Friday, December 30, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays - Compendium 2011

Happy Holidays everyone!

Be sure to grab your free copy of Beyond the Black Gate Compendium 2011.

This year's compendium features new magic items, monsters, abilities, class, adventure locales, random charts, and an all-new, never-before-seen adventure set in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Be sure to print it "booklet" style for maximum old-school effect.

Hope you all are having a great holiday season - see you in 2012!


Friday, December 23, 2011


I need music!

To listen to while making the traditional Christmas Lasagna.

Please post your 10-song Dream Playlist in the comments and hook me up.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer is out


Email hacked!

My apologies if anyone received some weird email from me yesterday, my account was apparently hacked. The problem should be fixed now.

The bad emails probably say "no subject" in the header; just delete without reading if your spam catcher didn't dispose of them already.

Its amazing the lengths some folks will go to for an extra buck or two...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Old School Power

It was interesting to note over on EnWorld today that their number one most read "list" article was the one featuring retroclones. Check it out here.

I'll leave it to you folks in the comments sections to ponder what that says about our little niche of the gaming webiverse.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Great winter morning reading

Yes, the snow is falling briskly outside right now. Later I have to venture out into it for a Christmas Party at the Casino and it will be cigars and chips and 7&7's but right now its coffee and Wilderlands.

It's criminal this boxed set is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain. Had I been psychic, I would have bought five of these back when they first came out (and done much better at past Casino Christmas Parties, just saying).

I'm sure there are licensing (and printing cost) issues, but wouldn't it be nice to see this re-released for S&W / OSRIC?

I think so.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Secret of Kells

Available on Netflix, I watched this with the juniors this weekend and was very pleased with it. The animation is amazing, and the story magical. Its a bit dark in places, but those parts are more than balanced by whimsy and scenes of the magical elder forests. It handles both Pagan and Christian mythologies with reverence, which is nice as I more often see one favored and the other vilified.

Best of all, no dick or fart jokes, guest rappers, contemporary references, or celebrity voice-over shenanigans, all of which seem to infest so many kids' films these days. The best kids films (imo, at least) are the ones that are timeless, and this one definitely fits that bill.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

OSRIC Insanity

I'm still enjoying reading through the massive OSRIC tome. After 30 years or so, I think I'm so familiar with the original 1E DMG, that I tend to gloss over large portions of the original work without really paying attention to it. So what tends to happen is I read something in the OSRIC book, say to myself "is that how it worked in the DMG?" and go grab that book to look up what ever irritating little thread of a rule or concept I've gotten snagged up on.

Coming across Insanity (OSRIC p126) was one of those instances. Some little differences come up. OSRIC has 16 forms of insanity detailed, whereas the 1E DMG has 20. Among the missing are Dipsomania (a favorite of mine, where a character, once a week or so, is compelled to drink until they pass out), Melancholy (an Elric and Conan prerequisite, leading them to brood in the shadows at the back of the tavern despite the comely wench seated upon their knee), and Sado Masochism (a guaranteed way to make every hp of damage rolled at your table an interesting experience).

Actually "missing" is not a fair term, as OSRIC and 1E both have their own separate insanities listed.

Frustratingly, what both tomes lack is a system for duration, treatment, cure, and degeneration for these diseases. So this is now something I must create and post on the blog here someday :)

To be honest, I don't remember encountering a whole lot of Insanities back in the days, really it only seemed to come about as a result of psionic attacks, as far as I can recall. Though I do remember Multiple Personality coming up on (ahem) multiple occasions, mostly, I fear, as a rule-bending way of getting an additional suite of class abilities for "free".

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Frazetta

Quit monkeying around, you big ape.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Awesome New Star Wars Trailer (never before seen footage)

I still just don't care much for cgi. Maybe it will look better on the big screen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An interesting OSRIC "rule".

So I'm doing a little prep for my soon-to-begin all-new campaign (more details on that in the days to come). We're using OSRIC as the "base" ruleset (and I mean "base", those of us with the original 1E AD&D stuff will be using those books too), so I'm scanning through the OSRIC book, mostly because its a good mainline extrapolation of the various interpretations of AD&D's idiosyncrasies.

At any rate, on page 118 is an optional "Random Experience Variable" rule, which basically states you adjust the xp needed to gain a level by plus or minus 1d20 x the level to be gained. So, if I'm reading this correctly, you're headed toward 5th level, and you roll a 12, the xp you need to to level is plus (50%) or minus (50%) 600 xp. That's an interesting optional rule.

Does anyone know the origin of this rule? Was it a common houserule that I never heard of? When do you figure out what your variable will be, at the start of a new level?

Interesting stuff, so anyone familiar with this please chime in.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

Its very sad to hear Anne McCaffrey has passed. I had no idea Anne was born in 1926, which means she was already in her 50's when I discovered her in the late 1970's. Not a "surprising surprise" however; her writer's voice was certainly that of an ageless person, untouched by cynicism or snark and full of wonder, whimsy, and a love of the fantastic. I read the first three novels of her Dragonrider series, full of the sci-fi fantasy admixture I still love to this day, multiple times back then, usually accompanied by my cassette-playing, eleven-or-so-pound first-generation Walkman :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Class: Musketeer

Ok, so I love Musketeer movies.

The Musketeer, in the most basic form, was an infantryman with a matchlock musket. The version detailed below, however, is more closely modeled on the version made popular by literature and film, the French Musketeer. This Musketeer, rather than a basic lineman of the infantry, was typically a member of some lower noble house who served as one of a unit whose mandate was the direct personal protection of the king. While known for their fighting skill, they were better known for their elan, personality, and panache. Eventually, they became popular enough to become a threat to the King's rivals, and the position would eventually be drummed out of existence under the guise of budgetary cuts.

For our purposes, the class is somewhat of a swashbuckler, a rogue, a bon vivant, and romantic sensualist, albeit with a heart of gold, and a code of honor.

Primary Ability: Dex and Cha (13+ in both adds 5% xp)
HD: 1d6+2 hp / lvl
Armor / Shield: Special
Weapons: Any
Save as: Fighter of equivalent level

1 - 0
2 - 2250
3 - 4500
4 - 10000
5 - 20000
6 - 40000
7 - 75000
8 - 125000
9 - 250000
10 - 500000

Special Abilities

Nimble Fighter - The Musketeer relies more on his agility than brute strength in combat. Consequently, the Musketeer uses his Dexterity modifier for to-hit and damage.

Cutting Repartee - Known for having a tongue equally sharp as his rapier, the Musketeer can goad enemies into reckless attacks. At the start of the round, the Musketeer taunts his enemies. If they fail their save (negatively modified by the Musketeer's Charisma modifier), they automatically win initiative, but suffer a -3 penalty to Armor Class for the rest of the round. If they succeed at their save, the initiative order proceeds normally.

Artful Dodger - When lightly armored, or not armored at all, a Musketeer adds 1/2 his level (rounded down) to his armor class.

Main-Gauche - A Musketeer may wield a small light weapon, such as a dagger, in his off-hand in place of a shield, to receive the standard +1 bonus to armor class. At the referee's discretion, improvised items such as table legs and candelabra may be employed for this purpose as well.

Special Equipment

Rapier (30gp) - This is a narrow-bladed long-sword with a protective basket-hilt that well-suits the Musketeer's agile combat style. It typically does 1d6 points of damage, but on a natural roll of 18-20, a hit on some vital spot has occurred, and damage increases to 2d6.

Leather Doublet (50gp) - This stiff doublet has not only been designed to offer a Musketeer the greatest range of mobility and arm movement, it is also made with the most desirable latest fashion trends in mind. It offers the same protection as Leather Armor.

Steel Breastplate (110gp) - This is an ornately etched breastplate of the lightest steel available, designed for both mobility and protection of the soft vital organs. It offers the same protection as Chain Mail.

Musket (35gp) - The musket is a match-lit projectile weapon. It is devastating at close range (060' or less), being +1 to hit, and doing 3d6 points of damage. At further ranges it is much less effective, being -3 to hit, and doing only 1d6 points of damage. Ammunition is expensive (5gp for 1 shot worth of ball, powder, and stuffing) and in some areas, hard to come by.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Overwhelming Odds

Musing a bit about the map above (from Arneson's Temple of the Frog), you can see its a bit different from a lot of site-based adventures. Mainly because its smack-dab in the middle of a city full of Bad Guys.

Stuff like this adds a whole other dimension to dungeoneering, and shouldn't be underrated in terms of the quality of experience it will offer your players. At face value, it presents the adventuring group with overwhelming odds. Unlike the dungeon, or the wilderness trek to get there, there is usually no question of taking on opposition the magnitude of a city or town with basic sword and spell. A similar scenario is set up in Vault of the Drow. There is much more than just a hack-and-crawl to contend with.

As a Referee, its vastly entertaining to me to see what sort of plan players come up with to overcome such obstacles. Subterfuge? Stealth? Amassing a mercenary army? Buying a traitor to assist them?

Sadly, i don't see much of this in contemporary adventures. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places?

What are your experiences with dealing with overwhelming odds?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Torgo will be take care of the place...

Its looking like its going to be a busy October, so Torgo will be helping out with the blog for a few weeks. My apologies in advance.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sword and Sorcery Greyhawk - The Isle of Green Stones

Don't bother looking for this mysterious isle on your map - it is rumored to be somewhere near Midbay in the Nyr Dyv - no one who has gone looking for it has been able to accurately pinpoint its location. This is, in part, due to the thick, moving fogs which usually enshroud the isle. There is also the issue of the questionable sanity of those who claim to have visited the isle.

The isle itself is only ten miles end-to-end from its northernmost point to its southernmost, and roughly three miles across at its widest point east-to-west. It is choked with gnarled, ancient trees, vines, and heavy undergrowth. The isle's moniker comes from the tumbled green stones found all across it. The stones are worked, and seem to have once been part of some ancient city or temple complex. Some stones still bear weather-faded runes and reliefs depicting savage humans, often engaged in salacious acts, lorded over by a race of vulture-headed humanoids. Whether these inhuman beings are an actual race or meant to depict some sort of gods is ambiguous.

What is tempting about the isle to treasure hunters is the rumor of great wealth to be found on the isle. Old legends around the Nyr Dyv, particularly found among the old tribes of Flan descent, place the isle at the center of a lost empire, millennia old. According to these legends, this decadent empire fell into ruin not through the actions of some outer agency or slow decline, but due to a horrible curse that brought them to a sudden, apocalyptic end. A further rumor insists that the broken city sometimes appears as if it had never fallen, on nights when the moon is full.

Visitors to the isle, obviously, risk falling prey to that very same curse.

Random Encounters (d12)
1. Bat, Mobat (2d3)
2. Bird, Dire (1d4)
3. Coatl
4. Vulchling (2d4)
5. Jackal (2d6)
6. Ape, Carnivorous (2d3)
7. Lizard, Giant Monitor (1d4)
8. Amber Creeping Vine (1d3)
9. Basilisk
10. Zombies, JuJu (1d4)
11. Toad, Giant (2d6)
12. Spider, Giant (1d3)

Vulture Helms
These ancient helms may sometimes still be found on the Isle of Green Stones. They are powerful, but convey a great curse. They appear as a gem-encrusted full helm of light, steel mesh in the shape of a vultures head. When worn, they impart a +1 bonus to armor class, infravision, and allow the use of charm person up to three times daily. Due to their curse, however, each use of the Vulture helm's charm ability carries a (cumulative) 5% chance of the wearer transforming into a Vulchling of CE alignment. Only a wish or remove curse may reverse this transformation, and the Helm is lost in the process. Each helm is worth 4500 gp for its value in gems alone.

Spider Knives
These odd weapons may also be found on the Isle of Green Stones. They feature a 9" curved blade with a hilt shaped like a spider. It is held by entwining one's finger among the spider's legs. It functions as a Knife +1, and on a natural roll to-hit of "20" injects a powerful poison into the victim's wound (Save at -1 or die). Unfortunately, these weapons have been influenced by the Isle's curse as well, and on a natural roll of "1" inject the same poison into the wielder.


Hrek Maluk (Thief 6, CN) - Maluk has been stranded on the Isle for 2 weeks now since he and his group of treasure hunters landed. He is the only surviving member, and has been without sleep for three days now as he is being stalked by a group of 3 carnivorous apes. He carries a bag of ancient jewelry worth 3000gp he will gladly offer in exchange for help driving off the apes, though he will, of course, try to steal it all back eventually.

Captain Shurc (F4, N) - Shurc has been living on the Isle for six years. He is quite mad, and claims he can speak to the "great spirits of the Isle". His motives are unclear, as is the veracity of his claims, but he will refuse to leave the Isle to the point of physical aggression. He knows the location of a deep sinkhole filled with bones and jewelry.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lazy Blog Post - Shogun Warriors

Some of the best toys ever. For maximum fun, battle them with your Micronauts!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facelift! and a brief tour.

I tweaked the blog's appearance a bit today. The new scheme should hopefully reflect two of my biggest inspirations: Weird, pulp fantasy, and hex maps!

Let me know what you think.

If you haven't noticed them before, there's a Bag of Holding's worth of resources down the right side of the blog there, including:

"The Shoulders of Giants" - links to postings and ruminations made by folks like Gygax, Arneson, and Bledsaw. There's some valuable stuff to read there if you're a fan of the roots and history of RPGs.

"Get Yer Old School Here" - links to some of my favorite blogs (which is in need of an update / additions, but still lots of great stuff there).

"Download Yer Old-School Games" - links to some of the best free old-school RPGs and retro-clones available on the web.

"Beyond the Black Gate Resources" - includes free mapping tools and lots of Megadungeon stuff.

By the way, the new header art is a classic piece by the inestimable Hannes Bok, master of the weird and wonderful!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warriors of the Red Planet in layout

In case you haven't been following the WotRP blog, this long-rumored, OD&D-inspired, Sword & Planet RPG is in layout, courtesy of my artistic partner Thomas. I've seen some early page drafts and new art, and I have to say, they look fantastic!

Stay tuned for more soon....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knockspell #6

Knockspell #6 is out - get yours today.

It includes a first for this magazine; a piece of short fiction by yours truly.

Do you think short fiction has a place in OSR mags? I'd appreciate any critiques or comments on the piece, whether you like it or hate it, and if you think I should continue to submit stuff like this.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Evil Characters

There seems to be a stigma out there against running "evil" characters or parties.

Why is this, exactly?

Looking at the roots of the hobby, it seems like running an "evil" character was not uncommon. Flipping through the AD&D Rogues Gallery, which details many of the "house" characters of the folks involved with TSR, a good portion of them are evil, and as many neutral. Storied characters like Robilar (Rob Kuntz), Erac's Cousin (Ernie Gygax), and Lanolin (Lawrence Schick), were all evil.

Changing the "goal" of the game might be one reason. As the game metamorphosed from "treaure hunt" to "fulfill epic quest", it quite possibly became easier for a good-aligned party to cooperate toward a more charitable end. Evil and neutral aligned parties (or, more likely, a healthy mix of alignments) was probably actually more effective with the treasure hunt scenario, such as plumbing the depths of Castle Greyhawk. There would be plenty of situations where someone of low scruples could be an advantage to such pursuits, as well as a variety of "aligned" situations to take advantage of, such as shrines or magic swords.

Another reason might be a trend I saw in the 90's, which was bringing in an evil character to essentially "screw" the party. The player's character would steal, backstab, and otherwise work against the other players, all under the aegis of "playing my alignment", when really it was just kind of dickish. Or maybe just odd concept of player competition?

If you consider the overall main goals of fantasy RPGs to be character development, imaginative immersion, problem solving, and even cooperative storytelling, there doesn't seem to be any need for an evil character to be so disruptive. After all, even a character with intentions of taking over the world someday, founding a dark empire, or whatever, is going to recognize that the quickest path to accumulating wealth and power is through cooperation, not just being a sociopath and getting immediately killed by the rest of the party (as I've seen happen time and again to evil characters).

What are your experiences with evil characters and/or parties?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011


Apparently there is a new cover to add to the ones below.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lazy Blog Post - Dungeon Crawl Classics

Long ago, in the 3x doldrums of the early to mid 2000's, a group of stalwart gamers, relics from the golden age of D&D, the Company of the Crucible, were slowly drowning to death in a sucking mire of splat books, skill trees, prestige classes, and railroady adventures. It seemed like every time we reached out for some hint of those good old days, we suffered an attack of opportunity. Then, out of the mists, Dungeon Crawl Classics appeared like water in the desert. Casting off the chains of endless thankless hours of trying to design my own stuff in the morass of inscrutable rules, these adventures did all the math work for me, with none of the preachy do-this and go-there most published adventures at the time were rife with.

Set in the wonderful Wilderlands of High Fantasy, which was easy to do considering the site-based nature of the adventures, the campaign lasted a long time, until 3x rules-fatigue and player attrition finally won, and the Company of the Crucible was forced into retirement. Thanks to these adventures (I ran all the ones pictured) we had a good time along the way.

As an interesting side note, the last one there, #51.5, was one of my first forays into the OSR, and I converted the adventure for 1E, the notes for which can still be found here on Dragonsfoot.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Deleted scene from LotR

I don't know why they cut this out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lazy Blog Post - Things I learned from Erol Otus

Yes, Virginia, it can get weirder.

Vegetables are bad for you.

Green and Purple are the colors of crazy.

Three-headed people are always hungry.

You're screwed.

Stay out of the pool.

Something is always watching you.

Ah, so that's why the girls got better grades.

Next time, bring cupcakes or the troll will eat you.

There's always a dragon at the bottom of the dungeon.

Lich got Jazz Hands!

Kermit is awesome!

Han always shoots first

Gnomes keep Ancient Elder Beings in their basements.

Girls are awesome!

Froghemoths are pretty awesome too!

Erol's character is cooler than yours.

Elf fighter-magic-users are cooler than your character, too.

Drow lady is always happy to see you.

Did I mention vegetables are bad for you?

Bugbears will mess you up.

Bad guys have social clubs too.

Ruuuuuunnnnn! Oh, too late :(


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