Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old School RPGs Links

Quick one today.

Links to a bunch of Old School / Retro clone RPG resources.

* Dragonsfoot,
Dragonsfoot is a site dedicated mostly to 1st Ed. AD&D.
A forum post on all the games to date, with some information.

* Vedron's Potion Shop
A blog post listing some of the same info in detail.

* RetroRoleplaying
A site for, well, Retro Roleplaying.

* Old-School Renaissance Gorup on Lulu
A collection of the Lulu merchants selling old school games.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spellcraft & Swordplay Pocket Editions

Semi-Review: Spellcraft & Swordplay Pocket Editions.

I recently purchased the “Pocket Editions” of the Spellcraft & Swordplay books from Elf Lair Games and Lulu and I wanted to share my geek joy with you all.

Spellcraft & Swordplay Core:
Monstrous Mayhem:

Disclaimer: Yes I do work for ELG and I am writing for S&S, but I am doing all of that because I was a fan. I will recuse myself about talking about the game system or mechanics (they are awesome by the way), but instead I do want to focus on the thing I had not seen until now; the actual printed books.

Briefly: Spellcraft & Swordplay is a new game inspired by the early history of the fantasy role-playing genre. Not really a retro-clone of Original D&D, it is more a divergent evolution that pays homage to that game and the feel of playing in the mid-to-late 1970s. Its advantage is that it is a complete FRPG in 140 pages (or so).

Ok enough of that. Let us talk about why I am writing this. The books themselves. I picked up the Pocket Editions from Lulu. The format for both books is 5.5” by 8.5”, or a standard (American standard I should say) sheet of printer paper. This puts them at the same size as the Original D&D books. They are perfect bound and if they are like other Lulu books I have purchased they should hold up rather well. I wouldn’t break the spines on these since that would ruin the overall appearance of the books. Speaking of which, the appearance is great.
The books, while obviously paying homage to OD&D also give nods to AD&D. Monstrous Mayhem sports a black cover with a gold-orange spine that is a reminder of the 2nd group of covers for the AD&D 1st Ed books. The art is very appropriate, though not as much as some games tend to use and it gives both books an overall style that just really “feels” old school. This is not a fancy new MP3 or DVD audio, this is that “Uriah Heep” or “Rush” album that has been sitting in your closet that you have not listened to in decades. Jason and Lulu have just provided you a new needle. The feel of this game is not “A thousand points of light” or whatever, but a grittier world, but a “warmer” one if you will. For those that might ask, this version contains no Elmore art.
The paper is nice bright white and the text even in these pocket editions is very easy to read.

While I have been doing some S&S playing and have the PDFs, these books will still be a welcome addition to my game library.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Bits

A quick post over coffee.

Why "The Other Side"?
When I was in high school I wrote an article for the school newspaper called The Other Side of Life, where I poked fun at some of the more odd behaviors of the human condition. Or it was a sloppy "Far Side" ripoff with no art, can't recall. In college I resurrected it as a bit in my campus newspaper. Fast forward almost 5 years and it became my very first website. It became my game site for many years. I took it down in 2003 or so after getting repeatedly hit by hackers that did not like some of my opinions on some topics.

I never used to like reading them, but now there are a few I enjoy.

GROGNARDIA Is an old school RPG blog. While I could be a Grognard; right age, same experiences in play, love 1st Ed and older rules, I can't be one since I also like newer rules like 4th Ed. But this is still a cool blog.

Sexy Witch - A blog about sexy witches throughout the years. The first blog I ever subscribed to. Oh, is anyone here really surprised by that? But the cool thing about this site is it is like a muse for me when I want to capture different styles or periods. So if I want to write about a witch for Ghosts of Albion, I go through the Victorian art. For WitchCraft I look at the new stuff. This has been a great source of inspiration for "Eldritch Witchery" too. No I don't look at the stuff from the dark ages, I look at the photos and art from 70's since that is the feel I want to invoke with EW.

I have no clue here. I like to pride myself on being on the edge tech wise, but I am not sure what I am supposed to be using Twitter for. I am not doing enough in the day with this side of my life that you need an update RIGHT NOW. Plus why would you want to read that or me post it? I think if I am going to spend time writing I'd rather do my RPG stuff, than write about writing it.

More soon...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Old School Gaming

When D&D 3rd Edition came out a lot of people complained it would NEVER take the place of AD&D 2nd Ed. Of course soon after we had companies (Necromancer Games, Sword and Sorcery Studios) that tried to capitalize on using the new rules but emulating the feel of older (read 1st Edition) games. They were in my opinion fairly successful at this. One of the reasons they could do this was the Open Gaming License. The OGL allowed other companies/people to create and publish works based on the core of the new D&D 3rd Edition game to make their own games. The OGL and the d20 license was a revolution really in gaming.

Now fast forward 9 years. We have 4e (4th Edtion D&D) out now and it's GSL is a bit different (and I think in some good ways), but the main thing it has seemed to do is re-vitalize the "retro gaming" market. People take the SRD (the core of the older 3/3.5 rules) and use them to emulate an older game. The first one I was aware of was OSRIC, or Old School Reference & Index Compilation. OSRIC was clever in that it used the newer rules and made some assumptions to make something that seems more like the 1st Edition rules. It has met with some success in that you can find OSRIC compatible products in stores, Lulu and DriveThruRPG. I was left wondering why anyone would want to play an older game, but I have since seen the appeal. One of the biggest one was Castles & Crusades that was still closer to 3e, but felt like 1st ed. Troll Lords publishes it and up till recently even published material from the Grand Master DM himself Gary Gygax. One I suppose could also count HackMaster, but that was developed under a different license. While it's genesis is different it's popularity I think is part of the same phenomena.


The Retro-Clone Movement / "Old School Renaissance"

When is something a fad and when is it a movement?

Well in this case I am going with movement. I know a lot of players that looked at D&D 4e and said No Way! (to be fair I knew people that said that about 3e and 2e too when they came out). But not only are there a lot people saying this, there are a lot of products. OSRIC and C&C I mentioned (though OSRIC in reality is not a "game" per se, but a guide for making products that are "compatible with" another game, at least originally). Another one that make me really happy to own is Labyrinth Lord, a clone of the old Basic/Expert sets of the early 80's. The Erol Otis covers, not the "newer ones". ;) Labyrinth Lord is just fun to read and I could totally see anyone using it to teach the basics of D&D to a child. Sure there some things that many modern players might consider odd (Elves are a CLASS? And only can go to 10th level?) but it was what I learned on so to me it feels like finding a long lost friend. Basic Fantasy also goes after this realm but I am not as familiar with it as I am with LL. It looks really cool though, it seems more "updated" than does LL, but I'd have to read it in detail.

Another REALLY great one is Spellcraft & Swordplay. This one is less of a retro clone and more of an attempt to rebuild the classic game from the same materials. Sorta like putting all the amino acids in a jar and hitting them with electrical charges to create life. In this case life was remade and it looks the same…almost. Or in the words of the creator Jason Vey, "Does for OD&D and Chainmail what Castles & Crusades does for AD&D." I think that works well. S&S is a great game and is really fun. LL does what it does and I like it, but I have done it before. S&S does something different and in a really neat way. Like C&C, S&S attempts to do something old, with something new and old, but ends up new. Makes sense? Maybe not. Also in the field of OD&D inspired games is Swords & Wizardry. Though like some of the others it less of a true retro-clone and more of a modern retelling of one.

Of course I NEED one of these:

Now comparing these games to each other is rather unfair. Each draws upon the same source material, each is re-made in the eyes of their respective authors and developers as the way they like to do things, and each one in the end does what it sets out to do. Though it is fair to compare them to the D&D they were modeled from or took their inspiration from.

There is even an association, TARGA, the Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Game Association, Blogs, and pages on Facebook[1].

The question that remains is, why would someone play an "old" game when a newer game is available or better yet why play a clone when the original game can be had?

Well a lot goes with personal taste. I felt OD&D was nigh unplayable, but Spellcraft & Swordplay is a totally playable game. AD&D is great, but OSRIC and C&C allow me to use all the 3.x books I have too. And don't dismiss the nostalgia factor. I still have my Basic and Expert books and my copy of the Rules Compendium, but picking up LL is just fun. It's something "old" where I still get that feel of discovery. One day I will run a "Basic" D&D game using all my Basic and Expert rules, RC, LL and Basic Fantasy and I'll take my sons to the Keep on the Borderlands where it all started for me. "Sons, 30 years ago your father and a group of dedicated 8th graders cleaned out these caves and made the land peaceful. But I hear the caves are active again and orcs have been seen in Borderlands killing all who pass. It's time I gave you my sword…"


Here are some links

Spellcraft & Swordplay, Classic (0e) D&D rules,, forums:

OSRIC, rules for emulating 1st Ed AD&D,

Labyrinth Lord, a B/X retro clone,

Basic Fantasy, a BECMI emulation,

Swords & Wizardry, OD&D inspired,

Grognardia Blog,

TARGA, the Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Game Association,

Matthew J. Finch's (Mythmere) A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming,

New post on RPG Net that appeared while I was typing this,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Charmed the Roleplaying Game

A new fun thing I did.

and an alternate cover on my DeviantArt page.

Charmed Roleplaying Game by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Not much to say today. Still working on projects and will say what I can when I can.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Generation HEX: Design Blog #2.5

So Generation HEX. Nice title huh? I like it.

I had this idea, and stop me if you have heard this one before, a school for children to learn magic. Sure, it has been done, a lot. Not just in games, but books (I seem to recall some books like this), TV shows (Charmed dealt with this for a bit) and other media. So why should I do it.

Simple. I wanted too.

I like the idea of a group of kids getting together and saving the world from destruction while dealing with the normal issues of growing up, school, social lives (or lack thereof) and interaction. To me it seems like a genre rich in potential and rich in storytelling. Part of my education was to go beyond the aforementioned books and even avoid really cool products like Green Ronin's "Hero High" which would cover some of the same ground. For this I went back to source. If you want to read the Bible and really get a feel for it, you read it in Latin or Greek. Freud or Jung, go back to the original German. For magical high schools, you got back to Magna and Anime. Yup, I took a crash course in Sailor Moon! I watched anime, in particular Shôjo anime, for ideas. I was surprised to see how close it all was to the kind of game I wanted to do.

I originally set it all up in a document was going to do an 80k word draft and talk to Guardians of Order about it. They (He really) seemed interested and then GoO disappeared. That tale is best told elsewhere by others. But Now I have all these ideas and all of these things I have written that need a new home and a new system. I also thought about using Unisystem (same as Buffy and Ghosts of Albion) and it would fit great, maybe too great. I can kinda do this game with Ghosts now and not really alter much and be too tempted not to alter the rest where it would be needed. Plus Unisystem is licensed and I don't have that sort of cash to do this on my own. I have been looking long and hard at True20 and really like what I see.

Why High School?

Simple, unlike college, or getting married, or having kids, High School is the last true universal everyone has and everyone shares. Getting on Facebook and seeing some old high school friends has got me thinking about these things again. It's odd really. I have contacted and been contacted by more High School friends than I have college friends. The time line is not that different. If you add Junior High to one and Grad School to the other, the span of time is about the same, and generally speaking I liked college life much more. But why is it that the High School friendship endure and more importantly whatever that thing is how do I capture it and emulate properly in my magical high school game?

I have some High School friends here. What do you all say?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Design Blog, #2

Eldritch Witchery Updates

Well I was originally going to include a bunch of demons and devils in this book, sort of a "everything that everyone thought D&D was about but really isn't" would be here. I survived the "Satanic Panic!" of the 80's, have been accused of being a Satanists on more than one occasion and of course it isn't true (a perverse slave is still a slave). But I wanted to have my fun too. Well reality often gets in the way and the reality is that EW is going to be a bit larger than I thought so something has to go.

At the moment I have the Witch and Warlock classes, a section on Traditions, some information on covens, and of course plenty of new spells and magic items. There will be some monsters of course. I want to include Hags and of course I need to have my Druthers in it.

Normally here I suppose one would post their notes on design, but most of mine are from previous versions of this class, so my notes are really more on how I plan to implement them. Right now I am looking for any documentaries or movies about witchcraft that were filmed in the 70s. That is feel I want, something very “Rosemarie’s Baby” like or even better, the original “The Initiation of Sarah”. Not so much for the story, but more for the feel of the times. Or maybe some of the funky old books that my old hometown library used to have. Or some Hammer Horror, like “To the Devil a Daughter”. In any case this project is going to force me (allow me) to watch some really crappy 70s horror. That is almost worth it in and of itself!
In the meantime, I have been re-watching a lot of Charmed. I’d still love to do a Charmed RPG, just don’t see it taking off now after the show went off the air. Though I understand the books sell well enough.