Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm unplugging for awhile and taking a break from social networking.

d20 Dark Ages isn't going away. But it'll get retooled in the coming weeks. 

I disabled/deleted my G+ profile--so if you look for me there, well,  guess you might find some "Garfield minus Garfield"-like posts.  

My computer can barely handle G+ anyway--I need some software upgrades. I got tired of putting up with my browser crashing half the time I scrolled down to few posts. 

But in reality, on G+, I feel like I'm standing in a crowded room, amid a circle of people which I only sort-of know. All of them want to have a lively discussion. Sometimes we do. Other times it seems like a few are just standing there saying Hey! Look at me! Look at me! 

I feel like I'm guilty of the same behavior with a heavy dose of all sorts of random. Somebody said to me the other day about how d20 Dark Ages goes from retrospectives, to transformers, and gaming philosophies--all in a single week. Is that all I have to offer? 

That's the real question, isn't it? What do I have to offer? 

And, more importantly, who am I offering it to? 

Once I figure those things out, I'll be back. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mini Monday: D&D and Miniatures in the 1990s

When did miniature use for tabletop games become almost mandatory?

The obvious answer is D&D 3e, when positioning on a square grid during combat determined what abilities and feats your characters could use. But I think a movement toward using miniatures had been building in the hobby for sometime before this.

The 1990s seemed to be a transition period for miniatures and gaming. Sculpts, in my mind, started getting much better than what had gone before (comparing my figs to my older brother's).

 When I started playing D&D in 1989, I didn't have any miniatures. And it worked fine--I didn't have many players in my games either for awhile, just 2-3. We used the old standby, our imaginations for combat encounters. But when the number of my players grew, something had to be used to keep track of combat. Imagination is a wonderful thing, but 6 people around a tabletop can imagine some very different things during a combat.

Dice and coins worked for awhile. Then I started using figures from the boardgames HeroQuest, Battlemasters, and Warhammer Quest. 

Even so, I mainly used them for the players to determine their character's place within the party's formation. I suspect this is the way a lot of groups used their miniatures. AD&D 1e and 2e were kind of vague on how to use miniatures (yeah, those measurements in inches in 1e kinda threw me off a bit--does an inch mean 10 feet or 10 yards?). I just didn't want to deal with it.

I also didn't like having to reach over my DM's Screen to push miniatures around. So, unless I had a complicated encounter, I didn't place my monsters down all that often. And it worked just fine.

The neat thing about D&D and miniatures in the 1990s was that miniatures were just supplemental. They weren't required. You could collect them and used them, but the even the rules stated you didn't absolutely need them. (Heck, even the rules said that the rules themselves were optional).

I think we lost something, perhaps a bit out of imaginations when 3e came along and made miniatures almost mandatory. Sure, you could buck the system--but then it'd be difficult to account for, say, Attacks of Opportunity.

I swear, before 3e came out, I never heard: "Hey, did he move through my threatened square?"

"Threatened squares" and "Attacks of Opportunity" where real game changers in my mind; they took the game out of people's imaginations and down to the physical tabletop, for better for worse.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Soundtrack Saturday: King Arthur Movie Soundtrack

For Soundtrack Saturdays, I've been covering soundtracks that I enjoy, some I'm just downright enthusiastic about. Obviously, since music tastes vary from person to person, some of you will disagree with my selections. But, for the most part, if I like it. I'll recommend it. 

King Arthur: Original Score, by Hans Zimmer, however, is a mixed bag. Like the movie. which came out in 2004, its starts off strong, but then somewhere along the way you just stop caring. Both the movie and its soundtrack isn't necessarily bad, but they're not particularly good, either. 

The only two tracks I can recommend are....

"Tell Me Now," by Moya Brennan, and...

...the first half of "Woad to Ruin."

Why? Because these tracks, at first, appears to be great for an RPG session because they are long (the shortest is 5 min and 54 sec. The problem: it often seems like they've combined what should have been two separate tracks into one. "Woad to Ruin" for example, starts off slow, giving you awe and wonder, and then around the 6 minute mark it becomes fast paced for combat. 

And you'd think that "Hold the Ice" would be great for be great for combat. Because in the movie there was a fight on a frozen lake. But no... its kinda slow. More pondering the ambiance of life. 

"Do you think I'm Saxon" starts off fast paced, then goes slow, and then slower. 

And if you're a expecting a romping epic finale, which Hans Zimmer is known to deliver, with "All of them!" Forget it. I'm not sure what this track is supposed to be: It starts sort of melancholy, and kinda picks up a little. And toward the end it gets kinda epic. Sort of. It certainly doesn't end with a bang.

Conclusion: Your mileage may vary with this soundtrack. 

I can really only recommend "Tell me now" and the first part of "Woad to Ruin." The rest just isn't Hans Zimmer's best in my opinion.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Obligatory Random Wizard question bandwagon post and stuff.

I got these questions from here.

I'm answering them based on my homebrew campaign setting, Domikka.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
No. There are no elves. I have halflings in an unpublished story, but they get slaughtered. Dwarves are evil. All of them. They like to hunt humans for their hearts.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?

Demi-humans? You mean Goblins of the Woods or Demons of the Earth? Heck, no. That's why its okay to kill them.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Ascending. The days of Thac0, alas, are over. 

(4). Demi-human level limits?

Goblins of the Woods and Demons of the Earth have levels?

(5). Should thief be a class?


(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

Only if they ask.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

It depends on whenever the player decides on having his character take the lead.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?


(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
Both. But I'm thinking about switching to the DCC RPG experience point system.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?
Sigh. In the grim darkness of the near present there is only Edition Wars. 

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

Depends on the edition.

Elric vs. Elminster... who'd win? (The Best Answer)

On Monday, I asked: "Who would win in a fight--Elric of Melnibone of Elminster of Shadowdale?"

Some said Elric, others said Elminster. Elric has, of course, Stormbringer. But Elminster has all kinds of twinked out magic. However, +Moe Tousignant on G+ gave the best answer:

"Elric who would cradle a dying Elminster in his lap crying. 
See they would start battling, at a stand off but then realize that the lords of Chaos are the true enemies. Then they would unite and have an epic 12 book quest saving not only the known realm but 13 unknown ones as well. We would find out that Elminster is also an aspect of the Eternal champion and the two would become blood brothers through this experience. Then just at the end as they are about to walk off into the phlogistrom Stormbringer would strike forcing Elric to stab his now long time friend and ally in the back."

Yeah, that'd definitely be keeping in both the traditions of the Elric Saga and the numerous Forgotten Realms books.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

In Retrospect: Planescape

I was 15 when I discovered the Planescape boxed set at my local B. Dalton. The Lady of Pain watched me from the logo on the cover with her uncaring and threatening visage. The artwork just looked cool--Tony DiTerlizzi's work was phenomenal, still is.

I soon purchased the boxed set, and devoured its contents within a week. But then I was like: "Okay, now what?"

I felt too dumb to run it. I felt like it was meant for people who'd been playing D&D for years or at least had a degree in Philosophy or Religion and Folklore.

Looking back now, I get it: Beliefs, arguments, and force shape your reality. The factions in the Planescape boxed each offer a different viewpoint on reality and how the multiverse works--got it. Back then, at least through the first read, I was "furrowing my brow in a vain effort to understand the situation."(to quote The Simpsons). And I thought I was pretty damn smart for my age.

Besides, I still had my Greyhawk Campaign to run. And they had already crossed into Ravenloft and back again. Why would they want to gallivant around the planes?

Furthermore, Planescape gave off a vibe that it needed to be ran properly, as if all the players had to understand the philosophies behind it.

The adventures weren't supposed to be about hack'n slash. Yeah, I got that. But if that's the case then what do the adventurers do? Debate their way across the multiverse? The campaign quickstarters in the back the booklet "Sigil and Beyond" really weren't that great in conveying how newbies should approach the game. (Oh, you're supposed to prevent somebody from stealing flowers? Yeah, what a yawner...).

Also, did anybody else get the notion your wer supposed to play New Age music for your Planescape sessions? Stuff like Pure Moods, or Gregorian Chant?

Well, something keep pulling at me, because I did eventually have my players cross over into Planescape and have adventures there. The played through adventures like Deva Spark, The Fires of Dis, and few short ones from The Well of Worlds. I grossed them out with "The Field of Nettles" from Hellbound: The Blood War. At times they complained Planescape was too complicated. Other times they enjoyed it. But after awhile they wanted to got back to Greyhawk. But after jaunting around in Greyhawk for an adventure or two, they wanted to go back to Planescape.

The really neat thing about the Planescape is that characters of low and mid-levels could survive. Before that, it was assumed that characters had to be of high level to survive the outer planes. Planescape changed that. The only hassle I experienced running Planescape was trying to keep track of how magic items and spells functioned on each plane.

Otherwise, I had a fun time, once I got passed all of the "ambiance" and just ran it. I only wrote a couple adventures for Planescape, usually short ones--it didn't bother all the background of what each faction thought (that's what kind annoyed me with each published stand-alone adventure--there was usually page or two describing what each faction would think about the adventure. Who cares? Let the player decide how his or her character reacts to an adventure).

TSR was jumping on the White Wolf bandwagon with the factions. I like the idea of factions, to a certain extent. But none of my players had their characters choose a faction--they didn't want to get tied down to an organization--even the Xaosects.

My ratings are based off the Planescape Boxed set, even though I realize I've mentioned other products here, and I'm kind of looking back on Planescape as a whole.

I'll do a couple reviews of the supplements and modules in the near future.

Presentation: 10 out of 10
Creativity: 9 out of 10
Utility: 4 out of 10

(I hardly ever used the Boxed Set, once I'd read through all of the booklets, and none of my players bothered reading the "Player's Guide". They did, however, like the Planeswalkers Handbook when that came out).

Get this if... you want to have cross planar adventure in the multiverse within the "Great Wheel" cosmology with lots of philsophical debates.

Don't this if... you're not interested in planar adventures or don't like campaign settings with lots and lots of "fluff."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

VPA-8: Get Enough Sleep and Eat Well

I haven't done of Victoria Praeparatio Amat (Victory Loves Preparation) in awhile--I just sort of ran out of ideas, until now.

Getting enough sleep and eating well should be an obvious piece of advice--but the overweight gamer who stays up all hours playing games has truth to it, unfortunately.

In my case, my sleep schedule has been wonky recently. And that's affected the games I've been playing in. Last weekend I started nodding off during a zombie apocalypse game, which was pretty much like The Walking Dead. The problem is that the night before I'd been up pretty late--some inspiration for writing struck. I lay in bed, my head swimming with ideas, wide awake so I had to do something about it.

I also didn't help that I didn't eat well prior to the game. I didn't have breakfast because I slept in late. So I waited until lunch to eat and ate a foot-long Subway Club with cookies and a drink. I felt full for most of the afternoon. Thought I was fine. But by early evening, as the game started, I started feeling hungry. Not wanting to delay the game, I bought some snacks at the FLGS where we played. You know, the typical carbs and caffeine combo to go. I was okay for about three hours, but then it all started catching up to me. I knew I had to get home before the tiredness really set in. I made it. And was all right. I woke up more once I had to start paying attention to the road, becoming clear-headed.

This morning I woke up at my usual time, but was awake until 2am. Writing. Working. I've got a great idea for a series of novellas, and was hammering out the series "Bible." When the inspiration comes, it burst like a dam. Got to ride the wave.

However, I didn't sleep in late and I'm eating breakfast as I type this. I'm planning on taking nap sometime this afternoon. Most importantly, I don't have a game tonight.

So just eat well and get enough sleep. You're enjoy yourself more at the gaming table.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Elric versus Elminster--who'd win?

Yeah, I know, it's like the old debate of Superman vs. Mighty Mouse. But let's have some fun.

Elric and Elminster are both powerful wizards, but Elric has Stormbringer.

Both have faced off against incredibly powerful opponents, even gods, and survived.

Elminster, even when turned into a magical cloud of ash, can't seem to die. 

Elric dies in the final book of the saga, and the current books take place during the time when he was alive.

If Elric stabs Elminster with Stormbringer, Elminster's soul will forever be destroyed.

Elric is in Appendix N, Elminster is not (and I don't think he's in Pathfinder's "Inspirational Reading" section in Game Mastery either).

So my vote is with Elric. Who do you think would win in a fight?

Place your vote in the poll on the right!

(Does anybody know how to make the voting options have lighter text? I've tried adjusting things in "advanced options" but that doesn't seem to work. And I'm a bit of a html neophyte). 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mini Monday: Downsizing Unpainted Miniatures

How do you decide which miniatures need to go if or when the time comes?

I've been downsizing my miniature collection in recent months. It all really started with selling off my Warhammer Fantasy miniatures--both painted and unpainted. (For the reasons why, start here)

While I certainly needed the money, I also fell a weight lift. Finally my miniature collection seemed a bit more managable. Soon I was putting more miniatures, unpainted, up on Ebay. I've sold hundreds in the last 6 months or so, all getting decent prices, all going to better homes.

Now I need to do another count. I pretty sure I have about 1,000 miniatures total. A good chunk of those are my Hundred Years War miniatures, the rest are my D&D figures (prepainted and otherwise).

Instead of having hundreds and hundreds of miniatures to paint, I have now a couple hundred or so--most HYW. Instead of having a vague timeline of getting everything done, the end is now in sight.

It's a great relief to know that, if I steadily keep painting, I'll have all of my miniatures completed in about two years, if not sooner.

What then? I don't know. I doubt I'll buy anymore until then.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Soundtrack Saturday: Transformers The Movie (1986) Soundtrack

I'm still on my Transformers: The Movie kick.

I've never used these songs in any of my games. Yet one of the reasons why the movie is so awesome is because they combined fantastic animation featuring Transformers with 80s rock'n roll. The movie itself is pretty dark--an entire civilized planet gets destroyed in the first five minutes, lots of death an destruction--but somehow the music by Vince DiCola works.

It makes the movie epic. 

I don't know how these songs would work for a D&D/Fantasy game. Definitely sci-fi. But probably not Dark Heresy--related RPGs (Although a bunch of Space Marines fending of a Necron assault to "The Touch" would be pretty damn amusing).


"Unicron Medley"

The Theme Song

"The Touch"

"Instruments of Destruction"

"The Hunger"


Friday, July 19, 2013

Transformers: The Movie is still awesome after all of these years!

I watched this movie again last night, and I actually prefer it over the live-action Transformer movie trilogy made in the last decade. Why is this movie so damn awesome?


--It begins with a Transformer the size of a planet, Unicron, destroying and eating another planet, and then opening credits roll with 1980s heavy metal theme music playing.
--You learn that some heavy-hitters are doing the voices: Orson Welles, and Leonard Nimoy!
--It is the year 2005!
--Decepticons hijack an Autobot space shuttle and kill all of the Autobots on board! Yeah, characters actually DIE in a cartoon intended for children! (Well, it did get a PG rating.)

All of this happens in the FIRST NINE MINUTES OF THE MOVIE!

For the rest of the movie, you get several epic battles, awesome animation, watch a couple moons get destroyed and Unicorn maul Cybertron, and you learn a little more about the history of the Transformers. And, you get to meet a new enemy of the Autobots--the mysterious Quintessons.

Even Starscream gets his moment of glory when he kicks Megatron out the door of Astrotrain into space, along with a number of other wounded Decepticons.

Oh yeah, and Optimus Prime dies.

I remember, as kid, first hearing about the final battle between Prime and Megatron and thinking: "No way? They're really going to kill Optimus Prime and Megatron?" Yeah, the marketing worked, I begged my mom to go see the movie.

I don't think my mom liked it--the movie was pretty violent. And there was a bit of swearing by a grown-up Spike: "Oh shit! What are we gonna do now?"

I know a lot of people didn't like the movie. It didn't do well in theaters. Parents didn't like because it was too violent. And there was that kid who locked himself in his room when he learned the Prime died.

For me, it's great movie because it shows the outcome of violence and what happens when people (even Transformers) fight over resources. It's a lesson kids should know about.

In any case, I still think Transformers: The Movie is awesome after all of these years!

What do you think?

And now for a moment of Transformers Zen:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Like Randomly Determined Dungeons or Whatever? Check out this

I feel like I might be behind the curve since it seems like lots of other know about Still, I'm sharing this anyway.

There are days when I, as a DM, just don't feel like coming up with stuff on my own--I might be tired or crunched for time. I just want to let the dice and a bunch of random tables do the talking for me. Besides, it's a lot of fun to see what random combinations come up.

Wizardawn does this in spades, for multiple old school game systems like OSRIC and S&W. Just look at all of the generators on the left.

Random dungeons -- check
Random treasure -- check
Random fantasy names -- check
It's pretty much all there. What's really remarkable, however, is "Ultimate World Adventure" generator which "will create a totally unique adventure for an area of your world (providing some information for a single hex on your world hex map). There are all the creatures from Swords & Wizardry™ here. There are various traps and room decorations to make any dungeons, temples, castles, and tombs...dangerous places. It will also create a very unique set of magic items "just" for your adventure."

You get a hex map AND detailed locations with a few clicks. 


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Soundtrack Saturday: Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch was a suprisingly decent movie, despite the camera never showing Nicolas Cage doing any close-up sword fighting and the ninja-zombies monks at the end.

The soundtrack is pretty good, too. You play it in the background and it has mix of haunting music and high adventure--sometimes combined in the same track. It doesn't suffer from what I call "cue syndrome" where the music shifts or changes with what happens in the movie. Thus, it is good for a gaming session.

Unfortunately I could only hunt down a couple samples.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Deadliest. Campaign. Ever. (At least for me)

Am I a killer DM?

Tonight I'm running the 9th session of my Expeditions in the Northlands Campaign, which I restarted back in May. So far, we've had at least 20 character deaths! That's an average of 2-3 deaths per session. I have a stack of deceased character index cards to prove it. And I'm not even counting the handful of hirelings who've met their demise along the way.

This is either a resounding success or an unmitigated disaster, depending your point of view.

Yet I sort-of expected this. I'm using the character "funneling" system from Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Every player starts off with 2-3 0-level characters, depending on the size of the party. We're using Swords & Wizardry pretty much straight-up (roll 3d6 for each ability score). I'm also running the campaign "West Marches-style" with a pool of about a dozen players, some committed, some casual.

Overall though, the players are enjoy the campaign. And I'm enjoying running it--it's a relief from developing and running a "plot-based" campaign.

Here are my observations:

--Most character deaths occur at 0-level, which is to be expected.

--Character death doesn't bother the players as much as it would in a "plot-based" campaign or in more "rules heavy" RPGs (later editions of D&D included). Sure, it sucks when your surviving character who made it to first level dies, but you can always roll up 2-3 more 0-level chararacters in about 15 minutes.

--1st level characters have a slightly higher survival rate, because they often have better equipment than they're zero level counterparts. But they are still fragile.

--"Above average" factors into the probabilities a lot more than it does in later versions of D&D. For example: one player has a 1st level fighter with with above average strength and constitution. He rolled up maximum hit points at 0-level and 1st level for 14 hit points total. Even with a dexterity of 8 (-1 to AC), he is the "tank" of the group, especially now that he's traded in his chainmail for platemail, giving him an AC of 17 (plate +6, large shield +2, -1 dex). Most low-level monsters will have a hard time hitting him.

--Magic is "magical" again and potent. I've watched a single magic missile turn the tide of a battle. A sleep spell, cast by the party's Witch, once saved the group from complete annihilation.

--The players themselves are being more active, rather than passively sitting back and letting the story take them along. There are no stories, except for the ones they have their characters develop.

--I've been playing and running RPGs for almost 25 years, this is my deadliest campaign by far, yet so far my players are enjoying, and I am, too.

What's the most deadliest campaign you've played in?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What D&D Supplements from the 1970s did or do you use?

I've been taking another look at my copies of Greyhawk and Eldritch Wizardry, since I started running my Expeditions in the Northlands campaign using Swords & Wizardry. It amazes me how each are just chalked full of additional rules and clarifications, though I ponder the usefulness (and dare I say balance) of some. They're sort of a hodgepodge of rules thrown together.

Eldritch Wizardry introduces psionics. Magic-users loose a spell for every psionic power they learn. And for some reason Druids and Monks can't be psionic. Many powers are restricted by class--such as only fighting men can learn Body Weaponry. You also have a combat system based on segments, and lots of other stuff--like Orcus!

Greyhawk also introduces lots of rules like exceptional strength, damage by weapon type, the thief class, the "proper way" of awarding experience points (100 points per level is "ridiculous"). I also like the list of tricks and traps in the "Underworld and Wilderness" adventures at the end of the book. (A troll with a magic spear riding a purple worm--yikes!)

So I'm just curious, what did you use from these supplements back in the day? What worked? What didn't?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Anne Greyhawk and the Valkyrie's Vow (A Serialized Novel)

Over at my other website about writing, the Word of the Stelios, I've begun posting my first novel, Anne Greyhawk and Valkyrie's Vow in serialized form.

Anne Greyhawk just wants to go home. She's having a miserable time at Bible camp. None of her other friends have shown up, and she has to keep an eye on her asthmatic nine-year-old brother, while enduring the power trips of the camp counselors. Only the ruins of a town in the woods with an old church seem to offer any kind of escape.

Soons she finds herself in a world far away, where Goblins of the Woods and Demons of the Earth stalk the land and prophecies seem to be real. Anne must find new friends and allies, while avoiding the machinations of Fallor the Necromancer, to complete her quest to return home.

You can find the book's introduction, where I plan on using this as a fundraiser for children's hospitals, at this link.

You can read the first blog post of the book here.


Mini Monday: Miniature Painting Doldrums...its okay.

How do you deal with not wanting to paint miniatures?

Lately I've been neglecting my painting. I go to my work area, look down at my latest project and go "nah." Then I look through my other unpainted miniatures, looking for something that might pique my interest. Nothing. Not really anyway.

I've still only completed 9 miniatures for this year, out of my goal of 52. I've got quite a few half-painted miniatures, namely a unit of Hundred Years' War mounted knights. The desire to paint miniatures has been gone for awhile.

At times, I can't help but compare myself to other, more prolific, painters. Here I am with my little goal of 52 miniatures, while I know of people who complete a whole unit for a given army in a couple weeks. I also know of somebody who completed a Warhammer 40k Space Marine army in a week (I don't know if that included assembly). How can I ever be that prolific? Should I be that prolific? I thought about it, and my answer is "no."

This is okay.

And its okay that I haven't completed many projects this year.

There's lots of other things going on in my life, namely my writing. Did you see I self-published my first novella, Murder on the Hot Flats? (And it's got its first review--5 stars! whoo-hoo!) And today my first novel, Anne Greyhawk and the Valkyries, is going up on my other website, The Word of Stelios, in serialized form.

I guess part of it, too, is the whole sitting down thing. I spent most of my day writing, at and the end of the day I want to get off my butt and do something else besides sit some more.

Oddly enough, as I type this, I'm getting the urge to paint. Maybe I'll set aside an hour this evening to work on a project.

What do you do when you hit the miniature painting doldrums?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Soundtrack Saturday: Pan's Labyrinth

Fairy tales are the stuff of dark fantasy and horror, no matter how much Disney sugar coats the original stories with their films. They were meant to scare children by instilling them valuable life lessons: beware strangers at the door bearing gifts, your parents might abandon you if you are not good, beware the vanity, pride, and vindictiveness of the high and mighty (but, if you are careful, you can use these to your advantage).

The "modern fairy tale" of Pan's Labyrinth is no exception. I know people don't like it because of the subtitles. Too bad. You're missing out on a great and haunting story featuring a girl, Ofelia, getting wrapped up in her own fairy tale featuring terrifying monsters (both human and fantastic) where reality and fantasy blur.

The soundtrack itself is melancholy and haunting, suitable for dark fantasy and horror in your games.

The main theme of Pan's Labyrinth is "A Long, Long Time Ago..."

The Moribund Tree and the Toad...

Not Human...

Friday, July 5, 2013

In Retrospect: Dragonlance

What are your thoughts on Dragonlance?

I can already see certain members of the OSR recoil like vampires from garlic upon reading the dreaded "D" word. Yeah, I know: For many, Dragonlance pretty much spelled the end of the Golden Age of D&D, where story became more important than old school dungeon crawls and wilderness exploration. 

I've heard all of the arguments. Dragonlance...
--is railroady, especially the modules
--was written by aspiring novelists
--suffers from world-shattering events
--has a screwball system of philosophy and religion
--has kender

I agree with all of these statements (especially kender, oh I hate kender)

Yet back then I didn't know any better, and neither did my friends. What can I say? We were pre-teens just getting into Dungeons & Dragons. The fact that we were reading the Dragonlance Trilogy in middle-school should at least say we were fairly literate for our age. While I ran my Greyhawk Campaign, my best friend ran Dragonlance.

We had a great time. 

See, my friend didn't stick with the books and modules. He made Dragonlance his own, by setting his campaign 60 years after the War of the Lance. He ignored official canon. And we had a helluva good time. We fought dragons and draconians. We went on quests to find artifacts to fight the resurgance of the evil Dragons and the Dragon Highlords. 

The official rules didn't allow bards. So what? I played one anyway and when he was on the cusp of casting 3rd Level spells, he had to go to the High Tower of Sorcery and take the Tests. He fought a dark elf illusion-thing that could not be killed by brute strength. I learned that everytime I hit him, I took twice the wounding. So my character had to take the hits and hopefully not die. Somehow I saw through the illusion and passed the Tests. I learned that my character had a destiny to defeat evil, but first had to get over being Chaotic Neutral. 

(Oh, come'on where's the fun in that? Had my bard been good, he wouldn't have been able to burn down a half of a kender village before reaching the tests. Those kender deserved it--they stole my dragonslaying sword! And its Dragonlance, which has lots of dragons!)

After that campaign ended, we got magically whisked away to another continent on Krynn where an undead army rampaged. I remember running a lot from the undead hosts. Our arch-nemesis was a death knight (not Lord Soth). Somewhere along the way we encountered an undead beholder.

We just played and had a good time. Sure, my friend's adventures were linear (and some would say, railroads) but we didn't care for the most part (okay, once my character got konked by a falling branch just so he could have a weird prophetic dream sequence--but other than that...). 

Somewhere in there my best friend ran a brief side-campaign that took place just a few years after the Cataclysm. We rolled up new characters and adventured in the ruins. I remember something about fighting goblins on top of a 1000 foot tall tower. There was even a city that looked a lot like Myth Drannor from the Forgotten Realms. 

Oh yeah, and the artwork.

Who could forget the artwork?  

Anyway, my point is that we had fun because we didn't follow canon. My best friend made Dragonlance his own creation. It was his version of Dragonlance, not the version pushed by the folks at TSR. 

The same can go for any of the "official" campaign settings. Heck, I might even play in a Realms game today so long as the DM made it his own, sans Elminster and the material from the "official" books. 

It'd even be fun to play Dragonlance again, so long as the DM ignores all the worldshaking events that happen every few years after the War of the Lance. 

To hell with canon. Don't let TSR, WotC, or whatever company dictate what happens at your game table without question. Make the game your own.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The First Mention of "Old School Renaissance"?

Akrasia over at Akratic wizardry just earned a lot of old school cred via The Bat in the Attic.
(Yeah, I know, it sounds confusing). Anyway, somebody has tracked down what could possibly be the first mention of "Old School Renaissance" in mid-2005. It turns out that an anonymous guest over at Dragonsfoot coined the term during a discussion over Castles & Crusades vs. True d20.

Over production and over stock is leading many online stores to slash prices. An old school renaissance could be on the horizon. C&C is ahead of the game for the moment but this won't remain the case for long. 

Yeah, I remember those days. The glut of d20 stuff overwhelming gaming stores everywhere. My gradual realization that I really didn't like 3e/3.5e--at least from a DMing stand point. Even before this I was trying to branch away from D&D to something more "rules-lite." I did take a look at True d20, Castles & Crusades, and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 2e (yeah, I know, not d20), which are all mentioned in that post. 

My main problem wasn't necessarily with the rules themselves, but with editing and format. WFRP was the best of the three yet unwieldy, as so many games with critical hit charts are. They came out with the GM's screen, but it lacked an integral chart to do the crit calculation. 

True d20 just came off as too amateurish. I remember lots of shaded text that was a bit hard to read. I never owned the book. 

For me, Castles & Crusades was a heartbreaker. I bought the C&C Player's Handbook, it was so close to what I was looking for yet so far. Sure, it was rule-lite, My biggest turn off: the lack of editing. Every page had spelling and grammar errors. 

I ran it once. Afterward my players said to me: "Why don't you just run AD&D First or Second Edition and use ascending AC?" 

That's Brilliant! And since then other publishers picked up on the same idea, too. Then around 2008, a lot of people got mad at 4e, causing the OSR to blossom even more, and here we are today. 

Btw, did you see that Gygax Magazine has a now a release schedule? 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gygax Magazine Issue #2 Coming Soon--July 31

This might be old news to some, apparently the folks at Gygax Magazine are doing most of their updates on Facebook (which I spend only a moderate amount of time on).

It looks like they've got the table of contents down.

And according to Not The Singularity, the magazine now has a release schedule:

Hi everyone, Jayson here. I know everyone’s been looking forward to hearing when our next issues are coming out.
Issue 1 was our pilot issue, a chance for us to get processes in place and work out the kinks that come with a new magazine.
From issue 2 on out, we’ll be on a regular 3-month schedule. Here it is:
Issue 2 – Wednesday, July 31
Issue 3 – Wednesday, October 30
Issue 4 – Wednesday, January 29
Issue 5 – Wednesday, April 30
(Those are the dates that the magazine will be arriving for subscribers, as well as available online through Paizo and Noble Knight. Distributors get the magazines on that day, so it will take a little bit to get onto store shelves)
I also want to say thank you to everyone who’s been an early supporter through their subscriptions, and announce that everyone who bought a four-issue subscription will be getting a bonus extension, so your subscription will go through issue FIVE.
We know some problems happened with this first issue and people are eager to get issue 2, so consider this extra issue an apology and thank you for believing in us. We can’t wait for you to see the second issue at the end of July, I really think you’re going to like it.
I'm happy about this is. My opinions on the first issre were initially mixed, but I grew to liking it.  It just good to have variety out there. 

Murder on the Hot Flats, a Short Novella, now Available for Kindle

Till Wilderwine, a mercenary seeking gold and glory, has just found the captain of his kompanie strangled in his own tent. Worse, a fellow mercenary has seen Till with the body. Yet before either of them can figure out what to do, they are called to resume a holy war against an ancient enemy.

As the death of the captain throws the mercenaries into disorder, Till discovers that even his own judgement has been compromised by the fatigues of war. He only has his sword, Titanhauer, to help him survive the enemy's onslaught. But is it enough? Muust he give up his earthly desires for material wealth and place his faith in a higher power?

Murder On The Hot Flats: A Tale of the War for the City of Peace is part war story, part gritty fantasy, and part religious fiction all rolled into one novella.

Now available for Kindle on

Don't have Kindle? Download a Free Reading App for your smartphone, computer, or tablet.

What Character Class Would You Be?

Just for fun I took this neat questionnaire over at It's fairly thorough. I turns out that I'd be a Druid/Bard. Funny thing is, that's the multi-classed character I played the last time I played D&D. 

I've always liked bards and druids. For AD&D, I've always wanted to play a character that uses the bard class in the back of the Player's Handbook. It'd be a long, long road though. You character would first have very exceptional ability scores, start off as a fighter, then switch to a thief, before finally taking up druidic studies and becoming a bard. 

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Druid/Bard (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Secondary Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

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