Monday, May 31, 2010

DIY Dice

I'm a huge fan (ok obsessive collector/tinkerer) of dice. I have hoards of blank dice to use for custom purposes. But drawing on dice is hard with talent, harder still when you lack talent.

This open source dice making is bloody well best thing I've seen all month.  Using inkjet photopaper, laser printer, iron you get really, really sharp looking custom dice.

I got dice, laser printer, but I haven't owned an iron since leaving the U.S. Navy, long time ago...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Links

[Throughout the week when I find something that piques my particular interests but I don't have time to say much, or don't have much to say I'll add link to to one of these Sunday Link posts.]

RL Two handed sword effect on pigfaced orc carcasses -- If you click on just one link on this page make it be this one!

Excellent advice about introducing new players from a newish player/DM -- Fresh eyes have unique perspective crusty old grognards lack.

The Miniature Market store comes recommended by another blogger.

Excellent article on silver standard --

Great archive of D&D, AD&D, 3.5D&D, Alternity, Roleaids products with pictures. See what all that old stuff looks like.  Includes awesome titles such as Festung im Grensland and La Nuit des Profondeurs!

Skills --

Ultimate Conan blog by the ultimate Conan fan --

"The Brothers Grimm join the Judges Guild." --

Sometimes secrets are fun / produce tension, sometimes knowing is fun / produces tension a good DM does not limit themselves to one or the other.

Some cross link love, but even without that Age of Fable is a wonderful resource of over 300! systems neutral tables --

Makin your own minis, such as a Beer Ooze --

Kindles and .pdfs can suck it. --

The latest goings on of interest to classic style gamers are reported by Jame's in his weekly OSR News from The Underdark Gazette.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Emperor's Choice Bloody Well Rocks

David Hargrave
I got introduced to David A. Hargrave's Arduin rules / setting / exquisite insanity very late. But, quickly became a huge fan. Of the man and of the creative crazy he produced.

Luckily (and inevitably) a small partnership of Arduin fans and gamers formed Emperor's Choice to keep Arduin materials available and create "new works based on his ideas and world setting to fans worldwide".

One of those new products is the 4th "generation" Arduin ruleset, Arduin Eternal ($75, sounds like a lot but 800+ page hardback! Contemporary RPG books are $35-$60 for ~300pgs).  While ordering I discovered the World Book of Khaas ($70 and 800+ more pages this time focused on world/setting) and added that to my cart as well.  A little while later the world book arrived but no Arduin.  It had sold out and I hadn't ordered quick enough to be in first group.  Meh, these things happen. No biggie and good for them.  Arduin Eternal arrived some time later.

That was months ago.  Last week I was suprised to find another copy of Arduin Eternal in my mail box.  Guess there was a mix up with ordering system and something triggered the "this guy never got his order completed" flag.  So, I email Emperor's Choice saying "Hey, I got this extra copy".  Not suggesting I'd mail it back (but I would if that's what they wanted).  Left it open for them to decide, hoping they would say keep it.  Then I could give/lend and infect others with the Arduin bug.

This is the response I got.
"There was no mistake with the second book coming to you. The book you just received is a replacement for the first one you bought. Take a look at the new book, this is the second version, it is a much better layout and revisions. Please let me know what you think."

Thank You,
George De Rosa


I've become so jaded to RPG companies regularly releasing new editions, often with incremental and/or arbitrary and/or self-serving and/or retarded changes, and telling gamers "yeah you should totally buy X hundreds of dollars of books to replace the ones you bought from us last year".  Sending me a free replacement $75 book flipping blows my mind.  Really a huge, dedicated fan of Emperor's Choice now.  They'll have to drive over my dog or the like to undue the amount of good-will they just earned.

And, George, I think Emperor's Choice bloody well rocks.

Arduin Eternal
Plumb the depths of the rich world of Arduin.  Engage as the emotionless insectiod Phraint.  Game in the free wheeling city of Talismond.  Dash through battle with a hot-blooded Amazon.  Fear deadly Deodanths, time-stranded from the future.  Sally forth the Khai Shang, strand on Khaas from the stars.  Make your mark as a mercenary captain from the border wars in the West.  Trust in the 10,000 gods - take up their banner as a Priest, Paladin, Saint or Witch Hunter.  Learn Eldarin, the language of the ancient Kthoi, weaving  enigmatic runes.  Journey to the city of Melkalund to learn at the underground college of technology.  Dare life as a street touch, fluent in the unarmed fighting arts of Rhingorda.  Take on the world as a Techno, master of technology and engineering.  Hound and hunt the wicked with the iron will of a Witch Hunter.  Wield the wild magik, mastered by the great mages of Ghorfar.  Spill blood as a gladiator fresh from the 100 battles of Ithalos or conquer the fighting pits of Viruelandia.  Its all yours and more.

The World Book of Khass
The World Book of Khaas, Legendary Lands of Arduin is an exciting, 800+ page volume a literal encyclopedia of the world of Khaas and the country of Arduin.  The World of Khaas, Legendary Lands of Arduin is a massive volume based on David Hargrave's work, once and for all throwing wide the gates on the Plateau of Forever; allowing entry not only to Arduin, but into the very world.  

Negative XP

The commentary at end of this panel from Darths & Droids web comic
Before slaughtering intermixed hordes of NPCs, some of whom are evil and worth experience points, and some of whom are innocent and count as a penalty against experience points
got me wondering about negative experience points.  I can't recall any game that uses them. That's potentially fairly damming evidence that they suck.  On the one hand it's fun to slay everything that moves, on the other hack & slash and the craven quest for xp tend to limit the choices players actually make and the types of games/campaigns/encounters that work. 

Lots of systems over the years have been created to address that problem.  Story rewards, xp mostly for treasure, xp for overcoming rather than just for killing opponents, gaining fixed xp or entire levels as characters reach key points in campaign arc (choo choo!) and games with no xp at all.

But, what about negative xp?

For the obvious innocents; town folk, farmer's cows, cleric of mercy.  For killing the non-combatant orcs?  What about failing to act?  Failing to save innocents? Say party went after treasure instead or fled in the night leaving villagers deal with the undead spirits they awoke.  [that assumes a very particular moral code, one I'm sure I'd be willing to foist onto players.]  Attacking and killing the
"bad monster" before it has chance to open it's mouth and characters discover it's an ally?

Like all reward systems, xp shapes behavior.  Negative xp would be no exception.  My current campaign is all about the killing things, Glory, and taking their stuff, Gold. It's also fairly hack and slashish (or at least I don't mind if players take it that way.  Adventure and fun before seriousness.)  So, most "bad" behaviors that neg xp might influence aren't issues.  But, in other campaigns these are sorts of things I'd like to discourage.
  • attacking things on sight
  • attacking everything
  • picking attack/kill everything over other options (cause it's more xp)
  • never capture, never show mercy
  • vigilantism
  • general running amok (slaying innocents, killing farmer Bob's chickens)
For several of them I've used various techniques.  But, to those who greedily accumulate xp over all else, nothing snaps them into attention as loosing xp.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tracking Durations of Effects

I hate doin it, don't remember to do it, haven't liked any of the aides (computer, cribbage board, click counter, paper, dry-erase, stones/glass beads) I've tried to make it easier.

I like the mechanic stunned, blind, ugly, etc until save is made, attempt once at start of round.  Which I believe is from 4ed.  Nothing to track, player is involved, player is "in control" of their fate, and rolling dice is fun (tm).

Lots and lots (all) of the [O|B|A]D&D resources I use measure effects in xdx units, 1d6 rounds, 3d4 weeks, etc.  It would be pain to convert into saves and doing so would alter the effects.

The solution I just thought of while reading a more or less unrelated article on The Mule Abides was, for example, convert lasts 1d6 rounds to lasts until player rolls 6 on d6.  (btw it's '6' instead of '1' cause I want to stick with "rule" roll high is always best).  I dub this max die, and it's used thusly...

stunned max6 rnds - character is stunned until player rolls a 6 at the start of their turn.

wounded 3max4 weeks - each week roll d4, must roll '4' three times before wound is healed.

I don't think I would but you can get complicated like 1max18-20 meaning must roll 18, 19, or 20 on d20.

Now I can throw and forget a (folded into "tent") 3x5 card with word stun at player which they will keep neatly in front of them as reminder until they roll "save".  I can jot down "stun max6" above hp total of monster on the scratch paper I use to track such.  Cross it out when it's saved.

I think I likes it, now just need a game to test it out during.

Oh, and I'm sort of assuming the number of time-units it takes to roll '4' has same distribution as d4 time-units.  I'll eventually write short program to prove it to myself, but can anyone who knows match verify?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fridtjof Nansen, Badass of the Week

Badass NPC.  I love taking a photo/painting and using it to create NPC/encounter/location/etc.  Even better we got some life details to work with in this case.  Without thinking on it too hard Firdtjof is obviously a

Nordic warlord whose willingness to travel through "impassible" frozen terrain has stunned many soon to be defeated foes.  Known for numerous feats, stunts, and personal combat victories.  Not wishing to loose a single man of his army Fridtjof challenged the enemy to single combat, all of them, 1 per day.  After slaughtering 18 of his fiercest warriors the enemy king came and pledged his loyalty, his men, and his life to Nansen.

He conquered all in his reach.  But he did it to expand his personal knowledge of the world, it's peoples, plants, and animals.  Knowledge he wrote out in eight volumes.  So complete and accurate is this work that copies remain highly sought after to this day.  Those that he conquered were treated well, often better than under their former rulers.  Slaves, refugees, and foreign soldiers were free and provided safe passage to their homelands.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top TSR Module list

Spurred by B/X Blackrazor's post here's my top 10 TSR modules in more or less order 10 to #1.


EX1 Dungeonland EX2  and the Land Beyond the Magic Mirror Gygaxian funhouse!  I've worked on/off mostly off on a module along these lines based on Gulliver's Travel.  Never ran these, don't think I could do them justice.

X1 The Isle of Dread The Expert Rules.  So, this is wilderness awesomeness. The beginning of Mystara, my favorite (TSR) settings and my favorite continental map style.  Setting up trade company to plunder the exotic creatures and wealth of the island.  Great times.

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief Learned me what a steading was.  Contents of giant pouch opened my eyes to random charts.  Overall a great this "is a location / sandbox", set players loose on it. G123 is my second favorite series.

UK2 Sentinel UK3 and Gauntlet The British Invasion! I like the setup and unique items driving plot.  The way it handled "mass combat" is exactly how it should be handled in an RPG.  The 1/2 orc illusionist was one of the first enemy NPC's that struck a chord with me and become more than just a "bunch of stats for players to defeat".  That cover art and my perchance for illusionists probably helped.

T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil megadungeon, multiple ways to achieve goals, all the RP in both towns and with the various factions withing the dungeon it self.  Lareth the Beautiful next NPC to inspire me. My first multi-session nemesis.  Narcissistic E(H)P, can never get enough of them. Also an awesome video game adaptation despite what all the haters claim.

U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh So well put together and ready for novice GM, that was me!, to run.  Don't remember much, just remember this being one of the first low-level modules I "knew what to do with".  Others I had were more location based with little explanation of how to play.  Never got to run U2 and U3, I'm sure they are equally as great.

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks First module I had with pictures to show players, color ones even.  Cover is black and Otusey and awesome.  The "figure out tech" charts.  The "weird" tech devices taught me how to hide/fool players from using meta knowledge.  Robots, tech, aliens (mind-flayer aliens!), vegi-pygmies,  did I mention robots?  Never had high enough level players to ever run it :(

I flippin love that cover.

B2 Keep on the Borderlands I actually never ran this until very recently. It is so darn fun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Twelve Things Found at the End of the Rainbow

  1. A Leprechaun. Faced with violence/threats it and its pot of gold disappears. To win its treasure* characters need to solve (and survive) a riddle and/or trick.
  2. Nothing, but on the way there was opportunity to jump off onto the Moon.
  3. Xanadu.
  4. Temple of Heimdall.
  5. The god Heimdall (or Greek Iris, etc) guarding the entrance to Asgard.  To pass (or return) he demands task/quest be completed.
  6. Hysterically upset Leprechaun who has just lost his pot of gold.
  7. Cloud Giant's castle, whose sally port is slightly ajar.
  8. Green dragon examining a pot of gold after having just ate a Leprechaun.
  9. A Curdle** of Leprechauns lay waiting in ambush.  Were did you think they get their gold from, eh?
  10. Loki disguised as Heimdall. Attempts to trick travelers into doing a "quest for the gods".
  11. Greed Demon disguised as Leprechaun. Offers various "pacts" in trade for a pot of gold.
  12. Darkside of the Rainbow. A gray, color/life draining, evil place.
  13. (bonus item) Cake!

* The Leprechaun's biggest trick of all is that its "treasure" is not a pot of gold.

** "Curdle" being the proper collective noun for a group of Leprechauns.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

More Metal Than You

Vast majority of "OSR" is cool.  A small percentage needs to learn the lesson of this video. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We'd Just Been Absolutely Out Roleplayed

A post of screen shot from some forum from 

The Text
I recall a group almost ten years ago where "THAT GUY" was a relatively new player to our group and we'd agreed the game was going to be about mid-high fantasy ND heroics - So he shows up with this drunken old man lout of a fighter. Meanwhile were all playing young kind of weeaboo anime hero types.
We tolerated him and how often he'd talk about how drunk, smelly. and generally obnoxious his character was. He would use metagame knowledge to make fun of our characters in character, laughing at us when we'd get knocked out, calling us cowards when we failed our fear checks, and the OM would take pity on us and just kind of give us "let it slide" looks and let us take rerolls.
We'd bitch about it between sessions and we sort of grew to hate the guy as a player: His character would go onto long diatribes about dungeons and gold and how useless we were and we'd get into hour long arguments where the OM would constantly have to remind us all to "keep it IC " Anyway this campaign goes on for at least a year, and the storyline is kind of climaxing and a OMNPC gets kidnapped, so after another argument session we get convinced by THAT GUY" to take a suicide mission and storm a castle, and he s basically yelling at us IRL we have to do it.
So when we agree, he leaves the room with the OM for a few minutes. and we assume this s all some metaplot how his going to fuck us over and steal our shit. They come back in as if nothing had happened. Session continues but we're all on guard. assuming something is up. We storm the castle or whatever, and have a lot of fun, not really noticing that this guy has stopped being so obnoxious. He hasn't once mentioned how his character reeks of whiskey or onions or whatever, though he wastes a good five minutes explaining how his character shaved his beard. Whatever. we just assume the OM talked to him about how it was annoying us. Epic battles ensue and Fast forward to face off with the BBEG. some Lich thing and the fight isnt going so well.
We're getting spanked. our Cleric is down. and Mr. Fighter has a haste and out of nowhere he goes. "I rush to Cedric (the Cleric) and slap him 'GET UP YOU COWARD'." At this point I groan but the OM is like "Cedric, you're back up with XX HP." Then Mr. "Fighter" goes "I turn to the Lich and I smite him." And suddenly it clicked for all of us.
Fucker had been playing a Paladin the entire time. His insults were his lay-on-hands and calling us out as cowards were his Anti-fear aura. He wasn't That Guy." 'we were "that guy" and we'd just been absolutely out roleplayed for almost a year.

The discussion page on Reddit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Empires Rise and Fall

The break from blogging has given me a chance to work on my campaign.  Looking at my regional map I needed something to give it depth.  A history and the sense that it's part of a wider world.  Something like the maps detailing migrations in the Greyhawk Gazetteer

On a 10,000 year timeline I organized the rise and fall of severa empires/barbarian hordes. Along with some other major events.  Such as the coming of The Grey's who genetically manipulated various species and transplanted numerous humans from various cultures. And the Fey Warp which ended the Grey's meddling and "superimposed" The Land of Fairy and Magic onto the exiting mundane world.

Next I created a rough "world" map (cut and pasted bits of Google Terrain map of the eastern Med, but any rough map showing mountains, major deserts, land, and water). Then starting at 10,000 years I plotted out the rise and fall of history.

10,000 years ago: the first Toad God Empire rises from barbarism more than 17,000 years after the Ancients self-inflicted Apocalypse.  It is far from human, being mostly mutant frogs, trogs, etc.

9,000 years ago: for the Froggies of the Toad God Empire expansion is very slow. Having to clear the mutagenic horrors from every new land they enter.

8,000 years ago: changing climate and the Toad God's blessings kill off most of the megafauna in the sea and on the land.  The first Toad God Empire is quick to conquer the newly "empty" world.

7,000 years ago: the First Toad God Empire reaches it's zenith.  The Grey have arrived and create orcs whose naturally rapid population growth is magnified with Grey patronage.

6,000 years ago: aided by The Grey orcs spread like wild fire.  They quickly master technologies that will never be seen again.  The Steam Kingdoms rise "overnight" and are the end of the first Toad God EmpireThe Grey start transplanting humans.

5,000 years ago: Human slaves of Toad God Empire quickly take over after it's fall and storied Stygia is born.  Orc Steam Kingdoms conquer the world.

4,000 years ago: around 4700 The Grey mysteriously attack and annihilate the Steam Kingdoms clearing the way for various humans (Thantos, Argos, Pashtar, Stygia) and the Toad God Empire 2.0 to rise.  By 4,500 the vestiges of the Steam Kingdoms are eliminated. Orcs remain, scattered and greatly reduced in numbers. But, this millennium is the last to see an Orc nation. Around 4100 the Fey Warp ushers in a new era. Bringing powerful magic, annoying faeries, and many dangerous creatures such as trolls and dragons. It also marks an end to large scale The Grey meddling.

3,000 years ago: Argos is declining under pressure from Thantos, Stygia and Toad God Empire all of which expand.  The second Toad God Empire has more humans and orcs than froggies. This increased land power drives the Pashtar across mountains to the newly Fey Warped formed fertile crescent.  Pashtar grows powerful.  Alfar (elf vikings) start raiding from the northeast.

2,000 years ago: between Thantos expansion and Alfar raiding the 2nd Toad God Empire is annihilated.  Small parts of Argos linger on as protectorates of Stygia and ThantosStygia drives east hoping to conquer the fertile lands of Pashtar, they are stopped.

1,000 years ago: Stygia starts it's slow decline.  Thantos and Pashtar are world's huge superpowers.  Successfully driving back the Alfar they wage constant war against each other.  But from the northwest a growing threat, Hyperborians, more barbarians come to pillage and plunder.

500 years ago: Hyperborians plunder the riches of Thantos and Pashtar.  The Alfar get in on the action and create a short lived kingdom at Pashtar's expense.
  The once mighty Thantos has fallen as much from internal strife and issues as foreign barbarians.  All that remain are a few islands and numerous "emperors" with empty promises of a return to glory.

Today:  Stygia, the oldest extant "empire" is rich in wealth and magic, decadent beyond imagination, and impotent outside it's shrinking borders.  Too many factions, sorcerer-priests, ancient pharoh's all vying for power.  Pashtar is also rich and decadent.  It remains powerful but is beset by the numerous troubles of empire; barbarians, raiders, rebels, civil wars.  Unlike the Alfar the Hyperborians settled the lands they conquered.  Mixing with local populations to form new nations; Rus and Byzanthia. Rising from the ashes of Thantos and with less Hyperborian influence are the Successor Kingdoms (Dacia, Thracia, Phrygia, Lydia, Dalmatia, Phonecia, Thantia, and "The Kingdom")

That tiny blue area in the center is one of several Mythic Wilderness areas and The Kingdom's Eastern Frontier.  It is also the expected "play area" of the campaign.  Even though I hope the players never leave the area having broad-brushstroked the "larger" world really helps add depth and flavor.

Next step will be to write a paragraph or two on each of the historic and current powers. Giving each a discernible flavor, unique Art, Architecture, Language/Writing and a a couple "specials".  Specials are things like Stygian Black Lotus, Pashtar being only source for silks, only Alfar knowing secrets of flying ships.  There can be subtle layers to this but it's important that the "base" be ridiculously obvious. So, players who will never know the world as well as I can pick up on themes.  Pyramids mean Stygia. Ruins with classical columns and lots of bull motifs that's Argos.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What do you mean I dropped Excalibur?

There is a 25% chance that any character surprised by a monster will drop some item. If he does, roll for the possibilities remembering that only these items held could be so dropped.
From D&D's Book 3 "Underworld and Wilderness Adventures", discuss...

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Chainclaw

The ChainClaw or as Black & Decker call it, the alligator lopper.

Whatever you call it, it's what no Mutant Future style robocrabs should be without.  Also if there's ever a Evil Mutant Dead movie I expect "the stranger" to upgrade to one of these.

It's perfect! Things can get away from a chainsaw and while a claw can grab that's about all it does.  The ChainClaw grabs'em and saws'em up into to bite sized pieces.  Really the only improvement I can think of is if lasers shot out of the alligator's eyes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Page Dungeon Contest Winners

Man I'm late posting this but here is a download of The 2010 One Page Dungeon Contest winners (24 MB). And All One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 Submissions (74 MB). w00t, w00t!

The Winning Entries 

Adam ThorntonCentral New Jersey After the “Big Whoops” Best Post Apocalyptic Goodness
Antti HulkkonenDen of Villainy Best Pirates
Chris GonzalesThe Tunnels of Turrack the Terrible Best Sound Effects
Clarabelle ChongTime for Tea Best Victorian Sci-Fi
Corwin RiddleCity of Traitors Best Lost City
Craig BrascoThe Vault of Zerduzan Best Evil Cultist Hangout
Heron PriorTrolls will be Trolls Best Lair
Herwin WielinkThe Crypt of Luân Phiên Best Architectural Design
Jimm Johnson and Jeff LynkThe Contemptible Cube of Quazar Craziest Map Award
Lord KilgoreHeart of Darkness Best Mini Campaign
Paul SiegelFour Corners Best Fitness Center
Peter A. MullenLaboratory of the Asmodean Techno-Mage Snazziest Way to Push the Envelope
Rob AntonishenMine! Not Yours?Best Mine Crawl
Shane MangusRaid on Black Goat Wood Best Cthulhu
Simon BullThe Ruination Of Tenamen Best Monsters
Stuart RobertsonDungeon From A Distant Star Best Mixing of Genres
Tim ShortsWhere is Margesh Blackblood Most Hideouts for the Head Bad Guy
Tom HolmesThe Bone Harvest Horror Best Cartography

Congratulations everyone, prizes are on the way, enjoy.  I sure enjoyed reading all the entries.  When I have some more time I hope to highlight a few of my favorite entries.  

More info and links to 2009 contest on the 2010 One Page Dungeon Contest Page.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Doh! Burn Out

I got tons of stuff to blog about, but none of it motivates me enough to actually write the blog post.  That is burn out.

Probably good thing, could use time away to refill the creative well. Not to mention work on starting new campaign.  Which should be higher priority than writing/reading blogs but never seems to work out that way.

Got a couple guest blog posts to write and post, might post something occasionally.  Hibernation mode is temporary.  I'll catch "the bug" to blog again eventually.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Links

[Every week I pre-schedule a "Sunday Links" post.  Throughout the week when I find something that piques my particular interests but I don't have time to say much, or don't have much to say I'll add link to it here.]

Doh! I must not have saved or blogger ate most of the links I had for this week :(

How to bow out with style and class --

Limit options, not choice. --

Family portraits of China's ethnic groups --

Frog Soldiers --

Something for them to eat --

Nice pics --

Monkeys. Ghul ones even! --

Queen of the Apes --

Scientist/Inventor class --

Pics like these rock my in game descriptions --

Go Navy --

The latest goings on of interest to classic style gamers are reported by Jame's in his weekly OSR News from The Underdark Gazette.

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