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ChicagoWiz's RPG Blog

Updated: 2017-07-23T04:55:39.836-05:00


Vanity, thy name is "A New Blog"


"Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years..."
- apologies to LLCoolJ for the use of his lyrics.

I've started a new blog. It's not the "OSR" blog like this one. I have no interest in going back. No, this new blog is just about the games I play, the campaigns I am creating, the things I make and the miniatures I'm painting.

No reviews, none of the OSR opinion, or trying to do all the shit I did previously. I'm pretty much over that. This is strictly vanity, or that childlike "Hey guys, look at this neat thing!" feeling.

Should that be of interest to you, though, go here:

If you're looking for the list of posts and things I've kept in this old blog, click the "Read More"...
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Fin. With an update


Updated 2/24/15 - So when I wrote this over three years ago, I had a huge life project come upon me, it was time to put my energy into something else. I was (and still am) done with the so-called OSR.

  The project... ah, it was glorious and it's coming to an end. BUT... the blog is not coming back. I look at my posts, I look at what I see on the blogs -- and I see much the same. It's still pretty much the same it was three years ago. There's still a DIY vibe, there's still some interesting things, some things have not changed and never will, and some things, quite frankly disgust me. No, not YDIS, I'm talking about the many fucked up Kickstarters.

  Anyway... what I really came to say was that I'm starting gaming again. I've got a small supplement out for Daniel/Delta's Book of War. I've got an online game rolling. I'm winding down the big life project so @thePrincessWife/Angie and I are playing our 1:1 game again. I'm posting mainly on G+ now, just more about my life. I said what I had to say back then and there's really nothing left too exciting, I'm going to start repeating myself. BUT... if you want to drop by and yak on G+, please do. Or come see me at a convention or gamestore.

(Original post from Nov 2, 2011)
This blog is no longer actively maintained. This blog was a personal journey and exploration of an old guy who loves playing OD&D (Original 1974 D&D), AD&D (Advanced D&D as published in 1979), the Basic versions of D&D (As published between 1979 - 1983) and the "retroclones" that have come in the past 5 years.

  What remains here are the top 25 or so most viewed/commented posts, my solo game posts with my wife (of which there were quite a few!), and some links to downloadable content. A table of contents is below, behind the "Read More" link. The downloadable content links will remain to the right.

  These remaining posts represents a compromise between my desire to nuke the entire thing, and my association with historical societies and museums that advocate saving content on top of readers asking to leave it all up. This is a personal decision and I'm sure this will make nobody but myself happy, but shigata ga nai. As someone said, "closure is valuable" and this is what feels right to me.

  If you know me and need to get in touch with me, you know how. I'm not going to stop gaming, although that has slowed down significantly thanks to life. I won't stop reading forums or blogs and perhaps commenting here and there. I'm just done with blogging about it and with being as active as I used to be.

  I have no parting words of wisdom, nor any great philosophies that I've learned by sharing a big part of my life from 2008 to 2011. It was, in the end, simply about gaming and sharing those games with others. I had fun, I learned some cool shit, I made an ass out of myself a few times. I guess what remains here is what probably best reflects what this blog and I shared with you all.

  For those of you who shared back, or who bought my crappy little books for beer money, thank you. For those who gave their money to the TARGA fundraiser and Toys for Tots fundraisers, you have my extremely humble thanks and wishes for good karma to visit you.


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Toys for Tots 2011


It's that time of year again, as I begin to start wearing the thermals and heavy leather gear for riding that thoughts go to Christmas and the Chicago Toys for Tots Parade.

Last year, you all humbled me with your generosity and fellowship to donate to good causes like Toys for Tots.
Our family got together and shopped for toys with your donated cash - I chipped in the cost of tax so that your money

I'd like to appeal to you again to support us again this year. $1, $5, $10, $20 - it all makes the difference in the world, especially in this day and age with the economy sputtering and people long out of work. I will once again chip in the gas, the sweat equity and my cold ass shivering on a bike on parade (provided we don't get ICE like we did last year - that did keep me home, unfortunately, I donated the toys as a drop off to their warehouse.)

The PayPal button on the left over there will take you to a Paypal donation form. You do need a paypal account. If you'd rather mail me a donation, that's fine as well, just drop me an email.

Thank you so much, and blessings to you for your generosity.

Where are we at? A reflection of old school gaming.


It's been roughly about 3 years since a little game called "microlite20" lured me away from the soul-sucking morass that was my 3e Ultima campaign design and back into playing D&D the way I remembered it. In that three years, I've seen some pretty amazing events happen in our little hobby, both old-school-wise and just RPG-wise. I've been wool-gathering on this for a little while (what the hell else are you going to do when you have no power... and it's middle of the night...) (OK, don't go there, ya perverts...) and I thought I'd share some of the mind-lint that I've found.Old school is cool - but is it because of the "OSR" or because of the failure of 4e/success of Pathfinder? That was a bit of a puzzle for me, and still is. I'm pretty sure that 4e hasn't been the raging success that most at WotC had hoped for - the success of Pathfinder makes it clear that people like what they like and they like what they like and they'll BUY what they like. I'm pretty sure that this whole deal breaks the mold that had been established for the previous 30 years... that there is no other D&D than the official TSR/WotC D&D and thou shalt buy it or thou shalt be marginalized. No longer - Pathfinder said to the 3/3.5'ers "Come home to momma!" and they did. Going back wasn't just a bunch of fat-beards, there was real money, real impetus and a real concept of "going back to the basics."Now I'm sure the grognards sniff at that.. hell, I did at first. But it's not as far fetched as you might think. You could say that the whole old-school/clone thing beget Pathfinder and beget the whole "go back" thing that people are talking about when they talk about 5e and "the future" but I'm not so sure. There's no doubt that C&C, OSRIC, S&W made a huge mark. Books like Dungeon Alphabet, Stonehell, and others staked out some territory that others have followed in. Yet I can't help wondering if the sheer size and impetus of Pathfinder pushing people "back" also made it easier for people to look beyond Pathfinder to see what else there is... momentum I guess you could say? Anyway, with the successes of the small print stuff, the hobbyist (and hobbyist-to-publisher/published author) path is alive and well. Yet I'm wondering if that path will slow down a lot...... because there's nothing lately that has jumped out at me with the same intensity that OSRIC/S&W did back in 2009. Now that is completely a personal opinion. You can call me an ass, that's OK, but I found what I liked and wanted in those clones because they clarified and pointed me back to the games I love to play. What I play now is such a mashup of OD&D/AD&D/Holmes/B-X and the clones thereof that I can't call it any one thing. I also can't speak to the latest/greatest stuff - I haven't played nor was really motivated to play LotFP. The latest book that seems to garner a lot of blog attention - Vornheim? - never really piqued my interest and it's not something I'd shell out the hard earned cash for. These days, I've got so many riches from the free stuff on the web and the modules and information from the originals that it's hard for me to feel that "gotta buy it now" need. I suspect I'm not alone in that regard - the vast majority of my players in my AD&D tabletop campaign are very similar.So I wonder if we're seeing what life would have been like had OD&D/AD&D been released and that was it. OK, so Matt Finch keeps fiddling with S&W Core and that's OK, that's his baby. S&W White Box has hit it's natural "final draft" which I think is appropriate. Anything further would be simply houserules tacked on. OSRIC has reached it's "fin" although we do see people creating supplemental stuff - again, houserules. I think the slow-down is good, even natural because it "feels" right - I've got what I need, I've got what works, I can find just about any additional piece from the "fanzines" of blogs/houserules and whatnot and that's an embarrassment of riches that w[...]

If you're going to blog...


... be authentic. Expect a ration of shit for it.

So hi, I'm Michael / ChicagoWiz, I play D&D old school style and I'm part of a cantankerous community of RPG blogging bastards, some of which are challenged in the social skills (myself included), so expect to get nailed to wall at some point. Maybe even in extremely painful ways.

I'd advise you to take Raggi's advice to heart. (Yea, imagine me saying THAT. Hell is freezing over.)

#1 - Nobody is your friend (unless you know them as a friend face to face); #2 - they really don't give a fuck about you unless they're your friend; #3 - once you put yourself out there, you're a target; and #4 - expect butthurt when they twist in the knife into the things you care about and put yourself out there about.

#1- #4 are always in effect, but so should your defenses. Don't feel bad if you have to do what you have to do.

The TARGA takedown was a huge kick in the balls and yea, if I ever see the instigator of that shit face to face, probably the first words out of my mouth will be some combination of "fuck", "you" and "asshole" but as far as my participation in the old school blogging/gaming community drama, it's over, done, and I learned my lesson.

As far as someone devoting a blog post to hating your happy ass, been there, done that. Hell, at first I was all up in arms when whats-his-face wrote his little diatribe. I haven't reread it, but it's easy enough find (or he'll be happy to share it with you, I'm sure.)

Now, it's a fucking badge of honor. You can feel the same too. Just be authentic and true to what you feel inside.

And on those days when you're really pissed, just imagine a little bit of this:

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Clothe them in scraps (Quickie How To)


I got an email over the weekend commenting on the Otherworld Skeletons I had worked on in February. Specifically, the dude on the left there:

Here's what I wrote about him in March:
I was working on the skeletons (UD1a) and decided to take the advice I read on the Otherworld forums and pin the arms. Unfortunately, my pinning was an utter failure. Either the pin was at a "bad" angle or I didn't have enough in the ball of the arm joint to make a good fit, but I just struggled with all of them. 
One in particular (the spear guard) gave me fits. I was going to put the skeleton standing at attention with a spear/shield, and after 8 times (5 with superglue, 3 with JB Weld) of putting arms on, them not bonding/holding enough and working loose, me scraping clean, regluing, I just had ruined shoulder bones and crudded up arms/sockets. I thought I would have to put that figure away as a ruined one. I was given a great idea to get the shoulders in place anyway I could, then cover the shoulders with a "rotted" cloth. Great idea!After a search around the house for non-embossed tissues or cloth, I found that my box of industrial paper towels work great. So now the model has tons of JBWeld on the shoulders but it will be tabletop acceptable.

The emailed question was, how did I actually make the rotted cloth?

BTW, I apologize for the suckage of the photo. I probably should reshoot my minis since I now know how to use my camera properly for minis photos, later maybe.

Anyway, the recipe is as follows:

1. Grab some tissue paper, paper towel, or something that can stand up to a few dunkings in white glue.

2. Cut/rip the cloth to fit. I had to do this several times to get it to look right. It's easier to do this now than later when it's stiff and painted. If you're making rotted cloth, I ripped it so that the uneven ripped edges would look rotted.

3. Soak/paint it with Mod-Podge or Elmer's White Glue. When it starts to get dry, "shape" the cloth as much as you can so that it dries somewhat in the position you want. I also crinkled mine, then flatted it out so it didn't look perfectly smooth.

4. Repeat #3 if it doesn't feel sturdy enough. The white glue is to hold the shape and stiffen it so that when you paint it, the paper doesn't fall apart.

5. Basecoat/Shade/Highlight. For my rotted cloth, which I wanted to look leather-like, I used DecoArt Mississippi Mud as base, Devlan Mud as the shade and Khahki as a highlight.

6. Glue to your figure. I used superglue and there was enough white glue/paint in the cloth so that it held together nicely. Since it was already somewhat preshaped, it was pretty easy to get it to line up and look like it was hanging on the shoulders.

Easy Peasy and probably not worth so many words, but there ya go.

Post Vacation (NSFW art)


So after 4 years, I finally had some time off. And apparently I missed Carcosa the Sequel. Well damn. Can't say I missed seeing the drama, because I had a blast exploring the East Coast, seeing whales and looking at the beauty of wild lands.
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The final say-so on 0e/1e vs. 4e...


... comes courtesy of Cleverbot.

There's absolutely nothing that anyone can say to this except...

Apologies to my AD&D players who came last night only to see me in the throes of an allergy/lack-of-sleep attack. We had a nice discussion and managed to recruit a new member even though we didn't play. I'll see you guys on the 31st!

Not an Edition Warrior, but I have chosen a side...


... and it dates pre-2e.

You play what you want, great. Doesn't mean I'm going to go all kumbayah with 2e/3e/4e. I have no interest in them, no real use for them and they don't influence what I do with my game. If that makes me an "Edition Snob" - well, I'm fucking guilty as charged - kinda like "If it's wrong to be in love, I don't want to be right!"

Really? Why is there this sudden kumbayah all over the place? Why isn't it OK to just love what you love, play what you play and get the fuck on with it? Why do we have to shove banners and warm fuzzy phrases all over the place and pretend like we are all supposed to embrace something that we really just have no interest in, don't care about and won't give a second thought to past this post?

*sigh* I really am getting curmudgeonly, aren't I? Ah well...


(Edited to add)
I'm reminded of a phrase from the Hagakure:

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. Therefore, it is inconsistent to hear something of the Way of Confucius or the Way of the Buddha, and say that this is the Way of the Samurai. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all says and be more and more in accord with his own."

This is not inconsistent with how I feel about the way I play D&D.

DM Dilemma - It's OK to say "No" - No, really. Say No!


What is it about Fridays and this subject - last week's DM Dilemma and now again this week.I just read the latest post on Roleplaying Tips titled "A Con, A Cave, a Troll" by Simon Woodside. I have to admit, I had to walk away from the computer, come back, walk away again, come back.. well, you get the idea. If you wanted proof and a great example of the myth/perception that the DM should be the (unpaid) entertainer/walking-talking monkey, this post is it.This is not to pick on Simon - I don't know Simon, I've never seen another post by him, as far as I know - it looks like he's a guest poster. What I am picking on are concepts like these:As the GM you are expected to be a storyteller for your players ... ... make your gaming material fit what the players want to do ... In this specific example, the GM might scrap their previous plan to dive into a gritty underdark campaign and instead develop into an above-ground, interaction-with-the-locals theme. I’m just making that proposal based on what the PCs in the example seem to want. They seem to have expressed a preference, maybe, for building-oriented adventures over dungeon adventures. Don’t assume it, ask them. Use their feedback for your future designs. The players ultimately get a campaign more closely tailored to what they want.Now, in Simon's defense, he also writes:But fundamentally he was right. He had prepared a troll cave. Why should he suddenly have to wing it just because his players didn’t want to play what he prepared? I'm still trying to figure out how this perception, this myth that the DM needs to be the performing chimp came about. Is it just a sign of the times, this sense of entitlement and the sense that the DMs should have to do that, just because they're DMs?I don't get it.I know there's a balance and if I was running a game that totally sucked, nobody liked, then I would expect players to not play. But if the players got up and left because I ran a goddamn troll cave, well, great, you go back to town and we'll shut down for the evening. See you next game session. If I had players demanding things, with the expectations that they should get it just because they grace my table after I've put time/effort/thought/money into putting together a campaign world... I'd be hard pressed to ever want to put the energy into running a game.I would like to beat a dead horse a bit and say that is why I like sandboxes - the players aren't constrained to a plot that they don't suddenly like. And perhaps that's why I don't run into these problems of the players requesting a "new plot" because they don't like the old one... in a sandbox, they can up and go do something else on their whim, which is expected and encouraged.Go back to the wargaming roots of our hobby. When someone puts together a battle of Romans v. Gauls, the participants don't suddenly say in the middle of the game "Hey you know what, I really want to play Aztec warriors, so let's just cross the ocean..." the stated campaign was what it was and people played it and then decided what to do next. Now, if the DM doesn't supply players with what's on the WotC approved magic item list, they're a horrible DM. If they don't provide checklists and questionnaires and adjust their campaign to fit 4 to 8 different 10 page backgrounds, they're a shitty DM.Well, guess I'm a shitty DM. Go figure. I just have no interest in being that type of performing chimp.This isn't to say I don't participate in a mutually enjoyable game. We try stuff that works or we get rid of it. I run a game that I've found to be enjoyable. I've found a good rhythm with the game I like to run and the game people like to play. At the same time, I don't feel this slavish responsibility to do exactly what my players want, when they want, how they want. I evaluate requests on w[...]

DM Dilemma - It's OK to say "No"


I've gotten some very nice email inquiries and comments about the sandbox posts and I'm very appreciative of that, thank you. One of the common themes of the inquiries seems to be regarding my boundary of "no in-town adventures" so I thought I'd talk about that for a minute, because boundaries/edges and player expectations are a dilemma that I read about DM's having.That "no in-town adventures" boundary came about as a result of adopting Ben Robbin's "West Marches" campaign style. I bought it whole-cloth, including the "You must begin/end in civilization" and "No in-town adventures - civilization is boring - wilderness is exciting!" themes. I'm extremely up front about that in my player handouts and game introductions. No capes! And no in-town adventures, dah'ling! Too ordinary!Someone asked me "why" the restriction and it's a fair/good question. The best answer I can come up with is that I find them incredibly boring."But Michael!" you may gasp (and I've been asked in same emails). "What if the players want it!? What if they DEMAND it?!"Simple. I would say "No."Well, why I would do something that I have absolutely no interest in? Why would I waste their time and mine? Why is there the expectation that the DM is someone who simply supplies entertainment on demand (I really wanted to put "is supposed to be a whore?" here, but figured that would distract some. Wait, I did it. Oops...) to the players who are within their rights to expect whatever they want.Crazy, right? I see this all over the place though - DMs who think that they have to do XYZ, or that the player's fun should come at the expense of the DM's fun. Bullshit.Now I am clear and up front about what I will and won't do. I don't bait and switch and even if a long-running player got pissed and threatened to leave unless I provide an in-town adventure.. well... sorry man, thought it would work out, hope you find a game you can enjoy. That's not to say that I don't appreciate player input, that we don't discuss rules, that I ignore player requests or feelings. At the same time, I've got my own ya-yas. I've got what works for me and I know what doesn't work and trust me, an intrigue-filled, plot-rich mystery of Lord So-in-so who may be a vampire in the Enonian Keep zzzzzzZZZZzzzzz... huh? Wha'? Let me know what's beyond the woods over to the east in the wilderness. I may spend 10 days hex wandering, but by god I'm filling in my map and making plans for my keep to go there, my village to go there and I'll move those goblins right the fuck out! See? I'm cursing and getting all excited about the prospect. (Now you know why I needed 29,000odd hexes...)Look, this isn't a post about why in-town scenarios suck. It's a post that says you as the DM have every right to run, to enjoy, to demand a game that you like as much as you try to provide a game that other people like. I know that in Chicago, I am extremely lucky to have a big population and lots of opportunties. I have a pool of players that enjoy the kind of game I run, that enjoy the way I do things. Not everyone has that... but in consideration, if I were in a player-poor environment, I still would not run in-town scenarios. Why would I play basketball if I suck at it and don't like it? Answer, I wouldn't. I'm not a masochist, emotional or otherwise. I'm not doing this to be of service to everyone else. I'm doing this to share what I do enjoy, to be with like-minded people and to have awesome games doing it.So it's OK to say "no". It's OK to tell the players "you can't" and it's OK to set limits, boundaries and edges. Just be up front, be clear and be consistent. Be prepared to wow them with what you CAN do, with what you WANT to do and let the love of THAT shine through and you won't get asked for the things you don't want to do.&nb[...]

The sandbox problems and the DM skill level


Yesterday's cross-blog discussion with JB of B/X Blackrazor over his post on sandbox gripes went surprisingly civil [1], so I thought I'd continue the discussion with some points that he brought up in his comment. They're good ones but most importantly, they reflect that issues with sandboxes end up being DM and DM skill specific, not necessarily a reflection on sandboxes in general. I tried to be very careful in disupting the myth about sandboxes, not to bash on JB's DM skills.See for me, I AGREE that sandboxes should be "living/breathing/moving" things...that's exactly WHY I say they're a crap-ton of work! Or as I said in my whole quote:"It requires a crap-ton of energy on the DM’s part to keep the campaign world LIVING/BREATHING/EVOLVING/RESOLVING..."See? The work (and I'm just as lazy as the rest of y'all if not moreso) comes from trying to make a "living world;" that and the "keeping a couple steps ahead" of my players...which I don't do.JB, I think you're overestimating how much work is involved - it's not as much as you might think, or made it be in your previous games.The living/breathing world is a combination of how I see the world and how the players see the world. In so many ways, the players themselves shape the coming adventures. And while this may involve writing a sentence or two in a notebook as compared to the work of:Players were expected to play their character/role in whatever scenario (I hesitate to even call them “adventures”) that the DM devised. The DM was expected to come up with adventures. I'd be willing to bet it's about the same amount of time. In truth, the time I spend ends up being more reactive than proactive.Here's an example - I had a dungeon full of ko-balds in an area held by ko-balds. The players wiped them out. A few weeks later, the players wanted to go back. I grabbed an encounter table and rolled up an owlbear and goblins. Since goblins are in the next forest over, and once the owlbear was killed by the freaked out players, the players wondered out loud if the goblins were going to move in. BOOM! There's my future story line "GOBLINS MOVE INTO FORMER KOBOLD BASE - WAR IMMENENT?" That added flavor and set up stuff for the future.My point is that staying ahead of the players, for me, has been a combination of some prep (probably about the same time it takes to prep a module or grab the latest ScoobyDo adventure and rewrite it in fantasy format) and more of figuring out how the world reacts to the players. I listen to how the players see the world and it helps me to guide my hand. It's not always the truth - my players have come up with some crazy shit that just doesn't fit the bill, but that's OK. Heroes often get derailed on red herrings and I'll let them, they'll figure it out.There's another quote I want to pull and this one is from Matt Finch's first adventure design book. I'm bastardizing it a bit, but it's the same jist: "Meaningful player decisions should have meaningful results." (Actually, his full quote is: "A good adventure should maximize meaningful player decisions." but you can see how I derived my interpretation.)The players guide the sandbox a lot more than I let on because that's my job. I'm a con artist. I'm a scammer. I have this great sandbox with all the pieces, but in truth, the players do as much of the building as I do, through the things they do, or the things they don't do. I'm not some improv wizard, if I was, I'd be making money in comedy than being a boring IT manager. When my players make meaningful decisions, I want it have consequences, even if not right away, but it will in the future.So what constitutes a meaningful decision? Well, that's one of those things that each DM and each player is going to differ on. For me, meaningful decision[...]

The sandbox myths - they continue and I stomp 'em


The A to Z thing has really taken a lot more of my creative time/energy than I thought, so I was wondering WTF I was going to write about today, and JB over at B/X Blackrazor has given me the perfect subject.JB writes some good shit, but I have to disagree with him perpetuating the myths of sandbox play.Players often end up with a “huh, don’t know what to do” attitude (looking for clues or suggestions or direction from the DM)Some players DO have a strong idea of what they want to do, but it’s “off the grid” (i.e. something the DM hasn’t prepped), leading to them being forced to go for the direction offered by the DMPCs spend a lot of time combing through “tavern want ads” which is no more or less ridiculous than DQ’s “Adventurer’s Guild” (aped by many computer fatasy RPGs since).The players (and sometimes the DM!) get BORED with the world/setting long before they’ve exhausted all the adventure avenues the DM bothered to prep, thus leading to (what I see as) a waste of the DM’s time and energy.It requires a crap-ton of energy on the DM’s part to keep the campaign world living/breathing/evolving/resolving as the PCs podunk around the imaginary country-side.I wrote about this two years ago (JESUS! Two years ago!?! Who the hell was I two years ago??) and even run local workshops on 2 hour sandbox campaign preps, but like birth certificate disputes, gas prices and bad pennies, this one comes up again and again. So let's once again dispel the myths and have some discussion about it.Players often end up with a “huh, don’t know what to do” attitude (looking for clues or suggestions or direction from the DM)I think it's a fallacy that sandboxes don't provide hooks or opportunities to adventurers. What sandboxes don't do is beat the players about the head with the chosen adventure of the month. If the players decide that the opposition is too tough, they know there are other opportunities, or they go looking for them. I think a sandbox doesn't hide, but it also doesn't force - they are just there. If players are too afraid to enter the bar, local Merchants Guild, talk to the local priest or lord ... well...I can honestly say that in the 2 1/2 years in my sandbox, or in the solo game, I haven't seen the players have a "what do we do now" attitude because I present a living world. If you don't believe me, go look at the list of quests from both campaigns. It doesn't take a lot to do that either... just have a sheet of paper and when the players talk to NPCs or you drop a clue or announce what has happened between games, keep a note of it. Trust me, properly motivated (ie., poor) players will remember that 6 months ago, you mentioned that there was rumors of a gold mine beyond the ko-bald/goblyn infested forests.This isn't rocket science, but it's also not requiring you build a rocket. Just leave hints and clues and let events transpire to guide you to how those clues/events build and develop.Some players DO have a strong idea of what they want to do, but it’s “off the grid” (i.e. something the DM hasn’t prepped), leading to them being forced to go for the direction offered by the DMThat is exactly what I want! It's a fallacy that the DM has to "prep" for every player decision, in fact that's why sandboxes work! You put the pieces in place. You set the stage, but you also have broad concepts and brush strokes for those moments when the players do want to go "go off grid" and you have clear boundaries.One aspect of my campaign that I do not hide is that I will not run in-town, in-kingdom adventures. I just don't do it. If the players wanted to pursue some sort of internal vendetta against the King, I would not run such an adventure. That's not my game, that's not my [...]

Chainmail - Battle of McGuillicuddy's Farm, Fall 46 AD


Sunday, I solo-gamed the small Chainmail scenario that I had planned out last week. Rather than three-peat the play-by-play and questions here, I'll point you to the OD&D Board thread and Knights & Knaves Alehouse thread where I have some specific questions. This post... is a flight of fantasy... a tale of bravery and woe.It was a bit before dawn on the 13th day of Fall, 46AD and Gilroy squinted off into the distance. A bit of light bobbed and weaved, much like a will-o-wisp of legend. Gilroy spat into the ground and nudged his partner, Vomin. Vomin was a young lad, newly enlisted into the guard. Most landowners and homeowners within the town walls would grudgingly serve their requirement, but Vomin was excited to be doing something to mark his ascent into adulthood. Gilroy didn't begrudge him that, but it was still annoying all the same."That's someone with a torch." Vomin said, peering off into the pre-dawn gloom. "He's runnin' awful fast."Gilroy grunted in response and waited. Soon enough, they heard gasping shouts as the figure approached. "Wassat he's sayin?" Gilroy asked."I ... I think he's yellin' goblins." Vomin said, a twinge of excited fear in his voice. Gilroy sighed and started to tighten his helmet. He hoped it was nothing more than an excited farmer's nightmare, but deep down, a disquiet grew in his stomach.Horses neighed and snorted as the knights pulled up before the troops. Most of the Town Guards were red and puffing from the long forced march, while the Keep's soldiers drew deep breaths and drank some water. The bowmen were already stringing their staves and checking their quivers.William shifted his lance and watched in pride as Marshall Henrick Roehm rode out before the troops and squinted off into the distance. The old warhorse had been out with his knights to do a small patrol when the word came in that goblins, goblins!, had come raiding. The Marshall hadn't blinked an eye, but upon querying the frantic farmer, he rounded up some lances of his cavalry, a few platoons of foot soldiers, collected the Town Guard that had been summoned and immediately marched north. William couldn't remember a time when old Hardtack Henrick hadn't been decisive, although some said he had often gotten into more trouble than he could handle. Rumor had it that his son was soon to be raised in status and leadership within the Keep, a sign that Henrick was relinquishing control due to his age. William hoped it wouldn't be true soon... he trusted the old warhorse more than he could name."Alright men! It looks like the goblins are setting themselves up in a line just beyond McGillicuddy's farm. Let's ride forth and see what they're up to. Archers and foot, form a line and follow behind!" Henrick bawled. William turned his horse in line and drew his sword. Today would bring victory, with Henrick in charge!"Bah! They're moving the archers forward, cowards!" Henrick snarled. "Damnable creatures."He waved to the cavalry. "We ride through the archers! By the time those green-skins know what hit 'em, we'll be through them and can trap the others between! Then we'll get on down the road. I know what those cowards are after, our harvest!"Gilroy watched the horsemen line up and begin to ride as the lieutenants and sergeants bawled their commands and got the foot and archers moving up behind. He watched Henrick wave his lance and everyone cheered them on. As they advanced the archers fired volleys of arrows over the cavalry's charge to pepper the goblins. The knot in his stomach tightened further as the missiles didn't seem to have much effect...William couldn't believe his eyes! The goblins had moved more troops from behind the woods and they were bearing down on their rig[...]

Gaming on the cheap: DIY Miniature Carriers


Back at GenCon 2009, I purchased a Battlefoam(tm) bag- a Battlefoam 216 pack. I've been pretty satisfied with the bag, I have two of their Imperial Guard trays and a 72 figure troop tray. With this bag, I get carrying capacity of 204 figures. More if I double up on the figures, which I do for my "mass troops" like the kobolds, goblins or bulk orcs. As I keep cranking out the miniatures with my painting push for this winter, I'm nearing full capacity, in fact I've ran out of the 1" x 2" spaces. I had purchased a second 216 pack, but I bought custom foam to make my own, and I've been using these for the minis that don't fit standard rectangles.

I've looked at their more expensive packs, I've looked at the Sabol Army Transports, but the idea of spending $75 to $150 for carrying around lead/plastic figures just isn't in the cards. Then I happened to see this post on DIY Foam Trays on the blog House of Paincakes. They've been doing a series of post "Gaming on a Budget" which I've enjoyed greatly. This all seems to have been inspired by an Oct 2010 blog post on DIY foam trays at a site called "War Builder."

This was all good, but I wanted some sort of a carrier - something that I could buy on the cheap, and it would work as good as the Battlefoam PACK or the Sabol. I examined a Sabol Army Transport that was for sale at Games Plus's semi-annual auction and to me, it looked no different than those soft sided cooler bags and lunch bags I've seen and used. Hmm...

(Pictures and info after the cut...)

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OD&D Solo game w/wife - How one woman nearly starts a war


No miniatures were put on the table this game, nor were any attack dice thrown. The only table referenced in this game was the "Carousing" table from Jeff Rient's The Miscellaneum of Cinder. And yet we had a diplomatic incident, tons of roleplaying and lots of laughter. What else could you expect from a game?The defeat of Alaxus netted the brave adventurers quite a bit of loot and some XP, but @thePrincessWife's character Aeli was lacking 550 XP to make fifth level. Being the generous and kind-hearted DM that I am (why did I just hear a ton of raspberries?) I offered her a chance at the carousing table for 275gp (I give double XP to go against the Carousing table) and even reminded her about the d30 rule. @thePrincessWife was hoping that she'd fail her saving throw...I've never seen a "1" rolled on my d30 before, but she did it. That was not only a fail, it was an epic failure, the kind of failure that would have long lasting consequences for the character, the kind of failure where you hear a pin-drop and a gasp of breath... and then the gleeful laughter from @thePrincessWife as I made her roll her fate. A 7. According to Jeff's chart, that means: "Insult local person of rank. A successful Charisma check indicates the personage is amenable to some sort of apology and reparations."Well crap. So far, Aeli has managed to completely befriend just about everyone of note in Valetown. It was going to be hard to find someone that might be insulted by her... hmm.. think, think, think... I asked for 5 minutes to figure out her fate. Flip over to Finch's City Encounter table, roll a few dice... no, I don't think a "local guard" counts as a local person of rank... hmm... roll again... "Sporgo Frogface, carrying the Pennant of the city’s Overlord, exhorting all to courage in the face of adversity, and loyalty to the city’s government, 1d6gp."Well, doublecrap, there is no overlord to Valetown, so probably no Sporgo... although what kind of overbearing, stuffed shirt would be in Valetown, which is just a small farming/agricultural center, almost a market town kind of place...  Wait a minute... Sporgo's kinda like an ambassador. What ambassador would care about farming? One on a trade mission. What would be best for a stuffed shirt ambassador that Aeli could insult?Only one answer - the hidebound, strictly-by-the-book, lawful-stick-up-the-rear Southron Empire! Prepared with a name "Gale Merry" (snicker), I introduced Aeli's carousing efforts. I asked @thePrincessWife how she would have insulted the honorable ambassador during her two day-long rip-roaring bash over killing the Minotaur Mage.Her: "I step on his toes and call him a buffoon!"Me: "OK, he looks down his nose at you, calls you a typical Northern drunk trollop and tells you to go home to your husband who should keep a leash on you."Her (warming up): "Oh really? Well, I laugh at him and point to his 'wee weenie' and call it that. I also tell him to wear loose trousers or stuff something into those tight pants of his." (gales of laughter)Me: "Well.. that's impressive! The ambassador's face goes beet red and he says the only loose thing around here is you and your lips! That any man who would want you would have to keep you locked up to keep you from running them so freely."Her (really into it now): "Oh yea, I tell him that the only thing he needs to worry about locking up is his ugly pig wife from leaving him! Hahah! I'm insulting his wife now!"At this point, her friend and NPC party-member Tironell intervenes and attempts with help from her henchmen, to hustle her away up the stairs. As she was being escorted out, the ambassador had a parting shot[...]

I need more time! Land of Two Rivers musings


James's post over at Grognardia about Historical Campaigns had me breaking silence about my regrets over not running my long-thought about Sumerian campaign in an alternative historical setting. It is something I greatly regret - both not having the stones to write the setting and not having the time to run the setting.I remember the exact moment that "Tombs of Hulkursag" and my Two Rivers setting book projects came to screeching halts. It was the day I sat down with Michael Curtis's Stonehell and realized I was the worst module writer in the world.No, really. I know that's funny, but it's true. There was no way I could write something half as good as what the esteemed Mr. Curtis wrote and as I picked my way through my own writings, it just seemed boring. What good was having another dungeon with reskinned orcs, goblins and gnolls (as jackalmen, insectoid invaders, jackalmen warriors)? OK, the traps and whatnot, but I really messed up with the dungeon design (only one way between levels. Dumb. DUMB!) and ... well, then I realized that what I really needed was a setting to wrap around the Tomb. The Tomb in and of itself might be a curiosity, but what would make it work was to have the Two Rivers alive around it... with the gods involved, the sorcerors who use demons to cast spells and the warrior priests who perform quests for their deity... and average joe who might be working to establish a trade route with some nearby city-states, but you have to worry about getting involved in the latest war, avoiding the plague devils and negotiate with the river goddess to be allowed to cross so you can get your goods to the other side....... and that kind of richness is not something that just falls out of my ass. Writing the Quick Start was easy for me - take S&W Core, tinker/refit/rebolt and boom-badda-bing, you're done! The dungeon was already drawn, I just had to populate it. This though.. this requires that I know/feel/live Mesopotamia in my head. Look, it took Rob Conley playing for 30 years to get him to write Majestic Wilderlands, who knows how long Kyrinn has been gaming in Urutsk, and McKinney's probably been seeing Carcosa in his dreams for years.So I know that in order to make Two Rivers come to live, I have to game it. I have to play it, live it, get things to work the way I want... and then maybe, just maybe, I can match my writing to the level that the above 4 named authors is at. If I'm lucky. And have a good editor. And party like Kellri. Wait, that last one I want to do first!Anyway... I have to have some gametime and fleshed out the setting that the Tomb of Hulkursag lives in. Then, I think, things will *feel* right and Hulkursag becomes a portal to the Sumerian Underworld.Problem... no time.My Dark Ages campaign is rocking. I'm back to running 4 to 5 times a month. My players are busy plotting behind my back to meet the challenges I've laid before them. @thePrincessWife has taken a step into a story that is going to feel like a roller coaster to her... if she continues the path she's been taking so far. I hope to keep playing that once or twice a month... so when can I run Two Rivers? I'm mentally taken up by both tabletop and two online games - the Modern OD&D one (which may finally see some action... my players decided to go back and equip a bit more, since the portal spell to the Underworld has a finite duration and they are afraid of getting stuck over there...) and the Dark Ages online implementation (which the characters are busy looting a tomb of what seems like innumerable coins)... I'm an extremely lucky guy to have all this, and still, Mesopotamia sits in my dr[...]

Tids and bits


- As of the 3/13 AD&D Dark Ages game this past Sunday, we've reached the 50 game milestone. That's pretty damn cool! If I were a more prepared DM, I'd have some compiled statistics and trivia, but all I got is me trying to prep for the Garycon game. If I do have a dwarf visit from another realm, it's going to be epic... the last dwarf was seen about 257 years ago by elves. Visiting characters from other campaigns though... very cool!

- The online game keeps rolling and I may have a new player. Welcome Slatz! Good luck and don't pick up any dolls. :) You might also just start cursing Kellri right now, all my other players are. It seems to rain A LOT in Skalfier. For some reason, the players blame his CDD#4...

- I started painting my Sumerian DBA I/1a army last night and realized what all shiny-new army painting n00bs realize... this shit is hard! And I was just working on the flesh areas. This is not as easy as slopping together 18 or 25 orcs...

- Been ruminating about how I'll be incorporating a megadungeon into my campaign and realized this is going to be tricky with an already skittish bunch of folks who saw a high level (for my campaign) PC die and another fall the next game. The players are convincing themselves that they're not ready for what lies to the East, although I think this is more the first time they've really struggled. The world has presented them an opportunity and while I'm not going to push them there, they've opened Pandora's Box. I'm now walking a fine line between coming off as some sort of "you must follow my plot!" DM and presenting the consequences of their actions.

"Do you hear that sound, Mr. Anderson? That's the sound of inevitability..." - Agent Smith, The Matrix

Yea. Tricky. I know how I'll navigate it (without giving anything away to the players that read this blog. *waves* Hi there!) but it's gonna be tricky. You ever run into that?

Have a great weekend!

Zombie Fungi == Zombie Shriekers


(Inspired by joethelawyer's post and the Huffington Post article/BBC video here.)Zombie ShriekerArmor Class: 7Move: 6" (60')Hit Dice: 3No. of attacks: 1 slam (Dmg. 1-8)---Special: Nil,  Frequency: Rare,  No. Appearing: 3-24,  % in lair: Nil,  Treasure Type: Nil,  Magical Resistance: Standard,  Intelligence: None,  Alignment: Neutral,  Size: Medium,  Psionic Ability: Campaign dependent, usually nil.)The zombie shrieker is a horrid combination of a fungus and it's dead host. The zombie shrieker is not undead in the normal sense, rather it is an animated corpse controlled by the fungus in order to reproduce. The fungus spreads by releasing it's spores, infecting those who breathe the spores. Those infected will die a slow, painful death and then sprout stalks and tendrils, while still "moving" and even attacking other creatures near it in an attempt to be hit to cause the spores to release. It will periodically release a deafening shriek (1 round) in order to attract attackers, especially in response to light (within 30') or movement (within 10'). This shriek has a 50% chance of attracting wandering monsters in the round after.Anyone attacking the zombie shrieker in anyway has a 50% chance per attack of causing the spores to release in a 1"x1"x1" cubic area. Any creature/person within that area must make a save vs. poison or be infected by the fungus. Infection will take 1d4+2 days to complete, at which time the creature is dead, but still animated for up to 2-24 days after by the fungus. Each day of infection causes the carrier to lose 1-3 points of each attribute, a zero score means the carrier is dead. In the latter half of the infection, the carrier will have an uncontrollable desire to be within as populated an area as possible or to stay around people.A cure disease can remove the fungus from the carrier.(On the XP side, you might want to give them the equivalent of 4HD XP, considering the special attack with the lethal spores and shriek.)(This monster and its description is designated as Open Game Content.)[...]

Sneak peek at latest painted dragon miniature


(image)  Light posting today - but I thought you might enjoy a (blurry) sneak peek at the latest paint job - Reaper's Dark Heavens Silver Dragon (#02539) by Sandra Garrity. I've re-purposed it as a Gold Dragon, one of my all-time favorite D&D monsters.

The sculpt came in 6 pieces and unlike the WotC Red Dragon, this one fit fairly well together. The only issue I had was gap filling the tail, I have a bit of a ring/bump but it's not all that noticeable. Click the thumbnail to enlarge - sorry for the blurry quality of the picture, but my phone is almost 3 years old and it was early in the morning, still getting my coffee fix!

The base is a CD with a rock from my stone walkway that's breaking apart, plus a slurry of sand/modge-podge, basecoated with 50 cent Home Depot paint reject, inked with Devlan Mud and drybrushed with Bone White (sand) and Fortress Grey (rock). The dragon is mounted on the stone with epoxy - I wasn't taking any chances!

I'll do a step by step paint on it later.

Interest in playing Dark Ages AD&D at GaryCon?


(UPDATE 3/16 - Confirmed/Maybe count is at the end of the post.)(UPDATE 3/21 - added links to wiki, chargen/houserules and player handout that covers the basics)GaryCon is coming in less than two weeks (Mar 25th to 27th) and judging by how the weather is shaping up, there's a good chance I can hop on the Harley and have a nice ride up to Lake Geneva for a Saturday day of gaming. One of the hallmarks of GaryCon is the huge number of open gaming tables and pickup games - it was only last year (GaryCon II) that they started doing events and event registration.If there's interest in exploring a bit of my Dark Ages world, I'd be more than happy to lug the campaign binder and minis up for the event. If not, I'm fine with that as well, I'm hoping to get into some great games and have a good time and meet a lot of great RPG'ers.If you're interested, just leave me a comment. If I get 4 to 8 players, I'll definitely plan on it. Say about a 4 hour scenario? Please note that this would take place "in-situ" in the campaign world as it exists right now and anything that is done will be canon and affect the ongoing tabletop game. I'll also be happy to look at people who want to bring their AD&D/1e (and OSRIC) characters from other campaigns to visit. Levels can range from 1st to 4th level and we can judge on magic items and other devices brought into my world.Locations available:1. A troll mage is rumored to live under the bridge on the road from Enonia (the PC Home Base) to the fabled/lost city of Irecia. It has claimed the lives of many adventurers and rumors hint it may also be opposed to the marauding orcs who've begun to threaten Enonia.2. Dark rumors have been heard now and again about a sacred druid's temple or tomb somewhere to the north of the old Enonia Wayfarer's Inn. Of course, that's goblin-infested territory, and with the goblins now outright attacking Enonia, it's sure to be a contested journey.3. The Dale Woods have not been explored since the Doom of Man fell 57 years ago. A generation of hunters and locals have begun to die out, making the area one of mystery and rumor. It is said a dragon lurks in the woods, as well as a "Crystal Lake". Nobody knows for sure, but now that a mysterious mage's tower has arisen from the Dale Woods, some say it's time for exploring. Who knows what could be found... or what local tales may lead to riches.Let me just say that I'm somewhat intimidated by making this offer, knowing the high caliber of DMs and games that will be running at GC. It would be an honor to have people there play in my world, which is why I'm making the offer. So we'll see what happens...UPDATE: Player list -Confirmed:1. Delve Lord2. Friend of DL3. Friend of DLMaybe:1. Mr. Zed2. grodog3. Jon K.4. Charley5. Druvas (GC Forum)6. Tron (GC Forum)7. Totan (GC Forum)8. Smokin (GC Forum - maybe w/char)UPDATE #2: LinksPlayer Handout - brief summary of my campaignCampaign Chargen/HouserulesCampaign Wiki - has a lot of information and adventure logs[...]

AD&D/OSRIC campaign - Sometimes the vise squeezes the other way


Sunday's AD&D game saw the players discover the reaction to their previous adventure in freeing the human prisoners and killing an orc shaman. The orcs have become more deadly, more organized and, most importantly, have learned to turn the tables on the players. This time, the orcs were using ambushes by suicide troopers, traps by multiple mounted patrols and using the players' habits against them - which resulted in a loss of another brave warrior. It also didn't help that the players lost a third of their group to a temporary paralysis from a disastrous encounter with giant wasps.In coming back, the players found that the homefront has a new sheriff, and one that might not be as appreciative of the players as before. Time will tell ... alliances fall, only to see new opportunities and new challenges. The players ratcheted up the action and the orcs have responded, will the players?I'm finding that I'm enjoying thinking about the reactions and the ways that the monsters will react now that the players are making their mark in the world. Make no mistake, disrupting the slave trade in enemy territory and killing a shaman was a definite mark and the orcs will not soon forget it. Now I'm looking forward to seeing how the players will react. It's a fine line thought. Squeeze the vise too much and the game becomes grim and hopeless. Don't raise the bar in response to the players and it becomes boring. The world will move without the players, but it will also move when the players have enough leverage. Things are starting to get very interesting.Unfortunately, along with the death of another PC [1], I also learned that one of my longtime players, Lu, will be leaving us in April to go back overseas. In the time Lu's been with the campaign, he's taken his human thief, Irem, to fifth level - the highest of any of the players. He's a smart player, thoughtful and has adapted well to my campaign while also challenging me to come up with things in response to his play. Unfortunately, there are two avenues that had opened up during his time in the campaign that I won't be able to explore with him directly.One was a bad roll on the Rient's Carousing Table. Lu found himself with a "black mark" on his forehead that faded... or did it? I actually was going to start exploring that again, but with his departure, we'll have to send that hook/path on to the realm of possibilities. The other avenue was a previous contact with a man with glowing eyes. Lu never returned to that contact, but who knows what the other players may find if they start turning over some rocks?Well, in any rate, I plan on doing something special for Lu at our final game, which looks to be April 3rd.I've made suggestions to Lu that he join my online/Google Wave game, but time will tell. He's going to be busy with his move and whatever happens, I wish him the best and a very heartfelt "THANK YOU" for playing at my table. Lu, you're welcome back anytime.[1] - what is it about PC deaths coming in clusters. I've gone almost a year without any and now I've had two in two games. I knew that the players were ratcheting up the game, with exploring new areas/levels and riling up the orcs, but this seems to be very coinky-dinkal. It wasn't that the monsters were more powerful.. yellow mold and orcs.Sidenote: I really enjoyed Monday's DM Dilemma discussion. Here are some of the topics I'm going to explore in future posts:Mounted combat - between two mounted combatantsPoison and how it worksOther spell interpretatio[...]

DM Dilemma: Charm Person


I thought that it might be useful to group some posts together under the heading of "DM Dilemma." We all run into things that cause us to scratch our heads, make rapid rulings on the fly, then we go back later and dig through the manuals and forum posts for some sort of inspiration on either solidifying a houserule or realizing we had it wrong in the first place. Dilemma might be a strong word, but it's a catchy title, so I'll go with it. I often find myself busy Monday morning looking up things that have puzzled me from the game from the weekend. I hope these posts are useful to some of you.It's been my experience that players are pretty forgiving of a DM when the DM says "I'm ruling this way now, but I'm going to solidify my understanding to make it right for my campaign in the future." It's part and parcel to improving our skills as DMs, thus challenging our players to improve on their skills as players.So... that said, I'll post my first "dilemma" which is more of a challenge...So imagine this. You're a blood-thirsty orc leader. You are on a religious crusade to rid the earth of humans. You just sent your warriors to encircle a party of humans and you've watched this damn human spell-caster deal serious damage to them. In a bloodlust, you and your bodyguards charge the spell-caster, to remove the immediate threat. To your rear, a druid casts charm person on you. He then attempts to persuade you to stop your charge. (Imagine a bearded druid running after a charging orc yelling "Wait! Stop! That spellcaster means you no harm!")As a DM, how do you rule how the charm has affected the orc?Charm Person (druid) - AD&D Players Handbook"The creature then will regard the druid who cast the spell as a trusted friend and ally to be heeded and protected. The spell does not enable the druid to control the charmed creature as if it were an automaton, but any word or action of the druid will be viewed in its most favorable way." (NOTE: the magic-user spell description refers to the druid version for effects)I'll tell you what I did. The orc leader assessed that his new friend, although human, was no immediate threat to him or his orc troops.  He did not order his bodyguards to attack the druid. He assessed his new friend's entreaty to not attack the magic-user. While trusting that his new friend had the best intentions, the orc concluded the mage's continuing aggressive actions were the biggest threat to the orc's survival, as were the other humans attacking him and his friends. To not protect himself and his brothers would be suicide. So the orc leader attacked the mage and damn near killed him.I think my players were a little surprised at the way I ruled on charm person and I've chewed on it all week and come to the conclusion that my initial ruling was the right one for my campaign/table. Charm Person is an amazingly powerful spell, but it's usefulness in the middle of combat, in the middle of a charge, is dubious. A charmed being doesn't go instantly stupid, nor does he somehow completely change his way of thinking in an obedient automaton. Rather, he has a changed data point to deal with - a powerful one, but only one.In combat, with life and death on the line, charm person will have mixed results. In the middle of a charge, probably not nearly as much as at a moment of indecision, or if the target of the spell comes into a one-on-one with the charming spell caster. If this were a[...]

Re-imagining AD&D orcs and monsters


What a great topic to talk about (hattip to Grognardia)... except what a bad topic for me!You see, I've done a lot to my orcs, and many other beasties in my AD&D world. My tabletop players have ran into more differences, changes and odd things that vary off of the standard AD&D definitions... but there's a lot more they haven't run into or figured out! I can't spill all the beans here So, I will try to give you some broad brush strokes of things they already know and see how we do.In my Dark Ages campaign:Orcs - are pig-faced and a bit larger/bulkier than humans. Their genesis is rumored, but the exact facts are lost to history. They are religious zealots, smart, cunning, have no problem with sunlight, are very militaristic, resemble Planet of the Apes gorillas in coloring, dress and armor. They will commit suicide rather than be captured. They remove the heads of their victims after battle, and burn the bodies. They do not leave bodies of their fellows behind. They are extremely racist and view humans and elves as no more than cattle or a sub-species. They may also be breeding hybrids of some sort for some reason.There are some specific influences to my orcs and some clues here that may give you further insights. Orcs are right now the Big Bad Guys in my campaign and have the players full attention.Kobolds - the players ran into a strange new type of kobold a couple of games ago - these are winged kobolds that spit poisonous saliva into players' faces. In my campaign, kobolds can climb walls and ceilings like spiders.Troll Mages - take one orge mage, reskin it as a troll, merge the best of both monsters' abilities together and you have the feared troll that lives under the bridge right outside of Enonia in the Dale Woods. This guy is responsible for one near-TPK and a lot of angst. The players still plan on taking this guy out.Trollkins - are the "children" of the troll mage. Mysterious and fey. So far, they seem curious and childlike, but extremely wise beyond what seems normal.Dwarfs - are a lost race. They were once slaves to the Dark Ones (ancient evil beings of Chaos that ruled the lands) but once freed, they've not been seen since.Elves - are a seafaring race, grouped by families/clans.Dragons - are generated using EG Palmer's amazing Dragon Generator. First published in 2009, I have a copy of that in my "Best of Old School Blogs" folder. Now that is probably news to my players that dragons will not be dragons, but they'll learn soon enough. My tabletop players are already familiar with one, even though they don't realize it... or maybe they do!One thing that is common for all my monsters. Unless otherwise specified in the Monster Manual, they're intelligent, ruthless and committed to their own best interests. They don't particularly fear the players. They have their own agendas and I prosecute those agendas to the best of my ability.This has caused some issues, and led to one player being asked to not come back when he couldn't deal with the changes. In his mind, kobolds should be groveling at the feet of a first level character. In my mind, these are starving kobolds who are desperate enough to try and bluff their way into robbing the players, as far as they can, because they have NOTHING ELSE TO LOSE! I'm very proud of the players that I do have that were able to deal and adjust to the world as I've presented it. I think that's something to be aware of when you alter[...]

AD&D/OSRIC campaign - Requiem for a warrior/mage


I had a post set up musing about charm person but events at last night's game are worthy of note. Last night, one of the more powerful characters, Teela the elven fighter/mage, played by Bryan N. fell.The party crept into the strange room, populated by a large metal table and chairs. A very thick layer of dust covered the furniture, but strange ridges in a pattern could be seen in the dust covering, as if the table bore some strange symbols in its surface. At one corner of the table, the dust appeared disturbed, as if someone long ago had push it aside, the covering here was much lighter. The chairs around this area were lying on their backs, pushed away in a haphazard manner. The party was exploring an area of the Dwarf mines, searching again for the "Hall of Records" to find treasure. Their other paths had not been fruitful and they found themselves winding through rooms with corroded, rusting metal shelves and debris, gear-works and strange pipes.Rhys, the ranger, moved over to the eastern wall to cover the other exit. Dargellon, the ranger, stayed close to Teela, peering at the table while Talos, the druid, hung back at the south entrance to the room. Teela looked at the disturbed dust and confidently swiped her arm over the table and strange symbols, which revealed themselves to be part of a map! "Look!" she said excitedly. "It's a map with ancient Dwarf symbols wri...." and then the dust "exploded" with a burst of yellow spores, filling the corner of the room her and Dargellon stood in!Yea... Yellow Mold. This is the same Yellow Mold trap, in the same room, on the same table, that claimed a character almost two years ago.  Bryan's character moved the dust, the 50% chance of spores popping hit and then the dice rolled for saving throws. Both players opted to invoke the d30 rule to give themselves higher chances of rolling their saves.Dargellon coughed and gasped, stumbling away from the cloud of spores as both Rhys and Talos shouted in horror at the sight. Dargellon hacked and spat phlegm a few times and stood up, his face pale. "I'm OK." he gasped. Then they both turned to look at Teela, who was lying on the floor next to the table. Her breath wheezed in gasps as she clawed at her throat and chest. The spores were settling down, but Teela's fate was already sealed.Bryan needed to roll a 13 on the d30, he rolled a 7. The stunned looks on everyone's face, including mine, and even the store owner, who had been watching us play, told the tale. Teela was dead from poison. After 11 sessions over 14 months, gaining 10,354 XP, the third level fighter/third level mage was brought down. It was a pretty heavy moment and the mood grew extremely somber.I gave Teela 6 turns to do as she wanted, I left it up to Bryan. Bryan plays another character, Jorann the cleric, and he willed most of his wealth and possessions to Jorann, which I allowed. Bryan has run both characters faithfully especially for moments where he might lose one. He's been cooperative in not linking the two as mules or trying to exploit them once we figured out how playing two characters worked best in my campaign. Teela had become a somewhat mysterious, but visible figure in the town of Enonia - becoming friends with the only NPC mage in town and serving as a type of informal ambassador for the Elven nation. She had faced terrible monsters, seen the effects of Chaos under the abandoned monaster[...]