Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Finally Have Dwimmermount - er, I Mean "DEVILMOUNT" in Hand ;)

Dwimmermount may never see the light of day as a printed product, but it's dark and twisted doppleganger appeared on my doorstep today when I was out eating some Fish & Chips for St. Pat's weekend.

With DEVILMOUNT, I may not even miss the original. I'll certainly miss the money I apparently have pissed away on the fucker, but that's a whole different story.

On a very quick scan, I failed to find 9 rats and 2,000 Coppers. I'm not sure if that makes me happy or sad.

I may well run the first level of this using the Swords & Wizardry rules sometime in the next few weeks. If I do, I'll put out the recruitment call for players.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review Part 1 - Arrows of Indra (OSR Ruleset)

Why a multi part review? Because I've found myself bouncing around this 192 page PDF in the bits and pieces of my spare time, finding new shinnies in it before bouncing around again. Yeah, it's been that kind of a week. The review will be piecemeal, as that's how I've been reading Arrows of Indra.

Anyhow, what you get is an Indian themed OSR style RPG when you open up Arrows of Indra. If you are comfortable with other OSR games (and if you read this blog regularly, you should feel comfortable with OSR games) you'll feel right at home mechanically with AoI. In some ways it reminds me of Spears of the Dawn, in that it takes real life culture and history as the thematic base of an RPG that otherwise would have been Western European based. There's a whole other post on that topic waiting to be written - I'll get to it at some point.

Because of the setting, the game has a Caste System, that is part of you character generation. It is rolled, not chosen, and offers bonuses and penalties to stats and a kinda steers you in you class direction as certain classes can only come from certain castes. Although there are other races than human, they are pretty much outcasts in human society. The caste system is either going to be a strong part of one's campaign or fairly glossed over and ignored - I don't see a middle ground.

If you like random tables, you have such for authentic sounding names and their meaning. I guess no "Bill the Barbarian"s need apply.

Some of the classes have nice twists to them for the setting. We get Priests and Priest-Shamans instead of Clerics, Fighters, Virakshatriya (pretty much a Paladin reskinned), Scouts (Rangerish), Siddhis (Magic-Users), Thief, Thugees (Assassins - and is this the root of "thug"?) and Yogis (Monks).

If I have a problem with this section it's that the ability and advancement charts are often not with the actual descriptions. I suspect this was an attempt to do away with "white space" in the layout, but fuck it, give me the white space and put the charts with the class description it goes with. It's a minor gripe until you try to refer to it in game. Well, not that I've had to refer to it in game yet, but you know what I mean ;)

Skills. This game has skills beyond the usual thief skills. Crap, not just that, there's more than just background skills, there are class skills for certain classes. Why you would roll randomly to determine your skill I can't yet explain, but apparently you do. I'll need to read this section more in depth before the next part of the review...

Wayward Kickstarters - The Dimming of Dwimmermount and Little Further on Far West

Two of my most overdue Kickstarters that I've supported and at significant levels (over $100 each) had updates this week.

Neither were all that promising.

Lets start with Far West, (which my wife affectionately refers to now as "Far NONE!") the Western/Wuxia Mashup adventure game.
"I wish I had more progress to report this week, as we'd had a few really good ones in a row and got a LOT done, but I was nailed by the flu from Sunday through Wednesday, which (as you might imagine) slowed us down considerably."
Let's look at how those previous 4 weeks:

Feb. 22, 2013
Back at the office after working the convention in L.A.
Now that we're so near, to make it clearer how close we are to done, I'm only listing the material that still requires work. If an item is at 100%, it's no longer on the list. Here we go:
Chapter 6: Pilgrims on the Dust Road: 90% (Editing)
Chapter 7: Swords and Sixguns: 95% (Editing)
Chapter 8: Cog Science -90% (Editing)
Chapter 9: Furious Action - 90% (Editing)
Chapter 10: A Fistful of Bastards - 85%
Layout: Unchanged. Page template is designed, as is cover. Still need to drop in finished text and place art, as well as design character sheet, and do index once pagination is complete.
Art: Portraits: 95% (75 done, 4 to go). Incidental Art: ~60% (need to do another 20 or so, as needed, during layout)

Mar. 01, 2013 
Howdy folks! Neither 20 inches of snow, nor illness (both myself and my wife coming down with colds) shall stay your tireless designers from their appointed tasks!
Here's this week's progress:
Chapter 6: Pilgrims on the Dust Road: 95% (Editing)
Chapter 8: Cog Science -95% (Editing)
Chapter 9: Furious Action - 90% (Editing)
Chapter 10: A Fistful of Bastards - 90% (Editing)
Layout: Character sheet design has begun! In fact, I've got a couple of design ideas -- what I'm thinking of doing is putting them together and asking you fine folks which you prefer. I'll be in touch about that in the coming week or so.
Art: Portraits: 95% (75 done, 4 to go). Incidental Art: ~60% (need to do another 20 or so, as needed, during layout)

Mar. 08, 2013   
Here's this week's progress:
Chapter 8: Cog Science -95% (Editing)
Chapter 9: Furious Action - 95% (Editing)
Chapter 10: A Fistful of Bastards - 95% (Editing)
Layout: Work proceeds on the character sheet -- I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped to, so we're not ready to show you designs to choose from quite yet. As per a comment on the forums, however: The design that's chosen will appear in the book, but the alternative designs will be available as downloads on the site as well.
Art: Portraits: 95% (75 done, 4 to go). Incidental Art: ~60% (need to do another 20 or so, as needed, during layout)

Mar. 15, 2013 
I wish I had more progress to report this week, as we'd had a few really good ones in a row and got a LOT done, but I was nailed by the flu from Sunday through Wednesday, which (as you might imagine) slowed us down considerably.
Chapter 8: Cog Science -95% (Editing)
Chapter 9: Furious Action - 95% (Editing)
Chapter 10: A Fistful of Bastards - 95% (Editing)
Layout: Continued development of character sheet ideas yesterday. Trying to find a good balance between cool design (but not at the expense of readability) and ease of use (but without falling into the decades-old character sheet cliches -- stats arranged vertically on upper left quadrant, etc.).
Art: Portraits: 96% (76 done, 3 to go). Incidental Art: ~70% (did a few more of these.)
So, after 4 weeks of updates we've knocked off:

10% of Chapter 6's editing
5% of Chapter 7's editing
5% of Chapter 8's editing
5% of Chapter 9's editing
5% of Chapter 10's editing
10% of incidental art
1 portrait (1% progress)
2 colds
1 flu
1 con
20" of snow

Just think, at this rate it has an outside chance of releasing nearly 2 years late:
The Limited Edition hardcover of the Adventure Game, as well as the Ebook, Kindle and PDF, will be available in December 2011. Electronic versions will be sent to donors at the same time the book is sent to the printer. (I'd be impressed with a Summer 2013 release)
Then we have Dwimmermount, for which I previously posted the latest update here. Whereas Far west is 15 months late and still moving at a snails pace uphill in a blizzard, Dwimmermount is a mere 9 months late, with the additional bonus that it's creator is MIA and not even communicating with his supposed business partners, nor has he paid some of his artists that submitted work before he closed himself off from the world.

Tavis is trying to work miracles, but the reality is this project is probably done unless James signs it over to those that have the will and ability to complete the project.

A month of no communication while having to deal with a family illness / death in the family (unclear) is extreme and would not be acceptable in a real world work environment. We are nearing three months without a change in the situation.

I don't need to know about James' personal life. That is his business, and he can share of it what he wants or not share at all. The $49k that was raised for this project is of interest to over a thousand backers. If James can no longer commit to the project, he should pass the responsibility (and the funds needed to pay for art, layout, printing and other backer costs) over to someone that can.

There is no shame in admitting your heart and will is no longer in something, but having accepted payment for it, James needs to do what he can to make things right by those that put their faith and funds in his hands. Time to pass that torch, James.

As for Tavis - keep your coupons. They will do Autarch more harm as a company than they could ever do right by me. This project should be a lesson plan on "How not to fund a Kickstarter for a creator not covered by Kickstarter's residency rules".

In hindsight, I think Barrowmaze would have been the better Canadian megadungeon to have backed, as it released on time (well, I did back it on Indiegogo, but imagine how much better the funding would have been if it had been on Kickstarter).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Looking Back at My D&D 5e Predictions From January 2012

You can see my original predictions for D&D 5e / Next here and here, but I'm going to copy them below in any case and make some comments now that the Beta is kinda sorta "open" and we have 14 months of updates to look at.

Tenkar's Tavern's Bold Predictions For Dungeons & Dragons 5E

No, I'm not the Amazing Kreskin, nor do we have him working here at the tavern. We do, however, have a scrying pool in the basement. It's filled with runoff from the privy above, so you know what it's full of ;)

Anyhow, here's my 5E predictions:

1 - Boxed Sets - Because boxed sets can actually get retail shelf space in places like Walmart and Target. (Book stores and Hobby stores are so 2002) B/E/C/M/I type set, with one time codes to activate your boxed set via the DDI codes packaged inside, with "bonus material" only available online. (I don't think we know the format it will release in yet)
2 - Expect some really onerous DRM for the online DDI/Whatever they're gonna call it. Because that's going to be the only way they'll put stuff online beyond what they do now. (I fucked this one up. Props to WotC for releasing the PDFs and the Collectible Reprints)

3 - D&D VVTT - The Vaporish Virtual Table Top - Wasn't this promised with the release of 4E? They even had this awesome die roller video (lifted from Fantasy Grounds). You were supposed to be able to buy digital figures and such. Would have been a nice money maker. I haven't checked on the VTT Beta in a while, but I suspect it's going to get a heavy push in 5E. Full release of the D&D VTT will come with 5E. Expect a fee system on a monthly basis, to get some of that World of Warcraft gold. (Dead. Done. Returned to sender. Maybe they'll license Roll20 ;)

4 - A return to "RolePlaying" - shorter combats, less need for battle-maps (but a robust system for those that like battle-map encounters), more unique character building, stats that actually mean something, rolling for Hit Points, etc. Still, expect a rule for everything and everything has a rule. Which sucks for roleplaying. (Definitely seems to be the case. Next is closer to 3e than 4e, and speeding up the game is certainly a stated goal)

5 - Even more "Organized Play" - Organized Play gives you repeat customers and brings people into their local game stores, which means more sales (at least one hopes so). If they can charge a small yearly fee, they will. I'm sure different fees will be part of a forthcoming survey. (Future still hazy - Try again later)

Alright, the fumes from the scrying pool have become a bit much. I'll return with more D&D 5E predictions from Tenkar's Tavern's Privy-fed Scrying Pool after I disinfect myself. Talk about still waters, it almost looks like mud...

Tenkar's Tavern's Final Dungeons & Dragons 5E Predictions

Planescape - Because You Know Monte Wants To
The city authorities have informed me that a privy fed scrying pool in the tavern's basement is against the health code - who knew?  So, before we drain the pool for good, here's a few final Dungeons & Dragons 5e predictions:

6 - The "very core" of the system will probably be released in some sort of "SRD", but the bits and pieces, the optional rules included with 5e that allow you to tweak it into an infinite number of play styles - those specific rules will be covered under a separate license.  Yeah, doesn't make sense to me either, but I am looking in a shit filled scrying pool ;) (looks like they are retreating from their "One System, All Editions plan)

7 - A return of Planscape, either at release or shortly there after.  You know you want it.  I'm sure Monte does too.  Besides, multiple planes is an easy way to feed multiple play styles. (Who would have guessed it would return in spirit, thanks to Monte's Numenura RPG and the spiritual successor to the computer game Planescape Torments)

8 - A new D&D powered MMORPG - Dungeons & Dragons Unlimited is going to be TWO editions old when 5e releases.  Time for a revamp /  reboot / reinvention. (Neverwinter The MMO is going to Beta already)

9 - Fiction - Whatever world they decide to run with (Greyhawk anyone?), it's going to spawn a new series of books.  There will be at least one coinciding with the release of 5e. (they already announce the plan to use the Forgotten Realms Fiction to explain the changes)

10- No "Edition Wars" - at least, not as bad as the last round.  No one will be pissing on 4e because a new edition is coming out.  Not even at WotC.  They are looking to unify, not divide. (amazingly enough, this seems to be the path WotC is taking)

10A - Gnomes - they're not going to fuck the gnomes like they did with the release of 4e.  Not that I particularly like them, but they are part of what most gamers see as the core D&D classes. (i don't recall gnomes in my playtest materials, but I haven't read the shit in 6, 8 - 9 months or more?)

10B - Player Races in General - back to the core.  Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome, Half-Elf and maybe even Half-Orc.  The extra 4e races will follow up in a supplement shortly after release. (er, damn - I really should have payed more attention to those playtest packages...)

Alright, draining the pool.  I've hired some kobolds to cart out the waste and give it a scrubbing.  Also hired an angry halfling ranger to keep them in line and out of the pub's kegs!

Well, about as accurate as any other fortune teller I think ;)

Looking at the 1E Alignments Definitions From the Books - Part 1 - Chaotic Good

It's a shame that even the AD&D rulebooks can't agree on the alignment definitions (another shout out to the Roll For Initiative podcast for reminding me of this fact). I remember being briefly irked by it back in my High School years, but then we kinda glossed over alignment afterwards. Except for certain weirdness, and example of which I talk about below.

Tonight, I'm going to take a short look at Chaotic Good as defined in the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide.
PH - CHAOTIC GOOD: While creatures of this alignment view freedom and the randomness (why the hell would randomness be valued?) of action as ultimate truths, they likewise place value on life and the welfare of each individual. Respect for individualism is also great. By promoting the gods of chaotic good, characters of this alignment seek to spread their values throughout the world. 
DMG - CHAOTIC GOOD: To the chaotic good individual, freedom and independence are as important to life and happiness (this sentence is missing something). The ethos views this freedom as the only means by which each creature con achieve true satisfaction and happiness. Law, order, social forms, and anything else which tends to restrict or abridge individual freedom is wrong, and each individual is capable of achieving self-realization and prosperity through himself, herself, or itself (notice the randomness aspect is missing?).
The DMG version of Chaotic Good makes more sense, which makes sense, as it's the later version of the definition (PH was released in 78 and the DMG in 79) that was published.

I do remember as a teenager thinking that Chaotic Good characters had to roll randomly to decide certain actions - they couldn't pick a direction at a "T" interestion in a dungeon, they had to roll. Now I know where we got this rule - the damn Player's Handbook itself and teenage interpretations ;)

"By promoting the gods of chaotic good, characters of this alignment seek to spread their values throughout the world." Couldn't this be said about nearly every alignment?

I remember back in my teen years that only Dungeon Masters were supposed to own and read the DMG and various MMs. Was it really fair to have a different definition for the alignments on the Player's side and the DM's side?

Lets play a game and help complete the definition of Chaotic Good after 33 years:
To the chaotic good individual, freedom and independence are as important to life and happiness AS: ___________
- a warm puppy
- crushing your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
- add some random answers in the comments section ;)

Mini Review - In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer (DCC RPG)

It's been a bit since I've reviewed something for the DCC RPG. At the moment I'm not running any DCC RPG sessions, but that's more from lack of available time than any lack of desire - the DCC RPG is an awesome game to run and is fun as hell. I need to find time to squeeze a session in as a player myself at some point ;)

Now, just because I'm not running any DCC RPG stuff at the moment doesn't mean I can't get good mileage out of In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer. I may just use this in my Swords & Wizardry Campaign that's just starting up.

You see, it's a prefect fit for a group that is limited to 2 to 3 hrs play (including requisite bullshitting time) at a clip.

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer is full of mini adventures or in some cases, more like extended encounters. Twelve of them to be exact and suitable for various levels of play although about half are in the third to fifth level range, a range under-represented in the assortment of adventures that are currently released.

Heck, these are also useful to help pace the campaign you are running, as they add bits of side spice to whatever storyline you are currently running.

The adventures are by various authors, but I'm always partial to Daniel Bishop's work on the DCC RPG, and he doesn't disappoint. Actually, I think he has the largest piece running at 8 pages (and a second piece that runs 4 pages in length). These are the prefect sized adventures to run in a single session via G+ Hangouts or the like.

I really love the isometric maps that are the hallmark fo the DCC RPG, and In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer is no exception. They aren't as flashy as the ones by Goodman Games, but I'd still gladly takes some of these as prints. Why doesn't anyone ever listen to me? ;)

Now I just need to figure out which one I should be converting to Swords & Wizardry first...

How "Defined" Should Alignment Be?

I guess you could consider this a follow up to yesterday's Paladin Post.

When you think about alignment in D&D / AD&D and their clones, you have 2 basic choices (as the third choice is omitting alignment altogether and I think that would be the least satisfying of the choices): the D&D style of Law and Chaos, with the majority of Neutral somewhere in the middle and the AD&D style of 9 diametrically opposed alignment niches.

When I first came to the hobby of RPGs, my gateway drug was AD&D and 9 alignments seemed like a natural. 9 precisely and narrowly defined alignments. D&D and it's 3 alignments seemed so "backwards".

Well, I appreciate "backwards" these days it seems. There is a certain grace and natural balance to the 3 alignments of D&D and the general catchall of "neutral" sitting right there in the middle.

Of course, the whole Law and Chaos in opposition deal is very reminiscent of Elric and the others in the Eternal Champions Series.

Law and Chaos are the extremes, and the vast majority fall somewhere in between.

I actually like the idea of Lawful Paladins following opposing goals. I guess I could allow Paladins in a game like Swords & Wizardry (it isn't as juiced up as the AD&D Pally in any case either ;)

So, Nine Points or Three for your alignment flavor?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dwimmermount Project Update #47: Domains at War, Discounts, and Possible Resolutions

I'll save my personal comments for the end of this post:


What's the current status of the Dwimmermount project? 
Dwimmermount’s creator James Maliszewski signed a contract with Autarch that transferred the money we raised on Kickstarter and the responsibility for delivering the promised rewards to him. We understand that James is grieving for his father, but we have to confront the fact that he is currently not living up to this responsibility and discuss what Autarch can do for backers to make good on our own responsibility to you.

When will rewards be delivered?
When Autarch started talking with James about helping him use crowdfunding to publish his megadungeon, he told us to set the estimated delivery dates as June 2012 for the PDF and August for the physical items. After it was clear he would not be able to meet his original date, I worked with him to project a revised schedule for delivery of the PDF in March 2013 with hardcovers due in April. We agreed on a structure of weekly conference calls to create accountability and transparency for his progress toward that goal. As of today, it has been three months since James has taken part in these conference calls. The March date is now past and it has not been possible to establish a new schedule because James has been avoiding direct communication with us since his last email on 12/19/12. We still have faith that his honor and integrity will lead him to address his responsibilities on this project, but we can’t predict when that will be.

What is Autarch doing to make things right for the project’s backers?
We understand that what you’d most like to have is the Dwimmermount rewards you selected in exchange for pledging to this Kickstarter. Fulfilling the key rewards depends on James, but there are many good options he could take to complete the project with little further effort on his part. Autarch's role at this point is to keep making progress on those areas we can without James, while continuing to make efforts to communcate with him. The goals of this communication will to be sure he understands his options, the urgency of taking action, and the potential consequences of inaction.

We also understand that you would have liked to have these rewards on the date they were promised to you. Since that’s no longer possible, we recognize the need for restitution. I’ll discuss how we’ll be doing that below.

Ongoing Efforts

In update #45, Autarch decided to give the backers a bonus goal we didn’t reach in the original campaign, a mass-combat scenario for Dwimmermount using our Domains at War rules. The first installment toward that goal – a look at how the fortress of Muntburg could resist a siege if the denizens of the mega-dungeon rose up against it – is now available for download at this link if you’re a backer with an Autarch account configured for access or through the webform. The scenario will be playable with the Domains at War starter edition, which is free for anyone to download at this link.

Working on the Domains at War scenario has also generated progress on an aspect of the basic Dwimmermount project that can be worked on in James’ absence, the Adventurer Conqueror King System conversion. The ACKS spreadsheet has been updated to include information on Muntburg’s garrison and economics, as well as corrected stronghold construction values; it’s available to backers at this link or via webform.

Autarch Discount Offer

As a further way to make things right, Autarch is planning to give Dwimmermount backers a discount on any of our products based on the value of your pledge to this Kickstarter. You’ll be able to use this discount on our existing Adventurer Conqueror King System and ACKS Player’s Companion in PDF or hardback; apply it to any of the reward levels in our upcoming Domains at War campaign; or use it for the Auran Empire Campaign Setting or any of the other releases we have in the pipeline, which we’ll let you know about ahead of their release. We started Autarch to create cool stuff for your gaming table, and want this offer to be a way to get back to doing what we love.

We know that because many of you already have everything Autarch has put out so far, or contributed more to Dwimmermount than we currently have to give you in return, you may need to wait to take full advantage of this offer. To make up for that delay we’d like to give you twice as much in discounts as your original pledge, rounded up. If you put in $25, you’ll get coupons worth $50; if you were in for $132, you’ll get $270 in coupons. We’re expecting to get these to backers via individual email by the end of the month, after taking some time to answer questions about the plan and make adjustments based on your feedback or factors we haven’t considered yet.

Each coupon will be redeemable for a $10 discount. Initially, we’re going to limit it to one coupon per product. Planning to cover costs as a publisher is always difficult, and we need to keep the coupons from being an unpredictable factor that breaks the bank. Knowing that each single product won’t be discounted for more than $10 lets us be certain we can afford to honor this offer. Once a project reaches the point where we can replace projections with real numbers, we may be able to accept more of your coupons for the specific thing you want. If it turns out we’ve got nothing on the shelves or on the slate that interests you, you’ll be able to trade or sell your coupons to other people looking to get a good deal on Autarch’s current and future catalog.

Using these coupons in no way affects your right to receive the Dwimmermount rewards you pledged for. Fulfilling those is James’ responsibility, and only he has the funds to do so or to offer a refund if he can’t. We remain eager to help him do that. Autarch is not washing our hands of this project, just making the discount offer as something we can do for the backers with our own resources.

Potential Next Steps 

Many of us have experienced how grief and stress can make it difficult to muster any sustained mental effort. Fortunately, James has a range of options that would quickly restart progress on fulfilling the Dwimmermount rewards.

His work in writing the draft is done, and from our weekly conversations I have a good understanding of his vision of how the draft should be developed and polished into a final product. If he transferred the remaining funds to Autarch and licensed us the copyright to Dwimmermount’s text and art, I’m confident we could complete and release his megadungeon in a form he could be proud of, incorporating as much or as little of his further effort as he wants to invest. We’ve made this offer to James and prepared a simple contract that we think requires little review or discussion.

If he mistrusts his own judgement under his current circumstances, he could just as quickly appoint a trusted representative who could take all the time necessary to negotiate an arrangement that addressed James’ interests and concerns.

If James doesn't want to work with Autarch for whatever reason, I’ve offered to put him in contact with other publishers wanting to pursue a similar transfer of funds and copyright so that they could release the rewards.

If he wants to release Dwimmermount through his own Grognardia Games, James could minimize the weight on his shoulders by hiring an editor, developer, and/or project manager – or accepting the help of volunteers like myself - who could keep the delivery of the Kickstarter rewards on track.

Why Hasn't James Taken Action On These Options?

Speaking plainly, when people do things that hurt themselves and others and contradict their normal values we say they are out of their mind. When we add that someone is out of their mind with grief or out of their mind with stress, it helps us understand and sympathize with where they’re coming from while still recognizing that they are being irrational. We can also use the opposite language to talk about when people have been or will be in their right mind.

In the period of taking stock after James stopped returning my calls or emails, it became clear that he never paid cartographers Rob Conley and Chris Hagerty for their freelance contributions to Dwimmermount. Rob's maps were completed in the fall of 2012, Chris's in December. James' failure to pay artists for their work harms them and their families; harms his reputation and ability to undertake future projects; and goes against the values he demonstrated when we started planning this project.

All of us had worked as freelancers, although he had a much longer list of credits than everyone else put together and had even worked for Alex before in his role as publisher of the Escapist. That went smoothly, but every freelancer hears about or encounters jobs that don’t. Prior to launch, I recommended that James should commission some art done to use in the campaign. He was concerned that commissioning work before the money was there could lead to artists not getting paid, so I fronted their payment out of pocket in the confidence that the campaign would be successful, and he repaid me personally once he had the funds from Autarch.

The James I knew then was concerned with making sure fellow freelancers were treated well. I feel it's not like him to withhold payment from his artists indefinitely, given that he has the backers' funds in hand and a mandate to turn it into awesome stuff to give to them in return. When I say that I trust in his honor and integrity, I mean that sooner or later James will be in his right mind again and will do the right thing.

Over the last three months Autarch has been seeking advice from other publishers, lawyers, gamers, and friends; we're lucky to know some people who are all of these at once! Based on this input, we believe that the best next step is for me to visit James and see if meeting in person will help resolve the impasse.

As always, we welcome your feedback and input. In addition to leaving comments and sending messages through the Kickstarter site, you can request an invitation to the Mages of the Mountain community on G+ if you're not already a member; send me an email at tavis@autarch.co; or call me at (917) 749-6938. I will be leaving for GaryCon tonight, and although I may get the chance to talk to some of you there I may not respond to online communication until after the weekend. If you'd like to send a letter to James, you can mail it to me at Tavis Allison , 541 W. 113th St. #2E , New York, NY 10025  and I will forward it to him unopened:



Alright, back to me.

We are nearly 3 months without direct communication from James. While each week that passes leaves me with lowered expectations for a successful Dwimermount completion with James' actual further involvement,  I'm more concerned with James' mental and physical health. Shutting oneself off from responsibilities for this length of time is not in the nature of James Mal. Not paying freelancers that completed artwork is surprising as all hell, and some work was obviously submitted before James shut himself off from the outside world. The longer he shuts out the outside world, the deeper his personal darkness must be.

Hopefully, James decides the right thing to do is to sign over the project to someone that can complete it successfully. I suspect James' is running on empty and was experiencing a lessened desire to work on this project even before he shut himself off. No shame in admitting that real life has thrown some bad shit his way and he desperately needs help to get Dwimmermount completed.

As for the coupons... nice try Tavis, but I'd rather see this project get completed than get $10 off my next 27 purchases from Autarch. That's about 10 - 15 years worth of releases ;)

Balancing Class Powers With Roleplay "Hinderances" - Does it Work?

I was listening to one of the recent episodes of the Roll for Initiative Podcast on my drive in to work this morning, and they were talking abou the AD&D Paladin class and how rare it was for anyone to play the class properly.

The problem with the Paladin class isn't just with the "roleplay aspect", but that the bit I'll be addressing with this short post.

The AD&D Paladin has (off the top of my head, as I don't have my AD&D books near me at the moment) a bonus to saves, detect evil ability, protection from evil at all times, immunity to disease, layng of hands, cure disease, turn undead at 4th level, a magical warhorse at 4th level, spells at 9th level - all balanced by a slightly harder expo table than a straight up fighter, limited to owning one suit of magical armor and shield, 4 weapons and 4 other magic items. Oh, and must adhere to his Lawful Good alignment and risk losing his Paladin-hood. Must adventure regularly only with good aligned characters. Never evil ones.

How the hell does the first list of bonuses get balanced by the second list of hinderances?

It doesn't.

Paladins were loved by the power gamers almost as much as Eleven Bladesingers were loved by power gamers in 2e. Restrictions or hindrances that are roleplay in nature and not mechanical (like the bonuses are) in general do not balance, as the first thing to get glossed over or forgotten in most games is those very roleplay based hinderances. Trust me - players won't forget their mechanical bonuses. They will forget roleplay hinderances.

Looks like I won't be allowing Paladins in my games anytime soon ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Looking For Some Free OSR Adventures / Settings to Add to the List

I found a short list worth of free OSR adventures and one free setting (Blackmarsh) on RPGNow (linked under Free OSR Adventures on the 1st column to the right of this post on the blogside). There's also the plethora of free adventures over at Dragonsfoot (linked under Free RPG Resources).

I KNOW there has to be more that I'm missing.

One of the amazing things about the whole OSR movement is the generosity of the creators and their giving back to the community with free rules and adventures - I think I've found most of the free rules, but I'm damn sure I'm missing some of the free adventures.

Help a brother (and your fellow gamers) out. Please point me in the proper direction to find these gems and grow the list...

(part of me would like to see how far I can take the new Swords & Wizardry Campaign with quality free adventures and settings)

What Do You Award Expo for in Your Campaigns?

Sure, there's expo for killing things and taking their stuff - combat and loot - but what other things can you award expo for?

Me, I award expo for defeating an opponent - fleeing and surrender gains the same expo as killing them (although in the case of surrendering it seems like my players tend to kill most of them afterwards anyway - ah well).

I DON'T award expo for gaining, retaining or using magic items. The item itself is it's own reward. However, if it is sold before it is used, the GP gained is awarded as expo.

I have my "Attack the Darkness" houserule, where Natural 1's on an attack roll apply points of damage to a pool. The points left in that pool at the end of a session are multiplied by 10 and awarded as an XP bonus to the PCs.

When players complete an adventure or a level in a large dungeon (such as Rappan Athuk) I award an expo bonus based on the difficulty of the adventure or level - this helps balance out the lack of rewarding expo for magic items.

So, what do you award expo for?

Recommend Me a Setting For My "Bringing the Old Band Back Together" Swords & Wizardry Campaign

This past Sunday was the first session of the "Bringing the Old Band Back Together" Swords & Wizardry Campaign, dubbed such by one of the original group members that won't be able to join us on a regular basis (but I am hoping to have him join us on an "irregular" basis).

I'm figuring the first few sessions will be a bunch of short, unattached dungeon crawls so everyone can get their feet wet, but after that, I suspect they'll be looking to explore the world a bit.

So, I need a world. Or at least part of a world.

Free or not doesn't matter (but free that I haven't come across yet may get highlighted as a "Free RPG Product of the week on this blog).

So, toss tome ideas at me and lets see which ones have the potential to stick...

Monday, March 11, 2013

First Sign of Impending Springtime at The Tavern

Swapping out Newcastle and swapping in Heineken Light for the mini-kegerator ;)

How Large is the "OSR" and What Does it Encompass?

No, I'm not talking about the number of gamers that consider themselves to be under the "OSR" umbrella. I'm talking about the OSR itself.

OSR = Old School Renaissance = Old School Revival = Old School Rules = Oh Shit, Run!

OSR =/ Dungeons & Dragons

Fuck. I done did it, didn't I? I stirred up some shit. Follow along before getting bent, please ;)

Here's the thing

Tissues = Kleenex

Copy Machine = Xerox

RPGs = Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons has been the generic term for Roleplaying and RPGs since I first got bit by the roleplaying bug back in 1980 or so.

Didn't matter what rules we were using back then - D&D, AD&D, Traveller, Champions, MERP, Rolemaster, RuneQuest, GURPS, Swordbearer, The Fantasy Trip, DragonQuest, Chill, V&V, Tunnels & Trolls, Chivalry & Sorcery, Paranoia, etc - it didn't matter what the rules you were using actually were called - you were playing "D&D".

So why is it many folks out there in "OSR Land" get their britches in a bunch when folks occasionally talk about the OSR in a way that's more expansive than just the D&D and it's clones in their various flavors?

Are we that possessive of this "niche within a niche"? Does OSR actually stand for "Old School Redacted", where the other games from the era no longer count?

Hell, I'd love to get some RuneQuest 2 gaming going, time permitting, and that would certainly be OSR gaming (not sure I could say the same about AH RQ tho' - the sorcery rules confused the crap outa me). Maybe some LBB Traveller, where character generation had a good chance to lead to character death before a session was played. Talk about keeping it real!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm more attached to D&D in all of it's earlier flavors than any of the other games from my youth, but fuck if the old group and I didn't play the shit out of all of them back in the day. Most stand up to the test of time.

Their individual niches are smaller than what we historically have called the OSR, but taken as a whole, the RPGs of the 70's and 80's are large in number and many have devoted followings.

They are Old School too.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map (in Keyed and Unkeyed Flavors Please)

No, I'm not literally asking for the readers of this blog to make me a map. I'm directing this at publishers, big and small.

Many of us do our gaming online, either via a Virtual Table Top or an app such as Roll20 (all hail Roll20!)

This allows us to import maps from adventures and use features such as Fog of War to reveal what the PCs can see (and hide what they can't see).

What FOW can't do is hide room numbers, obscure traps and keep secret secret doors, all of which show up on the reveal.

Is it that difficult to give us the addition of a "play map" for use with the "new fangled" gaming tools we have access to these days?

I know Purple Duck has been adding such to it's DCC releases based on feedback, and it's an awesome  feature of their products, especially for those of us that game online.

Oh, before you say it, using Paint or Photoshop or some such to remove the offending material leaves tell tale signs (alright MY SKILLS leave tell tale signs, as I literally have no such skills). Players ain't stupid ya know ;)

So, what say you? Who else wants some "Unkeyed Map Goodness" in their newt OSR adventure purchase?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Free RPG of the Week: Hulks and Horrors

I realize that my Free RPG of the Week feature doesn't really update on a weekly basis. It updates when there is something worthy to add to the list.

Hulks and Horrors looks to be a worthy addition to the list of free games. It's an OSR space game. With horror. I like horror as a spice, not as the main course, and this look to be a nice amount of spice. Heck, it even uses THAC0! It's gotta be good! ;)

From the blurb:

We are not alone in the Universe, but we have few friends. As we emerged on the galactic stage, we found a universe stripped bare of sentient life by a great Plague, leaving only the wild beasts and twisted plague horrors wandering the ruined hulks of lost civilizations.

We are the Surveyors. We explore the uncharted sectors of space and hunt these ruins for the treasures they contain and the riches they might bring to what sentient life remains. We are not brave, merely foolhardy and desperate. Those who survive become rich beyond dreams. Very few survive. Hulks & Horrors is a science-fiction roleplaying game of galactic exploration and adventure for 2 or more players ages 13 and up. Inside you will find:

• Complete rules for characters up to Level 6 and beyond

• 7 character classes: Pilot, Scientist, Soldier, Psyker, Hovering Squid, Omega Reticulan, and Bearman.

• Easy to learn old-school inspired game rules and combat system

• Weapons, armor, and equipment inspired by classic science-fiction

• Spaceship construction and combat rules

• Random tables for creating whole sectors of space

• Loot generation rules

• Dozens of alien monsters as well as guides for designing your own

• Dungeon-mastering advice for sandbox space exploration

• Optional rules for customizing Hulks & Horrors

Why I Decided to Use Swords & Wizardry As the System to "Bring the Band Back Together"

I struggled for a bit on deciding which system to use to bring my "Old Group" back together for Tabletop Roleplaying for the first time in 16 years.

Back in the day, we started with AD&D 1e and shortly moved on to AD&D 2e for the bulk of out gaming (with a shit ton of other games mixed in, but AD&D in it's varieties accounted for at least half of our gaming).

You would think one of those two systems would have been the system of choice. Heck, I run OSRIC / AD&D 1e on Saturday Nights for my current regular group. Easy choice, right?

Not so easy. OSRIC is very much AD&D, which means it still has a bit of that "text book effect". Two out of four players have their AD&D 1e books but one never played AD&D. Asking him to read OSRIC in order to game isn't fair. All of them would have to reread the rules to some extent.

Some folks mentioned Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion, but expecting my players to read two books before moving to the game itself didn't seem likely. Besides, LL and the AEC feel like different games. I'm sure the two meld together fine, but it just seems awkward to me. I also find the font annoying to read, but i suspect i am in the minority in that.

Basic Fantasy RPG was a close choice, especially with the low buy in for the print version (less than $5   at Amazon).

Then I got this email from one of the members of the "old band":

Hello Erik,
All the talk about getting the old group back together got me to read the Swords & Wizardry rules today.  Thanks for the book. I know you gave it to me a while ago but until today I only scanned it. Today I read it. I really like the simplicity.  I am sure Bry would approve if he gave it a try. You even gave out S&W quick start which is cool. (we get together a few times a year, and I like to give out gaming stuff to the old group when I can)
Thanks again for the book and Best of luck running a game with the old crew and some new Texas.

Pure and simple. For the win.

I put the free PDF of the core rules in the hands of two players for the first time this morning and we were up and running in 45 minutes. That's with me allowing the use of the Ranger from the S&W Complete Book. I explained the class in 30 seconds. That player never played D&D before in their life (old school Champions and Star Frontiers in his gamer's history).

Those 45 minutes included character gen, buying equipment, weapons and armor, and the search for a form fillable PDF character sheet (finally found here). It was also their first time using the Roll20 interface.

Like ducks to water, in no small thanks to Swords & Wizardry.

Some times, when you reach that advanced age of 45, you like to keep things simple yet complete ;)

How Long Have You Been Playing With Your Current Group For?

It's interesting how these things work out. I've been playing with my current Saturday Night group for about a year now. Initially I was a player in the group when we were playtesting D&D Next. When that didn't click for us, we realized we had a good core of a group with similar gaming tastes,and I offered to run Adventurer Conqueror King System for the group that remained.

Player turn over led to a few sessions of Ambition & Avarice playtesting using the Dwimmermount beta, which them led to a new campaign using AD&D 1e / OSRIC in Rappan Athuk. Four out of seven of us are from the D&D Next Playtest Group.

In addition, I'm in the process of "getting the old band back together" as one of my old players from high school and college calls it. So, that group would have roots going back nearly 30 years, even with a 16 year hiatus. We had our first session this morning, although it included only member of the 2nd generation of the old band (the MMO years)

How long have you been playing with your current group(s)?

And So It Begins - "Old Group" Less "Old Members" Plus S&W Equals Success

This morning I rolled out of bed around 8 am (I hate the "Spring Ahead" weekend) and logged into G+ Hangout / Roll20 and introduced two members of the "Old MMO Group" to D&D via hangouts. The two members of the "Old MMO Group" that are also part of the "Older D&D Group" weren't able to make this morning's sessions.

How did it go? Amazingly well.

I tossed the S&W Core rules at them and they were easy to follow by both. One asked to play an Elven Ranger, so I pulled out the S&W Complete rules, made an exception for the race and we were good to go. The other chose Human Cleric.

Basic houserules included allowing the Ranger to use the bonuses for High Strength (the party is going to be 4 max, so the firepower from the 17 Strength look to be needed). I also allowed the Cleric to get his bonus spell at 1st level.

I used the Tomb of Sigyfel and unlocked all but one of the doors, as there was no thief, and only the door leading to the ghoul made sense to have a padlock. I actually set the page up in Roll20 while we were in the Hangout and they were buying equipment, as I wasn't sure if we were actually going to run a session this morning and never got anything ready ahead of time - foolish me ;)

For players that hadn't played a TTRPG in 15 to 20 years they both fell into gear quickly. Room searching and looking for signs of traps we're standard procedures before they were halfway through the adventure. As I said, it went swimmingly well.

It does mean the system has been chosen (I had to make the call, and it was close between S&W and BFRPG, but I went with the gut call), S&W appears to be easy to grasp, and it certainly seems to be the case.

I also linked up the S&W Complete rules if they want to make the investment, but there is little on the player's side that needs that with the exception of the classes. They are excited for the next session, which is damn cool :)

Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition