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

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Aventuras en la Marca del Este

Aventuras en la Marca del Este
I have been learning Spanish all year and discovered how wonderful the RPG "Aventuras en la Marca del Este" is. I spent the earlier part of this year reading over the rules (the best I could) and then sorta forgot about them.

Well, I want to give a shout-out to the Italian blog Castelli & Chimere (Castles & Chimeras) for reminding me about it today and that the Basic Set (Caja Roja, "Red Box") was free.

You can get yours free here as well

This game is a Spanish language version/edition of the great BECMI Red Box Basic using Labyrinth Lord as a base. Though it has far more style than just a simple clone.

It was translated back into English as Adventures in the East Mark - Basic Rule Set (Red Box), and it is also great, but the original has such a cool vibe and feel to it.

The site that supports the game, Codex de la Marca, has an absolute ton of free material. Enough to keep me busy reading for months on end. 

The official site even has some material, including a Castles & Crusades SIEGE Engine version of the same rules. 

In addition to the Red Box, there is a Blue Box (Expert), Green Box ("Advanced" or Companion/Masters), and a Black Box (Masters/Immortals).  Each also includes a campaign guide for the East March campaign setting.  I really wish I could find physical copies of all these sets, they would be a lot of fun. 

Libro de Brujas?

Does this mean I'll do a "Libro de brujas" (Book of Witches) sometime in the future? I am going to have to say yes. It would make for a great "final project" for a Spanish class and really test me on what I think I know. I have also been reading a lot about Basque and other Iberian peninsula area witches of late so it would be fun to try,

To keep with the same spirit of all the Aventuras en la Marca del Este releases, I would have to make it free. Maybe keep it to a tight 32 or fewer pages.

This idea is still very far away. I need to survive verb conjugation first!

In the mean time I'll keep brushing up on my skills (such as they are) and having some fun and joy of learning something new.

RPG libros en Español

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review: Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old School Essentials
Arguably one of the biggest success stories of the late OSR movement has been the publication of Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy (2019) and Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy (2021).  Indeed I feel that OSE has supplanted Swords & Wizardry, the darling of the middle OSR movement as the old-school game of choice.  It is the old-school game of choice here in my home game, alternating between it and D&D 5e, and seems to be the most talked-about game in the old-school discussion areas. 

This is all with good reason.  OSE is well designed, superbly organized, and has wonderful art.  There is a minimalist approach to the rules and presentation that does not detract from the experience, instead, it rather enhances it.   You can see my enthusiasm in my review of the Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Boxed set back in 2020.   So imagine my surprise when I learned I had not given OSE Advanced a proper review yet.

I have detailed my introduction to D&D many times here. But briefly, my "first" D&D was a poorly copied version of Holmes Basic with an AD&D Monster Manual.  My first "true" D&D, the one I could properly call my own was Moldvay Basic/Cook & MArsh Expert (commonly referred to as "B/X").  I would over the course of a year or so add in elements of AD&D.  Most importantly the Deities & Demigods, the Fiend Folio, and a copy of Eldritch Wizardry.  *My* D&D was always a mish-mash of Basic D&D and AD&D.  I later discovered that my playstyle was not at all unique.

Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Edition really strikes at the heart of what this sort of play was like.  The familiar and easy Basic/Expert rules with AD&D layered on top.  Layered is the right word, AD&D had a lot of situational rules and rules used in tournaments and rules designed to cover what looked like medieval realism.  As real that is in a world where half-elves fought dragons with magic.  OSE-AF strips this down back to the B/X style rules found in OSE-CF and then adds in what people used the most from AD&D.  No weapon speed factors, no tournament scoring, just D&D-style play.  

OSE-AF is divided into two books, the Player's Tome and the Referee's Tome.

I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon

For this review, I am considering the hardcover books I got via the Kickstarter, the PDFs from DriveThruRPG, and extra copies of the Player's Tome I picked up at my FLGS.  All books were purchased by me and none were submitted for review purposes.

OSE-AF Player's Tome
OSE-AF Player's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

The Player's Tome covers everything an OSE-AF player needs to know. The book details a lot of the same rules that are found in the OSE-Classic Fantasy (or read: Basic) rules.  This new book though integrates the "Basic" and "Advanced" material together with some notes on the "Advanced Fantasy" sections. One might be tempted to say that this book is not needed if you have the OSE-CF book, but that is not really the case. While there are certainly more classes, and more monsters in the case of the Referee Tome, there is still quite a lot of new material here.  Enough to make AF twice as large content-wise as CF.   

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages.  So a character class always takes up two pages (even and odd) so that when laid flat everything can be read at once and easily.  There are very few exceptions to this rule and it gives OSE it's unique look and feel. Add in the art, sparingly but effectively used, the feel is elegant, if minimalist, efficiency.   This is the same design that made D&D 4e a joy to read.  The same feeling is here.

Advanced Fantasy follows its Advanced namesake and splits character race and character class into two separate things. Basic combined race and class so you got Clerics (always human) and Dwarves (always fighters).  Here is the option that most folks want in the "Advanced" game.  In addition to the four classes and the four races of Basic, this book introduces six more races and nine more classes.

In the OSE-AF book, we get: Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Illusionist, Knight, Magic-user, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.

There are also the "race as class" variants of: Drow, Duergar, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, Human, and Svirfneblin.  The level maximum is 14 for humans and variable for others. All race/class combinations are detailed.  This covers our first 80 some odd pages.

What follows next are guides for character advancement, equipment, animals of burden, transportation, and crews.

The next biggest section is Magic and this covers all the spells for the magic-using classes. Since the max level for any human is 14, spells are limited. Divine spellcasters are limited to the 5th level of casting and Arcane to the 6th level. The advantage here is the clerics and druids are on more equal footing with each other and so are magic-users and illusionists.  Unlike their Advanced namesake, this book does not require spell components nor are their other details given.  The spells are firmly in the Basic format.

The book wraps up with Adventuring, Hirelings, and building strongholds.  

The feel is solid B/X Basic with enough "Advanced" added in to make it feel just a little different. Or in other words, exactly how we used to play it from 1980 to 1983.

OSE-AF Referee's Tome
OSE-AF Referee's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

This book covers how to run an OSE-AF game.  Some of the details here are the same as OSE-CF but there are enough rules additions and clarification to make it worthwhile to anyone that has OSE-CF.

The first part covers running the game and adventures along with designing a dungeon and wilderness areas.

The next section, Monsters, makes up the bulk of the book.  All the old OSE-CF favorites are here and most of the Advanced era monsters.  In 107 or so pages we get over 320 monsters.  Again the art is light, but it is there.  We do not get any Demons or Devils, those are coming in a future book from my understanding, but it is still plenty.

The next largest section is Treasure which includes intelligent swords.

We also get sections on monster tables by terrain, strongholds, and NPCs.

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages. This is less obvious here as in the Player's Tome, but it is still a solid feature.

The two-volume set might just be the ultimate in expression of the time period in which I was doing my earliest D&D play.  There are other Basic/Advanced hybrid games out there and they all provide a good mix of their sources, but it is OSE-AF that is the closest to what I was playing then. All of the fun of Basic with the options in Advanced I loved.   The modularity of OSE also allows for expansion.  While the 1 to 14 level range covers most of what people will play there is no reason why there can't be an OSE-Companion to cover higher levels.

OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1
OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $7.50 PDF.

The sometimes zine for OSE and named for the OGC version of the infamous carrion crawler.

This issue adds the new races to the Advanced Fantasy line, the gargantuan (like Goliaths), the goblin, and the hephaestan (logical, elf-like beings).  I am particularly happy with the Goblin.

New classes for Classic and Advanced fantasy are the acolyte (a type of spell-less cleric with healing), the gargantuan (race-class), the goblin (race-class), the hephaestan (race-class), the kineticist (psychics), and the mage (a spell-less magic-user with magical abilities).

There are new rules for fighters and thieves as well as black powder guns.  I like the fighter talents, help give it a bit more to do really.  They are at every 5 levels, but I might make them every 4 instead. 

OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet
OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $4.00 PDF.

This handy guide covers all the major tables found in the OSE Advanced Fantasy line. For $4 it is a great little reference.

Through out all these books and the entire OSE line the art is both evocative of the old-school style and still modern enough to please new audiences.

This is the game of choice for me to introduce old-school style play to players of modern games. My regular 5e group took to it like ducks to water. They love it. They still love their 5e games, but they also like to do this one.  None of them had ever played B/X prior to this and it was a huge success.

I know that Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome have more material to give us for this, I hope it all lives up this new gold standard I set my OSR book to. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Review: Old-School Essentials Adventures

One of my fondest memories of gaming has to be the Summer of 1982 playing this weird-ass hybrid of AD&D first ed and D&D Moldvay/Cook B/X. I think I played every weekend to be honest.

While a lot of games have come really close to this feel, the one that now comes the closest has to be Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old-School Essentials Adventures

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE.  I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online.  I went back to them and you know what?  They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG.

Both books are 48-page, full-color books. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps.  The books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes
The Incandescent Grottoes
by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme. 

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG *could be* like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then.  What do I mean?  Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to. 

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure.  There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end!  Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough.  There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld. 

A bit about the name.  I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t."  I am sure this is intentional.

Halls of the Blood King
Halls of the Blood King
by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score.  And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish.  I mean that in the most positive way. 

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.  

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft.  I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here.  This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier.   For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  This would work out well since I am using OSE for that.  The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now!  But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life.  While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Mail Call: Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

I am back at work today after vacation and buried in emails and work.  I am also buried in physical mail too, but among the bills and junk mail, there was a nice little treat.  My Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy books came. 

Old-School Essentials Kickstarter

These books live up to the hype of the OSE Core rules.

I opted for the "limited edition" covers as I did for the first Kickstarter.

Old-School Essentials Kickstarter Books

The Reference Booklet and the Carcass Crawler zine fit into the box, but the adventures do not. Not due to shape or size, just because the box is full!

Old-School Essentials Reference bookOld-School Essentials books and box

I have not delved into the books yet, but I am already very happy with them. 

As I have mentioned with Advanced Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy, these books do not represent the D&D we bought back then, but more likely the D&D we played back then.   An odd mixture of AD&D and D&D. 

Currently, this is the ruleset I am using for my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So for me the rules are just right. 

I got my Swords & Wizardry Complete Boxed Set just two weeks ago but due to vacation, I have not really read through it all that much yet.

Swords & Wizardry  and Old-School Essentials boxed sets

I am going to need to go through them both and compare and contrast them.

Both seek to scratch that old-school itch, but in different ways. So this could be a lot of fun.

Boxed Sets

They do all look nice together.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters

I have talked a lot about Basic Fantasy in the past.  It is one of my favorites of the Retro-Clone movement and it in many ways reflects how I played back in the early 80s with a mix of Basic D&D and Advanced D&D.   Something I think that a lot of people did and something that creator Chris Gonnerman was keenly aware of.

A while back I discovered he had done ANOTHER game called Iron Falcon.
Iron Falcon, like Basic Fantasy, is a Basic-era Retro Clone, though more on the side of OD&D than AD&D.  Gonnerman is more explicit about this being a game not of the rules "as they were written" but more "as we played them."

That appeals to me.

You can get Iron Falcon in lots of places.  In particular the dedicated website, Lulu, Amazon and of course DriveThruRPG.   I hope to play around with it some more to see what it is all about, but so far it feels like a nice mix of OD&D feel and Basic D&D play.

But today I want to talk about the Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters.  Or rather, let's let Chris Gonnerman talk about it and his plans for it.

The Cafepress shop can be found here,

There is a lot of cool merchandise here and like Chris mentions, the difference here between this and a Kickstarter is you get something right away.   I think it is a great idea. I am going to have to grab a t-shirt or two.

So check it out and come back every month to see what is new and different.

I'll try to get some Iron Falcon reviews up soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

OERAD: Spellcraft & Swordplay

Wellcome once again to the annual Original Edition RPG Appreciation Day!

Uh wait... isn't that supposed to be Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day?  Well, yes, but this year Gamers & Grognards, our host, has decided to expand the day to any old-school game that emulates the Original Edition, or (of course) the Original Edition itself.

This year I want to talk about one of my favorite Old-School games, Spellcraft & Swordplay.

Now, just I get this out of the way first.  Jason is a friend of mine and we worked on a lot of Unisystem games together.   Also, I worked on a supplement for S&S called Eldritch Witchery.  That all being said I developed my opinion of this game long before EW ever was thought of.

Spellcraft & Swordplay is not a retro-clone exactly.  It is more of a "near-clone" or as I often think of it as an alternate reality version of OD&D. This game was released in 2011 and it is much closer to the Original Edition feel than S&W.  How?  Well, it uses the original 2d6 means of combat resolution rather than the "alternate" method of the d20.

When D&D was starting out it grew out of the rules in Chainmail.  Using a d20 (twenty-sided die) was the "alternate" combat method that became the norm.  But the original combat method involved 2d6 (two six-sided dice), S&S (among other changes) explores that further.

There are other changes such as saving throws are made against the appropriate ability (which is not too far off to how 5th edition or Castles & Crusades does it). So you can make a Dexterity save to avoid getting hit with something, or a Constitution save to avoid the effects of a poison.

There are no skills, but ability rolls and some characters get bonuses due their classes.

S&S “feels” a lot like the old rules.

The first third of the book is dedicated to character creation. It is roughly analogous to “Men & Magic” and about the same size. We have our introduction that tells why this book is here. There is a section on ability scores and what they can do. There are entries for the four core races (humans, elves, dwarfs, and Halflings), Warriors (not Fighters or Fighting Men), Priests, Wizards, Thieves and Assassins, all the things we remember as kids or have been told about. Some things have been renamed (my OD&D had Clerics and Magic Users and it was not till 2nd Ed that I had Priests and Wizards) some oddly so (Crypto-Linguistics? I am going to need some more levels in Read Languages to figure that out!) but the spirit is there and that was the point.
Classes each have their own advancement tables as in days of old, though the hit point calculations are weird, they are in line with OD&D rules (I just had forgotten how it was done). Though I missed the level names. Spells are a simpler deal. Levels and description, that’s it.

Part 2, Combat and Confrontation is a little more modern than it’s old school counterpart, showing it’s modern sensibilities. It is, in fact, truer to a more modern concept, the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Ability checks, for the most part, replace all skills. Armor Classes though go up instead of down (so 7 is better than 3) and start at 1, not 10.

Part 3, Monsters and Magic is the “Monsters & Treasure” or “Monster Manual” portion. All stats are in a table at the beginning of the chapter, with descriptive text and some pictures following. It does make it awkward to read, but again this is the same as the OD&D books. Monsters are followed by a listing of magic items.

While there some differences from baseline D&D,  S&S is one of those systems that becomes systemless after a while.  The focus is less on rolling dice and more on adventure and role-playing.  For that reason, I find anything written for OD&D, Swords & Wizardry or Basic D&D can be translated and used in a snap.

In fact, as much as I enjoy Swords & Wizardry I find Spellcraft & Swordplay closer to OD&D in terms of gameplay and feel.

Spellcraft & Swordplay Books

Spellcraft & Swordplay Characters

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.

CE Female Human
Witch 7

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

HP: 13
AC: 6 (Bracers)

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.

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.

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



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 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).
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

There is also Spellcraft & Swordplay, a personal favorite of mine.

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!!

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.

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?