Monday, June 30, 2014

How to deal with smug players

My take on the whole idea that, if LotR were a D&D campaign, it could have all been avoided (seen in many web-comics a few years back):

DM: Tonight we begin the campaign to destroy the One Ring, and end the threat of Sauron…

Player 1 (Gandalf): Ok, here’s the plan. Gandalf calls on the king of the eagles for a ride to Mordor. Once there, he and Frodo will fly over Mount Doom, and drop the ring in, thus ending the war before it begins. *smiles smugly*

Players 2 through 9: *smiles smugly*

DM: Alright, great plan! *rolls some dice behind the DM screen* Unfortunately, Sauron has detected the presence of the Ring because it is getting closer, and he isn’t really distracted from looking for it yet, and has realized it is rapidly approaching. Seeing this, he deduces that your plan involves flight (because how else would that even be possible?), and immediately dispatches the Nazgul on their dragons to intercept. Roll for initiative. Oh, wait, only you, Gandalf and Frodo, since your plan didn’t involve anyone else coming along.

…15 minutes later…

DM: As the fourth Nazgul falls from the sky after your unrelenting magical assault, the other five rush in for a simultaneous attack. The eagle you are riding is hit ten times (one dragon missed all three attacks), taking a total of *rolls many dice, and does some quick math* 286 points of damage.

Player 1 (Gandalf): But that puts it at -20 hit points…it’s dead!

DM: Oh. Well, I was going to give you each a Reflex save to stay on the eagle, but that seems kinda pointless now, huh? And since neither of you have the ability to fly…and I assume Gandalf doesn’t have feather fall memorized?

Player 1 (Gandalf): …no.

DM: Right. So, you both plummet to the ground below, taking *rolls many dice, and does some more quick math* 125 hit points each.

Player 2 (Frodo): *looking dismayed* Frodo is dead…

Player 1 (Gandalf): So is Gandalf…

DM: Ouch. With a sickening crunch you both land amidst the orc army gathered around Orthanc. *rolls some dice* The good news is that you managed to kill seven orcs with your impact. Yay! Seven blows for the alliance of men and elves!

Players 1 through 9: …

DM: The bad news is, the Ring is found, and immediately taken to the Tower, where Sauron uses it to fully come to power, thus completing his quest for the domination of Middle-Earth.

Players 1 through 9: …

DM: *putting his stuff away* Great session, guys! So, who’s up for starting the supers campaign next week?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Zine-O-Morph Developments

The other night I did as I planned and sat down with Photoshop to design a logo. I did come up with a few options, so I ran them by the wife and we agreed on one of them. However, I’m going to look around for more interesting fonts, since I kind of had a specific look in mind when I started out, and nothing quite fits that. Of course, I could draw a logo free hand and go from there…

Anyways, the first issue was coming along nicely. I had almost the entire section on the new monster/race done. Then I went to the OSR forum I frequent, and mentioned in a thread that one guy’s question had inspired a huge project. His question was about Drow in Basic D&D, and I had offered a brief write-up, based on my own knowledge and experience, and it had got me to thinking. So, with that germ of an idea in mind, I had set about making the first issue of my Fanzine about the underdark, with a special focus on the Drow, using the B/X rules.

Well, I was informed that Labyrinth Lord already has a “basic era” entry for them. I was a bit crestfallen at first, but then realized that my effort was much more ambitious than LL’s. That being said, I didn’t want to just rehash things, so I switched gears. I yanked that entire section out, and began working on a completely new and (hopefully) original underdark race.

But, what to do with all of the effort I had put into my variation of the Drow? Why, offer it for free, of course! So, if you’re so inclined, you can download a copy here (and it will soon be linked on the My Products page above). I think it’s nicely formatted, and uses the classic Bill Willingham images we all know and love.

My mind is also looking at the future of the zine. Since this first issue is mainly about low-level fantasy, I thought I would switch gears for issue #2, and go Sci Fi. And what better take on that for an ex-grunt like me than Military Sci Fi? So, in a few months (or sooner, who knows?), issue #2 will hit with all kinds of goodies about running a military game.

The question is, what game? Each issue will be focused on the rules of a particular game or edition of a game. So, what Sci Fi game should I use as a foundation? I’m inclined to use Star Frontiers, since I’m familiar with it. But, there are already two excellent SF-themed zines out there (Frontier Explorer and Star Frontiersman), so I may look elsewhere. The problem is that I haven’t gotten to play any SF RPG’s in so long, I’m not sure where to go with it.

But, I have some time to think about it. First things first...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


That's the name of my RPG Fanzine. Why? Because I like it. And it kind of plays on several different genres and tropes, if you think too much about it.

Anyways, the first issue is underway. I have the basic layout and outline that each issue will follow, some idea of how the artwork will go, and am chugging along on the content. For an advance (I mean REALLY advance) peak inside, each issue will contain the following sections:

• Letter from the Editor
• Generic article that can be adapted to multiple Editions/Systems
• New monster/race/class for a specific Edition/System
• New Magic items/Spells/Technology
• Simple adventure using the new monster/race
• Short fiction related to genre theme

So far, the Letter from the Editor is done, and the New monster/race/class is done. I'm not ready to reveal what the theme is yet, but I think it will be interesting. I certainly had fun mining my personal knowledge and some resources for the content of the new monster section.

Tonight I will probably sit down with Photoshop and come up with a logo, and probably a standard cover layout. Something I'm toying with is the idea of using a different font for the cover of each issue. One that reflects the genre being focused on. Or, I might do that for the cover text, but leave the logo in a standard font.

I'm also considering putting in some kind of "ad space" for other indie publications. Other zines, products, etc., al free of charge. Not sure how I will work that, but I thought it would be a cool idea.

So, there you go. Zine-O-Morph is revving up!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another Aspect of the OSR

There have been many debates and endless discussions regarding how one defines what the “OSR” actually is. For some it’s simply games published before [insert year here]. For others, it’s a style of play. But I have a theory.

OSR = Least expensive way to game possible.

I realized this as a possibility when I looked at my RPGNow sales report. I have a handful of titles out there. They range in price from $1 to $2.99 each. Generally, each one gets decent sales numbers during the first couple of months, then they fall off, and barely trickle in. Some go months without any movement.

The other day I put Hero’s Journey out there as a Pay What You Want, since I have it offered here as well for free download. Amazingly enough, in less than a week it has 80 downloads. That’s pretty cool. But of those 80, 7 actually paid the suggested price of $1.

Now, let me be clear, I am not complaining. Nor am I suggesting that 73 people owe me a buck. All I am saying is that, when it comes to RPG’s, gamers tend to go as cheap as possible. I know, because I do it myself. My RPGNow library is filled with tons of free stuff. However, I also make it a point of actually purchasing things when I can. And when I see a PWYW listing that sounds interesting, I try to pay something. If not the suggested price, than at least a couple of bucks.

I see more evidence of this line of reasoning when the topic of 5e (or any edition from 3e on) comes up. A large point of contention for many gamers, particularly those of the OSR bent, is the $50 per book price point on 5e. I can relate, since I have the same concerns.

Someone somewhere pointed out that, if you adjust for inflation and the physical quality of the book, $50 is pretty much right on the mark. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it will cost me $150 to have the core game. And yes, I know that when you buy from Amazon, or other online retailers, you could shave about 40% off of that. But, I also have a thing about buying from a FLGS whenever possible.

Most of these people who see the game as too expensive, also, coincidentally, see the game as “broken” somehow. It’s bloated with useless rules (the word “bloat” has now become a running joke on the forum); the artwork is too unrealistic/realistic/bland/colorful/whatever; the rules promote the use of minis too much/not enough; Etc., etc.

The bottom line is, I feel like a lot of people want to dislike it so they can justify not spending money to support the industry. Which is ironic, considering that those of us who have been playing for 30+ years (the core of the OSR demographic) have easily dropped over $1,000 each on gaming stuff.

Compare that to the car guy who drops hundreds on mods for his hot rod; or the sports guy who shells out hundreds every year on season tickets and memorabilia; or the outdoorsman who has a room filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in ski equipment, boating equipment, hiking and camping gear, or what have you. The bottom line is, hobbies are expensive. In the grand scheme of things, RPG’s are pretty cheap.

When I look at it that way, I actually kind of feel like a cheapskate bastard for not wanting to spend $150 over the course of 6 months to support an industry that has heavily influenced my entire life.

I’m still going to download the free stuff though. Because, free!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dimension Door Extreme!!!
A few different elements came together in my head suddenly and created a D&D campaign idea this morning.

As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of Stargate (the movie, the TV show, and the RPG). At our last D&D session, our characters, who are traipsing around the various levels of Perdition in search of an artifact, stepped through what was basically a fantasy version of a Stargate.

So, what if the party were part of a guild that had discovered a network of inter-dimensional portals, and their job was to go through these portals and find out what was on the other side? Find new or lost artifacts? Search for evidence of lost civilizations and gods? Find some kind of ally or weapon to help their home world fight off a demonic invasion?

The possibilities are pretty endless.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Lawful Evil
Obeys the law, but manipulates it for personal gain,
without regard for the consequences to others.
In recent weeks there have been a few discussions about Alignment in D&D. There are many different interpretations of how Alignment is supposed to work, and many of them are incompatible. This has even caused a lot of players to simply ignore Alignment. Personally, I don’t get this view. In my mind, it’s pretty simple: A character’s Alignment is there to provide a guideline to the player to how his character will act in any given situation.

When I was writing Hero’s Journey a while back, I put my thoughts down on paper, and codified them in the rules. To date, it’s still the explanation that makes the most sense to me. So, I am copying the Alignment section here, for reference.


Every character has a set of social values and a moral compass. Together, these two facets form the character’s Alignment, and define much about a character’s personality, and how they interact with the world around them. To define your character’s Alignment, choose one each from the following two categories:

Lawful – You believe Laws are meant to be obeyed, and you will not break them unless forced to, or given no alternative. You will seek justice against those who flaunt the law in any way you can.

Neutral – You believe Laws are generally good, but, as those who create them are fallible, every law must be weighed against its consequences, and can be summarily ignored if they do more harm than good.

Chaotic – You believe Laws are artificial constructs and should have no hold over the individual, if that individual does not agree with them. You will pay the Law lip service, but will ignore it if it interferes with your personal views or agenda.

Good – You value life, equality, and righteousness above all things. You tend to be cheerful and positive, look for the best in everyone, and will go out of your way to protect and help the weak and helpless.

Neutral – You believe all beings create their own fate, and that good and evil are just reflections of the individual’s views and actions. You will not harm unnecessarily, but you will usually not go out of your way to protect anyone but yourself.

Evil – You believe that your desires come first, and that you should be able to take and do whatever you can to achieve your own level of contentment. You often take joy in others’ pain, and will not endanger yourself to help others, unless there is a direct benefit for you to do so.

A character’s Alignment is mainly for background purposes. It is there to help a player define a character’s personality, and guide him in how the character will react in any given situation. However, certain actions, many of them Class-dependent, will be effected and/or limited by a character’s Alignment (particularly in the case of Priests). GM’s are encouraged to help players interpret their Alignment when a question of Moral or Social behavior comes into play.


By the way, Hero’s Journey is available free on the “My Products” page, linked above. If you’re so inclined, please take a look and let me know what you think. I may put it out on RPGNow as a PWYW document, just for kicks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Room for another Zine?

Today I discovered a new OSR-themed Zine at RPGNow called The Dragon Horde (it's currently on issue #2). It's a fun little zine, with a good variety of stuff. This, combined with Tim Shorts' periodical zine, The Manor, has me wondering if maybe I could do a simple little Zine of my own. Mine would probably be exclusively PDF, though if POD was an option, I'd surely be open to that.

Right now, it's just a germ of an idea. But I'm thinking a quarterly, or maybe bi-monthly schedule. Each issue would have a specific theme (fantasy, sword & sorcery, sci fi, etc.), and would contain a specific set of features, like new items, new monsters, a small adventure, and a generic-use article (not system/edition specific). I'd also consider adding in a small piece of orginal fiction to each issue.

I dunno. What do you guys think? I might do a single issue, just to see how it does, and if there is any interest in more issues. If nothing else, this could be a fun little creative exercise.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Half-Orc Sorcerer

And now for another supplement to the Life of Rage game, The Half-Orc Sorcerer!

While it is true that full-blooded orcs (and goblins) are unable to manipulate arcane energies, half-orcs, with their mixed heritage, have been known to manifest such abilities. However, because there are no schools of wizardry within the orcish lands, those that have the potential are left to piece the ability to cast magic together on their own. The end result is that these “sorcerers” are only able to master a few spells. These spells are fueled by the caster’s innate rage, and are often of a destructive nature.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Got my 5e on!

Our regularly scheduled D&D game got cancelled Friday night, and I was, of course, bummed out. I get cranky when that happens. But, it was OK because Saturday I was able to go to the FLGS, and take part in the weekly 5e game that my friend runs.

I initially chose a human monk (we used pregens), because I wanted to play something different than a half-orc barbarian (which is what I play in our regular game). However, one of the guys who showed up had a 9-year old son who had played the monk before. So, I offered to let him play the character again, and I chose the half-elf paladin instead.

Having played a few sessions of the various test packets, I knew going in that it would be a simple and refreshing D&D experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love the potential crunchiness of 3.5e. But there’s something to be said for the more flexible, “free form” manner of playing that D&D used to have back in the “old” days. I think 5e really does a great job of capturing that feeling, while giving you updated options and playability.

One thing I noticed this time that never came up before was character death. Depending on which edition you play, this is handled in a variety of ways. From just outright being dead at 0 hit points, to “bleeding out” until you reach -10 (or more). This actually rarely comes up for me (though I often come close with Ahnuld). However, it came up a couple of times on Saturday (we went through 4 combats in the span of just under 4 hours of play time).

In these rules, when you hit 0 hp, you collapse. Each round you have to make a “Death Save” roll. Basically, you need to roll above a 10 on a d20. If you make it three rounds in a row, you are revived with 1 hp on the next round, and are able to act. If you fail three times, you die the final death. However, if you make 1 or 2 saves, but then fail one, you have to start over the next round, trying to make three consecutive saves.

The first time I fell, I was revived by the cleric. The next time I fell (I was the tank), I made two saves, but failed my third. I was once more revived by another party member before I had to continue. Honestly, as frustrating as it was to just be laying there, I like this mechanic a lot. I’ve never been a fan of character deaths, and especially not TPK’s. So, this makes the odds of either happening very rare. And if it does, you probably really earned it. About the only thing I would change is adding some kind of modifier based on your individual character (CON bonus comes to mind) to the Death Save. To my knowledge, there were no such modifiers. At least, my DM didn’t mention any.

All in all, I had a blast. Everyone at the table was a stranger, aside from the DM (who is in my regular gaming group). Yet we all just jumped in and had at it. I also really liked that regardless of general RP/D&D experience, no one had any trouble picking the rules up and going. A lot of Grognards seem to grumble about this or that with this edition. But, in my opinion, it plays very much like the B/X, BECMI, and 1e editions. The mechanics are updated, but the overall feel of the game is in that same realm. I think they will be pleasantly surprised if/when they give it a chance.

As a side note, I decided that my character looked like this...

Which, of course, inspired me to watch this movie again last night. Still just as cheesy as it always was. And I still love it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Page Disappointment

Well, the 2014 One-Page Dungeon competition is apparently over. The winners have been announced, and I'm not even mentioned on the page. I thought that I had got it in on time, and with the requirements in place, but apparently not. Either that, or they just don't list everyone.

Either way, my effort (which I think turned out really well) is not available anywhere. So, I thought I would put it up here, just in case anyone is interested.

When I first submitted it, the link to the required license wasn't working. It was a while before I noticed it (no one else mentioned it to me), so I fixed it and re-sent it in. I had thought it was still within the required time period, but apparently not.

Anyways, next year I will pay better attention, and hopefully get my entry in the way it should have been.