Thursday, April 30, 2009

Labyrinth Lord: Ring of the Toad God-King

Mark at the DM Sketchpad asked last night if I'd like to help out by doing a guest post, and I was only too happy to help out. My contribution came in the form of the Ring of the Toad God-King, an accursed item from a Labyrinth Lord one-shot I ran for my group a while back. Yes, it's goofy, but it was also a lot of fun. You can check it out here.

Time, Calendars, Gaming, and Thou

Chgowiz's post on Time and XP yesterday got me thinking about my own campaign, and how I keep time in that. To be honest, I've tried really hard over the years to have some fidelity towards actual counted time passage in my games, but it never seems to work out--real life gets in the way, sessions jump around, and time seems to slip about. It isn't a huge deal to me or my players, but I am grateful it's much better than where I was 10 years ago, when characters would level and conquer whole kingdoms in the span of a month of game time.

Another bit that always nagged me in my games was how the various worlds we played in had calendar systems, months, and other time designators that were not exactly memory-friendly. I'm talking about systems that expected you to remember it was the Fourth Phase of Qufar the Blooded, 3rd Moon Ascendant. When I was fleshing out our homebrew of Irrin, I wanted to go with something a bit easier and related to our Gregorian calendar. But you can't just say "Monday, the 13th of March", right? (Well, you can, but I never dug that). So I went with the following system, which has seemed to work pretty well thus far for being grounded in our calendar while being easy to remember:

Hey, want to see a really simple fantasy calendar? One item that made its way from the High Elves to the “lesser races” is their calendar. Each month has 30 days, with 5 days at the end of each year known as Winter’s Turn, a time of celebration, reflection, and respite. Weeks are seven days (hey, how convenient), and are known, easily enough as Primeday, Secondday, Thirdday, Fourthday, Fifthday, Sixthday, and (surprise surprise) Seventhday.

Each month has a numeric and proper name (for example, folks referring to FirstMonth and JoyFollow are referring to the same month).

The Months of Irrin

FirstMonth: JoyFollow
SecondMonth: FrostFail
ThirdMonth: MudPass
FourthMonth: AllShower
FifthMonth: ManyBloom
SixthMonth: JourneyTake
SeventhMonth: JustPath
EighthMonth: AllShade
NinthMonth: StarHarvest
TenthMonth: OldWind
EleventhMonth: NightDeep
TwelfthMonth: DeepWinter

Calendar years use Kingdom Reckoning, which uses the final fall of the Kingdom of Man as Year 0 (this does differ from the High Elves, who simply count forward, and who are currently on Year 19019). Years before Year 0 are noted with a negative sign, such as -17. In the current campaign, it is now Year 1019. Events taking place before the final fall of the Kingdom of Man are marked with a “-“ (so an event taking place 23 years before the final fall would be -23 KR (Kingdom Reckoning). There are of course other dating methods and calendars, but none so commonly in use as the above.

Many nations, cities, and even villages will have their own holidays and festivals. What follows is only a small sampling of widely-spread holidays and those observed by the

The 30th of AllShower: Spring’s Blessing: This day is used by many nations to mark and hold various spring and planting festivals. It is also marked by the High
Church as a day of renewal, blessing, and a chance to do penance for any “sins of winter”.

The 1st of JourneyTake: Kingdom’s Fall: This day marks the final defeat of the Kingdom of the West, and their trials and tribulations at starting over. This holiday has morphed into somewhat of a parade day, with many nations parading their military might before the public, holding martial contests, and essentially reassuring their citizenry they are ready for any threat.

The 9th of AllShade: Martyr’s Day: This High Church holiday sees the highest proportion of the various populaces attending church out of any days of the year. (Usually) colorful, entertaining sermons are told about brave martyrs, selfless heroes, and champions of good and the Church. In the evening, the various congregations gather together for a huge pitch-in dinner, before holding a candlelight vigil to ask for inspiration and guidance from The Most High so that they may also live a life worthy
of remembrance and honor.

The 2nd Week of StarHarvest: Traditionally set aside for harvest festivals, though this may vary slightly depending on your place in the world. The last day of the festivals is usually known as Moon’s Holding, where in a midnight ceremony the common people and nobility gather alike to ask the moon to grow larger/brighter in the sky to help with the harvest.

The 10th of DeepWinter: It is said that a child born at twilight on the 10th of DeepWinter will be successful in life, fortunate, and lucky in all things. It is also the day of the year that many commoners believe to be the best time for a girl to find her life’s true love. Who wins out, lucky marriage or lucky kids? (Hey, it’s winter. They have to do something to stay entertained).

In addition to the above widely-observed holidays, many regional holidays (including various High Church saint feasting days) also exist and are observed.

Overall, I found that allowing for both a number-based nomenclature as well as one where the monthly names would start with the same letter as their Gregorian equivalent allowed for a bit slack in game play--players not wanted to remember DeepWinter can just go with TwelfthMonth instead. For holidays, we mainly chose days we would remember, such as birthdays (the 10th of Deepwinter is mine!).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reactions to the Top 25

Reactions to the Top 25 RPGs list of the other day have been overwhelmingly positive. Most folks seem to understand that it was all in fun, and not meant to be scientific. The list were submitted largely by readers of this blog or other blogs in the RPG Bloggers Network. A few observations:

-Classic and older games largely dominated the list. Fairly recent games, like D&D 4e, were the exception to the rule.

-People expressed surprise that D&D 4e either a) made the list or b) was not at the top of the list. Many of the people who responded have clearly been gaming for a long time, and have seen a lot of games. It may just be that it hasn't had the time yet to be as influential as its predecessors, and possibly also due to the fractured reception it has had in online communities. Time will tell if 4e moves up the list or out entirely. And after all, we did get 150 participants, but it's hardly a scientific demographics study.

-Indie and "Forge" games were pretty much shut out. I think the highest-placing one was Dogs in the Vineyard, which was still just out of the Top 50.

-Pathfinder almost snagged an honorable mention, despite being only in Beta.

-I was personally pleased to see a number of games make the list, though many of my other faves got shut out. Aside from the D&D entries, I thought it was awesome Traveller still ranks so high. I was also personally happy that Hackmaster, Rifts, d6 Star Wars, and Risus made the list, and that Castles & Crusades hung on for an honorable mention. I was bummed Rolemaster didn't (thought I guess I should be happy with MERP hanging on). But most of all, I'm very happy people seemed to have fun with this. My next idea is to do one with settings, though I'd obviously drop the 10-25 requirement.

Here's a few more reactions from around the 'net on the Top 25 list to check and and comment on:

-Roleplaying Pro felt pretty good about the list overall, and offered his thoughts.

-Whitehall ParaIndustries, never short on interesting things to say, offers a bit of analysis as well.

-Trollish Delver
is rightly pleased that Tunnels & Trolls snagged a Top 10 finish.

Apologies if I missed anyone (and I'm pretty sure I did)--please let me know about your post and I'll link it.

Fantasy Artist Wanted

I'm looking for a fantasy artist for a couple of upcoming projects I'll be working on. I'll be needing a some 1/4-page illustrations, and though I'm afraid I can't pay much, I can pay something, and will try to make it worth the artist's time. I have a few artists in mind, and I scoped out a lot of the usual artist forums and threads, but I definitely want to make the best-informed decision I can. In terms of style, I'm looking for something more in the vein of classic black-and-white fantasy art over anything too "dungeonpunky".

If you're interested or know someone who is, or even have a recommendation, please send a sample of work to mail.rpgblog(at) If you know of someone looking to pick up a little work that might turn into a semi-regular gig, please send them this way. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Castle of the Mad Archmage Level: April

Greyhawk Grognard just announced the April installment of the Castle of the Mad Archmage is now available. It is no exaggeration to say this is likely the gaming product I've looked most forward to each month this year. Keep it up, Joseph!

One-Page Introduction to Old School Gaming

I was able to be on TARGA's conference call this past weekend, and one of the things mentioned on the call was how Chgowiz had made a document that distilled (with permission) Matt Finch's popular Quick Primer for Old School Gaming into a single page. I think this could be a great handout document for those looking to explain to a fellow gamer or folks at a convention what sort of game play and feel they're striving for. I had some friends I wanted to share this with, and Chgowiz was cool with me switching the format into a pdf. Here's the link to the single-page pdf Introduction to Old School Gaming.

TARGA is looking at having some websites are sort of hubs and directories for the various Old School Renaissance games and their cousins, so I'll likely be modifying this document with links to that info once they are up. For now, enjoy, share with others, and here's hoping you get some good use from this!

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Decided: The Top 25 RPGs Results!

The Top 25 RPGs Project was a tremendous success in terms of participation. I had hoped to get 50 gamers, bloggers, RPG writers, etc., to send in their choices for the 10-25 role playing games that had brought the most entertainment, influence, and fun to their participation of our hobby. I ended up with exactly 150 entries, and over 420 different games mentioned or nominated! Thank you all for helping make this a clearer, broader snapshot of our tastes as a gaming community. Thanks especially to our great sponsors: Postmortem Studios, Crafty Games, One Bad Egg/Evil Hat, and RPG Objects.

First off, I wanted to post some honorable mentions. The battle for the last few spots was tight, and came down to the last few submitted lists. These 5 just missed the cut, but definitely deserve an honorable mention:

Honorable Mentions: Boot Hill, Castles & Crusades, FUDGE, Cyberpunk 2020, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.

The first 7-8 spots were pretty solid, then there was a bit of a vote drop-off, then spots 17-25 were fiercely contest, as were the honorable mention. All of the honorable mentions missed out on the Top 25 by 40 points or less.

You voted, you decided. Without further ado, here's your Top 25!:

Top 25 RPGs Project Final Rankings:

1) Basic/Original D&D
2) Call of Cthulhu
3) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition
4) Traveller (Classic)
5) Star Wars (West End Games/d6)
6) Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5
7) GURPS 3e
8) Tunnels & Trolls
9) Champions
10) RuneQuest (majority of 85% favored 2nd Edition)
11) Vampire: the Masquerade
12) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition
13) Gamma World (1st/2nd Editions)
14) Shadowrun 3e
15) Pendragon (Chaosium editions)
16) Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing 1st Edition
17) Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP)
18) Savage Worlds
19) Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
20) Amber
21) Rifts
22) Hackmaster
23) Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP)
24) Star Frontiers
25) Risus

(If you want to combine the D&D entries into a single entry, you can move the Honorable Mentions up accordingly).

If a game you like (or dislike) made the Top 25, be sure to spread the word! This list is supposed to foster some good-natured discussion and community activity, so let's get to it! Questions, comments, concerns, put them out there!

(You can read more about the scoring/ranking system here. Of course, this isn't scientific by any means, but I do think it's a fun project/snapshot nonetheless. Oh, and 1st-2nd-3rd were separated by less than 20 points).

After I notify the prize winners, I'll also put that information up here as well. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Anyone Want To Guess...

...What the Top 3 of the Top 25 RPGs are? Dark Horses that made the list, and shockers that didn't? Results will post here tomorrow!

Free PDF Subscription: DM Sketchpad

Here's a cool news release from my pals over at the Grand OGL Wiki:

Mark Gedak from the Grand OGL Wiki had a crazy idea. Why not make a space on the Grand OGL Wiki ( to house new open game content of his own design. Starting on that day and each day since Bill Browne, Stefen Styrsky and Mark have been posted daily updates to the DM Sketchpad releasing new ideas under the Open Game License for the free consumption of Grand OGL Wiki users. These ideas were inspired by user’s requests things, we’ve found on the site or occurrences in our daily lives.

Starting early May, the Grand OGL Wiki will be compiling and publishing the DM Sketchpad in PDF form and sending it off free to subscribers.

- If you want to subscribe to the PDF digest of the DM Sketchpad, email Mark at

- If you have requests for the DM Sketchpad, email Mark at

- If you want to contribute to the DM Sketchpad or the Grand OGL Wiki, email Mark at

- If you want to tell the DM Sketchpad team they are doing a super job, email Mark at and he’ll inform the guys.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Artsy Saturday: Peter Mullen

I'm going to be at an Indiana school bus rodeo, cheering on my wife most of today (no, really), but I thought I'd share the website of one of the artists I've really been enjoying lately. Pete Mullen's work has a definite throwback quality to it, and really evokes an idea of classic, deadly gaming sessions to me. You may know him from the cover of the Swords & Wizardry White Box. In any case, click here or below to see more of his work.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Discussion: Tell Me About Your First Character (Really)

Another weekend comes for those of us in the RPG Bloggers Network, and we bravely fight off the blogging doldrums it brings here at RPG Blog 2 by engaging in our usual Friday discussion. Each Friday, we get together to talk about a gaming topic. Nothing too serious, nothing too deep--just chatting it up and swapping lies with our fellow gamers.

Today's topic is one that you often can't get that annoying guy at the next table over at conventions to shut up about. That's right, we're discussing our characters--namely, our first ones. Who was your first character in an RPG? How long did he last? And by all means, even if he was a Chaotic Good dual-scimitar wielding Dark Elf, I still want to hear about it. Seriously.

Have a great gaming weekend, and Fight On!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

They Don't Remember The Mess (Too Much)

When I first began to GM, I'd be frustrated. I wanted everything to go so smoothly, and I worked hard at it--at keeping the pacing of the game going, enabling the player to drive the plot, and keeping the rules the heck out of the way unless needed. Inevitably, of course, there would delays in the game, slow points, and times when I had to break out the rule book to clarify a point or because I couldn't remember how it worked (beyond the point where fiat would suffice). Some of the actions that transpired were ludicrous. And though the players would say they had a good time, I'd feel like the night was a bit of a disappointment. I wanted perfection--I wanted games that sounded like all the stories I'd heard of amazing sessions from veteran GMs.

But a few months down the road, when we had wrapped up our campaign--I realized something. When we discussed the game, we didn't discuss or even seem to take into account those delays, the slow points, or the loose ends that to me stuck out like a sore thumb. No, we were talking about all the other stuff that'd happened! As they talked, I noticed so many of the flaws that were so glaring to me weren't coming up--and it was sounding a lot more like one of those "polished" sessions I've heard of from other GM's and gaming groups. It was the overall impression that was important, and in that, we had succeeded in having a good time, and ending up with a pretty good yarn while we were at it.

Being a Game Master isn't tidy work. There are loose ends, anachronisms, and nonsensical bits aplenty for the critical eye, even in the work of the best of us. And though it never hurts to strive to be the best DM/GM/CK/Referee you can be, the overall body of work is much more important than a few typos and incomplete thoughts that may have transpired. By and large, the players are going to want some whoppers to tell at the gaming store cash register--and that means they're going to highlight what was awesome and tidy up or straighten out that which wasn't.

It remains one of the best lessons I've learned as a GM: a) Don't worry too much about the mess around the edges--it'll get cleaned up in the telling, and b) Gamers are great at retconning.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vincent Price: Not Just For Thriller?

Tell me Vincent Price wouldn't have done the best RPG commercials ever:

More here.

Revisiting the Tomb of Horrors

Geez, did anyone beat this thing? I was looking Something Awful's very funny article on the Tomb of Horrors, and immediately hearkened back to my own experiences with this module. I've played in it twice, and DM'd it twice. In that time, I've seen two--two--characters make it to Acererak. Both died, near-instantly.

We had one kid who was in our games off-and-on boast that he had beaten it, but he had played with a total Monty Haul DM--the kind that allowed players the power to clean out the Planes on a regular basis for fun. When he ran it with us, his Fighter died along with my Cleric in the initial stone block trap.

As best I can remember, here's the accounting on 4 forays into the Tomb of Horrors. I believe the lowest character level was 8, the highest around 16.

Session 1
2 Fighters, 1 Wizard, 1 Thief, and a Cleric (me): Total Party Kill
-All within the first few traps, I believe. We had been playing less than an hour when the last of us fell.

Session 2

1 Cleric (me again), 1 Wizard, 2 Thieves, 1 Fighter, and a Paladin: Total Party Kill
-One of thieves died at the three hidden treasure chests. The remaining Thief and Wizard reached Acererak, but died very quickly. The Thief was higher-level than the Wizard, and so was slain by the right-eye jewel. The Wizard got off a couple of spells that did damage (Shatter?), but met the same fate as the Thief from the left-eye jewel or one of the teeth a few rounds later. My friend Rich had nursed that Wizard over 8 months of continual weekend gameplay up to his lofty perch, and he was pissed.

Session 3 (I DM'd this one)
1 Wizard, 1 Cleric, 1 Thief, 1 Fighter, 1 Anti-Paladin: Wizard alone survives
-Another false-entrance trap slays another Cleric (I was sympathetic). Wizard teleported out, leaving our group's (homebrew) Anti-Paladin to die (pit of 200 spikes). It was a vendetta killing of sorts, the Anti-Paladin having (predictably) angered the group by acting like an, well, Anti-Paladin.

Session 4 (I DM'd this one, same basic group)

1 Wizard, 1 Paladin, 1 Bard, 1 Fighter, 1 Cleric, 1 Thief: Thief alone survives
-The Thief didn't stick around long on this one. I believe he used a magic item to egress after seeing the Fighter go down at the Face of the Great Green Devil.

I've never found a module as lethal as this. I remember I once thought The Doomgrinder had potential by the sound of its name, but that ended up being a bit of a disappointment.

So, did anyone out there actually trash the Tomb of Horrors and give Acererak what he had coming? I want to know if you did, and more importantly, how?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Erol Otus: Perfect For Hackmaster

Here's the Erol Otus cover for the upcoming Hackmaster Basic RPG:

I love it. Kenzer gets it, don't they?

Vintage Dragon Magazine Adverts: The Return!

It's been awhile since we've done one of these, but one of my favorite things to do is to look through old Dragon Magazines (#102, October '85) and check out some of the ads. You know, having Dragon in print isn't really what I miss--there's Kobold Quarterly and Fight On! and the like--it's having a magazine like this be a medium for relaying new product outside of just a single RPG. There's a charm about it that just isn't there anymore.

(Note: This is the Dragon Magazine featuring Gary Gygax's "Pushing the Pendulum the Other Way" article, which is an interesting article on the relationship between "role-playing" and "game" elements in the D&D of the time, and likely deserves an entry all its own).

If you ever wondered how the horror RPG Chill may have differed from White Wolf's RPGs, consider this ad:

The end of 1985 also brought this:

8 years later, this would become the first fantasy RPG I played:

"Experienced" gamers only, please:

Well, they tried:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Troll Lord Extends $10 Sale Through End of April

One of the things I like about Troll Lord Games is that a couple of times per year, they have absolutely killer sales. Right now, you can pick up the Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook for only $10, a sale they have extended through April. You could also pick up the leatherette version of the PHB and their Monsters & Treasures for $10 each as well, and their other supplements are nicely reduced in price as well.

I also noticed they have slashed prices similarly at RPGNow, so that's one more option if you're looking to give the books a try. I like Castles & Crusades as sort of a "meeting place" where I can incorporate items from older editions of D&D (and their simulacra) as well as from the vast array of d20 goodness out there, and it's also sort of a compromise for my players and I. But I've written about all that before.

Voting For Top 25 RPGs Ends Today!

Today is the last day to get your lists in for our Top 25 RPGs contest! We've had a ton of entries, and I believe we are just about to our goal of 50(+) entries!

If you send me your list of 10-25 top RPGs, you'll be eligible to be in the random drawing to win one of these prize packages, courtesy of our great sponsors:

Crafty Games

-Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook
-Spycraft: World on Fire

RPG Objects
-Darwin's World 2: Survivor's Handbook
-Blood and Space 2: Galactic Edition
-Blood and Fists: Master Edition

One Bad Egg
/Evil Hat
-Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies
-One Bad Egg PDF Prize Pack (items to be determined)

Postmortem Studios
-RPG PDF Prize Pack (items to be determined)

If you still haven't done your list, don't worry--get those lists over to mail.rpgblog(at) And remember, you don't need a Top 25--if you just have 10 entries, send 'em over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rifts and D6

Would there be a better system for Rifts than D6? Am I the only one who thinks that’d be a pretty good pairing? Rifts is one setting where rolling 20d6 for an attack would seem to be a good fit. I think D6 is cinematic and straightforward enough to handle some of the larger-than-life, kitchen-sink elements that would come up.

Hey, D6 is Open. Shame Rifts isn’t, or that would be a great project.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gen Con Event Registration Goes Live!

Just a reminder: Gen Con Indy's event registration goes live tomorrow. Hopefully, everyone gets the events they're after.

For those looking for the events I'm involved with, look no further. I'd also like to have a fun meetup with as many of my fellow bloggers as possible at our 2009 GM's Jam (hosted by myself, Chgowiz, Tony at RPGCentric, and Dante of Stupid Ranger. Here the writeup and link for the jam and the only on-the-books Microlite74 game at this year's Gen Con (if you don't want a 4 or 6 hour block of gaming and just want a quick RPG fix or are short on time, I've got you covered--my game will only be two hours long for just such cases!):

2009 GM's Jam

ID: SEM0902117
Web site: None available
Email: mail.rpgblog (at) (Address obscured to fight spam. Replace (at) with @ for real address.)
Category: Seminar
Rules: Game system not specified
Cost: $0.00
Duration: 01:30:00
Host: Zachary Houghton (RPG Blog II)
Age requirement: Teen (13+)
Experience requirement: Some (you’ve played once or twice)
Are materials provided: Yes
Location: Marriott - Indiana Ballroom D
Official site: Check the official site for the most up to date information and to purchase tickets
Time slot: Sat Aug 15 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Come and get answers for all your GM problems, led by a crack panel of GMing experts. This is a friendly, open, give-and-take, seminar session where we share, discuss, and find answers to many of the issues we have about the craft of Game Mastery.

Smash n' Grab At Kobold Caverns

ID: RPG0902121
Web site: None available
Email: mail.rpgblog (at) (Address obscured to fight spam. Replace (at) with @ for real address.)
Category: Role Playing Game
Rules: Microlite74 (1.1)
Cost: $2.00
Duration: 02:00:00
Host: Zachary Houghton
Age requirement: Teen (13+)
Experience requirement: None (never played before)
Are materials provided: Yes
Location: Hyatt - Concept - 8
Tickets: 0 out of 6 are available (as of 6:16 pm Wednesday April 15th, 2009, but this information may be out of date.)
Official site: Check the official site for the most up to date information and to purchase tickets
Time slot: Sat Aug 15 10:00 am - noon

While the kobolds have marched out to rout the Baron's army, your village decides it's time to make up for a poor harvest by snatching whatever they can from the now (allegedly) lightly-defended kobold lair. But the kobolds haven't completely abandoned their caverns, and no treasure goes unguarded... Quick-play session. A prize for grabbing the most loot (and still making it out alive)! Kids allowed with accompanying adult.

I hope I get to see some of you at one of the two events! I really believe the GM's Jam in particular might have a bit of an informal "meetup" feel to it, and I'm looking forward to talking shop with my fellow DMs/GMs/Referees.

RPG Blog 2's Gen Con Indy Press Pass Comes In

I received notice this week that my Gen Con Indy 2009 Press Pass has been approved. This will be my 5th year covering the convention as press, and I look forward to providing more liveblogging and photos than ever. I also believe I’ll be doing Twitter updates. In years past, I have always done my best to stay in contact with readers during the convention to cover what they want covered, and I expect this year to be no exception. For RPG publishers, if you’re going to have a booth this year and want to make sure you get some coverage, let me know and I’ll make sure I get over there.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Discussion: What Was Your First RPG Setting?

Most bloggers will tell you that Fridays are dull, lifeless days where traffic counters plummet with alarming speed. Here at RPG Blog 2, we are the Speakeasy of Discussion in the Prohibition of Quiet Friday. In other words, Fridays is when we kick back and enjoy some discussion with our fellow gamers--nothing too heavy, nothing too controversial--just talking about the hobby we love.

Today's topic: What was your first RPG/RPG campaign setting experience? Homebrew? Greyhawk? Arduin? Forgotten Realms? 3rd Imperium? How did it influence subsequent experiences?

Be as descriptive or succinct as you please, and have a great weekend! And Fight On!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The internet humor website Something Awful recently did reviews of several of the classic AD&D 1e tomes, commenting on some of the stranger entries of the Monster Manual and Deities & Demigods (warning: potentially NSFW):

Monster Manual, Part I
Monster Manual, Part II
Deities & Demigods

(Yes, the Morkoth is singled out for special recognition/punishment).

They have a point on some of the more absurd names and creatures detailed within, but that's just part of the fun of AD&D, to my thinking.

Review: 100 Calamitous Curses

Look, if you spend your time looting ancient dungeons for magic items and pissing off evil wizards, chances are as an adventurer, you're going to end up with a curse bestowed upon you at some point.

As a Game Master, it can often be difficult to come up with different or original curses. James Mishler's and Adventure Games Publishing's 100 Calamitous Curses solves that problem by delivering precisely what the title suggests: 100 curses to entertain, hinder, and cause mayhem for your campaign.

The curses are ostensibly designed to be used with Castles & Crusades, but like other AGP products, they are easily usable with any number of both d20-related, older D&D versions, and retro-clone titles. Mishler's characteristic entertaining writing style (with a decided swords n' sorcery bent) shines through, and he does an excellent job of making each curse unique and engaging. Here's just one example:

64. Curse of the Life Leech: Whenever the accursed one heals damage, the nearest friend, ally, or neutral being suffers a like amount of damage. If cured by a spell, usually the friendly caster suffers the damage; if healing through bed rest, the nearest person loses a similar number of hit points regardless of distance!

Ouch! Most curses are appropriate for a general-audience sort of group, but there are a few that have to do with childbirth and sexuality that GMs who run younger folks through their games want to specifically consider before using. Still, I believe the product will be quite helpful to a wide range of gaming groups.

Coming in at 12 pages, this pdf normally retails for $2.50, but at the time I write this, It is on sale for only $2. Either way, if, like me, you have a GM's Binder or use a laptop for some of your pdfs, you'll want to make sure this great value finds its way into your collection. It's the sort of short, handy pdf I love as a GM, and so long as James Mishler keeps making 'em like this, I'll keep buying 'em.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Old School Got Me Going

This is the sort of post that is me trying to wrap my head around a few changes to my approach towards our hobby.

While reading up on my usual blog rounds (in particular those of Odyssey and Chgowiz), I started to think about my own participation in the old-school renaissance and retro-clone communities. Now, one of my first RPGs (and certainly one of the most influential) was Rules Cyclopedia D&D, back in ’93 (a year which can only grant me Junior Grognard status, I freely admit). So, you can say I am not without some background and appreciation for the play and broad philosophies supported by this renaissance.

But the thing that puzzled me, as I began to examine my own place and direction in the hobby, is why my level of involvement, participation, and especially content generation is so high compared to only a few years ago. By all means, it should be the opposite. I have 3 young kids, a family, an involved job, and less time than ever to write game material and read and play RPGs. My current job hours are less forgiving, and I am slowly adjusting to that lessening of personal time that can make hobby participation so tough. So how is it that I am writing more, reading more, and (I hope) being a more productive member of our hobby?

I think the answer is found within the old-school community itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been party to as big an emphasis on Do-It-Yourself thinking and personal RPG customization as I have with that group. Publications like Fight On! emphasize adding your own rules, toying with the ludicrous, and put your own stamp on things. I saw people putting their ideas out there in various articles, products, and blog posts. Some were brilliant, some I thought silly, but that’s just seemed to help all the more.

Now there are wonderful homebrew rules, ideas, and settings out there for just about any type of RPG you can think of—and this is where the words get a little tough—but for me, I was never totally comfortable with putting my ideas out there. I know that’s on me and not those game communities. But I think it’s the type of encouragement and peer example I’ve had from so many within the old-school community that have made the difference. You might say it helped me get over a case of writing “stage fright”, so to speak.

I was really too young to participate in any sort of molding or contribution to those originals off which the retro-clones are largely based. Now, I feel like I’m part of a community, with each of us throwing in our own bits and ingredients. And ok, maybe no one will use the article I posted to Fight On! or the new items I put on my blog. But they might, you see, and just the thought that something I wrote can be shared and might cause a spark makes it worthwhile. This is our way, our shot, to contribute to the games we’ve loved so much.

We are plotting the dungeons. We are writing the magazine articles and supplements. We’re sharing the wild charts and tables. And though many have come before, it’s a great thing to be contributing to yourself.

Maybe we all have different entry points for this sort of thing. Mine happened to be the old-school renaissance, from the Troll Lords to Jamie Mal and Jeff Rients.

In a lot of ways, guys, along with this blog, you’ve given me my hobby back. So thank you, and Fight On.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Damage-Based XP

Reading The Tao of D&D yesterday, I found this interesting take on making Experience Points based off varying aspects of damage. To quote the relevant bits:
A) 20 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character suffers.

B) 10 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character causes. This is subject to a few addendums: a magic spell which affects multiple persons gives experience to the caster only for the damage total of the spell; thus, a fireball which delivered 26 h.p. to four creatures would only award 260 x.p. to the caster, and only if one of the four creatures failed its saving throw. If all four creatures succeeded, the fireball would only give 130 x.p. to the caster. Other spells like burning hands, magic stone, magic missile, call lightning and so on work similarly. I am at the moment unsure of how to deal with certain death dealing spells such as telekinesis or cloudkill, which do not have a specific hit point motif. Thankfully, no member of my party has a spell of this level as of yet.

C) All damage caused against the party is totaled, multiplied by 20 and then distributed to those party members who were witnesses and who specifically took some kind of action in the events, even if that action failed to cause damage or the member was unharmed. This is in lieu of at least attempting to take an action, taking a risk, and thereby gaining experience from it.

The principle of this method is that experience is something that is gained more through suffering and failure than through success, and that it is a much more profound experience to endure damage than to inflict it.
(Emphasis mine).

Wow. This, I like. I really want to try it out in my next Castles & Crusades game. The entire idea, I think is a bit morose, focusing on learning from Bad Things Happening To Us. But I see the argument. A kid learns a lot faster the stove is hot when it's his hand that is the one burnt.

I also like the fact that you can get X.P. without defeating the opponent. You're fighting a Wyvern, do a bit of damage, hang in for a few rounds, then have to retreat. You're still getting credit for hanging in the fight as long as you did. I'm not sure how my magic-users will feel about it, but I plan to at least throw it out there.

The One Page Dungeon Contest!

When the Chatty DM and Chgowiz together ask you to publicize something, you do it:

Announcing the One Page Dungeon Contest

A few months ago, a three headed monster was born in the dark depths of Sham's Grog 'n Blog, Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog and Mike's Society of the Torch, Pole and Rope. They had put our heads together and come up with a neat template to help people create dungeons quickly and effectively, by concentrating on the meat and allowing the user of the dungeon to add in the flavor, fluff and setting.

A few weeks later, that little creation was "discovered" outside of the dark niche by Philippe-Antoine (Chatty DM) Menard who runs a blog called Musings of the Chatty DM. Tapping into the awesome power of a Chatty DM and mixing it with the dark and dangerous creation of the three, something Big and Crazy was born. A Dark and Sinister collaboration was taking place between those of the newer editions and those of the original editions... a collaboration full of Prizes and Fun! The One Page Dungeon Creation Contest!

The idea of the contest is to ask readers to create one dungeon level in an edition-less format (ex: you can name monsters but you don't provide stats for them) using the template and submit it for the contest. We'd judge the entries based on criteria such as 'most evocative setting', 'Funniest entry', 'Most creative use of a Trap" and so on. Once we've named winners, we'll be compiling a FREE PDF of the winners/runner-ups and releasing it to the community at large.

The contest starts today, April 14th and ends on May 14th at midnight. Once the contest is done, 6 judges will scratch their heads and figure out just who stands above the rest. Categories include (but not limited to):
  • Best All Around (Contest Grand Prize)
  • Grand Prize Runner-Up: Old School Dungeon Design
  • Grand Prize Runner-Up: New Edition Dungeon Design
  • Alternative prize categories: Most Creative Trap, Funniest, Most Gonzo, for example.The judges will no doubt have other categories in their minds, as we have a ton of prizes lined up!

We have several well known RPG bloggers who will be judging, in addition to us:
Contest Rules

1. Participants create a one page dungeon using the template found here. For a contest entry example see here.

2. The dungeon must have the following features:

  • Name of Dungeon
  • Map
  • Dungeon Key (in an edition-neutral form: Description of monsters, Treasure, Traps, etc... No game stats)
OPTIONAL (If you can fit them on one page...)
  • Wandering Monster or Random Event tables or a list of scripted "events" that can occur over the adventure
  • Background
  • Additional descriptions that add to the dungeon, such as detailed description of trap or trick or unique feature.
3. One entry per participant. Participants may revise/replace their entries up till the end of contest, with the last revision counting as their official entry. Entry may win grand prize or one of the runner up prizes, plus any number of alternative prize categories.

4. Participants are allowed to modify the template, provided it remains a one-page entry.

5. Submission must be emailed in PDF, Word or Open Office format at the following address:

6. Submitting a dungeon to the contest releases it under the Creative Common Share-alike license (US 2008) with credit to the contest participant.

7. Contest closes on May 14th 2009 at Midnight.

The prizes (oh yes, the prizes!)

Grand Prize
Patron membership of Open Design
Quarterly membership of Dungeon a Day
Fantasy Grounds II Licence
1 year membership to Obsidian Portal
50$ Gift Certificate for PDFs

Grand Prize Runner-Up: Old School Dungeon Design
Bundle of Necromancer games product
Bundle of Brave Halfling Production products
Otherworld Miniatures Demon Idol Miniature
Bundles of Fight On and Knockspell issues
Bits of Darkness Bundle
6 month membership Obsidian Portal

Grand Prize Runner-Up: New Edition Dungeon Design
WotC's Dungeon Delve
Fantasy Grounds II License
Quarterly membership to DungeonADay
6 month membership Obsidian Portal

To divide among other Categories
Kobold's Guide to Game Design
Bundle of Brave Halfling Production products
Bundle of Knockspell and City Encounter PDFs
Bundle of Fight On Magazine (issues 1-4)
Bits of Darkness Bundle
Deck O'Names Set
WotC's Adventures
Otherworld Miniatures - Pig Faced Orcs (Or Box of Minis)
Goodman Games Random Esoteric Creature Generator

Our sponsors!
These prizes have been generously donated by our sponsors - they really are excited about this contest and we hope you are just as excited about their support. Please be sure to show them your support as well.

Brave Halfing Publishing

Fight On Magazine

Goodman Games
Malhavoc Press/DungeonADay
Mythmere Games
Necromancer Games
Obsidian Portal
Open Designs
Otherworld Miniatures

Tabletop Adventure

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen those pencils, get out those dungeon mapping tools, grab some graph paper and your favorite beverage and show us what you can do... on ONE PAGE!

If you have any questions about the contest, please feel free to contact either: Phil ( and/or Michael (

Good luck... if YOU DARE!

(Note: I've already started on mine! How about you?)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Top 25 RPGs: Update, Sponsors, Prizes, and Voting!

There's been a lot of tremendous participation across and beyond the RPG Bloggers Network for the Top 25 RPGs Project we're doing here at RPG Blog 2. I'd like to thank all the bloggers and sites that have helped plugged this, and judging from the lists received so far, there's a ton of diversity to be had out there. I'm looking forward to the final tally!

We also have our sponsors! 4 lucky winners will win one of these pdf prize packages, courtesy of Postmortem Studios, Crafty Games, One Bad Egg/Evil Hat, and RPG Objects:

Crafty Games

-Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook
-Spycraft: World on Fire

RPG Objects
-Darwin's World 2: Survivor's Handbook
-Blood and Space 2: Galactic Edition
-Blood and Fists: Master Edition

One Bad Egg
/Evil Hat
-Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies
-One Bad Egg PDF Prize Pack (items to be determined)

Postmortem Studios
-RPG PDF Prize Pack (items to be determined)

You need to submit a list to be eligible for this random drawing, so get those lists over to mail.rpgblog(at) And remember, you don't need a Top 25--if you just have 10 entries, send 'em over.

A quick reminder how this'll work:

I'm looking for people's lists of the RPGs that have had the brought the most influence, entertainment, and fun to their experience in the gaming hobby. You can rank up to 25 games, but if you don't want to do that many or don't have that many, please rank at least 10. I will be tabulating points wherein a 1st-place vote gets 25 points, a 2nd-place vote gets 24, on down to a 25th-place vote getting 1 point (not unlike the AP Football poll). I realize this isn't a scientific process by any means, but the entire point is to generate some community discussion, and maybe point folks towards some games they otherwise wouldn't have picked up.

Deadline is April 20, 2009! The goal was 50 submissions, but if we can get more than that, fantastic! So please, spread the word and get in your lists (with comments on why you chose your entries, if you'd like!). And thanks for being a part of this community survey and project!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gen Con Indy 2009 Event Catalog Now Up

Just a quick note: in case you missed it, the Gen Con Event Catalog for 2009 is up in raw spreadsheet form. For those looking for my events I'm running, you can skip ahead to spreadsheet lines 3247 and 3644 (Event IDs RPG0902121 and SEM0902117, respectively). I'll be doing more coverage on my events in the near future.

Palladium PDF Sales To Go Live Tomorrow!

Just a quick reminder: Palladium Books PDFs will be available starting tomorrow at DriveThruRPG. This has been a long time coming, but I'm glad to see the day finally came just the same.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Top 25 RPGs: We Need One More Sponsor!

I plan on a full progress report on Monday for the Top 25 RPGs Project, but right now I'm looking for one more game company to round out our list of sponsors. Sponsors will provide a pdf prize package to lucky participants of the project (winners to be determined by random drawing). It can be a good way to participate in something fun for the community, and perhaps get some traffic/vibes pushed your way in return.

I'll announce all our sponsors on Monday (our two others are already on board and ready to go!). If you're interested, shoot me an email at mail.rpgblog(at) If you haven't submitted your list yet, you can do so at the same address.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And Now, A Video Response To Mr. Leeds of WotC

Dear Mr. Leeds:

Friday Discussion: Who Are Your Favorite RPG Authors?

It has been a rough week in our hobby. From the confusion and flames of WotC's PDFgate to the passing of one of our Founding Fathers in Dave Arneson, we've all seen happier days, that's for sure.

Well, it's Friday, and with the weekend approaching, we can perhaps put all that on hold and engage in a little friendly gamer discussion. Nothing too heavy or serious, just another Friday at RPG Blog 2 talking about the hobby we love.

This week's topic takes in mind how fortunate we are to have so many artists and creators in this hobby:

Who Are Your Favorite RPG Authors and Writers?

From Gygax to Mona to the small press guy next door, whose work do you/did you look forward to? Who deserves more credit? Who would you like to see more from?

Have a great weekend and good gaming, no matter what system gets you your fix! Oh, and Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Free Basic Roleplaying Quick-Start PDF

I just found out that Chaosium is offering a free 32-page Quick-Start edition of their Basic Roleplaying system.

To get your free copy, click here. Nice move by Chaosium in making this available. Keep with the freebies, game companies! We appreciate you for it!

Will We See A 2E Retro-Clone?

Poor AD&D 2nd Edition! Reviled by grognards and RPG fashionistas alike! Yet, I submit from my own personal experiences that 2e still has a decent amount of groups out there who play it or occasionally cycle back around to it. In my own group, I have at least 2 players who consider that their edition of choice, and I'm fairly certain a goodly number of players near my age (near-30ish) started with that edition.

Now, some of the main criticisms of 2E were:

-The "softening" of D&D by removing mentions of such things as demons and devils
-Removal of bards, monks, and half-orcs
-Removal of dungeon generation tables from the 2e DMG
-The way Non-Weapon Proficiencies worked (or didn't)

I think a lot of the strengths of 2e were in the "fluff", settings, boxed sets, and the Complete _______ line of books--all things that wouldn't or couldn't translate to a retro-clone as well as mechanics.

Let's be honest--in a lot of ways, AD&D2e is the "Silent Years" between the Old & New Testaments of D&D for people. I think if we see a completed 2E retro-clone, it may well come from outside the current retro-clone community. The closest thing I've seen thus far was the 1e/2e mix of Hackmaster, and that's also now out of print (the next edition will be a completely new game). I think it is has been stated as a clear point of delineation by many old-schoolers, and I won't argue with that. I think the game may even stand for a different style of play then the retro-clones we've seen up to this point. But it is still a part of D&D's history with it's own charms, and it would be at least interesting to see such an effort.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts In Loving Memory: Dave Arneson

Sadly, directly from Dave Arneson's family, by way of Grognardia:

Shortly after 11pm on Tuesday, April 7th, Dave Arneson passed away. He was comfortable and with family at the time and his passing was peaceful.

The Arneson family would like to thank everyone for their support over the last few days, and for the support the entire community has shown Dave over the years.

We are in the process of making final arrangements and will provide additional details as we work them out. We will continue to receive cards and letters in Dave's honor. We are planning to hold a public visitation so that anyone wishing to say their goodbye in person has the opportunity to do so.

Cards and letters can continue to be sent:
Dave Arneson
1043 Grand Avenue
Box #257
St. Paul, MN

Visitation will be on April 20th
Time: yet to be determined
Bradshaw Funeral Home
687 Snelling Avenue South
St. Paul, MN 55105

I had originally typed out my thoughts on Professor Arneson when we had erroneously received reports of his passing yesterday. I'll repost them now:

Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, has passed away. The Quiet Titan has left us.

During his lifetime, he often saw his accomplishments and contributions to the game cast in the shadow of the more prolific Gygax, and perhaps that was partly his choice. But these facts remain: Dave Arneson was a vital part of the founding of the hobby, dating back to Major Wesley's Braunstein. We wouldn't have the D&D we have without him. The jump from Chainmail to OD&D wouldn't have happened as it did without Professor Arneson. Just as you cannot have D&D without Gygax, you cannot have it without Arneson. Whatever their (oft-exagerrated) differences in life, these men were twin titans. They gave birth to a hobby. They gave birth to a million stories. They gave birth to something of meaning and import to so many.

How do you quantify such an impact, such a life, into a single article? The words themselves of his passing seem to carry a great weight to me. It is as if a silent giant on the horizon is suddenly gone. And its only then we realize just what sort of a shadow was cast. Such a statement should be shouted, should tremble and shake the foundations and furthest reaches of our hobby! Hit points, armor class, dungeons--these are part of what we owe to him!

We are poorer for having lost such a rare soul, but what a legacy! To have created that which made so many so happy! To know at the end of your labors, you--you--had created something that was new under the sun. It is only a part of the sum of a life, but such a part as many could not have dreamed of. As for Professor Arneson, he was once asked in an interview how he'd like to be remembered:

"The world in general? That I was a good grandpa -- that's a good one … I don't know, "Father of role-playing games?" I got a sign that says that somewhere".

You should have never needed a sign, Professor Arneson. We knew it all along.

Discussion: Gaming Companies That Get It Right

For the past 2 days, many of us have spent considerable time alternately dissecting and railing against the latest WotC gaffe of PDFGate. We’ve seen a lot of online reactions along the line of “I won’t be supporting WotC any more” or “I’m going to try a new pdf publisher”.

Well, let’s talk about other publishers, then. If people want other options, let’s showcase some other options. I don’t usually do a discussion post until Fridays on this blog, but I think this is a fitting topic.

What are your recommendations for gaming companies that “get it right?” We’re talking companies that have excellent:

-Customer Service & Support
-Fan Relations

What do you feel they do best? To what sort of gamer would you recommend their RPGs? Is there an interaction you’ve had with them that sticks out in your mind?

And my challenge: if you’re bent out of shape over WotC’s latest mess, talk about companies that do the right things. Post it here or at your blog/forum. Give the “good guys” some press.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In the Wake of PDFGate, Bargains Abound

Other game companies are reacting to WotC's no-notice yanking of their pdfs online with various promotions of their own. Here are just a few you may want to check out:

-Paizo is offering all Pathfinder PDFs for 35% off through the end of April.

-White Wolf is offering the Exalted 2e PHB for free through April 12, as well as a one-time 10% discount on any PDF product.

-Adventure Games Publishing currently has 16 products on sale through May 23 as a sign of customer appreciation.

-One Bad Egg has every pdf product on sale for at least 10% off.

-Evil Hat's Don't Lose Your Mind has been marked down to $10.

-Green Ronin is offering their True 20 Roleplaying for only $9.99.

-Bards & Sages is offering their Karma Roleplaying System products for 10% off.

-Tabletop Adventures is discounting 20% off their products for the rest of this week (thanks, Mark!).

-Reality Deviant Production is also offering a sale for the occasion at RPGNow.

-The superhero RPG Hearts & Souls is marked down to only $5.

-As mentioned in the comments below, Flying Mice is also running specials at RPGNow.

-Eden Studios is running a PDF Lovers sale--all their pdfs are 50% off at RPGNow.

-HinterWelt Enterprises is running all pdfs at 50% through the end of the month, and the print+pdf of Roma Imperious True 20 is only $19.99 ($10 off).

-Phil Reed announced all Whispering Vault pdfs are 50% off through the middle of next week.

As you find more, please let me know and I'll post them up here!

Remembering Dave Arneson

EDIT: Thankfully, Dave Arneson is still with us, so I've removed my "in memory" post. I have never have been so happy to have been wrong. I truly suggest that everyone let Professor Arneson know what his contributions and work have meant to them while they can. Here's an address where you can do just that:

Dave Arneson
1043 Grand Avenue
Box #257
St. Paul, MN

If you found yourself saddened because you didn't tell Professor Arneson what his work meant to you when we thought he had passed, this is your chance to do something about it.

Using Classic Traveller for Fantasy

Every so now and then when I'm re-reading some Traveller supplement (ever noticed how Trav is one of those RPGs that's so very re-readable?) and I think about adapting it for a bit of fantasy gaming. I love the simplicity of Traveller's base mechanics--I've always been sucker for the 2d6. Traveller has always seemed so flexible to me. Combat's easy, and fairly deadly, and skill resolution is a breeze. There isn't much there, but what there is, does what I want (and judging from The Bone Scroll, I'm not alone there). I think it would make a heck of a fantasy system.

And so every now and then I get an itch to port the Traveller ruleset to a fantasy game. I'm hardly the first one. I remember seeing over at Citizen of the Imperium that the original Thieves World boxed set had stats for Traveller. Somehow, another project always comes up, and it never gets done. But this time, just maybe...

I've seen several attempts at a fantasy version of Traveller over the years. If you're looking for a good start, you can check out:

-Aldreth (direct pdf link)
-Fantasy RPG Traveller Careers
-Glass and Gold

I've heard tell that Battlefield Press might be publishing a fantasy setting under the Mongoose Traveller OGL, which I'd really look forward to seeing.

Would you ever use Classic Traveller (or any Traveller system) for a fantasy RPG? What would you change about chargen or task resolution, and what would you keep?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Get WotC Files While You Can From Paizo

If you've seen the recent kerfluffle with Wizards of the Coast ceasing all online pdf sales, you still have until the end of today to purchase WotC/TSR files from Paizo. My recommendation? The Rules Cyclopedia for $5 and some of the classic modules. At the time I post this, you've got only a few hours left.

If you see this on 4/7/09 after about 12 noon (according to Erik Mona), sorry about your luck, but its probably too late.

If you were like me and downloaded a bunch of WotC products from RPGNow, thinking you could download them again up to 5 times if need be, I feel your pain. I hope WotC comes to some resolution and has PDFs available again soon, but one thing's for sure: they continue to fail epically in any sort of customer relations aspect. OK, fight piracy, whatever, but this is a really crappy thing to do to folks who have already bought your products from RPGNow, DTRPG, or Paizo. Especially in regards to 1e & 2e pdfs. Was illegal piracy really killing you on those, WotC? Items that haven't been in print in 3 decades? Do you think this would be a way to fix anything?

I'm irritated. Doubtless things will look a bit brighter or clearer tomorrow. But as a gamer whose main D&D purchases were from previous edition, WotC has just become about 99% less useful to me as a company.

And if you do offers pdfs again, WotC, you can bet I'm not partaking. If this no-notice B.S. happens once, what's to keep you from yanking the rug out again?

Vote For The Top 25 RPGs of All Time!

I'm announcing a new, interactive project open to all readers, subscribers, and bloggers of any of the sites and friends of the RPG Bloggers Network.

I'm looking for people's lists of the RPGs that have had the brought the most influence, entertainment, and fun to their experience in the gaming hobby. You can rank up to 25 games, but if you don't want to do that many or don't have that many, please rank at least 10. I will be tabulating points wherein a 1st-place vote gets 25 points, a 2nd-place vote gets 24, on down to a 25th-place vote getting 1 point (not unlike the AP Football poll). I realize this isn't a scientific process by any means, but the entire point is to generate some community discussion, and maybe point folks towards some games they otherwise wouldn't have picked up.

I plan to go live with this on my blog Monday, and will keep it open for 2 weeks. Submission deadline is April 20, 2009. After that, I will announce the winners. I want at least 50 submissions to make this as nice a sampling as possible, which is where you all come in. If you do submit a list, I'd also like (but don't need) some short quotes or comments on games you feel very strongly about, and with your permission, I may use them (credited) when I post the final results. (Oh, and if you have a specific edition of a game in mind, please note that when submitting your list).

Lists can be sent to mail.rpgblog(at)

If you have a blog or know some blog readers who might like to send in their lists, please point them to this article, as participation level is going to be big for this. I'm asking for your help in getting the word out. I'm also looking for a few game publisher sponsors, as I'd like to have at least 3 solid pdf prize packages to be given out by random drawing from the pool of those who submit lists. Thanks very much, and I look forward to seeing some great lists soon!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Urgent--Dave Arneson Hospitalized

I just received this unlwecome bit of news from this board regarding D&D co-creator Dave Arneson:

David's cancer has unexpectedly worsened just this week, to the point that he is in the hospital. He is heavily sedated and not doing well. He is not expected to live for more than a couple days, if that long.

I doubt Professor Arneson will read this, but I am praying for he and his loved ones with everything in my being. He is a founding father and guiding light of the hobby, and I just hope he knows what he means to so many.

(Note: Please heed and respect the wishes of Professor Arneson's family, as noted here).

The Great RPG Tournament: We Crown Our Champion!

I decided to wait on the final games of the Great RPG Tournament until the actual NCAA tourney was about to be decided. But it's that time, to see which of our contestants is bringing home the tourney trophy. Here were our final match-ups:

Warhammer Fantasy vs. D&D 3.5
-Does D&D have anything left in the tank? Warhammer takes no prisoners.

D&D 3.5 did its level best, but Warhammer cheerily obliterated it.
Winner: Warhammer Fantasy

Hackmaster vs. Labyrinth Lord
-Does the Hack stop here? Can Labyrinth Lord finish the dream season?

Hackmaster turned in a grinding, solid performance to wear down Labyrinth Lord.
Winner: Hackmaster

So, then it was time for the Championship Game.

Warhammer Fantasy vs. Hackmaster

Warhammer looked unstoppable.

Warhammer had wiped out every competitor it went up against.

Warhammer was the odds-on favorite to win this match-up.

None of that mattered to Hackmaster.

Warhammer hadn't come up against a competitor that could meet its level of Hack until it met Hackmaster. And in the end, bloodied, bruised, but victorious, there stood your 2009 Great RPG Tournament Champion:


Someone please inform Dave Kenzer, Jolly Blackburn, and company so they can accept their award.

If you're anything like me, your bracket blew up in your face. Did anyone have close to the right winner? I have to admit, I did not see this coming, but that's why they play the game, I guess!

You know, this entire tourney has given me an idea for a more democratic project. Stay tuned this week to find out more! And I'll see you next year for the 2010 Tourney--can Hackmaster make the big dance again to defend its title?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My S7S Entry

I'm pretty apolitical, but when I saw the logo remix contest for Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, this is what I came up with:

We'll have to see how it goes over! This was my other entry idea:

Irrin: Review, Interview, and 4e Conversions!

This week, Aaron Broder over at AllGeektOut was kind enough to do a series of articles on my homebrew world of Irrin. I’m really pleased and humbled he’d take his time to do so. Aaron’s coverage consisted of three parts:

Review: "The book is very nicely laid out; a bit bland, perhaps, but it has all the information you would need to get started on an Irrin campaign. Introduction to Irrin should act as a guide to all first-time indie publishers as an idea of what to include in a campaign primer. Admittedly, there are a few places that are a bit weak in description, in particular, the races; while the more generic ones need little explanation, some of the more unique ones deserve a little more description. $10 is a little pricey for the physical book, but at only $3.50 for the PDF, this is a steal, and at the very least could act as inspiration for your own setting...7/10". [emphasis mine]

This is Aaron asking me a little a bit about Irrin and how it all came together. Nicely brief, and hopefully not too painful to read.

4e Conversions:
Aaron did a great job converting some of the races of Irrin to 4e. I think most designers or aspiring writers will tell you that to have someone actually use a part of your creation is the ultimate thrill. So thank you, Aaron! For those interested, my Irrin Primer is still available here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Discussion: What's Your Favorite Supers/Superhero RPG?

Another Friday is upon us! And, as with every Friday here at RPG Blog 2, it is time for a little gaming discussion. Nothing too heated (usually), nothing profound—just a bunch of gamers talking shop.

This week’s topic is in regards to a genre not enjoyed by everyone, but a very prolific genre nonetheless.:

What is your favorite Supers or Superhero RPG? What do you like about it in particular (or in general)?

I’ve been amazed at how diverse the answers have been on a lot of these questions—it doesn’t seem like any two responses are alike! It really reinforces the fact that this is a diverse hobby in terms of tastes. Have a great weekend, and game on!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Old-School Resources: The S&W Companion

One of the biggest goals of the main products of the Old-School Renaissance, I think, is the entire philosophy of a “toolkit” or “DIY” philosophy. We see it in Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry, and we see it in the contributors of Fight On!. By design, the simulacra of the old school do not cover every situation in terms of rules and mechanical resolution; adjudication by the DM/GM/Referee is key. Similarly, the games are built for your own additions as you see fit, be they a new thief class, optional poison rules, or throwing in some new magic items or effects.

I think one of the best and brightest examples of this philosophy in action has to be The S&W Companion. Designed to support Swords & Wizardry, this resource page is a tremendous example of the sort of fun additions you can add onto a game. I was surprised just how fast this collection has grown, and hope it continues to do so. Adventures, combat tweaks, and new classes all await your viewing pleasure!

(I especially like the add-on classes, from the Druid to Assassin. Very nice write-ups!).

Perhaps one of the nicest things about dipping your toe into the world of old school is that if you don’t feel you are that creative, have a case of the ol’ writer’s block, or don’t want to mess with optimizing your game of choice for your table, there are some of the most talented gamers in the world who have already provided a ton of cool stuff for free. The S&W Companion is a splendid instance of that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Foolin': Wizardly Orders of Irrin

It happened that after a time of playing in our homebrew world of Irrin, players a) wanted some greater differentiation and motivation for mages, and b) wanted more information on the arcane politics of Irrin. So, over time, I added in several competing and diverse orders, each representing a certain arcane mind frame or power concentration. As with everything in Irrin, I also wanted to leave them open enough for further definition through play, and to ensure that they were easily added to or removed from the sandbox as desired.

This is something I plan to add into my next revision of the Irrin primer, as before all I had were some partially-recovered notes. These notes are one of the few things I found instead of list in our recent move. So for Irrin fans and for those just wanting some ideas for some wizardly orders in your games, here are the main Wizardly Orders of Irrin:

At 4th level, Wizards and Illusionists are considered powerful enough for inclusion into one of Irrin’s Orders of Wizardry. These Orders have varying goals and require different levels of dedication, but at their core they are an organization to further either practice of the arcane arts or a certain philosophy therein.

Members of these Orders have access to specialized spells that outsiders do not; in addition, their membership offers a level of protection and guidance against other wizards. Even enemies in the same Order will often stop short of killing each other.

Arcane magic users will not approach representatives of the Order; rather, they will be sought out by representatives of the interested Orders. Sorcerers are considered dangerous amateurs, and are almost never admitted. Arcane users may choose to remain unaffiliated, but will be considered a dangerous rogue by those in the Orders.

(Game Note: Bonus and exclusive spells may be learned upon joining an order, and may also be available later on in the game. Number and quality largely depend on performance during initiation and services rendered to the Order).

The Wizardly Orders of Irrin:

Collegium Arcanum: The Collegium is the largest and most “mainstream” of all the orders, with little asked of most of its members. It does not claim to offer any great secrets of power, but does have extensive resources in nearly every major city.

Black Collegium: Officially outlawed in many places, the Black Collegium was founded by Collegium Arcanum dissidents who wanted to seek greater power in necromancy and the darker arts.

Order of the Sun Dagger: This order is known for aggressive, offensive-oriented spells and attempting to challenge The Verdant Hall and Collegium Arcanum’s political pull whenever possible.

Order of the Resplendent Star: Strongest in the nations of the south, these mages are known for their experimentation in planar and dimension travel and access.

Tower of the Mysteries:
Perhaps the most reclusive of all the orders, the Tower is credited with having come up with some of the most powerful utilitarian and defensive spells known.

The Unnamed: These wizards and mages attempt to master the elements. Their order is loosely-aligned, but is known for its heavy demands of members at times in exchange for increased spell knowledge.

The Verdant Hall:
Exclusive, secretive, and small, this order claims many well-to-do and noble members among its ranks. Trickery, illusionism, and creation spells are all very much in vogue here.

As explained above, mages may choose to remain unaffiliated. However, if they are not of a sufficient strength to defend themselves or discourage attack, they may face additional consequences if they fall afoul of any of the Orders or their members. On the plus side, they will not be expected to fulfill any duties, and some Unaffiliated mages have found purpose as neutral go-betweens between the various orders.

(This file is also available in pdf for your convenience. I'll be adding it to my lulu store as a freebie after some touch-ups).