Showing posts from November, 2010

Late Fall Evening

Ah, it's cold outside with some chance of snow. A perfect evening for some mulled wine, pumpkin pie, and curling up in bed with the 1e DMG. I feel the need to generate some random tables!

Some excellent rule ideas (borrowed)

Reading through some of the various blogs that I subscribe to, I'm always amazed at the inventiveness of my fellow gamers and their ability to create exciting and functional rules that add to (rather than replace) rules from the existing D&D or AD&D (and simulacra). Two that just caught my attention have to do with shield functionailty and weapons rules for non-variable weapons damage (for the older systems where ALL weapons did 1d6 damage). First up are the shield rules from the blog Aeons and Auguaries Link which are in turn borrowed from rules created by Trollsmyth Trollsmyth . I found the shield rules of an exciting way to use shields in game to be more than a mere +1 to AC. In essence, it assigns shield points (hit points for the shield) which can be used to absorb the damage from a particular attack, at the expense of the shield's integrity. It is akin to Palladium Fantasy rules use of SDC to absorb damage. I know a lot of folks look at Palladium with much

Weekly Creature Feature: Angka

Once again, I peruse my tomes of legends, lore, folk tales, and whatnot to find interesting critters for use at the gaming table. I'm still combing through Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth by Carol Rose. This week I stumbled across a creature from Middle Eastern Myth: the Angka. Not much detail was given, so in true Old School form, I extrapolated and made stuff up. Filling a similar role as the cocatrice and the harpy, this beast can be used to spring on your party to change the usual suspect lineup a bit. As per all of my Weekly Creature Feature critters, this is designated as Open Content, so feel free to use it as you wish: Name: Angka No. Enc: 1 Alignment: Chaotic Movement: 60’ (20’) Fly: 150’(50’) Armor Class: 6 Hit Dice: 4 Attacks: 2 (bite, mesmerize) Damage: 1d4, mesmerize Save: F3 Morale: 6 Hoard Class: XX Description: Angka appear as vibrantly colored birds with human-like facial features. Angka are soli

Basalt Keep of Wilven the Yellow

I've been working on some location maps for a while now and figured I'd post some of them here. These are hand drawn and transfered rather crudely to Photoshop and had a grid placed over them. This is a standard 1 square = 10' map. The Basalt Keep of Wilven the Yellow exists on an island that exists in more than one dimension simultaneously. Also, it has the tendency to "blink" out of existence from time to time on some extraplanar jaunt. Viscount Wilven was a rather unwholesome character in the vein of the Marquis de Sade and surrounded himself with a cast of scoundrels, lunatics, libertines and hedonists. Ultimately becoming an outcast, Wilven tapped into the dark arts and created a rift that set his island home adrift on the planar sea. This has had some startling effects and has made the island and the keep a dangerous place to visit. Here's a map of the first level and two lower sublevels of the keep: I've started to key this level and have tw

The day after the day after Thanksgiving

No, I didn't participate in the Black Friday spending frenzy. Instead, we actually had our feast last night. Since I live in Italy and had a mix of Italians and Americans, it probably was better that we did it on Friday so the Italians could participate. Well, tonight w are actually having some more Italian friends over for a continuation of the feast. Yeah, it was a big turkey. At any rate, I've returned to working on my OSR project. Today I started to work on the outdoor hex maps for my campaign setting. I really want this campaign to have a pseudo Norse/Celtic/Germanic feel to it and thus taking place in a somewhat northerly climes. Not very original I suppose but go with what you love... As to scale, I've been thinking of doing one hex equals five mile (Wilderlands scale). That is tenative as I have to see how it actually works out.

Post Thanksgiving lethargy

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and that the Merry Gobbler brought everyone everything they wanted...wait, what? Anyway, it's late here in Italy and I'm too tired to make this much of a post. I did work on my revamp of the Dungeon! boardgame today. It went well. I'm mostly working on the monster and treasure cards right now. At some point I'm thinking of completely redoing the board and adding more levels as well as using a d20 mechanic instead of 2d12. This will of course be pretty much a completely new game but very much in the spirit of the original Dungeon! game. I've decided to not get too carried away with the classes, so I'll probably scale back the 12 classes I originally planned (maybe make that an advanced option). Since I have a daughter and I want to make this an inclusive family game (for my family at any rate), I'm going to add a female warrior princess class to the lineup. I've also decided to name my project DELVE! It&#

Thought of the day Thursday: Clerics

I’ve never really been able to get fully behind the idea of clerics as presented in Dungeons and Dragons games. For whatever reason, a traveling clergyman that wields the power of the gods really just leaves me cold. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that certainly there is a place for priests, churches, gods, myth and legend; but I can’t really get behind the combat medic position of the priest. Yes, I’m familiar with the Hospitaliers, the Templars, and other militarized orders of knighthood, but in my mind I just can’t resolve a traveling clergy member delving into the dungeon to act as an EMT for the party. I’ve never played a cleric, and in most of the games I’ve been in, clerics were usually not part of the part. Instead we’d use healing potions and visit the local apothecary for some healing. You know something? It seemed to work out alright. What about undead and the like? Well, actually, most of the times we’d just fight through them. Once we found a holy relic that was

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and much joy and time spent with friends and loved ones. This is by far my favorite holiday as it is all about being surrounded by those you love and reflecting on the things in ones life that matter most.

Ruminations on Magic part 2 - Charms and Rituals

Continuing my ruminations on the nature of Fantasy magic, I was curious as to how many folks utilize the magic properties of gems and herbs as outlined in the 1e DMG? I’ve been thinking of working up some low level magic such as charms, poultices, unguents, ointments, etc that would have either very limited applications or single use application. The Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series produced by Troll Lord Games, actually has some pretty intriguing information on the subject. I think it is the book Living Fantasy (but I’ll have to go back and make sure) that is really a compilation of tidbits of information for use in a fantasy campaign (actually that is the crux of the whole series – system neutral so it makes handy reference). It’d be nice to work up little rituals that have minor magical applications such an example could be warding off a certain type of dark sidhe during a certain time of year and only under specific circumstances by standing on one foot, holding a sprig of mistle

Some Ruminations on Magic

I know this has been beaten to death, buried, dug up and beaten some more; however, I am really thinking about what makes magic so interesting and seductive in fantasy? Matt Finch's work Elditch Wierdness Books One Through Three has really gotten me thinking. Is it the flashy flying around, burning enemies to cinders type magic, or the more subtle and insidious sort? I tend to lean towards the latter. I know, it’s all subjective, but what really pulls me in are the stories where magic is not common and even the slightest use of magic is impressive. I have a horrible memory so I can’t site specific details form any text, but things like Gandalf’s smoke rings from Lord of the Rings , The various implied magic from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and more importantly, the various fairy tales and legends from all over the world. Sure, there are some fairy tales that have overt magic, but more often than not it is more of the - oh, I don’t really have a word t

Weekly Creature Feature (11/22/2010): Amarok

Here's this week's creature feature. This week is a creature that haunts the far north and stalks those foolish enough to venture into the northern wilds at night. Loosely based upon a Native American legend, this is the Amarok. As with my last creature feature, the Amarok is designated open content so feel free to use it as you wish (aside for the art which is not open content and is copyright John Bingham - me). Again stated out for use with LL, it should be a fairly simple matter for a DM to convert to suit the DM's needs. Name: Amarok (wolf) No. Enc: 1 Alignment: Chaotic Movement: 200’ (70’) Armor Class: 4 Hit Dice: 8 Attacks: 1 (bite) Damage: 1d12 Save: F4 Morale: 8 Hoard Class: None Description: An amarok is a monstrous wolf akin to normal and dire wolves. However, amaroks are much more cunning and malicious than even dire wolves (6’ at shoulder). Native to the coldest reaches of the northernmost tundra and woodlands; these beasts hunt

Strange Magic

In my last post, a review of Matt Finch’s Eldritch Weirdness Books Three through One, some pretty interesting possibilities are touched on in regards to the practice and nature of magic. There were some pretty exciting things hinted on that seemed to touch on the whole non-Euclidian aspects of the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. I find all of this incredibly fascinating, but I have to admit, I always had a difficult time trying to wrap my brain around physics and mathematics (particularly the higher mathematics and quantum physics). These subjects just seem to go hand in hand with Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s adage that any technology of a sufficiently advanced nature would appear to be magic. Well, just how much do you delve into to these types of subjects from a fantasist’s perspective without being so completely wonky as to have others not being able to suspend disbelief? I say this because I’d like to touch on these subjects for a project I’m working on. I don’t want to try and crea

Review: Eldritch Weirdness Compilation Books Three to One

Matt Finch's Eldritch Weirdness Compilation Books Three to One is an accessory for Old School stle fantasy RPGS. IIt is fairly generic, so it is not a problem to adapt it to OSRIC, Swords and Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, or what ever your particular favorite Old School game of choice is. The print version of the books weighs in at 23 pages (of which pages 22 and 23 are given over to the OGL licensing info). While it may seem a bit light on the page count, it does pack quite a punch in giving DM's something to think about when it comes to using magic in fantasy games. Presented in reverse order, the three books present three different subject areas. Book one (the last in the compilation) presents a bunch of new spells for use in a fantasy campaign. I tend to agree with Matt, tht spells are usually one of the least interesting magic topics, being something of a recipe to be followed to gain a certain effect. There are some pretty imaginitive spells none the less. I really l

Dungeon boardgame update

I haven't had time to tweak the rule sets more as I've been working on a site based encounter (more on that later). At any rate, I just got a newer Dungeon! game off of eBay and it arrived yesterday. I'm thinking of springing it on my son for Christmas. However, Ive been thinking about the rules a bit more. I'll probably still plow ahead with the "advanced" rules with multiple classes, but I think for now, I'm going to rework the classic rules to keep them simple. I hink I'll tweak the existing characters a bit and perhaps add a thief and cleric. I need to draft up some new monster cards and print them out. Ultimately, that will entail printing out a whole new set as I think it best that the cards be uniform. More to follow...

The Collector

From time to time, I see people talking about collectors vs. players (especially in the old school gaming arena). Much of these discussions tend to look down on the collector and praise the player. I’m in a position right now where I guess I’d fall into the collector definition since 1) I have amassed a large amount of 1970’s/1980’s gaming material and 2) I’m not in an active gaming group (and haven’t been trying TOO hard to get one together). However, even though I have a nice sized collection, I don’t keep it hermetically sealed and under lock and key. I actively use this stuff to mine for ideas. OK, I don’t have a gaming group at the moment, but I have a son who at some point will become an experiment for some of my ideas. If it does occur (and I hope it does) that I have a regular gaming group that meets at least once a month, I’ll use the material on them. So, I’m a player (DM) forced by circumstance to become a collector. And my collection habits really are directed into purchasi

Thought of the day Thursday

Since I don’t have a gaming group and my son isn’t old enough yet to grasp the full nuances of RPGs (although we are progressing by using Dungeon!); most of my time must be spent in collection, reflection, speculation, and creating my own material (which I hope to at least use with my son when he is old enough to play). So having said all that, it is speculation time. Anyway, I was thinking about the rule sets for the various incarnations of D&D and how they relate to the various stories listed as inspiration in Appendix N of the 1e DMG. In particular, I’m reading the Elric Saga and thinking about how these guys would be worked out in the OD&D or Basic D&D frameworks (yes, I’m well aware of the 1e Deities and Demigods). Now over the years, I’ve heard people toss out nuggets like: “well, folks like Elric don’t fit into the rules framework.” I find myself asking, “Well, why the hell not?” I mean, if the inspiration for the game is heroes in the vein of Elric, Conan, Ar

Monster a week and encounter site a week

What I'd like to try is to do a monster a week (LL stats w/art) as well as an encounter site a week and post them here. Everything but the art will be open content (meaning, feel free to use everything except my artwork). I'll state what isn't open conent. Now, having said that, I've got a few ideas for encounter sites that I'd like to work up. Happy gaming!

New Critter Alitae

Ok, so here's how I spent my lunch, creating a new critter based upon a mythological reference. Alito was a grain goddess in ancient times (her name apparently means grain or is associated with grain in Greek). Over time, Alito became associated with disease and death (don't you just love it). At any rate, in true Old School spirit, I took a limited reference and created a new group of creatures based off of this reference (similar in spirit to Medusa, the Minotaur, Gorgons, etc). At any rate, this is stated out for use with Labyrinth Lord. I am also designating the Alitae open conent, so feel free to use it as you wish (but if you happen to publish it elsewhere, I'd be grateful for attributing it to me). Please note: the artwork is not open content is is copyright John Bingham (me) 2010. Name: Alitae No. Enc: 1 Alignment: Chaotic Movement: 60’ (20’), Special Armor Class: 6 Hit Dice: 3 Attacks: 1 Damage: by weapon, disease Save: M3 Morale: 6 Hoar

Switching things up a bit

As you can see, I've been playing with the layout a bit. I kinda like this one so I'll probably go with it (with a few tweaks of course). Gotta get ready for my day job so more later...

What the world needs now is more monsters

Well, not really but to be honest, I've been reading, playing, talking about and dreaming about fantasy gaming for many a year. In that time, I've become a bit jaded with the standard fantasy tropes (say it ain't so). No, I'm not some disgruntled grognard or some young kid that prefers Dragonball to Dragonlords of Melnibone. No, I don't think it's the fantasy tropes in and of themselves; it is just the way that they are used that really gets me. Over the past four years or so (coinciding with my interest and involvement in the Old School Renaissance), I've become much more of a fan of humanocentric gaming (and I suspect that contributes to my growing appreciation of basic forms of Dungeons and Dragons over my life long love affair with the Advanced rule set. You see, I like my fantasy to be somewhat mysterious. The human experience of interfacing with the unknown and/or the fantastical. I can't make any authoritative comments, but it is my impress

How much wood would a megadungeon chuck if a megadungeon could chuck wood

Alrighty, I'm working up some maps for my latest dungeon and I was wondering, at what point does a dungeon go from being an encouter site to a megadungeon? I'm no expert certainly but I do have some thoughts. It seems to me that a megadungeon involves a fairly sizable locale that has an ecosystem that periodically replentishes itself. Also a megadungeon in the classic sense doesn't really need any reason to exist other than because it's there (mad archmage decides to tunnel into the earth or some other vauge hand wave of a back story). An encounter site dungeon seems to be one that is designed with a specific purpose and once the players have attained the goal, they "conquer" the encounter site. I'm sure I'm oversimplifying things here a bit. At any rate, I'd kind of like my new dungeon that I'm working on to contain elements of both. It is a site adventure that has an objective, but with an ecosystem that is self contained and regenerat

Reinventing Dungeon

So, as I mentioned earlier, I pulled out my old Dungeon! board game. Since it was missing some pieces, I decided to create my own. Since I have quite a few D&D minis sitting around, I figured that I'd incorporate those into the game. Since I am who I am, it has quickly devolved into not just mking up new pieces to replace the old, but a complete redesign of the game with a d20 mechanic as opposed to 2d6. So far I have decided to maintain the six level dungeon board, but I now have twelve classes divided into three tiers (adventurer, heroic, and master). On top of that, there are simple, tiered spell lists, special abilites, and thelike. I want to retain much of the feel of Dungeon! but ramp it up just a little (without becoming a quasi-rpg initself). We shall see how it works out as I playtest it on my son.

OD&D vs. Basic D&D

Or to be more precise Swords and Wizardry vs. Labyrinth Lord. As I said, I've pretty much been an AD&D guy (or OSRIC). However, the simpler rulesets of Basic D&D have really been sparking my interest lately. I really, really am liking Labyrinth Lord. I want to like the simplicity of Swords and Wizardry, but there are a couple of things turning me off. one is the d6 damage. I really don't care for dragons doing only 1d6 bite damage (and only one attack per round is listed - except a breath weapon - for which no damage is listed). Now, according to the ethics of old school play that are enspoused by S&W, I as a DM can change this to suit my tastes. Which is all well and good but I'm really looking at this from the perspective of my OSR project. I want to release it at some point back to the community, but the rule sets of Labyrinth Lord appeal to me more. But if I think about it, the rule set shouldn't matter too much as a good DM should be able to e

TSR's Dungeon Board Game

I broke out the old TSR Dungeon set today and played a game with my son. There are a few pieces missing, but we got around that and played anyway. While Dungeon isn't very complex, it does teach some basic RPG tropes such as dungeon delving ,basic tactics, etc. We had quite a bit of fun. I always loved Dungeon! as a kid. It was to the point where my brother and I even made our own classes (such as the druid, cleric, paladin, and monk - to bringa more AD&D feel) as well as adding monster, treasure and expanded rules. Since we are missing some pieces, I might go out and get some business card stock and create all new cards and introduce some of the rules I came up with back then. Perhaps even add some minis for flavor. Yeah, that would be fun!

Current reading

I've been in a swords & soecery mood lately and pulled my Elic books off the shelf. I was absolutely enthralled by Elric when I was younger and I think it probably was one of the few real swords and sorcery books that I read. Mind you, this wasn;t due to a lack of interest, When I was a kid, I'd read anything that was even tangentially related to fantasy or science fiction (and to a lesser extent horror). No, it had to do much more with a lack of availability and just plain lack of awareness on my part. Growing up in the days before the interwebs, I had to pretty much rely on the word of mouth distributuion network. Living in the midwest, this could be spotty as a few things were in play here: 1) there was a pretty sizable stigma placed on fantasy by the ultra conservative gestapo where I lived. 2) The was no way to reliably do any research as there was no Internet and the locali library did not really stock such things (other than books on mythology and fairy tale

Learning to love the basics

You know, when I first started playing D&D, it was with AD&D back when I was around 10 or 11 (82-83). I remember the first D&D product I ever owned was the Official AD&D Coloring Album. I recieved that when I was about 8 or so. It actually predated my forray into gaming by a few years but it was what sparked my interest. At any rate, AD&D was my game of choice. I think that the appeal had to do with the arcane and inscruitable nature of the game. Looking through the DMG was something akin to reading the Dead Sea Scrolls to my young mind. It was crazy, it had cool pictures, it had all kinds of mysterious charts, etc. Plus it was, um, well... Advanced. I did pick up copies of the Basic game over the years (the Moldvay set and the Mentzer set). I remember selling copies of Grit and holliday cards door to door for various companies in order to score enough points to get the Basic sets. They were cool to be sure, but they didn't hold the same arcane appeal

Playing the meme game

Still chugging away at a nice clip on my projects. I've got a couple of ideas for petty gods that I would like to do up for James over at Grognardia. In the mean time, I figured it would be fun to do the 15 games in 15 minutes meme. This will be a combo of rpg/board/computer games. So in no particular order (other than what pops into my head): 1. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (naturally) 2. Marvel Superheros (FASERIP) 3. Risk 4. Dungeon! 5. Pitfall (Atari 2600) 6. Adventure (Atari 2600) 7. Wizardry 1-4 (Apple II) 8. Bard's Tale 1-3 (Apple II) 9. Might and Magic 1-3 (Apple II) 10. Delta Green/Call of Cthulhu 11. OD&D/BECMI/Holmes/Moldovay 13. Morrowind/Oblivion (PC) 14. Axis and Allies 15. Dungeons and Dragons (Intellivision)

OSR Project World Map Stage 1

So, what does a middle aged RPG obsessed man do for fun on a Friday night? Why complete a campaign world hex map. Well, at least part of one. So, here's the first stage of my campaign map. There will be some added embellishment, but overall, this is the basic structure. I don't think I'm in danger of winning any awards for my cartography, but I'm pretty satisfied with it. More importantly, it is helping tie together all the loose scraps of ideas I've had in the past four years or so since I started on this OSR project. Forward momentum on a project of my own (as opposed to the commissioned works)!!

World Maps

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm working up a world map for my latest project. I've always been taken by those crazy old world maps with the sea monsters and skewed perspective. I know for some gamers, having a map that reflects actual terrain and distance is key. I can see that, but I actually enjoy the sense of wonder that these wonky maps engender. As I mentioned, the Might and Magic computer games really do a fantastic job at creating that sense of wonder. I for one would be interested in seeing more maps of that nature in gaming poducts.

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down...

So I went on a business trip to Heidelberg, Germany last week. I must say that I really have a great fondness for Germany. Afterall, I spent my Freshmans and Sophomore years of High School in Nuremburg, Germany and that was the most active gaming period of my life. So yeah, I've got a lot of gaming memories all tied up with my stint (1986-88) there. Good times. I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get a chance to stock up on Germany beer. I have a smattering left but I'll be completely depleted in a few months. A well, hopefully the shopette on post will have a sale on German beer in the near future. Gotta have my Pilsner... But I digress. Since my return to sunny Italy, things have not been quite so sunny. In fact, it has been downright soggy. Post was closed at noon yesterday and remains closed today. So, in rainy day fashion, it's time to pull out the projects and begin working. I've been ruminating a bit on exactly what I