like skills or general action resolution. Because he expect his audience to do the same thing they do in the miniature wargames they play. If something comes up that isn't covered by a rule or a chart, then you go back to first principles and reason it out based on how it  worked in life or in the case of fantasy in various movies and books. Something we know was common from the recent work documenting the early days of wargaming and tabletop roleplaying.

Gygax is consistent in spelling out the unique parts of the D&D rules, the parts that his fellow hobbyists would not know.

Monsters & Treasures

Then after Men & Magic, he launches into Monsters and Treasure. Which important details about two of the elements he outlined in preperation
  1. Monsters
  2. What treasure monsters have
  3. The available treasures.
The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures

The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures is where the rest of what outlined in preparation is broken down and reinforced by examples of play.

Starting from the first page.
  1. Gygax describes what he meant by levels of the "underworld" and give examples. (pg 3 to 5)
  2. Offers details on distribution monsters & treasure as well other things that can go into the underworld as well as tips for keeping things fresh throughout a campaign (pg 6 to 8)
  3.  Gets into the logistics of handling characters exploring the Underowold including encountering Wandering Monsters ( pg 8 to 12)
  4. Give an example of play. (pg 12 to 14)
  5. Presents an alternative to the Underworld the Wilderness. Like the details for an Underworld, he discusses how they are setup and the logistic of handling character exploring a wilderness.
  6. The above also touts the board for Outdoor Survival game by Avalon Hill as a useful aid as well as how to use it. Which to me echos the inclusion of Chainmail in Men & Magic.
  7. Then gets into constructing castle, undoubtedly something of interest to his player and his audience. (pg 20 to 21)
  8. And since we are on the topic of castle, he now talks about the troops and men a character could hire as well some of the logistics of being a lord. (pg 21 to 24)
  9. We now talked about castles, and troops lets talk about warfare in general including rules for stuff you wouldn't have (not found in  Chainmail) like aerial combat and naval combat. Again another example of where he writes for his audience. (pg 24 to 33)
  10. And since the last thing he wrote about warfare naval combat, here are some ideas for naval adventures (page 24 to 36)
Finally wraps it up with
There are unquestionably areas which have been glossed over. While we deeply regret the necessity, space requires that we put in the essentials only, and the trimming will often have to be added by the referee and his players. We have attempted to furnish an ample framework, and building should be both easy and fun. In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you? Write to us and tell about your additions, ideas, and what have you. We could always do with a bit of improvement in our refereeing.
And of course


Wrapping it up
To me the above looks like a reasonable way of presenting something as novel and different as DnD was at the time. The most serious issue, that it written for the audience of miniature wargamers  resulted because the idea outlined in preparation proved so compelling that it expanded far beyond it intended audience. One that didn't share the experiences and assumptions of miniature wargamers of the early 70s. This resulted in novices to the hobby confused about aspects of ODnD.

In addition Gygax could have written a better explanation with some of the unique details of ODnD like spell memorization.

It is evident that Gygax recognized these issue given the Holmes Basic D&D was commissioned within two years of ODnD release. Then later followed up with B/X DnD, BECMI, and ADnD.

But after looking at it again I feel the presentation is solid and explains fully the most important and unique concepts that made D&D different from the miniature wargame campaigns of the day. Concepts that propelled DnD and tabletop roleplaying into their own category of gaming.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Citadel at Norðvorn Kickstarter

Douglas Cole over on Gaming Ballistic has just launched a Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter. A mini-setting called The Citadel at Norðvorn. If you like viking themed campaigns and his last adventure, Hall of Judgement this should be of interest. 

This also continues the setting that Doug has been building through his Dungeon Fantasy and Dragon Heresy products. I am interested in seeing where he goes with this as the format of the product builds partly on his experiences with my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Keyed City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF

Since the fall of 2018 Steve Wachs of Red Pub Games has been working on a new version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF. This version has the text of original entries formatted as notes on the map. Just hover or click over a named location and the text will appear. This will be useful a quick reference if you use a laptop, tablet, or mobile device as a referee aid during a session.



Steve put a lot of work into this. The original CSIO has several hundred entries of different location. In addition Steve spearheaded a community project to come up with description of previously undescribed locations.

For example the Misty Passage Saloon in the village outside of CSIO.

Cronyn Wildhair MU, NG, LVL:4, HTK:9, AC:9, SL:5, STR:13, INT:7, WIS:15, CON:14, DEX:10, CHA:13, WPN: Dagger

Dolmay the Mouser, bartender, FTR, N, 3 LVL, 16 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; Zahra Brighteyed, cook, TH, NE, 3 LVL, 12 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; help Cronyn.  They may all (20%) be off adventuring for 1-4 weeks.   Skeleton crew runs in their absence.  Frequented by Caravan Drivers, Fighters, Merchants, and Sailors, NA 4-24, 1-4 LVL.  Specialty is fried fish and ale, 2 gp.  425gp, 687sp, and 2 Ioun Stones in Catoblepas Head mounted above bar.  Disturbing it causes it to fall, 2d6 crush damage. 

Rumor: The ship The Briny Beholder, laden with golden treasure, ran aground south of River Torn and north of Sea Rune.  All attempts at recovery have been thwarted by Giant Crabs.

Everybody who has gotten a copy of the PDF of the CSIO map will have their file download updated.

All that Steve asked for are physical copies of the CSIO and Wilderlands material I produced and that it be released free to the backers of the CSIO project.

For those who haven't gotten the map or the PDF use the following link.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map
remember the PDF option for print is  free so pick Print+PDF not just print.

Wilderlands of the Magic Realms
This should be coming out in late February/early March. I will be including some of the underwater and sailing rules and encounters found scattered throughout various Judges Guild supplements. The Wilderlands of the Magic Realms and Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches have maps that are dominated by oceans and seas.

In addition there will be an extensive list of open content monsters as the last two Wilderlands booklets incorporated creatures from the later supplements of the original rules. And many of these creatures don't have open content equivalents or are found in less well known sources.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?


One forum I frequent is the RPGPub. Recently a question was asked,

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?

I gave some system recommendations and then I realize I been looking at the answer to this question wrong.

Given that nearly all of the various editions of  classic DnD and OSR retro clones are of comparable complexity. Especially in what you have to do get a campaign going. The answer is all of them and none of them.

Why?

Because system doesn't matter, it all depends on the referee being a good teacher and a good coach. So use whatever system that works with the way you think and operate and focus on learning to teach and coach.

I throw in coaching because in sports the athlete is expected to execute strategies and procedures that are mostly in real time. A good coach not only explains those strategies and procedures i.e. teach, but guide the athlete through them the first few time until the athlete is able to do them. Afterward the coach will help the athlete practice to improve their skills in regards to whose strategies and procedures. Much of this occurring in real time with the athlete doing whatever their particular sport requires them to do.

While not as physical, the interplay of the players describing what their characters and the referee making a ruling often by using a printed system of rules means there some overlap what you do to teach a beginning athlete and a novice to RPGs.

So hence, focus on being a good teacher and coach. As for the rules use whatever works for you as a teacher and coach.

The OSR logo is by Dyson Logos

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Keeping track of the OSR and Old School Gaming

The popularity of Google+ for the OSR meant that blogs took a back seat for many. Now that Google+ is ending, blogs are making a come back. One things that developed for blogs in the last couple of years is a type of software called a Planet. Planet software aggregates the feeds of the member blogs to allow people to track many related blogs at once.

Alex Schroeder has an interesting website that been around a long time and combines elements of a blog and a wiki. Recently he setup a planet called Old School RPG Planet that now has several dozen OSR and Old School related blogs feeding into it.

The site has links to explain how to add your blogs to the feed and the purpose of the site.

One of the nice things about the OSR and the current state of independent publisher that the Do it Yourself attitude often lead somebody somewhere to come up with a decent solution to a problem that the community faces. So kudos to Alex for taking the initiative on this and hope that it continues to be a useful tool keeping the connections within the OSR and Old School gaming in general alive.