Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Good referee advice from 140 years ago

 So while reading while reading Jon Peterson's latest, the Elusive Shift he makes an interesting reference to something Charles Totten said in Strategos on page 105.

I think that a pretty good summary of how a good referee acts. 

You can read it for yourself using this link.

Strategos by Charles Totten

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXII

Part XXI

This is the twenty second post in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. 

Today's post will cover step 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.

What I been doing for the past 15 years is using my word processor to create a roster of creatures and character that the party will encounter. This function as a quick cheat sheet for when combat ensues or the players interact with the character. I find this more useful to me than keeping these details within a room or encounter area. The player come with all kinds of plans and may arrive at the locale at an unexpected time. With a roster I can tailor the who is where based on the circumstances. 

Because this is reference for a region, I opted to organize the entires by locale. For the rules I am using Swords & Wizardry Core/Complete by Frog God Games. This is also compatible with my Majestic Fantasy RPG rules. 

Because this is focused on what need to run the sandbox with Swords & Wizardry I only include enough text to remind of what the creature and character are about. If I need more I will look at my original write that I created previously.

Finally I like to use level as a mark of experience so most character have a class and level.

Amur Forest

Spardion leads a sounder of 10 wereboars in the Amur Forest (0502). Lairs in a sea cliff cave in Hex 0503. The sounder's small amount of treasure is hidden in nearby crevice reachable only by using the Ring of Water Walking. The lair also contains a decrepit rowboat capable of holding six members of the back. On race occasion Spardion will use the ring and sneak aboard a nearly boat or ship at night close to shore along with his compatriots nearby in the rowboat. The Map is to original leader's treasure cache hidden in The Fortress of the Lich Lord (0303) in the guard barrack on the 1st level. 

Spardion (Wereboar): HD 5+2; HP 32; AC 4[15]; Atk 1 bite (2d6); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Lycanthropy, Ring of Water Walking.

Wereboar: HD 5+2; HP 21; AC 4[15]; Atk 1 bite (2d6); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Lycanthropy.

Treasure: Gems: 2 x 50 GP; 500 GP; Map To (23 GP; Gems: 3 x 10 GP; 2 x 50 GP; 7 x 100 GP; 5 x 500 GP); Ring of Water Walking

More details after the jump break.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Kickstarter: Layout continues for the Majestic Fantasy RPG, Basic Rules

 Just a quick update that I am in the midst of layout. I have completed about half of the pages and just finished up the monster section. Here is the last page of the monster chapter.

Here is the first page of the character class chapter which includes one of the additional Richard Luschek illustration I purchased. 

For a number of years I have been purchasing stock art and supporting different artists through Patreon. This represents the bulk of the art I use in this book. One of the artist I use is The Forge whose Patreon is located at this link. They provide most of the landscape and locale art you seen in my Wilderlands Guidebooks, and Blackmarsh.

So what I decided to do to supplement the few full page pieces is use that art to present various locales from the settings I created both published and unpublished. Below is an example from the last page of the equipment chapter.

I will do another update next week. This will also include an update of the quick reference cards. I just got notification that the second print test had shipped.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Kickstarter: Editing and Art Update


Emily turned her edits over and I am going through the comments and corrections. Another back and forth should do the trick and meet the completion data of October 31st for the edits. I will also do the update the quick reference cards.

More Richard Luschek Art

I learned that Richard Luschek has a Patreon and subscribed to it. In addition, he selling some of his art through his Patreon. Thanks your generosity in supporting this kickstarter,  I bought a few of them for the interior layout as I can use a few more character pieces and I like his work a lot.

This is Samil the House Man which I plan to use in the section about hirelings. Somebody has to keep track of the party's finances. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Richard Luschek Patreon

I am a long time fan of Richard Luschek's work and hired him to illustrate the cover pieces for the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. Recently I learned that he has started a Patreon to share some of his personal work. So far he has posts of character images and stories from the campaigns he has been involved with. 

I am supporting him and looking forward to seeing what he shares in the future. I hope some of you will support him as well.

Richard Luschek II Patreon

Friday, October 16, 2020

Our AI future and Tabletop Roleplaying

 What I hope for and think will happen, is something like this.

So you want to create a setting and populate it. 

Most folks I know generally has two or three dozen ideas going into this. It may be more but there is some limit. Once you start working beyond this limit it become a bit of a chore and not fun as a hobby. The good news is that most of time you can start small. If you keep the result of what you do for the next campaign then within a few years you will find yourself quite a bit of detail for your setting and that was fun to create.

In my experience a lot of the reason this stuff is not fun is because it is repetitive work. It fine when you describe the first handful of shopkeepers. When you try to describe the 20th often it is not as fun unless some time has passed to recharge your creativity.

A great set of random tables can overcome much of this but even they have their limit. For example Traveller does a great job of generating sectors. But even that process breaks down if you tried to use to generate an entire Imperium of 16 sectors or more.

But what if we didn't use even a great set of random tables? What if we used a trained neural network instead? What if it was setup not just randomly generate but randomly generate with the two to three dozen ideas we already had? 

You tell software or webpage take what you already thought of. Then it will generate the rest around it. In addition after it done, you can review the results and have re-generate the elements you don't like. 

Maybe the result is partially there but needs to be tweaked. So you edit it and then have it regenerate the rest of that specific element. As a bonus it would be nice to drill down to the level of individual character.

What make this possible, is something I noticed about the best random tables. That they seemly capture the author experience with the subject of the table. Whether is something specific like traps, or magic items. More general like a dungeon maze. Or expansive as an entire galaxy worth of sectors. 

While it doesn't replace our creativity, random tables allow us to extend it by using the wisdom of the author of the table. The same with the use of AI software. 

Now that I can see being very useful tool for the hobby.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Advanced Edition Tables with Javascript

I continue to covert over some of the tables I made with Inspiration Pad Pro into Javascript. This time it is the Grenade Scatter tables from the DMG and the NPC Personae Table.


Advanced Edition Tables

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Cover is Finished!

 Richard Luschek turned in all four cover pieces. Without further ado here is the completed cover. 

 I hope you are as pleased with his work as I am. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Funded!

That was a strong finish and I appreciate everybody backing this kickstarter.

The deadline for this project is in November. The big unknown at this point is how long it will take to get proofs back from DrivethruRPG. With the current pandemic the times for cards and book shipping keep shifting. I will keep everybody up to date on the latest advisories as I get them. I posted the latest one (August 24th) at the end of this post.


  • The draft is in the hands of my editor Emily. She is just starting her edits.
  • Richard Luschek is starting on the cover art. I have requested one of the pieces to be done in b/w for an interior illustration. More on that below.
  • When the editing is done I will update the quick reference cards first, apply the edits that Howard Bampton has graciously done, and post a release candidate for comment.
  • I will do the layout and cover.
  • While doing layout, order a print proof of the cards and release the final version of the quick reference cards. 
  • Post a release candidate for the PDF and wait a few days for comments.
  • Make any final corrections to the layout, and order a print proof of the book.
  • Post the Reward Survey to collect everybody's email address.
  • Release all DriveThruRPG print and PDF coupons to finalize the rewards.
  • Once I know the rewards are working I will release the products for sale.
  • First piece of art and additional content.

Richard Luschek has released the first piece of art to me. A b/w version of one of the cover pieces that I will be using in the interior of the book. This particular illustration will have a background and color added for the cover.

Creature being depicted is a Silurian. It not in the current draft so I moved it and the snake category it part of into the draft I submitted to Emily.

Click to see the full size version
I made a small 4 page booklet with Snakes and Silurians from the list of Majestic Fantasy Monsters. You can download the booklet from the below link

Snakes for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

(from DriveThruRPG) Printing & Shipping Update (August 24, 2020)

Printed books are currently taking roughly one month to be printed in the US (UK production is not delayed). In addition, due to Covid-related slowdowns, shipping can also take considerably longer than usual. Note, media mail shipments cannot be tracked and will not be replaced until 45 days have passed undelivered (or 60 days for deliveries to Australia).

Card printing and shipping is also somewhat slower than usual right now. Expect delays.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, The Final Hours

The kickstarter for the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG has entered its last hours. This kickstarter is to fund the cover art and editing of the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. In addition I am offering a set of quick reference cards for character generation using these rules. The reward levels are $8 for both PDFs, and $12 for a at-cost (plus 50 cents) print coupon for DriveThruRPG that covers the book, and the quick reference cards.

Given the number of excellent systems that have been published for the Old School Renaissance, what makes the Majestic Fantasy RPG different? During the Kickstarter I wrote a series of posts going through the rulebook and highlighting some of its elements.



Backgrounds & Abilities

Equipment, Magic, & Spells

Combat, Monsters, & NPCs

Treasure, Rulings, and the World Outside of the Dungeon

Bedrock Podcast Interview
Sometimes reading is not as effective hearing the case being made for a product. Recently I had a nice chat with long time friend, Brendan Davis. We talked about the kickstarter and gaming. Brendan is president of Bedrock Games, an independent publisher of RPGs. He specializes in publishing fantasy RPGs with settings inspired by different time periods and cultures outside of medieval western Europe. I have done maps for several of his products.

Bedrock Games

Bedrock Podcast Interview.

Wrapping it up.
I hope you decide to back this kickstarter during these last few hours. If not the both products will  be available for sale on DriveThruRPG late this fall.

Finally thanks to everybody who backed the kickstarter. It is great to have you all on board and your comments and suggestions have been appreciated and helpful.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Treasure, Rulings, and the World Outside of the Dungeon.

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Due the limited number of pages in the basic rules, I combed through various classic edition basic rules to get a sense of what available. From that I was able to cull a subset of the larger list found in Swords and Wizardry and what I added in the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Viz is magic in physical form. The concept was developed during a campaign where every player played a mage using GURPS. Ars Magica was a great source of inspiration for the campaign and one of the elements that was adapted was the idea of viz. Since GURPS Magic wasn't the same as the magic system in Ars Magica, it got altered into viz. For those who know GURPS, it functioned as a 1 pt powerstone that dissipated after one use.

When I started running Swords & Wizardry I ported over viz. It still dissipates after one use but now one viz allowed a magic-user or cleric to case a first level spell without losing it from memory. It gives a substantial credit towards the creation cost of a magic item. More viz can be used to cast higher level spells without losing it from memory.

In the years since it worked out well as a source of low powered magical treasure. Plus flexibility of its concept allowed it to be found or harvested in interesting ways, ranging from a dragon's teeth, to a wellspring in the midst of a forest that produces 1d6 viz in the light of the full moon.

Treasure Assortment
In the full Majestic Fantasy RPG, I have an elaborate treasure generation system. I automated it using a program called Inspiration Pad Pro from NBos. Overall the system worked out nicely for my campaign. But not everybody wants to use software at their table. In addition, people don't want to use deeply nested random tables during a session.

I used Gygax's Monster and Treasure Assortments while experimenting with randomly generating dungeons. Unlike my treasure table and the treasure tables in Swords and Wizardry, the treasure tables in those books was a simple list with a 100 entries. Each entry is a complete treasure hoard.

I then realized that a complex sets of random tables can be made much more useful, if they are accompanied by a table of pre-generated results. I am calling these types of tables a random assortment.

For the basic rules, I generated 20 items for a 100d (silver piece) treasure hoard, then repeated this for 200d, 500d, and so on up to 2,500d. If I am writing an adventure and I want to generate something special I used the main set of tables. If something happens during a session or I need something quick while writing. I used the random assortment table.

For those who like to use software while writing or running a session, I wrote an on-line random generator written in html and javascript. This allows  you to randomly roll your own treasure hoards for the basic rules at any value.

Treasure Hoards for the MW RPG Basic Rules

This is the first of two sections of referee advice I include in the basic rules. "Ruling not rules" is an idea discussed by Matt Finch in the Old School Primer. The minimalist nature of many classic editions, results in the need for a referee make a ruling for when a player does something that their character logically could do but there is no explicit mechanic to cover it. There been a lot of discussion about the idea but little in the way of describing the nuts and bolts of how one uses the classic edition mechanics to craft new rulings.

The section address that by talking about the available mechanics and how I use them to create specific rulings. I talk about when to make a ruling, assumptions about character competence, and the relevance of failure. Finally I talk about the elements that go into the ruling: Armor Class, Attribute Bonuses, the To-Hit Roll, Hit Points, Movement, Non-Combat Tasks, and Saving Throws.

The World outside of the Dungeon
Here I briefly cover the different elements that go into my campaigns. Why I focus on the World outside of the Dungeon, along with the various elements that go into bringing it to life, this includes constructing locales, characters, and plans.

Next, I talk about the World in Motion, how you take all that and make it work from session to session. The importance of the initial context, and how to handle the continuing saga as the campaign unfolds. Finally I touch on building one's Bag of Stuff. Material that you have memorized or made notes on to use when the players decide to do something unexpected like go west instead of east. Or decide to talk to the innkeeper on the other side of town, instead of consulting the sage by the waterfront.

The idea of this section to provide a useful framework as a starting point for one's own effort. In later supplements I intend to support these ideas further with various tools and techniques to handle common situations found within fantasy campaigns.

Wrapping it up.
This concludes this series of designers notes. I am currently working on various edits as are result of the feedback I gotten. I will post Rev 02 once that is completed. As part of the final push, I will make a combined document available with all these notes collected together.

I thank everybody who backed this kickstarter, your generous support, help and comments are all appreciated.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Combat, Monsters, & NPCs

This is the fifth in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG


This section is the oldest of the rules I wrote. I am 50% deaf which made refereeing a crowded table of teenagers in the early 80s challenging. One reason I used miniatures from the get go that it was far easier for me to visually see what the players wanted to do in a combat round than it was for them to describe it for me. Another technique I used was to try to stick to the rules in the book when it came to combat. It was easier for me as result of my hearing loss.

As a result I tried running the combat in ADnD 1e by the rules. Some of it was straight forward and some of it wasn't, particularly initiative and what you could do in a round. In hindsight I came close but how I handled it still bogged things down in play.

Around 1984, I made my own system. Everybody got their own initiative roll and you could do two things when it was your turn; one attack and a half move. If you wanted to do a full move that all you could do that turn.

I played this for a few years before switching over to Fantasy Hero and then GURPS. When I started playing Swords and Wizardry in 2007, I picked up where I left off with the combat rules. Started to develop them further. The system still boils down to everybody gets a initiative roll, everybody get to do two things in a round. Some of the refinements included how to handle individual initiative with a large group, and combat stunts.

Of everything in the Majestic Fantasy RPG, the combat rules have most hours behind them.

The description reflects how I use them in my campaign. I try to keep it short and highlight the elements that turned out important in my campaign.

A minor addition is that all monster get a initiative bonus. In general it is equal to 1/2 their hit dice rounded down.

I also added a line for what you can harvest off of the monster after you kill it. You can blame Tim of Gothridge Manor for this as he sold me on the idea and showed me how fun it was to incorporate harvesting into a campaign.

Perhaps a little controversial, I use a stat block to organize the mechanics for each monster. Traditionally classic edition systems used the one line stat block to great effect. I found that works well only half the time. For the other half, you only get some of what you need from the one-line stat block. For the rest of it you have read the description and parse out the elements that are important.

In the midst of my first campaign with Swords and; Wizardry I found myself making bullets list for certain creatures so I didn't have to read through the description to reference what they can do in combat. By the second campaign, I eventually wound up with the entire list of monsters formatted this way.

In the basic rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG and future supplement, the description focus more about how the monster exists in the setting, and with the rest are detailed in the stat block. Aside from the addition of the Initiative stat, and Harvest, for most the rest is straight out of Swords and Wizardry just formatted differently.

This section it not often found in various systems or editions. Because much of what my players do to make their mark on the world involves dealing with folks living outside of a dungeon or wilderness, I found I had a roster of common NPC types just as extensive as the list of monsters. They are formatted in a stat block similar to that of the monsters with the additions of what attribute the character has and any ability bonuses they possess.

The section on Rogues give a roster of NPCs suitable for a thieves guild, or a bandit gang.

Fighters give NPCs for any type of organized military force like a city guard or a medieval army along with knights.

Magic Users list NPCs at different levels of experience, apprentice, journeyman, and master.  I also add the typical spells they memorized.

The section on Clerics also list NPCs at different levels of experience. There are two separate lists, one for the Church of Delaquain, the goddess of honor and justice. Another list for the Church of Sarrath, the Dragon God of War and Order.

Next I detail lists of NPCs for Orcs, Goblins, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Lizardmen.
For example the Halfling Shadows who are gentlemen who form a club in order to protect the Halfling realms. These lists reflect some of the details I created over the years for sentient beings capable of having their own culture. Last are the Viridians, the only ones to have escaped the Abyss after the demons were imprisoned there after the Dawn War. In the introduction for each of these, I give the mechanics needed to a make a new type of character from scratch.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Hobbs and Friends Interview

A couple of days, I spent an evening having an interesting conversation with Jason Hobbs on Hobbs and Friends. I appreciate Jason having me on his show and you can listen to our conservation at the below link. We talk about our respective experiences gaming, my work, and of course the kickstarter and what it is about.

Rob Conley Interview on Hobbs and Friends

There is a Twitch stream as well.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Equipment, Spells, & Magic

This is the fourth in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.


One of the biggest difference between the Majestic Fantasy RPG and other rulesets supporting the classic edition is the use of the silver piece as the basic coin rather than the gold piece. In my early campaigns using the advanced edition, I found that the gold rapidly lost its luster. When treasure was found it gold was common enough that it no longer felt to be special. Through exposure to other settings like Columbia Game's Harn, I found that coinage based around one common type, and one valuable type to be more engaging. I adopted the silver penny as the common coin, and the gold crown which was worth 320 silver pennies as the valuable coin. I had a few other coin types for use by other cultures. For example viking cultures used the 1 1b silver mark worth 240 silver pennies. Since 1990 this system has been a mainstay of my campaigns regardless of the system I used.


I played various forms of live-action roleplaying and medieval reenactments for two decades. I no longer had the time to continue after my kids were born but the internet was picking up speed including Youtube. Youtube has a wealth of videos where various reenactors try out medieval weapons to see how they work. When I started using Swords & Wizardry I wanted to use some of that knowledge to make the different weapons distinctive but not at the level of detail other systems had. So I tried various things and eventually settled on the current system of describing one or two special characteristic for each weapon.

For example a battle axe is not the two bladed axe that is commonly depicted in fantasy art The battle axe has a large single blade with the bottom longer than the top. This give it the ability to be used to pin an opponent's weapon or shield. A mace is particularly effective against chainmail or gelatinous creatures. A poleaxe give the wielder a free attack when a enemy combatant first comes into range to represent its longer reach. In each case I try to keep it simple to reflect the spirit of the original editions and not to over complicate the system.

In addition to above I provide descriptions for Armor, Dungeon Equipment, Horses, Dogs, and Hirelings.

This section details common rules for magic: magical immunity, memorization, rituals, and spellbooks. There are two main differences from other classic editions rules. First I divide the magic resistance percentage by 5 and used that is a bonus to a 1d20 roll. So a creature that had 50% magic resistance would now have a +10 magical immunity. You roll 1d20 and if the modified roll is higher than a 20, the spell or effect is resisted. If you like percentages just multiply the modifier I give by 5% and use a d100.

The other big difference are magic rituals. A ritual allows a spellcaster to cast any spell they know (spellbooks for magic users, spell list for clerics) and cast it as a ten-minute ritual as long as you have the required amount of ritual components at hand. As I mentioned before if this makes your campaign too magic rich you can omit this.

This section is perhaps the least changed from Swords & Wizardry. There are a few tweaks. Some spells I tweaked the mechanics into something that worked the same but was more playable in my judgment. For example the effect of the sleep spell is now 4d4 HD with a maximum of 4 HD creatures affected). There are some additional spells like Commmand that are not present in the Swords & Wizardry core rules. Finally there are new spells like Scryguard which protect an area from divination spells. It is a spell especially favored by Foggers, illicit magic users working for the criminal underworld of a city state.

Each spell has a note whether it is effected by magical immunity or not. Magical immunity protects characters from spells like charm person or detect thoughts which use magic to directly affect a target. While it doesn't protect from spells like fireball or magic missile which work by creating something that does the actual damage to the target.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Backgrounds & Abilities

This is the third in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.

Due to page count constraints, I focus only on racial backgrounds in the basic rules. I give a brief sketch of Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-Elves, and Humans. The few social details are a composite from the cultures that are part of the setting I use for my campaigns.

In later supplements I will be fleshing out this section by focusing on various cultures and subcultures within the different races. To be consistent with that I labeled this section Backgrounds.

by Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games

This section details how to adjudicate things that the character can do that doesn't involve combat or spellcasting. It also provides a system to allow characters to be better at things outside of combat spellcasting than other characters. Either through an attribute bonus representing raw talent, or an ability bonus gain from the character's class that represents training and experience.

The base mechanic is simple, in combat or when the consequence of failure is significant roll 1d20 if the players rolls a 15 or better (30%) they succeed at the attempt.  To this roll you can add the relevant attribute bonus (-3 to +3) and the relevant ability bonus. Abilities include Athletics, Climbing, Eavesdrop, Haggling, Herblore, History, Intimidation, Legerdemain, Locution, Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Perception. Physician, Professional, Research, Stealth, Survival, Strategy, and Thaumatology.

Over the past decade this system has held up well. In general, I require that players to describe what they are doing as their character first then have them roll second. I explain more about this process in the section about rulings.

This system didn’t remain static. I used to have Accounting to represent knowledge about and negotiating large scale trade deals if the character was a merchant type. Then I used Locution for negotiating prices. Feedback from my players made me reconsider this and I folded accounting and that aspect of locution into a haggling ability. Another benefit is that the name fits better with the fantasy theme of the rules.

Another change was to how I granted modifiers. From reading the original rules, I figured the hardest thing that one could do is hit an invisible opponent. The traditional modifier for this was a -4 to your to-hit roll. If circumstance were very unfavorable to what the player wanted to do I would impose a -4 penalty. Conversely if the circumstances were very favorable, I would grant a +4 bonus. For slightly favorable and unfavorable circumstances I would give a +2 or -2.

Then came along Fifth Edition with the advantage and disadvantage mechanics. When you have an advantage, you roll two d20s and take the highest. When you have disadvantage, you roll two d20s and take the lowest. I some session using the fifth edition rules, and the players “got” advantage and disadvantage in a way I never seen with any other the system I used over the last forty years. I adopted this in lieu of the -4, -2, +2, +4 system I was using before. It has worked exceptionally well in the last few campaigns I ran.

The ability system forms a major part of how the Rogue classes work. For the remaining classes, the system is limited to handling things outside of combat and spellcasting. If you choose not to use this then replace the burglar with the classic edition thief and drop the notes on ability bonuses from the other classes.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Monday, August 24, 2020

Two old friends get interviewed

My friend Tim Shorts and I have been gaming together for a long time starting around 1984 or so. Since then both of us have published works, me with Bat in the Attic Games, and Tim with Gothridge Manor. Because of Roll20 and on-line tabletop gaming, Tim and I have played with a lot of folks around the hobby and invariably they hear stories about what we did from Tim or myself.

Joethelawyer is a long time blogger and podcaster as well as playing in some of Tim's campaign. A while ago he wanted me and Tim to appear together on his Not So Wondrous Imagining podcast. It finally happened on Sunday.

We talked about our project, about our campaigns, and about we did as players along with some stories about our mutual friends. It was a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy it as much as Joe, Tim, and I did.

You can hear the podcast at Not So Wondrous Imagining

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Classes in the Basic Rules

This is the second in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them as one of my overall goals is to support kitbashing.

The basic rules are meant to be a complete system supporting players and referees. But given the page count (140 to 160 pages) I had to pick and choose what elements to include from the larger system. For classes this meant sticking to the traditional four: Burglar, Cleric, Fighter, and Magic User and detailing levels 1 to 5.

When I started blogging, I stated the following:

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.

With my Majestic Wilderlands supplement and later with these rules, I started with Swords & Wizardy, Core that uses the 3 Little Brown Books (LBBs) of the original edition plus selected element from later supplements as a foundation. I didn't stop there. I tweaked, and altered things to better suit the campaigns I was running. Still I wanted to easily use to all the great material the OSR was producing so that acted as a limit as to how far I would change things. Among the things that got modified and altered were the basic four classes. The reason I altered these classes was to reflect some of the specific details that were present in previous campaigns.

It is possible as a author to design a system in a way that at certain points the character have a 50-50 chance of defeating certain opponent and overcoming specific challenge. This is not what I do. Instead I define how the setting works  first and then see to the rules. While I switched away from the advanced system in the mid 1980s, I still keep the basic idea that there were fighters, priests, mages, and thieves. Then fleshed out from there. So when I returned to using the original edition in the form of Swords & Wizardry, I was able to use the existing classes as a starting point but made changes due how these different character types developed in the intervening years  As a result the "balance' within these rules reflect the settings I used rather than strictly sticking to the original edition.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Friday, August 21, 2020

Tehuatl a Lost Lands Setting by Tom Knauss

Tehuatl is a Lost Land setting by Tom Knauss. The Lost Land setting is published by Frog God Games and they opened it up to other authors to play around with.

Tom draws on Mesoamerican mythology to create an exciting setting to explore and adventure in. Along with Tom, several other authors are contributing adventures. In addition Frog God Games is assembling an international team of artists to illustrate the product.

You can check it out for yourself on kickstarter at this link. 5th edition, Pathfinder 1st, and Swords & Wizardry are supported.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Attributes in the Basic Rules

In this series of posts I will be talking about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them as one of my overall goals is to support kitbashing.

The goal is to remain compatible with the various classic editions. When I needed to make a specific choice I opted for supporting the Swords and Wizardry RPG. Thus I use the  same six attributes found in most systems based on the classic editions: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. In the this section I also discuss several other secondary attribute that most classic edition characters possess like armor class, and hit points.

Attribute modifiers
I put a lot of thought into this. Historically the various editions had several scales of different modifiers. The original edition along with Swords & Wizardry generally gives just a -1 or +1 bonus. The advanced editions generally ranged from -4 to +4. The newest editions opted to give a modifiers every other attribute points for example a 16 score would give a +3 bonus.

I felt that just having a -1 or +1 bonus was too narrow to reflect how attribute impact the things that players try as their characters. Likewise from experence I felt that the -4 to +4 range of the advanced edition, the D20 SRD, and the 5e SRD, was too generous. So I opted for a scale where a character gets a modifier for every three attribute points. With a +1 kicking in at 12, and an 18 granting a +3. This worked out in the campaigns I ran and continues to remain the bonus scale I use.

As far as incorporating different scale, the Majestic Fantasy rules will shift in feel slightly. Adopting the original edition scaled of -1 to +1 will make class and level count for more in what the character can do. Adopting the -4 to +4 scale of the advanced edition will allow characters to tackle greater challenges slightly earlier in the campaign. It start to make a noticeable difference after the middle levels of 6th to 8th levels when the party acquires more than one or two magic items.

The Other Attributes.
I write about how I interpret the various the secondary attributes classic edition character have like Armor Class, Hit Points, Movement, and Saving Throws. One of my goals when I started writing material for Swords and Wizardry is to stick closely to the original mechanics. What helped this was all the new research about the origins of the hobby and the system behind the original edition that started to be released ten years ago. One thing that was clear that the hobbyists of the time were experimenting all the time with different ideas and systems. So as old newsletters were unearthed and anecdotes recounted, I saw some of the thinking that went behind the abstract concepts of mechanics like armor class, hit points, and saving throws.

This help me build a foundation for these mechanics for when I had to make rulings. To answer questions like whether a blow completely missed or was it resisted by armor? Was kind of injury does damage represent? How does a character avoid getting a chalice of power knocked out of their hands? Players can imagine these things happening. It not always relevant but when it is it help to have something on which construct a ruling.

In the basic rules this section is an overview. Later in the rulebook in the chapter on rulings, I get into the nuts and bolts of how make rulings based on these secondary attributes.

Next I will be talking about classes.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Character Sheet

Three items today.

First is version 4 of the character sheet I been using since I started running campaign with Swords and Wizardry and my Majestic Wilderlands supplement.

Majestic Fantasy RPG, Character Sheet

My idea with this character  sheet is to make it a booklet of its own. You print it off and fold it in half. The interior remains blank in order to record whatever notes you need and the front and back are filled out.

My players seem to like them and more than a few have the interior packed with notes, reminders and lists.

The second item is that I sat down with Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern for one of his Fireside Chats. It is packed with details on the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Although I have to warn you that the first couple of minutes are more of advertisement for Necrotic's Gnomes current Old School Essential Advanced Fantasy kickstarter. Congratulations to Greg Norman and his team for storming out of the gate with their kickstarter as they continued to expand Old School Essentials.

A Fireside Chat with Rob Conley of Bat in the Attic Games.

Last but not least, I have reached over 170 backers and $2,000 pledged. I am humbled and pleased at the support shown. I thank everybody who came on board. This supplement is the first in a series so anything extra will mean that I am that much further ahead lining up what I need for the next supplement.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Blackmarsh in Spanish!

When I released Blackmarsh I made the entire text and map open content under the open game license. When fans of systems like GURPS, Hero System, etc pointed that made it difficult for them to use in conjunction with the permission SJ Games and other companies gave, I added a creative commons license as well. Meaning that you can release Blackmarsh material using the OGL or the Creative Commons license.

The Blackmarsh SRD

I did this because Blackmarsh was meant as a easy to use introduction to a hexcrawl formatted setting like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. At the time I wrote Blackmarsh, the WoHF Boxed Set was $70 which was a pretty big ask for a hobbyist not familiar with a setting formatted as a hexcrawl.

My use of open license had a benefit that I didn't foresee, namely a giving a pathway for hobbyists in other countries to translate Blackmarsh into another language. A few years back a group translated the setting into Hungarian.

Now the company La Marca del Este has adapted Blackmarsh for their Marca del Este (Eastmark) setting and translated it into Spanish.

They gave me a PDF link to share.

They also had their cartographer do their own version of my maps which looks great. Note they stated with my expanded map which incorporated Wildlands from Points of Light.

Black and White Map

Color Map

Finally a color version of the above incorporating Blackmarsh into their Eastmark setting. Lots of added details. I particularly like how they added in coral reefs.

Map of Blackmarsh in Eastmark

A job well done to Pedro Gil and the rest of the La Marca del Este team.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Meet the Editor

I was introduced to Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic when he joined one of my campaigns as a player. At that point he was already published having written several articles and products for SJ Game. After my campaign, he branched out into independent publishing as Gaming Ballistic including the use of Kickstarter. We kept in touch and his insights into his experience with kickstarter helped me with my setting up my own project. One of the things I asked was who he used as an editor. Since his  projects have a fair amount of detail that has to be looked at. He highly recommended Emily Blain.

Emily has done several editing projects already and maintains a website, Revised By Emily. I contacted her and she agreed to take on editing the Basic Rules this fall. She did an outstanding job with the Gaming Ballistic projects and I am looking forward to her feedback and input for my own work.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Meet the Artist

I am a long time fan of the Harn fantasy setting from both Columbia Games and Kelestia. One the things that made Harn great was the art. First by Eric Hotz in the 80s and early 90s. And now Richard Luschek since the late 90s.

He has a strong b/w style as well as doing excellent color illustrations. I am pleased to announce that he agreed to do four pieces for the cover for the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

He also has a blog where he talks about how he draws and his techniques. One interesting aspect is that he uses the 3D CAD Sketch Up to build up buildings on the local area Harn maps to use as a model for landscape illustrations in various harn products. You can see this in his post on drawing some the illustrations for Lorkin Castle.

The Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Cover

I use a stylized cover where the front has three hexes and the back has a single larger image. I like to use this arrangement to tell a small story related to the content of the product. For the basic rules this story will be focusing on adventuring.

This starts with two individual adventurers dealing with the dungeon while focused on the treasure to the right. The back image showing the entire group working together to win the treasure.

I am pleased to have Richard on board for this project and hope you enjoy his work as much as I do.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter Launches

Today I am launching a kickstarter for my latest project, the Majestic Fantasy RPG, Basic Rules.

Kickstarter for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Basic Rules

Preview for the Table of Contents

In 2009, I released a platinum selling supplement that explained the details of the setting I used for my fantasy campaign for nearly forty years. Along with providing details, the supplement contains rules for adapting the material to the Swords and Wizardry RPG and other classic editions of the original roleplaying game.

Since then, I have continued to run campaigns and now have enough material and rules to release a new series of supplements. The supplements together will function as their own system, useful as a tool for running many different types of fantasy campaigns. They will also function as individual supplements to the Swords and Wizardry RPG and other RPGs based on the classic editions.

This reflects the reality that most fantasy campaigns based on the classic editions are a kitbash of different elements that the referee finds useful. So rather than try to compete with the large number of excellent RPGs targeting the classic editions, I decided to format my take in a way that supports kitbashing. While I hope people will enjoy the system I created as a whole, I expect most will pick out just the parts they are interested in, whether it is classes, monsters, or magic items.

However, there needs to be something that ties these different elements together. A supplement that explains and illustrates how these rules work together as a complete system. To this end, I wrote The Basic Rules For The Majestic Fantasy RPG. It covers the traditional four classes of burglar, cleric, fighter, and magic user from levels 1 to 5 along with details on spells, equipment, and combat rules. It also supports the referee by including a list of monsters, NPCs, and magic items for a fantasy campaign. It ends with two sections of referee advice on how I use the elements of the classic editions to construct the rules and to make new rulings to cover the fantastic and unexpected things that players will attempt as their characters. Then it explains how to use the included material to bring the world outside the dungeon to life.

Cover has placeolder art

This is one part of this Kickstarter. The other part is a series of printed (or PDF) aids that I use to allow people to quickly generate characters using these rules. This aid is in the form of printed cards or tiles. There is an initial card that you hand the player that outlines how the character generation process works. From there, the players pick a class, a background, and buy equipment using the individual cards as a reference to fill out their character sheet. I have refined this over the past decade while running convention and game store sessions and found that it will allow a player to completely generate a character within 15 to 20 minutes. 

I hope this interests you and that you will support me on kickstarter. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Upcoming Bat in the Attic Kickstarter

On Sunday August 9th I will be launching a kickstarter for my latest project, the Majestic Fantasy RPG, Basic Rules.


Since 2009, I have continued to run campaigns and now have enough material and rules to release a new series of supplements. Because of the reality that most classic edition fantasy campaigns are a kitbash of different elements I am presenting these supplements for the Swords and Wizardry RPG and as part my own Majestic Fantasy RPG.

However, there needs to be something that ties these different elements together. A supplement that explains and illustrates how these rules work together as a complete system. To this end, I wrote The Basic Rules For The Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Cover has placeholder art

This is one part of this Kickstarter. The other part is a series of printed aids that I use to allow people to quickly generate characters using these rules. These aids are in the form of cards. I have refined this over the past decade while running convention and game store sessions and found that it will allow a player to completely generate a classic edition character from 1st to 5th level within 15 to 20 minutes. 

I hope this interests you and that you will support me starting on August 9th!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Random OD&D Treasure Types and Unguarded Treasure

A while ago while working on the Wild North for Fight On! Magazine I coded up the ODnD treasure types in Visual Studio using the dotNET library. Unfortunately sharing EXEs is problematic due to the variety of computer out there so it sat there on my hard drive.

In the past two years, I been delving into javascript which is a popular programming language that runs in your browser. As a result I been transferring over some of the random table dotNet stuff I did into a javascript program. The first one done is the ODnD Treasure Types and Unguarded Treasure. You can access it at the following link.

I will expand it later with some of the other tables I have coded up with dotNet.

As reminder I have the following javascript programs as well.

Note it is just two character standing still and whacking each other in turn. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bandits & Brigands

Figure folks would find the following useful. It is an excerpt from the Majestic Fantasy rules I been working. One thing I am doing different is including an NPC "Monster Manual" as my campaigns often features conflicts and complications with NPCs as well as monsters.

This particular section is about Bandits and Brigands. Why they are different along with some notes on the criminal society that exist in rural society.

It is compatible with Swords And Wizadry RPG and my Majestic Fantasy Rules.

Majestic Fantasy Bandits & Brigands

Bandits are outlaw bands roaming the roads and countryside robbing merchants and peasants. They are usually poorly organized, poorly led, and poorly fed making them desperate people capable of anything

Brigands are the rural equivalent of urban thieves’ guilds. They are better organized than ordinary bandits and more capable of hiding from the authorities. Usually brigand gangs form from a mercenary band that ran into bad luck or was outlawed for a crime. Because of this, they have slightly better equipment and have fighters as members as well as thugs. The biggest difference from urban thieves’ guilds is the lack of burglars. Due to their focus on assault and robbery, thugs and fighters are much more common. In addition due to their rural location, there exists an underground trade network of fences and smugglers so the brigands can sell the goods they rob.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Advance

The Covid pandemic has caused severe economic disruption which impacted businesses across the United States including those involved in publishing the tabletop roleplaying industry. Particularly hard hit are those of us who make a lot of our sales from conventions. I am personally am out a significant amount of money as result of Garycon being cancelled and North Texas Con being held on a restrictive basis. But my plight isn't hard as others impacted by Covid-19.

During the early days of the pandemic, Congress passed a bill that made the entire United State eligible for disaster relief. This includes small businesses. You can read for yourself the various options the small business administration has for disaster relief here.

One of the things offered is the ability to apply for a emergency grant and a loan. When I saw this being made available in March I immediately applied. Then I didn't hear anything for a long time until the middle of April. The Small Business Administration approved my grant and sent me a $1,000. Which was slightly more than I was asking for. As near as I could tell the SBA simply looked at how many people were involved and multiplied it by $1,000. In my case that was one. The SBA will approve grants of up to $10,000.

Keep in mind these are grants not loans that have to be paid back. It not free money either. You have to have filed taxes either as a corporation or using a Schedule C profit or loss from business attached to your personal income tax form.

Now I didn't write about this because shortly after I received the money the SBA closed the application process for all business other than agricultural. Apparently the flood of applications was so great they they fear the program would run out of money without fulfilling the ones they had.

The good news they reopened the program for all small businesses.
If your publishing or game business was impacted you can apply here.

The process doesn't end with the grant. Eventually they will send you a loan offer. Again appears to be based on the number of people involved. However this is a loan that has to be paid back over 30 years at 3% interest. So keep that in mind if you get into this part of the process.

Hope this help and stay safe. I wasn't expecting much and was pleasantly surprised to have received the grant. I feel this will help many of us who have lost sales as a result of the pandemic.

Matrox in the comments points out an aspect of the process that I forgotten about.
Anyone else out there who this might help, the process is very easy, the only quirk is you need your total gross receipts and cost of goods sold from 2-1-2019 through 1-31-2020. If you gather that info ahead of time and have your EIN/SSN handy you should be all set.
Note that you can get most of your gross receipts and cost of good sold from your corporate tax return or your Schedule C. You will have to figure it out for the month of January 2020.