Great Khan Enthroned

Great Khan Enthroned

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Today's Sohei


Sohei are warrior monks who often serve as soldiers and guards for large monasteries. Sohei are less mystically inclined than Shugenja, but make up for it by being more martial by far. Sohei may wear any armor and use any weapons. A Sohei must have Strength and Wisdom scores in excess of 13. A Sohei must be Lawfully aligned. A Sohei receives bonus spells for high Wisdom as if he were a Shugenja.

Experience Points                            Experience Level                      Hit Dice
0-2000                                                            1                                    1d8
2001-4000                                                      2                                    2d8
4001-7000                                                      3                                    3d8
7001-13000                                                    4                                    4d8
13001-24000                                                  5                                    5d8
24001-48000                                                  6                                    6d8
48001-85000                                                  7                                    7d8
85001-150000                                                8                                    8d8
150001-350000                                              9                                    9d8
350001+                                                        10                                   10d8

Sohei Spells by Level-
Sohei Level                                               Spell Level
                                                                   1 2 3 4 5
1st                                                                                    - - - - -
2nd                                                              1 - - - -
3rd                                                               2 - - - -
4th                                                                                    2 1 - - -
5th                                                               3 2 - - -
6th                                                                                    3 2 1 - -
7th                                                               4 2 2 - -
8th                                                               4 3 2 1 -
9th                                                                                    4 3 3 2 -
10th                                                             5 3 3 2 1

Sohei abilities-
At 1st level a Sohei may designate a “chosen” weapon, with which he will receive both a +1 to hit and a +1 to Damage when using this weapon. Starting at 2nd level a Sohei may meditate, entering a state of deep concentration in which he refocuses and regains his energies. 1 hour of meditation is as restful as 2 hours of sleep, and as such a Sohei may go without sleep for as many days as he has levels, provided he has the opportunity to meditate for at least 4 hours per day. While meditating a Sohei is oblivious to all but the most extremes of heat and cold, hunger and thirst do not affect him. He is, however fully aware of his surroundings, and thus suffers penalties to neither surprise or initiative rolls. Starting at 3rd level a Sohei, through his religious training, practice and meditation, may once per day, for a period of 1 turn (10 combat rounds), enter a combat frenzy. During this frenzied state the Sohei adds +1 to his initiative rolls, +1 to his AC, gains 1 extra attack per round, increases his movement rate by 3”/round, gains an additional +1 to his attack, Damage and saving throw rolls. Additionally the Sohei can dodge or deflect missile weapons on a successful Reflex save. Starting at level 5 a Sohei can fight on well past normal human endurance- beyond the 0 hit point threshold fighting into the negatives until he reaches either a negative hit point total exceeding his Constitution score or -10, whichever is greater, for as long as there are enemies present to fight. Note that this may well cause a Sohei to die as he strikes the killing blow on his last adversary. Starting at 6th level a Sohei receives a commission from his monastery to command a detachment of from 10-30 novice Sohei (Level 1). They are his to command and train to further the political and religious ends of his monastic superiors. Casualties among them will be replaced over time, unless the entire detachment is lost, in which case the monastery will have lost faith in the PC Sohei's ability to command and/or train troops properly. Every level after 6th (7-10) the Sohei will receive 1d10 more novice Sohei. These Sohei are considered followers for all purposes, and are fanatically loyal troops.

Sohei have certain religious restrictions they must adhere to; they are forbidden to eat meat, or indulge in excesses of certain behaviors, such as drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, gambling, etc. The exact details of each Sohei's religious restrictions will be determined by the DM.

Sohei may come from any social class/caste but are not required to roll on the Family, Ancestry or Birth Right tables, in fact it is very common for Sohei to forsake their familial connections in favor of devotion to their monasteries. Sohei do track honor normally though, as their behavior is a reflection upon their monastery.

As a design note, I am deliberately limiting all of the classes in Samurai! (my OA simulacra) to level 10. I am also deliberately leaving the higher level/Domain game aspect out of my player supplement and saving it for my DM's supplement. I am consciously starting the “Domain” game on a smaller scale at the middle levels, and scaling it upwards to it's best (most prestigious) point at level 9. I have also decided to just max all of the classes out at 10d(Hit Die Type) instead of 9dx+? Depending on class. While I am using the 1st edition AD&D Oriental Adventures book as my primary inspiration, I am not slavishly adhering to it. I am producing these classes currently to be “more” compatible with AD&D/OSRIC, but I am trying out some new, original stuff here at home and in my notes waiting for some testing. For instance I have added a skill system based on the roll of 2d6+skill# vs. target difficulty, but it's not ready for prime time yet. I also have replaced the original, somewhat odd Birth Rank table with a straight 3d6 roll which indicates your family's general wealth and position in this somewhat Confucian Caste oriented society. This also is still being tinkered with, mostly with regard to how it affects starting equipment and money.

As I noted in my last blog post, I am also in the middle of moving, so I am trying to type some of this stuff up from handwritten notes, and stuff that never even made it to the paper from my head, so I don't lose or forget anything. I lost the several years worth OA stuff I had completed earlier this year when I accidentally overwrote (formatted) my hard drive and had not bothered to keep too many (or any current) back-ups. This doesn't bother me as much as I'd've thought just because it let me take a new look at things, and decide to make some different design decisions with the rewrite.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Getting Ready to Move.

I am getting ready to move to the Waverly, NY-Sayre PA area and I will be looking for some new gaming buddies in a couple of weeks. Also, I have a partially wooded 1 acre lot in Oswego county (Town of New Haven) for sale, these two things are related, if you are interested in either, let me know.

And now, my current build of the Kensei

The Kensei is a weapon master, usually a master of the sword, as implied by the name of the class,
although any melee weapon can be their focus. An unsurprised Kensei can make a melee attack before rolling initiative. A Kensei that fells an opponent may immediately make another attack against an opponent in melee range. A Kensei has a d10 for hit points. A Kensei is required to have Strength and Dexterity scores of not less than 12, and a Wisdom of at least 14. A Kensei adds his Wisdom bonus to his AC and as an attack bonus. A Kensei must have a Lawful alignment. Only Human, Spirit Folk or Hengeyokai may become Kensei.

Experience Points                       Experience Level            Hit Dice
0-3000                                                 1                                  1d10
3001-5500                                           2                                  2d10
5501-10000                                         3                                  3d10
10001-22000                                       4                                  4d10
22001-44000                                       5                                  5d10
44001-88000                                       6                                  6d10
88001-150000                                     7                                  7d10
150001-250000                                   8                                  8d10
250001-500000                                   9                                  9d10
500001+                                             10                                 9d10+2

Kensei bonuses- Once per day for every level the Kensei has achieved, he may focus his attunement to his chosen weapon to deliver maximum damage with a single strike, he must announce this before he rolls to hit. +1 initiative bonus, increases to +2 at level 5 and +3 at level 9. Wisdom bonus to AC,
additional +1 AC bonus at levels 3, 6 and 9. Starting at level 3 a Kensei may meditate, entering a state of deep concentration in which he refocuses and regains his energies. 1 hour of meditation is as restful as 2 hours of sleep, and as such a Kensei may go without sleep for as many days as he has levels, provided he has the opportunity to meditate for at least 4 hours per day. While meditating a Kensei is oblivious to all but the most extremes of heat and cold, hunger and thirst do not affect him. He is, however fully aware of his surroundings, and thus suffers penalties to neither surprise or initiative rolls. Starting at level 6 a Kensei is surprised only on a roll of 1. Starting at level 7 students will begin to seek a Kensei out, 1d4 every level. When a Kensei's student levels up the Kensei makes a morale check, if the check is passed the student stays with the Kensei to continue learning, if it is failed they move on. As such, they are not really followers, but not Henchmen or Hirelings either. Students require no pay, and will perform many menial duties (cooking, cleaning, etc.) for their master in return for their training. These students may be of any Warrior class (Bushi, Samurai, Kensei), but are more likely to stay if they are Kensei. At level 9 the Kensei gains the whirlwind attack, where he focuses his power and launches into a blindingly fast series of attacks where he gets a single attack vs. every enemy within his weapons range or 10', whichever is greater.

Kensei restrictions- A Kensei may wear only light armor, and if he does he loses any Class and/or
Wisdom based AC bonuses. A Kensei must practice with his chosen weapon for at least 1 hour per day, every day or lose his Class based abilities, fighting as a Bushi of equal level, until the missing hours are made up. Starting at level 5 (to gain level 5), a Kensei must seek out a higher level Kensei and defeat him in a duel to rise in level. These duels are (mostly) non-lethal in nature, but the details are up to the DM. If a Kensei loses the duel, he is reduced in experience points to the minimum necessary for his current level, ie. a 4th level Kensei losing his first "level-up" duel, would drop to 10001 experience points.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This is the direction I am heading with the Samurai


A Samurai is a warrior of the upper classes and a follower of the code of Bushido. A Samurai is required to have a 9 or better in Strength, Dexterity and Constitution, and a 13 or better in both Intelligence and Wisdom. Clearly not every warrior born to the upper classes is actually a true Samurai. Samurai must have a Lawful alignment. Samurai are expected to be proficient with both Katana and Daikyu, and may elect to specialize in one or the other. The Katana and Wakizashi, known as the Daisho together, are the mark of a Samurai's rank and status. Every person born into their birth rank is entitled to wear the Daisho, but few of those that are not Samurai, Kensei or Bushi choose to, it is an implicit acceptance of challenges to one's honor. Only Humans or Spirit Folk may become Samurai, and they must be of the appropriate birth rank to do so.

A Samurai may wear any type of armor and use any non-ninja weapon.

Samurai have several class abilities that grow in power as they increase in level. Starting at 2nd level a Samurai adds +1 to his damage dice, increasing by a further +1 every 3rd level thereafter. So the progression is +1 at 2nd level, +2 at 5th level, +3 at 8th level. Starting at 3rd level a Samurai gains a +1 to Will Saves every other level, so +1 at 3rd level, +2 at 5th level, +3 at 7th level, +4 at 9th level. A Samurai becomes immune to fear at 6th level. A Samurai gains the ability to cause Fear in creatures with 1HD or less, subject to a Will Save, at level 8.

Experience Points Experience Level Hit Dice
0-2500 1 1d10
2501-5000 2 2d10
5001-10000 3 3d10
10001-18000 4 4d10
18001-36500 5 5d10
36501-75000 6 6d10
75001-135000 7 7d10
135001-235000 8 8d10
235001-400000 9 9d10
400001+ 10 9d10+2

Samurai are required to roll on the Ancestry, Family and Birth Right tables, and track Honor as normal. Samurai must adhere to the code of Bushido, typified by these eight virtues:

  • Righteousness
  • Courage
  • Benevolence
  • Respect
  • Sincerity
  • Honor
  • Loyalty
  • Self Control
  • And also, these associated virtues-
    • Filial Piety
    • Fraternal Respect

A little something I've been working on


The Shugenja is both a priest and a sorcerer. They are the primary spell casting class in Samurai! A Shugenja might be a solitary hermit, a temple priest, a village holy man, or a court wizard. All Shugenja must be Good aligned. Only Humans and Hengeyokai may become Shugenja. Most adventuring Shugenja are the magic wielding equivalent of Samurai, acting as the magical protectors of their lord's domains, and rooting out evil in the empire. Wisdom is the prime requisite of the Shugenja, and a Shugenja with a Wisdom score of 15 or better receives a 10% bonus to experience points. They also receive bonus spells for high wisdom as a Cleric.

Experience Points    Experience Level    Hit Dice
0-1500                               1                          1d6
1501-3000                         2                          2d6
3001-5500                         3                          3d6
5501-11000                       4                          4d6
11001-22000                     5                          5d6
22001-44000                     6                          6d6
44001-90000                     7                          7d6
90001-150000                   8                          8d6
150001-300000                 9                          9d6
300001+                           10                         9d6+1

Shugenja Spells by Level
Shugenja Level 1 2 3 4 5
1                        1 -  -  - -
2                        2 -  -  - -
3                        3 -  -  - -
4                        3 1 -  - -
5                        3 2 -  - -
6                        4 2 1 - -
7                        4 3 2 - -
8                        4 3 2 1 -
9                        5 3 2 2 -
10                      5 4 2 2 1
Shugenja may choose spells from either the Cleric or the Magic-User lists*

Shugenja turn undead as a Cleric of the equal level. Shugenja receive a +3 to Will based saves. Shugenja may use any weapons and are restricted to light armor. Some Shugenja renounce their family ties and thus are not required to roll on the Family, Ancestry or Birth Right tables. Shugenja calculate Honor as normal.

*This is until I create a spell list specifically for the Shugenja. Their magics tend to be either Elemental or Spirit based.

I forgot Blogger likes to destroy formatting, but I fixed it so it kind of looks like it did when I wrote it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


I had a dream this morning I was playing Europa (the WW II mega board game), which was kind of odd, because I haven't played it since maybe 1991; but the even weirder part is that it's the second time this week I have dreamt I was playing it.

I don't even have a copy of any game in the series anymore. So I took this as a sign that I might want to play some serious large scale hex and counter wargaming, and thus, did a search on Ebay to find a copy of one of the Europa series of games. Being as how they are massive games, I was pretty happy when I found a few copies of some titles in the series really reasonably priced, and even a little surprised when I found some copies at right around their list price from back in the day.

I ran through three variations on the search to make certain I could net the greatest number of results- Europa, GRD and GDW (the latter two being the companies that produced the game). None of the searches were perfect, each came back with a variety of results for things I wasn't looking for- Fortress Europa (a fine game in it's own right), GRD apparently did get around to publishing their Pacific/East Asian version of the game, and a First World War game too.

I was surprised though by two things though when I did the GDW search. First, Frank Chadwick's name is attached to a whole lot of games I played when I was young and second, and possibly related, is that I played a lot more GDW stuff than I ever really realized. Traveller was my first non-D&D RPG, and while I didn't play it a lot (I didn't own the game), I have pretty fond memories of it. GDW's “Tet Offensive” and “Stand & Die: The Battle of Borodino 1941” taunted younger me from the shelves at Twilight book and Game because they looked awesome and I couldn't reasonably afford them with my 1991 salary. Command Decision was the first miniatures wargame I ever owned. Dragon Magazine insured that I would purchase and play “Twilight:2000”, it's numerous accessories and, eventually, it's second edition (and it's 2.5 edition); to this day it's the best game I never played enough of. “The Blue Max” was pretty much a guarantee for playing with my best friend Darryl's dad (Big Darryl) because of our “Dawn Patrol” addiction. “Space 1889” was maybe the coolest RPG I never bought or played, it's on my bucket list. They published Gary Gygax's “Dangerous Journeys”, which was kind of ballsy considering the vindictive giant that TSR was at the time. I read Challenge magazine after I stopped reading Dragon. I remember playing “Air Superiority” with Big Darryl too.

This is just a list of GDW products that I spotted reading through 3/4s of a page on an Ebay search. I am sure there would be more if I found an actual catalog and looked through it.

edit- it turns out that wikipedia has a list of their games here and it is even more of a trip down memory lane- "Harpoon", "En Garde" and more.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June 6th 1944 D-Day

71 years ago today Allied forces invaded Normandy. That's 25 years before I was born, but I grew up knowing that WW II was the good war, the Nazis were bad guys and we won.

I have gamed WW II a lot. I probably started as a kid just playing at war with my friends. I also played with toy soldiers with my friends, and we almost always fought WW II. When I started wargaming I played a lot of WW II games, and when I play wargames these days, it still almost always a WW II game. Axis & Allies, 3rd Reich, Soldiers, Hitler's War, Squad Leader, Up Front, Europa, no matter what the scale or complexity I've pretty much played it. My first foray into miniatures wargaming was with HO scale WW II minis, and I still have a pretty good sized collection of 28mm WW II stuff for Bolt Action and my B/X WW II hack. Opponents being more difficult to find as I get older, I play out WW II on my PC. I've played a handful of first person shooters and RTS games set during WW II, but mostly I play the kind of games I'd play if I had an opponent here at my house- essentially computerized board games. I loved Panzer General back in the day, and I play it's spiritual descendant Panzer Corps still today. Just yesterday I played Front Line: Road to Moscow for a while.

But WW II was more than just a setting for some of my favorite games. My paternal grandfather, a hal dozen or so great-uncles, 3 of my uncles and one of my aunts, and more cousins than I can count served in the US armed forces during WW II. One of my great-uncles died in North Africa, leaving my father's first cousin fatherless. Most of them were enlisted, a couple were officers. Some never saw combat, most did. My father's first cousin was seriously wounded and captured in Italy. My mother's oldest brother came back with malaria that would regularly flare up until the day he died. They were pilots, sailors, ambulance drivers and mostly infantrymen. They fought in every theater of the war that had US troops.

WW II loomed large over my childhood. My parents were both born during the war. My grandfather taught me to fight and shoot using the same techniques that he taught young GIs how to kill Germans. A lady that lived around the corner, with kids not much older than me, was a holocaust survivor. My elementary school bus driver had been pressed into the Hitler Youth as a kid in Lithuania. My wife's grandfather had served as an infantryman in the 28th division during the battle of the bulge, his wife, her grandmother was an army nurse during the war.

I think it's odd that in the US we have Memorial Day, commemorating the end of the Civil War, and Veteran's Day for WW I; but nothing particular for WW II. We remember, some of us anyway, D-Day and Pearl Harbor Day, maybe V-E Day or V-J day, but there isn't a national holiday commemorating the end of mankind's most destructive conflict, a conflict that ushered in the atomic era and catapulted the US to superpower status.

Most of my relatives that fought in that war are dead now. I guess it makes sense, it was 70+ years ago. I am middle-aged now, and they were all pretty old when I was a kid. I really miss them though. They loved Roosevelt and the New Deal, because they lived through the depression. They loved America as you only can when there is serious sacrifice involved. They weren't perfect, but they were, by and large, pretty decent folks. This being one of those remembered anniversarys, I am thinking about them.

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.