Category Archives: Legacy D&D

UCON 2014 Impressions

I had fun at UCON and wish I had had the ability to be there the whole weekend, instead of the whole day. I did get tired and ran out of steam at about 7:00 pm, so I made the 2 hour derive home. Thankfully, the worst of the weather did not impact the interstate. This was my third con for 2014. Before this year, I had not been to a con in about 30 years.

I got there about 7:45 registration opened at 8:00. I took a chance and asked if I could get my stuff, and they were kind enough to accommodate me. I had pre-registered and prepaid for the day, so all they had to do was check my ID and have me sign something. I ordered a UCON bag, in case I needed it.

I then looked around to find where the two games I had signed up would be, they were in the same conference room at different tables. I had about and hour to kill before my first game at 9:00.

At 8:45 I worked my way back to the conference room, which was by now open, and found the table for Keep on the Borderlands, with S&W Rules. I had never player this module, or had no recollection of it, if I did. I started with Holme’s Blue Box, and modules were not a thing my brother and I could afford, so we only played modules when friends provided them. We had a father, John, and his ten year old son, Jack. This was Jack’s first con game. The other two players were friends Frank and Michael. Our DM was Forest Ray. We had a good time. We were given max hit points and our magic user, John’s character, was allowed to be third level. the magic user also hired a lantern bearer. Other than the power boost from the magic user and lots of sleep spells, we did very well in combat and the DM could not hit us for anything. We did have a couple of people get hit, but it was not knock down damage. Even if we had not had the extra spells of the magic user, we would have still done very well. Jack got the UCON token to redeem for a prize since this was his first game at a con. It was fun, but I can see where a lot of younger players would misunderstand game design and every player end up with a magic weapon or item of some sort. If there is a closet with a magic sword for every fighter in the group and other things, why aren’t the orcs using them on the players? In three hours we rolled up characters and got past the bandits, kobolds, and orcs. It was fun and I would have liked to keep going.

Next I viewed the vendor area. It was not very big at all. I had expected there to be more vendors there, but there was a bit of something for everyone.

I bought some things that I had not planned to by, but isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at conventions? I had to have something to put in my UCON bag.

I picked up Gygax Magazine No. 2 at the Pacesetter Booth, that’s all they had. I have the PDFs but like having a real one. I wished I had the chessmen covers, those are too cool and remind me of the ones on Dragon, by the same artist. I wish I had my old collection of Dragon Magazine.

At Newera Enterprises, ran by Roy B. Snyder, I found a Blue Box Basic D&D Manual. This is what I started with. I gave my original to my youngest brother. But over the years, found myself wanting one.

I also picked up some things that I never owned back in the day: the red box basic rules that has a module in it – Keep on the Borderlands; the blue cover Expert Rules and red cover Player’s Manual with a Dungeon Master’s Handbook.

I spoke with Roy for awhile and found out that he live in Kalamazoo, and that one of the police officers in the village where I live has written for Castles & Crusades. It’s a small world. I had no idea.

UCON 2014L oot
UCON 2014L oot

While in the dealer room, I way a guy with this awesome shirt, and he was kind enough to let me take a picture of it.

Call Chulhu
Call Chulhu

I then introduced myself to Tim Snyder, of The Savage Afterworld, who was manning the Goblinoid Games booth. Tim sums up our conversation on his blog. Yes, Tim, it was good to meet you. One thing I will mention, is that it was priceless to see Tim’s reaction that I played Keep on the Borderlands for the first time that morning. [Tim – The Village of Hommlet is the module I was struggling to recall the name.]

From 2:00 – 6:00 I played in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, DM’s by Shawn Dry. This was ran as three four hour sessions, so one player could go through the entire adventure, if they signed up for all three sessions. I played a high level priest of Odin. I had played this module once way back in high school, so I remembered bits and pieces. As the DM showed us pictures of the creatures and other things we were finding, I recalled more of it. This was the middle session, and we had done well. I was having such a good time, I wanted to play in the next session. We had one character die, and mine got knocked down. We thought for sure we had a TPK on our hands, but we prevailed and survived for the next round of players to finish the module.

My only real complaint, it that on the website for UCON when I signed up, it was not clear playing through the Peaks module was an all day thing. I did try to sign up for the third session online before I knew this, but it and the first session filled up before the second. I did go downstairs and try to sign up for the third session, having forgotten it was already filled. I did not think to ask about an “alternate” ticket, in case someone didn’t show up. The person assisting me did not ask if I was interested in another session at that time, and I did not think to ask. It didn’t help that some guy came up asking her about shirts in the middle of her helping me, so she was well distracted, as was I. (What is it about people and their social skills and waiting their turn? I find this in places other than cons, usually at convenience stores all the time where the person behind me is putting their stuff on the counter around me, before I can put my change or my receipt in my wallet and put away my wallet and grab my stuff and get out of the way.)

I would suggest that the website show filled sessions in red or whatever color it is that works for color blind people, so one can see at a glance which ones are still available. That doesn’t mean one can buy the “alternate” tickets in case someone is a no show. Also if any games have the potential to be an all day thing, make that clear, so one can decide if they want to play the whole thing or just a portion. I would gladly play another module with Shawn as DM.

My plan was to meet others I have met and followed in online RPG settings, but I ran out of steam too soon. It is hard to fit all one wants to do into a single day at a three day con.

I was impressed by this con. It was big enough to have lots for everyone. For the board game set, the ball room was filled with tables. I would say 50+ tables. The venue was big enough to accommodate the attendees with only momentary crowds in a couple of places and not the press of a horde, like at GenCon. There were all kinds of RPGs, many I had never heard of. I loved that they had an OSR track. There were several DMs using their Dave Trampier cover AD&D DM screens.

I am already looking to next year. I plan to get Friday off so I can be present from the beginning, and to get Monday off so I have a day to rest. I will also get a room, so I don’t have to deal with all the driving and weather. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until January to put in the request at work.


Collaborative Sandbox Design

I am a participant in the Tenkar’s Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting. It is an interesting concept and it is cool to see all the ideas and how people consult their neighbors to sync up features like rivers and roads and adjust maps to flow with the ideas of others.

I picked a swamp hex. In my campaign I don’t have players running around near a swamp, so my ideas are limited in application to my game. However, other’s hexes have ideas and terrain more in line with where my players are running around, so I can glean ideas.

I see this growing and becoming a very thick book, even a series of modules.

I can’t wait to see how it all plays out and fits together.

What is the OSR?

The perfect answer from Greyhawk Grognard, it even has a d20 table! He does mention that it could easily be a d100 table. It should at least be a d30 table so I can use the d30 I bought at GenCon.

Now everyone should be happy, or not, probably not for some that just can’t let it go. Sounds like a younger me who just couldn’t let go of a fine point of distinction lost on the majority of the world. Get over it, IT’S A GAME! If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Tombs, Riches, and a Troll

My son and his girlfriend came over yesterday to play D&D.

They hired more men and bought tools and another wagon and team of horses and went back to the tomb that they needed tools to open. They opened it and found a pristine tomb, but the treasure of ancient swords and shields had lost its luster after finding so many more of the same in other tombs in the general area. They have a buyer who will pay for each piece they find, but they decided that only coins, gems, jewelry and really shiny items are what they want.

They rolled really well and I rolled very poorly and they defeated a gelatinous cube with a large treasure. I had only determined the number of gems and jewelry. I waited until they beat it to figure those things out when we took a break. I rolled exceptionally well and had several gems worth 5,000 and a huge ruby worth 10,000. I rolled really well on several of the items of jewelry. Their characters are both multi-class half elves, one a Druid/M-U and the other a FTR/M-U. My son’s druid/magic-user was 3rd/2nd level, and his girlfriend’s character was 1st/1st. I limited them to halfway to the next level, but they easily had enough to level up in both classes even after splitting XP by two and then each dividing by 2 again.

They had to go check on something they had let slide, when they learned they would be in hot water if kobolds or something else got back into the kobold warren they had found and cleared with the help of some NPCs. They got busy and did not go back and pay the guards they hired, so it was abandoned. The druid put firetrap on one door, the others were barred from inside. They went back and found 5 dead kobolds around the door and re-trapped the door, got their new troops that helped with the tombs to guard it. They returned and nothing had bothered the fire trap and the place was empty. They brought plenty of food, spears, arrows, and water barrels and buckets to go to the stream to fill them. Next they plan to fortify the place and make it very comfortable for a base of operations.

They left their troops, all eleven of them, to guard their base and headed back to town each driving one of the two wagons. I rolled an encounter, and used the table from the DMG and rolled TROLL. I rolled a d12, and the Monster Manual says 1-12 appear. I rolled a 1. They had never encountered a troll. I was afraid they would die. They wanted to stand and fight, but lucked out.

The druid entangled it, but it made it’s save, so he was only slowed. The druid ran, but the troll killed those two horses. The druid had time to run back to the other wagon. The druid used his bow to shoot the troll. He had nearly 80 arrows. He rolled several hits, but not enough to knock it down. It hit the fighter/magic-user, but did not drop her, and it hit the other two horses, but did not kill them. They managed to run and after a few rounds pulled far enough ahead. They drove to town as fast as they could. They used all the arrows they had, and it still kept coming. Finally, they saw the walls in the distance. When they got closer, they saw the city gates close and heard horns blaring and saw flags waving. Once they got close enough the catapults and ballistae on the guard towers fired at it and knocked it down.

The druid wanted to take it’s head as a trophy, not knowing the regeneration thing, even though I kept saying the mangled corpse kept looking better. The guards riding out with torches from the city gate were hollering and blowing their horns. The characters decided to just keep stabbing it until the guards got their. They then learned that it was indeed a troll and that they regenerate and require fire to kill them.

They were then ordered to report to the captain of the guard. The baron of the town is getting married in just under two weeks and security is high, because he is marrying the king’s niece. The captain was concerned because a troll had not been that close to the city in years, and they had not had to fire the siege engines for other than practice for years.

They learned that something is up with the town wizard and town sage, who usually have had time to at least talk to them. They assume it is related to the wedding, but they are curious.

We had a blast and they were very glad I rolled so poorly in combat and so well on the treasure.

They did not inquire further about the treasure maps that I prepared, but they are excited to play again. I had a lot of fun.

A few hours here and there to fill in some names of people and places, generate some stats for a few, and plan out the events of this wedding. I thought they’d blow through time and I’d just wing the wedding, but they are interested in power and influence, and want to get in good with the baron, so I have to do more than a joyous celebration, etc. I could wing it, but having names and some other bits planned out ahead of time will make the improvisation smoother.

We seem to play every two or three weeks. It is summer in Michigan, so I don’t blame them for wanting to spend it outside and enjoy warm toes and fresh air while they can.

Weekly D&D Game

Wednesday night is the AD&D 1st edition campaign I play in. We all just hit second level after we roll played selling loot and dealing with the aftermath of being famous, and getting training. A lot of loot is now gone thanks to training, so back to the adventuring life! We go from 8:00 PM to about midnight Eastern. Tonight was our 7th session.

We get 150 XP for a session write-up and take turns for that. We just started getting 10 XP for each NPC and location/business when add to the campaign Google+ site.

Google+ Hangouts and Roll20 is what we use. We use theater of the mind instead of maps. We use tokens for characters and monster placement. We use the whiteboard pen to mark where things are, but not mapping.

It has worked rather well.

We lost one player after two or three sessions, and another player dropped out a few hours just before our session. So we are looking for two new players. The DM is in charge of that. Hopefully, we get someone who fits the group.

Last week it looked like we were headed for a TPK, but we started to roll just good enough to win.

OSR Superstar Contest

Tenkar’s Tavern is hosting the OSR Superstar Contest.

There are three stages. If you make the cut of the first stage you move on to the second stage.

The first stage involves submitting a magic item. You can submit up to three of them. Don’t post it on the blog, it will be disqualified, it must be emailed to the specified address. The deadline is “Sunday, February 16th, at 1PM Eastern (NYC) Time.”

I have decided to participate. So far, I have two magic items sketched out in pretty good detail. You have to use the Swords and Wizardry rules, so I am having to refer back to those. I can do AD&D without a lot of thought and just for specifics. At least it will be flexible to work with any OSR like rule set.

If you make the cut with the magic items, next is a monster.

If you make it to the third round you must use an assigned dungeon map to craft an adventure using the magic item and monster.


OSR Superstar
OSR Superstar

Ravenloft – Cool Maps!

I saw this post on RPG Bloggers about Ravenloft today on The Geek Life Project  and I had to make a comment here.

This is only one of two modules from the glory days that I own, the other is Village of Hommlet.

I bought Ravenloft because the maps are cool. When I got back into planning my own campaign a few years ago, when I found a copy of the Dungeoneers Survival Guide and it has a section on how to do those kinds of maps, I bought it.

I think one of our gaming group from the 80’s had his own copy of Ravenloft and ran it. I know that I never ran it. I did read it, but the maps are what got me.

I love maps. I could get into trouble buying maps. When I was in college, I was too poor to take advantage of a USGS office in town. I love all kinds of maps, just to look at them. I can draw OK maps by hand and modern graphics programs make it easy to do decent maps, but I am addicted to well done maps done by others.

I think we played Ravenloft and maybe the sequel. I don’t recall when it came out. Maybe we did our own return to Ravenloft, it has been too long to recall for sure.

I have downloaded several free modules from various places across the internet and like the ideas I get and the maps I can use from the OPDC.

I also prefer the “classic” vampire to what many modern authors and movies have done. See my article on playing 1st level vampire hunters for a laugh.

Marmalade Dog 19

While attempting to find players within close driving distance, I checked the area D&D Meetup and they had pictures of play at a prior Marmalade Dog gaming convention, held by the Western Michigan Gamers Guild (WMGG). I knew they had it in the first few months of the year, so I checked and No. 19 is this weekend, Fri., Sat., Sun. I have always remembered to check when it is and learn it happened a week or two before I checked.

Most conventions are on the eastern part of the state in Ann Arbor or Detroit, or in Chicago, or Indianapolis for GenCon. Detroit and Chicago are both about two hours from where I live. I always wanted to go to GenCon, but never have. Not sure I can make it happen this year. Real life gets in the way. I’m trying to not talk myself out of things that might be a once in a lifetime experience when they are things I can realistically accomplish and afford to do.

It’s within 20 miles of where I live and Saturday only is $20.

I haven’t been to a gaming convention in decades, so I may go check it out. They have Pathfinder and D&D Next for RPGs. Never played Pathfinder, I understand it is a D&d 3.5 clone. I never did 3.5. I have looked at D&D Next via the playtest downloads and have the last download. It looks to be what I can tell is D&D based on my blue Box and AD&D experience. They only have 3 sessions of D&D Next, all Temple Of Elemental Evil, which I never played, all run by same DM for 6 players.

I’m not up to learning a new game or laying out the cash for new books. They start at 9:00 AM and go until 11:30 PM. I’m not up for that long, but will go check it out. Who knows, I might meet some other Old School Grognards like me for future gaming.

I will post a follow up of my experience.

Back In The Saddle

Have not posted any RPG remembrances. Instead, I have been making new memories with my sons. We started playing last July, and did not play again until Christmas. I am taking a two week staycation since gas is high and money is tight. We have played the last three days and I have been rapidly filling in information using various hexcrawl methods and suggestions. That really helps to plan what is available so if and when the players encounter it, things are ready to keep moving. I am still rusty as a DM, but digging through the various Monster Manuals and coming back to the DMG and other books (AD&D) have re-familiarized myself with the creatures and their statistics and game mechanics. Before July of last year, I had not game mastered anything in nearly 30 years. I had only played one marathon session as a player for the first time in about 15 years a few years ago. Reading about the whole OSR movement got me to harking back to the days of yore.

It has been a slow process with fits and starts. It is easy to get side-tracked and follow side links and get lost in learning about new things online on various RPG blogs, or reading about different types of tombs when building your own tables.

I find that building my own tables is fun but very challenging. I want to build tables that are level appropriate until the boys get better at the game. They are 15 1/2 and almost 21, so it’s not like they are little kids, but I want them to figure out the mechanics without getting totally slaughtered. They are both playing split class demi-human spellcasters, so they have the mechanics of figuring out the spells, etc. They are doing very well with minimal input from me.

Charm person seems like such a feeble spell that in my playing I have stayed away from it. However, my oldest has used it to great effect when they were in situations that it was good they used it. Having a creature that is basically a slave with inside information has been very good for them.

The youngest was mad at his brother and used it as an excuse for his character to go off by himself. He stumbled upon the clue they were looking for and nearly died trying to get back from his adventures. It was fun seeing him wracking his brain trying to figure out what to do to handle the situations he got himself into. I think he has learned his lesson to not run off into the forest by himself. While he can handle simple things, charging into a tomb at night without a torch lit, even for an elf is a bad idea. Statues in the dark seem like the undead when your mind is filling in the blanks. His 2nd level FTR/2nd level MU happened to stumble upon the tomb that only had 3 centipedes and a skeleton in it, and came out wounded, poisoned but alive. This after stumbling across a lair for 20 giant rats who by dice roll were not there and he got their loot before they got back. He had fun and learned his lesson at the same time. Meanwhile the parallel time line with his brother and the NPCs, they ran into nothing but the NPC they were going to get more information.

Then little brother’s Character, Fang, happened to come charging into them on his horse as he was riding like mad to get to the NPC Druid’s house for help. He passed out and fell off his horse at their feet, thus he was saved. He was passed out the next day, so big brother’s 2nd lever Druid/2nd level MU Half Elf, Descartes, and a 1st level Dwarf fighter and 3rd level human thief went back looking for an object they left behind that the sage back in town is willing to buy from them, hoping it is still there. Now, their rolls turn bad and they come to the burrow for the giant rats, but speak with animal allows them to pass without a fight. However, the next encounter at the edge of a large pond, a giant crayfish kill’s the dwarf’s horse. But a quick, entangle from the Druid/MU traps the crayfish, that failed its save and they kill it while entangled. There is more, but it was fun to watch them encounter the things that they encountered and they want more!

I am stocking hexes and making sure to cover all the bases for whichever direction they plan to head. I look forward to finding out how they plan to deal with the goblin lair they learned about. The NPC druid wants it out of her forest, and they will use a charmed goblin to help them find it. They won’t have the help they had fighting the last group of goblins, so it will be interesting….