Thursday, March 31, 2011

That's a lot of money to spend on a paperweight

I was perusing the Acaeum, specifically the Original D&D Set page, looking at the differences between the older editions, etc. Now, I bought the PDFs a while back before that whole WotC/Hasbro fiasco, but I must say, they are rather awful scans. Terrible. Anyway, I printed them out and read them because I can read a PDF on a computer screen for literally five seconds before I become bored with it. Printed books converted to electronic format just don't work, and my old Digital Libraries professor can suck it. Different mediums should be approached...differently, both in layout and content. I suppose that's why the Kindle resembles an actual book.

Okay, so enough of that, the point remains that I really wanted to get a copy of the original boxed set. So, I looked on Noble Knight, a truly great resource if you want out-of-print material. The cheapest boxed set listed is $155, and it's a 5th printing or something; not really that collectible, but still about 20x the original price. Honestly, I thought it'd be a lot more. I started contemplating the purchase of the boxed set...$155 for something I'll probably open once, flip through, then place on a shelf. Literally. I have no lofty aspirations to play OD&D, even though I find the thought intriguing. I'm probably never going to play Mentzer Red Box again, but honestly, I sort of don't want to mess up the books, especially when I can just play Labyrinth Lord and get close enough that I don't notice the differences. Swords & Wizardry Core and White Box offer, from what I can tell, a pretty damn good version of OD&D, with a vastly better organization. There really wouldn't be a point in blowing $155 (much less over $2k) for a set of books I will NEVER use. Never. But, I'm still probably going to buy them at some point. Just because.

Same with the Traveller little black books. I have a boxed set of MegaTraveller, the production values are pretty good, the map is fantastic, but I sorta just don't care too much about it. I got the Mongoose version, and the rules are nice. But something is missing. I have Book 0 somewhere, and there are literally no rules. It was intended to be an introduction to playing Traveller, but I never got around to purchasing the rest of the rules for whatever reason. A few years ago I got the reprints and flipped through them. Much like reading a PDF, I really couldn't maintain interest due to the presentation. So, again, looking for the original books, probably going to drop $100 to get a nice set, and I'll never play it. I'll probably never even read them, to be perfectly honest.

Trying to explain why I want to buy stuff I'll never use is impossible because I really have no idea why it's so important to me. But, I'm sure others feel the same way. Is it a sense of nostalgia, revisiting a past childhood experience? Can't be that because I never had an OD&D set, nor did I even care about it until a few years ago. It certainly isn't because I just want to collect the stuff to make money off of it, either. I don't really have any more room to put crap, and getting more crap is just not a good idea. I still buy just about any newly released rpg. I have so many games I'll never play it's not even funny. For whatever reason, I just feel more comfortable having it than not. Perhaps I'm obsessed, or crazy, but certainly there can't be a problem with owning something you might want to play, right?

In the past ten years or so, I've only played D&D 3rd edition, Labyrinth Lord and AD&D. And some WEG Star Wars over a summer, a few sessions of a post-apocalyptic game. That's basically it. If I got rid of everything I didn't play, have no plans to play and will never ever play, I'd be able to fit all the relevant books into a decent sized box. Instead, I have around 45 boxes of crap, which is a ridiculous amount. Some of it is arguably stupid, too. 12 copies of the AD&D PHB. When the hell will that ever become relevant? When I was running AD&D, though, I'd bring 6 or 7 copies with me, and everyone had a reference. I suppose I was planning ahead for a grandiose campaign, and when it finally did occur, I was already set. The same with with the Star Wars game, to a lesser extent. I only had one copy of the 1st edition rules, so I bought a couple more and a bunch of modules and adventures, some resource books, a book on Star Wars art, another book on Star Wars technology that was simply a book of pictures with descriptions, and printed out reams of other crap. I even wrote a combat die roller utility for my laptop and loaded it up with all the soundtracks, played the songs during the game. What the HELL is wrong with me? There isn't any reason to have four rulebooks for five people, is there? And certainly no need to write up stats on obscure equipment seen for maybe two seconds in Empire...right?

I'm certainly not unusual. At all. Everyone I know who runs a good game does at least as much as I do, if not more. The preparation part is sometimes more fun than actually playing, to be honest. A prior post I made talked a lot about the free-form nature of the games I used to play. In retrospect, there was a lot of preparation for those games, too, I just didn't realize it at the time. I had read fantasy novels, played S&S games like Wizardry, seen Star Wars about a billion times and been to a Renfaire or two. I drew from those experiences to create the game. As I got older, I became more structured in my research. That's really the only difference. I remember reading a book on heraldry to come up with a coat of arms for a character I made in junior high. Even though it literally didn't matter, I wanted that coat of arms to be correct. It was important. When I was running a Castles & Crusades game based loosely on Lord of the Rings, I was worried, so worried. Would I get the time line correct? Had Sauron revealed himself yet? How many orcs would be reasonable in the Barrow Downs? Etc., etc. I read every MERP supplement I could get my hands on. That game lasted only a month or so. And I don't feel like I wasted my time. In fact, I spent around $150 on MERP stuff and I'm glad I did. It's well written and useful. Even if I'll never read it again. The covers are colorful, though. They look nice on the bookshelf. Another expensive paperweight that I'll never get rid of.

I keep wondering, what drives me to buy all this stuff, books I'll never read or use. Some of them I don't care about at all, like my copy of Vampire Dark Ages, but I'm not going to get rid of it. Hell no. It's inexplicable why someone would collect something that they really have no use for but which also has no real value in the absolute monetary sense. Unless, of course, the value isn't monetary and instead something much more precious and cherished. Like an old t-shirt you just can't seem to throw away, all my games have value to me. I'm going to get that D&D set and I'm going to play it. At least that's how I'm going to justify spending the money.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One Page Dungeon Expansion Set

This relates to my previous post RE: THE MALEVOLENT ULTIMATE DUNGEON OF DOOM, my entry into the One Page Dungeon Design contest. If you've looked at it, you will immediately be struck by the amazing prose, room descriptions, compelling storyline and detailed cast of characters. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, I had to cut out detailed descriptions of some of the magic items. Here they are, all three of them...

Dagger of Awesomelookingness

Aw yeah, son, this dagger is fucking AWESOME. It just looks totally awesome. I mean, you've seen Crocodile Dundee, right? When he pulls out his knife and says, "That's a knife," and cuts the shit out of that kid's Michael Jackson coat? Well, that's pussy ass compared to this. I can't even explain to you how awesome this dagger is. First of all, it's shaped like a dong. Okay, okay, you think that's sorta gay, don't you...would you think it was gay if the tip was sharp enough to cut the balls off a gnat? Hell no you wouldn't. That would be insanely sharp because I don't think gnats even HAVE balls, and if they do they're microscopic. So yeah, this dong-shaped dagger is so insanely sharp it can CUT MOLECULES IN HALF. Not atoms, no, because that might result in massive explosions and shit, but MOLECULES, hell yeah. That's fucking sweet, right? And it's golden. Not made of gold, that's soft as fuck, but golden alloy mixed with...titanium...yeah, titanium/gold alloy, so not only does it look AWESOME it is HARD AS FUCK! Wolverine wishes his shitty "adamantium" skeleton was this hard because that's some stupid comic book shit but this dagger, son, oh THIS DAGGER is the REAL DEAL. MADE WITH SCIENCE. What else. Oh yeah, jewels...well the "jewels" are in fact the jewels. No, I'm not kidding. They're massive rubies worth a fuckload. The whole shaft has emeralds embedded in the sides like some sort of cockring, just in case you know...wanted to use it or something. BUT DON'T BECAUSE THAT SHIT IS INSANELY SHARP AND WILL FUCK YOU UP. So yeah the jewels are badass, and give all sorts of powers. You can stab a motherfucker for 3d4 damage twice a fucking round, son. TWICE! Can you believe this shit? And when you stab them, they best start praying 'cause they have to Save vs. POISON or become ILL and become a lameass BUSTER. I guess this doesn't mean anything in game terms, but on the streets, people will hide their eyes in SHAME for even looking in their general direction. That's right, THEY ARE SHUNNED. If you don't wanna cut someone up, which is stupid because this dagger is INSANE, it'll shoot ACID out of the tip. I know what you're thinking: you cannot get pregnant with this dagger. SO NO WORRIES. The acid does...fuck, hell if I 4d6 damage to any fool caught in front of you, say a 30 degree cone, 40' long? YEAH I KNOW JUST LIKE A DRAGON! But shorter range. So anyway, isn't this fucking dagger kickass?

Rastan Sword of Greatness

I know it sucks to be the fighter sometimes. I do. But look, you get your hands on this won't need a fucking bow anymore. Hell no. This shit is real and it is here to fuck up your enemies. So, it looks like a longsword I guess, but cooler. Like in Conan. The first movie. You can cut through FUCKING STONE with this thing because it's THAT GODDAMN SHARP. Yep. Stone. Iron. Anything you can swing at, this will cut. No problems. So basically, that means if you swing this sword against anyone, they might as well be wearing pink bunny pajamas because their EXPENSIVE ARMOR HAS NO EFFECT! HAHA MAN LOOK AT THEIR FACES NOW! Well, magic armor works...because it's magic. Sorry about that, I don't make the rules, but NON-MAGICAL ARMOR? FUCK NO! And this ain't no pushover sword, nosiree. It does 1d10 damage every time you swing this sonofabitch. Plus, uh...5. Yeah, plus 5 points of damage. But it's only, fuck it, it's a +5 sword. There you go. +5 sword that can cut through anything and shoots fireballs. I ALMOST FORGOT: THE FIREBALLS! Yeah, every time you swing it a FIREBALL SHOOTS OUT! 2d6 more damage! And the range is INSANE, like 100'! So yeah, fuck a bow. Use this instead.

Axe of *waaaaaaaweledededlledleldlemeeemememememeeeeeee* Orcus

Don't bitch about the name, complain to Orcus about that one. That's what I anyway, this fucking AXE is EPIC. It can play songs like a lute (hey, pseudo-medieval even though we all know it's a guitar...look, don't destroy the illusion of being submersed in a fantasy reality, okay?). If you're a BARD this is AWESOME because all your songs have TRIPLE EFFECT. Those other pieces of crap in the DMG? WORTHLESS. THIS is what you want to play. So yeah, you can play different tunes. Anything you can imagine. AS LONG AS IT'S METAL. If you play some pansyass shit, well, you die. Instantly. No saving throw. Sorry. But if it's METAL, well, you ENTHRALL whoever is around. That's right, they all watch in amazement and BECOME YOUR SLAVES. At least the chicks do. The dudes, too, I guess, if you're into that. How about this: THE PLAYER DECIDES WHO IS AFFECTED. That works. So yeah you basically Charm them in game terms if you want to be nerdy about it. I suppose they should get a saving throw or something, but at like -5 ON THE ROLL! Because it's just THAT BADASS. Oh another thing, you can CREATE ANY SPELL EFFECT if you happen to know the right (METAL) song. But you know what? Hit a bad note...BANISHED TO HELL FOR ETERNITY! All I can say is, don't fuck up!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Malevolent Ultimate Dungeon of Doom

Yeah, I finished it after making a crudely drawn map in the online version of Dungeonographer. It's what I had, so that's what I used. Anyway, here it is in its infinite glory:

One Page Dungeon Contest

The past two years, I didn't really pay attention to the One Page Dungeon Contest, and that sorta sucks because perusing through the entries...there's some good stuff. Anyway, I decided to write up an entry but I cannot draw worth a crap so there will be no aspirations of actually winning anything. Still, I have a good title: The Malevolent Ultimate Dungeon of Doom. A good title is all you need, right?

Anyway, I'll post it tomorrow whenever I'm able to use a drawing program so it doesn't look like total ass. AND THAT IS MY POST OF THE DAY!

Monday, March 28, 2011


Not this, unfortunately...

Requirements: CON 12
Prime Requisite: CON
Hit Dice: 1d10(+4)
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Fighter

Berserkers are warriors who fight with reckless abandon and conquer their foes with fury instead of skill. All berserkers belong to a religious cult overseen by druids that provides training. This training requires the bulk of any money gained through adventuring, and a berserker may only retain as much as he can carry after expenses are paid. Berserkers fight as clerics, utilizing any armor or weapon (see below).

Berserkergang: By working himself into a frenzy, a Berserker increases his competency in combat at the expense of sanity. When in berserkergang, the berserker fights as a Fighter of the same level, adds +lvl damage to melee attacks and receives an additional 4xlvl hit points (e.g. a 3rd level Berserker would have 12 additional hit points and would inflict +3 to damage). This effect lasts 1 melee round per point of CON. At the conclusion of the berserkergang, a Berserker reverts to his normal hit points minus any damage taken, which can result in a negative total. A successful Save vs. Death in this case leaves the berserker with 1 hit point and he must rest for 1d6 Turns; failure means death. A Berserker in berserkergang must attack the closest live enemy, even if those that pose no immediate threat. A Berserker can end his berserkergang prematurely if all enemies are defeated. There is no limit on the number of times a Berserker can enter berserkergang.

Animal Form: Much like Druids, at 7th level a Berserker can assume either the form of a bear or wolf (player's choice, once made it cannot be altered), three times per day. The Berserker attacks as a monster of HD equal to his level but retains his own hit points. He can enter berserkergang when transformed if so wished. This form attacks three times per round inflicting 1d8 damage per attack. The Berserker adds his STR and berserkergang bonus to these rolls. Transitioning forms heals 1d6x10% of damage taken.

Reaching 9th Level: Berserkers who reach 9th level attract 1d4 animal companions, almost always bear and wolf cubs, but occassionally badgers, wolverines, dogs, hawks, eagles and ravens (see table below). Berserkers build no strongholds and at higher levels tend to abandon society, associating mostly with druids and other berserkers.

Animal Companions (d20)

1-6: Bear cub
7-12: Wolf cub
13-14: Badger
15: Wolverine
16-17: Dog
18-19: Hawk or Eagle
20: Raven

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Narrativist Roleplaying, or "Fuck Dice"

I just noticed this is my 21st post this month, surpassing my previous two years output in toto. I had decided I was going to, at minimum, post something every weekday from now on, just to get in the habit of writing again. Looks like I successfully accomplished my goal; I like accomplishing goals.

Inspiration comes in strange places. It was this thread over at the OD&D forum (which I've been reading for around a year and just now got around to registering for) that prompted this post, specifically the part where the DM does all the die-rolling. It wasn't the thread itself that gave me any of these ideas, instead it made me remember some stuff from a long time ago, how we used to do things, and I felt compelled to write it down just so I could revisit the concepts at a later date.

Anyway, narrativist roleplaying...I'm not advocating douchey Vampire-style gaming. Far from it. Instead, this is more of a recollection from an earlier era when I didn't have any resources other than time and my own brain. I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating so you don't have to sift through a bunch of crap to find out what I'm talking about: I started playing D&D in 8th grade. I remember vividly the day when my friend David brought his Mentzer Red Box to science class. He sat right behind me, perusing its contents. I knew about D&D through Intellivision and other video games, the cartoon, saw it in Toys R Us, etc. D&D was a fairly ubiquitous part of pop culture during the early 80s, but I never played it. This was my first chance to really get a good look, and I was instantly enthralled. That whole class I copied down the mapping symbols, for no real reason. I drew up a map completely unlike anything I've ever seen published that night, probably because I had no idea what I was doing. The next day, David let me read the player's book at lunch and I was addicted. That weekend, he stayed over and we played my first game. David was the DM and played an NPC, a chaotic dwarf. I played a fighter, as did my brother. Straight out of the DM's book, we conquered the dungeon to David's chagrin. He started making up crap to throw at us, and for whatever reason my character was unbeatable.

Unfortunately, the Red Box wasn't free, so I started saving up to buy it. Over the course of about a month, I surely couldn't NOT play D&D simply because I didn't have any rules. So I made them up. My parents had a party a few weeks later, and some cousins and friends and I were hanging out (as an aside, being a kid sure was fun). I mentioned I had played D&D and how much fun it was. Well, the next thing I knew, they were all asking to play. There were no rules, no dice, no paper, pencils, anything. That night we played D&D for around six or seven hours with absolutely nothing. I was the DM and used my extremely limited knowledge of how the game was played to come up with a scenario for everyone. My cousin was enthralled, and when I saw him again a week later, he insisted we play again. Another marathon session followed that night. And into the next day. We played D&D at the swimming pool, during lunch, riding our bikes, at the park. Pretty much wherever we were, around three or four kids and I were playing D&D. After around a month and a half, I finally got the Red Box. And DICE!

Funny thing about those dice...we really didn't use them much, if at all. Roll to attack, sometimes...roll for damage most of the time. But honestly, the dice were almost insignificant. I don't think I even had read more than 1/3 of the rules. No one else even bothered to look at the books, they relied on me to do that. Morale, I really didn't understand. Nor initiative or hit dice or 90% of the stuff. And yet, we had some fucking kickass sessions. Characters died and triumphed, kingdoms were won and lost, gold found and spent. The idea of the game was infinitely more powerful than the implementation. The dice were nothing more than a reminder that it was still only a game and sometimes randomness needed to be interjected. The players explained what they wanted to do, I decided if it seemed reasonable or not. Isn't that really what D&D is? The referee's job is to determine if things make sense, if there is success or failure. The dice aren't a hinderance, but they certainly aren't infallible, either.

I wonder if the diceless, rules-less D&D we were playing was better than after we got the rules and dice. I wonder if perhaps not having those things actually leads to better game play simply because the players have to use their brains and not rely on external factors, if the DM does a better job because he has to keep a consistent environment completely independent of anything he might have written down earlier. I know for a fact that my dungeons were vividly detailed; they had to be. The descriptions I gave were completely off-the-cuff, yet fully realized. Does the act of writing down a dungeon's contents lose some of the wonder? Perhaps it ceases to become a place of mystery and instead an exercise in spelunking.

The narrativist gaming we did was completely dependent on our situation, not on any conscious decision to get rid of the rules, and that, I think, is why it was such a magical experience. Written rules inherently limit you, even if they are excessively liberal. What character classes were the players in my game? I have no idea, probably wizards and warriors and priests and whatever else. Did it matter? They adventured just the same, with or without a definitive hit point total or armor class. The warriors swung maces and clubs, not caring that swords did more damage. How could they know that? There weren't any rules telling them that was the case. The characters had unlimited options because we had unlimited imaginations.

I suppose it's possible someone might read this and say, "You really weren't playing D&D." In response I say, of course we were. I've read the original D&D books, those things are sparse as hell. Attributes are essentially meaningless, everything does 1d6 damage, spells are nothing more than names, etc. If you read enough fantasy novels, you can come up with enough ideas to fuel a narrative-based game without ever having read D&D. And yet, the IDEA of D&D is the important part. Without the Red Box, I wouldn't have known the context in which to put my notions of swords and sorcery. With just a simple read-through, however, I was able to create a virtually limitless campaign far more fun than I've had ever since. The rules and dice are meaningless to the game once you decide you want to play. It occurs to me that as people grow older they require more codification in the games they play. Kids do not need this whatsoever. The funny part is the kids are the ones having all the fun.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Something really stupid

Gaming Forum Poster
Requirements: See Below
Prime Requisite: CON
Hit Dice: 1d12
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Cleric

The Gaming Forum Poster (GFP) is a specialized type of internet user with an affinity for roleplaying game message boards. They are impulsive, abrasive and possess low intelligence (INT and WIS no higher than 8), but can absorb exceptional amounts of punishment (CON 15 of greater). The GFP is relentless and impossible to reason with. They pursue their goals regardless of factual or logical inability to achieve them, prefering to pummel their opponents into submission rather than admit defeat. They can wear any armor but can only use two-handed clubs.

Unconquerable: A GFP who is reduced to 0 hit points can roll a Save vs. Death at +8. Success means their hit points are full restored and all ailments cured. Failure results in a coma lasting 1d30 days, after which they will awake fully healed.

Fallacious Attack: When attacking, GFPs ignore the effects of armor and high dexterity. All rolls are made as if the target had an AC of 9.

Reaching 9th Level: GFPs who reach 9th level are called "Moderators" and cannot be killed by any means. They automatically hit their targets in combat, inflicting 1-1000 points of damage (their choice).

Forum Troll
No. Enc.: 1d8 (1d8)
Alignment: Chaotic Humorous
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: -10
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d10
Save: C20
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP: Nil

The natural enemy of the Gaming Forum Poster, Forum Trolls are immune to their attacks. Any hit by a Forum Troll upon a GFP results in the GFP contacting a Moderator who may banish the troll for up to one year. The troll may return before this time, but will have a different appearance and personality. Some Forum Trolls become GFPs themselves, moving to new lands after banishment.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ye Olde Schoole CRPGs

I've mentioned computer rpgs more than a few times on this blog; I figured today I'd go over some of my favorite ones (possibly 5..?)

First of all, what constitutes a computer rpg? That's the primary question, as there are differing opinions on the matter. But, really, that's more of a modern day construct. Back in the 80s, when D&D was at its height and personal computers became prevalent, no one thought just because there weren't any funny voices and the games were mostly focused on combat that you weren't roleplaying. If anything, the older games succinctly distilled the essence of rpgs into computer form the best they possibly could given the available technology. And, quite honestly, they still stand the test of time. It's not nostalgia to say you'd rather play Wizardry than Dragon Age if you've actually played both and STILL play Wizardry. Granted, Dragon Age was pretty fun, and the graphics are great, but it pales in comparison to Ultima.

Anyway, here are the ones that stick out as games I'd play all the time if given the chance.

Bard's Tale II

I was about 12 years old and we had just got an Apple ][ at home. It was around this time I started playing D&D, and as mentioned before I was somewhat obsessed with it. As usual on Saturdays, my family went to the PX to go shopping for various things. I wasn't really too happy about this, as I wanted to roll up new dungeons and read fantasy novels. Conveniently, the PX had just setup a large display of computers, and people were playing all sorts of games on them, one of which was Bard's Tale II. Instantly I was hooked. I watched a guy play BT2 for literally 45 minutes before my mom made me leave the store, and decided that I needed to play that game as soon as possible. Unfortunately it was around a year later before I ever got a copy, and it was a bootleg one of my cousin's friends gave me. Even more unfortunately, the dungeon disk was defective. This didn't stop me from putting together a pretty badass party of adventurers. I finally did beat the game a few years back after I purchased The Ultimate RPG Archives. I really like BT2's character creation process, leveling system and spells. Some of the more irritating aspects are only 8 slots for equipment, insta-death illusion spells and a nearly invincible final boss. Overall, a great game.


So, I got the The Ultimate Wizardry Archives around the same time as the other collection listed above, and damn...I played the shit out of Wizardry. This was another one of those games I never really got to play enough of as a kid. I had a bootleg copy of it but couldn't figure out how to play it very well, mostly because I didn't have any of the manuals and thus no idea what the spells were. At some point I found a magazine article that listed some of this information, made photocopies of it and tried again. By this time I was already far too interested in Wasteland and post-apocalyptic crap to care too much about fantasy games anymore. Extremely unfortunate because Wizardry was not only one of the very first computer rpgs, it remains the best. If you actually win the game, you are worthy of praise for it is hard as fuck. Wizardry IV is considered by most as the hardest game ever created, apparently conceived to give Wizardry experts a decent challenge. I tried it a few times and died instantly. Definitely no hand-holding here, unlike most of today's games...

Ultima III

Pretty much the quintessential computer rpg. Great game play, puzzles, cool graphics, fun combat. Ultima III has everything you'd want out of an rpg. There was a port to Windows someone did a while back with updated graphics and sound, etc., but I have no idea whatever happened to that. Yes, I have The Ultima Collection, too. I did beat this game eventually on my Apple, but it was somewhat anti-climatic as I had resorted to hex editing my characters. Cheating was a much more intellectual process back in the old days of PCs.

Wizard's Crown

Easily my favorite, and the first crpg I ever bought. After not getting BT2 as already mentioned, I saved up for a month to buy it. My brother chipped in a few bucks and to the PX we went! Unfortunately, BT2 was sold out, but we were not to be deterred and looked around for something that appealed to us. The box drew me in instantly and reading the manual on the way home conjured up endless fantasies in my brain. My brother and I must have played that game every day for literally 6 months. I never did beat it, but the character disks are somewhere in my garage. Perhaps it might be time to revisit the game and finish it once and for all. Anyway, WC taught me a lot about logistics, tactical combat, strategy and more importantly, running away. Modern crgps never really present you with a challenge you can't handle, but WC (and all the games listed here) didn't give one fuck if you couldn't win. There was a command to escape, and the game expected you to use it. TPKs were far too often if you played like a dumbass, and that's the way it should be.


Without Wasteland there is no Fallout, and consequently no Fallout 2 or Fallout 3. Oh, and probably no Planescape, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and a whole lot of other D&D-based games such as Dragon Age and even crap like Morrowind. This game was groundbreaking, and paved the path for Black Isle to do a bunch of other super popular titles that even modern gamers admit were pretty good. It's Mad Max meets Commando, and as a kid growing up in the 80s, nothing gets any better than that. This is part of the Ultimate RPG Archives I mentioned above, which is good because without the manual the game is unplayable. Never got really far in this game because I kept trying to attack towns or died from radiation poisoning.


I only mention Nethack here because if you truly want a challenge, this is it. Nethack is currently supported and developed, so it's available to play on any modern computer. Further, there's a level of detail unsurpassed in any computer game I've ever played. If you can think of it, chances are there's a command in Nethack to do it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fear and Loathing in the Wilderness

The Hunter is basically a more roguish wilderness class for those who don't want to play a Ranger but still want some outdoors abilities. Their critical hit ability makes them decent assassins. Yes, I did play Bard's Tale. And, yes, unfortunately the title of this post is a lame pun.

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Fighter

Hunters are individuals who track and kill animals for food. Some Hunters find that their skill-set is better served in warfare or the tracking of people. They can wear leather armor and use a shield, fight as well as Clerics and employ any one-handed melee weapon or missile weapons of all types. Hunters can Move Silently and Hide in Shadows as a Thief of the same level.

Tracking: Hunters can track creatures as Rangers (cf. Rangers LL:AEC pg 19).

Critical Hits: Hunters are adept at killing swiftly as animals that escape do not provide dinner. At 1st level, a Hunter who rolls a Natural 20 will score a critical. Base damage is rolled twice, and additional modifiers then added. For example, a shortsword using Hunter with 16 STR (+2 damage) would roll 2d6+2 for damage if a critical was indicated. Every 5 levels, a Hunter gains an additional 5% chance to score a critical hit and an additional die of base damage. At 11th level, our shortsword using Hunter will critical on a roll of 18, 19 or 20 and roll 4d6 base damage. Bonuses to damage from magic are considered base for purposes of this ability. A shortsword that grants +2 damage would be considered to have a base of 1d6+2, and thus an 11th level Hunter would roll 4d6+8 as base damage. If a Hunter surprises an opponent, any hit made will be a critical during the surprise round. In all cases, the attack roll must hit before critical damage is determined.

Reaching 9th Level: A Hunter can build a wilderness stronghold if desired. He will not be granted any titles, but will be accepted as autonomous. If a stronghold is built, he will attract followers, typically other Hunters and possibly Thieves.

Reaching 11th Level: High level Hunters who achieve a Critical Hit may elect to instantly kill their target instead of rolling damage. The chance to kill is determined identically to the Assassination ability possessed by Assassins (see LL:AEC pg 10). Hunters who fail to kill their target outright roll damage as if they did not inflict a critical hit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I'm sure a lot of people have seen this, but:60 Minutes Story on D&D

It doesn't take much to completely deconstruct the arguments used here, but my favorite part is Pat Pulling talking about how she never knew her son played D&D, yet was healthy and well-adjusted. So, essentially, she knew everything about him, other than his complete obsession with a game. Further, not more than a few minutes later, her daughter talks about a death threat the kid gave her. Surely he was mentally healthy, right? Gygax looks pretty pissed throughout. The balding assclown talking about how a parent witnessed their kid summoning a demon is the best. What fucking version of D&D were they playing? My books never had any real spells in them...I think we all got gyped, guys.

Short Review: Castle Keepers Guide

I seriously did not feel like typing up yet another character class today, so instead I'll focus on a short review for a book I just got last week: the Castle Keeper's Guide for Castles and Crusades. Abbreviated CKG and C&C from now on because I don't feel like typing those words out anymore.

Some background...I bought C&C when it was first released due to some threads I read on Dragonsfoot. At the time, I was mostly playing AD&D after a long stint with D&D 3rd edition, and C&C sounded like a good mix of those two games. Unified gaming mechanic with essentially AD&D character classes and "feel". I thought C&C was a fine game, but didn't care for the layout much. Consequently, I bought the 2nd printing which fixed a lot of the presentation issues. I also purchased Monsters and Treasure (M&T), thought it was a nice addition to the game. Before that, though, I even bought one of the Limited Edition (tm) boxed sets. I think mine is number 252. I truly tried to support the game. But then, I waited. For literally five years. For. The. Castle. Keepers. Guide. Kept waiting and waiting. It would be announced, and then put on hiatus. I had such high hopes, but after a while I sort of lost interest in the game, mostly because I didn't feel like it was being supported properly. Yes, the PHB and M&T was enough to play C&C, especially since I read the 1st edition DMG about fifty times. There was literally nothing the CKG could give me I needed to actually play, but psychologically, C&C felt incomplete without it. Reading the message boards and (*shudder*), I began to see that a lot of people felt the same way as I did. While not quite on the same level as Duke Nukem Forever, the CKG was becoming vaporware of the same variety. Continually promised, never released. Lo! Release date of December 2010! I looked, digest version. Well, screw that. Then the whole insanely priced PDF fiasco...I figured I'd just wait another year and possibly pick it up in the bargain bin at Half-Priced Books.

Then, I got an email...from Troll Lord Games. I get emails from them all the time. This one, however, promised a massive sale. I could get the newest printings of the PHB and M&T for $20, both hardcover. Not a bad deal, so I decided to spend a couple bucks. I also noticed the CKG, hardcover, full-sized, was available for sale. After 5 years, I was skeptical of receiving an actual book; I figured it'd be one of those eBay scams and I'd just get a picture of the book with a note saying, "Sucker!" F it, I said to myself, and added it to the order.

The box came last week, and it felt far too heavy to only be two books. I opened it. PHB, that's good. M&T, alright. CKG. I had the CKG in my hands, the questing beast had finally been captured. I spent that night reading almost the whole thing, which was no small feat given its size. However, I thought that perhaps my views would be overshadowed by FINALLY getting the damn thing, so I re-read most of it over the weekend so I could approach it more objectively. Here's what I think...

First of all, it's an extremely nice book. The construction is pretty good, and I like the layout. There's a strange quirk where examples early in the book are simply part of the text flow, but later examples are surrounded by a thick, black box. I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but it can be a little disruptive. I prefer non-boxed examples, personally. Even better, just remain consistent. There are some obvious typos and grammatical errors, which are expected in any book. Definitely better than previous TLG releases, that's for sure. Overall, the presentation is very nice.

As far as content goes, the CKG resembles the DMG is many respects, but I feel it's an homage as opposed to a duplication. There is a large section on fully fleshing out characters (attribute generation, height/weight charts, age charts, how to treat monster characters...doesn't this sound familiar?), all of which is useful. This is followed by a large section (Chapter 4) on hirelings and henchmen (familiar yet??), easily my favorite part of the book; I'd say it might even surpass the DMG for usefulness for dealing with henchmen, which is no small feat.

The second major section of the book deals almost entirely with "the world" wherein the game takes place. There's a lengthy exposition on developing the world itself, cities, dungeons, monster ecology and giving land as reward. Rules for large-scale war are covered as well. I really liked the monster ecology stuff as it's interesting and insightful. What I didn't like here was all the advice that kept talking about "stories" and how to advance the "story" and why the CK needed to be concerned with a "story" he was telling in collaboration with the players. I've covered my feelings on this "story" idea crap already on this blog, but let's just say that is not Old School, and it's definitely not part of any game I'm interested in. It's nice that the CK has a plot laid out and he wants to tell his "story", but some of the advice reeks of the entitlement a lot some gamers have for their characters. If you fuck up, you should die, as far as I'm concerned. Decide to attack an ancient red dragon at 1st level? Good bye! The CKG gives ideas for creating "balanced" challenges or some nonsense...well, considering it is D&D3 backported, this makes some sense. Still, I absolutely HATE that kind of crap. I'm reminded of an AD&D game I was running not that long ago. The characters entered a tomb, lots of undead. They found a ring of x-ray vision (certainly a pretty badass treasure for 1st and 2nd level characters), placed there by me to keep them alive. One of them looks through a coffin and sees a body, that isn't decayed and in fact looks to be rather well preserved. So what do these geniuses do? Why, open the coffin, of course! They didn't have a cleric, and one of the characters was consequently drained, killing him. My how they bitched about that. Did *I* err on the side of harshness by having a wight there, sleeping in a coffin? Nope. Even if they didn't have the ring, the players shouldn't expect that knocking over coffins in the basement of a f'd up necromancer will be without peril. I'll never buy into the idea that D&D should be like a video game, with harder encounters as the characters gain in power. As a DM, I give the players the option of avoiding death, but if they choose poorly, well, adios suckers. So, yeah, that part of the CKG was annoying, basically.

The last part of the book deals mostly with the Siege Engine, mechanics, treasure and how to extend character abilities. There are a lot of good examples of how to make judgments, assign difficulty levels, etc. Overall, useful and interesting.

In closing, 75% of the book was, for me, pretty good. I didn't care for some of the stuff, but considering the size of the CKG, I got my money's worth for sure. Overall I'd recommend this book to anyone who plays C&C, and even Old School gamers will find some interesting, useful things. The whole section on world building might actually be worth the price if you're interested in creating logical environments for your players.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Your basic light, mobile fighter with a few abilites to keep them alive. They're not stealthy, nor scout-like, and instead should be treated as regular fighters who soften up an enemy before the main battle takes place.

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Fighter

Skirmishers are light infantry who augment the main force of an army with harassment of the enemy, typically using ranged weapons. They are trained to be mobile, thus can only wear leather armor. They are able to use shields and employ any weapon, but are partial to short swords, bows and slings. They receive +1 to attack/damage with any ranged weapon. Skirmishers engage in combat as Fighters, and are treated as Fighters in all other respects (magic-item use, spell effects, etc.)

Dodge Missiles: Due to their combat role, Skirmishers are adept at dodging arrows, bolts and sling bullets with a successful save vs. Breath Attacks (cf. Monks).

Fast Movement: At 1st level, a Skirmisher moves at 120'(40'), i.e. as a normal adventurer. At 5th level this increases to 150'(50'). At 9th level a Skirmisher moves 180'(60'), and at 12th level 210'(70'). Skirmishers of 15th level and above move at 240'(80').

Reaching 9th Level: As Fighters.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why didn't know about this before?

Definitely NSFW...

Good old Necromancers

This one was quick. I never liked the idea of Necromancers being some really weird class, ONLY concerned with Undead and death. My take on them is essentially that they took a liking to animating dead when they were apprentices and possibly spent a lot of their spare time with the local priest. Since they essentially are just "better" Magic-Users, they have a higher XP cost to advance. This is another class that requires good roleplaying to pull-off: necromancers don't bother with crap like magic missile. I'd go so far as to paint them somewhat pacifistic in the sense that they deal with death so much they'd rather not cause it if possible. Paradoxically, these are the guys who WOULD be hanging out with a bunch of fighters descending into the depths of a long-lost labyrinth, due to their fascination with decay and entropy.

No idea what the deal is with the table below. It's coded correctly, yet still prints about 20 /n characters. Stupid blogging software...and then I tried to fix it with a monospace font, but it converted all the tab stops to spaces. CSS was supposed to make formatting so much easier, wasn't it? Oh, and I'm finally DONE with all the alternate spell-casting classes. Yeesh, that took a while. On to the fighters and thieves.

Requirements: INT 12, CON 12
Prime Requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
Saves: Magic-User

Experience Level

0 1

2,751 2

5,501 3

11,001 4

22,001 5

43,001 6

85,001 7

170,001 8

320,001 9

475,001 10

630,001 11

775,001 12

935,001 13

1,075,001 14

1,235,001 15

1,385,001 16

1,540,001 17

1,700,001 18

1,850,001 19

2,010,001 20

Necromancers are Magic-Users who prefer to deal with the Undead. They can control Undead much like clerics, but for all other purposes act as Magic-Users. Whatever applies to Magic-Users applies to necromancers as regards armor, weapons and fighting ability. While not necessarily evil, they are private individuals who prefer acting subtly. Most Necromancers do not bother learning flashy spells such as fireball or lightning bolt, and most see evocation spells as akin to using a hammer to drive in screws.

Spell Casting: Necromancers cast spells in exactly the same way as Magic-Users (see MAGIC-USER SPELL PROGRESSION chart pg. 16 LL:AEC). They can use Magic-User scrolls and magic items.

Control Undead: Necromancers can Control Undead in much the same way as chaotic Clerics (see TURNING UNDEAD TABLE pg. 13 LL:AEC). They perform this ability as a Cleric of two levels higher (e.g. a 5th level Necromancer affects Undead as a 7th level Cleric). A Necromancer rolls 3d6 to determine the number of HD of Undead affected. At 5th level this increases to 4d6, and 5d6 at 9th level. Undead will serve until destroyed or controlled by a rival cleric/necromancer.

Reaching 9th Level: As per Magic-Users.

Reaching 15th Level: The Necromancer can begin researching lichdom if he so chooses. Not all Necromancers select this path; those that do make it their primary goal. The resources and time required are left to the DM's judgment, but 1-2 million gp and several years (if not more) are recommended.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Warlocks aka Elementalists

Technically, a warlock is a male witch (I think...there are so many contradictory opinions on what the word means, but Websters says it is essentially a masculine version of witch, so there you have it). This, however, is sort of influenced by the Palladium FRPG (imagine that), in that instead of deriving power from infernal means, the warlock draws his power from an elemental plane. The Elemental Control power could be easily abused, but a good DM should be able to come up with plenty of ways to keep it in check. These guys also have an alien mindset, and at higher levels probably don't even understand human emotion anymore. That might actually be a real roleplaying challenge.

Warlocks (Elementalists)
Requirements: INT 12, WIS 15
Prime Requisite: INT, WIS
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Magic-User
Saves: Magic-User

Warlocks are similar to witches in that they make pacts with external sources to derive their power. Unlike witches, however, warlocks are more than simply a conduit for a demon or devil to act; they instead form a symbiotic relationship with an elemental plane, drawing energy directly from it. They cannot wear armor, and only employ small weapons like Magic-Users, who they fight as.

The Pact: Warlocks must pick a source of power, i.e. an elemental plane, and derive all their powers from this source. The DM is the final authority on what planes exist, but typically these include Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Energy (Positive or Negative) and Shadow. Para or Quasi elemental planes might also be available. This pact is not one of servitude; it is a voluntary relationship, almost parasitic in nature. Warlocks can be seen as a type of elemental priest, similar to Druids but far more limited in scope.

Elemental Nature: Warlocks see themselves as their patron element in humanoid form, and this influences their thinking and approach. Fire warlocks, for instance, are usually impulsive, almost psychotic at times. Earth warlocks would be more stoic and slow to act. Other elemental types can easily be extrapolated. At 5th Level spells affect them as if they were elementals; they are inhibited by spells such as Protection From Evil, but immune to Charm Person, for example. At 7th Level, a Warlock becomes totally immune to detrimental effects of his patron element. At 9th level, his body is no longer flesh and instead an expression of his element. He can only be harmed by magic weapons and magic and can freely switch between humanoid form and an elemental form of comparable HD (a 13th level Warlock can become a 13 HD elemental at will). At 11th Level, a Warlock can freely visit his elemental plane at will.

Summon Elemental: Warlocks can summon elementals, of any type, 1/day as per the spell. The elemental will be 1HD in size per level of the Warlock. Elementals from the Warlock's plane of influence will be 2HD in size/level. It will serve without question for 1 turn per level of the warlock (or until released), requiring no mental control. Warlocks will ALWAYS try to release elementals before they are destroyed. Any warlock who willingly causes the destruction of an elemental loses this power until he atones. Elementals are usually willing to risk their lives for Warlocks if the circumstances require it, and this isn't seen as a misuse of power. At 7th level, this power can be used 2/day, and at 11th level 3/day.

Elemental Control: Warlocks can control their element to some degree, increasing in ability as they increase in level. A warlock can generally affect his element in the same capacity as a Magic-User of the same level. For example, at 1st level, a fire warlock can create simple "fire bolts" (resembling magic missiles, possibly doing 1d3 damage), light small fires, create an effect similar to faerie fire, etc. At 3rd level, he would be able to simulate a Pyrotechnics spell or Resist fire. At 9th level, Wall of Fire or Flame Strike are possibilities, while at 17th level a Warlock has total control over his element. The player should determine the effect they wish to product, with the DM deciding if it is appropriate. This ability is NOT magical in nature, and is unaffected by anti-magic shells, dispel magic, etc. If used in combat, this ability takes 1 round of preparation per use (i.e. it can only be used every other round).

Magic Items: Warlocks have difficulty using magic items due to their elemental nature. At 1st level, they may use any item that is available to all character classes. At 5th level they are only able to use magic items related to their element or usable by elementals. At 9th level, warlocks can only employ items usable by elementals, and generally shun magic all-together, instead relying on their inherent powers.

Warlocks never gain followers, and no longer consider themselves human at higher levels. It is suspected that extremely powerful elemental lords were in fact warlocks at some point.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another bad guy: Witches

This one took some thought; hedge wizards fill, I think, the niche that I had in mind when originally compiling the list of alternative classes I came up with. They might call the old woman a witch, but really she's just a rural spell caster. This class, however, is much more sinister. Extremely powerful in some ways, limited in others, with essentially no free will. Once the contract is up, the witch is going to Hell/the Abyss to serve their master. The class would work pretty well as a PC in an evil campaign, but it would take a special kind of player to deal with being fucked with by their patron at every turn. Devils might be more easily dealt with, as the player could justify long, drawn out plans to commit mayhem. The downside is that contracts with devils would be nearly impossible to comprehend or get out of...anyway, I don't suggest this as a PC, because much like the Sorcerer, they're probably better left as NPC villains. These guys have no redeeming qualities.

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: WIS
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Magic-User
Saves: Magic-User

Witches purport to be the natural outgrowth of druidism for more civilized cultures, but share more in common with Sorcerers than Druids. Like Druids, they appear to be animistic, relying on nature to perform their magic. However, witches derive their power from a pact made with a demon or devil, and thus have no need for formalized training. Witches can use weapons as Magic-Users and fight just as poorly, but are able to employ leather armor.

The Pact: All witches serve a demon or devil lord, who acts as their deity and patron. This patron provides all of their powers. The terms of such a pact are left to the imagination of the DM, but witches who are anything but completely loyal usually find themselves in Bad Situations. Unlike Clerics, who rarely have direct contact with their deity, witches are intimately (sometimes carnally) familiar with their patron. The DM should be sure to act upon this relationship, especially when inconvenient, to stress not only the degree of servitude, but also the pettiness of demon/devils. Patrons will leave their mark, usually in a discrete place, on the witch's body after the pact is made.

Spell Casting: Witches don't require study to learn spells, do not need spell books and cannot read scrolls. They understand magic about as well as the average peasant, but are able to cast spells nonetheless. Use the MAGIC-USER SPELL PROGRESSION chart on pg. 16 of LL:AEC to determine spells per day. Much like Clerics, witches must petition their patron for spells in the morning (or after 8 hours of rest). The patron will grant whatever spells he feels like (from any spell list, including Magic-User, Cleric, Illusionist and Druid), the usefulness dependent upon how well the witch is furthering their cause. For example, a witch of Juiblex who recently fed some hapless villagers to a green slime (thus creating more green slimes), would be able to pick and choose their spells. If that same witch was actually responsible for destroying the green slime, they would probably be denied spells altogether. A patron will NEVER grant spells he feels might be used against him or his minions. The DM is the final authority on what spells are granted (if any).

Magic Item Use: Witches are able to employ magic items not specific to any character class, such as cloaks or boots, etc. However, witches who amass large numbers of magic items are suspect and held with contempt by their patrons. A witch may own at most 10 magic items in total, with items over this amount causing loss of granted powers.

Summon Patron: As a last resort, a witch can call upon their patron for help. There is a 2% chance (cumulative) per level that the call will be answered, with the patron himself making an appearance. The cost for a successful summoning is monumental and left to the DM to decide. Loss of levels, decrease in CON and destruction of property are all possible, depending on the severity of the threat. A high level witch directly promoting the cause of their patron and in legitimate need of help might only be inconvenienced slightly. A low level witch who called on their patron to dispatch an orc or two would be killed outright. This ability can be used at most 3 times during the lifetime of the witch; unsuccessful summons do not count toward this limit.

Reaching 3rd Level: If the witch has been a faithful servant, at 3rd level their patron will grant a special familiar, an imp if devil, quasit if demon. This familiar is ultimately loyal to the devil/demon lord, and essentially keeps tabs on the witch, reporting back as necessary. Witches who act contrary to the wishes of their patron may find themselves at odds with the familiar.

Reaching 5th Level: A faithful witch is granted an immunity at 5th level. This immunity is dependent upon the patron's sphere of influence. For example, a witch of Orcus would most likely be granted immunity to the effects of undead (perhaps undead will never attack the witch), a witch of Juiblex would probably be immune to slimes, molds and jellies. Other examples include fire, cold, acid, charms or arrows. The DM should decide the possible immunities available and either assign or randomly determine which one a witch receives.

Reaching 9th Level: Witches who reach 9th level will attract a coven (2D6+1) of 0-level commoners who will serve the witch as loyal followers. These followers will become witches themselves in 1d12 months.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wizards and some other stuff

Wizards are intended to be the counterpart to Sorcerers, but rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to simply steal Chris' White Wizard and be done with it. Essentially, they are arcane casters who use Cleric and Druid spell lists. I was writing up the Enchanter class, then decided there wasn't enough of a difference between them and regular Magic-Users who cast Charm Person a lot to justify a whole class, thus they are scrapped. I considered implementing some sort of "singing magic", but honestly I sort of hate that whole idea simply because Vancian Magic = D&D; you can always play Ars Magica or something if you think otherwise. Granted, I like Ars Magica quite a bit, but it's an entirely different game with an entirely different feel. So, anyway, no Enchanters. I already have a couple more magic classes to write up anyway, this isn't a huge loss.

I've been working on an adventure for a while now, but it sorta sucked and I junked it. Just how DO you come up with good published adventures, anyway? It's not exactly an easy task. Keep on the Borderlands seems to be a favorite of everyone in the OSR community, and yeah, I like it a lot, but there's an adventure I prefer above all others:

So, why does someone like me, who actually despises later TSR releases, enjoy this particular adventure? Well, it's not really an adventure whatsoever, first of all. Essentially, it's a bigass boxed set of a dungeon with a key of all the encounters. That's it. Endless fucking encounters, enough to keep any party of delvers busy until the end of time. And that's pretty Old School, if you ask me. There seems to be a lot of focus on "story" in the roleplaying community, but that's just nonsense. Stories are what you tell people after you've had experiences. Take, for instance, some of the war stories my father told me. I don't suppose he thought much of getting shot at when it was going on, wasn't thinking to himself, gee, this is such a great story to be a part of! No, he was ducking behind trees and hills to avoid getting killed. Upon reflection, that whole experience now becomes a story, told to someone else. So, too, is roleplaying, if it's to be meaningful in any sense of the word. Having some fatbeard put your characters into contrived situations so he can have his NPCs play out a shitty version of Hamlet for your amusement (yes, it has happened to me) isn't roleplaying, it's simply being a captive audience for a nerd. That's how I feel about most of the published adventures out there, that they're nothing more than an attempt at amateur theater by someone who couldn't sell their screenplay.

Let me clarify something: yes, UnderMountain has "adventures" included in it, but really these are nothing more than, "retrieve this item from the dungeon for me", or crap like that. Hand-wave stuff that every DM has used since the golden age of roleplaying. What's wrong with meeting at a tavern and then deciding to slay goblins? Isn't that sort of the point? It's inexplicable that a wizard, a priest and a thief would even leave the confines of a town in the first place, but there they go, traipsing off into a dark, dank cavern, seeking gold and sex from the attractive barmaid. Or something. Honestly, do you need any real justification? Part of me wants to say, yeah, because it'll make the inevitable story better. But another part just wants to say, look, we don't talk about how much the characters eat, take dumps or shave, why worry about other stupid details like why they left their comfortable homes to chase orcs across the countryside. "GET ME THE BAUBLE AND I SHALL REWARD YOU HANDSOMELY!" Okay, shady dude in a village, I shall get the bauble. Off, gents! Our fortunes we seek! That's it, we don't need anything else.

Okay, so how do you make an interesting it mostly just coming up with locations and NPCs who have reasons for being there, letting the DM decide how things play out? I'm unsure, but this does seem the way to go. Sounds way too much like sandbox gaming, whatever the hell that means. I don't really buy into the idea that sandbox gaming is anything other than roleplaying in the sense everyone used it in Ye Olde Dayes, before people tried to attach a meaning other than "it's a fun game we play". The DM makes the framework of a world, the players flesh it out and then stories are written about the activities that took place. So, should my adventure be just that? How can you publish sketchy crap? Most of the time, individual DMs edit everything anyway, adding or discarding things to make the adventure more suitable to their own vision...I'm still on the fence about this. You can't expect to crank out crap and have people use it, but you also can't expect to distribute a 3 page write up that is nothing more than a crudely drawn map and some obvious tropes about goblins invading town. This isn't easy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Witch Doctors and Hedge Wizards

Witch Doctors
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 9
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Magic-User

Witch Doctors are tribal spell casters who generally work in conjunction with shamans, serving as village elders and sages. They fight as well as magic-users, can use any one-handed weapons and wear "natural" armors (made from leather, hide, bone, etc.) They cannot use shields.

Spell Casting: Witch Doctors cast Magic-User spells and follow the same progression as a MU of the same level (up to 5th level spells). Memorization takes twice as long, however, to simulate the more ritualistic nature of their magic. Further, they are able to cast a limited number of Cleric spells (any spell that heals damage). Witch Doctors are wholly unable to research new spells.

Scoll Use: Witch Doctors can employ any Magic-User scroll normally. They can also make use of Cleric and Druid spells of 1st and 2nd level enscribed on scrolls.

Reaching 9th level: A Witch Doctor of 9th level is considered a village elder, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails. Typically, this includes a retinue of 2d6 warriors (Hunters and Thugs) selected from the best fighters in a clan. Within the confines of his village, an elder has no need for money, food, clothing, etc.

Hedge wizards
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: INT
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 6
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Magic-User

Hedge Wizards are "minor" spell casters with little formalized education. They function in the same way as shamans/witch doctors, but for civilized individuals living in rural environments. They are extremely limited in level, fight as Magic-Users, wear no armor and use small, one-handed weapons.

Spell Casting: Hedge Wizards cast spells as a Magic-User of the same level (up to 3rd level spells). However, they can cast any spell found, including Cleric, Druid, Magic-User and Illusionist spells. While this gives them extreme versatility, all spell effects are reduced to reflect their inability to fully grasp magic. Halve all spell durations; die rolls are done with the next lowest die (i.e. Fireball damage is rolled using 1d4 per level). Hedge Wizards must keep a spell book and start with but one Magic-User spell. All other spells must be found on scrolls and transcribed into their book.

Scroll/Item Use: Hedge Wizards are able to use any scroll, without a reduction in effect. Further, they are able to employ any magic items usable by Magic-Users, as well as general items usable by all classes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The best roleplaying supplement of all-time

After cranking out a bunch of stuff over the past few days, I decided to take somewhat of a reprieve, mostly so I could figure out exactly how to implement a few of the classes I have left to create. So, I began thinking: what is the best roleplaying supplement, ever? I'm not talking about game system, or a set of rules, simply the best individual book ever published for roleplaying games, in general. The book that offers something for everyone, even if you don't happen to play the game in question. The book you can read countless times, gleaning new information each and every time you pick it up. That's what I'm talking about. Think about this yourself for a few moments and see what you come up with. For me, I think it's fairly easy to choose, and choose wisely I have.

That's right, kids, the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Let's go over what this book has to offer to support my rather obvious choice.

  1. Charts. And tables. Endless charts and tables. If you're ever at a loss during a game, the DMG has so many damn charts and tables covering a huge range of options that you can just start rolling and come up with something. NPC reactions, room descriptions, encumbrance, poison, traps, construction of castles, whatever. Anyone can make a book of charts and tables, but no roleplaying book has ever done it to the magnitude and competency of the DMG.
  2. Advice. No book has ever laid out quite so succinctly exactly WHAT a roleplaying game is and the role of the dungeon master within the context of that game. I think the concept of "game" is the most important part here; the DMG makes no haughty claims of performance art, nor tries to pass off D&D as some sort of exercise in the exploration of the human psyche. No, it talks about a game that people play for fun. Gygax takes his fun seriously, though, and I suspect most gamers do. He expects the DM to be a fair judge, but never to side with the players nor the environment. Situations are to be handled with consistency, but always at the promotion of whatever is most fun. It's a fine line to walk, ensuring players get hosed for being idiots yet keeping them interested in the game despite their stupidity. As Gygax states quite clearly, unless there are repercussions for failure, reward has no meaning. Excellent advice, for anyone running any roleplaying game.
  3. Information. I use this term loosely, but the DMG has so much fucking information it's ridiculous. Descriptions on how certain spells work, aerial combat, magic items, economics, demographics, ecology, how melee operates, effects of lycanthropy, an almost limitless amount of information. None of which is required to run the game, Gygax points out. The DMG is simply a guidebook on how things were done for Gygaxian D&D, a reference each individual DM can use as an example for the creation of his own game. There is so much information here, so rich in flavor and detail, you can't help but stop after reading each paragraph and wonder how it would fit into your game or what you'd do differently.
  4. That leads me to the last point: Inspiration. Even if the DMG is devoid of any meaningful use for your particular game, it offers inspiration, and that is more important than possibly anything else. I have never been able to open the DMG without feeling somewhat inspired about a certain aspect of a game I was running. Say whatever you want about "Gygaxian prose", but it certainly makes me want to play D&D after having read it. That, I think, is the true legacy of the DMG, why it is in fact the best roleplaying supplement ever: it makes you want to play.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sorcerers: ultimate bad guys

As I was writing this class up, I realized how inappropriate it was for a "hero", at least whatever that term means within the context of a roleplaying game. I'll admit it, I greatly dislike flashy magic, and the idea of wizards traipsing about in dungeons, firing off magic missile spells just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it was all the Chivalry & Sorcery supplements I read that colored my thinking...anyway, the sorcerer as presented below is intended mainly to be an NPC. The PCs will never meet this guy face-to-face (if they're lucky), and instead will deal with his minions. At a high enough level, a sorcerer will usually have a bunch of demon friends hanging around at all times, the ability to summon countless monsters to deal with surly heroes, and probably a Teleport spell prepared to escape, just in case things go south. Guys who can compel Demogorgon and Orcus to do tasks for them aren't to be taken lightly...

Requirements: INT 17
Prime Requisite: None
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Magic-User
Saves: Magic-User

Sorcerers are spell casters who engage in the "maleficium", or black magic. They are mostly concerned with the summoning of demons to perform tasks, and seek to acquire power through the subjugation of others. Sorcerers are wholy corrupt individuals and are often the target of persecution by the clergy. They fight as Magic-Users, utilize the same weapons and wear no armor. Sorcerers cannot read Magic-User scrolls and in fact possess their own spell lists incomprehensible to other spell casters.

Spell Casting: Sorcerers cast spells much like Magic-Users (see MAGIC-USER SPELL PROGRESSION chart on pg. 16 of LL:AEC), albeit with a different spell list. They require a spell book, preparation, etc.

Summoning: All summoning spells not outlined below (i.e new spells) have twice the listed duration. At 5th level this increases to 4x duration. At 9th level, summoned creatures (except demons) will remain in service to the sorcerer until killed or released. These creatures can be dispelled normally. When Summoning a Familiar, Sorcerers will always (100% chance) receive a special familiar (imp or quasit).

Control Demons: Much like evil Clerics may compel the undead to do their bidding, so too may Sorcerers compel demons to follow their command. Use the TURNING UNDEAD TABLE (pg. 13 LL:AEC), substituting demon HD for undead HD. Extremely powerful beings such as Orcus are usually willing to enter into contracts with high level sorcerers. Weaker ones are simply destroyed.

Reaching 9th Level: At 9th level sorcerers may create any magic item which aids in the summoning and controlling of creatures. At 11th level they may begin building a tower, which attracts 1d6 apprentices.


Level 1
Cause Fear
Charm Person
Detect Evil/Good
Detect Magic
Protection from Evil/Good
Summon Familiar
Summon Monster I
Unseen Servant

Level 2
Continual Darkness
Darkness Globe
Hold Person
Ray of Enfeeblement
Stinking Cloud
Summon Monster II

Level 3
Bestow Curse
Charm Monster
Dispel Magic
Explosive Runes
Protection from Evil/Good 10' Radius
Summon Monster III

Level 4
Conjure Elemental
Globe of Invulnerability, Lesser
Hold Monster
Faithful Hound
Polymorph Self
Polymorph Others
Summon Demon
Summon Monster IV

Level 5
Animate Dead
Contact Other Plane
Invisible Stalker
Magic Jar
Summon Shadow
Summon Monster V
Wall of Force

Level 6
Anti-Magic Shell
Conjure Animals
Death Spell
Flesh to Stone
Globe of Invulnerability
Suggestion, Mass
Summon Monster VI

Level 7
Grasping Hand
Holy/Unholy Word
Instant Summons
Power Word Stun
Summon Demon II
Summon Monster VII

Level 8
Clenched Fist
Mass Charm
Polymorph Any Object
Power Word Blind
Spell Resistance
Summon Monster VIII
Trap the Soul

Level 9
Astral Projection
Power Word Kill
Prismatic Sphere
Shape Change
Summon Demon III
Summon Monster IX

Summon Demon II
Level: 7 Sorcerer
Duration: See below
Range: 10'

This spell functions almost exactly the same as a summon demon spell, with the following differences. The summoning takes 1 turn per 3 HD of demon, the demon saves vs. spells at -4 on the roll and a protective circle is not required. The demon may be required to serve up to 18 weeks.

Summon Demon III
Level: 9 Sorcerer
Duration: See below
Range: 10'

An extremely potent version of the summon demon spell. The Sorcerer only requires 1 turn total to complete the summoning, regardless of HD of the demon, the demon is not allowed a saving throw and a protective circle is not required. Further, the demon will remain in service for up to a year, completing requested tasks to the best of its ability. Demons of godlike status are not exempt from this spell, but they will only perform service for 1 day. Any attempts at further summoning within 1 year will result in the total destruction of the sorcerer.

Summon Monster VIII
Level: 8 Sorcerer
Duration: 16 rounds, 32 rounds at 5th level
Range: 110'

Similar to summon monster I, (1d2) 9HD creatures are summoned in 1 round.

Summon Monster IX
Level: 9 Sorcerer
Duration: 20 rounds, 40 rounds at 5th level
Range: 150'

Similar to summon monster I, (1) creature of any HD is summoned in but 1 round.


Requirements: INT 15, WIS 12
Prime Requisite: INT, WIS
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Magic-User
Saves: Magic-User

Alchemists are practitioners of magic historically interested in the transmutation of lead and other base metals into gold. As high level spells exist that can perform such transmutations, alchemy is mostly concerned with the creation of various magic items. Alchemists cannot wear armor, use shields, and are limited to the same weapons as Magic-Users. They are unable to cast spells except by using scrolls, but may learn any spell they encounter (Cleric, Druid, Magic-User, Illusionist).

Read Magic: Alchemists can Read Magic as often as desired.

Detect Magic: Alchemists Detect Magic as the Magic-User spell by concentrating (cf. Paladin).

Scroll Creation: An alchemist can create scrolls for any spell they know, if they have the available resources. See Section 8 of Labyrinth Lord.

Reaching 3rd Level: At 3rd level, alchemists can create potions.

Reaching 5th Level: Alchemists can use Identify (per the Magic-User spell) once per day, with no preparation. There is no CON loss associated with this ability.

Reaching 7th Level: Alchemist may create magic items of any type.

Reaching 9th Level: An alchemist of 9th level may use Legend Lore as a special ability, once per day.

Reaching 11th Level: Alchemists of 11th level and higher may begin work on the creation of a Philosopher's Stone. The properties of this Stone are left the imagination of individual GMs, but typically it grants immortality and the effortless transmutation of any metal into gold. Other abilities may include the casting of spells as desired, control over the elements, cast Wish once per day, etc. It is an artifact-level magic item and any alchemist who successfully completes its creation will surely be the subject of much observation. It is suggested the completion of the Stone require 1 million GP in costs and the gaining of as many XP. Or more!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shamans and Lay Priests

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: WIS
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 9
XP Chart: Fighter
Saves: Cleric

Shamans are tribal spell casters, and function much the same as clergy for more primitive societies. They fight as well as Clerics, can wear any armor and use a shield, and may employ any weapon available. They cannot Turn Undead. Shamans do not gain bonus spells for having high WIS.

Spell Casting: Shamans cast spells as Clerics, albeit only to the 9th level of ability (5th level spells). They are more apt to employ reversed versions of spells (Cause Light Wounds). When selecting spells for the day, a Shaman may use the Druidic spell lists in addition to Clerical lists. The Druid spell "Control Weather" is a 5th level spell for Shamans.

Scroll Use: Shamans can cast spells from Cleric and Druid scrolls normally, including spells not available due to level limitations. They can also make use of of 1st and 2nd level Magic-User spells enscribed on scrolls.

Reaching 9th level: A Shaman of 9th level is considered a village elder, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails. Typically, this includes a retinue of 2d6 warriors (Hunters and Thugs) selected from the best fighters in a clan. Within the confines of his village, an elder has no need for money, food, clothing, etc.

Lay Priests
Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: WIS
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 5
XP Chart: Thief
Saves: Cleric

Lay Priests are unordained clerics, spreading the word of faith through their own volition. While possibly spiritually adept, they possess no qualities suitable for success in roleplaying game and are mentioned only for sake of completeness. Some people enjoy a challenge, and the lay priest offers just that. They fight as Magic-Users (i.e. poorly), and may only use staves, clubs, daggers or thrown rocks. They cannot wear armor nor use a shield. They are unable to cast spells, but can use Cleric scrolls up to 3rd level. They may use any magic item available to Clerics. Lay Priests have no power over the Undead.

Prosthelytize: Lay Priests may convince the "common masses" to support their cause. 0-level humans (you may extend this to elves, dwarfs, halflings, etc., depending on the situation) may be moved to help the Lay Priest after listening to the priest's rhetoric. A failed Save vs. Petrification results in the victim believing the purported cause is just, and will follow the priest for 2d6 days, offering any assistance possible. Individuals who make their saving throw simply dismiss the priest as a blowhard. Up to 100 victims may be affected at a time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Requirements: WIS 12, CHA 12
Prime Requisite: WIS, CHA
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: None
XP Chart: Magic-Users
Saves: Cleric

Healers are clergy concerned namely with providing aid to others. They function much the same as Clerics, but differ in ability in several respects. Healers are moderately pacifistic, and thus only fight as well as Magic-Users. They can use any sort of hand-held blunt weapon, but cannot wear armor or use a shield. Healers cannot Turn Undead. They do gain bonus spells for WIS, if using that rule.

Spell Casting: Healers can cast Cleric spells, with much greater potency. Cure-type spells are doubly effective when cast. Ex. Cure Light Wounds normally heals 1d6+1 damage, but when cast by a Healer it will heal 2d6+2 damage. Other beneficial spells are similarly doubled in effect where applicable, such as Protection from Evil granting a -2 AC or Restoration restoring 2 drained levels. Healers cannot cast Reversed versions of any spell. Offensive spells receive no benefit, and Healers who call upon spells such as Blade Barrier or Flame Strike once too often may find themselves requiring an Atonement to regain their abilities.

Lay on Hands: Much like Paladins, Healers can "Lay on Hands", 2 hp per day per level, to heal others. This ability cannot be used on themselves. Unlike Paladins, Healers may use this ability as many times as desired, curing as little as 1 hp. At 8th level, 3 hp per level are cured, at 15th level this increases to 4 hp per level.

Reaching 9th level: Same as Clerics.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Background/Social Class for Labyrinth Lord AEC

It was bound to happen, I'm sure: someone forcing Runequest-style backgrounds and social classes into D&D. Yes, it happened in Unearthed Arcana to some degree, but I hardly call that a worthwhile effort. What follows is my own take on the whole social class notion, and I'll be making more posts in the future to supplement this stuff. Namely, new classes. One problem I ran into was that there are A LOT of new classes I need to create to fully flesh this thing out, which in itself isn't a huge deal, but it certainly is time consuming considering some of these classes are just variations on existing classes. Perhaps I'll reedit as necessary, but I sort of like having a bunch of different options at times. I said Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Characters in the title as that is the game I'm targeting. Obviously, it is easily adaptable to any version of D&D with hardly any work.

Background/Social Class

What follows is the basic outline for a four-tiered background system, directly ripped off from a once extremely popular RPG. There are several assumptions made in this system, the first being that the character in question is human. Non-human characters generally do not fit into these categories in typical fantasy settings, as they are in general homogeneous. While “unrealistic”, humanocentricsm is the basis for most RPGs and non-humans who do appear are rare, representative of their race as a whole. The second assumption is that the social structure outlined below does exist in your game world. Typical fantasy worlds can be shoehorned into the following system, but you may make adjustments as necessary. If, for instance, civilization is extremely rare, there might be a proportionally higher number of primitive characters.

Several new character classes are described below, and many from LL:AEC are referenced. While this is not strictly a LL supplement, use of AEC is extremely helpful.

Roll a d10 to determine background and another d10 to determine social class.

A player may choose any character class listed for his social class or lower; anyone can become a thief, for instance.

Primitive (1)

Primitive cultures are roughly defined by a lack of economic development. This in turn creates an environment where little social stratification exists between individuals. Even though the distinction is made here for playability, the only member of a primitive society who ranks above others is the chieftain. Some tribes may not have a chief, and instead rule by a committee of elders, or possibly an elected/appointed head. Characters from a primitive background tend to be more concerned with ability than primogeniture and/or class distinction. Nobles would be anyone who pulls more weight than a regular member of the society. While the “nobility” is looked up to, there is a strong sense of self-identity, and the relationship is more familial than formal. Tools are simple, clothing sparse to non-existent.

All primitives receive a +1 to initial CON and STR rolls (18 maximum still applicable) and -2 to CHA to represent their inability to full integrate into modern society. There is no CHA penalty amongst their own tribe. They are proficient with spears, clubs, knives and thrown weapons, regardless of class. Only Witch Doctors and Shamans are literate. Most eschew armor in toto, although primitives who spend time around more civilized people tend to wear appropriate types. Hunters and Thugs add an additional +10% to Hide/Move Silently.

Middle (1 - 5)
  • Hunter
  • Thug

Noble (6 - 10)
  • Shaman
  • Witch Doctor

Nomadic (2 - 3)

Nomads are closely related to primitives, but are versed in a form of agriculture, specifically herding livestock. They are typically experienced in riding animals such as horses and organize themselves into clans. These clans may or may not be hostile to one another. They move frequently to ensure their herds have quality grazing, but may sometimes setup semi-permanent outposts for trade purposes. Nomads typically utilize modern tools and have distinctive modes of dress. As with primitives, nomadic cultures do not have a definitive class system. The nobility may or may not rank above everyone else, although most clans tend to recognize some form of ruling class.

Nomads can ride horses, rivaling knights for horsemanship. They are +1 to attack with bows (which all classes may use) and suffer no penalties when firing from horseback. Due to their relationship with animals, nomads make superb hunters: +1 to attack and damage when engaging any animal in combat. Nomads of the Hunter and Skirmisher classes are +2 to this roll. Neither of these abilities stack with the bonus to bowmanship.

Middle (1 - 6)
  • Bandit
  • Hunter
  • Skirmisher
  • Thug
Noble (7 - 10)
  • Healer
  • Shaman
  • Witch Doctor

Barbarian (4 - 7)

Barbarians are an intermediary between civilized cultures and primitive types. Typically, barbarians are technologically advanced, have a sophisticated economic system, engage in various forms of agriculture and have a loose class-based system. However, while most tribes do have a form of nobility, there is much greater emphasis placed upon individualism; citizens in a barbarian town are free to come and go as they please. Religion is much more formalized, although typically less practiced. Craftsmen and warrior-types are generally seen as superior to most everyone else, although this is nearly always due to admiration and respect as opposed to rigidly defined rules. Barbarians are extremely hardy and add +2 to their initial CON roll (18 maximum). Most Civilized people see them as brash and rude, however, and they are -2 to CHA when dealing with individuals of that background. Barbarians interact with Primitives and Nomads normally.

Middle (1 - 7)
  • Beggar
  • Berserk
  • Cutpurse
  • Hunter
  • Ranger
  • Skirmisher
  • Thug
  • Warlock

Noble (8 - 10)
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Healer
  • Hedge Wizard
  • Lay Priest
  • Mage
  • Skald

Civilized (8 - 10)

Civilization is denoted by a strong centralized government that collects taxes and provides a paid soldiery. Magic and religion are formalized. Classes are extremely rigid, and it is difficult to move up, if not impossible (joining the clergy is the easiest way to change social class). Slavery exists, although slaves and serfs are not mentioned here as available character classes for obvious reasons. Civilized characters gain a +1 to INT rolls (18 max) to simulate a more learned environment.

Low (1 - 2)
  • Assassin
  • Beggar
  • Burglar
  • Cutpurse
  • Hedge Wizard
  • Monk
  • Necromancer
  • Ranger
  • Skirmisher
  • Sorcerer
  • Thug
  • Warrior Priest (Cleric)
  • Witch

Middle (3 - 6)
  • Bard
  • Lay Priest
  • Soldier

High (7 - 9)
  • Alchemist
  • Healer
  • Mage (Magic-User)

Noble (10)
  • Knight
  • Paladin
  • Wizard

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's a game, right?

I started playing RPGs with Ye Olde Mentzer Red Box. Some may argue that the Moldvay box was better, or that the one edited by Dr. Holmes surpasses all of them, whatever, I don't care. At the time, it was the only thing available besides AD&D, and $12 for a complete game when you're in 8th grade is about the limit of your financial possibility. I couldn't possibly fathom spending close to $40 to purchase AD&D at that time. What's funny is that the artwork from the Moldvay/Cook sets are emblazoned in my brain as I saw them every time I went to Toys R Us, but my brother and I were far more interested in video games at the time. Alas. Mentzer set it is.

Enough of the trip down memory lane, the point remains I started with an RPG that was a game, first and foremost. The whole G in RPG. We must have played D&D literally every day for 6 months, the weekends spent on sessions spanning multiple days. From 8th grade until around 10th, I played constantly, and it was almost an obsession. Shortly thereafter, I got burned out and began playing sports, but still found time every so often to revisit a quick game with friends. But, it was always a game. There was no "performance art" crap going on, no "character development", and certainly nothing what could be called, in the more modern sense, "role playing". We were simply a bunch of kids playing a game, and only a game, wherein our characters were no more identified with us than knights or rooks during a game of chess. Character death was Bad, not because we had labored so long to create a persona with an intricate background, but because we'd have to roll up a new character and start over. Sometimes we'd roll up a character with a lot of money. One of the other players might then murder this character and steal the money to purchase new armor. Roll up another character!

I bring all this up as a backdrop to the real reason for this post, namely that D&D has a lot of built-in assumptions due to it being merely a game. The primary, I think, is the idea of a "mythic underworld" existing, just outside of human civilization. Many others have explored this idea in great detail, and by no means do I want to infringe on their work, but I think it's a valuable notion that can be discussed further.

Take a look at the box/manual artwork for Wizard's Crown, a game I played relentlessly for years. Regrettably, I never did complete it, but it surely wasn't for lack of effort. Anyway, doesn't THIS evoke exactly what D&D is all about? A band of adventurers fighting foes through the ruins of a prior, more advanced civilization, culminating with a showdown inside a grandiose castle, inhabited by a nefarious wizard. I think Swords & Sorcery, and by extension D&D, must operate with the assumption that in the past, there was a great empire expanding countless continents, etc., which suddenly fell. Years later a different form of civilization cropped up, with no knowledge of the former except as legends, seeking out treasures in the ruins of old.

In my mind, the "D&D world" is large, perhaps as large as Earth, maybe bigger, yet extremely encapsulated. By this I mean that small villages exist all over the place, but people rarely, if ever, travel outside of theirs. The world is almost in a constant state of gloom, and just outside of town there are hills dotted with trees, perpetually in autumn colors. Crevasses and pits are visible in the rolling landscape, with shining eyes peeking out when the sun goes down. Children don't stay out after dark, for fear of being taken by goblins, put to work in their mines. Dwarves and elves are mentioned ever so rarely, as humanity has almost lost all contact with them, and their presence brings many stares of disbelief. There is an old tower looming across the landscape, some say a necromancer still resides within its walls, others insist it has been taken over by the animated remains of armies long past. There are a few who can use the healing touch, but they are mostly shunned unless needed. And dragons? Yearly sacrifices are made to keep the monster at bay, perhaps a choice village virgin. What lies beyond the furthest hills no one can say, as travelers from distant lands cannot be trusted.

That's my idea of a "D&D world", the almost static, yet still decaying, state into which a previously wondrous world has fallen, ripe with opportunity for those who would simply take it. Dangerous only outside the confines of town, but filled with death at every turn once those confines are left. It's the same world that Grimm's Fairy Tales take place, a locale that can be left and come back to on a moment's notice without feeling anything was missed. And that's why it is a GAME WORLD, because its purpose is to allow for meaningful gameplay within the confines of a rules-set. I am unconcerned with monster ecology, how ogres sit in a 10'x10' room, waiting to waylay unwary delvers, but serving no real purpose otherwise. We can roll dice all day long, and "fight ogres", but only when we go meet them on their turf, in the underworld that persists just outside human influence, does it become more than an exercise in die rolling and become a game, something fun.

Surely others will disagree with me here, and plenty of people want something else from their D&D games (I say this instead of more simply because what reason is there for playing other than to have fun?). However, I think that treating the game itself as nothing more than a game leads one to realize the underpinnings are not only less interesting, but lead to possibly much more entertaining endeavors. After all, what are RPGs about besides killing orcs and taking their loot?