26 July 2018

Cleric Spells Are Herbs

Mechanics

Herbs with a rarity of 0 may be found by scavenging for herbs.

Roll a d12 on the Replaced Spells list when foraging for herbs to gain the associated herb. Those with special knowledge may roll a larger die. Rarer herbs must usually be found by questing, but may occasionally be available for purchase.

Cost


Herb LevelBaseline Cost
0 100 GP
1 200 GP
2 600 GP
3 800 GP
4 1000 GP

Replaced Spells

Key

Rarity - Spell Name - Duration - Save - Effect

1. 0 - Bless

1 min/lvl - SV no
-+1 hit/+1 save VS fear. Opposite is Bane.

2. 0 - Cure Light Wounds

Perm - SV Wis
½ dmg Heal for 1d8/3 lvls (max 4d8). Hurt undead, get Wis save.

3. 0 - Detect Alignment

10 min/lvl - SV no
Concentrate for 1 round in direction and sense alignment specified in range.

4. 0 - Invisibility to Undead

10 min/lvl - SV Int neg
Invisible until ends/attack/cast buff/attack spell. Those attacking suffer -8 at roll. Intelligent undead get save.

5. 0 - Protection from Alignment

3 rnd/lvl - SV no
-+2 AC/Saves against chosen alignment. Protects against possession as well.

6. 0 - Purify Food & Drink

Perm - SV no
Make food eatable.

7. 0 - Remove Fear

Special - SV no
-+4 to save effects. If already Feared get another save at +1.

8. 0 - Sanctuary

1rnd lvl - SV special
Warded character can’t attack or cast offensive spells or ends. Attackers must make Wis save or can’t attack warded char.

9. 0 - Turn Undead - Salt

Perm - SV no 
Repel undead of HD equal to the character's level+1. Roll 2d6 to determine the number of undead turned, with a minimum of 1. Turned undead will attempt to leave the area. Undead with the lowest HD are affected first.

10. 0 - Detect Magic

1 min/lvl - SV no
Concentrate for 1 round in direction to sense magic in varying degrees of strength. Passes through thin barriers.

11. 0 - Detect Poison

10 min/lvl- SV no
Detect whether one target has been poisoned/is poisonous.

12. 0 - Endure Elements

24 hours- SV no
Ignore intense weather conditions.

13. 0 - Command

1 rnd - SV Chr neg
One word command, 1 creature/2lvls. Can reverse magical effects like Sleep.

14. 1- Detect Undead

1 min/lvl - SV no
Concentrate for 1 round in direction to sense undead. Passes through thin barriers.

15. 1 - Resist Elements

1 min/lvl - SV no
-+2 save against specified element.

16. 2 - Augery

Instant - SV no
Find out if particular actions have good/bad consequences. 70 + 1%/lvl chance for answer. Events up to 30 min seen.

17. 2 - Consecrate

2 hrs/lvl - SV no
Holy land - +3 Turn undead/+1 VS fear. Undead suffer -1 to all rolls. Opposite is Bane.

18. 2 - Delay Poison

1 hr/lvl - SV Con neg
Cannot be affected by poison during spell duration.

19. 2 - Hold Person

1rnd/lvl - SV Wis neg 
Hold person physically in place. Can do mental shit.

20. 2 - Remove Paralysis

Special - SV no
Removes magical or non magical paralysis.

21. 3 - Dispel Magic

1d6 rnd - SV no
Suppresses magic for 1d6 rounds in 60ft radius

22. 3 - Remove Blindness/Deafness/Curse/Disease

Perm - SV no
Specify which one you are removing. One effect per casting.

23. 4 - Neutralize Poison

Perm - SV Con neg
Stops poison and temp effects (but not ones that have already happened). Can be used on poisonous creatures.

24. 4 - Restoration

Perm - SV no
Restores 1 level lost by level drain (not death). Restores ability scores affected by temporary drain, but not perm.

Herb Generator

I recommend using this herb generator by ktrey parker to create herbs for the above "spells." It's very good.

Credit

Michael R. Bacon. Spell format modified from Mike Evans. Ideas used (with permission) from James Young in a chat room. Herb generator by ktrey parker.

19 July 2018

Index Card GLOG Character Sheet

Click to remove the blurries.
Here's an Adobe Illustrator file if you want to edit the original sheet. This PDF has several copies on one page. I recommend printing it on label paper, cutting each sheet out, and placing them on index cards. Use the back of the index card for class abilities, spells, and inventory.
Better yet, use Logan Knight's backpack and keep the index card inside of it. Go here and download the item cards, pouches, and most importantly, the packs. It seems like a gimmick, but it's efficient and it makes players feel good. You want that.
You can have a look at Logan's stuff in action here.

17 July 2018

Duo Session Report: Alexander searches for the Thracian Caverns in Southern Dolmenwood

Alexander Coulter saw several building foundations. He had been told that one of them had an opening leading to the caverns below. He wandered onto the foundation nearest the swamp, and moved to it's edge to improve his view of the swamp, which hitherto had been obscured by trees.

While he was calculatedly attempting to observe every detail, a formation of shapes rose from the water and a volley of arrows landed near, some piercing his armor and wounding him. He fled the platform and very cautiously climbed another foundation, finding a tablet in Dwarvish, which he could read, describing a hidden entrance. After nearly an hour of slow, wary movement through the ruins and surrounding forest, he found it, but he found a stranger thing first.

Around noon, he nearly stumbled into a hole in the ground nearly as wide as he was tall, perfectly rounded and reinforced by stone edges. The midday sun provided a mostly clear view of what he believed to be a ritualistic sacrifice with over twenty in attendance, some in robes, some in armed and in armor, some dressed like ordinary folk, about sixty feet below. The victims, naked and bound, were shoved, suddenly, out of Alexander's sight. He suspected their death when their terrified screams suddenly ended.

Confident that he had found a better entrance, probably safer and leading to a tactical advantage against whatever may be below, he entered the building of dark stone that housed only a staircase, and descended toward darkness with his torch lit.

At the bottom of the stairs, he saw a wall directly ahead of him and heard a sharp cracking sound more than a half-dozen times in a row. Sensing the possibility of a trap, he studied the entryway and everything on the other side of it care, finally peering around the corner without placing his body fully through the arch.

He saw the eyes of a man whose body was pressed up against the wall. His armor was similar to the armor of those Alexander had seen through the hole from above. The man's eyes immediately met Alexander's eyes, as if they had been waiting for the torch to illuminate the being that held it, and five others just behind him joined in a frenzied ambush and cut him down.

Notes

The Caverns of Thracia are deadly to anyone who doesn't have a sense of what's going on down there. I'm playing a duo game with my wife, Emily. She doesn't know what's going on down there.

Alexander was her first character in Dolmenwood and her first character to visit the Thracian ruins and the caverns below.

If you're used to a more "heroic" game, especially one with more party members, this might seem unfair, deadly, and not fun. Well, that's partly true; it's deadly and it's unfair.

Emily lost a character who only took a few minutes to create and whose information was written on an index card character sheet (which I'll be sharing in my next post.) Now she knows something about the inhabitants of the dungeon below, though she doesn't know if they're permanent residents, an expedition, or routine guests.

She has a plan for her next character to ensure his safety, at least past these stairs. If she succeeds, she will have overcome a real challenge, not a challenge of luck or a challenge for Alexander described by narration, but a challenge for her. Alexander's story, short and shallow, emerged, but she was playing a game, not telling a story.

I wasn't telling one either, but I've told it to you now.

16 July 2018

Modular OSR Rulebook

EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED!

Go here instead. Everything is simple now.

Further discussion in this G+ thread.

The Idea


We are making a modular BX document that includes multiple versions of every mechanic for you to pick and choose

This makes choosing house rules and creating the best game for your own table easier, particularly for new GMs. Browsing endless blogs for endless hours to gather ideas is fun for me, but it's not appealing to everyone, nor is it an option that everyone is aware of. Think of this as a library of BX rules and procedures.

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The Result

An easy way for anyone to select mechanics to include and download them in a printable file. I haven't determined the best way to do that yet. The simplest, surest way is to use Pandoc to generate docx files which I'll then transfer to a public Google Docs file with each mechanic/class/etc in a separate section.

Even better would be an automated website that allows you to check boxes to select which pages you want and then choose a file format to download them in. Pandoc generates attractive PDFs, good DocX files, and ICML files (which can be imported into Adobe Illustrator and elsewhere.) Jayce is attempting to figure out a way to do something like this. Feel free to make suggestions or offer to take on some of the work.

You'll be able to:
  • Download/edit/print just one section to add it to your game.
  • Copy the file and delete the parts you don't want to use. Now you have a customized GLOG ready to print!
To some degree, this is already possible. Each section is published as sort of an SRD from which you can copy and paste whatever parts you like.You can download a DOCX, PDF, or ICML of the compiled markdown files here. (Here's a sample of a correctly formatted class.) You can download the original Markdown files at our Github repository. (Let me know if you're interested in joining the repo. You can also push your .md files to it if you're a Github nerd.)

To contribute

All you have to do is write a .md text file like the above. If you really want to, you can even write it in a .txt .doc, or .docx file. Upload the file here and I'll add it.

The contributions we need most are listed on the introductory page. I'd really love to collect every class created for the GLOG so far, for example.

Style Guide for Classes

Just download a template and fill it in. Use the Style Guide for Rules when in doubt.

Style Guide for Rules

I recommend creating your markdown text in Typora (Windows), IA Writer (Mac, Android, IOS), or StackEdit (web browser) but you can type markdown in anything that allows you to type. Notepad is fine.

I'll be using this style guide to edit your Markdown File. It would be nice if you did the work for me though.

If your file is a variation on an idea already included in the document, they will share the same title, followed by a comma and a phrase to differentiate them. For example: "Light Sources, Checks."
Write concisely.

Follow this structure:

## Structure of Document Sections

> Formulas and summary notes which are useful if you've already read.
> They're also good for copying and pasting onto a GM screen.

Full length explanation.

------

Examples and advice.


The resulting document will look like this but bit nicer:


Structure of Document Sections
Formulas and summary notes which are useful if you've already read. These may be copied and pasted onto a GM screen.
Full length explanation.

Examples and advice.

The Details

I've been working on making an easy-reference version of the GLOG for quite a while now, but the GLOG doesn't have a single, complete set of rules, so a referenceable GLOG is sort of a nonsense idea. The GLOG is about making up your own rules that suit the basic framework that Arnold K. created, whether parts are added or entirely replaced.

With that in mind, we (yes, that includes you) are making a modular GLOG document that includes multiple versions of every mechanic. I'd like to do the same thing for B/X soon.

Each subsystem of the rules is placed in a separate Markdown file (a simple text file with a .md extension) for each version of that subsystem.

For example these are two different text files for light sources:

# Light Sources, Traditional



A Light Source lasts a number of turns and illuminates an area.



**Torch**: 1 hour. 20’ bright light, 40' shadows. 5 per one slot.



**Lantern**: 3 hours (per bottle of lamp oil.) 30’ bright light, 60’ shadows.



**Candle**: 1 hour. 5’ bright light, 15’ shadows. 10 per 1 slot.



**Flint and tinder** requires 1D4 rounds to ignite a light source.


# Light Sources, Checks


A Light Source depletes according to die rolls and illuminates an area.


Each turn, roll. If the result is less than four, use a lower die. 


If anything less than a four is rolled on a D4, the light source is depleted. 


Use these steps: D20 -> D12 ->D10 -> D8 -> D6 -> D4 -> depleted.


**Torch**: D8. 20’ bright light, 40' shadows. 5 per one slot.


**Lantern**: D20 (per bottle of lamp oil.) 30’ bright light, 60’ shadows. 


**Candle**: D10. 5’ bright light, 15’ shadows. 10 per 1 slot.


**Flint and tinder** requires 1D4 rounds to ignite a light source.

A "#" marks a heading. A *word* with asterisks around it will be bolded.

To-do List 

As of today. For an updated list, go here.
Want to take on one of these? Let me know. I'd love it.
  • Make the website look better. CSS stuff.
  • Add a bazillion classes.
  • The equipment list isn’t ready to use.
  • The Random Starting Items table is barely even started.
  • The advice sections are almost entirely stolen without credit from random places. I think it’s great advice, but it needs to be replaced with something that is credited. They were originally meant just for me and for my players.

12 July 2018

Table for the Return of a Missing Hot Springs Island Player

Inspired by this.
Some results might only be reasonably used once. Cross them off as they're used. Alter results to fit context if necessary.

1d10ExitEntryEffect
1Sleepwalk away. Sleep the entire time.Party member dreams movements guiding back the sleepwalker. Return with a disgusting, bubbly rash covered in the stench of high-proof alcohol.Gain a rumor of elven ruins from dreams.
2(Secretly?) agreed to dumb solo quest with an NPC.Wanders back to party camp, exhausted.Gain information about an NPC. Flip a coin to either gain some minor loot or have failed the quest and upset the NPC.
3Kidnapped by neutral faction member during sleep.Returns near the party.PC gains knowledge and apology/promise to repay debt from the NPC.
4Fear of the other players led to a lot of time alone in the wilderness.Return from the wilderness, maybe a little paranoid, but with newfound confidence. Tracked players to their current location.Improved bushcraft. (Wilderness survival stuff.) However, infected with a disease. http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-glog-diseases.html
5Overcome by illness and hallucination.Better now. Don't worry. Totally fine. See, I found you on my own. Ha. Haha. It's okay.Random mutation. See The Metamorphica or https://coinsandscrolls.blogspot.com/2018/01/osr-1d500-biological-mutations.html
6Tried to explore a dungeon alone. Spent the whole time exploring the entrance area.Returns to party camp.Gain knowledge about location of and entrance to a dungeon location.
7Wandered into an unexplored hex and hid from something scary there.Returns, frazzled and injured, to party camp.Learned basic details about the hex and some information about a creature or other hazard. 1/4th HP is lost.
8Captured by Martel Company mercs.Martel Company mercs return to party explaining that they mistook PC for a bounty target. (If there is a bounty, roll again.)Temporary bonus to interactions with Martel Company, including trading with Jeremy Rand.
9Led away by faction member who gave drugs, invoked visions, or some such.Stumbles out of the wilderness making wacky gestures or saying strange things.A little crazy or a little visionary. Choose the first fitting effect on this list. https://coinsandscrolls.blogspot.com/2018/04/osr-1d500-supernatural-mutations.html
10Kidnapped by opposing faction member.Returns to the party.Faction gains knowledge from the NPC in exchange for safe release.

10 July 2018

Conversation System

Drawbacks

  1. You or your players may find this to be a dry procedure at first, even though it's very simple and should mostly be familiar.

Benefits

  1. Ensures that no player dominates all conversation in a game.
  2. Makes Charisma relevant to conversation without rolling under it.
  3. Prevents conversations from stretching out forever as players endlessly question and attempt to manipulate an NPC.
  4. Helps a GM to adjudicate NPC responses in such a way that the GM may be surprised by the result. This prevents railroading and can make things more fun for the GM.

Notes

I need your feedback on Bribes. Assume an equipment list/currency from Labyrinth Lord, if that helps. What should I change to make it more reasonable?

I modified this procedure from Beloch's post on Papers & Pencils. His post was likewise based on Courtney Campbell's system.
They've been using a version of this for years. My version has only seen one game so far, but it's very nearly the same as theirs, and it worked. 

Mine is different from Beloch's in that it is noted in a simpler, more referenceable fashion and has a couple of minor changes that make it a bit more universally applicable. It also has a conversation initiative system to 1. Ensure that no player dominates all conversation in a game. 2. Make Charisma more relevant to conversation.



Conversation System

This is a structure, not a strict procedure. It is an adjudication tool. This means that you should change things as necessary, even in play, to keep your game coherent.
  • At the start of a conversation encounter, every PC must make a Charisma check. The lowest successful roll goes first.
  • After every successful PC has taken a conversation action, those who failed the Charisma roll may take conversation actions.
  • The first PC to act makes a reaction roll (2d6.) That roll is compared to the reaction table to determine how the NPC reacts.
  • The result also determines how many conversation actions the party may attempt before the NPC is done talking and wants to end the conversation. The referee should note this number down in a place visible to the players, if possible. (Example: If the NPC reacts with a 7, the players get 7 conversation actions.)
  • If the players force a conversation to continue past the point that an NPC wishes to leave, their reaction will be reduced by 2 for each round they are kept against their wishes. If their reaction reaches 2, the NPC will end the conversation in annoyance, hostility, or an outright attack.

Conversation Reaction Table




2d6 Reaction Category Conversation Actions 
Attack None 
3-5 Hostile - 2 
6-8 Indifferent 
9-11 Talkative +2 
12 Helpful +4 

Every communication will fall into one of four basic categories: Banal, Give, Take or Convince.
Once an action is resolved, the referee reduces the number of remaining actions by 1.

Banal

Simple conversation, most questions, and other minutia. There is no chance to fail.

Convincing

Telling a lie which the NPC has cause to doubt or making an argument against something the NPC believes.

<6: Displeased. Reaction drops by 1 category6: Unconvinced. 9: Trepidatious. Will think about it. 11: Fully convinced.

Situational modifiers of 1 or 2 may occasionally apply. Players who expect something in exchange for nothing should take a penalty; players who offer much in exchange for little should get a bonus.

Giving

Telling a joke, offering compliments, giving gifts, listening to a person’s long winded opinions, etc. When giving, roll 2d6 and add relevant modifiers.

<6: Unimpressed. 6: Interested. +2 conversation actions. 9: Intrigued. +1 to next Taking or Convincing attempt. 11: +1 to your reaction with this NPC.

Taking

Making a request or a demand, negotiating, offering a bribe, asking questions the NPC may not be inclined to answer.

<6: upset. reaction drops by 1 category4: refusal. 6: meet halfway. 9: agrees. 11: agrees and offers more.

Special cases:
Intimidation modifies the result by the difference in average level between the two groups. Receive a bonus or penalty of 1 for each level.

Bribe: the baseline for an NPC is equal to 250GP*level. (Level 0 NPCs have a baseline bribe of 100GP.)

For each social/wealth "level" an NPC has above "commoner," add a 0 to the end of the result.

Increasing or decreasing the amount by 50% will modify the Taking result by +/- 2.
Example: for a level 2, low social-status character, the baseline bribe is 500 gp. Increasing or decreasing this amount by 50% (750 gp or 250 gp) will modify the bribe by +/- 2.

09 July 2018

Recommended OSR Books


This list only includes things I consider to be of very good quality. I subscribe to Melan's "Aid, Not Replacement" perspective. Usefulness is the most important aspect of a book for me. I can think wild, creative ideas on my own, but sometimes I like using someone else's framework to put that in.

If you see something you'd like an opinion on, let me know, and maybe I'll write a review. I'm much more likely to do that if it's something I've used.

I intend to regularly update this list when it's possible to do so.

If you only want to own a few books so that you can become very familiar with them and use them to their fullest, I recommend any of the following collections:


Complete Sets

  • The Tome of Adventure Design
    A set of rules
  • Yoon-Suin
    A set of rules
  • Into the Odd (but read everything on the author's blog.)
  • D30 Sandbox Companion and D30 Companion
    A set of rules

A good monster manual is a great addition to any of the above but is unnecessary.



KEY
[x] = I have used this.
[_] = I have not actually used this at the table yet. I've read it and am thoroughly convinced it's among the best supplements anyway.

Rules

  • B/X Essentials is the best thing if you want to run the original game with a better layout and less ambiguity. [x]
  • The GLOG is what I use. It's the best thing if you want to make everything up yourself and want some modern mechanics, simple multiclassing, the best magic system, and for players to do almost all of the dice rolling. [x]
  • Knave [x] The simplest OSR-compatible system I've seen that still supports great gameplay.
  • Into the Odd [_]

Tools for Making Your Own Stuff 

Any one book from this list is all you need (other than a ruleset) to run a campaign for years. If you only buy one thing, buy one of these.
  • Yoon-Suin (This tool is very much like the Tome below, but it's focused on making a specific kind of setting with a certain sort of mixed-together Asian culture. The two books combine nicely though there's some small amount of overlap.)[_]
  • Tome of Adventure Design (This will trick you into designing adventures and dungeons and so forth. It does NOT do it for you. It's excellent.) [x]
  • D30 Sandbox Companion and D30 Companion. (These are similar to the old Ready Reference Sheets. I think they're much better as generic tools that can help anyone run a game. Some prefer the Ready Reference Sheets because the Ready Reference Sheets are weird.) [x]

Other Tools

  • The Metamorphica[x]
  • Monster Menu All[x]
  • The Wizard's Inheritance[x]

Magic

  • The Complete Vivimancer[_]
  • Theorems and Thaumaturgy[x]
  • Wonder and Wickedness[x]

Bestiaries/Monster Manuals

  • CC1 Creature Compendium[_]
  • BX Essentials - Monsters[x]
  • Monstrosities [x]
  • Veins of the Earth[_]

Cities

  • Fever-Dreaming Marlinko [x]
  • Vornheim [_]

Small/Short Locations

Dungeons

  • Tomb of the Serpent Kings (great for newbie players, newbie GMs, or anyone. Designed to lead into an even bigger dungeon or The Veins of the Earth.)[x]
  • Caverns of Thracia (Great for a lethal campaign start. Not quite a megadungeon, but could be treated the same way for a short campaign.)[x]
  • The Hyqueous Vaults [_]

Campaign Settings/Hexcrawls/Regions

  • Dolmenwood[x]
  • Hill Cantons (Fever-Dreaming Marlinko, Slumbering Ursine Dunes, and Misty Isles of the Eld)[x - I've only used Marlinko so far. My players haven't chosen to explore the other locations.]
  • Fomalhaut [_]
  • The Midderlands[_]
  • Ultraviolet Grasslands[_]
  • Veins of the Earth (combined with Skerples' fantastic Veinscrawl.)[_]

Smaller Regions

  • Fever Swamp [_]

Problematic but Good

These are very good, but I don't recommend making the effort to make them work for you unless you really want to spend a lot of time and effort, mid-game. It's too hard to keep them from getting in the way. Your experience may be completely different.
  • Maze of the Blue Medusa[x] I can definitely blame my issues on the book, but my issues are a big part of why the book might be amazing for you. It's good.

    This is SO much work to use. I spent a lot of time looking things up from various other parts of the book in order to understand how to respond to what happened when one of the endless, wacky "funhouse" rooms collided with various characters in the context of the history of the place (of which I had to determine what the various characters involved knew.) If this sounds amazing and fun, get it. The situations WERE really fun. It's well-designed to spontaneously create really great encounters and exploration. I just couldn't make it do that smoothly, even after making my own One Page Dungeon-style key to try to speed things up.
  • Hot Springs Island[x] Probably my problem, not the book's. It's good, and I'm still running a game from it. I'm fighting to make it work for me because the content is great and a ton of it is really handy, well-written, and useful.

    This island is FULL. It has so much stuff, all the time. It's made of treasure and magic. Want to level up? Just break off a few pieces of a dungeon. Everything is made of precious material.

    There is an encounter in every hex and every room (and sometimes several at once in the same room.) Endless encounters. That's even more work than it sounds like. I've had various other usability problems (like a secret door that can only be activated by a specific object but the GM isn't told what it is and there's no way for the players to find out either.) I think such things are intended to be gaps for the GM to fill in, but it always feels to me as if the reason Hurst is so specific about so much here is because things will be better if they're coherent in the way he intends.

    I probably just need to treat the book more of a source to create my own Hot Springs Island. Maybe that's what it's meant to be? I've asked Hurst about it a couple of times, but I think he prefers the reader to come their own conclusions, based on his replies. I don't know.
  • Prison of the Hated Pretender [x] grows stale after a few hours with most of my players. That might be my fault. They tend to hit a brick wall when they shouldn't and find it difficult, monotonous, and too full of the undead. I, on the other hand, really like running it, so I'm keeping it ready to go anyway.

Things that aren't books

  • Michael Prescott's Dungeons each fit on one sheet of paper and seem to all be wonderful.

Things I've read through and want to use

I've read these but haven't yet been fully convinced of their qualities.
  • The Peridot
  • The Monolith Beyond Space and Time
  • Tales of the Scarecrow
  • Thulian Echoes
  • A Single Small Cut
  • Death Frost Doom
  • The Pale Lady
  • Hammers of the God
  • The God that Crawls
  • Gathox Vertical Slum
  • A Red and Pleasant Land (Probably. It seems fairly impractical, but could actually be a very handy book.)
  • Spinetooth Oasis
  • Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1

Things I Want to Read

  • Megadungeon (zine)
  • The Tomb of the Iron God
  • The Darkness Beneath
  • Shadowbrook Manor
  • Better Than Any Man
  • Barrow Mound of Gravemoor
  • Gone Fishin'
  • The Ruined Hamlet: Terror in the Gloaming
  • Challenge of the Frog Idol
  • Red Tam's Bones
  • Hag Queen
  • Hubris
  • Perdition
  • Frostbitten and Mutilated
  • Mad Monks of Kwantoom
  • Red Tide
  • The Caves of Moreau County
  • The Midlands
  • Flower Liches of the Dragonboat Festival
  • City State of the Invincible Overlord

08 July 2018

Double King is OSR's Appendix N. Nothing is OSR's Appendix N.

I asked what literary/film materials people like to think of as representative of OSR play. (I can't find the G+ thread in which I asked.) Chris Wilson asked a similar question recently: "Let's say I'm completely new to OSR. I'm looking for good sources of inspiration to emulate, wether it be literature, film, theater, etc. What would be #1 on your list of recommended sources?" Here's a similar thread on Twitter.

If I had to choose just one written work that represents expected, standard OSR play to me, it would be Vance's Lyonesse trilogy. It's closer to actual gameplay in a typical fake medieval setting with magic in it than anything else I know of.

If I had to choose just one film, "Double King" is the only thing I know of that really answers the question in a way I'm satisfied with. Double King is basically a montage of OSR mechanics in action. And this is touching on the point I'd like to make.

In practice, Spirited Away is the biggest inspiration whenever I create something new for my game.

I have one objection to the idea of saying that some great literary works (including film) are relevant to OSR and some are not (note that I'm objecting to my own question. I love creating an Appendix N):

Old school roleplay is not about narrative genre. It's about design goals realized through mechanics and intent. I'll come back to this in a bit.

Baron Munchausen IS the real D&D.
Noisms (David McGrogan) likes John Carter stories, Baron Munchausen, Gulliver's Travels, Laputa, The Histories by Herodotus, David CopperfieldEgil's Saga, The Wind in the WillowsThe Man Who Would Be King, William Blake's works, and Shakespeare's works as separate Appendix Ns. Most of these don't resemble the works that would typically be on the list, but they work.

Here's a Wild West Appendix N.

I'm not sure if every genre is OSR. However, most narrative genres I can think of are. Any of these would make a suitable Appendix N: Winnie the Pooh, World War 2, The War of the Roses, Stephen Universe, Phantastes, Alice in Wonderland, Crime and Punishment, A Tale of Two Cities, As I Lay Dying. It would be harder to make To the Lighthouse a primary source of D&D inspiration, but that'd probably be my favorite D&D game. Orlando, on the other hand, would be easy.

OSR is a set of design principles. It's a structure to put things inside of. It's almost a core set of rules, though they might be alterable without removing the OSR design. For me, OSR is summed up by the following:
  • The GM must, in order of importance, simulate, infer, extrapolate, describe, and create with consistency. Combat is not the center of the game. Player characters who disagree will not live long.
  • Players, when facing uncertainty, must roll in relation to an appropriate stat. They also must manage resources and apply cleverness to accomplish goals.
Double King represents the results of these principles applied across a long campaign by a very capable player. It's abstracted and makes "good play" look easier than it really is, but mostly represents it well.

P.S. Here are some free audiobooks from the original Appendix N. Here's a Goodreads list.

P.P.S. Gabor Lux said something in the comments that is well worth adding to my post, so I'm going to quote him:
[...] You can apply the mindset to many different sources, and you can draw inspiration from very different directions. I personally read very little genre fantasy anymore, and get my ideas from nonfiction, history, and the daily news.

I also think that there is a more narrow take on old-school gaming, and here, it pays to be more strict. Particularly for beginners to the playstyle, I would recommend to read at least part of the original Appendix N to "get" where Gygax and Co. were coming from. It is a good exercise not just because some of these books are very good, but because it is eye-opening to realise that there is a particular style of pulp fantasy where the strange bits of D&D suddenly make perfect sense. (While its aesthetics and assumed playstyle clash with either epic fantasy, or most of the modern fantasy tradition.) Once you have a deeper understanding of this style, it is very easy to branch out - but the fundamentals matter.

And this brings us to your main example, Lyonesse. That's an excellent recommendation, because while Lyonesse was written after the game's publication, it is very AD&D. It is a setting based on European legends and fairy tales that simultaneously feels very odd, even out of sync with its supposed roots - and that's very AD&D. Also, Vance often writes in a way that the situation his protagonists face are set up as game puzzles, allowing them to learn its mechanics and exploit them to their advantage. This is not simply the case in Lyonesse, but a mainstay of his fiction from Planet of Adventure (which would have been my pick for the #1 novel to read to understand old-school gaming) to The Demon Princes.
I agree. I think most OSR games would improve for players and GMs if everyone is familiar with Jack Vance. The Dying Earth and the Lyonesse trilogy are what I'd recommend to someone who wanted to read D&D but also wanted to read great literature.

06 July 2018

I Moved to Blogger

Well. Here's my blog. Please unsubscribe from my other one and subscribe to this one instead.


I deleted some posts I no longer like. Some links might be wonky. Let me know if you notice anything that is out of place, dumb, etc.

Google will probably delete every Blogger blog one night.

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