Friday, September 1, 2017

U-Con Event Submission Extension! Submit today! Need more Role Playing, OSR and Tekumel Events!



As the OSR event coordinator I am looking for Referees, Judges and Dungeon Masters to come run old school games! U-Con will be held November 17-19, 2017 at the Marriott Ann Arbor Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest.

Did you also know that U-Con has a Tekumel Track? If you are a fan of Tekumel and want a platform to run at, U-Con is the place! Our Tekumel Track allows for any game system so long as you are running a Tekumel game! Submit your Tekumel events today!
What qualifies as an OSR event this year?
Official D&D:
All TSR Era D&D qualifies,
AD&D 2nd Edition
Rules Cyclopedia
Other TSR Era Stuff:
Gamma World (TSR editions)
Boot Hill
Metamorphosis Alpha
Star Frontiers
Top Secret
Alternity etc.
Other Early Era RPGs/Supplements:
Early Chaosium products (RuneQuest 2nd Edition, Elfquest, Sandy Petersen era Call of Cthulhu etc)
RuneQuest (yes I know I mentioned it before)
Tunnels & Trolls (all editions)
Dragonquest (all editions)
Traveller (early editions)
Chivalry & Sorcery
Pacesetter System Games (Chill, Time Master, Crypt World etc.)
Middle Earth Role Playing (I.C.E.)
The Complete Warlock
Rapier & Dagger
Cyborg Commando (Did he really just say Cyborg Commando AGAIN?)
WEG D6 Star Wars
WEG D6 Ghostbusters
The Fantasy Trip
Pre 2000s Palladium Games (TMNT, Palladium RPG, early RIFTS etc)
If I missed your favorite, contact me and make sure, but it will likely be fine to run.
Swords & Wizardry
Labyrinth Lord
Mutant Future
Dark Dungeons
Delving Deeper
For Gold & Glory
Spellcraft & Swordplay etc.
Near Clones:
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Mutant Crawl Classics
Adventurer Conqueror King
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Castles & Crusades
White Star
The Hero's Journey
The Black Hack
Adventures Dark & Deep
Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Game etc.
As always, this list is hardly exhaustive regarding all of the great Old School RPGs in the world. If you have one you want to run and it isn't here, just let me know. Let's make this thing huge. I want to give your favorite Old School game a place to live and breathe.  When you register and OSR game, be sure to note that it is an OSR game in the comment so that we get it registered properly.
Now, here is the official announcement from our website regarding requirements, what you get as a GM, where to submit events etc:


Gamemasters are crucial to the success of U-Con. The games and events you bring are why people show up.  Gamemasters are the creative force behind U-Con. We appreciate your willingness to contribute your time, and we wish to make your convention experience enjoyable!
This page provides information for individual and small-group gamemasters. Other places to look for information include:

Event Submission

Online Submission

To join us as a gamemaster, we need to know a few things about you and the games you want to run. We have an online event submission form which takes a few minutes to fill out. If you have multiple events, you may follow the prompts to add them before you complete your submission. Children 12 and under please have a parent or guardian fill out the form.  We ask for:
  • Your name and contact information
  • Description of the event(s)
  • Scheduling preferences, including how much time to reserve for your event(s)
We ask each gamemaster to run at least 6 hours of events in order to receive a gamemaster badge, though we make exceptions for those who organize larger events such as LARPs.
update-note-arvin61r58-64pxGamemasters who go above and beyond by running a total of 16 hours of games can earn a Play Games All Weekend Ribbon.  This ribbon grants access to events all weekend long as if you had generics.  Free ribbons will be included in the preregistration materials of those who qualify. Here is the link for registering for a gamemaster badge.
You can use our contact form to request a status update regarding your event(s) or a copy of your schedule at any time. Please also send your event corrections by the contact form. In case of errors or an incomplete submission, we will contact you. If we can’t reach you, we might not be able to accept your event, so it is important you provide us a valid email address. We will do our best to accommodate your requests regarding the schedule. Gamemasters who are running in many slots can provide us a schedule.
We will accept events before the final deadline as long as we have space. Event submission deadlines are listed on the home page of our web site.
Convention related materials can be picked up on site (as described below). We do not mail anything in advance. The gamemaster is responsible for other materials necessary to run the event (e.g. a board game or rpg characters). Any exceptions to this rule of thumb should be mentioned in your event description (e.g. “please bring 4th level characters”).

Friday, June 9, 2017

Simple Cantrip Rules For Classic D&D and OD&D

Cantrip is an archaic word originally meant to define a trick performed by witchery. Later it was used to mean a malicious trick or a sham. In recent years (at least since the publication of the AD&D version of "Unearthed Arcana") it has come into usage in fantasy role playing to mean a bit of minor magic. This is typically in the form of 0 level spells in D&D and it's simulacra. I like the idea of a magic user having access to spells that are useful little utilitarian spells that do not have major effects. That said, I don't believe that these effects should be individual spells themselves. I like the idea that a Vancian mage could memorize a spell and siphon off some of it's power without releasing the spell. This does not work with divinely granted magic like that of a cleric or druid.
How are we going to make this work? Well, this takes bargaining between the referee and the player. A mage can attempt to cause a minor magical effect based upon the effect of any spell currently memorized (or known spells not expended in the case of my sorcerer class.) For example, a mage with fireball written may want to light a pipe from his finger. A witch being bothered by a would be suitor may want to make him drowsy, heading off to bed, without expending the full effect of the spell and making him not off there and then. Likewise a sorceress with telekinesis may want to cause a bell that she can see ring, or wind chimes sound, without using the full effect of her spell. Minor effects like this might be allowed without question (possibly allowing a saving throw for the chap that is getting drowsy.)
Occasionally a player may want to make a cantrip a little more powerful. If this is allowed it should only be allowed once prior to expending the spell, and be possible to fail at. For an example, let's look at the fellow who lit his pipe with a fireball based cantrip. He may want to use that fireball for other things. He may want it to deal damage with it, to a lesser extent, than normal. Perhaps he is in close quarters and wants to reduce it to a 1d6 "firebolt" cantrip focusing on one enemy? Or maybe he and his companions are in a cold region and cannot light a fire. In this instance, perhaps he wants to use it to generate heat? These things are more game affecting than using the cantrip to light a fire or pipe. The referee can, of course, just rule that these sorts of things are not possible. Alternatively this could be allowed, but making an attribute check based upon the caster's prime requisite. My Power attribute could be substituted, if it were being used. If the check were successful, the effect could go off. Note that as stated before, more powerful cantrips should be of limited use. If the check fails, however, a saving throw should be made at a penalty of the spell's level. If the save passes, the effect does not occur. If the save is failed, the spell is expended for the day as if it were cast normally.
Let me know what you think. I've been playing around with this for a while.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thoughts on a Stamina Score for Old School D&D & Variants

In my little semi-simulationist world (which has recently had to take a back seat to my real world,) I've been thinking about stamina and endurance.  I like the idea of simulationist rules that are easy to track and also MATTER in the game. Simulation strictly to the point of book keeping that does not matter in actual play is pointless. If said rules have a true impact on the game and affect the way the that players play and/or how the game feels, THAT is when the rule is worth while.

So, with that said, my idea is to create a Stamina attribute. This attribute will differ from the 6 that are pre-existing in OD&D. Rather than rolling for this score, it will be based on pre-existing scores. It is a simple process. A character's Stamina will be the average of their Strength and Constitution rounded up. So, a fighter with 16 STR and 13 CON would have a 15 STM. Determining STM for monsters is simple and can be done on the fly. A monster's STM is determined by it's size and HD. A creature's STM is equal to it's HD +7(small) +10 (medium) +13 (large.) The  size factor is up to the referee's discretion, but as a general rule creatures less than 3/4 the size of an average human would be considered small and creatures more than 1-1/4 the size of a human could be considered large. If a creature is particularly stocky the referee may want to give a small bonus to the score (ex. Dwarves, pack animals.)

What is the STM score used for? What makes it meaningful to the game? The STM determines the length of time (in rounds or turns) of strenuous activity that a creature can endure before becoming fatigued and needs a brief rest. This means that the fighter in our above example can fight, run at full speed etc. for 15 rounds (minutes) without being winded. When dealing with activities that are less strenuous, those measured in turns, the amount of time is double the STM score. A rogue with a STM of 10 would be able to carefully crawl along the dungeon, meticulously checking for traps and secret doors for 20 turns (3 hours and 20 minutes) before needing to stop for a quick break, a drink etc.

When a character become fatigued and needs rest they can continue to push on if they wish. A character who attempts to push on must make a STM check. This is done by attempting to roll below the stamina score on a d20 each round/turn they push on. If succeeds, they suffer no ill effects and must roll again every round/turn they persist. If the character fails this roll at any time the begin to suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to all attack rolls, saving throws and ability checks each round that they persist without resting.

Rest will always recover STM. For every 10 minutes a character rests they regain STM equal to their hit die type. This meaning a fighter in S&W Complete will recover 1d8 STM per 10 minutes of rest, while a Magic-user will recover on 1d4. Regardless of hit die type sitting at rest for 3 turns (30 minutes) will recover all STM that has been lost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thoughts On Alignment In OD&D

This week during the commute to work I was listening to the Glowburn Podcast #3 in which +Forrest Aguirre and +Bill Hamilton discuss alignment as it stands in D&D and Gamma World's Cryptic Alliances.  This got me to thinking about the origins of alignment, it's meaning and how it is looked at in various incarnations of "the game."

Classic Alignments

The Arrow of Law 
The origins of alignment can be found within Appendix N. The two primary sources being Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions" and Michael Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" series. In fact, Moorcock's view of these seems to have been influenced directly by Anderson's works. Moorcock wrote that Law and Chaos are as opposed forces in the multiverse. Each of these has deities aligned to it in the Appendix N tales. Consequently, Clerics in OD&D may not be Neutral.
In the Original game only these alignments existed. Law, Chaos and Neutrality (the balance.) One was either aligned with the creative, unifying powers of Law, the destructive and ever changing power of Chaos or else unaligned. Alignment did not dictate behavior in the same way that it later would. It was simple alignment was more alignment by definition. I have a few issues with the term alignment as it is used in later editions of the game.
The Scales of Balance

Later in the life of OD&D, prior to AD&D there was a change in the way that alignment was viewed. This was instigated by Steve Marsh. The same Steve Marsh that would later be partially responsible for the Expert edition of D&D. Steve Marsh discusses his views on alignment in a guest post on +Richard LeBlanc's Save Vs. Dragon blog.

In the post Marsh states, "Eventually, Gary agreed with me and migrated the game world to a 2-axis system where the law/chaos axis crossed with good/evil axis. It allowed for things to be feral without them being necessarily evil (old school “chaos”). It also allowed for characters to distinguish between the amoral (where being without morals = neutral) and the immoral (where those who are doing wrong = evil)."
The Arrows of Chaos

This change was first brought forth in an article by Gary Gygax in The Strategic Review. It would be made more "official" when it became adopted as the 5 point alignment system in the Holmes edition of D&D. In this time the waters of alignment begin to muddy a bit, and became muddier still as editions of the game progressed. With the advent of the 9 point system in AD&D we start to see alignment change into a system of morals and behavior more than an actual system of alignment. So, what is alignment then, and what should we strive to make it?

The Strategic Review Alignment Chart
Defining Alignment

 The Oxford Living Dictionaries define alignment thus:


  • 1 [mass noun] Arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions:
    ‘the tiles had slipped out of alignment’
  • 1.1 [count noun] The route or course of a railway or road:
    ‘four railways, all on different alignments’
    ‘present-day road alignments’

  • 1.2  Archaeology [count noun] A linear arrangement of stones:
    ‘there were originally at least four massive stone alignments running from west to east’
  • 2   A position of agreement or alliance:
    ‘the uncertain nature of political alignments’
Clearly the intent of alignment in OD&D is the second definition: "A position of agreement or alliance." It is also clear that if this is the definition of alignment in early gaming that the term and usage fell away with the addition of a second axis. I have come to dislike the 2 axis system, as it serves more to push a restrictive set of morals (or lack there of) onto the characters rather than serving as true alignment. Likewise, I enjoy the freedom of the linear 3 point alignment system. However, I believe that there is more that can be done with alignment than just this, things which can aid in roleplaying and add depth to both character and campaign! I was inspired by Gamma World's Crytic Alliances when reminded of these in the aforementioned podcast. If you are unfamiliar with this system of "alignment, see the link above. Clearly we can apply more than just a broad cosmic alignment to a character or creature in a game, in the same way that Gamma World did.
Broadening Alignment
 I do not propose that we remove the original 3 point alignment system. OD&D was based around this system, after all. Additionally the system originates within Appendix N literature, and I like to move the game closer to the original inspiration, not away from it. Therefore, this remains as the core alignment system. Let's call this "cosmic alignment." Next, let's look to religion, as many games tend to have a polytheistic worldview, this is not an issue. Third, we can look at the culture of the character. This is also easy. Is your human fighter from a pseudo medieval culture and from a noble family or perhaps a Nordic inspired culture and she was previously a shield maiden. These two pieces of background information already add a plethora of depth to the character. Or is your elf a high elf? Wood elf? This could make for very different roleplaying and decision making on the part of the player. Lastly, we can add an Organizational alignment, this being the most like Gamma World's Cryptic Alliances. Is the character a member of a thieves guild? Perhaps that character above from the noble family is part of a knightly order? Are they part of a town militia? Remember as well that a character could potentially have many Organizational Alignments. Certainly all of these things could just be background, but when given as alignments, rulings could be made more easily by the referee, especially if the referee is looking closely at the decisions being made by a player for their character.

So, we now have four alignment types to assign to a character:

-Alignment (Cosmic Alignment)
-Religion (Religious Alignment)
-Culture (Cultural Alignment)
-Organization (Organizational Alignment)

All of these things can add to the character and to the game in a broader sense.