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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!

Free RPGs Are Hurting Professional RPGs!? -- A Randall Rant

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free vs Paid illo

Now, the community has money to spend, but due to a race-to-the-bottom in terms of pricing, and an influx of fanbois who will happily write for free (And devalue the work of everyone else while they're at it), they're unwilling to spend what their books are actually worth. Sure, a kickstarter will make a big number, but actual profits? Nah, not much. -- from a message on theRPGSite

This has been eating away at my brain since it was posted almost two months ago. I have refrained from writing a reply to it because I know from previous experience that people who believe this get very annoyed when I argue that such beliefs are nonsense -- at least in anything like a free market economy in the real world. However, even after two months the attitude this post displays annoys me, so here comes another Randall Rant.

I addressed the basic idea that games should be priced higher but aren't because customers are too cheap to pay what game publishers need to charge to make a good living from producing games in a post way back in July 2009 (Why is the Fair Market Value of Tabletop RPG Products So Low?). Here's a quick summary for those who don't want to read another long post: A basic economic fact is that to sell enough product to make a profit a business has to make a product that people really want to buy and sell it at a price the consumer is willing to pay. The fair market value of a product is what consumers are willing to pay for the item -- not the amount the seller needs to cover his costs and make a profit. If consumers are only willing to pay $19.95 for a product, the fair market value of the product is $19.95. The fair market value remains $19.95 whether the product costs $5.00 to produce or $500.00 to produce. RPG publishers or their advocates whining to consumers that the RPG hobby is "cheap" because it will not pay the prices the publisher want them to for whatever they choose to publish just makes the speaker look like a clueless newbie in the business world.

In this post, however, I wish address the "and an influx of fanbois who will happily write for free (And devalue the work of everyone else while they're at it)" part of the above statement. I've encountered complaints about amateurs giving their product away from people who want to set up a business selling similar items for years.

The first time I remember personally encountering it was in the 1980s. I was one of many hobbyists involved in running free computer Bulletin Board Systems (a text-based forum on a computer that people dialed into with a modem). There were nearly 100 free BBSes in my area, some of them quite elaborate with multiple phone lines, primitive Internet email/Usenet access, etc. A new BBS operator moved to the area from southern California where he had ran a successful pay BBS as a business. It was failing in South Texas because a) it wasn't any better than many of the free BBSes in the area and b) he was trying to charge Southern California prices in a much lower income area. He ranted at the local sysops on the local sysop Fidonet echo about how we were ruining his business and should all either shut down, charge at least as much as he did, or reduce the functionality of our systems to the point where they were not as good as his pay system. He was pretty much laughed at.

The idea that everyone doing X/producing X has to do it as a profit-making business is silly. There are and have been amateurs doing things as a hobby for free in just about every possible field since the dawn of time. Those wishing to make money doing the same things simply have to live with that and produce products that are "better enough" in some way that people are willing to pay them in order to obtain them. Free products from amateurs only hurt those businesses who cannot produce something better than what hobbyists are giving away for free.

In some cases, "better" may only mean "we produce basically the same thing that the hobbyists give away for free, but where a hobbyist can only produce a handful a month, we can produce a million a month." This is why companies can make money selling clocks even through a neighbor turns out several very nice ones most years and gives them away to friends and co-workers. In other cases, mere production volume isn't enough, one has to produce something better. For example, there are 670,000+ Harry Potter stories available for free on fanficion.net alone, but these stories do not seem to have affected the ability of J.K. Rowling and her publishers to make a lot of money from Harry Potter books. Why? Because J.K. Rowling writes far better than 99.9% of the people writing Harry Potter fan fiction. Fanfiction.net's sister site Fictionpress.com has well over 100,000 free original short stories and novels written by amateurs available, but this does not seem to prevent book publishers and fiction authors from making money, again because fiction written by pros is better than 99.9% of the fiction written by amateurs and made available for free.

You see the same thing in other fields. For example, there are lots of free computer games available (and I mean truly free, not full of micro-transactions or pay to go past a certain point) but this does not seem to have prevented professional game designers from making a living producing and selling computer games. Why? Professional games are generally better in most of the things that matter to computer gamers: better production values, better design, better play, etc. Another example, there are lots of people in the world willing to mow their own lawn or pay a few bucks to the neighbor's kid to have it done. That hasn't stopped innumerable lawn care companies from making money mowing lawns professionally.

The idea that amateurs giving away product for free devalues the work of those trying to make money at it just doesn't seem to hold up in the real world. Businesses compete successfully against amateurs providing similar products and services for free all the time. They do so by providing a better product.

Therefore, if all the free RPGs out there at hurting the sales of professional RPGs in any way (and I'm not convinced that they are), I doubt the real reason is because they are free. I suspect the real reason is because when push comes to shove, the actual rules of many professional RPGs are not that much better than the actual rules of many amateur/free RPGs. While there is no question that professional RPGs beat the average amateur/free RPG hands down in fancy production values (layout, artwork, etc.) and that fancy production values make RPG books appealing on the store shelf, they do not do anything to improve the actual game rules which are what players actually use to play the game. If professional RPGs cannot beat amateur/free RPGs hands down in actual rules the way they can in production values, then professional RPGs have failed to be a better product than their free "competition" and have no one to blame for their problem but themselves.

After all, other industries beat the free competition from amateurs by providing a product that is better (or at least more available/more convenient) than the similar free product available. If professional RPG designers and publishing companies cannot produce better rules than amateur game designers, what right to they have to expect people to choose to pay them money for their game instead of downloading a free game from an amateur designer? Simply deciding to set up a business and sell things does not entitle you to success or profit -- you have to produce what consumers consider a better product than your competition. If you can't do that, your business is unlikely to succeed whether your competition is another business selling their similar product or an amateur giving it away for free. Why should people expect the tabletop RPG business be different?

Final Note: I haven't even mentioned the tabletop RPG businesses who succeed while providing free versions of the core rules of their product.


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 $1444 -- $56 dollars from the second giveaway trigger point. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

Holiday Cancer Fund Drive: $68 Away From Second Giveaway Drawing (Autographed AD&D 1e Books)

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As I right this, we are only $68 from the second goal of $1500. Assuming we hit it in the next day or two as I expect, I'll hold the drawing for the set of AD&D books signed by Gary Gygax (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, DMG, Monster Manual II, Oriental Adventures, and Unearth Arcana) Sunday evening after my Sunday game. Anyone donating by noon Sunday (CST) will be in this second drawing (assuming at least $68 more is raised). In addition, we will be drawing for a few additional donated items, including a copy of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (hardback, "Jeff Easley" cover) and a $25 DriveThruRPG gift certificate.

My wife has resumed twice-weekly Physical Therapy sessions. Her session yesterday was an evaluation. PT seems to be helping her enough that her therapist is going to see if her PT can be extended for four more sessions. That would have it ending in mid-February instead of the end of January. Yesterday started out a great day with this news, but ended poorly. As she was walking across the kitchen last night, her foot refused to move unexpectedly and she fell again. This was her first fall in over a month (before PT she averaged one fall a week), but it was the worst fall she's had. She ended up with a large gash on her forehead, bruises on her leg, side, arm, and face, and a painful wrist. She refused to go the the ER as she did not want to waste the huge amount of her medical fund that an ER visit would eat up. As she never lost consciousness and the gash on her forehead finally stopped bleeding (her medicine makes even a minor paper cut bleed a lot), I did not insist, but if he has any problems today I'll try to get her to a doc-in-the-box. Assuming I don't have to do so, I hope to get at least one of the blog posts I've been mentally working on while in the PT waiting room written up and posted today -- as well as some work on Microlite81 Complete.

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 second 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 $1432. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

RetroRoleplaying: The Blog Disappears and (Fortunately) Returns

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This blog disappeared from the Internet sometime in the early morning hours of January 2nd. When I tried to log into Blogger that morning, Google said that unusual activity had been detected on my account and required me to get a verification number on my phone to prove who I was. When I finally managed to log in, I discovered that RetroRoleplaying: The Blog was gone -- not only from the web, but from my dashboard. Everything else was still there (email, other blogs, Google+ posts, etc.), but this blog was gone. It was like the 600+ posts here had never been. After posting about it on Google+, Christopher Wood mentioned that something like this had happened to him last year and after posting/emailing every support address he could find, his blog reappeared a couple of days later. I politely tried his method. As in his case, I never got any replies, but this blog suddenly reappeared (completely intact as far as I can tell) Friday afternoon -- a couple of days after it disappeared -- and you are reading it now.

I've learned my lesson, however, I'm going to use Google Takeout to backup all my Google data (including this blog) every week or two. I had not been doing so regularly as I discovered when this blog disappeared. I had not done so since late August 2013.

Unfortunately, this blog disappeared a few hours after I had announced that I had released the first public beta of Microlite81 Extended (in this post Microlite81 Extended: Download Public Beta 1 Playtest Version (Free, Of Course)) and knocked a couple of days off the Holiday 2013 Cancer Fund Drive. I've had no donations at all since the blog disappeared. Hopefully, with this blog's return, donations will also resume as January 31st is drawing ever closer.

A couple of people have suggested that I should move this blog off of Blogger. I've thought about that -- and definitely would have done so if Blogger had not been able to restore the blog. The RetroRoleplaying web site is Drupal-based and Drupal has a blog feature. However, for the time being, I will continue to use Blogger for this blog (because it is convenient) and just be more careful to do regular backups through Google Takeout while I consider what would be best for this blog in the long term.

Now that the "Missing in Action Blog Crisis" is over, I can concentrate on working on Microlite81 Expanded and Complete and my first Sunday game of 2014.


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 $1302. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!

Microlite81 Extended: Download Public Beta 1 Playtest Version (Free, Of Course)

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Microlite81 Playtest Draft CoverThe first public beta playtest version of Microlite81 Extended is available for free download. The game is complete enough to play although additions and changes are sure to come. These rules are 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.

These rules also include a system for modifying the base experience points of a class when optional abilities (like psionics) are included. A large number of optional rules are already included and chances are more such rules will be included before the final version Microlite81 is released.

Here are a few specific things to look at when you are reading/using this Beta draft:

First, please ignore typos and grammar errors unless they make the intent of the text hard to figure out. I’m the Typo King and I know there are probably a good number of such errors. However, until the text stabilizes (that is, until Beta versions are replaced by Release Candidate versions), there is no point to worrying about the majority of typos.

Second, please check over the rules for modifying the experience points a class needs to level to ensure they are clear and work.

Third, look at the new classes to ensure they are interesting and their powers and abilities are good representatives of the archetype. While exact parity between each class at each level is not the goal of this or any old-school game, if one class is considerably more powerful than all the others in play, please point that out. Note: Such problems only matter if they show up in actual play with normal players who are not devoted to charop/min-maxing. Players who are interested in breaking the game will always be able to do so unless their GM says “no” to their game-breaking ideas, so Microlite81 is not going to worry about min-maxers breaking the game. Nor do I were about “in theory” problems that those who actually play the game do not encounter.

Fourth, please try the optional rules in various combinations and see how well they work (or don’t work) in play in your games.

Fifth, if something does not seem clear or seems contradictory, please point that out. Chances are there are a few places where I added something in one place and forgot to change something that contradicts it elsewhere.

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

Download Microlite81 Extended Public Beta 1



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 $1302. Thanks to everyone who donates, spreads the word, or thinks positive thoughts for us!