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Friday, August 31, 2012

Swords & Wizardry SRD

You heard it right.  Swords & Wizardry has an SRD.  The OSR is getting some of what the "big boys" have.  

Best of all, it is supporting Swords & Wizardry Complete, so when that hits our doors and stores, we will have our own SRD to support it!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Barbecon 2012

Behold the glory that is Barbecon!  The most innovative idea in gaming in Michigan.  Just imagine an outdoor convention where catered barbecue is brought directly to you, WHILE YOU GAME!  That is exactly what this is!  Gaming will be in in pavilion tents, therefore the convention happens rain or shine.  What's more, for you OSR fans, I will be running demo games of Swords & Wizardry White Box.  If you're in the area and free on September 15th, there is no reason for you not to attend.  It's going to be a blast!  

Registration is here:  Barbecon 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joss Whedon Gets Green Light on S.H.I.E.L.D. Television Sereis

Awesome news True Believers!  I have just received word that ABC will be doing a Television show spinoff from "The Avengers."  The show will be about agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  and will apparently be written and possibly directed by Joss Whedon himself.  Better than a sharp stick in the eye, eh?  I have a feeling that the show might just be done right as well, due to the fact that both Marvel and ABC are a part of the larger Disney family of corporations.  So hey, good news for everyone who make theirs Marvel.

You can read more here.

New Gamer Shirts

Here are a few of our latest offerings over at the Gamers & Grognards Zazzle store.  You can get to the store by clicking the little image of Grognard the Dragon found on this page.

This shirt features a woodcut of Vlad the Impaler and says:  "Chaotic Evil Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry."  It could make a great gift for the GM in your life.

Inspired by a conversation in Facebook's "Old School Gamers" group as well as every time you have ever ridden on a boat in a gaming session, ever, come this T-shirt.  Also featuring a woodcut, this time of a giant octopus attacking a ship.  States: "The boat... it is always attacked by octopuses."

Check out the store  for these and many other offerings!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Obligatory Bandwagon, Is the OSR Dead? Post

By now we are all aware of the speech out there, and at Gen Con, that the OSR has either been killed by 5E (which won't even hit shelves for another year and a half) or has accomplished all of it's goals and will quietly go away.  The OSR being about old school style play, doesn't seem like it would just go away, even with all of it's "goals accomplished."  Funny, I didn't even think that we had a "hard goal" in that manner, except to keep old school style play alive.  I suppose that this all depends upon one's understanding of what OSR means.  If we are speaking of "Old School Revival" then yes, this is now accomplished. We have a plethora of clones, re-works and streamlined rule systems emulating the old games.  We also now have the ear of the producers of D&D (maybe this is how we "won.")  This includes getting re-releases (in electronic format) of the entire TSR back catalog and a somewhat "old school" approach to the next edition of D&D (maybe.)  If you mean "Old School Resistance" as one other blogger has pointed out, then we never win, as new iterations of things will always happen, we are a progressive society after all.  If we mean "Old School Renaissance," well, a renaissance does not end this quickly, not since we seem to finally be approaching the height of it.  By this of course I am referring to the re-release of the D&D back catalog, along with our products really starting to hit our FLGSs and distributors.  Typically  a renaissance goes a bit past it's height. I would venture to say that the OSR won't go away when the renaissance passes either.  No, we have seen our favorite styles of game go into the arena of "non support" before.  I don't think that we will let it happen again.  At the point that our "renaissance" ends we will evolve we will go from being the OSR to the OSR and the "new" OSR will strictly be "Old School Role Playing."  That's right, our focus will be more on preservation than revolution.  We will ensure that, while we live, what we love will not be shunned or neglected again.  No, the OSR is not dead.  Now that we exist as a community it cannot die.  The OSR is alive and well and will be, I think for a very long time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

NPC Hooks For Your Sandbox: Wanderin' Tom

This will be the first in a series of articles concerning strange and   intriguing NPCs       that can be dropped into nearly any fantasy campaign. 

Wanderin' Tom

The character presented here is based upon Thomas the Rhymer as he appears in the traditional folk ballad.     


At the beginning of the tale of Thomas the Rhymer, he is a young dreamer and poet  lounging about  when he sees the Queen of Faery out riding.  The queen whisks Tom away to become her lover, and seals his fate with a kiss.  This is, of course, conditional as is any boon from the realm of Faery.  Along the way to Faeryland Thomas grows weary and hungry.  They stop, but the queen forbids the mortal man from eating anything other than food and drink that she offers him.  She then reveals to Thomas that they journey to her court in Faery, by showing him three paths that are before them.  One path is narrow, filled with thorns and difficult to traverse.  This is the path of righteousness, or the way to heaven.  The next path he is shown is fair, easy and very pleasurable.  This is the path of wickedness or the way to hell.  The third is the path that they shall take.  It is the green path and leads to the queen's realm.  As they are to enter the realm the queen asks that Thomas not speak for the seven years he is to be in her realm, then gives him the gifts of fae made clothing and the speech and sight of a prophet.  This tale can be seen in it's original form in this ballad:

1 True Thomas lay oer yond grassy bank,
 And he beheld a ladie gay,
 A ladie that was brisk and bold,
 Come riding oer the fernie brae.

2 Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
 Her mantel of the velvet fine,
 At ilka tett of her horse’s mane
 Hung fifty silver bells and nine.

3 True Thomas he took off his hat,
 And bowed him low down till his knee:
 ‘All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
 For your peer on earth I never did see.’
4 ‘O no, O no, True Thomas,’ she says,
 ‘That name does not belong to me;
 I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
 And I’m come here for to visit thee.

5 ‘But ye maun go wi me now, Thomas,
 True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,
 For ye maun serve me seven years,
 Thro weel or wae as may chance to be.’

6 She turned about her milk-white steed,
 And took True Thomas up behind,
 And aye wheneer her bridle rang,
 The steed flew swifter than the wind.

7 For forty days and forty nights
 He wade thro red blude to the knee,
 And he saw neither sun nor moon,
 But heard the roaring of the sea.

8 O they rade on, and further on,
 Until they came to a garden green:
 ‘Light down, light down, ye ladie free,
 Some of that fruit let me pull to thee.’

9 ‘O no, O no, True Thomas,’ she says,
 ‘That fruit maun not be touched by thee,
 For a’ the plagues that are in hell
 Light on the fruit of this countrie.

10 ‘But I have a loaf here in my lap,
 Likewise a bottle of claret wine,
 And now ere we go farther on,
 We’ll rest a while, and ye may dine.’

11 When he had eaten and drunk his fill,
 ‘Lay down your head upon my knee,’
 The lady sayd,  re we climb yon hill,
 And I will show you fairlies three.

12 ‘O see not ye yon narrow road,
 So thick beset wi thorns and briers?
 That is the path of righteousness,
 Tho after it but few enquires.

13 ‘And see not ye that braid braid road,
 That lies across yon lillie leven?
 That is the path of wickedness,
 Tho some call it the road to heaven.

14 ‘And see not ye that bonny road,
 Which winds about the fernie brae?
 That is the road to fair Elfland,
 Where you and I this night maun gae.

15 ‘But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
 Whatever you may hear or see,
 For gin ae word you should chance to speak,
 You will neer get back to your ain countrie.’

16 He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
 And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
 And till seven years were past and gone
 True Thomas on earth was never seen.

Game Info:

Wanderin' Tom is, of course, Thomas the Rhymer as presented in the ballad. The continuation of the story,  should place his trip to Faery in the distant past, this could be several generations, or over one thousand years.  At least long enough that he has become a legend in several regions of the world because of his exploits.  In fact, if PC's are attempting to deal Wanderin' Tom, a bard, on a successful check may even have access to the ballad and a bit of the lore surrounding him.  During his prolonged stay among the fey, and the eating an drinking of their food, Thomas was changed.  His wisdom and knowledge of the world grew, and his outlook was altered as well. After his return to the mortal realm, Tom no longer viewed the world with the eyes of a man, nor was he fey either.  True Thomas became something in between the two, a man, with the longevity of the faery folk and a mind that is not quite like any other.  With his changed mind also came the gift of prophecy.  Thomas is still a poet and musician, but it is not often that his songs and poems fall on the ears of mortals.  The Rhymer can no longer relate to the mortal world.  He now wanders the wilds of the world trying to find balance within his mortal mind and fey empowerment.  

PC's might seek out Wanderin' Tom for many reasons, presuming that they have any knowledge of his existence and rumored abilities.  They may need his knowledge of the wilds to find their objective, they may need a prophecy or they could even require an ambassador to the Faery Realm.  Whatever the reason, the PC's should not have an easy time of finding him.  

If PC's ever do encounter the Rhymer, he should not act entirely human.  His nature should be fairly chaotic, like that of the fey, but a certain melancholy should be apparent if any of the PC's happen to be human.  Depending upon his mood and the actions of the PC's, Tom may be willing to help them.  Due to his half-fey nature this may come with a price, or he may offer up his services for free.  This should be determined by a random roll. Remember that Tom's heart is fickle, like that of a faery, much of the time.  A roll for Tom's current mood should be made when he is encountered.  The following table gauges Tom's mood from the  positive to negative.  The stronger his mood to the positive, the more likely he is to help out.  Note, that the roll for Tom's initial emotional state may be affected up or down by any number of things, from the amount of humans in the party, to the state of the weather, to whether he has been met naturally or forcibly summoned via a ritual.

Wanderin' Tom's Temperament  (roll 1D

1.   Blissful 
2.   Ecstatic
3.   Happy
4.   Cheerful
5.   Chipper
6.   Helpful
7.   Enthusiastic
8.   Friendly
9.   Interested
10. Calm
11. Content
12. Peaceful
13. Optimistic
14. Complacent 
15. Bland
16. Tired
17. Bored
18. Apathetic
19. Melancholic
20. Pessimistic
21. Discontent
22. Cautious 
23. Anxious 
24. Grumpy
25. Annoyed
26. Mischievous 
27. Angry
28. Infuriated
29. Predatory
30. Malevolent 

The PCs, if in need of Wanderin' Tom, can quest for him (using various clues, rumors etc. to find his current whereabouts or else summon him.  As he had spent much time on another plane and eaten the food of the fey, he is somewhat spirit now, and can be summoned as such.  However, he can only be summoned by a bard, singing his song beneath the Eildon Tree under which he had his first encounter with the queen of the fey, and finding this, of course, is no easy task.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New-Old Campaign Setting or the Obligatory OSR Commentary Regarding WOTC's Forgotten Realms Announcement

Well, I've made my commentary (albeit brief) regarding the re-release of the D&D/TSR back catalog.  Now it's time to tackle the other "shocker."  What was the neglected campaign setting that we were promised would be re-visited in D&D Next?  Forgotten Realms.  Shock and awe.  Now, I had to take a step back and give another listen to this when I heard the news, only because we already knew that WOTC  was going to be using the Realms as the backdrop for the new edition!  My question of course being, why were we told about the announcement in a way that made it seem like we were looking at the support of a second campaign world?  I won't go into the details that have been discussed regarding this elsewhere, as you can read that... well, elsewhere.

My thing here is, this doesn't excite me, not a bit.  Forgotten Realms is OK, but is fairly bland.  It is a a typical fantasy world.  Great.  If I'm going for that flavor, my preference is for Greyhawk.  Again, I don't thing the Realms are bad, but I won't be running a campaign in one any time soon.  Personally, I figure that Greyhawk would have been the way to go for a default setting, but hey, that's me.  If not Greyhawk, then no given setting and give the players a small area to get sandboxy with.  This might all just be me.  To tell the truth,  I really don't recall where I was going with any of this.  Anyhow, I was expecting WOTC, based upon their announcement about support of a classic campaign, to pick up something that had been neglected for a while.  Greyhawk at the least, but I was really hoping for Al Qadim, Spelljammer, Planescape or Blackmoor.  Oh well.  The Realms it is.

And now for something completely different (sort of.)

In truth, based on what I've seen in the playtests, I will likely not be switching systems up and thus this won't affect me too much anyhow.  However, as far as the playtest material goes, it seems to me like quite a bit of what I'm seeing may be able to "plug & play" with certain clones.  That I'm liking.  That means that even if Next isn't my game of choice, I might be able to drag & drop what I like from it's supplements into may games.  That's always good.  In fact, that is what I love about using Castles & Crusades.  The system is so "plug-in play" that you can pull anything from other D&D sources and make it work.  It seems to me that this is what Next will look like as well.  Anyhow, that's my two cents.  I was a bit random & short today, but there you have it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

They Listened To Us... I Think (Or My Obligatory "Not At Gen Con Post")

So, it would appear that at WOTC's D&D announcement last night, that they seem to be listening to what the OSR has been saying about the back catalog.  That's right, it seems that the ENTIRE back catalog of  D&D material will be available in "electronic" format.  Whether this will be PDF or some other "reader" format is unknown at this time.  It is nice to see that it has happened, however.  At the least, it would seem a step in the right directions toward appeasing fans of varying editions.  Plus it will be nice to get my hands on a reasonable copy of the OD&D materials without paying an arm and a leg and still doing so legally.  So, good on WOTC for this move.  Oh, and to fill my criteria, I am not at Gen Con, but will be running the C&C Rappan Athuk Campaign tonight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A New Dragon Collection

Well, one thing that happened to me over the past weekend was very blog-worthy, outside of the fantastic session of the C&C Rappan Athuk Campaign that was played Friday evening (more on that in a later post.)  I went down to the FLGS owned by some of my friends, Warriors 3 Comics & Games, in Wayne Michigan on Saturday.  You can find a link to their website on this page.  Shortly after arriving, I was told to go into the back room for a "surprise."  I was greeted with a large white box filled with old copies of Dragon.  The collection contains a tremendous amount of magazines running from issue 135 - 184!  Most issues are 2E era, from what I see on the dates, but some years predating that.  

One of the "Warriors 3,"  Bill Shaffer, had decided to gift the collection to me.  It turns out that it had belonged to a friend of his that had passed away some time in the past.  Bill had inherited a large portion of his gaming collection, but the magazines had just been sitting gathering dust.  Knowing my love of old school gaming,  he decided to pass the collection to me, so that it would have a good home where it might both get use and be well taken care of.  Just for assurance, it definitely will.  Bill, if you happen to be reading this, thanks again, this was very awesome of you. 

I will be going through each issue (not necessarily in order) and posting about them here.  I don't think I will be doing a "Dragon by Dragon" sort of post, as has been in vogue as of late.  Rather I think I will just be posting reviews and synopsis of  some of my favorite parts of various issues.  I rather look forward to sharing my experience going through these with the rest of the OSR.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rappan Athuk Castles & Crusades Campaign - 5

While Lucien was in the Tomb of Sigyfyl, our other heroes panned the town for clues as to the whereabouts of Gritznak.  The barbarian of Altanis was highly successful in the information that he gathered and was also able to befriend a leper named Kiint.  Kiint often kept his distance from the townsfolk, in order that feel no fear of him.  Due to this fact he roamed the country side.  He had seen the comings and goings of the goblins and had a rough idea of where they were coming from.  Kiint told them of an ancient tower of magic on the other side of the river.  It was his belief that this tower was the "temple of evil" that the party had learned about.

Guruck, Lucien and their new found monk companion headed off with Kiint while the Farseeker stayed behind to gather any more information about the area's history, and the ancient cult that had dwelt here.  Kiint guided the companions through the wilderness for several days, across the river and into the hills.  When the sun set at night, they could see an eerie blue glow, which they knew to be the tower, in the distance.  After a few days of this they arrived at the foot of a hill upon which the tower stood.  The tower was, in truth, a ruin.  There was not roof, hardly an interior left, and crumbled debris surrounding it's base.  Moss and plants grew up around the ancient site.  Lucien, however, noticed that this was an ancient elven ruin, not dissimilar to architecture that he had seen more recently in the Woodland Kingdoms.

The three companions chose to enter the ruin to see if there might be some secret pathway leading to a dungeon beneath.  They found none.  What they did discover was the source of the lights that they had seen in the dark of night.  They searched the interior for some time to no avail, until a dark shadow from outside of the tower crossed over them.  The party made note that the creature appeared to be a large feline of some sort.  They were under the assumption that they would be faced by a manticore.  Guruck went out one direction while Lucien sneaked out behind the shadow.  To their surprise they were instead confronted with a lammasu.  The creature introduced itself as Nephratel.  He explained to them the history of the region as he understood it.

At one time, the open and empty country side that they were in contained a vast elven empire.  Then came a dark time.  Some of the elves fell from their stations in life and began worshiping a dark deity, in the hope of bringing it forth from the bowels of the abyss to usher in a "golden age."  In a hidden temple they did just that.  orc worshipers of the Prince of the Undead came to their aid and began storming the elven empire.  After "The Summoning" the armies of the Prince of the Undead marched across the empire like a plague, destroying the once lush countryside.  The elves fought hard against the dark tide, but for everyone of them that fell, a new foe rose as well.  This tower was one of many, built in a circuit to channel the power of the World Tree.  The towers held out, but their power was not enough and the empire fell to ash, making way for the kingdom of Orcus manifest.

Nephratel did not know if other towers still existed but did know where the temple was.  He offered to carry the three there to save them time.  Kiint had no desire to go to such a place and bid them farewell.  The three companions then took to the sky with the great leonian beast.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Musings On An Old School Sorcerer Class

You know, I'm not a huge fan of the 3.X games, despite having run that iteration for nearly twelve years (due to popular demand, mostly.)  I have never liked the cumbersome skill system, nor the bulky combat (that can last, literally hours of play time.)  There were, however, some things that I liked, both from official and OGL products.  The one that I want to talk about today is the Sorcerer class.  

This was one of the first things that caught my eye when I picked up my 3.0 PHB the day it came out.  The sorcerer in this new book was not a specialist magic user, but rather a new concept in magic use altogether.  This sorcerer used a new variation on "Vancian Fire & Forget" style magic.  It didn't need to memorize it's spells.   Granted, it sacrificed the sheer amount of spells that the magic-user (now wizard) had access too, but there was something intriguing about the versatile way in which this class was able to cast it's spells.  On top of that, without the need to memorize (which some players felt was cumbersome) I began to see players that never would have chosen to be mages in previous iterations of the game begin to pick up this new class. It was an interesting time, despite the fact that I quickly realized that I disliked how cumbersome the system itself was (more so after the release of 3.5.)  This new magic user had daily uses of spells per level, just as the wizard, but could fire off any spell at any time.

This is one of the things that I really liked from 3.X core.  While I still like my magic-user (wizard) and have still played them more often than sorcerers, I like what it brings to the table.  While I know that it isn't "old school" in it's own right, I think that this style of sorcerer can bring something to the table as an optional class in OSR games.  Therefore I want to set about writing the class up.  Yes I know there are a couple of them out there already, but they don't satisfy me.  One of the "old school" sorcerers that I have found uses a "spell point system" getting rid of the "fire and forget" of Vancian all together.  That isn't D&D to me at all.  It is a nice variant, but is too much like psionics for my liking.  Psionics and magic are separate entities, in my opinion, and their systems should not reflect each other.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against psionics, I just don't want magic to be like psionics.  The second "old school sorcerer" that I have found is a Castles & Crusades variant that has a spell failure table.  I don't like that in the core class either.  So, I am left to create the class on my own.  My goal is to make a workable C&C sorcerer, as well as one compatible with Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord.  The ultimate goal is to have a book of optional magic rules for OSR/Old School products, that I will then attempt to publish.  My sources here are, some of my own thoughts and ideas/house rules, some OGL stuff (SSS Relics and Rituals material and some of the better Green Ronin OGL stuff that I dig,) and a few 2E items of interest that I tend to like (Tome of Magic rules.)  So, I will start this journey with my upcoming sorcerer conversion.  I will post a good deal of my work here, to get opinions and tweak things as they need to be.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Planet Stories

You may not be aware, but for a little while Paizo has been publishing a good deal of the old, more obscure SF & Fantasy Pulps that influenced early gaming.  Authors like C.L. Moore and Michael Moorcock are among those in this series, called "Planet Stories."  This is a great series for those who have not read much of   the notorious "Appendix N."  Some of the fiction here is wonderful campaign fodder.  Other stories give a good insight into where our hobby comes from.  Either way, many of these are a great price.  Some are currently on sale for as little as $3.00 per book!   It's a good deal.

If you are interested in them you can buy them here:

Planet Stories Fire Sale

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Swords & Wizardry on Kickstarter

Yeah,  I know, I've been promoting a lot of OSR stuff from various crowd funding forums as of late, but hey,  the OSR has a lot going on right now.  As most of us had heard, the next printing of Swords & Wizardry will be handled by Frog God Games.  Well, it's been posted.  FGG is officially Kickstarting S&W.  Let me tell you, there are some good looking deals for the funding on this one.  Not to mention that there is a stretch goal to get Erol Otus to do the cover art for both the rule book and monster book.  That's a goal I'd like to see hit!  Any supporter of the OSR should be in on this, providing that they have the funds to shell out.  This is the one that the OSR community should not miss out on!  Check it out here.

We Built A Mech...

So, yep, you read that right.  The Japanese have built the world first fully functional Battle Mech!  They call it  Kuratas and you can read all about it here, and here and here and here.  If that wasn't enough, you can own your own custom Kuratas for as low as $1.35 million.  This is fairly big news for Battle Tech fans.