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Many Interesting New Old School Games at RPGNow

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Forbidden Caverns CoverWhen I go out to RPGNow there's generally only one or two new games that get my attention, so I was surprised to discover a five such games this morning. Unfortunately, most are well above my PDF price limit of $10. However, I thought I would point them out on my blog as the Christmas season is approaching and my wife has been known to check my blogs for gift ideas.

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia: This is a megadungeon by the author of Barrowmaze, Greg Gillespie. While I really would like to have this, at $35 for a PDF, I am unlikely to ever buy it as it is over 3 times the maximum I'm willing to pay for a PDF -- especially one I am unlikely to ever use more than pieces of. However, it sounds very interesting: "The lost city of Archaia - an ancient ruin sunken into the earth - lies deep in the badlands. In recent years, caravans from Eastdale have come under attack from orcs, goblins, and worse. Some say these blood-thirsty warbands have made lairs in the deep caves and ruins. Sill others say the ancient halls are filled with magnificent treasures left by the Archaians." Cover art is by Erol Otus and the interior art includes "special surprizes by former TSR artists". If you are willing to spend more money on PDFs than I am and would like what will (judging by Barrowmaze) probably be an excellent old school megadungeon, you may want to pick this up.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea -- Second Edition: This caught me by surprise as I didn't know a second edition was in the works. I found the first edition full of interesting ideas, if a bit rough around the edges. However, I liked it enough that I'm looking forward to eventually getting the second edition. According to the blurb, "AS&SH™ has been expanded to include new classes, news spells, new monsters, new magic items, and more! It also includes a new, full colour map, an introductory town and adventure, as well as hundreds of new illustrations!" All the stuff in the first sentence really makes me want a copy. The second sentence, not so much. I really don't need hundreds of illustrations, but I imagine I'm not really the target audience for that part.

Mighty Protectors: Mighty Protectors is the third edition of Villains and Vigilantes. And V&V is the only superhero game aside from TSR's excellent Marvel Superheros (aka FASERIP) that I would be willing to run these days. The first two editions of V&V were great old school superhero games and all I've heard about the third edition is good, so I'm looking forward to eventually getting a copy of this game. I might even be willing to pay a bit over my $10 PDF limit for it because it is something I stand a good chance of actually playing. I'm really happy to see V&V back and wish Jeff Dee and Jack Herman the best of luck with it.

Raiders of R’lyeh: I was really surprised to see this game as it is one of the very late kickstarters that a lot of backers apparently never expected to see. At just under $40 in PDF form, it's way outside my budget. It looks as interesting today as it did when I first heard the idea several years ago: pulpish style mythos adventures in the Edwardian age (1900-1913). Of course, as Pulp Cthuthlu has been out a while (and is an excellent game and one I already own), this game will probably not have the impact it might have had if it had come out when it was originally supposed to.

Fringeworthy d20 edition: I own the first two editions of Richard Tucholka's Fringeworthy. It was a fantastic interdimensional exploration setting saddled with a overly-complex game system. While D20 system versions of games are often square pegs driven into round holes, in this case the D20 system almost has to be an improvement over the original system -- at least for me. If you are unfamiliar with Fingeworthy, this post, "Obsolete Simulations Roundup: Fringeworthy" at Hereticwerks is a good review.

I also noticed that ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG seems to have a new and much lower price than when it first came out. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this game at a very good sale price shortly after it came out. If you like either of the first two editions of the Warhammer RPG, you need this game.

As usual, all the links to RPGNow products in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase a copy through one of these links, I get a small percentage (5% or so, I believe) of the price. Like donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund, money earned from these affiliate links helps pay medical expenses.


Please Support BX Advanced with a Donation: If you would like to have access to the BX Advanced playtest rules (as well as other donor files -- like free copies of all the "for sale" Retroroleplaying publications), you can make a donation towards my wife's medical fund (old oral cancer bills and more current MS-related bills). Donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund for $10 or more will also earn a listing as a sponsor in the BX Advanced rulebook. A donation of $10 gets a Bronze Donor listing. ($25+ earns a Copper Donor listing, $50+ Silver, $100+ Gold, 200+ Platinum, 300+ Electrum, $500+ Adamantine) -- see the sidebar for a list of donors so far. If you would like to sponsor BX Advanced with a donation, you can send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund via Paypal.

Labor Sale: Microlite74 Ultimate Edition (and others) 25% Off

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Microlite74 Ultimate Edition CoverIt's Labor Day and that sounds like a great time for a sale. The Microlite74 Ultimate Edition is now 25% off on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow. All our other products (that are not already "pay what you want") are also on sale at 25% off.


This sale runs through Tuesday September 5th at 9am CDT.


Please Support BX Advanced with a Donation: If you would like to have access to the BX Advanced playtest rules (as well as other donor files -- like free copies of all the "for sale" Retroroleplaying publications), you can make a donation towards my wife's medical fund (old oral cancer bills and more current MS-related bills). Donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund for $10 or more will also earn a listing as a sponsor in the BX Advanced rulebook. A donation of $10 gets a Bronze Donor listing. ($25+ earns a Copper Donor listing, $50+ Silver, $100+ Gold, 200+ Platinum, 300+ Electrum, $500+ Adamantine) -- see the sidebar for a list of donors so far. If you would like to sponsor BX Advanced with a donation, you can send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund via Paypal.

BX Advanced: A Draft Barbarian Class

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BX Advanced Playtest 0.1 CoverOne of the most requested classes so far for BX Advanced is the Barbarian. It's not found in either Labyrinth Lord or its Advanced Edition Companion -- probably because the original class from Unearth Arcana was a bit over-powered and hard to play in a normal party with spell-casters. I've tried to piece together a Barbarian class suitable for BX Advanced from open game content scources and my own ideas. Here is what I have so far. Please note that it has not been really proofread, let alone playtested. However, as one of my players really wants to play a barbarian, I needed something to work from to use in tomorrow's session.

You will note that I've toned down the barbarian's issues with magic to make the character easier to use in a typical campaign. A Barbarian will adventure with arcane spellcasters types, if reluctantly, but he will not tolerate spells cast upon him. This should reduce the -- frankly ridiculous -- contortions often needed to play a 1e barbarian in a "normal" adventuring party while keeping the "distrusts magic" flavor.

I've also modified the Barbarian's Battle Rage so that the Barbarian can end it at will (thus preventing the barbarian attacking his own party if a battle ends before his rage does). However, I've made the Barbarian's rage exhausting, leaving the barbarian fatigued and weakened for 10 minutes per combat round the Battle Rage lasted.

Comments, complaints and ideas are welcome.

The character class (offset by a blue blockquote line) below is open game content under the OGL statement for this blog. Here is the addition Section 15 copyright references for this class:

First Edition Fantasy: Supplement #2, OSRIC Unearthed, Copyright 2007, Charles Rice; published by Ronin Arts
Barbarian: A Player Character Class for Labyrinth Lord, Copyright 2012, James M. Spahn


Barbarians
Requirements: Str 12, Con 12
Prime Requisite: STR and CON
Hit Dice: 1d10
Maximum Level: None

Born in the wild and raised among savage nomads, Barbarians are warriors hardened by nature and able to survive in the wild with little more than a weapon and their own willpower. Their skill in battle comes not from training or discipline, but from sheer brutality and tenacity. The sheer unwillingness to fall in combat and drive a foe into the ground makes them fearsome opponents to even the hardiest of foes.

Though they are not often found in civilized lands, some find their way onto the path of adventure. Whether they are the last remnant of a dying tribe, cast out for an act of dishonor, or secretly scouting the civilized worlds for invasion, the occasional barbarian can be found adventuring in more civilized lands.

Barbarians are proficient in all melee weapons and may wear padded armor, leather armor, studded leather as well as use shields. Because of their savage nature Barbarians may only be Neutral or Chaotic alignment. Barbarians use the Attack Value and Saving Throws of a fighter.

Sense Danger: Barbarians have an almost supernatural ability to detect danger. This gives them a chance to avoid surprise and to avoid traps after they are triggered. If a Barbarian is with a party that is surprised and they successfully Sense Danger, they are not surprised. That is they may take their actions as normal during the surprise round even though the rest of their party may not act. If a trap which would affect the is activated and they successfully Sense Danger, they may avoid the trap effects completely (leaping out of the way, etc.) so long as there is any physical way to avoid the trap. A successful Sense Danger roll will also negate any bonuses for attacking a Barbarian from behind (or from ambush, from invisibility, etc.)

Battle Rage: Barbarians can fly into a rage at the beginning their action in a combat round. This grants the Barbarian a bonus to attack and damage rolls equal to the Barbarian’s level divided by 4, rounded up (e.g. +1 at levels 1 to 4, +2 at levels 5-8, etc.). The Barbarian gains temporary hit points equal to his level that go away at the end of Battle Rage – damage suffered during battle rage is taken first from these temporary hit points. Damage dice explode -- that is, if the natural die roll is the maximum possible for the die type (e.g. a 6 of a D6, an 8 on a D8), the die is rolled again and the damage added together. If the second natural die roll is also the maximum possible for the die type, a third roll is made (etc.). Damage bonuses, if any, are added to the final. Barbarians using a ranged weapon when they go into Battle Rage will toss it aside and draw a melee weapon as a free action.

Battle Rage lasts for 1d6 plus 1 per level combat rounds. A Barbarian may voluntarily end Battle Rage before the duration is up. When Battle Rage ends, the Barbarian immediately loses all Battle Rage modifiers and becomes fatigued for 10 minutes for every combat round the Battle Rage lasted. While fatigued, the Barbarian loses the benefits of Sense Danger, suffers a -2 penalty to hit and damage, and moves at 50% of their normal rate.

Superstitious: Barbarians are notoriously suspicious of magic from outside their experience (Barbarian clans will tolerate Clerics and Druids but Magic-Users and Illusionists will be driven out). If any Magic User or Illusionist casts a spell on a Barbarian and he successfully saves, he will fly into a frenzy and attack the spell-caster.

While superstitious, the Barbarian is still a pragmatist; his primitive nature just sometimes gets the better of him. With regard to magic items, this means that a Barbarian can use most magic weapons and armor, since they are just better versions of standard items. The Barbarian would not use a weapon if he knew it could throw a spell though.

The Barbarian is also pragmatic enough to suffer the use of such items or the presence of a Magic-User among his allies, unless a spell is cast upon him. In such a case the Barbarian will fly into a frenzy as discussed above and attack the source of the spell.

Horde Leadership: As a Barbarian advances in levels he may attempt to raise a barbarian horde for revenge against a traditional enemy or if substantial loot is promised as described below:

·          Clan Leader: A Barbarian of 8th level and above has the respect of his clan, usually his family and some traditionally allied families who hail from the same area. The Barbarian can gather a small force of 1d6 1st level Barbarians times the Barbarian’s level (so 8d6 at 8th level, 9d6 at 9th level and so on), along with a war leader (a 3rd level Barbarian) and a clan Shaman (a 3rd level Druid). This force will stay together for the Barbarian as long as the goal he promised them remains within their reach (this is at the discretion of the game master).

·          War Chief: At 13th level the Barbarian has an even greater reputation among his people and can gather a larger force, equal to 1d8 1st level Barbarians per level. This force is accompanied by two war leaders (3rd level Barbarians), two clan shamans (3rd level Druids) and one clan leader (8th level Barbarian).

·          Warlord: At 18th level and above the Barbarian can summon a great number (often the majority) of his people to aid him in revenge or for the prospect of gaining treasure. This force numbers 2d10 1st level Barbarians per level, along with one war leader and clan shaman per 10 Barbarians and one clan leader for every 30 Barbarians.

BARBARIAN LEVEL PROGRESSION
Experience
Level
Hit Dice (1d10)
Sense Danger
0
1
1
14%
2,501
2
2
20%
5,001
3
3
26%
10,001
4
4
32%
20,001
5
5
38%
40,001
6
6
44%
80,001
7
7
50%
160,001
8
8
55%
310,001
9
9
60%
460,001
10
+3 hp only*
64%
610,001
11
+6 hp only*
68%
760,001
12
+9 hp only*
72%
910,001
13
+12 hp only*
76%
1,060,001
14
+15 hp only*
80%
1,210,001
15
+18 hp only*
84%
1,360,001
16
+21 hp only*
88%
1,510,001
17
+24 hp only*
92%
1,660,001
18
+27 hp only*
94%
1,810,001
19
+30 hp only*
96%
1,960,001
20
+33 hp only*
97%
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.


Please Support BX Advanced with a Donation: If you would like to have access to the BX Advanced playtest rules (as well as other donor files -- like free copies of all the "for sale" Retroroleplaying publications), you can make a donation towards my wife's medical fund (old oral cancer bills more current MS-related bills). Donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund for $10 or more will also earn a listing as a sponsor in the BX Advanced rulebook. A donation of $10 gets a Bronze Donor listing. ($25+ earns a Copper Donor listing, $50+ Silver, $100+ Gold, 200+ Platinum, 300+ Electrum, $500+ Adamantine) -- see the sidebar for a list of donors so far. If you would like to sponsor BX Advanced with a donation, you can send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund via Paypal.


BX Advanced Playtest Draft 0.1 Available for Donor Download

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BX Advanced Playtest 0.1 Cover CoverA very early and very rough playtest version of my new project BX Advanced is available to RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors. BX Advanced is a clone the Basic/Expert rules using the First Edition classes, spells, monsters, and treasure. In other words, it is First edition played the way many people who started playing with B/X (or later, BECMI) and then moved on to the "advanced" edition played the game. This first playtest edition simply combines the open game content from a popular B/X and a popular 1e clone with a bit of my own material. The formatting is very raw and uneven and little to no proofreading has been done, but this first playtest draft provides a good starting point that I will be building on. Like most of my Microlite7x/81 games, I will be adding lots of optional rules and house rules in future playtest editions. The final product will be much more that what you see here. However, what you see here should be very playable -- if not super original or super easy to read because of formatting issues.

I'm also happy to report that my new Sunday game group has decided to play using the BX Advanced rules I'm working on instead of a set of special rules like I we had previously discussed. This means that we can start play next week and that I will have a group of players using these rules -- which makes testing ideas much easier (and much faster). Back in the 1980s, I used to use the mutations out of Gamma World more or less "as is" in my games. Promising to include rules for fairly complete mutations in the optional rules section of BX Advanced secured the agreement to playtest the BX Advanced rules. There aren't any rules for mutations in the current playtest draft, but they (and psionics) will be the first major new section of optional rules I add. While the psionics rules will be similar to the (fairly popular) version of psionics in my Microlite7x/8x games, the rules for mutations will have little in common with the rules for mutations in the optional science fantasy rules for Microlite7x/8x.

RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors have the password that will unlock this first BX Advanced playtest pdf and may download the (password-protected) zip file here:

If you do not have the password and would like to have access to this (and future) sets of BX Advanced playtest rules (as well as other donor files -- like free copies of all the "for sale" Retroroleplaying publications), you can make a donation towards my wife's medical fund (old oral cancer bills more current MS-related bills). Donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund for $10 or more will also earn a listing as a sponsor in the BX Advanced rulebook. A donation of $10 gets a Bronze Donor listing. ($25+ earns a Copper Donor listing, $50+ Silver, $100+ Gold, 200+ Platinum, 300+ Electrum, $500+ Adamantine) -- see the sidebar for a list of donors so far. If you would like to sponsor BX Advanced with a donation, you can send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund via Paypal.

Frog God Games Now Has An Official Discord Server

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Someone associated with Frog God Games just posted on following on the Microlite20 message board. As the board doesn't get much use, I decided to report the info here. I'm personally not that interested in voice chat, but I know many gamers are, so this may be news at least some old school players can use. Frog God Games produces some very high quality (and often very expensive) stuff for Swords & Wizardry (and other games of much less interest to readers of this blog -- like Pathfinder).

Howdy, Frog God Games the makers of Swords and Wizardry, Rappan Athuk, Tomb of Abysthor, and Slumbering Tsar just launched their official discord server. I would like to invite you to come join us to talk about Swords and Wizardry, 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Starfinder and other Frog God Game products.
We have voice channels for pickup games as well. Lots of free content and resources.

Step 1.) Go here https://discordapp.com/download
Step 2.) Click which is best for you Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, or Linux and download it.
Step 3.) Once it has finished downloading click the + button surrounded by a dotted circle on the left hand side
Step 4.) Click the Join a Server button and copy and paste this into it https://discord.gg/HKUZfUv

Side Note: Normally, I'd consider a forum post like this "advertising without approval" and delete it, but I decided to not to be a complete jackass of a "forum GM" and leave it up. This should not be considered setting a precedent -- it is always better to ask first when when comes to anything advertising related on the forum (anf most other forums, for that matter).

Next Old School Project: BX Advanced?

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Basic/Expert D&D Books imageI've been working on Microlite74 and its many variants since 2008 During these nine years, I've produced:

  • The original Microlite74 (and two revised editions, the second of which has three separate versions: Basic, Standard, and Extended)
  • Five supplemental volumes for Microlite74 and the original Microlite75 (which became Microlite74 Extended in the third edition of Microlite74)
  • Microlite74 Swords & Sorcery Edition (An "E6-like" set of Microlite74 rules aimed at swords and sorcery campaigns)
  • Microlite74 Light vs Dark (A version of Microlite74 designed for low -- but common -- magic campaigns with summonable spirits and two opposed deities)
  • Microlite78 (slightly modified Microlite74 rules with the spells, monsters, and treasure of the first edition of the "Advanced game) 
  • Microlite81 (The B/X version of the game given the Microlite74 treatment in three different versions: Standard, Complete, and Advanced). 
  • Microlite75 (A revised version of Microlite74 using the standard experience system instead of the Microlite20-based system of Microlite74, also in three versions: Basic, Standard, and Extended) 
  • Microlite74 Ultimate (nearly 400 tablet/digest-sized pages combining the rules from Microlite74 Extended with the additional rules from first, second, and third Microlite74 Companion volumes, full treasure listings, some new additional rules, a sample setting, and several short location-based adventures)
  • Microlite74 3d6 Edition (a version of Microlite74 that uses D6s (and only D6s): 3d6 are rolled when a D20 would be rolled in standard versions) and the system includes partial successes as well as success and failure)
That's a lot of games from something that originally started as a quick project to do a small Microlite20 version of the original 1974 "0e" whose only intended purpose was to help people used to 3.x try "old school" play to see if they liked it. (Take a look at Microlite74 1.1 to see this version of the game.)

The only game I've published during this time that wasn't somehow based on that original Microlite74, is Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome which provides my "standard" house rules in a form suitable for the original 1974 game, Swords and Wizardry, Delving Deeper, and other versions of 0e. Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome also includes a version of the Magic-User, the Mnemonic Mage, which uses a system closer the original magic system used in Jack Vance's early Dying Earth stories.

You can view (and download) these games on RPGNow from this link -- most are "Pay What You Want" (and free/$0 is fine if that's what you want to pay).

While I have several Microlite75 variants I am supposedly working on, I'm not making a lot of progress. I suspect a large part of my very slow progress is that I am somewhat burned out on working with the Microlite74/75 systems. Like I said, I been working on Microlite7x/8x systems for nine years now. I've considered try taking a break and working on something not based on Microlite20/7x/8x rules before, but have never really done so because I did not have any others ideas that interested me enough to actually work on for more than a few days or weeks.

However, my post a few days ago "Creating a 'Best of TSR D&D' Rulebook" saw several people commenting that really like the B/X systems with the AD&D classes, spells, treasures, etc. and would really like a set of rules that combined the rules of Labyrinth Lord and its Advanced Edition Companion in one rulebook. As the vast majority of the text of both is Open Game Content under the OGL, this would be relatively easy to do. I suspect that only reason its never been done is because everyone likes Goblinoid Games and therefore no one wants to do step on their toes by publishing such a product. That's certainly why I've never done it, even though I did a primitive combined version for my own use years ago.

Thinking about it, however, I realized that I would not feel about about publishing such a product if I added a lot of other material to it: optional rules, optional classes, optional monsters, optional treasures, optional spells, a domain system, etc. In other work the kind of optional extras I've added to my Microlite7x/8x games and have been writing seen I started to play OD&D back in 1975. Thinking some more about it, I noticed that I was actually interested and even excited about such a "BX Advanced" project. Excited enough, in fact, to start making notes and outlines of what I would need to do and ought to write. While I'm not 100% sure I want to do this, I've just about convinced myself that a BX Advanced of some type should be my next game design project.

What do you think?

Creating a "Best of TSR D&D" Rulebook?

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D&D Books

Most old school D&D players realize that it is fairly easy to use an adventure written for one version of TSR D&D with the rules for a different version of TSR D&D. While each version (OD&D, Holmes D&D, 1e, B/X, BECMI, 2e, and RC) are different enough to be separate games, they have some much in common that it often takes little effort to use an adventure or setting designed for one version with another version. In most cases, many experienced GMs can convert adventures on the fly as they run them.

A lot of people used to mix rules in play as well. Many people playing AD&D were actually using the less complex systems from B/X D&D with the classes, spells, monsters, and magic items from AD&D. Others just added what they liked from second edition AD&D to their first edition AD&D games. And so forth.

This got me thinking, what would a "best of" set of rules taken from all of the versions of D&D TSR published look like. Naturally it would look different to different people because everyone interested in TSR D&D likely has different ideas of what the best rules in TSR D&D were. While I haven't given this the hours of thought I would need to if I were going to actually write such a set of rules, I can immediately list some of the important rules pieces that were be in my personal "Best of TSR" edition of D&D.

* I'd use the basic game systems from B/X D&D as they are clear and fairly simple.

* Race and Class would come from AD&D, mostly from 1e. The Bard however, would come from 2e. I'll probably also use the specialist priest material from 2e.

* Spells would come mainly from 1e. 1e has a somewhat larger selection than OD&D or B/X, but not the seemingly endless list that 2e plus supplements had.

* Monsters and Treasure would mainly come from 1e. Again, 2e just as too many.

* I'd take the domain and mass combat rules from BECMI/RC.

If you were designing a "best of TSR" set of D&D rules, what would you include?