Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anyone need an OD&D cover?

For those who know the dark places to look for such things, there are a couple of versions of the OD&D booklets combined into a single letter-sized volume. I recently reacquired the particular version I like best, after having lost it in a hard drive crash quite a while ago.  This one is formatted in the style of the B/X rulebooks, so I find it suits my tastes quote well.  It was, however, lacking a snazzy cover.  So, I took a bit of time and whipped one up.  While I can't share the book itself here, I can offer my cover for those who want to use it.

The 12 MB PDF is >here<.  Enjoy!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Ten Questions

Late to jump on the bandwagon here, but this seemed like a fun exercise to help nail down some concepts and background for my campaign...

Without further ado, my answers to Random Wizard's "Ten Questions." There are a few other sets of these around and maybe I'll try to answer those too, just to round things out.  We'll see.

Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes, definitely. I cut my teeth on B/X, and still run Classic D&D.  I strongly believe in races being archetypal in my campaigns, so Race-as-Class is a given.  That said, I also believe more variety for my players is better, and makes them happier, so I use the ACKS model of multiple racial classes.

Do demi-humans have souls?
Honestly, I never gave this one much thought.  My players haven't tried to have anyone Raised, so it hasn't come up. I use fey races that do not. My elves are more fey than BTB elves, so they would not either.  The other "standard" demi-humans in Caldera (d
warves, halflings and orcs) do.

Ascending or descending armor class?
Ascending. Heretical, I know.  I use an attack bonus combat system rather than tables or Thac0 and just convert descending on the fly.

Demi-human level limits?

Theoretically, yes.  Got to give they some reason to play humans.  Of course, I haven't had anyone reach the limit either so it hasn't mattered in practice.

Should thief be a class?

Absolutely.  Didn't start on OD&D, so for me the thief has always been a core class.  I don't like the granularity of percentile skills though, and use a modification of the thief in Delving Deeper which allows improvement of the skills.

Do characters get non-weapon skills?

That they can choose from? No. Skills related to your class are built into the classes, plus I'll wing it based on the player's character concept and background.

Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

Eventually, yes.  It's part and parcel of the class.  Just need to survive long enough to develop that power.  When do they take the lead? Not really sure - I suppose that's variable depending upon the spells they've chosen over time.

Do you use alignment languages?

No, don't make any sense to me.  I use cultural/regional human languages instead.

XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?

Primarily just for monsters and gold.  Using your class abilities to reach your objectives is your job.  Do your job, you find treasure and then gain your XP from it.

Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E DD, 4E DD, Next ?

Best is ridiculously objective.  I have my preferences (Moldvay, Mentzer, RC) but pull the bits I like from anywhere I happen to find them, regardless of edition.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

Individual.  It's part of the "balance" between classes as I see it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

More OGL Musings

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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


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.

Happy Gaming - Swords & Wizardry style!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Host


THIS one...
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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bookshelf Lemming

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...

Top Shelf
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.

Bottom Shelf

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.

Cheers!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Map Scaling or How Big Is This Place?

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: