Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Location that inspired me

I lived in my hometown my whole life and occasionally get to see some off beat location decades after I visited them as a kid. During high school I would walk two miles to play DnD at a friend house. To get there I had to cross one of the older (and largest) cemetery in my town. Just beyond its border was a ravine that I had to follow a path down and up before I reached the road my friends' house was on the other side of the woods.

The place where I crossed the stream in the ravine never ceased to amaze and inspire me especially in mid afternoon when the sun is hitting the area at the right angle. To me it looked something out of Middle Earth and got me pumped up to play ADnD.

A few days ago my family wanted to get out of the house and take a walk. I suggested the area as the last time I visited it was a decade ago when my kids were younger. The walk was great except at the end where we a turn and the trail turned rough when it dipped into a tributary of the main stream. We had to work our way down into the main ravine and it turned the hike into a bit of an adventure.

But I took some photos and hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19, the Wilderlands and Printed Poster Maps

I just got a notice from Onebookshelf that their card/poster printing facility was shut down as part of their state's efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. All card and poster options are set to private.

Accordingly any purchase of any Bat in the Attic Wilderlands Map PDFs product made on or after March 21st (this covers a handful of existing purchases) will be matched with a discount coupon to buy the print copy at cost plus $1 (so it shows as a sale).

The only issue is that I won't be issuing the coupons until after Onebookshelf starting printing cards and posters again. This is because these coupons work on private projects. However OBS makes it easy to identify (by customer #) who purchase products and to issue a discount coupon.

The print copies of the guidebooks still can be purchased.

The at-cost prices
Wilderlands of High Fantasy $4.80
Fantastic Wilderlands Beyonde $4.80
Wilderlands of the Magic Realm $3.84
Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches $3.84
Bundle: $17.28

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wilderlands of High Fantasy reduced in price!

Given the what happened recently with Judges Guild I have not been promoting my products even though I still offer them for sale. Still I have been getting a steady stream of sales and I thank everybody who purchased one of my products.

With problems caused by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) many companies been offering various products for free or at reduced price. Most of these have been foundation products like Green Ronin's Fantasy Age Basic Rules.

DriveThruRPG link for Fantasy Age.

I am offering the PDFs of first set of maps for Wilderlands of High Fantasy for half off and reducing the price of the print version by $5. Remember the PDF of the guidebook comes with the maps so you only need to buy the guidebook for $5.99 if you want a print copy.

Rob's Note: Offering a combo map/book product was also an experiment. You can't bundle them due to the fact that OneBookshelf has two different printing services for posters/cards versus book. I thought I would make the map the primary product and the guidebook the add-on.

In hindsight this would have been better if the guidebook was the primary product with all the PDF including those of the map. And the poster product was the add-on. The PDF option for the poster would be free and be a promotional brochure. I will talk more about this when I release the Wild North.

As for the Wild North, I am in the midst of drawing up the towns. There are five important towns in the setting. The major difference is that Russian houses are built on lots and have fenced in yards. So it is more open then a traditional medieval city. Of course at the center is the kremlin or citadel. Most of town at this point in the history of the Wild North only have wooden kremlin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The hard facts of Covid 19 (Coronavirus)

I hope everybody is keeping safe. As I am not involved in the medical profession or politics there is little I can do other than follow the guideline that have been outlined by various health departments and help my family to do the same.

However the situation is confusing to many so last night I thought to put some of what I learned  about writing toward outlining the threat that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) represents.

Hope this helps everybody understand what we are facing.

  • In a normal flu season for every individual infected 1.3 additional people get infected. Of the people who got infected less than .1% died thus giving 35,000 to 40,000 annual death in the United States due to the flu.
  • The H1N1 virus circa 2009 was around 1.5 people infected for every person who came down with the virus. Fatality rate was three time higher at around .3%
  • In contrast for Covid-19, for every person infected 2.2 (Jan 2020) to 2.7 (Feb 2020) additional people will get infected. Of those people who get the disease 3.5% will die.
  • Different age bracket respond differently with those 70+ have been suffering a 16% fatality rate due to Covid-19
  • Covid-19 numbers slightly more deadlier than to that of the 1919 Influenza virus which has an infection rate of 1.8 and a fatality rate of 2% to 3% The 1919 influenza 'Spanish Flu' had a 4% to 20% death rate. Misread the table comparing past influenza outbreak.

This based on data using standard epidemiology procedures in place for decades.

Furthermore these are fatalities, an order of magnitude (10x) more cases do not result in death but do require medical intervention and hospitalization.

In the case of the flu the annual flu shot means that actual number are far less than just multiplying the fatality rate by the population.

For my small rural town which has a population of 30,000 (city and the two surrounding townships) this means the following

  • During a normal flu season (Nov to April) we can expect around 30 flu related death. The actual number will be less because of the flu shot. We can also expect 300 cases requiring hospitalization spread across those months. The actual numbers will also be less because of the flu shot.
  • With Covid-19 which has no vaccine at this point, my town can expect 900 deaths probably spread across three months. More seriously we can expect 9,000 severe case requiring medical intervention like hospitalization.
  • This compounded by that fact that in the case of the annual flu the onset of the disease is 1 to 4 days. For covid-19 the onset period is 3 to 14 days. A person can pass on the infection during the onset period for both.
  • Moreover the fact without further measures to help the medical system handling Covid-19 cases this means all the other things like those having complication from the annual flu, trauma, infections, seizures, cancer, etc will have problem getting proper treatment thus driving up their death rate.

My town can't handle that. Nobody can handle that which is why we saw in Wuhan emergency hospitals being erected overnight.

What we can do is slow down the spread so these 9,000 cases and 900 death are spread across a longer span of time. So that those cases and the other cases get needed medical attention. And just maybe a vaccine will be developed or enough of a quarantine is place so that the cases start declining.

Be safe and I hope the above helps you make an informed decision about what you and your family needs to do.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Frodo Lives!

Some welcome news today, the publishers of Tales from the Loop signed an agreement with Sophisticated Game the license holder for both The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth. The agreement will take effect this summer at which point the Free League will announce their product release schedule.

My bet is that the first item on the schedule will be the The One Ring 2nd edition that was previously announced by Cubicle 7. Then maybe the Rohan Region Guide which made it to PDF but not print.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Demi-Humans in B/X and OSE just got a little more scarier.

So Tim of Gothridge Manor pointed out some details on the Light spells. Including this tidbit found in Old School Essentials
Reverse: Darkness, creates a 15' radius of magical blackness. It prevents normal sight, but not infravision. It can be used to blind creatures or to dispel a light spell. . 
I went to the copies of B/X I bought and sure enough it is the same.

In OSE and BX both Dwarves and Elves have infravision. This means that Dwarven allies or Elves themselves can cast a Darkness spell. This results in the Dwarf or Elf being able to attack normally if they are inside the darkness spells but everybody is attacking them as if they have been blinded. In DnD B/X blinded creatures can't attack.

I will just let that one sink in.

For reference here is ODnD take on darkness found in the Greyhawk Supplement

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Of Spell Memorization and Phantasmal Forces

Spell memorization seems straight forward for classic editions. You have a magic user or cleric who have some spells slots and then you pick some spells. However I discovered while writing material or running campaign that have a lot of NPCs magic users it gets rather tedious even picking spells for lower level magic users. Along with falling into a rut and picking the same spells over and over again.

Three years ago I figured that it would be good to come up with a way to randomize this for Swords and Wizardry.

I coded up the tables using NBos' Inspiration Pad Pro and tweaked the results until they look about right. After that I had everything I need to write up Random Memorized Spell Generation for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. Note that the I used the spell lists out of Swords and Wizardry Core edition.

In the 2017 post I talked mostly about the difference between random tables and random assortments. However I didn't get into how I weighted the tables.

It been my experienced that with all else being equal some spells are just more useful than others. That they are useful in more situation than other spells. So rather than assigning an equal chance to all the spells being memorized, I weighted the result based on my experience roleplaying and refereeing  magic users.

For example 2nd level spells for Magic Users

Common Level 2
1     Darkness, 15' Radius
2-3   Detect Evil
4     Detect Invisibility
5-6   Detect Thoughts
7     Invisibility
8     Knock
9     Levitate
10    Locate Object
11-12 Mirror Image
13    Phantasmal Force
14    Strength
15-18 Web
19    Wizard Lock
20    Uncommon Level 2

Uncommon Level 2
1-15  Continual Light
16-20 Pyrotechnics

Adjudicating the usefulness of spells
The first thing about the 2nd level spell list for magic users is that there is no single goto spells. For first level Charm Person, Magic Missile, and Sleep are very common. For 3rd level you have the ver popular Fireball or Lightning Bolt.

For 2nd level spells the most common I have taken as a magic user for my 2nd level spell slot is web. It effectively immobilize your enemy within in its area of effect and also serves as a barrier. However Detect Evil, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Images also all seen frequent use. The least commonly used spells in my experience are Continual Light and Pyrotechnic. The rest of the spells all have their uses in various situation.

So I am going to weight the odds of memorizing second spells like this.

1st Tier

2nd Tier
Detect Evil, Detect Thought, Mirror Image

3rd Tier
Darkness, Detect Invisibility, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Phantasmal Force, Strength, and Wizard Lock

4th Tier
Continual Light and Pyrotechnics.

The tough call is Invisibility, arguably it probably a 2 1/2 Tier spell. I wanted to use a d20 roll as the randomizer and keep the sub tables to a minimum. So I decided that Mirror Image had enough of an edge over Invisibility to warrant a 10% change as opposed to a 5% chance. The main reason is that Invisibility drops if you attack and Mirror Image lasts for the duration of the spell and potentially prevent crippling damage.

Feel free to rework the tables if your judgement call on various spells differ from mine.

Phantasmal Force
Another spell I will be re-evaluating is Phantasmal Force. I don't have the link but on one of the old school forums somebody did an analysis of the history of the spell.

If you look in Chainmail 2nd edition, the one that predates the release of Dungeons and Dragons on page 28 to 29 you have.

Phantasmal Force (Chainmail 2nd Edition)The creation of the apparition of a unit or creature for four turns, maxi-duration.

In Original Dungeons and Dragons you have

Phantasmal Forces (ODnD)The creation of vivid illusions of nearly anything the user envisions (a projected mental image so to speak). As long as the caster concentrates on the spell, the illusion will continue unless touched by some living creature, so there is no limit on duration, per se. Damage caused to viewers of a Phantasmal Force will be real if the illusion is believed to be real. Range: 24”.

Here it is a more general purpose illusion spells but still echoes it use in Chainmail. Swords and Wizardry adapts the above but added an limitation that the illusion can only be used to deal up to 2d6 damage. 

So I decided to alter the spell in the Majestic Fantasy RPG to the following. To keep it utility as an illusion spells but also to call back to its original use in Chainmail.

Phantasmal Force
 (Magic-User, 2nd Level)
Range: 240 feet; 
Duration: Until concentration ends; 
MI: Yes; Art: Web;
The caster creates a realistic looking illusion of a creature, object, or effect. When the illusion is touched or attacked, the character makes a saving throw. If the save is made, the character realize it is an illusion and the illusion is dispelled. If the save is failed, the character believes the illusion is real. 

Phantasmal Force can also be used to create a creature or effect that is capable of inflicting damage. Anything that is capable of dealing 12 points of damage or less can be created as an illusion with this spell. For example a wolf or a flaming pool of oil (does 1d6 per round). 

When a target is attacked they get a saving throw vs spells to see if the target know it is an illusion. Success means the illusion is dispelled, failure means the target believes the illusion to be real. Combat is then resolved using the normal stats of the creature. 

Focused Art: The illusion is more effective. Creatures or characters that can deal up to 18 points damage can now be created by this spell.

The changes make Phantasmal Force more like a Summon Monster spells except those interacting with or are attacked by the spell get a saving throw.

I think this removes a lot of the grey area for how Phantasmal Force is used in combat and increases the utility of the spells compared to its original wording.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Thoughts on Detect Evil

Tim at Gothridge Manor looks at the Detect Evil spells in Old School Essentials.

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 120'
Objects enchanted for evil purposes or living beings with evil intentions are caused to magically glow.
-Intent only: it does not grant the caster the ability to read minds
-Referee must decide what is 'evil'.

Here is the original found on Page 24 of Men and Magic in ODnD

Detect Evil: A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil. 
Duration:2 turns. Range: 6”.

I am also familiar with Sense Foes from GURPS Magic that Tim refers too.

My own take emphasize the danger sense aspect of the spells. While it is something I prefer it is also in part necessitated by the fact I haven't used alignment in decades and still don't. 

I have two added wrinkles that in the case of magic it also senses when somebody been affected by magic against their will. For example a character under influence of a Charm Person spell. This type of magic is considered a hostile enchantment. It also detect demons and anything demonic. In my campaigns demons represents absolute evil in a spiritual sense.

Here the current write up for Detect Evil from my draft rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

Detect Evil (Cleric, 1st Level;)
Range: 120 feet; Duration: 1 hour; MI: No; Art: Lantern;
Detect Evil (Magic-User, 2nd Level)
Range: 60 feet; Duration: 20 minutes; Art: Lantern;
The caster detects the following dangers for the duration of the spell: hostile sentient beings, hostile monsters, and enchantments/auras that causes damage or some type of harm. It does not detect traps, poisons, and other mundane dangers. Demonic and demonic effects are always considered hostile.
Focused Art: For clerics the spell’s range is extended to 180 feet and the duration for 2 hours. For magic users the range is extended to 90 feet, and the duration to 40 minutes.

Rob's Notes
I have some additional mechanics in my take on Swords and Wizardry. MI is magical immunity. It determines whether is creature with magical immunity is effected by the spell. Since Detect Evil pertains to the caster it doesn't apply. 

Focused Art is an option in my rules where a magic user can focus on one of the ten arts of magic. If they do they get a small bonus effect to spells of that art. An aspect of the Art of the Lantern that it covers spells that impart knowledge of some kind. For clerics it depends whether the art of magic falls into the deity's sphere of influence. In the Majestic Fantasy Realms this would be Thoth the Lantern Bearer the God of Sages and Knowledge. 

Originally a focus in the art of magic would meant +1 caster level for that spell. But in Swords and Wizardry so few spells are affected by caster level that I had to come up a customized focus effect for each spell. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Concerning Bat in the Attic Games

I want to thank everybody for their support and appreciate the solidarity that was shown. It wasn't 100% but it was very high. Keep that in mind as we move on and the debates begin.

Moving on is what this post is about. What I will be doing with Bat in the Attic Games.

The Royalty Waiver
Mr. Bledsaw granted me a royalty waiver in March of 2018 and it applies to royalties beginning on July 1st 2017. I ran the numbers and it looks like I am 66% towards reaching the cap. I don't feel comfortable with providing the numbers due to wording of my license agreement. However what owed to me was computed on the basis of what I was paid for the first nine maps plus a fee for the CSIO map. I owe Judges Guild a royalty report in April.

I already modified and took down the items on my Lulu store. It been nine months since I sold a copy of anything on Lulu. However all Bat in the Attic products are still available on DriveThruRPG.

The Product Line
I sell twelve products and eleven of them have Judges Guild IP. The two Majestic Wilderlands related products can be replaced with works without Judges Guild IP. However the other nine are Wilderlands of High Fantasy related, they will eventually be delisted and the files turned over to Judges Guild per my license agreement. This leaves just Blackmarsh after everything is delisted.

The Immediate Future

The Wild North
First I will finish the Wild North. I am aiming for a spring release. Luckily this was my next project. This setting is to the north of Blackmarsh and it is loosely based on Russian and Slavic folklore. Much like how the core rules of classic D&D are based on a fantasy medieval Europe.

This was originally released as Map 19 in Fight On #3, however two years ago I decided to revamp it to fit the loose setting behind Blackmarsh and the two Points of Light books. This involved redrawing the southern edge of the map to fit Blackmarsh and write new material to bring it up to the standards of Blackmarsh. The map will be four times the size of Blackmarsh.

The first draft is finished. I am in the midst of drawing the color version of the map along with various smaller maps that are needed.

Scourge of the Demon Wolf
The Scourge of the Demon Wolf will be revamped to fit the loose setting behind Blackmarsh and the two Points of Light books. This means changing a couple of references and replacing the Barony of Westtower mini-setting in the supplement half.

Deceits of the Russet Lord.
The draft adventure that is furthest along is Deceits of the Russet Lord. It involves star crossed lovers, corrupt monks, rebellious peasants, tyrannical lords, orcs, and the Russet Lord, the faerie lord that behind it all.

The Long Term

The Majestic Fantasy Realms
This will replace the Wilderlands of High Fantasy books in my product lines. It will likely be based on the loose setting behind Blackmarsh. It will definitely take advantage of DriveThruRPG ability to print 18" by 12" posters for the maps. Other than that I am still feeling my way through how to best approach this.

The Majestic Fantasy RPG
The Majestic Wilderlands supplement in 2009 was just the beginning of my work with Swords and Wizardry. In the ten+ years since I have run several campaigns and expanded the rules beyond what in the supplement.

My challenge is twofold. First I strongly believe that Swords and Wizardry by Frog God Games is an excellent system for many. I want to supplement Swords and Wizardry not replace it. Second there are many other fine OSR rule systems out there as well. As result most OSR referees I know often kit bash the rules they use for their campaign. Taking most from a single system but the rest from different sources.

As a result my goal for the Majestic Fantasy RPG is to make it easy for people to use sections of the Majestic Fantasy RPG in their campaigns, whether it is Swords and Wizardry or another system. But also still function as a system in its own right. I am still working on what form this will take.

I do know at some point I will need an overview to summarize how it all hangs together. Hence my release, for free, of the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

The Majestic Stars
I am  bound and determined to improve at writing science fiction adventures. Once I figure it out I plan to release the results as the Majestic Stars.

5th edition 
When reviewing my work folder I found I had quite a bit of 5th edition material. It not organized into a coherent whole like the Majestic Wilderlands supplement was. But it looks there is enough for a small number of zine type supplements. Basically bits and pieces I created for the two 5e campaigns I ran along with playing around with the system.

Wrapping it up
Again I appreciate the support that was shown. I will be keeping everybody updated on my progress. I also would like to thank Goodman Games and Frog God Games for their support.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Concerning Judges Guild, Further Developments

Today Robert Bledsaw II posted a message on the Judges Guild Game Company group on facebook. Below are the links where you can read it for yourself:

A Private Message from Bob II
Note: the above link doesn't work as the post been deleted  you will have to use the archive link.

The link to the message

The tone, tenor, and many of the elements of his message mirrored the conversation I had with him on Sunday, February 8th. That conversation in conjunction with the posts I found was crucial to my decision to cease doing business with Judges Guild under Robert Bledsaw II.

My response to his message.

I still will not do any future business with Judges Guild. The moment that the royalties since the waiver equal to what is due from the work I did for the CSIO kickstarter, all Judges Guild products will delisted from Bat in the Attic Games. The two Judges Guild licensed products with my original IP will have their Judges Guild content removed and reissued in a new edition.

What happens next?
Concerning Bat in the Attic Games

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hunters in Death the last 24 hours

I want to thank everybody for their show of support throughout the week. It meant a lot and I got to talk to a lot of new people. I regret it wasn't under better circumstances.

I will be talking in a later post about Bat in the Attic Games. But right now it is last day  of one of my best friends kickstarters.

Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor and I have been gaming together since high school along with our friend Dwayne Gillingham. In recent years he has been publishing his ideas along with some kick ass maps.

Now Tim is taking a stab at a kickstarter by offering Hunters in Death, an old school hex crawl. It part of Kickstarter's zine quest 2 encouraging and promoting various zine authors.

Here is a summary of what it is about.
Hunters in Death is set in the Komor Forest. A place that's consumed civilizations and birthed abominations. Yet there is a single outpost, Hounds Head, that holds back the darkness. It's a beacon for adventurers. Silver and blood are promised. And delivered. Some adventurers return with sacks overflowing with coins and jewels, but most fertilize the forest with their blood.
I have adventured in the Komor Forest and it is an interesting place to explore. The zine itself is a good deal at $4 for the PDF and $8 for print + pdf. Hope you check it out.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Concerning Judges Guild

I use facebook to keep in contact with various individuals including Robert Bledsaw II, the owner of the Judges Guild IP and the son of one of the company's founders.

Saturday evening, I noticed the following post:

Read the caption above the picture to see the issue.

This is unacceptable.

Sunday evening, I called Robert Bledsaw II and discussed the issue. I notified him that I will no longer be doing future Judges' Guild projects and will only continue to sell what I have currently listed.  I stated that I will be calling the other Judges Guild licensee and inform them of the situation and of my decision.

I was not planning making any public announcements. Given the mob mentality I have seen emerge, I was not comfortable in making a public statement.

However, because I was calling several people who are immediately affected by this situation, the odds of a public post were high. With issues like these, one has to follow the dictates of their conscience. It has gone public hence this post explaining what happened and why.

In addition to the above post, I noticed shortly before the call the following post.

The video is of Christian Bale dropping the card and looking disappointed

This cemented my decision that I can no longer be in a future business relationship with Judges Guild. Then later this post was pointed out to me.

This too, I consider unacceptable.

For now, I will keep up my Judges Guild related products up for sale. I currently have a unique situation in regards to the royalties I pay. Given the state of the Kickstarter finances, Robert Bledsaw II suspended the royalty payments in lieu of paying me for finishing the last nine maps. This has been going on since November of 2017 when I released the CSIO map. Since then, all revenue after taxes and expenses have gone to me. This will not last indefinitely, at which point I will have to revisit having these products listed based on how things have progressed. I will make an announcement accordingly.

Expect a post outlining my future plans for Bat in the Attic Games. In a nutshell, I wasn't expecting to have a license to Judges Guild IP ten years ago and was proceeding on that basis for what became the Majestic Wilderlands supplement. Then an opportunity came up after I finished working on the map for City State of the Sea Kings, and as a result I secured a license.

Last Word
To those of you familiar with my published writing: I try to follow a philosophy of less is more. So is it the same in the case of my response. I don't need to explain the ills caused by generations of bigotry and prejudice. It is just wrong, and it is unacceptable.

Further developments
Since I posted this, Robert Bledsaw II issued his statement. You can go to his message and my response using the below link.

Concerning Judges Guild, Further developments

What happens next?
Concerning Bat in the Attic Games

Monday, February 3, 2020

Hunters in Death, an old school hex crawl.

Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor and I have been gaming together since high school along with our friend Dwayne Gillingham. Over the years through our respective campaigns we came up with a lot of ideas.

Print on Demand and the Internet made it possible for each of us to share some of what we created. Now Tim is the first to take a stab at kickstarter by offering Hunters in Death, an old school hex crawl. It part of Kickstarter's zine quest 2 encouraging and promoting various zine authors.

Here is a summary of what it is about.
Hunters in Death is set in the Komor Forest. A place that's consumed civilizations and birthed abominations. Yet there is a single outpost, Hounds Head, that holds back the darkness. It's a beacon for adventurers. Silver and blood are promised. And delivered. Some adventurers return with sacks overflowing with coins and jewels, but most fertilize the forest with their blood.
I have adventured in the Komor Forest and it is an interesting place to explore. The zine itself is a good deal at $4 for the PDF and $8 for print + pdf. It funded in the first day so it will be seeing the light of day. Hope you check it out.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set Kickstarter

Matt Finch and Frog God Games is doing a new printing of Swords and Wizardry Complete and this time it is to be a series of digest sized booklets in a boxed set. It is nearing $50k at the time I posted this. The rules are the same as Swords and Wizardry Complete, but the kickstarter offers an array of extras to accompany the boxed set. Also I been told that the box itself is deeper than it needs to be to hold further expansion.

Swords and Wizardry Kickstarter

Why Swords and Wizardy?
Back in 2008 when I was deciding on what to base my Majestic Wilderlands supplement on, I found Matt Finch's Swords and Wizardry Core. Compared to the d20 SRD and the other retro-clone of the time, I found Swords and Wizardry, Core to be the closest thing to an ur version of DnD available. In addition it was accompanied by a version of the rulebook that was an editable document. I especially liked how Matt incorporated ascending AC alongside the traditional AC system.

So I used it as the foundation for my Majestic Wilderlands supplement and all the work I done for classic edition since. In addition I am making sure that the Majestic Fantasy rules that I am working remain compatible. That it can function on its own or as a supplement to Swords and Wizardry.

Digest sized books and The Boxed Set
I am partial to using digest size (5.5" by 8.5") for my rules material. It is great to see Frog God Games coming out with a version of Swords and Wizardry in this format. I also like the fact it is a boxed set. There been several attempts at releasing boxed sets for various clones. While cool it is barely on this side of doable for many OSR publishers. The handling and shipping is murder for most. It is great that Frog God Game taking a run at this and I hope it works out economically for them.

So if you are interested stop by the kickstarter and see it interests you.

Fight On!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

More work on the Wild North

Working through the last of the terrain entries for the Wild North. It is a bit of a challenge to try to summarize dozens of square miles in a few sentences and make it a useful inspiration for a campaign.

One reason I added terrain entries is that during the Necromancer Games Wilderlands project I saw how useful they were to summarize an area of the map that would otherwise be a series of separate hex entries.

So after this I will have to go through the text and correct any obvious editing mistakes as well as consistency. Finally I will pick out a few locales and draw small local maps in the same way I did Castle Blackmarsh in Blackmarsh.

Finally I will able to get this edited and into the layout process. Below are some of the latest samples from the text.

The Frostgrims (Hex 0428)
Snowcapped spires reach into sky fencing ice filled valleys. Amid the shadows, Remorhaz (HD 6 to 13) tunnel beneath the ice and snow. Frost Giants (HD 10+3) dwell in castles built on the stony crags. They consider Remorhaz to be a great delicacy and hunt them alongside packs of Winter Wolves (HD 5).

Throughout the mountains are the ruined towers of Thules, Outposts established to harvest crystalline shards of viz that freeze out of the air in the early morning before dawn on the highest peaks (Hexes 0226, 0228, 0328, 0329). The Thules had to act quickly as they would melt an hour after the sun rises.

Searching for Viz
Typically 1d6 viz will appear 1d3 hours before dawn. Each viz takes 1 hour per person with arcane knowledge to find. A serious danger is the thin air, without magic characters have to make a saving throw every hour or pass out. It typically takes two hours of climbing to reach the peaks. The Thules used magic carpets or the fly spells to cut down on the travel time as well as using a lost variant of Control Winds to thicken the air in order to breath properly while searching.

The Great Glacier (Hex 0320)
Once covering nearly all of the Wild North, the Great Glacier is still slowly retreating to the northwest. It southeast face is riddled with crevasses and subglacial caves where icy cold streams emerge. Calving ice sheets are also a danger as in some areas the glacier’s edge forms a cliff 10 to 20 feet high. Travel on the glacier’s surface is also hazardous due to the numerous crevasses and moulins. A moulin is a sinkhole up to 10 feet in diameter that in a few cases reaches down to the bottom of the glacier.

Aside from the dangers of the terrain, the glacier surface is relatively free of animal life or monsters. A few small Remorhaz (HD 6 to 8) lair in the southern third. The white dragon, Rekokardek, is known to lair somewhere in northern third of the glacier (Hex 0215). The glacier’s flat surface makes surprising her almost impossible.

More common are the ruins of the Thules and the occasional Frost Giant castle (Hex 0421) found amid the nunataks jutting above the glacier surface. The ancient Thules used their towers on the glacier as a bastion from which to rule their fallen empire. They experimented with magic involving water and ice, some of which still remains undiscovered beneath the gravel and snow.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Zweihander, Open Content and a reply to Daniel Fox

The Old School Renaissance or OSR, rest on the foundation of open content released under the Open Gaming License. Open content is what allowed this segment of the hobby to become then just a regurgitation of classic DnD content and tropes. 

For everyone who worked to support the classic editions 'as is' dozens more emerged to take them into new direction. New genres, or infusing a new version with a different tone or tenor than the originals. All of this was possible because the use of open content placed no restrictions on the next author imagination. The main requirement being is that anything you use or is based on open content must also be open content along with retaining proper credit.

For over a decade this has fueled an amazing array of works and products using not only classic edition of DnD but other older games as well. Including hybrid fusing older concepts with newer mechanics and ideas. The result is a dazzling array of products and works for anybody tastes within the tabletop roleplaying hobby. Five thousand+ on DriveThruRPG's site alone.

Yes there are individual and companies that don't contribute open content yet strive to take advantage of the OSR label. One of them is Daniel Fox and his Zweihander. RPG. Recently Erik over at Tenkar's Tavern pointed out the incongruity of having a OSR community content program.

Daniel had this reply

Hi Erik,
Thanks for the post. A few points of factual clarification:
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.
* Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.
* RPGs Powered By Zweihander (our commercial IP license) are released by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Examples include the upcoming Colonial Gothic Grim & Perilous RPG.
My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-based

The argument that Daniel make is disingenuous, the debate isn't what rule system is to be considered part of the OSR, the debate is whether open content is to be primary driver of the OSR.

The first thing to keep in mind that Zweihander is the result of Daniel's own work. While inspired by the first two Warhammer edition it is not a clone in the sense that OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords and Wizardry are clone of various classic edition. It is a system that is design to appeal to fans of early editions of Warhammer Fantasy, and to easily be understood by those fan. This is important to understand because this mean that in regards to Zweihander IP, Daniel has complete control over how it is to be presented and used.

Unlike the situation I have with Judges Guild where I am licencee and thus limited in what I can do with it. For the recent Wilderlands releases only the Monster & Treasure section was released as open content. But where I do have complete control, I tend to release the work as open content under the OGL For example Blackmarsh, and much of the material found in Stuff in the Attic.

.  Why? Because it only fair. While I do a lot of my own work when it comes to settings like Blackmarsh, when it comes mechanics and rules, I stand on the foundation built by past authors. Those publishing in the 70s and 80s. Those publishing now in the 2010s. So it only fair that I contribute back, not halfheartly but fully in the same spirit that the material I used was given.

As for the OSR label, what it is the largely the work of hundreds of author doing their own thing. My voice may reach a larger audience but I don't have any bigger say about what the OSR mean then the individual who just shared their first adventure last week. But I am not going to stay silent when I see people not contributing or in Daniel's case justifying why they are not fully sharing.

Breaking it down.
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.
This is a nice thing to do. However it is not sufficient. The reason many in the OSR prize the freedom to commercialize their work is that many project need some kind of return in order to happen. To buy art, editing, or layout services. The non-commercial restriction means you only have the freedom to do something if it on your own dime. Which is fine for somebody like me who makes a decent living from a job. But not fine for somebody who has little to no income.

Keep in mind that most OSR project are written, produced, and sold within somebody's time they have for a hobby. Usually the income these work generate won't make them rich but it will just enough to make it possible compared to what else they could be doing with that time.

Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.
First of all the Grim and Perilous Library is not a DM Guild program. It is a Onebookshelf Community Content program. Each program has their own license and their own body of IP that they offer. The only thing in common is that they are managed by Onebookshelf through DriveThruRPG.

Second every program except the Genesys Foundry but including the Grim & Perilous Library has the following restriction. This excerpt is taken from the license attached to the Grim & Perilous Library.
(b) Except for short promotional excerpts used to promote your Work, you may not display, recreate, publish, distribute or sell your Work (or derivatives thereof) outside of the Program administered on OBS websites or through other platforms or channels authorized or offered by Owner.
(b) Exclusive License to your Work. Effective as of the date you setup your Work through the Program on OBS’s website, you grant us the exclusive, irrevocable license for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewals), to develop,
license, reproduce, print, publish, distribute, translate, display, publicly perform and transmit your Work, in whole and in part, in each country in the world, in all languages and formats, and by all means now known or later developed, and the right to prepare derivative works of your Work.
 The implication of the above is twofold, the first is that you can't bring an existing work or existing open content into a worked released within the Grim & Perilous Library. Second, any work you release first within the Grim & Perilous Library, you lose the right to use it outside of the program even if you remove all of the Zweihander IP.

In effect if you wrote the Cave of the Night Warlock for Zweihander you can't release it later for DnD 5th edition even if you removed all of Daniel's Zweihander IP.

Needless to say, I very opposed to this provision and view as unnecessary for any program except those that are focused on sharing setting IP like Traveller's Third Imperium or WoTC's Forgotten Realms.

There is now an alternative, a few month back the Genesys community had an outcry about this issue. Fantasy Flight had OBS chancg the license. Removing the clauses limiting derivatives work and putting in new limit stating only FFG IP has to be remove for a work to be used outside of the program.

So it is within Daniel's power to have this changed for the Grim & Perilous Library.

My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-based
The debate isn't over whether the OSR label includes non DnD systems like Zweihander. That ship has long since sailed. The debate is whether the label OSR stands for sharing open content free from any condition other than to share. In my opinion a generous as Daniel has been with his IP, that generosity doesn't met the standard of many of us who use the OSR label who offer material free of any condition other than to share as we have.

What should be done about this?
As I stated many times before nobody controls the OSR label. It widely known because many, including myself, adopted it as a shorthand for their own work. What it is a result of our combined work over time not of any one person or smaller group.

But I do have opinions, and one of them that the OSR is at its best when sharing open content. A thing that doesn't just benefit a particular system or edition but the entire hobby. The way to ensure that the OSR continues to stand for sharing open content, is to share. Share your thoughts on open content, make content and share under a open license like the OGL, and support those who do share open content.

In doing these we will ensure that the next five thousand works are every bit as amazing as the first five thousand.

So I talked to Daniel Fox over on Discord and learned something interesting about how OBS handles the Community Content Program. That is largely on the publisher to police including enforcing the above clause. Several people on in the Grim & Perilous program have published their work elsewhere. Daniel was receptive to changing the license to one more like the Genesys Foundry to better reflect what he is already doing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

An update to the Majestic Fantasy rules

I hope everybody had a good holiday. To start the new year off, I am posting a small update of the Majestic Fantasy RPG rules which are based on and compatible with Frog God Games' Swords and Wizardry RPG.

I added some missing spells notably Magic Missile, but it left me with three blank pages. After looking through my draft of the full rules I added sections on Horses, and Dogs. Along with selected hirelings useful for level 6 or lower, Animal Trainer, Man-at-arms, Porter, and Servant.

You can download Revision 10 from here.

Bat in the Attic News
I am still at work on the draft of the Wild North. Currently I am finishing up the terrain notes. After that is finished, I will draw some maps of the main settlements along with some notes similar to Castle Blackmarsh in Blackmarsh. I am shooting for a first quarter release.

This will include a separate poster map option so you don't have to hunt down a printer to print the maps. I can't combine them as DriveThruRPG keeps their card ordering system (which posters use) separate from their book ordering system. The maps will be grayscale similar to those in Blackmarsh.

Remember this version of the Wild North will adjoin the northern edge of Blackmarsh as shown below.

Click you will see the full size map.