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Worlds Apart -- Fantasy Version of Traveller on the High Seas

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A lot of Traveller players who enjoy fantasy RPGs have wondered what a "Fantasy Traveller" would look like: A fantasy RPG using Traveller-like rules where fantasy characters could trade and adventure across the seas of a fantasy world. Expeditious Retreat Press has released such a game, Worlds Apart. Based on the Mongoose Traveller SRD, this game allows adventures to "brave the Forever Sea in a fantasy game of trade and exploration. Take the role of soldier or sailor, entertainer or scholar, dweomercraefter or drifter. A thousand thousand islands populate the world and riches, adventure, and danger lurks upon every shore!"

The rules are entirely open game content and are available in PDF from RPGNow.com in two versions. A free version (without art) free version (without art) here and a version with art for $12 available here.

I have just downloaded the free version of the rules, so I've only had a chance to quickly glance through them. From this quick glance they look to be nicely done. The only strange (to me) thing I saw is that the ships (called "Voyagers") have a "jump drive" that can only be engaged when the ship is out of sight of land. The islands and island groups are apparently so far apart that normal ships cannot sail between them -- only the elemental-powered Voyager ships can. Islands are created on Traveller-style subsector charts.

Expeditious Retreat already has details of several islands from the Lyart Subsector (the sample in the rule book) available at the fairly reasonable price of $2 for each 4 page PDF:

* Awmrie - Lyart Subsector - 0709
* Deave - Lyart Subsector - 0602
* Gryce - Lyart Subsector - 1008

Worlds Apart looks like it could be a lot of fun. If my opinion of it holds up after a full reading of the rules, you can expect to see more on this game on this blog.


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1144 dollars have been donated. That's 45% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

Fourth Printing White Box D&D Added to Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive Giveaway Items

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I have some more early D&D items for the Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive. I received an email a few days ago offering some nice items for donors.

I would like to help your holiday cancer fund drive. I can't donate much money, but I can donate my old white box D&D for one of your donors. It has the three D&D books, Chainmail, Greyhawk, Eldritch Wizardry, Arduin Grimoire, Boot Hill, Warriors of Mars, and Swords & Spells.

After some back and forth discussion, here's what he has:

* White Box OD&D, 4th Printing, includes loose table sheets
* Chainmail 3rd Edition, 2nd Printing (early, stapled binding)
* Greyhawk, 3rd (or later?) printing
* Eldritch Wizardry, First Printing
* Swords and Spells, 4th printing
* Arduin Grimoire, early printing (has TSR stuff marked out so it was printed before TSR's cease & desist order)
* Boot Hill, 1st Printing?
* Warriors of Mars, 1st printing

(Printings identified with the help of The Acaeum's descriptions)

Todd says that all the booklets are in very good shape, except for the Arduin Grimoire which has a couple of pages loose in the center. The box is in so-so shape ("It's not falling apart...yet.") While from Todd's descriptions, none of these items are going to appeal to collectors, they sound like nice copies of some fairly rare TSR/D&D material for play use. Todd wants me to take the three highest donors and have them guess a number between 1 and 100 and he'll mail these items to the donor who comes closest to the number he has selected. Sounds like a deal to me. Most donations so far have been low amounts (the highest so far is only $100), so it looks like it will be possible to have a chance at Todd's OD&D collection without breaking the bank. There is a catch, however, Todd will only give this collection away if we raise at least $2000 of our $2500 goal.

Yes, I know that Boot Hill and Warriors of Mars aren't really D&D supplements, but they are old TSR products and creatures from Warriors of Mars are actually listed in the encounter tables in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. I'd like to thank Todd for this offer as well as everyone who has donated or will donate to this fund drive.


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1126 dollars have been donated. That's 45% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

You'd Better Watch Out: Santa Claus in My Campaigns 1976-2012

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Santa illoI was running a fairly large college game of D&D in 1976. December comes around and we get one last session in before finals and everyone heading home for the holidays. As the party returned from the dungeon, they noticed a lot of strange activity in town. People were excited. Shops were closing early. Even the taverns were shutting down, something that did not even happen on holidays. The group's first thought was that the town was shutting down to prepare for some type of bandit or goblin attack, but when they dragged their banged up selves to the local militia grounds to offer their services, even it was closed down. They finally just asked some random person on the street (not that there were many of them) what was going on. They were told that the town seer had said that Santa Claus was coming tonight. The characters were confused. The players, however, just looked at me with jaded and dubious glares. Not trusting me a bit, they set watches -- something they only did in town if they had a lot of treasure or otherwise suspected they might be targeted by bandits or they like.

There were no encounters that night, yet the characters discovered the next morning that various items had mysteriously appeared in their socks or their boots. Useful items like Potions of Extra-Healing, a treasure map, and strangest of all, a magic short sword. And not just any magic short sword but the heirloom sword of one of the characters that they had seen turned to melted slag in a fireball a couple of months before. They quickly discovered that everyone in town had received something in the same mysterious manner, things like food, or just enough money to pay the rent, or in one case a potion that cured the horrible wasting disease that was killing the person it was given to. No one save the PCs seemed to find these gifts unusual, but were thanking their gods for the visit from Santa Claus.

This started a tradition that has continued every (real world) year since: Santa Claus pays a visit to my campaign setting on the last game session we have before Christmas. It doesn't matter if it has been many years or only a few months of campaign time since the last visit of Santa. There is no regular holiday associated with Santa's visit in my campaign worlds as there is in the real world. Only seers can tell when Santa will next appear and only shortly before he does.

No one has ever found out who Santa is or why he does what he does -- even the gods seem to know no more about Santa than their followers do, or if they do know more, they aren't telling. However, over the years, an assortment of facts and legends about Santa have been discovered. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

* Santa brings everyone something that they can use (although not necessarily something they want). It does not seem to matter if one is paladin good, merely good, bad, or evil with a capital "E".

* Crossing Santa is supposedly very bad. There are legends of what happened to people who did. For example, according to one common legend, an evil ruler sent out his city guard to collect every present Santa had given to the citizens of the city. The next time Santa came, the evil ruler was found the following morning quite dead -- impaled on one of his castle's turrets -- and every guardsman who had participated in the confiscation of presents from Santa woke up with no hands. No one knows if any of these legends are true or if they are true that Santa was even responsible.

* Some of Santa's gifts are weird. For example, in the current campaign Santa restocked the food and water supplies for city under long siege -- and even restored the city's walls to perfect pre-siege conditions, but gifted the army encamped around them with better siege weapons.

* Even the gods apparently get visits from Santa. Most gods seem to fear him, perhaps because he seems at least as powerful as they are.

* As far as sages can tell, Santa visits every being in every world (including those parallel prime material planes and on other planes) on the same night. Some believe the visits all occur at the same instant in time.

* Some believe Santa is the most powerful of the Gods. Some believe that there is no Santa, but that Santa is just the gods acting in unison to be very mysterious. Others believe that Santa was once an unimaginably evil being who was cursed to aid others as punishment. Etc.

* Santa is worshiped as a god in some places. Such religions supposedly seldom last long, perhaps because they offend Santa.

* No one ever sees Santa. However, legends record various people and beings who supposedly have seen and even interacted with Santa during his visits.

This year, Santa arrived in my Wilderlands campaign the Sunday before Thanksgiving -- our last M74 Wilderness Campaign session for the year. The characters received a number of useful presents, the most interesting one was a map that supposedly leads to a character's father -- who has been long thought dead. The map shows him in a keep of a powerful -- and very evil -- wizard on an island far across the sea. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the players decide to have their characters do with this map.

Santa Claus has been an interesting (and often useful) addition to my campaigns. The sad thing is I doubt this tradition would have gotten started if I had not started playing when I did -- a time when gonzo stuff that did not make much campaign sense was much more welcome in games than it seems to be now. Even gonzo stuff that broke the line between the game world and the real world was often welcome. While the lack of such gonzo stuff probably makes for a more believable campaign world, I sometimes think we are missing out on a lot of fun by ruling it out almost automatically.


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1059 dollars have been donated. That's 41% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

AD&D Coloring Book Added to Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation Drive

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While unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations Thanksgiving weekend, I discover a small box of gaming materials I hadn't seen since my move to Waco in 2004. The main find was my three notebooks full of hand printed rules and campaign notes for my Empire of Arn game circa 1981-1985 -- probably close to 500 or 600 pages of material. Much of it probably worthless now, even to me. However, I have to go through it all and see what might still be useful, or at least interesting, today.

I also found a few set of old rules, modules, and very nice copy of the The Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Coloring Book. It was written by Gary Gygax, illustrated by underground comic artist Greg Irons, and published by Troubador Press in 1979. It was a coloring book and a playable introduction to AD&D. If you've never seen it, the Monster Brains blog has a complete set of scanned pages (reduced in size as The Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Coloring Book was a large oversized book) in this post. My copy is at least as nice as the one show in this post. The cover is in much better condition, for example.

I'm adding this item to the items I'm giving away as part of the Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive. Donate for a chance at receiving this or the other items being giving away. You'll find more information and a list of the other items I'm giving away in this post: CT Scan Results, Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive, and AD&D Giveaway. Remember that the amount donated in this drive (up to $2500) will be matched by every dollar you donate (after PayPal fees) does double towards paying our bills.


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1036 dollars have been donated. That's 41% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

What Makes You Thankful RPG-Wise?

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It's Thanksgiving Day in the US. Amidst all the cooking, eating, seeing family, eating, watching parades, eating, watching football, and eating, most of us usually manage to find time to be thankful for all the things we have in life. Tabletop RPGs have been a big part of my life since the mid-1970s. Looking back, I'm most thankful for all the friends I've made playing RPGs and the good times we've enjoyed playing them together. I'm also thankful for Gary, Dave, and all the others who created D&D and started this hobby -- and have kept it going all these years. Finally, I'm thankful for all the free RPGs that have been developed and made available over the years.

What makes you thankful RPG-wise?

(And to my fellow American readers, Happy Thanksgiving!)


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1013 dollars have been donated. That's 40% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

New Player Try-Outs Unfair? -- Part Two

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I had planned to write about Santa Claus in my campaigns over the years today, but I have to continue the saga of new player try-outs, first mentioned in this post last week. If you've read this post, you may remember that my campaign is losing a player which opens a slot for a new player. However, the first person with a chance at the shot threw a hissy fit over the fact that new players in my game have a try-out period so we can all be sure the potential new player is a good fit for our playstyle and personalities -- and did so in spite of being told of this policy ages ago when he asked to be put on our "wait list" of people wanting a chance to play should a player spot open up. As the original post said, we ended up removing him from consideration and moving on the the next person on the wait list, who did not feel that try-out periods are inherently unfair. I thought this would be the end of it.

Sunday afternoon, I discovered I was wrong. As players arrived they all told me that they had received emails from this "try-outs are unfair" person both Saturday evening and Sunday morning -- dissing the game and telling them to leave their horrible GM and come and play in the new game he would run for them Sunday afternoons. While this was a clear case of sour grapes, everyone was amused to see that as he could not handle more than five players in a session, if more than five players wanted to play, he would interview players and select based on how interesting their character was and how well they knew the rules. This sure sounded like a type of "try-out" to all of us. About an hour into the game, this guy called and accused me of "mind-controlling" the players in my game because they did not choose to leave my game and play in his. I just hung up and added his number to the block list on my phone.

This is the weirdest problem player experience I've had in many years.


The Holiday Cancer Fund Drive is on (through December 10 17, 2012). Every dollar donated gives you one chance to win a one of five AD&D items described in the above-linked post. The three highest donors also have a chance at a 4th Printing White Box OD&D set (as described here). 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. Here's the best news, every dollar donated (to $2500 $3000) which be matched by a local family foundation. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $1013 dollars have been donated. That's 40% of our goal of $2500. Please donate now if you can.

CT Scan Results, Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive, and AD&D Giveaway

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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my wife was scheduled for her annual CT Scan in early November. The results are back and are excellent. At about 4.5 years after surgery to remove over one-third of her tongue and six weeks of radiation treatments for oral cancer, her CT scan results were stable, that is no change. This is all you can ask for. Unfortunately, we are some of the 40 to 50 million people in the US who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for government aid as we live in Texas and have no children. The cancer treatments and related expenses have cost over $120,000 so far (with another $3500-4000 about to be added for the CT Scan and associated lab and doctor fees). While over 80% of this has been absorbed by hospital foundations or paid by previous fund drives, monthly payments by us, and the like, we still owe quite a bit.

We are lucky this year, a local family-run foundation has offered to match what we raise until December 10th 17th dollar for dollar up to $2500 $3000. The money raised will first be used to pay off the 2012 CT Scan expenses and then to pay down the huge bill we have for Donna's radiation treatments. Between money donated during the 3 day fund raiser for Karen's House (the 50% that went to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund), a few dollars donated already this money, and the almost $700 we had saved this year for a "down payment" on this year's CT scan, we have about $900.00 raised already. This means we need to raise about $1600.00 $2100.00 between now and December 10th 17th to reach the maximum amount they will double. If we can do this, we'll have paid for this year's CT Scan and about one-tenth of the remaining radiation treatment bill. So we are having a Holiday RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund drive.

Everyone who donates anything at all (even a dollar) to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund gets access to a few special downloads (like pdfs of two 1970s D&D fanzines, a special edition of Microlite74, and more) as described on the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund web page. All donors also have access to work-in-process versions of my current projects -- whatever they might be. Current projects available are draft versions of Microlite74 Companions II and III, Microlite74 Plus, and Gryphons & Grammerye (a version of S&W with my house rules circa 1977-1978).

Anyone donating $25 or more during this fund drive will be listed as a sponsor in the two upcoming Microlite75 Companions. Anyone donating $50 or more will also be listed as a sponsor in Gryphons & Gramarye.

We also have a few goodies to give away. Nothing super-valuable from a collector's point of view this time, but some nice stuff to actually use in play. First, a couple of AD&D books: one copy of Unearthed Arcana and one copy of Oriental Adventures for AD&D1e. As these were my spare copies, they were barely used, which means Unearthed Arcana's binding is intact and with care will remain that way. I bought multiple copies of each the day they came out: one to keep/read, one to use at the table, and a spare. Here's a picture of the copy of Unearthed Arcana:

AD&D 1e Unearthed Arcana

I also have nice copies of these early AD&D adventures to give away: C1 (Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, 1980), C2 (Ghost Tower of Inverness, 1980) and S2 (White Plume Mountain, 1979). These five items (and additional items added below) will be raffled off to donors, one chance per dollar donated. New Items added to the giveaway list during the drive: The Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Coloring Book, 4th printing White Box OD&D (and more -- follow link for info on this item).

Finally, the person who donates the largest amount will get an autographed copy of their choice of one of my Microlite74 publications -- in a special one of a kind printing that no one else will have a copy of -- not even me.

If you donated to the quick fund raiser we had for Karen's house at the end of October 2012 or donated already this month, your donation counts for both the sponsorships and the item give-aways.

If you would like to help but cannot make a donation, please help spread the word around the blogsphere (and other places). In fact, if you make a post to your blog talking about this fundraising drive and post a link to your post in a comment to this post, I'll give you one entry in the raffle. Note: Your blog will have to have some way for us to email you if you get lucky or will will not be able to get your prize to you. Unlike some of my characters, I can't read minds.

I'm occasionally asked if it is possible to donate without using PayPal. I can accept postal money orders (the kind you get from the post office) via snail mail if you don't want to use PayPal. You'll have to email me for the snail mail address.

To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Remember, the amount you donate (after PayPal fees and up to the maximum of $2500 $3000) will be DOUBLED so every dollar you donate does twice as much good. Thank you very much in advance.




Progress as of 18 Nov: $900 of the $2500 goal raised.

Are New Player Try-Outs Unfair?

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My Microlite74 Wilderlands campaign has unexpectedly lost a player. One of the original players who started this campaign has to be in Oklahoma City by December 10th. His wife got a fantastic job offer they can't turn down, even if it gave them three weeks to move. While we'll all miss him (and the occasional homemade pies from his wife), our campaign style (see Long Campaigns Don't Have To Be Boring!) means that losing a player -- even a long-term player -- will not disrupt the campaign.

I had four players on the wait list, but the player at the top of the list decided he did not want to play when he found out that I meant what I told him when I met him and put his name on the wait list -- getting to the top of the list means the new player get a 2 (sometimes 3) session try-out so I can be sure the new person if a good fit for the campaign and the other players can be sure the new player's personality doesn't rub them raw.

I've handled new players this way for many years with few complaints from potential players. (However, I have had several players get annoyed when they were not accepted.) The player at the top of this list this time has thrown a fit, claiming that such try-outs are unfair to players who have been on the wait list for many months. He feels that a player who has waited patiently for a spot deserves to be able to play, even if he is somewhat disruptive to the group. Some of his comments to our email list:

"The group should be able to adapt to any new player, especially one who has showed he really wants to play by sitting on the wait list for over a year."

"Try-outs are inherently unfair and something I associate with competitive sports not with D&D."

"I will not give up my spot. I've earned the right to play."

You've probably guessed that I told him that he hasn't "earned" anything and no one has an automatic right to move into my house for a few hours every Sunday. I've removed him from the wait list and from the group mailing list. The second person on the wait list is now up for a try-out and she doesn't seem to have any problems with it.

Personally, I think the first person was a jerk -- especially since he was told that we did "try-outs" when we first met and did not register any complaints then. BTW, when asked about this he said that he did not object because he knew if he did I would reject him out of hand. However, I'm interested in what this blog's readers think. Are trial periods for new players somehow unfair? Even if they are unfair, are they more unfair than a player who turns out not to fit well with a group being allowed to stay even though he's ruining the fun for others in group? How do (or would) you handle adding new players who are strangers to an ongoing group?

Save Karen's House -- The Results

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Real life has taken over the last half of the week. However, I did send money raised from our donation drive on to Karen Thursday morning. Karen says that thanks to our donations and some help from her family, they have the $1400 and their house should be safe. ("Should be" because large mortgage companies aren't known for sticking with what they say -- but things seem to be going as they are supposed to, without any unwelcome last minute surprises). We did not raise anywhere near $1400, but apparently everything together was enough to do the job and that's all that really matters. Thanks to everyone who donated or who spread the word of our Halloween drive for helping out.