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D&D's 40th Anniversary Has Been A Busy One

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2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the iconic roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, and thus far it's been far more than a note on the calendar. Often, a major milestone for an entertainment product will be marked simply by a commemorative badge on covers or new editions in stores. But with the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, the game is experiencing something of a turbulent year.

For starters, there's the issue of film rights, with various studios actually battling in court for the right to make a Dungeons & Dragons movie. But that's a separate issue that likely won't be resolved for some time. Aside from the film debate, Dungeons & Dragons as a game is facing the larger problem of attempting to remain relevant after a 4th Edition that many found disappointing.

To some extent, the idea of Dungeons & Dragons fighting for relevancy almost seems blasphemous. Yet an article in WGBH pointed out earlier this year that by 2012, D&D ranked only as the third best-selling roleplaying game. For reference, the wildly popular Pathfinder took over the top spot. There will always be fans loyal to the D&D brand, but at this point there's no denying the fact that other games—many of them directly imitating D&D—have succeeded in making themselves appealing to modern consumers.

Yet can Dungeons & Dragons really be struggling when its influence is so apparent across all spectrums of gaming? Think for a moment about different genres of table top games and video games—you may be surprised just how many of them trace back to the game widely credited with starting up the roleplaying genre, and popularizing fantasy models as well.

The first branch of influence comes quite simply from the title of the game! While D&D certainly didn't invent dragons, it did help introduce them to gaming spheres, and these days they seem to be everywhere. Popular video games like Skyrim and the Diablo series stand out as some of the biggest and best recent examples, but dragons have permeate all levels of gaming for years. Even in the online casino industry, the InterCasino platform—the longest running site in the industry—hosts numerous slot arcades designed with dragon themes (and titles) that you can view here. And in mobile apps (which can be said to represent the newest form of video games), dozens of dragon-related games are available in stores—some of them even playing with a roleplaying format.

Ultimately, D&D's influence in the gaming industry is so deep and broad-reaching that CNN even made it the focus of its 40th anniversary write-up. Going all the way back to 1988, the article cited Pool Of Radiance as the first video game to be developed based on D&D. Given some of the games just mentioned, it's fair to say that the video game market has been feeding off of D&D lore for over 25 years. In that regard, it's difficult to comprehend the idea of the original game struggling in any sense give that it's still being sold and maintains a passionate audience.

And right on cue, it seems that Hasbro and the folks behind D&D have created a new version to satisfy a modern market that was drifting away. To some extent, D&D may never regain its former popularity, simply because video games (and their increasing focus on online multiplayer capability) have taken over the industry. But it appears that the newly released 5th Edition of the game has at least helped to put D&D back on track, and it has received a favorable response from players.

Perhaps most importantly, the game seems to have returned to the basics in some respects, resembling all the best parts of its earlier editions. In an article titled "It's The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons," Kotaku writer Quintin Smith noted: "This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we've had in twenty years, and that's not all. It's never been more beginner friendly." That's about as strong a review as D&D fans could hope for: the best game in some time for experienced players, but also one that excels in attracting new players.

Whether or not the game can retake the top spot in the roleplaying genre remains to be seen. But for a 40th anniversary, 2014 has been a busy year for the D&D franchise—and possibly a great one as well given the review reviews of the 5th Edition.

Free (Old School) Fantastic Adventures Playtest Rules Available

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I've mentioned that I am working on a special version of the Microlite74/Microlite81 rules for the new old school campaign I'm planning to start in October in the few posts I've managed to make since my world fell apart in April. I finally have an early (0.15) version of these rules "finished" and I have decided to make this initial very rough draft available as a public playtest. Many future drafts will probably come out over the next couple of months -- most of the will only be released in the Donor Downloads area for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donors. Another public playtest draft should appear about the time the new campaign starts.

Fantastic Adventures combines some of the features of Microlite81 on top of a Microlite74-ish base. Some of the distinguishing features of Fantastic Adventures include: only 3 classes (Fighter, Magician, and Sorcerer -- Magician is limited to white magic and can fight and turn undead); backgrounds include race, culture, and prior "profession" (and can be used to create thieves, woodsmen, priests, etc.); only one spell list but three types of spells (white, grey, and black -- casting black magic can corrupt the caster). The final version of this game will be more of its own thing than an obvious version of M74/M81, however -- especially as it will be more complete (and therefore less "lite").

You can download a free copy of the 0.15 version of Fantastic Adventures here.

An ACKS Style Skill System?

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I'm attempting to convert my standard skill system from Microlite74 and Microlite81 to work as Adventurer Conqueror King System "throws" instead of the D20-style rolls plus bonuses because the people who want to play in my upcoming Garland campaign want to use ACKS style attack rolls, etc. I've come up with the following draft "Skill" rule and I'm looking for comments on it from a wider pool of people than the four people who will be playing in my new campaign. So please read and comment. :)

Skills
There are no skills in Microlite Old School 2014. Instead players are expected to think like adventurers, tell the GM what they are doing and the GM decides if it will succeed in the situation, taking into account the characters’ classes. If the GM decides a random success chance is truly needed he may resolve the situation with a throw or roll of his choice or he may call for one of the following throws from the table below:

Primary Class Throw: if the character is attempting something directly related to their class.
Secondary Class Throw: if the character is attempting something only loosely related to their class.
Primary Background Throw: if the character is attempting something that is not related to their class but is directly related to their background.
Secondary Background Throw: if the character is attempting something that is not related to their class but is at least loosely related to their background.
Unrelated Skill Throw: if the character is attempting something that anyone should be able to try with at least a small chance of success but is not really related to their class or background.

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

Unless the GM rules otherwise, a natural roll of 20 always succeeds for a Primary Class, Secondary Class, or Primary Background Roll. The following situational modifiers are suggested for task difficulty: Easy: +1, Normal: 0, Difficult: -1, Hard: -2, Very Hard: -4, Legendary: -6, Unbelievable: -8.

If the skill throw is a success, the character's attempt to perform the task succeeds. Otherwise, the character's attempt to perform the task fails, meaning the character makes no progress toward the task's objective (or -- if the GM wishes -- makes progress but suffers a setback determined by the GM).

Skill Throw Table

Level Primary Class Secondary Class Primary Background Secondary Background Unrelated
1
10+
12+
14+
16+
20+
2
9+
11+
13+
15+
19+
3
9+
11+
13+
15+
19+
4
8+
10+
12+
14+
18+
5
7+
9+
11+
13+
18+
6
7+
9+
11+
13+
17+
7
6+
8+
10+
12+
17+
8
5+
7+
9+
11+
16+
9
5+
7+
9+
11+
16+
10
4+
6+
8+
10+
15+
11
3+
5+
7+
9+
15+
12
3+
5+
7+
9+
14+
13
2+
4+
6+
8+
14+
14
1+
3+
5+
7+
13+

Questions for Consideration:
1) Should the a Stat Bonus really be added to all skill throws? I add them to skill rolls in Microlite74 and Microlite81 so I've kept the system here, but I really am not sure it is a good fit.

2) Are the suggested task difficulty situational modifiers reasonable?


Made my Saving Roll. I'm Not Dead Yet!

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No, I did not die with my mother-in-law back in April. However, my life has undergone some huge upheavals. We spend six weeks in a remodel of my late mother-in-law's house so it could be sold to decide we'd rather live here and sell the house in Waco. So we spent a month packing up and moving from Waco. The house there has just come on the market and we are back in Garland slowly unpacking and trying to fit two houses worth of stuff in one house. Needless to say, a lot of stuff has already been sold (generally for peanuts) or donated to charity groups for their "garage sales". As you might expect, I haven't got much else done, but life is slowly returning to normal. Here is a progress report on my various gaming projects and activities.

Wilderlands Campaign: I'm happy to say that the Wilderlands campaign I ran in Waco for about four years is still going strong. It is now two campaigns, however, as none of the players in the campaign willing to GM could handle 8 players. There are now two smaller groups, one using Microlite74 and the other using Microlite81, playing in the same world. They are even taking steps to keep the time line coordinated so events in one group can affect the other. Everyone seems to be having a good time and I even got to play in one session while I was in Waco. The first time I've ever played in one of my own settings. It was fun -- but felt very weird at the same time.

DFW Campaign: While it will still be a couple of months before I have time for a regular campaign, one is in the works. Due to physical space limitations, it will be limited to 4 players -- and it is already full. One of the regular readers of this blog got in touch with me in early June wanting to know if i had time to run any pickup old school games while I was in the Dallas area. I didn't, but I got to talking with him and his friends. Once my wife and I decided to move up here, they started lobbying for me to run a campaign up here. It looks like I'll be writing a special set of variant Microlite81 rules for it with only three classes (Fighter, Sorcerer [a fighter/mu combo], and Wizard) with everything else including race handled by backgrounds and with some of the stuff from Microlite74 Swords and Sorcery (like the White/Grey/Black magic system). I hope to start playing sometime in October (or late September if we're lucky).

Microlite81, Microlite78, and Other Design Projects: I have not made much progress on these. As you might expect I have not had a lot of computer time the last few months and most of what time I did have on the computer had to be devoted to doing work for my clients. I'm gradually getting more time and hope to be able to resume actually typing up rules soon. The goal for Microlite78 was not reached -- not surprising when I disappeared from the Net for over three months. However, a lot of the work for a draft is done, so I will likely go ahead and do it anyway, especially given that a lot of people really want to see it.

5e: I've been asked (a lot) about my opinion of the upcoming 5e. Until I actually see the 5e PH, MM, and DMG, I can't really say much. However, from what I've seen there are so many changes from TSR D&D (a "sleep" spell that only lasts a couple of minutes, for example) that I would have to heavily rewrite my campaign settings to make them work with 5e. I see no reason to do so since the rules they were designed for still work just fine. Unlike 3.x and 4e, however, 5e looks like a system I could enjoy playing given an old school style GM and group of players, so while I will probably not ever GM a campaign using the 5e rules, I could seeing myself as a player in an appropriate 5e campaign.

With luck, it will not be another three months before my next post. :)

Post Funeral Update: Sunday Game, Microlite78, and New Microlite74 ebooks

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Microlite78 mockup coverThings have been moving since I last posted. I'm still in Garland and, except for some quick trips back to Waco, I will be for the forseeable future. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on the house my wife's mom lived it before it could be sold. A lot of fondation work had to be done a few years ago. Unfortunately, her mom put off things like replacing flooring, painting, and other repairs to things that were damaged either because of the foundation problems or during the repairs (installing some 20 piers). All of this will have to be done before the house could go on the market. Also, going through her things will take weeks by itself. I expect one or both of us will be here 3-4 days out of every week for the next 3-4 months.

This means the end of my Sunday Game -- at least as it is running now. One of the players has volunteered to copy my materials and try to continue it until my schedule is able to take it back. This is a good thing. I'll be back in Waco this week and will get the needed material to him. With luck, they'll be able to resume the campaign next weekend.

I had hoped to get a lot of work on Microlite81 and Microlite78 done over the last week -- as I had little to do for hours at a stretch. Unfortunately, I left the DVD with all my files backed up on my computer desk back in Waco, so there wasn't much I could do other than think about things. Donations for Microlite78 project really dropped off when my wife's mom died and I quit posting to this blog, message boards, etc. The deadline will be extended, of course, and once I bring up our computers this week, I'll have all my files. Work will then resume. Any chance of getting Microlite81 Complete to release candidate stage this month are likely gone, however. The new edition of the Microlite20 Collection will also be delayed to sometime in May.

Speaking of donations, it looks like we hit the $300 mark yesterday. I'll do a drawing and mail out items to lucky winners sometime this week (see Microlite78 Sponsorship/RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive Giveaway Items for more info or to donate). I can't say when as I don't yet know which days I will be in Waco. Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

There is some really good news on the Microlite74 front. Shortly after all this happened, I received an email from Andy Lannan. He sent me a copies of Microlite74 Extended in epub and mobi ebook formats. I just discovered this email this morning, so I haven't had a chance to look at them, but it sounds like Andy did a great job -- even converting tables to jpgs so they would display correctly. Thank you, Andy, for what had to be a complex bit of work. I'll try to get these files uploaded soon. They will be free-to-all to download just like all the other Microlite74 materials.

Finally, I'll like to thank everyone who posted, emailed or called me with their condolences. I appreciated them and my wife was somewhat surprised that so many people she did not really know reached out to her. Thank you one and all.

My Wife's Mother Passed Away

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We get got a call from the rehab center she was transferred to yesterday. Donna's mother passed away last night. Needless to say, I will probably not be blogging much for a week or two and will be slower than normal at answering emails, including replying to donations. My apologies.

Three Days in Hospital Hell and a Microlite78 Status Update

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Microlite78 mockup coverI pushed the post on the Microlite78 giveaway items for the Would you like to see a Microlite78 RRCF donation drive on Sunday afternoon before my Sunday game. I had no idea when I did so that things were about to go to hell for a few days.

About 5:30pm with about 90 minutes left to go in the game, my wife got a phone call from a nurse's aide at a hospital in Dallas say that her mom wanted to talk to her. It turns out that her mom had been taken to the hospital from Macy's on Thursday last week and had been admitted -- and had not bothered call my wife (her next of kin) or her friend in Dallas (her emergency contact) or anyone else. If Donna's mom (who is in her early 80s) had not started feeling better and wondered why she wasn't getting any phone calls from her daughter or her friends, we might have never found out. Needless to say, our game ended for the week right then.

When my wife talked to the nurses after their shift change, she discovered that the hospital had all her medical info and records -- including next-of-kin and local emergency person contact info, but no one had bothered to use it in the 4 days she had been there. Needless to say she was not a happy camper. She (with some help from me) contacted the rest of her mom's friends and family and perpared to complain to the hospital Monday morning. We've spend Monday and Tuesday trying to get someone to admit that they screwed up but the best we can get is "protocols should have been followed" -- well, yes, but they weren't. They've also managed to lose her partial plate (which was removed in the ER and apparently mislaid. Fortunately, she is now out of the hospital and in a rehab facility. Hopefully, our life will soon be back to somewhat normal.

Things like this are particularly hard on my wife because she can't just go up to Dallas and handle things in person. The two hour drive would basically incapacitate her for several days (major back issues). A 15 minute drive around town is hard enough on her.

While all this has been going on, I've been getting a lot of support for Microlite81 both in donations (we may hit $300 in time for doing the drawing at next Sunday's game) and in emails from people saying they are interested even though they can't donate. I'm a bit surprised by the very high level of interest. I did not expect almost as much interest as there was in the early drafts of Microlite74 years ago. I have managed to put a very early (0.01) draft together. While it is available in the donor download area with the usual donor password, there is really no need to download it. At the moment it is just the 1E spells and Monsters from the M74 companions, treasure from M74 companion, rules mainly from M74 Extended, character creation from M81 Extended with the slight start on the 1E mods to character generation. I tossed this together in spare moments over the last couple of days. I'll work more on it once we hit about $400 in donations. For more about Microlite78: First Edition Lite (and to see how to donate) see this post: Would You Like to See a Microlite78: First Edition Lite?

Microlite78 Sponsorship/RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive Giveaway Items

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Microlite78 miockup coverYesterday (April 5th) I announced a RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive designed to convince my wife to let me add a requested Microlite78: First Edition Lite game to my free game production schedule (see Would You Like to See a Microlite78: First Edition Lite? for more details). We've already raised $145 toward the $600 goal.

All donors receive the usual array of free Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund donor downloads which includes work-in-progress copies of projects (like Microlite81, Microlite20 NG, and hopefully Microlite78) I'm working on. In my post yesterday, I mentioned I'd add some AD&D giveaway items. Here they are, two different drawings.

The first drawing will be held when we reach $300 in donations. The following AD&D 1e Greyhawk items (or sets of items in some cases) will be given away:

* Greyhawk Boxed Set (1983 - 48-page book, 80-page book, 2 fold-out maps),
* The World of Greyhawk (1980 - 32-page book w/oversized tri-fold cover, 2 fold-out maps)
* Adventure Pack (WG4 - The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gygax, 1982; WG5 - Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure by Gygax and Kuntz, 1983; and WG6 - Isle of the Ape by Gygax, 1986).
* Adventure Pack (L1 - The Secret of Bone Hill by Lakofka, 1981; L2 - The Assassin's Knot by Lakofka, 1983; and L3 - Deep Dwarven Delve by Lakofka, 1999)

When we reach $600, the following AD&D Forgotten Realms items (and a special D&D rarity) will be given away:

* 10th Anniversary Collector's Set (1984 faux-leather slipcase containing Mentzer Basic, Expert and Companion Rulebooks, D&D Character Record Sheets, MSOLO1 Blizzard Pass, B1 In search of the Unknown, B2 Keep on the Borderlands, X1 Isle of Dread, AC2 Combat Shield and mini-adventure "Treasure of the Hideous One", AC3 3-D Dragon Tiles featuring The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina, six dice and a dice crayon)
* Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987 - 2 96-page perfect-bound books, 4 fold-out maps, 2 hex grid overlays) and Kara-Tur Boxed Set (1988 - 2 96-page books, 4 fold-out maps) This is the so-called "gray box" version
* FR1 - FR8: Waterdeep and the North, Moonshae, Empires of the Sands, The Magister, The Savage Frontier, Dreams of the Red Wizards, Hall of Heroes, Cities of Mystery
* FR9 - FR16: Bloodstone Lands, Old Empires, Dwarves Deep, Horde Campaign, Anauroch, Great Glacier, Gold & Glory, Shining South)

D&D 10th Anniversary Collector's Set illo from webThere were only 1000 copies of the special 10th Anniversary Collector's Set printed so while it's not an AD&D item, it is a fairly collectible item, especially as the copy I have to give away (one of the items I inherited from Ray) is still in its shrink wrap.

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've have not ever heard anyone complain about winning something unexpected. The first set of items will be given away at the end of April even if we raise less than $300. The 10th Anniversary Collector's Set will only be given away if we reach $600 by the end of April 2014). April donors get one chance for every $10 donated. Donate early to be sure you get a chance at both drawing.

As mentioned in my post from yesterday, anyone donating $10 or more during April will be listed as a sponsor in Microlite78: First Edition Lite. A $10 donation gets a "First Level Sponsor" listing, a $20 donation gets a "Second Level Sponsor" listing, a $30 donation gets a "Third Level Sponsor" listing, etc. All donations of $25 or more will be listed as a sponsor of all the Microlite81 games as well.

To get help us pay our cancer treatment related bills, to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned items, and to convince my wife to let me add a Microlite78 to my writing schedule, 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.

Would You Like to See a Microlite78: First Edition Lite?

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I've been asked to piece together parts of Microlite74 to produce a complete single volume Microlite78: First Edition Lite and add a "few things" to make it more like the 1978 "First Edition". It would be dead simple to toss the rules from Microlite74 Extended with the descriptions from Companion II (Treasure), Companion IV (Bestiary of Monsters) and Companion V (First Edition Spells) together in one volume. However, the request is for a bit more. He'd like classes written up in more detail (like I do in Microlite81, including the more normal XP treatment) and some of the system altered a bit to make it more like 1e. These requests makes it more than a two day (or so) job.

When I did not sound enthusiastic about adding this to my workload, he offered a $100 donation to The RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund for me to write it. My wife vetoed this as she thinks adding this to my RPG design schedule should at least pay off one of our our remaining lab bills -- like from her annual CT scans. $596 would pay off the one from 2012, so I told the person requesting this that he'd need to donate about $600 before my wife would allow me to add this project to the schedule. We compromised. He'd donate $100 (which he has) and I'd do Microlite78 if the remaining $500 was donated by the end of the month of April from other people who like the idea. So if you'd like to see a free Microlite78: First Edition Lite available, please donate as much as you can via Paypal to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund ASAP. If I receive most the the needed donations by the 20th of April, I'll work on an early draft copy during the last ten days of April so donors will get something they can download quickly.

Anyone donating $10 or more during April will be listed as a sponsor in Microlite78: First Edition Lite. A $10 donation gets a "First Level Sponsor" listing, a $20 donation gets a "Second Level Sponsor" listing, a $30 donation gets a "Third Level Sponsor" listing, etc. All donations of $25 or more will be listed as a sponsor of all the Microlite81 games as well. April donors will also be eligible for some AD&D 1e items in drawings (I'll list those in a blog post tomorrow or Monday). One chance for every $10 donated and these items will be given away even if the $600 goal is not met. BTW, as of this post we have %120 in donations so we are at 20% of the goal now).

Naturally donors get all the standard benefits from donating to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund: special donor downloads, access to donor draft copies of works in progress, etc. You can donate this Paypal link .

Some questions and answers about this project:

1) Will Microlite78 be based on 1e or the weird BX/1e mix you used back in the 1980s? While Microlite78: First Edition Lite will include my "standard" house rules (those in Microlite74 Extended), it will not be Microlite81 Advanced. The idea is to produce something like a "1e lite" not a major B/X variant, so it will not be based on my BX/1e plus the kitchen sink rules that will appear in Microlite81 Advanced.

2) Race as Class? No, 1e -- like 0e with the supplements -- had separate races and classes. Both had level limits. I have yet to decide if Microlite78 would use level limits or the adjusted XP system from Microlite74 Extended.

3) What about Bards and Psionics? Bards will be included as an optional class. However, it will be a stand alone class; that is, Bards will not have to progress through a series of other classes before becoming a Bard as they did in 1e. Psionics will be available as well, although it will be based on my system from Microlite74 Companion I, not the 1e version. Both the Bard class and psionics were optional in 1e, probably because neither worked all that well with the rest of the system. They will be an option in Microlite78 as well, but if a GM decides to use one or both they should should work much better with the rest of the system.

3) What about Alignment? The standard nine alignments from 1e will be used instead of my Light/Neutral/Dark system.

4) Will this project delay other projects? It probably will, but not by much as the next 4 to 6 weeks would be devoted to Microlite20 collection updates and other small projects anyway. Much of the heavy-lifting on Microlite78 has already been done with the various Microlite74 publications. For example, the monsters can be taken from the Bestiary of Monsters with only minor changes (e.g. alignment).

5) Will all the optional rules available with Microlite74 work with Microlite78? 0e with all the supplements is very much like a "lite version" of 1e. This means that many optional rules from Microlite74 would probably work with Microlite78 if one makes some minor changes to better fit the 1e paradigm, however, there no guarantees that your favorite Microlite74 optional rules would work. I have no plans to do Microlite78 conversions of all the Microlite74 optional rules.

6) Will adventures written for 1e work with Microlite78? As far as I can tell, you can use just about all TSR-era adventures and settings with Microlite74 or Microlite81 with only minor modifications that most GMs can make on the fly as they run them. This should apply to Microlite78 as well.

7) What if the $600 goal is not reached by the end of April? Microlite78 would probably still get written, just not in anything like the near future (sometime in 2016, perhaps). The closer we come to that goal, the more priority the project will have (as my wife will be more willing to give me more time to work on it). If we go over-goal, even more priority will be possible.

Time for the 2014 Edition of the Microlite20 RPG Collection

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It's been about two years since The Microlite20 RPG Collection 2012 Edition came out, so it's probably time to start work on the 2014 Edition. Unfortunately, other than my various Microlite74 and Microlite81 releases, I haven't seen many new Microlite20-based games. I have a new version of Beacon (Draft Version 6), Dark Heritage, Microlite20 (Stefan's Edition), and Gnomeo's Modified Microlite20. I've seen a few new Microlite20-based games on Scribd -- and unfortunately nowhere else -- which means there probably will not be included as I am unwilling to pay for a Scribd subscription to get them (Society for Paranormal Exploration, Shatterdome - Pacific Rim Microlite20, and Conan Microlite20).

If you know of any additional new Microlite20 games or variants (and their locations on the Net) please let me know. If you know of any updated versions of games included in The Microlite20 RPG Collection 2012 Edition, please let me know. I hope to have the third edition of the Microlite20 RPG Collection available later this month.

Microlite74/Microlite81 Adventures? Sorry Not From Me

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I'm often asked why I don't write and publish some adventures for Microlite74 or Microlite81. The easy answer is that there are already a large number of adventures written for the original games and their retroclones that can easily be used with Microlite74 or Microlite81. While this is true, a more honest answer is that I do not create adventures or settings that most people would be interested in downloading and using (let alone paying for).

My dungeons, for example, are a couple of lines about each (non-empty) room listing the basics of who and what is in that room. My dungeons are created by a most random method, a slight modification of the dungeon creation guidelines from OD&D:

I draw up a dungeon level and position a few special areas around that level -- the exact number of special areas in random but the larger the level, the more special areas there are likely to be. These areas average a 3-6 rooms and these rooms have fairly detailed descriptions, generally 4 to 10 lines per room. The rest of the level is filled in randomly. While the exact percentages vary by level, on average, about 30-40% of the rooms will have some type of monster in them, about 10% will have some type of non-monster encounter (trap, etc.), the rest will be "empty" (although not necessarily literally so). Monsters are randomly selected from encounter tables (special tables may be created for areas near certain special areas, of course). Most of these non-empty but non-special areas will only need 2-3 lines of writeup.

You can get a fair idea of what one of my dungeon levels looks like from visiting this web page which will create and stock a random dungeon level. The only real difference between the dungeon levels this page generates and mine is the levels created by this web page lack the hand-designed special areas that my personal dungeon levels have. Would you really be interested in downloading a using a such a dungeon just because I "designed" and published it? I didn't think so.

You may ask if I couldn't just take such a dungeon and expand on each room to get a dungeon more like what most people expect from a published dungeon? In theory, I certainly could. In practice, however, I get bored after a describing a few rooms and encounters in far more detail than I need to have to personally run the dungeon and go do something more interesting.

Settings are the same. My idea of a setting writeup is like the old Judges Guild Wilderlands of High Fantasy (hex maps with a couple of lines on interesting hexes, villages, etc.) and not anything like a BECMI Mystara module or a Forgotten Realms boxed set. Again, when I try to turn the notes I have on my Hidden Valley campaign into some more complete that others could use, I get bored after a few pages and move on to something more interesting.

I'm just not cut out to design adventures or setting for publication. That's the real reason why you haven't seen any Microlite74 or Microlite81 adventures from me -- and probably never will. I know a lot people think old school authors should write more old school adventures and settings and fewer old school rules sets. I understand their point of view, but while I can write what at least some people consider "good rules", I lack that ability when it comes to adventures or settings. So I write what I can do well enough for others to enjoy.

Microlite81 Extended is Now Available for Free Download (Free Old School RPG)

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Microlite81 Extended Cover ImageMicrolite81 1.0 Extended Silver is finished and ready for download. In case you've missed all the previous posts on Microlite81 and Microlite81 Extended, Microlite81 is to the B/X edition of the world's best known tabletop RPG as Microlite74 is to the original 1974 edition of that game. That means that Microlite81 has taken the 1981 Basic and Expert boxed sets and converted the system to one based on Microlite20 -- a rules light version of the D20 system. You can use Microlite81 games to play any published adventure you could use with the B/X version with only a few minor changes (like inverting AC). Microlite81 Extended is an expansion of the standard B/X-based Microlite81 rules to include a Microlite81 version of the house rules I created in the late 1970s and used with all TSR editions. In addition these rules add a number of optional additional human and non-human classes including Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Paladin, Ranger, Warlord, Dragonborn, Tiefling, and Warforged. A large number of optional rules are also included.

This is the "Silver" version because a final "Gold" version will be published when all the planned Microlite81 editions (Microlite81, Microlite81 Complete, Microlite81 Expanded, and Microlite81 Advanced) with any errata added and a complete list of Microlite81 sponsors but no other additions.

Sponsors? Yes, anyone donating at least $25 to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund during the design period for Microlite81 games will be listed as a sponsor in Microlite81 (and also in Microlite81 Complete, Microlite81 Expanded, and Microlite81 Advanced). We already have a number of sponsors and can always use more.

Copper Donors: Those donating 25-50 dollars will be listed as Copper Donors.

Silver Donors: Those donating 51-100 dollars will be listed as Silver Donors. Silver donors may run a small text ad for their game, gaming related item, or game-related item on the main RetroRoleplaying web site.

Gold Donors: Those donating 101-250 dollars will be listed as Gold Donors. Gold donors may have a monster, spell, or magic item of their creation included in at least one version of Microlite81 (Expanded, Complete, or Advanced) and credited to the donor plus the benefits for Silver Donors.

Electrum Donors: Those donating 251-500 dollars will be listed as Eltectrum Donors. Electrum donors may opt to have character’s name and description used as one of the characters in the example of play planned for Microlite81 Complete and Microlite81 Advanced; plus the benefits for Silver and Gold donors – or they may have a half-page ad for their RPG product or web site included in the final (Gold) versions of all currently planned Microlite81 editions (Microlite81, Microlite81 Expanded, Microlite81 Complete, and Microlite81 Advanced)

Platinum Donors: Those donating over 500 dollars will be listed as Platinum Donors. Platinum donors may opt to have their names used as a player in the example of play planned for Microlite81 Complete and Microlite81 Advanced; plus the benefits for Silver, Gold, and Electrum donors – or they may have a full page ad for their RPG product or web site included in the final (Gold) versions of all currently planned Microlite81 editions (Microlite81, Microlite81 Expanded, Microlite81 Complete, and Microlite81 Advanced).

All Donors (any amount, no minimum) also have access to a number of special donor downloads, including "work-in-progress" versions of whatever I'm working on (Microlite81 Complete, Microlite81 Advanced, and Microlite20 "Next Generation" are my next projects). You can donate via Paypal if you wish to help.

Download your FREE copy of Microlite81 Extended 1.0 Silver

You can download the "standard" version of Microlite81 1.0 Silver from the download area of our message board or from Mediafire. The download is a 2.3 meg PDF file (60 pages).

Download Microlite81 Extended from our message board.

Download Microlite81 Extended from Mediafire.

Whither Microlite20?

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I received an email over the weekend bemoaning the fact that latest versions of Seth Drebitko's revision of Microlite20 seems to be pulling a "DnD 4e" -- publishing an almost completely different game under the name of an older game and that you had to pay to download copies of Microlite20. I was somewhat surprised by this because the last version of Seth's revision I saw, which he was then calling Microlite20 Prime still seemed quite derivate of D20 and able to run D20 material without a lot of work -- even if it was beginning to incorporate some non-traditional storygame-like elements.

However, I went over to Seth's Microlite20 site and sure enough it does look like you have to pay to download. Fortunately, this is not true. Seth is simply requesting donations. However, he's using Gumroad to automate the progress. While Gumroad's interface is great for selling downloads, it is horrible for "pay what you want including zero" as it starts by asking for credit card info. Fortunately, I've used Gumroad before and know the "trick" for paying $0 for "pay what you want items": fill in your email address, skip over everything credit card related, and put 0 in the price blank. The credit card info part of the form disappears and you are good to go. I can't blame Seth for requesting donations, game design is work and hosting web sites isn't free, but I can blame Gumroad for an interface that makes it look like you have to pay something even for a product that is priced at "0+". (Note: if you do give zero, you can come back later and give something if you like the product -- Gumroad actually handles this part of "pay what you want" quite well.)

Having jumped through Gumroad's hoops, I was able to download a copy of the latest playtest version of Seth's Microlite20 revision. Unfortunately, the email I received was correct, Seth's latest revision of Microlite20 really is a very different game: a game that would be very hard to use as a simple version of the D20 system which can still easily be used with most of the material published for the D20 system. While Seth's Microlite20 revision still has some D20 in its DNA, the majority of its DNA comes from games like Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Numinera, etc. This mix is interesting in its own right, but isn't very compatible with all the D20 material out there, which very important to many long time Microlite20 fans. Calling this game "Microlite20" will probably cause as much confusion and argument as calling "New Coke" "Coke" did -- which is a shame because what Seth is working on is a nice "microlite" version of "Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Numinera" type systems. It just isn't a "microlite" version of D20.

However, what I found most upsetting wasn't the poor UI on the donation system or the non-D20 Microlite20 revision playtest, but how broken the web site was. Many of the Microlite20 third party game download links on the site lead to errors. While almost all the third party Microlite20 games are available from the RetroRoleplaying Forum's download area, this isn't a lot of help for people who go to the logical place to find Microlite20 material: the Microlite20 web site. Sadly, the new Microlite20 (Vanilla-based) forum seems to have disappeared completely. The old and now closed (SMF-based) Microlite20 forum is still there if you go to its URL directly. Unfortunately, this means the small community of players and designers now no longer seems to have a real home on the Net.

Original Microlite20 Rules in Word Processor Formats

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M20 logoI've been told that it's hard to find editable "doc" files of the original Microlite20 rules on the web any more. Some googling on my part backed this up. So I've created a lightly formatted file with the rules to the original Microlite20 in Word 2010 and saved it in .docx, .doc, .rtf, and .odt formats and uploaded a zip file of those four formats to the Microlite20 download area of the RetroRoleplaying Forum. If you want a copy of Microlite20 that you can easily edit and modify, it's now available for free download here:

Microlite20 Editable Files (doc, docx, rtf, odt)

Microlite81 Extended: Download Release Candidate 1 (Free RPG)

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverThe first (and -- with luck -- only) release candidate version of Microlite81 Extended is available for free download. The game has even had an initial proofreading by myself (useless, I know) and by some of the players in my Sunday game.

Microlite81 Extended is Microlite81 with the author’s house rules from the 1977-1983 era, modified as needed to work with a system based on B/X instead of one based on 0e. An number of optional classes (Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Paladin, Ranger, Warlord, Dragonborn, Tiefling, and Warforged) and optional rules are included.

Microlite81 Extended is now pretty much feature complete. Please proofread the release candidate for both spelling/major grammar errors and for "completeness/clarity" -- that is places where rules are not clear or something seems to be missing. I'll correct any reported problems and then release the final "silver" edition. Although a second release candidate isn't planned, if enough problems are reported one may become necessary.

You can down the PDF of Microlite81 Extended Release Candidate 1 from the download area of the RetroRoleplaying forum by following this link:

Download Microlite81 Extended Release Candidate 1

I know this release comes a week later than I promised and I apologize. We canceled the Sunday game on the 2nd because of ice (the last time I canceled a game because of winter weather was in the 1980s -- its really rare around here). Unfortunately, I slipped and fell taking the trash out to the street that night. This made sitting very painful last week, so most of what little time I spent in a chair had to be for work instead of for working on games (or even a blog post explaining what happened).

Quick Microlite81 Extended Progress Report

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Microlite81 Extended Release Candidate 1 would be out now. However, my Sunday group surprised me last Sunday by volunteering to proofread it. Everyone has taken a few pages and will be proofreading their section this week. The proofreading will be of variable quality because some of my players have more time for and/or skill at proofreading, but at least more eyes than my own will have gone over the rules before I release them for everyone interested to proofread. Barring real life issues, Microlite81 Extended Release Candidate 1 should be out Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. I'll allow a week to ten days after that for public comment and corrections, after which the "silver edition" final should appear fairly quickly.

A new donor-only alpha version of Microlite81 Complete will probably be available to donors in a week or ten days. With some luck a public beta of Microlite81 Complete may be available by the end of March.

Looking for Android Tabletop RPG App Suggestions

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Acer Iconia A1-810I recently received a Android tablet. As I have no use for a smartphone, this is the first "smart device" I've owned. For those who care, it's an Acer Iconia A1-810-L416 (7.9-Inch screen, 16 GB) running Android 4.2.2. It's certainly not the latest or the greatest, but it seems nice to me -- especially since it was a gift.

I'm looking for recommendations for free apps useful for running/playing tabletop RPGs. In some cases, I've overwhelmed by choices, for example, there seem to be a huge number of die rolling apps. I never have the time nor the interest to try them all in the hope of finding the best, or even just the best for me. In other cases, I have no idea what is out there and vague searches on Google Play don't turn up much -- not even software I've seen mentioned around the net.

So, remembering that I'm mainly interested in old school D&D and retroclones, what Android apps should like look at -- and why? As I mentioned, I've definitely interested in a good, general purpose die roller app but please don't limit suggestions to die rollers. Thanks in advance.

A Really Extreme Case of Player Entitlement?

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My Sunday Game lost a player in January -- her work schedule has her working every Sunday for the foreseeable future. Her company needs more billable hours. As I can only fit nine players and one GM into my living/dining room for a game and I always have more than nine people who want to play, filling a spot is easy. I keep a first-come, first-served list of people who want to play and I've at least met for coffee. These "wait listers" have access to the campaign's mailing list and private web site so they can see what is going on and interact with the group. The person who has been on this "wait list" the longest when we have a player vacancy, gets first chance at chance at it. We have a three session try-out period where myself as GM, the new player and the rest of the group can be sure we all want to continue together. As I've generally had more people interested in playing than I have room for, I've been running campaigns like this much of the time (since 1975) with few problems (see Are New Player Try-Outs Unfair? and New Player Try-Outs Unfair? -- Part Two for one of the rare cases where their were problems).

To be fair, I didn't really have a problem with the wait list/tryout system this time, but things did turn sour. Our new player, I'll call him John (as in "John Doe"), seemed to be having a good time and both I and the regulars enjoyed having him in the game. Things seemed to be going well until last Sunday -- the end of his third game. After the game, he told us that he liked the group and my GMing, but if we wanted him to play as a regular, we would have to make as few small changes. Alarms started going off in my head, but I ignored them in favor of hearing him out. I wish I would have just said, "sorry but the campaign is as is -- take it or leave it."

Here are the main changes he "required" if we wanted him to play:

a) Two of the current players would have to drop their current characters because they would clash with plans for his character.

b) While a sandbox campaign was fine, the players would have to agree to complete what they start and not abandon "stories" before they were finished because something more interesting came up. In the second session he played in, the characters abandoned plans to explore the second level of the dungeon to go help fight off bandits attacking a village (where an NPC they liked lived). John did not like this and did not want it to happen again.

c) Magic items were to be distributed randomly, not go to the PC or NPC who could best use them as the group was doing.

But the real killer requirement was...

d) Move the campaign permanently away from the Judges Guild Wilderlands (which he said was dull) to the Forgotten Realms. Easily done according to John. The PCs could just start next week's game by walking through a gate that would take them to the Forgotten Realms and the gate would conveniently breakdown and never work again once the party were through.

When he finished this list and all the reasons why, I told him that I was sorry but I was not going to make any of those changes and that if those were actual requirements for him to play, I was sorry that he would not be playing any more. At this point he said that I had no right to decide for the group and that the group should vote. I pointed out that I had no interest in running a game in the Forgotten Realms nor was I going to change the type of open sandbox campaign I run and no vote could make me do so. He asked the other players to support his demands anyway and discovered that no one was interested in making any of his "required for John to play" changes to the campaign. He then told us that he would not be playing and that we are all unreasonable and selfish -- and packed up and left. Needless to say, we were all slightly gob smacked by this. It's definitely the worst case of "player entitlement" I've ever personally seen. Has anyone reading this had the misfortune to experience worse?

A Fictional Night in the Life of a Fictional Spy

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Guest author Michael Evans provides a look at what a story in certain popular series of spy novels and movies could have looked like if Gary Gygax's idea of truly competitive "chess tournament"-like D&D had actually happened.

The Bond and the Battlefield


James Bond walks into a smoke-filled, casino-like room. The smoke isn’t from tobacco, but from a fog machine that one of the Gamemasters set off to achieve a post-battle effect. The super spy quickly surveys the room, looking for any potential threats or traps. His instincts give him the go-ahead to proceed. He is now just doing one thing and one thing only. He is preparing his mindset for combat.

This is no ordinary room. The dynamics are different here. It’s not individuals facing off against a dealer or machine. Everyone seems to be battling each other, forming shady alliances and trying to be named king. The air is thick and the tension is digging its angry claws into 007’s neck. This is the world of Role-Playing Games (RPG).

Mr. Bond is a gambling man by nature. He once played poker for 37 hours in a row without a bathroom break. He enjoys playing Chicken against 18-wheelers while riding his unicycle. And, he often tries his luck with the BetFair Wonder Woman slot game because he loves the flashing lights, teasing sounds, and, of course, the female superhero. He is an all-in, take-it-or-leave-it competitor, with a taste for blood. In a world of options, victory is the only one in his playbook.

Foxletter, Bernie Foxletter


This particular event is not known by all. It is the biggest, most clandestine RPG convention in the western world. It is the silent Comic-Con of the RPG universe. It doesn’t even have a name. Money can’t buy you in—reputation can. James Bond, known as Bernie Foxletter from Cleveland in these circles, earned his stripes playing tournaments throughout Europe and the United States. Many trophies have his alias inscribed, but if he is to earn one tonight, he has to be perfect on a global scale.

The Pathfinder tables are overcrowded and violent. For a brief moment he thought to sign up for this RPG competition, but after learning that Listverse only ranked it second among the current tabletop Role-Playing Games, he was quickly dissuaded and chose to participate in the game he and his team had never been able to master. The one game that is universally considered the original and most prolific.


Dragons Are Forever


He walks by the Pathfinder bedlam and sees a sign indicating that the second level was devoted to Dungeons and Dragons. He decides to take the elevator instead of the stairs in order to conserve energy. The elevator doors open and he immediately spots his team anxiously awaiting his arrival. There is Liz from Manhattan, Dwight from Scranton and Sheldon from Pasadena—all looking pale with bloodshot eyes. “None of you got any rest,” he says in an exasperated tone. “Bloody rookie mistake!” Liz claims that they were all too nervous to sleep and Dwight agrees while Sheldon asks, “When did you start using the term 'bloody'?”

They hustle over to the quietest corner of the room and begin to discuss key points from the D&D Strategy Guide. Bernie gives his best Braveheart-style speech to motivate his team. They put their games faces on and slowly approach the player’s table. The scene is set and all gloves are off. The super spy is ready for his next adventure that will make all of the others seem like child’s play. He thinks of his fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes, and whispers, “the game is afoot.”

Tomorrow Never Dies


Bernie from Cleveland looks tired as he exits the building. He loosens his bow tie and takes a deep breath while gazing at the crescent moon. He thinks of the long road that brought him to this magnificent place – the old enemies and new friends he met along the way. He is at peace and feels humble. He walks off into the unforgiving night, empty-handed and beaten, but with a slight grin, thinking about next year.

Progress Reports: Holiday Cancer Drive and Microlite81

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The Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive was a complete success. Thanks to over 100 different donors (most made some donations, although some make very generous donations) we raised just under the amount we needed. We then got lucky and A client who had owned me money since last September decided to pay up which covered the remainder we needed. We keep the house. I'd like to thank each and every one of the 100+ people who donated for their help. Y'all have been wonderful.

I'll be holding the final/main round of Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund giveaways after my Sunday Game this evening. Unfortunately, I probably will not be able to announce the winners until late in the week as the winners of the high donor items have to pick the bundles they want before I can award the remaining bundles randomly to the drawing winners. Then I will have to pack them up and ship them out. My wife has three days with doctors appointments I have to get her to this week and three more next week. Packing and mailing will have to work around this, but I will keep the giveaway winners informed as to what is going on.

Progress on Microlite81 has been slow in January because much of my spare time has been taken up with doctor appointments for my wife, 11 days with them last month. While there has not been much actual time to write, I have been able to make a lot of notes and do some proofreading while sitting in waiting rooms. Even with another month full of doctor appointments coming up, I hope to have a Release Candidate of Microlite81 Extended done by the end of February and a more complete (just shy of beta) version of Microlite81 Complete available for donors. I hope to get both finished or at least mostly finished by the end of March so I can get started on Microlite81 Advanced. I haven't done any work on it yet because I know if I started to work on it, none of the other versions of Microlite81 would see any work at all.

Edition Wars and Microlite74

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I've just been asked a question that at first seemed silly to me, but after further reflection seems to deserve a public answer. The question was "Since Microlite74 3.0 is the current edition, why are earlier editions (back to 1.0!) still available for download?"

The answer is simple, with the exception of Microlite74 1.0, there is nothing wrong with the earlier versions. They are all playable and they all work (well, except for 1.0 after third or fourth level) as a version of 0e with some modern rules features. They are still available because some players/GMs prefer one of the earlier versions or started playing with version 1.1 or version 2.0 and see no reason to go to all the trouble to change rules in the middle of a long running campaign. I don't see any reason to make life hard for people who prefer an earlier edition of Microlite74 just because I produced a newer edition that I believe is better -- at least for some values of "better". A number of people like to use Microlite74 1.1 for convention and open club games because the rules are very short: 2 pages of rules, 1.5 pages of spells, a bit over a page of monsters, and a page or so of notes on old school games and the copy of the OGL. Perhaps the rules aren't as polished or complete as the second or third edition rules are, but they still work.

Many people see editions of tabletop RPGs as some type of evolution where each later edition is obviously better than the previous version -- so much better that it should drive all the previous versions away. Unfortunately, that makes no sense. Games do not evolve -- random changes aren't made and the best of those random changes (as determined by use in actual play) don't become the next edition. Games are designed by a person or group of persons to at least try to meet the designer's goals for the game. Each edition of a tabletop RPG is just the current designer's current thoughts on how the game should work -- and that's not something that every player or potential player is going to agree is objectively better than what came before. Why should they? No set of rules is objectively better as what is better or worse in a tabletop game is a subjective judgement -- just like what flavor of ice cream is best or what color is going to look best on the walls of a room.

Therefore, I see no reason to try to force people to play the latest version of my games by removing the previous versions form the download area. What version of Microlite74 someone uses really does not matter to me. Even if I were selling them, it would not matter to me. It does not cost me anything to keep the old versions available in PDF (or even POD) form, so whether someone gives me X dollars for edition A or edition B would not really affect the bottom line. However, removing earlier editions could affect the bottom line as people who like them but do not like the current edition would not be spending any money with my games at all.


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $2651 (78% of our goal and only $749 to go). Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

RetroRoleplaying Holiday Cancer Fund Drive: Third Giveaway Winners!

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Divine Right Box CoverThe drawing for the third $750 progress giveaway item (photocopies of Domesday Book issues 4 - 12 and a copy of the TSR Lankhmar and Divine Right board games) was held last Sunday after my regular Sunday Game. Our winners are:

Allison W.: Doomsday Book issues/Lankhmar and Divine Right
Andrew H.: $25 DriveThruRPG gift certificate
Theodore C.: $25 DriveThruRPG gift certificate
Wilhelm O.: Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II (on GOG)

The Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive ends Friday, January 31 and the main drawing should be held this next Sunday evening after my Sunday Game. If we reach the fourth goal point ($3000), there will also be a drawing for the fourth $750 progress giveaway item (the Artists of TSR portfolio).

To see the huge list of third party D&D items that will go to lucky donors at the end of this drive, see the original post (Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items)), but here is just one of the ten sets of items that a lucky donor will receive:

2nd Group, published by The Companions: The Curse on Hareth (1982), Plague of Terror (1983), Brotherhood of the Bolt (1983), Streets of Gems (1983), and Gems for Death (1983), and Treasure Trove I: Cards of Power (1982).

Donations are much appreciated and I'd like to thank everyone who has donated or will donate!


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $2619 (77% of our goal and only $781 to go). Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

Seven Steps Forward, Three Steps Back (3rd Holiday Cancer Fund Giveaway Drawing Tonight)

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Since I mentioned last Thursday that the third giveaway drawing for the Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive could happen after my Sunday Game tonight, The RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund has received almost $700 in donations. That's seven big steps forward and means the drawing will be held tonight. Unfortunately, over $300 in donations from the early part of this drive "disappeared" over the same period of time. One of our donors donated $100 one week and $200 more the next. Unfortunately, he used his wife's credit card because his was maxed out. She took exception to his wasting more money on games when the bill showed up and disputed the charges, so $340 disappeared (the $300 donated plus two $20 dispute fees). He has apologized for the problem, but this should explain how the nearly $700 in donations over the last three days moved the total donated less than $400. The moral of this story is for gamers is probably "don't piss your spouse off then use his/her credit card for gaming stuff."

Unfortunately, I have not been able to reply to all the new donors as my ISP's outgoing mail server seems to be having issues the ETA for a fix is Monday). Some outgoing email is getting through and some isn't so I will probably resend everyone's "Thank you" email Monday. If donated in the last few days and have not heard back from me or ended up with 2 or 3 copies of the email, this is why.

As I said the drawing for the third group of giveaway items is tonight. Good luck to everyone who has donated!


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $2469. We only have a bit over a week until our property taxes are due, so donations are really needed now and are very much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!


3.Y: Rolling Back 3.0 to Play More Like AD&D (in a Free 14 Page Supplement)

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3.Y Cover imageBlacky the Blackball, author of Dark Dungeons, Darker Dungeons, etc., has released a new game 3.Y. Actually, 3.Y is a fourteen page supplement to the 3.0 SRD (of the world's most popular tabletop fantasy RPG). Yes, you read that right: 14 pages and the 3.0 SRD. 3.Y is based on a "what if" scenario:

Once upon a time, there was an RPG that went through a number of editions with one company before that company collapsed and was bought by a second company. The game had been incredibly popular once, but by the time the second company bought the first one its popularity had waned terribly.

This second company produced a new version of the game - a third edition of the game. This was (and continues to be) a fine game, but there was a fundamental mismatch in its design. You see, the designers and play-testers were fans of the older editions of the game, so they played the game in the style of those older edition. But when this new third edition of the game was released it acquired a big new audience. Suddenly it had lots of new players that hadn't played the older editions and didn't know the style in which the game was "supposed" to be played. Instead they read the rules and talked to each other online and a new style was born.

That second company then embraced that new style of play and came out with an updated (3.5) edition that took that new style of play and ran with it. 3.Y assumes this scenario (which may or may not be true in reality) is true and asks what if instead of adopting the new style in the 3.5 edition of the game, the authors of 3.5 rejected much of the new style and rewrote the rules to try to push things back to the old style. 3.Y is Blacky the Blackball's version of what these rules changes might have been.

3.Y postulates the following changes to the 3.0 SRD rules:

According to Blackie, the rules changes it contains are:
  • Ability scores are rolled once for the whole party, using the "Bingo" rolling method, rather than separately for each character.
  • Elves have Psion as a favored class rather than Wizard.
  • 3e style multi-classing has been replaced by AD&D-style multi-classing, where you have the full abilities of two classes but are a level or two behind single class characters.
  • Prestige classes have been removed.
  • Psi-crystals are larger.
  • When any character makes a standard attack, they get all their iterative and off-hand attacks.
  • When martial characters make a full attack, their iterative attacks are all made at their full attack bonus.
  • All hit points are re-rolled each level, but each level's total can't be less than the previous level's.
  • It includes my 3e conversion of the 3.5 "Soulknife" class.
  • The "Concentration" skill can no longer be used for defensive casting. All spell casting provokes opportunity attacks.
  • The "Diplomacy" skill description has been replaced by Rich Burlew's version from his GITP website.
  • Caster level no longer adds to the Save DC of spells.
  • Spells now take much longer to prepare.
  • Characters can only cast a maximum of one quickened and one normal spell per round, even if hasted.
  • Experience is only gained for money spent, rather than for money gained or monsters killed.
  • Magic items cost more money to make, but their sale price is closer to their purchase price.
The 3.Y supplement goes into more detail about each of those changes (and the reasoning behind them in some cases). The end result appears to be a game that would play much more like second edition AD&D. I'd probably make some additional changes (like rewriting some of the combat rules to speed up combat), but I think 3.Y is a great example of how just a few simple changes to the 3.0 rules can make it much more likely that games played with those rules will be more like those of previous editions.

You can find out more information and download a free PDF copy of the 3.Y supplement at the Gratis Games website. 3.Y is entirely open game content under the OGL. Just remember that's 3.Y is designed for use with the 3.0 rules. As far as I can tell, 3.Y is designed around the core 3.0 rules plus the 3.0 psionics rules. None of the other 3.0 supplements are used.

I may play with this a bit and see what I can add to it to make 3.0 even more like something I would actually enjoy playing and running. However, this will probably not be a very high priority project as I have Microlite81 to work on and a group of players who would likely not be interested in giving up our current Microlite74/Microlite81 campaign for the complexity of 3.0 -- even if it is done AD&D style.


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $2064. We only have a bit over a week until our property taxes are due, so donations are really needed now and are very much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

Holiday Cancer Fund Drive: $205 Away From Third Giveaway Drawing (Domesday Book and TSR Board Games)

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I've spent the last few days with a weird stomach bug. I'm about over it, but it was so bad Monday that we had to cancel my wife's PT. There was just no way I could drive her over to the hospital. This has really cut into my blogging, although I have managed to answer posts on the message board. Thankfully, donations have continued to trickle in even if I did drop off the face of the planet. As I write this, we are only $208 from the third goal of $2250 (and less than $1400 from the total we need). Assuming we can get at least $205 in donations by noon Sunday, I'll hold the drawing for the Third giveaway items (photocopies of Domesday Book issues 4 - 12 and nice copies of the TSR Lankhmar and Divine Right board games) Sunday evening after my Sunday game. Anyone donating by noon Sunday (CST) will be in this second drawing (assuming at least $205 more is raised). In addition I have another DrivethruRPG gift certificate to give away and a few Steam game keys.

Now is a great time to donate to the Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive to help us keep our house and to get in on the third drawing as well as the future drawings described at the link above. Click that link for more information on the drive and to see the large list of items being given to lucky donors.


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $2045. We only have a bit over a week until our property taxes are due, so donations are really needed now and are very much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

What Single (Non-D&D) Roleplaying Game Would I Choose?

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I received an interesting question the other day. If I had to select a single RPG to use for the rest of my life -- and I could not select any form of D&D or a "D&D Heartbreaker", which game would I select -- and why would I select it?

That's an interesting enough question that I'm going to devote this post to answering it. Before I consider games, however, it's probably best to clearly state what I'm looking for in any tabletop RPG that I'm going to play for more than a session or two:

  1. I want a traditional RPG with a GM who handles the world and players who only handle their character(s). I have no interest in a narrative/storygame RPG.

  2. Fast combat that does not need minis/counters or battlemats/terrain sets. My goal is that the average combat take no more that 10-15 minutes, including any setup.

  3. Fast character creation. A fairly experienced player should be able to create a character in 10-15 minutes maximum, no more than double that for a brand new player assuming he has a bit of help from the GM or a more experienced player. The character design system should not require system mastery or be easily min-maxed.

  4. The game rules should fade into the background for players. Players should not need to speak or think in rules-terms. Players should simply be able to pretend to be their character, say what they do in a situation and the GM can tell them what they need to roll/do rules-wise. Players should not be jerked out of their character by the regular need to make decisions based on the rules instead based on the game world.

  5. The rules should be easy for the GM to use in a sandbox setting. That is the rules should not require the GM to do hours of NPC design or require a lot of other mechanical prep. They should not expect that the GM will be telling a story or will be using a published adventure/setting (although a number of published settings and adventures are certainly a bonus).

  6. The rules should be easy to modify/house rule without having to worry about unexpected side effects.

  7. The published rules should be fairly stable. No edition treadmill (or a very slow edition treadmill). No constant stream of errata. Supplemental books with rules splat should be clearly optional.
I've played a number of generic/universal systems over the years, and in general, I don't care for them. Most are very complex and fail at 2 or 3 of my criteria. For example, I've played and GMed both GURPS and Hero System and both have slow combat and character creation and tend to reward system mastery and mini-maxing. They can be fun games, but neither are what I would want to spend the rest of my life playing or GMing.

Other popular choices turn me off. I simply do not like Savage Worlds even after I houserule the combat system to make it less minis-oriented. Fate in general is a complete turn off. I do not like how the fate point economy supersedes reality in some cases and it requires more focus on the rules than I like. I actually don't mind playing a few Fate-based games (e.g. Legends of Anglerre), but I would not enjoy GMing them nor would I want to spend the rest of my life playing them. D6 isn't bad (D6 Star Wars was certainly the best Star Wars RPG I've even ran/played), but it doesn't excite me enough to want to run it and only it for the rest of my life.

There are also some less known choices (Unisystem, Tri-Stat, Fuzion, etc.) that I simply do not know enough about to select. These systems might be great systems, but I'm not about to saddle myself with a game I've not very familiar with as the only game I'd have available.

Basic Roleplaying rulebook coverSo what would my choice be? Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying. I've used versions of the system since the late 1970s (Runequest, Call of Cthulthu, Stormbringer/Elric, and Superworld) and actually like it. While I don't like BRP nearly as much as l like TSR era D&D, I like it enough that I could see only playing games based on BRP for the rest of my life without simply giving up gaming. BRP easily covers the genres I'm most interested in (and in one rulebook yet) and matches all of the requirements I listed. Admitted it is a bit harder than TSR D&D to use with zero prep, but I can live with low prep.

What single (non-D&D) Roleplaying game would you choose?


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $1843. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

RetroRoleplaying Holiday Cancer Fund Drive: Second Giveaway Winners!

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AD&D Player's HandbookThe drawing for the second $750 progress giveaway item (a set of AD&D books signed by Gary Gygax: Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, DMG, Monster Manual II, Oriental Adventures, and Unearth Arcana) was finally held on Sunday after my regular Sunday Game. I'm really happy with the results of this second giveaway. The AD&D books could not be going to a better home. Here's the story...

A US Marine Staff Sargent shipped out to the Middle East again a month or so ago. Unfortunately his AD&D stuff (along with the personal stuff of some other people in his company) went missing in transit. His father -- the original owner of his AD&D stuff -- saw the AD&D books listed in the current drawing and figured it was worth a $10 donation to see if he could get lucky and win them to send to his son. In one of those amazing stories that seems to good to be true but are really neat to see happen, his single chance came up the winner. He told me this story and ask me to ship the books to his son.

When I heard from his son SSGT William W., he told me that he has been running AD&D games for people in his unit for years and had been playing sessions from memory since they arrived in Kuwait a few weeks ago but will be very happy to have even some of the books again. What he will not know until he gets the package I sent off this morning (unless he sees this post) is that there was extra room in the box so I tossed in spare copies of the remaining AD&D 1e books, some 1e modules, and a few other goodies -- these extras aren't signed and some aren't in "collectible" shape, but I suspect they will be appreciated by William and those in his unit that game with him. The package went out this morning and I can't wait to hear that he's received it. While I always like to see people win the giveaway items, this is one of those cases that makes me feel really good about shipping them out.

We also have some other lucky winners:

Brett O.: Natural Selection 2 (Steam key)
Robert M.: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Scott F: $50 DriveThruRPG gift certificate (Yes, I know I said it was a $25 gift certificate last week; I was wrong)

The next drawing (when we reach $2250) will be for photocopies of Domesday Book issues 4 - 12 and (new!) a copy of the TSR Lankhmar and Divine Right board games. (Domesday Book was the newsletter of the Castle and Crusade Society.) While these are photocopies, they are material that practically no one has seen.) To see the huge list of third party D&D items that will go to lucky donors at the end of this drive, see the original post (Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items)), but here is just one of the ten sets of items that a lucky donor will receive:

3rd Group, published by Dimension Six, Inc.: The Compleat Fantasist (1980), Mountain of Mystery (1980), The Temple to Athena (1980), The Town of Joundan (1981), The Nine Doctrines of Darkness (1980), The Second Adventure, The Nine Doctrines of Darkness (1981), and Furioso (1980).

Donations are much appreciated and I'd like to thank everyone who has donated or will donate!


Please Donate imageThe Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win one or more of more than 40 non-TSR D&D items published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You can see the complete list of giveaway items and read more about this fund drive in this post: Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive (with lots of Third Party D&D Giveaway Items). This is in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. All donations will be used to pay the property taxes on our house as we had to use the money saved for this to pay for more medical treatment for my wife's cancer and other medical problems treatment related bills (see the linked post above for more info), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal.Thank you!

We need to raise about $3400 by the end of January, as of this post this drive has raised $1813. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!