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Swords & Wizardry Not Available in .doc Format After All


The .doc format version of Swords & Wizardry is being pulled from Lulu. When I tried to get a copy this afternoon, I ended up with a .pdf file instead of a .doc file. I figured I had just done something wrong and reported it to Matt. When Matt looked into it, he discovered that while Lulu accepts files in .doc format, they automagically convert them to pdfs for download. Opps. That defeats the whole purpose of providing the .doc file -- providing a file that people can edit with their own house rules before printing. Matt is pulling the file from Lulu and will try to find another way to make it available as soon as he can. I'll report the new way to get it when its available. If you got a ".doc" copy from Lulu, contact Matt and he'll email you the .doc file you were supposed to receive.

On a more positive note, I've skimmed through the "final" rules this evening and am very impressed. Matt has done a great job with Swords & Wizardry. (It would make a great source of detailed spell and monster descriptions for Microlite74 too.)

At Last, The Microlite74 Release Candidate 1 PDF

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It's done! A full PDF of Microlite74 is now ready for you to download and comment on. Rules, spell list, and monster list fit on 4 pages in 8 point type. The 5th page is the license. I had to cut a few monsters to get everything to fit in 4 pages, but folks can easily make monsters. The PDF file is under 100K.

If you are not familiar with Microlite20 (M20), it is a greatly trimmed down version of the 3.5 Fantasy SRD. By removing all the complexity, the entire Microlite20 rules fit in a couple of pages. It's one of the few really good things to come out of the OGL and the 3.x systems, in my opinion. Microlite74 takes the basic M20 systems and changes them up a bit to better emulate the feel and play style of that first fantasy RPG published back in 1974. Unlike M20, it includes spell and monster lists in its core rules, so it is a complete game, playable as is by just about anyone familiar with RPGs.

You can download Microlite74's first release candidate from the first message in the Microlite74 (Release Candidate Discussions) thread on the RetroRoleplaying Forum. I'm linking to it there not because I'm trying to force you to visit the forum, but so there will only be one place I have to update when new release candidates come out.

Swords Wizardry Core Rules Available in .doc Format

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Matt has announced that the core rules for Swords & Wizardry -- an OGL retroclone of OD&D with the GH rules -- is now available on Lulu. The .doc format version is designed for those who want to incorporate their house rules directly into the rules book before printing a copy. There are no graphics and this version costs US$1. A free PDF version will be released once the artwork and layout is finished. You can get the .doc version here:


Matt has also made available (at the same URL) the first supplement for S&W: Eldritch Weirdness Book 1. Matt says:

I have also posted an 8 page booklet (6 pages not including cover and legal stuff) with 30 new spells in it. These aren't retreads - all of them are new. It's really up there to accompany the .pdf of the game once that's completed, but if anyone's interested it’s $1.50.

Early Versions of D&D were NOT Tactical Combat Minis Games


For some reason, a small number of very vocal people on the Net are pushing the idea that early versions of Dungeons & Dragons stressed tactical combat and used miniatures and battlemats. I suspect this is being done to try to counter arguments that WOTC editions of D&D, particularly the new fourth edition, are more of a tactical minis game than a roleplaying game.

Whether Fourth Edition is more of a tactical minis game than a roleplaying game is debatable. What is not debatable is that early editions of TSR D&D handled combat very abstractly and did not need miniatures or battlemats to play -- even though the game evolved out of the fantasy supplement to a set of medieval miniatures rules. Very few people used miniatures at all in the early years -- there were not even any for sale until a couple of years after the publication of Original D&D. Once they became available, most players did not use them in combat, at most they used them to show their party's marching order.

Miniatures (or counters to replace them) were not written into the rules -- other than occasional mentions how they added visual appeal or could be useful to show where characters and monsters were in combat -- until the Player's Option books were published for "revised" second edition AD&D. There had been D&D-based mass combat miniatures games (Swords & Spells for OD&D, Battlesystem for AD&D), but these were for fighting out battles between armies, not for use in normal roleplaying encounters. Some players who loved detailed, tactical combat adapted such games for individual combat and used those system in place of the normal abstract D&D combat system, but this was unusual.

The rules to early versions of D&D do not support the idea that minis were suggested, let alone required, for combat. Not only is the combat systems used in OD&D, AD&D 1E, B/X D&D, and BECMI D&D very abstract, but those rules and the examples of play therein seldom even mention minis. Here are some examples from the 1970s.

Here is a link to a description of a sample OD&D combat from a FAQ originally published in TSR's The Strategic Review newsletter in 1975.

From a column by Gary Gygax in The Dragon #15 (June 1978):

For about two years D&D was played without benefit of any visual aids by the majority of enthusiasts. They held literally that it was a paper and pencil game, and if some particular situation arose which demanded more than verbalization, they would draw or place dice as tokens in order to picture the conditions. In 1976 a movement began among D&Ders to portray characters with actual miniature figurines.
From the Holmes Basic Set's description of the game:
The Dungeon Master designs the dungeons and makes careful maps on graph paper. The players do not know where anything is located in the dungeons until the game begins and they enter the first passage or room. They create their own map as they explore. While only paper and pencil need be used, it is possible for the characters of each player to be represented by miniature lead figures which can be purchased inexpensively from hobby stores or directly from TSR Hobbies. The results of combat, magic spells, monster attacks, etc., are resolved by rolling special polyhedral 20-sided dice which come with this game.
Later in the book, the author explains why OD&D used inches for distance instead of feet or yards. Note that is only says wargames were used to using these measures, not that they used minis to fight out D&D combats.
Since DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was originally written for wargamers who are used to miniature figures, distances are often given in inches. Inches can be converted to feet by multiplying by ten: 1 inch = 10 feet, 2 inches = 20 feet, etc. This scales the movement appropriately for maneuvering the figures on the top of a gaming table.
My personal experience starting in 1975 was: no miniatures, but as DM I did sometimes sketch the positions of stuff in battle on a blank sheet of paper. I did buy a copy of Chainmail when I bought my brown box set of D&D because it was mentioned in the D&D booklets, but then quickly discovered it was not actually needed as the alternative system in the D&D rule books was better and in the rule books (i.e. one less book to look stuff up in). I played with and knew of over 20 different area groups in 1975-1978 era and only one used Chainmail for combat. Most did not even own a single copy of the Chainmail rules between their players.

By 1977, my group was using miniatures to track the "standard marching order" of characters. However, the miniatures were not used in combat at all. Heck, they were only moved when the marching order of the characters made a permanent change. We had tracked marching order on a piece of paper, but one of the best miniatures painters in the area (he was a Napoleonics gamer) joined my game in early 1977 and had this beautifully painted miniature for his character. He offered to paint a figure for all the regulars if they would buy the figure and give him a couple of bucks for his materials. Everyone took him up on it.

When Melee and Wizard came out from Metagaming, most players in my group liked them and enjoyed playing them while waiting for people to arrive or at other odd intervals. So we decided to try using them to fight out combats in the game. That lasted for one game session. After that experience, we decided that using those tactical games for combat made combat too time-consuming and made the entire session too focused on combat. We went back to D&D's abstract but fast combats. While we enjoyed playing tactical skirmish games as independent games, turning RPG combat into a tactical skirmish game was not the way we wanted to go.

Early versions of D&D were not designed for detailed tactical combat nor did they need minis and battlemats to use their combat rules. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply incorrect.

The GSL: My Opinion

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When I woke up this morning, I discovered that my inbox had three emails telling me that WOTC had finally published the GSL terms and wanting me to blog about it. As I have no interest in publishing anything for 4th Edition D&D and I am not a lawyer, I'm not sure why my opinion on the GSL is of any interest to anyone. However, since my opinion apparently is of interest, here goes:

I would not publish anything under the GSL nor allow use of any of my intellectual property in any GSL product.
The GSL simply gives too much permanent control of my creations to WOTC -- even limiting what I can do with my own creations after the termination of the license -- and WOTC can termination the license at any time and even change the terms of the license retroactively. IMHO, anyone who would publish anything (except possibly for throwaway material they think they can make a very quick buck from) either trusts WOTC more than any corporation should be trusted or really hasn't thought through the implications of the terms of the GSL.

Others are doing much more complete analysis of the GSL so I'm not going to bother, but for those who wanted my opinion, y'all have it. I bet it wasn't much of a surprise.

A Playtester Reviews D&D 4th Edition PHB...


And does not like the final product. Near the end of a very detailed review, NiTessine says:

This is not Dungeons & Dragons. Yeah, I know, it's a cliché, but it's true. This game is not the Dungeons & Dragons that I know and love. It's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, maybe, and even that’s a stretch. It's a game for simpletons that abandons all pretense of depth in source material and deliberately cuts itself off from over three decades of its own history in order to pander to the lowest common denominator and attract players of online multiplayer games. It is no more Dungeons & Dragons than World of Warcraft is, or Final Fantasy, or Tunnels & Trolls. The inspiration is obvious, but at its root, it is a different game.
I found this review to be one of the most detailed and complete reviews yet.

Trying a New Look


I'm playing with a new look for this blog. While I liked the scroll look of the original, the text was pretty cramped. I'm looking for a more readable layout. I'm not sure this (Sahara) is it, however.

Microlite74: Second Public Draft Available


The second public draft of the rules and spell list for Microlite 74 is available on the message board. A few minor rules changes have been made to give the system more of that 1974 first Fantasy RPG flavor and feel and I've started to make the spell effects more closely resemble those of that era. Sleep is as powerful as it used to be, for example.

Microlite74 is intended to be a version of Microlite20 that provides the flavor and feel of that First Fantasy RPG from 1974 using the Microlite20 short, simple, OGL-based rules.

Discussion and comments are welcome.

Judges Guild Arrives at RetroRoleplaying

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I've added a number of Judges Guild products (mainly adventures) to the Original Dungeons & Dragons section of this website. Although there are more to come (like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy), I think this is a good start.

Best Single Non-TSR Supplement for OD&D

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Hands down, the best single non-TSR supplement for Original Dungeons & dragons is the second edition of the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets booklet. In not only has combat tables, but a double-sided sheet with every standard OD&D monster summarized in a couple of lines and all the rules suggestions from the first six guildmember installments. Things like the social level and justice system from the City-State, ideas for advertising for hirelings, poison, enchantment, trade, caves & lairs, searching, prospecting, and much more. I rediscovered my copy last night. It's great stuff.

It's available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG.com for $2.99 (on sale for $1.99 as I write this). Assuming the reproduction is good, that's a great price as my original was $2.99 back in 1978!

Giant Frogs Aren't Scary

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After much searching though old backup CDs, I finally found the text only version of the original Little Beige Books, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry someone had scanned, converted to ascii text, somewhat proofread, and made available on the Internet back in the mid-1990s on a gopher site (the web had barely started). Naturally, it did not stay up long before TSR heard about it and had it removed.

I had forgotten that the scanner/proofreader did not include everything from the Blackmoor supplement. He left out a major portion of the book: the Temple of the Frog adventure. He didn't leave it out because duplicating the maps in ascii would be hard, but because -- let me just quote the read me file:

Sorry, did not scan the temple of the frog stuff in Blackmoor. Too much work for a stupid bunch of giant frogs. Giant frogs? Yes. I said giant frogs. Hip-hop.... Rib-bit... Swallow you alive. Shivering in me pirate boots I am. Silly idea for an adventure. No. Stupid waste of waste of paper. Summary for completeness freaks: Get a map of a big church. Put it in a swamp. Replace altar with big frog statue. Add pools full of giant frogs in the basement. Priests want to sacrifice party to frog statue.

I liked the Temple of the Frog, but it was the first adventure I ever saw written up for D&D. Apparently not everyone finds it as neat and interesting as I did -- and still do. LOL.

What do you think of the Temple of the Frog? Nice adventure or waste of paper?

James Mishler and the 4E PHB


James Mishler has begun reviewing the new D&D 4E Player's Handbook. It's interesting reading.

4E Player's Handbook Review Part 1 of ?

The Year, the Hobby died


To the tune of one of my favorite songs, American Pie....

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How these wacky worlds used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That they all could honour Mr. Vance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while.
But the last months made me shiver,
With every blogpost I'd deliver.
Bad news on the reader;
It couldn't get much meaner.

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The year, the hobby died.

See the rest at The Prussian Gamer...

And sadly truer than I would ever want it to be. Between 4th edition and the deaths of Gary Gygax, Bob Bledsaw, and Erick Wujcik this year really does sometimes feel like the year the hobby (as I knew it) died.

Body Points and Fatigue Points

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, What Price Glory and Hit Points, Dave has an interesting change to hit points in his What Price Glory rules that splits hit points into two parts. I did something similar back in the late 1970s. Here's a brief explanation of how the Body Point/Fatigue Point system we used worked. It's very similar in concept to Dave's rules but somewhat different in the details.

A character's or monster's Fatigue points are equal to their hit points under whatever normal rules you use for determining hit points.

A character's Body Points are equal to his Constitution (plus 1 per level for fighters up to a maximum of +10).

Most monsters have zero Body Points and are considered dead when they run out of Fatigue Points. Important ("boss") monsters can be given Body Points at the DM's option, their Body Points are equal to the number of hit dice the monster has multipled by the monster's "size factor": 1 for smaller than human, 2 for about human sized, 3 for large (horse-sized), 4 for very large (giant or dragon-sized).

Damage is applied to Fatigue Points until fatigue points reach zero when excess damage (and future damage) is applied to Body Points. When Body Points reach zero, the character is dead. Body Point damage recovers at the rate of 1 point (plus Constitution bonus) per full day of rest. Magical healing restores 1 Body Point per level of the spell or the normal dice of healing to Fatigue Points.

Provided the being is at full Body Points, Fatigue Points recover at the rate of 2 (plus Constitution bonus) points per full 10 minute turn of rest and will recover completely with a full night's sleep. If a character has taken Body Point damage, Fatigue Points recover at the rate of 1 (plus Constitution bonus) points per full hour (6 turns) of rest and will recover to their Wound Limit with a full eight hours of sleep. Wound Limit depends on what percentage of Body Points the character has remaining:

76 to 99% BP Remaining -- Wound Limit is 75% of maximum FP
51 to 75% BP Remaining -- Wound Limit is 50% of maximum FP
26 to 50% BP Remaining -- Wound Limit is 25% of maximun FP
1 to 25% BP Remaining --- Wound Limit is 10% of maximum FP

This system makes it more obvious that hit points aren't really hard damage, just the character's ability to not take meaningful damage. Provided the character does not take real damage to his body, fatigue points recover quickly. Real damage, however, takes longer to heal and reduces the character's energy level if he chooses to press on with activities instead of taking to his bed and resting to heal.

Some obvious additions can be made to this basic system if one wishes to do so. For example, critical hits might do damage directly to a character's Body Points equal to the number of hit dice rolled for weapon damage. If your house rules use spell points, you could simply reduce Fatigue Points instead. Etc.

What Price Glory and Hit Points

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From Sham's Grog 'n Blog:

What Price Glory is a collection of Rules Packets for combat. Each collection of rules or packets may be used alone, or with any combination of the other modular pieces of What Price Glory. As a whole, these Rules Packets present a detailed, advanced combat model for D&D encounters. What Price Glory is presented in this segmented, modular format to allow referees to pick and choose from amongst these alternate rules, and to fine tune and alter them to taste.

Dave is presenting five of these small rules packets in each post. Today's post covers hit points, Damage, Death, Combat Sequence, and Initiative. So far, these rules look quite nice to me, that is they could make OD&D (or other early edition D&D) combat more interesting without making it much more complex or time-consuming. I'm looking forward to the next two parts of this series.

His hit points rules split hit points into two parts: Vital Hit Points and Fatigue Hit Points). This is an interesting system, but I think I like my old Body Points/Fatigue Points system a bit better. Go on over and read Dave's post full of interesting rules while I see if i can't put a post together describing the system we used back in the day.

Erick Wujcik Passes Quietly


From Kevin Siembieda at Palladium Books:

Beloved role-playing game designer, Erick Wujcik, passed away Saturday evening, June 7, 2008. He died from complications related to pancreatic and liver cancer. Kathryn Kozora, his sweetheart of nearly 30 years, and other loved ones were at his side.

Erick was diagnosed with cancer in late November, 2007 and given 6-8 weeks to live. True to Erick’s indomitable spirit and zest for life, he proved the doctors wrong by lasting more than six months. Most of that time was spent with friends and loved ones.

Erick Wujcik’s accomplishments are many.

To the role-playing game community, Erick is best known for his many RPG games and contributions to Palladium Books®, including The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® RPG, several TMNT® sourcebooks, After the Bomb® RPG and sourcebooks for it, Ninjas & Superspies™, Mystic China™, Rifts® China One and Two, Revised RECON®, Wolfen Empire™ and many others. He is also famous for Amber® Diceless, the first truly “diceless” role-playing game, published under Erick’s own label, Phage Press. Erick also published Amberzine® and founded Ambercon™, a series of conventions celebrating gaming, friendship and the world of Amber, hosted at numerous locations around the world.

Erick Wujcik was also the founder, heart and soul of the Detroit Gaming Center, served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Game Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2003-2008), and worked in the videogame industry for the last several years, including UbiSoft China and most recently, as Senior Game Design/Writer at Totally Games, Novato, California.

Erick Wujcik’s greatest accomplishment, however, is his contagious joy for life and love of ideas and imagination that inspired people around the world. Whether they were one of his students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, fellow game designers, or fans sitting in the audience at a convention or seminar listening to Erick speak, to those who had the pleasure of gaming with Erick (he loved to run games at conventions and everywhere he went), to those who knew him best, they couldn’t help but to love him. Even the millions who only knew him through his published works or communicated with him online, considered him a friend.

Erick is survived by Kathyrn Kozora, Kate's granddaughter – his beloved Sara, mother Nora, sister Peggy, his Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam and Nancy, along with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Erick’s last months of life were the same as he had always lived, full of friendship, joy, grace and beauty. He went quietly into the night, like a snowflake falling gently from the heavens.

The Amber Diceless RPG is the only diceless RPG I've ever been able to stand to play or GM. Some of that is because I loved Roger Zelanzy's Amber novels, but much of it is because Erick Wujcik was a very good game designer. Erick is the third great we've lost this year. 2008 is not shaping up to be a great year for long-time roleplayers.

New White Box Retro-Clone: Swords and Wizardry


A PDF draft of the "player's book" for a new "White Box (and some supplements)" retro-clone is now available for comment at:


The author, Matt Finch, says a draft the GM's book will available in a few days.

Major Differences:
Base 10 AC
Variations in xp tables
One saving throw
Mix of material from supplements but still only 3 classes
Variation in "to-hit" progressions
To-hit is a formula, but I'll add the full table in appendices.

Microlite74: First Public Draft Available

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With Grayharp's prodding and assistance, I've started work on a version of Microlite20 designing to feel like that first fantasy RPG from the mid-1970s. It makes no real attempt to duplicate rules (which are still very much a minor variant of Microlite20), but it tries duplicate the style of play. The main rules change is the removal of skills.

The first public draft of the rules and spell list is available on the message board. Discussion and comments are welcome.