Friday, August 31, 2012

Help is needed with vintage products

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

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

Appreciate anything you folks can come up with.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Devin Night's Monster Token, 36 hours left

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

Demon Wolf Progress Report

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

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

From the Attic: Fantasy Hero 1st Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Hero characters typically start with 75 points.

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

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

Blast 5d6 50pts

Base Cost 50 pts

Explosion x1/2

Active Cost 75 pts

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

Real Cost 15 pts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next is a list of sample spells.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hours left on Reaper Minatures Kickstarter

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ebooks Recommendations

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wondering about settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Another worthy Kickstarter

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

GURPS Majestic Wilderlands: Campaign Update #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I made this handout for the group.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Delving into AD&D: Treasure Types Part II the Monster Manual

So I looked at AD&D treasures including making a list of monsters categorized by treasure type. The big change is that many monsters have multiple treasure types. Including multiple instances of the same treasure type, for example Q (x10) meaning multiply the Q treasure type by ten.

Again the idea is not to figure out why Gygax assigned specific treasure types to individual monster but rather to understand the treasure types themselves.

List of monsters by Treasure Type

I kept the list in a word doc so you can edit it as you see fit.

A is no longer the Man Treasure Type, is not commonly used either being reserved for the Lich, Locathah, Men Bandits, Squid Giant, and Troglodytes

B to F are still pretty much like their OD&D counterpart with the same rough ascending order of value.

G is no longer just for dwarves. Elves are thrown in as well as a bunch of other creatures.

Interestingly the Roc has been removed from I but more creatures were assigned to this treasure type than OD&D. It also was used a lot with creatures with multiple treasure types, probably because of the Gem and Jewelry values.

H is still the hoard treasure for Dragons. Interesting the white dragons don't get this treasure type. Along with the Dragons the Archdevil Geryon and the Guardian Naga have this treasure type.

Now to the new types

J to N are meant to be assigned to individual monsters. When listed as part of a lair it looks to be incidental treasure. This especially clear for the various varieties of Giant Spiders.

O and P are low value coin treasure types, O is copper and silver, while P is silver and electrum

Q is a used a lot and in conjunction with other treasure types, It is the Gem treasure type.

R treasure type is similar to G but without any magic items.

S is the potion treasure type

T is the Scroll treasure type

U is a high value treasure type with Gems, Jewelry and magic items.
The elite monsters that get this are Orcus, Asmodeus, Tiamat the Chromatic Dragon, and interestingly enough Ixitxachitl Guards and Androsphinxs.

V is just magic items

W is similar to G and R but with map instead of magic items. It only used for the Men, Buccaneers.

X is miscellaneous magic items plus a potion, it been assigned to a lot of monster in conjunction with other treasure types.

Y is just gold pieces

Z is similar to H with a smaller number of magic items the monsters that get this are Men Dervishes, Men Nomads, and Will-o-the-wisp. Looks like there is a lot of wealth hidden underneath those camel sacks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Delving into AD&D:Treasure Types Part I

While the assignment of treasure types to individual monsters was obviously an judgment call by Gary Gygax is there meaning behind the types themselves? One of the things OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry omitted was the lettered treasure type system (need to check Labyrinth Lord to see what they do). It was omitted because it was obviously a unique creative creation by Gygax.  However there is a chance that if one compared what monsters were assigned what treasure type, a pattern will emerge to let us know what Gygax considered each treasure type to represent. Then by restating in a different manner, without letter codes,  a functional equivalent can be developed for a retro-clone.

Note Kellri of Old School Reference fame is the one who thought of using descriptions instead of letter codes first.

To start this off we go back to ODnD and look at how treasure types were assigned to the monsters in the three original booklets.

Analysis of OD&D (original booklets only) treasure types.

Looking at the Original D&D treasure we see the following

B,C,D, E, & F are in order of increasing value. Although D&E are roughly equivalent, D has less potential value but greater odds, while E has greater potential odds but lesser odds.

A, G, H, I are all all special treasure basically assigned to only one monster each.

A: Men & Centaur and is divided into Land, Desert, Water subcategories.

B:Skeletons, Zombies, Wights, Hydras, Nixies

C: Ogres (+1,000 GP), Gargoyles, Lycantropes, Minotaurs, Pixies, Gnomes

D:Orcs, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Mummies, Cockatrices, Manticoras, Purple Worms, Dryads

E:Giants (+5,000 GP), Wraiths, Spectres, Gorgons, Wyverns, Elves, Griffons

F:Vampires, Basiliks, Medusae, Chimera




WaysoftheEarth over on the ODnD discussion forum did a numerical analysis of the different ODnD treasure types. Like noted above the D & E treasure types are the oddity in the general progression from B to F.

It will take a few more days but the next post in this series will look at the ADnD treasure types.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Scrouge of the Demon Wolf progress with a preview

Tim and I are doing the second round of edit where we get together on Skype and read through the entire document. We got a quarter of the way through. Tighten up a few things and reworded some awkward phrasing.

Here is a preview of one of the encounters.

Rob Notes: I generally find it easier to write the highlights and improvise the roleplaying rather than read a section of prepared text. Sometimes I will include a short section of dialog to help me remember the personality of the character.

The Greenhaven Inn
If the party stops at the Greenhaven Inn in Denison’s Crossing (#1 Denison Crossing Map), they will be greeted warmly by Thomas Avarlis the Innkeeper.  He offers them the roast mutton with bread and cheese along with a choice of mead or beer for 2d.  His special for the day is two hares in blackberry sauce which comes with bread, cheese and drink for 4d.  He also has three varieties of wines costing 1d, 2d and 5d a goblet (Dearthmead Red, Caelam Red, and Vontal White).  The meals are of excellent quality. 

Thomas the Innkeeper doesn’t know much of what’s going on in Kensla, but hopes that the troubles don’t reach Denison’s Crossing.  He is confident that the toll guards stationed here will handle any trouble.  If asked about the baron’s chief huntsman, Sir Padrin, the innkeeper becomes animated.
The best four days of business I’ve ever had.  They drank their fill at least three times and eat four courses every meal.  And to me surprise! They pay their bill promptly! I haven’t had so much coin since the fussy mages came through on their way to their Golden House.  I can tell you they were not nearly as fun.  Although I have to say that when they came back bearing those wolf pelts I had to air out the place something fierce, took two days with the windows open and three changes of the rushes.

Thomas will then inquire after the chief huntsman health.  If informed about the huntsman being in the stock he looks crestfallen and mutters that he hopes that it gets sorted out.

If asked about the Golden House, Thomas will explain that it is a group of mages taken to living in the wilderness about 10 to 15 miles northwest of Denison Crossing.

Since my grandfather’s day, they been up in the Herald Hills doing their magic and wizardry.

Also staying at the inn is a group of merchants.  They consist of four humans of Ghinorian ancestry and a dwarf.  They are heading towards Twinhorn Pass in order to go west to do some trading around the Romaillion Sea.  One of the merchants is Master Luidwald, he is a talkative person and will take any chance to speak with the players. During the conversation Luidwald will relate that when they arrived this morning, a tinker named Anvald finished eating, then headed down the road to Kensla.  He knows very little about the Golden House other than the turnoff is six miles north from Denison Crossing on the way to Twinhorn Pass.

Observant members of the party may perceive at -5 [-25%] that one of the inn’s servants is listening to everything they say.  This servant is Carden Malsin, agent of the Overlord’s Black Lotus. He is assigned here to monitor the traffic to the Twinhorn Pass and report anything unusual.

Carden Malsin, Black Lotus Agent; AC 8[12]; 3rd level Burglar; HP 10; HTB +0;
Atk 1 Dmg 1d4; Move 120’; Save: 13;  
ABL Climbing +2, Eavesdropping +2, Legerdemain +3, Perception +2, Stealth +3;  
Posses: Dagger, 10d.

Rob’s Note: Like the chief huntsmen encounter, some parties rushed through Denison’s Crossing as fast as they could while others visited the inn.  I threw in Carden Malsin as a red herring. None of the parties who noticed him tried to interact with him. The most one party did was keep a close eye out for anybody following them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why failure is sometimes as important as success.

Joesph Browning makes some very good points about using Kickstarter for the OSR calender despite it failing. A lot of people have been focusing on the successes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. How it allowed them to fund projects that would have otherwise not happened or taken very long to complete.

However Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites are a game changer not just for their ability to collect funding but also as a measure of market interest. Recently SJ Games Ogre Kickstarter went through the roof and I am sure that was something they were not expecting despite their careful approach to marketing and researching games.

The OSR Calender was an interesting idea but because of the failure of the kickstarter Joesph is now free to invest his time and money in other projects of more interest to others rather staring ruefully at boxes of unsold calenders.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A game where anything can be attempted

From Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, Introduction
Jackson's supposition exposes a crucial difficult in defining role-playing games as simply any games in which one could conceivably prented to a role. The problem with so inclusive a definition is that nothing about the play of Monopoly changes if you adopt a role, however vividly we might personify our imagined tycoons. A desperate mogul cannot attempt to sneak into that hotel on Atlantic Avenue and set it on fire to undermine a rival, nor can unscrupulous plutocrat hire goons to include a wildcat strike over at B&O Railroad. The rules of Monopoly make no provisions of anything of the kind
Role-playing games however, aspire to an ideal where anything can be attempted, where the player can direct that a character attempt any action that one can plausibly contend a prson in that situation might undertake-the referee, a rolle missing in Monopoly and most comparable games, decides the result.
One of the better definition of roleplaying games I read. Playing at the World is a really good book for anybody want to read about the origins of wargames and tabletop roleplaying games. And the research is backed by original documents and interviews.

Peterson even able to trace the history of the idea that a game can allow for anything to be attempted.  It apparently started with Free Kriegspiel, a wargame used by the Prussian/German Army.  It was brought over by Charles Totten writing about the concept in Strategos: The American Art of War. Basically using a set of rules and a referee to adjudicate wargames. The addition of a referee allows both side to attempt anything their forces could reasonably do with the judgment of the referee as the final arbiter.

David Wesely discovered Totten writings and adapted them for the use of the wargaming groups of Minnesota in the late 60s. Ultimately using them to run the Braustein series of games. Which inspired Dave Arneson to run Blackmoor.

The consequence of having a game where anything can be attempted also means the promise that anything can be achieved. That victory can be achieved in ways other than dominance of the opposing force. This made these open ended games more interesting to the gamers of the time.

A lot of good stuff in this book and I just only got done with the first chapter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Playing at the World is released!

Playing at the World is written by Jon Peterson and is an exhaustive look at the origins of roleplaying games and wargames of all types. What makes this book valuable and useful is the author's reliance on primary sources. Thanks to the development of the internet, and rise of various collector's communities. (like the Acaeum) Jon had a wealth of material to use as the foundation of his research. The result is one of the first (and hopefully not last) serious and impartial look at the origins of our hobby. I am almost done with the first chapter and while written in dry academic tone it is highly readable and at no time I felt I was being drowned in minutiae.

To his credit the author clearly lays out what the book is and isn't. Notably the book doesn't have much in the way of personal stories about the individuals of the early days. He admits there is plenty of material but he felt it would get of the primary purpose of Playing at the World, which is to document and explain the origins of wargames and tabletop roleplaying. He feels with this book future authors will have a framework around to use when writing about other interesting aspects of the early days of the hobby.

Finally this books marks the public release of the mysterious map of the Great Kingdom of the Castles & Crusades Society. Greyhawk and Blackmoor fans will be surprised at what the map really looks like, I know I was.

Print Copy
Kindle Copy

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The best introduction to roleplaying games I read.

I stumbled across this from the introduction of Monsters! Monsters! by Ken St. Andre. You can read by downloading the full preview from RPG.
Wargaming is an ancient and honorable pastime. The game you are holding, however is an example of a relatively new type of wargame - the "fantasy role-playing" variety. In a fantasy game, the players command no armies and set no strategy. Each controls one character, or, at the most, a small band. The emphasis is not on meticulous detail-planning, but on creativity, and (let's face it) escapism. Although role-playing games are an offshoot of conflict simulation, they appeal most strongly to those who enjoy the literature of fantasy and science fiction. But reading is a solitary escape. A fantasy game can take a whole group away together to the world as it once was, or should have been, or may someday be.

Necessarily, then, fantasy games are complicated without being precise. If you like games where everything is spelled out, then this won't be for you and if you like your games quick and simple, put this one down now. Fantasy games are open-ended; the rulebook is only the skeleton. The Game Master provides the flesh, and the players breathe life into it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter!

The Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter has started! The object is to get the rulebook into distribution and to produce a durable hardcover version that has binding similar to the original AD&D books. In my opinion, worthy goals and need to be done. Matt's announced the project on his blog and you can read about the other goals of the project.