The Dunedain

The Dunedain

Monday, May 18, 2015

Petty Gods

At the risk of just copying what everyone else (or so it seems) has already posted- Petty Gods: Revised and Expanded edition has been released into the wild. You can get the free PDF here, or the at cost premium softcover here, or the at cost case-wrap hardback here.

I am particularly pleased and proud because my lovely wife Mona has two illustrations in the book:

Timothy Brannan's Nox-

and Syla-

Meaning that she shares art credits in the same volume as the legendary Erol Otus.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Some thoughts on my 500th post

I tend to write down (or type out these days) partially thought out ideas and revisit them from time to time to see whether or not they still have merit, or if they need more polishing. Mostly this is just campaign notes and no one else ever sees them, sometimes they are rules ideas for my various unfinished works using the D&D rule set as base-line, universal gaming system covering a multitude of genres (thanks go out to Kevin Crawford, James Spahn, (and TSR) at least, off the top of my head, for proof of concept), but sometimes they become blog posts. My last blog post was number 499, and I thought I should have something special for number 500.

My first thought was some sort of retrospective, after all, it's taken me a long, long time to make it to 500 posts. I have considered just killing the blog in it's entirety in the past, but I've posted a lot of good stuff in there with the personal stuff and the filler-esque mail call type posts. I've weighed in on some of the issues of the day in the OSR, put up some really interesting ideas and felt a sense of community via my blog, and others out there that made me feel like I was part of something special, if only to a select few people. Plus, it's always disappointing when an OSR blog goes away. So I kept it up, even though I've had very few posts over the last few years.

Then I thought maybe I'd run a contest. I started doing that right before my sister died, and tried to keep some momentum up, but I faltered there and eventually failed. So I figured if I announced a contest now, I'd be fighting against my own reputation and it seems a little contrived at this point.

So I thought maybe some new gaming content? But my purely content posts have never been frequent, and were, if not poorly received, received little in the way of fanfare or comment.

Ultimately I decided to just post some of my thoughts that I'd been saving up, looking back at and trying to figure out what to do with, so here they are.


Swords & Wizardry Whitebox
Swords & Wizardry Core
Swords & Wizardry Complete
Full Metal Platemail
Delving Deeper
Iron Falcon

Holmes Basic-
Prentice Blueholme Rules

Basic Fantasy
Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Labyrinth Lord
-Realms of Crawling Chaos
-Red Tide
-An Echo Resounding
Scarlet Heroes
Silent Legions
Starships & Spacemen

1st Edition AD&D-
I buy a lot of retroclones in print, I prefer to read books as opposed to pdfs on a screen. I usually buy them, look through them when I first get them, then give them an in depth read through only later, sometimes months or even years later. My wife says I have a retroclone addiction, maybe she's right. Some I get because I don't have the original game, like Swords & Wizardry (especially WhiteBox) and Delving Deeper for OD&D. I also keep buying games that emulate games that I own and play (or played at some time in the past), like OSRIC and Prentice Blueholme; and I have bought games that emulate games that I really didn't own or play back in the day, despite my owning the original, like Labyrinth Lord for B/X D&D. I also keep buying retroclones that have excellent production values like pretty much everything from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

I have a lot of stuff for LotFP, over half or their catalogue in fact, including both Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown, just because I like where they are taking the game and they are so well made. I have a bunch of Labyrinth Lord compatible stuff too, for many of the same reasons. Kevin Crawford's work is inspired, and I like what he's done to and for B/X.

I have played S&W a couple of time is all though, and LL just once. Why? Some of them I've never played, hell, most of them- although I did use DD in conjunction with S&W for a game once. Scarlet Heroes I keep meaning to try out with my wife, because we both have the time now, but stuff just keeps happening, and I guess both of us are less than fully motivated.

My Campaign and Gaming Aesthetic or “One DM's Manifesto”-

I want to run a D&D or AD&D or clone of either for a group of people. Over the years my circle of friends that game has shrunk to really small levels. My wife, my kids (really just Ember, and John when he's home from college), a couple of adult friends and one younger guy that started gaming with my oldest daughter. I keep trying to recruit more, but I live in a pretty rural area and the weather sucks for roughly ½ the year. Keeping regular gaming going has been, and remains, a serious challenge. Scheduling alone is a serious game killer. I don't want to be too nostalgic for the good old days, but both making friends and finding potential gamers was so much easier back when I was young and the worst scheduling conflict, school, was shared by 90% of the group. There were times when I could not fit everyone around a single pretty large table, now I have trouble filling the seats at a card table on a regular basis. Anyway, a larger, more regular group would be nice, I really prefer campaign play to one-shots.

My primary influences for DMing are Robert E.Howard's Conan stories and their lesser derivatives, including Marvel Comics, and Glenn Cook's Black Company series. Secondary, but still important and in no particular order, are Katherine Kerr's Deverry series, Beowulf, Arthurian tales from a variety of authors (and I really loved the film Excalibur), the original Star Wars trilogy, Norse Mythology, Greco-Roman Mythology, Star Trek and History. Then we have a much larger body of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I like themes of good versus evil, and I like good, heroic characters in my games.

I prefer to use humans as the real monsters, and I like unique monsters when I do use them. Hordes of humanoids are so Tolkien and so 1980s. That, and a few other things make me a fan of LotFP.

I like actual role playing, people who speak in character and use their character's stated motivations for committing to a course of action. I like for their to be interaction between players and between players and the world. I don't like it when players complain about the “constraints” of the alignment system or try to rationalize or retcon their actions to not be an alignment breach. Alignment is a simple short hand for a character's world view and a role-playing tool.

Conversely, I like the mortality rate of early editions, it keeps players on their toes. I like people that use hirelings and retainers as God and Gary intended. I like players that use their brains to solve issues within the game.

The use of good tactics, clever spell use, and good resource management are good things that make me happy. There is a certain level of meta-gaming that I expect and maybe require from my players. D&D is the direct descendant of wargaming, and I feel we should both respect and embrace those roots. That said, gaming the system, finding the cheats and loop-holes annoys me.

I like the gold for XP mechanic, it keeps the game from devolving into a slug-fest. Not every encounter needs to be a combat encounter, managing to get the reward without wasting resources (Hit Points, Spells, Magic Items, etc) should be encouraged, not that a good combat isn't fun too.

The campaign should, ultimately, have an arc that leads to an end game. Strongholds, Domains, what-have-you are the end of the game. A PC should be able to become a political/military force in the world. You should be playing to win, even though “winning” is a long way off and is (usually) a cooperative thing.

I have never been a huge fan of Magic, I think it should be rare and wonderful, or the realm of the irredeemably corrupt. Pacts with evil forces, elder gods and the like are where most magic comes from in my mind. Good magic is the work of a very few uncorrupted wizards or that of the good people of the church. I like my Clerics to be Templar/Van Helsing hybrids rather than heal-bots and my Paladins (in games that have them) to be the chosen champions of the forces of good and light.

I don't like, and usually ban, evil characters. Rarely are they played well, and even when they are, that's not the kind of game I want to play. One time I saw a Lawful Evil ½ Orc Fighter/Assassin that wasn't a complete and total waste of time/campaign killer. The odds are against anyone that wants to be a bad guy in my campaigns even making it through the door.

I dislike when players complain about the game system being used, it's not about the rules, it's about the game. I use D&D in it's various forms, because I am extremely comfortable with it. I am the GM, I need to know the rules. You, as a player, need only be familiar with them to the point where you can play, at least at first, rules mastery is unnecessary in a player.

Vancian magic, it's a thing; argue about it's “realism” all you want, I don't have an issue with it. I think players that complain about having to choose their spells in advance are just not terribly good at playing spell-casters at best, and whiners at worst. I hate a whiner. Spell-casters are not my first choice when I am a player, but I have played them quite successfully in the past, sometimes just to show it could be done.

Demi-humans, semi-humans and humanoids. I am not a fan of them, I get that it's just not D&D to some people without them. I have, rarely, banned them and run a solely human campaign in the past, usually in a historical setting where they would have been inappropriate. I would happily play in a more “Swords & Sorcery” setting without any non-human PCs too. Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Humans adventuring together is too Tolkien for my tastes these days.

I like a coherent setting. My Garnia campaign setting has been cooking for over 30 years now, not every element is suited to my current gaming tastes, but it is coherent as all get out, and I know it like the back of my hand- including apocryphal and alternate timelines.

I like randomness. I like it in character generation, 3d6 in order, play the character you roll. I'll tolerate 4d6 drop the lowest, arrange as desired, but I'd prefer that players play the PC they rolled, rather than the PC they dreamed up and then had to settle for (stat wise); coming to the table without preconceptions about what character you'll play is a plus there.

I like randomness for encounters too. I am not a fan of tailoring the world to the “challenge level” of the PCs, I think that players need to recognize that there are some things that you should run from. If you are a 3rd level party, even if you have a reasonable number of NPCs along in support roles, you should probably not expect to survive the onslaught of the hordes of Orcus en masse.

Situational modifiers- if I give you a number to aim for, the odds are good that I have already figured them in. I know the rules, I have over 30 years in the DM's seat, there is probably not a lot of advice I am going to need and you are just slowing down the action.

Also, not a fan of rules-lawyers. If you want a bunch of nit-picky BS play 3.x or Pathfinder; my D&D, and it's house rules and rulings, has the weight of experience and tradition behind it.

I like wilderness or overland adventures, hex-crawls even, but they are not static. I believe in a living campaign world. I usually have some primary movers and shakers in the world that will keep on doing their thing too, regardless of PC actions, unless those actions interact with the PCs or one of the other forces in the setting. This isn't to say that I am against dungeons, just that they are less common in my games than elsewhere, and they might be just ruined castles or abandoned mines. I like short, succinct location based adventures more than mega-dungeons.

Site based adventures are cool too. A site based adventure in my campaign might be a commando style raid on a castle, or infiltrating a thieves guild, or it could be an entrance to the hollow world or a trek to a lost city in a swamp or jungle somewhere.

My adventures often have a political bent to them. Politics and court intrigue happen, if not often, at least regularly. When I start a campaign I generally have an idea, and sometimes I completely map out, the major and minor factions in play, what their various agenda are, how they compete with each other and what the odds are of any given plot coming to fruition. Then the PCs are added to the equation.

When I figure out what a faction is, I figure out it's leader, it's goals, it's resources and it's allies. Is the faction overt or covert? Some factions have sub-factions, a good example being different orders within the same religion. My current project has the Duke (Political, Military Power, Wealthy, Overt), The Thieves Guild (Subversive, Wealthy, Covert) and the Dwarves (Racial, Wealthy, Seemingly Harmless) vying for power over a wealthy trading center. The Thieves Guild and the Dwarves are somewhat allied, with the Dwarves having completely infiltrated the Thieves Guild and subverted it subtly towards their own goals. The Duke's faction is unaware that the Dwarves are working as a group towards their own goals, or that they have infiltrated the Thieves Guild so thoroughly, and they consider the Thieves Guild to be less powerful than it really is. The Thieves Guild is more or less happy with the status quo in the city and enjoys having brought the Dwarven community so completely under their control. Clearly, the obvious power in town is the Dukes, digging around some will reveal the influence of the Thieves Guild, but you'd have to be pretty deep to even notice the Dwarves doing anything nefarious.

Minor factions, like the various church orders or the smuggling ring, support or are used by the bigger, more powerful factions. Some are involved with more than one faction, like the merchants, who support the Duke primarily, but have to deal with the Thieves Guild. Some factions are concentrated, usually the powerful ones, some are diffuse, like the merchants, who are a collection of like minded individuals more than an organized group. Maybe one day they'll organize and then they'll wield real power.

Factions might be powerful in one area and weak in another. The Duke is powerful throughout the duchy, the Thieves Guild primarily in the city. Factions might believe they are more powerful than they actually are, like the Duke in a barony contemplating rebellion.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

White Star

It's been a long time since I did a "Mail Call" post here on the blog, not for any real reason other than I quit posting very often at all and just showing my cool new stuff seemed like filler. Today I am going to go ahead and have a different sort of mail call though. I got this-

in the mail today. I bought it on EBay last week. I know it's the beta rules, but I figured I'd check out the only official, licensed version of a Star Wars RPG I didn't already have.

Sadly, it came a day late, as, on Star Wars Day (May 4th) another Sci-Fi space opera game had been released into the wild- White Star

I hate to say that I'd jumped on a band-wagon, but this was a good band-wagon. Tenkar's Tavern proprietor +Erik Tenkar had been pimping this game pretty hard for about a day, and since it was being released on Star Wars day, and I am a big fan of D&D as a chassis for any genre, I bought it as soon as it was released. I was not disappointed. I read and then reread the rules. I have decided that this is my new favorite game, and I am, apparently, not alone. +James Spahn has written an excellent, completely Swords & Wizardry White Box compatible rules set and managed to both give us a setting we could use (and an adventure) while simultaneously encouraging us to use it all as a tool box to make it our own. I immediately stopped work on my other OSR projects and began making my own Star Wars and original Battlestar Galactica hacks for it, and I can see a few other licensed properties I could easily hack this for. I already wrote 2 new classes based on the settings I mentioned and have an adventure started. I haven't been this creative in years. This game is the muse I didn't know I needed until I had it. I have to thank Mr. Spahn for that.

So the official Star Wars game I have barely opened up to look at, it loses to White Star. Now go buy it here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Game for Nepal

An all Asian themed OSR bundle to benefit the victims of the Nepal earthquake. All of these are quality products, I can attest to this as I already owned them before the earthquake, and it's a good cause. Get it here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Swords & Wizardry appreciation day has just passed. Along with Labyrinth Lord I think Swords & Wizardry gets the most retro-clone love. There has been a Basic Fantasy RPG appreciation day, and I am a big fan of BFRPG myself; I own in print everything they offer.

But wasn't OSRIC the first retro-clone? Why doesn't it have a special day? If it does, I have never heard of it. OSRIC emulates 1st edition AD&D, and that's what me and most of my friends were playing back in the day (mostly, there was some bleed through from other editions).

To be honest, I forget that OSRIC exists a lot. Part of my retro-clone addiction is finding the editions that I didn't play (OD&D) or only played a bit (Holmes, B/X). I still have all of my 1st edition AD&D books, so I guess OSRIC wasn't a priority to me, it was only as I was putting together a list to catalog all of my retro-clone purchases and rounding them up to keep them together that I realized I didn't actually have a hard copy of OSRIC. I have since rectified this- I ordered a copy from Noble Knight Games, it'll be here probably on Monday.

So why no OSRIC love from the OSR community at large?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Which version of D&D do I like better? How about you?


I have consistently second guessed myself while I run (A)D&D games for my group about which version (or retroclone) I like better for play. I range between the simplicity and adaptability of S&W Whitebox and the complexity and completeness of 1st edition AD&D (sometimes including “Unearthed Arcana”, but rarely anything later). Sometimes I decide a particular retroclone looks like it'll be good for what I want to play- I just started playing S&W Complete for instance, or I'd really like to play “Lamentations of the Flame Princess” (and so would a couple of my players) sometime soon.

I guess what it comes down to is that I like the adaptability of the early edition stuff based on OD&D and it's semi-gonzo SF additions to our standard fantasy fare. I like the simplicity and lower power level of OD&D, B/X and their clones. I have written a few rules sets now using S&W and B/X as a template. However, something in my head keeps dragging me back to 1st edition AD&D (or Labyrinth Lord+ Advanced Edition Companion- more on this later). I suppose it's because that's my old default. When I was just starting to play AD&D was just arriving on the scene and B/X wasn't quite here yet (I actually started with Holmes Basic).

Now, the power creep/edition (larger HD, more powerful magic items, more special abilities) is what pulls me away from AD&D towards OD&D or B/X. The absolute familiarity with (and perhaps even mastery of) the rules set is what drags me back. My D&D formative years ran from 1980-85ish, AD&D OA makes it under the wire, and UA slips a bit in sometimes, but my core system has always been PH, DMG and MM.

I guess the power creep is something I never noticed before the 3e era, probably because my default system was 1st edition and I never really looked at it objectively compared to the Holmes Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert sets. 2Nd edition was largely the same as 1st, only with a lot of inconsistent or unused (I am looking at you weapon vs. AC) rules being either tossed or overhauled. With this in mind, perhaps I should be playing either LL-AEC or straight 2nd edition AD&D, but I can't fully commit to either of those systems because I know 1st edition, with all it's warts & weirdnesses, it's Gygaxian purple-prose (a feature, not a bug- it immeasurably increased the vocabulary of pretty much everyone I knew), I have it practically memorized, even after all these years and anything I don't have memorized I can find in seconds in the book- no lengthy searches or game stoppage, and I know how to house rule it without breaking it in any way. Plus, I own multiple copies of all the books (including the premium reprints I got cheap on Ebay). I have given away complete core sets to my players that don't have them (another feature of Ebay- when I feel I am running low on extras for my table, I can usually find them really cheap there), and each of my kids has gotten a complete core set+ OA. My wife came with her own set.

But then I think about sub-classes, particularly Fighter sub-classes, which irritate me; why should a Fighter not be the best at fighting? Every other sub-class loses something, or at least fundamentally changes something, from the core class to make up for gaining their new abilities, not Rangers or Paladins though, so what's up with that? It's not that I hate the idea of Rangers and Paladins, and I get that it's harder to get the stats to be one of them and that they level slightly slower, but they still make better fighters than Fighters do, and that's what irks me. I don't take issue with creating a new subclass for the purposes of playing exactly the character class that you want to play even, I've made them in the past and I probably will again in the future. I am pretty sure that was the impetus behind the design of every AD&D sub-class. Think of them as customized class options for your role-playing needs.

Now, Labyrinth Lord +Advanced Edition Companion is a game that plays functionally identical to my experience with 1st edition AD&D, my only real problems with using it as a go-to system are that I already own multiple copies of AD&D and it's B/X based, which means that I need 2 rulebooks and have to ignore a bunch of stuff from the first.

I guess what was trying doing here was get all of these stray thoughts down where I can see them and mull over my options, what it has, apparently, done was talk myself into running 1st edition AD&D again, with the option of using retroclone ideas as house rule options. Thanks for reading, I am still open to suggestions and differing opinions, because I will, most likely, go back and forth on this for the next day or so before I run something for my oldest daughter Ashli and her boyfriend Rae who are coming to visit this weekend.

Now some other stuff that's been on my mind- if you were going to run a single adventure for three to five players and had access to pretty much every adventure published by TSR for Holmes Basic, B/X, BECMI and 1st edition AD&D what would you run? I am missing a few from the end of the era, but I have most of them. I was thinking something tournament style, that'll give the group focus and a sense of urgency, plus they won't have to worry about losing a beloved character because these types of modules usually have a bunch of pregens included. I was also thinking something a little higher level, because we never get there in campaign play and I think that they might enjoy playing characters at level 9+ for a change. Not The Tomb of Horrors though, that's a straight out meat-grinder and I've seen parties with all experienced players die in the entryway.

Also, I was thinking about other game systems recently, especially the ones like GURPS that pretty much mandate during character creation how you are going to role-play your character and that's one of those things I've never actually seen the need to have enshrined in rules. Some people think that alignment is unrealistic and too much of a straight-jacket to your role-playing, in my experience these are the same people that want to see at least part of your character creation include at least some options for deciding how you must role-play your character. GURPS has a bunch of these, off the top of my head I can recall codes and berserkerism and addiction as role-playing options that grant you some tangible character creation bonus with a few rules on how you must then play your character as a trade off. I am not a huge fan of point-buy systems in general anyway, I kind of like some randomness in character generation and I don't think all PCs should be created equal (but with the option for a master min-maxxer to really work the rules to make a Frankenstein's monster of a PC).

I am also not a big fan of skill systems, I never saw the point. The way I see it, if you want to do something, you ask your DM if it's possible and he figures out whether or not it's at all possible and then determines how it should work. I guess it helps if you have some sort of background, like the secondary skills in the DMG; although those work best for humans, those are some tables that could use a redesign based on a PC's race, the region they come from (or where the campaign starts) and maybe the general tech level. I guess they'd be best tailor made for every DM's campaign world. Not that I don't use skill systems where appropriate, just not a fan. This is likely because of 2nd edition AD&D's poorly thought out and ill-named Non-Weapon Proficiency system, which, while optional, was both over used and miss-used in my experience, all the while being extremely unnecessary. Yes, I realize that the 2nd edition system is a direct descendant of the 1st edition system which premiered in my beloved Oriental Adventures book, it's just that I am that contrary. Also, I hate that system and have eliminated it in my upcoming retroclone Samurai!, wherein I replace them with a set of backgrounds that grant you the ability to do certain things. But generally speaking, if you can give me a halfway decent reason why you should be able to do something, I usually let you. I base this on the fact that I can speak, read and write English, and to a lesser extent, French and Spanish. I can swim pretty well, do math (even some higher math) and all the other stuff I learned in public schools and just living in rural upstate NY. Usually, no matter how well I min-max a character, there is no way I can come close to what I could do even when I was a teen-ager, much less as an adult, and on top of all that, I am a pretty decent fighter, both armed and unarmed, and an ordained clergyman. That's right folks, I am dual-classed...

What about Henchmen, Hirelings, and other Retainers? I swore by them in the early days of playing D&D, not so much for the extra swords in the fight, but for handling the mundane stuff like carrying the light sources or acting as bearers for the loot we found, but we usually had a couple of “special” guys too, usually a Thief hired on to open locks and search for traps- oddly enough, even when we had Thieves in the party. You can't be too careful in the dungeon. Later, as the games started having more overland and wilderness type adventures, we started having people just for helping out with the horses (and staying with them while we went into dungeons) and some extra muscle to help out with guarding our camp. Now it seems like even the people I played with back in the day avoid them like the plague. I can understand (although not agree with) the notion that Henchmen are experience point and treasure leeches, but what about the ones that only get paid a pittance and don't get a ½ share of experience points? Plus it makes Charisma less of a dump stat if they are included in the game.

What's the deal with people not liking (A)D&D for more pure role-playing type game sessions? There's nothing stopping you from going all thespian with a D&D character, as a DM I actually will give an XP award or some other type of bonus as a reward for good role-playing, it's within my purview as DM. But some players insist that there is something inherent about D&D in particular that stunts role-playing. I don't get it. Sure D&D evolved from wargaming, and there was a certain wargame mentality to the role-playing by association. I don't hate that to be truthful, but I think that it is making less of the game than it can be. That said, there are some things that I can't stand to role-play like, say, buying equipment or any other mundane, somewhat boring task. Who wants to role-play mucking out stables or brushing down their horse? I don't, not as a player and not as DM; some stuff can be glossed over pretty easily and we don't lose anything by doing so. You probably want some real interaction the first time you meet the duke though, and maybe a bit when you are invited back for dinner. These role-playing vignettes are a great opportunity for mini-information dumps as a DM and I think that players and DMs alike should grasp the opportunity to try their hand at being more of a thespian. The exchange between DM and players there can lead to some really cool ideas for your campaign heading down the road.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Work Slowdown at Great Khan Games

I figured I might as well let everyone know that Great Khan Games release schedule has suffered a massive hit. I was doing a routine upgrade of my operating system and it went terribly awry, resulting in the loss of a great deal of work, ranging from "in final editing" to "just barely started" statuses. This has consumed my free time, in large part, for a couple of weeks now. I had a D&D based Star Trek game pretty much ready to go, I was just waiting on some art and making the decision whether or not to release it as a Star Trek game (for free) or to alter it a little bit into a Star Trek-esque game and make it PWYW. I was leaning towards free. Samurai was at about 50%, B/X WW2 (a working title) and 'Nam were at about 80% and Vikings and Legion were at 25% or less, but I have been making great strides with my D&D based games before the accidental destruction of my work. I really hate to rewrite stuff completely, so fixing the problem has been slow going. I also like to bounce from project to project as ideas strike me, rather than concentrate on just one at a time- it's how my brain works. I had another character class ready to go, and didn't have any part of it saved anywhere else, so that's a downer too.

So, anyway, that's where I've been. Great Khan Games isn't going to have anything new until at least next month, depending on inspiration and ambition striking. I'd planned to have something new every other week or so after I launched with the PWYW Steppe Warrior class, but that's not going to happen now. Mea culpa, but stay tuned for some more stuff, we aren't going to let this stop us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Better late than never

This is very much in keeping with the spirit of this blog.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Steppe Warrior Class

I feel like I should put this link here too-

This is a newly edited version of the class I presented here a couple of years ago, and the inaugural "product" for Great Khan Games. I have plans for more stuff, that is not older content, in the near future.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Changed my Blog Title Back

Returned to Ramblings as it were.

Other stuff-

I have written my own more S&W version of Star Trek, it's not polished and ready for public consumption, but it's more or less playable and I hope to test it soon.

Created a mission based Vietnam War RPG D&D hack. This is another one that needs polishing, but it is playable (provided I am at the table to explain the bits I haven't written yet).

Tossed out both my OA D&D hack and my B/X WW II projects, and started over with some of the design principles I came up with for both 'Nam and Star Trek. Got a complete outline and extensive notes for my OA D&D hack (tentatively titled "Samurai!") and planned a supplement ("Ninja!").  I even figured out what I am doing for art for "Samurai!".

Created a new campaign world for OD&D/S&W Whitebox, as it turns out the implied setting of OD&D is different than it is for AD&D. Both have an implied post-apocalyptic setting, but OD&D is a lot more free and easy with sci-fi elements than AD&D. I actually ran a game in my new campaign setting earlier this month and, while it's reception was mixed, it went OK. I was a little disappointed that the party wasn't terribly interested in the travel brochures from the 4th Reich, and that they decided to kill their tour guide in Helltown, but I have some easy fixes planned for this coming Saturday.

Oh, and I created a new game system entirely, I call it "Simple d20 Mechanics for RPGs or Miniature Battles, including rules for Magic". This one is being looked over by my buddy Darryl in case it needs some rules clarifications or whatnot, he became a professional editor after he and I worked on Paul Elliot's 43 AD. I hope to release it soon as a free download from our newly created collaboration "Great Khan Games" once it's ready I'll provide the RPGNow link.

I have a couple of more ideas in the "brainstorm" phase of development too.

Of course, the trade off here is that I haven't written any of my promised reviews, despite the fact that I acquired even more stuff to review. I recently bought several new OSR products on Lulu, first up will be Full Metal Platemail, but I have been writing more than I've been reading for the last few weeks.

Also- is anyone interested in writing some extensive random tables that are reminiscent of the AD&D OA ancestry tables? I am apparently bad at that and it's costing me a lot of time. Just a thought.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chainmail Bikini Babes & Hot Elf Chicks

Just boosting the signal, although, according to my stats, I should add Great Helm and Crusader Helm if I really want lots of hits. That said "Chinmail Bikini Babes & Hot Elf Chicks" sounds like it could be an RPG all on it's own. I think it would even fly with my group of mostly female players. It's tag line could be something like "The all fantasy female stereotype RPG". Here is a classic Chainmail Bikini Babe, just so you all don't feel cheated-

Red Sonja

I always liked Red Sonja. When I was a kid, reading Marvel Comics, Red Sonja was just a Female Conan the Barbarian to me, I never understood that she was a negative female stereotype just because she wore the skimpy armor, anymore than I thought Conan might be a negative male stereotype just because he runs around in a loincloth. I guess I just thought that, as comic book characters, they needed to have a unique look to make them stand out from the rest of the characters, and that it might be pretty warm in Hyboria.

And a Hot Elf Chick-


OK, she's a Demoness, but in Elf form.

Besides, I think we can all agree that the Drow have the hottest Elf chicks, just because they are all slutty bad girl stereotypes. That I got right away, but puberty had struck in the interim; and who doesn't like a bad girl?

I was going to post some more mini-reviews here, but I am not feeling it right now. So have a couple of Great Helms (as used by Crusaders) as consolation.

A random thought just struck me, has anyone considered that "Lolth" might just be a Gygaxian corruption of "Lilith"? Is this a new thought? Has everyone figured that bit of linguistic evolution out before me?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

5th Edition D&D- My Condensed Review

OK, I've had some time to look at WotC's latest iteration of D&D now, and I have to say that my reaction is mixed. Not just on the aesthetics either.

The Player's Handbook- I think I have made my opinion on the art in the Player's Handbook pretty clear, not a fan. However, the rest of the book, and I am willing to let the art slide if I like the content, still left me with an over all negative opinion. I mean, I realize this is the Player's Handbook, but 170 pages on character generation? Really? OK, that covers advancement too, but in the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook it's a mere 38 pages, which is far in excess of B/X's 14 pages in the Basic book. I found myself skimming in a lot of places and had to force myself to slow down, go back and reread sections. That was tedious. Sure, I could just pick a "standard" Dwarven Fighter instead of reading through all the class/race choices (which would save me roughly 110 pages of reading), but then there's a bunch of fiddly stuff (that I will likely forget about as a player, not to mention trying to remember all of it as a DM) before I even get to buying my starting equipment. Now, my caveat here is that I have not played yet, so maybe it will all go easier than I think. My personal bias is also irked by the fact that the tallest Humans are now only 6'4", according to the random table. I am 6'6" and I am not the tallest Human I have ever met. Overall grade D.

The Monster Manual- Not a huge fan of the art there either, but it is an improvement over the Player's Handbook. There is a design aesthetic at work here that seems too homogeneously stylized, but this isn't really new to this edition; just, disappointingly, continued. The stat blocks, ranging from roughly 1/4 to 1/2 page are too much, in my opinion. B/X D&D gave us about 6 monsters to the page, here we might get 2. It's pretty hard to screw up a Monster Manual too bad though, so overall grade C.

The Dungeon Master's Guide- Probably the saving grace of the core books of this edition, the art still didn't appeal to me, but damn, it's a meaty tome. Chock full of real advice that is practically system neutral, I'd have to say it's the best effort on a DMG since 1st edition AD&D- and I loved that one. The overall greatness is diminished by a couple of the things that I find to be anathema to DMing- Tailoring your encounters to your party, and it's ugly cousin; tailoring treasure yields to the party. They are small parts of the book, but they remind me too much of 3e and the reason I quit D&D. They mar an otherwise awesome book, but they are core to the build of the system, as they were in 3e (and, presumably, 4e). Anyway, it's a pretty darned solid book for any GM, but it's weak art and a few later editionisms that were kept drag it's grade down, a solid B.

Other random thoughts-
Backgrounds: I actually thought I would like them, I like the concept, but they left me cold when I read through them. Power Level: Easily as amped up as 3e.

Races: Their proliferation irritates me, but at least it's the DM's explicit say as to whether or not any given race is allowed.

Art: yep, I know, I keep harping on the art. I think they would have done better with LESS art direction. Give an artist a general description of what you are looking for, and let them do it, maybe you take it maybe you don't, but I think that this edition could really have benefited from having different art styles represented. I think too that this edition has taken itself too seriously and has produced a lot of self conscious mediocre art as a result. My wife is an artist, so I have grown, over the years, to appreciate how much of an impact the art has on the product. Early editions mixed it up
with a bunch of different artists, with wildly different styles and levels of talent. Sutherland, Roslof, Dee, Willingham, Otus, Darlene and Trampier (just off the top of my head, and I apologize to the artists I missed and their fans) put their stamp on Gary and Dave's game. Just looking at the illustrations in the Holmes Basic, B/X and AD&D books made me begin to imagine, and still does today. This edition just doesn't. I think it was the love for the game, and the use of their own imaginations that made the early D&D artists so good, they pored their souls into the work. Art is subjective, but I think that these-

are more evocative than this-

So I guess that gives 5th edition D&D a solid C average. My opinion of it may change with play, and again with DMing.