Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Fortune and Glory? Nah, just play some Elfgames.

I had a discussion last night with my older boy about gaming, marketing, and all that. He's got some game ideas (card games, board games, computer games) and was wondering about how successful he might be. 

Interestingly, I'd just finished reading the recent (now pulled) article on how toxic the RPG online community is, and that definitely influenced the direction of our conversation. 

We talked about how easy it is to promote games on DriveThru, how easy it is to run a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign, and so on. 

Want some numbers? Flynn did. In the past six years since I released Chanbara, I've sold just shy of 300 copies, and made $1600 from those sales. I've made less than that from the paper minis and TS&R. 

All told, since 2015 when I uploaded my first printable paper minis file, including pay-what-you-want downloads that didn't pay anything, I've sold 2413 products on DriveThru, and made $2338.11. Not exactly the big bucks. 

But then the bigger names in the TTRPG circles (many of them named in that article for being toxic presences in the community) regularly have crowdfunding campaigns that make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. A few have topped the million mark. 

Now, I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on the "big names." And this is not sour grapes. I was just being realistic to my son. Yes, it's possible to make good money by publishing games online, but to do so you really need to work on promotion, really need to get out there and get known, and need other big names to support and promote your work. But the bigger you get, the more of a target you can become. 

So I'm happy to stay a little fish in a small pond. I really do appreciate all of you who read this blog, review and promote my offerings, and everyone who's purchased something I've put out there. But I'm also never going to put in the effort needed to become one of the luminaries of the hobby, because I don't need to. That $2000+ I've made over the past nearly a decade has helped me to buy other gaming goods, and every now and then a birthday or Christmas present. I don't need gaming money to support my family. I'm happy to do this just for the joy of creating stuff, putting it out there, and seeing positive reactions to it. 

That's why TS&R is PWYW and I'll probably never get around to making the second edition of Flying Swordsmen, with actual new art from paid artists rather than public domain and donated art. 

I'm happy with my place in the hobby. 

But hey, if my son can create some board or card games that become a hit, I'll do my best to support him in his efforts. 

And also, if Zak S. is reading this, my apologies. I don't think I jumped on the anti-Zak bandwagon, but I wasn't a big fan of his and took the words of others at face value when I shouldn't have. Looking back at some of my old blog posts, I was pretty much just dismissive of him at the time Mandy was accusing him of some pretty horrible (and not completely believable) stuff. I hope that the word gets out and he gets a chance to make a come-back. 

I never had a negative interaction with him personally, and I should have been more critical of others claiming that they had had negative interactions with him rather than letting those claims color my opinion of him.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night...

 ...may become a grognard when the dice are rolled, and the gaming mood is right.

Oh, wait, that's not the way that rhyme is supposed to go. Anyway, I'm going to do something today that I haven't done in quite a while, but should get back to doing semi-regularly. I've got a newish blog that I want to promote. 

Savage Lair of the Weregrognard

It looks like Weregrognard started the blog last year for the Dungeon23 challenge, and now that that has wrapped up, he's been blogging about his take on old school gaming. So far, I've found his posts on the topic to be interesting and entertaining. 

I haven't read through all of his Dungeon23 posts, but of what he's written since then, I'm the only person who's left a comment. And I think he deserves more feedback on his Lessons from the OSR series. It's good.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The 3E Nostalgia is Upon Us

I've been seeing all sorts of blog posts, YouTube videos, and memes re-examining Third Edition D&D, and especially 3.0 as compared to 3.5. Having played some d20 Modern with my son over the past year or so, and having dived into an aborted attempt at a d20 Star Wars game on RPOL (and currently into a Saga Edition Star Wars game on RPOL), I'm not really feeling the 3E nostalgia. Those games have reminded me of just how needlessly cumbersome the skill/feat system is in d20 games, and the limits of a "roll d20" for any task resolution is still with us in 5E today. 

But there seem to be a lot of gamers who started on 3E, or started on 2E but found their jam with 3E who are feeling that nostalgia. It does make sense. It's been almost 24 years since the game was released, 21 since the 3.5 revision. 

I've even had some people tell me that 3E is old school D&D. 

Personally, I think "old school" is more about play style than age, but I may be biased. 

Is it time to lump 3E, and the resulting d20 system boom games, in with the "old school" banner? Make it part of the OSR? Or is it "old school but not OSR"? 

Peanut gallery, sound off in the comments!

Friday, January 19, 2024

The Forgotten Magic Items

I realized I should go back and edit a bit of my dungeon creation advice to new DMs or those trying old school style play from newer school style games in TS&R. I should make it clear that there are a whole bunch of magic items, and a few spells, that exist in old school games but not in newer games. Why were they dropped? Because they're really made for helping to explore dungeons, especially megadungeons. And while Gary and Dave knew that they were useful for that, younger designers seem to have not realized their importance. 

I don't blame these younger game designers. When I was a kid, we all thought these powers were lame. We wanted intelligent swords that could heal or teleport you, or wands that cast fireballs and illusions. We didn't realize just how useful these items are! 

If you haven't already guessed, I'm talking about items like the wands of enemy/metal/trap detection, or intelligent sword powers like the above, mineral detection, shifting wall or sloping passage detection, etc. As kids, these seemed like the lamest things. I don't know why, exactly, we never considered that "mineral" detection meant gems*. We'd make jokes about swords that could help you point out the location of the nearest gypsum or limestone. Of course, there could be times when having some non-gem minerals could be handy, too. But as kids, that just seemed lame to us. 

And a potion of treasure finding? Well, the treasure was down there, you just had to keep looking around! Of course, starting with Mentzer and not 1E AD&D, we didn't often hide the treasure in our dungeons. If you beat the monsters, the treasure was there, waiting, like in a video game. Well, not really, it was there all along, just sitting in piles on the floor or in chests, but not hidden behind loose bricks of the fireplace or under twenty barrels of rotten apples. There were some examples of this sort of hidden treasure in Mentzer's sample dungeon Castle Mistamere, but the advice on dungeon creation in the back of the Basic DM Guide didn't really go into that. 

When treasure is hidden or concealed, powers like detect metal or detect minerals or a potion of treasure finding can help find it. Obviously, the powers to detect secret doors or traps help you get to the treasure. But the DM needs to be taught to hide some of that treasure. 

Another reason that my friends and I scoffed at these powers, I think, was that we didn't make megadungeons often. A lot of our dungeons were fairly small. Mentzer's dungeon creation advice, which I just re-read recently, does talk about making dungeons with many levels, but most of the advice seems to be about what I'm terming scenario dungeons. Frank starts you off with a premise for the dungeon, such as "exploring the unknown" or "rescuing prisoners" which for me got me thinking dungeons were sites for a specific adventure or two, and then done.

And even when we did from time to time make a bigger dungeon with multiple levels or a sprawling layout, they weren't campaign tentpole affairs. A lot of the typical powers of intelligent swords are designed to make megadungeon exploration easier (and save on magic-user and cleric spell slots), and repeat trips to the dungeon can make best use of these abilities, by careful mapping, triangulation, and trial-and-error use. 

So, I'm going to edit my advice for GMs new to old school play and make all this explicit...but not as wordy as this blog post. This is to help me get my ideas sorted out before I edit the GM Guidebook draft. I'll explain the purpose of these powers, and that they're only really useful if the GM designs the dungeon in a way that makes them useful, similar to thief skills. 

*In TS&R, I changed the name of this to "Detect Gems" to make it clear.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

What to Roll and Which System to Use

A couple of recent posts by other bloggers got me thinking. Specifically, we're talking today about rolling ability scores, and the modifiers that you get from those scores depending on the system you use. 

It's probably no surprise that the first post that got me thinking about this was one by Alexis over at Tao of D&D

As a DM, I see AD&D's combat/survival structure relying on characters possessing at least two stats above 14.  There are no benefits for any stat less than 15 with regards to strength, constitution and dexterity, upon which the combat system depends.  And though spell-use can mitigate the need for these somewhat, a good mage or illusionist really needs a +1 dex bonus at minimum (in my experience), while a cleric whose going to wade in and fight needs at least some bonuses in strength or constitution.  A cleric who won't wade in hasn't a good enough spell arsenal, and is therefore useless; which is part of the reason why clerics who tried to style themselves as "healers" and not "holy fighters" ended up crying for more healing potential, as the original list doesn't allow this specialisation effectively.

Thus, adding that extra die to 3d6 increases the chance of rolling above 14 sufficiently to hit that window of "practical" character.  I know that many, many voices refuse to believe there is such a thing; that the game needs to adjust for the character, and not the reverse.  Of course I could run a softer, more gutted game for those players with mediocre stats, but having experienced the lessened potential and drooling dullness of such a game, I'm not sold on the concept.  If the reader wants me to go into that, I will, drop me an email, but for the present I'll assume most people here are aware that having bonuses makes players happy, and I like happy players.

Too, the 3d6 alternative produces too many "culls," my term for the selective slaughter of players whose stats are too obviously likely to get them killed.  The penalties for stats of 7 and less can be tolerated if they appear with rarity ... but when they're scattered among multiple players in a party, sooner or later the randomness of unfudged die rolls takes its toll.  I see no reason to roll up characters en masse for the purpose of creating an inferior stock.  No, I prefer the alternative.  A nice collection of characters whose stats average around 73 or better makes a party more likely to survive, thus producing a sustainable game.

Up front, yes, I'm one of those DMs that Alexis talks about who thinks that high scores aren't absolutely necessary for an effective character. I like it when my players roll well for their characters. I like for them to have competent characters. But I've also played enough average characters in my life to know that while that extra 5% chance to hit or avoid being hit, or the extra hit point or extra point of damage on each attack can matter, it's perfectly feasible to run a character without them. 

And this is slightly off topic, but I find it funny that a commenter on a previous post thought a 5% or 10% XP boost is really meaningless. Granted, we're talking a vastly different scale between a d20 roll to hit and the thousands of XP needed to gain levels, but a percentage is a percentage. 

Anyway, back to the topic of ability scores and how we roll them. Alexis prefers AD&D's ability modifiers which, at least for combat bonuses, don't start giving bonuses until a 15 or 16. But scores of 15 or higher are really rare on a flat 3d6 roll, so he needs to use 4d6-L to give players a decent shot at getting not just one, but two scores with bonuses, and radically reduce the number of scores that get a penalty. 

I have no problem with this. I use 4d6-L in my game these days, after experimenting with a few other options over the past few years. 

But before I go on, I need to introduce the other blogger that spurred this post, Anders H. of the Mythlands blog, who was writing about not just discrete mechanics for different tasks, but discrete bonuses for different ability scores being a feature not a bug of AD&D design: 

AD&D in general however, revels in lack of homogeneity. There's a ton of derived stats from ability scores and they are all different, with different progressions and determining the math behind the curve of progression is not at all transparent. 

I suspect there is none and that Gygax et al used a more powerful tool than mathematical progression - Deciding on modifiers based on gaming impact. And this one of the great virtues of game design that are lost with streamlined mechanics. 

Modern games, I posit, suffer from a tyranny of number harmonies and easy calculation. Everything must be transparent, easy to calculate and preferably limited to a few basic methods the recur throughout the whole gaming engine.

But does the game actually play better when STR gives the same bonus to hit as it does to damage? Or CON an equivalent bonus to hit points? Does it yield the desired results at the actual game table or simply look pleasing in the rulebook and easy to memorise?  Harmonies do not necessarily equal better game play.

I've gone on record before saying that I'm not a fan of the way AD&D does ability score bonuses. They are inconsistent across the different scores, there is way too big of a doughnut of scores with no adjustment up or down, and then there are things like Fighters getting percentile strength bonus on an 18, or only Fighters getting more than +2 hit points for a high Constitution, or the needlessly fiddly % to Know spells Int modifier for Magic-Users or Chance of Spell Failure for Clerics. 

Exactly the things Anders is praising are the things that annoy me about AD&D ability scores. I do agree with him on most of his other points, though. Clerics and Magic-Users don't need identical spellcasting power. Different rates of advancement for different classes is a good thing. Categorical saving throws are cooler and more interesting than just rolling against your ability scores. And any complex calculation that can be boiled down to a simple hard number on a not overly complex character sheet is a good thing. 

And again, let's get back to ability score adjustments and how to roll those abilities. 

Anders makes the case that the diversity of adjustments in AD&D are due to the different roles that those abilities play in the game. Alexis makes the case that a playable character should have at least two scores with a positive adjustment. 

This made me curious to compare the probabilities of rolling 4d6-L for AD&D adjustment bonuses vs. 3d6 flat for BX/BECMI adjustments. The website gave me the percentage chances to roll X or higher with each rolling method (yeah, I can do the math myself, but this was faster). And this website has an ability score calculator that can show you the probabilities of getting certain scores or higher on sets of six ability scores, which is handy. 

So to recap: 

In order to get a +1 bonus to any score in Classic D&D, you need a 13 or more in that ability. That's a bonus to hit in either ranged or missile combat, a bonus to damage in melee combat, a bonus to AC, or bonus hit points per level.

In order to get a +1 bonus to any combat relevant score in Advanced D&D, you need a 15 or 16 depending on the score and the variable being adjusted. 

To get a -1 (improvement) to AC, or to get +1 hit point per level, you need a 15 to Dex or Con, respectively.

To get a +1 to damage in melee combat or to hit in ranged combat, you need a 16 in Str or Dex, respectively. 

To get a +1 to hit in melee combat, you need a Str 17. 

According to the die rollers, if you roll flat 3d6, to get a score of X or higher on any particular score, your chances are: 

13+ 25.93% [+1 to any variable in Classic, no adjustment to any variable in Advanced]

15+ 9.26% [+1 to any variable in Classic, +1 to HP or -1 AC in Advanced]

16+ 4.63% [+2 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee damage, +2 HP, +1 ranged attack, -2 AC in Advanced]

17+ 1.85% [+2 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee attack, +1 melee damage, +2(3) HP, +2 ranged attack, -3 AC in Advanced]

18 0.46% [+3 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee attack, +2 melee damage, +2(4) HP, +3 ranged attack, -4 AC in Advanced]

So about one in four rolls will get you a bonus rolling 3d6, on average you can expect one or two scores to be above average. 

If we roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, to get a score of X or higher on any particular score, your chances are: 

13+ 48.77% [+1 to any variable in Classic, no adjustment to any variable in Advanced]

15+ 23.15% [+1 to any variable in Classic, +1 to HP or -1 AC in Advanced]

16+ 13.04% [+2 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee damage, +2 HP, +1 ranged attack, -2 AC in Advanced]

17+ 5.79%  [+2 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee attack, +1 melee damage, +2(3) HP, +2 ranged attack, -3 AC in Advanced]

18 1.62% [+3 to any variable in Classic, +1 melee attack, +2 melee damage, +2(4) HP, +3 ranged attack, -4 AC in Advanced]

The 13+ on 3d6 and 15+ on 4d6-L are highlighted because they have more or less equivalent values. You've got about a one in four chance of getting at least that number on any ability score roll in either system. And while AD&D does grant a few bonuses better than 3 IF you're a Fighter and put that 18 in Con instead of Str or any character with 18 Dex, or you're a Fighter type and put that 18 in Str and roll well on the percentile dice, the Classic system is really more generous. 

If it's imperative to have multiple ability scores with bonuses for characters, you're better off going with the Classic D&D style ability score adjustments, even if that takes away from the bespoke nature of what each score represents, or specialized bonuses for certain classes and not others as in AD&D. 

One more thing. Looking at rolling an entire set of ability scores, according to the Ability Score calculator website linked above, rolling 4d6-L six times gives you a 9.34% chance to roll an 18, so about one in 11 characters should have one. If you need at least two scores of 15 or more, you have a 42.16% chance. To get at least one score of 15+ you have a 79.4% chance. So most AD&D characters rolled this way will be minimally viable, with only one in five not meeting Alexis's minimum threshold, but only 2 in 5 meeting his preferred threshold of two scores qualifying for a bonus. 

And remember, that's looking at the score of 15, which in AD&D only affects hit points and AC, not chances to hit or damage inflicted. 

Rolling 3d6, but needing only a 13+ on a single score, we get an 83.48% chance to get at least one of the six rolls to give a bonus, just slightly better than the chance to get a 15+ on 4d6-L. To get two scores with a bonus, we have a 48.79% chance, that's roughly half of all characters generated. It's not a big difference, but the difference does, I think, matter. One in two suitable characters compared to two out of five. Oh, getting at least one 18 has a 2.75% chance, or one in thirty-six characters. 

Obviously, 4d6-L provides much higher chances of rolling the numbers above the threshold for a bonus, but if you're only concerned with getting at least one or two scores above the threshold, you've got roughly even odds either way, but with a slight edge to rolling 3d6 against the lower threshold of 13. 

The biggest advantage to Classic characters, though, is the regular array of bonuses. Because you need at least a 16 or 17 for certain variables in Advanced, you really NEED to roll 4d6-L (or one of those crazy bucket-o'-dice methods from Unearthed Arcana). And for me, rolling 4d6-L but with Classic bonuses to rolls, most characters are going to turn out fine. 

As an example: Last Sunday, Jeff, who plays in my online West Marches and Star Wars games and is visiting Busan for the month, joined my face-to-face game. His highest score, rolling 4d6-L six times, was a 13. He made a Fighter, and did just fine in the session... although it was one without a lot of combat. But he didn't complain, and he put his usual effort into characterization and had a good time.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Painting Update

Last week, I got called away to cover for a sick teacher at an English camp, so I didn't get much painting done, and didn't post about it. Before I went to the camp, I did finish up my paint job for the League of Malevolence figures. I posted Warduke the other day. Here are the rest of the figures. 

Zarak the Half-Orc Assassin

Kelek the Sorcerer

Zargash the Cleric

Scylla the Warlock

We're getting the band back together! 

 Painting on the Valor's Call figures will commence tomorrow. 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

TS&R Dungeon Design

I finished up the first draft of my dungeon design advice for new DMs (or those new to old school style gaming) today. I'll work on the Wilderness design section next, and let this section sit for a while before I read over it and make some edits. For now, though, I'm pretty happy with what I've got down. 

While I was writing up the chapter, I did take a break and re-read the advice Mentzer gave in his Basic Set, which is how I learned to do it. My section isn't as concise as his, but it explains about more dungeon types and gives more of the rationale behind dungeons both as game elements and as part of the fictional fantasy world. I don't give as many specific examples of traps and specials, but in the age of the internet, I'm not to worried  about needing to do that. I was more focused on the how and the why of these types of encounters, along with monster and treasure stocking, and general dungeon design for different purposes. 

It's six pages long (A4 size). The section headings are: 

Dungeon Creation

I. Types of Dungeon

II. Megadungeons

  A. Dungeon Levels

  B. The Megadungeon as a Setting

   C. The Mythic Underworld

III. Scenario Dungeons

IV. Lair Dungeons

V. The Purpose of the Dungeon

VI. Drawing Dungeon Maps

VII. Stocking Dungeons

  A. Wandering Monsters

VIII. Traps

  A. Types

  B. Triggers

  C. Effects

  D. Hazards

IX. Specials

  A. Secret Doors

X. Unguarded Treasures

XI. Dungeon Dressing and Sensory Information


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

An idea for a simple RPG or Tabletop Skirmish game?

Yesterday, a couple of things happened that proved serendipitous. Flynn, my older boy, has been trying to get a game development group started within the local independent (mostly expat) artist scene, a group called Liquid Arts. Some of you may remember the GoFundMe he made that I promoted a while back. Well, that failed. And yesterday he refunded the few backers that he got. But he's got an idea to start the Liquid Arts game design group working on board games, and if he has some success there, try again with the computer game design ideas. 

I explained this, and the Liquid Arts group, to one of my friends, who was a backer. And it got me thinking about some of the simple board games my best friend and I designed back in elementary and middle school. One or two of the ideas we had may be worth re-developing. 

Also, my younger boy Steven has been playing a lot of the GBA version of GTA on our Super Console X emulator lately, but yesterday he wanted to play some Gauntlet II with me. Which we did. And while playing, he was wondering about more modern versions of Gauntlet. I told him that there were a couple of 3D games during the PS1/PS2 era, Gauntlet Legends (for PS1, which I had), and Gauntlet Dark Legacy (for PS2, which I never had). He got me to look them up and see if we could acquire them for emulation. 

Our box doesn't have (and apparently isn't a good enough processor to handle) PS2 emulation, but I found Gauntlet Legends, and also the arcade (MAME) version of Dark Legacy last night. 

Anyway, ideas converged, and I started thinking about whether the way Gauntlet rates character abilities might work as the basis for a fantasy RPG. I found this pretty quickly. And yeah, with a few tweaks, and the addition of some mechanics for outside combat activities, it could work. Or, it could be merged with something to make a tabletop skirmish type wargame. Something probably more simple than my ideas to use 4E just for tabletop skirmish games.

For a while now, I've been interested in what D&D would be like if Chainmail combat were used. But I've had too many irons in the gaming fire to start up a campaign using the Platemail 27th Edition rules or something of my own devising. 

My thinking, as I was laying in bed last night not falling asleep, and this morning in the shower, were to maybe merge Gauntlet style character ratings with Chainmail man-to-man/fantasy combat (and the Dungeon! board game) 2d6 style combat. Maybe throw in something like the Classic D&D Turn Undead table for a resolution mechanic for non-combat tasks if needed. 

Gauntlet ratings (taken from the original version) could be translated to: 
  • Speed (how many spaces you can move per turn)
  • Armor (how much damage is reduced by your armor)
  • Attack Power (how easily you hit when you attack, melee)
  • Attack Strength (how many hits you inflict on a successful melee attack) 
  • Attack Speed (how many melee attacks you can make on your turn)
  • Shot Power (how easily you hit when you attack, ranged)
  • Shot Strength (how many hits you inflict on a successful ranged attack)
  • Shot Speed (how many ranged attacks you can make on your turn)
  • Magic Power (how easy it is to successfully cast a spell)
  • Magic Strength (how powerful are the effects of the spells you cast)

The above Speed, Armor, and Strength ratings would all be set numbers. The Power ratings would be modifiers to 2d6 rolls. The Strength ratings might have a few levels with variation, such as:

  • Lvl 1: 1 hit
  • Lvl 2: 1-2 hits (roll d6, 1-4=1 hit, 5-6=2 hits)
  • Lvl 3: 2 hits
  • Lvl 4: 2-3 hits (roll d6, 1-4=2 hits, 5-6=3 hits)
  • Lvl 5: 3 hits

For the Attack/Shot Speed, I'd probably look to AD&D attack progression:

  • Lvl 1: 1 attack per round
  • Lvl 2: 3/2 attacks per round
  • Lvl 3: 2 attacks per round
  • Lvl 4: 5/2 attacks per round
  • Lvl 5: 3 attacks per round

Of course, one thing to consider would be that Gauntlet characters have hundreds or thousands of hit points, and can kill hundreds or thousands of opponents on each level (and with emulation, adding a "quarter" for more health is as easy as pushing the Select button on the game pad). Monsters do large numbers of hits compared to PCs, and armor reduces that damage. That's something that would need to be changed. If this were an RPG, it would probably be more difficult to scale it correctly. But for a tabletop skirmish game, it might work out alright. 

A variation of this system may also work for one of those old games from my youth that I mentioned above. The game was probably the best (and most complex) game that Todd and I made as kids. We made a map of our home town. Since the home town is tiny, it was a fairly accurate map, as we had every actual house, store, and church on it, minus a few people's sheds and whatnot. The game was an alien invasion game. We over-complicated it by having just about every type of alien from UFO lore that we could think of, plus a few from sci-fi movies (little green men, Men-in-Black, Grays, Critters, robots, etc.). In the original, the aliens had the goal of planting bombs in buildings, while the heroes (us) had to raid buildings for tools/supplies/weapons (all on cards) to fight off the aliens and prevent the bombings. 

It was a tough game, as we made way too many aliens, and we played them ruthlessly. 

I was thinking as well that this might be an idea to revive. Instead of bombing the town, though, maybe it would be an abduction game. And it could be played either cooperatively (like our original game) or competitively, with one or more players as the Heroes and one or more players as the Aliens. 

Again, I'm wondering if a 2d6 style mechanic like my Gauntlet idea above might be fun for this. Originally, I think we had just a regular d6 mechanic. It's been a LONG time, and Todd had our only copy of the game.

So, it looks like this year I may be experimenting with some table top board/tactical game designs in addition to RPG stuff.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024


I picked up the Official D&D League of Malevolence and Valor's Call miniature sets a year ago. 

I assembled them pretty soon after, but then put them aside. Last summer, I gave them base coats (black for the baddies, white for the goodies, obviously). Then put them away again. 

Today, I finally started painting.  Here's the first one, the classic villain Warduke. Turned out pretty well, I think. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins Game Master Guidebook

I've gone back to work on the GM Guidebook for my house rules of D&D. I figure I'll go ahead and keep what I've got written so far, which is mostly how I run things explained in a way that hopefully inexperienced GMs will find useful. After I'm done writing this, I'll condense just the rules bits into a shorter booklet as a reference for more experienced GMs to use at the table. 

The past few nights, I've been reading over what I wrote before, and I added a "secrets of running a great game" section for those new to RPGs, or new to old school style play. I've decided rather than try to cater to all tastes, I'm just going to write this thing to show the way I run my game. I'm not trying to tell a story with my campaign. I'm not trying to lead the party through a series of staged and micromanaged encounters for an evening's entertainment. I'm trying to present a world to them that is full of challenges and problems, and allow them to seek out what they will. That's my authorial voice. That's the way the rules tell you to play. Feel free to disagree, but I'm not going to waste time telling people how to run D&D as a narrative game or a balanced challenge game. There are other games for that. The teacher side of me wants to do that, but I'm resisting the urge.

That said, I am realizing there are quite a few things in Classic D&D that I don't really use (like the Caller or the Declaration phase of the combat round) so I'm ditching any references to those. I'll go back and edit my player (and monster/treasure) books later to match. There are a few mistakes here and there in those booklets that need to be corrected, as well. 

It's not a revolutionary game. I don't intend it to be. But it will be nice to share it with the world. 

Don't expect it to be done any time soon. I've still got a lot of things left to write, like all the rules for crafting dungeons/wilderness/settings and those for high level campaigns (domain formation and management, planar adventures, artifacts, etc.). I will probably include a few rules variants that I've toyed with or at least considered (XP for magic items found, alternate character creation methods, etc.) near the end.

But I've got some steam built up for writing this thing, and I'm going to try and capitalize on it. Some day, this may actually be a complete game system that others can use.