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A Merry Microlite74 Christmas

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Or actually, it will not be, my Microlite74 Wilderlands campaign is suspended for two weeks for the holidays. I hope my players and this blog's readers have a very Merry Christmas.

This blog hasn't been very active the last couple of months as real life has been keeping me far too busy. Good news, however, Donna had her (now annual) CT scan in November and no signs of her cancer were found. It's been three and a half years since she finished her radiation treatments so this is good news. Christmas donations to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund are welcome as this added another $2000 to the cancer bills. Gaming (and work on Microlite74 to a lesser extent) has continued even though the blog has been dead. Here's a brief summary to bring everyone up to date.

Campaign News: The party was sucked through a gate in the megadungeon below their manor in an early November session. They found themselves in outside of a very large strange city. This turned out to be Jakalla in Tekumel (the world of M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne). They had metal armor and metal weapons in a very metal poor world so they quickly got far more attention than they wanted. Fortunately the Omnipotent Azure Legion managed to rescue them from the clutches of the various temples -- they were captives of three different temples during their first day. The Omnipotent Azure Legion quickly hustled them to Bey Su -- a trip that showed them just how alien a world they were in. Once in Bey Su, they quickly agreed to a deal whereby they would give the government their metal items in exchange for help in finding a way home.

They spend the rest of November and December traveling across the empire and deep into an underworld to find a gate that a scholar believed might be able to send them home. After numerous strange adventures and several misunderstandings, the reached this gate and managed to get it to work. The scholar that had traveled with them set the gate to what he hopes should send them home and they stepped through -- only to find themselves at the North Pole just as the Polar Express arrived. It's traditional in my campaigns that Santa Claus shows up the last session before Christmas, this year they went to Santa instead. Santa then sent them on home, after a special gift or two, of course.

Microlite74 News: I haven't had much time to work on Microlite74 since the release of version 3. However, I have been following A Pack of Gnolls blog with much interest. The author has been reporting on using Microlite74 Extended (and modified) to run games for children, including using M74 to run the 4e adventure Keep on the Shadowfell. Everyone seems to be having a great time with it. Reading posts like these makes all the work creating M74 very worthwhile.

D&D 5e Dream Team

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A thread on RPGnet asks who your "dream team" of designers for D&D 5e would be. Here's mine.

Gary Gygax
David Arneson
David Hargrave
Bob Bledsaw
Paul Jaquays
Frank Mentzer
Aaron Allston
David (Zeb) Cook
Lenard Lakofka
Monte Cook
John Sapienza
Lewis Pulsipher

Unfortunately, this team is impossible as the first four people on it are dead. However, I think they could make a great set of D&D rules. There are at least two names here (John Sapienza and Lewis Pulsipher) who will make many of the RPGnet folks scratch their heads and go "Who?"

New Release: Darker Dungeons RPG

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Blacky the Blackball, author of the RC-clone Dark Dungeons has released Darker Dungeons. Where Dark Dungeons was intended to be a clone, Darker Dungeons is sort of a "house-ruled" version. It's the game as it is played at Blacky's table. According to the Gratis Games page...

[Darker Dungeons] tries to bring it up to date by replacing many of the disparate game mechanics with a unified system (although it is careful to keep the probabilities of success/failure of actions the same to within +/-5%, so the feel of the game is very similar to Dark Dungeons).

Additionally, Darker Dungeons takes advantage of the fact that it does not need to stick to its source material as closely by including other changes, including:
  • Ability Scores and hit points no longer being randomly generated.
  • Changes to classes (the human Mystic has been replaced by the demi-human Lupine, the Mountebank has been added, and the Magic-User and Elf have been swapped).
  • Removal of Alignment.
  • The ability for clerics and magic-users (and elves) to specialise in one or more types of spell at the cost of being less good with other types.
  • Shields no longer giving a flat bonus to armour class, but instead characters spending Proficiency slots on them to get their bonuses, just like weapons.
  • The removal of Shield Weapons (Knife Shield, Horn Shield, etc.), and the addition of Flails and Morning Stars.

You can download a free pdf copy of Darker Dungeons (or the original Dark Dungeons) from the Gratis Games page. You can also purchase a printed copy from Lulu (at cost of printing and shipping).

I haven't had a chance (yet) to really look through Darker Dungeons, however, I'm very impressed with the original Dark Dungeons.

Fall Cancer Fund Drive Results

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I'd like to thank everyone who made the gift of a donation to the our Fall 2011 RetroRoleplaying Fund Drive. We raised close to $2000 from several large donations and a host of smaller ones. Thanks to everyone who helped.

The drawing for the copy of ST1-Up the Garden Path was held during my Sunday game last Sunday and is going to K. Meier in Essen, Germany. A person who wishes to remain anonymous in a surburb of LA selected First Fantasy Campaign, the Walled City Geomorphs, and the copy of the Cook Expert Rulesbook for donating the largest amount. There was almost a tie for second place -- only ONE DOLLAR separated the two donations, but that one dollar difference allowed J. Brown of Indianapolis to select the Rules Cyclopedia and the City State of the Invincible Overlord. These items are in the mail and on the way to their new owners. The drawing for the remaining two items (the 5th edition OD&D booklets and the Monster & Treasure Assortment) will held next Sunday with the able assistance of the players in my Sunday game. I'm really surprised that one of the top two donors didn't snag the OD&D books, but that just means someone is going to get very lucky next Sunday.

Thanks again to everyone who donated!

Fall Cancer Fund Drive (and ST1: Up the Garden Path Giveaway) Ending Oct 15th

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The Fall RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive (and Goodie Giveaway) will end in about 36 hours (as this is being written). It runs through October 15th, but any donations arriving while I'm asleep on the night of October 15-16 will count as entries (I'm usually up about 6:30 am Central Daylight Time). I'd like to thank everyone who has already donated to the Fall RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive -- it's been very successful. Donations have come in not just from the US and UK but from Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Australia, Finland, and Sweden. Here's a repeat of the information on this fund drive -- and what we have to give away -- from my October 1st post.

As most readers know, my wife is recovering from oral cancer (with her next CT scan coming up in early November) and that I worked on the original Microlite74 as way to cope during her recovery from 6 weeks of radiation treatment in 2008. We are some of the 40 to 50 million people in the US who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for government aid as we live in Texas and have no children. The cancer treatments and related expenses have cost over $120,000 so far. While almost three-quarters of this has been absorbed by hospital foundations or paid by previous fund drives, monthly payments by us, and the like, we still owe quite a bit. Our last fund drive was in July of 2010, but we've now accumulated enough old school items to hold another.

Everyone who donates anything at all (even a dollar) to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund gets access to a few special downloads (like pdfs of two 1970s D&D fanzines, a special edition of Microlite74, and more) as described on the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund web page. Anyone donating $25 or more during this fund drive will be listed as a sponsor in the upcoming public digest-sized versions of Microlite74 3.0.

Special Donor Goodies for the Fall 2011 RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive (Mainly Original D&D Items)

Anyone who donates from now through October 15, 2011 will be eligible for some extra goodies in addition to the special downloads everyone who donates gets and sponsorships.


First, for every $10 you donate you will receive one chance in a raffle for the copy of the ST1 Up the Garden Path module. Condition note: it's in what I would call very good condition. The major defect is a very light cup ring on the back cover. It's so light that I can't get it to show up in a picture, but you can clearly see it if you hold it at just the right angle to the light. I suspect it was made by a water glass and not by coffee or soft drinks.

Second, we have items for the largest donors. While these aren't nearly as rare as the ones we had in July of last year, they are probably more useful. The following items are available: First Fantasy Campaign (Judges Guild book by Dave Arneson on his Blackmoor campaign from 1977, first printing, good condition, map present); City-State of the Invincible Overlord (Judges Guild, 1977, this is the original "small booklet" version, two of the blank dungeon maps are missing, otherwise good condition); Original D&D - 3 books (the three little 0e books -- good condition but no box, look to be 5th printing), Outdoor Geomorphs Set One: Walled City (TSR, 1977?, unknown printing, 11 uncut one-sided graphic sheets but cover missing), Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three (TSR, 1980, booklet version, probably second printing), Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, very good condition), and Expert Rulebook (TSR, 1981, David Cook edition, very good condition),

The person making the largest donation will receive his or her choice of THREE of the above items. The person making the second largest donation will receive his or her choice of TWO of the above items (from those items remaining after the top donor has made his selection). The remaining two items will raffled off. Ties will be broken with OD&D trivia questions.

As was done in our fund drive last year, the major item is being awarded by raffle. This should give almost everyone able top donate a chance at the big prize -- even if they cannot afford to donate a lot. As always, everyone who donates any amount (even just a dollar) gets access to these special PDF downloads: The Grimoire #1, The Grimoire #2, Microlite74 2.0 Special Edition, Hidden Valley House Rules (B/X D&D), and more. A two volume digest-sized "special donor edition" of Microlite74 Extended has been added to the donor downloads in the last week.

To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. My apologies for having to ask for donations and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who donates. If you cannot donate but wish to help, please spread the word about my request and offer. Thank you very much in advance.


Microlite74 Extended Play-by-Blog Looking for Players

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Sully over at A Pack of Gnolls is looking for players for what sounds like a fun sandbox-style campaign:

This will be a player-driven, hex-crawl, sandbox type of game. While the standard fantasy races described in Microlite74 Extended will all be available for PCs, the setting will be low-magic, and with the same basic "Points of Light" idea that 4th Edition D&D espouses. I'll be using converted AD&D2E monsters and magic items, along with plenty of homebrewed goodness. I have no overarching grand plot. The landscape will be liberally sprinkled with plenty of adventure sites, of which the players will hear plenty of rumours about. I will utilize multitudinous random tables to determine a lot of things as the game progresses. This will NOT be all nice and balanced like 4E, nor will it focus excessively on that tactical combat side of things.

Sully is planned on running this using a blog, something like the Grind4e blog campaign. Looking at the Grind4e blog, this does look like a very nice way to run a play-by-post campaign.

If you are interested in playing, contact Sully as described in this post: Microlite74 Play-By-Blog anyone?. The initial set of houserules Sully is using is in this post: Microlite74, Sully's Houserules. (Sully disagrees with my strong gnomes. ::sadly shaking head:: The next thing you know people will disagree with Gygax over beards on female dwarves.)

While I don't have time to play myself, I am looking forward to following the game's blog.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

ST1: Up the Garden Path Map

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A couple of readers have asked if I could post the maps from ST1: Up the Garden Path (see previous posts on this rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986 here and here). The maps appear to be official maps of the real world location with game info (encounter locations, etc.) printed over it. Here are scans of the two page map from the inside of the module cover. I've had to crop and reduce them to get them to fit here.




These are the only maps included in the module. There are no detail maps for any location in the module, just verbal descriptions. However, the descriptions are so well done that I did not really notice the lack of any location maps until I started looking for them to scan for this post.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

Wizards Ruin Encounters in D&D!

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If you've read many forums or blogs where D&D is discussed over that past 8-10 years, you have probably heard many players complaining about wizards ruining encounters with spells like sleep or fire ball that take out large numbers of the opposition. While I expect to hear GMs (especially GMs who run more linear and/or more pre-plotted adventures) complaining about players who manage to quickly defeat or defuse a situation they have set up and planned out in detail using some power or ability (or just a good idea) they had not "planned for", the idea that players would object to winning an encounter quickly generally seems alien to me.

I've been playing and running D&D and D&D-like games since 1975 and I can't remember any complaints from players about how wizards ruin encounters by taking out the opposition with a sleep spell or a fireball or other magic. Occasionally players would get upset with a wizard who did this if they slagged the treasure in the process, if they killed someone on the opposing side that needed to be kept alive for some reason, or for some similar campaign/adventure related reason. However, I can't remember a single pre-3.x game session where any player complained that a wizard ending a combat before it really could get started was somehow ruining the encounter simply by quickly taking out the opposition. I've only seen this in WOTC editions of the game -- although I suspect I might have heard it if I had ever played 2e with all the Player's Option books.

Why is were such complaints very rare in TSR editions, but seem much more common in WOTC editions? To be honest, I'm not sure -- but I have a hypothesis. These complains are more common in WOTC editions because the place of combat in the game changed greatly with the WOTC editions. (Note: the change really came with the Player's Option books, but the change there was entirely optional and the Player's Option stuff really wasn't that widely used.)

Combat in TSR editions (pre-Player's Option books) was designed to be relatively abstract and very fast to play out. A single combat encounter seldom took long to play and was seldom seen by players as the main activity in the game -- even among players who played just to fight things. Players who enjoyed combat got their enjoyment from having lots of combat encounters in a session -- not from any single encounter. Wizards were unlikely to be able to pack enough combat-ending spells to end many combats during a game session so it was generally a non-issue even for players who were "combat monsters".

Combat in WOTC editions is very tactical (and really needs minis and battlemats from 3.5 on) and each combat consumes a lot of a session's play time. Detailed combat encounters therefore became the main focus of (and source of "fun" in) the game for many players: they enjoyed the tactical feel of combat and looked forward to spending 30 to 90 minutes of real time in each combat encounter.

Given the above, I can understand why players of WOTC editions are more likely to see a wizard ending a combat with a spell early as a problem while players of TSR editions are more likely to not care. Players of WOTC editions are more likely to be playing because they want a detailed tactical combat that takes a major chunk of time to play through; therefore they are more likely to see a spell or two ending combat quickly as bad because it cuts the part of the game they enjoy most out. Players of older versions of D&D are more likely to thank the wizard who put the goblins to sleep as they administer the coup-de-grace, check them for treasure and move on, thankful that they were spared the risk to their limited hit points.

Is the fact that many players today object to wizards using magic to quickly end a combat encounter wrong or silly? Of course not, but it does highlight one of the major difference between older editions of D&D and newer editions of D&D and show why some people are going to clearly prefer newer editions to older editions and vice-versa. There are major differences between older and newer editions that can't be swept under the rug as some try to do by saying "the game plays the same." It simply doesn't play the same.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

Microlite74 Extended Digest Available for Retroroleplaying Cancer Fund Donors

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A two volume digest-sized version of Microlite74 Extended is now available for download in my "donors folder" on Mediafire. The first volume, Microlite74 Extended: The Rules, is 60 digest-sized pages, including covers. The second volume, Microlite74 Extended: Magic & Monsters is 64 digest-sized pages, including covers. Both volumes are designed made nice digest-sized booklets when printed using the "Booklet Printing" option in the print dialog in Adobe Reader.
If you have ever donated to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund in any amount, you can download these two pdfs for free. They are located in the location listed for the other free donor downloads in the email I sent you in reply to your donation -- they use the same password listed in that email as well. If you've donated, but lost that information, you can email me giving me the email address your Paypal account used and the approximate date you donated and I can check you donation and send you the info you need to download these files.

This digest-sized special edition of Microlite74 Extended contains no additional material not available to everyone. It's simply formatted for digest printing with slightly larger type, illustrations, and other formatting changes. This special edition is just a another "thank you" for cancer fund donors.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!



More on ST1: Up the Garden Path (1986 TSR UK module)

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I've been asked to describe the ST1: Up the Garden Path adventure as "most people will never see it as only one person can win the copy." That's a fair request, but the adventure is very hard to describe.

Quick Adventure Summary: ST1: Up the Garden Path is set in a very small pocket dimension sandbox full of weirdness. The PCs get dumped there and have to find their way out. There is a catch, of course. This pocket dimension should not be able to exist, but it does. Unfortunately, it is headed for a collision with the "real" universe the PCs come from. If it is allowed to do so, both this pocket dimension and the PC's universe will cease to exist. The PCs travel from one area of silliness to another trying to find eight contradictions -- things so contradictory that they stand out even in this weird dimension. Once they have located and collected these eight contradictions, they have to find the being who sustains this madhouse and present these contradictions to that being.

When they do so, the pocket dimension will go "poof!" and the PCs will find themselves back in their real universe -- having just saved it from destruction. No one will believe that they saved the universe from destruction, of course. Fortunately, any items the PCs acquired in the pocket dimension and have with them when they confront the partial Quirk of Probability who sustains the pocket dimension will return with them to the real universe. However, "any object brought back into the PCs' world will have a rather peculiar property. Whenever it is needed, looked for or even mentioned, there is a 2 in 6 chance that it is not actually there!"

Details: The adventure itself is a sandbox. There's a number of well-described locations and inhabitants and the players are pretty much free to have their characters explore and interact as they will. Locations include:

1. Maypole Hill
2. Four different Railway Stations
3. The Spring
4. Ancient Ruins
5. Wishing Well
6. Harbour Village
7. The Rainbow
8.Stone Circle
9. Fort
10. Camera Obscura
11. The Cliff
12. Lakes
13. Shadow Palace of John Smith
14. Railway Station (Dimensional Portal where the PC arrive)
15. The Vinery
16. Sprite's Spiral
17. High Watch
18. Small Lake
19. Abandoned Market
20. Lonely Wanderer Inn
23. Labyrinth
24. Dragon Bedding Display
25. Amphitheater
26. Rocky Valley
27. Compass
28. Arena
29. Arborinexorabilaneous' Sanctury
30. Temple of Pra'aaps

The various railway stations are part of the Gnomish Short & Light Railway Company ("a triumph of gnomish engineering skill"). It a way to travel around the adventure, but not necessary quickly as the gnomes haven't invented corridors in the rail cars yet, so the conductor has the move around on the outside of the train. Naturally he often falls off and the train has to stop so he can get back on. Other inhabitants include the members of the Round Earth Society who believe the pocket dimension is really round instead of flat, a mage called John "I ain't really here" Smith who believes the Garden dimension doesn't really exist at all, Oblivious the (drunk) spirit dragon, the Enceepeh tribe of gnolls and plains barbarians who live in what would be the parking lots of the real Garden, and many wandering inhabitants. The PCs real problems will come from the Cult of Pra'aaps. The cultists have a better idea than most Garden inhabitants as to what the Garden really is. However, they believe that when the Garden is destroyed their God will save them. Naturally they will not be happy that the PCs might interfere with this.

ST1: Up the Garden Path looks like it would be a fun, if silly, adventure to play through. It's definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea, however.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

Microlite74 Extended Digest-Sized Special Edition Coming Soon

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I'm working on a digest-sized special edition of Microlite74 Extended which should be ready in a few days. It will be split into two volumes, each probably around 64 pages. The first volume will include the rules and play/GM advice. The second volume will include spell and monster descriptions. There will be artwork. The print will be larger. This special edition of Microlite74 Extended will be available to everyone who has ever donated to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund. An edition without all the art will be made available to everyone for free at a later date.

I may do similar digest-sized special editions of Microlite74 Basic and Microlite74 Standard -- if there is enough interest.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

Spell Components Made Easy

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Some older editions of D&D require a caster to have specific spell components on hand to be able to cast a spell. This is both a method of limiting the power of magic and providing a slightly more "magical" feel to the game. Unfortunately, it is such a pain in the ass to track that few groups regularly use it. Here is a method of using spell components which requires less far bookkeeping.

Spell Components
Casting an arcane spell requires various components which are consumed in the spell. Most spells only require the generic components discussed here. However, the GM may require very specific components to cast specific rare or powerful spells -- such components will have to be bought or found. Conversely, the GM may decide that a few spells (like "power word" spells) do not require components to cast.

Generic spell components can be obtained in most towns and cities. One simply purchases a number of gold pieces worth of generic components. Each 500 gp worth of generic components weighes one pound. When an arcane caster wants to cast a spell, he or she pulls the appropriate amount of generic components out and casts the spell. Spells require their spell level squared time ten gp worth of spell components. That is, a first level spell requires 10gp [(1*1)*10gp] worth of spell components to cast, a second level spell requires 40gp [(2*2)*10gp] worth of spell components to cast, a third level spell requires 90gp [(3*3)*10gp] worth of spell components to cast, a fourth level spell requires 160gp [(4*4)*10gp) worth of spell components to cast, etc.

A rule like this one provides most of the benefits of requiring spell components to cast spells, but eliminates much of the boring list keeping. The GM still has the optional to require specific special components for spells that he considers very powerful or very hard to use in his campaign. It's up to the GM as to what happens if a character doesn't have the needed spell components (he ran out, they were stolen or lost, etc.). It might be impossible to cast spells without components or spells might cost more in other areas to cast without components -- perhaps taking many minutes to cast or costing more spell points (in systems with spell points.


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!



ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors)

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It's been a very long time -- over a year -- since we had a fund raiser for the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund (which helps pay down the huge bills associated with my wife's cancer treatments from 2007-2008). I've been asked several times when we were going to have another. The problem has been a lack of items to give away. As of yesterday's mail, this is no longer a problem. I received a package from a Microlite74 GM in Belfast containing a very nice copy of a rare D&D module from the UK: ST1 - Up the Garden Path.

If you are like me, you've never heard of this module. It is a special module written by Graeme Morris and Mike Brunton produced by TSR UK and sold at the 1986 National Garden Festival and the 1986 Games Day convention. From glancing through it, all I can say is it is one of the strangest D&D modules I've even seen. It is set in a pocket dimension that looks like the grounds where the 1986 National Garden Festival was held (at Stoke on Trent for those more familiar with the UK than I am). The adventure itself reminds me of Gygax's Dungeonland adventure -- very whimsical and humorous (in a British way). The adventure is for 5-8 characters of levels ranging from 4 to 7. I'm not sure I'd run it, but then I never had much luck with Dungeonland.

From the back cover:

The day has been long and hard and, as night falls, you gratefully surrender to the soft, silent blackness of well-earned sleep.

Then the dream comes.

You are seated on a throne in a cavern where the sun has never shone; where no voice has ever spoken. Yet you are not alone. Through the darkness, silent figures are moving. Blacker than black... formless yet menacing... advancing towards you from every side....

You feel their touch; icy claws plucking at your skin and hair, lifting the throne and carrying you helpless on a journey from darkness into further darkness, from silence into deeper silence. You scream, and a million anguished, reedy voices answer your call.

Suddenly you awake...

...and the dream is real.

This adventure is for use with the Dungeons & Dragons Expert and Basic rules sets. Both of these are needed to use the information in Up the Garden Path. Experienced Dungeon Masters of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game should have no difficulty in adapting this adventure to the AD&D game system.

I'd like to thank Ryan for sending me one of the three copies(!!) he found over the summer as gives me a nice item to base a Cancer Fund Drive around. As most readers know, my wife is recovering from oral cancer (with her next CT scan coming up in early November) and that I worked on the original Microlite74 as way to cope during her recovery from 6 weeks of radiation treatment in 2008. We are some of the 40 to 50 million people in the US who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for government aid as we live in Texas and have no children. The cancer treatments and related expenses have cost over $120,000 so far. While almost three-quarters of this has been absorbed by hospital foundations or paid by previous fund drives, monthly payments by us, and the like, we still owe quite a bit. Our last fund drive was in July of 2010, but we've now accumulated enough old school items to hold another.

Everyone who donates anything at all (even a dollar) to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund gets access to a few special downloads (like pdfs of two 1970s D&D fanzines, a special edition of Microlite74, and more) as described on the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund web page. Anyone donating $25 or more during this fund drive will be listed as a sponsor in the upcoming digest-sized versions of Microlite74 3.0.

Special Donor Goodies for the Fall 2011 RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive (Mainly Original D&D Items)

Anyone who donates from now through October 15, 2011 will be eligible for some extra goodies in addition to the special downloads everyone who donates gets and sponsorships.


First, for every $10 you donate you will receive one chance in a raffle for the copy of the ST1 Up the Garden Path module described above. Condition note: it's in what I would call very good condition. The major defect is a very light cup ring on the back cover. It's so light that I can't get it to show up in a picture, but you can clearly see it if you hold it at just the right angle to the light. I suspect it was made by a water glass and not by coffee or soft drinks. Anyone who has donated to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund in any amount during the last year will been given one free chance in this raffle.

Second, we have items for the largest donors. While these aren't nearly as rare as the ones we had in July of last year, they are probably more useful. The following items are available: First Fantasy Campaign (Judges Guild book by Dave Arneson on his Blackmoor campaign from 1977, first printing, good condition, map present); City-State of the Invincible Overlord (Judges Guild, 1977, this is the original "small booklet" version, two of the blank dungeon maps are missing, otherwise good condition); Original D&D - 3 books (the three little 0e books -- good condition but no box, look to be 5th printing), Outdoor Geomorphs Set One: Walled City (TSR, 1977?, unknown printing, 11 uncut one-sided graphic sheets but cover missing), Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three (TSR, 1980, booklet version, probably second printing), Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, very good condition), and Expert Rulebook (TSR, 1981, David Cook edition, very good condition),

The person making the largest donation will receive his or her choice of THREE of the above items. The person making the second largest donation will receive his or her choice of TWO of the above items (from those items remaining after the top donor has made his selection). The remaining two items will raffled off. Ties will be broken with OD&D trivia questions.

As was done in our fund drive last year, the major item is being awarded by raffle. This should give almost everyone able top donate a chance at the big prize -- even if they cannot afford to donate a lot. As always, everyone who donates any amount (even just a dollar) gets access to these special PDF downloads: The Grimoire #1, The Grimoire #2, Microlite74 2.0 Special Edition, Hidden Valley House Rules (B/X D&D), and more.

If you would like to help but cannot make a donation, please help spread the word around the blogsphere (and other places). In fact, if you make a post to your blog talking about this fundraising drive and post a link to your post in a comment to this post, we'll give you one entry in the raffle. Note: Your blog will have to have some way for us to email you if you get lucky or will will not be able to get your prize to you. I never could pass Mind Reading 101.

To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. My apologies for having to ask for donations and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who donates. If you cannot donate but wish to help, please spread the word about my request and offer. Thank you very much in advance.


Microlite74 Version 3.0 Now Available (Free 0e-like M20-based rules)

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Microlite74 Version 3.0 is finally here. I'd like to thank everyone who has commented on or helped to proofread the various drafts that have been published over the last couple of months. Version 3.0 is far better for all the help. I'd especially like to thank the players in my Sunday Wilderlands game -- which starts its third year of play this Sunday -- who have been the major push behind improvements to Microlite74.

Microlite74 games, like all Microlite20 variants, are trimmed-down miniature versions of the Primary Fantasy SRD rules designed to be quick and easy to play, especially when compared to modern incarnations of the game. The goal of Microlite74 games is to recreate the style and feel of that very first (“0e”) fantasy roleplaying game published back in 1974 without giving up all of the clearer mechanics of modern D20-based versions. The rules are not intended to be a clone of the 0e rules, but rather a conversion of them to a rules-lite D20-based system that encourages old-school play without strictly old-school rules.

The new third edition of Microlite74 comes in three different versions:

Microlite74 Basic -- This version has about 4 pages of actual rules (and about 6 pages of spell and monster lists). It emulates the 0e version of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game in its earliest form: the original 3 little booklets in the 0e boxed set. You have Fighters, Clerics, and Magic-Users, hit dice are all d6s (and is all weapon damage and most monster damage), there are relatively few spells (and they top out at 6th level, 5th level for clerics), and the maximum suggested level is only 12-14. It may sound limited, but it can be a lot of fun.

Microlite74 Standard -- This version has about five and a half pages of actual rules (and about ten and a half pages of spell and monster lists). It emulates the 0e version of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game in its complete form: the original 3 little booklets in the 0e boxed set plus most of the material from the supplements and "official" material published in the early magazine articles. You have Fighters, Rangers, Paladins, Clerics, Druids, Magic-Users, Illusionists, and Thieves (and optionally Assassins, Bards, and Monks), with variable hit dice and weapon damage, a complete set of spells (through 9th level for Magic-Users, 7th level, for Clerics, Druids, and Illusionists), and combat is covered in slightly more detail. Microlite74 Standard has all the features of 0e as most people played it back in the late 1970s.

Microlite74 Extended -- This version has about 8 pages of actual rules (and about 15 pages of spell, monster and equipment lists). It emulates the 0e version of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game with versions of many of the house rules the author used in the late 1970s -- and uses today in his Wilderlands campaign. In includes everything Microlite74 standard does and adds rules for character backgrounds (optional in Basic and Standard), alignment, spell casting with implements and rituals, Body Points representing actual major wounds), a slightly more detailed combat system, more spells and monsters, and other minor rules changes. It is slightly more complex in play than Microlite75 Standard, but not considerably so. The original edition of Microlite74 Extended was called Microlite75.

Microlite74 Companion Volumes will add optional rules and details to the game. The first Microlite74 Companion volume is titled "Optional Rules" and includes many optional rules. Most can be used with any version of Microlite74 Version 3.0: Basic, Standard, or Extended. There are optional rules included for stat generation, races, classes, class abilities, advantages and disadvantages, traditional saving rolls, skills and talents, metamagic, ritual magic, counterspells, weird science, fire-and-forget magic, combat stunts, armor for all classes, weapon damage by class, minis and battlemats, action points, fame, sanity, aspects, Psionics, spirits (combat, powers, and binding), fixed level campaigns, science fantasy, and more.

You can download free copies from Mediafire:

Microlite74 Basic (850K PDF -- the back cover image is much of this)
Download Microlite74 Basic

Microlite74 Standard (550K PDF)
Download Microlite74 Standard

Microlite74 Extended (892K PDF)
Download Microlite74 Extended

Microlite74 Companion 1: Optional Rules (590K PDF)
Download Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules

Enjoy the new edition of Microlite74!


The Fall 2011 Cancer Fund Drive is on (through October 15th). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a copy of ST1: Up the Garden Path (a rare D&D module published by TSR UK in 1986). Highest donors will also divide a list of other TSR and Judge's Guild RPG items. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: ST1: Up the Garden Path and More to Giveaway (for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned special items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

Final Chance to Help Proofread Microlite74 Version 3.0!

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Thanks to a number of volunteer proofreaders, Microlite74 Release Candidate 2 is available. I've tried to incorporate all the error corrections I've been given -- and I found a few more on my own. I'd like this to be the final "draft version." You don't have to proofread to download Release Candidate 2, but any proofreading help would be much appreciated.

Your input and typos found are welcome on this version too. Please use our new message board to discuss these rules (and my many typos -- but their should be less than in previous versions). Comments here are welcome as well. Note that the Player's and GM Notes after the rules in Microlite74 Basic, Standard, and Extended is almost identical, so please check for typos in these sections only in the Microlite74 Basic version (to avoid unnecessary proofreading).

The Basic version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the 3 little booklets in the original 0e boxed set. This Release Candidate 2 version is a 213k pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Basic (version 3 RC 2)

The Standard version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines. This Release Candidate 2 version is a 312K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Standard (version 3 RC 2)

The Extended version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines but also includes unofficial supplements and magazines as well and some of the house rules the author used in the late 1970s. (Microlite74 Extended is the new name for Microlite75.) This Release Candidate 2 version is a 380K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Extended (version 3 RC 2)

Microlite74 Companion volume one includes the optional rules from the original Microlite74 Supplement 1 and from the GM's volume of Microlite75 along with new optional rules. Most of these optional rules can be used with any of the three versions of Microlite74. RC 2 adds the equipment from M74 Extended as as option for Basic and Standard. This Release Candidate 2 version is a 237K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules (version 3 RC 2)

Thanks in advance for any additional proofreading help!

Help Proofread Microlite74 Version 3.0 (Please)

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Barring major problems, development of Microlite74 Version 3 is finished. Now I need your help to proofread the release candidate versions of Microlite74 Basic, Standard, and Extended (as well the first Microlite74 Companion). I've ran them through Word's spelling and grammar checker and caught all the errors that I can, now I need the eagle eyes of people who proofread better than I do (which is about 97% of the population of the US). Release Candidate 1 is now available for download. You don't have to proofread to download, but any proofreading help would be much appreciated. It's also likely your last chance to point out any issues you might have with the rules or the player/GM advice.

Your input and typos found are welcome now. Please use our new message board to discuss these rules (and my many typos. Comments here are welcome as well. Note that the Player's and GM Notes after the rules in Microlite74 Basic, Standard, and Extended is almost identical, so please check for typos in these sections only in the Microlite74 Basic version (to avoid unnecessary proofreading).

The Basic version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the 3 little booklets in the original 0e boxed set. This Release Candidate 1 version is a 212k pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Basic (version 3 RC 1)

The Standard version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines. This Release Candidate 1 version is a 312K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Standard (version 3 RC 1)

The Extended version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines but also includes unofficial supplements and magazines as well and some of the house rules the author used in the late 1970s. (Microlite74 Extended is the new name for Microlite75.) This Release Candidate 1 version is a 380K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Extended (version 3 RC 1)

Microlite74 Companion volume one includes the optional rules from the original Microlite74 Supplement 1 and from the GM's volume of Microlite75 along with new optional rules. Most of these optional rules can be used with any of the three versions of Microlite74. This Release Candidate 1 version is a 225K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules (version 3 RC 1)

Thanks in advance for any proofreading help!

Thoughts on Organized Play (and Microlite74)

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Every once in a while someone suggests that old school games need to have WOTC-style organized play in game shops to increase the visibility of old school games. Rarely, someone suggests to me that I set up organized play for Microlite74 since it is an old school game that uses rules more familiar to "current school" gamers. I've never responded favorably to that idea.

The first reason is probably obvious: money. Microlite74 is a free game and I am not a rich person (and since cancer hit my household a few years ago I'm actually closer to being a poor person). Running organized play in hobby shops across the world costs money to set up and more money to keep running. Microlite74 has no income to pay for this: it's a free game. The "free game" part also means there would be little incentive for hobby shops to run "Microlite74 organized play" as they really would have nothing to gain from doing so.

The second reason, however, is the main reason I have no interest in Microlite74 organized play (or even sponsoring Microlite74 tournaments at conventions). Organized play and tournament play starts pushing the game towards standardized rules and toward lots of rules to cover everything because standardized rules that cover everything make organized play and tournament much easier. Room for individual GMs to make rulings and put there own spin on the rules is bad for organized play. As rulings are likely to be different from one GM to another, they make organized play very difficult to handle as players are confused by different table rules as they game with different GMs (and perhaps different players) nearly every time they show up at an organized play event.

Standardized rules with lots of detail are the last thing I want for Microlite74. I want the GM to be able to customize the rules as he or she wants to fit his or her campaign world and players. I don't want to enable rules lawyers with lots of detailed rules that try to cover everything. I don't want GMs pressured to use standard rules because every house rule or non-standard GM ruling teaches players the wrong way to play -- that is, things they will have to unlearn if the ever participate in organized play or want to compete in tournaments. Sadly this type of pressure has been used every time organized play is a goal. Gygax did with first edition AD&D with his dreams of chess-like D&D tournaments and master/grandmaster titles. You still see it listed as a reason not to houserule 4e in many discussions of 4e online today.

I say (in my best Scrooge voice) "Bah. Humbug." Microlite74 is designed as guidelines for the GM to use in creating his or her own campaign. I have no interest whatsoever in suborning this goal to the needs of organized play for detailed and standardized rules; so I will not be involved in setting up organized play nor will I adjust the Microlite74 rules or my advice to GMs therein to accommodate it. If some third party with money and time to burn wants to set up Microlite74-based organized play, that's fine by me -- just don't start trying to encourage non-organized play groups to go RAW over rulings or to put the needs of organized play over their desire to use houserules, campaign-specific procedures, and on-the-spot GM rulings. And please, please don't ask me to be involved. I simply have no more interest in organized play today than I did in tournament play back in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- that is zero interest.

What Makes a Game Old-School?

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Paul Melroy over at the Emergence Campaign Weblog has an interesting series of three posts that do an excellent job of explaining what makes a game "old school"? He is working on a way to use the variant D20 system "Eclipse: The Codex Persona" to run a "old school" style game. I have my doubts that this would work for me, but these three posts tell me that Paul at least has a very good grasp of what makes a RPG "old school" (and why) and does an excellent job of explaining this.

Microlite74 Version 3.0 Beta 3 Rules Available For Free

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I'm releasing another beta of the Microlite74 version 3.0 games. The third beta of Microlite74 (Basic, Standard, and Extended) and Microlite74 Companion I are now available. Each version of Microlite74 now includes an extended set of 0e Conventions including material on dungeon and wilderness exploration conventions (wandering mopnsters, evading monsters, secret doors, getting lost in thw wilderness, etc.). These things are old hat to those with experience in 0e, but are probably not as well known to those less familiar with old school play. Companion I includes a number of new optional rules including alternative methods of generating character stats, optional races, traditional saving throws, contest of skills, weapon damage by class, black powder weapons, aspects, and deities/divine intervention.

The Basic version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the 3 little booklets in the original 0e boxed set. This Beta 3 version is a 208k pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Basic (version 3 Beta 3)

The Standard version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines. This Beta 3 version is a 308K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Standard (version 3 Beta 3)

The Extended version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines but also includes unofficial supplements and magazines as well and some of the house rules the author used in the late 1970s. (Microlite74 Extended is the new name for Microlite75.) This Beta 3 version is a 375K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Extended (version 3 Beta 3)

Microlite74 Companion volume one includes the optional rules from the original Microlite74 Supplement 1 and from the GM's volume of Microlite75 along with new optional rules. Most of these optional rules can be used with any of the three beta versions of Microlite74. This Beta 3 version is a 225K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules (version 3 Beta 3)

While these may look like complete and ready to play games, they are still beta versions. I hope the next version will be a release candidate. Once I have a release candidate out, I will welcome input from proofreaders on my numerous spelling errors and typos! Your input and ideas not relatuing to typos are welcome now. Please use our new message board to discuss these (and future) betas. Comments here are welcome as well.

Microlite74.com Coming Soon

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My Sunday game group decided that Microlite74 should have its own domain, so they chipped in $2.50 each and I am now the proud owner of the microlite74.com domain paid in full for three years. There is nothing but a placeholder at microlite74.com now as I've just set the site up on my vps, but once I have Microlite74 version 3 out the door, it will have its own website as a home. I'd like to give a big thank you to my players as this is probably something I never would have done on my own -- if Microlite74 needed a web site, I'd probably just used a subdomain of the RetroRoleplaying site.

Microlite74, Wandering Monsters, Torches, and Gusts of Wind

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The Subtle Shifts in Play over at The Alexandrian made me think about just how much I've assumed people know about old school play in Microlite74. I know all about wandering monsters, torches having a chance of blowing out in the wind, monsters chasing after you if you try to run away, getting lost in the wilderness if you don't have an accurate map or a good guide, listening at doors, etc. Lots of little things that aren't done as much any more but are pretty central to many old-school style games. I automatically do them when I run Microlite74 or other old school fantasy game. However, Justin's post made me realize that many of the people who download and use Microlite74 probably do not -- because I never mention them. I'm working on a number of short rules for these things for Microlite74. They'll be added to the "0e Conventions" section of the rules. They should be in Beta 3 which should be available Sunday or Monday.

A Contest of Skills Rule for Microlite74

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A somewhat unusual situation has come up in my campaign, several characters have been coerced into entering a race with a large sum of money -- and more importantly the honor of one of their noble patrons -- at stake. This is one of the few cases where some times of neither player planning nor a single skill roll really seem to be a good way to resolve the situation in both an interesting and fair manner. I thought about this on and off for most of this week. I finally came up with the following "Contest of Skills" rules based on the skill system used in my Microlite74 game.

Contest of Skills

A contest of skills is handled similar to combat, except the opponents aren’t trying to kill one another; they are trying to defeat their opponent with their skills. Like in a combat, opponents in a contest of skills make an initiative roll for each round to determine who "attacks" first in the round. Instead of making a roll of attack bonus vs. Armor Class, each contestant makes the appropriate M74 skill roll based on his class and background. If the attacker’s result is equal or higher than the defender’s result, he causes “skill damage” equal to 1d6 + stat bonus of the stat used by the skill. Skill Damage is removed from a set of Contest Points. At the beginning of the contest, each contestant's Contest Points which are set equal to the score of the stat used by the skill plus the character's level. When a character’s Contest Points fall to 0 (zero) or less, the contest of skills is over, and the loser is defeated (knocked unconscious, humiliated, loses the bet, etc). Contest Points cannot normally be increased during a Contest of Skills – unless someone successfully cheats.

This system is general enough that it could be used for just about any non-lethal contest from the foot race to the top of Dorset's Hill and back in my game this afternoon to a poker game, a singing contest, or even a boxing match. However, it's also very simple and easy to modify if needed to fit a specific contest. For example, in a multi-player poker game, the winner of a round (a hand of cards in this case) could roll "damage" separately against each opponent as different opponents might have dropped out of the hand at different times losing different amounts of poker chips.

I have no idea how well this system will work in play, but I will get a first impression this afternoon. I know it has worked fairly well in my solo testing.

A New Edition of D&D Designed to Unite D&D Players -- Can It Be Done?

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There's a lot of talk in some areas of the Net about the next official edition of D&D. Some people think that WOTC will try to create an edition of D&D that will bring back not only Pathfinder players but players who prefer even older editions while retaining the 4e fan base.

Personally, I do not believe that any new edition of D&D could appeal enough to all D&D players that it will be their "go to" edition of D&D. What people want and need out of a set of D&D rules varies so much that, in my opinion, it would be impossible to handle this in one set of rules. After all, many of the "must have features" of one group of D&D players directly contradict the "must have features" of other groups of D&D players. Here's a list of twelve examples of the type of "must have features" problems that would somehow have to be overcome to create this visionary edition that reunifies the D&D hobby.

  1. Some people want rules that are light in the crunch department, some people want lots of mechanical crunch in the rules. It would be hard to truly satisfy both in one game.
  2. Some people want the details of every likely action accounted for in the rules with official modifiers written by the game designers so all they have to do is find them in the rules and apply them. Others don't want that level of detail, they'd rather just assign the mods they feel fit the situation instead of "wasting time" looking them up. In theory, I guess you could satisfy both camps by supplying all the modifiers in a supplemental "Book of Modifiers" that only players and GMs who want "official mods for everything" needed to buy.
  3. Some people want fast combat (say 15 minutes real time max) and don't want a lot of tactical detail as combat isn't the core fun in their games -- and therefore they don't want it taking up a lot of play time. Others want detailed tactical combat that uses minis, battlemats, 3-D terrain, etc. (with rules for using all that) and want the combat rules to be very detailed -- and do not mind if combats take 45-90 minutes of play time each (and perhaps even longer for "boss" combats) because combat encounters are the core fun for the players in their games. Worse, more than the first two points I listed, this is a spectrum with many people wanting medium length combats somewhere in the middle. One could handle this like GURPs with a Basic (and fast) combat system for the people who want very fast and abstract and an an advanced (and somewhat slower) combat system for those who want more focus on combat (with lots of optional rules for those who want even more detail and don't mind the even longer battles). The game rules would have to include both from day one, however -- you could not pick one and add the other in a supplement next year as you'd lose the camp you put off to the supplement.
  4. Then there are two types of combat tactics to account for. Some people want combat tactics confined to "real world tactics" (i.e. attacking from the rear gives an advantage, defending from high ground is better, etc.) while others want what I call "rules manipulation tactics" where tactical advantage comes from knowing the mechanical combat rules and manipulating them for an advantage in combat (4e combat is an excellent example). People who want the former generally don't want the latter in their games while people who love the latter often don't even see the former as "tactics".
  5. Some people want character classes that are all equal in combat while others want variety so player interested in combat can take a class that is great in combat while those less interested than take a class whose abilities are mainly non-combat. The latter is easier to provide in a game with very fast, abstract combat as combats do not last long enough for those players playing mainly non-combat classes to get bored. Of course, that doesn't work well in games where combat takes a lot of time to play out. However, assuming everyone is interested in combat is a bad idea even in games where combat takes a long time. Players not interested in combat should not penalize the party's chances of success if all they want to do is roll to hit instead of getting involved in 4e style "character synergy combat" where all players need to be interested in combat and willing to learn to effectively use the rules-based tactics or the entire party suffers.
  6. Some people want high-powered spells in the game even if this means wizards are powerful and can dominate the game at higher levels. Other people want magic (and spell casters) limited -- but often can't agree on how it should be limited.
  7. Some people want a lot of mechanical customization of characters even if this leads to "character optimization" players dominating the game. Other people want some customization but want character optimization really reigned in. Other people don't want much mechanical customization because they want to be able to create characters very quickly -- either because they are causal players who don't want to be bothered or so they can have games with character death is relatively common. Then you have the people who want customization to be limited to just being better (a bonus to some action) at stuff anyone can do (with only stuff that truly requires a special ability to even try limited to only those characters who take a particular customization), while others don't mind limiting things that anyone should be able to try to do to those who have selected a particular customization -- if "knockback" is a feat, they want the rules to prohibit any character from pushing a target being back unless they have taken the feat, no matter how unrealistic this might be.
  8. Some people need monster descriptions to include lots of non-combat info about each monster as they use this to create their adventures and campaigns while others only want combat info on monsters as that's all they use monsters for.
  9. Some people want the game to be based on the player's skill while others want the game to be used on character skill. The two camps are often so divided that they don't even consider the way the other camp plays to be "roleplaying."
  10. Some want a game with lots of limits so they can play in tournaments or organized play with strangers and not have to worry about strange rules interpretations or rules abuse by the GM or other players. Others have no interest in tournaments or organized play on don't want the game designed around the needs of tournaments and organized play.
  11. Vancian magic: Some people hate it with a passion while others don't consider a game without it to really be D&D.
  12. Some people want the rules designed to somehow reign in those they consider to be "bad GMs", others don't want average or good GM limited in an attempt to stop bad GMs.

There are of course many more design points in D&D where you not only cannot please everyone but are likely to actually drive away those who want the "opposite" of the decision the designer made. However, I think that just these points show that would be almost impossible for a single edition of D&D to satisfy all D&D players.

Note for edition warriors: Please understand that none of the incompatible "options" I mention above are objectively right or wrong, they are just "right" to the players who want them and "wrong" to those who would not play in game with them unless forced at gunpoint. What you need from a D&D rules set to be willing to play is just as valid as what I need from a D&D rules set to be willing to play -- even if they are completely incompatible with each other. Where D&D is concerned, there is no one true way. That's a huge problem for anyone who wants to design a new edition of D&D that most (let alone "almost all") players of previous editions are likely to switch to.

Air Shark!

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One of my favorite D&D monsters comes to (radio control) life: the Air Shark!

Converting from Descending AC to Ascending AC

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I'm trying to add a section on converting from the descending AC used in older editions to the ascending AC used in Microlite74 for the section on "0e Conventions" section in the Microlite74 rules. Here's what I've come up with. It's easy to do the conversion, but I seem to be having trouble writing it in a concise, clear way. Here's what I have. Suggested improvements are welcome. I've been working on this for 24 hours and only making it worse.

Descending Armor Class: 0e and other pre SRD editions used a descending Armor Class system where an unarmored character was AC 9 (AC 10 in some editions) and better armor used lower numbers (e.g. AC 5 was Chain, AC 2 was plate). Magic armor could even have a negative armor class. Microlite74 uses the ascending Armor Class system used in the OGL SRD. If have old adventures using the original descending AC system and wish to use them, it is easy to convert descending ACs to ascending ACs.

Unarmored AC is 9: If the adventure is for 0e (or other edition where the unarmored AC is 9), simply subtract the descending AC listed in the adventure from 19 to get the ascending AC used by Microlite74.

Unarmored AC is 10: If the adventure is for 1e or 2e (where the unarmored AC is 10), subtract the descending AC listed in the adventure from 20 to obtain the ascending AC used by Microlite74

Microlite74 Version 3.0 Beta 2 Rules Available For Free

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The second beta of Microlite74 (Basic, Standard, and Extended) and Microlite74 Companion I are now available, just in time for my Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign this afternoon. We are "officially" moving from Microlite75 to Microlite74 Extended today. Not that this is a huge change for the campaign as Microlite74 Extended is just the second edition of Microlite75 with a new name.

The Basic version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the 3 little booklets in the original 0e boxed set. This Beta 2 version is a 194k pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Basic (version 3 Beta 2)

The Standard version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines. This Beta 2 version is a 294K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Standard (version 3 Beta 2)

The Extended version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines but also includes unofficial supplements and magazines as well and some of the house rules the author used in the late 1970s. (Microlite74 Extended is the new name for Microlite75.) This Beta 2 version is a 360K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Extended (version 3 Beta 2)

Microlite74 Companion volume one includes the optional rules from the original Microlite74 Supplement 1 and from the GM's volume of Microlite75 along with new optional rules. Most of these optional rules can be used with any of the three beta versions of Microlite74. This Beta 2 version is a 217K pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules (version 3 Beta 2)

While these may look like complete and ready to play games, they are still beta versions. While the Basic version probably will not change much more, I expect things in the other versions and in Companion I to change someewhat over the next few weeks. Your input and ideas are welcome. Please use our new message board to discuss these (and future) betas.

D&D Editions: How I Rate Them

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Dan over at Sword and Board posted his rankings of the D&D versions he's played: D&D editions: How I rate them. I thought it would be fun to do likewise -- or at least how I would rank them today as a couple of these seem to vary over time. I've been playing and running D&D games since 1975. I was 18 years when started to play.

#1: BECMI/RC. This is my favorite published version of D&D. It feels like an "advanced" version of the original D&D I started with. Lots of material to work with, but the rules are loose and seem designed for the GM to modify to fit his campaign. The Rule Cyclopedia has flaws, but it's probably the best set of rules for D&D ever published: everything you need for years of gaming in one book.

#2: OD&D and Supplements. OD&D with its 4 supplements and material from the TSR and GW magazines is a great game. It's rules light (at least when compared to later editions), in fact so rules light that each campaign is different as each group interprets the rules somewhat differently. Some consider this a failing, I don't. (I consider Holmes Basic to just be an introductory form of OD&D and am therefore not ranking it separately).

#3: B/X. A good first attempt to rewrite OD&D to make it clearer and easier to learn. It's the best version of D&D in under 150 pages.

#4: 1e. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tried to codify the game far too much for me. TSR at the time seemed to be interested in standardizing rules to make it easier to sell modules and because Gygax (at the time) seems to be very interested in (chess-like) tournament play where there could be player ratings, masters, grandmasters, etc. Neither of these interested me much. My games never really used AD&D 1e as TSR intended it, we just added what we liked from the 1e rules to our ongoing OD&D game. However, as time went on we used the AD&D books more and the OD&D books less.

#5: 2e. The second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons seemed "meh" to me. It scarified the flavor of 1e and sanitized the game of features that TSR was afraid would upset the fundies -- like demons and devils. However, it was basically compatible with 1e and had some great settings (although the adventures that went with them were generally far too railroady) and perhaps the best monster descriptions of any version of D&D.

Note: There is a major break between #5 and #6. I enjoyed playing the above versions of D&D and would join in another game of any of them with a decent GM today. That's not really true of the following versions. The major reason why I would not volunteer to play the versions below is that combat takes far too long. I like the average combat to be over in 5 to 15 minutes of real world time (with occasional "boss" combats taking 5 to 10 minutes longer) -- and do not want to use minis/counters and battlemats.

#6: 2e with Player's Option books. The Player's option books was where D&D turned really sour for me. Complex character builds and detailed and time-eating tactical combat with minis and battle mats do not fall in the "enjoyable and fun" column for me. The fact that the Player's Option material often was simply broken in play did not help.

#7: 3e. 3.0 was basically a cleaned up version of 2e with the Player's Option books. It ranks below the original because a number of other changes were made that really hurt the game. Minor things mostly, like allowing spell casters to make concentration checks to avoid losing the spell they were casting if they were hit in combat and saving throws that scaled with the level of the caster -- changes that made spell casters far too powerful in practice. But the worst change of all was the idea of "rules mastery" where options that looked good at a glance but were really bad were put in the game to encourage players to study and master the rules. Putting "gotcha rules" in the game to zap casual players and favor hardcore players is a stupid idea that only helps narrow the pool of players while increasing the pool of "rules lawyers."

#8: 3.5e. This version made lots of minor changes to the rules (and to lots of spells), many of which made the game much less compatible with previous versions of the game in ways that one had to carefully study the rules to notice. This version also made it much harder to play without minis and battlemats. Combat still took forever. It was a haven for rules lawyers, especially if one used more than just the core books.

#9: 4e. To me, 4e seems to be a completely different game from any of the above versions that just happens to be called "Dungeons & Dragons" and have a fantasy theme. The designers decided that combat was the main "fun" thing in the game and so centered the game on carefully balanced combat encounters (that take far too long to play out) and discouraged wasting too much play time on the "non-fun to them" stuff between combat encounters. Character classes were completely redone to the point where the names are the same but that actual classes may not have much in common with classes of the same name in previous versions. Classes are carefully balanced to all be effective in combat at all times -- at the expense of removing most non-combat abilities from classes. With no "less combat effective" classes, there are no classes for players who do not consider combat the most fun thing in the game. Magic was nerfed to make it easier to balance combat encounters. Treasure became something players pick (or at least GMs are advised to give them what they want). Monsters were completely redone as combat fodder only. Etc. While a good number of people think this is the best version of D&D ever, I think it is the worst so far. I've played it a few times, but would never play it again unless forced to do so a gunpoint. It's just not any fun for me.

Why I Never really Needed The Tabletop RPG Industry

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Hill Cantons posted an interesting (and long) interview with Rob Kuntz today: No Borders: A Conversation With Rob Kuntz. In this interview, Rob talks about the change in direction at TSR after (0e) D&D showed signs of being really successful from a game intended to be "the province of personalized creation on all levels" to a set of codified rules designed to promote premade adventures.

In the interview, Rob said:

With the advent and adoption of the concept of pre-made adventures the whole back-end “support” mechanism took upon a new meaning and form and one, by comparison, that flew in the face of TSR’s original vision for its role-playing game. Whereas there was at that point a solid corps of DMs creating their games from the ground up and doing so with great gusto, TSR succumbed to an opposite path of doing the “creating” for them with such adventures.

This had two immediate effects: It created two polarized camps of consumers for the existing, and soon to be changed, product line (I now refer to these as the “dissenting creatives” and the “eager dependents”); and as the move to AD&D with its codification of rules took shape (in part for legal reasons due to its lawsuit with Arneson, in part for IP reasons real or imagined, and in large part due to a changed philosophy which would require absolute/immutable mechanics to be adhered to in order to sell consistently packaged and designed adventures and to promote these via conventions and the RPGA), the split reached its head with the promotion and marketing of the remade philosophy....

....Thus the ongoing perception of D&D-RPG (past, present and future) is rooted in this predominant formula; but this is the antithesis of the original RP philosophy as honestly promoted before money, marketing and a formulaic approach won out and regulated D&D’s 100% creative form to a dismissed and diminishing minority who had been eager adherents in creating their own material and in supporting TSR’s original vision.
I am one of those “dissenting creatives” Rob mentioned who ran campaigns set in my own worlds using far more adventures I created than adventures I purchased. Even when I ran a purchased adventure I usually changed it so much that players could have had a copy of the adventure opened in front of them and it would not have helped them much.

I never thought of it this way before, but this is probably why I've never needed the RPG industry all that much. Once I had the basic ideas from the rules, I really did not require much more. The tabletop RPG industry grew around the idea of gamers as fairly passive consumers who needed the industry to produce a continuing stream of content for their use. I never moved to the “eager dependent” role the RPG industry has generally catered to, so I've never really needed the industry.

Sure, sometimes the RPG industry produced stuff I liked, could use, and was priced at a point I was willing to open up my checkbook and buy. However, if it did not produce anything I considered in that category for months or years, it did not interfere with my gaming. I could, did, and still do create my own campaigns, adventures, rules, character sheets, etc. to serve the specific needs of my players and my campaigns.

As time has gone on, however, the RPG industry has moved further and further away from meeting my needs and has become even less relevant to my gaming. As I've said before, the RPG industry of today could disappear tomorrow and it would have no effect on my gaming because the industry -- pretty much as a whole -- is built around the needs of those Rob calls “eager dependents” and that's just not me. I already have more professional settings and adventures than I will ever run. I'm pretty happy with the games I already own or the games I write myself. I'm just not the dependent consumer the RPG industry is targetting.

My purchases these days tend to be limited to magazines like Fight On! and Knockspell, with a rare OSR rules purchase to spice things up (S&W Complete and Adventurer Conqueror King seem to be all this year) -- all in PDF format. I'd be willing to buy more, but even the OSR part of the RPG industry isn't producing much that I'm willing to actually pay money for. This isn't because the products aren't good, but because I just don't need them enough to justify spending the asking price on them.