Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What common GM tasks do you suck at ?


I have no skill at mapping to speak of and actually have some degree of antipathy to mapping my game world. Were I flush with cash, I'd hire someone to do all the maps.

Of course this creates problems with large dungeons but happily there are lots of maps out there to use so my players will never know....

How about you?

So what would a Five Stone Retro-Clone look like?

And no I have no plans to jump into the already crowded market but if I did it would be like this

FS-RC #1 Quick Start

32 pages or less quick start to get people into the game, fast

FS-RC #2 Main Book

128-256 Pages akin to Swords and Wizardry Complete or Dark Dungeons. Quite complete

FS-RC #3 Monster Palooza

A big book of monsters basically . Unlike most of these it would include reprints of the main book monsters.

FS-RC #4

128+ pages of optional rules, more spells and enough stuff to run for a very long time. This would include alternate settings (Oriental, Viking, Pirates, Rome, etc)

Rules wise it would be a mix of everything from S&W to 2e and in-between modded into coherent whole with an emphasis on clear easy to run rules that work together.

Classes would

White Wizard (the non cleric divine caster)
Black Wizard (arcane caster)

each one pertaining to a stat and with a range of lenses similar to kits that allow common archetypes to be easily created

Races would include all the basics plus the alternates (in the companion)

Supporting the game (and providing the bread and butter) would be the world book, the regional modules , adventures and if the demand was there a magazine.

All crunch of course would be OGL and as an added bonus free to download as web support. If after several years, a lot of options were created, they'd be complied and we'd release new companions. This way no one needs chase out of print magazines or buy PDF's just to get a new spell or the like.

Of course such a model is unsupportable in this market but there ya go, how I'd do it ….

Three kinds of options that are never clutter

There are three kinds of options that, so long as they are well organized that really never become clutter and no matter how many you have any game came benefit from them

1st, Magic Items

You can never have too many of these for a campaign, not only to add variety but also to make jaded players happy. Instead of yet another +2 sword, nothing lights up a players eyes faster than something cool like a Sword of Thorn-Spray or something cool.

2nd Spells

Since you get to control which of these come into the game, I figure you can never have too many well thought out balanced interesting spells. Now most of the time you'll only use one or two of them in any given encounter, but in a long campaign, well, more spells is not going to be too much of a good thing. Why I especially enjoy having a variety is that it keeps those jaded players who think they have seen everything on their toes and gets them more involved .

And yes I have been players side of this, I love it.

3rd Monsters

I rarely use monsters but so long as they are well divided by type, you can never have too many. Even enormous books like the upcoming Compiled Tome of Horrors (1000 pages!) are not wretched excess. Instead its simply more variety and thats a fine thing .

Needless to say the Magic Item Compendium and the Encyclopedia Magica (back from 2e) along with the various random magic item systems , the Spell Compendium and 2e's Wizard and Priest Compendiums were among my favorite books. So much good stuff for the plucking ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What if there are too many options in D&D (open)

Just something I am thinking about..

What if more options doesn't improve the game but makes it incoherent and less fun?

Instead of allowing all sorts of things, maybe its better to just set up front limits and play from there.

Instead of the dozens of classes and archetypes and prestige classes and such, maybe the older rules were right to limit classes (ignoring Dragon Magazine of course) and abilities just to encourage creativity and play instead of so much "char-op" and metagaming

Let me ask is it possible all this hoo-hah started back with 2e and for those who didn't put the kibosh on them stuff started for many peopleto get "less fun" with kits and all the options.

What do y'all think?

If I was revising Midea

Its silly to be thinking about a revision when its hardly been published but what the heck.

We I to revise Midrea I'd drop pretty much all of the "other dimension" stuff and concentrate on Faerie Tales and Pulp Fantasy.

I'd also eliminate most of the races keeping only humans, half elf, half orc, dwarf, dhampire and the occasional exception.

I'd also reduce spell casting classes to just Mages which would be potent and versatile preparation casters with lots of options but still highly limited and maybe possibly Psionics. Maybe.

This would leave what I like (Faerie Tales and some Pulp) focus the game tighter and still elave plenty of options for the players.

Campaign Ideas 2011 with Reader Contribution

Just a couple of more for the grist mill..


Ars Magica in Wales during the tine of Braveheart (Edward the 1st's Era) based roughly on David Macaulay's Castles. Not only in this a period at least somewhat familiar to players through that execrable Braveheart movie but its a classically middle ages time frame with a lot going on. Having a castle built very close to a chantry is a ready made adventure seed even the players never do decide to get involved in the bigger political issues.

Shanghai Police

This was contributed by my reader Hsu Dek and its a great idea. Shanghai in the 20's and 30's was an exciting and dangerous time with lots of opportunity for a group of clever players. Its also moves nicely into broader pulp topics and WW2 as well.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Rare Sunday Post Campaign Ideas

I usually don't post on Sunday but I was hit with a couple of cool campaign ideas ...

#1 Arrows

This is a version of the TV show Archer played straight. Espionage in an alternate now where the US is still locked into a cold war with whats left of the Soviet Union (they lost Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Eastern Germany but stayed together) China and a myriad of other states ....

#2 Back Then.

A police procedural stretching from 1975-1995 or so. The players would be young rookies and would be able to play out their careers after Vietnam to the mid 90's

#3 Island in the Fog

My take on "Lost" . Basically the PC are thrown together on a mysterious island after a fog takes them from wherever they were to there. Can they unravel the mystery of the island and discover the way home? Or do they even want too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One of the best short freebies I've ever seen for Old School D&D

A simple effective system for horse over on The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope,.

Get it here

Why Don't Sorcerers Rule Midrea?

Or Bards or other spontaneous arcane casters for that matter? After all they have the charisma and the skills for it..

The reasons are simple.

#1 Sorcerers are rare

#2 Sorcerers and Bards are Charismatic but often driven by the inhuman motivations (the Glamour in the case of Bards) that grants them their power. This makes them a bit frightening to most folks and erodes their interest and ability to rule.

However there are exceptions, some Sorcerer Kings have been known (Infernal Bloodlines seem driven to it) and of course Spontaneous Casters do rule the Elves . In fact almost all Elves have Sorcerer or Bard or similar levels

Last there is an island called the Sorcerers Kingdom which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a hellish place ruled by Sorcerers (and other Spontaneous Arcane Casters) from a hundred realms who have all come to a make a home and a kingdom for themselves and lord over mortal men.

So why don't Clerics (and other Divine classes) rule Midrea?

There are three theocracies on Midrea, the enormous Lawbringer Theocracy, Vale of the Just and the Queen Domains but only the last two which are small are ruled entirely by spell casters.

There are two main reasons for this

#1 Clerics and such are few in number

#2 The Gods have other work for them

The Lawbringer Theocracy has a complex bureaucracy something akin to a cross between the Vatican and the ancient Chinese system but the bulk of it is controlled by educated Experts and a smattering of other classes. While Clerics do occupy higher ranks, there simply are not enough of them to run a nation of millions, so the leadership is a bit more pyramidal with Clerics at the top, Oracles advising and Paladins and Inquisitors in the field. The day to day work falls to the regular folks.

The Vale of the Just is a tiny city state of maybe 20k whose ruling council are all Paladins and Clerics. because of its tiny size and the location of a holy site, the areas produces enough spell casters to do the day to day work. This is a rare event though and it wouldn't scale.

The Queens Domain is akin to a Dianic Wiccan Theocracy . Its run by a Grand Council of Witches divided into 4 groups, The Elders, The Matrons, the Maidens and the advisory mens group, the Consorts .

Like the Vale its a small nation and blessed with a number of holy sites giving it enough ambient magic to allow a well above average percent of the population to have magical abilities . Since Wicca can be taught, it is the case that all the Women have some levels in Witch as a class.

They aren't all good at it but with concentrated effort its been possible to get 10% of the female population trained and initiated into the mysteries. This leaves enough for a ruling class of sorts. Note that none of the men have any caster levels (or at least if they do they are well hidden) and they have no political power to speak of although they can advise.

So why don't Wizards rule Midrea?

While there are some kings with a bit of Wizardry, Wizards as a general rule are not rulers.

There are several reasons

#1 They are scare

#2 They lack the skills and temperament for the most part

#3 Ruling takes away time from developing magic which is more important to most of them

#4 Many people won't follow them

Midrean Proverbs

Some of these of course are derived from real world proverbs and of course the Hávamál

Even Kings fear to meddle in the affairs of Wizards.

Never trust anyone who seeks to deny you weapons.

You can never cross the same river twice.

Have a bite before a feast as a hungry man is not a wise speaker

Never walk away from home ahead of your axe and sword.You can't feel a battle in your bones
or foresee a fight.

All men die, not all of them easily

Who travels widely needs his wits about him,The stupid should stay at home

Never speak prophecy if you are right, no one will believe or remember.

A word to the wise is enough.

Not all treasure is silver and gold.

A fancy cloak doesn't make a man noble.

We Explore!

In the old school we explore


The Wilderness

Fantastic Cities

Wondrous Ecologies



Game Mechanics

and more ...

Its not one of these things, but all of these things. No matter how We play, and its We, not a bunch of squabbling cliques, We Explore , together....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

L0 Characters Variant HP system

One of the better under appreciated rules in 2e was the alternate hit points for L0 characters. Rather than a standard d6 or a measly d4 ala B/X , NPC's got hit point based on their lifestyle.

I found this suited my vague ideas of verisimilitude better and added a tiny bit of boost where needed.

You'll notice below than Men at Arms have more than 1 hit die. This is intentional as it prevents fighter bonus attacks (I use doubling ala 2e) from being used against them.

My version of the chart with average HP in brackets looked something like this

D3 (2) small children

D4 (3) Highly Sedentary People (scholars, some seniors etc)

D6 (4) Regular Folks (merchants etc)

D8 (5) Laborers (including blacksmiths and farmers and the like)

D8+1 (6) Men at Arms (these are the regular folks with combat training and gear that make up most Medieval armies , not full time professional soldiers who are Fighters)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Campaign Ideas 2011 Late March

GURPS Pulse Guns

This is just an excuse to use GURPS Tactical Shooting with ray guns in a modern setting. Basically back in the early 70's a hobbyist found an obscure physical law that allows easy creation of ray guns from common materials. After some attempts to restrict them, the governments are now resigned to proliferation and its blasters for all. Other uses for this tech however have not seemed to come about so, its whatever the technology of the era is plus blasters.

These weapons are heavily armor piercing (armor is 1/5 as effective) and a bit more deadly and nearly recoiless but are semi auto only (6 shots per second is too much for sustained fire) and limited to a very heavy machine gun in damage (which will penetrate the side armor of a tank or the front of an APC)

Characters would be urged to take luck as hits are easy and deadly and cover only helps a little otherwise its blog standard GURPS.

Hasbro is supporting B/X ? Yep. Just a bit ...

Looks like someone over at Hasbro is paying attention to the stuff people said to Mike Mearles about reuniting the various D&D factions.

Apparently Tim Brannan was recently paid by Hasbro to write an article that according to the comments in his post

That is on

The article is one on using the new fortune cards in a D&D Basic (Holmes/Moldvay/Cook/Metzer).No idea when it will be out though.

Seriously cool and congrats on the 1st paid gig at Hasbro and to Hasbro for listening.

Keep up the good work everybody!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Last of the Hate Posts: Thieves

I love the concept but for the most part I dislike the implementation as the "skill" system is a poor fit with the rest of the rules.

I tend to agree with Mearles and Philotomy here though I'll still use them but under a bit of protest.

Another Hate Post : Clerics

I hate Clerics. not Clerical spells which are fine , but the entire adventuring combat priest concept.

The overt religion is another thing that wrecks worlds for me and just my opinion, D&D is better off without them as we have them today ,...

A Hate Post : Spell I Hate

Just a short personal list, YMMV of course

Most of the instant travel magic (overland flight, teleport etc) because they such away travel which is part of the danger and fun

Any of the various Raise and Resurrect spells because the revolving door is silly

Continual Light (and the others like it) except as an enchantment or as part of a high level spell because it ruins game worlds.

Music: Anything Goes

In honor of my last post. Willie Scott (the lovely Kate Capshaw) from Temple of Doom singing Anything Goes

Sure You Can Play That

One of the key ideas behind the 3x version of Midrea is that like some of the old school games (think Expedition to the Barrier Peaks , The Sheen Invasion from 2e and even as far back as Blackmoor) almost anything goes in Midrea.

I can fit in almost any concept without making the game world too absurd. The only rules are

#1 The players have to all agree to that level of Wahoo

#2 Don't make anything that would offend others

#3 and last: The game has to be high enough level

Let me show you some examples, 6 new players, 6th level game each with a wild concept..

#1 Concept: A Paladin based on that Chick from the Heavy Metal movie only a Dude

Solution: A Paladin with the Shining Knight option. Spend 5th level feat to treat mount as a Pegasus. Make magic items look cool

#2 Concept: A Combat Robot from another time with integral blaster and combat software

Solution: Warforged race, Warlock levels to cover integrals and Warblade abilities to cover combat software. Use Martial Study and Extra Invocation where needed to mix.

#3 Concept: A Magical Talking cat

Solution: Create cat racial template off base stats plus awaken spell, give Sorcerer with Dreamspun bloodline levels as Wizard Levels are just too silly. Since cats don't have hands, give said cat equivalent of Vow of Poverty feat. Drop Exalted Feats for a Neck Slot and optionally Bonded Item ability.

#4 Concept: A Time Lost Psychic Super Soldier (probably from the universe the Robot is from)

Solution: Human Psychic Warrior. His "ultra tech" items are just re-skinned wands, magic armor and such. In time as he levels up he can gain new items (repair stuff he already had) or "recharge" new ones as per building new items ...

#5 Concept: The Perfected Flesh Golem

Solution: Warforged with no innate armor, use the Factotum class to represent myriad abilities and powers.

#6 Concept: Zombie Wolverine with necrotic claws .. By now I am probably going Why Me ? but its doable with a bit of effort

Solution: Longclaw Shifter with Necropolitan Template treat as ECL+1 for stat assignment. Use a mix of Barbarian, Dread Necromancer and Rage Mage prestige class tweaked as needed. Allow the Dread Necromancer touch ability to be used with claws.

and viola, with a little re-skinning almost anything can be made

A Core Idea: Balance is in the numbers

One of the core ideas I use in my games is one I learned long ago from Champions and from an excellent 2e encounter is this

Game Balance is in the Numbers not in the flavor. In D&D terms this means a spell is 3rd level not because its a Fireball but because it does 1d6 per level in a 20 radius. Push comes to shove, it doesn't matter if the spell is fire, ice, screaming skulls and puss yellow beetles so long as the level is the same and the relative ability to defend remains.

Now later editions can complicate things with spell schools and such (certain specialties do not get certain kids of magic effects) but as a general thing you can name a monster, a spell or a class whatever you want and "reskin" it as anything and it won't hurt your game.

In my next post, you'll see how this can be applied to allow D&D, especially the later editions to make almost any kind of character ...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Big Iron

In honor of my players coincidental "Big Iron" remark (I was listening to the song that day though he didn't have any way to know I have ever heard the song ) some Marty Robins with Big Iron

Why Don't Midrean Wizards all Carry Modern Guns?

A Player of mine asked this question (and yes he did to my amusement use the term big iron)

"Look if there are modern firearms on Midrea, why don't all the mages carry them and that if there is an anti magic field they can just pull out the big iron and go to town ?"

Well thats a good question. The reasons are

#1 Guns are expensive and that money can be used better for other things like making magic items, buying property or spell research

#2 It takes a time and money to learn firearms (even the cheaper black powder ones require a feat) and even more time to be good with them. Its not cost effective in terms of feats or GP investment (time and money) to learn to use something that is no more effective than a 1st level spell in terms of damage output. Sure it works in an anti-magic field but such effects are uncommon.

#2 The only reliable means of making ammo other than 9th level spells is Spanderals Duplicator a rare 7th spell.

#3 Very few Wizards can even manage that kind of magic. I figure about 1 in 200 persons. will have the intelligence, disposition and training to become a magic user capable of learning that spell. Of the casters, about 5% will achieve at least 13th level. Of those maybe 1% will know that spell. This means there will be about 1 person with that spell per 400k people. Of those maybe a 10th are likely to bother with firearms. Thus of a population of 80 million, 40 million adult humans there are about 100 gun using spell casters.

This seems like a lot but in reality its a tiny number and the actual users of "modern" guns number under a 1000 plus a few members of elite military units ...

Rarity of Wizard Spells in Midrea

This is handy little Wizard (and other arcane spell preparation casters) spell frequency chart that shouldn't be any trouble to figure out. It will come on handy with the next post so I figure I'll show it to y'all now.

Sorcerers and other Innate arcane casters have similar magic but they don't have spell frequency per say, instead they have a mix of spells, somewhat random and somewhat directed by their bloodline.

Very Common -- Most casters will have one or more of these

Common --- Many casters will have one or more of these

Uncommon -- About one casters in ten will have

Rare -- About one caster in one hundred will have one of these

Very Rare/Unique -- A tiny handful of casters, often just the creator and a favored apprentice will have one of these

Some Saint Patrick's Day Music

My original intent was to play something from Putanmayo's Women of World Celtic, one of my favorite albumbs but the versions of the songs I liked on You Tube were either inappropriate (pictures of Scotland for Waiting for the Wheel to Turn) or poor quality live ones (for On We Go) so I decided on going with the obvious popular choice, Enya.

This is Boadicea , fitting tribute to Irish courage I think.

So how come you don't show the rune stones?

Just in case anyone asks. The 5 "runes" you see used in our PDF products are a real pain to get to display. While my PDF's embed them easily enough, the fonts I used to create them are not supported by my blog software.

I was going to create a .jpg image with them but my software balks at that too. So until I figure out a solution you'll only see them in PDFs.

Sorry all.

The origin of 5 Stone

I know its a bit silly but I named my company for a fictional game called 5 Stones not the real life version related to knucklebones . 5 stone was inspired by Go, Gorean Chess and by the game Shent played by the Elf Analog Sithi in Tad Williams Memory Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy .

Shent of course was probably inspired by Go in some strange circular fashion although TV Tropes Wiki suggests its closer to Calvinball or Fizbin.

My version of 5 Stone of course has no set rules as while I guess I am gamde designer of sorts I am not that good. In game I typically call for a skill check and put it under profession or in older versions, where appropriate Intelligence or wisdom check.

I imagine playing 5 Stone involves placing a series of stones on a board and making patterns and captures. The winner then has the highest score.

A game of 5 stone takes twelve turns, each of which can take up to 2 hours . Each of those turns represents a month and a sign of the zodiac and this influences how patterns are scored.

After twelve turns if the game is tied, eleven single placements plays, each based on one of the sun sign cusps are performed and the points are tallied. Ties are very rare

A 5 stone set has a 40 by 40 board and sets of stones , each with 73 stones and an extra unmarked starting stone called a fate stone.

Each stone is numbered, 1 for each day of the year and divided into 5 different elements marked with various signs.

Five stone sets are also for divination but thats a separate thing entire and is somewhat like a cross between runic divination and tarotmancy ...

Confusingly in my campaign there are two other games sometimes called 5 Stones, one is played with small stones and is quite similar to knucklebones , its sometimes called "Tossing the Elements" or "Little Fives" and another game played with 25 pieces (5 groups of 5 each) called "Mage Stones" or "5 by 5"

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Picture

I've set up a nice new temporary profile picture, a pentagram from Wikimedia Commons .

I admit its kind of witchy but hey maybe it will bait a few Wiccans or create a Slatantic Panic or something ;)

Anyway this will be a place holder until I can figure out how to turn my fonts into a .png.

You can see the larger version below too.

Another CoupleSimple Questions? Why are You here? and Less Pathfinder More OSR?

Just a curious question, why do y'all visit my blog? What kind of content brings you and more importantly what kind o bait brings new blood heh heh ;)

Anyway I noticed that I don't get much interest in my Pathfinder posts. Few replies and few downloads either . As an example, Loadouts an actual illustrated product got maybe 25 downloads whereas poorly formatted house rules (OS/2 Warped) got near two hundred!

Still my low magic rules did pretty well (like a hundred or so) so I am wondering if thats a niche that needs filling.

So I guess I am a bit confused by this and am wondering of I might be better off forgoing most Pathfinder content, save maybe any professional-work I might do?

What do y'all think?

A Simple Question. Would more art or a prettier blog layout be welcome?

Just wondering if any of my readers would find more art posts to increase their enjoyment of my blog.

Also while I deliberately picked "functional minimalism" as a style, do any of y'all think a prettier set up would increase viewership here?

Campaign Ideas 2011 #2

Dirty White Boys

Low Prospect young adults (probably White Hats or Investigators in Buff/Angel) stumble into the Supernatural


The name is a play on the rules sets (R-Tal's Interlock) . Basically this is Cyberpunk 2020 Earth vs an invasion of Mecha. It also gives men an excuse to play with Mechton Maximum Metal and every other cheeseball thing I have for these games.

Three Reasons the OSR rocks today

#1 Maturity

Many of us old Grogs are nearly the same age as Gary, Dave and the others. This gives us an adult perspective that leads to better gaming IMO.

#2 Experience

Most of us are experienced gamers and as such have learned from our mistakes and have been able to improve the game in ways that were impossible "Back in 1982"

#1 Generosity

The OSR is the one of most generous bunches of people I have ever seen . Our little community has tons of great stuff shared free for the asking, just for the love of sharing. Not only that we share what we have learned and are able to improve from dozens of people, not just the few guys we game with .
Its like a "best of" a dozen gaming groups. So we not only share knowledge, we also share our core rules . Doing this can bring in new blood (like me at one point) and make old school gaming available for anyone with an interest and a computer . Its an incredibly cool thing to be part of .

The Only Place I Absolutely Insist on Realism, Item Weights

Item weights once place I insist the game rules need to more or less match reality.

I've handled waterskins, mail armor, shields, historical swords, leather packs, food similar to iron rations and lots more. I know what they weigh and there is no way that I am going to be able to ignore nonsense like 10lb swords (like 2e Bastard Sword) and 100lb armor. And yes as much as I loved old school these days, item weights well, were one of the clear cut cases of "Good Old Days Weren't" with old school games.

Happily I have plenty of information on better weights and am not at the mercy of game writers who research was well, lacking.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Women and Classes in Midrea

In the Midrea game a female character (almost always played by a female player for various reasons) can be of any class or race they wish and set their stats any way they like

There are four basic reasons for this policy

#1 Its more fun

#2 Not doing so would cheese off female players

#3 PC's are always outliers anyway and there have been many historical outliers who took on "mens work"

#4 Hey its a magic world and said woman may have supernatural abilities

However as Midrea is designed with the idea "What if this were a real world with magic' and as it a with a lower technology (at the high end ,early enlightenment with retarded weapons do to the lack of gunpowder most places) combat and life in general places places a premium on muscular power. This leaves mundane non magical women at a disadvantage in heavy combat and as such has a profound impact on what classes are selected.

Women Cavaliers are rare enough that its entirely possible a PC will know almost all of the others as only one chapter accepts women entrants. However all orders are available and though done grudgingly, female Cavaliers are equated the same respect as male cavaliers by the authorities.

Adepts Aristocrats , Commoners and Experts have equal numbers of men and women

Barbarians, Fighters, Warriors and Rangers are fairly rare. Not unknown, just rare. Female Mystic Rangers however are fairly common as such Rangers go.

Bards are equally likely to be a man or a woman

Clerics and Cloistered Clerics will depend on the faith with more "Cloistered Clerics" among women. Some faiths and deities are all women, some all men, some mixed . Its about even

Inquisitors are usually male but there are exceptions, Oracles are more typically women. Paladins are never common and while men outnumber women by a margin, its not a great one.

Druids are about 50-50

Monks tend to be Male but there are plenty of women and there are "Nunneries" as well . Female "Monks" tend to favor wisdom as as stat rather than strength or dexterity

Female Rogues are as plentiful as men since the Rogues principal combat trick "sneak attack" is about hitting people where its hurts and the "fairer sex" is at no disadvantage. As a general thing, most non magic female adventurers will be Rogues.

Summoners are slightly more often male but the number of gate linked women is growing.

Alchemists are usual male as the number of women interested in puttering about with dangerous substances, heaving bombs and transmuting into a monster form is fairly small.

Sorcerers favor women somewhat and the usual "magic adventurer" among women will be a Sorceress and or Battle Sorceress

Wicca and Witches are majority female

Warlocks usually men (and not related to either Witches or Wicca)

Noble tends to favor men for social reasons but in areas where women have higher social status, female adventuring Nobles are common . As a general thing though, High Born NPC women are usually aristocrats ..

Archivists and Wizards are usually male since these people are the science and school geeks of the game world but given the lack of talent, none of the Wizard schools will turn down a women who can meet standards.

A Magus or a Hexblade or any of the other "fighter/mage" hybrids tend to favor men over women.

Lastly the the remaining 3x classes when I use them classes (Marshal, Warlord, Shaman, Dragon Shaman etc) tend to be male with the exceptions of the Assassin which may be either in equal numbers and the Healer which is usually female.

Typical Levels in Midrea 3x

I use a somewhat non standard level demographics in Midrea. Typical levels run from one ot three with an informal limit of 6 or 7 at most for NPC's. This selection puts me into the very high end of the "realistic" spectrum as advocated by the Alexandrian article "Calibrating Your Expectations" and allows me to make much use of one of my favorite supplements for NPC design,
ENWorld Publishing's Everyone Else .

Important NPCs and of course the players can exceed and do exceed this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hot Elf Chick? RUN!

When I think of Hot Elf Chicks this is what I think of.

La Belle Dam Sans Merci.

My advice is if you see a hot elf chick , don't hang around to mack on her, RUN! Elves are well as Sir Terry puts it (reposted here)

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.

Terry Pratchett, Lords And Ladies

Now if you traffic with that lot and something awful comes of it, don't tell me I didn't give you fair warning.

Charlie Sheen in 3x

This post over on Big Purple stating up everyones current favorite clown prince Charlie Sheen got me to thinking about a 3e write up.

A Tiger Blooded Vatican Assassin Warlock is actually rather easy to do in 3x terms. This wrote up assumes my usual +2 to skills house rules.

In case you wondered I decided against making him a shifter an djust made "Tiger Blooded" a feat though I don't know what it does

The 14 intelligence and 12 wisdom might seem a bit high but the man does seem to know his limits and seems to have trolled the entire planet. The high Constitution and Charisma are of course obvious ..

I decided to go straight warlock, assume a "divine" power source and multi rogue to cover the Vatican Assassin bit too.

So without further ado ...

Charlie Sheen

S 12
I 14
W 14
D 12
Con 20
Cha 16

Warlock 8/Rogue 3

H Tigerblooded
1 Lighting Reflexes
3 Iron Will
5 Great Fortitude
7 Extra Invocation
9 Extra Invocation
11 Extra Invocation

You figure it out

Special Abilities
Eldritch Blast with Hideous Blow and Brimstone Blasts (flaming fists of magic!)
Fell Flight
DR 2 Cold Iron
Fiendish Resilience
Beguiling Influences
Dark Ones Own Luck
Extra Invocation from Feat (Voice of Madness)
Extra Invocation from Feat (See the Unseen)
Sneak Attack +2d6
Trap Sense +1

Special Items
Magic Machete

If you wanted to use this in E8 its actually easy. Just drop the Rogue Levels add a bonus feat (Martial Weapon Proficiency /Machete) and you are done, This still makes him a superhero of course but how many Vatican Assassin Warlocks do you know ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

So what is Old School Midrea Like?

Midrea started to be fleshed out around the time 2nd edition started onto its complete splats and from there it was modified to suit GURPS and various homebrew things. It was originally built like a secondary world using game rules rather than an RPG sandbox and as such a lot of things were left out.

In particular
Gate network.
Steampunk stuff
Anything designed around 3x classes
Dimensional travel except to D&D type worlds
Fantasy Mecha
Firhom and many of the "Tera" culture cities

In addition some things like the Wastelands were added later, though they could exist just fine in Old School Midrea

The flavor was more "Thieves World+ Conan+ Faerie Tale plus a smidgen of this and that"

In some ways I think the older version was more coherent and as players didn't have the urge to play as many things, it worked out fine.

If/When I release Midrea into the wild I'll probably include an OSR version but there will be differences.

Now I'd be curious what y'all think, should I release only a 3x version, only an OSR version, a single version with 3x notes or some other kind?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guns on Midrea Where and Who

Guns can be bought on Midrea at Firhom at a place called "The Gunshop" . Getting in requires a permit which requires some questions to be answered in a zone of truth and costs 500GP

They can also be bought at the Harrow Dwell by members and at a magic shop of Freepor as well.

Users of firearms include

#1 a few rich folk (they are a prestige item)
#2 a few adventurers,
#3 The Morris Family (for complicated reasons I'll get to later)
#4 The First Guard ( Elite Guard of Firhom)
#5 The Firestorm Regiment (also a Firhom)
#6 The Defenders of the Republic (in Brin)
#7 The Deadeyes
and last #8 The Magisters Elite (who are armed with magic firearms)

Guns on Midrea Rules Thoughts

Rules wise I found it simpler to graft on the rules bits from D20 Modern spiced with a spot of the new pathfinder . This set up is compatible with 3x and the rules while far from perfect work well enough for me.

Costing firearms was a bit trickier

Typically I assume flintlocks cost about 3x what an equivalent bow does with ammo running roughly 1sp per point of maximum damage the weapon can do. Lead balls can be had anywhere for about a copper..

Modern Firearms are a but pricey, costing around 1000 for a handgun and 5000 for a long gun, based on weight and the cost of the casting of 7th level spell plus markup.

Ammunition is also crazy expensive costing costing about 15GP per handgun round and 30GP per shotshell or Rifle round. This premium keeps the number of them in circulation small. The small number of casters capable of handling 7th level spells means that the number of military units with these weapons is small.

As for energy weapons, they exist but are rare and cannot be bought.

As above I tend to use modified D20 Moder/Pathfinder rules.

Modern and Futuristic Firearms in Midrea

One of the aspects I wanted to borrow from the old Greyhawk and Judges Guild settings was the occasional bit of wahoo.

Stuff like Murylnd the Gunslinger and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, that whole "its a game,lets have fun" aspect rather than the This is a Secondary World style we saw later in things like the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance

The usual approach, Gate spells, was fine but given Midrea does have regular traffic with other I needed something better.

Eventually I decided that not only do firearms and ammunition and energy weapons and the like a exist on Midrea but can be bought for a hefty price.

How this works is simple.

Every so often such weapons filter in to Midrea from the various gates. While its beyond the local technology to make them and of course the local physical laws make more ammo impossible, they can be magically repaired with a "Mending" spell and duplicated with a spell called Spandrel's Duplicator.

Any of the ones bought are duplicates of the limited number that exist on the world. Now these duplicates are permanent and function normally but as few of the weapons would qualify as Masterwork (there are only 3 known weapons) magic firearms or energy weapons are few and far between.

Magic ammunition is far more common as many high end commercial rounds qualify.

Thus is a player wants to play a gunman, he or she can without overbalancing the world.

Gunpowder in Midrea

One of the biggest design issues I came across when I decided to formalize my game world was "What to do about gunpowder" Its a common enough problem in most fantasy worlds but its exacerbated by the multi-dimensional sandbox aspect of the world.

A while back though I came up with an answer. Simply, gunpowder doesn't work, the recipe is known but do to "magical material saturation" ,the same thing that makes magic items and alchemy work, a number of normal chemical processes don't.

It sounds like the usual cop-out but actually it isn't for yes there is gunpowder, not made by alchemy and in fact as Astute readers will have noted there is a Gunpowder Empire.

How this works is dragons and several other beasties eat the material that make up gunpowder and digest the magic. Get yourself some dragon or disenchanter dung, apply the usual recipes and viola, gunpowder.

This means, few people use firearms outside that one are but if the players want them they are there if characters have the money and do a little looking around.

This keeps firearms from dominating battle fields but allows me a full on flintlock ear technology.

And just in case anyone is wondering, there are magic firearms. They are made about the same way as regular items.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quickhatch Old School style

While 3x makes a dandy low powered supers game, a few of you might be wondering if you can do that in old school.

The answer is, sure.

You can either toodle on over to Land of Nod (in the sidebar) and try out Mystery Men (now in beta) or you can just wing it and use your own judgment.

Here is how I'd do it


STR 16
INT 12
WIS 14
CON 20
DEX 16
CHA 12

Level 10


Special Abilities
Healing Factor (Regenerate 1 pt per round, very slow aging ,immune to disease and poison although either may stun for 1d4 rounds at GM's discretion, )
Super Smell (Track as Bloodhound)
Surprised only on a 1
Admant Bones (1/2 damage from all attacks, Innate AC 5)
Innate Claws (treat as dual wielded Short Sword of Sharpness, unbreakable and undroppable)
Berserker Rage (as Berserker entry)

Personal Basics for independently duty lower middle class

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just hit Level 5! Thinker

As an old school blogger of course.

Thanks to everybody who subscribed !

If the OSR is so good why did we give it up?

Well not of all us did of course but for those of us who gave it up here are 5 reasons why.

#1 New Fads. Like any hobby fads come and go and people, even geeks want to be on the bandwagon.

#2 Boredom. Yes, a lot of us got tired of that play style, especially he crude hand and slash so many of us played.

#3 Drift. A lot of us drifted into 2e and changed bit by bit. Early 2e was very old school but as the rules bloat was added, we just adopted it.

#4 Fatigue. Good old school gaming is tiring work. Newer games require less mental horsepower and just using whats provided spares time and energy real life may have claimed for other things.

#5 Lack of ability to use what we had. Hey, we were young than, not like the adults who designed the game, guys as old as many of us old-grogs. As kids we simply didn't know the best ways to use what we had.

My take on what the OSR is about

There has been a lot of talk on what this tiny little thing of ours actually means.

I'll throw my hat in the or give my $2 (inflation and all that) and suggest what I think it is.

#1 Nostalgia.

#2 Reclaiming Imagination. Older forms of the game relied very much on the players and DM's imagination, sometimes to a degree where even mediocre support material was a relief. It was ideas you didn't have to come up with. What I think some of us are seeing is that the newer games (like 4e say) are so systematized and structured that they are a child' puzzle rather than a toolbox for adults. All the flavor is provided and while that has its upsides (fast prep with lower work) its sucks some of the joy out it.

#3 Reclaiming Ownership . The older less rules intensive systems belonged to the group more than anything else. More than just a few house rules it was a sense that this was "Your Groups D&D" not "the 3.5 rules"

#4 Reclaiming Judgment. Matt Finch in The Quick Old School Primer calls this "Rulings not rules" but that implies a bit more of an adversarial "I wear the Viking Hat" relationship than I like. Judgment is simply relying on your own calls,both as GM and as player "why not try that" Modern games seem overly systematized for that style of play and for some thats a detriment.

I like the Term Judge

Sure most people use Dungeon Master for D&D games or Game Master for others but I like the term Judge just like the guys at the eponymous Judges Guild use.

It seems to me that Judge implies a more neutral less adversarial relationship than "Master" and gives people especially non gamers a good idea what exactly I do.

I judge the actions taken in game and the worlds response to them.

Nice and simple.

Rock your players world: Serve them Iron Rations

Surprisingly this is not that difficult to do and while iron rations are not tasty, the certainly are a change from the snack foods most of us serve.

For GM's who like immersion into their game world, having the players smell and taste what their characters are eating can really get them into the game. And hey it looks less silly than robes and a wizard hat.

Midrea Style Iron rations

#1 Hard Tack about 4-6 ounces . This is based on US civil war allotments here. A daily ration would be about 1lb on the march. I figure its bad tasting , the players are sedentary and its a snack anyway so 4oz will do.

#2 A skin of non alcoholic wine or beer- You can let this sit for a while to give it that gamy wineskin taste just by pouring it before the players arrive and leaving it in the room . Off of course in groups where driving is not an issue and everyone is of legal drinking age, feel free to use real wine or beer. Two Buck Chuck seems about right .

#3 a Little Salt in a cloth bag

#4 Pemmican. Not the beef jerky of the same name or the energy bar, but the real deal, dried meat and fat.

#5 Dried Fruit, mixed. You can add this to the pemmican of you like as well.

#6 Some hard cheese. I like to leave mine out for a few hours but you'll have to decide if thats safe on your own

#7 A little bowl of something pickled, I like sauerkraut but pickled cucumbers are also a good choice.

#8 A little honey

Serve this in those silly wooden bowls and mugs you bought at Ren-Faire and you are good to go.

As always know your players and make sure there are no allergies or food safety issues ....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This is officially the worst thing I have ever eaten

This isnlt a food blog but I really want to vent (and I am out of ideas ;) )

Nordic Sweets Salty Licorice Fish.

They tasted vile, took 30 minutes to get the taste out of my mouth and they upset my stomach to boot.

Two of them were too many of them ....

Whats your worst thing ?

Quickhatch Revisited

I wrote this to display the versatility of the E8 Pathfinder rules and how they cross over into "superhero" territory after L6 or so.

This is a fairly complete version a certain regenerating furball who seems to show up in every other comic book and TV series =.

He uses the low magic rules, a general house rule grating +2 skills per level and a few other bits. His magic augments value are not listed but the rules come from Dragon and Oathbound. For simplicity treat them as magic items at twice the cost.

The term "advances" refers to the extra feats gained at 10k XP after maximum level (in this case 8) is achieved.

This is fan content and a great many terms are property of Wizards of the Coast. Shift was calculated at 4 rounds per day + Con Mod with an extra 2 rounds per shifter feat. Shifters were granted Low Light Vision to balance them vs other races in Pathfinder


Name – Lojan of the Great North

Race – Razorclaw Shifter

Class – Level 8 Barbarian w/ 16 Advances

S 16
I 14
W 14
D 16
C 22
CH 14

Race Abilities
Low Light Vision
+2 Con
Shift 30 rounds per day!

1 Animal Magnetism (grants +4 to reaction from opposite sex)
3 Shifter Ferocity
5 Healing Factor
7 Extra Trait (Wild Hunt)

A1 Razorclaw Elite
A2 Iron Will
A3 Reactive Shifting
A4 Combat Reflexes
A5 Shifter Multi Attack
A6 Improved Unarmed Strike
A7 Alertness
A8 Endurance
A9 Extra Rage Power
A10 Great Rend
A11 Die Hard
A12 Shifter Savagery
A13 Shifter Magnetism
A14 Shifter Instincts
A15 Improved Initiative
A16 Weapon Focus Claws

Barbarian Abilities
Fast Movement
Rage 24 rounds per day
Trap Sense +2
Damage Reduction DR1

Rage Powers
Fearless Rage
Internal Fortitude
Renewed Vigor (2d8+6 as standard action)
Guarded Life

Magic Augments
Admantium Claws (treat natural weapons as +2 Keen Admantium)
Admantium Bones ( 75% fortification)

Masterwork Bastard Sword
Fitted Ranger Armor
Personal Effects
Superior Repeating Crossbow

Coherent Rage (use Stealth as normal when raging)
Resilience (+1 Trait bonus to Fortitude)

Skills (72 w/ house rule)
Perception 13
Acrobatics 12
Climb 11
Swim 11
Intimidate 13
Stealth 10
KS: Nobility 5
Survival 8
Knowledge Nature 7
Bluff 5
Ride 8
Handle Animal 8
Sense Lies 7

HP 108
AC 20
MV 40

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Prestige Classes OK Idea, Bad Implementation

I almost didn't need content for the post as the title summed up my feelings.

Basically as my class/race list (in the sidebar) and some of my previous posts show, I don't like prestige classes very much.

yes I know they have been around since the early game (the 1e Bard and as Hill Cantons notes BECMI and UA classes) but its not the core idea thats bad so much as the implementation.

Not only are there far too many of the things to be easily managed but the entry mechanism is just bad. I can deal with the bloat by simply banning them but the starting level is a bigger challenge.

Starting a prestige class at 6th or 7th level has the cardinal sin of being boring. Its not something to strive for as much as a "level grind" Taking up to six months (24 sessions, 1 combat per session, 4 hours each, 1 time per week) just to play your concept is just not fun.

I can see (though I don't really like) the name level classes in BECMI, at least those are tied to an end game. The ones in 3x are just there .. Yuck..

Now if I were to redesign them I'd take a note from Hill Cantons (again) and start them at 4th level. And yes if you go and read that post, you'll see I was critical of the idea somewhat. After long thought I have come to the conclusion that its actually a very good idea. Sorry HC...

Anyway starting them at 4th fits the general, 1st thru 3rd are regular Joes, L4 Hero L8 Superhero ethos of D&D very well, allows them to be common enough to have orders and organizations without level bloat and even blends in well the the implied 5th thru 7th are exceptional but not super rare implication of the fighter/nobles on the 1st Edition DMG.

This kind of set up gives a good intro to the game and a new player can play maybe nine to a dozen sessions as a low level guy then be ready to try something more challenging. It just fits.

What games are you regarding as Old School or OSR

I admit my descriptions are rather idiosyncratic as I deliberately exclude high complexity games such as Space Opera. They certainly are old school, part of the "realism" movement of that early period but they aren't my focus. This also rules out GURPS (whose 1st installment Man to Man came out in 1985) and Champions (which came out in 1981) which I see as Archaic Modern, in that these games still are played widely today with surprisingly little rules drift

An old school game is a table top roleplaying game with light to medium rules complexity released in or before 1985 and is either out of print (save via retro-clone) or whose rules have changed considerably since that period to the point where early editions lack compatibility with the modern game of the same name (FREX Dungeons and Dragons)

My list includes

1- OD&D (and its retro-clone Swords and Wizardy)

2-AD&D (and OSRIC)

3-B/X/C/M/I (and Labyrinth Lord )

4-Cyclopedia D&D qualifies as well, though released in 1991 is contains essentially only material from games that qualify) and Dark Dungeons does as well since its mainly a darned good retro-clone of Cyclopedia

5-Adventures Dark and Deep as its thematically a lot more old school than new

6- The Fantasy Trip (and its retro-clones)

7- Most of the TSR books (Gangbusters, Boot Hill,Star Frontiers)

8 -Basic Roleplaying /Call of Cthulhu et all. These games are on the high end of the complexity line but they changed little enough that I had no trouble playing Mongoose RQ when I hadn't played a BRP based game in a couple of decades.

9 - Tunnels and Trolls and its cousin Mercenaries Spies and Private Eyes

10- Dragon Warriors just makes the cut (1st book out in 1985)

11- Fighting Fantasy

12 Traveller. Another game on the high end of the complexity limit but that is certainly old school too.

Honorable mentions go to Castles and Crusades, for trying to bridge the Old/New Gap, AD&D 2e a system I dearly love and in whose early days , was certainly quite old school and GURPS, who probably deserves to make the list but just doesn't pass the "feel" test.

I'd be interested in any y'all think deserve the list that I overlooked ...

Real Life Level Titles

Yes this is kind of tacky as its about female drug cartel assassins but still I was taken by the almost D&D-ish aspects of the set up.

The original article is here

but this is the relevant part

Men, they do it for fun, because they enjoy killing, it makes them feel like big sh** Screw that. Us women, we get into this for the money. Well at least that was the way it was for me. That we get into this for love, that’s bullsh**. Like I was saying: I got into this when I was twenty years old. At first I was a “cleaner,” I mopped up vomit and blood. After I was a messenger and a gopher, and from there, I moved up to a “condor”—I hunted down the enemies. Then I was a “lynx”—I abducted and tortured people, and from there I became a sicaria [assassin]. That’s the way it went down, vato. Since then, I’ve been a killer.

What struck me most aside from the violence, which is an unpleasant part of human nature is how
D&D the whole thing was. As the lady in question gained experience through violence, her skills improved and her guild, in this case, the cartel, trusted her with more difficult work. She even had a title at each stages.

L1 Cleaner
L2 Messenger
L3 Gopher
L4 Condor
L5 Lynx
L6 Sicaria (Spanish for Assassin, name level basically)

Its kind of sobering to think how when we play more unscrupulous characters how close we are to playing these kids of people. Now mind , I am not making a moral objection, here I am not TSR circa 1989 or anything. And to be frank, being bad has its attractions just as much as being good at least as long as its fiction anyway.