Posts Tagged With: B/X

You’re carrying what..!?!? (1e)

Yet another fix for another somewhat broken system in AD&D (and OD&D and D&D) – encumbrance… The size and weight of coins made no sense, it danced exceedingly awkwardly with the rules for armour, and just generally was ignored by almost everyone I knew – except the game essentially forced people into figuring things out for some reason and then everyone was frustrated because of the sheer kludginess of the rules.

This system owes a great many, perhaps even almost exclusive thanks to James Raggi and the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system from which this pretty much lifted and tweaked slightly.

Simply put, average the characters Strength and Constitution. Gnomes and Goblins add +2, Dwarves and Half-Ogres add +4, and Half-Trolls and Daemons add +6. This is the Encumbrance (rating) of the character. Roughly speaking, this is the total amount of items a character can carry – based on both weight and mass.

  • Small items have no value save in groups (of about 5).
    • A piece of Normal Clothing is a 0 Item, as is a Belt Pouch and Jewelry
    • Small Knives and Daggers are 0 Items, as are Needlers and Derringers.
    • Clips for Darters and Boxes of Cased Ammunition for Firearms are 0 Item.
  • One handed weapons or objects count as one item.
    • Swords, Large Daggers/Knives, Axes, Hammers, etc are 1 Item.
    • Darters and Pistols are each 1 Item
    • Staves and Spears are each 1 Item
    • A Cloak, a Normal Quiver (20), Shoulder Sack, Bedroll, 50’ Rope, a Grappling Hook, a Torch, a Lantern, etc. are all 1 Item
    • A Week of Iron Rations and Bottle of Wine are each 1 Item.
    • A standard Potion is 1 Item
  • Two handed or especially fragile weapons or objects count as two items.
    • Two-Handed Weapons are 2 Items, including Knight’s Lance and all Polearms
    • Bows, Crossbows, Rifles, and Carbines are all 2 Items
    • A Horse Quiver (40), a Backpack, a Pup-Tent, and a Large Sack are all 2 Items
  • Some particularly large or bulky items may count as three or more items.
    • A Saddle  or Sailor’s Bag is 3 Items
    • A Small Chest or a 4-Person Tent is 4 Items
    • A Large Chest or an 8-Person Pavillion is 8 Items

Armour, itself being far more bulky and a hindrance than mere clothing also has specific values of Encumbrance:

  • Fighting Sleeves, a Fighting Cloaks, Great Coats, and Great Healms are all 1 Item
  • Hunting Leathers is 4 Items, Gnomish Leathers are 2 Items
  • Leather Armour is 6 Items, Studded Leather is 7 Items
  • Chainmail is 8 Items, Elven Chain is 2 Items
  • Doublemail is 10 Items, Dwarven Doublemail is 5 Items
  • Plate and Chain is 12 Items, Elven Plate is 6 Items
  • Plate Armour is 10 Items, Dwarven Plate is 5 Items
  • A Buckler or Small Shield is 1 Items
  • A Medium Shield and a Large Shield are both 2 Items
  • A Great Shield is 3 Items

Any magical armor is 1 Item, save the very light armour types (Fighting Sleeves, Fighting Cloaks, etc) which become 0 Items.

You add up all of your Items and consult the following chart – which gives you your relative movement rate and assigns some other potential penalties for those people who want to walk around looking like a packhorse.


#of Items Move To Hit Penalty AC Penalty

Lift Penalty


Up to EV Full No Penalty No Penalty No Penalty

Lightly Encumbered

Up to 1¼ EV ¾ No Penalty No Penalty

Only 90%

Moderately Encumbered

Up to 1½ EV ½ No Penalty No Penalty

Only 50%

Heavily Encumbered

Up to 2x EV ¼ No Dex Bonus No Dex Bonus

Only 10%

Severely Encumbered Up to 3x EV 1” No Dex or Str No Dex or Shield

Not Allowed

Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Modules I’d like to run…

So, at this point I have run the party through two “introductory modules” – Scourge of the Howling Horde and then Keep on the Borderlands and I pretty much set up a clear lead in to Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde. But I’ve been looking at the rest of the stuff sitting on my shelf and deciding what I’d like to run as well – understanding that there is usually some extra adventure in and around linking the modules up in a reasonable manner.

No brainers:

  • The Slaver Modules (A1-A4, though A4 is never a certainty)
  • Ravenloft (I6, and possibly the sequel, House of Gryphon Hill, I10)
  • Castle Amber (X2)
  • In Search of the Unknown (B1)
  • Castle of the Silver Princess (B3)
  • The Giant Modules – though tweaked for my world (G1-G3)
  • The Secret of Bone Hill (L1) and Assassins Knot (L2)
  • Tomb of Horrors (S1) and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (the Boxed set)
  • White Plume Mountain (S2)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojancth (S4)
  • Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)
  • The Ruins of Undermountain(Both I & II)
  • The Ruins of Myth Drannor
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2)

If I can figure out how to:

  • The Desert of Desolation series (I3-15)
  • Isle of Dread (X1)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (C1)
  • The Witchblade Trilogy (by Privateer Press)
  • Death’s Reach (E1 for 4E)
  • Keep on the Shadowfell (H1 for 4E)
  • Hellgate Keep
  • The Wyrmskull Throne

I also have a pile of Kenzer and Company modules that look like they’d be fun, and I keep eyeballing the Pathfinder modules as well because they look like they could be mined for a great fun also. I kind of make a habit of picking modules for the cheap if I find them at used bookstores or the like – rarely do I not findsomethinguseful in them… Similarly I have a handful of the “official” 3E and 3.5E monules that clearly look like they’d be a gas to play – even if they are balanced a bit funky at times.

Now, I might be able to pull a couple of these off via members of the group having to split off and “solo adventure” (which may in fact mean that the group actually gets to create new characters to go and help the “solo” adventurer in their quest) – Frater Gregor is a rather excellent example of this given that he’s a disgraced paladin at the moment. He’s certainly going to need to go and do something to regain his status – and something like B3 would be perfect. Similarly, the rogues and the mages might decide that plundering the Tomb of Horrors would be worth the effort while the Society of Light folks decide that this is not even worth discussing.

That is actually the major problem that is developing for the party, the group has two real power groups that have significantly different goals in life – the very good Society of Light folks and the rather mercenary Rogues. Everybody still gets along, but there has been the odd bit of tension here and there – and Frater Nikolai is certainly very, very focused on “doing good”. He’s also a noble, so the whole idea of “making money” is a bit beneath him in many ways, he doesn’t begrudge the others that desire (it’s only natural of course) but his concerns aren’t quite so tawdry…



Categories: Campaign, Campaign Development | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adventure Ideas

My son is playing trumpet in the band for his school play, Beauty and the Beast, which is based on the Disney movie. I went to go watch it Wednesday night and was struck that it wouldn’t make for that bad of a backdrop for an adventure. It would be in the same tradition as some of the old fun house modules like Dungeonland or Beyond the Crystal Cave – but even like modules like Castle Amber and Ravenloft.

That is one of the things that I don’t get – there are folks in the OSR that will decry Ravenloft in one breath as the beginning of the end of TSR module design because there is a plot that isn’t player-centric and “railroady” and then hold upCastle Amber up as this paragon of classic fun house module design.

It sort of has me wondering if they’ve read either of them recently.

In Ravenloft there is the quaint conceit of the “Gypsy Fortune Reading” that determines a selection of things within the module, it is based on the story Dracula, an incredibly basic victory condition (kill the Strahd), a series of serious and humorous encounters in the town and castle, a clear back story to the events of the module, and the inability to leave the environs because of magical choking fog.

While in Castle Amber the module is based on the works of Clark Ashton Smith, the party has a very specific and convoluted victory condition, the same sort of mixture when it comes to serious and comical encounters, a very clear back story to the module, …and the inability to leave the environs at all because of magical choking fog.

In Ravenloft there are a mixture of deadly and not-so-deadly encounters, and the main villain is anything but a pushover. There are very few, if any, “snap, you’re dead” traps or encounters and the rewards in treasure and magic are basically reasonable when it comes to the risks involved. There are, however, no freebies – characters that are dead, are dead and they are pretty much stuck in Barovia until they succeed or die.

In Castle Amber there are plenty of deadly encounters, especially of the simple “you are just screwed variety”. The rewards in magic and treasure are relatively high as compared to Ravenloft, and the characters get magical healing, spell recovery, and level advancement in between sessions – plus there are opportunities for significant permanent character bonuses/gains and up to four characters will be resurrected at the end of the module if the characters succeed.

This is what I find so annoying by some of the talk that comes out of the OSR – many of the complaints don’t really seem to be reasonable when examined with even a bit of critical analysis. It’s more like they are simply looking for easy reasons to justify a dislike of TSR at a certain point in its history. Now, the OSR complaints about things like Dragonlance and how it sidelines the players is pretty reasonable (though you might be able to make similar, though not nearly so strong, arguments about the Desert of Desolation trilogy)  – but again, this seems like a generalized hate “Hickman-hate” rather than a reasonable critique of his pre-Dragonlance modules while the status given to Castle Amber seems comparatively like a Moldvay-bromance based on his role with the revision of D&D.

To be clear, I really like both modules and plan on running them both if I can manage it.
Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, OSR | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Al on Moldvay

So Al over at Beyond the Black Gate has been doing a series on Moldvay’s instructions on how to play D&D. It’s interesting because I never played the Moldvay rules, I was a “Holmes gamer” who pretty much immediately moved to AD&D. So while I had friends who had the Moldvay D&D rules and who really got into the whole alphabet soup of BXLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (I never have understood these same people’s complaint about level inflation in AD&D).

But in any case, many of the OSR have a deep love for the Moldvay rules and Al has been taking some sections of the instructional part of how to be a GM. My son is getting ready to run Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, or Deathwatch, and I’ve been enjoying the series and figured he would as well. So here is the collection of links to the series:

Moldvay – Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art

Moldvay – “That’s not in the rules!”

Moldvay – There’s always a chance.

Moldvay – The DM is the Boss

Moldvay – Everyone is here to have fun.

Moldvay – Everything is balanced.

Moldvay – Your character doesn’t know that

Some interesting reading in there, and the blog is just pretty darn good in general.


Categories: FYI, Game Design, OSR | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Reconstructionism v. Romanticism

This is how I think about part of the “Simulationist” debate that rears it’s head now-and-again through the OSR blogosphere…

On the one hand you have Reconstructionism (stolen from Neo-Pagan circles), where the goal is try to simulate and reconstruct, as closely as possible, the “real world” – on an extrapolated real world based on “real principles” and a minimum of handwavium. So, in game terms, this means that games like Harn are very high on the scale. Working your way down from there, in roughly descending adherence to the value of “real world simulation”, you have games like Traveller 2300 then Traveller, Delta Green then Call of cthulhu, Cyberpunk 2020, and Pendragon. In miniatures games this would be the catalog from Ground Zero Games (Dirtside, Star Grunt, Full Thrust). In novels, you could see Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels as being relatively Reconstructionist rather than Romantic, as is George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels. The ERB’s John Carter of Mars novels have a strong Reconstructionist tone to them whereas his Tarzan novels are a bit less so and probably swerve into Romanticism – assuming that John Carter isn’t already there.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Romanticism, where the goal is to create or evoke a fantastic existence rather than simulate reality. In increasing Romanticism in terms of D&D, we have OD&D and 2E (2E did it very badly IMO), then BXCMI and 1E (still relatively low on the scale), then 3E and 3.5, and then 4E at the further end of the scale. But in other games, in ascending order of Romanticism, we have… GURPS or Victoriana, Runequest, Stormbringer/Elric, Rolemaster, Talislanta, and then perhaps something like Exalted. In miniatures games this is the world of Games Workshop. In novels this would be Storm Constantine’s Wreathu novels and probably anything by Ed Greenwood or David Eddings. Discworld is very Romantic…

Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different. It’s kind of interesting to note that most of the games I play are pretty Reconstructionist in nature. My “Pulp Cuthulhu” game swings over to Romantic nature because of the house rules – and my 1E game similarly spikes up the Romanticism because of the make-up of the multiverse. So, where a game sits is a combination of the game engine and design, but also the individual game world/campaign.


Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, OSR | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seraph Keep…

At the end of the last game session, where the rest of the players created characters and we figured out what the other players had done post-Goblins to get training and whatnot, I threw out a bunch of rumors that would have taken players into a wide variety of entry-level modules. Of course they picked what is arguably the toughest of the entire bunch.

B2 – Keep on the Borderlands

I have been looking over this module as it is printed and I’m remembering why this is such a classic. It is designed to give TPK’s to players who don’t learn OD&D tactics. That is, managing resources like healing and spells, and knowing when to run away and get help. It also has those couple of very D&Dish monsters that seem way, way, way out of context for a LVL1-3 module. Perhaps it is just my fading memory, but it seems like D&D always had these kind of crazy overpowered monsters in modules compared to AD&D.

I have no idea as to what I want to do. The last time I ran this for low-level characters I tweaked things down a notch. This time I’m very tempted to leave everything as it is and see how it all comes out – it is quite probable that a couple of PC’s will bite it, even if I load up the party with a handful of helpful NPC’s (who are also likely to die in the process).

But in the process, they’ll get to go to “Seraph Keep” an outpost and small community of the Society of Light in the foothills of the great Mountains of Martyrs, just over the border of the Grand Duchy of Sohac which is ruled by the seemingly immortal mage Gordan Ran-Wyld (a former PC from about 10-12 years ago) since the Mad God’s war. Amusingly, all of these players have run into Gordan in an earlier game with different characters and about half of these players played in the campaign that spawned him. One lady could arguably run into her old PC, who is also still working for Gordan, that will be fun if it ever happens.



Categories: Campaign, Game Design, Game Play | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Gaming II

So I’ve been thinking after my last post about levels and power gaming.

One of the biggest differences between OD&D and AD&D was that levels in OD&D tended trowards the significantly lower, this changed significantly when the B/X/C/M/I (shortened to “B/X”) rules came into place and D&D turned into a power game the likes that AD& could never even envision (at least until the later stages of 2E). I suspect that this is the reason why I tend to furrow my brow when folks start talking about level/power creep in AD&D and go on about the purity of D&D – I came in really just after the end of the real OD&D era and the beginning of the AD&D and B/X eras (e.g. Late Golden and the prime-time of the Silver Age).

But I had two major groups that I interacted with, mine (that I DM’d for) and SD’s (that he DM’d for and I played in). Out of SD’s group there were a couple of other DM’s who played on-and-off (mostly off, I joined the group after SD had graduated college and folks had kind of drifted off getting jobs and the like) and there was a fair amount of cross talk about campaigns and “how to do things.” Plus, then of my players ended up starting his own group.

All of these groups did sandbox play in self-generated worlds. Some of us experimented with things like Oerth or Faerun and whatever the Judge’s Guild World was named. Yes, modules were used as often as they came out, but pretty much people invented thier own adventures and there was the usual mish-mosh of rules and rules systems (Chaosium’s games were a favorite to steal additional rules and magic systems from). If you gamed regularly, there just weren’t enough modules out there to use. Plus, and this is the point I was wandering too – the modules were just too damn easy for the most part, at least for the level ranges that were suggested for the higher ones.

As much as the G & D series is beloved and full of all sorts of fun – our experience was that a well-run group of 6-8 players who had advanced through play and loaded for bear could pretty much get through them at around 7th level of so, not the nine or so 9th-10th level characters that are suggested. And this was done with the DM’s in question usually boosting up modules a bit with tougher takes on the monsters.

SD’s world, by the time I stopped playing had characters that had topped out at around 10-12th level. There were a couple that were higher, but this included the fact that people had worked their orginal characters up to that level. In my game the highest level characters averaged around in the 8th to 9th level – though there were a couple of notable exceptions that I’ll probably talk about in a later post.

In both worlds, characters power ended up being less about level and more about who they knew and the relationships they had built with the people and institutions of power – and knowing how to use what abilities and magic they had to the best effect. The character’s were the movers and shakers, the “Young Turks” of the game world and they acted accordingly.

One of the things I’m not so sure about some of the talk coming out of the OSR is that it seems to equate “high-level” (certainly a relative term on a campaign by campaign basis) with “Monty Haul” and I just can’t get on board with that. It doesn’t make any sense to me and just seems reactionary bluster in the wake of the OSR against anything vaguely 3E-ish with character ability bloat.



Categories: Campaign Development, Game Play | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Blog at