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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?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Send in the Clones, There Ought to be Clones

So, the more I looked the more I found OSR RPGs that use Swords & Wizardry as their core (as well as RPGs that used other clones as their core, and a whole boatload of clones and derived systems.) A whole lotta games.

Where did I find such a listing?

taxidermicowlbear

Never heard of it? Neither had I. But my, it is a site of link goodness for clones and derived games of ALL editions of D&D. Yes, even 4th.

It includes a list of 16 RPGs that are built upon the Swords & Wizardry Rules and 3 built off of the Labyrinth Lord rules

Then there are the clones built directly off of OD&D, Basic and AD&D 1e and 2e. About 60 or so. not including the games listed at the end that branch off a bit further but still have solid roots in D&D mechanics.

There is a lot to dig through, some of which is totally new to me.

I'll be cherry picking some of the free ones for the final parts of the first section of the OSR for the Lapsed Gamer series of posts, but I see no reason why one couldn't jump ahead and find a gem or two on their own.


The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - Swords & Wizardry



What can I say about Swords & Wizardry that I haven't said before?

It seeks to emulate the original edition of D&D - the White Box. Depending on the flavor you choose, it also grabs inspiration from the various OD&D supplements.

Swords & Wizardry White Box emulates what it says on the tin - the original edition of D&D without digging into the supplements. Biggest shock to most gamers? No thief class, just clerics, fighters and magic-users.

Swords & Wizardry Core was the first of the Swords & Wizardry "trilogy" to be releases. It includes the thief class and will be more familiar in feel for those that played Basic D&D.

Swords & Wizardry Complete was the last of the "core" rulebooks to be released. The PDF went free last November. This includes all of the classes AD&D players (or those that played with all of the OD&D supplements) would be familiar with, with the exception of the illusionist.

Probably one of the attractions of Swords & Wizardry is that both the Core and White Box rules are available in RTF format - which means one can design their own game using the S&W rules in an editable document or create a house ruled document to distribute to your gaming group.

Here's a short list of S&W derived games (and I know I'm missing more than a few so help a brother out and add them to the comments below):

The World of Onn, Crypts & Things, Renegade, Corruption, Woodland Warriors, Ruins & Ronin, Blood & Bullets, Ancient Mysteries & Lost Treasures, Sabres & Witchery and Pars Fortuna(these will get covered to a lesser extend further on in this series of posts)

Probably the biggest change in Swords & Wizardry from the originals it seeks to emulate is the single saving throw. I wasn't a fan of the change when I first found S&W, but after having run and played with the single save for well over a year, it's fine in practice. Another noticeable change is that Armor Class is expressed in both ascending and descending order, so you can use either depending on the preference of your group.

Swords & Wizardry is strongly supported by Frog God Games.

Swords & Wizardry White Box Rules (free PDF / RTF, print $9.99 SC, $18.99 HC Lulu)

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules (free PDF / RTF, print $14 SC, $24 HC Lulu)

Swords & Wizardry Complete (free PDF, print $34.99 Frog God Games)

Friday, September 26, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Un-Pundited

Apparently, The RPG Pundit has taken offense to my series of posts about The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer. Somehow, I'm involved in revising history and defining the OSR in lieu of his own definition of it.

I figured I'd explain my thought process for those like the Pundit that feel it's necessary to assign me motivations that aren't my own.

Lapsed gamers from the "golden age" of gaming, roughly prior to 2000, the year D&D 3e released, are most likely (not all, obviously, but those that have found The Tavern after years away from gaming aren't likely to have been VtM players) to have been players of 2e or earlier. These are the editions covered by the basic "retroclones."  Strangely enough, this is what I blog about.

The retroclones are generally rewrites of the originals that are, at the very least (and IMHO), better organized and easier to digest. Initially, I'm highlighting the retroclones of the various D&D editions that are free in PDF. Afterwards, I'll mention "other old school" RPGs that are free in PDF, like the free Tunnels & Trolls quickstart, Stars Without Number, Legends (Fantasy Trip) and similar titles.

After the free in PDF RPGs, we move on to the clones that are only available at some sort of cost, like ACKS and DCC. Then, we'll move on to the other clones and / or still in print RPGs, like Tunnels & Trolls, Traveller, Runequest, OpenQuest and others.

As for Encounter Critical and Mazes & Monsters, they would fall into the "other old school RPGs."

Why am I doing this? Because there is an interest in it and I enjoy doing it.

For those that aren't interested in this series of posts and find it offensive that I may leave out your favorite but obscure game, so be it. It's not for everyone and it is not intended to be a history lesson of the OSR. It's more like individual snapshots in time and space.



The Brainstorm Podcast #4 Released Today - And it's now on iTunes


Yep, you can now listen to the Brainstorm Podcast via iTunes.

So, what are you waiting for? Listen to +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself talk about gaming shit stuff.


The OSR Gaming Forums Take it up a Notch - Now I Might ACTUALLY find a use for a Forum



Over the past weekend the OSR Gaming forums were down. Whether it was a DOS or just an internet hiccup, I don't know. I do know that it prodded +Vincent Florio to take another look at his OSR Gaming Forums set up, and from what I can tell, the revised forums turned it up to eleven (yes, obligatory Spinal tap reference included.)

So, what's new?

- a real time IM system - so I can harass those that are currently reading the forums when I log in. Huzzah!

- dice rollers - so you can run games in the forums, use it for character generation for your non-forum game, play some craps, etc.

- all posts have +1 Google plus feature - I'm sold - G+ is my social media method of preference (although I am expanding my friends on Facebook recently) - I'll need to try this feature

- RSS Features for all forums - cool for those that use such features - I don't, cause I'm generally too lazy

- The ability to use Tapatalk from any smartphone to use the forums - I'll judge this once I've used it enough to have an opinion

- An Articles section to post up adventures, hooks, characters, etc - cool, as it kinda make the forum into an online magazine, at least in part, without calling it a magazine. Vince, how about OSR Gaming Mag for the new forum site? ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking a Look at ENWorld's Hot Roleplaying Games (Hint - the OSR places fairly well)


I stumbled across this earlier today while bouncing around the web. Very interesting numbers. I'm not surprised to see 5e having over half the the attention of gamers / posters / bloggers online, but I am surprised to see where the OSR places. A solid 5th place, right after FATE.  The thing is, if you add in OD&D and 2e to the OSR numbers, it comes it at #3.

And folks wonder if the OSR has a voice these days (well, I assume some folks wonder.)
Over 1000 sites and counting! What's the current zeitgeist? What are the hottest games being talked about right now? This isn't a list of sales figures; it tracks what's currently being talked about using a top secret algorithm. Each game is also conveniently linked to a search for discussion about it right here on EN World, should you want to find out more. The spotlight list changes from time to time. The red and green arrows show a game's general trend over the last 90 days - is it being discussed more or less than it was in the previous 90 days?



How important are Taverns in Your Campaign?

Taverns. They are a staple of fantasy roleplaying.

"You are in the tavern when a mysterious man approaches you."

"Sitting down at a table in the local tavern, a man bursts through the door and crumbles in a lifeless heap. In his right hand he holds an envelope addressed to (some random PC)."

You know the spiel. You've payed it or run it or read it in a commercial adventure countless times.

So, do you detail the taverns that get used in your games? Do you name the tavern, it's workers, the patrons, detail the food and drink and pricing? Or is it just a backdrop to kick things off for the night?

Tell us your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

and the Free Basic Fantasy RPG Print Package Goes to...



Alright, I broke out my Gamescience percentiles and ignored any results above 57.

Rolled a 05

Which means +Peter Schweighofer , you win the Basic Fantasy RPG collection of books in print.

Peter, I'll need you to contact me at tenkarsDOTtavern at that gmail thing so I can get this sent to you via Amazon.

Thanks to all that commented. There wouldn't be a blog without the community that's has formed around it. I can't thank everyone enough.

Huzzah!



THIS is Why I Blog

I don't blog for the money, as there is little to none to be made. If anything, it costs me money.

I don't do it for fame, because really, what fame is there to be made?

No, I do it for moments like this:
Good Morning Erik (Morning at least on the USA East Coast),  
I downloaded the free BasicFantasy and Field Guide items this morning with great delight. 
OSRIC is excellent and indeed, as you recommended, the BF array closely tracks with the feel of OSG (old school gaming? I don't know my acronyms yet).   
Both systems collectively turn my old lapsed gears and it is a wonderful feeling.  A feeling of simple joy.  What an elusive condition, simple joy: an ice cream cone when you're a kid, or tossin' the ball with your Dad, or a new bike.  New houses don't do it, fast cars don't do it, beautiful women don't do it (though we can make a strong case for them), exotic vacations, power and promotion in our careers . . . it's a long list.   
Just fucking give me simple joy.   
And I was going to buy a vineyard.   
Please tell the primary parties at OSRIC and BF how they have touched a man many miles away.  A different kind of sorcery.  I don't have a gmail account or whiddle with Facebook so I can't contribute to your comment sections.  Supply those men my email address if you like.   
I owe them money.   
Thanks again for everything.  Looking forward to Pod-2 from Tavern Radio.  
Best,  
-Rick  
"Gnoll fritters for EVERYBODY!"
Alright. I'm done. Can't top this. Time to turn out the lights ;)

I think Swords & Wizardry is up next...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - Basic Fantasy RPG


Basic Fantasy RPG is pretty much a bridge between 3x and the older editions of D&D. It was the first OGL based game that was meant to emulate Old School play and be used as such (OSRIC was originally written to make it easier for publishers to write old school adventures).
What Is Basic Fantasy RPG
The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is a rules-light game system modeled on the classic RPG rules of the early 1980's. Though based loosely on the d20 SRD v3.5, Basic Fantasy RPG has been written largely from scratch to replicate the look, feel, and mechanics of the early RPG game systems. It is suitable for those who are fans of "old-school" game mechanics. Basic Fantasy RPG is simple enough for children in perhaps second or third grade to play, yet still has enough depth for adults as well. 
Basic Fantasy RPG is an Open Source game system, supported by dedicated fans worldwide who have contributed hundreds of pages of rules supplements, adventure modules, and other useful and enjoyable game materials...
It succeeds in this goal of replicating early D&D based RPGs very well, not just in the look, feel and mechanics but in presentation too.

Probably the most amazing thing about the Basic Fantasy RPG is the quality of the supplements and adventures, available for free in PDF and at cost in print.

How inexpensive?


Less than 11 bucks for the rules and two campaigns with multiple adventures in each. Personally, I really like BF1 Morgansfort: The Western Lands Campaign. It has a B2, Keep on the Borderlands feel while still being different

Here's what I'm going to do. One random commenter on this post will get the above three books in print sent to their home. US residents only, as this will be shipping via Amazon Prime. Don't fret, everyone can grab the above and more for free in PDF directly from the Basic Fantasy RPG website.

You need to comment by 930 PM Eastern Time, September 24th, 2014 to be considered.

Magic Shops - Do You Use Them?



There are times that I think magic shops (and their inclusion or exclusion) are one of the more controversial aspects of a campaign.

If you have one (or more) it makes magic common and no longer as special. If you have none, where do the player's sell off their excess magic (assuming they have any) or spend their gold in bulk?

I have no problem with the apothecary or scrivener adding an occasional permanent magic item to their inventory of wares, but I shudder at the idea of magic shops popping up like used car sales men:

"This here wand of fireballs was just used by the mage Bobulast to clean vermin out of his storage cellars. Hardly been used. Command word? Oh, that's an extra 50 geld."

If I did have a magic shop, I'd want it to be more like an antique shop with perhaps an anti-magic effect over the shop, preventing items from being misused against the proprietor.

"That there is a rare piece. One of a kind even. Look at the patina on that blade, shows it's age and it's heritage it does. You'd want to leave the patina. I wouldn't clean it more than a slight buffing or you'll ruin it's value. Yep, might only be a blade of minor power but it has a history well worth it's weight in gold. Er, careful with that snow globe. Iffin it drops we may find ourselves in the midst of a snow storm, magic protections or not. Remember, you break it, you bought it."

So, do you use magic shops? To what extent?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Brainstorm Podcast Episode 3 - Let's Talk Alignment

Join +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself, +Erik Tenkar as we talk about alignment in your favorite editions of D&D.



Find us at the BrainStorm Podcast.

Kickstarter - Broken World - A Post-Apocalypse Tabletop RPG


Let me see if I have the lineage correct: Apocalypse World, the game without failure, just complications, begat Dungeon World, and there was much rejoicing as the hordes of fantasy role players could now play a game without failure, just complications.

And so it was that Dungeon World begat an offspring, one that would climb the no longer so high gates of the land of Kickstarter, and the offspring it left unto the Worlds was a broken one. A Broken World to be exact.

This Broken World was to be a post-apoc RPG.

Say what?

Didn't this all start with Apocalypse World, which is by it's very name "an apocalypse world?" Did we come full circle so soon? No one wanted to do a Star World or Cthulhu World or even Land Before the World?

A retread of the game that started this line of gaming? Which has already hit over $9k against a $3k goal.

Shit. I need to quit my job and roll out some games written with the Apoc Engine. Maybe tack on some fate. FATE World. Ka-Ching!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wayward Kickstarter - CHUGS, a Collectible Drinking Card Game


What could be wrong with a collectible drinking card game?

Well, perhaps we'll start with the graphic above, where apparently they can't spell. What exactly is a "Collec Table" game anyway? I guess it's CHUGS. (edit: maybe it can be spelled both ways, but the spacing of the graphic is STILL wrong, and the "i" is more proper than the "a".)

Hey, shit happens, even when one is looking to raise $18k Canadian for a drinking game with misspellings right on the tin.

19 backers - $3,000 raised. Basic buy in for the game is 20 bucks. So, where did all of the extra money come from? Well, having a $1k backer and a $500 backer does that pretty well. That's half the current funding right there.

So, how many are in for the basic buy in of 20 bucks? 4 backers. Yes, 4.

Oh, and first created, zero backed.

Now, we only get glimpses of backers in groups of 10, so with 19 backers, we only get to see the first 10. Two of those 10 have supported previous projects - for 8, this is their first. Two have the same last name. Gee, it's like stuffing a tip jar, right? Need to put some money in so others follow.

I actually liked The Chugs CDCG Starter Kit: Includes: 1 – Starter Deck, 1 – Chugger, 6 – Chug Shots, 1 – Ugh Chug Shot Glass/cards. Estimated retail: $74.00

Guess how much it is if you want to back the project? $100. Is that some new sort of math they're teaching up in Canada?

And it's collectible in that each deck has a 31% chance of having a rare, ultra rare or autographed card in the deck. Yes, that's what makes in collectible. Or rather, "collec table."

Steer clear of CHUGS for your drinking game needs. I'd rather point you to Drinking Quest.

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - Free PDFs - OSRIC

OSRIC - Old School Reference and Index Compilation

Doesn't sound all that sexy when you actually break it down, does it? Well, it wasn't supposed to.

OSRIC was initially envisioned as a safe harbor for publishers that wanted to post "old school adventures." As it was a reimagining of AD&D 1e, it would allow publishers to use it as a reference for their "old school adventures", without stepping on the toes of WotC and falling back directly on Wizard's 1e IP.

It's was officially released 1/20/07 (with a preview that had released on 6/23/06)

OSRIC v2, which is the version one is most like to encounter online (or at Lulu) is written with the idea of actually being used as a reference in play, whereas OSRIC v1 was written with the idea of it being used as a reference for published material. OSRIC v2.2 is the latest version available.

It includes the usual AD&D 1e classes with the exception of the Bard (who never fit in the first place system wise) and the Monk (who was usually out of sorts setting wise). Strangely enough, Swords & Wizardry Complete includes the Monk but drops the Illusionist. Just an observation.

OSRIC is the 1e Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual rolled into one comprehensive volume. Even if you still like running with your original 1e rules, having OSRIC as an additional reference at the table doesn't hurt.

It drops Weapon Speed (which I don't recall ever being in a group that used the rule, let alone understood it.) It retains segments as a time measurement in combat and spell interruption if hit while casting.

OSRIC plays close enough to AD&D 1e that I was able to run a campaign with both 1e books and OSRIC being used at the table interchangeably. Sure, the experience point tables are tweaked a bit to change the math, but all in all, it is simply a much easier to read and understand rewrite of the original AD&D 1e rules.


Some history about the Why's and Wherefore's OSRIC (as supplied by +Guy Fullerton )

http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?p=11108#p11108
...plus the post immediately following it.

http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?p=11245#p11245

http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=18307

http://www.thedelversdungeon.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?t=81

+Stuart Marshall , OSRIC's Editor in Chief, would prefer you play with your original AD&D 1e books when possible  http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1306092#p1306092

OSRIC Pocket SRD (Free PDF and OBS $13.50 POD)

OSRIC v2.2 (Free PDF and Lulu various prices POD)

OSRIC v2.2 (Black Blade Publishing $21.00 HC)

add reviews, reflections, impressions, experiences, corrections and the like to the comments below.

next up will be Basic Fantasy RPG

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - The Timeline

I figure if we are going to present the OSR RPGs in some sort of order, actual release dates should have some sort of influence on that order. Then the question became: "has anyone done such a list?"

The answer is yes. Thanks to +Rob Conley mentioning it on his Bat in the Attic blog a few year back, I found out that +Guy Fullerton had put together an amazingly comprehensive list - with a spreadsheet no less, that offers an OSR timeline until June of 2012. For the sake of our needs, I've filtered the list by system releases.

I'm going to use "full" release dates, not previews and such, so the initial order of the free OSR releases that are being highlighted will be:

OSRIC - 1/20/07

BFRPG 2/17/07

Labyrinth Lord 8/4/07

Swords & Wizardry 10/15/08 (note - S&W comes in 3 versions and a number of rule sets use it for the base of their variant. Each version of S&W will get it's own post. The variant rules will get a post at the end where applicable)

Dark Dungeons 5/26/10

LotFP Weird Fantasy Roleplaying 7/26/10

Mazes & Perils 8/7/12

Delving Deeper 3/18/13

BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules 1/9/13

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen 6/1/14




Saturday, September 20, 2014

Planning a Series of OSR Posts for the Lapsed Gamer

I've gotten a number of emails recently from folks "coming back to the hobby" after 20 or 30 years and looking to reignite the fires. Say what you will about 5e, but it is certainly bringing attention back to the hobby of RPGs. I can't say it's going to grow the hobby as a whole (but it should, at least initially), but I have noticed an uptick in lapsed gamers looking to find their old love. 5e might have stirred the spark, but the OSR is where they feel at home.

The problem with the OSR is the sheer number of choices and flavors one can find. Heck, it's not just systems themselves, but subsystems, as both Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry both come in three flavors each.

Now, for those of us immersed in the OSR, this isn't daunting, it's exciting. For a lapsed gamer whose old gaming books are long since gone and is looking for a current version of the rules, in PDF or print, there's a crapload to sift through.

I'm planning to start a series of posts highlighting the various OSR systems and point out the classic sources they seek to emulate as well where they differ. I'll be starting with the systems that are available in one form or another for free in PDF and then move on to the ones that have a cost involved in the basic rules. The end of the series will wrap up with the more extreme variants that are drawing inspiration from the old school games but may have stepped a bit further afield.

The initial list I plan on looking at includes:

Labyrinth Lord
Swords & Wizardry
Delving Deeper
Basic Fantasy RPG
LotFP Weird Fantasy
OSRIC
Mazes & Perils
BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules
Dark Dungeons
Seven Voyages of Zylarthen

I'm open to further suggestions I may have missed. The free Myth & Magic Starter Guide is NOT on this list, as I have no idea how well the system will be supported.

As always, open for input :)

Kickstarter - Slumbering Ursine Dunes (Hill Cantons Mini Sandbox)



Remember last night's post where I mentioned the "elevator pitch?" Well, I find this to be an effective elevator pitch:
Straight from the Hill Cantons, comes a mini-sandbox played the hell out of by six play groups and over 40 players. Run, play or splice up 50-plus pages of mayhem and weirdness in this Slavic mythic-inspired (with an acid fantasy-twist) adventure for Labyrinth Lord or a well-aged fantasy rpg of your druthers.
Evocative and exciting. Tells you exactly what is in the tin. Short. (not +Tim Shorts , but there can be only one ;)

Looks like Slumbering Ursine Dunes is going to be yet another Kickstarter that I'm backing. And look, it's already hit a stretch goal. Go figure ;)

The great thing about this project is two things actually:

1 - you can go to the Hill Cantons blog and get a pretty good idea of the writing style of the current Kickstarter

2 - if you support for as little as a buck, you can download the text only version of Slumbering Ursine Dunes. If you like what you see, up your pledge. If you don't, you're out the cost of a can of Coke.

Did I mention the art rocks too?

Friday, September 19, 2014

I'm Not a Kickstarter Expert, But I Play One on the Internet - 5 Rules Inquiring Minds Need to Know

I'm averaging 2 to 3 inquiries to look at pre-release Kickstarters per week at this point, and this doesn't include the heads up I get from my readers to point out some of the winners (and losers) that are out there.

It can be a bit overwhelming at times, and there are ones that I'd like to highlight here at The Tavern, but I've fallen a bit behind. Trust me, I'm working on it, but my days of five, four or even three posts a day seem to be far behind me.

In any case, to help me maintain what little sanity I currently retain, I'm going to throw a few helpful guidelines out there to my readers and others that send me Kickstarter leads:

1 - Don't bother sending me links to the latest 3.5 / 4.0 / Pathfinder Kickstarter. Even if it is "has ideas usable with any edition of your favorite game" those ideas are not going to be worth the price of full admission for me and my readers. It's a waste of your time and mine.

2 - Do give me your elevator pitch in the email. If you can't get me interested in 2 to 3 sentences, how do you plan to get the masses interested?

3 - RPGs are my bread and butter, especially with Kickstarter and the like. Well, and beer related products. If it isnt a game or beer-ish, that pitch really better be good.

4 - If it's a pre-release page you are linking to, expect direct feedback. If you don't wan't direct feedback, send me the link when you've gone live. Then you can expect public feedback.

5 - "Good, Bad... I'm the Guy with the Boomstick!" (to paraphrase Ash) - If you bring my attention to your project I'll point out the good and the bad as appropriate, assuming I post about it at all. Be sure you want me to post about it BEFORE calling my name three times in the bathroom mirror (Candyman reference).

I try to go into these Kickstarter (re)views with an open mind but organization is not my strong point. Make your emails short and informative and enticing enough that I want to go to your Kickstarter / Indiegogo / MyLittlePony Crowdfunding site.

The time you save me upfront I will return to you when I look at your site.

Thank you.

The Management






Brainstorm Podcast #2 is Live - Let's Talk about Balance in the Game


Join +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself in the 2nd episode of the Brainstorm Podcast, where we talk about balance in the game - encounters, classes - all of the good stuff.

We had a lot of fun doing this episode and it shows :)

Indiegogo Has Effectively Done Away with Campaign Deadlines - To Infinity & Beyond!

You know about Indiegogo's "Flexible" campaigns - those are the ones that keep your money even if they fail to fund.

Now Indiegogo is taking it in the other direction - funded or not, the campaign no longer ends.
Continuing Your Success on Indiegogo 
We have heard from many in our community the desire for and positive impact of the ability to keep their campaigns open beyond the deadline.  Since our mission is to democratize funding, we believe we must continue to pioneer this industry through innovation until all people can fund what matters to them – whatever it is, wherever they are or however they’d like to do it. 
To that effect, we’ve launched a new pilot program that will let campaigners continue raising money even after their campaign deadline, providing a new way to deepen their engagement with funders. 
By allowing campaigns to continue after they reach their goals, this turnkey pilot project reflects the increased use of Indiegogo by businesses, artists and activists who seek to attract and develop new audiences. The new functionality will enable campaigns to:
Continue receiving contributions from around the world
Maintain the exposure, SEO and links that they’ve already built during their campaign, without having to start elsewhere from scratch
Capitalize on the existing web traffic
Manage ongoing funding and communication efforts from a single location
Utilize data obtained through Indiegogo’s Campaigner Dashboard and Google Analytics integration 
As the world’s largest online funding platform, Indiegogo routinely looks to customer feedback to help drive the innovation of new products and features to improve the user experience.  The pilot program will be open to select campaigns starting today – including Tens and TrackR bravo – and will expand to all campaigns that have reached their initial funding goals in the coming months.  Stay tuned…

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Evil PCs - Do You Allow Them?

I remember quite vividly when AD&D 2e dropped assassins and half-orc when jumping editions. I was upset that TSR had dropped evil classes and races from the realms of PC use. This, after playing in 3 groups in 2 different states and seeing just one evil PC - a half-orc assassin. I really should have been more upset at the filing off of the serial numbers of the demons and devils between editions.

It isn't even like any of those groups had a hard and fast rule against evil PCs - we just used the commons sense rule of "even evil doesn't have to be a dick!"

These days, I'd probably allow an evil PC if he player were able to explain up front how they could play the alignment and NOT be a dick to the rest of the party.

So, do you allow evil PCs? Yes? No? Why? Why not and all that other shit that comes prepackaged with these types of questions ;)

How Much Scheduled Gaming do You do at Cons?

It seems to me you never have enough time at conventions to do all the gaming you want to do. Or, more accurately, you schedule more gaming than you can enjoy. This is what happened at NTRPG Con for my wife and I - the days we had two games on the schedule were literally overwhelming and exhausting. In my mid 40's I no longer have the stamina I had in my mid 20's.

Oh, and don't forget needed to leave time for pick-up games.

I figure in the future we'll limit ourselves to one scheduled game each day.

So, how much gaming do you try to squeeze in at conventions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boozing it Up at the Gaming Table - Yea or Nay?

+Vincent Florio had a post yesterday at The Evil GM talking about booze at the gaming table. I had an answer. I was going to post over at Vince's blog, but then I went down to the local pub for dinner and my evening bartender took good care of my wife, my son and myself. As I type this, I remember why I don't drink and DM - I simply can't stay focused enough to herd my usual party of cats.

Back in my college days I refused to allow beer at the RPG table (board games and the such were enhanced by the drinking tho.) I always felt it was difficult to keep the party on track when they were three sheets to the wind.

These days, in the middle of my middle age years, I find myself imbibing liberally during gaming sessions I'm a player in, but I totally abstain when I run a game. I can have difficulty enough staying focused while sober ;)

So, were do you stand with drinking at the gaming table? Or do you say fuck standing up, and just fall off to the side? ;)

Of Simulacra, Emulations, and Transmogrifiers (Guest post by Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr)

(This morning we have a guest post by +Richard LeBlanc , he of New Big Dragon Games and the D30 Sandbox Companion fame. I'm honored that Rich decided to post this here at The Tavern. You can read more of Rich's thoughts over at his blog - Save vs. Dragon)

Of Simulacra, Emulations, and Transmogrifiers.

I've long held that Apple products were superior because... well.. they were Apple products. If you've ever read the book "Insanely Great," you know what I'm talking about. Steve Jobs hired graphic designers and typography experts, in addition to others in various and diverse fields, and it was these things that helped make the Macintosh the truly brilliant product it was. (Granted, we really have yet to see if Apple can maintain its true vision with their visionary gone.) So here I sit, 30 years after the first time I touched a Mac*, and though many PCs now offer the same kind of command over type and layout, I am still a Mac person. How is it I do not hold that same place of honor for the intellectual property protected by the OGL? (You know what I'm talking about. The beholder, carrion crawler, displacer beast, umber hulk, rust monster, githyanki, githzerai, slaad, mind flayer, kuo-toa and yuan-ti all hold such non-OGL status.)

If I see a crappy replicant (sic) property like a Transmogrifier on the shelf at the local dollar store, I'm the first to make fun of it for the sad knockoff that it is. So why am I okay with calling my rust monster a "corroder"? Why am I okay with calling my carrion crawler a "carrion creeper"? Or calling a beholder an "eye beast"? If I were an IBM clone person, maybe it would be easier for me to understand why I'm okay with this, as the concept of an alternately named clone is part-and-parcel of the deal. Which obviously brings me to the concept of retro-clones in general. Why don't I look at something like Swords & Wizardry and say to myself, "Hey! That's the Transmogrifiers of old-school RPG gaming?" From my point of view, what it comes down to is intention.

Matt Finch's goal (or so I believe it is safe to assume) was never to make a cheap knock-off of LBB D&D to be sold dirt cheap at the local dollar store in order to take advantage of those kids who just couldn't afford the real thing. Swords & Wizardry is obviously a labor of love (something I assume of retro-clones in general). By comparison, I don't look at a Transmogrifier and think, "Wang Wěi** must have made this product out of his deep love for the concept of the Transformers, and because one just cannot get a Transformer without having to stalk eBay and throw down a few hundred bucks even without an original box to get one, he must have lovingly made this crafted product in an attempt to share his passion with everyone else."

I currently find myself halfway through writing the monster listings for the Basic Psionics Handbook, and this thought has stayed very top-of-mind. It's amazing how many archetypal psionic monsters are not open content. In able for me to port them over to my BX psionics system, I have no choice but to rename them. Otherwise, I will infringe outrightly on the intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast as outlined in their Open Gaming License. In essence, what I am doing is creating what amounts to an alternate universe where the names are similar to those known by AD&D players, but may only be familiar to dedicated BX players (as these creatures have never made it into those editions—e.g., what point is a mind flayer in BX that has no psionics?)

In some ways, I see my duty with the Basic Psionics Handbook being two-fold. First, and most obvious, it is to try remedy BX's psionics deficit by attempting to create a psionic system as simple as it should be (be no more) for those players. But second, it is to bring a set of monsters to that edition that, while they hold a dear place in the hearts of many an AD&D player, have never had the chance to grow such roots with BX-exclusive devotees. And here's the rub... I may not use the original names for the following, well-established psionically-endowed creatures: githyanki, githzerai, mind flayer, slaad, ustilagor, and yuan ti. Instead, say, "Hello!" to the astral gish, limbo gish, mind thresher, zlod, intellect seeker, and wan-ti.

I must also state, that while I am trying to capture the spirit of these creatures, I am also trying not to just duplicate their old stats in the new format. I am trying to create (in some ways) my own interpretation of them (usually for the sake of simplification and seamless integration to this new psionic system). My goal is not to knock them off in order to "put one over" on the masses. Rather, it is to translate them into the system I have created, making them available (in most cases, for the first time) to many a BX/BECMI DM. I liken it to the translation of a book from one language to another. For example, a literal translation of something like Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" might prove more than a little clunky. (Just try pasting a few passage into any online translator and I'm sure the results will leave something to be desired.) Instead, those of us who want to read the book but do not speak Chinese (regardless of dialect) rely on folks like Ralph D. Sawyer (whom I chose for little reason other than he translated the paperback copy that I own). He takes that original text and interprets the original author's words and intentions for the audience.

When it comes to this sort of verisimilitude, am I Ralph Sawyer, or am I Wang Wěi? Am I an impassioned advocate, or am I a flagrant, self-serving huckster?

Are these types of workaround names (and the associated content) acceptable because: 1) we have learned to accept them (given the proliferation of retro-clones already bearing such simulacra, 2) we know they are a product of passion in the face of license limitations, or 3) both? Or are they unacceptable because they have more in common with the Transmogrifier—we know they're not the real thing, and will NEVER be the real thing, regardless of how much passion they have going for them?

I wonder if it's more like going to a party and drinking Pepsi, even though you're a Coke person, because the host only bought Pepsi. You'd really prefer the Coke, but you know you can't get one, so Pepsi is "acceptable" under the conditions. But with every sip of that Pepsi, you'll just be reminded that it's just not Coke.

FOOTNOTES
* As a side note, the friend responsible for me having access to that 1st-generation Macintosh in 1984 is the same one that gave me my first d30 in 1981.
** I'm just going with the most common Cantonese given name and surname here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do You Use "Big Bad Evil Guys" in Your Campaigns?

This topic came up in a recently recorded Brainstorm Podcast episode - Do you use BBEGs and if so, how do you go about designing them?

For me, I rarely go into a campaign with a BBEG fleshed out, let alone thought out. I always figure my players will designate some NPC their nemesis and I'll go from there, but then again, my parties are like herds of cats, you never know where they are going to go.

Then again, I've played in some campaigns that have very effectively utilized BBEGs, so maybe it's a deficit in my DMing skills that leads to the leaving out of bBEGs in my games.

So, where do you stand with BBEGs? Yay or nay? Power behind the throne or in the face power manipulator?

How Big Should the Sandbox Be?

I've written about this on the blog before, but the forthcoming "Tenkar's Landing" crowdsourced project has got me thinking about it again - how big does your sandbox need to be?

What I like about the island that Tenkar's Landing rests upon is that it is limited in scope - about 65 miles long and 15 miles wide on average. Assuming 6 miles from center to center of each hex it puts the total land mass at just under 1000 square miles. That's a lot of exploring.

Can the party leave the island? Sure. Tenkar's Landing is a trading port after all. I do have much of the surrounding area mapped too (but have few if any plans to detail just yet). Hopefully the players and their characters will find enough excitement on the island to occupy themselves for a good long time.

Crowdsourcing the sandbox of Tenkar's Landing should be an interesting experiment. An island with the ruins of an extinct advanced civilization colonized by a now failing empire to be detailed by a dozen or two creative types from the OSR community. I may want to be a player in the resulting sandbox...

So, how large a sandbox do you like for your campaigns and why?

* note - this will be a crowdsourced project, not a crowdfunded project. By the community, for the community.


Monday, September 15, 2014

It Looks Like the "Tenkar's Landing" Crowdsourced Project Will be a "GO"



There appears to be enough interest in giving the Tenkar's Landing crowdsourced project a shot. So, here's where we stand:

- I HOPE to have this kick off at the beginning of October. No guarantees. Work has been a summer of hell. Let's see how fall falls into place.

- We need a better name than "Tenkar's Landing" for the island. Tenkar's Landing is just the major town / port. It was a colony of a trading nation that is now a failed nation. The town itself is self sufficient and has a relatively strong mercantile influenced government.

- There are remains of an advanced civilization long passed scattered around the island. At a certain point, magic and technology are indistinguishable - that is the case here.

- There are no traditional native human / demihuman communities. All are immigrants from elsewhere. Aside from Tenkar's Landing there are some small scattered hamlets / enclaves.

- Hexes are either 5 or 6 miles across. Not a huge difference, but we'll figure it out in the next few weeks.

- Hexes 1214 and 1314 are desert with obsidian shards and strange ruins scattered about. Magical or nuclear devastation, to be decided. Strange beasts abound.

- Hex 1213 is broken mountains and craters.

- Dungeons, Castles, Towers, Ruins indicated are those that are commonly known. East of the river near Thocar's Castle is hardly explored.

- Some folks have requested hexes already. I'll do my best to honor those.

- I'll probably open up a G+ community page and a Obsidian Portal page when it gets closer to going live.

- There is no default system, but as I'd like this to be usable with everything from S&W and LL to the DCC RPG and everything in between, the less system stats the better.

- Figure a sandbox for levels 1-8 or thereabouts.

Alright, back to catching up on some 1500+ pieces of email




Announcing "The Brainstorm Podcast" - 30 Minutes or Less or it's *Free (*it's always free)

Wild Games Productions has added an "edition free" podcast to it's stable - "The Brainstorm."

It literally is a podcast about brainstorming ideas for RPG games (primarily edition free.) Use the ideas, abuse the ideas, submit ideas - the podcast really is there for the listener in this case.

So, join your hosts +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself ( +Erik Tenkar ) at The Brainstorm Podcast.

(Episode 2 of the Tenkar & The Badger Podcast should be dropping any time now too - so much Tenkar, so little time)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How Important are PC Spellcasters in Your Campaign?

I remember when I ran AD&D (1e and 2e) back in my college days clerics were rare as PCs. If the party was lucky they had a Paladin with his laying of hands ability and a crap load of potions. Magic-users weren't much more common, and once I banned Bladesingers from ever again being used in our group, I'm not sure we ever had one again.

It certainly made writing adventures for the group a bit of a challenge, as the party was built more for head on combat than it was stealth or death from afar. I also found myself using less NPC spellcasters, for the few I used were damn tough on a party that lacked a response. Remeber, the goal at the end of the night is for everyone to have fun.

In the playtest of The Unmaking Campaign, we lake a magic-user. So, no sleep spells to save our bacon. No web, invisibility or fireballs as we rise in level. I doubt +Jason Paul McCartan is going to change the campaign to conform to the PCs - this is, of course, a playtest. Instead, it will force us to overcome out shortcomings.

So, how important are PC spellcasters in your campaign?

Idle Thought's of Tenkar's Landing - Crowdsourcing a Small Sandbox


I was working on this sandbox way back in the spring of 2013 and aside from the maps and a few notes, I've done nothing with it. Stuff got put to the side and the plate can only hold so much.

I got to thinking about Tenkar's Landing again last week, but the plate these days is so much smaller and it's stacked so high I can't see much of what is on it anymore. I want to get some use out of this as I do like the map (used Hexographer for those that are curious.)

So, my idle thought is this - crowdsourcing the development of the island. Give my readers a hex (5 or 6 miles across per hex - it's not a huge sandbox but as I have the surrounding area mapped, it is expandable) each and let them have at it and see what the end result is. I'd keep hex 1311 for myself, of course ;)

As I said, and idle thought, and even at that, I'd still need the time to set things up and organize it. Consider this post a simple gauging of interest into the concept of passing out the 30 some odd hexes on the island and the dozen and a half that are on the map but across the waters.




I Forgot to Add "What" to My To Hit Bonus? (DCC RPG)

Last night was another session of our DCC RPG campaign being run by +Craig Brasco . This is the campaign with Graygor, my damn near mutant warrior, he that has bonuses on 5 of his 6 stats (and no penalty on the last. He of the amazing hit points, due to his lucky roll adding his luck bonus to his HP every level in addition to the usual stamina bonus. He really is a monster.

Apparently, he's more of a monster than I realized, as I forgot to add his luck modifier to "attack rolls with one specific kind of weapon."

It's not a hidden rule, but it is one that passed me by when I read the details of the warrior class.

As his reward earlier in the campaign was a non-magical mithril two handed sword (+ 1 hit, + 2 damage) he started out with a bit of a bite. He's also got + 1 hit and + 1 damage due to his strength score. I just never realized he could get yet another + 2 hit with his swords due to his luck,

Didn't make him miss any less ;)

I wonder what else I've overlooked while reading the DCC rules.

Still haven't managed to pull off a single Mighty Deeds of Arms. trust me, it's not for lack of trying...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Most of Us Seem to Have a Default Class / Race When We Play - What is Yours?



Although I always offer to play whatever the party wants or needs, the truth is I have my comfort zone - I tend towards human or dwarf for the race (although I do enjoy playing the occasional halfling) and the class is usually cleric, fighter or a cleric / fighter multiclass (or just a cleric that considers himself a front line fighter - sometimes wisdom doesn't apply across the board.)

I always feel a little awkward playing a magic-user - too few choices at low levels, too many at higher ones. Thieves are okay, but I'd probably never play a straight up thief - multiclassed with magic-user or illusionist though, and that thief just became a stellar thief ;)

Which is strange, because in my early days of gaming, after I played my first fighter (and my first character Cyrus) I don't think I ever went back and played a straight up fighter. The gods themselves know I NEVER played a cleric back in those days. Paladin, ranger, magic-user and the occasional bard from Dragon #56. Sure, I DMed a lot more than I played, but when I did play, vanilla fighters or clerics were not on my list of what to play.

These days I have a 1st level DCC Warrior and a 1/1 Dwarven Fighter / Cleric in Swords & Wizardry Complete.

Maybe it's because my first character upon my return to gaming (and my embracing the OSR) was a Dwarven Cleric in Castles & Crusades in an online Fantasy Grounds 2 Campaign who happened to be the best combatant in the party.

Or maybe it's because I just happen to like dwarves...

Do you have a default class / race when you play?

Can there be "Too Much Tenkar?"



If all goes well, episode 2 of Tenkar & The Badger should get released on iTunes and such this weekend. Crossing fingers and other superstitious necessities. This is the +Harley Stroh episode that threw format and preplaned sections out the window. Yes, this is where +Jason Paul McCartan and I realized you could "sandbox" a podcast.  And there was great rejoicing.

Episode 3, the +Zach Glazar episode, should follow in about a week, assuming the stars align and no major shit happens. Best laid plans of mice and men and all that shit.

There should also be "something else" that may release on Monday. Similar yet different. I've said all I can say - I can say no more (unless someone gives me permission to say more.)

So, too much Tenkar?

Perhaps.

As I side note I'm nearly 1,000 unread emails in the hole. So, if you emailed me and I haven't responded, it's probably because I haven't read it. Sorry. Working to catch up as work becomes slightly more manageable on the side of "real life."




Friday, September 12, 2014

Kickstarter - Time of the Dying Stars: Book One (Small Niche Games)


+Pete Spahn is at it again. Yep, he's got another Kickstarter out, this time for fiction in the World of Amherth plus gaming material. Time of the Dying Stars: Book One stars a dwarf named Tenkar showcases a dwarf named Tenkar a dwarf named Tenkar makes an appearance in the story. Now, that in and of itself should sell this Kickstarter, but wait, there's more:

Yet another Spahn, +James Spahn of Barrel Rider Games, will be contributing Labyrinth Lord classes to the project. Two Spahns, not related except for love of the game.
Time of the Dying Stars: Book One is the first of three books set in the City of Dolmvay. It is a collection of interlinked short stories that follow the events leading up to an ancient prophecy. This novella provides insights into the city's politics, religions, and the lives of everyday citizens. It also features cameos of favorite NPCs such as Tenkar the Tavernkeep, Dyson the Cartographer, and others. Time of the Dying Stars: Book One is a must-have for OSR Game Masters running adventures in the City of Dolmvay.
The Kickstarter went up today with a modest goal of $500. as I type this it sits at $479 in less than 24 hrs, with a full month to go.

+Pete Spahn 's work speaks for itself. Grab the PWYW City of Dolmvay and see what Pete's previous Kickstarter has wrought :)

Gaming Future - "Uncle, I Want to be a Dragon!"

My not quite 4 year old niece was over on Tuesday and she decided she wanted to "see trains" about 20 minutes before 7pm, which gave me 20 minutes to walk to the pedestrian overpass, catch a rush hour train or two and get back in time for my scheduled Skype call with +Vincent Florio .

We caught two trains (and just missed a diesel) before I told the young lady we had to head back home.

"Why?"

"I have a phone call with a friend in a few minutes, and we need to go now."

"Whose your friend?"

"Vince"

"Where does Vince live?"

"Texas"

"Mommy has a friend that lives in Texas. Only one friend in each state. Vince needs to live in... Tennessee!"

"Heh. I'll let him know."

"Whatcha gonna talk to Vince about Uncle?"

"Well, we are going to talk about Dungeons & Dragons."

"What's Dumgems & Dragons?"

"It's a game where you play heroes, and the heroes explore the wilderness or the underground and they beat up monsters (I left out the -and take their stuff - part)"

"I wanna be a monster! I wanna be a dragon! Or a troll! Or a dinosaur! Or a alligator! Can I be a dragon, uncle?"

"Sure Pinky, You can be a dragon."

"Uncle, can you teach me about Dumgems & Dragons when I get older. 'Cause I'm only 3 now."

"Heh. Yes Pinky. I'll teach you about Dungeons & Dragons whenever you want. Remember uncle's dice, and your own dice? You use those dice in Dungeons & Dragons."

"I'm going to breath fire!" and she proceeded to puff her cheeks four times, blowing out air before taking a needed breath for the next puff.

She's not yet four, and already she has the gaming bug and an amazing imagination.

Something tells me she will be gaming sooner than later...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Session Playtest - The Unmaking Campaign - Swords & Wizardry


I run Swords & Wizardry fairly regularly, but it is rare that I get to actually play in a session. Come to think of it, NTRPG Con was my first session of S&W as a player. Damn.

So, when +Jason Paul McCartan asked me to join the playtest of his forthcoming The Unmaking Campaign for S&W, I was all over it like a pig in mud.

The playtesters besides myself are +James Aulds , +Zach Glazar , +Nathaniel Hull and +joseph browning . Yep, you may recognize some of those names. Needless to say, Jason has his hands full ;)

I'm playing a Dwarven fighter / cleric. Actually, our party is well rounded with fighter and thief types and even a monk. No magic-user, which may be a problem down the line, or not.

I don't want to give too much away, as it is a playtest of an upcoming product, but there were some highlights - quotes even - that should be shared.

- "Religious Looting" - when the dwarven fighter / cleric entered the abandoned tavern and immediately started liberating the casks of ale BEFORE looking for signs of survivors (or the dead)

- "Man can live on ale, but feed a man just bread and he will die of thirst." - direct quote from above dwarven cleric when asked about his obsession with ale and his desire to feed town-folks with it before considering actual food.

- "Stay behind the halfling!" - when you think about it, that can never be a good situation

- "If you are going to die, die in front of a church." Yep. Been there and done did. Ouch!

I really need to sit down with Jason and decide how much of the story I can divulge. I don't want to give away any secrets but I do want to share some of the excellent scenario Jason has shown us thus far.

edit - I forgot the follow:  "He dropped like a Tenkar."




Idle Thoughts and Dulled Senses

Four pints and two shots. For some reason, this day get's harder, not easier, as time goes on. Good food and good company was had at the pub. My wife and son kept me good company, and my bartender John understood the meaning of the day.

I am behind in many things. OSR Superstar is awaiting the responses of the judges for the final round. I have not been hounding them, as work on my end has been hot and heavy. My daily posting has been cut in half from the usual numbers over the summer, and not just for lack of free time. I am mentally exhausted. I should prod them I think. PROD!

Emails have gone unread in some cases for weeks. Again, it's as much lack of time as it is lack of energy with what little time I have free. Retirement can not come soon enough.

As I told my wife over lunch, I don't drink on this day to forget what I saw, heard, and learned on 9-11-01. I drink to take the edge off the pain. To fuzz out some of the details. Forgetting even a moment of the day would be a crime, and I refuse to do so.

+Jason Paul McCartan is running a game tonight. I'm playing in it. Jason, you are so fucked ;)

Dedicated to Paul Benedetti - Lost 9-11-01 - Friend and Gamer


Today is 9-11.  13 years after 9-11-01.

If I had responded to the actual mobilization point I was supposed to arrive at, there might be nine more names to read of those that were lost that day. I was supposed to arrive at the foot of Tower 2, but never made it past the masses of folks near City Hall that were already fleeing the Towers.

I lost a good friend that day. I had 4 good friends that worked in and around the World Trade Center on 9-11-01. Three walked miles and miles to get home that day. One never made it home. All were from my core group of gaming buddies and best friends dating back to High School.

Paul, you are sorely missed. You were there when the towers were attacked in '93, and I remember hearing about the 70+ flights you had to walk down. The second time they were hit you never had that opportunity.

Roll those dice and roll them well. The rest of us will join you when our time comes, and we'll pick up where we left off.

Rest well.

Paul Benedetti, age 32 when taken too early.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bundle of Holding - Ptolus and More (Monte Cook)


There is a campaign worth of material in Ptolus for those that want to spend a campaign exploring a city. Over 800 pages of city based campaign material. Damn!

I have the hardcover version of Ptolus, and it is good. I'll probably never run it as it, but that doesn't make it any less good. I really do need to mine it for it's bit's and pieces.

You also get the Player's Guide to Ptolus, The Banewarrens, Chaositech, The Night of Dissolution and two Campaign Journals. All for $19.95 when you grab the Ptolus Bundle of Holding

Beat the average and you get:

Books of Experimental Might I (retail $9) and II ($7)
Complete Book of Eldritch Might (retail $13):
Books of Hallowed Might I (retail $6) and II ($7)

Not sure if beating the average is needed for the OSR crew interested in Ptolus, but what you get in the basic package is pretty damn good.


First WotC 5e "Cease & Desist?"

Thanks to +Tony T for the heads up.


Link to the post at 5e Spellbook Generator

Here's the text in full:
Dear Fellow RPG fans, 
Thank you guys for supporting my work and spreading it out through the multiverse. I am glad it has gotten enough attention to have finally garnered a cease order from Wizards of the Coast. 
Unfortunately, I would not like to make any real legal trouble to myself, so I have taken down the spellbook generator as it is. I will be providing (give me a week or so) the code as open source, not including any database with the spell information. If at any time, the Wizards decides to release an OGL for 5e, I will be more than happy to bring this back online. 
I am really touched by how many people have sent me inquiries already about the spellbook generator. If you guys would like to continue to support the right and need for players to have tools such as this, feel free to email Wizards of the Coast and voice your concerns! As a DM and a player I wanted a tool in which to help my group out and together, a ton of you guys came and made that dream come true. As much as I understand why I was served a cease order, I am also saddened at the need for it. This generator did not help you play the game at all, it just made it so that you as a player could easily go through the beautiful content Wizards has provided. You still needed a PHB to play, so you've already given Wizards your money. 
Good luck to all you gamers out there. This will not be the last you have heard of the spellbook generator! For other resources, feel free to check the about page. Use them until Wizards takes them down too!

Proudly,
Philip Vuong 
*UPDATE* - Open source code available here. 
NOTE TO WIZARDS - I am only open sourcing the code that I have written and own. I will not be distributing any underlying database or datasource containing the spell information to populate the application.

How Magical Should a Setting Be?

I'm not asking if there should be magic in a setting. This is fantasy roleplaying, and magic items are the default there. Instrad, what I'm asking is "how much magic should there be/"

Obviously, this is a personal taste type of question, and the answer may change depending on the type of campaign one wants to run.

For me, it's whether or not you are going to embrace the idea of a "golf bag of magic swords." As a DM, you need to have an answer for that question before you kick off the campaign. As I am currently running Castle of the Mas Archamage with one of my two groups, the answer is simple. I (and my party) are embracing it. I might need to drop in a "golf bag of holding" while I'm at it, as the swords are accumulating for my party (although little else is - it may just be the paths they've chosen throughout the mega dungeon).

So, is magic "rare and magical" or "abundantly marvelous" or something in between in your campaigns?

Monday, September 8, 2014

How Balanced Should Encounters Be?

4e had a fairly precise formula on how to properly balance and design encounters. 0e had none. I suspect 5e will have some, but we won't see exactly what it is before the new DMG releases.

With all that being said, how important are balanced encounters? Is it more important to have balanced encounters with new players that are just getting their sea legs than for experienced gamers?

Does edition have much to do with balanced encounters? Would 4e break if adventure writers strayed from the formula?

If you favor unbalanced encounters, is the overall adventure balanced? This would be my preferred method of play FYI.

Do you as a DM / GM give hints to your players that they might be in over their heads?

Just a few not so random Monday morning questions...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guest Poster - Review - Adventures in the East Mark (Pat G)


(the following is presented by a GUEST POSTER)

A great many years ago, an old Welshman, told me in lilting Celtic tones of a mysterious game unlike any other he had seen before. A game a young lad such as myself might be interested in.  There was only one place to find it in the city - a shop in a rough area frequented by purveyors of illegal substances and women, and no doubt men, of easy virtue. The shop had a turreted front entrance, with an iron grate for a door. The hairy, bearded proprietors were known to be surly but would part with goods if plied with money.

If this sounds like the beginning of a quest, it was. The trip to that store marked my introduction to D&D and role playing in general.  The "old" Welshman was probably only in his early 40's and was in the same amateur theatre group as my parents. The store was indeed as described, the legendary Fandom II in its first location on Rideau street in Ottawa. The proprietors were more slightly grumpy hippy than  surely dwarf though.  A school friend and I started with the original box set, made a quick detour through basic and Red Box and settled into AD&D for all of high school.

A lot of game free years had passed when a few years ago, we started a family game of  3.5 with my daughters and a couple of friends. This was great fun but how the system had changed, multi-class, prestige classes,  feats, races beyond count and rolls for everything.  It was great fun but as campaigns do, it died a natural death.  I am mostly a historical miniatures player but that campaign left a hankering for some rpg. Pathfinder was more of the same as 3.5 and 4th ed - frankly I never liked superhero games. Bouncing around the gaming related parts of the internet exposed me to something called OSR - Old School Rules. Since I am now old and I like rules it seemed worth looking into. OSR lead to me finding an odd chap named Tenkar on G+ who runs some sort of on line tavern and a hangout that lead to a shiny PDF of Adventures in the East Mark landing on my hard drive.

So as someone coming back into RPGs after a long absence, what can I say about Adventures in the East Mark? Adventures in the East Mark is an English translation of the original Spanish Aventuras en la Marca Del Este. Developed by Pedro Gil and others as an updated version of the Red Box, it achieved such success in Spain that a kickstarter was setup to translate it into English. Initial impressions  i.e. the cover art, were nice - Red Box all over again - but 143 pages? Red Box was never that big was it? And then I "cracked the cover" or  in reality scrolled to pages 2 and 3 and saw the map of East Mark. Definitely echoes of Tolkien but also all those other fantasy realm posters of my youth, not too technical not overdone,  just wonderful.  This required an immediate scroll through the whole thing. East Mark is filled with page after page of artwork. There is everything from marginalia to full page spreads.   It captures the classical fantasy feel without being as "old skool" as the original monster manual cover.  This is a very, very pretty book.

So while pretty is nice, what's inside?  If you are familiar with the OGL (Open Games License) project, you will find no real surprises in the mechanics. Six attributes, 3d6 each giving simple bonuses.  Nine Character classes including Elf, Halfling and Dwarf all nods to the "race as class roots" of D&D give you plenty of scope to customize your character without burying him or her in minutia.  Levels are limited to 20, lower for the race-classes, with higher to be added in later boxes - just like the original.  This is not an issue for me because, I always preferred the low level campaigns.

The equipment section hearkens back to first edition roots with the trident being the most exotic of the weapons. Non-combat related items are extensive including numerous transport options. As with all sections of the book, the illustrations are simple but of very high quality.

The battle sequence is nicely laid out 10 minute turns broken into 60 - 10 second assaults making spell durations easy to remember. Combat is IGOUGO based on a party initiative roll though individual initiative is offered as an optional rule. Attacks are carried out using a D20 roll on a level vs AC matrix chart with modifiers for strength and weapon bonuses. Damage is by weapon type again with modifiers. Monster have a slightly different chart based on hit dice. There are a few modifiers for light level and changing weapons and the much vaunted two weapon combat is dealt with in one simple sentence. Criticals are relegated to an optional rule. Miniatures and grids are mentioned but again are optional.  Missile combat is exactly the same as close combat but with a few appropriate extras like aimed shots.  Very straight forward. Oddly for such a simple system, mounted combat, aerial combat and underwater combat all get a few lines.

Healing is also very straight forward; 1d4 per day of full rest, no surges, no non-magical shortcuts. Saving throws for various attacks are by class and level which results in 9 separate if small tables. This is a little out of keeping with the simplicity of the rest of the rules but then the players need only consult the table for their character class. At the end of the combat rules is a section on maritime travel and combat which I suspect is due to the nature of the East Mark world.

Moving on to magic. As expected, Magic users spells have to be memorized and once they are cast they're gone until you can sit down for a bit with your grimoire. Clerics get to pick and choose, drawing on divine power as needed.  Elves get spells as magic users up to 10th level and Paladins act as mini-clerics. The spells list are extensive and are laid out by class and level for easy access. They cover the usual range of harming, healing and informational spells. There is enough variety in the lists to allow players to customize their character without the need for specific sub-classes like healer or elementalist.

The Adventures and Misadventures section gives some basic information on organizing your party and adventuring in the outdoors or under it. Strangely, how to deal with traps is found here rather than with the rest of the thief class information. There is a very useful section on hirelings, were to find them, what they come equipped with and how much their starting salary is (by race no less). A useful tidbit  for any system.

Moving onto loot, the Magical Objects and Treasures section  shows  how much loot to give out by hit die of foe defeated and duplicates the monetary exchange table found in the equipment section. Non-coin based treasure is covered in a useful level of detail. Magical items range from simple +1 and buff items through scrolls and potions and onto a few Wondrous Objects. Not a large section, it is geared toward giving the narrator the ideas and information to customize objects to a specific campaign.

Monsters - remember how I mentioned this is a very pretty book? The monsters are especially so. Most creatures in this section have an accompanying illustration with only the slimes, jellies and fungoids  left to the reader's imagination. The style varies from the cartoonish Gibbering Gobber to a Gnoll worthy of display in a gallery and that's all on one page.  What is never lacking in the art is the old school feel.  In terms of the monsters themselves, all the classics are here from Ankheg to Zombie with a few East Mark specific monsters for seasoning. There are also some guidelines for customizing and creating monsters.

With the foundations out of the way, the book moves onto describing The East Mark proper. Over a handful of pages the reader is given a little of the history and geography of the East Mark without giving so much away that the narrator is confined by it. If you will, the history is a frame to support the beautiful maps mentioned earlier rather than a box to confine the narrator.

Rounding out the book are two adventures suitable for starting characters. They can be played in order or as standalone adventures. They should give starting players a taste of what to expect and a chance to learn the rules and exercise their skills. Finally there is a list of the backers who supported the translation. They all deserve thanks for spreading East Mark to the English speaking world. Oh and more beautiful maps at the very end.

I would like to mention a comment I have seen in other reviews of East Mark, and that is concerns about the use of the metric system in this game.  Having grown up with proper British Imperial measurement and moved on to metres and litres, all I can say is a metre is close enough to a yard so get over it. Five foot step or 1 metre (3 foot)  shuffle, it really doesn't matter as long as you are consistent.

This is where I was going to write a bit about why an old timer or newcomer should pickup Adventures in the East Mark. Having gotten this far, I discovered that what is commonly called "1st ed" by some parts of the OSR community refers to first edition Advanced D&D and not the original D&D three book white box I started with. So I went off to take a look at that paragon of  "1st ed" rules reborn - Osric.  Osric is very much like the AD&D I remember and then some. It is a great set of rules in its own right.  But Adventures in the East Mark offers something else: intimacy. In East Mark, the rules cover the basics and little more. In AD&D and its descendants including Osric, there is a rule for almost everything and the GM is there to enforce the rules. If you want to do something different you have to talk to the narrator and work it out together. As a grey bearded grognard more concerned with playing than winning, this is what I like so much about East Mark. Rather than putting the GM and players on opposing sides of the table, Adventures in the East Mark lets the GM say "Hey, let's go explore this world I made".

Highly Recommended

Pat Gilliland http://irregularwarbandfast.blogspot.com/

(there is also a PWYW quickstart of The Adventures in the East Mark which you can get at the link)

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