A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A New Swords and Wizardry Class: The Minotaur!

In my Narfindor campaign Minotaurs are a valid, playable race. Obviously mine are inspired by versions of them in fiction, but not so much as to be a ripoff of any one kind.

The Minotaur
They are known for being explorers and pirates, having a love for exploring, especially seaborn explorations. They are the mappers of the islands, the solvers of the mazes. They tend to be a bit brutal in their dealings with other races, but similar to Orcs they are more interested in money and their own desires than anyone else's ideas of morality. Their culture is most similar to Spain and Portugal in the age of Christopher Columbus with a touch of the English Privateer. About 250,000 Minotaurs are predicted to live and sail the seas.

Aron Stewart says:
Minotaurs are wierd. I can never tell what they are thinking since these big ol cows rarely have any expression other than blank. My Bard teacher Alis had a "friend" who worked with her (Let's just say I am pretty sure she could play the (expletive deleted) flute if you know what I mean!) who was one and you did NOT mess with him. I saw him throw a dude 30 feet, chuck a handful of throwing darts at him and then finish him off with a harpoon designed to be fired from a sailing ship while at sea on a dinghy during a hurricane! And he was probably getting freaky walking moocow on Human action! I can only imagine what one who has been at sea for six months and hasn't gotten any in a while would do!

Minotaur adventurers tend to be hard on their luck seamen whose ship sunk due to wars or misfortune and are thus in human lands trying to make their way back home via mercenary pursuits. Others tend to be explorers and traders looking to explore foreign lands. Minotaurs tend to be serious minded, of few words yet highly capable at what they do.

Prime Attribute:Strength 15+ (5% experience)
Hit Dice:1d6+2/level (Gains 3 hp/level after 9th)
Armor/Shield Permitted:Leather, Ring, and Shield
Weapons Permitted:Hammer, Spear, Two Handed Sword, Bastard Sword, Crossbows, Javelin, Dart

Minotaur adventurers make use of what they know: fighting on the high seas. Lighter armor and weapons suited for naval combat and their large size are the order of the day. They are slightly uncomfortable on land, and tend to stick with what they are used to.

Minotaur Abilities

Big and Tough:Minotaurs begin with 6 extra hit points and have an extra +1 to hit and damage when they charge due do their great size. This allows them to wield any 2 handed melee or thrown weapon in one hand without any penalty. Armor however, costs DOUBLE normal costs and magic armor must be refitted at great expense to be used by Minotaurs.

Naval Skills:It is up to the Referee to determine how it works, but Minotaurs have skills in navigation/direction sense, astronomy, carpentry, swimming, and rope tying. (If using a D20 roll equal to or under attribute system for skills, Minotaurs have a +2 to their attributes for the purposes of the roll.)

Establish Letter of Marquee:As Fighting Man, except instead of a stronghold at 9th level, the Minotaur may attract followers and have a naval ship crewed by at least 50 crew plus a shore team. Some letters allow for privateering against ships of enemy nations and pirates. It is up to the Referee and player how this will work in your campaign.

Minotaur Advancement

Level Experience Hit Dice Saving Throw To Hit
1 3000 1 17 0
2 6000 2 16 +1
3 12000 3 15 +1
4 24000 4 14 +2
5 48000 5 13 +2
6 96000 6 11 +3
7 192000 7 10 +4
8 384000 8 9 +4
9 500000 9 8 +5
10 600000 +3hp 7 +6
11 700000 +3hp 7 +7
12 800000 +3hp 7 +7
13 900000 +3hp 7 +8
14 1000000 +3hp 7 +9
15 1100000 +3hp 7 +10
16 1200000 +3hp 7 +11
17 1300000 +3hp 7 +12
18 1400000 +3hp 7 +13
19 1500000 +3hp 7 +14
20 1600000 +3hp 7 +15
21+ +100000 +3hp 7 +15

Well, that is that! I apologize if the formatting is off. Feel free to playtest this class and tell me what you think!
(Tweaked thanks to some discussion over at The RPG Site!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Old School Movement Gets a Win!


For those who did not know: Lulu, a company that prints and ships books made by people (effectively allowing self published efforts at a very reasonable price level) had a contest for highest selling products in a month.

Fight On! A fan magazine devoted to old school pre D20 D&D and with user submitted art and articles won the contest.

It beat some religious and National Hot Rod Association publications.

While it might not be saying much (we have no idea how many copies were sold), it does show that not only is there still a desire for pre D20 D&D content, but that the old school movement is connected and WILLING to spend money, even if its just as a show of support. Heck, the first honorable mention is the Swords and Wizardry Core Rules, which can be downloaded for FREE if you want!

It can't just be nostalgia folks. There is something about these old school D&D games and the modern retroclones (like Swords and Wizardry) that WotC's releases cannot replicate.  Hi grognards.txt.  I love you.  We as a community of gamers create on our own for our own new adventures, rules, and art because its FUN and for the love of the game, most of the time sharing it for practically no money at all.

The old school rules are simpler, faster, more open to high adventure gameplay and to player tinkering.

This is something Wizards of the Coast, their corporate overlords at Hasbro, and many modern gamers just don't understand.

But now? We might be a small group, but we are a powerful one, and now more folks will know what we do.

Look out. We don't have corporate dollars, but we do have love for the game.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Narfindor Thoughts

I don't feel like getting detailed today, but I do have some thoughts on Narfindor, and bringing it to life.

First off, even my now reduced from 250 to 200 miles per hex while it may be realistic from a size perspective, is too big and sprawling for a gameplay one, or the amount of notable settlements. I think I may drop it down even further to 100 miles per hex. That's still over 1200 miles north to south. An utterly MASSIVE region by hobby gaming standards, but still big enough to feel like a real continent. The big river will still be massive, and the smaller one is like 300 miles. If you figure around 50 miles of river travel per day, that's 6 days from the lake to the ocean. The other river is 12. Realistically, there will be other things slowing you down on the way. If we figure about 25 miles of land travel a day, each hex at 100 miles takes 4 days to traverse.

Another thing is making the map more legible, and labeling everything. Its one reason I chose not to do the Holk's Pride/Camp Adamant regions. I didn't feel like going from my updates to make sure I keep the names the same.

So I have to decide: Find a better Mac capable map program than the old AD&D Core Rules 2.0 and possibly break it into the 3-4 regional areas? (Figuring that these 4 maps would have 1 of those big hexes containing 7 hexes on the new scale.) Should I use Comic Life and just make pretty labels on the old one?

This is the sort of work that goes into making a good world to adventure on. You need a mixture of realistic feel, yet with concessions made to playability.

Work continues!

Update: Thanks to Silverlion on #therpgsite IRC channel on Magicstar.net, I found a nifty little Java app that makes some nice Basic D&D era hex maps similar to what Thorf's Mystara website has, albeit a little less professional looking.


I only spent a little time playing with it, but quickly had a basic version of An Rikod made in a matter of minutes after opening the program. It may be a thing where making the basic core map, saving it as its image file option, then cleaning it up in an actual image editing program like Photoshop or Gimp is the best solution.


As you can currently see, I have the continent pretty much the same as the Core Rules 2.0 map maker, but with more precise terrain placement than the large element icons CR2.0 had. Obviously I will need to do more work and learn to use the new map program a bit better to get its total potential, but I think a mixture of both programs will suit my needs the best.

CR2.0 for general world maps the PCs might see, and the Inkwell Ideas program for a more structured DM friendly map.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Narfindor Part 3: Towns and Regions of An Rikod: Ak Vihana

Let's keep this going! More detail means a deeper more cohesive world, yet loose enough for any GM out there to make it their own. Let's start at the north and work our way down from installment to installment.

I will try to keep it rules agnostic, even though the tags list Swords and Wizardry. It will end up having some S&W info, but most of it will easily be usable to anyone who needs a setting to explore.

Ak Vihana
Regional Population: Estimated 50,000 sentients. 50% Orcish, 35% Human, 15% other.
Main Population Center: Ak Vihana, a walled town of 28,000.

Ak Vihana is the main town of the Seplet Desert region. Made mostly of stone and any other materials that can hold back the desert sands, it provides a midway point between the El Vahz Oasis and Lake Vihana, which is the source of the Drinak River. Founded 42 years ago by Orc nomads tired of endless travel and dealing with human raiders, they found building a settlement next to the Cobra Fang's Canyon the ideal spot both defensively, and due to the small wells they were able to dig within it.

The economy is based on light mining, tourism, and mercenary pursuits. Orc nomad patrols are paid by trading caravans and explorers to escort them safely through the desert, and to the two ruin sites in the north and northeastern coasts of the continent. A small military outpost and supply depot has been founded at the Oasis itself, (roughly 400 people overall), and 2 smaller outposts by the ruin sites. (Roughly 100 people at each outpost.)

The main town itself is run by the ruling Orc class, with fighting in the town being illegal. Everyone is generally welcome to visit and trade at the town, though criminals tend to be attacked first, and questions asked later. If any of them survive the overzealous city watch, most lawbreakers are kicked out of the town and banned from re entering it. Most non Orcs are considered to be lower class citizens, though they are not specifically harassed or kept from having the same rights and chances to succeed as the Orcs themselves.

Politically the Orcs themselves have a ruling council based on the wealthiest members, most of whom made their fortunes as mercenary companies. A few Goblins are on the council due to their heavy influence on merchant and trading concerns (much of which is rumored to be thanks to that race's tendency for organized crime. One Ogre is on the council given that race's heavy interest in construction. A few Human councillors are mostly token voices whose complaints about their areas of the town's poor conditions is barely given lipservice.

Near the canyons and wandering the hills are a number of human nomad groups, who tend to prey on travelers and form raiding parties on a regular basis. It is rumored they have found a number of forgotten tombs that predate even the Teknikan Wars which is giving them additional drive to raid and attack.

The Ruins: The two ruin sites are currently being investigated by interested groups both from Ak Vihana, and elsewhere. Some are looking for forgotten technologies, others for historical knowledge, and others to turn these places back into centers of trade.

Aron Stewart Says:
Ak Vihana is a pretty strict place, but Orcs are no nonsense and expect everyone else to be the same. Its not too bad if you keep your mouth shut and your nose clean though. Just look out for the Goblins who will shank you for a silver, and their own mothers for a gold! The low town area is mostly a miserable slum. The Orcs just don't care about anyone who can't help themselves. They figure everyone is as hard and tough as they are, and as driven to succeed. Its a rough region, and some folks just had some bad luck. It takes money to make money, and the Orcs have most of the money. The Goblins can steal it, and the Ogres are always in demand for construction projects, but stranded travelers or folks who got jumped by the human raiders in the desert just don't have the money to get a foothold!

The desert itself is a rough place, and the canyon is full of snakes, scorpions, and other nasty monsters. I've heard rumors of mummies and forgotten races being dug back up. The ruin sites are a tricky place. Between folks fighting for scraps, and some of the scraps being big nasty horrors, its just not a good place to be. Your best bet is to stop over at the Oasis, move quickly to Ak V, then get on the river and get out of the area!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Narfindor for Swords and Wizardry!

Yes, its another project from me that will be inevitably forgotten as something else bright and shiny takes my attention in some other bizarre, money sucking direction.

But the biggest point of this blog is to be a repository and clearing house for all my ideas, so I can come back to them as I wish (like a carnival, I almost always come back around to it eventually. I blame the Tenchi Universe cartoon for the carnival thing. But its so dang right!) so I do not lose my work, and being electronic, I can easily revamp it as time changes and my tastes change. I used to have the original Narfindor map I drew in the late 80s, but it is long gone, with only vague remembrances of what it actually looked like when I first converted it into an electronic map 10 years or so ago.

Yet, its time to develop a section of the world most suited to adventuring in Swords and Wizardry!

For those who forgot, here is the map of the southeastern third of the planet. (Ignore the actual written on map scale, its really 1 hex = 200 miles.)

Now, for some basic world and race background the work I did on this for Tunnels and Trolls is still valid. Heck, why not use it for either or?


An Rikod
An Rikod is the least developed and least populated of the 4 main continents on Narfindor. It was rumored that during the Teknikan Wars where the Nain were toppled from their technological supremacy by the other races and their discovery of magic, that the biggest battles and the greatest bloodshed happened here.

During the battle against Vedaan it proved to be an essential staging ground for the armies that would help bring that dark child of Tiamat down. Before that time, it was mainly the home of scattered Orc nomads, a single trading port to less charted lands, and the home of the Jungle Elves. Vedaan's rise to power changed all that, and now the continent is being re explored, with new settlements popping up, and expeditions being made to his once fearsome fortress, to massive cave complexes filled with forgotten mines, and to cities ruined thousands of years ago.

It is now 2 years after he was defeated, hopefully gone forever. Adventurers from all over the world are heading to make their fortune, or to leave their legacy.

Climate and Terrain
Being sub equatorial, the northern areas of the continent are hot, with the Seplet desert being dry and unforgiving. The land slowly gets more temperate as you head south down the Drinak River, the two great forests helping to keep the land from being like the Seplet. It cools down to a bit of a chill region by the Fieene Mountains which seem to trap the winds in a great spiral, noticable by the strange clouds of this region. Once you head towards the southern end of the continent the Linae River nourishes the land with the ice of the Fieene melting and feeding the Jrana Jungle, and Tedlina Swamp, making it a hot and humid region.

On the southern island, known now as "The Womb of the Earth Demon's Spawn" the volcanoes that surround the remains of Vedaan's Fortress keep that area hot, though the south end gets cold quickly as the South Pole's freezing ice floes affect the land around it.

Aron Stewart Says:
The biggest problem with An Rikod is its mostly windy outside of the forests and swamps. And its really hot most places. Outside of the mountain areas, its roughly 90 degrees with high humidity most of the year. While its nice given that it makes all the fine women wear less, its not fine since there isn't any air conditioning!

Next Time: Civilizations, Ruins, and Landmarks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Swords and Wizardry House Rules

One great thing about Swords and Wizardry is how simple it is, leaving you plenty of room to add in as you see fit. Currently these are our house rules created over 2 hours or so of actual gameplay.

Like all house rules, they may be found wanting in extended play and should be tweaked to fit everyone's satisfaction. Provided you have a gamegroup where rules tweaking is considered making it more fun and fair for everyone and not an evil plot to get your own way. This is why its called house rules and play testing. They evolve over time! Its all part of the fun of tabletop gaming. If you are just gonna play every game exactly as written (Aka: RAW, Rules as Written), why not just play a videogame? Its faster and more immediate.

On to our rules!

Character Generation & Attributes
1. Roll 3d6 7 times for attributes, and assign the 6 highest in any order you like.
2. Maximum Hit Points for levels 1 and 2.
3. An 18 in a stat has a modifier of +2 with an extra 2nd level spell for spellcasters if it is their Prime Attribute.
4. A 3 in a stat has a modifier of -2.
5. Maximum character weight carried is STR x 10.

Character Classes
1. Fighting Men at 5th level get Weapon Focus. One weapon type (ie Short Sword, Hand Axe, Long Bow, ect) when wielded is +1 to hit and damage. At 10th level a Fighting Man may either take a second Weapon Focus, or get an extra attack per round with the weapon he chose as his Weapon Focus choice.
2. Elves and Dwarves get Weapon Focus, but not until 10th level. (Which means 10 Fighting Man level gains for the Elf.)
3. Elf starting HP is based on whatever class they first go into adventuring with.
4. Magic Users and Clerics do not have to pre memorize their First and Second level spells. They may choose what spells to cast based on how many slots they have for the day, and what spells they know.
5. At level 10 a character adds 1 point to their Prime attribute.

1. A natural rolled 20 to hit is an automatic hit and you do maximum rolled damage plus any normal modifiers.
2. A natural rolled 1 to hit is an automatic miss and you may do nothing next round.
3. Moving out of an adjacent square/base to base with an enemy gives them a free attack on you before you move out.
4. Attacking an opponent directly from behind them gives a +1 to hit and damage against them.

1. Random checks to do stuff: If not covered by the rules, roll D20 equal to or under the most applicable attribute. If the task is relatively easy but has a chance of failure, count the attribute as 5 points higher for the roll. If it is considered very hard, reduce the attribute by 5 for the roll. Modest difficulty is considered to be the attribute's normal value.

Retroclones Primer and: Swords and Wizardry: First Look

Some background: Over at www.theRPGsite.com last week there was a thread about retroclones. For those of you uninitiated, a retroclone in the RPG sense is an RPG designed to pretty much be a modern version of a classic RPG with very little changed based on legality and copyright laws.

Many fans make these games as a labor of love, and to permit new products to be made for their favorite long out of print RPG system. Which is of course mostly versions of Dungeons & Dragons, made easier thanks to the Open Game License which allows for VERY close approximations of old classics.

These games are usually FREE to download in a PDF format, with a normally at or slightly above cost edition available for purchase from a print on demand site such as Lulu.

Well, a couple years back I purchased the Basic D&D retroclone known as Basic Fantasy, which is an ascending Armor Class 20 level rendition of Moldvay/Cook edition Basic D&D in a lovely spiral bound version for 10 dollars. It has since been updated and I sort of feel out of the loop on that. (Plus, I have multiple ACTUAL Basic D&D sets in print which sort of negates the need!)

For laughs and because it was highly recommended I downloaded and printed out the latest version of Swords and Wizardry (visit www.swordsandwizardry.com to get it yourself!). Why? Well, Swords and Wizardry is based on ORIGINAL 1974 Brown and White Box D&D with a few things taken from the supplements. Except it is readable, understandable, removes some of the Garyisms you either love or hate, and the artwork and layout is DAMNED good for a free to download fan project. (Though purchasable support is available for it in their Knockspell magazine, and in Fight On!, another retro D&D fanmag. I have 2 issues of the latter coming in the mail, so perhaps I will do a review of them in the near future.)

I started flipping through it, and found it to be a simple and QUICK RPG system, something I have always wanted for quick pickup games when people don't show up for whatever reasons, but we still want to get some RPG gaming in. Characters fit on a half page of paper really, and that's for the DETAILED version of them.

Attributes are simple, and modifiers are merely -1 for 3-8 , 0 for 9-12, and +1 for 13-18. Movement is based on weight carried and basic adventuring items are just a simple generic "it weighs 10 pounds for your basic adventuring gear", assuming that players and DMs will show some common sense. There is a single saving throw, a fairly large but not ridiculous list of weapons and gear, a fair amount of spells, and a quick light combat system that can use either D20 ascending AC (Unarmored AC is 10. Add your attribute and class level bonus to hit to a D20 roll. Equal or beat target AC and you hit and do damage based on weapon type.) or classic descending AC which uses the THAC0 system so many people hate.

Being a cleaned up original D&D its appeal is how EASY AND FAST it is to play and run, and how being so simple, the game group can tinker with it to add in or muck about and make it what they want to play. Plus it assumes the DM and players can wing it, and don't need endless rules for everything. I have a notebook handy to keep track of house rules I put into play as interesting situations come up, and many things I just say "Ok, do this and you can do that!" to.

Here is an example from our play. One of the players wanted to have a Longbow that could be used as a quarterstaff in close combat. No rules for that in the book. Well I said "Sounds reasonable. Pay the costs of BOTH items and add 50% and you can do it." the player chose NOT to, but the old school rules light feel encourages such things by not being tied down to a large, rigid, and detailed system.


Another example was one of our players did not want to pay for both a torchbearer AND a hireling to push around a handcart in the dungeon. So he asked if he could affix a lantern holder to the cart. This is very clever. But it could be potentially cheesy too. I told him to roll a D20 equal to or under his intelligence to see if he could make it. He did, and thus he can now have a lantern swinging off a pole affixed to the handcart.

We started getting things moving, and as it was late we had only a short time to explore the dungeon I was loosely basing off the starter dungeon layout in the rulesbook (which will probably now be seen and printed out by the players. Yeah you may know where the secret doors are, but its mostly an unwritten dungeon so I am populating it with traps and creatures and treasure!) so they got to explore a couple hallways, avoid a simple trap, engage in a fight with some Hobgoblins, and get some treasure. We nearly had a character killed, but it was all due to the dice. They did some roleplaying, and now have some money for further expeditions.

Swords and Wizardry Session One Level A
Our Elf, Cleric, and Dwarf fight some strange Goblin like men who are guarding a treasure chest and a desk. What will they find out? Can they survive their first battle? Its up to their wits and the luck of the dice!

In play I am finding it even easier and faster than Tunnels and Trolls, but it could be due to my familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons in most of its' incarnations.

I am quite enjoying it, and will look forward to it being a long term pickup game. Someone doesn't show? Well, whoever is here can take their characters into the dungeon to explore, and when we call it for time if possible the characters leave the dungeon until the next expedition.

I will most likely use the megadungeon concept as it works best for an oldschool game, and I have a few ideas as to a simple campaign narrative. With Games Workshop's War of the Ring mass combat system for Lord of the Rings coming out, I may make it a simple Middle Earth setting with the PCs exploring a massive mountain complex shortly after the fall of Sauron. I have plenty of Goblins, Orcs, Trolls, Uruk Hai, and Haradrim I can use on the tabletop, plus with it being the end of an age, who is to say more D&D monsters haven't shown up due to the end of such dire magics? Maybe some of Sauron's dark energies have created new beasts who call this great cavern complex home?

I cannot give it a full review yet as I have actually only read a good 10-20 pages of it, and just winged the rest of it. Of course, most of the pages are spell and monster descriptions anyhow so its not a bad thing anyhow.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oriental Adventures and L5R: Can you make a sandbox campaign?

Over at Jeff Rient's blog he started up a discussion of the old Oriental Adventures sourcebook and the thoughts of what kinds of games it could be used to run.

Sure its not 100% accurate and honest to historical or mythological Asia, but as someone who has seen a fair bit of anime (before it turned into mostly a creepy thing for deviants) and manga, I know they mangle their own myths and everyone else's too.

I'd like to say its to make better stories, but not always.

I mentioned what my favorite fantasy Asia campaign world is, The Legend of the Five Rings' Rokugan, a land of Samurai clans and a few other minor demihuman races who argue and war with each other as much as the demon and undead infested Shadowlands.

A poster made the comment that this setting is totally unsuited to any sort of old school sandbox campaign, if not gaming period! (Especially so given the types of intraparty friction the various Clans have with each other.)

Here was my response. I was inspired enough by it that I repost it here in case I want to swipe it for a campaign of my own some day! Some edits are made for purposes of readability here, and just because I always have more ideas and stuff.

First off it can work, and the biggest thing is not letting PCs act like WW characters.

(I am in a Changeling LARP. WW style angsty self absorbed douchebag characters are a serious reason I might possibly quit. I know that's Vampire, but Changeling has NO reason to be the same way.)

The different factions SHOULD provide some friction, but not AH HATES YOU AND WILL KILLS YOU FOR THINKING DIFFERENT THAN ME. It should be more akin to a heroic thing where peoples from different walks of life and points of view come together to stop a greater evil.

The vaguely Cthulhoid threat of the Shadowlands.
Evil Daimyo out to overthrow the Empire.
Shoguns out to betray their own people for money.
The PCs being an example of how to get past their differences to make a better world.

Hell, the last would make a good sandbox game that is very old school.

The PCs get sick of all the political nonsense and head out to the frontier to build a settlement where everyone can be treated as equals where your worth as a person matters more than Clan, Caste, or species.

Dungeons need to be cleared out of monsters. People need to be organized. A town and its defenses need to be built.

Missions to keep the Clans from dismantling the settlement could happen too, sending covert characters back to the mainland. Trade agreements to be formed. Caravans to supply the settlement need to be protected. Maybe a few Clans would be happy to send their problem children there as to not cause trouble.

Getting an army built to stave off the Shadowlands or Western armies needs to happen too. Maybe the henchmen and hirelings who proved themselves instrumental in clearing out a cave complex full of vicious Oni will become officers in the army.

Maybe new replacement PCs come in from these strange Western lands forming the world's first truly cosmopolitan city. (Once the ideals of open mindedness take hold who knows how far it could go? It could become the city where Samurai share the streets with Centaur, Elves, and the odd Drow, everyone looking for a better way of life, or at least a couple platinum pieces!)

If that isn't sandboxy and interesting I just don't know what is!


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