Old School Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming

Gates & Glamours

Play OSR D&D on an Amazon Echo?

I’ve had an Amazon Echo Dot for over a year now. If fact, we now have three because they are much easier for my wife (with her MS-related hand issues) to use than a normal timer, alarm clock, etc. I’ve never found the games available as skills to be all that much fun to play — at least more than a time or two.

Today, however, I discovered Six Swords — an attempt to have Alexa run a D&D-like game. It’s not based on modern D&D — it’s “based on OSRIC, an open source version of first Edition Dungeons and Dragons ™” according to the Six Swords skill description. I haven’t had a lot of time to play with this, but I can already say it is the most interesting Alexa skill game I’ve tried yet. It’s far from perfect, but it seems like it will be a fun away to spend some time. It also appears to be under active development with new releases with bug fixes and new features every few weeks. Here’s the full description of the Six Swords skill. It’s not going to replace a human DM anytime soon, but it’s the best game I’ve seen for Alexa-powered devices.

Engage in classic fantasy adventure. Build a team of up to six companions to explore exotic cities, high castles, and deep dungeons. But be careful, the further off the path you get the more dangerous it becomes.
The system used is based on OSRIC, an open source version of first Edition Dungeons and Dragons ™.

There are many features available in the skill which you can discover as you play it. Some of the more used commands are:

North, South, East, West: move around the game map.

Enter: enter into a town, castle or dungeon.

inventory: list what your party and your active player is carrying

who: list the companions in your group

activate : make one of your companions the active companion

give to : give an item from the party inventory to the companion

take from : move an item from a companion to the party inventory

When in combat you cannot use the move commands. However you can:

fight: fight a round of combat with the enemy

run away: flee a fight

Other versions: 6 Swords Lite and 6 Swords Kids.

If you have some type of Amazon Echo or another device with Alexa, you might want to give this a try.


New Map of The City-State of the Invincible Overlord

To be honest, there’s rarely anything new released that is of immediate use to me in my RPG campaigns. Today was one of those rare — and very happy — exceptions. Bat in the Attic Games has released (with permission of Judges Guild) a new map of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. This isn’t a just a better scan of the original map from 1976, but a new map created from scratch based on the original map.

To quote the description: “Now forty years later that map has been redrawn in full color. It preserves all the original detail while adding new ones like rocks, foot paths, trees, and shrubbery. This has been checked against the no-name city blueprint that was the first draft of the map. This helped to clarify details obscured by the offset printing process used in the 1970s. This map is not a scanned image of the original but has been redrawn from scratch.”

For a mere $8 you get several versions:

* A vector based PDF with layers at 22″ by 34″
* A bitmap based PDF at 22″ by 34″
* A jpeg of the map with building labels and legends removed suitable for virtual tabletop software.
* A 17″ by 14″ map with the city arranged in its correct location on the original 5 mile hex map published on the back of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.
* A PDF with overlapping sections of the full map suitable for printing on letter size paper.
* A PDF with a letter sized black and white only map suitable for taking notes on during a campaign.

It’s wonderful — especially that large PDF with layers. It is much cleaner than my original from the 1970s and better in just about all ways than the scanned versions Judges Guild is currently selling in RPGNet. If you are a City State of the Invincible Overland fan, click the link below and get your copy. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Rob Conley and Bat in the Attic games for starting my holiday season off with a bang. I’ll be using this map for my next Sunday game in two days.

New Color City State of the Invincible Overlord Map via RPGNet (Affiliate link — buy it via this link and I get a small percentage of the price).

My Five Favorite Microlite20-Based Games

With the publication of the third edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection, I’ve been asked what some of my favorite Microlite20-based games are as there are a large number of variants in the collection. I’m always reluctant to answer such questions as my tastes in games don’t always match up well with the tastes of others. However, for what its worth, here are my five favorite Microlite20-based games — and I’m picking any the of games I’ve written.

5th Place: Scions of a Primordial Planet — Some humans (Vikings!) end up on a Barsoom-like version of Mars. Of course, you could ignore the vikings and just use these rules to play on ERB’s Barsoom. Either way, this is a good little game that is fun to play.

4th Place: M20 Hyborian Age — What can I say, I’m a fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stoies and this two page (plus one page for the OGL) set of rules provides a fast and simple way to run games set in Hyboria. You have to know the world of Conan to make it work, but if you are a Conan fan like me, this isn’t a problem.

3rd Place: SpyLite — I’ve been a fan of espionage RPGs since TSR’s original Top Secret and Victory Games’ James Bond games. I really wanted to like Spycraft, but found it far too complex and time-consuming for my tastes. SpyLite‘s goal was “to take Greywulf’s excellent Microlite system, beat it senseless, and create a game that will do one-tenth of what Spycraft does, but with only one-half the work.” in just 16 pages of rules, SpyLite manages to do much better than that. A couple of short SpyLite supplements are also included in the collection.

2nd Place: Tumbleweed — I grew up on Westerns, and while I can see their many flaws today (heck, I saw many of them as a kid but ignored them), I still like the fictional Old West as a setting. Tumbleweed provides a nifty set of Microlite20-based rules for Old West campaigns that work and do not include some type of fantasy aspect. Note that there are other two Old West variants in the collection that do include fantasy aspects if you want goblins or magic in your setting.

1st Place: Stargate 1895 — “In November of 1893 the renowned Egyptologist Lord Conway made an amazing discovery in the Qattara Depression. It was in a previously unsurveyed temple complex, buried beneath the floor of what appeared to be a great tomb. In his journal he described the artefact as ‘a giant quoit of an unknown metal, some 8 yards across.” Yes, a stargate is discovered by English explorers in the late Victorian era and eagle-headed men come through when it is opened a couple of years later. The British government turns the problem and the stargate over to Mycroft Holmes. The PC are explorers travelling through the stargate. What’s not to like when you combine Stargate with the Victorian era British Empire?

There are many more good variants, including variants designed around Star Wars, Star Trek, superheroes, zombie invasions, Star Frontiers, etc. Download the free/Pay-What-You-Want copy of the Third Edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection and you can decide the best ones for yourself.

You can download the current (2017) edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection in the above listed games and many more on RPGNow (click here to download) where it is a “Pay-What-You-Want” game with a Suggested Price of $0.00. Just enter a “0” in the price box and you are good to go. The current edition is about 2000 pages and is a 63 megabyte download. If you don’t have an RPGNow/DriveThruRPG account, you can get 2017 edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection via this Mediafire link (but you have to put up with Mediafire’s ads). You can also get the individual games from the download area of the unofficial Microlite20 website if you do not want the entire collection.

I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments!

More Drama in the OSR (And How I Avoid It)

I pulled my head up from working on the next edition of The Microlite20 RPG Collection (which looks to be about 2000 pages this time, that about 500 more than the 2012 edition) last night and hit Tenkar’s Tavern to see what was going on in the rest of the OSR world. I discovered that there apparently has been another big blowup on social media (G+ this time) — see “Guest Post by Greg C re: The Current Drama on G Plus in the OSR – A Must Read IMHO” if you are as in the dark as I was.

I’ll be honest, all the drama is one of the reasons I’m not as active posting as I used to be, except about my various gaming projects. I have never had much interest in mixing discussions of real world politics, real world religion, real world current affairs, or the like in my gaming discussions. In fact, I banned such discussions from my gaming tables and game group mailing lists and game group get-togethers many years ago (in the 1980s). When I get together to game or to discuss gaming, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to discuss divisive issues like politics or religion. That way, I can game with you even if our positions on such issues are 180 degrees apart. People don’t have to agree to work or play together, but sometimes it helps to just not discuss off-topic things that are likely to cause discord and strife. The world will not end because you played in the same game or were quietly discussing gaming over coffee with someone whose political, religious, and/or philosophical opinions are opposed to yours. So I avoid the drama by just refusing to allow off-topic discussions that are most likely to lead to drama when I’m in charge and by refusing to participate in them (by leaving if necessary) if I’m not in charge. Some people say this makes me just another asshole. Perhaps it does, but I haven’t had fights over real world religion, politics or philosophy tear any of my gaming groups apart or turn game sessions sour. That’s a big win in my book.

Now, I’m going to start my real-world-drama free Sunday game. Actually, I expect lots of drama today, but all of it will be the exciting and fun in-game adventure type of drama. I wish the same to all of my readers.

Many Interesting New Old School Games at RPGNow

Forbidden Caverns CoverWhen I go out to RPGNow there’s generally only one or two new games that get my attention, so I was surprised to discover a five such games this morning. Unfortunately, most are well above my PDF price limit of $10. However, I thought I would point them out on my blog as the Christmas season is approaching and my wife has been known to check my blogs for gift ideas.

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia: This is a megadungeon by the author of Barrowmaze, Greg Gillespie. While I really would like to have this, at $35 for a PDF, I am unlikely to ever buy it as it is over 3 times the maximum I’m willing to pay for a PDF — especially one I am unlikely to ever use more than pieces of. However, it sounds very interesting: “The lost city of Archaia – an ancient ruin sunken into the earth – lies deep in the badlands. In recent years, caravans from Eastdale have come under attack from orcs, goblins, and worse. Some say these blood-thirsty warbands have made lairs in the deep caves and ruins. Sill others say the ancient halls are filled with magnificent treasures left by the Archaians.” Cover art is by Erol Otus and the interior art includes “special surprizes by former TSR artists”. If you are willing to spend more money on PDFs than I am and would like what will (judging by Barrowmaze) probably be an excellent old school megadungeon, you may want to pick this up.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea — Second Edition: This caught me by surprise as I didn’t know a second edition was in the works. I found the first edition full of interesting ideas, if a bit rough around the edges. However, I liked it enough that I’m looking forward to eventually getting the second edition. According to the blurb, “AS&SH™ has been expanded to include new classes, news spells, new monsters, new magic items, and more! It also includes a new, full colour map, an introductory town and adventure, as well as hundreds of new illustrations!” All the stuff in the first sentence really makes me want a copy. The second sentence, not so much. I really don’t need hundreds of illustrations, but I imagine I’m not really the target audience for that part.

Mighty Protectors: Mighty Protectors is the third edition of Villains and Vigilantes. And V&V is the only superhero game aside from TSR’s excellent Marvel Superheros (aka FASERIP) that I would be willing to run these days. The first two editions of V&V were great old school superhero games and all I’ve heard about the third edition is good, so I’m looking forward to eventually getting a copy of this game. I might even be willing to pay a bit over my $10 PDF limit for it because it is something I stand a good chance of actually playing. I’m really happy to see V&V back and wish Jeff Dee and Jack Herman the best of luck with it.

Raiders of R’lyeh: I was really surprised to see this game as it is one of the very late kickstarters that a lot of backers apparently never expected to see. At just under $40 in PDF form, it’s way outside my budget. It looks as interesting today as it did when I first heard the idea several years ago: pulpish style mythos adventures in the Edwardian age (1900-1913). Of course, as Pulp Cthuthlu has been out a while (and is an excellent game and one I already own), this game will probably not have the impact it might have had if it had come out when it was originally supposed to.

Fringeworthy d20 edition: I own the first two editions of Richard Tucholka’s Fringeworthy. It was a fantastic interdimensional exploration setting saddled with a overly-complex game system. While D20 system versions of games are often square pegs driven into round holes, in this case the D20 system almost has to be an improvement over the original system — at least for me. If you are unfamiliar with Fingeworthy, this post, “Obsolete Simulations Roundup: Fringeworthy” at Hereticwerks is a good review.

I also noticed that ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG seems to have a new and much lower price than when it first came out. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this game at a very good sale price shortly after it came out. If you like either of the first two editions of the Warhammer RPG, you need this game.

As usual, all the links to RPGNow products in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase a copy through one of these links, I get a small percentage (5% or so, I believe) of the price. Like donations to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund, money earned from these affiliate links helps pay medical expenses.

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