Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

The OSR: Stagnation, Preservation or Evolution

Let’s start with the disclaimer that I know that I’m probably going to get some hate mail on this one. Such is life on the Internet.
With the recent announcement of DNDNext, I’ve been doing usual round of peeking on various forums, sites and blogs and as usual it’s pretty thought provoking. In case you’ve been living under rock, WOTC has offered the olive branch to the OSR with their announced design goals for the next iteration of D&D. Of course, even this hasn’t set well some folks.
There are some nay sayers who insist that the OSR is just stagnation of the hobby perpetuated by a bunch of nostalgic grognards. Yeah, OK. I admit that I’m grognard and I was pretty much a grognard before it was “cool”. I do hang my head in shame that I wasn’t wearing my gognard tag with a sense of pride. But the accusations of stagnation are just plain silly. For those who prefer the retro-clones that most closely emulate the original editions or still have copies of the original editions, they aren’t stagnating. If anything they are preserving the legacy of games of yor. Really, would want to live in a world where no one has heard of “Save or Die”.
It may sound silly to preserve a set of rules or a play style but really. The whole damned hobby was built because of the success of the original editions. You may not like the game but every gamer owes at least a nod of gratitude to that little white box. Hell, it should be rite of passage to play through one of the original adventures with the original rules, just for the experience. Now, I know that there many crazy rules in the old games. I’ll admit that. But on the flip side, just because a game is new doesn’t mean that it is good.
Over the decades, the hobby and the games have changed drastically. As far as OSR games go, I consider myself and evolutionist. There’s nothing wrong with games based around the theory of “What would Gary do?’. It doesn’t mean they are accurate. It doesn’t mean that they are right but dang it they are trying. For me, I have no qualms about pulling a rule or a concept from a modern game then tweaking it into an OSR game. If it works and keeps with the rulings-not-rules philosophy then it’s a good enough for me.
So there it is. The OSR is not about stagnation. It’s about preserving what has come to past and building on it for the future.

Classic Monsters for Castles & Crusades

So if you were a Kickstart backer then you should have your PDF by now. But for those of you didn’t, well, you’ll just have to buy it in a bit. The guys over at Troll Lord Games have put together a pretty darned selection of classic monsters.
So how many tomes of monsters do we really need? I’m of the opinion that you never have enough good ones and think this is pretty good one. All these beasts have already appeared somewhere before, hence CLASSIC monsters (Yes, even the mighty Flumph.) Plus you can never have too many versions of the Tarrasque just to keep the players honest. But what I do like is the slightly different twists to put monsters into the C&C framework. This isn’t a bad thing because it’s still pretty easy to translate stuff into your retro-clone of choice.
Like most monster books, each entry has its own bit of fluff text. Just that slightly different bit of perspective on creature is enough to give the inspiration to do some tweaking and then viola something the players won’t be expecting. Speaking of things players won’t expect the book has plenty of obscure creatures to challenge the players. There’s a good representation of monsters across levels and types. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a good outsider, evil fey, undead, abominations, elementals or whatever. Hell, there’s a great collection of lycanthropes to chose from (Were-Shark anybody?) There’s a damned good chance that there’s something that you use.
The only negative thing I have to say is that I wish there a few pieces of art here and there. Because my aged grognard brain may not always remember what a creature looks like (for example the Meazel) but that’s no biggie.
Overall, I’m really happy that I picked this up. Even more twists on familiar monsters are just a good spring board to create your own creature creations and besides not everybody has their old Fiend Folio laying around.

Some More Gaming Inspiration for Crypts & Things

Some of the Kickstarter backers have gotten their hard copies of Crypts & Things and I’m still shaking my fist at the US Postal Service. But you’re going to start hearing more about this one from this little blogger. So yeah. I really like it. So here’s some more gaming material to use an inspiration for a Swords & Sorcery game. Not all these sources are OSR material and some them aren’t even d20 but there’s material there to fuel your imagination and it isn’t that hard to convert any crunchy bits that strike your fancy.
Conan: The barbarian’s barbarian. If you’re lucky you can still lay your hands on some of the Mongoose Books but the good news is that Steve Jackson Games is re-releasing the PDF’s of the GURPS Conan. Say what you want about GURPS but the books are well organized and stuffed full of resource material.
Barbarians of Lemuria: This pretty much a class rules lite Swords and Sorcery RPG. You can get the free version over at here or the updated nifty version at Drivethrurpg.
Legends of Steel from Evil DM Productions: This is a fun one. There’s plenty of little bits of inspiration through out. The original version was for Savage Worlds. Plus there’s a version for ZeFrs and Barbarians of Lemuria.
Beasts & Barbarians: Yes, this is another Savage Worlds product. If you’ve read my other blog you know I’m a Savage Worlds fan. Now this one is a bit pricey but there’s some damned fine artwork and nice world that you can convert over.
Lankhmar: City of Adventure: If you can lay your hands one and do a little kit bashing with Vornheim you got the makings of some urban Swords & Sorcery adventures.
So there you go. Some seeming non-related gaming stuff to twist and bend for your own Sword & Sorcery home brew.

Beware the Gonzo

Digital Orc has a really sweet series going on how to gonzo your game. I have to admit that I’m really liking his stuff. It has the right amount of weird insanity that lingers in my own little brain during those caffeine filled all night game sessions.
Fighters, clerics and magic-users have taken their turn in the grinder and hopefully soon there will be more and he’s complied his work so far. This is really neat twist so go check it out. And I hope that does more gonzo’ing of the rest of the classes or even attacks the monsters. It’s little projects like this that brought back to warm folds of earlier editions. Just taking some bits then twisting them without breaking the whole damned game.

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.-Hunter S Thompson

Taking Up My Own Take 20 Challenge

Yes, I meant to do this sooner but things just went crazy as they always do. So here’s the re-cap of the The Take 20 Challenge. Pick twenty monsters and build your little sandbox built around that. So here’s my take 20.
1-Goblins: I love what Paizo did with these little guys. A horde of little psychos without any regard for their own safety make great opponents for player characters. So I’m taking it one step further. Goblins are notorious swamp dwellers.
2-Giant Spiders: Ha! Old goblins ride wolves. These guys ride giant spiders!
3-Giant Bats: There are those few brave goblins who brave the airways astride giant bats!
4-Giant Snakes: If the goblins live in the swamp. There’s plenty of other nasties the players could run into.
5-Giant Gators: Yep, another swamp nasties to munch down on the party.
6-Zombies: Spooky foggy bogs. Plus everything is better with zombies.
7-Bugbears: Some more thugs to trouble the player characters. Plus they’re sneaky.
8-Will-O-Wisps: Did I mention that swamps are spooky?
9-Wild Boars: If you live in the South you know what I mean.
10-Gargoyles: Threats from the air always make combat more interesting.
11-Harpies: Airborne and nasty with a general disregard for the well being of adventurers.
12-Dopplegangers: Shapechangers can sew chaos in party. Plus the more disreputable characters might get framed for a crime they didn’t commit.
13-Hags: More spooky denizens for our swamp.
14-Minotaurs: I don’t know but it’s always fun to throw in now and then.
15-Nagas: Half snake half human.
16-Giants: Heavy hitters to crush some skulls.
17-Ghosts: Not only are swamps spooky, they just seem to breed tragedy. Chances are there’s been more than tragic death connected to the swamp.
18-Mummies: Yes more undead. They’re vulnerable to fire but if they are damp in a swamp?
19-Golems: These are always fun. Especially, to make those high level magic users feel a little less cocky.
20-Rakshasa: See Dopplegangers. Plus they can cast some spells.
So as you can tell, this for a nasty swamp on the edge of civilization. Now there’s plenty of beasties that can be thrown in here but this a pretty good spread across levels. Enough to keep the parties busy for at least a few sessions.

Grids. We don’t need no stinkin’ grids

So Erik over at Tenkar’s Tavern had a really cool post about using grids or not for battle maps. And just by coincidence I was thinking along the same lines. And as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
First is some ancient tiles I picked up way back when I was playing A D&D. I don’t even remember who made these.
First Battle Tiles
You’ll notice that I like using miniatures from various sources and keeping with one inch squares can cause a few scaling problems. Is that supposed to a “large” creature?
Normal Grid
Like I posted before, I really like the Heroscape terrain but if I have to travel around it gets to be a major pain in the ass to lug around that stuff.
Heroscape
My favorite alternative is use felt. Like I said over at the Tavern. It’s cheap. You don’t need any special tools to cut it. It comes in a variety of colors. It’s light weight and easy to carry to a gaming session.

Lastly, one of the handiest things I’ve purchased is the Savage Worlds templates from Litko.

So there you go some pretty pictures of gaming stuff.

So How Many Classes Do We Need?

I was reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess and working on my own home brew game and I thought, “Damn, just how many classes do we really need?”
We’ve got the basic four: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief. But how much do we need beyond that? I mean really. Isn’t a ranger just a fighter who knows how to live off the land? Isn’t a paladin just cleric with a really strong moral code and who is better at fighting? Isn’t a bard sort of a strange combination of all of the above? Isn’t an assassin a thief who is better at killing than trap finding?
Heck, with a decent mulitclassing system and an easy skill rules, I think you can get by with just four classes. Yeah, there can be a few more tweaks too. But I think you can get by with a minimal number of classes that each can be tweaked slightly to specialize and individualize the character.
So what do you think?