Tuesday, October 15, 2013

OD&D reprint preview

WotC released a two page preview of their upcoming OD&D reprint. It's a new typeset that, like their AD&D reprint, largely follows the original. I notice that they added a few ® marks, and changed the "Vol. I" to "Book I".

Running pdfinfo against the preview reports:
Creator:        Adobe InDesign CS5.5 (7.5.3)
Producer:       Adobe PDF Library 9.9
CreationDate:   Tue Sep 24 13:20:06 2013
ModDate:        Tue Sep 24 13:21:00 2013
Tagged:         yes
Pages:          2
Encrypted:      no
Page size:      423 x 603 pts
File size:      61379 bytes
Optimized:      yes
PDF version:    1.7
I'm reasonably pleased with this. I hope, after they sell out the deluxe reprints, WotC releases full downloadable PDF's on dndclassics.com.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Secret Santicore requests due

Secret Santicore requests are due by midnight tonight. Get you request in now!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OD&D reprint delayed

Amazon alerted me that the Original Dungeons & Dragon reprint has been delayed. The product page now lists the release date at December 17th, although the email from Amazon says they "do not have an estimated delivery date for the item."

I guess I'd rather see it done right than done on time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gygax on H.G. Wells

James Smith's post alerted me to the existence of a foreword Gary Gygax wrote for H.G. Wells' Little Wars. Here's the portion that touches on D&D:

What a revelation it was when another friend loaned me his copy of Little Wars in the late 1960s. By that time, I was a board wargame devotee and I had played a few tabletop games with military miniatures. To read the rules the author had established for resolving combat made me want to slap my forehead because we had not thought of them.

[...] Nothing would do but playing the original wargame as set forth in the book. This was accomplished with fellow game hobbyist—and thereafter a two-time co-author with me of military miniatures rules books—Jeff Perren. Jeff and I fought several battles, and his accuracy with toothpick artillery rounds proved devastating. But even in defeat, I loved the game.

Consequently, Little Wars influenced my development of both the Chainmail miniatures rules and the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game. For example, it established the concept of a burst radius for cannon rounds, an idea that was translated into both Chainmail catapult missile diameters and areas of effect for Fireballs in D&D. [...]

Beyond Little Wars, Wells' treatment of subterranean humans in the Time Machine certainly reinforced my concepts of underground adventure areas other than dungeons (as did Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and a number of later works of imaginative fiction).


Gary Gygax
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
March 2004

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ark as dungeon

Here's another image from Harvard's Houghton Library blog. I encourage you to click through to the large version.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The two most important concepts in the D&D game

Jeff Rients posted this quotation on G+:

Q: What are the two most important concepts in the D&D game?
A: The most important concept in the game is player choice.  In order to give players the most fun in the game, they must be able to make choices that will make a definite difference in the fates of their characters.
     The second most important concept is that actions have consequences.  Player decisions will lead to further campaign developments.

--Jon Pickens et al., "Dispel Confusion" column, Polyhedron #13

A referee writing an adventure might do well to start by designing the central choice the players must make and its stakes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New LotFP rules hardcover

The Lamentations of the Flame Princess new Rules & Magic hardcover is available.

This is the best edition yet, although the changes are mostly cosmetic. The difficult to read font from the Grindhouse edition is gone. The hardcover has some new art, and a few of the old pieces have been redrawn. The text is substantially the same, with the addition of half a dozen pages of firearms rules.

I ordered the print and PDF combo, but of course the print book won't arrive for a few weeks. If you're reading the PDF, and your display has enough pixels, I recommend viewing two pages side-by-side, as the layout uses lots of page spreads.

The spreads can be mildly problematic for single page reading, because the text of some sections begins on the left (verso) page with the heading on the right (recto) page. If you're reading one page at a time, it may not be immediately clear when a new section begins.

But that's nit picking. The new Rules & Magic delivers, and I'm looking forward to the companion referee book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

By looking at things

From Gus L's review of C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan:

"Yeah this whose place feels realish, there's an ancient culture behind this fun house, and the player and GM can get a feel for that.  There are a lot of things to discover that show the why and how of the place without really impacting play (except as delays for the dumb 1D6 turn poison gas mechanic). The best party of old style games is that they encourage exploration instead of combat, and by looking at things, interacting with stuff and pawing about the players (ideally) get a novelistic or even cinematographic sense of place and scene from their being some visual and environmental cues to hang thier imaginations on."

Emphasis added for something to which we should aspire when writting any adventure.

Monday, July 1, 2013


James Young posted an idea that makes familiars kind of fun:

  • A magic user can get a familiar for free if they want.
  • You can make it run around and stuff and I guess it can tell you things that it sees.
  • It can hold an extra spell for you and cast it like normal.
  • It can't die but you can interrupt its spell casting.
  • When you die, it erupts as a Summon spell with HD equal to your level.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jam a sliver of desire into the head of the DM

Zak already  highlighted this post from False Machine, but I link it here for my own future reference, and say it applies not only to the illustrations:
Because the game is not written down in front of you. It takes place between you and other people. And generally the game doesn’t need to inspire everyone playing to the same extent. Mainly it needs to jam a sliver of desire into the head of the DM. They will then actively seek out people to make the game happen. Very often games are forced into being by one person with a weird idea stuck in their head. So that’s what art has to do. Jam that idea into the brain.
In a comment on G+, Zak says "all illustrators are always also the game designer". I have long held a similar (though perhaps more trivial) idea: that it's a fun exercise to page through your favorite RPG products and interpret the illustrations as rules.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

One Page Dungeon Contest Winner

The winners of the One Page Dungeon Contest have been announded. Congratulations to the winners. Go check out their entries!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wizards are horrible freaks

Strike a diabolical bargain in order to cast any spell you know (even exceeding allowed spells per day), but save versus Spell or permanently lose 1 point of Charisma.

Face these consequences if your Charisma falls too low:

Charisma ScoreConsequence
3Everyone treats you with open disgust.
2Strangers run from you.
1Strangers try to kill you on sight.
0Humanity lost. Turn your character sheet over to the Referee, you monster.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

1-9 with 2d6

I read a thread about Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign right before I went to bed, and this is the first think that popped into my head when I woke up.

On a d6, assume that a roll of 1-2 = 1, 3-4 = 2, and 5-6 = 3.  Roll 2d6, and multiply. This gives a flat result of 1-9.

EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, this is not flat at all. That's what I get for posting while half asleep. As Dallas M on G+ pointed out, 3 * (1d3 - 1) + (1d3 - 1) + 1 produces the desired results. And his further formulation is even better:

Start with range 1-9.
Roll 1d3: that chooses one of the subranges 1-3, 4-6 or 7-9.
Roll 1d3: that chooses a result in the chosen subrange.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I've been doing some reading tonight—browning wily-nilly through my RPG bookshelf—and I've determined that the LotFP edition of Carcosa is the best D&D product released since 1974. If you don't own a copy yet, you should buy one. This book deserves a permanent and prominent place on your shelves. It's a unique and inspiring setting, and a beautiful physical book.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A rant about Monstrosities

I've been holding my tongue about this (and I feel bad posting it immediately following Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day), but a post on Semper Initiativus Unum set me off.

I backed the Frog God Kickstarter for the Monstrosities book. I haven't received my book yet.

I was pissed that Frog God promoted the project as books with Erol Otus covers, then didn't follow through. Frog God said (although they didn't make this clear in the Kickstarter pitch) they planned to used the same Otus cover art for both the Monstrosities and Complete books. They altered that decision (without notice to their backers) because they decided two books with the same cover would be confusing. I agree. They later reused the Otus cover for a module. Confused? I was. And annoyed.

The best solution to the cover dilemma would have been to commission another Erol Otus cover for the Monstrosities book. I imagine Otus's rates are high, but Frog God raised $78,000 in the Kickstarter. Their goal was $10,000. If you can buy one Erol Otus cover with a $10,000 budget, you can afford a second commission when your budget balloons eight-fold.

As for the Monstrosities book as it is rather than what it might have been....

With a few exceptions (notably the good work of Jason Sholtis), I'm not a huge fan of the deviantArt-like interior illustrations rife with abuse of the Photoshop smudge tool. Amateur art is completely acceptable from an independent author putting out a $20 book on Lulu, but not for a $60 book from a publisher that has in the past touted its superior professionalism.

The layout thing (which is what Semper Initiativus Unum posted about) is curious. I'm not sure what the rational was behind putting each monster on its own page. That decision creates a design problem that was not well solved by the layout they chose. It's not a total horror show, but the Monstrosities layout looks much worse than, for example, the layout of the old Swords & Wizardry Monster Book with the Mullen cover.

This isn't the first time I've gone off on Frog God. I want to make it clear that I like Swords & Wizardry, and deeply respect Matt Finch. Bill Webb, despite some of his unfortunate past comments, is probably a good guy who runs his business because of his love for gaming.

It's great that Frog God brings a higher profile to Swords & Wizardry, but, after a string of poor communications and questionable decisions, I'm beginning to think Matt Finch hitched his wagon to the wrong publisher.

With the surprise shipping charge on top of the cover fiasco, I haven't decided if it's worth it for me to pay the shipping invoice Frog God sent me. (In fact, I've received a second notice from Frog God that my shipping charges are "still outstanding".) That's why I don't have the book yet.

If you're a happy Frog God customer, I'm glad. My gripes are my own. But any S&W stuff I do in the future will focus on Whitebox or Core, unless I see some positive changes from Frog God.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Magic Swords for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

For Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, I made this short booklet with a system to generate unique magcial swords:

Magic Fucking Sword

So. I just finished the illustration for my Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day cover. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Keep wildnerness movement abstract

Brendan at Necropraxis writes some very reasonable things about hexes and wilderness exploration. His is a fine solution.

People get too hung up on size of hexes and miles per day of travel.

The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures provides a beautifully abstract system, particularly if you ignore the recommendation to "assume the greatest distance across a hex is about 5 miles," and leave the size of hexes abstract.

In OD&D, each means of travel affords a certain number "moves" per day. A man on foot gets 3 moves, a draft horse gets 5 moves, and a light horse gets 10 moves.

Each terrain type has a "cost". Following a road or track through most terrain costs one move. Bushwhacking through the woods costs two moves. Crossing mountains or swamps costs three moves.

So, a man on foot could "spend" his three moves to cross three hexes of good road in a day. He could instead spend his three moves to cross one hex of swamp.

The OD&D system isn't necessarily better than the system proposed by Brendan (and Brendan writes about more in that post than just travel rates). One hex per day regardless of terrain would work for me. But it would take a lot of convincing to get me back to converting dungeon movement rates to miles and dividing by the sizes of hexes and accounting for terrain types and fatigue so on.

Keep it abstract. If the model is good enough for players to make meaningful choices, it's realistic enough.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Enter the One Page Dungeon Contest!

It's time for the One Page Dungeon Contest again. Submissions are due by April 30th.

I always forget about the contest until it's too late, but I'm going to try to submit an entry this year.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ruins of Xampon

Again passing "old walls" on each side of the road, at the distance of two leagues we reached Xampon, where stand the remains of an edifice which, when entire, must have been grand and imposing, and now, but for the world of ruins around, might excite a stranger's wonder. [...] In a few moments I found myself ascending the side of a lofty stone structure, on the top of which were the remains of a large building, with its walls fallen, and the whole side of the mound strewed with sculptured stones, a scene of irrecoverable ruin. Descending on the other side of this structure, we reached a broad platform, in a good state of preservation, with trees growing upon it, without brush or underwood, but so teeming with insects and large black ants that it was necessary to step from stone to stone, and avoid touching the ground. Running off lengthwise from this terrace was a small building, which the Indian pointed out as containing the altar and copal.*

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dungeons of Dread

UPS just dropped off my copy of the new Dungeons of Dread. It looks pretty good. The quality of the book is about the same as the deluxe AD&D reprints, except that the page edges are not gold leaf.

By the way, the price on Amazon for the OD&D reprint has dropped to $94, which is a more reasonable value than the $150 MSRP.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pulp Adventure Name Generator

I wrote a pulp adventure name generator. Here's some sample output:

  • The Statement of Qivxilcthumu
  • The Cyan Queen of Zignernâl
  • The Pitfield Thing
  • Pale Crocodile
  • The Eye of Tsalzzaste
  • Tribe of the Dark Ellipse
  • An Imp Shall be Born
  • The Necromancer of the Dismal Wasteland
  • Peculiar Fortess in the Lightning
  • The Testament of Nâl
  • The Green Brain
  • Harbor of the Pink Creature
  • The Evils of Aar
  • A Traveller Shall be Exposed
  • Maws of the Road
  • Of the Judgement That Came to Zazul
  • The Djinn-Stalkers of Yggts-yim
  • The Rope of Cthuavyggyo
  • Gold of the Witch-Hellion
  • The Entities of Nerzigav
  • The Beguiling Dimness
  • The Reaches of Zigzim
  • The Entity in the Manse
  • The Glyph of Zul
  • The Strange Dungeon in the Storm
  • Manling of the Gloomy Village
  • The Jewels of Ts
  • Coven of the Unlit Arbelos
  • The Fortess of Blue Tomes
  • The Music of Fazim
  • Mithril Dimmet of Neptune
  • A Fiend in the Glyph

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creator of Diplomacy, RIP

Any of you who have been reading Playing at the World, the excellent history of our hobby, know the important influence of Diplomacy. I was sorry to hear that Allan B. Calhamer, the creator of Diplomacy, passed away on the 25th. Please keep his family in your thoughts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

OD&D reprint pre-orders available

The OD&D reprints are now available for pre-order. The Amazon price is $104.

Chile’s secret witch cave

The always excellent Smithsonian history blog Past Imperfect posted about Chilean witches with headquarters in a secret cave:

The most important of the warlocks brought to court in 1880 was a Chilote farmer by the name of Mateo Coñuecar. He was then 70 years old, and by his own admission had been a member of the Righteous Province for more than two decades. According to Coñuecar’s testimony, the society was an important power on the island, with numerous members, an elaborate hierarchy of “kings” and “viceroys”—and a headquarters located in a vast cavern, 40 or more yards long, whose secret entrance had been cleverly concealed in the side of a ravine. This cave (which Chilote tradition asserts was lit by torches burning human fat) was hidden somewhere outside the little coastal village of Quicavi, and was—Coñuecar and other witnesses swore—home to a pair of monsters that guarded the society’s most treasured possessions: an ancient leather book of magic and a bowl that, filled with water, allowed secrets to be seen.

That's pretty ripe for write up as an adventure.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Awesome caterpillar monster

I just though this actual caterpillar from WTF, Evolution? was awesome. You'd have to show your players the picture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

OD&D Reprint

Wow. Untimely broke the news that WotC is reprinting original D&D in a deluxe edition.

I'm trilled that Wizards is doing this, although hopefully the final product will be more refined than what we see in this picture.

ISBN 978-0-7869-6465-9 isn't listed on Amazon, so no pre-orders yet.

(And I just finished typesetting my own personal edition!)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Clever Vikings with axes

I happened across this Viking-centric amateur experimental archaeology site, and thought I'd share these two pics of Vikings being clever with axes:


Maybe you could reasonably hold a torch and a shield in the same hand?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Maps from the Denver Public Library

An article about a behind-the-scenes visit to the Denver Public Library had a couple interesting a potentially D&D-useful things:

Peeling, partially unstuck, and warped into curling waves like oceans, the pages play host to a century or more of built structures, renovations, and replacements, keeping close tabs on what can be insured, for how much, and under what circumstances.
"Botanical Profile representing the Forest Trees along the route explored by Lieut. A. W. Whipple, Corps. of Top. Eng., near the Parallel of 35º North Latitude, 1853-1854." Prepared by J. M. Bigelow, M.D., Botanist to the Expedition. U.S. Pacific Rail Road Exploration & Survey, War Department.

I can imagine this style of visualization being useful in adventure design, particularly for wilderness adventures.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New releases at dndclassics.com

Zeb Cook's Expert rulebook is now available from dndclassics. They've also added B10, the 1e Dungeoneer's and Wilderness survival guides, and MMII.

This is a modest release compared to the initial offering. Unfortunately, there's no sign yet of the OD&D booklets.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Official, legit D&D PDF's from WotC

Wizards of the Coast has released a bunch of vintage D&D products as PDF's. I understand that that quality is better than the PDF's they released a few years ago. I'm off to buy some.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lovecraft interview

Check out this interview with H.P. Lovecraft conducted on a single postcard by a friend from small-town Vermont. The postcard is a wonderful artifact, and interview is quite good. I'd love to read a long interview with Lovecraft.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ancient emperor's tomb filled with deadly traps

You know the thousands of terracotta warriors found in the tomb of China's first emperor? Archaeologists recently discovered a hidden 22-square-mile burial palace believed to be filled with deadly traps at the site.

What probably are intact are the countless treasures that—according to the ancient scrolls that describe the emperor's long lost burial site—fill the interior of the tomb. And perhaps the deadly traps guarding them too. [...] nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum's dangerous traps—they're detailed in the same texts that recount its abundant riches.