Saturday, November 9, 2013


On my last blog post, I pulled in a piece of art from Google images, and used it for the image of a bundle. Turns out that even though it wasn't shown wherever I got it from, the picture comes from an old-school hireling generator, Greg Gillespie's "Meatshields!"

Meatshields! has been out for quite a while: this isn't the announcement of something new. But the program deserves to get pushed back into the public eye, because it's a really cool resource. It's doubly neat because I had the pleasure of actually meeting Greg at North Texas RPGCon. He is one of the people who absolutely give to the hobby with all their hearts. Greg did Barrowmaze at no profit to himself. The Meatshields generator is an awesome piece of work, filling a missing piece for the DM, free, and with artwork good enough that out of the whole internet I happened to pick out one of the illustrations.

So please go and take a look not only at Meatshields!, but if you want to see a master painter and terrain-maker, Greg happens to be one. Look at his blog, Discourse & Dragons.

Greg is one of the builders. In my family, that's one of the biggest compliments we give. Some people build.

Dak Ultimak needs to get mentioned in this regard as well. There are some people who make things, really cool things like Reverend Dak's 'zine, which is called Hack! (Exclamation points are a theme in this post, clearly). The last copy of Hack is excellent, starting with a Jason Sholtis cover and rolling right into gunfire. It's a whole bunch of pages about getting firearms into a game of old-school D&D, whether that's OD&D, Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, LL, or Basic. It's loaded (ahem) with fun.

Again, one of the people who builds, rather than tearing down.

Let us all lift a glass to both of these excellent individuals, in thanks for their generosity of spirit and nobility of character!

Friday, November 8, 2013

New 10% Discount in the Bundle

Frog God Games has kicked more into the Bundle of Holding. A 10% discount on anything bought through the Frog God Games website -- including physical books (although the 10% discount doesn't apply to the shipping, just the books you buy).

Depending on what you buy, that could almost pay for the cost of the bundle right there.

We also added a pdf copy of Cyclopean Deeps #1. That is clearly a gateway-drug kind of thing, so, yeah. It's intended to suck you into buying the rest of the series as it comes out. I am currently working on #6 out of 12.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Everyone Else is Saying

Every once in a while, you end up with things you have to repeat, even though everyone else has already said them. It's not easy to mention the Bundle of Holding, the number of times that Erik Tenkar alone has sent out copies of the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules, or the Sword of Air Kickstarter.

Which brings up my dad. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of going with my dad to the University of Houston, where he was a professor (now emeritus). I remember the smell of chalk dust and pipe tobacco, I remember the modern architecture of the place and the rippled landscaping (Houston is very flat; hills are sculpted).

I also remember the echo chamber. Because to demonstrate it, they took a gun and fired a blank round. This was my only childhood contact with a real gun, and it's really cool to hear one when it's fired in an echo chamber.

My point being, that if you end up temporarily in an echo chamber, just roll with it. And therefore I present to you the main topics that everyone is talking about today:

(1) OSR Bundle of Holding. If you don't have even half of the stuff in here, and you can use pdfs without going insane, this is probably the best pdf deal that has ever been offered in the "OSR." It's an incredible value. I bought it myself for little more than Vornheim and the other LotFP module. Just those were worth it to me, and I'm cheap.

(2) The permanent give-away of the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook forever to everyone has prompted a lot of interest. Erik Tenkar gave away lots and lots of them, and he wasn't the only one helping to distribute them.

(3) Sword of Air Kickstarter continues to roll. I was on the phone with Bill earlier today, both of us writing, kicking ideas back and forth.That's a fun way to write, incidentally.

Enjoy the gaming of the day, and may your dice never roll you into a hayrick!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spam Warning

Apparently someone is using my name to create spam emails. My email address is "mythmere at yahoo dot com." If anything comes to you from a different source, it isn't me!

Old School Bundle of Holding
In a few minutes, Bundle of Holding is going to release an Old School Bundle. Their previous bundles have been quite interesting -- this one is actually right on target.

The way these things work is bizarre, but it apparently works. I think that people "pay what they want" at the beginning, but as the average price moves up, that averaged price becomes the minimum. I think that's how it works, anyway. There will no doubt be instructions.

It is an inexpensive way to pick up pdfs, and I'm the author of a couple of them.

HERE IS THE LINK, which will hopefully work after the preview page is done and the bundle actually starts

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules now FREE

Because the Frog God Games Sword of Air Kickstarter has hit 401 backers, the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook is now FREE. That doesn’t mean we’re releasing a crippled or art-free version, it means the full-artwork, Erol Otus on the cover, no-text-left-out, existing was-for-sale-yesterday version of the book is now a free pdf! Note: Until we change the price on the Frog God Website, you’ll have to have a buddy send it to you — but we hope to have that change made ASAP.

A couple of caveats; please don’t make changes to it and then send it out, because then no one will be sure if they’ve got the official copy. Also, we will probably be correcting the links in the pdf, because we just recently changed the location of the Frog God Games website. Finally, although we’re giving the pdf away for free, that doesn’t mean that the art can be stripped and used. We still hold the copyright, we just give away the copies for free. That said, ENJOY!!!

PS more news is probably coming out later today.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Sword of Air Funded!" Or is it "Area of the Sword?"

Today's blog topic is an easy one: the Sword of Air Kickstarter funded this morning, hitting the $75,000 mark. This doesn't yet reach the goal that's more important to me, the 400-backer target that lets us pay off remaining royalties on the Swords & Wizardry rules pdf, but it's still the most significant milestone along the way.

Next time (reminder to self) I hope to write about compatibility across OSR products.

Sword of Air, for those not familiar with it, is Bill Webb's big adventure series from his home campaign in the late seventies. It has a big wilderness map and several locations that were the adventure locations. The locations are awesome; on the other hand, the way Bill had them tied together in his campaign was as part of a quest to assemble an artifact, which is a device I don't like, myself. In his defense, he wrote this in 1977 or some ridiculously early point in time.

My sense of it is that the locations will be much, much stronger than the quest, in terms of influencing the book's feel. Bill doesn't write railroads or plotlines, he writes locations, and he hates "storylines" in an adventure, so my guess is that, despite the "Sword of Air," this is really going to be more like "Area of the Sword."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Free Rules!

As a part of the Sword of Air Kickstarter (large mini-campaign with epic adventure designed back in the late 70s), we are planning to release the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook as a free pdf instead of charging the $10 we used to charge for it. This isn't just a bit of marketing legerdemain: we will be foregoing almost a couple of hundred dollars a month because of this. However, we decided that we want to stay dedicated to the retro-clone concept by making the base rules available as inexpensively as possible.

In connection with the Kickstarter we are paying off (or already paid off) all the financial obligations attached to the rulebook, and will release it free forever afterwards.

This makes the people signing on to the Sword of Air Kickstarter kind of unique -- they are giving a gift not only to the other backers but to everyone. Everyone in the whole world who wants a copy of [our version of] the Original 1974-78 rules. We do have to reach 400 backers before the rules are released, but I'm pretty sure it will happen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sword of Air Kickstarter Breaks $60,000

The Sword of Air Kickstarter is now at the "30 days to go" mark, and has a bit more than $60,000 in the bank. It hits break-even (and funding) at $75K, which it will almost certainly reach, at this point. This is going to be a pretty cool book, although I wish I could see a bit more of the raw material (which is all in Bill Webb's 3-ring binders, and I think he doesn't know how to -- or doesn't have a printer that can -- process a stack of pages into a scanner). I sympathize: as far as I know, my printer/software combination can't do it either. I have to scan into MS Paint as a graphic file. But enough about my computer-related whining, I'm drifting off topic.

(Pre-posting edit: most of the rest of this post ended up sounding like a fanboy post for Bill. It's not; but since he's the one writing Sword of Air, any sort of commentary on it ends up talking about Bill a lot. I didn't go in and change the post, I just inserted this little side-comment as my defense against the appearance of fanboyism.)

I have always thought it very strange that Bill doesn't list Clark Ashton Smith as a major influence in his adventure writing, although maybe I'm projecting since CAS is a huge influence on me, and Bill and I write a lot alike. I was on the phone with him a couple of nights ago, and his point was that he really doesn't design from the top down at all. He just writes adventures, and doesn't write them into any sort of world at all (except the originally-blank hex map he apparently started with back in the late 70s).

Indeed, he's basically writing Sword of Air by taking his old adventure binders, filling in any existing gaps on the big wilderness map (travel is involved), checking with Greg Vaughn that it doesn't violently contradict something in the Necromancer Games stuff, and then hurling it all into a blender.

I think, when you look at the structure of Bill's material (Rappan Athuk and Stoneheart Valley being the bigger ones), you can see that they were principally designed around the adventures. The backstory developed, to a large degree, from cool magic items and major villains in the dungeons, not vice versa.

So, that's my commentary on Sword of Air, for the day. As far as I know, it's not a project that I'll be working on very much, since I'm charging forward on Cyclopean Deeps now, hitting a thousand words a day on average right now. I've got a lot of catching up to do after the long, dead, dry spell of the imagination.

... and that's what I'm off to work on right now!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grimmsgate - comments on a review

Bryce Lynch does awesome reviews, coming at things from some very particular angles that I almost universally agree with. In other words, most of what I write is written with (almost) the same goals that Bryce reads for.

He did a review of Grimmsgate, which is -- all in all -- a positive review ("better than 90% of the crap out there") but with some definite criticisms. Bryce's complete review is HERE. Since, as I said, Bryce and I agree on many of the standards for an adventure, here are my thoughts on the review:

By the way, I have cut lots of the review because I don't like it when people just reproduce someone else's work without giving anyone a reason to check out the other blog. It wouldn't be fair to Bryce if I reproduced the whole thing, so this is only a patchwork set of comments. Here we go:

"This is meant to be an introductory adventure. It has a starting home-base, a brief wilderness around it, and an adventure in an old temple to get the characters going.

Me: Keep on the Borderland is the model for Grimmsgate, because I think KotB nailed the elements that are needed for a good starting area.

"The ancient temple is … I don’t know, bland? It’s got it’s high points, for sure, but it’s not what I’ve come to expect from Finch. I’d call it an average effort (meaning it’s better than 90% of the crap produced) but I’ve got no time, space, or energy for average."

Me: I included this mainly because I quoted it above, so I wanted to include the qualifier as well. I actually get to Bryce's point later where he's more specific; this is in his intro to the review.

Bryce: The writing is a lot closer in style to Rappan Athuk than it is Tomb of the Iron God.

Me: I think that's true. I wrote several levels of Rappan Athuk, and from following that model I think I also wrote Grimmsgate from a particular writing perspective. Very accurate assessment. There's a bit more to it, though, based on the fact that -- even though I know it's going to be the exception rather than the rule -- I was writing for the younger reader, less experienced in playing RPG's. That affected the approach. Nevertheless, I'm willing to admit that Tomb of the Iron God (first level of it, at least) is probably better than Grimmsgate (other than the village -- I like the village).

Bryce: "The players somehow end up there. [the village]"

Me: I don't bother with the idea of not railroading the beginning of an introductory adventure (or even the start of a higher level campaign). The starting point can be arbitrary, IMO. My own Tomb of the Iron God campaign (experienced players) started with the characters naked next to a burning brothel, with the guards getting close and an arrest imminent. I don't like railroading once the campaign starts, but it might as well start interesting.

Which Bryce then nails:

"Some lame hooks are offered. The Priests of Law charge you with a holy quest to investigate … sorry, brb. Ok, back, had to go throw up."

 Me: Okay, the hooks are lame. In my defense, I needed some that would work with an introductory campaign, and this is an area where I was thinking about brand new players. But looking back at it, I think I used that as a crutch. Except the one mentioned below.

On the "abandoned house" hook, Bryce suggests:
"Maybe the players are a new knight or free farmers and are sent to the village … it becomes their holding in liege to their lord. That doesn’t suck nearly as much and would also seem to get the players MUCH more interested in the fate of the village. Might make a neato campaign. A mini-hex crawl."

Me: this was exactly what I had in mind with the "they are deeded an abandoned house" hook. I didn't want to make it a freehold for first level characters. Bryce earlier disagrees with the background idea that no lord would claim the land because it's too wild, but that's letting realism get in the way of gaming. The area is free, and the characters have a house in the village. I left it to the players to see the opportunity there. So I think Bryce is correct, but that he didn't notice that I actually did what he wanted, in a different way that meshes better with an intro module. :)

Bryce on the Village:
.... The bases are all covered: inn, smith, store, cleric too old to go adventuring but who has some good scrolls to use like raise dead."
 BUT he says,
"The village is plagued by read-aloud text that seems forced. “This is a well-tended stone building with a roof of wooden shingles. The sign over the door says The Hilltop Emporium.”

Me: While it's true that I could have just labeled each of these as "Farmhouse," and left the description to the DM, I wanted to give a beginner something to work with -- and also, I think this is a part of the "I just wrote lots of Rappan Athuk" hangover. I still can't decide if I agree with Bryce or not. I do remember writing these, and they were done fast, and they were done because some of the buildings had important descriptions and others didn't. So, many of these were done for consistency. So I think Bryce picked up on that, accurately. On the other hand, I think I was right to avoid, in a beginner adventure, an inconsistent approach (guaranteed that someone other than Bryce would decide it was an editing mistake or sloppy). Again, I can't decide if Bryce is right here or not.

... "the shopkeeper has delusion of grandeur. All of the little NPC’s running around have some nice personality to make them memorable without being over the top. The descriptions of the people are very well done, communicating themselves strongly in just a sentence or two. "
... "But then it’s wrapped inside of shit."

 Me: I think Bryce means the rest of the introductory material, based on paragraphs, maybe also the wilderness. I don't think he means the whole module, based on the "better than 90%" evaluation. :)

The complaint about the intro is that it's a block of read-aloud (18 lines). Here, in the general case, I totally agree with Bryce. Long read-aloud text is crappy. It directs the DM's attention away from the players, and turns good material into a dry recitation. 18 lines is about the outside limit of what I could possibly stomach. Probably less. So, why is it in there? It's because of that "Introductory Module" consideration, and I actually still agree with the way I did it. Let me just quote Bryce's discussion -- again, go to Bryce's blog, he is probably the best reviewer out there.

"Better to play out a little journey, not taking too long in it, and present the information in the read-aloud naturally. Because the information is GOOD. The characters pass weird shit on the road on the way. Bones in a circle around a human skull. A small red-stained wicker basket abandoned by the side of the road. A shallow unmarked grave. Some REALLY good creepy shit to sprinkle in an adventure to Pigstye. Ruined by being wrapped in a block of text."

Here's why I kept that in boxed text: it's once again because I was trying to get a very clear, firm "This is the Starting Point" beginning, precisely and uniquely because it's an intro. Bryce wants what I normally try to do: a sort of wishy-washy set of cues that can be picked up anywhere by the DM, like a string to wind and unwind, rather than what I did in Grimmsgate, which is more like a brass band with cymbals to mark the very official BEGINNING. I was following, although not blindly, the lead from Keep on the Borderland. Read-aloud text is normally, for me, the trade-off between making sure that I, as the DM, don't forget a key fact and have to backtrack (I have DM ADD because I get so excited when DMing) -- or on the other hand, the fact that more than 10 seconds of read-aloud is an excitement-killer. For the intro adventure, I opted for giving the crutch to the DM -- an experience DM can assimilate 18 lines and do it in his/her own words. A beginning DM might not know how to start at all. So I provided a start.

"The “Wilderness” map is small. It has four places of note on it. ... None of these encounters are fleshed out much at all, just a sentence or three. This leaves them pretty open to interpretation by the DM to flesh out for additional adventure. So, not really something appropriate to the adventure at hand. "

 Me: Not sure if this is a criticism or not, but it's an accurate description of what I wanted to do.

Bryce on the Temple:
It’s arrayed around a hill with multiple entrances, ala the Caves of Chaos. That’s great! It’s a thoughtful feature, especially the hidden entrance in the woods. The majority of the temple though, under the hill, is one LONG hallway with smaller hallways and rooms hanging off of it. It immediately smacks of ‘linear’ but is slightly more thoughtful than that … but not by much.

Me: Done on purpose. In retrospect it could have had more complexity, but I didn't want to add too much. There's Quasqueton and then there's the Caves of Chaos, as my favorite models for a starting adventure. I wanted to go with the Caves as a model for this one, and I have to admit that's partially dumbing down the challenge of exploring and the attendant risks. Skyrim was playing in the background in my house at the time, and I was really impressed with the graphics. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Skyrim aesthetic crept into the map. Not by much, and I still stand by the map, but Bryce definitely identified something that's going on, whether for good or ill. If I treated beginning players based on an assumption that they can't surmount Skyrim, then that's a weakness in the module. Not sure if that's actually the case or not.

"Lots of lame read-aloud text in the encounters, but not a lot of interesting things. There are a decent number of ‘flashback’ ghostly images showing the temples past. This ranks just slightly higher than ‘diary entries’ in my ‘things I loathe’ list."

Me: This is one of the reasons I like Bryce's reviews. On this point, I actually totally disagree with him on principle, however. Yes, there seem to be letters and visions in every module written by everyone for all time, and it's old. Nevertheless, I think it's absolutely key -- especially in a beginner's adventure (where the players are also less jaded with finding letters) -- that the players can discover bits and pieces of the backstory that might or might not have a bearing on the challenges they face. I know exactly where I get this opinion. I was caught up in D&D for all time by the bits and pieces in B1: In Search of the Unknown. Quasqueton. It's adventure-module magic for a beginning player, and there's none of this in the Caves of Chaos, so I put it into the Temple in Grimmsgate. Maybe it's a bit hokey, but if I were to re-read B1, so is a lot of the delivery system in Quasqueton as well. But as a beginning adventure, I KNOW that this stuff works because it worked on me. So on this point, even though Bryce and I agree on most ways to judge an adventure, I disagree here: I think this sort of thing is actually crucial.

Bryce likes some stuff:
 The art, which I seldom mention in reviews, does a great job at conveying the flavor of the cannibal-type monsters: gaunt, tall, horrific. The main villain is well atmosphered as well, with clouds of ash about his person, etc. Centipedes are described as bright green and shiny. Very nice imagery on the monsters. Well, SOME of the monsters. It’s inconsistent. Not all centipedes get that description, and the manes demons get none at all.

Me: Crap, the last comment is dead on target. I think that might have been time pressure on the final pass that I do (I call that last pass "surgery" because the whole book is open on the table for repairs and additions). That's not an excuse, if that's what happened. I do recall that in the middle of writing I got a bit stressed about the deadline, but I don't remember consciously rushing anything. Reading through, I'm not upset by the way this turned out, but Bryce is right on target -- not all the monster descriptions are consistent. (Although consistency alone isn't normally one of Bryce's complaints, so I think really what he's saying is that he wanted more of what he saw as good stuff, not consistency for consistency's sake).

"The treasure is a great disappointment. The gems are just “4 gems worth 100gp each” and the magic items are just generic “mace +1″ or “sword +1.” After reading an aside in the module about you can add flavor by creating your own monsters (the mole-men cannibals) to then encounter this blandness in magic items is a real shame."

Me: Completely Guilty. On this point I fucked up. Again, it may have been a rush at the end, although I really don't remember a rush. But once again, the way I do treasure is (with a few exceptions when I get an inspiration) to do generic coin-numbers and magic items to get a fix on how MUCH. And only then do I go in to make them more interesting, and it appears that I mostly missed that step. Unless I did it because it was an intro module, but I don't recall deciding to do that -- I think this is a plain screwup.

All in all, I think it was a good review in terms of pointing out places where I didn't really hit the mark, and Bryce also tended to like the parts where I thought I nailed the goal. And then the 2 places (intro text and flashbacks/letters) where we disagreed about what the goal should have been.

Thanks, Bryce!

Edit: As a current event, I should mention that Frog God Games has a Kickstarter going, for Sword of Air. Please visit!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Website for the Frog Gods!

In summary:
We have a new website.
We have a new Kickstarter.

And I, while all the other members of the Frog God team are drinking champagne and eating truffles, am working away at Cyclopean Deeps. Good news: I wrote an average of 1,000 words per day over the last 5 days. Bad news: see above, no champagne or truffles.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Busy Day as Semi-Pro Gamer

 So, yesterday the Sword of Air Kickstarter went live, and that always involves a lot of interactive, social-media types of activities, plus I am busy working on the next installment of Cyclopean Deeps. I alternated back and forth yesterday, and it occupied enough of the day that I consider myself to have been a semi-pro gamer yesterday.

My next post will either be more about Sword of Air, or it will be about Napoleonic wargaming, because there's some of that on the horizon.

Next installment of Cyclopean Deeps, by the way, is Dreaded Domes of the Serpentfolk.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Announcing Sword of Air

New Kickstarter for Frog God Games! Sword of Air is a combination big-adventure and mini-campaign from Bill Webb's campaign that he started back in the 1970s (and still runs). So this is going to be vintage old-school stuff, especially if you're getting the Swords & Wizardry version.

I'll probably write more about this soon. Kickstarter took us by surprise with a fast approval of the project, so I'm a bit slow.

Cyclopean Deeps Update

I just finished Chapter 4 of the Cyclopean Deeps, at long last, and sent it to Skeeter for the process of edits and layout. Woohoo! People are going to like this one.

I realize that by not updating this blog often I'm sort of drifting out of the public gaze and into the writer's garret, but for the time being I'm cool with that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Help me with this demon, please!

One of the hitches I have run into with Cyclopean Deeps is that my original "boss monster," a demon princess that totally rocks, turned out to make the module sequence "feel" a bit too much like Lolth's role in D1-D3. The entire goal with Cyclopean Deeps is to present a part of the Underdark that isn't just "more drow doing the will of Lolth." So, a female boss monster with insect attributes turned out to be something I needed to alter.

Continue reading only if you expect to be running (or reading) the Cyclopean Deeps. If you are going to be a player in this series of modules, Stop reading here.

Dammit, I mean that.


Okay, hopefully what we've got here is the group of people who won't be deeply affected by getting a glimpse inside the design process of Cyclopean Deeps.

Enter the new "boss monster" of the Cyclopean Deeps -- the Lord of Mists, the one, the only -- Isclaadra. He's in the Monstrosities book, for those who want to look him up. I'm not asking for help here with Isclaadra, and in fact he's a fairly well-developed bad guy in my own campaign. What I need help with is the details of his lieutenant demons. The original power-broker in the Cyclopean Deeps, Teratashia, had these demons called "darkswimmers" that were her leader-demons. With Isclaadra, I never developed his forces in that level of detail, just the human cultists.

I'm thinking something octopus-themed, given the association of the octopus ink with mists. That does potentially risk fart jokes, but, let's face it, all writing for fantasy games is essentially skirting the boundaries of Monty Python and fart jokes.

In any case, I'm thinking of something along the lines of the Shrroth demons from the Tome of Horrors, but they float in the air and are surrounded by demonic mists.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Sitar-playing Idols of the Elder Gods

What sort of music do you listen to while writing adventures? Does it differ based on the type of adventure you're writing? I have both epic music (Two Steps from Hell is awesome epic music, with several soundtracks to their credit) and I also seem to write really well with Ravi Shankar or other sitar music in the background (Ravi Shantar and George Harrison kick some serious ass if ass-kicking can be mellow and sort of not really on this plane of existence). 

It's not so much that I wanted to write about sitar-playing Idols of the Elder Gods, but when you think of such a thing, it's hard to get it out of your head. Nighttime in the ruins of Angkor Wat, with strange-colored mists drifting in the massive tree roots, the stars wheeling in the sky, and the unearthly music echoing in the stone antechambers of the forgotten temple. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not the City State of the Invincible Overlord

Take a look at this city map, and tell me where it came from. If you've been playing D&D for a long time, I bet your answer is going to be either "City State of the Invincible Overlord" or "City State of the World Emperor." WRONG!

But I betcha that those maps were based on something like this, because this is a map of Pompeii's Roman ruins, as excavated. Chris Kutalik (of Hill Cantons) pointed out on Google+ that this map would make for an awesome megadungeon, which is more creative than I was; I was just sitting there thinking, "wow, all those little buildings in CSIO were probably supposed to be internal walls inside insulae" (in other words, the mall space under a big apartment building).

All these years I had a completely incorrect impression of the City State, assuming that the Judges Guild team also realized that the archaeological map showed insulae rather than many small buildings.

Take a look at this site, using the left side to click on the different "Regio" links, and you'll find yourself in the middle of an awesome city resource!

Thanks, Chris!!
PS, I do not know how to link to Chris's actual G+ post, so I linked to his awesome blog.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Relative Popularity

Billy Billerson's Billy Goes to Mordor Blog has a nice breakdown of various retro-clones by the size of their Google+ followings. Swords & Wizardry came in largest with 826. Commenters have filled in the gaps for several other games such as ACKS (346) and C&C (303).

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's generally boring when people explain why they haven't blogged in a long time. See the picture above.

Current project: Cyclopean Deeps is awesome, but it's turning out to require lots of holistic work. It doesn't naturally spit out a completed "first part." If I can avoid it, I'm going to avoid future serialized projects -- it just isn't the way my brain works. However, I can definitely say that it's going to be good.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Miniature Mania in Center Stage

These days, a new Kickstarter isn't anything like the big event that they used to be, since there are so many, but this one is fairly unique. Center Stage Miniatures is going to be producing a large number of AD&D miniatures that haven't seen the light of day before. Or the torchlight of a dungeon's depths, either. It's being done via the fact that Wizards of the Coast once upon a time licensed the use of several AD&D monsters to Necromancer Games, which is now a subsidiary of Frog God Games. Frog God Games has licensed the illustrations of these minis to Center Stage Miniatures, and voila!

I first met Matt Solarz at North Texas RPG Con (I think it was actually the first one), and he's a very good guy. I guess it goes without saying that he loves miniatures, but he LOVES miniatures.

This is probably going to be a pretty big Kickstarter judging from the first 24 hours, which raised something on the order of $10,000. The size of it is critical, because it becomes a better deal when the stretch goals kick in. It's an okay value out of the gate, but like most of the miniatures Kickstarters it doesn't become a huge bargain until it has gathered speed, at which point it can become an absolute steal.

These are metal minis, not resin.

And that's all I can think of to say about it right at the moment. Go and take a look. I'm going to get at the very least a piscodaemon, a crypt thing, and a dark creeper.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In the Aftermath of S&W Appreciation Day

Wow! Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day turned out to be an absolute tidal wave of material across the entire OSR, with monsters, full-on adventures, campaign setting notes, new spells, philosophies of gaming, and all kinds of other topics. It will take days to sift through it all.

I just got an email from Michael Cote, an artist who has done lots of work in Knockspell Magazine, with the link to his Swords & Wizardry post -- I mention it because I don't think he was on Erik's list. Michael's art is spooky, somewhat Otus-y, and full of excellent. Here's his blog entry for S&W Appreciation Day, at Magical Monstrosity Press.

Also musician James Stanton was apparently in the emergency room yesterday (hope you're feeling better, James!) and didn't have a chance to do his SWAD post, so here's the link to some new spells.

Wayne Rossi blogged a lot during the Appreciation Day and hasn't stopped: his aftermath post is about diseases.

Mark Siefert has announced that he's not done yet, and will keep going until the end of the week, so stay tuned to his blog.

On a final note for now, Bill Webb tells me that all the orders received before 6PM Eastern have been packed and will go out, except for one order that seemed to have a glitch in it.

Thanks to everyone for an incredible day yesterday! I will blog a bit later about assembling various articles for inclusion in Knockspell.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Free Stuff

Johnathan Bingham is giving away free 'zines:

A quick edit: There's also a neat mini-adventure at the Iron Tavern, and another at Infinite Dragons.

Another edit: I don't know how I missed this one, I think it's because it was posted so early. There is a neat, free downloadable adventure called the Tower of the Red Angel here at ...and the Sky Full of Dust.

That's three free adventures right there!

Make it four, and I really, really recommend this one, the Forbidden City of the Black Idols (Taqat) by Nicolas Senac. This is pure, undiluted Swords & Sorcery here -- it rings like R.E. Howard.

The Poetry of Swords & Wizardry

Sheer brilliance, both of these:
Swords & Wizardry limericks (my favorites are the first two)
Swords & Wizardry Haiku

Occult Healers, Degenerate Cavemen, and More!

For the mystical place between the magic user and the cleric, Castelli & Chimere offers the Occult Healer class, for members of this little-known order of physicians. The class has a smattering of martial arts, uses a spellbook, has healing skills, and also has a very distinct vibe to it that works quite well, I think.

Also, a shout-out to one of the game's longtime supporters and an awesome artist, Bliss Infinite has what might possibly be my favorite banner illustration of all time. His post for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day is a collection of links to a lot of different resources. You scroll down, and scroll down, and keep scrolling ... awesome stuff - races, character sheets, books of spells ... Highly recommended!

Need an adventure with vikings and degenerate cavemen? That's almost a rhetorical question: everyone needs an adventure with vikings and degenerate cavemen! Take a look at the Caverns of the Skraelings by Dave Baymiller.

And to keep track of these characters, here's an absolutely incredibly super-cool character sheet from Fear no Darkness. I kid you not, take a look at this.

Entire Mini-Adventure

Hereticwerks has written up an entire adventure with an excellent map, rumors, encounter table, and ring-tailed kobolds. Ring-tailed kobolds? You instantly have my attention, Hereticwerks, even if you choose to be coy and give me no further details about these obviously pernicious creatures. How do they interact with the red-snouted kobolds? This is like the magic of Judges Guild, where a brief sentence can explode into a panoply of ideas in the space of a mere moment.

Back to the campaign idea that seems to be percolating in the collective imagination of the SWAD Legion:
In the world of Puritans vs. the Old Ones, we can hand another weapon to both sides. Cameron DuBeers offers up an entire PSIONICS system. Overall, I think this looks bad for the pilgrims in their isolated villages.

A word about Cameron: the guy is official pure-mithral OD&D. He knows the OD&D books inside out, he has contributed to Swords & Wizardry, Delving Deeper, and is now writing material for straight-up OD&D, I think. And he's a good guy; I've met him in person at -- where else? -- the Hobbit Cafe in Houston. Anything he says is worth listening to.

Entire S&W Campaign Setting

Check this out. If weirder fantasy is your bag, School Master (who are you?!) has provided an entire set of campaign notes, including links to all kinds of game and Lovecraft resources, for a campaign in the Lovecraftian Campaign-world of Mu. This is a must-see.

If you're up against an impossibly non-Euclidian wall with tentacles on all sides, you might just have an equalizer. Go Solomon Kane on their ass and haul out the black powder pistol for some Thirty-Years-War-era tentacle-blasting. Dak Ultimak provides a full set of rules for firearms (mainly modern ones, but including black powder pistols). War Hound and the World's Pain and Solomon Kane in Swords & Wizardry. For when shit gets real. I love the idea of Puritans against the Old Ones. There's a whole campaign world in that one idea.

Reverend Dak has a picture in his post that really says it all:

A Couple More Signposts

Free download of the Core Rules is HERE. (direct download link)
 Double-Barreled post from Wayne Rossi at his blog: Semper Initiativus Unum. First there's his view on what Swords & Wizardry is, and why he changed his mind to like that approach. He has definitely hit on an interesting approach by viewing S&W as a "distillation" rather than a "clone."  I still think "clone" is the right term, but it's definitely a point of discussion in the community about how closely Swords & Wizardry emulates the original rules, whether close emulation is even possible with the original Dungeons & Dragons books, and whether close emulation is desirable (which, for my part, I think it is).

Wayne's other post is a new monster. Grug Beetles are an oily vermin to add to the dungeon....

Another blogger providing gaming material is the formidable Rob Conley, author of Majestic Wilderlands (yes, that's the Judges Guild Wilderlands, and Rob wrote it with a license from them). Majestic Wilderlands is specifically written for Swords & Wizardry, and Rob is also the author of Blackmarsh, which is a system-neutral and FREE mini-campaign for hex crawling. Today, Rob has put up Bodenburg Castle, and it's worth taking a look at! The link to the Wilderlands, above, points to a whole slew of materials for Swords & Wizardry (or system-neutral with S&W in mind).

Since I mentioned Rob's publishing site, I should also do the obligatory mention of the official Swords & Wizardry locations: My own storefront for S&W Core Rules, Frog God Games, and John Reyst's SRD site.

Three Signposts

I'm nowhere near the finish of reading the over-a-hundred blog postings for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, but since many people will likely be checking in here for updates, I thought I'd provide a couple of signposts to some absolutely astounding posts that I have already seen in my journey through the day. Note: now that I have finished writing, the number of signposts is officially three.

The so-called "Snippet" over at Battleaxes & Beasties is essentially an entire adventure, including an incredible map and some great sketches that are on the parchment (the text of the parchment is a guide through the adventure). This is a long post, and very worthwhile read for those who like to see an adventure unfolded for the reader instead of presented as an outline for running it.

Two fantasy races, the canein and the faun, at Basic Fantasy. These rock, particularly because they have great illustrations. The thrust of both posts at Basic Fantasy is that Swords & Wizardry and Basic Fantasy are essentially 100% compatible with each other, both being versions of Classic D&D. I think it's worth emphasizing that point today, because many, many of the blogs involved in Swords & Wizardry Appreciation day aren't about Swords & Wizardry day in, day out, they are about modern old-style gaming in general, or even about other old-school rulesets. Which means that having 130+ blogs participating in one day, all linked to each other, multiplies the effect of ALL the old school games together. The leverage of compatibility is tremendous. Indeed, I'm probably going to blog on this in greater depth at some point -- feel free to weigh in on compatibility as a topic, or mention it at the Google+ site.

Finally, for this post at least, Erik Jensen of Wampus Country used today to provide an index of several TABLES! Awesome stuff like a multi-column d100 table for generating swords, which is the specific one for today. There are many more -- this post is a power nexus for neat table resources. Erik, you're always welcome at the Swords & Wizardry Google site -- don't be a stranger -- this is an official invitation and stuff!

Lost Blogs

As far as I can tell, I've already found a couple of Swords & Wizardry blogs that aren't on Erik's list, and they're pretty major contributions since one post contains an entire variant system for use with bad guys, and the other is an article-length analysis of class balance.

To get the first draft of a free, goblinoid-based variant of Swords & Wizardry, click over to Rob Griffin's blog Blood & Battle, and check it out: Using these variant rules for Swords & Wizardry, you can create characters who are orcs, bugbears, goblins, gnolls, and half-orcs. Classes available are Barbarian, Shaman, Witch Doctor, Sneak, and Warrior.

For an in-depth analysis of class balance (2200 words!) in S&W by Daniel Stack, check out 19th Level.

I found Rob's and Daniel's posts via the Swords & Wizardry Google+ community, which is -- not unexpectedly -- abuzz with activity today. The Swords & Wizardry Google+ Community is Here.

Many more posts to come, I suspect!

S&W Day: The Warmup

Since today is Swords & Wizardry Day, I'm planning on being at the computer for most of the day. I'm extremely grateful to Chris Helton (of Dorkland!) and Erik Tenkar for setting the day up, and you probably already know that several bloggers are listing the secret coupon codes for 25% off Swords & Wizardry stuff. That sale is at Frog God Games, and also (if all you need is digital media) at the Swords & Wizardry SRD site, which is run by John Reyst.

More posts to come!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Saturday, I made my way through a horrendous traffic jam in the middle of Houston to attend MagCon 5, an event organized by David Donohoo to benefit his school district's "at-risk student" program. Which is an awesome cause.

I really should have done some publicity-gathering for the con ahead of time, but I ended up so busy with Razor Coast and other projects that talking up MagCon never quite hit the top of the agenda.

I had an EXCELLENT time; there were only 4 players in my game (normally 12-14), which changes the pace considerably. I don't mean to suggest that the con was hurting for players; there were tables and tables of wargames, boardgames, and other RPG's. The turnout was much smaller than North Texas, but much larger than I would have expected. I recommend this convention.

By the way, it was a TPK. The only survivor was the hired halfling torchbearer, Sam, the only person who knows where to find the suspended-in-time remains of his erstwhile employers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Knockspell Magazine: the Re-beginning

Ever since Calithena decided to close Fight On!, I've had a lot of supportive people contact me about restarting Knockspell Magazine. I outlined my difficulties with that idea in an earlier post, but I have since been convinced not only that the magazine fills a valuable niche, but that producing it isn't something that will utterly swamp me.

One of the key ideas that will help this work is that several of the bloggers who are writing material for the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation day will allow Knockspell to publish their work in printed/pdf form. To that end, I will be asking all of you who are participating to send me a letter (the form of it later in the post) containing your approved form of the manuscript and the permission to use it.

Next: I'm NOT going to do this issue as a Kickstarter. Unlike many people, I don't have a problem with the idea of a Kickstarter being used to fund an as-yet-unwritten publication if that approach is needed for some reason, but for myself I don't do that simply because of having bipolar disorder. There's always an outside chance that I could be temporarily down for the count at a crucial moment, so I don't take pre-orders unless I have something fully written.

The present plan is to put it up on lulu, rpgnow/dtrpg, and as well.

So, for anyone who would like to have material included in Knockspell -- with the understanding that it might not be included, and that I might come back with editorial suggestions -- please email me (mythmere at yahoo DOT com) the following:
1) A copy of the manuscript as you would like it to appear (in case you use a different "voice" on your blog than your actual writing style)
2) The statement that "I am granting Matt Finch and Knockspell Magazine the non-exclusive but perpetual right to publish the work in any medium." That way, I can, down the road, publish something like, for example, a Knockspell Compendium for epub (or for some as-yet-uninvented file type) rather than just issue #7 as a print/pdf document. You as the author retain the copyright, and you can re-publish elsewhere if desired. Michael Curtis's Dungeon Alphabet was first published in Knockspell, for example.
3) A statement that "the work is my original work and does not violate anyone's copyright."
4) If the work contains Open Game Content, please let me know this, and the source, so that I can include the proper legal language in Section 15 of the OGL
5) A statement that "I agree to let Knockspell release my work as Open Game Content." If you wish to keep some of the content as your property (generally this would be a proper name of something) rather than Open Game Content, you must let me know so that I can exclude it.

I hope to hear from people! I will have more updates next week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Hideous Gump of JD Jarvis

On his blog, J.D. mentioned that his monsters are on the Swords & Wizardry SRD site. Since there is nothing cooler than seeing your monsters illustrated, here is J.D.'s gump, along with the illustration from Monstrosities.

Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: 1 weapon (1d6+2)
Saving Throw: 13
Special: Gaze attack paralyzes (+2 save)
Move: 9
Alignment: Chaos
Number Encountered: 1d4
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240
Gumps are large and blubbery humanoids with an overly broad jagged toothed grin and a pair of small, deep-set eyes in an otherwise featureless face. Gumps are motivated by hunger and the deep down joy they feel when murdering a helpless foe. Anyone meeting the gaze of a gump must save vs. paralysis at +2 or be held in place for 2-5 rounds (fighting without looking incurs a -4 penalty to-hit). It is safe to view a gump’s reflection in a mirror or other reflective surface. The gump is able to squint in an odd manner which keeps it from paralyzing an ally.
— Author: JD Jarvis

Gump: HD 4; AC 5[14]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6+2); Move 9; Save 13; AL C; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Gaze attack paralyzes (+2 save).

I think the artist is Stan Morrison

(Edited to link Monstrosities and Stan Morrison)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tenkar's Robust Review

Granted, I'm sort of duplicating this just so that I can point people toward it, but good reviews are one of the things that makes hobby publishing really worth the effort that goes into it. The full review is over at Tenkar's Tavern, and most of my readers will already have seen it. Nevertheless, out of pride, here is the awesome part:
Believe me when I say I have them all in dead tree format. I have OSRIC in full size, trade paperback and the Player's Guide.  I have LL and the AEC (and somewhere OEC, but I can't find it at the moment). Obviously I have Basic Fantasy RPG. Actually, I have the whole available line in print. Way too much Castles & Crusades. We all know my love for the DCC RPG. I even have Dark Dungeons in print, the Delving Deeper boxed set, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (thank you Kickstarter) (edit) BOTH editions of LotFP's Weird Fantasy and will soon have some dead tree copies of the Greyhawk Grognards Adventures Dark & Deep shipping shortly.

I am so deep in the OSR when I come up for breath it's for the OSR's cousin, Tunnels & Trolls.

So, out of all that, why Swords & Wizardry? Why, when I have been running a AD&D 1e / OSRIC campaign in Rappan Athuk am I using Swords & Wizardry and it's variant, Crypts & Things, for the second campaign?

Because the shit works.

It's easy for lapsed gamers to pick up and feel like they haven't lost a step. I can house rule it and it doesn't break. It plays so close to the AD&D of my youth and college years (S&W Complete especially) that it continually surprises me. Just much less rules hopping than I remember.

I grab and pick and steal from just about all OSR and Original resources. They seem to fit into S&W with little fuss. It may be the same with LL and the rest, but for me the ease of use fit's my expectations with S&W.

Even the single saving throw. That took me longer to adjust to, but even that seems like a natural to me now. Don't ask me why, it just does. Maybe it's the simplicity of it. At 45, simplicity and flexibility while remaining true to the feel of the original is an OSR hat trick for me ;)

Did I mention we now have 112 blogs signed up for the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day?

Friday, April 5, 2013

And the Winners Are...

Rolling the d10 ...
Dak Ultimak

Each of you needs to tell me if you want issue #1 or #2 (based on your own collection, I might suggest). I will send you the link to download it.

Then, when S&W Appreciation Day rolls around, you can give away one copy of the pdf to one of your loyal (or disloyal, if you so choose) followers. Dak, I need your email addy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Free Stuff on Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

I've already completely lost track of all the stuff being given away for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, but Erik Tenkar is valiantly trying to maintain order in his capacity as Centurion rather than Decurion of the overall madness that he has unleashed.

For my part, I will give away 2 free pdf copies of Knockspell Magazine#1 or #2, since I can email them to people using yousendit.

I'll give those away to bloggers, so they can re-gift them to a single blog reader in whatever way they see fit. Um ... so, if you have a blog that's participating, comment below, and out of the first 10 respondents I will roll a d10 (twice) to see who gets the pdfs.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Knockspell Magazine

Over the last month or so, although it's been building ever since Calithena announced that FightOn! would be closing shop, I've had lots and lots and lots of people asking me to get moving on another issue of Knockspell. All that time, I've basically given people answers that are patently attempts to stall the decision. Knockspell is a really huge investment of time on my part, and it's only worth doing (a) well, and (b) with something that provides added value over the free or at-cost materials that currently exist. In case you're not familiar with Knockspell, I won't list all the links to the issues, but you can scroll through my online store at lulu to find them if you want.

Let's review for a moment what is already out there, and how I see it in terms of what it delivers:
1) Footprints. The editorial team on FP has started rolling again after a long hiatus. Footprints is high quality and is focused primarily on the First Edition approach. It's downloadable free. As far as I know, you can't get it print-on-demand, and I think that the pdfs are at a web-level rather than a print-level of detail. In general, I think Knockspell reached a slightly higher quality level than (most of the) Footprints issues, but only just. However, what Knockspell delivered was that it was more OD&D in feel and content than Footprints, which is very AD&D in feel and content.

2) Zines. There are several mail-at-cost (or pretty much at cost) zines out there. True zines, not just digital, and others that are digital-only. Production values are not slick, but they rock it with the DIY feel. Which I tend to prefer, myself. Knockspell always turned out a bit slicker in feel than I meant it to. I'd like to make a list of the 'zines, by the way. There is The ManorZogorion, Delve!, and I know of Oubliette as well, off the top of my head. What are the others? Crawl! is one I forgot. I'll also add Open Gaming Monthly to the list as soon as I know where to link to.

3) Green Devil Face. Professionally produced with deliberately DIY feel by James Raggi of LotFP. This is really sort of where I would prefer to be with Knockspell, although I like the letter-size page more than a digest-sized page. I don't know when the last one of these was issued, but it's apparently at #5. I only own #1 and #2.

4) Gygax Magazine. This one is branching way out into the mainstream (with Pathfinder, etc.) and covering non-fantasy games as well, so it intersects only slightly with what Knockspell does. KS is basically the niche of old-school, fantasy-only writing, which makes it harder to fill a magazine with content, but more on point for the readers who want exactly that mix. The problem with Gygax Magazine is that it can suck the wind out of the availability of good writing, and damage the perception of the more DIY periodicals. Most likely, people will send their manuscripts to GM first, and others only after rejection (or delay in review). This will cut the availability of manuscripts, it will cull out the best, and it will create the perception that what's left is the dregs. Perceptions, even when they are untrue, are very important.

So that really leaves me with the question of whether Knockspell would deliver something that's unique enough to be worth the tremendous effort required for it. With Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day coming, if I decide to re-open Knockspell, I can ask bloggers for permission to use their material, and that would go a long way for the magazine's beginning.

What is really needed, though, is a steady supply of authors and a steady supply of color art for the covers. That's the long term. So ... although I'm definitely tending towards it, and definitely hearing the requests, I want another few days before I come up with a true plan for this, or else abandon it (or continue to stall).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Google Outhanging

I'd like to thank all of the Swords & Wizardry fans who came into the hangout to chat today and yesterday -- I had a great time, and assembled lots of new entries on the "to-do" list. It's really cool being able to put faces to the names of people I've corresponded with for years, like John Bingham.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Would this be Fun?

What if we made a free pdf or a Knockspell article from the bloggers who want their material from Swords & Wizardry appreciation day included in such a thing? I have to think through it a bit more, especially if it were to mean that I get going on another issue of Knockspell, but please comment with your thoughts. Even if you're not one of the bloggers who will be participating in the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, would such a thing be fun? Or would it be redundant because you already would have read the blogs?

If you're a blogger, would you be interested in putting your material into a free pdf like that?

I invoke the powers of Crowdthinking!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern fame has gotten together with Christopher Helton of Dorkland to set up a Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day on April 17th (that's in 2013, for all you time-travelers needing a reference point).

The idea is for lots of bloggers to all have something related to Swords & Wizardry on that day, whether it's a new spell, monster, a play report, etc. Erik is going to be giving away a gift certificate to a random blogger, and I'm pretty sure I can scare up something from Frog God Games as well.

In any event, it's something to look forward to! As of today, 24 bloggers are already signed up, and that's only after 24 hours since the announcement. In the meantime, of course, there is a ton of activity at the Swords & Wizardry Google+ community, so if you need a quicker fix for your OD&D, come on over.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sinful Whisper

I am finishing up the last pieces of the Swords & Wizardry adaptations of Razor Coast adventures. The one for today is Sinful Whisper, and if I'm fast I will probably also have a chance to move on to Frank Mentzer's adventure, Deep Waters.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Passover!

For the last couple of days I've been buying and cooking food, since Passover operates kind of like a Thanksgiving dinner, for those who aren't familiar with it. And a happy Passover to the legion of three or four other Jewish gamers that I know!

Now that the only remaining requirement of the holiday is just to stay away from the bread, I can get back to some blogging and other gaming stuff. I now have a microphone and web cam, so at some point I will try to get those working so I can play Hangout games or roll20.

Friday, March 22, 2013

We Have 3 Winners!

Over at the Swords & Wizardry Google+ page, Frog God Games said that they'd give out some pdfs to random people when the page reached 500 members. We hit that mark yesterday, and Blonde Frog announced the winners. My only dissatisfaction is that we didn't try to obtain a 500-sided die for the event. Rachel went the boring route, and just used a computer.

Anyway, the winners are:
Roberto Micheri: your choice of either Tome of Horrors SW PDF or Rappan Athuk SW PDF.
Matthew Kane: PDF of Monstrosities.
Eric Gillespie: PDF of Grimmsgate.

You guys need to contact Blonde Frog (through Google+) to give her your email addresses. Congratulations!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Swords & Wizardry as Non Retro-clone

Tim Brannan posted some comments about Swords & Wizardry today (here is his post), and I think they're worth mentioning. He engages in the thought experiment of seeing Swords & Wizardry as a non-clone, and comes up with some very positive conclusions.

It's often said that S&W isn't a "true clone," but rather a "neo-clone," as Dan Proctor of Goblinoid Games terms it -- I think that this is a meme that got started with the early versions of S&W (which were not as close to the source material as the current printing). Conventional wisdom seldom revises itself, and I'm fine with that; it's just the way things are. Nevertheless, Swords & Wizardry as it currently stands is -- in my opinion, which may be biased -- as close a clone to OD&D as you can get, given the protean nature of the beast.

But here, Tim turns that conventional wisdom on its head. If S&W were a non-clone, is it good? Tim's answer is, "yes." So, even though I disagree with the initial premise, I have to conclude that Tim is a genius of the first water, and probably sings well, to boot.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Fabio of the Wood Elves

One of my kids made a character for Oblivion, and just commented on the way the character looked:

"He's the Fabio of the wood elves."

 Talk about a thought virus. Now I can see all kinds of covers for elf bodice-ripper romance novels. And the titles: "Love in the Autumn Wood" just doesn't even begin to cover the territory.

The Fabio of the wood elves. Much better than the Fabio of the dwarves, though, I must say.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Comments of Bryce

I generally agree with Bryce Lynch's comments about what makes a good module, although -- oddly -- I don't always agree with his reviews that use these benchmarks. Nevertheless, since I was perusing some of the reviews at his website,, I thought I'd jot down a few of the general comments about adventures that appealed to me.

NOT the dry old B2 implementation that we’ve all seen before but rather something with a much more Holmes/OD&D feel to it. Transformation pools and weird edible mushrooms, strange machinery and the like. This is a kind of feel that I strongly associate with OD&D and try very hard to incorporate in to my own Magenta games.

Themed areas are great in a dungeon and I shouldn’t have to repeat myself again on why multiple entrances/exits are a good thing. 
I agree. I'm big on defined dungeon areas whether they're defined by theme, appearance, geography, or whatever. A dungeon has to be broken up into definable parts so the players feel that they're making headway.
I know that the mundane has to be there for the fantastic to have an impact but it feels like a bit much to me, although that could be personal taste. 
There's a  lot of personal taste involved in this ratio, I think. It's an area where an excellent module can succeed or fail based on the individual reader/DM.
...some sections that I would probably give a hint or two about running … like the mushrooms or some of the wall carvings. The wall carvings are a great example. Some are worth looking at to get hints. Some are just flavor text. Some will do bad things to do. There’s generally no way to tell beforehand. I’m pretty sure the goal should be to reward interaction and examination. So while the goodies are present they could use a little more in the way of extra information to help run them. After all, the back and forth between a DM and player is what this kind of style is about.
Emphasis added by me, on the parts I thought were key, here.

The group is supposed to fighting the intelligent guards of a fortress but they don’t really act in a coordinated manner.
A very hard type of module to write, these are. Bryce suggests an order of battle. Not sure what he means, but against-the-fortress adventures can definitely use what I call a monster roster, and I think that's also what Bryce means.

The ONLY way you can approach it is through a straight hack. Sneaking, disguising, etc, are not going to help because it’s just a straight up linear design. That’s quite disappointing. 
For a paid module, this is a pretty good triad for a checklist: can you hack, sneak, AND disguise as possible ways through. I'm interested to see if there might be anything to add to that checklist. I think that "creative navigating" (through alternate paths) and "discovering concealed alternate paths" might be worth adding to the list. HOWEVER, for a free or a home-designed module, though, I think it's fair to say that a one-approach dungeon is perfectly good, especially if you already know how your group is going to approach it. Your gang of 6 barbarians just doesn't need a carefully designed multiplicity of ways to use disguises through a dungeon. So I disagree with Bryce's take on the module he was reviewing here, although I agree with the metric he used.

There’s a decent attempt at mixing things up a bit: exits through chimneys, waterfalls to the second level, a blocked off section and so forth. That good; far too many dungeons are just two-dimensional affairs, but I want more More MORE! More complexity!
Yes, definitely use the third dimension! However, I think it's also worth remembering that they players themselves have to be able to assimilate what the various things are. I think there is such a thing as too much complexity. Where the line lies is probably not exactly a matter of personal taste so much as it is a matter of how a particular gaming group visualizes and assimilates a complex topography. Not all groups are head-down concentrators. Paul Jaquays said something on a dungeon-design panel at NTRPGCon, basically like this: "When designing a computer/video game, you have to work the player slowly into using the third dimension bit by bit."

Players like to recognize things. They like to feel like they have figured something out.
One of the most important design objectives there is, in my opinion. This, and making sure that they have lots of meaningful choices (and the two objectives are clearly linked).

For all the asshattery that the Internet brings it also exposes us to new ideas and things that we would not otherwise ever see. Gabor Lux/Melan is one of those things.
Very true.

Ouch! Nothing wrong with that, some of my favorite modules have a shit-ton of enemies in them. I like it! 
Large numbers of enemies = awesome battle. Always good. Don't over-use.

That's it for this post, I'm guessing it's already too long...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday's Adventure

The dilapidated port town has yet another problem. Along the only channel that isn't infested with sea serpents, someone has begun dropping boulders onto passing ships from the cliffs above. The sunken ships are then looted, and any surviving crew members are being sold into slavery.

Enter the brave adventurers!

After defeating the goblins at the guardpost, they had a rousing battle on a wide stone ledge outside the goblin cave, killing the goblins and their ogre with tactics involving invisibility, a flying carpet, and lots of arrows fired into melee combat.

For only a 2-hour session, it was great fun.

PS, yes, I think Warhammer goblins are the best.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Updated Giant List of Swords & Wizardry Resources

I think I've accurately updated the Giant List of Swords & Wizardry resources, after negligently allowing it to get a whopping year out of date. Check it out here:

That's all I have for today, and there will no doubt be many omissions that will need to be fixed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

...and I'm all out of bananas

Girallons are a pretty cool monster, even though they originated in third edition D&D. Like the grick, I think Wizards of the Coast managed to dig out a bit of folkloric ore here that somehow didn't make it into the tomes and grimoires of Advanced and Second edition D&D. (Basic players: hush. It didn't have 4 arms, so it doesn't count).

Way back in 2009, the somewhat-and-possibly-unjustly-reputationally-tarnished James

Number Appearing: 1d4+4
% in Lair: 10%
Alignment: Neutral
Armor Class: 6
Move: 12
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 4 claws (1d4+2), 1 bite (1d8+1)
Save: F7
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XX
XP: 1000

The girallon is a fifteen-foot-tall albino ape-like creature, lacking hair on its body, except for its head, which also possesses a large, fanged mouth. A girallon has six limbs, the middle set of which can be used either as arms or as legs, depending on the circumstances. These creatures are strong and dexterous and possess remarkable intelligence, with some of them even able to craft crude weapons and other implements. Girallons typically live in small family groups led by a dominant male. Fortunately, girallons are rarely encountered, as they prefer to dwell in out of the way places, particularly the subterranean ruins of past civilizations. Girallons possess infravision of up to 60 feet. 

I think it's too powerful, because I see girallons as being -- basically -- smaller than this. They are specifically only 8 feet tall and are described as being cousins of the gorilla. In other words, I think what James did is very cool, but that he should have named it a "White Ape-Thing of Mars" instead of tacking on the name of an existing, less powerful, creature.

I stumbled across girallons recently because they figure into one of the adventures in the Razor Coast books that are being produced for Frog God Games. I had to prepare a converted Swords & Wizardry version of the girallon. How to go about it? Well, the first thing was to take a look at James's version, and I rejected it for the foregoing reasons, and the fact that the author in the Razor Coast adventure had definitely not treated it as a 15ft tall creature. The numbers were just too large for that to work. Basically we're seeing the conversion being pushed in a particular direction by the relative power levels of 3e/PFRPG creatures to one another. If you diverge too far from the web-like network of relative strength in the SRD, you end up creating problems for yourself later on, if you do lots of retro-conversions to old school. I like to think of this kind of backwards conversion as a SWitchback, since it's a neat little use of SW, when I use Swords & Wizardry ... yeah, I know, it's totally cheesy, but DO I NEED TO REFER YOU TO SIMON PEGG'S DEFENCE OF NERDS? Do I? I didn't think so, because if you've read this far you are a nerd like me. Just sayin',

That was a digression. Mea culpa.

Let's get back to the topic of four-armed apes, and ignore how that's a sentence you wouldn't really expect yourself to be writing or reading in a "normal" life. Four-armed apes. This is what I decided to use for my girallons:


Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Attacks: 4 hands (1d4), bite (1d8)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: hug and rend
Move: 12
Alignment: Neutrality
Number Encountered: One, 1d4, or 1d10+5
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240
Girallons are savage, magical cousins of the gorilla, with four arms rather than two. When moving on the ground rather than through the trees, a girallon walks on its legs and lower arms. An adult girallon is about 8 feet tall, broad-chested, and covered in thick, pure white fur. It weighs about 800 pounds.

 Girallons live in troops led by a dominant male. Solitary girallons are usually young males looking to start their own troop. Girallons are very territorial and tend to attack intruders without warning, including strangers of their own kind. Groups of girallons may attack in a line to drive prey toward a cliff or other hazard, or quietly form a ring around their target and suddenly close in.

Stat block for Swords & Wizardry:

Girallon:  HD 5; AC 6[13];  Atk 4 hands(1d4), bite (1d8); Move 12; Save 12; AL N; CL/XP 5/240; Special: hug& rend.