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Addressing Gryphons & Grognards Draft Problems

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The feedback on Gryphons & Grognards Draft 0.05 has been almost universally "confused". In hindsight, I shouldn't be surprised as I've been working on both the basic Microlite75 and Gryphons & Grognards in one document -- I thought I'd just strip the G&G stuff out at the end to get M75. I know what I'm doing so the draft makes sense to me, but for everyone else I guess it really may be a "confusing morass of shit piled together" as one email put it.

Okay, I goofed up big time. It's not the first time and it probably will not be the last. My apologies to everyone who downloaded the G&G draft yesterday. I'm working on separating the Microlite75 stuff out this evening and will -- with any luck -- release an early Microlite75 draft document tomorrow evening. I promise it will make a lot more sense that the Gryphons & Grognards Draft 0.05 did. I'll then work on Microlite75 until it gets to a complete enough state to fully playtest before I resume work on the full Gryphons & Grognards.

3e Dungeon Crawl Classics Adventures and OD&D

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One of my players gave me eleven adventures from Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics line for D&D 3.x Sunday. I've glanced through several of the adventures for lower level characters (Idylls of the Rat King, The Mysterious Tower, and Legacy of the Savage Kings) and find them surprising good -- pretty much like an average modele from TSR during the early to mid 1980s. The stat blocks for monsters make my eyes glance over, but the actual adventures are pretty good and the dungeon areas are designed like old school dungeons with tricks, traps and monsters of assorted power levels.

Any of these adventures could easily be used in my OD&D campaign without a lot of effort. Use the monsters, but with the stats/description from OD&D. Let the player handle the tricks and traps as in OD&D. And have fun. This would also work for any other version of old school D&D. If you looked at most 3.x adventures and said too much trouble to convert, you might be pleasantly surprised by Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics. At least the 3e version. Most of the modules numbered above 50 are designed for 4e. I doubt they were be as easy to convert.

The "back cover" descriptions read much like those from early TSR modules and sound just as interesting. Here are descriptions of some of the modules I now have:

Legacy of the Savage Kings (Levels 4-6)
For centuries, the Great Swamp has hidden hints of an ancient culture of barbarian kings. While passing through this miserable bog, the PCs encounter Stygoth the Damned, a half-dead black dragon driven mad by a mysterious disease. Delving further, the heroes discover that the disease is tied to the very swamp itself. A great corruption once infested this place, destroying the savage barbarian kings and leaving only mighty statues as their legacy. Now this corruption has returned, and a terrible Witch Queen is mining the corrupted swamp-earth to produce evil, blighted artifacts. In order to stop the spread of these evil weapons, the heroes must enter the ancient caves of the savage kings, put to rest the corrupt legacy of their downfall, end the disease that scars the land, and then face off against the Witch Queen herself.

Idylls of the Rat King (Levels 1-3)
In Idylls of the Rat King, goblin bandits are once again attacking the silver caravans, killing innocent miners and stealing cargo. The goblins have taken up residence in an abandoned mine northwest of Silverton. Someone must get rid of them. But this is no ordinary abandoned mine. It was deliberately barricaded generations ago when the Gannu family, founders of Silverton, discovered an unspeakable evil on its lowest levels. And these are no ordinary goblins, for the curse of the Gannu family courses through their veins...

The Mysterious Tower (Levels 1-3)
In this all-new adventure, the characters come across an ancient wizard's tower. The nearby keep has been reduced to rubble over the ages, but the tower is in perfect condition. It is surrounded by an impenetrable force field that cannot be breached - not even by the ghost of the long-dead wizard, who has been trapped within for centuries. Surely there must be great treasure within this magical abode. But how to get to it?

Temple of the Dragon Cult (Levels 8-10)
In Temple of the Dragon Cult, the characters are called in to pursue a dragon that the king's army was able to wound but not kill. It seems straightforward enough: the army tracked the dragon to its lair, and all the characters have to do is go in and kill it. But this dragon has a devoted cult of dragonblood followers who worship its every breath. Its lair is their temple -- and they'll fight to the death to defend their dragon-god...

The Sunless Garden (Levels 6-8)
After arriving at a seemingly abandoned trading post, the heroes discover to their horror that all the inhabitants have been transformed into black trees! Upon further investigation, they find clues that lead them to the hidden lair of Nockmort, a treant gone bad. Nockmort has been transformed by the strange radiation of a meteorite he discovered, and now he is a terrible force of evil. The characters must enter his sunless garden to save the town. And along the way they just might discover fabulous treasure...

The Dragonfiend Pact (Level 2)
The small town of Welwyn has been beset by a string of robberies. The heroes are led to the natural cave system located at the bottom of the town well, which they must explore to find the burglars. But once they're in the cave system, things get much more difficult! The "burglars" turn out to be mere pawns in a much darker game. To get to the source of the crimes, the heroes must shrink themselves with potions of improved reduce person and explore a series of dangerous rat warrens where their prey is larger than they are!

One thing to watch out for would be the level ratings. You have to take them with a grain of salt since they are aimed at the levels used in D&D 3.x. You'll need to look through a DCC module carefully to decide what levels it is best for in the version of D&D you are playing. Chances are they will be close to the listed level, but it's better to be safe and not trust the printed level guide than be sorry when you are looking as unexpected TPK.

Looking at these modules also gives me hope for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Goodman Games is working on.

Gryphons & Grognards (Microlite75) Playtest Version 0.05 Available

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As promised, here is a very early draft of Microlite75/Gryphons & Grognards. I've put a PDF copy up on Mediafire here: Download Gryphons & Grognards Version 0.05. I've really barely started, but the character classes are complete and many minor modifications (merging M74 optional rules, etc.) have been made. I've also made a start on adding the new spells. Levels 1-3 of both Illusionist and Druid spells are included.

I'm undecided on a number of design issues and will be making posts here over the next few days to gather opinions.

Don't waste time downloading the above -- it's unusable by anyone but me. Download the new Microlite75 Playtest draft instead. See this post: Microlite75 Playtest Version 0.1 Available

At Work Again on Microlite75 (Gryphons & Grognards)

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I'm finally back at work on Microlite75 under the working title -- which will probably be changed -- of Gryphons & Grognards (credit to Adam Thornton). I have the first draft of the classes done, some of the changes to M74 needed by the new classes and and working on spell descriptions for illusionist and druids -- as well as the higher level spells for magic-users and clerics). I hope to have a very early 0.05 draft available tomorrow or Monday. As I am starting from Microlite74, even this 0.05 draft version should be playable, however, a lot of things still need to be changed and much new material needs to be added.

Searchers of the Unknown One Page RPG: The Many Variants

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Back in August of last year, I wrote about a nifty one page RPG called Searchers of the Unknown RPG. Searchers of the Unknown is a one page set of rules for playing old-style (aka early TSR) D&D modules where the characters are no more complex that the monsters: a one line stat block. SotU does a great job of capturing the essence of old school D&D in a tiny set of rules. Rules that even make the hated by many descending armor class used in old school modules useful.

Searchers of the Unknown has become quite popular. A number of expansions and variant games for different settings have been written by people who like the game. Here is a list of the variants I'm aware of. If you know of any more, please add them in a comment.

Update: Linkrot has hit many of these links so I've created a SotU RPG Collection download. See NEW: The Searchers of the Unknown RPG Collection Available for Free Download.

I Hate Gaming Politics

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I really hate gaming politics. I'm not talking about politics in campaigns, I'm fine with that. I just have no use for the politics that goes on in the gaming industry and in its support groups. I tend to avoid involvement with the RPG industry and with groups organized to support gaming that aren't local game clubs operating independently of the industry because the politics in such groups quickly make me want to slit my throat.

This week has seen a lot of what I call political nastiness in old school groups and it annoys me. I fear that it is only going to get worse as more people try to monetize things as making money requires people to worry about stuff like the public perception of the hobby which tends to bring out the control freaks who want to remove demons and devils from the game (D&D in the 1980), remove flavor text that might upset people (Carcosa), tell me that I should not be giving M74 away free (last year), examine charities a game blogger gives to for acceptability (this last week), etc. I'm just opting out of all this silliness. I hope you will too.

Why I Don't Play World of Warcraft

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I've never been a big fan of computer RPGs, they tend to be very combat-oriented and railroady. Worst of all, they lack the human GM who can allow my character to try anything I want to try even if the designers did not think of it. When I got on the Internet in the 1990s, I tried MUDs, but found them as boring as computer games except that I like to hang around and talk to other people. IRC let me do that without having to put up with player-killers and the like. You probably aren't surprised to hear that MMORPG don't do anything for me either. To me, they are just MUDs with a graphic interface and a monthly fee to use.

However, after reading Joseph's latest post, Rob Pardo of Blizzard Explains Why I'd Hate WoW, over on Greyhawk Grognard I'm doubly sure that MMORPG's like World of Warcraft aren't for me. Millions of people may love them, but I agree with Joesph, they just aren't designed with my interests in mind.

Epic "Save the World" Fantasy In The Sandbox

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I finally got around to setting up my RSS feed reader this week. I lost it when my old PC died in January -- I'm now using Feedreader which syncs with Google Reader so this should not happen again. As part of this process I went out into the gaming blogsphere and found a whole bunch of blogs I had never read on RPGs (and not just old school RPGs). I've added a couple of hundred new feeds this week. I'm sure I will drop a lot of them over the weeks to come due to time constraints, but for now I'm seeing a whole lot of new stuff.

What does this have to do with "Epic 'Save the World' Fantasy In The Sandbox"? I read an interesting post, Sandbox gaming vs. adventure paths: in defense of highly narrative adventures, on one of those new blogs I added called The Lost Level.

In this post the author discusses the most common types of adventure modules, the old school favored sandbox style versus the adventure-path style. He makes an interesting case for why the adventure path style is popular, no matter how much of a railroad it is.

But imagine for a moment that you are a Tolkien-obsessed teenager in the early 80s (and at that time there were more teenage boys obsessed with Tolkien than with Howard, I would venture to say.) You’ve picked up a cool new game called D&D because the game’s art, language, and contents promise Tolkien-esque awesomeness: dwarves and hobbits! Rangers! Orcs! Magic swords! But scouring the available adventure modules published for the game, what do you find? Lots and lots of modules that pit you against very localized, non-epic, Conan-esque challenges: bandit attacks. Bands of slavers. Tribes of goblins. Tombs with traps.

Even the most epic of these modules generally kept the action fairly local in nature. You might save a town from a gang of bandits or take out an evil wizard or foil a demon’s plan, but you never saved the world, fulfilled an ancient prophecy, travelled across a continent to rescue a princess, or anything like what the heroes of Narnia or Middle-Earth get to do. D&D did a great job of letting you be Conan, raiding tombs for loot and collecting the bounty on kobold heads. At very high levels (which the general lethality of the game made difficult to attain), you might aspire to save a city-state or become the ruler of a kingdom.

But sometimes, if you were a Tolkien-obsessed teenage boy, you wanted to be Frodo or Legolas or Aragorn, doing something Really Important with the fate of the entire world resting on your shoulders.

And the “adventure path” type of module, starting with the Dragonlance series, aims to do exactly that. You’re not an unknown adventurer who might one day hit level 5 if he kills enough goblins. You’re an unknown adventurers who is going to change the entire world. Your quest will send you on a whirlwind tour of the whole wide world, rather than requiring you to spend months delving deeper and deeper, level by level, into the depths of a single dungeon underneath a ruin in the middle of nowhere. The price you pay for this epic narrative is relinquishing a certain amount of player control; you have to follow where the plot leads, trusting that the narrative payoff will be sufficiently epic to make it worthwhile. In a true sandbox game environment, with its emphasis on random encounters and total player freedom, it’s very difficult for a game group to put together a Tolkien-style epic fantasy story. Even the well-regarded G-D-Q-series of modules, which ended on an epic note, felt more like a loosely-connected series of dungeon campaigns than a Lord of the Rings-style saga.

I will admit that if you are looking for something that will always play out in a way that sounds like a well-plotted epic narrative like Lord of the Rings, you are pretty much limited to an adventure path type of campaign (and a very railroady one at that). However if you just want "to be Frodo or Legolas or Aragorn, doing something Really Important with the fate of the entire world resting on your shoulders" you can still do that in a sandbox campaign, just not the type of sandbox campaign sandbox campaign fans usually talk about. I've ran epic "the fate of the world rests in your hands" sandbox campaigns many times. My Arn campaign world is designed for them.

An Arn campaign usually starts with some variation of this basic history. The Island of Arn has ruled the world for thousands of years. Their rule is strict but distant. So long as countries follow the rules and pay their taxes, they are pretty much left alone. Still few like the Arnish (and their alien to most other races ways of thinking/acting) all that much. Dan, the leader of a southern barbarian people managed to summon the greatest of the lost demon lords and it gave him the power to conquer the Arnish. He did so but let lose demons on the world (to seek out and destroy any Arnish who fled Arn). Lots of people are beginning to think the Arnish weren't so bad.

The PCs are gathered together for a mission by a mysterious but powerful strange elf-like woman. It turns out this woman is the Handmaiden of Arn in disguise. (The Handmaiden of Arn is a position something like the Steward of Gondor.) The PCs soon learn who she is and that she is actually trying to find the Empress of Arn (who was questing to find a legendary item that would allow them to return Dan to nether realms which would give the remaining Arnish a chance to retake their homeland). She has no idea where the Empress is and there is no way to trace her (if there was a way to trace her, Dan would have found her). However, she is months overdue and all the Handmaiden can do is start trying to find the item herself and hope that she will come across some trace of the Empress in the progress.

The PCs are drawn into this search which is really nothing more than a huge sandbox campaign. The Handmaiden has some ideas where to start looking, but then things just go as the players direct with all sorts of side adventures possible along the way from searching for treasure to fund their expeditions to hiding from demon hunters after the Handmaiden to having to play Arnish and diplomatically solve disputes and problems for area leaders to win needed support or just the right to search in some normally off-limits area.

It's epic-level where the actions of the PCs can have huge effects on the world, but at its core it is still a sandbox which means that you are unlikely to get a great narrative like the Lord of the Rings out of the PC's adventures. However, it does satisfy the desire to have characters who can -- if they play their cards right and get lucky -- can have a huge impact on the game world. And no railroad lines are needed. A campaign like this requires a lot from both the GM and the players -- even more than a standard sandbox campaign does -- but such a campaign can be a fun way to satisfy a "save the world" itch without having to set up the railroad tracks.

Microlite75 Suffers a Critical Hit: Split in Twain

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I'm finally beginning serious work on Microlite75. After giving it a lot of thought and talking with the gamers playing in my OD&D game, I've decided that main version Microlite75 will be less an attempt to duplicate 0e and its supplements than it will be an attempt to take 0e and its supplements and apply the house rules I use as well as the things I've learned over the years to it. This will produce a hybrid game that many will consider neither Old School nor New School, but its own thing. I expect most "New School" gamers will see it as "Old School" and many "Old School" gamers will not know what to call it. I consider it "Old School", but then I'm not as hardcore about what is and is not "Old School" as some are.

The basic rules for the extra classes and spells from the 0e supplements will also be published as a free supplement to Microlite74. This way, those who want to see a Microlite version of 0e and its supplements uncontaminated by my house rules and other ideas can have it.

The full game will be published under a new title because while it will be firmly based on the Microlite20 system, it will be too large a game to be called "microlite". I'm having trouble coming up with a name, however. Here are some of the names I'm currently considering:

Expeditions and Adventures
Mercenaries and Monsters
Dungeons Deep and Caverns Cold
Nightmares and Netherworlds
Knights and Netherworlds
Fantastic Adventures

Not all that good, I know. Suggestions are welcome. If I use yours, you will get credit. Whatever the full version of "Microlite75" ends up being called, it will still be available as a free PDF download.

Side Note: Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. Donna and I have been dealing with a very sick cat. Savoy is so ill that Donna had to postpone her trip to Dallas for dentures by almost 6 weeks as she has to syringe feed him four times a day. Savoy may not make it, but it will not be for lack of trying on our part.