I've rambled on in the past about my waffling on the OGL. I don't play Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry for the most part. I own the real D&D books - B/X, Rules Cyclopedia, OD&D - and primarily use those as my references when I run my game at the table. I play D&D, as heavily house-ruled as it may be, as opposed to one of the clones. As a result of that house-ruling and such, I need to be able to share those changes and additions with my players. My issue has long been that I also want to share my creations with the online community, but at the same time, I'm too lazy to do it right, all OGL-legal and official.
It was actually this post by Dyson Logos, where he explains his reasoning behind NOT sharing his work in a PDF format, that ultimately clarified my own position on the OGL.
I find great inspiration in the boundless creativity of the online OSR community. Blogs, forums, Google+: These all contribute a wealth of information and like most other gamers I'm sure, I make great use of what I find. Sometimes it's used whole cloth, other times it tweaked, folded or mutilated into something I can use. But for something that will ultimately only be used at my table, I don't want to be bothered keeping track of where exactly I found a particular useful tidbit - who wrote it, it's OGL info if there even is any. Credit where credit is due, yeah that's important, but mostly it's not very recognizable as the original material anyway. To be honest, I don't know where the line is that makes it the original OGL content they shared versus something inspired by that, but no longer the same.
Artwork is also an issue. I;m no artist and my booklets and documents I use at the table are all gussied up with real artists copyrighted works. I don't have permission to use them and could never get it. But you know what? I decided I don't really care. I'm not making a penny sharing this stuff, and I see it as free advertising. If someone ever sees their work in a PDF I post on the blog here and wants it pulled, then just ask and I'll remove it, or put a credit in there if that's enough to satisfy. I'm not a dick.
So here's how it will work going forward. I love to see other peoples house rule books, campaign guides and all that (Outland and Planet Eris, I'm looking at you). It's great to see how they've lovingly done all the layout work to ape the format of the OD&D booklets, or the old Mystara Gazetteers, and that's the cool looking stuff I want to share too. Part of the fun for me is playing around in Photoshop making covers and fiddling with layouts and making things look pretty and "official." Making the houserule and player reference booklets I throw out on the table for my players look like real supplements to the books I use as DM. It is what it is, and I want to share the fruits of those labors. Occasionally, I'll throw a PDF up here someplace for people to look at if they are interested They won't be legal, or OGL compatible in any way. Just your run of the mill fan works. They'll use trademarked D&D terms or TSR era content WOTC won't let us use in OGL products. They'll have art and non-TSR content that may or may not be credited to the creators. These are documents I made for me, not for you, but I also don't want them to languish on my hard drive with no one but me getting any use out of them. Enjoy them for what they are.
Want to use anything I actually wrote myself? Want to keep it legal? I posted here, back in 2011, that stuff I posted here on the blog was shared under the OGL. That will continue to be the case. Like Dyson's maps and content on his blog, the content posted here on the blog is yours to use, and if it contains someone else's OGL content, that will be indicated as required by the terms of the license. Steal away.
Happy Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day everyone! I know you've all got a lot of blogs to get through today, so I'll try not to keep you here too long. Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of blogs with much better content than this sad thing - I just wanted to share a little something and be a part of the fun. I thought I'd take a two-pronged approach and talk just a bit about what I'm doing with S&W. The Kingdoms in Trevail Fantasy Campaign First, know that WhiteBox is my edition of choice. While I like tweaks that Matt added in the "final" version he released into the wild, I ultimately decided to stick with the BHP version. I've got the booklet PDFs, so I can easily print off table copies of only the booklets my players will need to reference, while keeping all the DM info out of their grubby hands. I've also got the hardcover single-volume for my own reference. In the tradition of OD&D, I've got a separate supplement booklet that covers my changes of the core game: new classes and races, house rules and such.
Chrome - A Cyberpunk Supplement I've talked about my love of the cyberpunk genre in the past and won't rehash that here. Suffice it to say, while it's Shadowrun I enjoyed the most, and one I envision doing a retro-inspired game as a long-term project, my shorter-term goal is to hash out a supplement for OD&D, Delving Deeper, S&W or whatever your rules-light system of choice may be. I chose WhiteBox because of it's elegance and the fact that a couple of it's unique features will lend themselves to my vision. Double-statted AC and Single Saving Throw- I'm looking at you! The S&W supplement will let me work out the basics of a near future rules set - firearms, vehicles and drones, computer hacking and so on. Paying the Piper: Some Examples
The "Success Escalation" Skill Check
Within the rules of OD&D is a rudimentary skill system which carried on through the Holmes rules and into the B/X and BECMI box sets. Under those rule sets we see a base 1 in 6 chance for a PC to accomplish a desired task. In addition, there will be special cases where a particular class or race expands those chances to 2 or even 3 in 6.
With that as a base, I use the following system: First, I've established that any PC can attempt a given task at a base 1 in 6 chance of success. If the task is judged to fall within the realm of the PC's class, the base chance of success is increased. At 1st level the base chance of success is 2 in 6. This increases to 3 in 6 at 5th level and 4 in 6 at 10th level.
All skill checks are made by rolling 3d6, with "successes" at the chances noted above, resulting in 1, 2 or 3 successes for a given skill check. In cases where the skill check results in a binary yes/no result, a single success is all that is required for the PC to have accomplished his goal. However, there will often be cases where the degree of success is important. Negotiation for the purchase or sale of merchandise, gathering of information, or perhaps the determination of how long it takes to pick a lock or disarm a trap, for example. One success yields a positive result, but under sub-optimal conditions. Two successes is an average success, merely adequate. Finally, three successes indicates a n exceptional result.
So to illustrate, using the purchase of a rare item as our example:
1 Success - PC barters poorly, item available for purchase, but at 150% of the rulebook price.
2 Successes - Average results, item can be had at the standard price.
3 Successes - PC is a smooth talker, dickers the price down to just 50% of the standard price.
A "Kingdoms In Trevail" Fantasy Race The Orc
The brutish Orc is the most primal of the demi-human races, most typically found in the borderlands and on the fringes of society. Their tough and war-like nature means that Orcs are often employed as mercenary shock troops or scouts for wilderness exploration. Orcish culture tends to be militaristic, as if they themselves realize that the enforcement of strict order is all that keeps them from reverting to wild beasts.
Orcs usually range from 6’ to 6 1/2’ in height and weight 200+ pounds. You must have a minimum Strength of 12 to play an Orc character.
Orcish Race Abilities Character Advancement: Most Orcs advance as Fighters, and may progress as far as 6th level. More rare is the Orc Shaman, who may advance to 4th level as a Magic-User.
Weapon and Armor Restrictions: Seemingly born with a weapon in their hand, Orcish fighters excel in the arts of war and consequently have no weapon or armor restrictions. Orcish shaman have no weapon restrictions, however they are limited to leather armor only.
Saving Throw: Due to their inherent toughness, Orcs make all Saving Throws as if they were two levels higher.
Languages: or campaigns which give each race their own dialect, Orcs should be able to speak the languages of goblins, hobgoblins and gnolls.
Wild Instincts: Orcs have an uncanny ability for threat detection. They will only be surprised on a roll of 1 in 6 and this danger sense applies whether the source is natural, magical or supernatural.
Intimidation: Orcs may use their ferocious reputation and brutish appearance to bully and intimidate others into obedience. They receive a bonus to reaction rolls as if their Charisma were two points higher.
Stealth: When in the wilderness, Orcs are skilled at using the terrain to move without being noticed by his prey or his enemies.
While I do have some of the details of Chrome worked out, I think I'll keep those under my hat a bit longer and save them for another day. There are a heck of a lot more blogs for you to go check out today and I won't keep you here any longer.
Having a 13 year old daughter, it should come as no surprise to anyone in a similar position to know that she wanted to go see The Host this past weekend. Based on a novel by Stephanie Meyer, the brains behind Twilight, needless to say I was not overly enthused. My vote was for Olympus Has Fallen. But being the Dad of the Year, I took one for the team to go see it with her.
I do try to go into these things with an open mind, and maybe pull something interesting from it for my game. The story is essentially a love triangle with a twist. Alien invaders have taken over the planet, aside from small pockets of human resistance. The aliens are a parasitic species who are implanted into a human host body and take it over, usually crushing the original spirit/consciousness of the human. Of course this time it isn't that easy and the original person and the parasitic alien need to share the body, kind of anyway. So, two people in one body, they naturally fall in love with two different people. Blah. Still, not the utter trash I had expected it to be and I did get an idea or two.
NOT this one.
I did like the idea of the parasitic controllers with a noticeable "tell." Infected humans eyes change so it's obvious they are controlled by the aliens. Might be an interesting cyberpunkish future setting point. Aliens controlling people, resistance trying to blend in and can mimic the eyes via surgery or something.
Was it a great movie? No. But if your young tween daughters want to go see it, you could have it worse. It could be Twilight... One thumb up.
So, James over at Grognardia does his thing, and we all follow along like good little lemmings. That said, it's pretty cool to see everyone's RPG collections, so I'm game as well...
Just a very small selection compared to many, it seems. I have tons on PDF, but since it's mostly for reading or reference, not playing, there's no dead tree versions.
Here we have my digest-sized homemade booklets: OD&D and supplements, (including Jason Vey's Conan, Mars, etc.), S&W White Box booklets, digest sized versions of 'zines like ODDities and Footprints, Encounter Critical, Terminal Space and other assorted goodies. My reference stack of Shadowrun/Cyberpunk books. I still have delusions of making a B/X based version someday. Also some binders full of printouts. It's settings mostly: Greyhawk (folio & box), Forgotten Realms (original grey box), the old JG Wilderlands, and a few Mystara Gazetteers.
My other shelf is mostly D&D stuff - some "real" books, others printed and bound. We've got the AD&D 1E core books, my RC, and a pile of either TSR or OSR classic D&D goodies. S&W Core and Complete, a bit of Savage Worlds stuff. I want to run some zombie apocalypse using SW at some point. And yes, even a set of 3.5 core rulebooks. Binders are printouts of modules and Mentzer BECMI.
Even before I starting working on the Caldera map, I was struggling a bit with the question of scale. If one looks to the gold standard of hex mapping - the Mystara/Known World maps from the Gazetteer series - we see that TSR used a few scales, primarily 72, 24 and finally 8 miles per hex.
If you are unfamiliar with these awesome maps, I'll point you to The Piazza, and the archive of maps lovingly recreated by Thorfinn Tait. Go check them out, I'll wait... Good? Then I'll continue.
Starting with the island continents I presented in the last post, I spent quite a bit of time zooming in and out, playing with the hex templates from Welsh Piper. I had a few issues I wanted to hash out: how big, overall, should Caldera be? What combination of scales let's me zoom from a reasonable "atlas" view down to Regional and Campaign Area maps? I knew I wanted my "standard" to be 6 mile hexes rather than the 8 mi of the Mystara maps, having been convinced of the utility of that scale by a number of good articles around the web, which I am too lazy to find and cite for you right now.
Here's where I ended up. First is a new overlay on the mapgen island graphic, scaled to 150 miles per hex, rather than the 300 I shared previously. I can then take individual islands and map them in Hexographer at 30 mi/hex - a 5:1 zoom. That's analogous to TSR's 24 mi maps. Eventually, I can puzzle them all together to recreate the world map overview at 30. From there, I can use the Child Map feature of Hexographer to do another 1:5 zoom and get my Regional maps at 6 mi/hex - right where I want to be. If I want to zoom in one last step for campaign maps, I can go 6:1 and have 1 mile hexes. There is also the option of the Judges Guild hexes that are 25:1, I think, for really close zooms.
Just for comparison's sake, I offer the Known World and Caldera's central 3-Island cluster:
The creation process can be a difficult one for me. I have ideas that I want to integrate into my game, but find that I struggle to put them on paper in a way that satisfies me. My creativity ultimately is quite derivative - I troll the web until I find something, or many somethings, that are close to what I envision, then massage them together and end up with something I'm reasonably happy with. A "big picture" view of my game world was one of the things I have never been satisfied with, but eventually the pieces seem to fall into place.
What if this is the known world?
The first piece of the puzzle was a post just after Christmas by Erin Smale of The Welsh Piper. He points to a cool vector-based creation tool that makes island maps, called MapGen2. I tried my hand at making my own world map but... meh. With maps via MapGen, I'm getting what I really wanted.
A couple of weeks later, a was half-listening to the TV while my kids were watching something and hear a word that flipped a switch in my brain. "Caldera". The gears started to spin, and I began to contemplate a place where the entirety of the world was contained within an enormous volcanic caldera. Like Crater Lake, only... bigger, with each island a continent in and of itself.
The World of Caldera
Some time spent cycling through random island maps garnered a dozen or so that I liked gave me enough to work with. I pulled up Photoshop and set to mixing and matching them, re-sizing, rotating and tweaking to taste. Now I have a starting point and can drop these into Hexographer and move forward.
And so Caldera was born. Drop a couple of Erin's hex templates over the whole thing and I now have a world map (Atlas Template, at 300 miles/hex) and pulled out a Regional map and from there I chose a single 300 mi hex to focus on for my Trevail campaign map.
This bit is pulled from the middle of that triple-island cluster in the center. We'll see what comes of it all.
I'm not sure if I've touched on this in the blog or not - maybe back in one of the first posts. I've played D&D in one form or another since '81. Moldvay ==> 1E ==> 2e from middle school through college. After that I no longer played tabletop, having no regular group to get together with. I continued to get my RPG fix via video games, both PC and console, playing "real" D&D games when I could, and eventually played and enjoyed Bioware's Neverwinter Nights I & II. Those two games in particular were based on the 3.0 and 3.5 rulesets - my only experience with either one. When my then-too-young daughters expressed interest in playing then after seeing me do so, I took the opportunity to introduce them to the tabletop RPG - I mean, who among us would miss that window?
Seeing that 3.5 was too complex, I thought back on my own gaming history and without hesitation realized I wanted the old box set I started with so many years ago as the tool to teach them the game. A bit of internet research led my to RPGNow and PDFs of the Mentzer basic and expert sets - Moldvay/Cook was not available. That was, what, almost 5 years ago now, and one of the girls still plays. A weekly BEMCI game I run, and she's recently started playing 4E with friends from school. Turns out one of the teachers runs a 4E game club and the kids are also playing it on their own. Awesome.
So where is all this going, you ask? Well, here's the thing. I've found myself firmly settled into the Classic family of D&D - whether B/X, BECMI/RC, Labyrinth Lord or whatever. For the level of rules crunch I enjoy and have time to commit to memory, those games hit the sweet spot. But to be honest, if I was a teenager again and had the all but unlimited time to game I did back then, I'd be all over 3.5, or rather Pathfinder now. All those options and reams of fluff would be heavenly. I always loved (and still do) reading game books nearly as much as fantasy fiction. It's a bit of a shame that the kids are playing 4E rather than Pathfinder since it would give me an excuse to blow the $35 on a Pathfinder Beginner Box. I'd love to read it. I had bought a 4E Starter Box out of curiosity over Essentials - I gave her that to use since I never will, having read through it already.
Damn it - get to the point man! Prestige classes? 3isms?
Ok, ok... Despite not wanting the full level of crunch that 3.5 has to offer, it still have plenty of offer my game. Skills and feats, races and classes, monsters and magic: these can all be mined for ideas that I can simplify and use in my game. One idea in particular, though, really interests me - prestige classes. As far back as 2008 was was looking at them and wondering how to incorporate them. Not just 3.5 style classes, but 2E kits and other "advanced" options for non-standard class choices. A year ago, the ever prolific map-maker Dyson Logos - who shares scads of other great content on his blog beyond the maps - did a series of posts on "Glantri-style" prestige classes. The Glantri Gazeteer for Mystara introduced a system of specialized sub-classes - specifically schools of magic - and Dyson took that concept and showed how you could easily use to to introduce any prestige classes you wanted into your game in an amazingly elegant fashion.
I want to use this as the basis for adding some things back into my game. The RC had a wonky system for Paladins, Knights, Avengers and Druids - being something you could switch to after 9th level. Interesting idea, but too limiting for my taste. Cue Glantri as a way to use some of that without creating full class progressions for them.
I can see using the system to add in paladins and knights as specific orders or organizations for fighters or clerics, schools or magic as originally used in Glantri and many other things. Some I'd like to do eventually:
Assassins - not just for thieves either
Martial arts styles - no full monk/mystic needed
Bladesingers or Dwarven Defenders - a little demi-human specialization
Let's show the much-maligned Prestige Class some love, shall we? It's not that bad an idea old-schoolers!