Monday, May 11, 2009

Family D&D Night

The board game companies have been trying to sell us "Family Game Night" for a while. Generally speaking I am ok with this. You get to spend a nice evening at home with people you love and have fun. Not to mention the merits of it being much cheaper. Star Trek + Popcorn for 4 = A lot more than my RPG budget for the month. Plus I can have popcorn at FGN and not have it covered in palm or coconut oils.

So recently we tried out Family D&D Night last weekend and it was a huge success.

We got together with another family we do a lot of thing with. Their boys are the same ages as ours so that is always nice and Greg, the father, is my regular DM (and I am his regular Ghosts of Albion Director). So we had 4 adults, him, I and our wives, plus all of our kids, three boys age 9 and two boys age 6. We got together in my new game room for a night of D&D 4. It was a lot of fun. My youngest didn't like the character he had, so Greg had a back up (was supposed to be my character I think) that he liked better. He played an archer build Ranger, I was playing an-alternate reality version of the warlock I play in the "big guys game", my oldest had his dragonborn paladin he has been asking me to play since we went and got the 4e books at midnight last year together. And my wife got to play a fighter, her first real character and real game. We had elves, tielflings, a sneaky little halfling and a bunch of humans.

We explored some old ruins were we suspected that two boys got lost. Morality tale for our little ones? Maybe. But it did bother the youngest in the crowd. But what was really fun was see what everyone else would do. My youngest and Greg's youngest hated it if any kobolds attacked their moms. To the point of they wanted to attack the very ones that did it. My oldest, who I have been playing 3.x with for a while, REALLY got into it. He was disappointed that his natural 20 was not double damage (as it is in our games) but got over it when he figured out it meant max damage. Plus once a kobold next to him got bloodied he shouted with excitement "I can use my Dragon rage on him now!!". My wife REALLY had fun, it also helps that I had a really cool looking mini for her to use, and yes I am letting her keep it. She was glad her character was so effective in the battle. I had decided to remain understated in this adventure to allow others to shine. That was a good choice cause I seriously doubt I rolled higher than a "3" all night long.

Everyone had so much fun that my wife and two kids had to go to my favorite local game store the very next day so they could have their own dice. My oldest had his own, but I could tell him no while my wife picked out three new sets. They got dice bags too, something I never even got for myself till I had been playing for years.

I bought a new d20. No more "3"s for me.


To all my gamer friends out there with families. Have you done Family D&D (RPG) night? How did it go for you?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Old School Bender

I went on an Old School Bender this last week. Not like the kind I did in college (too old for chemical joy), but Old School RPGs.

click for larger view

Within the last couple of weeks, and especially last week I picked up Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, Monsters of Myth, the Spellcraft & Swordplay boxed set, Spellcraft & Swordplay Pocket Ed and Monstrous Mayhem Pocket Ed

I want to say a bit about each of these.

Labyrinth Lord

What can I add here? It’s B/X. It’s cool. And I want to run this sometime. My only wish is I grabbed the Alternate cover, but I do like the purple.

Basic Fantasy

This was the “new” for me. I had gushed (somewhat embarrassingly so) about Labyrinth Lord, but I have mostly ignored this one. Well flipping through it I finally know what I am going to use this for. BF is a nice implementation of a stepping stone between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D. Back when I was playing B/X a lot of my friends were playing AD&D 1st ed, given my age I was confused about why two very similar games had such differences. Well like most I went on to AD&D. Now when I play or read B/X or BECMI rules, I want to preserve that nice 1981 feeling; so Elf is a race AND a class. Basic Fantasy splits them back up ala AD&D. This is actually kind of cool. If ever I wanted an nice blend of Basic and Advanced, then Basic Fantasy will be my game. I might house rule a few things, like go more with AD&D hit dice and other AD&D circa 1980 ideas. Plus the Basic Fantasy website has a ton of free supplemental documents to make this even more of a solid D&D and AD&D hybrid. Sure, I still have my old Blue Basic book, but I do like this game’s feel and approach.

Of course I will need some monsters.

Monsters of Myth

AKA AD&D Monster Manual III. Sure there are more monsters in *D&D than I will EVER, EVER use, but reading about monsters? No I can’t ever have enough. Thankfully there is Monsters of Myth from some of the guys that gave us OSRIC. So this is for “1st Edition” games, but a little tweaking and it works great for a LL/BF game. Not all the monsters are great of course, nature of the hmm…beast. But there is enough here to keep a 30+ year old vet like me going “wow, that is neat!”. Big selling point, my son loved the cover.

Spellcraft & Swordplay

Gotta support the home team here. So I picked up the Pocket Editions of the Spellcraft & Swordplay rules, both the core and the Monstrous Mayhem books. I also got my limited editions boxed set, with three books, character sheets, dice, reference pages and card. Like the others this one has filled me with no end of geek joy. But while I’ll freely mix and match items above with their spiritual ancestors (B/X and AD&D), I think I am going to keep Spellcraft & Swordplay separate; it’s own thing. The nice thing about all of these games is they can be played on their own or in conjunction with each other with some tinkering. Spellcraft & Swordplay is fine on its own doing its own thing. While I’ll happily play any game with my kids, I think this one works best with some veteran gamers. Ones that remember the “Old Ways” and can really sit back and enjoy the feel of this game. Looking up at that picture I realize I didn’t include the dice I got with the boxed set.

I do have a campaign setting that I think Spellcraft & Swordplay is perfect for. In fact it is a setting I have tried to build under d20, Unisystem and True20 and each time it felt a little off. With that I think Spellcraft & Swordplay will stop being a “nostalgia game” and move into the de-facto rules for my setting that I have been mulling around and playtesting for years. I just you get as big a kick out of it as I do.

Now all I need is a set of old-school looking dice to use with all of them; a couple of d6s, no d10, but rather a d20 numbered from 0-9 in one color and 0-9 in another color. And white. The dice need to be white to symbolize a return to innocence. Or something.

OH. I don’t have my Swords & Wizardry book up there since it hasn’t come in yet. S&W does share the same simplicity of S&S. Though in feel S&W does remind me of say OD&D, 2nd Edition. And I forgot to add my Wayfarers book as well (well in truth a friend has it now and I got that one a while back).

I plan to hit my regular gaming group with all of these rules here soon. Take a day-break from D&D 4 (yes I also play and enjoy D&D 4th edition) to try something else out.

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.