Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody

Its not quite Christmas where I am but as I am not logging in tomorrow, I wish you a Merry Christmas or whatever you are celebrating .

Peace, Joy and Prosperity to you and yours ...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sorry for the slow posts #3

Its Christmas and I have been very busy with that and with some research for some non gaming stuff.

Next year I hope to blog more about OSR games and E6/E8 primarily with maybe a little Risus discussion and of course invest some money in art and such to make some kick-butt products.

On that topic I do have stuff written but its not ready to be seen. Sorry to tease but while I like my stuff, its ugly and I won;t subject y'all to it.

Till then, enjoy Loadouts in all its ugly glory and have a most Happy Holiday Season

Friday, December 17, 2010

WOTC and the pulling of Crystal Keep

OK here is an interesting story first from ENWorld and reposted here for your convenience/

Not that long ago there was a site called Crystal Keep that posted a bunch of text files that contained crude reference charts for almost everything from 3.0 and 3.5 including ,uch closed content.

Politely and respectfully, WOTC sent a C&CD order to Crystal Keep something they had every right to do BTW and away went the files.

This would seem like no big deal except that those files have been up there for more than a decade and its been quite some time, what 2 or 3 years since 3.5 was out of print.

It struck some as petty and many (myself included) as essentially pointless.

This comes after a couple of other off PDF decisions including pulling all legal PDF's, suinga couple of infringers who posted on SCRIBD and pulling its old 3.5 archives.

Folks over on ENWorld have been asking why and especially why now... To save y'all a trip I'll answer here

AFAICT There are two reasons behind the PDF related decisions.

#1 is protecting IP

#2 is "edition channeling" Hasbro/WOTC was counting on an upgrade cycle to drive sales, most of the 3.5 players would move on to 4.0 and thus they'd recapture the old play base and gain some new younger players.

However a mixture of the OGL, global economic woes (the young were particularly hit) PDF warez , a different market (video games hurt TTRPG's) and the jarring edition transition (4.0 is not like older editions all that much) have all hurt sales.

There were at least some stories out there suggesting that Pathfinder was selling as well as 4.0 at a times . That that is a big big deal in an industry where its expected you were the #1 at all times.

So Hasbro/WOTC being a big organization and less than nimble they controlled what they could control.

They cut off the legal PDFs (for old and new editions) , went after that guys that posted on SCRIBD, went after Crystal Keep , and took out the old archives (which is also a cost savings measure)

The problem is that none this matters or will help.

The warez world has pretty much everything ever in PDF with a few exceptions of obscure direct to PDF releases and very obscure and expensive RPG's.

For those who don't choose to be involved in that, there are plentiful retro-clones for every edition save 2.0 (its being worked on though) and cheap books a plenty. Its even possible to find players ...

As for driving 3.5 to upgrade to 4.0 , well no. The natural 3.5 upgrade is Pathfinder +OGL not 4.0 which is a large change, not an upgrade

What we see is a company relied on a business strategy (edition upgrade) that was obsolete with the OGL and as soon as it became fairly easy to scan and download books and as such got caught behind the adaption curve.

Now this doesn't mean WOTC won't make money hand over fist or that D&D won't stay number one. Its just means Hasbro/WOTC will have to try harder and I think thats just fine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breaking my own rules: A Political post on why gaming is not diverse even though I wish it was

This is an apolitical blog for the most part but an article at the fame and fortune blog, Othello in the 41st millennium caught my eye and as my reply is rather long, it deserves a post here...

Tabletop Gaming is clearly not a diverse hobby. Its mostly White, almost entirely Middle Class to Lower Upper Class at least in the United States

And while I am personally interested in a broader player pool I do not think this is possible.

I'll start by saying my gaming circle of late has been usually diverse, if a bit lacking in women. Its an outlier and It has members that are Black, White and Hispanic in about equal numbers. We do not have First Nations players or Asian players as neither group is common in the local population.

Like most groups we have few women. Its understandable as our gaming style is fairly traditional (i.e hack and slash) tabe top and almost all the local female gamers prefer LARPS. When Angel or Buffy is run (or other Urban Fantasy games) we do get female players in numbers as well.

All that being said, our cultural experiences and interests are mostly the same. Our world views on things like status and money are all very narrow.

However most groups are not as diverse


Well simple. Gaming derives mainly from European Romanticism and is a consciously Euro-Centric thing . Its Knights and Castles and Wizards mixed with Orientalism.Its hardly reasonable to expect much diversity in such an activity when its audience is not interested in much outside that mythos

Heck even our Black and Bi Racial players have little interest in diversity as they prefer Asian or Caucasian archetypes for some reason. And note this is not an issue of exclusion. All of us are fine with diversity. Bigotry is a quick way out of my group.

However while we have tried alternatives settings such as Polynesia or even Ancient Greece and others have been offered and there were no takers. The gamers want a mono-cultural Euro-centric activity and thats a big thing.

Its already small culture of people like to make up stories, dabble in acting and double entry bookkeeping (not my words) in essence a special kind of geek. The entire US play base is pretty much from lower middle class to lower upper class "white culture" with a smattering of outliers and its pretty unlikely that it can attract people from outside these boundaries and still retain interest from the dominant group .

Is this a "fault" issue -- well no. Its your hobby time and your choice how to use it.

Also for my non US readers speaking only from the US pov here mine is not a well integrated nation and its culturally and racially divided along economic fault lines in ways that might surprise Europeans or persons in the UK.

The Big Sort by Bill Bishop explains this in some depth but the simple version is, there is not as much cross cultural contact as might be expected as the US has a third world level of income disparity and a lot of economic segregation and voluntary ethic segregation. Its kind of sad really but the cause and effects and solutions outside of gaming are not really germane to this conversation

These disparities rather exasperate things as it would require diverse recruiting efforts in an eco-system where recruiting the base is significantly harder (video games and the Internet and time constraints and other choices get in the way) and since the base simply isn't interested in anything non Euro-Centric, it makes mixing groups harder.

And no you can't educate them. Its a brittle play base and many gamers are almost reactionary Conservatives when it comes to gaming choices. Don't believe me? Frequent any board and Gawds help you if you were to lecture someone in a group on their choices.

I'll note there have been attempts to break out of the mold ranging from Aztec like Tekumel to the African themed Nyambe and a number of GURPS supplements. None of them were really well received

I have found it difficult to even get people to play say Greece or Rome much less say Greater Zimbabwe or even Sci-Fi like Traveller where race as we know it is irrelevant and Bridget Indra Chan M'Benga is a perfectly commonplace name ..

So basically, its our box and we have to live with it.

Now miniatures gaming is another matter, I'll pass on much talk (not my hobby) but for areas with a decent population of affluent non Whites (not the US in most places alas) much more effort could be made and the company that pulls it off, will make more than a bit of money.

They deserve it ...

Friday, December 10, 2010

A couple of non OSR games I want to try

Not my designs at all but I'd like to try

Dyed in the Wool or a musket-punk version of it.

Slaughter Feast which is a version of "Real World RPG Rules" the key here is the players have to play people trying to be world in a world gone murderous

And I think I'd like to give Dreamscarred Presses "3rd Dawn" in the excellent and under-appreciated Trie20 a go.. Its more a setting than a campaign but its unique enough to tweak my interest in someone else's world.

So what non OSR stuff would you like to play?

Campaign Ideas December Edition

Note sure if there will be a number two this month but here goes


A Highlander the Gathering meets Wu-Xia knockoff where the PC's are Immortals. The key differences are that there is no rule that "There can be only one" and while Power can be stolen there is no "End of Days" or "Prize" Also as the intro might suggest "Boost" powers are quite possible and even encouraged.


Welcome to Argo house, your home, your prison, your life. P.C.'s are agoraphobics who live together in an enormous mansion created years ago by someone with the same problem. Essentially its a kind of social and mystery dungeon crawl with very detailed environments. Its highly possible I'll set this in the same universe as Ramble in which case the technology is quite a bit lower and there are no cellphones or Internet..

Among the Mighty

Yesterday you were a regular Joe or Jane . Last night you watched as a new comet "The Trailing Sword" roared overhead. Today, you are Among the Mighty. D20 modern meets D&D where the players who were regular folks suddenly become 15th level Gestalt D&D characters with all the trimmings (even the magic items!) What will you do with your newfound power?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My least Favorite Class: The Bard

This is by far my least favorite class as outside of middle and late second edition I have yet to see an version I really like.

Through I heard good things about them I have never seen the 0e Dragon Bard, Labyrinth Lord or the Swords and Wizardry takes on the class

The AD&D 1e Bard was a rules bending , prestige class like piece of crud no one I know played. Total crud ...

and the 3x Bards while playable not only suffer from having their own spell list with many unfitting spells but they have an annoying "buff" method. I do like the concept of inspiring people, the implementation left much to be desired in the book keeping department ...

Now the Pathfinder Bard is a bit better, its easier to use the "Performances" and they are a lot more versatile however the annoying resource issue is still there . Also while the .alt Bards are pretty cool but IMO it still suffers from the spell list problem. Its not bad, its just not quite what I needed ..

Now of all the Bards, I'd say the 2e version was most interesting, there were a wide range of very interesting .alt bards in the form of kits and late on, the generally hateful Skills and Powers supplement, redeemed itself a bit and became a pretty good tool kit for all sorts of concepts, including Fighter/Mages.

Also , importantly it used exactly the same magic system as a Wizard so the magic issue was done away with. And yes there were Bard spells. Nothing stopped Wizards from learning them and that was how it should be....

Now if I were designing a Bard I get rid of the spells and make it more like the Marshal from the Miniatures Handbook. Buffs would be immediate broad based and not require tracking rounds per day.

I don't know if they'd have magic (probably not) but if they did, the spell levels would align exactly with Sorcerer or Wizard and be interchangeable with whatever the class was ...

Well that my opinion anyway...

If you have a most disliked class or some thoughts on the Bard, fire away

Pathfinder fun: A party of one..

Here is a challenge for all the Pathfinder players who read the blog.

You and your buddy are playing a Pathfinder campaign, just the two of you.. You are the players and he tells you its 20 levels using Pathfinder, epic Point Buy with some 3x stuff appropriately modified for Pathfinder of course. No rules abuse . Under those circumstances what do you play?

My choice is the Party of One

Mystic Ranger 16
Scout 4

Using the Sword of the Arcane Order, Swift Hunter and Obtain Familiar feats you can cast arccane and divine spells to 5th level, have a scout and a tank buddy , have a lot of tricks, stealth, trap finding and a decent skirmish combat mode with bonus feats.

Its not even crazy unbalanced all things considered.

So what would you play?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Old School Guy #2 Genric the Soldier Mage

This guy is a bit of a hack designed to allow a player to have a human fighter/mage and to show what being flexible with the rules can do. He was made with the Hill Cantons material weakly documented. Doh!

Genric was born to a large family in Dyr whose Father, the Village Reeve died early. As his mother could not feed him during the time of the Potato Plague she sent to live with cousins in Mada.

As a young man he was conscripted by the military, however when the unit attacked his kin-folk he participated in the Great Mutiny and this ended his attachment. Now no longer part of the service and still feeling a lust for adventure, Genric has taken to the road with his new companion Kael.

Magic User 1

S 14
I 16
W 10
D 13
C 14
CH 12

Background Skills
Basic Forestry

May wear leather or elven chain and cast spells
Fight as Thief with Thief Weapons
D6 Hit Die
Fast Advancing (+10% to XP)

Genric advances as a Magic User but do to his abilities requires an extra 10% XP per level.


2 sets clothes (free)
Hygiene Basics (free)
2 daggers
Backpack, two small sacks, bedroll, water skin, tinderbox, and one week of iron rations , five torches, five oil flasks, 60 ft. rope, grappling hook, wooden pole
Light riding horse with tack

35 GP

Background Stuff
3rd child
government Official (+1 cash)
Dad was Reeve who died
Ma could not handle raising gave to guardian a very distant cousin
survived plague outbreak
conscripted but mutinied

A couple of Old School Guys #1 Kael

These guys were made with Labyrinth Lord in mind and using some of the cool background generators at Hill Cantons and a smidgen of my under development house rules.

Kael is the second son of a traveling merchant whose mother died in childbirth. Kael and his family served the Duke of Aven for many years till the Duke was outlawed. During this time he was fostered by the Duke in Exile. Quite recently he was injured in magical attack on the fortress and as a sid effect of this seems to have developed a second sight. Now a man grown, Kael has decided to do some exploring and see if his gifts can help him find a fortune of his own.

Human Fighter

S 13
I 10
W 10
D 10
C 17
CH 13

Background Skills
Animal Handling

Elflike Senses: 1-8 (d12) Spot Secret Door 1-4 (d12) Spot other 1-4 (d12)

HP 10

3 Sets Clothes (free)
Hygiene Kit (free)
Chain Armor
20 Bolts
Backpack, two small sacks, bedroll, water skin, tinderbox, and one week of iron rations
10 oil flasks, lantern, shovel, two caltrops, whistle
Pony with Tack

Background Stuff
second child
merchant (+1 Gear ) Long Distance
dead parent (+1 Con)
crime political dissent (+1 CH)
served patron (+1 CH)
'survived magical disaster (+1 Con)
Choice +1 ST
Choice +1 Int

What is E3?

If you download my free Loadouts supplement for Pathfinder you'll notice a little E3 Moniker at the bottom of the page.

if you were wondering thats our nifty new trade dress that lets you know that our products are roughly compatible with the 3rd and 3.5 edition of the "Underground Lizards" game as well as games that"Blaze Trails" and "Find paths" along with other games that require a twenty sided die and are fairly similar in play.

Its just something to set up apart from the rest and I hope is easily recognizable.

Our old school stuff will have a different moniker when the time comes but it will also be cool (I hope)

Thinking About: The 3x Successor for older D&D is E8

Yes Epic 8, the 3x variant in which the leveling stops at 8 and instead of new levels, all advancement after is in the form of feats at every 5000XP.

My reasoning?

Well E8 (especially with an option to get a level 5 slot with a feat) stops at roughly the hit point and power level of older versions.

With a bit of work it gives you the same relationship to the world that high level guys in AD&D and OD&D had.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Machine Called (Playtest Update)

I updated the playtest files for Loadouts and included a new and improved OGL declaration. Its in a microscopic size 4 font to keep that mess under a page so you'll need to zoom in if you want to read it but its all there now.

Thanks much to Starglim over at the ENWorlds boards for pointing out the errors and for the other suggestions as well.

I owe ya one man....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Taking a little time away from the machine

My computer has been eating my brain for a while now so I am going analog for a bit.

When I return I'll post a new version of Loadouts (a wonderful poster on ENWorld named Starglim caught an OGL error) and I have some of the usual cool stuff to talk about.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Product to the Wild

Grab it at the main page or here

Loadouts is designed for Pathfinder using the Pathfinder SRD and an art budget of zero (literally) and is meant to enable easy outfitting of starting characters.

It provides pretty much everything that a person and a party need for dungeon and wilderness adventures in a a short 4 page PDF, Its art light and generally printer friendly.

I really appreciate any comments you have on its usefulness, layout and ease of reading (and printing if you so desire)

Thanks Much.