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New Microlite74 Variant Coming Very Soon

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I was recently (like last Monday) offered a $100 donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund if I would piece together various rules from the different Microlite74 rules sets and companions (and customize them slightly) for a specific GM's campaign world. I did so. I'm now stripping out the specific "product identity" of the donor's campaign world so I can release this special version to the general public. I hope to have it done in a few days.

The campaign world is what makes this "special version" of Microlite74 different. Some important differences with standard rules:

* Two Classes (Adventurers and Clerics), max level is 12.
* Only two deities, the Lord of Light and the Lord of Darkness (think Zoroastrianism).
* True (Arcane) magic is rare. It can only be cast via long, complex, and expensive rituals.
* Clerics have prayers (aka their normal divine spells). Clerics of the Lord of Light can also turn undead and create herbal healing potions. Clerics of the Lord of Darkness can also command undead and animate dead.
* About 25% of intelligent beings are able to use an expanded form of Minor Magic called Sorcery. All player characters are assumed to be in this 25%. Sorcery includes casting minor magic "spells", arcane blast, and sorcerous dueling. It also can include alchemy and/or spirit binding, but these increase the experience base of a character if taken.
* Anyone can try to cast True (Arcane) Magic spells as long, complex, and expensive rituals. Those with Sorcery have a slightly better chance of success. Of course, first you have to find a copy of the ritual (magic spell) you want to cast. And spending a couple of hours to cast a fireball is only going to be useful in a limited set of circumstances.
* True magic items are rare and each must be designed by the GM if wanted. Most magic items are simply spirits bound to items.

Brown Box/Wee Warriors Drive Results, Part II

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The Brown Box/Wee Warriors Retroroleplaying Cancer Fund Drive ended on April 11th. We selected winners of the random drawings at my Sunday Game on April 14th. The first part of the results (posted last week), listed the high donor winners. This post lists the random drawing winners, or at least those who told me I could post their names and/or locations. All items have now been shipped. Again, I'd like to thank everyone who donated (and there were a lot of you) for your generous donations.

The "Guidon Games Chainmail (2nd Edition, goldenrod cover)" went to Fredrick J. of Aspen, Colorado. James B. from Michigan won the copy of "Wee Warriors Character Archaic (TSR distributed)" and a copy of the "TSR Monster & Treasure Assortment #1, #2, #3". Havard G. from Los Angeles drew the seven issues of "The Strategic Review". Sal W. of Altanta won the signed copy of the "Empire of the Petal Throne". Dawn S. of Boston won a Starbucks gift card. Alvin R. and Samuel C. won DrivethruRPG gift certificates. People who either requested to remain anonymous or who never gave permission to list their names drew the following items: "Wee Warriors The Endless Dungeon", "TSR Dungeon Geomorphs #1, #2, #3", "TSR Outdoor Geomorphs" and Steam, Amazon and DrivethruRPG gift certificates.

Lords & Wizards Playtest: Basic Changes to ACKS

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Here are some of the basic changes to the Adventurer Conqueror King System we are using at the start of the Lords & Wizards conversion -- the rules we'll be using this afternoon:

Race
Race and Class are separate. Humans are the standard. Others races add abilities which increase the XP total needed to advance for a standard class:

Dwarves: +200xp (2nd), +400XP (3rd), +600xp (4th) +800xp (5th)
Elves: +125xp (2nd), +250xp (3rd), +375xp (4th), +500xp (5th)
Halflings: +150xp (2nd), +300xp (3rd), +450xp (4th), +600Xp (5th)

Background
Characters may select, with the approval of the GM, a one or two-word background that represents a broad base of skills and knowledge, e.g. Farmer, Merchant, Desert Nomad, Noble, Shaman, Templar, Thyatian Mercenary, Ritualist, etc. Backgrounds need not be related to the PCs class, e.g. a player who creates a deeply religious fighter skilled in the arts of vision interpretation, divination and oration might pick 'Prophet' as a background. Backgrounds may not duplicate a class. The GM will consider the character's background just as he would the character's class when deciding if a character will succeed with an action. For example, a character with an “Engineer” background should have a much better chance of damming a creek or building a bridge over it than a character with a “Courtier” background.

Task Resolution
There are no specific skill to roll against in Lords & Wizards. Instead players are expected to think like adventurers, tell the GM what they are doing and the GM decides if it will succeed in the situation,
taking into account the character's class, background, and proficiencies. If the GM decides a random success chance is truly needed he may resolve the situation with a roll of his choice or he may call
for one of the following rolls:

Proficient Task Roll: 1d20 + Stat Bonus + Class Level if the character is attempting something directly covered by a Proficiency which the character possesses.

Skilled Task Roll: 1d20 + Stat Bonus + (Class Level/2, round up) if the character is attempting something strongly related to their class or background.

Unskilled Task Roll: 1d20 +Stat Bonus + (Class Level/4, round down) if the character is attempting something not really related to their class or background.

When the GM calls for a task resolution roll, he will declare the type of task roll, which stat the task roll falls under, and any situational modifiers and the player will make the task roll. (The GM should
make the roll in secret if seeing the result would give the player more information than his character should have.)

Roll higher than the GM assigned Difficulty Class to succeed.

Suggested Difficulty Classes:
Normal - 10, Hard - 20, Very Hard - 30, Legendary - 40, Nearly Impossible - 50.

Hit Points
If Hit Points reach 0, the character is unconscious and begins to take severe physical injury. Further damage, including any remaining points of damage the attack that reduced hit points to zero, directly reduces Body Points. Hit Points represent stamina, luck, minor cuts and scrapes, etc. Optional: To avoid confusion, “Hit Points” may be renamed “Fatigue Points.”

Recovering Hit Points: All characters recover all hit points after six hours of total rest. If a character has lost Body Points due to wounds, only 50% of total hit points lost are recovered per six hours of rest.

Body Points
All characters have 10 Body Points. If Body Points reach 0, the character is dead. Each point of body damage a character has suffered gives a -1 to all attack, success, saving, and similar rolls.

Healing Body Point Damage: Body points lost recover at a rate of 1 point per 4 full days of rest (adjusted by CON bonus: decreased by 1 day per point of positive bonus, increased by 1 day per point of negative bonus; minimum of 1 day). If a character with up to 5 points of BP damage performs more than very light activity or careful travel during a day, he has a 50% chance of losing an additional body point. If a character with 6 or more points of BP damage does anything other than rest quietly in bed during a day, he has a 50% chance of losing an additional body point.

Casting Spells
Casting a spell costs one HP. A caster may attempt to cast a spell without spending a hit point, but must roll over twice the spell's level on a D20 or the spell fails and is lost from the caster's repertoire until he has a chance to re-add it to his repertoire (arcane caster) or performs a minor penitence set by a higher level cleric of his deity (divine caster).

Extra Effort
Characters my spend hit points before they roll a die, each hit point spend adds +1 to the die roll. A character can spend no more than 50% of their level (rounded up) in extra effort on any single task.

Note that we are trying a different method of handling proficiencies from the one I thought of a few days ago. While this new method will requiring rewriting a number of proficiency descriptions, it will (if it works in actual play) play well wityh my Background system -- which all my players would to see retained.

ACKS, Lords & Wizards, and the Problem of Proficiencies

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ACK CoverMany readers know that I loathe feats as used in WOTC D&D because far too many of them take things that anyone should be able to try to do and limit trying to do it to those characters who have a particular feat written on their character sheet. This generally leads to one of two situations, either the GM still allows characters without the feat to try to perform the action (often upsetting players whose characters who took the feat) or the GM refuses to allow anyone to perform the action unless they have the feat on their character sheet (no matter how unbelievable this restriction is). In a game with hundreds or thousands of feats (like WOTC editions of D&D), such issues can become a real problem. This is especially if you are playing "old school style" where characters need to solve in game problems creatively as many of the things they will want to try will likely be limited to someone who has taken one of those hundreds or thousands of feats.

One solution, of course, is to limit feats to only providing a bonus for actions that anyone should be able to try. Only actions that absolutely require training (or special genes) to even attempt with a measurable chance of success could be turned into a "special snowflake" (i.e. only because you have this feat you can attempt to do X) feat. Unfortunately, game designers tend not to design feat this way because there is a sizable and vocal group of gamers who believe that only "special snowflake" style feats are interesting and worthwhile to take, so many games that use an ever expanding list of feats end up limiting more and more actions that any character should be able to try to do with some chance of success to only those characters who have taken the appropriate feat.

I'm currently working on adapting the ACKS rules to be the underlying system for Lords & Wizards. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that while most of ACKS current Proficiencies do not block out tasks than anyone should be able to do and limit them to those with the proficiency, there are some ACKS Proficiencies which do and those will not work in Lords & Wizards.

Here are three examples of a ACKS Proficiencies that seem to effectively limit character actions to those characters with the Proficiency:

Bribery: The character is exceptionally skilled at bribing officials with gifts of money or merchandise. Offering a bribe permits an additional reaction roll during encounters, with the throw modified by the size of the bribe. As a general rule, a bribe equal to one day’s pay for the target provides a +1 bonus, a week’s pay provides a +2 bonus, and a month’s pay provides a +3 bonus. Only one bribe can be attempted per target in any given situation.

Sensing Power: The character can detect spellcasters within 60’ and estimate their level of power relative to his own. He can tell when arcane magic has been used within the last 24 hours within the same vicinity. Each use takes a turn.

Trapping (G): The character can build simple pits, snares, and deadfalls capable of capturing creatures up to the size of an elephant (such as giants, ogres, wyverns, etc). With a proficiency throw of 11+ the snare is built properly. The character can also detect and disable simple wilderness pits, snares, deadfalls, etc., as a thief of his class level. This proficiency provides no abilities with regard to mechanical traps in a dungeon, or magical traps of any sort.

Bribery is a real problem as anyone should be able to attempt to bribe someone. The proficiency description seems to recognize this at the start by saying it represents a character who is "exceptionally skilled" at bribing. The problem is is suggests bonus to the reaction roll for bribes that are so low that there really isn't any room for bonuses for characters without the proficiency attempting to bribe. The bonuses given are about what I would normally give for anyone making a bribery attempt. Given the way reaction rolls work, however, any higher bonuses would not make sense and might even break the system. As written bribery tries to allow for the fact that anyone can try to bribe, but actually fails to leave any real room for characters without the proficiency to try to bribe with any realistic effect.

The Sensing Power proficiency isn't a problem. While it provides actions that only those with the proficiency can perform, they are actions that someone without special abilities and/or special training would simply not be able to do. This ACKS Proficiency is fine as written.

The Trapping proficiency is another real problem. IMHO, anyone can try to build simple pit, snare, and deadfall traps with a reasonable chance of success. With training their attempts might function better and be harder to spot, but trying to limit digging a hole in the ground and covering it to only those with training is not very believable.

Given that I do not want any proficiency in Lords & Wizards to block out actions than any character should be able to try to do, I need to come up with a method to handle ACKS proficiencies like Bribery and Trapping without nerfing the proficiency for characters who have it; without preventing characters who do not have the proficiency from attempting to bribe someone, build a trap or perform some other action covered by an "everyman can try" proficiency; and with requiring much extra effort on the part of players or the GM.

My first thought was to simply treat the proficiencies a character has like his character class or background in my normal background and skills system. Unfortunately, I saw a number of issues with this. For example, it does not really give a character with the Trapping proficiency any bonus if the character has a background (like Woodsman) that includes the abilities of proficiency.

My second thought was to give any character attempting to perform an "everyone can try it" action that is covered by a proficiency but without having the proficiency a -5 modifier to any roll needed to determine success or failure. This would work. However, it would be a pain in the ass to GM. Any time a character wanted to try to perform an unusual action, the GM would have to look through a list of proficiencies to determine whether the action the player wants his character to perform is covered by an "everyone can try" proficiency. At the moment, this would be a short list which the GM could easily memorize, but chances are the number of "everyone can try" proficiencies available will grow with time.

The best way to handle this would be to come up with a method that only comes into play when someone with an "everyman can try" proficiency uses it. A +5 bonus to the die roll for characters with the proficiency could work (the opposite of my first method), but given that the success determination procedure differs somewhat from proficiency to proficiency, the bonus would probably vary with the proficiency. The bonus would need to be added to the proficiency description and the players and GM would need to remember to use it. This would work, but it would be nice to come up with some easy system that worked the same way for every "everyman can try" proficiency as it would avoid the need to rewrite proficiency descriptions and add non-standard modifiers than need to be remembered or looked up.

After some thought I came up with what I think is an easy system. If a player with an "everyman can try" proficiency uses that proficiency to perform an action, he gets two rolls (whatever the proficiency description says) and the most favorable result is the one that counts. This will need playtesting, of course. If it works it would be allow the rolls and modifiers in the proficiency description to be used by both characters with and without the proficiency when attempting to do things covered by the proficiency. For example, a character attempting to bribe a guard with a day's pay would get a +1 to the reaction roll -- but if the character had the Bribery proficiency (and remembers to tell the GM that he does), the GM would roll the reaction roll twice and the better for the character result would be the one that counts.

We'll be playtesting this "roll twice of you have the proficiency" method of handling "everyman can try" proficiencies over the next couple of sessions and see how it works in actual play.

Brown Box/Wee Warriors Drive Results, Part I

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The Brown Box/Wee Warriors Retroroleplaying Cancer Fund Drive ended last Thursday. We selected winners of the random drawings at my Sunday Game yesterday. Those will be published once every is contacted (some people wish to remain anonymous, so I don't release names until I'm contacted the winning donors). However, the high donor ideas have been awarded and were mailed out this morning. I'd like to thank everyone who donated (and there were a lot of you) for your generous donations.

George J. of "somewhere in rural Montana" was the high donor. He selected:

  • TSR OD&D Brown Box, 3rd printing OD&D Brown Box 3rd printing (plus the 4 supplements each a 1st printings: Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes)
  • Guidon Games Chainmail 1st printing signed by Gygax and Perrin, good condition (donated by John C.)
  • Wee Warriors Misty Isles.
I asked George how much gaming he gets to do in rural Montana. He says that play by post games and Fantasy Grounds are long-time friends, so he actually gets a lot of gaming -- just very little face-to-face.

Manual G of Southern California was the second highest donor. He selected:
  • Wee Warriors Palace of the Vampire Queen (TSR distributed)
  • Wee Warriors The Dwarven Glory (TSR distributed)
He also won a one of our surprise items in the drawings: A $10 Starbucks Gift Card.

There was a tie for third highest donor. A donor who wishes to remain anonymous ended up with the prize and selected:
  • TSR The Strategic Preview #3-6
I hope to contact the drawing winners over the next couple of days. With luck, I have replies from all of them by the end of the week and can do a Brown Box/Wee Warriors Drive Results, Part II post.

BTW, we reached the first bonus goal but fell short of the second. Therefore no one got the autographed adventures.

Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive Ends Tonight

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Today is the last day of the The Brown Box/Wee Warriors donation drive. It ends tonight (actually at 7am CDT April 12 -- when I check for email that arrived overnight). We reached the first trigger point for bonus items yesterday, so the Guidon Games Chainmail 1st printing signed by Gygax and Perrin, good condition and the TSR Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set signed by Barker, excellent condition will be given away (both donated by John C.). As of this writing, we are about 74% of the way to the second target which will trigger adding two additional autographed bonus items to the giveaway (To The Aid of Falx (1981 Tournament printing) signed by Frank Mentzer, good condition and Daystar West Pharaoh (1980) signed by Laura and Tracy Hickman, good condition -- both donated by John C.). these are in addition to a Brown Box D&D set and the wee Warriors items. The first link below gives full info on what lucky donors can end up with in our giveaway.


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 10 April 2013, $735 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. The goal for the first set of bonus items has been reached and we are 74% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Less than 24 hours are left in this donation drive (ends April 12th at 7am CDT).

D&D Combat Length Poll: How Long Should the Average Combat Take to Play

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My post, WOTC Discovers Typical D&D Players Like Short Combats, a few days ago generated a lot of discussion both here and on Google+. I thought it might be interesting to see how long readers think the average combat in a D&D session should last. Note that I'm talking an average combat encounter in a dungeon room or wilderness area. I'm not asking how long a so-called "boss encounter" (a major combat with big villain the at the end of a series of adventures) should last. If you use minis and grids, please include the minis and grids setup time in the length you select. Make your opinion known by voting in the following poll. Please comment on why you believe the length you selected is optimal if you are so moved.

How long should the average D&D combat last?



[You may need to reload the page to actually see you vote in the graph.)


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 9 April 2013, $425 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 85% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 43% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Only TWO days left in this donation drive (ends April 11th).




Lords & Wizards Design Plans: Take Two

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After a week of discussion with my Sunday group, I've refined my plans/goals for Lords & Wizards (first listed here). The most general description of the game has not changed> Lords & Wizards will be a modern recreation of that "strange combination of 0e and 1e I used in the late 1970s with some of the ideas from B/X and some of the more interesting ideas from Microlite74 tossed in." My Sunday group has a lot of say with respect to what they'll like to see in this game because they are the ones who have been pushing me to actually do something like this.

The original plan was to take Swords & Wizardry White Box and build the game up a step at a time from where I started in 1975 to where I ended up circa 1981-1982. I started with Brown Box OD&D and just added what I really liked from the OD&D supplements, Holmes Basic, the AD&D books as they were published, B/X as it was published, Arduin, Dragon Magazine articles, White Dwarf articles, C&S, Empire of the Petal Throne, material from Judges Guild, my own ideas for house rules, etc.

The new plan is to trying doing this using the Adventurer Conquerer King System instead of Swords & Wizardry as the underlying core of the game. We'll start with just four classes (Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief) and add stuff from there, but we'll have the underlying economic and campaigning system from ACKS to draw on. Unlike ACKS, races and classes will be separate, but GMs will have the option to create racial classes if they wish to use them.

  • Standard races will be provided as will optional popular races from later editions. Guidelines for playing monsters as characters will also be provided.
  • Class levels range from 1 to 14 (like B/X). There will be two optional possibilities beyond this: epic advancement (gaining proficiencies, special epic abilities, etc.) and attempting to become an immortal.
  • An ACKS-like economic system will be assumed in the guidelines, but GMs will be free to ignore it if stuff like trade and figuring what is and is not available in towns is more work than it seems worth to them.
  • Arcane spells up to 6th level can be memorized and cast. Divine spells up to 5th level can be memorized and cast. Higher level spells can only be cast as rituals.
  • Spell lists will be mainly from 1e.
  • There will be lots of monsters provided (at least those of core 1e).
  • The world will have no magic, low magic, normal magic, high magic, and very high magic areas with the magic level of an area affect how spells and other magic work. GMs can easily ignore this by making the entire world "normal magic" (which just uses the standard rules).
  • Psionics will be included in the rules, but will be optional.
  • Mutations (think Mutant Future) will be included but are optional. They can be caused by magical radiation (left over from ancient wizard wars) and by being born in a very high magic area. Or those who want to run science fantasy games can have mutations caused by actual radiation. Even if one does not want to use mutations for characters, having lists of mutations and their effects provides a way to quickly create new monsters the players will not be familiar with.
  • My Body Point/Hit Point system will be used. This will be an "earlier" version than the one used in Microlite74 which works with the full number of spells early edition characters can memorize.
  • My Background system will be used as will ACKS proficiencies provided I can make them work together.
  • Science Fantasy play will be supported, but optional. While mixing science fiction and fantasy in campaigns is somewhat uncommon now, it was relatively common in the 1970s.
  • Adventures in other planes will be possible.
As mentioned before Lords & Wizards will be a major project. I don't expect to have it ready for prime time for 8 to 12 months. Donors to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund will have work in progress access and a beta version will be released to general comment at some point (when it's ready). Progress updates will continue to appear here, of course. Next week, my Sunday group will create their first Lords & Wizards characters. We'll start playing with some slightly modified ACKS rules and develop things from there as we go along.
cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!
As of 8 April 2013, $415 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 83% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 41% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Only THREE days left in this donation drive (ends April 11th).

New Random Wizard TSR Interview: David Cook

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Random Wizard has done another great interview with a former TSR employee, David "Zeb" Cook this time. The topics include Basic/Expert D&D, X1 Isle of Dread, Tom Moldvay, Conan RPG, Indiana Jones RPG, player feedback surveys during the design of 2e, Ruins of Adventure, SSI, and more computer games.

David Cook Interview


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 8 April 2013, $415 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 83% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 41% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Only FOUR days left in this donation drive (ends April 11th).

Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive Extended to April 11

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The Brown Box/Wee warriors donation drive has been extended through Thursday, April 11th. Unfortunately, it turned none of my Sunday Game players were available during the week to help with/supervise determining who gets donor giveaway items. If I was going to have to wait until next Sunday to draw the lucky giveawy item winners, I figured I might as well extend the drive a few days. If you are wondering why I don't extend it to Saturday if the drawings will be Sunday, it's because I need a couple of days to carefully go through the donations a couple of times and make sure everyone who donated gets the right number of chances at the giveaway items.


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 7 April 2013, $290 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 58% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 29% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Only FOUR days left in this donation drive.

Lords & Wizards and Adventurer Conqueror King?

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ACK CoverI have two players in my Sunday game who really like some of the ideas in the Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) from Autarch. They have been trying to talk me into using more ideas and material from it in Lords & Wizards than just the domain and campaigning material I have been playing to use. They would like to see me start with ACKS and use it to rebuilt the 0e/1e mix I often ran in the 1977-1982 era.

I'll be honest, there are a number of things I like about ACKS. Like B/X, it only goes to level 14 which means it bypasses many of the high level play problems of 0e and 1e. It provides a relatively easy way to create a campaign world than hangs together economically (even with the piles of treasure adventurers add to the economy) while allowing PCs to engage in trade if they wish which was always a lot of fun in Traveller. Campaigning and domains are built in to the system. It is easy to create classes and spells that fit the system with the rules in the ACKS Player's Companion.

However, there are also things I do not like about ACKS.

The proficiency system has the "feat problem" of sometimes limiting what anyone should be able to try to do to those who took the proficiency (e.g. the Trapping proficiency). One can remove the proficiency system completely, but doing so makes the game less ACKS and more B/X. However, trying to fit proficiencies on top of by Class/Background task resolution system would probably be awkward.

The spell building rules are nice for player created spells, but they do not work as well for standard spells which often have powerful spells like Sleep at a lower level than their point cost under the build system would place them. The ACKS build system does admit this and assumes that such spells are at lower levels than they should be because the people who created them long ago made breakthroughs when they were researching them. The main problem I would have with this, however, is using 1e spells. I'm really not interested in trying to figure the point costs for each and every one of them and possibly changing the levels of some from what 1e used. However, if I don't do this, I suspect there would be loud complaints from some quarters.

I do not like the way ACKS handles "below zero" HP. Replacing this with my HP/Body Point system would not be hard, however.

While I love the idea of racial classes, especially the multiple classes that ACKS allows, in practice it is a pain in the ass to have to create two or three classes for each race for each campaign setting. For example, none of the non-human classes in ACKS would really fit the elves or dwarves in my Arn setting or my Hidden Valley setting. They might work for my Wilderlands campaign, provided no one minded that they were not quite how I have portrayed either race in the campaign so far. In practice I find that a separate races and classes are far less work for the GM. If I base Lords & Wizards on ACKS, the racial classes would disappear. However, races might have special racial proficiencies they could take than other races could not, however.

I'm not sure I like the ACKS attack throw and AC systems. They are no different from the standard TSR to-hit system or the modern Ascending AC system in effect, but they seem less compatible than either of the other two standard systems with TSR and OSR adventures.

In the end, I'm torn. I really like the idea of using ACKS to build Lords & Wizards on, but I'm not sure how well it would work out in practice. I'm sure the resulting game would work fine in play, but I'm afraid that many people would be expecting it to be more ACKS-like than it would end likely up being: in the end Lords & Wizards would not look or play much like ACKS (nor will like look or play much like S&W or Labyrinth Lord which are the other options for "starting rules"). I haven't made any final decision one way or another yet. I'm carefully re-reading the ACKS core rules and Player's Companion with an eye to seeing what could and could not be easily changed.


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 5 April 2013, $225 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 45% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 23% of that needed for the second group of bonus items. Only FOUR days left in this donation drive.

WOTC Discovers Typical D&D Players Like Short Combats

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Amazing Stories has an interview with Mike Mearls talking about D&D Next. From one of Mike's comments it seems that WOTC has finally learned what many players have know for years: Most players like fast combats. In the interview, Mike says:

What we found through the playtest process, though, was that people like quick fights. They like them a lot, it turns out. A battle is part of the game, a point of resolution in the grander scheme of things, not the entire point of the game. That kind of philosophical revelation has been really big for us in working on the game. We might’ve ended up spending weeks adding detail to the combat system, never realizing that the typical D&D player simply wasn’t interested in that level of detail.

I'm not sure how the designers of 3.x and 4e ever came to the conclusion that most D&D players want combats that take 45 minutes or more. That was always one of the features of TSR D&D, combats were abstract and fast (unless playing with optional rules like those in the 2e Player's Option books). Short combats mean that there is more time in a session for non-combat activities like exploration and make it possible to have character classes that are not good in combat without their players getting bored every time a combat takes place. Gary Gygax even wrote about this in an article "The Melee in D&D" in The Dragon #24 (April 1979):

The game is one of adventure, though, and combats of protected nature (several hours minimum of six or more player characters are considered involved against one or more opponents each) are undesirable, as the majority of participants are most definitely not miniature battle game enthusiasts....

Obviously, much of the excitement and action is not found in melee....

As melee combat is so common an occurrence during the course of each adventure, brevity, equitability, and options must be carefully balanced...

It reflects actual combat reasonably, for weaponry, armor (protection and speed and magical factors), skill level, and allows for a limited amount of choice as to attacking or defending. It does not require participants to keep track of more than a minimal amount of information, it is quite fast, and it does not place undue burden upon the Dungeon Master. It allows those involved in combat to opt to retire if they are taking too much damage — although this does not necessarily guarantee that they will succeed or that the opponents will not strike a telling blow prior to such retreat....

The only thing I can think of to explain the long combats in 3.x and 4e is that either the designers really liked combat or they were designing the games like they were computer RPGs where combat is 90% or more of the game (at least in most computer rpgs). I'm just glad they seem to have discovered that many -- if not most -- D&D players really prefer short combats. I just how this will be reflected in the final version of D&D Next. Because it it does not feature short combats that do not require a lot of work on the part of the players and the GM, I know many people will pass on it. Yes, those who want and enjoy long, detailed encounters that are tactical challenges will probably object loudly, but WOTC needs to satisfy the typical player if D&D Next is to have much chance of real success, even if the typical player is seldom heard from in online forums.


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 3 April 2013, $160 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 32% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 16% of that needed for the second group of bonus items.




Early Plans for my Next Free RPG: Lords & Wizards

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cover scanAs I mentioned about six weeks ago, my next free RPG project will be Lords & Wizards: a game combining that "strange combination of 0e and 1e I used in the late 1970s" with some of the ideas from B/X and some of the more interesting ideas from Microlite74. Now that all my promised Microlite74 projects have been completed, I'm ready to begin serious work on Lords & Wizards. Here are some of my plans for the Lords & Wizards system. I'm open to comments and suggestions as well.

  • Separate races and classes.
  • Class levels range from 1 to 14 (like B/X). There might be some type of "epic advancement after that, but this is undecided.
  • Arcane spells up to 6th level can be memorized and cast. Divine spells up to 5th level can be memorized and cast. Higher level spells can only be cast as rituals.
  • Spell lists will be mainly from 1e.
  • There will be lots of monsters provided (at least those of core 1e).
  • The world will have no magic, low magic, normal magic, high magic, and very high magic areas with the magic level of an area affect how spells and other magic work. GMs can easily ignore this by making the entire world "normal magic" (which just uses the standard rules).
  • Psionics will be included in the rules, but will be optional.
  • Mutations (think Mutant Future) will be included but are optional. They can be caused by magical radiation (left over from ancient wizard wars) and by being born in a very high magic area. Or those who want to run science fantasy games can have mutations caused by actual radiation. Even if one does not want to use mutations for characters, having lists of mutations and their effects provides a way to quickly create new monsters the players will not be familiar with.
  • My Body Point/Hit Point system will be used.
  • My Background system will be used.
  • Science Fantasy play will be supported, but optional. While mixing science fiction and fantasy in campaigns is somewhat uncommon now, it was relatively common in the 1970s.
Lords & Wizards will be a major project. I don't expect to have it ready for prime time for 8 to 12 months. Donors to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund will have work in progress access and a beta version will be released to general comment at some point (when it's ready). Progress updates will appear here, of course.


cover scanThe Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive updated with BONUS giveaway items is on. 12 standard giveaway items (including a third printing Brown Box D&D and Wee Warriors items are available. High Donors will get get six (their choice), the rest will be raffled off with each $10 donating giving you one chance. You can see the complete list of 12 items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Brown Box/Wee Warriors Cancer Fund Drive (updated with MORE donor giveaway items for Cancer Fund Donors). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetrpoRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills (and to get access to some special downloads and a chance at the above-mentioned items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of 1 April 2013, $135 has been donated toward the Bonus Items. 27% of that needed for the first set of bonus items and 13% of that needed for the second group of bonus items.