Thursday, December 21, 2017

Kellri's Wilderlands Index

Kellri is a longtime blogger and writer who has contributed a number of useful Old School References, notably CDD #4 Encounter Reference.

Yesterday he released the Wilderlands Index a spreadsheet that summarizes nearly all of the original Wilderlands of High Fantasy material. It is an outstanding reference if you are using the Wilderlands for your campaign.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Medieval Life in Action Part 2

Part 1

This part 2 of a series detailing how I incorporate medieval history into my Majestic Wilderlands. One debate that been around since the beginning of the hobby is how "realistic" are the medieval elements of a fantasy campaign especially one using the Dungeons and Dragon rules (various editions). Most of these debates tend to devolve into people talking theory. I figure it would be useful to show actual play example using a campaign I ran two years ago using Dungeons and Dragon 5th edition. The campaign was continuation of a previous campaign using the excellent Lost Mine of Phandelver found in the DnD Starter Set. I re-skinned the adventure slightly by setting in the Majestic Wilderlands instead of the Forgotten Realms.

In the last part I gave a general overview and some general advice. This post is about the first session of the campaign and the medieval elements I incorporated and why. One of my players +Douglas Cole kept a detailed journal over on his blog Gaming Ballistic.

My Account
Doug's Account

Doug made a Paladin of Veritas the God of Truth. The religion of Veritas or the High Lord is associated with the Sylvan culture of the Elves in the Majestic Wilderlands. In the region where the players are adventuring, in there are several cultures that define how NPCs behave. The feudal cultures of the Tharian Horse Lords, and Ghinorian (chosen of Mitra). Along with the Sylvan culture of the Elessarians (Celt like with druids) and demi-humans (Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, etc).

One aspect of the Sylvan culture is that is tracks closely to the D&D default of the adventuring party of a kalidoscope of races. This makes it easier for a newcomer to roleplay as a member of this culture. For Doug it had the benefit being somewhat distant from where the campaign was taking place. So it played into Doug not knowing the setting as well as the other players.

Paladins in the Majestic Wilderlands are respected and feared. Respected because they are divine agents of their god. Connected to the deity directly as their agent. Feared because as divine agents they are sent to where there are problem. Their active involvement in a region means somebody in trouble and it could be them. There also tensions between paladins and the political and religious hierarchy. While paladin respect the rule of law and those who hold position, in the end they answer only their god.

While paladins are more recent myth than historical religion always enjoyed a privilege place in society. Typically it was woven in tight with the secular half with the the sovereign acting as King and Priest. The advent of Christianity meant, among other things, the role of King and Priest were separated and turned into parallel hierarchies. In Western Europe particularly, the head of the church, the Pope, contended with Kings over who had the final say. Eventually the Kings won the war, but during the 12th and 13th century the Papacy was ascendant.

Overall the Majestic Wilderlands was polytheistic. Behind the scenes there was only ten major divine powers. However when translated through local culture and its history this resulted in a complex melange of religions. The storm god, was known as Thor to the Skandian Vikings, but in the south to the Ionian barbarians he was Mantriv the Thunderer.

Out of all the cultures, the Sylvan culture led by the Elves were the most aware of the true nature of the divine powers of the world. They viewed as enlightened beings of power imparting great truths through their teachings. The leader of these powers was Veritas the High Lord who name means Truth. Paladins of Veritas main purpose is to promote harmony among the races and to deal with threats to that harmony. The clerics of Sylvan cultures call themselves the Trehaen or teachers. When I use D&D as my rules they are based off the Druid and Ranger class.

The regions that the campaign was set there are two other important religion. First is that of the Ghinorian who arrived a millennia ago from the south. They believe themselves to be the chosen people of Mitra the goddess of honor and justice. I always depicted them as a faux Catholic Church and much of the details are taken from or inspired by the historical medieval church with a dash of Judaism. The Church of Mitra is often the religion my players "get" right away. I deliberately play with the stereotypes people have of the medieval church in the details and in the roleplaying.

The next important religions is that of the Tharian Horse Lord. They swept in from the west 200 years ago and conquered the City State of the Invincible Overlord a century ago. They believe in a High Lord however unlike the Elves their focus of worship is directed to a concept they call the Lars. They believe each clan has a council of dead ancestors established by the High Lord to guide the clan and its members. The clerics are those in charge of the proper ceremonies to honor the Lars and perform auguries to seek counsel with the Lars in the clan's time of need. I was inspired by the religious customs of China and Republican Rome. In creating this.

Again I said in my previous post was important about all of this is how the influenced the behavior of the NPCs the PCs encounter. The Tharian norm is do right by their ancestor. The Ghinorian was to live by the code that Mitra teaches, the Sylvans desire harmony between all.

The Situation
The current dynasty and most of the nobles of the City State are Tharian Horse Lords. While top dog their culture has a serious issue. They are vastly less sophisticated than the Ghinorians and Elessarians (Sylvans) they conquered. For the past century they been playing catch up as they have little in their culture to handle complex economic transactions or handle the rule of thousands living a city as opposed to several hundred clansmen. Over time many Tharian became disillusioned and turned elsewhere for answers. The most popular of which is the martial faith of Set the Dragon God. Set and Mitra are rivals and their respective religions despise each other.

Fifty years ago, the current Overlord's father was having political issues, mostly with the Ghinorian merchants and the few nobles that remained. During that time a Set Mission arrived from the south. In a deliberate snub to the Ghinorians in City State he granted permission for the mission to build a Temple of Set right next to the Cathedral of Mitra. However what started as joke, turned into something more. The worship of Set grew in popularity among the younger generation of Tharians. They were attracted to a religion that advocated a warrior ethos similiar to their own, emphasized that the strong had the right to rule, and was sophisticated as the Church of Mitra in having an answer to many of the problems they faced.

Again how this translate to the player level? Mitra versus Set thanks to Conan and Jaquay's Dark Tower is an enduring trope in tabletop roleplaying. So most when hearing Mitra and Set know that they are not going to like each other. That Mitra is the good guy in all this and Set is the bad guy in all this. This dynamic was always been part of how I ran the Wilderlands. I loved the Dark Tower adventure and its background. It quickly became incorporated in my take on City State with the Hellbridge Temple being dedicated to Set, and instead of there being three central temple each dedicated to a different god, I made it the Cathedral of Mitra. Most of my players expected good clerics to be kind of like Catholic priests so this all reinforced each other.

The Set versus Mitra conflict has been a central dynamic since the first campaign I ran in the Wilderlands. I had campaigns where the players were on the side of Mitra and campaign who were on the side of Set. By the mid 2000s the consequences of all these campaigns was that City State and the territory the Overlord controlled was about to be torn apart in civil war.

The campaign that Doug became part of is where it happened.

The First Game
When D&D 5e came out we all wanted to try it. I really like the Phandelver adventure in the boxed set so volunteered to run it. In case it grew into something more, I took it out of the forgotten realms and set in the Majestic Wilderlands. I located it in a frontier march the City State maintained on the borders of the orc infested forest of Dearthwood. Outside of a few reference and custom maps I pretty much ran the first part of the campaign straight out of the book. I ran this part from July 2014 to October 2014. The players were successful in completing the adventure and won the respect of the town.

Then after the New Year everybody wanted to play 5e again. So I started where we left off. Only this time the long build up to civil war was about to explode

The last time we played 5e the players successfully dealt with the Black Spider in the Wind Echo caves and were heading back to Phandalin. They were gone a number of days and in the mean time a messenger arrived from the Mitran rebels in City State that the time to overthrow the Overlord and his nobles was at hand. The leader of the miners, Halia Thorton, was an known adherent of Set. And previously Sildar Hallwinter I made a Black Lotus Agent. The Black Lotus is the Overlord's secret police.

Sildar could see the pitchforks being pulled out and got the miners out although it was too late for Halia. Sildar, his group, and the party met each other on the trail, got attacked by a random patrol of orcs, and a few round into the fight the rest of the PCs showed up.

My inspiration for figuring out how the rebellion would play out is reading the accounts of various peasant revolt throughout the Middle Ages and the Reformation. Like Wat Tyler, the Hussites, and the Peasant War in Germany. When reading about these I tried to imagine why people were acting the way they did. And when it came time for me to use this in my campaign, how would those same beliefs and feeling play out in the particular circumstances of my campaign.

For the Ghinorians, they been in a culture shock ever since the Tharians conquered them. The fact they are now starting to worship the deity they despised the most was the final straw. For Wat Tyler and his group it was also the intersection of several things, the economic disruption of the Black Death, the high taxes, the regency of a young king (Richard II) all combined to form a powder keg that exploded in 1381.

Thinking about the reason for my own civil war allowed me to come up with a multiple intersecting reason for why NPCs acted the way they did. Some are fighting because of economic, some out of religious beliefs, other have a personal grudge against the Tharians. It makes the situation more interesting, more believable, and gives the players more choices on ultimately what they decide to do or not do.

What made this particular situation interesting is that the players knew Phandalin and its inhabitants well from the initial 5e run. So to see the town they worked to protect tear itself apart involved some tough choices.

Part III

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Medieval Life in Action Part 1

In 2015 I ran a Majestic Wilderlands campaign using D&D 5th edition. One of players was +Douglas Cole  who blog frequently on Gaming Ballistic. He also kept a journal of his time in the campaign. Given the interest over in campaigns that are Medieval Authentic I figure it would help to show an example of actual play in a campaign where a lot of the material is drawn on medieval history.

Re-skinning History
One technique I use is re-skin history. I will take one or more incidents, change names, and make the background fit. Earth's history is incredibly diverse and easy to find stuff to adapt to a campaign if you are well-versed in history.

For example, Saladar, King of the Grand Kingdom (from Blackmarsh, Points of Light) just died and his only child surviving to adulthood is the Duchess Aleia. Alias was married Geran, Duke of Powin, part of the neighboring Kingdom of Gwyneed. However the Grand Kingdom is only two generations old. The seven realms having been united by King Aldric the Bold, Saladar's father, 50 years ago. When Aldric died, Saladar's older brother, Aldric the Red (II) took the throne but died in a hunting accident a few years later. As he had no child Saladar was crowned king. Unfortunately Saladar's eldest, Prince Edwin, died while patrolling the eastern borderlands leaving only Aleia as his heir.

However Barons did not like the idea of a Queen being in charge. Their hold over their estates throughout the seven realms was tenous and they desired a strong warrior king like King Aldric the Bold. Palanon was the grandson of King Aldric the Bold, however his mother was King Aldric's daughter so he wasn't considered as a candidate for the kingship until King Saladar died without a male heir. Palanon's supporters moved quickly as it would take two month for the Duchess Aleia to arrive at the capital of the Grand Kingdom. The royal treasury was seized and Palanon was proclaimed King just as the Duchess crossed the borders a few week later.

The Duchess Aleia was known for her fiery temper and wasn't about to give up. She issued a call for loyal supporters to gather under her banner. And with that call the Grand Kingdom was plunged in the era of the Chaos.

Now if you don't recognize any of this, this is a thinly veiled re-skin of the Anarchy period of England. Saladar is a King Henry I who lost his son in the shipwreck of the White Ship, leaving only his daughter the Empress Matilda. Palanon is Stephen the grandson of King William the Conqueror by his daughter Adela of Normandy.

But it not enough
OK so you made the above background and re-skinned it nicely. Right now it is useless vanity piece you wrote for your enjoyment. The only thing that makes it matter is how it defines the behavior of the NPCs that the PCs will encounter.

If you read medieval history a lot what drives things is the social webs that surround those in power. In one sense the Anarchy was two biker (or horse?) gangs (Matlida, and Stephen) fighting over turf with various allied gangs coming and going for their own reasons. So the next step one need to take is to define who does the Duchess Aleia know, do they support her (or not), and why. The same for Palanon. For myself I try to keep to the rule of the half-dozen. At each level I only focus on a half-dozen npcs. That way I can keep things in my head. The actual number should be whatever you are comfortable with keeping in your head. Some can to more and some need to do less.

For this type of background what will impact the players the most are retinue of the lowest ranks of nobles with land and power. Those who follow Barons, Sheriffs and the like. So sketch out Palanon, and Aleia, half dozen of their main supporters, and then of them pick a handful who impact the area the PCs are starting in. Then define their retinues and the NPCs that the players are most likely to encounters. Chancellors, Bailiffs, Captains of the Guard, etc. The retinue depends on their lord for privilege and survival so whatever whom the lord is backing they will back.

Finally this is the average, there will be exceptions and variants. But you have to have a norm. So keep a rough count of how often you make an major exception to the rule and if it exceed half of what your are detailing then quit writing up exception and go with mild quirks to add color. For example you defined a regions that has two Barons and five knights. No more than a single Baron and two the knight should vary greatly from the feudal norm in some way. The rest will have quirks to add color.

Part II

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Print option for the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map now available.

When I uploaded this project to RPGNow I thought that the 18" by 12" small poster map was going to be discontinued because it was listed as being on standard paper.

From talking with my OBS rep that turned out to be not true. So I created a print version, uploaded it, and ordered a proof copy. As you can see it looks pretty good.

If you already bought the PDF I sent a email with a discount code to buy it at a low cost. I took the base price and added $1 so it will count as a sale for the site rankings.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map

If you haven't bought the map yet, the price for Print plus PDFs is $10. The price for print is raised by $2 to cover the cost that OBS charges me for the map. The print version comes with five poster maps.

  • Four full scale maps of each quarter of the city. There is considerable overlap between the different section.
  • One with the entire map resized to fit the 12" by 18" dimensions of the small poster.
The one downside of the poster maps is that they come folded in half leaving a crease. I already put in the suggestion that they have a tube option for uncreased maps. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

First question on the City State of the Invincible Overlord Map

+simontmn ask
I always thought the Cryptic Citadel was one big building, this shows it as a small circular building surrounded by a courtyard?
On the original it is a judgement call. 

A case could be made for it to be a big giant building due to lack of interior detail like plants or roadways like the one leading to the lower entrance.

But then I got the no-name city photocopy.

Notice how the walls are shaded like the city walls. Despite the lack of a interior crenelation this to me meant the inside is a courtyard not a building.

Product Launch
The launch went well. So far 100 kickstarter backers have claimed their coupons. Plus I made 18 sales enough to put the map at #9 on the Bestselling Titles and #3 on hottest small press. I appreciate the business and the numerous good compliments. When some reviews, good or bad, appear I will make a post linking to them.

If you are interested in getting this map for yourself you can buy it here on RPGNow for $8.

In addition to the City State of Invincible Overlord, Revised, and Guide to City State (1976) it was pointed out by Falconer that one can use the Initial Guidelines Booklet I as well. The Initial Guidlines Booklet I is what Judges Guild sent out after the selling the maps at Gen Con IX. 

Then there also the Necromancer Games version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord which fleshes out the entries and includes the Wraith Overlord Sewer Supplement

Friday, November 24, 2017

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map (authorized release)

Bat in the Attic Games and Judges Guild is pleased to announce the release of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map on Friday November 24th 2017.

In 1976, Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owens went into business as Judges Guild. Their initial offering was centered on a magnificent 22" by 34" map of the City State of Invincible Overlord. First appearing at Gen Con IX, it was sold literally out of the trunk of a car during the convention.

Now forty years later that map has been redrawn in full color. It preserves all the original detail while adding new ones like rocks, foot paths, trees, and shrubbery. This has been checked against the no-name city blueprint that was the first draft of the map. This helped to clarify details obscured by the offset printing process used in the 1970s.

This map is not a scanned image of the original but has been redrawn from scratch.

This product contains several versions of the map.

  • A vector based PDF with layers at 22" by 34" 
  • A bitmap based PDF at 22" by 34"
  • A jpeg of the map with building labels and legends removed suitable for Virtual Tabletop software.
  • Instructions for using the VTT map with Roll20
  • A 17" by 14" map with the city arranged in its correct location on the original 5 mile hex map published on the back of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.
  • A PDF with overlapping sections of the full map suitable for printing on letter size paper.
  • A PDF with a letter sized black and white only map suitable for taking notes on during a campaign.

This is a authorized Judges Guild release for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

A coupon for a complimentary copy will be offered to all backers of the City State of the Invincible Overlord kickstarter. Please check the comment section of the Kickstarter for instructions.

Link to Kickstarter

This product only contains color maps of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The original guidebook and map can be purchased from Judges Guild on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

The original guidebook can be found on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG at

City State of the Invincible Overlord Revised
Guide to the City State (1976)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Barebones Fantasy, Death in Middle Earth, and a weekend at the Con.

Barebones Fantasy

So I went to Con on the Cob over the weekend. There I met up with +Tim Shorts and +Chris C. on Friday Night. Because I just got off of work, I had just enough time to check in, unload my stuff and head to my first game. Which turned out to be a Barebone Fantasy adventure.

Barebones Fantasy is an RPG about as detailed as Swords and Wizardry Complete, Basic DnD 5e or Fantasy Age. It uses a d100 and very basic skill system. You crit (success or fail) when you roll doubles (11, 22, 66, etc). Interestingly 00 means 0 and not 100. And counts as a crit. Skills are grouped by profession. Each profession (Thief, Scout, etc) have a number of skills that the your rating applies too.

Overall the system has it own favor and the rulebook cover everything you need to get started with a fantasy campaign using it. My only issue is that I have a number of RPGs of similar complexity and ease of use. So it doesn't hold much appeal for me.While it sounding I am damning it with faint praise. I feel it quite good ... for another gamer. My own personal bias is towards 3d6 based system when not using Dungeons and Dragons. So I would use Fantasy Age over this.

However if you like to use a d100 then you should take a look at this. Like Fantasy Age, like Swords and Wizardry Complete, or the Basic Version of DnD 5th edition, it quick to read and leap into. Recommended.

Barebones Fantasy Character sheet.

I will have a followup on the result of the Adventures in Middle Earth game I ran at the convention.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Of to the Con and Middle Earth!

So around 3pm I will heading from work to Con on the Cob in Richfield (Cleveland) Ohio. There I will hang out with my friends +Tim Shorts and +Chris C.. and get in on some gaming action.

On Saturday at 1 pm,  I will be running a modified version of my Scourge of the Demon Wolf for Adventures in Middle Earth called Scourge of the Werewolf. Because it is a face to face session I can go all out with my Dwarven Forges, props, and minis.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A free Harn Kingdom sampler.

Columbia Games has released a free 60 page page article about one of the larger kingdoms of Harn, Kaldor. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about concerning Harn. You can go here to download a free copy. The only downside is that you will have to create a Columbia Games account. This is handled during checkout.

The PDF has the following excerpts

Kingdom of Kaldor, City of Tashal (the capital of Kaldor), The Town of  Kiban, Manor (a set of rules for running a medieval manor, similar in complexity to running a Mongoose Traveller starship), and the Manor of Roganter.

Monday, October 30, 2017

James Shields Fantasy Art Kickstarter

James Shield Fantasy Art Kickstarter has entered into it last 48 hours. He is a great artist with a strong black and white style that I like. For commercial use, he offering 50 images for $50 which is a great deal. And for lower pledge levels this kickstarter is a great way to get illustrations for paper standup miniatures.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Building a better thief (for me at least)

So over at Tenkar's Tavern, Erik wrote a thoughtful post on why he made the thief the way it is in Swords and Wizardry, Continual Light. I have a contrary view and figured the reasons why I hold it could be of use to others.

In the original game a 1st level fighter was considered a veteran a seasoned warrior. Not exceptional but not a just a newly made squire or somebody just out of training camp either. This stems from Chainmail man to man rules.

Judges Guild and Bob Bledsaw were a huge influence on how I conceived character levels. In the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, leveled characters were a dime a dozen.

I evolved to consider level 1-2 to be apprentice level. Level 3 a full fledged professional. Level 6 a professional with responsibilities. Level 9 a leader among peers. Level 12 a renowned expert. And level 15 legendary. Level 1 meant that the character was trained and ready to do things on their own. Somebody just out of the academy so to speak. The other popular conception, and probably more common, is that anything beyond 1st level is special.

When I was using ADnD, the fact the thief only had 15% chance to Move Silently, 10% to Hide in Shadows, 30% to Pick Pocket seem very inconsistent with not only my view but view that leveled characters were special.

Think about it. In a setting where leveled characters are special that means the rest of the world is handled by zero level characters living out there lives. This means competent military and city guards doing their jobs, craftsmen working at their trade, and criminal types going about their business.

A good fix for this conundrum is consider the thief abilities to for special circumstances that allow a thief to go beyond what a ordinary person can do. But it is a fix as the none of the classic editions made this distinction. Starting with the Dungeoneer Survival Guide, the fix was to introduce proficiency as a skill system.

Then flashforward 30+ years and after reading the past decade worth of books about the DnD histories. I find that it that the original thief appears to be an afterthought. Something thrown into the Greyhawk supplement that made Gygax go "Neat!". Or equally likely thrown in to stop the folks who were bombarding him about why there were no burglars (Bilbo) or thieves (Grey Mouser) in the game.

So when it came to writing the Majestic Wilderlands supplement, I jettisoned the thief found in Swords and Wizardry as it was based on the original thief. But an important part of my setting that there were character types who where better at non-combat abilities than other characters types. So rather than come up with a unique set of mechanics for each class I opted to come up with a list of things that characters can do out of combat (abilities) and each of the Rogue classes would start off and process with different bonuses to these abilities.

When it came to the core books of the original roleplaying game it is apparent to me that outside of combat and spell any character to could attempt to do anything. So any character class could attempt to use these abilities. The various rogue classes were better.

I figured that at 1st level it was reasonable that the odds of success should be the same as a 1st level fighter hitting a moderately armored opponent, 30%.

There weren't really good example to draw from various classic editions. The various methods were either too stingy or too generous. Some of the one I read are:

  • Roll 1d100 under your attribute (too stingy)
  • Multiply your attribute by 5 and roll under with 1d100 (too generous)
  • Roll 1d20 under your attributes (too generous).
  • Roll 3d6 under your attributes (again too generous)

In Moldavy's Basic Dungeons and Dragons we have this. Which is too generous for me.

Page B60 Moldavy Basic
There's always a chance. The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on ld20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to +4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail. 
I opted to make it a 1d20 roll high with the base chance being 15+ or 30%. Attributes could give a bonus ranging from -3 to +3.  A starting burglar could easily get a +6 to his stealth ability check. However keep in mind, that stealth is generally an opposed roll to the guard perception (wisdom based). That the base 15+ applies to ordinary circumstances, otherwise it would be 20+ or more recently the roll being made at a disadvantage.

Hopefully you find this useful in deciding how you will be dealing with this in your campaign.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Observations on what is Dungeons and Dragons

 After working with this stuff for a decade I observed that there are common elements in the RPGs that are consider compatible with one or more editions of DnD. I found it useful while working on my Majestic Fantasy Rules to keep these in mind as I develop various subsystem.  There is no right or wrong way of doing this but it is helpful to have a starting point. 

My view of what constitutes a minimum set of mechanic for a DnD related RPG are:
  • Six attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma generated on a 3 to 18 scale with 10 being human normal average.
  • Saving throws to avoid bad things.
  • Armor Class as a target or an index to a chart to see if damage is scored.
  • A d20 to-hit roll
  • Difference races/cultures that offer a package of attributes bonuses and abilities.
  • Experience is represented by higher levels. 
  • Classes that are a package of abilities arranged by levels.
  • A character's health is represented by Hit Point when brought to zero incapacitates or kills the character.
  • Creatures can have hit dice instead of levels.
  • Creatures at a minimum have hit dice, hit points, movement, armor class, and a list of special abilities including attacks.

Beyond this anything is fair game. As long the above list is implemented it will be highly likely that the game will be seen as DnD compatible.

The Numbers
The interplay of the numbers used for the to-hit roll, armor class, hit points, and damage is a large part of what gives a specific edition their flavor.

You need to keep this in mind because the numbers work out differently for ODnD, ODnD+Greyhawk, ADnD, ADnD+Unearthed Arcana, Holmes Basic DnD, B/X DnD, BECMI DnD, ADnD 2e, ADnD 2e + Skill n Powers, DnD 3.0, DnD 3.5, PathfinderDnD 4e, and DnD 5e.  The good news it is not rocket science. Just need to figure out what edition you want it to be like and go from there.

Simplifying things even further the above can be grouped into broad categories:

  • Classic DnD (ODnD to ADnD 2e)
  • DnD 3.X (DnD 3.0 to Pathfinder)
  • DnD 4e
  • DnD 5e

The Stuff
If you noticed I didn't mention anything about specific classes, spells, magic items, lists of monsters, etc. To me these are setting details, either specific settings like my Majestic Wilderlands, Tekumel, Blackmoor, or Forgotten Realms. Or the generic fantasy that the core books of most editions of DnD assume.

With stuff like Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Eberron, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Arrows of Indra, Spears at Dawn, and other worthy works, I think it been established a RPG can be considered DnD even if it depicts a radically different setting or different vision of the fantasy genre.

For most of these games this was accomplished by having a different set of class, items, monsters, and even different systems of magic.

The point of this post is to offer a useful starting point from which to develop your own take on the world's most popular roleplaying game.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

D&D is back in the mainstream.

Well looks like D&D is back in the mainstream. An interesting article in the New Yorker.

Having grown up with the first video games like Pong, Space Invaders, and Atari. Then moving on to PC Gaming, then MMORPGs, etc, etc. It satisfying to see people balancing out things with a healthy does of face to face gaming. I have two sons, one is 20 and one is 13. There is a marked difference between the attitudes of how kids treated gaming when my eldest was 13 compared to what my youngest is experiencing now that he is 13. I am involved in Scouting and over the past five years there is a definite uptick in face to face gaming of all type including tabletop roleplaying.

Although to be fair, the people we owe the biggest thanks too are the euro-game companies who figured out first how to make face to face work in the internet era.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A project I am working on

I was thinking of something I could do for Swords and Wizardry Continual Light. Then this came to me as an idea for a setting.

Far beyond the Borderlands,
Beneath the shadowed eaves,
The sighing wind blows,
And the elf maiden grieves.

In the sun, bright steel glints
War drums echos amid the dells.
The land stained red
Orc and Men alike fell.

In darkling fens
And vast caverns deep,
Shadows come alive
and death creeps.

Far beyond the Borderlands
There is no peace.
Will heroes march?
Will the maiden cease to weep?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Google maps arrives for the Solar System

Google Maps now covers many planets and moons in the Solar System. Before they had Mars and the Moon and now it been greatly expanded. Pretty good especially for those who run near future Expanse style science fiction campaigns.

They even have the International Space Station.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Is your D&D 5e Character Rare?

Five Thirty Eight niche is using statistics to analyze sports and politics. But occasionally they turn their attention other topics. This time was the different type of DnD 5e character made with DnD Beyond, the online tool officially licensed by Wizards of the Coast. Recently Curse, the company beyond DnD Beyond supplied Gus Wezerek of FiveThirtyEight with a breakdown of the combination of class and race people were making on the service.

Looks like there quite a few folks using the tool numbering in the tens of thousands. Below is the data presented in chart form. It look like the winner is the good old Human Fighter followed by the Elven Ranger.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How much is having Initiative worth?

So here is an interesting combat question how much initiative is worth to the side having it in various editions of Dungeons and Dragons?

When I was mucking around with Fudge, I wrote a program that simulated two guys whacking the other with swords. I did this to see how the number worked out over thousands of fight. I coded up GURPS Basic Combat and classic DnD Combat to use as comparison.

One of the things I did was randomized starting initiative at the beginning of combat. Then alternated sides from that point on. So I was playing around with it today and I noticed something interesting. When two combatant have equal stats with random starting imitative the odds look like this for 10,000 fights.

Alex Wins 5060
Brian Wins 4940
Average Rds 4.1268

So when I gave Alex starting Initiative all the time. The result was this

Alex Wins 5575
Brian Wins 4425
Average Rds 4.08065
Then switched to Brian

Alex Wins 4512
Brian Wins 5488
Average Rds 4.0986

The implication is that having initiative all the time increases your odds of winning combat by 4.5%. This is especially relevant to DnD 5th edition where the default is to roll initiative once.

Note: Both Alex and Brian had AC 12, +1 to Hit, 1d8 damage, and had 10 hit points.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lost Hall of Tyr

People who write and create RPG material have varied interests. One +Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic is focused a wee bit on grappling. First he came out with Dungeon Grappling a supplement to add easy to use grappling rules to various editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Now he has started a kickstarter to fund the art and final production of the Lost Hall of Tyr, an adventure showing off his setting and focused on, you guessed it, grappling.

The Kickstarter page is here.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

City State of the World Emperor

Right now I am running two campaigns, the first is on Wednesdays and is using Adventures in Middle Earth with +Tim Shorts and +Chris C.. The second is on Thursday nights and involves several friends I made back when I running boffer LARP events; Josh, Mark, Adam, and Jeremy. The second campaign is using Swords and Wizardry and my Majestic Wilderlands Rules.

It centered around the City State of the World Emperor or the City of Spices or Viridistan. Currently the year 4475 BCCC, (Judges Guild stuff was set in 4433 BCCC) the last Viridian Emperor is long dead, the civil war that broke out in the wake of his death had wound down a decade ago (in game time) thanks to the decisive action of the PCs in an earlier campaign. Viridistan is ruled by a council (formed by yet another PC group back in the mid 80s) and is basically a powerful merchant republic.

Our cast of character for the current campaign is

  • Tamaril Lenore - an aspiring merchant (Merchant Adventurer from the MW Supplement) and gifted singer and player of the lute. 
  • Alexander Hexation - one of the few surviving full Viridians (in hiding) and trained as a Artificer (can only cast ritual but can make magic items like scrolls for battle magic). 
  • Valgard Neuroth - a cleric of Hamakhis the god and judge of the dead. The party is damn lucky to have this guy as one of the possible adventure sites I seeded was +Greg Gillespie excellent Barrowmaze. The party just managed to shut down the Pit of Chaos so he even more potent in the megadungeon.
  • Rodney a Halfling trained as a knight and uses his stable of warboars as his steeds.
Right now the party averages about 5th level and just aquired a small merchant ship. It is because of this that I adapted the trade rules from Adventurer Conqueror King for the particulars of my Majestic Wilderlands. Once I get the kinks out I will be posting them for people to use. 

One of the prep I did for the campaign is started work on the Majestic Wilderlands version of Viridistan. 

The original map.

In the early 90s just before I started using CorelDRAW I worked on a hand drawn map of the above. The below is as far as I got.

One of the main differences is that due to how I presented the Viridian as a demonic race there were no temples in Viridistan when it was under control of the Emperor. The various temple in the present of 4475 are basically the equivalent of a storefront church that you see in the downtown of various communities.

Currently this is the status of the new map I been working.

Now that all the city blocks are in place next is to draw in the coastlines and transfer the numbered buildings from my original. Unlike many RPG cities, CSWE had the referee place all the building themselves. There was a little underscore where the assigned number could be written.

Once I transfer the number, I can start dividing up the various city blocks into individual buildings. The main difference between my take on the City State Invincible Overlord and the original CSIO is how each CSIO city block is divided up. The building sizes are more realistic and there are lot more alleys.

Hope you enjoy this little peek into what I do to run my campaigns. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dungeons Fantasy RPG for GURPS has arrived at the Attic!

As long time readers of this blog know I been a fan of GURPS for thirty years. Believe it or not there was a time when GURPS was the fourth or fifth most popular RPG on the market back in 2004.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is designed to make it easy for people to get into playing and using GURPS for their campaigns. It does this by being presented as a traditional fantasy RPG. It tells you how to make characters, how to handle encounters and combat, gives you spells, monsters, and treasures to use. Plus there is an adventure included called I Smell a Rat!

It not a new edition of GURPS. Everything here works with the core books as is. But gone are things not relevant to the Dungeon Fantasy genre. Added are things that are useful for fantasy campaigns with GURPS.

So what do you get?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bat in the Attic replies to Frank Mentzer

For those of you who haven't heard Frank Mentzer is hard at work organizing things to publish material for the Empyrea setting that is part of Oerth the world where Greyhawk can be found. Mr. Mentzer is the primary author of the BECMI edition of Dungeon and Dragons as well the author of numerous other works for TSR and Dungeons and Dragons.

Over on Tenkar's Tavern, Erik Tenker shares this interesting bit from a conversation he had with Frank Mentzer.
A common characteristic of most Old-School sites is adherence to one specific point in the Past, generally out-of-print game systems. Very cool. Nothing wrong with that, most systems have value to many. But of all the tabletop RPG fans, the OSR buys the fewest New Products. This is fine I want to give things away... strongly preferred in these circles of course. Culturally the OSR is unique and priceless, and I applaud it. But they have chosen to be irrelevant to the current market.
I am sure there are lot of people in this industry that would agree with Mr. Mentzer especially the last sentence. I am not one of them. Why? For several reasons.

The first thing that people need to keep in mind about what the Old School Renaissance is the reason why it exists. It is the interaction of several things. First a continuing interest in the classic editions of Dungeons and Dragons from the 1974 Boxed set to the ADnD 2nd Edition. Second the ability to leverage open content to support these classic editions with new works that can be shared or sold commercially. Third, a radical reduction in the cost of creating, and distributing written works and graphics (like maps).

These three facts are the foundation of everything that we see in the OSR today.

Of the three it is the use of open content that caused the diversity of the OSR to explode. Once Matt Finch, Stuart Marshall, and Chris Gonnerman demonstrated how the d20 SRD could be used to create near clones of classic D&D in the form of OSRIC and Basic Fantasy. The gates were flung open for anybody to realize their particular vision of what classic DnD can be.

Just as important this use of open content wasn't limited to specific editions of classic DnD. It also enabled the creation of hybrids or the adaptions of classic DnD mechanics to new genres. Freed from the artificial constraints on creativity imposed by intellectual property the use of open content flowered into full bloom in the publishing world of the OSR. Resulting in the bewildering range of works we see being shared and published.

What drives all this are the whims of the individuals involved. So in a sense Mr. Mentzer is right that there is a choice involved. A choice that for some doesn't take into account what is marketable but rather what one individual or a small group thinks ought to be published. And let the market be damned!

But note my use of some, because it not true for all. Many OSR publishers, including myself do take a hard look at what we think people and the market want. People like Kevin Crawford, James Raggi,  have put a lot of hours in publishing works that are not only have great content but a great presentation. And from conversations I had with both, they put considerable thought into how to make this happen. In short they each have a business plan for realizing their vision. And they both adjust things as circumstances change. There are others like Frog God Games, and Goodman Games. Some are individuals like my friend Tim Shorts at Gothridge Manor.

Doesn't sound much different than what traditional publishers do.

Keep in mind that the freedom of open content doesn't just mean that you get to realize your vision. It means that everybody gets to realize their vision. For some that means preservation. Places like Knights and Knaves, Aceaum, Piazza, Ruins of Mirkhill, ODnD Discussion Forum, and Dragonsfoot are devoted to preserving specific editions of classic DnD.

And while some criticism of these sites have merit, the one I find unfair is that they are backwards or resistant to new things. It easy to make material for these groups. You just have to target the exact editions they are interested in. Not something close, not some hybrid, but the exact edition as close as you legally can with whatever quirks and nuances it possesses. And if you are not willing or unable to do that then they are not your audience.

Last there been some recent drama associated with one of these sites in particular and Mr. Mentzer. It sad that it occurred but I am not interested in who is right or wrong. I will say that if you ever want to "win" an argument in the OSR the best reply is always to write your idea up, do the work to make it usable by others and release either to share or for sale.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Majestic Wilderlands Races for GURPS

With the release of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG PDFs during Gencon to the backers of the DF RPG kickstarter, my Thursday night group really wants to give GURPS a try. So I agreed to do a campaign later this year.

Most of the development of the Majestic Wilderlands was done using GURPS starting in 1987. So I accumulated  a lot of notes about how the setting works using GURPS. Some of which you can see here. But since then I did a lot of work on the Swords and Wizardry version of the Majestic Wilderlands. As well as ran a memorable 5th edition campaign in the Majestic Wilderlands. So I am updating my material and the first thing I got done was the Races.

You can download the races from here. Note that because GURPS doesn't have an open license I can't use the Open Game License. Steve Jackson does have a generous fan policy so I opted for a non-commercial Creative commons license for the text I wrote. For the details of various terms and abilities you will need to refer to the GURPS core books. Some of them can be found in the free GURPS Lite.

Majestic Wilderlands Races for GURPS.

Variant Character Creation Rule
There is a problem with GURPS Disadvantages and it is the same problem with DnD alignments. Either they are too static,  a source of arguments about proper roleplaying or they are not much of a hindrance.

I am sure folks are familiar with the first two but what is the third one about? Why it isn't hindrance to be honest or too have a code of honor? Well it is at first glance but then you realize that how you were going to play anyway. So in the end a 150 point campaign is really a 195 point campaign.

But not all disadvantages are the same. Some have immediate consequences for how the character plays especially the physical ones.  So what our group did over time was to stop counting most disadvantages. If you were bound and determined to play a one handed fighter than you could get the points for that as there were on-going game effects. But stuff like being poor or wealthy was discussed before the campaign started. And having a Code of honor was a written down as a note on the characters. Sometime Codes would factor in for specific aspects like clerical powers or paladins. But like when I ditched Alignment from then one, your character personality is however you played it.

Technically it not even against RAW as it clearly states that the campaign can set the total number of starting points AND the total number point cost of disadvantages. We just opt to set it to zero with a few exceptions.

So this brings me to the variant rule in the MW Races for GURPS. That is there is no cost charged for being of X race. Instead the traits of the race modify the base character attributes and the players proceed on from there.

Like for my Majestic Wilderlands supplement, a Elf or a Reptile Man has superior traits compared to a human. The thing to remember is that I emphasize roleplaying and the Majestic Wilderlands is human dominated. So for the most part characters of other races are treated as outsiders even those that are considered friendly. And if the party happens to be dominated by non-humans then there iare plenty of adventures to be found in the surrounding non-human cultures.

All this is not because I think the GURPS default is wrong, it just my changes reflect better how I present my setting as a living breathing world. If because of circumstance the player decides to act against type, I am cool with that if it make sense. I want to see that play out naturally and not have the player worry about the points on his character sheet.

So this document includes the option to treat characters as a fundamental modification of the base attributes rather than something else to be bought.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It not a Harn Day but a Ivinia Day

Harn is part of a larger world known as Kethira. The island of Harn lies off of the western shore of the continent of Lythia which is home to many cultures (mostly human dominated). Ivinia was the first of these to be develop back in the 80s. It is Harn's equivalent of Scandinavia and home to several viking kingdoms.

Columbia Games re-edited, and re-formatted the original Ivina module and it has been released. Like most Harn product it is pricey but the quality is top notch. One big change is that each Ivinian realm now has a page devoted to it compared to the original.

You can get it in Print or PDF.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Vote Greyhawk! New D&D Survey up.

Wizards of the Coast has a new survey up and among the question it ask what DnD setting you are most interested in. While it not likely that there will be a Greyhawk revival in light of the Forgotten Realms juggernaut it is possible to get it listed as one of the approved settings on the DM's Guild. If that happen the fans can take it from there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harnworld Master Module only $5

Columbia Games has been running periodic discounts on the different PDFs for Harn. There is a particularly good deal on the Harnworld Master Module for $5.  Now what this is a series of articles that provides an overview of the Island of Harn and it's history. It's companion is the Harndex which is a mini-encyclopedia of one paragraph entries on the various locations described in the Master Module. Of course the articles, like this one for Peran, flesh these locations out in far greater detail.

Finally Harn articles are designed to be placed in three binders. So if you were to print the PDFs out and punch them, you would get what Columbia Games sends out in print.

Note that the City of Coranan, the largest city in Harn, has a discount as well. Finally if you want to use the linked to take advantage of the discounts make sure you go to the last post to get the latest. They generally expire in a week.

Friday, August 11, 2017

My Axioms of Sandbox Campaigns

My axioms of sandbox campaigns

First off a referee has to be willing to let his players trash his setting. If you are going to get bent about the players taking out the Emperor or the local tavern keeper then a sandbox campaign is not likely going to be enjoyable. Assuming that the players are exhibiting good sportmanship (i.e. good manners while playing a game), what is the worse thing you can imagine the players trying to do? If it occurs can be you remain fair, and will the campaign still be enjoyable for you? If the answer is yes then you will succeed at being a referee of a sandbox campaign.

I loosely sort what I do for my campaigns into several categories, the Initial Context, the Bag of Stuff, and a World in Motion.

The Bag of Stuff
This is where I do world building. For me, the three main items I need are geography, NPCs, and locales. Of the three locales wind up looking like a traditional adventure after it written. I have two broad grouping of the stuff; the specific (for example the City State of the Invincible Overlord), the generic (random castle town of 500 to 1000 people). For NPCs specific (Llewellyn the Blue, wizard of City-State), or generic (Tharian Horselord 6th level fight equivalent to a knight socially).

When I use something generic and it something that the players will continue to interact with then I will make notes , copy and paste the generic writeup and make something specific out of it.

In general I have a lot more generic material than I do specific. In addition I use material from other setting constantly notably Harn and Ars Magica altering to what I need. If players keep interacting with the place I will gradually replace it with something similar that my own original work. Although I usually do this between campaigns not during a campaign.

I wrote a series called How to build a Fantasy Sandbox to help people to jump start their Bag of Stuff. For me what happened is that I started out with the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and keep running campaign after campaign in the setting. Over the years it morphed into it own thing the Majestic Wilderlands. It is my experience that most referee do not stick with any one setting for long. However with the way I developed the Majestic Wilderlands, you can start small with a bare sketch of the larger world and keep adding to it as you run successive campaigns. The "How to make" series start off with making that larger sketch and then narrows down to a specific area with the things you need in order to build a toolkit to handle whatever direction the players opt to pursue.

World in Motion
This is about what you do during the sandbox campaign to bring it to life. For me there are several things I try to do.

First I view the current situation from the PCs perspective, I visualize in my mind what they would be seeing if they actually were standing there. Then I use what I know about their interests, goals, and motivation to filter that into something that hopefully fun and interesting. I also rely heavily on stereotypes and assumptions to cut down on the verbal bandwidth needed.

I have to stress if you want to use stereotypes and assumptions, then you have to make sure they are true MOST of the time. For example a common issue I see that many players won't interact with NPCs because they all got plots and plans that at the very least complicate the PCs lives if not direction hinder what they are trying to do. I make sure that I roleplay most of my NPCs as people just trying to get on with their lives. That by and large they will be somewhat friendly and helpful if there no other reason to dislike the PCs. Especially for merchants. Keep a running count on a notepad if you have trouble with this.

Next the setting has a life of it own and doesn't give two shits about what the players want to do. To handle this I list out goal and motivations of the NPCs most likely to effect the PCs' circumstances. It can range from the King to the local barkeeper. Then I construct a time line of what will happen as if the PCs didn't exist. This timeline is used as a Plan of Battle. A plan of battle is useful because it provided a military force a framework in order to achieve its objective. However history is full of example of generals who lost because they were rigid about executing their plan. A good general will change and adapt as the circumstance of the war changes. So it is with this timeline.

The timeline is a framework which is meant to be changed after and during a session in light of the PCs did or did not do as their characters. In a sandbox campaign this where most of the referee creativity will be focused. When the PCs do something there will be a lot of possible consequences. With one or two being most plausible. You do not have to pick the most plausible outcome. Rather pick the outcome that is both plausible and interesting to you and the players.

Like with the example of the NPCs above, be aware of your bias. At first keep a running count of how you decide things and if you are bias to a particular type of outcome then make a chart to roll on to change things up. Most people can spot consistent patterns especially in social interactions.

Initial Context
Most sandbox campaigns fail. Why? Because of the lack of a good initial context. Many mock character histories and background but if you going to get a sandbox campaign you are going to need a least a half page of specifics for each players and a half page of general information for the group as a whole.

Players who enjoy being plunked down in the middle of a blank map and told "Go forth and explore" are few and far between. About as common as players who enjoy playing GURPS with all the options in play at once. Most players want to feel their choices have meaning. Picking one of the six surrounding blank hexes is not a choice with meaning. So work on the initial situation so that it is interesting and give the players enough information to make some valid decision of what to do.

This is the tip of the iceberg about a topic I been writing about for the past decade, here is a link to all my blog posts on the topic.  The main problem with sandbox campaigns is the initial learning curve and getting comfortable with the free-form nature of how it flows. Once you are comfortable with this type of campaign it gets a lot easier.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Final edit of the Basic Rules Majestic Fantasy RPG

Thanks to the editing help given by Vance Atkins, the final version of the basic rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG is done!. You can download it from here. If you purchased the Majestic Wilderlands PDF, you will find that this file has been added to the download on RPGNow.

This is my previous post which contains my design notes on why I am doing this. In a nutshell, I am planning to release my take on the classic editions as series of supplements instead of an all in one book. However in the process of setting this up I realized I will need some type of basic summary so people can understand how it fits with the overall system.

So enjoy and hope you find something useful.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A RPG Potpurri, Using Roll20 VTT, ICv2 News, and Adventures in Middle Earth

In the fall of 2016, life circumstance shifted and for the first time in years I had an extended period where I wasn't involved in a regular campaign as a player or referee. Since then things picked up and now I am refereeing two campaigns, and playing in a third. Along with refereeing at a local games once every other month or so.

The key for me is using Virtual Tabletops like Fantasy Grounds or Roll20. With the different work schedules and driving distances involved it hard together with my friends and other folks to game face to face. It started back in the early 2000s as a way for +Dwayne Gillingham+Tim Shorts, and I to continue to game together despite Dwayne moving from post to post while he was in the military.

Since then I met several good friends on-line like +Ken H, and +Chris C. who became regulars, Since they are scattered across the northeast of the United States the only way for all of us to game on a regular basis is by using a VTT.

Unlike MMORPGs, VTT or Virtual Tabletop compliments face to face tabletop roleplaying. By using Voice over Internet, text chat, built-in RPG utilities, and a whiteboard that anybody can draw on, the software successfully allows people play tabletop roleplaying using the internet. It does have issues but they are the same issues that accompany any use of the internet for group collaboration,  familiar to anybody who had to sit through a phone or internet conference at work.  But it does brings some advantages especially if you use miniatures like I do. The easiest to use is Fog of War where a map displayed and the referee can selectively reveal different sections. The key thing to remember is that VTTs work alongside face to face gaming. You can easily run a campaign that regularly uses Roll20 and then once in a while get together for a face to face session. You are using the same material, the same techniques, and for the most part the same prep for both.

Since I been using VTTs so long, I assembled a set of tools that help me during a session. First off I have a bit of an unusual setup for my computer where I have three monitors. The central one is oriented normally, while the outer two are in portrait modes. I do this primarily for writing where I can see an entire page at once on the right monitor. An entire page at one on the left, And have some other program running in the middle. Here what my setup looks like during a session of Roll20. This one is a slice of the Barrowmaze which the party stumbled on during my OD&D/Majestic Wilderlands campaign on Thursday.

I have a old D&D 3.X utility called DM Genie on the left because it time keeping utility is still very useful. I have NBos' the Keep on the right to keep notes on and keep things organized. And in the middle is the web browser on the Roll20 site. We are using a VoIP program called Discord which is my current goto app for this stuff.  You can see the fog of war in action in the area that look a darker gray compared to the rest of the map. Those areas are unrevealed and look black to the players.

Adventures in Middle Earth
While my Thursday campaign is using my Majestic Fantasy rules (based on Swords and Wizardry), Wednesday using Adventures in Middle Earth which is based on DnD 5th edition. It is perhaps the best 5th edition third party supplement out there and it been outstanding to play. Overall it is low fantasy take on the 5th edition rules and has a very different feel despite most of the mechanics being the same.

Periodically the ICv2 gaming news site does a survey and releases the top 5 rankings for retail stores. And lo and behold Adventures in Middle Earth popped in this spring at #4. Congrats to Cubicle 7 for their success.

The only downside is that the rules have the minimum for open content and uses "everything derived from the SRD is open content everything else is product identity" without clearly marking anything. But it does get the creatives juices going about the possibility of low fantasy gaming with classic editions of DnD and 5th edition.

For those interested Enworld keeps a  history of ICv2 rankings. All we need to get one of the many excellent OSR RPGs to pop up in there. Cubicle 7 has been giving AiME a lot of support as well as you can see from here. Also note that The One Ring sourcebooks have been proving useful as well. Although keep an eye on the AiME release schedule as the AiME book duplicate a lot of the ToR setting information. To Cubicle's credit the AiME version it not just the ToR version with 5e stat blocks but obviously a refined and often better organized than the original ToR verison.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

More Majestic Wilderlands maps.

I seem to be doing a lot of them recently. This is a result of me getting close to finishing the map of the Main Campaign Area. The players are establishing themselves as merchant and managed to buy a ship. So I made a map centered on the Trident Gulf to use to plan for voyage and to act as a reference. For good measure I also started a political map.

The Main map

 The Political Map

This is for my campaign circa 4475 BCCC. The Majestic Wilderlands supplement reference how things were in 4436 BCCC. Those with the book can see there been several changes. Mainly the Council of Viridstan and the Dragon Empire.  Both entities came into being as a result of PCs doing their thing during their respective campaigns. The Council of Viridstan originated from the Fantasy Hero campaign I ran in college during the late 80s. While the Dragon Empire resulted from a GURPS campaign I ran in the early 90s.

The odd extension of the Dragon Empire around the Tiethoir River was one of the last things we did in that campaign. I took GURPS 3rd edition Mass Combat rules and combined with a little bit of Harn for the logistics and cost. The last couple of sessions saw +Tim Shorts and +Dwayne Gillingham play William the Conqueror and the Normans. The whole thing was to allow Duke Draco-lindus (Tim's Character) and his allies to gain a power base outside of the thumb of the Invincible Overlord of City-State.

Proved useful when Duke Draco broke away from City-State and reestablished the Dragon Empire.

As an experiment I mapped the progression of the last phase of the war. I experimented using colored transparent fills instead of just using borders like I did with previous historical maps I made,

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Don't buy the Scourge of the Demon Wolf! (Issue Resolved)

At least not from Noble Knight Games. Now some authors would be all up in arms about somebody obviously price gouging their own products. Especially when it still available for sale at it original price of $15 at Lulu and RPGNow.  I am enough of a libertarian that I support the right for Noble Knights to do this. But I will take advantage of my right to mock them for trying to rip off an unsuspecting buyer.

Poking around their site I find they are selling the Majestic Wilderlands for $30 ($12 from Lulu or RPGNow)

Looking at some of +James Raggi stuff is not passing the smell test in my opinion.

Again it Nobles Knight right to sell the material they have for whatever the market will bear and it our right to mock them for it when it get ridiculous. Especially when they have a shaky reputation due to the fact they don't post actual pictures of the high dollar collectibles they are selling.

UPDATE: After reading various comments, I want to stress rarely in life anybody is complete villain. Noble Knights has been in business a long time with a good reputation for service.  I placed several orders with them over the years with no issues except for one minor one where I got the wrong cover. But since it was the only one they had and I wanted the content as well, I was fine with it.

However for long time there been complaints about their refusal to post actual pictures and there been incidents with high dollar items that would have been adverted if they had. You can search the Acaeum forum to read about other collectors experiences.But for the most part they do verbally report the accurate condition of the product.  Then there is there pricing which always been on the high side. Although bargains are not hard to find over time.

However marking various readily available OSR product up at 100%? There no excuse for that. It is a decision that warrants mocking and criticism until it is addressed.

Finally I want to thank +Erik Tenkar for getting the word out about this on his blog.

FURTHER UPDATE: I had a nice exchange with Naomi from Noble Knights Sales. So the prices has been updated which you can see here. It is slightly higher but that in line from what I know about how vendor like Noble Knights operate. I don't know how much they paid for it but given their history of service I will take their word that what they need for a proper profit. So kudos to Naomi and Noble Knight Gams for responding promptly. Still need to use actual picture tho.

As for the rest of the OSR people need to make sure they are on their toes. If you have pertinent information or an OSR author of one the products list then contact Noble Knights at  Be polite!