Showing posts with label old-school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label old-school. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Acolytes to Initiates

I think if I was hard-pressed into it I could recall all of the monsters from the Moldavy Basic D&D book.  I read that section over and over.  In my pre-adolescent mind, I felt I had to memorize the monsters so I could properly run a D&D game.

"Acolyte, Ape (white), Bandit, Bat, ..."  I didn't try to memorize the order, but it came with the territory.  I would pour over the Monster Manual with the same enthusiasm and likewise the Cook/Marsh Expert book.   But they did not "attach" themselves to my psyche the same way that the Basic book did.  The Monster Manual did so in different ways and the Expert monsters provided me with some of my all-time favorites.

Largely due to something called "The Serial Position Effect" in psychology it was easiest to remember the endpoints; Acolytes and Zombies.  So my earliest games had a lot of these.  Sometimes, oftentimes, in the same encounters. 

I grew rather fond of acolytes to be honest.  Not only did they have more flexibility than veterans (the "monster" type for fighters) but they could be used in a variety of ways.  Devotees on pilgrimages, wandering friars or monks, cultists, and yes, these guys.

With the Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition on the way, why not do the same with witches?

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay
Initiates
Initiates are 1st level witches on personal quests.  They usually travel in small groups, but larger groups can have higher level witches.  Groups of 4 or more are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level).

These witches will typically all be from the same coven and tradition.  For example, a coven of Bandrui witches can be Pagan Witch and/or Green Witch Traditions.

Initiates
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1d6+1  (2d6+1)
Alignment: Any
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 1* (3 hp)
Attacks: 1 (dagger)
Damage: 1d6
Special: Witch spells
Save: Witch 1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IV
XP: 10

Initiates
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 9 [10]
HD: 1d4
Move: 60
Attacks: 1 (dagger, 1d6), Witch spell
Alignment: Any
Treasure: 0 (3)
XP: 10

Initiate 
(Old-School Essentials)
1st level witches on personal quests.

Armor Class 9 [10]
Hit Dice 1 (5 hp)
Attacks 1 × dagger (1d6) or spell
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement Rate 60’ (20’)
Saves D11 W12 P14 B16 S15 (W1)
Morale 8
Alignment Any
XP for Defeating 10
Number Appearing 1d6+1 (2d6+1)
Treasure Type U
  • Demi-Human witches. Elven NPC witches are known as “Kuruni,” and Dwarven NPC witches are called “Xothia.”
  • Leader. Groups of 4+ are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level). Choose or roll the leader’s spells.
  • Person. Considered a “person” for magical effects.
Initiate
(Iron Falcon)
Armor Class 9
Hit Dice 1
No. Attacks 1
Damage 1d6, by weapon
Move 6"
Alignment Any
No. Appearing 2d6+1
% in Lair None
Treasure C

Coming Soon!



The Craft of the Wise - The Pagan Witch Tradition for Old-School Essentials

Friday, February 28, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Space Kids

The last Kickstart Your Weekend for February.  And this one really appeals to me.

SPACE KIDS RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bigbaldgames/space-kids-rpg?ref=274bc4

From the KS page,

SPACE KIDS RPG™ is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) for kids aged 4-12 and their parents, set in a lighthearted science fiction universe of advanced technology, fascinating aliens, and unending adventures.
There is more, a lot more.  The game centers around the two design goals of Teamwork and Problem Solving and Everyone Matters.  I will also add that another, only semi-stated goal of passing on the love and joy of RPGs to a younger audience.

As a gamer, father, and educator I heartily approve of this project!

If you think about it, the "mission statement" of this game is really no different than that of Star Trek or even Doctor Who.

Plus you can get in for just 7 bucks for two PDFs.  That's pretty good if you ask me.

So check this out and share it around.  They already met their goals, but some of those stretch goals would be nice too!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Review: Old-School Essentials

One of the hottest Old School Clones to hit the market recently has been Gavin Norman's Old-School Essentials.  Simply the game is a restatement of the Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert Ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons.  It has combined, cleaned up and modularized.

It has also been a HUGE success.  First, there was his already well-received B/X Essentials line, then the crazy-successful Kickstarter which brought in €160,390 (or $175,000).  Now you can find it in your FLGS or for the next week as part of the Bundle of Holding.

Boxed sets are cool.
It really has been a well-deserved success.

For this, I am going to review both the hardcovers and the PDF releases.  But first a word on the physical, hardcover books and boxed set.   Gavin has really set a new bar in the elegance of rule presentations.  The books are clean, crisp and the layout is fantastic.  The hardcovers are solid and the boxed set box is both attractive and sturdy.  My wife even picked it up and commented on how gorgeous it is.

This is the new mark for Old-School gaming. These books, while lighter on the art, are some of the best put together books from any other Old-School/OSR publisher.  This includes LotFP, S&W (so far) and it even edges out Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria.  Sorry guys, but this is the new gold standard.



Old-School Essentials
The Old-School Essentials (OSE) is a re-organization of the Basic/Expert rules from 1981.  Thus the Core Rules feature the basic four character classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif.  There are also the three "demi-human" classes of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.   The rules are divided up into different books both in the PDF and Hardcover versions as well as a combined Rules Tome.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
PDF only, 56 pages.
This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line. Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE. Also, this book covers just about everything you need to play right now. It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure. Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like. It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play. There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

If you are on the fence about OSE then this is the place to start.  Grab it and you will be up and playing in no time.
My only disappointment about this product is there is no print option!

Old School Essentials: Core Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 80 pages
The Core Rules weighs in at 80 pages and gets to the very heart of the OSE line.  The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed.  Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made.
The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors.   The focus is on readability and playability here.   like all of the OSE books every entry of a rule is presented on facing pages.  So you open up the book and everything you need on the subject is right there.  Only rarely will you need to turn the page.
In the original rules, it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves.  This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear.
Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here.  As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.  This book though is more than a handy index, it takes that notion from the B/XE Core Rules and expands it into a much more playable game.
The philosophy of the Core Rules is just that, everything you need to play regardless of the genre.  Included in the boxed set (and an expected purchase) is the Classic Fantasy Genre Rules.  This is what takes the Core Rules and makes it into a "Basic-era Fantasy Game".  So in simpler language, this is Basic D&D.  You do need a set of Genre Rules to be able to use the Core Rules, but there is enough there if you are an aspiring game designer to make up your own. Say Roaring 20s, or Space or Horror.  Anything really.
The book has some really, really great old-school feeling art as well. Just fantastic stuff really.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
These are the rules to allow you to play in any sort of "Basic Fantasy" style game.  Here get our character classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif and The three "demi-human" classes of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.  If you are familiar with the Basic/Expert games of 1981 then this is home territory for you.  Human classes are limited to 14th level and demi-humans vary.
In addition to the classes (half the book more or less) we go into Equipment, mounts, hirelings and building strongholds.  So yes, everything that concerns players from level 1 to level 14 or retirement.
This is one of the three required books by the players.  The others are the Core Rules and then also Cleric and Magic-User spells (if they are playing one of those classes).
Like all the books in this series the layout is crisp, clean and a model of efficient use of words. From a User Experience point of view it is an absolute gem.
The art is likewise fantastic with full color spreads throughout the book.



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if OSE had come out in the 80s.  Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it. It just oozes eldritch weirdness.
The book itself has 48 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game.
All the usual suspects are here.  Cleric spells go to level 5 and magic-user spells go to level 6, just as expected from the B/X sources. Again, when making my recent Cleric I used this book.
The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game.  Adding a new class, like the Druid or Illusionists? Add a new book easy!  In fact, we see that is exactly what was done.  Expandability is the key here.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Monsters
PDF and Hardcover, 80 pages
Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81.  Also coming in at 80 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else.
Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players).   The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more.  But even that is fine because the illustration we get are fantastic and very reminiscent of the old school monster books.
There are also NPC encounter tables and monsters listed by HD.  The utility of this book is top-notch.
I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Treasures
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Some games merge their Monsters and Treasures books and I can see the logic of that.  These are separate books and after using them for a while I like the separated.  Just like having a Monsters 2 or 3 books, more treasures can also be introduced.
This covers all the expected treasures and includes one of MY favorite things from early D&D, sentient swords.   The same clear and concise layout here as in all the books. Quite a treat really.
That cover might be my second favorite in all the series.

That covers the "Core Boxed Set."



You can pick them all up in PDF at DriveThru or from Necrotic Gnome's website. OR get a physical box from your FLGS or again Necrotic Gnome's website.



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Rules Tome
PDF and Hardcover, 296 pages
If you are a fan of the old "Rule Cyclopedia" version of the BECMI rules then this is going to be a treat for you.  The Rules Tome combines all of the "Core" and "Classic Fantasy" rules into one large and gorgeous tome.  There are three different cover versions.  I have the foil JShields version, the Andrew Walter is the standard version and in many ways, I like it better!  It is the same art on the Box Set, so I am happy to have both.  This book includes:

  • Core Rules: Rules for character creation and advancement, adventuring in dungeons, the wilderness, and at sea, magic and combat.
  • Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules: Seven classic classes (cleric, dwarf, elf, fighter, halfling, magic-user, thief), complete lists of weapons and adventuring gear, extensive lists of vehicles, mounts, and vessels, mercenaries and specialists for hire, rules for stronghold construction.
  • Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells: The complete set of 34 cleric spells (from 1st to 5th level) and 72 magic-user spells (from 1st to 6th level), for use by players or cleric, elf, and magic-user characters.
  • Classic Fantasy: Monsters: A selection of over 200 classic monsters to challenge adventurers of all levels.
  • Classic Fantasy: Treasures: A hoard of over 150 wondrous magic items.

So everything you need for a full fantasy game.
Should you get this one or the individual books?  That is up to you.  The combined volume is obviously cheaper.   But all are enjoyable.
I have a Rules Tome for me, a set of books for the table and a couple extra players' books (Core Rules and Genre Rules).



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Referee's Screen
PDF only, 10 pages.
The one thing that B/X lacked was a proper GM's screen.  Yes, BECMI had one, but not B/X.  Well OSE has you covered, or screened as it were.
This product has 10 pages (1 cover, 1 OGL page and 8 pages of screen) for standard 8-panel, landscape orientation screens.  Purchase the PDF and print them out.  Easy.
The cover art is Peter Mullen's core art. So there are ways to get all the cover art...covered I guess.

All of these combine into a fantastic Old-School experience for those of us that grew up on B/X and for those that didn't.  It is just a really fantastic game.



But what if your tastes run to the Advanced end of the 80s RPG experiences?
Well OSE has not forgotten about you! The modularity of this rule expression pays off here when you can easily add on new rules, classes, and spells.

Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 56 pages
Like many in the early 80s, I moved from the B/X version of the World's Greatest Game to the Advanced version.  But also like many, I never forgot my "Basic" roots and thought for all it's "Advancements" there was still something special about the Basic game.
Well OSE hears you.  The modular design of OSE makes adding material that is considered "Advanced" to be quite easy.  Granted this is not the first Retro-Clone to do this, but this one does it in such an elegant fashion.
Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules adds new classes and new races. For new races we get drow, duergar, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, and svirfneblin (yes deep gnomes!)  Also true to the advanced rules this book pulls race and class apart.  In truth this was one of the major benefits of the Advanced game and that is true here as well.  For new classes, we get acrobat, assassin, barbarian, bard, druid, illusionist, knight, paladin, and ranger. There is also rules for multi-classing, something I always want to add to my basic games.  Some additional rules on poison and magic are also included.

Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Much like the Cleric and Magic-User Spells book this one covers Druids and Illusionist spells.  Again the modularity of the game pays off here.  You can play Advanced Genre Druids and Illusionists OR you can just use the Cleric and Magic-User classes respectively and this book to play a Basic Druid and Basic Illusionist and not even buy the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules book.  It would be better to pick up that book, but the way everything is written you do not have too.
This covers the usual suspects of spells again.  The Basic style presentation is fun and it is like seeing these classes and spells through new eyes.  It really is a testament to the system and the authorship.



These two Advanced books will fit in your Black Box set very easily.
Sadly no room for dice.



I have nothing bad to say about this set or these rules.
If I had ONE wish, and maybe only one, it would be for a spiral or coil bound version to have at my game table to lay flat.  But I suppose I could always print it out and put it into a three-ring binder.
I might just have to do that.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mail Call: Return to the Unknown

Mail call last night!  These were waiting for me when I got home.


In particular, I am happy to get a copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown, the spiritual sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown.


The module is pretty big at 68 pages and works great as a sequel to the original B1.

It is also a GREAT fit for Pacesetter's own B/X RPG rules.



Can't wait to run it.

Links



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Choose a Side, Or One Will Be Chosen For You

Because I am not including other screencaps
Years ago, so long I don't remember exactly when or how I was told that "you must choose a side or one will be chosen for you."

I think it was my dad and it was while I was in Boy Scouts (yes. I was a Boy Scout until my Atheism made it difficult) and he meant it a means of choosing good over evil, right over wrong.  The point is that sometimes making the choice is hard and sometimes good or evil is not clear cut or easily defined.

Sometimes though choosing the right side is easy.

Growing up in Central Illinois it was easy to be a fan of Judges Guild. They were "local guys" by the standards of TSR being all the way up in WI and other companies even further.  I remember playing in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a lot back then and lamenting that we didn't have all the products we wanted for it.   I picked up Witch's Court Marshes and other books and added them happily to my collections.  Even in my D&D/TSR "purity" days, Judges' Guild products got a pass.

I liked Judges Guild.

Yet with the recent posts by current JG owner (and son of the founder) Bob Bledsaw II has changed all of that.   I was not friends with Bob Bledsaw, so I had not seen that this was a pattern of behavior that was one of those "open secrets".

I can no longer support Judges Guild. 

Frog God Games and Bat in the Attic are also cutting ties with BBII/JG and I applaud them for it.  You can see more posts from BBII's Facebook on Rob's site so I do not feel the need to repost them here.

My financial contribution to JG's bottom line is practically non-existent; anything I did buy was on the second-hand market for rare items.  But I was planning on doing a series of posts on  The Dungeoneer and Pegasus magazines and I wanted to review a couple of adventures.  I cannot in good conscience do that now.

Gaming is inclusive. We welcome all and actively seek to bring in others that may not have a place to call their own. That's our DNA, that is who we should be always.  Gaming was there for the disenfranchised teens of the 70s and 80s that were not part of the in-crowds. We are not part of a movement to bring in so many others that want a place to be themselves.

But there is no room for bigots, racists, anti-semites or anyone at all like that.
Hate has no place in my games.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year's Day! What's New for the Other Side in 2020?

Happy 2020 everyone!  I expected to have more cybernetic implants by now, but hey at least we are not living in a futuristic dystopian hellscape right? Right?
Anyway.

I am now at a point where I can say I have been playing D&D for 40 years. 

2019 was my celebration of 1979, the year I first learned about D&D and started to play.  I thought that might be the end of my "Back to Basic" but I was wrong, I find I still have more to do and say.
If 2019 was my focus on Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual (my gateway drugs) then 2020 will be my focus on the Moldvay Basic Set and the games I was playing with that.

So here are some things I am looking forward to doing here at The Other Side in 2020:

Sci-Fi
This was a science-fiction Christmas break for me.  We watched The Mandalorian, season 2 of Lost in Space, we started The Expanse on TV.  We binged watched all of Star Trek Discovery and LOVED it.  Saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the theatres (I loved it) and we will see Doctor Who later today and then again at the Fathom Events special in the theatres.  We really had a great sci-fi vacation.  It all has me pretty pumped for a good Sci-Fi game.

The Expanse and Lost in Space have a grit to it that I really like.  Both also have some elements of horror to them I also liked.  All the things I want to add to my BlackStar game*.
(*just a reminder, BlackStar is not a game I am looking to publish, just something to have some fun with.)

I already knew that I was going to add elements of ST:DISCO to my game too, I just didn't what yet.  With Picard coming up soon, season three of Disco after that AND the re-merger of Viacom and CBS it looks like a great time to be Star Trek fan.

Both Lost in Space and the Expanse (pre-warp Sci-fi) have also refueled my desire to finish "Space Truckers."  I'd love for it to capture that late 70s Trucker movies and early 80s campy sci-fi.

Back To Basics, Year 2
2019's Back to Basics was so much fun I want to keep going.  Last year was mostly dedicated to Holmes and my weird Holmes/AD&D hybrid.  In the OSR this was best represented by Blueholme and Labyrinth Lord.

This year is the 39th anniversary of the Moldvay Basic set.  Though the copyright date is 1980, it is good enough for me to call it 40.  My focus this year then will be Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X flavor basic.   This system is represented best by Old School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) and Pacesetter's BX RPG.


I do have at least four more witch books I want to get out.  The Pagan Witch and the Warlock for OSE.  For BX RPG I am wanting to do a Diabolic Witch book and one I am calling "The Secret Order, The High Witchcraft Tradition".

The nice thing about The High Witchcraft book is it will take me full circle back to my original notes and witch class.  After this, I want to focus on other things.  I love writing about witches but I have more I want to do as well.

 So here is to a new 2020!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mail Call: Vigilante City

Busy day today, getting ready for the holidays and the Spring term start.
In the meantime here is a new old school mail call.

Vigilante City Superhero Team-up and Into the Sewers!



I have not had the chance to go over them much, but they look awesome!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee

Mark Taormino is living the dream.  He is working on producing his next module in the Maximum Mayhem Dungeons series, this time it's module #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee.  This time the adventure is written by author Joe Pearce and it looks great!

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-dungeons-7-dread-swamp-of-the-banshee?ref=theotherside

It looks like the same sort of insanity that his other adventures feature.  Old-school maps and adventures and way over the top gonzo fun.

Plus you can pick up all his past adventures as well.  Combined they make a great campaign that your characters will never survive.


Check out the review I did for his first five adventure and monster book.

Mark know his Kickstarters.  He gets them done and he gets them out to you. I trust Mark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: B/X Gangbusters

The latest game to take over the Old-School gaming scene like, well, gangbusters is the new B/X Gangbusters; an update to the old TSR Gangbusters.

Gangbusters is a new game from Mark Hunt based on both the original Gangbusters and Basic/Expert D&D.  At first, I was a little wary of this.  It seemed a little too close to trademarks and I have seen some shady stuff.  But it turns out that Mark legally owns the Gangbusters trademark and this has been a dream of his for some time.  Reading his posts about it online you get his enthusiasm and it is contagious.  So does it live up to the hype? Let's check it out.

Gangbusters is an old school game built on the Basic version of D&D; or at least a suitable clone of it.  So if you know that game you how this one works. 
Characters have a choice of class; Brutish, Connected, Educated, and Street Smart. And each class has six levels, complete with level titles no less!

Each class gets a good write-up and running them through my memory of Good Fellas, The Untouchables and the Godfather I think they cover just about everything.  My tastes would run more towards Private Eyes so Connected and Street Smart would be great for me.

The alignment system here is Law vs. Neutrality vs. Dishonesty.  It works. It works rather well, to be honest.   

There are a lot of lists of equipment with 1920s costs.  For historical games, I love this stuff. 
There are guides for playing characters and playing in the time period.  

Part 3 is the newest material, Piece Of the Action, covers playing the Gangbusters game. A lot of great information here. 

Part 4 covers Game Mastering or Judging. This covers running a city.  Now, this is where I commit heresy, but there some great stuff here I might steal for other B/X style games.  This also covers awarding experience points.

For Part 5 we get Investigations.  Part 6 deals with Law Enforcement and Part 7 handles The Encounter.  The big gem of Part 7 is the table of vehicles. 



Part 8 is Wandering Adversaries and that is our "Monster" section.  It is 100% or at least 99% compatible with every other OSR game.  Though these are city adversaries of the 1920s.  You get adversaries like Angry Mob, Cat Burglars, Gangsters, Klansmen,  Moonshiners and more.  I have to admit, I now want to send a coven of my witches after a group of klansmen. 

Part 9 covers Combat.  This is expected stuff, but the really cool thing are the Saving Throws.  Gangbusters gives us, Moxie. Quickness. Toughness. Driving. and Observation. Really, how awesome is that?  

There is an optional section here that grabbed my attention. Mysterious Powers allows you to play as Golden Age heroes.  That is a very, very interesting development.



The game comes as a PDF and a Print on Demand book. Color covers and Black & White interior art.   It comes in at 63 pages.  The game is also released under the OGL.

How Does it Compare to Original Gangbusters?
By using the "Basic" system there are a lot details in the original game that are not needed in the newer game.  For example, skills are less of a game mechanic in the newer game.  The original Gangbusters has more detail on various weapon effects but the newer game is far better organized. 
OG Gangbusters weighs in at 64 pages, as was common for TSR at the time and a smaller font.  So it, in general, has more text, but that doesn't mean more game in this case. 

All in all. Gangbusters is a great game.  Part of that greatest comes from Mark Hunt's enthusiasm and his obvious love for this game.  Personally, I would get it for that alone, but thankfully the game here is also great all on it's own.   

If you enjoy the 1920s, Gangster films or even, like me, B/X D&D and related games, then this is a must buy.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Reviews: OSR Mars

I have always been fascinated with Mars.  Not just the Mars I used to look at through my telescope as a kid, but also the worlds of Burroughs, Wells, Smith, Heinlein, and more.
I have often, very often, wanted to run an OD&D game on Mars, or rather a mix of Barsoom, Wells, and the Mars of DC Comics.

So one of my "Holy Grail" items has been Gygax & Blume's Warriors of Mars game. Though every copy I have ever seen is so far out of my price range.  Usually over $1,000 and one I have seen for $4,000!

I like Mars, but not that much for something I am also going to house rule a bit on. 

Thankfully, we have many talented people in the Old-School games scene that can help me with my Mars obsession.

Warriors of Mars - Barsoom by "Doc"
Up first is a fan reproduction of the Warriors of Mars book.
This is from the OD&D Forums by a user named "Doc".  The PDF was reformated by Jason Vey and done up to look like an OD&D book with permission from Doc.   The book also called Warriors of Mars uses the art from the original and naturally feels like an OD&D book with better typesetting.  At 28 pages it covers the basics and the focus is more on D&D than the original 56 pages TSR Warriors of Mars which also used a lot of Chainmail rules.  I am happy this one is out there since it gives me a basis of comparison for future books.  Plus it lets me know that I really don't need to spend 1000 bucks.




Now getting to ones you can buy.

Warriors of the Red Planet
by Al Krombach with art by Thomas Denmark and published by Denmark's Night Owl Workshop.
The PDF is digest-sized, single column, with black & white art from Denmark (so you know it looks great). At 128 pages it is a good-sized volume.  And all for $8.00.  They could have made it $10 and still it would have been a great price.  Overtly the book is for Swords & Wizardry.
This game is more inspired by Burroughs than actually being Barsoom.
There are five races to play, Ancients, Elevated, Exotic, Humans and Unliving. And four classes, Fighting Men, Scoundrels, Mentalists, and Scientists.   Each class goes to 10th level.
Mentalists have powers, Scientists have gadgets and they both work roughly like spells.
There are rules for character creation, equipment (including swords and rayguns), and several examples of play. 
While I said it is overtly for S&W, there is Ascending and Descending AC and "Basic-like" saving throws.
There are some great monsters added to this as well.  Any of which can be ported over to any OSR games if you wish.  Many are recognizable from Burroughs, but there are plenty more as well.
Some of the races get more detail in the appendix.  While an Exotic can nearly be anything (with random tables to boot!) some of the more common types are listed here. As per Burroughs we have Red, Green, Black, White and Yellow Martians.  Earthlings on Mars are also discussed.
Appendix A covers all sorts of random terrain, building, missions, and the unexplained along with weird science artifacts.
Appendix B adds the eldritch to Mars with the Sorcerers of the Black Gate.
Appendix C adds an optional skill system.
Appendix D covers ship to ship combat.
And finally, Appendix N (yup) covers suggested reading.
Again, this is a great book and 100% compatible with other "old-school" books from Night Owl Workshop. And easily worth twice the cover price in my mind.

BX Mars
This is a newer book from Michael Gibbons who also does the illustrations.  Here we get a full (8.5" x 11") PDF at 104 pages with Black & White art.  The author makes a note that the B&W art fits the mood of the game and I can't say I disagree.
This book also is more inspired by Burroughs, but the DNA is a little more obvious here.  Also, the book is designed to be used with B/X style games, this also goes to level 10 (not level 14 as some B/X games).  That's also great by me. 
The classes and these are race-classes, are Princess, Warrior, Thark! (no idea why the ! is there), Menton and Terran.  The classes are pretty much what you think they are. A couple of points. Princess is only open to Red Martian women; there is no Prince class (and sadly no Purple Martians).  The Menton is a psionic using class with powers detailed in the book.
There is also something called "Mastery" which works a little like Feats from 3/4/5e but has a solid B/X/Old-school feel to them. They work quite well here.
There is a Campaign/World-building history here.  It is some good background and fun to add to any game whether you are playing as straight-up Barsoom or something else.
This book has a completely different feel than the other Mars books out there.  While all the books I have looked at list mostly the same sources as inspiration, this one comes closer to Heavy Metal than most.  Also if I ever wanted to play a Herculoids game this would be the first book I'd grab.
The art has a really cool style that I don't often see in modern RPG books, but it fits this one perfectly.

If I wanted to describe the differences between WotRP and BXM, I would say WotRP was later Led Zeppelin and BXM is Blue Oyster Cult.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

It was 20 Years Ago Today...

All apologies to the Beatles, but it was 20 years ago today that I released my very first witch book on the internet.


It was a "netbook" back in the days before the OGL and when TSR would go after everyone for even talking about D&D online.  This really put me "on the web" as it were.  Of course, I also published it under my pseudonym of "Web Warlock" at the time since I want to keep my "game" writing separate from my (then) Academic writing.

Today I am celebrating the release of The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition and the last couple of hours of the Kickstarter for NIGHT SHIFT.

It has been a really fun game design carrer. That little witch book I published while sitting in the hospital after my son was born got me into working with Eden, doing some of the D&D 3e playtests, and then a lot more.  But 20 years ago was when it all really started. Also kind of fitting it was 40 years ago that started playing this game to start with!





New Release: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition



Samhain Blessings!
Autumn.

A time of change, a liminal time between times. A time for warm sweaters, pumpkin spice, and witchcraft!

Introducing the Pumpkin Spice Tradition, witches dedicated to this time.

- The Sisterhood coven
- 122 Spells and Rituals for witch characters
- New magic items including magic cauldrons, masks, and tea. Plus the magic item black market
- 3 Non-player characters to challenge or aid the mightiest characters

Fully compatible with Labyrinth LordTM and other Basic-Era games.
(But pairs nicely with Advanced Labyrinth Lord Pumpkin Spice 2019 Edition)

Fully compatible with other witch books from The Other Side.

Available Now!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

NIGHT SHIFT: Talking 'bout my Generation

We are getting into the final days here for NIGHT SHIFT so I thought I'd share some more details on two of my "Night Worlds" for the book.  Some details will certainly look familiar to readers here.



Ordinary World
This is one I have talked a bit about here.  The idea behind Ordinary World is a simple one.  You are some sort of supernatural creature.  A witch, a vampire, maybe an exiled fae.  You are just trying to get by in a world full of other supernaturals, humans, and hunters. 
Every character will get the Supernatural levels for free (different than the core rules)  BUT you have to work blending in amidst all sorts of hazards thrown at you. 
There is a government group known as the Bureau, that wants to grab any supernatural they can to either dissect or use as a weapon and they already have few working for them now.
There are is an underground slavery market of Supernaturals run by "demons" that also want to grab you.   There is a group of Witch Hunters known as the "Dorothies" that really, really want to burn you alive.
And there are the humans that do what humans do in large groups.

And you just want to get to your job and pay the bills!

Lots of urban intrigues and working against a huge enemy that has all the advantages.  It will make you wish for the days of just dealing with angry mobs with pitchforks.

I am planning on introducing some new supernatural types including Cat People.

Generation HEX
Another one I have talked about here.  This one has two focuses, foci, there is more going here.
First, magic is back and everyone knows it.  But it is only the newest generation that can do it.
So there is that kind of world to deal with.
The second aspect of GenHEX is the magical school aspect for the first generation of new witches in 300 years.

You get some of the struggles of Us vs. Them as we do in OW, but this is Magic vs. Non-Magical, as well as Generational. 

Characters will all be younger, high school age, with some members of their magic-using Generation as just a little older, maybe in their very early 20s.

Rule additions here will be more kinds of magic and rules for running a Generation HEX school in any of the other Night Worlds or even other Old School games.

We have so much more planned for you all.  So give us a little support on the Kickstarter if you can!
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