Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy 30th Anniversary!

The Iconic Moldvay Box Set
In 1981, TSR published it's D&D Basic box set, edited by Tom Moldvay.  That famous box with it's dragon adorned cover by Erol Otus was my introduction to the game, as it was for countless others who trace their gaming heritage back to the early 80's.  It's hard to believe that I've been involved with this hobby for 30 years now.

I don't recall particularly being a fan of fantasy when I was young - at least not before I received a copy of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for Christmas while I was in 6th grade.  The following year, Christmas of 1981, the same relative who had given me that Tolkien box set put yet another box under my tree, and it's contents cemented my love of fantasy for the rest of my life.  There is something special about your first time, and I've commented before about how the artwork from this box is what I see in my head when I think "D&D".

My first fumbling attempts at playing the game began quickly, with me acting as DM while my best friend Tim tackled the Caves of Chaos.  I can't really recall any details, but I remember that Tim and I, plus a few others, got involved with a gaming club that met weekly at our middle school library after school. My gaming continued from there, evolving through AD&D, then 2nd Edition as I played through high school and college. I took off a lot of time after that, not coming back to gaming until my kids were older and showed some interest.

Not surprisingly, I went back to that same basic set that I learned on to teach them the game.  There's some variation now, as I meld the Rules Cyclopedia, the Mentzer box sets, Labyrinth Lord and other bits and bobs into my game, but for all that, it's still "Basic" D&D that I play - coming full circle.  30 years, and I'm right back where I started...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Cover Preview?

I'm currently mulling over how I want to share my work.  Do I go the legal route and release under the OGL? I should, yes, but it's a lot more work to create new OGL translations of things in TSR products that I want to use.  They'll be done right that way, of course, and compatible with Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry, or whatever system I choose to publish for.
Art by Gordon Napier, used with Permission
My quandary is that I don't run a LL or S&W game anymore, I run Mentzer D&D, or Rules Cyclopedia, or however you want to refer to it.  So really, at my table, I want the "real" D&D stuff, since I'm using the "real" D&D rules. Sigh. I have some conversations going on a couple of the forums, so if you ahve any thoughts - pop in and offer your opinion there, or do it here.  There are threads at the Swords & Wizardry forum, Dragonsfoot, and the OD&D Discussion forum, if you care.

In the meantime, here's a little taste of what the cover could be, if I go the illegal pseudo-TSR route and ape the trade dress of the Mystara Gazetteer books.  I have permission to use the art in a free product, so even if I have to do my own original cover, it'll be this awesome pic.  My campaign is drifting towards a fey, Irish sort of mythos, and I think this captures that.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIP Dan Wheldon

Dan Wheldon 1978 - 2011
The racing world lost a good man today.  Dan Wheldon died while competing in the IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas.  I met Dan at a couple of races and he was always friendly and a complete gentleman to both me and my girls.  He will be missed.

My heart goes out to his wife and young sons.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TPK = New Beginnings

Begone foul demon!
For the past 5-6 months I have been running a game of Swords & Wizardry:WhiteBox for my kids and some friends.  Sadly, they made some poor decisions last night - their third session in Brave Halfling's fun little "Ruins of Ramat".  In general, the kids have done really well in their tactical decision making and have run when they needed to, to stay alive.  Last night, however, that all came to an end.  The tentacled demonic guardians (see right) proved to much and the party failed to escape.

In a way, this is a good thing, I think.  I started them out using the WB rules to simplify things since a couple of the players were newbies to tabletop RPGs.  My intention all along though, was to roll the campaign over to Classic D&D using the Rules Cyclopedia - my rules set of choice.  We'd discussed it recently and I was getting closer to doing some conversion work on their characters to start using the RC rules.  The TPk actually gives us a chance to start fresh and the kids have ideas for new characters they want to try anyway. At the same time, the discussion of PC choices and what type of game they want to play has allowed me to further develop my view of just what kind of game world Trevail really is and I have some grist for new ideas now.

A TPK isn't a bad thing necessarily - don't be afraid to use it for a new beginning and turn it into a win-win situation for the DM and PCs!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Style Preview

Below are some mock-up front and back covers for a supplement booklet compiling all my house rules and additions for S&W:WB that I use in my game.

Apologies to Mark Allan for ripping his artwork for the cover.  I do credit him inside. :-)  If I was to use this piece, I realize it could only be for my private use and if I shared this supplement on the blog here, it would need to be art free, or at least have artwork I have permission to use.

I've asked Matt Finch, the author and publisher of S&W about the legality of copying the "trade dress" i.e. cover design of his work and this post is primarily a way to show him what I would like to do.  That said, additional comments are always welcome!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A note on the Open Gaming License

Any gaming content that I post here on the blog will be free to use under the terms of the OGL.  I've added a tab at the top of the blog detailing the "core" OGL statement which covers anything I post here.  In addition, at the bottom of my posts, I'll add an "OGL Copyright Addendum" if I've used anything from someone else's OGL materials.

Let me know if that's unclear or if you have any questions!

Monday, July 4, 2011

As promised... A WhiteBox Thief

©Steve Willhite.
I began my gaming career on Christmas Day 1981 when I received the Moldvay Basic box set.  My view of D&D has, therefore, been forever colored by the expectation that it includes FOUR base classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and, for good or bad,Thief.  When I settled on S&W: WhiteBox as my rule set of choice to introduce my middle-schoolers to the Great Game, I felt I needed to add the Thief to the core 3 found in S&W:WB. I spent (as I usually do) far too long searching the interwebz for a Thief I liked - one that "felt right" - since I really do like the streamlined presentation of the classes in WhiteBox.  I found any number of interesting variations and ultimately settled on a couple of core resources for not only the Thief, but most of my other customizations and additions as well.

One is the S&W Companion site and White Box Heroes by Salvatore Macri (skathros) and the other is Knockspell magazine, the house mag for Mythmere Games. There is a ton of information to be mined there, under the OGL, and while it isn't perfect for my needs, it's a great place to start.  So back to the Thief...

This boy has undergone a few changes as I've gotten closer to what's working for me.  I started with the WB Heroes thief, and re-worked the skills to use d6s rather than the d20 skills used originally.  Then I switched things up and used some ideas from Knockspell Issue No. 2.  After more tweaking, I ended up with this one, which I think fits my sense of WB style better. Without further ado...

The Thief

A figure in the shadows, an expert in stealth and delicate tasks, this is the Thief. Locks, traps, and scouting are their trade; they are the eyes and ears of the adventuring party, tackling the inanimate perils of the dungeon itself. In combat they are not the equal of armored Fighters or Clerics, but instead rely on knowledge and specialized skills to get them safely into and out of the dangerous places where treasure is to be found. They are the scouts; the treasure seekers; and when necessary, the deadly blade that strikes from the shadows without warning.

ll Thieves must be either Neutral or Chaotic in alignment.  Elves, dwarves, halflings and orcs may all become thieves with no maximum level limitations.

Thief Class Abilities

Weapon/Armor Restrictions: Thieves may use any one-handed weapon, and they are limited to armor weighing no more than leather. They may not use shields.
When attacking from behind or from hiding (see Stealthy Movement below), the Thief inflicts double damage with a successful attack. At levels 5-8, damage is tripled, and after 9th level the attack inflicts quadruple damage.
Extraordinary Climbing:
Thieves may climb normally inaccessibly vertical surfaces at the rate of 10ft for every two levels per round. At the Referee’s discretion, extreme circumstances may require a die roll to determine success.
Keen Detection:
The Thief is skilled at spotting hidden and concealed doors. Thieves are also keen listeners, whether it’s overhearing conversations in a tavern or through a door in a quiet dungeon. At first level, a Thief detects secret doors and hears noises on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6. This increases to 1-3 at third level, 1-4 at sixth level, and 1-5 at ninth level.
Dexterous Manipulation:
With the nimblest of fingers, Thieves are able to perform feats of manual dexterity such as picking pockets or palming small items. With the appropriate tools, they can also attempt to disarm small mechanical traps or open locks. They are successful on a roll of 1-2 on 1D6. This increases to 1-3 at third level, 1-4 at sixth level, and 1-5 at ninth level.
Stealthy Movement: The Thief is a master of sneaking and hiding. He is able to hide in the smallest shadows to avoid discovery and move nearly silently, with a movement rate of 1 per level.

Establish Gang (9th):
At ninth level, a Thief may establish a stronghold and attract a number of lesser thieves who will recognize him as their boss and serve him so long as his activities continue to provide them with a steady supply of ill-gotten gains.
Saving Throw:
Thieves gain a +2 bonus on saving throws in situations where quick reflexes or dodging would help them avoid injury, such as against traps, breath attacks.
XP Bonus for Dexterity
: Dexterity is the Prime Attribute for Thieves, meaning that a high dexterity score grants them an additional 5% experience.

Thief Advancement Table

Hit Dice (d6)
Saving Throw

OGL Section 15 Addendum:
Knockspell Magazine Issue #2, Copyright 2009, Matthew J. Finch
White Box Heroes Copyright 2009, Salvatore Macri

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Welcome to my Non-Gaming Friends

Being a gamer is an odd hobby.  Most of us don't really talk about it too much, or at least go into detail about it. In today's internet age with World of Warcraft and the multitude of other rpg-styled games, being a "gamer" doesn't necessarily have the stigma attached to it that it once did.  Still, we typically won't say much until we've got a feel for someone and how they might handle the revelation that you play Dungeons and Dragons, or whatever game.  Friends, family, co-workers... you probably don't really "get" what we enjoy doing in our free time.

I put a post on my Facebook wall today and invited those folks to come see what I do here.  If you, gentle reader, are one of those - Welcome! Feel free to become a follower of the blog, just to see what I ramble on about, if you're into that sort of thing.  For me, I think it might be interesting to see a non-gamer's point of view on some of the things I write about here, even if you don't get into gaming yourself.

I hope you aren't too weirded out, but at 42, I yam what I yam, ya know?


I'm Actually Playing The Game!

So, I haven't been very active here on the ol' blog, you may have noticed.  Not that I ever was. :-)

I've always had a fairly severe case of Gamer ADD and seem to flit from project to project, interest to interest, so it's hard to ever finish anything. Still, I stay interested in a couple of projects - both my cyberpunk game and developing Trevail, my gameworld. Part of the problem is that I have two systems I want to write for. Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox is awesome and I want to support it by eventually publishing both projects as supplements for that game.  But my true love for a system is still Rules Cyclopedia! GRRR!

As my post title implies, I'm actually running a tabletop game, so while the cyberpunk project sits dormant, I am working on stuff for Trevail.  We've been playing for almost 5 months now, meeting weekly, except for the occasional week we needed to skip.  Not bad right? My group consists of four players.  Three kids, one mine, and a couple friends, plus an older friend of mine.  My friend Rich, and Paul (one of the kids) have some gaming experience, both with AD&D second edition.  My daughter Shannon has some BECMI under her belt, and Robyn, our fourth only had a bit of online RPG experience.  All in all a mixed bag of gaming experience and maturity, so it's been a challenge as a fairly inexperienced DM.

To start things off relatively simply for the beginners, I chose WhiteBox as our system.  In pre-game discussions, Paul indicated he wanted to play a Bard, and of course there wasn't one for WB.  I did some research and found some examples, plus looked at 2E, since that's what he was used to playing, and eventually bashed something up.  Since the Bard is a thief variant in 2E, I ended up working up one of those too, again based on other things I found outline.  Never satisfied, I've continued to tweak them to a level I felt fit the WB presentation and I think I'm pretty happy with them now. Also working on orcs as a playable race.

Esran's Isle by Dyson Logos
I'e also been working on some maps, trying to flesh out a small sandbox region for the group to explore.  I plug in small adventures try to seed rumors for the party to follow.  One great source has been the awesome maps by Dyson Logos.  I strongly recommend you check them out if you haven't heard of him yet. That awesome city map over there is going to be fleshed out as the major city in the region I'm detailing.  I'm using Haldane as a template for how I want to do that.

As a group, they seem to have taken to the game and ruleset and I've already talked about rolling the game over to Rules Cyclopedia.  For the most part, it will be a mostly transparent change for them, I think, and will let me run the system I really want to be using. I'm not ready to do it right away, but it will happen once I'm ready.

So where does that leave us here? I'm going to try and be more active on the blog as a way to force myself to keep working on the game.  I'm going to post my WB classes, and eventually compile it into a supplement form ala Greyhawk or Blackmoor were for OD&D.  It may be just houserules and classes - rules stuff like those old supplements were - and eventually work in the setting stuff, more like Rob Conley's Blackmarsh, though I doubt it'll ever be that good... I also would like to post some game night pics and session report type things.

Finally, I'll need to work up some of this stuff for Rules Cyclopedia - a Bard, which will be more like the 2E one and less like the WB one, a couple orc classes, some elven variations...

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I love Cheetah Girls...

Ok, so technically she's a leopard woman I think, but still. Seeing this picture, I've got a great idea for an African savanna style culture where the leopard people and hyena people (gnolls that is) are at constant war for domination.  I do love me some gnolls, too. Just sayin'.