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My Answers to Top Ten D&D "Troll" Questions from Random Wizard

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Here are my answers to the top 10 Questions from Random Wizard, from a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I know I'm slow.

(1) Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Either. I'm current using Race as Class in Microlite81. I generally prefer race and class separate, but it's not a strong preference.

(2) Do demi-humans have souls?
Some do. Some don't. It depending on what setting I'm using. This is one of those questions that really should not be determined by the game rules but should vary by the setting of the campaign.

(3) Ascending or descending armor class?
It really does not matter to me, mathematically they are the same (and there are a few other ways to do it that are also mathematically equivalent. I use ascending AC for Microlite74 and Microlite81 because they are based on Microlite20 which uses ascending AC, not because I think it is somehow inherently better. That said, new players today generally seem to have more problems with the math required for something like THAC0 than they do with the math for ascending AC.

(4) Demi-human level limits?
Yes and no. In a game with an upper level limit for human characters of around 14-15, they work okay. In more open-ended games, I prefer no level limits, but require quite a bit more XP from demi-humans.

(5) Should thief be a class?
I would prefer that thief just be a background that a character of any class could take. However, the thief class is so strongly associated with D&D, that it also has to be present in any D&D-like game. I strongly object to the idea that the thief should be some type of skirmisher/fighter lite as WOTC editions (and 2E, tio a lesser extent) do with the "Rogue" class.

(6) Do characters get non-weapon skills?
I prefer to use backgrounds to skills. Characters select a background for their character and then have a better chance of doing things strongly associated with their background and class than they do things that are only loosely associated (or not associated at all with either).

(7) Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
They are weaker than fighters at low levels, on a par with fighters at mid-levels, and somewhat stronger than fighters at high levels. High level fighters, however, can go toe-to-toe with high level mages with a good chance of success, especially if they have a good plan of attack.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
They are there but are seldom used in public. There main use is in religious ritual and secret societies.

(9) XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
Both.

(10) Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?
I like BECMI/RC, OD&D, and B/X the most and have little love for 2e with the Player's Option stuff, 3e, or 4e. No opinion on Next until it is finished, but so far it looks like it would be middle of the pack somewhere.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
Class-based advancement helps solve many balance issues so I strongly prefer it. However, you can do it with separate XP advancement tables or with a unified table and multiplier to XP earned for each class.

You can see his answers here and those of many others here.



Cover - Booty and the BeastsThe third Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goal is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 31 July 2013, $115 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $385 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Combat Tricks and Stunts: Microlite74 vs Microlite81

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CombatCombat Tricks and Stunts can make an otherwise boring combat more interesting, not to mention giving an advantage to those who come up with (and successfully pull off) a good one. Unfortunately, they were a bit complex to use in Microlite74, requiring an attack roll at a large minus from the attacker and a defense roll by the target. There was a slight advantage for fighting classes, but not much of one. Here's the rules from Microlite74:

Combat Tricks/Stunts: Declare what the trick/stunt attack is going to do. It could be anything from knocking a weapon from your opponent's hand to blowing his hat off or extinguishing a lantern. Other possibilities could be stapling the target to the wall through his clothing with a thrown weapon, tying him up with a bola, tripping him and so on.

The attack roll is made at -8 (-6 for fighting classes). If the roll is successful and the target is alive and aware of the attack, the target makes a defense roll (a normal attack roll) against a DC equal to the adjusted attack roll (with the to hit penalty). If the defense roll fails, the target suffers the exact effect described. If the defense roll succeeds, then the attack is treated as a normal attack against the target’s AC (with the penalty), which may result in normal damage. Option: The defense roll is automatically failed if the target has a combat stance of Active Attack or Full Attack.

Against an inanimate object, if the attack roll (with the penalty) is successful, the stunt works. No defense roll is needed.

I've never really liked those rules. They work fine in play, but I really have never been happy with those rules. They make combat stunts harder than I would like for fighting classes and, perhaps, easier than they should be for non-fighting classes. In Microlite81, I'd really like to see the fighting classes (those with a non-zero Fighter Bonus) have a pretty good chance of success with combat stunts while making them hard (but not impossible) for other classes to pull off. I'd also like to simply the procedure a bit. Having both the attacker and the defender making rolls is a bit too much, especially when the defender, more often than not, is going to be a monster or NPC so the defense rolls becomes just something else for the GM to figure and roll.

As the highest Fighter Bonus is +5 in Microlite81 and the B/X system is fond of using a d6 roll to decide things, I came up with a way to use the Fighter Bonus and a d6 roll to for fighting classes. A fighting class character just describes their stunt and (assuming the GM doesn't say it's impossible) rolls their normal attack roll. If it hits, it will (at least) do normal damage and the player tries to roll the character's Fighter Bonus or less on a d6. If he succeeds, the combat trick works.

Characters with a Fighter Bonus of zero, can still attempt a combat stunt. They roll a normal attack roll but have roll over 20 (after modifier, of course) and the roll has to hit the target. If they do, the combat trick works (but no normal damage is done). If they fail the roll both the trick and the attack fail with no damage done.

Here's the draft rule for Microlite81:

Combat Tricks/Stunts: Declare what the trick/stunt attack is going to do. It could be anything from knocking a weapon from your opponent's hand to blowing his hat off or extinguishing a lantern. Other possibilities could be stapling the target to the wall through his clothing with a thrown weapon, tying him up with a bola, tripping him and so on.

The attack roll is made as normal, if the attack roll is a hit, the player rolls 1d6. If he rolls his Fighter Bonus or less on the D6, the combat trick works. If the d6 combat trick roll fails, the character still hits for normal damage.

Characters with a Fighter Bonus of zero, however, will only succeed with a combat trick if they roll at least a 20 on their attack roll (and the roll would hit the target). If they fail to at least roll a 20 and hit the target, both the combat trick and the attack fail.

Comments are welcome!


Cover - Booty and the BeastsThe third Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goal is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 30 July 2013, $115 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $385 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81 Extended: Very Early Draft Available

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A very early and somewhat incomplete draft of Microlite81 Extended is available to RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund cancer fund donors. This draft was mainly produced for the players in my Sunday Game which is currently using these rules, but I figured I might as well make it available to donors. There isn't a lot new in it. For the most part, it's what is in the Microlite81 Public Playtest 1.00 document modified by my standard house rules with a few more optional rules (like psionics). The main new feature is the return of the Experience Base idea from Microlite74, modified quite a bit to work with the more standard experience system of Microlite81. The current XP requirements in Public Playtest 1.00 are already based on the Experience Base formula. Microlite81 Extended just explains the formula and shows hoe it works with the Experience Base cost modifiers in optional rules (e.g. psionics).

Donors can download this very early draft of the Microlite81 Extended rules here (with the donor password):

Download Microlite81 Extended Playtest Draft 0.10


Cover - Booty and the BeastsThe third Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goal is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 27 July 2013, $90 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $410 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81: The Fighter Bonus Explained

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+Julian Steen pointed out that I had not explained what the Fighter Bonus was in the 1.00 version of Microlite81 Public Playtest. I've replaced the download in the playtest announcement post with a 1.01 version that includes the Fighter Bonus explanation. If you've already downloaded the original 1.00 version, there's no real need to download another copy. Here's the added test (in the combat section):

Fighter Bonus: Dwarves, elves, fighters, and halflings have a non-zero Fighter Bonus. They may add their Fighter Bonus to their attack and damage rolls (both melee and missile).

There will be some other uses for the Fighter Bonus in optional rules and in more "complex" versions of Microlite81 (Expanded and Advanced, for example), which is why I broke it out instead of just including it in Physical Combat Bonus or the like.

Apologies for the error.


Cover - Booty and the BeastsThe third Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goal is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 25 July 2013, $40 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $460 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81: Download Public Playtest Version 1.00 (Free, Of Course)

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverThe first Public Playtest Version of Microlite81 is now available for free download in PDF form. What is Microlite81? Microlite81 is to the 1981 "B/X" edition of the world's most popular fantasy RPG as Microlite74 is to the original 1974 "0e" edition. That is, Microlite81 is a version of the Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert based on the superlite Microlite20 rules.

Microlite81 Public Playtest Version 1.00 is a complete, playable game with rules, spells, monsters, and treasure. It does assume a basic knowledge of D20 systems and fantasy rpgs in general, of course. However, the rules are very much a "rough draft" -- Microlite74 rewritten for B/X. Your input during playtesting will help shape the final game. As Microlite74 has had years of actual play, we already know the basic systems work well. What needs to be checked in playtest is that the changes made to the Microlite74 system both make the game more B/X like and work well (and don't break anything, of course).

Here are some specific changes that need careful review and playtesting:

Hit Points and Magic Casting Cost: There are fewer hit points available in M81 than there were in M74 as I tried to stay closer to B/X expectations. Therefore I lowered the hit point cost for spells. This needs careful playtesting to see if adjustments to the number of hit points or the hit point cost of casting spells need to be made.

B/X Conventions: This section is a complete revision of the M74 “0e Conventions” section. This needs to be checked to be sure the material works well in play and matches the way B/X does things. For example, rounds in B/X are 10 seconds in B/X (instead of one minute in 0e). I forgot to change this until one of the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors with early access to drafts mentioned it. I’m sure there are other such issues in this section.

Spell Lists: The spell lists and spell descriptions were modified to be more in line with B/X. These need to be checked for clarity (as well as for stupid mistakes in conversion).

Monster Lists: Monsters were revised to use B/X standards (and most non-B/X monsters were removed). Treasure Classes were added to each listing (referring to the Treasure Class chart near the end of the Treasure section.) Please point out any problems, omissions, monsters that really should not be there, etc.

Treasure Lists: These are a work in progress, but should be good enough for use. Please note any issues, but be aware that I know cleanup needs to be done.

Although Microlite81 will probably have a number of changes before the final version is released, it is not too early to make sure that the explanations and descriptions in these rules are clear and make sense. While no game based on Microlite20 principles will ever have explanations and descriptions detailed enough for players who are new to tabletop RPGs and/or new to the standard D20 system, what descriptions and explanations are provided need to be understandable and match what is intended as well as being very concise in the Microlite20 tradition. If you see areas that need work, please make suggestions for improvement. Note that the descriptions of treasure and B/X conventions are not as concise as they should be, this will be fixed in future drafts.

As I am known as the "Typo King," I’m sure there are all sorts of spelling and grammar errors in Microlite81 Public Playtest Version 1.00 document. It is too early in the progress to point them out unless they make the meaning unclear. While I really need and truly appreciate proofreading help, detailed proofreading is a waste of your valuable time until we get to release candidate versions.

If you are interested in playtesting (or even just reading) Microlite81, you can download a copy of the first public playtest rules draft from Mediafire in PDF form. It's free now -- and like all RetroRoleplaying games, the final version of Microlite81 will also be free.

Download Microlite81 Public Playtest Version 1.01 (38 page PDF, about 850K)

[Updated on 25 July: Version 1.0 was replaced by version 1.01 as Version 1.00 never explained the Fighter Bonus. A silly omission on my part. If you have already downloaded a copy of 1.00, you'll find the missing Fight Bonus info in this post: Microlite81: The Fighter Bonus Explained.]

Thank you very much for reviewing and/or playtesting these rules. You can report any comments, issues, or ideas on the Microlite81 Playtesting area of the RetroRoleplaying Forum (http://www.retroroleplaying.com/forum/index.php) or by email if you have my email address.


Cover - Booty and the BeastsThe third Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goal is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 24 July 2013, $35 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $465 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.


Sponsor Mircolite81 with a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation Mini-Drive III

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Cover - Booty and the BeastsOur second "Sponsor Lords & Wizards with a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation Mini-Drive" was a success, here's the third. For those unfamiliar with our RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Mini-Drives, they are an effort to both help pay off my wife's continuing cancer-related bills (her latest semi-annual checkup was in late May, she's still cancer-free but this checkup added another almost $800 to the cancer bills by the time lab tests were included and a trip to her new doctor monday added over $500 to the bill) and to keep my promise to my wife give away a large part of the boxes of old RPG gaming material I inherited in January. I'm running a series of "Sponsor Microlite 81 (and Lords & Wizards) with a Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund Donation" drives. Unlike previous drives, each mini-drive will have a low goal amount before we draw for giveaway items and after we give away a set of items, I'll offer another set of items and start the process over again.

Each $10 donated during a drive with give you one chance to win one of the items (or sets of items) in the giveaway. A drive will end on the Saturday after the goal is reached (but each drive will last at least a week), with the drawing at my Sunday game the next day. Items will be mailed at no cost to the winner within the US. Foreign winners will generally need to pay postage, unfortunately -- with the low goal for each mini-drive I can't cover foreign postage and have any money to pay off cancer bills on any but the lightest items.

If you donate at least $25, you will be listed as a "Copper" Sponsor in the Lords & Wizards PDF. If you donate at least $51, you will be listed as a Silver Lords & Wizards PDF. If you donate $101 or more, you will be listed as a Gold Sponsor. Silver and higher level sponsors come with special benes. All Sponsors will also have access to a special donor area on our forum where they can have input into the design process. Note that once you become a Silver sponsor with a donation of at least $25, all future donations during this series of mini-drives will be cumulative for determining your "sponsor level." Anyone donating at least $101 will receive one free chance at giveaway items in future Sponsor Lords & Wizards minidrives, even if you make no donations to that particular mini-drive.

All donors receive the usual array of free Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donor downloads which includes work-in-progress copies of projects (like Lords & Wizards) I'm working on.

Judges Guild Character Chronicle CardsThe third "Sponsor Lords & Wizards with a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation" has a $500 (after PayPal fees) goal and the following items will be given away in the drawing (as described above):

* Booty and the Beasts from Fantasy Art Enterprises (published 1979). Designed by Erol Otus, Paul Reiche III, and Mathias Genser. Art by Erol Otus. It's in excellent condition.

* First Fantasy Campaign (1st Edition, I think) -- It's in very good condition and includes two campaign maps the can attach to the Judges Guild Wilderlands. Dave Arneson provides a boatload of information on his Blackmoor campaign. It's not very well-organized, but there is a great detail of raw information both about Blackmoor and Dave's version of D&D.

* Judges Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Second printing, 1977. All cards appear to be present. The cards are in excellent condition. The title card is yellow.


* Next up, two "adventures" from Wilmark Dynasty. These two items claim to be adventures ran at conventions, but they strike me as parodies of convention competition adventures. Journey to the Center of the Circle by Micaela Corradin is an adventure for characters with handicaps (peg legs, deaf, one-handed, etc.). It's 12 pages of rare weirdness (possibly offensive to people with disabilities), published in 1981. The second Wilmark Dynasty adventure we are giving away in this drive is The Vampyre's Mirror by Lee McCormick. It's also 12 pages and it has to a parody, it really does. (Wilmark Dynasty also published the Melanda: Land of Mystery RPG in 1981. It's fairly normal, so I don't know what to make of these two adventures.)

* D&D Basic Boxed Set -- the 8th printing which is the first printing of the Tom Moldvay. It's complete with the rule book, a copy of B2 and bag of those awful TSR dice). It's in Excellent condition.

* D&D Expert Boxed Set -- the 1st printing of the Expert Set with the Expert rules by David Cook. It's complete with the rule book, a copy of X1 and another bag of those "wonderful" TSR dice). It's in Excellent condition.

Special High Donor Giveaway: the top three donors in this mini-drive will have a separate drawing for a set of the original G-series TSR modules (G1, G2, and G3 as separate modules). These are rare in this "three separate modules" form and are in excellent condition.

Special Bonus: As previously announced, once $1000 total in donations is reached from these mini-drives, we will be giving away of the one extremely rare TSR D&D items: R2 - Investigation of Hydel. We will hit $1000 at the end of this mini-drive. If you have donate to this third mini-drive or either of first two mini-drives, you will be in the drawing for this very rare item.

Other items such as Starbucks gift cards, Steam games, etc. are donated from time to time. If any are available at the time of the next drawing, they may be added as extra giveaway items. I'm never heard anyone complain about winning something unexpected.

If you would like to help but cannot make a donation this time, please help spread the word around the blogsphere (and other places) -- and remember that we will be having more mini-drives after this one. 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, we'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. I still have not been able to pass Mind Reading 101.

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. My apologies for having to ask for donations and my heartfelt thanks to everyone who donates. If you cannot donate but wish to help, please spread the word about my request and offer. Thanks in advance for any and all help.

(Special Note: Apologies for any typos in this post. I'm suffering from having mowed the yard this morning in the Texas heat so I'm even worse than usual about noticing them. I'll correct any I notice tomorrow after I've recovered. (Heat, humidity, and Randall are a poor mixture.)

Second "Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81)" Mini-Drive Giveaway Winners

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A drawing was held at the end of my Sunday Game last Sunday for the second Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. The following announced items were given away: The Necromican, ICE's The Iron Wind, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, Starstone. In addition, two Steam Keys for PC Games were given away, both donated by one of my Sunday game players.

Our winners were:

Jim R. of California gets The Necromican.
Thomas A. of California gets the first edition of ICE's The Iron Wind.
Anne W. of Connecticut gets the Starstone.
Ray H. gets the Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards.
Lloyd R. received a Steam key for Defenders of Ardania.
"Slim" G. received a Steam Key for Demigod.

A special congratulations for Thomas A. He's the first donor to win a prize in two separate donation drives -- back to back yet. Some people are just roll higher on their "Luck attribute."

I'd like to thank everyone who donated. The next mini-drive starts immediately with a goal of $500 dollars. Giveaway items will be announced in a future post, but will include the following items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). The top three donors will have a separate chance at first printings of the original G1, G2, and G3 modules (the original editions where each was a separate module).


The third Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is $500 with the following giveaway items: First Fantasy Campaign (1st Printing), Judge Guild Character Chronicle Cards, Basic Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Expert Boxed Set (complete including original dice), Journey to the Center of the Circle (from Wilmark Dynasty), and The Vampyre's Mirror (also from Wilmark Dynasty). Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. The top three donors will have a separate drawing for a set of 1st printings of the original three TSR adventure modules (The Giants series as three separate modules: G1, G2, and G3) This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards games. 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 23 July 2013, $25 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $475 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.
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Public Microlite81 Playtest Version Wednesday, Second Mini-Drive Ends

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverThis is just a quick post with news about the first Microlite81 Public Playtest edition, the Second RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Mini-drive, and my wife's doctor appointment today.

Microlite81 Public Playtest Draft 1.00 Due Wednesday: Barring real life interfering, the first public playtest version of Microlite81 should be available for free download by everyone interested on Wednesday. The current donor version (0.35, see below) is very close to the upcoming playtest release. The main thing is is lacking is the actual playtest info (where I tell people what i think really needs to be looked at carefully in playtest).

Retroroleplaying Cancer Fund's second Mini-Drive: Ended Sunday morning. The drawing for the giveaway items was held at my Sunday game (the four announced items as two Steam games). The lucky winners should be notified tonight or tomorrow. The winners will be announced after they've been notified. I'd like to thank everyone who donated. The next minidrive starts immediately. I'll announce the giveaway items in a post tonight or tomorrow, but one of the items in Mini-Drive 3 will be a copy of Booty and the Beasts in excellent condition.

Wife's Doctor Appointment: My wife wife's old doctor moved to the east coast. So now has the only other doctor in town who deals with post-treatment tongue and mouth cancer patients. She's heard this doctor in action and she's not looking forward to him. She has an appointment this morning. Prayers and good thoughts this morning would be very welcome -- I don't know if they should be for my wife because she has no tolerance for god-complex doctors for for the doctor (because my wife because she has no tolerance for god-complex doctors). Thanks in advance! This appointment is why the winning donors probably will not be notified until tomorrow.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors can download the current draft of Microlite81 (0.35) via the following link -- you'll need the standard donor password. Remember, the more people support Microlite81 with a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund, the more time I can justify working on the Microlite81 to my wife.

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.35. (1.35 meg PDF)


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund has ended (but the third drive starts now). The goal for the second mini-drive was only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 21 July 2013, this mini-drive as ended. The Drawing was held at my Sunday game yesterday, Winning donors should be notified within 48 hours. Thanks everyone for you donations. The next mini-drive starts immediately. Donor giveaway items will announced ASAP, but definitely include a copy of Booty and the Beasts -- in excellent condition.

1975 Gygax Article on Dungeon Design in PDF Format (and Microlite81 Draft 0.30)

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0e D&D illoGary Gygax contributed an article on setting up a D&D campaign to an issue of a fanzine called europa 6-8 in April 1975. Until today, I've only seen a very poor photocopy of this article -- such a poor copy that some parts were completely unreadable. Thanks to Kent of Some King's Kent blog, I now have a nice pdf copy of this article. Kent reformatted the original and made a pdf. The entire copy is readable so Kent must have been working from an original (or at least a much better copy than I had).

It's a fairly short article, but it gives some good advice on setting up a Lake Geneva style campaign. Best of all, it gives some details of the original Greyhawk castle dungeon. You can download you copy from Kent's blog: Gygax 1975 - How To Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign.

I've made yet more progress on Microlite81: The 0e Conventions section has received a major update for B/X, optional rules for traditional saving throws and item saving throws have been added, info on strongholds for each character class have been added, etc. We continue to be on track for the first public playtest release sometime next week, perhaps by mid-week.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors can download the current draft of Microlite81 (0.30) via the following link -- you'll need the standard donor password. As I said yesterday, the more people support Microlite81 with a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund, the more time I can justify working on the Microlite81 to my wife.

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.30. (1.33 meg PDF)


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 20 July 2013, $195 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $55 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81 Public Playtest Draft 1 May Be Coming Very Soon

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverIf I can get as much work on Microlite81 done in the next 3 or 4 days has I have managed to do today, I'll be ready to release the first public playtest of the standard version of Microlite81. Draft 0.25 is available to RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors now. This new draft includes updated monster listings for all monsters, a first pass at the treasure list including descriptions of magic treasure and a fairly complete set of rules. It should be playable now, although there is quite a bit more that I need to do before I'm ready to release a public playtest draft. I need to add to the character class descriptions, revise some of the treasure listings, add an equipment list, a treasure class list, update the "0e" conventions for "B/X", add information on strongholds, and a few other things that are slipping my mind at the moment.

I've converted the current Lords & Wizards characters my Sunday game players are using to the yet unwritten Microlite81 Extended version (the version of Microlite81 with my standard house rules), so we'll be using that this weekend. One of my goals for Microlite81 is for it to be fairly easy to use instead of the original B/X, a B/X retroclone like Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy, or a B/X-based game like ACKS or Lords & Wizards.

As you can probably tell by the speed at which I'm turning out new rules drafts, I'm excited by Microlite81. I'm as excited about Microlite81 as I was by Microlite74 when I was first working on it back in 2008. The "Basic" versions of the world's best known tabletop fantasy RPG (B/X, BECMI, RC) have always been my favorite versions of the game. They take 0e and refine it without increasing the complexity or the level of picky details all that much.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors can download the current draft of Microlite81 (0.25) via the following link -- you'll need the standard donor password. Support Microlite81 with a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund -- the more money donated for the cancer bills, the more time I can justify working on the Microlite81 to my wife.

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.25. (1.31 meg PDF)


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 19 July 2013, $170 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $80 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

Encounters Should Not Automatically Mean Combat -- The Role of Reaction Rolls

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dragon imageI've been recently involved in a discussion about random encounters and how having encounters that are not "level appropriate" really is okay and is not unfair to players unless they never have any choice but to fight in every encounter they have. In the discussion I pointed out that random wilderness encounters could have even a party of first level characters encounter a dragon and that do to reaction rolls and the like the encounter need not lead to combat.

Another person in the discussion then said that there was no way the party could come out of the situation alive unless the GM just "softballed" the encounter to allow the party to live. The assumption here seemed to be that encounter means automatic combat -- combat that the dragon probably could not lose even with a string of bad rolls.

After some discussion back and forth it came down to this:

Why would the GM assume that the dragon isn't hungry? Why is the dragon traveling around if he isn't hungry?

Why assume the dragon isn't hungry? Perhaps because the party did not attack the dragon on sight and the GM did not roll "hostile -- immediately attacks" as the dragon's reaction roll? Reaction rolls are this wonderful thing (IMHO) in TSR editions of D&D that make it possible for PCs to encounter lots of intelligent monsters without every encounter automatically turning into a battle. Unfortunately, I don't think either edition of WOTC D&D included reaction rolls -- although like many of the things WOTC dropped from prior versions of D&D, droppong reactions rolls changed the game in ways they did not expect (at least I hope they did not expect). Personally, I would not run any version of D&D without using reaction rolls.

Here's how the system works... Assuming there is no in-game reason for the encountered monster to automatically attack or automatically be friendly, the GM rolls 2d6 (and possibly adds the charisma bonus of the party leader/spokesman or some situational modifiers) on a table like this one (this example is from the B/X edition of D&D, other TSR editions had slightly different versions of this table.):

Roll Result
2......Immediate Attack
3-5....Hostile, possible attack
6-8....Uncertain/monster confused
9-11...No attack, monster leaves or considers offers
12.....Enthusiastic Friendship

Only a roll of two would necessarily mean the dragon is hungry and just attacks with no chance at all of talking/bargaining or otherwise avoiding combat. The GM would use the table again to judge the monster's reaction to any offers/counteroffers/etc. with a GM determined modifier based on previous rolls and the actual proposal on the table until some type of agreement is reached or one side or the other decides to attack.

Reaction rolls are a great system that help ensure that there is a variety of encounters beyond "monsters sees party and attacks." The fact that monsters do not always attack on sight means that everything a group of adventurers encounter does not need to be level appropriate as they do not necessarily need to handle the encounter with combat.

Why would a dragon be traveling if he isn't hungry? D&D Dragons are generally quite intelligent -- as intelligent as humans (or even more so in some cases). So this is like asking why do people travel around if they aren't hungry (or aren't looking for a fight). There are lots of reasons a dragon might be out and about when he's not hungry. A few examples:

* Visiting friends/returning from such a visit
* Returning home from a meal
* Looking for treasure/Bring treasure back to his lair
* Surveying his territory for other dragons/problems moving in.
* Just out flying around for exercise or because he likes to fly around
* Flying over villages because its fun to see all the people run away screaming in terror

Even if a dragon meets a group of people while out and about, unless he is very hungry or they attack, he might not want to kill them (as that puts himself at risk of damage and/or makes it more likely that even bigger heroes will come after him), he might want to take some or all of their treasure as a toll, get them to go do a task that he needs done but can't easily be done by a large and terrifying dragon, talk to them to find out what's going on if he just awakened from a long sleep, etc. Powerful human/demi-human lords usually do not kill everyone they encounter, so it seems dumb to expect that powerful/intelligent monsters would.

Also, not all dragon encounters are going to be with adult dragons. Young dragons are at far greater risk of death or severe damage from humans and are therefore even less likely to attack if they don't need to.

I'll be honest, I don't know why some people assume that every encounter is going to be (or worse -- IMHO -- should be) resolved by combat. If I just wanted to fight everything my character meets, I would not bother playing a tabletop RPG. I'd just play a computer RPG where combat is often the only option because a computer program, unlike a human GM, is limited what it can react to to what the programmer's coded into the program. Also, if I only want to fight, a computer RPG handles the mechanics of combat so much better than even a good players and a good GM can because it never forgets about modifiers, statuses, rules, etc. Not to mention that detailed combat goes much faster in a computer RPG.

I don't know when things changed from monsters as interesting parts of the world with their own motivations and goals changed to monsters exist to fight the PCs on sight. Did it come because reaction rolls were apparently dropped from WOTC editions of D&D? Did it come when the monster write-ups were changed from informative articles about the monster both in and out of combat to combat-only info for 4e? Did it come when more people came to tabletop RPGs with experience in combat-dominated computer RPGs and so were used encountering monsters almost always leading to combat? Or was it something else I haven't even thought of or some combination of different reasons. I honestly do not know. All I really know is that for many styles of play, assuming that an encounter need not always result in combat improves the game considerably.


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 16 July 2013, $135 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $115 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

Decisions and Progress on Microlite81

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverMy Sunday game group is more enthusiastic about Microlite81 than I expected them to be. In fact, they suggested when I finish Microlite81, I use it to base a draft of Lords & Wizards on, then when we are fairly happy with it, expand that draft into the real version of Lords & Wizards. I tentatively think that would be a good way to do it as it takes far less work to make major changes to Microlite7x/81 rules (as they are brief and cut out most of the friendly explanation that new gamers need).

After some discussion, my players convinced me to base the Microlite81 experience progression on the system used by ACKS. It's not that different of a progression from the original B/X version, but if Microlite81 uses the ACKS progression, it will make it easy for people who own a copy of ACKS to add new classes to Microlite81. I've also tentatively decided to (that is, I've been convinced to) use a variant of the single saving throw system from Swords & Wizardry for Microlite81 instead of the system I used in Microlite74 or the original B/X system. A B/X like system will probably be included as an optional rule as I know many people prefer it.

B/X has a very lumpy to-hit chart. For example, in B/X the Fighter's hit chart (converted to a BAB system) looks like this:

+0...Level 1-3
+2...Level 4-6
+5...Level 7-9
+7...Level 10-12
+8...Level 13-14

After a bit of discussion, I decided to use a smoother BAB progression similar to that of Labyrinth Lord. This means that BAB the fighter (and all classes) will progress in units of +1, giving a smoother advancement with fewer levels where the BAB does not change.

The latest version draft of the rules (Playtest Version 0.15) includes these changes as well as more complete class descriptions, magic system changes, monster updates (A-C), experience and advancement changes, and probably a number of minor changes I've forgotten about.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donors can download a copy of Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.15 from the link below using the usual donor password:

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.15. (1.3 meg PDF)


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 15 July 2013, $135 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $115 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81: Very Early Draft Available For Donor Download

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverA very early draft of Microlite81 is now available for download. RetroRoleplaying Cancer fund donors can download this (and all future drafts) at the usual donor download location with the usual password.

Note that this is a very early draft. I started with Microlite74 Basic and have been modifying it for Microlite81. The only part that is fairly complete is the new spell lists. However, monster lists, classes, and a number of other things are partially changed. A treasure section has been added (copied form Microlite74 Swords & Wizardry), but it needs a lot of work to B/Xorize it.

Expect small changes with each future draft (I'm hoping for 2-3 new drafts most weeks). Once it has reached a "full first draft" state I will release a draft available to everyone (not just donors) for comment.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donors can download a copy of Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.05 from the link below using the usual donor password:

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 0.05. (1.3 meg PDF)


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 July 2013, $120 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $130 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

Work Begins on Microlite81

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverI have decided to begin work on Microlite81. Microlite74 is a Microlite20-based version of the 0e edition of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game. Microlite81 will be a Microlite20-based version of the B/X version of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game -- the two boxed sets that were published in 1981. No, I am not abandoning work on Lords & Wizards, but as I dig into the the B/X edition for my work on Lords & Wizards I've thought it would be fun to do a "microlite" version of the B/X system -- especially as progress is slow on actually writing Lords & Wizards (as playtesting is changing things faster than I can write them up). I've tried to talk myself out of it for the last two weeks, but finally gave in and did about 30 minutes of work on Microlite81 last night. RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors should find an early draft of Microlite81 in the usual place by the end of the week. I'll announce it here when the first work-in-process draft is available for donors.

Speaking of donors, anyone who has donated $25 or more in the first or second Sponsor Lords and Wizards Mini-Drive will also be listed as a sponsor for Microlite81. In fact, these mini-drives will be renamed to "Sponsor Lords & Wizards and Microlite81" mini-drive. Donate $25 or more today and get listed in the first WIP draft.

I plan two versions of Microlite81: the basic Microlite81 which will try to remain as close as possible (in a Microlite20-based game) to B/X just as Microlite74 Basic and Microlite74 Standard tried to remain close to 0e. Microlite81 Extended will include both my standard house rules and the special house rules I used for B/X (and for BECMI later). These games will both be complete. That is, they will include the rules as well as lists of monsters, spells, and treasure. Maximum level will be 14, just as it is in B/X. While 36 levels for human classes were mentioned in passing, the B/X books topped out at level 14. Race as Class will be used. Microlite81 should be compatible with all published adventures published for B/X or for B/X retroclones (e.g. Labyrinth Lord).


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards (and Microlite81) Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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 July 2013, $60 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $190 in donations is needed to trigger the drawing for the items mentioned above.

A (Draft) Warlord Class for Lords & Wizards (and Other Old School Games)

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The Warlord is a popular class with D&D 4e players. Due to many requests, I include an "old school" version of the class as an optional class in Microlite74 Extended. It's not that popular with 4e fans because it does not have the warlord ability to heal by shouting at his allies. There are two reasons why my Microlite74 Extended version of the Warlord does not heal hit points.

First, when you talk to fans of the 4e Warlord and say that the idea of someone shouting encouragement (even if the "encouragement" like that given by a drill instructor in army boot camp) actually healing wounds is unbelievable, one of the standard replies is that the warlord isn't really healing actual wounds but is restoring morale/the will to fight which is represented by hit points. In old school TSR D&D, morale is a separate thing from hit points. Therefore, in an old school game the Warlord should affect the morale rules directly as there is no need to fake it via hit points.

Second, Microlite74 Extended has hit points representing fatigue and body points representing actual debilitating injuries. Even clerics can't "heal" hit points in combat so there is no need for Warlords to be able to do so (to allow play without clerics in the party).

In Microlite74 Extended, Warlords are natural leaders. Their class ability allows them to lead hired men-at-arms, raising their morale and allowing them to fight better (as first and second level fighters for high level warlords. Here is the Warlord class from Microlite74 Extended:

Warlords (Fighting Class) can wear any kind of armor, can use all weapons and may use shields. Physical Combat Bonus is level/2, rounded up. Magical Combat Bonus is level/4, rounded up. Experience Base is 25. Class Saving Throw Bonus is +2. They add +1 to FORT and PRE saves. They add +1 to all attack and damage rolls. This increases by +1 at 5th level and every five levels thereafter. When leading a group of hirelings under their command, the hirelings subtract the Warlord’s fighter bonus in any morale checks and add one-half the Warlord’s fighter bonus (round up) to their attack and damage rolls. Warlords are expert at riding and at small unit tactics.

A Lords & Wizards version of the Warlord class with need more specific class abilities, however. Here's what I have come up with so far:

Lords & Wizards Warlord

Hit Dice: d8 to Level 9, +2 per level thereafter
Attacks: As Fighter
Saves: As Fighter
Weapons and Armor: As Fighter
Stronghold: As Fighter
Fighter Bonus: +1 at first level, increases by +1 at 5th level and every five levels thereafter
Expertise: Expert at Riding, Expert at Small Unit Tactics

Natural Leader: May have one more henchman than normal for their Charisma. Their henchmen (and any Man-at-Arms hirelings personally lead by the Warlord) subtract the Warlord's fighter bonus in any morale checks, add the Warlord's fighter bonus to any reaction checks his commands might cause, and add one-half the Warlord's fighter bonus (round up) to their attack and damage rolls.

Inspire Courage: Grants all allies able to hear and understand the Warlord within 50 feet +1 to attack, damage, morale and saves vs fear if the Warlord takes one round to give an appropriately inspiring speech right before a battle. If the Warlord extends the speech to five rounds and expends 3 HP (+1 HP per ally he wishes to affect), those affected also gain 1d6 (per point of Fighter Bonus) temporary hit points. All damage taken is first taken from temporary hit points. Temporary hit points may NOT be used to power magic spells or items. All effects Inspire Courage last 10 minutes, any remaining temporary hit points at lost at that time. Usable once per day per point of Fighter Bonus.

Rally the Troops: Instead of attacking during a round, a Warlord may shout encouragement during a battle. Any allies who have failed their morale checks who hear the Warlord make a new morale check, if they succeed they rally and may return to the fight. Any ally who has failed a save against fear who can hear the Warlord also gains another save vs fear.

As morale is separate from hit points in Lords & Wizards and hit points and body points work like they do in Microlite74 Extended, the Lords & Wizards Warlord lacks the "healing ability" of the 4e Warlord; for the same reasons the Microlite74 Extended version of the class did. I know this will annoy fans of the 4e version of the class, but the healing abilities of the 4e version of the class simply do not make any sense in what is basically a very heavily house-ruled version of "old school D&D". Lords & Wizards Warlords who can take five minutes just before a battle to inspire their allies with a rousing speech (and are willing to spend some hit points on the effort) can grant some or all of their allies extra temporary hit points for the battle -- representing their ability to inspire their allies to "give their all" in the upcoming battle.

Comments on this draft Lords & Wizards Warlord are welcome (as are ideas for other class abilities). Note, however, that complaints that this version of the Warlord class can't heal will be ignored. I understand this lack of healing ability upsets and annoys fans of the 4e version of the class, but Lords & Wizards is not D&D 4e and is not trying to be.


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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!

Weird Spells from The Necromican (Fantasy Art Enterprises, 1979)

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I've been asked to talk a bit about The Necromican from Fantasy Art Enterprises and to include a scan of the Erol Otus wrap-around cover. While I'm not willing to torture either my copy or the giveaway copy of The Necromican to get a full cover scan, I found this scan on the Net at the Tome of Treasures web site.

Design book cover illo

The book itself is a 60 page collection of 132 spells from levels 1 to 12 -- yes three levels higher than standard D&D. The spells range from useful to over-powered to "oh-my-ghod that's ridiculous".

The useful spells tend to be sensory related (e.g. "Spell of Gustatory Expansion", "Spell of Auditory Excellence") or simply practical spells for everyday life. For example, if you are out in the wilderness when it is time for your Saturday night bath, the "Spell of Good Grooming" is just what need. It provides the sanitary effects of a shower, a hair cut, and having your clothes cleaned -- for up to six people.

The overpowered spells tend to be combat related. This starts right off with the first level spell "Personal Energy Attack". The amount of damage dice you roll is determined by a D100 roll -- and ranges from nothing (on a roll of 1) to 1d20 (on a roll of 100). You roll this once, when you first learn the spell. And yes, the the number of dice you roll increases with your level. There's about a 60% chance the spell is immediately better than a magic missile and a 35% chance that the spell does as much or more damage than a fireball. Oh, did I mention that this is a area effect spell?

I sort of like "Thoth Amon's Organ Request". It summons an internal organ from a target within 240 feet (causing it to burst forth from the target's body) -- which sounds pretty fatal, although perhaps not instantly so. This spell sounds like something an evil wizard would use to terrorize people into following him as it is do much more disgusting than "Power Word Kill". Unfortunately, while "Power Word Kill" is a 9th level spell, "Thoth Amon's Organ Request" is a 6th level spell.

Fortunately, the forward to The Necromican suggests that the GM modify spells levels and such if needed.

"The levels given for the spells are based on our own playing experience, however, it is the privilege of the individual games masters to change the level of any spell so that it will better fit into their own universes."

I would strongly advise any GM who wants to use spells from this book carefully consider each one she makes available in her game. Probably 75% of the spells in this book can be used with some modification, either to spell level or to spell effects. A few, those in the first category, can generally be used as they are.

Of course, there are some spells that probably cannot (or perhaps should not) be saved. Most of these fall into the "oh-my-ghod that's ridiculous" category. My favorite "oh-my-ghod that's ridiculous" spell in The Necromican is the "Summoning of the Black Hole" spell. It's a 12th level spell that basically summons a small black hole (with all the nasty effects you can imagine). (Follow the black hole link to Wikipedia if you aren't sure what a black hole is). Unfortunately, the black hole spell only has a range of 360 feet. I don't know about you, but that is a whole lot closer than I want to get to a black hole -- even a small one.

It may sound like I consider The Necromican useless. That's not true. There are a good number of interesting and usable spells in The Necromican, some of seem quite useful and which I can't remember ever seeing anywhere else. For example, the "Odoriferous Variability" spell allows you to change your body odor so you smell like some other creature. This could be useful if you are being tracked by creatures that track by scent or if you need to sneak into an area guarded by creatures with an excellent sense of smell. Spells l;ike this have found there way into my games in the past.

The Necromican is a fairly rare early D&D item. A copy is one of the giveaway items in our current Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. See below for more info. Donate today for a chance at a copy of The Necromican.


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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!

Design Theory and D&D: Why a Poor Design (According to Theory) May Sell Well

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Design book cover illoOne the major complaints I hear about D&D Next from many 4e fans (at least on the Internet) over and over again is that D&D Next has completely abandoned 4e's stress on tight design and balanced math -- what people making this complaint call "good design".

I'll admit that 4e was the best designed version of D&D ever produced if tight, focused rules and balanced math are considered necessary for a RPG to be well-designed. However, well-designed according to these principles does not mean an RPG so designed will automatically be adopted. It still has to meet the needs of those who play it. For example, here are some of my major requirements for any set of D&D rules that I am going to play or run:

* Fast and simple character generation that does not require computer assistance to be fast and easy. (Say a max of 10 minutes for an experienced player, 20 or so for a new player with an experienced player to walk him through it.)

* Fast combats that do not need minis/counters and grids. By fast, I mean an average combat with 4 or 5 players at the table takes no more than 10 or 15 minutes maximum -- including any setup time. End of adventure "boss" combats might take 30 or so minutes max, however.

* Players can play (and play well enough to not handicap the party) without studying the rules.

* Players can play by simply describing what they want their character to do in plain English (or whatever their native language is) and the GM can simply tell them the results or what to roll. There should no need for players to describe characters actions in rules terms. In other words, the system needs to accommodate casual players and players who simply aren't interested in game mechanics.

* The system should work with two players or ten players at the table.

* The rules should fade into the background. In other words, play should be about what the characters do into the game world, not about using/manipulating the game rules to best advantage.

* The game rules should adapt to the way my group plays not expect that my group will change their style of play to fit the rules.

* The system should work with all the D&D adventures and setting I already own (or have created) without a lot of prior preparation. I should be able to adapt such older material on the fly while running a session.

Any objective look at D&D 4e will show that it fails to meet most of my major requirements, so no one should be surprised that I'm not going to regularly play or run 4e. This does not change the fact that 4e is "well designed and has balanced math" as its fans claim and meets those goals better than any other version of D&D. However, simply meeting such design criteria does not automatically mean that the game meets the specific requirements of all potential players. A game system that seems to be poorly designed according to popular design theories may meet the requirements of some players far better than a well-designed game.

Let's look at this idea from a different point-of-view: cars. I'm willing to admit that even an average formula one race car is far better designed and far more innovative than my almost decade old Safari mini-van. However, I would not trade my mini-van for a formula one race car, because the formula one race car does not have a big air-conditioned compartment where I can haul 4 or 5 dog crates. My wife is involved in dog rescue and at least one or twice a month, I end up transporting a few dogs around the area. My mini-van with its out-dated (and not even very innovative when it was new) design allows me to do that. The latest and greatest formula one race car would not. It's not "nostalgia" or the lack of desire to learn to handle a formula one race car that makes me stay with my old mini-van, it's the fact that the mini-van does the job I want it to and the far better designed formula one race car does not handle the job nearly as well (read: at all).

Excellent design according to design theory simply does not mean that the resulting design will actually meet the needs of every potential user, whether one is talking about D&D or vehicles. Sometimes, one can sell more product not by producing the best design possible according to design theory, but by looking at the needs of one's potential buyers and designing to meet those needs -- even if the result is an horrible design according to design theory and angers everyone who values "good design".


cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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!

D&D Rules Cyclopedia Finally Available in PDF

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The D&D Rules Cyclopedia is now available in pdf from DrivethruRPG/RPGNow/DNDClassics for US$9.95. This is the compilation of the rules from the D&D Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters boxed sets by Frank Mentzer (from the 1980s) into a single handback set of rules by Aaron Allston. It is probably the best one-volume version of D&D ever written. The artwork leaves something to be desired compared to the art in the original boxed sets, but it isn't terrible. The rules themselves are very good, although you will want to download a free copy of the fan-produced errata from here.

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia should not be confused with the rules compilation volumes for 3.x and 4e. The D&D Rules Cyclopedia is for BECMI D&D from the 1980s and includes all the information you need to play: the rules, monsters, treasure, GM advice, etc. Everything one needs to play except dice and adventures. It is a bargain at $9.95 even in pdf form. My only regret about this release is that this pdf release probably means WOTC in not planning to reprint this book as they have reprinted the core books for 1e, 2e, and 3e (and will be doing for 0e later this year). The only reason I can figure (read: guess) for not reprinting the D&D Rules Cycopedia is that WOTC is afraid that having a simple to learn and play -- but very complete -- version of D&D available in hardback would hurt D&D Next sales.

If you do not own a copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, you can get one in PDF from RPGNow here for only $9.95. IMHO, it's the best $10 anyone can spend on D&D. Your mileage may vary, of course.

cover scanThe second Sponsor Lords & Wizards Mini-Drive for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund is running now. The goals is only $250 with the following giveaway items: The Necromican, Judges Guild Dungeon Tac Cards, The Iron Wind (1st Edition) and Starstone. Each $10 donated gives you one chance at one of these items. This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund and sponsorship listings in the upcoming Lords & Wizards game. 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!