Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing and whatnot

I am off of school this week, and I start my new class on Monday.  So, I keep trying to use the time to my advantage, and get some writing done.  I've worked a bit on some fiction.  But a lot of my time has been split between two RPG projects.

The first is the conversion of Life of Rage to OSR.  Mainly, it involved coming up with Orc classes that were comparable to the core classes in B/X D&D, but still having the proper Orcish flavor.  The first few were easy; Orc, Goblin, Half-orc.  It's the Shaman that was giving me trouble.  But, I think I have it figured out.  So, I can move forward a bit faster now.

Most of the rest of the conversion is done.  Fortunately, when I constructed the original version of the game, I kept the "setting" information separate from the mechanics, for the most part.  So, most of that information just got copied over as-is.  When it's all done, I will have to go through and make sure any references to the original system are edited to be for OSR.  But, other than that, there's not much else to do beyond filling in a few details (currently working on Shaman Spell descriptions).

My other project is a campaign based in an original world, using the Moldvay/Cook books, as well as my own Basic Arcana and some house rules.  I'm cobbling it together from a basic idea I used in a 3e game several years ago.  It's a cool story, with the properly epic feel, and a logical way for the character to know each other and adventure together already built-in.  Not sure if it will get played or not, but it's kind of nice to just be writing an adventure again.

As for currently active gaming, our long-running campaign resumes on Saturday, with part two (and hopefully, the conclusion) of our assault on the Frost Giants' Hall.  Norwegian princesses need to be more careful with those things marauding around the country-side.

Friday, May 24, 2013


First off, I scored a copy of Cook's Expert Rulebook yesterday at Half-Priced Books (I swear, I could spend an entire paycheck in there!).  It's in very fine condition, and for a $8, it was a steal.  At the same time, I had enough cash to pick up the Expanded Rules for Star Frontiers - Alpha Dawn for about $4.  Another game that I loved as a young gamer.  I know it's very unlikely that I will ever get to actually play it again.  But, these days I'm as much a collector as I am a player.  And that game holds a special place in my heart, right next to the Moldvay Basic Rulebook.

So, I've gotten a little bit of feedback on Basic Arcana over at, and it's been generally good.  The person who gave me some commentary was an "old grognard" so he was reticent about using some of the more 3e-influenced rules changes, but even he admitted that he could see the benefits.  Overall, based on that one post, it sounds like my work might be a decent first outing.

Yesterday I started work on my next OSR project: the conversion of Life of Rage to a version compatible with the Moldvay and Cook books.  It's going relatively quickly, as most of the flavor text could be copied directly over from my original work, with very little modification.  Leaving me able to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of the actual game-play rules.

In my original version, Life of Rage uses a classless system derived in part from the "Roll/Keep" system of AEG's Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea RPG's, along with some elements from other games, as well as some ideas of my own.  I had originally considered converting to 3.xe.  However, I find that the OSR method of making races a class actually lends itself better to Life of Rage

From its inception, my game has always been about simple rules, fast play, and a high degree of flexibility for GM and Player ideas to be incorporated.  This is also easily translated to the OSR way of things.  There is a certain amount of freedom that OSR games offer that is missing in the latest editions (especially 4e).  This is mainly due to the simplistic presentation, but I think it's also a product of the times in which these games were written.

One thing that majorly differentiates OSR form post 3e is the sheer volume of supplements.  In the old days, there were only a few basic books you needed, and most of the extra stuff created up through 1e were adventure modules and campaign settings.  This was great because most DM's I have known prefer to write their own adventures that take place in their own worlds.  So, there was no need to buy anything beyond the rulebooks, and maybe a module or two to kick things off.

With 2e, and even more so with 3e, the focus seems to have shifted from the rules to the accessories.  This may not actually be the case, but that is my perception.  With book after book of player options, new classes, feats, skills, weapons, prestige classes, monsters, deities...the basic three rulebooks are almost drowning in a sea of material.  There's so much out there for each new edition (3e, 3.5, Pathfinder, 4e), that I think players and DM's seem to lose sight of the fact that it's all smoke and mirrors, and that the only thing they actually need are the PHB, DMG and MM.

All of that being said, I LOVE 3.5 and Pathfinder.  I like the options, and the flexibility.  And I am quite comfortable cherry-picking rules from the various supplements for use in the games I play (currently one).  But, I also enjoy the simple charm of OSR games, and the nostalgia that comes with just reading the books (and if you read my other blog, you know what a big place nostalgia has in my life).

So, I guess it's safe to say that most of the stuff I create for OSR will be my efforts to combine those two styles of game.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Basic Arcana

So, as of this morning, I have officially put out my first attempt at an OSR "product."  Basic Arcana is intended to be a sort of Unearthed Arcana for the Basic/Expert rules.  All of the rules and modifications are intended to be add-ons, or quick adjustments to the old rules.  I decided to do this because I love those old rules (as with my tastes in movies, that's probably in no small way attributable to nostalgia), but they have their flaws.  And I think that may be the charm of OSR gaming. 

The Basic and Expert rules are, by the standards of recent editions, rather simple.  This is actually a strength for some people.  For 3rd edition, and to a slightly lesser extent 4th edition, there are just so many rules and options.  There is something to cover everything.  For younger gamers, this is what they want, so that's great.  But, us older gamers (the ones who actively play, anyways) sometimes miss the days when house-rules were the norm, and modifications were practically expected.

As gamers we tend to develop particular "tastes" for gaming experiences.  We like it when things work in certain ways.  So, when a new edition or game comes along that doesn't fit that, we have a tendency to want to fix what we perceive as a flaw.  And that, IMHO, is the basis for the entire OSR movement.  The ability of a DM or player to figure out how they would like the game to be, without having to look it up in some "officially supported" book.  It's a more personal gaming experience.

So, if you play those old versions, feel free to download my paltry little file.  If you like one thing I have in there, I will feel vindicated.  As always, feel free to discuss it below, and let me know what you think.

Basic Arcana <-- Download Here

Please note, I know that other attempts at this sort of thing have been made.  And if I have duplicated any one's efforts, it's purely coincidental, as I have not yet read any of those.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who am I?

As a way of easing into this Gaming Blog world I am suddenly fascinated with, I thought I would introduce myself.  What follows is an excerpt from the introduction to my recent project.  I’ll talk about what that is later, once it’s a little further along, and I’m sure I’m not just duplicating others’ efforts.  Suffice it to say, it’s an OSR “book” of sorts.  Anyways, on to me…

I began my life-long journey in Role-Playing Games with Moldvay’s 1980 version of the Basic Rulebook.  I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade.  I had just moved back to my hometown in Northern California to stay with my grandparents while my mom went into the Air Force.  One day a new friend of mine, Richard Schmidt, asked me “Do you play D&D?”  To which I responded “What’s that?”

Since then I have played every edition of D&D, and have found that 3.5e seems to be my favorite.  In addition, I have played a whole laundry list of other RPG’s in just about every genre.  These days I play in a regular game of D&D with other 40-somethings who refused to outgrow our beloved hobby.  We bring our kids and let them play together while we sit at the table and have grand adventures with minis and a battle mat.  Each session has food provided by one of the families.  We are the new breed of Domesticated Geek.

Yet, despite the 30 years of gaming experience I have, that old Moldvay red book still holds a certain amount of charm for me.  I can crack that ancient tome open (though the copy I have isn’t my original one), and I am instantly transported back to the 6th grade, when the whole idea of fantasy role-playing was new and wondrous.  I sometimes long to just roll up a fighter, and explore the Caves of Chaos™.

So, where does that bring me today?  Well, from a gaming standpoint, I do a lot of thinking and tinkering, but not a lot of actual playing.  I like to write new rules, rules variations, and even gaming systems.  But I usually have to rely on others to play test and critique them.  So far, this hasn’t worked out too well.  But, I still enjoy the process of writing stuff for games.

Among my current projects are Life of Rage, an RPG where the characters are all orcs, a soon-to-be revealed addition to the Basic rules, using Moldvay’s book (and Cook’s Expert Rules) as the basis, and then a few odds and ends of gaming.  I always seem to have some irons in the gaming fire, despite being busy with school (getting my Masters in History), writing fiction of various lengths and genres, working a full-time job,  and having a full family life.

Yep, life does indeed move pretty fast, Ferris.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Welcome to the table!

Hail and well-met, traveler.  Some of you may already know me from my other blog, while others may be just hearing from me for the first time.  Either way, I’m glad to have an audience to stroke my ego for.

Wait, that didn’t really sound right…

Anyways, as you should be able to guess, this blog is about tabletop gaming.  Within these not-so-hallowed halls I shall endeavor to discuss the RPG’s I have played, those I currently play (or will be soon), and those I never played, but would really like to.

As a writer of fiction, nonfiction, gaming material, and just about anything else that suits my fancy, I will occasionally talk about my own projects.  In fact, I would wager that the subject of my own creations and efforts will come up quite frequently.

So, we’re back to my ego.  Ok.

I certainly invite and welcome commentary here.  Feel free to introduce yourself, give me a link to your gaming-related blog, and/or just comment and criticize what I write here.  Despite 30 years of gaming experience, I am by no means an expert, or all that knowledgeable, and I welcome open discussion.  I have recently realized what a huge part RPG’s have played in my life since the 6th grade, and this blog is just my way of giving back to that beloved community just a little bit.

May your dice always roll exactly what you need them to!