Old School Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming

Gates & Glamours

Aaron Allston’s Strike Force and the Champions RPG

I found my copy of Aaron Allston’s Strike Force in a box a few weeks ago. I hadn’t read it since in came out in 1988 so I set it aside to re-read. Reading it reminded of how much I enjoyed running Champions games back in the early 1980s. I read Aaron’s review of the first edition of Champions in The Space Gamer and had to have a copy. Fortunately, I had a couple of friends who were selling comics at the Eisenhauer Road Flea Market (a few blocks from my house) who went up to a distributor in Austin every Friday to get the weeks comics. I asked them to see if their distributor had a copy of Champions and get one for me if they did. I was sick with something flu-like that Friday, but I dragged myself down to their stall to await their arrival. They came back with 56 page rulebook, sold it to me and sent me home cause they did not want whatever I had.

While I had some issues with the rules, I was soon running Champions games in addition to my ongoing Empire of Arn (a homebrew fantasy game). I bought everything for 1st edition, then for second edition, and for third Edition — although by then Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) had become by standard superhero game as Champions was going more and more complex. I remember purchasing the fourth edition of Champions — a 350 page hardback book — and thinking I could use it as a weapon. I read the book, decided Champions had become far more detailed and complex than I was interested in, put the book on the shelf and I don’t think I ever played or ran Champions again. By that point in my gaming “career” I was coming to the conclusion that more complex and detailed made most RPGs worse instead of better — even my own Empire of Arn homebrew seemed more complicated than it really needed to be and I started rolling it back toward a B/X D&D complexity level. I kept all my Champions stuff (of course) but other than my third edition rules books, everything was in boxes.

Back to the present, having found my copy of Strike Force, I was reading it when players started arrived for my Sunday game a few weeks ago. One of my players saw it and got very excited as he had never seen a copy. I didn’t know he had any interesting in Champions. It turns out he had purchased the sixth edition rules when they came out 8-9 years ago hoping to either run or play in it but never found a game. To show you how out of touch I with Champions am, I didn’t even know there was a sixth edition. We went on with the Sunday game but there was a lot of Champions discussion on our mailing list that week

The next Sunday, Paul brought his sixth edition books so I (and others) could look at them. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that there were three books need to play — Hero System Rules Volume I, Hero System Rules Volume II and Champions 6e and they totaled just short of 1100 pages. My comment was that I could see why he never found a game as no one who wasn’t already a Hero system expert would be likely to be willing to even try to play in a game — let alone run a game. I could tell there was a lot of interest in a superhero game (and they really wanted it to be Champions, unfortunately), so I offered to run a monthly session of Champions 3rd edition — under 150 pages of rules. Given that I was the only person with a copy of those rules, that was a non-starter. Side Note: This is one of the reasons I prefer games where players don’t really need a copy ofd the rules to play.

Middle of last week I got an email from Paul. He had checked RPGNow to see if Hero Games was selling the third edition rules. They were not. However, they now sell something called Champions Complete. This supposedly has all the rules (i.e., it’s a complete game, not an addon that needs the 700+ page Hero System 6e rules books) in about 250 pages. Does anyone have any comments on Champions Complete 6e? It’s still over 100 pages longer than Champions 3e, but I might be able to live with it — although I’d really rather run some like FASERIP as it is a far less annoying system than the Hero System (IMHO).

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.

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