Tag Archives: OSR

RPG Community Spotlight

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

Bill Allan
Bill Allan

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.

You can find Bill on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Vimeo.

7D System

Gareth Q. Barrett - 7D System
Gareth Q. Barrett – 7D System

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.

He is a talented artist, and produces some impressive drawings on camera. Check out his Monsters for RPG Games playlist.

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.

You can find Gareth and 7D System on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.

Questing Beast

Ben Milton - Questing Beast
Ben Milton – Questing Beast

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.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, Art Station for his maps, Tumblr, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.


Nate Vanderzee - WASD20
Nate Vanderzee – WASD20

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.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.


I want to make a quick shout out to Jorphdan (the ph is silent) for mentioning me in his YouTube video spotlight.

Jorphdan has a channel dedicated to the lore of the Forgotten Realms. His intro video is hilarious and sets the tone for what you can find there.

His other series are about D&D Cosmology (the planes of existence), a vlog and campaign diary, and live play.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.

+Matt Finch has launched a new project, Old School Gamer Radio, a just completed Kickstarter, with the YouTube Channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. His earlier series on the OGL is a must see for anyone publishing under the OGL.

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.

Chalice in Chains


Dum Dum Die Podcast

unMadeGaming Also on Twitch.

Nerd Immersion

Encounter Roleplay Also on Twitch.


Tabletop Terrors

Wyloch’s Crafting Vids


Black Magic Craft


You can view the companion video on my channel here:



Group Name Generator

I had an idea for a group name generator. Here are my initial ideas. I will polish this and do a proper table after I let the ideas ferment a bit more.

Some groups of players like a name for their group. The online group I play in had a hard time coming up with a cool name, so we ended up using the name of the guard dog of our wizard. The dog’s name is Starchy. Some of us were in the first group of players and by association all of us were referred to by NPCs as “Baldric’s Boys”, since we recovered a gem with significance for the followers of an admiral who died hundreds of years ago. We merged the two into “Starchy’s Boyz”.

It can be used for groups of NPCs, the bad guys, allied good guys, mercenary groups like The Black Company from the book series or The White Company from European History.






RPG Game Design

My thoughts lately are on RPGs and their design. It occured to me that there are certain aspects that need to be accounted for in such games.

Genre – This should be in some ways, perhaps most ways independent or not the major driver of the rest of the game mechanics. The mechanics should provide a clear and relatively simple way to convey the various “standards” of the genre that require game mechanics. The flavor or story for the genre should be independent of the mechanics. For example, one can use any fantasy rule set to play a dungeon delve.

Parameters – This is the guts of the game. How does one represent the reality of the world, the situations, the crowds, and the abilities of the characters?

Characters need to have ways to interact with the physical world, such things as strength, dexterity, constitution, charisma, and movement. Can you move something? Cone you do it gracefully? Can you take a hit? Can you influence others? Can you run away, or catch someone?

Then their is the internal world, of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, etc. that influence what you know and how well you can express or use it in the game.

Will the game ever need combat? I can’t think of any RPG that I have played that didn’t have some sort of rules for combat. How detailed do they need to be? Does combat make time stand still and it take hours of real time to determine what happens in a few minutes?

Will the game strive to mimic certain aspects of reality and to what degree?

Will role playing be used as a cornerstone to get past the need for rules on every little thing? Can the game be played and enjoyed without a serious commitment to sticking to your character role playing?

Will an in-depth example/instructions be needed to explain how to play this game?

How will actions that are not a given be resolved? Coin toss, drawing from a deck of playing cards, standard six sided dice, or the usual trope of various types of dice?

Will characters advance in power, abilities, or levels? How is this to be determined?

Will the rules be simple enough that anyone can quickly grasp them, or do they need a serious understanding of the game world and have multiple books to make a session even feasible?

Most RPGs rely on the same structure, abilities, levels, combat tables, dice, etc.

I have read many various discussions of RPGs and rules of newer RPGs, some go the lightest of all possible rules, like Risus; while others seem to go for making a roll out of everything and take the need for any role playing or creativity out of it.

Fantasy games have magic and so forth. Science fiction has exploration, nuclear or other apocalypse, etc. Horror, like Cthulhu has everyone going crazy. There can be westerns, spies, superheroes, or any other literary or movie genre that you can think of.

The best rules are ones that your gaming group can get behinds and use to make the experience of a game session fun, enjoyable, and worth repeating. I started with Blue Book Holmes Basis D&D back in the spring of 1978. It got us started. When Advanced D&D came out, we understood that it was better than mere “basic”. I have learned over the last few years online, that there was a lot to Basic D&D that I missed out on, mostly ideas and so forth. It really isn’t that different than AD&D. There are a lot of rules in AD&D that I ignore, especially relating to combat. In general, if it doesn’t make sense, or unnecessarily complicates things, I avoid it, or come up with something simpler. If it is all about paper shuffling and consulting the rule books, it gets old fast.

As I say often, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.

The Challenges Of Game Prep And Game Design

Both preparing for a major area of a campaign, or parts of an adventure, or developing something to publish, or as part of a collaborative project, can encounter a lot of inertia.

Getting the initial ideas together, whether bullet points, semi-detailed notes, sketches, or miscellaneous bits and pieces can often be the easy part. Yet, for me at least, finding a big enough block of time to make sense of it and compile all the pieces into an easily usable whole is challenging.

I can wing stuff in a game, but some things take just a bit more time to plan out. For example, I placed an NPC in my campaign that sells treasure maps. His caveat to customers is that they are real maps to real treasures, but he can’t guarantee that any treasure is still there. He goes to markets and bazaars far and wide and generates a collection. He then disappears to rebuild it, when it gets thinned out. I made the brilliant decision to let him have 39 maps (a randomly generated number), most for the general area when the players are running around with a few for the ruins of the ancient city nearby. The rest being scattered far away, and a couple for Ogre Island, the home of a famous archmage who really only wants adventurers coming there if they have slain ogres. The players bought all the area and ancient city maps, and the couple to locations on Ogre Island.

I then had to figure out details about these maps they bought. I made them pay quite a bit for them, but not so much to stop them from buying A LOT of maps. I like the d30 Sandbox Companion, and a couple other resources I tracked down for this. I came up with the size and condition of the maps, the landmarks around the treasure, whether the treasure in whole or in part was there, or if it was buried nearby, and the skill of the cartographer and the language it was written in. That was not too difficult. I then had to figure out where to place all the maps. Finally, I had to sketch out the maps.

I spent several hours on this and ended up with extremely rough sketches of maps. I figure that I could just describe them and go from there. I still have some ruins and a couple dungeons to plan.

After all that work, the players were focused on other things and haven’t tried to find one treasure.

Another example is the ancient city. I had a name and a vague idea of a layout in my mind. I dissuaded the players from going to the ancient city by having a trusted NPC tell them that it is very dangerous. I would have been fine if they went there, but they realized they needed a bit more experience. Especially when random undead traveled north along the ancient road to the large town/small city with their base of operations. So I took time to plan out some details of the city and figure out which locations where described by the treasure maps of the ruined city.

Again, after all that work, not near as much as for all the treasure maps, we have not played.

The good news, I have a lot planned and can deal with most situations, and have several ideas if the players decide to do something else.

I know that I shouldn’t plan too far ahead of my players to avoid burnout, but I like the design. It is fun to figure out certain details, however, it is the most fun to watch the interactions of my players with the ideas I present to them.

Working on a collaborative effort in cooperative sandbox design, I want to do my best so that my part is not the weak link in the whole.

As with general preparation as a DM, finding enough time in a large enough block to do more than nibble around the edges can be a challenge.

The lessons I have from this are manifold:

DM prep for my own game can be snippets that I can wing as needed. Often only a name for an NPC, a location name, and perhaps details of spells they have are usually enough. Many details can be generated on the fly.

Tables to help fill in the gaps. Good, bad, or indifferent – you can wait until they discover a treasure with gems and jewelry to roll what it is. It can make the players wait a bit, and can result in some enormous gems – if you let the results stand.

Maps only need to be good enough for me to know what is going on. If you play old school with theater of the mind, you don’t need miniatures and terrain maps. I haven’t made the players do mapping, and so far they have not been in a scenario where it makes sense for them to be lost. They have yet to find a ruin big enough to be a classic dungeon.

Players tend to want to know names of people, locations, taverns, businesses, and stories behind magic items. In addition, personalities of NPCs and monsters are needed so they are not all the same. More effort in these things can avoid delays at the table coming up with a new name. NOTE: I generate several NPC names and cross them off when I use them in game. I haven’t generated enough names to feel like I should re-use them. Tables and online generators can help with this.

I have a few memorable NPCs that the players most encounter. I have different city guard personas, some are matter of fact about their job, “just the facts”, ma’am types. Others are more laid back and just make sure things are not too far off from the rules. There is one who points at people with his spear and swings it around when pointing at the next person he talks to. I haven’t named all the town guards, just the captain and lieutenant. The players haven’t asked for lots of names, I just say, this guard acts thus and so, and if they need a description, I give it. The guard that waves his spear was a fun twist I came up with on the fly, and the players loved that twist. I rotate them, and understandably, the other guards don’t want to have to work with the spear swinger.

All of the things that work well to make a campaign that I can run effectively and give enjoyment to the players are usually far less detailed than required for either an online game, where time is usually more limited than an in-person game; and obviously not what is required for something that is part of something to be published for use by others. While game prep can be done in a pinch, preparation of something to share for others as a basis for an adventure or add-on area in their campaign requires enough detail that the DM only needs to tweak it for use in his game, and not spend hours trying to figure out what you mean or what pieces were left out.

As with a school paper, or other similar project, a collaborative OSR project or something you wish to publish can be done in smaller snippets of time, unless there is a hard and fast deadline.

I think we might all have dreams of making and publishing our own materials and selling to the world of fellow gamers. Many of us know we don’t have the skills, some know that we have the skills but not the drive to finish what we start. While one can use their campaign as a basis for a published project, one should make sure anything they publish is polished.

After reading about failed or terribly botched and nearly totally failed Kickstarters related to RPGs, this has come to mind. Who wouldn’t want all the money that goes with a hugely successful Kickstarter? Most don’t realize the true level of detail involved. In addition, the tax implications and record keeping required are far beyond what the average person expects.

If you want to do a Kickstarter, get your feet wet and participate in a collaborative effort and see how well that goes. Dare to publish some tables or a module and make it available for free. If it is done well and hits the target market, then maybe you have the knack to share something to sell. I’m no expert on the how to do it, as I have not done these things, but I have seen what other people have done. Some obviously have a knack for cranking out good stuff consistently. However, I have also seen a lot that I could do better slapping it together, some of it for sale. I also would be hesitant to risk negative criticism that comes with such things, so thick skin is probably helpful.

So I dabble and continue to share my thoughts on my little blog. It is nice when others recognize my small contributions, but I get more out of it as I get in my writing, and crystallize my own ideas. That is more valuable than money, but  if anyone wants to send me a Dieties & Demigods with Cthulhu and Elric, et. al., I’ll let you. Cash also is the perfect gift, since it always fits. 😉




10 Tons Cement Reveal Ant Nest

After filling with ten tons of cement and moving 40 tons of earth an ant nest covering 50 square meters and 8 meters deep is revealed.

Use this to help plan your next nest of giant ants.


 [EDIT: 10/28/2014]
I changed the link from a Facebook page to a YouTube video of the same footage.
I also found this link to the full documentary.
I also forgot to add a link for this chart/table to generate a giant ant’s nest to the original poster.

Exchange Rates of Coins in RPGs

I wrote a long comment on a post from Dyvers on the Pen & Paper RPG Bloggers. Dyver’s original post here.

I liked what I wrote so much, that I decided to make it into a post on my blog. This is how I do it in my game. The players don’t like it. They have found some people that are willing to buy ancient coins, like the sage who wants to fill in his collection of coins from the ancient empire, to help him piece together a history of its rulers, and he pays well for them. This is not well enough to offset the money changer. There are a few less than scrupulous merchants who take the ancient coins, but charge more.

Dyvers is wanting realism of monetary exchange in his system. I understand the sentiment. In my game, I keep it simple and just have names for different coins. Some coins, like electrum and platinum, are rare and either ancient and out of circulation, or only used in a few current places. Exchange rate math it complex, just google for exchange rates and figure out the formula to convert from dollars to yen and back to dollars. Does the exchange rate fluctuate like in the real world? I like realism, but adding more things to slow down the game while I do math, is just one more complication and aggravation both for me and my players. If you can handle the complexity in your game without impeding the flow of gameplay, then go ahead. As with anything in RPGs if it works for you and you, the GM and your players are having fun, you are doing it right!

Below is what I wrote in my comment to Dyver’s post:

A simpler way is to have a copper = a copper, etc. but in the neighboring kingdom, they only take that kingdom’s coins, so the players have to go to the money changer and pay the fee, say 3% to 10% or more, depending on how honest the money changer is and if the PCs have insulted him, etc.

Wait until the characters get to a small town and are out of local money and no one will trade with them, or only at a price where the individual or merchant comes out ahead after they makes a trip to the nearest money changer. Prices can easily go to 1.5 times to 2 times or more due to the hassle to the merchant to find a money changer. Reliance on gems, jewels, and bullion could get around that. Reliance on bullion/ingots could have other complications. With gems and jewels can the players get the full value out of them in trade?

Also, if the players haul back a treasure from the ancient ruins, there is the money changer, and maybe the tax collector so the local lord/kingdom gets their cut.

For treasures found on monsters, set how much of it is which kingdom’s coin. Is it an existing kingdom, or one long conquered? If the orcs just robbed a merchant train, it would most likely be all coins for the kingdom where the merchant does business. If a merchant crosses between nations, he will have a supply of coins for each nation, plus more portable jewels and gems.

The breakdown of a treasure into 50% ancient coins that require a tax and the money changer, and the remaining 50% split between two or more kingdoms that require a trip to the money changer, and go a long way to shrink the haul. In this case, I would rule the players get the experience for all the coins in the treasure they haul back to civilization, in AD&D, even though they don’t get to keep it all.

There are a lot of ways to boost the realism and make a copper more than a copper without the complication of exchange rate math or a fancy table, or reliance on a spreadsheet at the game table.

What is the OSR?

Three little letters seem to cause such a fuss. Here is a list that I will add to as my brain spits out new words and phrases to fit the acronym. When I get enough for a table or two, I will post a new article. (Be afraid, be very afraid.)

I invite others to submit their O.S.R. words, please submit them in the comments, in three word groups in order as seen in my examples below. NOTE: It doesn’t have to relate to RPGs, or at least not in an obvious way.

Obstinate Stinky Referees

Old Senile Roleplayers

One Shot Roleplaying

One Save Rule/Roll

Only Singing Roleplaying

Odiferous Slimy Raconteurs

Ornery Statistics Regulators (My personal favorite so far.)

Original System Resolutely

Obtuse System Rules

Obtuse Seething Revolutionary

Obverse Signage Regulations

Onomatopoeia Serving Rhetoric

Oranges Simmering Resolutely

Obtuse Seething Ridiculousness (A recent Kickstarter comes to mind, in addition to many other efforts to define three letters.)

Overpaid Senior Regulators

Ostracons Scoured Regularly

Ostrogoths Serving Romans

Ovulating Soothsayers Ruminating

Oscillating Sonorous Regurgitation

Ossified Spider Riders

Order Shiny Rings

Orthodontists Skewering Rodents

Overt Slimy Renters

Oysters Salaciously Rotated

Ossuaries Shattered Regretfully

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!