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No More Clerics?

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I've seen a lot of discussion about the Cleric on some of the boards and blogs I visit over the past few weeks. Like at least a few others, I am now wondering if the Cleric class is really needed for old school style or swords & sorcery style games.

After thinking about this a bit, I have tentatively decided to get rid of clerics in my upcoming For Gold & Glory Microlite20 variant. The various cure spells will disappear. Alchemists and herbalists will make potions that can be bought that duplicate their effects to some extent. Other clerical spells will be merged into the arcane lists.

Turn undead as an ability will be gone, but any holy symbol presented by a strongly devout follower of the symbol's deity will cause most undead to hesitate at bit. Magical item holy symbols will have the old clerical turn undead ability as a magic power.

Some other changes I had previously decided to make in the FG&G will probably make the healing without clerics work better. Hit Points (normally) fully recover after a night's rest. A character is not actually injured beyond the "cuts and scrapes and sprains" level until he takes "Body Point" (BP) damage. BP damage is taken after you run out of HP (or when you suffer a critical hit). Body Points recover 1 (or perhaps STR bonus) per day of full rest. While one has BP damage, one only recovers 50% of lost hit points per night of rest, suffers a -1 for every two points of BP damage taken to all "action-type" rolls, and has to a make a roll each day of more than light activity or you lose another BP.

I'm interested in hearing what people think of this idea.

My Favorite (Arduin) Monsters

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The latest thing going on in the blog world seems to be listing your ten favorite D&D monsters. I'm going to be a bit different and list my 7 favorite monsters from the early Arduin Grimoires.

6.Phraints: Erect, metallic colored insect warriors that look like a cross between an ant and mantis, but only have two legs and two arms. They can leap up to 30 feet and do so in battle, tossing javelins at the high point of their leap AND when they land. They are cold, emotionless, and logical. Insectoid Vulcans, basically.

5. Krag Spyders: Motionless, these look like rocks, ranging in size from a pebble to a large boulder. They are extremely patient hunters who pounce on prey when they least expect it. Once not a rest they look something like combination of a giant spider and an large crab (but without pincers). Their poison turns those who fail a save to stone. Their saliva unstones a bite-sized portion which they eat.

4. Screaming Scarlet Itchies: Clouds of gnat-sized scarlet bugs that settle on their target an secrete a liquid that causes a bright red rash and an intolerable itch. Those affected at -3 to everything. Holy water or neutralize poison needed to neutralize.

3. Air Shark: An air-breathing shark that can swim through the air because of its hydrogen-filled bladders. they range from 3 to 24 hit dice, their bit starts at 1d8 for the small ones and reaches 8d10 for the largest. If killed by edged weapons they may explode in a fireball equal to their hit dice.

2. Doomguard: Magically animated black armor (from 1 to 24 hit dice). It can teleport at will (line of sight only) and is 100% immune to fire, lightning, fear, paralysis, confusion, and charm proof. Cold only does 1/2 damage but slows them. They have to be chopped to pieces to stop.

1. Hell Maidens and their Hell Horses: Hell Maidens (5 to 8 HD) are lovely warriors from the neck down, but their heads are skulls. Generally wear chainmail and use a shield, lance, and sword. While they are NOT undead, only silver or magic weapons harm them, they have all undead immunities as will as immunity to confusion and level drains. They ride Hell Horses. They screech and gibber in combat -- and collect the bodies of those they kill for food. Unlike their riders, Hell Horses are undead, skeleton horses with cat-like fangs and green flames for eyes. They have 5 to 10 HD. They have all undead immunities, only silver or magic weapons hit, and they hate dwarves, attacking them on sight unless successfully restrained by their rider.

Microlite74 2.0 Draft Available for Comment

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I've been hard at work on the "2.0 Edition" of Microlite74. Microlite 2.0 has cleaned up rules that are closer to the combat power level of OD&D and with spells and monsters rewritten to be even more compatible with Oe and )e retroclones.

Here are some of the more noticeable changes made so far:

1) Stat bonus is now (Stat-10)/4, truncated (i.e. rounded toward zero).

2) Melee and Missile attack bonuses now use "Physical Combat Bonus" instead of level. Physical Combat Bonus depends on Character Class:

Fighter PCB = Level/2
Cleric PCB = Level/3
Magic-User PCB = Level/4

Round up on all.

3) Hit Points = 6 + 1d6/level (instead of STR stat + 1d6/level)

4) Two weapon rule rewritten to make it clear that fighters using two weapons make one attack roll at -2. The 1.1 version could be read as one attack roll at -2 for each weapon.

6) Monster List is now based on the M20 Hard Core list plus some extra monsters from the 1.1 lists and more old school monsters added to the list, including the return of the rust monster. The monsters have been tweaked to be more compatible with 0e/retroclones.

7) the addition of one point to a stat every four levels (in the Level Advancement section) has been dropped. This just is not needed in a game designed to feel like 0e. Stats aren't that important in 0e and they don't need to increase to make up for higher level OGL20/3.x stuff as they do in standard Microlite20. To be honest, I thought I had dropped this in the 1.1 update but somehow missed it.

8) Spells have been reworked (mainly durations and ranges) to make them more compatible with 0e/retroclones.

9) A list of magical treasures most appropriate to a 0e style campaign has been added.

10) A one sentence rule for what 3.x calls "Attacks of Opportunity" has been added.

If you would like to download a current copy of the Microlite74 2.0 draft rules -- and help proofread and comment on them -- you can do so on our message board in this thread: Microlite74 2.0 DRAFT (Corrections and Discussion).

Are Microlite74 Characters Too Good in Combat?

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Microlite74 is designed to emulate the style and feel of the original 1974 edition of the world's most popular roleplaying game (0e) using a variant of the SRD-based Microlite20 rules. I'm currently working on a revised edition of Microlite74 designed to clean up the game a bit and fine tune the rules to be somewhat closer in feel/effect to 0e.

Chgowiz has pointed out that characters in M74 are far more powerful in combat than 0e characters of the same type. M74 characters have noticeably better chances to hit and tend to do more damage than 0e characters of similar stats and level. This really became noticeable when he designed a kobold-based adventure for a convention game. Chgowiz and I are discussing this problem and possible solutions in a thread on the RetroRoleplaying message board: Bonus/Damage bonuses at Lvl 3+ for m74. I'd really like to hear from others on this issue before I make a decision on how to fix it. If you have an opinion or an idea, please join our discussion.

OD&D Books from PDFs: The Pictures

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Here are the pictures of my homemade OD&D booklets -- printed from the PDFs as described in this post from last weekend:Recreating the OD&D Booklets. Unfortunately, due to the rain and high humidity, the cardstock covers haven't quite flattened yet -- but they will.

The original three "Little Beige Books" aren't beige any more.

The first three supplements

These are not as nice looking as my originals, but they are far more useful at the game table as they can be easily and cheaply replaced if they are damaged. I can even mark them up if I want to without feeling guilty.

Knockspell Magazine #1 is Out

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The first issue of Knockspell Magazine is out. Knockspell Magazine is the magazine for "old-school fantasy roleplaying games using 0e, 1e, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, and Labyrinth Lord." Most articles should work fine with Microlite74 as well. This issue contains 61 pages full of articles and two full adventures, one by Gabor Lux (Isles on an Emerald Sea) and one by Jeff Talanian (Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent). The cover is great too. I can't say much about it because I just received my issue. It's $3.00 in PDF from Lulu. Get your copy here.

Recreating the OD&D Booklets

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Now that I'm fiddling with OD&D regularly again, I figured that it was time to create some OD&D booklets from my PDFs. I bought the PDFs because I didn't want to keep using my original brown box set for reference while working on Microlite74. However, PDFs aren't very useful at the gaming table, so I decided to print myself some nice digest-sized copies for everyday use.

This was easy to do with Adobe Acrobat, I just selected the pages I wanted to print, set it up to do a booklet print to my duplexing laser printer and printed. In a few minutes, the interior pages of Men & Magic were in my hands. I then printed the front cover on cardstock (still in booklet mode), set my long reach stapler to 5.5 inches, put a couple of staples in the center of the combined cover and interior sheets, and folded at the staples for a nice digest-sized Men & Magic booklet that I can use without worrying about damaging it.

I repeated this procedure for Monsters & Treasure, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry. As I seldom use Chainmail, Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes, or Swords & Spells, I did nor bother to print these out. I now have a complete set of the OD&D books I use in play. If anything happens to one or all of them, I can easily print others.

The booklets are now weighted down under some heavy books where they will remain until the curl my printer puts in cardstock goes away. I'll try to remember to take and post a picture in a few days. The only thing I'll miss from my originals are the Tolkien references (Ents, Balrogs, Hobbits, etc.) in the brown box LBBs.

Megadungeon Creation Slam on Swords & Wizardry Forums

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Mythmere has announced a Megadungeon Slam on the Swords and Wizardry forums with the objective of creating a 20 level megadungeon in 48 hours from Tuesday at 9AM until Thursday at 9AM. Unfortunately, I have cancer follow-ups for my wife and other appointments I can't break filling up most of my time Tuesday through Friday of this week, so I will not be participating, but I can't wait to see the results.

Mythmere's announcement:

The game's objective: create a 20 level megadungeon in 48 hours from Tuesday at 9AM until Thursday at 9AM. Some advance preparation can take place today, mainly organizational and pre-start map generation.

Results of the Game: The megadungeon will be released as an S&W download for $1 and on Lulu, to generate funds for this website. Editing will probably be necessary after the fact.

Rules: I'm a player, but I won't take much of a leading role. Organization and methods of approaching the creation of the dungeon are all left to the players in the game. Pre-preparation of maps is permitted, as is organization by the players. Tuesday from 9AM to 9PM is RESERVED for levels 1-5 and levels 15-20. Levels 6-14 don't open for development until Wednesday at 9AM.

Requirements: A cross-sectional map. A history or at least an introduction to the dungeon. No surface works. Maps must be finally rendered in DungeonCrafter 1.41 if possible (this keeps maps consistent in format, using an easy program that's available for free). Must use the Dragonsfoot old school tiles, plus any new tiles generated during the slam. Stat blocks must be in the S&W format from the Monstrer Compendium. New monsters, monsters from the compendium, and monsters on the Monster Project board can all be used. Artwork may be included, with NO requirements as to high quality (especially since some traps or tricks may require diagrams).

I will put up the forum now, at the bottom of the board. [Linked here -- RSS]

BEGIN with any pre-preparation, and begin letting everyone you know know about this game. Your success as players may depend upon having as many players as possible.

Brave Halfling Publishing Expands


A lot of people seem to think that Old School gaming is a commercial dead end. While it will probably never challenge WOTC or White Wolf, it really looks like it is commercially viable for small, focused companies. Brave Halfling Publishing is expanding!

In 2008, Brave Halfling Publishing far surpassed my expectations. I began BHP as a way to release a few optional character classes for Labyrinth Lord ™ RPG. But soon after a little BHP “family” came into being as dedicated gamers from all around the world began volunteering their time and talents to help each other create new material for the “retro-clones.” Personally, these new friendships are ones that I truly treasure. Last year, this BHP family developed and released over a dozen products on three different sites and I believe that we have become an important contribution to the current “Old-School Renaissance.”

But BHP's success has come to a point where I either need to hold us where we are or push us further ahead. A change must take place and my choice is to push BHP further ahead. In 2009, Brave Halfling Publishing will be transitioning into becoming a “real” (but tiny) RPG publisher. While we already have a few folks who work in the industry involved with BHP, we will continue to be a great place for new and unpublished authors and artists to get their start.

So what does all that really mean?

First, we are now focusing on creating excellent print products that we will have printed ourselves (rather than using Print-On-Demand). That frees us up to create “Old-School” material exactly the way we want to create it. For example, print versions of BHP products will have old-school, blue maps on the inside cover and black & white maps placed right in the center of the module, where they can be easily removed and laid flat on a table behind the GM's screen. Our first major print release will be Alphonso Warden and John Bingham's excellent adventure module, “People of the Pit.”

Second, BHP will have a website up and running by March where you will be able to purchase material from us that is already printed and waiting to be shipped to anywhere in the world faster and far cheaper than through POD. In addition, when you purchase a print product from our website, you will also receive the pdf version as well.

Third, BHP will continue to release little pdfs (like “Delving Deeper” and “Original Edition Options). In addition, most of our print products will also eventually be release as pdfs as well.

While we will publish other material, BHP will continue serving the needs of the “Old-School” gaming community and by being a great place for gamers (new and old) to have their best material published.

-John Adams (Coleston the Cavalier)
I'm very happy to see this and wish John and the crew at BHP a great deal of success.