Monday, September 21, 2020

Current Gaming Plans

I've been "volunteered" by my darling wife to run a D&D campaign for a group of her friends who have never played a tabletop RPG before. This will be my second regular campaign at the moment, the other being the LotFP game I've had going for about a year or two. Speaking of which, the latter will probably conclude soon, making way for other games with that same group. And of course, I always have gaming ideas on the backburner I fantasize about that might or might not actually manifest. So here's a quick list of what I'm playing now and want to play within, say, the next year or two.

Older Group - We're hoping to do these in order:

  1. If my players don't throw me any more major curveballs, I expect "Mansions & Mindfucks" to finish up in about 4 to 8 more sessions.
  2. Next, I'm going to run Black Blade of the Demon King as a one-shot or mini-campaign. It's an awesome adventure from Knight Owl Publishing, the creators of Meatlandia, just chock full of raditude and baditude. I figure it'll take about 2 to 4 sessions.
  3. Then, we'll start one of two games:
    1. My Super-Casual Pulp Campaign, or...
    2. A Call of Cthulhu campaign run by my friend, so I can be a normal player for once.
  4. And either interspersed throughout, or after the completion of, whichever option is chosen first, we'll play the other option.
Newer Group - I haven't decided which of these I want to run.

  1. I could run an OD&D game using the wonderful new fan supplement Lost Carcosa, written by the author of the excellent blog The Bogeyman's Cave, or...
  2. I could give my BX25 house rules a spin (along with my new copy of Old-School Essentials), maybe in conjunction with some obscure campaign setting just for flavor. (I have a reputation for extreme nerdery to uphold, after all.) Pelinore? Thunder Rift? The Hollow World within Mystara?
Wish List:

  1. I've got to get some Mothership in my life! It's bound to scratch that SF-horror itch for me, and it just looks so damn fun and creative and easy to run.
  2. Likewise, I want to play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1E if I get the chance! I love the setting of the "Old World" and a lot of the idiosyncratic rules and features like the career system, the critical hit tables, and CHAOS. I'd also settle for 4E, since I was pretty impressed by what I saw in the starter box.
  3. I'm still eager to run Thieves' World! I considered using it as the setting for the new group, but I think it might be a bit too dark and unusual to serve as the first RPG experience of a whole bunch of people I don't know very well yet. Something more typical might be in order as an introduction to D&D. If they've been hearing about what D&D is like from other people before now, they probably heard from people who play 5E or Pathfinder, so there's a good chance they'll initially want elves and the titular dragons and such, which is certainly reasonable. Besides, I'd like to catch up on the fiction (the short stories and comics, at least) before trying to run the setting. So onto the "low priority" pile this goes...sigh...
  4. There are actually a whole bunch of other "types" of D&D I'd like to try out and tinker with. This might be the subject of a new post soon, so stay tuned.

Happy nerdy wife, happy nerdy life. Courtesy of

Friday, September 4, 2020

OD&D Unified XP Chart (House Rule)

 This is a follow-up to my post about level or experience limits in OD&D.

I decided that if I ever run Original D&D with just the Little Brown Books (no Supplements), or a retroclone of such with very "faithful" experience-points-needed-per-level charts, then I will probably use a single chart for all classes instead of the default separate tables. I don't like how wildly the XP charts vary between classes by default (as opposed to, say, BX D&D), making it hard to pick equivalent maximum level limits if so desired. Plus, in this variation of D&D I don't think the advantages of giving each class its own chart are great enough to be worth the added complexity. A unified table would probably be faster to reference and to explain to players, and it might make it easier to compare characters, since I don't think it will actually affect "class balance" very drastically at all.

Here's what I came up with:

The F, C, and M columns indicate which class' table I chose to follow for that level. A check mark means that's what I picked, while a blank space means that amount is less that what this class usually needs for that level, and a red dot means that it's more than usual.

I created the table pictured above by comparing the XP tables for all three classes in the Little Brown Books (Fighting Man, Cleric, and Magic-User) at each level, and choosing the middle amount of experience needed for any class to reach that level. For example, to gain level 4, a Cleric only needs 6,000 XP, a Fighting Man needs 8,000, and a Magic-User needs 10,000. The Fighting Man amount of 8,000 was neither the highest nor the lowest of the three for that level, so that's what I went with. The only exception to this method, besides the obvious requirement of 0 XP for level 1, was level 7 because the Cleric and Magic-User both need 50,000 XP for that level. I just stuck with that amount to be generous to players. If you would rather have players spend a more even amount of time at both levels 6 and 7, just change the level 7 requirement from 50,000 to 64,000.

If you don't want a max level of 13, and you don't want to keep extrapolating all three classes' original XP tables just to pick the middle amount, here's a quick-and-dirty thing you could try: keep taking the "middle road" in a different way by requiring +240,000 XP per level after that, as per the Fighting Man class. Probably inaccurate, but maybe good enough?

I also made a unified XP table for the retroclone Full Metal Plate Mail, as seen below. It turned out to be exactly the same as the OD&D one until level 12. Honestly, even if I'm running straight-up OD&D instead of a retroclone, I might still end up using this chart instead of the more "accurate" one above. None of us are getting any younger, so I'm not sure there would be any benefit to making players earn 1.5 times as much XP for level 13 when I'd be grateful just to have the campaign last long enough for even 600,000 XP to be within a single player's reach. This table also has the advantage of being easy to extrapolate past level 13 if one does not like my chosen level cap: just add 100,000 more XP per level.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

(C)Harm Person

Here's a d12 table of better names for that racist spell from older versions of Tunnels & Trolls. (You know, the "Charm Person" ripoff.)
  1. Enchantée
  2. Charmed, I'm Sure
  3. The Ol' Razzle-Dazzle
  4. Water Under the Bridge Troll
  5. Hostile Takeover
  6. Play Nice!
  7. Heel-Face Turn
  8. An Offer You Can't Refuse
  9. Resistance is Futile
  10. Friendship is Magic
  11. I'm the Captain Now
  12. Roll a d4 on the Fiend Pun Table:
    1. Best Fiends
    2. Fast Fiends
    3. Fair-Weather Fiends
    4. With Fiends Like These...
Update on 09/07/20: Back in July, it looks like Flying Buffalo changed the name of the spell in question to "Obey Me!" in all PDF copies of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Edition rules currently for sale. Check the comments section on the 5E store page for details:

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Half-Mile and Six-Mile Hex Cheat Sheet

I've always struggled with distance and scale in tabletop RPGs. I'm also...let's say "rusty" on my geometry, especially that of the hexagonal persuasion. Converting between different mapping scales is one of my biggest bugbears, as is the whole process know, taking a real-world place or object and figuring out how to size it on a map, or conversely, looking at a map and picturing in my mind's eye how big or far it should be realistically. I'm exponentially worse at this with hexes than with squares.

Thanks to a very enlightening post at The Hydra's Grotto, I've grown fond of using 6-mile hexes for wilderness travel. Rereading that post the other day, I was struck by the idea of subdividing 6-mile hexes into half-mile ones, and after trying to sketch this out I realized I didn't know how to actually make that work - as in, how to fit the little hexes into the big hexes. After scouring the internet for a map or diagram demonstrating this technique, I resorted to just screwing around with some hex grid paper (courtesy of Imcompetech) until I figured it out. Well, at least I think I did. If there's a better way assemble these dang ol' hexagons can someone please let me in on the secret?

At that point, I took a few more notes, and now I think I've almost got my head wrapped around the problems mentioned above. This is probably "no duh" territory for a lot of people, but I personally found the whole exercise useful enough that I figured I should share my notes in case anyone else has been hexed by hexes like me. It would put a real smile on my face if I helped make the subject less intimidating for even one person.

Coming to D&D from a mix of 3rd Edition and various video games, I was slightly perturbed by the sudden influx of hex grids into my life when I started delving into older editions and OSR stuff. I've grown increasingly fond of hex maps over time, but I almost wish I could send posts like this back in time to myself circa 2013 or so and clear up the concepts that confused me the most.

Here's a side view, so you don't have to turn the image or your head/monitor.

Now I just need someone to explain THAC0 for the millionth time so that'll hopefully sink in.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Combat Metagaming is Fine

That's right, ANOTHER hot take, baby!

When it comes to RPGs like D&D that feature A) lots of focus on tactical combat and B) big ol' super-enticing fancy-looking bestiaries, I think that metagaming is A-OK. This isn't an original thought, nor is it particularly controversial among the RPG intelligentsia I hang out with, but I guess this is still a controversial opinion for some.

My opinions are important!

Blah blah "Metagaming creates dissonance between the knowledge and actions of the characters," yadda-yadda whatever. I know you can't "win" D&D in the conventional sense, but some of the main goals of the game are generally considered to be keeping your character alive,* improving their abilities or status, and achieving their personal goals. When a PC dies in a way the player did not want them to die, that's a fail-state, right? Are you going to look me in the eye and say "Justin, I want you to get totally invested in the role of this character. I want you to care about them, and desire to do whatever you can to see that they succeed. Now I want you to fight a bunch of life-or-death battles with one hand tied behind your back," and expect me to feel no qualms, no resistance to at all? What about my dissonance? The goddessdamn nerve!

I don't like to punish players for being good at the game, and one form of "being good" is being knowledgeable. If your players derive genuine fun and joy from the tactical aspect of your game SO MUCH that they're willing to memorize the whole fucking monster manual, just let them enjoy themselves. Sheesh. Besides, those "Monster Manuals" and suchlike are just so cool with their illustrations and (in the best cases) intriguing ecological/mythological details and suggestive bits of lore and other imagination can I begrudge anybody for wanting to read them in their own free time?

You know what draws so many people into RPGs in the first place? The monsters! Build on that enthusiasm instead of working against it. Capitalize on your players' craving for more MORE MORE to get them completely invested in the game's setting and the decisions they make.

Here's a fun idea: try giving your players reasonable in-game access to the kind of information they already know about your setting's monsters, so that their characters know the same things they know about the game in reality. "Oh look, it's a shambling mound. Woah, hold on there, my magical friend! Remember that codex we read in the Gardeners' Guild library? It said these freaks don't mind getting hit by lightening. Better adjust our tactics." Voila, no dissonance.

Besides, imagine how annoying it would be if you had to pretend not to know how the knights and bishops move at the beginning of every game of chess. The nice thing about RPGs is that when the "knights and bishops" get stale, you can swap them out for more interesting pieces you haven't used yet. Not only are there probably a bajillion pre-made pieces waiting in the wings, but there's also anything you can personally create. Make some shit up!

Here's my important caveat about metagaming: Homebrew monsters (including novel variations on "official" existing monsters) are also perfectly fine, and their use should be savored and encouraged, as long as such monsters are not solely meant to serve as total screwjobs for the players. By this I mean monsters that cannot be overcome and/or avoided and/or outsmarted at all, or at least in any reasonable way that the players could have discovered.

But other than total screwjobs, if your players are whining about homebrew content just because they can't metagame it, then your players suck and need to git gud. RPGs open a world of limitless imagination, and if the rulebooks hold back joy of creativity and wonder, fuck the books.

Metagaming is like sex: there's nothing inherently wrong with it, you can have lots of fun doing it, and too many people get all hung up over it...but no one owes it to you either, nor do you owe it to anyone else, and most people don't want to literally do it all the time.

TL;DR Metagaming is totally hot and all the sexy nerds are doing it. #metagaming #sex #seo-optimization

Pics courtesy of

*At least until they can die in a satisfying way...which probably doesn't involve the vast majority of possible deaths they face. Hence why death is generally a fail-state in the game.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Check out Dissident Whispers!

Now you can contribute to the Nation Bail Fund Network and obtain a veritable treasure trove of incredible RPG content in one fell swoop! Dissident Whispers is a new for-charity adventure compilation by the Whisper Collective.

Purchase Dissident Whispers as a PDF HERE or HERE.
Purchase a physical copy of Dissident Whispers HERE (in the U.S.) or HERE (internationally).

Behold the official blurb from Tuesday Knight Games:
An anthology of 58 original two-page RPG adventures made by a diverse, international collective of creators in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 
All proceeds go directly towards the National Bail Fund Network.
Delve into mythic underworlds, shiver through haunted space ships, schmooze with high society. You'll never go unequipped for game night with this eclectic host of adventures in hand.
Adventures for Mothership, MÖRK BORG, Trophy Gold, Troika!, Electric Bastionland, Dungeon Crawl Classics, The Ultraviolet Grasslands, The Black Hack, Mausritter, B/X, 5e, and many System Agnostic scenarios.
  • Cover by Jabari Weathers
  • Introduction by Laura Simpson
Created by a team of 90 authors, designers, editors, and illustrators including…
  • Writing by Chris McDowall (Electric Bastionland) and Luke Gearing (Fever Swamp)
  • Layout by Johan Nohr (MÖRK BORG) and Sean McCoy (Mothership)
  • Art by David Hoskins (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea), Evlyn Moreau (Fabulous Mini Guild, Chromatic Soup), and Doug Kovacs (DCC) 

Black Lives Matter.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Thieves' World Box Set - Choosing a System

I have no idea when I'll do it, but I eventually want to run a campaign in the Thieves' World setting, primarily using Chaosium's old box set. I was originally going to use LotFP with some house rules as my system of choice, but I'm honestly not such a big fan of LotFP anymore, as seen HERE and HERE and in the comment section HERE. So that leaves me with the issue of figuring out which game I want to use instead.

It's not exactly a pressing issue, since I won't be running Thieves' World anytime soon. I want to familiarize myself with the source fiction (and not just the RPG material) before I begin, and I have other gaming plans in the near future anyway. I'm also completely spoiled for choice; the box set includes NPC stats for nine different games, and some later publications (like the Thieves' World Companion and an article in Different Worlds #19) add a few more games to the mix. Besides, most of the other setting information in the box set is presented in a system-neutral manner, so I guess you could conceivably use it with almost any system.

Long story short, I made a list of game systems I'm considering for use with Thieves' World. Nothing definitive, just some ideas I had while the topic was on my mind. Here's what I've got so far, in no particular order:
I'd be glad to consider other suggestions, of course.

P.S. If I do end up using some variety of D&D, I'm also tempted to throw in a pretty crazy house rule. Originally, I was going to make all Blue Star Adepts immortal as a class feature. But what if everyone of a certain level or higher (let's say 9th level, the fabled "name level") were to become immortal, PC and NPC alike, regardless of class? My reasoning is that the gods are very active participants in the setting, and that anyone who reaches such a level of skill and importance is bound to be chosen by one or more gods as a servant or avatar of sorts, a pawn in their machinations, whether they know it or not. This wouldn't exactly be a known fact among the mortal populace, except insofar as they know that sometimes important or legendary figures tend to catch the gods' attention, which can have a variety of effects for good or ill. But if you become an experienced enough character, you're going to catch the attention of someone or something that will want to keep you around for a while as part of some ineffable scheme...

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Super-Casual Syllabus Update

This is the most recent version of my itinerary for the Super-Casual Pulp Campaign I started recently.

Main Campaign
"Sample Dungeon" AKA The Tower of Zenopus (from the Holmes Basic Set)
The Beacon at Enon Tor (from Imagine Magazine #1) - Level 1**
B1 In Search of the Unknown - Levels 1-3
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands - Levels 1-3
B5 Horror on the Hill - Levels 1-3
MSOLO1 Blizzard Pass - Levels 1-3
B4 The Lost City - Levels 1-3
B6 The Veiled Society - Levels 1-3
B7 Rahasia - Levels 2-3
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Orange Cover Version by Jean Wells) - Levels 1-3**
B10 Night's Dark Terror - Levels 2-4
X2 Castle Amber - Levels 3-6
MSOLO2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur - Levels 1-10
X1 The Isle of Dread - Levels 3-7
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City* - Levels 4-7
AC2 The Treasure of the Hideous One (from "Combat Shield & Mini-Adventure") - Levels 4-7
ST1 Up the Garden Path - Levels 4-7**
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan* - Levels 5-7
X8 Drums on Fire Mountain - Levels 5-8
X6 Quagmire! - Levels 4-10
X9 The Savage Coast - Levels 4-10
S2 White Plume Mountain* - Levels 5-10
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads - Levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death - Levels 6-10
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun* - Levels 5-10
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth* - Levels 6-10
UK7 Dark Clouds Gather* - Levels 7-9
I8 Ravager of Time* - Levels 8-10
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks* - Levels 8-12
X7 The War Rafts of Kron - Levels 9-12
DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor - Levels 10-14
DA2 Temple of the Frog - Levels 10-14
DA3 City of the Gods - Levels 10-14
DA4 The Duchy of Ten - Levels 10-14
S1 Tomb of Horrors* - Levels 10-14
X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield - Levels 10-14

Expansion Pack
CM1 Test of the Warlords - Levels 15+
CM2 Death's Ride - Levels 15-20
CM8 The Endless Stair - Levels 15-20
CM6 Where Chaos Reigns - Levels 17-19
WG6 Isle of the Ape* - Levels 18+
CM4 Earthshaker! - Levels 18-20
CM3 Sabre River - Levels 18-22
M5 Talons of Night - Levels 20-25
M1 Into the Maelstrom - Levels 25-30
M2 Vengeance of Alphaks - Levels 28-32
M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom - Levels 28-32
M3 Twilight Calling - Levels 30-35
And then on to immortality?

*AD&D Module
**Rare, so I might replace it with another adventure.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

"Super-Official" Super-Casual House Rules

Here is the "official" list of house rules for the Super-Casual Pulp Campaign I've started recently. Hopefully this will be easier for my players and I to reference than the post linked above and the various notes I've scribbled here and there. I plan to update this post if I add or change anything.
Additions from the Rules Cyclopedia
  • My B/X + RC Reference Sheet is in effect.
  • The Mystic class uses the house rules found HERE.
  • Page 19: Magic-Users may wield the following weapons: dagger, staff, blowgun, flaming oil, holy water, net, thrown rock, sling, whip. (Note that staves do 1d4 damage per hit; see page X25.)
  • Page 130: To generate ability scores at character creation, roll 3d6 eight times and keep the six best scores. Assign these scores to the character's abilities in the order of your choice.
  • I'm going to start the campaign with the default rule that 0 HP=death. However, if that eventually gets old due to high attrition, I'd be willing to use the "Keeping Characters Alive" variant rule from page 266 of the Rules Cyclopedia.
Major Changes
  • For PCs, Fighters and Thieves are combined into a single class, as explained HERE.
  • Replacements for dead PCs each start at a level based on their players' Checkpoints, as explained HERE.
  • Brand new players joining the campaign in progress will make characters starting 2 levels below the least experienced living PC.
  • Players don't have to roll for HP. They can just take the maximum possible amount each level.
  • No more spell memorization! Spellcasters are still limited by their spells per day, but if they have a particular spell in their own spellbook (or general repertoire for Clerics), and they have an unused Spell Per Day (or "spell slot") of the appropriate level available, they can cast the spell as if they had memorized it. This goes for NPCs as well.
Misc. Default B/X Rules to Ignore
  • Page X4: Wielders of two-handed weapons no longer lose initiative automatically.
  • Page B17: The spell "Read Magic" is removed from the game. Scrolls, runes on wands and magic items, and other typical magical writing that normally requires the use of this spell can instead by read automatically by any Magic-User/Elf. This skill is considered a basic part of a Magic-User's/Elf's training. Essentially, every Magic-User/Elf is under the permanent effect of a "Read Magic" spell at all times.
  • Page B19: PCs are no longer required to rest for one turn after every five turns of movement.
  • Page B20: The optional encumbrance system is not used.
  • Page B21: Unlocked dungeon doors are no longer considered by default to be "stuck" and only capable of being opened with a d6 roll modified by strength. (At the DM's discretion, "open doors" checks may still be used to force open certain locked doors or doors that are specifically selected by the DM to be stuck.)
Other Notes for Players
  • You may play as any class from the Rules Cyclopedia, or any class from one of the Gazetteers or Creature Crucibles or other official Basic D&D books, but I reserve the right to make changes to these classes first.
  • If you want to play a class you found on a blog or something, I'll probably allow it, but run it by me first, please.
  • If there's a rule or something in the Rules Cyclopedia or another supplement you'd like to try out, feel free to ask me about it.