Saturday, July 17, 2021

Bard – Swords & Wizardry – A Work in Progress

I’ve been a longtime fan of Bards. No, not the Bard from the AD&D 1e Player’s Handbook, but starting with the Bard Class presented in issue #56 of The Dragon. Heck, 10 years ago, I wrote a Swords & Wizardry Bard Class for issue #6 of Knockspell. It wasn’t a bad attempt, but I think I’ve learned a bit more over the years when it comes to game design – and class design. I think its time to refresh the design. ;)

So, what defines a bard in my mind? A bit of a jack-of-all-trades, a bard is a class that is useful, but not meant to replace any other particular core class. It’s the type of class that comes into play when you are playing solo, or in a group that has already covered the four core class types of fighter, cleric, thief and wizard. The bard does a little bit of each class, but certainly not as competently as any of the core does theirs.

A bard is lightly armored. Nothing heavier than chainmail. They can’t wield a shield either.

Weapons are limited to the type that can be wielded in a single hand. Any weapon that would be stored across their back is avoided, so no bows or crossbows. Missile weapons would be limited to slings and thrown weapons.

Hit Dice would be as a thief, as would the Bard’s combat matrix and saving throws.

Bard’s have a song list, much of which would draw from the established cleric and magic-user spell lists. Bard songs are different from the spells they replicate, and bards can not use magic-user or cleric scrolls, even if the spells are on the bard song list. They would also progress slower as casters, with new spell levels at 4th, 7th, and 10th levels

Of course, bards would need the ability to inspire their compatriots as well as distract their foes. Obscure knowledge would also be their forte.

Alright, not quite a complete checklist. Work commences later today. I’ll show peeks at the progress as it happens, and the final design will likely appear in Torchlight #2.


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Friday, July 16, 2021

I've Decided on my System for my Next Campaign - and it Kinda Sorta Is/Isn't Swords & Wizardry

Two weeks ago I attended the yearly gathering of my gaming group from the 80s and 90s. We've been gathering yearly for the last 15 years or so, and we've often talked about getting the "band back together", but they'd been looking to play D&D 5e, and that isn't on my list of systems to run ;)

This year, I was asked to run the OSR system of my choice. So I've been trying to think about the system I'd prefer to run, and no surprise, Swords & Wizardry came ut on top. But I wanted it to go a bit differently from the standard fantasy tropes, and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea came to mind. It has some really excellent adventures in the low-level range and I already own them and the rules. 

Then I recalled Crypts & Things, an excellent Swords & Wizardry based swords & sorcery hack, and it all came together. 

Crypts & Things for the rules, Rats in the Walls and Other Perils, and The Anthropophagi of Xambaala from AS&SH for the initial adventures. Three single-session adventures and a longer one, this should accommodate sessions where players can drop in or out, depending on their schedule.

Now I just need to write a short Swords & Wizardry Light adventure for Shire Con in September. I wonder how many of the Crypts & Things classes could convert to SWL? :)



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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Deal of the Day - Tomes of Cthulhu (CoC)


I will admit to being a Call of Cthulhu junkie. I own the old boxed set, the 5e books, the 7e books, and Starter Box, the Horror on the Orient Express box set from the Kickstarter, and simply way too many CoC adventures to count.

Tomes of Cthulhu is today's Deal of the Day. Normally 2.99 is PDF, until tomorrrow morning it is on sale for 1.49.

So, what is Tomes of Cthulhu

Tomes of Cthulhu is a generic supplement for horror games based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. It describes in detail 20 different books, plus alternative editions and original sources for some of them, of esoteric and sometimes forbidden knowledge that are a common theme in Lovecraftian horror.

Each book has its name, and author, if known, as well as details on its appearance, when and how it was published, again if known, and what sort of knowledge might be found in it, which includes a Least to Greatest approximation for how much general knowledge, and its effect on the reader's sanity, might be found in a book. The language and physical description of the books are also included.

Some of these books are by genuine historical characters, although the books themselves are not. One book is actually real. The majority were written prior to 1930, at least in the first edition, some many centuries before that, with a spike in English translations in the late 19th century.

To make horror real for your players, you need the right props to set the setting and strike the mood. For a buck and a half, Tomes of Cthulhu looks like it will fill such a role admirably.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

New Release - Ambition & Avarice 2nd Edition (OSR Ruleset)

I will freely admit I am biased in favor of Ambition & Avarice, as I was involved in playtesting both the 1st edition and the 2nd edition versions of the ruleset. What can I say? I am blessed to be part of this amazing community of creative gamers. I also consider Greg Christopher to be a good friend.

That being said, Ambition & Avarice IS a very well thought out OSR ruleset. It feels very familiar, yet at the same time presents options that you don't normally get in an OSR ruleset.

Ambition & Avarice 2e is $15 in PDF and in $30.76 in Hardcover.

How best to comment on A&A? How about I paste the elevator pitch from the DTRPG write up, and comment as we go along?

Ambition and Avarice is an action-adventure roleplaying game with an easy-to-understand OSR chassis. The 2nd edition maintains focus on character classes and races that walk the line of respectability. (like I said above, it feels comforatable and familiar, and then its new and excitingly different)

2nd Edition at a Glance:

- Simple OSR-style resolution mechanics (check!)

- 10 Races: Dark Elf, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Hobgoblin, Human, Lizardfolk, and Orc. (non standard humanoid races for the win)

- 12 Classes: Brigand, Conjurer, Cultist, Elementalist, Enchanter, Knave, Ranger, Savage, Shaman, Witch, Veteran, and Zealot. (I love the take on classes - I need to play a spell caster next time around)

- More powerful low-level magic users + more powerful high-level mundane characters. (its a fine art to balance,and Greg gets it right)

- Pre-built backpacks to grab off the shelf for quick character creation. (I did this to a lesser extend with SWL - its simply a no-brainer these days)

- The most comprehensive medieval fantasy equipment chapter in the RPG industry (I checked). (woot! and you can steal use it for other OSR games too :)

- Monster trophies to take after the battle and use as magic items; Cyclops eyes, Giant frog tongue, Nymph hair, and more. (another thing one could easily steal for a different system of choice. It is very well done here)

- Catalysts: A spell component system that is actually fun to use. (didn't play a caster in playtests - can't say one way or the other)

- Clear and useful rules for hex crawling, managing retainers, and building your own barony. (solid stuff and a must read for all OSR gamers, regardless of ruleset)

- A complete customizable cosmology system with major/minor gods and demigods of your own creation. (more depth than I usually use, but good to have for the players tha "want to know")

- 596 spells: a mix of old favorites and reimagined wonders divided across six traditions: conjuration, elementalism, enchantment, primeval, salvation, and vexation. (I REALLY need to play a caster)

- NPC design system mixing reaction rolls and attitude to determine exactly how far each NPC will go to help or harm you. (built for improv stylr DMs like me)

- A dungeon familiarity mechanic to allow the players to gather information BEFORE going down the steps into darkness. (an interesting twist)

- Full Bestiary of 182 monsters with a simplified combat stat block system for easy management. (check)

- Monster entries include formulae for creating your own twisted undead.... if you don't mind dabbling in necromancy. (need I repeat mysef? I TRULY REALLY need to play a caster)

- Treasure chapter with rules on magic item creation and numerous treasure tables to stock your dungeons. (fun and inspiring as a DM)

Each class features;

- Expertise in a class-specific task; like the Conjuror's binding circle ability or a Cultist's ability to sacrifice humanoids to curry favor with their god. (this does a great job in defining the various classes and differentiatimg them from each other)

- Identification of something in the world; like the Witch's ability to identify sickness/disease or the Savage's ability to recognize familiar scents and follow them. (fun stuff)

- Recruit followers to serve as henchmen; like the Knave's ability to recruit spies or the Conjurer's ability to create imps to serve them. (this is awesome and again, highly yokeable)

Six flexible magic-using classes have a varied selection of new and exciting spells. There are easy methods to create your own enchantments, raise unique undead to serve you, or craft cursed items to give to your enemies. The non-magical classes have their own rich choices and don't fade away in importance as the magical characters advance in level. (check!)

These classes can then be combined with 10 classic fantasy races; from elves and dwarves to orcs and lizardfolk. You can combine them however you wish, creating everything from goblin rangers to dwarven brigands. Your race is no longer central to your destiny, playing a marginal role in restricting your actions in the game world. (I do love this aspect)

The entire package is designed to allow quick character generation and presented in a format that is clear and easy to read. The text is packed with expanations of not just the rules, but the reasons behind the rules. It is an ideal choice to hand to a new player who is looking to get into the great game, but turned away by dense technical rulebooks with byzantine organization. The adventuring mechanics are also OSR compatible and allow easy integration with a variety of old school campaign material. You can pick up this game, grab an old module, and get playing in a very short amount of time. (this is literally true. while not as quick as generating a SWL character, it is quicker than every other OSR game I've played or run)

All in all, and excellent ruleset AND resource for other OSR rulesets. Did I mention A&A has a hyperlinked Table of Contents?  


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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Kickstarter - RPG Maps Zine - Issue 1 - with Descriptions and Plot Hooks


10 Highly Detailed, Hand Drawn, Town Centre, Black and White, Building Maps for RPGs by Dark Realm Maps.

An RPG Zine about maps? Can there be anything cooler?

RPG Maps Zine - Issue 1 is one of those rare Kickstarters where there are more backers at the digital level than at the physical level, which makes sense. Digital is a perfect fit for VTTs, and if you need a physical copy you simply print it out at the size you need.

At 5 British Pounds, or approximately $7 US for 11 maps (as the Zine has hit a stretch goal) for the PDF I can't pass up on this. You never know when your party will go off the path, and maps like this are simply a great tool for the improv DM toolkit.



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Monday, July 12, 2021

Torchlight Issue #1 has Released (Swords & Wizardry / SWL / SWCL Zine)

Well, it's finally here. All delays are mine and mine alone. There is a reason this will never be a Kickstarter project run by myself ;)

Torchlight Issue #1 has been released in PDF, with the hope of a limited run of print copies available at Shire Con. Definitely in time for GameHole. These will be printed by Mixam and the quality should be outstanding.

The cover price for Torchlight Issue #1 in PDF is 3 bucks for 36 pages, cover to cover. We have articles (and an adventure) from James Spahn, Michael "Bad Mike" Badolato, and John Healy II.

Glen Hallstrom did the cover and Jeff Jones did the layout.

Unlike the Torchlight Premiere Issue, this is a full-size zine :)

If you buy it via this link: Torchlight Issue #1 - you can snag a copy for 2 bucks. If you have purchased prior S&W releases from me, check your DTRPG email for potentially a deeper discount.

Additionally, I'm putting Swords & Wizardry Continual Light on sale for a buck via the link above - also normally 3 bucks. Work is commencing on a digest-sized version of SWCL - new layout, new art, new cover art, and a micro setting and adventure from James Spahn. Phew. Again, hoping to release it in time for GameHole with a limited print run, again via Mixam.

As always, thank you for the support. Work on Torchlight Issue #2 will commence after we wrap up the Digest Sized Edition of S&W Continual Light :)



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You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube 

or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar  


Sunday, July 11, 2021

Is Rules as Written Really Still a Thing?

 

Is Rules as Written Really Still a Thing?
I was scrolling through Facebook, which as an aside I'm kind of sad to see Facebook supplant Forum Boards as seemingly the place to find interaction between players online, and I came across a request from one GM on how to do something Rules As Written (RAW).

That was a playful "lovetap" to the nuts because I have a love/hate relationship with RAW.

Unless you've not read much of my previous posts, which I wouldn't blame you, you'll know I used to play quite a bit of HackMaster and organized a lot of tournaments for KenzerCo. Thing is tournaments really require everyone to play RAW so there is a baseline for fair play. Believe me, this is a HUGE pain in the ass.

Now one thing you probably don't know about me is that I am extremely predicable when playing a new game system: I always try to play the best archer I can make. Now I do like archers, but not enough to warrant this choice. No, I always run archers first because this gives me a baseline to compare the different systems.

I mention this because archers, more specifically Fighters specializing with a bow, kind of suck at the 1st/2nd Edition + home rules blend that was HackMaster 4th Edition. Big cost, terrible payoff and at high level fricken Crossbow specialists were as fast (if not faster) than bow specialists! What was worse was the firing in combat rules....well not the rules so much, but the RAW work-around.

I won't go too far into the weeds here, but what would happen is if you wanted to fire into combat, as a player you would specifically indicate you were trying to make an extremely difficult called shot on a friendly combatant! I think the most common was telling the GM, "My guy is aiming to shoot off the left piggy toe of my buddy engaged over there in melee."

You see, RAW had the GM secretly determining the "actual" target the PC ended up aiming at, based on size, and then if the "actual" target aligned with the the declared target, all those called shot penalties were applied. If they didn't align basically all the penalties went away.

Now I was able to write a new set of rules handling a couple of archer issues that was accepted by HackJournal, so they basically replaced this mess and became new RAW, but every time I hear Rules as Written I inwardly cringe, thinking of how many perfectly good games have been tainted by bad rules.

OK, "bad rules" might be a bit of an oversimplification and a judgement call, but I know I've seen plenty of what I think are bad rules. Thing is we all have what we think are great ideas. Things we think we can do better, and sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong. I got to write up some drowning rules for the new/current edition of HackMaster when writing an adventure and they were thrown out in favor of some much clunkier rules that probably fit better with the existing rules. I remember thinking my rules were better at the time, but I'm biased, and I cannot even remember what they were, so they couldn't have been all that.

Now I could be waaaaay off-base here, but I think that this whole idea of people (ok, game designers) thinking they know best and some inherent desire to play RAW is one of the reasons we have some many, gobs even, of OSR game systems right now. It seems like everyone has their own take on B/X and access to a printing press. Now don't get me wrong, there's a lot of great stuff out there now, but there's a lot I look at once and think, "I don't see the point".

I've already mentioned that I have a love/hate relationship with RAW and what I'm seeing really makes me think that I'm not alone in this regard. Thinking about the current market for these OSR games, and what I perceive as a potentially-fractured-but-not-really player base what I've concluded is that the average GM/players kind of wants a RAW game, but ends up taking the closest system to their liking and lays a few tweaks to the rules for use in their game. Sometimes a lot of tweaks......

I'm totally cool with this BTW and it really describes how I play. I really (think I) want a crunchy RAW game, but I've yet to find a system that has everything I want, but I (pretty much just now) have come to the conclusion I'm never going to find it unless I publish my own variant....which I'm NEVER going to do (ability, motivation, funds, ROI....take your pick)...and that's OK.

Taking my current home-game I'm in as a player for example. There are a few things I'd like to see rules-wise in the game, but it totally occurs to me that it really doesn't fucking matter. For example: I'm running a Magic User and think it'd be great to use my old HackMaster rules to figure out the details on my spellbook. Number of pages, size, etc. I don't need my GM to add that to the RAW to make me happy as I can easily just do that myself and say I'm lugging around this massive tome and I have my backup spellbook with my henchman. Also, by not having this huge ruleset available to essentially restrict us in how we do things he can introduce new rules....that could be good or can suck balls. Either way there is an extra level/layer of fun because of this unknown quantity.

I'm kind of looking forward to GMing again in the future. Oh I'll be running a RAW game, but it definitely won't be single writer/publisher ruleset. No, it'll probably be Old School Essentials as a base with a generous helping of New Big Dragon Games Unlimited stuff, a lot of d30 tables, and whatever cool shit my players bring me (that we agree on!). Yes, you Magic User will have that big-assed clunky spellbook, but how that gets figured out will not be a RAW situation.







As a bit of an aside, and more like extended/recommended reading, if you have access to Gary Gygax's Master of the Game, Chapter 6 would be a good read. Just saying.

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