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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thoughts of an Idle and Intoxicated DM

So, after 9 rounds at our local pub to celebrate my son's first full time job, I got to thinking.

Basic Fantasy RPG is less than $5 in print, and even ships free if you have Amazon Prime. I now have all that BFRPG offers in print for less than than 20 bucks. Rule book and 5 adventure books. All free in PDF.

I have a year plus worth of gaming goodness with my next campaign if I go with BFRPG, and that's not including what is only in PDF at the moment.

Amazing the clarity that lack of sobriety can bring ;)

Have You Ever Played Multiple PCs in a RPG Session?

When I first started playing AD&D back in the early 80s, it wasn't uncommon for players to run two PCs apiece, especially if there were only two or three players (besides the DM.)

Heck, it wasn't uncommon for the DM to throw his own PC into the mix, especially in the "shared world" context of "there was no world besides dungeons anyway." DM PCs were handled by the group at large, and never we allowed to search for traps or find secret doors - just too bloody convenient for the DM if they could bypass the traps and find every secret door.

So, when did we turn away from multiple PCs and henchmen (who were always ready to step up as a new PC if their master took a dirt nap?)

You could argue with the power creep to the classes with each edition, there was less and less need for additional characters in the average party, but that doesn't explain why those playing retroclones tend not to play multiple characters and have few if any henchmen and hirelings in their groups.

Another question bouncing around my head thanks to Save or Die Episode 99.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A WTF are They Thinking!?! Kickstarter - Castles & Crusades: Blacktooth Ridge (T.V. Pilot)

1 - Stinking pile of poo
2 - A future failed TV pilot
3 - An editor's nightmare
4 - A money pit
5 - The third part of the Whitman Trilogy
6 - All of the above


I'm not making this shit up. D20 Productions (Ken Whitman) is looking to Kickstart a C&C TV Pilot with a funding goal of $5k.

The Knights of the Dinner Table web series had a goal of $60k (hit 69k)

Spinward Traveller's TV pilot had a goal of $30k and nearly hit $50k.

Blacktooth Ridge can do it for about a 10th of the other Kickstarter's goals?

Is Ken Whitman banking a film studio these days?

In all seriousness, the idea that the folks behind the one "D&D"-esque ruleset that has more editing issues than the rest of the OSR combined is going to be working on a TV pilot with D20 Productions with as little as a $5k budget should truly be entertainment enough. I can only imagine the confusion as the actors read scripts from the Trolls that are missing blocks of text...

If the sample video on the Kickstarter site is any example of the expected finished product you be throwing good money at a failed pilot.

If this were to have been another web series, it might be passable, but even public access cable would refuse this.


Does "Old School" Mean "Rules Light?"

Obviously, the answer is no. Chivalry & Sorcery, RoleMaster, Bushido and even AD&D are not rules light systems. So, why is it that, in general at least, we think of the OSR as a "rules light movement?

I think the answer to that lies in the ages of those writing the clones and their derivatives. They try to capture (with much success) the feeling and magic of old school gaming while making the rules more digestible and presented in an easier to follow format. The charm of the original rules was not in their presentation, but in the style of play those rules encouraged.

That, and as we get older, KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) makes gaming easier, especially on the aging eyes ;)

AD&D wasn't necessarily as complicated as it now seems in retrospect, but the horrible organization of the rules spread over two books made it difficult to master. Even early editions of Tunnels & Trolls suffer from horrible organization of the rules, making what should be a simple system difficult to learn by the book.

Some thoughts that came to me while listening to the latest Save or Die Podcast (with special guest Jon Peterson)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy

So, where does LotFP: Weird Fantasy fall on out list of D&D clones? At it's core, it is a B/X clone, but that falls quickly to the wayside as you read the classes.

It is a race as class type of system, but each class is purposefully given it's own niche. For example:

Only fighters can increase in combat ability. No other class get's more than a +1 to their to hitroll.

Dwarves are the HP powerhouse. They get 1d10 per level for HD and they can carry more than other classes. They also get a + 1 to their Constitution modifier for HP.

Elves can cast spells and get a 1d6 for HD (as opposed to the magic-users 1d4). I don't recall if they can use armor or not, but "Player Character Elves are those gifted individuals that are trained as both Fighters and Magic-Users."

Halfling get by far the best saves in the game, but that's about it.

Clerics are pretty close to the norm. They DO get a spell at first level.

Magic-users are what it says on the tin. You'll need to read the spell descriptions carefully, as there are enough that have been changed from the source material to keep you guessing.

Specialists (Thieves). This is where Weird Fantasy shines. The D6 mechanic that is substituted for the % rolls for thief skills is something I'm tempted to port over no matter which Old School ruleset I'm running with. Worth the price of admission on it's own, and when the price is free, it's hard to pass up.

Weird Fantasy does not have a monster book or section. DMs are expected to make each one unique. Or, just borrow from a different OSR game. Trust me, it will work.

Weird Fantasy is basically a B/X clone with some very unique house rules. It will feel familiar and yet not for those coming from the originals or their more direct clones, but the art free Weird Fantasy PDF is certainly something that every OSR gamer should have on their virtual bookshelf. As for the full version of the PDF or Print - just be aware, the artwork, while very good, may not fit into everyone's social norms for sex and gratuitous violence.

If you can find the older Grindhouse Edition, the Referee Book is priceless with the advice it gives.

LotFP Weird Fantasy (Free No Art PDF, PDF with Art $5, Print 21.18 Euros)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kickstarter - Time of the Dying Stars: Book One (LL Fiction / Sourcebook)

Yeah, I know I mentioned this already a few weeks ago, but as I'm doing The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer series of posts, I figured I'd point a finger again at +Pete Spahn 's Time of the Dying Stars, which will be both fiction and a sourcebook for his world of Amherth (but could easily be ported elsewhere.)

Now, you don't have to support the project to benefit from it, as Pete's going to release it in a Pay What You Want format at RPGNow. No, you want to support it because your want the cool stuff that comes from supporting the projects, like a printed copy of the book, copies of Small Niche Game's other releases, new Labyrinth Lord classes by Barrel Rider Games and the chance to see a dwarf named Tenkar try to save the world, or something like that.

If you want an idea of the kind of work that Pete puts out under the Small Niche Games imprint, check out The City of Dolmvay. Also PWYW, so please, grab it and find Tenkar's Tavern within it's very pages :)

How Important are Ability Scores in the Games You Run?

White Box D&D had, at most, + / - 1 for high or low ability scores, but later supplements changed that. By the time we got to AD&D, the + / 1 range was 4, and don't even mention Exceptional Strength for fighters and their sub-classes.

I tend to favor a range of + / - 3 for the games I run these days, but taking a step back from DMing (not completely, but in large part) for the summer-plus, has gotten me to look at ability score bonuses again.

When a 13-18 is a "plus one", actual scores become much less important. Depending on how heroic of a game you want to run, that plus one might be all you need. Conversely, it keeps the characters from being hosed by a horribly low score, as really, a minus one isn't that huge of a penalty.

How much of a role does ability score bonuses play in the campaigns you run?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - Dark Dungeons

Nothing is as motivating as being told "your doing it wrong" when you know you are doing right. On that note, we proceed onto the 5th entry in The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer series of posts.

May we present to you Dark Dungeons.

No, not the Dark Dungeons of Jack Chick fame, which is what you will probably think of if you were gaming in the 80's and 90's, and not the soon to be released movie of the same title based on the original Dark Dungeons comic tract.

I'm talking the Dark Dungeons retroclone, a restatement of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, not that you'll see that mentioned anywhere in the work itself or the website where you can find the download.

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia was itself a rewrite of BECMI, mostly without the I if I recall correctly. The I is mostly here.

Race as Class is one of the defining features. Your classes are Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, Mystic and Thief. I had a brain fart with the Mystic class until i realized it was the Monk class. No idea how it was named in the Rules Cyclopedia and my copy is hidden on a shelf somewhere.

For sheer size Dark Dungeons gives OSRIC a run for the money, coming in at nearly 350 pages. It includes rules for mass combat, ship to ship combat, foraging, skysailing, advice on encounter balance, questing for immortality - even if you weren't planning on using Dark Dungeons as the ruleset for your next campaign, there is a ton of interesting stuff to steal borrow for use with the OSR ruleset of your choice. It's also a complete ruleset on it's own.

Dark Dungeons (Free PDF in 3 different formats for computer viewing, printing professionally and printing at home - at 345 pages who the fuck is printing this at home? / Print SC $14.67 / Print HC $26.26 / Print Deluxe HC $89.95)

Kickstarter - Drinking Dice - Make any Game a Drinking Game


I like the Drinking Dice project. I'm not sure why, but crossing this with Drinking Quest could just lead to inebriation ;)

So, I'm in for 100 dice, with the plan of giving out a pair to everyone that attends the Tenkar's Tavern NTRPG Con gathering next June at - NTRPG Con. A free drink and some dice, what could be better than that?

The project is funded with 4 days to go, so give it a go :)

(maybe between now and then I'll think up a small game to use the dice with, instead of using them in pre-existing games)

The Partially Impartial Eye

As I do the series of posts on the OSR for the Lapsed Gamer, one thing I try to maintain is impartiality when highlighting the different rulesets.

In doing so, I've reminded myself of just how many of the OSR styled rules I've played, run or both.

Castles & Crusades - 2 short campaigns as a player via Fantasy Grounds 2

ACKS - run via Google Hangouts / VTT

DCC RPG - run and played via Google Hangouts / Roll20 (all that follows used Hangouts / Roll20)

OSRIC / AD&D 1e - run and played, using OSRIC and 1e interchangably

S&W Complete - run and played

LotFP Weird Fantasy - played

Which still means that the vast majority of the rules I'll be mentioning I HAVEN'T experienced in actual play. So many rules, so little time. If I make a statement based on a read through of a rule set that isn't accurate in actual play, call me on it and I'll correct it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - Labyrinth Lord

Labyrinth Lord. The first OSR game I found, assuming one doesn't count Castles & Crusades.
Certainly the first one I found freely available in PDF in it's special "no art" version.

Yes, there are non-free versions of the PDFs with art. Content is the same, so consider the art versions as a donation to the publisher.

Labyrinth Lord is a re-presentation or re-working of the B/X rules, and it tries to replicate the look and feel of such.

The core book for Labyrinth Lord is the LL Revised Edition. If you are looking to play something compatible with your old B/X modules, this is all you need.

LL: Advanced Edition Characters allows you to play the classes from AD&D using the LL rules. In some ways it is very much like S&W Complete, but LL:AEC requires the core Labyrinth Lord rules - it is not a stand alone product.

LL: Original Edition Characters brings the OD&D White Box emulation to the Labyrinth Lord Ruleset. Again, you need the core Labyrinth Lord rules to use this supplement.

There is a certifiable shit ton of support material for Labyrinth Lord. Where as Swords & Wizardry has spawned over a dozen derivatives of it's rules, doing a search at RPGNow for "Labyrinth Lord" leads to over 350 related products (S&W comes back with less than 140.)

Labyrinth Lord is probably the best supported of the OSR rulesets, with adventures, settings, classes, monsters and more just waiting to be used. And even though we always say that OSR products are 90-95% compatible across the various rulesets, Labyrinth Lord is 100% compatible to the largest amount of source material right out of the box.

Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry are probably the "Big Two" of the OSR clones and it's impossible to go wrong with either one.

Labyrinth Lord is published by Goblinoid Games

Labyrinth Lord: Original Edition Characters (Free PDF / Art PDF  3.95/ Print SC $8.95)

Labyrinth Lord: Revised Edition (Free PDF / Art PDF / Print SC $21.95 / Print HC $31.95)

Labyrinth Lord: Advanced Edition Characters (Free PDF / Art PDF  $6.95 / Print SC $22.95 / Print HC $32.95)

BrainStorm Podcast – Think Tank #5 - Talking about Towns



Yep, thirty minutes, more or less, talking about designing towns. We give you both less and more ;)

If you want to upload it to your Podcast catching app, search for "Think Tank"

BrainStorm Podcast – Think Tank #5

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Not Your Dad's OSR... or Maybe it Is

There have been some truly stupid discussions / disagreements in the OSR over this weekend, with much of it having to do with what constitutes the OSR, when the OSR began, when did the OSR self identify as well as a request to dig up gaming dirt on James Mal because the person in question is too lazy to do so for himself.

Drama. Lot's of it.

It did get me thinking about the definition of the OSR. Well, not the actual definition, as it's a nebulous and personal thing formed by one's own gaming experiences. I'm referring to how I define the OSR, based on my experiences, and I find myself with a ying / yang situation, as it has two faces to me. Two definitions that overlap. Or, more precisely, one definition encompasses the other.

The first definition sees the OSR in terms of older editions of D&D and it's clones and derivatives. If the rules can be traced back to AD&D 2e or an earlier definition, it's OSR.

The second definition sees the OSR as encapsulating all old school gaming and it's clones. There is no defined cut off date for this, but I'd probably use 1997 as my personal marker (unless one finds a better one) as this is the year I stepped away from gaming for 10 years or so. It's an easy mark for me to remember. This definition includes examples like Traveller, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Tunnels & Trolls, Rolemaster, RuneQuest, Bushido, The Fantasy Trip, WFRP and dozens if not hundreds of others. The games of my youth and early adult hood. The golden and silver years of my gaming.

So, for ease of reference not just for myself, but my readers, I am going to be using the following definitions here at The Tavern.

OSR - D&D and it's clones and derivatives. If the rules can be traced back to AD&D 2e or an earlier definition, it's OSR.

OSR-E (OSR-Expanded) - an RPG released in 1997 or earlier or one of it's clones. Short and simple.

Again, these are my definitions for use here at The Tavern. Just trying to keep things organized both on the blog and in my head ;)

How Much do you Improvise as a DM?

Remember those Decks of Encounters TSR put out back in the day? I used to grab a half dozen cards at random, pick three or fourI thought I could work with, and that would be the outline of my session for later that afternoon.

I'd use one card to set things up and the others depending on the direction the party took things. Figure out the connections between the encounters on the spot and let things fall where they may. The only real drawback I had is I rarely wrote down the details afterwards, so I had a fairly bad sense of where that arty had been without them catching me up. But it was fun.

I haven't run a game like that in nearly 20 years. Not that I don't improvise these days, but I haven't gone back to the "lets figure out this adventure" type of gaming that I experimented with in my college years.

So, how much do you improvise in your average came session? Does improvisation mean you can prep less? Does it lead to more record keeping?