30 November 2013

This Blog has not been abandoned

Just in case you were wondering!

But it's been a very draining autumn, and I haven't had the energy to post anything in over a month.  Hopefully things will improve by the end of December...

Indeed, there are a few things that I hope to write about in the (relatively) near future: the original Hawkmoon tetralogy (I reread it a few months ago); some thoughts on a few other novels; my impressions of OpenQuest 2 (the colour hardcopy of which is now in my hands), RuneQuest 6 (hardcover version forthcoming), and Call of Cthulhu 7 (quickstart PDF on my computer, and the full version hopefully coming soon); some further thoughts on the AD&D Forgotten Realms setting; and the final installment of my top-5 ranked FRPG artists.


In the meantime, though, here is a picture of the stein I got whilst at Medieval Times last January...

20 October 2013

Why AD&D now? How to play online?

So, I just posted some house-rules for AD&D/OSRIC here!

Why did I do this, given my ongoing focus on various d100 games -- namely, RuneQuest 6, OpenQuest 2, Call of Cthulhu, Renaissance, Magic World, etc. -- my house rules for Swords and Wizardry, and my contributions to Crypts and Things?  Why go to AD&D now (albeit it with some tweaks to the rules that, no doubt, would infuriate certain kinds of grognards)?

Well, I haven't lost any of my enthusiasm for those other games.  Quite the contrary!  I would love to get a RQ6 or CoC campaign (or 'Dark Streets' or...) campaign up and running in the near future.

However, I'm trying to start up an online campaign with a couple of old friends, and we agreed (for reasons of unabashed nostalgia) to play some AD&D.  This would give me a chance to run some classic AD&D modules, ones that I either haven't run in decades (the wonderful U1-3 series), or that I have never run, but have long wanted to (e.g., UK4).

And I chose the Moonshae region of the Forgotten Realms (the 1st edition version, of course!) as the setting, because I rather like the 'Vikings-versus-Celts' feel of the place.  Essentially, the Moonshae Islands are a fantasy version of 10th Century Ireland and Scotland.  The region reminds me a bit of Jack Vance's Lyonnesse -- or at least that is how I interpret it.  And since I recently played through the classic CRPGs Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate (I'm old school even when it comes to my computer games!), I have been reminded of the main elements of the Forgotten Realms world.  (I'm ambivalent about the Forgotten Realms overall, but there are parts that I quite like.)


Since I'm trying to run this game online, and have never done anything like this before, I'd be grateful for any tips that you gentle readers might have.  I've looked at Roll20, and it strikes me pretty good, though I have yet to try it out.  Do others recommend it?

19 October 2013

House-Rules for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons


Akrasia’s House-Rules
For AD&D (1e) or OSRIC
Part I: Character Creation, Races, and Classes

General Points

  1. The page references are to OSRIC, as it is available online for free.  However, all of the rules are useable with AD&D (1e).
  2. The rules were designed for a very small group (two players with two characters each).
  3. These rules were written for a campaign set in the Moonshae Islands, which is a 'Celtic' region of the Forgotten Realms, hence the references to the 'Ffolk,' various FR deities, and so forth.  But the rules should be useable in any AD&D game.


Character Creation

  • Choose the character’s race
  • Determine initial ability scores by rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest die
    • Replace the lowest roll with ‘15’
    • Assign scores in any order
  • Apply racial modifiers to ability scores [see OSRIC, pp. 3-7]
  • Ensure that the character’s ability scores fall within the acceptable range for his/her race (e.g., a dwarf must have a strength of 8-18, dexterity of 3-17, etc.)
  • Human characters can add a total of 1 point to one of their ability scores, either +1 to two different ability scores (e.g., +1 to Strength and Intelligence), or +2 to one ability score (e.g., +2 to Dexterity)
    • No ability score can be raised above 18 this way
  • Non-human characters can add 1 point to their ability scores
    • No ability score can be raised above the character’s racial limit this way
    • (E.g., a halfling could not raise his strength above 17, an elf could not raise her dexterity above 19)
  • Human characters select their ‘background professions’ (see my article). 
    • Either: 
      • Choose one profession from Chart I
        • Or
      • Choose two professions from Chart II 
  • If the character is a halfling, half-elf, or half-orc, choose one profession from Chart II
  • Dwarves, elves, and gnomes have no background professions


  • Choose the character’s class and alignment
  • No evil characters permitted (thus no assassin characters)
  • No monks permitted (at least initially — they are foreign to the region)
  • It is advisable that classes from the following four categories be covered:
    • Warrior (fighter or ranger; paladins are rare, though permitted)
    • Thief (assassins not permitted)
    • Arcane spell-caster (illusionist or magic-user)
    • Divine spell-caster (cleric or druid)
  • At least one druid, ranger, or bard should be in the party
  • Paladins will not adventure (at least for a prolonged period of time) with characters of Neutral or Chaotic Neutral alignment 
  • Bards play an important role in this setting, so players may want to consider that class (even though bards do not fit neatly into one of the above four categories).
    • The alternative Bard class (from Best of Dragon #3) will be used


Races and Classes (General)

  • There are no level-limits on non-human characters
    • Humans, however, enjoy the following benefits:
      • 1 extra point to assign to ability scores at character creation (humans receive 2 points at character creation; non-humans only 1 point) (see above)
      • Superior selection of background professions (see above)
      • Maximum hit points at both levels 1 and 2 (instead of only level 1) (see below)
      • A +1 to any ability score upon reaching level 6 (an ability score may not be raised above 18 this way)
  • Racially-determined class restrictions apply, except:
    • PCs of any race may be clerics
    • Half-elves and Halflings may be druids (single-class)
    • Half-elves may be druids and fighters, druids and rangers, or druids and magic-users (multi-class)
    • The following multi-class options are available to non-human characters:
      • Dwarves: (a) fighter/thief, and (b) fighter/cleric
      • Elves: (a) fighter/magic-user, (b) fighter/thief, (c) magic-user/thief, and (d) fighter/magic-user/thief
      • Gnomes: (a) fighter/illusionist, (b) fighter/thief, (c) illusionist/cleric, (d) illusionist/thief, and (e) cleric/thief
      • Half-elves: (a) cleric/fighter, (b) cleric/ranger, (c) cleric/magic-user, (d) fighter/magic-user, (e) fighter/thief, (f) magic-user/thief, (g) cleric/fighter/magic-user, (h) fighter/magic-user/thief, (i) fighter/druid, (j) ranger/druid, and (k) magic-user/druid
      • Halflings: fighter/thief only

Hit Points

  • 1st level characters receive maximum hit points.
  • Human characters also receive maximum hit points upon reaching level 2
  • When rolling for hit points (levels 2+ for non-humans, levels 3+ for humans), characters take either the roll of the die, or half the die’s maximum, rounded down (so magic-users roll 1d4, and take 2 if they roll 1; fighters roll 1d10, and take 5 if they roll 1-4; etc.)

Bards

  • We will be using the ‘alternative’ Bard class from Best of Dragon #3
  • Bards play an important cultural role within the setting
    • The bards of the Ffolk serve many functions: historians, entertainers, poets, heroes, and spies
  • Most Bards are Neutral or Neutral Good in alignment


Clerics

  • Northman (human) clerics typically worship the god Tempus (the ‘Lord of Battles’, ‘Foehammer’)
    • Clerics of Tempus generally are Chaotic Neutral, Neutral, or (rarely) Chaotic Good
  • Humans from the Moonshaes (both Ffolk and Northmen) may also be clerics of:
    • Azuth (patron of mages; LN)  
    • Deneir (God of literature and art; NG)
    • Lathander (God of Spring, Dawn, Vitality, Youth, Renewal, Self-Perfection; NG)  
  • Non-human clerics worship deities of their respective pantheons
    • Elves: Corellon Larethian, Solonar Thelandira, Hannali Celanil, Labelas Enoreth
    • Dwarves: Moradin, Clangeddin, Vergadain, Berronar
    • Haflings: Yondalla, Sheela Peryroyal, Avoreen, Cyrrollalee, Bandobaris
    • Gnomes: Garl Glittergold, Baervan Wildwanderer, Segojan Earthcaller, Flandal Steelskin
    • Half-Elf and Half-Orc clerics typically revere a ‘human’ god


Druids

  • Druids of all races within the Moonshaes revere the ‘Earthmother’.
  • Druids are common on each of the isles dominated by the Ffolk.  
    • There is a Great Druid on each of Gwynneth, Alaron, and Moray
  • Most druids are assigned a certain portion of one of their isles as their territory.  At the centre of this territory is a druidic grove.  
    • (PCs are assumed to be wandering druids, at least until they reach level 12, and thus do not have their own territories.)



Fighters

  • Only single-class fighters may specialize or double specialize in a weapon (multi-class fighters may not specialize or double specialize in a weapon)
  • Fighters may specialize in one weapon at level 1 (see OSRIC, p. 14)
  • Fighters may double specialize in that weapon (the same weapon with which the character already is specialized) at level 3+ (see OSRIC, p. 14)
    • No fighter may specialize or double specialize in more than one weapon


Rangers

  • Single-class rangers may specialize in one weapon at level 1 (see OSRIC, p. 14)
  • Multi-class rangers may not specialize in a weapon
  • Rangers (single-class or multi-class) may not double specialize in a weapon



Paladins

  • Paladins may not specialize (or double specialize) in a weapon



Magic-Users and Illusionists

  • Magic-users and illusionists are held in suspicion by most of the peoples of the Moonshaes, thus they generally try to hide their profession whilst travelling. 
  • Magic-users and illusionists with an Intelligence of 16+ may prepare and cast one additional first level spell each day
  • Material components for spells cost the cube of the spell’s level in gold pieces (e.g., the material components for a 1st level spell cost 1 g.p., the material components for a 2nd level spell cost 8 g.p., and the material components for a 9th level spell cost 729 g.p.).
    • Note which spells for which your character has the necessary components, and remove those components when the spell is cast (obviously this applies only to spells with material components)
  • Material components pouch = 20 gold pieces (holds material components for up to 20 spells; weighs 2 pounds when full)
    • 1st level magic-users and illusionists start with one pouch
  • Spell books are necessary for memorizing spells
    • 1st level magic-users and illusionists start with one ‘standard’ and one ‘travelling’ spell book
    • Both books may be assumed to contain the character’s starting spells (4 spells, including ‘read magic’, for magic-users; 3 spells for illusionists)



Thief Abilities

  • Thief characters may either:
    • Use the base thief ability percentages listed in the class description (OSRIC, p. 26)
      • OR
    • Distribute the following points amongst the thief abilities at each level — except Climb Walls, Hear Noise, and Read Languages (which follow the chart on p. 26)
      • 1st level = 130 points
      • 2nd level = 022 points
      • 3rd level = 022 points
      • 4th level = 022 points
      • [Etc.]
    • Racial and dexterity adjustments are applied after base skill percentages are determined



09 October 2013

More Praise for Dark Streets

A few months ago I expressed here my very high opinion of Cakebread and Walton's Dark Streets, a guidebook to running Lovecraftian adventures in the London of 1749.  A very detailed and informative review of this book is now available at the RPGsite.  Check it out!

31 August 2013

Interview regarding Dungeons and Dragons Next

I haven't been following the development of Dungeons & Dragons 5e (or 'Next') at all.  I am somewhat interested in what is finally produced -- who knows, maybe I'll like it!  But spending the time and effort to follow the playtest and related news just hasn't been something that I've been interested in doing.

However, this interview with Bruce Cordell and Robert J. Schwalb is both brief and somewhat informative, and thus may be worth reading if you have a casual interest in 5e.  Especially noteworthy is the concession that 4e essentially "blew up" D&D!

29 August 2013

Russ Nicholson on Monster Island

Monster Island – the book that is a combination of a sandbox setting and a bestiary for RuneQuest 6 – recently arrived in my mailbox.  Although I’ve only managed to skim through it thus far, it looks great (if you’re curious about it, there is a helpful review at RPGnet). 


One thing that I noticed immediately is that Monster Island features some illustrations by the magnificent Russ Nicholson.  I’ve mentioned my high opinion of Nicholson’s work previously, and so was delighted to see some new pieces by him in this excellent product.

Here are a couple of Nicholson’s pictures from Monster Island (taken from his blog post):





I think that the pieces nicely convey the terrifying weirdness of the setting!

10 August 2013

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules

Chaosium has sent out the new Quick-Start rules to backers of their 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu Kickstarter Project.

I've printed them up and hope to read them over at some point in the relatively new future.  Unfortunately, I'll be quite busy for the next several days (moving apartments, among other things).  But as soon as I can read and reflect upon the 7e Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start rules, I'll write up my reactions here.

RuneQuest 6 review + update

'Pookie' has a superb review of RuneQuest 6 over at the Reviews of R'lyeh blog.

Also, the RQ6 indigogo campaign exceeded 30,000 USD, which means leatherette hardbacks and full-colour slipcases for backers!

06 August 2013

Two Vancian Thoughts


Following Jack Vance’s recent death, I decided to re-read the Cugel novels, The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel’s Saga.  (Both books I had read over two decades ago, but only minimally remembered.)  I also finally read the original Dying Earth collection of stories.  I’ve read Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy twice previously – in fact, it’s one of my favourite fantasy series of all time – but strangely had largely neglected his Dying Earth writings until now.

After reading these tales of the Dying Earth, and enjoying them enormously, I had two thoughts that I decided to share here.





First, the influence of Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique on Vance is manifest.  This especially is the case with the Dying Earth collection, which strikes me as almost an homage to CAS.  Like those chronicled by CAS, Vance’s protagonists are often hapless and arrogant, but occasionally sympathetic.  Both CAS and Vance enjoy skewering religious and political authorities, especially by showing the hypocrisy and vanity of such individuals.  And of course, both authors vividly depict a temporally distant earth that is simultaneously familiar and exotic, mundane and magical.



Second, it is hard to overstate the influence that Vance had on Gary Gygax and his version of Dungeons and Dragons and, even more so, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  There are, of course, the obvious influences – most notably, the entire D&D spell-casting (‘Vancian’ or ‘fire-and-forget’) system, but also magic items like ‘ioun stons’ (which Gygax used with permission from Vance), and the horrible lich ‘Vecna’, whose left hand and eye are described as artifacts on page 124 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.  

These influences are well known, and hardly worth mentioning.  But what struck me upon reading these books is the extent to which the magic-user class clearly is modelled almost directly on Vance’s magicians, such as Turjan, Mazirian, and Iucounu.  Many AD&D classes have direct literary influences.  The ranger class clearly is based upon Tolkien’s Aragorn, and the monk class purportedly is based upon the character of Kwai Chang Caine (from the 1970s television show ‘Kung Fu’).  I had always assumed that magic-users as a class were somewhat generic, meant to accommodate characters as diverse as Merlin and Thoth-Amon.  But I now think that Vance’s magicians are the direct source of the D&D and AD&D magic-user class.  This seems obvious to me now, but it only occurred to me upon reading these books over the past few weeks.  (Similarly, I think that the ability of thieves to use scrolls – with a chance of such attempts going horribly wrong – was inspired, at least in part, by the character Cugel.)

Anyhow, I highly recommend Vance’s Dying Earth stories to anyone who enjoys fantasy literature with a sharp sardonic bite.  I very much look forward to reading Rhialto the Marvellous in the near future.





04 August 2013

Swords and Wizardry Complete is beautiful


I finally got the 'Otus cover' version of Swords and Wizardry Complete a couple of months ago, along with Grimmsgate (which has the same cover illustration).  And I have to say that, in terms of its art (both internal and external), this version of S&W has to be the most attractive rulebook the 'OSR' has yet to produce.

The cover art for Crypts and Things also is superb, of course.  What I like about the covers for both Swords and Wizardry Complete and Crypts and Things is how well they capture the spirit of their respective games!

31 July 2013

RuneQuest 6 Special Edition Hardback Critical Success!

The RuneQuest 6 Special Edition Hardback indiegogo campaign has surpassed its funding goal!  And there is one more week to contribute, if you'd like a copy for the very reasonable price of 50 USD (plus shipping).

If you're curious about RQ6, this "let's read" thread at RPGnet may be helpful.

29 July 2013

Cthulhu meets Conan?


News here on a forthcoming setting entitled 'Primeval Thule', which purports to be a world in which 'Conan meets Cthulhu'.  (Of course, the Cthulhu Mythos always were part of the original Conan stories!  But whatever...)

As fellow fans of the fiction of Robert E. Howard no doubt know already, 'Thule' is one of the nations of the 'Thurian Age', the era of REH's 'Kull' stories (set thousands of years before the 'Hyborian Age' of Conan).

The setting purports to be compatible with Call of Cthulhu, which is why it caught my eye.  But given how radically different CoC is from Pathfinder and 4th edition D&D, I have no idea how one could create a setting that would work equally well for each of these systems.

Nonetheless, since Richard Baker claims, "Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea stories were perhaps the most direct inspiration for Primeval Thule", I am curious to check out the final product.

Addendum: I can't believe that I forgot to mention that, should this setting prove to be worth using, Crypts and Things would be an ideal (OSR) game to use with it.

07 July 2013

RuneQuest 6 Hardcover Edition


Design Mechanism has launched a crowd sourcing project via Indiegogo in order to produce a hardcover edition of their excellent RuneQuest 6 system.  The campaign is now live, with further info to be found here.  (Also available at the Indigogo site are a couple of links to reviews of RQ6.)

I would like to emphasize the high-quality of the RuneQuest 6 system.  It is, in my judgement, the best fantasy role-playing game to have been produced in the past two decades.  The softcover version of RQ6 is wonderful -- it has an attractive matte cover, and is extremely well laid out.  While the length of RQ6 may seem overwhelming at first, the core system itself is intuitive (it is a BRP-derived game, after all), and the length of the book reflects its completeness (in contrast, say, to its threadbare close cousin Legend).

If you are curious about RQ6, here is a video overview.

To get a hardcover copy of RQ6, one needs to commit $50 (plus shipping, which is $15 in North America, $25 everywhere else).  This is a great deal, as it means that the hardcover version actually is less expensive than the softcover version presently for sale!

Best of luck to Design Mechanism on this endeavour.  I'm looking forward to holding the tome in my trembling hands sometime this autumn...

02 July 2013

Old School Cred


Thanks to estar (I think) for tracking down the very first online mention of the ‘Old School Renaissance’.  Here it is at Dragonsfoot.

It's a bit trippy to see that discussion now, to realize that that was (apparently) the first mention of the ‘OSR’ – a term coined, appropriately enough, by an anonymous ‘guest’.

It also is worth noting that Castles and Crusades was the catalyst for the OSR.  I rarely mention C&C here, and haven’t really thought about the game much since receiving the Castle Zagyg box set almost 5 years ago.  Yet I was once an enthusiastic supporter of the game.  It came along just as I found myself burnt out by 3.5 edition D&D (early 2005, if I recall correctly).

The failure of Castles and Crusades in the eyes of many fans of TSR AD&D and D&D was what prompted the retro-clones.  It led initially to OSRIC, intended at first simply as a tool to enable people to publish 1e AD&D material without fear of legal retribution.  OSRIC was soon followed by other ‘retro-clones’, such as Labyrinth Lord (B/X D&D) and Swords and Wizardry (0e D&D).  Even more retro-clones and quasi-clones came along … And 8 years later, here we are.

C&C is still around, and apparently doing reasonably well, though it never came to be the preeminent OSR game.  (But True20 as an ‘old school game’?!?  What were people drinking back in 2005?).

09 June 2013

Iain M. Banks Succumbs to Cancer


Sad news today.

Iain M. Banks, author of the 'Culture' science-fiction novels (among them, Player of Games, Use of Weapons, and Consider Phlebas) and, as 'Iain Banks', many 'mainstream' novels (including The Wasp Factory and Complicity), has passed away.  He recently had been diagnosed with cancer (mentioned here in April).

This link provides a nice overview of some of the themes of Banks's Culture novels.

EDIT: The BBC obituary.

EDIT 2: I just realised that I had misspelt 'Iain' in this post and my earlier one.  After 20 years of reading his novels, I still make this mistake.  As someone whose own name is misspelt regularly, I should know better!

EDIT 3: Economist Paul Krugman also is a fan.

EDIT 4: Charles Stross on Banks.

04 June 2013

Blood of the Dragon Review

Bryce Lynch reviews the first (and so far only) module for Crypts and Things, UK-S01: Blood of the Dragonhere.

And speaking of Crypts and Things, Newt Newport has been posting about it weekly in his 'Fiendish Friday' column.

02 June 2013

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter



It seems that their kickstarter for their forthcoming revamp of The Horror on the Oriental Express was such a smashing success that Chaosium has decided to do one for their forthcoming new edition of The Call of Cthulhu RPG.

The most important piece of information about 7e CoC (at least for me) is this:
It's important to note that the 7th Edition rules remain backwards compatible so that previously published scenarios and source books all remain playable with the revised rules.
If this is indeed the case – and I certainly trust Chaosium that it is – then I don't mind the changes introduced in 7e.  If I like them, then I can use all my old CoC books with 7e.  And if I don't like them, then I can use any new 7e CoC material that catches my fancy with the pre-7e rules (viz. 5.6e/6e).

Some additional thoughts:

  • I like that the Keeper’s Rulebook includes all the rules needed to play, but that an Invistigator Handbook will be available for players.
  • The ‘pushing’ skill rolls mechanic sounds potentially quite cool.
  • I’m pleased to learn that there will be two new adventures in the book (“Amidst the Ancient Trees,” and “The Crimson Letters”).
  • Nice to see that some colour plates will be included in the Keeper’s Rulebook.

As for the other changes, I have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude.  But overall, I’m glad that 7e is not simply a tweaked and reformatted version of 6e, that they’re offering some new things, whilst retaining backwards compatibility.

So, in short, I’m pretty excited about 7e CoC.  Just call me a ‘slobbering shoggoth’!

29 May 2013

Jack Vance departs

Jack Vance, author of such fantasy classics as the Dying Earth stories and the Lyonesse trilogy, has passed away.

The Jack Vance official website statement.

Of course, I'm also grateful to Vecna, er, Vance for his contributions to the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game (the  'Vancian' spell system, graciously allowing Gary Gygax to use his 'Ioun stones' as a kind of magic item in the game, etc.).

Thanks for all the wonderful tales, oh great arch-mage!

13 May 2013

Essay on Lovecraft

My fellow Lovecraft fans, I think that this piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books may be of interest to you!  It is a fine essay on Lovecraft's work (posing as a book review).

As an aside, I thought that I would note that I agree with the author that "Clark Ashton Smith was a better stylist" than HPL.  It is regrettable that more of CAS's work is not available in published form today.  Fortunately, most of his work is available online at 'The Eldritch Dark'.

12 May 2013

OSR Con III in Toronto August 3-4

OSR Con III will be held on August 3-4 in Toronto.

Ed Greenwood will be returning as one of the guests of honour, and will be joined this time by Frank Mentzer.

I had a great time at last year's OSR Con II, and very much regret that it is unlikely that I will be able attend this summer.  However, if you can make it to Toronto for that weekend, I very much urge you to go!  It's a wonderful 'little' con.

I believe that my friend Lawrence Whitaker (co-author of RuneQuest 6 and many other RPG books) will be there.  If you have a chance to play in one of Lawrence's games, I recommend that you take it, as he's a superb GM.

29 April 2013

Background Professions for OSRIC and ADnD


Background Professions for OSRIC

Player characters weren’t always adventurers.  Before they decided to head off into dark mysterious dungeons or ogre-infested wild lands, they most likely started down one or more ‘respectable’ career paths.  In most ‘old school’ fantasy role-playing games like OSRIC, however, this aspect of a character’s early life has no effect on that character’s abilities.  This optional rule aims to rectify this situation.

Moreover, by providing all characters with at least one ‘background profession,’ this optional rule should provide greater depth and personality to the players’ characters.  Consider, for instance, the following party.  Cormac the fighter was once a hunter who was raised near the Highland Forest, hence his skill in tracking prey and moving stealthily in hill and wood.  In contrast, his ally Elowyn, also a fighter, was once a scholar in the city of Bookbridge, hence her wide-ranging knowledge of different subjects.  Elowyn’s wide-ranging lore intimidates her companion, the magic-user Alaric, whose own background as a petty noble in the court of the Duke of Briz means that he knows much of current politics and fashion, but little of ancient eldritch secrets, despite his arcane training.  Finally, their holy ally – the rotund Fredigar, priest of Muirgen, Mistress of the Sea – spent years as a merchant and sailor before being called to service by his goddess.

With this optional rule all characters may start with at least one ‘background profession.’  Players may roll either once on chart I, or twice on chart II below (the background professions on chart I are slightly more useful for adventuring characters).  While GMs may permit players to re-roll results that do not seem to match their conceptions of their characters, players are encouraged to try to make counter-intuitive rolls work for their characters.  For example, it may be that a paladin once was a pickpocket, before being ‘saved’ from a life of crime by his church.

It is assumed that characters abandoned their professions in order to become adventurers before progressing beyond the ‘apprentice’ stage (or equivalent).  Thus a character who has the background profession of ‘alchemist,’ for example, would not be as skilled at alchemy as most professional (non-player character) alchemists.

A character’s background profession(s) can enable that character to do or know certain things that other characters cannot do or know.  For example, a frontiersman may know whether a kind of wild berry is poisonous or not, or a doctor may know how to treat a particular infection.  A character’s background profession(s) also can give that character a bonus (typically equivalent to +4 on a d20, or +20% when using other dice) when attempting certain kinds of tasks.  If a character has two professions, any bonuses from those professions are not cumulative (so a character with both the ‘fisher’ and ‘sailor’ background professions, for instance, would not gain a +8 (+40%) bonus to his/her attempts to swim in troubled waters, but only a +4 (+20%) bonus).

Ultimately, of course, it is the Game Master’s decision whether or not a character’s background profession confers any special advantage in any particular situation.  Similarly, it is up to the GM to determine whether a particular background profession is available to a character.  The GM may decide to prohibit certain races from having certain background professions (for instance, the GM may decide that dwarf characters cannot have the frontiersman, hunter, or sailor background professions), or may restrict background professions to human characters (and perhaps half-elf characters raised in human societies) only.

Background Profession Charts

Players may roll either once on chart I or roll twice on chart II (re-rolling any identical results).

Chart I (Roll 1d10)
[Re-roll if the character lacks the necessary attribute scores]

1 Alchemist [Requires Intelligence of 12+]
2-3 Aristocrat
4 Brigand [Requires Strength and Dexterity of 9+]
5 Doctor [Requires Intelligence and Wisdom of 10+]
6-7 Frontiersman [Requires Constitution of 9+]
8-9 Hunter [Requires Dexterity of 9+]
10 Scholar [Requires Intelligence of 12+]

Chart II (Roll 1d20 twice, re-rolling the second result if identical to the first)
[Re-roll if the character lacks the necessary attribute scores]

1-2 Blacksmith [Requires Strength of 10+]
3-6 Farmer
7-8 Fisher
9 Fletcher/Bowyer
10 Gambler [Requires Intelligence of 9+]
11 Pickpocket [Requires Dexterity of 12+]
12 Leatherworker/Tanner
13 Locksmith
14 Mason
15-16 Merchant [Requires Wisdom of 9+]
17 Minstrel [Requires Charisma of 12+]
18 Sailor
19-20 Sentinel

Description of Background Professions

Alchemist [Requires an Intelligence of 12+]

Alchemists are skilled at identifying elixirs, poisons, potions, and so forth.  If an alchemist analyses a potion or other liquid for one day, he/she successfully identifies the potion (or other liquid) with a roll of 8+ on a d20.  If the alchemist rolls a 1 then the potion (or other liquid) is misidentified.  Other failures (below 8 but above 1) indicate simply that the alchemist fails and knows that he/she has failed.  The alchemist may try to identify the liquid again the following day on a result of 2-7 (with GM approval).  If an alchemy lab is available – typically only found in towns with populations of 2500 or more – the alchemist gains a +4 bonus (i.e., succeeds on a roll of 4 or above), but must pay 30 +2d10 gold pieces per day to rent necessary supplies.  (A roll of 1 still results in a misidentification by the alchemist.)

Characters with the alchemist background profession start with 1+1d3 potions (to be determined randomly or by the GM).

Aristocrat 

Aristocrats have knowledge of court etiquette, heraldry, recent history, and politics.  They are skilled at difficult riding manoeuvres (+4/20% bonus) and mounted combat (+1 bonus to hit when on a trained warhorse).

Characters of an aristocratic background start the game with an inherited high-quality weapon or shield.  Because of its superior quality, this item will have a +1 non-magical bonus (i.e., the weapon will have a +1 bonus to hit but not damage, or the shield will grant a +1 bonus to AC).  Characters will not part willingly with this item (i.e., will refuse to sell it, even if in dire straits).  Aristocratic characters also start with a bonus of 2d20 gold pieces.

Blacksmith [Requires a Strength of 10+]

Blacksmiths can repair metal weapons and armour with proper equipment (costs 10% of ‘market’ weapon/armour price for supplies and to rent forge; normally takes one day per item).  Blacksmiths can also determine the correct value of non-magical weapons and armour within 10%.

Brigand [Requires a Strength of 9+ and a Dexterity of 9+]

Characters who once spent time as brigands are skilled at hiding and moving silently.  Non-thief characters with this background may hide in shadows and move silently as a first-level thief, but may never improve beyond this level of ability, unless they are assassins, in which case they improve normally after level 3.  Thief characters with this background profession receive a +15% to their hide in shadows and move silently abilities, and start with a suit of leather armour and sling at no cost.

Doctor [Requires an Intelligence and Wisdom of 10+]

Doctors can bandage wounded characters with proper equipment.  A doctor can heal 1-2 hit points after one turn of applying a bandage or a salve.  Alternatively, a doctor can treat an unconscious character, returning that character to consciousness after applying a bandage or salve and using smelling salts for one turn (the awakened character will have one hit point).  Doctors can heal a character in this way only once per combat.

(A ‘medical kit’ with 10 bandages, 5 salves, and smelling salts, costs 15 gold pieces; characters with the doctor background profession start with one free kit.)

Doctors can also try to draw out poisons (50% chance of success) and treat many natural diseases (50% chance of success).  (The GM may modify the likelihood of success according the seriousness of the poison or disease.)

Farmer 

Characters who were once farmers are skilled at predicting weather (roll of 6+ on d20) and at bartering (+4/20% bonus).

Fisher

If near a body of water and properly supplied (with a net, etc.), former fishers can capture enough fish to feed a 3+1d4 people for a day.  Fishers are also skilled at swimming (+4/20% bonus if roll required, e.g., if the character is burdened, or is swimming in rapids; otherwise simply assume success).

Fletcher/Bowyer

Characters who were once fletchers/bowyers can make 1d4+1 scores (i.e., 40-100) of arrows or bolts per day with proper equipment (costs 10% of normal price).  Such characters also are skilled at repairing damaged arrows and bows (roll of 6+ on d20 for every 5 arrows).  Fletchers/bowyers can determine the correct value of non-magical bows within 10%.

Frontiersman  [Requires a Constitution of 9+]

Characters who grew up on the edges of civilization are skilled at finding their way in the wilds.  They cannot normally become ‘lost’ (although the GM may decide otherwise in unusual circumstances).  Frontiersmen also have knowledge of natural herbs and poisons (+4/20% bonus if roll is required), knowledge of regional wildlife (+4/20% bonus if roll is required), and are good at predicting weather (roll of 6+ on d20, or +4/20% bonus if some other roll required).  (It is recommended that the character typically succeed in identifying natural poisons, regional wildlife, etc., unless special circumstances warrant a roll.)

Gambler [Requires an Intelligence of 9+]

Characters who once made their living by gambling obviously are skilled at such games (+4/20% bonus).  They may earn 1d100 – 20 silver pieces (-19 to 80 silver pieces) per week by playing such games in any decent-sized town (normally a population of 2000 or greater), but may not adventure during that period.  (Note that there is a possibility that a gambler may lose silver pieces during a period of gambling thanks to an unlucky streak, or encounters with even more skilled gamblers.)

There is a 2% chance/week (non-cumulative) of gambling during which the character makes 60+ silver pieces that 2-5 (1d4+1) thugs will be sent by a disgruntled loser in order to recover the ‘unfairly taken’ funds from the character.

Hunter [Requires Dexterity of 9+]

Characters who were once hunters have good knowledge of regional wildlife (+4 /20% bonus if roll is required).  They are skilled at tracking creatures (any land-based animal, humanoid, or monster) in the wilds (base 20% chance; add to tracking % if character is a ranger), and are good at hiding and moving silently in the outdoors.  Non-thief characters may hide in shadows and move silently as first-level thieves.  However, they may use this ability only outdoors, and it never improves with experience, unless the character is an assassin (in which case it improves normally after level 3).  Thief characters enjoy a +15% bonus to their ability to hide in shadows and move silently, but only outdoors.

Leatherworker/Tanner

Characters who were once leatherworkers can repair any leather good, including leather armour, with proper supplies (costs 10% of normal price; normally takes half a day per good).  Leatherworkers also can determine the correct value of non-magical leather goods and hides within 10%.

Locksmith

Locksmiths are skilled at repairing and disabling most mechanical devices, such as locks, mechanical traps, etc. Non-thief characters may pick locks and disarm (mechanical) traps as first-level thieves.  This ability, however, does not improve with experience (unless the character is an assassin, in which case it improves as normal for that class).  Thief characters that were once locksmiths enjoy a +15% bonus to their ability to pick locks and disarm traps.

Mason

Masons receive a bonus (+4/20%) to notice unusual stonework (including stone traps, sloping passageways, etc.).   They also receive a bonus to detect secret or concealed doors constructed of stone or surrounded by stone.  Add +1 to the character’s d6 ability to detect secret and concealed doors, if stone or part of surrounding stonework.  Also assume that most characters have a base 10% ability to detect unusual stonework, to which the above modifiers apply (thus 30% for human ex-masons), unless they are dwarves or gnomes, in which case apply the +20% bonus to the percentages listed under the descriptions of their special racial abilities.

Merchant [Requires Wisdom 9+]

Merchants are knowledgeable of the regional economy and current politics, and are good at bartering (+4/20% bonus if roll required).  Characters with the merchant background profession start the game with extra ‘supplies’ (player’s choice of kind of goods) worth (2+1d4) x 20 (i.e., 60-120) gold pieces.

Minstrel [Requires a Charisma of 12+]

Characters who were once minstrels are knowledgeable of regional culture, court etiquette, and current politics.  They know how to play one instrument (player’s choice), and own that instrument (decent quality – worth 20+2d20 gold pieces).  Minstrels can earn 2d12 silver pieces per week from performing (the character cannot adventure during this time) in any decent-sized town (population 1000+).  Minstrels can only earn 1d12 silver pieces per week in smaller locales.

Pickpocket  [Requires a Dexterity of 12+]

Characters who are not thieves, but who once spent time as pickpockets (perhaps as street urchins or as aspiring thieves before opting for a different career), can pick pockets as first level thieves.  This ability does not improve as the character gains experience in his/her non-thief class (unless the character is an assassin, in which case this ability improves as normal after level 3).   If the character is a thief, then he/she gains a +20% bonus to his/her ‘pick pockets’ ability, and an extra 10-60 (1d6x10) starting gold pieces.

Sailor

Former sailors are skilled at predicting weather (+4/20% bonus) and swimming (+4/20% bonus if roll required, otherwise assume automatic success).

Scholar [Requires Intelligence 12+]

Characters who devoted their pre-adventuring years to study are knowledgeable of a wide range of general topics, such as those concerning culture, geography, history, religion, etc. (assume a base 50% chance that the character will be able to answer any ‘general knowledge’ question; reduce to 1-20%, according to the GM’s judgement, for more specific and/or difficult questions).  The character abandoned the pursuit of academic knowledge before becoming a proper sage, and thus lacks any specialised areas of knowledge.

Scholars also are knowledgeable of certain legends, including those concerning powerful monsters, ancient heroes and villains, powerful relics and magic items, etc. (+4/20% bonus).  Scholars can try to identify a magic item (15% chance of success;  +2% for every point of Intelligence above 12) if appropriate libraries and/or colleges are available (typically requires a town with a population of 5000 or greater; takes one week of research per item, and costs 50+1d20 gold pieces).

Sentinel

Characters who were once sentinels or guards are trained to be observant (+4/20% bonus to rolls to notice unusual things).  They start with a suit of chainmail, rigid leather, or leather armour (player’s choice), a small shield, and a one-handed weapon (player’s choice) at no cost.

Note on Rolls

A character’s probability of success when using the abilities associated with his/her background profession in many cases has been noted above.  In some descriptions of background professions, though, only a bonus (typically +4 on a d20, or the equivalent of +20%) has been identified.   It is left to the GM’s judgement to adjudicate how to apply this bonus in particular cases (e.g., a +2 to a roll on a d10).  However, a proposed method is provided here.

One way to resolve various tasks, which has a long history in ‘old school’ fantasy role-playing games similar to OSRIC, is to make an ‘attribute check.’  This involves rolling a d20 and ‘checking’ the roll against the appropriate attribute or ability score (viz., strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, or charisma).  If the roll is equal to or less than the character’s relevant attribute (which typically will range from 3 to 18), the attempt is successful.  Under this system, any bonus that applies to the relevant task from that character’s background profession is added to his/her relevant attribute before making the roll.  However, a natural roll of a ‘20’ is always considered a failure (unless the GM judges otherwise – the GM may decide that, in particular situations, if a character has an attribute equivalent to 20+ that character automatically succeeds at the task in question).

For example, a character with the ‘fisher’ background profession attempts to swim across a turbulent river.  If the river had been calm, the character would have succeeded automatically.  Because of the rough water, though, the GM requests that the character make an attribute check against her strength.  The character has a12 strength, but because of her fisher background, that is adjusted to 16.  Thus the player must roll a 16 or lower on a d20 in order for her character to swim successfully across the river.

Difficulty Modifiers

Finally, whenever a character must roll to use an ability associated with his/her background profession, it is recommended that the GM apply modifiers if appropriate.  Very easy (but not automatically successful) tasks might receive a bonus of +10, while extremely difficult (but not impossible) tasks might receive a penalty of -10.  Less extreme modifiers should apply to rolls involving tasks of intermediate ease or difficulty.

When using the ‘attribute check’ system, these modifiers should be applied the character’s ‘effective’ attribute for the purposes of the roll.  So, for instance, if the ‘fisher’ character mentioned earlier were to try to swim across a turbulent river while wearing a heavy backpack, the GM may assign a penalty of -6, rendering her effective attribute ’10’ (12 strength + 4 bonus for background profession - 6 for backpack = 10).

Final Notes
  • An earlier version of this article, written for the Swords & Wizardry game, was posted four years ago (!) here.  A slightly different version of that earlier version was published in Fight On! issue # 5.
  • In addition to modifying that earlier article for OSRIC and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1e), I made a number of other minor additions and changes (e.g., the 'pickpocket' background is new, as is the chance that some thugs might be sent to 'rough up' a successful gambler).
  • An obvious inspiration for this article is the 'Secondary Skills' chart in the 1e Dungeon Masters Guide (p. 12).

25 April 2013

The Quest Reality Show

From here:

CHICAGO — You don't need hairy Hobbit feet or a fluency in Elvish to travel to Middle Earth — at least in this "reality."
A new reality TV show called "The Quest," described as "if 'Amazing Race' took place in Middle Earth," will host a "meet and greet" for potential cast members Thursday in Chicago.
Sci-fi fans with a thirst for adventure can attend the event with casting director Kristin Malley from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday at Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.
"The Quest" comes from the creators of "The Amazing Race" and one of the executive producers of "The Lord of the Rings," film trilogy, Malley said.
An ideal contestant would be "competitive, [with a] good personality, high energy, who also has a flair for the fantasy and sci-fi world," Malley said.

Well, I do have hairy Hobbit feet and fluency in Elvish (both Sindarin and Quenya*).

But I have no idea what "The Amazing Race" is, am not "competitive", and most decidedly am not "high energy".

So I think I'll have to pass...

(C'mon, it's a whole three blocks away from my flat!)

[* Okay, not really, but I do know many words and phrases in both languages.]

08 April 2013

Dungeons of Dread



I recently picked up Dungeons of Dread, the reprint of the AD&D modules S1-4.  It’s a very nice book, like the other AD&D reprints that WotC has put out recently, although the internal art is all black and white, so the beautiful colour Erol Otus pictures from S3 are all rendered greyish.

Anyhow, with the release of Dungeons of Dread, WotC also has posted these comic ‘maps’ of the Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain.  They’re well worth checking out!



04 April 2013

Ian M. Banks


Ian M. Banks has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Banks, as I assume many readers already know, is one of the leading science-fiction authors of our generation. He is the creator of the 'Culture' universe. He also wrote a wide variety of non-SF novels, and a non-fiction book on whisky (Raw Spirits).

Banks's Culture novels helped to make life bearable for me during the 1990s. His novels Use of Weapons and Player of Games especially stand out: I remember being amazed, thrilled, and horrified by both of them. Indeed, most of Banks' novels left a strong impression on me, even his lesser known ones (e.g., The Bridge, Inversions).

This is very sad news.  The SF community will be poorer with his passing.

25 March 2013

Dark Streets



Speaking of Cthulhu-related gaming stuff, I wanted to mention that my favourite RPG book of 2013 so far is (hands down) Dark Streets from Cakebread and Walton.

Dark Streets is a setting supplement for the Renaissance RPG (which is based upon OpenQuest, adapted for ‘black powder’ era settings).  However, Dark Streets should be easy to use with Call of Cthulhu (Renaissance  and CoC share the same d100/BRP ‘DNA’, after all), and most other d100-based systems.

The setting itself is London in 1749 -- a dynamic, rapidly growing city, but also a den of iniquity and crime.  The historical information is well presented and (thankfully) not too overwhelming.  There is just the right amount of information for non-historian Game Masters to run adventures in this setting with aplomb.

The players’ characters are members of the Bow Street Runners, London’s first police force, run by chief magistrate Henry Fielding (with help from his blind brother, John Fielding, who occasionally receives ‘visions’ in his dreams that help him anticipate highly unusual crimes).  The premise of the setting is that, in addition to all the prosaic crime to which Londoners are victim, there are darker, eldritch things going on as well -- things that threaten the very future of humanity.  (I guess there is no need to be coy here: I refer, of course, to assorted ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ creatures and associated human cultists, all of which are up to no good.)

One way to think about Dark Streets is that it is, very roughly, the Laundry (or perhaps Delta Green) set in the mid-18th Century.  The PCs work for a government authority (with hopelessly inadequate resources, of course!), investigating things about which the public must not know, but from which they must be protected at all costs.

In short, I strongly recommend Dark Streets to anyone interested in running a Cthulhu Mythos game in a great, flavourful setting that is a little different from the standard 1920s one.

(The RPG Pundit also likes it.)

24 March 2013

Achtung! Cthulhu Kickstarter


I have more Call of Cthulhu stuff than I can possibly use in this lifetime already, and I'm generally leery of Kickstarters, but this one looks too damn cool to pass over...


23 March 2013

Fight On! to End


Either issue #14 or #15 will be the final issue of the epic OSR fanzine Fight On!  The full statement from Calithena can be read here.

I’m quite sad to see Fight On! wrapping up.  It was a real force in the OSR, especially in the early years, and every issue contained lots of interesting articles and adventures.

I’m proud to have had a couple of things published in Fight On!  And I regret that I didn’t submit more articles.

Kudos to Calithena on a job well done!  (Well, almost done...)

22 March 2013

She Kills Monsters



I saw the play “She Kills Monsters” with my significant other last night at the Steppenwolf Garage Rep in Chicago (just a 20-minute walk from my place).  

It was a great, surprisingly intense, experience.  Although I (of course) enjoyed all the D&D references (even though the play grossly misrepresents how the game actually works), the play is about much more, and should appeal to people who know nothing about the game.   Many of the scenes were quite physical -- mock sword fights, dramatic leaps, etc. -- which were especially thrilling given the small size of the theater.  The play also was emotionally intense: at least once during its course I had to dry a few tears.  Finally, all the 1995 pop-culture references were fun, though they made me feel rather old (is ‘Quantum Leap’ no longer on?). 

The play already has had a NYC run (at the Flea) and will be appearing in Boston soon.  Check it out!  (A review.)

21 March 2013

Why Google+?!?


According to Mythmere, the real meaty discussions concerning Swords and Wizardry are no longer taking place at the S&W discussion boards but rather at the S&W Google+ page.

More generally, it seems that while I wasn't paying attention (i.e., the past 12+ months), a lot of RPG-related discussion (at least amongst OSR-types) has moved to Google+ and away from fora and blogs.

By Crom’s drooping mustache, why has this happened? 

I'm not terribly familiar with Google+, as I find it even more annoying than facebook (something I did not think was possible). As far as I can tell, Google+ does not facilitate discussion any better than traditional discussion boards do; indeed, if anything, I find it much harder to find relevant discussions (threads) on Google+ pages.

So what is the appeal of Google+? Is it just new and shiny? What am I missing?

18 March 2013

‘High Gygaxian’ and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

I recently started re-reading the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook (mainly as a PDF on my iPad mini whilst on the bus, so I haven’t gotten very far yet).  Like everything else written by Gary Gygax during his time at TSR, I find the text quite enjoyable, and am discovering minor things that I never noticed before (or perhaps have long forgotten).  More generally, I now appreciate that Gygax’s idiosyncratic writing style actually was part of AD&D’s appeal 30+ years ago, not a barrier to it.  

By chance, I stumbled upon this post by Trent Foster from 2009 that makes essentially this point (though far better than I could):

The secret of AD&D's marketing success in its peak years (early 80s) was based on a sort of paradox, or even a lie -- the game was aimed at, and written for, adults, even though the core audience was actually kids aged about 10-14. These kids were the ones buying the books and playing the game (and even submitting stuff to Dragon and TSR -- there's tons of examples out there of people sheepishly admitting that a letter or article they wrote for Dragon magazine with a studied "adult professional" tone was really written when they were 14 or whatever) but they all thought they were doing something adult -- something above their expected level of intelligence and sophistication, something vaguely dangerous and forbidden. Hell, this dynamic existed within the very Gygax household -- two of the primary playtesters of his "adult" game were his teenage sons -- Ernie in the 70s, Luke in the 80s (and, for that matter, Alex in the 00s). 

A big part of the appeal of AD&D for us 80s kids was the difficulty of understanding it -- that you had to be smarter than average to understand it and, once you did, you earned social cachet by explaining it to the other kids (who didn't have their own copies because they couldn't afford them or their parents wouldn't let them, or who had the rulebooks but couldn't make any sense out of them because they didn't understand the Latinate abbreviations and words like "milieu" and "antithesis of weal"). Likewise with the illicit artwork with violence and nudity and pictures of demons and sacrificial altars and stuff -- and the media-panic surrounding it. Sure anybody who had read the books and played the game knew the accusations were all total crap, but it definitely made the game seem "cooler" (and yes, hard as it is to believe nowadays, there was a time -- when I was in 4th-6th grade, so 1984-86 -- when D&D (or, rather, AD&D -- the D&D boxed sets by Moldvay and later Mentzer were the dirty little secret, the way those of us who understood the game had by and large actually learned it, but we'd never admit that openly because that was "kiddie stuff" whereas AD&D was the Real Thing -- just like we'd sure as hell never admit to watching the D&D cartoon or playing with D&D action figures, even though most of us did) was considered cool, where the kid with the biggest collection of stuff and best understanding of the rules (usually because he had an older brother who he'd learned it from, or because he secretly had one of the Basic Sets (see above)) had an "instant in" with the popular (note: middle-school popular, which is different from high-school popular when cars and drugs and sex are involved) crowd). 

When TSR started changing the game around -- making it more kid-friendly by simplifying the language and sanitizing the content, actually marketing it towards the age of people who were playing it rather than the age of people those playing it looked up to and wanted to be like -- the appeal was lost, and D&D went from being the cool, dangerous thing that the smart and sophisticated kids played to being the boring thing that nerdy kids play, which is how it's been known ever since. By making D&D into something safe and accessible that anyone could understand and play, it became something nobody wanted to play.

(Originally posted here.)

My only quibble with this post is that, despite being a few years older than Foster, I don’t recall AD&D ever being especially ‘cool’, even during ‘middle-school’ (though it did seem not especially nerdy in the early-mid 1980s). 

08 March 2013

Read an RPG Book in Public Week

I was oblivious to the 'Read an RPG Book in Public Week' until a friend posted about it elsewhere.  The current week is almost over (ends March 9), but there are two more: July 21 - 27, and September 29 - October 5.

Generally, I've had no problem reading RPG books in public (e.g., in coffee shops, on the train, etc.).  My Call of Cthulhu books warn others to leave me alone!

But I tend not to read 'paper' RPG books in public, as most of them are awkward and thick -- and, in my case, often decades old.  I wouldn't want to get any of my classic 1e AD&D modules (even more) bent and stained!  (Hence my iPad mini, which I received as a gift last Christmas, has proven to be a great boon for my RPG-reading habits.  I've loaded it up with lots of great RPG PDFs.)

But, heck, I'll bring some Cthulhu and RuneQuest tomes with me to the coffee shop this weekend. And I'll wear my black 1e AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide T-Shirt as well!

04 March 2013

Fixing the Rules Cyclopedia


Over at the RPGsite the following question recently was asked: "If you had to rewrite one TSR-era D&D book, which one would it be, and how would you change it?"

Here is my answer:

Rules Cyclopedia:

1. Let PCs be druids, paladins, or avengers from level 1. Let knights be a 'prestige class' for fighters of any alignment at level 9. Add illusionists.

2. Fix thieves. Seriously, they are a horrible class in the RC. (Perhaps treat thief skills like the other 'optional' skills, and let any character class pick them? Or let thieves assign skill points and receive Dex bonuses, as in 2e AD&D?)

3. Downplay the higher-level stuff. Make it clear that levels 1-12 are the focus of most campaigns, and that higher-level characters (NPCs and PCs) are extremely rare. (No council of 1000 36th level archmages running Alphatia! Ugh!)

4. Eliminate 'attack ranks' for demi-humans (elfs, dwarfs, halflings). Fix the 'optional' 36-level progression charts for those classes, and just make those official.

5. Keep 'race classes', but include multiple versions (dwarf clerics, dwarf thieves, elf druids, etc.). (Essentially, expand upon what was done in some of the Gazetteers.)

6. Ascending ACs.

7. Change all the art. Hell, just recycle the art from the Moldvay/Cook B/X books (especially the Otus stuff).

I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of other fixes...

I probably should've added: "simplify the weapon specialization rules."

I'm not sure how well the rules for running dominions work, so perhaps those need some fixing as well.

Since I've been reading OSRIC (the 1e AD&D clone) lately on my ipad mini (helps make sitting on a bus more tolerable), I also have some thoughts on how to 'fix' AD&D.  I'll try to post those in the relatively near future...

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.