Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mischief, Inc. Drops a Free Adventure

Some of ya'll might know the name "Kalex the Omen" from around the internet. Recently he put together an OSR publishing label called "Mischief, Inc." It seems they have focused on adventures as their first products, and what is cool is that the adventures are compatible with most, if not all, original editions and OSR game engines.

As an act of good faith they have put their first adventure out basically for free. "The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying" is available as a "pay-what-you-want" product on RPGNOW; check it out HERE.

I have only skimmed it so far but its clearly got a high production value, and everyone likes seeing quality free products. You can find out more about Mishief, Inc. at their website HERE.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vice Versa

I spend most of my time on here talking about bringing OSR elements into 4e, but today I thought I would flip things and show some ways to bring 4e into classic editions, especially in regards to combat. Why would you do such a thing? Well for one thing, variety is fun. Playing a familiar game in a whole new way can be invigorating. And a lot of folks really enjoy 4e combat, as the rules simplify movement and loosen some of the restrictions of older editions. I personally prefer to kick it old-school, but there is nothing wrong with mixing it up a little bit. I ran a mini-campaign of B/X using some of these rules for fun and everyone enjoyed playing with a different "twist", if only for a little while. So here are a few simple tips you can use to bring a more "modern" 4e feel into older editions:

1. Action Economy: All characters get a Minor, Move, and Standard action as per 4e. A Minor will be something like loading a weapon or pulling out a potion. 

2. Movement and Encumbrance: Throw out the classic editions' movement rules completely. Assign base speeds based on race as per 4e. Apply the 4e encumbrance/armor rules. Use the 4e rules for movement in combat (shifting, double moving, charging, etc).

3. Spellcasting: Spellcasters can move and cast spells on the same turn. Casting times are not used unless they take longer than a round. Spells cannot be interrupted (see below). Low-level healing and/or buff spells such as Cure Light Wounds and Bless become Minor actions. Estimate area bursts and blasts to the best of your ability using the 4e grid rules.

4. Individual Initiative: Using individual initiative rather than "side-based" initiative will have the single biggest effect on your game. While the DM might still want to play monsters on the same initiative (as is common in 4e), have the players each roll d20, adding any sort of applicable Dex bonus (could be a reaction bonus for example). Do not roll every round; just stick with what you rolled just as in 4e. Players (including spellcasters) do not have to declare actions at the beginning of a round. Spells cannot be interrupted, as the casting begins and ends on the spellcaster's own turn. Players can ready and delay as per 4e.

5. Multiple Attacks: Do not stagger multiple attacks as per older editions; multiple attacks all go off on an individual player's turn. 

6. Surprise: Throw out the old surprise rules and wing it. You could try to apply a "passive perception" feel to the game by allowing Elves and Half-Elves a saving throw or something.

7. Opportunity Attacks: Use the 4e rules for OAs; adjacent creatures provoke OAs from making ranged attacks or casting non-"touch" spells.

8. Ranged Attacks: Allow for firing into melee as per 4e. 

9. Death and Dying: Do not use negative hit points. At zero hit points, unless the body has been destroyed or is unrecoverable, allow for three death saves as per 4e. Allow for another player to administer a potion as a Standard action as per 4e. A DM might allow a Cleric or Druid the ability to stabilize the dying as a Standard action.

10. Durability: A 1st level 4e PC is a hell of a lot more durable than its AD&D counterpart. There are many reasons for this, but we are going to ignore all of them except one: hit points. Keep the hit dice the same but allow for max hp per level. Thus a level 6 MU will typically have 24 hit points.

11. Use Ascending AC: I personally love THACO, but even many OSR games use ascending AC. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The End of the 4e Mags

Well maybe you haven't heard it yet, but in the latest Dragon mag, Perkins drops the bomb that the mags will be on hiatus starting in January 2014. We all knew the day was coming when "official" 4e support would end, but I still can't help but be a little sad to see it.

I thought today I would look back on the 4e Dragon/Dungeon mags. The mags had some great content over the years. Here are a few of my fave moments:

-Character Themes (Dragon #399 and multiple other issues). Richard "Birthright" Baker wrote the initial articles presenting Themes as character options, and they were an immediate success. Just when it seemed like there was no "design space" left, Themes found nooks and crannies to occupy.

-Baelard's Legacy (Dungeon #188). Joshua Kerbou only has one article that appears in the mags, and it is apparently his only article appearing anywhere. How lucky we are then to have this, the finest official 4e adventure. This is the adventure that shows how great 4e adventures could have been. The layout is non-linear, there is more exploration than combat, and the storyline is fantastic. If you haven't yet, you owe it to yourself to check out the forgotten Library of Highforest.

-Demonomicon: Yeenoghu (Dragon #364).  Robert Schwalb's ode to the demon gnoll. This was in the first 4e issue of Dragon and remains pretty much untouchable at the end of the run. This is just marvelously gory, and it pushes the boundaries of 4e's "PG-13" fluff. Here is a sample:

"The cultists scour the lands for fresh victims, dragging them back to hidden altars where they are strapped down and mutilated with sharp knives. The blood is collected and distributed among Yeenoghu’s high priests, which they then mix with hallucinogenic herbs and consume with relish."

-The Last Breaths of Ashenport (Dungeon #156). Ari Marmell's Lovecraft-inspired tale of a seaside cult is one of the most praised of all 4e adventures. I had a lot of fun with this one from the DMs side; playing cultists and fish-like creatures from the depths of the ocean is always fun. Which brings me to my next pick-

  -Pearl of the Sea Mother (Dungeon #204). I am a sucker for kuo-toa, and this high-Paragon tier adventure delivers. John "Ross" Rossomangno's fitting tribute to one of the game's iconic creatures.

 -Vor Kragal (Dragon #364). Another article from the first issue of 4e Dragon makes the list. This is an example of the mags at their best. Nicolas Logue's article has a great mix of fluff, adventuring locations, magic items, and new monsters. It is honestly an adventure in itself, and is somewhat akin to the underrated Hammerfast, Shadowfell, and Vor Rukoth supplements. Its funny, but the best 4e "adventures" are ones that aren't really adventures.

I have to say that I am thankful to have so many great issues of 4e magazine content. Hell, some of it I still haven't read, and much of it I am sure I have forgotten.

Although I am no Dragon magazine, I still intend to publish new 4e content in my zine. I have received several strong submissions already and I am trying to get the second issue together. I have asked before for folks to send me rejected submissions from Dragon/Dungeon. If you have any interest in getting some of your 4e stuff out there (albeit for free and for a small audience), check out my zine for contact info or leave me a post.

Anybody else want to share a fave 4e Dragon/Dungeon article? Leave a post!

Friday, September 13, 2013


Oh man. Sometimes you see something so awesome that all of the worries and cares of the world just wash away. Such was my response to the news of Goblinoid Games' Friday the 13th release, CRYPTWORLD.

Many have no doubt heard of Goblinoid Games already. Their free retroclone of the B/X rules, Labyrinth Lord, is one of the most beloved and well-supported of all OSR systems, and their titles such as Mutant Future and Starships and Spacemen show these folks have a real knack not only for humor, but for game design. They are skilled at applying familiar, straightforward rules to multiple genres.

I don't know the legal bits behind it, but they also appear to have the rights to Pacesetter, a long defunct game company that was active during the mid 80s. They have re-released some old titles, such as Timemaster (which looks totally awesome by the way).

Anyways when I saw the image for CRYPTWORLD, I immediately Googled it, incensed that I must have missed this amazing artifact in gaming history. Turns out the facts are much, much cooler than that.

You see Pacesetter also made an awesome horror rpg game called Chill. Chill isn't really about gory horror (although recently I had a gaming fantasy of mixing Chill with Kult into an unholy homebrew). It felt more like spooky, classic-movie-monster horror, with a touch of Scooby-Doo. Anyway, it had a lot of cool mechanics like the "Action Table".

So here is the awesome part: while CRYPTWORLD is a new game, it is apparently heavily influenced by Chill. In Chill, PCs are basically investigators for a secret organization called S.A.V.E.. CRYPTWORLD will expand this idea to include several other groups. I am assuming that since they are using the Pacesetter logo on the cover that other Chill fluff and mechanics will be in the game. Will we see the Action Table? God I hope so.

Check out the full details HERE!