Onrush of Mongols

Onrush of Mongols
By Aras Daamoon aka LordAras@deviantart

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's been over a year...

It's been over a year since I wrote anything for this blog, and it was a sit spotty for about a year before that. I tried to keep things going for a while, but I was much more greatly affected by the death of my sister than I could have ever imagined. I've really screwed up my credibility by failing to deliver prizes to a bunch of contest winners, for which I have no excuse. I still have all of the prizes, and if I owe you one, and you are still reading my blog, contact me and I'll get them to you.

I haven't really gamed at all for roughly the same period of time, but now I am in a better place and want to DM again. I am thinking Lamentations of the Flame Princess, mostly because I want to step out of the generic quasi-western European fantasy D&D mold, while still actually using a game system I am familiar with. I picked up a couple of the modules for it, and I had a few more and a pdf of the Grindhouse edition (and Vornheim) but when my last computer finally died, at the age of eleven, I lost my LotFP stuff, but they have a free version available on RPG Now/Drive through RPG, so I guess I'll print that out. Anyone in the Northern Central NY area want to play?

I am also working on another RPG based on Joshua Guess' Next with my long time collaborator Darryl Cook and my lovely wife Mona AKA Saint Mona the Patient, who keeps me out of jail. It's good to be working on projects again, but Darryl really has the lead on this one. Baby steps back out into the world. Speaking of Darryl and me working on RPG stuff together, 43 AD is now available in print on demand format on LULU, we play-tested it and edited it, the author is Paul Elliot, the man behind Zozer Games.

James Raggi- my wife would like to do some art for you.

I guess that's all I have to say for now. I know it's been a while, and you'd think I'd have more, but I've had a rough couple of years. Be well everyone, and I'll try to make this a regular thing again, but I am a little out of the loop right now, so I need to do some catching up on OSR related news (I could really not care less about the new edition of D&D)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Buried the lead story again.

The result of a coin toss has given the June prize of Warlord Games 28mm American soldiers to LASGUNPACKER. I recently acquired the Bolt Action rules and am reading through them myself, so I hope you enjoy your prize.

As usual, send me your postal address to williamjdowie AT gmail DOT com, and I'll send the miniatures.

For those of you who won the Roman themed contest- I am sending the dice (and miniature) out tomorrow too. I have gotten a little weary of waiting for Mona's artwork backlog keeping me from sending the other prizes.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I discovered that, with the purchase of the "Otosan Uchi" boxed set, I had nearly everything printed for the first, second and third editions of the "Legend of the Five Rings" RPG. Everything except the "Tomb of Iuchiban". Imagine my surprise when I went looking for that particular item and saw the prices that it fetches. I am not a collector, I play my games, but when I see a $120.00+ price tag on what has been called "the Tomb of Horrors for L5R", I get a little annoyed. What, did they only print like 50 copies? I'll stop ranting now.

Last weekend I played "Barbarians of Lemuria" and it was pretty cool, met some cool new people and they seem like my kind of playing group, a little laid back, the GM made rulings instead of looking stuff up in the book every 5 minutes. I even had a beer there. Plans have been laid out to make this their summer game and I intend to keep playing. It was fun, my only comment was that we could have played the exact same adventure with D&D or a retro-clone (my current favorite being S&W).

Now I see it's June and I have an obligation to run my contest, the sole prize for this is a box of Warlord Games 28mm scale American Infantry for their Bolt Action line. I haven't played Bolt Action yet, but I did order the rules recently, because I like skirmish scale WW2 stuff. Warlord games sponsored this contest, and usually I like to pick a best adventure, with my judges, to decide who get's the prizes; but I haven't been all that bloggy lately, didn't come up with a working set of OSR style rules for WW2 (yet), so I will choose the victor at random from the comments section.My original idea had been to run an OSR D-Day/Battle for Normandy adventure contest.

For those of you still waiting on prizes from my last Roman themed contest, my wife is busy with other art commitments, but assures me that your portraits are next on her list, in the meantime I am going to just mail the dice to the winners, sorry about the delay.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I've Been Absent for a While

I haven't blogged for a while. I had some health issues, my daughter Ashli has had some health issues and two of my Aunts died this year, which just brought me back to the same depressed funk I was in following my sister's death last September. Mostly though I haven't been writing anything because I haven't had anything to say. I haven't gamed at all since December, and I didn't want to turn my blog into just a series of announcements of what cool new stuff I got in the mail and contests.

Speaking of contests, my last Roman themed contest in particular, I still haven't sent out the dice. I was kind of hoping to mail them with the character portraits my wife offered to do, but she's still waiting to hear from the winners what exactly they want. You can email her directly at monelun AT yahoo Dot com, but I suggest CC-ing the messages to me at WilliamJDowie AT gmail Dot com, so I can catch them too if they end up in her spam folder.

Spring is here now, and aside from plotting my planting and doing some clean up and repairs around the house, I think I may just get a chance to game again soon. I got the entire Basic Fantasy RPG collection available on Amazon and I picked up Swords and Wizardry in both the White Box and complete flavors. I am hoping to do something for Swords and Wizardry appreciation day, but I am unwilling to commit since it falls two days after my sister's birthday and I am not sure I'll be in the mood for anything; this being the first year without her.

I had planned on running a Celtic themed contest in March, but my depression kind of got in the way of that, so I think I'll run it later this year, maybe October so we can get the whole Samhain/Halloween thing going with it.

My more ambitious plan is to put together a D-Day/Normandy campaign themed contest for June, I think an OSR game can handle any genre, Sci-Fi has been done more than once, so why not WW II? What do you all think?

Warlord Games has already generously agreed to sponsor both contests.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Roman Contest Prizes Awarded-

Grand Prize-
PDF copies of 43 AD and it's supplement Warband, courtesy of Zozer Games.
8”x10” Canvas Print courtesy of easycanvasprints.com
Print copy of William Morris's House of the Wolfings
Print copy of LC1 Assault Against the Menace on the Mountain
PDF of LC1 Assault Against the Menace on the Mountain
Roman Numeral D4(x2), D6(x2) and D10(x2).
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.

Goes to Ned Leffingwell for “Mayhem at the Manor”

Second Prize-
PDF copy of 43 AD courtesy of Zozer Games.
PDF of LC1 Assault Against the Menace on the Mountain
Roman Numeral D4, D6(x2) and D10.
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.
One Old School 1984 Ral Partha Roman Legionary lead miniature, unpainted.

Goes to David Jaske for “Road to Antioch”

Third Prize-
PDF copy of 43 AD courtesy of Zozer Games.
PDF of LC1 Assault Against the Menace on the Mountain
Roman Numeral D4, D6(x2) and D10.
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.

Goes to Ian MacDougal for “The Crooked Baths”

May the laurels of victory be placed upon the brows of the victors!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roman Contest Over

I declare my latest themed contest officially at an end. I probably should have done that yesterday, but it was a snow day and the kids were home. The relatively small number of entries should make judging easy and fast, so I'd expect to see an announcement before the weekend as to who has won what. Thanks to everyone that entered, refrigerator magnets will most likely be going out in the mail the same time as the prizes; most likely Saturday.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Contest Deadline

It has been suggested, and I agree, that I should maybe move the contest deadline through the weekend. I have a couple of good reasons for doing this- a number of people have contacted me and said they probably would not have their submissions ready on time, so an extra weekend to work on them might make for a more robust contest; and I am not running a February contest, so it doesn't conflict there either.

So I guess that's about all, unless someone wants to volunteer to judge. I lost two judges this time around, so I am down to three. That's not much of a panel.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So I've Been Sick

For most of January I've been sick and not promoting my contest at all, or blogging to speak of. I just came on today to thank everyone who did submit an entry for the contest and remind everyone that there is still a little over a day left to get an entry in.

I also wanted to get a public shout out and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my son John who turned 18 today.

So, I haven't been at my computer a whole lot, other than WotC opening the vaults on D&D Classics and me missing my own Blog's Anniversary; did I miss anything important?

I have mostly been doing a lot of reading and laying in bed this month and it looks like it may go on that way for a while longer, so I will not be running a February contest. I have already planned a Celtic themed contest for March though, running from the 1st through the 31st. Warlord Games is already signed on to sponsor that one, so I figure I have to run it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


So I am running a contest here, and maybe I should be promoting it a little more, but I have to say I am a little disappointed at the response so far. The Viking themed contest was so successful I thought that themed contests were sure to be a hit, but maybe I was wrong. My Mongol contest was a bust, I only got one entry. I suppose I should have just declared him the winner of all three top prizes, but I figured nobody wants to win by default. Mongols were somewhat specialized though, so I thought Ancient Rome would be a good theme, easily as popular as Vikings, if I can believe film and literature.

But now the contest is half over and I still haven't received any entries, which is probably a bad sign; and nobody sending me a progress report, which is a worse sign.

So I have to wonder, is it the themed nature of the contest, or did I make the rules too open? Do people just not respond to the Ancient Roman theme? Something else entirely?

Will I be inundated with contest entries as the deadline approaches? I am curious, I generally receive a lot more feedback than I am getting now, and this contest has been advertised to a much wider audience, so I would have expected more rather than less.

Anyway, there are a bunch of cool prizes at stake.

Comment if you have an opinion about my contests, whether it's the theme, the way I run them, whatever; I can handle constructive criticism.

Maybe next time I'll put up a poll to vote on a theme.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Roman Dice...

...are here.

Click to embiggen.

Now we're just waiting for some contest submissions so I can give 'em away!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ave Caesar! A Contest Update

I just want to reiterate all of the contest rules and prizes here and announce that I am extending the submissions deadline until the end of January rather than the Ides, because, while the Ides sounded cool, don't think it gave enough time with the holidays in the way.

So here we go-

The contest is to write an Ancient Roman Empire themed adventure for early edition D&D, AD&D or one of their popular retroclones. One Page Dungeons are fine, but I have had people need more space, so short adventures are acceptable too. I am willing to accept anything you are willing to submit, up to and including huge hex-crawls; every adventure will be judged on it's own merit.

The fine print- I intend to publish these submissions to the web as a free series for the OSR community, if you want to opt out of having me give your work away to everyone, mention it in your submission email.

All adventures should be submitted via email to me at williamjdowie AT gmail DOT com by midnight on January 31st EST. I will then email them to the rest of the judges.

The good stuff-

Everyone who submits an entry, or really, really wants one gets a refrigerator magnet. So far the magnets have made it to Europe and Australia, as well as all over the USA, let's see how many continents and countries we can hit while the supply lasts! Just send me your postal address with your submission and my wife will mail it out within a few days, unless you live in Maryland or Germany, in which case I will have to nag her for weeks.

Grand Prize-
PDF copies of 43 AD and it's supplement Warband, courtesy of Zozer Games.
8”x10” Canvas Print courtesy of easycanvasprints.com
Roman Numeral D4(x2), D6(x2) and D10(x2).
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.

Second Prize-
PDF copy of 43 AD courtesy of Zozer Games.
Roman Numeral D4, D6(x2) and D10.
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.
One Old School 1984 Ral Partha Roman Legionary lead miniature, unpainted.

Third Prize-
PDF copy of 43 AD courtesy of Zozer Games.
Roman Numeral D4, D6(x2) and D10.
One commissioned Character portrait courtesy of Mona Dowie.

Prizes may be updated, as I am constantly on the lookout for more sponsors and I am not averse to opening my own vault of gaming goods if I think we need more submissions.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Gamer ADD...

...and why it should drive my players crazy.

I have a tendency to create entirely new campaigns when we have too long a hiatus between gaming sessions and sometimes just because I got a good idea and wanted to run with it. My players have the patience of Job; week to week they don't know what setting they'll be playing in or if there'll be character generation involved.

They just roll with it. Work and school kept us away from the Norse game for too long? I needed to play some adventures I got for a contest so I could accurately judge them? I am running my Roman themed contest and decided it would be cool to start a new adventure to set the mood for all the new adventures I am sure will start pouring in any day now? It's December and we always play OA in December? I need to play-test my WW II B/X game? They are cool with it all.

I actually said to them last month that part of the reason I keep all the character sheets here is so I can restart old campaigns where we left off if that's what strikes my fancy that week and they were cool with never knowing what campaign or even RPG they are going to be playing from week to week. I have long running campaigns, but they run like British television, you might have three to five episodes then have to wait a year before the next series.

My daughter Ashli has a Halfling Thief character that is probably her favorite character of all time, Ruby Cloverleaf. She's had that character since she was maybe fifteen years old, she's twenty now, Ruby gets played maybe half a dozen times per year. The thing is, I guess, as a DM I'd rather DM something I am super enthusiastic about than just go through the motions if I am losing interest in a game for a little while. Sometimes I need to have a little time to recharge, to think about what's going on in a specific campaign and so taking a break will be my idea; more often than not though, a change of campaign is usually brought on by a lack of gaming for at least a couple of weeks, during which time I will have had a cool idea.

That's not how it used to be. I used to run a campaign practically forever. Being a grown-up and having life get in the way of gaming has kind of put a damper on that. I haven't gamed with the Darryls for months now. I haven't gamed with Lance in the better part of a year, although he says he wants to do some board gaming this week. Lee's new job in the ER has kept her away from our game table for most of the last six months, so it's a nice surprise when she can make it.

I have got maybe the best group of players on Earth, they put up with not knowing what we'll be doing from week to week, just to suit my desire to DM whatever I feel like DMing because I can be fickle. What they don't know is that whatever the genre, where ever it takes place, whatever RPG system is used it's all part of the grand design anyway; it's all one unified campaign setting; everything that happens in one “setting” (or sub-setting) has subtle effects on the others.

I just wish I had the ability to dump my brain onto paper and have it all make sense. When people ask me questions, usually the members of my design team, I always know the answer, pretty much regardless of how esoteric the question might be. The setting exists fully formed in my head, the rest of the team are there to help me bring it out, and to do illustrations. I am no good at art. Poetry might be nice too, setting-wise. Flavor stuff, I know the flavors, I just need some help with getting them to the masses.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 1st 2013 or 2766 A.U.C.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope that you are all hard at work on you adventures for my contest because I ordered the Roman Numeral dice today for the winners, D4s, D6s and D10s. I'll post some pictures when they arrive.

I also want to pimp the Up FrontKickstarter again, it's got less than a full day left, but it's already fully funded and met every stretch goal, so the 125.00 sweet spot gets you a hell of a lot of game. If you like World War 2 games or card games it's worth every penny.

Now this is going to be short, but I feel like I should mention it, my Aunt June passed away today. She was my mother's older sister and my last surviving blood relative that was a veteran of WW II. My mom came from a huge family, there were 14 kids and she was 3rd from the last, so I have a lot of relatives on her side of the family, but my Aunt June was special and I will miss her.

Now, I am two play reports behind, and, to be honest, I don't know whether or not I'll ever get them done; anything more than a really brief synopsis anyway. The Roman themed game and the traditional December Oriental Adventures game. The Roman game had a bit of a dungeon crawl in it, which reminded me that I wanted to mention that I had really quit doing dungeons for the most part before the OSR came along. Now I have my Viking Mega-Dungeon, the ruined Temple of Apollo just off the Via Salaria and my OA game with it's overland travel and court politics is out of the norm.

Just an observation.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Samurai, Shugenja & Sohei

I have been working on a total rebuild of AD&D's Oriental Adventures book for a while now, just to fix the parts I thought were broken. I play-tested the rebuilt classes for the first time with my regular group recently.

First, a little background: my goal was to make the game more compatible with “classic” 1st edition AD&D, and that as I played it back in the day and still play it; which is to say with a lot more OD&D via Holmes Basic and a healthy dose of Moldvay/Cook B/X. I have also spent the better part of a decade tracking down other Asian inspired RPGs and reading through them to see what the best bits were, mining for inspiration you might say. The best were Bushido, Sengoku and Legend of the Five Rings (which already has a D&D conversion, albeit 3e). Clearly then, my OA project (which I should give at least a working title) is mostly inspired by Japan; I have, in fact, removed non-Japanese elements from the game where I found them.

Second, some of the character class design concepts were still in fluctuation in my head right up until the players started rolling up ability scores. I knew I wanted the characters in my OA game to be able to fit into anybody's standard AD&D game and NOT be over-powered compared to their occidental cousins. Ki powers are gone from every class. I also ditched all non-weapon proficiencies; my thinking on that was that any character should pretty much know how to do the stuff that makes sense for his Character Class, Birth Rank and background, failing that a player should be able to come up with a plausible reason why their character might know how to do something with the DM using his judgment as to what constitutes plausible.

On to the Character Classes-

What's gone? The Barbarian, the Wu Jen, the Yakuza and the Ninja. The Barbarian didn't make the cut based on me deciding that I was homogenizing the rules set to Japanese. The Wu Jen mostly got the axe for the same reason, he's just a funky Magic-User named in Chinese. The elemental aspects of Asian magic were rudimentary at best. The Yakuza was just a guild Thief with some annoying and usually hard to play special abilities, they make good NPCs, lousy PCs; I replaced them with the Thief from AD&D. Thieves are universal, they don't all need to be gangster thugs in a feudal Japanese fantasy setting. I'll probably change the name if I ever learn the Japanese word for “Thief”. The Ninja I replaced with my Shinobi, which, now that I have a copy of the AD&D 2nd edition Complete Ninja Handbook is close enough to their Ninja that I want to go back in time and sue TSR.

The Bushi is pretty much a straight port over of the Fighter, I may change this up some for flavor, but no one wanted to play a straight Bushi, so it didn't come up.

The Samurai are about the power level of an AD&D Paladin, only less holy (which is to say not really at all holy) and more combat oriented. Maybe a Ranger? I made them super melee fighters by giving them the 3e feat “Cleave” as a class ability, it seemed pretty Samurai like. They also get to specialize with weapons, yes, I kept weapon specialization from OA/UA. Although now it occurs to me that I may have to create a separate Samurai Archer type class because this class is so melee oriented. Anyway, requires a STR 9 WIS 14 and one other special I'll mention later.

Kensei means “Sword-Saint” or “Sword Master”, so I am tempted to make them solely a sword based class, but discussions with my gaming buddies tell me that it probably would be even less popular a choice for players if I did. I changed their ridiculous XP advancement back down to something reasonable and toned down their powers. A lot of the class abilities require that the player role-play, or at least announce they are practicing whenever possible. While I encourage role-playing, I can't see the stiff penalties for failing to practice, using a magic weapon or using a weapon other than your chosen weapon for instance; they're already the only Fighter Sub-Class that can NOT wear armor. Nobody chose to play a Kensei though, so I guess it's still in flux until someone does. I guess an Archer Kensei would make up for the Samurai's melee focus though. Still not happy about the no armor thing, but I am listing to several arguments for and against, so I am open minded on this point.

Shugenja, this is a big one. I never really liked the Wu Jen or the original Shukenja so I basically started back-porting the 3e OA Shugenja to 1st edition AD&D, essentially making a Cleric/Wizard mix for the game. I realize this is something of a cop-out, but creating something that's pretty much what I want anyway, when it's already been done by somebody else and it works (theoretically) seems like a waste of my time. No one wanted to play one though, so it's unfinished.

Sohei got a major rework from me. I bring them more in line with OD&D or B/X Clerics only without weapon restrictions and give them the d8 Hit Die. So, pretty much an AD&D Cleric with no spell at first level and all weapons available. Waiting until 5th level for spells was BS.

The Monk also saw major reworking. I looked at various edition's versions of the Monk Class and mostly mixed and matched what powers/level I liked while dropping the over-all power level, but increasing lower level survivability. They get d8 Hit Dice and fight as Clerics and can use their Monk special attacks with martial arts weapons. No one wanted to play a Monk though, so it hasn't been tested.

Originally OA had one extra Ability Score- Comeliness, which I hated and ignored. Hidden within the game is another one though. One that I brought out and replaced the loser stat Comeliness with- Birth Rank. I changed it from a roll after you pick your Character Class, with Class based modifiers to a straight 3d6 roll. Now it's a prerequisite for becoming a Samurai (13+) and, when combined with Ancestry and Birth Right rolls can seriously affect your starting money. It will not affect any OA characters leaving their “home” setting, but it strongly affects reaction rolls. I actually don't see why this couldn't be ported over into any OSR game setting, I mean in non-AD&D you roll 3d6 for starting gold, that's pretty much the same thing- a 13+ would indicate your character was a member of the warrior aristocracy (or merchant elite) an 18 would indicate noble birth.

In the end my players chose to be a pair of Samurai, a Thief and a Sohei. I retained the Ancestry, and Family rolls from the original OA book, because they weren't broken (mostly, what is will be fixed soon) and used them to tie the player's characters together much tighter than any standard AD&D party would have been. Because of my liberal AD&D policy of rolling 4d6 arrange as you like, and the fact that the players are all veterans of at least one OA campaign, they all chose to put a decent stat score into Birth Rank, which meant I could make them all really interconnected like the aristocracy of a small province really would be. They are all related to at least one other character by either blood or marriage and one is the Daimyo's sister-in-law. OA, the only flavor of D&D where you might start off married with children.

New Years resolution- Finish this beast of a project.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Contest Update

I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but I am going to add Roman Numeral dice to the top three winners. What gamer doesn't love dice? I also have a play report I am behind on, I DMed a party through a Roman themed adventure where all of the characters were members of the Praetorian Guard, but a secret elite unit that hunted supernatural threats to the empire. For fun I set it during the last year of the reign of Caligula. One of the players dubbed the game setting "Ancient Roman Ghost Busters", I can live with that, although I had both Cthulu Invictus and The Walking Dead in mind when I wrote the first adventure.

Anyway, happy holidays to all of you, whatever holidays you celebrate or just a day off from work, if that's your thing. My Saturnalia/Yule/Christmas has been exceptional this year- here are a sampling of the kick-ass miniatures and the game to go with them that I have gotten so far-

I have to say, I was skeptical of hard plastic miniatures, but Warlord has won me over and the rulebook is a work of art.

 The Fanatics groups are both metal miniature sets, and Warlord's metals have always been high quality. I look forward to a marathon painting session over the Christmas break session with the kids and my wife.