Thursday, October 28, 2010

Infamous Arrows of Kwille

Infamous Arrows of Kwille

No one knows the origins of the legendary fletcher and bowman Kwille, but dedicated archers are sure to come running when the colorfully dressed, odd little traveler is in town. He crafts and sells a wide range of peculiar arrows* not found anywhere else. Kwille is good at sizing up his customers, and so charges 20gp per level (based on the average level of the party) per arrow, rather than a fixed price. For instance a party averaging 4th level will be charged 80gp per arrow.

Kwille is not very forthcoming about the properties of his arrows, typically offering only one-word descriptions of their abilities ("fire.", "love.", etc) and has been known to heap scorn or even deny sales to those who demand more explanation.

Occasionally a brave (or foolish) man will challenge Kwille to a contest of skill at archery, but if any have beaten him, it has yet to be recorded or verified (any bow is treated as a +5 weapon when held in Kwille's hands). When beaten, the challenger is doomed to buy Kwille's drinks for the remainder of the day and night, and suffer through his countless inappropriate jokes and nauseating tales of seduction.

Kwille typically has 2d6 arrows of various sorts available for sale on any given visit. All arrows lose their magic upon being successfully striking a target. Arrows that miss have a 50% chance of retaining their charm. Roll on the table below (1d12) for each arrow to see what Kwille has:

1. Red Arrow - This arrow is made of some reddish wood with a flame-shaped copper-burnished arrowhead, and cardinal feather fletching. Upon striking its target, it bursts into flame for an additional 1d6 points of damage to anything within 5'.

2. Gray Arrow - This arrow is made of chalky wood with mica fletching and a slate arrowhead. Upon striking, a target must save vs. petrification or turn to stone. It will sink as deeply into solid stone or metal as a normal arrow would into soft wood. This arrow is also unbreakable, and is useful for spiking doors open or shut, hanging a rope from, etc.

3. White Arrow - This arrow is made of white wood, with goose feathers and a silver, feather-shaped tip. Upon striking its target, that target must save vs. spells or fall into an unbreakable slumber for 2d6 turns. Sleeping with an unfired white arrow held in loosely in one hand results in double the normal healing for the night, but there is a cumulative 5% per night that this drains away the arrow's magic.

4. Yellow Arrow - This arrow is made of bamboo, with canary feathers and a bronze tip. Handling it imparts a vague feeling of unease and a mild case of heartburn. Any target struck must save vs. fear or fall into a helpless fit of panic and shakes for 2d6 rounds, fleeing if possible.

5. Green Arrow - This arrow is made of fresh, mossy pine, fletched with parrot feathers, and tipped with an eroded-looking copper arrowhead. Anyone sniffing at it is nauseated. Targets struck take 2d6 points of poison damage (save for half).

6. Black Arrow - This arrow is made of pale bone, fletched with crow feathers, and tipped with a chip of obsidian. It is unnerving to handle. Targets struck must save vs. spells or lose 1d3 levels (or HD, death if reduced to "0"). Only one such arrow is available at a time, reroll any further results of "6".

7. Blue Arrow - This arrow is made entirely of glass and fletched with gull feathers. It will cause frostbite if handled barehanded for more than a round. Upon striking a target, it releases a blast of freezing cold, doing 1d6 points of damage to anything within 5'.

8. Pink Arrow - This arrow is made of balsa, fletched with doves feathers, and tipped with a soft pewter arrow head that only does 1hp of damage. It is pleasantly warm to the touch. Anyone struck by this arrow must save vs. spells or fall madly in love with the first individual they see.

9. Ghost Arrow - This arrow appears to made entirely of some sort of cohesive mist. It can be bent and even crumpled up, but will straiten back out in a round or so. Anyone struck by one takes no damage, but must save vs. spells or suffer total amnesia.

10. Hollow Arrow - This slightly wider than normal arrow is hollow, fletched with pigeon feathers, and tipped with a glass arrowhead. The arrowhead unscrews, and the shaft can be filled with one magical potion, vial of acid, or vial of holy water. Upon striking its target, the arrow does only 1d2 points of damage, but injects or splashes the arrows contents as appropriate.

11. Gold Arrow - This arrow is made of willow, fletched with red-tailed hawk feathers, and tipped with a gold-leafed arrowhead. These arrows are treated as +5 magic arrows, and will return to their owner's quiver upon a miss (unless that miss is a natural "1"*.

12. Motley Arrow - This arrow is made of random-looking, seemingly cobbled together materials. Its appearance belies its potency, however, as upon firing it bursts into 2d6 separate normal arrows (roll to-hit for each, against up to 3 targets).

*It should be noted Kwille's arrows are "Infamous" because any arrow fired has a 5% chance of flying off into the distance for a round before turning back around and targeting the person who fired it (determined by the person firing it rolling a natural "1" to-hit). The archer must then roll to-hit a second time against their own AC.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Gary Gygax Memorial Home for Gaming Retirees

"Hope I die before I get old..." - Pete Townshend

Not necessarily, Pete.

When people talk about what they're going to do when they're old and gray, I think back to my youth. My Mom worked a lot in retirement and nursing homes. I think about those old guys and gals huddled around tables playing cards and sipping crude-oil-thick coffee for eight hours a day, and think - they could get a lot of gaming in!

I'm predicting 2040 sees the first formally dedicated retirement home for RPG players. Probably in Boca Raton, FL. What do you think?

On a related note, I see a lot of frustrated GMs on the interwebs lamenting the difficulty in getting a gaming group together. Ever think of volunteering at your local Nursing Home or Retirement Community (the picture above is one near my office, looks like Hogwarts!)? Can you imagine running a game for a bunch of folks that grew up reading Weird Tales every day after school? Something to think about...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Warriors of the Red Planet - the Blog

As I finish up the WotRP manuscript over the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun for it to have its very own home in the blogosphere. So check out Warriors of the Red Planet. In addition to progress reports, the blog will compile the various previews already done here at BtBG, new previews, Sword & Planet art and rumblings from around the internet, and even some serialized Sword & Planet fiction.

Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Omegea - Session 3

Session 4 of Omegea is tonight, and I realized I haven't posted about session 3 yet. Last session found the party licking their wounds a bit from last time, and enjoying a bit of the treasure they picked up (they've been quite impoverished until now), along with some restorative wine and food.

They discuss a bit over dinner what to do next. They've got three adventuring sites to explore at the time (the Face in the Wastes, the Dome, and the Grogor Obelisk), and are very much getting the hang of sandbox exploration - plan your time and resources wisely. The obelisk at least they know they must attempt soon - the mystical scroll they obtained to gain entry purportedly only works beneath a full moon, and that is occurring early the next morning. They decide to equip themselves and set back out to the Head to hopefully plumb any remaining mysteries before the obelisk demands their full attention.

They purchase some lime and salt, in hopes this will aid them against the giant sluglike creatures known to haunt the interior of the great Head. They make it to the head without any great hardship, and once again perform the ritual of opening. They enter the head and begin to explore.

Remembering they had never checked out the Head's "basement", they head there first. They descend the spiral stair-chute cautiously, and find themselves in a box-like chamber lined with shining aluminum cabinetry, and a door with a bright yellow sign on the far wall. Exploring the cabinets, they find them stocked with crumbling papery boxes (rotten cardboard), filled with shiny aluminum cylinders (canned food). They crush one open and find it filled with long-spoiled pink ooze. They ransack the whole room and turn up nothing of real use until the end - a roll of laminated maps! They then turn their attention to the door.

The door has a a glassy, hand-shaped symbol in the center. The magic user places his hand upon it and a ghostly voice speaks, "user not recognized!". The (Lawful) cleric steps up and tries - "user recognized, proceed!". Past the door and into the next chamber, they see shuffling in the shadows at the far end a horde of man-like beings in rotten white jumpsuits. The horde lurches forward, eerie green lights flickering in their eyes, and their hands outstretch greedily. The party falls back into the storage chamber searching frantically for a good place to stem the tide. The Fighting Man then pulls forth the odd gun-like weapon found beneath the seat of the ornithopter in Session Two, clumsily loads a shell and fires at the mindless ranks before him!

There is a flash of multicolored light, and a wave of heat, once, twice, three times and then all goes dark. When the party's eyes readjust to the gloom, they find the horde is destroyed. Each wears a thin, platinum headband set with an onyx chip. They collect these and hastily exit the basements.

They turn their attention to the unexplored higher reaches of the Head, passing again the "Mayday!!" grille, and the head's facial control panel, until at last they come to the uppermost chamber within the head. A bluish low emenates from within and they find themsleves before a black iron pedastal with wires, tubes, and pulsing lights. Atop it is afixed a bizaare metal and glass contraption with what appears to be a brain floating within.

"Attend Me" a booming hollow voice intones, and the party feels a dire compulsion overtaking them. All save the fighting man reach helplessly into their packs and draw forth a platinum headband, placing it upon their own heads. The reptelf, upon so attiring himself, shrieks and descends into tormented madness, while the remaining go limp and await orders from their new master. The Fighting Man however draws forth the weapon of the ancients yet again, fumbling to load another shell. "Defend Me Slaves" booms the bodiless voice, and the characters lurch toward their former companion.

It all comes down to a single initiative roll - tpk or victory? Fortunately the fighting man wins the roll, and the Brain Chamber explodes into light, heat, and sound. Its a near-tpk anyway, as most of the characters are brought to death's door by the backlash. A little healing brings them round, and the party packs up whatever else they can find and exits the Head.

On the road back to Majinta they have an unfortunately run in with a less than honourable patrol from Majinta. Harsh words are exchanged, and then blows! Both sides eventually flee the scene, but the party realizes they will not easily regain entry to the city of Majinta without assistance. They return to the Witch of the Western Wastes and ask her assistance.

She agrees to provide them with disguises and a coin of charming. She also buys the stockpile of platinum headbands and tells the party they must have encountered the remnant of one of the infamous Mindlords of Dyskatyr, perhaps the result of one of their many attempts to gain immortality gone horribly awry.

With the help of the coin, the party returns to Majinta and plots their exploration of the great Obelisk. After midnight, they proceed to the obelisk and beneath the light of the full moon pull forth their scroll and read it. The Magic User realizes they are reading a simple scroll of detect magic. Nonetheless it outlines the secret door into the obelisk and reveals the mechanism to open the door. Once inside, they find themselves in a recurring sequence of perfectly cube shaped rooms, until they at last pass through an amorphous, spongy tunnel onto a great landing with iron bridges suspended from chains that seem to dissapear into a great void. They select a bridge at random and follow it across to another landing with a great pair of doors flanked by giant guardians with wicked curving greatswords.

They banter a bit with the guards, hoping to trick their way in, but things start to get ugly, and there we end the session.

Oh yeah, the cleric (Diago the Unwise) leveled up! He gets spells now!

Coin of Charming - this one-use item appears as a single, uncommonly shiny silver coin of the local mintage. If dramatically presented during a session of negotiation or bargaining, it will render all individuals (previously unaware of its presence) temporarily compliant and uncaring of the outcome, providing nothing too drastic and uncharacteristic is attempted. Once used, the coin reverts to normal tender, and anyone charmed by its effect forget the occasion altogether.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oh, all right...

I almost never join in on these, but what the hey. Seeing so many other cool lists made me wonder if I could even pick 15 games, as I tend to be more of a "reader who games" than a straight up gamer. But, to my suprise more than 15 immediately sprang to mind, though some required a little research to find the actual name of games that I remember as "that space mining game" or "that all magic users game". Anyway, here they be, in no particular order save number 1.

1. AD&D 1E - most played game ever both for me and probably 95% of gamers I know.
2. D&D B/X - you never forget your first time.
3. MERP - I played the hell out of this game, and miss it.
4. Twilight 2000 - from back when we still expected the bombs to fall any day.
5. Squad Leader - what I immediately think of when I think of "war game".
6. War & Peace - the biggest and best wargame I ever played. It takes like 3 months to play, so I only ever played it twice.
7. Risk - what can I say?
8. Microlite20 - Everyone should have about 15 copies of this stashed in their various campaign setting boxes or books for instantaneous gaming.
9. The Lords of UnderEarth - my favorite fantasy microgame.
10. Revolt on Antares - my favorite scifi microgame.
11. Star Frontiers - probably number 1 on my "I should really break that out and play it again" list.
12. Wizards Quest - my favorite Avalon Hill fantasy game, I played with 4 friends quite recently after tracking down a copy on ebay and was pleasantly surprised to find the game just as good as I remembered.
13. HARN - number one on my "wish I had had a chance to play that" list. I've spent a lot of time drooling over the maps nonetheless.
14. Diablo - possibly sacrilege to include a computer game on this list, but its, in my opinion, the best dungeon crawl you can get on a flatscreen.
15. Stratego - cause my junior Ravyns love to play it with me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Campaign Concept: The Fighting-Men-Only Campaign

I'm often pondering unusual or interesting possibilities for a campaigns, be they big or mini. In this case "mini" is apt, because I was thinking it would be cool to take a box of mini's like the above Grenadier Fighting Men set (or maybe a big box of these guys), hand them out to the players (splitting them up evenly so each player has 2-4 minis), and have them roll up characters based on those minis. Then give them a few Fighting Man missions, like "wipe out the border fort", or "sack and loot the Frog Temple", or so on, and watch the body count rise! Heck, you could just throw them all in a longboat and let them ravage the coast as much as possible before the Dark Lord catches up with them. Any setting would do, but the idea of this in the Wilderlands or Sword & Sorcery Baltic seems particularly appealing to me.

Just to be clear, I'm not proposing a campaign without other classes, just that those classes are exclusively NPCs.

Wiping out the option to play three other main class types (Magic User, Thief, Cleric) makes for some interesting paradigms. Magic spells will be solely the purveyance of those foul, evil, Fighting-Man-hating wizards. Clerical healing won't be there to fall back on - every single wound will suck and should be avoided at all costs. Traps will be detected not by the party scout, but by the first guy in line who gets chopped in half, falls into the crocodile pit, blows up, etc.

Sounds fun to me; to play or to run. Ever try anything like this?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Empire Strikes Back pics and some commentary on CGI

No matter how "real" anyone claims CGI looks on screen, I'm never fooled completely and therefore never fully immersed in the film. I miss the days of extravagant sets, props, and hundreds of elaborately costumed extras. Check out some more stills from the set of Empire Strikes Back here. The set designers and model builders of 30 years ago made movies come alive - too much CGI looks like, well, too much CGI. Sometimes, like with Sin City or 300, the CGI is stylized enough that you can enjoy it, but most other times, like the final battle scenes of Attack of the Clones, there's no way you're going to mistake the jerky, cartoonish, CGI clonetroopers for the real thing, and it snaps you out of the story like a bucket of cold water. As Fu Manchu would say, "you can't fool me with your cheap, cinematic tricks!".

Real is real, it has a real presence on screen, regardless of how "realistic" it is. Is it weird that I instantly accepted "puppet" Yoda, but instantly scoffed at CGI Yoda? Why does a big walking carpet suit called Chewbacca resonate more than a big blue cartoon Avatar native?

I hope grand sets, costumes, and cool models aren't completely a thing of the past - how cool would it be to see a new film with awesome effects but not a single frame of CGI? It'll probably never happen, though, so enjoy the link above to revisit the "good ol' days" of special effects.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Frazetta

Today's Frazetta is so full of details, subtleties, and goodies, I'm just going to shut up and let you enjoy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering: Dragonlance

In 1984, a 13 year old kid spent an entire week over summer vacation tucked away in an intolerably hot upstairs bedroom of my aunt's 200-year-old house in north Florida with an oscillating fan, a clock radio that seemed to play nothing but "When Doves Cry", and a copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

As soon as I (in case you haven't guessed what 13-year-old I was referring to) was done, I immediately started over and read it again. I think I read it about five times that summer. It wasn't so much that it was a great book, or great writing, as much as it was the fact that this was a book about D&D. As in: a D&D campaign in novelized form.

For someone who had been led to D&D by fantasy fiction, it was quite an event for my young teen gaming-and-reading-obsessed mind to see it come full circle. I had already devoured any book I could find that featured an "earthly" role-playing group transported, somehow, to "D&D land" (and there were several out there at the time, Andre Norton's Grayhawk-session-inspired Quag Keep and Rosenberg's Sleeping Dragon notable among them), this was fantastic!

Weis and Hickman did a marvelous job of working the iconic elements of D&D into their novel - I knew what spells Raistlin was casting, I knew this guy was a Ranger and that chick was a Cleric, etc. Not to mention goblins, black dragons, etc, in their "traditional" D&D forms. Back then, I don't think I really noticed that Hickman was the same guy who wrote Rahasia and Ravenloft, two adventures I had run and played in respectively over just the previous school year, and would go on to play in the Pharaoh series while reading the rest of the Dragonlance trilogy.

The Dragonlance adventure modules, on the other hand, while a joy to read through and steal ideas from, were a horrible rail-roady experience to play (but we F'ing tried several times nonetheless!). I read and re-read DL 5: Dragons of Mystery as a sort of companion to the novels, as it featured specific write-ups of the characters and places in the novels. We played the excellent wargame from DL11: Dragons of Glory over and over again, coming up with our own new elements to make the game trickier. The dungeon adventures, though, were a good idea in theory, perhaps, but even back then I knew I preferred sandboxes and site-based adventures to acting out someone else's quests or following a script, no matter how much breathing room was available.

Ultimately, the novels outlived the adventures, spawning some 50+ books. I loved the first trilogy, enjoyed the second (which focused almost exclusively on the twins Raistlin and Caramon), read a couple more books out of boredom, and finally gave up on the series altogether. The last time I picked up a "current" book of the series, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, the world that 13-year-old fell into back in '84 was all but unrecognizable, having been destroyed and reborn or something like that.

I picked up the original Dragonlance trilogy again at a used book store last year, and have tried to read that very first book a couple of times since then, but just did not catch hold of that same old magic. Whether that's because the subsequent releases somehow spoiled it for me, or the fact that I'm just a whole different person than I was 26 years ago, I don't know.

But damn, I loved that book back then!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Mindlords of Dyskatyr

No one knows the true origins of the infamous Mindlords of Dyskatyr; it was as if their nightmare city of black, iron, blade-like towers had appeared overnight by magic. They appeared in a world that was fast-approaching a New Golden Age, possibly the last of Earth's chances to do so before the final slide into Omegea. This was the time of the Sciencemen, the beneficent scholars who carved the great supersonic subway tunnels out of the bedrock of earth to join together their far-flung outposts of research, re-discovery, and healing.

When the Mindlords noticed them, they quickly realized how powerful the rediscovered technologies could make them when coupled with their own prodigious mental abilities. The ancients had traveled to the stars, and had possessed the keys to immortality - with these tools, the Mindlords could institute a dark age that would outlast the Earth itself. City by city, outpost by outpost, the Mindlords conducted a war of extermination against the Sciencemen, plundering their treasures and secrets whenever possible.

Time and time again, the gentle synapse-librarians, tech-archaeologists, and geno-physicians of the Sciencemen were duped into false negotiations of peaceful resolution, only to be betrayed and massacred, or to have their minds and wills bent into unending, identity-less, undead slavery. It is said the Sciencemen went so far as to offer up the keys of Immortality freely in exchange for peace, but were betrayed yet again.

By the time the Sciencemen rallied to fight, it was too late. The Last Golden Age was stillborn, and would never happen. Nonetheless, they gathered together what little remained of their technological marvels, along with the armies of what few human nations would ally with them, and fought the Mindlords to a standstill at the great Siege of Darsom. The allies lost, but the Mindlords' victory was Pyrrhic, and their empire began to crumble. The last surviving Sciencemen geno-physicians founded the order of Psychic Knights, and then disappeared.

In their weakened state, the Mindlords were unable to stand against the Psychic Knights, and so ended their dark empire. Dyskatyr itself was never sacked, however, and still stands, black and sharp, beside its lake of green fire. Rumors run rampant that the Mindlords still exist in small enclaves here and there, in the deepest wastes or in the unlit passages of the underworld, or perhaps even still in the iron halls of their ancient capital, ever planning and plotting their return to ascendancy.

While legend paints many a monstrous, tentacled or mandibled face upon the Mindlords, in truth they appear muchly as normal men, albeit more drawn, severe, and peculiarly-jointed, and their skins are of a nearly unnoticeable pale greenish or purplish hue. Their eyes are black pools filled with stars or strange designs, and it is unwise to look into them overlong. The Mindlords are immortal, but the process that made them so rendered them sterile as well.

In combat, Mindlords can emit a blast of mental energy in a 60' cone which does 1d6+8 points of damage and stuns anyone (1d6 turns) who doesn't pass a saving throw. A Mindlord can consume the brain/mind of a stunned victim via touch in 1d4 rounds unless forcibly stopped. Such consumption restores the Mindlord to full health and hit points. They also carry radium pistols and sabers. They can use the following spell-like abilities at will: Charm Person, Hypnotize, ESP, Darkness 15', Levitate, Displacement, Dimension Door, and Animate Dead (all at 8th level of ability).

Mindlords are typically accompanied by a large retinue of charmed or collared (see below) servants and consorts, monstrous guardians, unnatural mounts, and animated undead.

HD8+8; AC 0[19]; hp50; atk mind blast, saber, or pistol; dmg special, 1d8, or 2d6; Save as MU9; special see above.

Mind Collar - This appears as a thin platinum circlet set with a single chip of onyx, jet, or obsidian, worth roughly 100gp (or 200 to someone who knows what it does). If placed on the head of a human, it renders them the slave of the nearest Mindlord, even unto death (treat as a normal zombie). If placed upon the head of a non-human, it brings howling madness until removed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Current Gaming Materials

Current Gaming Materials in use:

Swords & Wizardry, Core Rules (Matt Finch)

Swords & Wizardry Ref Sheets (Mike Shorten)

BtBG 2009 Compendium (Me)

Monsterless Manual (Me)

Gamescience Dice (Lou Zocchi)

Grenadier Classics Minis from Mega (Julie Guthrie)

Oktoberfest Beer (Spaten)

What's on your game table these days?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jackie Chan vs. Sauron

Jackie Chan Vs. Sauron Gif - Jackie Chan Vs. Sauron
see more Gifs

Friday Frazetta

Mysterious Domed Structure? Check

Hostile Mutant Lizard Guys? Check

Curvy, Scantily Clad Frazetta Girl? Check!

Rocky wasteland? Check

Armed Dude about to Take No Sh!t? Check

Looks like a scene from Eastern Omegea to me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

OD&D and Copyright / Fair Use

With some interest in the blogosphere lately for an OD&D "Clone", the main obstacle to seeing such a thing come to light seems to be copyright law. With later editions, there seems to be enough material that is easy to "recreate" via the D20 SRD, which allows you to "release" an OGL version of your favorite game.

With OD&D, the problem is that it is literally so light on rules, that most of the stuff that makes OD&D different from the later editions is what we normally think up as "fluff" or "flavor text". OD&D has a whole booklet devoted to wilderness and underworld adventuring, which I think most folks will agree is the meat of the set, and this is not an easy thing to reproduce without treading in some very gray waters. Throw in a whole pile of other idiosyncrasies you won't see anywhere else, and you get a package that is fun to reproduce in spirit, but damned hard to reproduce in substance.

So why not just use the real thing?

Well, unless you've got a few hundred bucks to blow, you're not going to get the real thing. True, you may get lucky, if you've got the time, and hunt down one of those collectors reproductions, TSR released later on, for less than a hundred bones. But Hasbro/WotC won't produce any new "legacy" copies (even though game companies crank out "vintage" or "classic" editions of games like Risk and Monopoly every couple of years), and they've shut off the whole .pdf-version tap.

Of course, there are plenty of electronic copies floating around. But is it legal to distribute these? Could you dress up a copy of the booklets and put them up somewhere like Grognardia for free public consumption without drawing the ire of some corporate attorney? And could you reproduce the rules in "retroclone" format so long as it was done non-profit?

To answer that question you have to take a look at the US Copyright Office's qualifiers for what is termed "Fair Use". Basically, Fair Use is the assumption that you're distributing something for criticism, curiosity, research, or educational purposes, as opposed to attempting to use it to turn a profit or hinder the copyright holder's ability to profit. If its "Fair Use", you don't need the copyright holders permission to distribute or reproduce the material. "Fair Use" is typically determined through "four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work"
Lets take a look at those, individually.

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Obviously, no one is going to "sell" a free .pdf, so no worries there. Nonprofit, educational purposes? Well, sure. The current owners have made it very clear that what they consider to be "Dungeons and Dragons" bears very little resemblance to what existed in that woodgrain boxed set, so by that measure, any attempt at playing the "original" edition would be a study in the historical development of a game, as well as the culture that grew up around that game. Sounds educational to me - or am I stretching that too far?
2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work. Its a game. Again, it is also a version, of a game, that the copyright owners consider to be obsolete.
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This, in my opinion, is the trickiest of the rules to consider. If someone shares an electronic copy of D&D with someone else, could it be argued that copy is a copy regardless of edition? Regardless, if you do take D&D "as a whole", it seems to me that the original set (or the text-heavy book 3 in particular) is a very small part of the whole body of published D&D works.
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. This, also in my opinion (I'm not a lawyer!), is the least tricky of the qualifiers. If five million copies of OD&D were downloaded or shared tomorrow, the effect on the potential market would be "zero", simply because WotC in no way tries to sell the thing. Strangely, by removing OD&D from the market altogether, in electronic or printed format, it would seem they have removed their ability to claim that say, handing out free copies of the woodgrain box at the next GenCon, could cause the company any financial harm.

Again, I'm no copyright attorney, so my little review here must perforce be taken with a grain of salt. But it could be worthwhile having someone qualified take a serious look at the situation. For you armchair copyright attorneys, here is a good read.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Race: Reptelf

So far the players in my Omegea campaign have retained two followers: the guide-boy Tomas, and the mercenary archer Lorris. Lorris is a member of a species rare to the East called a "Reptelf". He is green-skinned, has pointy ears, rippling scales where hair would normally be, yellow eyes, and is cold-blooded in both temperament and biology. Even the most good-natured Reptelf cannot help but laugh with glee at suffering or pain.

Reptelfs hail from a craggy mountain valley in the South, where they live long lives under the dominance of a caste of priest-lords. Those few strong-willed enough to break this yoke often wander Omegea as mercenaries, and their abilities as marksmen are legendary. Reptelf females are more blue/green of skin, dark eyes, and appear to have long, normal hair of pale blue or green, but this is actually just a peculiar form of scale, as a brief caress will reveal.

There is a famous Reptelf in Omegean folklore: Lelldim, the assassin-guardian of the human Queen Azayzis the Dream-Loom, who stood against the Mindlords of Dyskatyr at the Siege of Darsom before fleeing into exile. Travelers sometimes speak, now centuries later, of encountering her in the wilds, seduced by her unmatchable beauty while Lelldim stands wary at a discreet distance.

HD 1+1; AC 4[15]; hp 7; Atk scimitar or bow; Dmg 1d8 or 1d6+1; Save F2; Special see below.
Reptelfs are a tall race of near-immortal snake-elf hybrids. Most are devout worshipers of Set, for whom they build vast citadel-temples and offer many human sacrifices. The average Reptelf warrior is clad in scale mail, carries a scimitar and small shield, as well as a bow, which they are notoriously proficient with (+1 to hit and damage). Reptelfs have infravision up to 60'. For every 12 Reptelfs encountered, there will be one Warrior of 3rd level, and one Priest of 3rd level. For every hundred Reptelfs, there will be one Warrior of 5th level, and one Priest of 7th level or higher.
Reptelf do not sleep as other species, but will take every opportunity to warm themselves (due to their cold-bloodedness). Reptelf's who fail to sun themselves or cozy up to a campfire once every 24 hours are fatigued and unable to digest their food (half hp's until this is rectified).
Reptelf player characters receive a +1 bonus to Dexterity, a +1 bonus to hit and damage with bows, and may progress as Fighting Men or Rangers (max 8th level in each), Chaotic Clerics (max 7th level), or Assassins (max 10th level).

Monday, October 4, 2010

You Old Smoothie!

Score - two awesome Lando glasses this weekend for a few bucks - one for me and one for a friend. This is vintage 1980 Burger King, Empire Strikes Back goodness.

I used to have a full set of these - wonder what Mom did with them?

Regardless, this is definitely the smoothest glass in the office...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Building Omegea - A "behind-the-scenes" overview

Omegea started as a circle on a scrap of paper, and an idea to create a world that, rather than being based on a "realistic" geography, was completely unnatural. The original concept was that the world would be flat, a big flat circle of ocean with a circle of land in the middle. Then I drew a big "X" through the middle of the circle, unhappy with the concept on paper.

Looking at the "X" for a moment, I decided why not divide this big circle-continent into four elemental zones: Fire, Earth, Ice/Air, and Water. Now, this, I liked.

From there I added terrains that seemed appropriate to each element.

Eventually, the types of terrains began to suggest different themes to me, Earth: the zone of sylvan woodlands, fey castles, and viking fjords; Water: the post-apocolyptic zone of weird sunken wastes and dripping radioactive swamps; Fire,: the Conan/Lankhmar-esque zone of trackless rocky wastes and deserts dotted with sin-filled city-states; and Ice/Air: a zone of Sword&Planet dry sea-bottom tundras, domed cities, and flying ships.

All these lands smashed together suggested to me a massive supercontinent, like Pangaea, only I wanted my campaign set at the end of time, thus the concept of Omegea, after all the continents had traveled around the earth and met again on the other side.

Oh, that circle in the middle? That's a miles-high ring of mountains, pushed up by the force of all earth's continents struggling against each other. In the middle of that ring is rumored to be the Land of Iron and Crystal - home of the gods.

Its a lot of territory to cover, but players will gradually learn of three quick-travel options: the Airships of the northmen, the mystical Portals of Kn'Deesh, and the supersonic subway tunnels of the last technological Golden Age.

I'm slowly sketching a actual map of Omegea, and penciling in locales like Majinta, Dyskatyr, and Hathras, but I'm taking my time. Session 3 of Omegea was last night, and the world grows more and more on its own through actual play.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Frazetta

Frazetta and ERBurroughs go hand in hand, of course, but Frank's art also appeared on the work of another Sword & Planet master: Otis Adelbert Kline. Kline's tales are fantastic, especially if you've already read (and re-read) your ERB, and are looking for some further Martian (or in this case, Lunar) Fix. Kline's martian work has recently been re-released by Paizo's Planet Stories, so check it out if you get a chance! For the book the above work adorns, Maza of the Moon, you'll have to hit the used bookstores!

Wonderful colors in this piece; the colors ripple as if you're looking into a sun-dappled aquarium, giving the scene an immediate other-worldly quality. As with most Frazetta works, surprising little details are scattered here and there to reward the careful observer (clicking the image makes it bigger: check out that guys holster, and those mushrooms), and as always, the Frazetta girl has the most alluring eyes.


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