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Mongoose Traveller for $4.80 through June 2nd

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Like old school D&D is my favorite fantasy RPG, old school Traveller is my favorite science fiction RPG -- Classic Traveller to be specific. Mongoose Traveller is an updated version of Classic Traveller. Surprisingly, I find Moongoose Traveller to be an acceptable substitute for Classic Traveller. All the rules one needs to play in one 190 page book.

While there are lots of minor and middling differences between Classic Traveller from the 1970s and Mongoose Traveller, there is only one (immediately noticeable) major difference: In Mongoose Traveller, your character isn't likely to die during character generation. Instead, various bad things can happen to your character. Some people hate this, however, I suspect more people hated having characters die during character generation -- especially as frequently as they did in Classic Traveller.

I'm writing this post because the Main Rulebook -- which is the only book you really need to play or GM a game of Mongoose Traveller -- is on sale in PDF format on RPGNow at 75% off through June 2nd. This means the regularly $19+ PDF is on sale for only $4.80. Less than $5 for Traveller is a great price. If you've ever wanted to try Traveller, this is a great time to buy the Mongoose Traveller Main Rulebook.

If Traveller isn't your game, the following popular RPG rulebooks are also on sale for 75%:

* Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition (Sale Price: $8.75)
* Shadowrun: 4th Ed. 20th Anniversary Core Rulebook (Sale Price: $3.75)
* King Arthur Pendragon: Edition 5.1 (Sale Price: $5.00)

Creating a Monster with the Tome of Adventure Design

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Tome of Adventure Design CoverI received a copy of the Tome of Adventure Design from Frog God Games for Christmas last year. I flipped through it and put it on the shelf, hoping that it would go unnoticed -- as I did not want to have to get rid of an old game book to be able to keep this one (severe space limits mean I usually get PDFs). Last week, however, I need couple of completely new monsters for my Sunday game. My post on generating monsters from the Random Monsters article in The Dragon #10 reminded me that the second section of the Tome of Adventure Design had table for creating monsters, I decided to give them a try.

For those not familiar with the Tome of Adventure Design, it is a huge 350 page collection of tables for designing adventures -- or more accurately to help the user design adventures. The first section details with adventure ideas and plots: missions, villains, locations, etc. As I've already mentioned, the second section deals with creating monsters. The third section covers dungeon adventures, including the dungeon itself, tricks, traps, dungeon dressing, etc. The final sections covers adventures outside the dungeons, on land, sea, in other planes, in the wilderness, in cities, etc. While there are some pages of adventure design advice, particularly in the first and third sections, the majority of the book is tables upon tables that you can roll on or just peruse for ideas.

My initial reaction on flipping through the Tome of Adventure Design, was "meh". However, after actually using the book, I'm very impressed. A lot of thought -- and many strange and interesting ideas -- have gone into this book and it will probably become one of the most useful -- and most used -- books in my collection. I rank it right up there with Judges' Guild's Ready Ref Sheets which has been one of my most used books since I bought it in the 1970s.

For example, for one of my monsters, I selected the "Horrors" type and rolled on a few tables:

* Horror out of the realms of nightmare and dreams (I basically ended up ignoring this.)
* Barely intelligent – can be trained by powerful creatures or brute force over time
* Basic Form: Snake
* Attributes of: Bat
* Skin: Spikes
* Other feature: Multiple eyes
* Physical Attack: Body Attack: slam with spikes (selected, not rolled)

The info on Horrors suggested that they almost always have at least one special attack and one special defense, so I decided there would be one of each. I did not want multiples as I need a low-level monster.

* Special Attack: Stun. "The attack uses some kind of 'special effect' to stun its victims. Possibilities include noise, electric shock, an ugly appearance, mystical rays, visions of the future, hallucinations, powerful emotions, a floating symbol, light, and the old standby … a powerful physical impact." I decided that a successful hit does damage (1d4 from spikes) and requires a save vs paralysis or a spike has broken off in the wound which stuns the victim. The spikes quickly dissolve when separated from the creature -- a new save may be made each round, when the save is made the stun effect ends because the spike has dissolved.

* Special Defense: Immune to sharp weapons. I decided that bladed weapons get diverted by the spikes and do no damage. Blunt and crushing weapons do normal damage.

I made the creature an horrible-looking spiked worm about 3-5 feet long with spikes 8-12 inches long, each spike acts a visual sensor meaning the worm sees in all directions but underneath itself. It does not see so much as use sonar to visualize its surroundings. While it looks awful, it is only a 2 HD creature. Last game, the party encountered 5 of these and defeated them after a hard fight. The stun effect was not nearly as bad as the paralysis effect of a ghoul, but it definitely surprised the party and required a hasty retreat to regroup and find a way around these creatures. They don't have a name yet -- unless it is "those awful worms."

Lords & Wizards Back on Track

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I'm happy to say that with two sessions of Lords & Wizards based on Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord (instead of on ACKS), we seem to be back on track. We are spending time playing instead of trying to fight the proficiency system or worrying about what level of treasure is too much/not enough for the system. There are still lots of bugs to work out and things to add/subtract to get to a "beta" stage, but we are all having fun playing again -- even the players who really wanted the foundation of the system to be ACKS. I'm really glad to see this.

I still have a game room to clean up from today's game, but I did want to say something here as I know people have been wondering how this version was going.

Microlite74 Special Version I Now Available (FREE)

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Microlite74 Special Version I CoverWhen I announced this project, I figured it would only take a week to ten days to do as the material was written. All I had to do was strip out the campaign specific information (aka the "product identity") and reformat. Unfortunately, seasonal allergies and other real life things conspired to give me little free time -- at least little free time where I felt good enough to work on it. However, almost a month after I announced this "quick" project, it is finished. Microlite74 Special Version I is ready for download.

To recap, this project started last month when I was 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 decided that the customized version of the rules was interesting enough to stand on its own without the 20 pages of private campaign material and Microlite74 Special Version I.

This special version of Microlite74 is designed for a campaign world with only two deities (a Lord of Light (order) and a Lord of Darkness (chaos) who oppose each other. Magic is both common and rare in this campaign world in that about 25% of the population have the ability to use Minor Magic at will (including all characters and NPCs with a class level), but arcane magic is otherwise limited to long, complex, and costly rituals. Clerics have limited spell-like abilities called prayers. True magic Items are almost non-existent. What true magic items do exist are created by the GM as needed and are always one-of-a-kind. Magic items created by binding spirits to material items are more common.

The campaign these rules were designed for was centered around a large decadent empire which which was starting to fall apart at the seams while its borderlands were breaking away or were being overrun by subhumans and monsters. The central portions of the empire were ignoring the problems. The Church of Light was aware of the problems but its influence on the imperial government had been reduced by scandal after scandal. In the borderlands, however, the Church of Light was often the only institution able to see beyond local issues. The campaign world was early renaissance, at least in the central parts of the empire, but hand guns and long guns were never invented.

You can download your free copy of Microlite74 Special Version I from Mediafire. It's 24 pages and about a 1.15 meg PDF.

Download Microlite74 Special Version I

If you like this free RPG, please consider a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund.

New Monsters: The Thunderstinger, Red Doom, and Flame Wings

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Long ago, I picked up a copy of The Dungeon #10 at my hobby shop just as they arrived. This was the October 1977 issue and was one of the first issues of The Dragon magazine to be available at Dibbles. This issue had a couple of good articles and the Snit Smashing boardgame -- the first Tom Wham game published in The Dragon. The best article in the magazine from my point-of-view was "Random Monsters" by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh. Two pages full of tables for rolling up random monsters. Not random monsters as in what standard monster appears on Dungeon Level 6 on a roll of 8 or what monster appears in a forest hex on a roll of 12, but a method of creating completely new monsters that had never been seen before.

I rolled up a lot of them and wrote each one on a 3x5 index card. When I needed a new monster for an encounter, I'd let a player draw a card from the deck and that creature was what they ran into. As the discovering group, they would get the honor of naming the monster if they defeated it (or at least managed to survive. Most of these random monsters were seldom, if ever, seen again. A few, however, became regular "standard" monsters in my campaign. I've listed of few of those below. The descriptions as rolled up from the random monster card (yes, I still have most of these cards). The names were all given by my First Campaign Arn group. You should be able to take this "card descriptions" and write them up for whatever system you are using. Consider these Open Game Content.

Thunderstinger
Highly Intelligent, Neutral, Reptile
Speed: 9", AC: 3, HD: 6d8+1
Damage/bite: 1d10
Special Features: 2
-- Breathes Lightning: 2d6 damage, 2x/day
-- Sting in tail, does paralysis (save okay)
Physical Description:
Looks like a giant scaled toad (dark with occasional yellow patch of scales) with a scorpion like tail with a glowing stinger. About 12 feet long, 50% of that is tail).

Red Doom
Unintelligent, Chaos, Undead
Speed: 6", AC: 7 HD: 2d8
Damage/touch: 1d6
Turned as a Zombie, Destroyed by holy water.
Physical Description:
Red-skinned humanoid with rotting flesh. Mindlessly obeys last order given by their creator. Their touch causes 1d6 painful rotting damage, turning the area hit to an ugly red until healed or washed with holy water (which also eliminates the pain).

Flame Wings
Unintelligent, Lawful, Mammal
Speed: 6" (Fly: 18) AC: 8, HD: 3d8
Damage/touch: 2d6 fire
Special Features: 1
-- Fiery Aura surrounds creature (think Human Touch), damages all it comes it contact with
(This was rolled as "does double damage" and was my explanation for why)
Physical Description:
Small bat-like creature with a 3 foot wingspan. At night, it looks like a flying fireball from a distance.

Quick Update on Lords & Wizards Progress

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I'm sorry that I've been silent for a few weeks. My seasonal allergies turned into a nasty sinus infection which I am just now truly recovering from. It seemed to be immune to the initial drugs I was given.

Progress on Lords & Wizards rules writing has been slow. This is a good thing because we still do not have its full direction mapped out. A couple of my players really lobbied for basing the system on the Adventurer Conqueror King System instead of Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry as I had originally planned. We've now tried that and it simply did not work as well as its proponents in my Sunday group hoped it would. Two of the most noticeable issues were proficiencies and tying expected wealth to experience points.

Proficiencies are simply a mess when you are used to my broader backgrounds and talents system. They are often more limiting and a couple of different attempts to combine ACKS proficiencies and my backgrounds and talents system simply made a larger mess that brought out the worst in both systems. Proficiencies are technically optional in ACKS, but dropping proficiencies takes away one of the main reason for using ACKS as the rules framework.

There are two problems with the ACKS XP-Wealth tie. First, I do not like anything that works remotely like "wealth per level". If a group of first level characters manages by some miracle to get an ancient red dragon's hoard, that's fine with me. I don't want to feel like I need to stop this because it will make the characters far too wealthy for the mechanics of the system. Likewise, I don't see anything wrong with a 10th level character who has gone broke and do not want the rules mechanics making this inadvisable. The second problem with tying XP to wealth is I really want to use the partial XP for weaker monsters rules as 0e and 1e did. For example, under these rules, if a 4th level character defeats a 1st level (aka 1HD) monster, he'd only get one-quarter of the XP the monster and its treasure would normally give. I used these rules back in the day and the object of Lords & Wizards is to create and (slightly modernized) version of the weird combination of 0e, 1e, B/X, Arduin, house rules, etc. I used in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Using a partial XP for weaker monsters rule tosses the idea of the ACKS XP-Wealth tie out the window.

Don't get me wrong. I like ACKS and think it is a good game, but for these and other reasons it has become fairly obvious than ACKS is simply not a good framework to base the Lords & Wizards rules on. Even the two strong proponents of basing L&W on ACKS among by Sunday game players agree that it simply does not work as well for L&W as they thought it would. Starting with today's game, we'll be trying a version of L&W based on the Labyrinth Lord family of games (Labyrinth Lord, Original Edition Characters, and Advanced Edition Companion). I expect that this will be a better fit for what I am trying to do. This does not mean that ACKS will have no influence on L&W, however. I expect many of the campaign design and high level/domain play ideas from ACKS may eventually find their way into L&W -- at least as a major influence.