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Microlite75 Playtest Version 0.3 (with Psionics) Available

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The third playtest draft of Microlite75 is now available. Changes for this draft are mainly in the optional rules section. Major additions to the optional rules include: Advantages and Disadvantages, Character Goals and Traits, Armor for all classes, and Psionics. Some spells had descriptions added or slightly modified. Some types were corrected throughout the book. A new section on Old School Play was added.

The major -- and most time consuming -- addition is rules for psionics. The system from 0e is hard to understand and even harder to actually use. Coming up with a set of simple rules that worked, felt mechanically and stylistically different from magic (as 0e psionics did), could be added to any character without unbalancing the game too much was a major pain. The current rules lack psionic combat. I haven't yet decided if I will try to add this in a future playtest edition. I've used psionics in my Empire of Arn campaigns since 1976 and psionic combats have been rare as hen's teeth. Your comments on this issue will strongly influence my decision.

What's planned for Playtest version 0.4? There will definitely be some minor changes to combat based on my current playtest campaign. The optional rules for combat maneuvers may get a complete overhaul. I will probably add more advantages, disadvantages, and psionic abilities. A full equipment list will be added for those who prefer to buy exactly what they want instead of using the quick packs. Some type of non-clerical healing will be added (probably some type of herbalism). The section on hirelings will be expanded.

Spells may get rearranged in alphabetical order. While I personally prefer the old way of alphabetical with class and level, switching to alphabetical would mean that some long high level spell descriptions would not have to be duplicated. One of my players has asked for some of the useful spells used in Harry Potter books (like Obliviate). I may add a few with the names filed off.

The "Science Fantasy" section will be completely rewritten. New monsters may get added.

However, that's for the future. Today, you can download your free copy of Microlite75 Playtest Version 0.3 from Mediafire: http://www.mediafire.com/?mtnlw0xrqh2. It's a 400K PDF with about 27 pages of rules, spells, and monsters (plus a cover sheet).

And remember, you can still sponsor Microlite75 (and Advanced Microlite20 OSS). Information is included in the playtest pdf or can be found here. I'd like to thank Dennis Kadera, Shane Morales, Ronald Pehr, Richard Tongue, Matthew Cooper, and Sebastian Dietz for their sponsorship!

Basic/Expert D&D House Rules from 1984 (PDF Version)

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RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Donors have been able to download The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed for about a year. I just noticed that I have never really described what this download actually is. This 15 page dot-matrix printed document is a set of 1984 house rules for use with the Metzner Basic/Expert/companion Set D&D rules. The campaign was set in my Hidden Valley campaign world and was ran at a game store less than a mile from my house. The rules changes in this set of house rules are interesting and show where my thinking was, D&D rules-wise, in 1984.

The first half of the first page of The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed was a description of the campaign style designed to head off players who only wanted to hack-n-slack, only wanted to power-game, or expected the AD&D rules to be used. This was somewhat harsh because of previous bad experiences running open games at game stores: too many players tried to ruin games that weren't ran the way they expected. There's really not much of interest here. Fortunately, we move right into the rules changes.

Character creation required rolling for ten attributes as new attributes for Agility, Appearance, Aura, and Perception were introduced. Agility was speed and balance broken off from Dexterity. Appearance was a measure of how ugly or beautiful the character was. Aura was a measure of the character's life force and magic resistance. Aura was reduced by dying and being raised. Undead level drains reduced Aura rather than character level. Perception was a measure of how aware the character was of the world around him. Character creation also required players to select goals and personality traits -- instead of alignment. Players were also encouraged to select a Hidden Valley deity for their character to follow.

This was followed by a description of the new attributes and a table of modifiers by attribute. Next came Character classes, starting with a table listing the number of Adventure Points the various classes had to earn for each level (up to level 14). The standard BECMI classes of Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, and Thief were available. Several had modified rules, however. Clerics had to select a deity which affected the spells they could learn and if their character goals opposed their deity's goal, they might have problems. Some special sub-classes (from The Dragon and White Dwarf) were available. Magic-users and Elves also had access to several subclasses from The Dragon and White Dwarf).

The next section made it clear that alignment was not used for characters and explained that intelligent monsters need not all be of their listed alignment. Instead of selecting an alignment, characters selected four personal goals (e.g. Wealth, Romance, Power over Others, Mystical Power, Welfare of Others, etc.) Playing to these goals could earn adventure points. Players also had to select three personality traits for their characters (e.g. True passion for alcoholic beverages, rare crude and rough manners, miserly, spendthrift, etc.) Characters who did not play their selected personality traits in the game did not earn adventure points as fast as those who did. This was followed by rules for languages which was mainly a list of languages Hidden Valley characters could learn.

The next section of The Second Grimoire of Pharesm the Bright-Eyed, Skills and Spells, was short. It discussed how the Companion Set's weapon proficiency rules were used in the campaign, including their adventure point costs, and gave the Know Personality spell as a replacement for the standard Know Alignment spell.

The next section covered adventuring rules changes, this was mainly minor things like no caller, mapping, and dividing treasure (the book method was not recommended). The major change here was the use of adventure points instead of experience points. AP were given for how active the character was played and achieving character goals. This was multiplied first by a factor based on how well the character was played and then by a factor based on the adventure difficulty. This freed play from the need to kill things and take their stuff to advance. The adventure point system sounds somewhat complicated, but was easier in practice than tracking standard experience for monsters and treasure.

The Encounters and Combat section presented my monster reaction tables which took a bit more into account than the standard rolls. It also covered saving throws which were based on attributes with some, determined by character class, adjusted for level. Damage and healing were also briefly covered.

This completed the rules changes. There were about 7 pages of rules changes. The following pages gave information on major locations in the Hidden Valley and descriptions of the various deities -- both good and evil -- of the Hidden Valley (including features such as the weapons their clerics can use, their favored and disliked goals, and sometimes special spells their clerics can use). Of course there was the required for the era statement that these gods were not real.

Finally, there were three short appendixes. The first covered wealth and coins in the Hidden Valley -- which used a silver standard instead of the gold standard in the D&D books. The second was an equipment list with "standard" Hidden Valley prices. The third explained the Hidden Valley calendar and listed a few major holidays.

To be honest, these house rules hold up very well. I probably would not use the extra attributes today nor replace all the saves with attribute-based saves, but most of the other changes either work well (adventure points) or help D&D fit the Hidden Valley better.

Special Note: A PDF copy of a scan of these rules is available to those who help pay our cancer related bills with a donation to the Retro-Roleplaying Cancer Fund. Donors also get copies of Grimoire Fanzine #1 (Spring 1978 issue), Grimoire Fanzine #2 (Summer 1979), Microlite74 Special Edition, and more.

Free FAST RPG Re-released under a Creative Commons License

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Back in 1997-1998, I developed a somewhat generic RPG called FAST (Flexible Adventure System, Task-oriented). I released it under a fairly complex license designed to allow others to use the rules, but also protect my rights. This was before the OGL and Creative Commons licenses. I've re-released the game under a standard Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License. This should make it much easier for others to distribute and modify the game. You can download a PDF version of the game from mediafire (about 5 pages and 35K) or just read a copy on the RetroRoleplaying web site.

The game system is fairly simple build your own character/skill-based system. The design goals were simple.

In the early days of commercial role-playing games, game systems were relatively simple. Their rules did not fill multiple 100+ page volumes with rules and fine print. They depended on the gamemaster to interpret the rules in the manner that best fit the style of the group of players and the world he or she had created for those players to play in. Simple gamesystems had another advantage. The gamemaster and players could easily remember and understand the rules. This made it much easier for the gamemaster to modify and add to the rules when needed for the campaign world, without having to worry that the modified rules might interfere with a rule in a footnote in the second column of the 343rd page of the ninth volume of the rules. FAST has been designed to recapture the simplicity of those mid-1970 RPG rules, but with more modern (skill-oriented, build your own character) game systems.

As you can tell from this quote from the introduction, even in 1977 I thought many new RPGs were too complex and and gotten too far away from what made me interested in RPGs in the 1970s. FAST was an attempt to allow old school play with a simple system that used more "modern" rules systems. Enjoy!

Dark Dungeons: Major Differences from the Rules Cyclopedia

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Here's some information on the major differences between Dark Dungeons and the Rules Cyclopedia, in the author's own words.

There are very few changes that are deliberate "house rules" as opposed to merely having to try to come up with something that reconciles contradictory rules in the original RC (of which there were a surprising number once I went through it with a finetooth comb...)

From memory:

* I'm treating various optional rules (weapon mastery, high level demi-humans, skills, Immortals, etc.) as core.
* I've reduced the amount of XP needed for high level demi-humans.
* I've given demi-humans weapon mastery that works like everyone else's rather than the "all weapons at first level".
* My skill list is different from the RC's skill list, to avoid overlap with class-based abilities.
* I've changed the way magic-users and elves learn spells to make it consistent with the way weapon mastery is learnt.
* I use a "statement of intent" at the beginning of a combat round (this was apparently supposed to be in the BECMI rules but was accidentally skipped - although some spell descriptions assume it's there).
* I treat the "confidence level" of a dominion as an ongoing score that can go up and down, rather than a score that's calculated freshly each year.

That's the main changes, I think. There are lots of little fiddly bits where rules (particularly optional rules) conflicted and I had to make a "house interpretation" of the rules - but the ones listed above are the main deliberate changes.

This is taken from the Dark Dungeons: Rules Cyclopedia is back! thread on RPGNet.

Dark Dungeons (A Rules Cyclopedia Clone) Now Available

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The final version of Dark Dungeons, an OGL retro-clone of the best single book version of TSR's D&D game ever published, is now available in hardback and softcover from Lulu and as a free PDF. While the system rules are a fairly direct clone of the original RC, much of the campaign related material -- such as the structure of the planes -- is fairly original (due to copyright law).

Nevertheless, the author "Blacky the Blackball," has done a excellent job. There are rules for running fiefs and becoming an immortal for higher level characters making this the first retro-clone I know of which includes the 0e/1e/BEMCI "endgame." There are even rules for immortals that are much easier to understand and use than either of the Immortals sets published back in the 1980s and early 1990s. The new outer planes setup created for Dark Dungeons even allows for "spelljamming" campaigns similar to the 2e setting.

The PDF Version of the Dark Dungeons rulebook is 345 pages and is fully illustrated. Dark Dungeons is published under the OGL. Best of all, all the original text of the game is not only open game content but is placed in the public domain.

You can obtain a copy (hardcover, softcover, or free PDF) here: Get Dark Dungeons.

Dark Dungeons is not perfect, but with copies of the original RC getting more and more expensive, it's really great to see this. By the way, the name of the game is a deliberate play on the old anti-D&D Chick Tract from the early 1980s. The characters used in the examples in the rules are even named after some of the characters in the Tract. I love that touch.

Psionics in Microlite75

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I've finally decided how Psionics will work in Microlite75. While I know most people don't use psionics, I have to have psionics abilities available to run games in my Arn Campaign. Since the whole point of Microlite75 is to produce a 0e based Microlite20 game that I can run my campaigns in, I have to have psionics. Psionics in 0e and 1e are a mess. I can make them work and did for years, but I'd really rather not.

I've never liked the idea of psionic abilities confined to special classes. Arn was designed based on 0e and 1e where most classes could have psionic abilities. This means that the 3.x SRD psionics really aren't a good starting point either. Therefore I've created what I hope will be a simple psionics system. Here's a very rough draft of the core psionics rules:

Psionics are mental powers which aren’t magic but sometimes duplicate magical abilities. If psionics are used in a campaign, any highly intelligent being has a slight change of being psionic.

Creating Psionic Characters: Characters should check for psionics ability at character creation. Roll a d20 and add MIND bonus. On a roll of 21 or higher, the character may opt to have psionics abilities that will manifest as the character go up levels. If the roll is successful and the player opts character for the character to have psionics, roll 2d6. The result is the maximum number of psionic abilities the character will manifest. This number is immediately added to the character’s Experience Base.

Manifesting Psionic Abilities: At character creation and every time a psionic character goes up a level, the character rolls to see if a new psionic ability manifests. Roll 1d20 + MIND bonus against a DC of (21 – the maximum number of psionic abilities the character may manifest). On a successful roll, the character manifests a new psionic ability. Roll on the Psionic Ability Table below to determine the new ability. Reroll if the character already has the ability rolled.

Using Psionic Abilities: Using a psionic ability is an action. Successful use requires a 1d20 + MIND Bonus + Level/2 vs the DC given in the ability description. Certain abilities also cost HP to maintain.

These rules provide a low chance for high MIND characters of any class to have psionic abilities, allow for a random number of abilities, and allow those abilities to randomly manifest as the character goes up levels. It also attempts to provide some balance between psionic and non-psionic characters by increasing a psionic character's Experience Base by the maximum number of abilities the character can manifest. The complete draft rules, including the 20 or so psionic possible abilities, will be in the next playtest draft of Microlite75 -- which should be ready by the end of May.

RPG Rules Complexity and Casual Gamers

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I've heard a number of people say that the complexity of the rules of many modern RPGs are one of the major things keeping casual gamers away from the game. While rules complexity certainly is part of the problem, I don't believe it is as big a part of the problem as some do.

Look at the first edition of AD&D. It was a relatively complex game, but it has lots of causal players -- because while its rules were complex, you really did not have to know many of them to play. A lot of rules knowledge -- let alone system mastery -- wasn't needed to play. The only person who really needed a good knowledge of the complex rules of first edition AD&D was the GM.

New players could create a fighter or a thief in minutes and really did not need to know any rules to play the character. They could just tell the GM what the character was doing in regular terms and the GM or other players could easily translate "I try to hit the zombie with my sword" or "I try to sneak down the corridor without the guard in the side passage seeing me" into whatever die roll was needed. Unless the player wanted a magic-using character, little to no knowledge of the rules was needed to play.

The player never needed to buy or study rules books to play well. All he had to do was describe what his/her character was doing and roll the dice when told to. Neither their lack of rules knowledge or lack of system mastery did not really hurt them -- nor did it hurt the rest of the party.

Games that more or less require people to buy rulebooks and study them to master the game system are unlikely to attract many casual gamers, in my experience. Worse, they often tend to make casual gamers unwelcome at a table that includes non-casual gamers as their lack of knowledge of the rules and their lack of interest in system mastery hurts the other players.

In my experience, complex rules don't turn off casual RPG players unless they are expected to read them and master them. If they can just say what their character is trying to do in non-game terms and roll the dice when they need to do, casual gamers do fine with complex games.

Free RPGs from RetroRoleplaying.com

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When I started RetroRoleplaying.com a couple of years ago, I intended it to be a site with in formation about out-of-print RPGs. However, I soon found myself sucked into publishing my own free RPGs. Now RetroRoleplaying.com is publish a number of free games, most based on Microlite20, a trimmed down, sub-miniature version of the 3.x Primary Fantasy SRD rules which designed to be quick and easy to play. Most of the the games RetroRoleplaying.com publishes are designed for "old school" play. Here is the current list of our games, with links to their new pages on our web site:

  • Microlite74 recreates the style and feel of that very first ("0e") fantasy roleplaying game published back in 1974 using somewhat more modern rules. It's not quite a clone of 0e, but most people find it close to a clone. There are two supplements to Microlite74: Ancient Auguries and Wary's Grimoire. The current version is 2.0.
  • Microlite75 is a heavily expanded and house-ruled version of Microlite74. It plays much like the 0e/1e based rules I was using in the late 1970s. Unlike Microlite74, it includes most of the additional classes and spells from the 0e supplements with a few modern twists. It is currently being written -- and playtested in my Sunday campaign. Playtest versions are available for download. Estimated Completion: Late Summer 2010.
  • Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style) is an attempt to do "old school style" with rules that can use all the standard SRD monsters, spells, and treasure just as you can with standard Microlite20. It is currently almost complete and is in the "proofreading" phase. Copies are available for download. Estimated Completion: Late Summer 2010.
  • Advanced Microlite20 OSS is an expansion of our basic Microlite20 OSS rules with supplemental material from Microlite20, other Microlite20-based games, and some of the authors house rules and other modifications It is currently being written. Playtest copies should be available for download soon. Estimated Completion: Late Summer 2010.
  • The Microlite20 RPG Collection is a 600 plus page PDF compilation of Microlite20 rules and variants as well as a large number of Microlite20 based games. The current, Spring 2010, edition is available for download.

You may have noticed that several of these games are currently under development (and are on schedule for final release in late summer 2010). There are a couple of major ways you can help these games toward final release.

First, you can help playtest these games. Playtest copies of these games are currently available and newer versions will be made available as more work is done on each game. You can download a copy from each game's web page (links above). If you do so, feel free to comment on the game -- especially errors or problems you notice -- in the RetroRoleplaying Forum. Your comments (and typo catching) will make a major difference in the quality of the the final versions.

Second, you can help sponsor Microlite75, Advanced Microlite20 OSS, and Wary's Grimoire. Many long time visitors to RetroRoleplaying.com know that my wife is recovering successfully from oral cancer and that I worked on the original Microlite74 as way to cope during her recovery from 6 weeks of radiation treatment in 2008. We are some of the 40 to 50 million people in the US who do not have health insurance. Worse, we do not qualify for government aid as we live in Texas and have no children. The cancer treatments have cost over $110,000 so far. While some of this has been absorbed by hospital foundations and the like, we still owe a lot of it. I make available some special bonuses for those who help us pay these bills with a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. See the sidebar on the left for more info on these special downloads -- and for a Paypal link for donations.

For a limited time (while Microlite75, Advanced Microlite20 OSS and Wary's Grimoire are in playtest) you can be listed as a sponsor in all printings of all three of these games for a qualifying donation. This is in addition to all the usual benefits from any donation.

If you donate $25 or more you will also be listed as a Bronze Sponsor of Microlite75 in the final edition of the Microlite75, the Advanced Microlite20 OSS and the Wary's Grimoire rulebooks (and future playtest drafts leading up to it).

If you donate $50 or more you will also be listed as a Silver Sponsor of Microlite75 in the final edition of the Microlite75, the Advanced Microlite20 OSS and the Wary's Grimoire rulebooks (and future playtest drafts leading up to it).

If you donate $100 or more you will also be listed as a Gold Sponsor of Microlite75 in the final edition ofthe Microlite75, the Advanced Microlite20 OSS and the Wary's Grimoire rulebooks (and future playtest drafts leading up to it).

How Times Change: Reading the Rules

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One of the items in a funny post, 27 Surefire Ways to Get Kicked Out of a Game, over at Evil Machinations was "Refuse to read the rules of the system you’re playing."

While is is clearly intended to be a humor piece, it did make me think of how different things are today. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, most of the players in my campaigns had never read the entire rules to the games I ran. Most read little more than the character creation rules and any material directly related to the type of character they were playing. Some did not even read that much. Many did not own copies of the rules. No one in my campaigns would have thought, even in jest, that refusing to read the rules was a way to get booted from a campaign. Worse, many players didn't bother to buy dice (another surefire way to get kicked out of a game according to this list). Hell, most games did not even come with dice -- or if they did they were generally cheap and low quality. (TSR, I'm talking about you.)

Definitions of Old School and New School

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I've seen a lot of discussion and argument about the terms "old school" and "new school" and exactly what they mean. Here is the best way to describe old school play vs new school play I've found so far. It's far from prefect, but it seems to get the major ideas across to those I talk to better than anything else I've tried.

Let's say there are two major styles of role playing games. From a player point-of-view, the first (and older) style says "Here is the situation. Pretend you are there as your character, what do you want to do?" This style has been superseded over the years with a style that says "Here is the situation. Based on your character's stats, abilities, skills, etc. as listed on his character sheet and your knowledge of the (often many and detailed) rules of the game, what is the best way to use the game mechanics to solve the situation?" Old school play strongly favors the first style and frowns on too much of the second. If your game tends more to the first than to the second, it's leaning "old school." If your game tends more to the second than the first, it's leaning "new school".

Wary's Grimoire (Version 0.9): The Second Supplement for Microlite74 Available

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The nearly complete "Proofreading Draft" of Wary's Grimoire, the second supplement for Microlite74, is now available for download. Wary's Grimoire takes some of the work I've been doing for Microlite75 and "backports" it to Microlite74 by stripping it of the house rules and extra that make Microlite75 what it is. In other words, Wary's Grimoire contains the new classes, new spells, minor rules changes (like variable damage) from the 0e supplements and adds them to Microlite74 in more "pure" 0e form than in Microlite75.

Wary's Grimoire adds the following classes to Microlite74: Paladin, Ranger, Monk, Illusionist, Druid, Thief and Bard. It also adds the 0e 7th-9th level Magic-User spells, the 0e 6th and 7th level Clerical spells, and the entire set (1st-7th level) of the 0e Druid and Illusionist spells. This supplement also includes variable weapon damage, monster reactions, and a rewritten monster list including monster morale and variable damage. In its current form, it's an 11-page PDF (about a 165K download).

This supplement is pretty much done. However, it will remain in playtest form until the final version of Microlite75 is published (planned for late summer 2010) -- in case any major changes are made to the material borrowed from Microlite75 during the next few months. As with all my regular edition old school Microlite20 games, Wary's Grimoire is free! Download your copy from Mediafire today: http://www.mediafire.com/?5qmyjjrjzw0.

Buy Dark Fate (and the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund gets the $$$$$)

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I received a wonderful offer for the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund from Marcelo Paschoalin this week. Marcelo had contacted me last year about using Microlite74 basis the basis for a rules light introductory fantasy RPG for players in Brazil. I thought it was a wonderful idea and wished him luck. Sometime time later Marcelo released Aventura e Magia. As I can't read much Portuguese, I can't say much about the game. Marcelo later released a English version of an old school campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry called Dark Fate. I somehow missed this release as I had not heard anything of it until Marcelo emailed me this week. He was kind enough to send me a PDF copy and I have to say I'm very impressed. Marcelo has offered to donate the proceeds from one month of sales -- from May 15, 2010 to June 15, 2010 -- to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund!

What are you waiting for? Head over the the Dark Fate web site and buy a copy. It's available in PDF as well as in paperback and hardcover.

Oh. You made your high pressure sales saving roll and want to know something about Dark Fate first? Instead of me telling you all about Dark Fate, please go read this long review at The Underdark Gazette. Then head back here and I'll add a few comments....

The review is right, Dark Fate does have some grammar and phrasing issues in places. However, they really aren't much worse than some of the problems I see in many publications originally written by native English speakers and published in English. Of course, since I'm known as the "Typo King" my position on this may be somewhat biased.

The review implies that the Dark Fate setting might not work too well for sandbox play. I disagree. There are two major types of sandbox campaign. The type one hears about most these days is a static sandbox where the GM sets things up and little happens in the world except where the PCs involve themselves. The second type of sandbox, the dynamic sandbox, has a world that moves and shakes and changes even when the PCs are doing other things. In both types, the PCs are the center of the game action and freely pick what they want to do, but the dynamic sandbox has other events happening in the world that the players may hear about and choose to react to -- or ignore. The dynamic sandbox is less common because it is a lot more work to create. With a static sandbox, you can just design a small part of the world (a few hexes will do) and grow the world as the players explore. A dynamic sandbox requires that a large area be set up before play begins with a history and various countries, political figures, etc. created before play starts. Dark Fate provides almost everything a GM would need to run a dynamic sandbox.

I really like the art in Dark Fate. It has a strong swords and sorcery feel without trying to duplicate the 1970s TSR art style. It's also very well done art. Check the gallery at the Dark Fate site for a hundred or so samples of the art from the game.

I'll post more of my personal views about Dark Fate over the next four weeks. However, take a look at the game for yourself. Here's a chance to get a very nice old school campaign setting and help raise money for the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund at the same time. You can click here to Buy Dark Fate. The net proceeds of all sales from May 15th to June 15th will go to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund.

My wife and I would like to thank Marcelo Paschoalin for this generous contribution to The RetroRoleplaying Cancer -- not to mention the PDF copy of Dark Fate.

Advantages and Disadvantages in Microlite75?

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The last session of my Wilderlands campaign was more a a design session than a game. As it was Mother's Day weekend, two of the seven players could not make the game. This was not a disaster because we had agreed over the week to convert the campaign from OD&D to Microlite75 so I could playtest some of the rules. This was a great time to convert as the characters had finally reached the City-State, sold the young dragon they had subdued, and were ready to start something new. Three players had decided they wanted new characters, so were going to have their old characters take their new-found wealth and "retire" in the City-State and roll up new ones.

Crating the new characters would have been straightforward except that one the players had a non-standard idea for a character. She thought it would be interesting to have a character who had been apprenticed as a magic-user but her master had disappeared early in the apprenticeship long before she had even started to learn enough magic to cast real spells. Her character had been forced to live on the streets and had become a thief. So far, nothing a "former MU apprentice" type of background could not handle. However, she wanted her character to have learned enough magic to have the minor magic and arcane blast abilities. She had ever figured out a way to balance this. Although she was a human, she'd take the +7 to Experience Base that Elves had, meaning she would need more XP to level.

I thought about this a while and after some discussion with the player and other players in the group, I agreed she could do this but because her character had not completed her apprenticeship she was not very efficient in what limited magic she had. Therefore, using Minor Magic or Arcane Blast would cost her 3 HP (instead of the standard 1 HP) and making a new wand would take a few days instead of 12 hours. This seemed more in line with a "failed apprentice" background and about a +7 to the character's XP base worth of an advantage.

I've been having second thoughts about this over the week. Not the "you really should not have agreed to this" type of second thoughts, but the "perhaps the idea of advantages of an increase in XP Base should be worked into the rules of Microlite75" type of second thoughts. One of my problems with feats in D&D 3.x is that many of them take ordinary abilities that anyone should be able to try (e.g. Bull Rush) and try to limit them to those who have the appropriate feat. This makes characters "mechanically special" by eliminating options that anyone should have.

There are, however, special abilities that truly are something not everyone has an inborn ability to do. Some examples might include being ambidextrous, having a photographic memory, or having a stronger ability to resist magic (like Dwarves and Halflings). Abilities like these are legitimate "must have the ability" to have even a chance of success things. However, they really would not work as feats. They aren't something a character can "pick up from experience or training." They are abilities a character is either born with or doesn't have. They shouldn't be something a character suddenly gets at level 9 by selecting a feat.

After some discussion on our group email list over the week, I've decided to write up "Advantages and Disadvantages" as an optional rule for Microlite75. This optional system will allow limited mechanical customization of characters with special abilities that really can't be used successfully by anyone lacking the inborn ability (e.g. photographic memory) or a very special background (e.g. the "failed apprentice" bit that started all of this). Advantages will increase a character's Experience Base while disadvantages will reduce it (to a limited extent). While the rule will be entirely optional, even when it is used, the GM will have to approve each advantage or disadvantage a player wants.

I'll work on writing up these optional rules over the next few days -- and they will probably be in the third playtest draft of Microlite75 (which is coming soon). Whether they will be in the final edition will depend on feedback from playtesters -- and how well it works with my group of players. Comments are welcome.

Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style) Playtest Version 0.95 Available

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Microlite20 OSS Playtest version 0.95 is now available. I think I've corrected all the typos that have been mentioned. I've made some minor changes to the rules, mainly clarifications (like what the DC of spells is used for). I've also added rules for Healing to the section on Hit Points. Microlite20 does not have them so you use the healing system from the SRD. The only problems with that are 1) it's basic enough that it probably should be in the M20 rules and 2) the SRD rules don't cover STR damage. I used the SRD rules but added how I think STR damage should recover.

The rules proper are one sheet front and back. However, I've added over a page to the notes on playing in the "old school style" -- this will probably have a number of typos. You can download the 0.95 version from here:


And you can always find the latest version on the new Microlite20 OSS page at RetroRoleplaying.com.

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010


I've been working on Microlite75 and Microlite OSS this afternoon, only to get a phone call from a friend telling me that artist Frank Frazatta had just passed away from a stroke. I was hoping this was a just a rumor, but looking around on the Internet, I see that his death this afternoon (from a stroke) has been confirmed by his agent, Robert Pistella. Sigh. I loved his Conan and Tarzan book covers. They inspired as many game sessions as the stories did.

Microlite20 OSS (Old School Style) Basic Edition Available

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Shortly after I finished the original version of Microlite74 a couple of years ago, I started work on a different way to do "old school" in Microlite20. I even mentioned the game a few times in forum and on my blog: Microlite20 OSS -- where OSS stood for "Old School Style." Where Microlite74 was an attempt to do "old school" by recreating the 1974 0e edition of the world's most popular fantasy RPG in Microlite20 terms, Microlite20 OSS was intended to encourage the "old school style" in the much more standard 3.x edition base Microlite20 was written for. It other words, Microlite20 OSS was intended to allow old school style play with most the 3.x SRD stuff standard Microlite20 supported. The project was forgotten as my wife's cancer treatments took a bigger and bigger toll out of out lives. By the time she recovered enough that all we had to worry about were the bills, I had completely forgotten the project.

I was surprised to discover a fairly complete draft of Microlite20 OSS when I was searching through old files for more Microlite20 stuff for the just released Microlite20 RPG Collection. After looking at it, I decided that I could borrow a few things from my playtest draft of Microlite75 and have a "Basic Edition" version of Microlite20 OSS that was ready for release. After finishing and releasing Spring 2010 Revised Edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection this morning, I finished up Microlite20 OSS Basic.

While the game should be complete (and as playable as Microlite20), I'm calling this version 0.9 because it has not been proofread (and I'm the Typo King) and has had no real playtesting. It's the "Basic Edition" because I play an advanced edition with material from the Microlite20 Expert rules and the like. There are just under two pages of rules with a third page for the OGL and some notes on the "old school" style of play. In other words, it is about as complete as the original slightly over 1 page version of Microlite20. It's a 50K or so PDF file. Enjoy.

Note: Like the Microlite75 playtest, this game is NOT included in the just released Microlite20 RPG Collection.

Download a free copy from Mediafire: http://www.mediafire.com/?mll2zjdgyjd

The Microlite20 RPG Collection - Revised (Free Download)

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As people seemed to like the Microlite20 RPG Collection, I've uploaded a revised/expanded version with material I missed before. There are a lot of revised games and some new games I had missed the first time around. Production values are a tiny bit higher: there is an introduction and the table of contents has page numbers to make it easier to use your PDF reader to find a given Microlit20-based game or variant. Note as this is just PDF files combined into a single document, the pages themselves are not numbered.

The download is free. However, if you like it please consider a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. We have a huge pile of doctor and dentist bills this month (my wife is finally able to get lower teeth) so donations now are really appreciated).

The revised version has a new link. It's about 660 pages (and 20 megs). Download from Mediafire via this link: http://www.mediafire.com/?zzj1yjn2wy2