August 29, 2016

New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #5

Yesterday, two of our players couldn't make it so we said their characters were staying in town while the rest explored Dwimmermount again. They were 2 clerics, a fighter, a retainer, 2 animal trainers, some ponies, some hunting and tracking dogs, some birds, and some war dogs too. They quickly found some stairs leading down to the 2nd level of Dwimmermount and encountered some hobgoblins after fighting their way past the guards.

 The hobgoblins looked at the size of this party and quickly left, leaving behind their bag of loot in order to discourage the party from hunting them down. This worked and there were some interesting moral quandaries as the party discussed if the they should hunt down the hobgoblins before the hobgoblins came back in bigger numbers. They really missed the other two players as their characters are more gung-ho about taking out any obstacles to their dreams of power and riches. Anyway, they decided to let the hobgoblins be and so some more exploring.

 They were prepared for most anything so took out some Shadows, some wood golems, and some hell hounds with only some minor wounds. Then they encountered the zombies. They took out the first batch fine but then they found the Zombie Lord and a war dog died and a character took permanent damage as he fell. He now has a messed up knee and can only carry half the weight he normally could. After grabbing the treasure, they decided to head back to town before anything else bad happened and miraculously avoided almost all random encounters.

The one random encounter they did have was a rival adventuring party, which was Typhon's Fist, the party they stole the map from at the beginning of this campaign. The thief was not with the party today so Typhon's Fist did not recognize them but I've leveled up the characters of Typhon's Fist and they will be yet another thing to deal with in Dwimmermount.

August 01, 2016

The size and weight of 10,000 gold pieces


I was reading this comic and, being an RPGer, I wondered, "Can 10,000 coins really fit in that bag? And wouldn't that weigh 1000 pounds under the old D&D rules?" So I had my daughter, the resident math genius, figure out if 10,000 coins could fit in a bag that size.

She estimated a coin would be about an inch in diameter and .25 inches thick, which would make a coin's volume be .25 x pi x (.5) squared. (Obviously, I haven't taken the time to figure out how to do math symbols in Blogger.) The volume of 10,000 coins would be 10,000 times that, which is about 1962.5 cubic inches.

The volume of a sphere is 4/3 x pi x (radius) cubed. So after plugging in the numbers and solving for the radius, we get 7.768 inches or a sphere about 15.5 inches in diameter, which happens to be about the size of the bag in the comic!

But the thousand pounds is obviously off. Doing some Googling, I found that AD&D2e changed the weight of coins so now 50 coins = 1 pound instead of 10 like before. That would make the bag in the comic weigh 200 pounds and, looking at historical weights of coins, that's pretty close to what they would weigh.

Hagar must be amazingly strong (as strong as Hercules?) to lift that 200 pound bag of 10,000 coins with one hand!

How do you handle the weight of coins in your game?


New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #4

I can't believe it was 2 and a half months since we played last! Well, we finally got together again and resumed from where we left off last time. They took out some more gnolls and then met the gnoll king and his pet giant black widow spider. They were a bit freaked out but took them both out without anyone dying. We then decided we were done with the caves and they would go back to the city to spend their loot. On the way, however, I found out I'm a softy GM. I rolled for wilderness encounters and got a unicorn. The character who get her legs rendered useless last time crawled toward the unicorn and asked if it could heal her. So I had the unicorn take her to a church in the city and the priest healed her legs. The others caught up with her and then started spending.

It's funny what they want to buy. One character has bought 6 war dogs. Another got a baby dragon. I'll find out what their final choices are when we get to play again later this month.

July 27, 2016

Appendix N Review: The King of Elfland's Daughter

This is the 78th anniversary of Gary Gygax's birth. He brought the game Dungeons & Dragons to existence and I'm so thankful for that as it's an amazing game. He passed away a little over 8 years ago, yet another reminder that time marches on for all of us. In Gygax's famous Appendix N, written for the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, one of the books listed is The King of Elfland's Daughter, which has to do with time.

In Elfland, time doesn't exist. The shadows never grow longer, day never turns to night, and people never age. Since it doesn't exist, the inhabitants of Elfland are fascinated with our world, where time exists and people are sometimes frivolous and sometimes serious, since time presses upon them.

It's told as a prolonged fairy tale and really highlights that the timeless elves are so very alien to us caught in time (and we to them). I highly recommend reading the book and discovering it for yourself.

Today, we remember that time marches on, shadows change, day turns to night and night to day, and people live and die. But we also remember that some things are timeless, like a wonderful little game that Gary Gygax shared with us.

July 18, 2016

An Underwater Campaign

About 11 months ago, I decided I wanted to play an OSR RPG with my daughter, one on one. She was 14 then and we decided to use Basic Fantasy with some of the rules from Sine Nomine Publishing for solo roleplaying. Our campaign setting was all going to be in the ocean. We looked through the player character choices in the D&D supplement PC3: The Sea People and she liked the shark-kin. Using that and an AD&D supplement Sea of Fallen Stars, we were off!

We started out with her character being a survivor from a kraken attack and then going to the capital city of the ocean , Myth Nantar. There, she went on a mission with a young trition and they rescued from other shark-king from some pirates. My daughter then played all 3 shark-kin as they went exploring and found some sea goblins and others who were kidnapping magic-users. Investigating this, all but one of the shark-kin died so it went back to its home tribe, trying to enlist help. Instead, it found a coup had happened in the tribe. Finding some friends, the shark-kin PCs got the former king back in power but then were disappointed to find out the king was going to war with Myth Nantar! They fled the tribe and decided to warn the city of what was coming.

After warning the city, the shark-kin were then sent to find out what had happened to great magician friend of the city that had gone missing. They eventually find him, about to be sacrificed to a kraken! They rescue him and he repays their kindness with a few magical items and they go back to Myth Nantar to see what they can do.

They find the city under siege so they help fight off some invaders and find that aboleths are helping the shark-kin army. The aboleth tells them that it is trying to fight off the kraken and needs the magic-users to become powerful enough to stop it. The PC decide to fight the aboleth and defeat it but lose another PC. Also, before leaving to get help, the PCs see a bunch of deep ones summoning a kraken. The surviving shark-kin decided to raise an army of magic-users, each with magic missile so the magic items are sold and a 100 magic-users are enlisted in the quest.

They go back and find the kraken has destroyed Myth Nantar and is digging through the rubble. It tells them telepathically that it is going to open a portal to the plane of water elementals so it can drown the entire world and rule the planet. Initiative is rolled and magic missiles go flying but this kraken has magic resistance which wards off some of them. It was a great fight with 89 of the magic-users and one of the PC shark-kin dying but the kraken was finally destroyed. The PCs will now be famous if we return to the campaign.

May 30, 2016

Appendix N Review: Lin Carter's World's End series

I just finished reading Lin Carter's World's End series (Warrior of World's End, The Enchantress of World's End, The Immortal of World's End, The Barbarian of World's End, and The Pirate of World's End). It's also known as his Gondwane series as that's the name of the last continent on Earth in the year 700 million AD, when the stories are set.

The series is quite imaginative and seems to be a great influence on Gamma World. There are Hoppers, which are like a cross of goblins and rabbits, mobile plants, mobile vegetables, mobile cities, mobile castles, mobile mountain ranges, and mobile islands! There are Death Dwarfs, green-skinned dwarves that eat poison, gyraphonts, lobster-ghouls that flit between dimensions, and strange little men of the hills, which are a mineral lifeform - sort of an earth elemental. There are also tigermen, red amazons, Ximchak barbarians, great magicians who create mythological beings like sphinxes, and the talking heads of Soorm. There is a flying construct in the shape of a bird named Bazonga, there is an enchanted forest which causes all who stay in it to fall asleep, and the Omega Triskelion, which is an entry to other worlds.

While these are not great novels, they are great RPG sourcebooks. In fact, each book has a map of the area and an appendix which gives more detail. In the first 2 books, the appendix is a glossary of names and terms. In the last 3, the appendix is a glossary of places. Also, do not overlook the many footnotes in the books, which are mostly humorous and give additional information.

There are a couple of reviews for Warrior of World's End here and here and Grognardia mentioned Giant of World's End, which was written before this series and is set chronologically after the series. I have not yet read Giant but am looking forward to it.

May 16, 2016

New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #3

I screwed up this session. Let me explain. So the group had just got back from the city where they had sold their loot and bought cool stuff. They headed back into Dwimmermount armed with the knowledge that there was a treasure vault guarded by a powerful undead and they were carrying lots of holy water and had an even picked up an additional cleric (to replace the fighter that died last session). They head over to where the deceased dwarf said the vault was located (after narrowly avoiding a poison gas trap). They picked the lock, brandished their holy symbols, got their holy waters ready, and opened the door. Then a quite a few lucky rolls happened and the undead was vanquished without ever getting to attack. Some kobolds came to investigate but they quickly retreated as the lucky rolls continued and most of their party became deceased the first round. The heroes grabbed their loot (heavily loaded) and made their way out of Dwimmermount and headed back to town. And here's where I screwed up.

Among the loot was a treasure map that was said to be worth a certain amount of gp. Since I'm giving XP for the worth of all loot taken to a safe place, I gave them the XP for all of that treasure map's gp instead of realizing that was the value of the treasure that the map pointed to and waiting to give them the XP until after they got the treasure. This brought most of them to level 4. Also, they were under the impression they would get even more XP after they got the treasure from this map so they went after it. After an encounter in the forest with some brigands they dealt with by using a sleep spell, they made their way to the Chaotic Caves (modeled after B2). Since the average level was 4, they easily dealt with the goblins and kobolds.

They then took on the gnolls and this where their luck ran out. The gnolls snuck around and attacked from behind and the magic-user was taken down to -2 hp. I had decided previously to use the mortal wounds rules from ACKS so we rolled and found she needs 2 weeks bedrest and is lame in both legs. It was getting late and everyone was tired so we called it a night. The player wasn't sure if she wanted to continue playing that character or go with her backup character. I also let everyone know afterwards that I screwed up so we'll see how it all works out.

April 25, 2016

New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #2

Last week, we stopped and everyone was still in Dwimmermount. They hadn't got in any real combat yet. That all changed this week.

They found some orcs interrogating a dwarf. They were a little fearful at first but ended up taking out the orcs and rescuing the dwarf (after accidentally hitting him with a thrown hammer that missed an orc). The dwarf shared his map with them in exchange for joining the group with an equal part of any treasure found and told how he and his companions had found a treasure room guarded by a power undead that had killed two of his friends. That got their attention!

They decided to work their way back to the entrance but doing some more exploring along the way. Then they ran into another group of orcs arguing about how to divide up a sack of loot. Emboldened by their previous melee with the orcs and the prospect of taking that treasure for themselves, the party charged in. One of the fighters (Blossom: played by my daughter) got hit bad and had only 1 HP remaining. Then that fighter was hit by a stray arrow, killing her. The dwarf they had just rescued also died, killed by the orcs. (The party cheered at that - now they wouldn't have to share treasure with him!) They luckily dispatched the rest of the orcs and grabbed the treasure.

Deciding not to press their luck anymore, they made their way back to the entrance and went to the big city to spend their loot. Along the way, they buried Blossom the Brave. I had recently gotten Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog so they looked through that and the book and another pricelist I had found at Wizardawn. We don't play again until May 14th so while they have most everything picked out already, some things may still change or get added to the shopping list.

I decided to make the travel to the city and back and uneventful (unless they wanted to encounter something) and same with the city itself (they'd only encounter something there if they wanted to). That may change later as the exploits into Dwimmermount become well-known (as then bandits would start patrolling the trade routes and others would be interested in well-dressed adventurers).

Does anyone have a big comprehensive list of things to spend money on (with prices)?

April 18, 2016

New roleplayers in Dwimmermount

I started a new campaign this weekend with my wife ( who has roleplayed a few times but never OSR), my daughter (who I have been playing an OSR game one on one with for the past few months), and three friends of ours who have not played a tabletop RPG before. I decided to use Basic Fantasy (with some optional rules thrown in) and Dwimmermount.

I started them out at a tavern where they tried to get information from a party that had just come from Dwimmermount. The thief also successfully pick pocketed the party's map case and then, with another successful pick pocket roll, replaced it with one of theirs. The map only had a couple of rooms on it as I said this party had only explored a few rooms, encountered resistance and then fled. But the next morning, they hiked to Dwimmermount and then proceeded to not explore those couple of rooms. Instead, they found a lot of empty rooms, ghosts who ignored them, and the face that they're trying to question. They did find some centipedes but closed the door quickly. Also, they ran into a group of kobolds on patrol which they fled from. Finally, as the night grew late (real time), they ran into a group of orcs which took them prisoner without a fight until a crab spider dropped on an orc and in the chaos, the party escaped. They ran through a secret passage the elf had spotted on the way and found a bit of treasure. Next time, we'll pick up from there.

Everyone pretty much knew what to do from videogame experience although I tried to emphasize the differences: orcs could be negotiated with, monsters did not just sit and wait for adventurers before doing things, etc. I also had them make backup characters in order to show them that death may come quickly but they could get back into the action with their backup. We all had a great time and are looking forward to the next time when we find out if our brave adventurers will get out of Dwimmermount alive!

March 11, 2016

Skills in D&D and the philosophy of OSR

One of the big changes in D&D over the years has been the addition of skills. Originally, there were only a few skills: roll a d6 for finding a secret door, for example. Then our friend the Thief was introduced with his many skills. Now we could roll to see how well a thief hides or how silently the he moves.

Of course, there were people asking for spot and listen skills so they can try to find hidden things and listen for those trying to be silent. But that's not how older D&D works. If you're not a thief, you have no skill in hiding and you have no skill in moving silently and the DM and players just have to use common sense to find out if someone can see an unskilled character trying to hide. And characters can't get skilled in trying to spot hidden characters or listen for those silently moving. Everyone can see and listen the same. The real skill is in the hiding and moving so you can't be seen and heard.

That seems the basis for older D&D. Only the remarkable is made into a skill. Moving silently is really hard to do well. So is hiding in shadows or climbing sheer surfaces or disabling a trap. Older D&D gives percentages there but for everything unremarkable, there's no roll. You're an adventurer - of course you can do it! Roll a die if you think there's a chance of failure but it's not remarkable so we're not going to give a rule for it.

That's what I love about old school. I don't want rules for the unremarkable. I only want rules for the remarkable stuff. Let my game be made from the stuff of legends!

March 02, 2016

Making magic rare and adding technology

So my upcoming campaign is going to be based on Dungeon Crawl Classics with one big change. We're not going to use wizards. Instead, we're going to have scientists that will work like wizards in a lot of ways. Instead of spells, they'll have technological gadgets that will need to recharged. (This idea is taken from Warriors of the Red Planet.) Any ideas on how to map casting rolls and spellburn onto a scientist class?

February 17, 2016

My Upcoming Campaign

I love this. It's the implied setting of the original D&D books that came out in 1974 as detailed by Wayne Rossi in his blog. He says of it, "It is wild, and it feels profoundly like the world someone who watched every cheesy science fiction movie about giant monsters and every classic horror film would make."

That's what I want for my next campaign. I want fantasy and science fiction mixed together. I want the crazy tables of Dungeon Crawl Classics mixed with the crazy mutations of Mutant Future and everything in-between. It will start simply, with The Keep on the Borderlands. Who knows where it will go next?

February 05, 2016

Sourcebooks and fluff

I have a strange love/hate relationship with sourcebooks. I like cool new ideas, whether those ideas are rules ideas or adventure ideas. However, I don't like fluff. What's fluff? It's different for everybody but for me it's setting information that doesn't directly affect play. For example, I don't really care about the history of a setting unless that history is repeating itself somehow.

I traded for a bunch of sourcebooks recently and got the following (mostly AD&D 2e but the Survival Guides are AD&D 1e):

The Castle Guide
The City of Ravens Bluff
The Complete Book of Elves
The Complete Fighter's Handbook
The Complete Priest's Handbook
The Complete Ranger's Handbook
The Complete Thief's Handbook
The Complete Wizard's Handbook
Demihuman Deities
Dragons of Triumph
Dungeoneer's Survival Guide
Faiths & Avatars
Monster Mythology
Powers & Pantheons
Tome of Magic
Wilderness Survival Guide
Wizards and Rogues of the Realms

I did some cursory skimming of The City of Raven's Bluff. It's almost entirely a setting book and there's a ton of history in there that doesn't look like it affects current adventure hooks at all. I'm hoping I'm wrong and there'll be tons of adventure hooks that jump out at me when I read it in detail but i have a lot of reading to do and I thought I could ask for your help here.

What is fluff to you? Have you read the books above? Are they full of fluff or full of cool ideas? What are some examples of sourcebooks that you have read that are the best at being full of cool ideas? What are some examples of those are full of fluff in your opinion? What are you looking for in a sourcebook?

January 26, 2016

Basic Fantasy review

Basic Fantasy just turned 10 years old a few days ago. It's an amazing RPG that emulates classic B/X D&D but not strictly. For example, it uses ascending AC, which is really easy to convert from D&D modules: just subtract the D&D AC from 20 and that's the new Basic Fantasy AC. Also, it divides race from class so now you can be a dwarf thief or a halfling fighter if you like. There are a few other differences but pretty much everything else is classic B/X D&D and I love the simplicity. I love the flexibility and the race divided from class adds to the flexibility.

I've run D&D modules and AD&D modules with Basic Fantasy just fine. There also a bunch of free modules and supplements on the Basic Fantasy site. Everything is free and open source and everyone is welcome to contribute. In fact, many of the existing retroclones are based on Basic Fantasy. Take a look at their OGL section and look for the copyrights. That's the beauty of Basic Fantasy - it's a perfect base for you to build the RPG that you want on.

Also, because it is all non-profit, you can get the books at cost through Amazon or Lulu or RPG Now. The rulebook is only a bit over $4 for a softcover. The downside to doing everything for free is that all art is donated and it doesn't have the incredible art you'd get if you buy the latest edition of D&D. The art is good though and some of it is amazing. Please let me know what you think of Basic Fantasy!

January 21, 2016

My Favorite D&D

Dungeons & Dragons has had a lot of editions. It was first released in 1974 as a box of three booklets. Then in 1977, the first Basic set was released along with the AD&D Monster Manual, which was followed by the Players Handbook in 1978 and the Dungeonmasters Guide in 1979. The Basic version was further revised in 1981, then again in 1983, then yet again in 1991. AD&D 2nd edition was releases in 1989 and then revised in 1995. Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, with its d20 system, came out in 2000 and then it was revised in 2003. After that, there was 4th edition in 2008 and then 5th edition in 2014.

Yeah, that's a lot. D&D is 42 years old this year (a special number for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans). So which D&D is your favorite?

I first encountered D&D in 1980, when I perused my cousin's AD&D Monster Manual. Oh, what a picture in my head that gave me! Valiant men & women vanquishing strange monsters and rewarded with magical treasures! I then read through the Basic set in 1983 and by 1984 my friends and I were devising our own dungeons and running each other through them in our idea of what D&D was supposed to be like. I didn't actually get to play D&D, which was actually AD&D, until 1987. I branched out to other RPG systems and then tried D&D again in 2000, when the 3rd edition came out. I never played 4th edition and I recently got the starter box for 5th edition but I haven't played it yet.

I've been reading through the 3rd edition Players Handbook, 1st edition AD&D, and the 1983 version of the Basic Set lately along with a bunch of retroclones. I love the simplicity of the Basic set. Rolls are simple, modifiers are few, and everything seems streamlined so we get right into the play of the game. But then I also love all the options of AD&D and 3rd edition. More races, more classes, multiclassing, and even feats are fun additions to play. And I love the advantage system in 5th edition where you get to roll 2d20 and take the best result (or worst result if you are disadvantaged).

So what's my favorite D&D? I'd say it's Basic with the races and classes from AD&D and the some of the cool character options from 3rd edition and the advantage/disadvantage system from 5th edition and oh, maybe some of the cool stuff I've seen in Dungeon Crawl Classics. My favorite D&D is an amalgamation of a bunch of things and I suspect it's like that for a lot of people. I'd like to write up my favorite D&D sometime and let you all look at it so you can compare it to your favorite D&D.

So what is your favorite D&D?

January 14, 2016

OSR

I've been getting myself acquainted with the old school renaissance (OSR) movement lately, which is a return to RPGs like the older D&D rulesets. There are a lot of them out there. This site is probably the most comprehensive: Taxidermic Owlbear's D&D retroclones. I'll be reviewing many of these in the future.