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13th Age meets Microlite81 -- Sort Of

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13th Age CoverI've spend the past two weeks suffering through one of the worst cases of sinus problems I've had in years. I don't know what's in the air but I wish it wasn't. I haven't gotten much done on Microlite81. Most days it has been all I could do to drag myself to work and drag myself home. I have, however, had a chance to look through borrowed copies of a couple of new "very new school" games: 13th Age and Numenera. Numenera has an interesting setting, but the game system doesn't do much for me -- mainly because I don't see any reason for it. I could run the setting with a few pages of house rules for D&D. 13th Age is more interesting in that it has a gridless variant of 3.x combat rules. I may borrow some of the 13th Age combat positioning and movement rules for a "advanced" combat system for Microlite74 and Microlite81 at some point in the future. Otherwise, the rules did little for me as they are too new school and too narrative-focused for my tastes.

For example, every character in 13th Age has "One Unique Thing" -- one unique feature that no one else in the entire world has. It can't be something that affects combat, but just about anything else the player wants is fine. Some examples given in the book seem okay to me (e.g. "I cut off my own arm to show how tough I am" or "I am a former cultist"). Other examples seem a bit much (e.g. "I am the oldest elf in the world" or "I'm the only human to be called into the dwarven priesthood -- ever") and some just seem completely over the top (e.g. "To you I might look like a halfling sorcerer, but I'm a dragon that's been stripped of its mighty form and power. Not that I'll ever tell anyone that" or "I am a deathless pirate whose soul is trapped in a gem controlled by the Blue dragon."). As far as I can tell, the player isn't even limited to things that exist in the DM's campaign, the player can add new stuff (up to and apparently including new countries and peoples).

The "One Unique Thing" rule in 13th Age seems to be a rule designed to that every player who wants the "most special special snowflake" character ever can be sure to get that character. That's not something I'd want a campaign I run. However, 13th Age's "One Unique Thing" rule did remind me of something vaguely similar I used to do back in the 1970s when many of my players would just reuse the characters who died -- just under a different name (or sometimes "junior", "the III", etc.). I had each player select a "character Tagline" -- one fairly unique feature in the character's personality or background. Something to set the character apart from other similar characters (living or dead) in the campaign. I've recreated that rule and am adding it as an optional rule in Microlite81. From the following draft version of the rule, you can see it is intended to be far more limited that the 13th Age's "One Unique Thing" rule even if the idea behind the two rules are similar: ensure characters are unique.

Character Tagline (Optional)
Each character should have one fairly unique feature in his personality or background that sets him or her apart from other characters and npcs in the campaign (and from other characters the player may play or have played in the campaign). This feature should not be something that would give a mechanical bonus in play, but something interesting and unique in the character's personality, background, or history. The GM should work with the player to ensure the character’s tagline is appropriate to the campaign setting. A tagline can also be a "catch phrase" that sums up the character in some way.

Some examples of simple character taglines for characters from history and literature would be "never tells a lie" for George Washington, "lion hearted" for Richard I of England, "demands his martinis be shaken not stirred" for James Bond, "cultivates a grandfather image but quietly manipulates others to achieve the greater good" for Dumbledore, and "I didn't do it, nobody saw me, you can't prove anything” for Bart Simpson."


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 August 2013, $302 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $198 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

What Has WOTC Learned from the D&D Next Public Playtest?

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In the latest edition of Legends & Lore, Mike Mearls talks about what WOTC learned from the public playtest of D&D Next. Here's what Mearls said:

So, what did we learn from the public playtest? In some cases you confirmed things, in others you dispelled some notions that had become lodged in R&D's view of you.
  • You like simplicity. You want to jump into the game quickly, create characters, monsters, NPCs, and adventures with a minimum of fuss, and get down to the business of playing D&D.
  • You like that every class has the potential to contribute in most situations, but you're OK with some classes being better at certain things if that fits the class's image. You see balance on a larger, adventure-based or campaign-based scale.
  • You want rules that make it easy to build adventures and encounters. You want to think about the story or your setting's details, rather than fiddle with math.
  • You value flexibility in rules. You prefer an ability or a rule that's easy to adapt or that leaves space for creative applications, rather than rigidly defined abilities.
  • You aren't edition warriors. You want the game to support a variety play styles in equal measure. You're not attached to any specific ways of doing things as long as the game works.

There's already a lot of howling from 4e and some 3.x fans over these items -- as many of them are a fairly strong rejection of some of the key features of the editions of D&D which WOTC has developed. Specifically, "you like simplicity" and "you prefer an ability or a rule that's easy to adapt or that leaves space for creative applications, rather than rigidly defined abilities" are pretty much the opposite of what D&D has been under the stewardship of WOTC. Both 3.x and 4e were very complex games that required a lot of upfront work from both players and GMs before play (and before each game for the GM). Both 3.x and 4e were all about long lists of very specific abilities and powers. Seeing balance on a larger than an encounter scale very different from late 3.x and 4e where everything seemed to be designed around carefully-balanced almost set-piece combat encounters.

Finally, wanting the game to support a wide variety of different play styles is a fairly strong rejection of both 4e and the silly GNS game theory it was apparently designed around (which states that a game should be laser-focused on one specific style). Why such laser-focused games may be great for games with a narrow focus (like many of the indie games that are designed around the GNS theory), such a narrow, focused on one or two styles of play, system is a very poor choice for a game that has traditionally supported many, very different styles of play. 4e was a huge success with those D&D players who wanted D&D to revolve long, balanced, detailed tactical grid-based combats loved D&D 4e and generally thought it was the best version of D&D ever. Unfortunately, large numbers of the millions of people who have played D&D over the last almost 40 years were not really strongly interested in that very specific style of play and discovered quickly that 4e did not really support other styles of play very well -- and many were not willing to change to a style of play they did not enjoy that much just to play the current edition of D&D.

I still doubt that I will switch my games to D&D Next when it finally comes out. However, from what I've seen of the playtest, it looks like it will be close enough to the type of D&D I like that I will be able to buy and use D&D Next adventures and settings and use them in my TSR era D&D campaigns without a lot of conversion effort. This is something that I haven't been able to do with WOTC D&D before.

Microlite81 Update: Microlite81 Extended version 0.25 is currently available to donors in the usual area. Microlite81 1.30 should be available to donors later in the week (or early next week) -- leading up to the Microlite81 Public Playtest 2.0 release which is now planned for early September. Donors can download Microlite81 Extended version 0.25 here from Mediafire (with the usual donor password).


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 19 August 2013, $269 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $231 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.



Download Microlilte74, Microlite20 OSS, and More from These Links -- Without Mediafire

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Copies of all of RetroRoleplaying.com's free tabletop RPGs are now available from the downloads area of the RetroRoleplaying Forum. This means you can download copies of our free games without fighting Mediafire (which can be a pain if your browsers doesn't have a good ad blocking extension installed). I've listed links to the download page for each of our currently available free RPGs and supplements below. To download a file, go to the download page and click on the filename link directly under the file title. You do not need to be a member of the forum to download these files.

Microlite74 Core Rules

* Microlite74 Basic
* Microlite74 Standard
* Microlite74 Extended

Microlite74 Companions

* Microlite74 Companion I: Optional Rules
* Microlite74 Companion II: Treasure
* Microlite74 Companion III: More Optional Rules
* Microlite74 Companion IV: Bestiary of Monsters
* Microlite74 Companion V: First Edition Spells

Microlite74 Variants

* Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Edition
* Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Edition

Microlite74 Previous Editions

* Microlite74 Release 1.0
* Microlite74 Release 1.1 Standard
* Microlite Version 2.0 Standard
* Microlite74 Version 2.0 Ancient Auguries
* Microlite74 Version 2.0 Wary's Grimoire
* Microlite75 Characters & Magic 1.01
* Microlite75 Options & Monsters 1.01

Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style)

* Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style)
* Advanced Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style)

Other RetroRoleplaying.com Games

* Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome (House Rules for 0e Games)


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 15 August 2013, $194 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $306 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Microlite81, Lords & Wizards, and ACKS

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverMany readers many remember that I was going back and forth on using Labyrinth Lord OGL rules or Adventurer Conqueror King System OGL as the underlying foundation to build Lords & Wizards on. My waffling back and forth was on of the major things holding up making a real start on writing Lords & Wizards. One of the reasons I talked myself into doing Microlite81 was because writing Microlite81 would allow be to use a set of rules I was very familiar with (Microlite20-based Microlite74) to build a B/X-based game -- and it would allow me to easily experiment with using "Microlite20-ized" OGL material from LL, ACKS, BFRPG, and others as building blocks in the game. Experimenting via very lightweight Microlite20-ized rules is far faster and easier than experimenting the "full-size, complete, and wordy" versions -- especially when one can't just copy-paste but has to rewrite portions because things aren't quite the same.

While I had moved away from using ACKS based systems for Lords & Wizards, playing with Microlite20-ized versions has made me rethink this. For example, the XP needed for advancement in Microlite81 is currently based on ACKS which means ACKS classes and the ACKS class building system could be used with M81 with just a bit of adjustment. The optional classes in M81 Extended will be similar to classes in ACKS. ACKS Spell creation rules should work for M81 spells as well. While the economy will not be hardwired to work like to does it ACKS, it will start at the same point with respect to pricing and the value of money so those who want to use an ACKS-based economic system could easily do so. This bodes well for those who would like to see Lords & Wizards use an ACKS-like engine.

As usual, however, I haven't been able to figure out a way to make proficiencies play well with my more general background system. While proficiencies are technically optional in ACKS, most people who really like ACKS love them. I'm still trying to think of a way to make proficiencies play well with backgrounds, but I'm not having much luck -- and I'm not willing to give up backgrounds given how well they have worked for my games since the late 1970s.


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 13 August 2013, $190 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $310 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Third RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Mini-Drive Progress Report

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Cover - Booty and the BeastsHere's a status update on our current "Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) with a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation Mini-Drive." We currently have $155 in donations. Our goal is $500. The goal of these drives has been to help pay off my wife's oral cancer bills, but as of this week they have an additional goal -- to help pay off the medical bills my wife is about to accumulate to repair spine/disc damaged caused by falls -- falls caused by bad balance caused by inner ear problems which is most likely caused by radiation damage from her oral cancer treatments. We have no idea what the final cost will be but the MRI to see the problem was $3200.

Each $10 donated during a drive will 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.

Journey to the Center of the Circle CoverIf you donate at least $25, you will be listed as a "Copper" Sponsor in the all currently planned Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards PDFs. If you donate at least $51, you will be listed as a "Silver" Lin the all currently planned Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards PDFs. 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 Microlite81/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 Microlite81) I'm working on.

Judges Guild Character Chronicle CardsThe third "Sponsor Microlite81 and Lords & Wizards with a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donation" mini-drive 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 First Fantasy Campaign cover* 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.

* 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. Since my first post on this mini-drive, I've been informed that these adventures were ran at conventions on the East Coast and that Wilmark dynasty adventures were very popular at those conventions. I stand corrected, these two weren't parodies. 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.

The Vampire's Mirror Cover* 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. It is autographed by Frank Mentzer and James Ward. Mentzer wrote it, I have no idea why Ward signed it. Ward's signature is on the last page, however, so it may simply have been the only thing handy for Ward to sign?

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.

The Mnemonic Mage Class for Microlite74

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Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome: House Rules for 0e GamesI have been asked for a Microlite74 version of the Mnemonic Mage optional class from Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome (my set of house rules for S&W and other 0e games). Here is a first pass at a Microlite74 Mnemonic Mage class and the rules for mnemonic magic. Mnemonic Mages are standard Magic-Users who use mnemonic magic instead of the standard arcane magic. The class description is for Microlite74 Extended but with minor modifications it could work with other versions of Microlite74 (and possibly with Microlite81). These rules have not been playtested, but they are based on 0e rules that have been used for many years.

The following text is Open Game Content under the OGL.

Mnemonic Mages (Arcane Class) wear no armor and can only use daggers, slings or staves as weapons. Physical Combat Bonus is level/4, round up. Magical Combat Bonus is level/2, round up. Experience Base is 30. Class Saving Throw Bonus is +1. They add +2 to WIL saves. They cast Mnemonic spells and have the Minor Magic and Arcane Blast special abilities. A Mnemonic Mage cannot cast spells through ritual magic although he may perform special rituals (that do not duplicate spells) through ritual magic.

Mnemonic Magic
A Mnemonic Mage has a number of memory slots to hold spells equal to his level plus one. A Mnemonic Mage memorizes spells by reading them in his spell book and forcing them into his mind. The number of memory slots (MS) a specific spell takes up depends on the class of the spell. Minor Spell: 1 MS; Lesser Spell: 2 MS; Greater Spell: 3 MS; Extraordinary Spell: 6 MS; Most Extraordinary Spell: 12 MS. Forcing a spell into memory takes 10 minutes of spell book study per memory slot required by the spell and costs HP equal to the memory slot cost of the spell. To cast a memorized spell, all the Mnemonic Mage needs to do is to recite it. This releases the spell from his memory and causes it to take effect. Once cast, the spell is no longer in memory.

Mnemonic Spells: The Minor spell class includes spells from the first and second level magic-user spell list. The Lesser spell class includes spells from the third and fourth level magic-user spell list. The Greater spell class includes spells from the fifth and sixth level magic-user spell list. The Extraordinary spell class includes spells from the seventh and eighth level magic-user spell list. The Most Extraordinary spell class includes spells from the ninth level magic-user spell list.

First level Mnemonic Mages start with a spell book holding 3 minor spells, 2 lesser spells, and 1 greater spell. The player may select two of the minor spells from those the GM allows were available to the mage during his apprenticeship, the others are selected by the GM by whatever method he wishes.

10% of the arcane scrolls and spell books found as random treasure should contain spells in mnemonic form. These items are useless to a standard magic-user. Scrolls and spell books with spells in standard (non-mnemonic) form are useless to a Mnemonic Mage. A Mnemonic Mage may either copy a mnemonic spell into his spell book from a scroll or memorize the spell; in either case the spell fades from the scroll after one use.


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 10 August 2013, $155 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $345 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.


Microlite81 Playtest Draft 1.20 Available to Donors

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverThe latest and greatest playtest draft of Microlite81 (Version 1.20) is available to RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund cancer fund donors. This draft has reorganized rules, expanded class descriptions, rewritten encumbrance rules, and more minor changes I forgot to make note on.

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

Download Microlite81 Playtest Draft 1.20

There will probably be another public playtest draft of Microlite81 (version 2.0) later in the month. Public Playtest Draft 1.01 is still available to everyone from this Mediafire link, however -- and comments are still welcome!

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


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 8 August 2013, $150 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $350 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Don't Like Mediafire? Microlite74 Downloads Now Available On Retroroleplaying Message Board

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I know a number of people have problems downloading Microlite74 games from Mediafire. Thanks to a recent huge monthly bandwidth expansion from our web host, I'm now able to make downloads of Microlite74 (and soon other Microlite20-based games) available from a new Downloads area of the RetroRoleplaying message board. You can find the download area here:

Microlite74 Download Area on the RetroRoleplaying Message Board


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 7 August 2013, $150 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $350 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Monsters & Magic: High Praise For A Game I'd Never Play

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Monsters & Magic CoverI had a chance to look at a copy of Monsters & Magic this weekend. It's a new "OSR" game by Sarah Newton published by Mindjammer Press. It's basically a set of new school rules that you can overlay on a version of old school TSR D&D so you can use TSR-era monsters, spells, adventures etc. but use them with new school rules. (Note that while I don't really consider it an "OSR" game, whether it is or not is not really germane to this post -- I'm just mentioning this to head off discussions of whether or not this is a real OSR game in comments.)

Sarah Newton explains the genesis of the game and exactly what the purpose of the game is in the foreword to Monsters & Magic:

I'd been reading through some Old School Renaissance games, trying to find a rules set to scratch that itch. I was looking for something which oozed with classic fantasy atmosphere, was easy to play, yet which extended its playability into areas usually covered by more modern games — personality conflicts, playing with scenic and thematic aspects, exploiting the narrative tropes of classic swords and sorcery adventure. More than anything, I wanted to use the many supplements and scenarios I’d collected over the years — to play them again, without having to laboriously convert them to this or that ruleset. Try as I might, I couldn't find a game to suit.

It was a lightbulb moment. Why not write one? I’d been toying with a rules system for a year or two — something which gave players a stack of points they could spend to do cool in-game stuff. Not just whittling away an opponent’s endurance, but changing the world, doing genre-specific acts of heroism and amazing feats.

As you can tell from the second paragraph, Monsters & Magic is not the sort of game I would enjoy playing. I don't like new school mechanics. They turn me off the way an old school dungeon crawl using B/X or AD&D rules often turns off players who love D&D 4e or Fiasco.

So why I am excited about a game that I has everything I don't like rolled into "D&D"? It's simple, with Monsters & Magic Sarah Newton has clearly demonstrated that is is possible to take standard TSR D&D and write a set of optional rules for it that turns the game into a new school, more narrative style of game that is still able to easily use all the standard game's monsters, spells, treasure, adventures, etc.

In my humble opinion, this is what WOTC should be doing with 5e. Producing a standard version of D&D Next that is something like an updated B/X or 1e and then producing modular supplements which overlay/replace some of the rules of the standard game to produce a game with a tactical focus (like that of 4e), a game with a charop focus (like that of 3.5), a game with a narrative focus, etc. No one version of D&D is going to please all D&D players, let alone all fantasy RPG fans. What is needed is a modular system that has a simple core that supplements can build out in completely different directions. Monsters & Magic proves this can be done and done well with D&D -- even when the original system was never designed with such game-changing supplements in mind..

This is why I have high praise for Monsters & Magic even though I'd rather be tickled to death by little red spiders than have to play it. It's a very well done new school system that turns standard TSR D&D into a game that is still recognizable as D&D, but uses new school rules to make a more "narrative" RPG out of D&D for those who would like to play D&D, but prefer a game system more like Fate (or some other more narrative system). If you fall into that category, I highly recommend Monsters & Magic. I think it is far better than Dungeon World, Torchbearer, and other recent system that try to produce a completely new "new school" game that covers the same ground as D&D. While I may not be a fan of the type of games Sarah Newton designs, I have to admit that they are well-thought out and excellent at what they do. Monsters & Magic is no exception.


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 6 August 2013, $140 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $360 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Getting Rid of Attack Rolls; or Save vs Damage for D&D?

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D&D Masters Set Box CoverEvery once in a while I see someone posting that fighters in D&D (or in D&D Next) should automatically hit and do huge amounts of damage so they can keep up with wizards in damage output ignoring the fact they the fighter can use his damage attack over and over all day while a wizard can only do his huge amount of damage attack a few times a day at most. I also occasionally see people saying fighters should automatically hit because missing is boring and means they've wasted a turn. This just strikes me as very silly, although I'm sure some people feel this way.

For some weird reason we were discussing these type of comments during my Sunday game last Sunday. It's probably not a big surprise to discover that neither view got much sympathy from my players. However, during a break a few minutes later, one of my players brought the topic up again. He suggested that perhaps all attacks should be assumed to hit (just as the vast majority of spells hit without an attack roll), and the target of the attack should roll a "avoid taking damage" saving throw (again, just like being attacked with a spell).

In other words, no one would roll to attack. Instead, characters and monsters would roll a "physical defense saving throw" to avoid the damaging effects of a physical attack. This would make the rules less complex by using one method -- rolling a saving throw -- to avoid or lessen the effects of an attack. It would not matter whether that attack was a fireball or a two-handed sword, the same "making a saving throw" method would be used to find out that happened to the target, although what the target saved against would vary with the type if attack.

This is an interesting idea. How interesting depends on how one actually chooses to handle the physical defense saving throws. If you handle them TSR saving throw style, the AC, level, and class of the defender would be the primary determiner as to whether the character takes damage as TSR D&D does not adjust saving throws for the level of the attacker. This would be a simple and fast system, players save vs a fairly fixed number based on their AC, class, and level that they can just glance at on their character and roll. The only modifiers would be for things like being attacked by a magic weapon. If WOTC-style saving throws were used, figuring the saving throws needed would be more complex as the level of the attacker would need to be taken into account.

I'm not sure I'd actually want to play a game using saving throws to defend instead of attack rolls to determine if the target is hit. However, I'm interested in reader opinions on this idea. If enough people are find the idea interesting, I will try to come up with optional rules for Microlite74 and Microlite81 that implement a version of this system which people interested in the idea can play with.


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 6 August 2013, $140 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $360 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Booty & the Beasts: Erol Otus Monster Art

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My Sunday Game had some interesting distractions yesterday, two of which deserve their own blog posts. The first distraction was the copy of Booty & the Beasts for the the current RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Mini-Drive. None of my players had seen a copy, so got talked into getting it out for people to look at before the game. One of my players decided to get some pictures of a few pieces of Erol Otus' artwork with his phone camera. This proofed to be a comedy of errors with people trying to hold the book open while keeping their hands out of the pictures combined with a phone camera that apparently did not like the lighting in my living room. With the curtain open and the afternoon sun coming in, the drawings were washed out in pictures. With the curtain closed and the light over the table on, there were strange chromatic effects (in pictures of black & white art).

Some pictures finally got taken and I received a set of slightly cleaned up in some photo program pictures in email this morning. Booty & the Beasts has two major sections, one for monsters and one for treasure. The monsters section has over 30 illos, all by Erol Otus. Here are the ones we were able to get pictures of. Note that I think the aspect ratio is different in these pictures than it the book. They seem a bit vertically stretched to me, although the photographer thinks it is my imagination.

The first four pictures are of fairly original monsters.

Termite People
Termite People illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

Sonic Fish
Sonic Fish illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

Piranha Demon
Piranha Demon illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

Fungus Men
Fungus Men illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

These last two, however, are obviously borrowed. Very obviously in the second case.

Arachnatroid
Arachnatroid illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

The Neila
The Neila illo by Erol Otus from Booty & the Beasts

The "Arachnatroid" based on the Jonny Quest episode "The Robot Spy". "The Neila" is based on the alien from the movie "Alien" which had just come out in 1979, the year Booty & the Beasts was published.

Here's the description of Fungus Men, the very first entry in the book, to give an idea of the monsters are like:

FUNGUS MEN: Hit Dice: 1-3. Armor Class 6. Dexterity 3-18. Movement 12". These grungy little creatures look like a cross between midgets and toadstools. The generally stand between two and foot feet tall and inhabit dim, wet caves going outdoors only at night. The Fungus Men use stalactites for weapons which hit as daggers and giant mushroom tops for shields. When in greatest danger they are capable of emitting an opaque cloud of spores 15 feet in diameter which serve only to obscure vision to cover their escape. Fungus men are encountered in number from 3-30.

While Fungus men are not very dangerous, they are one of my favorites from the book. Most of the monsters in Booty & the Beasts are much more dangerous. The Neila is every bit as nasty as the one in the movie, for example.

I'll post a few pictures from the treasure section of Booty & the Beasts later this week. Don't forget that the copy of Booty & the Beasts these pictures came from is one of the giveaway items in the current Sponsor Microlite81 (and Lords & Wizards) Mini-Drive. Donate today for a chance to win it or ones of the other giveaway items listed below.


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 5 August 2013, $125 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $375 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Optional Weapon Mastery Rules for Microlite74 and Microlite81

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D&D Masters Set Box CoverThe Masters Set of the BECMI version of D&D added a set of Weapon Mastery rules that provided specific rules for each weapon for five levels of weapon mastery (none, basic, skilled, expert, master). Many people considered this overpowered, but when used in play from the beginning of a campaign (instead of retroactively added to an ongoing campaign when one bought the Masters Set), I found that it wasn't really overpowered and added a lot to the game, especially for the fighter class.

I've always wanted to add this to Microlite74 (and now Microlite81) but the system depended on two pages of tables and special rules for almost every weapon. This makes it hard to create a "microlite" version as the rules for Weapon Mastery would be as long or longer than the entire rules for Microlite74 Basic. After several years of thinking about this on and off, I finally concluded that I could make something like this if I made the effects general instead of specific to each weapon.

I modeled these draft Microlite74/81 Weapon Mastery system after the Talents rules already in some versions of Microlite74 and Microlite81. There are three levels of Weapon Mastery: Good at (a specific weapon), Expert at (a specific weapon) and Master at (a specific weapon). Naturally you have to already be "good at" a specific weapon before you can become "expert at" that specific weapon and you have to be "expert at" a specific weapon before you can become "master at" that specific weapon. Fighting classes would select a Weapon Mastery at 1st level and all odd-numbered levels (allowing them to still select normal non-weapon talents at even-numbered levels, they cannot select Weapon Mastery instead of normal talents at even-numbered levels). Non-fighters could select a Weapon Mastery instead of regular talent at even-numbered levels. Only Fighting Classes can reach the "Master at" level. Arcane casters can only reach the "Good at" level. No character can take a level of Weapon Mastery in a weapon he is unable to use because of class restrictions.

The effects of each level of Weapon Mastery are as follows::

Good at [Specific Weapon]: +2 to hit when wielding this specific weapon. Roll damage as 1d2+2 (for 1d4), 1d3+3 (for 1d6), 1d4+4 (for 1d8), etc. (Arcane Casters are only +1 to hit.)

Expert at [Specific Weapon]: +2 to hit when wielding this specific weapon. Roll damage as 1d2+2 (for 1d4), 1d3+3 (for 1d6), 1d4+4 (for 1d8), etc. Add +1 to damage for every two points you beat the number you need to hit on your attack roll. Critical Hit on a natural 19 or 20. Can hit beings that require a silver weapon to hit with a normal weapon.

Master at [Specific Weapon]: +3 to hit when wielding this specific weapon. Roll damage as 1d2+2 (for 1d4), 1d3+3 (for 1d6), 1d4+4 (for 1d8), etc. Add +1 to damage for every point you beat the number you need to hit on your attack roll. Critical Hit on a natural 18, 19, or 20. Critical hit does double normal body damage (or adds an extra die of damage on targets without body points). Can hit beings that require a silver or a magical weapon to hit with a normal weapon.

Specific Weapon means just at one specific type of weapon: a dagger, a short sword, a longbow, a sling, etc.

Fighting classes (only) may instead elect to take Weapon Mastery in an entire class of weapons (one-handed swords, bows, thrown weapons, polearms, etc.). The effects of Weapon Mastery for an entire class of weapons are less than for a specific weapon as shown below:

Good at [Weapon Class]: +1 to hit when wielding weapons of this general type.

Expert at [Weapon Class]: +1 to hit when wielding weapons of this general type. Roll damage as 1d2+2 (for 1d4), 1d3+3 (for 1d6), 1d4+4 (for 1d8), etc.

Master at [Weapon Class]: +1 to hit when wielding weapons of this general type. Roll damage as 1d2+2 (for 1d4), 1d3+3 (for 1d6), 1d4+4 (for 1d8), etc. Add +1 to damage for every two points you beat the number you need to hit on your attack roll. Critical Hit on a natural 19 or 20.

These rules should be suitable for Microlite74 (Standard or Extended) or Microlite81 (Extended), but they have not been playtested at all at this point. I'm sure they will need tweaking in playtest, assuming they aren't found to be too complex or too powerful in play. Feedback is welcome. especially feedback from actual playtesting.


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 3 August 2013, $125 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $375 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

Dungeon Robber -- Flash Game of Old School (1e) Dungeon Crawling

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I've discovered the Dungeon Robber game. it's a flash game of old school dungeon crawling. Very old school dungeon crawling. From the game description from the "what the heck is this?" box on the startup screen:

The very first single-player dungeoncrawl game was not a video game. It was a series of charts printed in the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, back in 1979. By rolling dice according to the instructions, you could generate a dungeon which was illogical, arbitrary, super-lethal, and which often didn't even produce usable results.

THIS GAME USES THOSE CHARTS.

The system is slightly modified early TSR D&D. The game is not graphics intensive. In fact, the main graphic "the random dungeon generator as map" which flashes around as the program rolls dice to generate the next part of the dungeon. Most of the game is text description with choices at the end of every turn. I've found Dungeon Robber to be a lot of fun and very addictive -- and as you probably know, I'm not a big fan of computer RPGs. If you like old school D&D, give Dungeon Robber a try.

Play Dungeon Robber


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 3 August 2013, $125 has been donated in this mini-drive, an additional $375 in donations is needed to trigger the drawings for the items mentioned above.

D&D Skills: Tightrope Walking and the Cirque du Soleil -- The Real Problem isn't "the Math"

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illo of tightrope walkingThere was a huge thread on supposed problems with "the Math" in D&D Next ([5E] The Maths is Wrong!) on RPG.net recently. One of the arguments that the math was wrong struck me as actually showing a completely different set of problem with WOTC editions of D&D in general: the way WOTC editions handle skills and set difficulty numbers.

The argument in the thread went something like this. The 5e rules set the DC for walking a tightrope at 25, which means that even an expert thief, who has dedicated everything to tightrope walking, couldn't amass enough bonuses to guarantee walking a tight rope more than 60% of the time. Instead of assuming that perhaps the DC should be lower for walking a tightrope, most posters complained that this showed how "the Math" in 5e just did not work.

Someone then pointed out that performers in the Cirque du Soleil, who do things like riding a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling, manage to do what they do in performances all the time without falling and killing themselves. In fact, there has only been one death in something like 25 years worth of Cirque du Soleil performances. This was used as further evidence that "the Math" for 5e was completely off as there was no way D&D Next characters could ever be skilled enough to do this.

However, it sounds to me like there are three problems here. None of which has much to do with "the Math" but with the way Next (and other WOTC editions of D&D) handle DCs and skills.

First, as I mentioned above, the DC for tightrope walking is probably too high. More correctly, it doesn't take into account the exact situation. A true tightrope that is carefully stretched to the correct tension and is level is going to be much easier to walk than a rope stretched across a crevice in a cave that probably isn't stretched to the correct tension and is unlikely to be completely level. And this is before you take into account environmental factors in the cave (Is it damp? Is there a downdraft or an updraft? Etc.). So while a DC of 25 is probably way to high for a royal command performance in the castle courtyard, it might be just right in a damp cave where the far side of that crevice is a couple of feet higher the the near side. DCs really need to be set by the GM based on the specific situation, not set by some standard DC list for various activities in the rulebook. The GM should just decide if the specific instance of the task is easy, average difficulty, hard, very hard, extremely hard, etc. and assign the appropriate DC. Some examples of things that are easy, hard, etc. could be in the rule book, but they should just be examples.

The second problem is WOTC D&D's handling of skills. The rules seem to make it sound like you should roll for every use of the skill, no matter how normal and mundane -- or at least they seem to read that way for many players. IMHO, if you have a skill, normal usage of that skill under normal circumstances should not require a skill roll at all, the character should just succeed at the task. (And no, "take 10" and "take 20" do not actually provide this automatic success). Otherwise, even a low 0.01% chance of failure would mean that failure is very likely to happen more often than it does in real life. Someone with the acrobatics skill, for example, should not even have to roll to successfully cross that tightrope strung up level and at the correct tension in the castle courtyard unless there is some reason that it would be harder than normal (it's wet, greased shoes, etc.).

The third problem is that skill failure and skill fumble should be two different things. For a skilled person, failure at walking a tightrope should just mean you have problems and it takes you longer; or you have to make a DEX check to avoid dropping something as you flail around trying to regain your balance; or you can't make it across for some reason and have to go back; or the like. You shouldn't have to worry about falling unless you fumble the skill check and therefore have to save to grab the rope before you fall off or something. If you don't have the skill at all, failure probably means a disaster of some type, but if you have the skill, it shouldn't.

The Cirque du Soleil example isn't so much a rules issue as it is a common sense issue. For a person with the appropriate training (skill), practice often makes even the extremely difficult routine. A Cirque du Soleil performer doesn't just get up one morning and decide to add a new "riding a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling" routine to his performance. He develops the routine and practices it until he's as close to perfect as he can get (which may require weeks or months of practice) before he debuts the routine before an audience with the tightrope high in the air and no safety nets in sight. By the time, the performer is doing the act in front of an audience, he has practiced his specific routine so much that it has become a normal task for him. Even though his routine may be extremely difficult with a DC of 40, it has become a normal task for him because of his many hours practicing the exact steps of the routine. And as a normal task, no roll is needed for a basic success.

If I were running a skill-based game and had a Cirque du Soleil group of PCs I'd probably still require a skill roll when the character performs his routine but it would be to determine how well the performance went that day. A success means you did well enough that any minor missteps aren't noticed by the audience (a critical success would mean even your fellow performers/trainers don't notice any). A failed roll would mean that you had a problem that the audience could not help but notice. A fumble means you had real problems and have to make a second skill roll to avoid injury. Success on the second means just a really bad personal performance -- the sort that might ruin the entire show for the audience. While a failure on the second roll means not only did your poor performance ruin the show but you also suffered a minor injury (a fumble means you also suffered a major injury). If the character has an appropriate Performance skill, a high roll there might allow you to make even a bad mistake in your routine look like a part of the show.

In summary, I think "the math" is getting the blame for a problem that can't really be fixed by changing the math. What is needed is flexible DCs, recognition that skill rolls really should only be required when the circumstances aren't normal, and an understanding that most skill failures just mean you failed and not that a "near worst case" disaster has struck.


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 1 August 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.