The Best In Old School Roleplaying

The Best In Old School Roleplaying
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

AD&D and Appendix N RPG Titles On One Book Shelf

Well, time for a little advertisement and glimpse at things that I'm excited about over on Drivethru RPG. Full disclosure, if you follow the links here and make purchases from them, you will be contributing to the well being of this blog and it's blogger. Without further ado, here are some things that I'm happy, or at least excited, to see coming out in the "on demand" RPG market:

Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

First of is the new "Conan" RPG from Modiphus Entertainment. Now, this was Kickstarted last year at this time, but I didn't back it, as I knew nothing about the 2d20 system. Now, however, you can buy the PDF, or check out the Conan Free Quickstart Rules. That is what I intend to do first. I've already downloaded them, but need some time to look them over (does anyone have any time they can loan me, I seem to be coming up short lately.) Now, even if I end up disliking the system, or don't think it captures the pulp adventure of Howard's stories, I might just pick up the core book anyway. Why? Because this sounds intriguing:
  • An extensive gazetteer covering the whole of Conan’s world: featuring fair Aquilonia, gloomy Cimmeria, magic-haunted Stygia, all the way to the far-off steaming jungles of Khitai.
This is cool. I can use this for games set in the Hyborian Age regardless of whether or not I like the ruleset. I've been looking for a nice sourcbook to run Jason Vey's OD&D "Age of Conan" supplement for a while now anyway.

  • Extensive guidelines for running scenarios and campaigns in the Hyborian Age, allowing gamemasters to create suitably Howardian adventures.
Er... basically repeat the above.

  • Developed in close consultation with award-winning Conan scholars, this is the most authentic depiction of Conan and his world ever published for games. 
This level of appreciation for the source material will typically have me sold on nearly anything.
Look at that list of artists. Just take a look at some of the names in there. The books in this line are going to look amazing.

Adventures in Middle-earth Loremaster's Guide

I like what I've seen in the "Adventures In Middle-Earth Player's Guide." Even if I don't ever use it to run Middle-Earth, it has some nice stuff. Plus this game feels more like Tolkien's Middle-Earth than anything other than "The One Ring" that has ever been published in RPG format. There's probably a good reason for that. Again, this is a work that has paid close attention to it's source material.

Lastly we come to some things that have been out for a while, but are now available in print again. I have been moaning about the fact that WOTC was not putting out their back catalog in POD format since they started selling it as PDF. Well, for over a month they have been making a (happy) liar out of me. Now, they are finally getting to the rule sets themselves. New players, and old, have a new option for table copies of the AD&D books. I will only be happier once we see the RC and the OD&D Library.
AD&D Player's Handbook

AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide

AD&D Monster Manual

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thoughts On Alignment In Swords & Wizardry and OD&D: Part 1

This week during the commute to work I was listening to the Glowburn Podcast #3 in which +Forrest Aguirre and +Bill Hamilton discuss alignment as it stands in D&D and Gamma World's Cryptic Alliances.  This got me to thinking about the origins of alignment, it's meaning and how it is looked at in various incarnations of "the game."

Classic Alignments

The Arrow of Law
The origins of alignment can be found within Appendix N. The two primary sources being Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions" and Michael Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" series. In fact, Moorcock's view of these seems to have been influenced directly by Anderson's works. Moorcock wrote that Law and Chaos are as opposed forces in the multiverse. Each of these has deities aligned to it in the Appendix N tales. Consequently, Clerics in D&D and S&W may not be Neutral.
In the Original game (and thus S&W) only these alignments existed. Law, Chaos and Neutrality (the balance.) One was either aligned with the creative, unifying powers of Law, the destructive and ever changing power of Chaos or else unaligned. Alignment did not dictate behavior in the same way that it later would. It was simple alignment was more alignment by definition. I have a few issues with the term alignment as it is used in later editions of the game.
The Scales of Balance

Later in the life of OD&D, prior to AD&D there was a change in the way that alignment was viewed. This was instigated by Steve Marsh. The same Steve Marsh that would later be partially responsible for the Expert edition of D&D. Steve Marsh discusses his views on alignment in a guest post on +Richard LeBlanc's Save Vs. Dragon blog.

In the post Marsh states, "Eventually, Gary agreed with me and migrated the game world to a 2-axis system where the law/chaos axis crossed with good/evil axis. It allowed for things to be feral without them being necessarily evil (old school “chaos”). It also allowed for characters to distinguish between the amoral (where being without morals = neutral) and the immoral (where those who are doing wrong = evil)."
The Arrows of Chaos

This change was first brought forth in an article by Gary Gygax in The Strategic Review. It would be made more "official" when it became adopted as the 5 point alignment system in the Holmes edition of D&D. In this time the waters of alignment begin to muddy a bit, and became muddier still as editions of the game progressed. With the advent of the 9 point system in AD&D we start to see alignment change into a system of morals and behavior more than an actual system of alignment. So, what is alignment then, and what should we strive to make it?

The Strategic Review Alignment Chart
Defining Alignment

 The Oxford Living Dictionaries define alignment thus:


  • 1 [mass noun] Arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions:
    ‘the tiles had slipped out of alignment’
  • 1.1 [count noun] The route or course of a railway or road:
    ‘four railways, all on different alignments’
    ‘present-day road alignments’

  • 1.2  Archaeology [count noun] A linear arrangement of stones:
    ‘there were originally at least four massive stone alignments running from west to east’
  • 2   A position of agreement or alliance:
    ‘the uncertain nature of political alignments’
Clearly the intent of alignment in Swords & Wizardry and OD&D is the second definition: "A position of agreement or alliance." It is also clear that if this is the definition of alignment in early gaming that the term and usage fell away with the addition of a second axis. I have come to dislike the 2 axis system, as it serves more to push a restrictive set of morals (or lack there of) onto the characters rather than serving as true alignment. Likewise, I enjoy the freedom of the linear 3 point alignment system. However, I believe that there is more that can be done with alignment than just this, things which can aid in roleplaying and add depth to both character and campaign! I was inspired by Gamma World's Crytic Alliances when reminded of these in the aforementioned podcast. If you are unfamiliar with this system of "alignment, see the link above. Clearly we can apply more than just a broad cosmic alignment to a character or creature in a game, in the same way that Gamma World did.
Broadening Alignment
 I do not propose that we remove the original 3 point alignment system. Swords & Wizardry and OD&D are based around this system, after all. Additionally the system originates within Appendix N literature, and I like to move the game closer to the original inspiration, not away from it. Therefore, this remains as the core alignment system. Let's call this "cosmic alignment." Next, let's look to religion, as many games tend to have a polytheistic worldview, this is not an issue. Third, we can look at the culture of the character. This is also easy. Is your human fighter from a pseudo medieval culture and from a noble family or perhaps a Nordic inspired culture and she was previously a shield maiden. These two pieces of background information already add a plethora of depth to the character. Or is your elf a high elf? Wood elf? This could make for very different roleplaying and decision making on the part of the player. Lastly, we can add an Organizational alignment, this being the most like Gamma World's Cryptic Alliances. Is the character a member of a thieves guild? Perhaps that character above from the noble family is part of a knightly order? Are they part of a town militia? Remember as well that a character could potentially have many Organizational Alignments. Certainly all of these things could just be background, but when given as alignments, rulings could be made more easily by the referee, especially if the referee is looking closely at the decisions being made by a player for their character.

So, we now have four alignment types to assign to a character:

-Alignment (Cosmic Alignment)
-Religion (Religious Alignment)
-Culture (Cultural Alignment)
-Organization (Organizational Alignment)

All of these things can add to the character and to the game in a broader sense. We'll look at an example in the next post.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

State of the Blog Address

Happy New Year, everyone! It's been a good long while since I've posted here. My work has gone into overdrive. We are the busiest that we have been in 32 years of business. Coupled with the holidays I have had absolute zero game related activity. That is to say, other than being the watchman for the Swords & Wizardry G+ Community. I swear at least 100 spammers attempt to join daily. Actually not far off. We had 72 just the other day.

Anyhow, no gaming related activity in the past month is taking it's toll as much as the day job's current work load. On the upside, it looks like I'll actually be getting back to the Friday night S&W campaign this week. Very glad of that. I've had a few ideas for tweaking the sorcerer book before I shoot it out to edit and I would like to see those in play first

So. I have a few goals on the gaming front this year. First, I want to get back to getting 1- 3 posts up here every week. 2nd is to finally get to Gary Con. 3rd is to get 2 - 4 Swords & Wizardry products complete and up for sale. One of which is currently near completion.
So there you have it. Look for a few posts to be up in the next week. I'm hoping this will be a good year.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Announcement: New Ownership of The Swords & Wizardry Discussion G+ Community!

Some time ago +Christopher Helton announced that changes were coming for the Swords & Wizardry Discussion G+ Group. The time for that change has come. I've been silent for my part, but now it's time for an announcement. Christopher is done managing the group. I will be taking over as owner. I hope to bring new life to the community. I have quite a few changes that I will be making, so please bear with me over the next several weeks. I hope to implement most of my changes over Thanksgiving weekend. 

Among the changes you will see an updated topics list. Which should look something like this:
  • General Discussion
  • Swords & Wizardry Creative Guild
  • Rules Questions
  • Complete
  • Core
  • White Box
  • Light
  • Variant Rules/Hacks
  • Blog Posts
  • Commercial Advertisements
  • House Rules & Home Brews
  • Seeking Games

What's that second topic? Your eyes don't deceive you. When I first decided to take over the community, this past summer, I talked with +Matt Finch and we are going to bring back the Swords & Wizardry Creative Guild with the new and improved G+ Community as it's chosen forum! By doing this I hope to spark the same sort of third party creativity that we constantly see out of the DCC Community! I hope that we can promote both "official" product from Frog God Games, and a plethora of Third Party Swords & Wizardry product! 

With the new management, may come a new "staff." As Chris leaves he is going to remove all moderators except for Matt. Chris will stay on to help for a few weeks or so, but I will be carefully selecting my own moderators as time goes by. Nor will I allow my moderators to break any of the group rules or use the community as a platform to promote their own work to the exclusion of others. The groups rules will apply equally to all. Those rules will be posted in the near future. For the most part the rules amount to "don't be an asshole" and keep the topics on Swords & Wizardry. I look forward to making this a real Community.

--The Mgmt.
AKA R.J. Thompson

Frog God Games In the Humble Bundle For A Good Cause!

Frog God Games is in the Humble Bundle!! Kobold Press & Green Ronin too!!
Frog God Games, is the publisher that personifies quiet reflection. We exemplify temperance. We lionize others who lead a humble life. Frog God profoundly values humility in other people.  Well, quite frankly, all you other people need to level up your humble game. Humility, you need to buy it by the bundle… well, lucky you…

Introducing the Frog God Games Humble Bundle promotion! Featuring Kobold Press and Green Ronin Publishing

Three of the least self-aggrandizing role-playing game publishers are Frog God Games, Kobold Press and Green Ronin Publishing. They all are working together with Humble Bundle by raising funds to help Veteran’s through The Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society(NMCRS). All joking aside the NMCRS are real heroes helping other heroes and it is an honor to help them in anyway we can.

So it is simple. Many Veteran’s have needs. Frog God, Kobold, and Green Ronin have games. Humble Bumble has a proven method. The last piece of this puzzle is you....

Because you have the money. We are of Gaming PDFs in bundles that start at only $1. Thus to make it all happen we are humbly offering over $400 the following options PDF bundles, starting at Just one dollar. 

The Games

This campaign is of course, a “pay what you want” deal like similar past campaigns. The base pledge level for rewards will be $1, the mid-level will be $8, and the ultimate level will be $15.
Rewards associated with each level will include:
$1— Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks, The Black Monastery, Quests of Doom, Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms, Unusual Suspects, Streets of Zobeck,  Zobeck Gazetteer, and The Advanced Bestiary, a retail value of $128.43
$8—Everything from the $1 pledge plus Rappan Athuk, Dead Man’s Chest, Against Tsathogga, Cyclopean Deeps I-II, Advanced Races Compendium, Halls of the Mountain King adventure, Your Whispering Homunculus, a retail value of $257.37

$15—All the electronic books listed above plus the Mother of All Treasure Tables, Splinters of Faith 1-10, Deep Magic, Halls of the Mountain King, Wrath of the River King, Freeport, City of Adventure. Total retail value of $417.

The Players
  • The Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society is a charity dedicated to helping US Servicemen and their families with a variety of needs. They provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other need-based assistance to active-duty and retired Sailors and Marines, their eligible family members, and survivors. 
  • Frog God Games is an award winning roleplaying game company that has been in business since 2010, and evolved out of the former Necromancer Games that operated from 1999-2009. One of the largest roleplaying game companies in the industry, Frog God has produced numerous well know titles including Tome of Horrors, Rappan Athuk, The Lost City of Barakus, Razor Coast, and the Northlands Saga. 
They are well known for their difficult adventures, old style, gritty play, and their own campaign world, The Lost Lands. Its best known writers include Bill Webb, Greg Vaughan, Matt Finch, Steve Winter, Ed Greenwood, Jim Ward and others.
  • Kobold Press is the award-winning company behind the Midgard Campaign Setting and Southlands Campaign Settings for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as the source of design guides like the Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding and the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design. Its crowdsourced design philosophy has produced some powerful adventures and supplements, and its dark magic and occult knowledge have kept it a step ahead of a horde of competitors. Snake people may be involved. We can't really say. Its stable of regulars includes Pathfinder and RPG luminaries such as Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb, David "Zeb" Cook, Ed Greenwood, Jason Bulmahn, Brandon Hodge, Adam Daigle, and others.
  • Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle based company dedicated to the art of great games. Since the year 2000 Green Ronin has established a reputation for quality and innovation that is second to none, publishing such roleplaying game hits as Fantasy AGE, Dragon Age, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and Mutants & Masterminds, and winning over 40 awards for excellence. For an unprecedented three years running Green Ronin won the prestigious GenCon & EnWorld Award for Best Publisher.
The Winner

The Navy & Marine Corps Relief Society is a charity dedicated to helping US Servicemen with a variety of needs. Their Mission is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other need-based assistance to active-duty and retired Sailors and Marines, their eligible family members, and survivors. As a non-profit, volunteer service organization, we use both financial and non-financial resources to identify solutions to meet emerging needs. We help clients improve personal financial skills and encourage individual financial responsibility.

Not too late to support Frog God's Extra-Life Event
It is not too late to sponsor our extra life team as they fight the 24 hour fight to help Children and Hospitals. You like those right?

Link to Additional Resources
A Modest Sale!
Not a Pathfinder player? Still like discounts? Then come to the Frog God Games website and enjoy 25% of everything* we sell in celebration of our modesty and humility! Pick your stuff and use the coupon code Modest2016 at checkout!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Complete Kickstarter Value

I've kept quiet on the blog regarding the S&W Kickstarter (though I have been posting and sharing on G+ and Facebook.) Well, after a conversation with +Bill Webb last week, I've decided to share something with those who may have missed what has turned into an insane value that Frog God Games is offering with this Kickstarter. I know there are folks that don't like the new cover, and they may have their reasons. Even to those in that camp I want you to take a look at what I'm about to share with you, because it could save you more money than backing at $1.00 and adding on later. With only 10 days left, this should be a serious consideration. What we're doing here is taking a look at where the Complete Gamer Package currently stands. What is the Complete Gamer Package?
Recieve a Hardcover +PDF copy of Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook, Monstrosities Hardcover +PDF, Cover Poster, Bill Webb's Deck of Dirty Tricks, Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks Softcover +PDF, MCMLXXV (1975) Softcover +PDF, Grimmsgate Softcover +PDF, The Five Maidens Softcover +PDF, Zaya’s Promise Softcover +PDF, +All unlocked physical and digital stretch goals!
That's a decent amount of stuff there. The extras above the book that are explicitly stated come to a value of $112.00. With the rulebook that brings us to $147.00. Doesn't quite hit the $225.00 price point for this backer level? Well, the key here is that last tidbit. +All unlocked physical and digital stretch goals!
Currently these are what have been unlocked:
Funding Level:
  • $15,000 - Everyone gets a free PDF of the Art Poster (book cover in 11x17")
  • $18,000 - Deck of Treasures becomes a free PDF and a $12 physical add on!
  • $21,000 - Deck of Spells becomes a free pdf or a $12 physical add on!
  • $24,000 - Deck of Hirelings becomes a free pdf or a $12 physical add on!
  • $27,000 - Deck of Encounters 1 becomes a free pdf or a $12 physical add on!

Number of Backers
  • 600 Backers - we reprint all 7 of the Hex Crawls for Kickstarter and make each available as a $10 softcover +PDF or a PDF only for $4!
  • 700 Backers - we reprint all 10 Splinters of Faith for Kickstarter and make each available as a $9 softcover +PDF or a PDF for only 4$!  
  • 800 Backers - we reprint all 5 One Night Stands for Kickstarter and make each available as a $10 softcover +PDF or a PDF for only $4!.
This skyrockets the value of this backer level. That's 22 free softcover modules from the "Number of Backers" adds alone ($210.00 total in modules alone, if you're counting.) So or total here in additional physical product is $258.00 of physical product. That alone is worth the $225.00 price point, but added with the $147 value of the items from the first lot, we sit at $405.00 in physical product. Yes. $405.00 for $225.00. It's worth the price if you are missing only half of these from your collection. What's more, if you were planning on adding most these to a $1.00 pledge, you're already making out by taking this package, even if you don't like the new cover. So, if you've wanted a lot of these add ons. This package is the way to go. Additionally, moving up to this package, whether your' back at $1.00 just to get add ons or $35.00 to get the core book plus add ons, backing at this level now, will get everyone even more add ons (assuming it causes us to hit more goals.) So what are you waiting for? Let's bump up our backer levels and get the best possible value out of this!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Octhorrorfest: Season of the Witch - Witch Hunter, A New Class For Swords & Wizardry Complete

Witch Hunter

Witch Hunters are servants of the powers of Law who strive ever to push back the tide of Chaos. All Witch Hunters must take vows to fight against the hordes of Chaos and the magicians and cultists who would aid the Lords of Chaos. Witch Hunters are similar to Paladins in their pursuit and destruction of Chaos. However, where Paladins follow a code of honor Witch Hunters may track and destroy their prey using means which the Paladin might find abhorring, including, but not limited to) torture and dirty fighting.

Prime Attribute: Strength and Wisdom 13+ (+5% experience bonus)
Hit Dice: 1d8 (Gains 2hp/level after 9th)
Armor/Shield Permitted: Any
Weapons Permitted: Any
Races: Human

About Witch Hunters

Alignment: Witch Hunters must be of Lawful alignment or they will revert to the abilities of a normal fighter.
Magic Items: Witch Hunters may own a suit of magic armor, a magic shield, and up to 3 magical weapons. They may never own more than 3 additional magic items. Witch Hunters may use any magic items that can normally be used by Fighters. At the Referee's discretion they may also use certain items used by Clerics of their own faith.
Alliance: Witch Hunters will not work with characters of Chaotic alignment.

Witch Hunter Class Abilities

Interrogate: Witch Hunters are trained in the art of interrogation. A Witch Hunter may coerce truthful answers from a creature. For every turn spent interrogating the captive, witness, etc. the Witch Hunter must make a d20 roll against her Charisma. If the roll meets or falls below the Witch Hunter's Charisma score she may have persuaded the target into talking. The target must then make a saving throw. If the save is failed the Witch Hunter gains some or all of the desired information. For every turn beyond the first that the target is successfully interrogated the target receives a penalty of 1 to its saving throw. This is becomes a penalty of 2 per turn if torture is employed. If the Witch Hunter employs some form of physical torture there is a 5% cumulative chance per turn that the target will die. If a target dies in this way, the referee may rule the that Witch Hunter must repent and atone for her actions. If this happens more than once, the Witch Hunter's alignment may slip into Neutrality or even Chaos.

Banishing Undead, Demons and Devils: A Witch Hunter armed with a Lawful Holy Symbol may “turn” undead, demons and devils as a Cleric two levels lower than her current experience level.
Detect Magic: Witch Hunters are trained to feel the presence of the arcane. Once per day per level a Witch hunter has attained, she can Detect Magic as the spell of he same name, except that the ability lasts only five minutes.
Protection From Evil: Once per day a Witch Hunter may use Protection From Evil, as per the Cleric spell.
Detect Evil:(3rd) A Witch Hunter can sniff out the Mark of Chaos wherever it is found. Beginning at third level a Witch Hunter may Detect Evil as the Cleric spell of he same name three times per day. The Witch Hunter's ability lasts only five minutes.
Protection From Evil, 10-Foot Radius (5th): Beginning at 5th level a Witch Hunter may use Protection From Evil, 10-Foot Radius as per the Cleric spell once per day.
Dispel Evil (8th): A Witch Hunter can Dispel Evil as per the Cleric spell twice per day beginning at 8th level.
Saving Throw Bonus: Witch Hunters gain a +2 bonus on saving throw rolls against any magic.

Table: Witch Hunter Advancement Table

Experience Points Required for Level

Hit Dice (d6)*

Saving Throw
+100,000 per level
+2 hp/level