Thursday, March 26, 2009

"More money than sense" -- Carousing Mishaps from Fight On magazine #4

For those of you not yet "in the know", Fight On! magazine is a quarterly fan-zine "for fantasy role playing campaigns played with pencil, paper, and your imagination". Each issue so far has been packed with campaign ideas, dungeons, character and class ideas, randomization tables and lots of artwork..the latest issue being no exception. it says in my blog's little credo in the margins, I don't pretend to be any sort of authority on the history of RPGs or have some deep insight into how the game has changed. Heck, I freely admit that I still haven't committted to memory the timeline of the evolution of The Game We Love from the little brown books to present...and I also stated quite recently and truthfully that THACO does my head in. I've never lunched with Gary Gygax, killed a purple worm, or even made it past fifth level.

BUT I know what I like in a game or game setting. I enjoy random and often stupid fun, whether it be at the expense of myself or some other poor player character. Leave it to Jeff Reints to come up with a random table for players who wish to spend their looted gold out on the town in order to build their reputations (and in theory gain a few experience points in doing so). The complete article can be found in Fight On! #4, so I won't spoil it for you, but I will provide a quick example of how it works.

Let us suppose that you, the Esteemed Reader, are a human barbarian named Gorn The Crusher*. Let us suppose that you have just survived a fortnight in The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin and want to spend all your hardly-earned gold on whiskey, whores and Texas Hold-'em..and maybe just waste the rest. Let us also suppose that a few hundred XP is all that stands between you and the power and glory that is fourth level.

First, roll a d6 to see how many hundred gold pieces you spend. This also tells you how many hundreds of points of XP you will gain through increased reputation IF you survive the night.

Much to real-life, tying a drunk-on in a larger city affords you the chance to double or triple your chance to earn reputation as well as empty your pockets.

And also true to real-life, if your character "can't hold his poison", then you better be ready for the worst....and of course "the worst" is defined by a random dice table.

So...our imaginary Gorn goes into town and spends 300 gold pieces .... but fails his saving throw against poison. "Shouldda stuck to wine coolers, aye?".

What happens next?

"13 - Target of lewd advances turns out to be a witch. Save versus polymorph or you're literally a swine."

Mind you there are also some good things that can happen to you too...but you'd likely have to hear about it second-hand because you can't remember a bloody thing after that last tankard of orcish mushroom elixer.

But who're now 4th level... even if you ARE a pig.

The entire Carousing Mishaps table is just as entertaining, and can make for some fun role playing opportunities in the hands of an imaginative game referee. This and other great articles are all in Fight On! #4. You might also enjoy the Dungeon Home Remedies article and the random table of Magical Weapon Drawbacks.

Get Fight On! #4 in printed format and help it reach first place in the Lulu monthly top-author contest. Right now the editor, under the name Ignatius Umlaut, is firmly ensconced at #2. Seeing pen-and-paper RPG stuff in the limelight makes me think we're maybe doing something good around here. :D

* Any relation to player-characters living, dead, undead, or otherwise is purely intentional.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Descending Armor Class ....Does ANYBODY still use it?

In my ongoing education toward becoming a game master (dungeon master, referee, labyrinth lord or whichever you prefer), I've been reading my Swords & Wizardry Core Rules book from front to back to be sure I'm not confusing my recollection of the rules I am going to use with tidbits from any of the other RPG systems I've played.

Then I got to the part about Armor Class and how to use ascending and descending AC charts in combat...and felt compelled to thank my lucky stars that our group has always chosen ascending AC whenever we have been offered the choice.

Okay..a quick refresher course in old-school weirdness for those of you who are late coming to the party and can't remember back to the times before there were Feats and when Half-Orcs were only allowed to be monsters.

For some odd reason, back in the early days of The Game We All Know, it seemed like a good idea to let the lack of armour be represented by 9, and the very best magical protection to be represented by a -9.

Uh-huh... less is more.... makes sense to me.

So in the beginning when there was combat, and you were a first level Fighting Person,and you wanted to attack an orc with an AC of 6, you consulted a table and saw that you needed to roll a 13.

Then along came THACO. (That's "To Hit Armor Class 0") in the 2nd edition of The Game We All Know, and suddenly each character had their own special "to hit" number based on what type of character they were and how large their group was. Of course there were tables provided to find your THACO number. Then, when facing an orc with AC 6, all you had to do was take your THACO number and subtract the orc's AC from it to know what you had to roll. This was ..and I'm quoting here.. "speed the play of combat greatly"

Ummm.. oookay... so I subtract... unless of course the orc is armoured like a tank with which case I add...right? Math is haaaard. I'm just a girrrrrrl!

Then somewhere around the end of the last century, some lazy person like myself got the bright idea to flip-flop the AC so that it goes up instead of down as you add on armour, and then to give your character a "Base Attack Bonus" instead of making you consult another table. I mean seriously... if we wanted to consult charts and tables all night long, we'd be playing Bosses & Board Rooms.

Well...getting back to the here and now..and closer to my elusive point...I was reading through S&W Core Rules and came across the bit about ascending and descending...and how you can either use the table as it was intended OR if you choose to use ascending AC, a simple formula..which I will quote.
"Here’s how it’s done: each character class gains
a base “to-hit” bonus as their levels increase. Add this
bonus to your attack roll, and if the result is equal to or
greater than the opponent’s AC, the attack hits."
And somewhere, some poor schmuck is going NOW WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT!

Now I normally consider myself to be just weird enough that I can actually find the bizarre logic behind just about anything, no matter how silly..but this one has me stumped. Perhaps descending AC is legacy rules from some old mothbally tactical historical game that TSR wrote back when TSR used to write such things..or maybe somebody wanted to make the math unnecessarily complicated so that non-nerds would shrink back in fear upon encountering such esoteric arithmatic.

But far be it from me to pontificate about which method of AC numbering is "right" and which isn't. I certainly don't mean to say anybody out there needs to change if they prefer the descending method...but I am genuninely curious as to why.


And for what it's worth, in the two years I played 2nd edition The Game, I NEVER was able to totally wrap my head around THACO. I'd just grin stupidly and allow the DM to tell me how badly I flubbed the attack and to which corner of the room my sword flew from my hand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You want me to run a game? Are you NUTS?

As some of you may know already, my husband has been playing various RPGs for almost as long as I've been on this Earth, and is, at least in my opinion, pretty good at it. When he's not running our group's games, we have a second referee who I will hereafter refer to as Unglef, who has taken us through some pretty imaginative homebrewed adventures of his own. Being that I have as much fun as I do playing in the styles of games that both of them like to run, I have long wanted to try my own skills behind the game screen.

About two years ago, I finally got up the courage to start an online forum play-by-post game, and was thrilled to find four eager players. The adventure was one I had played in before, and was very well composed and seemingly dummyproof. I spent about two weeks getting together player handouts (html files, actually) and drawing up maps and other stuff, and the game got off to a fabulous start... but as unluck would have it, two of my players almost immediately dropped from sight, and I didn't have the heart to spend another month wrangling replacements.

That was two years ago though..and that was third edition. Since then, I've discovered retro-RPGs and am fortunate once again to have a few face-to-face friends who work reasonably regular schedules and who are eager to get a game in at the drop of a hat.

So I'm going to give it a try again. This time I'm picking a small low-level adventure from IridiaZine, an online weekly fanzine which features content on all sorts of RPGs both current and out-of-print. The adventure is called "The Abandoned Shrine of Weyoun the Wanderer" and at first read-through looks like it will suit our group's style just fine. I'm hoping that a face-to-face session will, unlike PbP, move fluidly and keep the PCs focused.

But there's one problem... and that is ME!

The guys in my group aren't nOObs. They're not powergamers either, but they know their stuff far better than I do. They know the tables and charts by heart and NOTHING gest past those guys. So I'm doing my homework, folks. I've downloaded OpenOffice so I can make use of the numerous spreadsheet game-aides available (Thnx, Chgowiz) and am reading through S&W Core Rules, adapting encounter stats appropriately, making game notes, and crossing my fingers I don't come off looking like a complete pea-wit.

I'm giving myself two weeks.

And I promise I will blog all about it... come what may. If nothing else, you all are in for some good old fashioned low comedy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules-2nd Printing now available!

The post below is "straight from the horse's mouth"

Press Release
Swords & Wizardry Project
mythmere at yahoo dot com

I’m very proud to announce that the second printing of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules is now available for free download here: Free PDF of Core Rules and that print versions are for sale (and super-cheap) at at our storefront

Swords & Wizardry is an OGL “retro-clone” of the original fantasy roleplaying game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The Core Rules also contain some selected material from the supplements (1974-1978). With a thriving internet community and tons of support products, Swords & Wizardry is bringing back a lost style of fantasy roleplaying. Forget huge rulebooks - just play. If you can imagine it, you can do it in Swords & Wizardry. The rules are simple and quick to learn, and they are infinitely flexible and expandable. Take the basic framework and “Imagine the hell out of it!”

Swords & Wizardry is supported by Knockspell Magazine, the quarterly magazine of fantasy retro-clone gaming, and by the active forums at
We downloaded the free PDF today, even though we already have the older version (as many of my wisest readers do also)..and the new artwork is astounding. Some needed corrections and clarifications have been added as well as a little new as-yet-unseen material. If you've not updated yet, you should..and if you've not gotten ANY of the previous S&W products, you REALLY need to check this game out. It's just that good.

A fun blog-quiz for roleplayers

This one got sent to me years ago on LiveJournal..and is lots of fun, especially if you play a wide range of characters in a wide range of RPG systems.


Name 10 characters you have played in RPGs, before looking at the questions that follow. List your characters numbered 1 to 10, including the name of the RPG you played them in and maybe character class/race if applicable. Once you've picked your 10 characters, look at the questions and answer accordingly. (No peeking until you've picked your characters!)

.... peeking unless you've made your list already.


Who would make a better professor, 6 or 1?

Do you think 2 is hot?

2 sends 8 on a mission. What is it and does it succeed?

What is (or woudl be) 9's favourite book?

Would it make more sense for #4 ) to swear fealty to #6, or the other way around?

For some reason #5 is looking for a roommate. Should they share a studio apartment with #9 or #10?

#2 #7 and #3 have dinner together. Where do they go and what do they discuss?

#3 challenges #10 to a duel. What happens?

If #1 stole #9's most precious possession, how would they get it back?

Suggest a title for a story in which both #10 and #4 attain what they most desire.

What kind of plot device would you use if you wanted #1 and #3 to work together?

If #7 visited you for the weekend, how would you get along?

If you could command #1 to perform any task for you, what would it be?

Does anyone on your friends list resemble #5 (either in appearance or personality)?

If #2 had to choose sides between #4 and #5, who would it be?

What might #10 shout while charging into battle?

If you chose a song to represent #8 what song would it be?

#1 , #6 and #7 are having dim sum at a Chinese restaurant. There is only one scallion pancake left, and they all reach for it at the same time. Who gets to eat it?

What might be a good pick-up line for #2 to use on #10?

What would #5 ) most likely be arrested for?

What is #6's secret?

If #8 and #9 were racing to a destination, who would get there first?

If you had to walk home through a bad neighborhood late at night, would you feel safer in the company of #1 or #10?

#7 and #9 reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by #4's sinister secret organization. #6 volunteers to help them, but it is later discovered that he/she is actually a spy for #4. Meanwhile, #4 has kidnapped #9 in an attempt to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of # 5, they seek out #3, who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this story?


I'll likely post my own results up in a few days or so ... giving myself a chance to forget the questions so it doesn't skew how I order my list.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More fun in the "City Stake of the Unvisible Ogre-Lord"

A few posts back I mentioned that our regular gaming group had begun a new adventure using Labyrinth Lord and the Wilderlands Of High Fantasy campaign setting. We all thought it might be fun to run an all-thieves campaign set in a city, and the City State Of The Invincible Overlord seemed like as good a place as any to find trouble.

First, a bit of additional character background. Gund is a rather gruff and mistrusting fella, even by Dwarf standards. But he's the voice of common sense in our group and therefore is sort of the leader..kind of like Moe of the Three Stooges...nyak-nyak-nyak!

Then there's Leif the mage and his watch-doggie Mylo. We do not yet know much about Leif except that he fancies himself to be a good-looking gent and a real ladies' man. He's right smart..but kind of unpredictable. I have no idea why he bought a guard dog, because then there's that ever-present problem of "Where's Mylo" whenever we are in a no-dogs-allowed tavern or worse yet, when we're trying to sneak in or out of a place.

Then there's Burzug, who prefers to be called simply "Zug". She's darn nimble, fairly strong and even somewhat clever... and wise... and has a decent constitution. Suffice to say Charisma is her dump stat, so she's got what you might call a face only an orc-mommy could love. She's not much for conversation either, and according to later more "rulesy" versions of Our Favourite Roleplay Game, would not be very good at intimidation either. Lucky for her she don't care too much for following the rules.

Finally, we have our newcomer, who calls himself Larry. He joined the plot already in progress, which as we all know can make for some interesting retro-continuity fixing or at the very least some awkward introductions. Larry is played by my good buddy Chris, who also plays with us under the name "Gavin the Archer".

So we're in a tavern right where we left off, and Gund has gone nosing over to another table to drop eaves on a couple of men in military dress who are revealing a bit more information about a plot-hook concerning a stolen horse. While Gund and the NPCs are chatting, poor Larry (Chris) is sitting at our table (on my sofa) casting odd glances at the robed human and the cloaked half-orc (looking at me and Shane with a bemused and confused look on his face as he oft does).

"Whoozat?", Zug asks the mage, hooking a thumb toward the non-conversant newcomer.

Then for the next ten minutes while Gund is entertained by the game referee, Zug and Leif argue back and forth over exactly how long "Quiet Larry" has been with the group. Zug begins to think that perhaps she has spent a bit more time passed-out-drunk than she had originally calculated. And then Gund returns to the group.

"Who be you?", he asks the newcomer, who promptly introduces himself as Larry. Then follows another ten minutes of trying to figure out whether Larry is one of Leif's old friends or just some nutty guy who has took it upon himself to do a bit of social networking at the tavern beginning with our table.

Eventually, however, we get around to the "truth" that Larry is also a thief..and he proves so by pinching the napkin from the dwarf's lap undetected. Now, far be it from me to further any racial stereotypes here, but a napkin?... from a dwarf's lap? get the picture too.

Surprisingly mostly of all to himself, he succeeds in doing so..and whether it be Larry's strange wit, the house mead, or the need to move things along in the game, we agree to let him join our little group, at which point Gund relates to us all that the men in military dress told him about the stolen horse, the other valuables that were also taken, and then speculates upon the possibility of a reward or at least something worthwhile for our troubles.

Fast-forward to a few hours later... well after dark...and our band of thieves..and don't forget Mylo.. are investigating the stables from which the horse was stolen. A city guardsman approaches the group and asks what it is they are looking for here at such a late hour. Larry, being the self-appointed spokesperson for the four, says "We're looking for beaver cheese!" *

*Beaver cheese is apparently one of the items on the menu at one of the City's more low-brow dining establishments according to the game-master's guide....a tidbit of local information that our game ref felt he had to share with us lest the adventurers never find that particular eatery on their own

Larry did eventually recover from a swift clubbing to his manhood by the guardsman, but maybe has learned how to better respect (or pretend to respect) the local authorities.

So, after the appropriate bribes are given, the guardsman reveals new vital information on the possible whereabouts of the horse thief we are seeking. The next problem is how to get out of the walled City in the middle of the night while the gates are all still closed. The laws don't look kindly on folks scaling the City walls, but the trail won't stay hot forever. The group hatches a plan to use one of Leif's Sleep spells to thoroughly neutralize a particularly slackish patrol and then make their escape.

"Where's Mylo?", Gund asks as the four prepare to climb over and out.

"Guess you gonna carry him?", Zug interjects, doubtful dogs can scale such walls.

Strangely enough, you can actually get a live guard dog into a backpack. Whether he decides to bark about it is entirely up to fate though. Fortunately fate was kind, and the dog behaved.. at least for that moment.

Well...they caught up to the horse thief in an outlying village. The group had found what they suspected to be his hideout and tried to sneak closer... but the dog started barking..and next thing they know one of the horse-thief's henchmen is staring us down and asking who we are.

So..what does a hafforc girl with a Charisma of 6 do?

"I'm with him", says Zug, pointing at Leif.

Meanwhile Gund thwacks the henchman upside the head with his quarterstaff and lays him out cold like a mackerel.

Not exactly what you'd call high strategy..but if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then you baffle 'em with bullstuff.

In the end, we were able to capture the horse thief and return the stolen goods (well..most of the stolen goods) to the righttul owners for a decent reward. Gund, under the assumed name of Barry, explained how it all happened to the city guards..conveniently forgetting to mention the sneaking-over-the-walls part or the part where they found a huge stash of stolen gold in the thief's hideout.

And what about the dog?

Poor Mylo tried to be a good war dog, but in the end gave his life to save the life of his master. Leif is now thinking of taking his share of the liberated gold and buying a more practical animal for his particular specialized line of work.. something like a trained weasel or ferret.

The group has survived another night in the City... but there are as yet hundreds of new beginnings to new adventures out there in the sandbox waiting. I'll be tagging this and all future related gameblogs with "Invincible Overlord". Hopefully we'll be playing that campaign on a more regular basis soon, as I am really enjoying the group dynamics of this one.