Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
In case you're not hep to Earl Dumarest of Terra, check out the second half of this old post. Jacob, you're copy of the Miscellaneum goes out in the mail tomorrow. Thanks for the book, dude!
The second order of business is to provide taichara with whatever assistance is needed to get this book made and listed for sale. Illustrators, editors, publishers, cheerleaders of all sorts, heed this call!
There appear to be no other items on the agenda, so get cracking!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I played Synnibarr in Raven’s group in Seattle in 1992 & 1993. It was indeed the center of this threefold model. Synnibarr is in some ways an awesome demonstration of what you can get if you take the basic D&D form, and let an idiosyncratic adventurer of a DM just homebrew and build on top of it for YEARS, adding in new rules for all the stuff and every genre he wants to play with, under the occasional influence of illicit substances. It is to some extent the idea behind Blackmoor (fantasy + superscience) and Judges Guild (no limits on your imagination) taken to the extreme, with superhero stuff added in. Rave's pretension was in many ways a natural extension of EGG's comments about AD&D in the books and in Dragon.
Raven’s game was awesome fun to play in, BTW. The game system is a mess, and he embarrassed himself online trying to defend it, but he was a very talented and charismatic GM. One of the most fun I’ve ever played with.
Even so, I'm pretty sure I win the weekend. While you all were squandering your free time on the internets I was hanging out with my buddy Pat, enjoying mind-enriching/numbing TV and eating too much food. We saw the Doctor Who serial "The Mind Robber" (The Karkus rules, by the way), a couple episodes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and a metric crapload of Planet of the Apes and Star Trek cartoons.
Anybody reading the ol' Gameblog ever participate in the chess variants hobby? I haven't been active in several years, but in the past that scene spent a fair amount of time trying to define the term "chess" and also inventing new variants that intentionally push the limits of the various proposed definitions. For the most part, I don't give a crap about finding a final, definitive bright line that can be drawn such that everyone can agree games in group A "are" chess and games in group B aren't. Personally I just like puttering around with chess variants and don't need the certainty of an exacting definition to do that.
I pretty much feel the same way about old school gaming. Even if we all agreed to a definition, some edge case would come along and set off a new round of discussion. That being said, the discussion itself and the process of inquiry could still be useful. The destination might be lame but that doesn't have to color the entire voyage. For example, without this weekend's brouhaha we might never have gotten this extremely useful post from Alex Schroeder or this delight from Amityville Mike.
Besides, I've already given the hobby an exhaustive theoretical framework to use. Why everyone in the old school movement doesn't just adopt my threefold model as the gospel truth remains one of life's little mysteries.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I haven't gave either of them a thorough read yet, but The Adventurer's Tale is one more game of elves and swords and gold pieces. I certainly don't need another of those, but I'm not about to turn my nose up at one either.
Teen Island kinda looks to be sort of like the movie The Breakfast Club meets the reality show Survivor. Or Total Drama Island: The RPG, if you're familiar with that cartoon series. Only Teen Island seems to have more murders.
This game is the exact sort of oddball thing I would run once at a con just for the hell of it, like the time I ran Philippe Tromeur's Wuthering Heights Roleplay. Even better, a big chunk of the game is devoted to big random event charts. Here's a couple shots of the interior:
Randy sent me this cool set of 24 maps on this heavy creamy paper. The maps can be arranged to make on bigass campaign map. Also included is a sheet of transparent plastic with a hexgrid at 4 hexes to the inch. Here are three of the maps:
And here's a close-up scan of an island comprising about one third of one of the maps:
Randy didn't know anything about these maps, as he bought them as part of a lot. But on map 24 is the word "Archaeron", which rang a faint bell as having something to do with Chivalry & Sorcery, one of the original too-complicated-for-its-own-good D&D descendants. So I hit my first source for information on obscure old gaming products, Lawrence Schick's book Heroic Worlds.
Sure enough, Archaeron was the name of Wilf Backhaus's game system and campaign setting. Wilf was one of the co-creators of C&S, but he later released Mage and Warrior, which Schick describes as "similar" to C&S. No other products are listed for the Archaeron line, but obviously a map set was produced at some point. Many of the maps feature real place names from England. I'm not sure if the names are borrowed or if the geography is actually British. At this small scale it's hard for me to tell. There are a few places labeled as belonging to witches and wizards and such, but otherwise these maps look pretty pseudo-historical. No fire swamps or glass seas or anything like that.
One other cool thing is that a previous owner noted in pencil that one of the castles, a large black triangle labeled 'Albion' had been ruined. I love evidence of past use like that.
I can't find a scale listed on the maps. I'm thinking that .2 mile/hex, used in the Judges Guild campaign hexagon system for zoom-in maps, might work. Incidentally, here's a fairly recent game article by Mr. Backhaus that's kinda neat.
Thanks for the stuff, Chris and Randy! I hope to mail out your books tomorrow.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Shatner's first big film role came in 1956 as the youngest of the Brothers Karamazov, starring alongside Lee J. Cob, Richard Basehart and Yul freakin' Brynner. Yul Brynner is cool enough he could support his own weekly web celebration, but I will leave that to others.
Jason Brezinski sent me this pic. Thanks, dude!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
So last night magic-user Reginald Featherweight, his gnomish henchman Johan Waywocket, thief Sylvia Corvine, cleric Deric Holyborn and hireling Abrog the Drunkard continue with more Blackmoorian hijinx. The group has become obsessed with those giant magical berries that can be found in the vicinity of Blackmoor, buying several and experimenting on rats with them to learn their effects. They're pretty sure one particular color of maxiberry grants giant strength and another gives control over giants. At least that's what they think. And thanks to currying favor with one of the elves that runs the renfaire/carnival outside Castle Blackmoor, they even got some direct from the delivery elf, neatly cicumventing the berry merchant's sizeable markup.
A chunk of the session was spent debating the merits of maxiberry use, possible preperation techniques, experimental procedures, etc. And and a fair amount of time was spent on discussing the berries with the berry merchant, their elf contact, his cousin the berry salesman and the local alchemist. So this was probably the least hacky and most talky session so far. But we did see some dungeon action.
The first encounter of the night involved the party stumbling into a lair of several dozen goblins. Our heroes opted to run away from such overwhelming numbers and Reginald's timely use of a hold portal scroll played out well in their favor. Later when the goblins got out of their lair something dark and terrible killed several of them. Something that apparently uses the dungeon rats as eyes and ears. Now Deric Holyborn responds to rats with flaming oil.
The best part of the night was the wandering wraith. The players weren't sure exactly what they encountered, but it wore a dark hooded robe from the sleeves of which protuded white skeletal claws. And it's face was nothing more than two shining red beams of hate where its eyes should be. Deric immediately turned the thing and it fled down one of the zillion spiral staircases to level 2. But here's the cool part: earlier they had found the janitor's broom closet, so they went back and got a bucket. They poured three vials of holy water into the bucket and placed it on top of the doorway, just like the old practical joke! I liked this plan so much I decided it would automatically work. A few turns later they heard an unearthly shriek. The party returned to the location of their booby trap to find nothing remained of the wraith but his obiwan robe. Which Abrog later sold for a couple cheap drinks.
One question I felt underqualified helping Dane with was the selection of a starting module. He'd really like the assistance a good intro module gives a first-time DM, but I don't know much about the range of available 2nd edition adventures. I could lend Dane my Keep on the Borderlands and/or Village of Hommlet, but I thought I'd first ask all you nice Gameblog readers for advice. Is there a good starting adventure made specifically for 2nd edition? Better yet, is there one somewhere on the internet? I don't want to send an enthusiastic newbie off to eBay to scour for old stuff if there are handier options available.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
(Admit it, you clicked the NSFW one first, didn't you?)
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Anyway, today I wanted to list off some of my other projects I've been kicking around.
- A small numbered hexmappy sandbox for Mutant Future, that I plan to submit for a future issue of Fight On! The hardest part is a map that I can live with.
- Conversion/adaptation notes for using stuff from Tom Moldvay's Lords of Creation in Encounter Critical, as suggested by Mike David Jr. This would go into the files section of the EC yahoo group.
- A Holmes Basic D&D adventure based upon the works of Tom Wham. This would be run at the next Winter War, then posted as a free PDF.
- A non-Vanthian outerspace adventure thingy for Encounter Critical based upon a "planet of the week" format. Either run as a mini-campaign for the Lords of Awesome players or a similar group, as a Winter War outing, or both. Then posted on the internets.
- Issue #2 of phasic, my one-man two-page Encounter Critical fanzine. Another free download in the EC yahoo group file section. This one is maybe 50% written at this point.
- Tackling my Saikaido ideas as a mini-gazetteer series for Mike Davison's Ruins & Ronin.
- For over a year I've been kicking around ideas for an article on mystic tomes in the Wilderlands, with the idea of selling it to James Mishler's Adventure Games Publishing. I don't have any real desire to be a freelancer, but he seems to be the best outlet for such a project. And James is cool.
Crap on a stick! I didn't realize that list was so long until I typed it all up.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Better search the bottom for secret compartments and stuff.
Oh, ho! Hopefully the party hasn't spotted these and I can slip them into my beltpouch!
Encumbrance is an important consideration when selecting dungeoneering equipment.
I'm off to correct the text and upload a revised file. Pat, thanks for digging that new url up!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Most saves improve by 10% at each critical level (4th, 7th, 10th, and 13th for fighters) but a few saves improve by 15% at these junctures. In the case of the fighter Dragon Breath improves by +3 on two places on the progression, which is why it eventually ends up at a 5 or better at 13th level, just like wands. Observation: to pimp over a fighter make the character save versus Staves & Spells, to give him an easy save go with Death Ray or Poison.
Starting saves for M-U's suck donkey balls like everyone else but they stay sucky for a long time owing to the improvements not coming until levels 6, 11, and 16. But a few +3 improvements in the chart allow high level magic-users to end up vaguely comparable with the other members of the party. Staves & Spells is a unique case on the OD&D charts. Magic-users start out with a pisspoor 15+ to save, but at 6th they get a +3 bonus. Then at 11th they get +4 and at 16th level they get a whopping +5! That means the mightiest of M-U's only need a 3 or better to save vs. Staves & Spells. My uncle used to always say "You can't kid a kidder." I guess "You can't magic a mage" is equally valid.
Per Supplement I: Greyhawk the M-U chart is also used for Thieves.
Like M-U's, Clerics aren't very good at saving versus dragon breath. Must be why those guys always try to send the lone knight to slay all those wyrms. Staves & Spells, Dragon Breath, and Death Ray or Poison all get two +3 pushes, but the Staves & Spells goodness comes early in the cleric's career while the other two are delayed until later. I'm not sure what that means.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I'll admit, though, that I'm considering adding a "radiation" save. Not so much with the purity.Funny you should mention radiation. Allow me to list one more set of saves from a game I have handy.
Poison or Death
The numbers on the MF saving throw chart line up closely with the Labyrinth Lord rules from which Mutant Future is derived, so much so that here are save categories as they appear on my custom World of Cinder GM screen insert:
Breath or Energy
Poison or Death
Petrify, Stun or Paralyze
Wands or Radiation
Spells or Devices
My charts are set up that way so I can drop in mutations and post-apoc tech at a moment's notice.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Death Ray or Poison
All Wands -- Including Polymorph or Paralization [sic]
Staves & Spells
Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic
Petrification or Polymorph
Rod, Staff or Wand
Spell or Magic Staff
Death Ray or Poison
Turned to Stone
Moldvay Basic & Cook/Marsh Expert
Death Ray or Poison
Paralysis or Turn to Stone
Rods, Staves or Spells
Paralysis/Turn to Stone
Paralyzation, Poison, Death Magic
Rod, Staff, or Wand
Petrification, HackFrenzy, HackLust, Polymorph
Poison or Death
Petrify or Paralyze
Spells or Spell-like Devices
Death Ray or Poison
Paralysis of Poison
- One of the interesting things I see here is how the various categories evolve, couple, and de-couple. Poison and Death/Death Magic/Death Ray are always the same category of save, but Wands may or not have anything to do with Staff.
- I could totally see an OD&D referee using the Stone category for non-petrification attacks. "You hit a tripwire and several blocks of granite fall from the ceiling, save versus Stone or take 3d6 damage." And you could use the ODD Staves category for Robin Hood-style quarterstaff throwdowns, maybe a save versus Staves to avoid tripping or being knocked out.
- Death Magic is okay, save verus just plain Death is widely applicable (a fact I exploit in my Labyrinth Lord house rules), but nothing beats making people save versus Death Rays.
- A saving category called Dragon Breath implies that non-draconic breath weapons don't allow a save unless specifically indicated. This is a special case of the broader principal that may or may not inform your own game. I tend to assume that the category names Mean Something, in that if an attack form doesn't obviously fall under one or more category on the chart then the implication is that a save isn't allowed.
- In most editions Wands are the second save listed, but AD&D they're third. This matters when I run because of a rule of thumb I use. Some attacks fall under mutliple possible saves. Like a dragon breath attack that is poison gas or a wand of paralyzation. Sometimes the monster/item/whatever description tells you what to save against, but sometimes it doesn't. In the latter case I give precendence to saves listed earlier on the chart. So a Staff of the Gorgon (which I just made up) would use the Petrification column. I'm pretty sure I read this rule somewhere years ago, maybe an old Sage Advice? I dunno.
- Man, HackMaster is weird.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Exhibit 1, the Old School Renaissance publishers list:
Brave Halfling Publishing
Chris Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy RPG
Elf Lair Games
Expeditious Retreat Press
Fight On! Magazine
Geoffrey McKinney's CARCOSA
Open Game Table
Prime Requisite Games
Randall Stukey's Microlite74
The Warlock's Home Brew
Ye Old RPG Items
The ZeFRS Collective
Zodiac Gods Publishing
Exhibits 2a, 2b, and 2c, the YourGamesNow publishers:
Not everyone on the OSR list sells through YourGamesNow. My off-the-cuff thinking is that everybody in OSR who sells pdf products should try be trying to get listed with YourGamesNow. I can't think of any advantage gained by letting Lulu serve as your sole PDF vendor and YGN's co-op structure seems like a good fit with the general tone of the OSR scene.
So, do any of the folks on the first list have a reason for not wanting to deal with YourGamesNow? I can see not being interested if, like Carcosa and Fight On!, the publisher has a preference for print sales. Any other factors I'm not considering?
And to the Gameblog readers in general, would it make a difference if a PDF you wanted was listed at one or the other of these options?
The Ace/Lancer Conan paperbacks
the Howard Pyle versions of Robin Hood and King Arthur
Bronze Age Marvel comics of various sorts
the original Star Wars trilogy
Thundarr the Barbarian
the two Conan flicks
Monty Python & The Overused Quote Machine
Raiders of the Ark
Doctor Who, the show and various novelizations
lesser 80's sword movies like Hawk the Slayer & Clash of the Titans
Ghostbusters (but not the sequel)
Land of the Lost
Carl Sagan's Cosmos
Disneyworld (particularly the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion)
various books with watered-down retellings of fairy tales
My list is light on fantasy fiction because I spent a lot of my youth reading nonfiction. To this day I have read very few of the novels that most D&D players seem to enjoy.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Arneson's notes for the dungeon are extremely sparse. Most rooms are listed something like this:
2. 14 spiders, Ac 2, 18 HTK [that's Hits To Kill]
That meant a lot of making stuff up on the fly based upon a few stats and a sketchy map. I live for crap like that. The party did a good job of foiling a poisoned chest trap with ropes and ingenuity when the thief's detect-o trap-o failed. The six corpses in the room strongly suggested the presence of a trap despite the roll.
I had intended for the mysterious appearance of Blackmoor Castles and Environs to be a one-off affair, but at the end of the night the players were itching to go back in. They even bought extra stakes and whatnot to deal with the vampires lurking reputedly about the joint. So I think the Blackmoor dungeons are here to stay. At least until a bad run-in with the vampires sends the group scurrying back to Stonehell.
Speaking of which, with only a small section of level one of Blackmoor under their belt the players noticed it was a much less cramped environment than Stonehell. The relatively high density of stuff in Stonehell is about the only criticsm I could level at that fine dungeon. It feels a little claustrophobic at times, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I certainly don't want to discourage Amityville Mike from continuing to strive to pack every ounce of awesome he can into his excellent creation. Still, it was interesting to see the the players pick up on this issue.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The subsector size was determined by Grim's Blank Hex Sheet. My plan is to map and key one subsector at a time instead of trying to lay out a whole JG regional map at one go. For those times when I want to zoom in further than the 1 hex = 5 miles scale I plan to use either the Judges Guild campaign hexagon system map if I need to zoom in on just one hex or one of Lord Kilgore's maps if I need multiple adjacent hexagons.
My plan is to start in the northeast corner with Choshu. Since that's part of Honshu, the biggest of the Japanese islands and home to the imperial court, I plan on making that into starting area for new PCs. Sort of an Basic D&D region for Oriental Adventures, targeted specifically at character levels 1 to 3. Once you leave that map all the normal non-scaled hazards of sandbox play would kick in.
I'm still musing over the rules. On the one hand, this campaign concept began as "what if I actually did something with Oriental Adventures?" So my first inclination is to run those rules straight. On the other hand, some of those rules are a big pain in the ass. I'm thinking particularly of the extra little fiddly bits of chargen, such as generating a family, selecting proficiencies and buying equipment when both the money and the pricelists are totally different. Mike D's Ruins & Ronin is an obvious alternative, but I actually like all the different crazy class and race options in OA, as well as the spells, the rules for honor and families, and the charming if broken martial arts system.
Maybe the correct solution is to hack the OA rules to make them more friendly for newbies who just want to sit down ad roll up a character. In particular:
- Random charts for assigning proficienies to starting characters
- Pregenerated starting equipment
- One-throw birthrights chart
- Pregenerated clans
- Pregenerated starting spell lists for Wu Jen
The real issue as far as the rules probably comes down to figuring out which is easier: starting with Ruins & Ronin and adding OA-like elements or starting with OA and adjusting to taste.
Warhammer FRP isn't like D&D, and the monsters don't automatically carry gold and magic items. D&D is about quests for glory and riches; WFRP pretends to be the same, but in fact is about the PCs' day-to-day fight for survival in a universe that hates them. If you don't finish each adventure worse off than when you started it, your GM is doing something wrong. If you find yourself in a WFRP adventure and not knee-deep in shit then duck, because another load is past due.--James Wallis in "Yes I Sank Your Barge", his reply to "How James Wallis Ruined My Character's Life"
Monday, May 04, 2009
There will be three different versions of The Miscellaneum available as simultaneous releases. The print-on-demand version will be $5.50 and available from the Old School Renaissance storefront. The PDF download will be a buck and at the same place. I guess technically I'll have a store of my own at Lulu, but I'm pointing people to OSR. Maybe you'll see something else you'll want to pick up while you're there.
Finally, I'm making my own 'extra special edition' booklets for those of you who'd prefer to deal with me rather than lulu, even knowing you'll get a less-than-professional ashcan edition by going that route. There's a catch though. The extra special edition is not for sale. At least not for mere money. If you want one of these bad boys you need to trade for it. You send me something cool, I send you a Miscellaneum in return. We both pay our own shipping and call it even. The process will work something like this:
1) I post here that the book is out.
2) You email me "will trade X for a special edition"
3) I say yay or nay. No dickering.
4) If I say yay you send me your item, when I get it I send you a copy.
Please note that I will not consider any offers received before the release date. Also I'm only making like ten copies of the extra special edition, because I don't want to go broke mailing a bunch these things out to people.
I am primarily interested in getting something game-related that you made yourself. It doesn't have to be up to any professional standard of presentation, just something I can read and maybe use in my own game. Or maybe I'll just talk about it in a future blog post. Another option is to try to pass off on me some crappy old supplement or module you'd like to be rid of. Doesn't hurt to try. Regular readers of this blog ought to know the kind of crap that might amuse me, so feel free to offer stuff that isn't directly game-related.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
It's the first ShatnerCon with William Shatner as the guest of honor! But after a failed terrorist attack by Campbellians, a crazy terrorist cult that worships Bruce Campbell, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner.Thanks to everyone who emailed this to me!