Thursday, December 7, 2023

Isle of Sedra Kickstarter

 My good friend Douglas Cole over Gaming Ballistic has launched a new Kickstarter for his Isle of Sedra setting. It is written for Old School Essentials. Along with the setting, there are several adventures available including solo adventures.

Douglas is also a third-party publisher for Steve Jackson Games's The Fantasy Trip and supports that RPG's long history of solo adventures. He has converted many of his TFT products over to Old School Essentials so fans of the classic editions of DnD can enjoy them as well.

Isle of Sedra Kickstarter.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Blackmarsh in print again.

The print version of Blackmarsh is now available again both in softcover and hardcover feature cover art by Richard Luschek. Many of you will know him from his work on various Harn products available from Columbia Games. The books are using the new digest size layout.

The full map of Blackmarsh is still inside the book and the book fold has been taken into account for its presentation. 

Softcover Digest edition - $6.99

Hardcover Digest edition - $11.99

Again appreciate the support of all of you have given me over the years and the kind words in your reviews.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Last 48 hours of How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Kickstarter.

We are in the last 48 hours of my Kickstarter for the book about How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox. The level of support far exceeded what I expected from my Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter. I am humbled and appreciative of the support that has been shown. 

There is still time to sign up just click on the link below. The beta PDFs of both How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox and the Isle of Pyade are available to backers. 

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Kickstarter

Because of the level of funding, I was able to upgrade my art budget and commission some pieces from Rick Hershey of Fat Goblin Game. 

The Black Queen rules from her throne in the Fortress of the Lich Lord

Prince Ormus of Aventis searches for arcane lore 

The Rot Lord creates another undead servitor in the Sable Port

Monday, October 30, 2023

First beta layout posted for How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox backers.

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Beta Layout

I am pleased to share the first beta layout of How to Make the Fantasy Sandbox Kickstarter for my backers.

Some of the art are placeholder pieces. I have been buying stock art over the years but there are gaps, particularly in pieces that depict various characters. Thanks to your generosity I can not only cover those gaps but also expand the amount of custom pieces I can order. 

I want to give a shout-out to Fat Goblin Games, and The Forge Studios where I bought much of my art from.  They both have Patreons and I recommend them if you are looking for art for your project. 

The various maps and other example illustrations are created by myself and represent the final version. There may be further tweaks because the original we designed to be part of a blog post. 

The PDF is bookmarked but I haven't linked all the URLs yet.

Further Steps

Up on deck is the beta layout for the Isle of Pyade. 

The print proofs for the new digest version of Blackmarsh have been shipped.  Like with my Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, I will be releasing the print codes immediately after I check over the proof.  Each backer will get a code for the hardback version and the softcover version.

Interviews and Livestreams

I have had a couple of interviews and livestreams talking about How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox.

Random Party Generator

The regular livestream that I am part of.

Games with Dave

A live stream where Dave and I talk about the Kickstarter and fantasy hexcrawls.

Fumble Table

Damien and I discussed Fantasy Sandboxes and my background in fantasy roleplaying.

Also, check out his review of Blackmarsh

Wrapping it Up

Again I appreciate everybody's support and feel free to ask questions and leave comments on the draft and the project. 

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Kickstarter

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Your World Awaits! How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox Kickstarter!



Starting in 2009, I wrote a series of 24 posts on this blog covering the different aspects of creating a hexcrawl-formatted setting.  Over 150,000 views later I have finished the series. Along the way, many of you thanked me for writing the series and told me how it helped your own efforts.

Now that the last post has been completed, I combined and rewrote these posts into a single 150-page book. I also consolidated the small fantasy setting I was using, the Isle of Pyade into its own document that you can drop into your own campaign.

Many of you enjoyed Blackmarsh, Points of Light, and my remastered version of Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Now with How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox, you can learn the techniques I used to make these settings to make your own world to adventure in.

The project rewards will consist of a digest-sized version of my Blackmarsh setting with a new layout and art. The How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox book and the Isle of Pyade setting book will be available as PDF and Print-on-demand books using at-cost print coupons from DriveThruRPG.

I hope to see you at the launch of my Kickstarter on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Launch Party!

I will be launching the Kickstarter during tomorrow's Random Party Generator show on YouTube at 8pm. We will be discussing world building and I will be glad to answer any questions folks have.


Thanks to everyone's generosity the Kickstarter is now funded!

Friday, August 11, 2023

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXIV, the Last Post

 Part XXIII  Index Page

This is the twenty-fourth and last post in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. 

Today's post will cover steps 33 and 34. 

33. Make up a rumor chart with 10 to 20 items that feeds the players into the encounter and plots you created above. 

34. Identify major regions and create a random encounter chart for each (monsters, wildlife and NPCs) 

To do this post, I had to go back and collect all the previous posts and consolidate them into a single document detailing the Isle of Piall. 

Then I looked through the entries and picked out the following to be a list of true rumors that I can use when the players interact with the various NPCs on the island.

True Rumors

  • A secret passage beneath Bone Keep leads directly to the Fortress of the Lich Lord, bypassing many of the dangers on the surface.
  • The Black Queen, Lady of the Underearth, was once a powerful ally of Tavaras and has been amassing power in the Underearth for centuries.
  • The ancient Dwarven city of Southpoint is rumored to hold a powerful artifact that can help defeat the awakened evil lurking in the depths of the mines.
  • Sir Avar, once a revered paladin, has fallen from grace and allied himself with the Black Queen, now controlling much of Bone Keep.
  • The Sahuagin have been testing the strength of the island's defenses with raids, in preparation for a large-scale invasion.
  • The Empire of Po is seeking to absorb the Kingdom of the Isles, with the Isle of Piall as an early target for expansion.
  • The Baron and the King's Sheriff are at odds, creating tension and division among the people of the island.
  • The merman King Aventis is willing to forge an alliance with those who prove themselves friends to his people.
  • The Rot Lord, an agent of the Black Queen, is building a zombie army in Sable Port to seize control of the area.
  • A map detailing the locations of valuable treasures and artifacts in Sable Port can be found hidden in one of the abandoned buildings.
  • The Chalice of Healing, an ancient relic, is said to be hidden somewhere in Sable Port, and both the Baron and the Sheriff are vying for its possession.
  • A shrine dedicated to Duke Barradon, leader of the crusaders, lies hidden and forgotten within the depths of Bone Keep.

Then I came up with a list of false rumors. Keep in mind the best false rumors are those that contain an element of truth to make them seem plausible.

False Rumors

  • The Fortress of the Lich Lord is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, meant to scare away curious treasure hunters.
  • The Sahuagin are actually peaceful creatures, who have been framed for the recent shore raids by a nefarious third party.
  • The Black Queen is merely a myth, a story created by the inhabitants of the island to keep their children in line.
  • The Empire of Po has no interest in the Isle of Piall and is focused solely on internal affairs.
  • The Bone Knight, the skeleton warrior in control of Sable Port, is actually a noble and just ruler who seeks to restore the city to its former glory.
  • The merfolk and the sahuagin are actually allies, working together to drive the surface dwellers from the island.
  • The Baron and the King's Sheriff are secretly working together to consolidate power on the Isle of Piall.
  • A powerful dragon resides in the heart of Mount Devon, guarding a hoard of unimaginable wealth.
  • The ancient Dwarven city of Southpoint is nothing but a ruin, devoid of any treasures or valuable artifacts.
  • Sir Avar is secretly working to undermine the Black Queen's plans from within her inner circle.
  • The Chalice of Healing is a cursed object that brings misfortune and death to anyone who possesses it.
  • A giant kraken lives in the waters surrounding the Isle of Piall, waiting to drag unsuspecting ships to the depths.

Random Encounters

The last step is to make a series of random encounters.

 Doing this was never one of my strong points. For most of my campaigns, a simple table indexed by terrain or locale for cities was sufficient. Then I would take into account the circumstances and location of the party. Maybe roll a d6 to see how the encounter initially was set up. With 1 being the worst circumstance for the party and 6 being the best circumstance for the party. Then I riff off of that to come up with the actual encounter. 

For a long time, I thought if I just had the right table it would save a lot of work for me. But then I coded up the city random encounter tables from Midkemia Press' City supplement. For those of you not familiar it is a deeply nested set of random tables that generate random encounters for cities. It is very well done and full of flavor but impractical to use during the session because of how many different tables you have to traverse to generate a result. But the real kicker is that when I finished coding up the tables and started generating, the results were not much more helpful than the more simple tables I used in the past.

Then I ran Adventure in Middle Earth which had a Journey system to handle travel. I thought that was by far the best random encounter system I ever ran. What made it work is that each possible encounter was at just the right level of detail to be useful but generic enough to be easily tailored to the party's circumstance. The system also had you generate at most a handful of encounters that you then place along the route of the journey. Unfortunately, that system didn't survive the transition of AiME into Free League's Lord of the Rings RPG. But it did reappear in a standalone product called Uncharted Journeys for D&D 5e. However, like many 5e products, it was far more verbose than it needed to be. 

I am working on my own take for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I plan to support three categories of encounters: journeys over lands, voyages over water, and trips across a city. Because this going to be an OSR project one common result will be a straight random encounter roll. You will be able to use your favorite table when this result is generated. I figure it would work better for folks who like to kitbash. Instead of completely throwing away whatever they used previously you will be able to merge my take in. 

But the travel rules will come with a set of random encounter tables for Blackmarsh. I really like the Monster Manual II system of rolling a d8 + d20 for a range of results from 2 to 20. What this does is create a plateau of equal odds in the center. For d8+d12 this is 9 to 13 as shown below. This also allowed TSR to make slots for very rare, rare, uncommon, and common encounters. 

Majestic Fantasy RPG, Travel Rules (rough draft)

I am going to go with a d4 + d8 for a 2 to 12 range for this post and my rules. I find eleven entries easier to manage. But I am not going to give just one table for the entire island (or Blackmarsh). Instead, I will divide the region into different areas that make sense. For the Isle of Piall, there are three major areas: the southern half of the island that mostly settled and cultivated. The northern half which is mostly wild, and the hex around Sable Port has a high frequency of undead.

Northern Wilderness (north of hex row 04)

(2) Very Rare: An ancient treant, upset about intruders on the island.

(3) Rare: A pack of Wereboars from the Amur Forest led by Spardion their leader

(4) Uncommon: A noble hunting party from Mikva out hunting deer.

(5) Common: A Giant Eagle on the hunt. Its nest is on Mount Devon

(6) Common: A small group of Dwarven miners from Hawth, in prospecting for minerals

(7) Common: A group of Halfling foragers from Sandpoint, gathering rare herbs

(8) Common: A wandering cougar, patrolling it's hunting ground.

(9) Common: A pack of Wolves stalking a prey, possibly the party

(10) Uncommon: A patrol of skeletons led by a Wraith from the Black Queen, foraging for viz and rare herbs.

(11) Rare: A roving band of sailors out on a hunting expedition from a ship anchored on the north shore.

(12) Very Rare: A Valard the Yellow Mage practicing magic, causing confusing sights and sounds

Southern Piall (includes hex row 04, and 05)

(2) Very Rare: An Earth Elemental lumbers across the party's path. It was awakened from its slumber by excessive farming activities

(3) Rare: A visiting noble from the Kingdom of the Isles, travelling with a full retinue of guards

(4) Uncommon: A group of thieves from Carra in a woodland camp, planning a crime.

(5) Common: Farmers searching for lost livestoc.

(6) Common: Patrol from Mikva, inspecting for any illegal activities

(7) Common: A group of farmers, crafters, or merchants heading towards Mikva for market day

(8) Common: A wandering Priest of Veritas making the rounds blessing the fields and the people

(9) Common: An enthusiastic group of local kids, playing at being adventurers

(10) Uncommon: A Bard from Mikva, collecting stories and songs from locals

(11) Rare: A runaway from justice is hiding out.

(12) Very Rare: A female Ghost of a former Lady of Piall is singing a lament, cursed to roam the lands

Sable Port (hex 0402)

(2) Very Rare: The Wraith of a deceased sailor, haunting the harbor and scaring the locals

(3) Rare: The Rot Lord's undead spy, observing and plotting against the living

(4) Uncommon: A ship from the Kingdom of the Isles, docked for resupply

(5) Common: Local fisherman, discussing a recent decrease in their catch

(6) Common: Bone Knight's skeletal patrol, maintaining the fragile order

(7) Common: An argument between two factions, escalating into a street fight

(8) Common: A homeless beggar who is actually an undercover agent of Sir Avar

(9) Common: A group of off-duty sailors from the Midland Sea, causing a ruckus at the local tavern

(10) Uncommon: A merchant trying to sell maps to the rumored treasure in the Fortress of the Lich Lord

(11) Rare: A secret meeting between King's men and the representatives from the Isle of Po

(12) Very Rare: The Black Rose, a notorious assassin, spotted in the shadows

Wrapping it up.

While it took me 14 years to complete the entire series of posts, I hope you found this useful. I am currently finishing up a final draft of a book where I combined and re-edited all 24 posts and plan to publish this. It will also contain a standalone description of the setting I used. I will keep folks posted as to when it will happen which will be soon. After talking about it with my editor I am going to rename the Isle of Piall to the Isle of Pyade (rhymes with fade). Piall dates back to when I was in the 8th grade and much worse at naming things. We tried pronouncing Piall and realize that Pyade would be a better choice. However it will remain the original Piall in these posts. 

Last, I figured out how to incorporate the background of the Kingdom of the Isle and the Isle of Pyade into my Majestic Fantasy Realms.  So that version will make an appearance in a future work. I will have a longer post next week about where I am at with my projects and how soon you should expect to see them including How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox.

Until next time

Fight On!

Friday, April 7, 2023

Best Supporting Actors for Old School Essentials

Douglas Cole, over at Gaming Ballistics, is in the last 24 hours of his latest Kickstarter campaign, "Best Supporting Actor". In the spirit of AD&D's Rogue Gallery, this compilation of NPCs is designed for use in your campaign for OSE or any classic D&D edition.

Best Supporting Actors for OSE

What sets Doug's work apart is his experience with SJ Games' The Fantasy Trip. TFT, both in the past and today, has a tradition of presenting interesting NPCs in a simple and easy-to-use format. With this Kickstarter, Doug applies his experience with TFT to one of the OSR's more popular systems, Old School Essentials.

You will be getting 172 distinct NPCs each with their own illustration

Additionally, you have the option of getting a set of cards with the illustrations and stats printed on each.

Appreciate any support you can give to Doug and his efforts

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Harnworld in Hardback Kickstarter


I have been a fan of Harn, both the setting and the Harnmaster rules, for a long time. Ever since I encountered the original Harn setting folio at Games Unlimited in Pittsburgh PA. 

Columbia Games just announced their latest Kickstarter, HarnWorld: Medieval Fantasy RPG Setting Hardback.  This hardback will contain the following Harn articles: Harnworld, the Harndex, Ketheria, Lythia, and Cities and Towns as well as the physical map of Harn and PDFs of the above.


Harn has been continuously published since 1983. Harn is a fantasy medieval setting that located on an island the size of Madagascar. Harn is divided into several distinct realms including one dominated by the elves and another dominated by dwarves. Some realms like Kaldor are feudal realms, some are merchant republics with vague echoes of Rome like the Thardic Republic. There is an "evil" kingdom, Rethem. And there are Vikings in Orbaal. 

I recommend downloading the Harnworld preview from DriveThruRPG. Columbia Games cleverly made a version of their map with an overview of the setting. 

In addition there is my own summary of Harn, All about Harn


As I mentioned in previous posts, Harn is a premium-priced product line. One thing that warrants its price, is the consistent quality of its releases since 1983. Not only they are of good quality, everything released for Harn remains compatible with the initial release in 1983. There are not many other RPGs settings that make the same claim. 

Another quality of Harn is its ability to be used with other settings especially those made for Dungeons and Dragons. While Harn emphasizes the medieval over fantasy it still originates from the same wellspring of fantasy that Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax drew from for DnD. This makes it very easy to incorporate Harn as part of another setting or more commonly to use parts of Harn in another setting. The individual entries of Harnworld and Harndex articles are useful for fleshing regions of your setting if you don't opt to run Harn itself. 

So what are you getting for your $69.

Harnworld and Harndex

The original version of Harn was a folio containing two staple bound letter sized books; Harnview and Harndex. 

The hardback has newest version of both; Harnworld and the updated Harndex. Harnworld is an overview of the setting and in 58 pages describes it's history, gives an overview of feudal life, cultures, and religions, along with a few useful aides like prices, incomes, and weather generation. Basically everything mention in the summary earlier but fleshed out in more detail.

Harndex is a 152 pages index containing one or paragraph entries on geography, economics, religions, cultures, realms, rulers, and points of interest. 

Here are some examples.


Kethira is the name of the planet on which Harn is located. This ten page article give an overview of its geography and other physical details including a star chart of Harn's night sky. And yes those square show the possible regional maps to cover the entire planet. Although only a dozen regions have been fleshed out to date.


This 32 page article describes the continent that Harn is part of. Unlike Kethira is also describes the various cultures and religions found on the continent. Half of the article, 16 pages, is similar to the Harndex, an index of geographical and cultural entries describing the continent.

Wrapping it up.

There are only a few RPG that I have consistently used for over forty years and Harn is one of them. Not everybody is a fan of the product line's loose leaf format, and now having the core Harnworld material in a single hardback hopefully makes it more accessible for everyone.

Finally, I can't stress enough how well Harn is written. While the product line (and community) does go down to the Nth level of detail each level is written in a terse format giving just enough at that level of detail. The additional material fleshes out what in the core Harnworld articles but it is not required reading.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

An Unexpected Victory, Unconditional Surrender, and Unfinished Business.

I understand everybody is tired of Wizard's drama despite the good news. I appreciate that once again you have taken the time to read my post and hope the following is informative and useful.

Friday afternoon, Wizards of the Coast using DnD Beyond announced this.

The hobby and industry resounding NO! worked! With results far better than expected with the entirety of the 5e 5.1 SRD released under the CC-BY 4.0 license. The link is below.

SRD 5.1-CC

Saying No!

The numbers were pretty clear even for an Internet survey.

  • 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
  • 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
  • 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
  • 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
  • 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.

Coupled with the larger media world covering the story, and major investors being critical, the conditions for a victory fell into place last week.

The fact that the tabletop roleplaying industry and hobby spoke with one voice is amazing and we should all be proud of what each of us did to make this happen.

This can't be true, I don't just trust Wizards

The licensing of the 5.1 SRD under CC is done and the license terms of CC-BY 4.0 are irrevocable. So that part we can count as a win. A win that in my opinion counts as unconditional surrender. However, there remains some unfinished business to make sure there is peace and not a ceasefire.

The OGL 1.0a

Wizards have stated they will leave the OGL 1.0a in place.

However, one result of the last few weeks was the microscope that the OGL 1.0a was placed under. To avoid the problem of orphaned works. And to avoid impact on third parties who use the OGL to support other RPGs like LegendCepheus and the OSR.  There needs to be an authorized OGL 1.0b released by WoTC.

The two provisions that are needed are

  • That Section 4, Grant and Consideration of the OGL incorporates the term irrevocable.
  • That Section 1, Definitions, Includes a definition of authorization that states it refers to any license that has been officially released for use by third parties by Wizards. That license can not be deauthorized once released.

With these two provisions, the issue with orphaned works and creators using the OGL for non DnD systems can be mitigated greatly.

The Open RPG Content License (ORC)

The development of the ORC license needs to continue and be supported. The imminent loss of the OGL 1.0a and the ethos it represented made the industry and hobby realize just how important open gaming as a whole is. Not just for the DnD but for all the other creative projects that have been shared under the OGL. If the current plan is followed, then the ORC license itself will be under the control of an independent non-profit creating a level playing field as far as control of the license goes.

From both a business and creative perspective, everybody now realizes that independence from Wizards and the DnD Brand is of vital importance.  DnD as an RPG system will remain first in the hobby's heart . With SRDs licensed under ORC the fate of the DnD system doesn't have to be tied to the fate of the DnD Brand.  With the 5.1 SRD released under CC-BY 4.0. The creation of alternative SRDs has become a lot easier. 

CC versus ORC

But why not just use one of the creative commons licenses, to begin with? Because of licensed content. If you are making an original system or setting, I agree it is a wash whether one uses CC or another license. Might as well go with the one (or none) that reflects your sentiments as to the sharing of your original work.

The point of open content licenses is to provide clarity. Letting people know what you, as the author, are OK with when folks remix your content. With traditionally licensed content, the owner IP decided that their content would only be licensed for a limited time under limited terms. The OGL recognized that by creating a way to clearly remix licensed content with open content. Doing this in a way that preserves the rights and permissions of both.

While Creative Commons has guidance on how to license only part of your work. It doesn't provide clarity and leaves it up to the author to how this is indicated. Something like ORC can help provide clarity by tailoring the spirit of Creative Commons to the conditions of our hobby and industry.

From the Creative FAQ

For online material: Select the license that is appropriate for your material from the CC license chooser and then follow the instructions to include the HTML code. The code will automatically generate a license button and a statement that your material is licensed under a CC license. If you are only licensing part of a work (for example, if you have created a video under a CC license but are using a song under a different license), be sure to clearly mark which parts are under the CC license and which parts are not. The HTML code will also include metadata, which allows the material to be discovered via Creative Commons-enabled search engines.

The D20 SRD and the D20 Modern SRD

In addition to changes to the OGL 1.0a, we need to press WoTC to release the d20 SRD and the d20 Modern SRD under a CC-BY license. These two works are foundational to many projects both DnD related and non DnD related. Plus doing this will disarm Wizard of many more terms (monsters, spells, etc.) to use for IP bullying and lawfare.

DriveThruRPG and the VTTs

There is little dispute that Wizard's DnD branded products, the DM's Guild, and licensed VTT modules, form the bulk of the business that DriveThruRPG and VTTs like Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and Foundry do. Losing access to their platforms would be catastrophic for many publishers and authors including myself. Collectively they are an Achilles heel of our hobby and industry if Wizards uses its economic power to force unwanted changes for these platforms.

This is not theoretical either. Aside from the restriction of the now defunct VTT policy proposal. DriveThruRPG posted this on their discord server.

Note this sentence
Due to this, your titles will officially not be affected on any sites whether it is DTRPG and sister sites or the Roll20 Marketplace.
So I would like to know what this was in alternative to if Wizards followed through on their initial plans? 

More importantly, this highlights how much of a vulnerable bottleneck these companies and their marketplace are.  There are no easy answers to these questions. But the discussion needs to happen. We need to deal with the fact a single company, WoTC, holds an economic dagger to the hobby's heart. Another issue that walk parallel to the IP issues surrounding the OGL.

Going Forward

I think we are in a midst of an inflection point in the history of the hobby and industry. That the events of the last three weeks will be marked as the beginning of when the hobby and industry charts an independent course from the DnD Brand and the company that owns it. Wizards will still compete but more and more it will be on a level playing field. 

I know you are tired and want to have fun playing the games we love with people we enjoy playing with. While supporting the creators who help us make this happen. But the peace must be secured or it will be just a ceasefire. 

So once again.

Fight On!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

DriveThruRPG numbers for 2022

For those who don't know, there is rarely a day that doesn't go by when somebody doesn't download a free copy of Blackmarsh from DriveThruRPG. Over 13,000 since its release in 2011.  Each order is accompanied by an order number.

To date, this has meant I had a Blackmarsh order come in on the January 1st. So starting around 2015, I have been tracking the Order # in a spreadsheet. 

The idea here is that by tracking the January 1st order number we can get a sense of the relative increase (or decrease) in DriveThruRPG sales from year to year. Because we don't know what order numbers are used for internally at DriveThru, we can't use them to determine the absolute number of sales. 

Now for this year's numbers.

As you can see aside from a pandemic-related boost in 2020, the # of orders has seen a slow increase since 2019. In contrast, 2017 to 2019 saw a marked rise in sales, almost doubling.

Finally here is a repeat of the month to month chart showing the effects of the Pandemic on DriveThru numbers.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The new OGL 1.2, What is Victory?


I thank you for taking the time to read this post. This hobby is supposed to be a fun pastime even when it is part of one's livelihood. The past two weeks have been anything but fun. So I appreciate the time you spent reading this post amid the many outraged voices making themselves heard.

The OGL 1.2

Today Wizards finally laid some of their cards on the table and offered a proposed OGL 1.2. 

Starting the OGL "Playtest"

As an OSR publisher, several things stand out to me.

DnD and Creative Commons License

The core D&D mechanics, which are located at pages 56-104, 254-260, and 358-359 of this System Reference Document 5.1 (but not the examples used on those pages), are licensed to you under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). This means that Wizards is not placing any limitations at all on how you use that content.

I edited the D&D 5.1 SRD into three sections corresponding to the page numbers above. You can browse through  at this link. 

Proposed Creative Common DnD mechanics

What they didn't release is most of the "lists" that comprise DnD 5e. Only the Equipment List is part of the CC-BY content they plan to release. Classes, Spells, Monsters, and Magic Items are not.

Overall this is a positive step. If nothing else is gained and they follow through on this, then moving away from the OGL becomes that much easier for the OSR. It would make what I need to do with the Majestic Fantasy RPG a lot more straightforward.


They also planning to add a notice deauthorizing the OGL 1.0a

NOTICE OF DEAUTHORIZATION OF OGL 1.0a. The Open Game License 1.0a is no longer an authorized license. This means that you may not use that version of the OGL, or any prior version, to publish SRD content after (effective date). It does not mean that any content previously published under that version needs to update to this license. Any previously published content remains licensed under whichever version of the OGL was in effect when you published that content.

Note the after (effective date), the intent here is to allow folks to continue selling or offering what has been previously released under the OGL 1.0a. Unfortunately, it cuts us off from building on or continuing the work we have been doing for the past 23 years.

Current authors and publishers can change the license on their original content, but for those who moved on to other pursuits or are no longer with us, this is not an option. Their work will remain unavailable to use until they enter the public domain decades from now. 

I consider this unacceptable. 

The D20 SRD

The D20 SRD is gone as a result of this section.  Wizards wants to change the license for the 5.1 SRD and remove access to the d20 SRD THIS YEAR. This is not a "wait until OneDnD is released" proposal. Although they might build in a grace period. This section is from the actual license.

(a) Content Covered

(i) Our Licensed Content. This license covers any content in the SRD 5.1 (or any subsequent version of the SRD we release under this license) that is not licensed to you under Creative Commons. You may use that content in your own works on the terms of this license.

(ii) Our Unlicensed Content. Only Our Licensed Content is licensed under this license. Any other content we release or have released is not licensed to you under this license.

(iii) Your Content. This is your creative contribution to your works that are not Our Licensed Content or Our Unlicensed Content. This license permits you to combine Your Content with Our Licensed Content and distribute the resulting works as authorized by this license.

Likewise I consider this unacceptable for anything other than future Wizard's content.

Rob's Note: While the OSR relied on a stripped-down version of the D20 SRD, the same "hack" applies to the CC-BY content they plan to release although some spell names and monster names will have to change. 

Other considerations

I did not touch on other areas as they don't impact my work as a OSR publisher.  I do not plan ever to use the OGL 1.2 for my creative works. I recommend looking to others for more details on those clauses. However, one clause needs to be addressed. 

The Morality Clause

The proposed OGL 1.2 license contains the following provision  

 No Hateful Content or Conduct. You will not include content in Your Licensed Works that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing, or engage in conduct that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing. We have the sole right to decide what conduct or content is hateful, and you covenant that you will not contest any such determination via any suit or other legal action.

This to me is unacceptable. I want to be clear about where I am coming from. A few years back I had to deal with racism, anti-Semitism, and hate speech from an individual I licensed IP from.  I paid the price for my principles as well. Seeing my income from RPG material dropping from hundreds of dollars per month to tens of dollars per month. 

Surrendering freedom, creative or otherwise, to an oligarchy like Wizards of the Coast will not solve the problems of racism and hate. Instead, their bias and their prejudices are substituted for your own moral compass. By agreeing to the OGL 1.2, you surrender your moral authority to them. 

More importantly, you surrender it to their successors. Unknown individuals who may not share your ideals, and your belief in what is right, just, and fair. 

Each of you reading this will have to decide for yourself what is the right course of action. For myself, I will not surrender my right to act in the manner I see fit, in the form I see fit. I have done so in the past, and I will do it again as circumstances dictate. I am not special in this, each of you reading this has the power to do the same.

For more a detailed essay on the problems of morality clauses and conduct codes, I recommend this guest essay by James Raggi on the Tenkar's Tavern blog. Also look up the details on the following: The Hays Code, and the Comic Code Authority. Each was born of a generation's belief in what was right, just, and decent. 

Then ask yourself as James Raggi said, were the marginalized served by these codes? Will the marginalized be served by the code as set forth by Chris Cocks CEO of Hasbro, Cynthia Williams CEO of WoTC, and their successors? Or are you the better judge of these matters? 

What is Victory?

We won a battle but not the war for our creative legacy. In the words of Churchill, 
Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
I realize for some of you these are not the words you want to hear. You want the hobby to be fun again. Publishers are grasping for any type of certainty for their livelihood. You want this to end sooner than later. 

So how does this end for me?
  • Wizards acknowledge OGL 1.0a as an authorized irrevocable license.
  • That all past open content remains open content under the OGL 1.0a and free to be used as they have been for the past 23 years. Works like the D20 3.0 and 3.5 SRD. The 5e 5.1 SRD as well remains under the OGL 1a.
  • In turn, I will acknowledge they have the right to license OneDnD any way they like. However, I reserve the right to make critical comments about their creative and legal choices.
  • The plan to release various sections under the CC-BY 4.0 license be followed through.
  • That Chris Cocks, CEO of Hasbro, and Cynthia William, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, each write and sign individual formal apologies to all the publishers impacted by their overreach and inept handling of the situation such as Paizo, Kobold Press, Troll Lord Games, Green Ronin, Gaming Ballistic, Frog God Games, and many others. 
Fight On!

Robert Conley
Bat in the Attic Games

Friday, January 13, 2023

Random Party Generator Youtube Podcast

 Two posts in one day? Wondering if we are facing an existential crisis or something.

On a more serious note, I will be on Random Party Generator tonight with Erik Tenkar, Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor, Joe the Lawyer, and rest of the gang. We also have a guest, Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic. He has been badly impacted by the situation with Wizards and talking with us about it.

Hope to see everyone there.

My Response to the January 13th 2023 statement by Wizards


- With all due respect to General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne

A link to the Wizard's statement

The relevant section

The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected

Says nothing about being able to continue to use the OGL 1.0a license, Or whether we can make new content using the license. Or what we have to do to get this safe harbor.


(Removed because it is a distraction from the larger issues at hand)

Thursday, January 12, 2023

A Network of One, Three Little Words, and an appreciated Victory.

A lot has been going on 

Next a couple of things from my neck of the wood. 

A Network of One

Over on the Roll for Combat channel they had an excellent interview with Ryan Dancey. I recommend jumping to around the 18:00 minute mark where Ryan says this
one of the things we identified as a problem was that there were all kinds of game systems that were active in the market that weren't very successful and every one of those games was a little bubble a little social network of people that played that game and because they were playing a game that was small and unprofitable and the companies that were supporting those games were not able to make those businesses get bigger the sizes of those bubbles were shrinking and getting smaller and smaller and smaller and because they were not well connected to other bubbles the overall Market as a whole was shrinking and getting smaller and smaller and role-playing games are fair to a very unusual economic phenomenon called in the network externality which means that the value of the thing you sell the product is actually external to the thing that you sell it's in the network of people that use that thing
The value of the OSR is in the fact that the classic editions we focus on are but a hop and a skip from each other. So while ADnD, B/X, ODnD, etc. all had their fans, our "network" was much larger as we can freely share useful material with each other.

And because most of us used the OGL 1.0a those of us who focused on sharing and publishing could build off of each other work. I didn't have to start my own Majestic Fantasy RPG from scratch as Matt Finch graciously shared Swords and Wizardry for all to use under the OGL. Plus Autarch shared a lot of ACKS as open content which helped me with started with the mechanics of worldbuilding my Majestic Fantasy Realms.

The Post OGL World
In the coming days, I think it is important to carefully consider what licenses we adopt for our current and future works. Regardless of the outcome of the situation with Wizards we can never trust their word again. If too many of us pick too many licenses then we lose the advantages of the fact that classic edition clones were all under the same license. Our network will fragment and I fear the OSR  as a whole will shrink, and reduce the number of players of these excellent editions. 

I am a computer programmer and have been involved in software development since the late 80s. I saw the rise of open source and participated in it in a small way. And the open source licensing situation is a sea of compatible and incompatible licenses. Just read the Wikipedia article to see how much of a mess it is. I don't want to see people in the OSR having to use a chart like below just to see if they can build and remix someone's content.

Maybe Paizo's ORC is the answer maybe it isn't. We should think about what we want before we split into an archipelago of hundreds of islands. 

I admit it won't be easy because the vast majority of us, including myself, like to march to the beat of our own drummer.  Many early OSR community efforts collapsed into arguments and factions. But I think it is important that we try to do something together for this particular issue. 

The result doesn't have to be a one size fit all solution. See Creative Common for how a standard system of options can be worked out. Keep in mind that some of us, while small, work with licensed content that will not be opened. OGL with the distinction between product identity and open content was great for that.

Three Little Words
On a different topic, I am pleased to say that a situation regarding the Community Content Programs that OnebookShelf runs on DriveThruRPG appears to have been resolved. I first reported this back in January of 2018

To summarize in Section 4 of the license that the OBS boilerplate used stated.

Except for short promotional excerpts used to promote your Work, you may not display, recreate, publish, distribute, or sell your Work (or derivatives thereof) outside of the Program administered on Roll20 websites or through other platforms or channels authorized or offered by the Publisher.

The three bolded words meant if I wrote Tower of the Dark Sage for the Glorantha setting used by Chaosium's Jonstown Compendium, I couldn't turn around and adapt my original IP (characters, maps, room descriptions) and released it under the OGL for Swords and Wizardry. Or for another CCP program like the Savage Worlds Adventurer Guild using Savage Worlds system. This was confirmed by OBS \in this blog post

Over the years I kept complaining to OBS and got nowhere. I had better luck with some of the programs themselves. I helped the Genesys community get the clause removed from the Genesys Foundry. But to be clear their community did most of the work.  

I talked to Daniel Fox of Zweihander and the folks at Hero Games about Hall of Champions. While both didn't change their license, they did let the contributors know they were free to adapt their original IP elsewhere. So I count those as partial wins. 

An Appreciated Victory
So two days ago, I heard that Modiphus was starting up their 2d20 Community Content program. As I usually do I contacted Modiphus privately and laid out my argument about getting rid of those three words. With OBS because I got nowhere before, I called them out publicly and politely on their discord server. 

And guess what thanks to the work of Chris Birch on the behalf of Modiphus and Kage on the behalf of OBS, the Modiphus license, and the OBS boilerplate are being changed! And OBS is going to work with other publishers to change their licenses.

This going to be great news for all the CCPs that remove this clause. This means contributors who are fans of multiple systems can adapt their original IP for other CCPs. Thus they benefit from the Network Externalities effect that Ryan Dancey talked about. They cease to be isolated islands doomed to rise and fall on their own.

To be clear the 50% royalties is still in place (30% to OBS and 20% to the publisher), and the work for that specific program still can only be released within that program. Also, Chris wanted everybody to know that Modiphus 20% is going into buying art and assets for all to use in the 2d20 World Builders program.

We still have the bigger problem of the OGL 1.1 and Wizards of the Coast to deal with. But this is a small victory we can enjoy. It is a good example of what can happen when a bunch of folks with good intentions can get together to hash out a solution to a problem.

Fight On!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Concerning Bat in the Attic Games, Steady as She Goes along with further comments on the OGL.

Update: The text of OGL 1.1 has dropped at the below link. I verified this with some folks but always as with this kind of situation double check everything in anything I say or share. OGL 1.1

I have been commenting on the recent news regarding the OGL 1.1 along with debating the ramifications on various forums and social media platforms. As a result I seen a lot of publishers making their fans and customers aware of their future plans. I figure this will be a good time for me as well.

I am not known for my production speed. I am very concerned with usability and not wasting people's valuable hobby time when publishing or sharing material.  So I tend to fuss around a bit when it comes to my products.  This has left me in a semi-fortunate place as my next major project is Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms. I am in the middle of 3 of 4 maps and making slow but steady progress every day. 

Due to the nature of my Points of Light style setting,  I don't have to use the OGL In fact, Blackmarsh is already dual licensed under the OGL and CC-BY. My plan was and remains to do the same with the maps and text of Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms.

So in the absolute worst timeline where everybody's fears are realized about the termination of the OGL 1.0a license then Blackmarsh and the Majestic Fantasy Realms will be shared under the CC-BY license.

Next, my adventures both published and unpublished. I plan to release a 2nd edition of Scourge of the Demon Wolf set in the Majestic Fantasy Realms, and have Deceits of the Russet Lord mostly done. Those will also get released but their exact form is dependent on events.  

The Majestic Fantasy RPG, as I stated here on my blog and elsewhere, I dragged my setting across a dozen systems starting with ADnD 1e, an extended stay with GURPS, and currently a mix of 5e and my own Majestic Fantasy Rules. What this means I have a lot of experience in adapting what I do to an arbitrary system. You can see this in action with my Fate playtest posts. I am linking to the last one as it has the index.

So whatever happens I am confident that the full version of the Majestic Fantasy RPG will come up in some form. There will still be viz to burn as mages, but it will still be a tad more detailed than most OSR systems. It will still allow characters to do anything except some will be better at certain things. Whether it will be a d20-based system, a 3d6 based, or a d100-based system remains to be seen. But there are plenty of successful projects that don't use the OGL to serve as a template for what I can and can't do.

For those who are interested I still have where I left off with Fate here

Further comments on OGL 1.1


Trust in OGL 1.0a has been shattered regardless of the outcome. Dozens if not hundreds are seeking alternative licensing for their works. If you do so yourself, I understand. My recommendation is to use CC-BY and add a comment in the front to outline what is definitely not covered by the grant, like your publishing name. Using CC-BY will offer the best compatibility with the OGL 1.0a content if the license survives. But given the circumstance totally understandable if you go with one of the share-alike licenses.

Withdrawing the License

More than a few gamers in the legal profession had stated with near certainty that Wizards has the authority to withdraw their own license. That without term irrevocable in the copyright grant, perpetual doesn't mean forever. Just means it until the licensor revokes it. 

When I pressed them on this and asked which decision was the key case for this. It turns out the earliest citation is a 2010 decision in the United Kingdom. Note that because the UK is a common law country, the US Courts will use the decision as a resource, but it is not binding.

Here is a good summary on Enworld. It is post #569.

However, the interesting part was not that it was made in 2010 or ruled in the UK. But rather it was held that a termination clause was still relevant despite the perpetual license grant. As it so happens the OGL has an explicit termination clause. And de-authorization is not one of the grounds. More so Section 13 holds that sublicenses are still valid.

This is not a slam dunk. But it may mean that the continued existence of the OGL has some foundation.

It is Groundhog Day but worse

Sometimes I feel like it 2008 all over again with 4e and the GSL. When I first heard about this I said it going to play out pretty much like the 4e and GSL debacle. Except Wizards gave us a year's notice to do something about it.

But I think I was wrong. The degree of anger I have seen Wizard provoke in everybody is far greater than the 4e debacle.

Steady as She Goes

Right now I feel like the captain who just spotted the hurricane on the horizon. I don't where the winds are taking it but I am preparing and letting others know about it. But it hasn't hit yet. It may blow in a different direction. And if it doesn't I am going to keep the lights open until I get a cease & desist. 

Fight On

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Section 9 of the Open Game License

Update: I talk about the impact of recent events on me here.

 There is been a lot of discussion over whether Wizards can revoke the OGL by de-authorizing it. This came about because of Section 9 of the open game license.

9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.

I highlighted in bold the operative section. The theory goes if Wizards de-authorized the license then everybody who ever used OGL 1.0 or OGL 1.0a will be forced to go to OGL 1.1 even folks who made their stuff open content that had nothing to do with any of Wizard's offerings like the d20 SRD, or the d20 Modern SRD, for example, Cepheus, Mongoose Legends and so on.

I am not a lawyer but like any layman, especially one involved in making creative content, I learned enough so I can ask my attorney intelligent questions to make sure what I want to do has all the i's dotted and t's crossed. 

What I learned is that while the letter of the contract is important, the courts give great weight to intent. What the parties intending to do to when the license or contract was made. If you google contract law and intent you will find several excellent summaries of what intent means in common law countries like the US.

As for the OGL, this means that the old d20 FAQ becomes highly relevant.

The D20 FAQ captured on April 29th, 2001

While not a legal document it does show the intent of Wizards circa 2001 when they released the OGL.

Q: What is meant by the term "Open Gaming"?

A: An Open Game is a game that can be freely copied, modified, and distributed, and a system for ensuring that material, once distributed as an Open Game will remain permanently Open.

This is further supported by the fact that when Wizards released the highly restrictive Game System License several years later, they did not try to revoke the OGL although they did sunset the d20 Trademark License.

Next, is the fact what is meant by an authorized license? Many contend it means that the OGL can be revoked. Or some like myself, argue that it means that the version had to have been authorized by Wizards at some point. The fact that Wizards does not wish to continue offering it for its own stuff is irrelevant to its use for current and future material.

I believe my point of view is further supported by how ambiguity is handled in the US Courts. A person in 2001 and in 2022 would reasonably assume they can use the OGL and any associated open content as long as they met the terms of the license. 

This is further supported by the references in the d20 FAQ to what the term "Free" means in the context of the OGL.

Particularly this

This use of the term "free" is a recognition of the philosophy of the roots of the Open Source software movement. The Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project, founded by Richard Stallman were the first formal efforts to codify the philosophy of Open Source software. It is the preference of the Free Software Foundation and Mr. Stallman to use the term "Free Software" rather than "Open Source", to keep the focus on the idea that the important part of the philosophy is the freedom to copy, modify and distribute computer software, rather than the more utilitarian objective of simply giving users access to the source code.

And the above is supported by the fact that the d20 page referred to the Open Gaming Foundation which is still in existence and has been recently updated.

Section 9 is, in my opinion, is a badly rewritten version of Section 9 of the GNU Public License  Ver 2 (the then current version) which reads. 

9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

Finally as for Wizards making all open content magically use OGL 1.1 by focusing on authorized licenses. I submit folks are forgetting about 

You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content 

That is a choice, if the worst case scenario comes to pass, you can decline to use OGL 1.1 and omit the open content that is not original to your work and then release it other another license or under traditional copyright.

I can't say how things will go but I hope this helps as a more hopeful view of the possibilities than some of the other commentary that is out there.


This was pointed out to me that was in the OGL FAQ as well.

Q: Can't Wizards of the Coast change the License in a way that I wouldn't like?

A: Yes, it could. However, the License already defines what will happen to content that has been previously distributed using an earlier version, in Section 9. As a result, even if Wizards made a change you disagreed with, you could continue to use an earlier, acceptable version at your option. In other words, there's no reason for Wizards to ever make a change that the community of people using the Open Gaming License would object to, because the community would just ignore the change anyway.

This gives weight to my assertion that Section 9 of OGL 1.0a is intended to operate like Section 9 of the GPL rather than a "scrap it" clause.


Concerning Bat in the Attic Games, Steady as She Goes