Category Archives: OSR

Secondary Skills

From a discussion at 1st Ed AD&D on FB, this was way back on January 1st, 2016 and I never got back to this draft to post it until now.

The actual discussion thread.

Who allows characters to actually use secondary skills?

If you do, how much do they add to the roleplaying experience?

If characters can make items of the quality of this very cool cup, do you allow them to have the potential to be enchanted?

Lastly, what magic would you have this cup hold?

My thoughts:

Decades ago, in my brother’s campaign, he had me roll percentile dice to determine the level of skill my new character had as a bowyer. I rolled 100. He ruled that with the proper tools and materials and time, that skill level could make bows with a non-magical hit bonus of +1, +2, or +3. This also meant that they were of a quality to be made into magical weapons. Not many adventurers have the time to devote to regular crafting, especially if they are magic users.

Of course, this character, a half-elf fighter/cleric/magic user does not have the intelligence to use 6th level spells, so he can’t enchant his own magic bow. However, he might be able to make a holy bow as a cleric…. Hmmmm….

Crit Success Rings – A Review

Back in March, 2016 at GaryCon 8, +Satine Phoenix gave a bunch of us these d20 rings, that you can wear and roll a d20. Very cool.

They are CritSuccess rings.

They take a bit of working the grit out, dish soap & warm water work well. Once you have them spinning freely, they seem to generate random numbers.

It is a cool trinket for those of us who collect dice and other game memorabilia.

I can see using them for a DM roll of a d20, if it needed to be secret.

They also have rings for other single dice and multi-dice combinations like 3d6. If you really like a ring or two on every finger, this might be for you.

Campaign Setting Idea

While mowing the lawn yesterday, I  heard sirens and had one of my off the wall thoughts. What if you died and didn’t know it, and could only do the thing that you were doing for eternity?
That’s potentially a terrible curse. But I went with the idea and let the ideas bubble up as i continued to mow.
I have an idea for a new AD&D campaign and want to have fun with it, so I put together some quick notes on my phone in Evernote, when I took a break from mowing. I then cleaned them up and added more ideas below.
  • When I was still on the same thing for eternity idea, I thought about this making people think about their eternal future and learn things that would make them have as much variety as possible in how they do things. For example, learn 100 or 1,000 ways to cut the grass, or maintain the lawn. This will prevent boredom/monotony.
    • I further imagined literate cultures having lots of books on 100 ways to do 100 things, or long lists of ways people have died and ways to deal with that. Pre-literate cultures would have intricate oral traditions taught by the elders on such matters.
      • The idea of dying in childbirth was very unpalatable, and how to deal with that? Perhaps a belief that the mother and child are united together in eternity exploring and learning from the cosmos.
      • This and other horrible ways of dying lead to the idea of nuance, and not being literally the only thing one does for eternity. I am sure one burned to death could be seen as involved with fire in the afterlife, as a shooting star, lava flow, etc. Or they become a fire elemental or other creature on the plane of fire!

This lead to the idea of birth and death augurs, and the points that follow:

  • All humans – Characters are all humans, with rare exceptions. Demi humans arrive via random gates from other worlds. For some reason, the idea of an all-human party is appealing. Maybe the first character for each player has to be human, and future characters can be something else.
  • Birth augur determines class and other affects, etc. Use DCC until generate own lists. Players write a paragraph or two to weave together class, secondary skill (if AD&D), and birth augur.
  • Birth order to get 7th of 7th son/daughter, etc. If roll 7th of 7th son/daughter, get plus 1 to Intelligence and Wisdom, or other cool bonus. Social class, rank, parent’s occupations, season, month, etc, all play a part.
  • Parents would want children to carry on the family business, but if the birth augur says differently, then parents are reluctant to challenge the way things are.
    • Making a character with a class that goes counter to the stats. A high strength for a mage, for example, might indicate one bucking the trend of their birth augur. This should call for interesting role play situations.
  • Death augur, roll on table,  determined at birth. Thus the characters have it at the start of the campaign. Age, season, circumstance, activity, such as battle. Search real world augurs of birth and death. This should encourage players to be heroic and if they are slain, to go out in style.
  • All groups, human and monster believe that what one is doing when they die will determine what they do in the afterlife for eternity. Those slain in battle might be involved in eternal war. The nuances of the death could point to something else related to that circumstance. For example, slain by ogres could mean you awake in a new world where ogres are friendly and you have to work past your issues with ogres to move on. Or you could be re-born as an ogre….
  • Note, raise dead forces a re-roll of birth and death auguries. If identical, signals a blessing from the powers. If vastly different it signals a mark, curse, burden, or quest is demanded to lift or rectify it. If one is the same and the other is different, it presents a fun roleplay opportunity.
  • Those who desire a long life avoid the things that signal the possibility of their death.
  • Certain death – there is a saying, “While death comes to all that is, the only certain death is one that is foretold.”
  • No fear of death.  Fate, luck, etc. all play a part. If character knocked down, but ruled by the DM as not part of his death augur, “flip the body” like in DCC, and just badly injured. Possible permanent injury table.
  • I like the idea of no set alignment, but those on the side of civilization and law, and those on the side of monsters and wildness. More of the law & chaos of original D&D. I had the idea for the name of a rule set, “Heroes & Anti-Heroes.” Those on the side of law are heroic and those on the side of chaos are the opposite. Not necessarily cowards, but their great deeds are infamous rather than heroic.
  • Undead and those who seek to cheat death would be chaos and hidden cults. A lich would be the ultimate in an attempt to cheat death.
    • Demons would be those powers out to trick the susceptible into resisting death at all costs. The “blessings” from the demons would be life as undead.
  • Call Turn Undead “Banish Magical Abomination”, and druids would “Banish Unnatural Abominations”. Let druids turn undead at 2 or 3 levels lower.
  • No set deities. “The powers”, “great ones”, generic name for all the deities. Few groups would worship a specific deity.
  • Any tribes/groups/nations/cultures that don’t follow the birth/death augur tradition will be viewed as “wrong”. This should be rare and not encountered in the core of the campaign region.
This whole idea helped me to see undead and law vs. chaos differently. It is not as confining as one imagines.
This also feels like the idea for a book.  Hmmmm…. Not until I get the first draft of the final chapters of the novel I have yet to finish.

Fun With Cabinet Labels

My house had an infestation of grain weevils. So my son and his girlfriend, who have been living with me for the last couple of weeks took on the task of emptying all the cabinets and finding all the affected flour, etc. over the weekend.

When they put everything back, they rearranged and reorganized it, all with my prior approval. Heck, I didn’t have to do all that work, why should I mind?

So that my other, younger son, and myself would know where everything is, my son made labels on 3 x 5 cards and stuck them to the front of all the cabinets on the level of the shelf behind them. being my son, he had fun with the labels. I’m so proud!

The kitchen & dining room
The kitchen & dining room with contents of cabinets on tables.
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Left Side: Tupperware Housing Co-Op Right Side: All Coasters have been EVICTED
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Baking Bad (chemical agent storage)
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Emulsion, Measurement & Containment (E=MC2) <- for short
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Miscellaneous Containment Vessels of Minimal Stature
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“There’s no food” Reality Check with Astronaut Milk (Ooblek Potential)
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Poop Assistance Program (PAP)

Oatmeal and raisins…. Gives a whole new meaning to PAP smear….

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Apocalypse Starvation Inhibitor Mechanically imprisoned calories Lipids & Stimulants (contingency coffee pot not Included)

Coconut oil & Coffee.

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Essential Hitchhiker’s Equipment (Don’t Panic)

Do I need to explain that one?

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Lots Available Adjacent to Oats Corner Large Containment Vessels & Fruit Torture Apparatus

LOL a box of oatmeal and a juicer.

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Flavor Enhancement Modules & Nourishment Lubricators

Soy sauce and the like, and cooking oil.

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Three Dimensional Heating Prisms {May, or may not contain Top-most Plane}

Pyrex casserole dishes.

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Hot paFibrous Membranes of Heat Resistance Deflect all heat Damage from applied area for Duration of One Turn

Hot pads

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Plethora of Utensils Which were denied residence in Kitchen Caddy

Tim Kask Talk – First Five Years At TSR

Here’s a write up from GaryCon 8 from back in March I hadn’t published yet.

I attended a session by Tim Kask on Riding the Rocket: TSR’s First 5 Years. I missed the first twenty minutes or so, but I enjoyed it immensely. Tim recommended that we read the book Orcs, and that it changed his view on orcs, and that he no longer sees them as just meat sacks.

Pat Kilbane filmed Tim’s presentation for use in his D&D Documentary. I had the honor of asking the last question, “What was the thing you like best about working at TSR, and what was the thing you liked least or might want to do differently in hindsight?” Others besides Pat also recorded his response on video, I wish I had. Basically, he voiced his disapproval of the Blume’s business acumen. He said that he loved working with Gary and having so much fun. The second thing he liked was the opportunity to go back to teaching.

Pat’s YouTube channel, Dorks Of Yore published most of the interview in a series of short snippets. You can see them all in this Tabetop RPGs playlist, along with their initial video about GaryCon. Alas, my question didn’t appear in these snippets, but will be in the final product. However, this screenshot from an FB comment I made and Pat’s reply is fantastic!

Awesome!
Awesome!

A New Class – The Vexillologist

I posted this morning on G+ that I awoke with the word vexillologist stuck in my head. +Eric Fabiaschi suggested that I make a new OSR class out of it. I liked the idea, so below is my rough draft of the class.

This is the first class I have built and I had a lot of fun with it. It needs more polish before it is ready for prime time. I will publish a PDF once I get it cleaned up. Most likely it will be my first offering on RPGNow.

The image I found, is supposed to be free according to the site I got it from, but it is just for illustrative purposes. I’ll pay an RPG illustrator for a basic image once this is ready for sharing.

I’m interested in constructive comments, as long as you understand this is a rough draft and not the final form.

Vexillologist Class

The run of the mill vexillologist is just one who specializes in flags and banners, but the mage specialist is one who has mastered magical signs, sigils, glyphs, writing, and flags and banners.

Their specialty is in flags, banners, and other such devices, from a carved stick or other “simple” symbol to heraldry. In addition to their spell books, they compile over the course of their life a notebook on symbols and their meanings to different groups. This notebook is the same size as the spell book and requires a new one for every two levels. Losing these notebooks is nearly as disastrous as losing a spell book. Any written information about symbols, writing, or heraldry found during adventuring is as valuable to a Vexillologist as finding new spells. There is a chance that any sages the party encounters with an interest in Vexillology is a Vexillologist, or knows the spells of that class if the sage knows any spells.

With their advanced training, vexillologists can garner the intent of regular magic user user spells, and even those of illusionists, without the use of read magic. That is, they will know the name of the spell. Much of their craft crosses the boundaries between these two disciplines.

The vexillologist has made a study of various symbols, banners, totems, and heraldry of the region and known world. They have a 15% chance, plus 5% per level above 1st, to know the significance/identity of those with a certain symbol. For example, tribal groups, such as goblins and orcs, or nomadic human tribes.

They specialize in spells that enhance, reveal, or obscure the symbols they encounter. For example, they can obscure, or even damage the banner of an opposing force to affect its morale, and even make the banner appear smaller to enhance morale of friendly forces. For friendly forces, they can cause a banner to be more visible, appear larger and more imposing to an enemy.

They are also known to target bearers of banners and totems with interesting effects.

Their greatest magical specialty is the creation of magical banners, totems, and other signs. Such enchantments range from boosting morale of units, increasing the fighting capability of the unit (making them harder to hit, or easier for them to hit others.), special protections for the banner bearer, to even special attacks using the banner. The greatest vexillologists of yore even mastered creating banners that were intelligent, and some even grew in power based on the success of the unit. I wrote about magical banners here with my way to complex entry in the OSR Superstar Contest. Too complex for a contest, but something I have in my AD&D campaign, but so far, they have not come into play.

New Spells

1st Level Burning Hands – Cause all who touch an enemy banner to have their hands burned for 1hp/caster level. If the bearer takes double their HP or more in damage, they burst into flames consuming the banner.)
2nd level Splinter – The pole for a banner will shatter in the hands of the bearer doing 1d4/level to the bearer and 1hp/level to all within 10’/level.

1st level Tear – The banner is ripped at 1″/caster level, strong winds have a chance to lengthen the tears. 1% reduction in unit morale per inch of tear.
2nd level Rend – Higher level spell that does 3 tears that are 6″ long per level. 1% reduction in unit moral per inch of tear.
4th level Shred – The banner is shredded as if by the claws of a wild beast, and an audible growl is heard. 20% reduction in unit morale if not other morale rules apply, or at discretion of GM.

1st level Enhance – Banner/device appears to be more obvious, and any significance it carries is enhanced. For example, the banner of a well-known and feared band of mercenaries would seem to be even more imposing. 1% reduction in morale/level to units that fail teir saves.
The reverse, Obscure, causes the banner of an opposing force to appear less imposing and gives friendly units a 1% boost to alignment/level.

1st level Shield Bearer – Cast a magical shield on the banner bearer, as the 1st level spell shield.

1st level Comprehend – In addition to reading regular magic, this spell allows the caster a 15% chance, plus 2% per level to discern the meaning or intent of new, hidden, or subtle designs in banners and other symbols.
The reverse, Incomprehensible, will hide new and subtle images from casual view and requires a caster of higher level to cast comprehend to counter it, or of course, Dispel Magic.
When cast on an enemy banner it has a 5% chance per level of caster to cause confusion as the spell if the affected unit fails its save.

3rd level Route – This is a high level spell that causes the targeted unit, with a banner or other carrie symbol, that fails its save to be routed and flee as if their morale broke for 1d6 rounds. If they make their save and make their standard morale check, they stand. If they fail their morale check, they move back in good order. Even breaking and fleeing for a single round is enough to prevent a unit from regaining its cohesion. Any units that witness this unit break must make a morale check with all the normal modifiers caused by seeing a unit break and flee. If this unit has any special renown that boosts the morale of surrounding units, that effect is removed. If the targeted unit is under the effect of a Brace spell, that spell is negated.

3rd level Brace – This spell causes the targeted unit with a banner or other symbol to have a 5% morale bonus, plus 1% per caster level beyond 1st. They get a +1 on all saving throws for the duration of the spell. Brace cannot restore the morale of a unit that has fled. Units that fall back in order

False Flag – Appears to be the correct & proper flag for a unit or vessel unless a saving throw is made.

Swap Image – The caster causes the banners of two enemy units to swap. Ideally this is used to swap the general or leader’s banner with that of a unit that has been routed or annihilated to affect the morale of the entire enemy force.

Confuse Signal – If an enemy force is using flags or other means of communication, i.e. semaphore, the receiver of the message will think they are being told the opposite or least favorable option of what the sender is trying to communicate, if the receiver fails their save.

Getting Ready for UCon 2016

I  just submitted four OSR track games to run at UCon in November.

Two are written and I could run right now, but I hope to play test at the local game store, and eventually the other two, when they are ready.

One is an idea I’ve had for a while, but needs fleshing out.

The fourth is a very loose idea that still needs work.

I am looking forward to this! I haven’t ran a game since Marmalade Dog in February.  I’m in two Roll20 AD&D games, but not running anything at the moment.

I’m forcing order on my life, now that some of the unexpected chaos has settled. This will force me to work on running something either at the FLGS or online.

Here are the systems and the blurbs for the catalog.

Quest for ARLOK3 [Still in the works]

It has long been a right of passage of the tribe/village for those who have come of age to make the journey to ARLOK3. Those who return are welcomed as fit adults and future leaders of the village.

I have interest for Roll20 play testers for MA. If you are interested, drop me a line. This is one that I still have to work on, so if you’re interested, I’ll let you know when I’m ready.

The Kiel Experiment [Ready – needs polish/playtesting]

German scientists in conjunction with the German Navy at Kiel performed an experiment informed by information smuggled out of America about the Philadelphia Experiment.

The experiment was successful in masking the ship, but caused unintended side effect on the crew and opened an inter-dimensional portal that unleashed “something”.

The opening of the portal emitted a signal that was detected by allied scientists in Philadelphia, and its import relayed up the command chain.

Slim Pickings Or Bountiful Harvest? [Still in the works]

Your band of freelancers has gotten word of a massive space battle that will be over by the time you arrive to salvage what the warring parties left behind.

The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep [Ready – needs polish/playtesting]

Delver’s Deep is a well known adventure location. In recent months, some mysterious druids have occupied The Deep, as it is known to locals. This order of druids wear black robes, and their tight lips have led to rumors and gossip about their real nature and purpose. It is “common knowledge” that they are an evil cult practicing human sacrifice. Like most villagers, they mind their business, hoping that is enough to protect them; yet are glad to take the coins from selling
supplies to the druids.

The S’Rulyan Vaults – Kickstarter Received

The S’Rulyan Vaults is the third Kickstarter that I have received the reward in the last week. All of them have been well focused on a short delivery window after fulfillment. S’Rulyan Vaults funded on May 14, with a target delivery of July, 2016. I received mine on May 23rd.

This Kickstarter was unusual in that it had a single pledge level of $5, and is strictly a PDF. It includes two version of the map in old school blue and a parchment style map by Glenn Seal of Monkeyblood Design. There is also a character sheet by James V. West. Interior art and the cover are by Bojan Sucevic. The PDF is a description of a dungeon and lots of tables for what is going on in various locations/aspects of the dungeon.

The PDF is a mini-setting with snake men as the bad guys. The tables each serve a function to help make the adventure different each time it is played.  I like the things the tables do. Some of these tables are for presenting magic items, but in addition to a +x weapon, there is an additional description to make it not just a magic weapon or item.

Glenn’s maps are awesome and the PDF is well designed. The tables are focused on keeping the dungeon “alive”. These tables have ideas that one could use in any dungeon/OSR setting. The character sheet is one of several that James shared on G+ several weeks ago. Interior illustrations are very nice and help set the tone.

One could use this as a stand-alone adventure, or use it as an introduction to the recurring snake men, or the upper level of a megadungeon.

Unlike most dungeons, there are no room numbers or map key. There is a d100 table to roll for what is found on the search of a room. I find this idea interesting, and it will further server to make each foray into the dungeon unique. That is one way to make a dungeon come alive without the tedious task of re-stocking. It also allows GM’s to make it their own and populate as they see fit. One can just as easily run it real time, or roll each room in advance of play.

It definitely gives me some ideas for how to approach my own adventure design to make things flexible across both systems and personal preference of the GM.

The S’Rulyan Vaults is available on RPGNow for $7.00.

 

New Big Dragon GM Screen – Another Fulfilled Kickstarter

My order for the New Big Dragon Classic Edition GM Screen Kickstarter came in the mail today. It is quite the hefty package. I’d guess it weight about as much as my AD&D Player’s Handbook. The tables are geared towards 0D&D/Holmes/BX/Labrynth Lord/Swords & Wizardry/Delving Deeper and other similar clones.

The estimated delivery date is June, 2016, and I got mine on May 23, 2016. This is how you do a Kickstarter!

It was well wrapped in a plastic envelope and cardboard shipping box. The contents of the box were tightly shrink wrapped together.

Box
Box

 

Shrink Wrapped
Shrink Wrapped

As with all the other things Richard LeBlanc has done, the text is clear and easily readable. Thanks to public domain art, it has some very cool illustrations.

There is a nice thank you page on the same heavy card stock as other items, signed by Richard and his colleague, David Wellborn.

Thank You Page
Thank You Page

Similarly, there is the obligatory page for the OGL (Open Gaming License).

OGL
OGL

Next are two booklets. One for a collection of cleric spells, up to 5th level, and the other magic-user and elf spells up to 6th level. The booklets were shipped flat for better condition on arrival. This requires the user to fold them. I need to by a bone folder, as I have gotten several items like this, and manage to never fold them straight.

Cleric Spells Cover
Cleric Spells Cover
Cleric Spells Interior
Cleric Spells Interior
Magic User Spells Cover
Magic User Spells Cover
Magic User Spells Interior
Magic User Spells Interior

There are character sheets, one generic, and one for each class: Cleric, Elf, Dwarf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, and Thief.  These are heavy card stock, and very nice. I hate to write on them. I’m considering having them laminated so I can re-use them….

Character Sheets
Character Sheets

There is also a spell record sheet and a character log sheet for the GM to keep track of a party. These sheets are also of durable card stock.

Spell Record Sheet
Spell Record Sheet
Character Log Sheet
Character Log Sheet

There is a Game Master’s Table Reference Document with all of the tables on the GM screen.

GM's Table Reference Document
GM’s Table Reference Document

Finally, there is the two part GM screen. Only one section of the screen has player facing tables for experience points for each class, and ability bonuses and penalties.

One screen has the combat sequence, game turn and game day sequence, the saving throws for each class, attack tables, missile ranges, AC by armor type, variable weapon damage, monster reactions and XP, clerics turning, and thief abilities. One handy table is the special abilities by class. It shows the armor, weapons, and shields allowed by each class, if there is infravision, and other notes. The cleric turning table is repeated on the cleric spell sheet.

Screen 1
Screen 1

The other screen has retainers and hirelings with details on recruiting retainers (henchmen), cost for mercenaries and specialists. The movement and encumbrance section has indoor and outdoor movement and pursuit rules. Finally, there is cost of weapons and equipment, and treasure tables. To me, it makes sense to have weapons and equipment on the player side of the screen, but this is something the GM also often needs.

Screen 2
Screen 2

I can’t think of anything that I am always wanting at my finger tips at the table. All RPG designers should keep in mind the most used tables in their game and have a section or appendix with all the most used tables.

The flip side of the character sheets are blank. The only thing I would think to add to them would be the equipment and encumbrance lists. I think that is a minor point.

This offering is high quality. In some ways, it is almost too pretty to use. However, I will endeavor to get over that concern and use it when I run 0D&D or one of its clones.

This Kickstarter includes PDFs of all the items. Once the Kickstarter is shipped, I am sure it will be available on RPGNow, if you are interested.

You can follow Richard’s Blog, Save Vs. Dragon here.

TSR Launches Multiverse

The new TSR has launched a website, Multiverse, with a focus on Analog Gaming in a Digital World. I am honored to be among the RPG bloggers asked to participate. How cool is that? I can now tell people that I work* for TSR.

This marks the third branch of the New TSR, the first is now TSR Games, that is taking the place of that magazine we won’t name, and the second is the TSR Podcast Network, so far with three podcasts.

While at Gary Con VIII, I approached +Jayson Elliot to get his autograph, because I was trying to collect all of the signatures of the guests pictured in the program. Jayson was all excited that I asked for his autograph. I mentioned that I would write about it on my blog, and he asked what my blog was called. Then he says, “Oh, I read your blog.” So now I’m the one geeking out. Then he says, “I was hoping to talk to you about something.” WHAT!?

So we find a place to talk and he shows me the in development portion of the site and explains what he is looking for. I can re-post articles from my site, or write original content on Multiverse.

Jayson says, “The two things we won’t do are mainstream comics, and video games. Our focus is Analog Gaming.”

I must say that I have learned some things that have me thinking how to re-structure the presentation of my blog and how I do some things behind the scenes. But that’s a sizable project for another day.

There’s already several articles online and more to be added daily. If there is something cool you’d like to see us discuss, PM me on G+.

*It’s not a formal position with TSR, but close enough, right?