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More on the Caves of Chaos Project


I've started a thread on the Caves of Chaos project on the message board. There's enough info in the first post to at least let you figure out what the project is.

Caves of Chaos Project Thread

Fantaseum #1 (Free PDF Magazine)


I've dropped by the Campaign Builder's Guild a couple of times in the past and have always been impressed with the community there even if it was not quite my thing. When I dropped by this morning, I discovered that they, in association with a couple of other sites, have started a new PDF magazine, Fantaseum, the Journal of the Creative Community Alliance. The first issue is 36 pages and weighs in at a hefty 28 megabytes because it is very graphics intensive. It features campaign areas (described rules neutrally for the most part), fiction, and maps. Lots of nice maps.

One of the most interesting parts of this issue is the Glass Ocean section, introduced with this:

"We are delighted to bring you the first of our combined guild challenges. First, the Campaign Builders’ Guild held a monthly competition to create a frontierland. The winning result, The Glass Ocean by Luminous Crayon was then used as the basis of a monthly challenge for the Cartographers’ Guild and Plotstorming to draw a map of Luminous Crayon’s winning entry and write a fictional piece set within it."

Very nice stuff. I can't wait to see more issues. You can find out more and download a free copy from this page of the CBG web site.

What's Wrong With D&D 4

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I think this quote from The Dragon Editorial Archive sums up everything that is wrong with The current versions of D&D and how it is being made even more wrong in 4th Edition.

Quite simply, the math behind the game is so rock solid that I've been encouraged to play my character as a genuine, action movie, one-liner quoting hero. I'm not rushing to open the door because I know I can survive the fireball trap on the door. It's that I know that the trap on the door isn't some ruthless save or die effect that will punish me for rolling a 1 on my save. I still don't shy away from danger, but I find myself taking even more risks with my 4th Edition character than I did before. I don't dread the finger of death, wail of the banshee, or worst of all, energy drain effects that so permeated previous editions.
-- From the Dragon Editorial Archive: Fearless

I'm just shaking my head. It sounds like they've taken all the risk out of the game. What's the fun in being able to act like "a genuine, action movie, one-liner quoting hero" in a game if there are no risks at all of failure, let alone of severe failure? Playing a god-like character in a group of other god-like characters, all of whom get even more god-like with time sounds like it would get boring fast.

Don't get me wrong, I love the cinematic style of gaming where people don't regularly die from a single bad die roll and can do lots of heroic things. I've always ran my D&D and other fantasy games like that. But there was still risk and lots of things that any player should dread. Cakewalks not only get boring fast, but players don't feel very heroic at the end of one, no matter how successful the characters were.

RetroRoleplaying Message Board Beta Opening


The new RetroRoleplaying message board isn't finished and ready for a grand opening yet, but it is complete enough that those reading this blog can register an account and be ready to start a thread or two just before we officially open to help kick start an otherwise empty board. I guess we could call this a beta opening. The forum and the classified sections are basically ready to use. The Gallery and Links areas aren't even created yet.

You can reach the RetroRoleplaying message board at it's real address at http://retroroleplaying.smfforfree4.com/ or you can use this slightly easier to remember address http://forum.retroroleplaying.com/ which will automatically bounce you to the real address.

Site, Board, and Cancer Update

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Not much progress on RetroRoleplaying today as we spent most of the day at visiting doctors. Things will start moving much more slowly next week as my wife starts radiation treatment (see her Cancer Diary for more info if you are really interested). As yet we have no idea how bad this will be as reactions vary greatly by individual so I idea how much time I will have to work on this project during the next 2 or 3 months.

I do hope to get the forum open (at least to those reading this blog) this weekend. With luck, I'll even have time to get some basic info on my Caves of Chaos project idea up in the forum for discussion. No promises however, as my wife comes first.

RetroRoleplaying Forum: More Information


I'm in the process of setting up the new RetroRoleplaying Forum I mentioned a few days ago. It will use SMF forum software and will be set up at SMF For Free. In addition to the message board, it will have a n area when members can add links, a gallery for pictures and artwork, and best of all a Classified Ads/Auction system (which SMF for Free) has just added where members can post free ads for games they want to sell. If/When the board hits a critical mass of members, auctions will be possible as well. (They are possible now, but pointless until a lot more people know about and use this board.)

OD&D Adventure: Under Xylarthen's Tower


Jeff Rients has posted a OD&D module, Under Xylarthen's Tower, over at Jeff's Gameblog in this post: my module: now less crappy.

Under Xylarthen's Tower is a very nice 6 level old school dungeon in a pdf file. It even has a dragon's lair. Jeff has some interesting takes on monsters as well. That's one of the nice things about OD&D, the monster descriptions were very sketchy -- especially on what the monster looks like -- which gives a dungeon master a lot of room to customize things for his or her world.

RetroRoleplaying Forum: Coming Soon

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I've decided that RetroRoleplaying needs a forum where both new players and long time players of older RPGs can feel at home. This forum isn't designed to replaces forums like those at Dragonsfoot and Knights and Knaves Alehouse, but to supplement them by taking a slightly different direction and moderating style.

It will also be home to my new Caves of Chaos project: a game in the Holmes Basic Set style that can either be used as an introduction to Classical D&D or First Edition AD&D or as a complete game/campaign. It will be set in a world where civilization has to fight to take land from the forces of chaos and where character advancement stops at level 6. Current plan are to base this on the Labyrinth Lord rules as they are entirely open game content.

RetroRoleplaying: Stage One Complete


The main RetroRoleplaying web site is now complete. Well, Stage One is complete. I now have some basic information on the rulebooks for Original D&D, Classical D&D, and First Edition AD&D up. I haven't even begun to touch adventures and non-rules supplements so the site is a long way from being even "item complete." However, there is enough there to be a bit useful to someone considering an older version of D&D, so I'm happy.

Of course, I want to do much more than item pages. I want to include links to web sites associated with each game, links to campaign journals from groups using one of the covered games, include reviews of more items, articles were people tell why they have selected a given older system over the current incarnation of D&D, etc. Eventually, I will want to include other good games from the 1975-1995 era (e.g. 2nd Edition RuneQuest and Classic Traveller).

But for now, I made a useful start. And I reached this point before my wife's radiation treatments start next week -- which was my goal. No real proofreading has been done yet, unfortunately. I've printed out the various pages and my wife will look over the printouts as she gets a chance -- and corrections will be made.

Speaking of Tunnels & Trolls -- Free Intro T&T Rulebook


I had not thought much of Tunnels & Trolls recently. Then I get sent from T&T links last week. Now I discover that Flying Buffalo is apparently trying to spark some interest in Tunnels & Trolls with a free sixteen page T&T rulebook/solo adventure.

From the description at RPGNow.com:

This is a short version of the full Tunnels & trolls Rules. It is sufficient to play the solitaire adventure, and to show your friends how to play with the GameMaster adventure.

Tunnels & Trolls is one of the easiest role playing games to learn and play. All you need are paper & pencil and some six-sided dice (at least 3). One of the best things about T&T is that you can play it solitaire, where the book is the gamemaster. Most of the following rules are written as if you are playing a solitaire adventure. If you are playing with a gamemaster, he or she will roll the dice for any opponents or monsters, and normally you will not be told the Monster Rating, or armor of your enemy, only what you might be able to see, and the total of any dice rolls.

If you've never played T&T, here's your chance. It would be nice to see a new generation introduced to T&T solos. Of course, I have to wonder what people used to 900+ pages of detailed rules will think of T&T.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Opens May 22nd. Here's the trailer:


How much more "Old-School Adventure" can you get?

Game Style Quiz Results


This quiz is actually fairly accurate for me -- at least with respect to what I'm not as interested in in RPGs (combat and getting the most powerful character possible). However, I would not describe what I am interested in quite a strongly as it is described here. I want a campaign to feel like I the characters were in a novel instead of a video game, but I don't expect the campaign to move like it is being scripted by the gamemaster.

Law's Game Style
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Storyteller

You're more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You're quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it's orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.



Method Actor






Casual Gamer


Power Gamer




Tunnels & Trolls Goodness


A member of one of the non-gaming message boards I hang out on saw this blog and sent me some Tunnels and Trolls links -- including lots of freebies! Thanks to Oaksworn for this information.

I didn't see an option to leave comments on your RetroRoleplaying blog without creating an account so I thought I'd pass along a couple of links via PM here. Don't worry, I won't make it a habit.

One game that always intrigued me, primarily because of the number of solo adventures and my difficulty of finding a group to game with, has been Tunnels and Trolls. I've found a few links that I thought I'd pass along to you:

Flying Buffalo Publishing main page:

Free Dungeons for Tunnels and Trolls:

Gristlegrim's free resources for Tunnels and Trolls:

Trollgod's Trollhalla:

Anyways, I just thought you might be interested in another retro game that is still being produced.
Tunnels and Trolls is an interesting little game. It's a bit too humor-oriented for me, but I'll admit to having great fun with T&T solo adventures back in the day. It will probably get a section of its own of RetroRoleplaying.com site someday.

FAST -- A Simple Universal RPG

In the 1990s, I spent a lot of my spare time trying to design a very simple, universal roleplaying game. I was attempting to recapture the spirit of the games I started playing in the mid-1970s. I finally decided that the best way to recapture that feeling wasn't to create an entire new game, but to just play the old games like really liked. FAST (Flexible Adventure System, Task-oriented) was one of my most successful attempts at a playable, very simple game. I've put it up on RetroRoleplaying just in case anyone finds it useful.

Old GEnie SFRT3 Story Engines Now On RetroRoleplaying

While I was an assistant sysop on GEnie Science Fiction Fandom RoundTable (SFRT3), we developed a number of games designed to be played in our RoundTable's chat rooms. We couldn't call them games, however, as that would have made the gaming RoundTables mad. So we called them "Story Engines" because they were designed around the various collaborative stories fans were writing in sections of our RoundTables.

I've put copies of this rules up in a new "Miscellaneous" section on RetroRoleplaying.com today. These games aren't really roleplaying games, but they could be easily be used as rules modules for rpgs. However, they are fun to play and needed a home. The chief designer, Glenn Overby II, had them up on his website in 2001. Unfortunately, his site disappeared a few years ago. They deserve to be available again -- and now they are.

A Matter of Style

In this simple game, you are a hacker duelling other hackers in the cyberspace where style is everything. The rules for this game are quite simple and two people can play a complete game in few minutes.

An Cath

In An Cath, you are a mighty warrior in Caladonia in the lands of the Fallen Empire. There are four sides, two human, one elfin, and one goblin. Defend your homelands with your sword.


Become a powerful elemental wizard in the Fallen Empire and duel other mages in ArchMage. Your ArchMage character can also be used in the Astral Warriors game.

Astral Warriors

With Astral Warriors, you can quickly create a powerful mage and battle other mages for control of the astral plane. This game is set in the Fallen Empire, a world specially created for online games and interactive fiction by Randall Stukey


Enter a land of swords and psionics: a land of fantasy where the knights have a bit of "magic" to help them in their battles. You can quickly create a character and fight other PsiKnights on foot, on horseback, and in war. This simple game system includes long-term campaign rules.


With StarPilot, you can quickly create a hotshot star fighter pilot and battle other pilots for glory in the depths of space. This game, set in Ann Wilson's Terran Empire, is the most complex and the most popular of the many science fiction and fantasy chat games we created on GEnie.

Judges Guild Magazines Bring Back Memories


As most of the commercial adventures designed for Original D&D were published by Judges Guild, I knew I was going to have to dig out my Judges Guild stuff sooner or later so I could list the better D&D adventures on RetroRoleplaying.com. After reading that Bob Bledsaw has terminal cancer on Dragonsfoot, I decided to do so sooner -- as in yesterday.

Naturally, when I pulled out the box of Judges Guild stuff, the first things I looked at were the older magazines: The Dungeoneer and Judges Guild Journal. I remembered them being a very mixed bag and my memory was correct. There were some excellent rules ideas and mini-adventures, but there were also issues full of awful, boring "contest winner" dungeons. I've just started to go through these issues for the first time in years, so I can't yet comment on which issues are worth trying to find if you don't have copies.

You see, I got side-tracked. I had forgotten how many mini-adventures by Paul Jaquays were published in later issues of The Dungeoneer. They generally weren't as long as his adventures in the early issues (those before Judges Guild took over publication), but they were still excellent.

Morkendaine Dungeon in The Dungeoneer #9 brought back a number of memories. This adventure centered around an old manor that had originally been built a Paladin on the site of a ruined temple of a lawful good deity. His descendants did not maintain the place and eventually lost the manor because they couldn't pay the taxes. A mage finally bought the place and started building dungeons for this experiments under it. It was great sixteen page example of Paul's great adventure designs.

Back in the day, I had dropped this adventure in the middle of the Park of Obscene Statues in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. My version of the park was much larger than the version in the published city-state. What's the use of having magic if some long lost great magic can't make something bigger than the space it fits in?

From my description of the Park of Obscene Statues:

When the Park of Obscene Statues is measured from the outside it seems to be about 450 feet by 560 feet. However, when measured from inside the park is much larger, about 3840 feet by 4480 feet. According to legend, this is due to a great magical ritual cast by a great mage whose name has been carefully scratched off of early records.

For many years (roughly from 3078-4133 BCCC) the park was used as a worship area for the Temple of Red Desire. However, when the Great Fire destroyed the temple quarter of the city in 4132, the priests of the Temple of Red Desire were forced to sell the land to raise the money needed to rebuild their temple. The land was sold to Lord Morken, Earl of Morkendaine, for a huge sum. He built Morkendaine Manor (see a on the map) on the hilltop. The Mordendaine line died out in 4342 and the Overlord confiscated the manor for back taxes in 4360. It was sold the same year to a mage named Hostephris. It went to his son in 4397, but he came to a bad end in Flipping Frog Tavern in 4404. His son never appeared to claim the manor. It was confiscated by the present Overlord's father 7 days before he died (in 4411) for back taxes. As the present Overlord did not enjoy wide popular support when he ascended to the throne, one of his first official acts was to make the land a public park.

Unfortunately, Hostephris' son was a scumbag. He had bought all sorts of monsters in to occupy a dungeon laboratory he was constructing under the manor. With his death, the creatures had settled in wherever they wanted in the park. The Overlord found out how bad it actually was after he had publicly declared the land a park -- which did not help his popularity.

You can see how I blended the material from Paul's module into my version of the City-State. The manor was well-hidden and a dangerous place for low level adventures. Heck, just getting to the manor was dangerous -- and a lot of fun. Ahh, memories.

Welcome to the RetroRoleplaying Blog

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Hi. I'm Randall. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1975 when I was a freshman in college. It wasn't long before I was dungeonmastering. I ran roleplaying games almost every week from 1976 to 1992 or so -- mostly some form of Dungeons & Dragons carefully tailored with lots of house rules to fit my own campaign world in the early years. In later years when the real world of 40+ hour a week jobs intruded on my roleplaying time, I learned the joys of classic D&D (the Mentzer Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters sets) and its Known World setting.

With Classic D&D and the Known World setting, I could run a campaign with relatively few house rules -- well, few compared to the large books of house rules I used for my own world in Original D&D and First Edition Advanced D&D. This let me spend my much more limited time creating interesting adventures for my players instead of spending time creating house rules and my own campaign world. The streamlined, fast play of Classic D&D also meant we could get a lot of adventuring in a single 4 or 5 hour game session -- probably as much as we used to get in those early 12 hour session.

After 1992, it started getting harder and harder to get the group together. We were all older and busier. Instead of weekly sessions, we were lucky to get two sessions in a month. By late 1994, it was over. No one had any time and we just quite playing.

When I heard that Wizards of the Coast had bought TSR and was bringing out a third edition of D&D, I was excited. I pre--ordered the three new core rulebooks from Amazon and read them as they came in. Sadly, I was very disappointed. D&D 3.0 was a rules heavy monster that made character building and tactical miniatures combat so detailed and important that I figured these aspects would overwhelm the game. Instead of feeling like a good fantasy novel, third edition reminded me most of a computer role-playing game -- only one where the players and gamemaster had to all the number-crunching that the computer would normally do behind the scenes.

That wasn't anything I was interested in playing. I put the books on the shelf and went on with my no roleplaying life. I picked up the 3.0 Forgotten Realms setting book because I had always like the setting and enjoyed many of the novels. A friend gave me a copy of the Epic Level Handbook hoping that would get me interested again. It didn't. (The only published version of D&D that seemed top get high level play right, IMHO, was Mentzer's Classic D&D.)

Before I knew it, WotC had published version 3.5 of D&D. From flipping through copies at the bookstore coffee shop, I saw that everything I did not like about third edition D&D had become even more important in 3.5. I never bought a copy of any 3.5 product as 3.5 was barely anything like the D&D I knew and loved.

Late last summer, someone on one of the religion/philosophy message boards I hang out on mentioned that WotC was bringing out D&D 4.0 in 2008. He was upset as he had a couple of thousand dollars in D&d 3.5 books and supposedly 4.0 was going to be so major a change that it would make them all useless. I read some of the material on fourth edition on the WotC site and on EN World. As far as I can tell, 4th edition will be a completely different game being sold under the D&D name because people know the D&D name. From what I've seen, it isn't anything I'd be interested in.

However, while investigating the upcoming version of D&D, I made a wonderful discovery. There were people out there like me who enjoyed the older versions of D&D. I discovered Labyrinth Lord, a modern day "remake" of Basic/Expert Set Classical D&D by Goblinoid Games -- made possible by the Open Gaming License WotC started using with D&D 3.0. I downloaded the free pdf of Labyrinth Lord, printed it and read it. Actually, devoured it might be a more accurate description. I was very impressed -- for all practical purposes, Labyrinth Lord was Basic/Expert D&D.

From reading the Goblinoid Games forum, I discovered web sites like Dragonsfoot and the Knights-n-Knaves Alehouse where a number of gamers from my era hung out and discussed old role-playing games. Best of all, I discovered that while the old versions of D&D were out of print, WotC had made them available in PDF format for extremely reasonable prices. As the games were still available, they did not have to die off. I've started RetroRoleplaying.com to be a portal to older pre-D20 RPGs. A place where people can see what they were like and find out how people have played them and are still playing them. This is a huge job that may take years to complete, but it's a way I can contribute something to a hobby that has given me a great deal of pleasure over the years.