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The Borderlands



Steve's Dorky Old-School Gaming Blog



Updated: 2017-11-11T09:39:47.043-05:00

 



Dice Roll Zine #1 in Print and PDF!

2017-10-27T19:04:00.440-04:00

Dice Roll Zine #1 is now available in print and PDF!Dice Roll Zine is a 36-page old-fashioned zine for OSR RPG games written by me and illustrated by some of the best OSR-influenced artists around.Contents of the premiere issue include a barbarian class for B/X games, a different way to turn undead in B/X games, a trippy sci-fantasy adventure location called The Purple Mushroom Inn, a chaos mutation die drop table, random dungeon stuff tables, and more!PRINT: Please look over on the right-hand column to buy safely via PayPal. On mobile devices, please scroll to the bottom to buy via PayPal. $9 USD for Canada & USA (postage included), $10.50 USD everywhere else in the world (postage included). For multiple copies, please email first for postage rates. (hogtowngamesosr AT gmail DOT com)PDF: The PDF version of the zine is now available at Tabletop Library, DriveThru RPG, and RPGNow. $4 USD. For four measly bucks you get the zine PDF as well as a choice of covers, and all of the map files (.png format) for the issue: 7 maps!Zine sample photos below.[...]



RPG-a-Day 2017 - Catching up and Finishing Ahead of the Month!

2017-08-23T14:19:30.675-04:00

Here is my next post, long overdue, for RPG-a-Day 2017!All the remaining questions in one go, plus the first 5 copied in (from my first post) at the beginning for completeness. :-)1. What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?Toon. Because I've had some really fun and crazy games of Toon in the past and I'm feeling like I need an outlet of fun and crazy cartoon hi-jinx right now. :-)2. What is an RPG you would like to see published?Mine. My own, My precious... (I'd want to do it a bit differently than any of the past--or current--versions, with "dynamic" words of power spellcasting and invoked auras and legacy-building items and who-knows-what else...)And as cheesy as it may sound, I'd like to see a really fun, quirky, and intellectually-challenging Harry Potter RPG designed for kids. I think that that kind of feel would fit well with the source material. I would probably do the design as a melange of very basic trad RPG and action/event card-board game.3. How do you find out about new RPGs?Word of mouth or select "social media" reviews and commentary. Typically online via G+ gaming circles and occasionally blogs I follow. I don't do Twitter-piddle, Instagroaner, or Facialbook tho.4. Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?Pathfinder. Rise of the Runelords campaign. It's kind of funny because as a DM, I'm almost exclusively a grognard old-school game system fellow, but one of my buddies (who alternates as DM with me) wanted to give it a go, so we played... for a while. The crunchy nature of the ruleset combined with playing over the Roll20 platform became a bit too much fiddly and not enough fun, so we have since switched to Swords & Wizardry. :-)5. Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?The Moldvay-Cook Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons boxed sets. Erol Otus. Can't beat them. Hands down.Second best is probably the 1st edition Call of Cthulhu boxed set. So creepy. I love it.6.  You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!I would run a mini-campaign with a game system I've never GMed before. Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea would top the "want to run" list, although that might be a bit influenced by its AD&D roots. Although I favor OD&D- and B/X-based games these days, I still have a strong love for AD&D.Following AS&SH on the want-to-run-but- never-have list is probably Traveller (original), White Star, Gamma World, and Crypts & Things. 7.  What was your most impactful game session?My first session, no doubt. It was in the basement of Miltos' house (or mine, I forget that part) and Mark was the DM, and Gary, Mike, Miltos, another Mike, me, and one other person (I forget who...) were playing. It certainly wasn't the most memorable game (although I do remember Mark cackling A LOT!), but without that first Basic Dungeons & Dragons session in 1981 -- me as Merlin the magic-user (how clever!) with his hold portal spell and dagger, and dying in his first fight -- there never would have been all the others over the decades.8.  What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?Any RPG can be played in 2 hours or less. However, if I were forced to choose which RPG works best when kept to an under two hour timeframe, I'd say Toon. (That's two for Toon on my RPG-a-Day list!)9.  What is a good rpg to play for about 10 sessions?See above. Anything. Except Toon, actually. 10 consecutive sessions of Toon are probably too much for any reasonably sane person.10.  Where do you go for RPG reviews?Reviews posted on G+Reviews from R'lyehTen Foot PoleAnd, of course, recommendations made to me personally.11.  Which dead game would you like to see reborn?I don't grok the question. Once a game is published, it is forever. There is no "dead" game as long as people are playing it somewhere.But that's just me being a semantic asshat. I suppose the real question is which currently unsupported game would I like to see supp[...]



RPG-a-Day 2017 [Yes, I'm Doing This Damn Thing Too!]

2017-08-02T14:29:50.245-04:00

RPG-a-Day 2017
Questions 1-5

I'm getting a leg up, giving it a go in 5-question chunks, since I know there's no way I have the patience to do this every day for the whole month! lol

1. What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?
Toon. Because I've had some really fun and crazy games of Toon in the past and I'm feeling like I need an outlet of fun and crazy cartoon hi-jinx right now. :-)

2. What is an RPG you would like to see published?
Mine. My own, My precious... (I'd want to do it a bit differently than any of the past--or current--versions, with "dynamic" words of power spellcasting and invoked auras and legacy-building items and who-knows-what else...)

And as cheesy as it may sound, I'd like to see a really fun, quirky, and intellectually-challenging Harry Potter RPG designed for kids. I think that that kind of feel would fit well with the source material. I would probably do the design as a melange of very basic trad RPG and action/event card-board game.

3. How do you find out about new RPGs?
Word of mouth or select "social media" reviews and commentary. Typically online via G+ gaming circles and occasionally blogs I follow. I don't do Twitter-piddle, Instagroaner, or Facialbook tho.

4. Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?
Pathfinder. Rise of the Runelords campaign. It's kind of funny because as a DM, I'm almost exclusively a grognard old-school game system fellow, but one of my buddies (who alternates as DM with me) wanted to give it a go, so we played... for a while. The crunchy nature of the ruleset combined with playing over the Roll20 platform became a bit too much fiddly and not enough fun, so we have since switched to Swords & Wizardry. :-)

5. Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
The Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons boxed sets. Erol Otus. Can't beat them. Hands down.
Second best is probably the 1st edition Call of Cthulhu boxed set. So creepy. I love it.



Friday Map [15]: The Mazeverse of Nubraxas Unhinged [CC-BY-4.0]

2017-03-03T22:38:26.654-05:00

Today's free map is The Mazeverse of Nubraxas Unhinged.

Inside timeless halls I wander
Within the deepest thoughts I dwell,
Under ancient earth I slumber
Until the Worms of Madness swell.

Into the darkest hearts I shine
The searing madness now begins,
Penumbral shades of sanity
Mazeverse of Nubraxas Unhinged.

---

This year, the maps appearing in my Friday Maps blog feature are being released for free under a royalty-free personal and commercial license. So you can take these maps, use them as is, modify them, change and abuse them as you will for your personal games, even stick them in your commercial products if you want. The only thing you have to do is credit me, +Steve C, with the original cartography (or maps, blah blah) in your product.

If you should require it, the map on this page is also released by +Steve C under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [CC-BY-4.0].

Downloads:
The "Mazeverse" hi-res .png

(image)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Friday Map [14]: Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten [CC-BY-4.0]

2017-02-24T04:06:30.534-05:00

Today's free map is titled Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten.

From darkened caverns and blackened halls creep the Children of the Night, worshipers of ancient Ghatanothoa. Wretched beings, they writhe forth from their hideous lairs shapeless, untouchable, unbreakable, unknowable ...

This year, the maps appearing in my Friday Maps blog feature are being released for free under a royalty-free personal and commercial license. So you can take these maps, use them as is, modify them, change and abuse them as you will for your personal games, even stick them in your commercial products if you want. The only thing you have to do is credit me, +Steve C, with the original cartography (or maps, blah blah) in your product.

If you should require it, the map on this page is also released by +Steve C under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [CC-BY-4.0].

Downloads:
The "Unaussprechlichen Kulten" hi-res .png

(image)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Friday Map [13]: Catawombs of the Charnel Priestess Salacia [CC-BY-4.0]

2017-02-18T05:59:56.779-05:00

Today's free map is titled Catawombs of the Charnel Priestess Salacia.

The undead horrors Salacia births into the world of the living are eternally secured in the broken minds of those corrupted souls who lustfully enter the forbidden womb-crypts in search of her glorious treasures...

This year, the maps appearing in my Friday Maps blog feature are being released for free under a royalty-free personal and commercial license. So you can take these maps, use them as is, modify them, change and abuse them as you will for your personal games, even stick them in your commercial products if you want. The only thing you have to do is credit me, +Steve C, with the original cartography (or maps, blah blah) in your product.

If you should require it, the map on this page is also released by +Steve C under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [CC-BY-4.0].

Downloads:
The "Catawombs" hi-res .png

(image)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Friday Map [12] Darkened Shrine: Halls of Saurian Entombment [CC-BY-4.0]

2017-02-12T08:38:32.888-05:00

(image) Today's free map is titled Darkened Shrine: Halls of Saurian Entombment.

This year, the maps appearing in my Friday Maps blog feature are being released for free under a royalty-free personal and commercial license. So you can take these maps, use them as is, modify them, change and abuse them as you will for your personal games, even stick them in your commercial products if you want. The only thing you have to do is credit me, +Steve C, with the original cartography (or maps, blah blah) in your product.

If you should require it, the map on this page is also released by +Steve C under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [CC-BY-4.0].

Downloads:
The "Saurian Tomb" hi-res .png

(image)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

CONTEST FOR A FREE WHITEBOX MODULE!

I'm tying in a Hogtown Games giveaway with this map. If you email me at 'hogtowngamesosr' at-that-gmail-thingy-dot-com and tell me where I stole the name for this map from, I will put you in a draw to receive a free print copy of Golden Eye of the Kobold King, my 34-page Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox module for 1st and 2nd level characters. Please put 'Map Name' in the email subject line.

On Wednesday Feb 15 at 18:00 (Eastern Standard Time), I'll randomly determine a name from those who give me a correct answer. Within a few days, I'll go to the post office and mail that person a copy, anywhere in the world. I'll send it as cheaply as I can, for obvious reasons, so don't expect it too quickly if you live overseas from Canada. :-)

Cheers!



Golden Eye of the Kobold King Updated [v1.1]

2017-10-22T08:37:14.881-04:00

I have updated Golden Eye of the Kobold King, my first Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox release from last summer. I made some very minor text and stat updates and corrections, I added a "referee's notes" page at the back, and I added some very cheesy black & white images in a few places.

Check out the links over there on the right for all the kobold slaughtering goodness!

If you are interested in a softcover print-on-demand version, it's available at Lulu here for under $4 ($5.99 in Canada).

On RPGNow/DriveThruRPG you can get the softcover POD here or here for $4 USD (which includes a free PDF). If you just want the PDF, it's free.

You can also download the PDF from Tabletop Library for free here.

Cheers!



Friday Maps (11): Warrens & Tomb [CC-BY-4.0]

2017-02-12T06:15:25.673-05:00

Well it's about damn time I posted some maps. Here ya go, two little maps for today, The Festering Warrens Full of Stinking Rat Bastards and The Tomb of Khad-Mazar II of the Nicely Marbled Stone Balls Clan.

This year, the maps appearing in my Friday Maps blog feature are being released for free under a royalty-free personal and commercial license. So you can take these maps, use them as is, modify them, change and abuse them as you will for your personal games, even stick them in your commercial products if you want. The only thing you have to do is credit me, +Steve C, with the original cartography (or maps, blah blah) in your product.

If you should require it, the maps on this page are also released by +Steve C under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [CC-BY-4.0].

Cheers!




Downloads:
The "Warrens #1" hi-res .png
The "Tomb #1" hi-res .png

(image)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Troupe-Style D&D Play? What Am I Even On About!

2017-02-12T06:17:05.192-05:00

(image) Do you use troupe-style play, or varieties of it, for your OD&D/OSR campaigns?

For definition purposes, I'm thinking of troupe-style play in one-half of the Ars Magica sense -- wizard (or magus) as prime character with supporting cast to handle certain types of adventures -- not as the rotating referee style play that some Ars Magica groups employ.

I find this is kind of how OD&D works already. You have your character and you have your retinue of henchmen and hirelings and so forth. The latter, of course, are beholden to the former. Pretty much the same as in Ars Magica -- unless my memory fails me -- excepting the obvious differences in the contexts of the two gameplay experiences.


Personally, I'm growing increasingly fond of a hybrid troupe-style mode of play in my group's OD&D games where players have a small retinue of characters to choose from for adventures, typically 3 to 4. We only ever have 1 referee for our campaigns.

In this "hybrid" version of troupe-style, all of the characters are on the same "playing field" to start at 1st level (not beholden to or employed by another character), but the frequency of participation in adventures ultimately determines their rise to prominence within the party. Typically all of the characters are linked in some way -- from the same family, friends from a village,  children of former adventuring companions, whatever works for the player and campaign setting. Each character in a player's roster also develops his or her own retinue of henchmen and hirelings and so forth, just as a regular character, at least in as much as the player desires to do so.

My home group is very small (3 people) so we're finding this mode of play helps to cover not only all kinds of tactical situations that come up in adventures, but can lead to some interesting dynamics (competitiveness, alliances, favors owed, butt of humor) within the party, and it keeps everyone's play experience varied and interesting as you never know if you're playing a fighter or wizard or cleric (or maybe all three!) in the next adventure. It also helps us deal with the relatively high mortality rates among characters in older edition D&D games. Not that it's hard to make a new character on the spot, but it's kind of nice to have one or more characters ready to go that already possess ties (even if minimal or sparsely detailed) and are at least known to the adventuring party.

So, do you use this or a different mode of troupe-style play? Do you just play multiple characters and leave it at that? How do you handle small game groups and multiple characters?



Friday Map (10): ...And My Ending is Despair [Megadungeon - 1 of ??]

2017-02-12T06:18:48.251-05:00

Hey folks, sorry I'm a couple days late with this map!Today we have a special one. This is the first level of my new megadungeon with the working title ...And My Ending is Despair. That's vague and threatening and mysterious enough, isn't it? I'm using a sketchy name at this point since I expect my players will come up with a more evocative name for the dungeon as we play through it. You can thank The Bard for the working title. :-)I am doing something a little different (for me) with this megadungeon: There is no overarching theme or history or mythology behind it, Or even any "purpose" to the dungeon at all. I am quite simply making it all up as I go, one level at a time. That may seem like a boring old hat for some folks, but for me it's a great departure from my standard operating procedure, which is to detail the heck out of everything about the dungeon all in advance so it's easy for me to run at the table.Now, no doubt I will wind up developing some of that history-er themey-ery (thanks Captain Obvious!) stuff as I create each dungeon level, but how much? I don't know yet. I'm fairly certain that much of the megadungeon's contents and many of its occupants won't make sense when scrutinized under any "realistic" ecological microscope. The only plan I do have is that this megadungeon will have a kitchen-sink-strange-days-in-the-mythic-underworld kind of vibe.For instance, on this first level, there is an astronaut-temple-section populated by centipedes, giant rats, giant crab spiders and a colony of savage baboons. Then there is the green slime. And a black pudding. Additionally, we find a small fire-themed section with flaming snakes and fire beetles, a larger chaos/death-themed section with fountains of insta-death, a gelatinous cube, fountains of chaos tentacles, skeletons, a gargoyle and a ghoul. I've also included a large section overrun by a goblin gang that worships a crocodile-demon-god. Yes, this level is for 1st level characters. The PCs kinda died and my players kinda crapped their pants playing it. :-) I have no idea if I will continue any of these themes on successive levels. We'll see.Unfortunately, the subsequent levels of the megadungeon will not appear in quick succession on the blog. I have to work on them first. I'm aiming for one new level every couple of months, with the levels being sprinkled among the regular weekly maps I post here. As an extra special bonus (and the real reason the levels will take time) -- each level will be fully-keyed for use with OD&D-type games. I'm not going to spend a huge amount of time editing the heck out of each level key, so expect some minor typos, stat errors and other goofball silliness and references that don't get weeded out. Consider them starting points for use at your table. :-)If you made it this far, thanks for paying attention to my long-winded post!Download Links:Megadungeon Map, level 1 - .png, hi-resMegadungeon Map, level 1 - .png, low-res...And My Ending is Despair, level 1, referee map - .png, low-res...And My Ending is Despair, level 1, referee key - .pdf (3-column landscape)[...]



Friday Map (9): Iltharn Keep & the Village of Longplank

2017-02-12T06:20:07.581-05:00

Within the idyllic rustic countryside of the West Riding of Aldershire, resting along the banks of the lazy Lower Gulstoke River, and nestled in the verdant shadow of Old Iltharn Hill is the quaint village of Longplank. A dark secret festers in the heart of this sleepy village...

Named for the first bridge that was placed down over the Lower Gulstoke three centuries past, Longplank is famous for its robust cherry orchards and the spicy-sour black cherry liqueur known throughout the realms as Longplank Blacktooth. Local legend states that Blacktooth liqueur is aged in wooden barrels fashioned from the original oak planks set down across the Lower Gulstoke.

Longplank is ruled by Baron Aethelfrost Klinghorn, second-cousin once-removed to Count Viskel Rundelwine of the East Riding of Aldershire. From his keep atop Old Iltharn Hill, Aethelfrost plots and schemes to marry his rotund daughter Igwen to the lazy-eyed son of his liege Count Wideaxe Hinkelbeck of West Aldershire, thereby entwining his broodline with the two politically-favored families of East and West Aldershire, the Rundelwines and Hinkelbecks.

Adventurers may find the dozing village interesting for not only does Longplank boast the Perfectly Sighted Cyclops, one of the best taverns this side of the Gulstoke, but also Aethelfrost secretly worships the demon-prince Orcus. Not that anyone knows this other than the village drunk, Blacktoothed Worty, of course. Aethelfrost was converted to demon-worship by Ridinal Trasmus, the spiritual leader of Longplank and pretend-pastor of of the Church of Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel. These two evil cohorts carry on secret sacrifices, rituals and corpse army-raising ceremonies at a hidden cave-temple within Blackhaunt Wood several miles north of the village.

Blacktoothed Worty just happened to drunkenly stumble upon a scene in the dark forest the day before the adventurers turn up...

Image Download Links:
Iltharn Map - .png, hi-res
Iltharn Map - .png, low-res

Oh ... and here's a link to the last tune from the classic 1985 Celtic Frost album To Mega Therion to set the mood. Necromantical Screams. Because metal. Enjoy! :-)



Friday Map (8): Fane of Hisrathi, map 3 of 3

2017-02-12T06:21:26.836-05:00

Today's map is the final of a three-map set for the three-level Dungeon of the Fire Lord. This map shows the lowest level, the Fane of Hisrathi.

Herein we find a flaming magma-pit cavern-temple where Hisrathi the evil elemental resides (bottom right on map). Throughout the temple are spiked red-hot iron pillars to which sacrificial victims are chained as offerings to Hisrathi. Also on this level, we find a mine where azers cut crimson kyleth crystals (magicky do-special-stuff crystals) and precious metals to bring to the forges of the flame salamander warrior-smiths that occupy the long angular-shaped chamber near the top left of the map.

Rounding out the level, we have various small quarters and two big chambers for the azers (top left of map) and their boss Utemnaron, nephew of Amaimon, king of azers on the plane of fire. Additionally, there are metal, mineral and crystal storage areas (north of the chasm on the map), and the residences of the highest-ranking members of the Cult of Cleansing Flames (bottom middle-ish of the map), Bayabaset the Burnt Priest, Ignia the Flame Bitch and Vasroth the Impaler.

Of particular giddy referee note is the octagonal-shaped "pinch point" chamber with the four doors: the infamous (in my 3e era Greyhawk game anyway) Brass Gas Room of Doom. Once inside the solid brass chamber, the doors shut fast and a slow-working "knockout" gas-trap activates. Four bronze statues inside the chamber need to be positioned correctly to open any of the doors. A fifth bronze statue in the center of the chamber animates and subdue-attacks the party if the other statues aren't positioned correctly the first time around. It was a great trap encounter since most players hate being captured more than dying. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

Image download links:
Map 3, Fane of Hisrathi - .png, hi-res
Map 3, Fane of Hisrathi - .png, low-res




Friday Map (7): Sanctum of Cleansing Flames, map 2 of 3

2017-02-12T06:22:22.826-05:00

Today's map is the second of a three-map set for the three-level Dungeon of the Fire Lord. This map shows the middle level, the Sanctum of Cleansing Flames. This part of the dungeon contains the main temple of the Cult of Cleansing Flames, as well as the cult's reliquary, dormitories, library, private quarters, and numerous other chambers and caverns.

If you're a truly daring explorer, the great chasm through the middle of the dungeon connects all three levels, but gaining this level from the upper level (Caverns of the Mad Morlock) is usually done using the rough-hewn stairs near the top of the map. The primary inhabitants of this level have constructed a tunnel leading to the surface, which they access via the secret chamber in the bottom right corner of the map. The lower dungeon level (Fane of Hisrathi) is accessed via the staircase in the temple antechamber. The temple is the long capsule-shaped chamber in the top right corner of the map.

The Sanctum dungeon level is primarily populated by cultists, guards, and followers of the Cult of Cleansing Flames. However, Lishixa, the medusa-sorceress, and Reginald, her undead half-ogre lover (she's got creepy taste in men), inhabit the cavern areas along with a savage and drug-addicted pack of Lishixa's morlock slaves. The cultists have an uneasy truce with Lishixa.

Image download links:
Map 2, Sanctum - .png, hi-res
Map 2, Sanctum - .png, low-res

A Wee Bit of History: I used the Cult of Cleansing Flames back in the early days of 3rd edition D&D during a brief campaign set in Greyhawk. The cult is an offshoot of the elemental fire worshippers from the Temple of Elemental Evil. Led by Bayabaset the Burnt Priest (and his "lieutenants" Vasroth the Impaler and Ignia the Flame Bitch), the cultists escaped the destruction of the temple and established their own lair and temple, hidden in the northern reaches of the Lortmil Mountains. For the past few years, the cult has grown steadily, recruiting new followers and bulking its store of magic and arms. Recently, Bayabaset performed a summoning ritual that called forth the evil lord Hisrathi from the elemental plane of fire. Hisrathi is an elemental, but an evil demonic one. The cultists worship him as their true god—one who will oversee a new age once the infidels of the Flanaess are cleansed by his purifying fire!



S&W WhiteBox House Rules (7): Spellcasting & Sanity

2017-02-12T06:24:13.433-05:00

This is the seventh and final post detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with spellcasting and sanity. Cheers!REFEREE'S NOTESAs a referee, I have been known to get fussy about spellbooks and scrolls. Sometimes players treat the spellbooks and scrolls they find in the hoards of slain evil wizards kind of like how kids collect baseball (or Yu-Gi-Oh!) cards: got it, got it, need it, got it, need it ... toss aside. This bugs me a little bit. So I like using costs for adding spells to spellbooks and rules that make casting spells off of scrolls risky.I also added sanity rules to handle situations like encountering hideous and otherworldly monsters, reading forbidden books, speaking the names of Old Ones, suffering from fear (whether a spell or magic item), doing blasphemous things, and generally freaking out and going crazy like Pink from The Wall or GG Allin, or going completely bat shit insane like Jim Jones or Elizabeth Báthory.The end results of which are, of course, taken straight out of the good old AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. :-)SPELLCASTINGPREPARING SPELLSA spellcaster prepares and casts a certain number of spells each day, determined by her experience level. A spellcaster can prepare new spells after 8 hours of rest. It takes 1 hour to prepare all the spells a character can cast each day.A spell remains prepared in a caster’s mind until it is cast. However, if a spell is not cast by the end of the day, the caster does not get to “double up” on that spell the next day—that spell level “slot” is still occupied by the previous day’s prepared spell. Thus, a spellcaster may stretch her prepared spells over multiple days, weeks or even months, if necessary. For example, if a wizard lost her spellbook and could not prepare new spells, this capability could be a life saver.CASTING SPELLS OFF SCROLLSA spellcaster may attempt to cast a spell directly off a scroll so long as the spell is identified with Read Magic and the spell is of her proper type—a wizard can only cast arcane spells and a cleric can only cast divine spells. The process of casting a scroll spell is the same as casting a prepared spell, except the caster doesn’t use up one of her spells and she must hold the scroll in-hand while casting the spell. Once a spell is cast off a scroll, the magical writing disappears from the scroll and the spell can never be cast again. Despite the similarities, casting a scroll spell is significantly riskier than casting a prepared spell—the magical writing and incantations are not the caster’s own, and therefore the chance of making a mistake increases dramatically.Whenever a spellcaster tries to cast a spell off of a scroll, a test is required to see if the character properly translates and channels the spell. To make a Scroll Casting test, roll 2d6 + Intelligence modifier (for wizards) or Wisdom modifier (for clerics) and consult Table 42: Scroll Casting below. If the spell level is a higher level than the character can cast, apply a -1 penalty for each spell level difference. For example, if the spell on the scroll is level 5 and the character can only cast level 2 spells, the test roll suffers a -3 penalty.Table 42: Scroll Casting 2d6 + Int Mod Result 2 or less Eldritch Backfire. The casting attempt backfires and the scroll is consumed in an explosion of searing eldritch fire. The caster suffers 1d6 damage per level of the spell on the scroll (no saving throw allowed). 3-5 Failure. The casting attempt fails and the spell is lost from the scroll. 6-8 No Effect. The spell does not go off, but remains intact on the scroll. Something during t[...]



S&W WhiteBox House Rules (6): Combat

2017-02-12T06:24:38.746-05:00

This is the sixth in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with combat. Cheers!REFEREE'S NOTESThe way I sequence combat in Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox bears only minor resemblance to the rules as written, or even OD&D for that matter. Other than sticking to "1 minute rounds," my approach to the combat sequence is a fairly "rules light" mix of 3e (initiative and actions), S&W (use attack matrices or BAB, but not both) and B/X (combat movement).A special shout out goes to Jason Cone (Philotomy Jurament) for his pioneering work (see Philotomy's Musings, layout and editing by Jason Vey) and discussions about OD&D. I don't think I use any of these specific house rules, but they were certainly an inspiration to me.SEQUENCE OF PLAY IN A COMBAT ROUND1. DETERMINE SURPRISECombatants who are NOT surprised may perform 1 round of combat actions immediately, in order of highest Dexterity score to lowest. Those who ARE surprised cannot act during this “surprise round,” and in fact have a 1-in-6 chance to drop any items held in-hand. Once the unsurprised participants have taken their surprise round actions, or if no one is surprised, proceed to 2.2. ROLL INITIATIVEEach combatant rolls 2d6 + Dexterity modifier to determine their initiative result. The Referee might make one roll for groups of similar monsters. Combatants get to act in order of highest initiative result to lowest. If two or more combatants have the same initiative result, the one with the highest Dexterity score goes first; the second highest Dexterity goes next, and so on.3. PERFORM ACTIONSEach combatant acts in order of initiative result, from highest to lowest, as noted above. On their respective turns in the combat round, each combatant may Move and perform one of the following six Basic Actions:Attack (Melee or Missile)Banish UndeadCast a SpellDelay/InterruptInteractUse Magic ItemMonsters sometimes have special actions different from basic actions. The Referee has information about special monster actions and describes what happens in play when they occur.4. CONTINUE PERFORMING ACTIONSOnce all combatants have performed their actions, the first combat round is complete. The initiative order then “recycles” for the second combat round. Basically, this means that Step 3 repeats itself—initiative is rolled once only, at the start of combat, and combatants continue acting in subsequent rounds in the same initiative order as the first until the combat encounter is resolved. BASIC COMBAT ACTIONSMove: A character can move up to his combat movement rate on his turn in the combat round, provided he is not engaged in melee with an enemy. This is typically 120, 90, 60 or 30 feet per round. Movement may be split up before, during, or after his other action, unless the other action says this is impossible. A character may also use his other action to move farther—instead of attacking, casting a spell, and so forth. If he does this, the character moves a second time on his turn at his combat movement rate. This is called a “double move.”Attack (Melee): The character attacks once with a melee weapon at an enemy within 5 feet. If an enemy is more than 5 feet away, the character must use a weapon with reach (see below). When a character attacks an enemy with a melee weapon, he is considered engaged in melee combat with that enemy, whether the attack hits or not. See below for special movement rules while engaged in melee combat.Attack (Missile): The character attacks once with a missile weapon at an enemy. The character must have line of sight to a target to fire a missile a[...]



Friday Map (6): Caverns of the Mad Morlock, map 1 of 3

2017-02-12T06:22:50.013-05:00

Today's map is the first of a three-map set for the three-level Dungeon of the Fire Lord. I know, I know, sucky name. This map shows the uppermost level, Caverns of the Mad Morlock. This level is populated by morlocks, orcs, ogres, a troll, and their insane, sorcery-wielding morlock master, F'threezis. Cheers!

This level connected to a big cave above it. The sinkhole in the bottom left of the map is the entry. The stairs in the upper center lead down to level two. :-)

Just in case it wasn't obvious, the blog maps are free for anyone to use, alter, hack, or whatever in their personal games.

If you would like to use them for any commercial projects (or are interested in commissioning an original map) please feel free to drop me a line about licensing and rates and all that good stuff. Just so you know, I'm cheap 'cuz I'm a nobody! :-)

Image download links:
Map 1, caverns - .png, hi-res
Map 1, caverns - .png, low-res




S&W WhiteBox House Rules (5): Time, Wilderness Travel, Turn-based Actions & Encounters

2017-02-12T06:25:05.369-05:00

This is the fifth in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with time, wilderness travel, turn-based actions and encounters. Cheers!REFEREE NOTESTime: Nothing unusual here. All I did was write out some procedures (a la Moldvay-Cook Basic/Expert D&D) for handling daily- and turn-based actions.Wilderness Travel & Random Encounters: I've put all but one of my wilderness random encounter tables into the body of this blog post, but you may also find the PDF here for download. Unfortunately, I couldn't paste the creatures encounter table into the blog post because the formatting got really screwy. (Edit: Note that the monster random encounter table has handy page references for each of the monster entries in the various AD&D rulebooks. Woo hoo!)Turn-Based Actions: I've written out some guidelines for performing actions during a turn. How strictly I enforce these greatly depends on the situation. The search times, for example, may seem a bit stringent. That's because my players (like so many, no doubt) seem to think that they can thoroughly search entire rooms like The Flash while they have spells in effect. I don't think so! However, in fairness, if there are no nearby monsters or reasons to precisely track time while the party searches, I just hand wave it.The Encounter: Nothing unusual here. Labyrinth Lord fans will notice my encounter distance dice. Also, I use a 2d6 loyalty roll for hirelings instead of 3d6.Kudos: A special shout out goes to Doug at the Smoldering Wizard blog. His "filling in the gaps" WhiteBox rules expansions were the first I found online and they served as a great reference when developing my own. Thanks kindly, Doug!One Last Note: You will read "detailed in Such and Such chapter" a few times on this page. The house rules being presented on this blog are taken from my personal campaign rulebook. Such references simply refer to the various chapters within the book. I was too lazy to edit them out. :-)TIMEThe passage of time within the game is categorized in four ways: Game Days, Turns, Combat Rounds and Downtime.GAME DAYSGame days are 1 day long. Big shocker. Use the game day time scale when a party travels in the wilderness. The order of events in a typical game day is as follows:1) Determine Travel Direction. Party chooses direction of travel within a map hex (typically 6 miles per hex, 1 mile per sub-hex).2) Lose Direction/Random Encounters. Referee uses Table 49: Wilderness Travel (see below) to determine if the party becomes lost and if there are any encounters during the day.3) Resolve Encounters. Resolve any encounters during the day according to the various Wilderness Random Encounters tables (again, see below). If there are creature encounters, proceed to The Encounter rules (again, see below) and resolve the encounters. There is a 50% chance a creature encounter actually occurs after the party establishes a base camp.4) Establish Base Camp. Party establishes a base camp for the night and sets a watch order. As noted above, creature encounters may occur at night. Randomly determine who is on watch if the encounter occurs at night.5) Day Ends. In the morning, the party prepares any spells and readies for another day’s travel. Go back to Step 1.TURNSTurns are 10 minutes long. Use the turn time scale when a party explores a dungeon, cavern, tomb, or other underground location where there could be threats or dangerous encounters. Turns may also be used when the party explores a city or other large settlement. The order of events in a turn is as follows:1) Determine Wand[...]



Friday Map (5): The Ruins of Zog, map 3

2017-02-12T06:27:05.955-05:00

Today's map is the last of a 3-map set for the Ruins of Zog (see here for maps 1 & 2). This map details the caverns and dungeon beneath the ancient ruins found along the banks of a small river-gorge oasis. Cheers!

I think from now on, I'll be dropping the markings from my maps for the blog, except for perhaps the "kris dagger compass," and maybe a legend if the map has very unusual features. I'm not sure that the titles, scales, room numbers, and other such notations really help anyone customize the maps for their own games. I've included them thus far simply because they were useful to me for my own games.

Plus, dropping the markings means I spend less time using Photoscape and more time drawing maps!

Image download links:
Map 3, dungeon - .png, hi-res
Map 3, dungeon - .png, hi-res, no markings
Map 3, dungeon - .png, low-res
Map 3, dungeon - .png, low-res, no markings




S&W WhiteBox House Rules (4): Attribute Tests

2017-02-12T06:25:29.472-05:00

This is the fourth in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with Attribute Tests. Cheers!REFEREE NOTESAttribute Tests: The test roll I use is based on the "roll 2d6" NPC reaction table found on page 12 of Men & Magic. Rolling 2d6 for general tests or checks has been a commonly used house rule for ages. For my games, I simply wanted to make use of the attribute modifiers to place increased importance upon attribute scores during character creation and game play.Pardon the digression ... My first exposure to roll 2d6 was actually through Holmes Basic (page 11) and Moldvay Basic (pages B21 and B24) circa 1981, as I did not discover original D&D until later in my gaming travels. At any rate, plenty of folks smarter than I have talked about 2d6 rolls in detail from many different perspectives, including P_Armstrong here (way back in 2009), Delta here, JDJarvis here, Peter Fröhlich here, Eric Diaz here, and JB here. JB references my (rather silly and not very serious) thoughts on the matter, which are found here.There you go. Probably more than you ever wanted to read about 2d6 rolls. Now on to the attribute show...ATTRIBUTE TESTSAn “attribute test” is a dice roll influenced by one of a character’s six attributes: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, or Charisma. The Referee determines when a character makes an attribute test, and which attribute applies (use common sense). Sometimes the Referee rolls the test secretly—when the outcome of a situation isn’t immediately obvious to the character, for example—but most often the player rolls the test.To make an attribute test, roll 2d6 and add the character’s appropriate attribute modifier. The higher the result, the better the character performs the action. The Referee looks up the result on a test resolution table applicable to the test. For extremely risky or outrageous—but possibly achievable—actions, the Referee might want to penalize the test by -1 or -2 to reduce the odds of success.The Referee should call for an attribute test only when there is a need to resolve the outcome of an important action or situation involving a character that is not already explicitly covered by the rules. An easily achievable or plainly impossible action doesn’t warrant an attribute test—just decide what happens, logically, based on the circumstances, and inform the player of the result.Table 32: Generic Attribute Tests 2d6 +/- Modifier Result 2 or less Catastrophic Failure. Character fails so badly that a -1 penalty applies to the next attribute test made that day. 3-5 Failure. Character fails or is otherwise thwarted, stymied, hindered, or prevented from performing the task. 6-8 Uncertain Success. Character thinks he succeeds—doubtfully confident, if you will. Referee rolls 1d6 in secret: 1-2 = failure, 3-6 = success. Alternatively, the character succeeds, but with some mitigating factor applied by the Referee. 9-11 Success. Character succeeds at the task. 12 or more Exceptional Success. Character succeeds so greatly that a +1 bonus applies to the next attribute test made that day. I also use attribute tests for learning spells, casting spells off of scrolls, and a few other situations. I will detail these specific tests in future posts. My house-ruled wizard's Arcane Study class ability also employs an attribute test (discussed here).[...]



Friday Maps (4): The Ruins of Zog, maps 1 & 2

2017-02-12T06:28:04.175-05:00

Today's maps detail the ancient ruins found along the banks of a small river oasis within a badlands gorge. The first map is an overview of the river gorge and the second is a detailed map of the ruined buildings. Next week's map will reveal the caverns and dungeon beneath the ruins.


In my Wastelands of Kreth campaign these are known as the Ruins of Zog, a place for adventurers to cut their teeth at lower levels.


The Ruins of Zog maps are not based on these ruins in New York of the mysterious King Zog of Albania. He was tough like Rasputin, apparently. Cool, thanks Google! :-)

Image Download Links:
Map 1, gorge - .png, 3366 x 2615, 300 dpi
Map 1, gorge - .png, 3366 x 2615, 300 dpi, no markings
Map 1, gorge - .png, 1666 x 1301, 72 dpi
Map 1, gorge - .png, 1666 x 1301, 72 dpi, no markings

Map 2, ruins - .png, 3366 x 2615, 300 dpi
Map 2, ruins - .png, 3366 x 2615, 300 dpi, no markings
Map 2, ruins - .png, 1666 x 1301, 72 dpi
Map 2, ruins - .png, 1666 x 1301, 72 dpi, no markings




S&W WhiteBox House Rules (3): Races

2017-02-12T06:25:54.064-05:00

This is the third in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with races. Cheers!To be honest, I flip-flopped over how much campaign-specific information to present in this post. In the end I decided that more is probably better, for context. My apologies if it's a bit boring in that regard.So, on we go with today's blathering racial kitchen sink post. :-)REFEREE'S NOTESRace Class Restrictions & Level Limits: As mentioned in the last post, I cap class level progression at 10. I have also banished demihuman racial level limits and class restrictions to the outer planes, so to speak. Any race may be any class and progress all the way to level 10.Racial Features: I have adjusted the traits of each race from the WhiteBox rules to reflect the feel and flavor of the Wastelands of Kreth campaign setting. Most notably, humans have been "boosted" significantly, both to reflect their dominant role in the campaign and to compensate for the lack of demihuman racial level limits. So far, I think about 80% of PCs in the Wastelands have been humans. :-)WASTELANDS RACESDWARFThe dwarves are cunning delvers of the deeps, tough as the mountains, and slayers of dragonauts and serpents. Short and stout, the dwarves have skin tones ranging from ruddy tan to sooty black, and their bushy hair varies from white to brown to black, and all shades in between. Some dwarves shave their heads for a menacing effect, particularly if they have battle scars upon them. Dwarven eyes may be the color of any gemstone, and burn with an inner fire of a thousand ancient forges. Dwarves take pride in growing great beards, often lavishly styling and decorating them. “The better your beard, the better dwarf you are” is hammered into the dwarven psyche from birth. Size: Medium. Dwarves range between four and five feet tall, and weigh between 120 and 220 pounds. To randomly determine height, roll 2d6 and add 48 inches; to randomly determine weight, roll 2d6 x 10 and add 100 pounds.Languages: Dwarvish plus one other.Names: (Male) Asymet, Brunod, Cadyron, Nurnas, Rozar, Zoculas; (female) Arucyn, Bazra, Gulasyn, Nurnec, Synca, Zocma; (family) Azmetar, Cynoton, Gosmod, Hulac-Maz, Mutaron, Zunytar.Classes: Dwarves may be clerics, fighters, or wizards.Dwarf Cunning: Dwarves have a two-thirds chance (1-4 on a d6) to detect metal and stonework traps, pitfalls, secret doors, shifting passages, and other unusual contraptions and constructions while underground. At any time, dwarves can approximate their depth underground to within 10 feet.Tough as the Mountains: Dwarves gain a +2 bonus on saving throws to resist poison, exhaustion, and system shock.Serpent Hatred: Dwarves believe that all serpents are descended from Ruzuclon the evil dragonaut of Deepearth. They gain a +1 bonus to attacks against dragons and serpentine creatures—including snakes, snake-folk, salamanders, and the like. Dwarves also defend well against Large-size (or larger) dragons and serpentine creatures, gaining a +4 AC bonus against their attacks.CULTURAL NOTESEnslaved by horrific creatures from Deepearth during the Dark Years. Toiled building machines of war and doom.Homelands are in the Peaks of Insanity; largest and most powerful citadel is Dag-Mazac, ruled by Prime Articron Galzar. Isolationist culture by nature; slowly opening up via trade and political relations with other races.Worship Synculon the Articulator and the Mechanoid Construct; ritual[...]



Gaming & Food in Montreal (re-post from the archive)

2017-02-12T06:29:19.028-05:00

Montreal is an amazing city. It's a place where old world charm and ambiance meets modern style and joie de vivre. I have the pleasure of visiting Montreal several times a year as my wife was raised there and her parents still reside there. Whenever we visit the family there are two places in town I absolutely MUST patron, even if it's only a quick drop in.

One is Le Valet d'Coeur. Le Valet is a diverse gaming store on rue Saint-Denis. It has all the stuff you expect from a store where you buy tabletop RPGs, and a huge selection of traditional board, strategy and card games, as well as puzzles and toys. There is always a gaggle of gamers there hanging out at the tables in the back playing Magic or D&D or some other game. The staff are very knowledgeable and friendly. They also do online orders. Click here for the English website.

The second is Schwartz's Deli. This palace (hole in the wall, really, but all the best places are dives!) of smoked meat on boulevard Saint-Laurent is pure awesome and a Montreal institution. Get there with time to spare because you'll be waiting in line for at least 15 minutes, probably 30+ in the height of Summer. If you go to the take-out side of the deli, the wait time is far less and the food is the same (although the menu is more limited). It's getting to be pretty expensive for a Schwartz's sandwich these days (almost $10 each!) but the smoked meat is so freaking awesome. Click here for Schwartz's English website.

By the way, at the take-out side, you can order smoked meat to go by the pound (about $18 per pound), along with a half-loaf (or full loaf) of rye bread, a couple orders of fries, deli pickles, and a squeeze bottle of Schwartz's deli mustard (as well as whole briskets, spices, souvenirs, and other stuff). I do this now and the wife, in-laws, and I assemble our own sammiches at home. It's cheaper than buying individually for the family. They pack the meat in a container so it stays nice and hot! :-)




Friday Map (3): Tomb of Imrat-Ustad

2017-02-12T06:30:03.848-05:00

Today's map is a small tomb and cavern I'm calling the Tomb of Imrat-Ustad.

The name comes from Ustad Imrat Khan, who happens to be a great surbahar and sitar master. Imrat Khan is not dead (as far as I'm aware), so I'm not quite sure why I named a tomb after him, other than that I meditate and draw maps to his music from time to time. You can see a couple of his older performances here and here, if you're into that sort of thing. And this performance with his sons is absolutely mind blowing. ;-)

The layout of the tomb section is (to keen-eyed observers of Egyptian archaeology) based on the layout of KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the Valley of the Kings.

Cheers!

Image Download Links
Map - .png, 2866 x 2165, 300 dpi
Map - .png, 2866 x 2165, 300 dpi, no markings
Map - .png, 1400 x 1058, 72 dpi
Map - .png, 1400 x 1058, 72 dpi, no markings



S&W WhiteBox House Rules (2): Classes

2017-02-12T06:31:05.409-05:00

Today is the second in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today I deal with classes. Cheers!REFEREE'S NOTESLevels: I cap class level progression at 10. This means there are no 6th level wizard spells, rather they have been absorbed into specific magical artifacts.Hit Dice & Hit Points: I have altered the HD of each class to create smoother, more consistent, progressions. The cleric uses 1d6 per level, the fighter 1d6+1, and the wizard 1d6-1. I also use the "optional" rule (some say it was an original rule) that all HD are re-rolled each time you gain a level. If the new total is higher, you keep it; if not, keep the old total. The tables below reflect this (hence 10-10 at level 10 for a wizard). Excluding Constitution bonuses, at 10th level a cleric should average 35 hit points, a fighter 45 hit points, and a wizard 25 hit points.Base To-Hit Bonus: Overall improvement for the fighter, he's even more of a fighting beast. The cleric gets a small boost at lower levels, and the wizard remains relatively close to WhiteBox.Saving Throws: I have reduced class saving throw bonuses to +1. I have added certain specific +1 racial bonuses (detailed in the next post) and +1/+2 bonuses for certain high attributes (detailed in the last post here), so it all evens out in the wash.Class Abilities: Some of these have been modified to suit my tastes or new ones have been added.Wizards: I've always hated the stupid-ass name magic-user. Your mileage may vary. :-)CLASSESYour character’s class represents his or her adventuring profession. You may choose cleric, fighter, or wizard. There are no racial limitations to your class choice.CLERICThe cleric is a holy warrior who casts spells granted by divine forces. Known by myriad titles throughout the world—shaman, priest, templar, ghazi, witch-hunter, lama, monk—the cleric channels divine powers to both thwart his foes and spread his faith.Prime Attribute: Wisdom (13 or higher gains a 5% XP bonus).Armor: Wear any armor, may use shields. Weapons: Use only blunt melee weapons; use only sling or oil as missile weapons. If the cleric’s deity has a favored weapon, the cleric may also use that weapon.Saving Throws: +1 to saving throws against poison and paralysis.Spells: Each day, clerics may cast a certain number of divine spells. See Table 4 below.Banish Undead: Lawful clerics may banish undead creatures, causing them to flee or even outright destroying them. The character must present his or her holy symbol and be clearly visible to the undead creatures in order to banish them. A character can move before or after a banishing attempt.When a banishing attempt is made, 2d6 + the cleric's level in HD worth of undead creatures must make a saving throw adjusted by the cleric's Wisdom modifier. Undead creatures are affected in order of lowest hit dice to highest, and any surplus HD are lost. Failure indicates the undead creatures are banished and flee (or cower) for 1d6 turns; success means nothing happens to them. A cleric who fails to banish undead creatures may not attempt to banish those particular creatures again for 24 hours. Starting at level 4, a cleric destroys undead creatures of 3 HD or less than his level (ignore HD "pluses") if the creatures fail their saving throws.For chaotic-aligned clerics, the same total HD undead are forced to obey the cleric for 1[...]