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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

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.

Hit Dice (1d10)
Sense Danger
+3 hp only*
+6 hp only*
+9 hp only*
+12 hp only*
+15 hp only*
+18 hp only*
+21 hp only*
+24 hp only*
+27 hp only*
+30 hp only*
+33 hp only*
*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?

New Old School Sunday Game Campaign Coming Together

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Pizza MeetingYesterday was the first meeting of what will hopefully soon become my next Sunday Game. Six potential players and myself met over all-you-can-eat pizza to discuss campaign and rules ideas. After several hours (and a lot of pizza and soft drinks) we've hashed out some ideas for my next old school campaign.

It will be set in a version of the Judges Guild Wilderlands -- the main differences from the Judges Guild "canon" will be religion and magic. Exactly where it will be set is still up in the air. People seem torn between starting in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, starting in a smaller town, or starting in a sea port with pirates. There are two votes for each. Sigh.

Religion: The campaign will have only one true deity (an incomprehensible "creator") who interacts with the world and its people through thousands of demi-god-like avatars. While some of these avatars might be avatars of "evil" things like theft or murder, all are opposed to Chaos. Chaos is what is outside "creation" and seeks to swallow it up and destroy it (that is, return it to formless chaos). The main effect on the campaign is that there will be lots of little religions with most people praying to many deities depending on what they need. Clerical characters focus are more focused a single deity (but even they will pray to other Gods when they need help in their specific area of power. The game effects for clerical characters are that they can basically create the deity they want to follow and I will create 2 or 3 special prayers realed to that deity that their characters can access in the game. Clerical powers will tend to be low key because none of the thousands of deities worshiped inj the world are individually very powerful.

Magic: According to legend, before an ancient world-wide magical disaster, people could easily wield very powerful magic by making a few gestures, saying incantations, and imposing their will on the magical energy of the world. However, people somehow pushed things too far and let Chaos into the world and there was a huge backlash of magical energy that ended this "golden age" of magic and somehow changed the very nature of magic. Now, very little can be accomplished magically with just gestures, incantations, and a mage's will -- most magic has to be performed through lengthy and often complex rituals. Mage characters will be able to do some "wand magic" (probably something like minor magic in my current Microlite75 Extended rules), but most magic will have to be done through rituals. Players will be able to design rituals to do anything from charming a being long term to moving mountains around. Of course, the more powerful the effect, the more steps needed to do the ritual (e.g. research, special items, special times, sacrifices, magical energy, etc.).

Character Classes:

Fighter: A powerful warrior class that gets +1 to hit and damage per level, is skilled at commanding men-at-arms, knows all sorts of special combat maneuvers and combat tricks, etc. Fighters will be able to design combat tricks on the fly and they will not be penalized for trying using them -- if they critical hit, they do normal damage and impose the special effect from the trick, if they hit the defender can choose to accept the special effect or take the damage rolled. Highly skilled with weapons and armor.

Scout: A lesser warrior (+1 to hit per 2 levels) who is also skilled in outdoorsman and some thief-like abilities. Normal skills with weapons and armor.

Paladin: A lesser warrior (+1 to hit per 2 levels) who is also a priest/priestes of a deity. Paladins have a few standard prayers (healing, etc.) and a few special prayers determined by their deity. They can also repel/disrupt undead and some manifestations of Chaos. Normal skills with weapons and armor.

Mage: A minor warrior (+ 1 to hit per 3 levels) who is a scholar able to easily weild magic. Mages can use wand magic and know how to create and perform magical rituals to best effect. Limited skills with weapons and armor.

All classes will have the ability to try use scroll magic. Scrolls are ancient writings from before the magical disaster that contain magic energy and an incantation that will release their magical power when properly chanted aloud.

The game rules themselves will otherwise be 0e to B/X like. Now all I have to do is write enough of the first draft of the new rules needed so we can start playing -- Target date for the first session is August 6th.

How I Recruit Players for my Old School Games

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Recruting illoI occasionally receive email asking me how I manage to get so many players for my old school games -- giving that most potential players aren't familiar with them -- or if they are familiar with them do not have a very positive opinion of old school play. Given that the basement gaming area of my new house in Ohio is finally available and I'm currently recruiting players in yet another area where I don't know many people, this sounds like a good time to make a post on how I recruit players for my long-running old school campaigns.

First, let me say that I really don't have any good ideas for taking a currently existing group of players and convincing them to play in an old school campaign. In my 35+ years of gaming, I've never really done that. I never had a group of friends who are already playing tabletop RPGS and tried to convince them that they want to spend years playing in one of my campaigns. Instead of trying to convince a pre-existing group who are not playing old school games to play in my campaign, I simply recruit a group of people who want to play what I want to run. This is really my secret to success -- I find people who want to play what I want to run instead of trying to convince an existing group to play what I want to run.

Since I run an old school style game where players just tell me what they want their characters to try to do and I tell them whether they succeed, fail, or what to roll to find out what happens, I don't need to limit my search to people who already know the game system I am running. This also means I don't have to limit my search to people willing to buy and study the rules to play. Therefore, I can recruit people that many modern gamers would not have any interest in recruiting: people who might want to play but who aren't interested in studying and learning hundreds of pages of rules just to be able to play a character in an "elf game".

That said, I spend most of my time telling other gamers about my campaign. I tell them that it is old school where they are playing normal people who may become heroes, not people who are already awesome heroes. I explain that my campaigns aren't centered around combat encounters (or even encounters in general), but around exploring the campaign world, searching for and recovering treasure, and interacting with the world in character. I explain that player skill matters more than character skill -- and that running headlong into situations without any playing and preparation will eventually get their characters killed. I tell people I I do not have a story to tell, but that I run a sandbox campaign where the players can choose to have their characters try to do just about anything and the the campaign's story consists of what the players' characters do in the campaign world.

I'll be honest, most people's eyes get big and they quickly decide that they want nothing to do with my campaign. That's okay, because I want people who want to play in my campaign. However, generally about one in every ten or fifteen people seem actually interested in maybe giving such a game a try, I tell these people when the game is (or will be ran). If they are still interested I tell them how to join the campaign mailing list (or you could use a private Facebook group, etc.) where they can see the rules, learn about the campaign, and talk to other players (or potential players). Once I get a couple of people who are definitely interested, finding more becomes easier and these new players often have friends who they think might like the game and tell then about it. Often these people who friends who do not play RPGs for some reason or another, but they think would like to play in a game where they don't have to do anything but show up and say what they want their character to try to do. I generally want at least four players to start a new campaign. It generally takes me a month or two, at most, to get to that point from no players. I keep working a it even then, however, as I usually loose a player or two once the game starts due to time issues, the game not being quite what they expected, etc. Once I have a group playing, however, recruiting actually becomes easier and the current players and current game situation are generally better at generating interest then boring old me.

Will this work for others? I will admit that it seems to work for me better than it seems to for others. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it is because this is the way I've always done it and so have gotten good at it.