Old School Tabletop Roleplaying Gaming

Gates & Glamours

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.

BX Advanced: A Draft Barbarian Class

BX Advanced Playtest 0.1 CoverOne of the most requested classes so far for BX Advanced is the Barbarian. It’s not found in either Labyrinth Lord or its Advanced Edition Companion — probably because the original class from Unearth Arcana was a bit over-powered and hard to play in a normal party with spell-casters. I’ve tried to piece together a Barbarian class suitable for BX Advanced from open game content sources and my own ideas. Here is what I have so far. Please note that it has not been really proofread, let alone playtested. However, as one of my players really wants to play a barbarian, I needed something to work from to use in tomorrow’s session.

You will note that I’ve toned down the barbarian’s issues with magic to make the character easier to use in a typical campaign. A Barbarian will adventure with arcane spellcasters types, if reluctantly, but he will not tolerate spells cast upon him. This should reduce the — frankly ridiculous — contortions often needed to play a 1e barbarian in a “normal” adventuring party while keeping the “distrusts magic” flavor.

I’ve also modified the Barbarian’s Battle Rage so that the Barbarian can end it at will (thus preventing the barbarian attacking his own party if a battle ends before his rage does). However, I’ve made the Barbarian’s rage exhausting, leaving the barbarian fatigued and weakened for 10 minutes per combat round the Battle Rage lasted.

Comments, complaints and ideas are welcome.

The character class (offset by a blue blockquote line) below is open game content under the OGL statement for this blog. Here is the addition Section 15 copyright references for this class:

First Edition Fantasy: Supplement #2, OSRIC Unearthed, Copyright 2007, Charles Rice; published by Ronin Arts
Barbarian: A Player Character Class for Labyrinth Lord, Copyright 2012, James M. Spahn

Requirements: Str 12, Con 12
Prime Requisite: STR and CON
Hit Dice: 1d10
Maximum Level: None
Born in the wild and raised among savage nomads, Barbarians are warriors hardened by nature and able to survive in the wild with little more than a weapon and their own willpower. Their skill in battle comes not from training or discipline, but from sheer brutality and tenacity. The sheer unwillingness to fall in combat and drive a foe into the ground makes them fearsome opponents to even the hardiest of foes.
Though they are not often found in civilized lands, some find their way onto the path of adventure. Whether they are the last remnant of a dying tribe, cast out for an act of dishonor, or secretly scouting the civilized worlds for invasion, the occasional barbarian can be found adventuring in more civilized lands.
Barbarians are proficient in all melee weapons and may wear padded armor, leather armor, studded leather as well as use shields. Because of their savage nature Barbarians may only be Neutral or Chaotic alignment. Barbarians use the Attack Value and Saving Throws of a fighter.
Sense Danger: Barbarians have an almost supernatural ability to detect danger. This gives them a chance to avoid surprise and to avoid traps after they are triggered. If a Barbarian is with a party that is surprised and they successfully Sense Danger, they are not surprised. That is they may take their actions as normal during the surprise round even though the rest of their party may not act. If a trap which would affect the is activated and they successfully Sense Danger, they may avoid the trap effects completely (leaping out of the way, etc.) so long as there is any physical way to avoid the trap. A successful Sense Danger roll will also negate any bonuses for attacking a Barbarian from behind (or from ambush, from invisibility, etc.)
Battle Rage: Barbarians can fly into a rage at the beginning their action in a combat round. This grants the Barbarian a bonus to attack and damage rolls equal to the Barbarian’s level divided by 4, rounded up (e.g. +1 at levels 1 to 4, +2 at levels 5-8, etc.). The Barbarian gains temporary hit points equal to his level that go away at the end of Battle Rage – damage suffered during battle rage is taken first from these temporary hit points. Damage dice explode — that is, if the natural die roll is the maximum possible for the die type (e.g. a 6 of a D6, an 8 on a D8), the die is rolled again and the damage added together. If the second natural die roll is also the maximum possible for the die type, a third roll is made (etc.). Damage bonuses, if any, are added to the final. Barbarians using a ranged weapon when they go into Battle Rage will toss it aside and draw a melee weapon as a free action.
Battle Rage lasts for 1d6 plus 1 per level combat rounds. A Barbarian may voluntarily end Battle Rage before the duration is up. When Battle Rage ends, the Barbarian immediately loses all Battle Rage modifiers and becomes fatigued for 10 minutes for every combat round the Battle Rage lasted. While fatigued, the Barbarian loses the benefits of Sense Danger, suffers a -2 penalty to hit and damage, and moves at 50% of their normal rate.
Superstitious: Barbarians are notoriously suspicious of magic from outside their experience (Barbarian clans will tolerate Clerics and Druids but Magic-Users and Illusionists will be driven out). If any Magic User or Illusionist casts a spell on a Barbarian and he successfully saves, he will fly into a frenzy and attack the spell-caster.
While superstitious, the Barbarian is still a pragmatist; his primitive nature just sometimes gets the better of him. With regard to magic items, this means that a Barbarian can use most magic weapons and armor, since they are just better versions of standard items. The Barbarian would not use a weapon if he knew it could throw a spell though.
The Barbarian is also pragmatic enough to suffer the use of such items or the presence of a Magic-User among his allies, unless a spell is cast upon him. In such a case the Barbarian will fly into a frenzy as discussed above and attack the source of the spell.
Horde Leadership: As a Barbarian advances in levels he may attempt to raise a barbarian horde for revenge against a traditional enemy or if substantial loot is promised as described below:
·          Clan Leader: A Barbarian of 8th level and above has the respect of his clan, usually his family and some traditionally allied families who hail from the same area. The Barbarian can gather a small force of 1d6 1st level Barbarians times the Barbarian’s level (so 8d6 at 8th level, 9d6 at 9th level and so on), along with a war leader (a 3rd level Barbarian) and a clan Shaman (a 3rd level Druid). This force will stay together for the Barbarian as long as the goal he promised them remains within their reach (this is at the discretion of the game master).

·          War Chief: At 13th level the Barbarian has an even greater reputation among his people and can gather a larger force, equal to 1d8 1st level Barbarians per level. This force is accompanied by two war leaders (3rd level Barbarians), two clan shamans (3rd level Druids) and one clan leader (8th level Barbarian).


·          Warlord: At 18th level and above the Barbarian can summon a great number (often the majority) of his people to aid him in revenge or for the prospect of gaining treasure. This force numbers 2d10 1st level Barbarians per level, along with one war leader and clan shaman per 10 Barbarians and one clan leader for every 30 Barbarians.
Hit Dice (1d10)
Sense Danger
+3 hp only*
+6 hp only*
+9 hp only*
+12 hp only*
+15 hp only*
+18 hp only*
+21 hp only*
+24 hp only*
+27 hp only*
+30 hp only*
+33 hp only*
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.

Frog God Games Now Has An Official Discord Server

Someone associated with Frog God Games just posted on following on the Microlite20 message board. As the board doesn’t get much use, I decided to report the info here. I’m personally not that interested in voice chat, but I know many gamers are, so this may be news at least some old school players can use. Frog God Games produces some very high quality (and often very expensive) stuff for Swords & Wizardry (and other games of much less interest to readers of this blog — like Pathfinder).

Howdy, Frog God Games the makers of Swords and Wizardry, Rappan Athuk, Tomb of Abysthor, and Slumbering Tsar just launched their official discord server. I would like to invite you to come join us to talk about Swords and Wizardry, 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Starfinder and other Frog God Game products.
We have voice channels for pickup games as well. Lots of free content and resources.

Step 1.) Go here
Step 2.) Click which is best for you Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, or Linux and download it.
Step 3.) Once it has finished downloading click the + button surrounded by a dotted circle on the left hand side
Step 4.) Click the Join a Server button and copy and paste this into it

Side Note: Normally, I’d consider a forum post like this “advertising without approval” and delete it, but I decided to not to be a complete jackass of a “forum GM” and leave it up. This should not be considered setting a precedent — it is always better to ask first when when comes to anything advertising related on the forum (anf most other forums, for that matter).

New Old School Sunday Game Campaign Coming Together

Pizza MeetingYesterday was the first meeting of what will hopefully soon become my next Sunday Game. Six potential players and myself met over all-you-can-eat pizza to discuss campaign and rules ideas. After several hours (and a lot of pizza and soft drinks) we’ve hashed out some ideas for my next old school campaign.

It will be set in a version of the Judges Guild Wilderlands — the main differences from the Judges Guild “canon” will be religion and magic. Exactly where it will be set is still up in the air. People seem torn between starting in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, starting in a smaller town, or starting in a sea port with pirates. There are two votes for each. Sigh.

Religion: The campaign will have only one true deity (an incomprehensible “creator”) who interacts with the world and its people through thousands of demi-god-like avatars. While some of these avatars might be avatars of “evil” things like theft or murder, all are opposed to Chaos. Chaos is what is outside “creation” and seeks to swallow it up and destroy it (that is, return it to formless chaos). The main effect on the campaign is that there will be lots of little religions with most people praying to many deities depending on what they need. Clerical characters focus are more focused a single deity (but even they will pray to other Gods when they need help in their specific area of power. The game effects for clerical characters are that they can basically create the deity they want to follow and I will create 2 or 3 special prayers realed to that deity that their characters can access in the game. Clerical powers will tend to be low key because none of the thousands of deities worshiped inj the world are individually very powerful.

Magic: According to legend, before an ancient world-wide magical disaster, people could easily wield very powerful magic by making a few gestures, saying incantations, and imposing their will on the magical energy of the world. However, people somehow pushed things too far and let Chaos into the world and there was a huge backlash of magical energy that ended this “golden age” of magic and somehow changed the very nature of magic. Now, very little can be accomplished magically with just gestures, incantations, and a mage’s will — most magic has to be performed through lengthy and often complex rituals. Mage characters will be able to do some “wand magic” (probably something like minor magic in my current Microlite75 Extended rules), but most magic will have to be done through rituals. Players will be able to design rituals to do anything from charming a being long term to moving mountains around. Of course, the more powerful the effect, the more steps needed to do the ritual (e.g. research, special items, special times, sacrifices, magical energy, etc.).

Character Classes:

Fighter: A powerful warrior class that gets +1 to hit and damage per level, is skilled at commanding men-at-arms, knows all sorts of special combat maneuvers and combat tricks, etc. Fighters will be able to design combat tricks on the fly and they will not be penalized for trying using them — if they critical hit, they do normal damage and impose the special effect from the trick, if they hit the defender can choose to accept the special effect or take the damage rolled. Highly skilled with weapons and armor.

Scout: A lesser warrior (+1 to hit per 2 levels) who is also skilled in outdoorsman and some thief-like abilities. Normal skills with weapons and armor.

Paladin: A lesser warrior (+1 to hit per 2 levels) who is also a priest/priestes of a deity. Paladins have a few standard prayers (healing, etc.) and a few special prayers determined by their deity. They can also repel/disrupt undead and some manifestations of Chaos. Normal skills with weapons and armor.

Mage: A minor warrior (+ 1 to hit per 3 levels) who is a scholar able to easily weild magic. Mages can use wand magic and know how to create and perform magical rituals to best effect. Limited skills with weapons and armor.

All classes will have the ability to try use scroll magic. Scrolls are ancient writings from before the magical disaster that contain magic energy and an incantation that will release their magical power when properly chanted aloud.

The game rules themselves will otherwise be 0e to B/X like. Now all I have to do is write enough of the first draft of the new rules needed so we can start playing — Target date for the first session is August 6th.

How I Recruit Players for my Old School Games

Recruting illoI occasionally receive email asking me how I manage to get so many players for my old school games — giving that most potential players aren’t familiar with them — or if they are familiar with them do not have a very positive opinion of old school play. Given that the basement gaming area of my new house in Ohio is finally available and I’m currently recruiting players in yet another area where I don’t know many people, this sounds like a good time to make a post on how I recruit players for my long-running old school campaigns.

First, let me say that I really don’t have any good ideas for taking a currently existing group of players and convincing them to play in an old school campaign. In my 35+ years of gaming, I’ve never really done that. I never had a group of friends who are already playing tabletop RPGS and tried to convince them that they want to spend years playing in one of my campaigns. Instead of trying to convince a pre-existing group who are not playing old school games to play in my campaign, I simply recruit a group of people who want to play what I want to run. This is really my secret to success — I find people who want to play what I want to run instead of trying to convince an existing group to play what I want to run.

Since I run an old school style game where players just tell me what they want their characters to try to do and I tell them whether they succeed, fail, or what to roll to find out what happens, I don’t need to limit my search to people who already know the game system I am running. This also means I don’t have to limit my search to people willing to buy and study the rules to play. Therefore, I can recruit people that many modern gamers would not have any interest in recruiting: people who might want to play but who aren’t interested in studying and learning hundreds of pages of rules just to be able to play a character in an “elf game”.

That said, I spend most of my time telling other gamers about my campaign. I tell them that it is old school where they are playing normal people who may become heroes, not people who are already awesome heroes. I explain that my campaigns aren’t centered around combat encounters (or even encounters in general), but around exploring the campaign world, searching for and recovering treasure, and interacting with the world in character. I explain that player skill matters more than character skill — and that running headlong into situations without any playing and preparation will eventually get their characters killed. I tell people I I do not have a story to tell, but that I run a sandbox campaign where the players can choose to have their characters try to do just about anything and the the campaign’s story consists of what the players’ characters do in the campaign world.

I’ll be honest, most people’s eyes get big and they quickly decide that they want nothing to do with my campaign. That’s okay, because I want people who want to play in my campaign. However, generally about one in every ten or fifteen people seem actually interested in maybe giving such a game a try, I tell these people when the game is (or will be ran). If they are still interested I tell them how to join the campaign mailing list (or you could use a private Facebook group, etc.) where they can see the rules, learn about the campaign, and talk to other players (or potential players). Once I get a couple of people who are definitely interested, finding more becomes easier and these new players often have friends who they think might like the game and tell then about it. Often these people who friends who do not play RPGs for some reason or another, but they think would like to play in a game where they don’t have to do anything but show up and say what they want their character to try to do. I generally want at least four players to start a new campaign. It generally takes me a month or two, at most, to get to that point from no players. I keep working a it even then, however, as I usually loose a player or two once the game starts due to time issues, the game not being quite what they expected, etc. Once I have a group playing, however, recruiting actually becomes easier and the current players and current game situation are generally better at generating interest then boring old me.

Will this work for others? I will admit that it seems to work for me better than it seems to for others. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it is because this is the way I’ve always done it and so have gotten good at it.

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