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Long Campaigns Don't Have To Be Boring!

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I'm occasionally asked how my campaigns can run for years with basically the same players playing week after week without everyone getting bored. I think there are a couple of major reasons why long campaigns have always worked for my groups.

First, my "campaigns" are different than what seems to be the common style today. Most people seem to use "campaign" to mean a series of adventures with the same characters with a "story arc" of some type. I run a sandbox, so I don't have a "story arc" with a beginning and end. There is always something new for the characters to do. While various activities do wrap up from time to time, the PCs allows have other things to do that have been "on-hold" while dealing with something else. There's never a place where everything is wrapped up and there is nothing left that anyone is interested in doing. Without this, there is no obvious place to stop playing and start another, different game.

Second, most players in my games play multiple characters. They aren't playing the same character week after week for years on end -- unless they want to, of course. Microlite74, like old school D&D in general, does not assume the characters in a party are all about the same level. The game works just fine with a wide range of levels in a party. This means that when a player is starting to get bored playing his fighter character, he can leave him or her in town and start a new character with a different class, background, and personality. My Sunday Wilderlands campaign has been running for over two years now and most players have several player characters, which one they play any given week depends on what is going on in the game and what they are interested in playing that week. We can always tell when one player has had a bad week, for example, because she always plays her combat-happy barbarian fighter who just lives to kill things instead of her scholarly magic-user after a rough week.

Multiple characters ties in with the first point as well. Characters can achieve their goals and retire from regular play without the campaign ending. This happened last Sunday. One character's reason to adventure was to recover his family's heirloom sword as its loss had saddled the family with a nasty curse -- no children born to the family would live past their first year. He found the sword a few weeks ago, managed to acquire it from its current owners, and last Sunday returned to his family home to a hero's welcome. The player is retiring this character as he's become the new head of his family and clan. Other characters, however, still have reason to adventure.

The ease of starting new characters at any time, means that it is also easy to work new players into the campaign when necessary. The sandbox style means players can come and go without disrupting the campaign. Without "story arcs", the campaign with not fall apart if a player with an important to the "story arc" characters has to miss a few sessions or even has to quit playing completely.



We are on Day 3 of our drive to collect money for the cancer fund and Karen's house as described in this post: Help a Former TSR Editor Keep Her House! The Final Episode. We've raised over $175 total so far. If you can spare a ten or a twenty, or even more, it will help so much. Karen and family can keep their house and I can pay for my wife's next CT Scan (coming up November 5th). To donate and help both Karen and myself, send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- via Paypal before 6am CDT the morning of November 1st. If you can't donate, good thoughts and prayers for Karen and her family are more than welcome. Please help spread the word to others who might be willing to help.


Help a Former TSR Editor Keep Her House! The Final Episode

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If you've been reading this blog for the past few months (since last May), you are probably aware of the saga of former TSR staffer Karen Boomgarden attempt to keep her house from foreclosure. For those who are not familiar with her work at TSR, she was a editor with editor credit on a large number of TSR products and was the designer for a few products like my favorite Amazing Engine game, For Faerie, Queen, and Country. Since her TSR days, she's remarried was doing well until the economy collapsed. She has been out of work for two years (and her husband had been out of work for over a year until finding work a few weeks ago). To make things worse, their daughter fell off a balcony and was injured pretty badly (although remarkably not as severely as she could have been) earlier this year.

Back in May we had a successful fund raiser (in association with a non-gaming message board Karen and I are on) so she could get current on her mortgage so that she and her husband could qualify for unemployment forbearance. (See these posts for more info on the first episode of this saga: Help a Former TSR Editor Keep Her House!, Update: Help a Former TSR Editor Keep Her House!, Progress Report: Microlite74, RetroRoleplaying Forum, Real Life. etc..) By August, I was able to announce that they had qualified for up to a year of unemployment forbearance (see this post: Help a Former TSR Editor Keep Her House! Update and Part 2).

I thought the saga had ended at this point. Karen's husband even found a job a few weeks ago, which was great news. Unfortunately, the mortgage company had one last surprise. Since they are no longer unemployed, they had a month to pay all the back payments (about $5000) the unemployment forbearance had allowed them to skip or they would foreclose immediately. This, of course, makes the whole "unemployment forbearance" thing sort of useless as one month's net salary isn't going to pay many months of a mortgage, at least for most workers. [Long rant about US financial companies and this recession deleted.]

Amazingly, Karen and family have managed to come up with a lot of this, they only need $1400 more by November 4th to keep their house. I'm hoping we can have a quick "Trick or Treat" fund raiser and help them out one final time. Readers of this blog raised over $900 for Karen in between our May and July fund raisers. The message board we're both on raised over $1700. So I think between us, we have a chance of cutting this last $1400 down to size.

Let's see how much money we can raise between now and the witching hour on Halloween. I'd like to see us beat out the message board this time. Just like in May and July, any money donated to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund from now to 6am on November 1st will be split 50/50 (after Paypal fees, if any) between Karen and the cancer fund. I'll transfer Karen's 50% to her on November 1st so they have plenty of time to get the bill paid. All donors will get access to the usual RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donor downloads, including current draft copies of all four of my current Microlite74 and S&W projects. These donations will also count (in their full amount) for donor goodies in our upcoming November Fund Drive. I can't announce what these are until early November, but I do have permission from the sponsors to count any donations made during this special "Save Karen's House III" drive as donations to the upcoming November Fund Raiser.

So here's another chance to help two decent causes with one donation. If you can spare a ten or a twenty, or even more, it will help so much. Karen and family can keep their house. To donate and help both Karen and myself, send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- via Paypal before 6am CDT the morning of November 1st. If you can't donate, good thoughts and prayers for Karen and her family are more than welcome. Please help spread the word to others who might be willing to help.


Looking for Advanced Marvel Superheroes Blogs and Websites

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As I mentioned in a recent post (A FASERIP December For Me), I'll be running a few sessions of TSR's Advanced Marvel Superheroes in December instead of taking our usual 3-4 week holiday break. If any readers know of any good Advanced Marvel Superheroes blogs or web sites, I'd really appreciate links to them in comments to this post. I already know about the Classic Marvel Forever web site, but there are bound to be a few blogs out there as well.

Swords & Wizardry Plus House Rules Progress Report 1

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I've been playing around with the Word document S&W Core Rules the last couple of days, and in a few hours of work have probably made at least 50% of the changes needed to incorporate my the 0e house rules I added to Microlite74 to get Microlite74 Extended. Some things have to be translated back from M74 way of doing things to a "more pure" 0e way of doing things, but considering my house rules started life in 0e, this is not really much of an issue.

Another question for those interested in this project, would you rather see the rules for Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings remain as they are in the S&W Core Rules (which is very similar to the way they were in 0e before the Greyhawk supplement) or would you rather see a more post-Greyhawk version of demi-humans?

Swords & Wizardry Plus My 0e House Rules From Microlite74 Extended?

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I've been asked a number of times since my 0e house rules first appeared as part of Microlite75 (now Microlite74 Extended) if I would not publish a variant of Swords & Wizardry with my house rules baked into the rules book. I've always held off because most people did not want a supplement, but a complete copy of the rules with my house rules built into the game. I really had no desire to cut into S&W sales by producing a complete set of the rules with my house rules included.

However, the requests keep coming in and it really would not be that hard to edit the ".doc" version of OGL S&W Core Rules to add in some or all of my 0e house rules, lightly format it into two columns, can call it something like "Blades & Sorcery" and make it available for download. Now that Swords & Wizardry has been available for several years, I have much less problem doing something like this.

If I were to do this, I would need to know which house rules people would want to see put in this S&W variant. I would definitely include backgrounds (and the "skill" rolls that can be used with them), the minor powers of clerics and magic-users, and my Body/Hit Point system. Saving throws would not change, however -- as many people like the one saving throw system S&W currently uses and not changing it makes modifying the rules much easier. My alignment rules (and the optional Virtues and Vices" system would probably be included. The major questions would be:

1) Whether or not to replace the standard "Fire & Forget" magic system with my "burn HP to cast spells" system. I used it with 0e back in the late 1970s, but many people do not consider it real "D&D" without a Vancian magic system.

2) Whether to add my more complex combat rules to the current system or to leave the current system more or less alone?

What would you like the answers to these questions to be? Other comments on the idea are welcome as well.

Microlite74 3.0 Companions II and III In Draft

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In addition to slow work on Microlite74 Plus, I'm currently working on two new Companions for Microlite74. One is entitled Treasure and will be an adaption of the Treasure section of the Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery treasure section for standard Microlite74. The second is (tentatively) titled More Optional Rules and will be just what it says, more optional rules for Microlite74, including much of the material Librarylass has been posting on the Microlite74 Forum.

I hope to have these finished by Thanksgiving, but Christmas or New Year's is probably more realistic. Draft copies are available now to Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund Donors in the usual place with the usual password.

If you have any Microlite74 optional rules or nifty treasure items you would like considered for these M74 Companions, please let me know ASAP. Remember that these "products" will be entirely Open Game Content and that bu submitting material you are agreeing to it being published as such. The best place to submit material is on the Microlite74 Forum.

A FASERIP December For Me

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As many long time readers of this blog know, my Sunday campaign usually halts for a few weeks around Christmas and New Years. There's just too much stuff going on to get enough of the group together every Sunday. This year was going to be worse than usual as I was going to lose two players to the Christmas retail season (one is now a manager of a store and the other is going to be selling his wife's handmade Christmas ornaments at various craft shows) and one player to his Church's "Living Advent Calendar" for most of the holiday season. Our last week of play for the year was going to be the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

This morning, however, I was struck by a Marvelous idea. TSR's Advanced Marvel Superheroes came up in a thread on the Microlite74 Forum and lightning stuck my brain. I send out an email to my players suggesting that I run a series of Advanced Marvel Superhero games during the holiday season for whoever was available and showed up. Whoever was there just happened to be the only heroes available to take on whatever supervillain was trying to spoil the holiday season that weekend.

I've already received received from 4 of the 6 available players. Four "yes" replies, so it looks like it will be a FASERIP December for me. I'm somewhat excited I've been running nothing but fantasy games for the past few years. This is a chance to do something different that will not require a lot of setup time. I'm really looking forward to it.

Why Not Wait for D&D Next?

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Why not focus on D&D Next instead of Microlite74? I've been asked this question several times over the last couple of months. I have an answer that satisfies me, although it does not seem to satisfy those who have asked the question.

I was initially somewhat hopeful about D&D Next, despite the name. It looked like they wanted to return to a simple set of core rules that would like a lot like a slightly updated form of TSR D&D. They'd then have optional rules for people who like 3.x style character creation, for people who like the very gamist combat of 4e, for people who liked shared narrative control, for people who hate vancian magic, etc. This seemed to be something I could live with and play.

Unfortunately, it became clear from the very first playtest document, that D&D Next was not going to be much like what I thought WOTC was talking about at the start of the process. All sorts of new things are being added at the core level from new (and not very generic) classes, to a new healing system that seems very similar to the healing surges of 4e. Instead of starting with a clean and simple set of core rules and building on that with options, the D&D Next designers seem to be trying to create another very different version of D&D -- just as WOTC has a history of doing with D&D. The newer playtest rules make it very plain that D&D Next is unlikely to ever become my "go to" version of D&D.

Rather than waste my time hoping that D&D Next will suddenly change course toward what I had hoped it would be, I am continuing to work on my personal version with rules somewhere between those of 0e and 1e with my house rules and some material from BECMI tied together with the best of the basic D20 system (like ascending AC). Why should I put Microlite74 on hold until D&D Next comes out "just in case D&D Next is so good that M74 is not needed any more"?

The goal of making one edition of D&D that can satisfy the majority of those those currently playing any edition of D&D has always been a pipe dream, IMHO. People want too many different things from D&D -- many of them are nearly complete opposites of what others want. (See my post A New Edition of D&D Designed to Unite D&D Players -- Can It Be Done? from last year for some examples.) I don't see any reason to put my game on hold just in case WOTC manages to pull off a miracle and turn that pipe dream in reality, especially when the early versions of the playtest rules show they seem to be heading off elsewhere. I'm sorry, but no apologies for those think I should.

Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Edition Now Available For Free Download

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Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery is now available. This version of Microlite74 is designed for Swords & Sorcery settings. If the fantasy stories of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, Clark Ashton Smith, C.L. Moore, Karl Edward Wagner, and David Gemell are more to your taste that those of Tolkein or Eddings, this version of Microlite74 may be just what you are looking for. Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery is based on Microlite74 Extended 3.0 but with many special rules designed for Swords & Sorcery style campaigns. For example, there are only two classes (Adventurer and Sorcerer) and 6 levels, magic is limited and casting certain spells can corrupt the caster, and many 0e style magic items are relics of dead civilizations from long ago. Humans are assumed to dominate the world and most enemies are other humans and animals. True monsters certainly exist but they are assumed to be rare. This is the first version of Microlite74 to provide detailed information on treasure.

I'd like to thank the following Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donors for "sponsoring" this game with their donations: Joseph Bloch, Jeffrey Bowes, Chris Brandon, Christoph Camomile, David Cook, Daniel Corwin, Martin Costa, Andrew Cowie, Samuel Curry, Nicolas Delzenne, Sebastian Dietz, David Finch, Cain Gillespie, Alan Graham, Bruce Harlick, Steve Hyatt, John Lile, Fabrizio Luzzatti, Frank Mentzer, Ronaldo Nascimento, Ronald Pehr, Daniel Proctor, C J de Putron, Victor Raymond, Dan Schmidt, Titan Games and Comics Online,Adam Toulmin, Hector Varela-Rios, Austin Warnstrom, Christopher Weller, The Write Stuff, Terry Zimmerman, and several additional donors who wished to remain anonymous. Donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund help pay the huge cancer bills we ran up treating my wife’s Stage 3 Oral Cancer without
insurance.

Like all Microlite74 games, Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery is free. You can download a copy from Mediafire and print copies for you and your friends. The PDF file is about 1.46 megs. It's 38 pages and includes public domain art.

Download Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery from Mediafire.

Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Final Release is Next Week

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The "final" version Microlite74 Swords and Sorcery will be released early next week, assuming real life doesn't throw me any unexpected curve balls. I only have a few hours of layout and formatting left to do.

To be honest, I could have released late last week or early this week, but I've had trouble contacting two of the three cancer fund donors who wanted ads in M74S&S. One bounces about 90% of my email attempts back to me and the other may be receiving my emails (as I get no bounces), but I'm not getting any replies. I've decided I've tried my best and am going to go ahead an publish early next week. These donors can have ads in future M74 publications (if i don't get an ad from them before I finish layout for Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery). Microlite74 Companion II will be coming out in November or December with more optional stuff, include the material Lightlass has been posting to the Microlite74 Forum, so there will be another publication very soon for these ads if I can ever get in touch with the donors who wanted them.

I will also start working on Microlite74 Plus in earnest as soon as I finish layout for Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery. Hopefully, I will be able to a very early (and very incomplete) beta of Microlite74 Plus available in November. I'd like to have the spell and monster descriptions more or less complete for the "beta 1" version so that even in beta form it will be useful to Microlite74 players.

BTW, if you are one of the donors who wanted an ad, please contact me NOW. Please give me an evening/weekend phone number when you do and I'll call you if needed. Apologies and thanks!