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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.

Revised and Expanded Long List of Old School Games and Clones

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The following is the first revised and expanded version of the list of major old school fantasy RPGs and retroclones for Microlite74 Version 3.0. I'd added many of the games listed in comments on the original post a few days ago. (Some were omitted because I did not think they fit this list or, in a couple of cases,  did not know enough about the game to be sure it was a good fit) I haven't found a better/more complete list on the Internet than this one, but I'm still looking to improve it. If you know of any I'm missing or wish to advocate for any of the ones mentioned in comments to the previous post, please comment. Thank you!


Old School Games and Retro-Clones
Microlite74 is designed to be an introduction to “old school” gaming for players more familiar with the 3.x version of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. While I’ve tried to design Microlite74 for long running campaigns, if you find the “old school” style of play espoused by Microlite74 fun you may want to move to one of the original games or one of their retro-clones.

What is a retro-clone? The OGL has allowed fans to recreate the rules of older, out of print editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. These are usually called “retro-clones” because they are “clones” of the rules to older (“retro”) editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. Most retro-clones have free PDF versions and most have nicely bound printed copies available for a very reasonable price. Retro-clones allow play of an older, out-of-print game system without the trouble and expense of tracking down a copy of an out-of-print game. While no retro-clone is an exact copy of an earlier game, they generally are close to identical in play.

0e and Retro-Clones
0e: The Original Game
The original 0e booklets and supplements can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, but they are generally very expensive collectibles. Some excellent third party 0e adventures (and an excellent campaign setting) from the late 1970s are also available in PDF format. These adventures could easily be used with Microlite74 or a 0e retro-clone – and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little effort.

Original Edition Characters (for Labyrinth Lord)
Original Edition Characters is a supplement for Labyrinth Lord (see the B/X and Retro-clones section below). It modifies the Labyrinth Lord rules to emulate the 0e game.

Microlite74
Microlite74 is a restatement of 0e using a very light version of the 3.x rules (Microlite20) as a base. You are holding the Basic Version in your hands. Microlite74 Basic covers the original 0e boxed set. Microlite74 Standard overs the original 0e boxed set and supplements. Microlite74 Extended adds a number of house rules and other material the author was using in the late 1970s to overs the original 0e boxed set and supplements. Microlite74 Companion volumes add optional rules, detailed spell, monster, and treasure information, and other material which can generally be used with any version of Microlite74.

Swords & Wizardry
Swords & Wizardry is an OGL retro-clone of the 0e version from the mid-1970s, the same edition Microlite74 is loosely based on. Sword & Wizardry is handy for complex spell and monster descriptions for use with Microlite74 as well as a great game itself. The spell lists and monsters can be used as drop in replacements for those listed in Microlite74. There are three versions of this game. One uses just the material from the three LBB and the other two also use selected material from the 0e supplements.

B/X and Retro-Clones
B/X: The Original Game
The original B/X boxed sets and the revised version of this edition, the five box BECMI edition, can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, as can a very large number of excellent adventure and campaign modules. Many of these modules could be used with Microlite74 or other B/X retro-clones with little modification -- and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little more effort.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is loosely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. There are a number of minor tweaks like ascending armour class and separation of races and classes.

Dark Dungeons
Dark Dungeons is based on the single volume RC version of the BECMI edition from the early 1990s. The rules are fairly close to the original but some changes have been made, especially where setting specific material is concerned.

Labyrinth Lord
Labyrinth Lord is more closely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. While some minor changes have been made for compliance with the OGL and copyright law, many people have a hard time finding any truly major differences between Labyrinth Lord and the original.

1e and Retro-Clones
1e: The Original Game
The original 1e rulebooks and adventures can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games – often at good prices if you do not need collectible condition. Also, some excellent third party 1e adventures are available in PDF format. 1e adventures and campaign settings could be converted for use with Microlite74 or any other early edition/retro-clone without much work.

Advanced Edition Companion (for Labyrinth Lord)
The Advanced Edition Companion  is a supplement for Labyrinth Lord (see the B/X and Retro-clones section above). It modifies the Labyrinth Lord rules to emulate the 1e game – or at least those parts of it that most players actually used.

OSRIC
OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation) is an OGL version of the first “advanced” edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first edition of OSRIC was designed to be just something that would allow publishers to legally publish OGL materials compatible with 1e. This attitude is also responsible for the boring name. The second edition of OSRIC is much more complete and is written with both players and publishers in mind.

2e and Retro-Clones
2e: The Original Game
The original 2e rulebooks and adventures can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games – often at very good prices if you do not need collectible condition. Also, some excellent third party 2e adventures are available in PDF format. 2e adventures and campaign settings could be converted for use with Microlite74 or any other early edition/retro-clone without much work.

For Gold & Glory
For Glory & Glory is an attempt to create a close adaption of the 2e rules, or at least those in the three 2e core rulebooks.

Myth & Magic
Myth & Magic is built from the core 2e rules. It retains the essence of classic fantasy role playing, while advancing the mechanics and providing more options, classes, spells, monsters, and more. 

Other Fantasy Games
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Adventurer Conqueror King takes the end game (ruling a domain) assuming in early editions of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG and rebuilds the entire game around it, with special attention to a simple but functional economic system.

Adventures Dark and Deep
This game is not a retro-clone, strictly speaking. Instead, it is an attempt to create an alternate universe version of 2e. 2e as it might have been if it had been written by the author of 0e and 1e.
Age of Shadows
A free old-school fantasy RPG based on the Openquest (D100 system) rules.

Barbarians of Lemuria
Non-traditional but still old school rules for fantasy games set on the lost continent of Lemuria -- loosely based on Lin Carter's novels. This is link to the free version. There is also a Legendary Edition from Beyonf Belief Games.

The Big Brown Book
The Big Brown Book takes the rules of 0e and gives them a new spin — What would the world’s most popular fantasy role playing game look like had it continued its wargame roots?

Castles & Crusades
Castles & Crusades is 1e reimaged using 3e rules. It’s fairly compatible with adventures from all editions of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG through 3.5.

Dangers and Dweomers
Dangers and Dweomers is the designer’s personal take on early editions: “As much as possible I streamlined the S&W system, filling what I found as gaps with material from the BFRPG and the SRD.

Dark Passages
Dark Passages is a modernized and re-organized take on the 0e/1e era of rules.

Dragons at Dawn
This game is an attempt to recreate the rules of the original Blackmoor campaign from the early 1970s. “Dragons at Dawn is a retro tribute to the very first fantasy gaming system pioneered by Dave Arneson, the man who later went on to co-author the worlds most popular roleplaying game. The result of years of careful historical research, Dragons at Dawn is entirely consistent with Arneson's original, largely forgotten methods of play developed roughly in the period 1970-1973.” (No Free PDF version.)

Epées & Sorcellerie
Epées & Sorcellerie is a French RPG strongly inspired by 0e. An English translation is available.

Errant
Errant RPG is a retro-clone that captures the basic playstyle of the classic game while introducing a variety of modern innovations to improve play.

Fire & Sword
Fire & Sword was created by Raymond Turney,  a co-creator of RuneQuest, and Fire and Sword is his evolution of the system. It thus has much in common with BRP, but contains many new interesting mechanisms.

Forward to Adventure!
This game is not a retro-clone, but a modern game that was designed with “old school” dungeon adventuring in mind. While not an “old school” game by any stretch of the imagination, it would be relatively easy to use FtA! to run a campaign in the old-school style. Unlike most modern RPG designs, there is little designed into FtA! that would interfere with this which makes it a system those who like the “old school” style of play but dislike the “old school” style of rules might wish to consider. (No free PDF version.)

Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a 0e-like rules system with a stress on “weird fantasy.” (No free PDF version)

Mazes & Minotaurs
Mazes & Minotaurs answers the question of what might 0e and 1e look like if their designers had been interested in classical Greek fantasy rather than medieval fantasy. There are two versions of the game available: Original and Revised.

Old School Hack
Sort of the old Red Box version reimaged through a somewhat new school lens. It’s not really an old school game but it not really not an old school game either.

Pars Fortuna
What if you took the Swords and Wizardry rules and threw out all the standard races, classes, spells, monsters and magic items and replace them with ones generated randomly via sites like Chaotic Shiny, Seventh Sanctum or Abulafia? You get Pars Fortuna. (No free PDF version, although a free basic version is available.)

Siege Perilous
Siege Perilous is a 0e variant designed to emulate the first three games of a very popular computer roleplaying game from the early 1980s.

Spellcraft & Swordplay
Spellcraft & Swordplay is an OGL redesign of the 0e version from the mid-1970s. The designer decided to rewrite 0e based on the original combat system (from the miniatures rules 0e grew out of) instead of 0e’s “alternative combat system.” The alternative combat system quickly became the standard combat system of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. This is sort of a retroclone from an alternate universe where the original combat system was the most-used. (No free PDF version, although a free basic version PDF is available.)

Tombs & Terrors
Tombs & Terrors is an unashamedly familiar role playing game of delving into subterranean crypts and looting the treasure --compatible with sourcebooks and supplements that you already have.

ZeFRS
David "Zeb" Cook's 1985 rules for the TSR Conan roleplaying game returns as a generic sword-and-sorcery RPG complete in one volume. Trample the jewelled kingdoms of your own world beneath your sandals!

Other Games
Mutant Future
Mutant Future is a nuclear post-apocalyptic science fantasy game.  It is created in the style of similar RPGs from the late 70s, but built around the core Labyrinth Lord rules so that these two games are fully compatible.

Stars Without Number
Stars Without Number is a retro science fiction role playing game influenced by the Old School Renaissance and partially inspired by the great fantasy role-playing game editions written by Tom Moldvay and Frank Mentzer.

Weird West
Weird West is a fast playing adventure roleplaying game with a very small set of rules for weird western worlds of cowboys, kung-fu, magic and otherworldly malevolence.

Microlite74 Companion 1 (Beta 1) Available

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The first beta of the first volume of the Microlite74 Companion series "Optional Rules" is now available. Beta1 combines the optional rules from the Microlite74 2.0 Supplement "Ancient Auguries" with those from the Microlite75 GM's book. Most of these optional rules can be used with any version of of 3rd edition Microlite74 rules: Basic, Standard, or Extended. Note the Basic version is referred to as the "Core" version in Companion I as i am thinking of renaming Microlite74 Basic to Microlite74 Core. I haven't quite made up my mind, however. More optional rules will be included in future betas.

Microlite74 Companion 1: Optional Rules is a 190K pdf file. It can be downloaded from Mediafire here:

Download Microlite74 Companion 1: Optional Rules

What Do You Mean "I Can't Ride A Horse"?

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Some GMs like to get picky and rule that player characters can't do a lot of common everyday tasks at all unless they are of a certain character class or have taken a specific skill. Such GMs will not allow a character to do something as simple as ride an old nag down a calm town street if they aren't a knight or don't have the horse riding skill without making all sorts of rolls to see if the character falls off or if that old nag throws him.

While I'm normally against adding rules to a game to try to limit bad GMing, I've decided that it is important in a simple game like Microlite74 to make it clear that characters start with basic adventuring skills. They might not know how to ride in a steeplechase, but they can ride a horse. They might not be able to swim the channel, but they can stay afloat and swim well enough to move about slowly in a pond. Etc.

I've added the following to the tiny set of skills rules in all versions of Microlite74:

Basic Adventuring Skills: Unless a player specifies otherwise about a character at character creation, all characters are assumed to have basic practical adventuring skills such as maintaining weapons and armor, riding a horse, setting up a camp, swimming, climbing, cooking, first aid, etc., and have a rough idea of the value of common coins, trade goods, gems, and jewels. Success should simply be assumed unless there are unusual conditions.
All characters are adventurers and are assumed to have a basic competence with normal adventuring tasks. Note that this doesn't mean you cannot have a Microlite74 character who can't swim at or who burns water when he tries to cook a meal if you really want to, it just means that if you want such a character, you need mention "sinks like a rock" or "can't cook" on your character sheet.

Microlite74 Version 3.0 Beta 1 Rules Available For Free Download

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The first beta copies of the three versions of the new "Version 3" edition of Microlite74 (Basic, Standard, and Extended) are available for download. Each is a complete set of stand-alone rules.

The Basic version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the 3 little booklets in the original 0e boxed set. This version is a 185k pdf. You can download this file from Mediafire:

Download Microlite74 Basic (version 3 Beta 1)

The Standard version of the Microlite74 rules covers material from the original 0e boxed set and the official supplements and official magazines. This version is a 285K pdf.

Download Microlite74 Standard (version 3 Beta 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 version is a 345K pdf.

Download Microlite74 Extended (version 3 Beta 1)

The beta of the first Microlite74 Companion volume with the optional rules from the original Microlite74 Supplement 1 and from the GM's volume of Microlite75 is not yet ready, but should be available soon.

While these may look like complete and ready to play games, they are early beta versions. I expect things to change someewhat over the next few weeks. You input and ideas are welcome. Please use our new message board to discuss these (and future) betas.

Revising the Microlite74 "Product Line"?

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I am considering a major revision of the Microlite7x "product line". Currently there is the basic Microlite74 game which emulates rules from the original three little booklets in the 0e boxed set using Microlite20 derived systems. Microlite74 Supplement II: Wary's Grimoire adds emulated rules for much of the material in the 0e supplements. Microlite74 Supplement I: Ancient Auguries adds a number of optional rules which can be used with Microlite74 with or without the rules in Supplement II. Microlite75 is a complete game that builds on Microlite74 and Supplement II with a lot of the house rules I used in the late 1970s. It also comes with a lot of optional rules, including some not in Microlite74 Supplement I.

This is probably more complicated and confusing than it needs to be. After some discussions with friends, I'm considering the following items for Microlite74 Version 3 "product line":

Microlite74 Basic
Microlite74 Basic would simply be the next edition of what is currently called Microlite74. It would provide the basic 0e experience from the original three booklets in the 0e boxed set. I'm almost done with the first beta draft. There's not a lot of difference between the current edition of Microlite74 and the new version. Mainly clarifications, corrections, and a new set of notes at the end.

Microlite74 Standard
Microlite74 Standard would be the new Microlite74 Basic rules combined with the material in the current Supplement II: Wary's Grimoire. The rules would be complete in one booklet, no need to refer to a set of main rules and a supplement. This game would cover most of the "official" material in 0e: the original boxed set, the supplements, and some of the articles in magazines of the era.

Microlite74 Extended
Microlite74 Extended would basically be a second edition of the core rules of Microlite75. Again, this would be a complete game, not a supplement to Microlite74 Basic. This game would cover most of the official 0e material and add some of the material from third party publications in the late 1970s as well as the house rules I used back then -- all emulated in Microlite20-based systems. Most of the large number optional rules listed in the current Microlite75 would not be included here. They would be in a Microlite74 Companion volume instead where they could be used by players of any of the three Microlite74 rules sets.

Microlite74 Companions
This would be a series of products adding new material to Microlite74. The first volume would be optional rules (combining the current Supplement I optional rules with the optional rules from Microlite75). Future Companion volumes might include more detailed descriptions of spells, monsters, or treasure as well as things I haven't even considered yet.

Comments are welcome.

Long List of Old School Games and Clones

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The following in the initial revision of the list of major old school fantasy RPGs and retroclones for Microlite74 Version 3.0. Please let me know if I am missing any major games. I haven't found a list on the Internet that seems more complete than this one, but I still think I am missing a game or two. If you know of any I'm missing, please comment (please include a link to the game's site if you have it)


Old School Games and Retro-Clones

Microlite74 is designed to be an introduction to “old school” gaming for players more familiar with the 3.x version of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. While I’ve tried to design Microlite74 for long running campaigns, if you find the “old school” style of play espoused by Microlite74 fun you may want to move to one of the original games or one of their retro-clones.

What is a retro-clone? The OGL has allowed fans to recreate the rules of older, out of print editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. These are usually called “retro-clones” because they are “clones” of the rules to older (“retro”) editions of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. Most retro-clones have free PDF versions and most have nicely bound printed copies available for a very reasonable price. Retro-clones allow play of an older, out-of-print game system without the trouble and expense of tracking down a copy of an out-of-print game. While no retro-clone is an exact copy of an earlier game, they generally are close to identical in play.

0e and Retro-Clones
0e: The Original Game
The original 0e booklets and supplements can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, but they are generally very expensive collectibles. Some excellent third party 0e adventures (and an excellent campaign setting) from the late 1970s are also available in PDF format. These adventures could easily be used with Microlite74 or a 0e retro-clone – and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little effort.

Original Edition Characters (for Labyrinth Lord)
Original Edition Characters is a supplement for Labyrinth Lord (see the B/X and Retro-clones section below). It modifies the Labyrinth Lord rules to emulate the 0e game.

Swords & Wizardry
Swords & Wizardry is an OGL retro-clone of the 0e version from the mid-1970s, the same edition Microlite74 is loosely based on. Sword & Wizardry is handy for complex spell and monster descriptions for use with Microlite74 as well as a great game itself. The spell lists and monsters can be used as drop in replacements for those listed in Microlite74. There are three versions of this game. One uses just the material from the three LBB and the other two also use selected material from the 0e supplements.

B/X and Retro-Clones
B/X: The Original Game
The original B/X boxed sets and the revised version of this edition, the five box BECMI edition, can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games, as can a very large number of excellent adventure and campaign modules. Many of these modules could be used with Microlite74 or other B/X retro-clones with little modification -- and converted for use with any other early edition/retro-clone with only a little more effort.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is loosely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. There are a number of minor tweaks like ascending armour class and separation of races and classes.

Dark Dungeons
Dark Dungeons is based on the single volume RC version of the BECMI edition from the early 1990s. The rules are fairly close to the original but some chances have been made, especially where setting specific material is concerned.

Labyrinth Lord
Labyrinth Lord is more closely based on the so-called B/X edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the early 1980s. While some minor changes have been made for compliance with the OGL and copyright law, many people have a hard time finding any truly major differences between Labyrinth Lord and the original.

1e and Retro-Clones
1e: The Original Game
The original 1e rulebooks and adventures can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games – often at good prices if you do not need collectible condition. Also, some excellent third party 1e adventures are available in PDF format. 1e adventures and campaign settings could be converted for use with Microlite74 or any other early edition/retro-clone without much work.

Advanced Edition Companion (for Labyrinth Lord)
The Advanced Edition Companion  is a supplement for Labyrinth Lord (see the B/X and Retro-clones section above). It modifies the Labyrinth Lord rules to emulate the 1e game – or at least those parts of it that most players actually used.

OSRIC
OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation) is an OGL version of the first “advanced” edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first edition of OSRIC was designed to be just something that would allow publishers to legally publish OGL materials compatible with 1e. This attitude is also responsible for the boring name. The second edition of OSRIC is much more complete and is written with both players and publishers in mind.

2e and Retro-Clones
2e: The Original Game
The original 2e rulebooks and adventures can be found at auction on eBay or RPG Marketplace or at specialists like Noble Knight Games – often at very good prices if you do not need collectible condition. Also, some excellent third party 2e adventures are available in PDF format. 2e adventures and campaign settings could be converted for use with Microlite74 or any other early edition/retro-clone without much work.

For Gold & Glory
For Glory & Glory is an attempt to create a close adaption of the 2e rules, or at least those in the three 2e core rulebooks.

Other Games
Adventurer Conqueror King System
Adventurer Conqueror King takes the end game (ruling a domain) assuming in early editions of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG and rebuilds the entire game around it, with special attention to a simple but functional economic system.

Adventures Dark and Deep
This game is not a retro-clone, strictly speaking. Instead, it is an attempt to create an alternate universe version of 2e. 2e as it might have been if it had been written by the author of 0e and 1e.

The Big Brown Book
The Big Brown Book takes the rules of 0e and gives them a new spin — What would the world’s most popular fantasy role playing game look like had it continued its wargame roots?

Dragons at Dawn
This game is an attempt to recreate the rules of the original Blackmoor campaign from the early 1970s. “Dragons at Dawn is a retro tribute to the very first fantasy gaming system pioneered by Dave Arneson, the man who later went on to co-author the worlds most popular roleplaying game. The result of years of careful historical research, Dragons at Dawn is entirely consistent with Arneson's original, largely forgotten methods of play developed roughly in the period 1970-1973.” (No Free PDF version.)

Forward to Adventure!
This game is not a retro-clone, but a modern game that was designed with “old school” dungeon adventuring in mind. While not an “old school” game by any stretch of the imagination, it would be relatively easy to use FtA! to run a campaign in the old-school style. Unlike most modern RPG designs, there is little designed into FtA! that would interfere with this which makes it a system those who like the “old school” style of play but dislike the “old school” style of rules might wish to consider. (No free PDF version.)

Spellcraft & Swordplay
Spellcraft & Swordplay is an OGL redesign of the 0e version from the mid-1970s. The designer decided to rewrite 0e based on the original combat system (from the miniatures rules 0e grew out of) instead of 0e’s “alternative combat system.” The alternative combat system quickly became the standard combat system of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. This is sort of a retroclone from an alternate universe where the original combat system was the most-used. (No free PDF version.)

ZeFRS
David "Zeb" Cook's 1985 rules for the TSR Conan roleplaying game returns as a generic sword-and-sorcery RPG complete in one volume. Trample the jewelled kingdoms of your own world beneath your sandals!

Microlite74 3.0 Revision Started

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As I mentioned in a post yesterday, one the players in my Sunday Wilderness campaign suggest I do a quick revision of Microlite74 was a way over overcoming my Microlite75 writer's block. I decided to try this last night. It seems to be working as I flew through the simple rules changes M74 needed. The Notes revision will take longer as there are many more changes needed, but I hope to have a draft copy of the basic rules set ready by the weekend. The main rules changes so far are saving throws and combat casting (I made it clear that a spell caster who is hit in combat before they get the spell has the spell fizzle). The rules other changes so far are organizational or minor wording tweaking. The "Background" section from Microlite75 was added as an optional rule.

Is it Time for Microlite74 3.0?

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I mentioned how slow progress on the revised and expanded Microlite75 Monster Mash edition has been at my Sunday Wilderness Campaign. One of the players suggested I set it aside for a few weeks and work on something I could probably complete quickly: a revision of Microlite74 to include more 0e-like saving throws and some of the other minor changes that have been suggested over the two years since Microlite74 version 2.0 came out. I could also add more optional rules than those now in Ancient Auguries, perhaps "backporting" some of the more popular rules rules in Microlite75 as optional rules for Microlite74.

Initially, I thought this was a somewhat pointless exercise as most of the changes to the core rules would be minor tweaks and any set of players worth their salt should be able to add anything from M75 to M74 that they wanted to. However, after sleeping on it, I like the idea. The point isn't to release something that is vastly different but to fine tune things a bit to make a better game with what has been learned from two years of play and to give me something I can finish quickly as a break from the slowly crawling Microlite75 revision.

I haven't made a final decision yet, but I'm now leaning toward doing a "revision" of Microlite74 where yesterday I was pretty much against the idea. I'm interested in other opinions, however. What do you think of the idea of a new version of Microlite74. The only major change to the core rules I can think of would be saving throws, however moving to a more 0e saving throw system would make high level play in Microlite74 far more like high level play in 0e. The only other major change I can think of now would be to update the notes at the end with more update to date information on retroclones and the like.

WOTC Marketing Department Trying to Rewrite History?

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I just saw a copy of what appears to be a press release from Wizards of the Coast: "Dungeons & Dragons Returns to the Legendary City of Neverwinter; Fans Vie for Glory in the City of a Thousand Fates." It appears WOTC's marketing department is either ignorant or trying to rewrite the history of RPG publications with this part of the announcement:

Neverwinter Campaign Setting – The Neverwinter Campaign Setting is the ultimate encyclopedia on the inner workings of the city of Neverwinter, containing everything from history and geography to character themes. It is the first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city and conveniently presents Neverwinter content in a single hardcover format containing information for both players and DMs.
The "first-ever RPG book focused solely on one city"? What the heck? Are these folks so ignorant of the history of RPGs that they have never heard of old RPG publications like "City-State of the Invincible Overlord", City-State of the World Emperor", and "Tarantis" from Judges Guild? Or "Jonril" and "Tulan" from Midkemia Press? Or the "City of Minas Tirith" from ICE? Or a good number of other "RPG books focused solely on one city" that have been published over 35 or so years? Are they truly not even aware that they own the rights to a least one published in the past -- Waterdeep?