Sunday, December 30, 2012

Attention all RPG Kickstarter Publishers

If you are going to chage for shipping make it CLEAR in your Pledge Description in addition to the front page verbiage. Also mention it frequently and abundantly in your update emails about estimated delivery.

Better yet just factor it into the pledge levels and if you think the freebies from the stretch goals is going to blow your shipping budget then learn to factor that in as well.

Nothing more will sour a kickstarter then having to make a second payment to get the items you been patiently and generously, waiting for.

And I am not naming names as the company in question has done outstanding work in all other aspects.

Note that the shipping payment is NOT automatic. In my case it was an email requesting that I pay via PayPal. So if you have an issue you will have some time to respond rather than seeing money out of your account.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lulu Coupon Code

DEC26 will get you 40% off any Lulu order. Sorry about the late notice but holiday stuff been occupying my week.

Bat in the Attic Games on Lulu

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making Christmas Gifts out of Hirst Arts molds

Most of my hobby time right now is spent writing up the English Civil War hexcrawl for James Raggi Lamentation of the Flame Princess. But with the holidays coming up I decided to put my Hirst Arts mold to good use. Especially after seeing what Dwayne of Gamers Closet did with his molds.

My sister lives in the US Southwest in the desert and I decided it would be cool to make her a little furnished adobe hut.


 The roof is a removable lid

And you can see the stuff inside much of it from a new mold that Hirst Arts had released.

A picture shot through the door.

Another door shot

A picture through the window.

Prior to building this I download the fireplace plans from Hirst Arts and built it. Took an afternoon to make and paint.

Now with the Christmas shopping and gift making complete it is back to writing out about Cavaliers and Roundheads.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another Review of Scourge of the Demon Wolf

Over on The RPG Site is another excellent review of Scourge of the Demon Wolf. It by Brendan of Bedrock Games. He published an interesting Roman Era RPG called the Servants of Gaius.

Note that we do have a professional association in that I drew the maps for the upcoming Arrows of Indra authored by the RPG Pundit and published by Bedrock Games. Arrows of Indra is similar to my Majestic Wilderlands except it implements the original 1974 roleplaying game for mythological India. It includes classes, spells, monsters, races, and magic items designed to work with the India of Vedic myth.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Moldavy/Cook Combat Sequence

Over on the StackExchange RPG site somebody asked about Moldavy/Cook combat. I did a little digging and found a surprisingly straightforward system very similar to what I use in my own Majestic Wilderlands/Swords and Wizardry games.

On page B24 it gives five things in order to resolve
  1. Morale check
  2. Movement, except if you start in melee special rules applies (explained later) and you forfeit casting spells if you move
  3. Missile Combat
  4. Casting Spells
  5. Melee
It doesn't make note of arming oneself. If you look at the section at using oil or holy water they both don't make mention of readying the item. It seems the assumption that within 10 seconds it just happens 

On page B47 it notes that using a magic, except for weapons, armor, and protective devices, require concentration. While it could have been written clearer it probably means that using a magic item is the same as casting a spell. I.E. using a magic item is the only thing you can do in that round. This seems to apply to scrolls and potions as well.

With the exception of magic items and spells, you could generally abstract the above sequence into allowing the character to move and do one significant and time consuming action. Or to abstract it further the character can do two actions but only one of those actions can be an attack and only one of the actions can be a movement. So you can move and attack, but not move and move, or attack and attack. Casting spells and using magic items consume two actions.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Reply Hazy, Try Again" the future of tabletop RPGs


One of the classic Magic 8 ball answers aptly describes looking at the future of tabletop roleplaying games.

Some Long term trends I feel to look at for tabletop roleplaying games


  1. The Internet and related technologies most importantly PDFs, Kickstarter and Print on Demand. Because of this tabletop RPGs and hybrid forms are increasing in numbers and diversity. 
  2. The maturing of virtual tabletop technology which free gamers from having to physically get together to play table-top rpgs.
  3. The rise of the tablet and other hand held computer devices. One game change is  a large cheap flexible screen that is touch sensitive and can be unfolded/rolled out on any flat area to provide a interactive playing surface. 
  4. The ongoing development of novel boardgames whose mechanics can be reused in the design of tabletop games. 
  5. The renaissance of older tabletop games and older editions.
  6. Social network sites. For example Google Plus is being used for a lot of tabletop gaming. 
  7. The increase in importance of corporate and personal reputation.
  8. The collapse of the tabletop mass market in favor of increase in niche markets for various games and genres.
  9. The release of older tabletop RPG material in PDF or Print.


The main problem in developing a sense of where tabletop rpgs are going is the increase in diversity. What is happening depends very much on what news you keep up with.

For example over 350 products have been released for various older editions of D&D between January 2010 and May 2012. I only know that because I follows the news and forums for older edition D&D. Somebody who follows Paizo releases will have a completely different view. Likewise for Wizards of the Coast, SJ Games, Green Ronin, etc.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, December 3, 2012

AD&D as Family Heirloom

Here is a Reddit post from four month ago about a dad who did something really cool with his AD&D books. Clicking on the link takes you to a imgur site where you can see what he did.

The individual who created the book also has a high reputation on the RPG Stack Exchange site

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A excellent review of the Scourge of the Demon Wolf

Peter over at Dungeon Fantastic has written an excellent review on the Scouge of the Demon Wolf. It excellent not because he gave it a high rating, although that great in of itself, but he goes into its strength and shortcomings and explains WHY. As a small press publisher this kind of feedback is invaluable.

One of the comments led to a moment of "Oh shit, why did I forget to explain that?". Now I am posting this not as a defense but rather as what I hope to be an interesting look into the creative process.

Peter mentions why did the bad guy opt to run away rather than one of several other alternatives that he thought were likely. And he is right to question that as I forgot to provide any detail about the motivations of the bad guy.

Did I just forget to write up an important detail? Or was there another reason? Well I looked over my notes and turned out to be a little of both. I did have the motivation of the bad guy written down. But didn't right up the adventure from those notes. I wrote the adventure half from the extensive notes I made while playtesting the module. I figured it would be better than the originals as it would reflect what I used in actual play.

And as it turned out, despite a dozen playtests, it never came up once in the penultimate encounter. The bad guy always had enough time to overhear the PCs and act well before they found the person out.  So when I wrote up it, it got dropped. Because it was only briefly mentioned in the original notes, I overlooked it as far as the penultimate encounter goes. Although some of it appeared in the summary at the beginning of the adventure and other elements in the supplement half.

I wrote up a summary of the bad guy's motivations during the final encounter here and will update RPGNow bundle to include it. I also wrote up why the NPCs are so ready to shield bad guy from the adventurers.

One thing I will add this is that Scourge is a freeform adventure. The general approach I take is to setup the situation, hook the players into it, and then adlib it from there based on the circumstances and the movitations of the NPCs. What written in Scourge is a general account of me doing this a dozen times. The upshot is that if you think the adventure will benefit from certain NPCs act in different ways then you are most definitely playing the module as I intended it to be played.

Another point of interest is that Scourge was originally written as an adventure for 100 to 150 pt GURPS Fantasy characters back around 2000.  I played it through once using GURPS. A second time using Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 around 2002. Then starting in 2009 playtested nine more times using Swords and Wizardry plus my MW Supplement at game stores and cons.

Again thanks to Peter for his excellent review and please check out his many GURPS books.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Gaming Shelves

My Shelves of gaming material

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons stuff
 From top to bottom D&D 4e, GURPS Traveller/Mongoose Traveller/GURPS Stuff, and the bottom two all my GURPS books.

My Harn Stuff


Box of handwritten Majestic Wilderlands stuff

My Sci-fi Modren Roleplaying stuff.


AD&D 2nd edition stuff plus Fantasy Hero, Ars Magica and other misc Fantasy Roleplaying


My GDW Traveller material




Monday, November 26, 2012

Building on Grognard's MA Beanstalk


Joesph over on Greyhawk Grognard has an interesting idea for an alternative setting for Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World. Basically take a space elevator and attach a bunch of StarLost/Silent Running style eco-domes in high orbit. I think the idea can be taken further for a variety of adventuring possibilities.

You still have your domes. However beyond geosynchronous orbit lies a asteroid that is the counterweight.

You several option with this asteroid. You can opt to populate it with levels creating a mega dungeon that you climb UP to. A crazy dungeon in the spirit of Barrier Peaks or Anomalous Subsurface Environment. Or you can have it essentially hollow with a hollow world environment.

You can have more domes spaced along the beanstalk each with their own levels of gravity until you reach zero G at geosynchronous orbit.  As for the counterweight asteroid note that the "deeper/higher" you go the heavier the gravity becomes. Something to add to the other craziness.

Lots of fun can be had with Joesph's idea.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A helping of 30% off

From various source I learned that between Friday (Nov 23) and Tuesday (Nov 27), Lulu is offering 30% off anything site-wide by using coupon code&nbsp DELIRITAS One of the reason I post on both Lulu and RPGNow is that Lulu offers get deals like this from time to time.

So head over to the Bat in the Attic page on Lulu and take your pick.
If you are just interested in the PDFs you can pick up a MW Supplement/ Scourge Adventure combo at RPGNow for only $12. $5 off the regular combined price.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Yet Another Harn Day (freebies)

Over on Lythia.com there is a couple of new releases that folks may find useful.

First is Many Manors 1 a PDF of ten Manor drawing in the Harn Map Style. These full color maps can be customize to depict any type of village or small settlement in your campaign.

Second is the Night People an article about Harnic Gypsies. It is generic enough that it can be transplanted into any vaguely medieval campaign setting. As a bonus it has a small map of a gypsy wagon.

Third is the Venarive Weather Generator, yes I have new agonies to inflict on my players. On a more serious note, the weather generation system for Harn is probably the most game friendly weather generator that emulates real world weather pattern. A problem has also been that we only every had two charts. One cool temperate for Harn and a sub polor chart for the viking land of Ivina. With Venarive Weather Generator all the other tempature/climate bands have charts.

What makes it simple is that it is just twenty entries. You move up and down the chart in according to a d6 roll. With a change of 1 up, 0, 1 down, or 2 down possible. The entries are arranged in a way that mimics real world weather changes. In all an simple and elegant to generate weather.

And while I mentioned this before, I can't recommend enough the Harn Pottage series or the Friends, Followers, Foes series. Pottage is a series of generic medieval locales and encounters while FFF has lavish illustrations and descriptions of NPCs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts on RPG Combat


In D&D armor does reduce damage. It just abstracts it into a single roll. The Armor Class system resulted from the days of Miniature Wargaming. In many games of the 60s you rolled to hit and then you rolled to see if damage was done based on the armor.

In Chainmail, and later D&D Arneson and Gygax collapsed that into one roll. The odds of actuall doing damage still was the same but now you reduced the number of rolls you needed to make by half. An important advantage in resolving miniature wargames. This carried over into the development of D&D. The d20 you roll doesn't represent the chance to HIT, but the chance to do DAMAGE. Better Armor is reflected by the reduced chance to do damage.

However as convenient this is, nearly all the gamers I know equate a single throw of the die to a swing of their weapon. It is a natural and intuitive way of visualizing what happening on the table. So it is understandable why some gamers have a dislike for how D&D portrays combat abstractly.

I myself prefer combat systems where

  1. An attack roll is single swing of the weapon.
  2. You get a defense roll based on dodge, shield, or parry
  3. Damage is reduced by how well armored you are.
  4. Hit Points are limited and even experienced character can be taken out by a single lucky blow.

Which is why I like RPGs like Harnmaster, GURPS, and Runequest/Basic Roleplaying (although 2nd edition RQ had the limbs flying a bit to readily).

The downside of my preference is that combat takes longer to resolve than D&D. In my experience about twice as long for well designed system like Harnmaster, and GURPS. So D&D has it virtues which I appreciate when running a campaign.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Swords and Wizardy Reference Updates

Both Blackmarsh and my Majestic Item Creation Rules have been added to the Swords and Wizardry Reference site. Thanks to John Reyst for his hard work.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How much do Gems weigh?


I would call it at a 100 gems per pound unless you specifically state it is a certain size (like the eyes of the Player Handbook Idol). Gems are weighed in carats and the problem is that the value per carat varies between gem types. Harnmaster is the only Fantasy RPG I know of that gives that information. Even armed with such information I feel it strays over the line of too realistic of a rule. Harnmaster rates each gem type with a price factor and then multiplies it by the weight in carats squared. Note that a carat is 2 grams. 227 carats in a pound (I rounded up).
A 100 per pound is a nice average that reflect gem's compact value at a somewhat accurate weight without having to go through a lot of bookkeeping. For those 1,000 gp, 5,000 gp gems just make up a weight from 1/4 to 1 pound.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scourge of the Demon Wolf Print released on RPGNow

Bat in the Attic Games is proud announce the release of the Print Edition of Scourge of the Demon Wolf on RPGNOW  

Three died. They were mauled beyond recognition. The Baron sent his huntsmen to kill the beasts and for a fortnight they tramped across the countryside. Between their whoring and drinking they killed twelve wolves, parading their skins through the village. They were hung on poles as trophies of victory. Then the huntsmen left, the beasts slain, the village saved… so we thought. As the fields turned golden under the summer sun the killings began again. Four more died. Then the Baron's man, the bailiff, was killed on the high meadow in sight of Mitra's Temple. His screams could be heard well into the village. He was only identified after we reassembled the pieces. With the priest's help I wrote a report to our liege, the Baron of Westtower. My report ended with,

There will be no harvest until the beast is slain and the killings stopped. 

 A 72 page adventure compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rules and a setting supplement to the Majestic Wilderlands. detailing a small barony, a complete fantasy village, a conclave of mages, a crossroads hamlet, and a camp of wandering beggars.

 For those of you who don't own the Majestic Wilderlands I also have a special $12 PDF only bundle of both the Majestic Wilderlands and the Scourge of the Demon Wolf.

For those who already bought the Scourge of the Demon Wolf PDF on RPGNow I have created a special $5 price for you to buy the print copy. As with Majestic Wilderlands I always intended the PDF to be free  with the purchase of the Print Version.

For those who prefer to take your business on Lulu, the coupon code NOVBOOKS12 can be used to get 20% off the PDF or Print. Unfortunately Lulu doesn't have the tools to allow the PDF to be free with the purchase of the print edition.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Games resources for Medieval Life

Here are my opinions on what I consider to be the best game books on Medieval Life

GURPS Low Tech,
This combined with the e23 supplements is by far the most useful gaming supplement on pre-industrial life. Since with these types of books GURPS is focused on realistic emulation the few mechanics can be easily translated. 

The length is not due to in-depth exploration of any one topic but rather due to is comprehensive  sweep of pre-industrial technology and society. The hardback is focused on technology and the three e23 release on pre-industrial society and life  And it has a extensive bibiliography. 

The downside is that the mechanics are in my opinion too abstract even for GURPS and really a toolkit for the referee to come up his own figures. And it is oriented to a single RPG.

A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe
For the d20 world this is one of the best supplement. It is comprehensive and well written. The downside is that the mechanics are just OK, and it is a bit wordy. 

I also recommend its companion A Silk Road which discuss medieval trade focusing on long distance trade. It include material I haven't seen written anywhere else for Roleplaying Games. 

Fief and Town by Lisa J. Steele
A good solid writeup of medieval life on the manor and in the town. A bit pricey but if you like reading the writing style of the preview, this will be a useful purchase.

Various Harn Articles 
The Harn Campaign setting is organized into a series of articles some of them on Medieval life and not specific to Harn at all. The downside they are pricey, upside is that what game mechanic are straight forward and easy to use with other RPGs and they are concise.

I recommend particularly Harn Manor 

It hits a sweet spot in terms of emulating manorial life, in the way that Classic Traveller hits a sweet spot in starship construction and interstellar trade. Yes it involves some math and a spreadsheet but it all straight forward. But what makes it shine is how it generate the yearly issues that the manorial lord has to deal with. Basically each tenant household rolls on a chart and some of the results can lead to adventures or complex resolutions for the lord.

And if you can find it Harn's Pilot Almanac has stellar Ship Construction rules and a straight forward medieval trading system. Again we are talking Classic Traveller simplicity.

Ars Magica, a Medieval Handbook.
This is similar to Lisa Steele's Fief and Town, it is a more comprehensive and  a lot cheaper, but devoid for the most part of Game mechanics.

These represent the what I consider the best and most useful summaries of Medieval life for gaming. I own all of these (and others) and used many of them in my Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Lulu Discounts

I found that NOVBOOKS12 works for a 20% discount off of your lulu purchase.

So if you missed the October discount you are not too late to order Scourge of the Demon Wolf, Majestic Wilderlands, or other fine OSR products from Lulu at a discount.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Following the Breadcrumbs

A common complaint about the hexcrawl format is the breadcrumbs issue. That in order to gain a high level view you need to read a locale, read the surrounding locales, then their surrounding locales in order to get a sense of how it all put together.

This is why my hexcrawls setting (Points of Light I & II, Blackmarsh, etc) are more than just a series of locales keyed to a hex map. I purposely include a overview to explain the high level details of the area. Leaving the local details to the keyed locales.

This doesn't eliminate the "breadcrumb" issue, but the hybrid format does retain the hex-crawl format brevity with the overview providing what the author thinks are the important high level details. Because what goes into the locale is the local level detail the breadcrumbs are usually very short.

The current format I use for writing my hexcrawl is
  • Overview
  • Named Geographical Entries (usually spanning multiple hexes)
  • Special Notes (For example in one map I used this to list all the barbarian tribes which spanned over multiple hexes. In another I used this to explain the various factions engaged in a civil war. 
  • A list of Locales keyed to the map.)
It may be that some settings are mostly overview with a short locale list, and others it is vice versa. The author needs to look at the material and figure out the exact balance between travelogue and hexcrawl that works for this particular setting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Knowledge Illuminates is in Print

My friend Tim just released a print edition of his adventure Knowledge Illuminates. You can read about it in his blog post. I contributed to this adventure by drawing the map of the dungeon. When I went through it several years ago it was a nice short dungeon full of atmosphere and weirdness. The public version is no different and Tim has cleverly added hooks to allow Knowledge Illuminates to be the beginning of a larger campaign as well as just being a small standalone dungeon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ad for Blackmarsh

I never made a print ad for Blackmarsh, like I did for the Majestic Wilderlands and Scourge of the Demon Wolf. But since James offered to include ads supporting various OSR projects in the back of Petty Gods, I figure I should make one for Blackmarsh as it is one of the few open settings available. As with the other ads this is a homage to Trampier's illustration in ADnD's Player Handbook.

Blackmarsh is free download at RPGNow, and is $7 for a print copy, along with a open Setting Reference Document that dual licensed under the Open Game License and a non-commercial Creative Commons License.  Which means you can alter it, add to it and even publish it if that your inclination.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Price Break on Scourge of the Demon Wolf

Lulu has a 20% off sale using the code JEKYLL.  So if you looking to buy the print copy of Scourge of the Demon Wolf on Lulu you can buy it at a discount until the 26th.

Scourge of the Demon (Print, Lulu, Saddle Stitch binding, PDF NOT Included) $15 (available now)
Scourge of the Demon (PDF, Lulu) $10 (available now)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Scourge of the Demon Wolf is Released


Scourge of the Demon (Print, Lulu, Saddle Stitch binding, PDF NOT Included) $15 (available now)
Scourge of the Demon (PDF, Lulu) $10 (available now)
Scourge of the Demon (PDF, RPGNOw) $10 (available now)*
 *There will be a print option on RPGNow in about two to three weeks. 


Three died. They were mauled beyond recognition. The Baron sent his huntsmen to kill the beasts and for a fortnight they tramped across the countryside. Between their whoring and drinking they killed twelve wolves, parading their skins through the village. They were hung on poles as trophies of victory. Then the huntsmen left, the beasts slain, the village saved… so we thought.

As the fields turned golden under the summer sun the killings began again. Four more died. Then the Baron's man, the bailiff, was killed on the high meadow in sight of Mitra's Temple. His screams could be heard well into the village. He was only identified after we reassembled the pieces.

With the priest's help I wrote a report to our liege, the Baron of Westtower. My report ended with,
 
There will be no harvest until the beast is slain and the killings stopped.

A 72 page adventure compatible with the Swords and Wizardry rules and a setting supplement to the Majestic Wilderlands. detailing a small barony, a complete fantasy village, a conclave of mages, a crossroads hamlet, and a camp of wandering beggars.
Authored by Rob Conley

Gaming at Erie Days of Gaming

I will be running the following at Erie Days of Gaming on October 27th.


Saturday 12:00pm to 4pm - The Elf Lord's Temple
Deep in the heart of the orc infested forest are the ruins of an elven temple. An original Dungeons and Dragons Adventure for 2nd to 5th level characters. Novices and experienced players welcomed. All materials will be provided including character creation.


Saturday 5pm to 9pm - The Cargo Run
A megacorporation, Ling Standard Products has hired the ship to bring supplies to a research outpost. A Classic Traveller adventure.  All materials will be provided including character creation.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Fight On! Outdoor Map

A reader asked about a map I contributed to Fight On! Here it is, I drew a generic map for people to fill in with their own material. I just bought my CD full of 70s/80s style zipatone landscape fill and was eager to make a map using them. The symbols should be pretty explanatory. The triangle line near 0706 is a glacier. The line with hatch marks spaced along it in the lower right are escarpments. The X with a small L are lairs. The upside down triangles are ruins/points of interest. The circles are settlements. 

 

This map is open content under the Open Game License.
So feel free to use this for your own projects.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taking a stroll outside of Dwimmermount

James of Grognardia ordered a Judges Guild style version of his Dwimmermount outdoor map from me a couple of weeks ago. Since he used the Outdoor Survival gameboard as his template and I done some work recreating the gameboard as a RPG map, it was a pretty straight forward project to do. I played around with some of the textures, finally getting around to recreating a scrubland fill to use for plains and other open terrain along with selecting a badlands fill.

 I enjoyed doing this and helping to get Dwimmermount closer to completion.

I reworked the northeast corner to fit the southwest edge of my Blackmarsh setting. If you like the tv show Fringe and parallel worlds then use the following table whenever the players try to leave Blackmarsh by land on the southern edge. Chalk it up to a weird by-product from the Mountain That Fell.

Roll a d10 (or a d12 if you are Jeff Rients or a fan of his)
1-5 they arrive in the Dwimmermount Wilderness
6-10 they arrive in Southland
11 they don't know where they wound up and it isn't good. 
12 Walternate greets the party and escorts them back to the Fringe Division where they are brainwashed into thinking they just came from having a really intense boffer LARP weekend.

Heading back north takes them back into Blackmarsh.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scourge of the Demon Wolf Preview

Both the Lulu proof copy and the RPGNow proof copy are on their way. If everything goes well Scourge of the Demon Wolf should be out in two weeks. The product is both an adventure and a supplement. The first half is a 32 page adventure and the second half a 40 page supplement for the Majestic Wilderlands. For the supplement portion I took some of the locale that I lightly describe in the adventure and flesh them out in more detail. They work together similarly to how the rules and campaign guide does in  the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement. Either one can stand alone but I think it makes for a better product to have them both together. The adventure has immediate use, and the supplement give value to the book after the adventure is completed.

To get a taste of what you are going to be able to get in two weeks here is a 18 page preview. It has the first 9 pages so you can get a sense of what the adventure is about. It has one of adventure's encounters, a Bandit cave. And from supplement half, the crossroads hamlet of Denison's Crossing. It also showcases the excellent art of Jason Sholtis and John Larrey. And has a map of the Golden House.

For those of you that were disappointed that I didn't include one of my signature hexcrawls in the Majestic Wilderlands, I fixed that with Scourge. It is only a small Barony but should give you a taste of what my setting looks like on a local level.

This book represents the most common type of adventure I run in my Majestic Wilderlands. There is a dangerous situation, a bunch of people with conflicts and the player characters are right in the middle of it all. I am a little nervous about the presentation as the I have to pick some order to present the various possible encounters the character can run into on the adventure.

Every time I ran this, stuff occurred in different ways at different times. I tried not to leave the impression that the order in which I present the encounters is the way the adventure has to be run.

 The book will be $15 and the PDF $10. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Older edition gaming in exotic lands.

The OSR keeps chugging along, my opinion is that the Old School Renaissance is at its best when an author or company implements older edition rules to detail a specific setting or subgenre. Dungeon Crawl Classic is a great example of how a specific vision can create a memorable product.

Now we have two new products that expands the older edition family of games into interesting direction.

First is a medieval African themed RPG by Kevin Crawford of Stars without Number fame. He has started a kickstarter so you can get in on the action. The minimum buy-in is $8 for the Spears of the Dawn PDF so it looks more than reasonable. There even a preview of the first chapter, character creation, so you can see what you are getting into!

Next is Arrows of Indra RPG by the RPG Pundit which implements older edition gaming using the myths and legends of India. Note that I did the maps for this.

Even if you don't run a campaign using either game as the core rules, the fact they use the older editions as a foundation makes it easy to use the elements of both RPGs to represent various exotic lands on the fringes of your setting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Reprints

Joseph Bloch over on the Greyhawk Grognard has posted that Wizards are doing 2nd edition AD&D reprints.  Of greater interest to me are the hardcover releases of The Slaver series (A1-4) and the S series (S1-4). I will probably definitely get those.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Level of Details in the Setting

Over on Grognardia, James poises a question about how much detail to include in a setting product and states his preference for the format I used in Blackmarsh.


By far the most common format for settings is the travelogue similar to a Fodor travel guide. Fodors and other travel guide brands have been around for a while so it only logical that when the RPG Industry started publishing that they adapted the format. However while great to read, I feel the format is ill suited for RPGs. The travelogue format requires an extra level of work in order for its details to be used during a session.

Is there an alternative? Yes! It is the format pioneered separately by Judges Guild's Wilderlands and GDW's Traveller. You present a table of coded entries some terse written details keyed to a map. Both Wilderlands and Traveller use a numbered hex grid. The format doesn't eliminate all the work but does have the virtue of being more easily used during a session compared to the travelogue. It also allow to quickly see what in nearby locales making it easier to allow the characters to wander the landscape. This is the genesis of the format I used in Blackmarsh.

I want to insert a caveat here. When I talk about utility, I mean talking about writing a setting in such a way that is doesn't take any more work to use than an adventure of comparable page length. The format's utility doesn't mean all work is eliminated and especially doesn't mean that referees that like to create their own material will like it better.

The form I use today stems from the work I did for the Necromancer Games version of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. When the project getting off the ground there was a lot of debate on how to write the new version. Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games felt that the original coded tables were not sufficient, however other than that little headway was being made. I advocated taking the terse paragraphs of the original Ruins and Islands and applying it to all entries including lairs and villages. Finally I state down and wrote Rorystone Road to illustrate what I was talking about. Clark then refined my initial crude outline and the result was the format of the Wilderlands Boxed Set. The boxed set also demonstrates the power and utility of the format. An area equal to that of western Europe is covered in at a fine level of detail in only 400 pages. Imagine how big that would be if you wrote it like a Fodor's Travel Guide. Despite its volume it is still usable as is.

The problem with the Wilderlands Boxed Set is that it was a $70 product. A pretty big commitment for a product written in a uncommonly used format. So I resolved to find a way to publish something smaller that didn't cost so much. As it turned out I got the opportunity with Goodman Games and wrote Points of Light I and Points of Light II. I further refined the format in writing those two products. Thanks to Clark's work on the format of the boxed set I added a section detailing any named Geographical entries on the map. I also added a second section which varies depending on the map. In the second section I write about any unique chracteristics or groups. For example in Points of Lights I that section is details the various barbarians and humaniod tribes. Also in both Points of Lights, I play around with different times, and different themes. Because of the compact format, I am able to pack eight different settings in two books. All of which have immediate utility at the table.

Finally this leads up to Blackmarsh which is my most recent release using this format building on the legacy of Judges Guild and the authors of the Necromancer Games boxed set.

Currently the basic outline I use consists of

Introduction - explain any meta details
Background - written with brevity
Geographical Entries - named Geography sorted in alphabetical order
Special Entries - varies by map and my be omitted
Locales - keyed and sorted by location. May include a mini-map one column width wide.
Main Map
Detailed Locales - if desired for example Castle Blackmarsh in the Blackmarsh setting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Help get Fantasy Grounds on Steam

Steam has a feature called Greenlight where software vendors can get voted up to have their products place in the Steam Store. Fantasy Grounds is undergoing the process which you can view here. If you have a Steam Account and like Fantasy Grounds vote for them as having FG on Steam would greatly increase its exposure to thousands of other gamers who may wind up playing our quirky hobby.

Remember Virtual Tabletops, like Fantasy Grounds, are not MMORPGS, rather they use whiteboard and chat technology to allow people to play tabletop RPGs over the internet just like sitting around a table.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What up with GURPS?

As much of a fan of GURPS as I am, I do realize GURPS has a certain... well... reputation for complexity. And it is undeserved. That not to say that GURPS doesn't have a hurdle to overcome but complexity doesn't have to be one of them.

The heart of GURPS is found in the free GURPS Lite PDF. It 32 pages and every rule in there is used in a normal GURPS Campaign.  The devil for GURPS is in the details, literally. GURPS has a LOT of details. Coupled with that is the fact the GURPS core rulebook are a toolkit. Note if you want to get a taste of the Magic System look at the GURPS Lite 3rd Edition. And if you don't read English well, take your pick of the language of your choice.

To use GURPS you need to choose which options you are going to use to run your campaign. Most of the options are not particularly complex but SJ Games takes the Generic in GURPS very seriously and GURPS 4th edition is a system that literally can handle any type of genre. However the toolkit aspect doesn't appeal to everybody and therein is why GURPS has the reputation it does.


What SJ Games has done in recent years to mitigate this is through their e23 store offer PDFs that IMPLEMENT GURPS for various popular genres. The Dungeon Fantasy series implements GURPS for dungeon crawling. Monster Hunters allows you to play Buffy/Supernatural/Angel/Fringe style campaigns.There is a bunch of them.

If you want to learn to run a GURPS fantasy campaign having played D&D or another fantasy RPG I recommend the following

GURPS Lite 4th edition

The two GURPS Core Book

GURPS Magic 4th edition

Dungeon Fantasy 1,2, and 3.

If the toolkit nature of GURPS doesn't bother you then you can go

GURPS Lite 4th edition

The two GURPS Core Book

GURPS Magic 4th edition

GURPS Fantasy 4th edition

Beyond this you can pick up GURPS Banestorm not so much for its Yrth setting but for all the templates, creature, and character info.

The foremention Dungeon Fantasy Series

GURPS Thaumatology gives you more variant for Magic, some unique some building on GURPS Magic.

If you like detailed combat, then look no further than GURPS Martial Arts.

GURPS Low Tech has the low down on all the mundane stuff of the medieval world. The follow-on PDFs gets  into social and cultural details.

Not even you don't want to use GURPS, Low Tech is a great summary of pre-industrial technology.

Anyway I hope some of you get to try GURPS

Friday, September 21, 2012

Governments for Fantasy Realms


Here are several example from my Majestic Wilderlands that may inspire you for your own campaigns.

The Tharian Confederation
This started out as an alliance of clans of the Tharian Horselords. The clanheads, later their representives, came together as a senate to elect an Overlord to lead them in battle and adjudicate dispute between the clans. After the successful conquest of City-State and neighboring lands, they admitted some of the conquered territories as full members, their nobility allowed to sit on the senate and elect the Overlord.

In the century of its existance the Overlords have engaged in additional conquest, mostly at their own expense, that elevated the office from one of first among equals to a true ruler of the confederation. A bureaucracy has grown from what was the Overlord's household staff. Today the power of Overlord is only matched if all the member of the confederation unite. Also the whole of Tharian culture is fraying as the mores of customs of the horselords are not up to task to ruling many of the sophiscated cultures they conquered. Adoption of foreign cults and following charismatic leaders is the order of the day in the campaign's present.

The Viridstan Empire
The Viridistan Empire was founded by a race of humanoid demons who managed to escape the Abyss. There has been three Viridstan Empires. The Third Empire was founded when the number of Viridians were declining. They are noted for their perscuetion of all other religion subsituting the Imperial Cult which elevates the current Emperor to godhood. They believe greately in divide and conquer. The Empire is divided into provinces. Provinces are divided into districts. Each province and district has a Governor in charge of civil matters and a General in charge of military matters. Viridistan custom and law is very strict on the separation of military and civil authority. At the district level there are Magistrates and Sheriffs. There also a district Senate which makes local laws and control local taxation. The senators are appointed by the Emperor on advice of the Governors and Magistrates. There are several empire wide organization under the sponsorship and protection of the Emperor. The Imperial Cult is one of them as well as the College of Artificers (focused on making magic items).

The Ghinorians
The various Ghinorian successor states have the closest thing to traditional feudalism in my setting. The Ghinorians believe themselve to be the chosen people of Mitra, the Goddess of Honor and Justice. Their earliest governments were theocratic. While this no longer true of present day realms, The Church of Mitra is still highly important in Ghinorian culture. By tradition the highest Ghinorian title is the Prince. Their equivalent of King is reserved for the rulers of first state that managed to unite the Ghinor several thousand years ago. Since it fall, rulers of subsquent Ghinorian realms have decline to assume the title out of respect. During the Ghinorian Empire the head of state was known as the Imperial Prince and was considered the Prince of Princes.

Beneath the princes are dukes, counts, and barons. Like in Earth's history, Dukes and Counts were originally imperial offices that were transformed into higher noble offices after the collapse of the Ghinorian Empire. The titles of Prince and Baron were holdovers from the earliest days of Ghinorian cultures. The collapse of the Empire also caused the imperial economy to collaspe along with the widespread use of money. Land grants became the only means which the successor states could raise and maintain troops for their defense.

However despite the bleak economic times, serfdom never took hold. The Church of Mitra was firmly against anything that smelled of slavery or involuntary servitude. Instead sharecropping became the norm for feudal lords dealing with landless peasants. Manoralism did take hold as peasants needed to pool their mergre resources as well as the protection of the feudal lords. In the last two centuries before the campaign's present the money economy has re-estabilshed itself and many peasants have managed to purchase the strips of land they work. Also the various successor Princes are working to separate civil authority away from the feudal lords. This has led to violent clashes in some regions. Also the Ghinorians are divided over how catholic their faith in Mitra is. One side preaches that any who accepts Mitra as their god is a Ghinorian with all rights and oligations. The other side believes that only those who are born Ghinorians are the chosen of Mitra.

Elessarians
Like the Tharian Horselords the Elessarians are a clan based society. However while the Tharian clans are large groups of extended families, Elessarian clans are confined to immediate relatives. Elessarians have kings and nobles, however they serve mostly only as military officers. The source of Elessarian law are the Trehaens, a groups of scholars. Many Trehaens pursue the study of law and act as judges and mediators in disputes between clans and individuals. If need be they can issue a writ to the local nobles calling on them to enforce a judgment. Decisions o a individual Trehaen can be appeal to a regional circle. From there a final appeal can be made to the King's Circle of Trehaens. The king is an adminstrator and the supreme military commander. He has a lot of respect but little power except in times of war or emergencies. Elessarian culture is highly influenced by the Elves, and out of all the various Wilderlands cultures they are the most apt to cooperate and interact with the traditional demi-human races (elves, dwaves, halflings, etc).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What the OSR ought be doing.

Tenkar has a post about definitions which go me thinking about my feeling on the matter.

In general I like to focus on describing what going on and develop terms to describe what I see. For example when I look at folks who say they are part of the OSR the only common element I see is that they play an older edition of D&D and don't think it broken or outdated. Everything depends on where you are looking. Which is why I say the OSR is comprised of fans of older editions of D&D.

But some folks launch into a debate with me and say "Well, what about Traveller, Tunnels and Trolls, etc, etc. They are old school too." To which I say yes they are old school, but the OSR is foremost about playing older editions of D&D . However depending on who you talk too. You will find interest in all those games and more. The fact that the group of gamers who like playing and publishing for older edition D&D got labeled as the Old School Renaissance is one of those accidents of history.


This is not to say I don't have an opinion on what ought to be going on. I say that in the upper right corner of this blog. What ought be going on with the OSR, especially on the publishing end,  is that people should try to look at their favorite older game and say to themselves 
 What can I do different with the game that was not tried back in the day because of circumstances or the interest of folks back then.
  If are you not doing this don't sweat it. Because first and foremost the ultimate goal of what we are doing is taking these dusty old games off of the shelves and start playing them again to the enjoyment of a new generation.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Exploring Medieval Birmingham


Here is a pair of articles showing a detailed model of medieval Birmingham

Article 1
Article 2


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From the Attic: Where are all the humans in Greyhawk?

Over on Hill Cantons,








Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So now that the Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter is done.

In celebration of the recently concluded Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter here is a potporri of Bat in the Attic material you can use.

Majestic Wilderlands which is a rules supplement for Swords & Wizardry. The Book is $12 and the PDF $7

Blackmarsh a setting which works pretty much with any Older Edition and the PDF is free so you get going right away for your campaigns if you don't have something already. The book is $7 the PDF is free to download and to reuse for your own projects.

I have a free downloads of the following
A PDF of my How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox posts on Bat In the Attic

Fantasy Demographics

Plus a PDF on creating magic items that from another S&W project I am working on The Lost Book of Magic

And very rough draft well more my notes  of a 2nd to 4th level adventure called The Elf Lord's Temple

So that should be enough to get folks started on their Swords & Wizardry campaigns.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Running a Long Term Campaign in Fantasy Earth

On Google Plus, Evan Elkins asks
+Anthony Pastores once commented that one of the things that makes homebrew settings better than pre-made ones is a sense that PC action has permanent effects on the setting.  If you make your PC king of +Uz in my game, and I run that setting for a different group either your PC one of his descendants is likely to be the king.

But what about Fantasy Earth?  Two DMs will probably make two totally different Earth's.  For example: if I ran the Roman game I described earlier, it wouldn't look very much like +Zzarchov Kowolski's version of Earth.  But can you achieve that sense of permanence?

If I later use the setting again for new people, wouldn't I have to move time forward to accommodate them?  Won't I eventually bump into a period that isn't the one that interested me in the first place if I did that?

So how do those of you who are running/have run/are planning to run fantasy Earth games handling this stuff?

I been running the Majestic Wilderlands for nearly 30 years since the campaign has progressed from the year 4433 BCCC to  4460 BCCC, 27 years of game time. In general I start the next campaign about two years further in the future from the previous campaign. From what I understand other long term multi-years home campaign settings have a similar slow rate of in-game time versus out-of-game time.

The implication for a Fantasy Earth campaign is that, this is probably something you don't to worry about as even if you play for a couple of decades you are not going to rack up that much in-game time.  Evans mentions a Roman game, he could easily set it during the period of the Five Good Emperors and I would doubt he would would get out of the time period if he started with Nerva in a couple of decades.

However with players who are willing to attempt anything, changes can and do happen. In which case is to treat subsequent history as an alternate history. The nice thing about using an earth based setting is that you have a bunch of ready made "grand plots" in the wings. For example while the period of the Five Good Emperors was the Roman Empire at it's height, the Romans never really solved the succession problem. Leaving the Principate open to anybody with the charisma or wealth to control the legions. All it took for the era to come to an end was for Marcus Aurelius to appoint his son Commodus as his successor instead of finding a truly worthy successor as his immediate predecessors did.

An underlying grand theme of a Roman campaign could easily be about resolving this issue. Successive campaign build up to determine whether the Era of Good Emperors continues or devolves into the warring general that ignited the Crisis of the Third Century. Just about any period of history could be cast with a grand theme based on foreknowledge of subsequent events.

 Note I am not talking about a multi-generational campaign like the Great Pendragon Campaign. That type of campaign deliberately invokes the sweep of history and the characters take multi-year leaps at various time. The players playing the sons and daughters of the original characters. The campaign I refering is the one where the referee simply stick to the same setting when runing a fantasy game. It can cross multiple themes and groups.



Friday, August 31, 2012

Help is needed with vintage products

Since I started blogging, I had the pleasure of corresponding with various people involved in the early days of the hobby. While I am not at liberty to disclose many of my conversations, something came up that my readers can help with.

One of the people I correspond with owns the rights to several older products and would like to know what the best course is for getting them scanned and the text OCRed, so they can be released again as PDFs.

Appreciate anything you folks can come up with.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Devin Night's Monster Token, 36 hours left

Just giving the heads up that there is 36 hours left on Devin's Night Monster Token kickstarter project. He almost to the $10,000 stretch goal so if you use a Virtual Table Top, head on over and pledge so we get a lot of monsters drawn.

Demon Wolf Progress Report

Finished the layout of the main text of Scourge of the Demon Wolf last night.  Almost didn't happen as Microsoft Publisher choked on creating the PDF. Fixed it by switching the default printer to the the Microsoft XPS Driver. What left in layout is the front inside cover with the credits, the table of contents, and the OGL License. Plus I am waiting for a handful of art pieces for the supplement half of the book.

Afterwards I will  get it uploaded and order some proof copies from Lulu and RPGNow. I am shooting for a release in the 2nd or 3rd week of September and hopefully will have a preview PDF up before then.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

From the Attic: Fantasy Hero 1st Edition

Prior to 1985, I played several other RPGs than AD&D 1st, Traveller, Call of Cthulu, Gamma World, as well as having familiarity with other systems like Runequest 2nd Edition.

But my break with AD&D didn't come until my second year of college with the release of Fantasy Hero in the fall of 1985. My first year of college saw two campaigns of AD&D, one of which was a Dragonlance campaign that turned me off from trying to run an Adventure Path for several decades. I also ran a third AD&D campaign back home during college break).

During that first year I tried Champions for the first time. The game was a revelation. A relatively simple design, from my point of view anyway, allowed for a infinite combination of traits that simulated well just about anything. It appeal to my wargame sensibility by making it clear what effect the combination had in the game.

While I like superheroes, I still own much of my original tattered collection of comic books, I liked the fantasy genre more. So when I heard of the imminent release of Fantasy Hero, I put in a special order at my FLGS in Indiana and eagerly awaited its arrival. And when it came I was not disappointed.

Character Creation
Like all Hero System game, Fantasy Hero is point based. The Hero system defines several base and derived attributes. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Body, Intelligence, Ego, Presence, Comeliness are the base attributes.  Physical Defense, Energy Defense, Speed, Recovery, Endurance, and Stun are the derived attributes. Points could be spent on both base and derived characteristics. Since Fantasy Hero focused on normal individuals there was a maximum for each characteristic beyond which the cost per point was doubled.

Beyond that you can buy skills which are based a formula of 9+(Attribute/5). You bought the base for a certain amount (3 pts for Climbing), and get +1 per an additional small amount (Climbing was 2 pts per +1). Some skills, like Weapon Familiarity were a fixed amount (3 per weapon type).

You could take Disadvantages. Disadvantages reflected the physical, mental, or social background of the character. As they limit the character in someway they granted points that reduced the total character cost. Perks and other positive traits wouldn't debut for the Hero System until later editions. Also some of the disadvantages actually granted benefits like a Friend and Reputation. They are counted as disadvantage because they are a source of complications for the character.

Fantasy Hero characters typically start with 75 points.


Magic 
This section is what sets Fantasy Hero apart from other RPGs of the time. It adapts the design of the Champions power system into a system for creating magic spells. It is literally a do it yourself magic system. For example a character could buy the ability to cast a 5d6 blast for 50 points. Without any advantages or limitation it is a energy blast defined for roleplaying purpose as a stream of fire. The base effect requires an attack roll, has a range of 250 hexes with -1 per 3 hex range modifier and takes 5 Endurance to cast.

If I wanted a spell similar to traditional D&D style fireball I could make as follows

Blast 5d6 50pts

Base Cost 50 pts

Advantages
Explosion x1/2

Active Cost 75 pts

Limitations
Incantations +1/2
Gestures +1/2
Concentratre  +1

Real Cost 15 pts

Explosive Fireball (5d6) Range Mod -1/3", Max Range 250", Obvious Gestures and Incantation, Concentrate while casting (0 DCV), 15 End*

*FH characters can easily start between 30 to 50 Endurance.

Some of the other effects are Clairaudience, Cloak, Create, Dazzle, Haste, Heal, Silence, Telepathy.

The system is not only used for spells but for magical abilities as well. 

Magic Items can be created but the character making them has to permanently spend character points in order to make them. For example a healing salve (3d6) cost 9 points to make. The difference between a spell and a magic item is that magic items have the Independence limitation a +1 bonus.



Combat
Combat works by subtracting the target's Defensive Combat Value from the the attacker's Offensive Combat Value adding the result to 9. For example Roghan with an OCV of 9 swing his sword at Venger with a DCV 10. 9-10 is -1 add 9 which means Roghan need a 8 or less to hit.

If the attacker hits he rolls damage and either physical defense or energy defense is subtracted from the result. Like other Hero System games there are two different ways of dealing damage. Killing attacks and Normal Attacks. The damage rolled for Normal Attacks is applied to Stun. For each 6 rolled you do 2 body, for 5,4,3, and 2 you do 1 body, and for each 1 no body is detail. Defense and armor subtract separately from Body and Stun damage. For Killing Attacks the number rolled is the amount of BODY damage. You roll 1d6-1 and multiply that by the body damage to find the amount of STUN damage.

Each combat round is 12 seconds divided into 12 one second segments. Each character has a Speed Characteristic, typically between 3 and 5. That determines how many times within each combat round the character acts. These are called phases.  There is a speed chart showing which segment the different speeds move on. During each phase each character picks a action which can include combat maneuvers. For example a character can do a Half Move and attack with a Sword.

The combat maneuvers grant different effects and bonuses and generally take a 1/2 phase to use. So a character can do a half-move and execute a maneuver. Or do two maneuvers like Attack and then Dodge. The attack allows the chance to hit with a weapon (or spell) and the Dodge grants +3 to DCV until the character's next Phase. If two characters act in the same segment they go in the order of Dexterity. If the Dexterity is the same then they act simultaneously.

The system is straight forward once you learn it. I pretty much type the above from memory. Like all Hero System games, the character sheet for Fantasy Hero includes mini cheat sheets that give all the details in a compact form while leaving room for notes and character details.




Presence Attacks
A holdover from Campaign Fantasy Hero allows the character to execute a presence attack. In short they can "stun" an enemy by their sheer awesomeness.  At a minimum a successful presence attack will allow the character to act first in a phase, the maximum result is that the target is cowed and will either run away, quail in fear at a DCV 0, or fall to his knees ready to obey the character's commands.

Modifiers to the base Presence attack add or subtract additional d6s.


Experience
Experience is given out in characters points which may be spent on characteristics, spells, or skills. Experience is granted at the end of the adventure which a typical award being three.


Campaigning
Typical DM Advice of the era with a lot of emphasis on creating plot and roleplaying.

Sourcebook
 Equipment, sample Magic Items, Monsters (many fully stated), and Spells used for evil opponents. Point Packages that allow characters to spend points to be one of the traditional fantasy race; Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings are covered. Races also get different maximums for their characteristics. Like GURPS it costs points to be a different race thus most campaign tend to be dominated by humans.

Note each of the Magic Items come with the spell that can be bought to create the item.

Demon Fang
This rust-red dagger was forged by Alcamtar the Cleaver early in his career to protect himself., should his magics fail.

1 1/2D6 Killing Blast linked to +2 Accuracy vs Enchanted Beasts End 2 Cost 21
Note in the book they give the full breakdown so you can see how it is created by the Magic rules.

Package Deals bundles skills and abilities to allow players quickly make a stereotypically fantasy archetype. Vikings, being a follower of an organization, Warrior, Rogue, Priest, Mage are all covered.

Next is a list of sample spells.

Mystic Focus
Floating green runs before the caster. 
Accuracy (+2 OCV) END 4 Cost 5

Like magic items the books has a full write up so you can see how each spell is built with the magic rules.

Conversions
Gives rules for converting from Runequest, and Middle Earth Roleplaying, 

Finally winds up with is own version of Appendix N of fiction. Newer fiction include Stephen Brust Jhereg series which was very popular in the 80s.

Adventures
Adventures include the Flaming Falcon Inn, The Hunt, and the detailed The Affair of Wizards,

Conclusion
Fantasy Hero made an immediate and favorable impression on myself and my group. It quickly became our main fantasy system for three years (86 to 89) and several Majestic Wilderlands campaign were run using it including one memorable one.

However the design still had too much of its Champion's heritage  which meant that a character could be picked up in a bar fighter, thrown through a wooden wall AND a brick wall, and still survive. The freeform spells system could be abused by character turning themselves into a johnny one-spell where they learn one extremely effective spell. In my case the character developed a short range, 1- hex, teleport spell that had the area advantage that only could teleport living matter, no armor or weapon. He cast the spell on his opponents and they would be stripped off all armor and gear.

These issues were fixed for the 4th edition of Fantasy Hero but by then GURPS had became our fantasy system of choice.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hours left on Reaper Minatures Kickstarter

Best value on Miniatures ever. Check out their Kickstarter.  Get it up to 2,800,000 so 10,000+ people have their hands on Swords & Wizardry.

The downside is that the best value is at $100 Vampire level and you won't be getting the miniatures until March of next year. 

Get some buddies together to pool a $100 and then hold a draft of the miniatures. But you have until tomorrow 6pm Eastern to do it.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ebooks Recommendations

Baen Books ebook store has always been a good and hassle free place to pick up ebooks for my Kindle and iPad.

They have the complete collection of Lieber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouster series for $6 each or $35 for the whole set.

Also they have the original Paksenarrion books by Elisabeth Moon. One of the best novels about a D&Dish world to date. The author thinks about the underlying reasons for why things are in her world and relates to the characters personal lives. It makes a for a great read.

You can read the first book Sheepfarmer's Daughter for free. Note that she is currently writing a sequel series to the original Paksenarrion books. Interestingly they are not about Paksenarrion but rather about the impact her action had on the people around her.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wondering about settings

At Gencon Wizards announced that Forgotten Realms will be the focus of D&D Next. That and a post by Random Wizard got me thinking about selling setting products.

In the upper right corner of my blog you will see this


To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It is about going back to the roots of our hobby and seeing what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.


I have to wonder if Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms approach to setting supplements is the way to go. Why not release a series of more limited setting designed to dovetail into existing D&D campaigns? Give them a loose background that ties them into the Forgotten Realms/Greyhawk/Dragonlance/etc but your meat and potatoes products are the mini-settings of 200 miles by 100 miles.

Yes I know I am tooting my own horn here considering my work on Blackmarsh, Wild North, and both Points of Lights. But think about it, even for Forgotten Realms, Harn, Glorantha, Tekemul, and other setting with a long publishing history the amount of written details barely fill what one could write about a real country like France, China, or Mexico. The settings I mentioned have a ENTIRE WORLD of possibilities unexplored and unwritten about. This especially true of kitchen sink settings like the Forgotten Realms. Moreso you are not limited in time as well. You can make mini-settings set in the past as well to take advantage of interesting circumstances.

The tie-in novels can continue the way they do now.  Organize play material is not changed. The only thing that changes is that for your RPG audience you sell them Blackmarsh size or Nentil's Vale size chunks of the setting. If you need to explain the background of the setting you get your novel division to release the Gazeeteer of the Forgotten Realms just like Martin is releasing an Westeros Atlas. Or Kurtz released the Deryni Encyclopedia. If you want to adapt your generic genre RPG to the published setting then release a Majestic Wilderlands style supplement that focuses on that task with a short overview of the background. The idea here is to make the RPG product line modular to better serve how referees actually run their campaigns.

I want to close with that detailed settings like Glorantha, Harn, Tekemul are not bad. If an author has a specific vision and executes it well the result can make for a memorable RPG experience. But if you want as broad an audience as possible then a different approach is called for.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another worthy Kickstarter

Virtual Table Tops are becoming an important part of our hobby. One of the nice things about them is the ability to use tokens as miniatures.  Devin Night is a master of drawing top down miniatures and has released several sets for free. Now he has started a kickstarter to draw nearly all the monsters in the d20 SRD. For anybody who is a fan of VTTs I recommend contributing so we can see some of more of Devin's excellent tokens.


Monday, August 13, 2012

GURPS Majestic Wilderlands: Campaign Update #1

We completed three sessions of the campaign with the fourth session set for tonight.


The characters are
  • Delvin, an impoverished dwarf from Thunderhold.
  • Aeron, an ordinary common man with special skills.
  • Cei Kerac, a hedge knight who lost everything but his horse and makes his living as a sell sword to regain his fortune.
  • Durgo, a warrior banished from his forest home for doing the right thing accompanied only by his faithful dog Red. 
  • Kermit, a puppeteer that uses magic to enhance his performance but his half-Viridian (half-demon) heritage has left him physically scarred
  • Henry Kiefer, a hedge knight who arrived from the north after after some unpleasant business with his deceased father's liege.
The game is based around the town and keep of Abberset on the southern frontier of the Principality of Nomar.  Abberset is part of the domain of the Count Salian Crompton of Shodan. Count Salian is concerned over the rising power of Duke Divolic of City-State who conquered the Halkemenan city-states to the south of Nomar.

At first the Ghinorians of Nomar, devout followers of Mitra, the Goddess of Honor and Jusice, felt the Halkemenans had it coming to them as they were notorious for being death cultists of Hamakhis, God of the Death. But Divolic being a Myrmidon of Set is no friend of the Ghinorians and Mitra. And now many nobles are worried he beginning to view Nomar as his next conquest. Count Salian more than most.

He has hired a number of mercenary companies including the Red Hawks under Captain Jonas Hawkwood. The campaign started with the characters' first day with the Red Hawks.

Most of the first sessions was spent exploring Abberset and learning about the Red Hawks. I am trying to play it like a medieval mercenary company which means discipline is pretty loose in some area and very harsh in others. Captain Hawkwood informed the players that there are only a few simple rules they need to follow.

Be easily available for duty or let your commander know where you are going to be.
Don’t brawl with your companions in the company.
Don’t do anything to get the locals angry at the company.
Stand with your companions in battle.
Share all loot with the company
.

They also met their sergeant and his corporal;   Sergeant Raedric and Corporal Octa. They also met Corporal Tunfa, a very rotund man who promised the two hedge knights that he was "A man who can get anything they desired". 

The party spent a game day exploring Abberset, they met Elder Drogon and his acolyte Ned. The party cleaned him out of bless amulets. In GURPS amulets cast with a level 1 bless are very inexpensive (25d or $100) and confer a +1 bonus on all rolls. If something "bad" happened, like a crippled limb", the amulet will nullify the results (convert it to normal damage) and the magic will dissipate. Interestedly Durgo bought a bless amulet for his dog Red and attached it to his dog's collar.

The next game day the party got their first assignment, to check out a quarry to the west and see why a supply wagon hasn't returned yet.  A half day's journey away they crossed Vikram Stream on the ferry and headed up the trail. About an hour out from the quarry they spotted a naked man wandering around.  It turned out he was a miner and half-crazed from something that happened at the quarry.  Delvin the Dwarf took him out in one shot with the flat of his axe blade and tied him onto the mule.

When the party arrived at the quarry they found all the miners dead, half torn apart by wild animals. At first they thought the creature was in the Miner's Lodge but it turned out to be just a wild bear. Cei took out with a shot from his Knight Killer crossbow. 

Drogo tried following the track but they disappeared into the stream. However when searching the banks he found some other tracks of a man on horseback along with several men on foot. Careful examination of the horseshoe prints found that they were probably made in City-State.


Session Two 
This began with the party following the tracks. Meanwhile Henry Kiefer arrived in Abberset and signed up with the Red Hawks. He was told to head to the quarry and join up with the group. Meanwhile the rest of the party stumbled across several men in the middle of the forest who were hanged. Looking over their gear the group found that they were poorly equipped warriors from Halkemenan. Aeron points out they were likely outlaws rebelling against Duke Divolic. Shortly before leaving, Henry Kiefer manages to catch up to the party.

Durgo looks at the tracks again and determines that they camped here for a while before continuing, likely the party will be able to catch up to them before dark. After riding for a few more hours the party found the group camping near a ruined barn. It appeared to a Knight of Set and men from City-State.  Cei tried to parley but Henry Keifer was having none of and plugged the knight with a bolt from a knight-killer crossbow. The knight fell and the fight was on.  The party won and the surviving City-State warriors were their prisoners. They also found two Halkmenan Outlaws tied up apparently prisoners of the Knight of Set. So they set camp for the night.

Then in the middle of the night the party was attacked by four wild dogs. However these dogs were able to phase in an out and had a deadly breath of code. (see Barghest from GURPS Natural Encyclopedia). The players got lucky were able to take out two at once, the third one was dispatched within a few rounds, and the fourth one killed several of the prisoners before being killed. From the Halkmenan Rebels they found out that these were Hounds of Hamakhis sent by the death god to wreck vengeance for some great wrong.
 Session Two Ends.

You can download the Roster of Session 2. It has combat stat block for the Barghest as well as the stats for the Black Bear, and the Knight of Set warband. One reason the party won the fight with the warband so easily despite being 75 point characters was the fact Henry Keifer was on horseback. Without an opposing knight on horseback he dominated the fight.

Durgo and Aeron being hidden and launching surprise attacks helped a lot. Cei took a bad hit from a spear but was able to recover and take out the remaining men-at-arms, cutting one of their arms off. Unfortunately Kermit started too far out and by the time he was able to close in with his spells the fight was mostly over.

Session Three
This session didn't have a lot of fighting and was a bit confusing for the players as they had to sort out the deal with the  House of Hamakhis, the Halkemenan Rebels, and the Knight of Set's warband. After a debate the party decided to head back to Abberset.

Durgo, Cei, and Henry practiced their lance skills by tilting at rings. They really sucked due to the size modifier of the ring and the speed of the mount until they figured there is no reason why they can do a all-attack get a +4 to hit bonus. Then they only kind of sucked. Afterwards they went to the Laughing Fox and had dinner and drink. During the dinner Cei's chair broke underneath him.

I rolled, Step and trip over a pothole, for a random encounter. So since they were in the tavern I rolled to see which character had a chair break underneath them.

Captain Hawkwood summoned Aeron to a meeting with Elder Drogon and the Bailiff of Abberset, Sir William. Then Aeron went and talked to his contacts about the situation with the Halkmenan Rebels and anything about Hamakhis he could find.

Kermit when to the temple to see Elder Drogon, Bumped into a really drunk villager along the way. The villager saw Kermit check himself to see if anything was stolen and started following him shouting "I didn't steal anything of yours. Please don't turn me in. I didn't steal anything. Kermit handled the situation pretty well except for an unfortunate choices of words with Acolyte Ned that left the boy with the impression that he was going to enchant the drunk villager to leave him alone.

The session ended with the party interrogating both the City-State prisoners and the rebel prisoners. Cei was adamant that they should kill the rebels as trespassers on the baron's lands. While Aeron was pointing out that they were fighting against Divolic who is no friend of Nomar.  The party wasn't sure what to make of the Hounds of Hamakhis. Half believe that the rebel summoned them and let them loose to attack anybody and anything. Half believed that Divolic men did something to cause them to be set loose.

The session ended with the party being ordered back out to the quarry to deal with the Hounds so the site can be reoccupied.

The group asked for a map and a write up of what the prisoners said so they can keep track of what going on. So I drew up the following map. I chose a hand drawn style to make it more of in-game map.

And I made this handout for the group.