Monday, August 31, 2009

Hanging out at the Sorceror's Supply

One aspect of my ritual system is that you need the spell level SQUARED time 10 gp worth of components to cast the spell. While talking with Tim about AD&D stuff, he and I worked out a variant of this to use for the Material component of AD&D spells.

In nearly every AD&D groups I been involved with, material components were ditched as being too fiddly and a pain to track. The solution is to use 4th edition D&D' idea of a generic bag of components.

The component cost for a AD&D spell is the spell level SQUARED times 1 gp. So a first level spell that require a material component cost 1 gp and a ninth level spell 81 gp. You need to actually buy the components so you record it on your character sheet has having X gp worth components. The DM may want to impose an addition cost in the form of needing a specific component to control certain spells like Wish.

In my mind the main reason for adding this is to force the magic users and priests to deal with their respective communities on a regular basis. Not to the penalize players by adding an extra fiddly bit to the system.

By having to go back and "load up" on a periodic basis they will be interacting with the temple, guild, or local shop on a regular basis. This an excellent angle to introduce plot hooks or adventure suggestions.

Also on a more negative side it can be used to control any anti-social behavior by the players by working through the in-game society rather than DM fiat. If the local wizard's guild feel that the Magic-user Silverring has fireballed one too many village then they can order all the shops not to sell to him. Forcing Silverring to go onto the black market. Which means....

You guessed it.

More adventure.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gamers Closet

My friend Dwayne, the third in our group including me and Tim (Gothridge Manor), has finally opened up his blog at Gamer's Closet. Dwayne is the rules guy of our group so he should have some interesting stuff up.

Darth & Droids has a good point

The commentary for today's Darth & Droids is spot on.

Having consequences for player's actions was the hallmark of my early DMing. The trick is to remember to give them the good consequences as well as the bad.

Other People's Games

I strongly believe in Open Gaming whether under one of the Creative Commons license or the Open Gaming License.

Over the course of supporting older editions many choose to rely on the fact you can't copyright ideas (and thus game rules) plus the legal decisions in various places that allow you to say that you are compatible as long as you don't deceive the consumer that you are an official product. (see razor blades and razors)

This is not a good path to take for revived older edition products.

We need to forge ahead and establish our own identity with our own names and get away from using Dungeons & Dragons. Today D&D it just a brand name tacked on to whatever ruleset it's parent company thinks it ought to be on. We need the old rules under new names. Note the plurals as there are multiple older editions.

Just about every old school author I know will gladly share if you ask. There will come a day when you say "Yes" and a few days later you go "What the hell? I didn't give permission for that." I seen this working on open source projects like Orbiter Space Simulator.By using the Open Gaming License you specify what it is you are willing to share. We are a small community that is growing. We get new people all the time. This problem is just going to get worse the larger we grow.

There is an ethical reason as well. Nobody likes it when somebody uses your work without permission or credit. And that exactly what you are doing when using D&D without the Open Gaming License. The law may say it is OK, but you are telling Wizards to stick it. Despite how much of a dofus you think Wizards is, that neither right or fair.

Especially in the light that Wizard did open much of D&D. That for retaining credit and returning the favor by being open ourselves we can use 90% of the D&D rules without royalty or specific approval. That is just damn generous. We should respect that by using the Open Gaming license ourselves.

Then there is the risk of not using the Open Gaming License. Understand that when you see companies like Goodman Games and KenzerCo release older edition products that they had legal advice. I don't care what region of the world you live in, trying to take advantage of gray areas of the law without the advice of a lawyer is downright silly. Remember too that David Kenzer of KenzerCo is a intellectual property lawyer in his day job.

Yes, I realize that for products like adventure the risk I am talking about is minimal. But understand there is a line and without legal advice you won't know when you have crossed. Too often I seen the reasons given for avoiding the OGL boil down to an excuse to put the coveted words "compatible with Dungeons & Dragons" on the cover. The Open Gaming License resolves this issue by spelling out the items that permission have been given for.

Some of you who are published authors are probably annoyed at this point as I questioned the manner in which you released your products. That I brought up ethical reasons that for many are matters of opinion. I think to have published at all for older edition is a marvelous thing. Anybody who asks for my help will get it whether for maps, or ideas. I don't check for an OGL stamp at my door.

My devotion to old school gaming is not blind and I am nobody's cheerleader. I will raise issues that need raising and question the wisdom of actions taken. If this post gets you to think about the issues then I have done my job no matter how you decide.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Background Notes for Points of Light

Released under the Open Gaming License

Note there is no overall map nor I got around to defining the major demi-human realms

The main continent is located in the southern hemisphere. Thus the climate gets colder the further south you go.

Bright Empire
The Bright Empire was formed a thousand years ago. Originating in the City-State of Ramos it covered the nearly the entire eastern half of the main continent. A series of religious and political civil wars weakened the empire frontiers. A series of barbarian invasion wracked the empire culminating in a battle known as the Shattering. After this the various provinces of the empire split apart to find their own way. Various barbarian tribes settled in the ruins of the empire and became nations in their own right.

The United Church
Driving the rise of the Bright Empire were the four faiths of the United Church. The four gods venerated by the United Church were Sarrath, the God of War and Discipline; Delaquain, the Goddess of Honor and Justice; Veritas, the God of Truth and Law; and Thoth, the God of Knowledge and Wisdom. Supported by the followers of this quartet of gods, the Bright Empire became the greatest force the world had seen. The United Church collapsed in the wake of the Shattering with the four faiths becoming dominant in different lands.

Other Gods and the Multiverse.
Azeel/Azartec is the blood god of revenge. Demons are enemies of all gods and are imprisoned in the Abyss.

The Grand Kingdom
In the heartland of the old Bright Empire the City-State of Eastgate formed the nucleus around which five kingdoms united into a single kingdom. The Grand Kingdom venerates Veritas as the High Lord of the Gods. Delaquain is a minor faith followed by fanatical sects. Thoth is a minor faith confined to scattered monasteries. The worship of Sarrath is outlawed.

The Ochre Empire
North of the Grand Kingdom is the Ochre Empire. It controls much of the old lands of the Bright Empire around the Middle Sea. Much of the terrain it controls is desert or arid with a few breadbaskets like Goshen and Iconis. It is dominated by the Ochre Emperor and the Church of Sarrath. It is known for its repressive laws and considered aggressive and a tyranny by surrounding nations.

The Duchy of Aqualis
Just north of the Grand Kingdom is the semi-independent Duchy of Aqualis. It long been a fanatical stronghold of the Church of Delaquain and opposes the Ochre Empire in nearly every quarter. Only it’s small size prevents it from being more of a threat. The Ochre Empire has been thwarted from conquering the Duchy by the threat of war from the Grand Kingdom.

The Kingdom of Gwynedd
The Bright Empire managed only to conquer half of this large peninsula that lies to the east of the Grand Kingdom. Having broken away early in the collapse of the Bright Empire, the Kingdom of Gwynedd has long charted its own course. During the rise of the Grand Kingdom, Gwynedd managed to retain its independence, but it land was relativity poor and lay outside of the main trade routes. The discovery of new lands across the Sunrise Sea has given hope to Gwynedd’s future.

Iconis and Ramos
Iconis is a large peninsula jutting northwards into the Middle Sea This was the original heartland of the Bright Empire and the great city of Ramos was its capital. The Ochre Empire controls the middle and foot of the Peninsula including the city of Ramos. The base of the peninsula is split among various city-states which have allied themselves with one of the surrounding major realms.

The Kingdom of Tharvengis
This kingdom has been created out of alliance of barbarian tribes formed to vanquish the humanoid menace. The Kingdom is still largely unsettled dominated by the Tharvengian Forest. The King is merely a first among equals. He often has to negotiate with his Dukes to get the men and money he needs. The last three Kings of Tharvengis have gained a small measure of independence by exacting payments from the Iconis city-states for protecting them against the Ochre Empire.

The Altus Mountains
This is one of the greatest mountain range of the main continent. It forms the spine of the eastern half with many sub ranges splitting off like the Westwall. The Grand Duchy of Stonedale is located in the valleys of its eastern terminus.

The Grey Sea
Off of the northern coast of the Grand Kingdom and the Kingdom of Tharvengis. South of the Grey Sea is Jarlheim, home of Viking pirates. Beyond Jarlheim is the land of permanent ice.

The Sunrise Sea
Lies to the east of the Grand Kingdom and the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Recently new lands were discovered east of this oceans.

The Time Periods

The Kingdom of Goshen, the City States of Achea, the Empire of the Two Kings, and City-States of Iconis including Ramos lies around the Middle Sea.

The Bright Empire
The Bright Empire dominates the entire eastern half of the main continent

The Civil Wars
The Bright Empire is wrecked by religious and political strife and ends with Barbarians Invasion culminating in the Shattering.

The Dark Age
The surviving pieces of the Empire and the new barbarian nations attempt to rebuild civilization while resisting the advance of the Ochre Empire and the followers of Sarrath

The Grand Kingdom
Civilization has been rebuilt and expanded beyond the limits of the Bright Empire. But war between rival powers threatens to undo progress.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Allen Varney Surveys the Retro Clones

Covers more than just the D&D clones. You can check it out at the Escapist here.

District 9

I just watched the movie Thursday Night and I have to say it one of the best Science Fiction films I seen in recent memory. Star Trek worked because of an outstanding job by Abrams, his crew, and it's actor in revitalizing a tired franchise. But District 9 is wholly original and it is Wow!

Special effects are found nearly everywhere in the movies and yet they never overwhelm it or look out of place. The Aliens look alien and feel alien. Plus the movies manages to use the elements of a traditional sci-fi cautionary tale without the somberness or heavy-handness that bring down many past efforts.

A relatively unknown cast bring their A-game as well. Even the documentary style, which has become a cliche for the most part, isn't heavy hand. Often the movie will switch to a traditional point of view and it works well.

For being set in a near future of our own world the movie has a lot of value for hard science fiction game like Traveller, 2300AD, and Thousand Suns.

If you like mechs the movies have one of the best I seen on the the live action big screen.

And like the best Star Trek episodes it also comments on the human condition in a way that hits home. The sheer squalor of the slums outside of Johannesburg is sad reminder of how far we have to go.

Go see this movie you will be glad you did.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Living OD&D (or B/X D&D, or AD&D)

Chicgowiz has some interesting ideas for TARGA a currently moribund association of retro D&D publishers. One of them is a living campaign for OD&D (or whatever edition gets the most response)

I volunteered to do the maps if the project gets off the ground. In addition I will be willing to share the loose background I created for Points of Light under a creative commons license for the Living campaign to use. I own the right to the material and maps (not the art or the brand Points of Light). Mind you this is NOT my campaign of 30 years but something I created to loosely bind the PoL Maps. It amounts to all of one page and doesn't even have a world map.

However one implication of having a Living campaign that it will require people to be charge of it and actively managing it. This will bother some people as it smacks of an "official" hierarchy for Old School gaming. While it doesn't have to be a strict as the RPGA. A living campaign does need some organization to make it work.

An organization is also needed as the public face for convention organizers to deal with and for people to goto for information.

There will be two primary benefits. The first one is a stream of modules designed to work together in a world shared by many. The second is the ability to grow your character and take it to any Living event.

So you will have to decide whether these benefits outweighs the hassle of dealing with whatever organization is setup to manage this.

Now with the gloomy stuff over with there are a couple of things that can be done to make this a very positive thing.

License the core material under a creative commons license/ the OGL. This explicitly gives the green light for people to create their own material

Be supportive of commercial publishers (that means any of you with a hankering to write) who release compatible products.

The umbrella organization is an voluntary association. The main standards are the core campaign documents, and standard forms. Final control is invested in the local organizers. The Association acts as a suppler or distributor of modules and forms.

The character sheet form and item form are the heart of the administration. The basic idea that you go through a Living sessions get some items and then at the end some XP. The referee of that session will fill out and sign the XP line on your character sheet and hand you one or more item cards signed by him.

Anybody can be a referee by downloading the forms, organizing a events, and signing character sheets afterwards.

The referee is king. The forms get your character's foot in the door but if the referee give a thumbs down on something his word is law at the table. This is our main check against abuse. If a player doesn't get this then the referee is allowed to whip out his complementary stamp "THE REFEREE IS KING" and stamp it on the offender's forehead. Conversely if the Referee is a jerk then word will get around and nobody will attend his sessions.

I think with enough of us behind this it will really help promote old school gaming at conventions and various regions. For some gamers the various Living Campaign are their main and often only source for playing a regular tabletop game. I think a reasonable time frame to make this happen would be by the summer of 2010.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

OD&D's Solitaire Adventure

James Malislewski talks about solitaire adventures here. One of the oldest if not the oldest soltaire for D&D was Judges Guild Survival of Fittest.

In my neck of the Woods (Northwest PA) it was respected enough that many DM would accept a higher level character that went through it. Of course you had to have a reputation for not being a cheater.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sandbox Fantasy: Kings List Example

In this post I talked about how useful Kings lists are in organizing the background history of your setting.

This is an example from one of my background documents for the Majestic Wilderlands. It not well edited as I wrote it for myself. I don't explain a lot of the context but it should illustrate what I am talking about.

It is the record of the first four kings of Antilla the actual document goes on for 5 more pages describing each king up to the present (4433 BCCC) You can read the full document here. It takes place in Antil in the northwest corner of the Barbarian Altanis (Map 2/Map 8) and western half of City-State (Map 1/Map 5) if you want to look up the place names. Remember in my Majectic Wilderlands each hex has 12.5 miles and a lot more settlements than the ones marked on the originals.

I admit it is pretty dry reading. If you are into making a background with a Tolkien level of detail for your setting this format really helps.

Overlords of the Dragon Empire
House of Romaill
4122-4125 Talsha the Elder
4125-4147 Talsha the Younger
4147-4162 Cormas I

Kings of Antil and Overlords of the Dragon Empire
4162-4210 Talsha III

House of Romaill

4122-4125 Talsha the Elder
Between 4100 and 4130 the Dragon Empire was in state of constant Civil War. Fought between the House of Caelam and the House of Lovaron, the issues were over between the supporters of Viridstan and the enemies of Viridstan. The southern extents of the Dragon Empire were mostly Elessarians descended from Old Romaillion Empire. For hundreds of years they dreamed of their independence but the strong hand of the Dragon Overlords had kept them in check.
In 4118 the forces of Anarin the Pretender was able to control much of the area around the Romaillion Sea. The Overlord sent Marshal Talsha, a loyal Elessarian subject, to regain control of the area for the empire. In a three year campaign Talsha was able to defeat the Pretender's forces in the province by 4121. While pacifying the province, Talsha became disgusted with the actions of the Church of Mitra's inquisition. In 4122 he expelled the inquisitors and declared himself Overlord of the Dragon Empire. However Talsha the Elder was a old man and used his remaining years to consolidate for his son, Talsha the Younger.

4125-4147 Talsha the Younger
Talsha joined the forces of the Dragon Empire when he was a young man. Although having a well-placed father helped, Talsha rapid rise in the ranks was due more to natural ability, then his father's position. In 4419 Talsha was assigned to accompany his father on the campaign to retake Romaill.
With victory, Talsha watched the inquisitors of the Church of Mitra brutalize the population. Disgusted he convinced his father to make a bid for the throne of the Dragon Empire. His father declared himself Overlord and Talsha helped him to consolidate the lands around the Romaillion Sea as a springboard to take the throne.
In 4125 Talsha the Elder died and Talsha the Younger assumed his father's position as Overlord of the Dragon Empire. The rival Overlord Anarin VII sent a force to confront Talsha. At the battle of Landmarch, in 4126, Talsha defeated Anarin's army. Talsha won victory after victory triumphing in the capture of Werewood in 4131. However Anarin VII was able to defeat the forces of Anarin the Pretender and reunify the rest of the empire.
The period from 4135 to 4145 was of slow retreat from the forces of Anarian VII. By 4138 Werewood was recaptured by the Overlord Anarin, by 4140 Talsha was pushed back to his original strongholds around the Romaillion Sea. In 4144, the Anarin had to withdraw forces to protect the northeast frontier from the Orcs of the Majestic Mountains. In 4145 the forces of the Tharian Barbarians swept across the remaining Dragon troops guarding the north west frontier. By 4146 nearly all of the Dragon Empire's territories north of Werewood was lost.
From 4146 to 4147, the forces of Talsha surged north again taking all of the Dragon Empire territories south of Werewood. Anarin controlled Werewood, and Omen as the northern frontier and Fornost, and Anquiken as his western frontier. The rest was controlled by the Tharians or Talsha's forces.

4147-4162 Cormas I
In 4147 Talsha the Younger died at his capital, Actuan. His son, campaigning in the north, was proclaimed Overlord of the Dragon Empire. Cormas immediately consolidated his control over his father's forces. In 4148 Cormas marched on Werewood. In a six month siege Cormas was able to seize control of the town from Anarin. But in 4149 the Tharians renewed their attacks with Cormas' territories as their target. From 4147 to 4150, Cormas' forces lost Lakenheath, Stonewood, and Werewood to Tharian attacks. Finally in 4150 at the second battle of Landmarch, Cormas was able to defeat the Tharians and hold his remaining territories.
With economy of the Dragon Empire in total disruption, Cormas was forced, because of the money shortage, to grant public land to his retainers and allies, Antillian feudalism dates from this time. In the years after the Battle of Landmarch Cormas was forced to focus more on his realm's economy. One of Cormas's more important projects was the settling of the lands south of the Romaillion Sea. In 4158 he founded the City of Antil as a gateway into the new lands. From 4158 onward, Cormas conducted yearly campaigns to subjugate the Sarnic tribes to the south.
In 4153 Nermar the last rival Overlord of the Dragon Empire died. Cormas started to plan for a grand scheme to liberate Caelam and reunite the Empire. In 4155 Cormas marched on Fornost and Anquiken, in a series of pitched battles the Tharian clans forced Cormas back. With the pressing problems of his realm Cormas was never able to mount another serious expedition. This expedition seriously depleted Cormas' treasury and forced him to rely even more on his barons.
In 4162 Cormas died of old age in the City of Antil.

Kings of Antil and Overlord of the Dragon Empire
4162-4210 Talsha III
When Cormas died, The barons and Cormas' son, Talsha, agreed to revive the old kingship of the Romaillion tribes. It was decided to call the new kingdom Antilla after Cormas' city. In 4162 Talsha was crowned Talsha III King of Antillia, Overlord of the Dragon Empire. Each of Cormas' grants was reaffirmed, and the policy of southern settlement was given new vigor. Trade with Viridistan was also emphasized.
From 4168 to 4185 was a time of raids and small skirmishes along the Tharian-Antillian frontier. By 4185 Talsha was able to conclude a peace with Clan Laknost, the largest clan bordering Antillia. From 4185 trade grew between the two and Antillian merchants used Clan Laknost as a gateway into the rest of Tharian lands.
In 4193 Talsha concluded a agreement with the Lord's Alliance to conduct trade through the Windhorn pass and construct a trail connecting Antillia to the South Road through the pass. The demands of Cormas for the Lord's Alliance to recognize Talsha as Overlord of the Dragon Empire was conveniently forgotten by both sides.
In 4210 Talsha died of old age after reigning for 48 years.

Monday, August 24, 2009

James Maliszewski is holding out on us.

Not content being the Diabolical leader of the Old School Taliban he now corrupting the masses in a article here.

Tongue in cheek jokes aside. I found the article to be nice summary of the Old School School Renaissance/Revial/Resource/Retro/[insert favorite 'R' noun here]. I could see much of what he outlines in the google searches I did. Given the history of the various blogs and various forums I am sure there are details that people will argue over.

Well done James.

Also the Editor of Escapist noted this

If you're interested in retro-clone gaming, next week's High Adventure column by Allen Varney has feature-length coverage of a wide variety of rules sets for all your classic gaming needs
That should be an interesting article as well

From the Attic: Operation Infinity

I wanted to run a GURPS game where players were members of a team going to alternate histories. I planned them starting at ground zero. It didn't really work out although I made a cool handout for it. You can download the PDF from here.

In case you wondering what the Authorization means. It not enough to have Top Secret Clearance. You have to have your clearance annotated with the correct codes. This is to enforce the "Only on a need to know" requirements of the highest levels of security clearances.

The first alternity the players would have visited is Dixie from GURPS Infinite Worlds One where the Confederacy exists in the present day.

The PDF has a unfinished diagram of the Infinity-1.

Operation Infinity

TO: Commanding Officer 2nd Platoon of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company (7th Fleet)
(detached duty to Project Omega of the Department of Defense)
(stationed Roswell AFB, New Mexico)
FROM: Admiral Jonas T. Hardwick, Commanding Officer, Project Omega.
DATE: 1235 zulu 12/12/95
AUTHORIZATION: Omega, Delta, Chi, Delta

You will ready your Platoon for a Gamma Patrol of one month’s duration. Beginning at 0800 hour 12/16/95 you will deploy to Station 369 in Area 54 of the White Sand Proving Grounds. You will have until 1200 hours to reach Station 369. At Station 369 you will meet Operational Specialists and prepare for Gamma Patrol. The Mission is slated to begin at 2400 hours.

You will be transported in the Infinity-One Vehicle. The Infinity-One will transport you to a location corresponding to Area 54. You are to gather intelligence and information for one month at which time you will transport back.

If for any reason you feel that Infinity-One will fall into hostile hands you are ordered to destroy Infinity-One and go to Area 19 at Edwards AFB in California. There two months at 2400 hours 02/16/96 Infinity-Two will arrive for pickup. If you are not present then Infinity-Two will arrive two weeks later at 2400 hours 03/02/96.

The Infinity-One is a Quantum Conveyor capable of inducing a change in the Quantum resonance of objects. To a observer this will cause a disappearance of a object. Subsequent research has found that when the quantum resonance is changed back to normal the object reappears. Probes as indicated that objects are sent to the exact same physical location but devoid of the buildings and test equipment that were originally in the location. Further probes has indicated no harmful side-effects on living forms.
The last series of probes were mobile and were able to survey out to 1 km from the arrival point. All test indicates that air is consistent with normal levels, that plant and animal life is consistent with the White Sands region of New Mexico.
Also there are indications of human activities, several unknown radio transmissions were picked up and recorded and jet contrails have been observed in the sky. In addition objects consistent with satellites movement have been observed at night.
To date the radio transmissions have not been deciphered. There are two types one using a amplitude modulation, and the other a phase modulation. In addition several types of shortwave, and microwave transmission have been detected.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where the hell The Old School Renaissance come from?

Like the usenet searches I put my google-fu to work.

This is the first recorded instance I can find for the term in reference to retro-games,specifically Castles & Crusades

Link to Forum Post

This is by a guest so the author is unknown. Which is kinda of ironic in a way.

From reading the posts on the various rpg boards over the last couple of years it does seem there is a shift in thinking amongst the gaming community concerning what they want from future rpgs. The illusion has been dispelled that the d20 ultra detailed number crunching method would lead to a better gaming experience. A pining for more narrative simpler play and a looking back to the old days seems to be the new way forward.

The populatity of none d20 systems is again growing with WFRP selling second only to WoTs D&D. CoC and GURPS have also seen a slight revival in their market share. Compare this to the decrease in sales of d20 material over the last year (although still high). Over production and over stock is leading many online stores to slash prices. An old school renaissance could be on the horizon. C&C is ahead of the game for the moment but this won't remain the case for long. Already Green Ronin are toying with the idea of going rules lite and have put True20 out to RPG publishers for settings an ideas.

The delay in release of M&T (and CZ) and the poor layout issues of C&Cs first print run have certainly not helped in stamping C&C firmly at the vanguard of this new wave in gaming. However as C&C is the only runner (albeit a slow runner) they can afford to make one or two mistakes. They also have a hard core fanbase that has done loads of free promotion on the various boards.

Hopefully C&C will do well in the future dispite increased competition. I certainly was taken by their ideas and purchased C&C and Assault on blacktooth. However, due to the ongoing delays I have now gone over to WFRP due to more reliable publishing dates. (I also have the TRUE20 - C&C has better ideas with their SEIGE mechanic which are better in my opinion).
Between 2005 and 2008 there was more than a few post and blogs that talked about a renaissance in Old School games. Then in 2008 the term Old School Renaissance really took off started becoming a short hand for what the various Old School Publishers doing.

It appears it use grew by osmosis rather than being promoted by a trend setter or a group. Definitely not everybody is happy with the term. It was rather pleasing to be looking through the search logs on how it use grew.

Looking through the logs shows how the Old School Renaissance grew out of the uncoordinated efforts of a diverse crowd of gamers. Sometimes working at cross-purposes but for the most expanding the depth and range of material for the older editions of D&D. The logs show how no one group or entity dominates the OSR. Indeed short of Wizards re-releasing a ruleset and putting it support behind it, I don't see how anybody can at this point.

And that how exactly it should be.

To all those considering publishing, whether it is on a grand scale or small, come on board and get your stuff out. To all those who have stuff published I salute you and hope to see more.

2024 Update

I became aware that I didn't search for the term Old School Revival. Which will lead you to finding out that T. Foster on Dragonsfoot was the first to have been documented to use the term in 2004.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Rune Casters

I been asked to reveal more about the Rune caster and here is the info. Like many of my variant spell casters it relies on my ritual spell rule.
Any spell in the rulebook can be casted as ritual. The casting time is 10 minutes. The spell used for the ritual must be in the caster’s spell book. The highest level of spell that can be cast as a ritual is dependent on the caster’s class. The spell used for the ritual does not need to be memorized. The component cost is the spell level SQUARED times ten gp. (level2 * 10 gp). Components can be bought at most magic shops like the Sorcerer’s Supply Shop in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. As an option the referee may wish to impose specific component requirement on certain spells particularly for those 7th level or higher.

The intent of this system is that most utility spells are cast via ritual in the Majestic Wilderlands. This changes the role of scrolls. For Magic-Users and Thothian Mages, they are mainly created to increase the number of combat spells that can be cast. They are of particular importance to Orders who do not memorize spells.

Furthermore the Rune-casters relies on a new class of magic items I developed the charm. A charm occupies an intermediate step between a one use scroll and a charged or per day/wand/rod/staff. It similar to a scroll except it is a little easier to actually use. (It is activated as opposed to read) and it can be recharage at a considerable discount. But it is more expensive to initially make.

Enchant Charm
Spell Level: Magic-user 4th level, Cleric 3rd Level
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
This spell is used to create magical charms, in addition to whatever research, special ingredients, and other efforts the Referee may determine are necessary for the task. Charms are similar to scrolls and wands in that they are used to cast the spells stored within them. Unlike scrolls the charm can have another spell infused them at a considerably cheaper cost; 50 gp per spell level. The creation of the charm itself is twice as much as a scroll cost to make; 200 gp per spell level. A charm can only be infused with spells at the level they are made or less. For example a 5th level Charm can have 3rd level Fireball infused it in it but not a 6th level Flesh to Stone. Charms are made out of materials worth at least 10 gp time the spell level stored. They take the forms of pendants, rings, cords, and other items that are easy to wear. Only one charm may cast on an object.

The intent of this system is that most utility spells are cast via ritual in the Majestic Wilderlands. This changes the role of scrolls. For Magic-Users and Thothian Mages, they are mainly created to increase the number of combat spells that can be cast. They are of particular importance to Orders who do not memorize spells.
The class itself. Note that the class doesn't use spell memorization but solely relies on casting rituals. It advantage is the ability to cast multiple charms on one object. This means they don't have to ready a new charm or scroll once it's expended.
Rune-casters, Order of Thor
Magic-users may choose to start as members of the Order of Thor. Members of the Order are known as Rune-casters.

• Rune-casters Gains 1D6-1 HP/level
• Can use leather armor, permitted to use dagger, staff, and handaxes.
• Can cast rituals.
• Can use runes in place of scrolls, wands, and charms (see below)
• At 11th level a Rune-caster will be asked to joining the governing council of a Hall and become an Elder. The Rune-caster has the option of establishing a Hall and attracts a group of fellow Rune-caster to join him in doing research and training Disciples.

This Order is both the youngest and oldest of the Magical Order. It originated among the Dwarves shortly after the chaos of the Uttermost War. While the Elves offered to teach all allied races their way of magic, the pride of the Dwarves led them to develop an independent method of creating spells.

The dwarves found that certain runes have magical properties. When properly inscribed the runes can be used create magic items that allowed the maker to cast spells. Over the centuries they refined rune inscription into a high art.

The dwarves are secretive and taught little of their art to the other races. However during the Crystal Wars, which brought down the Founder Empire, many dwarves immigrated to other regions of the Wilderlands. This was a time chaos and of great peril. For the first time dwarves taught allied races the secrets of rune casting. It would not be the last time.

Five centuries ago, a group of people known as the Skandians were migrating eastward along the icy reaches of the northern Wilderlands. One of the clans of Skandians was encamped along a fjord when they heard a thunderous crash. A glacier calved and filled the head of the fjord along with collapsing the main entrance to a Dwarven Hold. The clan encountered the surviving Dwarves and aided them in digging out the entrance. In gratitude the Dwarves taught the clan many of the arts of civilization including rune casting. The Skandians were permitted to settle on the shoreline and make the land their own new home.

The Skandian Rune-casters organized themselves into Halls. Halls are typically located near a Dwarven Hold for mutual support and aid. The organization of a Rune-caster Hall differs little from a Skandian Clan. The leader of the Hall is known as a Chief and is advised by a council of Elders.

At 1st level the Rune-caster has completed his initial training and inducted as a Disciple. Disciples are expected to wander from Hall to Hall learning different aspect of Rune-casting. This includes spending time working with Rune-casters from friendly Dwarven Holds. If they have the recommendation of three chiefs or Elders by 5th level; they are recognized as a full Rune-caster. At 11th level they are recognized as Elders and are allowed to participate in the debates of the governing council of the Hall.

The main difference between Rune-casters and other ritual-using Orders is the use of Runes. Runes replace the use of scrolls, charms, and wands. A rune can be temporary or permanent. A temporary rune is created much in the same way as a scroll. When used, the rune-caster touches the rune and is able to cast the spell that round. Afterwards the rune dissipates.

The real advantage comes with permanent runes. Unlike charms multiple runes may be inscribed on a single object, provided there is physical space for the rune. The permanent rune is created in the same manner as a Charm item; then infused with a spell as per the charm rules. The Rune-caster merely has to touch the rune to activate it and can cast the spell that round.

Order of Thor Advancement
Level XP HD ST Ritual
1 0 1 15 1st
2 2,250 2 14
3 4,500 3 13 2nd
4 9,000 4 12
5 18,000 5 11 3rd
6 36,000 6 10
7 70,000 7 9 4th
8 110,000 8 8
9 160,000 9 7 5th
10 230,000 +1 hp 6
11 320,000 +2 hp 5 6th
12 420,000 +3 hp 5
13 535,000 +4 hp 5 7th
14 650,000 +5 hp 5
15 765,000 +6 hp 5 8th
16 880,000 +7 hp 5
17 995,000 +8 hp 5 9th
18 1,110,000 +9 hp 5
19 1,225,000 +10 hp 5
20 1,340,000 +11 hp 5
21+ +115,000/lvl +1 hp/lvl 5

Friday, August 21, 2009

In the Halls of the Mountain Kings; Old School Dwarves

The dwarves were one of the earliest races breed from Man by the Demons. They were breed to act as underground workers. Unfortunately the hardiness given to them also resulted in a legendary stubbornness. The early dwarves were not easily terrorized by the demon and soon revolted. They took readily to the metalsmith arts. The discovery of iron is credited to the Dwarves. After the wars they returned to the mountains where they still dwell today.

• Dwarves are long lived and have triple the lifespan of Man.
• Dwarves are +2 to Constitution, -1 to Charisma.
• Dwarves are gain +4 saving throw vs poisons.
• Dwarves gain +2 to any Athletic task.

Veritas is the god of creation, craftsmen, and truth. He is revered by the Dwarves. He is the eldest of the gods and the first to come to the Wilderlands. He is known as the High Lord among the elves. In lands influenced by Elven culture he forms a trinity with Dannu, and Silvanus.

The Dwarves revere Veritas as their patron and teacher. They call him the Soul light because he led them into freedom from being enslaved by the demons. Veritas taught the Dwarves their skills as craftsmen. The Dwarves believe that Veritas continues to inspire their greatest craftsmen.


Rune-casters originated among the Dwarves shortly after the chaos of the Uttermost War. While the Elves offered to teach all allied races their way of magic, the pride of the Dwarves led them to develop an independent method of creating spells.

The dwarves found that certain runes have magical properties. When properly inscribed the runes can be used create magic items that allowed the maker to cast spells. Over the centuries they refined rune inscription into a high art.

The dwarves are secretive and taught little of their art to the other races. However during the Crystal Wars, which brought down the Founder Empire, many dwarves immigrated to other regions of the Wilderlands. This was a time chaos and of great peril. For the first time dwarves taught allied races the secrets of rune casting. It would not be the last time.

Cultural Notes
Short and stocky, the Dwarves were created as a hardy races designed to endure the worse conditions in the mines of the Demons. However along with their bodies their spirit proved to be hardy as well. The demon could never break them as slaves and many escaped into the wilderness to join the rebellion against the Demons.

Because of this Dwarves feel most at home underground in deep mines and caverns. Their homes are magnificent works of art hewn from the living rock. They revel in work and will pursue a task for days without rest. Dwarves are the finest craftsmen of the Wilderlands, while the Elves can match in quality Dwarves out produce in quantity. They are also innovators in metallurgy and engineering; many of the advances in these two fields originated in Dwarven Halls.

The Dwarves are extremely protective of their family. A legacy of their creation by the Demon Lords has left them with the ability to produce only a few children. Among those who are born 75% are male. With so many without a spouse or immediate family the clan has become the focus of the ambition of many Dwarves. A dwarf will fight as fiercely for a nephew or niece as they would their own children. Dwarves hold their feelings in reserve and are perceived as a dour and cheerless race. Privately their halls ring with song and laughter shared with family and good friends.

Their infertility has caused them to regard their home as sacred and its defense the most important priority. Many of the Dwarves who adventure do so in hopes of gaining for their home a decisive advantage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror

One of the more interesting announcements is from Fantasy Flight Games and Warhammer Roleplay 3rd Edition. When the first press releases and photo emerged many Warhammer fans were in shock. Their beloved game has been twisted into a board game! With a MSRP of $100!

I have never played Warhammer Role-play but I respect it's achievements and appreciate the classic adventures of the line. I have several friends who just love it. Turning this into a boardgame made no sense and guaranteed to alienate the older fans.

Well it turns out not quite to be the case. A trickle of actual play reports are coming out. The big difference with Warhammer Roleplay 3rd edition is that instead of charts and stat lines in the rule books nearly everything is in a card format. Just about everything has been put on a card. Take damage pull a wound chart. Take a critical hit flip it over.

In short it is Judges Guild's Dungeon Tac Cards on steroids. "It all happened before and will happen again" indeed.

In all seriousness this may pan out for Flight Flight. They make expensive german style boardgames already. So their company fans probably won't balk at the price. Plus the biggest disadvantage of MMORPG is that you don't get to touch or play with anything. Hence the enduring popularity of boardgames and miniatures. By going component heavy they set themselves apart.

Aside from the high price the biggest problem I see with this approach is durability. You have to take real good care of the cards. ALL of the cards. Lose the wrong thing and your game is hosed. This comes from owning dozens of wargames and a few card based accessories for RPGs.

But cards can be more useful than a book or a chart. I love the Battle Damage Cards I got for Star Fleet Battles. They make resolving damage far less of a chore. Although I have to keep them in a locked strongbox so I don't lose even one. I created my own monster stat cards for D&D 4th edition and that has worked out great for the few times I ran the game.

This should be interesting to follow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Old School Race the Gnomes.

Like the Halflings, for me the Gnomes have a similar problem. There was nothing that makes them stand out from being forest dwarves that are good at illusions. While I did not want Kenders for my halflings I respected the creativity that went into them. Not so for the Tinker Gnomes which I thought were lame from day 1. That I have to endure that concept every time I play World of Warcraft only adds fuel to the fire.

Fortunately I ran into another author who really made Gnomes stand out and not be tinkers. Elisabeth Moon in her excellent Paksenarrion and Legacy of Gird books. Basically Gnomes are Lawful with a capital L. That their defining characteristic is their absolute belief in the rule of law and the concept of fair exchange.

However interesting, I didn't want to just outright copy her Gnomes for the Majestic Wilderlands. Besides she doesn't explain the skilled at Illusion part of Gnomes. This is what I came up with.

The Gnomes were created alongside the Dwarves and were bred to work in the forests felling trees and gathering special plants. They share many of the same traits as the Dwarves. Their stubbornness manifests as a hatred of injustice. After the wars they returned to the forests and settle alongside the elves. They are noted for their ability to mediate disputes and their insistence on fair dealing. Unlike the Dwarves during the wars they developed a keen wit and are also known as notorious pranksters.

• Gnomes are long lived and have triple the lifespan of Man.
• Gnomes are +1 to Constitution, +1 to Wisdom, -1 to Charisma.
• Gnomes are gain +4 saving throw vs poison.
• Gnomes gain +2 to any Athletic task.

Culture Notes
Gnomes are similar to Dwarves but do not share their low birth rates or the imbalance between male and females. As a consequence their culture is not as obsessed with defending their families and survival. They share the stubbornness of the dwarves and this has manifested as hatred of injustice.

Their hatred of injustice has a darker manifestation. When fighting another race or culture they will wage Total War against their enemies. Their armies will practice scorched earth tactics on both offense and defense. They will send handpicked troops behind enemy lines to strike any target supporting the enemy including non-combatants. Many gnome magic-users are skilled at illusions to support these attacks.

They help the Halflings in their efforts to keep the peace between the races. The Gnomes are noted for their ability as mediators and are often called to adjudicate disputes between the races. They are noted for their keen wits and are notorious pranksters. Like Dwarves, Gnomes have clans that they hold an allegiance too. Their clan gatherings are known for their bawdy entertainment which stands in stark contrast to their ruthlessness in war.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In the Beginning Redux

If anybody want to understand the context of the origin of my races. This post here provides the general mythology of the origin of the majestic wilderlands and the races.

The short version.

  • The One, God, Created the Universe
  • The One sends the Lords to order creation and teach the Children Races (Elves and Men)
  • Folks (Lords, Elves, Men) get it in their head they can run things better than the One.
  • They revolt drove the loyal Lords and elves in hiding and enslaved the loyal Men.
  • They became known as the Demons
  • The Demons twisted Men into the different races seeking better servitor races.
  • The loyal Lords and elves are able to engineer a revolt against the Demons.
  • Demons are defeated and imprisoned in the Abyss.
  • The Lords decide to withdraw and let the survivors find their own way in the Wilderlands.
  • The Lords still continue their roles as teachers but use faith and religion as their tools becoming known as the Gods.
  • The surviving races spread out, were fruitful and multiplied. Humans dominate.
  • The rest of the history of the Wilderlands (7,000 years worth)
Note that Elves are immortal in the Majestic Wilderlands and many still exist who lived during the Demon wars. In cultures under their influence the Lords are honored as teachers. For everybody else the Lords are worshiped as Gods with the full range of religious expression .

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Halfiing Forth shall stand

While much of D&D stems from the pulp fantasy and swords & sorcery the single most influential individual, outside of Gary Gygax, is J.R.R. Tolkien. This influence can clearly be seen in the choice of races in Original D&D. Indeed TSR had to change hobbit to halfling to avoid issues with the Tolkien estate.

For Elves and Dwarves the Tolkein portrait of these two races lend themselves to roleplaying. The problem come with the Halflings/Hobbits. Tolkein has stated several times that the hobbits were the everyman of his novel. They were representative of what Free People were fighting for. Unfortunately their society and the Shire is product of specific circumstances the most important of which is this isolation from the other great cultures of Middle Earth. Ultimately for role-players it's biggest sin is that it is boring to play and deal with.

The typical D&D setting a melange of races all thrown together dealing with each. More often than not the adventuring party isn't even majority human. A trend that is especially true for later editions. The isolated Shire Hobbit is not a good fit for this type of setting.

But despite all that I like the Shire and it's quaint hobbit culture. I thrown in several hobbit realms in the Majestic Wilderlands despite my inability to come up with something interesting. Two prominent halfling PCs were Zoldan the Battle Hobbit a typical halfling thief. (typical of how most people played halfling thieves in the early 80s) and the second Toy a psychopathic Chaotic Evil halfling.

While the player did well with both character both had nothing distinctive that made me say "That my setting's halfling." Of then there are Dragonlance's Kenders while fun and interesting, kenders were not a road I wanted to go down. Luckily I never had to deal with this in my background as halfling were not a part of any major plots.

But now with the project I am working comes the reckoning. I need to define my halflings. After a massive case of writer's block I think I came up with something that not kender and preserve the Shire aspect of the halfling.

Halfling were breed by the Demons as agricultural slaves. It was felt their small statue would require them to eat less food and increase the crop surplus they produced. However the Demons did not count on their ability to easily hide and elude searchers. Many escaped the latifundias of the Demons and joined the revolt. After the wars they began to farm cleared lands next to larger realms and traded their surplus for goods made by the Elves and Dwarves.

  • Halflings are long lived and have double the lifespan of Man.
  • Halflings are +2 to Dexterity
  • Halfling automatically gain Stealth at Skill Level 1.
  • Halflings gain +4 to any Stealth task.
  • Halfling are of small stature. Armor cost half.
  • The following are considered two handed weapons for Halflings: Battle Axe, Club, War Hammer, Heavy Mace, Long Sword, Staff.
  • The following are considered one handed weapons: Dagger, Light Mace, Short Sword, Hand Axe.
  • The following Missile weapons can be used. Hand Axe, Short Bow, Light Crossbow, Dart, Sling.
Halfling Culture
In most aspects Halflings are similar to bigger cousins the humans. However their small size has left them with a marked disadvantage dealing with the monsters haunting the Wilderlands. This in combination with their initial training as farmers has caused Halflings to be far more cooperative with each other compared to normal human. They know if they fight among themselves they will be prey for the larger and nastier creatures and races around them.

A legacy of their origins is their interest in Agriculture. Like many of the other races created by the Demon Lords they continued their vocation for the revolt. Growing the food needed to feed the armies of the revolt. When victory came they continued this tradition their lands becoming the breadbaskets feeding the other demi-human realms.

The Halflings are also the greatest allies of the elves in prompting harmony among the races. They take a leading role in the Rangers and other organizations that reach across the boundaries that separate the races. They view that should the various alliances fail then their own lands will open to bandits and worse.

These views have opened a darker side of the Halfling race. They take pride their unbroken history of cooperation among themselves and view the troubles that afflict other races with contempt and condescending. In private talks between the elders they blame the elves for whole mess in the first place as they couldn’t maintain cooperation among themselves resulting in the Dark Elves becoming Demons.

Since the Halfling race lacks the physical strength and are no more gifted magically than any other race to force the issue the only means they have is manipulation and guile. They will plant rumors, lie, and steal to nullify any threat to their race. Their ideal is to transform a situation into one of mutual cooperation. But they will do what takes to nullify the threat if that can’t be achieved.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It is good to be a Dungeon Master

So Saturday I took my young son swimming at the community pool. About two hours in I heard screaming and hollering from a group of young boys 7 to 10 next to me. I looked over and my parental radar went off. When I investigated it turns out they were splashing a yellowjacket wasp back into a gutter. A wasp that was very much alive.

It was one tough bug it endured 10 minutes of being splashed into the gutter and still trying to get out. Then is was splashed into one of the gutter holes and didn't emerge after a minute. The boys all crowded together looking at where they last saw it. I couldn't resist myself viewing this classic setup.

I go over and say in my best DM voice.

You know guys this is the part of the movie where the monster disappears. You don't know where it is. It could to the left, right or worse underneath you.
About half of them ran away screaming. The rest tried to look brave but were looking around with their eyes.

Yes indeed it is good to be a Dungeon Master.


As turn out the wasp was really tough and crawled out a minute later and the splashing resumed. A few minutes later I exercised the right of parental intervention when the splashing turned into poking the still active wasp. I used one of my son's pool rings as a platform for the wasp to crawl onto. Amid shouts of "drown it" and "smash it", I exited the pool and shook it loose in a nearby vertical culvert. It was the one spot nearby the kids couldn't get at it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Congrats to Swords & Wizardry and Mythmere

Apparently Swords & Wizardry took the silver for best free rules. The quickstart rules for A song of First And Ice took the gold. Not sure of the reasoning to allow quickstarts in the category. Coming off of the Lulu Contest that Fight On! and Sword & Wizardry this is great news for everybody in the Old School Renaissance. Hopefully next year one of us will be able to take one of the main categorizes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Map Style

My favorite map style to draw is derived from how the Harn Map are drawn and it looks like this.

The problem I am facing with my current project is that the style relies on color denote vegetation. With full color printing being to expensive I played around with some alternatives. And came up with the following.

Instead of using color I am use fills for the vegetations. I lighten the vegetation fill and make them slight transparent. Also on this one I played with tinting the water gray and then using a white bleed to give some definition to the coastline. I am pleased the result and feel that I now have a black and white alternative to the color version. And it is easily converted to color by changing the vegetation fill.

In case you are wondering this is a regional map to the Nho area in the southwest corner of the Viridistan Map.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Polytheism Applied

Alexis give an interesting idea for incorporating deities in to a campaign here.

Here are two posts of mine that should help in implementing Alexis idea

Religion not deities
Things to consider for your religion

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to make a Fantasy Sandbox

Unlike a Traveller Sandbox making a Fantasy Sandbox is less straightforward. This is because Traveller at the stellar level has a uniform geography while a fantasy setting can have any type of geography imaginable including the fantastic like lands floating on shards of a shattered world.

If talking a fantasy setting I would do the following

  1. Using one page sketch a world or continent map
  2. Label important regions
  3. Write one page of background giving no more than a handful of sentences to each region.
  4. Pick an area roughly 200 miles by 150 miles
  5. Grab a 8.5 by 11 sheet of hex paper.
  6. The scale should be so that it represents a 200 by 150 mile region
  7. Draw in mountains
  8. Draw in rivers
  9. Draw in hills using them to divide the region into distinct river valley
  10. Draw in vegetation (swamps, forests, desert, etc)
  11. Decide to place Population Locales note their race this includes social monsters
  12. Decide to place Lairs (locales tht revolves around a home of monsters)
  13. Decide to place Ruins (locales that revolves around a site)
  14. Decide to place miscellaneous locales. (anything that doesn't fit a above.
  15. Name your geography (don't forget islands)
  16. Write a Half Page background describing the region and it's history.
  17. Write a paragraph describing each named geography
  18. Write a paragraph describing each Population Locale
  19. Write a paragraph describing each Lair (you could get away with a stat block)
  20. Write a paragraph describing each Ruin
  21. Look at your notes and come up with two to four plots that ties one or more locales together. Write a paragraph or two on each.
  22. For each population locale come up with three to five encounters. They should be a sentence each.
  23. Come up with 6 to 12 general encounter for the region as a whole. Should usable in any area of the region. They are a sentence or two each.
  24. Pick the 4 or 6 most important Population locales and draw a quarter page sketch map of the settlement.
  25. Pick the starting population locale and draw a full page map of the settlement. This is the "Home Base"
  26. Use Medieval Demographics to get an a idea of how many shops are in the town.
  27. Pick or create 6 or 12 important buildings. Write a paragraph each.
  28. Scan your descriptions for NPCs or noted monsters. Write a two sentence about each. The first a one line with minimal stats the second one sentence. This is your roster.
  29. Pick the 12 most important NPC or Monsters
  30. Write a paragraph describing each and fully stat them.
  31. Pick the most six common encounter type. (City Guard, Border Warders, Bloody Hand, Orcs) Write a paragraph and fully stat them.
  32. Scan your description for any regional organization and write a paragraph on them. Fully stat the most common encounters involved with them.
  33. Make up a rumor chart with 10 to 20 items that feeds the players into the encounter and plots you created in above.
  34. Identify major regions and create a random encounter chart for each (monsters, wildlife and NPCs) [Thanks Jeff I just plumb forgot]

This will probably run to about 10,000 words. You can do this in about 2 weeks spending about 2 hours an evening at a 1,000 words a evening and time drawing maps. Or consider it about 24 hours of work.

This is being expanded in the following posts.

A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part I covers Step 1
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part II covers Step 2,3, and 4
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part III covers Step 5,6,7,8,9, and 10
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part IV covers Step 11, 12, and 13.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part V covers Step 14, and 15.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part VI covers Step 16.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part VII covers Step 17.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part VIII covers Step 18, 19, and 20.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part IX covers Step 21
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part X covers Step 22
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XI covers Step 23
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XII covers part of Step 24
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XIII covers part of Step 24
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XIV covers part of Step 24
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XV covers part of Step 24
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XVI covers part of Step 24
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XVII covers Step 25
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XVIII covers Step 26
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XIX covers part of Step 27
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XX covers part of Step 27
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XXI covers part of Step 27 including a map.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XXII covers step 28 using the Swords and Wizardry rules
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XXIII cover steps 29, 30, 31, and 32 using the Swords and Wizardry rules.
A Fantasy Sandbox in detail Part XXIV covers steps 33, and 34 including a set of travel rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Book
Now that I have finished this series, I have collected and edited the 24 posts into a single book. I also consolidated the setting examples I used into its own Isle of Pyade (a name change from Piall) setting book. 

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Put the monkey poo down!

Jeff makes an excellent post here on the different edition of D&D and their differences.
Which is to say the difference are largely inconsequential for older editions and debating their difference resulting in flying monkey poo.

And I agree wholeheartedly. Not because Jeff is a cool guy and I like his writing. But of my experience in writing Points of Light.

Before I started Points of Light with Dwayne I had to do some preparation. Basically I went through the OGL D20 SRD and found every monster mentioned from OD&D to 2nd Edition. I also researched the various magic items.

What I found that these elements carried over from edition and to edition most unchanged. Because I had no room for anything but minimal stats that meant the Points of Light will work for just about any edition of D&D.

Because of the influence of D&D on our hobby, the bits and pieces of D&D are found nearly every fantasy RPG. So Points of Light's usefulness goes beyond D&D itself.

Now if you are writing a rule supplement then likely you will need to pick a specific version to work off of. It just the nature of the beast. But even then Class, Level, Hit Dice, Armor Class are not really hard to convert between the older editions. Special Powers often just translate over as well.

So Jeff is very much right that debating older editions boils down to slinging monkey poo at each other.

So put the monkey poos down!

An all begger campaign

Jame Maliszewsk is talking about Chaosium's Stormbringer here.

This quote leaps out at me,
Maybe it's final, definitive proof that I'm as mentally deranged as some have claimed, but I think that's one of the more awesome bits of text I've read in any gaming rulebook lately. Makes me want to run an all-beggar mini-campaign set in Nadsokor.
I talked before about but all mage campaign I ran for my Majestic Wilderlands. In this campaign everybody play a magic user with no exception. I ran other campaign where everybody was a thief and where everybody was a member of the city guards. Never did one where everybody was a cleric tho.

If you are committed to running your setting home-brew or published there is no better way of fleshing out your setting's background than to do this. The players will invent all kinds of things during the campaign it will be pure gold to use as background for a later game.

My games were run with GURPS, so it was somewhat easy to come up with characters that were diffeent yet mages. The same for the other two campaigns. Even the fact that a player wanted to play a mage in the thief campaign led to some great background material. I developed this group of illegal mages that call themselves foggers. They were mostly self-taught and oriented towards magics that helped the criminal elements particularly anti-divination spells from what they get their name.

Because Stormbringer is based on the Basic Roleplaying System James should have no trouble in helping his players come up with character that different yet all are still beggars. My recommendation is to look at the elements that make up the World of Elric and ask how would this impact the culture of beggars. Who do they worship, and how do the priest operated. What kind of magic they teach themselves. What their relationship with the established thieves guild. And so on. The answers will enrich the background for the next time he runs a game in that setting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Old School Non Adventurers

One of the things that the City-State of the Invincible Overlord is noted for is that just about every inhabitants has a class and some levels. The idea of zero level humans is just not found in City-State and other Wilderlands products.

I never had a an issue with this and it was further reinforced when I switched over to point based system like Fantasy Hero and GURPS. There an adventurer that 100 points can kick the crap out of a 200 point non-adventurers simply because the 200 point character has all his points in skills like blacksmithing.

When working on the Boxed set the solution was easily handled by the fact that D&D 3.0 NPC classes of Common, Aristocrat, Expert, etc. A 10th level Expert is likely to come up on the short end when facing even low level adventurers.

So when translanting my Majestic Wilderlands into Swords & Wizardry (a clone of OD&D) I need to represent this aspect of my world. Likely Jeff Rients hits a home run with his Hedge Mage post.

The key innovation is not the class but the idea that levels are based on years of experience. Unlike D&D 3.0 version where NPC classes are weaker, this makes non-adventurers fundmentally different than adventurers. Not only different but in a way that makes them very unappealing to play as PCs. And to me it feels more like D&D than the 3.0 solution.

So why worry about this at all? Why just use the referee's magic wand and just make it up. For two reasons. First many of the adventures in the Majestic Wilderlands revolves around interacting with normal society rather the monsters found in dungeon crawls or wilderness expeditions. Because of that I like to have a variety of mechanics than what a 1D zero level man offers. Second my endgames in the Majestic Wilderlands often involves the players hiring a variety of specialists and other unique types that are not normal adventurers. Using this idea allows me to give these NPC more variety in terms of abilities.

In conjunction with the Skill System I outlined here. I have a method of creating a variety of NPCs with interesting abilities without just have create them from scratch every time.

Non Adventurers
The level of a non-adventuring class is based on the number of years they have spent working their profession. This can be modified by having a high or low prime requisite score.

Prime Requisite Modifiers
Score       Modifier
3 +3 years
4 to 5 +2 years
6 to 8 +1 year
13 to 15 -1 year
16 to 17 -2 years
18 -3 years

Craftsmen specialize in a single skill. Nearly any of the skills in the Tasks section can be chosen. The Skill’s ability modifier becomes the class’s prime requisite. It is also a limit on the maximum skill level the Craftsman can learn.

Prime Attribute: The Skill’s attribute.
Hit Dice: 1d6
Armor: Leather and shield
Weapons: Dagger, Short sword, Short Bow, Light Crossbow, Club, and Staff.

Craftsmen Advancement
Level    Years        HD    Saving  Skill Required
Throw Lvl Attribute
1 0 to 1 1 17 1 10
2 2 1 17 3 11
3 3 to 4 1 17 4 12
4 5 to 6 1 17 5 13
5 7 to 11 1 17 6 14
6 11 to 15 1 17 7 15
7 16 to 23 1 17 8 16
8 24 to 31 1 17 9 18
9 31 to 39 1 17 10 18
10 39 to 50 1 17 11 18
11 50+ 1 17 12 18

Blacksmithing would be a STR based skill.
Carpentry would be a DEX based skill
and so on.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

From the Usenet: Unearthed Arcana

After the SPI Fiasco the next major milestone in D&D's history was Unearthed Arcana. The denizens of Netland had this exchange. You can read the original here.

From: s...@drutx.UUCP (Sue Brezden)
Date: Thu, 18-Jul-85 19:01:26 EDT
Local: Thurs, Jul 18 1985 7:01 pm
Subject: Re: Unearthed Arcana

As a new topic of conversation:

What is the feeling out there in Netland on "Unearthed Arcana"?
Is it worth the bucks? What's good and bad in it?


Sue Brezden

From: m...@busch.UUCP (Moshe Eliovson)
Date: Thu, 18-Jul-85 22:38:41 EDT
Local: Thurs, Jul 18 1985 10:38 pm
Subject: Re: Unearthed Arcana

Basically, start studying AD&D all over again folks. If you
include this book in your campaign it will greatly enhance the game.

If you have subscribed to Dragon, then you pretty much have
all the material contained in this compilation. However, you do NOT
get all the updated rolling charts etc.

I recommend the book, even though I shelled out $15 for it.

The table of contents runs like this:

P L A Y E R ' S S E C T I O N
Page(s) Topic
------- -----------------------------------
6 - 23 Character material:
- Comeliness (new stat)
- Races (new charts for levels,etc)
- Classes with:
Fighter (specialization etc.)
Cavalier & Paladin
Druid level 15 up
Barbarian (one MEAN mother!)
Thief & Thief Acrobat

25 - 26 Equiping the Character
- Money
- Armor
- Weapons

28 - 66 Spell Charts (NEW!!!!!!)

D U N G E O N M A S T E R ' S S E C T I O N
Page(s) Topic
------- -----------------------------------
74 Character generation:
- rolling method V
- hit points
- abilities (comeliness)

74 - 75 Classes: followers & henchmen for cavaliers

75 - 77 Armor, AC, weapons:
- Types of armor & encumbrance
- Description of New armor
- Warhorse & barding
- Description of new weapons

79 - 80 Spells:
- acquisition of Cantrips (Mages)
- Mage spell books
- Acquisition of Illusionist spells
and cantrips
- Ill. spell books
- cost of spell casting

81 - 82 - Underwater use of spells
- combat (darkness effect)
(HURRAY - no more arguements with DM's!)

82 - 83 "The Campaign"
- Social class and rank
- Circumstances of birth
(a great enhancement in my opinion, I'm a sheer pc snobbish mage!)

84 - 100 TREASURE (back, back! you dwarves and thieves!)
- random tables
potions, scrolls, rings, rods,
staves, wands, misc. magic,
armor & shield, swords,
misc. weapons.

106 - 123 APPENDICES
- Weaponless combat
- Non lethal combat
- Non Human deities
- the Nomenclature of Pole Arms


Help this helps you all,

From the source of UltraChaos,

aka Ragdor the Incurable (F/thief)

From: m...@wuphys.UUCP (Swamp Thing)
Date: Fri, 19-Jul-85 10:59:37 EDT
Local: Fri, Jul 19 1985 10:59 am
Subject: Re: Unearthed Arcana

I havn't spent much time looking at it yet, but the one thing that I really
like is the new level-dependant Ranger tracking abilities table. The
level-independant shot in the P.H. has always struck me as silly.

Mark F. Flynn
Department of Physics
Washington University
St. Louis, MO 63130


"There is no dark side of the moon, really.
Matter of fact, it's all dark."

P. Floyd

From: chu...@nsc.UUCP (Chuq Von Rospach)
Date: Thu, 25-Jul-85 12:42:34 EDT
Local: Thurs, Jul 25 1985 12:42 pm
Subject: Re: Unearthed Arcana

In article <3...@drutx.uucp> s...@drutx.UUCP (Sue Brezden) writes:

>As a new topic of conversation:

>What is the feeling out there in Netland on "Unearthed Arcana"?
>Is it worth the bucks? What's good and bad in it?

I think it is worth it. As an aside, these are 'official' changes, and thus
if you plan on playing tournament or 'real' AD&D you must have it. I would
have preferred to have seen them run new editions of both Players and DMG
since I would like to keep that information separated, but that is a nit
pick. Also, it should be kept in mind that Dragon magazine will require all
manuscripts received after (I believe) the end of August to allow for the
material of the Arcana, so around the first of the calendar year Dragon
will be using that material as well. As far as content goes, I think it
helps significantly, although there are still some glitches in the

:From the carousel of the autumn carnival: Chuq Von Rospach
{cbosgd,fortune,hplabs,ihnp4,seismo}!nsc!chuqui nsc!chu...@decwrl.ARPA

Your fifteen minutes are up. Please step aside!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It all happened before and it will happen again

Wizards marketing/legal managed shoot off another toe with the released of their fan website kit. Technically it a license to allow you to use copyrighted images. The license is very restrictive and I can't see many people using it on their websites or blogs. The real kicker is that they managed to confused everybody into thinking it is a website policy as well. This is causing no end of the debate the kind a marketing department doesn't like to see happen.

You have to wonder what was the first time this happened. Not just for Wizards but for TSR as well. The company that owns D&D has a special prominence in our hobby. It turns out the answer is not the infamous 1990's TSR Internet policy. BUt involves a wargame company called SPI.

Greg Costikyan is a noted game designer (Toon, Paranoia, the Creature that eat Sheboygan, the 1st Star War) who wrote a essay on wargames and the SPI situations in SPI Died for our sins.

The recap of what happens is that SPI got caught in a cash crisis because of the early 80s recession, got a loan from TRS to meet payroll, TSR calls the loan in the minimum time, then manages to become the creditor with first dibs on SPI. Decides to seize the assets instead of the company.

To say this went over well with the rest of the industry is an understatement. Understand that while in crisis the peak of wargames was only several years in the past. There were a LOT of people who had and loved SPI games. Also SPI had a reputation for being a maverick, a maverick that made things better for the average wargamer by breaking Avalon Hill's grip on the market.

This even managed to work it way into USENET. Because of the small number involved it doesn't the reflect the sheer hatred this move caused but what there is still telling.

From: pyuxdd!abc
Date: Mon Jun 28 01:20:43 1982
Local: Mon, Jun 28 1982 1:20 am
Subject: gencon rumor

I haven't anything specific about gencon, but I heard that dealers
are mad at Gygax, and perhaps will flop. Gygax has apparnetly made
himself unwelcome and sponsors are reacting by not showing up.

From: ihldt!tmh
Date: Mon Jun 28 04:49:45 1982
Local: Mon, Jun 28 1982 4:49 am
Subject: re:Gencon

According to what I've heard the people who are pissed off at TSR and will be boycotting Gencon are not the dealers so much as the manufacturers. This is due to the problems caused by TSR buying out SPI and the date chosen by TSR for holding Gencon East. The countries game design companies are all members in a guild type organization and each has one vote for the location of Origins. When TSR bought SPI it thought it should have two votes not one. Needless to say the other companies disagreed and bad blood had resulted. The other problem and I am not sure if they are related is the Gencon East is close to Origins like one weekend or two before and same general location. Since Origins is the big con for the guild they are naturally peeved about the way TSR is acting. Personally I don't blame them since as you can see from SPI's folding that their's is a marginal business and the one thing the industry doesn't need is this kind of crap which is likely to drag all the companies down. Most of this information came from the last time I went down to see GDW and talked to Rich Banner who is currently guild president.

Tom Harris
Bell Labs
Indian Hill

I found this from a 1995 post it has some personal accounts of people's reaction.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My impression of 2nd Edition AD&D

2nd Edition AD&D came out when just gotten into playing GURPS. For me it was too little to late compared to GURPS and I never ran it. However I remember what I liked and disliked about it when it initially came out.

The Likes
THACO - thought it was way better than looking up to hit on a chart.
Thieves could customize their skills
Kits, thought they were a nice solution to customizing a character
Specialty Priests already did this in my last AD&D campaign because of the example in the Dragonlance hardback.
The loose leaf Monsters Manual


The DMG thought it was a inferior effort compared to the 1st Edition version.
The missing/renamed monsters and races 1/2 orcs, demons, devils.
The writing while it was clear and concise was boring as hell compared to 1st edition.

Later I bought some of the settings especially Birthright. I really enjoyed some of the 2nd edition Settings. I also bought the Paladin in Hell module simply because that picture was one of my favorite out of the old PHB. I bought the Night Below I liked the premise and presentation. I bought the 2nd edition version of Destiny of Kings as well as Return to Keep on the Borderlands. The Destiny of Kings remake didn't add much to the original. I did like the Return to the keep as a sequel. Should have bought the aniversary box but didn't as by then I was married and had to watch my spending.

My encounter with 2nd Edition AD&D has a sequel. Years later during a lull at a NERO LARP game I saw a bunch of 2nd edition AD&D books with the black cover. It was obvious that somebody was making a character. Looking things over I saw it looked like something from Champions or GURPS with a lot of point calculations and modifiers. When the owner got back I asked him about it. He showed me skills and powers and what he was doing.

I thought he was on crack.

All I could say was wow, AD&D was nothing like how I remembered. Now I am sure this attitude strikes you as ironic considering I like playing and refereeing Hero System and GURPS. However I played other points system too and those two are top of the line when it comes to point buy RPGs. Late 2nd edition AD&D with Skills and Powers was not top of the line. It seemed to me a very easily abused system. Indeed the player was telling me about some of the choice he made was simply the overwhelming optimal choice for class he was playing.

So that my impression of 2nd Edition AD&D.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tales of Usenet: AD&D Sucks! (and they tell why)

Grognardia asks a question about the infamous TSR web policy here. This got me spelunking into Google Groups as much of the online discussion occurred in the various usenet groups.

The search led as far back as 1981 when I run across this gem.

Apparently one Rich Magill has the honor of being the first troll to take a shot at AD&D.

AD&D sucks for all the previously given reasons. Try The Fantasy Trip
or better yet *****TRAVELLER******!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rich Magill
Later on we see the first of the many "thoughtful" exchanges on why AD&D sucks

View profile
More options Oct 20 1982, 6:28 am
From: unc!tim
Date: Wed Oct 20 06:28:39 1982
Local: Wed, Oct 20 1982 6:28 am
Subject: AD&D sucks

In a possibly vain attempt to get some discussion on this group, I will now come out of the closet
publicly and say I think that Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is a very poor excuse for a game. Gary Gygax has no conception of how books are actually used in a play situation, and a very poor ability to understand hand-to-hand combat. Further, the magic system is totally counter-intuitive. Finally, the importance of magic items (as well as the ideas of class and level) depersonalizes characters, leading to a "rogue"- type environment. (Oh yes, the description of gods in terms of hit dice, etc., is totally useless to the DM, and the unarmed combat system is an atrocity; sorry to have forgotten these.) The only reason that AD&D is the most popular FRP game around is that it has a major lead on the others--unfortunately, TSR has not used this time to improve the rules, only to lengthen them.

The only game I know of that's worse than AD&D, aside from basic D&D, is Tunnels and Trolls. Both RuneQuest and The Fantasy Trip provide much better alternatives, and I am told that SPI's DragonQuest (now owned by TSR) is hard to learn but very smooth once one learns it. I strongly recommend that any AD&D player buy RuneQuest and play a few games before further glorifying their rather primitive game.

I suppose I should be afraid to sign my name,
Tim Maroney (unc!tim)

View profile
More options Oct 20 1982, 12:47 pm
From: rabbit!jj
Date: Wed Oct 20 12:47:02 1982
Local: Wed, Oct 20 1982 12:47 pm
Subject: Re: AD&D sucks

Well, who do you think is going argue with you? Not me, and I've only been using ad&d (yes, Gary, it's copyrighted) for about 4 years to administer a huge campaign. The magic rules are ridiculous, the hand-hand combat makes less sense than using a quarterstaff (and a quarterstaff DOESN't help your AC , com on now, I use a staff, and see if I am as easy to hit when I have a staff as when I do not).
The reason that I used ad&d was that it was the only well described system on the market when I started DM'ing.
Face it, d&d was the FIRST system generally out, and it was certainly better than anything else (i.e. nothing). Since it couldn't benefit from experience, it has lots of problems.
Hopefully, a revision will come out someday that UPDATES ad&d to the current level of complexity and sophistication, and provide a system that is a bit more playable in the long run.
As for the "organization" of the books, I couldn't agree more.
Take a look at DragonQuest (tm-BANTAM BOOKS!!!!!!) to see something that is better organized. DQ's rights, except for movie rights, are now owned by Bantam, who is distributing it with their normal line to lots of bookstores, which should increase the distribution of the game
quite a bit. For some strange reason, TSR still owns the movie rights, whatever they amount to. Apparantly SPI had already made a deal with Bantam before TSR called in their loan, and TSR had to stick with it, and

More options Oct 21 1982, 12:48 am
From: cbosgd!bsw
Date: Thu Oct 21 00:48:30 1982
Local: Thurs, Oct 21 1982 12:48 am
Subject: Re: AD&D sucks

Ok,so AD&D sucks shit. But what makes the others so much better ?
What are the prices of better frp systems ? are they totally different
or what (ie. are there levels ? ac,hp,etc.?) ?

I'm almost not afraid to sign my name,

Ben Walls

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More options Oct 22 1982, 12:12 am
From: watmath!bstempleton
Date: Fri Oct 22 00:12:07 1982
Local: Fri, Oct 22 1982 12:12 am
Subject: Re: AD&D sucks

For all who say AD&D sucks, I will have to agree that Gygax is far from perfect. The following should be remembered - D&D is just a game, and is not supposed to be realistic. If it were realistic, you would get chopped in half and spill real blood. Quite often you want to play a non-realistic scheme. The combat system is one that can be understood by novices and this is good for the game.

Secondly, just about everybody plays d&d quite differently, so nobody really pays that much attention to the tsr rules. They are a handy thing to base something on, and something that somebody from accross the continent can play with. If anybody in my dungeon quotes gygax, I
just say: Oh, so that's how he plays it. Interesting.

I have played with many many combat and magic systems, and find that many people, in their desire to do better, often do worse.

View profile
More options Oct 22 1982, 2:11 am
From: Physics:els
Date: Fri Oct 22 02:11:51 1982
Local: Fri, Oct 22 1982 5:11 am
Subject: Re: AD&D sucks

I learned my D&D before the other thing was around. I like to think that I play the way the game was meant to be played, by using a few tables and a copy of Greyhawk as a LOOSE guideline, arbitrarily remolding things to suit my whims. This puts the DM in a much more omnipotent role. Combat is much more realistic if the DM randomly makes a character slip and fall under the swords of 15 berserkers, etc. Magic may also be made less silly. Besides, I enjoy the look of despair on the faces of AD&Ders when I throw them a curve!

els[Eric Strobel]

Looks like Eric Strobel wins the Old School award in this exchange. And watmath the "dudes chill out" award.