I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

D&D 5e: new types of armor

I have been finally writing the follow up to my 5e Manual of Arms: Weapons; the name is 5e Manual of Arms: Armor and shields.

It's been a bit of a headache. Armor is a lot more complex (and maybe less interesting) than melee weapons. The weight varies immensely, and the types of armor 5e uses have only a vague resemblance to reality (I've heard many people say that "leather armor" is not a thing, and that padded armor should be a lot better, "chain mail" is redundant, etc.). 

Real armor can vary in weight, size, etc. It is also used in many combinations – a breastplate with chain armor, with padding underneath, and so on. There are also cultural differences; think of samurai, gladiators (with asymmetric armor), armor made of exotic materials, etc. 

The issue is further complicated because, even in the original rules, some types or armor are just smaller parts of others, while some include greaves, gauntlets, protection for the legs, layers, etc.  

Helmets? Not mentioned in 5e. I guess it is not an important piece of armor...

To make things a lot simpler, you could just ignore the names of the armor and judge them by price, weight and AC. Let the players choose how they present their armor, as long as it makes sense. Chain mail with breast plate and no helmet? Cool! Shoulder pads to protect you in your right arm, big scary helmet, and bare chest? Nice! 

So, I'm adding this is an alternate system. Build your own armor, never mind the name. Also, an encumbrance system that is both easier and more sensible.

(I already wrote about this here)

But I feel I should at least fill the gaps that 5e leaves for people who don't want a new system. For now, I've got a few shields, but only two types of armor (I don't think we need more than that): 
Gambeson (Light)
A long, padded jacket with a skirt. In this context, a heavier (maybe thicker or longer) type of padded armor. 
AC 12 + Dex modifier Str — Disadvantage to stealth 15 lb. 20 gp

Brigandine (Heavy)
Small steel plates riveted inside a jacket of cloth. The arms and legs are covered with similar protection, or chain. Overall, lighter than chain mail but heavier and more expensive than ring mail. 
AC 15 Str 11 (?) Disadvantage 45 lb. 60 gp 
Not great. I think brigandine should be lighter (i.e., medium armor) and more expensive, but there is no niche there to fill. And brigandine sounds simialr to the way splint mail is described, so...

I'd like to add a Jack of plates as medium armor... but again, no niche (unless I give it stealth disadvantage, which sounds bad).

Any ideas? I'd be happy to hear them.

Anyway, if you want a detailed treatment on weapons, you can also check the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set. I wrote a very small section of it (about half a page, similar to that link, above), and although I haven't talked much to Douglas since the demise of Google+, I know he only creates good stuff AFAICT. Here is another example.

Dragon Heresy has new types of armor, shields, weapons, and a completely novel combat system. Douglas know his stuff - he makes actual shields! If you like to add more detail to your D&D combat, it is worth checking out.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Minimalist OSR

Some random musings on the topic...

When I wrote Dark Fantasy Basic, I was creating a kind of homage to Moldvay's Basic* (as you can see from the cover). This book is one of the best ever, IMO.

On one hand, I was trying to make it simpler, by cutting XP tables, many saving throws, etc. On the other, I was is trying to expand it with character customization (skills, feats, etc.) and additional levels. 

In the end, I wanted to you keep a similar size (about 60 pages), which I achieved, but not without cutting monsters, dungeon-building, and DM advice (which I ended up including in my other books).

I was not especially interested you making a "minimalist Moldvay", since the game was simple enough for me already.

Since writing it, however, I've written quite a lot about "minimalist D&D", usually within the context of 5e - a game I consider unnecessarily complex. 

However, I was browsing through the OSE SRD the other day and I got instantly hooked by the simple classes (in case you don't know, Old School Essentials is a fairly faithful clone of B/X, which you can get for free*). They are wonderfully terse - and you can still find some easy ways to make them simpler.

Basically, you can just Target 20 the whole thing so each class is a couple of paragraphs.

Well, the fighter is already a couple of paragraphs and tables. Same for the wizard. The thief is, once again, a bit trickier. The hardest thing to convert to Target 20 is the climbing skill. Should climbing be a thief skill? It's debatable. But - what if we stick to Basic and make EVERY skill a thief skill?

In Dark Fantasy Basic (like in B/X) every PC becomes better at fighting as their level increases - regardless of class. Classes such as the thief get some minor "magical" abilities in B/X, and potentially in DFB too. DFB does the same for thieves' skills - everybody can become a better thief as their level rises.

But I've added more skills - such as nature etc. - for rangers, barbarians, and so on. Now I'm thinking that is not strictly necessary.

What if we only have these three "skills" - let's call them Warrior, Expert, and Spellcaster - instead of the usual ones? 

Art by Rick Troula.

Like in DFB, the Fighter is 100% warrior, plus 2/3 expert and 1/3 spellcaster. In practice this means a 9th level fighter has +9 to attack, +6 for "expert stuff" (see below) and +3 to cast spells (consider that +3 is a small bonus for such a high level PC).

Conversely, the wizard could be 100% spellcaster, plus 2/3 expert and 1/3 warrior.

And the thief Would get 100% expert, 2/3 warrior, and 1/3 spellcaster.

But we could play around with this idea a little bit. The total bonus, as you see, is level x2 (so our 9th level fighter has a total +18 bonus; +9 for warrior and +9 to divide between expert and spellcaster).

So maybe we make the thief 100% expert, plus 50% warrior and 50% spellcaster. A 10th level thief gets +10 for "expert" stuff, +5 to attack and +5 for spells. An the cleric might have, I dunno, 70% warrior, 70% spellcaster, and 60% expert. A "witcher" class would be balanced between warrior (100%) spellcaster (50%), and expert (50%),

As long as the total is the same.

This doesn't require math. Instead, just give the PCs two points per level to distribute among Warrior, Expert, and Spellcaster. The maximum rank they can get is equal to their level. The minimum should be level/4 (or something).

Expert stuff would do everything that isn't combat or spellcasting. That means climbing, yes, but also deciphering languages, nature, backstab, leadership, etc. With one caveat - you only get to add it if you have the adequate "expertise". It would be equivalent to 5e' proficiency bonus. Some feats would allow you to double it, etc. Animals would be expert at hunting, hiding and so on, a goldsmith NPC would just be good at his job.

Of course, we would add a perk or two to warriors and spellcasters. Maybe add you warrior rank to HP, or twice that much. Spellcasters get more spell "points" or something, in addition to the bonus.

A PC would look like this:

Aurelius (level 7)
AC, HP, etc.
Str +3, Dex +2, Con +2, Cha -1, Int 0, Wis +2. 
War 7, Exp 4, Spl 3
Expertises: stealth, nature.

So, when attacking, we would get a +10 bonus (+7 from warrior, +3 from Str). When sneaking, he'd get +6 (+4 from expert, +2 from Dex).

I wrote this on a whim. But I think it might be enough to build a minimalist OSR game. And, come to think of it, if you tweak the numbers right, you could even make it almost 5e compatible...

* By purchasing stuff through affiliate links you're helping to support this blog.  

Friday, March 26, 2021

Did you miss the sale? No problem!

Teratogenicon, our most impressive book yet, was the DEAL OF THE DAY on DTRPG... and now the day is over!

But don't worry - I'm here to help you out! I created a discount coupon, good until Easter (April 4).

If you haven't got it yet, this is your chance. It is compatible both with OSR and modern RPGs.

And it has AMAZING art by Rick Troula - just check the previews!

(This is the first time I do this. Let's see how it works. I was worried that people might miss the deal because I didn't advertise enough in advance... but I'm not sure this is a great strategy for me. After this is finished the price will probably increase to make the whole viable. BTW, I'm planning a physical version soon, in addition to some new books! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Teratogenicon is the DEAL OF THE DAY!

Teratogenicon, our most impressive book yet, is the DEAL OF THE DAY on DTRPG.

If you haven't got it yet, this is your chance. It is compatible both with OSR and modern RPGs. 

And it has AMAZING art by Rick Troula - just check the previews!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Bone Age (OSR RPG review)

The Bone Age is an OSR RPG system and setting, planted firmly in the "weird" tradition (it's in the cover after all...). I read the PDF, and recently a print version has been made available. Here is the blurb:
The Bone Age is an old-school RPG of neolithic-era tribes struggling against the sudden arrival of bug-eyed aliens. You play a Tuzanian, a tribe of jungle-dwelling, vine-swinging, pterodactyl-riding, bone-wielding savages, or a Cruach, giant-crab riding cave-dwellers living in mountains bordering the jungle. Radiation leaked from the Invaders' crashed flying saucers spreads on winds of purple, blue, and white, mutating the land and its inhabitants. Meanwhile, a race of turtle-apes and ape-turtles sleeping in stasis beneath the surface awoke...1,000,000 years later than planned. And they were not impressed by the native population – or the alien Invaders.
Why did I buy/read this? The awesome cover by Jack Badashski piqued my attention (I used some of his art in my Wretched Hive). It was also OSR, interesting premise, on sale, etc. The art inside is also great - just take a look at the preview!

It's as weird as you would expect, full of fun stuff, but not much comedy. Which is a plus in my opinion - despite being strange and over the top, the setting takes itself more or less seriously. It is less bleak and violent than Carcosa, less humorous and raunchy than Cha'alt - and if you like this description, you'll probably like this book. It feels a bit tamer than both, but it manages to avoid the usual Lovecraft tropes, opting for something more distinctive.

The explanation about how things came to be is short and sweet. Which is fine, since I assume the primitive PCs wouldn't understand easily the cosmic conflicts that caused the situation. One interesting thing about the setting is that the Earth is alive and unhappy with all this chaos, causing further problems (sandstorms, earthquakes, etc.)

The characters are the most interesting bits here. Most of the book focuses on the the dinosaur-riding, bone-collecting tribes and classes, and all the kinds of mutations your character can get. Spells, alien artifacts, and monsters get relatively little space in comparison. There are no "races", but only two (human) cultures.

The book itself spends little time describing the setting directly - the gazeteer takes about half a dozen pages. Instead, you "get" the setting while reading about character, classes, monsters and the rules of the game. For example, instead of "saving throws" you get "abilities" such as Alien Tech, Beasts, Resist Mutation, and Survival. In addition, you get six "stats" that are familiar enough (Agility, Constitution, Instinct, Intelligence, Strength and Will. Other than that you get HP, AC, etc., as usual.

Some of these choices are a little curious, making the game familiar but not exactly compatible to other popular old school games. It is a decent system, however, perfectly suited to the setting. 

The setting is a bit small and focused - which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are few monsters (each with 1d4 mutations, which is great), for example, but plenty of good monster-generating tables.

The book looks fine. The interior is mostly black and white with sparse but flavorful art. The layout is clean and easy, and the colorful map looks great. The most obvious downside is the lack of a Table of Contents, something I cannot understand. Also, the appendix (GM tools) seems to follow no rhyme or reason: Plot Ideas, then Toxins, then creature Creation... it is small enough that this doesn't cause a huge problem.

OVERVIEW (explanation here):

Useful? The book is useful if you like the premise and want to try a new OSR system and setting. Its usefulness with other OSR games is less certain - there are good ideas to mine, specially if your running something in the vein of Dark Sun or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and most of the system (especially monsters, items, etc., but NOT the PCs) are easily adapted.

Inspiring? Yes. It's a cool book, full of fun ideas. I like the art, I wish there was more of it.

Bloated? No, the size is decent, the system is light, if anything I'd add more content (especially monster art). The books if focused on a planet that could be a small region, and could be ported to other settings.

Tiresome? No. It has the right amount of weird and funny.

Clear? Well, the lack of a table of contents is really bad. The book isn't that easy to navigate - only pages 79 and 80 indicate which chapter you're reading, which is probably a mistake. The layout is clean enough, and it mostly sticks to the "one thing per page" rule, and things follow a more or less alphabetical order. Reading it is fine, but referencing it isn't easy.

In short: If you're looking for a small setting with aliens, Neolithic tribes, mutants and dinosaurs, this one might be for you.

* By purchasing stuff through affiliate links you're helping to support this blog.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

My Weird Dark Twisted fantasy

Let's talk about genre. 

We will start with a straightforward and conventional classification. First, take the umbrella of "speculative fiction". From Wikipedia:
Speculative fiction is a broad category of fiction encompassing genres with certain elements that are nonexistent in terms of reality, recorded history, or nature and the present universe, covering various themes in the context of the supernatural, futuristic, and many other imaginative topics.[1] Under this umbrella category, the genres include, but are not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, horror, superhero fiction, alternate history, utopian and dystopian fiction, and supernatural fiction, as well as combinations thereof (e.g. science fantasy).[2]
This encompasses a lot; probably 98% of the existing RPGs, with the possible exception a few "crime" and "military" games.

Let's focus on three particular genres: fantasy, horror and sci-fi (also some of the most popular in RPGs).

"Fantasy" is in itself a big umbrella that could include urban fantasy, gothic, etc. Here, I'm focusing on the more traditional fairy tale-like stories which contains magic and magical creatures Tolkien, Dunsany, etc.

The same goes for horror; I'm focusing more on "speculative" horror here, not stories about murderers. But one thing is worth noticing. One of the important aspects of horror is that, more than other genres, it focuses on victims. This is not the case on "epic" tales which puts heroes against monsters, for example; here, the victims, if any, are unimportant. But some heroes fall victims to their own flaws. That is why the anti-hero a symbol of dark fantasy, even if the story is not focused on making you scared. What I'm saying is - there is some overlap between tragedy and horror.

Sci-fi should be more or less self-evident. This type of literature ponders about where technology could lead us (both physically and morally).

In the intersection between these three, we have this:

Fantasy + horror is dark fantasy. A Song of Ice and Fire, Elric, etc. - those are more fantasy than horror. Flawed heroes, innocents being victimized, and so on. "Scary monsters" are not the fundamental thing here. Notice the ASOIF's focus on victims of big events such as wars, poverty, etc., or Elric's focus on tragedy (and all the innocents he leaves in his way).

Sci-fi + horror is sci-fi horror. The movie Alien is sci-fi horror, but a lot more horror than sci-fi; as many have noticed, the spaceship looks like a haunted house instead.

Fantasy + sci-fi is science fantasy. Star Wars is a good example. A "sci-fi" movie that is really about a saving the princess from an evil king. "A long time ago in galaxy far far away" - like a fairy tale, not a perspective on the earth's future. It could probably encompass some highly speculative sci-fi where "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (read this, it is useful for our discussion).

As you can see, there are innumerable shades of gray. The lines were always blurred, since the beginning. 

Edgar Allan Poe, for example, the great mystery/horror writer, dabbled in fantasy (The Devil in the Belfry is more satirical fantasy than horror) and science-fiction (the science of his time was about balloons, expeditions to the artic, and mesmerism). By the way, there are few monsters in Poe... except of the human kind. The real threat here is madness, resentment, malice.

Frankenstein is sci-fi horror. Dr. Jekyll... is he an alchemist or a scientist? Is there a difference?

The separation of "science" and "the supernatural" was not always as clear as we think it is today.

Weird fiction stands in the middle of it all. The classification is not exactly easy. See wikipedia again: 
John Clute defines weird fiction as a "Term used loosely to describe Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction and Horror tales embodying transgressive material [sic]".[1] China Miéville defines weird fiction thus: "Weird Fiction is usually, roughly, conceived of as a rather breathless and generically slippery macabre fiction, a dark fantastic ("horror" plus "fantasy") often featuring nontraditional alien monsters (thus plus "science fiction")."[2] Discussing the "Old Weird Fiction" published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock says, "Old Weird fiction utilises elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy to showcase the impotence and insignificance of human beings within a much larger universe populated by often malign powers and forces that greatly exceed the human capacities to understand or control them."[3] Jeff and Ann VanderMeer have also stated that weird fiction is a "mode" of literature, usually appearing within the horror fiction genre, rather than a separate genre of fiction in its own right.[6]
I don't like any of those views on "weird fiction", to be honest. They seem reductionist or misleading. Despite having no credentials, I'll try to write my own.

So, the three greatest writers in the weird-pulp era were probably R. E. Howard, H P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. They were probably some of the most influential to D&D, too (although C.A.S. is notably missing form the Appendix N). 

Lovecraft is the only one who could be classified simply as horror (of the "weird" kind), with forays into fantasy and sci-fi. REH writes adventurous fantasy, despite some horror elements - his heroes are more Tarzan or John Carter than Dr. Jekyll or Viktor Frankenstein. CAS skillfully mixes the three genres, often with a humorous twist. 

So, what do these three different authors have in common, in addition to being published in "Weird Tales"? Maybe it is the fact that they deliberately blur the lines not only between horror, fantasy and sci-fi, but also between science, magic and the unknown (and unknowable)

You can see it in HPL. The great "cosmic" entities are not simply aliens from outer space; their existence threaten the ways we view the universe and mankind, making science (and its separation for "the supernatural") meaningless.

You can see it in REH. Is the "Hyborian age" alternate history? Are the old myths of mankind based on alien beings such as Yag-kosha? What difference does it make, for Conan, if a monter comes from the bowels of earth or from outer space?

And you can see the same in CAS. When you enter the Vaults of Yoh Vombis, in Mars, you might as well be entering Hell and risking demonic possession (this story is somewhat reminiscent of the Alien movies, The Thing, etc.).

And you can see the same in the "new weird" authors. Ted Chiang and China Miéville, for example, extrapolate "science" from worlds in which the laws of physics are completely fantastical.

And with all this... We only scratched the surface. 

There's a lot more to be said about the difference between epic and tragedy. And the possibility that (supernatural) fantasy and tragedy remained mostly separated in the modern era, until the gothic and the weird, is probably worth looking into (I'm thinking maybe fairies and dragons were not seem as "serious" matter during the era of Shakespeare, so they were relegated to comedy? I wouldn't know for sure). I wanted to write something about "gonzo" RPGs (weird + comedy), or how D&D was always "weird". Maybe there is something to be said about Sword and Sorcery, Sword and Planet, and...

But anyway, it's a start.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


So, I'm on Instagram. I'm trying it out, but I like it. Same stuff I post here: OSR, D&D 5e, RPG advice, dark fantasy stuff, RPG art, good sales, some of my own books, etc. Click here to see my profile.

Anyway, if you like the idea, please follow me there too. I am not always able to post here... but Instagram allows me to post more often (simpler/shorter stuff).

I'm still testing the waters, but I like the idea.

There are some cool artists there, and good RPG stuff in general. I'm following a bunch of people already.

FWIW, I'm also on Reddit, Facebook, and MeWe. Things were better when we only had to use G+... sigh.

Anyway, what do you think of Instagram as a tool to talk about RPGs? Any favorite people to follow?  let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Unkown Armies (deal of the day)

Today's "deal of the day" is Unknown Armies*. This is only "book one", apparently for players - book two is the rules, and there are several additional books for the setting.

This is the Third Edition of the game, which I haven't played. I did play second edition. It is one of the greatest horror RPGs I've ever played - and the competition is fierce (Kult, Call of Cthulhu, etc.).

The book is especially noteworthy because of the sanity mechanics; you do not only get crazy or traumatized, you get hardened against certain horrors, which makes you better at facing them... but also makes you look like a psycho, since you can become somewhat indifferent to human suffering, weird occurrences, etc.

However, I found the entire system pretty sweet. Simple d100 stuff, but very efficient. Quite minimalist - the way I like it!

At the time I was playing it, it was a system more to my liking than Call of Cthulhu or Kult (2nd edition) - and I even considered using it for medieval fantasy games.

The setting is very interesting too. It deals with postmodern/chaos magick, archetypes, secret societies of perverts and freaks... 

It has a unique take on horror. Very anthropocentric; monsters, demons and alien creatures play a smaller part here than in other horror games. Instead, it focuses on sanity, attention, belief, misdirection... in some aspects, it reminds me of Mage:The Ascension (but also Harry Dresden, Hellraiser, and a bunch of other stuff).

Anyway, a great horror RPG is you're looking for one.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Minimalist D&D IX - Sidekick D&D, the easiest 5e available!

I've been trying to make a minimalist version of 5e for a while, because I think a simpler game would be easier for my players. I recently realized, however, that WotC already did half the job for me. 

Part of the answers I've been looking for are here: 

These rules are not created for PCs, mind you, but their "sidekicks". I am not particularly interested and in giving my PCs (or myself) even more powers and features to take care of, so adding allies to the party is something I'd do very cautiously. 

HOWEVER, these rules for sidekicks distill the things I find most interesting about the "three classes" in 5e (warrior, expert, spellcaster).

People that have been playing 5e for a while mighty find these classes too simple; but they are ideal for new players (or, to be honest, old players that keep forgetting half the features past level 10, or are just tired of the number for existing options, which seems to be my case).


You'll notice their warrior is similar to my own. Theirs came first, of course, so I probably copied it unintentionally. I still like mine a bit better! But WotC seems to have come to similar conclusions about which features are most important...

The expert is also GREAT. Instead of getting sneak attack, she gets some "help" actions - so she can act as a bard (or leader) as well! I miss the sneak attack a bit (giving her "extra attack is not a great idea IMO), and "Reliable Talent" still sucks IMO (more on that later), but it is a great start. 

And the spell-caster is mercifully short. 16 spells known, 5 cantrips, a total of about 75 "spell levels" total... This is manageable! You can customize him a lot by just choosing the right spells (and signature spells, spell list, spellcasting ability). It's enough. Shape-shifting can become a spell. Turn undead too. 

I know there's another version in Tasha's, but I've skipped that book for now, and from what I've seem the one in the PDF is slightly more interesting for my purposes.

So let's revise what we have: 

- The warrior gets more (and better) attacks. 
- The spell-caster gets more (and better) spells. 
- The expert gets more of anything else - mostly skills, but also bonus actions. Notice that bonus actions are very "rogue-ish". Another one of the rogue's idiosyncrasies... something I'll have to analyse later.

What about everything else? We can make them feats (if they aren't already - Sharp Mind is similar to the Resilient feat, only weaker; same goes for Danger Sense, and I don't see why a Rogue shouldn't be able to have Danger Sense, os a spell-caster Sharp Mind, etc.).

So, what do you think? Could we run a campaign - or at least a one-shot - with minimalist classes such as those? Should we add such classes to the existing ones, so that new players can try something simpler first? Or are those only for sidekicks after all? 

Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Players don't need the rules (Old School Ramblings)

I haven't written an "old school rambling" in a while. Well, with the latest from D&D 5e (especially Tasha's) I think this is a question worth addressing.

As you know, I play mostly 5e and OSR stuff. Here is an important difference between the two: in the OSR, the GM needs to know the rules, while the players can play with learning much. In modern D&D, there is a tendency of requiring the players to know a lot about the rules (3e is probably the main offender here; 4e is a bit better, and 5e a lot better in this regard).

I am not saying this is true of all OSR games (or modern D&D, for that matter); only that this seems to be the expectation.

This distinction comes from RPG pre-history; it is the main difference between Kriegsspiel and "Free Kriegsspiel" (if you ever heard about the FKR or "Free Kriegsspiel Revolution", this is where it comes from, BTW), like you can see in the Wikipedia article (emphasis mine):
Lieutenant Wilhelm Jacob Meckel published a treatise in 1873[d] and another in 1875[e] in which he expressed four complaints about the overcomplicated rules of Kriegsspiel: 1) the rules constrain the umpire, preventing him from applying his expertise; 2) the rules are too rigid to realistically model all possible outcomes in a battle, because the real world is complex and ever-changing; 3) the computations for casualties slow down the game and have a minor impact on a player's decisions anyway; 4) few officers are willing to make the effort to learn the rules.[13] The fourth issue was the most serious, as the Prussian military struggled to meet the growing demand for umpires.[14] Meckel proposed dispensing with some of the rules and giving the umpire more discretion to arbitrate events as he saw fit. The only things he kept were the dice and the losses tables for assessing casualties.[15] 
In 1876, General Julius von Verdy du Vernois proposed dispensing with all the rules and tools completely and allowing the umpire to arbitrate the game entirely as he saw fit.[f] This form of Kriegsspiel came to be known as free Kriegsspiel (counterpart to Reisswitz's rigid Kriegsspiel) and was well-received by the officer corps because it was easier to learn and allowed umpires to apply their own expertise.[16][17] 
As you can see, in "Free Kriegsspiel" the umpire (GM) is supposed to know more about the rules than the players. In fact, he can completely disregard the rules in favor of "ad hoc" rulings that better suit the the complexities of the real world (or the even greater complexities of fictional world, I'd guess).

That hasn't been my experience with 5e - or modern D&D in general. The fact there is a lot of discussion online about good "builds" and "character optimization" shows me that the players are supposed to know the rules in some detail.

On the other hand, the amount of existing material makes nearly impossible for a GM to know all there is to know about players characters (more and more with every new splatbook, of course).

In practice, in the 5e tables I have participated, each player was responsible for knowing the rules that applied to their own characters. They choose their own races, feats, classes and subclasses, and the GM doesn't need to pay attention to the character sheets.

That is fair enough for me - the GM already has a lot on his plate.

However, like in "rigid" Kriegsspiel, having complex player-facing rules discourages them from learning the game in the first place.

On the other hand, I play the game with experienced players... who also play GURPS, Savage Worlds, and many other games. They are fairly smart guys, but there is no way they can memorize all the rules of all those games, and that's not our focus anyway. When playing 5e, I've realized they forgot half their features by level 10. I can only imagine how level 20 playes, since we didn't get there.

Of course, memorizing and using many features forces you to focus on the character sheet - but the moments we enjoy the most in our games are focused on the fictional world. 

(I've just realized there is a lot of overlap between this post and the character sheet one... oh well).

And in combat, my players like grappling, dropping heavy objects on opponents, pushing them from high places... things that are not necessarily encouraged in the existing rules.

So, anyway - this is the reason I'm writing a minimalist D&D. I seems like a good options for both new players and experienced players that play a lot of games or don't care to memorize lots of rules. The exception are the players that like system mastery. 

It is certainly a matter of taste - and I'd certainly be happy to run a game for hardcore 5e optimizers, as long as they take care of their own sheets and let me run the game as I see fit.

I guess I prefer Free Kriegsspiel over rigid Kriegsspiel, after all.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Big OSR sale! Plus some 5e D&D, etc. (GM's day 2021)

In my last post, I talked about some D&D classics on sale. Take a look! There is awesome stuff in there... 

Now I've found some OSR picks that might interest you. 

I'm focusing on big discounts here; I'm going to avoid the "10% off" books at this time. Some books might have a 10% discount on top of another discount, like my Dark Fantasy Basic; I cannot tell which ones. 

Anyway, I think I've found some good stuff here...

First, there is Goodman Games. They publish the awesome Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (DCC RPG), one of my favorite OSR games. Even better, than have some near system-less "alphabets" such as The Dungeon Alphabet and The Monster Alphabet. I haven't read How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck but I've heard very positive things about it...  might get it this time.

If you want to write your own adventures, the Tome of Adventure Design is also a good resource. Frog God Games has tons of amazing stuff, both 5e and OSR.

Kobold Press is another good ones, with great monster manuals such as the Creature Codex and Tome of Beasts (both for 5th Edition). I have both and they are amazing... Better than the "official" stuff form WotC.

Low Fantasy Gaming Deluxe Edition is also on sale. I wrote a review of the old version here; I really like his game.

If you like B/X and domain management, you should take a look at the Adventurer Conqueror King System; the system is really tight.

I haven't got The Nameless Grimoire yet, but I like the idea and The Nightmares Underneath is neat. Likewise, I haven't' read The Codex of the Black Sun, but I like the stuff I've read from Kevin Crawford. 

Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells is a great OSR, science fantasy book. Diogo has a lot of cool books on sale.

Finally, I'll mention a couple of BIG ones...

Greg Gillespie has a few megadungeons on sale... The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia and Barrowmaze, for example. I heard good things about those, so maybe I'll pick one or two. There are 5e versions too!

And there is The Blight for S&W (there is a 5e version too). I know next to nothing about this one... but a 925-page (!) dark fantasy setting, with gothic influences and probably some Bloodborne feels does pique my interest. I am not sure I have the courage to face a 925 pages RPG book... but I'm considering it.

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Let me know if you find anything else!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Big D&D sale (GM's day 2021) + OSR, BRP, d100 stuff

So DriveThruRPG is having a GM's Day Sale... As they say:

Our GM's Day sale is going on now. Our largest sale of the year, hundreds of publishers, thousands of downloadable titles, up to 40% off

I'm not entirely sure how this works. Mostly of the books included in the sale are 10% off (as you can see in the link above, some books like Dark Fantasy Basic have bigger discount; the reason is probably because some of this books were already on sale and the discounts stack. There are some bundles too... but nothing really interested me there.

You can find some awesome deals, although it takes some digging. Well, I'll let you know what I find - but I know where we can start!

You might already own the PDFs for these classics... but it seems the physical versions have very good prices too! I know I'm picking something for me!

Here are my recommendations:

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic) is my favorite "all in one" book in the history of D&D. If I could only choose one book to run a campaign, it would probably be this one.

The Monstrous Manual (2e) is my favorite D&D monster book. Maybe because of the art, or nostalgia, or the amount of lore and relatively small stat-blocks.

The Dungeon Master's Guide (1e) is one of the best ever written. It has a few oddities, but it is amazing to see how much of 5e (and all editions) were already in here. Even the appendixes can generate lots of ideas... the bit on demons inspired my Teratogenicon.

The D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic) is the best D&D book for its size (about 64 pages). It contains multitudes despite being so small. It is the book that inspired Dark Fantasy Basic.

And Dark Sun is my favorite D&D setting. All the iterations are good - even the 4e one! And you can get a physical hardcover copy of the original boxed set for $23.99! Planescape is another classic setting that you can get in PDF or print.

But if you're looking for 5e stuff, there is the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron and many others. I haven't read this one, but the Eberron stuff I did read was interesting.

BTW, the Dungeon Masters Guild is having a sale too. Endless 5e stuff there...

I am so glad you can buy physical copies of most of these classics! I bought a few a while ago, and they all look great, except for my Rules Cyclopedia, that looks slightly blurred for some reason.

There is some great OSR stuff with big discounts as well. I will write a post on them next.

Then there is also a couple of interesting d100 stuff...

Magic World from Chaosium is the fantasy version of BRP, supposedly one of the best - based on the Stormbringer RPG. It was already on sale, so the price is ridiculously low. 

Mythras is a combat-focused game of similar inspiration... I wrote about that one here. As I've said then, if you want detailed weapons and armor, try Mythras.

These are all Affiliate links - by using them, you're helping to support this blog!

Well, that's all for now. Let me know if you find any good deals and I'll list them in the next post!