I got my start with the Holmes Blue Box way back in 1977, so this is my 40th year of D&D! Like many who backed this Kickstarter, it was for the nostalgia, and to finally get past level 3. Back in the day, we didn’t make the connection to the OD&D books, or we would have gotten them. The Holmes basic text told us we needed AD&D, so anything else was “basic,” and for little kids. How wrong we were. Had we ignored that, we would have gotten the original books and perhaps gone beyond 3rd level before the Player’s Handbook finally came out in 1978.
I backed at the level of the PDF and hardback. The PDF was completed a few months ago, with several weeks allowed for backers to read. I wish I had time before the cutoff to read this, I had too many Kickstarters deliver from November to December, and I ran games at two conventions the first two weeks of November. I found a couple of issues I will report elsewhere. I’m kicking myself for not digging in and reading the PDF.
The printing and shipping was via Lulu, and the quality is what I expect from Lulu. It is a serviceable book, and the cover and text look good.
All the basics are covered, species instead of races, classes, abilities, equipment, spells, monsters, treasure, adventures, encounters, and campaigns. This is 117 pages with table of contents, index, backer list, and OGL taking up 5 pages, and one more for a sample character sheet. With the PDF, it is easy to print out character sheets, or use one of the many basic/OSR character sheets, or do it old school and write it out on notebook paper or index cards.
What I Liked:
Art – A gorgeous cover and many interior illustrations.
Classes have all the information for a class in one place:
Other class specific tables, like turning undead, and a paragraph or two on strongholds.
The Introduction ends by pointing out that there are no “rules,” but rather guidelines.
Initiative is based on DEX. Roll off on a d6 to break ties. (This is how Metamorphosis Alpha does it.) This was also in Holmes.
Both magic users and clerics have spell books, and the books are so big, they can’t take them adventuring.
Looser rules on what levels magic items like potions and scrolls can be created, like in Holmes.
Less fiddly bits on spells.
The monster section mentions that the listings are the average or typical of the type. Players can find some much tougher or weaker than what is listed.
The Class section mentions “non-standard” races, and in fact any “monster” can also be a classed character, although weaker and having to advance in levels.
Weapons all do d6, but there is a variant rule.
Many new monsters, or variations on the standard ones.
A section on Unusual Treasures, whether magical or mundane.
The section on campaigns is far from comprehensive, but hits key points to keep in mind for designing your own campaign setting.
What I’d Like to See:
I really struggled trying to decide what is truly “missing” or poorly executed here. This is a well executed retro clone of what a “complete” ruleset might look like from Dr. Holmes. This is meant to be a light set of rules for quick play. Characters are easy to generate in a few minutes, and play can commence right away.
Adding to this would have to be done carefully to avoid bloat. It is OSR, so monsters, spells, and magic items are easily available from multiple sources, many of them free.
Whether your interest is the nostalgia for the early days of the hobby, or a simple rule set for quick play, or for the kids to run their own games, this fits the bill.
It funded July 31, 2017. The PDFs were released on October 9, 2017, and I received my physical rewards on November 27, 2017.
Here are pictures of my book, map, and bookmarks.
The download with the PDF included a jpg character sheet in color, a jpeg of the monster quick reference for the monsters in the bestiary, and the map in color and parchment both jpgs. After the PDF was released, we received a 33 page PDF of things cut because of layout and other issues, The Midderlands Additions. This gives more information on one creature, some NPCs, and a map and description of an inn, which is also an adventure. These are things cut from the final print version to keep shipping costs manageable.
Inside the 228 page PDF is art by Glynn and several other artists. The table of contents lays out what is in this gazeteer of an RPG setting based on the Midlands of England. There are the standard geographical features, points of interests, towns, villages, and cities. There are also adventures and adventure hooks. Glynn has taken interesting sites from his location in England and filtered them through a combination of RPGs and his imagination to come up with something new. I should mention that there is a language warning on this project from the author. If you can’t handle “adult language” this may not be for you.
It uses Swords & Wizardry as a base, but will work with any OSR ruleset. The ideas can be used in any setting, and many in any genre.
The color scheme for this setting is green. Take any word to describe green and any shade of green, and things that are green, and they end up here. Slime, vapors, demons, etc. are all green and there is a cthonic and dreary atmosphere, and the locals mistrust outsiders. There is enough here for a stand alone campaign, or ideas and adventures to sprinkle in your own campaign or campaign world.
Gloomium is the metallic substance that generates the green hue to everything, and causes all the weirdness in the world. Gloom-touched is the phrase that describes those affected by gloomium. There are random tables to describe what these effects are., and their location on the body. There is a dd0 table called Weird Shit used to add weirdness to The Midderlands. A list of words for green is provided, as everything in the setting should have something green about it. Surprisingly, Lincoln Green, the color associate with Robin Hood and his men is not listed. That color was based on a dyeing process. I am not sure if that shade has another name.
The setting is based on the 15th and 16th century. Artillery exists along with primitive handheld firearms. Magic and witches are not trusted. Religion is left to the GM to handle, but describes a loose system of belief that will suffice without adding to the GM’s workload. A list of superior beings that fit the setting, from angels and demons to deities is also provided.
Among the list of locations that are described, some settlements have a map, and some of those have numbered locations for major locations within the city or town. Points of interest are also given. These are things like a windmill, or a large rock with a history, etc. Some are “normal,” while others have lore or legend associated with them.
There are four new spells, that fit the region/setting. They require but a single page.
Pages 75 – 186 contain all the new plants and creatures. There is a table to randomize the types and effects of fungus/mushrooms that might be found. Some monsters have their own classes and levels. This allows scaling the threat of some creatures in unique ways. (I really need to dig in and read through all these new creatures.)
Pages 188-206 detail the adventures and adventure ideas in the setting.
Pages 207-215 cover hex map locations. Most are fixed locations in a specific numbered hex. However, the last five items actually have random locations, such as a travelling circus. The GM is advised to lay out the map and drop a d20 on it from about 18″ to generate each item’s current location.
Next, there is an Appendix with six tables: a d20 insult table with 20 common Midderlands insults, a d10 festival/gathering table, a d20 weather table, a name and trades table with no numbers/die rolls indicated, an additional Hamlet/Small Town names table, and a d100 Crap You Find On A Midfolk Table. As with any resource, these tables have something you can use in whole or in part in games independent of this setting.
Finally, there is an index, it is not hyperlinked, nor is the Table of Contents.
What I liked about the PDF:
The artwork, design, and layout are gorgeous and help evoke the setting.
Random tables that can be used in other games and settings.
New creatures, spells, and items that are portable to other games and settings.
What I’d like to see in the PDF:
A hyperlinked Table of Contents
A hyperlinked Index.
The character sheet
I’d also like a no color option for more economical printing.
The map – just a basic version on a single page.
NOTE: There are bookmarks in the PDF, so one can navigate to various sections, but the bookmark pane must remain open.
The hardback book is 6″ x 8.5″. It is solid and has heft to it. It includes two ribbon bookmarks in different shades of green to match the motif of the green cover and green tint and hue to the artwork and pages. It is gorgeous! It also has colored markings for groups of pages in the same section, like settlements, creatures, adventures, etc. For larger numbers of pages, these are easily visible when looking at the edge of the pages when the book is closed. Some are more easily identified when the pages are fanned. This is a cool way to allow the user to jump to a section.
The front end pages are a character sheet, that is the same as the one backers received as a jpg with the PDF.
The pages are slick and thicker than one normally expects. This makes for a durable little tome, with heft beyond its size. While the pages are slightly slick, they only shine at a specific angle to the light in the room, and are easy to read. I have not tried reading it in all light levels. The text does not bleed through, but some of the darker art does.CORRECTION: I realized that what I thought was bleed through is actually the region map sort of like a watermark. It is only the shields for heraldry of certain nobles, and lakes and rivers that are dark enough to easily show. The rest is quite faint and easily missed. I did not find it distracting while reading the text.
What I liked about the book:
It is gorgeous!
The art and layout.
The double bookmarks.
All of the same things I liked about the PDF.
What I’d Like to see in the book:
The region map on one page, so I don’t need to open up the map or resort to the computer.
Full color 16.5″ x 23.25″. One side has the green color motif, and the other has a parchment like color. Both sides have light gray numbered hexes. On the green side the numbers are white with a dark outline.
I find that the parchment colored background is easier to read the names of all the locations. Both sides are gorgeous, but the green side has just enough of a shine to it that makes it harder to read than the color combinations. I do like the green side as it fits the motif of the PDF and book. The black and white lettering on the green side is easily legible, but any writing of other colors, I find hard to read. I have not tried it in multiple lighting levels, as I have limited space to spread out at the moment.
Instead of using different colored text for different political units, a different size of font in black would work better on the green side for my eyes. I find that this is an issue in the last 6 or 7 years, that certain things I used to read easily, I can’t. I have new glasses, so it isn’t my prescription. Aging eyes begin to lose some of their finer utility. The option of the parchment map on the other side does remedy this.
Where to find The Midderlands:
You can find the PDF of The Midderlands – OSR Bestiary and Setting at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. Currently, it is only available in PDF. on these sites. You can order the book, map, and shipping from England for 35 pounds on the Monkeyblood Design site here.
This year, UCon was November 17-19. It was my second con in November, after Gamehole Con two weeks earlier. See my write up for Gamehole Con here. It took longer to recover from my second convention in a month, I also ended up with a cold, and work got crazy with a new call tracking system that went in two days before UCon. I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend resting my tired brain and binge watching Netflix.
Now, the recap.
Thursday – I have taken off Thursday the last few years, and get to the hotel early enough to meet up with friends. This year, I was tired, and had to finish up my pre-gens for my Friday morning Metamorphosis Alpha game. In past years, I have gotten into some pick up games. I didn’t do that this year.
My morning Metamorphosis Alpha game had one pre-registered player. They were the only one to show. It needed at least 3 players, so I visited with others who weren’t playing and had a look around. I was bummed that I put work into that scenario, but I have it for another day.
In the afternoon, I played in Adam Muszkiewicz ‘s Ur-Hadad DCC campaign. It was a blast to finally get to play the wizard the first time I played DCC at Marmalade Dog 20 in 2015. The wizard seeking to trap lightning in a bottle and Meat Dwarf, played by Laura Rose Williams we once again on the same team. The rest of the team were new players. I was hoping to team up with Shane Harsch’s wizard for some #Wizbiz, but Shane was running a game at that time.
Ur-Hadad is a theater of the mind city with only the most basic of maps of a specific area. It is a city where one can find and do almost anything. This is a great way to run a city campaign without the GM having to do a lot of work.
After Ur-Hadad, there was a panel with the artists of DCC with Doug Kovacs and Stefan Poag. I hit the wall at some point and nodded off. The conversation was wide ranging about art vs. commercial art/illustration. Doug is a very well-read person and has a lot of insightful ideas.
That evening, I played in Clayton William’s DCC scenario. We had a blast and some wild choices by one player nearly caused a TPK.
Del Tiegeler was there with his sons. They had a great time. I didn’t end up in any games with Del. He’s always willing to show what he’s working on. I didn’t take pictures of some things he is working on, since they are for projects yet to be announced, etc. I just love his line work. If you are patient, you can get him for commissions in between his other projects. Nearly a year ago, he did an alternate header for my blog.
I didn’t get his name, but one DM had dice and homemade dice trays for each player for his AD&D game. I thought the way he made the dice trays was cool, so I got a picture.
In the morning, I ran Delving Deeper, using a scenario I developed called, “No Really, It’s Me!” A clan of doppelgangers is tired of adventurers coming into the dungeon and getting into their caverns and killing them. So the party are doppelgangers sent back to town to stop the adventurers from returning to the dungeon. The players had a blast trying to think like doppelgangers impersonating characters. I greatly enjoyed the things the players came up with. There was a lot of great roleplaying. I set the scenario, and the players went with it. I just threw in some things to give them a challenge now and then. I really liked that they saw the description of the scenario and wanted to play it.
In the afternoon, I ran the Gangbusters scenario that Mark Hunt wrote for me to run at Gamehole Con. This was the fourth time I ran this scenario and once again, with a different mix of players, the story evolved differently.
In the evening, I played in Laura Rose Williams’ DCC funnel, Hole In The Sky, by Brendan LaSalle . It was a Contessa event. I tried to get in Laura’s DCC game last year, but it sold out fast. I would play with Laura as she is a great player and DM and a lot of fun. I kidded her about killing 3 of my 4 0 levels before anyone else lost any of theirs. My last character lived to the end when several of the other players lost characters.I had fun with the tattoo among the DCC swag. It lasted a couple days after I got home.
I played in Adam Muszkiewicz’s Quasquetherion Delving Deeper campaign for the 3rd year. I found my wizard character that I couldn’t locate for last year, and had fun getting back into that character. We did better than last year and avoided a TPK. I forgot to get a picture of the group.
That afternoon I played in Brendan LaSalle’s experimental 2 hour game. A giant DCC funnel with over 20 players. The largest game he had ever ran. He had some procedures to try and speed it up, and before we were very far along, he told us he came up with some ideas to speed it up. We were a diverse group in age, from pre-teen to at least my age, early 50’s. I’m not sure if some of the players were older than I. We had women from pre-teen to perhaps their forties, but age is hard to guestimate.
I had a blast. I was a bit surprised the crowd wasn’t bigger. Last year, I had several tables of 12 because several GMs had to cancel due to the flu. Perhaps the crowd was the same size, but very few GMs cancelled. There was record attendance this year – 1,005!
Next year, UCon is the same weekend as Gamehole Con, so I will miss Gamehole Con. If you are within driving distance of Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor, MI, this is a great game convention. It has a strong OSR presence, a historical Tekumel presence, lots of D&D of all versions, Pathfinder, and more.
UCon was my last convention for the year. I have one more convention related task for 2017. GM’s that sign up for Marmalade Dog 23, March 30- April 1, 2018, by December 31, 2017 get free admission and a t-shirt. I want to encourage all OSR GMs in the area to run games. I will come up with three scenarios, one for each day.
I put my spin on it and came up with 26 alliterative six word dungeons. In the past, I’ve done other bits of alliteration here on the blog, including one A to Z list. See the other blog posts here. Perhaps more six word dungeon fodder, Alliteration Through The Monster Manual. Well, some are only four or five words…
I attended all four days of the expanded Gamehole Con. This year, expansion to a 4 day convention that started on Thursday night was a test. As I arrived to pick up my badge and tickets, I saw Alex Kammer out front. I greeted him and he was trying to work out what was the only problem they had being ready for the con. Some laptops hadn’t been delivered that they would need for controlling some monitors the next day. Very minor. He was very calm and collected. He said that sign ups for Thursday this year were so strong, that it was already decided that they are now a four day con.
I ran three games and signed up to play in three, but only got into two of them. I kept my schedule fairly light. I went prepared to possibly run pick up games, or get into some. I enjoyed just visiting with different people, and enjoying watching people having fun. The food trucks were excellent. I favored the taco truck. Their burritos are awesome! The same truck as last year. I believe they are all the same ones as last year. I tried them all last year, and all were good.
One cool thing is if you buy the soda cup, that may just be for BM’s, I don’t recall, they had two soda fountains set up with free self-serve refills. Since I ran official games, I got to use the GM/Vendor lounge. There was water, coffee, snacks, and a few tables with chairs.
Thursday I ran Gangbusters – Mark Hunt’s new variation that is compatible with the original. (I proofread the current version of the rules he’s working on, and let that inform how I ran the game.) I ran a scenario Mark wrote, called The Con Game. A fitting double meaning, as there was a con involved in the scenario. I had 4 pregens from Mark, and made 4 more since I signed up to run for 8 players. The only issue that I encountered were that they varied from the templates, and it was the second session group that pointed it out to me. I’ll fix it when I run this in almost two weeks at Ucon in Ann Arbor. I made up maps for the locations, just squares on the provided Chessex battlemats, with indicators for doors, stairs, streets, alleys, and vehicles.
I had 5 players most of whom had not played it or not since back in the day. They were quite trigger happy as they shot a couple of the fleeing customers at the speakeasy they raided at the beginning of the session. I had them pick a number between 1 and 15 and for the first I counted out from the front of the list of templates and the rookie cop gravely wounded Claude Arbukle, the beloved vaudeville star. One of the FBI agents on the task force shot another. Counting from the back of the templates, he severely wounded John Marlow, a private investigator. When he found Marlow had a gun in a shoulder holster, he put it in the hand of the unconscious Marlow.
The rookie cop got fired for shooting the beloved Arbuckle, it was all over the papers. The FBI agent who shot Marlow rolled his presence to convince the station chief to take on the rookie cop as a emergency provisional agent, and kept the former rookie cop out of jail. Everyone wondered when they’d get Tommy guns. They finally got enough evidence to do a final raid, and then one of the players got a Thompson. The party gave it to the player with the highest agility. They took out the bad guys, and solved the case. The rookie cop got shot up and narrowly avoided death. I think a couple other characters in that session had minor wounds.
Friday night I ran The Con Game again, this time with seven players. They fired into the ceiling at the speakeasy raid, but this time I threw in some hoodlums coming out of the basement leading into the alley. One with a chopper and the other a .38. They killed the crooks, so they didn’t learn anything from them. Again, they wanted access to Thompsons, but until they got to the last location, didn’t have anything to warrant their distribution. Being a bigger group, I put more gunmen in the location and let the players have two Thompsons. They had a different plan, but got spotted on their approach. In the end, the players prevailed. I believe 3 were seriously wounded, and one received a kill shot but made his luck check to have 1 HP. He had another kill shot and failed his luck check, so 1 kill.
I ran both sessions with a simplified combat method. Roll to hit, then roll a d10. 1 = minor wound, 10 = dead. So I let players take up to two 4s or 5s for damage before death. I also used the rule that if they take damage equal to half or more of their HP, they will die without getting to a hospital within the day. In both sessions everyone had fun, and I recall that in the second session there were comments that they liked how fast the combat went.
I had a lot of fun with both sessions and enjoyed how each group had their own approach to solving the case. Until the last Gary Con, I had not played Gangbusters for 30+ years. I don’t believe I ever ran it back in the day. I don’t think we played it very often. So Thursday was the first time I ran Gangbusters. I didn’t find it difficult, since I have ran lots of other games.
I started off explaining the stats, punching score, hit points, and that one can take twice the HP in bruise damage. There weren’t any real questions. All the players had roleplaying experience. I had a blast and enjoyed the surprises and laughs from the players’ actions. I showed off my second round of Mark’s box set, and let everyone take a look. Some thought it might be from the Kickstarter, so I explained that it hasn’t gotten to the point of Kickstarting yet. I did hold up the 100 pages of the current rules I printed using my suggested edits. I only had to refer to them in the first session to figure out who the wounded speakeasy customers were. Also, I clarified the damage rule using the d10.
Saturday night I ran a weird WWII scenario I developed called The Kiel Experiment, using The Front – also by Mark Hunt, based on The Black Hack. I first ran that scenario last November at Ucon for at least ten people, since several GMs were laid low by the flu. Saturday night I only had two show of the four that were signed up. I gave them each two PCs that they rolled up. The one with leadership, I let roll a d10 and get 4 NPC soldiers to help out. The players were a father and son. To set the mood, I asked if they had seen The Philadelphia Experiment – they had not. So I had to explain it very briefly, and that this scenario was my take on the German version. They really enjoyed the session, and since there were only two of them, they finished it in two hours. The next day, the father saw me in passing and let me know that they looked up The Philadelphia Experiment the night before and watched the first ten or fifteen minutes, and really liked it. My bad – I forgot to take a picture of the players at the table.
Friday morning I played a 0 level funnel of MCC (Mutant Crawl Classic) with Jim Wampler. It was a lot of fun. I was amazed – I’ve never had all 4 characters survive a funnel. Out of 7 players, 5 had no deaths. One person lost two and another lost one of their characters. We only got to the penultimate boss monster. It is basically Gamma World with DCC rules. Of course, with DCC type rules, it gets really interesting. We got an MCC button and a pick from a bag of pewter minis based on the original Ral Partha Gamma world minis. I got a rabbit with a submachine gun.
Saturday morning I played a 1st level MCC adventure, again with Jim Wampler. Again we got an MCC badge and a pick from the minis. My character was a mutant with bat ears that gave him echo location. He had a delusion that his dazer gun talked to him, so I had fun with that. His last power was the ability to control anything with iron in it, i.e. magnetism. Another player was way into roleplaying, he said, “That’s my superpower.” He plaid a mutant plant, basically a tree person, that he named Larch. He was in character and wow, I would play with him again!
We got transported away and these robot “gods” wanted us to retrieve an object. The night before they sent us off, each of us had a visitation from a different one, promising us even more gifts if we gave the item directly to them. Jim took each of us into the hall, so no one else knew what we knew. I have never been in that situation, so I decided, “This is a con, I’m going to go for it.” We finally got to where we could see the object. As soon as Jim was done describing it, I said, “I’m going to run and grab it.” The whole table was a bit surprised I did that. Two other players tried to intervene. One rolled a 1 trying to grab my beloved dazer since my hands were full with the object. Another tired to shoot me with his dazer, and rolled a one. I was amazed and had a good laugh at my luck. I then “spell burned” to use my control ferrous metal, and rolled high enough that I go the maximum result. My manifestation was that I was cold to the touch, and with the max result, I looked metallic and could control any number of objects. (In hindsight, I could have really betrayed the party and just killed them all….) I crushed the guy’s dazer and threw him across the room. We were then transported back, and I tried to run towards the “god” who promised me wealth and power. The other gods and their gated in minions and the rest of the party rolled initiative. I rolled a nine and the player on my left rolled a 20 for initiative. I laughed. He then declared he would use telekinesis to take the object from me, with spellburn. He then rolled a second nat 20! My ability to resist was ruined as my strength was weakened by my prior effort. My magnetic control only lasts 1 round per level. Being 1st level, I blew my chances. He then sent the object to the “god” he was working for. He lived and got all the power and riches and the rest of us were rended by demons. I had a great Magneto impression, but it wasn’t good enough. I had a blast being the betrayer who was himself betrayed. What a way to go!
Friday night I sat in on a seminar by Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination – AFF), and Jon Peterson (Playing At the World – AFF), and hosted by David Ewalt (Of Dice and Men – AFF) – How D&D Changed The World. It was a great seminar. One participant Christoph, is from Germany, now living in the U.S. He asked about the non-North American aspect of RPGs & D&D. Jon Peterson immediately had answers and talked about games Christoph had not heard of. I got a chance to visit with Christoph afterwards, and more later on Sunday. It is pretty obvious that without D&D computer RPGs wouldn’t exist, or not with levels and hit points. All of those in the entertainment industry who were influenced by D&D, etc. make it seem that we are in a post D&D world, since we can’t avoid mentioning it, and those who never played it know what we mean by many terms.
I was nice to visit for a bit with Michael, but being a busy man with a young family, was only there for the day. Jon meets so many people, I’m not sure he recalled meeting me at Gary Con in the spring. I met David for the first time. He is the only one of the three that I don’t have his book. I’ll have to correct that once I get through Jon’s tome. (My backlog is far too large….)
I also spoke with Pat Kilbane a couple of times, and he is making progress on the D&D History Project documentary. I back the Patreon and last week he showed us a portion of the trailer. All I can say is, it’s cool and I can’t wait for more! I am humbled that he thanks me for my support every time I comment online, or each time we are at a con. I do far more getting the word out than I do finance wise. If you can help out, join the Patreon. The interviews are done, it is down to shooting stills,finding some historical footage, and then the editing.
One of the guys I game with on Roll20 backed the latest Troll Lord Games Kickstarter and got each of us a C&C PHB. I asked Stephen Chenault to autograph it. I told the guys last Wednesday night that I would. Stephen is very gracious, and easily agreed to do so and pose for a picture.
Sunday, I didn’t get the game I wanted. I signed up for Top Secret: NWO by Merle Rasmussen, and ran by him, but didn’t win a spot. I was going to sign up for D&D, but I offered to give Ruty and Satine a ride from their hotel to the con. We were staying at the same hotel. So I got to visit a bit more with them. I offered them a ride to the airport so they didn’t need an Uber, and got them there with just enough time to catch their flight. I did actually get to finish a conversation with Satine Thursday night instead of being interrupted by people walking up wanting to talk to her, etc. I didn’t get to talk much with Ruty. They are both a whirlwind of activity. Satine mentioned a couple of things I don’t think I can talk about. She hinted at more awesomeness to come in 2018. I have no specifics, that all she said.
The dates for Gamehole Con 2018 are November 7-11. The website has already been updated for 2018. Alex and crew are on top of things, and the preparations for next year have already begun. I have been told that UCon in Ann Arbor, MI is the same weekend next year. This is out of control for both conventions as they are dependent on the college football schedule. This affects at least three of the regular cons I attend. If they are the same weekend, I will be attending UCon, since it is only two hours away, and in the same state.
My policy is that I don’t talk real world politics on my gaming blog and related social media. The companion YouTube video is here.
That being said, to all who don’t get it, manners and basic human decency are NOT politics.
“Famous” people on the news, such as celebrities and politicians and their heinous behavior, if they don’t have a connection to TTRPGs are out of the scope of my blog.
However, when there are people at game conventions or involved in other aspects of the TTRPG world acting in ways that shed a bad light on the game, that is within the purview of my blog. I want more players. Women want to play the game, not fend off creeps. 51% of the population should not be discouraged from playing. The more players, the easier it is to play, and the longer campaigns and game groups will last.
NOTE: I am not “vaguebooking.” I am intentionally leaving out specific names and situations to address this in a way that will endure. This is a first step. I have not yet decided how to approach the topic of specific individuals whose names and actions have been called out on various social media. I will say that I am greatly disappointed and saddened to learn of these things. I am not afraid to speak truth to power. I want my words to be clear and direct and on point. I have spent hours on this post. All after writing a rant to get it out of my system so that I can get to the point of TABLE MANNERS at the game table. This has been on my mind for some time, and I worked very hard to stay on point and not address places where I am sure someone will take issue with what I said or the way I said it.
As my mother often said, “Common sense ain’t so common.” This is true of too many men when it comes to interacting with women, other men, and people who self-identify in ways that “real men” think they are compelled to try to be the alpha male.
Unfortunately, we need some ground rules for general decent behavior.
Table top RPGs exist as a means of entertainment, and social gathering. That is, they are meant to be FUN for ALL participants.
If you are a GM, don’t let your players be jerks to each other. If you have not yet mentioned this at your table, and it comes up, then you give the offender one chance (depending on how blatant and heinous it is), and clarify your table rules. The next time, must be the last. To avoid stumbling into this issue, bring it up *before* it happens in your current group(s). Make it a basic rule mentioned up front when you have a new group. Use it at conventions, if you run convention games, or at the FLGS is you run games in a store.
If you are a player, say something. Defend your fellow player from the harasser. If the GM is the harasser, the entire table should call it out. If it happens after that, get out. Before it happens, mention to your GM that you’d like a blanket rule for the table. If the GM resists, then it isn’t the table for you.
If you are the player who is being harassed, if it is the GM, call them on it. If no other player supports you, get out. If it is another player, ask the GM and other players what they’re going to do about it. If they do nothing, or sadly, side with the offender, get out. If the GM and players come to your aid, and they can work it out so that you feel safe and comfortable to stay, then you have the option to stay. I suggest going to your GM before you join in, to ask for a clear no-nonsense table rule about harassment of others.
If you are the GM and are being harassed, if no players rise to your aid, and the offender is “oblivious” when you call them on it, then you should end the game. If other players call them out, try to work it out so this is the last time. BEFORE this happens, make this a table rule.
In all of the above cases, if it happens again, the offender should be the one to leave.
In summation, here are specific suggested TABLE MANNERS you can use at your table:
We are here to have fun.
Everyone is to respect everyone else at the table.
Harassment of any kind is not tolerated. Comments about appearance or personal traits are not allowed.
Player vs. Player/PC vs. PC actions are not allowed. The group of player characters is a party that is working together. NOTE: There may be valid reasons of game mechanics where a character goes against the party, such as being charmed by an NPC wizard. There may be a reasonable way that a character does something harmful to the party. If it is something that the whole group finds reasonable and acceptable, that is OK. Other than a character being under magical or other influence, I don’t have a good example. However, things come up in game play that no one can foresee. [If anyone has other good examples, let me know.]
If you feel you have been treated unjustly by the GM or another player, please let us know. That is not OK. NOTE: This is NOT about rule interpretations or game mechanics. This is only about common respect and decency. Any rule interpretation/game mechanic that goes against common respect and human decency should not even have an opportunity to be an issue. The tricky part is when this happens after the game, or between sessions.
Add in your own rule for the line in the use of language that suits your intended pool of players: G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.
If you want a game that have player vs. player or “adult” themes, these rules still apply. Number 4 will need revision to suit that style of game. All the players and GM should be on the same page about what form of role play is too far. Other than a general rubric to ensure that all are INFORMED and CONSENTING adults with mutually agreed behavior rules, I don’t know what to add. That is not a style of play that I would find interesting, so I can only mention it generally. I leave the details of this aspect to those who want to play that type of game.
My Table Is Open
I don’t care who you are, what you look like, your opinions on politics, religion, or any other category you can think of. If you want to play a game that I am running, are there to actually play the game, and will treat everyone there with respect, you are welcome at my table. I have played with people who I know have vastly different opinions on some things than I do, and we have had fun.
These rules should also inform our public, private, and online behavior. For example, when messaging a woman, who plays in an online game on Twitch, comments about her appearance have nothing to do with the game, unless she dressed up for the part. Comments should be on point, and related to the presentation of the costume and the game. Trolling and other behavior that proves one to be a sphincter is contrary to being a good ambassador of the game.
It is such behavior both in and out of the world of gaming that has led to all women groups with women GMs. Understandably they want to feel safe to play a game they love, or to discover a game they are curious about. Ideally, every table should be open to everyone that wants to play game X in genre Y. Since we do not live in an ideal world, those who don’t like the idea of a table limited to women need to get over it. That is a sign that there is something wrong.
It may not be you or your group that does this, but some sphincter somewhere did something that lead to this. Instead of complaining about all women games, complain about the idiots that ushered so many women into wanting that type of play environment. If you want every table everywhere to be open to everyone, then call out bad behavior.
Whether you use my suggested table manners, or your own variation, it should be clear that there is no room for violations once the rules are shared and agreed to. This should be true at conventions, game stores, private homes, or online.
The goal is for all at the table to have fun, and be waiting in anticipation of more fun at the next session.
I welcome CONSTRUCTIVE criticism of my suggested Table Manners.
I received a pre-release copy of The Lost Hall of Tyr, by Doug Cole of Gaming Ballistic, currently in the middle of a Kickstarter with 16 days to go. It reached the base funding goal yesterday. I am late with my review dues to my computer dying. Now that I have the replacement up and functional, I was able to read this 52 page PDF.
This is a Norse/Viking based setting. Doug has written many articles on his blog, in recent months, about his work with a Viking/Norse re-enactment group. They study history and martial arts based on Viking weapons and armor.
Doug developed this from a scenario he ran at GenCon 50, back in August. It allows the players to engage in grappling with encounters, should they desire it. The grappling mechanics are based on his 2016 Kickstater, Dungeon Grappling. It is a D&D 5e adventure for four to six characters between 3rd and 6th level. NOTE: I am a big fan of his model for grappling as seen in my review of Dungeon Grappling. I have follow up reviews of the final PDF, book, and eBook here.
The introduction makes clear that this is a scenario designed to showcase Dungeon Grappling. It is also set in the world of Etera, which is the setting for the forthcoming Dragon Heresy RPG. Three ideas in bullet points makes suggestions for incorporating this adventure into an existing campaign.
The first 30 pages are the adventure. There are three pages about wilderness travel and weather. Fourteen creatures are presented in the bestiary section, with one per page. The final two pages before the OGL are quick-start rules for grappling.
The various stages of the journey to retrieve the mcguffin weavean interesting adventure in a Norse inspired world. It is not all combat, or more specifically of the hack and slash variety. There are some twists on creatures from how they are often presented in RPGs, making them new creatures. There are a lot of ideas in here that one could pull out and use in their own games. Several of these ideas can be used with any genre and ruleset.
What I liked:
The layout, background image/color, and font are easy to read on screen.
There is a hazard table for random occurrences for the overland journey.
He has an interesting mechanic for how to deal with a rickety rope bridge.
In addition to the bridge itself, several methods of crossing the bridge or crossing in other ways are suggested. Skilled players will be able to come up with other ways to cross.
Another interesting mechanic is included for dealing with river rapids. After a certain number of failed checks to avoid drowning, an individual enters “combat” rounds with the river and takes damage for each round they fail to keep their head above water.
Several of the encounters are for creatures that will attempt to grapple, giving the opportunity to use the grappling rules.
There is a quick start of the grappling rules.
Each creature in the bestiary includes their grappling stats. Player characters will need to calculate their grappling stats. I would recommend doing so as part of character creation or for pre-gens the GM supplies.
The pages on wilderness travel bring in realistic amounts of food and water requirements.
Since mountains are involved there are mechanics for dealing with climbing. An example is also provided.
It includes methods for avoiding falls, and how to save yourself or others from a fall.
What I’d like to See:
Since this is a pre-release and not the final PDF, it has several issues with missing words, or words out of order. I know these will be addressed in the final copy.
There is no table of contents, but like in Dungeon Grappling, I know it will be hyperlinked to the different sections.
There are placeholders for many pieces of art and all the maps, so the layout is basically complete.
I did not see anywhere in the PDF what number and level of characters this adventure is for. This is a helpful piece of information to know when selecting it for ones players or creating pre-gens for one-shots or convention play.
I backed the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter because I liked the initial grappling rules from The Manor #8, as mentioned in the review I linked above. Doug does good work, and gives regular updates after the close of the funding campaign, and delivered three months ahead of the delivery deadline. Based on that experience, I would expect similar efforts to deliver this Kickstarter.
This is a neat adventure that gives one lots of ideas for running a hexcrawl style scenario in 5e. If you are a fan of the OSR and are curious about 5e, this will fill that need. For those wanting to see an adventure with dungeon grappling baked in, this is your chance. For 5e fans that wander about old school style of play, this guides them through the process.
I find this an imaginative way to blend the Norse mythology and the fey of that mythos with 5e and the dungeon grappling mechanics. I am curious about the art and maps missing from the pre-release PDF. For $7 you can get the PDF, and $20 gets the PDF and softcover. There are tiers for multiple copies. All backers get their name in the credits.
I have slowly been dipping my toes into YouTube as another creative outlet for my RPG ideas. Like most, I have been a long time subscriber to various channels that interest me. Today, I’d like to focus on highlighting four RPG related YouTube channels and what they have to offer. If you are not already following them, check them out and see if their content is useful to you. I have a companion YouTube video here.
Bill Allan covers a variety of RPG topics, from cons to building terrain. He has a background in television and video production, so he makes high quality videos. His skills led him to take the lead in the live feed of the Maze Arcana events at Gen Con 50. Bill is also very helpful in sharing his knowledge so other You Tubers can improve their videos.
His various videos from Gen Con 50 were very cool for those like me, who weren’t there. Being able to see a bit of the museum showing the history of Gen Con and RPGs and other table top games was very interesting and satisfying.
Here he discusses how to run monsters in RPGs. A few helpful hints, and perhaps a few you haven’t thought of.
Gareth Q. Barrett has two channels, I’ll focus on 7D System today. The focus for this channel is Gareth’s 7D System, but there is a lot of system agnostic content here. He produces high quality videos with music and all the fancy things one comes to expect from a YouTube video. He is also very generous in his sharing of tips to help YouTube newcomers improve their own videos. There are a lot of ideas and insights here.
Gareth likes to mix things up so you never know what manner of speaking you’ll find from him. I really like his video on minor changes to the way you speak to help roleplay different characters – Acting and Voice Acting.
Ben Milton is a regular and prolific producer of quality content on multiple internet outlets. He has done a lot of reviews of games and modules. Actual books are presented onscreen and their pros and cons are highlighted.
He has also developed his own simple and free RPG in the OSR minimalist style, called Maze Rats, available as PWYW. He has a love for the OSR and it shows in his posts and videos.
As a school teacher, he works with kids in an after-school RPG program, playing in the old school style. He shares his experience and how the kids learn and evolve through play.
Ben is a talented artist and has done some cool maps and has videos showing how he does particular map features. He also does maps for commissions.
Recently, he started interviewing other creators on YouTube in a series called Old School Academy. His first guest was Zak Smith.
He is very active on OSR topics on Reddit, G+, and Facebook.
Nate Vanderzee has a broad spectrum of RPG videos on his channel. One series is on teaching people how to play D&D 5e from scratch. He assumes zero roleplaying experience, and no familiarity with the rules. His strong onscreen presence reassures the viewer that he knows his stuff.
As with anyone teaching something new to others, he assumes no prior knowledge. Many of his videos can be applicable to teaching the basics of any RPG.
Nate also draws maps, has unboxing videos, reviews, DM & player tips, miniatures & crafts, and shares about video games. He also does maps on commission and has a regular map drawing livestream. He has the site Sellsword Maps if you want to see examples of his work.
Cody Lewis of Taking20 has a fast growing channel. His start was showing people how to get the most of Roll20. He has branched out into all kinds of efforts this year. I wrote about his channel here, and reviewed a 5e module he co-wrote here. Cody is a welcoming and generous supporter of all RPG creators.
Matt Collville has a fantastic channel. He is focused on getting more people into the DM seat. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I have picked up something from each of his videos. I first wrote about him here. Matt has not enabled ads on his fast growing channel, but he funds it with the sales of his fantasy novel series. I recommend his novels. I still need to write up reviews of them.
There are more RPG related YT channels than I could practically cover in one article. Here is a quick list of some you might want to check out.