Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tales of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

...but not by much.

Yes, I made it.  There were moments, I can tell you, where I wasn't sure if that would be true.  Alive and well, sitting in front of my computer screen in Wisconsin.  Disney World nearly had me, but I came back stronger, overpowering that mouse-headed serpent.

How's it going?  I missed my dialog with all of you.  What's up?

Yep, the Revelry in Torth kickstarter is still going.  It's goal is about a thousand shy.  I remember all the last minute pimping many of you took part in for Purple.  So, please feel free to poke the OSR, 5e, or sword & sorcery gaming fan virtually sitting next to you.  Perhaps he doesn't already know?

Well, guys... I think that's all for now.  A long day of traveling.  A long 10 days with my wife, her parents, and our two little girls.  Saw some amazing stuff, felt so awful that death would've been a mercy, and endured everything in between with a smile (or near enough).

It's bed time, at last.


Friday, September 19, 2014

RPG.NET reviews The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence

It never rains but it pours.  And on the islands, that downpour is purple, slimy, and polarizing!

I was fortunate enough to discover two reviews on rpg.net this morning.  The positive one is here.  The negative one is there.  I found them both enjoyable in their own way.

The divergence of opinion shouldn't surprise anyone.  People have wildly opposed views about almost everything.  Thankfully, more people "get it" than don't.


p.s.  I'm going on a family vacation starting tomorrow.  Probably won't blog again until October 1st.  Have a great gaming week, everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The "Older Cousin" Model

Well, this blew my mind yesterday.  It's really long.  Basically, this Angry DM guy calls WotC out for creating products that do not teach tabletop RPG noobs how to play D&D like the old Mentzer Red Box.

It rang true to me, so I created a little something right here.  Just a morning of furious writing.  Now's your chance to rip it apart, suggest improvements, or comment on its potential usefulness.

Thanks for your feedback!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


The subject of this blog post came from a Kickstarter question: "Does this support 3.5?"

"This" refers to the next adventure I'm writing, Revelry in Torth.  "3.5" refers to that late-middle period of Dungeons & Dragons which helped propel the Old School Renaissance into existence.  Indeed, 3rd and 4th editions practically forced nostalgia-fueled grognards to become a like-minded community, continually hashing out what is and what isn't OSR while enjoying the melange of overlapping and polarizing tastes it has to offer.

After a little back and forth, I gave his query two different answers.  In the way that Revelry in Torth will include Hit Dice, Hit Points, Armor Class, etc... yes.  It's "supported", meaning compatible.  However, beyond that, no.  3.5 is not just like OSR, O5R, or anything calling itself old school.

Aside from a few conversion issues, there's something else at work here, a deeper issue.  Where 3.5 tried to standardize the game.  I and the OSR go in the opposite direction - non-standardization!  My aim is to make things as unfamiliar and strange as possible, while staying within the loose confines of D&D's core principles.  NPCs and monsters will have special abilities and powers and various game mechanics; however, they will not resemble the rigid and bloated stat blocks of 3.5.

3rd edition, like 4th, is a different animal than original D&D, AD&D, 2nd edition, and now 5th. The majority already know this.  Gamers like myself don't want hardwired rules for everything and everything to be explicitly stated in the rules.  We want grey areas.  We want room to do our own thing, to explore the weird and wild game flow just as player-characters might explore a subterranean environment.  It's not just about the mechanics.  It's a totally different style of tabletop fantasy roleplaying.

The early editions focused on improvisation, collaborative storytelling, and interacting with the unknown rather than rules knowledge and character optimization in order to "win D&D".  I can only hope that 5th edition carries on that unorthodox tradition, that feeling of apprehension when facing a stairway leading down to the next level of the dungeon.

So, those looking for "a proper conversion up to 3.5" will be sorely disappointed in the vast majority of OSR, O5R, and similar products.  Yes, the extra GM prep is an issue but, more than that, they are aesthetically antagonistic.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

[Kickstarter] Revelry in Torth

Yes, I'm at it again.  Couldn't stay away.  Here is the KS page.

Thanks for backing Revelry in Torth!


p.s.  Cover art by Carlos Valenzuela.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Second Wave of Draconic Magazine

Even though there aren't "issues" per se, I think readers will see a pattern.  A flurry of activity followed by a lull week so that new content can be properly digested; crests and troughs.

That means wave #2 is crashing upon the rocks of tabletop fantasy roleplaying!  Below is a list of recent articles...

  • Q&A about noticing secret doors and skill checks.
  • A new spell called Singing Spheres of Yogsoggoth.
  • Trade-offs for investigative scenarios.
  • A video review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.
  • A new character class for ex-paladins who fall into a really, really bad crowd.
  • A new monster called the Verge Fungoid.
  • The 1st weekly advice column from Kodarr the barbarian!
  • An article on becoming a better GM.
  • A new magic item called the rainbow shadow cloak.
  • An article on looking back at plain old failure.
  • An amusing vignette about a chaotic halfling.
  • And a suggestion about what to do with those expired character sheets.

Whew, that's quite a bit of new stuff in the last couple weeks.  Thanks to +Shane Ward+Shawn Hartnell, Savage GM, and +Grand DM for their help.  The second wave wouldn't have been as strong without you guys.

If anyone else wants to submit an article or some artwork, please let me know.  More content coming next week!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Danger Dice

Earlier today, +Michael Prescott and I were chatting about my latest article over at Draconic Magazine.  Long story short, his description of another game's mechanic (some RPG called Ghost/Echo) collided with something I've read about but never used (the wild die from later editions of the old school Star Wars RPG) inspired a crazy idea... the danger die.

Here's the gist: whenever a character attempts to tackle a problem, there's always a chance an unrelated problem will rear its ugly head, either in that exact moment or soon after.

For example, the party's thief attempts to rig a guillotine so that it won't cut his friend's head off tomorrow at the execution.  He rolls the standard die or dice roll and... succeeds.  Yay!  However, he also rolled a danger die which came up a 1.  Little does the thief know that someone is lurking in the shadows, watching him.

So, this separate die roll is the wild card of a situation.  And I could see this idea going in a lot of different directions.  Below are a variety of ways to use the danger die concept.

  • Roll a d4 (along with the normal dice rolled) whenever a skill check or non-combat maneuver is being attempted.  If the d4 comes up a 1, then a new but extraneous problem occurs.
  • Roll a d4 after a standard d20 combat roll comes up a natural 1.  If the d4 is also a 1, then either describe a critical failure (assuming that doesn't automatically happen on a natural 1) or describe some fresh horror unconnected to that swing and a miss.
  • Roll a different die than a d4 to determine danger.  If you want it to happen less likely, then maybe a d6 or d8 is more your speed.
  • Use the d4 but a roll of 1 allows the GM to roll on a special "bad stuff" d30 table... you know, just because.
  • Benevolent GMs might want to offset the danger with something favorable.  So, if you rolled a d12 danger die, the 1 could be bad and the result of a 12 could be good.
  • Every +1 a character asks for means that another danger die is added to the pool.  Want a +3 bonus to hiding in the fireplace?  Sure, but then you'll have to roll 3d4 to see if you jump from the frying pan into the fire (lame pun intended, unfortunately).
  • Want to attempt something with a relatively low risk?  Roll a d12 danger die; average difficulty gets a d8 or d6.  Super-duper challenging maneuvers get a d4 or perhaps even a d3! 

I'm sure there are more awesome possibilities out there but for now that's sufficient.  So, what do you think?  Is this something you might try out in your next game?  Want to tweak it?  Go right ahead.  Comment away!  


p.s.  Dice image by JihCe

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

+1 for Swagger

In last week's game, a couple situations arose where I thought a bonus was warranted.  Something besides good roleplaying or detailed description of an attack.  I'm talking unorthodox, baby!

Situations crop up during our roleplaying adventures that seem to demand some kind of nudge from the gods.  After all, a plus or minus 1 on a d20 roll isn't much, just a little 5% tap (just tap it in - tap, tap, taparoo).

 I also came up with a few instances where a penalty could be levied.  The following can be offered on a session-by-session and case-by-case basis as the table deems fit.  Just don't overdo it...

+1  Swagger bonus (also known as the Han Solo bonus - when a player handles his character with the kind of comfortable-in-his-own-shoes confidence that borders on cocky)

+1  GM Forgot Something Crucial bonus (like a player's character sheet or important rule)

+1  GM Ineptitude bonus (also known as the Brain-Fart bonus)

+1  Petitioning the Gods with Prayer bonus (this requires a heartfelt, extemporaneous speech on why the character should receive assistance now)

-1  Player Trying to Weasel out of the GM's Ruling penalty (arguing that would put a lawyer to shame - is that even possible?)

-1 Excessive Whining penalty

+1  Trying Something Outlandish bonus (when a character attempts an action he has no business attempting, yet for some reason it's almost a terrific idea, ingenious not impossible - like using a chicken as catapult ammo)

+1  You've Figured out the GM's Big Secret but Don't Know it Yet bonus (sometimes a carefully concealed plan is obvious for all the wrong reasons or maybe the player took a wild stab in the dark)

-1  Fiddling with Your Phone penalty (or tablet, computer, gadget, whatever... if a player is beyond distracted for more than a couple minutes, then it's penalty time)


Have you ever awarded a not-in-the-rules bonus or penalty because of a player's action?  Did you outright state it, fudge the roll behind your screen, or something else?  I want to know.

Also, I'm sure you guys can come up with more of these.  If you suggest something cool/funny/appropriate to this list, I might include it (credit will go in the p.s. area below).

Thanks for reading,


p.s.  Thanks to +Brett Slocum  for the GM's Big Secret bonus!