Showing posts with label Retro-Clone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retro-Clone. Show all posts

Monday, December 7, 2015

DCC and 0-Level Characters

Busy day today.  I have Eighteen research design videos to edit.

But I thought I would throw out something I am playing with for my next campaign, either my "Second Campaign" or my War of the Witch Queens one.

I want to use the funnel idea from Dungeon Crawl Classics to figure out which characters will go through the adventures.  I would run them through an 0-level adventure and then allow them to choose their classes.

Could be a lot of fun.

What are your experiences with this?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Class Struggles: The Necromancer

Very, very few classes or class concepts have been gone over more than the Necromancer.  For a class that was never part of the original game, and never actually a proper class in it's own right, a lot of ink and pixels have been spent on this class.  So much that I am sure to miss things and might even need a part 2.  Where do we start?

Well to begin with what exactly is a necromancer and what is it that appears in so many games?
Taken from the Greek a necromancer is someone that communes with the dead. So spells like Speak to Dead are a good example.  Historical necromancers, like for example John Dee, spoke to the dead to get advice. or foretell the future.   In modern parlance and certainly in games (maybe one caused the other) necromancy has come to mean a wizard that controls or manipulates the forces of death and unlife.

The easiest Necromancer is simple.  Play a Wizard/Magic-User and then only choose necromancy spells.  Wear a lot of black and hang out with undead.  This is also a very satisfying necromancer since all the trappings have to be role-played.  Alternately one could play a cleric of a god of death, take only reversed necromancy spells and command instead of turn undead.
I think though as time wore on people wanted something that wa little bit of both.

The first, or at least one of the first was from White Dwarf Magazine #22 from December 1980/January 1981.  Lew Pulsipher gives us an article about evil priests, the "Black Priests".  While these are more cultist, there is a lot of necromancy being thrown around.  This is followed by a true necromancer class also by Pulsipher in issue #35 from November 1982.  Either of these classes is fine and represent the design philosophy of the times.  Namely take and rearrange already familiar elements.  The Black Priest and this Necromancer have the same shortcomings though; a reliance of human sacrifice.

The Necromancer is turned up to 11 with the publication of Dragon #76 in August 1983 and Len Lakofka's death master class.  Designed to be an "NPC Class only" I remember seeing it first in the pages of Best of Dragon Magazine Vol. 3.  I admit, I rolled up a death master right away.  He became a major antagonist in my games for many years to come.

In AD&D1 the example of the Illusionist gave birth to the speciality wizards of 2nd Ed.  One of those speciality wizards was the Necromancer.  This continues in practice to the most current version.  Though unlike the Illusionist, the Transmuter or even the Evoker, the Necromancer got it's own book.  The Complete Book of Necromancers was one of those books that everyone seemed to want.  I remember picking it up back when it was first published. I paid $15 for it.  Later the cover price jumped to $18 and soon it became very rare. No idea why.  The aftermarket price jumped considerably and I ended up selling mine on eBay back in 2000 for $81. Not a bad deal really.   I recently picked up a copy at Half-Price Books for $9.  The PDF just about the same price.  Though the book is crammed full of necromancer goodies. Spells, magic items, undead familiars.

Moving out into the world of Fantasy Heartbreakers there is the near-compatible Quest of the Ancients.  This necromancer reads like the Death Master, but has some interesting spells and some powers.  The Arcanum/Bard Games also has a necromancer class.

3.x had, at the last time I looked, at least 3 different kinds of official Necromancer classes.  The two best are from Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead and Heroes of Horror.  Heroes of Horror featured the rather popular Dread Necromancer class.  There is also the Death Master class from Dragon updated to 3.0e.  The Crypt Lord from the aptly named Necromancer Games. Not to mention dozens of others from other third party publishers.  Most take the same elements and reorganize them, but every so often something new is produced.

4e had necromancers as well. It was a type of wizard (much like the witch was) and was introduced in the Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow book.  It had some rather neat features to it as well.

For the OSR things are really no different, dozens of different types and sorts of necromancers. I am only going to talk about a few.

One of the simplest also belongs to one of the simplest OSR games.  Basic Fantasy has a necromancer class on their downloads page for free.  It has a lot of spells and weighs in at an appropriate 13 pages.

I would have to say one of my favorites, at least in terms of style, is the one from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The necromancer here is cut from the "evil cultist" mold like their warlock and has a lot of great spells and powers.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a great necromancer and the big feature of this class (and this book) is the number of spells.  While this book as more spells, the AS&SH class is slightly better in terms of what I want. Right along with that is the necromancer from the great Theorems & Thaumaturgy. A basic class, but some really nice spells.

Another really cool one in terms of how the necromancer is presented is the one from Adventures Dark & Deep.  Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer is certainly in the vein of the "this is an evil class" but +Joseph Bloch makes no bones about the fact that players will be playing these as evil characters.  It's sort of the point of his "Darker Paths" series. In that respect this is a good one to pick up just to get some ideas on how to play an evil character.  Plus it has some unique spells.


Back at home I have most of these printed out and put into a folder.  I also have a number of character sheets of all the different types of necromancers.  Basically I have six characters with two sheets each; a 3.x sheet and an OSR compatible one (the five above and an old fashioned MU with necromancy spells).  This gives me 12 different sorts of necromancers for 6 characters.  I call them the Order of Six based on a group I introduced in my Buffy games.  I am planning on using them as my bad guys in my games, but right now I am only playing 5e! So I can't really judge how well they all work.  Similar to what I did with the Witch's Nest.  Sounds like a plan to me.

By the way. My son has a 5e game he is in charge of.  He has a 15th level necromancer in that game and it is wicked.

I feel like there is alot more to say but I have only scratched the surface.

What is your favorite necromancer class?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Skylla: Adventures Dark & Deep witch

I had planned on doing a Skylla write-up today, but for a different system.  But given that +Joseph Bloch is running a sale this weekend, I think it would be better to use his witch.

I reviewed his witch a while back and I enjoyed it even if there are couple things I didn't like about it. But it is still a fun class and I have enjoyed it.

So here is Skylla using The Darker Paths 2: The Witch and the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.

Skylla
CE Female Human
Witch 7

Abilities
STR: 9
INT: 11
WIS: 15
DEX: 11
CON: 10
CHA: 12* (initial)/5 current

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 7
Petrification, Polymorph: 10
Rod, Staff, Wand: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 12
+1 to Magical attack saves

Special Abilities (class)
Spell casting
Create Magic Items
Bell, Book & Candle
Brew Poison
Call Familiar (Quasit)
Charisma degradation
Limited to 13th level
Wisdom Bonus Spells (2 1st, 1 2nd)

Secondary Skills
Alchemy

HP: 13
AC: 6 (Bracers)

Spells
1st: Charm Person or Mammal, Detect Magic, Infravision, Protection from Good, Witch Shot, Wither
2nd: Blight Field, Command, Magic Broom, Misfortune, Wizard Lock
3rd: Bestow Curse,  Hand of Glory, Magic Missile
4th: Polymorph Self, Sleep
5th: Season of the Witch

Skylla is a good fit for his style of witch i think. I would have to play more to be sure.  Limiting her to 13th level might the fit the narrative I have for her. She would later go on to take more mage classes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heroes & Witchery is back

Dominque Crouzet's massive retro clone Heroes & Witchery is back in print and free PDF formats.
http://www.dcrouzet.net/heroes-witchery/


The book is massive and attempts to work in as many of the ideas seen in other Retro-clones it can.
I am partial to it since I have worked with Dom in the past and he is a great guy.

I also like how it uses my own Witch book as an example on how to integrate other products into this game.

Go and grab it. It might not replace what you are using now, but it will certainly give you some great ideas.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another Clone, but is this the Rosetta Stone?

There is another retro-clone game out on the market.  Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=63759

Now, while I enjoy clones I am not sure we need yet another one.  So I took a look at this.



FREE PDF: http://www.dcrouzet.net/temporary/Fantastic-Heroes-Witchery_screen.pdf

Print: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?type=&keyWords=dominique+crouzet&x=-1004&y=-8&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=

First it is really attractive has some great layout and some very cool old-school art.

Plus once I started reading through it I recognized the art and finally the name of the author/artist.
It was made by an old friend Dominique Crouzet.
Dom had helped me back in 2000 on the original Netbook of Witches and Warlocks.  We had also submitted a game world (Shadow Earth) together to WotC.  They went with this other world, Eberron.
(Some of what was to be Shadow Earth lived on in Eire and in Eldritch Witchery).

What I think is best about this game is in how it tries to be the middle ground between the pure old school games of Basic and 1st/2nd eds, but also the newer 3.x games and the OSR games.
Critics will say there is nothing at all new here. Sure, but that misses the point I think.

What we have here is a game framework that can either be played as a game (and it looks like it is a fun one) OR used as a Rosetta Stone when translating other game products.

Dom put a lot of work into this.  This isn't some "cheap copy and paste job on Lulu". It is a fully playable game with ideas that are very familiar and some new ones as well.

The current PDF is free and there are print versions on Lulu.
And it is pretty much 100% compatible with The Witch.  Just use the Wizard advancement table and replace "Signature Spell" with "Ritual Spell".

EDITED TO ADD: Dom actually uses The Witch as an example on page 393.  He says:

Lets take for example the witch class from The Witch by Tim Brannan (this is a PDF ebook available on rpgnow.com). In this case you could distribute its special abilities as follows: “Least, Herb Use” at 1st level; “Lesser” at 3rd level; “Minor” at 5th level; “Medial” at 7th level; “Major” at 9th level; and “Superior” at 11th level.

I completely concur!

I wish Dom nothing but the best on this!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Swords & Wizardry Complete

Frog God Games has announced that it is giving away Swords & Wizardry Complete.
Not a no-art version or even limited version, but the entire game free of charge.

You can go to their website and grab a free PDF (print still costs you).
http://froggodgames.org/swords-wizardry-complete-rulebook
or you can also get it here (from my downloads).

You can also get copies of their other rule sets based on it for free as well.


While not my go-to game, it is a lot of fun and great set of rules for old-school gaming.

Though I do have to admit that Erol Otis cover is rather cool.

If you have The Witch or Eldritch Witchery then you can download my S&W conversion guide to play a Swords & Wizardry Witch.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old School Systems Questions

One of the things the OSR was supposed to do (at least in my mind) was free us from the necessity of rules fundamentalism.  Making products for OSRIC for example was allow publishers to make "1st Edition" compatible products without saying "Compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons".
Basic Fantasy seemed close to this as well, but more of a melding of the "Basic" and "Advanced" ideas.

At the end of the day though a product that is compatible for one game should work with another.

In a couple of recent posts from Billy Goes to Mordor (love that blog name) suggests that there is still some form of system adherence in the OSR crowd.
http://billygoes.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/by-numbers-relative-popularity-of-dnd.html
http://billygoes.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-relative-popularity-of-various.html

His numbers, based on his survey came out like this:
  1. DCC RPG 32%
  2. Labyrinth Lord 31%
  3. Swords and Wizardry 28%
  4. LotFP 24%
  5. ACKS 10%
  6. OSRIC 8%
Granted this is limited to people that visit his blog, so not a random sample.  He is very open about his methods of data collection, so I am good with this.

He compares this to relative Google+ groups sizes as an index of popularity.
  1. Swords &Wizardry 826
  2. DCC RPG 776
  3. Lamentations of the Flame Princess 498
  4. Basic Fantasy 387
  5. Labyrinth Lord 382
  6. Adventurer Conquerer King 347
  7. Castles & Crusades 303
  8. OSRIC 110
Pretty good alignment there I agree.

But this brings up the larger question again.  Are eliminating the necessity of a certain rules system (D&D Basic, Advanced, 2nd ed) just to exchange it for another (Basic Fantasy, ACKS, DCC)?

So when looking for a OSR supplement, adventure or add-on do the clone rules matter to you?

Back in the day we used pretty much everything with everything else.  Still do in fact.

For example I mentioned a while back how you can use ACKS with the B/X Companion or even B/X Companion with Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy.  Those are easy though due to their relationship back to Basic D&D.

What are your experiences? Do you ignore S&W's single save when using the Tome of Horrors with Basic Fantasy?   Do you convert on the fly?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

OSR Distribution CD-ROM?

So I was posting this comment over at Once More Unto the Breach!:
I have run plenty of demos in my time.
The thing about running a demo game is if you are good then the players will want to go out buy that game. If I do it in a game store (my prefered place to run demos) then I like to take them to the product.

The problem with the OSR is that often the product is not there. I have taken books before and sold them at cost, but I am not a retailer so it's an as-needed/as-I-think of it thing.

I suppose what would be nice is if had permission to redistribute the free OSR books on a CD. Maybe build some nice interface and have the PDFs.

Pop in the CD-ROM and it runs on any machine.

Hmm. That sounds like an idea.
And that got me thinking.  What about a FREE OSR distribution CD-ROM?
We put on the most popular free products that we have the permission to use, build a front end (HTML) that has the links to the PDFs on the disk and then links to the various sites and links to whatever else.

Each game would need some promotional "Ad" copy written.

The idea then is we, you, me, whomever demos the game then gives out copies of this disk to the players.

Off the top of my head I think we should include:
There could be and should be more.  Plus I want to state right now I have not sought permission for ANY of these yet.  This is just a crazy half-baked idea, but it is one I have done before.  In the pre-WiFi, pre-HiSpeed, stuck in the dial-up days of the Internet I put together a lot packages like this, so I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do.

Would anyone be interested in such a thing?
Would anyone out there be interested in contributing to something like this? (Free PDFs to redistribute not money!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Mazes & Perils (2012), Part 2

A while back I wrote a review for Mazes & Perils, a 2012 Holmes-Basic Retro-clone from Vincent Florio.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/09/review-mazes-perils-2012.html

The 3rd printing/edition is now out (or rather it has been out for a bit) and I promised then I would re-review it.

This new version is cleaned up considerably and it does look like it has been rewritten.  It is still free and the idea here (I think) is to provide a means to play "D&D Basic" or provide a common ruleset to allow people to create Basic compatible works.  As a goal, that is a pretty solid one really.  At 61 pages it is also really tight.  It is also free.

I do want to address some of the issues that plagued the previous editions, but only as a means to talk about the improvements on this edition.
Like I said, the text has largely been rewritten.  It now reads less like someone with a copy of Holmes Basic on their lap, but instead someone that played Holmes Basic for years and scribbled what they could from memory.    The game now goes to 12th level, which is a good place to go to be honest.  Yes, it is only 3 more levels than the previous version, but those are three levels that really make a difference in terms of end game play.  Have a look of Adventurer Conquer King to see the same logic at work.

There are only the four basic classes (Cleric, Fighting Man, Magic-User, Thief) and the four basic races (Human, Elf, Dwarf Halfling).

I want to restate the things I did like about the previous versions.  Obviously the name of the game is a nod to John Eric Holmes' book "The Maze of Peril" and I can respect that. If you are going to do a Holmes' homage or pastiche then that is a perfect name really.  Clearly the author has done his research.

Others have complained about the art.  I rather like it to be honest.  The cover is very cool and the interior is no worse than what you would have seen in Holmes.  In fact I was under the impression that the art was exactly what the author wanted.  "Good" or "Bad" is subjective. To me it is perfect for this book.

What does this book do? OR What is it good for?
Well if you do want a simple game to give you the feel of D&D Basic, then it works well.
If you want an EASY book to create your own "Basic Era" products then it is also a good choice.
If you want a game with lots of options, then maybe Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, ACKS or even D&D Basic/Expert will work better.

This newer version is cleaned up and certainly an improvement over the previous versions.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Old School Week at DriveThruRPG


DriveThruRPG is celebrating the best of the OSR this week.

For a limited time you can grab their selected 10 best OSR products for a special price.
You can use promotional code OSRF711F2 to get 15% off on these select titles till Sunday, May 19.

Personally I can't recommend these titles enough.  We have the immortal D&D Basic Book in new, clean PDF format, the awesome Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and two of my favorite "what if" games, Spellcraft & Swordplay and Adventures Dark & Deep.  Plus three very different kinds of games with a great old-school feel, HackMaster, Dungeon Crawl Classics and one of my personal favorites Castles & Crusades.

Lots of great stuff here.

Monster Post later today.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is the OSR Fundamentalism?

D&D, and by extension much of the OSR, has a problem.  It must innovate, or be considered "old fashioned" and yet it must also adhere to a certain set of expectations of be considered too far away from the concept.  For many 4e was a step too far, for others 3e was.
Wizards of the Coast gets to chart out the next version of D&D once more and they will have to make some changes to game to keep it financially viable.

Boing Boing has an interesting point of view on this in a new article by Peter Bebergal.
http://boingboing.net/2013/05/06/old-school-dungeons-dragons.html

You can read that article and come to your own conclusions and thoughts.  I want to focus on one bit of it though; is the OSR D&D Fundamentalism?

Certainly a lot of us are here because we think "the old ways are best" or even out nostalgia.
I have been pretty much focused on B/X D&D over the last year or so myself.  Part of it is fun, part of it is nostalgia for sure.

Do we though as a group eschew innovation for an "old school" feel?  Or more to the point, a "proper old school" feel.  For example I like drama points in my games. It gives the characters a chance to do heroic things, it works great in other games AND I can find examples of their use in the various "Appendix N" games.  Honestly, read the John Carter books and tell me he wasn't burning drama points when fighting the Green Martians, Thakrs or First Born in various books.

Sometimes using ability checks are nice, but so are skills.  Multiclassing in 3e was far better than anything before (or after).  Swords & Wizardry has some nice ideas above and beyond OD&D.  I have seen add-ons that allow skills, feats and other such "improvements" to older games.

I suppose the question lies in what sort of experience you want to have.  If that is the case I have had some fantastic "D&D experiences" using WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion, while having some games where I felt I was nothing more than a ref with some (unnamed) versions of the Grand Old Game.

I do know this.  Wizards will have to update D&D. It is going to be impossible to make it all things to all players.  Look at all the various retro-clone rules we have now.  We can't even as a group agree on what cloned version we like the best and we represent a tiny, mostly homogeneous, demographic.
True, all these games are really 95% or better compatible out of the box and 100% compatible with a little imagination.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Second Chance: Swords & Wizardry (Frog God Games)

A while a back I posted that I was giving some products another chance.  One of those products was Swords & Wizardry.

I picked up the Frog God "Complete Rulebook" and spent a lot of time with it.  I think my biggest issue with S&W is that was sold to me as "0 Edition" or "OD&D" and it isn't. I played OD&D and S&W is nothing like it. Well, not "nothing" but it's made some serious changes.  Those changes I think kept me from enjoying the game for what it is.  So after staying away from the game for a number of months I came back and looked at in a different light.  I dropped the idea that is an OD&D clone but instead a Retro Clone stripped down to it's most basic form.  Now that is game I can get behind.  If you ever played any version of D&D or any clone you can play this.  S&W is really the basic essence of what D&D is. The most basic stuff you need to play.  In this new light I saw the changes for what they were, really nice and intuitive changes.
The classics are really basic, but they work. In this Frog God edition you have a more classes, Assassins, Paladins, Rangers, Druids and Monks join Thieves, Clerics, Magic-Users and Fighters.  Races are Human, Elves, Half-elves, Halflings and Dwarves. So again all easily recognizable.
There are a set of good multi-classing rules (which is always nice in an OSR game).
Spells go up to 9 for Magic-Users, 7 for most others.
There are plenty of monsters, tons really.  The monster blocks are simple like everything else.

Really S&W does take a lot of what made OD&D/Dasic D&D so fun, the advances in AD&D and the features that made 3.x so popular.  Yes. It has Ascending AC (which is still the best, sorry old school guys) and I like single saving throw bonus.
This Frog God version shares a lot of the art that appeared in The Tome of Horrors Complete and the layout.  This is not a big deal as far as I am concerned.

At a 134 pages it is a complete game. You don't really need anything else here, though you can use it with nearly other OSR product or any of the scores of products created for S&W.

I am glad I gave this another chance.

If you have this then The Tome of Horrors Complete is a great supplement to have.

If you are new to S&W then there are some other supplements to help you out.

MCMLXXV (aka 1975) is a new introductory module and old-school primer.
At just under 24 pages (minus cover and ogl) this is designed to be something akin to Keep on the Borderlands for S&W, only not as big.  The adventure is small, but in old school terms it is good sized really.  There is less in terms of pages of descriptions than modern day modules. It leaves far more to the imagination of the players and GM.  If there was a Frog God Games S&W box set then this would be included.
Great little adventure that really helps set the tone of the S&W game.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities is a new monster book.  New in that is newly published, but some of the monsters we have before either in the SRD or other books.  That though does not detract from it's value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters.  The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers.
There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook.  While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art.  Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new.  Actually the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art.
Honestly there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have.  I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.




OD&D
If you really want a game that is close to what OD&D really was like you do have some choices.

First up there is the OD&D set from WotC coming out this fall.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/02/original-d-premium-edition.html

There is also Spellcraft & Swordplay, a personal favorite of mine.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/04/s-is-for-spellcraft-swordplay.html

While S&W has some neat ideas, S&S comes closer to OD&D for me.

In any case you can use all of these game to party like it's 1975!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Witch is now in Print!

For those of you waiting till the Witch appears in print.  Well wait no longer!!
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/107132/The-Witch%3A-A-sourcebook-for-Basic-Edition-fantasy-games?affiliate_id=10748

My proof copies, your softcover copies will be, well, softcover.

The softcover version of the witch is now ready to go.  For $25.00 you can get it along with the PDF, or just   the physical book.

These make FANTASTIC Christmas gifts (though I am not sure if you will get them in time for Christmas or not).  These make FANTASTIC New Years Gifts for the that special gamer in your life.  Or for yourself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

S&W Witch?

I have been rereading the Sword & Wizardry rules since Thanksgiving.

http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/11/second-chance-weekend.html

And I am discovering I rather like it.  It's not perfect, and there are some things that I am still not sure why they did what they did.  But it is pretty solid.

The question I now have for all of you is this?  Should I spend any time doing a S&W version of the Witch?
Not the entire book, just the class.  I would focus on making is a core class and stripping it down to it's essentials.  Maybe just 1 tradition with some occult powers. It would be a new tradition though, something not in The Witch or Eldritch Witchery.

I am not sure yet. And if I do, whether it should be free, for sale or what. I would naturally want to include some new material.

Would anyone be interested in such a thing?




Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Return of the OSRIC Player's Guide

Last year you might remember the drama concerning the OSRIC Player's Guides.

http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2011/10/other-osric-players-guide.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2011/10/more-osric-players-guide-woes.html

Well one of them is now back.

This is the OSRIC Player's Guide that was the stripped down and edited version of OSRIC just for players.
It was/is edited by Steve Robertson (formerly of the Bree Yark blog)  and features a bunch of art from him as well.

You can get the PDF fro free at his website or pick up a soft or hard cover at Lulu.
http://www.vanquishingleviathan.com/ and you can see some pics of it over at RPG.Net:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?665558-OSRIC-Player-s-Guide-is-up-for-sale!

Of the two Player's Guides, this one was the better of the two.  This one does feature a lot of new art from the editor (he does not call himself the author which is good) and it was edited.
The other was just a copy-and-paste job with some art found on the internet.

It is worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Well I did it after all (and other updates)

I picked up a copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I picked it up because I am a fan of Goodman Games and they have always had a quality product in the past.  It is also on sale now at DriveThruRPG.

I seriously doubt I will play this game and if I do it won't be with d7s or anything like that.
But I am enjoying the read so far and maybe there is something in this for my AD&D1 game.

There is a lot to get through.

In other news...
I picked up my Kickstarter Supporter PDF copy of the Adventurer Conqueror King System Player's Companion.

There is a lot of great stuff in this book as well.  I am going to hold off on a proper review till it is released on DriveThruRPG as well.  But I will say this, I am pleased with the Witch and Warlock classes (so expect to hear some more about those) and the Class Construction rules look very interesting.

I finished reading through the Swords and Wizardry Complete Rulebook from Frog God Games.  Again, some neat ideas, but I am not sure if I'll every play it or run it.  But it is a great toolbox for a near Editionless D&D.  More on it and my third in-depth dive into Lamentations of the Flame Princess in another post.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Mazes & Perils (2012)

EDITED TO ADD: There is a new version out, but I have not had a chance to read it yet.  I will get to it, sometime in the future.

My first experience with D&D was the Eric Holmes version of D&D Basic.  While I soon moved on to Moldvay and to AD&D 1st Ed, the Holmes edition holds a warm and fuzzy place in my gaming recollections. I know I am not the only one that feels this way. So anything that is done as an homage to Holmes I pay attention too.

So I was thrilled when I heard there was a "new" retro-clone that was an homage to the Holmes version of D&D.  That thrill quickly turned sour when a.) I couldn't get it any more and b.) I heard the author was the same one as the OSRIC fiasco about a year ago.  You can read the drama here as a retrospective:
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2011/09/osric-players-guide-retraction.html
http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2011/10/fool-me-once-shame-on-you-fool-me-twice.html
http://swordsandwizardry.blogspot.com/2011/10/copyright-and-osr-part-1.html

Fast forward to this year and there is a new Mazes & Perils out.  I was curious and more than a little skeptical about the game.  I want to give the game and the author, Vincent Florio, a fair shake. The OSRIC book was a copy paste job with some art that he didn't own and the first M&P was copy and pasted from Holmes.  But again, I never saw that first M&P and can only go on what I read.  So, I want to judge this new M&P on it's own merits.

First things first, obviously the name of the game is a nod to John Eric Holmes' book "The Maze of Peril" and I can respect that. If you are going to do a Holmes' homage or pastiche then that is a perfect name really.
Secondly, some others have complained about the art.  I rather like it to be honest.  The cover is very cool and the interior is no worse than what you would have seen in Holmes.
While this is an homage to Holmes I am not sure what I have here.

Taken as a retro-clone by itself it is not much different than Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy RPG, except it is now quite as good as either of those.  M&P stops progression at level 9.  Which I kind of get, but there is not enough here to support an end-game style D&D, say the way Adventurer Conqueror King System does.
The rules are simple, as befits the times it is emulating.  There is some missing information in some areas (or not easy to find, which is just as bad really).  There are tables for STR, INT, CON and DEX but not for WIS or CHA. This is an artifact of Holmes, but M&P expands STR into the AD&D1 numbers, but still does not include these other tables.Some other oddities are the XP levels for Cleric and Magic User.  Some of the monster text is awkward to read.  There are various grammar errors that even I noticed, and I am terrible at that.

Taken as a "Holmes clone" it certainly does that, even to the point that they are little too similar in some respects.  There are some spots of the text that are nearly identical, including some text that is more similar to Holmes than OGC text that is essentially the same in LL and BFRPG.    Other differences from the source material has Elves, Dwarves and Halflings as races and not race/classes like Gygax/Holmes/Moldvay/Mentzer.   This puts it closer to BFRPG.

This is certainly a labor of love on the part of the author.  And as a Holmes fan myself I can respect that.
But I am left feeling that this is too close to the source material.  It even shares some of the shortcomings of the Holmes book.  I understand the desire, but to mimic the style, even to the point where some sections are not very clear, is not a good idea.  This is one of the reasons the Moldvay book was made, Holmes was a transitional project.  There are lot of places in Holmes that say "these are give in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS".  M&P does not have that advantage.

In the end this still comes off as a collection of house rules added to Holmes and not really a "Holmes clone" or even a "Holmes what-if".   Plus I have the suspicion in the back of my mind that this is merely an edit of a Holmes cut-and-paste job.  I am sorry, but it's true.  If this had been the first effort of this author then I would give him the benefit of the doubt, but that went out with the second copy-pasta.  If you read LL or BFRPG you can see where their text came from; the SRD.  This text does not.

Mazes & Perils is a free product.  It has that going for it. It is also released under the OGL and has it's own compatibility license.  If you can't get a copy of Holmes on your own then this will give you an idea of what it is like, but it's not as good.

In the end it has too many flaws, both in terms of execution and design, for me to really get behind it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is the OSR Dead?

So I made some interesting, though not entirely new or unique, observations.

The OSR, as a Movement, is Dead.

This is the point of view of Tavis Allison who gave a talk about the OSR at Gen Con this past week.  Tavis has the street cred to back up his claims too, author of The Mule Abides blog and the Adventurer Conqueror King game system.

Though he has his reasons, I think I am looking at something slightly different.

I am not talking about the lack ENnies or even representation at Gen Con.
There was the the OSR Publications booth, which was great.

I am talking about the OSR as a movement.  If the stated goal* of the OSR was to get old-school style gaming back into the hands of gamers, then one only needed to go to the Wizards of the Coast booth and buy a copy of the 1st Ed AD&D books, or listen to their keynote address about the availability of older products, or go play D&D5.

(* lets be honest here, no one ever stated any goal of any sort)

If the goal was get products to go mainstream, well the OSR Publications booth was a good step in that direction.  George Strayton of the Secret Fire RPG was an industry guest of honor at this past Gen Con as well. Castles and Crusades (one of the earliest Retro Clones in my opinion) never seemed more popular.

So if the OSR as a mission was get "old school" products in the main-stream, then that goal has been met.

The movement then is dead. Why?  Well if the "R" mean Revolution, Revival or Renascence, then the goals have been achieved.   Old School is back.

The OSR as a community or even as a loosely affiliated publishing movement will live on.  Much like the Indie Press Revolution (who, to be perfectly honest, does everything the OSR could do and does it well).
There will still be sites and blogs that support old-school play.  They existed before the OSR movement and will (in some form) afterwards. 

I fear though that for many that the "R" stood for "Resistance" as in the alternative not because they liked old school play so much, but because they hated the "new school" of 4e or even 3.x.  Well for them I fear the battle wages on and it will never be won.  TSR is never coming back to life, WotC owns D&D and there are  many that enjoy the newer games.

In any case the OSR will change.  Not because it wants to, but because it will need to to stay relevant.

I will have to post on this topic more in a bit.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Witch Books, Part 4. The New Old

The New Old.  
These are new products to play old school style witches. Generally speaking these are all throwbacks to the Basic or First Edition days for games like Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC or any OSR game.

Classic Fantasy Review: Volume 1, Issue 2
This might be one of the first Old-School style witches that I purchased. In this supplement for OSRIC we get the Diabolical Witch.  A witch that gains her powers and spells from the various demon and devil lords.  Its a cross between a cleric and wizard, maybe with more emphasis on the cleric side of things.  The level progression is closer to the cleric than the wizard to be honest.  There are new spells, just a redistribution of current OSRIC spells.  They get a number of special powers, some make sense (clerical turning and shapeshift) others not as much (limited thief abilities).   A nice feature is how witches of different demon lords, devils get different powers.

Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other. In the end I think I just need to review the product as is. Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D. Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales. This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book. These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example. There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom. Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level. Interesting. I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one. It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid. She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons. Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars. A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book. Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here. There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).
Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book. In the end this is a very good evil witch class. It does make me wonder how the author might do a good witch.

ACKS Player's Companion: The Witch
This one is not out yet for the public, but I have seen the witch for it.  It was actually based on some OGC I produced a while back with some significant changes.  I didn't write it, but it has it's DNA in stuff I did write. So I have recuse from a proper review, but I will say this:  I like it a lot. It is compatible with my two other "OSR" witches but still covers new ground on it's own. At the same time is still new and fresh.

The Complete B/X Adventurer: The Witch
I have talked about the the TCBXA before, but I want to focus on the Witch class from it.
For starters the class works best if you also own the B/X Companion.

I have to play special attention to the witch.  Not just because it is a witch class, but because it is different than the other spell using classes.  For starters the witch can cast in groups to cast higher level spells. That is a nice feature really and something very much in tune with the archetypal witch.  The witch is the class in the book that is stated up all the way to 36th level AND built to gain powers to that point, also something I rather like.  Why?  Because a 36th level witch is the only class that can cast 10th level spells.  Yup.  This one goes to 10!

Crafting spells.  The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows.  The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place).  So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells.  She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod.  I like it.  It is a nice quick way to know what can be done.  In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.

For the witch though I would reverse it.  Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast.  Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" afterall.   But all in all I like it.
10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at.  This is a powerful witch class.

The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches.  I can't see too many witch covens in groups.  Maybe two or three at a time.  With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later.  This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Links

It is the Friday before Gen Con.  While I am gearing up for some serious vacation time coming to me. I figure I'll send you out some link today.

First off, David from There's Dungeons Down Under is back, at least for 1 post.

Kenzer & Co are giving away HackMaster Basic for free!  Crazy I know.

The Kickstarter for Band of Zombies for All Flesh Must Be Eaten has 21 days left to go. Get in on the Zombie WWII goodness.  This promises to be a great book.

My boys and I have decided to start our 1st Ed AD&D game at Gen Con.  Seems fitting and I don't have to haul all my minis and maps with me.
But to do that I need character sheets.  While I have one of each type of the original AD&D sheets left, I didn't want to use them.  Good thing we have the Mad Irishman and his collection of RPG Sheets.

Happy Friday everyone!
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