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Microlite78 and Microlite89?

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Several people have asked me to do a Microlite78 (1e) and a Microlite89 (2e) edition of "Microlite74". I'm afraid that I lack the time to do so. However, if you have access to the spells, monsters, and weapons lists from 1e (or 2e), you can easily roll your own. Use Microlite74 Standard (or Microlite74 Extended if you like my house rules) and just use the monster lists and spell lists from 1e or 2e instead of the 0e-based lists included in Microlite74. You'll probably want to use the weapon lists from the edition you are emulating as well. You may also want to tweak the classes a bit to better match the edition you want to emulate

What Will It Take to Get Old School Players to Convert to 5e?

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WOTC seems to be trying to attract old school players as well as 3.x players to D&D 5e. I think it would take most of the following -- at a minimum -- to attract large numbers of old school players and GMs to 5e.

1) Little to no 4e in the 5e core rules. The more they put 4e-like stuff in the core to satisfy the 4e fans, the less likely I suspect pre-4e players/GMs are to switch. This includes "abstract" things like too much stress on "by the numbers balance", the weird 4e "we need our own IP" monsters, or designing the game around the needs of organized play (with the needs of "home play" seemingly an afterthought).

2) The 5e core rules need to be usable with all 0e-2e era settings and adventures with little to no advance conversion by the GM needed. With TSR D&D most GMs could use any adventure/setting with any TSR edition of D&D, performing whatever conversions were needed in his head. As a lot of old school players still use these settings and adventures, I believe this is pretty much "a must" to have any chance of wide adoption from old school players. However, old school players and GMs generally do not object to doing basic math in their heads (like converting between ascending and descending AC) which might make this easier to achieve. To get 3.x folks, 5e will need to be able to do this with 3.x materials as well. Although, as 3.x requires more GM prep to begin with, 5e can probably get by with some minor in-advance-of-play conversion from 3.x work needed. If 3e folks can't use Paizo adventure paths and the like easily, I doubt many are likely to convert to 5e.

3) There must be an easy upgrade path to 5e. Old School groups will want to probably want to be able to easily convert their current campaigns and characters. As their current rules work, they are unlikely to be willing to end their current campaigns and start over just to use a new edition of D&D. Personally, I suspect 4e lost a number of players by simply being too different from what had gone before for a nearly seamless conversion of 3.x campaigns to be possible. 5e must not repeat this mistake.

4) The GM must "own the game rules". The game must be complete in published rulebooks (purchasable -- without a subscription -- PDFs count as game books). The game must not be constantly changing via online errata/updates which are added without GM permission to an online character generators or other tools. Most old school players and GMs I know do not want their characters, settings, and/or adventures in constant flux because of reams of errata (or worse, retroactive rules changes needed to support new splatbooks or the like) are being added to the rules/tools they need to access at the whim of the publisher. Errata is great, but the choice to use it or not -- on an item by item basis -- needs to be up to the GM and the players in a given group.

5) The 5e system must be very friendly to both house rules and third party material. This would include any WOTC character generators and similar tools -- players need to be able to easily add their house rules and third party rules. 5e must also have a third party license that, if not the OGL, is at least much closer to the OGL than to the 4e GSL. This license must be available to third party publishers no later than the day the first 5e book goes on sale.

However, to be blunt I think WOTC is going to have a very hard time getting a majority of old school players (and probably Pathfinder players as well) to drop their current system and use 5e. To do this, 5e will have to offer a much better game for their campaign, group, and style of play before they will actually switch -- just "as good as" or "just a little better than" the rules they currently use will probably not get a large number of people to convert. Unfortunately, I have real doubts that WOTC can pull this off. 5e sounds like it may be a pretty good game, but I doubt it will be considerably better than what old school or Pathfinder players are playing now. If it isn't, there will not be much reason to spend the money and time to convert to 5e.

However, all is not lost for WOTC even if I'm correct. If 5e can manage at least the first two items above, most of the adventures and settings WOTC might publish for 5e would be usable by players of other editions, which would mean WOTC would at least get some sales from some of the people playing older editions even if they don't play 5e. This is something they did not get much of with 4e.

WOTC Delays AD&D 1e Reprints to mid-July

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Judging by this page on the WOTC site, the AD&D 1e core books reprint promised for mid-April (with much hype earlier this year) have been delayed until mid-July. I have no idea why, but this continues to erode what little confidence I have in WOTC to do what they say they will do.

Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive: The Final Report

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As all the giveaway items have finally been mailed out, I can finally give a final report on The Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Fund Drive. My apologies for the delay, but one of our giveaway item recipients had long-term email issues that delayed getting in touch with him and another had a full email box. The Internet is truly wonderful, except when it just fails its saving throw and just doesn't work.

As reported last week, the third trigger point was reached -- although just barely -- and the the collection of magazines (all issues of the Strategic Review and the first 10 issues of The Dragon) went to a donor in Washington state who requested his name not be listed. Our two high donors were M. Loernz from the Los Angeles area (who selected the four Bloodstone Pass modules) and Sergeant R.J. who is currently stationed in Germany (who will receive the set of Traveller books). Our Washington state donor reports he's already received his box of magazines, the other items were mailed today.

The trigger point for the last two giveaway items wasn't reached, so Alexi will be keeping the copy of FEZ I: Valley of Trees and the Quest for the Fazzlewood module. I'd like to thank Alexi again for donating the trigger point giveaway items and "Jimbo" for donating the early Traveller items that made this Drive possible. However, most of all I'd like to thank all the people who donated. There weren't any truly huge donations (the high donor was under $250), but there were heck of a lot of smaller donations -- and they all add up. Thank you very much one and all.

Update: Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery/Cancer Fund Drive

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I've been hard at work on Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery this week. Draft 7 is available in the donor area. Draft 8 may be up as early as tomorrow or Saturday. No idea when the next public beta will be available, but I hope by the end of the month.

I've finished the initial pass through the monsters, adding sections on animals (including giant and dire animals) and humans, as they are the main "monsters" in many swords and sorcery settings. I'm now working on "ancient" magic items -- the standard type of D&D magic items. In most S&S campaigns, these will probably be the creations on long lost civilizations, perhaps even non-human civilizations. They will be very rare, many can even be unique items -- or items that only exist in legend -- if that's what the GM wants. Recently created magic items will mainly be potions and items with spirits bound to them (and providing the item's power).

Magic swords and armor can be made by any master weaponsmith or master armorer, provided he or she has enough meteoric iron and time. A +1 item will take a full year to create. A +2 item will take 4 more years (total of 5 years). A +3 item is a lifework, requiring first creating a +2 item and doing 20 years additional work on it -- for a total of 25 years. +4 and +5 items are possible in theory but would be the work of generations of craftsmen as a +4 item would require 125 years to create and a +5 item 600 years to create, with the original/current craftsman's specially trained apprentice taking over the task -- if the chain of master training replacement gets broken, the item can no longer be successfully improved. Magic weapons and armor are especially good for binding spirits so once you have the magic item, giving it intelligence and additional powers is relatively easy. Naturally, most +3 or better weapons and armor will be the stuff of legend.

The Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Fund Drive was fairly successful. The third trigger point was reached (barely), so the collection of magazines (all issues of the Strategic Review and the first 10 issues of The Dragon) has been mailed to a lucky donor in Washington state who requests that I do not print his name. I've emailed the two high donors, but haven't received replies yet. I think my email has finally gotten through to the first person (after a number of bounces do to weird mail server problems on the receiving end). I'm still getting "mailbox full" responses on the second, however. If you donated a good amount, you might want to check the mailbox associated with your Paypal email address -- if it is full, you might want to clean it out as you may be the person I'm trying to contact. I'll have a full post with more details once I hear from everyone. However, I'd like to thank everyone who donated for their help once again. I don't think I can do that enough. Thank you very much!

Last Chance: Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive and Giveawy Ends Tonight!

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Today is the last day of the Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Cancer fund drive. Donations arriving before I get up Monday morning (say 7am CDT on March 19th) will count as donated on the 18th of March. We are just a couple of hundred dollars shy of the third goal of $2250 which will trigger the drawing for the set of The Strategic Review and the first 10 issues of The Dragon magazine. We will probably reach that goal. We are less likely to reach the final goal of $3000 which would trigger the FEZ 1 and the Quest for the Fazzlewood giveaways. The highest two donors will get original Traveller material or the four Bloodstone Pass modules regardless of whether or not the last two goals are meet. See this post for more details: Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive and Giveaway.

I'd like to thank everyone who has donated so far. Special thanks also go to Alexi Debois and "Jimbo" for donating many of the nifty items for the giveaway. If you haven't donated and wish to Donate Now!.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $2080 dollars have been donated. That's 69% of our goal and over 92% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

TSR Era D&D vs WOTC Era D&D: Differences in Acceptable Play Style

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I've noticed a difference in common play style between D&D in the TSR era and D&D in the WOTC era. While it is tempting to call this another "old school"/"new school" issue, I'm not sure that it is. The difference is in the types of player behavior that groups seem to find acceptable.

More often than not in the TSR era, groups found the following player behaviors at least somewhat objectionable. Many groups I played with or knew about made players with one or more of the following behaviors unwelcome. In the WOTc era, I see these same behaviors have become fairly acceptable, even expected.

Min-Maxing/Munchkinism: In the TSR era, players who tried to optimize their characters mechanically (too much) through weird rules combinations and strange combinations of magic items and spells were often considered poor players and were unwelcome in many groups. Such players were often referred with derogatory term "munchkin". In the WOTC era, groups seem far more tolerant of min-maxing even where it breaks the game or causes huge differences in character power between players who min-max and other players at the table who aren't interested in doing so. Min-maxing seems to have become so accepted that the game rules are considered broken (in instead of the player's behavior considered broken) by many players if min-maxing players can break the game with outrageous combinations like "pun-pun".

Rules Lawyering In the TSR era, most GMs and player groups had little tolerance for players who had seemingly memorized the most trivial details of the rules from every rule book ever printed and were ready to waste lots of play time arguing with the GM over rules minutia. Oddly, they never seemed to argue with the GM if his rules interpretation may have been technically wrong but helped their character. Many TSR era GMs simply told rules lawyers to shut up so they and the rest of the players could enjoy the game. In the WOTC era, rules lawyers seem much more acceptable, at least to judge by the number of long rules discussions I've seen in many groups using WOTC editions of D&D. Part of this probably has something to do with the new school "cult of the RAW" where many players seem to see the rule books as some type of "holy writ" instead of as guidelines for the GM. However, I suspect much of it is just that the huge mass of rules in WOTC editions means that rules discussions in the middle of games have become more likely -- which gives rules lawyers more scope to do their thing without being as noticeable.

Rollplaying: While I don't really like this term, it's the only short way to label this behavior that I know of. In the TSR era, players usually described what their character was doing and allowed the GM to decide what roll - if any - was needed (especially in non-combat situations). Players who consistently tried to avoid describing what they were doing by simply saying something like "I'll make a X roll (usually a Non-Weapon Proficiency in AD&D or a Skill roll in BECMI) to do Y" were considered poor players. In the WOTC era, I see a larger number of groups where "I make a diplomacy roll to try to get the NPC to do X" is all that the GM or the group requires. The player never has to say what the character is actually offering the NPC, how he is approaching the NPC, or the like. The entire interaction is "I try to make a skill roll."

I don't really know why these behaviors have apparently become more acceptable in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century, but they have. I believe these differences in what is likely to be considered acceptable play are one of the non-mechanical things that can make the play experience today seem so different to long time D&D players. Note that while I personally prefer the TSR era style, there is nothing intrinsically better or worse about either style. They are just very different and led to very different expectations about play.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $2040 dollars have been donated. That's 67% of our goal and over 90% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

New Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Draft Available to Donors

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A new draft (draft 6) of Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery is available to donors in the usual place with the usual password. There aren't a lot of rules changes this time around. Mainly I've been working on monsters. I hope to have the monsters section finished this weekend and start work on treasure. A new beta version (available to everyone) will be available after I do the treasure section -- or at least some initial work thereon.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $2020 dollars have been donated. That's 67% of our goal and over 89% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

RIP M.A.R. Barker 1929-2012

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M.A.R. Barker, author of the the Empire of the Petal Throne novels and games passed away this morning in his home. I still remember the day I bought a copy of Empire of the Petal Throne -- the first one in town, I believe. The boxed set cost $25, one of the most expensive games i had ever purchased (at the time). I never regretted it. Phil, you will be missed by a lot of great people, least among them, myself.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 16, 2012: Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman (MAR) Barker, known to his friends as “Phil,” died peacefully in home hospice on March 16, 2012 with his wife Ambereen Barker at his side.

A Fulbright Scholar (1951) of vast accomplishment, Professor Barker is probably best known for his creation of the world of Tékumel which he developed for over 70 years and which has been compared to Tolkein’s ‘Middle Earth’ in its scope, sophistication, and complexity. Barker was a Professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota during the period when Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax were developing Tactical Studies Rules’ (TSR) first role-playing games in the Twin Cities and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. In 1975 Barker’s game “Empire of the Petal Throne” was the first role playing game published by TSR, Inc following the release of “Dungeons and Dragons.”

Role playing games set in Tékumel, have been published every decade since the 1970’s, including the 1983 ‘Swords and Glory,’ 1994’s ‘Gardásiyal,’ and 2005’s ‘Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.’ Beginning with “Man of Gold” in 1985 Barker published five novels, several game supplements, and a number of short stories set in Tékumel. In 2008 Barker established the Tékumel Foundation as his literary executor to protect and promote his intellectual property.

Born in 1929, Barker graduated Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Washington with a BA in Linguistics in 1951. He traveled on Fulbright Scholarship to India where he studied the Koraku, Korwa, Uraon and Jaunsauri languages of rural India and the Himalayas, and while on this trip converted to Islam. Upon his return to the United States, Barker was elected to the California chapter of the Sigma Xi Society for the promotion of research in science.

In 1959 he completed his Ph.D. by publishing the grammar and dictionary of the Klamath Indians of southwestern Oregon, which was used as reference material for Native American languages by the producers of the ‘Northern Exposure’ TV series during the 1990’s.

He traveled again to Pakistan in 1959 on a Ford Foundation grant where he studied the Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Baluchi, and Brahui languages. In 1961 he published an anthology of Urdu poetry. From 1961 until 1969 Professor Barker taught Arabic, Urdu-Hindi and linguistics at McGill University in Canada, and in 1970 spent a year sabbatical in Lucknow and Hyderabad where he worked on an advanced reader of classical Urdu poetry.

In 1972 the Barkers moved to Minneapolis, where Professor Barker chaired the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. He continued to teach at the University of Minnesota until his retirement in 1992.

In addition to Tékumel, Professor Barker was an avid student of Meso-American cultures including the Inca, Maya, and Aztec peoples. His creation of Tékumel includes elements of Central American and southeast Asian cultures, including religious pantheons, ornate pyramidal temples, and elaborate costuming.

Professor Barker is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ambereen. Details on memorial services will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Tékumel Foundation are preferred, visit http://www.tekumelfoundation.org.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1970 dollars have been donated. That's 66% of our goal and over 87% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

Converting RPG PDFs to ebook Formats for Free

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I've downloaded several dozen RPG PDFs over the last year -- some for free and some for money. I've always wanted to be able to read them on my Nook. However, reading standard-sized PDFs on a Nook is an awful experience. It's even worse if the PDF has multiple columns. I've tried programs like Calibre that allow you to convert PDFs to epub and other ebook formats, but the resulting ebook files were generally unusable. This was especially true of multi-column PDFs as the converters ignored the columns assuming everything on one line (no matter how many columns) belonged together. I gave up.

A week or so ago, I stumbled across the free Mobipocket Reader Desktop. I had not noticed this program before as it converts PDFs to the mobi format (the Kindles's format?). However, I tried it and it converts multi-column PDFs intelligently (for the most part) and produces fairly readable mobi files which I can then convert to epub format with Calibre.

There are limitations, however. Obviously, it can't do much with PDFs what are simply pictures of the text pages -- like some scan PDFs of very old material. The text has to be present as text in the PDF for conversion to have a chance. Also, it does not handle pull quotes or sidebars all that well. I just plugs them in wherever they fall in the column/text sequence. This can made reading ebook files converted from PDFs with sidebars and pull quotes something of a pain as you suddenly go from text to the pull quote or sidebar then back to the main text without any warning. Also, as usual, tables do not convert well at all.

However, I'm now able to read much of Labyrinth Lord (the first few pages did are unreadable, but everything else is workable, weird), Adventurer Conqueror King, and Fantasy Craft on my Nook. I'll be trying other PDFs as I get a chance. Again, this isn't perfect, but it is free and it works better than anything else I've tried. Until publishers start releasing ebook versions of their products, this will help.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1970 dollars have been donated. That's 66% of our goal and over 87% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

Encounter-Ending Powers are a Good Thing!

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There's apparently a new designer article on D&D 5e up on turning undead. It looks like 5e might be moving away from the WOTC standard of "turn dead just does damage to undead" and moving more toward the TSR D&D standard of turn undead actually driving away or even destroying undead. You know, like the effect of the cross on vampires in legend -- which is where the idea of turning undead originally came from. This sounds like a great idea to me. Those familiar with Microlite74 know I replaced the 3.x turn causes damage "turn undead" from Microlite20 with a more TSR-like version.

However, I've seen a lot of WOTC D&D fans objecting to this design article around the net. One of the more common objections I see is like this one:

Well, the mechanic sounded interesting until he got up to "the monster runs away, disappears, or stands far away from you" as the actual outcomes. All of those are just encounter ending powers, or, more annoyingly, encounter delaying powers that mean you have to go play hunt-the-fleeing-skeleton. That is the exactly the reason turning made way for damage in the first place.

Thinking about all these objections to turn undead as an encounter ending power, I remember I seeing the same objection to a number of old school style spells and effects: they are encounter ending powers. I've never paid much attention to the "it's an encounter ending power" objection because it never made any sense to me. Encounter ending powers are good things in my book. They allow a combat encounter to be handled with less risk to the PCs and with fewer resources expended. Unless you are playing in a "My Precious Encounters" style game where the GM spends hours setting up combat encounters and feels short-changed if the combat encounters don't take up almost as much time to play out as they did to design, I can't see any reason to why anyone would really object to a spell or power that would allow the PCs to end the encounter quickly (and at little -- or at least less -- risk to themselves).

Let's take the current topic of turning undead as an example of why an encounter-ending power like "turn undead" is such a great thing. The party has discovered a tomb with -- they hope -- some treasure. However, it's guarded by half a dozen ghouls. These are 0e-3.x Ghouls that can paralyze those they hit. You can fight them and risk death, which more likely than normal because they can paralyze those they hit for a long duration. If you beat them, you can lick your wounds and check for treasure. Or your cleric(s) can try to turn them. If they fail, you can still fight if you wish. But if they succeed, at least some of the undead will flee the room or at least flee to the far corners if they can't leave the room. At worst, this leaves you with fewer to fight. At best, this drives them all away, leaving the party to collect the treasure and move on, having spent fewer resources and with less risk of damage. Encounter-ending powers sure look like a good thing here.

I really can't understand why so many people apparently don't like them. Perhaps this is just another old-school/new school division? All I know is that D&D without encounter ending spells and powers just does not feel like D&D to me.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1950 dollars have been donated. That's 65% of our goal and over 86% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!




Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Progress Report

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It's time for a progress report on Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery. Theere has been more playtesting than rules writing the past couple of weeks, mainly because the real world has been keeping me very busy. However, playtesting is showing the basic rules structure is holding up fairly well. Lowering the physical and magical combat bonuses from my initial very high values has certainly helped. Adventurers now work well. Sorcerers need more work. Playtesting shows that a bit more variety would help as would not allowing all sorcerers to do everything. Current Sorcerer special abilities include scribing scrolls and binding spirits. Playtesters would like to see additional abilities like alchemy (similar to scrolls, but uses potions). However, that would make Sorcerers too powerful.

I'm thinking of adding alchemy and runecarving abilities. Sorcerers would have to select two of the four abilities. I don't like requiring players to select an ability (let alone two) at first level as I think that makes it much harder for new players to get into a game. With no such selections at first level, players can start playing almost immediately -- without having to read about a number of different powers and select for that they will be stuck with for the rest of their character's life. I'm undecided. Perhaps I should just leave well enough alone?

Playtesters would also like some additional choices for Adventurer special abilities as well. Weapon Mastery has been suggested, allowing the Adventurer to select one type of weapon that he has mastered -- a critical hit with such a weapon would occur on a roll of 19 or 20 (that would otherwise hit). I'm open to suggestions for other Adventurer special abilities on the order of the ones that currently are in the rules.

As the combat rules are pretty much those of Microlite74 Extended, the only change so far suggested is allowing a critical hit to damage a monster which could normally only be hit by a magic weapon (but it would "just" do normal damage). Given the scarcity of magic weapons in many S&S settings, I think this might be an idea worth trying.

Monsters are the main choke point at the moment. I'm slowing stating up various dangerous animals (and giant versions of some) as they and humans will probably be the more common dangers in the average S&S setting.

I have not even begun work on magic items.

Not a lot of progress, I know, but it is moving slowly along. Progress will speed up rapidly again when my real life work slows down again. Your comments and ideas are still very welcome. Please keep them coming.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1950 dollars have been donated. That's 65% of our goal and over 86% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars. The drive ends March 18th so please donate now!

Earty Issues of The Strategic Review and The Dragon Magazine are Full Of Old School Goodness (And You Could Win a Set!)

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The next item up for giveaway as part of Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is a set of the seven issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of The Dragon magazine. These early issues of from TSR have a lot of early D&D and EPT material in them, often by Gygax, Arneson, or Barker. Some of the articles on character classes in The Strategic Review are actually referenced as official classes in some of the OD&D supplements (e.g, Rangers and Illusionists), some classic D&D monsters make their first appearances (e.g. the roper, the Clay Golem, the Trapper, etc.), one of the only descriptions of how to use the Chainmail combat system for D&D is in TSR#2. A great set of human monsters, witches, are published in The Dragon #5. Swords and Sorcery style fiction appears in The Dragon, some clearly D&D. The first in magazine boardgame, Snit Smashing, was published in The Dragon #10. Lots of information on Empire of the Petal Throne appeared in these issues, most written by Barker himself. The Dragon #4 was a special EPT issue. Metamorphosis Alpha material by Jim Ward (and Gary Gygax). The first appearances of Wormy and Fineous Fingers. And lots more.

These 17 issues covered about three years and show the early development of D&D and the roleplaying hobby. If you are an old school fan, you'd find these publications a great addition to your store of early D&D material. Here's a cover shot and a list of the contents of each issue.

The Strategic Review #1

TSR News
What's Going on Here?
The Armory
Creature Feature: The Mind Flayer
Wargaming World
Solo Dungeon Adventures
Castle & Crusade: The Spear in Man-to-Man Combat

The Strategic Review #2

TSR: Why We Do What We Do
Cavaliers and Roundheads Rules Additions
Wargaming World
Questions Most Frequently Asked about Dungeons & Dragons Rules
Rangers
Creature Feature: The Roper
Castle & Crusade: Medieval Pole Arms
TSR News
Panzer Warfare: Additional Unit Organizations

The Strategic Review #3

TSR News
What's Going on Here?
Creature Features
Monster Reference Table Addition: Hostile & Benign Creatures
The Battle of the Ebro River in 5mm Napoleonics
Gallery of Gunfighters, Part I: The Art of Gunfighting
Wargaming World
Mapping the Dungeons
Desert Cities of Mars

The Strategic Review #4

Mapping the Dungeons
TSR News & Editorial
Castle & Crusade: A Few More Words on Medieval Pole Arms
Panzer Warfare: Additional Unit Organizations
The Armory: Tactical Weapon/Vehicle Gun Changes
Wargaming World
Illusionists!
Tsolyani Names without Tears
Mighty Magic Miscellany: Ioun Stones
Creature Feature: The Clay Golem
Gallery of Gunfighters: Part II: John "Doc" Holliday (a/k/a Tom McKey)

The Strategic Review #5

In the Cauldron
Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery, or How Effective is a Panzerfaust Against a Troll, Heinz?
Mighty Magic Miscellany
Wargaming World
The Battle of the Nile Refought
Modern Weapons Data for TRACTICS
Gallery of Gunfighters: Ben Thompson
Creature Feature: Rakshasa
Creature Feature: The Slithering Tracker
Creature Feature: The Trapper
What is the National Wargame Convention

The Strategic Review #6

In The Cauldron
The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons
The Quest For The Vermillion Volume (Fiction by Robert Kuntz)
War of Wizards Update
War of Wizards Solitare
Statistics Regarding Classes: (Additions) - Bards
Boot Hill Experimental Rule
Sage Advice

The Strategic Review #7

In The Cauldron
The Dungeons & Dragons Magic System
Editorial
The Fastest Guns That Never Lived
What Price Gold and Glory? (Fiction by Jim Hayes)
Hints for D&D Judges
Mighty Magic Miscellany
Discover The Dungeon in Lake Geneva
Creature Feature: Catoblepas
Creature Feature: The Denebian Slime Devil
Ancient and Medieval Standard Military Symbols
The Missile Weapon in Classic Warfare
Thief Bonuses for Dexterity
To the Everlasting Glory of the Petal Throne
D&D Is Only as Good as the DM

The Dragon #1

Dragon Rumbles
Fafhrd & The Mouser Say Their Say (Fiction by Fritz Leiber)
In The Cauldron
How To Use Non-Prime-Requisite Character Attributes
Magic And Science
Languages or, Could you repeat that in Auld Wormish?
The Search for the Forbidden Chamber (Fiction by Jake Jaquet)
Creature Feature: The Bulette (a.k.a. Landshark)
Hints for D&D Judges
Mighty Magic Miscellany: Illusionist Expansion
Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age Additions
The Gnome Cache (Fiction)

The Dragon #2

Dragon Rumbles
Monkish Combat in the Arena of Promotion
The Gnome Cache (Fiction)
Search For The Forbidden Chamber (Fiction by Jake Jaquet)
Hints for D&D Judges
Shadow Of A Demon Fiction by Gardner F. Fox
The Feathered Serpent
Creature Feature: The Remorhaz
A New D&D Character Class: The Alchemist
D&D Option: Weapon Damage

The Dragon #3

Dragon Rumbles
War of the Empires
Women & Magic ? Ladies in D&D
Gnome Cache (Fiction)
Birth Tables for D&D
Wargaming World
Mapping the Dungeons
Plethora of Obscure Sub-Classes (Healers, Scribes, Samurai
A New View of Dwarves
Two Penultimate Sub-Classes (Humor: Idiot & Jester Classes)
Strategist?s Club Awards for ?75

The Dragon #4

Dragon Rumbles
Reports Submitted to the Petal Throne
Jakalla Encounters
Notes on the Androids on the Starship Warden
The Battle of the Temple of Chanis: 2020 A.S.
Creature Feature: The Mihalli & The Vriyagga
Roads from Jakalla (Fiction by Jerry Westergaard)
Wargaming World
Fineous Fingers: Minus Fred and Charly
EPT "Eye" Matrix
The Temple of Vimúhla

The Dragon #5

Dragon Rumbles
Witchcraft Supplement for Dungeons & Dragons
Some Ideas Missed in Metamorphosis Alpha
Tribal Society and Hierarchy on Board the Starship Warden
Featured Creatures: The Ankheg
How Green Was My Mutant
Beyond the Wizarding Fog(Fiction by Gardner F. Fox)
Wizard Research Rules
Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User
The Gnome Cache (Fiction)

The Dragon #6

Dragon Rumbles
An Alternate Beginnng Sequence For Metamorphosis: Alpha
Sea Trade In D&D Campaigns
Legions of the Petal Throne Painting Guide
The Forest of Flame (Fiction by Morno)
Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha
Gnome Cache (Fiction) --
D&D Option: Determination of Psionic Abilities
Morale in D&D
The Quickly Ending Adventures of Fineous Fingers And the Return of Fred & Charly
Creature Feature: Death Angel

The Dragon #7

Dragon Rumbles
What to Do When the Dog Eats Your Dice, or Some Other Calamity Befalls You Twenty Minutes Before the Game Club Gets to Your Place
Gary Gygax on Dungeons and Dragons
Mystery Hill - America's Stonehenge?
The Journey Most Alone (Fiction by Morno)
Military Formations of the Nations of the Universe
Beginning of a New Adventure for Fineous Fingers, or One Day in the Marketplace
Creature Feature: The Prowler
Gnome Cache (Fiction)

The Dragon #8

Dragon Rumbles Editorial
Planes: The Concepts of Spacial, Temporal, and Physical Relationships in D&D
The Development of Towns in D&D
The Finzer Family - A Tale of Modern Magic (Fiction by Harry O. Fischer)
Introduction to: Gamma World
A Re-Evaluation of Gems and Jewelry in D&D
So, You Want Realism in D&D?
From the Fantasy Forge
Still More Additions to MA

The Dragon #9

Dragon RumblesVaried Player Character and Non-Player Character Alignment in the Dungeons and Dragons Campaign
The Finzer Family - A Tale of Modern Magic (Fiction by Harry O. Fischer)
Fantasy Forge
Seal of the Imperium
The Fastest Guns That Never Lived
Tombs & Crypts
Wormy
Fineous Fingers

The Dragon #10

Dragon Rumbles Editorial
Too Much Loot in Your Campaign? D&D Option: Orgies, Inc.
GenCon X, 18 - 21 August 1977, Final Report
Design Forum: Designing for Unique Wilderness Encounters
Random Monsters
Design Forum: Let There Be a Method to Your Madness
Snit Smashing (Complete Boardgame)
Weights and Measures, Physical Appearances, and Why Males are Stronger than Females in D&D
Gaining a New Experience Level GM Advice
The Tactics of Diplomacy in Stellar Conquest
Fantasy Forge
Wormy
Fineous Fingers

Donate today for a chance at this collection of early TSR magazines. See below (or this post) for more information.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1740 dollars have been donated. That's 58% of our goal and over 77% of the way to the next drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars.

Saving "Save-or-Die": An Optional Rule to "Save" the Day

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The latest Legends & Lore column on the WOTC site is on "save or die" effects. From the column, it looks like 5e may be catering to those who do not like "save or die." Unfortunately, "save-or-die" effects are one of the primary ways to shorten combats, make possible to play "combat as war", simulate a believable game world, and have some risk in the game no matter how many hit points a character has. If a D&D edition doesn't have save-or-die effects, chances are I will not enjoy the game.

There is already a method in the game for allowing characters/monsters whose precautions failed to avoid death or similar results from effects that should outright "instantly" kill or incapacitate: the saving throw. The original idea behind the saving throw was that the PCs were so special that while something would automatically kill or incapacitate a normal person, they got a special chance to avoid that fate -- a chance mere normals would not get: a saving throw.

One of the primary reasons I hear for people not liking effects that instantly kill or incapacitate a character is that if a character fails a "save or die" roll in combat, the player will be bored out of his mind during the rest of the slow, grindy combat so common in WOTC editions of the game. Sure, the character will probably not be permanently lost as there are arcane or divine method of restoring the character after the combat, but during the combat the player is basically out of the game. The solution to this, IMHO, is not to get rid of save-or-die effects but to greatly reduce the length of combat. Being out of a 5 to 15 minute combat is much different than being out of a 45 to 120 minute combat. Reducing the length of combat to pre-WOTC lengths also helps the game in other ways. For example, classes that aren't good in combat suddenly become much more playable as players selecting such classes no longer are going to be bored for 45 to 120 minutes every time the party gets into combat. So the primary solution to "save-or-die" effects problems should be to shorten combat so that the penalty for failing a save isn't an hour or two of boredom.

Another complaint I often hear about "save-or-die" effects is that they really penalize low level parties who might not have affordable access to magical means of curing the effect. I'm not all that sympathetic to this argument as part of "player skill" in D&D should be learning to avoid being endangered by save-or-die effects. After all, if you have to make the saving throw, you have already messed up -- you'd made a mistake that would result in automatic death or incapacitation for a normal person.

As a compromise, however, I offer this optional rule (which will be included in Microlite74 starting with the Swords & Sorcery edition): If the being fails its save in a save-or-die situation, the effect "takes effect" immediately (just as it always has). However, if the situation (combat or otherwise) ends and the character receives "first aid" within the character's CON melee rounds (or a monster's Hit Dice in melee turns), the character is just at 0 hp and unconscious. All characters are assumed to know first aid techniques that will arrest the various save-or-die effects and terminate the condition without need of magic if the 5 melee round procedure is started soon enough and continues without any interruption (combat is an interruption).

For example, if a character is hit by the Finger of Death spell and fails his save, he drops to the ground "apparently dead". This preserves the "speed up combat and avoid time-wasting grind" effect of save or die. However, if the character hit is able to receive first aid in an out-of-direct-danger environment (that is, not in the middle of combat) within CON melee rounds, the character's actual death is prevented -- he's just out of hit points and unconscious.

Finally, while shortening combat and adding a "easy recovery" rule should solve many problems with save-or-die effects without adding much complexity or bookkeeping to the game, I would have no objection to an optional rule that got rid of save-or-die effects completely for those who just can't stand them (after all, a group's GM can do that anyway). The default for a set of D&D rules, however, should be to include "save-or-die" effects. They are something that defines D&D and are necessary for some styles of play.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1690 dollars have been donated. That's 55% of our goal and over 74% of the way to the first drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars.

RIP E. Gary Gygax: July 27, 1938 - March 4, 2008

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It's hard to believe it has been four years. I hope you are still rolling dice in heaven, Gary. We'll be rolling dice here this afternoon and we'll think of you as we do.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1670 dollars have been donated. That's 55% of our goal and over 74% of the way to the first drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars.

Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery: The Monster Dilemma

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I've discovered a problem creating a Swords and Sorcery variant of Microlite74: the monster list. Many of the monsters on the standard monster list don't really fit into the average swords and sorcery milieu. Most swords and sorcery stories are very human-centric. Most of the enemies characters face are humans of various types. Monsters tend to be one of a kind (or a small group of that kind who live in a remote area, not an entire species that one encounters all over the place. There usually aren't even the wide variety of humanoid monsters (goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, etc.) and if such humanoids exists there are generally confined to the fringes of the world away from what passes for human civilization.

The more I think about this, the more I'm at a loss of what to with monsters for Microlite74 Swords and Sorcery. What I'm currently thinking of doing is saying what I said in the paragraph above in the Monsters section of the rules, continue to list most of the monsters in standard M74 and allow the GM to select those he wishes to use and ignore those that don't fit his swords and sorcery setting, and finally add a simple random monster generator for quickly creating those one-off monsters Conan was always running across in ancient ruins. However, I'm not sure that this isn't a cop-out. However, the alternative, creating some new monsters with what I see as a S&S flavor would not really work in a "microlite" format as such monsters were need quite a bit of description to be worthwhile.

Comments on my "S&S Monster Dilemma" are welcome.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1670 dollars have been donated. That's 55% of our goal and over 74% of the way to the first drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars.

Cancer Fund Drive: Empire of the Petal Throne Winner and More Giveaway Items!

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I drew the winner of the Empire of the Petal Throne items Monday evening. This more I received "mention my name" permission from the person who won the EPT items. The EPT items are on their way to Janice Allison. She says she does not play RPGs but will give them "to someone special" in her life who does.

The next giveaway item is a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. The trigger number is $2250. Everyone who donates anytime during this drive is eligible for this giveaway.

Alexi has agreed to extend the deadline for Quest for the Fazzlewood through the end of the donation drive (March 18th) -- the original deadline was the end of February 2012. Also, I'm happy to announce that we now have some addition items to give away to the highest donors:

* a 1977 edition of "Classic" Traveller along with first printings of Books 5 through 8. Note that a copy of Book 4: Mercenary is not included. The 1977 edition of the Black box rules is the one without the Third Imperium setting baked into rules. These items are in excellent condition. (I'd like to thank "Jimbo" for donating these items for this giveaway.)

* a complete set of AD&D modules H1-H4 -- the Bloodstone Pass modules -- these are unused and are in excellent condition (even the thin box for H1 looks almost like new).

The highest donor gets his/her choice of the above sets of items and the second highest donor will receive the other items. In case of ties, a quiz on the Holmes Basic Edition of D&D will be used as a tiebreaker. These "high donor" giveaway items are in addition to the drawing giveaway items. The remaining giveaway items as of this writing are: a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine at the $2250 point and if the final goal of $3000 is reached, FEZ I: Valley of Trees, and Quest for the Fazzlewood module as described in this post.


The Leap Month Cancer Fund Drive is on (through March 18, 2012). Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of five items described in the above-linked post: Daystar West Media edition of Pharaoh (1980)(won by Melson Davis), FEZ 1 (the 1982 Valley of Trees version), the Quest for the Fazzlewood from Metro Detroit Gamers, Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set (won by Janice Allison), and a set of all of the issues of The Strategic Review and the first ten issues of Dragon Magazine. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The two highest donors (in amount donated) will receive Classic Traveller items or the four Bloodstone Pass modules. These items 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 Firecracker items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1600 dollars have been donated. That's 53% of our goal and over 71% of the way to the first drawing trigger point of $2250 dollars.