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, November 29, 2022

Alternate Magic is GOLD!

ALTERNATE MAGIC is now a gold bestseller!

You can check half of it in the free previews - if you like what you see, you'll probably enjoy the book!

ALTERNATE MAGIC is a collection of mechanics for old school and OSR systems.

If you like "Basic" games and its clones (Old School Essentials, Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord, etc.), or even other OSR games, and want to expand magic options, you'll certainly enjoy this one!

In these pages, you'll find:
- New spellcasting classes;
- Flexible spells, suited for any spell level.
- Blood magic, random magic, and spell points.
- Cantrips and rituals.
- Alternatives for the cleric class.
- ...and many other tools.
The book is entirely modular! Each chapter can be used by itself or in combination with other chapters. For example, you might use blood magic with the traditional spellcasting system or combine it with flexible magic. You can use random magic with spell points or cantrips, or by itself. You might use the new classes without changing anything else in your game.

If you buy any of my books, check your e-mail for news, discounts, and so on!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Quick Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals

Here are some deals, FWIW.

Frog God probably has the biggest sale ATM. Some titles - both 5e and OSR - are 60% off. Not sure what to pick, since I'm not into megadungeons and detailed settings. Maybe Monstrosities and Tehuatl.

Some of my own books are included in the sale (I don't know how they chose it).

Old School Feats and Alternate Magic are compatible with B/X and OSE, BFRPG, etc. They add lots of options to your games without getting to AD&D/RC levels of complexity, and you can check the free previews in the site to read almost half the books.

If you're into 5e, my two 5e books are also on sale (weapons and armor).

I also have a couple of "get everything" bundle for 50% off, but these are not Black Friday deals:

And here are some deals I've recommended in the past and are currently on sale:

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The B/X paradox (also: the AD&D paradox, minimum viable D&D)

The B/X paradox is that B/X is both one of my favorite RPGs - maybe the greatest - but I can also think of a dozen games that I like better. These games, however, are mostly directly derived from B/X.

B/X is, IMO:

- Very easy to improve,  customize, or house rule.
- In many ways superior to AD&D, 3e, 4e, 5e, etc., and even the RC.
- In many ways inferior to its streamlined/modernized versions: BFRPG, LotFP, ACKS, OSE and (dare I say it?) Dark Fantasy Basic.

There is not much more to it. B/X is a diamond in the rough. I am often playing some version of it... but ALWAYS with more stuff added, and NEVER exactly as written.

So B/X is also the most heavily house-ruled system I play, despite being a favorite. When playing most other editions of D&D, I use fewer house rules.

Ugly AI art.

Here is another paradox: while I like B/X neoclones more than most games, I hate it when they stick too close to B/X. If you're keeping it as originally written, what is the point? But I also dislike games that change B/X so much that they become incompatible (e.g., changing the number of ability scores or making all abilities "roll under").

So, at the bare minimum, I expect a B/X clone to "fix" thieves' skills and weapons. I would also like to see some solutions for arbitrary saving throws and race-as-class, in addition to the over-reliance on tables (XP, STs, skills, etc.) - but that is a matter of taste. On the other hand, I expect it to be compatible with existing modules, monsters, etc. with minimal tweaking.

Finally, here is my AD&D paradox: I think AD&D is messy and unnecessarily complex (when compared to B/X) and I would never play it as written (not even Gygax did), but I really enjoymany bits from AD&D, and all B/X clones that try to add AD&D stuff to the game: races separated from class, more classes, monsters (including demons), stronger fighters (better THAC0), multiple attacks, thieves with d6 HD, and so on. Same goes for the Rules Cyclopedia.

I think the easiest way to explain is that: B/X is close to a "minimum viable D&D", where every mechanic has a clear purpose. It still has some redundant parts (and some missing parts, IMO; I think every D&D should have a ranger or other way to meaningfully raise your chances at exploring the wilderness), but it does a great job overall. 

AD&D - and every other edition of D&D - also contain that MVD&D, but it is much harder to find under all the spare parts (and not all spare parts are working properly, e.g., weapons versus armor). OD&D could play a similar part if it had better organization. Holmes might be an even simpler D&D, but it lacks some of the parts I consider "minimal" (for example, a sword doing more damage than a dagger).

FWIW, Dark Fantasy Basic is my attempt of improving on the "MV D&D": streamlined skills and saves, ranger-like abilities, etc. 

And Old School Feats and Alternate Magic - both fully compatible with B/X and its clones - are good examples on how to add some fiddly bits to your games without getting to AD&D/RC levels of complexity.

I short - since I like SOME spare parts but not others, B/X remains my favorite game to customize. At least until I manage to publish my minimalist B/X... (the beta version is here).

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Milestones with different XP tracks (B/X)

Just a simple thought exercise...

I prefer using milestones instead of tracking XP in my games. With different XP tracks, this can become hard. The table below notes 55 milestones that guarantee that someone is levelling up whenever a new milestone is reached (provided there is a PC of the appropriate class; e.g., the 55th milestone makes a difference only for MUs).

It is up to the GM when to give the first milestone (thus getting the thief to level 2). After that, one milestone per dungeon or significant goal is appropriate. Or in whatever pace the GM wishes. The point is that no individual XP tracking is required.

Alternatively, if the GM wants to give away XP per session/dungeon/challenge, the table below suggests an appropriate amount. E.g., if the PCs have about 500,000 XP, give them 20,000 XP for the next milestone. 

If you prefer a formula to a table use, the 10% method. Start with 100 XP and raise it to 200 XP after the PCs reached 2000, then 300 at 3000 XP, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000, 2000, 3000, etc. The idea is to give away about 10% of the current (average) XP but disregard all digits except the first one: for example, if the PCs have an average of 4450 XP they get 400 XP per milestone (and not 445). This progression is granular enough to keep PCs leveling at different paces. Notice that all PCs get the same XP, roughly based on their average XP (and milestones should take this average into account - defeating a dozen goblins is no challenge for a party with 50,000 average XP).

Come to think of it, the formula is a lot easier than using the table.

Would I use this? No, I prefer using unified XP, as noted in my house rules:
Here is what I've suggested in Old School FeatsIf you prefer unified XP tables, we recommend using the magic-user table for all classes, adding a few extra feats for Clerics, Thieves and Fighters. Thieves also get 1d6 HP per level, like clerics. Clerics need no further enhancements. This changes some assumptions but is still balanced in my opinion. If you prefer unified XP tables, we recommend using the magic-user table for all classes, adding a few extra feats for Clerics, Thieves and Fighters. Thieves also get 1d6 HP per level, like clerics. Clerics need no further enhancements. This changes some assumptions but is still balanced in my opinion.
Anyway, just a random idea. If it is not clear enough it is because I never used it; maybe someone else can develop it further.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Three Hearts and Three Lions

Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) is classic fantasy novel written by Poul Anderson. It is also the very first book in the Appendix N - for alphabetical reasons, but still hugely influential to D&D (and to Michael Moorcock, one of my fantasy writers, also in the appendix N) . It is the main source of the original idea of alignment, and probably where D&D paladins and trolls come from.

It is also a great book, well worth the read, even if you're not exploring the origins of D&D.

The book tells the story of Holger Carlsen, a Danish engineer that gets transported from World War II (where he is fighting Nazis) to another universe. Here, there is another war going on: between the forces of Law and Chaos. Chaos is comprised of elves, fairy, sorcerers and trolls, while Law is in need of a true champion - who might be Holger himself.

From there on, Holger spends most of the book travelling around with two local companions (a dwarf and a "swan maiden"), going through many adventures that are only barely connected (often verging on the picaresque), and trying to find a reason for his predicament, a way to get back to his own world, or both. There is magic, dragons, giants, and magic swords - drawing upon German and English myths, Dunsany, Tolkien (the "riddle" scene seems to be lifted almost entirely from the Hobbit), Shakespeare, etc. This is traditional fantasy - at its best.

Most of the book has a bit of a "young adult" vibe. It feels shallow (and a bit slow) at first, but pleasing to read, with loads of humor, adventure, romance, and so on. It takes a deep dive by the end of the book, making the journey exponentially more interesting. Some people will find the ending a bit abrupt, but for me, once we can see the whole picture, there is no further need to expand on the details of Holger's story.

In short, this is a classic. It doesn't quite reach the "favorite" level for me (which includes Tolkien, Moorcock, Dunsany, Poe, Lovecraft and GRRM), but it certainly belong in the top fantasy classics, well above average even for the Appendix N. 

When I finished reading, I immediately picked "The Broken Sword", which has a different tone altogether - more bloody, epic, and tragic. If you prefer that to this adventurous vibe, it is also worth the read (and probably a review of its own somewhere along the line).

Note: the book apparently has too versions. This is from mine: 

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Sandbox quest, Part II

Part I here. Still looking for cool dungeons, ruins and encounters to scatter into my new sandbox campaign.

I'm using Dark Fantasy Basic with a few changes, but any OSR adventure will do (and even some 5e -see below!).

As I've said, it's a lot harder than I expected - I almost gave up in favor of just proposing a series of adventures.

I'm currently on session 3, and it's been going well. It was a hard work but not that I've made a map an chose a few dungeons, things are starting to run themselves.

Well, here is my second attempt at finding cool locations and good hexcrawls.

FWIW, I'll also note that I've written my own OSR adventure, The Wretched Hive. I already ran it with this group. It contains the stuff I find important in these modules: coherence, different monsters, variety, etc. If your tastes are similar to mine, check it out!

Anyway, here is batch two:

Isle of the Unknown: This looks perfect! Weird monsters, forests, coasts, creativity, no orcs, goblins or skeletons (he skipped the familiar stuff on purpose). The art is amazing. Good map and well organized. I like the Greco-Roman flavor too. Unfortunately, it is all too random and lacking coherence (it has thematic coherence - statues, zodiac signs, etc. - but not much about the society, factions. etc.). Hexes are barely related, towns are described in an incredibly terse fashion, monsters rarely get a word about behavior or languages. This is "funhouse hexcrawling" to the max. Not what I want right now. Well... maybe use some bits.

Morgansfort - This has been recommended repeatedly. A free BFRPG hexcrawl! With a well-made home-base, maps, and three dungeons! The dungeons, however, are full of the stuff I dislike: a succession of goblins, kobolds, orcs, skeletons and giant monsters. Well, it is a start, and I like the town itself, maybe I can ignore or change some of the dungeons. So... Yes.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan - This has a great balance of vanilla, classic, weird, and flavorful.  It is small and fits the theme. I'm looking at the 5e version, which also has some great art (but no PDF version, and I'm playing online). So, I might get the original, or use the one I have. Yes!

Gregorius21778: The Four Flames & the Final Archway - The author sent me a copy so I could check this one out. And it checks a lot of boxes: it has a naturalistic vibe, it somehow feels like a real place instead of a collection of goblins and orcs (there are none of those here). The enemies are bats, worms, things you might find in a cave - in addition to the foul things that haunt the place. Yes!

BTW, he also sent me 20 Sacred Sites (yes!) and suggested 20 Encounters in the Ruins of the Elder Beings (maybe), which are decent additions to scatter in a sandbox. I've included the first in my folder (some entries are more useful and interesting than the ones in Isle of the Unknown, above), and I'm torn on the second one - it is good, but I feel I need to add a cave map (and maybe some additional stuff) to make it work properly.

Coming up: Some DCC RPG modules, and more! Leave any suggestions in the comments!

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