Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Time in my OD&D Campaign

I was running an OD&D game world when the first three AD&D books were published, and I resisted for a while, but of course made the purchases.

I read the new Dungeon Masters Guide cover to cover more than once while planning my new campaign world.  The section on Time, found on pages 37 and 38, struck me as especially important.

The subsequent seven paragraphs elaborate upon the subject, including examples and advice on calendars.  When I finally scrapped my OD&D game and started a new campaign world using AD&D, I started the game calendar on the 1st day of the year 1000.  I'm sure it was NOT a coincidence that this mirrrored exactly the example given in the DMG!   I used 30 day months, but kept real world month and day names.  That campaign was played throughout high school and on visits home from college, but it ended when I went on active duty in the Air Force.

During my first AF assignment, I convinced my wife and some friends to play, and I started a new campaign world using mostly 1e but with the 2e PHB and DMG.  This time around, I created a calendar from scratch.  I've been searching for the notes I put together when I devised this calendar, but have been unable to find them.  All I've got right now are two excerpts from the Primer I wrote for my players at the time:


The campaign calendar started early in 1989, and most of the events in this list were triggered in one way or another by the PCs.

Between the two, I have all the month names:  Elonar, Ornvar, Tovar, Vannar, Dinvar, Kervar, Lattar, Otvar, and Nassar.  Sadly, I don't have enough of the days to reconstruct the rest, but I still hope to find my old notes someday.

When I decided to run a new OD&D Campaign for my son and his friends, I knew I had to track time, and I even started doing session reports on Exploring the Outside Inn.  I dropped the ball on the session reports but have kept notes and a spreadsheet from every session.  I've run between 63 and 73 sessions in my OD&D campaign world so far, between two active groups of players, but clearly I haven't done as well as I should have with timekeeping.  I start each session telling my players the season, the current weather, and how long it's been since they last adventured, but I really need to go back through my notes for each session and put together a clean timeline, and a new calendar!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

House Rule Updates for my OD&D Game

Back in February, I presented my players with some updates to my house rules.  I handed them a paper at the start of a session and asked everyone to read it before we started.  I did this for both groups, and nobody had any issues so we implemented immediately.

For ability checks, I’ve been using d20 against the appropriate stat.  From now on, we’ll use a number of d6 based on the difficulty of the task against the appropriate stat:

Trivial - 1d6
Easy - 2d6
Average - 3d6
Tough - 4d6
Gruelling - 5d6

For every 5 levels you've attained, you may subtract 1d6 before you roll.

For experience, I'm updating the method.  I've been using this:

10 xp for each point of damage caused to the individual who caused it.
20 xp for each point of damage sustained, to the person who sustained it.
20 xp for each point of damage sustained (by everyone) divided equally by all

I'm changing it to this:

5 xp for each point of damage caused to the individual who caused it
5 xp for each point of damage caused (by everyone) divided equally by all
10 xp for each point of damage sustained, to the individual who sustained it
30 xp for each point of damage sustained (by everyone) divided equally by all

And we'll retain the 1 xp per gold piece value of treasure brought back from an adventure, divided equally by all PCs.

Since then, I've heard from one player who isn't happy with the experience change.  He pointed out that this directly impacts the draft mechanic on "growing" magic items, slowing down the process.  He is correct.  It cuts the rate of advancement in half.  I'm sticking to it though.

You may recall I borrowed this directly from Alexis Smolensk, and his blog "The Tao of D&D."  I still really like the idea of experience being based on combat damage (both caused and sustained), but found that it was leading to some players going against type in order for their PCs to earn more experience.  With the change, the distribution of experience is leveled somewhat, taking it closer to the OD&D baseline, which of course is an equal division of the total earned by the entire group.

As for the change to Ability Checks, you need to know that for character creation, I've stuck strictly with 3d6, in order, for character stats.  This makes the even distribution of results on a d20 a lot tougher on the PCs than if I allowed 4d6 drop the lowest, or some other method of character generation.  So far, the new method has worked admirably.  Definitely a keeper.

The next change I intend to make is to update Critical Hits and Misses.  More on that in the near future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Da Bonz

Last week, in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to, Jonathan Songe Scott offered to send free copies of his Mini-Adventure "Da Bonz" to seven people in the group.  I don't recall his exact words right now, but at the time I thought, "that'd be cool, but I don't qualify."  A day later, I noticed he still had some, so I put my name in, PM'd him my address, and got word it would soon be in the mail.

It came on Saturday, and I eagerly read it.  I just wasn't sure how soon I'd get to run it, since my weekly group had several other things going on.  Monday night came, and while the party was deciding what they wanted to do, the Mage headed to the bar they frequent in order to fill his wine skins for whatever journey they decided upon.  (AH HA!  I couldn't have asked for a better set up!)   The bar was empty, and the bartender complained that his regulars were all "at that new place down the road."

The Mage went alone and found himself at Da Bonz.  He surveyed the establishment, bribed one of the NPCs who appeared to be taking notes, and learned enough to know that the rest of the group would be interested.  And they were!

Da Bonz is a mini-adventure, a prop and a magic item, and can easily be slipped into any fantasy game.  Included is a map of the building, a key that describes the map and the various NPCs found there, a small pouch and 4 dice, as well as a chart to allow the DM to locate the named effect, and several pages of detail about said effects.

PCs pay for admission and then for a chance to roll "Da Bonz," the set of 4 dice that came with the set.  3 of the dice have rune-like symbols denoting the numbers 1 to 6; the 4th just has two:  one represents fortune, the other, misfortune.  Less powerful than a Deck of Many Things, Da Bonz nevertheless can have quite an impact on the PCs, both for good and for ill.  Most effects are categorized both by type and strength and the descriptions include both a fortune and a misfortune.

Each of the 5 PCs in Monday's game chose to roll Da Bonz; and two of them rolled a second time!  When they finally decided to leave Da Bonz and head out to explore, they ran into an NPC they knew, who was now down on his luck.  The Mage offered to buy him a roll of Da Bonz, and they went back inside.  Sadly, this resulted in "Fortune (Abysmal)" for the NPC, who only THOUGHT he'd been down on his luck before.

The booklet itself has a laminated cover, and is almost the same dimensions as my OD&D LBBs... I think it's A4 folded in half.  Inside the front cover is the map, inside the back cover is the chart of effects.  In between are 12 pages including a table of contents, an introduction, the effects descriptions, details of the various locations depicted on the map, and more.

I liked the writing, I liked the map, I liked the dice!  I'm now trying to decide how to get my other group to visit Da Bonz (same campaign world, different city), because I know they'll like it too.  (Of course, several of them read this blog, so I shouldn't have to try to hard; they'll ask me about it!)

The only issue I had running it was that I only read it over once beforehand, foolishly thinking "it's only 12 pages, I got this!"  True, but they're packed with information, and the first few rolls of Da Bonz had me scrambling.

My only issue with the product itself was the font size used.  The margins were big enough on most pages that increasing the font size a pt or two wouldn't have affected the layout, but would have made it easier on my old eyes.

All in all, I enjoyed Da Bonz immensely as did my players, and will keep an eye out for other game aids by Jonathan Scott!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where has the time gone?

Too much time has passed since my last post, so I figured I'd just share this awesome video about time!

H. P. Lovecraft fans rejoice! Check out this animated short of 'The Shadow Out of Time'. (Video)

I need to start posting regularly again.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Starting a Lords of Creation Campaign!

I think I've talked about my teen players before... several of them run their own games now, which thrills me, even though I'm only a player in my son's OSRIC game right now.  I ask my son questions about the other games after he plays, and I'm always intrigued:  one runs a game called Tephra, several run mash-ups of different versions of D&D with pieces of other games thrown in, and one runs a rules-loose game he created using The Metamorphica to create characters.  All of them seem to mix genres freely.  It makes me happy see that creativity, and I enjoy hearing my son tell me about their games, even if I'm not playing.

It got me thinking, though, that if they don't care much for genre-specificity, I might be able to run a game of Lords of Creation for them.  Although I've owned it since it first came out, I've only run a few short one-shots; it really didn't fit the TSR mold we were used to.

I decided to give it a try.  On the 26th of April, I started small... just my son and one of his buddies, both high school seniors.  I told them both that rather than roll up characters, they were gonna be themselves.  I had them assign themselves values for Muscle, Speed, Stamina and Mental, but told them nothing higher than a 15 or lower than a 7.  They then traded character sheets, just to provide input to each other.  For Luck, I had them roll 2d10 three times and take the average.

I set the game in early June 2019.  That would make Mike a new college graduate, and Greg, who plans on a three year school, a graduate with one year of work under his belt.  I let them adjust their stats a little to account for the next four years, then had them pick skills based on their college and work plans.

We played several hours, and they both seemed to have fun.  Since I'd told Mike I could run the game for five players (until I was comfortable with the rules,) we planned to play again on Tuesday, the 28th, since they only had a half-day of school. When everyone got to the house, I sent Mike and Greg to the basement to play video games while I ran the same character creation scenario with Jake, Logan and Donald.

I'll write about the two sessions in the near future, but the one thing I wanted to point out now was a real surprise to me:  In spite of all these guys having played in my OD&D and Traveller campaigns, and in each others' games, playing as themselves brought an entirely different vibe to the game!  No matter what I described, or how poorly I described it, it was clear, especially with my son, that the experience was far more visceral now that it was happening to THEM, rather than characters they'd made up.  I had a blast and it seemed like they did too!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Lord of the Winter, Master of the Icy Pit, King of the Frozen Waste

Corvis is a member of the Concordat, and is worshipped in Cittá and places dominated by ice, snow or winter.  He appears as a tall gaunt man with pale blue skin, white hair and icy grey eyes.  His symbol is an icicle or a symmetric 6-pointed ice crystal.  He uses a large icicle as a weapon to stab with, or as a wand to cast ice-related spells.

Corvis is neutral.

Clerics of Corvis may wield clubs, maces, daggers, or throwing stars (modeled on snowflake designs they create) or anything they can fashion from ice. They may not wear metal armor. His clerics most often dress in pale blue, white, or grey and black.

They gain the following abilities:

  • At 5th level, his clerics Resist Cold as per the 1st level spell
  • At 9th level, his clerics Resist Fire as per the 2nd level spell

In addition, he grants them access to the following spells when they reach the appropriate level:

  • Ice Storm (from 4th level Mage list) as a 4th level spell
  • Cone of Cold (from 5th level Mage list) as a 5th level spell
  • Control Weather (from 6th level Mage list) as a 6th level spell

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Gaming Goals

I posted my 2014 Gaming Goals on 1 Jan 14.  As with my 2013 Gaming Goals, I didn't do so well, although I was a little better.  I didn't make my 26 sessions goal and I definitely failed in my blogging goal.  I started my OD&D Player's Guide, but didn't finish it OR print it for my players.  I didn't host any non-RPG game nights either, although we did play a horserace game as one of our non-game parties drew down to 8 people or so.  On the plus side, I created 5 player character sheets; one for each character class (warrior, mage, cleric, thief and adventurer) and included a bunch of class-specific information on the back of each.  I'll post them here in the near future, but each time we play, either I or one of my players points out another edit I've got to do.  Finally, I did manage to start a second group in my OD&D campaign world.  I'm now running both a teen group and an "adult" group.

So what are my goals for 2015?  Here they are:

  • Run at least 35 sessions between OD&D campaign and my Traveller campaign
  • Blog at least thrice weekly, on average, all year long 
  • Finish my OD&D Player's Guide and distribute to my players
  • Continue to invite new players to join my games, running additional session for subgroups as time allows
  • Host non-RPG game nights to try out some other games 

What are YOUR gaming goals for 2015?