Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Revenge of the Harn Weather Table (A ErieCon Tale)

In last monday's game session the party decided not to continue to push west to reach the adventure site. It was obvious they were walking into a warzone and that it would not be a good idea. So they decided to go directly north over the Barradine Mountains to reach the adventure site. The hazard of crossing mountain is the treacherous terrain and weather.

Sure enough the party ran into a blizzard. Almost immediately Dwayne and Tim started teasing me about using the Harn weather table as it was a major component of the Hunting the Cow incident. (The reason they had to hunt was the weather slowed them down causing them to run out of food). And yes I was using the Harn weather table using this site to generate a month worth of weather.

If you use this site the months are Spring (Nuzyeal, Peonu, Kelen), Summer (Nolus, Larane, Agrazhar), Autumn (Azura, Halane, Savor), Winter (Ilvin, Navek, Morgat).

Despite not having any campaign gear the party managed to get below the treeline before the worst of the storm hit and found shelter among the pine woods.

Well when I set out to goto ErieCon 2010 the weather at Meadville was pretty good with most of the road all blacktop and little snow. The weather report indicated a less severe day than the blizzards we got on Friday. But when I past Edinboro an OK day turned into a near blizzard. Since I was only 10 minutes away from the Erie I continued on.

ErieCon was pretty hard hit by the weather and there was only 50 to 60 folks there. Most of them playing videogames, Magic, or another card game. Both my panel and game session was a bust. But luckily for me Jason Sholtis and his crew were playing a S&W game in a module of his own design called Operation: Unfathomable. It is set in his version of the mythic underworld and Jason runs it very well. It was a creepy eerie play full of weirdness and other strange denizens.

What I like especially was the feel of plausibility as it was very clear the area was a wellspring born of chaos. I know that is a strange combination but the right amount of plausibility can do wonders to the suspension of disbelief and Jason did a good job of it.

Since I came late I got to play some of the hirelings, Flaunt an archer, and Cuthuk (sp?) a spearmen. I played Flaunt with a strong drawl and the personality of a hick. Cuthuk was always on the frontline ready to protect those who hired him. I suppose I did something right as I had table laughing at their antic several time. The adventure revolved around find a lost magic rod.

Later one of the players had to leave early and I picked up his mage Lashamar. It came handy near the end of the adventure where I was blasting robots from the future with magic missles, put a whole miniature civilization to sleep with a spell so we could retrieve the magic rod safely, and finally charming a bear man from the future who wanted the rod to go work on a spaceship to get him out of the way.

I really glad I took the plunge and played. Jason style is not something I normally do, I learned a lot in the few short hours I played. It one thing to read Jeff Rients and others about mythic underworlds and funhouse dungeons but nothing beats playing one. Again Jason's version is very well done.

After the game I talked with Jason and his friend John Larrey. It turned out they are both illustrators who have done comics on their own and had some stuff published in Knockspell (both art and adventures). I was ecstatic that I found some local artists that I can hire for future projects. The con was a bust for the plans I had. But in the end it worked out very well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Off to ErieCon 2010

First off I apologize for not posting an ISO.When I started burning CDs I realized that I did not have all my normal tools installed as the result of a HD Crash several month ago. It will take me some time to reassemble them. However as for the CDs themselves I was able to get them burned with the default tools of Windows Vista.

I will be involved in a Old School Panel on Saturday Afternoon and then running a S&W + Majestic Wilderlands game Saturday Evening from 6pm to 10pm. Hope to see some of you there.

I want to say thanks to Jeff Rients of Jeff's Gameblog for contributing a PDF of the Miscellanea of Cinder. I am sure everybody who get these will enjoy them. Finally I appreciate everybody who contributed comments and links in the previous posts.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Work on the Old School CD continues

I didn't get as much done Thursday as I liked on the Old School CD but here is the webpage I am including. Please free to use the comment section of this post for any corrections and comments. I thank everybody who posted comments to the first post.

I stress this is represent my editorial judgment. One thing I noticed is that the Old School Renaissance has growing really really big as far one person. It is either at the point or just passed the point where one person can keep track of it all. Which is why the list has a fantasy orientation and certainly should not be considered definitive.
Feel free to use this as a starting point for your own lists. Hopefully between all of us we can get a comprehensive list going. That includes not just fantasy but all the retro stuff that going on.

Hopefully I will have a second post this evening with the ISO with contents of the CD.

Here is a preview of the CD Cover.

Yes I plan on including a free copy of the Majestic Wilderlands pdf in the CD.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mapping, Pen Tablets, and Drawing by Hand

Recently I bought this a Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet. When browsing the various cartography and art forums I keep seeing references to using tablets and the Bamboo line is pretty affordable as these things go ($70 for this model).

The way it works is that the active area is inside the white lines. If I touch the lower left corner the cursor on the monitor jumps to the lower left corner. If I touch the center the cursor jump to the center. The pen has a nib that is pressure sensitive so it can sense how hard it is pressing on the tablet. The effect is that when I am using it draw it is like drawing on a piece of paper.

Note that you quickly learn that you don't have to stare at the tablet. Just holding the pen and looking at the monitor results in a pretty effective illusion that you are drawing on paper.

The following is a crude map drawn up using the tablet. I used a combination of colored pencils and pens.

Where it is weakest on is lettering. But everything else pretty much felt like when I did my hand drawn maps. There is probably a ton I could do to make this a better handdrawn map but I just doing a quick example.

I also used in Monday's Swords & Wizardry game with Fantasy Grounds. I had much better control over unmasking hidden areas and drawing lines. I suspect with this I could use a blank square or hex temple map and just treat like I do my dry erase plexiglass gameboard. I need to read up on Fantasy Ground drawing tools and practice a bit.

Here is the wikipedia article on Wacom which explains their line of tablet. I have the Bamboo Pen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mapping, Manors vs Farms

One setting noted for it's detailed mapping of locales is Harn. Unfortunately it is a snapshot in to specific period of time where manorialism was the dominant form of rural organization. Manorialism means that the countryside is divided into dozens of small manors each with a small village of 20 to 50 families attached to the estate. Other time periods had vaguely similar rural organization like the latifundia of Rome and the plantations of the antebellum south.

I pretty much accepted this style for when I do detailed maps for my Majestic Wilderlands. But recently a question by Dwayne of Gamer's Closet got me thinking about this. What would the countryside look like if dominated by farms not manor/estates.

To play around with this idea I drew this base map. Each of the small hexes is 2.5 miles and roughly 3,000 acres in area. The large hexes are 12.5 miles across. The reason I chose this scale is that it take one hour over level terrain to cross one of the small hexes.

Below are the settlements common to both types of rural settlements. There is a castle (solid circle) by the large river and a two keeps (open circle) one on the west side of the map and the other on the east side. The yellowish striped terrain is cropland. The dotted terrain are hills, the green are forested areas with over 50% tree coverage. The light green are woodlands with <50% tree coverage. There are two swamps represent with an off green overlaid with a fill of swamp symbols.

A countryside dominated by manorialism looks like the below. Each diamond represents an manor with 20 to 60 families working 1,800 to 3,000 acres. Roughly one manor per full hex of cropland. Note I omitted the roads here. The two keeps and Castles serve as market centers for the surrounding manor up to 4 to 5 hexes away. Roughly 1/2 day travel.

A farmed countryside looks vastly different. There are few distinct settlements. The villages are rather large (think Hommlet size) with probably 80 to 150 families living there. All the farm within a 1/4 day (2 to 3 hexes) travel will use these villages for their day to day market needs. The two keeps and castles will serve as major market probably travelled to once a week.

Each full hex of cropland will have anywhere between 6 to 15 families each owning an individual farm. Farms range from 200 to 500 acres. There are a few large estates with small hamlets of 5 to 20 families likely attached in a sharecropping arrangement. These are marked by the triangles.

I am intrigued by the farming arrangement as this seem more like the world that the village of Hommlett existed in. A farm oriented setting avoids the grinding grittiness that the medieval manor exemplifies. While I like gritty fantasy it is nice to have an alternative when I need it and still be able to generate the numbers if I want to run a campaign where the players are raising troops.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Request for Help, OSR Links and lots of them.

I am giving a panel presentation on Swords & Wizardry and the OSR in general at ErieCon 2010 this Saturday. I am going to hand out a CD filled with various OSR rulesets (those that are free to distribute), and other freebies (S&W Quick Start, etc).

What I like to also include a html page with a comprehensive set of links to all things OSR (blogs, websites, etc). The OSR has grown just large enough that I will miss something if I just do it myself. So in the comment section post any links you got and I will compile them into the HTML file. I will post the page on Wednesday for a final look over by the general readership and start burning CDs on Thrusday. I probably will take two dozen or so with me.

I will see about upload an iso of the CD along with the cover I create so if anybody else has an opportunity for distributing free handouts they can grab it and burn a couple of copies.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spartacus Blood and Sand

I been following Spartacus Blood and Sands, a new Starz show on Netflix. I am finding that I really like it. Tim of Gothridge Manor already beat me to a post recommending this.

What I will add is that this is a show where so many thing "could" have gone wrong. The cinematography echoes that of 300 and Gladiator. It is very minimalist. There lots of blood, lots of nudity, lots of explicit sex.

However they do an excellent job with the basic plot of Spartacus' life. They interject interesting new elements and more importantly follow up on them. For example in an early episode we learn that the trainer Doctore was noted for facing Death and survived. In the latest we learn what that was all about and it was well executed.

But coupled with the plot are the actors and they really make the show. It is a brutal world that the Romans live in and this show doesn't pull any punches. But despite that the actors turn in some surprising performances and begin to draw you into their world. In some cases make you care about what happens to them.

I am looking forward to future episodes of this shows. My personal bet it is that it will be 4 season. The first will be Spartacus at the gladiator school ending with the initial revolt and escape. The second will be about the growing revolt and end with the initial victory against the local Romans on Mount Vesuvius. The third revolt will see Spartacus army come into it's own defeating all comers including a Praetorian army followed by a climax where not one but two Consular armies are destroyed by Spartacus and his men. The final season will be Spartacus downfall at the hands of Crassus.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It is a Harn Day

Got my latest autoship from Columbia Games filled with Harn goodness.

Hunting 22 Pages
This is the center piece of this release 22 pages of hunting. They are through in covering all the techniques including trapping, ambush hunting, tracking, and capturing. Plus what exactly what you earn from doing this. And it wraps up with a bunch of adventures seeds.

A big improvement over the original and the nice is that pretty much you pick what you are hunting so not more sending your players after a cow!

The Drunken Hake 6 pages
This is an inn in the Orbaal (think viking) castle village of Arathal. It is a potential jumping off point for Sealing expedition to the Afarezir islands to the west. Note that the Hake is a type of fish.

Seals 10 pages
This is ten pages on Seals and what one can expect in the way of hunting them. This last Harn release has an article on the Afarezirs where sealing is a major way of life. It not as mundane as it sounds as some of these guys can put up a quite a fight. Coupled with the fact the many of the prime sealing grounds are hazardous locations in their own right can make for quite an adventure.

Irreproachable Order 10 Pages
Due to various reason this was supposed to be a general article on game animals. But some last minute problems were spotted and it was pulled in favor of an article on the Irreproachable Order of the Goddess Peoni.

This is about the male only order. The church of Peoni believes in celibacy and has sex segregated order that are otherwise equal. This includes useful details for roleplaying members of this order. Of particular interest is a mention of a more militant version of Peonism in western Harn developing in reaction to the Agrikism (think Set). Another are the two congregations which are sub orders. The Sons of Tirrala or Tirralmen are battlefield medics, despite the pacifism inherent in being priests of Peoni they have a hard core attitude that interesting. The Shield of Belsirasin or Shieldmen deal with illnesses of the mind and body. There is a cool picture showing one of them dealing with a demon.

Overall all of this is through and well done. Put it is a bit pricey especially buying the individual articles. The detail can be overwhelming but it is written with the idea of using it in an adventure. There is some good stuff to cherry pick for your campaign whether you are using Harn, Harnmaster, or something else.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Magic and Society

Magic are a major part of fantasy RPGs especially in the various editions of D&D. However it's impact on the setting is highly subjective and dependent on the rules that govern magic for a particular system.

For GURPS, the system I have the most experience with, my opinion that raw GURPSwould result in settings that would be a lot like ours but 20% better. People would be healthier, and wealthier, but it would not result in a societal revolution at the medieval level of technology. This is many because to do the really earth shattering stuff in GURPS you need to have a good number of points. To get that number of points on a normal basis would require a lot of hours of study. During which time you need to be supported with food, water, and quarters. At lower levels you may be highly effective in combat or in crafting but it cost an order of magnitude less resources to get the equivalent capability by having a larger quantity of people doing it a mundane way.

However in many situations magic will make a different hence the +20%. Plaques will be less deadly, harvests more reliable, life expectancy a little longer. Make magic easier to learn or more power quickly then technology level where a magical revolution occurs will drops. Like our own industrial revolution all the rules of society and economics will changes after a magical revolution.

So that is GURPS what about D&D more specifically the form represented by Swords & Wizardry.

The bottleneck is that vancian spell system. You got a slot you can cast a memorized spells from it 1/day. This can be modified by how easy it is to create magic items especially potions and scrolls. Last outside of adventurers (i.e. the PCs) how do people advance in magical ability (or levels). How long it takes?

One thing is clear that like GURPS S&W/OD&D you need to memorize spells. That is do nothing else for a set time in order to have a spell memorize and ready to do. That time not spent farming, herding, or otherwise working. Luckily in our own history we have analogous situations and the medieval monasteries, universities, and cathedrals. Earlier still we have institutions like the Library at Alexandria or the Academy at Athens.

From this we know that if magic doesn't help food production that it's practitioners are going be very limited in numbers. At lower levels of technology the surplus food to support people doing nothing but studying is limited. Plus it will be competing against things like the needs of the nobles, the craftsmen, and especially those of religion.

The more magic effect food production the more surplus there is to support extra stuff. Note it may not just need to effect yield, achieving a more consistent harvest would also have a similar effect.

Let's see what the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules has.

Create Water is a 4th level spell castable by 6th level Priest. A fair amount of training is going to be needed to cast this spells. And it is limited to water for 24 men for a day. Although starts doubling at 9th level and after. Create Food is the same way except it is a 5th level and needs a 7th cleric to cast.

My assessment of this is that cleric dominated groups can easily support themselves. Even a small temple in the middle of nowhere with a 9th level priest in charge can support 48 people with food and water. Lower level staffer can supplant the head's guy's casting allowing a surplus to be built up. These spells are limited to clerics as well. Suggesting that in society clerics have a serious edge over every other profession either adventuring class or mundane.

Control Weather can both increase crop production and harvest consistency. It is a 7th level spell and it's limits are at the referee's discretion. Unfortunately because it is a 7th level that means a 17th level Cleric going to need to cast it. However on the Magic User side it is a 6th level spell which means you only need to be 12th level to cast it.

This suggests to me that the heart of a religion where the pontiff, patriarch, etc resides are regions would have blessing of that religion and experience very regular harvests and the highest yields the technology allows. More common; areas dominated by Wizard Towers would experience the same benefit.

What all of this leads to me to conclude that a world with S&W's vancian magic would one where clerical organization have a qualitative advantage in being able to support themselves. This allowed clerics to gain an edge in any activity not involved in food production.

In western Europe's history the monasteries first developed as self contained communities to allow the monks to get away form the world in their pursuit of understanding God. From Fall of Rome to the 8th century everybody in Europe was fighting to survive in the Dark Age in the ruins of a once empire spanning economy. Alone the monks had the resources to be literate and pursue an education. So soon after they shut themselves in the world came to them to come back up and help them patch things back up. For many centuries the minutiae of trading, and administration was handled by monks.

With the clerics the use of magic make this impact even more out sized.

Likely at the dawn of civilization, society is dominated by theocracies and the rules are priest-kings. But due to barbarian invasions, chance, and time, the overwhelming dominance of the theocracies are challenged by republics and kingdoms. The efforts of the two are bolstered by the magic-users. Since all-important Control Weather can done with less experience by the magic-user, the kings and councils of the different realms can reasonably find themselves with one or more wizards capable of doing this. Also Magic User are somewhat more controllable with the vulnerability of their spell book. Take away and then the spells are gone forever after being casted.

There are a lot of dials here you can play with and the results is that many types of settings can result even they all share the same assumptions I am making. But by doing this type of exercise you find yourself considering the different possibilities. This is can ultimately to a more interesting and fun game for you and your players.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What is Goodman Games up too? A DCC RPG?

At the OrgeCave I noticed that Allan playtested a new RPG from Goodman Games in this article.

Even with my association with Goodman Games I know nothing about this and the details are few. But it appears that a Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG a retro-clone is in the works.

Whatever happens it looks like interesting times are ahead as another major publisher (after KenzerCo & Hackmaster Basic) is looking back at the hobby's roots to see what they can do differently rather than following Wizard's lead.

More comments on historical settings.

A lot of quality comments yesterday thanks folks. Two stand out;

Reverend Keith's comment particularly this line.
What I'd love are historical RPG books that don't focus on historical minutiae, but rather just provide a brief (but accurate) overview for flavor, coupled with a wealth of game mechanics for simulating the era.
While I like mechanics what I think what needs to be covered as well is how to roleplay in historical settings. I think this is a critical aspect and key to making campaign work. The best historical (or genre emulation) games I been in are those where the rulebook and GM handouts gives me a clear sense of what being X was like.

The importance this was hammered into me when I ran my first NERO LARP events (D&D in the woods). The main focus was about a highlander cultures. Thanks to Rob Roy, which came out that year, I did the research and managed to distilled it into it's essence. The folks doing the NPCs roles and later player really responded to this especially after Braveheart came out that same year. It wasn't the accuracy of the historical details that nailed it but select the right mix that allowed a roleplayer to feel like they were playing a Scottish Highlander.

Unfortunately my Roman analogues didn't do so well so I will refer you to Graham Bottley's Rolemaster: Rome for that.

Next Tim of Gothridge Manor asks about what about Magic and Society which I will cover in tomorrow's post.

P.S. Before you ask the reason the Romans I made didn't do so well is because I made too much the bad guy and did not add enough sympathetic elements. In short they came across like jerks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Difficulties of Historical settings

Zach of RPGBlog2 writes about the Rolemaster:Rome supplement. In it he wishes there was more on the geography and the city of Rome while there was great stuff on Roman life. I am not sure what issues the author of Rolemaster:Rome faced in his research. I know from my own attempts that trying to create a historical setting can be frustrating with the materials at hand. Even with the power of the internet somethings are just not readily accessible. Others are filtered through a author's point of view and omit details that would have been useful for a campaign.

But despite this, most DMs who want to run a historical campaign can overcome this by using their knowledge of the period to make stuff up that fits. The point after all is to make something gamable and fun and not be the final word in realism.

To illustrate this lets take S John Ross' Medieval Demographics. Part of the heart of Ross' article is a series of professions with SV values. You divide the population of your target settlement by the SV the result is the number of that type of establishment or professional. Any result less than one can be used as a percentage that will exist.

Very simple, very elegant, plus has the benefit of feeling right to those up on medieval history. However where did it come from?

If we look among Ross' footnotes we find that this section was developed mostly from a table found in the Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies. A book I happened to have.

On Page 236 we find this and see where he got his starting point.

This table is based on a 1292 Paris Tax Roll. By now you notice that the SV value is not the same as what in the table. I think what S John Ross did was divided the numbers above into 55000 and did some rounding.

Notice that the table cuts off at 21 why? Because it turns out the authors omitted any profession that had under 21 professionals.

Putting my Google-fu to work it turns out that this particular document has been transcribed to the internet.

Occupational By-Names in the 1292 Tax Roll of Paris.

As you can see there is a lot more to this list. Most of the distinctions are too fine to be fun or particularly gamable. Do we really want our players to care whether they need to go to an bow & arrow maker or just the bow maker. Most DMs don't. You can now see why there are so many darn Shoe makers in Medieval Demographics. Turns out 1292 Paris had a lot of Cordovan leather shoe makers. 222 guys and 4 ladies. Heck time travelling roleplayers would be set. There are 8 dice makers to choose from.

Hope this illustrates some of the issues of creating historical settings. If you are going to do so there is going to be some editorial choices that you will need to make.

P.S If I figured out S John Ross' math right those dice makers have a SV value of 7,000. (rounded of course).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Burgess Shale Traveller

To further reinforce what Grognardia says about Traveller here. Here is this article from a long time fan site - Freelance Traveller which speaks about the pre-imperium days of Traveller when campaign were one or two sectors in size and empires spanned dozens of worlds.

Thanks to Far Future Enterprise you can still buy the original and see what everybody is talking about. Thanks to Mongoose Publishing we have a near clone that has been released under the OGL. So today anybody can pursue their own vision of what Traveller is. Although to be fair Marc Miller (and Mongoose) are pretty liberal about the fan community is allowed to do as long as a few simple conditions are met.

Today many are debating whether the dominance of the Third Imperium setting was good for Traveller or not. At the time nobody really had the idea of classic gaming. It wasn't just D&D that was afflicted with the idea that the next edition had to be bigger and better as succession of Traveller, Mega-Traveller, and Traveller New Era showed. The classic version of Traveller ceased to be supported when Mega Traveller came out. Afterwards the only thing that united the fanbase was the Third Imperium.

But since the release of the reprints and the OGL version of Mongoose Traveller. Now we can have it both ways. The Traveller market can cater to fans of the system and too fans of the Third Imperium. And because the Third Imperium grew out of the assumptions of the classic Traveller rules, both can benefit from the work of each other.

If there is an ideal situation for a revival of a classic game Traveller has it right now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Traveller and Computers

Grognardia has an interesting post about Traveller and Computers here.

Around the mid 80s it began to drive many Traveller fans crazy that it's computers were so limited compared to what was coming out. Most just accepted it as part of the premise but a significant minority developed all kinds of handwave to explain why the Model I/bis was the size it was.

I was part of the just accept it crowd. At that time my vision of an advanced computer was that you ask it question in natural language, and the computer gave you answers. I even did a computer voice that worked nicely.

MP3 of a morning greeting

Something of general use to SciFi RPGs is that computers today come in a large variety of configurations, sizes, and and purposes. While the mainframes of yore are far fewer in number there still exist large sever farms that would not look out place in the imaginations of SF roleplayers in the 80s.

My day job involves programming software to run the metal forming, and metal cutting machines my company manufactures. Computer that are used for control and process applications, like those needed for starships, are often quite specialized. The reason for this is primarily I/O, the computer needs to access a variety of wires each with different electrical characteristics to control different operations. These are not indefinitely flexible. Since much of the limitation of Traveller's computers involves swapping programs that do process and control the size and limitations seem reasonable although on the large size.

In a machine I work on that takes sheets off of a coil of metal and forms them into rectangular tube the computer is a Dell you can buy on-line. But the cabinet it is part of is a 2 1/2 foot cube. The rest of the space in occupied by the wiring needed to connect the computer to the different station along the production line.

Future Tech may shrink this a little, wireless certainly may be able to eliminate some wires. But physics limit how far you can shrink or get rid of some of this stuff safely.

One pieces of technology has eased the wiring situation greatly. That is the PLC or Programmable Logic Controller. Basically it is a box with inputs on one side and outputs on the other. The magic is that you connect the inputs and outputs however you like by downloading a program. Thanks to the ever shrinking CPUs today's PLC programs have all the features of a programming language used for general purpose computers.

A Traveller Starship probably has a crapload of PLCs that offer normal and redundant paths for sensors and controls. Part of the dealing damage to your starship probably involves going into your network of PLCs and downloading programs to reroute functions around the damaged sections of the ship.

My point in relaying this isn't to tell you how to play your sci-fi. But rather in hopes that some ideas will come out of it for your campaigns.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Calendar and Log for the Majestic Wilderlands

I dug out my notes on the calender system I use for the Majestic Wilderlands. It also include a basic log to note what the party is doing when. You can download it here.

As always comments are appreciated.

The calendar system is one of the few customs that continues unbroken from the earliest days of civilization. The major difference in between the different cultures are the names of the gods as well as who is honored in the 10 great festivals of the year.

One year has 360 days divided into 12 months of three tendays each. Each tenday is divided into three days. The Wilderlands has one moon, which has a cycle of 36 days for ten lunar months.

Rest days are taken every Starday. Along with the day of the new moon, which is considered an unlucky day. With minor festivals thrown in most of the Wilderlands winds up working four days in five.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Explaining our wierd hobby

A year and a half ago I made a post on the Anti D&D Movement relating my experience being a D&D geek back in the early 80s. A got a comment by Jennifer yesterday related her experience trying to explain D&D to her mother. It brought to mind my own attempts.

When all else fails I say it a form of improvisational theater performed among friends. That seems to leave the listener with a "oh I get it" expression.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upcoming Ads

I recently got my ads in for Knockspell and Fight On! Inspired by a certain Trampier illustration in AD&D's 1st Players Handbook.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Paradox Plaza Day

Just bought For the Glory from Paradox Interactive.

Paradox Interactive makes a series of historical simulations for different time periods. They have a variety of titles using different game engine the heart of their line is a series of games where you play a country and lead throughout a specific time periods. These games are

Crusader Kings for the Middle Ages
While there are countries the focus is on heading up a dynasty. Play consist of country management AND managing your family. Where the two meet is the creation and granting of noble titles.

Europa Universalis between roughly 1453 to 1820.
This is strictly focused on country management. Much of the Game revolves around exploring the new world (from your country's point of view) as well as managing your economy and fighting wars.

Victoria between 1820 and 1936
This is about managing countries and guiding them through industralization. While wars and exploration are still important the emphasis is on economics. There is an abstract factory system that allows you to customize the focus of your economy.

Heart of Iron between 1936 to 1963
This is focuses on World War II and the technological race that was a part of it. Of all the titles in the line this focuses the most on war.

In the last couple of year Paradox has switched game engines for this line. The new engine is 3D and much more flexible and allows for more options. In addition they added Europa Universalis Rome which covers roughly from 500 BC to 500 AD.

My personal recommendation is the older series represented by Crusader King, Europa Universalis II, Victoria, and Hearts of Iron II. To me it is the right level of complexity vs playability vs game speed. It's 3D successor suffer from the more is good syndrome and has performance issues they are still working through particularity Hearts of Iron III.

However the problems are matter of inches not miles so you won't go wrong with either choice. The nice thing that Paradox did was release the game engine for their older line for an inexpensive license. This allow groups of fans to continue development of these titles rather the relegating them to the dustbin. For the Glory is a development of EU II and Arsenal of Democracy continues HoI 2

The hallmark of these titles is there ability to play any country you choose. Although some can be very difficult like Luxembourg in Hearts of Iron.

What makes these games great for roleplaying is that they act as big what if generators. You can start at various time periods and play out a different history recording things as they go along. If I had the time I would try to get one of the Paradox license and modify Crusaders Kings into a moddable engine with utilities to simplify world and scenario generation. You can then setup your campaign world and run it for a hundred years or so. Then you will have all the detail you will ever need for the political and dynastic side of things. (sigh)

Still for historical based campaign these games are a great resource. Plus if you buy them at Gamer's Gate they don't come with ornous DRM. In fact the older games can be just copied over which makes it great when you get a new computer. My Paradox games were the first to get running after my crash in December

I know these type of games are not for everybody but if you are a fan of Civilization, and the like you should check out Paradox's Titles.

Finally a heads up for Mount & Blade. While not related to the above games it is first person view of Medieval Combat. This title is also available through Paradox Interactive.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Driving through Central PA and other thoughts

My business trip to Long Island has concluded quite successfully despite it involving retro-fitting a metal forming machine that I never worked with before. One of the nice about coming back from Long Island to Meadville is that I get to drive through Central PA on I-80. The Delaware water gap and the area east of State College are quite spectacular. East of State College I-80 curves around a small mountain, goes through a gap, and then emerges into a magnificent view of one on the central valleys of central Pennsylvania.

Along with enjoying the beauty and looking forward to being back with Kelly Anne and by boys; I always found this part of the trip evocative for coming up with ideas for my campaigns. Once in the valley I-80 runs along the southern side. To my left, going west, is the southern ridge line soaring several hundred feet above me. To my right the valley floor gently slopes north for several miles before rising suddenly in the northern ridge line. Every couple of miles or so there is a gap beyond which can be seen glimpses of the next valley. I think of what could be beyond those gaps and nearly always come away with a good idea or two.

In other news I noticed that Dungeon Alphabet and Advanced Edition Companion (Labyrinth Lord) have nailed the #1 and #2 position simultaneously at RPGNow. Congratulations to both and gratifying to see that the OSR is still growing. Majestic Wilderlands is hanging in there at #39 thanks to continuing purchases. While not anything like December it is enough to keep it up there and as always I appreciate the business.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An absent friend returns OD&Dities.

Looks like one of the original old school internet zines OD&Dities is making a comeback! You can read about here at Methuselah's blog. Plus read the original issues at You will need to scroll down a bit.

Oriented towards the B/X version of D&D this was is one of the the original efforts to take advantage of the internet to keep interest in older editions going. I wish OD&Dities a happy return.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Languages San sola Tharian?

In general languages in the Majestic Wilderlands are one of the few areas where I don't get very detailed. My approach is basically that taken by Stargate SG-1. Just about everybody speaks english except in the few instances where I think it would add to the plot. This boils down to two circumstances

In Stargate SG-1 the biggest foreign language is Ancient which Dr. Daniel Jackson is the party's err SG team's expert. This followed by G'ould and Jaffa which are sprinkled throughout for flavor.

Likewise I usually only use the language barrier in limited circumstances. Isolated cultures mostly barbarian and handful of demi-humans. Ancient languages not commonly spoken anymore. Another use is when a bunch of PCs share a language in common that is not spoken by the local to talk without being understood.

Now just because I don't get detailed in practice doesn't mean I don't have notes on the topic.

Languages of the Majestic Wilderlands
The most static of all the Wilderlands languages. Sounds very formal to most speakers of elven influenced languages. This is one of the languages used as a foundation for the common tongue.

This covers a variety of human and halfling dialects that are heavily influenced by elvish. Nearly all are mutually understandable although speakers from widely separate geographical areas will have thick accents when trying to talk to each other.

Gnomish is a dialect of Dwarvish and mutually comprehensible. Dwarves and Gnomes from widely separated geographical areas have a hard time speaking to each other. The writing is still at a high level of comprehension. In another millennia these dialects will be effectively different languages.

There are nearly two dozen variety of Orcish languages as the short generations cause rapid changes in language in different geographical areas and even from tribe to tribe.

The original goblin language has been largely subsumed by a patois between it and Viridian. Currently it is a dialect of Viridian and mutually understandable with Viridian speakers. It is considered a mark of low status among Goblins.

The language of the Elessarians dominate much of the Northwest Wilderlands and the Padizan peninsula. Old Elessarian is now a dead language similar in use and status as Latin in the real world. Elephand is the successor to Elessarian in the Kingdom of Dunador. It has heavy Elvish influence. Common(Viridian) is used in the Viridistan Empire. It is a hybrid of Viridian and Elessarian. It is comprehensible with other Common tongues. Elessarian is used in the Padizan Peninsula and as different to Old Elessarian as Italian is to Latin.

The Ghinorian Language was spread throughout the Majestic Wilderlands by the Ghinorian Empire. After the fall of the Empire it split into several dialect that are evolving into separate languages.

Old Ghinorian is the pre-imperial language lost during the time when the Ghinor valley was subject to repeated barbarian invasions. It is now used as a high church language of the Church of Mitra.

Imperial Ghinorian is language used when the Ghinorian Empire was created after the invasion. The Church of Mitra uses this a ecumenical tongue to allow adherents from different lands to communicate.

Northern Ghinorian is spoken in Nome, Dearthmead, Nomar, Modron, and Tarantis. It evolved from Imperial Ghinorian during the existance of the Restored Ghinorian Empire.

Western Ghinorian is spoken in Tlan and Lenap. Although the two region have distinct dialects.

Ionian is the language dominating the Ghinorian Heartland. It combination of the language of the Ionian barbarians that brought down the Ghinorian Empire and Imperial Ghinorian. To make matter more confusing speaker of Ionians call themselves Ghinorians.

Common(Ghinorian) is spoken in City-State and throughout the Tharian Confederation it rose during the Dragon Empire and is a fusion of Elessarian and Ghinorian. It is understandable by both languages and with Common(Viridian). It is evolving with the addition of many Tharian words.

Tharian is the language of the Tharian Overlords of City-State. It is under assault with only the Tharians of Thygamus and the Tharian Coast speaking it's original form. Most Tharians of City-State are abandoning the language in favor of Tharian flavored Common(Ghinorian)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not all Old School gamers are Old grognards

Oddysey of How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less has a well written post on the relevance of old school gaming for today's teenagers. If accurate bodes well for the continuance of what we love as a hobby and as a cottage industry.

I find the comments on what young adults are doing with freeform play on the internet very interesting. Sometimes we forget that our hobby is as much about the roleplaying as the game. Properly presented that aspect of our hobby could be very appealing to many. I am a firm believer in the "Soap Opera effect" of good roleplaying.

Again the object of using observations like this isn't to reignite the fad that was D&D in the 80s but rather get our portion of the hobby on a sustainable basis and have some fun along the way.

Again thanks to Oddysey for a well written post. We need more young whipper-snappers like here. I am adding her to the blogroll so we can see what next she has to say.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Revisiting Weapons vs AC - Weapons Aspect

In a previous post I talked about the three type of weapon damage; point, blunt, and edge. In that post I focused more on the armor. But what about the weapons?

At first glance it somewhat obvious the primary damage mode of a weapon, a battle axe has an edge, a spear a point, and a mace is blunt.

But other weapons can be used in different modes. For example a sword can either thrust with the point, or slash with the edge. I admit for the abstract D&D style combat that fact is not much of a consideration as it would be in a blow by blow system like GURPS.

However there has been weapons fighting styles that emphasize one aspect over the other. Roman Legion used short swords (gladius) in a stabbing style while medieval knight hacked at each other. Halberd manuals show that the different grips and stances needed to use the different aspects of the halberd.

Again the following is probably of interest to campaigns emphasizing person-centric adventuring as opposed to fighting monsters all the time.

For weapons with multiple aspects the player announces before rolling to hit which aspect he using.

Axe, Throwing 1d6 Edge
Axe, Battle 1d8 Edge
Hammer, War 1d4+1 Blunt
Mace, small 1d4+1 Blunt
Mace 1d6 +1 Blunt

Dagger, large 1d4 Point
Dagger,small 1d3 Point

Glaive, 1d8+1 Edge
Poleaxe 1d8 Point
Halberd Edge 1d10, Point 1d8

Javelin 1d6 Point
Spear 1H, 1d6 Point
Lance, 2d4+1 Point

Staff 1d6 Blunt

Broadsword 1d8 Edge, 1d6+1 Point
Bastard Sword 1d8 Edge, 1d6+1 Point (+1 damage if used 2H)
Shortsword 1d6 Edge, 1d4+1 Point

Great Axe 1d10+1 Edge
Warhammer 2H 1d8+1 Blunt
Maul 1d6+1 Blunt
Greatsword 1d10 Edge, 1d6+1 Point