Monday, November 29, 2010

Lulu Sale for Monday Only

There is a Lulu sale going on for Monday only. You can get the Majestic Wilderlands at 25% off if you use the coupon code CYBER305. There also report of the code HOLIDAYREADS gets you 40% off.

While you there check out some of the other publishers in the Old School Renaissance.

Ryan Dancy on the Open Game License

Ryan Dancey was the main advocate of the Open Game License and D20 SRD at Wizards in 1999-2000. On this forum post at the Paizo Messageboard he reflects on it's legacy. The release of the d20 SRD under the OGL is a seminal event in the history of Dungeon & Dragon and I thank Mr. Dancey for it. It is also the foundation of countless games including the various retro-clones we now happily play.

One of the things that makes the OGL well suited for what we do is that works can have Product Identity. Product Identity are elements of a work that are unique to the publisher and allows each of use to protect what is uniquely ours but still keeps the common rules elements free for anybody to use.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Free Traveller RPG

For those of you wanting to try out Classic Traveller you can download Starter Traveller for free!

This post is a good summary of what the differences are between Starter Traveller and the full books.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part III
(The final reckoning)

I am not going to get into a lot of detail about the rules. It is still in early playtest and while the general outline is clear the details are in flux.

First it is in the D&D family of Roleplaying and has elements of both older D&D and the D20 system. But it is not a retro-clone more like Hackmaster Basic, True20, and Castles & Crusades. It is deadlier and more bloody as represented by subsystem involving fumbles, and critical hits.

The spell system is not vancian, although some of the general ideas like spells books are still present. Spells require a roll to see if you get the spell off and what the results are. There is corruption which result from rolling a 1 on a failed spell rolls. High level mages pay a palpable price for their power. You do spellburn which exact a toil on the body but allows you give a needed boost to your spell in a critical moment.

Luck is very important to the DCC RPG and effect everybody differently. Like Spellburn your luck can be used to turn the tide in a critical moment.

Alignment is also important. In the DCC RPG alignment are not just philosophical ideas but represent fundamental factions of the DCC universe. You are not just choosing a belief but who your friends and allies are in the natural and supernatural world. Behind all that are things that man is not meant to know.

Throughout this is the simplicity of original Dungeons & Dragons. Class dominates, and your abilities are 3d6 straight down the line. Some rule subsystems are more complex than OD&D but they are clearly there because these are rules for Swords & Sorcery.

And even at this early stage the writing shines with Joseph Goodman's love of the novels and stories that make up Appendix N of AD&D's Dungeon Master Guide. The playtest adventures I received shine likewise and feel much more like a Moorcock or Howard Adventure than a D&D adventure.

The DCC RPG is going for a specific feel and tone both in it's writing and it's rules. This means that it not going to appeal to all players of the Old School Renaissance. It not D&D but instead is a Swords & Sorcery RPG. But given the what I seen so far I think it going to develop into a game to keep an eye on. That fans of the Dungeon Crawl Classic Modules are going to really like this RPG.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part II
(It would like wearing somebody's else underwear)

Robert Conley Referee
Running The Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer written by Joseph Goodman

Al Krombach
Bing the Witless, 2nd lvl Dwarf
Figin “Not a thief”, 2nd lvl Thief

Tim Shorts
Richard of Greyhorn, 2nd lvl Fighter
Dilgar, 2nd Lvl Dwarf
Chuck, 0th Lvl Peasant

Greg Hofmann
Wilfred, 2nd Lvl Fighter
Erik the Scoundrel, 2nd Lvl Thief

Jason Sholtis
Danidrun, 2nd Lvl Elf
Derillus the Enchanter, 2nd Lvl Wizard

John Larrey
Brother Bombast, 2nd Level Cleric
Bazul the Mad Cleric, 2nd Level Cleric
They decided to take the northeast door. There they were best by another emerald guard, one that was finely crafted. The fight was over quickly and when the guard was shattered it transformed into the broken body of a peasant from the village. Brother Bombast, and Bazul tried to save him. They failed. With his dying breath the peasant uttered “Ask Thesdipedes to save my wife”

In the aftermath of the peasant’s death the party noticed the skulls entered through a round hole high on the ceiling. They looked around and spotted similar holes next to many of the doors in the corridor. After a quick huddle they determined that the wizard is using them to watch them and decided to launch a surprise attack. In a single round they shattered both skulls.

The party then decided to check the first door. After carefully checking it over they opened it revealing a small library with eight round book stands. Only two books could be seen although there was clearly room for more. When approached the books disappeared, only to appear in a nearby stand. After a few minutes of fruitlessly chasing the books the party positioned themselves so everybody was next to a bookstand. This only caused the books to repeatedly teleport across all the stands. Teleporting so fast they were a blur and could not be grabbed.

Bazul the Mad Cleric squeezed himself into one of the stands. It took him a while and he got hit with a book twice. When he pulled his last foot in, he started teleporting across the various stands. It was all he could do not to throw up Finally several the party members stepped away from the book stands bring Bazul to a stop and he shakily crawled out of the stand.

At this point the book also came to a stop in other stands. Bing hoisted his 10’ pole and found he was able to touch one of the books. With some more effort he knocked it off the shelf. Then he did the same for the second book. Upon examination the books proved very interesting the first was Thesdipedes’ Book of Transmogrification and the second was set of blueprints and instructions for creating the emerald warriors. At this moment the floor started vibrating slightly and they heard the hum of machinery revving up.
The party continued down the corridor and found a bedroom behind the second door. They threw a golden bust of a dragon head and a sack of silver coins into Erik’s Large Sack. At this point the corridor turned, and turned again. At another turn, Bing fell nearly into a 10’ deep pit with spikes. After debating about what to do the party went back to the bedroom and grabbed the bed to make a bridge with.

After a shaky crossing the corridor continued before ending in a short turn with a door at the end. After a careful check they opened a door to reveal a strange corridor with dark grey stone. Also the party found another secret door leading back the way they came. It was the way the Sorcerer used to avoid the pit.

After looking they could see something moving within the walls. Sending Richard of Greyhorn and Danidrun (with bow drawn) the motion became more frantic and human shapes started to emerge! The two quickly moved back into the corridor but not before Danidrun noticed a secret door next to the door they entered in.

Danidrun shoot one of the creatures while Bing threw an ax at it. They appeared to have killed it and were aiming at the others when they withdrew into the wall. The party then decided to make a mad dash to the secret door. They succeeded and found themselves in another corridor when a finely crafted emerald guard attacked them. After a quick fight they succeeded in shattering the guard which formed into the broken body of another villager. This time Brother Bombast was prepared and dashed to heal him.

While he was working on the villager’s broken body, three other doors opened up the corridor and six more emerald guards came pouring out. Two of them were crudely misshapen and the other four finely crafted. While the party engaged, Brother Bombast was able to bring the villager back from the brink of death.. But the fight grew more desperate. Dilgar went down, then Danidrun, even the last minute aid of Chuck, the revived villager, (Tim rolled him up as a zero level character), could not turn the tide as Bazul died. Bing and Figin fled. Wilfred and Erik both went down and when Chuck left with Bombast, they saw Richard of Greyhorn going down fighting midst a hail of blows from six emerald warriors.

Using the secret door as a shortcut they spiked it shut and fled the citadel. The last thing the survivors saw was new emerald warriors taking up guard positions outside the citadel’s entrance.
That where the game was called at the convention. If this was a campaign we would have undoubtedly recruited new characters among the villagers. Character generation for 2nd level characters was fast, zero level character is even faster as Tim was able to roll up Chuck the Peasant up in between rounds of the fight.

Note that during the fight when Danidrun when down, Jason was offered the use of one of the other characters. He waved it off. Stated he was OK with it and that how the dice rolled. Tim quipped, “No problem it would like wearing somebody else underwear anyway.” It took a while before the table stopped laughing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

D&D 4e Virtual Table

Since it was announced several years ago I thought that a D&D 4e virtual tabletop hosted by Wizards would a major change in the hobby. If probably done it would make it easy for D&D 4e players to find each other and play when it convenient for them. Especially if it had on a server/meeting room front end where players could browse and find games to play.

This benefits the rest of the hobby as this helps keep the network of D&D players healthy. Which is where most other RPGs get their players from. Also by popularizing Virtual Table Tops this will draw attention to this type of software. Making it slightly easier for us who play other RPGs, like Swords & Wizardry, and use VTTs to find players. It will also spur innovation as other VTTs strive to exceed what Wizards offers.

After a long period, we have some news, a FAQ, and a Screen Shot. Of course nobody has a lot of respect for Wizard's programming team so we wait to see if they can actually pull this off right.

To me it looks like they are going 2D and integrating their token and tile art into the product. The earlier incarnation was going to be 3D which was going to be too big of leap. I think going the 2D route will leverage the advantage in art that Wizards has and provide an achievable goal.

The things Wizards will need to get right to be competitive in the long run will be
  1. Integration with Character Builder and Compendium.
  2. Use of Dungeon Tiles and other art assets,
  3. good game lobby to find other players.
  4. A regular release of precanned modules similar to encounters or delves so that even the most time pressed DM can get involved.
If they get these right they can be "good enough" in other areas compared to their competitors.

The Silver Standard

Michael Curtis ask his readers about using the Silver Standard.

I used it for over two decades now including in my current Swords & Wizardry campaign.

The basic coin is a silver penny abbreviated as d or denarius. The old roman term for the coin. So 20d is 20 silver pennies.

The silver penny weighs 250 to a pound.

I have two large value goings. The first is the gold penny worth 20d. It's weight is also 250 to a pound. The second is the gold crown. It is worth 320d and weight 16 to a pound. The gold penny is not a common coin. I generally only use it for ancient hordes found in the ruins of past civilization. The gold crown is the common high value coin used both as a unit of accounting and actual coin.

There is another rare form of currency which is the silver mark. It is a 1 lb bar of silver stamped with a mint mark worth 240d. If you wondering about the discrepancy in weight is because the silver penny is debased slightly to produce a more durable coin. Hence you get 250 of them out of a lb of silver. The gold crown is heavy enough that this is isn't an issues so it is a nearly pure coin.

There is also the farthing. There are 4 farthings in a silver penny. It could be a copper coin but in the Majestic Wilderlands (like Harn) the silver penny is minted in such a way to make it easy to divide into quarters. Things like a mug of ale are priced in farthings.

The cornerstones of my silver system are silver penny and the gold crown. I find having single standard unit of currency paired with a really high value gold to be ideal. Price lists are simple with everything in a single coin. While when gold is found in the form of crowns and sometimes pennies it is appreciated by nearly every players for it's value.

For example in the last session of my S&W campaign the players have a stock of valuable art they gained on an adventure. Tim of Gothridge Manor taking Dwayne's security measures a big lightly until the appraiser came in. When he told them that the lot could fetch up to 800 crowns both Tim and the Rusty Battle Axe were on-board about making sure it is secure. Back when I was running AD&D, 800 gp didn't have same draw dropping result as 800 crowns.

The basis of my price list is from Harn which is based roughly on prices of 12th century England. You can download a copy from Columbia Games here or from the War Flail here.

You can download the version I use from here. It also include a herb list adapted and expanded from the list of herb Harn has. The effects are written for use in Swords & Wizardry.

I also found that the prices in Swords & Wizardry and similar clones are in the ballpark with the Harn List. Simple multiply by 10 to get the value in silver. For things priced in copper I just round to the nearest copper. Where this helps is not so much the ordinary items but when you get into building castles and magic item prices.

For gems the prices are it's weight in carats SQUARED times a factor based on the gem type.
For example Quartz the factor is 5d. So a 10 carat Quartz gem is worth a 100d. Amber is 2d, Agate is 10d, Diamond is 800d, Emerald is 700d, and Ruby is 1,000d.
I been busy with work related matters this weeks and plan to resume regular posts on Saturday with finishing up the Dungeon Crawl playtest and getting another "How to build a Fantasy Sandbox" post up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Erie Days of Dungeon Crawling Part I
(First time I seen somebody killed by a door)

Robert Conley Referee
Running The Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer written by Joseph Goodman

Al Krombach
Bing the Witless, 2nd lvl Dwarf
Figin “Not a thief”, 2nd lvl Thief

Tim Shorts
Richard of Greyhorn, 2nd lvl Fighter
Dilgar, 2nd Lvl Dwarf
Chuck, 0th Lvl Peasant

Greg Hofmann
Wilfred, 2nd Lvl Fighter
Erik the Scoundrel, 2nd Lvl Thief

Jason Sholtis
Danidrun, 2nd Lvl Elf
Derillus the Enchanter, 2nd Lvl Wizard

John Larrey
Brother Bombast, 2nd Level Cleric
Bazul the Mad Cleric, 2nd Level Cleric
The Adventure
Everybody was scattered throughout the Kingdom of Zamora and heard their home village of Greyhorn was in trouble. They gathered at the village and found out that the Emerald Sorcerer was kidnapping villagers with his minions.

The party went up the ridge and scouted the entrance to the Sorcerer’s citadel. The spied two strange emerald statues one carved into a perfect likeness of a guard and the other a misshapen lump of a man. Danidrun the Elf fired at the door but missed badly and hit one of the statues. At which point they came to life and attacked the party. The party moved in to fight the statues and within three rounds dispatched both of them. The final blow struck by Figin “Not a Thief” with a massive backstab. When the finely crafted statue was smashed it was transformed into a body of a dying villager. While healing the party Bazul the Mad Cleric found that his patron god, the God of Riddles, had taken personal interest in the adventure and commanded Bazul to unravel the strange mystery of the statues.

The party then examined the strange pewter door that stood as the entrance to the citadel. Dilgar checked for traps and strange constructions. After some discussion it was decided to let Derillus the Enchanter burst the door out of the frame with his Enlarge. As the spell required the wizard to touch the object the party tied a rope around Derillus. At the moment of casting they would yank him back if the door burst forward. Then Derillus cast the Enlarge spell.

Unfortunately, the door burst towards the wizard. While the party succeeded in yanking the wizard back it hit him hard and killed him. After a moment of stunned silence, Dilgar quipped “Well I can say this is the first time I seen somebody killed by a door.”.

After the party collected themselves and buried Derrilus under a rocky cairn they looked inside. There they found a hall with tiled mosaics lining it’s walls depicting a green skinned sorcerer and his deeds. Carefully probing their way through the hallway they came to another pewer door like the first one. Once again Dilgar looked it over carefully not realizing that behind him tiles starting flying off the walls and forming into a humanoid monster!

The tile monster attacks the rear of the party only to stumble. The tiles making up its arms whirling away. The party won initiative and started attacking the creature smashing chunks of tiles away. The creature roared and more tiles come pouring out of the wall forming themselves into 4 dog like tile monsters. One of them leaps on Figin “Not a Thief” and smashes into his head leaving him deafened and gravely injured. However despite the reinforcement the tide turned against the monster and two rounds later the party emerge triumphant amid littered and smashed tiles. Danidrun noted some strange peepholes near the ceiling and investigated them. Behind which he could see narrow corridors.

Angered by the cowardly magics thrown against him Dilgar attacked the door with his crowbar. It took a few tries but he wrenched it open revealing a ornate lounge with a 20’ long table made of solid emerald! Danidrun was second in the room and started searching. Quickly finding secret doors they find the entrances to the corridors behind the peepholes in the entranceway.
No sooner after finishing exploring these corridors when the emerald table started glowing. Out popped two emerald skulls sporting wings! They flew crazily around the room out of reach. Then the Emerald Sorceror himself stepped out. Brother Bombast told everybody to stand their ground and turned to the sorcerer. “Please stopping stop taking villagers. What has angered you so?” . The Sorceror replied “No.” After making a gesture towards the skulls, he stepped back into the table and disappeared. At first the party was on their guard with the skulls. But the skulls just hovered there not attacking.

Bazul the Mad Cleric, carefully examined the table and found that it was a variant of portal magic. With enough effort he could wrest enough control to send the party to wherever the sorcerer went. However it was decided that they would be better off using one of the doors leaving the room.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Off to Erie!

Eries Days of Gaming is happening this weekend.

First up is that I will be playing some GURPS Friday Night

Then on Saturday running Scourge of the Demon Wolf with S&W and Majestic Wilderlands at 1 pm.

Then at 7 running a playtest of the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG.

Finishing up on Sunday with another S&W/Majestic Wilderlands running the Elf Lord's Temple.

Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From the Attic: The Solo bites the dust and other Cyberpunk Stories

Over on the theRPGsite this lively thread on the Cyberpunk genre ensued.

CyberPunk to me always felt goofy even if it is being fun to play. A version of Urban Fantasy using technology instead of magic. Still Cyberpunk provided me with some of the best roleplaying moments ever.

I was playing a game of Cyberpunk 2020 and I was a Tech. We had an obnoxious player who was running a Solo with a lot of tweaks and mods to make him a virtual killing machine. The player was known to be a backstabber and a "All for me and none for you" type. The two other players were playing a Decker and a Corporate.

So early in the game we were able to upgrade to our weapons. Of course the Solo rudely insisted that I modify his weapons first. I did this and then I worked on everybody else gear.

So we go on the adventure which involves some breaking, entering, and stealing. Along the way we not only grabbed our target but some additional valuable tech and loot. The Solo is a combat monster blowing our opposition away.

Then at the end of the session we talked about dividing what we found. Of course being the combat monster Solo pulled out his big ass guns and stated that everything was his. Everybody groaned as nobody could even hope to match him in combat.

I said "I don't think so. I got a 9mm that says different". Mine you I haven't pulled out anything and he had his weapons out already. The Solo player laughed and told me to back down or he will kill me. I then told the GM I am drawing." Of course I lost initiative and the Solo goes to shoot me.

And nothing happened. The guns wouldn't fire.

Then I got the 9mm out and blew him away.

What happened was that when the players handed me their weapons to modify at the beginning of the game I slipped the referee a note. I put image recognition software on their sights. Then I programmed them not to fire if I was the target.

The look on the Solo player's face was priceless and the rest of the room burst out laughing. Shortly after he gathered his things and left muttering to himself.
The second story involves Tim of Gothridge Manor. We were playing a game of Shadowrun at Dwayne of Gamer's Closet's house. There were some new players there which made for an interesting mix for the game. Tim rolled up a Solo type with big ass guns and one of the new players rolled up a Decker. The Decker player had diarrhea of the mouth and just could not shut up about anything including how cool his Decker is.

During the game we were all riding in a limo going to a meeting with the Decker player yakking the whole way. He started to talk how tough his character was and how we better watch out or he will Null us and we be left with nothing as we be locked out of our accounts and the Net.

At this point Tim's Solo had enough; he was chipped with a lightning reflex mod and before the Decker could react he snatched the Decker of the character's hands.

Coldly he looked at the players. "So you think to threaten to Null me? Well I am telling you different." He proceeded to exert some of his augmented strength and cracked the case on the deck. The Decker's player literally turned white. "Now I need to squeeze only a little more and this Deck is toast. Are we clear on this demonstration?"

The Decker player quickly nodded and Tim's Solo tossed the deck back to the character.

This incident came in handy for me a few month's later when I sat down to be another Hero System Cyberpunk game at a convention. I didn't know anybody at this game but it seemed to start smoothly. I had some type of fixer with an electric stun stick. But there was another player that had diarrhea of the mouth and just could not shut up about anything and everything. Everybody was getting annoyed when I said

"I reach over and jab his, the annoying player, character in the body with the stun stick."

Everybody stopped and stared at me and the GM in silence. He had both of us roll and I hit. Rolling damage, it was enough to cause the annoying player's character to fall unconscious. I turned to the rest of the players.

"That will shut him up."

The annoying players was so mad and he tried to start protesting but the GM ruled he is unconscious and can't talk in-game. The rest laughed and gave me a round of applause. For the rest of the game anytime the annoying player started to act up I just said "I pull out my Stun Stick and rest in my hands.". The annoying player then shut up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From the Attic; Before there was Hexographer

I never was a big fan of the "Mystara" style of mapping. But in the 80s Mystara was just as popular as Greyhawk if not more. I did one large map using the style. It wasn't anything related to any of my campaigns at the time I drew it just because. I believe I was thinking of 30 or 60 mile hexes here.

The circular sea to the west was meant to be a meteor strike or a big magical explosion. In the northeast is a complex coastline that is meant to be fjords a viking home. One of the large southern islands was supposed to be the X1 Island of Dread. The center area of the southern continent suffers form rainshadow, very arid and has lots of deserts.

If it inspires you feel free to use it for your own game. If you want to clean it up a bit try Hexographer which is one of the best mapping software out there for the Mystara style.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Traveller: The Adventure

This is the age of the Third Imperium. In the year 1105, the Emperor Strephon rules over an empire of eleven thousand worlds. On the far reaches of the empire lies the Spinward Marches, the frontier of the Third Imperium. A crossroads for humans and aliens it is a dangerous place, but for those who dare to cross the abyss between stars, fame and fortune waits.
And that was the opening paragraph of the handout I created for campaign I ran using the Traveller Adventure. You can download the entire handout from here. It contains a one page summary of the Third Imperium setting, two pages of information on the Aramis subsector, one page on how to decipher the UWP. A trade route maps created using GURPS Far Trader rules. Finally two pages of deck plans for the March Harrier redrawn by me.

The subsector map was a JPG generated by using Galactic one of the best mapping programs for Traveller. It is a dos program but it greatest feature is the ability to easily manage an Imperium worth of maps and data. I have a 75% complete conversion of Galactic into a Windows program which you can download from here. Just grab Galactic 2.3c and unzip it. Then copy my Galactic.exe into the same directory and run. The interface hasn't changed other than the fact it now runs in a regular window and uses notepad as an editor for text files. Like I said it is only 75% complete but but should be adequate for browsing Galactic sectors. Anybody wants the source code just email me. It is written in Visual Basic 6.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

XBox Warning

I don't talk much about computer gaming stuff. But something came up with the XBox 360 that all of you should be aware of. Especially those of you with kids.

The basic issue is that the Xbox 360 support downloadable content purchased with Points you buy from Microsoft. If you bought an XBox last year you have the option of blocking purchases and still allow access to all other on-line services like Netflix, or multi-player games. This is typically a wise choice with children and teenagers who are still getting a grip that they just can't spend $$$ without earning it.

The problem is that Microsoft recently updated the console with a new operating system that support the Kinectic. In doing so it disabled the ability to block downloadable purchases. The update throws the gate wide open for any Live account to make purchases with the credit card associated with the account. The agents recommend that the only thing you can do is take off the credit card and use prepurchased cards to enable your access.

The Warden is declaring a medical emergency!

Jim Ward, the designer of Metamorphosis Alpha and many other early TSR works, is facing huge medical bills. The Greyhawk Grognard has a full report. It would help if you can take a look at his RPGNow store and see if there is anything there you like and buy. I particularly recommend the original Metamorphsis Alpha as a fascinating look at Gamma World's progenitor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bat in the Attic Status update.

Time for a quarterly update on what going on with my various project.

I haven't made as much progress as I liked with Scrounge of the Demon Wolf. The problem is mostly in that my hobby time for writing/gaming is limited and I didn't manage it well over the summer.

The product is in two parts, the adventure and a small sourcebook for the surrounding region. Both are not extensive It looking at being 48 pages 8.5 by 11 at most. I consider the sourcebook an esstential part as I think it makes it reusable for more than just adventure. It details a village, a hamlet a conclave of mages, a short gazetteer (1 or 2 page) of a barony, So I am pushing myself now to get it done. The adventure is 90% done and the source book is 75% done.

My thoughts on minimal dungeons have come together. I am thinking of formatting it similarly to how I do a Points of Light style setting. With each level having an overview, a paragraph devoted to a large inter-related area along with wandering monsters, and the dungeon key with a few key rooms detailed. The dungeon map itself would be detailed and labeled descriptively (think Tegal Manor). Along with plenty of referee notes sprinkled throughout.

I feel this will make for a useful product in a minimum amount of pages. Because I am shifting away from putting everything into a numerical list of keyed room, It should be easier to get a feel of how the dungeon works overall. Where the referee can change or insert stuff to make it work better with his campaign. I will be using the Elf Lord's Temple as my first test of the format. You can see the Points of Light format with this free download of Southlands.

I continuing work on the big map of the Main Campaign Area. So far coast lines, hills, mountains, and swamps are done. Now I am placing settlements and roads. After that I will do the settled area/cropland vegetation, then the forest/plains/etc. Finally after that will be the labeling. This map is being done Harn style where a fill texture represent the terrain type (swamp/hill/mountain) and color vegetation.

I am still in the midst of some paid projects that will be done soon. They are fun to do, help others in the OSR, and help fund all the future stuff.

After I get the map done, it will be time to write the gazetteer of the Main Campaign Area. Like the campaign section of the MW Supplement this will contain lots on notes on why various regions work the way they do. This should make the product useful as a source of campaign ideas as well as a traditional setting product. For example the Bernost region will be a good example of a region in rebellion to central authority. You could use it as inspiration or yank out the details for use in your own setting.

Aside from being a minimal dungeon The Elf Lord's Temple will the piece of a series detailing the Dearthwood Forest. I think that big gloomy orc-infested forests haven't been done well in the past.

Hope to see some of you at Erie Days of Gaming.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Playing Swords & Wizardry and a special sneak preview!

I am running three sessions at the Erie Days of Gaming, a convention being held in Erie PA from November 12th to 14th.

The first is on Saturday the 13th at 1:00pm and features my upcoming release of Scourge of the Demon Wolf. You get the roll up your own characters and are free to pick from the options from the Majestic Wilderlands as well as Swords & Wizardry. I have loads of aides so you don't need either rulebook to make a character and play. Note this is not a first level adventure I use a random xp chart that could start you out as high as 5th level.

The second was originally going to be the Ruins of Ramat for Swords & Wizardry but I have an opportunity to play the upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG from Goodman Games. It not a retro-clone although some of D&D is in it's DNA. The aim is to replicate the swords & sorcery fantasy found in Appendix N of the Dungeon Master Guide wrapped in a system that is easy to use as original D&D. I think it worth looking at and I am glad to have the chance to help Joseph playtest this. This will be on Saturday the 13th at 7pm.

The third session is on Sunday the 14th at 12 noon. It features my second run through the Elf Lord's Temple my attempt a creating a minimal dungeon. The first group had a lot of fun with it.

The convention itself is primarily focused on Board Games and they have all the classics and a few new ones. If you look at their website you will see their wall of games that they lend to convention patrons.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Resource for Refereeing Terrain in your Sandbox

The best supplements I seen for adjudicating terrain in any type of campaign are the three environment books written by J Andrew Keith published by Game Lords in the 1980s. While written for Traveller they are generic enough to be used for any game system. Of the three like the Mountain Environment. It has a simple but effective system for representing the terrain complexity of a mountain peak.

It is easy to get lost in the details and make the experience a grind for the players because of too much detail. The way I learned to handle it is distill the challenge into a couple of key decisions that a player can reasonably make.

Most of the time it is time versus difficulty. Do we swing to the north and skirt the Dune Sea or do we try to cut across and risk sunstroke and dehydration? Do we climb the sheer cliff wall or take the exposed ridge line up to the peak? These books help in coming up with some creative choices.

From RPGNow
The Desert Environment
The Undersea Environment
The Mountain Environment

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tabletop RPGs and the Future

James as Grognardia has a good post musing on Tabletop RPGs and whether they are a transitional technology.

I agree with James that hoping that RPGs will be as it was in the 80s is dreaming. There may be some fab waves in the future but they will burn out in a year or two as something else catches on.

But I don't think that RPGs are a transitional technology. Take computers for example. In the late 70s the market in personal computers started flourished. There was an excitement and energy in the air about the technology and hobbyists groups flourished throughout the country and world.

Today you find just about everybody using computers in all kinds of forms. Your phone is a computer, your tv is a computer, and so on. However to many of those active in the later 70s the it doesn't have the same energy and feel. Oh there plenty of groups like the old 70's groups but they are involved with different hardware or technologies.

For that 70's era enthusiast the world has left him behind wistfully thinking of older days. The ironic thing that if you poke around long enough you will find that groups liking older technologies still exists. In some cases even picked up where the original left and and developing for it. But unlike the 70s you have really look for them.

I experienced this somewhat myself as in the late 80s I was involved in the local BBS (Bulletin Board System) scene in Meadville along with a group devoted to learning about the changes in computers with Windows and OS/2 first being widely sold. If you poke around you can still find some of the old BBS system around.

This is what happened to tabletop roleplaying. In the 70s anybody potentially interested in roleplaying only had one source, tabletop. Now in the 2010s we have multiple alternatives to choose from, the original tabletop, MMORPG, live actions, and so on. Each with advantages, disadvantages, and social networks.

As each new form developed the tabletop audience shrunk. Those that remained are those that the specific features of tabletop were appealing despite it's disadvantage.

Every form of entertainment has appealing features and disadvantages. The ones that endure are able to play to their strength, and adapt to using new complimentary technologies. The classic case is movies vs television.

But Radio vs television is a better example. Most of the original programming disappeared or transferred to TV. Only news, sports, and music were retained. Radio found it's strength and began to thrive developing things that worked for it's format like talk radio. The development in electronics may gave rise a small boon with the advent of digital and satellite.

The key for the future for tabletop RPGs is understanding their strengths while minimizing their disadvantages and employing complimentary technologies whenever we can.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Cape

On NBC a new series the Cape is slated as a midseason replacement. I watch a couple of the preview video on it's website and looks fairly decent. Unlike Heroes it looks like it fully embraces the conventions of superheroes. I like the backstory as well and the motivation it give the main character. The full series works as good as the preview looks.

Also I recommend No Ordinary Family. Potentially it shares some of Heroes problem in that it ditches comic conventions (i.e. no costumes, etc) in favor of personal drama. But there is a tighter cast of characters that are likeable and well acted. I find it interesting they give the dad all the original powers of Superman (1939).