Posts Tagged With: OD&D

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

Listen! Did you smell something? (1e)

People don’t realize, but AD&D has always had a Perception system and Perception checks, if you check out page’s 59 and 60 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide it has rules for both “Detection of Invisibility” and “Listening at Doors” that apply to all classes – outside of the Surprise rules or the Thief’s ability to “Hear Noise”.

This also ignores the whole set of special racially-based detection abilities of Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, etc. and the rules for detecting Poison in the Player’s Handbook

First off, it says that Humans, Dwarves, and Half-Elves has a base 10% chance to Hear Noise, Elves and Half-Goblins have base 15%, and Gnomes have a base 20% (which matches the bonuses in the Player’s Handbook for racial bonuses to Hear Noise). Furthermore, at character creation roll a d20, on a 1 you have a +5% and on a 2 you have +10% to this base chance due to “Keen Hearing”. There is of course, no statement as to how this applies to Thieves…

Furthermore, in the Detection of Invisibility table it is a function of Level or Hit Dice as indexed with Intelligence on a matrix – starting at 17+ Intelligence and a 7th level character having a 5% chance to Detect the Invisible. At 15th level this character will have a 95% chance, and the progression is rather clunky and uneven across the matrix. But according to this, a character of average Intelligence will have about a 5% chance to Detect the Invisible roughly around name level and will have about a 50% chance at 15th level and higher.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just integrate these two things into one damn table with a more even progression?

Perhaps even something that might grant some of those of those Roguish types something even a bit more to make them a tad bit more special that just a fighter?

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 10% (Note some races have different bases)

  • Roll 1d20 at Character Generation, on a 1 you have Keen Senses and gain a +5% to that Base, on a 2 you have Very Keen Senses and have a +10% to that Base. (Note, this also gets used when checking Surprise)
  • Rogues and Warrior Monks get +5% for every odd level.
  • Entertainers and Psychics get a flat +10% to the Base.

If attempting to Detect the Invisible, characters add their Level (or creatures their Hit Dice) to their Intelligence score and multiple the result by two, they then add this to their normal Perception / Hear Noise percentage. Penalize it by -60% (-30% for Name level characters or higher), and this is the chance to Detect the Invisible.

When there is the chance to Notice Poison, easy checks (poison on a blade) tend to use the normal Perception base while determining if food or drink has been poisoned generally uses same percentage as Detecting the Invisible. This is a non-cumulative roll, and is instead merely checked against the base each relevant interval of time (usually per round of exposure).

There, now that is a simple and unified system rooted in the Dungeon Master’s Guide ideas and rules. You can use it to roll on all sorts of Perception checks if you want, but between this and the Surprise rules, you have pretty much everything you might need to figure out what people notice, and how surprised they are if they don’t. All of these percentages can be adapted to use for other related situations, and all of them can be modified up or down as the DM sees fit depending on the circumstances. I don’t tend to modify them down, but am more like to have a character roll and see how well or how badly they make it in order to dole out less or more information – but that’s also my DMing style.


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

Surprise! (1e)

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that I have a house-rule for Surprise in my game given that rules for Surprise in pretty much every edition of D&D before 3rd are considered kludgy and screwed-up – and for all I know 3rd and 4th are just as bad, I just haven’t played those systems so I have no clue.

Mine is an infinitely more simple system that tries very hard to keep the flavor of the original system. In short, roll 1d6 (I have my players do this individually, monsters I tend to roll in groups) – if you roll (three or more (3+) over your opponent you get a round of surprise. This is then further modified by a number of things:

  • Dexterity Reaction Modifier: -3 (for low Dex) to +3 (for high Dex)
  • Distracted: -4
  • Asleep: -8
  • Keen Senses: +1 or +2
  • Encumbrance:
    • Normal Gear (35#- and Low Bulk): No Penalty
    • Heavy Gear (70#- or Fairly Bulky):  -2
    • Very Heavy Gear (105#- or Bulky): -4
    • Encumbered (105#+ or Very Bulky): -8
  • Armour:
    • No Armour: +1
    • Wearing Chain & Plate or Plate Armor: -2
    • Wearing a Great Helm: -4
  • Intoxication:
    • Moderate Intoxication: -1
    • Great Intoxication: -5

There are also a handful of other bonuses based on class or race. Here is a representative sample:

  • Goblins: +1
  • Rangers: +1
  • Barbarians: +1 (+2 in Familiar Terrain)
  • Warrior Monks: +1 per 3 Levels
  • Rogues: +1 per 4 Levels (Bounty Hunters get an additional +1)
  • Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves when not in metal armour and only in the company of other Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves that are similarly clad, or are 90′ distant from the rest of party: +2

Now, Scouts and Barbarians still have their “Back Protection” as per the normal rules (and I give that to Warrior-Monks as well) so while they may or may not always Surprise opponents they have an additional chance to avoid being Backstabbed or Assassinated. I also tend to give hunting predators and skittish prey a bonus to their surprise rolls equal to their Hit Dice. In general, I allow Backstabs and Assassinations when there is surprise – and this lets Rogues be somewhat more combat effective (though not overly so). This system seems to work pretty well, and it replaces all of the oddly mismatched dice of the different character classes and gets rid of the utterly contradictory rules in the Player’s Handbood and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.



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

The Houri… Errr… I mean Tantric!

Those who know me in person know that I am not exactly a person who shies away from controversy, and for years I’ve had mages who at least in some form or another have been “sexy” and by “sexy” I mean mages whose abilities and studies owe something to the real world practices of tantra, karezza, and other forms of sexualized esoteric practice. When I decided to go back to AD&D I was trying to figure out how to model this sort of flavor-text (even if discretely “off-screen”) in the AD&D system and I tripped over the Houri in an old issue of White Dwarf, #13 if you are interested in looking up the class yourself.

It seems that I’m not the only person to do this.

I just happen to call mine “the Tantric”. These are the great courtesans of my game world, combining all the social savvy of the Greek hetaera, the entertainment skills of a Japanese geisha, along with mastery of analogs to the Kama Sutra and the Perfumed Garden. Tantrics are generally a highly respected profession, though there are groups which are less enamoured of them than others which hold them in high esteem. My version is substantially the same as the version from White Dwarf, the Hit Dice, spell list, and spell progression are the same. What is different? Well, the Seduction ability from the article doesn’t really work for me. That whole formula thing is way, way, *way* too complicated for use in the middle of a game session. So I’ve simplified the heck out of that.

Seduction – This ability cannot, without some form of magical enhancement, be used in combat (save to distract a opponent in order to bring some item or ability to bare- errr… bear….). It represents the highly trained wiles of the Tantric, in combination with techniques of voice, movement, meridian manipulation and bodily display that entice the target into an intimate amorous embrace. If the initial roll for Seduction is made, a second roll can be made in an effort to Charm the target (who gets a standard saving throw, -1 per three levels of the Tantric). If the attempt to Charm is successful then a roll may be made in an attempt to implant a Suggestion (at a -1 to the save per 3 levels of the Tantric). The chance for success at Seduction is 10% +5% per level of the Tantric, plus the Reaction Modifier of the Tantric as calculated by Charisma and Comeliness. Targets are allowed to subtract their own Reaction Modifier from the chance for success, or have some sort of special resistance due to mental or physical fortitude.

The article also mentioned that “Tantrics” could essentially “split-class” with Thieves if they had decent enough attributes, somewhat akin to how the Archer can be united with a Ranger to make “Archer-Rangers”. I actually have a small handful of classes that do this in some way, but that is a different post. Instead of Thief, I allow Tantrics to split-class with Assassin, the most common version of which are the Dakini – who essentially act as the “protection” for Tantrics as a whole. This is where the combat application of Seduction might get applied – usually for a backstab or an assassination attempt.

Treat your Tantrics nice, or the next one you meet might be a Dakini…



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


So Christian has a great post here on alignment – and on Lawful Good in particular – over at Destination Unknown.

I’m one of those folks who doesn’t have a huge hate on for the AD&D alignment system. I find it pretty elegant in design and pretty simple to use and certainly grants more nuance than the OD&D Lawful/Neutral/Chaos division. It’s a pretty Four-color system for a pretty four-color game. Now, I do think that the AD&D system is amazingly badly explained and implemented at times – the Palladium RPG had a much better way to explain things with their Good/Selfish/Evil categories which gave specific guidelines and lists as to what the various “ethos” would do and not do. It was also a much “grayer” or grittier system.

The AD&D game itself doesn’t help because there is some confusing and contradictory things written into the rules itself. Does Detect Evil detect otherwise normal or mundane evil individuals? Or does it require some sort of supernatural connection like being a cleric or a champion of some evil deity? Of it does, what exactly is the use of the Know Alignment spell?

(In general, I argue that for Detect Evil to work, there needs to be some sort of supernatural connection – otherwise you need the Know Alignment spell.)

In my recent “wilderness years” of home-brewed systems, I used a combination of the AD&D and the Palladium RPG systems. I wrote up extra Ethos, in that style, to match up to the various other AD&D alignments and ran with it – and it worked out pretty well. I’ve kept those notes for people and just went back to the AD&D labels. One of the things that I like that came out of that period was that I really came to a better place in deciding how to handle evil and making the divisions between Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, and Neutral Evil something that actually mattered.

It also gave me the space to explain how evil people and good people working together in society. I like to say that the Good-Evil axis is the morals and the Lawful-Chaos axis is the ethics. While morals are important for a well-working society, it’s the ethical codes that will really bind it together. In particular, if everyone is Lawful Something, they may disagree (and really disagree at times) about some particular moral issue, they all have the same basic agreement around the sorts of things that a society needs to run. Throw in a fair number of Neutral Somethings and a limited number of Chaotic Somethings and you’ll have a pretty functional nation-state – at least until you bring religion into the mix…

And what is it with those goofy alignment languages?


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

And in other Gaming News…

I managed to pick up a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Grindhouse Edition and I arrived a couple of weeks ago. This has given me enough time to review it, and just generally poke at the guts a bit to see how it seems to work.

I like it.

I bought it originally because I really want to support not just the OSR, but folks who are putting out a quality product with decent design values. LOFTP meets this criteria. I also like supporting people who aren’t afraid to do things that might offend other people. LOFTP:GH certainly fits the bill in this department as well.

After now looking at all of the art and reading the game I am rolling my eyes and thinking to myself, “This is it? This is what people have been having apoplexy about?” Really!?!?” I know I am somewhat jaded, this is somewhat normal given my profession, my research interests in my profession, and the general types of literature that I like to read. But seriously, people need to relax or somehow otherwise buy a clue if they think that this game is the end of Western Civilization. Sure there are some breasts, and some graphic violence (in a very cartoonish style I have to add), but I hate to break it to all of the OSR folks out there – as I mentioned before I worked in a comic book shop in the 80’s and this is very, very tame compared to some of the independents that were published back then (let alone now). Have any of you read the original Crow for Pete’s sake? Or ever looked at any copy of Heavy Metal magazine?

Anyways, enough of that! Let’s get to the actual game.

This is a simplified and streamlined OD&D, not anything remotely resembling either B/X or AD&D. This is a fine thing in that Raggi has also made the decision to create a very specific flavor of game setting rather than try to make it generic. You could certainly use it in a world of your own unique and different design, but I think that might be missing the point somewhat. Now, it’s a combination of the artwork and the writing, but I think “Solomon Kane” when I read this, or “Bran Mak Morn” or “Conan” – I could just as easily move towards “Averoigne” (ala Clark Ashton Smith) if I wanted to, and even as exotic as Glenn Cook’s “Dread Empire” or “Black Company” novels. But in any case, we’re talking a much more low-magic setting than standard OD&D, or even Leiber’s “Fafherd and the Grey Mouser” tales. Though if you wanted to go high-magic in this setting, Moorcock’s “Elric” novels would work really nicely I think.

Ok, maybe not, but it would be an interesting experiment.

I like the encumbrance system. A lot. I’d already started to adapt it for my Home Brew system from the Free PDF available and I’ve pretty much decided to adapt it for my AD&D game. I’ll see about posting my version in a bit. Combat is nice and simple, a bit too simple for my tastes, but that’s part of why I play an AD&D mod. Magic has a great flavor, and I really love monsters as unique beings. It’s a bit further than I go in my games, but in general the major opponents in my games are humans, humanoids, and demi-humans (along with undead and lycanthropes) – you don’t run into a bunch of chimera or manticores or whatever in my campaign world unless you are going out of your way to find them. As many people have said, the spin on the thief as the “specialist” also makes a great deal of sense. Finally, while I’m not generally a fan of the “race as class” idea, it seems to work here for whatever reason.

I look forward to buying Carcosa when and if I get the chance, and I talked my spouse into contributing to the post-Kickstarter for the Adventurer Conquerer King System to get me a holiday gift when it came out – another pair of OSR offerings that I think deserve extra looks.


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

“Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…”

So, when I did my House Rules when starting up with the Barrow Downs game I decided that I needed to do something with Non-Weapon Proficiences (aka Skills) – I think I made a mistake. Now I essentially liked how Oriental Adventures introduced NWP’s into the game. It really made sense given the setting, and I even looked at the additions from the Survival Guides with a certain level of good humor.

These days, and even then, it was increasingly hard to think of a game without skills of some sort – I was used to games that were heavily skill-focused (Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 for example) and that has certainly been the increasing trend of the industry. It is certainly the direction that 3E went in…

So I went in and tweaked the heck out of the NWP lists from the existing 1E books and a couple of Dragon articles and came up with a decent list that pretty much covered all the bases. Even decided to use the multiple d6 method for doing Skill and Stat checks that someone on the Internet suggested – I honestly can’t remember who it was.

But in any case I’ve now been kind of playing with that for a couple of months now and I’m not liking it. How many years did I play AD&D with no such system in place? There really isn’t any need, I’m certainly not really using it now save in vague and awkward ways when there is some sort of weird question as to what a character should be able to do but doesn’t have the NWP for it. And there are never enough NWP’s to start off with and you never get enough fast enough.

I used to base what a character would do on a four things – First, whatever their class is. Second, whatever Secondary Skill they rolled up. Then, what social class they were, and finally whatever culture/race they were. If we look at those four (or five if you count race separately) things then you will likely have a pretty unique set of things a character can do – plus adding in whatever sort of idiosyncratic thing a player might want their character to be interested in.

And just giving characters new skills or abilities was always a nice way to reward them with something other than a +X Doo-Hickie.

Other folks have talked about how the progression of D&D has been to protect players from bad DM’s by the institution and codification of rules to cover all of the things that used to be under the aegis of the DM. The more I’ve looked at various rule sets (including things like LOTFP: WFRP – of which I now own the Grindhouse Edition and am very happy with) with both a more critical and a more reflective eye, the more I think that is correct.

Here’s the deal, I am pretty confident in saying that I am not a bad GM. At my best, I had a regular gaming group of about ten people, at my worst I have always been able to muster two or three up, and even now I have seven people showing up to my house to play and two people Skyping in – and I’m pretty confident that if I wanted a couple more players I could get them with a minimum of effort.

So why am I trying to protect my players? What am I trying to protect them from? Me?

That’s nonsense. Why run a game that cramps my style and cramps the style of my players?

There are so many things that are actually broken about the OD&D and AD&D systems (Encumbrance anyone? or Initiative? Hell, even Surprise?) that I am kind of embarrassed that I even spent the energy on this. It is certainly a viable way to work a game system – it’s not a very D&D way to run a game system. Old School was “Yes, and” – the presumption was that unless it was something that was specific to another class you had a chance to do it, “Yes, and let’s see how well you do” instead of the “No, but” version of later editions. In these rules the assumption was that if it wasn’t written on your character sheet the answer was “No, but you can learn how at a later level”.

I don’t like playing “No, but” – I like my AD&D games to be heroic and four-colour (heck, I like most of my games to be like that) and “No, but” doesn’t really allow that until high levels (if ever). I suppose that this is what 4E was designed to address from what I can glean looking it over – but it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with D&D other than the name.

So, I guess I’m dropping the idea of anything more than Secondary Skills – and that’s pretty much a Middle and Lower Class thing. Nobles get all sorts of education, they don’t a Secondary Skill as well…


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

I owe a post about the last game session but… (1e)

…I’ve been thinking about Skeletons and Zombies.

Probably because of the Ghouls from the last game session, and my Ghouls are far more inspired and drawn from Lovecraft than from AD&D… 😉

But I always thought that basic Skeletons and Zombies were kind of… off… and looking at them again (as compared to the versions for my HomeBrew) I have to say that I have the same opinion. My vision of Skeletons is rather Ray Harryhausen-esque, lightning-fast and deadly. So years ago I made the decision that they had two strikes per round, but also did damage by weapon type and had AC based on the armor worn (usually with a bit of penalty due to rot and damage). I think the “always do 1d6 damage” was a hold-over from OD&D that makes little sense in a world of mutiple damage dice for weapons. It’s fine for thier claw or bite attack, but a weapon is a weapon.

Zombies were better, and I didn’t really change them all that much – the big difference is that I always thought it made sense that they had the chance to cause disease when striking somebody like a Giant Rat. I never went so far as to make them Romero-esque zombies that passed on a zombie plague (that was a different creature entirely), but I always figured being clawed or bitten by a rotting flesh and bone is pretty nasty.

But what I was thinking about was Skeleton and Zombie animals. I know (or seem to remember) that there are rules for these in the Monster Manual II, but I’m kind of wondering what I would come up with that let’s me just turn around and apply it to and normal creature and come out with the monster in question.

So (Demi)Human(oid) Skeletons are 1HD, a normal human is 1d6HP, so Monster Skeletons are 1 and 1/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question. If a normal human punches for 1d2 HP (generous, but reasonable I think for these purposes and based on a 1st level Monk) and a Skeleton does 1d6 then Monster Skeletons do roughly 3x damage dice when attacking – plus they get double normal attacks. A normal Human is AC10, and a Skeleton is AC7, so we’ll give Monster Skeletons the same 3 point AC shift.

Zombies are 2HD, which would suggest that Monster Zombies are 2 and 2/3 the normal HD or HP range of the creature in question when measured against a (Demi)Human(oid) standard HP. Looking at damage, they would 4x the damage dice (often rounded to nearest die or so). They still attack last, in Post-Rounds, and get half normal Movement because Zombies only have 6″ Move compared to the normal 12″ human move. Zombies are AC8, so Monster Zombies get the 2 point AC shift.

I think it is also reasonable to suggest that Animate Dead animates 1HD per level, not just 1 Skeleton or Zombie per level of the spell caster. This means that Zombies are harder to call up, but I’m ok with that. Of course, it also suggests that the Clerical Turn Undead table could or should be modified to key to HD instead of creature type (didn’t 2E do that?)


Skeleton (Black) Bear: HD4+4, AC4, Move12″, #Attacks: 6 (Clawx2/Clawx2/Bitex2 – 1d8+1/1d8+1/3d6), Special Attack: Trample as Bear (for 4d4), Special Defences: 1/2 Damage from Sharp/Edged Weapons, Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Damage for the trample was reduced because a skeleton simply doesn’t have the mass of an actual bear.

Zombie Lion: HD13, AC4, Move6″, #Attacks: 3 (Claw/Claw/Bite – 2d8/2d8/4d10), Special Attack: Automatic Rake with Hind Claws (3d8/3d8) after two hits with Claws, Can Leap up to 10′, Special Defences: Immune to Sleep, Charm, Cold/Frost and Hold. Special Vulnerabilities: Can be Turned/Rebuked, Holy Water causes 2-8 points of damage per vial.

Leap was reduced because of zombification, and AC was simplified.

Yup, this seems pretty simple – and means that really nasty zombies and skeletons are going to be limited in number for the most part simply due to the difficulty in controlling them.


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


Somebody in a comment someplace used that word to describe the way some folks (ok, it was James M., but that isn’t really the point of this post, and James M. was just an exemplar not a paragon) will wax poetic about the early days of OD&D and the true literary roots of the OSR, OD&D, D&D, and AD&D…

I just kind of realized why I don’t get it.

For some of these guys it’s about them finally reading the books in Appendix N and “grokking it” – for others it’s about capturing an imagined style of game or campaign based on old notes of campaigns, patchwork lore gleaned from old interviews and articles, and talking to a few of the old Grognards still left.

I have to say, the map is not the landscape.

Now, part of this realization on my part is because I’m a freak of nature that reads faster than most everyone I’ve ever met. This was great in grad school, and a host of other areas, but made life kind of crummy back when I couldn’t afford to buy books at the rate I read them. FWIW, I can read an average paperback on a couple of hour commute into or out of Chicago on the Metra – I could explain the science of why my brain can do this sort of, but just take my word for it. Combine this with a home, growing up, which had parents who were scifi and fantasy readers (as well as just bibliophiles in general) and I had read probably half of what was in Appendix N before I picked up any RPG at all.

I was playing RPG’s and picking up older books off the shelves of the house long before I was spending my own money on books in any real way. And what I was reading for inspiration and to help me be a better DM wasn’t fiction… it was non-fiction.

I was reading Davis’ Life on a Medieval Barony (which I would love to get another copy of, I liberated it from my parents, and it was lost in a move years ago). When I had money, and wanted to figure out economics for my game world, after haunting my town and local community college library I went out about Vols 2 and 3 of Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century because it gave me the best knowledge I could find of early economic development (I’d already figured out that in a world with magic, things probably would quite be locked into a feudal stage of development) – I never bought the first volume because it was too much money and I’ve regretted it ever since. They still sit my shelf.

So, I think the real reason I don’t get some of the OSR is because even though I got my “start” at respectably early age – I never had that same experience of discovery that many folks had of “old” scifi or fantasy either as that initial part of the D&D exposure or a current later interest in its roots. I had already read and digested most of what are considered the cornerstones of the OSR literary canon.

I enjoyed them, but I have never held them up as particularly iconic or revelatory – any more than I would hold Eddings or Brust up as such. Actually, I’d be tempted to hold Brust up simply for an amazing literary conceit (two actually) that he’s managed to pull off consistently, but not as iconic to the genre of “gaming fiction”. Even at that age or in that time I was more interested in “style” or “flavor” and in trying to evoke that in my game world, not hewing to some literary canon (either of rules or of literature).

Wow, that’s all a bit of a late-night ramble…


Categories: OSR | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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

Create a free website or blog at