Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanks to Reddit, Swords & Wizardry Complete Has Been Downloaded Over 600+ Times Today at The Tavern

I was watching The Cobert Report last night over dinner with my wife and one of the guests was one of the founders of Reddit. It didn't hit me until I woke up in the middle of the night - had anyone shared the word that Swords & Wizardry Complete is now free in PDF "on Reddit?"

Apparently not. I posted a link to the blog post from earlier this week mentioning that The Tavern had shared out over 750 copies since +Matt Finch gave the go ahead on November 5th (excellent anniversary present BTW Matt). What happens as a result? Over 600 copies downloaded in 12 hrs.

600 copies of Swords & Wizardry Complete downloaded by roleplayers. Judging from the comments on the Reddit discussion, many know about the other choices in the OSR.

I'm a firm believer in "a rising tide lifts all boats" and increased visibility for one publisher in the OSR will trickle down for all. I know not everyone agrees with my views on this, and I'm okay with that. Because, well, you know, I've got a blog, therefore my opinions must be fact ;)

Do You Encourage Players to Research / Write Their Own Spells for Their Character?

I was going to initially phrase the title "do you allow?", but I suspect most old school DM would allow such an attempt, even if they weren't actively encouraging it.

I remember working with my players back in my college days when they wanted to create a signature spell for their character. My experience was that players instinctively lowballed the spell level of their creations - a spell comparable to spells in the AD&D Player's Handbook for third level were often suggested as second. I don't think that was intentional, more of a subconscious decision on their part.

Now, as a DM / content creator, I've written new spells, but I've tended to steer away from spells that have obvious uses in combat - which is where the vast majority of spells written for D&D-like RPG fall into. "Brew Beer" or "Bless Homestead" are more practical for the peasants, but less useful in the depths of a dungeon.

I fully expect as my current S&W Complete campaign picks up speed that one or more of the players will look to customize a current spell and create a new one, and I expect to be ready for the challenge of keeping the new creation balanced yet still within the player's vision of it's scope.

So, where do you stand on players creating new spells in an "Old School" campaign? Encourage it? Hope to avoid it? It's never happened before, so why should it happen now? ;)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kickstarter - Pick a Card, Any Card - "Location Cards - Playing Cards, Each with a Fantasy Location"

I like to run "sandbox campaigns", but of a controlled nature. The sandbox grows along with the choices of the PCs as the campaign progresses. Which means at the moment, there are less random encounters than set destination choices and hooks in my current campaign. As it progresses though, it will become much more open.

Which is where Location Cards - Playing Cards, each with a Fantasy Location will hopefully shine.

Pretty cool actually, and the example gives plenty of seeds for a DM to go hog wild with. I can see myself having lots of fun with the inspiration I can draw from this card alone.

Decks are $13 American, more or less, and I decided to go in for all three available decks at the moment - urban, rural and epic.

The Kickstarter is funded and has just over a week left in it's funding campaign.

OGRE Has Arrived! Pictorial Unboxing With Ashley the Cat

"The Box" is friggin huge! Oh, and heavy. My son thought I had ordered an LCD TV for the kitchen when he saw the shipping box arrive, but alas, it was too heavy for that ;)

No way I'll be done punching out counters and building OGREs before my wife get's home this afternoon...

My, what big boxes! (the smaller box held the pins, t-shirt and carry bag)

You not hiding more shit behind this, are you?
I guess these are instructions I should actually follow...
What's in the box?
I know you are hiding something damnit!
Hey, these are blueprints! You aren't planning on building one of these, are you?
You aint building nothing now! It's mine, all mine!
Damn, but there's a bazillion places to hide things in here!
If they try to escape the box, I've got 'em!
Thought of escaping, did ya?
Got ya!

The "Amazon Carousel" and First Mention of "The Tavern's 12 Days of Old School Gaming Extravaganza!" Contest

I'm trying to make the contests here at the Tavern self sustaining - they should cost me little out of pocket and have some nice prizes paid for by the readers of this blog using the different referral links. As I've said many a time, referral money that The Tavern earns makes all of these contests viable. Well, that and the awesome publishers that donate prizes certainly help big time.

This is part of the reason I just added the Amazon Carousel Wheel to the right. The other part is this - the prize(s) is(are) on the wheel already, and will be determined by the funds raised by the Amazon referrals.

I figure the contest will kick off on December 15th, and only part of the contest will be funded this way. I have donated prizes and RPGNow credit to award, so there should be lots of prizes and lots of fun.

So, it should run from December 15th through December 26th. "The Tavern's 12 Days of Old School Gaming Extravaganza!"

There is one caveat - I won't be shipping prizes outside the US, so winners from the rest of the world will probably be looking at RPGNow credit. I've seen what shipping costs can do to a Kickstarter, and I'm not looking to be put at a huge loss ;)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Skill Resolution in Swords & Wizardry (and other stray thoughts)

One of the benefits of sharing the Swords & Wizardry PDF via email last week was the number of connections I made with other gamers. God knows I've fumbled my roll to answer everyone back, as the initial response was, to say the least, overwhelming.

One interesting email asked me about "skill resolution" in Swords & Wizardry and what method one would use. Now, to be honest, I kinda "wing it".

I loosely base such things, like a chance to know some obscure knowledge, or find something like tracks, on a Saving Throw adjusted by relevant stat bonus. The number needed to be successful is adjusted up or down by up to 3 pts, depending on ease or difficulty. Additionally, bringing the right tool to the job (like an iron spike and a hammer to bust a padlock) will adjust the target number in the PCs favor, while the wrong tool (a random rock) my incur a penalty to the target roll.

All of the above is a long winded way to justify a Saving Throw target number that "feels right", which in my mind is much of what the OSR stands for. It's not just DM empowerment - "trusting the DM to improvise gameplay resolution on the fly" but it's also a manner of play that empowers players - "You mean I'm NOT limited to a selection of skills and feats on my character sheet?"

As an "old school" DM, you use a formula like I spell out above until you get a feel for doing it on the fly, because keeping momentum going in game is more important than being exact on the numbers - keep it flowing and keep it fair and your players will keep coming back.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spreading the Word: "One Page Encounter Contest"

+Stuart Keating (he of the Three Days to Retirement RPG / Kickstarter) has decided to run a "One Page Encounter Contest". This is one of those things that someone like me goes: "Shit! I coulda had a V8!" or at least some similar inspiration.

I mean, really, it's a cool idea, even if he did get the seed of the idea from "he that shall remain nameless, as he long ago blocked me on G+, and besides, body piercings are so yesterday."

So, without further ado, her is +Stuart Keating 's "elevator pitch":
We’re talking epic setpiece battles that require every mini you own PLUS a couple of your niece’s action figures and also the hood of a pickup truck. 
We’re talking strategic fights featuring intelligent enemy tactics in unique and variable environments. 
We’re talking combat that requires resourcefulness, lateral thinking and a crazy/elegant/gonzo/etc aesthetic that your gaming group will talk about for months. 
We’re talking fun.
I've volunteered to be a judge. If accepted, I promise to do my job to the best of my abilities, while drinking heavily. Because drinking heavily while judging just makes it even more fun!
Entries will be judged by a panel of volunteers on the following criteria:  design, innovation, fun, concision and clarity.  Good entries would make excellent one-page additions to one-page dungeons as the showdown in the final room. Excellent entries would make players break out their minis and fight the battle without any narrative context.
I may also have something to add to the prize pool. I'll need to dig into the prize closet and see what's there.

Seriously, give it a good look and make sure you enter. Tell Stuart "The Tavern sent you" ;)

Over 750 Copies of Swords & Wizardry Complete Downloaded From the Tavern Since November 5th

The downloads of Swords & Wizardry Complete have slowed down to a trickle recently, but 750 copies released into the wild in less that 10 days is still pretty impressive ;)

Will this lead to an takeover of the OSR by Swords & Wizardry? No way in hell.

The OSR is like a many headed hydra - and each go their own way while being attached to the others. Which is just how I like it...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New Bundle of Holding - Hero System - Order Buckets of D6s...

I remember playing Champions back in the mid 80s. It, along with Villains & Vigilantes were our superhero games of choice. What do I remember about Champions? Buckets of d6s ;)

The current Bundle of Holding features the Hero System.

For $6.95, you get the current version of Champions, the Hero System Resource Kit and Equipment Guide for $6.95

For less than $16, you add in Fantasy Hero, Pulp Hero and Star Hero.

Very tempting for a system I know I will never run, and the odds of me playing are long. Still, I've heard only good things about this "buckets of dice" Hero System, so I will probably take the plunge ;)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Top Five Entries Get Prizes, But ALL Entries Become the Property of Kobold Press

I feel like I was just part of a conversation about giving up rights to your work for the opportunity to enter a contest. That's right, its not just the winners that give up the rights to their entries, but the losers too!

What are we referring to? Why, Monarch of the Monsters 4: Enter the Arena! of course!

Listen, I enjoyed Kobold Quarterly when it was published. I personally like Kobold Press, even if they don't put out anything that I would currently use. Still the idea of giving up the rights to you work for the opportunity to enter a contest seems... lame, especially in the RPG publishing world.

The main prize is like "mega-awesome" for the winner - "The winning designer will receive a freelance design commission from Kobold Press, and he or she may be interviewed for the Kobold Press website."  All five finalists get a bunch of PDFs. Every entrant loses the rights to their work.

Maybe it's common contest mumbo jumbo, but if they put out a product based upon these entries and you weren't one of the top five, you just worked for free on (what I'm sure would be) a for profit product.

The prizes are PDFs put out by the awarder of the prizes, so they have no real cost to Kobold Press, so in truth, there is little cost to KP for the opportunity to get a large selection of predesigned monsters for their publishing stable.

Maybe I'm just getting grumpy in my old age. Maybe this is what all of the young folks are doing.

Damn, I may just be an old crotchety fuck these days...

The Return of the "Blogger Followers" App to the Tavern

For those that are long term readers of this blog, you'll remember The Tavern suffered a hijack last fall, which led to the tear down and rebuilding of the blog. In the process, the Blogger Follower app was not reinstalled. It was nuked down to "zero followers" and was not a priority when reinstalling the posts and other blog features took precedence

Amazingly enough, 57 fine and loyal readers of this blog found a way to add themselves to an app that wan't actually on the blog - pretty damn cool if you ask me. In any case, the Loyal Followers app is back. Feel free to add yourself back ;)

I've also added a translate feature, so if you want to read The Tavern in poorly translated Tamil, have at it. ;)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Last Night My Players Went Down "The Well of the Worm"

Last night we ran our session with 3 out of our 6 regular players. No fighters, no healers - instead, we had a 2nd level Halfling Thief, a 1st level Human Monk and a 1st level elven Magic-User. My intention had been to give the party a choice of adventure leads, which I had dropped on them at the end of our 1st session, but I went with the adventure I had the best handle on - The Well of the Worms.

I basically ran the 3x version from DCC #29, The Adventure Begins, which holds an amazing number of low level adventures. I also have the DCC RPG version of The Well of the Worms - the map makes more more sense in the DCC RPG version, just so you know.

I tend to convert 3x adventures on the fly for OSR use, although the read through usually lets me know what I have to convert the most. The nice thing about using ascending AC in Swords & Wizardry is that in makes the on the fly conversion so much easier.

The PCs picked up a local farm boy for extra muscle / cannon fodder and proceeded down the well.

Now, I could fill you with spoilers, but +Harley Stroh did a really nice job on this adventure, so I'd rather not. Still, there are some observations to be made:

- 3x had one hell of a HP bloat effect, at least on the monsters. So yeah, had to tone this down a bit, especially four a party of three where the main tanks were a monk and a thief ;)

- My players forgot about the "luck" houserule that I added to this campaign until about midway through - once they remembered it and started to use it, things got a lot more exciting.

- one PC went down to exactly 0 - i go with -10 for death (adjusted by con bonus / penalty) as did the farm boy they hired. It was a tough little adventure, even with me toning it down due to party composition and numbers

All in all, it went very well. This is the second adventure I've run from DCC #29 for the group in this campaign (the other being The Tower of the Black Pearl) and my players remarked on how much fun they were to play. "Weird yet grounded". As one player put it (and I paraphrase): "I didn't like all of the randomness in the spell casting in the DCC RPG sessions we played, but the adventures were some of the best I've ever played". Thankfully, those DCC RPG adventures should convert fairly easily to Swords & Wizardry ;)

Can a "Free" RPG Product Be "Too Good"?

Can a free RPG product be too good? Can it's production values overshadow other free products to the point that it becomes the "standard-bearer" of the OSR, for good or ill?

This topic came up in the comments to my previous post, and it is a valid question.

Swords & Wizardry Complete is a full art product formerly offered at a $10 price point that is now offered for free. It became free because the cost of production was recouped (the final piece of the puzzle was 400+ backers on the Frog God's latest Kickstarter).

S&W Complete is not a new product. It's just newly free in PDF.

From my perspective, I always treated full art versions of OSR releases otherwise available as free without art as "donation-ware". If I paid for the full art PDF, I was kicking a few coins to the publisher because I enjoyed the "no-art" version, but not enough to buy a hardcopy. Which, to be honest, wasn't often.

PDF copies of OSR rulesets are, in many ways, a marketing tool to sell dead tree copies of the same product (this doesn't apply to all OSR rulesets - for example, dead tree copies of BFRPG are sold at cost).

There is a strange juxtaposition in our hobby, where some work is produced for free or at cost, and other work is produced with the idea of making a profit.

The publishers of probably the three biggest rulesets (in terms of users / players) are Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry Complete and LotFP Weird Fantasy.

LL and WF can be found in game store on occasion as they are in the distribution channels. I haven't seen S&W in a game store yet, but the Frog God Games market presence and web store has a major presence online, and many of their products are available at the Paizo online store.

So yes, they are all looking to get a piece of your "Old School" dollars. These rules are out there to drive sales and help someone make a living.

Would seeing / owning the full art version of Swords & Wizardry Complete make me more likely to search it out in dead tree format then if it were an "art free" version? Probably, but I'll be disappointed when I can't find it in the game store. Actually, there are good odds I wont find any of the OSR rulesets in a game store for purchase.

Does S&W Complete raise the bar and expectations of what one would expect in an OSR ruleset? Probably.

Could Labyrinth Lord or LotFP Weird Fantasy meet or beat (especially in the case of WF) that bar when it comes to art? Sure. They would just need to offer their full art PDF's for free. They've been available for years now anyway and I doubt they make much in actual sales at this point compared to their dead tree versions. They could be used as an advertisement of sorts to sell their matching print products.

Does any of this apply to the more "hobbyist" rulesets, such as Delving Deeper, Dark Dungeons. Adventures Dark & Deep, Arrows of Indria and the rest? I don't think so. There are different expectations built into these.

Will Swords & Wizardry Complete become the standard bearer of the OSR? I've heard it argued that Labyrinth Lord has held or currently holds that position, but I never put much weight on that. The OSR has many standard bearers, both large and small that appeal to different members of our hobby for different reason.

If Swords & Wizardry Complete DID become the defacto standard bearer of the OSR, it's because Goblinoid Games and LotFP and all the rest allow it to. Well, that and a lot of luck. The OSR may be a small pond in the hobby of RPGs, but it's a crowded pond of compatible products that stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. All rely on the others in some manner for support.

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